Saturday, December 11, 2010

Her Snowbound Knight by Kasey Moone

Anelle met her rescuer’s gaze head-on. She knew what he was thinking. That she was a fool for trying to save her J-Lo jeans. But he didn’t understand. They were for a dear friend.


She squirmed in her seat at the realization that he was even more gorgeous up close and personal. When she’d first seen him, his beauty had knocked the breath out of her, sending her libido into a wild tailspin. Now, in the warm intimacy of the cabinet, his handsomeness announced itself like a great beam of light.

Brilliant crystal blue eyes, shadowed by thick lashes, stared at her from a hard lean face. A dusting of dark hair fell on a chiseled jaw that rested below a pair of sensual pink lips. His teeth were white and straight. His nose slightly crooked. Absently, she wondered about the color and texture of his hair. Too bad his scruffy hat hid the view.

Her perusal went lower. A hefty jacket accentuated his sculpted shoulders nicely. He was definitely cornfed: tall, lean, and muscled in all the right places. Just like she liked them.

Sure, white guys had never been her thing, but when in Rome…

She suddenly noticed that he was still staring at her. Laughter danced in his eyes. Had he noticed her examination?

“What?”

“You really are something.”

Oh God. He had noticed. “What’re you talking about?”

“You could’ve died going after those jeans.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. Then she blushed, thankful her dark skin masked it. He was right about the jeans, but she wasn’t about to throw him a bone.

“You got some balls.”

“They cost me a fortune,” she said, trying to explain. “A fortune.”

“Some balls.”

She was just about to say something clever, when he cranked up the engine and pulled out of the emergency lane. He pulled out and drove down the long stretch of road. Minutes of silence passed between them; the crackle of the engine and car heater the only sounds. She would’ve let it stay that way if she didn’t have the overwhelming urge to speak.

“Do you have a cell phone?”

“Yep, but it doesn’t work out here. The signal always fades.”

“That’s what happened to me,” she offered, suddenly wanting him to know that she wasn’t a complete nitwit. That it was her cell phone’s fault, of course.

He suddenly turned into a narrow path. A family of trees flanked them on both sides.

“Where are we going?”

“I have a cabin up ahead. You can call someone from there.”

Annoyed, she shook her head. “No, I want to go to a gas station or store. Not somewhere in the boondocks with a complete stranger. No offense.”

He grinned. “None taken.”

“Really, though. Isn’t there a K-mart or Wal-mart around here?”

“There’s nothing but me, you, and my cabin, ma’am. Plus, I’m not going to risk my neck driving you around town in this shitfest. It’s dangerous out there.”

The temperature in the cab rose at his words. Anelle clenched her thighs.

Well, it feels a little dangerous in here, too.

A sexy smile curved his lips. “Don’t worry. I won’t paw you. I work for the state’s snow removal department. I’m a government worker.”

“Oh, that’s reassuring.”

“Really,” he said, with a wicked smile. “You’re safe.”

She sighed. What choice did she have? It was either him or the storm. At least with him she had a fighting chance. She clasped her hands in her thighs, a determined expression across her face. Yes. She’d play by his rules—for now at least. Then she’d get the hell out of dodge.

****

Jasper hid his smile. The woman must’ve been certifiable if she thought she could call the shots in a blizzard. Should he tell her now that no one was going to risk the storm to help her, just because she had car troubles? That she was going to have to wait it out with him? He looked at her uptight face.

He’d wait.

She’d probably bolt from the truck at the news. And if his bad luck held out, he’d have to go stomping through the storm in search of her. He’d already joined the search for two missing snowbound people this month. She didn’t need to be the third.

He shot a quick glance in her direction. Unfortunately, her large jacket still covered her from head to toe. His curiosity about her body was growing stronger by the minute. Was it soft and curvy? Big breasts, small waist, wide hips? Or small top, big bottom? The questions were blurring his vision, making him as horny and prickly as a teenage boy. He made a slight turn and pressed on the pedal.

“So what else is in those bags? Kryptonite?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Drop it already.”

He shrugged. “Must be kryptonite...”

“For your information, I only have the basics: shoes, shirts, jeans, well I don’t have the jeans anymore, let’s see, scarves, lingerie, belts, and socks.”

“I’m sorry, did you say lingerie?”

“Yes.”

His voice grew husky. “Lingerie is not a basic, babe. Lingerie is a treat.”

“Oh, get real,” she stuttered. “It’s a basic.”

“It’s a treat.”

“Basic.”

“Treat.”

“Oh, shut up!”

Silence ensued. Jasper grinned. He couldn’t seem to stop teasing her. Acute sleep deprivation was fucking up his brain.

“What type?”

“Huh?”

“What type of lingerie?”

“Forget it.”

“Come on.”

“No.”

“Pretty, pretty please?”

“It ain’t going to happen,” she snapped, shooting daggers in his direction. She stuck a pinky in front of his face.

“You pinky sweared.”

He stared at her curved finger, perplexed.

“You promised you wouldn’t try anything,” she explained. “Remember?”

He chuckled. “I’m not trying anything. Just asking a harmless question is all.”

“Sure you are, white boy.”

“White boy?”

She glared.

“White boy.” He couldn’t help himself. “I like it.”

They suddenly looked at each other, shocked at the intimacy of their conversation. Jasper was the first to look away. He gripped the steering wheel.

“Er, sorry,” he managed. “The storm must’ve messed me up.”

A little “hmmph” was her only reply.

What was wrong with him? They’d just met! And he was doing exactly what he said he wouldn’t do: pawing her. He couldn’t seem to help himself though. She was cute when she was pissed. The realization annoyed him for some reason.

He decided to remain quiet for the rest of the journey. The last thing he needed was for her to punch him in the gut in retribution and leap from the truck. A short while later they arrived at his two-story cabin. He pulled up next to his black BMW and shut down the engine. The wind seemed to roar to life at his arrival.

“I’m leaving your bags in the snowplow.”

“But—”

“We’ll get them later.”

She sighed and threw up her hands. “Whatever you say, KISA.”

“KISA?”

“Knight in Shining Armor.”

He laughed. She was kind of sweet and funny when she wasn’t being certifiable.

“Stay close to me,” he said, reaching to fix a loose button on her coat. At the move he caught his first glimpse and feel of her chest. My God, she was stacked. The sashes and buttons did little to hide her magnificent breasts. Only made them prop up like a platter of goods. Satisfaction ripped through him. His already swollen cock grew harder. Fuck. He hadn’t sported a boner like this in ages. Luckily his coat concealed it well. With a loud grunt, he secured the last button. “I don’t want you to go flying off in the wind without protection.”

She growled. “Jeez--thanks.”

“What’s your name?”

“Anelle Franklin.”

“I’m Jasper Madison. Wish we could’ve met under different circumstances, Anelle.”

“Tell me about it.”

He shifted back in his seat, opened the door, and maneuvered his way around the truck to open her door. Then he guided her through the wind and snow, rocking all the way, and up the cabin steps. After much upheaval they finally made it into the warm sanctuary of his cabin. Safe.

Reindeer Games by Dana Littlejohn

Taylor Sinclair was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. Everything about him appealed to her. He was the perfect height. When he held her she could rest her head in the crook of his neck. His body was tight without being bulky. The Dudley Do Right cleft in his chin was so cute. His sandy brown hair was cut short around the sides and back, but hung low on his brow doing that Superman curl thing she found so damn sexy. His green eyes sparkled beautifully when he looked at her, especially when he smiled. The emotion in those emerald pools warmed her blood when they were filled with lust and passion, and spoke to her heart the way he looked at her before a kiss. Along with his physical beauty he was book smart, street smart and a genuinely nice guy. She had to make him hers.


“Get a room!” someone said.

They broke the kiss and turned to the voice.

“Are you guys coming to the party or what? It’s in the conference room, you know.”

“Yes, Natasha, we’ll be there. Aren’t you going to change out of your elf costume?” Kinze asked.

“Nah,” she answered with a wave. “When I change I want to be home so I can get into my warm fuzzy pajamas and drink me a hot toddy! I’ll see you guys up there.” She waved at them again and left the room.

“Okay.” Kinze turned back to Taylor.

“Do you really want to go to that party?” Taylor inquired with a small frown.

“Not really. I kinda have a better idea.”

“Mmm, I’ve seen that look in your eye before, Kinney,” Taylor said, tilting his head. “I know what you’re thinking...and I like it.”

Kinze laughed. “You think you know me so well.”

“Oh yes, I know you much better than you think I do.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Yeah, like now you’re thinking about how much you want to snatch my clothes off and ride me right on this table.”

Kinze laughed harder. “Is that right?”

“Yup.”

She looked around conspiratorially, then gripped the front of his velvety red pants. “You’re right.”

Taylor’s groan vibrated through her, as he slid one hand up under her short green skirt to cup one of her butt cheeks. “I knew I was right. I like being right.”

Kinze pressed against his hardening bulge and leaned forward to kiss his neck. “So about that ride...”

“Ooooo, that feels good. You know you have a free pass to ride any time you’re ready, baby.”

“I’m ready now,” she whispered, giving his throat a lick.

“Mmm, I got just the place.”

Kinze let him lead her to a nearby storeroom. They had snuck in for a quickie a time or two before. She followed him to an out-of-the-way corner where he pulled her into his arms, kissing along her neck and exposed shoulders.

“I’ve missed you, Kinney. Seeing you every day and not being able to have you was like some crazy mix of pleasure and torture.”

“I know. Our schedules just haven’t been meshing lately.”

“I hated only being able to see you for a few hours a day these last few weeks. This gig was the hardest job I ever had to do. I can’t tell you how tough it was not to get a hard-on watching you prance around in this damn costume.”

“It will get better after the holidays. Everything will go back to normal.”

“Yes it will,” he whispered.

A throaty moan rose from her as Taylor intensified his kisses and gripped her breasts.

“Kinney, you have no idea what this outfit does for your body. It shows off your sexy shoulders and clings to your lovely curves. This damn shirt was made to only come down far enough to sit on this tight-ass booty of yours.” He emphasized his words by grabbing her butt and squeezing. “I don’t know whether to hug the designer or strangle them,” he added with a chuckle. “I do know that the men only brought their kids to see Santa just so they could get a look at my little reindeer helper. It drove me nuts watching them ogle you like fiends, but I couldn’t be mad at them because I did the same thing.”

“No one is paying attention to me like that.”

Taylor snatched down her shirt and exposed the strapless black bra that encased her full breasts. He pushed the cup out of the way to lift one.

“Oh yes, my love, they are and so am I,” he confessed.

My love? Could it be? No. Don’t read into it, Kinze. They’re just words spoken in the heat of the moment.

