Wednesday Randomness: First Argument

This is a newer feature we’ll be doing a couple times through the year – highlighting characters sharing firsts. We can post something from an already published work, a work in progress or something completely new. This time, we’re talking first arguments.

I’ve chosen a bit from one of my Bound books – Nothing Serious.

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It was meant to be nothing serious. And it was…until it wasn’t.

Aaron Stevens likes his life the way it is. As a surgical resident, he is perfectly content with the fact that the precious hours he has outside the hospital revolve around taking care of his mother and sister. He doesn’t have the time or inclination for a serious relationship. So the fact his lover lives halfway around the world and is fine with jetting off to exotic locales a couple times a year for a few weeks of hot sex is as close to perfect as he can get. 

The last thing Jack Hayes ever expected when his best friend got involved with an American was to hook up with her son. And he sure as hell never imagined it would continue for as long as it has. For years, he has been at Aaron’s beck and call, satisfied with submitting to him whenever Aaron and his busy life allow. But, after a change in his family’s company that has him looking for a new job, and possibly moving, Jack has begun to examine what he really wants in life and isn’t sure stolen moments here and there are enough anymore. 

When Jack arrives to attend Aaron’s sister’s wedding, keeping what he and Aaron have a secret begins to take its toll. Aaron is unwilling to come out to his family, afraid of hurting them and ruining what should be the happiest day of his sister’s life. As much as Jack has come to love Aaron, he can’t bring himself to be the dirty secret in Aaron’s closet. Aaron has a choice to make, because the tighter he holds on to keeping their “nothing serious” arrangement, the closer he comes to losing everything.


Jack took a deep breath and closed his eyes, and Aaron pulled him close, wishing he had more time, knowing coming out of a scene so abruptly wasn’t easy. 

“I’m all right,” Jack murmured into Aaron’s neck. “Should put some clothes on before Em shows up, though.”

“Yeah, definitely should do that. I’ll get your stuff.” 

“My stuff?” Jack frowned at him.

“We need to move your things in here.” Aaron stood and gathered the unused toys from the dresser. “Last thing I need is Emily getting nosy and suspicious. Be right back.”

He hurried into this room and replaced the items in the chest. Then, he grabbed Jack’s suitcases and rolled them into the guestroom, where Jack still sat on the bed, staring straight ahead. 

“Still a few things in the bathroom, but I’ll get those after I clean up and get dressed.” Bending to kiss Jack’s mouth, he frowned when Jack leaned away. “Jack?”

“Does your sister normally go poking around in your room and bathroom when she’s here?” Jack asked flatly. 

“No, but—”

“But you can’t take the chance, no matter how small, ‘cause it’d be the last thing you need, yeah? I mean, what could be worse than someone finding out about us?” 

Aaron gaped at him, the metallic taste of panic overwhelming him. Whether it was because of his sister’s imminent arrival or Jack’s reaction, he didn’t know. “Why are you so angry? Nothing’s changed. I don’t understand.”

“Not angry.” Jack shook his head. “Just tired. And frustrated.”

“I’m sorry,” Aaron murmured, not know what else to say. 

“Yeah, I know. So, go get dressed, Aaron, so everything’s normal when your sister gets here.”

The weariness his voice was like a knife to Aaron’s gut, and his refusal to meet Aaron’s gaze another twist of the blade. He went back to his room and, getting clean clothes, ducked into the bathroom. Turning the shower on, he stepped in, wincing at coolness of the water. As he washed his hair and scrubbed, he heard Jack shuffle in. Peering around the curtain, Aaron watched the other man gather his toiletries. Their eyes met briefly in the mirror above the sink, and Jack’s mouth quirked up in sad smile before walking out. 

This day, Aaron decided, shoving his head under the spray to rinse off, couldn’t get much worse. After toweling off and dressing, he strode into the living room and realized how wrong he was. 

Jack stood near the door, holding the curtain back from the window and peering outside—his suitcases at his feet. 

“What are you doing?” Aaron managed to croak. 

Jack visibly stiffened but didn’t turn around. “I’m waiting for a cab.”

“What the hell for?”

“To take me to a hotel.” 

“Why?” Aaron asked, shaking his head and leaning against the sofa as his legs quaked.

