The Splish-Splash Page Hop

NGWNBubbleBathDay

Bubble, bubble, toil and… welcome to the trouble!  It’s #NationalBubbleBathDay, and I’m joining my #NiceGirlsWritingNaughty sisters all weekend long to help celebrate with a steamy fun PAGE HOP!

Hello there.  I’m A. Catherine Noon, and I write hot-hot-hot stuff such as Sealed by Magic.  As part of the Page Hop, I’m giving away a copy of one of our books, either Sealed by Magic or your choice to one lucky winner on Sunday!  All you have to do to enter my giveaway is like my Noon and Wilder page on Facebook, here.

After you do that, be sure to comment below about YOUR fantasy bath mate below, so I know you’ve been by!  After you’re done, hop on to the next Naughty Girl waiting to say hello to you!  She is ANGEL PAYNE!

New Years At the Hop!

Can you believe it’s already time for the New Year’s celebration? It feels like it should still be April. As I sit here, mulling over what I might share with you, Dear Reader, my mind is drawn to the idea of “new” and the next step, which many people connect with the New Year, which is “resolution.”

I don’t do “resolutions” anymore. I found they were too often “should do’s,” rather than “want to’s.” I have found, over the years, that “want to’s” have a better chance of happening.

I’ve been doing more journal work this year and rediscovered a love of calligraphy. I’ve been doing what I call mandalas in my journal, either with a quote or with concepts from a particular project.

Image ©2014 A. Catherine Noon, All Rights Reserved

For example, I’m working on a Walking In This World workshop right now. I decided to do a two-page spread in my journal on the chapter, using calligraphy and imagery to connect with the material in a new way. It’s enriched my experience of the workshop immensely and helped me make new connections.

Image ©2014 A. Catherine Noon.  All Rights Reserved

In terms of my writing, I’ve been using calligraphy when I work on my character sheets. It’s been interesting to add color to a character, trying to figure out what color they would be and why. Then I do the mandala for them in that color.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What are your New Year’s Want To’s?

And, just for you, here’s a sneak peek at Sapphire Dream, which will be coming later this year. It’s set in the Persis Chronicles with Emerald Fire and Emerald Keep, which is out April 8th from Torquere Press.

Excerpt
Chapter 1: Kotek City

Cheula settled himself in the sedan chair, his back stiff.

“Lotta sittin’ about,” Driver Sami drawled in the thick brogue some of the Drivers were plagued with.

After four days on the sands with the man, though, Cheula started to get the hang of it. “That’s true. How do you stand it?”

Sami glanced at him, his lidded eyes metallic blue that flashed in Sol’s glow. It reminded Cheula, unfortunately, of a large sand beetle. The Driver leaned sideways and revealed a strange set of beads in a mesh weave on his driving web. “Ah cheat, my handsome Keeper.”

He said Keeper as ‘Kayprr,’ and it took Cheula several tries before he understood it. Now it just sounded normal. “Are those beads?”

“Aye.” The Driver sat back. “They stimulate the muscles.”

“Does it help?”

The Driver shrugged. “Nope.”

Cheula laughed.

“A Keeper would help, you know,” Sami said in a thoughtful tone.

“Are you… teasing me?”

“Would I do that?”

“I think you probably would!” Cheula chuckled. It felt good to laugh. It had been too long since he’d had an uncomplicated conversation with someone.

“We’ll break soon,” Sami told him. “The Winds are comin’.”

Cheula eyed the horizon warily.

“Don’t worry, Keeper. We’ll be fine.”

The first time they’d stayed in the inflated bubble that enclosed the sandsail, Cheula panicked. The more he tried to keep his composure in front of the laconic Driver, the worse it got. Sami seemed to sense it though, and started to tell him stories that kept him enthralled and made him laugh. By the time the Winds passed, his fear blew away with them.

They stopped and Sami hopped down, setting the chucks under the skis. The enclosure inflated around them with a hiss of metallic fabric, and the glow of the sun eased. Sami flipped his sunshades back, and the cyberplants receded into his skin like magic to reveal his hazel eyes.

He caught Cheula watching him and laughed. “Not used to sunshades, I take it?”

Cheula shook his head.

“Lotta Drivers use ’em. Hunters too. You’ll see, at Kotek City.”

