Flash Fic Friday

**This week’s prompt is a high school reunion. Enjoy!**

He couldn’t believe it had been so long.

Twenty goddamn years.

Setting foot back in his old high school was a mind trip. Justin had loved high school. Four years of unfailing popularity. He’d been Senior class president, prom king, and captain of the lacrosse team. He’d had boys and girls hanging off his every word, following him around, desperate for his attention. He liked to think he’d bestowed it gracefully. It would have been so easy to let that power go to his head. To be an asshole and a bully. Sometimes, he thought that would have been easier.

It would have made it a hell of a lot easier to hide the things about himself he didn’t understand, anyway.

Justin took a deep breath and grinned. The hallways even smelled the same. Books and metal and the cleaning supplies they used on the floors. He could hear the noise from the gym, where music from their years was playing and loud voices chattered over the sound. The black and gold streamers and balloons, and the banner proclaiming “Welcome Class of 1997” made it look kitschy, but there was even a charm in that.

He knew if he pushed through the doors, he’d be assailed with classmates. A few he still talked to occasionally on social media, but most he didn’t. They’d want his attention again. Or maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe they wouldn’t care about who he’d been all those years ago, their own lives and troubles and joys gaining a more important place in the intervening years. He wasn’t sure which one was worse.

“Why are you worried?”

Justin didn’t turn at the sound of the voice. He knew it as well as his own. Had spent the past fifteen years living with and loving that voice.

He shrugged one shoulder. “You know why.”

Dorian stepped up beside him, and his big hand enclosed Justin’s. The warmth and strength was immediately comforting. He squeezed Dorian’s fingers, but he kept his gaze fixed on the doors.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” Dorian asked, his voice low and close to Justin’s ear.

“That they think I lied to them, and they hate me on sight?” Justin tried for amused, but his tone didn’t quite make it. Dorian pressed their shoulders together.

“I highly doubt that will happen. I’m sure the truth about you has already spread like wildfire through them all.” Dorian stepped in front of him, then used a hand to lift Justin’s chin. Their gazes met, and the love and affection Justin saw there eased his heart. “And you weren’t lying. You were still figuring yourself out. But at your core, you’re the same person.” Dorian let go of Justin’s face to press his palm to Justin’s heart. “But if the worst happens, we hold our heads high and walk out.”

Justin released a slow breath, forced himself to smile, and nodded. Dorian leaned in and kissed his forehead, then stepped to the side. He didn’t let go of Justin’s hand, and Justin was grateful. he took another breath, and with his chin up, he pushed through the doors.

The lights and sounds were overwhelming for a moment, and Justin had barely adjusted before he heard his name screeched in a loud voice. A second later, he was enveloped in a hug and got a mouthful of bleach blonde hair.

“Cassie,” Justin murmured, returning the hug. Head cheerleader and his prom queen. They’d been good friends, though she’d always dated football players and never looked twice at Justin. That had been fine with him. He adored her, but he hadn’t wanted to date her.

She stepped back and her blue gaze roved all over his face. She looked older–they all did, he supposed–but still good. He wasn’t surprised she’d taken care of herself. He smiled, and it felt tremulous, but he didn’t look away. She broke first, her gaze sliding to Dorian, and then back to him. Justin saw the surprise there.

“Who have you brought with you?”

Justin didn’t miss the slight confusion in her tone, but she didn’t sound derisive or apprehensive. It was now or never.

“Cassie, this is my husband, Dorian. Dor, meet Cassie.”

“It’s a pleasure,” Dorian rumbled, his smile wide.

Cassie blinked, and then a blinding grin took over her face. She grabbed Justin’s hand and started to tug.

“Come on. Let me introduce you to my husband.”

Justin let himself be led, his mind whirling. He’d been expecting the worst, because his mind often went there, and Cassie had taken it in stride. He wasn’t so naive as to think everyone would, but Cassie’s welcoming demeanor did wonders to assuage his worry.

He grabbed Dorian’s hand, pulling him along too, and when they stopped in front of a huge group of people, Cassie started introductions with her familiar perky attitude. With each one, he was warmly welcomed, and within a few minutes, they were reminiscing about old teachers and pranks and high school shenanigans Justin hadn’t thought of in years. Dorian was a solid presence beside him, laughing at all the right places. Justin leaned against him, just a little, and Dorian put his arm around Justin’s waist.

