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Story a Day: Day 18 – Perfect Coincidence

Today’s prompt was to write a story based on a painting. I used one of the examples on the Story a Day page for the prompt. The two girls in this aren’t quite the same as in the picture, but I used more the idea of it for this. And this will fit perfectly into where I’m at in Break on Me. Love when that works out.

Lora headed out of the bed and breakfast and looked both ways as she reached the sidewalk. It shouldn’t be too hard to find her way around this town. She’d grown up in what she thought was a small town, but this one beat even that. And she’d spent the last year and a half in a town several times larger. How did people even live in a place like this?

She shook off that thought and headed down the sidewalk. The mechanic who had brought her car in the night before had dropped her off at the bed and breakfast, but he’d told her how to get to the garage so she could see about her car. It shouldn’t be hard to find it. And everyone seemed to have already shoveled the snow that storm had dumped on them. She’d grown up in the opposite corner of the state, where it wasn’t normal to see snow at the beginning of November. But, since she’d moved up this way, she’d learned it was here. Something else to get used to. Like living in a world without Aaron.

She pushed away thoughts of her brother. He was part of the reason she was here, but the grief wasn’t going to help at all. She’d found it best to keep it locked away in its own box until she had time to deal with it. She’d had enough people tell her she shouldn’t feel the way she did, since he’d done it to himself. That didn’t change the fact she’d lost the last of her family. She hadn’t fought those battles in his head, so she couldn’t say why he’d ended it all. She only knew she still missed him.

She was just passing the parking lot that seemed to house a grocery store, with a couple gas pumps next to it, a hardware store, and on the other side a diner. She’d have to remember the diner and check it out later. It seemed like a lot of those places were dying out, being replaced with Subways and other chains.*

She saw two women heading away from the diner, coming right toward her. Though neither seemed to see her. One had her head bent slightly, her hands moving with her words. The other woman tipped her head back slightly, dragging her hands through auburn hair, then let out a laugh. Lora couldn’t stop watching them. Something about this interaction struck her. Then, the first woman took the other one’s hand and pulled her a little closer, going up on her toes until she could put her mouth on the other woman’s lips.

Oh. Lora did turn away now. Not because she felt there was anything wrong with that. But, it seemed a little intimate for her to watch. But, then they were walking toward her again. She really should keep walking. Her toes were already starting to feel a little frozen in her boots. Yet, these two seemed perfectly comfortable in their jackets, no gloves or hats as they walked arm in arm now.

She saw the name sewn on the jacket the shorter woman wore. Kurztown Auto Repair. The same as what had been on the side of the tow truck the night before. Well, that was just a perfect coincidence, wasn’t it? “Excuse me,” she said, stepping forward.

Both women turned toward her, the auburn-haired one eyeing her warily. But, she saw the other woman squeeze her hand, and she didn’t let go of it. “What can we do for you?” she asked, her voice light.

“You work at the garage?” she asked, gesturing to the name on the jacket.

She kept smiling and nodded at Lora. “I do. Name’s Kendall Gosslar, most people just call me Ken, though. What can I help you with? You need your car brought in?”

“No. Actually, it should already be there. I went off the road in that storm last night, and uh, Doren I think was his name, brought me into town. I just, well I thought you could help me find my way there. He gave me directions, and this place is small enough, I’m sure I could find it. But-”

“It’s too cold to be out here wandering around hoping you find your way,” Ken said, still smiling at her. “And Doren isn’t the best at giving directions, no matter his talent at working on cars. I have to get over there anyway. You can walk with me.”

The other woman was still studying Lora. “You’re the one Jarrett found. The one Doren went out in that storm for.”

She almost thought she heard some judgment in those words, but she had to be imagining it. “Yeah, but it’s not like I planned for my car to skid off the road and get stuck. You know them?”

“It’s okay, Sue,” Kendall said, squeezing her hand and pulling her in closer. “They both came home last night.”

The woman–Sue, Lora filed the name away for future reference–drew in a long breath then nodded before focusing on Lora again. “They’re my brothers,” she said. “I just…I worry. But, Ken’s right. They’re fine, and it wasn’t your fault. I’m sorry.”

