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Tuesday Tales: From the Word AIR

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. Each week, a group of talented authors share their work in progress with you. Last week, we had a picture prompt and a 300 word limit–very hard for me to do, but this week we’re back to word prompts. Today’s word is AIR. I’m wrapping up Wedding Bell Blues, and push is going to come to shove today as Melena, Mark, MJ, and Paul meet on Paradise Island.

Paul looked up and smiled.

“I figured you needed the rest after last night. How do you feel?”

Married.

“Surprisingly well,” MJ lied, shoving all her fear and anxiety deep inside herself.  She’d used her inhaler earlier and prayed she would be able to get through the rest of the day without having to do so again. “Maybe my body is getting used to the champagne.”

He laughed, and the sound of his genuine pleasure made her feel warm and toasty inside.

“I have a feeling it probably has something to do with all the water we drank last night, too. Nice to meet a doctor with such a simple hangover cure,” he joked. “Of course, I don’t think we met the one glass of wine, one glass of water rule completely, but I’d say we got it half right. Are you hungry?”

“Starving, actually, and you must be right about the water because I did feel a lot worse yesterday. How did you sleep?”

“Like a baby, and believe me, that’s a wonderful feeling.” He sobered. “I’ve had nightmares off and on since I’ve gotten back. Having you around is good for my soul.”

MJ beamed. It wasn’t a declaration of undying love, but it was a place to start. If she could calm his soul, then surely she could win his heart, and maybe this marriage of convenience could become the real thing—babies and all.

Before she could answer, the doorbell rang indicating brunch.

“I’ll get it.” Paul jumped up and headed indoors.

Within minutes, he was back with a waiter pushing a heavily laden cart.

Félicitations, Monsieur et Madame Davis,” the waiter said, expertly popping the cork on another bottle of champagne.

Whoever had the wine and alcohol contract on the island must be making a fortune.

“Would you like the wine plain or as a mimosa?”

“Mimosa sounds good to me,” she answered, “but heavy on the orange juice, please.”

“Make it two,” Paul added his approval to hers.

The waiter made the drinks and bowed. “Enjoy your meal. Monsieur St Louis asked me to remind you that you’ll meet in the main dining room at two.”

“Thanks.”

Paul escorted the waiter to the door.

MJ stared out at the water. Clouds were massing on the horizon—not an auspicious start to the day. Most likely Melena and Mark were arriving at this very moment. Was it wrong to hope they’d had a rough crossing?

She didn’t hear Paul until he was right behind her.

“Here,” he said, handing her the mimosa. He raised the glass. “This is the first day of the rest of our lives, MJ. To us and the future.”

MJ clinked her glass on his. “To us,” she repeated, smiling at him with renewed optimism. They would make this work.

A long blast, similar to that of the train whistle as the locomotive pulled into the station, startled MJ, and she almost dropped the crystal glass she held.

“What the hell was that?”

“The whistle to tell the guests that the ferry to return them to the mainland has arrived. They have an hour to make it to the dock.” Paul sat. “Let’s eat.”

MJ stood there, suddenly unable to pull the air into her lungs she needed to breathe as panic filled her. They were here now. They were really here.

Paul looked up and jumped to his feet.

“MJ, what is it? What’s wrong?”

She couldn’t stop shaking as she gasped for air.

Paul pulled her into his arms, the fear on his face stunning in its intensity. “It’s okay. I’m here, but I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong, honey. Are you choking? Do you need your inhaler? Speak to me. MJ, for the love of God, speak to me.”

Gasping out each word, tears welling in her eyes, MJ looked up at Paul. “Oh God, Paul. They’re here—they have to be. He’ll kill me when he discovers what we’ve done.”

Paul exhaled as his color returned to normal, and he pulled her into his chest.

“Is that what this is about? Relax, and take a deep breath.  I’m here. If he so much as looks at you sideways, he’ll answer to me. You’re my wife, MJ and I will stand by you in all things and defend you from all dangers. Now, do you need your inhaler?”

