Slice of [my] Life

a writer's piece of the pie

Murder Scene Blogfest

I just wrote this scene for Anne Riley’s Murder Scene Blogfest, from the point of view of a home intruder. I’d say “enjoy” but I don’t think that’s appropriate for a murder scene.

**I also wrote the murder scene for my critique group’s tandem story on our blog, Critique_This_WIP.**


Honest people don’t think in terms of dishonesty. They think any old lock from Home Depot will do; might as well buy the cheap one. A lock was a lock, right?

Wrong. Any thief will tell you they can pick any-old-lock, and most of them can even pick a decent one. But honest people just don’t think that way. They don’t expect to be the victim of a home invasion. Robberies happen to other people. They’ve got their guard dogs and a faux, home security sign posted in the window. They’ve got their flood light over the front door—a “deterrent” to keep away robbers.

Ha. These people don’t know the first thing about real safety. Bluffs, all of it.

I’ve been casing the place for three days, now, not that I needed to wait that long. I learned everything I needed to know on day one. First, those guard dogs were three, prized Pomeranians. I saw them in the backyard chasing squirrels around the swimming pool. Second, that Brinks Home Security sticker was from at least ten years ago. The corners had started to peel back from the window, but even if I hadn’t caught that detail, the residents of 722 Briar View Lane never paused long enough in their doorway to enter a code into a key pad. They were probably in too much of a hurry to bother with their alarm.

The flood light was the hardest part to get rid of, and even that was child’s play. I printed out some door to door fliers and slipped them in the doorjambs of all the houses on the street. When I got to 722, I made sure no one was looking, then reached up and unscrewed the bulb, just enough to cut the power to the light. Easy as pie, and two nights later, the bulb above the front door was still dark. Fools, they probably thought the light had burned out—if they even noticed.

But tonight was the night. I’d make a nice score off of 722. This was a wealthy mark; not too rich as to have the sense to buy a working security system or proper guard dogs, but wealthy enough to keep plenty of expensive jewelry around Mrs. 722’s neck.

Pulling the ski mask over my face, I said a prayer to the God of Thieves, then screwed an illegal silencer onto my 9mm pistol. After slipping it into a holster at my side, I grabbed the black cloth bag and slipped into my waistband, then slid from my van into the cold, dark night.

The lock was an embarrassment to Kwikset locks everywhere. I’d picked it in under ten seconds. It was so easy, I actually thought about trying to find a different point of entry, just to give myself a bit of a challenge. Poor 722; these marks were naïve, childlike in their trust of a fifteen dollar lock. Pitty. My next job would be tougher, I promised myself.

I entered the house and closed the door behind be, but no dogs awaited me on the other side. Of course, I thought, the prized Poms would be sleeping with mommy. I passed up the faux artwork on the walls of the living room, past the plasma screen TV, and made my way stealthily to the master bedroom at the end of a long hallway.

The dogs had heard me coming and were barking on the other side of the closed door.

“Jim, let them out to pee, will you?” Mrs. 722 groaned, sleepily.

“I told you not to feed them table scraps. Christ, my stomach can’t handle your cooking. Why would theirs?” Mr. 722, Jim, growled.

Mrs. 722 came back with an insult, but I couldn’t hear it over the barking of the dogs. Not wanting to wait any longer, I drew my pistol and opened the door to their bedroom, shooting a hole through the first little beast to lunge at my leg. It went down in a ball of bloody fur. The silencer’s pif didn’t scare the other dogs away like a loud shot would have, and the second and third dogs followed their friend to doggie-heaven in the next moment.

“Scream and I’ll shoot your husband next,” I threatened the wife in a cold, calm voice, as I pointed my gun at Mr. 722.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Mr. 722 demanded as he tried to jump out of bed.

That’s the thing with men; they don’t like another dog pissing in their food dish. They feel some kind of unstoppable need to muscle the intruder out. They always tried to get up, to negotiate with the person who’d just broke into his house and shot his three prized pooches.

As usual, I was ready for this insanely male reaction and fired a warning shot…right into his left leg. He fell to the ground in a scream of pain, clutching his injured leg. Mrs. 722 screamed with him, then jumped off the bed toward her husband. She let out a string of profanity directed at me, but I ignored it, giving them both time to absorb the gravity of their situation. After a few seconds had past, I cleared my throat and looked to the Mrs.

“I’m a good shot. I think I’ve proven that by killing your dogs and wounding your husband. But I’m not that good. I might have nicked his femoral artery—there sure is an awful lot of blood there. If I did, he’ll bleed to death in a matter of minutes. The faster you get me what I want, the faster I’ll be gone and you can call for an ambulance.”

“Just take what you want,” she spat. “Take it and leave and get out of my house!”

“No, I’m not doing the taking. You’re going to take this bag and go empty your jewelry box into it. Then you’re going to open that safe I know you have, and dump its contents into my bag. If you try anything, I will kill your husband, then you. Do you understand?”

She looked at me with a hatred I’d seen from others before her. It didn’t faze me; I didn’t care what they thought of me. They would cease to matter once my job was done…once she’d opened the safe. The wives always opened the safes while their husbands lay in a pool of their own blood.

In a matter of minutes, she’d done what I asked—had completed her task and was now, once again, kneeling beside Mr. 722 on the bloody carpet beside their king sized bed.

I didn’t warn her, didn’t tell her to say goodbye or tell her I was sorry. I’ve found, over the years, that it’s much more compassionate to just shoot them, not letting them know they were about to meet their maker. It had to be this way and I accept that.

