Bingo!

“B-13!” Mercy Mia sounded off at the head of the room. Ellie looked up at her friend, Mercury Martin. His lips were a dark red tonight with an edge of gloss with liner to bring out the shape. He had shadowed eyes that added sultry to the girl next door, and his cheeks brushed with enough color for the added drama. He had on his favorite sequenced form fitting dress. Also red. And she knew underneath the table he had on a pair of five-inch heeled shoes by one of his favorite designers, Manolo Blahnik. His breasts were hiked up and sitting proud. She wished she had that much cleavage. Add the bigger than Everest hair, and you had the perfect drag queen. Ellie couldn’t help but smile.

Ellie snickered as Merc told another dick joke in between number calling and Merc’s boyfriend, sitting next to her, snorted every time Merc looked over. They’d recently moved in together. They were adorable.

“Unlucky,” Ellie shouted at her friend and frowned. She blotted the letter/number on her bingo sheet.

“Suck it up, sister!” Merc yelled back.

Ellie smiled at her friend again. She stuck her tongue out at him. Mercury was one of her best friends and forced her to come out to drag queen bingo. She’d been hiding too long for his taste he’d told her.

She sighed. Her apartment was like a living dirge swallowing her up like a grave, and she was starting to resemble a vampire.

“G-7,” Mercy Mia called out.

Ellie slammed the blotter on the empty space on her card. She’d sat an hour already, and she was no closer to getting bingo.

“Honey,” Merc’s significant other Jackson said, “I don’t think your game board can take any more.”

She looked over at him. “Serves it right for not giving me any winning squares.” She looked at her board. Empty. Like her life.

Jackson was the total opposite of Merc. He was short and fit, muscular in all the right places. Though five foot ten wasn’t considered short to her, it just was short compared to Merc’s six foot four. Jackson wore a tailored suit of dark blue and a pair of trousers that fit and held him just right as they tapered down to his ankles. He’d just taken off his jacket, and the light azure shirt hugged his chest like it was a breast plate. How did he get it to look like that she wondered? He looked scrumptious.

Too bad he was of the man-loving-honey-bunches-of-oats-kind and wasn’t single. She would totally try for some of him. Though lately, she wasn’t of the man-loving-honey-bunches-of-oats-kind either. With each relationship tried, she felt something missing. There were orgasms, but they lacked that wow factor that all her other friends talked about. At 25 she’d think she’d have had an earth-shattering sex partner. A little voice seemed to be knocking at her subconscious more and more, letting her know she had to stop denying the truth about her sexuality. It was getting harder and harder to ignore.

She set down her blotter when the next letter-number was called out. She didn’t want to play anymore. Ellie wanted to go straight back to bed and bury herself under the covers like she’d done all week and enjoy some mint chocolate chip ice cream and then enjoy even more her B.O.B. battery operated boyfriend. If she couldn’t find someone to interest her tonight, she would do just that.

Ellie got up. “I’m going to get a drink.” And it would be a hard one, not the soft ones served on the bingo side of the building.

The venue for drag queen bingo was a renovated church, from saints to sinners. Its space was adjacent to the main part of the church, or the nave, and could fit enough tables to hold a banquet. There was a bar in the back that served only juice concoctions. But what was great about the place, it was lit up like a dance club. There was a disco ball that flashed different lights, sections that had high tables along with a glammed up wait staff that rivaled Mercy Mia’s in the bling department. The bar did up the drinks like guests were on a tropical island, and held several contests throughout the night.

The best part, though, the nave next door was an actual nightclub that catered to all kinds. Gay, straight, lesbian, transgender; name it, it was here. No judging anyone’s preference. It just was. Ellie loved the place and had often come until her last break up. Hidden under all the sheen that was Justin, was a prick in a suit, who, once she peeled away his outer layer had been the biggest judging asshole she’d ever met. She’d brought her to an event that Merc and Jackson were hosting and all he’d contributed was disdain for her friends.

She crossed over the threshold into Club One and got blasted with base and the image of gyrating bodies. She easily picked up the beat with her hips as she walked into the space, the sound hitting her body, and rippling over her skin. Ellie loved to dance and decided she would stay awhile and see if she couldn’t find someone to rub up against. Merc was right, she needed to stop moping around her apartment and join the living again.

