|Posted on December 7, 2017 at 4:20 AM||comments (0)|
About the Book
Title: Kindred Spirits
Author: Whitney Dineen
Genre: Chicklit / Romance
Dashing and successful, Richard Bingham has been voted one of the top ten bachelors in New York City. After unwittingly offending a reporter from Manhattan Life magazine, he finds himself on the receiving end of an article that makes his quest of finding the perfect mate nearly impossible.
After one dating disaster too many, Richard decides it’s time to seek professional help, so he signs up for the matchmaking services of the East Side Yenta.
Philippa Fielding is single and searching for love in London, but her accidental profession of “Message Deliverer from the Great Beyond” puts most men right off.
Will Pip’s new "Spirit Helper," Bertram, be able to set her on the course for true love with a message for Richard?
Matchmaking, misunderstandings, and mayhem abound in this fast-paced romantic comedy about love, life, and the afterlife!
Whitney Dineen is a multi-award-winning author of romantic comedies, non-fiction humor and middle reader fiction. When she’s not spinning stories, Whitney’s raising her young daughters, wrangling chicken, or eating french fries, not necessarily in that order.
Win a $25 amazon gift card during the tour.
You did what?” Spencer Hollis demanded.
Richard replied, “I told you, Spence, I made an appointment with the East Side Yenta.”
“Richard, you are one of, if not the most eligible bachelors in New York City. Why in the world do you need the help of some old Jewish matchmaker? You’re not even Jewish!” he added.
“For God’s sake, Spencer, you don’t have to be Jewish to use a matchmaker. I’m using her because ever since the article in Manhattan Life magazine came out, I’ve managed to attract every freak-show gold-digger east of the Mississippi. Seriously, the one I went out with last week has an aversion to sex!” Shaking his head in exasperation, he added, “Clearly, I’ve reached the point where I need professional help.”
Richard’s college friend responded, “You just need to start hanging out in those clubs downtown where all the models go. You’ll have the perfect little misses lined up in no time.”
“Says the man who’s already married and divorced three of those models. No thanks, buddy. I’m looking for my soulmate; I want someone to spend the rest of my life with, not someone to pay alimony to for the rest of her life.”
Spencer snorted, “Happily-ever-after isn’t real, my friend. You need to set your sights on happy-for-right-now and live in the moment, man.”
“I’ve already had one marriage go south, Spence. Luckily, Amelia and I split amicably, but I don’t want any more exes. I want a future. And I’m a firm believer in happily-ever-after even if you aren’t.”
“I’m going with you then,” Spencer declared. “I’m not letting you put your future happiness in the hands of some toothless old-world hag with hairy knuckles and a limp without some input from the master.”
Richard shook his head, “Toothless hag with hairy knuckles and a limp? Spencer, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Rachel Feinman is the exact opposite of what you’re imagining. In fact, I think you should come with me. I also think you should sign up for her services for yourself. It’s past time that you associate with a better class of women.”
His friend scoffed, “Oh, I’m coming with you all right, but not going to sign up. I’m coming to make sure the old hag knows exactly the kind of gal you need.” He made an exaggerated hourglass gesture with his hands.
Pip picked up her pace as she was ten minutes behind schedule and Malcom was nervously looking around as though he thought she might be a no-show. As she neared him, a rather rough looking man started to jog along next to her. Pip stopped to let him pass, but he halted with her.
“Pardon me,” Pip inquired, “are you following me?”
The man answered, “’Course I am. Why wouldn’t I be following you? You’re gorgeous, love.”
She appreciated the flattery even if it came from an apparent lunatic. At five feet ten with shiny, thick, dark hair, Pip knew she made a good first impression. Her clothing was always top of the line, if a bit conservative, and she made sure to stay out of the sun so as not to wrinkle prematurely. She hoped her date found her as attractive as the odd fellow next to her.
As she shared pleasantries with the stranger, Pip pondered a fortuitous outcome to her blind date. She didn’t fully realize she’d reached Malcom until he offered his hand and inquired, “Philippa Fielding?”
Pip looked up and nearly fell into the most piercing blue eyes she’d ever seen. She answered, “Yes. You must be Malcom.”
Nodding his head in response, he asked, “Who were you chatting with just now?”
“I don’t know, exactly.” She continued, “Just some man who started to walk with me.”
Malcom looked around and inquired, “What man?”
Pip looked over her blind date’s shoulder and spotted the chap who’d been shadowing her. She pointed at him and replied, “That one over there, the one with dirty blond hair and a goatee.” She further clarified, “His two front teeth are chipped.”
Malcom turned and looked, but saw no one. At his confusion, Pip added, “He’s in his forties, wearing worn blue jeans and a grungy t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up.” She gestured further to clarify who she was talking about. “The one who looks like he’s just been in a pub brawl.”
He still had no idea who she was talking about, so he answered, “I don’t see him.”
Pip made eye contact and called out, “Excuse me sir, would you come over here, please?”
