CAUTION: Brainstorming session in progress

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Catherine's Toys III - by KevaD

Oh, yeah. Weirdness and crazy abound in the third installment of the Catherine's Toys serial.

Thanks to everyone who has followed this dark, erotic, and psychotic tale.

Catherine suspects Larry the security guard knows she's the one sexually assaulting hospital patients.

Casey just wants to have sex with somebody. Please? And if he gets to kill that "somebody" afterward, all the better.

Catherine comes up with a plan that will take care of both of their needs.


Casey gagged on his bite of pepperoni pizza. The heat of the ground peppers he'd scattered over the extra cheese didn't come close to the burning in his ears. He gulped a swig of soda to clear his throat and quickly glanced around the pizza parlor for any gawkers staring at their booth. No one seemed to have noticed, but he kept his unwelcome surprise to a whisper. "What'd you say?" Catherine really hadn't just publically outed him, had she?

"I think that hospital security guard, Larry, has a crush on you." Catherine's voice contained an unnerving mix of taunt and mockery. "Why don't you call him up and invite him to join us." Her tone plunged to wicked sneer. "He's got a really nice looking tush. Maybe I should let him play in my toy box."

Anger bubbled in Casey's belly amongst the gas pockets from the pizza. He opened his mouth—and belched.

"Oh!" Catherine scrunched her face like a pug dog. "You are so gross." She waved her hand as if to fan away the varnish-stripping stench. "And you wonder why I won't fuck your fat ass? Good God! You'd probably fart in my face if I gave you a blowjob."

"Bitch," he growled, once again looking around the room for any voyeurs to this conversation he'd never hoped to have, but the scant few other patrons' focus seemed riveted on their meals. Odd, he'd thought there more customers when he'd arrived. "You stay away from Larry."

Her brown eyes glowed eerily in conjunction with the devil's smile that curled the corners of her lips.

Shit. He'd screwed up big time. Now Catherine knew that even though Casey loved her, he'd found something in Larry that interested him enough to want to keep the attraction a secret from her.

Catherine ran her soft, plump hand up and down Casey's trousers-covered thigh. "I'm only teasing. Relax."

A crisp pang of disappointment jabbed the back of his skull. "You mean Larry doesn't like me?"

She moved her hand to his knee where she massaged each bump and depression. "You really do have a thing for him. Well, well." She finger-walked her way up the inside of his leg. Her words came throaty and harsh.
"Ever got a hard-on thinking about him, Casey?" Her hand stopped at the top of his thigh.

With a finger she traced the outline of his penis; the slight pressure awoke his fantasies—Larry naked and chained to his bed.

 "What about right now? What if Larry was here, would you get hard if this was his finger on your little dick?"

Arousal was imminent, blood rushed into his soft cock, and his growing erection shifted position. Casey pushed Catherine's hand away and nervously looked around the room for the third time, but the patrons' and the staffs' attentions were glued anywhere but toward Casey and Catherine.

"Stop it. Somebody will see and throw us out of here."

"Who are you worried about?" she asked in a snicker. "The teenage waitress with the perky tits? You like her tits, Casey? Maybe I should grab one when she walks by our table next time. She might like it. We'll never know if I don't try. Do you think the little bitch has a hairy cunt? I've never fucked a woman. Would you like to watch me eat her pussy, Casey? Maybe you'd like to suck her clit with me?"

"You're disgusting," he hissed between his teeth. "Knock it off. I'm not kidding."

"Ohh," she moaned, and cupped her hand over his groin. Catherine roughly slid her hand back and forth over his cock. "You're turning me on. I didn't know you could get so angry. I kind of like it." She gripped the fly to his zipper and tugged it open just a tad. "I think I'd like to fuck you. Right here. How about it, Casey? All these people watching us? Mmm. Let's fuck, right here in this booth. Come on, let's do it." She yanked his zipper completely open and maneuvered her fingers through the opening of his shorts.

Buy Link

Monday, October 24, 2011

Desire Damned - by KevaD

"Desire Damned" is an erotic MM historical paranormal tale, and became available to readers today from Noble Romance Publishing as part of their Timeless Desire Line.
I hope you enjoy this quick look at this dramatic story.
Buy Link

Satan wants the warrior Taka to bow before him. But Taka bows to no one except his gentle lover Har.

For thousands of years the two men have been doomed to a life of torment. While one walks the earth, the other suffers under the devil's lash. Their only respite is an occasional night; a random, beautiful, love-filled night, knowing that with the dawn one of them must die in battle and return to Satan's wrath.

On the war-torn fields of Gettysburg, the two lovers are reunited once again. But this time something beyond Hell's reach has happened. Something so wondrous, Satan may finally get his wish.


Chapter One

Glory could not be found in death. Taka chuckled sadly. For him, not even death could be found in death. How long had it been this time? He pulled the blanket tight around his neck and kept his eyes closed. The blanket stank of sour sweat and damp wool.

What new ways have they found to kill each other by now?
He'd learned with each new age he found himself in, war was nothing more than the testing ground for technology, an incubator for new-fangled ideas. Men died, war ended, only the inventions remained to tell the tale. People soon forgot the lives destroyed, but enjoyed the innovative toys and the comforts spilled blood produced.

Taka rubbed his head over the soft grass. So many wars, so many battles. So many times he'd died, only to awaken in the midst of another opportunity to be killed.

There was one good thing about war though, for a day or two, Taka wouldn't suffer under the devil's lash. Insects wouldn't crawl in and out of festering wounds, gnaw at his eyes and lips. And if he was lucky—very lucky—he might even live until the next war. He sighed heavily. To live meant Har had to die and suffer the unrelenting torment, the inextinguishable pain. And he would never allow Har to suffer, not as long as he held the strength to die and keep Har alive.

Har. How he missed him. Hopefully, they would find each other. His heart thumped at the thought. Har in his arms, their lips meeting, their bodies entwined. How joyous the time shared would be . . . before one of them died and submitted to the hellish torture inflicted on their immortal bodies.

An odor of beef and boiling potatoes drifted past. His empty belly rumbled in want. Clothing rustled. Men groaned and moved. Metal buckles clicked. Rifle hammers snapped back, clapped shut. Low conversations started, faded. The voices were tired and broken, not hopeful and filled with excitement.

Wherever he was, whatever war this might be, hadn't just begun.

In the distance, cannon fire shattered the stillness.

"Fall in! Form a line, recruits."

Taka puffed his cheeks and blew out a breath. That would be him, a recruit—one of the new men, not known to the rest. He tossed off the blanket and sat. Slowly, he opened his eyes. Leafy boughs of trees sheltered him from the sun. A tree grove. Shade surrounded him. Elms and walnuts mixed their odors to provide a façade of serenity.

