January 2019 – Photo Fic

First flash fic of the year. Yay! We’ve all be given the same photo and have to come up with a story to fit. Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Sometimes, I hated my job.

Okay, to be fair, I always hated my job. The necessity of it.  Though, I had to wonder, did being part of a secretly growing rebellion actually count a job? Or was it a mission? A quest? Or just a series of trying tasks shoved upon me in between having to fight for my life? And, in the end, did it fucking matter?

“I don’t understand.”

With a sigh, I shoved aside useless ponderings and focused on the task at hand. Vetting a possible recruit. Oh, joy. Glancing over at the man in the passenger seat, I stopped the car and put it in park.

Daniel Hartford, my latest assignment—cute, clean-cut, smart, a recent self-proclaimed Sympathizer of Magic-users.  He also happened to be the son of one of the most influential couples in the country. The Hartfords were old, old money…and very vocal in their staunchly anti-magic stance.

The leadership wanted to know if he was on the level, because if he was… Well, he could be a helluva asset with the access he had.

Which was why Daniel was now my problem.

He’d already been checked—I’d gone over the files last night—by several of the higher ups, and they liked what they’d seen, so they requested me.

The human lie detector.

I hated that they called me that. Never to my face of course. Because they avoided face to face with me as much as possible. And who wouldn’t? Feeling others’ emotions, knowing when someone was lying…seemed like a pretty awesome power to manifest, but in reality, it led to a very, very lonely life.

I was an asset the leadership never hesitated to be use, but never someone they wanted to actually have around. Everyone had their secrets, after all. Even the good guys.

“Ms. Carter?”

Daniel’s soft query pulled me out of my head again, and I inwardly cursed my distraction. I had a job to do, and it was time to do it.

“I told you to call me Emma,” I reminded him. “I know this doesn’t make sense, but it will. Come on.”

I exited the car and waited for him to do the same before walking toward the house in front of us. Remaining silent as I lead him across the lawn and up the steps to the front door.

So far, I hadn’t sensed any deception from Daniel. So, that was good. Everything I’d gotten from him, so far, assured me he wasn’t an actual threat, a possible plant from the other side.

Didn’t mean that he was a strong ally, though. There was a world of difference between sympathizing with Magic-users and actually being willing to act and fight for them, sometimes in violent ways. Not to mention putting your own life at risk.

Before I’d give my approval, I had to be sure that there was more to Daniel Hartford than simply rejecting his parents’ beliefs and making an impulsive stand against them, because trusting him was a huge, huge risk. And, at this point, I had nothing to assure me of that the risk was worth taking. While he’d never publicly aligned himself with his parents’ stance on magic, neither had he ever shown any support for Magic-users. Not until two weeks ago, when he’d made contact with one of the more public Sympathizer groups and inquired about the cause.

It seemed like an unlikely first leap to me.

Turning the knob and pushing the unlocked door open, I gestured for him to enter. He frowned then moved past me…immediately gasping as he walked into chaos. Shock and confusion pulsed on the air between us as we moved through the main level.

The old house was, to put it simply, a disaster. Ransacked with no care for the destruction caused. The floor was littered with books, papers, toys…

“What happened here?” Daniel asked, stopping in the doorway to the back room. It’d once bene a library or an office. Now, like the rest of the house it was in shambles. He turned back toward me. “Look, I don’t know why you brought me here, but I’ve already jumped through enough hoops when all I want to do is help. If you’re not going to tell me—”

“The family that lived here was on the watch lists. Suspected of having magic,” I explained, though I knew he had to have heard of the blasted lists, given who his parents were. “Your father reported them—he worked with the husband, insisted the entire family be brought in for questioning.”

I tilted my head and concentrated. The shock radiating off him was genuine. He hadn’t known about this family, this incident.

Inhaling deeply, he looked around. “So, what happened? Did they… Did they resist back when the police came to get them? They used magic to fight back?”

“No.” I stepped closer, keeping my gaze locked on his face and my power centered on his every reaction. “They weren’t magic, Daniel. They went quietly, didn’t resist. They were questioned, again and again. Then, after days, they were supposedly released, but they never made it home.” I hesitated a moment, throat tight. ”Their bodies were found in shallow graves outside the city several weeks later.”

