Writing Prompt

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Okay, this is probably the shortest damned flash I have ever written. But here it is... Set in the same world as my (poor, neglected) serial, Your LIes. The prompt is in bold within the text. 🙂


They'd found me.

I struggled to draw in steady breaths, vision dimming with my fear and panic. I couldn't go back. Wouldn't. I'd rather die fighting than be back in that cold white room...

I shook my head and tried to focus. I didn't even know if it was me they were after. It could beany of us. The small shack was full of magic users and Sympathizers - all painted as terrorists and targeted.

I looked to the older man standing near the window, taking comfort in the power radiating from him. He was helping me with my magic, teaching me. He'd gotten us out of the city, to this safe house. And it had seemed safe during the the two days we'd hunkered down. Until tonight, when sirens and flashing lights and threats had erased that illusion.

"Those of you with magic, get ready to use it," he said quietly. "We're going to have to work together to get the fuck out of this."

"You said we'd be safe here!" my friend, Peyton, cried, cringing as more shouting sounded outside - demands that we give ourselves up or they'd come in, armed, to take us.

“No, I said we were safer, not safe," he snapped. "I don't know what you thought you were in the middle of, boys and girls, but this is a rebellion. Plain and simple."

His bright blue gaze met mine, and I nodded. I hadn't been prepared for this - not even a little, as much as I'd tried to - but it wasn't a surprise. I'd known I would be hunted. From my parents' warnings, to my father's disappearance, to being taken...and escaping - the fear I felt now, no matter how overwhelming, was familiar. I'd lived with it my whole life.

"And if there is one truth you need to accept, sooner rather than later," he said, his power building with each word, "nowhere is safe. Not for us."


Bronwyn Green

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Time for a flash fic. We're writing flash fic inspired by Travis Collin's "Call Me Crazy"

I had a hard time with this one - don't know why. Finally went with pulling some lines and coming up with something from those... The lines I went with are:

To the life we had
To the rules we broke
To the plans we made together that you left to me alone
To every dream, every good night kiss
And so you had to leave
Did you have to leave, like this


I stared at the number on the screen, chest aching. I shouldn’t call him. I knew that. Really I did. But… It felt like I needed to. Until now, I’d had no way of getting ahold of him. I’d had nothing but memories of the life we’d built together. And the unbelievable pain his leaving had caused.

Then, I’d heard Ryan talking to him on the phone—fuck, just hearing his name had jumpstarted something in me, made me feel alive when I’d just been existing all these months.

I hadn’t hesitated, when Ryan had ducked into the bathroom, in grabbing his phone, finding Dominic’s number, and plugging it into my contacts.

That’d been four days ago. Four days of telling myself I shouldn’t call. Four days of remembering the years we’d spent together, happy and in love, and dreaming of a future. Four days of picturing him in my head, imagining his smiles, his soft, sleepy goodnight kisses, the way he would look at me as if I was all he needed. Four days of knowing I was going to call, eventually, because how could I not? Finding his number, now, was a sign, right? A sign that we could make this work again. All I needed to do was call.

Mind made up, and fingers trembling, I hit “call” and brought the phone to my ear.

“Hello?”

Oh god, his voice. My stomach clenched at the sound. Memories had nothing on actually hearing it again. I wet my lips and swallowed the lump lodged in my throat.

“Dom,” I breathed.

A long silence. I pulled the phone away, saw the time still counting up on the screen, then tried again. “Dom, it’s me.”

“You shouldn’t— Fuck.” He sighed heavily. “Goodbye, Grant.”

“No, no! Wait. Please! Don’t hang up,” I pleaded, hating the fact I was begging but, at the same time, grateful because I could still hear him breathing on the other end. “I just needed to hear your voice. I…I…I miss you.” When he didn’t respond right away, I asked, “Don’t you miss me?”

“No.”

I frowned at the harsh reply then shook my head.

“You don’t mean that,” I whispered. “You love me. I love you. We’re meant to be together. All the plans we made…the dreams we had for a life together… That doesn’t just disappear, Dom. It just doesn’t.” I shoved a hand through my hair, pulling slightly on the strands. “I’ve been thinking, remembering all of that. I can’t stop thinking about you. How you look when—”

“Well, try harder,” he snapped. “Or if you want something to think about, something to remember, remember that last night. Or were you too drunk to remember clearly? Because I remember it all too well.”

