Tag Archive | short story

Fishing for Love (Regency Short Story Romance)

Image courtesy of EA at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of EA at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Percy walked out into the dewy grass and paused to smell the fresh summer air. He thought he saw a shadow in the distance and since he was headed that way he stepped forward to follow.

As he grew closer he noted the cloaked figure of Lady Annette Wallington. Daughter of a neighboring earl who passed away six months ago, and his closest friend all these years as they were neighbors.

She sat beneath the sprawling oak tree, on a blanket she must have carried with her. Percy gave a soft whistle to let her know he was coming and not startle her. It was a jaunty little tune they had made up one summer and was unique to them.

He saw her hood fall away from her face as she turned to look at him. Her expression grave.

“Good morning, Annette. What brings you out this early in the day?” He settled down with his fishing pole and tackle to bait his hook.

“I needed to get away from the house.”

“At this time of the day?”

“Even now it is an untenable place to live.”

“Why?”

“My uncle is to be wed to Miss Sophorina Dimplewile in a fortnight and demands that mother and I vacate the premises prior to that date.”

“This is shocking news. You are all still in mourning.”

“He has gone to half-morning and declares it is a prudent move.”

“Sophie was one of your bosom friends from finishing school?”

Was being the operative word.”

“There’s a huge age gap there. He’s only two years younger than your father.”

“I know.”

“So where will you go?” He cast his hook into the stream before looking at her again. He was concerned by the dark circles under her eyes, and wrinkles on her forehead.

“I know not. We have been ill-provided for. There is no Dower House and even his smaller properties he has denied us residence at.”

“He will not find you a place?”

“He says he washes his hands of us.”

“You and your mother have run that house and you especially have overseen the estate on his behalf and made it profitable, yet he refuses you aid?”

A tear trickled down her cheek and he propped his rod up so he could scoot backward to sit next to her.

“And Sophie is in agreement with his treatment?”

“It seems that becoming a countess brings with it a distaste for the lower orders.”

“Meaning you?”

“Apparently. With a heritage and education of a lady, but no season, and having worked in trade as an estate manager, they deem me ‘unmarriageable.’”

“They see you as employable in that role?”

“Right. Who would employ a woman as estate manager?”

“I would.”

She stared at him and shook her head. “You are the dearest of friends but even you cannot take on a single female into your home without scandal falling on both of us.”

“Ah, but a Duchess has more influence than a Countess, doesn’t she?”

“There are not many Dukes on the marriage mart and those who are, are ancient.”

“But there are heirs to dukedoms available.”

“And the only one of them I could ever have any affection for was you, Percy.”

Lord Percival smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. It would be poor form for me to duel with another peer for your affections.”

“You are being silly now. Everyone knows you will never marry and have no need to do so. Your brothers have provided a bevy of heirs.”

“Where did you ever get the impression I was opposed to marriage?”

“You’ve never been serious with a woman before and have never talked about it.”

“Not every man boasts of his conquests with women, although to be honest, I have none. But my heart has been engaged for an age. It has never seemed a prudent time to broach the matter with the one who holds my heart.”

She smiled at him. “Oh, Percy, I’m so glad for you. I pray she will be worthy of you. Who is she?”

“You don’t know?”

Her brow furrowed. “No.”

“Let me see if you can guess.”

She warily nodded her head.

“She was a devoted daughter and works hard. Her beauty takes my breath away and even the thought of her brings a smile to my face. I’ve known her for many years and she dances divinely. She has never had a season due to unfortunate circumstances. She has unwittingly held my heart for years as I have waited for her to grow, I hope, to return my affections.”

She smiled and a tear trickled down her cheek. “I’m so happy you have found love, Percy. I cannot guess though who this deserving woman would be.”

“No? More clues then?”

“Yes, silly man.”

“She is a wonder with numbers and reads and is able to converse on a wide variety of subjects from gothic novels to crop rotation. She is light on her feet and has lips so kissable that I have yet to taste.” He watched her face turn a rosy hue.

“Please, tell me you have proposed so I may wish you happy.”

“But you have your own problems. My happiness should never supersede your distress.”He sighed.  She looked up through the trees as the early dawn glow filtered through the leaves and dappled her face with odd patches of light.

He frowned at her cloak and reached up to the catch at the top to peek at what she wore underneath. “You came here in your night rail?”

“I was suffocating in my room and left in a hurry so as not to wake my maid who would have tattled to my uncle.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk. You do know you could cause a scandal being alone with me. It is beyond the pale to be alone with me dressed in such a way. Did you even wear slippers?” He moved aside part of the cloak to reveal naked toes. He raised his eyebrows. “Well, Anne, you do know there is only one thing to be done now and it will make everyone happy.”

“What would that be?”

“You can marry me.”

Her book dropped off her lap as her jaw fell open. She recovered with a shake of her head. “But what of the one you love? I would never deprive you of that because of my imprudence.”

“If you said yes, I would hope she would be delighted.”

“You speak in riddles.”

“And you have not had enough rest. You are not thinking clearly.”

“Your pole! You have a bite.”

Percy reached out to grab his rod and tried to bring the fish in. Just as he was to bring it out of the water, it escaped leaving a naked hook. He set the pole down and came to sit next to her again. “Anne. It’s always been you I have loved and longed for. Please say you return my affections?”