Kinze’s mind cleared as he sucked the tip of her breast into his mouth with a muffled moan, her hands instantly going to his head. She ran her fingers along his scalp mussing his hair more than the wig had. The scruffy white beard he still wore tickled her skin when his tongue swirled around her responsive dark bud before his teeth pulled it gently. He licked and nibbled on one then gave its twin the same treatment turning them both into sensitive little peaks.

Excitement shot from her nipples straight to her core. She closed her eyes to fully enjoy the sensations. Moisture filled her panties. She needed more and Taylor seemed to know it, too. His hand slid up the side of her leg and into her tights. His fingers slithered around to the front and slipped smoothly into her slick core. Her grip tightened around him.

“Oh, Taylor,” she moaned into his ear.

“Damn baby, you are so wet.”

She loved when he talked dirty to her.

“I can smell how much you want me. It’s driving me insane.”

Her knees threatened to buckle under his administrations. He released her breast and pushed her against the wall. Taylor pinned her there kissing and sucking along her neckline.

“Taylor, wait, baby, we...we forgot...to lock...the door.” Her words alternated with her gasps.

Christmas Nick For Everyone by Jaxx Steele

Chapter One

“Evan, honey, I got a favor to ask.”

“What’s up, sis?” Evan wiped crumbs off the table into a napkin and blew out the small candle in its center.

“Well, I know we usually spend Christmas Eve helping the Salvation Army guys pass out gifts together, but do you think you can handle it alone this year?”

“What?” Evan turned to his sister. “How come?”

“Well, I met someone and he wants to spend some time with me.”

His eyebrows rose. “You got a date?”

“What does that mean?” She sputtered as she donned her coat. “I can have a date.”

Evan tossed down his bar towel and trash, before going over to his sister.

“Now Mariah,” he said, taking her hand. “You know I didn’t mean no harm. All I meant was, well, there have been plenty of men that have asked you out since Ray died. You shot them all down, honey. Are you sure you’re ready to start dating again?”

“Yeah, I think I am...finally.”

“Okay, so what’s this guy’s name?”

“His name is Nick.”

“Nick,” Evan repeated, then shrugged. “It’s a good strong name.”

“He’s really nice, Evan. I think you’ll like him.”

“Oh yeah, why do you think that?”

“He’s good man. We met at Mary’s Halloween party. You remember her, right?”

Evan nodded and took a seat.

“Well, he’s my friend Mary’s cousin. He moved to town at the end of the summer and she finally got him out of the house. We connected instantly,” she concluded brightly.

“Well, I’m glad. I’d like to meet him some time, preferably before I go home.”

“Of course. You can meet him tonight if you want.”

“Okay, great. I think it’s pass time you got back out there anyway.”

Mariah chuckled. “I agree. I think it’s pass time that we both got back out there.”

Evan made a frustrated noise as he jumped off the stool. “Let’s not start that conversation again. We’re talking about you, Mariah, not me,” Evan pointed out, going back to the row of tables.

“Oh, so it’s okay to talk about my love life, but not yours?” Mariah countered with her hands on her hips.

“I’m not saying that.”

“Okay, so what are you saying?”

“I’m just saying it’s different for us.”

“What’s different? We want the same things, Evan. A handsome man with a decent job and a good grasp on what romance is so he can sweep us off our feet. Isn’t that what you want too?”

Evan listened to his sister as he moved to another table and couldn’t deny her statement. That’s exactly what he wanted. If she could throw in a little courtesy, some common sense and a sense of humor that would make him, whoever he is, close to perfect.

But was that too much to ask?

He would gladly give the same and much more to have a man like that in his life. Evan knew he couldn’t be the only one out there that felt this way, but it sure seemed like it.

When he was younger he thought it was all about looks. The beautiful people seemed to get whatever they wanted. That life called to him, especially when he worked behind the scenes at the TV station in the next town over. Beautiful men were everywhere. Damon though, taught him some were monsters on the inside. Their relationship left scars on the inside as well as the out. It was a lesson he would not forget.

“Well then, what’s the problem?” His sister questioned breaking into his thoughts. “I’m ready now and you should be too. It has been way too long for both of us.”

Evan released a sigh, gripping the table before him. “Mariah,” he said, turning to face his sibling. “The difference between me and you is you want to start dating again. I don’t.”

Mariah left the bar and stood in front of her younger brother. “Look Evan, I hate that you had to get one of the crazies for your first real relationship, but everyone isn’t psycho. Men like Damon do not represent the majority. There are plenty of sane, available men out there. You can’t keep denying yourself a true chance at happiness because you’re afraid.”

“Mimi,” he griped using her childhood nickname.

“Please say you’ll try, little brother. You can’t live in fear forever. I just want to see you happy.”

Her words struck a chord in him. He knew she was right. Evan rested against the table and threw his hands up in surrender.

“All right, all right, I’ll try.”

“Good!” She grabbed his shoulders, kissed his cheek and smiled. “I think this upcoming year will be a good one for the both of us,” she exclaimed happily. Moving toward the door, she buttoned her coat. “Is it still okay that I leave early? It’s flurrying and the temperature is starting to drop. You know my hooptie barely runs when the weather is good,” she mentioned with a chuckle.

“You’re going to see Nick tonight, too?”

“Yes,” she answered over her shoulder.

“Do I need to find some place to go?” he asked in a teasing tone.

Mariah giggled. “No Evan, it’s not like that...not yet anyway,” she added with a lewd wink.

“Come on, Mimi! I could have lived a lifetime without the visual you just put in my head.” Evan waved her away and went back to cleaning tables.

Mariah laughed heartily. “I’ll see you at the house,” she said and shut the door behind her.

Evan shook his head and chuckled softly. He knew she meant well, but she was driving him crazy. With Mariah being almost ten years older than he, she had always been a little too over protective of him. Evan walked along the bar collecting the left behind glasses into a small grey tub he found under the bar.

If Mariah had her own love life to concentrate on she would leave his alone. He dropped one of the on the rocks glasses into the tub with a loud clank and scoffed. Love life. That was a joke. More like, lack thereof, if the truth be told. He hadn’t had anything that even closely resembled a love life since before Mariah’s husband died. A few dates here and there, a booty call once in a while, but no relationships.

“If it wasn’t for my job I’d have no reason for getting out of bed,” he mumbled.

Evan stopped and stood silent for several moments as the realization set in.

“Oh my God. I’m pitiful. My life is starting to mimic a country song. Maybe Mimi is right. I need to move on and try to be more positive like she is. If she can find someone after all this time maybe I can too.” He lifted the dirty dishes, heading for the back. “This New Year will bring something good for both of us because we deserve it.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More Than Friends: Brad by Marie Rochelle

Prologue


I can’t believe the words coming out of my boss’s mouth. Alicia Hart listened in utter shock to the next assignment that her boss Tiffany Henry was handing down to her. It took all of her willpower to sit up straight and not fall out of the expensive chair. There was no way in hell that she could do it. Why did Tiffany think that she could or would? Ever since her old boss left for a better job and Tiffany found out she knew the family she had been pushing her to become a part of this story. Well, she would just turn it down and that was that.

Another reporter could volunteer to take it and do a better job than her. Yes, she wanted to move up through the ranks of the news station, but this wasn’t the next story she wanted to be a part of in any way, shape or form.

“Tiffany, are you sure about this?” Alicia asked as she laid her pen back down on the notepad on her lap.

“Alicia, you will be the perfect reporter for this assignment. They have turned the news station down countless times, but since you’re friends with one of the brothers I know you could get them to agree this interview without a problem.” Tiffany grinned at her like she had it all planned out in her head and nothing would go wrong.

Tiffany wasn’t aware of her true relationship with the aloof Drace Brothers. She hadn’t even spoken to Brad in a while and if Lee had anything to do with it she wouldn’t for the rest of her life. The oldest and most outspoken of the elite Drace Brothers hated, and she meant, hated her!

“Didn’t you tell me that you want to start doing something like the Barbara Walters’ specials? Well, this is your first big step there,” Tiffany encouraged. “If you do a good job with this, I see bigger and better things in your future.”

“Brad Drace and his brothers are very private men. Most of them are already married and don’t want eyes prying into their personal lives,” Alicia pointed out, trying to get off this topic as quickly as possible. Tiffany didn’t understand that she really didn’t have any pull with the family.

She could already see Lee giving her that unblinking stare of his. He wouldn’t need to give her an answer after that because his look spoke volumes. No...she wasn’t going to allow herself to be put into that position by Tiffany or anyone else.

“I really don’t think any of them will agree to this behind the scenes type of thing anyway. I’ll be thrilled to do another spot on television and report something else going on in the news. Wasn’t there a recent drug raid that I can cover instead?” Alicia wasn’t that fond of doing drug dealers pieces, but it would get her away from the Drace Brothers story.

Tiffany glared at her as she tapped her French manicured nails on her desk. Great...she knew her boss only did that when she thinking of a way to get what she wanted and didn’t care who she had to bully to get it done.

Alicia was trying her best not to agree to this. For the past four and a half years, she had worked very hard making Brad understand that they couldn’t be more than friends. Yet, if she accepted this new project it would put her around him all of the time and she wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Brad really thought that she didn’t care about him, but that wasn’t the real reason that she pushed him away all of the time. So, it was for the best if he kept thinking that she wasn’t interested in him. It would work out better for the both of them in the end.

“Alicia, I’m not going to let you back out of this. You don’t seem to understand that my boss wants this interview done and I’m not about to lose my job because of you. Now, you can be the one that does it or I can give it to one of the new girls working here. It’s up to you, but it will be done.”

“I’m still not sure about this,” Alicia said, worried. She knew Tiffany wouldn’t hire a good person to take over the project. As much as she didn’t want to be involved with this, she did know the Drace brothers and their wives better than anyone else at the station.

“I was trying to do a good thing here. Everyone here knows that you’re close to Brad because he used to give you tennis lessons. He might be more open to granting you an interview and then you could get something from him other people couldn’t.

“Do you know that most people here in Houston don’t know much about Lee, Richard, Zack or Brad? All of them are very influential men and the public wants to know what makes them tick and how their wives were lucky enough to get them to the altar.”

Pushing up her glasses with her index finger, Alicia thought over what Tiffany was telling her. She hated it, but she had to agree that her boss did have a point.

The Drace brothers had moved to Texas years ago. It seemed like all of the brothers had made their fortunes overnight, except Brad who worked for Lee part-time about twenty hours a week and then gave tennis lessons for the rest of the time.

Were the handsome brothers hiding a rag to riches story that the community would love to hear about? This could really be the big break she had been dreaming about and it would give her a chance to be around Brad. She did truly love the moments she had spent with him during her tennis lessons. With this assignment, she would be doing her job and spending quality time with the attractive Brad.

Alicia wasn’t going to allow someone else to be around Brad when she could do it herself while working on a kick ass job assignment. “We haven’t spoken to each other for a couple of weeks, but I’ll call Brad and try to run the idea past him. However, I can’t promise that he’ll agree to do anything. I know that he’ll talk it over with his brothers first before he gives me any kind of answer.”