The bedraggled looking stranger gestured to himself, as if to ask, “Me?” Pip nodded and he readily approached. “Hello,” she greeted, “I’m sorry I didn’t get your name just now. I’m Philippa.”
His hand shot out and he smiled, showing off two broken front teeth, “Bertram, love. I’m proper chuffed to meet you.”
Pip dropped her hand, gasped, and let out an uncharacteristic expletive. “You’re Bertram? Bloody hell.”
Malcom watched his cousin’s friend warily. Obviously, he didn’t see anyone who looked like he’d recently taken a couple knocks to the face, as Pip was the only person in the vicinity who could see ghosts.
At that instant Philippa knew her date was over. She decided to just come clean with Malcom, explain her odd life, and walk away. If she was lucky, she could still join her friends at the cinema to watch the romantic comedy they were all keen to see.
Malcom realized Philippa might not be as odd as he first thought and said, “The way I see it, you’re either completely bonkers or you’re speaking to a dead person. Which is it?”
Pip found it refreshing that Sephra’s cousin didn’t immediately assume she was destined for Bedlam. She replied, “The latter, I’m afraid.” She further clarified, “It’s the result of a nasty fever I had as a child.”
After another thirty minutes of banter, Shelly turned off her recorder and announced, “I think I have all I need to write a great piece.” After a beat, she added, “Magazine rules don’t allow me to ask until our professional relationship is over, but maybe once I’ve written my article, we could go out to dinner sometime?”
Richard was shocked and answered, “That would be lovely, but isn’t that an engagement ring on your finger?”
“Maybe,” she replied coyly, “but an engagement ring isn’t a wedding ring, is it?”
“Perhaps not, but it does indicate a prior commitment.”
There was no way Shelly could misconstrue the judgment in his voice. She immediately knew she didn’t have a chance with Richard Bingham, so she responded, “I guess it does.”
Uncomfortably, Richard met her direct gaze and said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but once I ask a woman to marry me, I would hope she’d stop shopping around for someone better.”
“Mr. Bingham,” the reporter icily replied, “I’m sure in your case, she will. But not everyone is lucky to be engaged to a paragon like yourself. Sometimes people reach an age and place in their lives where they compromise their ideals a bit and settle for something instead of continuing on with nothing.”
“That’s a sad commentary on single life. No one should settle for anyone less than they truly desire.”
“Unfortunately,” she retorted, “only a handful of singles are considered as desirable as you. I’m afraid life is a bit different for those of us who live in the real world.”
Richard realized he’d gone too far and tried to amend his earlier statement by adding, “I think you sell yourself short, Ms. Milton. As far as I’m concerned the only reason I won’t have dinner with you is that you’re promised to another.”
Shelly responded, “That’s very noble of you.” Gathering her things together, she stood up and declared, “I wish you luck in your great love search, Mr. Bingham. I’m sure you’ll have a better selection of potential mates than the rest of us mortals.”
There was a gleam in her eye that Richard found disconcerting. For a moment he wished he’d merely accepted her offer and reneged at a later date. Shelly Milton looked mad, determined, and offended. Not exactly the trifecta of emotions you want to leave a reporter with right before she writes an article about you in a well-respected and well-circulated magazine.
Honey called the bachelors onto the stage one at a time. They were greeted with very unladylike wolf-whistles and catcalls. The duchess calmed the audience down long enough to share pertinent information about the men, like, “Number eight is Sir Thomas Hawtrey, eighth Viscount Farnsworthy. Viscount Hawtrey is thirty-nine, he likes to hunt, golf, and work on his family’s vineyard. Let’s start the bidding at five hundred pounds!”
The women went wild. A night with Sir Thomas eventually sold for twenty-two hundred pounds. At this rate, Richard realized, the Childhood Lupus Foundation was in for quite a hefty donation.
Not every bachelor started at five hundred pounds. Most started at two hundred, but the bounty increased along with title and prestige. Richard wondered what he’d be worth in the end. He didn’t have to wait long to find out.
Honey announced, “And now a very special bachelor all the way from New York City. I’d like you to meet bachelor number fourteen, Richard Bingham!”
Richard wasn’t sure if the volume had increased because the ladies were really that interested in him or because they’d had nearly an hour to consume more cocktails and get worked up by the proceedings. Either way, it was a bit invigorating to be on the receiving end of such adoration.
The dowager duchess continued, “Quiet down, ladies, so I can tell you about this gorgeous specimen.” They hushed immediately, as they clearly wanted to know more. “According to Manhattan Life magazine, Mr. Bingham is one of the top ten eligible bachelors in New York, but according to us, he’s number one!” The applause drew out for several moments. Eventually she added, “Richard owns one of the largest advertising agencies in the city. When he’s not working, he likes to spend time on his boat, visit his mother, and drive upstate to buy pies.” The cheering nearly brought the house down.
Honey added, “Because Mr. Bingham is a rather exotic addition to our event, we’re going to start the bidding at eight hundred pounds!”