Two shots later, Mr. and Mrs. 722 lay slumped in a heap on their blood stained carpet, a matching bullet hole in each of their foreheads. Now I’m free to move about, collecting the rest of the valuables in the house.


Question for the readers: Is the intruder a man or a woman?

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April 10, 2010 Posted by | Blogfest, Snippets of [my] Work | 4 Comments

MG/PG Love Scene Blogfest

Late as usual…here’s my Middle Grade PG Love Scene for Simon’s Blogfest. To view the other entries, check out the sign up sheet.

I’d like to apologize in advance for the grammar and spelling errors. I’m off my game today.


The rain pounded the bus from the moment they left school to the moment they pulled out of the Glen Eagle Estates subdivision. The houses here were huge, with pools and three car garages. The students, all popular, had brand new shoes and their jeans had designer made holes scratched into the denim. They didn’t worry about stepping in the mud or kicking puddles of water at their friends. If they got their clothes dirty, their parents would wash them. If they ruined their shoes, they would buy new ones. The kids of Glen Eagle Estates were rich. Hope Arnold was not.

Hope looked away from the window and down at her ratty jeans—jeans with holes made from falling onto the black asphalt on the playground. The jeans were too short, but Hope didn’t complain. Her mother wouldn’t like it if she complained about her clothes. They didn’t have money for luxuries, her mother would say.

Past her too short jeans, Hope wore her only pair of shoes, a pair of Keds sneakers. They used to be white, but now, they were so old that they had grass stains and rub marks from where her toes were straining against their bindings.

She heard the laughter from the kids in the back of the bus. Now that the Glen Eagle kids were gone, the bus had come alive and the poorer kids shouted and tossed paper airplanes from one end of the bus to the other. Hope could have gone to sit with them in the back of the bus, but she didn’t feel like it. She was tired. Ian had been sick with a stomach ache, and she’d been up with him for most of the night. The three year old had thrown up twice before her mother had returned her calls.

“Don’t let him puke on the linens, Hope, or you’ll be the one to wash them,” Mother had said, annoyed. “Give him extra cough syrup so he’ll sleep. I’ll be home after my shift.”

Hope hadn’t given her brother the extra cough syrup. Instead, she fed him saltines and water, and stayed up to rub his back until he’d fallen asleep on his own. Ian had woken up three more times before their mother came home from her shift at the diner, and by then, it was past five and Hope was running late for school.

By the end of the school day, Hope was dead tired and dozed as the bus made its way out of town and into the country. Thirty minutes later, it stopped at the entrance to the Shady Oak Trailer Park and the remaining kids stood up from their seats.

Hope was at the front of the line and so busy looking up at the sun peeking between the clouds, that she stepped straight off the bus and into a mud puddle. The mud shifted beneath her foot and she lost her balance. She started to scream as her mind flashed to images of mud soaked jeans and ruined Keds—her mother would be furious. But faster than she could fall, an arm shot out, grabbing her by the upper arm and hauling her backward into to the bus. She fell back against the hard steps, and against him—the only boy strong enough to have saved her. Shaun Preston.

“Jeeze, Hope, you know better than to step in a mud puddle in Shady Oak. They’ll swallow you whole,” he said with a laugh.

“I didn’t…see it. Thanks Shaun,” she said, staring at the mud covering her right sneaker in dread.

“Archie,” Shaun called to the bus driver. “You gotta watch where you park this thing. You know Shady Oak is full of pot holes. She could have broken her ankle just stepping off the bus.”

“Whole Park is a pothole,” Archie muttered and he put the bus in gear and pulled up another two feet. “Happy, kid?”

“Thanks, Archie,” Shaun said, helping Hope to her feet. “Come on, Hope, I’ll carry your backpack. We can hose off your shoe by the front office.”

Hope looked back at her muddy shoe before nodding. She wanted to get home to check on Ian, but she had to clean her sneaker before her mother saw it.

And she wanted to spend an extra minute with Shaun. He was the cutest boy in Shady Oak—maybe even the cutest boy in school. Even the Glen Eagles kids liked him. He was tall and tanned with blonde hair and blue eyes. Her mother said he looked like a young Brad Pitt but Hope didn’t think so. Shaun looked like…Shaun. He was cute and funny and really nice. Especially to her.

The other kids teased him when he talked to Hope or hung out with her in the park, but Shaun just smiled and told her that he’d rather hang out with her than with his other friends. He was a year older than Hope but he didn’t care. And whenever he looked at her, Hope got butterflies in her belly.

Shaun took her backpack and together, they walked to the front office to an old, ratty looking hose. Shaun helped her wash off her muddy sneaker and wiped the excess water off on her shirt tail.

“We heard Ian crying last night,” Shaun said, timidly. “Mom thought he might have been sick or something.”

“Oh, sorry. He wasn’t feeling good.”

“Didn’t you call your mom at the diner?”

“Yeah, but they were really busy…she couldn’t leave.” Hope said, feeling uncomfortable. Shaun’s mom was nice and worked during the day so she could stay home with her kids at night.

“My mom said that you can come over tonight, if you want…if Ian’s still sick. She said she thought you were up all night with him. Her room is close to yours and Ian’s so she hears him through the walls.”

“Oh, that’s nice of her. I think he’ll be okay tonight…”

“Sure,” Shaun said. “But if you need help, you know where to find us.”

Hope felt her cheeks heat up as a blush spread across her face. She looked at the ground so her hair fell down around her face. “Thanks.”

“Hope! Get in here now and get dinner started for your brother,” her mother yelled from their trailer in a gravelly voice, caused from a lifetime of heavy smoking.

