Monday, June 24, 2013

Chapter 38 (part 1)

It took about forty minutes to get to Samantha’s house, and Allison fell asleep on the way.  She lived on the outskirts of town in a neighborhood that felt like it had once been rundown, but was now cleaned up for the working middle-class. 

“Used be a lot worse here, but they fixed it up.  For people who don’t make enough to move farther out, but who can afford better than what’s offered in town can afford these neighborhoods.  Some rent.  Some own.  But we all work hard to live here.”

The woman had to be telepathic.  She had an uncanny ability to answer unasked questions.  Then again, she was a cop.  A detective, at that.  That sort of skill would be invaluable to her.

The cab pulled up to the curb in front of a cute little cape.  It was hard to tell what color it was at night, but it was homey no matter the color.  

Samantha paid the driver and climbed out into the street.  She reached in to take our bags as I gently woke Allison again and helped her get out of the car.  

We scanned around as we approached the house.  I never let go of Allison’s hand in case we had to run.  But, all was quiet on the street.  Samantha unlocked the door and checked inside before allowing us in.  

It was a small foyer, with a coat rack still heavy with winter wear and an assortment of shoes along the wall.  A hallway lead straight back to the kitchen, stairs running alongside to the left.  The living room was to the right.

“I have a guest room with a double bed, if you’d like.  Or, you can use the sofas.”  Samantha’s voice had a bit more tension in it.  Was it just because we were now in her home, her personal space?  Or was there more to it than that?  

I wanted to trust her.  I needed to trust her in some deep crevice of my psyche.  But I kept coming back to all the setups we’d run into already.  

“We’ll take the guest room, thank you,” I told her.

Allison trudged up the steps behind the other woman with me bringing up the rear.  “My neighbor across the street is a state trooper,” Samantha provided.  “He doesn’t know my history, or what’s been going on with you.  Hell, he doesn’t even know you’re here.  But, if anything does happen, I want you to know that we’ll have outsider backup.”  

“Assuming he’s home at the time,” I added.

“Yeah,” she said.  “There’s that.

“Here’s the bathroom,” she said at the top of the stairs, indicating a room with the dim glow of a night light.  “Your room is at the end of the hall.”

Samantha’s room was between us and the bathroom.  That could be good or bad, depending on the point of view.

As Allison climbed into bed and promptly fell asleep, Samantha handed me a pistol.  “Nine millimeter.  It’s loaded, but the chamber’s empty.”

“How many shots?” I asked.  My heart was pounding with weight of yet another gun in my hands.  I didn’t want this burden on me anymore.  It was starting to wear on me, and I didn’t know if I would crack under the pressure.

“Eight, since the chamber’s empty.”

I huffed out a heavy breath.  “Okay.  I’ll find a place for it.  Thanks.”

“Don’t thank me until this is over, Ella.  Anything can happen, yet.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chapter 37

Officer Brecky--Samantha, I had to remind myself--had brought us a couple books along with our meals the next day.  While she was jovial and bouncy with Allison, I noticed the tension pinching her eyes and tugging at her mouth.  This waiting game was either wearing on her more than I thought it would, or something was up.

The three of us ate dinner together, grouped around the small table with an extra chair from Samantha’s room while a movie played on the television.  It was some sort of come-of-age, preteen type movie.  Allison seemed to like it well enough, but I just couldn’t pull my mind away from my troubles long enough to even catch the main character’s name.  

When she was finished eating, Allison plopped on the bed to watch the movie.  Her blond hair fell around her face as she propped her chin in her hands, her legs sticking up behind her, crossed at the ankles.  I envied her ability to get lost in another world at this tumultuous time.

“I think we’ll move out tomorrow,” Samantha said, breaking my thoughts.  

I looked at her, the worry in her emerald eyes flooding my senses.  “Why?  Is something wrong?” I asked.

She shook her head a little as she stacked our paper plates at the side of the table.  “Just a feeling.  I always go with my gut, and my gut is saying to go.”

“Why wait?” I asked.  “Why not leave now?”  I didn’t want to run any more, but I didn’t want to fight either.  I had had enough of both.

She looked back at me.  “Better to leave when the hotel is more active.  People coming and going offer protection.  If Luke’s watching, he won’t do anything in public.  Just remember all the precautions for tonight.  My hackles are up, but I can’t pin down anything that might be a threat.”

I sighed heavily.  It was going to be another sleepless night.  

A thought poked at me.  “Could you stay in here with us?  We could take shifts sleeping?  I didn’t sleep at all last night listening to every footstep in the hall and car door outside.  If we’re moving again, I need to sleep.”

She nodded.  “That’s a good idea.  We all need to rest.  We’ll do three-hour shifts.  I’ll take the first one.  Say ten to one?”

“Sounds good to me.” 

It was only quarter after seven, but I was exhausted.  I wasn’t sure I’d make it to ten.

Samantha seemed to recognize that.  “Why don’t you go lay down now?  I’ll get my stuff from next door, and you can rest until one.”

Without a word, I stood and shuffled to the bed with Allison.  Pulling back the covers, I slipped under them and snuggled in.  When Allison climbed under and snuggled up with me, I wrapped my arm over her small body.  “Love you, baby,” I whispered to her, and I fell asleep.  

A soft touch on my shoulder woke me.  My eyes flew open, but I didn’t move.  Terror scorched my veins.  I could see the clock, it’s red numbers glowing in the dim light seeping from the bathroom.  It was just after midnight.

“Ella,” a soft voice whispered.  “Ella, we need to go.”

It was Samantha.  

I sat up so fast my head spun, but I didn’t wait for it to stop before swinging my feet into action.  I slipped my shoes on, then turned to wake Allison.  

