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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday Sampler - Book of Love by Constance Bretes



A librarian, a mechanic, and a psychotic ex. What could go wrong?

When her marriage came to a devastating end, Janice Meyers moved to Montana to try to escape her past and get a fresh start. She's sworn off men, but she didn't anticipate meeting Chris.
After the death of his wife, Chris Jamisen focused all his time and energy on running his auto repair shop and raising his children. He's not looking for love, and when he first meets Janice, the town's new librarian, he never imagines they might embark on a relationship. Sure, he'll admit he finds the smart, sexy blonde attractive, but the frustrating woman expects miracles from him. Her vehicle is practically beyond repair, but she insists he has to keep it running.

As Chris gets to know Janice, he begins to develop feelings for her, but he's reluctant to pursue a relationship. He's Native American, and he worries about the complications of a biracial relationship. He's experienced prejudice first hand, so he knows how difficult it can be.
When Janice's ex-husband shows up seeking revenge, things could reach a horrible end. Will Chris save Janice in time? And will he and Janice be able to set aside their painful pasts and give their relationship a chance?

EXCERPT:
Janice had butterflies in her stomach as five o'clock came and Chris arrived at the library. 

 "Hi, Chris," Janice said.

"Hello. What's this all about?" he asked pensively.

"I wanted to take you downstairs to the basement and show you something," she said.

They walked down the stairs, Chris following Janice. When she turned on the light a rat slithered across the floor, and she let out a shriek. Chris looked around the room.

"We have all these books here," Janice said. She lifted one of the old books and opened it to the pages and within where some were eaten away. "The vermin and bugs have been attacking these, and in some cases, the books have disintegrated. See here? This is a book about Colstrip back in the 1800s and we can't even open the book to read it because it has totally disintegrated inside. Some of these books are real gems. This is one of a first edition, Samuel Clemens, do you know of him?"

"No."

"His pen name is Mark Twain. He wrote Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer."

"Oh," Chris replied.

"Look at his book. It's totally destroyed, and it would have been worth a lot of money now, if it had survived."

Janice went over to the ladder and stepped up on it to show Chris the books on the top shelf. The ladder gave way, and she came crashing down. Chris caught her before she fell to the floor.

"Are you okay?" he asked, concern in his tone.

"Um, yeah, I think so." She put her feet on the floor and turned, facing Chris, her breasts against his chest. His arms were around her waist, holding her tightly. His breath mingled with hers, and he was looking down at her lips.

Oh, she wanted him to kiss her. Please, please kiss me. The sweet, intoxicating musk of his body overwhelmed her. He bent slightly toward her, and his lips touched hers softly. She kissed him back, lingering, savoring every moment. She felt the kiss all the way through her body as she put her arms around him. A loud rustling noise broke their kiss with a start.

Chris looked around and saw that there were rats in the corner rattling paper. He turned back to her. "Are we finished here?"

"Yes, I think we are." Janice hoped she had convinced him that there was work to be done in the basement.

When they went upstairs, he turned around and asked her huskily, "What was the purpose of our little meeting, Janice?"

Janice thought about how she should answer the question then said, "I submitted the request to the mayor's office for several things, and I heard that you would probably be the one person that would oppose spending any money for the project I'm suggesting, so I wanted to show you the benefit of my proposal and the problems we are faced with currently."

Chris had a gentle smile on his face as he looked at her. "Good persuasion, Janice. Does that include the kiss too?"

Janice looked down at her feet, embarrassed. "No, the kiss was not part of the persuasion. At least, not on my part."




Content Warning: contains some sexual content

Buy:
Constance Bretes is an author of contemporary romance and suspense. Her romance books are often set in different parts of the country, but her favorite site is Montana. She's married to her best friend and resides in Michigan with him and a houseful of cats. When she's not at her regular 8-to-5 job, she can be found writing, researching, and spending time with her husband.
You can learn more about Connie and her books at her website at www.conniebretes.weebly.com. You can also follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/constancebretes or Twitter at www.twitter.com/conniebretes.