“Excellent,” Tiffany said as she stood up from behind her desk. “I’m late for my lunch date, but I’ll talk to you later on in the week to see where things are with this. I know that you aren’t going to disappoint me

Alicia stood up from her seat and pressed the notepad against her chest. She wasn’t going to hold out for a lot of hope that Brad would agree to this. He was probably still mad at her because she didn’t attend Lee’s engagement party with him several weeks back, but she truly had been working late on an assignment. Brad most likely thought it was another excuse she had used to get out of going on a first date with him...which wasn’t the case at all.

Lee’s engagement party was going to be her initial step at trying to see if she could become get involved in a relationship with Brad. Yes...she had been trying for God knows how long to find ways to avoid Brad. Or keep him out of her life because she was apprehensive about getting drawn in by him. Because he came from a pretty well-known family and she wasn’t positive she could handle all of the notoriety that came along with dating a Drace Brother.

“Okay, how about we go out to lunch and we can discuss everything then?” Alicia suggested. “I’m free next Friday if you want to do it then since you’re going out of town for a couple of days next week.”

“I like that. I’ll mark it on my calendar and then leave myself a reminder on my Blackberry.” Tiffany headed for her office door. “Please...don’t take no for an answer. This will be an outstanding piece, if can get all of them to agree to do it.” Tiffany waved good-bye to her before opening her office door and walking out.

Standing alone inside of her boss’s office, Alicia wondered how she was going to pull off interviewing Brad about his successful family plus continued to pretend like she was uninterested in him when that was the furthest thing from the truth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Second Challenge by Shermaine Williams

Chapter One


It had been close to a week.

Amanda had been counting the hours since their encounter and she could think of nothing except when she would see him again. He was no ordinary man, significantly less ordinary than any other man she had been with. Her feelings and thoughts of him were unlike any she had experienced before.

She had only spent a short time with him but it had been long enough for her to develop an addiction. The photo shoot had taken up only a small portion of the night and he’d spent the remainder giving her pleasure. As if he was researching, he led her through a variety of acts, building his knowledge of her body‘s reactions. Every stroke of his fingers felt like sparks of electricity hitting her skin, and she relished every touch.

The sense of urgency that initiated sex so soon after they met never left. It was the reason she knew every inch of his body as he knew hers.

For a day and a half, neither of them had left Benjamin’s house and very rarely even left the bedroom. Since that blissful weekend, she could think of nothing else.

The first thing she did after getting through the door was turn on her computer. It was ridiculous–if there was an email from him, it wouldn’t be going anywhere, but she felt compelled to check.

The PC seemed agonizingly slow. After twice entering her password incorrectly, Amanda finally got what she wanted, but didn’t like what she saw.

She quickly scrolled through the emails and found that none were from Benjamin. It was maddening, especially when he’d sent her a brief email a few days prior, to see how she was. Amanda had sent him an email that needed no reply but she still expected some contact. As yet, he had left her disappointed; similar to how she felt when she’d had to leave his company at the end of their tryst.

Amanda spent most of the day thinking about her time with Benjamin. Their encounter had heightened her desire, making her want him badly. Intense heat flooded her body whenever she recalled his kiss or his touch, like a crashing wave that she couldn’t stop. Her thoughts were powerful enough to make it seem like he was right there. A deep yearning permeated every part of her, eagerness to experience more that made her want to give herself to him completely. She knew that he was capable of satisfying her desires better than any other man could.

Recalling the pressure of his hard body against her sent a shiver down her spine, carving a route to her pelvis and flooding it with heat.

The last photographs he had taken that first night were of her standing against the wall, her wrists locked in handcuffs. She was sure that he wanted to take more photos, but his physical needs took over. The same body that he had been telling her was beautiful had been completely under his control. The thrilling sensation of being completely at his mercy had created a hot pressure within her, gradually building until it desperately sought release.

Every touch was electrifying, easily making her body yield to him before his powerful frame took over. Just the memory of being pinned to the wall made her feel his weight, the pressure of his solid muscles warming her skin.

His stiff shaft had nestled between her cheeks, prodding her as it eagerly sought entry to the warm confines of her body. Frustration had built and she knew she would be unable to take another day of waiting; she hated being left wondering whether he was thinking about her only to get home and find out that he wasn’t. Almost as if she was addicted to him, she was experiencing withdrawal symptoms and needed more of him to feel better.

Not wanting to log out of her inbox without having rectified the situation, she hurriedly composed a message, doing her best to make it sound casual.

Hi Ben.

Haven’t heard from you in a while so just checking how you are.

Hopefully talk soon.

Amanda x

In her haste, she didn’t bother to read it back to check how it sounded; she just clicked send. After several minutes, no new messages had arrived and Amanda felt silly sitting in front of a screen on which nothing was happening— the modern equivalent of waiting by the phone. A few minutes passed before she decided it was impossible to pretend not to be thinking about her inbox if she remained at her post.

After washing the dishes that had sat in the sink since morning, she decided to take a shower, summoning enough will power to stop herself from checking the screen one more time.

While Amanda slowly undressed in the bathroom, she imagined Benjamin was watching her, admiring every inch of her smooth brown skin as it was exposed. She liked to think that she would be able to tease him, have him under her control, make him wait while relishing how much he wanted her. Naked, halfway through piling her silken black locks atop her head, Amanda knew that, in reality, she would happily do whatever he wanted.

As she trailed her fingers through the stream of water to test the temperature, she could picture him standing there stroking his fingers along her body—up from the back of her thigh and over the curve of her bum. The image made her nipples tingle with delight. She could feel Benjamin’s eyes on her, admiring her body as he teased her, making her wait for what he knew she wanted, failing to see any of the flaws that she had. Just thinking about him was torturous, but she could think of nothing else.

Standing under the warm water, she squeezed a generous amount of shower gel into her palm, rubbing her hands together before slowly sliding them over her breasts. Amanda tugged her nipples, gripping them between her fingers just as he had done.

Her strong desire for him made it seem real and she moaned with pleasure as her hands moved down her body, leaving her stiffened buds behind as she caressed her stomach, waist, and hips with the same strokes Benjamin used–exploring her body as if her hands were his.

She pictured him as he caressed her. He seemed mesmerized by the contrast of the color of his hands against her brown skin. Just as he had teased her, Amanda bypassed her labia to firmly massage the front of her thighs before doing the same to the back. Gripping a buttock in each hand, she squeezed them as her clit and nipples throbbed in unison.

She needed him so badly.

Her head started to swim and her body temperature exceeded that of the water cascading down it to the point where, had he been there, she knew she would have been close to begging for more from him. However, she was alone. She’d have to satisfy herself. When she could take it no longer, she moved her hands to the front of her body and parted her thighs.

Her gasp of pleasurable relief bounced off the tiles and echoed around the room the instant her fingers connected with her swollen clit. She increased the pressure while parting her pussy lips with her free hand. Suds mixed with her cream as Amanda thrust her middle finger deep, letting go of her pussy lips at the same time to brace herself by slapping her palm against the tiled wall. Arching her back, she pushed against her hand, forcing her fingers deeper as she stroked her clit with her thumb.

A hot feeling of pressure stiffened her arm and forced her thumb against her clit, sending a shimmering bolt of heat streaking through her body. Her pussy contracted around the finger buried deep inside it. Her ability to breathe ceased briefly and suddenly, the resulting silence as heat flooded her body, making a mockery of the temperature of the water still pouring over her skin. Exhausted, breathing heavily, she stood there for several long minutes before turning off the shower.

Wrapped in a towel, Amanda strode out of the room, dripping all the way back to her laptop. Still nothing. Impatiently, she tapped rapidly at the corner of her laptop, rhythmically drumming her index finger to no particular beat, exerting energy for no purpose—disinclined to stray far from the only link to the object of her desire. She could kick herself for failing to get his number the last time they saw each other.

Amanda looked at the clock. Time was running by so quickly. Evening would soon turn into night and she had brought work home; there was a load of wash waiting to be put into the machine; phone calls to make—not that any of it mattered. None of it was going to get done because she preferred to bask in the glow of the light from the screen, wearing only a towel as she waited for a response.

The desperation with which she hoped to receive a response was out of character but she couldn’t shake it. She was strangely comfortable with the yearning that was building inside her. Benjamin had been able to bring out a whole different side to her, made her do things that she never imagined she’d experience. It gave her a taste for more.

The fact that he hadn’t made any contact left her concerned that he didn’t feel the same way which created a horrible empty feeling in the pit of her stomach.

After refreshing the page, the inbox counter increased by one. The glimmer of hope was dashed the moment she expanded the inbox and saw that the email was from a clothing company to advertise their sale. It was the last straw and she finally admitted defeat, leaving the living room for the bedroom so that she could moisturize her body—something she always did as soon as she got out of the shower.

Toweling off the last few droplets of water clinging to her skin, Amanda dropped the towel on the floor. Staring at her naked body in the full-length mirror, she selected a bottle of lotion only used for special occasions. She needed a treat. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she slowly caressed her skin, smoothing the expensive lotion onto her body, turning herself on in his absence.

She started at her feet, her fingers slowly working moisture into her skin until she reached her thighs. Closing her eyes, she imagined it was Benjamin massaging them before moving over her hips and up to her waist. A shiver of longing swept through her body—needing his fingers to do what she was tempted to do now. It took a lot not to go straight for what she wanted – she was alone, after all – but she wanted to make herself wait. A feeling of pure lust clenched her pubis, her clit throbbing in a demand to be touched.

Replenishing the lotion, Amanda warmed it between her palms—the subtle scent of vanilla that perfumed the skin of her tummy, wafting up over her breasts and filling her head. Her deep brown nipples were already stiff and tingling in anticipation of her touch and a shiver shot up her spine, making her body jump simply by brushing her fingers over them. Running her palms up and down her arms, she attempted to take her time, though the ball of heat that developed in the pit of her stomach was forcing her to rush in order to satisfy the increasing pressure.

Sighing with pleasure, she rolled one sensitive bud between her thumb and her forefinger as her free hand moved back down to her thighs, her palm stroking both before her fingers crept up between them to stroke her pussy, slowly running the pads of her fingers over the smooth skin of her labia. Tilting her head back, Amanda slid her hand closer to her clit, anticipating the imminent explosive release. But then the doorbell rang and jolted her back to reality, filling her with frustration.

Though faintly annoyed, she was still curious about who could be at her door at that time of night. Grabbing a cream satin robe, she hurriedly tied the belt as she went to the door, padding along the hardwood floor. She gripped the latch, and vanity forced her to pull the clip from her tousled black hair. She ran her free hand through it to straighten it making her forget to ask who it was before she found out for herself.

