Release May 19th
WOLF LOVER: Konuchur, New Scotia Pack Book 2
This novella will first release as part of the Romancing the Paranormal anthology.
To read an EXCERPT click here.
Release May 19th
To read an EXCERPT click here.
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TWO PRINCES: The Biker and The Billionaire, Sons of Sanctuary MC, Book 1
“I was minding my own business, buying peanuts at the H.E.B., when I saw this asshole on the cover of “NOW” Magazine. He was wearing a pinstripe suit… and my goddamned face.” – Brash Fornight
Two brothers, one a player, one a playboy, are on a collision course with destiny and a woman who thought she’d scored a coup when she was allowed a look inside the Sons of Sanctuary Motorcycle Club.
Brigid was a graduate student at the University of Texas. It wasn’t hard getting her thesis approved, but finding a Hill Country motorcycle club willing to give her access to their lifestyle was starting to look impossible. Then she got a lead. A friend of a friend had a cousin with family ties to The Sons of Sanctuary. Perfect. Or so she thought.
What she wanted was information to prove a scholarly proposition. The last thing she had in mind was falling for one of the members of the club. Especially since she was a feminist academic out to prove that motorcycle clubs are organized according to the same structure as primitive tribal society.
Brash was standing in line at the H.E.B. Market when his world tipped on its axis. While waiting his turn to check out, his gaze had wandered to the magazine display and settled on the new issue of “NOW”. The image on the cover, although GQ’d up in an insanely urbane way, was… him.
After reading the article, he threw some stuff in a duffle and left his only home, a room at The Sons of Sanctuary clubhouse, with a vague explanation about needing a couple of days away. He left his truck at the Austin airport and caught a plane for New York, on a mission to find a mysterious guy walking around with his face.
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TWO PRINCES EXCERPT:
“Sir?” Brash Fornight gradually became aware that someone behind him in the grocery checkout line was trying to get his attention. “Sir?” He refocused and glanced behind him. The woman leaning on a cart overflowing with chip bags and cookie boxes nodded toward the cashier indicating that it was his turn to move forward. Brash looked her in the eye and had to give her props. Most people wouldn’t have the balls to try to herd a guy wearing Sons of Sanctuary MC leather.
The club employed a woman who cooked and did grocery shopping several times a week as part of her job description, but Brash didn’t like to explain his relentless craving for peanuts and he liked being teased about it even less. He didn’t know whether it was the Vitamin B or the fat or just because he liked the taste, but he couldn’t imagine going a day without them.
That’s how he came to be standing statue still In the grocery checkout line, being prompted by some woman with more nerve than sense. While he was waiting, his eyes drifted over the magazine display and settled on the cover of “NOW”, on the Most Eligible Bachelor edition no less. The debonair figure staring back was wearing Brash’s own face and body. He looked different with short hair and a four thousand dollar suit with the shirt fashionably open at the neckline, but the similarity was inescapable.
On impulse he grabbed the magazine and tossed it onto the conveyor belt with his week’s stash of peanuts.
He stuffed the bags into the saddlebags of his bike and roared toward home, nervously tapping his fingers on handlebars at red lights, riding on shoulders to keep from slowing down. He was anxious to get to the privacy of his own room and read about Branach St. Germaine.
Two beers, one jar of peanuts, and one “NOW” article later, Brash was sitting on the edge of his bed looking at the wall, seeing nothing but his own heavy thoughts. He pulled out his phone, looked up a website, and waited on hold for ten minutes to hear the time of the next flight from Austin to New York.
There was a flight to Newark in a little over three hours. He looked at his watch and calculated the time it would take to drive from Dripping Springs at that time of day. As he booked the flight, he stood up, walked to the small closet, grabbed a duffel bag, and began shoving stuff into it. Ten minutes later, he closed his door and locked it, threw the duffel over his shoulder, and headed straight for the office downstairs. He dropped the duffel on the hallway floor beside the closed door and knocked.
“Yeah?” Brash looked inside, glad that his dad was by himself, and stepped in. “What’s up?”
“I’m takin’ personal time, Pop. Gonna be gone for a couple of days.”
“What the hell is ‘personal time’?”
The gruffness made Brash smile. “It means I’m not gonna be here if you call and I’m not tellin’ you why.”
The Sons of Sanctuary President looked up at Brash, over the top of his readers, and narrowed his eyes. “You got a secret?”
“Everybody’s got secrets.”
Brandon Fornight studied his son for a minute. “True enough. Is it the kind of secret that could affect this club?”
Brash shook his head. “Don’t see how.”
