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A to Z: Z is for Zenith

Last time, we left Cassie and Icarus taking Henry down. And the state police showing up. Now, to what happens next for them.

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Cassie held on to Grady as he rounded another curve on his bike. They’d been back at the clubhouse for nearly a week now. She could hardly believe he’d let go of her at all in that time. They hadn’t discussed much of what had happened. Or what was going to happen next. They’d just held onto each other as much as they could.

The police had only held him for a few hours, until they could sort out everthing that had happened. Cassie was sure her statement had gone a long way to getting Grady released as soon as he was. And the reason Henry was still sitting in a cell, despite his connection to the sheriff. Hopefully he would not be getting out for a long while. If ever again.

Jake and Daniel were sitting in another cell as accomplices. She hoped they wouldn’t be getting out, either. But, when they did, they wouldn’t have jobs in the sheriff’s department any longer. She could at least be thankful for that. Whether the sheriff had known what they were doing or not, he couldn’t very well back them and come out looking very good.

She wrapped her arms a little tighter around Icarus. “You okay back there?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Very okay,” she told him.

She caught the edge of his grin before he looked back toward the road. She hung on to him as they took the final turn to the lookout point they’d gone to almost twenty years ago. She had some rather fond memories of the place.

Grady stopped the bike and she slid off from behind him. By the time she’d removed her helmet, he was off the bike and pulling a blanket and small basket of food out of one of the saddlebags. The cook from the clubhouse had put together some sandwiches and things for them. She grabbed the two bottles of water they’d brought along and joined him where he’d laid out the blanket.

When they finished eating, Cassie leaned back against him, covering the hand he had resting on her stomach. “I was going to quit,” he said.

“What?” She tried to turn toward him, but he held her in place.

“I was going to quit the club. Take you, Birdie and Trace if they wanted, and go find somewhere we could all find peace. Would you want me to do that?”

She couldn’t believe he was asking her that. “Why would you do that? That club is so much of who you are. And I’ve seen the good you do for people. Why would you just give that up?”

“That doesn’t mean anything if I constantly have to worry about who’s going to come after you. You’re what matters to me, Cassie.”

“And you matter to me. I love you, Grady. Whether you’re here with the club or we go somewhere else and you find another way to help people. That’s what you’ve always wanted to do, though. Even before. You can’t give up doing that.”

He hugged her a little tighter to him. “I guess we’ll stay then. All I want right now is to spend the rest of my life with you. That sound good?”

Warmth flooded through her, and she couldn’t tone down her smile. “That sounds perfect to me.”

