Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Let’s join the werewolves again for another episode! Here’s part four of Jamie and Sean. Check out the tags to find the previous episodes if you’ve missed any. And no, we aren’t done with them after this. Enjoy!**

I couldn’t shift. I was so weak, I couldn’t even move. I’d never been stuck as a wolf before, but I could barely think, let alone gather any strength to change forms. Everything hurt, my brain was fuzzy, and though I was being carried, each step jolted through me. Except I couldn’t even whimper out my pain.

I smelled Sean. All around me. Some part of me recognized he was the one carrying me, but my last clear memory had been running in the forest. Before that it had been a long day with the pack, fun and food and sunshine, as we waited for the day to fade into night and the moon to rise.

Sean set me down as gently as possible, and he lifted my lip before swearing.

“Gods, Jamie, you’re so pale,” he whispered. He raised his voice. “Bring me water. Now! And some chicken and rice.”

I laid there on the soft floor—a rug maybe?—and tried to keep breathing. I knew this was my fault, somehow, but I couldn’t get my brain to process. I pushed closer to Sean, and he buried his fingers in the scruff of my neck, squeezing tightly before he rubbed my ears.

His breath ghosted over my fur, the top of my head, and he used his strength to pull me even closer until I was half in his lap, my head pressed against his stomach. He smelled so good, the scent of him strong, but I couldn’t even appreciate it, and I managed another tiny whine.

“I thought you ate, sweetheart. You said you did, but I should have made sure. You can’t run if you don’t—” He made a rough noise which abruptly cut off. Sounds of footsteps, then Sean’s quite murmur of “Thanks.”

He readjusted my position and brought the water close to my muzzle. It took a minute to get everything working but eventually I was able to lap at the bowl. The fresh, clean taste burst over my tongue and I managed to get half the bowl gone before I had to take a break. At least now, I could keep my eyes open for longer than a second.

“Jamie, sweetheart, you need to eat, okay? I know, I know what I’m asking you is huge, but you need to eat this. You can’t shift back if you don’t. I don’t want to force a shift, because I don’t want to do that to you when you can’t consent. But more than that, I’m scared that if I pull you through it, you won’t survive. So, please, for me, just eat this so we can get you back into your human skin.” I heard the desperation and worry in his voice, and it was a testament to just how out of it was because when he held a cupped hand with chicken and rice to my mouth, I ate it.

He made a pleased sound, murmured praise, and fed me another bite. And another. Handful by handful, I ate what he offered because he was my alpha and he was scared, and so was I. Then he urged me to drink more, and I did that too.

Because werewolf metabolism was so fast, it only took minutes for my brain and body to come back online. Even as a wolf, with those instincts riding me, I had my human mind too, and embarrassment, shame, and worry coursed through me. I wasn’t sure if I made a sound or if it was a change in my scent, but Sean quickly soothed me. A rumble in his chest and a shushing sound.

“No, no. You’re fine, it’s all fine. Don’t think about it, don’t worry about it. We’ll talk about it when you’re better but right now, do you need more to eat?”

I shook my head, let out a little whine, and tried to back away. Sean wouldn’t let me go, but he was gentle about it, making sure I had his whole attention.

“Jamie. Do you need more to eat?” That tone of voice, commanding but still understanding, had me relaxing just a fraction. Just enough that I could really assess my status.

I didn’t. Not at the moment. I couldn’t make myself eat even if I did, but I was good. I shook my head again, so he would know, and he stared at me for a very long, intense few minutes until he decided I was telling the truth. Finally he let me go, and I stepped back as he stood up.

Sean was naked, but that wasn’t a surprise, and usually I didn’t notice nudity at all. Because as wolves we were constantly getting undressed around each other to shift into our fur. He wasn’t body shy in the least and he definitely wasn’t going anywhere, judging by his firm stance.

It took longer and was much harder than it should be to find my human side, pull it forward, and work through the shift. It hurt until my pain receptors turned off, and felt like forever before I was crouched on all fours, body shivering and shaking, having burned through all the energy I’d just consumed in calories just get into my skin. Cold washed through me, and black spots danced at the corners of my vision.

“I’m so sorry,” I managed to whisper before I passed out.

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The Series Situation

It’s no secret, because I’ve talked about it before, that I am a series junkie. I absolutely love series. Be it ones that follow the same MCs throughout all their adventures and on their way to their HEA or ones that have a common theme—friend group/family, same town, club, etc.—it doesn’t matter. I love them with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

It never fails to draw me in and keep my attention. Even when they go off the rails or hang on too long, it takes a lot for me to give up on a series. I absolutely have to see them though. I need to see those MCs get their HEA, or I need to see all the people find their forever…whatever it may be, I need to be there for it all.

Now, I’ve written a lot of standalones. But that doesn’t mean I don’t always think in series. Even those standalones often have a character—or idea—to which a sequel could happen. It probably won’t for most of them at this point but that’s because other series are, in fact, happening.

I’ve written a few series as well. There’s Requiem Inc., which I still love with my whole heart (and I haven’t given up on bringing Tyler’s story to you yet!). This one might be my most creative series, though it sparked from an idea I stole, with permission, the world building is all mine. I love the world I created, and I love the continuing through thread that means these books are best read in order.

And there’s the Landry’s Fall books, which all take place in my fictional town in the Adirondacks, which I will probably never leave completely behind and will revisit again in the future. This one is fun for me in that each story is actually a standalone, but there are fun cameos of previous characters.

