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Fiction Friday: Tavin & Haiwee

Last week I shared the first scene from Patrick and Sarah’s story. This week I have the first from Tavin & Haiwee’s, Adam’s parents from Stained by Ashes.

Tavin Kindrick stepped softly around the broken branch, careful to make as little sound as possible. He knew his quarry had come back this way. There was a print right there, and he’d been following the drops of blood, growing larger and more frequent the longer he followed.

He kept his rifle in front of him, scanning the trees around him. There was definite movement off to his right. And he was sure he saw the flash of a tan hide. Perfect. He levered another bullet into the chamber and took another step toward where he’d seen the movement. They needed fresh meat out at the camp. Everyone, not just him, was tired of existing on jerked beef and tins of beans.

Adding fresh venison would boost everyone’s spirits.

He brought his rifle up to his shoulder and took aim. But, the large brown eyes looking back at him didn’t belong to a doe. He kept his rifle where it was. In fact, he didn’t think a single part of him moved, even his lungs couldn’t seem to bring in or let out any air.

The girl—woman, he corrected himself—took a step back from him. And he finally dropped the barrel of the rifle down at his side. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to frighten ye, lass.”

Sounds spilled from her mouth, but none of them made any sense to him. He took his gaze over her. The black hair that hung down past her shoulders, the large brown eyes, still showing fear as she stared at him. Her skin was nearly as dark as the bark of the tree she stood next to.

Her deerskin dress was what he’d mistaken for the animal he’d been tracking. Now that he saw it more clearly, he couldn’t believe he’d made that error.

Tavin took a step toward her. “Are ye lost out here, lass? Can I help ye get back to your kin?”

“English. You speak the English. I know others.”

Tavin let out a low breath. At least he would be able to communicate with her. And that voice. It had such a beautiful sound. “Yes. Your kin? Family?” he asked when she looked at him blankly.

That brought a smile to her face. “Family, yes. I have family.”

He let out a long breath. At least she wasn’t out here all on her own. “If you tell me the way, I can make sure you get back there.” It had warmed up in recent days, but it was still too cold for a young girl to be out here on her own.

But, the girl just smiled at him. It didn’t look particularly grateful. Brighter than that, like she knew a joke he wasn’t privy to. It made the back of his neck itch, but he gestured her to join him. Instead, she turned and started hurrying over the rocks and into the next stand of trees.

“Wait,” he called after her. “Lass, wait up.” He didn’t even know her name, but he wished he could call her something other than lass.

Foregoing that, he slung his rifle down his back, and took off after her. The girl was nearly out of sight as it was. He didn’t want to lose her as he seemed to have done with the deer he’d shot. He wouldn’t forgive himself if she was injured when he’d taken her under his protection.

Tavin stumbled over a rock and landed hard on one knee. He let out a rough cry as pain sliced through it but pushed himself back to both feet. He saw the girl heading back toward him, scowling now.

“You fall?”

Tavin’s face flushed hot at her question. He didn’t need her seeing him being a lumbering oaf. Some of the men said he seemed like he was part mountain goat at times. Right now, he felt more like a bear.

“I’m fine, lass,” he said, brushing a rough hand on his knee. “Maybe I should lead the way. Make sure there is no trouble.”

One of her dark brows rose, and he wondered just how much she understood. “You find the loose rocks for me?”

To his surprise, a laugh burst out of him. She was certainly a cheeky one. Her face lit up with a grin, then she was turning away again. He was never going to be able to keep up with her at this rate, though. “Lass, wait,” he called out.

She stopped and turned back, her hands on her hips of that buckskin dress. “Go or wait?” she asked. “Can’t do both.”

“Nay, of course not. I just…maybe you should walk with me. Make sure I do not trip over those loose rocks.”

That eyebrow was raised again. Like she didn’t believe him. Well, he couldn’t really blame her. He wasn’t so sure he believed himself.

Still, she didn’t start bounding over the rocks again. She hung back so he didn’t lose sight of her. Still, the way she looked back at him made him thinks he was afraid for something to happen to him. He thought it should be the other way around.

She was just a little slip of a girl, about half the size of him. How could she think she could protect him, especially from a fall?