He turned her toward him and took her mouth in a long kiss before laying her down on the blanket. Later, after watching the sun set, she climbed back on the bike behind him, and they headed back for the clubhouse. To their home. She knew this wasn’t the end. But, she was glad to have every moment she could with him. She wasn’t going to take another one for granted.

~~~~~~~~~

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I enjoyed taking you on it. There’s more in store for these characters. I should be starting to put Devil’s story(Dance with the Devil) up on Wattpad soon(you can read the first 2 stories there as well) and am just starting to write Hawk’s. I’m not sure whose will come after that.

A to Z: Y is for Your Love

Last time, we left Icarus ready to go and rescue Cassie. And Chief reminding him of priorities. Today we’re back with Cassie. Will she be able to get away? Read on! We’re almost done.

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Cassie opened her eyes to light streaming through the window Wraith had climbed through the night before. There was no one there now, though, she could feel someone watching from the doorway. Henry, she realized turning her head slightly. Her mouth was dry, and her stomach ached. They hadn’t given her anything to eat or drink since they’d grabbed her. And now her heart sank, knowing Grady still wasn’t here for her.

He was coming. He had to be.

Henry sauntered into the room, and she tried to force her body up into a sitting position. She got herself somewhat braced against the wall, but that was about the best she could do without the use of her hands. “You ready to start begging for that forgiveness yet, Cassandra?”

“I don’t need your forgiveness, Henry. You should be the one asking for it. You took advantage of a scared young girl who found herself pregnant and no way to get in touch with the father. And you held it against me every day. My trust in you, what I thought might be love. You used it to hurt me. And to hurt my son. No, I won’t ever ask you for forgiveness, Henry. And I’ll never give you mine.”

He was in front of her in two strides. His hand shot out and her head bounced off the wall from the slap. “Do not ever speak to me like that again, Cassandra. I beat it out of you once. I’ll do it again. Don’t doubt it.”

“Oh, I never have,” she said, wiping the blood from her mouth on the shoulder of her shirt.

He turned and started to leave the room. But, Cassie heard the roar of engines down the street and propped herself up on her elbows. That had to be Icarus. If it wasn’t, she didn’t know what she’d do. Henry had apparently heard it too. He sent a glare over his shoulder at her. “I’ll take care of that. Once he’s gone, you won’t have any other option but to apologize and accept what I offer you.”

“Never,” she spit at him.

“You’ll see,” he said and started out of the room.

No, she wouldn’t. She knew taking care of it didn’t mean sending Grady on his way. He would never go without her. Not again. Which meant Henry likely planned to kill him or smehow have him arrested. No. She couldn’t let that happen.

Cassie rolled onto her side and twisted her wrist around. She could feel it slicked with blood. The ties had already dug into her skin. And she felt it catch. She couldn’t just give up, though. Grady wouldn’t give up on her. Cassie bit her lip as pain seared through her hands, but then one of them was sliding out. She let the ring fall away from her wrist and and pushed herself up on the mattress.

There wasn’t anything but the mattress in the room. Certainly nothing she could use as a weapon to help Icarus. She’d need to find something once she got out there. Henry had left the door unlocked, apparently thinking there was no way she could get free. She stepped out into the hallway, keeping an eye out for anything she could use. She found a heavy canister near the other end of the hallway. She almost dropped it but managed to hold on as she creeped forward.

“Let her go, Kearns.”

“Grady,” she murmured. That was his voice out on the front steps. He had come for her.

Henry just laughed. “You can’t actually think I’ll let you get your filthy hands on her again. She’s mine now, Hartson. You lost. Get used to it.”

“I haven’t lost anything. You will let her go. We have the state police waiting just down the road. If she doesn’t leave with us, it only takes one call, and they’ll be here to take you in on abduction charges and anything else they can find. I imagine they’re already at your house searching it for the drugs Trace told them about.”

Henry didn’t sound nervous when he laughed again. “Like I’m actually going to believe the state police are going to help a gang of outlaws like you.”

“You should. First we aren’t a gang or outlaws. And Eric Parnell still hs contacts in law enforcement. They believe what he tells them. And they’ll believe Cassie when she tells them you’ve held her against her will. Let her go now, and this won’t go so bad for you.”

“He’s right,” Cassie said, stepping forward. “I’ll tell them exactly what you’ve done to me and to Trace, Henry. I imagine you’d be lucky to make it out of prison. Especially if they knew what you’d done to a boy you raised as your son. Add in that you’re a cop, and I doubt you’d have any friends in prison. ”

Grady’s gaze snapped up to hers, and she could see the relief shine in his eyes. Henry jerked around to face her, his mouth falling open. “What are you doing? Put that damn thing down.”

“I will. If you let me go with him now.”

He laughed, and for the first ime it sounded a bit unhinged. “You can’t actually believe that will happen. I’ll never let you go again.”

The canister trembled in her hand but she raised it up. “I won’t stay. No matter what it takes, I will find a way to get away from you.”

“Get away from her, Kearns,” Grady yelled from just outside the door.

He didn’t though. Cassie swung the canister at him, knocking into his arm just as a shot sounded. She could barely hear Grady’s shout over the deafening echo. But, then he was at her side, holding onto her while still aiming his gun at Henry. Henry knelt on the ground, holding one wrist in his other hand. It seemed to be bent at an angle now.

“You’re all right?” Grady asked.

“I am now,” she said. “Your love had me holding on. I knew you wouldn’t let me go.”

“Never again,” he said, pressing a kiss to her mouth just before two state troopers pushed their way into the house.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So what’s next? Do Cassie and Grady get to live happily ever after? One more scene to go.

A to Z: W is for Wraith

Last time we left Icarus ready to go after some vengeance once he gets Cassie back. Today we’re back with Cassie, and she ends up with a visitor.

