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Fiction Friday: Dougal & Shae

It’s the end of January which means it’s time to share the beginning of the last of my back story novellas. I’m not sure I’ll be sharing more of these, at least not here. I do have other ideas for them, though. I may talk more about that another time, as I firm up those plans. But for now, here’s the first scene of Dougal & Shae’s story(Flames).

Dougal Magaldi scanned the room around him from behind the bar. He’d only been in town a couple weeks now. He was just glad he’d been able to find a job so quickly. His father hadn’t wanted to leave home, and the pub they’d been running together the last two years. But, it hadn’t taken him long to realize he couldn’t work for his father.

He loved the stubborn old bastard, but he couldn’t work for the man. And he really didn’t want to have to go crawling back, saying he’d failed just as his father had predicted. But, he’d landed this job, so he wouldn’t have to think about that. At least not yet, not as long as he could hold onto the job and his apartment.

The clientele here was definitely different from what he was used to at the family pub. A bit rougher. Not nearly as many couple and families. A lot more men, and women, on the prowl. And more troublemakers among them.

He looked at a couple of them right now. They hadn’t done anything just yet, but they were throwing back the drinks quite hard. But, even though he’d only worked behind the bar the last couple years, he’d spent most of his life in the pub. He’d gotten good at pinpointing the riffraff from those just out to have a good time.

These two definitely fell into that first group. Nothing he could do unless they actually started causing a problem, though. And from what he’d seen so far, his boss wouldn’t take action until it went almost too far. Nothing he could do about that either. All he could do was his job.

Two men came up and leaned against the bar. These didn’t seem so much like troublemakers, and Dougal offered a smile as one held up two fingers and said, “Guinness.”

His smile widened. “Ah, a couple Irish lads,” he said, a burr in his voice as he reached into the cooler for the bottles. He always seemed to pick it up when he visited his mother’s family. But, he’d been back from Scotland for a few weeks now. He would have thought it would’ve faded again by now.

”And you’re a Scottish one,” one of the men said, grinning at him.

“Born there,” he admitted. “Came over when I was three. Just went back to visit family recently, though.”

“Our father came over from the Old Country when he was a teen,” the other man said.

Our father. Brothers, then. He supposed he could see it now. One of them went rigid at a commotion down the bar. Dougal glanced that way and saw the men he’d pinned as troublemakers. And that’s just what they were doing now…making trouble.

The taller of the two men in front of him sighed. “And here I thought we were off duty.”

“Donny,” the other man said, “it’s not our fight. Maybe they’ll…”

A beer bottle went flying before he could even finish the sentence. “Sure, Dev, maybe they will. Come on.”

Dougal watched as they started to wade in to the fight and debated whether he should step in or call the cops. His boss would hate that second option, but when he saw the flash of a knife, his debate was over.

Fiction Friday: Roman

It’s Friday, so it’s time for the first scene of the third back story novella I’ve been working on. This one is Roman’s, who you’ll meet in Shed Some Light(Carlos’ story – who you may recognize if you’ve read Healing the Heart). This is the story of how Tereza came to be Roman and his wife’s daughter.

Roman Pella looked up at the knock on his door and rubbed a hand over his rough cheek. He should have shaved before he came into the office, but it hadn’t been a good morning. Or the night before. Another specialist with news they didn’t want to hear. He’d wanted to stay home with Cristine, but the office had already given him enough leeway with time off and shortened days, so he could make it to the appointments.

There wouldn’t be any children for him and the woman he loved. This last specialist had made that pretty clear.

“You look awful, Pella. You need to go home early?”

Roman glanced up at his boss and shook his head. “Out of personal days. And I’m not sick. I can get through. You got something for me?”

He didn’t like being short with his boss, who had been very sympathetic and accommodating with everything he and Cristine had been going through. But, he didn’t want to talk about it. Not right now when the reality was weighing him down so much.

His boss gave a short nod as if in acknowledgement of what Roman hadn’t said. “Two new clients, in fact. If you can’t take them both, let me know. I’ll figure something else out. But, it’s a big case, and not a one of the defendants could afford a lawyer.”

How many could there be? That didn’t really matter if they weren’t being tried together. “They were all charged separately, though?”

“Only one of them was being charged with the murder. The others have assorted charges, but the DA decided not to lump them all together. The trial would have been a circus.”

Roman’s hand had stilled at the word ‘murder’. He’d worked for the public defender’s office since he passed the bar, five years now. And he’d never defended a murder case before. He really hoped this wouldn’t be the first one.