“Me?”

“You, my love.”

“You love me?”

He nodded.

“I. . . I . . .I don’t know what to say.”

“Perhaps that you love me and want to be my bride, my best friend and mother of our children? And that you will help me run my estate?”

She gave him a soft smile. “I do love you and always have. You are the reason I didn’t mind missing a season. I couldn’t have borne seeing you in the arms of other women. I never dreamed . . .”

“Maybe you should start dreaming then. I’ve had plenty of dreams about you and would love to make every one a reality.” He watched her face grow pink. Or was it a trick of the light? “Say you’ll be mine, Anne?”

“I have no fortune.”

“Having you will be all the fortune I need.”

“You are certain?”

“Never more sure of anything than this. I love you, Anne. Please say you’ll marry me?” He leaned forward and their lips met in a tender moment of bliss. He pulled back and watched her eyes flutter open.

“If I marry you, will I get more of those?”

Percy smiled. “As many as you want, every day of our lives together.”

She leaned toward him and kissed him. He savored the moment but pulled back. It would be no good to tarnish his bride’s name.

“Yes, Percy. I will wed you.”

He couldn’t hide his grin if he had tried. “Soon? Would you like to beat your Uncle to the altar?”

“But the banns . . .”

“I’ll get a special license. We could be wed within a few days. Could you manage to be ready by then, with whatever you need and moving to my home?”

“I could be ready tomorrow should you but ask.”

“Do you need me to speak to your uncle?”

“I am of age and do not need his permission. I will inform him on the day of our wedding lest he, or Sophie try to ruin my joy.”

“I’ll bow to your wisdom on that.”

“I’m glad you decided to come fishing today. I’m sorry I’ve kept you from catching anything.”

“I caught myself a beautiful bride. You smell better than the fish too.”

She giggled as she pulled him toward her for another kiss. “Guess I reeled in a good catch myself.”

“Glad to be caught, Anne. I’ll be the one who didn’t get away.” He leaned down for his kiss, grateful that somehow today, his fishing was better than ever.

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Check In (Short Story Romance)

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Hey, Peaches. How are you this evening?”

“Fine, Mr. Cavendish. I have your favorite room ready. I even went to set the thermostat just the way you prefer.” After a quick swish of his pen on the bottom of the print out I handed over the key to room 211. It faced away from the parking lot and with a storage room on the other side of one wall, it provided Mr. James Cavendish with the kind of quiet he preferred while on the road.

“You did get the information that I am here for two days this time?”

“Yes, Sir, I did.”

James leaned across the counter. No small feat as it was four and half feet tall. “Are you working tomorrow, Peaches?” He told me he called me Peaches every time he checked in because he said I was a refreshing treat after a hard day of business meetings. I think it’s because of my strawberry-blonde hair. The name on my tag is Karen though.

“I work the usual, three to eleven.”

“Any chance I can get you to go to lunch with me tomorrow?”

I gulped. Not that I didn’t find James attractive. I did. Way too fine a man to be paying the likes of me any attention. He’s tall and with a deep tan and dark hair. Clean-shaven, he always wore sharp, but simple business suits with a fun tie. His smile could light up the town if the power ever went out. Empty dreams awaited down that road. Plus, last night the guy I had been dating, decided to check into the hotel. On my shift. With a top heavy gal wearing fewer clothes than most Sports Illustrated swimsuit models do. Well. I’m exaggerating a little. About as little as her dress was anyway. Obviously I wasn’t putting out since the only way he was getting that kind of treatment from me would cost him a ring and a wedding. Obviously I was out of his price range. Dirtbag. So I go from him to this fine specimen? The contrast startled me.

“I’m flattered, Mr. Cavendish, but I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“James.”

“Excuse me?”

“My name is James, Peaches, and please use it.”

“Okay, James. If you insist.”

His smile was broad enough to reveal a dimple. Won’t that be something to dream about tonight?

“I do, insist. Now, why would it be a bad idea for me to buy you lunch?”

“I don’t know you that well?” Why would I say this as a question? Of course I am dying to spend time with this man, I just figure . . . “Listen, James, if we date it will make working here when you check in, more difficult for me. Especially if things didn’t work out. I’m not a ‘girl-in-every-town’ kind of woman.”

He frowned but nodded. “Beautiful and wise. How is business tonight?”

“Good. We’re fairly full and you are the last of my reservations to check in. It will probably be a quiet evening.”

“What do you do when it’s quiet?”

“When I was in college, I would study or work on papers. Now that’s I’ve graduated I sit back and read.

“Do you mind a visitor tonight?”

“No. Occasionally I’ve had men, like you, come to visit. One used to play the banjo to keep himself from wanting to go out to drink. He used to come down to sing for me. It was sweet. Other times traveling men, even truckers, have stopped by to shoot the breeze. It has to be hard to travel and the only contact you have with a human is for business. I don’t mind.”

“Other men have been before me?” Wrinkles appeared on his forehead and he sighed. “So am I just going to be another notch on your desk?”

“No. For you, James, I’ll carve your initials. Will that make you feel better?” I grinned and his shoulders relaxed. He nodded.

