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Countdown to Echoes of the Past

It’s almost here! In 18 days, Secret Cravings Publishing will release, Echoes of the Past, my first book with them. As always, I’m excited when another one of my brain children leave the nest, but I’m especially proud of this one for a number of different reasons. 

I wrote this book as the National Novel Writing Month Challenge, and completed the basic 81,000 word novel during the month of November and edited and polished it in February before submitting it. It’s a little leap of faith since I’ve combined my usual romance/suspense genre with a dash of paranormal, so I’m hoping to attract readers from that genre too. My editor, Joy was a pleasure to work with. The book shines because of her efforts. 

 The inspiration for this book was three-fold:

  • a natural phenomenon–the Lake of the Mountain, in Prince Edward County, Ontario,  Follow the link to learn more: 

           http://www.ontarioparks.com/park/lakeonthemountain

Then, I spun mt storytelling web around it.  So, here’s a preview of what you can expect in Echoes of the Past.

Image

About the Book: 

Born Mohawk, raised white, forensic pathologist, Michelle Thomas is trapped between two worlds—this one and the spirit world where the ghosts of those who’ve drowned speak to her. Haunted by crippling nightmares of her own drowning death and erotic dreams of a phantom lover, she strives to make sense of her life. When two suspicious deaths occur at the Lake of the Mountain Resort, she’s sent to investigate. She’ll face the greatest challenge of her career when her past and her present collide. One of these men is her future, but which one—the rich and powerful Mayor Ron Davies, or Tony Steele, the hydrology professor who may be responsible for his students’ deaths? Charged by the spirits of her Mohawk ancestors to atone for her previous sins by protecting Lake of the Gods, can Michelle solve the murders, save the sacred waters, and fulfil her destiny?   

 

Echoes of the Past will be released by SCP on July 14, 2014

 

 

 

Excerpt from Echoes of the Past

Naked, she lies on her back inside the green, leafy grotto, which meshes seamlessly into the landscape. It’s late morning, and after last night’s storm, everything smells clean and fresh. She stares up at the man she loves, but darkness and his long, honey-brown hair shadow his face. Her body hums in anticipation of his touch. Her nipples harden. His large, calloused hands caress her, and where they touch, her flesh burns with desire.

He runs the fingers of one hand through her unbraided hair. His lips capture hers in a searing kiss, branding her his. She reaches up to him. She opens her mouth, and a deep moan escapes her as his lips meet hers.

The scene changes. He runs along the edge of the forest across the lake. Run, my love, she screams silently as all around her the women urge their men to hurry, pointing at him, screaming instructions. He stops, and once she knows he’s seen her, she turns away. They’ll catch him, and she can’t bear to watch him be killed. She pulls her marriage blanket tightly around her shoulders. Everyone thinks she’s made it for another. Sobbing, she hurries away from the beach…

Michelle Thomas awoke in tears as she had so many nights since arriving in Thunder Bay. Bathed in sweat, she shivered with need and a bone-deep cold invaded her body. The nightmares, usually terrifying, realistic visions of her watery death, exhausted her. Recently the dreams which had plagued her most of her life had changed, and these new ones in which she was both participant and witness, frustrated and grieved her. She preferred those old night terrors to these out of body erotic fantasies with a man whose face she never saw, but loved with every ounce of her being. Tonight, the thought of his capture and death made the pain of loss worse than ever. How could she go on like this?

Her wild weeping slowed to sobbing. She got out of bed and padded into the motel room’s washroom. She turned on the light and gasped at the mirror’s reflection. The face of a woman who closely resembled her—the Mohawk woman in braids she’d been seeing off and on for weeks now—glared accusingly at her.

“What do you want from me?” She yelled at the face in the mirror, anguish loud in her tear-filled voice. “You’re dead. He’s dead. I don’t have any answers for you. Go away. Leave me in peace.”

 

I hope you’ll enjoy my efforts. Stop by after July 7th for your chance to win a copy of Echoes of the Past.

 

 

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Mid Week Tease: REUNITED

ImageHave you ever had a story touch you so much, you’re afraid to commit it to paper? A couple of years ago, I was part of a writing group of aspiring authors,many of whom are still my friends, a group I left once I became published. Once a month, they had a writing challenge where you wrote a short story based on a few words and a situation.

