The Sequel

Just a quick note to say that I’ve begun work on the sequel to my currently contracted title with the Dreamspun Beyond Line. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be submitting it for consideration long about the first of September.

I’m excited about it because I love this pair, and I even went so far as to build in clues and mentions of their feelings. I knew I would have these guys together even if I never got to actually write their story. In fact, when I first conceived of the first story, many man moons (and a couple of years) ago, I knew that these guys would be a secondary pairing. And I could not let the idea go.

So I’m working on Sam and Michael’s story.

I have to rearrange some stuff in what I’ve already written. Go at it from a slightly different angle and sort things a little differently. But I’m off to a great start, and really kind of excited about the whole thing. It’s some of my favorite tropes.

But I need to get cracking because deadlines have a tendency to loom up faster than you expect them too. And I don’t want to get caught in the same situation I was in with the first one. So focus and writing and exploring the wonderful relationship of two guys who want each other but shouldn’t be together. Until, that is, they figure out how.

Flash Fic Friday

**This week’s prompt, to which Ivan and I both wrote, is a bad day at work. Enjoy!**

The front door slammed loud enough to make me jerk, and I jogged in to see my husband forcefully ripping at his tie. His hair was a mess, the way it was when he continually ran his fingers through it, and he was wearing his glasses, a sure sign he’d spent long hours squinting at minuscule code. That he’d forgotten to take them off–he only needed them for reading–spoke more to his state of mind than anything else.

“Bad day?”

Toby’s scowl was epic level. “The worst day in the history of days.”

“What happened?” I asked sympathetically, moving forward so I could take his bag from him. He dropped it on the ground before I got to him, and I winced as his laptop clunked against the hardwood. It wouldn’t hurt it. The thing was sturdy and encased, but Toby was usually must more careful with his precious electronics than that.

“Murphy’s Law in full effect.”

I hid the smile because his boss, who was a disaster of a man, was Mr. Murphy. Murphy’s Law was the patronizing name we called him, because everything he touched turned to crap. We were both convinced Toby had ultimate job security because he was constantly cleaning up messes his boss created.

“What did he do this time?”

“Actual Murphy’s Law.” Toby kicked off one shoe, then the other, both hitting the wall with a dull thud. I hope he hadn’t dented the drywall. “The server went down. Just after we got it fixed and running again, a stupid ass intern searching porn on his computer infected the whole thing with a virus. And then? The auditors showed up at the same time as the state labor board made a surprise inspection. We had wires pulled out and computers everywhere. It was a fucking clusterfuck from start to finish. And Mr. Murphy ran around like a decapitated chicken, blaming me and Raj and Darrell like it was somehow our fault.”

“Oh babe.”

Toby let out a long suffering sigh, pulled off his glasses and tossed them on the end table, then rubbed hard at his eyes. His whole body was filled with tension, and I wanted to soothe it.

“Why don’t you get out of your work clothes and then come outside?”

He looked at me from the corner of his eye. “I’m not in the mood, Simon.”

I fought another smile. “Just please?”

He didn’t say a word, just stomped to the stairs and then up to our room. I detoured to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of wine, two glasses, and then went outside. By the time he joined me on the back deck, the hot tub was running, and I was perched on the edge, holding out a glass of his favorite Merlot. He tried for a smile that didn’t reach his eyes, but after taking the glass, he slid into the water. I joined him, maneuvering behind him, so I could rub his shoulders. I could feel all the knots, and I worked slowly and surely, rubbing them all until they disappeared.

Long moments later, he released a breath and relaxed back into me, letting me hold him and support his weight. His head fell back onto my shoulder and I lifted a wet hand to brush his hair out of his eyes, before kissing his cheek, lingering a little, taking in his smell.

Toby finally smiled.

“This is exactly what I needed.”

I chuckled against his cheek. “Yeah, I know. Shitty days are the worst.”

“Coming home to you always makes it better.”

“That’s why you married me.” I sucked on his neck, going right for his hot spot, and he melted into a boneless heap. I could have had him right there in the water, except we’d used the last of the waterproof lube last time we’d been out here. I made a mental note to get some more next time I was out.

“Thanks, Sy. I love you.” His voice was barely above a whisper, and if I hadn’t been right there, I wouldn’t have heard it.

“As I love you.” I assured him. I pulled him tighter against me, so he could feel all of me, and the very last bit of tension he’d been holding onto disappeared in an instant.

As the sun made it’s final descent, sinking below the treeline, I felt true contentment wash over me. I didn’t matter how many bad days he had, I’d always be there to help him relax out of it. That’s what true love was all about.