“No, no…” He shook his head then gestured around them. “This was a…raid…an invasion. If they went quietly, why— They were killed? You’re saying that they were killed because my father reported them, because there was just a suspicion that they had magic?”

As his emotions prickled hotly over my skin, I felt an inkling of regret for what I was doing but quickly squashed it. This was as much for him as the cause.

“Daniel, in the countless witch hunts in our history, very few of those killed, who had their lives and family destroyed, were actually magic. All it took was a suspicion, a rumor…” I reached into pocket and pulled out the small stack of photos, flicking them one by one, “Henry…Penny…Grant…and Lucy,” onto the floor in front of him. “They aren’t the first innocents to die, and they won’t be last.”

The color drained from his face as he stared down at the images, his throat working convulsively. He crouched down, tracing a trembling finger over the photo of four-year-old Lucy laughing at camera.

I backed away from him, overwhelmed by his sadness and anger, but determined to finish this, so we could both move on. “I understand that you don’t share your parents’ beliefs, Daniel. That much is obvious, but what you’re trying to sign up for is much more than standing on opposite sides of an issue.”

His head snapped up, and he glared at me fiercely. “I’m not an idiot.”

“No, you’re not,” I agreed. “From everything I’ve heard and seen, you’re incredibly smart with a world of opportunities. What I’m trying to say—rather poorly, I admit—is war is coming, Daniel. It’s inevitable, but you don’t have to be on the front lines. Most of us… We don’t have a choice. We’re fighting for basic rights, for our lives, but you’re lucky. You do have a choice. Being a Sympathizer doesn’t mean you have to risk everything, risk your life. No one would blame you for avoiding that.”

He looked back down then picked up the pictures, stacking them in one palm as he stood. He stared at the little girl, again, for a long, tense moment, then he tucked the photos in his back pocket. Clearing his throat, he walked over to me. I lifted my chin to meet his gaze, my own eyes stinging at the sight of the tears in his.

“I would,” he rasped. “I would blame me.”

Truth.


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

November 2018 Photo Flash Fic

I hope the weekend was a fab one – I spent most of it being lazy. Gotta do that once in a while. 🙂 It’s time for November’s photo flash fic. This is the photo we’re working with:

“Mom? What’re we doing out here? Where are we going?”

This was not how I expected to spend my thirteenth birthday. Sure, we’d had the cake and ice cream, but we didn’t even get to the presents before my mom took my hand and pulled me outside with her. Now, she, my older sister, Petra, and I were walking through the woods. I was freezing, and it was just creepy out here. It was dark and foggy, and I could barely see where we were going. So, yeah, not exactly the birthday of my dreams.

Mom stopped suddenly. “We’re here.”

I looked around. Where was here? This peice of woods didn’t look any different than any we’d walked through already. I glanced at my sister but she was staring in the same direction as my mom was, and her jaw was tight. Good, at least someone else wasn’t happy with what was going on.

“It’s almost time,” Mom murmured then she turned to me, with a smile even I could tell wasn’t real. “Baby, you’re thirteen, now. It’s time for you to know.”

“Know what?”

“The women in our family have a gift -”

Petra snorted. “Gift? More like a curse. At least be honest with her, Mom.”

“Stop it,” Mom snapped. “You have only known for three years. One day, you will see this for the gift it is.”

Rolling her eyes, Petra shook her head. “Don’t count on it.”

With a sigh, Mom turned back to me. “Elena, this is a gift every woman in our family connects with on the day of their thirteenth birthday. It can seem scary, and it may be difficult to see it as a gift, especially when you’re so young, but it is. It’s a part of you, and part of why you are so very special.”

I shivered, not from the cold but because I had a feeling what was coming was going to change everything. And I didn’t want anything to change.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Look.” She gestured ahead of us. “What do you see?”

“Trees. We’re in the woods.”

“Look harder,” she said firmly, her fingers squeezing mine. “Focus.”

“On what?” I muttered. There was nothing there. It was trees and bushes and fog and– My eyes narrowed, and my breath caught. There was somthing there, something big…HUGE…in the mist. I jolted when cold fingers wrapped around my free hand. I turned to look at Petra and met her gaze. Her dark eyes glittered in the mist-muted moonlight… Was she crying?