Constance Bretes, Author
http://conniebretes.weebly.com
https://facebook.constancebretes
http://twitter.conniebretes
email: cbretes@sbcglobal.net

Delayed Justice:
Can two former lovers set aside their differences and work together to bring a criminal to justice?

The Last Dig
Bones, Bodies and Love Rekindled
                                                                                         
Love Songs                                                                                     
Separated by fame, reunited through music

Book of Love
A librarian, a mechanic, and a psychotic ex. What could go wrong?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keep Calm - Read a Story (part 2)



 Christmas in Space
Part 2

Why was I the only one left? It should have been Marsh. He was stronger. Or Gloria. She had the biggest heart.
“What are you doing on the floor?”
I was hallucinating. That couldn’t be Marsh’s voice. He was gone. Like the others.
Strong hands lifted me up. I knew those hands, had felt them under my arms before. Had felt them all over my body. Now they cradled me against a hard chest. A chest beneath which beat a heart so loud it hurt my ears. A wonderful hurt.
“It’s about time you got up.” His chuckle rumbled beneath my ear.
I looked into his laughing blue eyes and reached up to touch his face. “You’re alive.”
“I’d say that was obvious.” Again, he chuckled.
“B-But Hal said there was a malfunction in the tubes. I thought…”
“Yeah. We woke up early. All at once. You should have seen MT scrambling from one tube to the next.”
“Wait.” I held his face between my palms. “Are you saying everyone is alive?”
“And waiting for Sleeping Beauty to get her rear in gear.”
He led me down the passageway to the combo gathering/dining space.
“Merry Christmas,” they shouted. Laughing and cheering, the four surrounded us. Ana and Tom, Gloria and Bill. Alive.
After much hugging, Marsh said, “Give her some space.”
“Hal,” I said to the comm speaker on the wall. “Why did you let me think they all died?”
“As I recall, you ordered me to stop speaking.”
“Yeppers.” MT had followed us into the gathering space. “You ordered me to not to talk, too.”
They were right. It was my own fault for jumping to conclusions. “My apologies.”
I clung to Marsh, reluctant to let him go, even when he seated me in a chair. I stroked his face and let my hand drift down his chest. My love was still alive.
Gloria brought over a container of the same liquid MT had given me to drink. “This will help.” Marsh took it from her and held it while I sipped.
She returned to Bill’s side on one of the loveseats against the wall. Ana and Tom cuddled on the other. When I looked away from their obvious infatuation with each other, I saw the decorations. Garlands were strung around the doorframe and hung from the ceiling in loops. A small artificial tree sat on the table between the loveseats. I wondered who sneaked the tree into their gear. Sparkling lights blinked next to tiny ornaments on the tree.
Between sips, I asked how long they had been awake. When Marsh answered, I cried, “Two days! And no one thought I would want to be awakened, too?”
“It was my decision,” Marsh said. “I thought it best to let the procedure cycle normally.”
“I could have slept through Christmas,” I groused.
“Nah. I know how much Christmas means to you. Besides, how could I give you your present if you were still asleep?”
I brightened at that. I loved presents. More giving than getting, though. I loved watching others open my gifts and seeing their delight that I’d chosen the right thing.