“Allison.  Baby, you need to wake up.”  I shook her gently.  She stirred, but didn’t wake up.  “Honey, I need you to wake up,” I said louder, closer to her ear.  Her eyes fluttered open.

“Mom?  What’s going on?  What time is it?”

“It’s midnight, baby.  Officer Brecky wants us to leave now.”  How could I tell her what was going on when I didn’t even know myself?

Samantha handed me Allison’s shoes, and I helped her get them on.  We gathered our bags and headed for the door.

“Wait.”  Allison stopped me with a hand on my arm.  “I have to go to the bathroom,” she whispered.  

“Quickly,” I said.

Samantha went to the window while Allison ran into the bathroom.  The only thing that told me she was peeking out was the movement of her hands.  I never saw the curtains move.  When she turned back at the sound of the toilet flushing, her face was stoney.

“Someone has been sitting in the parking lot all night.  They’re two cars back from mine, and they haven’t gotten out of their car at all.”

What?  Nobody was supposed to know where we were, but it sure sounded like someone did.  

My confusion must have shown because she shook her head just a tad.  “No idea,” she said.  “But we need to move.  I called for a taxi.  We’ll leave my car here.” 

The bathroom door opened, and Allison came out looking a bit more awake than when she went in.  I took her hand and headed for the door.  “We’ll be taking a taxi, sweetie.”  

I left it at that because we were in the hall, walking at a pace that wouldn’t draw attention but would get us to the door faster than a casual stroll.

As we passed the front desk, Samantha tossed the key cards on the counter.  “We’re checking out.  You have everything you need,” she said as she kept walking.

The young woman sitting behind the computer just sat there gaping at us.  “But, miss.  You have to sign for the rooms, miss,” she called, finding her tongue as we exited through the doors.

Samantha ignored her, and I decided to keep quiet.  She seemed to know what she was doing.

Sure enough, a taxi pulled up as we stepped outside.  It was pale blue, and I sent up a silent prayer for small favors.  

We all piled in the back seat, our bags on our laps.  Samantha leaned toward the plexiglass separating us from the driver.  “Sixteen-o-one Sherwood Way.  In Summerville,” she said before leaning back again.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

She stared straight out the windshield.  “My house.”

Okay, I thought.  Why, after all this hiding, were we going somewhere that was probably well-known to the enemy?  I didn’t voice my concern, however.  In the past few days I had learned the value of silence.  Maybe I had been wrong about Samantha, after all.  Maybe she was still working for Ritter.  Something in me didn’t believe that, but at the core, how well did I know this woman, really?

Still, I found myself in the position of not really having a choice at the moment.  Once we stopped, I could take Allison and run if I had to.  For now we were in this cab for better or worse.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chapter 36

Two hours later, Allison and I were riding with Officer Brecky as she drove us toward home.  I had stopped in to see Dominic, but they were keeping him overnight for observation.  I didn’t want to stay at or near the hospital, so I told Brecky that I wanted to head home.

Her offer of putting us up in a hotel without the aid of the police was the best offer I’d had in the past couple days.  Her cryptic words about having been through this before clung to my thoughts like a spider web.  I was constantly pushing them away while trying to make a mental checklist of everything that still needed to be done.  

My husband was dead.  I needed to schedule a funeral for him.  I also had to do something for Cassie.  She was my best friend and had no family.  I wasn’t sure how to go about handling her affairs, but a lawyer could probably help with that.  

Then there was the house where Michael and Cassie had been murdered as pawns in Luke Ritter’s evil game of revenge.  My house.  Our home. What was I going to do with the house?  I wasn’t sure I could bare walking into it, much less living in it.  I’d have to find Allison and myself a place to stay while I searched for a new house.  But, for now, I needed to get through this day and the next.  One day at a time.  Protecting my baby and surviving was key at this point. 

We had no idea where Ritter was, who else was on his payroll, or what they had planned.  I was putting my faith, perhaps blindly considering all the people who had screwed us over already, in the woman sitting next to me.  I had no one else.

When we were still far enough out of town to change the zip code, we pulled into a hotel parking lot.  It was a regular hotel, with the room doors on the inside of the building instead of the motel type of lodging with access to the outside.  I had mixed feelings about that, but again, I put my trust in Officer Brecky.

The lobby was impeccable, with gleaming marble floors and gilded-framed art on the sage walls.  As dirty and tattered as Allison and I were, I was sure they’d turn us away.  Still, I approached the desk beside Brecky and stood there while she requested adjacent second floor rooms connected by a door, with queen beds.  Then, keys in hand, we headed to the elevators.

Allison immediately went into the bathroom with her bag.  “Mom, can I take a shower now?” she asked, poking her head through the door.

“Sure, honey.  I’ll be right here with Officer Brecky.”  We sat at the small round table by the window.  “Why the second floor, specifically?” I asked her.

Her emerald eyes looked out to the parking lot one floor below.  “It gives you an easy escape if needed without being easy for anyone to get in.”  She turned back to me.  “Don’t open the door for anyone but me.  I’ll get you and Allison food.  Whatever you want.  Just don’t open that door until we’re sure who is who.  You’ll stay here four days, tops.  Hopefully by then we’ll have gotten to Ritter.”

I sat there studying the tension in her exotic features.  The way her jaw flexed rhythmically.  The stress pinching the corners of her eyes.  

I asked her point blank, “What did you mean when you said you’ve been through this before?” 

