Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Holiday  ➡  Humorous

’Tis the Season for Cocoa and Reading: Holiday Stories and More

p<>{color:#000;}.

 

 

Tis the Season for Cocoa and Reading

Holiday Stories and More

 

Tamara Philip, Chelle Cordero, Malcolm R. Campbell, Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard,

Neva Squires-Rodriguez, Charmaine Gordon, and Lauren Shiro

 

Tis the Season for Cocoa and Reading

Holiday Stories and More

Copyright 2016

Published by: Vanilla Heart Publishing

 

 

TABLE of CONTENTS

 

That Christmas Feeling

Tamara Philip

 

A Date With Mistletoe

Chelle Cordero

 

Jock Stewart’s Holiday Hilarity

Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Dead for a Night

Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Esperanza-The Holiday that Wasn’t

Neva Squires-Rodriguez

 

Surprise in August

Charmaine Gordon

 

The Gift

Lauren Shiro

 

 

More Great Books by These Authors

 

More Holiday Stories

 

Ebooks for All Devices

 

Audiobooks

 

Print Books

 

Translation Editions

 

 

Vanilla Heart Publishing

 

 

 

That Christmas Feeling

Tamara Philip

 

Chapter One

 

There’s a certain type of nostalgia that only the holiday season can elicit; the crisp air crackling with the sound of dried leaves and pine needles crunching on the ground, the faint scent of burning wood, which traveled an unknown distance to tickle your nose just so. Or, maybe, it’s the feel of a warm mug of a spiced hot beverage as you wrap your hands around it for the first time. Perhaps it’s the first time you walk through your quiet neighborhood at night and see Christmas lights all lit up, the bright greens and reds twinkling cheerfully, beckoning you like a beacon in the calm darkness. These are the things that make your soul sigh in satisfaction. They make the holidays stand out for you, tricking you into thinking that maybe this year it will be better. Maybe this time, he would come back home.

“Jada, what are you doing out there in the cold? Get your butt inside and warm up.”

“Coming, Mama,” she shouted, standing up from her old childhood swing set and dusting off her jeans. Sighing deeply, she let her melancholy mood wrap her up like a knitted scarf.

It had been 725 days and 3 hours since Cary left. Cary with hair so red you could find him in a crowded room. No matter the backdrop, his fiery curls stood out, drawing every eye to him when he entered a room. Pairing that with his pale, freckled, skin and sparkling green eyes, he wasn’t easily missed amongst the multitude of ethnicities that made up their hometown in Briarwood, Queens. Jada, on the other hand, well…she faded into the crowds, most of the time on purpose. But even if she wanted to be seen, her rich brown skin was practically common place. Standing at an average height, not even her build was exceptional; no hourglass figure that caused strange men’s eyes to watch as she walked by. Jada was just a little too heavy to be considered slender and a little less curvy to be considered voluptuous. Quiet, thoughtful, Jada with her nose always in a book, who spent her first year at college stuck in her dorm room or in the library studying in preparation for make-believe tests in an effort to ignore the fact that she didn’t even know when parties were being held. Trying to ignore the fact that she had not made a single friend nearly six months into the semester.

It was why she was so taken aback the very first time they’d met. A cute guy seeking out her attention, out of all the gorgeous girls on campus? Highly unlikely, and yet that’s exactly what happened that faithful day three years ago.

It still made her smile thinking of the way he burst through the university library doors with a loud bang, that one stormy afternoon in October. The noise made every one look up, startled, and there he stood, soaked to the bone, drenched from head to toe with a pile of hard covered text books tucked inside his jacket. He looked dorky, yet adorably kerfuffled, his hair sticking out every which way when he pushed his hood down. Jada stared longer than she normally would, distracted at first by Cary’s noisy entrance, then by the feeling of butterflies flittering and fluttering in her tummy when their eyes met.

She looked away, blushing hotly once she realized he’d noticed her staring, but it was already too late for her. Jada knew it, even as she studiously shuffled her papers around, pretending to organize the already color-coded files, filled with research for her 50 page forensic psychology thesis. She knew from the way his face lit up as he smiled her way. She wasn’t as shocked as her thudding heart portrayed her to be when he pulled the chair across from her.

“Hi, I’m Cary. Cary Sedgemoor.” It was all he’d said that afternoon, and she was already a goner.

Unremarkable is what she always described herself as, but when Cary kissed her later that afternoon under the oak tree, with cool lips that tasted of mint and oranges, she felt anything but. That was the day she decided she never wanted to kiss anyone else, that even if she had to wait forever, Cary Sedgmoor was the only man for her.

Cary was tall, much taller than her 5’4 height, even sitting down. She had to tilt her face upwards just to look at him. Halfway through their conversation, she had memorized every freckle that sprinkled across his nose and melted inside each time his emerald-colored eyes glanced at her mouth as she spoke.

Cary grinned the whole time the day they met. It was infectious, and by the next day, her face hurt from smiling back, her voice was hoarse from talking and laughing until late into the night with him. It was as if they’d had their first four dates all at once. They went from the library to the coffee shop, to the late night French café, which specialized in cream-filled strawberry crepes, before taking the long scenic route back to campus. He walked Jada to her door, holding her hand the entire time, then kissed her a sweet goodnight. They were inseparable after that.

He was the love of her life and now he was gone. How could she ever come to terms with that?

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Rubbing at her eyes roughly with the back of her hands to fight off the first prickles of tears, she sucked in a deeply fortifying breath before opening the door to follow her mother inside. The warm cinnamon-infused air enveloped her in its calming embrace, even as she shivered in the foyer, blowing on her frozen fingers. The elaborate festive decorations in nearly every room of the expansive two story house alerted her all at once that it was already Christmas Eve. Her mother had already placed cookies for Santa near the fireplace. It was nice to know her mother kept that tradition going, even though the youngest kid was a sophomore in high school.

“Where are Walter and Barry?” Jada inquired, glancing towards her younger siblings rooms, expecting to see them come bounding down the stairs so she could bear hug them.

“Your brothers are already on their way to Daniella and Paulie’s house. They headed there straight from the mall,” her mom said as she bustled around the living room fluffing pillows and straightening already straight curtains.

“Oh, okay. I was hoping to see them today, you know, before the whole holiday thing.”

“Well, if you would come to the party, then you could.” Her mother responded, eyeing her shrewdly.

“I don’t know. I mean, I haven’t seen Danny since high school, not since the accident with his zipper…” Jada stopped talking and blushed. Changing the subject she quickly blurted, “It would be weird to turn up at his sister’s Christmas party, you know? We were just kids back then and we were young…”

“No, it wouldn’t! He asks after you every time I see him at his bookstore in the mall. What do you mean an accident with his zipper?”

“Mom, don’t start this again.” Jada sighed, deeply and tried really hard not to roll her eyes as she walked away quickly to avoid further probing.

“Start what? I’m just telling you that your best friend from school wished you’d kept in touch. Nothing else.”

“Yeah, he certainly liked touching…” Jada mumbled under her breath.

“Besides, I heard he’s dating someone, anyway. A real life princess or something.”

“What!?” Jada asked in awe.

“So, you see, he moved on. Now it’s your turn!”

“I did move on!” She answered, defensively.

“Yes, I know! To Cary…” Her mother trailed off, shooting a worried glance her way.

“It’s different, Mom. You know that.”

“I know, honey, I know, but it’s been nearly a year since the crash. Isn’t it time you come to terms with the fact that Cary may be dead?”

Jada stared at her hard, and her mother stared back just as hard in return. “He could be lost in the jungle right this minute. You don’t know!”

“Lost in the jungle. Wow.” Her mother openly scoffed.

“You don’t have to be so insensitive.”

“I’ll stop when you stop being so delusional. Someone has to keep you tethered to reality.”

“He promised, Mom. He promised he’d come back to me,” is all she’d reply in her quiet way that drove her mother up the wall. Ignoring her mother’s fretful pleas, that she was wasting her youth on a doomed man, Jada’s hope never wavered.

 

Chapter Three

 

When Cary won a fellowship grant to study birds in Costa Rica and finally put his ornithology degree to use, Jada couldn’t have been more proud and excited for him; she even purchased a luggage set for his graduation present. Not once did she worry about their relationship suffering from the long distance curse. She was beyond certain that together, they could weather any storm. They were rock solid, yet calls and emails began tapering off within the first few months.

It was only meant to be a six month program, but the night before he was supposed to get on the plane, Cary called her and said there had been a change of plans. He was offered an extension on his grant and he was going to stay another three months. Then another extension happened, and another, until it was practically two years since he’d initially left. Their nightly Skype sessions became weekly five minute phone calls, before fizzling out to random text messages, updating her of his adventures in less than 300 characters. It was only the always present “love you” at the end of each transmission that left her with any hope at all.

It took her days to work up the courage to broach the subject with him on one of their weekly calls. Jada was acutely aware of the pressures his work had him under, but their relationship depended on them clearing the air about how his neglect made her feel. It was the longest call they’d shared over long distance, clocking in at one hour and 38 minutes. She hadn’t known that it would be their final conversation.

Cary had been understanding and apologetic, and relief had seeped through Jada’s very being as each minute ticked on. By the time they’d hung up, their relationship was stronger for it. The very next day, he’d booked a two week vacation back home to see her with his flight leaving very late that same evening. He’d wanted to surprise her, to make things right with her. He wanted to build on the promise he’d made to her on that final, fateful, phone call.

“We’re in this for the long haul, baby. There’s nothing in this universe that could ever keep me from being with you. I’d move mountains if I had to. I promise you that, Jada.”

Cary’s plane disappeared near the Costa Rican rain forest in the early morning, while the sun was still tucked in its bed. They found no debris, no bodies, no plane, but to Jada, that meant there was still a chance.

After the first four months passed by with no news, she was strongly urged to give up. To grieve and let go. Even Cary’s family accepted his dismal fate, but Jada demanded absolute proof of his death and until that day came, not one person, real or imaginary, could convince her that Cary was gone for good. Until they found his body and she saw it with her own two eyes, Jada would never believe he was gone. There was no way in hell that she could let go of him that easily. He wasn’t gone; she could feel it deep down in her bones.

“He’s not gone. Cary isn’t gone,” she insisted, firmly.

“I can’t talk to you when you get like this. It’s been over seven months since the crash, Jada. You have to let him go.”

“I’m not listening to this!”

Jada grabbed her coat and stormed out of the house with her mother’s words ringing in her ears.

“You have to say goodbye.”

She practically ran to the shed in her back yard. The rusted red finish on the small metal building soothed her just on sight alone. The familiar scent of peppermint and soil filled her with a sort of aching peace. Jada didn’t even bother to turn on the light switch; she knew the layout by heart.

She found the dusty futon that sat beside a work table filled with small plant pots and sat down heavily, breathing out a deep sigh in her frosty haven. Cary had built this for her the first summer they spent together, citing that any future botanist worth her salt should have a place to perfect her craft. Her parents hadn’t found it as romantic as Jada did, but begrudgingly grew to accept it.

After that, any time she was back home from school, Jada spent the majority of time in her shed. Most of the time, Cary was there with her, keeping her company while she tended to her plants or to study beside her, cuddled together on the futon.

It was the only place she could go and feel close to Cary. Perhaps it was the peacefulness that made her believe that she could feel his presence around her. It felt lonely and freezing cold being there without him, but it was better than the alternative, going back into the cozy yet stifling warmth of her family home, with her mother waiting inside to crush her hope some more.

Chapter Four

 

She found his hat, an old beret-type deal, which she had hated but he had considered to be part of his beatnik phase, tucked in a forgotten corner of the futon. Gingerly, she brought it to her nose and sniffed it, suddenly overwhelmed by the lingering smell of his cologne trapped within the dark gray fabric.

Instantly transported back to the last time they were in the shed, Jada remembered the feel of his broad shoulders as he wrapped his arms around her waist, of tracing her fingers through his fiery red hair, and loving the way being close to him made her feel.

She closed her eyes and breathed in deeper. She missed Cary so much, even that silly wiry moustache he had tried growing once that tickled her whenever he nuzzled her neck. Jada especially missed the feel of his skin against her lips when she pressed soft kisses against his back while he slept soundly beside her.

“It was my fault you were on that stupid plane.” She murmured out loud. She’d taken to talking to an imaginary Cary whenever she found herself at a particularly low point.

Lately, he’d even started to reply back.

“Nope, I purchased the ticket and decided to surprise you.”

They stayed quiet for a long time after that, only the sound of breathing could be heard.

Jada shivered violently. The cold seemed to seep deep down inside her bones.

“Don’t fall asleep,” Cary warned in a voice encased in fog.

“What? Why would I fall asleep? I’m not even tired,” she replied stubbornly through chattering teeth.

“You’re so cold.” Cary wrapped his arms around her and she found herself melting into the embrace. He didn’t feel any warmer than she did temperature-wise, but Jada didn’t mind one bit.

“I was never mad at you, you know? I just missed you so much. I didn’t want you to forget me,” she mused sleepily as Cary stroked her hair.

“I know.”

“You should have called by now. If you’re alive, you should have called. I just need to hear your voice.”

“I know, baby. I really wished I could.”

“I’m so glad you’re back.”

“I had to see my girl again didn’t I? Open your eyes, Jada.”

“Too tired.” She whispered.

“Open those pretty eyes for me, baby. Please”.

Jada struggled to part her heavy lids, but she finally did, tiredly.

“I have to go soon.”

“Go where? Can I come with you?”

“Sorry, sweet face. You can’t go where I’m going.”

“Why not? Please let me go with you,” she cried urgently, tears streaming down her face.

Cary kissed her forehead, both cheeks, and nose, before lovingly reaching her lips. Jada clung to him, desperate to keep him there in that moment. He smiled warmly down at her, the utmost affection etched on his face.

“I need you to live. Okay? I need you to let me go so you could live.”

“I can’t! Please don’t leave me. Cary? Please don’t go,” she begged, but he was already gone.

 

Chapter Five

 

“Jada! Wake up! Wake up! Jada! Please wake up!”

A terrified Whitney Wallis shook her oldest daughter urgently as she laid curled on the futon with lips so pale they were nearly a purplish blue, her dark brown skin a frosty gray. Jada wasn’t breathing when she checked her faint pulse and felt icy skin against her warm fingers.

“Daryl! Call 911! Jada stopped breathing! Hurry!”

Jada woke with a start and a heart so full of grief, it could burst. The first thing she saw was her mother’s worried, distraught face.

“Mama, he was here. Cary was right here with me.”

“Oh, Jada,” Her mother sobbed, clutching her tightly to her.

“He’s gone isn’t he?” she asked quietly.

“They found his plane, honey. That’s what I came down here to tell you. It’s all over the news. I’m so sorry, Jada.”

Jada closed her eyes, suddenly so tired she could barely think.

Faintly she could hear Christmas carolers singing Silent Night, as they moved closer to her house and she thought that was apt because right now, she longed for such a night.

“Jadey pants you have a guest and you won’t believe…” Her father called out as he approached from the backyard.

“Daryl didn’t you hear me calling you? Did you call 911? Your daughter nearly died out here in the cold.”

“What? You okay, baby girl?”

“I’ll be fine, Daddy. Good thing you didn’t call for an ambulance, huh?” Jada half-joked, standing up slowly with both her parents’ help.

“Well it would save us an expensive ride. I could drive us there faster and cheaper.”

“Daryl, stop talking! She needs urgent care!”

“Whitney, she’ll be fine after she sees her guest. Trust me!”

“What guest? Who cares about some guest! My baby nearly died right in this stupid shed.”

“Trust me, Whit! She’ll care about this particular person. Come on, let’s give them some privacy. Wrap up in this smelly blanket first, okay? See, nice and warm. Now, wait right here, Jada.”

 

Chapter Six

 

A short while later, she heard the shed door open and close. Right away, she could tell by the sound of the heavy booted footsteps that it wasn’t her mother, who downright refused to wear appropriate footwear. She felt his familiar presence even though the room was slightly too dark to see any details. Jada’s heart quickened in partial incredulity that he’d just suddenly appear on the very day she needed him to show up with her entire being. She couldn’t let go of the fervent belief that Cary would do just that. Yet there he was, standing in front of her looking very much alive and only slightly unkempt, facial hair wise.

Too nerve-wracked to reach the mere inches it would take to touch him, in case this was all in her head and shattering the fragile thread of a connection to him, she chose instead to break the silence.

“You finally grew a real beard.” Jada whispered hoarsely, her throat suddenly parched.

Cary barked out a surprised laugh, relief coloring his face at her observation.

“I just said goodbye to you. I only just let you go! If this is my mind playing tricks on me again…it’s pure cruelty,” she continued, shaking her head in pained confusion.

Cary smiled apologetically down at her, looking unbelievably, wonderfully real. This Cary put her conjured version of him to shame. He closed the distance between them, his sudden nearness dizzying in the best way.

“Are you really here or is this just a dream? You’re not dead, are you? Please don’t tell me this is you telling me goodbye from beyond the grave!”

A lone tear escaped down her face. Cary, who always knew just what she needed, pulled her into his arms.

“You are the love of my life, Jada Sanaa Wallis. Nothing was going to keep me away from coming back to you. I promised, remember?”

Jada wrapped her arms tightly around his waist and rested her head on the spot reserved specifically for her just below his shoulder, deeply inhaling his familiar scent.

“If this is a cruel trick my mind is playing on me…I couldn’t take it. Thinking I’d lost you nearly broke me! Please, be real!” she mumbled, shakily.

“I’m really here, Jada! Just listen to my heart beating in my chest. It’s yours, always and forever, until my dying day and maybe beyond that, if zombies are around when we’re both old and gray holding hands in the nursing home of our choosing.”

The tears flowed freely as she giggled at his words despite the questions bubbling unsaid in her chest. There would be time for that later, but for now she just wanted to hold him in her arms and love him until it no longer hurt.

 

 

Tamara Philip

After spending most of her life in New York City, Tamara Philip decided to let love lead her on an international adventure, where she’s met many amazing people and ate entirely too much. Tamara and her English-born husband, Chris, now split their time between the United Kingdom and The Caribbean.

The Trouble with Playing Cupid is her debut novel, and The Trouble with Romance her second. Writing has been her secret passion since childhood. Quirky female leads are her trademark.

On any given day you can find Tamara telling people what to do, enjoying life with her new husband, and working hard on her next novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Date With Mistletoe

Chelle Cordero

 

The laughter across the room amused Rachel as she plugged the lights in on the small tabletop Christmas tree and the electric Chanukah menorah. She adjusted the framed needlepoint of the Kwanzaa Kinara on a small tabletop display easel. Finally she took the last of the holiday decorations from the bag and set it on the bright red tablecloth, it was a large star for the Winter Solstice made from cinnamon sticks and star-anise clusters. It was a small feat, but her boss had asked her to please make sure that all of the December rituals were accounted for. With the disco ball being lowered at midnight, she had accomplished her task.

Rachel remembered the first holiday party she had ever attended with this company seven years earlier. It was a night of raucous and drunken behavior. Someone had even toppled the full size artificial Christmas tree. She had been so new back then and she barely knew anyone. When that very handsome department manager took a fancy to her, she was very happy to latch on. The company had a no fraternization clause so they kept their illicit affair quiet. Considering how many times they broke up and got back together again, she was sure it confused the few who did suspect the dalliance.

At some point about a year into their on and off again relationship, he proposed and she said not yet, but he took it as a no and there was another break up; he had even timed a two week vacation away from the office presumably to lick his wounds over the rejection. He came back and it was like nothing had happened, the affair continued and although he made a few references to a future together there was no more talk of marriage.

Almost two years after she started working at Croft-Stanwyck as a receptionist, Bryan was promoted and started taking out of town business trips. With the constant interruptions and their already rocky connection they decided to stop seeing each other. A few months later he called out of the blue and said he missed her, he asked her out on a lunch date. They fell right back into the old pattern still keeping their relationship out of the office. A few weeks later Rachel called him late one evening to wish him a happy birthday and invite him over for dinner. A woman answered the phone.

Thinking it might be his sister visiting, Rachel asked for him. “Hi, is Bryan home?”

There was a brief hesitation, “No, he had to step out for a bit.”

“Oh, sorry I missed him. I just wanted to wish him a happy birthday.” During their last break up Rachel had started entertaining the idea of marrying him even if she would be doing the proposing this time. And if that was going to happen she reasoned it was time to make friends with his family. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch who you are.”

“I’m his wife, Kathy.” The woman on the other end of the line paused and Rachel assumed the woman was letting the information sink in. “May I ask who’s calling and I’ll give him the message?”

The information had sunk in alright and Rachel felt as if she was drowning. “Uh, this is a friend from work, I’ll call him tomorrow.” She hung up the phone and cried.

The next morning she was waiting in Bryan’s office when he finally walked in. He smiled when he saw her and after closing the door behind him he walked straight to her and tried to put his arms around her. She side stepped him.

“What’s the matter?”

“I called your place last night.”