And Justin remembered why he loved high school.

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So That Happened

It’s weird how, sometimes, life moves at lightning speed.

As you may remember, I’ve been without a day job since an unfortunate (and also fortunate) lay off at the end of June. Last week, on Thursday morning at 9 AM, I finally had a job interview. It was quick and short, but the people seemed nice. And I knew I could do that job. Not only have I been dealing with the office end of medical practices for more than a decade, but I’m also good at the “mindless” jobs. Not to say that there’s no thinking involved at all, but more that it’s a job where there’s a clear set of tasks, and it doesn’t take all your brain power to do it. You sit there, do the thing, and move on to the next thing until it’s time to go home. Some people hear this description, and they balk. They know they would be bored and hate it. Me? I’m perfectly suited to such a job, because my brain is always half engaged in other things anyway. Plotting or mind-knitting or colorway planning. What I liked about this particular job is that it’s just sitting at a desk, and I don’t have to interact with many people, and I can just do my thing.

(side note: I thought I was applying for a different position, because the wording on the job description was sort of vague, but now I understand the keywords they used. But that’s okay)

Anyway, as much as I knew I could do the job when I walked away from the interview, I didn’t really think I would take it because I was sure they wouldn’t be able to pay me enough.

Fast forward to 3:30 ish Thursday afternoon…and I get a call from the employment recruiter person. Basically offering me the job. I was sort of stunned it happened that fast, but he sent me the information to look over, we talked about money, and told me he’d call back the next day. I still didn’t think they’d pay me the hourly rate I needed, but I’d look over the info nonetheless.

And while I was all “oh holy crap, guess what just happened” sending texts and messages…my email pinged and my heart pounded.

Because it was the contract offer for Somebody to Die For, the third in my Requiem Inc series with the Dreamspun Beyond line. A job offer and a contract offer on the same day. I’ll tell you, I was doing a bit of a butt wiggle happy dance.

I’m super excited for StDF for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I love the characters and the world, and I’d been planning Avery’s story since the moment he first showed up on page in Ghost of a Chance. (Though he had a different name in the original version). Each of the books has a slightly different feel, but they’re all low angst and focused on the relationship between the two MCs. Avery and Jameson have their own hurdles to overcome. And they’ll be out in the fall of next year.

(I do have one more story in me for this series, but I’m not yet sure if I’ll write it. There are circumstances. So we’ll see.)

And then, on Friday, I got the call from the recruiter, and they did, in fact, come up with enough money to allow me to take the job. And of course, part of me didn’t want to, because I’m enjoying not going to a day job and writing and knitting and reading instead. But I do want to work, and I want a steady income and insurance benefits and all that stuff. So, I took the job and I start on November 6th (barring any complications, but I don’t foresee any)

So. I have a new job I’ll start in a couple of weeks, two more releases before the end of the year, and four releases already set for next year. With possibly another one, if I can manage to get it written.

All in all, I’d say that’s pretty decent.

Flash Fic Friday

**This week’s prompt is a long lost love. Enjoy!**

When I saw him, I was certain I was imagining it. It had been twenty years since he walked away from me, and in the intervening years, I’d hallucinated him in all sorts of places. He was never far from my thoughts, and I thought I saw him everywhere. But every time, it turned out to be another man; someone who was built the same, or had the same color hair, or a familiar looking jacket. It had never been Mark.¬†So I was used to thinking I saw him, and it not being him. The man down the street was not Mark.

Except why else would he be standing in the pouring rain, getting drenched, and staring at me like he saw a ghost?

My heart picked up, and I stood rooted to the spot as the man started walking swiftly toward me. He had a bit of a limp, his gait uneven, and he stepped carefully even as he picked up speed. I couldn’t move, because the closer he got, the more he looked like Mark. An older, much more worn version, but definitely Mark. And then the air stuttered in my lungs, because it was Mark, stopping two feet away from me, looking like a drowned rat with a broken heart.

“Daniel?” His voice was a croak.