“Well, then. See you… When did you say you’d be back?”
“Bein’ purposefully vague, are you?”
Brash grinned. “That’s why they call it personal time. But I expect to be back Friday.”
“You gonna have your phone with you?” When Brash nodded, Bran looked back down at his ledger in a deliberately dismissive gesture. “Well, get outta here then.”
Brash parked his bike in the airplane hangar. The structure had already been on the property when the club had bought it and turned it into a compound twenty years earlier. They used part of it for vehicle maintenance and repair and part for parking.
Some of the guys who were working looked over and shot curious glances his way when Brash threw his duffel into his pickup and started it up, but it wasn’t their way to ask questions. The Sons figured that if somebody wanted you to know something, they’d tell you.
Brash took a cab to a midtown hotel, wondering all the way why human beings would choose to live in such a place. As he slid his credit card across the hotel counter to the agent on duty, he glanced at the name, Brandon Fornight. It seemed unlikely that it was a coincidence that that the mysterious look-alike’s first name began with the same four letters. He ordered room service and pulled out his laptop.
Getting intel on the guy didn’t take advanced ops. Within an hour Brash knew where Brannach St. Germaine worked, what kind of car he drove, what kind of women he dated, who his tailor was, and where he liked to dine. There was no shortage of photos online, but the one that grabbed his attention wasn’t one of the many with starlets or debutantes on his arm. It was the one taken with his arm around his mother as they were arriving together for some red carpet fundraiser. Brash had an almost irresistible compulsion to reach up and touch her face on the screen in front of him.
The knock on the door signaled that room service had arrived. It cost a fortune, but looked and tasted like shit. So he closed the computer and went out for a walk to clear his head and find something edible.
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In the middle of a war with dragon shifters, a human widow of a werewolf may get another chance at love, but feelings of guilt threaten a blossoming attraction to the one wolf everyone thought was untamable.
Lessie smiled at the excitement in Elise’s voice. She turned her face toward where Elise was pointing while jumping up and down.
She laughed at her friend, “Have a little dignity.”
“Pffft,” said Elise. “Who needs dignity? I need a man. Or maybe a werewolf man,” she pretended to swoon.
The day was bright, filled with the musical sounds of wind chimes ringing in the breeze, like fanfare announcing the arrival of the young wolves looking for brides. Lessie tried but failed to calm the surge of nerves. Elise was the catalyst that pushed her control over the edge. Her emotions had broken free and were not taking either advice or direction, as was clear by the goose bumps that had risen all over her body. Even the air felt like it was filled with magic.
Their society had been burdened with a generation of young women of marriageable age, and no male counterparts to marry. Likewise, so they’d been told, there was a world with a population of young eligible werewolf males without females to wed and, supposedly, they were even more eager to meet. The Conscriptor had stressed the word “eager” in a way that made some of the girls giggle and exchange bright-eyed looks of delight. Others were more outwardly reserved, even if they were just as titillated by the suggestive inference.
As recently as a fortnight before, the young ladies had never heard of werewolves. The description of their species was a little horrifying at first, but desperation overrode choosiness and they decided they were willing to take a look. By the time the day of arrival came, all reservations had melted into a breathless anticipation.
Lessie had worn a yellow dress that complimented her auburn hair and light brown eyes. Set against the bright sunshine of the morning, the color almost made her appear to glow, as if she was walking surrounded by a halo.
The wolves were arriving on the docks by an ocean that was sparkling with reflected sunlight. The means of their arrival was nothing less than dazzling to humans who were accustomed to ordinary, mundane lives.
From the hillside Lessie and her friends could see the prospective husbands come into view one at a time, as if they were walking out of nothingness and taking form as they emerged. It seemed to the girls that it was a god-like thing to do, appearing out of nowhere. That, of course, added to their mystique and made the occasion even more thrilling. The prospects were arriving quickly enough to become a group and be scoping out their surroundings by the time the bachelorettes reached the dock en masse.
The werewolves had been told they would have their work cut out for them if they wanted to convince a human female to commit to mate and leave her home forever. With that in mind, they had studied what behaviors women find attractive in men, along with actual classes in the arts of love taught by a sex demon who was a friend of their alpha. They had come to the land of brides prepared for pursuit of a mate to be the challenge of their lives. So the last thing they expected was to be, more or less, besieged by a crowd of beauties in bright colored dresses and brigher smiles that conveyed receptiveness to social advances.
Lessie’s friends had rushed into the crowd of wolves with an enthusiasm that she found embarrassing. She’d hung back at the edge of the throng, feeling and, perhaps, looking uncertain.