Sidling up to the bar leaning her elbows on the smooth mahogany surface she waited for the bartender’s attention to turn her way. She relaxed into the sultry techno number that had just transitioned from the heavy base and let the beat take her as she waited, knowing that the bartender would come over as soon as she could.

Not realizing she had closed her eyes and was swaying, Ellie was startled by the bright and cheerful voice that greeted her. “What can I get you?”

Ellie stared at the girl in front of her, the drink she wanted to order on the edge of her tongue.

The woman smiled, and Ellie stumbled over her drink order. “A cos-cosmopolitan,” she said. Stunning was not a word she would use when describing a woman, but this one had made something light up inside Ellie tingling across her sex like a sparkler anxiously waiting for its lighting. Flashing a smile, the woman walked away backward to make her drink, and Ellie’s eyes couldn’t help but follow the woman’s hips. Tight fitting, low-rise jeans hugged the bartender’s ass as the curves of her waist moved gracefully up to just under her breasts, her shirt short enough to allow a peek of pale freckled skin. And then she turned away. Ellie licked her lips and then sucked in a breath that sent an unsure quiver up her spine.

What was she doing ogling the woman? She liked men. But as soon as the thought entered her mind she knew it was time to stop denying what she’d known a long time. Her head fell back, and she focused on the cathedral ceiling, blew out a slow controlled breath trying to sort out her thoughts.

In college, she had sometimes looked at some of the girls in her classes wondering, what if, but nothing ever made her body react giving her a nice buzz like this bartender. But neither had the guys she’d met or dated for that matter. What was it about this woman?

Ellie watched her work. Her delicate fingers, polished in a black glaze, plucked the bottles she needed off the back bar as her hips swayed to the rhythm that was shaking the walls of the old church. She twirled, poured, and flipped the liter bottles with aplomb to the delight of the crowd, the stream of liquor entering the shot glasses. The ice was next in the shaker and then she put the lid on, did her thing, next pouring the alcohol mixture into a martini glass. Her head turned, and the woman’s eyes flashed over at Ellie and Ellie’s nipples got hard. Ellie leaned forward trying to get closer, waiting, her breasts aching as they pressed against the bar.

The bartender didn’t take her locked gaze off Ellie as she came closer and set the drink down in front of her. She waited. Ellie didn’t dare move. She didn’t want to break the connection, but the woman moved her hand toward the drink and traced a bead of moisture down the stem of the glass and slid it closer to Ellie, and said one word. “Drink.”

With an unsteady hand, Ellie reached for the drink, her fingers brushing the bartenders. Time seemed to slow and then stop as skin met skin.  Her breaths roared in her ears, and her chest hurt with each short puff like she’d just run a marathon. She was so turned on by this woman, never experiencing anything like the energy that their contact caused. And it went straight to all her delicate places. And then things started to move again, the woman smiling and walking away to make another drink.

Ellie sat and watched the bartender, nervous and confused, her knee tapping irregular rhythms as it bounced. She would catch the woman glance at her, making sure Ellie was still there. At least that’s what Ellie imagined. Or hoped. Would she come back over and talk to her? What would Ellie say?

She was looking down at her now empty glass when her eyes snapped up at being addressed. “What’s your name?” The bartender asked.

Suddenly her mouth went dry, and it was hard to speak. She picked up her glass and put it back down realizing again that she’d drank it all. She licked her dry lips.

“Ellie,” she said. But it was so soft the bartender had to lean in to hear, which brought her even closer, so close that their lips were almost touching.

“My names Sabrina.”

Ellie blinked and nodded, the woman’s minty breath dancing across her lips making Ellie’s insides quiver and her need grow even more. Did she have the courage to ask this woman to spend time with her after her shift?

As she was contemplating what she would say, Sabrina came back and set another drink in front of her. “This one is on the house.” Before she moved away, Sabrina reached out and touched her fingers that had the stem of the glass in a death grip. Ellie opened her mouth to say something, anything to keep her close but Sabrina moved away before she could.

The night grew later, and Ellie kept herself seated. She saw Merc and Jackson come in. They waved and went straight to the dance floor. Merc had changed and was now in a nice pair of denim and a t-shirt, always more casual than Jackson. She turned to watch them for a while. She was happy for Mercury, and desperately wanted to find what he had with Jackson.