Tears stung my eyes, and I tripped forward, awkwardly dosing him with rain off my large umbrella until I could shield him with it too. We stood close, staring at each other, breathing in each other’s air.

“Hi. Wow. Hi.”

Mark chuckled at my eloquence, but it sounded pained and raw. He took another step forward, so he was right in my space. He lifted a hand, but dropped it before he made contact with me. I wanted to throw my arms around him, because I couldn’t believe he was here.

At eighteen, we’d been desperately, madly in love. Hardly anyone knew–it wasn’t safe–but that hadn’t mattered. We’d made plans to run away together, to start a new life with each other as soon as we graduated college. But Mark had joined the Marines instead, without telling me first, and broke my heart into pieces when he went to Basic. He cut off all contact, and it took me weeks to function normally again. Everyone thought I missed my best friend. Which I did, but Mark was so much more than that to me.

“How are you?” I whispered.

Mark shrugged. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

I nodded, and blinked hard to clear the tears. I hadn’t either. I was fortunate his parents were still friends with my mom, because I’d gotten snippets of information over the years. I knew he’d been injured by an IED when he’d been deployed a few years ago, and that he’d gotten a medical discharge sometime later, but I didn’t dare ask for more info. I couldn’t seem too eager, and I didn’t know his situation with his parents.

“You look great,” he murmured, and this time he did touch me, the briefest ghost of fingertips along my cheek. I sighed, leaned closer catching a whiff of him under the rain and damp wool. Earthy, with a hint of citrus. God, that smell. I remembered it well. And for just a second, I was lost in memories. Of our bodies entwined, of long nights in each other’s arms. A horn honked, and I jerked back to the present.

“You look good, too. Tired, but good.” I smiled, and Mark did too.

“It hasn’t been easy,” he admitted with a hint of sadness. Then he cleared his throat. “I bet you have a husband and a passel of dogs and white picket fence now. All those things you dreamed off.”

“Well, I’ve got the dogs,” I said with a small laugh. “And the fence, but it’s wrought iron.”

Mark’s smile grew. “But no husband? Boyfriend? Partner?”

“No,” I said softly. “Not one of those.”

“Me either.”

I grinned, unable to stop myself. And then he gave a hard shiver, and I realized he was soaked and freezing.

“There’s a coffee shop,” I said, gesturing across the street. “Want to get warm and have something hot to drink? Catch up?”

He put his arm around me, then took the umbrella from my hand and held it over both of us. “There’s nothing I want more.”

Update From the Attic

It’s been awhile, and that means it’s time for an update and what I’m working on post!

First things first! Hero Worship was originally released as part of an antho a few years ago. I love this story. Like an insane amount. I don’t know what it is about it, and it was one of the first I ever wrote, but Matt and Alex have a special place in my heart. I revisited them often in flash fics, because I never could quite let them go. So I’m super happy to say it’s going to be released as a single title in January with JMS Books. It’ll get some new polish and shine, and a pretty new cover. Anyone who hasn’t gotten the opportunity to read it before will finally get a second chance. (Specific info when I have it)

So there’s going to be a glut from me in the coming months. First we have Hearts and Hazelnuts, on November 29. I’m doing a cover reveal over on Joyfully Jay next Friday, and I can’t wait to show it off. Because it’s beautiful and I love it. Brooke Albrecht did an amazing job. I’m in the process of working with the publisher to set up a mini blog tour so I’ll post those when I know them.

Then there’s A Timely Gift, part of Dreamspinner’s Advent Calendar. On December 1st, it’ll be released as a standalone title. The whole set is up for preorder now, at a fantastic price, so if you want 31 great stories, one a day, delivered to your inbox, then head over and pick it up! And if only a few strike your fancy, they’ll all be available individually on the first.

In January, on the 16th, Ghost of a Chance will hit e-shelves. If you’ve already subscribed to the Dreamspun Beyond line, then you’ll get the book when it’s released. If not, you can get it (or any of the other titles) individually in ebook or paperback. I really love the cover for this one too, but I’m gonna keep that to myself for a little while longer. Closer to release date, I’ll share it. I feel like I’ve talked about this book a lot, but I love Blake and Derek, and I love their story. And it’s something just a little bit different, so that was extra fun. I can’t wait to share their story…and that of Sam and Michael, Lost Souls Found, which will be out in late spring. Though each book can be read as a standalone, and isn’t dependent on the other, there are cameos in both stories of all the characters, so it makes it a little bit more fun. (And a third for the series is currently under review by the publisher)

And, of course, as I mentioned, Hero Worship will also be re-released in January!