While she was trying to decide whether she would continue to observe or join the mixer, the air dazzled a few feet away and she was face to face with a male who simply and literally took her breath away. He was a little taller than she, with golden skin and long mahogany-colored hair worn loose down his back. But the single feature that caught her attention so that she couldn’t have looked away, not even if she was on fire, was his eyes. His irises were a gray so pale they made him seem even more alien than she’d been expecting. But the otherworldly look of his eyes was softened and warmed when the edges of his mouth turned up into a wolf smile.
As it happened, he seemed to be just as captivated by her and never took his eyes away. Relations with the opposite sex is both easy and natural for werewolves as they are sexual creatures with an innate charismatic appeal, particularly where humans are concerned. One look at the face of the prey who had wandered into his path told the wolf that his pursuit would be both fruitful.
“What’s your name?” asked the wolf.
“Lestriv,” said the girl.
“Lestriv.” He repeated her name slowly as if he was tasting it and rolling it around on his tongue. “That’s hard to say.” His conclusion was offered with a teasing smile that made his eyes light from within.
She resisted the impulse to reach out and trace the strong pronounced line of his jaw with her fingertips, but just barely. Instead she returned his smile, feeling shy about her inexperience with the opposite sex and, at the same time, emboldened by his obvious interest.
“I guess that’s why most people call me Lessie.”
He tried out “Lessie” the same way and, looking satisfied, said, “Much better.”
The werewolf took a step toward her. She took a step back reflexively, not because she wanted to retreat from him. She didn’t. It was simply an involuntary response.
She couldn’t have known it, but it was the best thing she could have done if she wanted to snag a wolf because that small response awakened his predatory instincts and made her an object of even greater fascination.
“Don’t be afraid,” said the wolf.
“I’m… not,” Lessie stumbled.
“I’ll not harm you. In fact,” his mouth curled in a way that made her knees weak, “I’ll show you more pleasure than you’ve ever imagined. If you’ll let me.”
At that he reached out at arm’s length and ran a warm finger down her cheek. She couldn’t suppress a shiver. He couldn’t stop his smile from widening when he saw it.
Inside she may have been contemplating the many ways she would like to explore his claim of commanding pleasure, but what her mouth said was, “What’s your name?”
He raised his chin and offered a charming little lopsided grin. “Jimmy Clear-Eyes.”
Lessie cocked her head to the side. “That suits you fine, werewolf.”
Again he took a step toward the woman and reached for her hand, but that time she did not back away.
“You suit me fine, human.”
The sound of wind chimes blown by sweet sunny breezes stopped abruptly as Lessie started to feel the corporeal weight of her body waking. She heard a woman’s voice repeat, “They’re here,” but it wasn’t Elise announcing the arrival of young brash handsome werewolves looking for love. It was the alpha’s mate, Luna, come to help get her ready for the worst day of her life, Jimmy’s funeral.
Inside her mind chanted, “No,” over and over again, like she could use the word as a shield against reentering the nightmare of her reality But she couldn’t hold wakefulness at bay forever. New tears sprang into eyes badly swollen from crying for two days.
As she turned in the bed, her hand automatically went to her belly, which was just beginning to tell the world that their second child was seeded and growing. She hoped that the baby, he or she, couldn’t feel the pain in her heart.
Thank you to the reviewer committee of PRG for the nomination and thank you to Black Swan enthusiasts for voting. – Victoria
and a Kindle Fire 7″ HDX (worth $179)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away named CW, there was a 16th century historical drama series with little resemblance to our reality. The show is supposed to center around the life and times of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Also called “Mary, Teen of Scots” by some, the show demonstrates everything that’s wrong with the ever-growing tendency to treat history as a rough draft. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if the show began with disclaimers that names, dates, and places are fictional and any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.
The cynical among us would say that CW is a corporation tasked with a money making mission. Its purpose is to make money even if that means exploiting a target market populated by people whose brains are six years away from being fully developed. And who really cares if only one out of a hundred high school students could find France on a globe?
Regardless of intent, we are creatures who adapt and learn.
Perhaps I pay too much attention to such details. Like dress for instance. In one of my former careers, I was an evening wear designer. As a child I was always especially interested in the awards for movie costume design and marveled at the amount of research and care that went into accurately reproducing costumes so that they were authentic, right down to using only fabrics that were available at the time. No Zippers. No buttons. Some even went so far as to make sure everything was hand sewn as they would have been at the time.
That tradition of faithfully recreating period dress may not be sacred, but CW has gone completely off the reservation. Take the ladies in waiting. Mary did have four, as was the custom for royalty.