Flash Fic Friday

**As promised, the conclusion to Nathan and Jesse’s story! You can read part 1 here, if you missed it last week. Ivan and I decided to break it into two parts, so last week you saw my guys break up. And this week, they make up. Enjoy!**

I knew about seven seconds after I’d done it, that breaking up with Nathan was the wrong thing to do. I mean, I’d done it for all the right reasons. As much as we loved each other, as good as the past two years had been, I knew we couldn’t go on the way we were. I couldn’t. I was worried and scared all the time, convinced I’d get the call that he was dead. Missing him so hard when he was gone that I could barely function. I fell apart when he was gone, and I just couldn’t keep doing that to myself. It wasn’t healthy

Turns out saying goodbye didn’t mean I stopped missing him horribly and worrying incessantly. Seems like something I should have realized sooner.

But I still stayed away. Didn’t call. Didn’t worry about the things of mine that had gravitated over to his place and were living in his closest and drawers and cabinets. A week passed. Then two. And every day I had to remind myself I wasn’t Nathan’s anymore, that I’d ended things for a very good reason. That the hurt would lessen over time and we’d both move on. And I wouldn’t spend every waking minute, and even most of the sleeping ones, missing and worrying about him.

“How are you still moping? You broke up with him, Jesse.” Rhea’s voice cut through the sadness on the fifteenth day.

I scowled at my sister and pulled the throw blanket up higher around my neck. “Doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”

“It should.”

I ignored her and she eventually went away. She didn’t get it. She’d never been in love like I’d been with Nathan. Still was. And it would take a long time to move past it. There’d always be a Nathan-shaped hole in my heart, no matter what I did or who I loved in the future.

On day twenty-two, I had a revelation. It happened when I finally dragged myself out of bed and attempted to make coffee, which was never as good as what Nathan could brew. The TV was on in the background, and the news was reporting shots fired and officers down the night before. My knees nearly gave out as I scrambled into the living room, scrabbling for the remote to turn up the volume. My heart didn’t even settle after it was reported that the officer was from the police force, had only been grazed, and was expected to make a full and complete recovery. But in that moment, I knew without a doubt that being with Nathan and knowing what was going on made the worrying about him so much easier. The not knowing was infinitely worse.

I sat on the couch, waiting for my pulse to slow to somewhere back toward normal. What had I been thinking? I’d been selfish to leave him. Because I knew the man who’d been sharing my life for the past two years. And I’d made our separation all about me. In the process, I’d forgotten about the things Nathan needed. How he felt grounded when he got to come home to me. How I helped him leave his work at work, and just enjoy his life. And even leaving that out of it, we were just plain good for each other. We learned how to take care of each other over the years. We laughed, we talked, we loved. All the good was so very good. And I’d thrown it away.

I couldn’t get my phone out fast enough. But I didn’t call Nathan. Instead, I dialed his partner, the marshal who’d had Nathan’s back for a decade.

“What do you want?” Lou’s gruff voice, even filled with venom, made me smile. Nathan’s best friend, and my friend as well. I knew he’d take Nathan’s side, had wanted him to, but I loved to hear it anyway.

“Is he home? You’re not on assignment?”

Lou growled. “Why in the fuck should I tell you? You broke his heart, you piece of crap.”

“And I was wrong. And I want to fix it.” I didn’t bother to tell him I was hurting too. He knew it. But he didn’t care.

“Jesse, I swear to Christ…”

“Will he talk to me, Lou? If I go over there, will he shoot me down and shut me out? I was wrong. And I don’t know if he’ll forgive me but I need to try.”

A beat of silence, and then he huffed. “Why?”

“Because I love him and need him. Because he needs me. We need each other and our lives are better with each other. If we can get over what I did, that is.” I dragged in a breath, my heart constricting at the thought, and it took me long moments to realize Lou hadn’t responded. “Lou? Will he talk to me?”

“Yeah,” was the gruff response. “But this is your one chance.”

“Thank you.”

***

I thought I would be nervous when I finally got to Nathan’s, like when I’d shown up to end things, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was determined and filled with peace. This was my man, and I knew I was wrong. I would take full responsibility and lay my heart at his feet. He might kick it away, stomp on it, but I didn’t think so. And I’d spend however long it took to make it up to him, show him I’d never do it again.

Nathan opened the door about sixty seconds after I knocked. He looked haggard, beaten down, but his face lit up for a split second when he saw him, before quickly shutting down into his”cop face.” It broke my heart to see it, but I’d done that to him, made him look at me like that, and I would do anything in my power to fix it.