I wrote that month’s entry on a section I eventually rewrote into Just for The Weekend. Worried I might not be able to use what I’d created after it was posted. I wrote a second story instead. In the last couple of years, I’ve thought about that story and reworked it. I have plans to turn it into a novel later this year.

I give you a revised and edited REUNITED originally published as FATED.

REUNITED

Julie sighed. Unable to stand the pressure and longing, she’d bought her ticket to Pompeii, the place that called to her in the dreams—the place where her heart was. Each night for more than a year, she fell into the arms of the man she loved more than life itself. She felt his hands caress her skin, tasted his lips, his mouth on her as he kissed her until she was so hot she thought she’d combust, and then he’d enter her, and her climax far more earth-shattering than anything she’d felt before, would leave her exhausted. But then the tears would come… This obsession ended today, one way or another.

So what if I’ll be eating peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese for the rest of the year? The sacrifice is worth it.

The compulsion to go to Italy had started when she’d visited the local museum’s exhibit on Pompeii. As she’d toured the display cases and viewed the graphic, sometimes horrific photographs, her sense of déjà vu was so strong, it had left her weak and dizzy. That bronze krater had sat in Flavia’s entrance. The metal coffer belonged in her uncle’s house. She’d stared at the gold necklace, recognized its ninety-four intricately carved ivy leaves, and knew the smooth roundels were loose. A frisson shook her as she visualized herself, dressed in a lilac stola, admiring the lovely creation a man hung around her neck, his fingers lingering there, filling her with desire.

She’d left the museum stunned, crippled emotionally. Grief, fuelled by on-going dreams of a caramel-eyed lover, had intensified each day, until unable to function any longer, she’d drained her savings and purchased a ticket to Italy. If she could sever this psychic connection or at least get a grip on it and understand it, the price would be well worth it.

So far, coming to Italy hadn’t changed a thing. In the Trajan Market, instead of the red brick ruins standing unchanged for centuries, she saw a thriving market place. Her carved necklace had come from a goldsmith’s shop on the second floor.

At the Coliseum, she’d seen the amphitheater under construction as it had been the last time she’d visited Rome—and she had definitely been here before. Everywhere she looked, she caught ghostly glimpses of Roman temples, palaces, and houses where she knew churches and modern structures stood.

A bump on the road dragged her back to the moment and the crowded motor coach, filled with eager tourists, snaking its way to Mount Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii. The bus stopped and she shivered.

“None of the citizens Pompeii and Herculaneum expected August 24, 79 A.D. to be their last day,” began the tour guide. “No one realized the earthquake of 63, which had caused extensive damage to both cities, was only the precursor of a cataclysmic event.  When Mount Vesuvius erupted, three meters of volcanic ash covered the town within twenty-four hours before the four pyroclastic flows, ground-hugging avalanches of lava and poisonous gas moving at more than 100 km/hour, destroyed every living thing. Come; listen to the death throes of Pompeii.”

He led them into the excavation. As they walked, he continued his narrative, and Julia grew uneasy. With each step she took, the familiarity increased. Suddenly, everything vanished to be replaced by the images of another time.

“Sabinus, how much longer can it continue?” she asks, cradling her distended stomach. The child is due any day. “Dust and ash stand several pes deep in the streets. The heavy rugs we placed over the window openings aren’t enough to keep it out of the house. Look. It covers the furniture to a full digitus. I find it hard to breathe.”

“It’s almost over, my love. I spoke with the priest at Apollo’s temple. He assures me Vesuvius, the giant beneath the mountain, has awakened again, but Vulcan will soon calm him. They’ve made the necessary sacrifices. You know the priests. If there were any danger, they’d have abandoned the temples by now.”

He holds her close, and she knows he feels the movement of their child pressed between them. She coughs, and he releases her to get her another cup of wine.

“Drink this; then you must rest, my dove. We leave for Rome at dawn.” He picks her up gently and carries her to the bed. He bends and kisses her, and all the love they share is in that quick meeting of lips.

“Husband, lie with us until I fall asleep?” she asks. He smiles and nods.

She lays on her side, his arms encircling her and the child, pulling them tightly against him.  She listens to his even breathing as he sleeps, and relaxes.