If you think I’m done ragging on the costumer, you are so wrong.
Leather pants? Come on.
The push-up thing she’s wearing? Not a corset. Not a bustier. No. It’s a basque. It made its first appearance in fashion three hundred years after this period – minus the push-up feature.
The leather pants? Don’t get me started. Let me simply show what Henry’s clothes would have looked like.
Yes. This one is what the real King Henry would have been wearing. It may not be biker chic in 2014, but it’s accurate.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist. There was no Sebastian de Poitiers, bastard son of the king. He was invented for this photo and because the writers must have thought a love triangle would be cool.
If there had been a half-brother named Sebastien, I assure you he would not have been given a motorcycle club nickname like “Bash”. Had a fanciful name been bestowed, it would have sounded more like Sebastian Curt Hose or Sebastian the Sorrowful.
The fictional Bash does have striking blue eyes. I’ll give him that.
Regarding other casting choices, Mary – the real Mary – had bright auburn hair and hazel eyes. She was 5’11” which would probably compare today to a woman 6’5”. By contrast, Francis was abnormally short and so sickly that he was practically an invalid. He was married at fourteen and died at sixteen.
Francis and Mary on the show, but why quibble?
Next to the outrageous disregard for historical accuracy in costuming, the thing that bothers me the most about this show is the deserted castle hallways and the deserted castle grounds. Love the shots of a lone couple, Mary and Francis, strolling the grounds of a castle built to house hundreds. Not one other person is present. Not the king’s guard or the queen’s guard (ancestors to the Secret Service which perhaps was somewhat secret seventy years ago when all men wore dark suits and white shirts). There’s not even a dog, cow, chicken or goat to be seen.
Look at it this way. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you know how many staff is required to support a titled family of six living on an estate approximately five percent as large as that pictured in “Reign”.
During the time when the historical Mary was at French court, the hallways would have been perpetually busy with servants, guards, and guests of the king. The castle grounds would have been teeming with both people and industry that supported and served the needs of said noblemen.
“But, really, who needs facts if a show works? Certainly not “Reign,” – SFGATE
Don’t forget, we can’t have a hit teen show without a horror movie monster who lives in the woods and drinks human blood.
Still not enough to insure all buttons have been pushed? Let’s throw in some BDSM and menage a trois that results in the death of a young woman. Finally, a recipe for a hit teen TV show.
As a writer, I wonder what would happen if Mary had been cast as the rather plain looking individual that she was. Beautiful women get recognition for being beautiful and it comes with a certain measure of power, although short lived like bankable athleticism.
How much more interesting it would have been to portray Mary as being the center of a whirlwind of intrigue, love, sex, conspiracy, bad doings, and assassination plots – which was all true – and cast her just as she was, not beautiful.
I was excited about this show when I first saw the trailer. I thought it might interest a new generation in the study of history. I fell in love with English history because of the movie The Lion in Winter and went on to do graduate level studies because of it. I recall one conversation in particular among several graduate level students of history in which every one of us said movies had either been responsible for lighting the spark or stoked the spark already present. I hope such inspiration will always be available, but don’t look for it in “Reign”.
And the TV14 RATING? Here’s how COMMON SENSE MEDIA rates the show. (OUCH!)
Scale of 1-5
0 POSITIVE MESSAGES
1 POSITIVE ROLE MODELS
1 DRINKING /DRUGS
Note that the show manages to get 4 out of 5 for SEX without taking off any clothes. That means young teens are going to be exposed to 50 Shades of concepts they’re not old enough to process.
Buy on the e-box set on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Demons-1-3-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B00T0PEM8M/
Also available in paperback on Amazon. Buy the print version here. http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Demons-Order-Black-Swan/dp/1933320753/
Too Much Story for One Book!
After Dallas finance manager, Atalanta Ravin, was left standing at the altar in a publicly humiliating jilting, she quit her job, sold her house, gave away her furniture, and set off in search of a new life living on a boat in Boston Harbor. She got the adventure she’d always secretly longed for, but not in a thousand dreams could she ever have imagined that fate would lead her to her fantasy lover or that he might turn out to be a prince of demons.
Vampire Romance Books.com … hooks you right from the start and there is no getting loose.
Lightning Room Literary Reviews This book made me laugh out loud, drew out of me a deep sigh of contentment and made me grin with anticipation for what’s to come.
In the second part of this rapid release trilogy, Lana wakes after a night of too much song, dance, and pub red ale to find herself in a demon dungeon sleeping on top of a fellow prisoner who happens to be seriously drool worthy. When the cryptic stranger proposes an escape plan, she goes along and gets the adventure she’d subconsciously longed for.