“You here for your stuff?”

“No.” I took a deep breath. I’d rather have done this inside, but I hadn’t earned that right. If I had to do this on his porch where his nosy neighbors could see, then so be it. “I’m here to beg forgiveness and tell you I was wrong and I miss you and I love you more than life. I made a mistake. And if you’ll have me back, forgive what I did, I’ll spend the rest of my life showing you.”

For a moment, Nathan didn’t say anything. His posture softened just a little, I thought. His gaze roamed all over my face, taking me in, assessing whether or not I was telling the truth, I was sure. I stood there, trying not to fidget, letting him look.

Eventually, he took a breath. “What about what you said? The worry and fear and all that. It’s valid, bab–Jesse. And if you can’t–”

“It’s a million times harder to worry about you and not know what’s going on.” I took a chance and moved a few steps closer. Nathan dropped his arms to rest at his sides, but he didn’t move otherwise. “When I know, when you keep me in the loop, I’m scared and worried. And miss you like crazy. But not knowing where you are or what you’re doing, the worry is so bad it’s debilitating. I’d rather love you and worry about you, and have you with me, then be terrified without you.”

He didn’t say anything to that either, but I knew he was listening. His gaze was fixed on mine, and I could see the warmth in his eyes that wasn’t there before. I took it as a good sign, and gave him a tentative smile.

“I love you.”

I got a ghost of a smile at that. “I didn’t doubt that for a second.”

My smile grew. “And I know I hurt you, and it’ll be a while before you can trust me completely again. But I know you love me. Need me. Just as much as I need you. So if you think there’s a chance you can forgive me, then I’m begging you. Give me another–”

Nathan grabbed me and pulled me to him, fitting my body against his the way we always fit together. So perfectly. As his mouth came down on mine, I opened for him, savoring his flavor, loving his taste. Eventually, he pulled back, both of us needing to breathe. I hadn’t even realized he’d moved us into the house. But we were in his entryway, and I was reminded of that night three weeks ago when I’d broken both our hearts. It seemed fitting we’d make up here.

“I hoped,” he murmured against my skin, his lips on my throat. “I hoped if you took some time, you’d see it was wrong for us to be apart.”

“I should have talked to you,” I admitted, squeezing him tightly. “I don’t want you to change, or get a different job or anything. But if you knew how I was feeling, maybe we could have figured out some things to help.”

He shook me a little as he laughed. “You think? Damn, baby. Only thing I want is for you to be happy. I thought you were. Hearing you weren’t? Made me feel like I failed.”

“No, Nathan. It’s not…it wasn’t that at all.”

He nodded, and kissed me lightly, ending with a little nip to my lip. Then he grinned and dragged me into the kitchen. “We have things to work out. To talk about. To get us back to good. Solid and strong.”

“Definitely,” I agreed, gripping his fingers tightly.

Nathan opened the junk drawer and rummaged in the back, finally pulling out a jewelers box. My breath caught, and I thought back to the day he’d been so excited and insistent I come over, and I’d broken his heart. Had this been what he’d been planning? He held up the box, but didn’t open it. And a part of me was glad. I didn’t want to see. Yet.

“I want to work toward this.” Nathan’s voice was low and fervent. “And maybe we should both be on the same page before we assume things, hm?”

“Yes.” I had to choke back the emotion, because it threatened to overwhelm. “And yes. Same page. And working toward that. In the future.”

“In the future.”

I lunged at him and we kissed, sealing the deal. In a minute, I knew he’d ask to take me to bed and I’d go happily. As much as I regretted the past three weeks, what I’d done and why, it had also shown us both that we didn’t want to be apart. We needed to communicate better if we wanted to get to the point where that jewelry came into play.

But as Nathan held me tight, and my body relaxed into his, I had no idea we would get there.

A Bit More Good News

One in Vermilion has found a home at JMS books! It’s looking like a July release at this point, and I’m super excited to bring it to you.

This is another one I wrote to a sub call, and the story came from the title. Which I have a ridiculous love for. 😀 This is the story of Wyatt and Tru, a red hat, and their dogs. I loved writing it, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

And Dreamspinner has asked to see the first few chapters of the sequel to my currently contracted Dreamspun Beyond title. There are potentially two sequels here, but I’m focusing on the first one. It’s Sam and Michael’s story, and I’m very much looking forward to writing it. This was a pairing I had in my head since before I started the first book, even knowing it might not see the light of day. I wrote a few clues in the first one regarding it, and now we’ll see if not only can I bring the story to life, but if it’ll be accepted.