She took a deep breath and turned to stare out the window, her eyes distant and unfocused.  I waited long seconds before she said, “When I was twenty, I got myself mixed up in the twisted hierarchy of the drug world.  I fell for an older guy climbing his way up the drug lord ladder.  He was one step down from the top.  He was dark and beautiful, and he promised me the world.”  She turned back to me, her eyes coming into focus again.  “He was known as Diablo because he held nothing back, gave no mercy.  I called him Luke.”

I blinked my surprise away.  That was a turn I had never expected.  “Luke?  As in Ritter?”

She gave me a nod.  “The very same.  He was ambitious.  And when the guy above him was taken out, he became king.  The murder is still unsolved, but I know Luke ordered the hit.  To be honest, I think he did it himself.  I hung around for another year, but when Big Ben was murdered I left.  Went underground.  

“After a year or so I came out of hiding, moved here and joined the force.  I already had a college education, so I went through the academy and testing for detective work.  I wanted to be able to do something about guys like Ritter.”

I sat there staring at her.  Too much information, too fast.  She dated Luke Ritter?  She was there when Big Ben was murdered?  That meant she was there when Dominic and I were in the thick of it, too.  Did I ever meet her?  

“It’s a lot to take in, I know,” she said.  She gazed out the window again.  “Now is my chance to make something good come out of all the shit I saw when I was with him.  Pay my debt to society for sitting back and letting it happen.  Not that I could’ve stopped him then.  But I lavished in the luxury he surrounded me with.  All acquired with dirty money.”

I took a deep breath and let it our slowly, turning to stare through the plate glass at the parking lot beyond.  “Okay.  So where does that put us now?  What am I supposed to do while you play vigilante cop with Ritter?  I have a daughter to think about.”  

I could feel her eyes on me, but I didn’t turn back to her.  Instead, I closed my eyes and took another breath.  “God, I wish Dominic had never shown up here,” I mumbled.

Brecky’s hands fell on my shoulders.  “I didn’t trust Dominic at first.  Maybe you understand why now.  And I understand why you would say that.  After all, he is why you and your family were thrown onto this roller coaster of life and death.

“However, in the few short days I’ve been on this case, my opinions have changed.  He put his life on the line to protect you and Allison.  That doesn’t come lightly.  I think he truly wants the best for you.”  Her breath brushed my ear as she bent down and added, “I think, if you told him to, he’d walk away and never look back.  Because he really does care.”  

She squeezed my shoulders and walked to the window.  “That’s for you to stew over later.  Right now we need to go over escape plans and such.”  She turned back to me, and our eyes locked.  “Nobody knows we’re here, but I don’t put it past Ritter to have us tailed.  I’ll be in the room next door, but I’ll stay here with Allison while you shower.  Once the sun goes down, keep the blackout curtains closed.  Don’t come out, and do not open the door for anyone except me.  We’ll have a code word for emergencies.  If you need to get through that door,” she indicated the door between our rooms, “knock two times and say the code word.  You pick the word.”

“Um.  I don’t know, Brecky.  What kind of word should it be?”

“Ella, please call me Samantha.  It should be easy to remember, but not obvious.  Something you might need, like ‘blanket’ or ‘pillow.’  But you have to pick it.”

I chewed on my lip, thinking about it.  “Hungry,” I said.  “Would that work?”

She nodded her dark head.  “That’s perfect.  Sleep in your clothes so you’re ready to go if necessary.  And keep at least one light on so you can see the room.  My car will be right outside the window.”  She tossed me a key.  “Here’s a key.  It’s your getaway car if you need it.  Cell on vibrate under your pillow. . .  With this,” she handed me a .9mm pistol.  “You know gun rules.  Safety on, no round in the chamber.  But don’t forget to cock it if you need to.

“As long as it’s quiet tonight, I’ll get you in the morning.  I’ll knock on the outside door.  We can order breakfast off the hotel menu, and I’ll pick it up.  I don’t want service of any kind here, so leave the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.  For your safety, you two can’t leave this room.  I’ll get you whatever you want to keep you occupied.”  She smiled a mother’s smile.  “Within reason, of course.

“Any questions?”

I ran through everything as I understood it.  She corrected me on a few things, but I felt secure with the plan.  

When Allison came out of the bathroom in a plume of steam, I took my turn.  Then Samantha went to get us Chinese food.  You have to have Chinese food when you’re hiding out from bad guys in a hotel, right?  We ate, and Samantha went next door.  

Allison and I curled up together on one bed watching a movie.  When she drifted off, I played the waiting game alone, guarding my baby girl.  There was no way I was going to sleep that night, no matter how secure it might have felt.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Reason Is You (a review) . . .

I was blessed to receive a copy of The Reason is You, by Sharla Lovelace, to review.  The author signed and dated the book for me, and she also included a Snoopy note card with a personal note of thanks inside.  I will alway treasure this book because it represents my first personal contact with an author, and an opportunity to push my own writing out there a bit further.

Thank you, Sharla, for this wonderful opportunity.

The Reason is You, by Sharla Lovelace

Dani Shane has been laid off from her job in Dallas.  With no other options left to her, she moves  with her sixteen year old daughter, Riley, back to her father’s house in the small town of Bethany.  Dani is less than thrilled about the move, especially when her oldest friend suddenly appears at her car while she’s unpacking.

Alex looks exactly the same, with his dashing good looks and black clothes, and Dani is shocked to see him.  Particularly when she notices Riley talking to him . . . because Alex is a ghost.  Dani was the joke of the town when she was growing up because she talked to people who weren’t there.  Ghosts only she could see.  And now Riley could see them, too.

Then there’s the new owner of the bait shop, Jason Miller, who is also her new boss.  His hard body is graced with a handsome face, and Dani can’t seem to avoid running into him . . . literally.  When she discovers his softer side, she begins developing feelings for him.  But he’s new in town, and the skeletons--or ghosts--in her closet are bound to come out at some point.