“Oh?” His expression changed as he drew in a deep breath. “Rache, I love you. Please let me explain…”

“How long have you been married?”

Head lowered he sat on the corner of his desk. “Six weeks.”

“And you didn’t think to tell me?”

“Would you have still gone out with me if you had known?”

“Hell no.”

“That’s why I didn’t say anything.” He looked at her and his eyes actually glistened as if he were crying. “I do love you. Kathy and I aren’t staying married, it’s just, she’s pregnant and I’m only staying until after the baby is born. And then you and I—”

“There is no you and I, never again. Don’t abandon your wife and baby for me. What kind of man does that?” Rachel felt like screaming at him but she knew they’d be heard outside. She didn’t care about him anymore but she was humiliated enough already.

“Please Rache, Kathy is my sister’s friend. We had broken up, you had already turned my proposal down and I missed you. I was really down and my sister fixed me up with her friend to try to help distract me. Only it went too far, I was a jerk and I slept with her. I made a mistake. I love you.”

Rachel watched him in disbelief, finally she had enough. “You know what, do me a favor and go to hell.” She left him in the office and used all of her strength not to slam the door as she left.

Keeping her head down she headed straight to the women’s restroom and immersed her face in cold water. When she could no longer keep the sobs in Rachel locked herself in a stall and cried as quietly as she could. She used her cell phone to call her office and told them she was sick and going back home, then she left without speaking to anyone on the way out.

Rachel hadn’t thought of Bryan in years. She thought it was odd that after so many years the memory was so vivid. When she came back to work two days later she was told that Bryan had requested a transfer to the company headquarters on the other side of the country. She was relieved not to have to deal with him ever again.

Her own professional career had fared well over the years, she was now assistant director of human resources and normally her responsibilities were more than finding holiday decorations, but she really enjoyed this. The job had a generous salary and since a few companies in the building shared a well-run childcare facility on the premises, it was easy for her to come back to work even after the birth of her daughter.

She looked towards the doorway, the place was filling up with employees and their families. It seemed that Denny and Chrissy were running late.

Rachel straightened the gift bags filled with dreidels, candy canes, Clementine oranges, chocolates, caramel popcorn and butter cookies. There was a pile of gaily wrapped age appropriate presents for all of the youngsters. This had been such a fun project and Rachel was looking so forward to watching everyone having fun. Her boss had the food catered and a small band was playing a wide assortment of holiday tunes. He had even thought of hiring babysitters from the childcare center so that all of the parents could stay and party long after the little ones got tired and cranky. As soon as her family arrived she would be enjoying the festivities along with everyone else.

“Rachel, the room looks terrific. You did a wonderful job.”

She turned to face her boss and smiled, “Thank you Mr. Connelly. It was a pleasure.”

He handed her a cup of egg nog, non-alcoholic. She caught a whiff of the nutmeg sprinkled on top, it was fragrant.

Connelly laughed, it was robust. “You looked like you were having a lot of fun setting all of this up.” He looked over her head. “So where are…”

“Probably stuck in traffic.”

“Well have fun. I’m going to go mingle.”

Rachel nodded and raised her cup towards him. “And thank you.”

She sipped her egg-nog and exchanged pleasantries with a few party guests.

“Rache?” He sounded unsure of himself.

Rachel almost dropped the cup when she heard that voice behind her. She turned hesitantly and faced a man she hadn’t seen for years.

“Bryan? What are you doing here?” Her eyes darted from Bryan to the doorway and back.

He took a step towards her and stopped as soon as he noticed her step backwards. “I came to town on business and I received an invite. I didn’t know if you would still be working here.” He shrugged and smiled. “I am so glad to see you.”

“Yes, I still work here.” She was uncomfortable at seeing the memory she had earlier come to life.

“How are you?”

Again he tried to approach her, she blocked him with her hand.

“Is your wife here with you?”

“No, we’re not together anymore.” He fidgeted. “She tricked me Rache, she told me that she lost the baby but I found out that she never was pregnant.”

She took a moment to absorb what he had said. “Wow.”

“I was a fool, a jerk. I never should have married Kathy, I was in love with you.” He reached out and stroked her arm. “I’ll be in town for a few days, can I take you out to dinner?”

“No.” She didn’t hesitate.

“Why not?”

She couldn’t get over the fact that he still looked like the guy who was so used to having his own way.

“Mommy!”

They both looked down at the little girl tugging at Rachel’s skirt.

“Mommy?” The girl raised her arms and Rachel picked her up.

“Hi Baby, did you just get here?” Rachel kissed her daughter on the neck and then looked out over the crowd.

“She’s yours?” Bryan was looking at the child curiously.

“Bryan, this is my daughter Chrissy.”

He studied the little girl. “Is she mine?” He asked in a loud whisper.

“What did you just say?” Denny’s voice was incredulous.

Denny startled Rachel with his sudden appearance, almost as much as she was startled by Bryan’s question.

“No she is not.” Rachel pulled her daughter’s face towards her as if shielding her from the other man.

Glaring at Denny, Bryan sounded more brazen, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure.” She was controlling her temper for her daughter’s sake. “Bryan, this is my husband Denny, Chrissy’s father.” She turned to Denny and noticed how angry he looked. “Sweetheart, Bryan used to work out of this office.”

“Obviously.”

“Sweetheart,” she waited for Denny to look back at her, “Can I have a few minutes, please?”

Denny was staring angrily at Bryan. Bryan’s stare matched the other man.

Finally Denny turned to Rachel and nodded. He leaned forward and kissed her as he took Chrissy back into his arms. “Come and get me when you are done, don’t be long.” He took his daughter and walked away as he promised to get her some food.

Rachel turned back to Bryan, she was fuming. “What kind of idiot are you?”

“It’s a possibility.”

She laughed at him. “Chrissy was born 14-months after Denny and I were married. There never was any possibility.”

“What is he, your rebound guy?”

“You are an egotistical idiot. Don’t even get me started on the comparison. Yes, I thought I loved you, but I never knew what love was until Denny came around. He loves me and I love him, we are in love. And more than that, I can trust him, something I never would have had with you.” She kept her voice low but in reality she didn’t care who heard her. “Now I am going to be with my husband and our daughter. I don’t know who gave you the invitation, but consider it rescinded. Get the hell out of here.”

Rachel turned her back to him and walked away never even looking back.

Chrissy was watching TV in her mother’s office, she was sitting on the floor eating from a plate of finger foods her father had gotten for her. Rachel and Denny were sitting on the couch talking quietly.

“One of your friends had told me that you were getting over a really bad break-up, I gather that he was the one.”

She sighed. “Yes. I was a lot younger and foolish and I thought he was somebody I could be happy with. I thought he broke my heart, I thought I would never find love again.”

For the first time Denny looked sad. “How did it feel to see him tonight?”

“Like I was a fool. I was a stupid girl back then. I was worried that I wouldn’t find love again. The truth is I hadn’t found it.” She took Denny’s hand. “I wasn’t expecting it. When you came into my life, that was when I knew the difference between infatuation and love, real love.”

“I do love you and I hope you don’t regret…”

“There is a Sara Teasdale poem and one line is very special to me, it makes me think of you. ‘But oh, it was my third love who gave my soul to me’.” She paused and turned to face him, “Denny, you have given me everything I could ever want or need. I am so glad that the thing I thought I wanted never came to be. You have taught me more about life and love and plain, unadulterated happiness than I ever thought possible. I have no regrets. I love you.”

“And I love you.” He pulled her closer and kissed her. He stopped to whisper in her ear, “I am so glad she is watching TV.” Then he kissed her again.

Rachel leaned her head on his shoulder, “Thank you.”

They sat quietly holding each other when suddenly Denny chuckled.

“What?”

He tried to keep a straight face. “What do you mean third love? Is there someone else you need to tell me about?”

She smiled back. “Well, I guess that would have to be my first school girl crush… when I was 14.”

“Okay, as long as we’re clear.” He sighed. “You know we really should be getting back to your office party.” They stood together. “Hey, is there any mistletoe hanging out there?”

“Yes.”

“Great. Consider it a date.”

 

 

 

Chelle Cordero

Chelle Cordero writes stories of Passion and Suspense. Vanilla Heart Publishing has published ten Cordero novels: Bartlett’s Rule; His Lucky Charm; Within the Law; Courage of the Heart; Final Sin; Hostage Heart; A Chaunce of Riches; Common Bond, Tangled Hearts; Hyphema; and Karma Visited. She is currently working on her next novel and promises another action packed adventure and heartwarming love story. Chelle has been writing both fiction and non-fiction for the bulk of her adult life and has been with Vanilla Heart Publishing since early 2008.

 

Her books have earned many plaudits which includes: Bartlett’s Rule was named one of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top Ten Reads for 2009; Final Sin was an Honorable Mention in the Fiction Category of the 2010 NY Book Festival and a 2009 Pushcart Prize nominee.; Hyphema won the Dec 9, 2011 Friday Book Cover Vote on the Shades of Love website; A Chaunce of Riches was Winner of D. Renee Bagby’s readers’ choice for The Best Overall First Chapter, April 2010; and Hostage Heart, Final Sin and A Chaunce of Riches had top ten finishes in the 2009 Preditors’ and Readers’ poll. Chelle was also featured in “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” published by The Author’s Show in 2010.

 

Chelle Cordero maintains an author’s blog at http://chellecordero.blogspot.com/, a promotional blog at http://ccepotourri.wordpress.com/, and offers a weekly writing workshop for Kindle Blog subscribers at http://bit.ly/pILcG. Her website http://ChelleCordero.com offers information on all of her books and her appearances. Bloggers and the media are welcome to visit Chelle’s media room at http://chellecordero.com/media/ with downloadable photos and other information.

Be sure to LIKE Chelle’s FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorChelleCordero and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChelleCordero. You can email Chelle at ChelleCordero(at)gmail.com.

 

Chelle lives in the northeast with her husband, Mark, and family. They have two adult offspring. Jenni (& Jason) and Marc (& Trish); they also live with three mischievous and spoiled pussycats, one of whom has taken up permanent residence on Chelle’s desk. Chelle is a full-time freelance journalist for multiple publications; her articles appear regularly throughout North America and she writes a monthly column on NYS Emergency Medical Services issues as a NYS Emergency Medical Technician (First Responder News).

 

 

 

Jock Stewart’s Holiday Hilarity

Malcolm R. Campbell

 

A Note from Jock…

 

My dear old daddy taught me that it’s better to receive than to give because once you have something you can be sure you have it, but when you give something it’s just as gone as yesterday’s clouds.

I lasted well into grade school with that philosophy working for me, mainly because I didn’t have anything to give anyway. But then Mrs. Cranston, my 7th grade teacher, really opened my eyes, partly because she took me to the doctor who discovered I had been blind since birth and partly because she made us put stuff under a big Christmas tree at the front of the room.

Try as I might, I can’t remember what I gave away: probably a torn-up baseball glove or the remnants of some used cherry bombs. But I know what I got. I got an operation at the Junction City Hospital that gave me perfect vision just in time for Christmas Day. The giving deal worked out fine for me that year.

Ever since, I’ve made sure to give until it hurts unless somebody, or perhaps a whole family, has gotten itself on my naughty list. Since you’re getting a copy of this Christmas booklet, you’re on my nice list. Make sure you stay there and we’ll all have a wonderful holiday.

Jock Stewart

 

Jock Stewart’s Thanksgiving Memories by Jock Stewart

 

Over the years, Thanksgiving dinners around our house in Junction City, Texas where I work as an investigative reporter, were apparently scripted by Stephen King or, perhaps the writers of “Twin Peaks” or “Doctor Who.”

These capsule memories will convince everyone who wasn’t invited to thank their lucky stars or the inept postman on their routes that the invitations never arrived.

•2002 – Turkey and smoker blow up taking out 27 windows of the Smith family’s house next door. Fire department called. Grandpa reminded by battalion chief that this has happened before. Grandpa punches chief and spends holiday in jail much to the family’s relief.

•2003 – Mother and Aunt Irene wake up at 4 a.m. to prepare turkey, discover it’s not quite thawed out, decide to drink Irish coffee until they can stuff turkey with Mother’s traditional radishes and spam stuffing, get soused and use too much sage. Most of family gets sick and spends holiday in emergency room.

•2004 – Nothing happens. Family decides this is the most boring Thanksgiving ever and resolves to do better in 2005.

•2005 – Two distant cousins get pregnant while mostly everyone is asleep on the couch pretending to watch football game. After a family vote, we decide that “stuff happens” and that we can all be thankful this year wasn’t a repeat of 2004.

•2006 – Two distant cousins bring their brand new babies and they (the babies) look like everyone else in the family. Nobody steps up to the figurative plate to take responsibility for 2005’s “stuff happens” because they’re all too busy getting the green apple quick step from Mother’s radish and apple pie. DFACS is called and confiscates the babies pending a full review.

•2007 – Everyone arrives drunk and nobody gets anything to eat until Dad fries up grits and jalapenos on Black Friday. Smith family gets disgusted and moves out of town until holiday is over.

•2008 – An argument begins during a missed call in the big football game. Grandpa settles argument by unloading his new 12-gauge shotgun into the TV set. Everyone laughs and agrees this is the best Thanksgiving ever.

•2009 – Family agrees to go their separate ways this year to promote family harmony. We eat at a fast food restaurant where the French fries are soggy and cold but not as bad as Mother’s French fries. We’re more thankful for that than you can imagine.

•2010 – Every gets their calendars mixed up and arrives a week early for Thanksgiving. By the time the holiday arrives we’re all sick of each other and go home.

•2011 – A political argument breaks out right after the turkey is carved. The blue state family members sit on one side of the table and the red state family members sit on the other. Grandpa throws stuffing at Uncle Walter whom we realize isn’t even part of our family and just dropped in to check the sump pump. We agree to hire TSA reps to maintain front door security in 2012.

•2012 – TSA reps confiscate Mother’s carving knife so we end up having to use a hedge trimmer at the table. The noise makes it hard to talk about anything. We’re grateful for that after last Thanksgiving’s blue state/red state argument.

•2013 – Things go smoothly without TSA goons at the front door until Grandpa boots up his new smoker in the guns and ammo closet. Nobody is harmed, but the smoker, the closet and multiple firearms are a total loss. We end up getting an injunction to ensure that Grandpa and a turkey smoker won’t be allowed in the house at the same time.

•2014 – Dad buys Stouffer’s TV dinners and we all agree our dinner has never tasted this good in the past. Mother’s feelings are hurt and she files for a divorce. Dad admits that some or all of the family’s extra children might be his. I hide in my room with enough crack to last until Christmas.

•2015 – Dad and Mom are back together again and are happily working in the kitchen preparing our surprise dinner. The place smells like sauerkraut and this doesn’t bode well. Fortunately, we ordered a 55-gallon drum of mimosas and will be well fortified against whatever happens.

•2016 – Due to the likelihood of a food fight or other violence due to election year disagreements, the Stewart family’s Thanksgiving dinner has been canceled, something all of us are thankful for.

 

JOCK STEWART’S HOLIDAY BOOK BUYING GUIDE

 

Since many of them (the authors) have bailed me out of jail for various misunderstandings with the local police force, I’m writing this column about local authors’ books that are gathering dust at the Main Street Book Emporium. These are books by people you’ve never heard of, but they’ve put their hearts and souls into these volumes and, what the hell, they (the books) are cheaper than a Happy Meal and make more nutritious stocking stuffers on Christmas Day.

Lust Behind a Motel 6 Billboard on Route 2, by Cane Molasses – a cautionary tale about a young man who lived behind a faded billboard on the road to Prairie View. When it rained, Zeke got wet. When the sun came out, Zeke got warm. When a bus of wayward cheerleaders broke down, Zeek got lucky until he had to start running from the linemen of the county.

Rats in the Birdbath, by T.Z. – Local rapper T.Z. turns his talents for profanity to fiction in this gritty story about a man who discovered that the rats in the birdbath tasted better than the sparrows. This is a dark urban fantasy that should be read primarily by people who believe the end of the world came and went already and that nobody noticed.

My Dustbunnies Don’t Eat Your Carrots, by Sally Hyde – A young man, who thoughtlessly ran out on his upscale family, is accused of murdering his mother-in-law because she purportedly made fun of the dust bunnies in his apartment. Hyde, who claims in the introduction that she was the mother-in-law who was murdered, says it took her years of communicating with wackos with Oui-Ja boards to get the truth into print.

Coffee Tables Without Books , by Lucille Smith-Whitson - A specialist in old furniture shows discouraging evidence that most coffee tables collapse sooner or later under the weight of expensive “coffee table books” that people never read. “People put books like 'Bombay Harlots' and 'The Glaciers *of Saudi Arabia' on their coffee tables to impress their friends. Yet, the dust on those books tips off visitors to the fact the host never cracked the cover,” writes Smith-Whitson. The result: the books pile up even after the cows come home and crack the table tops.

Write this Damn Book Yourself, by Clark Trail – Trail, who believes too many wackos are writing books these days and uploading them to Kindle and CreateSpace, has published a book with multiple cover-art inserts for desperate people who just can’t seem to get published in spite of the fact their writing looks like a theme out of a remedial English class. The secret: blank pages. Clark suggests non-writers pick the most exciting cover art, fill in the blank pages, and display the books on their coffee tables.

The Shooting of Dan McGrew’s Brother, by Joe Smith – At a press conference Smith claimed that even though this book appears to be a ripoff of the famous poem by Robert Service, he (Smith) thought the whole thing up last year when he and a bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon.

51 Shades of Purple, by Bambi Hill – This tell-little book by a young woman who claims to have slept with many of the world’s still-living monarchs, shows that most of the kings were drunk or bored when the one-night-lie-downs occurred at a Motel 6 on Route 2. “Kings are not as powerful as you think,” Hill gushes in the introduction.

How to Repair Your Betamax, by Clyde Clinton – After discovering most Radio Shacks and other geeky stores no longer have Betamax repairmen, Clinton uses his own collection of vintage units do demonstrate everything that can possibly go wrong with them. He says that while he has sold only one copy to a Betamax museum, he hopes the thing will one day “go viral.”

Emily Dickinson: The Biker Babe Years, by Norma “Harley Girl” Johnson – Johnson re-imagines the life of the famous poet as a “hot momma taking names and kicking asses vixen who rides with a group of hell raisers called The Cardboard Monkeys.” Johnson pushes the envelope in this novel, especially in the chapter called “Going Down On the Road.”

The Homogenization of the American Family , by Robert Elderberry and James S. Mason - According to Elderberry and Mason, new research charting the DNA of 99% of America's families, shows that “more children that previously known” were fathered by milkmen who were supposed to be delivering milk rather than babies.” Elderberry told reporters at a Main Street Book Emporium launch party that he got most of the data by hacking into the NSA's secret database of real and imagined ancestors.

Give the gift of books. Your friends will never forget you for filling up the blank space on their coffee tables because who the hell drinks coffee in the living room these days.

 

 

NEW INTERSTATE BLOCKS ROAD TO GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE

Junction City, TX—The old road leading over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house was officially torn out this morning for the opening of a new transcontinental interstate highway, transportation brass announced here today after finishing the last of their Thanksgiving turkey.

“While we’re aware the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through white and drifted snow,” said the DOT’s Sprawl Tsar Harvey Dent, “we cannot ignore statistics showing that 98.312% of today’s important traffic is fast-tracking it between Washington, D.C. and Hollywood.”

Dubbed the Shit to Shinola Highway, Interstate 666 rips through Junction City’s primeval forest where the wind stings the toes and bites the nose.

According to uninformed sources, “‘a full day of play’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

“If I hear any more pre-Christmas bells going ting-a-ling-ling, I’ll scream,” yelled Dent during this morning’s news conference at the barnyard gate.

Attending the ceremony were the students from Jeanette Hardy’s class. The fifth graders arrived at the crime scene in a sleigh pulled by a dappled gray.

“We never believed they’d close our road over the river and through the woods,” said Mikey Arnold. “But they have.”

“No pumpkin pie this year,” said Theresa Dawson.

“Our teacher told us the people who built this road don’t know the difference between Shit and Shinola,” said Billy Jones. “Then the class decided nobody even knows what Shinola is anymore except the janitor old Mr. Walker. But we all know what Shit is so we came out to see it.”

Hardy, whose mother’s mother taught Grandmother how to make Christmas pudding and knit a proper Christmas cap, has taken her 5th grade class over the river and through the woods for 25 years.

“I expect we’ll see a lot of politicians, lobbyists, stars and starlets traveling this road from Shit to Shinola and back to Shit,” said Hardy. “It will be funnier than Jay Leno, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien all jabbering at once. But it won’t be the same. It won’t be Grandmother. It surely won’t.”

As the limousines and secret service vehicles blasted through the blue ribbon at mile marker #1400, Mayor Clark Trail told on-lookers that he was proud of the city council’s strong stand.

“We didn’t allow an exit ramp,” Trail said. “The folks traveling between Shit and Shinola aren’t our kind of folks. We’re over the river and through the woods kind of folks even though we enjoy a good laugh once in a while.”

