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.
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.
“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.
It’s time for March’s flash fic. We’ve all be given the same photo and have to come up with a story based on the image. This is this month’s photo.
His fingers shook as he turned off the engine and stared out at the dirt road before him, cutting a wide swatch through the forest. Being in the closed vehicle didn’t protect him… He could feel this place. As he always could. It reached for him, now, trying to coax him out, eager to have him in its embrace, once again.
Too much, he thought, the pulsing mass of emotions pushing
to get out. His skin ached, stretched too tight, as if trying to contain it
all. Trying to hold back the magic that roiled within him, that fed on his
emotions as if starving.
And, of course, it was. His magic had always been connected
to what he felt, and he’d been cruel in denying it. He’d run from the place it
thrived most, shutting down and becoming cold and calculating, just trying to
survive, to get through one day to the next. Pretending his magic didn’t exist,
ignoring the weakening thrum beneath his skin, in his effort to be normal, to
It had been so long, years, and his magic was ready to be let loose, to be reunited with this place. This painfully beautiful cradle of power and magic. Like was drawn to like, after all. And when he’d escaped the hell he’d found himself in, he’d gone as far away as he possibly could. Had chosen to exist in a place of concrete and steel and people, so many people pressing in from all sides. He’d severed his connection to this sacred place so completely, so severely—and his magic had withered.
And, now, it was time. He couldn’t avoid it any longer.
Inhaling deeply, he opened the door and stepped out. He started down the road,
no particular destination in mind. He was already where he needed to be.
He couldn’t hold back the quiet sob that escaped a few
minutes later. His magic… Oh, his magic was singing, dancing through him,
pressing outward, rejoicing.
The power of this place rose from the earth beneath his feet.
He could hear it in the wind and moving branches and taste it in the moisture-heavy
air he breathed. The scent of it flooded his senses—earthy and green and fresh.
He could see it in the glow of the rising sun cutting through the trees and
feel it in the warmth on his face.
All of it, all of those things coming together in a simple
message that had him dropping to his knees.
I hope everyone is warm and cozy wherever they are (you know, if you’re in parts of the world where it’s cold. If you’re somewhere wehre it’s warm…I envy you. A lot!) Schools have been canceled most of the week as it’s been super, super cold. As I write this, it’s -27/feels like -48. o.O
It’s a Top 10 week, and we’re talking children’s books. I’m gonna keep it short and sweet, because my bed with aaaaaaaall the blankets is calling me. I’m going to burrow under them all and veg out with a movie.
So, here are my top 10 children’s books, in no particular order. (and yeah, I counted all Dr. Suess books as one because I couldn’t decide)
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.
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
“You gonna call her?”
Fingers tightening around the wheel, Bastian shook his head.
“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
“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
“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.
It’s time for another Promptly Penned post – we all get the same prompt and see what we come up with. I can’t wait to see what the others have come up with, because this prompt made me laugh, even if I had a helluva time coming up with an actual story to go along with it.
For better or worse, this is what I came up with. Short and sweet, this time around.
As always, the prompt itself will be in bold.
Dread sat heavily in my stomach as I stared at Nick across the worn table. We’d met for lunch at our favorite diner – I’d been looking forward to it all day. This week had been hellish with both of us crazy busy with work. Other than muttered good nights while climbing into bed – if that – we hadn’t even had a chance to talk. Lunch today was supposed to change that.
But now… He had that distracted look – head tilted to the side, eyes slightly squinted, lines furrowing his brow, the corners of his mouth turned down – and he still hadn’t responded to my suggestion of a weekend away in the near future. The silence hanging between us was getting on my nerves.
I sighed and, propping my elbow on the table, rested my chin in my palm. After a moment, I nearly laughed. Oh, Nick was still ignoring me, but I’d figured out the distraction. The diner wasn’t very busy. Other than a few people sitting at the counter, the only other customers were a pair of guys two booths down from us. Two guys who were complaining loudly about the changes to Doctor Who.
Most wouldn’t assume it by just looking at Nick, who was well over six-foot, athletic and…well, hot as hell. But beneath the hunky exterior, my Nick was a sweetly nerdy guy and fanboy, who took disparaging his favorite TV show very seriously. Perhaps too seriously, at times.
“Excuse me. I have to go make a scene.” He slid across the booth’s seat and stood before taking the few steps to stand beside the next booth over.
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
“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.
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
“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
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.
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
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,
“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
“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
“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.