He should be the one protecting her. Or someone should be. Instead they were just letting her run loose out here. How could that be right?

“Does your family care for you, lass?”

She looked back at him, the space between her brows furrowed now. “What’s that mean? Care for me?”

His brow furrowed. How did he explain this to her? “They…love you. Want you to be…safe. Do you understand that?”

“Yes. Yes, they love me. They are family. You have it, too?”

She took off after asking the question, though not as quickly as before. Almost as if she was holding herself back for him. He shook his head then picked up his pace. “Had family. Back in Scotland. Brother’s still there. I came over after our parents died.”

She looked back over her shoulder at him, and he saw sympathy in her eyes. She didn’t say any words, though, just turned back and scampered over some more rocks.

Tavin let out a long breath. Then, he followed her. He hadn’t planned to be gone long. Just long enough to take down some game. He shook his head. Didn’t look like that was happening the way he’d planned.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Book

Back to doing Stream of Consciousness Saturday without the added Story a Day prompts. At least until September. I wasn’t sure at first how I was going to use the prompt of “book”. I mean I could have written just about anything. The books I’ve been reading, the ones I want to write. The used bookstore I like to go to. But, I like exploring my characters with these. And I’d already written a bit more on Dance with the Devil before I glanced at this week’s prompt, so these two were in my head. And I’d ended that on the line: ‘Not the boy who had at one time saved me.’ So, I’ve been thinking of just how Hawk and Devil did meet(which neither of them went by those names at that time).

“I found that book you were looking for.”

Gavin looked at the man who had come out of the small bookshop. He turned his attention back to the cart of bargain books he was looking through. “Which one? It’s been a while since I’ve been back here.”

“Yeah. Heard you were out of the country. How’d that go?”

Gavin nearly snorted. He made it sound like he had gone on a vacation, some cruise or something. “Hot,” he answered. Miserable. Bloody. Devastating. But, he’d leave the rest of those descriptors to himself. Everyone wanted the stories of honor and bravery. No one wanted to see the true vision of war, though. “What book did you find?”

“Just let me go grab it.”

Gavin nodded at the man and went back to flipping through the books. He’d already set a few aside to take back to base with him. He thought some of the guys might appreciate having something to look through during the more boring moments of their next deployment. And the old man usually had at least a few treasures stashed on his bargain cart.

He heard a sharp shout and brought his head up, his gaze quickly scanning for the disturbance. He’d always been extra vigilant, had needed to be. Even just in this first year since he’d joined up, the military had honed that even more. But, he didn’t see anything at first. Another shout, and he started to abandon his small pile of books.

“Ignore them,” the bookseller said, coming back out. “It’s always the same kids causing trouble over there.”

Gavin couldn’t do that, though. Those hadn’t been trouble-making shouts. There’d been fear and pain laced through them. He couldn’t let that go. “I’ll be right back,” he said.

“Seriously, Gavin, you don’t want to get yourself mixed in with that. Just leave ’em, and they’ll move on soon enough.”

But, he was already moving, and he wasn’t turning back now. If someone was in trouble, he wasn’t just going to ignore it. He wasn’t armed; who needed weapons to buy books? But, he always had his hands. He couldn’t imagine there was anything here he couldn’t handle with them.

There was another shouted cry, the panic sharp in it now. But, Gavin had pinpointed the sound at last. He turned down the alley and saw four boys…men. At least two of them were several years older than him, but the others looked to be the same age or a little younger. They formed a semi-circle against the wall of a building. And there was another kid inside that circle, blood dripping from a cut just over his eye.

“You said you’d do anything I wanted if I let you in,” one of the younger boys said, looking straight at the wounded kid. “This is what you gotta do to get in.”

The kid in the circle was younger than the rest, Gavin would be surprised if he’d even had his sixteenth birthday yet. His eyes looked dazed. Had he hit his head on the wall?

“Not that. You didn’t say it would be that. Not all of you. Please. I thought-”

“That I loved you?” The kid looked at one of the older guys with a smirk. “You were right. He did believe every word I served him. You just ate it right up, didn’t you, Damon?” he said back at the young, and obviously scared, kid. Then he shoved him so his back hit the wall and that half-circle tightened a little more.

