Tag: romance (page 1 of 2)

Introducing #Romance #Novella Laci & Del

Laci & Del by Staci TroiloStill celebrating romance during the month of February.

Today, I’m discussing the release of my first novella, Laci & Del: 12 Months, 12 Chances.

If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you might recognize these characters. I wrote this novella as serialized shorts in 2014. One story installment, once a month, on the first Friday.

You might be inclined to say you’ve already read it. Well, I’ve made a few changes. And I added a bonus scene at the end. So even if you remember the story, there’s still new content for you.

The best part? It’s totally free!

Here’s a brief description:

It’s been a year, and Laci Marks still hasn’t gotten over her break up with Del Keegan. She attends a New Year’s Eve party hoping to snap out of her ever-present funk, but the frivolity only upsets her more. Unable to navigate the crowd and retreat to the sanctuary of home, she slips out onto the balcony to avoid watching all the couples kiss when the ball drops.

But her private moment is ruined by someone joining her outside—Del.

Laci wants nothing more than to escape, but Del has other things in mind. Soft words and softer lips convince her to stay. And to try again. Thus begins a tumultuous twelve months of love and laughter, fear and failure. They still have the passion, but they also still have all the same problems.

Twelve months from their reconciliation, and nothing is resolved. If anything, Laci feels worse than ever. How many chances can she give their relationship before just giving up? And how many chances is Del willing to take on her?

I was going to post about this on Friday, February 5, but I decided to wait and make sure the upload went smoothly. It took a while, but all the kinks are finally worked out. So, a little late (I missed my opening day blitz), but I’m sharing it now.

One last thing. If you haven’t already purchased Type and Cross or Bleeding Heart and would like to, my publisher is running a sale from Feb 5 to Feb 19. You can pick up either one of them for under a dollar! Other Oghma Creative Media books are on sale, too.

I hope you share this with your friends and take this opportunity to download and read it yourself. Happy Early Valentine’s Day!

Revisiting #PNR Bleeding Heart

bleeding heart 600So, as promised, Monday posts in February are devoted to my romance work. Today, I’d like to take another look at Bleeding Heart, Book 1 of the Medici Protectorate series.

The idea for the series came to me from my beloved grandfather, John Naccarato. The 30th anniversary of his passing was yesterday, February 7, so I think remembering him and his legacy is a fitting thing to do right now.

When I was young, I used to sit on my grandfather’s lap and ask him to tell me stories. One that really stuck with me was of his father’s birth. My great-grandfather never met his dad. He was the illegitimate son of Italian nobility. I used to dream that someone from that family would come and take us to Italy, would recognize my family as one of their own and welcome us into their country and their lives.

I guess it was my own version of the Princess Diaries. Only my version was steeped in reality but never came to fruition.

Italian Americans

My Great-Grandmother, My Grandfather, and His Siblings

Several years later, that story of my grandfather’s heritage still lingered on my mind. I was considering different story ideas, and my kids—who I’d told the story to—told me I should I begin with that premise. It sounded like a great idea. And because my kids suggested it, I wanted them to be part of the process. They both hold black belts in TaeKwonDo, and at the time were training heavily with weapons. So the concept of unbreakable daggers was born. And because my kids loved fantasy, a magical element was thrown in.

I’m currently writing the third installment of the Medici Protectorate series. The storyworld and plots have been developed for years. (Book 2, Mind Control, is complete and with the publisher. Expected release date is May 20, 2016.) And to me, even though it’s no longer my grandfather’s heritage story, I find it to be the perfect blend between my ancestors and my children. I think my grandfather—and hopefully his father—would love it.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

It was supposed to be a soft kiss, barely a tender caress. Just enough to whet his appetite and tease hers. But when his mouth met hers, a dark desire awakened in him. He fisted his hand in her hair and pulled her to him, claiming her with a deep, passionate kiss.

So, there you have it. A never before released excerpt from Bleeding Heart. If you’d like more information, you can find it on the Bleeding Heart page. If you want to read the first chapter (plus a little more), it is available for free in the sidebar. And if you’d like to read the whole novel, you can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.

Oh, and a reminder. Type and Cross and Bleeding Heart are currently on sale, but the price will be going up after February 19. If you want them but haven’t purchased them yet, now’s your chance to get them for under a dollar a piece.

Anyway, I’d love to know what you think about Bleeding Heart, the premise, or about alchemy and powers. Let’s talk about it.

Passionate Kisses 3

Looking for something steamy for Christmas? Look no further.

Continue reading

A Lamentation of Swans, Part 2–A First Friday Fiction Feature (#FFFF)

It’s that time again. Time for another First Friday Fiction Feature (#FFFF). Other free feature stories can be found on my Pinterest page (a shared short story board) and on the Freebies page of my site.