Ellie turned back around and saw Sabrina talking to another woman at the end of the bar, leaning in, reaching out to touch the woman’s hand, and Ellie frowned. Did Sabrina do this to every woman that came to the bar? Was Sabrina even interested in Ellie? And then she saw Sabrina kiss the woman’s cheek. Ellie’s shoulders slumped, and she pushed her empty drink away.

Maybe it was just Ellie that nobody was interested in. Her mint chocolate chip ice cream was looking a whole lot better. She pulled out some money from her pocket and threw it on the bar. Before Sabrina looked this way, Ellie made her way over to her friends and said goodbye. She was tired of trying so hard trying to find what the universe was putting out there for her.

“I’m going to go home,” she yelled in Merc’s ear.

“Okay,” he said, his eyes narrowing and his lips pinching. She could tell he was worrying, but there was nothing Ellie could do to ease his concern. Ellie just needed more time to come to terms with her unlucky life.

“Don’t forget, Jackson and I will be at your house tomorrow at eleven.” He gave her a hug and kissed her on the lips.

Jackson turned to her and caressed her cheek in an unexpected gesture. He got close enough that she could feel his lips on her cheek and whispered right in her ear, “Everything will be okay.”

Will it? She wondered, waved, and walked away. She looked one more time over to the bar and unexpectedly caught Sabrina’s eyes. She turned away from the woman’s look of confusion toward the door and decided she would just ride out the storm that was brewing inside her. Things were going to have to change if she was going to find her happy. But she would think about that tomorrow.

When she woke up to the banging on her front door, she curled her head under her pillow and yelled, “Go away!” Of course, she knew it was Merc at the door, and he wouldn’t wait for her to get up. And sure, enough he didn’t.

“Rise and shine sleepy head,” he said from the front room after he used the key she’d given him.

She grumbled and started moving when the bed bounced up and down with Mercury’s weight.

“Give me a minute asshole.”

He laughed.

“I’ll make coffee, pumpkin.”

“Don’t call me pumpkin, jerk!”

He laughed some more, and she heard him talking to Jackson.

She moved sloth-like toward the bathroom and finally felt human again after a quick clean up in the bathroom. She put on a pair of her favorite skinny jeans that were so soft they felt like leggings, rolled them up a little at the bottom and then got out a bohemian flowy top to go with it. It was a bluish red color that highlighted her brown wavy hair. The keyhole at the collar showed off what cleavage she, which she knew could be more, but she wasn’t willing to go under the knife to get it. She grabbed her most comfortable wedges because she didn’t feel like looking like she’d woken up from a binge on mint chocolate chip ice cream, which she had, or the marathon of Game of Thrones she watched because she needed the violence to get her mind off romance. To finish off her look, she grabbed some bangle bracelets and lip gloss and called it done.

When she walked into the kitchen, she caught Merc and Jackson in the most romantic clutch and couldn’t help her envious thoughts. She shook her head to remind herself she’d decided the previous night while downing more ice cream, she’d leave her lot up to destiny and asked, “So, what’s the plan? Where are we going?”

“We’re heading up the coast to check out a wine tour at a converted Monastery.”

“Well, that sounds fun. Wine, sun, monks.” She laughed.

“No monks, but definitely wine. We’re determined to get you out of your funk.”

“Okay, I’m ready.” She was unsure another outing would get her out of her funk, but she would let Merc and Jackson try.

When they got to the monastery, now called The Monk Monastery Winery, the beauty of the place floored her. The campus the monastery sat on was huge, the grounds were lush with flowers, and it was so peaceful she wanted to stay forever.

They walked into the main entrance, and the man at the front desk nodded and said for them to proceed to the right.

“Gorgeous.” She couldn’t stop looking around.

The architecture was right out of something you’d find in Spain. High ceilings like Club One, stone walls, gorgeous wood carvings and a stone floor that made her feel like she’d just stepped into another world. She took another step, and her foot landed wrong in her wedge. She heard Jackson call out and try to grab her hand, but it was too late. Ellie took a header right done a set of stairs grabbing the rail causing her ankle to twist in the wrong direction. Her last thought before her head hit the floor was at least in was only a set of three stairs.

Groaning filled her ears and then she figured out it was her pained voice she was hearing. She lifted her hand to feel her head and winced with the pain. Ellie noticed she wasn’t on the floor anymore and there was a floral scent that surrounded her. They must be near one of the pretty gardens. Christ her head hurt.

She shifted to sit up.

