Wednesday, November 16, 2022

I didn't promise any specific day last month, but I did say the third story would have a preview in November.  First a bit of news... The kindle version of the fourth book, The Art of Friendship, will be free on Amazon November 17 - 20.  It's a good time to catch up for anyone who hasn't finished the main series.  The book will be available on other ebook platforms soon after.  Another reason it's a good time to catch up.  Now back to the short stories.

Trevor's Turn

    It had been a long time since the door to Next Love had fooled Trevor. He knew the weight of it so well it didn’t even look heavy anymore. A voice that was also familiar called his name as he entered. Elaine Brachy waved to him and said, “I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
    The middle-aged man who was talking to her seemed to take Trevor’s arrival as his cue to leave. He shook Elaine’s hand and said something about looking forward to the new table.
    Trevor nodded at the man as he passed him. He was nervous about this mission and wanted to do it quickly so there was gratitude in the nod whether the man recognized it or not. Elaine met him partway. “Alison isn’t back from that estate sale yet, and I don’t expect her for a while. Has she texted you something different?”
    “No, I… I’m here to see you,” Trevor said. “I want to ask for your help with something.”
    “While Alison’s not here?” Her eyes glittered with excitement over what that might mean.
    Trevor plowed ahead. “I have an idea on how to… I’d like to ask Alison to marry me.”
    Elaine sucked in a huge breath and held it for a moment before she turned her head to the side and yelled, “Jim!” Her eyes hadn’t left Trevor. They stayed happy and maybe even a little happier after she startled him. She still enjoyed watching him squirm, but he still deserved it.
    Alison’s dad poked his head out of the back room and looked around until he found his wife.
    She motioned for him to come out and join them.
    Trevor didn’t think they both needed to be involved. He did not voice that opinion. Elaine would probably tell Jim as soon as Trevor left if she didn’t tell him now. She didn’t even wait until he had gotten all that close. “He’s going to propose to Alison!” she announced.
    Jim didn’t say anything. He acknowledged with a slight incline of his head that he’d heard.
    Elaine rolled her eyes at the less than exuberant reaction and turned back to Trevor. “What do you want us to do?”
    “I’d like her to find the ring in one of her hardware boxes while I’m here tomorrow,” Trevor explained. “I’d like you to help me figure out which one she’s gonna need and slip it inside before I get here.”
    “Oh! Let me see it!” Elaine held out a hand.
    Trevor guessed she meant the ring and carefully moved it from his pocket to her hand.
    “Nice,” she said. “Is this a family ring?”
    “No, it’s new.” It was a fairly delicate band with teeny diamonds inset all the way around. Alison wanted something practical and planned to slip a silicone band over it while she was working. Trevor hoped he picked the right one, and the approval in her mom’s eyes suggested it at least wasn’t awful.
    Her dad didn’t seem all that curious. He was walking away.
    “Let’s check out her work area,” Elaine said.
    Trevor followed her as he resisted the urge to ask for the ring back. He intended to leave it with her so he might as well start trusting her with it.
    Alison had a work area just outside the back room. They had to weave through some furniture to get there. A medium-sized dresser missing all its drawers was in the center of it. The dresser appeared freshly painted – smelled freshly painted – all white. There was probably more work to be done on it. There was a larger dresser nearby waiting to be stripped. It had no handles.
    Jim didn’t go all the way to his sanctuary. He stopped in Alison’s space and slid open the top drawer on the larger piece. “She’ll want handles for this one,” he said. Alison always left handles in the top drawer once she’d chosen them.
    “Okay,” Trevor said, “but what if she picks those out this afternoon or before I get here tomorrow?”
    “What time will you be here?” Elaine asked. “Can you get here first thing?”
    “I could. But if I’m here early, Alison will suspect something is up.” Trevor was not a morning person. And that was putting it lightly.
    “Good point,” Elaine said. She wore a shrewd expression. “I’m sure we can shift something from Jim’s workload or come up with a reason something needs to be bumped ahead. I can time it so that still needs handles at noon tomorrow.” She rushed over and opened the plastic bin with handles. She used both hands, and Trevor didn’t know where the ring went. He was working on that trust.
    She surveyed the contents of the bin. “I can hook it on one of these darker ones so the white gold will stand out.” As she closed the lid and returned to her feet, she appeared to read some uncertainty on Trevor’s face. “You want my help, and you’re getting my help. Don’t worry about a thing.”
To read the rest of the story, preorder the ebook:  AppleAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

As promised last month, this is the first part of the second short story from The Art of Proposing. A preview of the next story will be sometime in November.  When exactly?  I guess that will be obvious when it shows up.