“You’re not alone,” she whispered then faced foward, again.

As I turned back, my heart thundered, hurting my chest. Suddenly, it was as though the woods around us disappeared. Melted away to be replaced by gardens with pointy trees, like the kind on those big historical estates we visited on our last vacation, and beyond that a massive brick… House was too plain a word. It wasn’t quite a mansion, but it was much bigger than most of the houses around here.

I was about to ask my mom what the heck was going on when movement caught my attention. I blinked several times, and took half a step forward. People. There were people walking around the gardens, some close enough I could almost touch them. And they were all dressed…in costume? No, it was more like those people dressed like they were part of a reenactment or something.

“Mom?” I choked out. “What is this?”

“The past,” she said simply. “Our gift is our connection to the past.”


Bronwyn Green | Gwendolyn Cease | Siobhan Muir

September 2018 Photo Flash Fiction

Hello, all! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. It’s time for another photo flash fic. This is the photo we’re working with today.

Tuning out the grumbling complaints coming from the backseat, she closed her eyes and breathed deeply. And held for several long seconds before slowly releasing.

She hated this day, this trip, this…this annual pilgrimage. So much. More than the kids behind her—even if they couldn’t imagine that—and for very, very different reasons.

She startled, eyes flying open as a warm, heavy hand settled on her thigh. Glancing over, she wondered what was going through his mind. He didn’t look at her, keeping focused on the road ahead, but his fingers pressed a bit more firmly, a silent message that he knew. He knew she was hurting. He knew she hated this. And he knew how important this was for all of them.

Eyes burning, she laid a hand over his, and he immediately turned his palm up to nestle against hers as their fingers intertwined.

They didn’t speak, though, and even the kids quieted, as they drew approached their destination. The silence was oppressive as the engine was shut off, and all of them just sat a moment.

“Come on.”

The hushed words from the driver’s seat spurred everyone into motion. She was the last one out, needing another couple moments to compose herself. Later, she could cry. Would cry. In the dark, wrapped in his arms, she would let go, and he would take it, like he always did.

She got out of the car and followed her family. Despite the heaviness over her, her lips quirked up slightly as she took in the sight of the tall, handsome figure of her husband, with their three children

“Where’s Mama?”

Her youngest daughter’s words floated on the air, and she quickened her stride so she could catch up.

“I’m here, baby.” She combed her fingers through the soft blonde curls as they continued.

Her breath caught as they rounded the corner. No matter how many times they came, no matter how many times she saw, she didn’t think she’d ever get over the horror that filled her every time.

The destruction before them… What had led to it… She trembled, and she couldn’t stop the tears that escaped.

“God,” her daughter—their oldest—huffed. “I don’t know why we have to be here. Every stupid year. Not like anything changes. Why couldn’t I have stayed home? This is so dumb.”

“We come to remember. Remember what happened, and what could happen again. And to remember those who were lost.” She spoke slowly, eyes still on the hollowed-out buildings mind on all the lives destroyed. Then, cutting her gaze to her daughter, who stared at her with eyes just like her father, she hardened her voice. “And to be grateful. Because of them, we’re free.”

“Mom—”

“Before all this,” she waved a hand around, “you would have to hide who you are. You wouldn’t have been free to be you. Your choice would have been to hide or to be persecuted. Or killed. Remember that when you think this is stupid.”

She swallowed thickly and walked a few feet away, closing her eyes against the tears, chest aching horribly. She needed to get it together. Falling apart wasn’t an option. Later, she reminded herself again. Not now, not when she could sense others coming—to also pay their respects and remember.

A soft caress on her cheek and a sweet smell pulled her out of her thoughts. She opened her eyes to find a bright daisy hovering in the air in front of her. She turned her head to watch as her eldest daughter, hand outstretched, lower lip caught between her teeth, manipulate the flower until it was tucked behind her mother’s ear.

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.”


Bronwyn Green | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris | Siobhan Muir

March 2018 Photo Flash Fiction – “A Reminder”

Hello, all.