So May has been a pretty darn good month, and I’m working hard to bring more stories to you. Stay tuned for details!

More Good News

Just a quick note to say that Hearts and Hazelnuts will be part of the Dreamspinner press States of Love collection. Contract has been signed and returned and anticipated release is sometime in December or January. More details when I have them!

This one took a lot of work, in the best possible way. After I first sent it in, the publisher asked for some revisions, which I happily made. And then sent it back to me again, asking for a bit more. It definitely improved the overall story, and I’m super excited to bring you Jordan and Beckett’s story.

I loved the idea for this collection from the start, and wanted to be a part of it. My first couple of pitches didn’t work out, because the states were already claimed. But when I saw Oregon on the list again, I knew I could write the story. I love the gorgeousness of the Pacific Northwest. And I’d long wanted to write about a farmer. And a mechanic. Maybe not in the same story, but here it all worked out. Beck and Jordan came together easily, and I loved doing research to find out all the bits I didn’t know.

This one is also written in third alternating POV, which I wrote before Ghostwalker (which still doesn’t have a new title)

And in other news, this past Saturday, I finished writing One in Vermilion. So I’m working on getting that polished and cleaned up so I can submit that one as well.

So two contracts and a finished novella, all in a fourteen day span. Plus a solid plot idea for a holiday novella. It’s been a pretty good week.

Freebies

I added a new freebie story on the freebie page at the top.

Back in March, I was part of a huge author giveaway, and the prize I offered was a flash fic written from a prompt of the winner’s choosing. A Chance Worth Taking  is what came out of it. Now that the winner has had her fic for a while, I’ve decided to put it up for everyone to enjoy.

Both stories currently there have the PDF downloadable with a simple click of their titles. I’m only able to put PDFs up on this site. But if you’d like them in a different format, just shoot me a note, and I’ll be happy to send either story along in mobi or ePub if you desire. Just let me know!

And enjoy!

Flash Fic Friday

**This week, Ivan and I have decided to once again write to the same prompt. We’ve also decided to split it up into two parts. This week you get the break up. And tune in next Friday for the next part. Enjoy!**

Waiting was never the easiest thing for me, but I was doing my best. Okay, I was watching the clock as it ticked by each minute, silently counting seconds in my head. I’d been planning this for weeks, and I could not wait for Jesse to get here. Finally, the clock struck seven, and I bounced to my feet, practically vibrating. Not even thirty seconds later, I heard the knock on the door. My man was always punctual. When he didn’t immediately walk in, I strode toward it. That was unlike him. He’d been entering my house after a courtesy knock since the second week we’d been dating. I could hardly believe it had already been two years. Unaccustomed giddiness bubbled in my stomach, excitement at the night ahead.

But when I pulled the door open, my smile fell right off my face. Jesse looked terrible. His usually spiky dark hair sported telltale finger marks, and he only pushed his hands through his hair when he was nervous. He looked pale and wan, and immediately my heart clenched. Was he sick? Was something wrong? I mentally retraced our conversation earlier that day, wondering if he’d mentioned something I’d missed in my eagerness to invite him over tonight.

“Baby? What’s the matter?” I reached for him, trying to pull him in close, but he kept me at arms length and stepped into the front hall. He didn’t walk further into the house. His dark eyes were red rimmed, and as he looked up at me, his lip trembled. He was scaring me.

He took a deep breath. “Nathan, we need to talk.”

My stomach plummeted. The dreaded sentence nobody wanted to hear. But no, that couldn’t be what was happening here. I would know. This had to be something else. Reassured by my internal pep talk, I forced a smile, and said softly, “Sure. We can talk over dinner. I’ve got–”

“No.” He voice was quiet but firm, and he stepped back further to lean against the wall. Another deep breath.

I tried again to get him to move him inside. “Let’s go into the living room then and–”

“I can’t do this anymore.”

My blood ran cold at his whispered declaration. It froze me on the spot, unable to breathe, to move, to think. Everything came to a screeching halt as I stared at his beautiful, devastated face. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I tried again and again, until all I managed was a feeble, “What?”

“I’m sorry.” And his voice was still soft, but there was no mistaking the determination in his tone. “I love you. So much. But I can’t keep…I can’t be with you anymore. We have to end this.”