There’s the two books I wrote with Nell Iris, in the Family Found series, which I’m hoping to resist and bring you the rest of the guys of V Wilderness Adventures.

Heck, I even brought Pounds and Grounds, and Joshua, from Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds into Gingerbread and Good Tidings. (And we definitely may revisit Pounds and Grounds in the future.)

Basically, series are my true joy. To read and to write. And my hope and intent is that this year, I can focus on sequels. Bring you more of the series I’ve already begun, and the new one I just started. Snow and Mistletoe will be out in July, and that’s the start of the Cauldron Creek series. My notebook is filled with ideas for more.

So if you love series as much as I do, stay tuned. Because I seem to have found my passion again, and it lies in series.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**And here’s part three! Time for Sean’s POV, and a date. And don’t worry. We’re not done yet. Enjoy!

I was a problem solver, cool under pressure, but it turned out that planning a date that didn’t involve food was harder than I anticipated. It was easily the fall back, the way we’d all become accustomed to dating. But I was very conscious of the fact that Jamie had a problem with food, and even though I really wanted to know what that was all about, I wouldn’t push it. 

I wanted to. The fact that he was hurting in some way just about killed me. I’d been leading this pack for five years, and I was only peripherally aware he was having a problem. I should have pursued it sooner. Or, at the very least, kept an eye on him. I knew he was eating some, because he was in good body condition and seemed healthy enough. But clearly there was something more at work there. 

I wanted to take care of him. But it was more than just me being his alpha. I wanted to do it on a more personal level, to be the one that supported and cared for him as a partner. I should have made a move when I first recognized my attraction to him, even though I knew that was walking a fine line. I’d been honest and serious when I told him I was aware of the power imbalance. So many alphas in the past had abused their position, forcing their pack members to do what they wanted because they could. I refused to be that man. So I bided my time until I could be sure there was no coercion. 

When I picked Jamie up, he gave me a shy smile and for a moment, I couldn’t speak. He looked amazing in the dark jeans and light gray button up. When all I could do was stare, he fidgeted a little and dropped his gaze from mine.

“Am I dressed all right?” His voice was soft, uncertain, and shook me out of my daze.

“You look fantastic. Perfect.” I sounded like an idiot, but since I meant it, I didn’t care. I stepped into his space, loving the way he tilted his head to show throat. It was instinctive for him but it still sent a thrill through me. I didn’t hesitate to scent mark him with a touch to his throat, but then quickly took his hand and led him to the other side of my car.

We were quiet as we began  the ten minute drive to our destination. I could tell he was nervous by the way he fidgeted and bit his thumbnail. I reached out to capture his hand, and kept it tucked into my own.

“You all right?” I kept my voice soft, inquisitive, and hoped he would answer honestly.

He let out a shaky breath that was tinged with the hint of a laugh.

“Yeah. just…just nervous, is all. Been a while since I’ve been on a date and…”

When he didn’t finish the sentence, I gently prodded him. “And what?”

“I’ve wanted you,” he said, barely above a whisper. “I sort of can’t believe this is real.”

“It’s real.” I smiled, taking my gaze off the road for just a moment so I could flash him a smile. “And hopefully, this is just the first of many dates.”

He shook his head, letting out a little chuckle. “I don’t get it.”

“What?”

“What you see in me.” He sighed, and it sounded sad. “I’m probably going to end up sabotaging everything but I just don’t understand. Why me?”

“Besides the fact that I find you adorable, you mean?” This wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have in the car. I’d rather be able to see his face clearly, and for him to see mine. But it was more important to me that he knew I was sincere and earnest. I didn’t want there to be any doubts. 

“Besides that.”

“Well, I expect it’s for a lot of the same reasons you gave me.” I had to let go of his hand to make the sharp left turn off of the boulevard, but once it was done, I reached out again. I was gratified when he didn’t hesitate to reclaim my hand. “I see you, Jamie. I see your kindness and your selflessness. I see how you interact with the pack, and how you put everyone else first.”

Now that I thought about it, I wondered if that had something to do with his tendency to try and shrink into the background. He gave ground to everyone else in the pack. Was he that submissive a wolf? Or were there other self-esteem issues at play? I gave myself a mental kick. I thought I was such a good alpha–and I knew I was to a degree–but clearly I’d missed important things with Jamie. What else had I missed? 

“Uh, Sean?”

My name on his lips did funny things to my insides, sending a thrill through me. I wanted to hear it a lot more. And the fact that he hadn’t used my title made me that much more sure that he viewed us on even footing. Yes, I was his alpha. But right now, I was his date, and that was important. I was glad he could separate the two. I wasn’t sure I could. I was an alpha because I had a drive to care for the wolves under my protection. But with Jamie it was so much more.

“Sean?” he repeated, and I realized I hadn’t answered him. I pulled into a parking spot and turned off the engine so I could give him my full attention.

“Yes?”

From his wide-eyed stare at the building in front of us, I had a pretty good guess of what he was going to say and he didn’t disappoint.

“We’re at the aquarium.”

“Yep.”

He turned to me, and the hint of suspicion in his expression made me want to smirk. I held it in, but just barely.

“The aquarium which closed–” he glanced at the dashboard “–fifteen minutes ago.”

 “Ah. Well, ordinarily yes.” I drew out the silence for a moment, letting the anticipation build. “But once a month, they do limited after hours tours. I’m told it’s amazing, with the low lighting and the tanks lit up. It’s sold out months in advance.”