Cheula hopped down to the sand, then under the sandsail to the little living area that nestled in its belly. Sami lit the daylamps and the fragrant oil filled the small space with its aroma.

The bench along the side served as a good spot to sit out of the way while the Driver settled things. He watched as Sami rummaged in his galley, got down a ceramic jug and poured two cups. He handed over a cup. Cheula took one sip and started coughing.

“Ouiska does that,” Sami murmured calmly.

“Sami!”

The Driver kneeled in front of Cheula, his eyes large in the shadowy interior. “Come, drink. Relax. It’s just us.”

Cheula smiled and leaned forward, watching Sami’s pupils dilate. “Oh?”

But when Sami caressed his cheek, he flinched. He couldn’t help it.

“What is it?” Sami asked softly, cocking his head. His thumb stroked Cheula’s face. “I’d not hurt you for all the goldstone in Kotek City, Keeper.”

Cheula swallowed around a dry mouth. “I…”

Then Sami stroked his hand down Cheula’s chest, intending no doubt to soothe him, and brushed the worst of the bruises. Cheula cried out and pulled back, heat flaming into his face. “I’m sorry!” he blurted.

Sami’s eyes widened. He slipped his hand inside Cheula’s robes and before the Keeper could react, flipped the fabric back. The purples had darkened into livid reds, browns, even a mustard yellow near where the ribs had cracked.

“Landin’!” Sami swore. “Who did that to you?”

“I…” He trailed off, the lie dying on his lips. This close to the other man, with such gentle caring in his eyes, so uncomplicated by anything other than mutual attraction, Cheula couldn’t say the habitual ‘I fell,’ or lately, ‘I was in an accident on a camu.’ He dropped his head forward to rest it on Sami’s shoulder. “My Contract, Digger Bekto.”

Sami sucked in air, a loud hiss. “Oh, poppet. Where is he?”

Cheula pulled back. “What?”

“He should have his knees brokin’ for ’im!” Sami growled, his cheeks red and his eyes fierce.

“He’s being punished,” Cheula assured him. “I promise. I’m from Sapphire Keep. Once they found out… Violence to a Keeper carries the death sentence.”

Sami stroked Cheula’s cheek. “But you… You’re shy now, is that it?”

Cheula nodded, miserable. “I want to. But…”

Sami came up on his knees and kissed Cheula’s forehead. “Don’t rush it, Cheula,” he whispered. It was the first time he said Cheula’s name, and it felt several times more intimate than it would have otherwise. “My brother’s partner had sommat similar happen to ‘im, and it just takes time.”

“I just…”

The Driver stood, holding out his hand. “Come.”

“What?”

Sami shook his hand impatiently. “Come.”

Cheula slipped his hand into the Driver’s calloused palm and let himself be pulled to his feet. Sami led him over to the wide hammock that swung at the back of the quarters. He lay down on it and settled the pillows for Cheula. He arranged the Keeper alongside his body and set the hammock to swinging gently. Then he ran his fingers through Cheula’s hair, just the part along the scalp before the braid, and Cheula got an idea.

He sat up and scooted sideways, so he could see Sami. With trembling fingers, he unbraided his plait, dropping the beads one by one into Sami’s palm.

“Are those…”

“Those three are sapphires,” Cheula said, pointing them out. “The rest are crystal beads. As I earn, I’ll replace them.”

“Three sapphires,” Sami breathed, touching them with a finger.

His hair gave off the aroma of the Baku seed oil he used and he watched Sami inhale with pleasure. He lifted the Driver’s hand and set it his scalp, where the braid had begun, and let him stroke his fingers through it. Sami’s eyes widened and he continued, setting the beads on a small shelf over his shoulder. Cheula turned and lay half on top of him and rested his head on the Driver’s muscular chest, tingles traveling up and down his body as the man stroked him.

They stayed like that for the rest of the Winds, Cheula listening to Sami’s breathing and Sami enthralled by his hair. Finally, it became so still outside that delaying further would be silly. Cheula started to sit up and Sami caught him. He kissed Cheula gently but thoroughly.

“Thank you.”

Cheula smiled at him. “It was my pleasure.”

They rose and rearranged their clothing, and Sami went to reopen the sandsail. Cheula went upstairs and took up his sedan chair, replaiting his hair.