“I’ll be back after I settle in.”

Week after week it was the same. James would come down to visit across the counter. If it got later and things were slow, I would sit out in the lobby with him. As long as I could get to the phone quickly, it was okay with my boss. I looked forward to his visits.

A few months passed. James had been on vacation for two weeks, and I didn’t get to see him until after that. When he strode in the door, he wore blue jeans and a t-shirt that fit oh-so-well across his chest. I almost didn’t recognize him.

“Good evening, Peaches! I’ve got some great news!” His pen made a quick flourish on the paper as I slid the key to him.

“What’s up, James?”

“This will be my last night staying here.”

My heart sunk to my toes. I think somewhere deep inside of me I even tripped over it as I filed his paper.

“Last night?”

“Yup. And you know what that means?”

“That I’ll miss seeing you.”

“Nah. Good guess but wrong. It means I can finally take you to lunch.”

I’m sure my confusion was written all over my face.

“I bought a condo in town. I’ve decided that my main base of operations is going to be here and I would hire others to run around for me.”

“Wait. You own the company?”

He dropped his eyes as he nodded.

“And you never told me? No. I’m sorry. I won’t be going to lunch with you. I thank you for the offer.”

Another customer walked in and I was busy for the next several hours. James never came down to visit.

I went home that night and licked my wounds in private. More like licked my spoon of very drop of Ben and Jerry’s I had in my freezer and suffered from brain freeze that did nothing to relieve the ache in my heart.

I had already turned in my resignation at the hotel and had planned to share the news with James, that I had finally nailed a job in my field. I would be doing marketing for a local company. This last night had been my final evening at the hotel.

It’s sad but James and I had shared all kinds of things. Dreams, favorite colors, foods and pets. We had talked about our families and childhoods. The highs and lows in our lives. The bad dates and the almost-the-right-one dates. We even shared a similar faith. I had never once asked him about his work. I figured he was trying to relax from it. I didn’t even know the name of the company he owned. Still, I thought he should have told me. I would never have even entertained foolish thoughts of a future between us. And I did. I was glad I had a week off between starting a new job to devour some more ice cream and then torture myself at the gym. All in an effort to forget this enigmatic man. My only consolation was that while it was possible for us to bump into each other in this town. It wasn’t likely.

The Monday after a week of orientation, I was surprised to receive a delivery of a dozen long-stemmed red roses. At work. The note attached said, “Congratulations, James”

I got a lot of ribbing from my co-workers and I kept the flowers there until that Friday night. After that week, I took the wilting flowers home. As I placed the vase on my kitchen table, I couldn’t help but think of James’ startling grey eyes and the way one little curl appeared if his hair grew too long. The rest was straight. Black as midnight. I wondered if I had missed my one chance of love with one of the really good guys out there.

My roommate, Stacy, whipped past and plopped a stack of messages in front of me. “Call the guy. He’s driving me nuts. I’m out of here for a date. See ya in the morning.” The door slammed shut.

I leafed through the pieces of paper. James. James. James’ secretary, Carol. James, James. The same number left on every page. By the time I finished the stack, I had the number memorized.

I dialed.

“You have reached the phone number of James Cavendish, President and CEO of Smash Industries. Please leave a number at the beep and he will return your call as soon as he is able.”

Beep.

“Hi, James. It’s me, Peaches. Thanks for the flowers. That was really sweet of you.”

I hung up and it rang.

“Hello?”

“Karen?”

“Yes.”

“It’s James.”

“I kind of figured. I saw the number on the caller ID.”

He laughed. “Why don’t you have a cell phone like everyone else?”

“No one has ever needed to reach me that badly to make it worth the expense.”

“I hope to be the one to make you change your mind on that.”

“Excuse me?”

“Listen. I’m sorry I never told you about my business. You never asked and specifically said you wanted my time with you to be relaxing and I was happy to forget about it when we visited. You became my lifeline every week to the real world outside of business. You don’t know how desperately I needed that.”

“I’m glad I could help, James.”

“I miss you.”

I smiled as a tear rolled down, tickling my cheek. “I miss you too.”

“Would you reconsider my offer of a date?”

Would I? Yes! In a much more subdued manner that nowhere near indicated the way my heart was waltzing in my chest, I responded. “I would.”

“Tonight?”

“If you give me time to change?”

“Is an hour sufficient?”

“More than.”

“I’ll pick you up.”

“Wait. Don’t you need my address?”

“Already have it. I’ll see you in one hour.”

I rushed to change and threw about five outfits on the bed. I finally decided on a nice pair of slacks, comfortable shoes and a simple sweater. I wasn’t going to be any more than I ever was. If James didn’t like that, then too bad. I would rather know that now.

An hour later, to the minute, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find him there in casual slacks and a button down shirt open at the collar and blazer. I swallowed. It had only been a few weeks since we had last seen each other. So why did he look better than I ever remembered?

“You are gorgeous out of your uniform, Peaches.”

I shook my head, grabbed a wrap and my purse and let him lead me to his car.

He drove me to a park and then helped me out. “Is it okay if we take a short walk first? We have time before our reservation.”