Hands flew into the air at an alarming rate and before too many minutes had passed, the bidding had reached three thousand pounds. Pip watched excitedly as more and more women jumped into the fray. By the time his price hit six thousand pounds, only a couple of women were left. Philippa had yet to raise her hand.
When the bidding hit seven thousands pounds Richard turned and caught her eye. Her knees nearly gave out from under her as the air between them crackled with electricity. Pip slowly walked toward him. The whole room grew quiet when she reached his side and announced, “I’ll take him for ten thousand, Honey.” Then looking at the crowd she added, “Unless there’s another bid?” There wasn’t.
The nicest thing Philippa could say about Declan was that he wasn’t horrid. And truth be told, that was a nice thing considering how many unpleasant first encounters she’d had in the last fifteen years.
Sephra and Pip met at the Cock and Wing at six o’clock so they could get settled at a table and order a drink before the men arrived. They wanted to make sure they’d claimed first dominion so as to make their little drama of an “accidental meeting” appear more plausible. Of course, since Liam and Sephra were married, any chance of the get-together appearing completely unplanned was pretty slim, but Pip hoped at least not to appear complicit. As it turns out, it didn’t matter.
Liam and Declan strolled through the front door at five after seven, and by then Sephra was so mad she was seeing red. They were supposed to be there no later than ten past six and she’d been working herself into a lather ever since.
Pip was in the loo when the men walked in, so she missed most of the scene that followed. Sephra leapt to her feet in front of her husband and snapped, “You’re late!”
Liam, who tried to keep up the charade for Declan’s sake, responded, “Hello, pet, did we have plans tonight? I was just going to grab a drink with my mate, Declan, here.”
Trying to regain her composure, his wife replied, “No, no, we didn’t have plans, I just wanted to surprise you, that’s all.” Then she indicated the free chairs at their table and added, “Why don’t you join us?”
Declan piped in with, “Us? Who’re you here with?”
“Oh, just my friend, Philippa, she’s in the ladies’.”
Declan put his brief case down next to his chair and spoke directly to his co-worker, “Right, then, so is this some kind of fix up?”
“No, no, no, nothing like that, mate,” Liam responded. “Wh . . . wh . . . why in the world would you think we were setting you up?” If his friend was somehow dim enough to believe the obvious farce, the stuttering was a surefire indicator that boldface lying was afoot.
Declan hailed a passing waiter and ordered a pint before asking, “Is she pretty, at least?”
That’s when Pip walked up. There was no way she could miss the strange tension in the air. In fact, it was so thick she could have cut it with a chop stick. Sephra was rocking in her chair, side-to-side like she was having some kind of psychotic break and Liam was overacting to the point of melodrama as he tried to appear both shocked and delighted by her arrival.
Declan was the only seemingly sane one at the table. As he got to his feet to pull Pip’s chair out, he asked, “So are you in on the setup, poppet, or are you as much of a victim as I am?”
|Posted on December 6, 2017 at 6:30 AM||comments (2)|
About the Book
Title: The Awakening: Part Two
Author: Michael Timmins
The world is awakening
The monsters of myths and fairytales walk among us.
While Clint, Shae, Kat and Blain awaken to their powers, the others have too. Realizing that they are not like everyone else, and that they aren’t alone.
Samuel, who was once known as Syndor, has managed to survive all these years preparing for Kestrel’s spell and her arrival.
Five of the original eight bloodlines have awoken, but what of the others? How will their awakening happen?
Sylvanis continues to grow at a rapid rate, much to the bafflement of her parents, but her body recognizes the need and responds. Now, she must make a desperate gamble to call out to her Lycans, knowing Kestrel will be able to find her if she does.
Blood has been spilled already, but the war has only just begun!
Giveaway for a free eBook of The Awakening: Part One, a signed copy of The Awakening: Part One, and the main prize: a signed copy of The Awakening: Part One and The Awakening: Part Two
At first, he went crazy with it and bought candy, video games, and whatever he felt like. When Hank asked him how he was going to buy a car when he turned sixteen since he kept spending all his money, Sim went on a spending freeze. Apart from an occasional personal reward, he saved every coin. Now, he had enough money to buy the car he wanted, though it took him a whole year beyond his sixteenth birthday to do so.
Closing his eyes, he pictured the car in his head. He was visualizing opening the car door when a scream from up the stairs shattered the vision. Panicked, he rushed upstairs. Never in his entire life had he heard someone scream like that. It held so much pain he couldn’t imagine what it must feel like. Mounting the top of the stairs, he peered down the hall towards Hank’s room. It had to be Hank. There wasn’t anyone else here, but the scream was so… inhuman. He wasn’t sure it had been Hank.
Taking measured steps, he moved down the hall to the door to his dad’s room. It was open a crack, as it always was, and Sim paused outside to listen. Someone breathed roughly — like each breath being forced out of a tight chest, huffing and blowing. It was louder than it should have been and once again, heart pounding, he thought of his dad. Reaching for the handle so he could throw it open, the door was ripped from its hinges, like it was made of cardboard and not the solid oak it was, and tossed away into the room to crash further into the room with a loud crash! Something he had never seen before came through, it’s bulk blocking the doorway like the moon blocks the sun in an eclipse.