But he left one of the sapphires sitting in the dish on the shelf downstairs, carefully covered with the travel shield so it wouldn’t jostle loose.

Dog Sledding!

In keeping with our theme of staying warm because it’s cold outside, I thought I’d share with you a story of our dog sledding adventure with Voyageur Outward Bound in Minnesota in 2006.

It all started because my husband complained about the weather here in Chicago. Fitting complaint, especially since it’s expected to get down below zero this weekend. I wanted to do something fun, unusual, and educational. I picked the Outward Bound class because I’ve always wanted to do one, to experience it and challenge myself. The hallmark of Outward Bound is that you spend some time, one night or more, camping by yourself in the wilds. I thought, what better way to learn how to stay warm and have fun all at the same time?

Two weeks before we left, my husband shrugged and said, “Well, if I don’t like it, I can always hang out in the lodge and drink hot chocolate.”

Lodge?

On an Outward Bound Expedition?

“Didn’t you read the stuff I sent you on the [non-refundable] class?”

Blink. “Well, I looked at the pictures.”

He looked at the pictures.

“DO YOU REALIZE WE’RE GOING THIRTY-FIVE MILES ACROSS THE ICE IN THE BOUNDARY WATERS?” Panting.

Another blink. “Oh.” Pause. “So, no lodge?”

Gritted teeth. “No, dear. No lodge.”

“Oh.”

Cautiously, “So, you still want to go?”

“I suppose.”

Rousing endorsement, that.

So we get there, and the first thing we learn is the Heat Triangle. Here’s how it works:

There are three parts to keeping warm in severely cold weather:

1. Layered clothing
2. Food and hot drinks
3. Movement

You can work on any one of the legs of the triangle to warm up. One of the most effective techniques is to swing your arms back and forth like a windmill. This will bring the blood to your fingertips and warm up your hands. I use this frequently back here in Chicago when waiting for the bus or the train.

And my husband? He survived and had an awesome time with the dogs, the cold, and yes, even the hot chocolate.

Cheers!

Catch a Tiger by the Tale and the Just Romance Blog Hop

TIGER TIGER, by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder

Blurb:

Chicagoland Shifters, Book 2

Veterinary trauma surgeon and animal empath Sasha Soskoff has found everything he ever wanted with his new partners Neal, Steve and Carlos. Life feels as safe and secure as it can be among a group of ex-Marine tiger shifters. Until a homeless man is found, gruesomely mauled and murdered, near Neal’s BDSM club.

When it’s determined a rogue tiger did the deed, the jaguars’ accusing eyes turn toward Sasha’s lovers. The precarious balance of peace tips dangerously toward war.

Neal knows damned well none of his tigers committed the crime. Someone must be in Chicago without his knowledge or permission, and they’d better find him fast before uncertainty and conflict rip the tight-knit band apart from the inside.

As Sasha struggles to heal the stress fractures forming among his tiger family, he begins to wonder if his dreams of a home, and love, were too good to be true. And it’s precisely that moment the killer strikes at the heart of the tiger clan—Sasha himself.

Excerpt:

Sasha sat across from Kiril on the spacious booth bench. The bear alpha sat in a chair, his back to the room. Either he trusted his bodyguards or wanted to show everyone his contempt for possible danger. The huge bear shifter who first waved at him sat down and crowded Sasha into the wall. Sasha shot him a sideways glare before meeting Kiril’s gaze.

“I can suggest a nutritious diet for your tribe, your Plemya.”

A smile twitched the narrow lips before Kiril hid it. The large shifter next to him growled under his breath, a soft but threatening sound. Sasha ignored him and reached for a slice of thick black bread and chewed, savoring the taste. Gods, he missed real Russian cooking.

Kiril considered him. Sasha waited while the bear shifter sucked on his incisor, making tiny wet sounds. “You asked for this meeting. Why? It cannot make your tiger happy.”

“You let me worry about keeping my men happy.” Sasha stressed the plural. “I was curious why you wanted me to leave Chicago.”

The bears glanced at each other and the big one shifted his weight in the booth while Kiril frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I got a wonderful job offer from a Justin Polk. Too nice, unless someone raved about me.”