“Go slow, baby girl,” Merc said. Hands helped her sit up, but they weren’t Mercury’s or Jackson’s. And they weren’t the man’s she saw at the entrance.

“Ellie, are you okay?”

She turned slowly afraid she heard things that weren’t real because she hit her head so hard. The hands that had helped her sit up didn’t let go. They held her firm but gentle all at the same time.

“Sabrina.”

The woman from the bar.

Ellie blinked. Was she in a dream?

She looked at her friends. They didn’t say much but watched her as she couldn’t form words. Ellie looked back at Sabrina.

“Hi, Ellie. Are you okay? You hit your head pretty hard.” Sabrina moved her hand off Ellie’s arm and gently touched the side of Ellie’s head. Her delicate fingers Ellie watched make drinks the night before made her skin tingle again as they danced across her temple.

“I’m, I’m fine,” she said with a nervous but giddy feeling in her stomach as she smiled so big it made her wince again. Ellie didn’t know what the universe was trying to tell her, but she sure as hell liked what had landed in her lap. Or should she say who’s lap she landed in.

Mercury and Jackson kept glancing over while they whispered to each other and smiled like the devil’s she knew they could be.

“What are you doing here?” Ellie asked.

“Second job,” Sabrina said and shrugged. “Why’d you disappear last night,” she said but too quickly closed her mouth and looked away. Where was the confident seductress she’d seen at the bar last night?

Ellie didn’t know what to say since she’d never been interested in a woman before, so she kept quiet.

Sabrina turned back to her, and that heat that Ellie had experienced at the club came rushing back. She could see the same flare go up in Sabrina too, but neither of them responded to the other. They both jumped as if guilty of something when Merc and Jackson came back over.

“You okay to still do the tour?” Merc asked her.  Ellie nodded noting there wasn’t as much pain gripping her head anymore. “You hit your head, but you didn’t black out, so I don’t think we need to cart you off to the emergency room or anything.”

Jackson frowned at Merc, but Ellie reaffirmed she was okay.

“Okay then,” Sabrina said. “Come with me.” As she stood up, she took hold of Ellie’s arms and helped her up. They were so close front to front that if she leaned in just enough their lips would touch and she’d get the first taste of a woman she’d ever had. Her mind went to all kinds of places with the image and as their chests bumped they nearly fell onto the small settee that she’d evidently been laid out on after she fell. As they stumbled and then righted themselves, Ellie took a step back and smiled.

“Lead the way,” she said and motioned with her arm to Sabrina. Sabrina smiled at her and Ellie returned it with one of her own. Ellie was looking forward to the tour, and she had a feeling she was really, really going to like it.

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Dancin’ at Shades

Conrad Bastian pulled up and parked at Shade’s, the local gathering place and all he could think about was poppin’ a cap on a cold one. The engine clicked and pinged when he shut it off. He sat takin’ just a second to breathe and relax. Getting out his truck, a layer of dust clung to his skin. Worn and dirtied boots hit the gravel, and he pulled off his straw Stetson wiping his brow, the heat bordering on the doorstep of the devil’s den. Smacking the hat on his knee, he watched the dust of the day scatter on the wind taking with it some of the stress that lingered. A cold one sounded damn good to Conrad.

Blinking neon of Shades Bar greeted him, the closest thing the town of Mariette had for country dancing. If a ten-foot by ten-foot space could be considered a dance floor. Most everyone came for a beer and food, except for days like today, when folks came to mingle, catch-up or hook-up. To let off a little steam.

The menu was decent. Listed were great burgers made from homegrown cattle. Crowded as usual on a Friday night. The taps flowed with the best brews his small town had to offer and all the regular domestic beers that were American staples. He was partial to his friend’s stout. Con sat on a wooden stool, that was just vacated, at the bar and took his first breath of peace.

“Johnny,” he called over the din of Keith Urban and stomping feet. He lifted his hand to get the owner’s attention. Con smiled when Johnny, the owner, and his best friend, bumbled a glass almost droppin’ it. “Can I get the Cast Iron Burger and a pint of the stout?”

The chin lift then a nod he got allowed Con to lean on the bar with his elbows and settle in for a while. With his hands on the back of his head and the much-needed time apart from his father, he was finally able to relax since the rooster sounded off that morning. Even with all the noise, the music blaring and the voices laughing or singing to the song on the jukebox he zoned out.

“How’s it going, man?”