So what else has been going on? I worked through a little bit of burn out, and am currently penning another story, shifters this time. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself, just enjoying it as I write it, though I have a loose goal to get it done by mid November. I’ve always wanted to write shifters, but wanted to do it in a way that speaks to my own idea of how it works. And though one of my characters is a wolf, the other is a mountain lion, because I had to have a cat of some sort.

Oh, and I dye my own yarn now, a few of which are for sale, so if you’re interested, you can check out my Etsy shop! The names of the colorways are based on romance genres, Harry Potter themed, and Star Trek. So, that’s fun. heh.

Still no day job yet, but I’m making the best of it. Have an interview. We will see how it goes.

So that’s me in a nutshell right now. Hope everyone’s world is as shiny as it can be.

Flash Fic Friday

***Fall is finally in there air and my prompt this week is a Harvest Festival. Enjoy!**

Sweater weather. Crisp, cool air. The scent of decaying leaves and hay and cooking apples. I couldn’t stop grinning. This was my heaven.

The annual Harvest festival was my favorite place, and I made it a tradition to go every year. For hours I wandered the stalls, picking up knickknacks and treats, things I could only get from certain vendors at this one place and time. I made a day of it, and though I usually had a few people willing to meander with me, this year I was alone. I didn’t care. I could spend the whole day walking, looking, and chatting.

I’d already been there for a couple of hours and had made one trip back to my car to drop off overladen canvass bags. But I still had half of the festival to walk through. I passed by the games and rides–neither of those were why I was here–and headed down yet another row. It took me a better part of an hour, and I’d stopped and had a apple cider donut and picked up some fried dough, before I continued on.

And stopped dead when I saw the familiar banner on the last booth in the aisle.

The year before, I’d stopped at the booth because my sister was an avid knitter and she loved indie dyed yarns. In the process of picking her up a dark blue merino/angora blend, I’d met Kyle. He didn’t own the shop where the yarn was produced–that was his sister–but he’d been helping out. He was funny and engaging, and I stood there for more than fifteen minutes pretending to chose yarn just so I could chat with him. And after I made my purchase and his sister came back, Kyle and I had meandered to a copse of trees not far away.

The blow jobs had been spectacular.

We’d parted ways before exchanging more than names. I’d instantly regretted it, but by the time I got the courage up to go back to the stall, the yarn had been packed up and neither Kyle nor his sister were anywhere in sight. I’d thought about him occasionally over the past year, and my heart sped up a little, thinking I might see him again.

Would he be there? Would he remember me? Should I even wander over?

But my sister¬†did love the yarn, and I’d won Christmas by giving it to her last year. I couldn’t pass up the chance to get her that treat, and to maybe see Kyle again. I took a deep breath and walked over.

Kyle wasn’t there. Just his lovely sister who was happy to chat and help me make my selection. I tried not to let my disappointment show. Instead I picked out a gorgeous skein my sister would die over, and paid with a swipe of my card.

“Liam.”

I started, and then spun. Kyle stood there, his dark eyes hooded and a mischievous little smile on his lips. My heart stuttered, and I tried to control the crazy grin on my face.

“H-hi there.”

Kyle chuckled softly, and took a step so he was in my space.

“It’s nice to see you again. I’ve been looking for you, hoping I might.”

My eyes widened. “Really?”

He nodded, and then stepped in again. Any closer, and we’d be pressed together.

“Would you like to take a walk with me?” His smile turned soft. “We can head over to the Rev’s Barbecue booth. Have dinner?”

Now I couldn’t contain my grin. I wasn’t opposed to a repeat of last year, but dinner was so much better.

“I’d love to.”

Kyle glanced up. “You okay here, Krissy?”

I peered over my shoulder to see his sister smiling knowingly, and then she made a shooing gesture. Kyle chuckled again, then held out a hand in invitation. I didn’t hesitate to take it.

The Harvest Festival really was my favorite place to be.