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Cassie leaned her head back against the wall, forcing tears back once more. She’d gone along with Jake and Daniel easily enough. Not that she’d call it of her own free will. But, she hadn’t put up a fight. She hadn’t wanted Jake to take it out on Barbie if she’d fought back before they were away from the clubhouse. And as soon as it was out of sight, they’d pulled over, put a cloth around her eyes and tied her hands behind her back with something she figured was only a step away from zip ties. She couldn’t have fought back if she wanted to. And suddenly she had. But, even as she’d tried, one of them had hit her with the side of a fist, if she could guess by the feel of it. It had stunned her long enough for them to climb back into the front and pull onto the road.

She hadn’t even been buckled in, so she bounced around every time they hit a bump. And she swore Jake hit every bump he could as hard as possible. She didn’t have any way to brace herself or even see what was coming. She’d smacked her head on the window several times and the seat in front of her even more often. By the time the car stopped again, her head was throbbing and spinning, and she was sure she was going to be sick.

Neither of the men cared. They yanked her out of the car and shoved her up the walk toward the house. She fell twice, and they just handled her even rougher. Then, they’d left her alone in this room, but they had at least removed the blindfold. She wasn’t sure if she could have taken much more of that. Still she felt like she was going to lose it.

She didn’t have a clue how much time she’d been here. Except night hadn’t quite come yet. Where was Grady? Was he going to come for her? How would he even find her? What had Henry done to him? Told him? What was he going to do to her? When would he get here? Where was she? This wasn’t the house she’d shared with Henry for eighteen years.

All those questions kept circling in her head the longer she was forced to sit here. By the time something happened, she wasn’t sure she’d have any sanity left.

And that was probably their plan.

Cassie gasped as she saw something move in the window. She blinked, sure she had to have imagined it. Maybe this was how losing her mind started. Seeing things that weren’t really there, that couldn’t be there.

But, the face was still there. She blinked again and recognized it. She couldn’t remember his name, but she knew she’d seen him talking to Grady out at the clubhouse. What was it they called him? “Wraith,” she breathed out the name as it came to her.

Then, the window was sliding up, and he somehow made it inside. She didn’t know how. She wasn’t even sure she could have fit through it. “You came,” she said on a sob. “You all came for me.”

He smiled slightly but put a finger over his lips. “Icarus is losing his mind,” he said, his voice barely even a whisper. “There is no way he wouldn’t come for you. But, Hawk and I are only here for surveillance. We had to find where you were before the rest could come. But, they will come. You just have to hold out a little longer.”

“When?”

“Morning most likely. By the time Hawk and I get back and we hammer out a plan. But, we will be back for you.” He went still then pushed to his feet. “Morning,” he said again then nearly slithered out of the window, closing it again behind him.

A light feeling washed through her. She could make it through one night. Then, Grady would be here. He’d take her away from this. She wouldn’t have to suffer through that life again.

Then, she heard footsteps in the hall outside the door, and it nearly drowned out all that hope. “One night,” she whispered. “You can get through just one night.”

But once the door opened, Henry stepped through the room, and she wasn’t so sure about that any more. He sneered at her. “What a man you got for yourself, Cassandra. He hasn’t even tried to come after you.”

She held on to what Wraith had told her. And didn’t let Henry’s words dig in under her skin. Instead she held her head high. “You won’t get away with this. Not this time.”

He laughed. “I aleady have. I told him if anything happens to me, they’ll know just who to throw into the most secure cell possible. He’s not going to risk it. Not for you.”

“I’m not a kid anymore, Henry. I don’t believe every word you say, or that you’re trying to protect me. I believed it once, and you treated me worse than he ever could have. You won’t make me believe it again. He’ll be here. And you’ll be the one going down.”

“You just keep believing that. You’ll figure out the truth eventually. And you’ll come crawling on your knees for my forgiveness.” He paused for a moment, a wicked light coming into his eyes. “I might just grant it. If you beg enough.”

She was going to be sick. Even more so when he told the men, “Put her over on that mattress.”

She threw her body to the side as they came toward her. “No, she yelled. “You’re not putting your hands on me.”

“Don’t worry, sweet Cassandra, I don’t plan to. Like I said, not until you come crawling on your knees to me. But I figured even you would appreciate a soft place to sleep for the night. Tomorrow you can start working on that forgiveness.”

She held her tongue as Henry’s two men lifted her from the floor and dragged her over to the mattress, laughing as they just dropped a thin blanket over her. They didn’t even free her arms. So, she doubted she’d get any sleep anyway. But, that didn’t matter. If Henry did leave her alone, she would be fine. Grady would be here in the morning.

And then she could finally go home. With the only man she’d truly ever loved.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wow, I didn’t think I could hate Henry even more, but I achieved it with this one. Will Wraith come back with the other Riders in time? Why couldn’t hey just take her away now?

A to Z: V is for Vengeance

Last time, we left Icarus understanding exactly what had happened to Cassie. Today, we’re sticking with Icarus as he has to decide what to do next.

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Icarus walked down the stairs, feeling about twice his true age. He hadn’t been able to clear his head. But, he knew he couldn’t waste a lot of time wallowing in his guilt and fear. They had to get Cassie back, and burying his head wouldn’t help accomplish that.

Birdie waited for him at the bottom of the stairs, and he could see the concern pinching her face. She was too young to be looking at him like that. It should be the other way around. “Where’s Trace?” he asked in an attempt to get the attention off him. The two of them were usually attached at the hip when they were at the clubhouse.

“Chief wanted to talk to him. About what happened when you were there. I don’t need to be told when I shouldn’t be litening in. It’s club business.” He studied her face, but other than gnwing at her lip, she didn’t show any sign of that being a problem. Still he had to be sure. If he did decide to quit, he wanted to know whether she’d feel she needed to stay or not.

“Are you okay with that?” he asked.

She shrugged one shoulder. “It is what it is. I’m more concerned with the bruise on his cheek, and the fact he winced when I hugged him.”

In the chaos of realizing Cassie had been taken, he’d almost forgotten about Trace falling. “He had the wind knocked out of him. I don’t think it was much worse than that.”

“It’s bad enough. I can’t believe that fucker put his hands on him again.”

Icarus’ lips twitched up at that. That was his girl, fiery to the last. “Never change,” he murmured, putting an arm around her shoulders.