She understood worry. She’d worried about Aaron every day he’d been deployed. Even most days he was stateside, hearing too many stories about training accidents. She’d thought that was over when he’d left the Army. It had only gotten worse, though.

Kendall turned into Sue and kissed her again. Lora turned away, her face warming a little. “I’ll see you after work, right?” Kendall asked the other woman.

“Yes.” From the corner of her eye, Lora saw Sue reach up to caress Kendall’s cheek. “I’ll come by the garage when school’s out.”

Lora waited until Kendall joined her and started off down the sidewalk. “So, your girlfriend’s a teacher?”

Kendall stopped and turned to look at Lora, her eyes wary for the first time. “Yeah. You got a problem with that?”

“Nope,” Lora said, shoving her hands in her coat pockets. Even with gloves on, the cold got through to them. “Just making conversation.”

Kendall’s shoulders relaxed, and she fell into step beside Lora again. “Sorry. We had some problems in town because of our relationship. She almost lost her job because of it, but neither of us are willing to hide anymore.”**

Lora actually thought it was kind of amazing that someone could love enough to take that kind of risk. She knew not everyone would see it the same way. And she wasn’t sure what else to say, not wanting to put her foot in her mouth again. So, they walked in silence until the garage was right in front of them. Kendall took out a set of keys and unlocked the door to the front office. “Doren lives in that house right behind the garage,” she told Lora. “He’ll be in soon. Saying good-bye to his girlfriend, too.”

Lora looked in the direction she’d gestured and saw the man from last night with his arms around a darker girl. She looked away again, once more feeling almost like a voyeur. Kendall must have seen the blush in her cheeks because she let out a soft laugh. “Come inside,” she said. “I can start some coffee, and you can get warmed up. Doren will be over soon.”

“Thanks,” she said and wandered into the office. But, this gave her too much time to think. About Aaron, how he would have reacted to the moment between Kendall and Sue. Though she didn’t really know, but she knew his opinion about homosexuals–and women– in the military. She’d never agreed with him on either point, but the arguments had gone round and round.

Then, her thoughts wandered to what she was really doing here. Would she see Gabriel? She shook away that question. Not likely. She hadn’t seen him since Aaron’s funeral. She’d made sure of that. She’d lost her brother, but she didn’t need someone else who treated her like a little sister. Just because he shared a last name with the company she was consulting with didn’t mean anything. Even in a town this size, she could probably avoid him.***

Feeling a little better after convincing herself of that, she accepted the cup of coffee Kendall handed her and waited to see if she’d be able to drive her car away from here this morning.

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

*Diner in my hometown, that this is modeled after, actually has been replaced with a Subway

**Events that happened in Love Who You Love

***Hahaha. Keep telling yourself that, Lora.

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Story a Day: Day 10 – To Forget

The first scene of this starts during a scene in Love Who You Love, book 3 of my Kurztown series. I never wrote about what happened after they left the garage, though. Also didn’t realize quite how many sparks there were between Gabriel & Erik. I don’t think they’ll end up together, but my characters have surprised me before. Either way, it will certainly add more conflict & tension to Break on Me than I’d expected.

Gabriel looked over at a man he’d fought with, trained with, nearly died with. A man whose father had kicked him out, now, because of some idiotic bigoted views. “I guess this means you don’t have a place to stay.” He couldn’t help but think of another friend who hadn’t had a place to stay when he came home. He couldn’t help Aaron any more, but he wouldn’t let that situation happen again.

“Just my car when her brother gets it finished,” Erik said, gesturing to the woman standing behind the counter of the garage’s office. Kendall had called her brother in to help with the cars since her boss was out and something had gotten screwed up with the schedule. Gabriel was pretty sure she was helping to break his own brother’s heart right now, no matter how much Chris tried to downplay it. But, that was a worry for another time. Erik kept on talking. “I might be able to find a bed in a shelter somewhere.”