“See you later, Hope,” Shaun said, handing over her pink backpack.

“See you later,” she replied.

Hope walked into the trailer and past her mother, to the small kitchen. Dropping her backpack by the table, she went to the pantry and pulled out a box of Mac and Cheese.

“Why was he walking you home?” her mother asked, coming into the kitchen as she tied a new red scarf around her neck. She was dressed up in a red mini skirt, black tank top, and high heels.

Must have a date before her shift starts, Hope thought.

“Shaun? I fell getting off the bus and he offered to carry my bag for me.”

“Hmph,” Mother sighed. “Boys are trouble, Hope, even boys like Shaun. Stay away from them. They only like girls like you for one reason and I’m too young to be a grandmother.”

“Shaun’s not like that, Mom. He’s nice.”

“Of course he’s nice. He wants something that the girls at Glen Eagles won’t give him, so he’s looking to you to scratch an itch.”

Hope ignored her mother’s lecture. Shaun wasn’t like the men she dated. Shaun was different. He was special.

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Blogfest, Snippets of [my] Work | 2 Comments

I’ll make my own rules…

Is it wrong to change my Love at First Sight Blogfest scene? Originally, I posted a snippet from my brand spankin’ new romantic/suspense WIP, based in Canada. But now that I’m looking it over, it isn’t as romantic as I’d like. Sorry, but I had just finished writing the scene and (of course) I thought it was perfect for Blogfest. Upon hindsight, I have changed my mind. Instead (because I enjoy making up my own rules) I have submitted a scene from Nightlings, my paranormal romance series. Like I’ve said, I don’t actually have a love-at-first-sight scene with these characters, but I’m rather fond of this scene, and it’s plenty steamy for Valentine’s Day.You’ll notice this post is significantly shorter than the last snippet 🙂

Want to see the other LaFS Blogfesf entries? Check them out here.

nightlings A little backstory: Two vampires, Caleb and Kate (you may have already read their author/character interviews) have been fighting their growing attraction for one another. Unfortunately, current events keep bringing them together. The scene below is one such scene. While at an annual ball involving the three different Nightling races, Kate is dancing with the Vampire King, Gabriel—who also happens to be Caleb’s cousin. A little family rivalry, perhaps?

Note: This is an excerpt from a never before seen chapter—meaning, it is unedited by both my critique group and my partner. As always, feel free to comment and critique.


Caleb had managed to distract himself from Kate by mingling with their foreign dignitaries. Unfortunately, he’d only made it halfway through the First Dance when his eyes betrayed him and honed in on Kate like a magnet. She was drop dead gorgeous tonight, just like every night, but tonight, she was in Gabriel’s arm. As they twirled around the dance floor, she laughed at something he’d said.

Damn it, Gabe.

He was probably using his charm on her.

The bastard.

It had been hell watching Kate dance with his cousin. The First Dance was similar to a waltz—very classy with no real sexual undertones, but Gabriel still managed to make his dance with Kate look intimate.

Fucking pervert…

Caleb had to stop this. His cousin was seriously crossing a line, even if he didn’t know there was a line to be crossed. As if scripted to piss Caleb off, Gabe leaned in and whispered something against Kate’s neck. Son of a bitch. He had to stop this and he had just the opportunity.

The First Dance opened with only the three Immortal King’s and their dance partners. As the dance continued, members of the royal families were expected to chime in, followed by advisors. By the end of the dance, anyone could join in; the ball had officially begun. Luckily, it was halfway through the song, and time for the royal family to join the dance. It wasn’t exactly proper to steal the dance partner of a king, but Caleb didn’t care. If Gabe wanted to bitch about it later—big whoop; there wasn’t a rule against it.

Caleb didn’t remember making his way onto the dance floor. One moment he was standing near the head table, and the next, he was placing a firm hand on Gabriel’s right shoulder.

“Cousin,” he said, glancing at Gabe before looking to Kate and offering her his hand. “You can’t expect me to do work of finding her if you’re the only one who gets to dance with her.”

Gabe chuckled and stepped away from Kate. “Be my guest, Caleb,” he said. Then, so that only Caleb could hear, “Take your prize.”

******

What was he doing? Was he crazy? Did he not understand that she’d put a stop to…to whatever was going on between them, the night before? She didn’t want this. Well, she did but she couldn’t—shouldn’t—want this. But here he was, taking her hand in one of his and pulling her against him with the other.

Electricity sparked in her arm when she placed her left hand on his shoulder and settled her body into his hold. His muscles were hard, his steps confident. Her mind began a picture show of last night’s highlights. His touch. His kiss—it was all too much, too good.

“You’re blushing,” he said, his voice deep. Stepping into motion, he forced her to dance with him.

“I’m pissed,” she spat at him, then looked around to make sure she hadn’t attracted any unwanted attention. She hadn’t; the other dancers looked only at their partners. When she looked back at Caleb she was annoyed to see he was trying to hide a grin. “Is something funny?”

“Just wondering why you’re upset…”

“Because of you!”

“Me? What did I do?”

“You’re dancing with me!”

“And dancing makes you mad?”

“Dancing with you makes me mad. You make me mad.”

“Why’s that? I thought we got along well last night…”

Why’s that?” She repeated, angry that he seemed so have forgotten that she’d put a stop to their…encounter. “Last night’s why’s that!”

“You didn’t enjoy kissing me?”

“What?” She stumbled but he pulled her harder against himself to keep her from falling. “I…it was…last night was… It doesn’t matter. It happened, now it’s done with. I won’t happen again.”