WHETHER SHE LIKES IT OR NOT.
Prince of Demons 1, CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT
When she was left standing at the highly polished altar of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in a four thousand dollar dress facing everyone who had ever meant anything to her, she decided Stuart Pruitt was easily the biggest asshole in the universe. Atalanta Ravin spent the next three weeks sitting in ice cream-stained yoga pants and a holey tee shirt, staring straight ahead while two sisters and her best friend tried to convince her that, even if he was easily the biggest asshole in the known universe, life wasn’t over. Not really.
For weeks, she’d been riding a sugar overdose that left her unable to sleep at the time she needed the escape of sleep more than ever before in her life. And it was showing.
“You look like shit, Lana,” Dizzy summed it up unapologetically.
“And why would I care?”
Dizzy had been her friend since they’d been college freshmen and learned that they had both been assigned to dorm rooms with certifiably sociopathic roommates. At the end of the first semester, they scored a room they could share together and had pretty much shared everything but boyfriends since then.
Dizzy was loyal to a fault, a trait highly prized in a best friend. Unfortunately, at least in that case it seemed unfortunate, she was also persistent to a fault.
“Lana, come out with us. You can’t just sit here in a puddle of Starcream and look like shit forever.”
“I can, Desdemona.” She used Dizzy’s birth certificate name knowing it would make her wince, hoping it might also make her give up and go. “Don’t you have something else to do? Go pester Robert. He’s got to be resenting the hell out of the time you’re spending over here trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do.”
“Exasperating, Lana. We can’t help you if you won’t let us.”
“I appreciate the effort, Dizzy, but I’m not going out. I need to spend some time processing. You know. On my own.”
Dizzy, the almost maid of honor, pulled back and stared at her for a full minute. It took even longer to push Dizzy away than it had to get rid of her younger sisters: twins who, like her, were named after figures from Greek mythology. They were responsible for the nickname, Lana, because they couldn’t quite manage Atalanta when they were babies.
They were fiery, freckled redheads named Nike and Nemesis. They’d tried sympathy as far as patience would carry, then turned to threats, vowing to abandon her to her Triple Pecan Crusted Rocky Java Chip Starcream until all that she would require from them was a selection of mumus.
With a sigh of resignation, Dizzy rose saying, “Okay. I actually get that. Call me when you want to talk. If I don’t hear from you by Tuesday…” She let that hang in the air and seemed to be mulling it over. “You know I never liked him. I always knew he was a prick.”
Lana spluttered. “Liar. You were crazy about him.”
“On the inside.” Dizzy looked indignant. “I hated him on the inside.”
“Whatever.” She waved a hand in the air and blew a half-hearted kiss, but Dizzy proceeded to prove that it would take more than a wave of dismissal and an air kiss to get rid of her. Lana had doubts that even the National Guard could deter Allision when she was on a mission.
Eventually Lana had stood in a warm shower not particularly caring about the water temperature, reluctantly pulled on clean clothes and let Dizzy comb out and blow her hair like she was a doll. When Dizzy was satisfied with the cleanup, she marched her prisoner out to Nike’s car where the twins waited and deposited Lana in the backseat
“Where are we going?”
“The Four Sixes.”
It was a chic urban bar on Turtle Creek in the heart of Dallas urban posh, named after one of the famous ranches of Texas. Dizzy’s rescue party never made it inside though.
Nem had started to reach for the big brass handle that was an eclectic cross between Southwest and art deco. The door opened before she touched it letting the muted sounds of thumping bass escape and touch everyone nearby with the vibration. Lana saw out of the corner of her eye that the people who emerged were a couple. He had his arm over her shoulder. They were laughing, nudging and leaning into each other.
What she didn’t notice, until she realized her companions had gone stone still, was that the male half of the happy couple was none other than Stuart. The other half was Lana’s very own goddamn administrative assistant, Stephanie. When the soon-to-be former employee registered that she’d come face to face with the ex, who was also her boss, she was suddenly much more interested in her shoes than in meeting Lana’s gaze.
Stuart nodded to the group in general then added a curt, “Excuse us,” as he placed a hand to the small of Stephanie’s back and gave her a little push to get her started in the right direction. The two of them had almost made it all the way to Stuart’s precious royal blue Audi before Lana’s brain reengaged. A red hot curtain of fury descended in front of her vision as all the missing pieces fell into place and her body took on an agenda of its own as surely as if it was possessed by a devil. With a quickness that would make a superhero proud, she whirled and began sprinting after them.