It’s almost midnight when the first wave of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments, and volcanic gas hit the town. Awake, unable to breathe, she gasps and cries out as the upper floor of the house collapses on them, exposing them to the poisonous gas and fire bombs. He tries to shield her, but there’s no escape.

Julie couldn’t breathe. Tears coursed down her cheeks. Everything went black.

*

“She’s coming to!”

“Give her room. I’ve brought a dottore,” cried the tour guide pushing his way through the crowd.

“I’m fine,” she croaked. Her head and body ached. She felt empty.  

A man bent down beside her and she sucked in a quick breath. She recognized those caramel eyes—the eyes of the man she loved.  Tears of joy and incredulity ran down her cheeks. Had Fate brought her to Italy for this?

Signorina, let me look at you,” he asked and she saw the recognition and confusion in his eyes. “I’m Dottore Stephano Boriello. Have we met?”

He touched her and desire flooded. He jerked his hand away as if sensing it too. He helped her stand, putting his arms around her protectively.

 She smiled. “Julie Martin.”

Don’t forget to check out the other great Mid Week challenge posts.

11.
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Finally, the Content Edits Are Done!

ImageHooray! Yippee! I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I did. The content edits are done on my latest Crimson Romance novel. I can say, in all honesty, I have never been so glad to be done with something in my life. I still have to wait for copyedits, but hopefully, considering all the work the editor and I put into this manuscript, copyedits will be few and easily handled. 

While every author understands their manuscripts will require some editing, and I’ve done plenty of it with the nine books I’ve published to date–some of them twice already–I never realized the extensive rewrites I’d be required to do to get this book up to Crimson specifications. I still wonder why they acquired the manuscript in the first place, but there was something there they liked, and they were willing to put the time and effort into getting the book edited to suit their needs. 

It was gruelling work to cut and slash a plot line I loved and change the romance thread, but with luck, the end product will be great and will appeal to the evolving romance market. Getting a finger on the pulse of the contemporary romance reader is hard. Today’s readers are critical of their heroes and heroines, no longer satisfied with love at first sight plots. To me, a strong believer in that and the idea of soul mates, it’s a real disappointment. Thankfully, my editor understands the fickle market, and while I miss the characters I created, the hero and heroine in this book have a unique appeal all their own, and the plot–what they kept–is a nail biting thriller. 

Prior to selling the book to Crimson, I had other opinions on it from people like myself who loved the romance thread, so I’ll save my tale of hero worship and unrequited love for another book. Seriously, how many authors are lucky enough to get two books out of one manuscript? With a new basic suspense thread, I have the romance thread written and ready to use. 

So what’s next? I need a time out. I need to seriously look at where I want to go and what I want to do. Maybe I’ll spend time working on that paranormal I started and get away from the romance genre for a while. I need to take time for my family and pick up the threads of my life. I’ve published one historical romance myself, and I have another waiting in the wings to either revise and resubmit, or revise and self publish. It’s a tough choice. I also have three manuscripts with publishers and I’m waiting to hear whether or not they’ll be accepted. Today, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief. 

When the cover comes out, I’ll get all excited about it again, but for now. It’s time to sip wine and enjoy the sun. I’ve earned it. 

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MidWeek Tease: Dead and Alive a Taste of Paranormal

ImageHi there! It’s that time of week again. As I struggle with the last of the edits to my newest novel, I decided to tease you with something just begun. 

Most of you know my preferred genre is adult romance, but in this my newest project, I stepped out of the box to try my hand at something different. 

Dead and Alive is a paranormal/romance aimed at the NA market. Here’s your tease for the week.

Cassidy James, recent graduate and summer intern at the Newburg Police Department, turned slightly green as she stared at the corpse on the examination table. Special agent Steve Williams, a member of the new Unusual Crimes Task Force, a group put together ten months ago when the strange, inexplicable murders had started in Newburg, moved in for a closer look. Chief Medical Examiner, Max Landry, stood on the other side of the body, clipboard in hand, as he relayed the information from the autopsy.

“This is one for the books, Steve. I know we have had a lot of weird ones in the last year, but I have never seen anything like this. The cause of death is blunt force trauma to the back of the head, but everything else you see was inflicted post-mortem.”