She shook her head and forced herself to calm down. Paul would never let Mark hurt her. As long as she stayed with him, she would be fine. Gradually the tightness in her chest eased, and she sipped the water he offered her.

“I’m sorry,” she said, looking up at him. “I thought I had it under control, but…”

“But nothing,” Paul said, gazing into her eyes. “You aren’t alone, MJ. I’m with you, and we will get through this together.”

MJ nodded.

Paul set the glass she was holding on the table and pulled her into his arms.  He bent his head and touched his lips to hers, spiraling her back into the awe and wonder she’d experienced during their wedding when he’d kissed her. Clinging to this lifeline, she returned his kiss with all the ardor and passion in her soul.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on  Tuesday Tales.

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Midweek Tease: From On His Watch

mwtease15Hello. Well, there’s a full houseful of writers to titillate you today. Thanks to Angelica Dawson who makes this weekly blog hop possible.

This morning, I’m teasing from On His Watch, currently on sale .

https://www.novelrank.com/asin/B00MIMHNFI

or https://www.amazon.co.uk/His-Watch-Susanne-Matthews-ebook/dp/B01N26O1VT for UK readers.

The sound of breaking glass coming from downstairs shattered the stillness. Nikki tensed. Had the sound come from the kitchen? Had she left a window open? She’d shut the bedroom window a few moments ago because the wind had picked up and its whistling sound bothered her. Could it have knocked over the crystal vase of roses Sam had sent her this morning? Perhaps Mrs. Olsen’s tabby had jumped in the window and knocked the vase over. The cat had been a regular visitor when the previous owners had lived here, and he saw no reason to curtail his visits. She’d almost had a heart attack the last time he entered, bringing her a gift—a dead mouse—and Danny had laughed himself silly at “Mommy’s girliness.” Sam, not an animal lover,  had threatened to poison the animal if it came into the house again. If the cat had broken the vase, its days were numbered.

Or what if someone was in the house?  She’d noticed a lot of strangers in town, some looking more unkempt than others. There were plenty of family campers, but every now and then, she’d seen so-called gold prospectors combing the Larosa hills. Trudy, Mandy’s best friend Lily’s mother, had said they were harmless but to a girl like Nikki from San Francisco, dirty, half-starved men meant trouble. They could easily be junkies desperately needing a fix.

She took a deep breath. She didn’t hear any other suspicious sounds.  As Sam would say, she was letting her imagination run wild. Most likely it was one of Larosa’s minor quakes that had caused a glass to slip off the table. Just a few miles off the San Andreas Fault, the town was constantly trembling. She barely noticed the Earth’s slight shaking anymore.

Even though she’d convinced herself nothing was amiss, Nikki tiptoed to the guest room, got down on all fours, and peeked under the bed. Next, she slipped into her daughter’s room. Mandy was asleep. The child slept like the dead once she was out. Nikki reached for the flashlight, turned it off, and used the bed to leverage her body upright again.

She picked up the cell phone she’d left on the dresser earlier, made sure it was on in case Sam called, and dropped it into the right pocket of her pajama top. Carrying the flashlight, she slipped out of the room, closing the door softly behind her.

Maybe getting a dog’s a good idea. It would keep the damn cat out of the house.

Nikki stood still in the hallway and listened. The only thing she could hear was the sound of the television in the den. Someone was buying a vowel.

She reached Danny’s room and opened the door. When she saw his bed was empty, she relaxed and shook her head in resignation. As much as it annoyed her to admit it, this time Sam was right. Her imagination did tend to look for boogeymen where there weren’t any. Clearly her eight-year-old and his bottomless pit of a stomach had decided to have another bedtime snack. No doubt he was the culprit. She left the room and placed the flashlight on the hall table where it usually sat in case of a power outage.

“What did you break this time?” she called as she headed down the stairs. “I swear, you’re like a bull in a china shop.”

The sound of the garage door opening indicated Sam’s arrival. Although the clinic was nearby, since he carried major opiate drugs back and forth, Sam always took his car to work. He’d enter the house through the garage, leaving his lab coat and shoes out there and washing his hands at the sink he’d had installed for that purpose.