Gavin wasn’t going to let this happen. He could see where it was going and four to one weren’t any kind of odds this boy could fight against, even though he already had his hands balled into fists in front of him. He’d go down swinging, but he’d still go down.

Unless Gavin had something to say about it. “Leave him alone,” he said, stepping forward.

One of the older guys turned and sneered at him. “What’s it to you? None of this is your business.”

“Always my business when a group of bullies gangs up on someone else. I said to leave him alone.”

“Just ’cause you went and joined the military doesn’t mean you’re everyone’s hero now, Hawking.”

So, they, or at least one of them, did know who he was. “Maybe not. But, I’m not going to let you do what you’re planning to him.”

“You can’t take all of us.”

Gavin smiled at them, a hint of reckless glee in it. “You really want to count on that? I excelled in my hand-to-hand combat training. You really sure I can’t hold you all off so he can get away?”

Except the kid hadn’t moved at all. He looked a little stunned, in shock possibly. How hard was the hit to his head? The other guys looked a little apprehensive now, though. Gavin had found that a show of confidence could head off a fight, definitely if the other party wasn’t sure if you were bluffing or not.

The man who seemed to be leading them sneered. Then, he looked back at the kid. “You better keep your ass away from us, Damon, or it is ours.” Then, he turned and sauntered out of the alley, the other three following behind him.

Gavin waited a few moments to make sure none of them returned. Then, he turned and headed slowly toward the kid. “You okay?”

He spat at Gavin’s feet. “What do you care? You’re not getting my dick or ass as thanks.”

Ah, false bravado in the face of fear. Gavin knew that reaction well. “Never said I wanted it.” Though he felt a swimming feeling as he looked into the boy’s dark blue eyes. And he wanted to brush that lock of black hair back every time it fell into his face. There were more pressing matters. “You need to go to the doc? Did they hurt you more than that cut on your head?”

He shook his head. “I’m fine.”

But, Gavin could tell just from the way he was breathing that he was hurt. “Come on,” he said. “I was over at Bentley Books. And I know for a fact he’s got a first aid kit in his back room. He never asked me questions when I came in bloody. So, he won’t ask any you don’t want to answer, either.” To Gavin’s surprise, the boy followed him to the head of the alley. “You got a safe place to go once you’re fixed up?”

“I’m not homeless.”

“That wasn’t what I asked. Damon, wasn’t it?”

He looked at Gavin, awareness dawning. Gavin knew home wasn’t always the safest place to be. In fact, sometimes it was the least safe place to be.

“Yeah,” Damon finally answered. “And yeah, I can go home. I was supposed to be grounded, so they’ll yell that I left the house, but it’s safe enough.” They walked in silence until Gavin started to lead the way across the street. “Sorry I was mean back there. Travis was nice to me at first, too. I thought…I thought there’d be a place for me with his group. I guess I was wrong.”

Gavin wanted to embrace him, tell him everything would be fine. But, three years ago, when he would have been about the same age, he wouldn’t have believed it, either. “Yeah, you were. I didn’t have a place, either. Not until I joined the Marines.” And sometimes that wasn’t even true. “Eventually we all find our place. Just don’t let a creep trick you into thinking it’s with him.”

They stepped into the bookshop and the old man looked up. “You still want those books, Gavin?”

“Yeah, Mr. Bentley. But, first, this is my new friend, Damon. You think you could take care of him then I’ll walk him home.”

The old man’s eyes were still sharp, as was his mind. “Yeah. Bring him back. We’ll get him fixed up.”

Gavin relaxed a little as Bentley took over. He’d get Damon home and make sure for himself it really was a safe place. Then, he could crash himself before he had to go back to the base in the morning.

And somehow he’d make himself not think about Damon once he was gone.

Story a Day: Day 9 – New Start

This is some back story for Carlos & Tereza’s story in my Gilbert, Co series.

Carlos Armas dropped the silverware into the bus pan on top of the rest of the dishes. He gathered up the rest of the trash the diners had left and balled it together so it would be easier to throw away back in the kitchen. His shoulders itched, the hairs on the back of his neck prickled. People were watching him. He took a deep breath before lifting the pan and turning from the table.

