Flash Fic Friday

***This week’s prompt: a promotion that would mean moving. Enjoy!**

The house was dark when I got home, but Cooper’s car was in the driveway so I knew he was there. After stripping off my coat and kicking off my shoes, I padded down the hallway in search of my husband.

“Babe?” I called out, not finding him in the kitchen or the living room.

“In here,” came the muffled response, and I followed it to the den. It was a cozy room, lined with bookshelves and sporting leather furniture. I loved it in there. It was one of my favorite places in the house.

I stopped short when I stepped through the door. Cooper sat on the sofa, head in his hand, and tumbler of whiskey rocks on the table in front of him. He wasn’t prone to drinking, and especially not the hard stuff unless there was something to celebrate. Or something to mourn.

I was at his side in four long stride. “Oh my god. What happened?”

I sank down onto the cushion beside him, and he sigh heavily as he listed sideways and leaned into me. I took his weight easily, immediately carding my fingers through his hair in that way I knew he loved.

“I have good bad news.” Cooper sighed again, and I caught a hint of smoky alcohol. That glass had not been his first. “Or bad good news. Depending on how you look at it.”

My heart calmed a little, because he didn’t sound too upset. Resigned and sad, sure. But I could comfortably rule out death or destruction by his tone.

“Okay. Tell me.”

“I got offered a promotion. Senior VP of sales. Said my hard work and dedication have paid off.”

“Coop! That’s great!”

He shook his head and pushed against my chest to sit up again, then reached for the glass. He took a long swallow, then grimaced and smacked his lips.

“Of the Atlanta branch.”

“Oh. I… oh.”

“Yeah.”

Moving. That’s what his promotion meant. And not just too a different part of the state or even close by. Down the coast by about a thousand miles. It meant a whole new life for us if he took it. More money and more responsibility, sure. But also an entire change. New city, new people, new house. It meant leaving our friends and family behind. Leaving this house that I loved unreasonably, and that I’d spent the past five years making perfect for us. It meant leaving a job that I adored.

It meant drastic and irrevocable change.

“Do you want it?” I whispered.

Cooper squinted at me. “James–”

I cut him off with a head shake. “Everything else aside, do you want it?”

He released a gust of breath and slumped. “Yeah. It’s a great opportunity, and I’d be great at it. It’s a step up, and I’ve been wanting to do that for a while. But Atlanta…” He sighed again and stretched out so he could press his knee against me. He reached out a hand, and I took it quickly. “Asking you to change absolutely everything just to follow me seems unfair.”

“We need to talk about it. Do the whole pros and cons thing and look at all the technical stuff. See if it’s really the right move for us but don’t you know? I’d follow you anywhere.”

He melted, and smiled. “I do know that.”

“So maybe this time I’m following you. And next time, it’ll be the other way around.”

Cooper sat up and wrapped his arms around me. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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What’s Going On

So I haven’t done one of these in a while, and I figure it’s time to throw the update out there so anyone who cares to know can see where I’m at, writing wise:

Somebody to Die For, the third in the Requiem Inc series, is finished and submitted. Yay!

–Because of the hurricane, things are moving slowly at Dreamspinner, so I haven’t heard anything on Lost Souls Found either yet. Hopefully, everyone is safe, as that’s the most important thing. It’ll be a bit before I hear anything on that. But StDF is just in, so it’ll be a while yet before I know anything with that one anyway.

Hearts and Hazelnuts releases November 29th. I’ll show the absolutely gorgeous cover and do the whole promo thing when it gets a little closer. I’m so excited for this one!

A Timely Gift is set to release as part of the Advent Calendar. My very first published story was part of that package way back in 2013, so it’s sort of special to be part of it again. I love this story a lot. It’s fun and sweet and I loved writing it. More news, again, as it gets closer.

Ghost of a Chance is in the final stages of editing, with just the copy proof to go. I still love this story, despite having read it approximately a billion and nine times (which can also be said about the previous two items). Blake and Derek have a special place in my heart. And, yep, you guessed it…more info as the release day draws closer.