The careful manner in which she had made sure that there was no skin on show was all for nothing when she opened the door and a gust of wind attempted to make a mockery of her efforts by blowing the bottom half of her robe aside to expose her leg up to the thigh. Alarmed at the possibility of flashing her neighbors and any passing strangers, she ignored the door to desperately grasp the edge of the robe to keep it closed.

In her haste, she accidently knocked the door back so that it was ajar. She composed herself – tightening her belt again – before opening it wider with a tentative smile on her lips. Shock caused her smile to slip briefly before it widened on seeing who it was standing on the threshold. The shocked smile remained on her lips as she was rendered unable to speak, her heart pounding against her ribs.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Relationships 4 by Piers Anthony

Phone Sex


Edna waited politely until the other customers cleared. Then she braced the handsome young clerk of the hardware store. “There was a mistake,” she said. “You undercharged me for this trowel. Here is my receipt.”

The man nodded. “If we overcharged you, we’ll naturally give you a refund.” She noticed that his nameplate said ERLE.

“Undercharged,” she repeated. “See, the price sticker is here. The receipt is a dollar low. I didn’t notice until I checked at home. So I came right back.” She dug a dollar out of her purse.

Erle was amazed. “You are complaining about an undercharge?”

“Not complaining. Merely rectifying. You have to make a living too, don’t you?”

He shook his head. “We seldom encounter this kind of honesty. Keep the dollar; consider it a special sale.”

“No, no. I would have complained as readily if the receipt had been a dollar high. Take the money. I would not want you to get in trouble with your employer.”

Erle looked around. The store was empty for the time being. “May we talk for a moment? Do you have time?”

“More than I like,” she said with a wan smile. She did not clarify that her life was a private annoyance not even approaching the level of hell. Merely the frustration of being denied anything she might ever have wished for. Time? Time for what? She had no destiny. She was a wasted life, useless.

“I will not get in trouble with my boss. I am the owner of this franchise. I inherited the hardware chain when my parents died unexpectedly two years ago. Keep the dollar; I appreciate your honesty more than I need the money.”

She considered him more carefully. He was not only handsome, he was husky. He probably worked out regularly. “You’re the owner? Then why are you clerking?”

“Learning the business from the ground up. Making myself useful. I really don’t know what to do with my sudden wealth, and don’t want to make any foolish mistakes.”

“I am impressed, Erle. I believe I have seen you these past two years, without noticing.”

“And I have seen you, shopping for garden tools, mostly.”

“So we know each other, in a manner,” she agreed. “I am Edna, desultory fifty-year-old housewife.”

They shook hands.

“So be at ease about the trowel,” he said.

“I must compliment you on your attitude. Most wealthy young men would be going for cars, girls, and parties.”

“Not me. I have delusions of amounting to something.”

“No parties? Not even occasionally? Girls are attracted to money. You could surely splurge with a limited dalliance or two.” She paused. “Unless—”

“I’m not gay,” he said. “But also not dating. Girls paid me little attention, until I got rich; now they are all after me, but I don’t trust any of them.”

“I see the problem. Maybe you could date anonymously on the internet, until you are sure one is interested in you for yourself alone.”

“I don’t trust that either. She’d Google me and know, and maybe only pretend not to care about the money.”

“Then it seems I have no answer for you,” she said. “It’s not the kind of problem I ever faced, not having money or beauty. I live economy style throughout.”

“About that, we have sales every so often, with some real bargains. There’ll be one next week. Call to see whether there’s anything you want.”

“I won’t call, but I’ll come in.”

“No need to take the trouble; there might not be anything for you.”

Edna braced herself and said it. “I wasn’t questioning the merit of your sale. It’s that I can’t call.”

He paused. “Oh. No phone?”

“We have a phone. It’s that I have a phone phobia. I can answer, but I can’t call out.”

He stared at her. “You have a fear of phoning?”

“I really do, weird as that may seem. Had it all my life. My husband makes the calls. I’m helpless in that respect.”

“I wasn’t questioning your word. I just couldn’t believe that anyone else suffered that particular malady.”

Now she stared at him. “You too?”

“Me too. That’s the rest of the reason I don’t date. If a girl tells me to call her, I can’t.”

“And you can’t tell her why?”

“Too embarrassed,” he agreed. “It messes me up at the store, too. Our accountant has to handle any outbound calls. I know how badly it limits me, but until I get over it, I’m helpless.”

“And you can’t just get over it,” she said. “I truly understand.”

“Oh, Edna, it’s such a relief to meet you. I thought I was the only one.”

She laughed. “Well, we don’t call each other about it.”

“Please, I would like to know more about you. I never met someone who shared that particular problem.”

“I’m just an old woman trapped in an ugly marriage with nothing to look forward to. Nothing of interest, really.”

“Ugly marriage? It’s not my business, but—”

“He’s got a mistress or two on the side. When I challenged him about it, he said what was I going to do, divorce him? He knows I’m stuck. He has the money and the control. I am in effect a household servant, cooking, cleaning, whatever he wants. So I make the best of it, gardening and so on. I’d be utterly helpless on my own. Because of the phone.”

“Because of the phone,” he agreed. “Edna, I wish I could help you, but I can’t even help myself. Let me take you out to eat, or something.”

“I wasn’t asking you for anything,” she said, more sharply than she had intended. “You told me your situation, so I told you mine. That’s all there is to it.”

“But I don’t want that to be all,” he protested. “I want to keep company with you, because you’re the first person I’ve felt remotely comfortable with in a long time. Because of the phobia. If you could use money—”

“No money,” she said sharply. “I shouldn’t have spoken.”

“I understand how you don’t want anything from me. I respect that. You even came to return the dollar, though you could use it yourself. Please, what can I do for you?”

She laughed bitterly. “Have an affair with me.”

He laughed, and she laughed with him. Then they paused.

Then he spoke carefully. “I am not presuming anything. Just saying that I’m interested. Because I really would like to be with an understanding woman.” He blushed. “Sex—I dream of it constantly. So it’s not completely a joke to me.”

“You can’t be serious. I mean, about me. I’m old and saggy, and look worse naked. You can’t really be turned on by me.”

“Ma’am, I’m turned on already. It’s the phone that connects us; the rest is incidental. I got a ...” He turned sideways, embarrassed, and she saw the bulge in his pants.

“I’ll be damned,” she murmured. “I haven’t had that effect on a man in twenty years.”

“Except your husband, of course.”

“Except nothing. He has no sexual use for me. That drives me crazy, because I am a woman who really likes sex. Any kind, any time.”

He considered briefly. “The store closes at 5 PM. I have an apartment in back. So if it’s not a joke, and you have time...” He shrugged.

“I’ll be there,” she said, surprised by the quickness of her decision. Was she simply calling his bluff?

She showed up promptly at five. He conducted her to his small but well furnished apartment. “You haven’t changed your mind? Because we can just talk if you prefer.”

She removed her clothing, revealing her unappealing body. “If this doesn’t change yours, let’s get to it. I’m no sweet innocent young thing.”

“I’m the innocent one,” he said, stripping similarly. He had a fine body and an enormous erection, the kind she had dreamed about. “I think you look sexy as hell. What do we do now?”

“You haven’t had sex before?”

“I’m a virgin,” he admitted. “I have a huge desire, but don’t want to make a wrong move and ruin it.”

“Then come here,” she said, drawing him down on the bed with her.

“But I’m so big and you’re so small.”

“Not where it counts.” She made him lie on his back. Then she mounted him, set his turgid member to her cleft, settled onto him and stretched her body out against him. “Now thrust,” she said.

He did, and in moments she felt him spurting. She had not had so large and hard a member in her before, and the feel and audacity of the experience so excited her that soon she joined him in climax, kissing him avidly throughout. He truly wanted her! That thrilled her.

Then they lay beside each other, relaxing.

“That was wonderful,” he said. “Thank you, Edna, for a glorious experience.”

“Same here,” she said. “It’s magical to be truly desired, especially at my age.”

“Oh, yes, I desire you,” he said. “Maybe it’s because you’re the only woman I really trust, despite our brief acquaintanceship. I know you’re not trying to get anything from me.”

“Except sex.”

“I’m getting that from you. What will you tell your husband?”

“The truth. He’ll never believe it. How I had one superlative outing with a rich, handsome, young man who plumbed me better than I’ve had in twenty years.”

“If you keep talking like that, you’re going to get me wanting more.” Indeed, his member was thickening. He was young; he recovered quickly.

“You can have all you want. I am quite thrilled to be wanted.”

“How often can you come? I mean, here.”

“I know what you mean. Every day, if you want. Until you tire of me. I do so like having this effect.”

“It may take years for me to tire of you. You truly understand and accept me.”

“We understand and accept each other. At least in one or two respects. We are totally different creatures, but we have a common need.”

“Sex,” he said. His penis was coming erect. “Is it okay again? You won’t mind?”

“I don’t think I’ll ever mind being so ardently desired. I have been hopelessly hungering for that for decades. Do with me what you wish.”

“I’d sort of like—your breasts, and stuff.”

“Take them.”

He half mounted her and put his face to her breasts, hesitantly. He had had little, if any, experience, and needed reassurance and encouragement. She took hold of his head and guided his mouth to her nipples. Soon he was licking and sucking on them. That started working her up again, too.

Before long he was penetrating her again, working up to a slower, longer climax. She did not climax with him this time, but that hardly diminished her enjoyment of the experience. To have such a handsome, husky young man craving her as a sex object! How could she ever get enough of that?

Polar Opposites by Kev Henley

Prologue – Impossibility


Blue-tinted sunlight streamed through vaulted ceilings, bathing every floor of the complex in a soothing radiance. Shoppers bustled from place to place, from the arcade to the food court, to the trendy stores displaying the latest garb and gear, to the high-tech activity areas. Nowhere else on the planet could someone buy a swimsuit then go next door to swim or surf or sunbathe. If that wasn’t enough, customers could explore virtual worlds or enjoy a wide range of workout facilities and classes. A new section was being built to allow weightless activities.

Yet the busy environments and distractions couldn’t improve Vyn’s mood. A week to spend planetside before returning to patrols and no quality pussy to be found anywhere. Sure, he was slight of build for the current trends of “manly,” and his curly hair, fair skin, and freckles didn’t help his cause. But he was a pilot and combat veteran, damn it!

Most in the service were happily paired by his age, and most of those had children on the way. It was wartime, after all, and the prospect of becoming space dust did wonders for procreation urges. Or so he’d been told.

He could buy what he wanted, though instinct told him it wasn’t the same; no pilot-friendly sex environment could feed his need. What he yearned for was companionship, someone to share his fears and dreams, his losses and his victories when he returned from the skirmishes happening outside their system’s asteroid belt. Someone besides his parents to mourn him when he didn’t return. He needed someone who understood him.

According to his peers, Vyn’s real problem was his lack of assertiveness.