“I cannot compliment the healer that hastened my recovery? Because of you, I was fully healed in five days.”

Sasha cocked his head. “You stayed at the Factory for a week.”

Kiril smirked and he shrugged. “I owed my alpha a full report, especially as it was my last.”

“I’m surprised he knew about me. Doesn’t the New York Plemya already have a doctor?”

The bear snorted. “Three, as well as their own clinic with a full medical staff. But they have questions concerning your treatment of me.”

“In what way?” Sasha sat back as the waiter placed a heaping plate in front of him. The aroma of the pirogi fought with his roiling stomach. “I healed you up right, you even admitted it.” Dammit. He forced his breathing to relax. Wasting a meal because of drama did not factor into his plans for the day.

Kiril waved a hand. “Not bad questions, just curious ones, I promise.”

“In that case, they can ask. I don’t mind.” He couldn’t keep the edge out of his voice and the bear next to him moved in his seat again as though he wanted to speak, but didn’t quite dare.

“Perhaps I will invite them later.” Kiril swept his hand in a circle as though including all of Chicago. “I can show my territory to my former alpha and you can speak with his doctors.” Kiril shrugged. “But come, enjoy your meal. It is rare to find someone here that appreciates my native cuisine.”

Sasha didn’t want to point out the owner of the restaurant wasn’t ethnically Russian, because he loved the aromas of the dish in front of him. If she could cook half as well as it smelled, he didn’t care if Kiril wanted to claim her as his sister. The pirogi had a delicate filling of some kind of cheese and spice and melted on his tongue. The sauce had sour cream in it as well as garlic and butter. His body relaxed as he ate another bite and he closed his eyes to allow his mouth to concentrate.

The bodyguard next to him commented on the food and Russia and before Sasha knew it, he slipped into speaking Russian. It turned out the huge bear that crowded him came from the same region as Sasha’s grandparents.

Sasha spent a moment daydreaming of visiting his family’s homeland. “That would be wonderful to see.”

Kiril smiled, showing pointed incisors. “I can make it possible. I still have many connections in the old country.”

Sasha sat back and took a sip of tea, considering. The bears didn’t offer favors for free. There had to be a price to pay. “And what would be the catch?”

The shifter shrugged. “It would be easy to arrange for a member of my Plemya.”

Sasha almost choked. “You want me to leave the tigers and join your tribe?”

* * *

For more, check out TIGER TIGER from Samhain Publishing, available July 23rd.  Enjoy!

Happy Naughty New Year!

For this year, I thought I’d use the prompt generator. Here are my prompts:

These are your characters:
Werewolf, Archaeologist, Vampire
These adjectives describe them.
Assign one to each character.
Flippant, Sweet, Picky
This is your setting:
Pharmacy

Archie wandered through the aisles, looking for the charcoal tablets. Why Tiroll insisted on the stuff, he’d never know. He insisted it cut the flavor of the drugs that humans took, so he could hunt at more places. Archie preferred the seedier dives down by the docks, but Tiroll liked the lights and sounds here.

“Excuse me.”

The voice came from behind Archie as he looked behind the diarrhea medicine. “A moment, please.”

“Aren’t you a werewolf?”

Of all the nights… He retracted his head from the shelf and turned to find a short, balding man dressed in an impeccable periwinkle suit with a silk bowtie that matched. The aroma of expensive cologne came off him in a discrete cloud and Archie tried to hide his inhalation.

The man bent forward. “I’ve found evidence of your kind all over the city and tracked you here.”

This little pouf tracked Archie to the drug store? He wanted to laugh. He glanced around but knew no one stood nearby. “And you decided to confront me all by yourself, is that it?” He sucked on his right eye tooth.

The little man paled but rallied quickly enough. “I know you won’t hurt me.”

“Oh?” Archie chuckled. “And how do you know that, little man?”

“Because you’re vegetarian.”

Archie blinked. “Beg pardon?”

“Vegetarian.” The man frowned. “I saw you go into the Hari Krishna restaurant.”

Terrific. The one time Archie agreed to do recon for Tiroll, he had to get followed by a frumpy, more fastidious Columbo. “And you think because I like Karma-free food, I’m vegetarian and won’t eat you?”