Today’s offering is the continuation of last month’s story. If you haven’t yet, you should read the first installment before continuing. To read Part 1, click here.


A Lamentation of Swans, Part 2

She hadn’t taken a single step since her fall.

When the hospital released her, she was to go to physical therapy. But she made Jeremiah take her home. He carried her into the house, and she spent her days transferring herself from wheelchair to furniture and back.

She lost track of time.

windowOne day, while reclining on her chaise, listening again to the soundtrack of her former glory, Jeremiah came in and opened the drapes.

“Jeremiah. What are you doing? Close those at once.”

“I’m sorry, madame, but I will not. You can’t stay closed up in here. It’s time you begin your recovery.”

“Recovery? There’s no coming back from this. Close the drapes and leave me be.”

“Many pardons, madame, but I can’t do that.”

Anita brought in a tray loaded with a giant vase of fresh cut flowers, three bottles of mineral water, crusty bread, cut fruit, and assorted cheeses.

“Anita.” Juliette’s tone hid none of her annoyance. “Take this away and bring me my juice.”

“Juicing isn’t eating, ma’am.” She took the vase and put it on the end table where Juliette could easily see it. “There’s precious little nutrition in it.”

“Especially with vodka in it,” Jeremiah said.

“Jerem—” Juliette started.

Anita interrupted her. “You need good, hearty meals. It’s time.”

“Time? Time for what?”

“Ramon thought you’d like to see the fruits of his labors. He brought these cut flowers in for you. I told him that’s the last vase he’ll need to fill. You’ll be going out to walk the gardens from now on.”

Juliette fought back the tears. She’d love to walk the gardens. She’d give anything to walk anywhere at all.

Damn her staff. Damn them all. They didn’t understand. How dare they do this to her?

“Come on, ma’am. Sit up and eat. We have a lot to do after lunch.”

“And what would that be, Anita? Are we running a marathon? Hiking the Appalachian Trail?”

“I don’t see why you couldn’t do those things, after training for them.”

“Get out,” Juliette whispered.

Jeremiah approached the chaise and stooped down beside her. “Do you have any idea how long you’ve been hiding in here?”

Juliette turned and looked outside through a curtain of tears. She had no idea how long it had been since the accident. It had been even longer since she saw her beloved swans. She watched through the glass as they bent graceful necks to the water, then stretched them up to the sky. She couldn’t hear their trumpets, but she knew just what they sounded like.

Like they were calling to her.

swans babies“It looks like the flock of swans is getting bigger,” she said. “There are babies out there.”

“Lamentation,” Jeremiah said.

“What?”

“Lamentation,” he repeated.

“I know what lamentation is,” she said. “But no one’s crying.” She wiped her face, making sure none of her tears still showed on her cheeks.

“No, madame. The swans. They aren’t a flock. They are a lamentation. Groups of swans are called lamentations.”

“Lamentations.” She reflected on that tidbit for a moment. A lamentation of swans. It was sad. Poetic and dramatic, but sad.

Just like her.

“I miss them,” she whispered.

“They miss you too, madame.”

“Will you wheel me out there? I should like to see them. I’ll take them some bread.”

He looked down at her. “Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to accompany you down there.”

Juliette reached for her wheelchair, intent on swinging herself into the seat and being wheeled down to the pond.

But Jeremiah pushed the chair out of her reach.

“Jeremiah! What are you doing?”

The doorbell rang, but neither Jeremiah nor Anita moved.

Who in the world could that be, anyway? No one visited. Not in years. And she was glad. She didn’t want to see anyone, anyway. But curiosity got the best of her.

“Well, isn’t anyone going to get that?”

Ramon entered, followed by two gentlemen in black pants and purple polo shirts. The logos on their breast pockets read ALLEGRO PHYSICAL THERAPY.

“No one answered the door, so I let these fellows in,” Ramon said. “This here is my nephew, Pablo. And this is his partner, Tobias.”

Juliette dropped her head and sighed.

Anita said, “Come on. I’ll show you to the ballroom. You’ll have the most space in there.” She led the gentlemen out of the room.

“Do you require my assistance during your session, or will you be all right on your own?” Jeremiah asked her.

The ballroom? Of all places. She hadn’t even looked at the closed doors since she began her convalescence. “I’m not having therapy, so it really doesn’t matter.”

“Very well.”

He scooped her into his arms and started walking toward the door.

She swatted at him, but his body was hard and hers was weak. She imagined she had little impact on his efforts and stopped, saving her hand further injury.

“Jeremiah, please. Put me down.”

“I will, Juliette. In the ballroom.”