“Dude.” He received a nudge from his nearest friend. “That drink doesn’t hold your answers. Hey, hey, check her.” Though two women walked by, there was no mistaking which one he meant. The blonde flashed all her assets as she passed: flowered panties peeking out from under a mini-skirt, full breasts straining against her tight shirt. Her styled locks and meticulously highlighted face matched her challenging, frisky aura. Without a doubt she was cruising for a fun time.

“Nice, but she smiled at you, Diego,” Vyn told him.

“So, go tag her,” he urged. “Grab her, bend her over this table, rip off her panties, and bury the bone.”

Now four months pregnant, Ann leaned toward him, cupped his crotch, and whispered in a loud voice, “I’d rip these off if you tried that with me.”

“Whoa, babe,” Diego protested, flashing his crooked grin. Six months ago, Ann had walked up to Diego and stolen his heart with an irresistible come-hither look. Since then, he’d pined for her every moment they weren’t together, though he’d never admit it. “I’d never do you like that—I was just teasing. But shit, the man needs something to get him out of this funk.”

She smirked. “Maybe I’ve got what he needs.”

“So give it up already and let’s get to the gym,” said Diego, calling her bluff. “Screw him out of his funk.” To Vyn, they were the model couple, and it made him ache to have the same.

“You perv.” She gave her lover a gentle squeeze. “You’d like to watch, wouldn’t you?”

“You’re making me hard.”

Vyn turned his back his back on their embarrassing antics, and a commotion caught his attention. “Guys,” he called, “check that out.”

“Wow,” Ann murmured. “I wonder what it’s doing in here.”

Weaving through the crowd with speed and grace, the szu-ahni bounded up the set of stairs near their lounging area. Vyn knew from an educational stream that the natives of this planet, dubbed shifters, rarely mingled with humans in their four-legged form, preferring to keep entirely to themselves. For this one to be deep inside the only human colony on the planet was odd, and to show the “panther” form in the crowded mall was even more bizarre. Strangest of all, the shiny black-furred szu-ahni was headed directly toward them.

Amid the gasps and scuffles to get out of the way, the lithe szu-ahni crouched and began to shimmer. Outside of an exhibitionist he’d once seen, Vyn had never been this close when they changed forms. In an instant, the glossy dark hair framed a cute young face; the slender limbs were replaced by a petite figure. As smooth skin replaced the hair, it was clear she was not crouched at all, but seemed to have fallen. Her wide amber-colored eyes were fixed on him.

Without a moment’s thought, Vyn surged to his feet and covered the distance in four strides. Naked and pressed against the floor, she strained her neck to stare up at him with fear or wonder or...

“Hey,” he greeted her softly. “You okay?” A small shake of her head was the only reply, so he reached for her, fully intending to help her stand. “Here, let me—”

As their hands touched, his knees gave way, and Vyn collapsed with a cry. A shock raced through the connection, leaving his senses tingling even as he yanked his hand away. It was his turn to stare at her.

She nodded, as if proving something to herself. “Thought so,” she said, breathlessly. “Felt you close and had to see—had to know. Please. Touch me again.”

He shook his head, shifting his weight to stand, but she grasped his arm and made him sit back down.

“Please.” She crawled into his arms, and Vyn covered her nakedness without a thought to their surroundings. The sensation was bearable now, though currents continuously raced through his body.

The feeling was magnificent, both astonishing and liberating. As if he’d suddenly learned to soar among the golden clouds without having the slightest clue how.

“Oh,” she sighed with small sobs, and Vyn felt her joy. “Oh.”

Instinctively, he squeezed her, trying to surround her with comfort and support. “This...” Vyn had trouble continuing, and when he did, his voice came out in a hush. “This isn’t possible.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Prescription For Love by Tina Gallagher

Chapter One


“Kate, your dad is on the phone.”

Kate Grady finished counting the pills in her tray and spilled them into an amber vial. “Thanks Amy,” she said to the counter girl. Taking in a deep breath through her nose, Kate let it out slowly through her lightly glossed mouth. After her father’s fall and subsequent broken hip, Patrick Grady wasn’t adjusting well to his temporary lack of mobility. He called her at least twice an hour just to make sure she wasn’t running his pharmacy into the ground.

“Hi Dad.” Kate tried to sound cheerful, but as this was probably the hundredth call of the day, her patience was wearing thin.

“Hey Katie, I forgot to tell you when I called before,” Patrick said, “I hired a new delivery boy.”

“What’s wrong with Kevin?” Kate smacked her hand on the counter, nearly spilling her coffee. She lifted the mug, took a sip and placed it out of harm’s way.

“Nothing.”

“Does Kevin know?”

Their current delivery “boy” just celebrated his seventy-second birthday. A retired firefighter, Kevin Finnerty had been running deliveries for Grady’s Pharmacy for the past ten years. He was reliable and efficient, and Kate didn’t want to step on his toes.

“He knows.” She heard her father sigh and could picture him dragging his thick fingers through not-so-thick white hair. Before she could ask another question, Patrick cut her off. “Look Katie, Kevin doesn’t want everybody to know, but Lizzie isn’t feeling so good.”

“Oh.” Kate didn’t know what else to say. She cleared her throat. “Well, who is it?”

“Who’s who?”

She rolled her eyes, thankful her father wasn’t able to see the childish gesture. He’d reprimand her despite the fact she was a full grown woman.

“The new delivery boy.”

“Oh right,” he said and cleared his own throat. She wondered if he was thinking back to when her mother first got sick. “Remember little Johnny O’Brien?”

“From next door?”

“Right.”

The child in question flashed through her mind. The last time she’d seen Johnny, he’d been skin and bones topped off with a mass of white-blond hair. A mouth full of braces and coke-bottle glasses didn’t help his appearance.

“How old is he?” she asked. “Can he even drive?”

“He’ll be graduating from Penn State in December.”

“I bet that went over well,” Kate chuckled. In the Minooka section of Scranton, PA where she grew up, you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a Notre Dame fan.

“Yeah well, you just raise ‘em and hope for the best,” he grumbled. “They don’t always do things you’d approve of.”

Kate flinched. Just when she thought things were getting back to normal with her father, he made a comment like that. He’d been upset when she took her freshly printed pharmacy degree to Philadelphia and set up house with her boyfriend, Thom Chambers.

She still wasn’t sure what upset him more, the fact that she’d left home or “lived in sin”. Patrick hadn’t spoken to her the entire time she and Thom were together and it was only since her mother’s death two years ago, they’d had any semblance of normalcy in their relationship.

“Anyway,” her father’s voice sounded gruff, “Johnny said he’d stop in today to set up a schedule. He’s on summer break, so his hours are pretty flexible.”

“Okay, Dad.” She made sure he didn’t need her to bring anything home, hung up the phone, and picked up the next prescription.

Kate hated when her father withdrew, but she didn’t know how to seal the rift. Once upon a time, she’d been a real Daddy’s girl. Unfortunately, as soon as she’d chosen to follow her own path instead of taking the road he’d so carefully mapped for her, Patrick had cut Kate out of his life. Her mother’s illness had brought her back home, and it was Megan Grady who reminded her hard-headed husband that life was too short to hold grudges. Sadly, he forgot that lesson every once in a while.

Still, Kate had walked Patrick Grady’s definition of the straight and narrow for over two years now. How much longer could he hold on to his disappointment? She cringed at that last thought. Considering her father’s stubborn Irish pride, probably forever.

****

Kate sank onto a wobbly stool, slid her strappy sandal off and rubbed her instep, groaning out loud. Thank heaven it was nearly closing time. Her sound of pleasure still hung in the air when the bell over the door signaled a customer’s arrival.

Slipping the sandal back on, Kate stood and rounded the corner. She nearly tripped at the sight of the man walking toward the counter. Finger-combing blond hair off his face, he looked around the pharmacy. His profile had been hot, but full on his face took her breath away. With perfectly chiseled features, high cheekbones, and a hint of a dimple in his chin, the man could be a movie star.

When she realized she was staring, Kate blushed to the roots of her hair. “Can I help you?” she asked, adding an extra bit of professionalism to her tone, hoping to make up for the fact that she’d shamelessly ogled the man.

His smile revealed perfectly straight, white teeth and twin dimples.

She’d always been a sucker for dimples.

“Katie? You cut your hair.” Twinkling blue eyes met hers.

He seemed to know her, but Kate would swear she’d never met him before. He wasn’t the kind of person a girl would forget.

“Excuse me?”

“Your hair,” he said, unnecessarily pointing to her head. “Last time I saw you, it hung to the middle of your back.”

Kate studied him, trying to figure out where she may have seen him before and still drew a blank. And since she’d just cut her hair six months ago, his comment didn’t offer her much of a time frame.

“Do I know you?” she finally asked.

He chuckled, a deep rumble that went right through her, touching every erogenous zone in her body.

“We grew up next door to each other,” he said. “I was a couple years behind you, but...”

Kate gasped. She actually gasped out loud.

“Johnny O’Brien?”

The last time she saw him, he’d been so skinny a light breeze could have blown him over.

“I grew a little bit.”

Kate cringed when she realized she’d spoken that thought out loud.

“I can see that.”

Had that sultry tone come from her mouth? The surprise that flashed across his face told her it had. Interest flashed in his eyes, scaring the hell out of her. His gaze shifted from her eyes to her mouth and back again. Definitely interest.

Kate had to nip this in the bud. The last thing she needed was to turn into a modern-day Mrs. Robinson.

“My dad said you’re going to be our new delivery boy. When can you start?”

His lips curved into a smile. “When do you want me to start?”

Deciding to ignore his double entendre, Kate picked up a clipboard and flipped through its pages searching for the weekly employee schedule.

“Kevin is in at ten tomorrow.” She clutched the clipboard hoping to hide her shaking hands. “Why don’t you come in then and he can show you the ropes?”

“Sounds good.”

“Great. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He looked like he was about to say something, but stopped. With a wave, he turned and walked out the door, his cologne lingering on the breeze created by the closing door.

Kate dropped onto the stool.

Johnny O’Brien

She remembered the day his parents brought him home from the hospital. Remembered the gawky little boy with huge horn-rimmed glasses riding his bicycle past her house. And God help her, she remembered the perfect shape of his ass as he walked out the door.

Dark Leopard Magic by Sapphire Phelan

Chapter One—Dev


In the Beginning

I’d always been different. I had a rough life, too. Well, not for the first part of it, when my mother was still alive.

I don’t remember my birth, but then what child does? Not much afterwards, either, not until I was three years old. Mother told me some details, and about my father. It seemed that he wasn’t like her and me. He wasn’t a shapeshifter, but human. He also was an American—she originated from India.

Guess you could say that I am a half-breed—half human, half wereleopard. I took after my mother and was born a leopard, remaining a cub until I turned one year old, and made my first change to my human body, just like most shapeshifters.