Dani has to face her past while trying to build her future.  And, she has to help her daughter learn how to deal with her new “gift” before she becomes the next town joke.

I didn’t read the back cover before starting The Reason is You.  My first impression of the author’s style was the dedication to her family.  It was poetic and flowing, and made me eager to get to the first chapter.  But, the acknowledgments came before that coveted first word.  They were cryptic, written for the minds of those they recognized, but they were also inspiring for this aspiring writer, confirming my characters loosely based on real people, and encouraging participation in conferences for the connections and support earned.

I would say that the book started off a bit slow, but at the same time the author throws the reader into the story from the beginning.  No back story is needed at this point because the main character is starting over.  Lovelace does a great job of pulling the reader in quickly, too.  I was hooked directly after meeting Alex, and before page 8.

The back story that is needed is filled in at just the right pace.  We learn about Alex out of necessity because of Riley’s newfound ability to see and converse with spirits.  We learn about Dani’s history with the town of Bethany as the people from her adolescence begin to trickle into the story through her new job at the bait store, a place everyone seems to need for one thing or another in such a small town.  

Throughout the story more is discerned about Dani’s history with Alex, eventually culminating in a revelation that perhaps Dani should have seen earlier.  But, when you have that much crap going on in your life, maybe putting puzzle pieces together becomes tedious and trivial.  After all, if Alex would just come out and say what he wants Dani to figure out, she wouldn’t have to worry about it.  Until the secret is revealed, of course.  At which point her world goes a bit topsy-turvy again.  
The sexual tension between Dani and Alex is palpable.  The fact that they are so obviously in love and yet unable even to touch draws out the tension until it feels like it would snap in a light breeze.  Delicious proof that sex scenes aren’t needed if it’s written with finesse.

Dani grows tremendously through the story.  She begins to stand up for herself instead of crawling into the safety of her psyche.  She also comes to terms with her gift with the help of a photo album filled with pictures her mother had taken in her youth.  It’s easy to sympathize with Dani.  She starts out a meek woman, who, by the end, becomes a strong person who stands up for herself and others.

Sharla Lovelace does a wonderful job of telling this story.  Her style is easy to read, and I love her metaphors and descriptions.  There were a couple places where I was confused by her description of a person or place--meeting Miss Olivia stands out in my memory--but, after reading through the page and going back to reread the description, it made sense.  She is very creative in the way she uses the character's memory of a person or place to describe it.  And she doesn’t use typical adjectives for her descriptions, filling them with the flavor of the person or location.  I was able to watch the story play out in my mind’s eye like I was there as it happened.

While there was the typical romance novel wedding ending, it lacked the speed that annoys me with other romance stories.  Without giving a time frame, Lovelace makes it clear that the wedding didn’t happen two weeks or two months after the characters met, that they were given time to get to know each other before saying their vows.

And here is my favorite thing about the ending . . . . . . No sequel!  This is so rare in any genre these days.  I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a book that was a “stand alone” story.  It was incredibly refreshing to not have to wait for the next book to find out “what now.”

All in all, a well written, well told story that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chapter 35

Officer Brecky came to escort me back to her car where Allison was waiting.  When the ambulance pulled back onto the asphalt, lights whirling flashes of red, she followed behind them.  

With my wound shooting fresh spikes of pain through my arm and shoulder, I laid back and closed my eyes.  I was relieved to be with Officer Brecky, as I trusted her, but I couldn’t help but think that Ritter was still out there.  He occupied my thoughts as I hovered on the edge of sleep.

At the hospital, a doctor I hoped was a surgeon debrided and sutured the hole in my arm under a local anesthetic.  Before the nurse wrapped it I took a deep breath and looked down.  The dried blood was gone, and few lines of purple nylon knots crisscrossed the area.  But it looked a hell of a lot better than it had.  And it was numb.  At least for now.

Allison sat on a hard chair along the wall.  She kept quiet and watched the process with a child’s fascination.  I was so proud of her strength, but I hoped it wasn’t just shock that would wear off and leave me with a shell of a girl carrying a basket of mental rubble.  Sure, she had lived through and dealt with the accident and her father’s handicap, but this. . .  This was so much different.  She had looked the devil in the face and taken him down.  Hopefully it wouldn’t take her down, too.

The nurse handed me a few papers and a bottle of pills.  “Keep the stitches clean, but don’t get them wet.  You’ll have to come back to in seven days to have them removed.”

“I don’t live here,” I cut in to monotonous regurgitation of the doctor’s instructions.

Her tone became a bit more irritated, and I caught myself wondering what her problem was.  Had she had a bad day?  Did she not like working with Dr. Dolchez?  Did she not like her job at all?  “Well then, you can make an appointment with your regular doctor.  But Dr. Dolchez will want a report of how the wound looks.  If you like,” her annoyance brought me back to the room, “the receptionist can give you a list of surgeons in your area that can remove the sutures and examine the wound.  That way any issues can be dealt with right away.

“The prescription is for Percocet.  Dr. Dolchez has given you ten to start, but you should fill the prescription right away.  Take one tablet every six hours regardless of your pain level.  You can take it as close as every four hours if you need to.  It’s for pain management not a pain killer, so don’t skip a pill just because you don’t feel any pain.”

I looked at the amber bottle in my hand.  “Okay.  So should I just take it until it’s gone?”

I could tell she was trying to keep her exasperation in check.  “For the next three days, don’t skip a dose.  After that, if you’re feeling okay, you can try to decrease it.  But, if your pain increases again, you need to go back to taking it as directed.  All the instructions are on the papers.  Do you have any more questions?”

