Tuesday Tales: From the word TOES

Badge for TT - very small (1)Good morning. Welcome back to Tuesday Tales, the blog where a select group of authors share their works in progress with you. I’m continuing with my contemporary romance, Wedding Bell Blues, the tile inspired both by a sketch I saw and a song from my youth by the same title. Today’s excerpt is just under 1500 words–a little long, I know, but … Enjoy!

Given this new information, the move to Watertown and the new job made sense. A guy like Mark wouldn’t be able to stop from spreading lies and gloating. Regardless of what he’d done, he’d never let anyone believe she’d dumped him. It was all about character and honor, and when it came to that guy, he had none.

“Mark had Mom eating out of his hand,” she continued, “and while Ron was dead-set against our relationship, he was traveling a lot for work, and that put a strain on his marriage. He was transferred to Buffalo last year, and things are fine now. He’s the only one who didn’t give me brief about the break-up.”

“I don’t believe that. Your mom would have been on your side.”

“Nope. I didn’t tell her what happened. Carla’s the only one—and now you—who know how he humiliated me. Mom’s worried about the possibility that I’ll end up an old maid,” she said bitterly. “Even you mentioned my age, and the fact I’m unmarried seems to be some kind of sin.”

He groaned. “Would you like to hit me? You can if it’ll make you feel better.”

She giggled. “I thought about kicking you, but I was in sandals and didn’t want to break my toes. Besides, but I was afraid your dog would make mincemeat out of me.”

squirrel

Image courtesy Modernfarmer.com

Paul laughed, pleased to see her smile if only for a moment. “That big guy is a real pussycat. He chases the squirrels in the yard, and when he’s got one cornered, he runs away from it. I think he sees it as a game, but I’m not sure the squirrel does.”

“Poor squirrel. Oh God,” she paled, grabbing the turquoise crystal pendant on her necklace like a talisman.

“What’s wrong?”

“Carla suggested I sell the vacation on eBay. Can you imagine what might’ve happened if I’d done that? I could’ve gone to prison!” She shuddered. “The only thing I can do is suck it up, take that boat in the morning, and camp out at the airport until I can get a flight home. I swear I’ll never do another impetuous thing again.”

She lifted her glass and sipped.

“Explain something to me. Why do you think Mark would’ve gone this far to get this vacation? What he’s done, if he’s done it, is criminal. You could charge him. He stole six thousand dollars from you and used your identity to do it. That’s fraud.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, by canceling the reservation, he implied he was you, which he wasn’t, and did it without your consent, knowing you’d probably show up here and have no room, which would cause you financial and emotional injury.”

“I hadn’t considered that. As far as wanting this particular vacation, I’m positive he did it because of the treasure hunt. We watched a program about Lacorneille, and he went on and on about how wonderful it would be to find the treasure. I didn’t really give it much credence, but he was obsessed with the idea. Somehow, he must’ve found out about Leroux because the next thing I knew, he told me to book the honeymoon here and the exact dates he wanted. We hadn’t even scheduled the wedding yet, which was why we ended up with a Friday evening rather than the traditional Saturday or Sunday in the Greek Orthodox Church.”

“That figures. He always was a greedy son of a bitch. Listen, no matter what, you can’t let him win. Don’t leave tomorrow. Stay here with me, and we’ll join the treasure hunt. Stealing it from under his nose would be the best payback he could get, and if he somehow owns up to what he’s done, you could sue him, too. I’ll help you. I’m a criminal investigator. I know exactly what to do to nail his ass.”

* * * *

“Stay here and join the treasure hunt? You can’t be serious,” MJ said, not sure she’d actually heard Paul correctly. “I’m trying to hide for heaven’s sake, not draw attention to myself.”

“Which is exactly what he wants. This isn’t a mistake, it’s fate. According to Lucette’s grandmother, my coming here was written in the stars, so yours must’ve been, too.”

“Fate? I don’t understand,” MJ said,  her brow furrowed. “What does the bartender’s grandmother have to do with any of this?”

“Her grandmother’s a Quimbois priestess. That’s the nature religion practiced on Martinique. Before you arrived today, Lucette and I were chatting at the bar, and she asked me how I’d come to be here alone. I told her about buying the trip. Curious about me, she asked her grandmother to look into my future by throwing the bones. Apparently, the old woman told her I wouldn’t be alone much longer.”

pendant“Seriously? And you believe this stuff?” she asked skeptically, reaching for her crystal pendant Carla had given her once more and dropping it self-consciously. If she was willing to accept the power of crystals, why not Quimbois magic?

