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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: Goin’ Down – The Change

Last week I started sharing my short story “Goin’ Down” that I’d submitted to the World Unknown Review but wasn’t accepted. Good things were said about it in the rejection letter, though. This week, I have the second scene for you.

“Where are we going?” I didn’t like having the blindfold over my eyes, but Justin promised he had a surprise for me. He hadn’t thought to surprise me since our early days of dating. I didn’t think he knew how anymore.

“If I told you, that would ruin the surprise, wouldn’t it?”

This was a surprise in itself. I’d spent the last couple weeks doing everything I could think of to bring us back to what we’d been before. He ate my home-cooked dinners without a word, barely spoke to me when I sat next to him while we watched TV, and turned away from my advances. I had started consulting with a divorce lawyer. I told myself I’d go through with it if he didn’t agree to marriage counseling.

Now, suddenly he was attentive, taking me for a surprise picnic lunch. I didn’t know what to make of it.

This was the spontaneous man I’d married. I should probably be thankful something was bringing him back to me.

“We’re almost there,” he told me.

I wish I knew where ‘there’ was. We seemed to have come a long way from home for a lunch. Or he had taken a winding, twisting way to confuse me. Why would he have done that?

Not a lot of this made sense, but I kept telling myself he had a sweet surprise in store for me. None of the rest of it mattered.

I went where he led me, trusting him. Just like I always had. When I stumbled, he caught me. He guided me around trees and other obstacles. I felt the brush of them as we passed. He wouldn’t let me get hurt.

“Stay right here,” he said before stepping away from me.

I tried to listen to him, I wanted to. I wanted to trust him. But, I couldn’t see anything, I only heard the wind…no that wasn’t the wind. It was water rushing over rocks. Where had he brought me? My stomach tightened at being so close to water. It had to be a large stream or river, a lake wouldn’t make that noise.

“Justin,” I called out to him when I still didn’t hear him returning. He didn’t answer me. Where had he gone? He wouldn’t have left me out here. Would he? No, of course he wouldn’t. He loved me, and I trusted him. I called out again but still nothing.

I reached up for the blindfold, needing to see where I was. I didn’t want to trip over something and fall into the water. My chest tightened. I’d been having the dream more often. In the morning, I’d find Justin sleeping on the couch. I guess he had gotten tired of waking me from it.

Just as I tried to get at the knot at the back of my head, Justin’s hand covered mine. “I said to stay where you were. That meant leaving the blindfold alone as well.”

“I was scared. You weren’t answering me. It was like you just disappeared.”

“Really, Heather. You do realize how ridiculous that sounds, don’t you?”

I heard the teasing in his voice and tried to laugh at myself. He knew how I felt around the water. “I was scared, Justin,” I said again. “Why would you do that?”

“I wanted you to trust me. You used to trust me, Heather.”

I didn’t see how manipulating my fears would get that to happen.

“I was going to take the blindfold off while we ate. Since you failed my test, I think I should leave it on as punishment.”

My heart quickened, but not in the way I would have liked. We’d never played these games before, and I was sure I didn’t want to start now. “Justin,” I started, but he took my hand and led me away.

“Come with me. I have a blanket spread out here with our lunch.” He guided me over and down onto it. “You will learn to trust me, Heather,” he whispered in my ear.

How was I supposed to when none of this felt right? He pulled away from me, and I couldn’t feel anything but the ground beneath me. The grass poked my legs through the blanket. I heard the water behind us, and it left me tense. He wouldn’t have us sitting close enough I fell over into the water. Would he?

No, of course not. Things had been tense between us, but he still loved me. He was just trying to spice things up.

“Open up.”

When I did, he set the edge of a glass to my lips. The taste of the wine burst across my tongue then he took it away again. “You don’t want to drink too much, too fast. I know what a light head you have for wine.”

Something about his words struck me wrong, but none of it was false. I could only handle small amounts of wine or any other alcohol. And only when I’d had some food with it. I hoped he had more than wine in his basket.

He murmured something. No, he was humming. Doing this for me must really make him happy. That was good. Why did it send a cold shiver down the center of my back?

What is going on? should she trust that strange feeling she has? What is going to happen next? Well, you’ll have to wait until next week to find out.

In the meantime, I have a new release out today. Healing the Heart is the follow-up to my first book, Duty to Protect. If you were wondering about Garren’s ex-fiancée, Melanie, this is her story. I hope you’ll enjoy it if you check it out.