“I said I was sorry, and I am. I never meant to hurt you like that. It won’t ever happen again,” I vowed, even as his beautiful face, bruised and bloody, filled my mind and made me want to vomit.

“I’ve heard that before. Believed it the first couple times you said it.” He sniffed and cleared his throat. “The man I fell in love with left long before I walked out the door, Grant. All the plans, the dreams? Were destroyed long before that night, and you know it.”

“Dom, please, give me one cha—”

“No. No more chances. You already used them all up.” Then, voice quieter, softer, he added, “Keep getting help, Grant. Get better. Be happy.”

The click echoed in my ear—just as loudly as the slammed door all those months ago had, and yet somehow, more final than anything I’d ever heard.

“How can I without you?”

Of course, that was the question I'd been asking myself since that night. And hearing him again, I was farther from an answer than ever.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris | Siobhan Muir

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Time for another Promptly Penned post. We all start with the same prompt and see where it takes up.

Unlike most of the prompts—which end up within in the story itself—this week’s prompt is a scenario.

While cleaning up the attic, he/she finds a box of glass balls with names on them. One drops and, as it shatters, a person appears.

So, here goes nothing…


Kayleigh Hughes wrinkled her nose as she looked around the dusty old attic. There was so much freaking stuff. How on earth was she supposed to sort all this? She poked at a gaudy coat hanging from a rack full of equally ugly-ass clothes. Didn’t Gramps get rid of anything?

She sighed. Well, she could kiss her weekend goodbye. Clearing the attic alone was going to take that much time, let alone the rest of the house. She rolled her eyes as she heard the raised voices downstairs. Well, at least she wasn’t under Gramps’ supervision like Andy was as he worked on the main level. The older man—who had raised the two of them—was not happy about leaving his home and moving in with Andy. And he wasn’t shy about bitching about it, that was for sure.

Which was exactly why Kayleigh had hightailed it up to the attic, but now that she was here, she didn’t even know where to start. With another sigh, that morphed into a violent sneeze, she grabbed a couple books that sat atop a box and flipped through the yellowed pages of one. Spellbooks. Looked like her grandmother’s handwriting. Definitely keep. She set them aside gently.

She lifted the flaps to the box in front of her and frowned. Glass balls, nearly a dozen, of them filled the small container. Kayleigh reached for one but yanked her hand back at the jolt of power that raced through her when her fingertips touched the surface.

What the hell?

Bracing herself, magical shields firmly in place, she again reached for one of the orbs. Grasping it carefully, she turned it around. Writing caught her eye, and she squinted in the crappy light.

Henry Thames.

That sounded vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it… She peered down at the other balls—all had names etched into them.

Seriously…what…the…hell?

This was not good. She wasn’t as proficient with magic as her grandparents, and Andy, were. Her power was more instinctual, and she’d never liked devoting hours to the study of it. But she knew that there was no way whatever this was could be good.

She took a deep breath, then shouted, “Andy!”

“What?”

Kayleigh cringed. He already sounded pissed off. But nothing for it. She had no clue what these things were, but they reeked of magic, and that was for big brother to deal with. Always had been.

“Come here!” she called back, fingers sliding over the smooth glass.

She jolted and blinked when colors swirled within the sphere. Holding it closer, she frowned. Nothing. No colors, no movement. Must have been a trick of the lig—

“What?”

With a shriek, Kayleigh spun around at the sound of Andy’s voice, and the ball slipped from her grasp. As it shattered on the wood floor, a cloud of color—identical to the ones she’d just seen in ball itself—billowed up beside her. Coughing, she staggered back.

“Phillip Hughes!”

Kayleigh fell straight on her freaking ass at the strange angry voice—and the sight of a tall dark-haired man standing where the glass had broken.

“Son of a bitch.” Her brother… Sounding more pissed than before, with an edge of exasperation.

“Andy?” The other man shook his head then looked down at the box next to him. “Well, fuck.” He turned his gaze back to Andy. “Again? Really?”

Her brother sighed and shoved his fingers through his hair. “I told you he was getting bad, Henry. Not fit to be on his own anymore.”