“I think it’d be easier all around, don’t you? No chance of anyone finding out this way.” 

“You can’t leave like this.”

“Like what?” Jack snapped, finally facing Aaron. “How exactly am I leaving? On my terms? Is that the problem?”

“What? No! The problem is you leaving at all. Why would you want to stay at a hotel when you can—”

“Stay here and go back and forth between rooms at your convenience depending on who decides to drop by?”

Aaron shoved his hand through his wet hair and shook his head. Christ, he couldn’t deal with this, not now. A car horn sounded outside, and Jack turned to look out. 

“It’s my cab.” 

“Is…is this you ending things?” Aaron could hardly force the words out, a cold sweat breaking out over his body as he waited for the answer.


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

February 2019 – Photo Fic

We’ve all be given the same photo and have to come up with a story based on the image. It’s always fun to see what everyone comes up with. 🙂

I’ve delved into the world of my (horribly neglected) serial, Your Lies. It isn’t about any of the main characters – just set in the same world.

Cora Hale stared at her reflection, ignoring her family’s voices behind her. This was the last place she wanted to be, but she didn’t have a choice.

She never had a choice.

It was just a fact of life, and she’d accept it.

“Cora.”

She jolted at her father’s voice and turned quickly.

“Come on,” he said, gesturing for her to join the rest of the family.

She nodded and crossed the room, stopping next to the couch her mother and two sisters sat on, waiting for instructions. They were having a family portrait done—immortalizing the perfect family before they sent her away. For her own good, they said. She’d get help with her “problem” then come back home, they claimed.

But she knew better.

She was getting locked up and was never going to be free, again. All because of her dreams. Dreams that came true. Something she had no control of.

She bit back a snort. When had she ever had control of anything? When had she ever really been free? She was getting sent away, but it was really just going from one prison to another.

“She’ll stand here,” her father said, waving away the photographer who had stepped forward with a murmured suggestion on positioning.

Ah, yes, standing to the side while the rest of the family sat together. Wouldn’t want anyone to think you were too close to the daughter who had magic—not that anyone knew, but just in case it ever got out. That was her father, always thinking ahead, protecting the family image. His image.

“All right, everyone look here. Smile.”

Cora lifted her gaze and stared at the camera, trying to smile but she suspected her expression wasn’t a picture of happiness. She blinked rapid after the flash went off.

“Cora, smile.”

She nearly stumbled back. That wasn’t her father’s voice. It’d come from behind the camera. She looked at the dark-haired man with stormy gray eyes intent on her. The corner of his mouth twitched slightly as he held her gaze.

“What—”

Whatever her father had been about to ask was cut off when the photographer waved a hand without looking away from Cora. Heart pounding, she glanced over and gasped as she saw her family slumped against the sofa, eyes closed, but chests raising and falling rhythmically.

“Are you ready?”

She turned back to the man…the Magic-user. He’d stepped away from the camera and was watching her, head tilted to the side slightly.

“Ready?” she whispered.

He reached out, hand open. “To be free.”


Bronwyn Green | Gwendolyn Cease | Kayleigh Jones

January 2019 – Song Fic – “God of the Ocean Tides” – Counting Crows

Time for a song fic. This month we’re working with “God of the Ocean Tides” by Counting Crows. Here’s a link, if you want a listen.

Kept it short and sweet, again, this time. This isn’t connect to any particular story, but it’s set in the same world as Tempted to Death, where there are paranormal creatures and a network of hunters and researchers.


“So…”

Bastian was impressed. He’d felt Owen’s gaze on him since they’d left town—it’d taken the other man a full half hour to speak. Yeah, impressed he’d waited that long, but also annoyed because Bastian knew what was coming.

“You gonna call her?”

Fingers tightening around the wheel, Bastian shook his head. “Nope.”

“Why not? You guys have history and seemed to be rekindling something…” Owen sighed. “You really want to spend the rest of your life with just me for companionship? ‘Cause I like you and all, Bas, better than most, but…”

“It’s what I signed up for.”

“That’s bullshit, and you know it. There are plenty of people in the network who have relationships and do their jobs.”

“Good for them,” Bastian snapped.