Theresa Dawson’s classmate Becky Satterfield didn’t see the humor in watching “a bunch of fools embarrassing themselves” on I-666.

“A couple of years ago,” she said, “Grandmother got run over by a reindeer. Now this.”

NIGHT BEAT

A MILLION LITTLE LIES

 

Junction City, TX—Morning greeted me with a cold crisp bite and the celestial vista of sun-splashed, new-fallen snow just deep enough to conceal where the bodies and the lies are buried.

“Marianne, I’m about to write my autobiography,” I told the local librarian as soon as she answered the phone. “My theme comes straight from Byron who said that a lie is ‘the truth in masquerade.’”

“Oh Jock,” she gushed, “Are you telling me that it will be pre-embellished?”

“You have crystallized my thoughts exactly,” I replied sagely. “In fact, my first chapter will contain eighteen pages of footnoted embellishments.”

“You are wise to do that. Otherwise, when the truth comes out later, the book may appear somewhat frayed.”

“What I don’t want to do is tarnish the tale so darkly that its underlying message of redemption no longer resonates with book club tsars.”

“Tell me true, Jock, how will you begin?”

“With a list of the stacked librarians I know.”

She laughed enough to convince me she was blushing. “Seriously?”

“Seriously stacked, then,” I added. “In reality, I’ll begin with a blanket introduction, stating quite candidly that I was Kate Winslet’s spit coach on Titanic, that I warned Jennifer Lopez she’d get a Razzie for Gigli, that I served as Sarah Brightman’s harem advisor, that I taught Beyoncé Knowles how to whistle Dixie during her birthday party a few years ago, and that I once rotated Pamela Anderson’s tires and pressure washed Nicolette Sheridan’s veranda.”

“If you can pull this off, you’ve got a bestseller on your hands with a minimal amount of blood. You might even knock Dan Brown off the list.”

“Could be. But the pièce de résistance will be my hidden lie,” I said as I wondered whether I would laugh all the way to the bank.

“A hidden lie? Oh, tell, tell.”

“Well, madam librarian, by the time the buzz is cooling off and all the PR flaks are looking for other stories to sleep with, my devoted readers will have waded through a hundred thousand words of seriously documented redemption and atonement material to discover that I’m the one who tied the red string around Madonna’s wrist.”

“My goodness, where?”

“At the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Commerce, Georgia,” I said without the slightest trace of guile. “We had finished our biscuits and sawmill gravy and were sitting out front in rocking chairs watching people watching us.”

“And that’s when you did it?”

“Indeed,” I said, “and the fact that I did it late in the book will create a nice boost in sales in time for Christmas.”

“When Larry King calls, tell the world that—as James Frey once said—‘There’s truth, and that’s all that matters.’”

“How would you like to say that in a hundred cities during my World Wide Redemption Invention Tour?” I asked.

“Tempting, but somebody’s got to stay behind to fine the little SOBs who bring library books back late with one lie or another.”

 

 

Malcolm R. Campbell

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels and paranormal short stories as well as the wild and crazy satire Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire (2009 and 2014).

The e-book short stories, “Moonlight and Ghosts” (2012) and “Cora’s Crossing” (2012), are set in the Florida Panhandle where Campbell grew up. He began hearing Florida ghost stories on Scout camping trips into the pinewoods, swamps and other locations which are perfect for strange events.

Emily’s Stories is three short stories of a sharp, inquisitive fourteen-year-old north Florida girl who loves maps, her rusty old bike, and the forest behind her house. Sometimes her dreams tell her the future and sometimes her waking hours bring wise birds and other spirits into her life.

Campbell’s nonfiction includes feature articles that have appeared in “The Rosicrucian Digest.” “The Inside Trail,” and the National Park Service Glacier Park commemorative book, 100 Years 100 Stories.

 

 

 

Dead for a Night

Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

 

 

Halloween: a holiday that ends up being crazy for the Emergency Room at Seattle General Hospital. Nothing has ever been documented, just like on full moons. Everyone tells you it’s a myth. Obviously, they don’t work in the Emergency Room. The morgue often has the same problems. Doctor Drusilla Collins, having no children, worked every Halloween. She usually worked alone, letting the assistants go and have fun. Remembering what it was like to be young, and wanting to be with friends or go to party on Halloween, Dru had no problem with them taking the night off. If needed, she’d call one of them in. In her experience, she wasn’t called out to murders or random bodies on Halloween. Mostly, they came down through the Emergency Room.

Returning to her office, after a brief visit to the cafeteria, she marveled on the slowness of the night. No police calls, no weird murders, just a bit of quiet. She’d had one man, earlier in the evening who’d stroked out in his nursing home. Thomas Kalita was found in the bed of another patient, James Reedy. The affair was sadly short lived. Mr. Kalita was in cold storage, the autopsy finished few hours ago. That left Drusilla time to breathe, get food, and watch the latest cat video someone shared with her. Most people wouldn’t have known it to look at her, but Dru was a cat person at heart. She walked passed the open door to the autopsy area, and settled in her desk.

“What the hell?” She violently turned her had back to the other room, standing up sharply. When she left for the bagel, the gleaming stainless steel table in autopsy was empty. During that time, a body must have been brought down to her autopsy suite. She turned back to her desk; there was no new paper work. Walking into the autopsy room, there was no paperwork with the body either. Instead, the man lying on her table was nude, slightly blue and completely unknown. Reaching over, touching first the wrist and then the neck, Dru was looking for a radial and carotid pulse respectively, finding that the body was very cold to the touch. Using her stethoscope, she searched for the apical pulse, directly over the heart. Drusilla found none. From first assessment, the man was dead. Before trying to chase down the origins of the body, Dru took a few quick finger prints in case they had him in the system, or at worse, he was a John Doe.

“What the hell?” she said again, this time in a whisper. It didn’t make sense; unless the ER was so crazy they just lost the paperwork. It was unlikely that they’d just misplaced a corpse. Shaking her head, she edged back into her office, grabbing the phone as she sat. Dru quickly dialed the ER nurses station.

“SG ER nurses station south.” The voice on the other end was calm, with an edge of frazzled.

“This is Doctor Drusilla Collins. Have you guys sent me any presents lately?”

“Hey Doc, it’s Ellen Chamberlin. Not tonight. We’ve had plenty of excitement up here, but no one has died yet on the night shift. Why?” That chilled Dru slightly.

“How about on the other side of the ER?”

“Nope, not there either. The night is still young, Doctor.”

“Thanks Ellen. Maybe someone on a surgical or medical floor passed.”

“Wait, you have a weird body don’t you? Isn’t Halloween just the worst? Do you think it was a zombie? Maybe it walked in on its own.” Dru shook her head, though the nurse couldn’t see it, and felt foolish as the words were said.

“I’ll call administration and see if anyone else had died tonight. Have a good one.” Dru hung up, possibly a trait she’d learned from her friend and police Lieutenant Lilah Evans. A bad habit to be sure.

Dru quickly hit the buttons to call, and find out of any corpses had been delivered to her. She was told she may get a few clients as the night went on, but that no one had died today in the hospital. With the phone still in her hand, she glanced back to autopsy. Maybe no one was claiming it, but it was still there.

Once Dru hung up, she gathered her wits and her clipboard. She scanned the fingerprints, making sure they were on file for when this cleared up. But until she had paperwork on the corpse, she wouldn’t start a full autopsy, but she could start with the physical examination. She gathered her wits, her paperwork and a pair of black nitrile gloves. Hopefully exam would provide a few clues.

Dru turned toward the autopsy room, and then stopped. The autopsy table was empty. Completely. No sign of a body, no sign that there had been a body. She ran to the door, and looked into the hallway. Nope, no naked dead man there either. She couldn’t have been turned away for longer than a minute. Or maybe two. And she’d checked: no pulses. She shut the doors to autopsy and her office, locking them. Gathering a scalpel as a weapon, she did a quick search of both rooms. No dead man. She then backed out of autopsy, shut and locked the door that lead to her office and sat at her desk.

“This isn’t happening…it’s a Halloween joke of some kind. An elaborate, sick joke. Maybe something my interns put together.” Even as she said it, she didn’t think that was the answer. She sat a little a longer, but jumped at every noise. It hadn’t been that long since Detective Lilah Evans told her about the real things that went bump in the night. Now every sound was that bump.

She grabbed her phone, and dialed Lilah’s home number.

“Hello, whoever this is, I have tonight off.”

“How do you get the weird ones off?”

“Doctor Dru! How is your Halloween going? Find candy in a dead body?” Lilah had the ability to be morbid and crass at times. One reason Doctor Dru liked her so much.

“I need your help.”

“As I said, I’m not on duty tonight. Detective Davies is covering…”

“I had a dead body get off the autopsy table and disappear.” Dru interrupted.

“I’ll be right there.” Lilah hung up without saying good-bye, something Drusilla Collins was used to. Staying on the safe side, Dru sat at her desk in the locked room, clutching the scalpel. Within five minutes there was a knock at the office door.

“Yes?” Like a stray body was going to knock, but she didn’t know. Better safe than dead.

“It’s Lilah.” Lilah Evans never failed to surprise the doctor, even knowing the Detective moved faster than human speed. Dru quickly unlocked the door and ushered her inside.

“Now, what happened?”

“I returned to the room after dinner. When I got here, there was a body in autopsy. Naked, no paperwork, no explanation. I checked his vitals, there were none. I took a quick set of fingerprints. I called up to ER to see if there had been a paper SNAFU, there hadn’t been. No one had died. Same with the rest of the hospital. No deaths. No one sent anyone down to my morgue. I scanned the prints, and gathered what I’d need for an external examination. I wouldn’t have cut until I had the proper ID and paperwork.” Dru stopped, taking a deep breath. She looked up at Lilah “When I turned to go back into that room? The body was gone. No one came in or out that I saw. I checked the hallway, nothing. I wasn’t turned away for more than a minute or two. That’s when I called you.”

“Are you sure it’s not some elaborate prank?” asked Lilah.

“No, I’m not. On the other hand, I’m sure the body was there and then it wasn’t. And there are no indications that anyone else came near my office during this time. With the door open, footsteps, at least in shoes, are pretty obvious.”

“I’ll go check this floor. Stay here, doors closed.” Lilah turned and left, closing the office door behind her. Dru sat back in her chair at her desk, heart thudding in her ears. This wasn’t the day for creepy.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. Lilah hadn’t returned, and Dru felt her muscles were taut as violin strings as she jumped at every sound.

“Brrrrriinnnnng!”

Drusilla nearly fell out of her chair. Taking a deep breath, she answered the phone.

“Morgue.”

“Doctor Collins? This is Ellen Chamberlin from the ER.”

“Oh? Yes nurse Chamberlin?”

“It’s the weirdest thing, we just had a naked man appear on a free gurney. No idea, no clothes, nothing. He was a bit blue, and on first inspection appeared dead.” Dru was afraid she saw where this was going.

“Okay.”

“We took a finger print, and ran to see if it was on file with the hospital. We got a hit. No name, but you had just finger printed him forty minutes ago. There, in the morgue.”

Weird, her body ended up in the ER after her morgue. But there was more.

“Yes?”

“The really weird thing, he isn’t dead. But on first exam, he had no pulses. After a while though, they came back, and he opened his eyes. How did he get finger prints taken in the morgue?”

“Remember when I called earlier to ask if you’d sent a dead body down? He was that body.” The nurse on the other end gasped.

“I can’t explain it Doctor. He said he and some friends had been playing a game called ‘Knock Out’ and he, uh…well, passed out. But his seeming dead? That seems more like something that should be called ‘Kill Your Friends’. Stupid game!”

Finally Drusilla allowed herself a deep breath, and a bit of a quick relax.

“That game could do it, especially if they played somewhere cold. My guess? His friends thought they did kill him, and dropped him off here. I’m glad he’s in your hands now. Keep me in the loop on the final findings. And Ellen, thanks for the call.”

“Sure thing doctor. I’m glad you didn’t have a new client in Hotel Death.” Drusilla hung up, laughing a bit. She didn’t know anyone called her morgue that, but she liked it. Just then, there was a knock at her office door.

“It’s Lilah.”

The doctor opened the door, letting her friend in.

“I found nothing Doc. Are you sure…”

“He’s in the ER.” Dru interrupted Lilah again, “He was found on a gurney upstairs.”

“Dead?”

“They thought so at first. But no. He and his friends played a stupid game of ‘Knock Out,’ which involves pressure being applied to the carotid until the other person passes out. They must have been playing in a cold place, so his body shut down like severe hypothermia.”

“Why would they play this game? It sounds dangerous.”

“Because if the game works correctly, once you wake up, you get a feeling of euphoria. Of course, it’s just brain cells dying off. Sometimes, people are just dumb. If it was really cold where they were playing, well, we have a saying: ‘you’re not dead until you’re warm and dead’. It’s weird, but not your kind of thing.”

The detective shook her head.

“You’re right about that. Weird magic and monsters I get. People are just crazy.”

Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

Gwendolyn lives in the Pacific Northwest with her cats, her husband, and her youngest daughter, (the eldest making her way in Spokane, Washington).

In her free time, she likes to play video games, chat with people worldwide, and work as a voiceover and audiobook actress.

She writes mostly fantasy, but has been known to dabble across genre boundaries.

She volunteers voices for many online plays, and runs her own Podcast company of different shows (she does admit, she writes a few of them). She thinks Audio Drama is great medium today, harkening back to the days of Old Time Radio. Gwendolyn finds it very important to have a strong female showing, of people running these podcasts, writing them, and being a part of the whole process.

 

 

 

 

 

Esperanza-The Holiday that Wasn’t

Neva Squires-Rodriguez

 

 

Chapter One

 

Where better to start than at the beginning. Believe it or not, my life wasn’t always horrible and I’ll spare you the dramatics of starting from birth, I’m sure that no one wants to hear about that catastrophe. What I’ll do instead is skip ahead to the interesting part, the part where my life took a turn for the worst based on my own actions, actions that I will never be able to take back and actions that left me stumbling to hold on to anything to keep me from losing everything. I’ll start from the day that I uncovered the most unforeseen secret imaginable, the lie that would forever haunt me and make me into the miserable storyteller hat I am today.

My name in case you weren’t already aware is Esperanza and my demise started when I was only fourteen years old. Two weeks after my fourteenth birthday, right around the time I began to menstruate I learned the first deep dark secret that would change my life. Immediately, I felt my world crashing down around me and everyone that was in my life seemed to fall with it.

The day that I wished that I could take back, the day that changed my life forever started off with my brother Sebastian and me hiking through the forest. Sebastian, the most handsome of any of my brothers, was just learning how handsome he really was and in the process he was becoming super conceited. He spent hours looking at himself in the mirror, flipping his curly hair from one side to the other to see which way it looked better. On that particular day we were going on a hike so that my arrogant brother could take selfies by the infamous waterfall that was said to be cursed while on our Christmas break from school.

The walk itself was dangerous. There were no paths from our side of the city to the falls and not many guides or locals knew how to get around that side of the forest. Sometimes floodwater made the area impassible, but if we went out at just the right time of year, especially after a heavy rain, the waterfall would be full and beautiful. Just the thought of seeing it made me excited. We left the house just after breakfast and walked down the road for at least an hour before turning into the area of forest that we knew would take us there.

As we walked Sebastian and I discussed what track we would take as we entered our mid secondary educations, this being equivalent to the later years of high school in America. This conversation had been routine for us over the years, while our tracks always changed, one thing was for sure, being the children of Antonio and Liliana Valencia didn’t allow us to think about being a bunch of nobodies. My mother already had big plans for each of us and while she was busy all day handling my Uncles coffee business, she slammed her ideas into our minds every chance that she got. While Sebastian and I joked about her behavior, we knew that we would need to have a thorough plan in place within the next year in order to get her off of our backs.

“I’m going to take the bachillerato de Promocion Social.” I said loudly to Sebastian as we left the man-made trail and entered the jungle area that hid the waterfall from the occasional passerby.

Sebastian laughed aloud as he pushed the branches away from him, tracking on forward.

“Figures.” He said loudly.

“Why is that?” I asked, putting my hands on my hips.

Sebastian stopped just long enough to look over at me and smile.

“No reason.” He replied. “It’s just not a surprise to me that you would take that route.”

He chose his words purposely, knowing how inquisitive I was. His curly brown hair hugged his head and his hazel eyes gleamed as he stood waiting for me to say something. I stared him down successfully and he laughed as he looked away. The truth was that several of my friends at school had a crush on him and would join us on our dangerous crusade through the forest just to take a few selfie pictures with him by their side. He was just starting to realize this and tried to practice his convincing looks all too regularly, so that he’d be prepared when he decided to ask one of them out. This was exactly why I didn’t invite any of them to hang around with us on our holiday break. I didn’t need my girlfriends making goo-goo eyes at my brother all day long, which would totally ruin my Christmas.

“What are you going to go for then, brother?” I asked, smirking at him, as he turned to continue on the trail.

His answer never changed and it killed me almost as much as it killed my mother. Her brainwashing had definitely worked on me, my plan was beginning to stay set as did my older brothers, for some reason Sebastian was an entirely different story.

“I don’t know yet.” He said, pausing briefly as we walked. “Maybe I’ll drop out and become an underwear model.”

We both laughed loudly, regardless of the fact that I was growing upset with his indecisiveness.

“You’re ridiculous Seba.” I said. “Mommy would kill you and so would I. Besides, what would I do if one of my college roommates had your poster hanging on the wall of our dorm room? I wouldn’t admit that you were my brother, never in a million years and then what?”

Sebastian grimaced for a second, but didn’t let my words get him down.

“I know.” He said, letting out a chuckle and continuing forward. “The truth is that it has crossed my mind. I’m starting to think that maybe I don’t want to have a plan for school, especially after seeing how many of your friends have slipped me their number and asked that I call them. I think I was intended to have a career, where my looks could be admired.”

Sebastian let out a loud chuckle. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even want to stop to imagine a future as pathetic as that. I couldn’t imagine living paycheck to paycheck and the way that my parents talked, that’s what most actors struggling to get into the business did. I was certain that I would end up taking care of him. I didn’t doubt that he would be handsome enough to make it in the business, but the truth is that looks are not everything.

“Maybe I’ll go with you.” I said suddenly, lost in a thought of my own. “If you go to America I mean. I think that that’s where I want to go to a university. Just like daddy did. Maybe I will even meet my future husband there.”

I wasn’t as bold as Sebastian. The thought of dropping out of school before I had a degree in my hand never so much as crossed my mind. I figured it would be best to go to America and protect him. I couldn’t let him go down on his own. If I was there and in school, my parents would pay my room and board and he would be free to go chase his dreams for four years of his life if he came to live with me in my dorm room. I couldn’t help being upset by his aspiration, my mother had set me straight telling my brothers and I the story of her struggle and how she worked hard so that anything less than a prosperous future wasn’t an option for us. Why hadn’t that sunken in for him? That wasn’t supposed to be an option for us, even in our wildest day dreams.

“Oh, si?” Sebastian taunted me. “Quires ir conmigo?”

I pressed my lips together as I stared at him, a bad habit I picked up from my mother.

“English, only English Seba.” I ordered. “We have to work on our accents if we’re both going to be Americans.”

Sebastian laughed and sped off ahead of me, jumping over tree stumps and fallen branches as he ran. I tried to keep up, but eventually came to a halt, bending over to try to catch my breath.

“Aye, Seba.” I yelled out to him. “Slow down. I can’t keep up.”

“Esperanza can’t keep up?” Sebastian called over his shoulder, finally slowing to a stop ahead of me. “That’s unheard of.”

“What, I didn’t mean for you to stop.” I said, pulling myself together and skipping ahead to catch up with him.

“Spera look.” He said, pointing out the waterfall, at least two soccer fields ahead of us and past at least a thousand moss covered rocks.

“Go ahead.” I moaned, clutching the side of my stomach. “I’ll catch up, I just have to pull myself together.”

Sebastian laughed out loud before running ahead. I watched him as he dashed to the rocks and steadied himself as he jumped across two gigantic rocks side by side. My brother had to be the craziest person I knew, I thought to myself as I stretched my arms before walking over to join him.

“Maybe when we go to America, we’ll move in together.” I called after him. “Mommy and Daddy will feel better knowing that you’re there to protect me.”

Sebastian stopped and laughed, brushing his brown curls back against his forehead as he suddenly leapt for a rock at least three feet away.

“I thought you were the older sister.” Sebastian called out the moment he landed. “You are supposed to protect me.”

“You know what I mean.” I said loudly.

“Fine.” Sebastian said. “You better show up after I get there. I’m going to hold you to it, and don’t let that man and woman you call your parents stop you from coming.”

“Seba stop talking like that, they are my parents.” I said angrily.

I hated when he talked like that. My brothers made fun of me constantly for being so dark, but I never questioned the fact. Sebastian chuckled loudly, and I blew my breath out to show my frustration. For some reason his laughter made me think of a conversation that I had with my mother years before.