“Yeah, I figured that out,” Henry said, drolly. He picked up the box and moved toward the door. “Let’s get this taken care of then we’ll deal with Phillip."

Henry? That’d been the name on the ball…and now he was… And they were basically acting like she wasn’t standing right here!

“Wha—“ She pushed to her feet and glared at the men. “What the hell is going on here?”

Andy waved a hand. “Don’t worry, Kayls. I’ve got this.” He turned on his heel and headed down the stairs, Henry right behind him. As they descended, Andy yelled, “Gramps! What the fuck did I tell you about collecting! You can’t just keep people you daft old man!”

Collecting….keeping people…he’s got this? Oh hell no! She raced after them, wondering what crazy shit Gramps had gotten them into.


Bronwyn Green | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris

 

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It's time for another promptly penned - we all start with the same prompt and see what we come up with. I changed the tense of the prompt and split it all up because...well, I did. The actual prompt is in bold within the fic. 🙂


They said I was a traitor. That word was spat at me more than once today. Maybe I was. Though I’d pin that label on them before taking it myself.

And wasn’t that a kick in the fucking nuts. My own parents. That they were capable of… That I’d been blind to everything they… That… That…

I fought the sudden surge of vomit in my throat. Struggled to maintain control. Now wasn’t the time to lose it. That would come later. But fuck—spots danced across my vision, and I couldn’t draw a full breath. I dragged shaky, clammy hands over my face and tried to stay upright.

“Samuel?”

The small trembling voice penetrated the panic crippling me. Effectively obliterating it. She was what this was about, what I needed to be about right now. And keeling over, puking my guts out, wasn’t going to help my sister.

I turned toward her and cringed. She wasn’t looking at me, but at our parents…her tormentors. I could only imagine what was going through her young mind as she stared at them. Sprawled across the wood floor, lifeless, expressions of horror forever etched on their faces, completely lifeless.

Because of me. Another violent wave of sick pushed up my throat, nearly gagging me. She had to be scared out of her mind…of me. How was I going to—

“Samuel?” she said again, turning and rushing at me. Tears burned my eyes, blurring everything as her rail thin arms wound around my waist tightly.

“Hey,” I murmured, running my hand over her snarled hair. Fuck them, they couldn’t even bother to brush her motherfucking hair! “We need to go, now, Mel.”

“Go?” She tipped her head back, and wide, all-too-serious green eyes blinked dup at me. “I can…I can leave?”

“Yeah,” I breathed. Clearly my throat, I continued, “Yeah, sweetheart, you can leave, and you don’t ever have to come back. They can’t ever hurt you again. I promise.”

“With you?” she said, so loudly it echoed off the walls around us. “I can go with you, right, Samuel? ‘Cause we’re the same…” She smiled brightly. Despite everything, joy radiated from her. “They didn’t know that. They thought it was just me, but that was so wrong. I knew before you killed them with—” Her smile faltered slightly then firmed up again. “We’re the same,” she repeated. “I can feel it.”

She lifted her hand and grasped mine, sparks of the power housed in her tiny body pushing out insistently. I nodded and let my own magic answer, let it twine around hers, surrounding her protectively.

“Yes,” I croaked. “We’re the same.”

I dropped a kiss on her forehead and tightened my grasp around her fingers then led her out of the house. She blinked then squinted as we stepped into the bright sun.

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know, yet. But I’ll figure it out, and it doesn’t matter.” I helped her into the car and buckled the belt around her before meeting her gaze straight on. “We’ll take care of each other, Mel. Do whatever it takes. Just like we did today. It was us or them.”

She nodded solemnly. “Us or them.”

I straightened and shut the door. Staring at the large house—a rich and beautiful prison, nothing more—I stopped trying to hold it all back. With a rush, my magic, fueled by my rage, exploded outward.

Flames filled the building before me, engulfing and destroying the evil that lived there, that dared to hurt that sweet and innocent girl. I didn’t wait, didn’t need to see the end result. It was done.

Yeah, they could call me a traitor—and many would—all I knew was that I did what I had to do.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Kris Norris | Siobhan Muir

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It's time for another flash fiction - this one inspired by Halsey's "Ghost".