“I don’t plan to,” she said, kissing his cheek. “I’m going to wait for Trace up in my room. You’ll get her back, Dad. I know you’ll do everything to make sure that happens.”

“I can’t let her go again,” he said. “Especially when she didn’t want to go this time either. And this time there’s more I can do about it.”

Birdie gave him another hug then went up the stairs and disappeared into her room. He felt a little steadier as he headed out of the house and saw Trace leaving Chief’s side. Before he reached him, the president called two of the other lingering men to him. Wraith and Hawk. He didn’t hear what Chief told them, but they both nodded and headed back for their bikes. He could imagine what orders Chief had given them, as they both had a strength with surveillance. And Wraith had always seemed to have an uncanny ability in finding people. Even more so than Hawk. They’d make a good team for this.

Icarus just wished he was going along. He wouldn’t be leaving without Cassie if they found where she was being kept, though. And he was sure Chief didn’t think that was the best way to go about it. He just wanted to get her back.

“Chief,” Icarus said, coming up beside him, “I’m sorry for earlier.”

“You have nothing to apologize for.”

“I lost it a bit.”

The older man let out a sound halfway between a snort and a laugh. “If that was you losing it, I’d like to have you at my side in a crisis. The woman you love was taken from you. I get it. I’ve never told you about Eric’s mother, but trust me when I say I get it. And I wasn’t able to get her back. Are you feeling better now at least?”

Icarus had never known much about Bull’s mother, except that she’d died when he was younger. But, even Chief’s vague explanation told him quite a bit. He didn’t really need to know more. And he stll had to answer Chief’s question. “Better? No. But, my head’s a little straighter.”

“Good. That’s all I can ask rght now.”

“You’re not going to keep me out of this. I’m going to get my vengeance, sir. You won’t keep me from that.”

“We’ve never been about vengeance, Grady.” Icarus knew the older man meant business when he used his real name. “It’s always been justice. That’s not going to change now.”

“And sometimes those are one and the same.”

“Sometimes,” Chief agreed. “Just make sure this is one of them before you take a step you’ll end up regretting.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Will Chief try to keep him out of it? Will Icarus get his vengeance? Or will he end up regretting his next step?

A to Z: U is for Understanding

Last time, we saw how Henry’s men got to Cassie. Today we’re back with Icarus as he starts to understand what happened.

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Icarus stared at his phone even after he’d ended the call with Chief. He couldn’t do anything else. He felt some of the men gather around him, but he couldn’t even make himself look up.

“Dad, what’s going on?” Trace asked from right in front of him. “What happened to Mom?”

Icarus wasn’t even sure he understood it. Actually, he did. Only too well. “He sent men after your mom,” Icarus said, his voice dull. “Chief didn’t give me all the details. We’ll talk about it when we get back to the clubhouse. But, he has her. I failed her.” That’s what he understood best of all.

“No, Dad,” Trace said, but Icarus couldn’t listen to him right now.

“Everyone, on your bikes,” he ordered. “There’s nothing we can do here. We have to regroup and come back.”

“We can’t just leave her with him,” Trace argued. “You don’t know what he’ll do.”

Icarus forced himself to meet his son’s eyes. “I do. But, there’s nothing we can do right now. We have to figure out what happened and how we’re going to get her back. I won’t stop until we do, though.”

He expected Trace to argue, but his son seemed to understand how things were as well. He hated it just as much as Trace did, but he wasn’t going to risk Cassie getting killed by going in half-cocked.

But, he could barely focus on the road in front of him as they headed back toward the clubhouse. All he could remember was the look on Cassie’s face as he got ready to ride away. The fear. That’s what had stood out the most. That he wouldn’t come back to her, that he’d fail.

Well, those fears had been realized, hadn’t they? He’d failed her. Icarus slapped his palm against the handlebar as they stopped at a light. It didn’t help diffuse any of the emotion surging through him. Yet, he did it twice more before Bull glanced over at him and shook his head. He knew it didn’t do any good.

When they pulled into the yard, Chief stood on the porch as if he’d been waiting for them. He probably had been. Barbie stood beside him. As they started climbing from the bikes, she hurried down into the yard toward Bull. Except she came right to him instead of her husband. “I’m so sorry, Grady,” she said, her arms wrapping tight around him. “So, so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” he told her but glanced over her head at Bull. As if he could explain it. But, his friend only shook his head.

“It is,” she told him. “I should have stopped it.”

He felt Bull stiffen next to him. “What are you talking about, Barb? You promised me you wouldn’t take any risks right now. How could you have stopped anything without breaking that promise to me?”

Chief walked down to meet them. “She went on her walk, Eric,” Chief said. “They grabbed her then. And drove up here shortly after you left. Cassie and Raven were still on the porch.”

Bull was suddenly pulling Barbie away from Icarus, his arms going around her. “Are you all right? Did they hurt you?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “We’re fine, Eric.”

That last part struck Icarus as odd, but Chief was already continuing. “They threatened Barb. If we didn’t send Cassie out, he’d shoot Barb right there.” His lip twitched slightly, but Icarus didn’t see anything funny in the situation. “He thought she was my old lady. Didn’t realize she’s even more important than that to me. Because she’s yours,” he said, looking at Bull. “But, I wasn’t going to hand Cassie over. Because she’s yours,” he said, nodding at Icarus. “And both of you are mine.”

Barbie set her hand on Bull’s chest. “I think she figured it out,” she said then reached out for Icarus’ hand and placed it on her stomach. “She wouldn’t let me, us, be sacrificed.”

Icarus looked up into her face then and realized why she and Bull had been acting odd the last couple weeks. “A baby. You’re having the first baby of the club.”

“I tried to stop her,” Chief said. “I couldn’t fail you like that. But, she took the impossible choice out of my hands, Grady. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” he said, choking on the words. “It’s not any of your fault.” He made sure to take Barbie in with that. “Henry sent those men here and ordered them to take her. And I’d have never forgiven myself if you’d been hurt,” he told her. “But, now we have to figure out how we’re going to get her back. Because I won’t leave her in that hell a second time.” He turned away. “I need a few minutes then we’ll meet to discuss this.”