Steve looked back at Cassidy, her eyes were focused on the corpse, and he saw her shudder. She looked like she was ready to give up her two burrito lunch. He doubted six weeks at Police Academy had prepared her for this. He suspected nothing in the mortal world would prepare any of them for what he was afraid had come.

He reached out his arm to steady her, and tried not to react to the sensations pounding through his blood stream that being this close to Cassidy always caused. After working closely with her for the past six weeks, maintaining his professionalism was becoming more and more difficult, and he knew that, sooner rather than later, he would have to do something about it.

He knew she wasn’t immune to him; even now she was struggling to control her response to his touch, but he had an unfair advantage; he knew just how affected she was. The code stated that he couldn’t do anything about it until she knew and understood everything. The connection between them needed to be acknowledged before he died from need.

He cleared his throat, tried not to focus on her scent, a mixture of musk and vanilla, a sweet mixture of pheromones more potent at the moment than the stench of the rotting carcass, moved closer to the body, and addressed the coroner. “So, just how much damage are we talking?”

“As you can see, the body was decapitated, probably by a shovel judging by the ragged cut, but what you don’t see is that there was a stone in his mouth.”  He handed him a smooth rock in a plastic bag and he passed it to Cassidy.

“I can’t even speculate on the reason for that, but maybe you can get something from the rock – prints or DNA – although I don’t know if it will help.” He shook his head and continued.

“The chest cavity was opened with a sharp knife, but not by someone with any medical training, and the heart was removed – it’s missing by the way. His hands have been gnawed on by something, don’t ask me what because I don’t know, and finally, there are a dozen sharp needles pounded into the soles of his feet. Talk about overkill. Now, here is where it gets really strange; according to the amount of blood at the scene, I would have said the guy was a fresh kill, but the discoloration of the body doesn’t fit that. At first, I thought it was pretty severe post-mortem bruising, but I would say judging from the decomposition in the organs, that your man has been dead at least a year.”

Cassidy snorted. “No way! A year; that’s impossible.”

Steve shook his head motioning her to be quiet.

Frowning, Max glared at her and hunched his shoulders in that ‘how the hell should I know’ way, and continued.

 “I’m not finished. There was considerable dirt embedded in the skin of his arms and face, as if he had been buried without a coffin, and when I checked the contents of his stomach, that’s routine in any autopsy, it was full of fresh blood and human tissue. As ridiculous as it sounds, I think we are looking at a demon of some sort.”

Cassidy let out an uncomfortable laugh. “Come on, Dr. Landry. Quit pulling my leg. Now I know there have been some strange deaths and disappearances around here lately, but you can’t possibly be serious. You’re a doctor, a scientist; demons, vampires and shape shifters exist only in the imaginations of writers; you’ve been watching too much television.”

“I have no other explanation, Cassidy. Things just don’t add up. Think about it – last month we had those two teens, both of whom had bled out from having their throats ripped open; the month before, we had three vagrants all partially eaten by some sort of animal that no one, not even the geniuses at the university can identify, and by the way these bite marks look a lot like those. Add to that the bizarre disease last spring that killed everyone on that farm outside of town and the unusual putrefaction of the bodies that the CDC is still trying to figure out, and the missing persons who seem to have vanished into thin air, and I just don’t have a logical reason. Why not a vampire a werewolf, or a demon?  Nothing about these crimes is normal, and you know what Sherlock Holmes would say, if you rule out all the probable causes, then the improbable has to be true.”

“But demons, sir?” Cassidy turned to Steve. “Agent Williams, you’re with the UCTF, and you’re very quiet right now. Don’t tell me you buy this supernatural crap, or do you have another explanation? One that might make a heck of a lot more sense.”

Steve ignored Cass for the moment and turned to the M.E. Everything that Max had said confirmed his theory. The doctor was close, closer than he knew, but Steve had no idea how he would explain this to Cassidy any more than he knew how to tell her who and what he was without scaring away the one person who suddenly was as important to him as the air he breathed.

“Thanks, Doc. Will you send that tissue and blood to the lab for analysis?  If we can identify it, we’ll have a better handle on all this.”  He turned to Cassidy. “Let’s go back to the crime scene. I want to take a closer look at it. Maybe we can find something that will help make sense of all this.”

“Alright, but the Captain sent the forensic team there earlier and they would have been all over the place; I doubt there is anything left to find.” 