She had explained childbirth and how the menstruation cycle worked to prepare me for when I got my first period, but it wasn’t until that moment with Sebastian that everything began to make sense to me. I was only two months older than Sebastian and we were born in different countries. There was no way possible that my mother could actually be my mother. I began to sweat as I thinking about it.

I didn’t get it. My mother had pictures of herself with both Sebastian and myself as newborns in the hospital. I remembered my mother and father telling me that I was very small at birth that they had to keep me in the hospital for months to make sure that I would survive, that’s where my name had come from.

Sebastian had been born full term, but it didn’t make sense. There was no way that Sebastian and I were twins and my parents never told us that we were? Was it me or was it him, I wondered. I looked just like my mother, but nothing like my father and he looked like a mixture of both of them. Confusion came over me quickly and within seconds that confusion turned to anger.

“Okay.” Sebastian said, continuing to chuckle as he rolled up his pants and began to climb across the moss covered rocks.

His words snapped me back to reality. He may have brushed off my statement, but his expression when he responded to me indicated that he believed otherwise. His eyebrow shot straight up and stayed there as he climbed further away from me.

“What are you saying Sebastian?” I asked angrily.

I leaned over and rolled up my own slacks, climbing across the moss covered rocks to get closer to him. If there was something he knew I wanted him to look at me when he said whatever it was that he had to say. Rather than to wait around, he turned away from me and climbed up higher on the rocks, his face blushing ferociously.

“Sebastian Valencia, tell me what you are thinking right now!” I ordered him.

“Look Spera, just forget that I said anything.” Sebastian said, climbing away from me.

“I will not. You tell me this moment Sebastian!” I ordered.

“Esperanza, I don’t know, don’t you think it’s strange that you’re so much darker than the rest of us.” Sebastian asked very seriously. “I mean I’ve heard the family make comments here and there to point it out.”

“I look like mommy.” I said quietly, biting my lip and retreating a step.

His eyes were so serious that it made me question my own beliefs. I couldn’t believe what he was implying as he looked away and shook his head without saying a word. We both continued on quietly without saying anything. I was so lost deep in thought that I didn’t even notice that we had arrived at the base of the waterfall.

“Come on, take my picture.” Sebastian said, handing me his phone and posing for me.

I reluctantly snapped several pictures of him.

“Will you cheer up?” Sebastian asked, grabbing the phone from my hands and going through the pictures.

“How can I when, I’m starting to believe that you’re right.” I responded.

Sebastian looked up with apologetic eyes.

“Stop it.” He said. “I was only joking with you Spera.”

“No!” I exclaimed. “You’re right. I’m darker than all of you and only two months older than you.”

I let out a loud cry.

“So!” Sebastian exclaimed, putting his hand on my shoulder.

“How could I have not realized before?” I wailed. “Why did it never cross my mind?”

Sebastian shook his head and pulled me toward him, allowing me to cry into his shoulder.

“Look I was kidding with you.” He said. “I didn’t mean to point that out to you and I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings. The truth is that I thought about this last year when our birthdays passed and it didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t want to bring it up. It’s been stuck in the back of my mind Spera, but I’m glad we’re finally talking about it. You know that you will always be my sister and my parents love you like you’re their daughter.”

I smiled, but pulled away from him, turning and climbing back through the rocks as quickly as I could to get to the pathway to go back home.

“Wait.” Sebastian called after me. “Don’t you want to take your picture?”

“Are you crazy?” I called back at him. “How could I take it right now after all this?”

“Spera.” Sebastian called out, birds seemingly mimicking his voice in the background. “You better not say anything to mom and dad. Just leave it alone and let them tell you when they are ready.”

“No!” I shouted back at him as I climbed. “This is my life and I want answers now. It’s not about when they’re ready anymore. I’m ready. I need to know.”

“Aye Esperanza.” Sebastian reluctantly said aloud as he caught up to me and passed me up on the rocks.

I blew the sweaty hair from my face and continued on behind him.

When we made it back to the main road, I ran as fast as I could back to the house, passing Sebastian along the way. I didn’t bother turning to look back, in spite of Sebastian screaming my name at the top of his lungs, I continued running up the side of the mountain that led back to our house, Sebastian obviously losing energy and stopping before I made it halfway up the sloped roadway. When I knew he was far enough behind me, I leaned over and rested my palms against my thighs, to catch my breath and fought off tears as I walked the rest of the way home.

When I turned into the driveway leading to the fence that the guards sat behind, I noticed my older brothers walking toward the fence as the guard went to open it.

“Where’s Sebastian?” Carlos called out, but within seconds Sebastian rounded the driveway behind me, on a bicycle that he must have stolen from someone.

Sebastian threw the bike down against the ground as the gate opened, leaving it outside as he stormed right past our twin brothers and in to the house without saying a word.

“I’m not his mom and apparently she’s not mine either!” I screamed, crossing my arms against my chest as I stormed past them.

My brothers stood aghast. I knew that my brothers knew that something was up and I saw Carlos dash to the backyard from the corner of my eye, most likely to look for my father who was probably back there planning out our family Christmas party with my uncles.

My heart beat out of control as I walked upstairs and continued on through the house until I arrived at my mother’s study. The smell of a pumpkin scented candle filled the air. I stood momentarily at the door, my mother’s desk seemed to watch me in anticipation. I shook my head and continued on without another thought. I rummaged through my mother’s desk, glancing over my shoulder every few moments to make sure no one knew I was in her study. When I saw the file drawer, I used my right index finger to skim through the files until I found the one marked Children’s Important Paperwork. My heart skipped a beat, knowing that I had found what I was looking for. I opened the file and searched until I found my own birth certificate, a tear immediately swelled in the corner of my eye as I sat completely still for at least five minutes staring at my shattered story.

“What are you in here doing?” My father asked suddenly.

The paper I held in my hand began to shake uncontrollably. I had to let it go. I had to do something with it. I glanced at the wall in front of me, focusing my attention on Christmas cards that lined my mother’s full size mirror. I heard him clear his throat and I slowly turned to look up at him, staring into his eyes as my bottom lip beginning to quiver.

“Daddy,” I said slowly. “Why didn’t you ever tell me that you’re not my dad? Why didn’t you or mommy tell me that you’re not my parents and that my family is not my family?”

My father let out a deep sigh, glancing back into the hallway before taking a step into the room to console me. I stood up immediately throwing my birth certificate at him.

“Don’t come near me!” I shouted. “My Christmas is ruined!”

I turned and ran down the hallway to my bedroom and locked myself in it, swearing that I wouldn’t come out until the holidays were over.

Fast forward ten years later and you’ll find me, Esperanza, a twenty-four year old female, without a soul. A woman, more confused with life than a child is when their parents sit them down and tell them that there is no Santa Claus. Christmas has never been the same for me and it probably never will.

Chapter Two

 

My sister, who raised me as her own and her husband, the man who had been more of a father than any girl could ever wish for felt incredibly bad that they were not the ones to tell me that I was adopted. My father was an incredibly powerful man, so when I saw his regret in his actions I did my best to get over my whole situation, not realizing what a void the news had impacted my life with. My three brothers who were actually my cousins loved me unconditionally and were overwhelmingly over protective of me through all of my teenage years. It wasn’t until I came to the United States in my twenties that I even attempted to figure out who I really was in spite of me losing the idea of a family that I had known the first fourteen years of my life.

I was a woman who was lost. A woman who somehow ended up with two families, one living and one dead, two husbands, four children and a ton of regret. This at the young age of twenty four was not where I thought I would be ten years ago on the worst Christmas Break from school ever. The holiday when I found out who my real father and mother were. I had let that lie control my life up until now and mold me into the person that I was. I didn’t know how to change that. Not even my sister or mother as I had once known her, was accepting of my lifestyle or of my choices.

While in the United States going to College, I became intrigued with my classmate Tylen Jackson. His intelligence drew me to him. The way that he debated his case in every lecture hall we shared intrigued me. I found myself admiring his dark brown eyes when he spoke and couldn’t help noticing that he had the most beautiful chocolate skin that I ever laid my eyes upon. His haircut was always in a neat fade and after moving close to him in class I couldn’t help but inhale his enticing cologne. In spite of my infatuation with him, I kept my distance. I wasn’t going to school to find a lover and even if I was, there were two other women in my class who were obviously head over heels for him.

One day after calling home and talking to Sebastian for nearly an hour about different acting classes he was taking back home in Colombia without my parent’s knowledge, I noticed Tylen watching me from across the lawn. My face immediately felt a burn and I glanced away. Soon after, hanging up the phone with Sebastian and returning to my studies. I noticed Tylen stand up from across the lawn and seconds later, realized that he had walked over. I glanced from my blanket filled with scattered books that I was studying, along with my bag of lunch that I had been just about to sink my teeth into.

“Might I say that you have the worst study habits that I’ve ever seen?” Tylen said.

I sat staring at him in confusion for at least a minute without saying a word before he cracked a smile.

“That was my opening line.” Tylen explained, a smile spreading across his face. “I guess I need to work on it.”

“Oh,” I muttered glancing at my books. “I guess so.”

Tylen laughed and I smiled, not knowing for sure what was funny but intrigued by his laugh.

“Do you mind if I study with you?” Tylen asked. “I might be able to give you some pointers.”

This time I laughed. I definitely didn’t need any pointers, but I finally understood that he was interested in me. I patted the floor beside me, inviting him to sit with me.

“Maybe I could give you some opening line pointers so the next time you see some hot girl sitting alone on the lawn, you’ll have a better idea of what to say.” I replied.

Tylen shook his head as he stared at me.

“Naw, I think that you’re the last hot girl that I’m going to try out any opening lines on.” Tylen replied, smiling sincerely, revealing a huge dimple in his right cheek. “Something is already telling me that you are everything I need and more.”

“Oh really.” I laughed so hard, I clutched my right side in pain. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“Not yet.” Tylen replied. “But that’s going to take some time.”

Our eyes met and I smiled at him. Intrigued with his persistence I allowed him to sit on the lawn with me, talking until the sun started to go down and the crisp fall air becoming more than we could bear. When we realized that we had gotten nothing done, we went to our own dorms to study, exchanging numbers and sitting next to each other in class the next day, and on many days to come.

Tylen was older than me but was a year behind me in school, because he had originally come in on a football scholarship and was injured after playing his third year, he took years to recover. He was lucky enough that he had received a large settlement from his injury allowing him to attend his last two years of college without having to transfer.

He told me that the doctors didn’t think he was going to make it and when he did, he knew it was because of all the praying that his mother and fellow church members did for him while he was out. During his recovery time, his youngest sister was killed in gang crossfire while walking to school and he said that his anger over the situation had helped motivate him to get better.

When my graduation rolled around, he helped me to decide what internship to take and later what job to accept. I chose one that allowed me to work from home so that I could stay with him in his apartment off campus while he continued his education. I couldn’t help it. The fact was that I loved to be around him. We remained inseparable, though we waited to consummate our relationship.

 

Chapter Three

 

We wanted to do it the right way, but our desires eventually got the best of us and I lost my virginity to him after spending the night drinking and watching movies with his friends. It was definitely not the way I imagined it would take place, finding myself bent over the washing machine with him behind me struggling to push his immense manhood inside of me. Neither of us were prepared for this to happen and although he tried to stop himself walking away, I grabbed him, pulling him close to me and coaxing him on until he finally made it happen, my back pressed now against the cold washing machine as I moaned in pain.

He did it over and over again, lifting me by the buttocks, holding my legs around him as he penetrated me deeper and deeper. When he tried to pull out, the grip of my legs was so tight around him that he couldn’t pull away. The moment we were done, we both stumbled to the bed and collapsed, laughing about what had just happened until he fell asleep. I couldn’t sleep, it was Christmas morning and I lay there thinking for hours about how I wanted sex more now than I ever had before.

Nearly six months later on the day of his college graduation and with his entire family at his side, he asked me to marry him. I was hesitant only because I hadn’t been totally honest with my sister and my brother in law who were still supporting me financially in spite of my job and had no knowledge that I’d been living with Tylen or that I was even in a serious relationship. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel that I couldn’t discuss our relationship with either of them, I just felt like that was something I should do in person and since it had been years since I’d been in Colombia, it was something that I hadn’t been able to do.

Tylen knew how I felt and while he wanted to meet my family and ask for my hand in marriage in person, he thought it was more important to know that I was ready to spend the rest of my life with him. I knew keeping the secret from my family wasn’t right, but my love for Tylen was only the start of my deception to them. Soon we were married by the Justice of the Peace at our local courthouse alongside of Tylen’s mother and father. I told Tylen that we’d have a much larger wedding in Colombia, as soon as we went to visit my family.

“Your mother’s got to be heartbroken.” Anthony, Tylen’s father said to me. “What good is it to get married, if you can’t share your love with the people who are closest to you?”

“You’re here.” Tylen replied. “And mom. Esperanza’s family would be here if they could, but for now, this is all the love and support that we need.”

His mother stared at him as if he said the sweetest thing in the world and soon all was other concerns were forgotten. Florence, Tylen’s mother prepared a small party at their home for us and invited several family members, including two children, a boy and girl who stood watching us, without saying too much. Tylen seemed to have an odd interaction with them and every time I thought about asking Tylen who the two children were I was whisked away by his mother or Aunts. Eventually the children’s mother picked them up and every question about them was hushed.

Soon every problem we experienced as a couple was brushed to the side, creating a new set of problems that I had no idea how to deal with. He had landed a job at the police department and while I thought it was a great career, I had no idea the set of the set of new problems coming our way. They started by him working really long hours, leaving me home alone for most of the day. While this gave me plenty of time to think, the more I began to resent him, even beginning to believe that I never really loved him.

I tried my best to keep our marriage strong. Since I worked my job from home, I made sure to finish my work early enough to cook dinner and dress up in sexy lingerie for him when he came home. We went out to dinner at least one day out of the week, usually finishing it off with a great night of sex, but aside from that even our phone calls to one another became less frequent. Tylen wasn’t allowed to use personal communication devices while he was work and I felt that this only added in putting a huge damper on our relationship. I felt alone and as hard as I tried to make it work, I felt like I was fighting a lost battle.

This was where the real problems began. Although I had never been the indecisive child, I was finding my adulthood to be where I was making up for lost time. I didn’t mean to fall out of love with Tylen so early into our marriage, but it happened. I tried my best to convince myself that what I was feeling was normal and that I did love him, but the truth was that the sparks were gone and I kept my understanding of my situation to myself until nearly three months later, when I found out that I was pregnant, our baby due you guessed it, on Christmas Eve.

While any other woman might find happiness in her pregnancy, I didn’t. One would think that this would be the time that I decided to share the news with my sister, but rather than to do so I opened a blog under a fake identity and asked strangers their opinions on how to handle the situation. I never mentioned a word about my pregnancy to any of my family in Colombia and now felt like there was one more thing that I was hiding from them, even though I talked with each of them more than twice a week.

I read books on what I should be feeling. Never developing the maternal instinct on my own. Tylen, who was overjoyed with my pregnancy, continued to work long hours, stating that the money we saved would be for our family, but I felt more and more alone with every day that passed. When we did spend time together, he talked about different situations that had happened, arrests that he had made, even other people at work, but never more than a few sentences about what we would do when the baby was born.

When the baby was born, I felt cold and withdrawn. I told Tylen to go ahead and name our child and when he did, felt angry when he decided to name the baby Micah, after his grandfather. I kept the anger inside and again felt betrayed when he couldn’t take time off from work to be home with us because it was the holidays and everyone with seniority had already requested the time off.

Tylen’s sister Chantanaye came over frequently to visit with me and the baby, taking care of both of us. A few weeks later, I received a call from my sister to let me know that my grandmother was ill and might not make it. Immediately I thought that this was what I might need to clear my mind and used the opportunity to get away from Tylen and from all of my frustrations, telling myself that this was the opportunity to clear the air with my sister and come back home to Tylen and Micah as a better person.

Chapter Four

 

Chantanaye moved in so that I could go home to be with my family and check on my grandmother. I felt like the timing was perfect, as wicked as that may sound. My career allowed me to travel about as I pleased, while Tylen’s was stuck at home working the long hours that he always did.

I thought about this on the plane ride home, carefully thinking out a plan of action to take when I got back home. Upon my plane’s arrival my sister raced at me and held me in a long embrace. I immediately begun to cry, not only because I had missed her, but also because I knew how much I was holding back from her. My sister Liliana had raised me. She was basically my mother, even though I knew my mother had died in childbirth.

After my sister let me go, my brother in law and brothers moved in for a group hug. The second we pulled apart, everyone started talking, questioning me about how I was liking living in America and if I would be coming back home soon. I felt like my heart was immediately full of happiness as I remembered the good times that we shared. I almost spit out the news about Micah and Tylen in my excitement, but decided to save the conversation for another day.

“Oh, Spera, I’m just so happy to see you.” Sebastian said suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts. “I’ve got so much to tell you.”

I nodded my head, smiling widely.

“Me too Sebastian.” I said. “Where shall we venture off to talk about it?”

Liliana shook her finger at me and frowned. She knew I was only joking, but I could see her cringe at the thought.

“None of that, while your grandmother is ill.” Liliana said. “Do you understand me? I can’t afford to have either of the two of you in the hospital at the same time that your grandmother is.”

Sebastian laughed and hugged me again, and I closed my eyes momentarily so I that I could remember this moment when I got back home to Tylen and Micah. My other brothers headed off to the luggage claim and as they did they went on to tell me about everything that had happened in the last few years. I laughed as they talked over one another and walked hand in hand with my sister. I couldn’t help but feel complete when I was around them.

As we drove back to my childhood home I held Sebastian’s knee tightly. He told me about his current love affair with Fabiola Guadarama a woman that he had met on set of a soap opera and that I had heard of from the magazines my mother often sent. She was nearly as tall as him, with long legs and a nice round butt. He told me that this was everything he wished for in a partner, and made it clear that he didn’t care about her brains or accomplishments in life. Every network wanted her to be on their show, but she had vowed to him that she would only appear on television shows that agreed to cast him.

“Sebastian that’s stupid.” I said angrily. “Doesn’t she care about her career?”

“No she cares about me.” Sebastian said. “I told her to go for a show that was giving her a much better deal, but she knew that would mean that they would cast her with someone else and the two of us go perfectly together.”

“What do you mean the two of you go perfectly together?” I asked. “You haven’t told me a thing about her other than the fact that she goes where you go. What does she like to do for fun? Does she have any hobbies? Have you even thought about any of that?”

“She likes what I like.” Sebastian said without thinking about it. “You’re going to love her when you meet her, she’s exactly like me.”

I laughed and rolled my eyes at him. I was upset that he had chosen a girl that seemed like she didn’t have a mind of her own, and yet was somehow very interested in meeting her. Sebastian turned away briefly to ask my brother Carlos if he agreed with the fact that Fabiola was beautiful and was just like him.

“Exactly like him.” Carlos said, letting out a laugh as he opened his phone to call his wife.

“Come out with us tomorrow night.” Sebastian said. “We’re going to go to a beautiful restaurant and I’d really like you to meet her.”

“Is it just going to be you and her?” I asked. “I don’t want to be a third wheel.”

“You won’t be.” Sebastian assured me. “My sister will never be the third wheel to any female.”

“That’s what you say now.” I joked with him.

“I’m serious Spera.” Sebastian laughed. “Besides, as of right now, I don’t see myself settling down with anyone.”

“As of right now.” I repeated laughing.

“You better come with me.” Sebastian said in a demanding tone.

“Or what?” I asked, knowing that he was trying his best to be serious.

“Or I’ll disown you.” Sebastian replied, laughing slightly.

“Come on, you know that you would never do that Sebastian.” I said.

Sebastian smiled.

“You’re right.” Sebastian said. “There’a not anything that you could do that would change how I felt about you.”

I shook my head, knowing everything I was withholding from my family and how wrong it was. I had just called Tylen’s sister and talked to Micah before getting off of the plane. Tylen was getting ready for work and was running late so he didn’t have time to come to the phone. I would have thought that Tylen would have sent me a quick text to say hello, or glad that you made it by now, but he hadn’t. The fact was that he hadn’t even saw me off to the airport and barely acknowledged that I was leaving. I thought about how I often felt like I was in a relationship by myself and avoided my brother’s eyes as he spoke to me.

“Just make sure that you come tomorrow Spera.” Sebastian said. “Make sure you wear your best evening wear also, I’m talking really fancy. We’ll celebrate a late New Year’s Eve.”

“Ok Seba. I got it, but aren’t you picking me up?” I asked.

“Did you forget how we do things around here, city girl?” Sebastian joked. “I’ll send a car for you.”

Just then, the car pulled up at my childhood home and my sister and brother-in-law got out, along with my two older brothers, who immediately grabbed my bags from the back of the car and took them inside. My sister stood waiting for me as I sat in the car next to Sebastian.

“You’re not coming Seba?” I asked him.

“Not today, I have a million things to do.” He replied. “We’ll catch up tomorrow. I promise.”