“Absolutely no way, man,” Gabriel said before he’d been able to think it through. Aaron had needed to make use of shelters, but it was only a temporary solution and not the best one. “I won’t let a fellow soldier go through that.” Not again. “I’ve got an extra room at my place. You can crash there as long as you need.”

“You sure about that?” Erik asked. “You won’t be worried I’ll try to come on to you?”

Gabriel laughed. “You forget. I still got both my legs. I can still kick you ass. I don’t need two arms for that. And, it comes down to it, I can always outrun you.” He didn’t know how Erik would take him joking about both of their amputee statuses, but it usually helped him to make light of things. And Erik knew he wouldn’t be completely opposed. No one else did, though.

His brother drew in a sharp breath, probably worried how Erik would take it, Chris was always sensitive about Gabriel’s prosthetic arm. But, Erik just laughed and said, “Leave it to you, Sarrano.”

Still smiling, Gabriel turned to the counter and asked Kendall, the woman who worked there, “Any word on my truck?”

She looked amused as she shook her head. “Doren told you last month that unless you want to put more money into it than that thing’s even worth, there’s nothing he can do.”

“I hoped by some miracle that had changed,” he said then turned to his brother. “Can you fit an extra body in your truck?”

His brother looked a little unsure, but he said, “Yeah, I can.” Then, he shifted his gaze to Erik. “I’ll even help load and unload your shit, Morrey. As long as you swear you’re not still the asshole you used to be. You hurt a lot of people back then.”

Erik gave a little nod at him. “Most of all your best bud’s girl. I know. I’ve made amends with her, and I hope I can with the rest as well.”

“All right,” Chris said, apparently satisfied for now. “Let’s get going.”

***

Gabriel hadn’t thought this through too well. It had been rather impulsive, inviting Erik to live with him. And there were likely to be consequences. But, he didn’t think he’d be able to live with himself if another buddy was buried because he didn’t do enough to help fight the battles they brought home with them.

But, now he stood in front of a pile of boxes and bags and had to figure out how they were going to do this. Erik was still a little unsteady on his new leg. Picking any of the items off could throw him off. Gabriel could pick up the bags easily enough. But without having any real feeling in his right hand, he wasn’t sure it would be a good idea to lift any of the boxes. Yeah, he really should have thought this through a little more. Usually he was good at doing that for just about every situation. He didn’t want to get stuck in one where his artificial limb got him in trouble. And yet Erik had him doing just that.

“So, where do you want to start?” Chris asked, coming around to stand with them.

Right, his brother was here to help. But, he hated having to depend on anyone, especially his little brother.

“Boxes first,” Erik said. “The bags will fit around them.”

Which meant there wasn’t much Gabriel could do for now. And damn, he hated feeling useless. He’d fought back from that feeling. He’d used the money from the Army to go to school so he could design the buildings his father and brother constructed. Since he could no longer swing a hammer or work a saw. It was the only thing that still made him feel useful to the company.

He hated standing there awkwardly while his brother lifted boxes and slid them around in the bed of his truck. “Hope nothing’s too fragile,” he said, trying to joke around. “He’s used to loading lumber and nails, not handle with care items.”

Erik squeezed Gabriel’s shoulder. “It’ll be fine, man. You offered me your house. You don’t have to do everything, you know.”

How did he seem to see everything? Everyone else always appeared to be fooled by his easygoing attitude. But, not Erik. Yeah, this definitely may have been a mistake.

Chris finally had all the boxes situated in the bed of the truck, so Gabriel grabbed the first of the bags and carried it over to him. He could do this. It would keep his brother from having to keep jumping down from the truck. Then, he turned back toward the bags that were left and saw the man standing just a few paces away. Rage boiled under his skin at the way he glared at Erik and the truck parked at the curb.

“I expected you to have all this shit gone by now.”

Gabriel moved to Erik’s side, but at the way the older man’s eyes narrowed, and he sneered at them, he thought that might have been a mistake. “We’re working on getting that done. Did you come out to lend a hand?”

“No.” Jakob Morrey put all the contempt he probably could fit into the one word. “I came to make sure you get off my property. You better watch it, Sarrano, or my son’s going to turn you, too.”