“Humor me,” he said.

The thought of spending time alone with Cassidy was both thrilling and frightening. She made him feel things he had never felt before, want things he had never wanted, and from the erotic dreams he had been having about her lately, behave as he had never behaved. He wasn’t without experience, but he’d never felt like this about any female before.  From her heightened color and heavier breathing, he suspected that she might be sensing the tail end of his thoughts.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of this week’s teases:

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Take a Bite out of Summer Blog Hop: Playing Catch-up with Mother Nature

ImageWell, it’s summer blog hop time, and I’m late arriving at the party, but I have brought gifts. Comment at the end of the blog for your chance to win an ecopy of Just for the Weekend, my latest book from Crimson Romance or of  In Plain Sight or Fire Angel, my romantic suspense novels. Don’t forget to include your contact information!

There are a thousand and one reasons I could give for being late, but the bottom line is I overslept. It happens. In fact, it’s been happening more often in the last few weeks because I haven’t had the common sense to go to bed on time.  Why, you might ask? 

The answer is simple. Like Mother nature, I’m running late, trying to catch up on book edits to make a deadline that seems to loom closer every day while “The End” on the book seems farther and farther away. 

Here it is, June 13th, and I have yet to turn on the air conditioner. Summer hasn’t arrived.We’re dealing with a late spring in this neck of the woods. My lilacs are in bloom! The patio furniture is covered in fine, yellow pollen, the bane of my existence at the moment as some of you who’ve been following my blogs may remember. We’ve sat out by the fire pit on the few clear nights we’ve had, but we’re  wearing heavy sweaters, jeans, and wool socks! The fact that I go camping, in a tent, for ten days and nights, in less than an month, holds nothing but trepidation for me at this moment.

On the plus side, with all the rain and warm but not really hot weather we’ve had, the perennials that survived the winter are thick and lush. The rhubarb is the best it’s ever been, but I want the heat–maybe not incessant days and nights at ninety degrees and more, but heat enough to warm up the pool. My grandkids have been swimming in it for a couple of weeks now, but sixty degrees is way too cold for Grandma. Heck, she can’t even soak her feet in water that temperature. 

Spring will inevitable turn to summer on June 21st, and let’s hope Mother Nature turns up the heat. I want to be able to sit outside and relax. Since I’m going to set time aside to read, I look forward to enjoying a few good books while communing with nature.

If you’re looking for a quick read, I can suggest Grand Slam, the baseball novella I’ve written under the name, Misty Matthews.

ImageSeven days under the Louisiana stars with major league catcher Justin Harris left Brittney James broken hearted and pregnant. Ten years later, her son has baseball in his blood and idolizes the last man Britt ever wants to see again. When she reluctantly agrees to take her son to a game, the worst possible thing happens . . . he catches his hero’s grand slam ball. Justin asks for a meet and greet, but Brittney is terrified. How can she face him knowing the secret she’s kept from him all these years?

Justin Harris’s first grand slam is one for the  record books, but his biggest shock comes from seeing the woman he loved and lost ten years ago up on the stadium screen. The fact that her son caught the ball gives him an opportunity to renew an old friendship. How will he react when he learns Brittney’s secret? 

It’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and the Sweet Cravings website,

 

If you’re looking for something a bit longer, check out Just For the Weekend. Image

Sometimes, you have to step out of the box.

Kindergarten teacher, Cleo James, needs a break. For the past three years, she’s put her life on hold to help her father deal with grief, but now she’s ready to move on. A weekend in Vegas at a sci-fi convention may be just the place to start. She’ll be costumed as an alien and no one will recognize her. What could go wrong? Things get complicated when she’s attracted to a conventioneer whom she believes is a gorgeous Chippendale dancer.  Can Cleo set her strict moral code aside and enjoy what promises to be a once upon a time weekend?

Multimillionaire real estate developer, Sam Mason has sworn off serious relationships. In Vegas to visit family and friends, he’s talked into attending a sci-fi convention for the night. Dressed as an alien, he’s confident he can elude the usual gold diggers looking to star in the role of Mrs. Sam Mason. When he spots a beautiful woman dressed as a green-skinned slave girl, he’s captivated by her and changes his plans to leave Vegas in the morning. The more time he spends with her, the more he realizes she’s unlike any woman he’s known. Fantastic sex and too much alcohol find him married to his alien siren, but before he can tell her the truth about himself and see if they can make their marriage work, the bride vanishes.  Finding her is going to be a challenge.

