Conquest, by Vik Rubenfeld

Conquest, by Vik Rubenfeld

Conquest, by Vik Rubenfeld

Conquest, by Vik Rubenfeld
Available at:
Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble

Description:  

Want to know what it feels like to be a rock star?

Reid Taylor started out with nothing and became part of one of the biggest bands in the world. Now he wants to tell you about the hard struggle every step of the way, fame, the craziness of being on the road, the groupies, and how he found real love that meant more to him than all the groupies in the world. And he wants to tell you about the conflict he had with one of the members of his own band, that threatened everything the band ever hoped to achieve.

Chapter One:

The thing is, I never really liked our drummer. I never liked the guy. Our singer I could tolerate, even though he thought he was beyond human. I’d seen him on the way up, when nothing like that was ever in his head. Mostly what he thought then was how afraid he was that he was blowing it and he’d run out of money and become a street person, sleeping in doorways. He had an unnatural fear of that, as though some fortune teller had put it into him. It was like it haunted him, a vision of his own future. Then when we really hit it, something else ridiculous happened – he felt like he had won against some supernatural power, like he’d overcome his own destiny and become more than normal. It was just irritating, but I still liked the guy.

Our lead guitarist – what you see looking at us is not what you see if you’re inside looking out.  Barry O. – the Fireman, if you know his nickname – to you guys he looked like he had it all under control, but I knew that every second he was just waiting for it all to fall apart. He was just convinced that this was going to last for, maybe, another ten seconds. This went on for years.

I played the bass.  I guess it was only natural that I’d be the down-to-earth guy, since that’s what I did for our sound. My bass was just like the anchor that kept the kite from flying off into the sky and getting lost. I guess I tried to do that for our band too. And you know how that turned out.

But why get ahead of things? Everybody always wants to know how it all got started and what happened, and to hear about all the craziness and everything. So now that it’s all over and I’ve got time, I’m like, why not?

HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED

Actually it was kind of spooky.  I’ll never forget the day because my girl friend just broke up with me that same morning. She just finally got fed up with me for being the way I am. She was excitable. She didn’t mind that I wasn’t excitable, but it was the way I wasn’t that finally she couldn’t take any more. I’m just sort of a, get up every day, get the job done, don’t get distracted by stuff, just keep moving forward kind of guy. I sort of feel like a tank on a battlefield. I just keep going. Stuff can be blowing up around me, so what, I don’t care, I’m still going ahead. Meanwhile she felt like I was a snail, just going along too slow, getting nowhere. Like I said, she was excitable. She started getting crazy about it, hysterical. Which didn’t even faze me because I’m like what I said, and that drove her even crazier, and so it was just that same morning that she just said she was breaking up. Which was kind of like, I mean, even to a tank, a bomb goes off right underneath of you and you’re going to feel it. So I was trashed and in no mood to go anywhere, much less to an audition.

I’d heard about this audition Barry was having out in some old barn or shack or something. I wasn’t going to go in the first place and now I definitely wasn’t planning on going. I’d met him once or twice and my impression was that he was a little frayed around the edges.  A little flighty. Maybe not serious enough.  Tanks don’t wait for guys like him,  we run guys like him over.  So the hell with it, was basically my approach to the subject.

I was in no mood to see anybody, and then my phone started to blow up. All these calls were coming in. I tried to remember, did we always get this many calls on a weekend? Did my girlfriend used to just answer the phone? It seemed like way more than usual. All these people asking me to go here or there or come out and have a drink or let’s go to this party or hear this band or whatever. Some of them already knew about the breakup and wanted to cheer me up, and some had no idea. Finally I had to go out just to get away from the phone calls. So it was getting late already and I just took off for the bar to play pool and have some beers.

So now I’m out and my cell phone starts blowing up and I just don’t answer it. I’m not in the mood, as you can easily imagine. I’m playing pool, having a beer, trying to not think about anything. The misery is sitting on me like a wrestler that’s got another wrestler pinned. I can’t do anything about it and I know I can’t do anything about it, so I’m trying to not think about it.

And then this guy walks right up to me out of nowhere and says, “Hey man, can you give me a lift to Barry’s audition?” I don’t even recognize this guy. I’m so stunned that I actually forget to blow him off.  I actually let myself get into a conversation with him.

“Dude, I’m not going to Barry’s audition.”

“Aren’t you Reid Taylor?”

“Do I know you?”

“I’m Travis. I saw you sit in with Sammy Marshall at Harry’s a month ago.”

“Yeah, well, I’m just hanging out here tonight.”

“Everybody says you’re going.”

“Everybody? Who?”

The guy looked around vaguely. “I don’t know. People.”

“People? Who? Who said that? What was the name of the person who said that?”

“It wasn’t one person. It was at least two people.”

“Who?”

“That guy over there.”

He looks over at somebody and at that exact split second, before I can see who it is, the guy he’s looking at turns and walks out of the place.

“’Scuse me one second. I want to say hi,” I said, and went to see who it was.

So I head out of the bar and the guy is walking away towards his pickup, and I said, “Dude.” He stopped, looked around, I’d never seen him before, and I already don’t like him.  I’d never seen the guy before, and I swear to God I already don’t like the guy.

“Yeah, what’s up Reid?”

“You know me?”

“No, some guys in there said you were going over to Barry’s.  You want a lift?”

At this point I actually said, screw it, I might as well go. I mean, why not at this point? It was either go or hear about it all night evidently. It was turning out to be the path of least resistance. The easiest way to not have to think about going was to head over there.  I could already see that if I didn’t I’d spend all day tomorrow answering people who wanted to know why I didn’t go.

“Yeah, sure, why not,” I said. I got my axe out of my trunk and got into his pickup and we took off.

The guy said his name was Clay Hicks.

So now I’m headed off on a mission to be in this band, when in fact I could care less. I felt like one of those embedded reporters who travel with the army.

The plus side was, I needed a laugh, and heading off to this thing without caring at all what anybody there was going to say about me was funny. They were going to be judging everybody and I was going to be not even beginning to care. I was way beyond caring already tonight about anything any of these guys were going to say to me.

And I had to admit it was a welcome distraction from this misery I couldn’t shake.

After a while Clay started driving too fast.  Way past the speed limit. He’s taking curves at roller-coaster speeds. I’m looking at this guy, I’ve never seen him before, and I’m wondering, is he testing me? Is he waiting to see how I’m going to act? Or is he just trying to rattle me so I can’t audition? I watch the road. He’s not skidding much, he’s not driving outside the lane or anything. He seems to be able to handle the car at this speed. So I don’t say anything.

We’re driving way outside of town and the streetlights are getting farther and farther apart, and finally we pull up in this parking lot outside of some kind of big old run-down looking building. I grab my axe and get out of there because there’s no way I’m talking to this guy since I’d only tell him that no matter how proud he is of whatever he thinks he was doing, he’s just like one of those comets heading down through the night sky, that burns bright while it’s burning itself up. Let’s put it this way — chances are that when he crashes his car, I won’t be in it.