~~~~~~~~~

How will they get her back? Will they get her back? Icarus isn’t putting blame on them, but will he forgive himself?

A to Z: T is for Taken

Last week, we left Icarus realizing he’d been drawn away from the clubhouse for a reason. Today, we go back a little in time to see exactly how they got to Cassie.

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Cassie felt like her feet were glued to the porch. What was happening? She was supposed to be safe here. Grady had promised her she would be. They shouldn’t have been able to find her.

But that was definitely Jake driving that SUV up the drive. She’d always felt a little uneasy when he’d come by the house to see Henry. Jake was probably only too glad to do Henry’s bidding.

“No,” she whispered. “No, I can’t go with him.”

“You won’t,” Chief said, stepping up behind her and putting a large strong hand on her shoulder. “Go in the house. I’ll take care of this.”

But before she could do what he said and take Raven with her, the SUV jerked to a stop and the back door opened so fast she could only assume whoever was back there had kicked it open. Someone stumbled out, another figure following right behind.

Chief’s hand tightened slightly on Cassie’s shoulder. “Barb,” he breathed.

Looking closer, cassie saw Barbie was exactly who had stumbled out of the SUV first. “No,” she gasped, taking a step forward. She couldn’t let Barbie be used against her.

But, Chief yanked her right back. “Grady would never forgive me if I let something happen to you.”

“You can’t let anything happen to her either,” she insisted. “She’s your son’s wife. Eric would -”

“I know, ” Chief said gruffly. “I know, Cassie, but it’s my job to protect you today. I can’t fail.”

She wanted to argue with him about that. She wasn’t any more important than Barbie was. Barbie had been a part of this group from the beginning. And a part of all their lives longer than that. It would devastate just about everyone in this club if something happened to Barbie. Whereas Cassie really only meant something to Grady and Trace.

“How’d they even get to her?”

“She doesn’t like to watch the men leave. Especially lately. So,  she says good-bye to Bull and goes for a walk. They’d have seen her from the other side of the property.”

Cassie didn’t know why the ‘especially lately’ part was significant, except that Bull had been acting more protective of her lately. So, she wondered. “You have to let me go, Chief. I won’t forgive myself if she gives her freedom or life for mine.” Or, if Cassie was correct, her baby’s life. “You have to let me go.”

“This is an impossible choice,” he said, and she could hear the battle in his voice. “I think of Grady as much of a son as Eric. And you’re his. I can’t choose one of you for the other.”

But, the man was pushing Barbie closer to the porch, and Jake stepped out, his gun pointed at Cassie. “Send her down here, old man, or both of them die.”

“I know that’s not what your boss sent you here for. He wants her alive. But, I’m not sending her back to that hell. There’s no way.”

“Then, I guess you’ll be saying good-bye to your old lady.”

They didn’t even know. Cassie doubted they cared who Barbie was really with. It was all the same to them. And she wouldn’t be able to live with it. “Don’t,” she said, jerking away from Chief’s hand. “Don’t hurt her. I’ll go with you.”

Chief choked out her name, and she knew what he was thinking. But, she couldn’t let that stop her. She kept her shoulders straight and her head up as she headed toward Jake. She might be quaking inside, but she wasn’t going to show them her fear. Barbie glanced up at her as she approached. “Don’t do this,” she said. “It will kill him.”

“I have to,” she said. “Henry hasn’t left me a choice. I’ll see you again when this is over.”

If she survived this. Because she knew Grady wouldn’t rest this time until he knew she was safe. She just had to hold on until then.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Will she survive? Will Grady be able to get her out of it? What is going to happen next?

Writing Wednesday: Love Day

So, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been a huge fan of the day, but it is what it is. We don’t really do anything for it. A couple times my husband had gotten me flowers. But, they wilt after a little while. Chocolate is nice, of course,  but definitely not something I need. And I don’t wear jewelry(how do I spell this wrong every time), so why would he waste the money on that(seriously, my wedding ring is the only I wear). I’ll take the cash he gave me Saturday to go the library book sale since I only had a couple $ in my wallet and a nice dinner out. We spent some time together yesterday while the kids were at school, but that was about the extent of it. And I’m happy with that.

So, not much else here except today is WiPPet Wednesday. Woohoo! Today I have 6 paragraphs(1+5 for the day). This happens shortly after what I shared last week. Piers woke up in Xavier’s bed…alone. Then, remembers Xavier putting him there and heading out to the couch and he goes out to find Xavier in the middle of a nightmare. It’s not the first time he’s witnessed one of them.

The words wrenched right through Piers. This was what Xavier was dreaming about? Him? He brushed hair back from Xavier’s forehead. “I’m right here,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere. No matter what my head says I should do. I just can’t seem to leave you behind.”
Xavier’s cries dropped down to murmurs, his thrashing calming as well. Piers ran his thumb over Xavier’s temple, his lips following the movement. Then, Xavier’s eyes fluttered open. For a moment, they remained glazed, as if he was still coming out of sleep. Then, they cleared, and a shutter fell.
“What are you doing out here?” Xavier asked. “You should still be in bed. Your side-”
“Is fine,” Piers lied. “And what did you expect when I thought someone might be killing you out here?”
It was too dark to see any color flush Xavier’s face, but Piers’ hand was still next to his temple, and he could feel the heat there. “I wasn’t that loud.” Piers just looked at him until Xavier finally broke eye contact. “I’m sorry. I haven’t had to worry about waking anyone up with them for a while.”
He sensed them both freeze at that. Piers knew what that meant. No one had been in his bed to witness the nightmares. Maybe not since him. He shouldn’t even ask, but he had to know. “Define ‘a while.’”