“Let’s get this cleaned up before your father comes in.” She turned the corner into the kitchen and stopped cold.

Hope you enjoyed that little taste. Now, please check out the rest of today’s teasers.

15.
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Tuesday Tales: From a Picture

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Hello and welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. I wasn’t sure I’d have a post this week, but as things have turned out, here it is. As is our custom, once a month we work from a picture and limit our post to 300 words.

Today, I continue with Wedding Bell Blues. Here’s the picture I chose. I’m sure I used something similar back in the fall, but…

bed

 

MJ rolled over and opened her eyes. The bed beside her was empty, but the indentation in the pillow proved Paul had spent some of the night there. Reaching for her glasses on the bedside table, she noted the time on the clock.

Yikes! It was almost noon. Getting up quickly, she hurried into the bathroom to shower and take care of her morning needs, the first of which were a couple of analgesics for the slight pounding in her head although she wasn’t nauseated as she’d been yesterday.

It had taken her ten minutes last night to convince him to share the bed. After all, they’d done so the previous night, and everything had been fine. He’d kissed her on the forehead and offered her the use of the bathroom first. Feeling like a pampered child rather than a new bride, she’d gone into the bathroom, determined to make him see her as a woman, but as soon as her head hit the pillow, she’d fallen asleep. So much for any alcohol induced femme fatale urges. So where was her gentleman bridegroom now?

A knock on the bathroom door startled her.

“MJ, it’s me. I heard you get up and I didn’t want to scare you. Brunch will be here in half an hour. I’ll be out of the deck when you’re done. Do you want tea or coffee?”

“Tea, please,” she answered, hoping she sounded as relaxed as he did.

Fifteen minutes later, dressed in yellow capris and a black and yellow gingham sleeveless blouse, she stepped out onto the deck. Paul sat in one of the loungers.

“Thanks for letting me sleep in,” she said, nervous about her role now. She was his wife, the old ball and chain. Did he feel trapped yet?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on  Tuesday Tales.

 

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Midweek Tease:In Plain Sight

mwtease15Good morning and welcome to this week’s Midweek Tease. A lot has happened this month, including the official takeover of Crimson Romance by Simon & Schuster. Interestingly enough, that change came with all new ASIN numbers for my Crimson books sold at Amazon.UK

This month, all of my standalone titles are on sale for 1.99 USD. I thought this morning I would share a bit from In Plain Sight again.

Here’s the blurb:

In life, you pay a price for everything you do. Widowed, her dream of starring on Broadway in ashes at her feet, Misty Starr yearns for a happy, healthy, normal life for herself and her four-year-old daughter, Debbie. Settled in Pine Falls, New York, a sleepy little town filled with friendly people, she believes she’s found it and feels safe enough to sing in an amateur theater revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. She’ll do anything to keep this life even if it is built on lies, because revealing her secret is impossible. When Nick Anthony joins the cast as music director, Misty is attracted to the man who stirs up feelings she thought long dead, but can love grow on a bed of deceit?

A former concert pianist and secret CIA courier, Nick lives in darkness ever since the accident that killed his wife. The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with his vision, so why can’t he see? Hiding from his former life, he reluctantly agrees to help with the musical and is drawn to the young singer with the voice of an angel. When a mysterious fire destroys her home, Nick vows to keep her and her daughter safe. After one suspicious event leads to another, Nick is determined to protect them from an unknown assassin, but in order to do that, he needs to know her secrets. With his money and connections, he’ll do whatever it takes to save the woman he loves, but does she love him enough to reveal the truth?

This week’s tease:

Nick pressed his lips against Misty’s hair. She felt so good in his arms, as if she belonged there. He found himself wishing she did. What would life have been like if he’d met her before he’d met Rebecca? Would the child in the clinic now have been his? Would they be supporting one another or blaming one another for what had happened? No, Misty would never blame someone to avoid taking responsibility for her actions; she wasn’t Rebecca. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body.