Con sat up with a start. He took the beer from his friend taking his first swallow. “It’s going.”

“Bad day?”

“You could say that if every machine thinking it was time to take a break did so by breaking down. Yeah.” He took another swallow. “Of course, Dad thinking each was my fault added to a spectacular time.”

Johnny wiped the bar and then pulled a couple beers.

“Hey, Lydia,” Con said to the waitress when she brushed her hip against him.

“Hey, Con.” She smiled and her gaze ran over him.

He’d taken her to bed a few times. It was good. It scratched an itch as the saying went, but didn’t do much more.

“You dancing later, honey?” she asked.

“I might be.” He didn’t think he’d stay long enough for her to get off her shift. He was tired as hell, but he might consider it.

She smiled, and took the beers from Johnny and quickly delivered the drinks as Con looked on over his shoulder.

Johnny shook his head and smiled at the backside of his waitress with a more familiar glint in his eyes.

“You know that can’t end well. You haven’t seen her crazy like I have,” Johnny said.

Johnny had dated her for a while, but it hadn’t worked out. He didn’t talk about it much and never said what happened, but she was still at Shade’s waiting tables so it couldn’t have ended all that bad for him. He’d never been proprietary over a woman before and that included Lydia. It was the only reason Con had been with her. Otherwise, loyalty trumped having sex with your best friend’s girl.

“Were you able to fix any of them?”

“Huh?” Con said. “Oh yeah. Some. A couple others, I gotta order parts for. I don’t expect to see anything until next week, which brought on a shit storm once again from my dad.”

Johnny shook his head. Con had shared with Johnny most of what had been going on, so he’d heard just about everything when it came to Conrad’s dad.

“Not much I can do about him being an asshole these days.”

“That is a true statement.” Johnny tapped the bar and moved off to help a customer.

Conrad couldn’t blame his Dad. Ever since Con’s Ma died last year, his Dad had been swallowed up by grief. He blamed everything under the sun for his foul mood except the one thing that he clung to like it was his only source to keep living. He wouldn’t let the grief go. It was chewing him up and taking everyone around him with him.

The other bartender dropped off Con’s burger, and he practically ate it whole. The beer went down good too. He ordered another one and then left enough to cover the bill waving to Johnny. He got another chin lift and went in search of a corner booth where he could watch what progressed to be a very sexually charged night at Shades. Dancing wasn’t on his agenda, just watching. He didn’t have time for a woman. There was enough to do on the farm that kept him busy. His dad needed all the help he could get. As it was now the damn man had alienated almost everyone of the hands and half the people in the county. But even though commitment wasn’t on the horizon, he sure as hell could do for a quick how-you-do with a beautiful, willing woman.

Searching Con saw a couple get up that seemed glued to one another, and Con sat down as they exited the bar. They looked like they would have a fine time that night as the man’s hand went to the woman’s ass, his finger’s gliding down close to something indecent as they skimmed just under the edge of her dress. Con smiled and tipped his hat a bit lower so he could watch what was happening on the dance floor without too much attention. Just watching the couple leave had him adjusting himself under the table. Skin to warm skin, making the woman shiver.

Con blew out a slow breath. Maybe he did need to find a willing woman. One for only tonight, though.

Lydia came over and gave him another beer, and he settled in. He saw a couple sweet little innocents go by, but neither captured his attention. He tried not to laugh when they smiled and thrust out their breasts, preening what God gave them for a man to consider.

A slow song came on, and the heat on the dance floor jumped another ten degrees as bodies got closer, hotter, and the liquor started unlocking doors to inhibitions. The scent of sweet feminine musk filled his nostrils as things began to get crazier and more wanton. Writhing hips, swaying arms joined the fray as women and men got closer, their bodies aligning to reach the full potential of what the public dance floor allowed. No line dancin’ at Shades. There wasn’t enough room. They pushed the limits of what was acceptable, and he enjoyed every minute of the show.

Another fast song came on, more women took to struttin’ by his table, but Con kept to himself.

When the front door opened a gust of hot, thick air brushed up against him all the way in back where he sat. When the door slammed shut something shifted inside him. He could feel it, the atmosphere growing more intense like he could feel this invisible wall up against his skin making him come alive, but he was the only one to notice. Searching for the disturbance, he kept his eyes shaded. It wasn’t like he had any super powers, he was an ordinary man. It was something he’d never felt before, and that was why his eyes zeroed in on that direction. He nearly choked on his beer.