Jamie squinted at me, suspicion growing. I didn’t know what it said about me that I loved seeing it on his face. 

“Then how did you get tickets?” His face paled. “Were you planning on bringing someone else and–”

“No.” I cut that off really quick, not wanting him to think for one second that this had been meant for anyone but him. “I called Lorraine, and she made it happen. There are perks to being alpha. And one of them is sometimes, you can call the wife of one of your pack members and get special treatment.”

Jamie stared at me for a long moment, then turned his attention to the building. After another minute, he looked back at me.

“I don’t even know what to say to that,” he admitted, bewilderment clear in his tone.

Slowly, so he would have time to pull away if he wanted to, I reached toward his face. When he didn’t move, I cupped his cheek and let out a soft growl of contentment when he turned into the touch. He let out a long slow breath as I caressed his cheekbone with my thumb.

Needing to be fully transparent, I went for complete honesty. “I’m glad I thought of it, and was able to make it happen. I wanted to do something special for you, show you how serious I am, without it being a trigger for you.”

Jamie went tense but didn’t pull away. I was glad, because I would have wanted to pull him back. He swallowed hard, the click in his throat a telltale sign, but I stayed quiet, letting him figure out what, if anything, he wanted to say.

“You haven’t asked me about the food thing.” 

“And I won’t.” I made that a vow, and a reminder to myself. “When and if you’re ready, we’ll talk about it. Until then, we do what makes you comfortable.”

“How are you real?” he whispered. I wasn’t sure that was meant for me, but I answered it anyway.

“I assure you, I’m real. This is real. We’ll figure it out, you and me, together. All right, sweetheart?”

Jamie melted into my touch, the tension leaving his body, and he nodded against my palm. I wasn’t sure if it was my acceptance–which was easy because I knew, eventually, I’d find out what his issues were and if we could work on them–or the pet name–which was also easy, because he was a total sweetheart–but it didn’t matter. All that did matter that he was here, we were together, and we were going to see where things led. 

I slowly pulled away, hiding my smile when Jamie whimpered at the loss. Instead, I got out of the car and, quick as a flash, ran around to open his door. He blinked up at me with his big brown eyes, and when I held out a hand, he took it with a grin.

“Let’s go see the fish, yeah?”

His grin grew impossibly wider, and he squeezed my fingers. “Yeah.”

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The Paranormal Obsession

I have always loved the paranormal. Ever since I was a young child. I cut my teeth on sci fi/fantasy, and so it certainly wasn’t a leap. The mythos behind supernatural creatures has always fascinated me.

But when I started writing, my stories were all contemporary. Part of that, a small part, was that I didn’t think paranormal sold as well, and hey, as much as I love writing (and in fact, would wither away without it) it’s also a job, and I have to take that into consideration. But the other part of that was fear. Building a contemporary world is easy, because we live in it every day. I just needed to put the pieces together to fit my MCs. It was harder to make sure all the pieces fit together for a paranormal world.

But that didn’t stop me from devouring PNR as a reader. I love paranormal romances, and want nothing more than to have every last one of them in my eyeballs.

I dipped my toes in the PNR world. Beholden, Accepting Submission, and even the Requiem Inc series, to a degree. But still, the majority of my work is contemporary.

And don’t get me wrong, I love to read and write contemps too. I love any story of people falling in love, overcoming their obstacles, and finding their HEA (or HFN). I’m all about the love.

But PNR in particular has always drawn me in. Which is why I’m very much leaning in that direction of late. In July, the first book in the Cauldron Creek series will be out. There are at least three more planned for that series.

The current serial on the blog features werewolves (though in my published works you’ll find I prefer the term shifter, as there are not just wolves. Since there’s not as in-depth world building with the flashes, I went with ease and used werewolves). But even though the burgeoning idea was sparked by Jamie’s food issues, I still ended up in PNR territory, because that’s where my brain is currently at.

There’s another series I’m also dying to write, though I’m still working out the details on just how I can make it work like I want, which also is, you guessed it, paranormal. That one has a lot of moving pieces though, and would, probably, be a little longer than the books I tend to write (which sit in the 20k-30k novella territory). Plus I’m going to have to talk to people to get details for things I only have peripheral knowledge of. But PNR is the focus of that too.

All this is to say that I have always been obsessed with PNR, and I want to write more of it. Does that mean I’m giving up writing contemporary? Certainly not. But my muse is definitely focused on shifters and magic, world building and alternate reality, than it is on the everyday contemporary. And since I’ve had such a hard time getting words on the page for quite a while now, I’m going to indulge the muse.

I hope you’ll come along on that journey with me.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

** Let’s check in with Jamie, as he has that conversation with his alpha. You can read part 1 here. And in all honesty, there will probably be a part 3. Enjoy!**

The pack run had been exhilarating in a way I didn’t normally experience. But Sean had specifically asked me to run with him, though he made it clear it was entirely my choice. The bright full moon led our way as we ran through the forest, howled to the pack, cavorted and hunted. Well, I didn’t hunt, but I did manage a scrap of rabbit Sean caught and offered to me. It was his way of providing for me, and I knew that. But even in my fur, I had trouble with food. And Sean didn’t seem to judge me for that, even though wolf instincts were at the forefront. Just offered me a small chunk and made a pleased little growl when I gulped it down.