“Please.” His expression turned wheedling. “I’m finishing my doctorate and just want to interview you.”

Archie found the charcoal tablets and turned to leave. “Buy me a latte and you can have ten minutes of my time.”

The little man vibrated with excitement all the way across to the café. They sat down at a small table in the corner by a window.

“I’m Maximillian Pierpont.” He pulled out a leather-bound journal and gold pen. “And you are?”

Fully capable of eating you? “Archie Walker.”

“And you really are…” He swallowed. “You’re one of them?”

“One of what?”

“A werewolf?”

Archie grinned at him. “And aren’t you the least bit scared?”

“Of a vegetarian?”

“I was hunting, Max. Not going there for the cuisine.”

“It’s Maximillian.” He swallowed again, and this time his Adam’s apple bounced. “What were you hunting?”

“My master wanted a young vegetarian for a snack and she went there for dinner, so I followed.”

Maximillian’s eyes grew large. “Your master?”

“He’s a vampire.” Archie let his smile grow to Cheshire proportions. “He likes softer flesh.”

“To kill?” This was whispered.

“Actually, no. That was part of our agreement when I consented to stay with him and guard him. He doesn’t kill, and neither do I.”

“Can I… can I meet him?”

Archie blinked. “Why?”

“I’m an archeologist by training. Imagine what it would be like to interview such a being who has lived so long.”

“He’s young, for a vampire. Only two-hundred forty-eight. He’s not very… approachable.”

“I’ll manage.” Max practically bounced in his seat.

“You just might, at that.” Oh, yeah. Tiroll would like this one.

Leather and Love – How Romance Helps Stamp Out Hate

Welcome to the 2012 Torquere Press Charity Sip Blog Hop, to benefit the NOH8 Campaign.  Be sure to visit the other participating authors in the hope this weekend, Friday November 9th through Sunday November 11th.  Torquere will be giving away a grand prize of a $50.00 Gift Certificate to the Torquere Books!

You can click on the Charity Sip image to return to the Torquere Press Blog and the other hop participants.  Remember to give some love to the authors in the comments.  We love to know you’re out there!  We are grateful to your support and readership.  Together, we do make a difference.

Our theme this year is “Leather and Love – How Romance Helps Stamp Out Hate.”  When I started to write this post, the election hadn’t happened yet and the world seems different to me a few days later.  We received some sobering news about a death in the family and it’s rocked all of us.  I decided to share my thoughts, rather than write the upbeat post I originally planned, because I think it behooves us every-so-often to stop and remember what we are all one.  Hatred solves nothing.

Romance warms our hearts and sends our pulses racing.  It can cross borders and cultures, as in the classic romance between Romeo and Juliet.  Going back into antiquity, we have Helen of Troy, whose face launched a thousand ships and changed the face of the ancient world.  Can we really doubt the fundamental nature of romance when such things are its fruit?

I don’t have the words in me to express myself adequately in the wake of this week’s events.  I think I’ll leave it up to the great Bard himself, whose own words surpass my keyboard even on a good day.  What I do hope to leave you with, though, is the sure knowledge that love is the deepest power on earth and it can truly change the world.

Sonnet 81
by William Shakespeare

Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten,
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read;
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
  You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,
  Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

Welcome, my friends, and may you take joy with you today.

___________

Check out “Taking a Chance“, part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
Team Blogs: Nightlight | The Writers Retreat Blog | Beyond the Veil | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers

Wiggins: A Cop Tale

Welcome to our Halloween Blog Hop!  In honor of the season, I thought I’d reprise something I wrote for a challenge a couple years ago.  I hope you enjoy!  Be sure to visit our other hop participants so you can be entered to win a Nook Touch!

Happy Halloween!

* * *

“Thank you for calling Chicago 311 Emergency Response. Please state the nature of your emergency.”  Calysta, the nametag read, sounded heartily bored.

I resisted rolling my eyes. First week on the job and it didn’t do to make waves, particularly about employee attitudes.

“A what, ma’am?” Calysta blurted, interrupting my train of thought.

I met her eyes and she moved the gum in her mouth over to one cheek, like I wouldn’t be able to tell she had it in her mouth.

“Jessup! In here!” my lieutenant shouted from her office.

“Yessir!” I answered automatically.