Just standing inside the door was what he’d call the closest thing to ethereal. The lights were hitting the small woman in all the right places. And she had a lot of right places. She wasn’t the typical Mariette resident either. The sun had lightened up most people’s hair, the farming community one that was outdoors most days. Not this girl’s hair. It was black as onyx straight as woven silk with what seemed to be a magical sheen that reflected the light that flashed in the room. It was smooth looking and long brushing the cherry brown skin of her breasts, the thin shirt she wore not giving him much use for his imagination. Her bra was a dark silhouette holding her ample breasts in such a way they invited a man to lean in and lick, making her skin tingle until she trembled with need, before going any deeper to pleasin’ her. The skirt that hugged her hips showed off her long legs, or they seemed long since most of them were exposed. And the heels? He wanted to see her in those, and only those. He watched as her head swiveled to take in the room and she found what she was lookin’ for, and then she smiled.

“Sweet Lord,” he whispered. If the package God shaped her into weren’t enough for one man, her smile would kill a man with his eyes closed it was so bright. In awe of this woman the heat crawling up his neck, more to do with wantin’ her than the heat stirring from the dance floor, Con took a deep sip of his beer and shifted in his seat, the pressure behind his zipper gettin’ mighty uncomfortable.

There was no doubt there was something special about this woman. He wasn’t the only one watching her. With hooded eyes, he observed her move with a fluidity somehow more panther-like than human and continued in the direction of a female friend. Thank the stars it wasn’t a guy, or he’d have to kill him. Just the idea of bein’ with her, Con was close to embarrassing himself.

When she reached her friend, she brightened the room with another smile. Whoever she granted one must be someone special because it was so genuine and pleased, that there was no question that she would pay that person the attention they deserved. He needed something like that in his life.

Con needed to fill the ache that sat deep in his chest, the memory of his mother haunting him everywhere on the farm. He missed her. This woman would be a good distraction. Or was she the type to settle in for the long haul? No one-nighters?

He wanted to be near her, so he abandoned his table and made his way over trying to make it look like he was going to order a drink. Con took in every detail he could of the woman. He’d wait to make his move. Let her settle in before he took a turn at lady luck.

As Conrad watched her with her friends, she touched as often as she could, laughed with an exuberance that made him smile into his beer. She swayed with the music when it was a song she seemed to like.

A few guys approached, but she shook her head and focused back on her girls, while he tried to keep in a snarl.

He picked at his beer label confused by his possessiveness and steered his thoughts toward his mom and dad and what they had with each other. There were always smiles and small touches they shared. The heated looks that his father would give his mother were uncomfortable for him, but something special to both of his parents, he knew, because his mother shared little things with him about her relationship. Con could see it in his parent’s eyes when they didn’t know he was looking. He just wished his dad could get past his grief and hold onto the good memories. They would always be special.

She could be his something special, he thought. Now what made him think that? He looked down at the scarred bar confused by his thoughts. Was he ready to settle down? Make a home? Have children? He shivered. Those kinds of thoughts were a little too deep for a Friday night. Tonight was supposed to be a good time, maybe a dance, and some kissin’. And if he was lucky a good time, that ended in a quick kiss and a quicker exit the next morning.

His eyes took him back up to her face to get some semblance of control. He sucked in a breath when her eyes glanced over and held locked onto his own. He stopped breathing. Lydia forgotten, this woman was indescribable up close and he wanted her. Con had to have her.

Not taking his eyes off her—which she didn’t do either—the song changed to Heatwave by Florida Georgia Line.

“Perfect.”

“I’m sorry, what?” She said a little louder since someone chose that instant to laugh so loud it covered up his words. Her friends giggled which it made even worse. Conrad chuckled himself. She lowered her eyes to his lips, and he tried not to groan. He didn’t want to scare her away since she turned down all the men that had already approached her.

Con didn’t repeat himself just said, “Dance with me,” without givin’ her time to think about it, he took her hand, from her other hand he took her drink and set it down, and moved onto the crowded dance floor. It forced their bodies together, closer than a first dance would allow. Conrad was good with that. He slid his hand to her lower back, her shirt riding up, so he was lucky enough to touch skin. It was soft against his rough, worn hands. Con took her small hand in his own, hugging her until the absence of space made him lean in more. Her eyes flared with heat, and he took that as a good sign. When his nose brushed her ear, he inhaled the scent of jasmine that lingered in her hair. He couldn’t hold back a groan. God, what was happening to him? Why was his reaction to her so thrilling? He felt desperate to keep her close.