We could shift into our werewolf form whenever we wanted, but there was no doubt the moon had it’s pull. It didn’t make us shift, but it called to us, and it was hard to resist. Sean had structured monthly pack dinners, then runs, to coincide with the moon cycle as a way to encourage pack bonding. It had worked. Our pack was stronger than ever. 

As the sky lightened, Sean lifted his head and let out a long, ululating howl, calling the rest of the pack in. The answering yips and howls were music to my ears and I couldn’t help but join in. Sean rubbed his muzzle on mine, then nudged me toward the pack house. I went, trying to keep pace. But I was tired, and low on reserves. That was one of the reasons the dinners beforehand were so important. It took a lot of energy to run on four paws. 

Shame washed through me, knowing I was slowly my alpha down as Sean adjusted his pace to match mine. With each mile I lagged even further. I didn’t usually run this far out, or for as long, because I knew my limitations. But being at Sean’s side had given me a burst of adrenaline that was now faded and making it difficult. But Sean didn’t seem upset or frustrated. Perhaps a little worried. But he never pushed, just kept my pace until we finally broke through the treeline and into the clearing behind the pack house.

We were the last ones back.

Sean shifted immediately. The rest of the pack was human too, and in varying states of dress, all happy and chatting and full of energy from the night spent in fur with the moon. Some of them called to Sean, wanting the alpha’s attention. But he ignored them for a moment to crouch down beside me and bury his fingers in the scruff of my neck.

“Take your time, and come inside when you’re done, all right?”

I acknowledge that with a tiny yip, pressing my nose against his bare chest for just a moment. I wanted to roll around in his scent. Comfort and caring radiated from him, as well as something sharper and deeper underneath. But my wolf brain couldn’t parse the meaning and I didn’t worry about it. My alpha had said to take my time, and so I did.

It took a while, and when I finally got going, calling up my human skin, the change was slower than normal. Though I wasn’t overly quick with the change, it usually didn’t take this long. After the initial few seconds of pain, my synapses shut off, blocking it out, so all I felt was the pull and twist of muscles shifting, of bones breaking and realigning. When I was finally done, my chest heaved as I fought for breath, and I was still on all fours, the dew causing the grass stick to my skin and making me shiver. I just wanted to flop over and curl up instead of moving.

Sean’s scent assailed me an instant before he wrapped his arms around me, holding me close. I shivered, the contrast of the heat from his body and the chill in the air too much for my body to process. He coaxed me up, first to sitting on my heels, then gently to my feet. I had to lean heavily on him but we made our way across the grass, up the six steps, and onto the deck. Instead of going inside, Sean gently lowered me into one of the chairs, and then wrapped me in a couple of warm flannel blankets. 

With a soft touch to my hair, he disappeared, but he was back a moment later with a glass of juice, a small portion of scrambled eggs sprinkled with cheese, and a half piece of toast smeared with a thick layer of peanut butter. Protein, fat, and sugar. All the things I’d need to get back on my feet. 

“Eat as much as you can, sweetheart.” Sean’s voice was low and kind. And even better, he left again so I could eat without an audience. The little voice in the back of my head said he was probably just on the other side of the glass sliding door, watching me, but I purposefully didn’t turn around. If I didn’t see him, he wasn’t there.

I managed most of it, with only a few bites of the egg and a quarter of the juice left, before I just couldn’t make myself eat any more. I sat back, pulling the blanket a little tighter around me, and heard the door slide open.

Yup. He’d definitely been spying.

Sean took a seat next to me, his pleased smile after he glanced at the plate showing me he was proud of me. That warmed my insides and a tiny smile bloomed across my lips.

“So, you and I need to have a conversation.” Sean’s voice was light, easy, but my stomach clenched. I knew he was going to ask me about my eating problems, and I just didn’t want to talk about it. He could make me—a command from him would have me spilling my guts—and even though I didn’t think he would do that, it still made me nervous.

“Okay. Yes.” I made myself say the words even though I didn’t feel them.

He nodded, pleased, and leaned forward to rest his forearms on the edge of the table. “As I said, I’m very aware of the power imbalance between us, and I want to state up front that you have the control here. This is all about your consent, and I promise you right now I will never violate that.”

I blinked, my slow brain taking a second to catch up to what he was saying. Oh. Oh! This was about our mutual attraction. Relief flooded through me and I grinned. This was so much easier to talk about than the food, because I knew he returned the feelings. Homophobia was prevalent in werewolf culture, but things were changing. And Sean had worked hard to oust any intolerance in the pack. I freed a hand, because I wanted to touch, and laid it over his where it rested on the table. He flipped his hand and gripped my fingers.

“You have my consent, Sean,” I assured him, deliberately using his name and not his title, so he would know we were on even ground. “I’ve wanted you since I met you, but I couldn’t imagine you’d want me back. So I kept to myself.”

Sean’s smile turned a little wicked, just the edge of it, but it was enough to quicken my pulse. His thumb caressed the back of my hand, and it felt so good, I would have purred if I’d been a cat. Instead, I let out a little, happy sigh.

“I noticed you right away, Jamie. Make no mistake. But I had to focus on the pack, of making it better and stronger. Of getting rid of the bigots and the racists. And not just because I’m bi and wanted acceptance in my own pack, but also because I don’t tolerate that kind of behavior. It’s unacceptable and I won’t have it.” His voice was threaded with a hint of steel.

I squeezed his hand. “I know. You showed us all right from the start that you were fair and kind, and that you only wanted the best for all of us.” Heat crept up my cheeks but I forced it back with a deep breath. “I was physically attracted to you right from the start, but I wouldn’t have started crushing on you if you hadn’t been a good person.”