"I said, fall in, goddamn it!"

English. He'd heard English before, but never spoken the language. Each new war brought another tongue to add to his growing list. Satan seemed to have a fascination with tongues and dialects and always made sure Har and Taka mingled well. Ojibwa had been his last voice, the one prior. He'd fought nearly naked alongside Frenchmen in grand, colorful clothes. Running through the forests, his skin free to breathe, had reminded him of his earliest days when few men walked the earth. Before he'd disobeyed Satan and incurred the devil's unrelenting anger. He shook off the memory. Today, he lived once more. No need to waste a moment on the past or the future.

Taka stood and combed his fingers through his thick hair. Then he ran his hands over his clothing. The shirt was a pullover of discolored white cotton, the material soft on his skin. Dark gray trousers of wool scratched his legs. Braided suspenders held the pants on his hips. He wiggled his toes inside brown leather boots. Cotton covered his feet. At least he had on socks. The boots were a bit tight, a tad too small, but not all that uncomfortable. When the opportunity presented itself, he'd take a bigger pair from a corpse.

Taka grabbed his blanket from the ground. A folded paper fell out. He retrieved and opened the parchment. Enlistment papers. His name was Sanford Rawlings, and he'd been drafted into the Army of Virginia, whatever that was. Not that it really mattered. Finding Har was his only goal, and his love wouldn't be in this army—he'd be a member of the opposing force.

He stuck the paper inside his shirt and took his time rolling the blanket.

Heavy steps tromped toward him.

"Did you hear me, boy? I ordered you to fall in!" The voice was thick with a drawl and full of raw domination. A sergeant of some sort, no doubt. Officers didn't waste their valuable time with individual soldiers.

Taka/Sanford Rawlings placed the blanket next to an elm's trunk and turned to face the man huffing anger on his neck.

The bearded man planted the edge of the black brim of his drooped front forage cap against Taka's forehead. Brown eyes flamed. "You don't want to cross me, boy. I'll be the weevil in your cotton, you want to mess with me."

This man, this overconfident rabble, defeat the warrior Taka? Hardly. He tried to stop the chuckle, but the minute laugh slipped between his lips.

"You think I'm funny?" The voice climbed two octaves. Sallow cheeks burned red. Bushy brown brows lowered. Spittle splashed on Taka's lips.

Better to leave this annoyance alone and get started finding Har. "No, I don't. Sorry. Didn't mean nothing by it."

"Sergeant," the man growled. "Didn't mean nothing by it, Sergeant."

"Sergeant. Sorry, Sergeant."

The sergeant's eyes shifted their gaze back and forth. "Best be. Now fall in."

Taka slipped around the man clad in gray from throat to pants bottom. Large stripes blazed yellow on the man's woolen waist-length coat. Sweat dripped down his dirty neck. A wide, black belt cinched around the jacket. A leather holster with button flap dangled from the right side of the belt; a sheathed bayonet on the other.

The uniform was soiled, but not with fresh dirt. The sergeant hadn't seen combat in at least a few days. Cannon continued firing from a distance too far for Taka to accurately judge. Could he be among reserves maybe? Troops not involved in the actual fighting, but at the ready for a moment's call should the battle sway in the wrong direction for either side. Which, since Taka was here, probably stood a very good chance of happening. Add that to the bayonet—an infantry weapon—on the sergeant's belt, and a charge into the enemy's ranks had to be on somebody's agenda.

Taka walked out of the grove into a lush pasture of grass dotted with the white petals and thick scent of sweet clover. A black and yellow bee nonchalantly buzzed past. Heat pressed his face. The sun beat down from behind. Summer. Had to be. The fiery orb sank almost imperceptibly. Afternoon. Four o'clock or thereabouts. The sun sat in the west. That meant the cannon fire, and possibly the bulk of the fighting, was north of his position.

Har would instinctively know he had arrived and make his way to the farthest end of the battle sometime after dark. Undoubtedly to Taka's right—south. Lifetimes ago, they had agreed to always seek out a small river or stream to meet. Trees and thick foliage would hide their all too brief time together.

"Move your ass." The sergeant brushed past Taka.

At the bottom of the slope lay rows of small canvas tents extending east, interspersed by an occasional, larger tent with the sides drawn up and tied. Uniformed men milled about the larger tents. Command tents. Men shuffled about a quadrangle of stone-ringed fires. Two cows hung on spits over a pair of the fires. Kettles boiled over the others. Supper.

Small groups of soldiers led by sergeants in waistcoats practiced marching with rifles held waist high. More evidence of an upcoming assault. But the marching aspect dictated there would be a lot of ground to cover before the actual call for the charge.

The cannons boomed.

"Ohh," Taka moaned. Cannon and men marching on open ground. An inevitable bloodbath. Whatever time had passed, man had learned little in the spans.

Men, some as young as thirteen and others as old as dirt, formed four staggered lines of ten men in length. Taka stood next to a tall, man-child clad in trousers of flax and a faded, red cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows. A strand of blond hair lay sweat-glued to his forehead under a wide brimmed straw hat. The youth's face held strikingly handsome features. Lean and muscled, the man-child was not an unpleasant sight to behold.

"What's your name?" Taka whispered.

"Tobias T. Toler, sir." The child's voice was husky, but meek, dusted with fear.

"Ta . . . ."—he gulped the mistake—" Sanford Rawlings, pleased to meet your acquaintance."

"Quiet in the ranks!" the sergeant shouted as he paraded back and forth. "Supply tent's the fourth major tent down. Pick up your uniforms and rifles and ammunition there. Find an empty tent, eat some vittles. We'll be sending them Yankee dogs back north where they belong in the morning, so get you some rest. Y'all in the Army of Virginia. General Lee's personal army. Our commander's none other than Major General George Pickett himself. You do him proud as he do the South. Fall out!"

The sergeant strode off. The newest members of Lee's army straggled behind. Taka walked beside Tobias T. Toler.

There was no fire or hardness in the youth's eyes. "You ever killed a man?"

Tobias thrust back his shoulders. Pride led the flurry of words. "I'm a crack shot. Only one better marksman in the county than me, and he's the one what taught me to shoot. My father. Clemons Toler."

A chuckle tangled in Taka's belly. "Your father, eh? He the one let you come to the war? Where is he anyway? A man, a real man, would not allow his child to fight in his stead." Taka never would. He'd die, like he had so many times, and suffer more than he had already to keep his children safe.

Children. The word, the dream, hung like an oasis's desert mirage. The damned couldn't have children, but could freely carry the emptiness.

Tobias spun on a heel. Now his eyes flamed. "Don't you talk that way about my father," he snarled.
"You don't know nothin'." His hands balled to fists. A vein in his scrawny, suntanned neck pulsed.

Taka crouched and swept a leg against Tobias's ankles. The young soldier dropped flat on his back. A thud, a crunch of the hat brim breaking, and an oomph, and the non-fight was over. Taka straddled the heaving torso and offered Tobias his hand.

Tobias blinked rapidly. "You move pretty quick."

"Lots of practice. I meant no offense. Take my hand." The youth raised a limp arm. Taka grabbed the offering and pulled Tobias to his feet. "Where is your father? He fighting in this war, too?"

Tobias stared at the ground and shrugged. "Yankee patrol took him some time back. Not a word since. Our farm were up by the state line. Father didn't want to fight. Said he wanted to sit this one out. Said he wanted to see me grown and on my own afore he fought again."

Taka placed his hand on the youth's bony shoulder to steady him as they walked. "Fighter, huh? What other war did Clemons Toler serve in?"

"I don't know. Father never said as much." He looked at Taka with eyes as round as the setting sun. "But the stories he'd tell. Father's a great man, sir. He knows a lot about fightin'." A smile broke through. "And about peace. Nothin' he can't grow. Taught me how to raise crops and live off the land when there taint nothin' else to live off. And he taught me the value of life. Don't never kill unless it's for survival."

A memory took kindle and glowed. Har cradled an injured rabbit. Taka smiled. "Your father sounds like a man I know."

"Good man, sir?"

"The finest it's ever been my honor to spend time with." He glanced toward the sun. Soon he'd be with Har. An ache stabbed at his chest. Soon together, too soon parted. Guilt flooded his brain. One of them would die tomorrow, one would live, alone. One would be lashed by the devil until the next time they met on a battlefield. The other would wander life aimlessly, brokenhearted. He sighed. Life or death, in the long run, didn't much matter. Torture was torture. But this last bout under the lash had nearly broken him. He'd almost surrendered what few strands remained of his will.

His gut wrenched in agony. He didn't want to go back to hell. But he didn't want Har to have to return there either. Still, one would.

"There's the supply tent." Tobias pointed ahead.

At a table, a scruffy man who stank of whiskey and urine handed Taka a Lorenz rifled musket, a flask of powder, and a pouch of shot . . . and a bayonet.

A green-teethed grin creased the man's face. "From what I hear, you a goin' be needin' that pig sticker."

"What about a uniform?" Taka asked.

"Check around. They be plenty on the ground you want to play dress up. Where you think that rifle come from?" The man staggered away.

Taka and Tobias walked along the rows of small tents just large enough for two men to squeeze into. Toward the end of the rows, near where they'd started, they found one with a lone bedroll.

"You take it," Tobias said. "I can sleep fine without a blanket."

Taka smiled. The boy had manners. He'd been raised right.

"How old are you, Tobias?"

"Fifteen my father says. But I can hunt, farm, and shoot better than most men older than me." His tone contained that tint of pride again. "Father says I can have my own place when I'm seventeen."
A warmth embraced Taka. He liked the boy. Boastful, but not so much he was annoying. "You're pretty proud of your father, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir. He's a good man. I never knew my mother. Father raised me best he could by himself. Taught me all he knew." He scuffed the ground with a toe. "Hope I see him again."

Taka patted Tobias's back. "Me too. I've got a blanket back there in that tree grove under an elm. You take this bedroll—"

"I'll get it." Tobias was on the run.

A chuckle rattled in Taka's throat. Then he nodded. If there was a way to keep Tobias T. Toler alive, he'd do it, and hope the boy got to see his father again someday when this war ended.

"Looks like the sergeant's gonna break your mustang for you." A vine stench of tobacco, whiskey, and stale beef lumbered past Taka's nose. "Wouldn't mind a little of his backside when you're done. I still gots some corn liquor left in a jug. Trade?"

Taka focused on the tree grove. The sergeant who'd mustered the recruits slunk across the pasture, shifting his gaze from side to side. Taka turned. The man who'd issued him the rifle stood wiping drool from greasy stubble with a sleeve of his shirt. A sheathed knife hung from the man's belt.

In one swift move, Taka had the knife, and the man's throat under the knife's blade. "I see you again, I'll gut you like a boar." He pulled the knife away and sprinted for the grove of trees.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mergers & Acquisitions - by Lillian Grant

Accountant, Emily Armitage is stuck in Sydney for the weekend, working on the numbers for a hotel sale while fighting off the unwanted attention of her boss.  However, things begin to look up when she steps on her balcony and meets the man of her dreams. When her new neighbor delivers room service, along with a shoulder massage, delicious foot rubs, and easy charm, she succumbs to their obvious attraction.
Having spent a passionate weekend together, Monday morning brings an unwanted revelation.  Randy’s been keeping secrets that could change her life. Suddenly uncertain, she is forced to make a choice between her career and a man who adds up to perfection. Should she stick with the hotel acquisition or take a chance on their passionate new merger?
On October 22nd Lillian will give away a copy of her new book. Here's the link for the info: Contest

Emily rubbed her cheek against his chin. “They do say you’re never too old.”
Randy wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer, nuzzling her cheek with his lips. “I thought the expression was you’re never too old to learn.”
Emily tipped her head back as he showered her neck with kisses. “I’m sure I could give you lessons.”
Randy chuckled and pulled back. “In what?”
She stared into his eyes. She seriously couldn’t take much more of this teasing. She was desperate to taste his mouth, but he seemed determined to keep up the torture. Her mouth was dry, and her heart pounded. Should she make the first move? No, not yet, she wanted to see where he intended to lead her.
“Whatever you like.”
He grinned and returned to kissing her neck, causing her to moan.
Finally, when the torture was about to become too much, he kissed his way along her jaw and gently pressed his lips to hers. When he moved back, so their lips were barely touching, she tried to steal the kiss she longed for, but he refused to give in.
Instead, he rested his forehead against hers and stared into her eyes. Emily smiled at him. “Tease. You do know you’re the best date I ever had?”
He smiled back and pressed his lips gently to hers. She felt, more than heard, his reply as he mumbled it against her mouth.
“But you haven’t had me….yet.”
Suddenly the playing turned to something more. His soft tongue gently touched her lips, and she gladly accepted the passionate kiss she had been longing for all evening. They clung together. She fisted his hair to hold him to her as he slid his hands up her back, pulling her closer. His lips took possession of her. His tongue danced in her mouth. He tasted just as she imagined—smoky, spicy, and warm. The sensation of her breasts pressed to his firm chest, the growing bulge in his jeans digging into her abdomen, and the magic of his mouth, left her breathless. Her nipples hardened, her pussy throbbed. She thought she would pass out, but she never wanted it to end. She could stand on the balcony kissing him forever.
He finally broke the kiss, leaving her with a couple of playful nips of her bottom lip. She took some deep breaths, trying to get her pulse to slow down before she had a heart attack.
He grazed her face with his fingers. His dark eyes drilled into hers. “How would you like to watch the sunrise with me?”
His voice was a purr of barely contained lust sending a bolt of passion to her heated core. Emily swallowed slowly. Oh, my God, he wanted to spend the night. She wanted him to spend the night. In fact, she never wanted to spend a second without him.
She whispered her response. “I would love to.”
Randy planted a kiss on her cheek, trailed one hand over her hip, and entwined his fingers with hers before leading her inside. He pulled the balcony door shut behind them, and she expected him to lead her to the bed, but instead he walked toward the room door.
“Where are you going?’

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lovers Scare Contest

14 days, 14 authors, lots of prizes, with stories and excerpts designed to scare the clothes right off of you.
Let your journey into erotic terror start now.

Contest Link

Darker Side of Heaven - by KB Cutter

Shadows lengthen over the world. Turmoil rages.
Something evil this way comes . . . .
Emotionally conflicted avenger Chalice Noire, product of an unholy union between demon and angel, is a slayer to the forces of darkness.

Employed by shadowy benefactors in Rome, her sect is commanded by fallen angel Nikolai Voss, whose allegiance is not to the church but to the flame of vengeance that burns within.

But Chalice possesses a holy relic, a Weapon of the Mass, Nikolai desperately craves, and he will stop at nothing to retrieve it, destroying anything or anyone, including his own soul.

Renegade vampire Adam Blake is a recluse, attempting to bury his troubled past and the tortured memory of his former lover, Chalice Noire, in America's last frontier: the Alaskan wilderness.

Armageddon looms, the agents of light and darkness gather forces. The battle to be fought not on the sands of prophecy, but in the rugged beauty of Alaska, where Chalice and Adam once again cross paths. Can they reconcile their past to save humanity's future?
KB's Web Site
Buy Link


Chapter One

Hell is empty and all the devils are here
 ~ William Shakespeare

Fire Island, N.Y.

Chalice Noire wanted to slit their throats. Instead, she caressed the prominent bulge in the cultured man's trousers and slowly ground her ass against the crotch of the biker behind her.

Blood letting would come later.

"I think someone wants to party." Victor's hooded gaze remained on her hand as she massaged his crotch.

Chalice tightened her grip on the outline of his fierce erection.

Victor winced, his breath hitching in his throat.

"I'm not the only one." Chalice murmured in his ear.

She suppressed the urge to do a Mike Tyson on his lobe.

The biker grabbed her by the waist. She could feel his insistent heat pressing hard against the flimsy fabric of her summer dress.

"You know what they say, two's company, and three's a ménage." The biker's voice held the rasp of a thousand gargled razor blades.

Chalice felt his rough hands gliding along her bare legs. The bastard's hand pushed the fabric of her dress higher, exposing her ass.

"Christ, Victor, she's a fucking party girl, all right. Kinky fuck me boots and little bitch's goin' commando!"

Chalice gritted her teeth.

Anger welled up in her breast, a red beast clawing its way to the surface. She did not want to lose control. Her own base instincts began to clamor for attention. She willed herself to resist the insistent energy, the pulsating desire that made blood throb in her temples, and in her clit.

She squeezed Victor's cock harder.

"Ow! My sweet, I do so enjoy your robust enthusiasm, but I'm not a masochist."

Bullshit, Victor Kozlov, I am privy to the darkness that lurks within your corrupted soul.

The biker, Dominic Stone, continued to paw at her ass. He bore a bullshit name, but it wouldn't matter much longer. His groping hands dipped between her legs, massaged her sex. The son-of-a-bitch could introduce himself to the devil when she was through with him.

Simultaneously repulsed and sexually charged, she struggled to control the part of her that made her wet from their touch.

"I'm gonna fuck you right here and now. My cock's so hard for your wet pussy, baby. It's practically busting through my zipper."

"Dominic, please; no need to voice such vulgarities. The way our bodies react to this gorgeous creature, our flesh speaks volumes, and our tongues should be put to better use."

Victor's voice was a rich, soothing bass. No wonder women fell under his charm. Tall, dark, and aristocratically handsome, with a hint of eastern European accent, he appeared the consummate bon vivant.

Chalice knew better. Beneath Victor's cultured facade, lurked a career criminal with a specialty in trafficking flesh, preying on the innocent, the unwary. She tracked him across the entire breadth of Asia and through half of Eastern Europe. She had always been one step behind.

Until now.

His vanity would be his demise, alongside his liaisons with things of a dark nature. The women were not always bound for the sex trade. Some suffered a fate far worse than prostitution. Victor had to satiate the black appetites of beings not of this world who aided him in his desire for money and power. The Audro Council, the shadowy Vatican-based organization she worked for to help rid the world of evil and those who consorted with the legions of devil spawn had long sought to end the Russian criminal enterprise. She thought it ironic the church recruited her, she an offspring of an unholy union of half human-half demon succubus and corrupted angel. Her talent for bloodshed kept the questioning lips of certain cardinals and bishops still concerned over her suspect linage trembling. In the early days, she thought of herself as an avenger, now . . . she wasn't so sure.

Chalice often wondered how innocent the girls actually were. To be so blindly ignorant, so stupidly naive to fall for Victor's line of bullshit, perhaps they deserved their fate of sexually indentured servitude.

She felt nothing for these women, not anger or sorrow. Tonight, however, a small vestige of humanity smoldered inside of her.

A tiny flame in the dark.


Useless emotion, girl. Get your head out of your ass or get killed.

Dominic's hoarse voice dissipated the fog of her self-rumination.

"Whatever, Victor, all I know, is I like what I see and feel, and what I want, I fucking take. This piece of ass is gonna take all my fat cock deep in her soaking cunt."

Chalice sensed movement behind her. Dominic grunted, undoubtedly trying to extract his turgid member from his jeans. She wondered how a Russian criminal oligarch like Victor Kozlov hooked up with a Pagan biker enforcer like Stone. It was obviously a business arrangement. Victor supplied the women; Dominic got them strung out on drugs, and eventually they hustled their scrawny asses in biker-run strip joints or Russian mafia-backed whorehouses.

Chalice shivered. The slick, bulbous head of Dominic's cock pressed against her ass.

Damn, girl, get a grip. Don't lose it now.

She rarely let her body respond so viscerally, but she hadn't had sex in weeks. The need for ecstasy burned in the deepest fiber of her being. Her accursed lineage stirred the lustful beast within. Perhaps it was a mistake taking on two powerfully built men alone, no back up, no one ghosting her movements, especially on a goddamned island. Chalice knew it was risky, deadly, but she rarely second guessed her instincts. Doing so in her line of work got you one thing: dead. Chalice had to go it alone. She preferred it that way. Whatever transpired, it was on her, no trigger-happy cowboy heroes crashing through doors at the wrong moment.

"Hey, Dom, baby, slow down or you're gonna blow your wad too soon. Let's get little Victor to come out and play." Chalice cooed.

"He is not so little, my love."

Dominic slapped Chalice's ass. She barely resisted the urge to reach behind her and rip his balls off.

"Sorry, little darlin'. It's like a fire hose; once the pressure's on, it's gonna be a gusher. Fuck, c'mon Victor, whip it out unless you gone fag or somethin'. I ain't got all goddamn night."

Chalice grinned inwardly.

Neither do I.

Victor's eyes narrowed into piercing black coals. His gaze pure malice, body tensing. He obviously didn't like being addressed in such a vulgar manner.

Chalice slowly pulled Victor's zipper down, diffusing the palpable tension. She worked his thick cock out, grasping his shaft, stroking his expanding flesh.

"Oh Victor's not gone fag—quite the contrary."

Chalice smiled, gently blowing on the tip of Victor's cock. He shivered in her touch, precum leaking from the tip.

Dominic grunted. Chalice could feel his pelvis against her ass, the large head of his cock about to part the folds of her sex. Victor began to stroke Chalice's hair, his eyes closing, obviously anticipating her mouth upon his swollen cock.

Her gaze narrowed.

The party's started.

Chalice reared up, bringing her right arm forward and then shot it back, her elbow connecting with Dominic's throat.

She heard a satisfying crunch.

Dominic stumbled back, gurgling. She kept her grip on Victor's cock, squeezing with all of her might, his eyes bulging. She violently jerked her arm left and heard a gratifying, wet tearing sound. Victor's screams joined Dominic's rasping and choking.

Chalice withdrew the dagger from her boot sheath. The French doors were open, white curtains fluttering in the breeze; the pale moonlight glinted on the flat of the blade.

Chalice glanced at Dominic; his hands were at his throat, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. He crumbled to his knees, eyes rolling into the back of his head.

Victor continued to scream, curled on the floor in a fetal position, his hands clasping his crotch.

The beach house, while secluded, was not remote enough to allow Victor to wail like a banshee.

Chalice had to silence him. His howls of pain would carry on the open air.
She strode to the downed man, boot heels deafening loud on the floor, and kicked him over.

Victor yelped like a whipped dog.

Chalice slit his throat.

"Ah, thank you. That fucking yowling was driving me nuts."

Chalice whipped around to the grinning face of Dominic Stone bearing down upon her.

She was unable to sidestep his advance completely. For a large man, he moved incredibly fast and hit her in the shoulder, knocking the blade from her hand, spinning her around. She regained her footing, splaying her legs. Dominic slammed into the flat screen TV, shattering its black screen. He spun around, his movements fluid, quick, and unnaturally athletic. No run-of-the mill biker muscle.

"I hope Victor got the extended warranty." Dominic glanced at the Russian. His body still. Blood leaked out of the gash in his neck. "I guess it don't matter now."

Chalice eyed the dagger.

Dominic squinted. "I know what you're thinking; can I get to it before he does?"

"That's a piss poor Clint Eastwood impression."

He laughed.

"Actually, it was supposed to be Charles Bronson. Eastwood's a wuss."

"Who the fuck are you?"

"Hmm, I thought you figured that out already. Guess your brains are in your tits." Dominic licked his lips. He grinned, displaying rows of sharp, needle-like teeth.

"I'm an incubus. Although I must issue this disclaimer: I'm not pure-blood. I have ta do that, bit of a drag, really, but as a lesser demon, one must adhere to the Unholy Scripts."

Chalice remained mute, taking in the information.

The biker shrugged. "I'm like you, half-breed, although I think you are more along the lines of a mutt."

Chalice bared her teeth, inching forward.

Dominic held up his hands.

"Easy, Xena; guess I struck a nerve. C'mon, you have to know who you are, at least parts of you. I certainly know one part of you. I can smell it."
Chalice balled her hands into fists.

Dominic sighed.

"Am I going to have to call you Cleopatra, huh? Queen of fucking denial? Listen, why don't we cut to the chase. You could use a good fuck, Satan knows I'd enjoy giving one. So, let's shed our human masquerade, get busy, and I drench you in sticky demon jizz."

"You're a vile creature. I'd rather slit my wrists and drink my own blood than fuck you."

The biker chewed on his lower lip, drawing a foul smelling, brackish fluid that snaked down his chin.

"Your words sting, sweet cheeks. Go on; pretend you're not like me. Keep deluding yourself. Truth hurts like a motherfucker. You want it rough. I'm down with that. I dig the pain thing. Bitch, I am going to enjoy raping every hole in your body."

The thing that called itself Dominic transformed. The leather jacket and jeans began to smoke and burn as the clothing fell to ashes on the floor. Muscles flexed under coarse, bile green, scaly flesh. Its penis swung pendulously, thickening rapidly; the bulbous head soon rose a foot above the creature's muscled abdomen.

Chalice's gaze fell upon the pulsating organ.

"For an incubus, you have a really small dick."

The demon's laugh was like sand poured off a gravedigger's shovel.

"The succu-bitch has a sense of humor after all."

Rage consumed her. Chalice charged forward, her lips pulled back, snarling like a she-wolf. This loathsome thing would soon regret its mocking words. The demon roared, shattering the panes of glass in the doors. Chalice feinted left then quickly sprinted to the right, as if a quarterback dodging the sack. The incubus slashed with its talons, ripping the back of her dress. Its nails raked her flesh. Chalice cried out in pain as she leapt for the dagger, sliding across the floor on her stomach. She managed to clasp the hilt when the demon lashed out again, ripping more fabric and flesh.

Chalice could smell her skin burning, could feel her back wet with her own blood. The incubus lunged as Chalice flipped onto her back, the agony from the cauterized wounds making her eyes water. The demon attempted to straddle her, its impossibly long, thick erection pulsated menacingly over her. She swung the blade, intent on severing the horrid appendage, when a voice exploded inside of her head.


The arc of the blade slowed, giving the demon enough time to jerk back. The dagger sliced the incubus's legs, causing it to cry out in a combination of pain and a sound she could only assume came from relief that she had not lopped off its prized organ.

The wounds on the demon's legs burned. The stench of rotting flesh filled the room.

"You cunt, you fucking impure blooded she-bitch!" The demon wailed, snatching the dagger from her weakened hand. Chalice's mind reeled.

Chaotic images flashed in her mind. She knew that voice. Saw his face.

Why did he call to her now?

The incubus slashed at her abdomen. The blade sliced a thin, surgically red straight line stretched across her stomach. Blood began to seep from the laceration.

The demon's flesh continued to burn. Tendrils of smoke wafted from the cuts on its legs.

He loomed over her, the dagger blade pointed downward. The demon's face contorted in agony and rage. Chalice tried to fight the lethargy in her body. She knew it wanted to finish her off, drive the dagger into her chest, stake her to the floor like a butterfly to cork board.

She was not going out like this, on her back.


She was the hunter, not the prey.

Chalice screamed, throwing her hands up, if she had to grasp the blade, severing her fingers, so be it. She would fight this sex-crazed piece of filth from hell with every ounce of strength she could muster.

She heard the crunch of broken glass and the sound of muffled . . . gunshots. Or was it the ocean slapping the shoreline? The demon growled as the dagger came down. Chalice saw the red and black brimstone eyes of the beast ablaze with pure undiluted hatred. Chalice reached for the blade, her gaze locking with the demons.

The incubus jerked. Its body twitched. Small bits of flesh exploded into greenish-black mists off its body.

The dagger continued its downward spiral, and as Chalice swatted it away, she thought she heard tiny coffin nails clinking on the floor.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Promise of Amber - by Evanne Lorraine

One of my favorite writers has another book out.
I had the opportunity to read this book during production. It's really good. Be sure to pick up a copy.

Loose Id buy link
Evanne's Web Site

Half-fae, half-psi werewolf, Amber is always in trouble. No matter how hard she tries to do the right thing and fit in with the pack she never succeeds. She barely passes as a psi werewolf bitch. She has a natural submissive’s desire to be claimed along with dangerous powers she doesn't understand and struggles to control. On the brink of the sexual maturity her first heat will bring, she hopes for better control of her fae magic and dreams of her promised mate.

Isolated during a Goblin attack with the strong, brave, and wonderful Tru, Amber welcomes the comfort he offers. Then simple kindness blazes into desire. Opportunity provides an irresistible temptation and they make love. She wishes he was her pledged mate not the pack Alpha, Hunter, because Tru’s already captured her heart.

Amber never realized how much an Alpha mate would scare her. Hunter is very dominant and he terrifies her. But he’s so protective of her that he can’t bear to force her obedience. Already in love with Amber himself, Tru gentles her and shares the gift of her trust with his Alpha.

But when her heat finally happens, their fragile tri-mating puts them under heavy-duty pressure and Amber’s enemies are only waiting for the right time to attack.

A Not So Random Musing

Note to all author/bloggers:

When you invite us to view your blog post and then rudely ignore the comments we leave, do you honestly believe that will cause us to click the buy link for your book?


Do you?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Politics 101

The simplest way to look at  the Debt Ceiling.

Let's say you come home from work and  find there has been a sewer backup in  your home and you have sewage up to your ceilings.

What do you think you should  do?
Raise the ceilings or pump  out the crap ?

Your choice.   Vote wisely Nov.  2012

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My Experience with the EPIC AWARDS – by KevaD

What I'm about to say is not a reflection on the entrants, finalists, winners, nor even on the EPIC Awards competition itself, but on the administration's treatment of entrants.
I offer my heartfelt congratulations to the finalists and winners of this esteemed contest.

Here's my issue with the administration:

In an age of technology, it has become far too easy to dehumanize people. The EPIC Awards serves as a prime example.

I opted to enter this competition in July of 2011. I did so with a comedy in a contest without a HUMOR category. Liken my submission to entering a plow horse named Zeb with a sumo wrestler for a jockey in the Kentucky Derby. "Longshot" doesn't begin to describe it. To win, place, or show, would no doubt have required resurrection of the bubonic plague. The privilege cost me a $35.00 entry fee.

Obviously, I held little hope of winning, but still, I dream just like anybody else. Yes, I also buy Lottery tickets.

When I submitted my entry, I received this email:

Entry Notification!

We have received your entry for the EPIC eBook Awards Competition™. When your payment clears you will receive an email with instructions on how to upload your entries!

EPIC- The Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition
Contact Us:

When I paid my money:

eBook Competition Upload Instructions

You have now successfully paid for the EPIC eBook Awards Competition!

Payment Details

Payment Amount: $35.00

Uploading Instructions:

Please visit this link to upload your entries: eBook Awards Upload Form
Please be sure to enter this Password: xxxxxxx
Please be sure to enter this Transaction ID: xxxxxxxxx

EPIC- The Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition
Contact Us:

I deleted the codes.
EPIC then sent me a receipt:


You have successfully uploaded your entries for the EPIC eBook Awards Competition™! Here is a receipt for your records.

Entrant's Legal Name: David A Kentner
PayPal Transaction ID: xxxxxxxx

Entry #1
Title of Entry #1: Out of the Closet
Entry #1 Category:

  • NO - Novella

Entry #1 Filename: NO-Out of the Closet.pdf

Entry #2
(Anything blank is missing information, or you did not enter more than one entry when uploading)
Title of Entry #2:
Entry #2 Category:

  • --Select Category--

Entry #2 Filename:

EPIC- The Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition
Contact Us:

Notice what's missing?
How about "Thank you" or "Good Luck"?
Now that EPIC had my money and my entry, I looked forward to the competition and hearing if my longshot crossed the finish line, or stumbled in the gate.

Unfortunately, these emails were the last I would hear from EPIC.
I never so much as received a "Thanks for competing, but…" nor a "We hope you'll enter again next year."
Nothing. Nix, nein, nada.
I only became aware the finalists list had been completed when a finalist posted his certificate for public viewing. It was then I learned a public list of the finalists had been posted on EPIC's web site.
Kind of like waiting for final exam results and then racing into the town square with the rest of the world – the world who hadn't shelled out thirty-five bucks – to find out how you did.

So, if you enter EPIC's contest next year, do so with the understanding no one will say "Thank you for entering." No one will say "Thank you for handing us your money." And no one will invite you to enter next time. Fact is, you simply won't ever hear from anyone involved in administering the competition. Unless you're a finalist, which is what we all hope to be.

And there is my issue. EPIC has lost the concept that authors are human beings and need a little communication. We want to be treated with at least a modicum of respect in exchange for that $35.00 we dropped. Yeah, that $35.00 per entry that obviously didn't go toward the cost of sending out warm, fuzzy email notifications.

"Thank you" shouldn't be a lost art. And a contest saying "Thank you" for entering shouldn't be an epic event.