Teaser Tuesday: ‘Sensed the Urgency’

This will be the final teaser from Healing the Heart seeing as it releases this Friday. You can pre-order it if you’d like and be able to read it as soon as it’s out. For now, here’s a teaser:

Kaden yanked him close. “I don’t have your woman. If you don’t find her, she’s going to be dead. I’ll have to kill you both. I don’t know why, but I don’t want to do that. You’re a Coyote.” He sounded confused as if that was reason enough to want to. “Get out of here.”
He pushed Jared away from him, and he felt as confused as the boy looked, but he didn’t see this getting any better. He glanced over his shoulder but just made out the figure of a man in the car. Something about it seemed familiar. He couldn’t believe someone would drive something that fancy into this area of town. He’d sensed the urgency in Kaden’s voice, but he turned back to him and said, “This isn’t over. If I find out something happened to her, you’ll be the one to pay for it.”
Probably a mistake, but he turned his back on the young man and walked to his car. He didn’t even relax until he had driven out of the neighborhood. He shook and pulled over to the side of the road when he figured he was safe again. He laid his head back against the seat. He already felt the pain spreading through his ribs.
“Damn it.” What had this even solved? Melanie was still gone. He still had no idea where she was. Kaden’s words rang through his head. If you don’t find her, she’s going to be dead. No. He couldn’t let that happen, and he couldn’t stop thinking about the person who stepped out of that car. Who was that? Could it be…no. That didn’t make any sense. Why would he have tried to win over Melanie if he was behind these threats to her?
“Where are you, Melanie?” Feeling desperate, he took out his phone and dialed her number one more time. “Please answer,” he murmured when it started to ring. “I need to hear your voice.”

Teaser Tuesday: “What It Means”

Healing the Heart is set to release in another 2 1/2 weeks. So, this is at least the next to last teaser from it. From Chapter 22, at Garren & Lisa’s wedding:

She started to head for the dance floor, but Jared’s arms came around her. “It’s okay, you know. It’s okay to feel whatever you do.”
“How did you know?” she asked and couldn’t fight back the tears forming in her eyes.
“I know you, Melanie. Sometimes I think I know everything going through that head of yours.”
“I never would have expected this from you, Jared. Even as early as this morning, you couldn’t stand him, or the fact you thought I still had feelings for him,” she said and faced him directly.
He shook his head. “He’s not a threat to me. I can see that now.”
“What about my feelings? Are you worried about those?”
“As I said, they are yours. What you feel about him doesn’t matter, as long as I know what you feel about me.”
“Do you?”
He slid one hand around her back and the other over her ribs. He started swaying, causing her body to move in time with his. “I’m a doctor. I know what it means when your heart rate speeds up, when you can’t breathe,” he said and covered her mouth with his. “I know what those are symptoms of.”
“Oh really, Doctor?” she asked but couldn’t keep the smile from her face. “What’s your diagnosis?”
The hand at her back ran up to her neck and into her hair. “I’d say you have a severe case of unrelenting lust.” The word slammed into her, and she wanted to insist it was more. How could she when it’s exactly what she’d been trying to convince herself of? He leaned down to whisper in her ear. “Only one cure I know of. You in my room tonight, wearing nothing but those heels and my tie.”
That took her breath away. “I’m not so sure that’s going to help,” she finally managed to say and saw the wicked grin on his face. Before either of them could say anything else, she was being called to the dance floor for her part of the dancing. Now she couldn’t wait to get this over with and get back to Jared. What else could he say or do to turn her on without all these people noticing?

You can pre-order this now at Amazon, Kobo, & B&N.

Fiction Friday: Cover Reveal – Healing the Heart

A little something different again, though this time it’s a bit of self-promotion. But, I got the cover for my next release, Healing the Heart, this week. So, I decided to reveal it today. First, the blurb:

Melanie Griffin, a well-respected surgeon at the city’s best hospital volunteers her time at an inner city clinic. There she runs into another doctor, Jared McDermott, who she has a history with. Between bickering with him, she realizes not all her feelings for him have been buried. And that’s not all the trouble she faces.

Jared McDermott swore he’d gotten over Melanie Griffin since the last time he walked away from her. They could never seem to stay away from each other, even if he knew nothing good could come of it. Especially when he had to focus on raising his younger sister. But, he pulled both of them out of the pit of their childhood and was ready to help others as well. So, he knows he’s staring disaster in the face when Melanie starts volunteering at his clinic. But, he can’t turn away from it or her.