“Juliette? You’ve never called me that before. Even when we first met and I asked you to. You said it wasn’t appropriate.”

He stopped outside the ballroom doors. “You’ve never been in my arms before.”

Before she could react, he carried her inside and placed her in the care of her therapists.

* * *

bridal coupleTherapy sessions came and went. More years passed. Juliette’s family–Jeremiah, Anita, and Ramon–nursed her back to health. And, because of them, Juliette once again found love.

She had her second wedding on the lawn, her beloved swans in the background. As she stood with her new husband on the edge of the pond, tossing bread cubes into the water and watching the swirls of fuchsia and flame in the sky melt into the midnight inkiness of nighttime, she put her arms around his neck.

“Dance with me, Jeremiah.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. “I thought you’d never ask.”

The stars twinkled in the darkness, they and the moon reflecting off the still, dark water.

Swans trumpeted their approval at her choice.

“A lamentation of swans,” he whispered in her ear.

No more lamentations for Juliette. For the first time in forever, she was happy.


I hope you found this story enjoyable. I wrote it when I was a little sad, but like a true romantic, I pushed for the happy ending. However, as you know from part one’s comments, I originally had a far different (and much sadder) ending in mind. What do you think about happily ever after endings? Always, sometimes, or never? How would you have ended this story? Let’s talk about it. Leave a comment below.

An Author’s Embarrassment of Riches

Bleeding Heart BannerThe author community has to be one of the best, if not the best, community to be a part of. I’m truly blessed and even more grateful that so many of my writer friends have been supporting me and the new release of my novel, Bleeding Heart.

Once again, today, I’d like to invite you to visit a fellow author’s blog and show her the same support she’s given me. I’m at Kate Hill’s site today, discussing my new novel. Please click on the link and stop by for a visit.

A Lamentation of Swans–A First Friday Fiction Feature (#FFFF)

It’s that time again. Time for another First Friday Fiction Feature (#FFFF). Other free feature stories can be found on my Pinterest page (a shared short story board) and on the Freebies page of my site.

Today’s offering is part one of a two-part story. It will conclude in next month’s #FFFF.


A Lamentation of Swans

ballerina“Juliette, you have to go look at it before someone else snaps it up. It’s perfect for you.”

Her toes bled, her feet swelled. She wanted nothing more than to hobble to her apartment and soak in a tub. But Selina, her real estate agent, insisted she tour the property the second the sellers listed it. So, despite her aches and pains, Juliette went to tour the place.

“See, it didn’t take you long to get here,” Selina said.

It really hadn’t. It was close to the dance school, yet set far enough into the country that she could escape the bustle of the city with a short fifteen-minute commute.

“Let me tell you about the place before you look around. It’s ten acres of pristine landscaping. The gardener, Ramon, is willing to stay on, and his fees are quite reasonable. In addition to the house and gardens, this place has its own tennis courts and swimming pool.” Selina swept her hand toward the back of the property, but Juliette couldn’t see past the stately columns in the front of the house.

“Let’s go in,” Juliette said.

“You’re going to love it.” Selina hooked her arm through Juliette’s and guided her inside. “The rooms are spacious. Look at these windows.” Every room seemed to have a wall of windows facing another gardening delight outside. Natural light flooded the rooms, seemingly expanding the already generous spaces.

“And you have to see this.” Selina led her down the hall to a formal ballroom. Hardwood floors gleamed in the late evening light.

“The ballroom could easily be converted to a studio for you. You can add a wall of mirrors and a bar over there” she pointed across the room, “and a sound system. You could workout whenever you wanted.”

That room did have potential. Not that Juliette often danced at home. She spent too many hours dancing at the studio, dancing on stage. Home was for rest. But, still…

Selina guided her to the kitchen, which she’d likely never use for anything more than juicing, but she listened politely while the merits of the space were gushed over.

“Granite countertops, cherry cabinetry, and professional-grade stainless steel appliances. Think of the parties you could host here. And I know a woman who’s looking for a job as a personal chef. Anita. She specializes in healthy gourmet meals. I’ll get you her card. You’ll love her.”

It was a good thing she had a trust fund. Every word out of Selina’s mouth amounted to more money.

They continued exploring the home. The splendor of the master bedroom was eclipsed only by the grandeur of the master bath. The rest of the bedrooms were also generous and well-appointed. The library boasted floor-to-ceiling shelves, and as she already had an extensive collection in storage, filling them wouldn’t be a problem.

“I know it’s a bit large, but you’ll want the space when you settle down, start a family. I can get you the number of several cleaning services, or maybe you’d prefer a butler? I know a–”

Juliette tuned her out. It was a big decision. So much to consider. The house had everything she could possibly want. But was she really ready to commit to it? She had the funds, but she didn’t have the family to fill the place. What if she never did? She couldn’t make up her mind.