“All I’m saying is there’s no reason you and Callie couldn’t—”

“I think I’m a better judge of whether there’re reasons standing in my way,” he ground out, fingers aching, knuckles now white, on the wheel.

He didn’t want to think of all those reasons, right now. Not when he could still smell her, feel her, taste her. He’d been an idiot. Weak and stupid…and careless. He’d allowed himself to forget what he’d dedicated his life to, and that was unacceptable. Even for a short time, because it brought too much pain. For both of them.

Because how was she supposed to understand what he couldn’t tell her? She couldn’t know that he spent his days and nights hunting things most people didn’t believe in. That he had to be ruthless and focused in his work. That he’d given up more than he ever thought possible to do it. That he could never love her the way she wanted, the way she deserved.

Owen sighed. “So, that’s it, then? You move on, satisfied with the small amount of time you had with her, but refuse to go after any more?”

“Yep, that’s it,” Bastian replied—a mix of half-truth, half-lie.

Because satisfied, he most definitely was not. And he wouldn’t be, not really. He couldn’t love her the way she wanted, but he also couldn’t love her the way he wanted. Not if he was going to do the job he was called to do.

“So, while I appreciate the support and concern,” he continued, “do me a favor? Call in and see where we’re going next and what we’re up against.”

“Yeah…” Owen pulled out his cell but didn’t make the call immediately. “I didn’t mean to make it more difficult, man. Sorry.”

Gaze firmly on the road ahead, Bastian nodded. Yeah, me, too.


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

Wednesday Randomness: First Meeting

This is a new feature we’ll be doing a couple times through the year – highlighting characters sharing firsts. We can post something from an already published work, a work in progress or something completely new. This time, we’re talking first meetings.

I decided to share the first time Grace met Noah and Ethan in Santuary.

This new world is full of risks, but which is greater…being alone or trusting others?

For Grace Summers, life after the super solar flare and deadly viral outbreak can be summed up in one word. Alone. Having lost everyone she loved, Grace travels on foot to her family’s remote hunting cabin, where her father had stockpiled food and supplies for this type of situation.

Along the way, she meets Noah Hill and Ethan Erikson, a couple traveling the same direction. Grace struggles with her attraction to the pair until they make it clear they are just as interested in her.

With Noah and Ethan, Grace is no longer alone, but can she bring herself to trust them in this new world where everyone is just trying to survive no matter the cost?


The sound of Callie’s growling jolted Grace upright from where she’d slumped farther against the tree trunk. She gripped the rifle and jumped to her feet, even before her eyes were fully open. Bringing the gun up snugly against her shoulder, she scanned her surroundings to find what had Callie sounding the alarm. She didn’t have to look far.

Her heartbeat sped and her breathing stuttered when her gaze landed on two men standing no more than twenty feet away.

“Whoa.” The taller of the two stepped forward, palms out in a peaceful gesture. He stopped in his tracks when Callie let out another low, menacing growl and moved in front of Grace. “Wanna call off the hound?”

“Wanna keep moving?” she returned.

“Not really,” the other man snapped.

“Let me rephrase.” She shifted slightly until the rifle was leveled directly at him. “Keep moving.”

“We’re not looking to cause any trouble,” the first man assured. “I’m Noah; this is Ethan. We’re just passing through, looking for a place to catch a few winks before moving on.” He gestured around. “There’s plenty of room, and we’ll share.” He pointed back at his partner, who sighed and lifted a hand. Four good-sized fish dangled from a line held between his fingers.

“Not interested.” Grace widened her stance and waited. The last thing she needed was two strange men hanging around. She wasn’t going to feel guilty about sending them on their way into the night. Honestly, if they couldn’t understand why a lone woman wouldn’t want two strange men hanging around, they were idiots.

“God, enough.” Ethan stepped forward. “You have no claim on the place. It’s late and dark; I’m tired and fucking hungry. If you don’t like it, you can move on.”

“Ethan,” the other man admonished. “There’s no need—”

“Hey,” Grace interrupted, exasperation edging out the panic. “Last I checked, I’m the one holding the gun, so I’m sure as hell not going anywhere.”

“Look, sweetheart—”

“I’m not your sweetheart!” she snapped. “Do you always make everything so damned difficult? I was here first, and I don’t make camp with men I don’t know.” For good reason. She shook her head slightly and tried to push thoughts of her last, and only, encounter with another person on this journey. Her stomach roiled, and her dinner threatened to make a reappearance.