“Won’t it?”

“I thought I’d made it clear—

“By running off? I suppose it could be taken that way. Of course, it could also mean other things…”

“Other things? Like what—no! Nevermind, don’t answer that; I don’t want to know.” She breathed in deeply to try to clear her head of the images still flashing in her head, but she only managed to breath in the scent of him and that only made the images stronger. “Caleb, I can’t do—

“Shh,” he said softly. “It’s just a dance, Kate. I’m only dancing.”

His eyes were so kind that she felt hypnotized—lost in their depth. He was right. They were only dancing. It wasn’t like she’d make some crazy mistake like falling in love with him, right here on the dance floor. This was safe. Two people, dancing, in a room filled with people. There was no danger in that.

She didn’t reply; only nodded her head once in acceptance, then followed his lead as they danced.

The longer they danced, the more the music entranced her. Kate didn’t fight the images of the night before; rather, she indulged in them. And she couldn’t keep her eyes off of Caleb. His face was a work of art: a chiseled perfection. He had a strong jaw, and straight, white teeth framed by full, soft lips—lips that she couldn’t help but want to suck on. Again.

The song ended but neither of them released the other. His eyes…she was lost in those pools of blue and green.

How had she missed the flecks of silver that were sprinkled atop the blue and green? The silver specks added an icy, cool hue to the irises, but, as if watching them transform, the silver turned to gray, and his eyes grew dark with…something. Desire, maybe?

A couple brushed past them, exiting the dance floor, but still, they didn’t separate. His gaze was so intense; she licked her lips and started to pull away, but Caleb held her firm.

“Not yet,” he breathed, so quietly that only she could hear him. The music started again, this time a deep, lusty rhythm that matched her beating heart. “Try to relax this time; let go and enjoy it.”

She didn’t respond. She couldn’t. Letting him lead her into the next dance was natural—like breathing. It wasn’t as if she could have said no. For some reason, her damn throat couldn’t seem to muster up the energy to even try to speak. She simply gave in, and did as he asked: let go and enjoyed it.

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Blogfest, Nightling Series, Snippets of [my] Work, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Scene for the Love at First Sight Blogfest

Wow—I’m a bit late in submitting. I wasn’t feeling good last night and took some Nyquil…and slept all day. But here it is now, ready for posting.

My scene isn’t exactly a little scene…its a bit long, and I apologize ahead of time. This is a snippet from my new WIP—the romantic/suspense based in British Columbia, Canada. It’s a first draft (and unedited) so it may be a bit messy. Feel free to comment and critique. If you’d like to see the other submissions for the Love at First Sight Blogfest, click here.


This was a mistake. What was I thinking?

She hadn’t been thinking, obviously, or she wouldn’t be here, in Canada of all places, running a dude ranch with her two elderly housekeepers. She’d picked up her life in Texas and had dropped it like a nice little care package in the middle of the Canadian wilderness.

“Hello, my name is Abby Bennett, and I’m an idiot,” she muttered, rubbing her palms across her face, her voice seeming to echo in the emptiness of her new home office. Halfway expecting to feel the lines of stress this last six months had hurled at her, Abby brushed her fingers over the soft flesh, circling and massaging at her temples.

Damn her ex-husband for chasing her out of the country.

Damn her housekeepers for encouraging her crazy delusions of running a ranch.

Damn Connor Murphy for trying to steal from her.

And damn this damn Canadian winter.

Shuffling with double socked feet across the large room, Abby plucked a piece of wood from the top of the stack and pushed it into the fireplace. A cloud of embers erupted in objection to the new piece, but quickly quieted and began licking at its latest victim, the fire rising up and brightening the darkened room.

She’d been freezing since she’d flown north of the Rockies and couldn’t seem to get warm. It wasn’t cold for a Canadian winter, but it was cold for a native Texan. Not wanting to move away from the warm glow of the fire, Abby curled up on the hearth and stared into the flames, searching for the answers to her current problems—her lying, stealing ex-ranch manager, Connor Murphy.

He’d tried to steal from her. The bastard had actually tried to steal from her. Now he was gone, and she was short one ranch manager.

“Uhh—damn you, Abby Bennett, for being so stupid,” she moaned, banging her head into her open palms.

“Are you done pouting, or are you going to need a few more minutes?” said the crisp, accented voice of her elderly housekeeper and friend.

Surprised, Abby flung her head up so fast that it banged against the brick backing of the fireplace. Stunned for only a few seconds, she quickly recovered and glared at the small Austrian woman. Heidi was white haired and in her mid-sixties, but had the presence of a live grenade—when she wasn’t stalking in the shadows of her employer’s private study.

“What are you— How long were you there—stalking…creeping around in the shadows like some sort of…stalker.” Abby flustered for self control but it didn’t work. Rubbing the back of her pounding head she pushed off of from the mantel, needing to walk off some of her nervous energy.

“Long enough to know you’re pouting again,” Heidi replied, standing from the red cushioned armchair she’d been lounged in. In a brisk motion she reached up and jerked the heavy curtain away from the nearest window, letting in the midmorning sunlight.

“Agh—don’t do that!” Abby cursed, shielding her eyes from the sudden, blinding light.

“It’s after ten. Did you not sleep?” Heidi scolded, ignoring her boss and flinging open the next heavy drape. Not waiting for a reply, she went on. “Of course not. Because you do not let my sister and I do our job and find a new manager for the ranch. You stay up and pout and add lines to your pretty face.” Another quick jerk and a third window was unveiled, pouring light into the room with all the subtlety of a forest fire.