He swallowed then made himself flip open the first folder. Carlos Armas. That name sounded familiar. He started reading over the report and a few things slid into place. He looked up at his boss. “I saw this story on the news. They insinuated it was part of a turf war between the gangs. The victim was his sister, though?”

“Yes. We’ve seen Armas through here a couple times before, nothing’s ever stuck to him, though.”

Roman skimmed through the list of charges against him. The worst of which seemed to be illegal possession of a firearm. Possibly the intent to incite a riot, too. That seemed a little reaching, though. Of course, Roman knew the DA well, and that he liked to try to prove a point.

He set that folder aside and opened the next one. And his eyes widened a little. “Thirteen? They’re bringing these charges against a thirteen-year-old?”

“Not the first time he’s seen the inside of a holding cell, either. You recognize the last name there? You should.”

He glanced back up at the kid’s name and felt a heavy boulder drop into his stomach. “Isabelle. I heard she was clean now. That she has been for a few years.”

“Not soon enough apparently. You can help her son now, too.”

“All right. I’ll need to talk to both of them.”

“There’s someone else you need to talk to as well,” his boss said.

Roman’s shoulders slumped. At this rate, he’d never get home to Cristine tonight. “Who?”

“She came forward to the police last night and identified the shooter. He’s her foster brother and apparently threatened to kill her if she went to the police. They’re keeping her at the station until he’s under wraps. The problem is he wasn’t at home, and his parents aren’t being exactly cooperative.”

His stomach twisted into tight knots at hearing all of that. “How old is she?”

“Fifteen. She’s terrified, Roman. And I think you’re the best one to speak to her. You always have a gentle touch with those who need it.”

A gentle touch? It didn’t seem to be what he had with Cristine. She’d told him to just go. That she didn’t need him there. He shuddered before he could stop it.

His boss dropped into a chair across the desk. “Roman. Talk to me.”

“We can’t have kids,” he said, his voice wavering on the words. It was the first time he’d said them out loud. “This is the third doctor that’s told us, but the first one that said it’s both of us. Even if I could get her pregnant, she’d have about a five percent chance of carrying to term.” It hurt. Even more so because he knew there was no way he could fix it. “I tried comforting her, and she told me to leave.”

“She kicked you out because of it? I just can’t believe that with what I know of Cristine.”

They’d all worked together, with her job as a social worker, sometimes their cases overlapped. So, Scott did know Cristine fairly well. Roman squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. “No. But, she said I was going to smother her if I took another day off work.”

Scott let out a soft sound that could have been a laugh. “She loves you, Ro. I’m sure she’s hurting, too. I thought you were looking into adopting or something.”

“We have been. We got certified to be foster parents. That came through just a little over a week ago. But, we were still holding out hope we could have our own as well. We haven’t heard anything from social services yet about any children. Which I guess is good, if they haven’t had to remove any from homes. But, we wanted children so much. It’s something we discussed almost from the time we met.”

His boss reached down for the folder. “I can give this to someone else if it’s going to be too much for you. Maybe you should take more time off.”

But, Roman shook his head and set his hands over the folders. “No, I can do this. I need to do this, Scott. We’re breaking apart, and me going back home is just going to be the hammer blow that shatters everything.”

His boss studied him carefully then finally nodded. “All right. But you tell me if it gets to be too much, Ro. Don’t drown yourself with it.”

He lied with a straight face. “I won’t, Scott.”

 

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.

Fiction Friday: Patrick & Sarah

As I said last week, I’ll be sharing scenes from the four back story novellas I’ve been working on. First up is Patrick & Sarah, from my Stained series.

Patrick Bailey pulled back hard on the reins for the team of horses hitched to his wagon as the little boy dashed out in front of him. “Woah,” he called, when he was afraid his touch wasn’t enough to bring the two farm horses to a halt. The boy scrambled back from the large hoof that had nearly caught him in the shoulder. Patrick jumped down from the seat almost before the horses had come to a stop.

“You all right?” he asked the boy, reaching out for his arm to steady him.

The boy looked up at him, eyes wide in his small face. His mouth fell open, but no words came out as he kept staring up at Patrick. “Were you hurt?” The boy shook his head, but he still didn’t say a word.

“William!” a woman screeched, and Patrick turned his head that way.

The boy hunched his shoulders, drawing Patrick’s attention back to him. “I wasn’t s’posed to leave,” he said quietly. “But, Tommy was mean.”

“Will,” the woman cried again, her voice rising with desperation. “Where’d you get to?”

“That your ma?” Patrick asked, looking back at the boy.

He dropped his gaze to the ground, and Patrick just squeezed his shoulder. When he looked back up, the woman was looking around frantically and about to dash into the street herself by all appearances. There were more wagons rolling into town, though, and he wasn’t sure they wouldn’t hit her. He couldn’t let that happen.