I nodded and let him lead me through a path edged with flowers. The birds sang and swooped around us as we strolled under the trees. The sun hadn’t set yet and the sky had a strange light. Soft and beautiful. We came to a bench and he motioned for me to sit. I did and he sat next to me.

“Karen. We’ve known each other for a few years now, but even more so in the past few months, I think we’ve become friends.”

I nodded. Friends. Wasn’t that the death knell to any relationship?

“I didn’t just choose to move here because it was convenient. I moved my main office here for one reason alone.”

I turned to him and tilted my head. “One reason?”

He nodded as he leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands in front of him. “Do you want to know what it was?” He didn’t look at me, but stared across the path at a bunny rabbit chewing on a flower.

“Sure. If you care to tell me. I always thought you didn’t want to talk about business.”

“I don’t. But I do want to talk about you. You and me.”

“What does that have to do . . .?”

He twisted to the side and took my face in his hands. “You. Everything has to do with you, Peaches. I love you. I can’t stop thinking about you. I can’t hardly work not knowing if you could possibly want me too.”

His thumb caressed my bottom lip and I let it fall open. I swallowed hard and put my own hand up to his stubbled chin. I had only ever known him as close shaven. I liked this version of the man. “Why would someone as wonderful as you, settle for someone like me?”

“You really don’t know how beautiful and delightful you are?”

I shook my head.

“Then let me show you.” His lips met mine and every bone in my body turned to melted wax. I was as light as air, carried away on a dream and a prayer. When he pulled back, all I could do was stare.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. Well, not so soon anyway.” That dimple appeared. I remained silent. I had no words. My brain was mush.

“Karen. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. If it is too soon for that kind of sentiment, I understand, but I had to put it on the table. I want to stake a claim on your heart. Would you at least think about the possibility of marrying me?”

Puppy dog eyes couldn’t have begged sweeter than he did. I would have given him he moon if it had been in my power.

I nodded.

“Yes to considering or. . . “

“Yes, James. I would be delighted to be your wife. You already own my heart. I’ve been miserable without you.”

A smile spread over his face. “Really?”

“I love you, James. Now kiss me and take me to dinner.”

“First . . .” He dug in his pocket and pulled out a stunning ring and placed it on my finger.

“It’s beaut—”

My words were cut off by his kiss. I think he got the point.

A Walk in the Woods (Serial Short Story Romance, Part 3 of 4)

Image courtesy of papaija2008 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of papaija2008 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Candace gasped for breath, more from Jax’s kiss than from the running. Her heart beat fast more because someone desired her than fear of the danger ahead of them. He released her hand so they could run faster and she was surprised at her stamina given her lack of faithfulness to her morning runs in recent weeks.

Another gunshot rang out, much closer. Jax grabbed her hand and they ducked down. Now they could hear yelling. A man came running their way and Jax pushed her behind him as he waited for the man to pass. As the man came close, Jax jumped out on top of him. The gun the man was holding went off and the bullet whizzed past her right ear. She ducked as she watched them fight. Each punch Jax took, she winced.

It dawned on her that she had planned to walk these woods alone today. What if she had?

She was with a narcotics agent. Had he been here for work?

Nah. He would have been carrying a gun then, wouldn’t he?

Soon the man was unconscious. Jax untied his shoes and used the laces to bind the man’s hands. He stood and looked over to her. “Are you okay?”

She shrugged. “Just another walk in the woods for me. Well, except for the bullet that tried to take out my ear. Other than that I’m fine. You?”

He laughed. He walked over and pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry. I’m glad you didn’t get hit. I should have told you to stay behind the tree.”

“I probably wouldn’t have listened. I wanted to make sure you were okay and didn’t need my help.”

“And what would you have done to save me?”

Candy looked down and then bent over and brought a sturdy rock up in her palm. “I used to be pretty good at pitching.”

He planted a kiss on her lips, took the rock and dropped it on the ground and pulled her down the path. “Someone else was here and might be injured. I don’t know if it is one of the good guys or bad guys.”

“Maybe you should have taken that man’s gun.”

“Nah, don’t want to mess with fingerprints and I have a suspicion we may not need it. By the way, I never did ask you what you did for a living.”

“You want to talk jobs now? I’m a nurse at Valley View Hospital. I work in the Emergency Room.”

“Perfect! Maybe God had you here today for just this reason. I don’t believe in circumstances at all. But divine appointments, definitely.”

“Why?”

They turned the corner and a man was in a crumpled heap on the ground. “It’s Micky. He’s one of the Narc officers. Crap. He’s been hit.”

“I guess this is my turn to save the world?” She knelt by the man and started to assess his injuries.

Jax stepped aside and motioned her forward. “He’s all yours. Tell me what to do.”

“Call for an ambulance. That would be a good place to start.”

* * *

A half an hour later as the sun was setting and mosquitoes were making a vicious appearance, Jax had waved to his friend Micky as he was driven off in the ambulance. The perp had been arrested and taken to jail and now a police car waited off to one side.

Candace’s kahki shorts were streaked with blood as were her arms and hands in spite of having wiped them off on towels.

“Come on, Sweetheart, let’s get you home and cleaned up.”

“My car?”

“I had them tow it to a repair shop. It’s the least I could do after you saved Mick’s life. Officer Joan Marshall will give you a ride home.”