I reluctantly got out of the car and my sister immediately wrapped her arm around my shoulders.

“I am so happy you’re home!” Liliana said.

I smiled and nodded my head in agreement.

“What’s wrong little sister.” She asked as Sebastian’s limousine pulled away. “We’re not good enough for you?”

“No, that’s just it,” I replied. “You are beyond what I need in my life right now. I didn’t realize how much I missed being around my family.”

“I don’t know I like what you’re saying but I don’t like how it sounds Esperanza.” Liliana replied. “I feel like there’s something on your mind mija. Don’t forget, I’m the one who raised you, it’s not like I can’t tell when you’re hiding something.

“No really it’s nothing.” I said, shaking my head. “Nothing worth talking about anyway.”

My sister made a face as we walked in the huge foyer. I knew that I’d have to tell her sooner or later and when I did I knew she was going to be upset with me for holding back on telling her for so long, but once again I told myself that this wasn’t the right time. Tomorrow afternoon we’d be going to see my grandmother and would celebrate a late Christmas as a family. I would tell my sister sometime after that.

From Esperanza, the novel, A Neva Squires-Rodriguez Work in Progress

 

 

Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Neva Squires-Rodriguez was born and raised in a neighborhood located on the North Side of Chicago. Mother, Wife, Expert at Multitasking… and now, Author, Neva creates electrifying stories with a twist.

Neva Squires-Rodriguez earned her Master’s Degree from National University, a feat which she worked very hard to obtain and says she will work even harder to pay off.

She claims to be a typical American, full of dreams that will hopefully get her to a more comfortable lifestyle one day. She says, “God has a plan and I will follow wherever it is that He takes me.”

 

 

Surprise in August

Charmaine Gordon

 

 

“I’m bored.” The Red Nose Reindeer said and he said it loud. Santa came rushing in.

“Are you all right? Mrs. Claus got frightened when she heard your loud voice.”

“I’m fine. I’m just bored. All my reindeer buddies have gone on vacation because there is NO snow.”

“Why didn’t you go with them since it’s summer and there’s nothing to do?”

“Santa, uh, sir, I thought I’d help you make a list and check it twice to see who is naughty and nice. Just to get ahead of the heavy work we do in winter.”

“Dear Rudolph,” Santa laughed. “That’s an old fashioned way to think. Now Santas all over the world are more concerned about children helping other children and older folks. Like your grandparents. So take a vacation. Have fun, Maybe you’ll meet a nice young ladydeer the way I did so long ago.”

“Nosireebub.I have one job and I’m going to do it right. See you later. It’s time for a cookie or two if Mrs. Claus has some extra for me.”

“Silly Rudolph. You’re wasting your time. Snow doesn’t come until December. That’s when the real work begins.” Santa waddled toward the little house with a good look at the chimney. “Hmm. I’ll have to lose a pound or two before I can shimmy down this old chimney.” He hurried along to work on his list-a long list for boys and girls all over.

Meanwhile, Rudolph thought and thought about snow. “Big snow, little flakes, big flakes, bring them on. I’m ready.” Suddenly a pretty fairy flew by. She stopped to see what the worried reindeer with his nose so bright, was concerned about.

“So what’s your prob, cutie pie?”

“Well uh, I’m bored because snow won’t come until December and that’s when I’m working full steam.”

“No big deal, big guy. I can make magic happen,”

“You can?”

“Of course. I’m a magical whiz when it comes to pleasing folks. Watch this.” She flew high in the air making circles as she flew round and round.

“Wow, I’m impressed but how can you make snow in August?”

“It’s the hardest task ever. I’ll have to gather friends with special powers if you have time.”

Rudolph looked very sad. “But it’s almost August. What am I to do?”

“Not to worry, my friend. Trust me and before long snow will fall. I promise and you must promise me something.”

“I knew it. . .I knew it. There’s always a hook. Okay, so what is it?”

She smiled the sweetest smile ever and spoke in the truest voice he ever heard. “Why Rudolph, I want you to be my boyfriend.”

“Your boyfriend! I’m a reindeer without a job. I only work one day a year. I don’t make much money.”

She giggled. “Then how did you get those cookie crumbs on your muzzle?”

“Oh that! It’s just a treat from Mrs. Claus. She’s the best baker ever and also the kindest lady I’ve ever known.”

“Really? Well we will see about that.” And off she flew away, before Rudolph knew what happened.

Rudolph, dazzled by her beauty and agility, watched as the fairy disappeared. He didn’t even know her name and he didn’t tell Santa because maybe it was a fluke and he wouldn’t ever see her again. So he kept busy with chores around the little house helping in every way he could.

Days went by. Rudolph felt helpless. The pretty fairy let him down. Summer was hot and soon to end. Still no snow. He felt like crying. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, once so happy to spread joy, was in the dumps, a flop, a failure! And then one dark and stormy night, Rudolph woke up to look out the window. To his amazement he saw a little snowflake and then another and then a whole bunch of them and in the middle of the flurry was his fairy.

She called to him, her voice sweeter than anything he ever heard. “Rudolph, wake up. I brought you a blizzard of snow. It won’t last long but it’s yours and remember you are now my boyfriend forever. Hurry now. Get Santa and his bag of toys for the most needy boys and girls. The important thing is to get out there before the snow melts.

Rudolph ran to get Santa and the bag of toys for the surprise summer. Off they went with the sled and just one little reindeer. Santa slid down the chimney since he had lost a few pounds. Every house was lit up with faces of smiling children and soon the snow diminished to almost nothing but nobody cared. They were so happy. Girls were dancing and helping their Mothers. Boys carried heavy wood for stacks when the snow came in the winter. Everyone was busy, cooking and cleaning their little houses. It was a very festive time, just like Christmas but not really because the snow melted so fast. Kids couldn’t even take out their sleds. But they were super happy. Christmas would come soon enough. Of this they were sure.

Rudy Carpenter woke up from a glorious dream or was it really a dream, he wondered. There was so much fun and hope in it, he planned to work harder and get more out of his job every day. After all, why shouldn’t Rudy reach a higher plane? He could be a leader in the company. After work that evening, he’d treat himself to a special burger with cheese and also have some fries. All this at the Good Burger nearby in town.

The place was packed with families. He waited in line but he had to envy big families, laughing and having fun. Rudy came from a small town and didn’t have a family. A pretty girl sat close to him and they began to chat.

She said, “I wish I had a family. I’m from a small town and I’m not even married. I miss the love of a family.”

“So do I. Kids are wonderful especially when it snows. Growing up, my brothers and I had lots of fun.”

“Just imagine, a snow blizzard in August. What a wonder but now the snow is melting. Would you like to take a walk with me even though it’s kind of slushy?”

“I would. What your name? My name is Feline. I work here on Main Street. It’s a nice company. I work with customers keeping them happy in special service.”

“Feline, that’s a pretty name. I’m Rudy. Rudy Carpenter. I plan to succeed in my company. I also work with people. I’d love to walk with you and get to know you.” Holding hands, they walked out into the night. And so a romance began. At first they giggled and then they talked about serious things like life and someday having children of their own.

From a distance, a little reindeer with a red nose and his fairy girlfriend had to laugh. To think they started it all on this Surprise in August. As they skipped along, snow began to fall, a few flakes at a time and soon the small town streets were covered with fluffs of snow. Children made snow balls and threw them at each other. What fun it was on this special surprise in August.

Charmaine Gordon

Charmaine Gordon writes books about women who Survive and Thrive. Her motto is take one step and then another to leave your past behind and begin again. Six books and several short stories in three years, she’s always at work on the next story. The books include To Be Continued, Starting Ov er, Now What?, Reconstructing Charlie, Sin of Omission and The Catch, and her series of Mature Romances, The Beginning…Not the End, including the stand alone novellas, She Didn’t Say No and Farewell, Hello.

 

“I didn’t realize at the time while working as an actor in NYC, I’d become a sponge soaking up dialogue, setting, and stage directions. I learned many tools of writing during the years watching directors like Mike Nichols and actors including Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins, and Billy Crystal. And would you believe, I was Geraldine Ferraro’s stand-in leg model, my first job giving me entrée into all the Unions needed to work. When the sweet time ended, I began another career and creative juices flowed.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift

Lauren Shiro

 

 

I love reading.

Anna tapped her temple with her index finger. Hmmm. What to put? Ah ha! I like country music and dancing.

Anna paused. What else? What else should she write?

“Hey!” She called out. “What else do I put on here?”

Shannon came into the room. “What do you have on there so far?” She leaned over the couch to look at the screen over Anna’s shoulder.

“Thirty six, divorced, lives with her dog. Loves reading, country music and dancing. Okay, that’s all good.” She waited to think. “Ummm…why not put something like how she would love nothing more than a new love this holiday season?”

Anna looked up at her. “Seriously?”

“Well, not worded like that, but you know what I mean.”

Anna just stared blankly at her.

“What? I’m sorry. You know I’m not good with words.”

“That’s the cheesiest thing I have ever heard of. But I’ll think of something.”

Shannon smiled. “Okay good.” She stood up. “I’m about to go make lunch. You want anything?”

“Sure. All this on-profile crap is making me work up an appetite.”

“Ham sandwich?”

“Yeah.”

“You got it!” Shannon rubbed Anna’s shoulder, and walked into the kitchen.

Anna focused her attention back to the computer screen. “It’s been a long time, but the best holiday gift would be someone I could give my heart to,” she mumbled as she typed out the words.

She didn’t know if this would work, but if it did, it would be the best holiday gift she could imagine.

“We got a hit!” Anna shouted. “The profile’s only been up for eight hours, and we already got a hit!”

Shannon ran into the room. “Really?”

“Yeah! Let’s take a look.”

She opened the e-mail.

“Rachel. Thirty five. Teacher. Never been married. No kids. Also has a dog. Also loves country music. Drives a big Ford pick up truck. Loves to do country line dancing.”

“Oh, that’s perfect!” Shannon exclaimed.

“Let’s look at her picture.”

Anna clicked on the link to see Rachel’s photograph.

She had shoulder-length sandy brown hair, with striking blue eyes. She had a big, bright smile, with high cheek bones. Her face was bright and cheery.

“She looks nice,” Shannon said.

“Let’s do it. Let’s meet her.”

“You want to do the interview?”

“Yeah. Let’s e-mail her, and see what happens.”

“Are you going to e-mail her as Lisa or as us – you?”

Anna thought for a minute. “Us. Let’s be up front and honest from the get-go. This girl needs to know what she’s getting herself into. Plus, we need to know if she can handle Lisa.”

“Okay.” Shannon nodded. “Alright, then. Let’s do this.”

Anna clicked on REPLY.

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for the e-mail. You sound like a great match for Lisa.

My name is Anna. My partner, Shannon, and I are looking out for Lisa’s best interest. We would really like to meet you. We promise we’re not psychopaths, just concerned friends. If we haven’t scared you away, and you still want to meet Lisa, please e-mail us back.

Thank you!

Ana.

The doorbell rang. Shannon and Anna looked at each other with giddiness and nervousness at the same time. They rushed the door. As they opened it, they saw Rachel.

She looked exactly like she did in the picture. She was a very pretty girl. Her hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail. Her bright blue eyes twinkled. Her smile radiated warmth and friendliness.

“Uh, hi…” She said rather meekly. “I’m Rachel.”

Anna and Shannon nearly tripped over each other.

“Hi, I’m Anna.”

“I’m Shannon. Won’t you come in?”

Shannon opened the door further to let Rachel in.

Anna went flying backwards after she tripped over Shannon’s foot. Shannon reached out and caught her just in time.

Clueless as to the comedy going on behind the door, Rachel looked around the house. “This is a lovely home you have,” she said.

“Thanks,” Anna and Shannon said in unison.

“Come, have a seat.” Shannon said, indicating towards the couch.

Rachel sat, continuing to look around.

Anna and Shannon sat across from her in two chairs.

“So, what about Lisa’s profile did you like?” Anna asked.

“Wait! We should at least offer her a drink!” Shannon said. “Rachel, would you like anything to drink?”

Rachel looked incredibly perplexed, if not slightly frightened, by this unusual pair. She hesitated. “No, I’m fine. Thank you.”

“Okay, now you can start.” Shannon said.

“What about Lisa’s profile did you like?” Anna repeated herself.

“Well, it just seemed that we had some things in common. And she seems like a genuine person. She’s not out there just for a fling or whatever. She’s real, and has good intentions. She seems to have a good heart.”

Anna squinted her eyes. “You surmised all that just from her profile?”

“You see, here’s the thing.” Shannon interrupted. “You’re right about all of those things. Lisa’s been divorced for six years. She’s been alone, and she’s been afraid to date.”

“I don’t know if I’d say she was afraid…” Anna jumped in.

“Whatever it may be.” Shannon resumed. “She’s been alone. She has a heart of gold, and personally, we’re sick of seeing her alone. I don’t want to see her spend another holiday season by herself. She won’t get out there on her own, so we decided to help her out.”

“Oh, that’s why…” Rachel said softly.

“Yes. And we want only the best for her.” Anna snapped. “Do you have what it takes? Can you treat her well? Are you the best?”

“I don’t know if I’m the best. I’d certainly do my best, but I am only human. I will make mistakes, I’m sure. That doesn’t mean I won’t treat her with respect. I

always will. I’ll always be as kind and compassionate as I can be. I give relationships my all.” Rachel propped herself up higher. “You know, I could speculate all I

want. This all assuming a relationship develops. Now, romance or not, yes, I will always respect her. There’s no doubt about that. But I don’t want to put the cart

before the horse. I’d rather wait and see what happens, what develops. Enjoy each moment as it comes, you know? Let the relationship grow, if it’s meant to be, and

give it my all as it comes.”

Shannon and Anna looked at each other. They paused, smiled at each other, and then turned their attention back to Rachel.

“You’re hired!”

Rachel looked around the coffee house. It was a cute little joint. One she had never been to before. It was a bit of a hole-in-the-wall, but she liked it. It had floor

to ceiling books. In one far corner was an area with board games and cards and such. They served all kinds of coffees, smoothies, hot chocolate. They played quiet,

relaxing, instrumental music in the background. It had a very serene quality to it. She’d definitely come back here again.

She looked around, trying to find anyone that looked like Lisa’s picture. She searched and searched.

Over there, in the back corner. Reading. Okay, here goes nothing.

Rachel nervously walked up to the back table. Thankfully, the table next to her was empty. Rachel sat down. “Wow, Julien Gracq. Now there’s an author whose name and books you hardly see.”

Lisa peered her brown eyes over the top of her book.

“You’re reading New Directions. I thought that one was okay. I liked The Opposing Shore much better.”

“You know Gracq?” Lisa finally asked.

“Yeah. Well, a little.”

“I’d say that’s more than a little.”

“I wasn’t a lit major or anything.”

“So how do you know Gracq?”

“Purely by chance.” Rachel chuckled. I found Chateau D’Argol on the floor of a book store one day. I guess someone dropped it or whatever. So I bought it. Fell in love with it, and read everything of his after that. You?”

“Everybody was reading Fifty Shades, and I’m just not into that crap. I searched on-line for obscure writers, and his name came up. Figured I’d give him a try.”

“Cool.” Rachel smiled again. “I’m Rachel.” She extended her hand.

Lisa looked at her warily for a moment. “Lisa.” She ran her fingers through her long, dark brown hair. “Do you always interrupt people when they’re reading?”

“No. Sorry. I just saw Gracq, and got excited.” She chuckled. “I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone.”

Lisa closed her book. “No, it’s alright. This is actually the first time I’ve had an intelligent conversation in here. I’m just not used to people coming right up to me. I normally keep to myself.”

“I’m sorry, I can leave you alone.”

“No, it’s cool.” Lisa said. “I like you – er, the fact that you know Gracq. That you’re smart and well read. What else do you like?”

“Do you mean like book wise, or…?”

“Whatever.”

“Well, I love country music.”

“Me too! Favorite singer?”

“Toby Keith.”

“Oh my gosh! Me too!” Lisa’s face lit up with excitement.

“I even like to go line dancing.”

“No way!”

“Yeah. Why?” Rachel asked.

“I do too!”

“I have a French Bulldog named Ziggy.”

“Awe! Do you have pictures?”

“Do I have pictures? Now that’s a silly question!” Rachel pulled her phone out of her pocket. She got to her pictures, and then leaned over to show Lisa. She began scrolling through. “Here he is sleeping.” It was a funny picture of the litte dog in a contorted position on his back, with all four legs in the air.

She scrolled to another picture of him in a bumble bee costume. “This was him last Halloween.”

Lisa burst out laughing. “He’s so cute!”

Rachel smiled. “Thanks. What about you? Do you have any pets?”

“I have a lab named Lucy.”

“Lucy the lab! That’s cute! Do you have any pictures?”

Lisa cocked her head and gave Rachel a look as to say, “you’ve got to be kidding.” Without missing a beat, she pulled out her phone, got to her pictures, and began scrolling through.

There was one of Lucy leaping through a large pile of snow. “That was taken last year. She loves the snow! She’s definitely hoping for a white Christmas this year.”

The two lightly chuckled.

There was another picture of her where she was perfectly posed and looking right at the camera.

“Wow! Look at her. What a good girl! She posed so well for you.”

Lisa leaned in a little more. “It’s only because I had a treat in my hand,” she whispered.

They laughed.

“Ah, the truth comes out! She’s not such an angel after all!”

“It’s just her and me, so what do I care if she’s not perfectly mannered?” Lisa said.

There was a brief, awkward pause.

“Just the two of you?” Rachel softly asked.

“Yeah. But we’re happy. We live a good life. She won’t break my heart…”

“True, but not all people will.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“There are some good people out there, Lisa.”

Lisa stared at Rachel for a minute. “Maybe.” She looked away. “But we’re happy, so that’s all that matters.”

“So you would never go out with anyone? Not even someone like me? We’d have this great encounter, and you’d leave it at that?”

“I don’t want to take that risk.”

“You don’t want to take the risk and possibly have something good? Sure, there’s always a risk. But you could also be missing out on something great. There’s that risk, too.”

Lisa didn’t respond.

“They were right,” Rachel mumbled.

“What? Who were? What are you talking about?”

“Your friends love you, and are very concerned about you. That’s why I’m here.”

“Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I don’t like being set up. Thanks for the lies.” Lisa stood up.

Rachel put her hand over Lisa’s. Her hand was soft and warm, gentle and caring.

“Those weren’t lies,” she softly said. “It was all true. Yes, Anna and Shannon sent me here. They set up a profile for you on-line. I had to meet them, and go through an interview to make sure I met their standards. They care, and they want what’s best for you. They also don’t want to see you alone anymore. The holidays are coming up, and they want nothing more than to see their friend share them with someone special. Truth be told, I’m honored that they picked me. I liked them, and I like you,

Lisa. I would really like to get to know you more. We have a lot in common, and I think we’d have a lot of fun together. And I think that we could both have a great holiday season…together. Please, stay. Talk to me. Spend time with me. Go out with me.”

Lisa looked down, deeply into Rachel’s blue eyes. They were gentle and sincere. Something she hadn’t seen in a long time – maybe even ever. There was a softness and a kindness about her. They had connected, on a few levels. If Anna and Shannon liked her, maybe there was something to her. They were pretty picky, Anna especially. The holidays did get kind of lonely, even after all these years. Maybe she should give Rachel a shot.

Slowly, Lisa sat back down. “Okay, I’m sorry. I’ve never been set up before. I haven’t dated in…”

“A long time, I know.” Rachel smiled sweetly. “And that’s okay. We’ll go slowly. There’s no need to rush things. Let’s just enjoy getting to know each other.”

Lisa’s defenses came down. A big, warm smile appeared across her face. “Okay, sounds good. Now, where were we?”

 

 

 

Lauren Shiro

Love without Boundaries

 

Lauren Shiro was published nationally for the first time at age fourteen. Since then, her work has been published in newspapers, magazines, literary journals, and even textbooks.

 

In 2006, she began writing fiction and she hasn’t stopped yet. From her set of intertwined short stories in Loving Her, to the powerhouse duo of Imperfect and Impeccable, Lauren has written stories that are sure to touch your heart. Lauren continues to write stories of love without boundaries.

 

When she’s not writing, working at her daytime job, or tending to household necessities, Lauren enjoys everything from wood working to roller derby. She resides in Rochester, New York with her wife and their menagerie of furry and feathered friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Great Books from these Great Authors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Holiday Stories

 

Click on the Cover or the Title to go directly to Shakespir for ALL your reading devices, including Kindle, Nook, iPad, Tablet, Android, Kobo, and direct through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Apple iTunes!

 

Click on the author’s name or series title to see all their works!

 

Home for the Holidays: A Holiday Short Story by Charmaine Gordon

Eight year old twin sisters were placed in a private religious school in Utah years ago. Ten years later, they reach out to the kind aunt and uncle who raised their older sister and brother. An escape plan is made and their truly wicked mother is forced to face what she did by throwing away her children in exchange for her own freedom.