By the way, thank you for stopping by. =)

Nopeming Shores - by Margie Church with J. Andrew Lockhart

An IED snuffed out Gabe Holliway's life, but couldn't destroy his love. Using his unique gift, Gabe struggles to help his young wife, Lily, rebuild her shattered future.

But when Gabe's ghost reaches out to her, Lily fears she's lost her last hold on sanity. Can she trust what she discovers and what her heart says? When she sees Gabe face-to-face, can she believe her eyes?

When love transcends death, the answers are found in Nopeming Shores.

Buy Link:
Margie's Web Site:


as if the sun,
so far from you
yet felt

Chapter One

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. The rhythmic sound reverberated in Lily Holliway's head. On the fringes of consciousness, she flinched from the noise in her dream.

Her husband, Gabriel, sat on an outcropping of rock. Desert sand spindrift played around him. An army-issued helmet shielded his eyes from the unyielding sun beating down on the barren earth. An M4 rifle lay across his knees, his suntanned, right index finger curled on the trigger—just in case. Gabe looked straight at Lily, stone-faced and unflinching, as though waiting for her to dream the same ending again tonight. The image flickered like a silent, black and white movie.

She rolled onto her back. In her subconscious state, the word no pulsed in time with the ticking clock. She covered her eyes with her arm, falsely shielding them from the horrible sights and sounds that visited her almost every night.

The ticking grew louder.

"No. Gabe, move!"

She was helpless to alter the outcome; the nightmare unfolded. "No, Gabe, please move out of the way."

The words tumbled from her lips. Her breaths came in short huffs and then stopped. Her body stilled for the denouement.

The vision of Gabe pixilated and dropped to the ground like a curtain of rain.

Limbs flailing, Lily awoke. Oxygen surged into her body in a huge, life-affirming gasp. She shot straight up in bed.

"Gabriel! Oh, my god, Gabe. Why? Why you? Gabe . . . ." Sobs wracked her body. She buried her face in her hands and grieved.

"Gabe." His name was a wail, a pitiful plea from a heartsick wife. She fisted her hands in her short hair and tugged with frustration. "Why? Why did you have to die?"

She fell against her bed pillows, anguish twisting her soul like a fatted calf on a spit. Tears, soaked with pain, streamed down her face. And when there were no more to shed, she wiped her face with the sleeve of her cotton nightgown. There'd be more tomorrow, and the next day.

After flinging the drenched garment into the hamper, Lily got a washcloth and then dabbed her swollen eyes with cool water. She stared at her forlorn reflection in the mirror, wondering how many more days and weeks would pass before this inexorable ache would ease.

She didn't recognize th
e pale, hollow-cheeked woman gazing back at her. The almond-shaped eyes that used to sparkle with life were dull, the color of warm chocolate. She ran a finger over her lips. They used to part so easily into a smile. A grim line seemed indelibly etched there now.

Bracing her hands on the bathroom vanity, Lily took a cleansing breath. She closed her eyes and shook her head, knowing time would heal this wound. How and when, she had no idea. She was along for the ride. The dreadful, exhausting, excruciating ride.

* * * * *

Early the next morning, Lily waited her turn to drive through the security gates at Fort Leavenworth U.S. Army CAC. She sighed, let her foot off the brake, and inched forward. She didn't usually have to wait like this, unless something was going on. During her nine-year tenure at the Combined Arms Center, she'd seen Presidents Bush and Obama, countless other high-ranking military officials, and occasionally, heads of state. Sometimes, she wished the Amy could dispense with the formality of showing her ID. After all, everyone who worked the gates knew her.

"Morning, Tad." Lily handed her badge to the guard checking her lane.

"Good morning, Mrs. Holliway. Have a good day." The electronic gate opened to let her 2007 Chevy Malibu pass.

Two minutes later, Lily pulled into a parking spot at the commissary and turned off the ignition. She grabbed her purse and lunch from the front seat. Her colleagues teased her about bringing a bag lunch to work, but she always said frugal habits die hard.

"Hi, Lily, how's it going this morning?" Her closest friend, Jana, waited beside the car.

No sense telling the truth. "Pretty good."

Jana put her arm around Lily's shoulder, giving her a brief hug as they walked toward the building.
"Did you sleep any better?"

She shook her head.

"Sorry. Why don't you take my suggestion and go see your doctor? Maybe he can prescribe something to help you sleep."

A geyser of frustration bubbled up in Lily. She'd had this conversation with Jana one too many times. Stopping in her tracks, Lily didn't care who heard her today.

"Take a sleeping pill so I don't miss one gory detail? So I can be stuck in that nightmare and let it play over and over? I'd be crazy by morning! Get it through your head, Jana. I don't want to sleep. I don't want to dream. I want this living nightmare to be over." Tears rimmed her eyes and gravity did the rest.

Humiliation replaced Lily's frustration. "I know you care, and I love you for it, but stop trying to help me. It's not helping."

Jana stood in the parking lot, slack-jawed, and didn't say a thing when Lily turned and rushed into the building.

While drying her face with the heel of her hand, Lily marched up to her supervisor. "Arthur, may I speak to you? Right now."

Concern was evident on his face. "Let's talk in the break room."

The other employees' stares bored into her. She kept her eyes focused straight ahead and followed her boss.

He shut the door behind them with a soft click. "What's the matter?"

The moment had finally arrived. "I'm quitting."

Arthur's eyebrows knitted together. "What brought this on? I mean, I know you're going through a terrible time . . . ."

Fresh tears slipped down her cheeks. Dropping a can of veggies on her bare foot hurt like crazy. This was an inferno, and Lily hated her pain. She hated the constant crying and emotional darkness.

"I can't sleep. I have nightmares about Gabe all the time."

"I'm sorry."

She rubbed her face with both hands, exhausted. "Maybe if he'd died a little more peacefully."

She shook her head, trying to blot out the final, horrific image she always imagined. "To be blown up . . . pieces . . . so violent and ugly. He deserved better."

Arthur looked at his shoes, seemingly embarrassed by her raw emotions. "I'm sorry he died that way. Too many of our soldiers have."

She glared at him, anger rearing its ugly head again. "Pardon me for not wanting this to happen to anyone, especially somebody I love. He was too young. So full of life."

Her composure crumbled, and she wept into her hands.

Arthur waited in silence.

When Lily regained some self-control, she continued. The weight of her situation crushed all the energy from her voice. "I can't come here and feel his presence every single day. It's killing me. I think I see him on the base all the time. This is where we met. Maybe if I quit, I could begin to put some of this pain in the past."

A fresh wave of anguish rammed into her chest as she realized she was actually making plans to put Gabe, and their love, behind her. "I can't take it anymore."