“I don’t, but they may make a believer out of me yet. You have to admit this is one hell of a coincidence. The woman made her predictions, and here you are. Apparently, the woman’s never wrong. She said I was destined to come here and find my heart’s desire.”

MJ stopped eating, her heart pounding out a mad staccato.

He chuckled. “Who knew my fondest wish would be to help out a friend and get even with a jerk who’d made so many people miserable fifteen years ago?”

She swallowed her disappointment. For a moment, she’d thought he’d meant she was his heart’s desire. Obviously, the alcohol had gone to her head.

“I need to go to the washroom. I’ll be right back.”

The fact she made it to her destination without crying was a minor miracle. She splashed water on her face to keep the tears at bay. The last thing she needed was to turn into a maudlin drunk. For less than a minute, she’d been on top of the world, but then Paul had spoken again and disabused her of that notion.

What the hell’s wrong with me?

Until last week, they hadn’t seen one another in fifteen years, and it was highly unlikely he’d fallen head over heels in love with her—hell, he hadn’t even fallen in lust. He still called her kid, for God’s sake. How humiliating was that?

Realistically, her new-found fascination with the man had to be based on her old crush and the fact she hadn’t had sex, even disappointing sex, in six months. Coupled with the emotional turmoil of this latest disaster was his attempt to come to her rescue.

Paul’s only doing this because he hates Mark and wants to get back at him for the things he’d done to others. He feels sorry for me.

If there was anything she didn’t want, especially from Paul, it was pity. Accepting help, even when she needed it, wasn’t easy for her to do. Mom claimed she’d inherited the Summers’s family pig-headedness, but she preferred to think of it as her desire for independence and her determination to persevere alone against all odds. She’d learned to stand on her own two feet years ago. If she needed a crutch at the moment, it was because Mark had all but destroyed her self-esteem.

The more she thought about Markos Theopolis, the harder it was to figure out how she’d ever gotten involved with him. She’d always known love was blind; she just hadn’t realized it was deaf, dumb, and brain dead, too. The nickname, Achilles Heel, suited him well.

While she doubted anyone would ever cast her as Helen of Troy, if Mark was Achilles in this farce, then Paul had to be Paris, the hero who’d defeated him. Mark’s weak spot might not be his heel, although he’d certainly behaved like one. She’d like nothing better than to give his ego a mortal blow and make sure everyone in Stilton saw him for what he was—a greedy, vain bastard who still enjoyed bullying and humiliating people. But as far as charging him went, that would mean confessing what a fool she’d been in all of this. If her pride had kept her from telling people what he’d done in January, she was pretty sure it would keep her from admitting this latest fiasco.

The word of a Quimbois priestess?

Wouldn’t Carla have fun with this? As superstitious as her friend was, she’d have a field day with the whole idea. Carla would be the first to buy into the premise of a fated encounter and kindred spirits out to right the wrongs in this world. Wasn’t the damn crystal supposed to bring her true love?

That’s it for now.  Please take the time to check out the other  Tuesday Tales

 

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Midweek Tease: Hello Again.

MWTease15Well, hello again. I’ve been on vacation, but it’s nice to be back. This blog is made possible each week by Angelica Dawson. There seems to be a glitch with the link this week, but hopefully you’ll be able to find the other great teasers.

Before i left, I published the digital format of Hello Again, my latest paranormal suspense romance. Your tease this week comes from there. The book is available from all Amazon distributors. https://www.amazon.com/Hello-Again-Susanne-Matthews-ebook/dp/B01FGN88I6

HelloAgain-ebookAs they neared the spot Shirley mentioned, tornado damage was obvious. Two wide band of ripped up earth crisscrossed the field, dead animals in crumpled heaps scattered along the edges. He swallowed awkwardly. Were there people lying like that somewhere, too? Up ahead on the road, he saw a large tree blocking the road. From here, he’d guess it was an Assiniboine poplar, but there weren’t any of those for miles around. Stopping the car, he turned to the woman beside him.

“Stay here.”

He hurried across the road. As soon as he stepped to the edge of the soft shoulder, he saw the bruised and bleeding hands holding the pillow over her head.

“Miss?” he asked, but got no response.