It appeared bearish, like they do when they rear up on their hind legs, but something was different. Its shoulders were located differently, as if the front legs were more like arms. To further this appearance, where the paws should be, there were elongated, beefy fingers, ending in wicked looking dagger-like claws. Its back legs appeared more capable of allowing the beast to use only its hind legs to walk. Examining its legs, he noticed something more shocking. Shredded strands of blue and white cloth dangled down from the creature’s waist, like streamers, hung from a blue waistband stretched to its limit. Sim recognized it because it belonged to his father. It was his favorite sweatpants he frequently wore to sleep in. Noticing all this in seconds, the creature’s right claw smashed into him. Slamming into the wall, it was the last thing he remembered.
Standing deep within the alley was some sort of humanoid — it stood at least twice her height, somewhere over three meters tall, and broad of frame. Its body seemed to shift from green to black, but was made of large scales from head to toe. Its legs were lighter color on the inside as was the abdomen, chest and under its neck. Its neck swept out into a long snout filled with teeth, gleaming as the flash's light struck them. Red colored eyes sat on either side of its head.
She had no problem realizing this was the creature everyone thought was the killer croc, because that was what it was like; a crocodile, standing on two legs. Another reason she figured this was the killer which had Sydney in a panic was the fact it was in the process of eating its latest victim. Its powerful arms held two halves of a body whose midsection was all but missing. Realizing now what those sounds she had heard were, she resisted the urge to puke. Blood, gore and ichor dripped from the gaping mouth of the creature as it froze from chewing. The flashes of light momentarily blinding it.
Sylvia realized her predicament and stopped shooting pictures. The alley went dark. Light circles swam across her vision as the sudden darkness left her temporarily blinded. Sylvia froze for a moment, not sure if what she had seen was real. She took several steps back from the alley's mouth.
It emerged from the darkness in front of her. As if from nothingness, the snout appeared first, followed by its massive body, like a demon stepping from a portal from hell. Its eyes locked on her and she could only watch in fascination as its inner eyelids closed over the eyes, retreating under the outer eyelids. It was then Sylvia knew she was going to die. Hopefully, the pictures in her camera would show the world what was hiding in the city. This monster was like nothing she had ever seen before, or heard of.
Like a slow-motion action scene from a movie, she watched as the creature’s right hand reached backwards, before slowly coming forward in a terrible arc towards her head. As the arm slashed in front of her she heard, detachedly, four hollow booms, and she caught flashes from her peripheral. The creature about to end her life rocked back as bullets ripped into its flesh. Sylvia saw two bullets bury themselves into its chest, one in the arm and the other in the abdomen.
Blood sprayed her, warm droplets of red rain, as the creature whipped around. Sylvia felt terrible pain. Flipping over, her head struck the pavement as its tail whipped around, catching her legs and knocking them out from underneath her. Head throbbing in pain, she watched from the pavement. The thing escaped with lightning speed down the alleyway. More shots were fired as one cop ran to the entrance of the alley firing into the dark alley in hopes of striking the beast. The other cop knelt in front of her. Holding on to consciousness long enough, she heard the cop call for an ambulance.
Michael Timmins lives in Toledo, Ohio with his wife and two sons. His inspiration for writing came from his many years making modules to run for his D&D group. It has been a dream of his to one day get his work published, and now with ease of self-publishing he has made his dream come true.
Amazon The Awakening: Part Two
Amazon: Series Link
|Posted on December 6, 2017 at 2:55 AM||comments (0)|
About the Book
Title: Just Like The Bronte Sisters
Author: Laurel Osterkamp
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Sisters Skylar and Jo Beth adore skiing and they virtually share the same soul. After an accident, Jo Beth flees to Brazil, leaving Skylar behind in Colorado to obsessively read the Brontë sisters. While abroad, Jo Beth meets Mitch and her life takes some unexpected turns, until tragedy leads free-spirited Mitch right into Skylar’s empty arms. With their Heathcliff/Catherine romance in full swing, Skylar wants to trust Mitch, but did he harm her sister? Loving Mitch could make Skylar lose everything. Just Like the Brontë Sisters is an unconventional romantic page-turner inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, full of magical realism, literary references, a ghost, and some healthy doses of suspense.
Laurel Osterkamp is a Kindle Scout/award-winning author of women’s fiction and suspense. Her “day job” is as at Columbia Heights High School, where she teaches creative writing, college writing, and AP Lit. She resides in Minneapolis with her husband, two chatty children, an overweight cat, a gecko, and a hissing cockroach (don’t ask). Her other loves include chocolate, jogging, and boots.
Later that evening I was still pumped. The dim lighting, soft classical music, and the glass of red wine didn’t mellow me out. Gavin stood over the stove, stirring his homemade marinara with a small wooden spoon and I pretended not to notice him watching me as I sat on a stool by the island in the kitchen, leafing through an Olympics brochure. I could feel the angry path of a scratch that started at my cheekbone and extended down to my jaw, but I refused to admit to any discomfort or pain. Doing so would invite in Gavin’s judgment and concern, and I knew I’d be ingesting them enough tonight as it was. They may as well have been ingredients in the spaghetti sauce.