He inhaled Misty’s scent, and a primeval need to protect her flooded him. Until this moment, he hadn’t realized he’d do anything he could for her and the child she loved so intensely. He didn’t understand how or why, but he knew he cared for this woman more deeply than he’d ever cared for anyone. He’d thought he’d loved Rebecca, but the feelings he’d had for her paled in comparison to the way he felt now. It wasn’t logical. It wasn’t rational, but it was powerful and compelling. He might be blind, but he had a fortune and a small army of trained people to call on to keep her safe.

He didn’t know why she needed to assume the blame for the fire, but he knew that the possibility she might not be responsible terrified her. What was she hiding? How could he help her if he didn’t understand the problem?

What he wouldn’t give to have his sight again. The doctors he’d consulted, among the best in the world, all agreed there was no physical reason why he couldn’t see, but they were wrong; they had to be. How could he be blind if there was nothing wrong with his eyes? Conversion disorder, they called it; what the hell was that? A mental and emotional rather than a physical reason for an ailment? It was all bullshit. Did they really believe it was all in his head? He might have been distraught and depressed after the accident, might have blamed himself, but he was fine now, so why couldn’t he see? Did they really think he wanted to be blind? Did they think he really wanted to keep punishing himself this way? Dammit! He wanted to see! And now, because of Misty, he had more reason than ever to want his vision restored.

He opened his eyes each morning, hoping somehow the blackness of the purgatory in which he found himself would be gone. The accident hadn’t been his fault. He knew that, didn’t he?

When Rebecca had called him in London to tell him about the baby and her plans to “take care of it,” he’d pleaded with her to wait until his tour was over, a week at best, so they could talk about it. When he’d returned from his tour, he’d gone directly to her opening and, seeing her with champagne in her glass, had known his flesh and blood was gone. Rebecca had laughed at him, calling him all kinds of a fool if he’d really expected her to ruin her body and her career for some brat.

She’d had a few drinks, and he should have insisted on driving. Why had she even told him about the child in the first place if she’d intended to get rid of it? Because that was the way Rebecca operated. She found your sore spot and cut away at it with a rusty, serrated blade, hoping to inflict the maximum amount of pain. He’d made no secret of the fact that he’d wanted a child.

He’d been so angry, ready to kill her for what she’d done so callously. He’d almost refused to get into the car with her, but unlike her, the last thing he’d wanted was to make a scene in public. She’d loved any and all publicity, and while his name frequently appeared in the press, he’d liked to keep his private life private.

He’d asked for a divorce the minute she’d pulled out onto the street. She’d laughed at him in that heartless way she had. He’d never forget her words or the venom in her voice.

“I’ll divorce you when I’m good and ready, not a minute sooner. Being married to the famous Nico Antoni is still good for my career. When you’re no longer an asset, I’ll throw you to the wolves, but I promise, when I do, there’ll be precious little left of your fortune or your career. When I’m done with my toys, they’re only fit for the garbage. Ask Laura.”

“You bloody bitch!” he’d cried, “I’ll see you in hell before you’ll get anything. I’ll call my lawyer in the morning.”

She’d thrown her head back and laughed, taking her eyes off the road. She hadn’t seen the truck crossing the median, heading straight toward them. He’d yelled, but it had been too late. Rebecca was dead. And he was blind.

He blinked his sightless eyes, the familiar sadness that came with memories of Rebecca and his unborn child were held at bay by the warmth and softness of the woman in his arms. Rebecca and the unknown child were gone—dead and buried. Misty was alive and breathing in his arms. Micah had indicated that she might still be mourning Trent, but she had Debbie to console her, and he’d make sure that when she was ready to let another man into her life, it would be him. He’d do whatever he could for them now to earn her friendship and gratitude. As soon as he could, he’d take the relationship to the next level. For the first time in a long time, he felt free.

Want more?

Amazon.com

Amazon.UK

Now, please visit the rest of this week’s teasers.