The only things I inherited from her were my ink-black hair and amber-yellow eyes (wereleopards have these color eyes). Everything else—my pale skin, height, and muscular shape—came from my father. I even inherited the darkness that lived in his soul, as I would learn later on.

My father wasn’t in my life, ever. Before I’d been born, Mother had killed him. He had been beating her as he always did when he came home drunk, and that last time was the final straw for her. She described with relish the look of horror in his eyes as she revealed what she really was before she killed him. Though she never said it to me, I suspected that—like the black widow spider—she’d feasted on her lover’s remains, too.

We never went back to her country, India. When I asked her why, she would say, “I had my Dreaming the next night after I had just killed your father and saw my wereleopard mate was in India, but he had been killed by hunters.” She gave a sad little smile. “I would have killed myself when the Dreaming let me know, for when one mate perishes, the other does not want to live. But then, I found I was pregnant with you. The last time the human raped me before I killed the bastard, his seed had managed to take root in my womb. You kept me alive, my darling son.”

I could never get her to tell me anything else. The subject remained closed.

We also never hung around other wereleopards in America, or any other kind of shifter, either. We lived in a cabin in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia. She allowed me to attend school, but that was it. I was not allowed to have friends over or visit them. It wouldn’t do for the humans in the nearby town to discover the monsters living among them. The kids at school didn’t understand why I didn’t associate with them and they began to call me names. Names like retard, dummy, and when I grew into my preteens, two other names took over: Mommy’s little lover and homo.

Strange as it may seem to others, my mother kept my emotions grounded. My world was just her and me. Daytime was spent in human skin, and nights of hunting beneath the stars in leopard form. Thanks to our hunting (mainly her, I was a lousy hunter when I was younger), deer, rabbit and squirrel meat provided our sustenance. The only time I ate cooked food was noontime at school when I bought my lunch.

One day that all changed. Mother died. She’d been hunting as the leopard when a pack of wild dogs jumped her and ripped her to shreds.

I was sixteen at the time. Afraid to tell authorities that I was alone, even making up some story that my mother had abandoned me or something, I continued to go to school. I kept to myself. My hormones wanted otherwise. I would use my hand at night, hoping that would bring relief.

It didn’t. I decided to get closer to the humans—in particular, one human, Daisy Sumpter. She was a geek who was always reading and got exceptional grades in school. She was also a virgin. I could smell it on her. I decided we would get rid of our virginity together.

It never happened. I got her to go on several dates with me. I supposed she was pleased anyone asked her out, even the bad boy that no one liked. One night I took her to this place where all the kids went to fuck. The odor of sex hung heavy in the air. Heady, my penis grew hard. I began to kiss her, slipped off her top, and fumbled with her breasts. Then it happened. My enthusiasm departed. When she saw my limp dick, she laughed.

Angry, I took the little bitch home. I tried other girls and the same thing occurred. Before long, the homo name stuck to me as the only one everyone called me. Unable to take their taunting and growing afraid of my anger and what I might do, I scrammed one night and left the area.

* * * *

I lived like a wild animal for a couple of years, sticking to my leopard form. Hunted fresh game at night and slept during the day in a large cave I found in the mountains. Without my mother to help me, I didn’t hunt too well. Nine times out of ten, my prey escaped. The easiest things to catch were the occasional rabbit and squirrels. Once, I ran down an elderly deer that hobbled more than bolted. I grew thin.

I thought no one knew a leopard lived in the mountains, or if they heard, thought I was a myth like the mountain lion. My idyllic life ended when I was captured by hunters a year later. I ended up in a circus, performing for countless humans. The other big cats they owned hated me. They knew I wasn’t natural, one of them. After a while, the circus people kept me in my own cage for my own protection. I guess I was too valuable to get rid of. Within two years, beaten down and past caring, I became a shade of myself—an eunuch in all but the literal truth.

One night, tired of what I had become and wanting only to escape, I shifted into my two-legged humanoid shape. Taking a hairpin I had found in the straw of my cage, I used it to pick the lock and fled. The pale light from the full moon splashed an unearthly glow to the area as I walked naked between the circus tents, trucks, cages filled with real animals, and the carny area of rides and games. I stuck to the shadows to avoid as much the humans as possible. I thought I had almost succeeded when I ran into Johnny Tripp, one of the clowns. He had just gotten out of his clown makeup and was as drunk as hell, lolling on the stoop of his RV. Clutching a bottle of cheap whiskey and swigging from it, he paused and peered toward the shadows where I hid. I remained motionless between his RV and the trailer next to it. Apparently, though, he wasn’t drunk enough that didn’t catch movement when I shifted from one foot to another.

Shivering from both the cold and now fear, I breathed in the stink of his dirty body. I ducked down behind a bush nearby, but most of its leaves had been stripped and the plant didn’t afford me much cover. I watched as he crashed my way.

“Who’s there?” he called out. “Come on, I know someone’s hiding behind that bush. I can see gleam of your pale skin.”

I rose to my feet and knew I looked pathetic, barely covered by the dark velvet of the night. My hands tightened into fists.

“Here I am.” My voice barely croaked above a whisper.

I was scared shitless. Who knew what would happen to me. Unlike my kind, I’d been a worthless shifter, unable to hunt well and defend myself much. A ping reached my ears and, looking down, I saw the shine from my claws as they sprouted from my fingertips. They cut into my palms and droplets of blood dripped to the dirt.

Johnny stumbled forward, the whiskey from his bottle sloshing and splashing onto the ground. Its fumes reeked. Nasty and cheap, it offended my senses.

Johnny grabbed me and yanked me toward him. His arms circled around me, and he held me tight against his form. I felt something growing hard against my hip. Worse, my cock began to lengthen and harden. My claws retracted as my arousal deepened.

“You smell sweet, naked man,” said Johnny, and then he kissed me.

His kiss deepened and his tongue found its way into my mouth. The tip traveled along the inside, teasing me with an erotic feather touch. I moaned and answered that kiss, my own tongue meshing with his. My organ grew harder. He slipped a hand down and touched me.

Johnny drew back and laughed. “Mmmmm, you’re a big one, aren’t you? When I have a man, I get first pick. My cock gets first hole.”

Suddenly things changed. He shoved me around and to the ground on my hands and knees. I heard the rustle of clothing, but didn’t dare to look back. Instead, I grew even more excited by the sounds. I could smell his arousal, too. Sweet, it tantalized my nostrils.

Deep into the erotic need, precum wet the head of my cock.

He dropped to his knees directly behind my ass, spread the crack with his work-roughened hands, and I felt something hard probing at the entrance there. It started to worm its way inside. It burned—hurting—then things grew better as I adjusted to it, even though I was dry.

He penetrated me like a man fucked a woman. Even though he hadn’t prepared me or lubricated me, it made me so excited that the change began. I glowed with my beast magic. Johnny apparently never noticed as he kept pounding away.

My human face was the first to go. Like putty, the skin over my skull moved and warped. Then the skull began to reshape itself, too, softening. Whiskers sprouted out of my cheeks. My gums receded and my teeth lengthened and sharpened. They became fangs, and made my small human mouth uncomfortable. To accommodate them, my mouth jutted outwards into a snout with a maw to match. Fingernails and toenails morphed into claws and hands and feet into paws. It wasn’t long before a happily fucking Johnny was pushing his cock into the asshole of a leopard, just under the swishing tail. When my tail brushed against his face, he stopped. I looked back at him and saw him looking down with a frown, as he tried to think with his alcohol-soaked brain. Then the moonlight glittered across my flesh of spots and I knew it also revealed my face. A look of shock, then terror, sketched in his eyes.

Screaming, he pulled out and leaped to his feet, his pants pooling at his feet. He couldn’t run and stumbled. Frightened, angry even, I whipped around and knocked him down. As I lay on him, I stared into his fear-fogged eyes.

“Oh, God, what the hell are you?” he cried. “How can a man become a leopard? I can’t stand you…you monster!”

His fear wafted into my nostrils and my own anger grew hotter. He had raped me and he called me a monster? Suddenly, the years of abuse broke me. With a snarl, I tore out his throat. Blood splashed my face. I rose off his body and knew he was dead. Knowing what that meant, I summoned my beast magic to rid me of the man’s blood and I spirited myself out of the area.

No longer a shapeshifter—now I was a monster for real.

* * * *

The next few years I kept going, taking short stopovers in cities to rest. I never stayed in towns and the country or small burgs, just big cities. I could lose myself among the steel skeletons of the skyscrapers. I would rent out a room at a cheap dive using leftover money I had earned along my journey, or stolen from lovers I’d left behind. When I had no money, I would bunk down at a homeless shelter. That was rare, for I couldn’t trust myself not to be caught doing the change. In a shelter, there was no room to be by yourself; instead you shared a room full of cots with others. The motels and flea-ridden hotels were much safer alternatives.

I found lovers, too—men at gay bars, desperate for rough sex. I gave it to them, reveling in fucking their asses hard or shoving my cock down their throats, almost choking them. I found I liked it like that, loved hurting a lot of the humans. That just gave me further proof that I was some kind of monster, even when not in my wereleopard form.

Unfortunately, one day I screwed up with the violence. I met this man, Tom. Slim, but smaller than me, he had long blond hair tied back in a ponytail. Soft gray eyes rimmed by long dark eyelashes glowed with pleasure when our eyes met. His gaze traveled over my body, stopping at the evident bulge in my jeans. He rose off his bar stool, glass of whiskey in hand, and sashayed over to me.

His lips at my ear, he whispered, “Are you happy to see me?” He palmed the bulge. “Or is that a...”

I grabbed his hand, warning, “Don’t say that tired old refrain. And yeah, I’m horny.” I placed my lips at his ear and flicked out the tip of my tongue, circling his ear with it. He shivered.

I laughed softly. “Forget all the niceties, lover. Let’s go to my place and just get on with it.”

We left the bar with my arm around his waist and my hand planted on his ass, heading for the cheap motel room I had rented earlier that day. The odor of fucking and poor quality wine and beer filled the room. Stains—some I could imagine where they came from, others I didn’t care to know—blemished the bed’s blanket and sheets. It didn’t matter to me, though. The place would do for a night of hard fornication.

I ripped his clothes from his body. He protested. Not much, as no doubt he couldn’t wait for us to get on with it. He crawled onto the mattress and lay on his back, his legs spread wide. His buttocks rose high, and he spread his cheeks to reveal his nice little hole.

Climbing between his legs, I got myself comfortable as I kneeled. His musky odor aroused me and soon I got down to business, sucking his cock and fondling his balls.

I slid Tom’s rod to the back of my throat and began to massage it with my tongue across the length. He moaned and asked if he could play with me. I knew what he wanted and moved around so that he could get a good reach. I moved my mouth up and down his staff as he cupped my balls with one hand and caressed the length of mine with the other one. I took his balls and gave them a gentle squeeze.