Jumping into the ditch, he noted the water came up over his feet. He reached down, and lifted the pillow from her head. He felt as if he’d been sucker punched. How was this possible? He struggled to breathe again and blinked twice. This was the woman from his coma, the one he’d caressed and made love to.

But that woman was a figment of his imagination and this one was real—very, very real.

On her stomach, she’d turned her head to the right, no doubt to make it easier to breathe. Her long brown hair hid part of her familiar face. Reaching down, he touched her throat, letting out a whoosh of the air he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when a strong, steady pulse beat beneath his fingers.

“Well, don’t just stand there,” Shirley said. “Get her out of that ditch.”

“I thought I told you to stay in the car.”

“You did, but you’re going to need these.” She reached into the voluminous pockets on the dress she wore and handed him a pair of garden sheers. “Now, get that off her so we can get out of here. And before you say something stupid about not moving her, nothing’s broken. The cut on her leg will heal, and she’ll be fine—as long as we get back to the house before the next twister.”

Bill reached for the sheers and moved to the woman’s feet, snipped away the branches and lifted the surprisingly heavy log off her legs, moving it far enough aside to be able to lift her out of the ditch. Turning her onto her side, he scooped her out of the mud and water.

Her eyes fluttered open. Glazed with shock and pain, the beautiful sapphire blue orbs he’d recognize anywhere widened.

“Mike?” she whispered and smiled. “You came.”

Her lids closed, and she was unconscious again.

Carrying her back to the vehicle, surprised to see Shirley seated there already, he gently placed his new passenger on the backseat and then got behind the wheel once more.

“Quickly,” Shirley said. “We’ve got no time to lose. The tornado’s going to cross the road a quarter-mile from here. We don’t want to be too close when it does.”

Making a three-point turn, Bill stepped on the gas, hoping to outrun this leg of the storm.

European Vacation My Way! Summer Holidays 2016

luggageWell, the vacation is over, but the memories will last forever. I hope you’ll join me as I recount what was without a doubt the most surprising, stunning, and fantastic vacation ever. I didn’t think much would be able to top last year’s cruise to Alaska, but I was wrong.

So, where did I go? This year, I visited Copenhagen, Denmark, took a cruise up the lower western coast of Norway, spent ten wonderful days in Oslo, Norway, and finished it all off with forty-eight hours in Iceland. That means I’ve visited all five of the Scandinavian countries, having been to Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland, twelve years ago.What was the biggest challenge? Packing, of course. It’s hard to pack the right clothes for a three week vacation with as many variables as that one had! And don’t forget, you have the luggage weight Nazis to deal with. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to get regular clothes to add up to 23 kilos, approximately 50 pounds. And throw in two kilos of peanut butter…

Jolly ToursSo where do I begin? Our vacation was arranged by Jolly Tours here in Cornwall. Julie, our tour director took care of all our travel arrangements and we didn’t have any problems at all! If you want to use a travel agency, I highly recommend using them. They arranged for our pick-up at noon on Saturday, and that’s when one of the longest days of my life started.

The vacation began on May 14th. I know, it seems like a strange time for a summer holiday, but it was still cold here, but if you’re going north, you might as well go while your body’s acclimatized. Actually, we had personal reasons for vacationing in May, and I’ll get to those later on in the blog.

We drove to Ottawa where we boarded a short hop Air Canada flight–barely long enough to polish off a glass of wine! Then we landed in Toronto at Pearson. Why are airports so large? airportThe walk–moving sidewalks and all–from the domestic gates to the international ones seemed interminable, but since our luggage got to go directly, we didn’t have to contend with that. We did have to lug our hand luggage, Rootswhich included a carry-on bag and a Roots backpack. for me. One thing for sure, I was not in good physical condition at that point, but believe me, I am now. That interminable walk through the airport would be a snap.

restaurantWisely, Julie had arranged what we thought was an overlong time between flights, but we learned over the course of the holiday that connections can easily be missed when planes get delayed. So for our four hour wait, we found one of the airports new restaurant bars to serve as a place to spend the time. flowersWe were joined by good friends, Mike and Penny, who’d decided to go on the same cruise we’d chosen.20160514_142005_resized Here’s John enjoying a beer with his dinner. I have to admit, the bars were gorgeous. You ordered from a computer screen and the fresh flowers are a nice touch.