#MidWeekTease February 15, 2017


 

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Tuesday Tales: From the Word LOVE

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Hello. Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales based on a word worthy of tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. Isn’t it amazing how we use the word love in so many different ways and for so many different things?

This morning,  I’m continuing with the wedding scene from Wedding Bell Blues. Hope you enjoy it.

MJ leaned into Paul as they moved as one across the dance floor. She loved the way he held her as if she were made of crystal and yet so firmly she knew he wouldn’t let her go. But this was the last dance. Like Cinderella, for her the party was over, and it was time to get back to reality. Prince Charming might still be around, and she didn’t have a smashed pumpkin coach to worry about, but there would be a Lucifer of sorts to deal with tomorrow … She wouldn’t think of that alley cat now. Snuggling into Paul’s shoulder, she drifted around the room on the romantic melody.

God, she couldn’t wait to take off her shoes and collapse onto the bed. This might not have been the wedding reception she’d planned for herself, but the night had been magical and so much better than anything she could’ve wanted–except for the aching feet. Why was it women insisted on wearing shoes to dance in that were actually meant to look good and not feel good? These spiky, spindly heels hadn’t been her choice, but Carla was right. They looked damn good. If only they still felt like they had six hours ago.

wedding-cakeThere had been unexpected wedding gifts—vouchers for just about anything a new couple would need—provided by Louis’s corporate sponsors and the network. As far as the meal had gone, it was perfect as if Mama had planned it herself since it included all of MJ’s favorites. When they’d arrived, servers had been walking around offering hors d’oeuvres, which included spanakopita, dolmades, bruschetta, and crab meat Charissa. In the center of the dance floor, a table had been set up with a selection of traditional and exotic fruits and variety of cheeses, surrounding a beautiful pale blue iced wedding cake decorated with seashells to commemorate the location.

During that time, she and Paul had shaken hands with the guests and listened to Mama as she’d explained everything that had happened to her in the past twenty-four hours. MJ might well bemoan what she and Paul had done, but she would never regret seeing the happiness and excitement on her mother’s face.

Once the appetizers were done, they’d all sat down to the main meal: yogurt with honey and almonds, Greek salad, fresh rolls, and a choice of stuffed leg of lamb and chicken or vegetarian souvlaki. Along with the main course came rice, Greek potatoes and roasted vegetables. Dessert was a selection of Greek pastries including loukoumades, the Greek donuts she loved, baklava, and traditional wedding cake which they’d cut before the camera crew had departed.

There’d been a different wine served with each course and champagne for toasting. She’d tried to keep track of the number of glasses of fine wine she consumed, but that was hard to do since the glass never emptied. She’d take a sip or two and one of the servers would refill it right away.

Of course, each toast had been accompanied by toe-curling kisses, shorter than the one they’d exchanged after the ceremony but moving and exciting. She’d given up believing this was all a sham. There was no way Paul could kiss her like that, hold her the way he did now, without feeling something more than friendship for her.

The music stopped. Paul released her and stepped back. She missed the feel of his body against hers.

“The shows over, Mrs. Davis. Time to bid the last of our guests goodnight.”

His voice was smooth with a hint of sadness in it, his eyes mere slits testifying to the fact he’d lost track of the amount of champagne he’d had as well. Mama and Louis had left about an hour ago, since they would be heading back to Martinique at first light, and from there to New York.

“I don’t expect we’ll be seeing you two before noon,” Lindsay said, coming to stand next to them, Noel just a step behind her. “I know I intend to sleep in at least until ten.” She yawned. “It was an absolutely wonderful wedding and as my gift, I’ll make an album for you from all of the photographs I’ve taken.”

MJ reached over to hug her friend. “I know I’ll love it. Thank you.”

Lindsay smiled. “I know you two have a few wrinkles to iron out, but my gut tells me things will work out just the way they should. You’ve got chemistry, and well, when you look at one another, it’s magical.” She shook her head. “What time are we meeting with Antoine Leroux, the treasure hunter?”