Gabriel very nearly opened his mouth to tell him it was too late for that and none of it was on Erik’s shoulders. But, before he could, Erik stepped forward. “Thanks, Dad. Love the care you took with all my stuff. So nice to have it thrown out in the yard.”

“Just get your stuff and go,” Erik’s father said then turned back toward the house.

Erik stepped back, brushing his arm against Gabriel’s. “Sorry about my dad. If he hasn’t already started spreading the word about me, about my sickness as he sees it, he’ll be adding your name to it, too. I shouldn’t have brought you into my mess.”

“Just shut up,” Gabriel said softly and stepped away. He had to before he compounded his mistakes today. “Let’s get the rest of your stuff and go home.”

***

Gabriel stared up at his ceiling as he listened to his new roommate moving around in the room across the hall. Two weeks. Erik had been living with him for two weeks. During the day, there weren’t any problems. Of course, Gabriel was usually heading out to the office by the time Erik was getting out of bed. He didn’t know exactly how Erik spent his days aside from physical therapy appointments, and he said he was looking for a job that could be flexible with him. He did know, though, that when he came home the house always seemed clean and Erik was getting dinner on the table.

It was all so damn domestic.

Then, nighttime came. They sat on opposite ends of the couch, attempting to ignore some simmering tension between them. And when they finally went to their own beds, Gabriel laid here awake most of the night. And the whole time he could hear Erik moving around in the other room. Gabriel never did fall asleep until the noises finally ceased.

He should have known inviting Erik to stay here would be a mistake. The town wasn’t that accepting, there were already rumors going around about Kendall and Susan, and they were having to deal with that. He could only imagine what would happen if someone thought something was going on between him and Erik. Especially with the rumors Erik’s dad had already started spreading. He’d kept Gabriel’s name out of it so far at least. He didn’t want to think about having to explain to his father that there was some truth to them. Not that he should be ashamed of the way he felt. He just didn’t know how his father, a traditionalist in most ways, would react to the truth.

And he didn’t want to screw up their living arrangements by succumbing to these rioting feelings. He wouldn’t kick Erik out. Not to go stay in a shelter, or worse, on the streets. Maybe someone else would take him in, but he wasn’t going to take that chance.

Gabriel rolled over and punched his pillow with his good arm, but even that didn’t help. With a groan, he rolled onto his back again. Then, he heard a thud and a groan from across the hall. He threw his blanket off and stood from the bed. he went to reach for the door with his right hand then remembered he wasn’t wearing. He grumbled but used his other hand to open the door. If Erik had done something to hurt himself, he wasn’t going to waste time going back to put his hand on.

Erik’s door stood slightly open, so Gabriel pushed it open a little more as he asked, “You okay in here?”

“Fine,” Erik said. “Just dropped some of my books.”

Gabriel glanced around and saw a pile o books on the floor. “Thought you’d already put these on the shelf,” he said.

“I had. I wasn’t happy with how they were arranged.”

“So you were changing it after midnight? What’s really wrong, Erik?”

“Nothing,” he said but turned away from Gabriel.

Gabriel caught his wince as he moved, though. “You’re overdoing it, aren’t you? Didn’t they warn you about trying to do too much? You’re going to do more damage to your leg.”

“I just couldn’t sleep. Once I get this done, I’ll be able to.”

“You haven’t been able to sleep every night for the last two weeks then.” Aaron had complained of insomnia after he came back, too. Erik had been back for about a year. Though, he’d been medicated a good bit of that time. So, that might have masked any issues he was having. “Erik, if you need to talk…”

“I don’t want to talk,” Erik said. “I just want to forget. And I can’t. Not even long enough to fall asleep. I don’t know what to do with myself.

Gabriel didn’t think too hard about what he was doing. He just moved over to where Erik, sat on the edge of his bed. He sank down onto the mattress beside him. “You’re going to be fine. But, there’s no shame in talking to someone. Hell, talk to me. I’ll understand. Did you know my dad forced me to talk to a counselor after I came back? I was drowning, feeling a lot like you are. It was probably the best thing he’s ever done.”