First Christmas: A Holiday Short Story by Lauren Shiro

A heartwarming holiday short story – Corrine and Darryl haven’t spent much time together, with Darryl away in the military. Now, Darryl is coming home. Corrine has changed… grown… become a woman he barely knows… a woman who amazes him at every turn. He’s coming home to their first home for their first Christmas… together, at last.

Jock Who? Jock Stewart! by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Jock Stewart, known for his wit and sarcasm, shares a few news stories he’s written about this holiday, including Jock Stewart’s Holiday Book Buying Guide, New Interstate Blocks Road To Grandmother’s House, and A Million Little Lies. He also shares a free preview of his comedic murder mystery, Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.

The Holiday Secret by Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Will Evaliz finally realize that the most important thing she could have wanted for Christmas was something she had the entire time?

Romancing the Grinch by Tamara Philip

Lenora Winslow absolutely despises holiday cheer. Logan Darling thrives in the festive season. When the two meet by chance on Christmas Eve, will love be in the air or will it be a case of the winter blues?

Believing in Santa by Chelle Cordero

Dini didn’t want to think about her past. And, Seth wasn’t thinking about anything but his past. Thrown together as Santa and his Number One Elf at the homeless shelter, Dini and Seth seem to be on opposite sides… of everything. Her past is catching up to her, and Seth may risk his future to protect her.

Holiday Happiness by Chelle Cordero

A short story about finding holiday happiness when you didn’t realize it was right there with you all along.

This Season… by Tamara Philip & Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Two Holiday Short Stories in one volume, from Tamara Philip (The Cupid Series) and Neva Squires-Rodriguez (The Liliana Trilogy).

Have Love by Tamara Philip

Bookstore owner, Danny Archer has always led a quiet unassuming life but when the mysterious Josephine, enters his shop, it’s love at first sight. 

With Christmas right around the corner and a little help from his twin sister, it seems like a dream come true. 

But will the secret that she’s harboring leave them heartbroken for the Holidays or will love find a way?

Have Faith by Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Things couldn’t get any worse for Yasmin Vazquez this Christmas season. With her life falling apart around her, snatching the wreath off the apartment door that her cheating ex-boyfriend evicted her out of, was just the beginning of a nightmare of a day that led to her meeting handsome police officer, Emmanuel Colon.

Despite all of her misgivings, Yasmin allows him into her life as the magic of faith and hope helps mend her soul. But is he all that he claims to be or is there more to his story?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EBOOKS

 

Click on the Cover or the Title to go directly to Shakespir for ALL your reading devices, including Kindle, Nook, iPad, Tablet, Android, Kobo, and direct through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Apple iTunes!

 

Click on the author’s name or series title to see all their works!

 

 

At Your Service: Stories of Canine Caring and Compassion by Charmaine Gordon

 

Therapy dogs, comfort dogs, rescue dogs, companions, search and rescue, and trained canines never forget their mission to help those in need of emotional support. They (and their humans) are there to share a story, a smile, help a struggling child read or interact socially, brighten the day for someone in physical rehabilitation, or cuddle patiently with someone who has endured trauma.

 

Charmaine Gordon, Vanilla Heart Publishing author, has generously donated her novella, Young at Heart, as part of this book. Young at Heart features Kizzy, an adorable member of Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause, as Kizzy charms his way into their lives to create something special between two mature lovers.

 

Part of the Publisher’s proceeds from each sale will go directly to Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause to give back just a little of what these animals and their humans give each time they go on a ‘mission.

 

 

 

Together, Again by Charmaine Gordon

Series: Charlie’s Family Secrets

 

A wealthy couple, no children in sight, answer the door one day to find a replica of the woman living there, titian hair and all. Charlie is her name and so begins the story. Years later Charlie’s young twin sisters , now seventeen, are rescued by the same couple with a big heart. It’s a tale of love and hearts that keep on giving.

 

 

When Double Becomes Single  by Charmaine Gordon

Series: Women Who Survive and Thrive

 

Before that awful night, Sharon Michaels had never even driven herself at night… eaten at a table for one… or made plans on her own. Alone after losing her husband – her rock– she’s left with a business to run, a great son and his wonderful wife and children – far away in Denmark, a bad son and his nasty wife, and two teenage grandchildren she barely knows.

 

 

 

Nightlife[* *] by Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

Series: Detective Lilah Evans, Protector of the Night

 

A Seattle Homicide cop works nights – and that is a good thing – she is half-vampire. Detective Lilah Evans gets called to a dead body found just blocks from a nightclub where a girl went missing only hours before. She must find out if there’s a connection, and do her damnedest to solve the crime, all while protecting her secret.

 

EMS Novels Bundle Pack[* *] by Chelle Cordero

Series: EMS Novels by Chelle Cordero.

 

Final Sin

Deputy Sheriff Commander Jake Carson has his hands full… investigation of a brutal multiple homicide, a troubled son and a vindictive ex-wife. He meets young, free-spirited paramedic Julie Jennings. When Julie becomes the subject of an obsession, it puts both of them in danger…

 

 

Hyphema

Hyphema: Bleeding in the eye caused by trauma… Matt Garratti, a paramedic from New York, moves his wife and son to North Carolina to work at his dream job as a flight medic. Pakistani born Sudah, his wife, receives frosty stares and insensitive comments from their new neighbors… Matt wonders if he is pursuing his dream or bringing his family into a nightmare from which they may never wake.

 

 

No Turning Back[* *]by Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Series: The Liliana Trilogy

 

The devastating secret Liliana learns pushes her to search for answers from her father, El Jefe. But, nothing can prepare her for the tragedy that will come of her relationship with her father… or the priceless opportunity that will come from it.

 

 

River’s Edge Trio, Volume 2 by Charmaine Gordon

Series: River’s Edge Trios

 

Three stories in the Charmaine Gordon series River’s Edge, combined in one volume. Breaking New Ground, Bridging the Gap, and Spreading Her Wings. These Charmaine Gordon stories of love, passion, and suspense set in River’s Edge, the small town with the big heart, are also available as singles in all ebook editions

 

 

Spreading Her Wings[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: River’s Edge

 

Kindness to Strangers in River’s Edge rubs off on all who live there. Sally Kirkwood responds to an emergency call from a friend one early morning. A daughter is missing and with Sally’s skill as a reporter, she finds her at an audition in NYC. Thus begins an adventure of show business, unfaithfulness, forgiveness and success.

 

 

Bridging the Gap[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: River’s Edge

 

Anna Youngblood and James Chandler have problems. His little daughter overheard his ex say she never wanted kids; Anna must make amends for breaking rules of her tribe; he has a serious concussion… and she’s pregnant. Can this couple find happiness in River’s Edge?

 

 

The Trouble with Romance[* *]by Tamara Philip

Series: The Cupid Series

 

December’s best friend and agent, Clarissa Gregory, finds herself as the latest person destined for love. Except, for Clarissa, it isn’t only meddling friends pushing her towards the dashing detective Peter, but fate itself. Will December convince the cynical Clarissa to take a chance on romance? Or is she right, that love really is just too much trouble? Also includes Bonus Story, Have Love

 

 

Breaking New Ground[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: River’s Edge

 

River’s Edge comes together to protect Celia Brown’s property when the CEO of a major construction company claims a part of her property… and he has no idea who he is messing with. The elderly widow and her six year old granddaughter prepare for battle. Romance, suspense, and more.

 

 

 

In Too Deep[* *]by Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Series: The Liliana Trilogy

 

Just when Liliana is supposed to be experiencing the happy feelings of a new bride, she finds herself in a very difficult predicament. Her husband isn’t the perfect man that she thought he was and she finds herself alone as her life shatters around her. She becomes lost in a world of deceit and she struggles with the knowledge that her life with Antonio will never be the same.

 

 

River’s Edge Trio[*, Volume 1 *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: River’s Edge Trios

 

River’s Edge where Kindness to Strangers is the Motto… Three stories of small town Americana, where anything is possible. She Didn’t Say No, Housebroken, and Help Wanted.

 

 

 

Help Wanted[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: River’s Edge, Book 3 · Women Who Survive and Thrive

 

Steve and Sally Atwood have some big adjustments to make when they move to River’s Edge. Afraid he is losing Sally to a more exciting world, Steve panics, but despite Sally’s lecherous new boss, together they rediscover all the love of their thirty-five years together and all the… excitement… that brings to their lives.

 

 

 

Pianissimo[* *]by Lauren Shiro

 

With Darryl’s army career coming to a close, he and his wife, Corinne, feel ready to settle down in Louisville, Kentucky. Darryl is sent on one final tour, leaving Corinne to live in this new house and new city alone. But, someone or some thing does not want her to life to be either quiet or boring. And then there’s the creepy piano in the basement…

 

 

 

 

Liliana[* *]by Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Series: The Liliana Trilogy

 

Boom! That deafening sound changed Liliana’s life forever. Her mother sits dead besides her, shot to death on the streets of Chicago. Within weeks, Liliana is sent to live with a father she doesn’t know in Colombia. While working to pay off her father’s debt, she meets the love of her life, who frees her from her father, only to bring her into a new world of twisted surprises.

 

 

 

 

Housebroken[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: River’s Edge, Book 2

 

Sally and Steve Atwood must make a big adjustment – a fair number of them, actually – when after thirty-five years, three grown children, and a lifetime of memories, they are alone, together, at last… And, then they found River’s Edge, a small town with big heart, stories to tell that will warm your heart, make you smile, and turn a dreary day into a day of hope for the Kindness of Strangers.

 

 

 

The Trouble with Playing Cupid by Tamara Philip

Series: The Cupid Series

 

One New Year’s Eve, shy singer, December Brown drunkenly texts her talk show host pal, Trace Randall, about her long time crush on the aloof actor, Tom Elmswood. Thinking the two celebrities would make a cute couple, he unwisely decides to play matchmaker… in front of a live studio audience. Will these two lonely hearts ever make a love connection or has this cupid’s arrow missed its mark?

 

 

Loving Her, The Series, Volume 2[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

In this series of stories, we meet a group of loving friends and couples. Each member of this group is diverse in personalities and abilities, but they are tied together by the common denominator – love. from Chelle Cordero, Combining Passion & Suspense … Volume 2 includes: The Peace Officer, The Shelter Director, The Writer, and The Vet Student

 

 

The Vet Student[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

Determined to escape the small town and her religious, stifling parents,Katie works hard to get into veterinary school… in Philadelphia. Katie refused to let anything – or anyone – destroy her dream. Not even her own parents. She suffered many losses along the way, but she gained so much more. Tumultuous and tender, Katie’s story closes the Loving Her series… for now.

 

 

 

Farewell, Hello[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

 

That first kiss… that first incredible, agonizing, bellyache-making first kiss. Soon, Joy and Danny are inseparable, planning a future – a life, together. A kiss goodbye couldn’t prepare the highschool sweethearts for all that lay ahead. A family crisis, a tornado, and the Korean War brought their plans to a screeching halt, and changed their futures… but maybe not their forever.

 

 

 

The Writer[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

Everyone has that one friend; the mother of the group. Maria is that one friend; nurturing, wise, and with a spicy streak, Maria is the matriarch of the clan. Cerebral, emotional, and even sometimes comical, Maria’s story is the seventh in the Loving Her series.

 

 

 

 

The Beginning…Not the End, Volume 2[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: The Beginning… Not the End Trios

 

Three more stories in the Charmaine Gordon series of Mature Romance combined in one volume. No Time for Green Bananas, Book 4; She Didn’t Say No, Book 5; and Dr. D and the Dad, Book 6. These Charmaine Gordon stories of love, passion, and suspense starring sexy seniors are also available as singles in ebook.

 

 

 

 

Jock Stewart Strikes Back[* *]by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Since modern-day journalism is going to hell in a hand basket and/or nowhere fast, Jock Stewart strikes back by categorizing news events as satirical, outlandish, strange or political. Nonetheless, according to informed sources, the use of this volume as a journalism textbook has not been authorized anywhere the world is right as rain.

 

 

 

The Shelter Director[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

Shy, quiet, humble – Jen is the kind of person that would give you the shirt off her back and then ask you what else you need. She may not be a movie star, but she’ll treat you like one. She works diligently to help save cats. She sacrifices her life and stability to accommodate her partner. She gives until it hurts, and her reward is a devastating diagnosis. What will her life become?

 

 

 

Dr. D and the Dad[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: The Beginning, Not the End

 

A trip over a mound of sand on the beach begins a journey for Diane O’Rourke and Tony Flannigan. She’s a pediatrician, a bit over weight; he has a foster care home with three children under his sheltering wing… and a dark secret. Can they overcome the past and make the future work for them? They might just find the initial trip was well worth it.

 

 

 

 

The Peace Officer[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

Brynn Racanelli – daughter, sister, friend, partner, police officer… and so much more. Devoted to serving others through her police work, and to helping her sister who battles chronic Lyme Disease, she is the the poster child of selflessness. But she does have wants, needs, hopes, and dreams. Will fate finally bring her the life and love she’s always dreamed of?

 

 

She Didn’t Say No[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: The Beginning, Not the End · River’s Edge, Book 1 · Women Who Survive and Thrive

 

Grace didn’t say no to the Big Man On Campus, Scott Dwyer. And then her life changed… Years later, a too-close encounter of an unpleasant kind with a skunk and Scott’s German Shepherd reunites the former lovers. What happens in between are their stories of beginnings and endings and love lost, then found.

 

 

 

 

 

Loving Her, The Series, Volume 1[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

In this series of stories, we meet a group of loving friends and couples. Each member of this group is diverse in personalities and abilities, but they are tied together by the common denominator – love. from Chelle Cordero, Combining Passion & Suspens

 

 

 

The Model[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

She’s exotic. She’s beautiful. She’s talented. She’s unique. She’s Stephania. A young successful model who started from nothing, she has experienced all the ups and downs of life. Never one to be kept down, she persists through life’s trials and reaches for the fairytale ending she has always hoped for. Stephania’s emotional journey is the fourth story in the Loving Her series.

 

 

The Mechanic[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

Linda – her name means beautiful… After facing rejection from her parents because she is a lesbian, Linda didn’t feel beautiful… she felt lost and alone. As a skilled mechanic, Linda built her business… Her love life was a different matter. Until Katie… Together they survived, and together they would face their future, finding hope and joy neither ever expected.

 

 

 

 

No Time for Green Bananas[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: The Beginning, Not the End

 

Celeste Hamlin, seventy-five year old widow, has a goal… conquer the six mountains in the Saranac Lake region before deciding what to do with the rest of her life. Sixty-two year old Professor Paul Harris, meets the dynamic Celeste, and recalls the last words his wife said before she passed. “Find another love and begin again.” Will they begin again?

 

 

 

The Beginning…Not the End, Volume 1[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: The Beginning… Not the End Trios

 

The first three stories in the series of Mature Romance combined in one volume. Instant Grandpa, Book 1; Young at Heart, Book 2; and Before the Final Curtain, Book 3. These Charmaine Gordon stories of love, passion, and suspense starring sexy seniors are also available as singles in ebook.

 

 

 

The Cop[* *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

Donna White is one tough cop. Behind the badge, though, is a very sweet, sad, sensitive soul. Truly a woman alone, Donna is simply trying to navigate her way through life. Who is Donna? She is dedicated, determined, distinctive and deep. Donna’s rich and touching story is second in the Loving Her series.

 

 

 

 

 

Before the Final Curtain[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: The Beginning, Not the End

 

Book 3 in the series The Beginning…Not the End. Once lovers, aging actors collide on stage as stars in a romantic comedy written and directed by a manipulative director. Add to the mix the talented assistant, a tough stage manager, one prominent costume designer, two young actors, secrets and gossip. Show business. There’s no business like it.

 

 

 

 

Karma Visited[* *]by Chelle Cordero

 

Do you believe in karma? Annie Furman has a gift that allows her, while she sleeps, to visit people in their time of need – but who will be there for her when she needs help? Undersheriff Dave Turner is investigating a series of home invasions and homicides. He has no idea that solving this case will lead him to the woman of his dreams.

 

[* The Ballerina, Loving Her- the series, Book 1  *]by Lauren Shiro

Series: Loving Her Short Stories

 

A southern, redheaded, pickup driving lesbian ballerina? You bet! Meet Liz: a southern belle with flair. Vivacious, eclectic and graceful, she is unique to say the least. The first in the series of Loving Her stories, Liz’s story is the kind that stays with you long after you’ve closed the book.

 

 

 

 

Young at Heart[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: The Beginning, Not the End

 

Book 2 in the series The Beginning…Not the End. Seventy year old Joyce Campbell expected her new left hip to heal at Helen Hayes Rehabilitation. What she didn’t expect was to fall in love with the distinguished silver haired Collin Brody who wouldn’t give her a second glance. Until Kizzy, the therapy dog comes into Collin’s life…and into his heart. What happens next? The Beginning, Not the End.

 

 

 

 

Instant Grandpa[* *]

by Charmaine Gordon

Series: The Beginning, Not the End. Price: $1.99

 

Summer at the Jersey Shore just got hotter… Take one widower grandfather, add two little grandkids, and widowed grandmother with a small granddaughter. Mix well. Stir in sun drenched beach days and moonlit nights. What have you got? A kite flying high with a new tail; an author writing a book to sort out emotions; a talented boy with his mother returned to claim the prize.

 

 

 

The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero[* *]

by Chelle Cordero

Price: $1.99 USD

 

The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero is a single author collection of short stories featuring Introduction, Pussycat Tails, Holiday Happiness, Not Alone, I Swear That Raccoon Just Knocked on the Door, Stormy Weather, A Mother’s Love, More Than a Friend, The Meeting, The Vacation and a special bonus section.

 

 

 

 

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Spooky Stories[* *]by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Two Spooky Short Stories from Malcolm R. Campbell in one bundle pack: Cora’s Crossing and Moonlight and Ghosts.

 

Cora’s Crossing

 

In the middle of a rogue thunderstorm, two young men are mysteriously drawn to an old bridge in the middle of a Florida swamp. They discover the dead are waiting to speak, their lives are in jeopardy, and they must help an injured young woman they find beside the road.

 

Moonlight and Ghosts

 

On a moonlit night, Randy’s intuition is drawing him back to an abandoned psychiatric hospital where he once worked. He and his friend, Alice, have heard the ghost hunters’ claims the building is haunted, filled with strange lights, apparitions and the voices of former patients calling for help. The Forgotten point Randy and Alice to a crime in progress… and there’s not much time to save the victim.

 

 

 

The Catch[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: Women Who Survive and Thrive Book 6 · Charlie’s Family Secrets, Book 3

 

Tom Donnelly, once known as The Catch – every woman’s dream guy, has fallen down every rung of the ladder he once worked so hard to climb. On New Year’s Day, he realizes just how far he’s fallen, and makes a list of resolutions to change his life. He vows to regain the trust lost from his family, his law firm, and his friends – and maybe even find the right woman this time.

 

Emily’s Stories[* *]by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Emily Walters is a sharp, inquisitive fourteen-year-old north Florida girl who loves maps, her rusty old bike, and the forest behind her house. Sometimes her dreams tell her the future and sometimes her waking hours bring wise birds and other spirits into her life. In these three short stories, join Emily in adventures and mysteries.

 

When her family vacations in the mountains in “High Country Painter,” a wise Pine Siskin tells her she must quickly learn how to paint dreams into reality to prevent an afternoon hike from becoming a tragedy.

 

In “Map Maker,” she’ll need her skills—and the help of a Chuck-will’s-widow—to fight a developer’s plans for from bulldozing the sacred forest behind her house and replacing it with a subdivision.

 

In “Sweetbay Magnolia,” she’ll learn the secrets of her grandmother’s favorite tree, the crumbling almost-forever house down on the river, and why some ghosts would rather visit than haunt.

 

 

 

 

Sin of Omission[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: Women Who Survive and Thrive, Book 5 · Charlie’s Family Secrets, Book 2

 

A twist of fate intervenes when Shelley keeps a secret that threatens to break apart the Costigans and her future. A mysterious client, Deanna Rose, enters Haven, victim of a savage beating under strange circumstances. Shelley investigate and finds Ms. Rose has an unsavory past. With the reputation and safety of Haven at stake, Shelley is at risk to lose everything and everyone she cares about.

 

 

Impeccable[* *]by Lauren Shiro

 

Carol – abandoned – waiting… for what, she couldn’t know. She couldn’t see that there was more life waiting for her. Carol is forced to face the demons of her past as well as begin to face life without Alex. Struggling to make sense of it all, Carol experiences her new life and all of the highs and lows that come with that life.

 

 

 

 

Hyphema[* *]by Chelle Cordero

Series: EMS Novels by Chelle Cordero, Book 2

 

Hyphema: Bleeding in the eye caused by trauma… Matt Garratti, a paramedic from New York, moves his wife and son to North Carolina to work at his dream job as a flight medic. Pakistani born Sudah, his wife, receives frosty stares and insensitive comments from their new neighbors… Matt wonders if he is pursuing his dream or bringing his family into a nightmare from which they may never wake.