“What present?” I asked.
He helped me up and with his arm around my waist for support he led me across the room. “Close your eyes.”
“Unfair,” I protested but obeyed.
With me clutching his side, we walked three more steps. He held me in front of him, his arms around my waist. He pressed his cheek against mine. “Merry Christmas, love.”
I opened my eyes. We were standing in front of the viewport. There, across the black. A magnificent blue sphere, with browns and greens, and a scattering of white clouds. Serenity.
The planet—our new home—looked like Earth.
Two days later, our landing module gently set us down on the surface right on target at LZ-1. Four cargo containers sat nearby, one for each couple plus a common use container where we would work, eat, and hang out.
Despite Marsh’s instrument readings that indicated an atmosphere conducive to humans, we suited up and took our first steps onto the alien planet. As mission commander, it was my privilege to lead the procession.
I turned to the others. “Welcome home.”
So prosaic. Although I’d wracked my brain for months during training, I couldn’t top Neil Armstrong’s “One small step for man…”
“We should rename the landing zone,” Gloria said. “LZ-1 is so—so boring.”
The others nodded.
“What do you all think of naming it Christmas?” Bill suggested.
“Perfect,” Tom said. “We could enjoy Christmas all year long.” The rest of us groaned.
We each claimed a container. Marsh and I chose the farthest on the left. Once inside, he opened the control box and started up the artificial atmosphere. As soon as the lights changed from red to green, I helped him off with his helmet. He did the same for me. The air smelled musty, not surprising since the container had been closed for seven years.
“Would you like your Christmas present now or wait until we rearrange the module?” I asked.
He unfastened the top of his enviro suit. “I wondered why you didn’t give me something on Christmas Eve.” He gave me the silly grin that always set my heart aflutter.
We’d had a small celebration the day before, singing carols and toasting the success of our mission. I’d handed out small tokens as gifts to the others, but to Marsh I’d whispered, “Later.”
“It’s later already. Think I could have my present now?” He reminded me of a kid who got his parents up at six on Christmas morning.
I shoved down my enviro suit and soon we stood before each other in our working jumpsuits. I put my arms around his neck and gave him a long kiss. “I’m your present, Marsh.”
Then I stepped back and reached for the zipper tab near my throat. Slowly, I lowered the zipper, one centimeter at a time. All the while I looked into his eyes.
When his eyes darkened, a shiver of delight rippled through me.
He brushed my hands aside. “I want to open my own present.” He yanked down the zipper. When he got to my waist, his eyes widened. “You aren’t wearing any underwear.”
I gave him a slow grin. “Why waste time?”
Within seconds, he shoved off my jumpsuit and dispensed with his own. We stood plastered against each other, bare skin to bare skin. I held his face. “Think we could get started on our mission?”
“Mission?” The disbelief in his voice almost made me smile. “You want to talk about our mission now?”
“Yes. The mission to populate the planet.”
“Oh, that mission. My pleasure, Commander. My pleasure.” His mouth came down on mine.
Afterward, we lay in each other’s arms, squeezed between containers of medical supplies and dried meals.
“Happy Christmas, Marsh.”
“A very happy Christmas, Sara.”
The End