So how long has it been? Piers is a bit surprised by his answer. Though, he clarifies that’s only for how long since someone’s stayed all night. And things are about to heat up. 🙂

And now for my progress so far this week:

 

  • Write: Shoot for 10000 words between projects – 4664/10000 so far. I still have my secondary project to work on today, so this will be a little higher.
    • Defending the Heart – 3380 words
    • Midas’ Daughter – 504 words
    • Stay a Little Longer – 780 words
  • Edit: Stained Blood – write new scenes – I’ve added 664 new words this week. On 2/14 new scenes.
  • Plot: Playing with Fire – finish outlining scenes – 54/69 scenes outlined. Hoping to have the last ones done either today or tomorrow.
  • Side Projects – 1000 words – 856/1000 words. I only have 1 more side project to work on, so should be able to get to that today. I did adjust the individual goal and spread the total goal out among all 5 stories.
  • Snow White Twist – fill in [xx] and start read through – nothing on this yet this week. Will be working on it this weekend.
  • Listen: Glass Sword(Victoria Aveyard) & Unintended Consequences(Marti Green) – Only have a little over an hour left in Glass Sword. It’s breaking my heart right now.
  • Read: Finish Duke of Thorns(Sara Ramsey), Dead Before Dying(Kerry Schafer), The Unsung Hero(Suzanne Brockman), Truths We Tell(Brenda St John Brown), Of the Bauble(Debbie McGowan), Relic of Sorrows(Lindsay Buroker), Best Worst Mistake(Lia Riley), Written in the Stars(Aisha Saeed), The Rule Maker(Jennifer Blackwood), & Against the Sun(Kat Martin) – I finished Duke of Thorns(liked), Dead Before Dying(really enjoyed), and The Unsung Hero(enjoyed) on Sunday. Read Truths We Tell on Monday(really liked) and finished Of the Bauble yesterday(loved). I started Relic of Sorrows last night and got about halfway through it. So I’m ahead on this goal at least.
  • Knit: Clean Slate Hat – Made some more progress on this.
  • A to Z Challenge: Draft – Posts A-Z – got the first ~350 words written on my A post. Hoping to get more of it done today.

 

2016 A-Z Challenge Reflections

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

The A-Z challenge ended over a week ago, but now it’s time to reflect on how it went for me. Basically…really well. I had a lot of fun writing up each of the posts. In fact, most of the time I was about a week ahead on having them written and scheduled. It went a lot better than the first time I participated. I had a theme both times, so I don’t think that’s part of it. But, the first year I chose a theme that required me to do research, a good bit of it. This year, I focused on characters already established in my various series. I really enjoyed digging into their back stories and sharing pieces of them.

From my BC Security series, we had:

Alex Connelly – Alex comes homes after his parents’ deaths but finds something he wasn’t expecting

Casey Brannigan – Casey meets Marie for the first time

Declan Portor – When Declan’s mother dies, he goes home to find things worse than he expected

Hannah Connelly – Hannah’s reaction when her mother goes missing(events during Guarding the Heart)

Piers Quincey – Piers and Xavier realize they’re both carrying feelings for the other

Rowan Portor – Rowan meets Alexandra(Declan’s parents’ story)

Xavier Urban – Things fall apart between Xavier and Piers

Vivienne Quincey Vivienne(Piers’ mother) deals with feelings about son enlisting in Marine Corps

Xavier Urban(take 2) – this is the final in the arc starting with Piers and Xavier’s first post. Xavier faces Piers for the first time since their falling out.(events during Guarding the Heart)

And from my Flames & Hunter family series:

Finn Reddick – Finn deals with learning his mother is leaving his father

Giovanni Magaldi – Giovanni gets ready to interview new bartender for his family’s pub(events during Flames of Restoration)

Megan Luzat – Megan deals with  a lot of changes in he life.

William Boroughs – William welcomes two of his cousins to a family gathering

Dillon Yates – Dillon greets a new colleague

From my Gilbert, Co series:

Erik Matthews – Erik answers questions about his son after his daughter-in-law is killed

Kellie Caldera – Kellie welcomes new doctor to clinic(events during Healing the Heart)

Leann Rudler – Leann meets Rick and his son

Olivia Stevens – Olivia tries to deal with feelings about stepson

Patrick Williams – Patrick tries to come to grips with feelings about mother & stepmother

And from my Kurztown series:

Brian Sharrock – Brian rushes home for birth of his daughter and tries to reconcile having to return to law school

Lila Correlli – Lila deals with feelings of leaving home town and best friends

Joel Holland – Joel learns son was in car crash and tries to handle

Nila Siddell – Nila and Julian start dating and have to deal with attitudes of their small town

Susan Holland – Susan tries to deal with changing feelings for her best friend

Trisha Gosslar – Trisha wants to tie everything up in her last days.

Zachariah Sarrano – Zachariah gets word of wife and daughter in accident and rushes to hospital

I had a lot of fun writing these but am glad the month is over. Of course, now I’m participating in the Story a Day challenge, so really I’m pretty much continuing it. Now, time to start thinking on what next year’s theme will be.

A-Z Challenge: Z is for Zachariah Sarrano

Z

Tissue Warning: Apparently I’m going to end on a sad note. I had to fight tears a couple times while writing this one, so you’re warned.

“Hey, Boss!”

Zachariah Sarrano glanced down from his position on the roof at the shouted words. One of his men held his thumb and pinky beside his head. Damn phone. He didn’t want to talk to anyone until they were done putting on this roof. “Take a message,” he shouted back.

“Sounded important.”