I'm again visiting the world of my Albion's Circle series. This takes place not long before the series begins. A small glimpse into Anna's head...before she finds out that her dreams are more than she realizes.


~Anna~

Music pulsed.

Lights flashed.

Bodies pressed against me. From every side. The touches, the scents, the heat… All of it, surrounded me, filled my senses, driving everything else out.

I closed my eyes, as anxious to escape what was happening as I was desperate for it. I sighed in relief as hands circled my waist and pulled me back against a very hard, very male body. I leaned into him, letting my head fall to his shoulder, as our bodies began to move.

His lips glided along my ear, and his breath tickled as he whispered, “Fuck, you feel amazing…”

Jamie.

My heart sped up. From excitement, from the knowledge of what the night would bring…from shame. Shame that I was using him. Again. And an even deeper, more painful shame that probably wouldn’t be the last time.

Hands firm on my hips, Jamie turned me to face him. I opened my eyes and, tipping my head back, met his gaze. Swallowing the immediate disappointment I always felt when I looked into his gray-blue eyes—and hating myself even more for it—I forced a smile.

He grinned then jerked his head toward the front of the club. “Let’s get out of here.”

Heat coiled in my belly, and I trembled slightly as I nodded. He grabbed my hand, and as I let him lead me through the crowd, I tried desperately to hold on to the excitement and desire. And not think about the tendrils of dread and regret weaving their way through.

I could only hold it off for so long, I knew. It was inevitable and would fill me to bursting soon enough. Because I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for in Jamie’s bed, in his arms, any more than I’d found it is this club or with any other person. I gritted my teeth as another face flashed in my mind. Another set of blue eyes—clear and piercing and haunting.

I shoved all away as Jamie pushed me up against his car and took my mouth. I let myself to fall into the kiss, to become lost in the bliss of his touch, because however temporary, it dulled the edges, softened the harshness of not having what I yearned for.

And made me forget, for just a little while, that I was searching for something I couldn’t reach. Because it wasn’t real.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Gwendolyn Cease
Kayleigh Jones | Kris Norris | Siobhan Muir

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It's time for promptly penned flash fic. This one is a short one - I'm currently sitting at O'Hare waiting to take the 2nd leg of my journey home from my mini-vaca.

For this one, I'm visiting the world of my Albion's Circle series. This is a glimpse into one of the Circle's previous lives...before the start of the series. The prompt will be in bold within the story.

I hope you enjoy. 🙂


"One Last Time"

~Merlin~

I gripped the rim of the porcelain sink and tried to steady my hands.

“One last time,” I whispered to myself.

“Merlin, you can’t do this.”

Lifting my head, I stared at the warped mirror, at the blurry reflection of my best friend. My king. Always, always my king.

“I have to do this.”

“No, you don’t!” he protested. “We’ll find another way. You’re not thinking clearly…so soon after Annwyl—”

“Damn it!” I slapped the sink with both hands and spun around to face him. “There is no other way. Losing Annwyl isn’t blinding me to reality, Arthur! Don’t you think I’ve searched? Looked at every motherfucking option before settling on this?”

“She wouldn’t want you to do this,” he said, voice quiet and shaky as he grasped my arms. “I don’t want you to.”

“We’ve run out of options, Your Majesty. Our wants no longer factor into the equation. This is how we will stop Mordred, so we’ll do it.”

His blue eyes, so unfairly old even though they peer out from a youthful face, glistened slightly, then, finally, he gave a curt nod.

“One last time,” I repeated my earlier vow.

“Logically, I know we don’t have much choice. This is what we agreed to back in Camelot, the first time around. We have to use whatever we can, even dark magic, to stop the threat, but I hate it,” he practically spat the words. “Every time you go down this path, we lose a bit of you, Merlin, and one day…”

He cleared his throat, released my arms and turned away. Before walking out of the tiny bathroom, he continued, his back to me, “One day, I’m afraid, you’ll be beyond our…beyond my reach.” His entire body went rigid. “I’ve had enough heartbreak, and that is one I don’t know if I could come back from. So please, no more than necessary, Merlin. Promise me.”

“I promise.”