Monday, December 15, 2014

Keep Calm - Read a Story

Every year around this time, I kick myself for not being better prepared for the holidays. And every year I vow to do things different next year. Hah! I'm such a procrastinator. Despite my tardiness in buying gifts and decorating the house--don't even mention sending out cards--I'm taking a deep breath and trying to stay calm.

A story always slows me down. A story where I can lose myself in another world. As you know, I'm a regular contributor to The Roses of Prose blog. Every year in December we post short holiday stories. Here's my story from last year.

Christmas in Space
 
This was the last place I expected to spend Christmas Eve. They told us we would land before then. They told us we would wake up sooner. They told us we would not dream.
They lied.
Like my five companions, I lay in a cryosleep tube, frozen, all my bodily functions monitored by the ship’s computer and a medical robot. A joker back at Titan Mission Control christened the computer “Hal.” Even though we were headed for Serenity—not Jupiter like the astronauts in 200l: A Space Odyssey—the thought of a computer that could end our lives terrified us all, though we didn’t let the joker know.
The Powers That Be told us cryosleep would freeze our minds as well as our bodies. Hah!
“Commander, this is your wake-up call,” Hal intoned impatiently, as if this wasn’t the first time he called.
Finally, they were waking me. That must mean the freezing mechanisms had been turned off and my body was slowly warming up. No wonder I was aware.
“Wakey, wakey. Eggs and bakey.” That was MT, the medical robot. She had named herself after her proper designation, Medical Technician 447 because she liked the play on her initials though her mechanical brain was far from empty.
She lifted the lid of my unit then began disengaging all the tubes and wires to which I was hooked up. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” she sang as she worked. Then she switched to “Santa Claus is coming tonight.”
My first real breath hurt my chest. They told us we might be nauseous and uncomfortable when we were brought out of cryosleep. Might be? That was like saying childbirth was mild discomfort—not that I’d ever experienced that phenomenon. Dizziness swept over me and I hadn’t even moved.
“We’ll get you all fixed up for Santa, Commander.” MT gently wiped my face. My eyes had difficulty focusing, but I think she winked.
“Is Ma— Is anyone else awake?” I wanted to ask. The noise that came out of my dry throat sounded like a bullfrog.
“You must have many questions, Commander Grenard,” Hal said. “It is 24 December 2175, Earth time.”
Five years since we left the station on Saturn’s moon, Titan. I’d been a popsicle for five years. No wonder I was shivering. Of course the fact that I was naked might have something to do with being cold. Even though I’d gotten over my normal modesty, I was glad MT looked like a girl. I pretended Hal couldn’t see me.
At least we would all be awake for Christmas. I could not imagine celebrating the holiday alone. Alone out in the black with only a computer and an A.I. for company.
“We are two Earth days from our destination,” Hal continued. “You must wonder why our arrival was delayed.”
Of course, I wondered. We were supposed to have landed already on our one-way trip to the “Goldilocks” planet we’d named Serenity—our hope for a peaceful world. We would be the first inhabitants. Three men and three women, matched for our compatibility and our talents to terra-form an alien planet. And populate it. Although I looked forward to that part of the mission, we’d been forbidden to “practice” in case we became pregnant. No one knew the effects of cryosleep on pregnancy.
During the final planning stage, we talked about the first Christmas on Serenity. Supplies had been sent ahead. The cargo containers would be our homes until we built permanent ones. We planned every detail, from decorations to our celebratory meal in our temporary home. Disappointment oozed through me that we would not accomplish our goal.
“She doesn’t need to know everything all at once,” MT protested.
Yes, I did want to know. I needed to know everything that had happened since going into cryosleep. Hal understood. MT didn’t.
I tried to lift my hand to encourage Hal to continue. My hand reacted like cooked spaghetti.
“We were delayed because a near collision with an asteroid necessitated a course correction.” Was that defiance in Hal’s voice?
“You idiot. Give her a chance to wake up.”
“I am not an idiot,” Hal responded with righteous indignation. “I am the most sophisticated instrument Healogin Industries has ever constructed.”
To me, MT said, “He really has an overinflated ego, you know. He thinks he knows everything and doesn’t hesitate to share that opinion.”
“I do not,” Hall huffed. “It is my purpose to utilize my superior intellect.”
MT snorted. “Now, upsy daisy.” She tucked her arm under my shoulders to help me into a sitting position.
Retching wracked my body. Vertigo threatened to topple me over the edge of my cryotube.
“Easy, Commander. Just take it easy.” MT held me steady. “You’ll be right as rain in a jiffy.”
I wanted to ask how she knew, but my throat hurt too much. She placed a flex tube in my mouth. “This will feel good. You don’t have to sip. Just let the liquid flow naturally.”