I knew I had to be imagining this. I just knew it. There was no way my boyfriend of two years was in my house, tonight of all nights, breaking up with me. We were happy. We laughed and fucked and talked all the time. If he’d been…less than satisfied with our situation, he would have told me. I would know. But he stood there before me, looking up at me with tear-wet eyes, and the truth settled into my gut. There was no way he’d be this upset if I was imagining it.

“I don’t understand,” I said. Because I didn’t. Less than a week ago, we’d spent the whole day on my couch watching terrible movies and cuddling until it eventually led to more. And now he was standing in my entryway and breaking up with me? What the fuck?

I only realized I’d said that last bit out loud when he flinched, his complexion going even grayer. He wrapped his arms around his stomach and drew a hiccuping breath. If he was hurting this badly saying goodbye then why was he saying it?

“Talk to me,” I pleaded. I wanted to reach out and touch him but everything about his posture was screaming that it would be a bad idea.

“You’re gone all the time.” He shook his head, and straightened, his shoulders squaring as he looked me in the eye. “You’re gone all the time and you work insane hours. There are weeks when I hardly see you. Months. And I’m tired of missing you. Worrying about you. About you not coming back to me when you’ve been gone. It’s exhausting. Loving you is too hard. And I just can’t do this to myself anymore.”

Anger flashed through me first, followed quickly by hurt. I had to make a concerted effort not to yell. “You knew I was a federal marshal when we started dating. You knew what I did. That I’d be gone and–”

“And I thought I could handle it!” Jesse sighed, and dropped his voice. “I thought I would get used to it, or that the fear would lessen over time. But it just gets worse and worse. Every time you go on assignment, have to transport a witness, hell, every day you go into work! I worry I’m going to get the call that you aren’t coming home again. And I just can’t anymore.”

For a minute, everything went black, sadness seeping into me. Then I shook my head and straightened up myself, because if that was his worry, then I could do something about it. “You should have said something, baby. Told me how you were feeling. I can change things. I can switched divisions, get a desk job, so I’m home and not out in the field–”

“No!” His shout cut me off, and finally I saw some anger from him, some of the passion that had drawn me to him in the first place. “Absolutely not. I don’t want you to change. You love the job, what you do, how you make a difference. I can’t, I won’t ask you to change any of that.”

“But if I’m offering, it’s different.” I tried for reasonable, but I sounded a little desperate, even to my own ears.

“If you change for me, you’ll end up resenting me, and we’ll only have put off the inevitable.” He sighed again and pushed off the wall, taking one step closer to me. “Maybe I’m just not the right one for you, did you think of that?”

“Never once,” I responded vehemently.

His smile was sad, and my heart cracked even further. “Then maybe,” he began softly as his gaze darted around my face, before once again locking with mine. “Maybe you’re not the right one for me.”

I felt the pain in my chest as if he’d stabbed me there, and I staggered back against the wall. This was it. This was happening, and nothing I could say or do could change his mind. I’d always loved his stubborn side, the one that went after what he wanted as soon as he’d made up his mind. But now it was working against me, ending the best thing that had ever happened to me. The love of my life wanted out, and there was nothing I could do to stop him. And I wasn’t about to try and make him stay where he didn’t want to be.

Jesse knew the moment I gave in, because a tear slipped down his cheek and he gave a single nod. “I love you, and I’m sorry. But this is the way it has to be.”

He stood on tiptoe to place a kiss on my cheek, then he turned fast, yanked the door open, and was gone.

I wasn’t sure how long I stood there, but it had to be awhile. The smell of something burning finally roused me from my stupor, and I shambled into the kitchen and turned off the oven. I removed the blackened casserole from inside and threw the whole pan so hard into the sink the glass dish broke. I didn’t care at all. I was numb. I couldn’t feel anything. How could I feel when Jesse had taken my heart with him when he walked out the door?

I punched the marble counter so hard I split the skin of my knuckles. I couldn’t even feel that, and didn’t care that I’d possibly broken my hand. Ignoring the blood, I walked to the table, and blew out the candles, leaving the place settings where they were. Then I reached into the basket of bread, and pulled out the small jeweler’s box I’d stashed there earlier. Flipping the lid open, I stared blankly at the platinum rings.

The tears came then, the emotion flooding my insides and pouring out my eyes. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d cried. That wasn’t me. But it made a twisted sort of sense that Jesse would be the one to bring that out of me.

How could he just walk away?

I grabbed the bottle of Jim Beam from the shelf above the sink, shoved the box into the back of the junk drawer, turned off all the lights, and sat in the dark, chugging whisky straight from the bottle.

This was supposed to be the first night of the rest of my life. Instead, it was the night my life ended.