His expression morphed into a leer, but there was a twinkle in his eye that softened it. “A crush, huh?”

I laughed, partly from embarrassment. “Yes, well.” 

“Yes, well,” he repeated, but playfully. “Then how about we go on a date? Just the two of us, away from the pack. We’ll see if the spark we feel can grow into a flame.”

“Yes, please.” My voice came out breathy but I didn’t care. 

“Good.” Sean leaned in, closing the distance between us, and kissed my cheek. He lingered there for a moment, nosing along my jaw, inhaling deeply before murmuring, “You smell so good.”

I swallowed hard, unable to make my voice work as my blood sang through my veins.

“Tonight?” He asked as he pulled back, though he kept hold of my hand.

“Yes.” It came out whispered, and I cleared my throat to try again. “Yes. That works.”

“Good,” he said again. “I’ll plan the whole thing. I’ll text you later about times, once I get things worked out. And Jamie? Make sure you eat beforehand, yeah?”

Damn. The food thing. I peeked up at him, opened my mouth to say something, but he shook his head, a kind smile gracing his lips.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll talk if and when you’re ready. But I want you to know you’re taken care of, and since I can’t do that for you, I’m trusting you do it yourself.” He made sure I was looking him in the eye before he continued. “I won’t push. I will never do that. But I will gently check up. Are you okay with that?”

My voice failed me, touched that he cared enough but even more so that he wasn’t going to push and demand. It meant so much to me, and more importantly, made things easier on me. I nodded.

Sean smiled, stood, and then scent marked me by dragging his wrist along my throat. “Stay as long as you want. Get dressed and go only when you’re ready.” He cupped my chin in exceedingly gentle fingers, tilting up until our gazes locked. “Look for my text and I’ll see you tonight.”

Excitement raced through my veins and I grinned so hard my cheeks hurt.

“Tonight,” I agreed

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I’ve Been Missing

So yeah. Been a while huh?

I know, I know. That’s an understatement.

It’s been a rough couple of years. Yeah, years. I think 2020 itself needs no explanation, but it’s been even longer than that for me. Lots of stuff and reasons, but I don’t think I need to rehash them. Some of them I’ve mentioned here before, but essentially, this site went dormant for more than a year.

I’ve finally done a bunch of the admin that needed doing, and so links are updated, books have been added, and you’ll be able to find my stuff in the books tab if you need to.

I’ve also begun Flash Fic Friday again! It was always one of my favorite things, but considering so much of my problems over the past two years has been trouble with words, that fell by the wayside. But I’ve got something new going there, and we’ll see more of Jamie and Sean, the werewolves, this Friday. So stay tuned for that!

And I’ve finally managed to finish something new! Considering last year, the number of stories I published was thin on the ground, and it’s been a while since I even pubbed at all, that’s exciting news. It’s called Snow and Mistletoe and it’ll be out in July. There’s a reason for that. It’s a Christmas in July story. And there’s shifters and magic and fated mates. Oh, and it’s the first in a series, so yes, we’ll be visiting Cauldron Creek again in the future. More details when I have them.

And I have a lot of ideas, so hopefully more will keep coming. It’s my goal, anyway. This year might not prove to be as fruitful as years past, but I’m certainly hoping I’ll get the words on the page. Wish me luck!

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**It’s time to resurrect Flash Fic Friday! This might turn into a serial if there’s interest. Enjoy!**

No one noticed I wasn’t eating. Most of me was relieved about that. I didn’t want to, couldn’t, and having to explain or make excuses would have been exhausting. I didn’t have the spoons to deal with that today. But a small part of me was also sad. Because if no one noticed, that meant I was as invisible and insignificant as I imagined I was.

Pack dinners were always raucous affairs, filling with tons of conversation, laughter, and joy. I did my best to fit it, to talk and joke with the rest of my pack. But it wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t important enough to hold anyone’s attention for long. We all knew each other—in a pack of thirty wolves, it wasn’t hard—but even though we were always in each other’s pockets, it was surprisingly easy to hide. People saw what they wanted to see, and werewolves were no different.

Our alpha, Sean, was an outstanding leader. Fair but firm, patient and kind. He’d stepped in the role five years ago and turned the pack around. Before that, things hadn’t been horrible, but the alpha had been ineffectual and indifferent. Sean had swooped in and taken over, immediately made changes, and now we were one, big, happy and thriving pack.

Mostly.

I was so lost in thought I didn’t even realize the alpha had approached my corner. Within the walls of the pack house I was safe, and so wasn’t on high alert, keeping my senses tuned into my surroundings. Beside, the place smelled heavily of him, always did, so I might not have noticed anyway.

I tilted my head as soon as he stepped in front of me, showing my submission. He reached out, fingers gentle as he placed them along the side of my neck, leaving his scent on me. I couldn’t help the tension seeping out of my shoulders. It was how it should be when the alpha was there. He offered me a warm smile, his dark eyes shining.

“Hello, Jamie. How are you?”

“Hello, sir.” I returned the greeting but wondered if I’d get away with not answering his question. When Sean slid his fingers around and squeezed the back of my neck, I physically relaxed even further even though my brain told me that meant he wasn’t going to let me refuse to answer.

Sean leaned in, his gaze never leaving mine, but his tone was light and conversational. “Have you eaten?”