Alone again, I turned back to the mirror and glared at my reflection. I felt my magic expand, pushing almost painfully against my skin, in anticipation of what I was going to allow it to do. “One. Last. Time.

Liar.


Bronwyn Green | Kris Norris

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Time for another flash fic. 🙂

I'm currently sitting on Bronwyn's couch, after a fantastic weekend with her and Jenny Trout (and so many awesome authors!) at the Rust City Book Con. We had so much fun, and I had a blast hanging with friends - old and new. I've a couple more days here at Bron's then it's back home. It's been a great visit and a wonderful break. A much-needed one. 🙂

Okay, so flash fic...I'm tying this one to a previous flash fic ("Let's Get Out of Here") because...well, that's what I did. I know, brilliant, right? But this can be read on it's own, if you like. 🙂

This is pure, unapologetic fluff, because that's what I needed tonight. And I figure I don't do it enough. LOL

"Uncertainty"

With a sigh, Penny glanced up from where she’d been tracing patterns in the sand. Her sister and her friends closer to the water’s edge, taking what they thought were artsy photos of each other. They looked and sounded like they were having a good time—and Penny supposed that was what mattered, but she really didn’t want to be here. But she’d given in to Jane… She was actually getting better at not doing that—not always easy because old habits and all—but her big sister had made such a big fuss about Penny not doing anything with their friends for a while, and she’d felt obligated. Though honestly, calling them “their friends’ was a major stretch. They were Jane’s friends. They tolerated Penny tagging along because Jane was just the kind of friend you did that for.

“Come on, Pen.”

Startling as her sister dropped onto the sun-bleached log beside her, Penny shook her head. “What?”

“This was supposed to be fun,” Jane said pointedly.

“Looks like it is.” Penny nodded toward the other girls.

“Hey.” Jane bumped shoulders with her. “Are you okay? You’ve been moping around, not wanting to do anything… Not since the party you skipped out of early a couple weeks ago.”

“Nothing’s going on,” Penny said quickly. Too quickly, damn it.

It wasn’t as if anything was wrong. Not exactly. She was just figuring shit out in her head. And until she had it figured, she wasn’t sharing. Definitely not telling her sister she’d suddenly developed feelings for one of her friends, and he apparently had feelings for her too—they’d ditched that party together and had spent the night just talking and laughing. Getting to know each other better. They hadn’t really done anything beyond that, though he’d given her a sweet kiss and long hug when he’d dropped her off, along with the promise of a "real date" soon.

Then, the two days later, Brad had gotten a call that his dad was in the hospital after having a stroke, and he’d headed back home immediately. Penny felt enormous guilt that, since then, she’d been wallowing in the uncertainty of what was between them while he was dealing with something so serious. But she couldn’t help it. She wondered if what had started between them was real. Did he still feel something or had he just been satisfying some curiosity? Maybe now he realized this wasn't, as he'd said, what he'd been waiting a long time for.

He’d texted her a couple times, but he’d been so wrapped up with visiting his dad—who, thankfully was going to be okay but would have a long recovery ahead of him—and helping his family that that even those messages were few and far between.

She wondered if the situation he now found himself in meant he wasn’t going to return at all. Maybe he’d transfer to a college closer to home. Didn’t that just figure? She’d found something with a funny, sweet, and hot guy, when she’d least expected it, and it was going to be yanked away before it had really even begun. Penny grimaced and looked out over the rolling waves. She was the fucking worst. Selfish, selfish Penny.

She jolted, startled again, as Jane wrapped an arm around her. “I really thought you’d have a good time with us today.”

Slightly bewildered by the teasing tone, Penny lifted a shoulder in a half shrug. “Just go; have fun. I’m fine. Though, it’s too damned cold to be frolicking on the beach, you crazy person.”

With that, she pulled her phone from her pocket, to do her hourly check for any missed texts—she cursed herself every inch the fool—finding nothing. Again.

“Hmmm.” Jane’s arm tightened a moment, an affectionate squeeze. “I think maybe things are going to get better now.”

“Really?” Penny asked absently. “How do you figure?”

“David and the others just showed up.”