“Stop that! I don’t want them open,” Abby snapped. The sunlight bore though her closed eye lids, making her painfully aware of just how long she’d been awake.

“Come here,” her housekeeper commanded, suddenly standing in front of her. Her strong bony fingers clamped down over Abby’s wrists and pulled them away from her face. “Open your eyes, Bӓrchen. Let me see you. Ach! Horrible, just horrible. You look like death.”

“I’ve been working,” Abby said, pulling away.

“No, you’ve been worrying all night when you should have been getting a good night’s sleep.”

“Someone has to decide what we’re going to do next. We might have to sell the ranch—there’s no way I can a fill the position. I don’t have the slightest clue how to run the working side. I only have experience on the guest and financial ends of ranch life.”

“No, your job is to sit back and manage. My sister and I work the inn, and the ranch manager will work the land.”

“But we don’t have a ranch manager,” Abby said, exasperated. “I fired him, remember? He was stealing—”

“You think I forget?” Her accent came out thicker than usual; Heidi was beginning to lose her temper. “Elsa and I were at the town pub for three hours last night, looking for a new manager. We even started interviews…in a pub—like hillbillies!” Her distaste for hillbillies was obvious by the way her eyes bugged on the word.

“And no one was interested, were they?” Abby said, tempted to push the old woman from the room and slam the door behind her. “I know what they think. A writer from the states has no business owning a ranch when she can’t even work it. I’ve heard the rumors too, Heidi.”

I’ll take care of the rumors. They don’t know you or your experience with ranches. If anything, it only makes them look stupid. You were raised on your grandparent’s ranch. It is in your blood, Bӓrchen.” Heidi said, placing her hands on Abby’s cheeks. “You will not fail what it already yours.”

Wanting to cry, Abby closed her eyes, letting the old woman pull her into a soft embrace. Over as quickly as it had begun, Heidi jerked and grabbed Abby by the arms.

“Oh! We must hurry—you don’t want to meet him looking like that, do you?”

“Meet who?” Abby said, furrowing her brow in confusion.

“I was going to tell you, but you were pouting—”

“Tell me now,” Abby interrupted, pulling her wrist from Heidi’s viselike grip. God, please don’t let her have to meet anyone today—looking like this, as Heidi said.

“Last night at the pub, Elsa and I kept hearing talk of a man called Morgan. They spoke of him like a god, both idolizing him and fearing him. They say he does not come to the town much; that he lives in an old cabin near the river. He hunts for his food and drinks from the waters, and only come to the town for supplies.”

“Sounds like a lot of the men around here,” Abby said.

“No,” Heidi snapped, abruptly. “He is not. They say he could lead the sun. That men stand in awe of him and would follow him over the edge of a cliff.”

“It doesn’t sound at all like you’re making this up,” Abby said, skeptically, one eyebrow raised.

“I’m summarizing. Pub patrons are crass.”

“Oh—so you’re embellishing. Then by all means, go on,” Abby replied, sarcasm dripping from each word. Heidi scowled at her, but continued.

“We did not see him but left word—and incentive—for the pub’s owner to spread the word that we were looking for a new manager.” She paused, and looked to the ground briefly before going on. “We didn’t stay late, you see…and I couldn’t sleep. I came downstairs to check to locks and pour myself a cup of warm milk, when I saw the light on in your study. I peeked inside, saw you were not sleeping either, nor were your working on your computer, and I knew you were worrying too…about the ranch. So, I decided to get dressed and go back to the pub.”

“Alone? In the middle of the night? Are you crazy?”

“It was not that late and I am a grown woman. I will do as I please,” she replied.

“You’re a crazy, old woman,” Abby muttered, rolling her eyes.

“I went to the pub and paid a man to take me to where Mr. Morgan lives—”

“You what?” Abby shrieked. “You don’t know anyone here! He could have killed you and we wouldn’t even know where to find your body!”

“You write too many crime novels, Bӓrchen. Some people can be trusted…when money in on the line,” Heidi said, nonchalantly. Waving her hand in dismissal, she went on with her story. Open jawed, Abby listened. “My guide did not know exactly where Mr. Morgan’s cabin was; only that it was off of the old logging trail. We drove up and down the trail several times before we found the dirt road that led to his cabin. I explained to Mr. Morgan who I was, why I was there, and asked if he would be interested in the job.

“He is here now, interviewing with my sister. After she’s finished with him, he will come to interview with you—for a final approval, of course.” Heidi finished.

Abby narrowed her eyes at the elderly women. Something was off; Heidi had wrapped up her story rather quickly, and the Austrian was not the type to skimp on details.

“What about the meeting at his cabin? What happened there? What did he say?” Abby probed.

“He said,” she explained slowly, “that he would think it over, and get back to me. And he has.”

Abby blinked, knowing there was something that her housekeeper wasn’t telling her. “What’s wrong with him? Is he old? Gimp? Cross-eyed? Toothless?” She ticking off the traits of every rural, mountain man she’d seen in movies. “Hairy? Ah—he’s hairy, isn’t he! You know how much werewolf-men creep me out—”

“He’s not hairy. Or old, or gimp. He sounds like the perfect man for the job.” Heidi said as she turned and walked around Abby’s large desk. Opening the drawer, she pulled out a small cosmetics bag. “Now come here so I can make you look presentable. Elsa will be done interviewing him by now. Ach—look at these hideous bags under your eyes! ”

In less than five minutes, Heidi had brushed out Abby’s tangled red hair, smeared concealer on the dark, sleep deprived bags, blushed and mascaraed, and, finally, smeared a tinted lip gloss across her dry lips. “Blot, Bӓrchen. There, much better. Not your usual beauty, but nothing that a man will not appreciate.”