Then she saw the natural pond in the back of the property. Swans floated on the nearly black water, their graceful countenances a sign to her.

She was dancing the lead in Swan Lake at the time. Seeing the swans on the property—her property—made it seem like fate. She made an offer on the spot and decided the rest would fall into place later.

And the pieces did fall. Quickly. Soon after moving in, she married the premier danseur in her troupe right on the back lawn, the swans an elegant backdrop to the festivities.

When she decided to stop dancing and start a family, she was happy with the decision. She thought her husband was, too. But as she gained weight, her husband lost interest. And when she lost the baby, he didn’t grieve. He just put her on a diet.

It wasn’t long after until she lost her husband, too. And good riddance to him.

She fought to get back into shape. Fought even harder to earn her the lead in several ballets.

And never quite hit either of her goals.

* * *

swansLife passed her by, and she retreated to her estate, no friends, no family.

Just her and her staff—Jeremiah the butler, Ramon the gardener, Anita the cook, and Roland the chauffeur. After the first five years of her self-imposed exile, she dismissed Roland.

It depressed her to lose him. After all, he was like family. But she didn’t leave her house any longer.

The house grew darker with her mood. She drew the drapes and stayed inside.

Occasionally she’d take a bag of bread cubes and stroll around the pond, feeding the swans. They trumpeted their joy at her offerings, but it only seemed to make her sadder.

Eventually, she stopped going to the pond.

Then she stopped watching them from her window, preferring to keep all the drapes drawn.

The only time Juliette was happy was when she danced. She wore out CD after CD of Swan Lake, dancing alone in her ballroom. But her feet didn’t move quite as nimbly as they used to, nor did she have any supporting dancers on the floor with her. Still, she felt light and carefree when she danced.

Then, one rainy afternoon, joints achy and muscles tight, she entered the ballroom and began her warmup. Too soon, she spun onto the floor and began the opening number to Swan Lake.

And she fell.

The pain was excruciating. Breath-stealing. It was moments, hours, days? She didn’t know how long she lay there before she had the strength and breath to call for help.

When Jeremiah found her, he rushed her to the hospital. She spent five days away from home, during which she endured countless tests and one surgery.

The doctors said she’d never dance again.

What they didn’t tell her was she’d never walk again.


I hope you found part one compelling. I’d love to know what you think might happen next. Are you rooting for a happy or sad ending? I’ll be honest–the ending I originally conceived is not the one I’ll be publishing next month. I completely changed my mind right before writing the end.

(Now that the conclusion has been published, you can read it by clicking here.)

Sex, Secrets, and Destiny… A Novel Approach to Romance

Bleeding Heart Front Cover 300If you’re a frequent reader of mine, you know I have a novel coming out. Bleeding Heart, Book One of the Medici Protectorate Series, releases August 11.

I’m so excited!

It’s available now for preorder on Amazon and iTunes.

If you still aren’t sure what it’s about, let me give you a brief description:

Warrior Gianni protects Franki, secret legacy of the Medici, from prophesied assassins. (You can tweet this, if you’d like, by clicking here.)

For a better description, here’s what you need to know:

After her father’s murder, Franki is targeted for assassination by an unknown enemy. She finds her safety depends on the Medici Protectorate, the warriors who guarded her bloodline and their secret for centuries.

Gianni, Franki’s protector, struggles to garner her trust. As he assumes his new role, he also undergoes inexplicable, explosive changes… transformations he can’t control.

Their worlds collide in passion and violence, and Franki struggles to trust Gianni. When her life is on the line, Gianni will have to conquer both her fears and his own personal demons to rescue her in time.

If that interests you, here are a few teasers from inside the book. I hope you enjoy the writing and love the design work as much as I do. (I think my designer, Casey W. Cowan, did a phenomenal job on them.)


Kiss Properly Indecently Teaser Amazing When Sweaty Teaser

Targets Teaser 2

In the garage 2


I hope you enjoy these. Let me know what you think.

#CoverReveal—Bleeding Heart, #PNR #Romance #Novel

medici protectorateAt long last, several years in the making, the first book in the paranormal romance series that’s so near and dear to my heart is about to be published.

May 12, Lagan Press will release Book 1 of the Medici Protectorate Series, Bleeding Heart. The idea for the series began with my grandfather and the stories he told about our heritage. This is clearly a work of fiction, but because it came to be from stories of my Italian ancestry, it’s a project I’m really excited about.

Today, I’m pleased to share with you the first look at the cover.

Bleeding Heart takes place in my home state (parts even in my hometown of Vandergrift), and the cover prominently features what I think is the most beautiful skyline in the world—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Here’s the back cover description:

In the heart of Pittsburgh awaits a secret nearly half a millennium in the making…

After her father’s brutal murder, Franki discovers she and her three sisters are the sole-surviving secret legacy of the Medici. The same people who brutally murdered her father now target her and her family for assassination. Unprepared to battle an unknown enemy, she finds her safety depends on the Medici Protectorate, the warriors who guarded her bloodline for centuries. The same warriors who failed to protect her father.

Gianni, Franki’s protector, blows his first meeting with her but knows he must garner the trust of not only Franki, but also her sisters. Without that, he fails, too, and that is unacceptable—not only to him but also to the Protectorate. His troubles only grow more difficult, for as he assumes his new role, he also undergoes inexplicable, explosive physical changes… transformations he can’t control. One of those is his uncontainable desire for Franki.

Their worlds collide in passion and violence, and Franki struggles to trust Gianni. When her life is on the line, he will have to conquer both her fears and his own personal demons to rescue her in time.

Here’s a brief glimpse inside:

He leaned toward her, and her breath caught. Finally, he was going to kiss her again, and put her out of her misery. Public be damned. She didn’t care if he had his way with her on the hood of her car.

They stood so close she felt his body heat through her clothes, his breath on her face. She looked up at him, and her lips parted.

And he reached behind her and opened her car door.

“Get in the car, Franki,” he said, and pushed on the top of her head.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak into the first installment of the Medici Protectorate Series. More is soon to follow, so stay tuned! (And if you can’t wait, go ahead and post comments below. I’ll be more than happy to talk with you about it.)

A Cross-Genre Conversation Between Characters

If you’re a regular visitor here, you know I’m a multi-genre author. (Actually, if you even glanced at the header, you know that. 😉 ) Sometimes it’s difficult marketing to different readers on the same platform, so I thought I’d do something a little different today. I’m going to introduce Royce and Vanessa (lead characters from Type and Cross, the first novel in my mainstream fiction series) to Gianni and Franki (lead characters from Bleeding Heart, the first novel in my romance series).

Maybe this will entice readers of one genre to try the other.

Maybe this will indicate similar themes in my writing, even as I work in two totally different worlds.

Maybe this will be a huge failure. (Oh well, live and learn, right?)

Without further ado, a merging of the Cathedral Lake residents and the Medici Protectorate.


Cathedral Lake 41_EmeraldEM-ViewRoyce and Vanessa packed the remains of their picnic back into the basket and folded the blanket. He took one last look at the lake, its dark water gently rippling and reflecting the clouds above on its surface. He looked over to the far shore, where families frolicked and lovers held hands. The terrain might be rockier on his side of the lake, but he’d never trade the privacy for the congestion of a flat beach.

He helped Vanessa climb the hill, and when they walked around one of the larger rocks, he almost stumbled over two people reclining at its base.

Reclining might be generous. The guy looked like he’d collapsed there. The woman fretted over him.

Royce dropped the basket and blanket to the ground and stooped down. “What happened?” He grabbed the man’s wrist, checking his pulse.

The woman batted his hand away. “Who are you? What do you want? What are you doing here?”

He recognized the signs of panic and desperation, drew on his expertise of years as an ER doctor to try to calm her even as he assessed the situation. “My name’s Royce. This is Vanessa. We were picnicking about a hundred yards that way.” He tilted his head back in the direction they’d come from. “We just came across you by accident.”

“He’s a doctor,” Vanessa said. “He can help.”

“No one sent you to find us?” the woman asked.

“No, no one sent us.” Royce reached for the man’s hand again. “I’m going to check his pulse. Can you tell me what happened?”

The woman didn’t move, but didn’t stop him that time. She shook her head, and tears formed in her eyes.

“Oh, honey,” Vanessa said. “It’s okay. It’ll be okay. Royce is the best.”

The woman squared her shoulders and wiped the tears away. “I know. Gianni will be fine. Everything is fine. You… you should go.”

“How long has—Gianni—been like this?” He was unconscious, but his pulse was strong and his coloring good. Royce couldn’t see any indication of what had caused his condition.

The woman bit her lip and stayed silent.

“What’s your name?” Vanessa asked.

She looked back and forth between the two of them and finally whispered. “Francesca. Franki.”

“Well, Franki,” Royce said. “I can’t help him if I don’t know what happened.” He took his phone out of his pocket.

“No!” Franki cried. “Not 9-1-1. No emergency people, no cops. Nobody.”

Royce looked them over carefully. The man wore boots, jeans, and a t-shirt, but they all looked like expensive brands… designer, and not knock-offs. The woman had on yoga pants, sneakers, and an old football jersey. Nothing about either of them said “Dangerous Criminal.” On the contrary, they looked like nice, normal folks. But something was wrong.