“Oh joy.” She rolled her eyes. Just what she needed, everyone paired off with their boyfriends so she could feel even more alone. “And how would that possibly make a diff—” Her words dried up on her tongue—along with every ounce of spit—as she looked over at where David’s car was parked behind Jane’s. Her gaze immediately locked on to the tallest of the group making their way down the beach toward them, and her heart began to hammer wildly.

“Because Brad’s back,” Jane whispered.

Penny whipped around to face her sister. “Why… How… Jane.”

Her sister smiled, pulled her in for a tight hug then pressed a quick kiss to her forehead before standing. “Wasn’t too difficult to figure out. Even if you don’t talk or share…” She sighed. “I know you, Pen.”

Swallowing around the sudden lump in her throat, not even sure what she was feeling exactly, she stared up at Jane.

“He’s a great guy,” she said, so quietly Penny could hardly hear her over the laughter of the approaching guys. “And you’re amazing…you’d be really good together and really good for each other.”

Penny opened her mouth to respond, but just then, David jumped in front of her and grabbed Jane round the waist in a huge hug.

“We’ve brought food and beer, as ordered,” he said cheekily.

Unable to stop herself from laughing at her sister’s boyfriend, Penny shook her head. A hand suddenly appeared in her line of vision, and she tilted her head back to look into dark blue eyes, which were crinkling as Brad smiled down at her.

Breathless and a big shaky—God, she hoped he didn’t notice—Penny grasped his hand and let him pull her to her feet.

“Hey, Pen,” he murmured.

“Hey.”

He stared at her a long, long moment then lifted their hands so he could press his lips to her palm—just like he’d done the night of the party before they’d taken off.

Overwhelmed, she brought her other hand up and, without thinking of everyone around them, ran her fingers through his short hair. “Missed you.”

His mouth broke into a wide grin, and he drew her closer. As he folded her into his arms, she glanced over and found Jane watching them. When she met Penny’s gaze, her sister just smiled brightly before turning and walking away with David.

Penny closed her eyes and rested her head on Brad’s shoulder as she let his warmth seep into her body. The uncertainty still swam beneath the surface, but it wasn’t as sharp as before.

He skimmed his palm over her hair, and his breath tickled her ear as he spoke. “Missed you too. Fuck,” he kissed then nuzzled against her cheek, “how I missed you.”

“But you’re here now,” she said, then leaned back to meet his eyes. “Right? Or do you need to go back? Is your dad okay? He’s home, now? Do you need—”

He laid a finger on her lips, chuckling. “Slow down. I’m back. For good. Dad’s home now, and I may go and visit more often than I did before, but just for visiting.”

“I’m being stupid, I know,” she said quickly. “I mean, we just hung out once, as maybe more than just friends. It’s not like we’re togeth…like we’re—”

“Oh, but we are,” he drawled, halting her babbling. “Penny…we so fucking are.”

Her chest ached slightly, and her lips tipped up in answer to his beaming smile.

“Thank god.” She threw her arms around him and brought their mouths together roughly.

The rumbling chuckle and his answering enthusiasm as they fell headlong into the kiss erased any embarrassment Penny felt, and she let herself just be. Be with Brad, in his arms—filled with the odd mixture of excitment, happiness, and contentment.


Bronwyn Green | Siohban Muir

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It's time for another promptly penned - we all start with the same prompt and see what we come up with. This is part of an idea I have floating around in my head... The actual prompt is in bold within the fic. 🙂


“Ma’am, you can’t go down there.”

Cecilia froze at the loud announcement. Then, mortification washed hotly over her body as she realized her leg was still hiked up in the air. Like a damned dog about to take a piss on a hydrant. And wasn’t this just the fucking cherry on this perfect shit sundae of a night?

Lowering her foot back to the ground, she took a deep breath and tried to reclaim even a fraction of dignity. Coming up woefully short—and getting to the point she really didn’t even care anymore—she turned.

“The floor down that aisle has just been washed and waxed. You can’t go down there.” The store employee rolled his eyes then, with a sneer, added, “That’s why there’s tape there...ma’am.”

Fisting her hands, Cecilia focused on the bit of her nails in her palms and counted to ten. She didn’t need this. She just wanted this night to be done. She’d escaped dinner her parents, their meddling, the ambush of her cheating ex…

“Look,” she said, trying to keep the sharpness out of her voice, “I only need to grab one thing and—”

Ma’am.” Well, he certainly wasn’t trying to keep anything out of his voice. “You cannot go down there.”