I just talked as if his ears were receptive. “Billy pretended to be mad, but I think he secretly respected me. After practice today, he talked like there’s no doubt I’d be in the Olympics. And seriously, being suspended in the air like that… well, now I understand how people become adrenaline junkies.”
“I’m surprised you came out of the whole thing with only a scratch.”
“You sound like my dad.”
“Then I’ll try to be less protective,” Gavin gave me a twisty smile as he dipped the spoon into his sauce and came toward me. “Here, try this. See if it needs more garlic.”
Halfheartedly, I let him feed me a small amount. We made flat eye contact and I shrugged. “I think you could go either way. I mean, it’s fine, but is there such a thing as too much garlic?”
“I don’t know.” He raised an eyebrow. “I guess that depends; are you letting me sleep in your bed tonight?”
My eyes awkwardly glanced away from him and settled back on my Olympics brochure, which had a picture of a triumphant Bode Miller on the front.
“How long before dinner?” I kept my voice intentionally light, like I hadn’t registered what he’d just said. “I might go downstairs and stretch. I still have a leg cramp.”
“I can rub it for you later.”
I leaned down and massaged my calf muscle. “Thanks, but I still want to stretch.”
I glanced up to see Gavin’s smile fade as he stepped away, walked back toward the stove, and spoke with his back to me. “I think we should talk.” Ominous words if there ever were any. I stood without going anywhere, as if our situation required formality. “Did you hear what I said?” Gavin said. “About talking?”
His urgency, his obvious desperation, propelled words out of my mouth before I could trap them. “Can’t you just be the guy for once?”
He dropped his spoon against the stove with a clang. “What? I’m not manly enough for you? I stay home in the kitchen while you go flying off a mountain, like you’re trying to be your sister or something...”
“Wait.” My defensiveness was instant and hot, a rash underneath my skin. “I do something spontaneous, something strong, and you think I’m just imitating Jo Beth?”
“Skiing past the safety barricades and off a cliff isn’t strong, it’s reckless, and it’s not like you.”
“Oh really? Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.”
“Maybe I don’t,” he responded, “but it’s not for lack of trying.”
For a long, tense moment, Gavin stared at me, as if willing me to answer. I shifted my weight and looked toward the stairs to the basement, where I longed to escape from this conversation.
“I don’t know what you want from me,” I finally said.
“It’s simple,” he replied. “I want you to be safe. I want you to stay here in Black Diamond, and I want you to admit to me, to yourself, and to everyone else, that you and I are actually a couple.”
My answer was spineless. “I don’t know if I can do all that.”
Gavin’s face softened, maybe because he was as unprepared for my sudden vulnerability as I was. “Which part don’t you think you can do?”
I could barely squeak out my response, for fear that it would hurt us both. “All of it.”
Gavin nodded as if we’d just completed a business transaction. His shoulders rose and tensed as he turned off the stove with a flick. “I’m going. Just boil some noodles, then pour the sauce over them. It will taste good.”
I gave Gavin a reticent smile meant to beg forgiveness, but he wouldn’t look at me. “No, no,” I said. “Stay. Please, I want you to.”
He walked out of the kitchen, past me, and towards the front door. I followed and watched as he removed his wool coat from a hook and bundled up. My hands twitched from wanting to touch him, to soothe his anger, but my fingers were too timid to follow through.
He was clearly fuming. “Be honest, Sky. You’d rather have the night to yourself.”
I pictured the evening ahead of me, should he leave. It would start with a cold blast of air as he opened the door, a slamming sound as he walked away, and then the emptiness and guilt as I poured his marinara sauce into the sink, a blood red stream trickling down the drain because I couldn’t stomach eating his dinner without him. “That’s not true,” I said, trying to keep my voice close. “I just don’t get why we have to turn into something serious, into something that we’re not.”
“Because I’m tired of being ‘that guy’—the one you kill time with when you have nothing else to do.”
I felt my face heat up “I admit that I’m anxious to get out of here and into the Olympics. But my restlessness isn’t about you. I’m just sick of waiting for something to happen. You’re still my favorite person to spend time with.”
He paused, hand on the doorknob. I could see how he wanted to leave, how he wanted to stay even more. “Please don’t go,” I continued. “That sauce you made is delicious, and you don’t have to add any more garlic. That way our breath won’t stink too bad—you know, later on.”
I stepped in closer to him and put my hand on the back of his neck. He relaxed under my touch.
“Fine, okay.” Gavin whispered as he removed his jacket and we walked back into the kitchen together.
Later, I was in the bathroom, gargling with mouthwash. Green foam oozed down my chin and I used the sleeve of my oversized ski team jersey, which I wore as a nightshirt, to wipe it away. As I spat out the rest of the mouthwash I met my own eyes in the mirror.
Was that hesitation or fear lodged on my face?