The front of the building looks dusty. The door doesn’t feel solid when I open it. Inside it’s dark. There are tables all around – it’s some kind of closed restaurant. There’s people milling around on the far side of the room, and that’s where the lights are on. There’s a stage set up over there. I see Barry, long-haired, rattled-looking but cheerful, proud that this is his thing, he’s running it, everybody’s there to win his approval. People drive all the way here, they get here, and they’re into it, man, you can feel it. It’s electric. People want to be chosen.

I consider just hanging out back here in the dark and watching, but that’s too ridiculous. Besides, I need more distraction or I’m going to get swallowed whole by this wretchedness that feels like it’s eating me alive.  So I head over to the edge of where everybody is and see a singer I know named Shawn.

“Hey, how you doin’?”

“Reid, all right man, how are you?”

“Pretty good.”

“I heard you and Sharon broke up.”

“Yeah.”

“You okay with it?”

I like Shawn, but why do people always have to ask the wrong question? He’s saying it like he’s my friend and being all sympathetic, but what if the answer is what it really is, namely that I’m anything but okay with it? He’s gonna make me talk about that? Expose myself like a fish flopping around on a boat deck waiting to be iced? Is that like a friend to do that, to bring that up, to try to make me say it? I don’t even give him the benefit of the doubt.  I bet that somewhere in the back of his mind, he knows exactly what he’s doing. When you’re suffering, it almost takes a saint to be your friend.

There’s nothing I feel like answering. I’m not a good enough actor to say I’m fine and have anybody believe me. Or maybe I could, I’m not going to protect myself by lying, by hiding, by pretending to be something I’m not.

“No. I’m not okay with it. It sucks.”

“I’m sorry, dude.”

To me that looks like the fakest sympathy ever.  So what. I don’t care. I don’t say anything back. I move on.

Barry spots me and comes over.

“Hey Reid! Good to see ya’. Thanks for coming over.”

“Glad to be here, man.”

“I didn’t know how to reach you, so I just told people to let you know about it.”

“Okay, cool. It worked.”

“Excellent.” He moves on to talk to somebody. It’s like I said, the guy’s a little flaky. He didn’t know how to reach me, so he just told people. But it worked, I gotta give him that.

“Hey, how’s it goin’?” A drummer I know has spotted me, a good guy, named Leon.

“Okay, man. How’re you?”

“I heard about Sharon, dude.”

“Yeah.”

“That sucks, man.” He says it like he’s talking about a coat that doesn’t fit. He’s not making that big a deal out of it. You can see he’s not acting like it’s the end of the world. Leon’s an okay guy.

“I appreciate that.”

“For sure. You think it’s really over?”

“Oh yeah.”

“You were with her, what, a couple of years?”

“Almost.”

“Well, if it’s not right, it’s not right, huh?”

“Yeah, man. Thanks.”

“For sure.”

Barry gets up on stage – the action’s starting, and Leon goes to find out when he’s up. These encounters are taking too much effort, so I go sit down on the outer edge of the group, in the shadows but not like I’m trying to avoid people. Barry’s warming up, playing some old blues.

Sitting down, there’s not enough distraction. I’m trying not to think about Sharon, but it’s too big to avoid. It’s like a yacht bearing down on a rowboat. You want to enjoy the beautiful day, but you see that yacht bearing down on you to cut you in half.

Then I realize I already got cut in half, when Sharon left. This misery is too big, I can’t fight it, I’m just going to have to go through it. I get ready for it, I look for how to like the grief, how to want it, how to make something good with it. Feeling it means something, it means finding out what you’ve lost, like a store owner taking inventory after a flood. It’s super painful but you have to do it so you can keep the store going.

For a minute I didn’t even notice what was going on. Then I started to hear the new stuff Barry was playing. He wasn’t playing blues anymore. This must be his own stuff. It’s pretty much just straight chord progressions, but these aren’t the same old tired boring patterns I’ve heard a million times. I’ve never heard these progressions before, and the chords he’s got sound great together.

I know what this means if it’s not a fluke, but I figure that’s gotta be all it is.  There’s no way he’s got a lot of this stuff. But then he hits us with another one, and another one. This is the DNA of songs that haven’t been written yet. This is what I’ve been looking for. Sharon thought I wasn’t getting anywhere – she didn’t see that I was looking, waiting, for what it’s starting to look like just showed up here in this busted-up closed restaurant.

I want to stand up and charge the stage. It’s such an overwhelming mix of feelings – this wretchedness on top of this exaltation and excitement. I get the sense a person can hold an infinity of feeling. It starts to make me feel physically bigger than myself.  It’s making me giddy. It’s making me dizzy.

I move really quietly over to some friend of Barry’s with a note pad and get my name on the list. Then I sit back and watch what goes on, carried along on these sensations like a loose rowboat – or a piece of a loose rowboat that got cut in half — on top of huge ocean swells.

Bass players, drummers, singers come and go. Leon tries out and does great. The bass players are just playing right on top of the same notes Barry’s got, just a few octaves lower. It’s driving me crazy. I can’t stand it. I can’t wait to go up. Finally they call me. I walk up, plug in. Barry hits it. Leon’s on the drums.

This tremendous sense of power hit me.  I was so full of passion over breaking up with my girl and now it was going into the notes I was playing and the counterpoint I was finding. It was like the whole day was fated to put me on fire for this. I blew that room away so hard that even my competitors just looked at each other and they all saw each other felt, I was the guy.

When you live a certain way, certain days come along and change the rest of your life.  And when that happens it just kind of naturally shows you were right all along – waiting, believing, praying, hoping for that to happen. And that is quite an experience. The surprise that you were right about that stuff, that you were right you could do these things, that you could find what you needed in the world that was missing in yourself, and put that all together, and make the things happen that you thought you could, and where other people wonder how you got there and how you did it – it puts awe into you.  Of course, that night, it was still just my belief, my hope, my faith, that that was what had happened. Nothing was proven yet.

Leon did not get chosen. It hurt his feelings, and I felt like my friend had been dropped into a deep deep well and I didn’t know how to get him out. And who did get picked – Clay Hicks. Clay had outperformed Leon on the night, no question. But how could I tell Barry that I had a bad feeling about Clay based on one crazy car ride? Barry didn’t know Clay, didn’t know Leon – none of us knew each other yet.

 Conquest, by Vik Rubenfeld
Available at:
AmazonSmashwordsBarnes & Noble

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Friday Fix: Review – When Love Isn’t Enough, by Stephanie Casher

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This review can also be found here at Goodreads.

When Love Isn’t Enough, by Stephanie Casher

Five out of Five Stars

BRIEF SUMMARY

Samantha is attending UCSC and has emotional issues. Though she wasn’t looking for love, on a particular day, she met Tony. Tony is older and is finishing up his last year of college. He also has problems with his girlfriend, Angela, but doesn’t want to hurt her as well. Instantly, both Tony and Samantha had an undeniable chemistry that will lead to turmoil and set off events that will affect their lives and the people around them.

THOUGHTS

This was a story that I was unable to put down. The reviews posted for this book should not be ignored, as the author did a wonderful job building the characters and the plot that will leave you guessing the outcome of this story.