“I just—”

“It’s a liability issue,” he continued, talking right over her. “We can’t risk a customer injuring themselves, which is why we have the tape up. Please move along, ma’am.”

Annoyance flared, and Cecilia took a deep breath, and even as she opened her mouth to speak, she knew she was going to regret this come tomorrow. Hell, come ten minutes from now, but she was simply out of fucks to give.

“All right.” She bit out each word, glaring at the pimply-faced, condescending child lecturing her. “Then, why don’t you hop on over and grab me a package of toilet paper, so I can ‘move along’?”

“I can’t do that, ma’am.” He folded his hands in front of him.

“You can’t do that?” she repeated. “All right. Can you tell me where else in this store stocks toilet paper? You are a twenty-four-hour store, aren’t you?” she said quickly before he could answer. “I should be able to come in here, at any point during the twenty-four freaking hours of the day, and be able to get what I need, right? That’s the point of this place, isn’t it? If a customer can't even count on being able to—”

Her throat tightened suddenly, cutting off her tirade, and her vision blurred. Well, this was it. She’d hit Rock Bottom. Yelling at a kid about toilet paper in the middle of the grocery store… Yeah, Rock fucking Bottom.

“There’s no need to raise your voice,” the employee hissed. “I’m s—”

“Whatever.” Cecilia shook her head frantically and, fighting the emotions choking her, spun on her heel.

Get out, get out, just get out, was all that ran through her mind as she rushed from the store and hurried across the lot to her car. Breath hitching painfully, hands shaking, she pulled her keys from her purse…and promptly dropped them.

“Fuck.” She twisted and, back against the car, slid down until she landed on her ass. “Get a hold of yourself,” she muttered.

So, it had been a shitty day. People had shitty days and didn’t freak out at innocent—albeit annoying—grocery store employees over stupid things. She swallowed thickly. Okay, it was more than just a shitty day. It’d been a series of shitty days…weeks…hell, months. And every time she thought she had a handle on things, that she was making some sort of progress and getting back on track, something or someone came along and knocked her for a loop.

Tonight was just another one of those times. She hadn’t expected Nick to show up at her parents’ house. She sure as hell hadn’t expected to learn they had invited him. Or to have them plead his case for reconciliation.

She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes. They’d backed her lying, cheating asshole of an ex-husband. Accused her of being selfish and unreasonable. How did she deal with that? Where did she even start? By freaking out in public, apparently. She laughed—a strangled, desperate sound that quickly morphed into a sob she tried desperately to pull back inside.

“Oh, hey, now.”

Cecilia startled at the deep voice and, dropping her hands, found herself staring into the clearest blue eyes she’d ever seen. Eyes that seemed even bluer for the smudged black lining them. She couldn’t move, couldn’t make her mouth form words as she took in the man crouching in front of her—his shaggy black hair, pierced ears…and lip...his dark shirt with the sleeves rolled up to expose lean forearms, his long almost elegant fingers and the simple silver rings adorning them, his tight black jeans…

“That bastard certainly isn’t worth your tears, caridad,” he continued, voice low and soothing, a hint of an accent she couldn’t quite place. Not British…not exactly. He tilted his head to the side, his full lower lip caught between straight white teeth, and studied her a moment.

“Though, I’m guessing this,” he gestured from her head downward, “isn’t simply because of some loo rolls or a bratty kid with his head up his arse.”

When she continued staring, silently, he sighed. “Well, I can help with one of your problems tonight.” He held up a package of toilet paper and grinned. “Jumped his blasted tape when he wasn’t looking. Can’t have a pretty girl going without the necessities, now, can we?”

Cecilia pressed her lips together, unsure exactly what she was feeling. Whatever it was, whatever this man, with his blue, blue eyes and simple kind act, was pulling from her, it was overwhelming. Almost too much after…after everything. She tried to calm down, to thank him. Then, he reached out and laid his hand on her shoulder. And, she promptly burst into tears.

Well, shit. Apparently, Rock Bottom has a basement, and Cecilia had just tumbled headlong into it.


Bronwyn Green | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris