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Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – “Show Around”

I’m back with another scene from Midas’ Daughter. This is a pretty short one, and we’re in James’ head as Calla shows him around.

James followed Calla out into the yard. She’d practically disappeared the day before after that meeting in her father’s office. He was pretty sure he’d seen hurt, and possibly humiliation, flash through her eyes before she’d shut it down. He’d almost wanted to tell her he didn’t want her horse. That wasn’t what had caught his eye out there.
It had been her.
And he wanted her. If it took using her horse to have that happen, he’d be perfectly fine with that. She’d learn to get over it.
Her father had been perfectly clear about that. She was strong-willed, and it would take a firm hand to control her. Just like an unruly horse. In fact, that was almost exactly how her father had described her. A creature that needed to be handled, broken, and trained to do what you wanted.
It troubled him, but he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what part caused that reaction. He wanted a woman like his mother. Who his father had molded into just the woman he wanted. Even if it meant breaking her a little first.
Calla described the buildings they were passing. He didn’t really care. They wouldn’t be living here once they were married. He’d move her into his own place. She’d have to get used to it.
She stopped and spun around on him. “Are you paying any attention to what I’m saying? Or are you just watching my…my butt.”
It was kind of cute how she stammered over saying that. That sweetness would definitely serve her well as his wife. But, there were some things she’d have to get used to doing and saying. They had time for that, though.
“I’m paying attention,” he lied. He reached out and stroked a hand down her hair. “Keep on. You have my total attention.”
She scowled at him, and he wasn’t quite sure he’d pulled off the lie. Then, with a sigh, she turned back around and continued on the tour. But, she no longer said more than a cursory description of whatever they passed.
She hadn’t bought it as well as he had hoped. He’d have to get better at charming her. His father was not going to be happy if he screwed up and let this merger fall through.

I may be taking a break from posting from this for May as I’ll be writing short stories each day for the Story a Day challenge. But, I will pick it back up in June most likely.

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Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – Flip

Last week I shared the first scene of Midas’ Daughter. Today I have the next one. Here you’ll get to meet Flip, who was mentioned in last week’s scene. And if you missed starting this last week, you can read it here.

“You must be kidding me.”
A part of Flip Castellan wanted to shrink away from the angry man. The same part that always had from the time he’d moved here with his father as a just barely sixteen-year-old. Six years later, and he still hated it just as much. So, he shoved it away and stood a little straighter. “I’m not, Mr. Midas. I told you when Mr. Dobrin called the other day, that he didn’t want to go through with the deal any longer.”
“What the hell did you do to make him change his mind?”
Of course, it was his fault. Everything was always his fault. Even when it wasn’t. “I didn’t do anything, Mr. Midas. He-”
“Maybe that’s the problem. Your father never would have let this happen. Letting him put you in charge was a mistake.”
Flip’s hand tightened into a fist at his side. His father had needed to step back. His health had been declining. It had improved once he was away from the stress of dealing with Dario Midas’ temper tantrums. Flip had been picking up the slack for him even before he’d taken that step back. Who was Mr. Midas to tell him he couldn’t do the job when he’d been doing it all along?
But, he didn’t bother trying to interrupt his boss. He’d learned long ago, that there was no point in that. He’d just keep railing on, and it could very well cost Flip his job. He couldn’t let that happen. For more than just the money it brought him. But, he didn’t let his gaze go anywhere near the main house. Near Calla. That would give everything away.
He was still ranting along, but Flip barely heard anything he said. It wasn’t important what he said anyway. He was laying all the blame for what had gone wrong on Flip’s shoulders.
“You better fix this,” Mr. Midas said. “You have until the end of the week.”
“But, that’s tomorrow,” Flip said. Then added quickly, “Sir.”
“Then, you’d better get on the phone and figure out where you went wrong. And be quick about it.”
He turned and strode out of the barn, leaving Flip standing there. Flip fisted his hands a couple times, trying to let go of the anger as well. That man didn’t know just how much he did around here, while he was shut in his office or meeting with his fellow rich men. And he didn’t get, probably never would, that it was his own attitude that tended to lose him deals. Not anything Flip did or didn’t do.
He left the office in the barn and headed down the aisle to the only occupied stall. He reached up and petted the mare’s face. “He doesn’t even see, does he? Not what he does to himself. Not what he does to you or Calla, either. Not that I think he’d change if he did know.”
The horse snorted and nudged his shoulder. As if she agreed with him, or maybe it was just the mention of her mistress’s name. He dug a carrot out of his pocket and offered it to the mare. “I’m sure she’ll be to see you as soon as she can.” And it would probably be best if he wasn’t around when did come. He couldn’t risk Mr. Midas seeing them together and making assumptions.
He patted the mare’s neck. “I better go start making those calls. If I get canned, I won’t be able to take care of you or her.”
And that was something he couldn’t let happen.

 

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.

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.

Fiction Friday: Goin’ Down – The Beginning

I wrote this story earlier this year, and submitted it to the World Unknown Review, but unfortunately, it wasn’t accepted. I’ve thought about putting a few of my short pieces together into a collection and publishing. I might throw them up on their own, too, if I can figure out cheap covers. But, for now, I’m going to start sharing this one here. I’ll share one scene each week, which will take us through the next 5 weeks. There’s actually 6 scenes, but the last is pretty short, so I’ll include it with the previous one. For now:

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 going to see my husband again, never start the family we talked about.

I would die here.

A great burst of air and cold suddenly blew over me. I dragged in a breath then another. I wasn’t drowning. I wasn’t even in the water.

The bed shifted under me. “Why do you always insist on sleeping with the blankets over your head? You always have the same dream when you do.”

I heard the impatience in my husband’s voice and turned away before opening my eyes. Justin’s irritation wasn’t the first thing I wanted to see upon waking up from the dream.

The sun just rose over the trees. A much better sight to wake to.

“I don’t insist,” I finally said. “It happens when I’m sleeping.”

“Well, make it stop happening. I get tired of dragging you from it.”

I mumbled an apology, but he was already moving away. I didn’t even bother. I waited as his measured steps headed out of the room. I didn’t know what had happened to us. It was so hard to find the man I’d married in the one I still shared a bed with.

I wanted to get us back. I just had to figure out how.

I moved slowly through my morning routine, the dregs of the dream still clinging to me, making my limbs feel heavy. It was like I still struggled through that water. I don’t know why it was always water, why I was always drowning. I couldn’t remember ever living near the water or swimming anywhere but the community pool.

I’d never nearly drowned there. At least not that I remembered. And I’m pretty sure I would.

He was gone by the time I made it downstairs. I hoped coffee would help burn off the remainders of the bad dream. And maybe clear my head enough I could think of a way to get the husband I remembered back.

What do you think? I always appreciate any feedback. I’ll have the next scene in another week.

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