He didn’t bother cursing again. Just part of being the boss. He hoped to pass that responsibility off to his sons as soon as they could join him full-time. They already worked for him during summer vacations, but he certainly wouldn’t let them up here until they had more training. He thought Gabriel would handle the office work well, or at least better than Chris. That wasn’t saying much, though. His second son was practically a copy of himself.

He made his way across the roof and down the ladder then unhooked his harness. None of them worked on the roof without one. He made sure of it. “Who is it?” he asked Matt as they started toward the trailer that served as a temporary office when they were on a job site.

Irritation shifted to worry when Matt didn’t answer him. Zachariah looked over at him, but Matt wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I think you’d better just take the call, boss.”

Yeah, there was nothing good about this.

He stepped into the trailer and yanked up the receiver Matt had laid on the desk. “Sarrano Construction.”

“Is this Zachariah Sarrano?”

“Yeah. What is this about?”

“There’s been an accident.”

***

This could not be happening. It just could not. He hadn’t been given any details over the phone. Just that Marleen and Lyndsey had been taken to the hospital after being pulled out of the car. His hands shook, and he laid on the horn again. Where the hell were those boys?

Finally they came out of the house. Not in any hurry at all. Damn it. He’d told them to be ready when he got here.

“What the hell, Dad?” Gabriel said when he opened the front door of the truck. “I was going to go pick Brittany up in a little bit. I had to call her and cancel our date. Chris rushed back from Doren’s. What was so damn important?”

“Don’t swear at me, Gabriel,” he said, pointing a shaky finger at his older son. “I don’t care if you did just turn seventeen. Your mom and sister are in the hospital, so I don’t want to hear any of it. Just buckle up.”

Both boys fell silent at that, and Zachariah pulled away from the curb. They’d barely made it out of town before Chris asked, his voice wavering, “What happened?”

Zach’s hands shook on the wheel, and he tightened his grip, wishing that would steady him. “I don’t know. Exactly. There was an accident, and they were both taken in. That is all I know.”

Neither of the boys spoke after that, but Gabriel did put a hand over his when he set it on the gear shift. They pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, but suddenly he wasn’t sure what to do. They needed to go inside, of course, but he couldn’t make himself open the door. “Come on, Dad,” Gabriel said. “I’m sure Mom’s going to want to see you.”

That kicked him back into gear. He led the way into the hospital and up to the desk. “How can I help you?” the receptionist asked.

“My wife and daughter should have been brought in. They were in an accident.”

“Names?”

“Marleen and Lyndsey Saranno.”

She typed the names in–he had to spell Lyndsey’s as always–and he thought something passed through her eyes. But, she looked up at him again, and her face was blank. “Have a seat, Mr. Saranno. Someone will be out to talk to you.”

There was too damn much pity in her voice for that talk to be anything he wanted. “What happened to them?”

“I can’t tell you. Just go have a seat.”

But, he couldn’t sit. So, he paced. He stood at the window and stared out. He crushed a water bottle Chris had gotten him from the vending machine. When he couldn’t handle the crinkling of the plastic, he tossed it into the trash without even opening it.

“Mr. Saranno?”

He turned to look at the weary-looking man who stood only feet away from him. Something in his eyes…Zachariah’s legs nearly went out on him. “No,” he said. “Don’t tell me that. They aren’t-”

“Dad,” Gabriel said, stepping up and taking one of his arms. “He hasn’t told us anything yet. I’m sure they’re going to be fine.”

“Your daughter is going to be fine,” the doctor assured him. “She suffered a broken arm and a few other bumps and bruises, but she’ll heal.”

Zachariah’s shoulders sagged. Maybe he’d imagined it all. His mind was playing tricks on him. They were all going to walk out of here together. As a family.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Sarrano.” He looked up at the doctor, his eyes narrowing. But, he’d just said Lyndsey would be fine. Of course, Marleen would be, too. Why was he sorry?

“Your wife. She didn’t make it here.”

He almost hit the floor, but the doctor reached out and caught him. Gabriel grabbed his other side and helped him into a chair.
The doctor was saying something else, but he didn’t hear anything else. Marleen was gone. What was he supposed to do now?

***

“Dad?”

Zachariah lifted shaking hands to his face. He was sitting in his dark bedroom, not answering his son’s call. He’d done this too many times over the last couple months. He just wasn’t sure if he could handle facing them. If it wasn’t for work, he may not leave this room at all. Some days he couldn’t even manage it for that.

Gabriel wasn’t giving up this time, though. “Dad, you can’t just stay in here. Mom’s gone, but the rest of us aren’t.” He pushed the door open but thankfully didn’t switch on the light. “Lyndsey thinks you hate her because she’s the one who survived. Chris is drifting, even Doren is worried about him. I…I don’t know what to do. We need you, Dad.”

Zachariah squeezed his eyes closed even tighter. His family was breaking apart right now, and he didn’t know how to fix it. His chest ached every day, like part of him had been scooped out and thrown away.

“Where are they?” he finally asked, his voice hoarse.

“Lyndsey’s in her room, finishing her homework for tomorrow. Chris…well, he said he was going to Doren’s. But, he called me a little bit ago wondering why he never came over after church.”

Church. He hadn’t even realized it was Sunday. God, Gabriel must have been taking them, because Zachariah certainly hadn’t been doing it. Just how much had his eldest been doing for the younger two? More than was his responsibility. That was for sure.

“Call him and tell him to get back here. I’ll talk to Lyndsey. And order us some pizzas. We’re all having dinner together today.” They’d need to do more than that to keep this family together, but it would be a start at least.