“I’ve talked to enough shrinks since I got back. Going over everything doesn’t do a damn bit of good. I want to forget,” he said again.

He’d never seen Erik look so vulnerable. And it had those feelings pushing up at him again. It didn’t seem to matter how much he tried to shove them down. So, he shifted to face Erik a little more and reached out to clasp Erik’s shoulder. “Then, let’s forget,” he murmured. “At least for tonight.”

As he pressed his mouth to Erik’s, he thought again that this had all just been one big mistake. But, all he could do now was deal with it.

A-Z Challenge: S is for Susan Holland

S

Susan Holland leaned back on the bleacher, her arms around one knee. Kendall was out on the field, pitching against the team from the hardware store. Her father’s team of mechanics was winning. Susan’s older brother was out there, too. She couldn’t believe he’d been in college for a year already. He’d brought a girl home this summer for a few days. Amy. She was nice, or seemed that way to Susan, at least.

Her gaze didn’t leave Kendall. She’d already struck out two of the hardware store’s players. And she was grinning at them while she did it.

Something about Kendall’s grin always had light bursting through her.

Susan shook off that thought. She seemed to be doing that a lot with thoughts lately. Particularly the ones that revolved around Kendall. It didn’t make any sense. Kendall was her best friend. Had been practically from the time they were born. Her mom had pictures of the two of them playing together when they couldn’t do more than crawl. Kendall had always been more like a sister than anything.

But, for the last several months, Susan hadn’t been thinking of her like a sister. And it was so wrong. Kendall’s mom had just died, and while she was still grieving, Susan had started having these thoughts. She didn’t mean to, but every time she gave Kendall a hug, held her while she cried, she couldn’t seem to help it. And Kendall was always touching her.

Kendall had always been like that. Even as kids, she was always holding Susan’s hand when they went somewhere, hugging, brushing their arms together. Just. Always. Touching. And then just before Kendall’s mom had died, Susan’s best friend had told her she wasn’t attracted to boys but to girls. Maybe it should have made Susan uncomfortable. But, it was Kendall. She’d never been uncomfortable around her.

Not until recently, but not because of her revelation. But, that was just silly. It was Kendall. And Susan was attracted to boys. So, it didn’t mean anything.

Kendall threw one last pitch and struck out the final batter. And Susan watched as Kendall’s dad ran from where he’d been playing as catcher and picked Kendall up in his arms. It might only be a community baseball game, but they celebrated a win as if it were more important than that.

Susan headed down the bleachers and waited by the edge of the fence. Kendall turned her head, saw her, and beamed. Then, she was jumping out of her dad’s arms and running over to Susan. “Did you see that?”

“I did,” Susan said. “You were great.”

Kendall leaned forward and pressed her lips to Susan’s cheek.

Warmth flooded through her at the touch, and she wanted to…No. This didn’t mean anything. She pulled back. “So…I thought I heard your dad say something about ice cream if you guys won.”

Kendall laughed and pulled her to where the rest of the team was gathered. It didn’t mean anything. Kendall was just her best friend. That was all.

Note: If you read any of the snippets I’ve posted from Love Who You Love, you’ve seen bits of Susan and Kendall’s story. But, here, they’re only ~16 and still figuring things out.

Writing Wednesday: Off Track

Okay, so I’m not too far off track. But, the week started out that way. We went Monday afternoon to get our taxes done then to get some groceries. So, we didn’t get home until dinner time, and I only had a little more than half my list done. So, I moved the rest of the stuff to Tuesday. Then, school was cancelled yesterday so both kids were home all day. But, I did manage to catch up on most of it. Still a bit behind on my crochet and reading goals. I’m already ahead where I usually am for the day, though, so I might at least get close on catching up today.

I’ll be doing a cover reveal for Stained Snow this coming Friday. If anyone would like to help with it, let me know.

Now, for WiPPet Wednesday. Still sharing from Love Who You Love. Today I have 11 paragraphs(1+7-2-1+6). Left out the month & the 0 in the year. Anyway, context: This scene follows what I shared last week. Chris and his brother just came into the garage. Erik is still hanging out there.