“Yes,” I answered quickly, because it wasn’t a lie. I had eaten, just not here and not since breakfast this morning.

“When?” he asked, still with the same tone, though his fingers tightened just a touch. I lowered my gaze, unable to keep his in the face of his scrutiny. I did not answer, only because I knew I wouldn’t be punished for it. But if I told him the truth, he’d be upset with me for another reason, and I didn’t want that either.

After a long moment of silence, he let his hand drop and he took a step back. “Please come with me.”

I didn’t have a choice. It was a command as much a request. But I didn’t want to disobey anyway. Sean was worthy of following, and if he requested something, I had no qualms about doing exactly that. I wasn’t like other werewolves. I didn’t blindly follow whomever was in charge. But Sean was a good man and a good wolf, so it was easy.

Until he led me to the food table. 

Unconsciously, I dragged my feet. I didn’t want to go near it. But his gentle touch had me moving forward. Sean’s hand on the small of my back propelled me forward, and when he handed me one of the small plates, I took it automatically, glad it wasn’t one of the large ones. Then he leaned down so he spoke directly in my ear. It wouldn’t stop other’s from hearing, but they’d at least know to ignore whatever he said.

“Pick out something. Just a little. A couple of bites, if that’s all you can manage.” His breath blew softly against the shell of my ear, and I fought a shiver. I opened my mouth to insist I wasn’t hungry, but before I could he added, “Please.”

I took a tiny piece of grilled chicken that seemed bland enough and hoped that would be sufficient. But Sean raised an eyebrow, so I added a tiny scoop of broccoli salad to the plate as well. That, I knew, had been made by Adaira, I’d had it in the past, and it was good enough I’d be able to force down a few bites. 

That seemed enough to satisfy Sean, and he handed me a fork and napkin before gently leading me to the large table. I balked again, not even thinking about it, just my body reacting before my brain could get online enough to follow my alpha’s directive. I had to take a breath, to try and make myself move, but Sean was so attuned to me in that moment, he easily changed course.

Without realizing where we were going, I suddenly realized we were on the back door. Which was suddenly and suspiciously absent of pack members. Usually there were always people hanging out here when it was nice. But no one was around, and the door slid shut behind us. I didn’t get a chance to turn and see who had shut it, because Sean didn’t let up the slight pressure on my back and I had to move to the café table in the corner. He pulled out a chair for me, and I sat. He took a seat beside me.

“Please try and eat.” His voice was so soothing, lacking all judgment and with only a little concern. I speared a piece of broccoli and forced myself to eat it. The approving rumble that Sean let out warmed my insides and I went for another bite.

“You know I try to stay out of my pack member’s personal lives. Unless it directly effects the pack or harms them, that is. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how little you eat.”

The few bites I’d taken soured in my stomach. “I eat.”

Sean nodded. “Clearly you do, at least sometimes. But rarely with the pack. I thought I was imagining it, at first. I asked around, and no one seemed to see it, so I was sure I had to just miss you eating. But you don’t, do you, Jamie?”

I couldn’t lie even though I wanted to. “I don’t…I don’t like…it’s weird…” I blew out a frustrated breath. “I have issues with food sometimes.”

Sean nodded, his gaze still judgement free. “You don’t like eating in front of people?”

I blew out a breath, pushing the plate away. “When I was young—” Nope, I couldn’t do it. “Stuff happened and it’s hard. I’ll try to do better.”

“Jamie,” he said seriously, leaning forward so I couldn’t avoid his gaze. “You don’t have to ‘do better.’ We just need to find a way that works for you. We take care of you and your needs, okay, sweetheart?”

It was the kindest thing anyone had ever said to me in relation to my food issues but my brain was stuck on the last word. Sean wasn’t the type to use endearments with his wolves, so it had to mean something more. I opened my mouth to ask, then shut it because I didn’t know what to say. But the look on my face must have telegraphed my inner turmoil because Sean hung his head for a moment.

“Shit,” he muttered. Then he blew out a breath and lifted that dark gaze to mine. “I didn’t mean to say that.”

Disappointment coursed through me. I nodded, trying to not let it show on my face and knowing I was probably failing. “Oh. I understand.”

Sean grabbed my hand, his grip gentle but firm. “No, I don’t think you do. I didn’t mean to say it because I’m very conscious of the fact that there’s a power imbalance between me and my wolves. I would never want anyone feeling like they had to do something because I was alpha. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Kind of. “I think so.”

Sean’s gaze bored into mine. “Just because I’m attracted to you doesn’t mean I’d act on it, okay? I have excellent control. In all things. So you don’t have to worry, all right? I’d never force you or expect something you’re not willing to give.”

“What if…” I cleared my throat, trying to find my bravery to voice the one want I’d had since I first laid eyes on him. “What if I want you to?”

His eyes blazed, a hint of his wolf showing through. “Want me to what? Be very clear here.”

I let the shiver course through me, showing him how much his words affected me. His nostrils flared, no doubt taking in the scent of my spike of arousal.

“I want you to act on it. You’re beautiful, Sean. And kind and good and I—” I was rambling. I sucked in a deep breath. “What if I want you to act on that attraction because I feel the same?”

“Well then,” he said, twisting his hand to twine his fingers with mine. “Then we talk about it.”

Uncategorized

What Kind of Year Had It Been?

Kind of a crappy one, to be totally honest.

The world is on fire. Literally in Australia. Between politics and idiocy and gaslighting and all around fuckery, it’s been tough.