I spat again, cupped my hand over my mouth, and breathed in and out through my nose, checking for signs of bad breath. There had been a lot of garlic in Gavin’s sauce. But I was satisfied that I passed the halitosis test, so I fished in the drawer, digging past hair brushes, tweezers, and a bottle of ADVIL to finally find an unopened box of condoms, which I had previously shoved into the very back, out of sight.
Briefly I studied the box that I bought months ago as a precautionary measure. I ripped open the blue and gold packaging, which read Trojan Ultra-Thin Pleasure Pack, and clumsily pulled one out. How could this shiny silver square, which looked like it contained candy, make me so nervous? Skiing off a cliff was nothing compared to this. I wrapped my fingers around the bright foil package, making a fist, so I didn’t have to see evidence of what I was about to do. I told myself that losing my virginity didn’t make me Becky Sharp of Vanity Fair and that becoming a sexual person didn’t turn me into an anti-heroine. I would instead be like Jo March, sleeping with her love, the professor, for the first time, somewhere off in the dusky void that existed away from well-lit pages underneath a reading lamp.
One more look in the mirror; this time it was a look of resolve. I studied the scratch on my cheek, made this afternoon by my ski pole when I’d landed in the snow, and lightly traced it down my cheek. “Gavin, I’m in the mood for more adventure,” I whispered to my reflection, rehearsing. I closed my eyes, shook my head in disgust, and then faced my reflection once again.
“Let’s take a chance tonight, okay?”
I gave my reflection the most provocative expression I could muster. My shoulders moved up and down, and then I walked out of the bathroom, determined to fly, not fall, off the cliff that I was launching myself from.
Mitch used tweezers to not-so-gently remove all the glass from Jo Beth’s skin. They sat in the bathroom, her atop the toilet with its lid down, and Mitch on the floor, his back leaning against the edge of the tub as he picked out the glass piece by piece, shard by shard, dropping each one into the wastebasket.
Occasionally he’d look up and his wide, dark eyes pooled with distress.
Jo Beth couldn’t keep silent. “Mitch, I swear that she started it. Magda hit me with that spoon and then she cut herself to make it seem like it was my fault.”
Mitch’s chest heaved up and down. He kept his eyes on her knees. “Jo Beth, you have to stop.”
“But I’m telling the truth.”
“Jo Beth!” His inhale was sharp, like he’d just been hit. “Once the baby is born, we’ll leave. I don’t care where we go, but we’ll figure something out. Until then, you have to keep it together.”
“She’s still in love with you, Mitch.” Jo Beth could say this as loud as she wanted because Magda was out, having taken herself to the emergency room after Mitch said that her cut probably needed stitches.
Mitch vehemently shook his head. “No. It’s not like that. She dumped me.”
“Wait, what?” Jo Beth felt her brain synapses coil tightly in confusion. “I thought you said that your breakup was mutual.”
He dug the tweezers into the base of her ankle, right where some glass was lodged. Suddenly Jo Beth felt like he was playing that board game, Operation, and she was as real to him as the clownish cartoon character who needs gas bubbles removed from his stomach.
“No,” Mitch replied. “She decided it was time, after I lost my ability to see through the blood-red cloud that surrounds her. That’s what happened.”
“Ouch!” Jo Beth yanked her foot away. His excavation attempts were just too vigorous. “What are you talking about? What blood-red cloud?”
Mitch grabbed her foot back and held it tight as he mined for more glass. “The one that surrounds Magda?” His tone was condescending and impatient, almost as bad as his nursing skills. “Don’t tell me you don’t see it.”
He wouldn’t look at her but stayed focused on his task.
“Mitch, you’re honestly telling me that a blood-red cloud hovers around Magda?”
“Yeah.” He sighed. “I realize that not everyone can see it, but I can. I’ve always been able to see things that other people can’t. My ability is more a curse than a blessing.”
The pressure behind Jo Beth’s eyes was uncomfortable, just like the pricking of Mitch’s tweezers. Could he possibly be for real? “Why haven’t you ever mentioned this before?”
“Magda wanted it to be our secret,” he said simply. “But things changed, she broke up with me, and it was fine. There was no tidal wave, no crisis, she didn’t disappear, and we stayed friends.” Mitch finally dislodged the last pieces of glass and after depositing them in the trash can, he dropped the tweezers like he was dropping a microphone. “And I love you, Jo. But you have to stop acting so crazy.”
She had to stop acting so crazy? Jo Beth just nodded and gripped the edges of the toilet beneath her. How could one little statement from this man change everything?
she kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks for taking such good care of me.”
Jo Beth went to bed and lay there until she heard Magda come in, and then there was the sound of their voices speaking in low, romantic tones. Were they kissing? Had they been intimate with each other this entire time? She was surprised to realize that she didn’t even care. But when Jo Beth was sure they were too consumed with each other’s company to worry about her, she got out her cell phone, hid under the covers so her voice would be muffled, and called Skylar. It was the middle of the night where she was, so Jo Beth thought for sure she’d answer, but it went straight to voicemail.