“Appreciate? Since when do I care if ranch hands appreciate me?”

A knock on the closed office door brought her head up. Heidi dropping the cosmetics and their bag back in to the desk drawer. “Ahh, Bӓrchen, I told you that Mr. Morgan was not old or hairy,” Heidi said, timidly. “But, he is…rather attractive. I believe you will want him to…enjoy the view.”

Suddenly, it all made sense. No wonder Heidi hadn’t said anything about her visit to Morgan’s cabin—she hadn’t wanted to give anything away. This wasn’t about hiring a ranch manager, so much as it was about setting her up.

“No, no, no,” Abby said, deciding to stop whatever matchmaking attempts the two sisters had planned, but the old woman had already started to walk away. “I need a manager, not a boyfriend. Tell him to go.”

You need both, and we need to stay in business. He is the best candidate we could find. Even Elsa is impressed. Why do you think I am here and she is with him?”

“Because you’re both evil and want to put me in an early grave,” Abby muttered under her breath.

“He’s in his thirties, blond hair—and those broad shoulders that you like. Umm, if I were not an old woman…”

“You’d still be trying to drive me crazy.”

They were to door and Heidi was reaching for the knob when Abby grabbed her arm. Hissing in her ear, she said, “I mean it Heidi, I don’t want him. Find someone else.”

Heidi must have heard the panic in her employer’s voice, because she turned and patted Abby’s arm. “You must forget about Andrew, Bӓrchen. Not all men are the same, after all. Do not be afraid; today, we are hiring a manager, not a husband.”

Before she could respond, Heidi had opened the door and Abby had to clench her jaw to keep it from hitting the floor. Standing in the hallway was a man, over six feet tall with blond hair and ice blue eyes.

Abby took an involuntary step back as he mind went wild. What was he doing hiding in the deep forests of the Cariboo? He should be on the cover of Men’s Fitness or GQ…or Playgirl.

“Abby, this is Jake Morgan,” Heidi’s older sister, Elsa, said as she stepped into the room. “Mr. Morgan, this is my employer, Abigail Bennett.”

The living, breathing Adonis followed Elsa into the room and extended a hand to Abby.

“Ms. Bennett, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said in a voice that dripped honey. “Thank you for seeing me.”

Grabbing his hand, she nearly jumped. He was warm—God, he was warm—and she had the sudden impulse to sink into him and absorb his heat, getting rid of the winter’s chill once and for all.

“Oh—uh, thank my housekeepers. They’re the ones that found you.” Did she really just say that? “I appreciate your coming, Mr. Morgan.”

“Call me Jake.”

“Of course. And I’m just Abby.” Really? Just, Abby? “I mean, just call me Abby.”

Behind Jake, Abby could see her two housekeepers squirming, little grins on their wrinkled, old faces. The little Brownies—Gremlins!

Realizing she was still clutching his hand, she jerked it free, startling her housekeepers.

“Abby, my notes on Mr. Morgan,” Elsa said, handing her a clipboard. “I believe you’ll be quite impressed. He’s more than qualified for the job.”

“I’m sure he is,” Abby said, thinking that her maid was full shit. Jake Morgan looked more likely to be seen on a Hollywood red carpet, than on a working dude ranch.

“We’ll leave you both to it,” Heidi chimed in, a smile on her face as she grabbed her sister by the arm and towed her from the room.

“Thank you, ladies,” Abby said, automatically. “Mr. Morgan—”

“Jake.”

“Uh, yes—Jake, have a seat,” she corrected, leading him over to her desk. Her socked feet swished across the carpet, the only noise in the room.

“Cold?”

“I’m sorry?” She asked, turning to him on wobbly knees.

“Are you cold?” He said, eyes going to her feet. “Your feet are double socked and you hand felt like ice when we shook.”

“Ah, yes. I’m not used to these long, cold winters. I’m from Texas. Our winters are shorter and, generally, warmer.”

“It’s nearly over. Only about a month left. How long have you been here?”

“Um, about three months,” she said, wondering how on earth he had this effect on her. Making it behind her desk, she sank into the soft chair. At least now she didn’t have to worry about her knees giving out. Following her lead, he sat down opposite of her.

“What about you? Did you grow up in Clinton?” she asked, continuing with the conversation.

“No, I didn’t. I was just passing through and decided to stay a while,” he replied, not answering her question.

Looking at the clipboard Elsa had given her, she read the first line.

Gorgeous, it read, scrawled in a small, slanted print. One the next line was he’s the one. The third line was a bit more promising.

Experienced rancher.

“You’ve worked on a ranch before?” she asked, hoping to God it wasn’t true. If he was qualified, she’d have to hire him. And if she hired him, he’d be around…distracting her with his Brat-Pitt-meets-Channing-Tatum good looks.

“Yes. My father’s family owns a ranch up north. I spent quite a bit of my childhood working it, as well as good few years in my twenties. It’s quite a bit cooler up there,” he added half grinning, a twinkle in his blue eyes making her squirm in her chair.

Averting her eyes, she looked everywhere but at him. It was embarrassing; did he know what that look was doing to her?

“And did the cold drive you south?” she asked.

“No, the cattle did. I’m not all that fond of cows. I understand you prefer horses?”

“Yes. Our guests don’t come for cows. They come for horses…and the countryside.”

“Vacationers.”