Now, you should know that I’m neither a seasoned traveler nor a good flyer. Visions of fiery crashes usually come to mind when I need to board a plane. Our flight was scheduled to depart at nine and so we boarded at 8:30 pm. Unfortunately, the plane had “mechanical” issues and we sat in the plane at the gate for more thanAir Canada an hour. You can imagine how I felt! I watched two episodes of the Big Bang Theory.  By the time we took off, my nerves were shattered and that first beer was a Godsend–good thing I’d had a few before boarding. it was after ten.

Our plane was one of the newer Air Canada Dreamliners, and while we flew economy, we had more legroom than normal. Unusual in this day and age was the fact that we were fed a complimentary full course meal, wine included, which was actually very good–plastic cutlery and all. I know, almost eleven at night seems like a strange time to eat a meal, but we had a seven hour flight ahead of us and a six hour time difference. Believe me, sleeping on a plane is a lot harder than you would imagine. Planes are loud, even when the passengers aren’t. The plane had two aisles, with nine seats across–three, three, and three. John and I had window and middle seats. We were also conveniently seated near one of the plane’s washrooms, mid plane which made things easier. The lady on the aisle was friendly and didn’t mind being interrupted, aka awakened, so that I could get up and move or go to the bathroom. If you travel a long distance by plane, do invest in compression stocking. They’re the very devil to put on, but when it’s hard to get up and move around, they can be lifesavers.

While we were provided with pillows and blankets, I wasn’t able to really sleep for any length of time. I watched the last Hunger Games movie and played a few mind-numbing games on my Kindle, but soon the plane lights came on.

On a funny note, the plane’s windows didn’t have the usual pull-down shades. Instead, they are electronically darkened. Imagine my surprise when my newly adjusted watch said it was 7:30 am, and looking out my window, it was still dark. Even stranger was the fact that it was light on the other side of the plane. Long story short, I soon realized I had to press a button to let the sun shine in!

The stewardess came around with breakfast–a piece of pound cake, or maybe it was lemon breakfast loaf, juice, and coffee. Breakfast was definitely a failure on the meal meter, and a big disappointment after the delicious dinner we’d been given.

Danish flagBy now, it was almost time to land. The skies were cloudy and it was windy. The landing was a very bumpy one. Copenhagen airport is smaller than Pearson, and I was very grateful to find both a bathroom–even if the toilet paper more closely resembles the tissue i use in gift bags–and find that my luggage had indeed made it to Denmark, too.

And so ends–in a way, the first twenty-four hours of my vacation. Check back next week for my first day in Copenhagen.

 

Tuesday Tales. From the Word: Candy.

Badge for TT - very small (1)I’m back! Did you miss me? I missed all of you–both readers and fellow bloggers. Tuesday Tales is made possible by author, Jean Joachim, who manages us all each week by providing either the word or the picture we use as inspiration. Each Tuesday Tale is an unpublished work in progress, giving you a glimpse into our creative processes. Many of the stories begun here have gone on to become published novels. In my case, the novella, Forever and Always, which began as a Christmas short story, and Hello Again, my latest release, a paranormal, suspense romance.

Today’s Tuesday Tales are all based on the word prompt, CANDY. I’ve missed a few weeks due to my vacation. With that in mind, I’m picking up the plot line from Wedding Bell Blues, my new contemporary romance.

Here’s your TT!

vichyssoiseThey were more than halfway through the first course, and Paul couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer.

“How’s your soup?”

“This is the best vichyssoise I’ve ever tasted.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Feel like telling me what happened now?” he asked.

“I don’t know where to start,” she admitted.

“Why did you call off the wedding?”

“Long story short, I caught him with a coworker in my office at school, and they weren’t marking papers. Anyone could’ve walked in on them. Mom was upset, but there was no way I could forgive him, not for that. I put on a brave front, kept my mouth shut about what I’d seen more out of pride than to protect either of them, and told everyone I’d decided that we really wouldn’t suit and tried to get on with my life. He said the break up was mutual.”

“You did the sensible thing, MJ, although I’d have told everyone what a scumbag he was if it had been me. If a guy can’t be faithful before the wedding, he won’t be after.”

Visions of his father filled his mind. He’d been a class-A jerk who used his fists to justify his actions. The bastard had strayed more than once, but Mom had forgiven him time after time—for the cheating, for the broken bones and bruises, for everything. He’d hate to think of MJ living that kind of life.