“My father was being his usual asshole self.”
Chris turned and saw a young man lounging in one of the chairs by the windows. He was slouched so far down his head was right at the top of the chair. Which was why he probably hadn’t noticed him sitting there when they were coming in. It took him another moment to recognize him. “Erik?”
That had Gabriel turning as well. Chris saw his brother blink a couple times, then he said, “Damn, Morrey, you look like shit. It’s a sight for sore eyes.”
To Chris’ surprise, Erik laughed at that then levered himself up, with only a slight wince. He gripped Gabriel’s hand, not seeming to notice it was his prosthetic one. “Good to see you, too, Saranno. And it’s hard to get much sleep when you’re worried your dad’s going to throw you out any second.”
Gabriel pulled back slightly, and his eyes narrowed. “It’s gotten worse?”
“Well, since, he said all my stuff would be packed up and waiting by the time I got back to the house, I’d say that’s a given.”
“Shit, man,” Gabe said, letting his arm drop back down.
Chris looked between them, trying to figure out what was under their words. He’d never been great at subtext, though. “I don’t get it,” Chris finally said. “Why would he kick you out? You’re like a town hero.”
Erik scoffed at that. “Only in some people’s eyes. And since I refused to hide anymore, even they probably won’t look at me like that.” He ran his fingers through his short blond hair then sighed. “Knew this was coming. He walked in on me flirting with one of the other patients during my physical therapy session the other day. He’s been talking about my relapse ever since. Like it’s some disease that should have gone into remission by now.”
“I don’t get it,” Chris said. “Why would he have a problem with you flirting with a woman?”
There was a little smirk on Erik’s face as he turned to Chris. “ I never said it was a woman, did I?”

I’ll share more of this scene next week(or at least that’s the plan). And both Erik and Gabe have stories simmering in my head. As does Chris.

Now, as for how this week’s going:

 

  • Ready When You Are – Write 100 minutes/2000 words – 60 minutes/1355 words. I was frustrated this morning by an issue with the cover for Stained Snow and ended up writing 600 words in 20 minutes. A record for me.
  • Love Who You Love – Write 100 minutes/2000 words – 60 minutes/1129 words. The words are coming fairly steady with this one.
  • By the Gun – Write 100 minutes/2000 words – 60 minutes/1038 words. Another slow, steady progress one. But, this version is coming along a lot better than my last attempt. Even if I’ve been in disturbing characters heads the last couple days.
  • Protecting the Heart – finish Declan’s backstory, start Eva’s – still working on Declan’s back story. It’s already about 1400 words, but still have more to go. He’s got a lot to tell me apparently.
  • Rylan & Kirsten – finish Rylan’s backstory, start Kirsten’s – I finished Rylan’s yesterday(at a little over 1k). Started Kirsten’s and it’s about 300 words long so far. Hoping to finish it up today or Friday, then I can start the antagonist’s.
  • Stained Snowfinish Polishing, final read through – finished polish yesterday. Going to start the final read through later today.
  • Come Back Down – write 40 minutes/1000 words – weekend project
  • Read: She Sat He Stood – 75% – I’m at 65% right now.
  • Read: Sins of the Warrior(Linda Poitevin), Double Play(Jill Shalvis), The Darkest Flame(Christina Lee), Carry On(Rainbow Rowell), Against the Storm(Kat Martin), Craving Flight(Tamsen Parker), Brash(Nicola Marsh), & Verum(Courtney Cole) – I finished Sins of the Warrior(ripped my heart out but was a great end to the series) and Double Play(really enjoyed). I’m about 15% through The Darkest Flame now.
  • Knit: Zig Zag Ribbed Scarf – Finished this!
  • Crochet: Leaping Stripes and Blocks Blanket(finally got the yarn I need to finish this) – made some progress on this yesterday.
  • A-Z Challenge – plan through G post – Nothing on these yet. Trying to catch up on everything else first.

More red than I’d like, but hopefully will make more progress during the second half of the week.

 

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