He watched her frown. “What’s wrong?”

She shrugged. “I was enjoying getting to know you and well, it’s been such a long time since anyone has kissed me.” Her face turned a delightful shade of red. “I guess I’m just sad to see this thing between us be over so soon.”

“Who said anything about it being over?” He placed a kiss on her forehead. “I’ll be calling.”

She smiled. “You will?”

“If I don’t, you know how to find me.” Jax stepped back and headed towards the police car. He helped her in the front seat and closed the door. She rolled down the window as the officer started the squad.

“You’re not coming?”

“I live nearby. I got my laces back.” He pointed down to his shoes. “I’ll jog home. Don’t worry, Candy. You’ll be hearing from me.”

He watched as the car pulled away. If he hadn’t come today, she could have been caught in a drug deal gone south. Nope, it was no coincidence that the girl of his dreams had shown up today and had the spunk to run with him into danger. He grinned to himself as he headed down the road at a steady lope. She would be hearing from him, but their first date would be far from what she expected.

Stay tuned for the final installment tomorrow! 

A Walk in the Woods (Serial Short Story Romance, Part 2 of 4)

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They continued on the trail in silence for the better part of a mile. Finally Jax spoke. “I’ve been trying to figure out what to ask you, without it sounding like some pick-up line.” He had been impressed that she had kept up a pretty good pace as they hiked the trail through the woods.

“As in—do you come here often?” Candace giggled and he liked the sound of that. “Well, let me answer that one and we’ll see where we go from there. I don’t come here as often as I would like. Life’s just been—I don’t know—stressful. Today I wanted to get out and try to unwind while getting some exercise.”

“Do you mind, Candace, if I ask what’s so stressful? I mean, other than the dead car on the side of the road.”

She nodded. “Well, there is that. Probably time for a newer vehicle but I’ve never had to make that kind of decision on my own before. I’ve been putting it off but now . . . Anyway,” her hand flipped in the air as if whisking away an annoying bug, “I’ve been through a rough year and still haven’t found a good normal for my life.”

“Normal? What would normal look like?” He was genuinely curious.

She shook her head. “That’s part of the problem. I don’t know. I mean, I get up every day and go to work. I go home at night and make dinner, clean up the kitchen and maybe watch some television and then go to bed. I have no hobbies and haven’t even been attending church like I used to. It’s just too hard to go back.”

“Why?”

“Because everyone there knows . . . and while I didn’t really do anything wrong, I just don’t feel like I fit in anymore.”

“I’m confused. What do they know?” He put up a hand to stop her and they faced each other on the path. Her face was pink from exercise and a slight sheen of sweat as plastering her bangs to her forehead. She was cute.

She let out a deep sigh. “My husband was a bit of a gigolo, enjoying the favors of any women he met. He finally decided that he would prefer to not live with the stress of trying to hide that and divorced me. I had no clue until the papers were delivered. We had gotten married at that church, been in small groups, served together . . . to be there alone is tantamount to walking in with a big D plastered across my chest.”

“Now don’t get me wrong, Candace . . .”

“You can call me Candy.” She gave him a small smile as they set off again on the path.

“Okay, Candy. How much of that is just your perception and how much is reality?”

He watched as her nose wrinkled. “I’m not sure.”

“There are other churches if you need to start fresh, pick a different church.”

A loud blast rang through the woods.

“Drop!” Jax hissed as he grabbed Candy and dropped with her to the ground, shielding her with his body. Through the sweat and dirt the scent of apples taunted him and made his mouth water. Focus, Jax!

“Was that a gun I heard?” Candy whispered. She trembled beneath him and he rolled to his side to be able to look at her.

“Are you okay?” He ran a free hand through his hair, having lost his cap when he dropped to the ground.

She nodded her head.

“Good.” He pulled out his phone and called in. “Yeah, Jax here out at Peterson’s preserve. Just heard gunfire.” He paused. “No. I’m with the only other person I’ve observed in the area. There were no cars in the lot when we arrived. We’re both safe for now.” He hung up and sat.

Candace looked at him as she raised herself off the ground to sit with her arms wrapped around her knees. She rocked. “What now?”

“I’m not sure. If it were just me I’d be running toward that area and trying to find out who was shooting, but I’m unarmed and I can’t leave you.”

“But this is your job, right? A cop is never really off-duty, is he?”

He dropped his head and closed his eyes. Lord, what do I do? I can’t endanger Candy, but I came here to do a job . . .

Her hand touched his arm. “Let’s go after them.”

He shook his head. “It’s not safe.”

Candace stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Well, maybe I’m tired of playing it safe.” She turned and headed down the path.

He leapt to his feet, ran up beside her and grabbed her. He halted her progress and stared down at her. He swallowed hard. What was it about this woman? She intrigued him, but they’d only just met. She licked her lips as she gazed up at him, waiting.

Waiting for what?

He bent his head and placed his lips to hers as she gasped in surprise. His arm wrapped around her holding her close and hers snaked up around his neck. Another gunshot rang out in the woods followed by a scream. They broke apart.

“What?” she gasped. But she had a silly smile on her face.

He grinned back. “Let’s go. Run!” He held her hand as they took off in the direction of the gunfire.