It was nothing. People could look all they wanted. It didn’t mean a damn thing. He’d heard the whispers for himself. They saw his tattoos, automatically assumed they knew everything about him. He must be some kind of thug, had probably done prison time, was likely dangerous and shouldn’t be working here.

He just wished it wasn’t all true.

Carlos shouldered his way into the kitchen, dropping the pan on the shelf beside the door for the dishwasher to get to. The kid beside the sink jerked his head at Carlos in greeting, but he only grunted back. Tomorrow their duties would be switched, with Carlos lifting and lowering the doors on that dishwasher.

He’d only been here for three weeks. And he knew it hadn’t been the strength of his experience or references that had gotten him the job. Only one reference had really mattered. Roman’s. If it wasn’t for him, Carlos probably would have spent more than that month in jail, and he wouldn’t have this, or probably any, job. He wasn’t going to screw up that chance, even if it was only to clear tables and wash dishes.

He turned and reached for a clean tub so he could go clear another table but didn’t see the man coming toward him until they collided. His immediate reaction was to slam a fist in his face and pull his knife. The first would get him fired, the second, if he even had it on him, sent back to jail. He couldn’t afford either option. So, he only let his lip curl at the tattoo of the wild cat on the man’s bicep. Fuckin’ Pumas.

“Sorry,” Carlos muttered, grabbing the tub that he’d dropped during the collision. He wasn’t really. But, their boss had strict rules about fighting in the kitchen. They could both be fired, no matter who had started it.

“Just like a cowardly coyote,” the other man said, sneering at him.

Carlos bristled at the words. But, he kept walking. It wasn’t worth it. He needed this job, needed this new start. The pumas had taken enough from him. He couldn’t let them take this as well. So, he ignored the words meant to taunt him and walked back to the dining room to clear another table.

***

Carlos stepped out of the restaurant and saw the three boys waiting for him. Romello, the server he’d bumped into earlier, stood right in the middle of them. Great. Just great. Looked like they were going to be fighting about this after all. He could always run, but he’d never done that before. And they’d catch him anyway.

So, he balled his fists and took a step forward. “What do you want? I was just goin’ home.”

“To your hovel, you mean?” Romello scoffed.

Carlos doubted the other man’s place was much, if any, better, so he let the words pass. “I don’t have any beef with you. I’m just trying to start a new life, like you. I just want to be left alone.”

Romello sneered at him. “You’re nothing like me. You’re a Coyote.”

“Not anymore.” The words felt like a lie. Sure, he didn’t run with the gang any longer. But, he wasn’t sure he’d ever stop feeling like a part of it.

Romello’s lip curled further, until he was nearly snarling. “You still ain’t washed the stink off.” Then, he was swinging his fist.

Carlos ducked the first punch, but the second caught him in the shoulder. He stumbled back but found his footing quick enough. But, then the other two were on him as well. He hit the ground once but jumped right up again. He wasn’t going to go down without one hell of a fight. He wouldn’t just give up on this new life he’d been given.

Then, he hit the ground again. He tried to get back up, but a boot connected with his ribs. All the air left him as more hits connected. Then, sirens split the air and the other men scattered. Carlos got his knees under him and grabbed onto a sign nearby to drag himself to his feet. Then, there was a hand on his arm and metal snapping around his wrist. His head was spinning too much to resist even if he’d planned to.

***

“You’re damn lucky they held you instead of taking you right to booking.”

Carlos held his pounding head in his hands. He didn’t feel too lucky about anything right now. They’d slapped a Band-Aid over the cut on his forehead, but that was about it. They hadn’t given him anything for the pain coursing through his body. The only thing that felt lucky was that Romello and his two buddies weren’t in the same cell as him.

“I didn’t start the fight, Roman. Romello and his buddies were waiting for me outside. He’s always baiting me.”

“That’s why you ignore him. I thought you wanted this job.”

“I do!” he cringed as saying the words brought more pain to his head. And it wasn’t so much the job he wanted as the chance it gave him. “And I know, I probably lost it now.”

“If there weren’t witnesses who gave the same story as you, that would probably be true.”

A guard stepped forward and unlocked the cell door. The loud whine of it opening nearly had his head exploding, though. “Come on,” Roman said. “I’ll take you home. You’ll have to talk to Aberto in the morning about the job.”