Ethan let out an annoyed huff of breath, and Noah moved closer to him. Grace watched as he ran his palm down Ethan’s arm then wrapped his fingers around the other man’s hand. Ethan turned his head, and the men exchanged a long look before responding.

“And that’s completely understandable. Smart,” Noah said “But it’s late, dark; we aren’t going to be able to get much farther in any case. We just want to eat, sleep, and, in the morning, we’ll be on our way. How can we make that happen? What can we do to ease your mind?”

Grace’s gaze drifted back to their linked hands, where Noah’s thumb slowly rubbed the back of Ethan’s hand. She tightened her grip on the rifle and inhaled a shaky breath.

“You’re lovers?” she blurted, jerking her head back to look at their faces.


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

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

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 

August Song Fic: “Ghost” by Halsey

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

April Photo Fic – “Unfinished”

I clearly have issues coming up with standalone stories for flash fics… I’ve gone back to one of my boys… You could read this on its own but if you’d like to take a gander at the other stories in this world:

Part 1 – “The First Step”
Part 2
Part 3 – “Never Gone”

This one is another peek into Justin’s head… A similar, and yet very different, spot than we last saw him in “Never Gone”.

“Unfinished”


Justin walked toward the kitchen, navigating in the dark, not wanting to wake his guest. Someone he hadn’t seen in years—takeout and booze in hand, wanting a visit and a place to sleep for the night. Justin had a slight pang of guilt that he’d hadn’t had a bed to offer, not in the tiny one-bedroom he currently lived in. He’d tried to give up his own bed and take the couch himself, but had just received a smack upside the head for his trouble. Oh well, at least his couch was fucking comfortable. And after the amount of alcohol they’d downed the night before, he figured the other man likely had no problem falling asleep.

Neither had Justin. Falling asleep was never the issue. Staying asleep, however…

He sighed as he opened the fridge. He should be used to it. He hadn’t had a solid night’s sleep in the last fucking three years. Not since…

He cursed, shoving aside that train of thought, and grabbed a bottle of water.

“Wanna grab me one while you’re in there?”

“Fuck!” Justin fumbled and barely stopped the bottle from dropping to the floor. He withdrew another water and, shutting the door, walked into the living room. “Sorry, boss. Didn’t mean to wake you.”

A soft huff of laughter, and in small amount of light from the streetlamps coming in through the window, he saw Liam—his former boss—shake his head. But he didn’t correct Justin. He’d stopped doing that about an hour after arriving.

“Didn’t wake me.” He held his hand out for the water and motioned for Justin to sit next to him.

“Okay, but I don’t want to keep you up.”

“Shut up and sit down.”

“Yes, boss.” He plopped on the cushion, as ordered, but looked everywhere but at the other man.

After a few minutes of silence, a hand came to rest on his shoulder. “Sometimes, it helps to talk about it.”

“About what?” he asked flatly.

Liam’s fingers tightened. “The nightmares.”

Justin jerked his head around and stared at the older man. “How did you know?”

“That you had nightmares? How could you not?”

Liam tilted his head to the side and stared intently. Justin fought not to squirm. Damn, it’d been a long time since he’d been under the full force of that stare. And fuck him, he kind of missed it.

“Justin,” Liam sighed. “The things we see, the things we face, doing what we do, nightmares are par for the course. But having to face the…horrors, knowing that your brother did those things? Bound to screw with your head.”

Leaning forward, Justin set his water on the scarred surface of the coffee table then scrubbed his palms over his face. He didn’t want to think, let alone talk, about the nightmares. Of course his stupid fucking brain circled back to the one that had woken him less than half an hour before.

Starring his brother, Jonah, of course. He’d been standing over Justin, who had been strapped down on a table. Just like all of Jonah’s victims had been. He’d known it was Jonah from the start, even though he hadn’t been recognizable. His face hadn’t been human. It had been covered in metal and gears and…stuff. But it hadn’t been a mask—it was his face. His face was just…not human.