The moment the story started, it pulled you in to the chemistry that both Tony and Samantha were feeling. The author did a great job building the story line and the issues that they both faced. With Tony having a girlfriend, it definitely made for another added twist that added to the plot. As the story progressed, both Tony and Samantha face other dilemmas as their love continues to grow. What caught me off guard was the twist I never saw coming, because when you think you know how the story will unfold, the author throws in something that I wasn’t sure about but later got my vote. This book is all based on timing, and it seems to not be on anyone’s side.

The other characters I also enjoyed, Damion, Faby, and Gabe. The author used them well as they definitely gave the book that other wow factor. I hope we will get a story about Faby and Gabe, because I think there maybe some unfinished business between them. I think most readers maybe unsatisfied about the ending, but knowing there will be a sequel called `Soul Mates’ put me at ease. I was also a bit excited that the author gave us the first chapter from `Soul Mates’ in the book. I thought this was a story well put together and detailed, that I look forward to more from the author.

Storyline: GOOD
Intimacy: Brief but SWEET
Enjoyment: GOOD
Kindle length: 6326


When Love Isn’t Enough, by Stephanie Casher

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A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear

A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear

A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear

A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear
Available at:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks

Description:  Lisa Welsh only wishes to leave a messy divorce behind for a couple of days stay in Salado, Texas but wakes to nightmares and a cowboy in her bed, and she has no earthly idea how he got there. But the situation gets worse when she learns she’s now living in 19th Century Salado. Even more worrisome is the tall dark stranger, and everyone else in town believes she’s some woman named Josephine Rogers who is supposed to be dead.

Jack Stanton can’t believe the clerk gave him an occupied room at the Shady Villa Inn, but worse, he was ready to ravage the woman in that bed—until he realized his mistake. Now the woman he thinks is Josephine claims to be some other woman—and though he could never abide by Josephine’s fickle ways, this Lisa Welsh intrigues him like no other. Still, if she isn’t Josephine, he figures he best help her find her way back to where she really belongs no matter how much he wants to keep her with him.

Together, Lisa and Jack must solve the mysteries and face the troubles in their worlds or they will never be free to share the love that binds them across the ages.

Chapter One

In the flickering of the lantern’s golden flame, a shadowy solitary figure stood across the room, observing the sleeping occupant. The dim light projected through the amber glass cast eerie shape-shifting characters up and down the burgundy rose-papered walls. In the gloomy darkness, the specter reached out to Lisa Welsh, begging for solace, straining to be felt.

The fragrance of roses permeated the dimness, tea-scented, teasing the senses of the unwitting guest. Except for the rustle of sugar-drained leaves dancing against the windows, the room remained deadly quiet. Suffocated by the heat of the coverlet, Lisa tossed the quilt aside. Quickly chilled, she tugged it back over her shoulders. The darkness threatened to swallow her whole and drag her into the hellish pit of a nightmare again.

Groggy with sleep, she thought about Tom, the image of him, smug, his eyes blue and cold. “I found someone else,” he’d said, and it echoed in her mind like a damn broken record.

A girl barely out of high school. The bastard. At twenty-one, Lisa was already over the hill? She blinked tears back. She refused to give him any more space in her brain.

She attempted to think of something pleasant. And then she had it.

A Trojan warrior’s fingers pushed the silky gown up her leg—she, being his Trojan princess hostage. His muscular thigh tensed when he pressed his nude body against hers. She ran her hands over his sculpted back, mesmerized by the smoothness of his skin against her fingertips.

In the flutter of an eyelid, the chills resumed, and the darkness returned. A shudder shook Lisa’s body.

Murky figures moved closer. “She can’t last long.” A man’s gruff voice made no attempt to quiet his comment in Lisa’s presence.

We can’t wait any longer. The sale—”

I know, I know, the buyers are getting suspicious. In a town this size, the word will soon get out.”

What do you propose to—”

You know what we have to do. She’ll never be missed.”

The heat, the chills, the muscles that ached with every twitch of her body…

Lisa squirmed to free herself of the misery pervading her soul. She twisted and rolled onto her back. She gasped for breath—she couldn’t breathe.

In a mournful, strangled voice, she cried out. The goose down-filled pillow covered her face, pressing tightly against her mouth and nostrils. Her arms felt locked in a vise. She attempted to pull them free from the blanket and comforter

Were the bedcovers pinning her down? Or something more sinister? Fingers? Gripping her arms, bruising the skin?

Her heart beating pell-mell, Lisa broke free from the paralysis and threw the pillow burying her face onto the floor. Cold, she was so cold. And drained of energy. She rolled over, submerging herself under the covers, trying to push out the chill.

Warmth radiated from the other side of the bed, and she gravitated toward it.

Tom. Sighing, she snuggled against his hard, naked body, his heated skin warming her to the core. She listened to the steady thumping of his heart, the rhythmic drumbeat lulling her back to sleep. Until he stirred. His fingers slipped through her hair, tenderly combing the strands. His simple touch made her crave for more. She nuzzled her mouth against his smooth chest, her fingers tracing his pebbled nipple.

He groaned, leaned down, and kissed the top of her head.

Her heart lifting, she raised her face toward him, encouraging more of his kisses. Pressing his mouth against hers, gently at first, the sleeping giant awakened.

She kissed him back, nipping his mouth with teasing bites, touching her tongue to his, making him moan with need. The sound was gratifying after such a long absence. She shifted her body, sliding her thigh over his. But he pressed his hands against her shoulders, moving her onto her back like a man with a calling. Forceful, yet loving.

Yes! This is what she needed to warm her up.

His hands slipped to her breasts, and he caressed, lifted, and massaged them through her clothes, making her tingle throughout. She stilled her hands on his waist, absorbed in his sensual and needy touch. Then wrapping her in his heat and vigor, he pinned her to the mattress. Ohmigod, yes! He hadn’t shown her this much ardor in forever.

She ran her hands over the muscles in his back, enjoyed the feel of his satiny skin, the way he pressed against her, his arousal hard against her waist. She wanted him buried deep inside her, passionate, virile, possessive, loving her without hesitation.

With his mouth kissing hers, he swept his hands down her sides and reached for her… nightgown? Not right. Something’s not right.

He lifted it, exposing her, his fingers stroking her naked thighs with a silky caress. But a twinge of panic streaked through her veins.

Not…not her nightgown…too heavy, not long enough…denim…her denim skirt? The illusion shattered. The world as she knew it unraveled, one notion at a time. He was too muscular to be Tom, too tall, and he smelled like leather and a spicy scent not at all like her…her…oh, hell, she was divorced. Tom hadn’t lived with her for the last three months.

Her heart and breath on hold, she tried to slip out from under the aroused man who was clearly not her ex-husband. He slid his hand higher, toward the apex of her thighs.

Too scared to scream, she squirmed to get free.

Charlotte,” he said, his voice a husky, sexy tenor.

What’s wrong, darlin’?”

Ohmigod, had she been out of her mind? Gone to bed with a total stranger and made up an alias?

The cotton sheets scratched her skin, unlike the satin feel of her 600-thread count ones. Cotton? She’d put flannel sheets on her bed for the fall as cold natured as she was. She wasn’t even in her own bed. Where was she?

“Get off me!” She tried to shove him aside, but he was like a primed bull ready to mate with his woman, and she’d been the one to prime him.

He reached out and touched her arm in a reassuring way.