“Umm. This ranch is meant to be an escape. Wild open country, warm fires, horseback riding, fishing.”

“Beautiful,” he said from low in his throat. His tone was different from before…creamier, like whipped chocolate. “The view is…breathtaking.”

Were his eyes boring into her, or was she just imagining it? Feeling her face flush, she looked back to the clipboard.

Broad shoulders. Long, agile fingers. Strong jaw. High cheekbones. Muscles atop muscles. What’s under the hood?

Damn it—what was Elsa thinking? Heidi must have put her up to this. Skimming further down the page she saw carved from marble and if I were forty years younger…

At last, she read dual citizenship.

“You have dual citizenship?”

“Canadian and American,” she said, shortly.

“Care to elaborate?”

“My father is Canadian. My mother was American,” his voice had dried out, no longer the tempting honey from before. He didn’t want her prying, and he was letting her know it.

“Will you be sticking around for long?” she asked instead as a shiver raced down her spine.

“A while. I’m in no hurry to go anywhere,” he said, his voice creamy again. “Especially now, with this…opportunity knocking at my door.”

“Oh, yes. Sorry about Heidi. She can be…direct.”

“She was more that direct,” he said on a laugh. “Nearly drug me out of bed to come meet with you. Said the job and the owner were, how did she put it? Intoxicating.”

He was drinking her in—that was the only explanation for what those blue eyes were doing, flicking from her eyes to her lips to her breasts. Gazing back up, into her eyes, he smiled that sumptuous half smile, captivating her so that she couldn’t speak. Lingering like a lover, the silence stretched for an electrified moment.

“Yes…the land is spectacular. I’m quite pleased with the area,” she said, hoping this attraction was all one sided. Preferably, her-sided. Surely she was imagining his interest. He couldn’t be flirting with her…

“Elsa had mentioned a trial period. Three months, I believe is what she said?” Jake said, bringing her attention back to business.

“Yes, three month,” she said, stumbling over her thoughts. This is a business meeting, Abby. An interview. Get your mind out of the gutter. “After that, benefits and bonuses will be arranged.”

“Excellent. I’ll start tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” she repeated.

“And if you have doubts at the end of my three months, we’ll go our separate ways. No hard feelings,” he added, standing and extending his hand to Abby.

Mechanically, she reached to take his outstretched hand, shaking it while wondering what had just happened. He’d stood, reached the door, and closed it behind him before she’d even realized what she had just done.

She’d just hired Jake Morgan.

February 14, 2010 Posted by | Blogfest, Romantic/Suspense WIP, Snippets of [my] Work | Leave a comment

Caleb’s Interview

(This interview was written as a guest post in the series Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads by fellow writer, Carolina Valdez Miller.)

A knock on the door brought me to my feet as the door opened and Caleb stepped into the small room. He was tall and masculine and everything I knew he would be—still, he took my breath away. I watched, awestruck, as he bowed slightly and stretched out his hand. Automatically I extended my own and he took it, bringing it to his lips for a soft kiss on my knuckles.

I was staring—I knew I was, but I couldn’t seem to stop. He was literally perfect; no wonder Kate had it bad. Did I look okay? Had my makeup smudged? Was I drooling?

Caleb: “Hm, ma’am? Are you alright?”

Me: “Huh? Oh—ah, yes. I—I stood up too fast… I’m…just a bit lightheaded is all.”

I really hoped he hadn’t caught my lie—how embarrassing would that be to be caught ogling?!

Me: “Tell me about yourself Caleb. Who are you and what is your role in the immortal world?”

Caleb: “I am the cousin to the Vampire King as well as his top advisor. A few years ago, I was given the title of Right Hand. It means that I am not only his top advisor, but also the successor to the throne and the second highest authority in the vampire world.”

Me: “That seems like quite an honor.”

Caleb: “Yes, it is. I’ve been Gabriel’s top advisor since he took the throne. He values my opinion.”

Me: “Now, you weren’t promoted to Right Hand until five years ago. That was right after you retired as General to the Slayer Army, wasn’t it?”

Caleb nodded; he knew where I was going with this, but he didn’t so much as shift in his seat.

Me: “But you didn’t retire on the best of terms. You stepped down because of a dispute between yourself and the daemon race. Can you tell me what happened?”
Of course I knew the answer—I’d done my research—but I didn’t think he’d answer. After a long minute, he spoke.

Caleb: “I insulted them. They felt as if I’d overstepped my boundaries in seeing that justice was served to one of their people. I retired to keep the daemons from going after the vampire race. It worked; they saw me as a ‘lone ranger’ instead of as the leader of an army. Soon after that, they pressed charges. It went all the way up to the gods before I was cleared.”

Me: “What was it that you did, exactly?”

Caleb: “Some say it was murder. Some say it was justice.” His voice was blank of all emotion, as if he’d used that line a hundred times before.

Me: “What do you say?”

Caleb: The corner of his mouth turned up in a smile. My questions weren’t annoying him; he was amused by me. “It depends on the day of the week.”

Me: “As the king’s advisor, do you know the details of the Assassin general’s latest assignment?”

Caleb: “Yes, I know about Kate.” He looked at me suspiciously. “She’s currently working undercover in a Dark Cell.”

Me: “I’ve heard that you and she are somewhat of an item.”

Caleb: “Uh, no. That’s not true. We’re coworkers, in a sense; we’re both advisors.”

Me: “You’re daughter seems to think you like her…”

Caleb: “My—you talked to Hannah?”
I nodded. Now I was getting into tricky territory. If I wasn’t careful, he’d up and walk—just like Kate had.