Justin rolled his eyes. It didn’t take a fucking shrink to figure the meaning of that, did it? Three years ago, he’d discovered his brother wasn’t human. He was a monster. This was just Justin’s brain’s way of illustrating that.

The dream was starting to fade, blur around the edges as dreams often do, and Justin couldn’t even bring the particulars into focus anymore. But Jonah’s eyes…  Those were still vivid. Cold, assessing, emotionless—no sign of caring or love. No sign of a brother in those fathomless pale eyes. Only the monster he’d been. The monster Justin hadn’t seen until it was too late.

“Justin.”

Liam’s low hoarse voice brought him out of his mind and back into his dark living room.

“Sorry.”

“You need to stop wallowing in your guilt. You blame yourself and that isn’t going to lead you anywhere good. Trust me on that. You ran away, isolated yourself, wrapped yourself in the weight of that guilt, and it’s suffocating you. You haven’t even given yourself time, or permission, to grieve.”

Justin sat back and gaped at the older man. One, because that was the most words he’d heard his boss string together in one go. Two, because his uncanny ability to see what Justin tried to hide from everyone. From himself. Though he shouldn’t be surprised—Liam had always had that talent—but time had made Justin forget.

“Grieve?” he croaked. “I am not the one who needs to grieve. That falls on the families who lost someone they loved. My brother was not a victim, Liam. He was a monster who tortured and killed at least a dozen men. A psychopath unable to even feel love.”

“Ah, but that’s the thing, isn’t it? He can’t feel love. But you can. You did.” Liam cupped Justin’s cheek a moment then patted it. “You, just like those families, lost a loved one. Lost a brother. And you are allowed to grieve., Justin.

Justin forced a laugh. “Didn’t take you for the touch-feely type, boss.”

“I’m not. Never have been. But you’re family. And family looks after its own—even when they don’t want looking after. Or think they don’t deserve it.”

“Boss…don’t,” he pleaded, heart hammering, throat tight, eyes stinging.

“You may have left the team—hell, I left the team—but you did not leave your family.” He shook his head. “Can’t. Not possible.”

Justin thought of who he’d left behind. The man in front of him—the boss, the man he’d looked up to so fucking much. Adam—SIC, a second boss, really, but the one who had taken Justin under his wing from day one. Scott and Sarah—the agents who razed and supported him in equal measure. And Harris—Justin didn’t exactly know where he fit in the “family” Liam spoke of. Harris had been attached to the team during the investigation that lead to Jonah. Hell, Harris had taken Justin’s place when he’d left. He didn’t really know the kid.

His breath stalled as pale sweat-damp skin, dark eyes and tousled hair flashed through his mind.

“It’s time to come home, Justin.”

He was thankful to be pulled away from memories of what he regretted—regretted leaving behind, not having done. Because he couldn’t bring himself to regret that one night. No matter that he probably should.

“I don’t know if I can,” he whispered. “I always said I would—when I got past all of it. But I’m not sure that it’ll ever be over. Not for me.” He cringed as his voice broke and cleared his throat. “I don’t know that I can come back to the Bureau, boss.”

“It’s time to come home,” Liam repeated. “Don’t give a shit whether you go back to the job. Come back to your family. Let us help you though this. Help you grieve. Because until you do, it won’t be over.”

Justin sniffed and swiped angrily at the dampness now coating his cheeks. He froze when Liam’s arms came around him.

“You are allowed, you know? Grieving the loss of your brother isn’t a betrayal. It doesn’t lessen what you feel for those families.”

Hearing the thoughts that needled at him constantly voiced—and damn him, how does he do that?—Justin felt something deep in his chest give way. A sob forced its way up, up, up until it pushed past his lips. Liam’s embrace tightened, and Justin let himself lean into the other man. To take the comfort for the first time in three years.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Kayleigh Jones | Kris Norris

Wednesday Randomness: Behind the Scenes

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Happy Wednesday, friends.

When we plan out the blog topics for the year, I’m always excited when a Behind the Scenes post comes around, and planning 2016 was no exception.

Now that we’re here and it’s time to write the post, though… “Can I be real a second? For just a millisecond?”

(Actually, my singing Hamilton lyrics is probably as good a look behind the scenes into my life right now as you can get – as my family can attest.)