Honey?” His voice was drenched with lust but sounded concerned, too.

She pushed again, freeing herself from his hot body. She scooted away so fast she fell off the bed. And fell and fell. Finally landing on the unforgiving wooden floor, she smacked her elbow and hip hard. How high was the damned bed?

Charlotte?” the man asked, but this time his voice was tinged with more than worry.

Who are you?” The covers rustled.

Lisa couldnsee blamed thing in the dark, and she hoped the naked guy was dressing and leaving the room pronto. At least she wasnnaked.

You’re not…she’s…” He paused.

Lisa scrambled to her feet, trying to remember where she was and why she was with a naked man in a bedroom that wasn’t her own.

What are you doing in my hotel room?” he finally asked with an accusing tone.

Hotel,” she whispered,  rubbing her throbbing temple.

Ohmigod, hotel. The Stagecoach Inn.” She vaguely remembered leaving Waco last night to come to Salado, to get away after the judge finalized her divorce from Tom, the worm.

Wrong inn,” the guy said, matter-of-factly.

rented room here. Iafraid youre the one whoin the wrong place.” She attempted to sound sure of herself, not as rattled as she felt.  But she knew for fact that she had rented the room.

A boot hit the floor, and the bed creaked. “I sure apologize for the mix-up, ma’am. I reckon the clerk made a mistake. I’ll be out of here as soon as I can.”

It wasn’t your fault.” Although she couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d nearly done with a total stranger. How could she have thought it was Tom? She guessed after four years of marriage and three months of separation, she still couldn’t believe they were finished.

Boots tromped across the wooden floor then stopped at the door. When the man pulled it open, a hall lamp cast a dim light into the room, illuminating the guy’s attire, a cowboy dressed in black. A rodeo type or maybe he was in a country band. Neither of which appealed to her. Although why she was considering it, she hadn’t a clue.

He stared at her for moment, his brows deeply furrowed. hint of recognition appeared in his dark eyes, his angular face stern, and his jaw taut. Her gaze drifted to his lipsperfectly kissable mouthif they werenso grim. He was much better kisser than Tom had ever been, like he wanted to devour every lovable inch of herif shebeen some woman named Charlotte.

A green cord of envy wrapped around her heart. Why couldn’t she garner that much interest from a man who looked like this guy?

The cowboy cleared his throat, ran his hands over the brim of a black Stetson, and gave her a little nod. “I apologize again, Miss.” Then he shut the door, and his footfall echoed down the hall.

Instantly, she felt bereft. Alone. Unwanted. Discarded.

She was mess and had to pull herself together. Tom wasnworth the feelings that were churning deep inside her. He was perfectly content, and she was damned if she was going to be unhappy because heleft her for teen. Wiping away annoying tears, she vowed not to think about him again tonight. Or tomorrow. Or ever. Letting out her breath, she inched her way to the door in the dark. She fumbled with the doorknob, searching for lock.

A Ghost of a Chance at Love, by Terry Spear
Available at:
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Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington

Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington

Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington

Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington
Available at:
Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble

Description:  There are things Patrick Boyle will never forget: the sound of his own neck breaking at the moment of his death in the fall of 1970, the sweet taste of his mother’s chocolate cake, and the awful day his parents abandoned him in his childhood house-turned prison.

Nineteen-year-old Patrick wonders for decades if God has forgotten all about him or if he’s being punished for some terrible crime or sin over a lovely forty years trapped in an empty home. But when Sara Oswald, a strange woman with a mysterious past, buys his house, old feelings reawaken, and a new optimism convinces him that she’s the answer to his prayers.

Things are never simple, though, especially when she begins channeling the memories of his life and death in her writing.

Excerpt:

Whoever said dying was easy was full of crap. Patrick Boyle remembered slipping down the carpeted stairs, wincing and grunting as he dislocated his shoulder with the first jolt. His skin flayed off at the hip when his shirt rose up while skidding across a hard edge, a sensation he vividly remembered as lingering and grinding. And finally, he was fully cognizant of the pain as his neck made a sharp, juicy cracking noise when he crunched head first on the landing below. It wasn’t easy, and it sure as Hell wasn’t fun.

The pain faded just as quickly as it happened, but then he groaned in humiliation as the piss stained the front of his tan corduroy pants seconds after he officially died. His mother’s high-pitched screech drew his attention away from the sensation of hot fabric sticking to the inside of his thighs, although not so much that it didn’t occur to him it was pretty far out that he could still feel his body. It was a sure bet he was dead – if the blank look in his wide open eyes and the fact that his heart didn’t seem to be beating was any indication. And, you know, being able to see himself and his mother from across the room made it pretty obvious. In fact, he seemed to be able to see the scene from all directions: from above, from the left, and from the right.

Arlene Boyle obviously didn’t realize her son was dead, though. At least Patrick didn’t think so – otherwise, she probably wouldn’t have poked so hard at his dislocated shoulder with a firm but shaking finger and yelled his name. It was kind of strange; getting jabbed should have hurt, but he didn’t feel a thing at that moment. Well, except the beginnings of a persistent panic that tied his useless intestines in phantom knots.

“Patrick Michael Boyle!” rang through the house, echoing in the narrow stairwell of wooden steps and slippery, rust-colored shag carpeting runner. When Patrick’s corpse didn’t even so much as flinch, she slipped into Mom mode, quickly and efficiently calling someone, maybe the operator or the hospital or something. She probably couldn’t allow herself to even consider that her “little miracle Patty,” as his mother liked to call him – something about not being able to have more children –  might not be okay. That’s just the way she was, though: calm and optimistic. Patrick and his father liked to joke she was queen of ignoring the obvious.

The good news was when he looked down again, he stood beside his dead body… in his own body. His spiritual body, he supposed. And his corduroy pants – the ones on his non-dead… or undead, whatever… body –  were dry as a bone. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t the best thing to ever happen to him, but on a day when he was due to meet his Heavenly Host earlier than anticipated, he’d take what he could get.

Pancakes had been the key to Patrick’s undoing, the reason he got out of bed in the first place. The scent of vanilla and butter woke him, swirling around his pillow like a thick cloud and making him shift restlessly beneath his covers. His stomach rumbled, urging him downstairs. The smell had even interrupted a fairly good dream involving Susan Dey, inappropriate considering this might possibly have been his last full day of freedom. Unless Patrick had some exotic disease, wet dreams would occur in the presence of a dozen or more other guys for the next few years.

Lucky him.

Patrick felt kind of like a bad ass… at least for a few moments after his heart had ceased to beat. Dying was a downer, especially when he was just nineteen years old, but he grinned smugly anyway. It wasn’t the perfect solution to escaping Vietnam, but dying on the stairs had to be better than getting shot up in a rice paddy. Tomorrow he’d been scheduled to report to the draft board office in Philadelphia for a physical exam, a pit stop on his way to the war. He’d nearly sh*t himself when his number had been chosen in the draft lottery, although he shouldn’t have been surprised since his birthday had been assigned a relatively low number.