Crap. ‘Sir.’ I called her sir! Nothing for it. Just getcher ass in there, Jessup, but sweet butter on a biscuit was the Lieutenant sensitive about her rank and place in a male-dominated department. Even if I was female, I’d cut no points for calling her ‘sir.’

I felt the presence the minute I stepped in the room and froze in the doorway.

“Della Jessup, this is your new partner. Wiggins, say hello to Della.”

“Hello…” The voice whispered and hissed through the room like a nineteen fifties bad monster movie ghost voice, eerie in all the right places. I felt a shiver travel up my back, around my neck, and down my front, tightening both nipples on its way by.

Gods I hate that!

“I want you to take Wiggins to the meetup, Jessup.”

“Lieutenant, there’s nothing here!”

“Oh?” a voice asked. And it wasn’t the Lieutenant.

Frickin’ ghosts. Never should have allowed them on the force. Damned ADA regulations stipulated no discrimination on account of any disability, including the bodily challenged.

“All right, Wiggins. Come with me. We have to meet –” I broke off, mid-sentence, because I saw it again. The same black-haired waif I’d been seeing everywhere since yesterday, following me in Trader Joes, following me to LA Fitness, following me to my carport, following me!

“Jessup?” Wiggins murmured.

“Do you see it?” I realized the second it left my mouth, how is a ghost supposed to ‘see’ without any eyes, but I let it stand.

“What?”

“The kid, there…” I pointed, but of course, poof, no black hair. No waif. No stinkin’ kid! “Come on,” I snarled instead, leading the way back out to my cruiser, first stopping to pick up my sidearm from the security lockup.

“Sign here, Della,” Sergeant Whiska ordered.

“Sergeant, when did you get an earring?” I scratched my nose. Earrings were non-regulation on duty, just like gum, but…

The feline grin that appeared after my question startled me and I had to resist the urge to step back. His teeth looked sharp! “Like it?”

“Um…”

“Beautiful,” Wiggins susurrated.

Whiska flicked all of his fur in a wave down his back. The glossy reddish brown flashed in the light and I had to physically put my hands in my pockets to avoid petting him. After the evolutionary jump that let cats speak, they now had equal status with humans. One did not pet a fully accredited Sergeant of the Chicago Police Department.

Not if one wanted to keep their hand, anyway.

Whiska handed through another piece of paper and I took it automatically. Then I looked at it; the loopy calligraphy beautiful. And pink. Pink? “What’s this?”

His grin widened. “Jezebel agreed to marry me! That’s your wedding invitation!”

“When’s the shower?” I asked curiously, eyes on the invitation.

He hissed. “I don’t like water.”

“No, silly. The wedding shower?”

“Oh. I don’t know yet.”

“Maybe we’ll throw one for you,” Wiggins put in.

On that note… “I have to run, Sergeant. Thank you for this. I’ll see you later!”

My car had chilled to ice in the hour it sat in the lot, thankfully free of the snowstorm. First Blizzard of the New Decade, the news called it. I rolled my eyes.

“Where are we going?” Wiggins asked once we sat down.

Uh, once I sat down. Wiggins… wafted, I guess. “National City Bank, then the Bank of Ireland. Seems the regulators want some police presence. We’re close to an indictment.”

“On what?”

“Money laundering.”

“Mmm.” Wiggins sounded thoughtful, though I still couldn’t see anything in the car with me. “Perhaps you should not tell them of my presence.”

“How come?” I asked.

“I could be of some use, perhaps.”

“Sounds good.” I shivered as I pulled onto the main street, clogged with new snow. Here’s hoping Wiggins didn’t give the bankers the… well. What was I supposed to say now? Willies?

Yeah, I did that, and Lieutenant would find me a trained ape by that name for a partner.

Nevermind. Forget I thought it.

We turned onto Columbus Drive, both lost in thought.

Originally posted on 01/08/2010.

Beneath the Surface

Welcome to the Life’s a Beach Blog Hop! I hope you’re enjoying your time here. Today, I’m sharing something I wrote in response to a prompt about an unexpected spring. Even though it’s not exactly a beach, it involves water. Check it out:

“Holy cow, Monte! What the hell?” My voice carried, bouncing off the side of Monte’s house and sounding louder than it really was. “Hey! Monte!” I yelled and waved my arms.