 

 

Reconstructing Charlie[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: Women Who Survive and Thrive, Book 4 · Charlie’s Family Secrets, Book 1

 

Charlie Costigan has a secret. Home life gone from bad to the worst when she protects her mother from another vicious attack by her drunken father. Midnight. Clothes thrown into an old suitcase, she races for the bus with a letter to an unknown aunt and uncle. “This is my daughter. Embrace her as if she were your own.” Determined, Charlie begins again. Alone with her secret.

 

 

 

Imperfect[* *]by Lauren Shiro

 

Carol Mathers, in her mid-thirties, a highly sought-after IT guru in St. Louis. She has built a great life for herself with her partner, Alexandria, even though the two face prejudice as lesbians, and as an interracial couple -fighting tragedy and sometimes, triumphing amidst the chaos...

 

 

 

 

[*Now What? *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: Women Who Survive and Thrive , Book 3

 

I held his cooling hand and asked the two words spoken many times during our years together. “Now what?” This time there was no response. I was on my own for the first time. When my fingers touched his wedding ring, I slipped it off and held it in my fist. The gold band was warm. I clung to him. “Come back to me, dearest.” Sometimes what you wish for is more than you can live with.

 

 

His Lucky Charm[* *]by Chelle Cordero

Series: Chelle Cordero’s Cousins Suspenses, Book 1

 

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas… this time it follows Brandon and Caitlyn across the country and into a world of espionage and danger. The one thing that Brandon knows for sure is that he can’t afford to lose his lucky charm, Caitlyn.

 

 

 

 

Starting Over[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: Women Who Survive and Thrive, Book 2

 

Each morning, Emily Kendrick runs on the hard-packed sand of St. Augustine Beach to clear her mind and heal her heart. From the widow’s walk of the house perched high on the dunes, a man trains his binoculars on Emily…

 

 

 

 

Common Bond, Tangled Hearts[* *]by Chelle Cordero

 

Layne Gillette’s world is turned upside down when a man she has never met shows up to lay claim as the father of her 6-year old son. When Layne’s abusive “ex-husband” shows up, they are torn apart by danger, kidnapping and lies.

 

 

To Be Continued[* *]by Charmaine Gordon

Series: Women Who Survive and Thrive, Book 1

 

Elizabeth Malone wakes up the morning after an amazing night of passion with her husband of forty years to find a note: Dear Lizzie, it’s not you, it’s me. Abandoned by her husband, disappointed in daughter Susie’s casual attitude Dad’s having a mid-life crisis, Beth decides to re-establish herself as the winner she once was. When Frank Malone returns, he’s in for a big surprise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unbreakable Hostage[* *]by Lauren Shiro

 

Lareina Oliveira; she wants to share her passion for math. So it is back to school for Lareina… a tough Ph.D. program. A classmate is captivated by Lareina’s beauty and intelligence, and despite her repeated refusals to his attentions, he kidnaps her! Only her determination and wits can save her…

 

 

A Chaunce of Riches[* *]by Chelle Cordero

 

Ben Johnson was hired as a bodyguard for a rich widow and her kid, but he never expected to be working for the woman who had abandoned him just when he had needed her the most. Damn it all, he still wanted her. Samantha Chaunce never thought she would have to explain why she married the rich man instead of Ben. Or that her husband had been murdered…and Ben was the prime suspect.

 

 

 

Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire[* *]by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Mainstream humor with a dash of mystery… A throwback to Hollywood’s film noir reporters, Jock Stewart is out of touch with the looming world of digital journalism.

 

Hard-boiled reporter Jock Stewart wakes up on the morning after the Star-Gazer office party with a hangover and an old flame in his bed and he cuddles up with the mayor’s wife in the back seat of a 1953 Desoto. Between these defining moments, he investigates the theft of the mayor’s race horse Sea of Fire and the murder of his publisher’s girl friend, Bambi Hill.

 

Stewart discovers the truth for his news stories via an interview style based on lies, pretense and audacious behavior…

 

 

 

Hostage Heart[* *]by Chelle Cordero

 

Life was hard after the hurricanes swept through, destroying her parents’ home and livelihood… An errand for her boss – a chance encounter with a crew of bank robbers – a kind man who tried to help her … a man who isn’t all he seems…no, he is so much more

 

 

 

 

Final Sin[* *]by Chelle Cordero

Series: EMS Novels by Chelle Cordero, Book 1

 

Deputy Sheriff Commander Jake Carson has his hands full… investigation of a brutal multiple homicide, a troubled son and a vindictive ex-wife. He meets young, free-spirited paramedic Julie Jennings. When Julie becomes the subject of an obsession, it puts both of them in danger…

 

 

 

Courage of the Heart[* *]by Chelle Cordero

Series: Survivors by Chelle Cordero

 

Sometimes love is the only cure for the very deepest of emotional wounds. The story of the two lovers takes a series of unexpected and fast paced turns where lives, sanity and love are put in jeopardy. Their commitment to one another results in a spirit that binds them together and helps them to overcome physical and emotional dangers.

 

 

Within the Law[* *]by Chelle Cordero

Series: Chelle Cordero’s Cousins Suspenses, Book 2

 

Tom gave up on ever falling in love again the day that he buried his high school sweetheart and fiancé. He started a career in law enforcement just so that he could find her murderer and rapist. Just when he is about to see justice done, he meets Alli Davis-the defense attorney for the murdering rapist who took his love from him.

 

 

Bartlett’s Rule[* *]by Chelle Cordero

Series: Survivors by Chelle Cordero

 

Bartlett’s Rule shares the story of Lon and Paige’s love affair; a romance filled with hardship, emotion, danger and triumph. Falling in love was never the challenge; being there for each other, knowing just what to say and making it work is the real test. Paige and Lon are real; they are human, they cry and they laugh. Paige has to learn to trust. Lon has to learn to be patient

.

 

 

 

 

Audiobooks

 

Audiobooks

available at Amazon, iTunes, and Audible

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the Cover or the Title to go directly to Audible.com

 

 

audio sample free at Audible

 

 

 

 

Karma Visited

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Do you believe in karma?

Annie Furman has a gift that allows her, while she sleeps, to visit people in their time of need – but who will be there for her when she needs help?

Undersheriff Dave Turner is investigating a series of home invasions and homicides. He has no idea that solving this case will lead him to the woman of his dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trouble with Playing Cupid

by Tamara Philip

Produced by Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

One New Year’s Eve, shy singer, December Brown drunkenly texts her talk show host pal, Trace Randall, about her long time crush on the aloof actor, Tom Elmswood. Thinking the two celebrities would make a cute couple, he unwisely decides to play matchmaker… in front of a live studio audience. Will these two lonely hearts ever make a love connection or has this cupid’s arrow missed its mark?

 

 

Within the Law

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Barry Newman

Tom gave up on ever falling in love again the day that he buried his high school sweetheart and fiancé. He started a career in law enforcement just so that he could find her murderer and rapist. Just when he is about to see justice done, he meets Alli Davis-the defense attorney for the murdering rapist who took his love from him.

 

A Chaunce of Riches

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Barry Newman

 

Ben Johnson was hired as a bodyguard for a rich widow and her kid, but he never expected to be working for the woman who had abandoned him just when he had needed her the most. Damn it all, he still wanted her. Samantha Chaunce never thought she would have to explain why she married the rich man instead of Ben. Or that her husband had been murdered…and Ben was the prime suspect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[+ The Beginning… Not the End+]

Volume 2

by Charmaine Gordon

Produced by Julie Sears

 

Three more stories in the Charmaine Gordon series of Mature Romance combined in one volume. No Time for Green Bananas, Book 4; She Didn’t Say No, Book 5; and Dr. D and the Dad, Book 6. These Charmaine Gordon stories of love, passion, and suspense starring sexy seniors are also available as singles in ebook.

NO TIME FOR GREEN BANANAS
Celeste Hamlin, seventy-five year old widow, has a goal… conquer the six mountains in the Saranac Lake region before deciding what to do with the rest of her life. Sixty-two year old Professor Paul Harris, meets the dynamic Celeste, and recalls the last words his wife said before she passed. “Find another love and begin again.” Will they begin again?

SHE DIDN’T SAY NO
Grace didn’t say no to the Big Man On Campus, Scott Dwyer. And then her life changed… Years later, a too-close encounter of an unpleasant kind with a skunk and Scott’s German Shepherd reunites the former lovers. What happens in between are their stories of beginnings and endings and love lost, then found.

DR. D AND THE DAD
A trip over a mound of sand on the beach begins a journey for Diane O’Rourke and Tony Flannigan. She’s a pediatrician, a bit over weight; he has a foster care home with three children under his sheltering wing… and a dark secret. Can they overcome the past and make the future work for them? They might just find the initial trip was well worth it.

 

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Spooky Stories

by Malcolm R. Campbell

Produced by Michael Sears

 

Two Spooky Short Stories from Malcolm R. Campbell in one bundle pack: Cora’s Crossing and Moonlight and Ghosts.

[*CORA’S CROSSING *]
In the middle of a rogue thunderstorm, two young men are mysteriously drawn to an old bridge in the middle of a Florida swamp. They discover the dead are waiting to speak, their lives are in jeopardy, and they must help an injured young woman they find beside the road.

MOONLIGHT AND GHOSTS
On a moonlit night, Randy’s intuition is drawing him back to an abandoned psychiatric hospital where he once worked. He and his friend, Alice, have heard the ghost hunters’ claims the building is haunted, filled with strange lights, apparitions and the voices of former patients calling for help. The Forgotten point Randy and Alice to a crime in progress… and there’s not much time to save the victim.

 

 

 

 

 

Hostage Heart

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Life was hard after the hurricanes swept through, destroying her parents’ home and livelihood… An errand for her boss – a chance encounter with a crew of bank robbers – a kind man who tried to help her … a man who isn’t all he seems…no, he is so much more

 

 

 

 

 

She Didn’t Say No (Single)

by Charmaine Gordon

Produced by Julie Sears

 

Nineteen year old Grace Meredith didn’t say no to the Big Man On Campus, Scott Dwyer. And then her life changed… Grace makes her way to a new town and with the kindness of strangers, establishes a business called The Pet Emporium where she grooms , what else? Dogs and cats. Years later, a too-close encounter of an unpleasant kind with a skunk and Scott’s German Shepherd reunites the former lovers. What happens in between are their stories of beginnings and endings and love lost, then found.

 

 

 

 

 

Jock Stewart Strikes Back

by Malcolm R. Campbell

Produced by Barry Newman

 

The fictional news stories and “Night Beat” editorial columns in this collection began as posts on the “Morning Satirical News” weblog and subsequently appeared in the Worst of Jock Stewart and/or the “Jock Talks” series of e-books. Jock Talks…Politics was a 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee. 

Stewart, who served diligently as the protagonist in Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire, refutes charges that he was raised by alligators or hyenas. When he was a young boy, his dear old daddy said, “Jock, everyone but you and me is scum and I’m not sure about you.” 

That proverb opened Jock’s eyes to the realities of the world, primarily that everything is worse than it seems: the small-town newspaper, the Star-Gazer, is allegedly run by fools and buffoons; the Junction City, Texas, government is allegedly corrupt and inept. 

Since modern-day journalism is going to hell in a hand basket and/or nowhere fast, Jock Stewart strikes back by categorizing news events as satirical, outlandish, strange or political.

 

 

Bartlett’s Rule

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Bartlett’s Rule shares the story of Lon and Paige’s love affair; a romance filled with hardship, emotion, danger and triumph. Falling in love was never the challenge; being there for each other, knowing just what to say and making it work is the real test. Paige and Lon are real; they are human, they cry and they laugh. Paige has to learn to trust. Lon has to learn to be patient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jock Stewart and the

Missing Sea of Fire

by Malcolm R. Campbell

Produced by R Scott Adams

 

Mainstream humor with a dash of mystery… A throwback to Hollywood’s film noir reporters, Jock Stewart is out of touch with the looming world of digital journalism.

While he goes out of his way to mock those in authority by pretending to kowtow to them, he admits he does his best work by “being an asshole”. A mix of Don Rickles and Don Quixote, Stewart is the man for the job when the skirts are up and the chips are down…

Hard-boiled reporter Jock Stewart wakes up on the morning after the Star-Gazer office party with a hangover and an old flame in his bed and he cuddles up with the mayor’s wife in the back seat of a 1953 Desoto. Between these defining moments, he investigates the theft of the mayor’s race horse Sea of Fire and the murder of his publisher’s girl friend, Bambi Hill.

Stewart discovers the truth for his news stories via an interview style based on lies, pretense and audacious behavior…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Wendy Tremont King

 

The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero is a single author collection of short stories featuring Introduction, Pussycat Tails, Holiday Happiness, Not Alone, I Swear That Raccoon Just Knocked on the Door, Stormy Weather, A Mother’s Love, More Than a Friend, The Meeting, The Vacation and a special bonus section.

 

Something for everyone… humor, drama, passion, suspense, and more!  Chelle Cordero’s first short story collection gives the reader a glimpse into her writer’s mind, with humor, poignancy, love, suspense, and more with these nine short stories.

 

Pussycat Tales

You never really own a cat, but they do rule the household.

 

Holiday Happiness

Flashy gifts can come with hefty price-tags, but it’s the memories that are priceless.

 

Not Alone

Sometimes forgiveness seems impossible, but then so is turning your back on a friend.

 

I Swear That Raccoon Just Knocked on the Door

Take one city girl and send her camping in the woods for a tale of humor and triumph.

 

Stormy Weather

The ominous skies and howling winds of a hurricane lead to an unexpected and warmhearted friendship.

 

A Mother’s Love

When her child is hurt, there isn’t anything a mother wouldn’t do to make it better.

 

More Than a Friend

Best friends become lovers and share a lifetime together.

 

The Meeting

From a random meeting in the south during WW2 to a marriage and love that lasts for an eternity.

 

The Vacation

An erotic respite was just what she needed, the man who delivered was what she wanted.

 

 

To Be Continued

by Charmaine Gordon

Produced by Rebecca Roberts

 

Elizabeth Malone wakes up the morning after an amazing night of passion with her husband of forty years to find a note: Dear Lizzie, it’s not you, it’s me. Abandoned by her husband, disappointed in daughter Susie’s casual attitude Dad’s having a mid-life crisis, Beth decides to re-establish herself as the winner she once was. When Frank Malone returns, he’s in for a big surprise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hyphema

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Tim Danko

 

Matt Garratti, a paramedic from New York, moves his wife and son to North Carolina to work at his dream job as a flight medic. Pakistani born Sudah, his wife, receives frosty stares and insensitive comments from their new neighbors… Matt wonders if he is pursuing his dream or bringing his family into a nightmare from which they may never wake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courage of the Heart

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Raquel Gliss

 

Sometimes love is the only cure for the very deepest of emotional wounds. The story of the two lovers takes a series of unexpected and fast paced turns where lives, sanity and love are put in jeopardy. Their commitment to one another results in a spirit that binds them together and helps them to overcome physical and emotional dangers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Sin

by Chelle Cordero

Produced by Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Deputy Sheriff Commander Jake Carson has his hands full… investigation of a brutal multiple homicide, a troubled son and a vindictive ex-wife. He meets young, free-spirited paramedic Julie Jennings. When Julie becomes the subject of an obsession, it puts both of them in danger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily’s Stories

by Malcolm R. Campbell

Produced by Kelley Hazen – Storyteller Productions

Emily Walters is a sharp, inquisitive fourteen-year-old north Florida girl who loves maps, her rusty old bike, and the forest behind her house. Sometimes her dreams tell her the future and sometimes her waking hours bring wise birds and other spirits into her life. In these three short stories, join Emily in adventures and mysteries.

When her family vacations in the mountains in “High Country Painter,” a wise Pine Siskin tells her she must quickly learn how to paint dreams into reality to prevent an afternoon hike from becoming a tragedy.

In “Map Maker,” she’ll need her skills—and the help of a Chuck-will’s-widow—to fight a developer’s plans for from bulldozing the sacred forest behind her house and replacing it with a subdivision. 

In “Sweetbay Magnolia,” she’ll learn the secrets of her grandmother’s favorite tree, the crumbling almost-forever house down on the river, and why some ghosts would rather visit than haunt.

More Great Audiobooks Coming Soon!

 

Starting Over

by Charmaine Gordon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Print Editions

available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

 

 

also through Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)

and your local bookstore (by order)

 

 

 

 

Click on the Cover or the Title to go directly to Amazon

 

 

A Chaunce of Riches

by Chelle Cordero

Ben Johnson was hired as a bodyguard for a rich widow and her kid, but he never expected to be working for the woman who had abandoned him just when he had needed her the most. Damn it all, he still wanted her. Samantha Chaunce never thought she would have to explain why she married the rich man instead of Ben. Or that her husband had been murdered…and Ben was the prime suspect.

 

 

Bartlett’s Rule

by Chelle Cordero

Bartlett’s Rule shares the story of Lon and Paige’s love affair; a romance filled with hardship, emotion, danger and triumph. Falling in love was never the challenge; being there for each other, knowing just what to say and making it work is the real test. Paige and Lon are real; they are human, they cry and they laugh. Paige has to learn to trust. Lon has to learn to be patient.

 

Common Bond, Tangled Hearts

by Chelle Cordero

Layne Gillette’s world is turned upside down when a man she has never met shows up to lay claim as the father of her 6-year old son. When Layne’s abusive “ex-husband” shows up, they are torn apart by danger, kidnapping and lies.

 

Courage of the Heart

by Chelle Cordero

Sometimes love is the only cure for the very deepest of emotional wounds. The story of the two lovers takes a series of unexpected and fast paced turns where lives, sanity and love are put in jeopardy. Their commitment to one another results in a spirit that binds them together and helps them to overcome physical and emotional dangers.

 

 

Emily’s Stories

by Malcolm R. Campbell

Emily Walters is a sharp, inquisitive fourteen-year-old north Florida girl who loves maps, her rusty old bike, and the forest behind her house. Sometimes her dreams tell her the future and sometimes her waking hours bring wise birds and other spirits into her life. In these three short stories, join Emily in her adventures and mysteries.

 

Final Sin

by Chelle Cordero

Deputy Sheriff Commander Jake Carson has his hands full… investigation of a brutal multiple homicide, a troubled son and a vindictive ex-wife. He meets young, free-spirited paramedic Julie Jennings. When Julie becomes the subject of an obsession, it puts both of them in danger…

His Lucky Charm

by Chelle Cordero

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas… this time it follows Brandon and Caitlyn across the country and into a world of espionage and danger. The one thing that Brandon knows for sure is that he can’t afford to lose his lucky charm, Caitlyn.

 

Hostage Heart

by Chelle Cordero

Life was hard after the hurricanes swept through, destroying her parents’ home and livelihood… An errand for her boss – a chance encounter with a crew of bank robbers – a kind man who tried to help her … a man who isn’t all he seems…no, he is so much more.

 

Hyphema

by Chelle Cordero

Matt Garratti, a paramedic from New York, moves his wife and son to North Carolina to work at his dream job as a flight medic. Pakistani born Sudah, his wife, receives frosty stares and insensitive comments from their new neighbors… Matt wonders if he is pursuing his dream or bringing his family into a nightmare from which they may never wake.

 

Impeccable

by Lauren Shiro

Carol – abandoned – waiting… for what, she couldn’t know. She couldn’t see that there was more life waiting for her. Carol is forced to face the demons of her past as well as begin to face life without Alex. Struggling to make sense of it all, Carol experiences her new life and all of the highs and lows that come with that life.

 

Imperfect

by Lauren Shiro

Carol Mathers, in her mid-thirties, a highly sought-after IT guru in St. Louis. She has built a great life for herself with her partner, Alexandria, even though the two face prejudice as lesbians, and as an interracial couple -fighting tragedy and sometimes, triumphing amidst the chaos...

 

 

 

In Too Deep

by Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Just when Liliana is supposed to be experiencing the happy feelings of a new bride, she finds herself in a very difficult predicament. Her husband isn’t the perfect man that she thought he was and she finds herself alone as her life shatters around her. She becomes lost in a world of deceit and she struggles with the knowledge that her life with Antonio will never be the same.

 

Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire

by Malcolm R. Campbell

While he goes out of his way to mock those in authority by pretending to kowtow to them, he admits he does his best work by “being an asshole”. A mix of Don Rickles and Don Quixote, Stewart is the man for the job when the skirts are up and the chips are down…

Hard-boiled reporter Jock Stewart wakes up on the morning after the Star-Gazer office party with a hangover and an old flame in his bed and he cuddles up with the mayor’s wife in the back seat of a 1953 Desoto. Between these defining moments, he investigates the theft of the mayor’s race horse Sea of Fire and the murder of his publisher’s girl friend, Bambi Hill.

 

Jock Stewart Strikes Back

by Malcolm R. Campbell

Since modern-day journalism is going to hell in a hand basket and/or nowhere fast, Jock Stewart strikes back by categorizing news events as satirical, outlandish, strange or political. Nonetheless, according to informed sources, the use of this volume as a journalism textbook has not been authorized anywhere the world is right as rain.