At least now his mother could bury a good-looking body, not that it would likely make her feel any better about the situation. But it would have to be at least some comfort.  Janice Hobbs’ brother had his head half blown off in some god-forsaken village during a surprise attack, and at the funeral the month prior, his parents had insisted on an open casket. Patrick’s mother had remarked to the neighbor over coffee that the Army had done a “spectacular” job of making poor Stevie Hobbs presentable, but all Patrick saw when he glanced into the coffin was Stevie’s pale waxiness, a too-flat nose, and a sunken cheek on one side that looked kind of like Silly Putty.

The worst his mother would have to deal with – aside from burying her kid – was trying to get the stench of urine out of the carpet in her stairway and straightening his head out, which admittedly looked pretty wrong, now that he had another look.  He hoped she would take care to make his hair look foxy at the funeral; it had taken six months to grow it out to just the right length. The hot blonde girl who worked at the record store on South Street in Philly said it looked cool last week. Patrick groaned to himself, lamenting the waste of his perfectly-feathered hair. He didn’t think God would really care how boss his hair was, though, and Mom was probably going to be too upset to give a rip.

Patrick snorted, rubbing his neck absently. No pain there either, but it had to have been busted. The crunching sound had been loud and unpleasant, like the crack of a bat against a baseball heading over the baseball field fence. “This is so crazy.”

His brain raced – it was hard to focus on just one thing, but maybe that was okay. God would probably send for him any second, so he should get his thinking done now. Remember as much as he could before he had other things to think about… like not falling off his cloud in paradise or losing his harp.

His father had been bizarrely unconcerned when his birthday had come up in the draft lottery, and his mother – true to form – had pretended March 16 hadn’t been chosen… until about a week ago. Then she started talking to Mrs. Timmons, the librarian. Apparently Mrs. Timmons’ nephew had been court marshaled or something when he didn’t show up for his physical a half dozen times. He was serving something stupid like fifteen years in federal prison. Patrick’s mother had told him quietly she didn’t want him to go to war, clutching his sleeve in her vise-like fist one afternoon.

“You’re my only son,” she’d told Patrick solemnly, eyes wide with panic and glistening with tears. “I don’t care what your father thinks. It’s not like I’m going to tell him… but I want to find a way to get you out of it.”

“Oh, come on, Ma.” He’d patted her awkwardly on the shoulder, faking confidence. “Don’t worry about it. They won’t want me anyway. I’m not exactly Army material.”

He knew from watching his friends and acquaintances get drafted; it didn’t matter if he was a one-eyed, pigeon-toed idiot – the government would still have his ass in basic training within weeks.

Patrick wasn’t interested in spending time in prison for skipping his physical, and he definitely wasn’t planning to spend the rest of his life in Canada as a draft dodger as Ginny Burns, his old girlfriend, had suggested two nights before his plunge down the stairs. On the night his group of friends drank pilfered beers at the abandoned lot on the outskirts of town, she’d been full of opinions.

“But Tim Rimmel’s cousin did it,” she’d protested, tipping a can to her lips with slender hands. “I think he went to British Columbia.”

The air that night had held a chill to it, a crisp feeling that brought to mind thoughts of dead things and football. Ginny shivered and inched closer to the fire he’d helped build in an old, rusted trash can. At the time, Patrick had been thinking about how glad he was he and Ginny could still be friends after he’d broken up with her. Thinking back, he wished he would have kept dating her – at the very least, he could have had one last grope, one last home run before checking out.

“I heard he’s working on a ranch or something like that.” His friend, Andy, pulled his fringed vest over a concave chest and blew out a long stream of cigarette smoke. The cherry of his cigarette danced in the dim light, the fire shadowing over sharp features.

“Well, I’m not making a run for Canada.” Patrick drained his Pabst and crushed the can, tossing it over his shoulder into the pile of aluminum that grew each weekend. “It’s probably cold as Hell, and my dad would kill me.”

Ginny flipped her straight, pale hair over her shoulder, grinning. “Oh, yeah. He’d be pissed.”

He knew exactly what Ginny’d been thinking – his dad was an Army vet who had served in the Korean War. His father had firm opinions about draft dodgers; he’d made it perfectly clear it was Patrick’s duty to serve his country, no matter what he personally thought of the war. “Chickens,” his father had called those who made a big deal about service, and that was among the nicer terms he’d used. “Go***mn pu**ies” was his dad’s personal favorite name, though. Patrick was no pu**y, and sure as s*it wasn’t a chicken.

 Between Seasons, by Aida Brassington
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Whispers of a Legend, Part Two- The Path Now Turned, by Carrie James Haynes

Whispers of a Legend, Part Two- The Path Now Turned, by Carrie James Haynes

Whispers of a Legend, Part Two- The Path Now Turned, by Carrie James Haynes

 

Whispers of a Legend, Part Two- The Path Now Turned, by Carrie James Haynes
Available at:
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Description:   Kela has always known what path in life she would follow. She was born a Euchoun. Half Witheleghean, a passive peaceful race where magic runs freely and the other half, Sordarin, a valiant warrior race of hawkmen who rule the sky, she was born with one purpose- to protect. Having proven her ability during the Payelaga Desert battle, she believes herself ready to follow her destiny beside Cono, her warrior. Fate has another path for Kela. A fear emerges that Asmeodai, an evil as no other, is on the threshold of her world. Having proven her ability during the Payelaga Desert battle, she believes herself ready to follow her destiny beside her warrior. Fate has another path for Kela. When she discovers all she has long believed is not as it seems, the betrayal leaves Kela torn by her desire for Cono and the path she has been given to follow.

The Legend continues…

 

Excerpt:

Engrossed in my thoughts, the figure in the sky shadowed over me without reaction until the fluttering of his wings blew around me. Taking a few steps back, Cono landed beside me. His bold eyes caught mine. Irritation dissipated with each step he took toward me.

His lips on one side lifted in way one might considered a smile. His broad shoulders glistened in the sunlight with the sweat he had exerted. His wings flexed. The shadows flying above us softened the sharp planes of my warrior’s face. His hand reached for me. I gave no resistance, uttering only under my breath.

“You were to come to me this day. I waited…then I saw this celebration in the…” Others words hung in the air for he said nothing.

Ignoring my ramblings, his arm rounded me pulling me to him. His hand caressed my face, tenderly, passionately. I felt I couldn’t breath. He bent his head and kissed me, fiercely. The power flowed between us. I leaned into him, accepting him, wanting what I wasn’t sure, but I opened myself to him, heart and soul. His mouth wandered over my lips, cheeks, brows and throat.

“Kela,” he uttered, his voice rasping my name. “I love you, Woman. With everything in me. You are part of me.”

In some dim recess of my mind, I suspected all a dream. In hypnotized fascination I said nothing. He ran his hand through my hair, freeing the bounds that held it. Falling down long passed my waist, his fingers lost in the mass of tangles.

His eyes blazing, he tightened his hold. His mouth claimed mine once more. Flows of warmth filled me, gasping as his lips burned a path down my cheek to the sensitive part of my neck. I arched back, baring my throat for him, lost in a sensation that dealt not with reason but want.

“Cono,” I whispered in a low drawing voice. His hand rounded me, pressing me against his leather bound chest. Between the material of my gown, his hands cupped my breast, sending me into a spasm of pleasure, robbing me of all reason.