It’s time for March’s Photo Flash Fic. It’s a short one from me this month. Set within the world of my serial, Your Lies (feel free to follow the link and read the chapters that are up and the flash fic I’ve written in this world already.) I’ve revisited Kyle, who is the heroine’s bestie though they haven’t seen each other in a while.

“Why don’t you just get that fixed?”

I glanced up from the map and papers I’d been studying. Simmons, the newest recruit the powers that be had saddled me with, pointed at the cracked window.

“Or, fix it yourself? You know…” She wiggled her fingers dramatically. “You’re powerful enough to do it with little effort.”

I rolled my eyes. “Focus. We need to get through this information and—”

“Man, everyone’s heard about you. How quickly you moved up the ranks, the things you can do. I can’t believe they assigned me to you. Everyone is jealous as fuck, let me tell you.”

“Simmons,” I snapped, hands clenched on the table.

“Oh, you can call me Layla,” she said cheerfully. “Is our next assignment at the university? I heard some messed up stuff is happening there. I mean, Maddock Roberts is apparently hooking up with a magic user or a Sympathizer. Don’t know if I believe that… Who would be stupid enough to get involved with the poster boy of the anti-magic crowd?

Delia’s face flashed in my mind, and my magic surged, pushed outward with the force of my anger.

“Anyone who is anyone knows who he is so it’s not like she could claim ignorance. Do you think it’s true? Do you think she’s some kind of do-gooder, trying to reform h— Uh, what’s happening?”

Her face paled as she looked around the room. Everything around us shook—the table skittered across the floor, the raggedy couch and chairs did the same, and the door rattled on its hinges. And the window—the fucking window that started her incessant chattering… The cracks lengthened, webbing out until they hit the frame.

“It’s a reminder,” I bit out, motioning toward it with my chin.

“What does it remind you of?” she said in a near whisper as she stared at the window, wide-eyed.

“Not for me. For everyone else.” I braced my hands on the table, quelling its movement as I leaned forward and waited for her to turn her gaze back toward me. “A reminder to stay focused and not to piss me off. And, Simmons,” I said slowly, “listening to mindless gossip and speculating on something you have no knowledge of…pisses me off.”

“I’m sor-sorry, sir,” she stammered. “It won’t happen again.”

I drew my power back inside and nodded. “See that it doesn’t. Now, let’s get through this new information, shall we?”


Bronwyn Green | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris

February 2018 Photo Flash Fic – “Wait For It”

When Bron and I choose photos for the year, we always try to pick images that will challenge us as writers, that will make us flex our writing muscles. A few months ago, when we were choosing 2018’s pics, we decided to pick a few that were…a bit different. And I will freely admit, this month’s photo cracks my shit up. Don’t know why it makes me laugh so hard, but it does.

So, here it is…and the story I came up with follows. 🙂

“I fucking hate you,” Troy bit out as he stepped up to the bar beside his best friend…or former best friend, because this night was fucked up in all sorts of ways, and it was all Caleb’s fault.

Caleb startled slightly then, seeing Troy, rolled his eyes. “No, you don’t. You’re just nervous, but trust me, this is just what you need. A night out, some drinks, a pretty girl.”

Troy snorted. “You’re a fucking idiot.” With a sigh, he leaned on the bar. “Maybe it was a good idea, but your execution leaves much to be desired.”

Brow furrowed, Caleb handed the bartender his credit card after their drinks were placed in front of him. “What do you mean? My execution is freaking spot on. You love this place, I’m buying all the drinks tonight, and Penny brought her cute friend from work—who was more than a little excited about coming out with us tonight. I think she’s interested. You should give it a shot, at least, for fuck’s sake.”

“Oh, she’s interested all right.” Troy nodded, chuckling in spite of his annoyance. “Just not in me.”

Caleb’s frown deepened. “Thanks,” he said absently, accepting the card and receipt from the bartender. Signing the slip, he continued, “If you’re trying to say she’s interested in me, you are so fucking off base.”

Troy full-on laughed, then. Smart as fuck, but just as blind.

“No, not saying that.” He grasped his friend’s shoulder and turned him to face the table where Penny, Caleb’s girlfriend, and her friend, Clarisse, waited for the guys to return with the next round. “Really look and tell me what you see, dumbass.”

They stood silently for several long moments, their gazes on the two women.