I thought nurses were supposed to be the friendly side of healthcare, but this woman sounded like she couldn’t wait to get away from me, and the last thing she wanted do was answer any more questions.  So I said no and slid off the table as she walked out.  

Officer Brecky was waiting outside my little ER stall as Allison and I parted the curtain and stepped out.  

“How’re you doing?” she asked looking at my arm.

I shrugged.  “Better than most, considering.”  I wrapped my good arm around Allison’s shoulders.  “I could use a drink.  Do you want anything, baby?”

She nodded.  “And a snack, too, Mommy?”

I gave her a squeeze.  “Of course, honey.  Anything you want.”

“There are vending machines this way,” Brecky said with a tip of her head as she turned and led us down the bright hallway.  

“Dominic is in surgery now,” she said as I walked beside her.  “From what I gather, they have to stitch his muscles back together.  He’s lucky, though.  The bullet missed any major blood vessels.”

I took a deep breath and huffed it out.  “Will he have to stay here?”

Her green eyes fell on me and searched my face.  “Overnight, at least.  They want to make sure he’s okay, you know?”

“Yeah.  But Allison and I can’t stay here.  We can stay in a hotel or something, but I’m not subjecting her to any more trauma than is necessary.  Staying overnight in a hospital is more than necessary.”

We stopped in front of a row of vending machines with sodas, sandwiches, chips and candy.  One even had ice cream.  I told Allison to pick whatever she wanted.  After looking at all the options, she chose a soda, a turkey sandwich, and a bag of chips.  I got a soda for myself.

“You don’t have to stay here at all, Ella,” Brecky was saying as I punched buttons and retrieved cellophane-wrapped food and plastic bottles of soda.  “I can take you and Allison back to Church Hill now if you want.  Of course, you’d still have to stay in a hotel, but at least you’d be in familiar surroundings.  Maybe you could stay with a friend?”

We walked back to a waiting area and sat with our food.  Allison found a magazine to browse while she ate, and she sat a few seats down so Officer Brecky and I could talk more.  I hated having her that far away from me now.  I just wanted to cradle her on my lap and never let her go.

Pulling my gaze from Allison’s small face I looked Brecky in the eyes.  Unless you can verify that Ritter is either locked up or dead, I won’t ask a friend.  I can’t.  Besides, my best friend is already dead, and I don’t have many others after Michael’s accident.”

“A hotel, then?  You don’t have to stay here.”

“What does the public know?  Is this a big media story in Church Hill and Summerville?  Are we going to be attacked by reporters if we go back?”  

A big fiasco was the last thing we needed right now.  Without knowing where Luke Ritter was, I would not risk my daughter’s life by having the media plastering our faces and location all over the news.

“The murders are a big story, but names haven’t been released.  I could put you up in a hotel on my own, without the police even knowing.”  Her voice dropped to a barely audible whisper.  “Look, Ella,” she said with her lips barely moving.  “I’ve been through this before. I can help you without using my police status.”

I stared at her with wide eyes.  Who was this woman?  From the time I first met her on Cassie’s front porch she had been the one person who’s assistance I had never questioned.  I didn’t trust her gruff partner.  I had questioned Dominic several times since he was the reason I was in this mess to begin with, and it hadn’t helped his case that the FBI agent he’d been working with turned out to be one of the bad guys.  Obviously I didn’t trust the FBI either.  

So why had I never questioned Samantha Brecky?  Was there some sort of kindred spirit that bound us.  A power beyond the perceivable world of good versus evil?  What had she been through that joined us in the survival of this battle against darkness?

“I can’t talk about it here, but we can go to a hotel.  Here, or closer to home.  Whichever you prefer.  Just know that I can help you in ways the police can’t.  Maybe you should wait until Dominic is out of surgery and we can talk to the doctors.  Make a decision then.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Taste of What's to Come. . .

While I try to Push through to the end of Church Hill I started on the story of the young woman haunting me, imploring me to tell her story.  There's not much done on it yet, but it's a start.  

It's more a a traditional romance story:  heroine with a troubled past, hero trying to get her to open up, both learning a thing or two about themselves and each other in the process.  They will have their fair share of bridges to build and burn.

I will be honest in that I probably won't post this one on the blog.  However, I will post bits a pieces throughout the project.  I'm always up for suggestions, and will probably need readers' help at times.

I've also been extremely distracted by my gourd projects.  I love doing the gourds, and you can find some of my projects on my gardening blog, The Sheepish Gardener.  

One more shameless plug before I give you the first 400 words of Eleni's story.  My little man is a "model" on the VibraDyes website!  He's in the blue t-shirt on the home page.  The little guy with his head cocked and a big smile.  Stop by to see his cuteness, and check out the site.  They have great products that don't fade.

Okay, I'm finished.  Now here is the beginning of Eleni's story. . . 