“We can’t,” I uttered, though my body betrayed me. With reluctance, he broke from me. His hand lingered on my face.

“I’ll wait only until I get you back to my barrack. No more separation. Not now.”

Exhilarated! Words I had only dreamed of escaped his lips. “I have no say?” I teased.

He laughed and drew me into his arms again. “Tell me, my Euchoun. Tell me you love me.”

My arrogant, handsome, warrior!

“I love you,” I managed before he kissed me again.

His arms rounded under me. Lifting me into his arms, he prepared to fly, but as suddenly as he swept me up, he released me. My feet found the ground, but his arm held me tight to him. I sensed a change in my warrior.

Then I heard Falco calling to me. For how long he had done so, I didn’t know but his tone lay with frustration and annoyance. The King was about to descend on us. I glanced up at Cono, worried.

“It is only a delay. King Edulf has given his permission for us to be together and for you to stay. He must only want to collect information on your arrival,” he smiled. His hand went under my chin. “I have questions also. I was only waiting until after…” he paused. “As such where did you get the gown?”

“It was a gift for my birthday,” I answered him. My eyes searched the sky for the sign of the expected entourage. “No one listens to me. I have told you that the woods hold spirits. The Wood Spirit said it was destiny, my fate to wear. You do not like it?”

His nostrils flared on a sharply indrawn breath. “I like it very much. I have never seen you so…”

“Like a lady?” I asked. Irritation now recalled. “Is that what you mean as my cousin you saw before you came to me?”

“Do I detect my Kela is jealous?” he laughed, shaking his head. “You have no rivals for my heart if that is what you ask.” Suddenly his tone altered, somber. “There is much to be made up to you, Kela. I tried to come before this day. Forgive me. Hold to me.”

“I asked for nothing but you.”

“You have me, always. We are bonded, Kela.”

Lowering my head, I stared into his eyes. In all of things I had no knowledge, but this bond, this union, I comprehended well. I would not be complete without him by my side, nor he without me.

Above me the fluttering of wings announced the King’s arrival. I recoiled back into my warrior’s arms, secure in the knowledge we were one.

The room immediately became crowded. Falco flew beside our grandfather followed by only a few I recognized. Lord Lothar landed with Roderic. Roderic, my own cousin whom I had never met, but knew from the Shimmering Pool, stared at me. Cono lowered his head and bowed. A moment later, I curtsied. The delay did not go unnoticed.

Rising back up, the King frowned upon me. I didn’t care. I was to stay. He had need of me and I had shown him my worth. Hadn’t I? The years of his treatment brewed inside of me. The unfairness of all swelled deciphering what I had witnessed this day…the world that had been denied me.

King Edulf gestured for the Sordarins on the ends to spread out, exiting out the entrance door. A few moments later the room held only a trusted few, except Roderic who still stood by Falco. King Edulf nodded to his other grandson.

“Roderic, check to make sure all is secure.”

Roderic’s jaw clenched and muscles twinge, but he bowed and retreated out of the room. My brave thoughts forgotten when King Edulf’s attention turned once more on me. I was once more the child cowering in his bedchamber. My legs buckled beneath me. Cono’s arms caught me.

“She weakens only slightly now when her power is expelled, your Majesty,” Cono offered.

King Edulf nodded, but his intense stare remained on me. I had not seen him for well over four years. Four years since he banished me to the Forbidden Forest to train without distractions, to become the Euchoun Scarladin had need.

“Where did you get the gown?”

Of all the words I expected him to utter, those were not among them. I looked back confused at Cono and back at the King.

“It is my eighteenth year today, your Majesty. It was a gift.”

“I see your manners have not improved. I asked who gave it to you not for what reason.”

My chest heaved. Cono squeezed my hand, but I jerked it back from him. Suddenly regaining my composure, I answered, “Since I have been banished, your Majesty, my contacts have been few as you yourself have seen to, but I have no control over the spirits in the Forbidden Forest. The Wood Spirit in his kindness gave it to me to meet my destiny he said.”

“It was not a Wood Spirit,” he said solemnly and without emotion.

“I have not told you a lie. How else would I get anything, Your Majesty?” I implored. My fears forgotten replaced with only my anger. “I have nothing. My only tunic lies upon the ground by the stream. You question a gift and question not how I came. The Wood Spirit sent me through today. He told me it was time. If I questioned, I would question why it was not you that sent for me.”

“It is not your place to question me.”

“What is my place?”

Ignoring my brother’s pleas to contain myself and refusing to look over at Cono whom I was certain would have silenced me, I rebuffed their intent. They hadn’t lived as I, with purpose perhaps, but I had been promised this day to return. I met King Edulf’s stare with my own. Comprehending for the first time, he wasn’t acting as my grandfather, but my king.

“You are a Euchoun bond to protect.”

Without care of etiquette or fear of reprisal, I interrupted. “In which I have and will always. But I ask you, Your Majesty, how can I do so from the Forbidden Forest? Has it not become obvious I am needed?”

“It is well you were here today,” he acknowledged. Flexing his wings, he walked around me, making no effort to conceal his assessing of my being. “With the display, I can well see Twiten and Cono have done well in your training. Your skills have greatly improved.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Cono offered. “We are prepared as you can see. It is well she has returned. I will see to her needs this day…”

“Plans have changed, Cono,” King Edulf said in a commanding tone. “In all I was premature to agree to all you asked. I have need of you this evening. The Celebration Ball has to go on as planned and your presence is required. I will see to Kela. Falco will be calling for Sareta.” He turned back to me. “It isn’t time, Kela. You are to return back to the Forest.”

“No!” I cried, stepping backwards to Cono. “I refuse. I’m not going back ever. I have done all you required. I have trained endlessly. It is all I have done. I’m eighteen today…”

Reality returned blaring before me. I tumbled backwards out of Cono’s reach. Shaking my head, I fought back the water welling in my eyes. Warriors did not cry. I was not a child anymore and I refused to let that man see me cry. All eyes within the room lay upon me like a caged animal.

Cono stepped forward, bowing low, but his words plain to hear. “Your Majesty, I must object. You gave me your word. All is set. She is already here. People have seen her power. They know or will soon comprehend a Euchoun is present. I have all arranged to keep her out of harm’s way. We agreed…”

“It is regrettable, but a complex matter has reared its ugly head once more that needs to be extinguished. Until then, I see no alternative except her return to the Forest,” his words echoed in my ear.

I looked around again and panic fluttered. His reason…I didn’t care. I wasn’t going back. No, no, no…please, no. I hesitated and then said, “I can take care of myself, Your Majesty. Do not be concerned that I will claim myself as your granddaughter…”

“It is not my concern, Kela. You’re not.”

My eyes widened on his words. Confusion rang. He gestured with his hand to clarify his meaning.

“My granddaughter, Kela Calledwdele, died years ago. Misfortunate, but tragedies are expected in life. You are a Euchoun. It is time you come to terms with all that it pertains. Sacrifice is the life of a Euchoun.”

Not his granddaughter! Sacrifice! Looking around, I saw within Cono and Falco both had known. Incipient hysteria surfaced within my being.

“Then who am I?”