The last sentence left her lips barely above a whisper. She barely had the energy to speak.
"How about a leave? You could take some time off."

She gave him a humorless smile. "I appreciate the offer, but I need to get out of this place." She turned her gaze to the ceiling. "Before I lose my last grip on sanity."

Jana watched them through the break room window, her face contorted with worry.

Seeing Jana confirmed Lily's decision. "And before I lose my last friend in the whole wide world."

"You want to give your two weeks' notice today?"

She brushed away the last stray tear and sniffled. For the first time since she'd gotten the devastating news of Gabe's death, she breathed normally. "I'm giving my two minutes' notice. I'm sorry if it puts you in a bind, but I have to do this for myself."

She stuck out her hand. "Thanks for everything, Arthur. I've enjoyed working with you."

"Sleep on it. If you change your mind, call me. This conversation never happened."

The tenderness in his eyes touched her, but this was goodbye. To ease his concern, she pasted on a warm smile. "Sure, thank you."

Her lunch bag crackled as she fiddled with the paper sack. "Guess you'll have to find somebody else to pick on about eating these."

Arthur smiled. "Yeah, you're one of a kind, Lily. Good luck. Whatever you do. And come back and visit sometime, when you're feeling up to it. We'd love to see you anytime."

She nodded, and walked out of the room.

Jana stood near the shelves of breakfast items, her gaze fixed on Lily.

"I'm sorry I lost my temper in the parking lot, Jana. It's been a rough few months."

Jana nodded. "It's okay. I wish I could do something to help, but I always keep steppin' in it."

She pointed to Lily's lunch bag. "Want to eat together today?"

"I'm leaving."

"Okay, well, we can do it tomorrow."

Nervous anxiety made Lily's mouth dry as a wool sock. "I'm not just leaving for the day. I quit. Right now. I'm leaving for good."

Jana's eyes widened. "Really?"

Lily felt her shoulders slump in resigned defeat. She nodded.

A quivering frown tugged on the corners of Jana's lips. "I hope this is a good change for you, Lily. And I hope we'll still be friends. I didn't mean to interfere or hurt your feelings."

Emotion clogged Lily's throat. "I know you meant well. I have to work through this myself. Somehow, I have to accept . . . what happened. My life is different. Give me a few days, and I'll call you. I promise."

Jana hugged her and then patted her on the back.

"You take care now." Sadness cloaked her voice. "I'm here if you need me. Don't forget that."

* * * * *
In his spirit state, Gabe heard and watched the entire scene between his wife and Jana. He stood behind Lily while she said goodbye to Jana. He walked out of the building with Lily to the car. The wind caught a wisp of her hair, and he wished he could tuck it behind her ear. He used to love stroking Lily's soft, wavy tresses.

Not yet. She wasn't ready to know he was close by, trying to help her cope. Hell, he was trying to cope, too. God had given Gabe a chance to help Lily, and himself, but it was all in the timing. Gabe wouldn't get long. The Shepherd of Souls had been very clear about that.

Lily drove out of the parking lot, but instead of taking her usual direct route to the base exits, she drove through the grounds.

In his spirit form, Gabe followed her.

She slowed down near one of the park benches.

We met there. Gabe recalled seeing Lily with her brown-bag lunch when he'd gone jogging on the historic base. She'd caught his eye immediately. Her long, graceful limbs and full lips captivated him. When she smiled, the sun seemed to dim. Her charming demeanor wiped out all his defenses.

She'd shaded her eyes to speak to him. "I've never seen you before."

"I was in Seattle for some training, but I'm stationed here. Are you visiting your husband?"

She'd giggled this wonderful, heart-warming sound, and her face turned the loveliest shade of pink.

Gabe knew in that moment, he was pretty much a goner.

"No, I'm not married. I started working at the commissary last week."

"Well, if you have lunch in the park, I'll be seeing you. I jog through here almost every day."

Gabe didn't usually take that route, but he was darn glad he had that day, and every day after. Lily had waited for him, sometimes bringing along an extra bottle of water or a piece of fruit for him. They'd talk for a little while, then he'd finish his run, although his mind was never on physical fitness after he saw Lilianna Carston.

Now Gabe sat on that same bench, remembering the delight in her eyes when he'd asked her to dinner the first time. They'd been almost inseparable after that date. They thought they'd have a lifetime together.

He turned toward her car and saw the strain on her face.

He watched her shoulders rise and fall in a deep sigh before she drove away from the curb.

Gabe didn't get off the bench and follow her. Being dead wasn't exactly halos and fluffy clouds for him.

* * * * *

At home, Lily set her keys on the countertop. Frowning, she thought they made a very loud, metallic scrape and clunk for such a small number of keys. The clock chimed the top of the hour, and she glanced in the clock's direction. Lunchtime, more or less. She glared at her bag, kind of grateful she wouldn't be packing another one of them any time soon. But there was no sense letting the last one go to waste.

She unrolled the sack, thinking what a loud crunch the paper made. My nerves really must be shot. She took out the half sandwich. Ham and Swiss on pumpernickel. No mustard, no mayo, just plain. Exactly the way she liked them.

Lily leaned against the door jamb and watched deep green leaves flutter in the gentle breeze. She took a bite of her sandwich and chewed. Emptying her brain of worries and drama, Lily inhaled summer's fresh scents. Her heart thumped reminding her she was alive, even if her soul didn't feel like it.

A gust came up. A snap made her turn around. A pen rolled across the living room floor, apparently blown off its perch on the end table. Lily took another bite of sandwich, set it on the counter, then went to pick up the pen. Her soft-soled shoes made quiet thumps as she walked on the wooden floor. When she stooped to retrieve the dime store pen, her ankles cracked.

A piece of paper, half-concealed under the couch, caught her eye. She scooped it up. The gray-lined paper had a ragged edge, as though torn hastily from a notebook. She wondered where the paper came from, since there weren't any small notebooks lying around. Turning it over, she opened her her eyes wide in surprise. She'd recognize that chicken scratching anywhere. But how did a note in Gabe's handwriting get on my living room floor? Her vision blurred as she read.

new each day,
the river’s water-
second chance
The unexpected connection to Gabe's thoughts and emotions threw her for a loop. She crumpled the paper and then pitched the scrap in the general direction of the wastebasket under her writing desk. The paper ball bounced off the small trashcan and skittered across the floor, out of sight.

Dazed, she sagged into the corner of the couch. She rested her forehead on her arm. "What second chance? You're dead."

* * * * *

Gabe stood near the window and watched Lily's reaction. His effort to bring her some semblance of comfort had epic failure written all over it. He wanted to scream in agony and frustration. But, how would that help her? He'd find another way.

I promise, Lily, I'll get you through this.