He swiped up on his phone screen to access the control center and touched the flashlight icon. Then he showed her the LED light glowing. “Not calling anyone. Just checking his pupils.” When he reached for Gianni’s eyelid, the man shook and jumped to his feet in front of Franki, knocking Royce back. He stood there, one arm out protecting her, the other searching for something behind him.

Royce had never seen anyone move so quickly, particularly someone so large. He scrambled to his feet and pulled Vanessa behind him. Nothing nice and normal about them, now. Everything about the guy screamed “Dangerous,” from his aggressive stance to his rapid, fighter-like movements.

“Gianni, right?” Royce asked. Vanessa’s nails dug into his arms even as he held them out in a we’re-not-your-enemies gesture.

Gianni pulled Franki further behind him. The muscles in his other arm flexed. He must have found what he was looking for. Royce didn’t want to know what that was. “Yeah. What’s it to you?”

“Yeah,” he said. “What’s it to you?”

“My name is Royce. I’m a doctor. My wife and I stumbled across you while we were walking to our car. I was trying to tend to you wounds, but I couldn’t find any. Want to tell me what happened? You might need to go to the ER.”

“I don’t need anything. I’m fine. Fast healer.”

Franki touched his arm and he bent down to let her whisper in his ear. He never took his eyes off Royce and Vanessa. When she finished talking to him, she stepped out from behind him. Gianni didn’t relax, but he shifted his gaze to her.

“I’m afraid we owe you an apology. You were just trying to help, and I think we scared you.”

Vanessa stepped out from behind Royce. When he went to shield her again, she batted him away. Holding out her hand to Gianni, she said, “I’m Vanessa. Nice to meet you.”

Gianni looked at her hand and glanced at Franki, then his whole body seemed to relax. He fiddled behind him for a second, then smiled, lighting up his features. Then he took her hand. “The pleasure is ours. I can just imagine what you must be thinking. My apologies. It’s just that Francesca is my responsibility, and—”

“Oh, give it a rest. I’m a person, not a job.” She shook Royce’s hand. “Thank you for trying to help us. I’m sorry I wasn’t more agreeable. But a girl can’t be too careful these days.”

“So, a doctor, huh?” Gianni asked and looked Royce over.

“ER,” he said.

“Chief of Emergency Medicine at Oakland Regional,” Vanessa said.

“Former Chief.” Royce shot her a pointed stare, which she didn’t seem to notice.

“Former? Are you retired?” Gianni asked.

“No, not retired.” He saw Gianni stiffen, recognized he’d better offer more information before things took an unnecessary, ugly turn. “We had a tragedy in the family recently. I’m taking a break, reassessing my future.”

Gianni continued to stare at him, while Franki said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Family tragedies really make you think about the future…” Her voice trailed off, and Gianni put his arm around her. Tears welled in her eyes again.

“Are you okay?” Vanessa asked.

She nodded.

“Look,” Gianni said. “We got off on the wrong foot, and for that, I’m sorry. But in all honestly, I’m not sure it’s even safe for you to be seen with us right now.” He started to turn away.

Vanessa touched his arm. “Are you all right? Can we help?”

Royce didn’t know that he wanted to be involved with a weepy woman and a barbarian of a man who basically flat-out stated they were a danger to be around, but he admired Vanessa for asking. No one ever offered them assistance when they most needed it. Leave it to her to remember how lonely that felt and try to help.

Again he smiled at her, but this time the warmth didn’t reach his eyes. “That’s kind of you to ask. But we have help. We just need to get home.”

“I have a first aid kit in my car,” Royce said and scanned him head to toe. “You’re welcome to any bandages or—”

“Thanks, but I’m fine.” Gianni said. “Like I said, I’m a fast healer.”

“You’re sure you’re okay?” Vanessa asked.

“You’ve been very kind,” Franki said. “Thank you. We won’t forget it.” And they turned and walked away.

It didn’t escape Royce’s notice that Gianni’s shirt was untucked in the back, and there was some kind of bulge under it. He couldn’t help but feel like they dodged a bullet. Maybe literally. He didn’t stop looking after them until they made it to the tree line.

“Do you think they’ll be okay?” Vanessa asked.

He shook his head. “I don’t know. Nothing seemed to be wrong with him, once he gained consciousness. Wonder why he passed out.”

“I don’t mean that. I mean what he said about being seen with them was dangerous. Someone must be after them. Or her, at least. He said his job was to protect her.”

Royce shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“I think there’s more there than bodyguard-client. Maybe if—”

He looked at her. “Really? Matchmaking now for perfect strangers? Potentially dangerous strangers? Let it go, Ness.”