 Whispers of a Legend, Part Two- The Path Now Turned, by Carrie James Haynes
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Waiting On Hope, by T.M. Souders

Waiting On Hope, by T.M. Souders

Waiting On Hope, by T.M. Souders

Waiting On Hope, by T.M. Souders
Available at:
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Description:   Ten years ago, Lexie Dodson fled her home in rural Ohio, leaving behind a heartbroken brother and abandoning a devastated fiancé. While chasing her desire of a fast-paced life in the city, and the obscurity of urban life, she is shaken to her very core by an act of violence that leaves her betrayed, broken, and pregnant—and with nowhere to go but home.

Seeking refuge and facing gut-wrenching decisions, she is confronted not only with the past she left behind, but also with a love that never died—a love waiting for something to stoke the flames.

Told from the perspective of four characters, Waiting on Hope will stay with you well after the last page has been turned.

CHAPTER ONE

She stepped to the ledge of the balcony, welcoming death—and the mercy it offered.

Three more steps and she would be free. One. Two.

The sudden bang on the door made Lexie jump. She stood, her toes curling over the cool, rough, concrete, only inches from the edge of descent.

Gripping the chair next to her, she tried to concentrate. She raised her arms straight out from her sides like an airplane. The morning air, cool on her skin, wrapped around her in a soft caress. She visualized the jump, the slap of wind on her face and in her hair. She didn’t flinch from the thought of the agony of impact, which may come before the blessed numbness. After all, she was no stranger to pain.

Opening her eyes, she glanced down at her feet. Without a railing, the unguarded slab of stone made for easy access to the waiting street below. She straightened her toes, no longer supported by the balcony.

The banging on the door persisted, making it hard for her to think. She tried to ignore the interruption, but the caller’s persistence made blocking out the sound impossible. Behind the pounding she heard a voice—one she recognized.

“Lexie, open up. Let me in. What the hell are you doing out there? You’re going to get yourself killed. Lex?” Sienna continued to call through the door.

Lexie glanced from the inside of her apartment back to the street below. Traffic loomed, along with the occasional pedestrian. She cursed Sienna for interfering. Why did she show up now?

All she needed was one more step, but the insistent banging outside her door thumped in the background of her mind, jarring the still thoughts of death from where they perched. She would have to wait. With Sienna right outside, plunging off the balcony was not an option. Enough agony would be caused to those she left behind, without any of them having to witness her demise. When the time came, however, she would leap at the chance to end the world in which only a fog of pain enveloped her.

She stepped off the balcony, into her apartment. Despite the sound of Sienna’s voice, she peered through the peep hole, confirming her visitor’s identity. She unlocked the chain bolt and three dead bolts she installed after “the incident” two months ago—the effort on her part, a fruitless one. She knew all-too-well you couldn’t lock the devil out. He seldom arrived undisguised.

Sienna didn’t wait for Lexie to open the door. The second the dead bolt snapped, she threw the door open, rocking Lexie on her feet where she stood. She took inventory, looking around Lexie’s apartment, her gaze hovering over the barrage of locks. Raising one golden brow, she narrowed her eyes at Lexie, who remained silent.

“What’s going on Lex? You’re not returning any of my calls. And what’s with the horror movie locks?” Sienna asked. Her forehead wrinkled into a dozen lines.

Lexie shrugged. She hadn’t told Sienna what happened yet, and even when she did, she couldn’t tell her the whole truth. The facts for her would be too devastating. Then again, she probably deserved more credit than Lexie gave her…

Nevertheless, letting Sienna in on the events of the last two months was the right thing to do. After all, Lexie’s affinity for lying was weak, and besides, Sienna had an ability to see straight through a person, to cut through the crap.

Sienna stood, arms crossed in front of her chest, her platinum hair pulled back from her face, waiting for a response, for some enlightenment to explain Lexie’s recent behavior.

“Um. They’re just a precaution,” Lexie said.

“Precaution? Lex, you’re scaring me. I’ve been calling you for two months, without so much as a reply. You’ve skipped out on all our Friday girls’ nights. You stood me up at the photography convention on Sunday, the one you begged me to attend with you. And this morning, I called Pittsburgh Magazine, only to find out that you haven’t been at work in over a month, that you’re taking some time off for personal reasons.”

Sienna continued to talk, following Lexie from the foyer to the couch in her living room.

Lexie tried to make herself comfortable, but found it impossible—a notion explicably apparent in her life as of late. She fidgeted on the white sofa, which seemed to signal to her a glaring beacon of purity—suddenly out of place in the room.

Lexie sighed, fanning her hands out in front of her, trying to find the words. “I’m just…I’m going through something right now.”

After a moment’s silence, Sienna said, “And you can’t tell me? Since when do we keep secrets from each other?”

The pain in Sienna’s rich chocolate eyes was palpable, a confirmation of sorts of why her own pain, her own shame, should be kept to herself. How did she find the words? Part of her wanted to say it. She envisioned opening her mouth and letting them flow, forming her lips around the vowels, I was raped. The thought alone, stung like venom on the tip of her tongue.

“I…I….” Lexie tilted her head back. She gazed at the ceiling, the tiny vein-like cracks in the otherwise smooth plaster. Why couldn’t she say it? She willed the words from her mind, but still they would not come.

She looked back at Sienna, the hurt in her eyes latched onto the lacerations of her soul, bringing with them a new burden. Not only did she carry her own shame, but also guilt for the anguish imposed on Sienna by her silence.

Lexie said the only thing she could, a poor substitution for the truth. “Listen, I’m going through something right now that I can’t talk about. I just can’t…” Her voice cracked slightly. She managed to suppress a sob before continuing. “I need a little time. Please.”

“Do you promise me you’re going to be okay? You’re scaring the hell out of me, girl. I mean, blowing me off is one thing, but your job? You haven’t taken so much as a sick day in the ten years since I met you.”

“I swear.”

She couldn’t bring herself to mutter the words, I promise. Promises were for a groom on his wedding day, vowing to be faithful in good times and bad. For mothers who tucked their kids into bed at night, assuring them safety was inexplicably theirs—that no monsters hid beneath the covers. Well, she knew all about monsters—not only did they exist, but they were all around us. She knew all about promises too. By definition, they were impossible to keep. Because among the assurance belies a certainty, which carries with it the measure of impossibility, because a promise is a guarantee. What was the saying her mother always used to say? In life, there are no guarantees.

Sienna sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know what else to do but give you time to sort this thing out, since you won’t talk to me. I’m telling you though,” she said, jabbing a finger at Lexie. “If you don’t snap out of this soon, or tell me what’s going on, I’ll hog tie you, drag you to my place, and hold you hostage until you squeal.”

Lexie . Several things about her statement hit a little too close to home. For her friend’s benefit, however, she tried to smile.

“Finally, something other than a frown. By the way, if this has to do with a man you’ve been secretly seeing behind my back, you owe me ten Pilates classes.”

Lexie groaned. Pilates was the bane of her existence. Every time she turned around, Sienna dragged her to a class. They remained the best incentive, the highest stake, something to chain her with, like an anvil around her leg.

Lexie shook her head. “It’s nothing like that. You know if I were seeing someone, you would be the first I’d tell. Enough about me though,” she said, trying to direct her focus elsewhere. “Since I haven’t seen you in a while, fill me in. What’s new?”