Carlos couldn’t think too much about that right now. Not when it felt like his head was splitting right open and his ribs were on fire. Aberto’s place was known for giving released cons a second chance. He wasn’t known for giving ones for breaking his rules, though.

Carlos just hoped he’d make an exception this time.

***

Carlos stepped into the restaurant and winced at the bright lights. Roman had taken him by the hospital after leaving the police station the night before. He’d gotten some medicine for the headache and had his ribs wrapped up. But, it only helped so much.

Aberto would be waiting for him. Roman had already talked to him. Now, Carlos just had to plead his case. He knocked on the doorframe of the office even though the door was open and his boss was looking right at him. No point in taking any chances. Not this morning.

“Come in, Armas.”

Carlos stepped into the office and licked his lips. “Mr. Aberto-”

His boss held up a hand, and Carlos came to an instant stop. He shoved his hands in his pockets to hide their trembling. He didn’t need to show just how nervous he was right now.

“You know I don’t allow fighting in or around my restaurant.”

“Yes, sir.” Carlos wished his tongue didn’t feel so thick. “I can explain.”

“No explanation needed.”

Carlos’ shoulders drooped at that. That was it, then. This was all over for him.

“I’ve seen the way you and Romello have been. And I’ve seem how you’ve handled it. I also talked to the person who reported the fight last night and said you were the one assaulted. I imagine you didn’t see any way around the fight.”

Carlos shook his head. “Figured if I ran, they would’ve just chased me down.”

Aberto nodded as if he’d expected that. “Charges have been pressed. Romello will no longer have a job here.”

Carlos swallowed hard. “And me, sir?” If he lost this job, he wasn’t sure what he’d do.

“Well,” he said, his lips curling up slightly, “I’m going to have an open position for a server. I’ve seen you’re a hard worker and seemed determined to make your place here.”

Carlos couldn’t quite believe it. And he wasn’t sure he could believe it was actually happening. “Why?” he asked even thought he knew he shouldn’t be questioning it.

“I see something in you,” Aberto said. “And I believe in the things I see. I believe in you, Carlos.  Now, get on home and rest up. We can start your waitstaff training tomorrow.”

A-Z Blog Challenge 2016 – Theme Reveal

A2Z-BADGE%202016-smaller_zpslstazvibI’m coming back for my second year in a row of participating in the A-Z Blog Challenge. Ok, so the ‘in a row’ was unnecessary, since I didn’t skip any years, either. Last year was my first year doing it. Anyway! Last year’s theme was “fire” as I have a whole series that revolves around firefighters, and even a spin-off series now.

 

Then, in May, I participated in Story a Day challenge for the second year(but not in a row this time). Most of those stories involved characters in one of my various series. It was after that the idea for this year’s theme(though I hadn’t quite decided whether I was going to do it again or not at that point). The idea has firmed up more in my mind since then, and I started planning out my posts in February(I greatly believe in getting ahead when I can).

Anyway, all that to say…

THIS YEAR MY THEME IS…………………….

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE

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CHARACTER SNAPSHOTS

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Last year I brought you researched posts, with a few about characters in my Flames series. This year, it’s all about the fiction. I’ll be bringing you snippets(or snapshots) from somewhere in a character’s past. Some of them are side characters(a couple are kids), but even those characters often come to get their own story, so this may even be a bit toward plotting future stories. I’ll try to keep these under 1000 words, but sometimes my characters take over and run off at the mouth(*cough*Declan*cough*).

I picked these mostly randomly and they still came out mostly evenly(well, they did until I changed a couple of them, and now they lean a little heavier to characters from my BC Security series).  have 9 from BC Security(though 2 are the same character. X & U are hard letters to come up with). 5 are from my Flames series, 5 from my Gilbert, Co series, and 7 from my Kurztown series.

This Year’s Topics:

A: Alex Connelly(BC Security)

B: Brian Sharrock(Kurztown)

C: Casey Brannigan(BC Security)

D: Declan Portor(BC Security)

E: Erik Matthews(Gilbert, Co)

F: Finn Reddick(Flames)

G: Giovanni Magaldi(Flames)

H: Hannah Connelly(BC Security)

I: Lila Corelli(Kurztown) – had none that started with I, but figured hers ended with it, so close enough.