Stuart and his date had just reached the car, which he had parked himself because Stuart didn’t trust valet parkers. He’d pointed his key fob, been greeted by the car’s answering tweets. Stephanie’s face froze in silent horror when she saw the rundown coming, but Stuart had no warning. Lana didn’t slow the charge. The only adjustment she made was to put her hands out in front of her at the last second. The result was slamming into Stuart from behind with such force that his body was thrown into the side of the vehicle and his face bounced off the roof of his car. Hard. Hard enough to draw blood.
When he turned around and looked at Lana, the devil who had possessed her whooped with satisfaction on seeing reddened eyes and blood dripping down the front of a prissy custom made shirt. With cuff links. Christ. What a tool!
“What the fuck, Lana? I think you broke my nose.” He looked at the blood on his hand as he brought it away from his face and spat. “I should press charges.”
She gaped, but not for long. Stuart’s apparent disconnect with the trail of damage he’d left behind caused Lana’s fury to gel into a cold anger and even colder laughter.
“Press charges, Stuey? Unless you want a lawsuit to pay my family back for a wedding that cost as much as your average priced house, I’d rethink that threat. A hundred pounds of fucking shrimp, Stuey! That’s a lot of fucking shrimp. Fifty cases of Dom Perignon. Shall I go on? Or maybe I’ll just turn my cousins loose and let them take it out of your hide.”
She hoped her smile looked every bit as menacing as the images of revenge that were chilling her blood. He paled a little at the thought of the triplets who were Lana’s cousins. Yes. Multiple births ran in the family on her mother’s side.
Those boys, the McKesson triplets, were privileged, but that was just disposable package wrapping. They were descended from wildcatters who were, well, wild and probably carrying the genetic ancestry of horse thieves. Or worse. The family joked that attempts to reconstruct genealogy met a quick dead end because their forbearers had been one step ahead of the law when they’d come to America. They may have changed names again when they left some landing point on the Eastern seaboard and pushed west. One thing was sure. They weren’t carrying the genes of farmers.
Everybody in Dallas knew the McKesson name by reputation. Among other things, it was rumored that they preferred to settle disputes out of court. So to speak.
Atalanta always laughed it off when she heard those whisperings and said that people love to believe bigger than life stories. From her perspective, her cousins weren’t people to be feared. In her mind they were boys, ripe for teasing, who fumed if you tricked them at blind man’s bluff and ate unhealthy amounts of Bananas Foster if given half a chance. That didn’t stop her from using the rumors to her advantage though.
Lana turned her attention to the soon-to-be-pink-slipped admin. Only then did she recognize that the expression she’d become accustomed to seeing on Stephanie’s face was guilt. Lana had thought Stephie was having some kind of trouble. Maybe money. Maybe a boyfriend. As her boss it wasn’t up to her to ask.
Looked like it was a boyfriend problem after all.
The devil in Lana was roused to dancing in triumphant circles when she startled Stephie into taking a fearful stumble backward by doing nothing more than taking a step toward her.
Lana felt her sisters on either side of her, trying to pull her away. “Come on, sis. Everybody here knows who’s boss,” Nemesis had said. Lana glanced at her sisters just in time to see them throwing identical pointed glares at both Stuart and Stephanie.
Nobody said a word on the drive back to Lana’s house. Her girls were sensitive enough to know that there wasn’t a single word in the English language that would be better than the silence.
When she was finally alone – as she’d wanted to be in the first place, she thought bitterly, she let emotion overtake her. Tears pooled then gushed onto the pillow where she’d landed on her bed, curling into a ball as she fell. She cried freely for the first time, not so much because of two humiliations, a very public jilting and an excruciatingly embarrassing confrontation. Not even because of the high price tag of a wedding that was a nonstarter.
She cried because she hated herself for missing the fucker. He may not have been a great lay and he may not have had any character to speak of, but he’d been company for three years. Long enough to build every aspect of her life around him as if she’d gradually become remnants of personality circling his sun.
She reminded herself that, being perfectly honest, she needed to amend that. He’d been good company until the past six months when his job had become so demanding that he was either away or out late more often than not. He’d been too busy to take part in any of the wedding planning. “Whatever you want will be fine with me, Lana. You have good taste,” he’d said. She didn’t think much of the distancing at the time.
She woke up early the next day, still in her clothes, tangled in bed covers. She rose to go to the toilet then took a look in the bathroom mirror. Her eyes were almost swollen shut from going to sleep crying. She hated what she saw in the mirror and might have broken it if she wasn’t superstitious, the remnants of a heritage that couldn’t be documented, but could be substantiated as Scot-Irish. So instead of shattering the mirror, she came to a conclusion.