Anyhoo… Truth is, as I posted about a short time ago, this year has been challenging for me as a writer, and I’m now just getting back to where I need (and want!) to be. So, sharing behind the scenes is a more difficult task than it has ever been, but I’m going to give it a shot.

My most current project is my next Bound book, Safeword Protected, so I’ll share a bit about it and how as an author I”m connecting with it.

B6 - SAFEWORD PROTECTED

Clara Turner loves her life—her career as a travel writer takes her to places most people only dream of. But with the birth of her cousin’s first child quickly approaching, Clara happily trades her fast-paced adventures for the quiet Irish village to be there for the new arrival. 

When Clara’s laptop acts up, her cousin decides to do Clara a favor and takes it to Niall Walsh, the village’s unofficial tech support. Clara panics at the thought of Niall—sexy, sets-her-lady-bits-tingling-from-afar Niall—discovering her secret stash of filthy kinkery living on her hard drive.

Niall lived the big-city life for years and dated the glamorous woman that came along with it before coming back home. He’s heard about Clara for ages, but nothing prepares him for the instant attraction he feels when he first sees her. He ignores it though—knowing she’s only there for a short time.

Besides, she’s the type of woman who fit in his past, not his present. He doesn’t have anything to offer that she’d want. At least, that’s what he’d thought…before he delved into her computer and discovered exactly what Clara likes. As he learns more about her, Niall realizes he can offer her something no one else can—the chance to explore her deepest desires instead of just watching on a screen. 

It should be easy–a hot fling before Clara’s job takes front and center again–but when the time comes, will either of them be able to slip free from the bonds that now connect them?

Writing Safeword Protected? it’s been both extremely frustrating and incredibly rewarding. The frustration stemmed for there “other stuff”, not the book or the writing of it. I will admit something here that I’m probably not supposed to. As an author, I do have favorite characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love them all , but there are some I just really, really love and seem to connect with. One day I may even share who tops the list, but for now, I will say Niall and Clara from Safeword Protected? They’re pretty damned high on that list. No matter what chaos and…stuff was going on, whenever I could sit down and work on Niall and Clara’s story… Well, it’s pretty much this…

LetMeLoveYou

Grabby hands and all.

Why do I love them so much? Hard to put into words (You’re an author, Jarman; get with the program!) Niall is a hot Irishman who is ready and willing to guide Clara though her initial exploration into the world of BDSM. So right there? Ticking some boxes, yeah? But there is something about the character that just makes me melt. I think I’ll let Brody, Niall’s best mate (who happens to be married to Clara’s cousin) tell it:

“Niall is one of the most loyal and loving men you’ll ever meet,” Brody added, gaze intent on Clara. “He would do anything for the people he cares about. He came home for his family. He places people, especially people he loves and cares about, above anything else.”

A hot guy is all well and good, but finding something worthwhile when you delve beneath the pretty surface and push past the flaws – because he’s still got to be real, right? Man’s gotta have layers…

And Clara…she’s very real. Has her faults, has the tendency to think things to death and often arrives at the wrong conclusion – usually the one that has her freaking out in a major way. There are times…

All right, I’m going to let you in on another secret, because we’re behind the scenes and all. 😉 Readers aren’t the only ones who want to wack some sense into characters, to just shake them until their brains come back online and they’re making good choices. But that’s good, right? Who wants to read a book about two perfect people with no conflict? It’s that conflict, those mistakes that the hero and heroine make – the human element – that makes a story really work, isn’t it? I think so. And over the years, the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten has served me well in creating those real characters that I connect with and sincerely hope readers do, as well.

Trust the characters. Trust the story.

Not groundbreaking advice, really. I’ve heard similar things from pretty well known authors since I first had that knocked into my thick skull. But it took the right person at the right time to get me to see how necessary it was in the writing process. I still, with pretty much every book, have had those words spoken to me or have said them aloud to myself.

And that is it from me this week.

Make sure to head over to the blogs below to get a peek at what these incredible authors are working on. Also i want to welcome Torrance Sené to Wednesday Randomness blogging. Glad to have you with us. 🙂

Until next time,
~J


Bronwyn Green | Gwendolyn Cease | Jessica De La Rosa
Kayleigh Jones | Kris Norris | Paige Prince | Torrance Sené