J: Joel Holland(Kurztown)

K: Kellie Caldera(Gilbert, Co)

L: Leann Rudler(Gilbert, Co)

M: Megan Luzat(Flames)

N: Nila Siddell(Kurztown)

O: Olivia Stevens(Gilbert, Co)

P: Patrick Williams(Gilbert, Co)

Q: Piers Quincey(BC Security)

R: Rowan Portor(BC Security)

S: Susan Holland(Kurztown)

T: Trisha Gosslar(Kurztown)

U: Xavier Urban(BC Security)

V: Vivienne Quincey(BC Security)

W: William Buroughs(Flames)

X: Xavier Urban(BC Security) – told you there was a double one on here

Y: Dillon Yates(Flames)

Z: Zachariah Saranno(Kurztown)

So, there they are. 26 snapshots of my characters. I’m excited to bring these to you all.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Contraction

I’m back for another Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Woohoo! I’ve had a lazy couple of days, my motivation completely disappearing. Which usually means I need to take a break. Not something I do too often. But, I did get a good bit of reading done during that time. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on back stories for the two WiPs I’m plotting in that time either. So, I figured I could use today’s prompt of “contraction” to work through some of that.

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

“Don’t you have anyone waiting for you?”

I’d spent the last twelve weeks with the four men sitting around me. And thirty-five others who had been in our platoon of recruits. The five of us had bonded more than any of the other recruits, though. May be it was having our home state in common. Although there were times I still considered myself a fraud for calling it that. I hadn’t been born in Texas. I was six months old before Mom ever brought me here. But, I’d spent most of my life living either here or with my dad in Ireland. We’d been here exclusively since I was thirteen, though. So, it was home.

And it felt good to be back on home soil.

I glanced back at the two recruits…no, we weren’t that anymore. That’s what the Drill Instructor had said at our emblem ceremony. We were Marines now. Alex and Casey had hit it right off. Who would have known they had grown up only a town apart. After the first few days, you would have thought they’d grown up in the same home. But, not even close.

Casey still hadn’t answered the question Xavier, who brought up the rear of our little pack, had asked him. Alex shot him a look, and I wondered what that was all about. Obviously Alex knew even more about Casey’s situation than the rest of us.

“He’s coming home with me,” Alex said.

“No. I’m not. I’ll find a place.”

“Already told you. You got a place at the ranch.”

I let their argument roll around me. I knew a little about Casey, though he didn’t talk a lot. But, we lived in close quarters. I’d seen the scars on his back. And, I was guessing, Alex knew the story behind them.

“You sure they are not brothers?” Piers asked from my side.

“They say so. What about you? Your family waiting here?”

“Mom promised she would be. Don’t know if Dad could get away.”

That was something Piers and I had in common. My dad had been a soldier in the Irish Army. My mom met him over there. He’d finally left the Army and come here almost six years ago. Piers’ mother was from Canada and had come here after meeting his father, who was another Marine. Piers had been born here but split his time between here and his mother’s family, though not as much as I had.

I knew my dad wouldn’t be here for me. He couldn’t be. And that hit me just as hard as it did every time I thought about it. Alaina said she’d be here with Mom, though. And whoever this new guy was that Mom had found. As long as he was good to her. I told myself that was all that mattered. Even though her being with someone other than Dad just felt…wrong.

Xavier came up to us, and Piers slung an arm over the slighter man’s shoulders. There was something between the two of them, though it wasn’t the same as our bond. I shook off that thought as I recognized a familiar head of strawberry blond curls. I dropped my duffel as my little sister launched herself at me. I caught her easily even though she was a lot longer than she used to be when we played this. It wasn’t so hard to catch a seven-year-old when I was fifteen.

I finally set her back on the ground and looked over her at my mom. She was…reserved. That was the best way to think of it. And I swore I could see tears in her eyes. She hadn’t wanted me to enlist. She’d spent twelve years worrying about Dad, and now she saw the same thing ahead of her. But, she came to me now.

“You look so much like him,” she told me. “He’d be proud of you.”