“I don’t know what you want me to see but—”

“Wait for it,” Troy drawled.

Just then, Penny turned to look over at the men—probably because they were taking so damned long. She smiled and gave a little wave. And, behind her, Clarisse’s gaze was firmly on her friend. Her chest lifted and fell as she sighed heavily, her wide eyes practically filled with hearts.

“Well, fuck me…” Caleb breathed.

“There it is.”


Bronwyn Green | Siobhan Muir

January 2018 Photo Fic – “Winter”

Happy New Year!

Today is a photo flash fiction – we’ve rounded up 12 images and will be writing something inspired by them…1 a month through the year.

Here’s January’s image:

“Winter”

“Come on, Nic. Look how gorgeous it is!”

I didn’t even look over at my brother. Sitting stubbornly and stiffly in the passenger seat, seatbelt still fastened, I stared out the windshield.

He wasn’t wrong – it was gorgeous. The blanket of white covering the ground was only marred by the tire tracks of another idiot who had ventured out after the snowstorm we’d had the night before. Snow clung to the bare branches of the trees and the wooden fence that lined the tiny country road. Yeah, gorgeous. One might even say picturesque.

But that didn’t sway me – I wasn’t deceived.

“Seriously,” my brother continued, “just a quick walk. It’ll be refreshing.”

I snorted. “Yeah, right. It may be pretty as fuck, but winter is just like the stuck-up popular girls at school.”

“Really?” he drawled.

I could feel his intense stare but kept my gaze focused on the deceptive scene before me. “Yep. Gorgeous enough to take your breath away, but underneath it all, a complete and utter bitch who will only hurt you. And in the end, you’ve only yourself to blame, because deep down, you knew it. You just let yourself get swayed by prettiness.”

“Wow.” A long pause. “Just wow.” The engine roared to life, then he said, “You’re going to die alone, you know that, right?”

I lifted a shoulder lazily. “Yeah, probalby. But I’ll be warm and won’t hate myself.”


I don’t even know… Seriously, blame my sleep-deprived brain for that little nugget. Oh, and the fact I’m in the UP right now – one of the most beautiful places on Earth, IMO, and enduring snowstorms and freezing temps. My feelings for winter may have bled through.

Be sure to check out what the image inspired the other bloggers to write!


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

December Photo Fic – “All Right”

It’s time for photo flash fic – the last of 2017! Enjoy, and be sure to check out what the photo inspired everyone else to write!


ALL RIGHT

I walked around the dining table, straightening the place settings, fixing the ribbons—not that they needed it. I just needed something to do. Something to keep my mind off the coming meal.

“Why did we have to invite them again?” I said, knowing Bran stood behind me, even though he hadn’t made a sound. I could feel his gaze on me.

“Because it’s Christmas, they’re your family, and that’s just what you do.”

I turned and looked at him. With a soft smile, he pushed off the doorjamb he’d been leaning against and crossed the room.

“It’s going to be all right,” he said, wrapping his arms around me and pulling me close.

I closed my eyes and leaned into him, feeling a bit of the tension leave my body. Not all of it—not even close, but a bit. He ran his palms up and down my back slowly.

“I don’t know that I can forgive them for everything,” I admitted quietly. “They were thoughtless and cruel and…and…”

“They were,” he agreed. “And you don’t have to forgive them. You want I should call them now and tell them to bugger off?”

I choked out a laugh and burrowed closer. “Tempting…but no. How they behave tonight—towards me, towards you—will help decide if I can let them back into my life.”

“There’s a girl,” he crooned, pressing a kiss to my temple. “It really is going to be all right.”

I pulled back and met his gaze. “Yeah, but it isn’t right now.”

“No, it isn’t,” he said solemnly, bringing his hands up to cup my face. “But we are. No matter what—we’re all right.”


Bronwyn Green | Kris Norris | Siobhan Muir

November Photo Fic

Well, I don’t even know what happened here. I’d deleted the scheduled post because life got a bit crazy and I wasn’t able to do it, but then, it posted anyway. ??? LOL Anyhoo, no flash from me this week, but you should totally check out what the others came up with for thsi image!

Bronwyn Green | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris | Siobhan Muir

August Photo Fic – “Wondering”

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