“Hey, Louise,” he called back and cut the power to the jackhammer. “What’s wrong?”

“Look!” I pointed.

“What the…” He laid the jackhammer on its side and walked over. “When did that pop up?”

“Monte, you must’ve hit the water main or something!”

“Can’t’ve. It’s over there.” He waived an imprecise hand toward the other side of the yard. “No idea what this is.”

I edged closer. Water, brown with the stirred-up silt from Monte’s labors, swirled up from a crack in the fence’s foundation pole.

“Monte, it’s rising.”

He knelt on the other side of the fence and I could see his fingers poking around under the fence slats. “Shit.”

“What?”

He didn’t say anything right away. “It’s salty.”

I stared down at the water. “That’s impossible!” I poked a cautious finger into it and tasted. Sure enough, it was salty. “Monte, there’s no ocean around here!”

“They always did say California was going to break off.”

“That’s not funny!” I snapped. “I’m serious, here! How is there salt water in our back yard?”

His knees popped as he stood. I rose and met his serious brown eyes. “I don’t know, Louise. I really don’t. Maybe we’d better call the city?”

“What do we say? ‘Hi, there’s an ocean in the desert?’”

He shrugged. “We have to report it.” He glanced down. “Your shoes are about to get wet.”

I stepped back, amazed. “Monte, what if it doesn’t stop? It’ll flood our houses!”

“We’re on a hill, Louise. Calm down. It’ll flood downtown first.”

I had visions of a wall of water sweeping down the Las Vegas Strip and almost laughed. He smirked. I realized with a slight shock he was trying to cheer me up. “Thanks, Monte.”

He smiled, his teeth very white. “No prob. I’ll call my guy at the Water District. Let’s see what he says. Maybe it’s a pipe or something.”

“A pipe.”

He shrugged. “What do you want me to say?” He looked calculating. “You got anymore of that meatloaf?”

I laughed out loud. “You need a wife,” I said without thinking.

He looked intense suddenly and then turned to his equipment. “Yeah, that’s what my mom keeps saying,” he said over his shoulder.

For some reason, my heart was pounding and I felt hot. “I’ll go make us some lunch while you call.”

He waved at me without turning around. I walked back inside to the air-conditioned hush and got out the meatloaf. Truth was, I had made it for him. But not to flirt, I just knew he liked meatloaf. At least, that’s what he always told me. What if there was more to it?

This was silly. I hit the lights half-angrily and set about making a salad and sandwiches. I set everything up on plates, got down my tray and the pitcher for tea, and made sweet tea. I glanced outside and saw him pacing back and forth by the fence, his portable house phone glued to one ear. He didn’t look happy.

I walked out and set out the tray on the table. He saw me and walked through the gate between our properties and sat down.

“Thanks, Mal. I’ll let you know.” He hung up and met my gaze. “They’ll come tomorrow at ten,” he informed me. “He thinks I’m crazy, but he owes me for some work I did on his pool last fall.”

I looked over at the water. “What if we are crazy?”

“We’re not,” he mumbled through an enormous bite of sandwich. “It’s still rising. See the trickle? There, on my side of the fence?”

I craned my neck. Sure enough, there was a little brook forming, trundling along the fence toward our neighbors down the hill. “What if it floods?” I asked, afraid again. “You know how fast flash floods happen, Monte!”

He shrugged. “What do you want me to do? Sandbag it?”

He had a point. What could we do? I ate some more sandwich and worried.

“Louise. Stop worrying. It’s going to be fine.”

I heard a splash. Monte froze, and I could see the hairs on his neck wave a little bit. Weird. ‘Hairs rising on the back of your neck’ was actually visible.

“Crap!” he blurted, spraying bread crumbs. “Did you see that?”

Truthfully, I had been staring at his neck. “No, what?”

He glanced at me, irritated, and then focused on the bubbling water. I looked over too, wondering what could capture his attention so fully.

A black tailfin peeked up out of the water and then disappeared.

I was on my feet so fast I didn’t remember moving. “Monte…” My voice sounded breathy and weird.

He joined me a second later as another ripple disturbed the water. “Get in the house, Louise. You got your keys?”