Buy Links:

Amazon:  Barnes and Nobles:  Kobo:

Don’t forget to comment for your chance to win an e-copy of of one of my Crimson releases.

Now, Hop on over and visit the other blog posts on this Summer Blog Hop:

 

 

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Look Who Dropped By Today: Scott Springer

Image

I’m very pleased today to be part of the Bound By Blood Cover reveal, a new book to be released September 23, 2014 by the  Christian Publishing house Image.

About Bound By BloodImage

Julia has accepted the Lord and is busy returning her life to order. She is not ready for love, especially when the new site foreman at work stirs up forgotten feelings. She knows a playboy when she sees one, but to Rick Mercado the attraction between them is surprisingly real. Other girls no longer interest him, and if she wants to play hard to get that’s fine with him. Let the games begin!

What he doesn’t realize is that her dangerous secret is not a game.

Julia’s brother has returned from the street, strung out and in trouble with rival gangs. Loyalty to her brother draws Julia deeper into a world of drug deals and thugs. Rick doesn’t understand why Julia won’t simply go to the cops, especially once the bullets start flying. As Julia slips further into a world of violence, Rick realizes how easily his heart can be broken. His brain says to run, but his heart isn’t listening. It may already be too late.

BOUND BY BLOOD. Love and suspense, heartfelt moments, and guns a blazing. What a killer combination!

 Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22365508-bound-by-blood

Anaiah Press: http://www.anaiahpress.com/

About the Author:

ImageScott Springer spent his youth playing pretend and dreaming of being a writer. As an adult he worked as a carpenter before becoming a software developer. Having produced much, his two children remain his proudest accomplishment. His wife led him to the Lord, and he’s glad that she did.

 Website: www.scottspringer.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/sb_springer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4771404.Scott_Springer

Best wishes on your book, Scott.

 

 

 

 

 

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Look Who Dropped By Today: Vincent Morrone

Good morning. TodayImage, author Vincent Morrone is here to tell you about his newest YA release, Just Breathe. 

About Just Breathe:

(TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.)

When Cassie Shaw looks at Noah Hunt, she sees a knight in shining armor, but she’s convinced he sees her as nothing but damaged goods.

Noah saved her from a brutal assault, talked her through a panic attack, and held her when she broke down crying.

Noah is a mystery. He avoids talking about his past, his phone rings with calls from four women he won’t talk about, and he receives texts from over a dozen more. To add to the intrigue, when Cassie tries to kiss him, he gets a look of sheer panic in his eyes.

Cassie finally finds a chink in Noah’s armor, and realizes that he’s even more damaged than she is.

He saved her.

Now it’s her turn to save him.

Excerpt From Just Breathe:

Cassie tried to scream, but she couldn’t even breathe. A hand covered her mouth and someone pressed against her body.

“Stop struggling, bitch!”

She tried to see who it was, but all she saw was a black truck parked behind a car dealership with the motor running. Cassie was being dragged toward it, helpless.

 Fight, you idiot, fight!

 Cassie began to buck and kick wildly. She bit down on his hand and he screamed in her ear.  But he didn’t let her go. He wrapped his hand around her throat.

 “Please,” she begged. “Let me go.”

 “You think you’re begging now. Just wait.”

 Cassie recognized the voice just as she was thrown in the backseat. She looked up and saw him. Tom crushed his mouth on hers. His breath tasted like cheap beer and cigarette smoke as his tongue forced its way into her mouth. Cassie whimpered. She tried to fight, but she could barely move, crushed by the weight of Tom. He pinned her arms and pressed his erection against her. Tom’s mouth moved down to her neck, teeth grazing her skin.

 Scream, she commanded herself. Scream for help! Scream fire! Just scream your fucking head off! You know what he’s going to do! You know what will happen next. But no sound escaped her.

            Tom lifted his head for a moment and locked eyes with Cassie. He seemed to enjoy her panic. Cassie saw the perverse pleasure in Tom’s eyes shift to confusion—and then fear. Cassie felt the weight of Tom’s body lift from her as he seemed to fly out of the truck of the car, backward. Cassie struggled to get up. She needed to get out of this car. She couldn’t breathe inside the car. A hand helped pull her out, where she collapsed to the ground.