Chilly water sloshed up Eleni’s chest and neck when the sharp rap sounded at her door.  She had fallen asleep trying to soak away the tension of the week’s work.  She wasn’t used to the manual labor that came with ranch work, but she was determined to stick it out.  She had to.
The know sounded again.  This time a voice pushed through the wood and drywall.  “Eleni?”  It was Ryan.  “Are you okay?”
She pulled the plug from the drain and stood to wrap a towel around her cold body.  “Coming,” she called, hoping he could hear her sleep-drugged voice.  Her hair was already drying, so she slipped into her slippers and went to answer the door.
“Come in, Ryan,” she said as she stepped aside to let him into the efficiency.  
He blushed when he saw her wrapped in the towel.  She didn’t think it was possible for this strong, no-nonsense man.  He ran Quarter Acres with a strong hand, taking no crap from workers, vendors, or clients.  
“I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize you were in the shower,” he said a bit timidly.
“Bath,” Eleni stated.  “No shower in here, remember?”  
“Right,” he replied, running a hand through the loose curls of his hair.
She smiled at him and gestured for him to sit on the worn couch.  “Just give me a minute to get dressed.”
Ryan sank into the faded cushions as Eleni disappeared through the only interior door in the apartment.  He glanced around the small space, realizing that Eleni hadn’t added much in the way of personal touches.  The furnished room was offered to her as an employee of his family’s ranch.  One of five such units built by his grandfather for the migrant workers he took on.  The rooms were built like a motel, connected in a line with a covered front porch running the length of the building.
Only three of the rooms were occupied now.  Eleni was staying in the unit to the far left, closest to the barn.  The two rooms at the other side housed Jake and Owen, two young hands that chose to stay on the property to get out of their parents’ houses.
Eleni had been on the ranch for about a month, and Ryan was noticing she seemed to have a gift with the horses.  She had taken to one gelding in particular.  A horse of mixed breeding with a past as turbulent as Eleni’s own.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Another Tact. . .

Today I have a trip to the library planned.  There are four books waiting for me there, all from Belle Books or their other imprint Bell Bridge Books.  I found this publisher through the blog post about writer's block.  (That post was written for the publisher's blog by Eve Gaddy, one of their authors.)

Here I must admit a couple things.  First I am only about halfway through Fifty Shades Darker after having it for almost four weeks.  I just can't get through it.  When I look at it, I cringe at the thought of picking it up again.  So, while I pushed through the first book in the trilogy, I'm giving up on this one.  Yes, the presence of a real story line makes it more compelling than the first, but I discovered that I just don't like Anastasia Steele.  So, back the book goes.

The second admission revolves around the act of reading--fiction in particular.  With all the reading on the publishing industry I've been doing, picking up a fiction book has been difficult these past few weeks.  When you add to that the gourd art research I've been doing, I haven't really been able to force the time for fiction.  (Perhaps that is part of the problem with Fifty Shades Darker, but I don't really think so.)

These issues only add to my writer's block with Church Hill.  If I can't even read fiction, why should I be able to write fiction?  (Although, that girl with the scar still waits, and she is very compelling.)  So, today I go to the library to pick up four books of fiction with the hope that the locked gates to my stream of creative writing will open of their own free will.  Either that, or I can force myself back into that stream.

A day at the spa and shopping should be helpful, too.  :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Trying to Get Around the Block. . .

These past few weeks have been torturous when it comes to working on Church Hill.  I know where I want to go, where Ella needs to end up, but I'm kind of stuck as to how to get her there.

In looking back, it's only been about three to four days since Ella and Dominic took Allison and fled town.  Ella still needs to bury Michael.  And there's the question of what's going to happen between her and Dominic.

But there's a bigger issue I need to clear up, and I don't know how to do it.  I could do it the easy way, and wrap up everything nice and tidy-like using Officer Samantha Brecky.  Or I could have one last stand-off between good and evil.  I just don't know what to do about the fact that Luke Ritter is still "at large" and unaccounted for.

I think I know what to do.  I think I know what my readers would want.  But I just can't get past where I am right now.  Although. . . I just had an idea as I sit here whining to you about my problem.  I think I'll give it a try.

On another note, I recently read a blog post about writer's block and how one author overcame it.  She reverted to an art form she enjoyed before being published.  It helped her overcome her block by allowing her brain to use the creative energy trying to get out, but in a different way.

My mind has been on other projects these past weeks . . .

  • There's a young woman who keeps haunting me, begging me to tell her story.  And I want to dive in . . . because her story fascinates me even though I don't know all of it yet, and because it involves horses in depth.  I need the horses.  They are like medicine for my soul.
  • A box of gourds awaits my "artistic" abilities as well.  I look at these gourds and hear them telling me what they want to be.  Lately, they are refusing to be ignored like the young woman above.  My biggest setback is tools.  I need better than what I have, and my mom and I--who shares this obsession with me--have to share so many things between us.  By the time I get what I want or need I've lost either the time or the drive to get done what I want to get done.
  • "Little Bug" is also demanding my mental attention, though I can't find my big box of crayons to start on the illustrations.  And that's what my brain wants to do . . . draw.
So I need to release some "physical" creativity.  That's not to say that writing isn't physical, but it's more mental.  I can get around bad typing days a heck of a lot easier than I can this mental road block.  Bare with me, readers.  I'm trying.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Flexing My Brain (part 2)

The foot was a swollen, a purplish-red from the blood flooding the vessels.  So swollen, in fact, that the toes were beginning to look like they were adhering to one another, becoming one giant toe appendage, aAnd eventually nothing more than a long pointed foot, with no without toes at all.  The laceration from the bite was clearly visible at the angle of the joint connecting the foot to the poor creature's leg.  It was a fairly deep slice--the result of a razor-edged jawbone with razors for teeth.  Above the site of the attack the lower leg was also beginning to swell. and mMovement of the entire limb was quickly rapidly being restricted.  Injectable antibiotics were necessary, and but it was clearly evident that the foot would eventually fall off even with treatment.  
The price would have to be marked down, naturally of course.  After all, who wants to would pay $175   for a dragon with a missing foot?  It truely was a shame.  It She was such a beautiful dragon, too.  Not that it isn't  she wasn't still, but then we come it circles back to the asthetic value of the animal.  Who wants a dragon with a missing foot?  I guess there are those people in the world who have a soft spot for such unfortunate creatures.  I myself am one of them.  But they are so few and far between.