“I think they’re going to make it.”

Royce scooped up his phone, the picnic basket, and the blanket. “I think we’re going to make it.”

She smiled and kissed him. “As soon as we get home.” She winked and headed up the hill toward their car. “Race you!”

It surprised him that she scuttled so quickly up the rocky terrain, but then again, she was motivated. And so was he. So he scrambled up the hill after her, thoughts already on the evening activities her comment promised.


Type and Cross, Book One of the Cathedral Lake Series, is a  Foyle Press book and is available for purchase now.
For more information, visit the Type and Cross page on this site.

Bleeding Heart, Book One of the Medici Protectorate Series, is a Lagan Press book and will be available this spring.
For more information, visit the Bleeding Heart page on this site.

Laci and Del: Giving Thanks Was Never So Difficult

It’s the first Friday of the month. Time for another installment of short fiction. You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features (#FFFF), by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.

Remember that 2014 is the year I’m trying serial work. This is part 11 of 12.

Laci and Del: Giving Thanks Was Never So Difficult

pilgrims and pumpkinsLaci loved autumn—crisp air, cozy clothes, football and hockey season, hearty and spicy foods—and Thanksgiving was one of her favorite holidays. She pulled her sweet potato casserole out of the oven and breathed in deeply. Ah, nothing could smell better. Except her mother’s turkey and stuffing. She pulled on her favorite sweater, loaded her casserole and pumpkin cheesecake into the car, and left for her parents’ house.

Yes, this was one of her favorite times of the year. But this year she couldn’t enjoy it.

Try as she might, she couldn’t get past her breakup with Del. The past few weeks had been torturous. She vacillated between knowing it was for the best, to staring at her phone praying he’d call, to almost dialing his number.

In the end, though, none of those were true. She didn’t think it was in either of their best interests to separate, but she couldn’t follow him, he shouldn’t stay, and he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to try to repair their relationship. He hadn’t contacted her once. Not one call. Not a text. Not a single email.

She sighed and bore left, her car automatically heading toward his apartment instead of her parents’ house. If she could maybe just get a glimpse of him before being inundated with family for the day, she might feel a bit better.

Or it might just make things worse.

She stopped at the corner of his street and stared, dumbfounded, at the sight in front of his building. A cab sat near the curb, trunk open, and the driver had exited and was helping Del load luggage into the back.

Definitely made things worse. She suffered the worst case of déjà vu ever. She struggled to breathe while the tears streamed silently down her cheeks. Of course he hadn’t tried to contact her. She’d told him to move on, and he was. Literally.

It was too awful to watch the cab driver pull away, taking her love and her future with him. Instead, she made an illegal U-turn and drove back the way she came. She didn’t get two blocks before the flashing lights in her rearview mirror indicated a problem. No one else was on the street. It had to be her. When the siren blared, she signaled and pulled to the curb. The police officer followed and, after parking behind her, approached her window.

“Miss, do you know why I pulled you over?”

Tears continued to fall, but now accompanied by wracking sobs. She nodded her head.

The officer sighed. “License, registration, and insurance, please.”

She fumbled in the glove compartment and produced the papers he needed. Then she got her license from her purse. Her sobs came like hiccups as she handed the information out the window.

“Miss, are you all right?”

She just shook her head. He produced a handkerchief from his pocket and passed it to her. “I’ll be right back.” He went back to his patrol car and did whatever took cops so long to do back there.

Laci tried to settle herself before he came back, mopping at her face and taking deep breaths. All she managed to do was smear her makeup.

He came back to her car and handed her information back to her. “You have a clean record, and I wouldn’t want to mess that up on Thanksgiving. Let’s consider this a warning. But be careful. And no driving until you’ve calmed down. Okay?”

“Okay.” It sounded more like “ah… ka,” but it was all she could manage to utter.

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

She nodded and offered a watery smile.

“Drive safely, Miss Marks.”

She offered him his hanky back, but he smiled and waved her off, then returned to his vehicle.

To Laci’s dismay, he didn’t pull out. She figured he was waiting for her, so she composed herself as best she could and left for her mother’s. He followed her to the bridge, then turned away.

The rest of her ride was uneventful. Because of her side trip and the subsequent stop, she arrived at her parents’ home late—right when the food was being placed on the table. No picking at turkey and stuffing right out of the oven this year. No matter, she wasn’t hungry anyway.

The house bustled with activity. The littlest children colored hand-outline turkeys while the older ones sang “Over the River” and danced around. The men walked sideways into the dining room, trying not to miss the last football play they’d get to see before dinner was over. Her mother and aunt hovered over the table, fussing over details while her cousin Clara snoodled up to her boyfriend Kyle on the couch. Everyone else must be in the kitchen, but she couldn’t see past the commotion in the dining room. Soon people filed to their seats from all corners of the house.