–Still haven’t found a new day job. Which is sad and a bit worrisome. Except that I’ve managed to do a great deal of writing in the time off from working, so I feel really good about that. I currently have plans to take advantage of the time I have left. Real life is going to intrude before I know it (at least, I can hope) so I want to get more written before it does. A shiny little sub call may have caught my attention…

So all in all, things are moving along swimmingly. I’m making the most of my time…or trying to anyway. And that means more goodies for you to read in the near future!

 

Flash Fic Friday

**This week’s prompt is a first date. Enjoy!!**

Justin checked his hair for the forty-seventh time, then made sure he hadn’t wrinkled. Smoothing his hands along his dress pants, then the sleeves of his button down, he pressed hard as though that could mitigate any damage he’d done. He knew he’d gotten dressed too early, but he’d been anxious. Looking down at himself, he wondered yet again if he was dressed all right. Maybe the sweater vest was too much? Should he put on a tie? He was so nervous, he had to close his eyes and breathe deeply. Otherwise, he was going to hyperventilate and pass out. Or sweat through his clothes. Something.

The doorbell rang and he let out an involuntary “eep.” He made himself get up and walk slowly to the door.

Andrew looked like a golden jock god, but his smile was soft and genuine and just seeing it made Justin relax. Justin had been so sure that Andrew would never look twice at him, he’d been able to relax with Andrew and be friends. But that had only lasted a few weeks before Andrew asked him out, assuring Justin he’d been nervous that Justin would turn him down. Which was ridiculous, but Justin had been flattered anyway.

And now, here it was. Their first date.

“Is the sweater vest too much?”

“Hello to you too.” Andrew laughed, his brown eyes crinkling at the corners. “No. It’s perfect. It’s you. You look great.”

Justin sighed, and smiled. “You do too. Really great.”

When Andrew held out a hand, he took it with a grateful sigh. They were friends, and Justin didn’t need to be nervous. At least, that’s what he told himself. But there was no denying their dynamic had changed. He was just glad they taught in different departments because if this went badly, then Justin wouldn’t have to see too much of Andrew. Not that there was any reason for it go badly. Only that Justin messed things up by speaking without thinking, or saying the wrong thing.

“Hey.” Andrew stopped at the passenger side of the car, using his hold on Justin to turn him. Justin got caught in Andrew’s gaze, and Andrew smiled. “Don’t worry. We’re good. It’ll be fun. I promise.”

Justin nodded, and let Andrew help him into the car. Then he turned to Andrew as they headed away from the curb. “Where are we going?”

Andrew chuckled. “It’s a surprise.”

Fighting the panic, Justin said softly, “I don’t really like surprises.”

Andrew patted his knee. “I know. But I promise, you’ll like this. Just trust me for a few more minutes.”

Justin had no reason not to trust Andrew. Since the semester started, they’d been steadily getting closer, and he knew Andrew had a good heart. So Justin made the conscious decision to let it go, and just trust.

When they pulled up in front of the science museum, Justin raised a brow. This was one of his favorite places in the city, and he was touched Andrew had thought of it. But he couldn’t imagine what they were doing there. Andrew bought the admission tickets, and then pointed to the sign. Justin’s gasp sounded loud, but Andrew just grinned.

“The planetarium. I love that,” Justin breathed, and Andrew’s grin bloomed.

“You and me, under the stars. You getting all excited by the constellations, me basking in your glow. Exactly what I wanted.”

Justin blushed, but he grabbed Andrew’s hand. The thought Andrew had put into this made him feel special. He’d planned this so they could do something that made Justin happy and comfortable. He squeezed Andrew’s fingers, and followed him into the dark, domed room. He couldn’t wait to snuggle with Andrew under the projected stars.

Best. Date. Ever.

Flash Fic Friday

**This week my prompt was simply thus: Bart, Greg, peaches. Enjoy!**

I loved my job, but I hated working Saturdays. It was even worse today, because my boyfriend and I been planning on starting our day with a trip to the Farmer’s market. I loved watching Greg at the market. The joy he got at all the interesting food and products made me smile. But he understood the demands of my job, and he hadn’t been overly disappointed that we couldn’t go. In fact, I thought I’d been sadder than he was.