Caleb: “My daughter’s five. Of course she thinks I like Kate; I do—as a friend.”

Me: “A friend? A moment ago she was just a coworker.”

Caleb: “Semantics. You’re fishing, Ms. Reese.”

Me: “Why would I need to fish? I’ve already spoken with Kate. She’s told me exactly what’s gone on between the two of you.”

He squinted at me, probably trying to get a read on me. Of course I was bluffing but he didn’t know that.

Me: “The way I see it, the two of you have some serious chemistry and—”

Caleb: “You do realize that I can read your mind? It makes bluffing a moot point.”

Son. Of. A—

Caleb: “I should be getting back to work. I’m glad I could help you with your report, Ms. Reese. We should do this again sometime.”

I was still a bit shocked from the whole mindreading thing. How had I missed that? I knew all about vampire abilities and that Caleb was one of the most powerful of them all. Stupid, stupid…

Me: “Uh, huh. Sure.”

As he walked out, I realized—to my utter horror—he had caught me ogling him. Great.

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Characters, Snippets of [my] Work, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kate’s Interview

I waited for Kate for about ten minutes in a small but comfortable private sitting room in the vampire palace. I knew she’d be late—I’d been warned by several of my characters that the reclusive assassin wouldn’t willingly submit to an interview. But, luckily for me, the King himself had extended my invitation to her, making it impossible for her to refuse.

Of course, that didn’t mean she’d have to be generous about it…

When she did arrive, she smiled politely—though it didn’t reach her eyes—and took a seat across from me on an antique settee that coordinated perfectly with the armchair I had chosen.

Me: “Hello Kate, how are you today?”

Kate: “Busy; I’m getting close to nailing another Dark Cell. No offense to you or anything, I just don’t see why you couldn’t have found someone else to interview. I don’t have time to be back in Crehmor, let alone sitting down for an interview.”

I was expecting this kind of response from her. I knew she hated the vampire city of Crehmor and wouldn’t be thrilled to be here, so I’d prepared myself for this line of argument.

Me: “You’re a main character in the upcoming book, Kate. Everyone wants to know a little about you, including myself.”

Kate: “I’m here because Gabriel told me to come, so ask your questions so I can get back to work. There is a war going on, or haven’t you noticed?”

Me: “Speaking of the war, what part do you play in it?”

Kate: “As you well know, I’m the General of the Assassins—the Assassins being a branch of the Vampiric Army. I work undercover to collect intelligence against our enemy, the Shade. Once I, or one of my people, infiltrate a Cell, we join up with the Slayers—the other branch of the army—and take them out. Then, we move on to another Cell.”

Me: “Sounds like dangerous work.”

Kate: “It can be.”

Me: “Don’t you ever worry about the things that could happen to you while you’re undercover?”

Kate: “Not much. I’ve thought about it, sure, but someone’s got to do it. Might as well be me—I don’t have anything to lose.”

Me: “Except your life…”

Kate: “It’s a war, Ms. Reese. People die every day—people with husbands, wives, children… I don’t have anyone. My family’s dead. Besides, I’m not afraid to die.”

Me: “You have someone; Micah. Tell me about him.”

Kate: Sighs and slouches back in her seat before answering. “My father was killed when I was a child. Micah had been very close to him, and he became my guardian. He’s…like an uncle to me.” Realizing where I had been going with this, she added, “Micah knows the risks of what I do. He also has his own life to live.”

Me: “I see. So you take on the tough assignments? So the soldiers with families don’t have to?”

Kate: “I’d rather risk my life than the lives of my men.”

Me: “So there’s no one in your life? No boyfriends or special someones?”

Kate: “No; I don’t get attached to people.”

Me: “No one?”

Kate: “No one.”

Me: “I’ve heard the gossip around the city. They say that you and the King’s cousin—the King’s Right Hand—are involved?”

Kate: “Caleb and I are acquainted only through our work; we’re both on the High Council. That is our only connection.”

Me: “He is quite attractive…”

Kate: “Your point?”

Me: “Well. He seems like he’s interested—”

Kate: “Well he’s not; and neither am I. Are we finished here?”

Me: “Not quite; I have a few more questions. You’re a legend throughout the immortal world—an icon for young girls. Why is it that you are afraid of relationships? Even the soldiers in your unit say that you can be cold as ice. They say you’re afraid of attachments.”

My bluntness must have taken her off guard. She glared at me and I added a mental note to add “deadly as explosion” to her bio…

Kate: “I can’t afford attachments, Ms. Reese. My job isn’t just a danger to my life, but to all those around me—”

Me: “Your father was killed in this war. Are you afraid to put your own loved ones through that pain if you are kill as well?”

Kate: “My—that has nothing to do with this interview. Leave my father out of this. As for your little observation, no, I’m not afraid of dying.”

Me: “No, you aren’t afraid of dying—we’ve established that. But that wasn’t what I asked. Are you afraid of getting involved because of the work you do?”

Kate: “Next question.”

Me: “After you answer my last one.”

After a long pause, Kate stood and smiled.

Kate: “It’s been a pleasure, Ms. Reese. I hope you got what you needed for your report. I’ll tell a servant you’ll be leaving now so they can escort you—

Me: “Oh, don’t bother. I have one last interview today…with Caleb. He should be here shortly, if he isn’t already waiting in the hall.”

The look she gave me could have triggered heart attacks in the elderly. I, however, stood and extended my hand.

Me: “Good luck, Kate. I’ll see you again soon.”

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Characters, Snippets of [my] Work | Leave a comment