Patrick straightened and raised his hand. “Ma’am,” he called out to her. “Ma’am, your boy’s over here.”

Her head jerked toward him, and Patrick’s throat went dry. She was beautiful. Likely the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. And he shouldn’t be thinking like that. She was a mother, which meant she’d have a husband as well. That went several levels beyond what he believed to be wrong.

He kept his hand on the boy’s shoulder as she turned and started stalking their way. He heard the boy gulp beside him, and he gently squeezed that hard knob under his hand. “It will be fine, William, wasn’t it?”

He nodded jerkily. “Yes, sir,” he whispered.

The woman reached them, and her gaze took in Patrick quickly, and he saw her swallow hard, her hands trembling slightly as she grabbed the boy’s arm. “Come here, William,” she said sharply. “I told you not to leave the house.”

“Sorry, Mama,” the boy said quietly. “Tommy was bein’ mean again.”

That was the second time Will had mentioned that. It worried something in Patrick’s mind. Who would be mean to such a little boy?

The woman’s nose wrinkled. “That’s enough, Will. Your brother is not mean. He is just teasing. It doesn’t give you cause to take off.”

But, something in the boy’s face told Patrick it was more than that. “Can I walk the two of you back to your house?” he asked her. “Make sure your boy doesn’t take off again.”

The woman took her gaze off the boy and looked back up at Patrick. “That won’t be necessary,” she said. “I can take care of my sons. I have to get back to work before we can go home anyway.”

A jolt went through him at that. “Your husband makes you go out and work? What is he doing?”

All of the color drained out of her face, and he could have kicked himself. But, before he could make his apologies, even though he wasn’t sure exactly what his misstep was, she had squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.

“My husband doesn’t make me to do anything. It would be difficult as he’s been dead three years now.”

His stomach twisted up at that, and the flash of pain he saw in her eyes. Then, his gaze flicked down to the boy. He didn’t look much more than three years old.

“No, sir,” she said, “he never knew his father. Will was only a little over a month when I got word my husband had fallen in battle.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said, and he truly was. He could not imagine how it had to be for her, raising two boys with no man in the picture. “Do you need help with anything?”

“And what would you expect in return?”

The question took Patrick aback. “What is that supposed to mean, ma’am? I expect nothing. I just want to help.”

Her face was still drawn in hard lines, but he thought her eyes had softened with…confusion, maybe. Just how had people been treating her in the years since her husband had died? Patrick had fought in the war, too, and had seen plenty of men fall. Men who had left widows and possibly even orphans. He’d never worried about helping any of them before. But, something about these two pulled at him. He couldn’t explain it.

“I don’t need any help,” she said, raising her chin.

He wanted to argue with that. After all, her boy had just run out into the street and nearly been trampled. Instead, he took a step back. “Whatever you say, ma’am.”

She seemed startled by his response and stared at him as he backed away. But, he could not force his help on her. Or at least he wouldn’t. “Good day, ma’am, Will,” he added tipping his hat and heading back to the wagon. He’d get the supplies and be on his way back to the farm again.

 

Fiction Friday: “Goin’ Down” – The End

This is the final installment of my short story. It actually includes two scenes because the last one is really short. You can read the other parts here, here, here, and here. And it’s not like my usual(which almost always have a happy ending).

I was drowning. I knew it in every cell of my body. But, I didn’t know how to save myself.  My lungs burned, my body thrashed, my muscles ached as I tried to kick to the surface. Something held me where I was. I couldn’t drag any air in. I was never going to make it. Never start the family Justin and I talked about.

I would die here.

A great burst of air and cold suddenly blew over me. I dragged in a breath then another. He stood there laughing at me. This would be my last sight of my husband. We wouldn’t start that family because he would have killed me.

No. I wasn’t going to let it happen. I couldn’t swim. I doubted I could save myself. I was already going down again, but I wasn’t going to go down alone. I put as much strength into my legs as I could to move me toward shore. It didn’t give me much distance, but Justin stood right on the edge. If I stretched a little… A slight current caught me as I reached out, and I snagged his pant leg, my fingers curling right into it.

The smug look fell away from his face as he stumbled forward. He tried to backpedal, but the bank was soft from the recent rains. His foot slipped, and he came falling in with me. He made a large splash before I went under again. Red filtered down through the water, and Justin’s eyes stared unblinkingly down at me. My mouth opened in shock, water filling it and my throat.