I’d just gone through a grueling twelve weeks, the worst of it the last 54 hours, and I hadn’t shed a tear. Now, though, my eyes burned. A throat cleared behind her, and she jumped back a little. Her smile wavered. “Declan, this is Jacob. My fiance.”

No. Alaina had told me Mom was seeing someone. But, that hadn’t been until after I’d left. Not even three months. How could he have moved in so quick? “What about Dad?” I said, my voice coming out harsh.

A shutter came down over her gaze. “Your father’s dead, Declan. Me being lonely won’t bring him back. It’s been a year.”

Not quite. And I knew nothing would bring him back. It didn’t make this hurt any less. I forced myself to hold my hand out to him. He gripped it hard, but his smile looked forced, too, and a little hard. “It’s wonderful to meet you at last, Declan. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

I didn’t like him. I know it’s unfair, but instantly I disliked him. “Funny. I have heard very little about you.”

His mouth tightened at that. But, he asked, “Who are your friends?”

“These are my brothers,” I said and introduced each of them. Then, a woman came up to Piers, and they started speaking in French. He’d taught me a few words, but I couldn’t follow their conversation. It must be his mother, who had given him a much warmer welcome than mine had. Soon, I stood alone with my family.

“We should go,” my mom said. “Jacob hired a caterer for your welcome home dinner.”

“I’d like to make a stop first,” I said as we headed out to the car.

“Where to?” Jacob asked as he pulled out of the parking lot.

“The cemetery.”

Tension was suddenly like a heavy blanket in the car.

“That’s not needed,” my mom finally said.

I need it. Please, Mom.”

After a moment, she nodded. I saw Jacob reach over and squeeze her hand. Something inside me seethed. It didn’t matter if they got married, I told myself. I would never consider him my father.

I’d had a good father who I loved. I would never replace him. I couldn’t.

 

SOCS/JusJoJan: Day 30 – “An”

Welcome back to day 30 of Just Jot It January, which is also Stream of Consciousness Saturday. We’re almost to the end of the month, and I’m pretty sure I’ve managed at least half of the Just Jot It prompts. That’s pretty good for me. Next up, is the A-Z challenge(unless there’s something I don’t know about in February/March). I’m excited about that, too. Last year I had a fire theme for it. This year, I have something else in mind, which I’ll talk about more some other time.

Today’s prompt is “an-“. I thought I’d write about a character, but looking through my list of character names, I realized they’re all side characters that have barely even popped up(except for Anna from Stained Snow). So, I started browsing through dictionary.com, hoping to find something that struck me(and I really hope thinking that much about it isn’t against the SOCS rules). Then, I hit “ancient history” and went AHA! This will have some spoiler material for some of my Flames stories(mostly Flames of Restoration) and also some back story for a novella(actually 2), I have planned.

“Ancient History”

Cameron leaned back against the wall as he watched the couple spin around on the dance floor. One corner of his mouth ticked up. That wasn’t quite accurate. She was spinning around him, but he was basically just standing there, grinning at her. The last time Cam had seen that man, he certainly hadn’t been grinning.

Cam had stopped calling Mark Young an asshole for how he’d acted that day. Cam had been in the wrong all along. And everything else that had happened after that was his fault as well. He couldn’t put the blame anywhere else.

Despite what he knew was best, his gaze scanned the reception room. He knew Nolan would be here. Mark was his best friend, Nolan had even claimed he was more like a brother. Cam always shuddered a little at that. He hadn’t had good experience with brothers. Cam always said it like it was a good thing, though. Of course, he had a supportive family.

Apparently that made a difference.

He saw the table with the rest of the firefighters in their dress uniforms, but he didn’t see Nolan there. Maybe he’d sat with the rest of the family. Nolan technically was family now, after marrying Mark’s sister. His stomach churned at that. He turned his gaze back to the dance floor as applause broke out and the music shifted as the rest of the wedding party drifted onto the floor for the next dance.

“They’re quite a sight, aren’t they?”

Cam didn’t turn to look at his boss, just kept his gaze on the dancers. There was Nolan, dancing with a woman who wasn’t his new wife. He did recognize her, though. She’d come into the pub more than once. One of his boss’s cousins, he was pretty sure. There were so many of them, it was hard to keep straight.

“Why aren’t you out there? Didn’t your sister want you in her wedding?”