Organza-with-candy-coated-almond-favor-300x225“It gets even better,” she said bitterly, her eyes bright once more, pulling him out of his own painful memories. “They were married on what should’ve been my wedding day and had the reception at the Athena Hotel, the way I’d planned. The bridesmaids wore the dresses I designed, in the color I’d chosen. They even had the same damn menu I’d selected, including the wedding cake I’d chosen and the candy-coated almonds take-aways. Knowing Mark, he got a real deal on everything.”

“He’s got a lot of nerve, I’ll agree, but forgive the expression, the bride sounds a little gutless. You’re better off without a man like that. So why are you here? If there wasn’t a wedding, why come on the honeymoon?”

“Because I paid for it,” she stated defensively, “and I couldn’t get my money back. Mark wouldn’t let me buy the cancelation insurance. I decided I deserved to get something out of this mess, but he’s taken that away from me, too. He’s bringing her here to enjoy my honeymoon.”

“You’re not making sense, sweetheart. How the hell can he do that?”

“Don’t patronize me. Paul. I’ve had enough of that lately to last me a lifetime.”

“I didn’t mean to be patronizing; I’m sorry.”

“I’m sure Mark called the resort, cancelled my reservation, and rebooked a room in his name. The manager thinks it’s their fault, but I asked. Mark and Melena are arriving tomorrow.”

“It could be a computer glitch, just like the manager said. This is a popular place, and you did say it was his choice not yours.”

“Mr. St. Louis said the room was cancelled four weeks ago. That’s when Mark tried to buy the vacation package from me for half of what I paid. The place was booked solid, obviously because of that treasure hunt. I told him that since I’d paid for the damn thing, I intended to use it myself and it wasn’t for sale. He called me a cold, vindictive bitch, among other things I won’t repeat, and told me I’d be sorry.”

“It’s still circumstantial, but it does sound damn convenient, especially considering how hard it would be to get a booking here at the last minute like that. So, if you’re sure he’s done this, how are you going to prove it?”

download“How can I?” she asked, throwing her hands up in frustration. “It’s his word against mine, and even you’re skeptical about it. What choice do I have? If I keep my mouth shut, the resort will pay for a few nights at a bed and breakfast in Saint Pierre and refund me the money I paid for the trip. The trouble is I know it wasn’t the resort’s fault. That’s why I want to go on that excursion with you in the morning and then make my way to the airport. I can’t face him, Paul, I just can’t. I’ll get myself back to Watertown, but if he realizes I spent the night here with you, he’ll see that everyone back home gets his spin on it, and Mom will be the one to suffer the embarrassment of that, too, and since she doesn’t even know I’m here…”

A single tear trickled down her cheek. “I never expected him to pull a trick like this.” She put down her spoon and reached for her champagne flute. “I wouldn’t have even thought he could do it.”

“It was probably easier than you’d think. He’d have had all the information, right?”

She nodded.

“If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll punch out his lights for you.”

She chuckled weakly, sniffled, and took a large mouthful of her wine, almost emptying the glass. “I’d give anything to forget how stupid I’ve been.”

“Not stupid. Trusting. The offer to beat him up still holds.”

“It probably wouldn’t help. Knowing him, he’d have you charged with assault, and I’d feel badly seeing you tossed in jail.”

“That wouldn’t help my career any either. So, who is this paragon you almost married?”

“Markos Theopolis.”

The hand carrying his spoonful of soup to his mouth froze. The name conjured up the memory of a sadistic bully who enjoyed watching those he considered beneath him squirm. Like most bullies, he was smart enough to pick on those who couldn’t defend themselves. He’d humiliated Paul a few times in grade school until he’d started weight training and learned to box. Paul had decked him in the ring, and Mark had left him alone, but he’d made life miserable for so many others. And the worst of it was, the bastard had been untouchable. His uncle had been the school principal. No one bothered to tell on Mark because he or she would be the one who’d end up in detention. How on earth had MJ gotten involved with that jerk? Better yet, how could Ron have condoned that relationship?

“Not Markos, the Achilles Heel?”

“One and the same,” she said resigned. “I know what you’re going to say. Ron probably said the same thing, but I thought Mark had changed. He made me feel special. He could be demanding, but I didn’t realize what he was really like until it was too late. Mama liked him, but she was at the point where anyone with his own teeth, a heartbeat, and a penis was fine.”

That’s it. Now, please take the time to check out the other  Tuesday Tales