I struggled to reach the surface one last time, but everything felt too heavy. I was going down, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

***

“The two bodies that washed ashore late last night have now been identified as Justin and Heather Holme of Greenwood. At this time the investigation into the deaths is ongoing, but there appears to be no sign of foul play. If you have any information, the Greenwood police ask that you contact them.”

 

Fiction Friday: “Goin’ Down” – The Walk

It’s Friday, so it’s time for the next part of my short story, “Goin’ Down”. There’s only one more part after this, so it will be done by Christmas.

Maybe I’d been wrong to mistrust Justin. Nothing would happen to me on our little walk. He had a good grip on my arm and guided me around any obstacles. He must have because I never once tripped or fell, even though I couldn’t see where we were going. Either that, or I was just lucky.

I’d never been that lucky.

I was tired. While the walk had slightly cleared my head, it hadn’t done anything to fix the way my stomach pitched and rolled. “Justin, can we go home now? I don’t feel well.”

Justin blew out an obviously frustrated breath. “Fine. Since you refuse to enjoy this, we might as well end the experience now.”

I was thankful we’d be going back. Away from the water that sounded even closer. Home to where I could lay down until this pitching in my stomach stopped. Hopefully where this sweet, attentive husband of mine would remain. I liked him much more over the cold one who had been living with me lately.

My footing got worse on the return trip. Justin still held onto my arm, but it was like he pushed me into obstacles instead of saving me from them. I stumbled and was sure something splashed into the water. “Justin, wh-where are we going?” This could not be the same path we’d been on. We hadn’t been this close to the water, had we?

“Back the way we came. Just as you wanted. Don’t I always give you what you want?”

No, he didn’t. Or we would have gotten our marriage back on track long before he decided to test my trust.

We’d walked a little farther along when my foot slipped. I heard the splash before pulling my foot back up. My stomach stayed right down there on the ground. “Wh-why are we so close to the water?”

“Don’t you trust me to keep you safe?”

No. It was the first word to pop into my head, but I pushed it back down. That was not true. I’d married him. He wouldn’t hurt me. “Of course. Of course I do.”

“Good. That’s very good, Heather.”

I swore my stomach dragged along the ground as we continued to walk. Nothing felt right about this day. I hoped we’d get back home soon, so I could finally put the day behind me.

“You’ve learned now, haven’t you?” he asked as he turned me away from him and tugged at the back of the blindfold, loosening it from around my eyes.

“Learned what?” Why did my mind suddenly feel as sluggish as my body? Something wasn’t right.

His breath whispered over the back of my neck. “I’m the only one who controls when it’s over.”

The blindfold slipped down past my chin, and I saw the churning water right in front of me. My stomach sloshed as much as that water. “Justin, no.”

The words were barely out of my mouth before his hand struck the back of my shoulder.

Uh oh. Not looking too good, is it?

Fiction Friday: Goin’ Down – Trust

It’s Friday again, so I’m here to share the next scene from Goin’ Down, a short story that’s different from what I usually write. If you missed them you can check out the first two scenes here and here. I’ll wait for you to come back. Ready? Here’s the next one:

I’d lost track of how many different foods—grapes, berries, cheese, crackers and other things I hadn’t been able to place, some almost bitter—he’d placed between my lips, always followed with another sip of that fruity wine.

My head spun as Justin helped me to my feet. I didn’t think I’d had more than one glass of wine. It couldn’t have been more than that, not enough to make me feel this way. “Are we going back home now?” I asked.

“I thought you’d like to take a walk with me. Doesn’t that sound good?”

No, it didn’t. I wanted to go back home and lay down. I didn’t usually get this tired after eating, especially not when it was mostly snack foods. Something had to be wrong.

“I don’t feel so well, Justin. Maybe we should-“

“Walk it off,” he interrupted me. “You should walk with me, and you’ll feel better.”

I didn’t see how that would be a solution to my spinning head and pitching stomach. “Can you at least take off the blindfold? It’s making me even more disoriented.”

“I told you to trust me. If you don’t, this will never work.”

This? What exactly was this? The picnic he’d planned, or whatever this was. Or our marriage? I’d been trying to make that work. Nothing seemed to accomplish that. Now, all of a sudden it was all in his saving hands. I needed to trust him. That rubbed me the wrong way.

“I’m not comfortable with this, Justin.”

He squeezed my hand a little tighter. “Trust me, Heather. That’s all you have to do.”

I wasn’t sure it would be enough. But, he hadn’t done anything today that would explain the fear whispering through my mind. Maybe a walk would help clear my head. “You won’t let me fall in?”

“Would I do that, Heather?”

Well, would he? What’s going to happen next? You’ll have to wait until next week to find out.

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