I think it reads better this way.  There is less clutter of redundant and pointless words.  It just flows more smoothly than the original version.

I have plans for this passage.  It is destined to become something much bigger than its current 71 words.

While I was copying the original version, I remembered the inspiration for the writing.  The dragon in question is not, as can be inferred, a fantastical species.  It was a baby hatched in the pet shop I was working in at the time.  A Bearded Dragon, native to Australia.  The hatchlings had been kept together until I came in to find this little one's injury one morning.  It ended up going to a good home with another employee.

Young Bearded Dragon

The "beard"

Because of their animated personalities
I call them "living cartoons."

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Flexing My Brain (part 1)

I was always a doodler in school.  I just couldn't keep my head on the subject most of the time.  (Lucky for me, I seem to have a sponge in my head instead of grey matter.  ;) )  My doodles weren't necessarily the type you're probably thinking of, though.  While I did draw--mostly abstract--pictures occasionally, most of my musings were just that. . . musings.  I wrote poems in the back of whatever section the current class occupied in my 5-subject spiral.  I wrote letters, too.  

It's alway neat to run across one of those old notebooks stashed in a box in my parents' basement, or in mine.  I've kept them all, because each and every one has treasures hidden somewhere between the pages.  The poems almost always stir memories of their inspiration.

Yesterday, while digging out some small shelves for my son to use for his books, I found two such spiral-bound troves.  While one had poetry and random musings, the other held a much more precious gem. . . the beginning of a story.

I was, quite frankly, amazed at this discovery.  I don't remember writing it, but it is most certainly my handwriting, my style.  And it's in my notebook from school, though which class I can't remember now.  So I must have written it in a moment of fantastic inspiration.  

And it's good.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not setting off fireworks that write my name in the sky.  But the story has considerable potential.  It is clear is some ways that I was in my infantile state of my writing when this story was born.  (Poems scrawled on the pages after it are dated 2001.)  There are aspects that bug my now more educated mind when I read it, but with polishing and development, it could go somewhere.

So, since I have been suffering from a block with Church Hill, I wanted to do some writing exercises, starting with this tidbit.  Below, I will copy the story exactly as I found it, and in my next post I will show corrections and other edits.  I think this will be good for me, good for Church Hill, and therefore good for you, my readers who long for the conclusion.

The foot was swollen, a purplish-red from the blood flooding the vessels.  So swollen, in fact, that the toes were beginning to look like they were adhering to one another, becoming one giant toe, and eventually a long pointed foot with no toes at all.  The laceration from the bite was clearly visible at the angle of joint connecting the foot to the poor creature's leg.  It was a fairly deep slice--the result of a razor-edged jawbone.  Above the site of the attack the lower leg was also beginning to swell and movement of the entire limb was quickly being restricted.  Injectable antibiotics were necessary, and it was clearly evident that the foot would eventually fall off.  The price would have to be marked down, naturally.  After all, who wants to pay $175 for a dragon with a missing foot?  It truely was a shame.  It was such a beautiful dragon.  Not that it isn't still, but then we come back to the asthetic value of the animal.  Who wants a dragon with a missing foot?  I guess there are those people in the world who have a soft spot for such unfortunate creatures.  I myself am one of them.  But they are so few and far between.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chapter 34 (part 2)

He was young, maybe in his early twenties.  His features still mostly untouched by life.  But his eyes carried the scars of a spirit that had seen much in his short life.  They were warm copper and good-natured.  Trustworthy.

My head bobbed in a slow nod.  “Yes.  I do.  You took an oath to help and heal.”

He began to swab the dried blood from my skin surrounding the wound, the slight pressure causing my skin to yelp as pain unfurled under his fingers.  I imagined my entire are would be purple and black blotches by the end of this very long day.

As he cleaned, he gave a nod.  “I did take an oath to help and heal, Ella, but the police and FBI take oaths to protect and serve.  Your trust in them put you in this situation.”  His coppery eyes met mine, his expression earnest.  “I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust me.  I honor my oath.  You should know, however, that they can subpoena me if you go to court.  In that case I would have to answer their questions honestly, including disclosing anything you told me now.”

I took a deep breath through my nose, immediately regretting it when the pungent fumes of the alcohol burned my sinuses.  I wanted to talk to someone.  Needed to.  But maybe Kevin wasn’t the right person.  

I studied his face as he went back to work on my shredded skin.  His touch was feather-light as he examined the area where the bullet tore through my flesh, but it still hurt.  “I’m going to wrap this with sterile gauze.  I’ll do my best, but it will hurt.  The bullet didn’t graze you.  It went through the outer part of your triceps and biceps, which is why you can’t move your arm.  The damage it caused leads me to believe it was a ballistic tip.  It’s likely that your bone was damaged, too, though it isn’t obviously broken.  There may be splinters of glass, too.

“Open your mouth,” came his gentle order.  He pushed a wad of gauze between my lips.  “Bite down on this when it hurts, Ella.”

I nodded to him through my fear.  The crackle of a sterile wrapper being opened had me turning my head away, eyes closed. 

Light pressure just above the wound had me pulling air through the dampening gauze in my mouth is a swift rush.  “Easy, Ella.  Try to breathe normally.  I don’t want you to hyperventilate on me.  Concentrate on your breathing, and bite down when it hurts,” came Kevin’s mellow directive.

He resumed wrapping the clean dressing around my arm with deliberate movements, using less pressure when he got to the tattered gash.  Still, the pain was excruciating, and I clamped down on the gauze hard, soaking it in the saliva that flooded my mouth.  My mind went blank in the face of the electric bolts shooting through my body, and I began to suck shallow breaths through the gauze.