Stay tuned for part 3 of 4 tomorrow! 

Power of Attorney (2 of 4) Short Story Romance

Day by day I sat by Cal’s bedside. I would answer his phone and direct people to his secretary, Carol, who helped me keep his status a secret. The hardest was when his mother would call. She was offended that I would dare answer her son’s phone and not let him talk to her. The polite veneer slid from her frosty tongue.

“I don’t know who you think you are and how you have bewitched my son, but know this, Miss Reid, I can destroy you. Do not hesitate to think I won’t. If Cal doesn’t return my call, I’ll be calling the police to report you have kidnapped him.”

The click in my ear signaled doom. I called Mr. Coomes to inform him and let the machine behind Calvin’s company work to protect its owner while he healed.

I shed tears. I never wanted to come between Calvin and his family. I had lost mine and had only close friends and my church. Family was precious and not to be despised, yet Cal had to fight to be his own man in his and forge his own path in spite of the resistance they gave and the greedy demands they made. I had admired him all the more for his strength in being who he believed God had called him to be.

Right now, I missed Calvin more than I ever thought I would, even though he was resting beside me, fighting to live. My love for him had never died but now my desire to protect him from his family’s demands, strengthened my resolve to do what he had asked, regardless of the cost to me. I might have lost my home and my job. I wouldn’t lose him too.

“Cal, please come back to me. I miss you and your little gifts. I love you and if you can get better, and still want me, I will marry you.”

“Don’t make promises you won’t keep,” a soft raspy whisper came from the bed.

I looked to see his eyes were open, gazing at me. “Cal?”

“Last time I checked. Ally, what happened? Everything hurts.”

“You were hit by a car. I’ve been here since they called. I have kept your family away as you wished.”

“I knew I could count on you. Did you go shopping?”

“Why would I do that at a time like this? You know I hate shopping.”

“No retail therapy for you, huh?”

I shook my head.

“I knew I could trust you. So about that marriage. When?”

“Whenever you want. I cannot imagine my life without you in it.”

“Me either. As soon as I get out of here we’ll take care of that, but for now I think a kiss would be the best medicine.”

I grinned. “I happen to have one with your name on it.” I leaned over and our lips met in a tender liplock. I pulled back and looked down at him. “Do you have any problems with getting married in the hospital if I can get the paperwork figured out?”

“That eager, huh?”

I picked up the little kitty, nodded its head and purred. He grinned and drifted back to sleep. The attorney helped me get the license and our pastor was willing to come and meet with us several times for counseling. We wanted to do this right. The meetings were hard on Cal. He was tired with trying to recover.

The doctor sat me down a few weeks later.

“Allyssa, we do not know the full extent of his brain injury yet. Are you sure you want to take this step?”

“Is he competent to make his own decisions now? Would you deem him mentally capable of that?”

The doctor frowned but nodded. “He is competent.”

“Then I am not taking advantage of the Power of Attorney to gain access to anything.”

“I wasn’t hinting that you were doing anything improper with regards to that. My concern is that sometimes brain injuries can have a negative impact on emotional functioning. Lower frustration tolerance. Increased anger. We don’t know yet how he will be as he heals. It is too soon to know that.”

“He has all his body functions, and his bones are healing. When a person marries it is for ‘in sickness and in health’, isn’t it?”

He nodded. “I wanted you to go in with your eyes wide open. You are not getting the fairy tale wedding or life that women want.”

“His family hates me. I know that this path will be fraught with struggle. I almost lost him, Doctor. I don’t know that I can walk away and pretend I never loved him. I tried that once.”

He sighed and nodded his head. “May God be with you both. It sounds like even if his brain heals completely, your real battles exist elsewhere.”

I fought the tears until I could get to my cot in the room I had occupied as his guardian. He really didn’t need me here anymore though. Was I marrying him to avoid my problems?

“Allyssa?” Cal called from the other room.

I wiped my tears and blew my nose. He probably heard me. Whatever problems he might have, his hearing was sharp. I fluffed my hair and walked to the other room and stood by his side. I couldn’t hide my distress.

“Why are you sad? Shouldn’t a bride be happy?”

“I’m not sure wedding quickly is wise.”

He scowled. “Why not?”

“Maybe I’m taking advantage of you?”

“How could that be? You’ve been here, caring for me. You’ve not spent my money on yourself when you could have.”

The tears came unchecked.

“Allyssa. What happened? Something happened.”

“It doesn’t matter. You do not need my troubles heaped on you as you heal. I think it is best to wait. Your family . . .”

“If my family loved me like they proclaim, they would want me happy. You make me happy, Ally.”

“I can’t be the one to come between you and them. They already accused me of kidnapping you.”

Calvin laughed and winced. “Ow, my ribs.” He took a few slow breaths before speaking again. “I give you full permission to kidnap me any time you like. But it’s not kidnapping then is it? Did you ask for ransom?”

“This isn’t funny Calvin. I don’t want to take advantage of you and I’m in a position to be accused of that.”

“Why would you be? You have your own home and job and are financially responsible. You don’t need me to rescue you from poverty.”

I couldn’t speak. I sunk to the chair by his side.

“Allyssa?”

I rose and left the room to cry on the hospital bed there.

 

Stay tuned . . . part 3 tomorrow! 