“Are you alright?”

Cassie looked up. It was the guy from the pharmacy. His boyish face was filled with concern. Cassie tried to nod, but she couldn’t.     All she managed was a strangled gasp when she saw Tom coming at them with fury etched on his face. The young man in front of her pivoted and smashed his fist into Tom. Cassie watched as Tom’s nose started to leak red.Tom stumbled backward and tripped. He cursed as he tried to get up. Her rescuer returned to her side.

“You’re safe,” he assured her. “He can’t hurt you.”

Cassie looked up at him. She didn’t know who he was, but the one word that registered with her was safe. She wanted to thank him, but she still couldn’t speak. The only sound she heard was Tom’s drunken scream as he rushed forward. He didn’t get far. Cassie watched her savior spin around again. With both hands, he grabbed Tom’s arm. He twisted and step back. There was a snap as Tom’s arm was pulled into an unnatural position. Her protector then smashed Tom’s face down onto the pavement.

Cassie watched his face, no longer boyish and friendly looking. It was the face of a predator. Cassie found her voice and screamed.The young man turned and walked a few steps toward Cassie. She could see him push the anger away, replacing it with concern. Cassie heard movement again. Her eyes found Tom, who had managed to get to his feet. His right arm dangled by his side, useless. With fear in his eyes, Tom made a break for it.

For a moment, Cassie feared she’d be left alone, that the man who saved her would take off after Tom as they both watched her assailant run away. He didn’t. Stopping a few feet away, he crouched down to be eye level.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I’m not going to hurt you. Can you tell me your name?”

Slowly, Cassie nodded.  “Cassie,” she said. “Cassie Shaw.”

He smiled. “Hello Cassie,” he said. “My name is Noah.”

It was the last thing Cassie heard before she realized she couldn’t breathe.

 

2

“What were you talking about with my dad?” Cassie asked as Noah opened the passenger door.

 Noah waited until she got in, then shut the door and went around to the other side of the car. “I wanted to thank him for what he did,” He said as it got in. “And I guess he wanted to get to know me a little better.”

“Don’t we all?” Cassie said. “Noah Hunt, the great mystery.”         

 Noah pulled out of the driveway carefully, and headed toward the address Cassie had given him earlier.

“Some mysteries are better left unsolved,” Noah said. “Have you considered that you might not like everything you find?”

 “Sure,” Cassie said. “That’s part of the fun.” Cassie said it with humor, but it was clear that Noah was taking her seriously.

 “Are you worried that if I were to find out about something in your past that I wouldn’t want to be around you anymore?”

 Noah didn’t answer.

“I can’t imagine that happening,” she assured him. “Noah, we all have things in our past. Things we wish we weren’t there. But they are. If it’s a part of you, I want to know about it.”

Noah listened as he pulled into a parking spot about half a block away from the party.

“Would you talk to me?” she pleaded.

Noah killed the engine, but made no move to get out of the car. He gripped the steering wheel and tried to gather the courage to let it all spill out. But he couldn’t. The idea of seeing Cassie’s eyes fill with hate and disgust at the sight of him was just too much.

“I want to,” Noah said. “I just…” He trailed off, unsure of what to say.

 Cassie took his hand. He looked into her eyes.

 “Cassie,” he said.

 “Yes?”

“Thank you for being my friend,” Noah said finally.

Cassie face became angry. Her eyes narrowed and she pouted.“Sure,” she said as she reached for her door handle. “That’s me. Your best buddy.” She got out in a hurry and started across the street.

Noah chased her.“I’m sorry,” he said as he caught up with her. “Cassie, you have to understand that’s the best I can do. It’s all I can give.”

“Bullshit,” Cassie said. “It’s all you’re willing to give. Noah, you’ve saved me twice. You’ve let me cry on your shoulder. You’ve listened to me confess my deepest, darkest moments. But you won’t share any of those parts of yourself with me. Do you think I’m too weak or fragile to handle it?”

“No, absolutely not. I think you’re one of the strongest and bravest people I know,” Noah said. “You’re just better off not knowing.”