“Right here,” I said, patting my pocket. Another fin, black and pointy, emerged slowly. By the time the eyebrow ridge appeared, we were cowering behind my kitchen curtains.

“Where’s your phone?” Monte whispered hoarsely.

“You calling the police?”

“No, the paper!”

We had a brief wrestling match over the phone, which he won. He flipped it open and thumbed the camera button. He snapped two shots of the glossy black head as the thing climbed out of the hole. It was bipedal, covered in scales, and had dark purple eyes covered with some kind of web. It blinked vertically, opposite of a human, and stood about as tall as Monte.

We watched it walk down the hill, following the water trail.

“No one is ever going to believe this,” Monte murmured.

It was then that I realized we were holding hands. Monte didn’t seem inclined to let go, so I didn’t either. I watched the black creature disappear as the sun set over Sin City.

Welcome to the Summer Solstice Blog Hop!

Welcome to the Summer Solstice Blog Hop!  I’m glad you stopped by.  I’m Noony, and I’ll be one of your hosts during your visit.  Remember to stay inside the hop; if at any time you lose the navbar then go back to the website, here, and start over.  Be sure to comment on each blog to be entered to win a number of prizes, including a NOOK Simple Touch with Glowlight!

For this hop, I decided to accept Alanna Coco’s challenge and use the JustRomance.me scene generator!  It gave me the following scene:

These are your characters:
Veterinarian, Butler, Astronaut

These adjectives describe them.
Assign one to each character.
Wise, Creepy, Sweet

This is your setting:
Studio set

See if you can guess which adjective I assigned to which person.  Have fun!

“Channel five news tonight with Cari Ann Layton and Steve Talman. In suburban Redwing today…”

Chandler tuned out the rest of the droning voice as it went through the litany of the day’s highlights. He didn’t like the unfettered negativity. He came around the corner of the snack table and almost ran into Sandoval.

“Pardon me, sir. I didn’t see you there.” Sandoval’s hands, full of four neat stacks of papers clipped with black binder clips, spread in apology.

“Do you need a hand with that stuff?” Chandler reached out to catch the top pile as it leaned toward the floor.

“Thank you.” Sandoval smiled, his brown eyes tired. “They’re for Mr. Kincaid’s butler.”

“Oh.” Chandler tried to keep the distaste out of his voice. “I see.” The trouble with that lay with the fact that Chandler didn’t want to see William, the butler, but avoiding him meant he’d lose out on spending time with Sandoval.

Sandoval, though, seemed oblivious. “Well, you have a nice evening.”

Chandler slipped the top stack off the pile and held it. “I’ll come with you and help.” He started walking, just to get Sandoval moving. “What is all this stuff, anyway?”

“Breeding records for the stable that Mr. Kincaid is thinking of buying. I’ve been chief veterinarian there for the last eight years and have all the records since its founding.” He paused, mouth twitching like he’d frown. “It took me three hours to copy everything, but I didn’t want to give any of the originals to William.”

“Wise thought.” Chandler glanced at Sandoval out of the corner of his eye, trying to be subtle, and caught Sandoval watching him. The vet flushed a rich red, like a strawberry margarita, and looked away.

“What brings you to the station?” Sandoval asked.

“I had an interview today about my time on the shuttle.” Chandler scratched his chin, the makeup they’d made him wear still itching even though he’d washed his face. Twice.

“Your skin bothering you?”

“I wore that crap they make you wear on camera and it won’t seem to come off.”

Sandoval watched him for a few steps and then looked down, as though he wanted to say something but didn’t quite dare.

“What is it? You can trust me.”

“I have something that will help, if you’d let me use it on you.” Sandoval flushed again. “It’s not like it…” He trailed off. “It’s a facial steam with some herbs.”

A facial steam? What did Sandoval think he was? Of course, his skin really itched. Then the light bulb went on. They’d get to spend time alone together. In Chandler’s bathroom. Alone. “Okay.” He tried to act casual, not let on the way his heart thumped in his throat or his palms started to sweat. Casual.

Right.

Man, that butler better hurry up.

Thanks for stopping by my blog during the blog hop.  Be sure to visit our other participating authors over the next several days.  The hop runs from Wednesday, 06/20/2012 through Sunday, 06/24/2012.

Happy Summer Solstice!