He moaned, then kissed the base of my shaft. The more he kissed the soft skin tightly bound around the rock hard core, the more he lingered. He licked and kissed his way toward the head.

I dropped his prick out of my mouth. Oh hell, he’s good at giving head! I thought.

I sucked him harder, running my tongue around the ridge of his cockhead. With a flick, I pried his slit hole apart with the tip of my tongue. The salty taste of precum filled my mouth. I slid my tongue into the slit back and forth. This turned him on all the more and he moved his hips and, in one quick motion, slid my cock down his throat. Lust blossomed inside me, lighting a fire that raced through me all the way to my organ, causing it to grow thicker and longer. I fucked his face hard and fast. I had to give it to the man, he took it and gave it back to me as well as he was getting.

I grabbed the cheeks of his ass and pinched them, alternately sucking his penis and balls as, excited, I began the change. My teeth become fangs—using them, I nibbled on the skin of his rod. The pain apparently made him hornier, for he shoved his dick all the way down my throat until his pubic hairs tickled my nose. That was when he came, shooting his hot jism into my mouth.

Oh God, so tasty!

My fingernails became claws and I gripped his ass tighter, blood streaming from where the tips embedded into the skin. Unable to help it, my balls released their load and my seed slipped down his throat. The change complete, I snarled, still fully aroused, and bit him. The aroused monster in me kept gnawing on his penis until it was torn from his crotch. Then I rolled off of him and swung around, catching sight of cum spitting out of his mouth with the screams. He stared at his cock in my maw with horror, then down at the bloody mess between his legs. I slapped him with a clawed-edged paw. His head snapped back with a loud crack, and he went silent.

He lay there on the sheet, sodden with sperm and blood, his neck broken and the look of terror frozen in his eyes. In my human skin once more, I spit out his organ, right onto his chest.

I left him there. Without a backwards glance for the dead human, I magicked myself out of the building and to the darkened streets outside. I was glad I’d paid several days for that room. The managers wouldn’t check until time for my check out. They would find the body then, but I would be long gone. I could live without my clothes and the spare change I’d left.

The spilt blood and violent sex made me hungry. Though I had killed the man, I never ate humans. My soul wasn’t that dark.

I hunted. Letting my nose do the tracking, I caught the fresh spoor of a couple of feral dogs, just down the street. Staying out of the glow of the streetlights and hugging the shadows, I remained downwind of the mongrels so they couldn’t would catch wind of me. I paced into the alley where my prey hid.

I cornered the frightened beasts. They whimpered and cowered as they saw me. Raising a claw-tipped paw, my muscles bunching to strike, and suddenly I sensed humans behind me.

“Catch the filthy bugger,” said a voice.

No longer caring about the dogs, I whipped around and saw that I was cut off by about seven men. I snarled, hoping that would scare them off.

Instead, the biggest and tallest of the lot stepped toward me, carrying something in his hands. I flicked back my ears, growled, and backed up. Not too far, as my tail and butt found the fence.

Someone whistled. “Come on, Katie and Joe, you did your jobs.”

The dogs bolted past me and ran up to another of the darkened figures.

Stupid twit. The dogs were a trap set for you. Some fucking wereleopard you are.

Then I remembered the beast magic, and just as I was about to use it to get away, the tall one threw whatever thing he held in his hands over me. Made of metal, I figured it had to be a net. The metal burned my skin and I screamed in agony.

Damn it, it was made of silver!

Falling to my side and laying on the dirty cement, the pain felt so immense that I wanted to die. Let the damn humans kill me—at least do it quick. Spare me the silver poisoning, a slow, terrible death.

The tall man grinned down at me. “I was promised a lot of money for you, shapeshifter. Someone filthy rich wants your kind very much.”

Just as I thought that this was it, something very large erupted over the fence and over me, landing mere inches from the man. Taller than him, the thing drew closer, and the next second I heard the terrified screams of the man. With my night vision I saw the human drop to the ground and black wetness flooding from him into a big puddle. The smell of human blood along with urine wafted to my nostrils and I knew that he was dead.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor by Jack Greene

They were going to kill him.


He’d die happy, but that was beside the point.

It had gotten to the point that Gerard exhibited a Pavlovian response while looking out the window. His heart started beating faster as he approached the blinds, which he always kept angled to let the sun in as much as possible without letting anyone else see in.

He was certain some of his neighbors had no such compunctions. That was the problem.

As he peered through the blinds, other physical reactions began to manifest. He felt his face flush, then the tightening in his lower stomach that signaled the onset of arousal. He wasn’t hard yet, but it wouldn’t be long.

It always happened this time of night, when the sky darkened enough to require lights inside. Their blinds never closed. The effect was like a spotlight, or his own private peep show.

The apartment building was an open square, with a courtyard in the center that held a small pool and some greenery. Gerard had moved in just two months ago and still had half his stuff in boxes. He didn’t know many of the neighbors.

Well, except for them. Not that he knew them, not by name. He’d never spoken to them. He knew parts of them, though. He knew what they did for fun. He knew they wore very little clothing around the apartment.

He knew they were beautiful. He knew they were gay.

The first time he’d glimpsed them, he’d thought they were women. From a distance, it was an easy mistake. They were both very slender, with tiny frames and longish hair. They wore stylish clothes and moved gracefully. But, more than a glance assured him they were both male.

He was quite certain of this because they tended to strip off their clothes with very little provocation.

They looked like models, and he found out later that was exactly what they were.

He could still remember the first time he’d seen them. He had been attempting to unpack but got sidetracked. He’d noticed the glorious colors of a spectacular LA sunset and gone to the window to look at it. As the colors faded into the dusk a light went on across the courtyard, and his attention was drawn by movement.

The two men were both slender and dark-haired, but that was where the resemblance ended. They looked about the same age, early twenties. The taller one had longer hair that Gerard later learned he sometimes spiked up into a faux hawk, but usually wore loose and straight. The other had shorter hair that came to just below his ears and was cut in the type of asymmetric style that was designed to fall over one eye.

The taller man wore makeup almost all the time, and favored tight, designer type clothing while the other dressed in a more punk style, often in a leather jacket when the weather was cool.

He didn’t see all this at once, of course, but over the course of time he’d seen them in the underground parking garage, or by the mailboxes. They’d never spoken to him, but he had smiled once or twice at the pretty men. He’d gotten smiles back from behind dark sunglasses, and he’d felt strangely elated.

He’d been fascinated at first sight; only for a moment had he thought they were women. They’d stood in front of the window for a moment, then the taller man disappeared from view only to appear a moment later, shirtless.

He’d swallowed hard and tried to make himself move away from the window, but couldn’t. Especially when the other man removed his shirt, tossing it carelessly to the side.

Both appeared quite pale, though the shorter man was the lightest. He caught a glimpse of metal from the taller man’s nipple rings, while the shorter one had several tattoos on his arms and chest.

The taller man stepped closer and reached out, and Gerard gasped softly. They’d looked like they were about to…but then he just turned the smaller man away from him. He began to massage his roommate’s shoulders, and the shorter man’s head fell back in evident pleasure.

Gerard tried to tell himself that it was just a friendly massage, but something told him these two were more than friends. There was something in the familiar way they touched. Sure enough, the massage turned more sensual. The taller man pressed up against the shorter, and his hands strayed from his shoulders down over his chest.

As Gerard watched, stunned, the shorter man turned and they kissed, lithe bodies rubbing against each other languidly. He’d stumbled back from the window, cheeks burning. The image didn’t leave his mind for a long time, though.

It wasn’t that he was shocked. Living in Hollywood, he saw same sex couples all the time. He’d seen every flavor of porn imaginable at one time or another. He wasn’t homophobic. He knew what men did together, but it just had never appealed to him. All the gay porn he’d seen had featured big hairy men and had done nothing for him. Shemales were slightly more interesting, but still not too exciting. He’d never imagined two pretty, slim men together like this.

He was amazed to find that he was fascinated by the image in his mind.

The image wasn’t just in his mind, though. Gerard didn’t return to the window for a couple of days, and when he did chance it, he’d seen nothing. No one was home in the apartment across the way.

The next night, he’d happened to glance out, and there they were. They were dancing; Gerard couldn’t hear the music but it looked like something really danceable because the men seemed to have a great time. They danced close to one another, and as he watched they stripped off their shirts and began to dance dirty.

His mouth went dry as he watched; the men knew how to move. They weren’t at all shy with each other, that was clear. They ground against each other, hands roaming, lips parted. They were beautiful together.

That was the first time Gerard thought that perhaps they wanted an audience. Two creatures that gorgeous were made to be watched.

One thought led to another and Gerard’s mind strayed to what else he might watch them do.

Once again, he forced himself away from the window. He felt like a voyeur even though he wasn’t going out of his way to watch.

He wanted to watch, though. He wanted it badly. He wanted to see what came after the dancing. Half hard, he went to the spare bedroom to work out. He pushed himself hard, trying to exorcise the vision of the two young men.

He worked out every day. He liked the way he looked, the way it felt when he was in good shape. He was thirty-five but looked younger. The only indication of his age was a sprinkling of gray hairs that had appeared in his close-cropped brown hair. He refused to color it.

Since he was new to the area, he hadn’t done much besides work and unpack. He’d been out with a few colleagues from work but he hadn’t bothered to date yet. He always found dating awkward; he’d stayed in an unfulfilling relationship for too long because it was easier than dating again. He didn’t want to get into a situation like that again. He wasn’t the kind of man who needed to be with someone all the time. He missed sex, of course, but he always had his hand.

He wondered if his new fascination had something to do with the fact that he hadn’t had sex in a couple of months. He didn’t think so. He’d gone longer without it before. All he knew was that whenever he thought of sex, the image of his sexy neighbors came to mind.

Roped Into You by Marie Rochelle

Chapter One


Placing the last of her clothing into the black luggage, Leila Hilson tried closing the lid, but it wouldn’t snap shut. After leaning on it using all of her weight, she was finally able to get it fastened. She knew that she should have invested in a new bag for her road trip, but she was trying to save a few bucks. In addition, she was very attached to the one she was using. It was the last big present her parents had bought for her right before they’d died in a boating accident. Just the thought of giving it away broke her heart, so she’d kept it for all of these years.

“Leila, are you about ready?” Ms. Thurston yelled at her from downstairs. “You’ve been up there for a while. Do you need some help?”

“No, ma’am, I’m almost done. Just give me a few more minutes and I’ll be downstairs.”

Leila quickly got off the suitcase and placed it on the floor next to her. She finished getting the rest of her personal items together and tossed them into the open bag on the bed. She couldn’t believe after living here since she was twelve years old that she was finally going to be moving away.

She wasn’t quite sure if she was ready for the adventure she was about to embark upon. However, Ms. Thurston wouldn’t let her stay at home out of misplaced fear or nervousness. No, she would push her out the door and tell her to live her life to the fullest.