In May, I pulled all my titles from Dreamspinner Press. With their failure to pay, they breached our contract and I was able to get the rights back to all 11 titles I had with them.

Eventually I got paid but I’m one of the few. And far more authors are owed far, far more than I was.

The nonsense is still going on.

Romancelandia blew up in the past week. With good reason. I’m not a member of RWA and now I’m glad I could never scrape together the funds for membership. I won’t rehash it all, there are plenty of people out there who have done it far better and more eloquently than I can.

I became mired in depression and it took me a long time to see it. Part of me thinks I should have known by the sheer fact I had no desire to write or knit and those creative pursuits are my biggest passion. But depression can do that to you. Make it so you can’t see the forest for the trees.

I changed jobs and loved my new position, only to have the rug yanked out from beneath me and forced into a position I did not want. And it was a terrible situation for me. So I changed jobs again.

But in all the weight, there is some good.

All of my titles have been republished with JMS Books. Save one, the third in the Requiem Inc series, which will be out next month.

I did manage to get some new words on the page. Forever Nine and Miracles in Space were released this year. (Buy links in the books tab at the top) Accepting Submission will be out next month.

And I’m banging out a short story right now that has a tight deadline that should be out early next year as well.

I have been woefully less productive than I wanted to be. When I look at this, I feel as though I’ve failed. No, that’s not right. But fell short for sure. Short of my goals and short of my hopes. And that’s a hard pill to swallow.

It’s been a tough year. A hard year. But I did manage words. And I did find my knitting mojo again.

So maybe 2019 wasn’t the best year. But it’s nigh on over, and 2020 looms.

I’m going to work on getting more words on the page so I can bring you all more fluffy, happy, satisfying HEAs. Because goddess knows we all need that right now.

Here’s wishing you all that 2020 is your best year yet.

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Special Edition

**As promised, here’s the final chapter of Cody’s story!**

The only lights were the Christmas tree, the fireplace, and dozens of flickering, electric flameless candles. I’d put them on every surface that could hold them, and it gave the living room a warm, homey glow. Friends and family sat on every available surface. Cindy was singing along with the carols playing through the Bluetooth speakers, and she had a lovely voice. The kids were shrieking with laughter. Papa Jim had gotten into the eggnog and was smiling goofily at his wife. Cole was being weird, but since he had confided he was going to propose to Marie tonight, I wasn’t surprised. The whole house was filled with the scent from the mulled cider I had warming on the stove, and laughter and conversation ebbed and flowed.

This was what Christmas was all about.

I couldn’t stop smiling, even if I wished Jake was here to enjoy it with me. But every time that thought crossed my mind, I only needed to look around and feel joy. Cole caught my eye and gave me a shaking grin. Knowing that was our sign, I flashed a thumbs up, and picked up the nearly empty cookie tray. I headed into the kitchen to fill it with Annabelle’s perfectly decorated confections. While I was there, I pulled out the bottle of champagne, and gathered up the flutes from the pantry where I’d set them earlier after I’d washed them. This way I’d be ready to pop the cork to celebrate my brother’s engagement.

Just as I was setting down the tray, Cindy wandered in. Her face was flushed, most likely equal parts wine and happiness, and I leaned over to kiss her cheek.

“How you doing, Cody?”

I smiled and moved away, then started removing the foil from the bottle.

“Okay. Good.” I sighed. “Happy and sad at the same time, you know?”

“I know. That’s the beauty of being human. We’re capable of feeling all sorts of emotions at the same time.”

I chuckled because she wanted me to. But in the back of my mind, I was wondering if I could put my foot down and insist that Jake resign his commission or somehow demand he never get deployed during the holidays again. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I dismissed it. I’d never do that to him. I’d just have to deal if it happened again. And in a few more years, it would not longer be an issue.

“You need any help with this?” Cindy asked.

“Nope.” I got the bottle open, the loud pop a satisfying sound, and offered her a huge grin. “I’m all set.”

“Okay.” She patted my arm and headed back into the other room, swaying a little with the music. She was too damn cute.

I’d just finished pouring all the glasses when Cole stuck his head through the doorway. I smiled wide.

“You ready?”

“Sure am,” I responded. “You?”

“Yep,” he said. And he did look a hell of a lot calmer. I followed him out, and watched as he walked across the room. The dead silent room. When he stopped beside Marie, I expected him to clear his throat or drop onto one knee, but he did neither. In fact, his gaze slid across the room toward the front door.

Movement caught my attention, and then I was sure I was hallucinating. Because there stood a Marine in his service uniform, cover tucked under his arm. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. Because this could not be real. It couldn’t be.

“Hey, baby boy,” my husbands deep voice came out of the Marine mirage. The Marine that had his face and his smile. And was standing in our living room when he should be half a world away.

My knees gave out, but Jake was there before I hit the ground, saving me and holding me up, just as he always did. His touch jolted me back to reality, let me know that this was really happening and I threw myself at him. Literally threw myself into his arms and climbed up him, wrapping him tight with both arms and legs.

An eternity passed and I didn’t care that it was two days till Christmas and we had a room full of people staring at us. Jake was in my arms. And then he was kissing me. With all the power he possessed, all the longing he’d built up, and I was devouring him back with that same aching need.

Eventually he had to put me down, but he didn’t let me go. He kept me flush against him and I was crying, but the only reason that bothered me was because I couldn’t see his face clearly.

I shot a look at my brother who grinned sheepishly.