 

Karma Visited

by Chelle Cordero

Do you believe in karma? Annie Furman has a gift that allows her, while she sleeps, to visit people in their time of need – but who will be there for her when she needs help? Undersheriff Dave Turner is investigating a series of home invasions and homicides. He has no idea that solving this case will lead him to the woman of his dreams.

 

Liliana

by Neva Squires-Rodriguez

Boom! That deafening sound changed Liliana’s life forever. Her mother sits dead besides her, shot to death on the streets of Chicago. Within weeks, Liliana is sent to live with a father she doesn’t know in Colombia. While working to pay off her father’s debt, she meets the love of her life, who frees her from her father, only to bring her into a new world of twisted surprises.

 

Loving Her, Volume 1

by Lauren Shiro

In this series of stories, we meet a group of loving friends and couples. Each member of this group is diverse in personalities and abilities, but they are tied together by the common denominator – love. from Chelle Cordero, Combining Passion & Suspense  Volume 1 includes, The Ballerina, The Cop, The Mechanic, and The Model.

 

Loving Her, Volume 2

by Lauren Shiro

Volume 2 includes: The Peace Officer, The Shelter Director, The Writer, and The Vet Student.

 

 

Spooky Stories

by Malcolm R. Campbell

Cora’s Crossing In the middle of a rogue thunderstorm, two young men are mysteriously drawn to an old bridge in the middle of a Florida swamp. They discover the dead are waiting to speak, their lives are in jeopardy, and they must help an injured young woman they find beside the road. Moonlight and Ghosts On a moonlit night, Randy’s intuition is drawing him back to an abandoned psychiatric hospital where he once worked. He and his friend, Alice, have heard the ghost hunters’ claims the building is haunted, filled with strange lights, apparitions and the voices of former patients calling for help. The Forgotten point Randy and Alice to a crime in progress… and there’s not much time to save the victim.

 

No Turning Back

by Neva Squires-Rodriguez

The devastating secret Liliana learns pushes her to search for answers from her father, El Jefe. But, nothing can prepare her for the tragedy that will come of her relationship with her father… or the priceless opportunity that will come from it.

 

Pianissimo

by Lauren Shiro

With Darryl’s army career coming to a close, he and his wife, Corinne, feel ready to settle down in Louisville, Kentucky. Darryl is sent on one final tour, leaving Corinne to live in this new house and new city alone. But, someone or some thing does not want her to life to be either quiet or boring. And then there’s the creepy piano in the basement…

 

Reconstructing Charlie

by Charmaine Gordon

Charlie Costigan has a secret. Home life gone from bad to the worst when she protects her mother from another vicious attack by her drunken father. Midnight. Clothes thrown into an old suitcase, she races for the bus with a letter to an unknown aunt and uncle. “This is my daughter. Embrace her as if she were your own.” Determined, Charlie begins again. Alone with her secret.

 

River’s Edge Trio, Volume 1

by Charmaine Gordon

River’s Edge where Kindness to Strangers is the Motto… Three stories of small town Americana, where anything is possible. SHE DIDN’T SAY NO, HOUSEBROKEN, and HELP WANTED. These Charmaine Gordon stories of love, passion, and suspense set in River’s Edge, the small town with the big heart, are also available as singles in all ebook editions.

 

River’s Edge Trio, Volume 2

by Charmaine Gordon

BREAKING NEW GROUND River’s Edge comes together to protect Celia Brown’s property when the CEO of a major construction company claims a part of her property… and he has no idea who he is messing with. The elderly widow and her six year old granddaughter prepare for battle. BRIDGING THE GAP Anna Youngblood and James Chandler have problems. His little daughter overheard his ex say she never wanted kids; Anna must make amends for breaking rules of her tribe; he has a serious concussion… and she’s pregnant. Can this couple find happiness in River’s Edge? SPREADING HER WINGS Sally Kirkwood responds to an emergency call from a friend one early morning. A daughter is missing and with Sally’s skill as a reporter, she finds her at an audition in NYC. Thus begins an adventure of show business, unfaithfulness, forgiveness and success.

 

She Didn’t Say No

by Charmaine Gordon

Grace didn’t say no to the Big Man On Campus, Scott Dwyer. And then her life changed… Years later, a too-close encounter of an unpleasant kind with a skunk and Scott’s German Shepherd reunites the former lovers. What happens in between are their stories of beginnings and endings and love lost, then found.

 

Starting Over

by Charmaine Gordon

Each morning, Emily Kendrick runs on the hard-packed sand of St. Augustine Beach to clear her mind and heal her heart. From the widow’s walk of the house perched high on the dunes, a man trains his binoculars on Emily…

 

The Beginning…Not the End, Volume 1

by Charmaine Gordon

The first three stories in the series of Mature Romance combined in one volume. Instant Grandpa, Book 1; Young at Heart, Book 2; and Before the Final Curtain, Book 3. These Charmaine Gordon stories of love, passion, and suspense starring sexy seniors are also available as singles in ebook.

 

The Beginning…Not the End, Volume 2

by Charmaine Gordon

Three more stories in the Charmaine Gordon series of Mature Romance combined in one volume. No Time for Green Bananas, Book 4; She Didn’t Say No, Book 5; and Dr. D and the Dad, Book 6. These Charmaine Gordon stories of love, passion, and suspense starring sexy seniors are also available as singles in ebook.

 

The Catch

by Charmaine Gordon

Tom Donnelly, once known as The Catch – every woman’s dream guy, has fallen down every rung of the ladder he once worked so hard to climb. On New Year’s Day, he realizes just how far he’s fallen, and makes a list of resolutions to change his life. He vows to regain the trust lost from his family, his law firm, and his friends – and maybe even find the right woman this time.

The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero

by Chelle Cordero

The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero is a single author collection of short stories featuring Introduction, Pussycat Tails, Holiday Happiness, Not Alone, I Swear That Raccoon Just Knocked on the Door, Stormy Weather, A Mother’s Love, More Than a Friend, The Meeting, The Vacation and a special bonus section. Something for everyone… humor, drama, passion, suspense, and more! Chelle Cordero’s first short story collection gives the reader a glimpse into her writer’s mind, with humor, poignancy, love, suspense, and more with these nine short storie

The Trouble with Playing Cupid

by Tamara Philip

One New Year’s Eve, shy singer, December Brown drunkenly texts her talk show host pal, Trace Randall, about her long time crush on the aloof actor, Tom Elmswood. Thinking the two celebrities would make a cute couple, he unwisely decides to play matchmaker… in front of a live studio audience. Will these two lonely hearts ever make a love connection or has this cupid’s arrow missed its mark?

 

The Trouble with Romance

by Tamara Philip

December’s best friend and agent, Clarissa Gregory, finds herself as the latest person destined for love. Except, for Clarissa, it isn’t only meddling friends pushing her towards the dashing detective Peter, but fate itself. Will December convince the cynical Clarissa to take a chance on romance? Or is she right, that love really is just too much trouble? Also includes Bonus Story, Have Love

 

To Be Continued

by Charmaine Gordon

Elizabeth Malone wakes up the morning after an amazing night of passion with her husband of forty years to find a note: Dear Lizzie, it’s not you, it’s me. Abandoned by her husband, disappointed in daughter Susie’s casual attitude Dad’s having a mid-life crisis, Beth decides to re-establish herself as the winner she once was. When Frank Malone returns, he’s in for a big surprise!

 

Unbreakable Hostage

by Lauren Shiro

Lareina Oliveira; she wants to share her passion for math. So it is back to school for Lareina… a tough Ph.D. program. A classmate is captivated by Lareina’s beauty and intelligence, and despite her repeated refusals to his attentions, he kidnaps her! Only her determination and wits can save her…

 

When Double Becomes Single

by Charmaine Gordon

Before that awful night, Sharon Michaels had never even driven herself at night… eaten at a table for one… or made plans on her own. Alone after losing her husband – her rock– she’s left with a business to run, a great son and his wonderful wife and children – far away in Denmark, a bad son and his nasty wife, and two teenage grandchildren she barely knows.

 

Within the Law

by Chelle Cordero

Before that awful night, Sharon Michaels had never even driven herself at night… eaten at a table for one… or made plans on her own. Alone after losing her husband – her rock– she’s left with a business to run, a great son and his wonderful wife and children – far away in Denmark, a bad son and his nasty wife, and two teenage grandchildren she barely knows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Translation Editions

available through all ebook retailers

 

 

also through your local library

 

 

 

 

Click on the Cover or the Title to go to the universal link

 

 

German Editions

 

Die Letzte Sünde

Chelle Cordero

 

Deputy Sheriff Commander Jake Carlson hat alle Hände voll zu tun … er ermittelt in einem brutalen Mehrfachmord, sein Sohn hat Probleme in der Schule und er selbst hat eine rachsüchtige Exfrau am Hals. Er trifft die junge, freigeistige Notfallsanitäterin Julie Jennings. Als Julie zum Objekt einer Obsession wird, schweben sie beide in Gefahr …

Für Matt und Julie hatte ihr Dienst begonnen wie viele andere. Sie wurden zu einem kleineren Verkehrsunfall gerufen, zu jemandem mit Schmerzen in der Brust und zu einem Krebspatienten, der zur Behandlung ins Krankenhaus musste. Viele der Gemeinschaften im Norden des Staates New York hatten Notfalldienste unter Vertrag, um dem bestehenden Rettungsdienst unter die Arme zu greifen und auf medizinische Notfälle zu reagieren. Ob bezahlt oder nicht, der qualifizierte Dienst schickte immer Rettungsassistenten, die mit den meisten Notfällen umgehen konnten. Wenn die Notfallsanitäter ausgesandt wurden, machten ein weiteres Paar Hände und Infusionen oft den kritischen Unterschied.

Dieser Notruf kam über Funk für ein Brandopfer, also war keiner der Polizisten, Feuerwehrmänner, ehrenamtlichen Rettungshelfer oder Sanitäter darauf vorbereitet, was sie in diesem abgelegenen Werkzeugschuppen vorfanden. Von außen wirkte das ergraute Holz friedlich genug, und das eine kleine Fenster war schmutzverkrustet. Julie dachte nicht, dass sie unter normalen Umständen den Schuppen eines zweiten Blickes gewürdigt hätte. Aber das hier war alles andere als normal. Niemand hatte mit der Horrorszene im Inneren gerechnet.

 

 

 

French Editions

 

Au Coeur de la Nuit

Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Lady Jannessa Guillory était la fille d’un Ambassadeur, et par conséquent il était de son devoir envers son père de recevoir et gérer le foyer, pour se marier dans sa position… et être très obéissante. Toutefois, la nuit l’appelait de telle manière qu’elle ne pouvait la nier. Et même une voix la trouvait dans les ténèbres, elle savait qu’elle ne pouvait aller contre ses propres passions.

 

 

 

Spanish Editions

 

El Corazón de la Noche

Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

La señorita Jannessa Guillory era la hija de un embajador y se esperaba de ella que cumpliese con su deber: casarse con una persona de su misma clase y ayudar a su padre. Sin embargo, la noche le llamaba de tal manera que no podía rechazarla. Y cuando una voz la encontró en la oscuridad, sabía que no podía frenar sus pasiones.

 

 

 

Spanish Editions

 

El Último Pecado

Chelle Cordero

 

El Ayudante del Alguacil, Jake Carson, está a manos llenas… la investigación de un homicidio múltiple brutal, un hijo lleno de problemas y una exesposa rencorosa. Conoce a la joven paramédica de espíritu libre Julie Jennings. Cuando Julie se convierte en el objeto de una obsesión, ambos estarán en peligro…

Para Matt y Julie, su turno en el trabajo había empezado como cualquier otro. Recibieron una llamada por un pequeño accidente vehicular, otra por dolor en el pecho y una más por un paciente con cáncer que debía ir al hospital para recibir su tratamiento. Muchas de las comunidades al norte del estado de Nueva York habían contratado los servicios de los paramédicos para complementar el cuerpo de ambulancia que ya tenían para proveer servicios médicos de emergencia. Ya sea de manera voluntaria o no, el cuerpo certificado siempre respondía con los Técnicos Médicos de Emergencia que eran capaces de manejar la mayoría de las emergencias. Cuando también enviaban a los paramédicos, los medicamentos intravenosos y las manos adicionales seguido podían ayudar a hacer una diferencia crítica cuando era necesario.

Esta llamada la habían recibido por la radio por una víctima quemada, así que ninguno de los policías, bomberos, los voluntarios de la ambulancia ni los paramédicos que habían acudido estaban preparados para lo que encontraron cuando llegaron al aislado cobertizo de herramientas. Desde afuera, la madera gris se veía tranquila, y la única ventanita estaba cubierta por tierra. No creyó haberle dado una segunda mirada al cobertizo bajo circunstancias comunes. Pero esto no era nada común. Nadie hubiera anticipado el horror que había ocurrido dentro. 

 

 

 

 

Spanish Editions

El Problema de Jugar a ser Cupido

Tamara Philip

 

Una Nochevieja, la tímida cantante December Brown, le manda borracha un mensaje de texto su colega y presentador de un programa de entrevistas, Trace Randall sobre su enamoramiento de hace tiempo por el distante actor, Tom Elmswood. Pensando que los dos famosos harían una bonita pareja, imprudentemente decide jugar a ser un casamentero…delante de un público en vivo. ¿Conectarán con el amor estos dos corazones solitarios o la flecha de cupido ha errado el tiro?

 

 

 

Italian Editions

Vita Notturna

Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Una poliziotta della sezione omicidi di Seattle che lavora di notte – e questa è una buona cosa – ed è per metà vampiro. Il detective Lilah Evans, che deve investigare sul caso di un cadavere trovato a pochi isolati dalla discoteca dove, solo poche ore prima, era scomparsa una ragazza. Deve scoprire se c’è una connessione tra i due eventi e fare l’impossibile per risolvere il caso, il tutto proteggendo il suo segreto.

 

Spanish Editions

Liliana

Neva Squires-Rodriguez

 

¡Bang! Ese sonido ensordecedor cambió la vida de Liliana para siempre. Su madre yacía

a su lado muerta tras recibir un disparo en las calles de Chicago. Semanas después

Liliana se marcha a Colombia a vivir con un padre al que no conoce. Mientras trabaja

para pagar la deuda de su padre, conoce al amor de su vida, quien la libera de su padre

para llevarla a un nuevo mundo lleno de giros inesperados.

 

 

 

Spanish Editions

Hasta el Cuello

Neva Squires-Rodriguez

 

Justo cuando Liliana iba a experimentar la felicidad de ser una nueva esposa, se halla en

un complicado dilema. Su marido no es el hombre perfecto que pensaba que era y se

encuentra sola viendo cómo su vida se destroza a su alrededor. Se pierde en un mundo

de mentiras y lucha sabiendo que su vida con Antonio no volverá a ser como antes.

 

Spanish Editions

 

Sin Vuelta Atrás

Neva Squires-Rodriguez

 

Liliana descubre un terrible secreto que la empuja a buscar respuestas por parte de su padre, El Jefe. Pero nada puede prepararla para la tragedia que le traerá la relación con su padre… o la valiosa oportunidad que puede suponerle.

 

 

 

Portuguese Editions

 

Coração Noturno

Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Lady Jannessa Guillory era filha de um embaixador e, portanto, era seu dever ajudar seu pai a entreter e a administrar a casa, casar-se com sua função… e sempre ser obediente. Contudo, a noite a atraía de tal forma que ela não podia negar. E quando uma voz a encontrou na escuridão, ela sabia que não poderia parar suas próprias paixões.

 

 

Italian Editions

 

I Racconti di Emily

Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Emily Walters è un’acuta e curiosa quattordicenne del nord della Florida che ama le mappe, la sua vecchia bicicletta arrugginita e la foresta dietro casa sua. A volte i suoi sogni le raccontano il futuro, e a volte le ore di veglia portano saggi uccelli e  altri spiriti nella sua vita.

 

Quando la sua famiglia va in vacanza in “Pittrice campestre”, un saggio lucherino le dice che deve imparare presto a dipingere i sogni nella realtà per impedire che una passeggiata pomeridiana si trasformi in una tragedia.

 

In “Cartografa” avrà bisogno delle sue abilità, e dell’aiuto di un caprimulgo, per contrastare i piani di un imprenditore edile che intende abbattere la sacra foresta dietro casa sua e sostituirla con una palazzina residenziale.

 

In “La Magnolia di Sweetbay” imparerà i segreti dell’albero preferito di sua nonna, della decadente casa quasipersempre lungo il fiume e del perché alcuni fantasmi visitano piuttosto che infestare.

 

 

 

Italian Editions

 

Il Cuore della Notte

Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard

 

Lady Jannessa Guillory era la figlia di un ambasciatore, e pertanto era suo compito aiutare suo padre a gestire e mantenere la casa, sposarsi con qualcuno al suo livello… ed essere sempre obbediente. Eppure la notte la chiamava in un modo che non poteva negare. E quando una voce la trovò nell’oscurità, seppe che non poteva frenare la propria passione.

 

 

 

Spanish Editions

 

El Karma Llegó

Chelle Cordero

 

¿Crees en el karma? Annie Furman tiene un regalo que le permite, mientras duerme, visitar a la gente cuando lo necesitan, ¿pero quién estará ahí para ella cuando necesite ayuda? El Alguacil adjunto, Dave Tuner, se encuentra investigando una serie de allanamientos de morada y homicidios. No tiene idea de que al resolver estos casos conocerá a la mujer de sus sueños.

 

 

 

Portugese Editions

 

A Travessia de Cora

Malcolm R. Campbell

 

No meio de uma violenta tempestade, dois homens jovens são misteriosamente puxados para uma velha ponte no meio de um pântano na Flórida. Eles descobrem que os mortos estão esperando para falar, suas vidas estão em perigo, e eles devem ajudar uma jovem mulher ferida que eles encontram na lateral da estrada.

 

 

 

Spanish Editions

 

Las Historias de Emily

Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Emily Walters es una fuerte y curiosa chica de catorce años procedente del norte de Florida. Ella ama los mapas, su vieja bicicleta y el bosque tras su hogar. Sus sueños a veces le dictan el futuro y a veces en sus horas despierta, atrae aves y otros espíritus a su vida. Acompaña a Emily en estos tres relatos cortos llenos de aventuras y misterios.

 

Durante sus vacaciones familiares en las montañas del “País del Alto Pintor”, un jilguero le dice que debe apresurarse en pintar los sueños en la realidad para prevenir a que una tarde no se vuelva una tragedia.

 

En el  “Marcador de Ruta”, ella necesitará de sus habilidades—y la ayuda de un chotacabras para luchar contra los planes de un desarrollador que trama demoler el bosque sagrado detrás de la casa de Emily para ser sustituido con una subdivisión.

 

En ‘’ Magnolia de Sweetbay”, ella descubrirá los secretos del árbol favorito de su abuela, el desmoronamiento de la casa hacia el rio y el por qué algunos fantasmas prefieren visitarla en lugar de espantarla.

 

 

 

Spanish Editions

 

Hipema

Chelle Cordero

 

Hipema: Sangrado en el ojo causado por un trauma…

 

Matt Garratti, paramédico de Nueva York, se muda con su esposa e hijo a Carolina del Norte para tener el trabajo de sus sueños como paramédico de vuelo. Sudah, su esposa pakistaní, recibe miradas frías y comentarios insensibles de sus nuevos vecinos… Matt se pregunta si está siguiendo su sueño o llevando a su familia a una pesadilla de la que tal vez nunca puedan despertar. 

 

 

 

Spanish Editions

 

Pianísimo

Lauren Shiro

 

Con la carrera militar de Darryl llegando a su fin, él y su esposa, Corinne, se sienten listos para sentar cabeza en Louisville, Kentucky. Darryl es enviado a un último viaje, dejando a Corinne vivir sola en esta nueva casa y nueva ciudad.

 

Abrumada, Corinne se vuelve solitaria, viviendo una vida slienciosa y aburrida con sus gatas mientras se acostumbra a su nuevo entorno. El problema es: alguien o algo no quiere que su vida sea silenciosa ni aburrida. Y después ahí está el piano espeluznante en el sótano… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanilla Heart Publishing

Ebooks And Audiobooks and Paperbacks, Oh My!

 

 

 

 

WEBSITE

https://www.VanillaHeartPublishing.com

 

FACEBOOK #TEAMVHP

 

VHP BOOK TOURS

http://VHPBookTours.com

 

TWITTER

@VanillaHeart

 

 

 


’Tis the Season for Cocoa and Reading: Holiday Stories and More

  • ISBN: 9781370969197
  • Author: Vanilla Heart Publishing
  • Published: 2016-11-21 07:50:29
  • Words: 33995
’Tis the Season for Cocoa and Reading: Holiday Stories and More ’Tis the Season for Cocoa and Reading: Holiday Stories and More