“Breathe with me, Ella.”  Kevin’s voice drifted through the haze of pain.  “In.  Out.”  He drew out each word for several seconds before repeating.

I focused on his voice and pattern they formed, breathing in and out with each command.  My breathing slowed.  While I was still in exquisite pain, the focus on filling my lungs helped.

As he finished taping the loose end of the wrap, I dropped my head and removed the sopping gauze from my mouth.  “Sorry,” I said sheepishly as Kevin took the wad from me in his gloved hand.

“Don’t apologize.  I do this every day.  And I have gloves.”  His grin warmed me, but then the stretcher bumped into view.

Dominic wasn’t sitting up as he had requested.  Instead, he was strapped flat to the back board.  He wasn’t talking or moving.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chapter 34 (part 1)

My eyes fluttered open when the car began to slow.  We were climbing a small hill exiting the highway, and at the top an ambulance waited.  The flashing lights blazing beams of red through the budding grove of trees lining the road.

It was eerie.  Maybe because I knew this particular bone box was waiting for us.  Maybe because a mist had crept in while I drifted between wakefulness and dreams, and the pulsing red glow was too reminiscent of the carnage we left behind us.  No matter the reason for the dread, I was glad not to be riding to the hospital in that thing.

Brecky pulled the big car in front of the ambulance and put it in park.  “You two stay here,” she ordered, unbuckling her seat belt and opening the door.  

But I pushed the button on my own belt to release it and turned to Allison.  “Stay here, honey.  I just want to talk to the paramedics.”

She just nodded at me, her expression pure exhaustion.

My door opened as Brecky’s closed.  She waited for me to close my own before saying, “I told you to stay in the car.”  

Her countenance was unwavering, but I wasn’t backing down to her, or any one else.

Pointing at the ambulance, my tone was just as firm as hers.  “That’s my friend back there, officer.  I want to see him before they drive away.  And I want to talk to the paramedics.  No offense, but we’ve been screwed over and deceived by too many people in the past few days.  One of which was an FBI agent.  Right now, the people I trust the most are the ones in that rolling box.”  

Ignoring stricken look on her face, I walked between the car and the ambulance, heading for where the paramedics were prepping Dominic for the stretcher.  A hulk of a man had an arm under Dominic’s arms and around his chest, lifting him so his partner could slide a back board under him. 

“I need you to lie down so we can pull you out of the car.”  The big man’s voice was soft and soothing, and Dominic did as he said.

They strapped him down, being careful of his wounded leg, then pulled him from the car and placed him on a stretcher.  When they started strapping him to the stretcher, Dominic grabbed the closest man’s wrist and met his startled gaze.  

“I’d like to sit up, if I can.”  He sounded tired.  I knew he had lost a lot of blood, but he was coherent and the wound was probably an hour old.

“Let me get your vitals first,” the paramedic told him.

He checked Dominic’s pulse in several places, his respiratory rate, and blood pressure.  I watched as he squeezed one of Dominic’s finger tips, the color returning much slower than what I thought was normal.

My eyes flicked between the paramedics and Dominic trying to read the inscrutable expressions of the professionals.  They examined his wound.  They checked his vitals again.  They looked at each other with guarded expressions.

What the hell is going on? I screamed in my head.

A rush of air hissed from Dominic’s pursed lips.  “I’m fine.  I just want to sit up.  Please”

I looked down at him lying supine on the stretcher, his eyes focused on the men standing beside him.  Brushing a stray lock of hair from his forehead, I stroked my fingers through his hair.  It was calming for me, and for him as well, I hoped.  

At my touch those sea green eyes found mine.  He took my right hand in his and turn to press a kiss on my palm.  I began to melt for a couple seconds, but cold reality of the situation kept me sober.

Addressing the paramedics, I gave them an abridged version of what happened.  They didn’t need all the details, just from the time Dominic had been shot.  When the smaller one looked at me, his eyes went right to my bloody bandage on my arm.

“Were you shot, too, m’am?” he asked.

I followed his gaze, glancing down at my arm wrapped in tattered cloth soaked with my blood.  Sighing at him, I said, “Yes.  But I’m not riding with you.  Officer Brecky is going to follow you in her car, and I’ll ride with her.”

He scanned my face, then looked at my arm again.  When he met my eyes he must have seen my stubborn determination.  “At least let me look at the wound, and put a proper bandage on it.”  He stepped away from Dominic, heading toward the back f the ambulance.  “I can fix you up in here,” he said as he walked.

“Go,” Dominic said.  He sounded weary.

I sighed again.  He had to get to the hospital, and I was only holding up that process with my pigheaded refusal to be helped myself.  I said nothing as I turned away from the stretcher and headed to the ambulance where the paramedic was waiting for me.  

As I climbed inside the boxy vehicle, he patted a seat next to where he knelt on the floor.  Some sort of bandaging kit sat on the seat next to the one he indicated.  I ambled over and sat down, turning my body to better present my arm.  

“I’m Kevin,” he said as he began to cut through the scrap of cloth binding the tear in my upper arm.

“Ella,” I returned.  

“Do you wanna tell me what happened?” he asked in a nonchalant tone. 

The cloth fell away, revealing an ugly gaping rent in my flesh.  Kevin examined it without touching, then started cutting away the sleeve of my shirt.

“I need to get this out of the way,” he explained.  “So what happened?”

I told him everything that had happened at the cabin.  “I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell any law enforcement about this,” I said.  “Not yet, anyway.  I don’t know who I can trust anymore.”

His soft brown eyes found mine.  “Do you trust me?”