Cassie rolled her eyes. “Your call, bud,” she said as she brushed past him. “Now, I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. Two exams, three quizzes, two encounters with Lisa the Bitch, being accosted by Trent and his gang of Neanderthals and then having to worry about your sorry ass getting locked up. I need to unwind. So I’m going into that party, getting drunk and just maybe I’ll find some guy who isn’t afraid to put his hands on me.”

She stormed off into the house with the music blaring. Noah stood there and watched her go in. Maybe this just wasn’t worth it? Walter was right. He was hurting Cassie by hanging on, but not giving her what she wanted. If only there were some way of explaining to Cassie why he wouldn’t take that next step, wouldn’t risk seeing to horror and disgust on her face. Maybe if she got drunk enough, he could tell everything. And if it didn’t go over well, he might convince her that it had never happened? He dismissed the idea as quickly as it appeared. If Noah was honest with himself, he was a little pissed. He never looked at himself as a hero, but he had saved her two times. Couldn’t she cut him a break? Didn’t she have any idea how hard it had been for him to open up to her as much as he had?

Of course she doesn’t, you fucking moron. How could she, you won’t share.

Noah sighed. He had a week until his birthday. The McMillians were counting on him. Maybe after that?

No, you know it won’t end then. There’s always next year. And the year after that.

How could he drag her into his mess of a life? Maybe he should just turn around and leave her here. Her friends were all here. Ben or Coretta or someone would see she got home okay. But Noah had promised her father he would make sure Cassie was safe. He may have screwed everything else up with her, but he’d get at least that much right.

Noah took a deep breath and went in to find Cassie. He promised himself he’d just hover around the edges of the party and keep an eye on her. But he knew going in that it was a promise he was going to have a hard time keeping.

 

3

She ended the call. Her cell signaled an incoming text. The McMillians wanted to meet in three hours. She sent back the letter K and went to the door that linked her room and Noah’s. She expected to have to knock, but Noah had opened his door and left it ajar for her. She went in and heard the water running from the bathroom. She took a step inside as Noah came out. He had stripped off his shirt and hadn’t yet put on a fresh one.

Cassie gasped.

Noah stopped short, saw her and reached for his shirt.

“Wait,” she said.

Noah froze. She could see the embarrassment it caused him. His face turned red and his eyes were downcast, but she had to look.

Cassie moved closer to examine him. She had always known he was built, but she hadn’t realized how defined he was underneath the shirts that he wore. But it was the scars that reached over his shoulders that her eyes were locked on. Cassie slowly placed her hand on his chest. She could feel him tremble from her touch. His placed his hand over hers.

“Noah,” she said. “It’s okay. Please, let me look.”

Slowly, he nodded, closed his eyes and dropped his hand away.

Her fingers went to the scar on his left shoulder. She circled around him and saw his back. She had to fight not to gasp again. While his chest was mostly unblemished, except for the marks that reached around his shoulders, his back was a mishmash of scars, crisscrossing back and forth over one another. She completed her turn around him and found herself facing him again. His eyes were shut tight.

“Noah,” she said softly. “Look at me.”

His eyes met hers. Cassie reached up and pulled him into a kiss. Noah resisted at first. She could feel his heart pounding in his chest. She placed her arms around him, not to feel the wounds again, but to pull him to her. 

Any trace of resistance fell away when she pulled him onto the bed. His lips nuzzled her neck as his hand slid up her body. He found her breast through her blouse and caressed her while she moaned softly in his ear.

She placed a hand on his shoulder and gently pushed Noah on his back. She climbed on top of him and smiled. She kissed him again, starting on his lips, then slowly moving down his chest and working her way up again to his neck.

“Your turn to see,” she whispered in his ear.

 About the Author: 

 

ImageBorn and raised in Brooklyn NY, Vincent Morrone now resides in Upstate NY with his wife. (Although he can still speak fluent Brooklynese.) His twin daughters remain not only his biggest fans, but usually are the first to read all of his work. Their home is run and operated for the comfort and convenience of their dogs. Vincent has been writing fiction, poetry and song lyrics for as long as he can remember, most of which involve magical misfits, paranormal prodigies and even on occasion superheroes and their sidekicks. 

As they say in Brooklyn: Yo, you got something to say? Vincent would love to hear from you at Vincent@vincentmorrone.com 

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