After treating the victim of a brutal assault, an obviously troubled boy, Melanie realizes intervening may have brought her into deeper trouble than she can handle. In the meantime, things get more serious with Jared, and she isn’t sure what’s more dangerous to her well-being; the threats against her or what Jared could do to her heart. Jared wants to do everything to keep her safe and with him, but he just might be holding on too tight. Will they be able to come to terms with each other before it’s too late?

Now for the cover. Thanks to Marianne Nowicki for this beauty:

healingtheheartsmallerwebuse

 

Looking at a December 2 release date, hoping that won’t change.

Teaser Tuesday: “Close Enough”

I just got Healing the Heart back from my beta reader last night. There are a few issues to address, but I don’t see a problem having it all done before the end of this month. So, right now, I’m looking at a December 2 release date. Hopefully that doesn’t change. Now to secure a cover and make sure it’s ready to go by then. For now, another little teaser.

“I don’t like being late.”

“You never did.”

She shrugged. “I almost was. Got a call about a half hour ago from one of Gilbert’s finest. He told me my car had been found. I never reported it missing, so I assume you did call them.”

Jared’s shoulders tensed. He hated how easily she riled him up. He didn’t think she always even tried. It was just that easy. “Of course I did. I said I would, didn’t I?”

She nodded. “You did, but I could tell you didn’t want to. I thought maybe you’d back out.”

“Why would I? It’s not that I didn’t want to notify them of the damage to your vehicle. I didn’t want to bring them down on my clinic and risk losing patients who feel they don’t have anywhere but the clinic to turn. I explained that already.”

“I’m not trying to fight with you, Jared. I told him I couldn’t talk now because I needed to get to the hospital, so he wants to speak with me tomorrow. What exactly did you tell him?”

“The truth,” he said but didn’t look at her. “Someone told me a car had been vandalized in the parking lot. I went to check it out and recognized it as yours. I had no idea why you left it there instead of driving it home, but you usually took the bus so probably forgot you had driven this morning. You were already gone.”

A smirk flashed across her face, and he fought back his own smile. “I thought you told him the truth,” she said.

Jared shrugged. “Close enough.”

Melanie shook her head. “What did he say about it?”

“Probably some punk gang kid doing it for kicks.” He turned his head to glance at her. “Those were pretty much his words.”

“Do you think it was something else?”

“Yeah, I do. Most of the kids in that neighborhood have more to worry about than destroying someone’s car. Especially someone who has been trying to help them.”

“Even when they don’t want help? Maybe that’s what they’re trying to tell me.”

Teaser Tuesday: “A Good, Safe Place”

I have another teaser from Healing the Heart for you this week. It’s still off with my beta reader, but if anyone else is interested in reading and giving feedback, let me know & I can send it out. I’m still planning on having it out by the end of the year hopefully.

“You said you found it like this?” the detective questioned.

Jared cleared his throat. “Yeah. One of my patients came back in and said he saw it out here.”

“No one saw anything?”

He sounded almost like he couldn’t believe that. Jared pushed down his irritation. “I told you no one said anything to me. That doesn’t mean they didn’t see it, but they likely would have told me if they did.”

“Unless they saw you.”

“Seriously?” he asked, disgusted. “That’s where you’re going with this? I have done nothing but help this neighborhood since I started here. I want a good, safe place for the people who live here. Why would I do this in my own place? I know the doctor who drives this car. She works for me here. She’s an old friend of mine. Why would I do something like this?”

“That’s a good question to ask, doctor,” the detective said, a sneer on his face. “Why have you ever destroyed property or caused havoc in the streets? You know, I’ve been a cop longer than you’ve been a doctor. I know what you are, Doctor McDermott.”

Jared cursed in his head. He didn’t think this guy had ever arrested him. Sure, he’d gotten into trouble with the cops. He hadn’t been one to deface property. He’d never killed anyone. He’d fought, and he’d stolen. It had all been to protect Denise. He didn’t have to do that anymore. “You say that like I’m not a real doctor. Yes, I come from these streets, and I did what I had to in order to survive and help my sister. I’ve done a lot of good since then. I told you what I know about this,” he said with a wave at the car. “Now, it’s your job to figure out what happened.”

The man lifted one shoulder. “Probably some punk gangbanger doing it for kicks. You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you, Doctor?”

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