But finally, I was home. I’d managed to resolve all major crises and it had only taken five hours. I was tired and dragging, but just the thought of sitting down to a nice dinner and then quiet time with Greg kept me going.

“Bart?” Greg called when I opened the door.

I cringed. Everyone in my life called me by my last name–even my parents–except Greg. He thought it was cute, though I disagreed. But I loved him, so he could call me whatever he wanted.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Don’t come in here!”

I froze, then cocked my head and listened. A bang and a crash let me know he was in the kitchen. I was instantly suspicious.

“Why not?”

“I mean it, Bartholomew! Don’t come in here!”

Greg was full-naming me? That was sure to mean trouble. I ignored his directive, and jogged right through the house. And stopped dead on the threshold to the kitchen.

He was a mess. Sweat had flattened his dark hair to his head. Flour and something sticky covered the apron he’d donned, and more flour streaked his cheek. He stared at me with wide eyes, his mouth open like he wanted to say something but didn’t know what. The counters fared no better, covered in bowls, pots, knives, and pans. The sink was filled with sudsy water and even more dishes. And overlaying it all was the sweet, delicious scent of peaches.

“You don’t like peaches,” I said stupidly.

The anxiety on Greg’s face eased instantly, and he gave me a glorious smile. “Nope. Sure don’t. But you do.”

I nodded, still not quite sure what I was seeing. It took a minute to put the pieces together. But the pile of peach skin and pits next to the cutting board, and the sweet scent of baked goods finally sank into my brain.

“Oh. Honey.”

Greg’s grin got wider, and then he grabbed a towel to wipe off his hands before crossing the floor to get to me.

“You were so sad about missing our trip this morning, so I thought I’d go anyway and get you something to cheer you up. And that stand we like had peaches!” He gestured around, and I chuckled. “But you couldn’t eat a peck of peaches yourself, so I decided to cook. So now there’s a cobbler for dessert, because I know that’s your favorite. And I made a peach compote that should store fine in the fridge for a few weeks. You can have that on toast or on ice cream or I could make crepes tomorrow, if you want and–”

I cut him off by grabbing him and kissing him. He melted into me for a long moment, letting me have control, and then pushed me away.

“I’m gonna get you all dirty.”

“So what?” I shrugged. “You smell like peaches. I want to eat you up.”

He gave a tiny moan, and his breathing sped up. “That works too.”

We’d get to that. But first, I had to make sure he knew how much I appreciated it. “This is awesome. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He bit his bottom lip. “I thought I had enough time to get everything cleaned up before you got home though.”

“I hurried,” I soothed, letting him know it wasn’t his fault. Then I shot him a teasing wink. “Though why you could possibly need all these dishes…”

He laughed, and smacked my arm. “You know I use way too many dishes. It’s a sickness. I can’t help it.”

I pulled him in again, not caring that I’d get flour, peach juice, and who knew what else all over my clothes. “I love you. Thank you.”

“I love you. You’e welcome.”

“Now.” I clapped my hands. “Let me help you get this mess cleaned up. And then let me help you get yourself cleaned up.” I wiggled my eyebrows, and Greg’s breath caught. “And then, when we have the energy again, I’d love to have dessert.”

Pupils blown, Greg licked his lips and then nodded. He turned, tripped over his own feet, and then set to work. After a moment, my heart full to bursting, I followed him.

Flash Fic Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Turn over, baby.”

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

“Hey there, Lou.”

I gaped. “What?”

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled. “You always do.”

He laughed, a low, wicked sound.

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

Flash Fic Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, honey. What’s really up?”

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

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

Ah. I thought I finally understood.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

“I know, Mr. Danbury.”

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

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

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

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

Yep. I was definitely keeping him.

Flash Fic Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, but–”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That went better than I thought.”

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

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

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

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

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

I grinned and followed him. Whatever he wanted.