“Sky,” Jo Beth whispered. “You have to believe me because Mom doesn’t. Magda and Mitch have charmed her into believing that they’re innocent. But I know the truth. Magda is an evil bitch and Mitch is crazy.” She took a deep breath, trying not to feel claustrophobic underneath the covers. “I’m actually sort of relieved,” she continued. “Maybe Mitch actually does love me. Maybe’s it’s not his fault that he’s insane. I don’t know how long he’s been like this, maybe his whole life, but it explains everything. It explains why I can’t trust him.” She tried to keep her tears out of her voice. She had to stay strong. “Skylar, where are you? Why didn’t you come? I have to get myself and my baby away from Mitch. Once she’s born I’m going to leave and I’ll need your help. Promise that you’ll help me.” She took a deep sniff. “We need to talk in person. I don’t know how that will happen, but just know that I love you. You’re my favorite and I love you best of all.”
She pressed end, emerged from the covers, and sat up. Then she reached under the bed and removed the knife she’d kept beneath the mattress for over two weeks. Jo Beth gripped it in her sweaty hand, wondering if she was capable of murder, or if her subconscious just liked to pretend. Hell. She was pretty sure she was capable. The bigger question was whether she was up for the effort that murder required. Exhaustion slowly dripped through her, turning her muscles and mind to slush. She must have fallen asleep with the knife still in her grip, because after what seemed like hours, she woke to Mitch’s face looming above hers.
“Why are you holding a knife?” His voice was sharp, like the blade she clutched.
He took the knife from her and her breath caught. If he wanted to kill her, right here, right now, there was no stopping him. “Are you afraid of me, Jo Beth?”
She pushed him away and struggled into a sitting position. “No, Mitch. I’m not afraid of you. But I think we should break up.”
“As soon as I have the baby I’m going home with my mom.”
Mitch closed his eyes and fell back against the bed. “You can’t do that,” he whispered.
She took the knife from his hand and he let it go without protest. “Yeah, I can.”
His eyes rolled toward the ceiling. “So much water,” he said, holding out his palms as if to catch a nonexistent flood. “Like the roof is crying.”
“Mitch…” She placed her hand on his shoulder. He sat up abruptly and swiped back the knife. “Why can’t we just be okay? Is that too much to ask?”
Suddenly Jo Beth was afraid, but not of Mitch. There was a flood, but it wasn’t coming from the roof. It came from between her legs. “Mitch!” she cried. “Stop being delusional. My water just broke.”
“Huh?” I couldn’t orient myself or find my bearings as I woke in this foreign room to a foreign sound.
“Bijou is crying. You have to get her because I can’t.”
I fumbled around, patting my hands along the nightstand, trying to locate a lamp and switch it on. Finally, I gave up, got myself into sitting position, and put my feet on the floor. The trek to the nursery was short and lit by a nightlight, so that part was easy.
When I got there, I found Skylar standing on one leg over the bassinette, her crutches resting against the wall. She awkwardly leaned down in preparation for lifting Bijou up. Meanwhile, Bijou had switched from crying to angry screaming.
“Let me get her,” I said, and I handed Skylar her crutches so she could move out of the way. Then I picked up Bijou and held her, but that did nothing to stop her wailing.
“Do you think she’s hungry?” Skylar asked.
Skylar sat down in the rocking chair. “I can hold her while you go and prepare a bottle.”
“Okay.” I was unsure of the way down to the kitchen, and how I’d find the stuff to get a bottle ready once I was there. But I handed Skylar the baby and walked off like I knew what I was doing.
Actually, the kitchen was where I’d expected it to be, and when I flicked on the light there was Jo Beth, standing in the middle of the room like she’d been waiting for me.
“There’s the formula and the bottles,” she said, pointing to the counter where a bunch of baby stuff had been left out, probably by Elizabeth, so it could be found easily in the middle of the night. “Don’t forget to use warm water for the formula. Warm, but not hot.”
Was it possible to be this tired? I hadn’t slept on the plane and the hours before our trip were filled with life and death, but not with sleep. Every part of my body was heavy and it was incredible to imagine that I’d ever feel light again. “You woke me upstairs?” I said to Jo Beth.
“Yeah,” she replied. “Now are you going to make the bottle?”
I walked toward the counter where the baby stuff rested and I opened the can of formula. I let a sigh from deep inside escape while I dropped the milky white powder into the bottle.
“What’s your problem?” Jo Beth demanded.
“Nothing, I’m just tired.”
“So?” She floated over to my side and hovered next to me, her hands defiantly on her nonexistent hips. “Do you have any appreciation for the effort it took me to get here? I bet you don’t.”
“How could I?” I went to the sink, turned on the water, and stuck my finger into the stream of cold until it turned suitably warm. “I have no idea how you got here and I’m betting you’re not allowed to tell me.”
“You know I’ve never given a crap about rules. But you’re right; I can’t tell you because you wouldn’t get it.”