“Surprise?” Cole chuckled. Then he took Marie’s hand and held it up, and the light caught the diamond on her finger. “She already said yes.”

There were shouts, maybe of glee and congratulations, but I couldn’t process it at all. It was all just meaningless sound

Jake took hold of my chin to turn my attention back to him, then used his thumbs to wipe the tears from my cheeks. He smiled a watery smile of his own.

“How?” I managed to croak.

“I had leave, and I pulled some strings. But I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. Not when I was deployed. But I’m not a Staff Sergeant for nothing, right?” He kissed me again, quickly but full of so much heat. “I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to get your hopes up if I couldn’t make it work. And then even when I knew it would, I decided it would be fun to surprise you.”

“Oh Christ,” I whispered, still not able get my brain online. “Jake.”

“Yeah, sweetheart. It’s me. And I’m here for two weeks.” He gave me a crooked grin. “God willing and the creek don’t rise. Merry Christmas, baby. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Merry Christmas indeed.

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Cody’s story, part three!**

Jake’s mother was at the door. That, in and of itself, wasn’t strange. She’d taken it upon herself to stop in on a semi-regular basis since Jake had been deployed, so we could miss and worry about him together. We’d always gotten along great anyway, and when she found out I didn’t have a mother of my own, she’d adopted me as one of her boys. She loved me even more once I married her son.

What was strange, however, was the huge box she held in her arms.

I opened he door, kissed her cheek, and tried to take the box from her. She made a noise of disgust, and I simply stepped back and allowed her to enter, a fond smile on my face.

“Whatcha got there, Cindy?”

She clomped into the house, winter boots loud on the hardwood floors, and set the box on the table before turning to me with a wide grin and a waggle of her eyebrows.

“I was feeling crafty.” She gave me a conspiratorial wink and started removing her outerwear. “And since my house is bursting at the seems, and Jim would murder me and hide the body if I made anything else holiday related, you get the spoils of my work.”

I laughed, because her husband was the gentlest soul on the planet. Papa Jim wouldn’t murder a fly, let alone his beloved wife and the mother of his children. I took her coat from her and when I returned from hanging it on the hook by the door, Cindy was already busying herself with making a pot of coffee. It was going to be a lengthy visit then. That was fine. I could do with the company.

“May I look?” I was already peeling the flaps of the box back, knowing she wouldn’t deny me. Cindy had outdone herself. The piece was full of poinsettias, evergreen boughs, and pine cones. Two red pillar candles graced the center, and baby’s breath and a dusting of fake snow and glitter gave it a shine. The wide red glass dish gave it extra elegance, and I knew each piece had been set into florist’s foam so that it could be kept watered. The woman did nothing by halves.

“It’ll look great on the table at the party on Sunday, don’t you think?”

“What party?” I asked absently, running my finger along the velvety soft leaves of one poinsettia. Then her words hit me, and I jerked back, my gaze snapping to hers. “Cindy, I–”

“You weren’t thinking of not having the party, now were you.” It should have been a question, but Cindy purposefully made it a statement. When I didn’t respond, she gave me a half smile. “The holiday party you throw for the family, and your friends, is tradition, Cody. Just because Jake isn’t home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it.”

“I know,” I whispered, dropping my gaze.

Cindy appeared at my side, two mugs of steaming coffee in her hands. She set them on the table, then gently took my arm and turned me to face her. I couldn’t quite meet her eyes, but she cupped my face in her hands.

“This is your favorite time of year. This party you throw? We all look forward to it every year. And you should have it, and enjoy it, because even if you do? That doesn’t mean you miss Jake any less.” Her voice grew soft, and I heard the threat of tears in the slight waver. “It doesn’t mean you’re not worried and scared for him. It doesn’t mean you don’t love him. All it means is that you’re doing your best to keep yourself together until he comes home.”

Until she said it, I hadn’t even realized that’s what I’d been doing. I missed Jake so much it was a constant ache, and it sucked celebrating without him. But more than that, I feared that if I some how didn’t spend all my time worrying about him, if I actually let myself enjoy something, it would somehow negate his absence. Or worse, make people think I didn’t love him as hard as I did, considering he was risking his life in a war zone.

I hugged Cindy tight, because she put voice to the things no one else would say. And just her reassurance made me feel better. I could love and miss Jake, worry and fret for him, and still do things that brought me joy. Cindy petted my hair and hummed tunelessly and just let me soak up her love.

Several hours and a pot of coffee later, Cindy was gone and I was sitting at the table, admiring her handy work. It was then that I noticed the spot of white that didn’t belong. And that definitely hadn’t been there before.

My hands shook as I freed the envelope and I almost couldn’t get the damn thing open.

Hello love,

Mom is working her special brand of magic for me. I asked her to put this together, and to give you this note, so you remember that the holidays are about togetherness and joy, family and friends, even if your husband is half a world away. Take plenty of pictures and spam my inbox with them. If Dad gets into the eggnog again, make sure you get video. He’s the most affectionate drunk I’ve ever seen. Party hard, sweetheart. Celebrate the season. Go all out. This is harder on you than it is on me. I miss you like crazy, but at least I have my platoon and the structure of the Corp to keep me from going insane. I’ll be home as soon as I can.

I love you,

Jake

I cried, but there was some happy mixed in. Jake never failed to make me smile, even from thousands of miles away. He’d be home eventually. And until then, I’d have to muddle through some how.

I laughed at myself, turned on the carols, and started making a list. I had a party to plan