Sometime during all the hours of staring straight ahead, not really hearing what people were saying, she’d arrived at a point of absolute clarity. She needed a change. Not a small change. Not even a big change. A change of such monumental proportions it would effectively be hitting the reset button on her life.
She changed into plain pajama pants and a comfy well-worn tee, turned the ringer off on her phone, then sat down in front of the TV with a box of tissue and a grease-stained box of cold day-old extra pepperoni pizza. She chomped into one of the stiff slices thinking that one of the finer privileges of relationship mourning was punishing the body with bad food, alcohol, and no exercise while ignoring the domestic hallmarks of civilized living such as laundry, dishes, garbage control and personal hygiene.
Punching the remote she began going through channels one by one. Stuart had taken control of the remote when their relationship was still new and had never considered relinquishing it, not even on special occasions. He always went straight to the guide and picked out something he already knew he liked and wanted to see. Stuart liked what he called “tried and true”. He had his favorite restaurants and stuck with the same menu items. He had a morning routine, an evening routine, and a weekend routine that involved the same people, places, and things. No sense of adventure whatsoever.
Lana no longer needed to be concerned with Stuart and his damnable preferences. She was her own person. On her own. She would reject Stuart’s lack of adventure. She would channel surf all night if she felt like it! She punched the air with every flick of the remote button as if to say, “Take that, Stuey! I will yield the remote to no man ever again.”
Moving past a cooking show, a rerun of a seventies sitcom, something about criminal midgets who loved pit bulldogs, a home show, a black and white movie starring Tyrone Power, another cooking show, a thing with a boat, and a band of ferret-like creatures standing on their hind legs in a field of brown grass. Then she stopped and backed up two channels. It was the home show.
They were doing a series on alternate lifestyles and that particular installment featured a handsome bachelor who lived on his boat. She washed the mouthful of pizza back with a swig of tequila straight from the bottle and turned the volume up.
Twenty minutes later, by the time the show was over, she knew exactly what she was going to do. She was going to quit her job as portfolio manager for Gelz Leageman Capital and sell her bungalow. It wasn’t a Highland Park estate, but it was an eye-catching brick cottage in one of the posh Dallas park cities. It had been a great investment even if it was next to the noise of the north-south toll road that cut through the middle of the city.
She’d take the proceeds and move far, far away. To New England, where she would buy a boat. To live on.
For somebody who was not quite thirty, she’d done alright for herself. She’d stayed out of trouble, gotten good grades, and made her parents proud. In the process of living up to expectations, she’d accumulated enough net worth to be able to cash in a 401K and do nothing for a while until she decided to do something else. She had no memory of waking up without a goal to pursue. Hitting the reset button meant she would find out what it felt like to wake up without a plan. Maybe she’d do jigsaw puzzles until she got tired of them and then switch to crosswords. Maybe she’d watch every movie she’d wanted to see and hadn’t. Read every book that had been reviewed by the New York Times. She might learn to knit. It was cold where she was going. She’d need lots of knit stuff. Scarves and hats and afghans and such.
She’d never experience another summer with dead brown grass on the sides of the roads and blackened burned out areas every few yards where people had tossed lit cigarette butts as they sped by. She always thought it made the Metroplex look like a version of highway to hell. She wouldn’t experience daily air quality alerts, the result of living in the world’s most populous inland area. Or the constant spring and summer threats that went with residing in “tornado alley”.
Yes. She wanted to live someplace that didn’t have tornado alarms. Clean air. Blue water. Cool days. Sure there might be snow. And ice and single digit temps. Every place had its downside.
Maybe she’d make new friends. Maybe she wouldn’t One thing was certain. It would be very unlikely that she’d run into anyone who had witnessed the color drain from her face when her intended had stood at the front of a church and blurted out, “I can’t. I just can’t,” right before he’d bolted out a side door and left her standing there staring at the best man.
The best man. In her mind she kept replaying the look of pity and apology on his face as he blinked at her with uncertainty as to what to do next since the groom no longer between them. She remembered how she didn’t want to turn her head to the right and see the shocked expressions of eight hundred well-dressed guests.
Later that day, face still mottled red with fury, Lana’s father had promised to take care of Stuart in his own unique Texan sort of way. “I’ll neuter the son of a bitch and throw his balls in with the calf fries down at the restaurant for some stranger to enjoy. Ignorance is bliss. Unless you’d like to have the privilege for yourself, little girl.”