There was no arguing her point. If I couldn’t understand simple concepts, like how the universe could be created by a single burst of energy from a miniscule volume of space, or how it possibly rose like a phoenix from the dust of another, dearly departed universe, how could I ever comprehend Jo Beth’s existence or her journey to find Bijou and me?
“Okay,” I said simply.
Now it was Jo Beth’s turn to sigh, which she did as I tightened the lid onto the body of the bottle and shook it. Was she angry because I wasn’t arguing with her?
“Test the temperature on your wrist.” Jo Beth said.
“To make sure it’s not too hot.”
“But how hot is too hot?”
“It shouldn’t hurt.”
I looked at her; even as a ghost she was beautiful. “Can you feel pain anymore?”
Her eyelids pulled down for a moment, and then she silently shook her head no.
“But you can remember pain?” I asked.
“I’m sorry if I contributed to your pain, Jo.”
She shook her head again. “Our daughter is crying. You should get upstairs.”
The bottle was ready, so I turned toward the stairs, toward the sound of little Bijou’s wails. But first I looked back at Jo Beth. “Will I see you again?”
She shrugged her ghostly shoulders. “Who knows?”
“What if I can’t live with that uncertainty?”
“You have too. Everyone does.”
I almost pointed out that she doesn’t have to live with uncertainty, that she doesn’t have to live with anything, not anymore. But I kept my mouth shut for fear of being insensitive and climbed the stairs to find Skylar rocking Bijou.
“I can take over,” I said.
We did the awkward dance of switching places, which included our handing the baby back and forth while she retrieved her crutches, and at one point Skylar had to lean on my shoulder while I held Bijou. Skylar looked so much like a younger, less angry Jo Beth, and she even held the same soapy scent.
“Thank you,” I said. I wanted to tell Skylar to stay, to sit with me, to not leave me alone. But right before those pleas escaped my mouth, I bit my tongue and managed not to beg. I put the bottle in Bijou’s mouth and instantly her screams stopped. Then the only sound in the room came from her sucking that rubber nipple.
“You were hungry, huh little girl?” I rocked Bijou, feeling that pull of devotion that they say always happens to mothers, but not necessarily to fathers. This delicate, strong creature, with her paper-thin eyelids, silky hair, and strong grip around my index finger: I knew that if necessary, I’d kill for her.
I could live with any other uncertainty, but Bijou had to be okay.
|Posted on December 6, 2017 at 2:50 AM||comments (1)|
About the Book
Title: Work of Art: An Intention of Flowers
Author: Ken La Salle
Genre: YA / Contemporary Fiction
Thick tempera paint.
A parking lot filled with history, fear, and regret.
A young man named Joseph Arillo sits in the parking lot and paints the pavement with flowers.
And Andy Hollis steps in it.
As the new art teacher at Santa Ana High School, he’s too curious about Joseph’s Flowers and unravels both of their lives in his pursuit for answers.
He learns that it’s all part of a rite of passage, an absurd test started by Joseph Arillo’s father, the suspiciously world-renowned artist named only Tom. Which also connects to the drama teacher at Santa Ana High, Katie Bustos. Whose daughter, Desiree, may or may not be dating Joseph. Who is putting himself in danger from a local gang, the lot’s mysterious history, and the police.
Andy puts himself in danger of losing his job, his home, and his freedom. If he can’t solve the riddle of Joseph’s Flowers, both of their lives will go up in smoke – despite any help from Winny, the old, Slovakian bureaucrat at school, or his students, or Tom himself.
But is Tom trying to help? And is Joseph really up to his father’s test?
And is Andy really fit to be a teacher? He doesn’t understand kids, can’t get to school on time, and… doesn’t appear to care about art or families or anything. But Joseph’s Flowers will challenge everything Andy believes: about himself, about the world, and most importantly of all about art.
Before Andy and Joseph are finished, they will witness the power art has to provide inspiration, to waken our hearts, and to shatter everything you ever believed about humanity.
An Intention of Flowers is the first book in a 5-book series, modestly titled Work of Art, about growing into the person you always wanted to be, making the most of what you have to give and not just what you have, and the power in each of us when we chose to be ourselves.
Author and occasional philosopher and monologist, Ken La Salle’s passion is intense humor, meaningful drama, and finding answers to the questions that define our lives. Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue collar roots, which have given his writing a progressive and environmentalist view. You can find a growing number of his books and performances available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at www.kenlasalle.com.
I remember watching a movie when I was a kid called Dangerous Minds, it was a about a teacher who goes into a high school to teach English to teenagers that were lost in the school system just passed along that most couldn't even read very well. I remember it had me on edge wondering if they were going to graduate with their lack of skills.
Reading this book really had me interested, not that even compares to Dangerous Minds movie! I kept reading each page, wondering if I was going to be right about how the characters are connected, did the rite of passage work. Was it more in his head or was it more real than I thought. I don't want to give anything away from this book, because it touched my heart. I think this is a book all should read and hopefully open their minds. I enjoyed this book and I feel a connection with the characters like no other book I have read lately. Five pots of gold out of Five.