Far too many people, far too little room. Packed elbow-to-elbow and hip-to-hip, everyone—almost everyone—she loved clustered around the table. It was the kind of family event she adored.

And she didn’t know how she’d get through it.

Her dad looked at her and frowned, but he didn’t say anything. He just enveloped her in a hug and took the casserole dish out of her hand. Her mother reached for the cheesecake but stopped in her tracks. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Lying was just easier. “I got stopped by a cop on my way here, and I had to cry to get out of the ticket. Thank God it’s Thanksgiving. He was in a holiday mood and took pity on me. I got off with a warning.”

Thanksgiving mealHer mother frowned and took the dessert from her, weaving her way between the kid table and the adult table to put it in the refrigerator. Her Aunt Rose smiled and kissed her cheek. “Well, we’re just glad you’re here now. And what about your young fella? Where’s he?”

Her mother, reentering the dining room, cleared her throat and glared at her sister. “Help me pour, Rose.” She thrust a bottle into Rose’s hand, saving Laci from answering.

Laci swallowed her tears past the lump in her throat and wondered if she’d be able to eat anything. She knew it all smelled wonderful, but she was sick to her stomach and the aroma of the food just made it worse. Taking her seat, she grabbed her goblet of water and downed it in two gulps.

Her aunt got the children ginger ale while her mother walked around pouring Taittinger for everyone. Her father, at the head of the table, stood and tapped his fork against his champagne flute. Everyone grew quiet while he said the blessing, then he raised his glass.

“Another year, another wonderful spread. Another houseful of loved ones.” He turned toward Laci, but she couldn’t meet his gaze. She reached for her champagne flute and stared at the table. “I’m so grateful for all our blessings, and for each one of you. If you’d all raise your glasses…” When everyone had complied, he said, “For the bounty of Thanksgivings past, the blessings of Thanksgiving present, and the promises of Thanksgiving futures. Sláinte!

Laci mouthed the words as he spoke them. He ended every Thanksgiving toast the same way. This year, though, when everyone else drank, she put her glass down. She didn’t feel like celebrating. She didn’t feel blessed this year. And she certainly didn’t think her future was very promising.

Clara and her boyfriend managed to get to their feet without knocking over any chairs or crushing any toes. Clara clinked her fork against her glass, the crystal sounding shrill to Laci’s ears. When everyone looked at the couple, Clara said, “We have an announcement.”

Laci sighed. Clara always had something to share. Why it needed to be an announcement, she had no idea, but she refrained from rolling her eyes and waited.

Clara and Kyle wrapped their arms around each other, then Clara thrust her left hand into the air. “We’re getting married!”

The reaction was thunderous and immediate. Everyone did their best to extricate themselves from their seats and rush over to the young couple to offer congratulations. Everyone, that is, but Laci and her parents. Laci headed for the door, and they followed.

“Laci,” her mother said.

“I can’t, Mom. I’m sorry, but I just can’t.” She rooted through the pile of coats strewn on the stairs and found hers, second from the top. “Make my apologies, say whatever you have to. But I have to get out of here.”

“But it’s Thanksgiving,” her dad said.

She pecked him on the cheek and hugged her mom. “I know.” And she walked out the door.

Laci was really starting to get the hang of driving through a flood of tears. It had become the norm. She’d also grown accustomed to letting the car decide where to go, as she didn’t have the will or desire to direct it. For some reason, she was driving through the city again instead of heading home. The parade was long over, but in her mind she heard the echo of the marching bands, saw the horses and the floats, listened to the delighted squeals of the children as Santa made his way down the street. She liked to attend the parade every year, but this year she hadn’t been up to it. Now, the streets still littered with candy wrappers, soda cans, and confetti, it seemed so profound to her. Life was just like that parade. It was beautiful and exciting. And fleeting. And once the magic was over, all that was left was the tattered remnants. Until someone cleaned them up and disposed of them.

When she got to the bridge, she saw a street cleaning crew heading the way she had come. Too bad she couldn’t hire them to clean up her mess.

Point Park FountainShe drove across the bridge, not bothering to look at the fountain at The Point, the paddle boats on the river, the incline on the hill. Those were things she never missed; the city was gorgeous and the sights always lifted her spirits. But that day, she didn’t care. She just went where her car took her.

And cried when she ended up on the Coal Mountain overlook. The place Del had taken her on Valentine’s Day.

She put the car in drive and headed home, her heart broken and her mind reeling. Would she ever be thankful for anything again?

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