Second Chance (Short Story)

I stumbled off the treadmill feeling weak and dizzy. I managed to wipe it down without passing out before I weaved my way to a spot on the floor by the exercise mats. I slid down and leaned against the wall. I tilted my head back and let my heart slow to a more normal rhythm. I never managed to make my cool-down. I sniffed. Ewww! I couldn’t even stand the way I smelled. Instead of finishing my workout today, I would go home to shower, collapse in back into my bed and hibernate until I was ninety. What else were Saturday’s for anyway?

“Hey, Julie. You okay?” I heard a mat plop down close by and a body descend. The deep rich timber of the voice tickled my memory. I opened my eyes and was grateful the world had stopped spinning. Daniel lay on the mat next to me and started doing crunches. Great, I’m stinky, sweaty and now the handsomest guy I know wanted to talk.

“Hi, Dan,” I sighed. “No. I’m not well.” It was hard to not watch his abs contract into that nice quasi-six pack that most men aspire to. Dan was looking way too good to me right now. I swallowed hard. Maybe I should close my eyes again?

“I didn’t know you came here.” He watched me with a crooked smile as he switched to cross crawls.

“I started a few weeks ago. I figured it was about time I tried something healthy.” I looked away to the people working out in the fitness center. I fought a tickle behind my eyelids.

Dan stopped his workout and rested on the mat, with his hands by his head, biceps bulging. His piercing gaze was on me. “I heard about Paul. I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve to be treated like that.”

He dared to go there. Well, why not? Divorces were listed in the paper. It wasn’t a secret. His parents had probably written to him with the news. “Yeah,” I let out a ragged breath, “well, those are the breaks. Why wouldn’t he want some younger, thinner, blonder woman if he could get her?” I’m a brunette.

Dan rolled to his side, still facing me, and began to do side crunches. I tried not to look, but it was hard not to. He looked good. “Don’t sell yourself short, Julie. You were a beautiful woman when we were dating and you’ve grown only more so over these past few years.”

I glanced at him. His eyes connected with mine and my heart skipped a beat. Sweat beaded on his forehead and his sandy brown hair was damp. Maybe he was in need of glasses now? I was a wreck, not beautiful. I sighed. Why couldn’t I have married him? Oh, yeah. He had asked if I would wait until he had finished his three year stint in the Army. I said no. Three years and all I had to show for it was a divorce and a few extra pounds. And Dan? Well, he had some scars too.

“I’m sorry you were injured in that last engagement. Are you doing better now?” I could see some healed skin, but I knew some wounds went deeper than the surface. I was proof of that.

He stopped his crunches and leaned on his elbow with a furrow in between his brows. He looked around and then back to me. “I’m not twenty-one anymore, Jules. I feel like I aged far more than the three years I’ve been gone.” His voice cracked. I could hear the unspoken grief.

I gulped. “Every time you went overseas I prayed for you.” I glanced at my hands that were clasped together on my knees with the water bottle in between, getting crunched. “My one regret was that I didn’t say yes to you before you left.”

“It was probably better that you didn’t. I’m not the same guy you knew back then.” He grabbed his towel and wiped off his face.”Some days it was only the dream of you that kept me going.”

I took a sip from my distorted water bottle. “Well, apparently the shine wore off of me after only eight months.” The divorce had been quick and I had been alone now for just shy of two years.

“He was an idiot, Julie. His actions are no reflection on your worth.”

“Thanks.” I rose to my feet and the lightheaded feeling returned. I steadied myself by holding on to the wall until the world righted itself. “I had better go. It was nice seeing you again, Daniel.”

He jumped to his feet and touched my arm. Three years apart and I still got a thrill from being close to him, being the focus of his undivided attention. “Let me walk you to your car. You don’t look too steady. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m not sure of anything anymore.” I started to move away and he fell into step beside me. I tossed my water bottle into the recycling on the way out.

“I can relate. The world isn’t as simple as it was when we graduated college.”

I shook my head. “No. It’s not. Being an adult is not all we thought it would be.” We exited the building into the warm summer air and came to my car. I unlocked the door and turned to lean against it. I still felt dizzy but I wasn’t sure if it was from my workout, low blood-sugar or being close to Daniel again. He made me want . .  I tried to shut away those thoughts. I closed that door years ago and had hurt him when I did.

“Julie.” He leaned against the car with his hip. “Do you think . . . would it be possible to . . .?”

“What, Daniel? Just ask.” I felt a faint hope rise within me.

“I know a lot has happened in three years, but I never stopped wondering if God would ever give us a do over. Could we try?”

“You want to date me?” It’s everything I would have dreamed of but seemed too far-fetched. I was damaged goods: the discarded, defective bride. “Why?”

“I’m no prize. The bigger question is why you would even consider seeing me again.” He sighed as he folded his arms across his broad chest and sweat soaked t-shirt. He turned with his back leaning against the car by my side. “You, however, still take my breath away. I never stopped loving you. Never stopped wishing things had ended differently between us.”

“Yes.”

He stood up, turned towards me and dropped his hands. “Are you serious?”

“I’ve never played games with you, Daniel, and I’m not going to start now. Yes. I would love to go out with you.”