Picking up the bag off the bed, Leila placed it on her shoulder, grabbed her suitcase off the floor and went out of the door. The second she rounded the corner and headed down the steps, Leila spotted the woman who had been like a second mother to her, standing at the bottom waiting for her. The sight of the sweet older woman who had raised her brought a smile to her lips.

“Honey, are you sure that you don’t need any help?” Ms. Thurston asked, again

“Thank you for your offer, but no ma’am, I’ve everything packed up and ready to go,” Leila answered.

Ms. Thurston was about to turn eighty in less than two weeks and she was still moving around like she was twenty-five years old. It always amazed Leila at how young and active Ms. Thurston acted. There truly wasn’t a wrinkle on her sienna skin because her guardian was a stickler about using nightly no-wrinkles lotions and creams on her face and body.

“Now, sweetheart, you don’t have to call me that,” Ms. Thurston corrected with a huge smile on her pretty face. “You’ve been living with us for so long that you’re a part of the family now.”

“Despite the fact they’ve been gone for years, you know that my mom and dad would be very disappointed in me if I called you anything else. They raised me to respect people. Mom was very big on saying treat others like you wanted to be treated and that is what I do. I like being considerate to everyone even the ones who may not deserve it.”

“You’re right. Catherine and James were very big on being well-mannered. They were fine people and raised you to be the same way. I’m also proud to say that they were wonderful when it came to helping out the community. Whenever I needed some help I knew that I could count on them. It’s still hard for me to believe that they’ve been gone for such a long time.”

Tears filled Leila’s eyes as she wished her parents were still alive and here with her, but that wasn’t going to happen. She hated the thought of leaving the house she considered her home. However, it was past time for her to live on her own and try to make a life for herself outside the small community she was raised in.

Yes, she loved everyone here and they were like an extended family to her, but she needed more out of her life. Her parents would have pushed her to move away right after college if they’d been alive. They believed in being independent and choosing the right path for your life in the world...she hoped and prayed this new job was her direction.

It had killed her to let go of her childhood home a few weeks ago, but she had to do it. Selling the property was the first step into leaving her childhood behind and becoming an adult. All while she had been growing up, Ms. Thurston’s son Tony had taken care of the property and even stayed inside the house when he was in town on business or came for a visit.

Leila was overjoyed that she had sold the house to Jacob and Clara Roberts. She had talked to them several times in town and they had always shown a keen interested in owning her old home, so when she finally got up enough nerve to sell it, they had been the first couple she had thought about and it turned out to be the best decision of her life.

Now, she could take the nanny position that Tony had gotten for her in another state. But, she was a little apprehensive because she hadn’t met her new boss yet. Her new employer hadn’t even gone over the new rules or salary when it came to her new position, so she wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Tony had assured her that she would love the job. But it was hard to let her worries disappear when she had so many unanswered questions, yet she trusted Tony with all her heart and would go with the flow. He would never put her into a bad situation.

Despite all the wonderful encouragement Tony and his mother had given to her over the years, she was still very uneasy about living out in the middle of nowhere for the next three years of her life. Sure, her hometown was small, but it was a place she knew like the back of her hand.

When she walked around in town and people called her by name it brought a smile to her face. She never got any strange looks like she was an outsider. Now she was going somewhere where she would be the ‘new’ person and the inquisitive looks were bound to happen whether she wanted them to or not.

Any time a stranger moved into town the residents there always wanted to know the life story of the new person. She wasn’t all that big on talking about her life with anyone. All she really wanted to do was her job and not stir up any trouble with anyone she might be working with.

Leila had grown to hate the factory job she had worked at since graduating from high school and when the third year was about to roll around, she decided it was time for a change in her career choice. Since she adored kids so much, becoming a live-in nanny seemed like the perfect option. However, she didn’t quit the factory job instantly because it kept money in her pocket while she was attending college.

After graduating from college, she tried numerous times to get work in her hometown, but none here had a need for a live-in nanny since most of the women stayed at home while their husbands worked. She thought she might have made a mistake until Tony came for a visit from Wyoming.

He mentioned how his widower boss was looking for a nanny for his little girl and he thought she would be excellent for the job. So, Tony being the good guy he was faxed his employer her college credits, wrote a five star reference and the rest of it was history.

“Ms. Thurston, I’m going to miss you so much especially all of our late night talks on the porch. You gave me so much fantastic advice about life. I don’t know what I would have done without it.”

“Leila, you’re so welcome. You’re like the daughter I’ve always wanted. I love Tony and he knows it, but you will always hold a special place in my heart,” Ms. Thurston said touching her on the arm. “But I thought that my homemade oatmeal cookies might rank above our nightly talks. You never waited for them cool off on the cookie racks before you would grab a couple and leave the room.”

“I haven’t forgotten about your delicious cookies. I’m going to miss them so much too. They constantly found a way to cheer me up anytime I was having a bad day,” Leila confessed, smiling at the woman in front of her. “I swear they are the best cookies I’ve ever tasted in my life. I’m sorry that I didn’t have you make some for my long trip.”

“Sweetheart, you aren’t going to have to miss them on your road trip at all.” Ms. Thurston removed her hand off her arm. “Come inside the kitchen. I’ve something for you.” Brushing past her, Ms. Thurston headed back in the direction of the kitchen. Placing all of her items on the floor by the entrance table, Leila followed behind her.

“What are you up to?” Leila asked the second she stepped inside of the room. Looking around, she noticed that Ms. Thurston was getting everything together so she could start lunch in a few minutes. She hadn’t even left yet and she was already home sick. She truly was going to miss the homey feel this space always gave her.

“I decided to get up early and make these for you. You can snack on them on your long drive to your new job.” Ms. Thurston grabbed a red and black tin container off the counter by the microwave and brought it back over to her. “Now, don’t eat all of these up before you get there. Save some for tonight and you can have them after you get all settled into your hotel.”

Taking the container from Ms. Thurston, Leila noticed the rosebush and birdhouse on the front of it. They were the two things she loved the most about their backyard. She would sit in the backyard for hours inside the swing and watch the birds as they flew in and out of the birdhouse.

“You didn’t have to do this for me. I know how busy you are with other chores around the house,” Leila said as tears filled her eyes. She blinked a couple of times hoping they would go away, because if she started crying now it would make it only harder for her to leave later.

“Don’t you dare cry on me,” Ms. Thurston scolded giving her a tight hug and then stepped back. “You know that I wasn’t about to let you leave this house without your favorite snack. As much as I would love for you to stay here forever, I know that you can’t. You better get going so you can at least make it to the hotel before it gets too dark.”

Holding the cookie tin to her chest, Leila took one last lingering look around the room and tried to hold on to everything about it that she could. Ms. Thurston and she both knew she wasn’t going to see this place again for awhile unless she came back for a visit, but she didn’t know when that might be because of the schedule at her new job. She hated that leaving this place made her feel like she was losing her family all over again.

“Maybe I should just stay here and go back to the factory,” she suggested as a case of nerves set in. “I was making a pretty good salary working there. I’m pretty sure if I asked my old boss nicely, he would give it back to me. In addition, I hate to think of leaving you here all alone without anyone to talk to.”

“Sweetheart, I won’t let you do that. I’m going to be just fine. Don’t you remember one of my old girlfriends is coming to stay here with me for a few months while she heals from her hip replacement surgery? We’re going to have a good time talking about our younger days. She will be here the day after tomorrow.”

“If you’re sure...” Leila hedged.

“I’m more than sure. You can’t be afraid of the future. It’s yours to do anything you want with. Now make me and your parents proud. Get out of this kitchen and out into that cute car Tony got for you.”

Ms. Thurston gently pushed her out of the kitchen and back into the hallway next to her bags. “You really need to get on the road because it’s already past eight o’clock and you’ve a long drive ahead of you. I’m hoping that you will at least get there before it gets too late.”

“I don’t think I’m running too far behind schedule,” Leila replied. “Tony set me up in a motel for tonight and I’ll check out in the morning. He didn’t want me on the road all night long. I’m hoping when I talk to my new boss that everything will go well.”

“That’s my son,” Ms. Thurston said with a smile. “He’s always thinking of everything. Now are you sure that you’ve all of your things? Do you need any extra money? I don’t want you to have forgotten something in a rush.”

“No, I’ve everything that I need in my travel bag and suitcase. I said my goodbyes to my old house yesterday. It was extremely hard to hand over the keys to the new owners, but I did it and I think my parents would’ve been so proud of me.” Leila held back fresh tears as she tried to stay strong.

“As I told you before, your parents are looking down at you with smiles on their faces. You’ve turned out to be a beautiful young woman on the inside and outside. They couldn’t have raised a better daughter.”

“You helped raise me too,” Leila cut in, wanting Ms. Thurston to know how much she cared about her too. “I couldn’t have gotten through that tragedy without you. You were such a stable part of my life. Tony helped out a lot too. I always thought of him like an older brother. It was kind of fun since I was an only child for so long.”

“Sweetheart, we loved having you as a part of our family and we always will. Enough of this messy stuff because I can’t let you make our final goodbyes even harder. You really do need to get going now or you’ll have me worrying about you until I get your phone call.”

“Okay, I’ll hit the road.” Picking up her bags, Leila went towards the front door and waited for Ms. Thurston as she opened it and followed her outside. Once she got outside she placed her belongings in the trunk of the white convertible and slammed it shut.

“I’m still not fond of this car that my son got for you. He knew better than that, but he always loved to spoil you,” Ms. Thurston complained as she glanced at the car and then back at Leila.

Leila loved the sporty little convertible and was thrilled to have it. Tony knew what she‘d wanted and bought it for her without a second thought, but she’d need to ease his mother’s mind about it. She truly didn’t want Ms. Thurston worrying about her.

“I promise to follow the speed limit and not get pulled over by the cops,” Leila teased and then hugged Ms. Thurston.

“Young lady, you better not get stopped by the police or pick up any hitchhikers either.” Ms. Thurston returned the hug and then stepped back. “You know that Tony and I have already had this talk with you. That’s why I wanted him to drive you there. I wasn’t sure if you could handle such a long drive on your own.”

“I swear to you that I listened to everything you and Tony told me.” Leila didn’t know what she was going to do without this amazing woman in her life. It felt a little strange going on a new journey to a family she didn’t know.

Ms. Thurston planted a kiss on her cheek and then moved back from her. “You be careful, you hear me? Don’t forget that your old bedroom is still ready for you if that old rancher isn’t nice and wants to work you too hard. You can leave the same day and come right back here. I would welcome you back with open arms.”

“I promise I’ll come back home if things don’t work out there. I won’t stay anywhere that I’m not wanted.” Leila got into the car. She started it up, waved goodbye and then pulled out of the driveway wondering what lay ahead for it at the Blue Horn ranch.