“Two-thirty or three,” Paul answered, looking a little uncomfortable with Lindsay’s comments.

“Since there’s a boat expected in at noon, the staff needs to get them registered and sorted before the man gives the general information. We’ll sit down with him after that.”

MJ swallowed, suddenly feeling as sober as a judge. She might want to forget about Mark and Melena, but they would be arriving on that boat. God alone knew how long it would be before he saw her and all hell would break loose.

She shivered.

“Cold?” Paul asked, putting his arm around her.

“No, just really tired. I want to get to bed.”

Noel laughed. “Of course you do. It’s your wedding night. Come on, Lindsay, let’s leave the lovebirds to their thing.”

Lindsay chuckled. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

MJ felt her cheeks heat. Would Paul want a wedding night now that they were legally married?

“Shall we?” Paul asked, breaking into her thoughts.

“Shall we what?”

“Go,” he laughed. “The room’s empty. The staff need to clean up.”

Feeling her cheeks heat even more, MJ smiled. “Of course.”

Paul frowned and turned to her. “MJ, you aren’t afraid to be alone with me, are you? I know things tonight haven’t been what either of us expected, but I did promise to keep my distance. I will behave myself, so if you’re worried about me trying to claim conjugal rights, relax. We’re just two friends on an adventure. Now, let me scoop you up and get you to bed.”

MJ nodded, knowing she should be happy he was going to keep his word, but heart-sore and disappointed nonetheless.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on  Tuesday Tales.

Have a wonderful, romantic, and loving Valentine’s Day.

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Look Who Dropped By: Angelica Dawson

It’s my pleasure to welcome fellow author Angelica Dawson this morning. Angelica’s latest instalment in her Blue Moon House series,  Book 7: Harlot will appeal to all who enjoy titillating eroticism.  

love-changes-everythingWhat happens when the sacrifice you make for another turns into a life you can’t abandon? Gwendolyn didn’t plan to become a whore. She didn’t expect to fall in love with another woman. She certainly wouldn’t guess that woman was a vampire. By the time she learns, it is too late, her heart belongs to Sophia and she will do anything to stay with the woman, the vampire, she loves.

Find out how each of the characters in the original novella, “Blue Moon House,” became a member. Read the trials and tribulations they had to endure, the kinky sexual acts, and wickedly wonderful ways required for entry. Discover what the big secret is all about.

 

Amazon Smart URL: http://hyperurl.co/BMH7

Nook: http://bit.ly/2igS4eL

iBooks: http://hyperurl.co/iHar

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2imrcI9

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2hzHgcq

Tags: #BlueMoonHouse #BDSM #Vampire #Paranormal #Erotic #Romance

Bio: Angelica Dawson, best selling Naughty Nights Press author, has been writing for several years and having sex a lot longer than that. Angelica is a wife, mother and environmental consultant. Her love of plants and the outdoors is not diminished by the bloodsucking hoards — mosquitoes and blackflies, not vampires.

Webpage/blog: http://angelicadawson.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/authorangelicadawson.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/angelicadawson

Mailing list: http://www.angelicadawson.com/2016/02/mailing-list.html

Best of luck with your new book!

 

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Midweek Tease: Hello Again

mwtease15Good morning and welcome to this week’s Midweek tease. Since we are so close to Valentine’s day, I thought I would tease from Hello Again, my romantic suspense novel with more than a little paranormal in it. Love transcends time and space, right?

Book Blurb:

For Charley Winters love means loss and pain. She’s spent the last five years struggling with her grief. Existing, not living. Drawn to Saskatchewan, she travels west take the job she’s always wanted. But life gets complicated when she’s rescued from a vicious tornado by her dead husband’s double, a man who makes her feel things she hasn’t in years. Add to that a native myth, a shaman, a green-eyed wolf, and her husband’s ghost … Can she lift a millennia old curse and find joy and love again?