Even asking Sienna about her life was a risk because the question brought with it the good chance she may mention her husband, Brent. Lexie recognized, however, no other way of getting her to leave so soon without her actions seeming suspect.

“I missed you these last two months.” Sienna looked down at her hands; a small tremor ran through her voice. “A few weeks ago, my period was late. My enthusiasm couldn’t be contained. I thought for sure I had finally done it, you know? After three years of trying, I was pregnant. I waited to take a test though. Deep down, I was afraid that I would test negative. I wanted to hold onto the hope that my time had come.”

This is how they always talked with each other. They shared everything, and in the past couple years, Sienna had agonized over her fertility issues. She and Brent had been trying for three years to conceive, to no avail. Doctors said she had an inhospitable womb—whatever that meant. Despite this diagnosis, however, Sienna continued trying. She kept waiting for a miracle.

Normally, Lexie would bend her head towards hers, wrap an arm around Sienna’s shoulders, and whisper words of consolation, reassurance, and encouragement even—but a thick fog surrounded her mind like an impenetrable membrane. She had nothing to give.

The mention of Brent’s name created a physical response. Terror and panic rose inside of her like an awakened beast. She tried to choke her emotions down, but the effort only resulted in a sweeping chill over her entire body.

Sienna continued talking, unaware of the change in Lexie’s demeanor. “I’m done crying over my inability to have a baby. Being a mother is all I ever wanted, but I need to finally accept that I may never be a mother. I’m torturing myself. Brent keeps telling me to let it go, but how do you let go of something so important, so primal? My clock is ticking…”

Brent. His name swirled around Lexie like toxic gas. She closed her eyes and trembled, as she struggled to draw oxygen into her lungs. He shouted at her, his voice calculated, anger and menace flowing from his wine stained lips. Shut the fuck up or I’ll kill you. You’ve wanted this all along. I’m only giving you what you need, what you deserve. 

Her breath hitched, and her hands clenched by her side. She was vaguely aware of Sienna’s voice in the background. She grasped for balance, for some way to clear her mind, but the effort was akin to catching dandelion snow. Every time she reached out, grasping at the fuzzy parachutes, the air in the atmosphere around her changed, and they eluded her.

Suddenly, a sharp clatter sliced through her thoughts. She opened her eyes. Able to take a clear breath, she stared straight ahead, trying to orient herself to the sound.

Sienna stood in front of her. She held her open purse, the size of a carpetbag, and after taking one last look inside, chucked it onto the floor next to Lexie.

“I’m done. You can have all of them. No more trying. No more sorrow over failing at something that was near impossible for me in the first place,” Sienna said.

Lexie’s gaze moved to the large oak coffee table, the one her father made for her as a going away present when she left home. On it laid the source of the noise. What looked like half of Wal-Mart’s pregnancy test inventory lay scattered across the silky table top.

“What’s this?” Lexie asked, still disoriented.

Sienna narrowed her eyes at Lexie, concern rimming the brown of her irises. “I just told you. They’re all of the pregnancy tests I had stashed.” She sat down next to Lexie on the sofa. Then lightly brushed the mahogany hair from the side of Lexie’s face.

“Every time I went shopping, if the store had a baby department, or carried pregnancy tests, I was drawn to them like a magnet. I’d torture myself over the tiny blue and pink clothes, the scent of powder and lavender. Then I would go buy a couple more tests to continue the cycle of torture. I’ve been hopeless, Lex.”

She looked Lexie in the eyes. “I’ve been waiting for something that’s never going to happen, killing myself over my obsession with having a baby, and week after week, you were there for me. You were there to lift me up, to dry my tears. You’ve been the best friend in the world. And that’s why I’m going to be here for you now. Well, that and I love you. You say you can’t talk about what’s going on now. I’ll accept that because I have no choice, but sooner or later, you need to tell me what’s going on, and I’ll be there for you. I’ll help you through whatever’s haunting you, just like you helped me.”

After locking the door behind Sienna, Lexie returned to the living room, where she loomed above the coffee table, staring at the pregnancy tests. She held her arms tightly against her sides, angling her body slightly away from them, as if they were a bed of coiled snakes.

Her skin pricked and the hairs on her arms stood up. Something about the tests bothered her. Or maybe in the deep-seated recesses of her mind, it was intuition. The scattered boxes beckoned her.

On a hunch, she picked one up with a trembling hand and stared at it. She couldn’t remember the last time she had her period. Then again, much of the past two and a half months were a blur, a fog of pain and fear.

Before she could think, she sprinted to the bathroom. Ripping the test out of the box, she took the lid off, and then dropped her pants. She squatted over the toilet, peeing on the plastic stick, dribbling a small amount of urine on her hands in her haste. She put the cap on, then placed the test on the back of the toilet.

She picked the box up off the floor, her hands quaking. She read the directions—probably something she should have done before taking the test. Her frantic gaze glanced at the clock, noting the time. She had to wait three minutes. Two pink lines symbolized a positive result—pregnancy. A single blue line meant she was not pregnant.

She tossed the empty container in the trash, gripping the sides of the pedestal sink, and stared at herself in the mirror. She looked like hell. Her once lustrous mahogany hair, the envy of all her female friends and co-workers, hung limp and lifeless below her shoulders, instead of in its usual thick waves. Her skin was pale, and purple crescents shadowed her eyes.

She stared at herself, her mind racing with a singular thought: It’s not possible; however, beneath her inner monologue, hibernated another thought, one which collided with the superstition that Sienna was meant to come over today, to bring those tests with her and leave them, because it was possible.

Lexie glanced, once again, at the clock, and although only two minutes had passed, she went to the toilet and retrieved the test. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting the oxygen fill her lungs, her bloodstream, calming her. She tilted her head down, ready to see the results. When she opened them, several seconds passed before her vision sharpened, and she was able to comprehend what she saw. Two pink lines. Positive. The test was positive.

Over the next four hours, she was crazed. She drank countless glasses of water, juice, and coffee, anything she could get her hands on. Test after test, (pink plusses, pink lines, yes’s, and the last test, a little blue smiley face) came back positive.

The blue face, the smile, mocked her. She gripped the stick in both hands, letting out a gut-wrenching scream, as she snapped it in half, and then flung the broken debris across the room. She felt like she was going mad, and maybe she was.

She ripped the shower curtain aside. Her hands tore at her clothing, until no part of her was covered. She stepped inside the shower stall and turned the water on full blast, the temperature as hot as it would go, scalding her skin, turning her pale flesh into a soft shade of scarlet.

She took the bar of soap and washcloth, scrubbing herself raw, until her skin burned and puckered with goose bumps as the water turned cold. The problem remained that no matter how long or hard she scrubbed, she didn’t feel clean. She couldn’t erase the memories, the rough rope that bound her wrists, cutting into her flesh, his hard fist smashing into her face, or his body, heavy on hers, violating her.

She sunk to her knees and cried, the water pooling around her legs before draining—the water that would never again be clean.

She cried for the woman that died the night of her rape, the woman she felt for certain, she wanted to get back, but couldn’t.

Waiting On Hope, by T.M. Souders
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