Zachariah walked slowly up the stairs to his daughters room. He knocked briefly, but when she didn’t answer, he nudged the door open. “Lynds? Gabriel said you were up here.”

“Go away.” Her voice was even rougher than his and filled with tears.

It killed him. Still he was tempted to do as she asked. Most of the time he gave his children what they asked for, within reason, but he thought it would be worse to do that now. So, he pushed the door open and stepped inside. She wasn’t doing homework. She was laying on her bed, the pink of her cast laying overtop the stuffed elephant she held against her. The elephant Marleen had given her when she’d been in the hospital for meningitis a couple years earlier.

“I said to go away.”

“I’m not going to leave you, Lyndsey.”

“You don’t even want me to be here.”

He sat on the edge of her bed. “Of course, I do. I love you.”

“No, you don’t. You wish she was here. That we could have switched places.”

He’d cried at the funeral but not again since that day. Now, tears were rolling down his cheeks. “No. I mean, yes, I wish your mother was still here. I’ve loved her since I was Gabriel’s age. But, no, I don’t wish you’d died instead of her.” He moved closer to her, so he could run a hand over her hair. “I would have been heartbroken to lose you, too.”

“You won’t even look at me.”

He could hardly even look at anyone these days. “You look just like her. You know that?”

Lyndsey nodded. “That’s what everyone’s always said.”

“I haven’t handled things well. I’m sorry for that. We’re going to find our way through this, though. I had Gabriel order some pizza and go to find your other brother. We’re going to start with having dinner together.”

“He’s been doing my hair for school. Did you know that?”

“Gabriel?” He hadn’t even thought about it. Marleen had always handled that kind of stuff. It wasn’t even on his radar of wondering about.

She shook her head. “Chris. They’ve both been trying to do whatever they can to help. I know you’re sad, Dad.”

Sad didn’t even begin to cover it. But, that didn’t matter. Gabriel was right. They were still here, and he couldn’t just ignore that while he wallowed in his grief. His children still needed him, and he couldn’t let them down.

“Come on,” he said. “We’ll all eat dinner together, then I’ll see if I can help you with that homework.”

She rolled her eyes, but got up off the bed with him. “I already got it done, Dad. You don’t have to worry about that.”

Well, at least it was one thing he didn’t have to worry about it.

Note: Chris showed up in Love Who You Love, book 3 in my Kurztown series. And he told me about the family dinners his father had instituted after Chris’ mother’s death. I also just finished outlining Gabriel’s story. And even though he often comes off as the more fun-loving brother, he does step up to take responsibility when needed.

A-Z Challenge: Y is for Dillon Yates

Y

Dillon Yates stepped out of his classroom and glanced down the hallway. There didn’t seem to be any students loitering in the hallway after the last class on the first day of school. He couldn’t really blame them for being anxious to get out of here. It was a beautiful day out, and he didn’t know many people, especially kids, who’d rather spend it inside.

He glanced toward the room at the end of the hallway. He’d met the new Industrial Arts teacher when they’d been setting up their rooms the week before. But, he hadn’t had much of a chance to talk to him. Hunter, he’d said his last name was. Dillon had known a Hunter years ago and wondered if they were related.

He started that way, wanting to find out. And from everything he’d heard, the new guy had kept mostly to himself. He wasn’t going to make it for long here if he couldn’t even make one friend. It had been more than a decade, but he still remembered being the new guy here. It had been rough until he’d made his own connections.

He knocked once on the door before poking his head in. The young man standing in the middle of the room, his hands on his hips, looked a little lost. Dillon thought he looked a few years older than his own daughter, Sakura. Probably a little past his mid-twenties. His red hair fell a little past his ears, a lot longer than Dillon’s own short-cropped hair. He turned then and caught the wariness in the blue eyes.

Blue eyes that looked familiar. “You are Carrick’s son,” Dillon said.

The other man looked stunned for a minute. “Uh, yeah,” he said. He glanced around as if he might be trying to find a means of escape from the crazy man in front of him.

Dillon gave a little laugh. “Sorry. That probably did sound a little creepy. You’d said your last name was Hunter, and I’d wondered if you were related. I didn’t have much of a chance to speak to you before, though.”

“Oh. Yeah.” He ran a hand through his hair and let it drop again. “My brother was at a fire that day. He was taken to the hospital. Or I would have stuck around longer.”

“He okay?”

The other man nodded. “Not much will keep Tate down for long. His guardian angel probably has a permanent handslap mark on his forehead, though.”

That made Dillon chuckle. “Your dad helped build my house ages ago. We realized we had some things in common, mostly time served in the Army”–though Carrick hadn’t been in nearly as long as he had– “and we’ve tried to keep in touch over the years. I haven’t heard from him for a while, though.” Then, he realized something. “I’m Dillon Yates, by the way.”

“Kelan. You already know my last name, so…”

Dillon laughed again. There seemed to be a sense of humor hidden under the nerves. “It’s good to meet you, Kelan. I think I’ll like working down the hall from you.”

Note: I’m currently working on Kelan’s story(which is also Oliver’s story), and his friendship with Dillon comes into play a good bit in it. Kelan’s younger brother, Jace, also gets involved with Dillon’s daughter(not Sakura) in Burning Bright, book 1 of my Hunter Family series.

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