Daniel grinned and let out a “Whoop!” He clasped my arms and kissed me. On the lips.

I don’t remember his kisses ever affecting me like this one did. Heat spread though my body, all the way to my melting cross-trainers. When he pulled away I felt like a limp noodle, ready to collapse to the blacktop. My hand came up to touch my lips as I looked into his eyes. Deep mossy green. I tried to slow my breathing down. His breathing was ragged and his eyes intent up on me. He looked almost as surprised by that kiss as I was.

Neither of us spoke for several seconds.

“I should go home.”

“How about dinner? Tonight. We could meet somewhere. Or a movie?”  His eyes were wide and he grinned. He looked as eager as a puppy dog waiting for a treat.

“Sure. That would be lovely.”

“I’ll make reservations at Giuseppe’s for six.”

I nodded and smiled at him. That had been our favorite restaurant when we were together. I never once went there with any other man but him. “Giuseppe’s it is then.” I leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “I’m thankful God brought you home.” I smiled as I turned to get in my car. He closed my door and went to stand at the curb as I pulled away. I could see him standing there as I drove out of the lot. Tall, handsome and a fantasy come to life. Tonight we would get our second chance at love.

The Farewell Party (Short Story)

 I dreaded going to work. It was Friday, but today my best friend was leaving. While I was happy for him I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself.

I clocked in and grabbed my folder for the staff meeting. Blurry eyed, I somehow managed to get my cup of coffee as well as one for Pete. I flopped down in my usual chair and waited as the chatter of my co-workers swirled around me. It was going to be a long day and Peter’s party was right after work.

“Good morning, Sarafino!” He greeted me like usual and looking better than ever in his dress pants, shirt and tie. His blonde hair was slightly messed up. He grinned at me and leaned over to hug my shoulder as he sat down next to me to start the meeting.

“Hey, Peterfarino.” I lacked my usual enthusiasm and he did a double take.

“Are you okay?” His eyes narrowed as he stared at me.

“I’ve been better. Let’s get this meeting over. I have a lot on my plate today.” I clenched my teeth together. I was not going to start crying.  He frowned and began the meeting.

When it was over he tapped me on the shoulder. “In my office. Now.” I was a bit startled by his stern tone but I followed him. Peter shut the door. “Come on, Sara. What’s wrong? I don’t know when I’ve ever seen you so down.”

I stood and folded my arms in front of me and avoided his gaze. “I don’t really want to talk about it.” I had to stop needing him in my life.

He enfolded me in his arms. I could feel him kiss the top of my head. It was not permitted for staff to date and while Peter wasn’t my direct supervisor this was inappropriate. I stepped back, breaking his hold.

“What are you doing?” One tear escaped.

“I thought I was comforting a friend.” His arms dropped to his side and he grabbed his office chair, spun it around and sat. His eyes looked sad but he waited.

I looked everywhere in the room but at him. “I need to go. I have work to do. If there’s nothing else?”

He nodded and let me leave without saying another word. I knew my lack of communication had hurt him. We had talked about everything in the past and this was the first time in two years I had shut him out. I sat in my office for a few moments trying to pull myself together before clicking on my computer to start on the file that was due today. I cranked up some classical music to help down out the ache in my heart and focus on my report.

The day dragged by. I stayed out of the office that afternoon so I would not have to see Peter packing up his things. A good friend would have helped. But then a good friend would have told his best friend he was looking for another job instead of springing it on her with the rest of the staff.

I showed up at the bar late. I had no appetite and no desire to celebrate. I found our group over by a bunch of tables and sat in an empty chair far from the guest of honor. He was laughing and while he had a glass in his hand, I knew it was only 7-up. The bar thing had not been his idea. I felt a headache coming on strong as I sipped my own soda and watched the chaos around me.

Pete came over to my chair. “Hey, Sarafino. Would you care to dance?” He set his glass down on the table next to mine and offered me his hand. I nodded and stood, refused his hand walked out to the dance floor by his side. He finally clasped my hand and put another arm around me to draw me close to him. This was torture. He felt and smelled good. He leaned down and whispered in my ear,  “I hope you don’t mind but it is a slow song. Kind of requires touching.” He kept his head down by mine as we began to move us together around the floor. His breath tickled my ear. I finally put my arm up around his neck and leaned into his shoulder and the tears came.

He pulled back his head and looked down at me with a smile. “You haven’t figured it out, Sara?”

“Figured what out?”

“I have been in love with you for so long and looking for a way to leave so that I could finally date you. So now that I’m no longer on staff . . . ?”

My eyes searched his. It had never dawned on me that he would have wanted to date me. I smiled. “Really?”

“Really.”

It was the prayer I never dared to pray but the desire of my heart. I smiled. “Yes. I would love to.”

We were all alone in a bubble as the music faded into the background. Pete smiled and leaned in to kiss me. I closed my eyes to savor every moment as I felt my whole body come alive at his touch. I brought my other arm up around his neck. When he broke the kiss and looked at me with love in his eyes I couldn’t help but pull him back down for another. I found myself lost in a swirl of love and desire that was so new and wonderful I did not want it to end.

When the song ended and we walked off the floor hip to hip with arms wrapped around each other. Suddenly, I felt like celebrating.