Getting an unbidden image of that, she’d gagged twice.
“Thanks, Dad. I appreciate it, at least the sentiment behind it, but I’m thinking I’ll pass. And unless you want to end up in Huntsville, I think you better find another way to express your displeasure. You know sometimes I think you skipped the twentieth century altogether. You just popped in right out of 1886.”
He nodded. “Something to be said for simpler methods, if you know what I mean.” He looked at her meaningfully.
“Yes. I know what you mean and so does every electronic listening device with surveillance distance.”
Her comment gave him pause. He looked around uneasily as if someone was eavesdropping and kissed her on the top of the head as he was making ready to leave. “You worried about what you say in your own house? There’s no excuse for that. Ever heard of McKesson Security?”
She sighed. “I’m not worried about what I say inside my own house because I don’t plot crimes out loud.”
Lana’s father simply grunted at that as if to say maybe she was slow. “Come have lunch down at the store tomorrow.”
She was pleased that he had calmed a little and smiled. “We’ll see. Maybe.” She caught his sleeve as he turned toward the door. “You know I’m, um, sorry about the expense and…”
“Don’t you dare apologize!” He’d turned red in the face again and she immediately regretted having said something to cause it. She worried when his coloring went so out of whack. “You haven’t done a thing to be sorry for. It’s that dump of steaming yellow horse turds that needs a good dose of sorry.” He lowered his chin and stepped in closer. “You know your cousins…”
“Dad! Don’t say another word!” He stopped. She grabbed hold of his lapel and squeezed like it had nerve endings. “And make sure you’ve got them under control. Please.” Leaning in she whispered, “Stuart is out of bounds. Let karma deal with it.”
Her dad looked at her incredulously and then guffawed. “Karma! Shit.” He left shaking his head.
Yeah. That’s what she’d told her dad alright. Then she proceeded to break Stuart’s nose herself. Guess the thing about apples not falling far from trees isn’t just horse honky. She didn’t feel a bit of remorse about it. The fucker’s nose was in need of rearranging and she was glad she’d been the one to do it.
She was thus replaying the events in her head when the oddest thing occurred. She’d been staring at the TV that had been the source of her inspiration, and maybe salvation, while her mind had been elsewhere. Then she felt something unusual. It wasn’t sorrow or despair or grief. It wasn’t any of the emotions that usually hang with broken heartedness. It was excitement, sort of a tingly rush at the thought of pulling up stakes, leaving everything and everyone she knew behind. A transformation. The true essence of total “make over”.
She was throwing caution to the wind. Hell. She wasn’t even going to give reasonable notice at work. She knew they had two people prepped and groomed to step in if necessary. So it wasn’t like it would be a serious hardship on anyone. If it ruined her future career? She shrugged at the thought not being able to imagine caring about it anymore.
She took a moment to examine the flutter of anticipation in her tummy and concluded that she liked the adventurous Lana. The one who would leave everything familiar and embark on a whole new life at the drop of a hat.
Quit the job. Sell the house. Give everything away that won’t fit on a boat and move so far out of her comfort zone she might not even be able to remember her own resume.
She chuckled at the thought that it was like putting herself in a witness protection program. Well, not really. She knew that when she got where she was going and decided what she was doing that she would let her family know where she was. And Dizzy, who wouldn’t hesitate to deliver a lecture and say she’d tumbled off the rack. In her fantasy, Lana imagined her reply. “You were hounding me to get out. So I got out. Far out.”
The prospect was delightful from every conceivable angle. Damn. She wondered if there was even a remote chance that Stuey had done her a favor. She hated to admit it, but Stuey was just metrosexual enough that she didn’t have a hard time picturing him in a dress with many layers of tulle in the skirt, holding a star tipped wand. Bing. There you go, little lady. A whole new life to replace the one you thought you had, but didn’t.
Looking around she said, “I’ve got to get this cleaned up. You go up for sale tomorrow morning.” The walls didn’t reply, which made her like them all the more. She decided that talking to herself felt good and could become a habit with little effort. Maybe, once she was moved and settled in, she’d get a cat. She’d be that strange young woman from Texas who lived on a boat with a cat and talked to herself.
Such was her train of thought as she went about picking up Coke cans, tissues and other debris, preparing to face an upheaval that the old Lana would never have considered in a hundred years. In a couple of hours she had the place looking like a little bit of yuppie chic heaven. She heated up a frozen dinner in the microwave and ate in front of the computer. It didn’t take long to decide where she’d start looking for a new home.
Constitution Marina, Boston.