Cameron’s Turn

    Katie got a face full of steam when she opened the oven.  The enticing aroma had caused her to lean forward too quickly.  She stepped back as she pulled the door all the way down, then pulled the pan out and set it on top of the stove.  She inhaled again.  The barbeque sauce was tangy enough to tickle her nostrils.  The kabobs looked delicious, just a hint of char on the edges.  They also looked like more than she could eat.
    She should have asked Cameron to join her.  Maybe.  Something had been weird when they talked about her plans for dinner.  He’d been duly impressed with the advancedness of using the broiler.  She couldn’t quite put her finger on why it had sounded as though he didn’t want to be invited.  He hadn’t actually said that.
    Katie grabbed a bagged salad from her refrigerator.  The meat was enough of an adventure.  She frowned at the salad that was also enough for two.  She could wait a day and have the same meal again on Friday.  It was always nice to have an easy dinner on Tichu nights.
    Her phone rang as she was sitting down to eat.  It was probably Cecelia.  She kept the ringer silent for unknown numbers, and her sister was the gabbiest person she knew.  It was a good guess.
    “Hey, Cecelia.”
    “Hey.  Did I catch you after dinner?”
    “I’m just starting,” Katie said.  “But I don’t mind talking while I eat if you don’t mind me eating while we talk.”
    “Sure.  It’s kind of late for you though.  Something complicated tonight?”
    “Not complicated exactly.  I had to let the meat soak in the, uh…”
    “I’d say you were turning into a real gourmet if you knew the word marinade,” Cecelia teased.
    “It was on the tip of my tongue.”
    “Is Cameron there?”
    “No.  Not tonight.”
    “Uh oh.”
    “There’s no uh oh,” Katie said.  “We don’t have to see each other every night.”
    “It’s not uh oh that he’s not there.  It’s uh oh that you sound wistful and defensive about it.  What’s wrong?”
    Katie made a noise to indicate she was chewing.  She was chewing and congratulating herself on the flavor.  But she was also buying herself a few moments to think.  Cecelia was easily her most drama-loving sibling.  Katie had to be careful what she said to her.  This time, she’d forgotten to be careful how she said it.  There couldn’t have been more than the faintest whiff of defensiveness.  And Katie didn’t think she sounded wistful at all.  “Nothing’s wrong,” she said.
    “And now you sound more defensive.  Why did you say you don’t have to see each other every day as though… I don’t know, but I didn’t say that.”
    Katie took another bite.
    “You might as well tell me,” Cecelia said.  “The baby is already asleep so I have lots of time to talk and bug you until you tell me.”
    “Fine.  But it’s really nothing.”  Katie paused for a quick sip of water.  “I was talking to Cameron at lunch about what I wanted to try for dinner.  He said something about how he hoped I would enjoy it.  I don’t remember his exact words, but something about the way he said it sounded like he was preempting an invitation.”
    “Why would he do that?”

To read the rest of the story, preorder the ebook:  AppleAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

As promised last month, this is the first part of the first short story from The Art of Proposing. A preview of the next story will be posted on October 20th. Don’t forget to check it out.

Logan’s Turn

    Logan almost expected Violet to hand him a script when she opened the door.
    She said, “Hi. Come on in.” There was nothing in her hands.
    Logan followed her inside and closed out the chill.
    She sat in the old armchair and nodded for him to pick a spot on the couch. It felt like a performance review. When those were obligatory and unhelpful. “So I’m not sure how much I should beat around the bush here,” Violet said. “What exactly did Audra tell you?”
    “Too much,” Logan said. Audra had told him too much.
    “She wants you to propose on Valentine’s Day.”
    “Yes, I know.” He sounded more irritated than he’d intended.
    Violet smiled understandingly. She knew it wasn’t directed at her. “I kind of thought sending you to me for advice was overkill, but I didn’t realize she’d already spelled it out so clearly.”
    “You know Audra,” he said. Violet had been her best friend for almost five years. “She always spells things out more clearly than she thinks she does.”
    Violet laughed. “You should’ve heard her trying to tell me how to casually slip in how she mentioned she was hoping for a proposal without saying that was the whole reason you were here. I mean, I gave you credit for knowing I wanted to talk to you because Audra told me to.”
    He’d have felt a little weird about accepting an invitation to come over when Audra wasn’t home if he hadn’t known exactly what it was about, but knowing what it was about was the problem. “Since I am here, maybe you wouldn’t mind trying to offer some real advice?”
    “I can try.” Violet looked interested but not eager, which made it easier to put her in the middle.
    Not that Logan would have put her in the middle if Audra hadn’t already done it. He punched at the pillow next to him as he spoke. “This is what Audra said. She said, ‘You didn’t do it at Christmas. You didn’t do it on New Year’s or my birthday. I know you know what day is Monday.’ Then she moved on like she’d just dropped a little hint for me to ponder when I knew what she was saying even if she didn’t use the word propose and even before you wanted to talk about ‘something.’”
    “Hmm. Now I’m wondering how Audra got to be so persuasive. I mean, we both knew this was unnecessary and yet here we are.” Violet motioned between them with a bemused expression, as though she was trying to remember how she’d agreed.
    It was simple. Audra always tried to make other people happy, which made them want to return the favor. “I was already… I got the ring before Christmas,” Logan said. “But then I worried it was too soon after I…” He paused, not sure if Audra had told Violet about his accidental proposal and not wanting to go into it if she didn’t know.
    “After you sort of accidentally proposed?” she supplied, not bothering to hide how funny she thought that was.
    Audra had definitely told her. He nodded and continued. “I thought she’d want me to ask on a day that was already significant, but if it was too soon after the other thing, it might sound like a joke. Valentine’s Day is the last in a string so… But then she pointed that out. She told me when to do it and that she’s looking forward to being surprised. I can’t do both.”
To read the rest of the story, preorder the ebook on Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.