Here’s this week’s tease:

She’d told Phil she’d sprinkled Mike’s ashes on the wind the day after the funeral. She’d driven near the place where Mike had rescued the wolf, but the truth was she hadn’t even been able to get out of the car. She couldn’t let the ashes go. If she did, she’d be truly alone, and she’d never survive that final separation. No, she’d cling to Mike and her memories until her number was up, and while she prayed it would be soon, she was convinced her prayers fell on deaf ears.

“I love you, Mike,” she said caressing the urn as she done so many times recently. “I understand why your mother did what she did. Some losses are too painful to accept. I’m as trapped here as you are.”

The letter Mike had left for her, the one he’d written before he’d been deployed, sat on the coffee table, now covered with watermarks from the glasses littering its wooden surface. She reached over and picked up the sheet of paper. His instructions were specific, but she’d never be able to follow through with his requests. It wasn’t fair of him to expect her to.

“Damn you, Mike for dying, for leaving me this way. You didn’t have the right,” she said aloud, her voice echoing in the empty room. Drawn to the page, she read the words once more although she didn’t need to. Each one was engraved on a piece of her shattered heart.

Charley,

If you’re reading this, it’s because I let you down. I didn’t come back to you the way I promised, and I’ll always regret not being able to look into those baby blues of yours, and say goodbye. I never thought it would come to this, that we’d have so little time together. I wanted to take care of you, make you happy, and spend the rest of my days telling you how thankful I am that you are part of my life. We knew this might happen, and it was a choice we made when I enlisted and you married me, but saying goodbye like this is a lot harder than I ever thought it would be.

You’re the light of my life. I imagine our children running around the house, around that garage we were going to open—a boy who’d resemble me, a little girl who’d look just like her mama. We’d grow old together doing the things we loved, checking off each item on that bucket list we made before we were married.

I still want you to do those things, babe, even if I can’t be there to do them with you. There isn’t a lot of insurance money—I always meant to get more, but there was always something else that needed to be done, and since I expected to be there, earning it side by side, I figured fifty grand was enough.

There were so many things I wanted to show you, places I wanted to take you, but you’ll have to find someone else to do those things with now. That’s right. Once I’m gone, you need to move on.

I can hear you saying no, see you shaking your head, but you need to listen to me. I know you’re still mourning your father, but you have to let me go, let both of us go, and the best way to do it is to get rid of the things chaining you to the past—like that old car you baby all the time. You need something safe and reliable. You may be the best damn mechanic in the world, but eventually, a car needs to be scrapped. As far as I go, I’ve left instructions with Phil to cremate my body as quickly as he can after my death. I know you’ll want to see me, but babe, I want you to remember me the way I was when I was with you. Scatter my ashes on the wind. Don’t keep me cooped up in a fancy vase or box like my mother kept my dad. Once that’s done, I need you to open your heart and find a good man, a decent man who’ll love you and make you happy. I’d find one for you, if I could, but there are some things you’ll have to do for yourself.

I don’t know what there is after death, and religion wasn’t part of my life growing up, but when I think of moving on like this, I’m reminded of the stories my grandfather told. He was fascinated by his First Nations’ ancestor, even if he couldn’t claim status. The Sioux believed that the living and the dead lived together, even if only the shamans could see those who’d died. If that’s true, I’ll never leave you. I’ll watch out for you in any way I can. You won’t see me, hear me, or feel me, but I’ll be there waiting for the day when I can say hello again.

Right now, I can picture you standing there, tears running down your cheeks, and that’s the last thing I want. I know how stubborn you can be, but Charley, this is important for both of us, so please, mourn a little like I know you need to, but then move on.

Live, love, laugh, darling. Enjoy life the way you were meant to. I’ll always love you, now and forever,

Mike.

She swiped at the tears that crept down her cheeks.

“You’re wrong, Mike. I’ll never be happy again. The only way there’ll ever be a man in my life, is if you find a way to come back to me, because I’m not going looking for one. So ‘Rescues Wolf Pup and Gets into Trouble,’ if I can’t have you here and now, I’ll wait until we can be together, but don’t make me wait too long.”

Now, please visit the rest of this week’s teasers.