Which didn’t make much sense to him. He’d seen them interact before, and it was obvious there was a lot of love to go around in that family. “She knew I wouldn’t care to wear a tux, and they wanted to keep the numbers of the party even. Mark doesn’t have a lot of people on his side.”

“No one does compared to your family.”

His boss laughed at that, and Cam finally turned to look at him. Giovanni Magaldi’s eyes were bright with amusement, the same way they always seemed to be. And they were locked on Cam right now. Cam turned away. It was never good to look at his boss too long. It put too many ideas in his head.

“I’d rather be behind the bar than in front of all those people anyway,” Gio admitted.

That surprised Cam a bit. Gio had seemed to be one of the most outgoing, friendly people Cam knew over the last several months he’d worked for the other man. But, he’d started to realize there was a lot more to Gio than was obvious on the surface.

The song ended and the couples started drifting off the floor, going back to their seats. Most of them anyway.

“They’ll be doing the rest of the dances after dinner,” Gio said. “We’ll be busy for a little while.”

Sure enough people started moving toward them, wanting to get their drinks before dinner was served. Cam’s hands stayed busy, opening, pouring, mixing.

“Funny seeing you here.”

His hand jerked, and he almost spilled the drink he’d been mixing together. He set everything down before lifting his gaze. “Nolan.” He still looked good, some of that dark brown hair slipping over his forehead. And he looked happy. Something he hadn’t always been when they were together. If you could call their mostly casual relationship as being together.

“I didn’t know,” Cam said in a rush. “I only knew we’d be working a wedding. I didn’t realize whose it was.”

Nolan was still smiling at him. “It’s fine, Cam. Really. I was just surprised to see you.”

Gio stood right beside him, opening a couple bottles and sliding them over to the couple across the bar. But, he could feel his boss’s eyes on them. “I said I’d stay away from you, though. I don’t want you to think-“

Nolan leaned a little closer, and the smile fell away. “I said it’s fine, okay. It’s over. I thought we were fine now.”

Cam blew out a breath. “I’m sorry, okay. I never should have-“

“It’s ancient history. Just drop it.”

That had Cam’s lips quirking up a bit. “Ancient? It was only like six months ago.”

“Like I said, ancient history,” Nolan said, smiling again. “A lot can change in six months.”

Cam saw the arm go around Nolan’s waist then, and he lifted his gaze to see Nolan’s wife beside him. She was smiling, too. Something about the way Nolan ran his hand over her stomach and to her hip almost felt too intimate for him to be watching. “Did you get our drinks yet?” she asked.

“Just about.” He looked back up to Cam. “Maura would like whatever you have that’s non-alcoholic.” Gio laughed from beside him, but whatever the joke might be went right over Cam’s head. “And I’ll have-“

“I know what you drink, Nolan,” Cam said, reaching for the cooler that held bottles of Rolling Rock.

He watched as they walked away. It wasn’t as hard seeing them together as it had been the first time. That was something at least.

“It was you,” Gio said when the space in front of the bar finally cleared out.

“Yeah,” Cam said quietly, finally turning away. “It was me.”

“You almost ruined everything for him.”

“I know,” Cam said, his voice strained. “And I haven’t stopped regretting it since.” He finally looked up at Gio and was surprised to see something but amusement making his eyes bright now. It looked more like fury. “But, like he said, it’s ancient history.”

“It’s never ancient history when someone betrays you.” Gio stepped away. “I need to take a break. You’ll be on your own for a while.”

Cam sighed then rubbed his hands over his face. It looked like he was still screwing everything up.

Fiction Friday: Story a Day Round-Up

Since may is over, I thought I’d do a round-up of all my stories for May’s Story a Day challenge. There are 3o of them(I only missed one day). I figure I’ll organize them into groups by the series/stories/characters they’re based on. Also going to try to put them in chronological order

Flames:

James:

Riley Family:

Nolan

Maura:

Hunter Family:

Jace

Jess:

Tate

Kelan

Kurztown

Into the Sun

Freeing His Heart

Patrick

Rylan

Non-fiction:

Some of these I definitely liked better than others. But, it was fun digging around in back stories(or maybe even what happens after their actual story). I even got an idea for yet another story(because I really need that).

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