Oh my God, that did feel good. Greedily, I swallowed again and again. The sweet cool liquid coated my throat. I could see more clearly now. The gray walls, the narrow space through which MT maneuvered around the cryotube, the monitors with green on black readouts of my functions. Nothing had changed in the five years since I climbed into the tube. Not that I expected it to.
“That is enough for now.” MT removed the drink. I moaned in protest.
“It is my unfortunate duty to inform you—”
“No.” MT whirled around to face the comm unit on the wall. “Wait until she is back to normal.”
“But—”
“No, Hal. You must give her time to orient herself.”
“I—” I cleared my throat. “I need to know. What happened?”
“Hah!” Hal sounded triumphant. As if he’d gotten his way over MT’s protests. There I went again, giving Hal and MT human-like attributes. When machines, even artificial intelligence, spoke like humans, it was difficult not to. “A malfunction occurred in the cryotubes.”
No. My mind cried out when my vocal cords did not respond to my brain’s command. What happened? I wanted to ask yet afraid of the answer. The six of us were pioneers to an alien planet. Dependent on each other. We were more than colleagues on a dangerous journey. We were a family.
That wasn’t the only reason. Marsh.
Please, God. Let Marsh be safe. Guilt swamped me. I was selfish. What kind of Christmas spirit did I have to be willing to sacrifice the others so that my love could live?
“Malfunction?” I managed to croak, barely a whisper. I struggled to rise, tried to pull myself up by grasping the tube’s rail. So weak. I fell back against the thin pad I’d lain on for over five years, jarring my head.
“Commander Grenard, you must take it easy.” MT patted my arm. “Hal, you dope. Why did you have to tell her?”
“She is in charge of the mission. I must give her all the information.”
“Help me up, MT,” I demanded in a whispery voice that even a bunny wouldn’t obey. I had to see for myself. I had to see what had happened and to whom.
“Commander, the mal—”
“No.” I tried to signal to Hal to make him stop talking. Instead, my hand flopped back in my lap. Damn weakness. “Get me out of here. Right now.” That was more like it. My voice had regained some strength, unlike the rest of me.
“But, Commander—”
“That’s an order, MT.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She helped me swing my legs over the side. I barely felt her hands. But when my legs dangled, pins and needles jabbed at my thighs, then my calves, and finally my feet. Oh, God, that hurt.
Determined to discover if Marsh was alive, I stifled my cry of pain. If MT knew how much I hurt, she would use restraints to keep me down. I kicked my feet and slapped my thighs, anything to return feeling to my extremities. I had to be able to stand or MT wouldn’t take me to see the others’ tubes. I craned my head, trying to see down the long, narrow walkway. Our tubes were in line. None of the lids were raised.
Oh, dear God. No one had survived.
“But, Commander—” Hal began.
“Stop. I will see for myself.”
MT pulled a light green gown over my head, letting it pool at my waist. “Are you sure you want to get up? You should take it slowly. Now sit here quietly while I get an anti-grav transport.” She bustled away.
“No, MT,” I called after her. “I will walk. Come back and help me.”
“She thinks she knows best,” Hal said in a snide tone. “She is very irritating. You would not believe the arguments we—”
“Shut up, you hunk of junk.” MT had returned, lightly steering a pallet that hovered at waist height. “You are nothing but a bunch of circuit boards, chips, and wires.”
“And what are you?” he retorted. “Artificial skin covering circuit—”
I raised my hand to my head. “Enough. You two are giving me a headache. MT, I said no transport. I need to walk. I have to see—” My voice cracked. I swallowed hard to hold back my scattered emotions.
MT put my hands on her shoulders then supported me as I slid over the edge of the cryotube. My knees had the stability of Jell-O. I clung to her shoulders, aware that her slenderness was deceptive. Even though I’m six inches taller and forty pounds heavier, she held me up.
The metal grating of the floor cut into my bare feet. I shivered at the cold. Maybe I should have used the anti-grav transport. No. What kind of a commander gave in to discomfort when the fate of her crew remained a mystery?
Doubts assailed me. I should have allowed Hal to give his report. Wouldn’t being prepared be better than shock?
Clinging to the little med tech robot and holding onto the edge of my cryotube, I babystepped to the end. From there I could reach the next tube. Gloria’s. My friend, my confidante, the first one I told of my budding romance with Marsh. I stopped and closed my eyes. Please, God, let her be all right.
When I opened my eyes, I peered into her tube’s face plate. Empty.
My heart stopped. Oh no! Her body had already been disintegrated.
I hurried to the next cryotube and the next. Empty, like Gloria’s. No. Please, God, not all of them.
Marsh’s was the last. I couldn’t look. I had to. I held onto the edge. Empty.
My knees gave out. Despite MT’s efforts, I sunk to the floor. Tears streamed down my face. Grief battered my heart, squeezing, burning, until my chest felt as empty as the cryotubes.
“Commander.” MT struggled to help me up.
“Leave me alone.” I wanted to die right there. Our mission had failed.

Come back tomorrow for Part Two of "Christmas in Space."