Looking down at the petite woman in his arms, her brown eyes dilated and the flecks of amber caught by the light flared. He blinked and pinched his lips together worrying what she thought of him. Did the dirty layers of farming on his skin bother her? Her fingers went up and gently rubbed the crease between his eyebrows. Then she smiled again, and his heart fell into her eyes. The song ended, and there was a slight lull between songs.

“My name’s Conrad.” His arms tightened around her.

Her lashes flickered down and then back up as Conrad’s heart started racing double time. Would she pull away and leave him? If so, he would have to follow.

When she looked back up at him with another brilliant smile and licked her lips, he almost whimpered, his need for this woman was so great. But then she spoke, and it was like magic had come down to touch his soul.

“I’m, Willow,” She said, and then took his hand and pulled him along toward her friends gripping him so, their fingers entwined, making certain that they wouldn’t be separated.

Conrad wanted to laugh and was glad he came in for a beer.

Dirty Laundry and Dimples

Previously posted at Deadwood Writers Voices, February 10th

laundry-matPop and snap, pop and snap, it was an incessantly annoying tempo that was making her jaw clench. Yvette turned her head to stare at the woman chewing the gum hoping the laser death glare she shot that way would make the woman’s head explode.

Folding another t-shirt Yvette pressed and lined up edges for each fold in time with the snapping and popping of the gum. She snarled and snapped. “Would you stop it!”

The woman had short shorts on and a t-shirt that strangled her abundant cleavage. She looked up with wide eyes and shut her mouth. Then she said, “Sorry honey,” frowned and went back to her laundry. She also threw out her gum.

Yvette sighed. “No, I’m sorry for yelling at you. I just hate that I’m spending money I don’t have at the laundry mat, I have a headache, and I’m going to be late for work.”

The woman nodded. She gave her sympathetic eyes. Definitely more forgiving than she.

Earlier in the week, Yvette’s washer and dryer took fried to a whole new level. Just  her luck, lightning had decided her side of the apartment building was as good a target as any and ripped through her apartment, burning the machine’s wires useless. I guess she should be happy the place didn’t burn down. She sighed and shut her eyes, taking a deep breath.

“I know what you mean. My Tony, he’s about the sweetest man you’ll ever meet, but he can’t keep from spending most everything we earn on games and such. You know? Video games. He likes them first person shooters, but they’re like fifty bucks a pop. And then he has to have his beer and chips during his breaks while…”

The high pitched nasally voice buzzed on and on as if the woman stepped out of a movie about the New York Mafia. Yvette just nodded and went back to folding laundry trying not to let her mouth hang open in disbelief and surprise. Did that woman really have a voice like that? She shut it quick enough.

The white dress shirt she pulled out of her basket was just like all the others she’d worn day after day, trying to earn enough money to get a better place, a better car, a better life. Waitressing was all she’d ever done. Every restaurant she had worked in seemed like a replica of the one she’d left. It was always for a higher wage, or better tips just until she’d have enough to go to culinary school. It never did add up to enough, though. Her dream of being a chef was pushed back for one more night or one more shift. But today she’d have an interview for a rare chance to apprentice in the kitchen.

She’d had enough of the too-handsy boss at a pit she worked at in Detroit.  She’d thrown her order pad and apron at the owner, hit him with a closed fist and then walked out and took a drive. It turned out to be a four-hour drive. Taking that time to think of her next move turned out to be the best spontaneous decision she’d made to date. The drive had landed her in a small town that almost put her compact car in Lake Michigan. But then she rounded a corner and saw a sign for On the Rocks.

Her heart hammered hard. Her palms started to sweat. She’d never felt so drawn to a place. She pulled over, parked, and got out of her car. Freaked out by her reaction she was determined to go in, have a drink, and calm her nerves. Then she would find a place to stay, get a good night sleep and go home in the morning. She didn’t know why she was so nervous, but she felt something stirring inside her and decided to go with it.

When her feet hit the pavement, and she stepped out of her car, she could hear the music thumping from one side of the building. Female patrons waited in line with their high heels and skin tight dresses. Men wore slacks and shiny shoes with buttoned up shirts. They stood waiting and admiring the woman. Both sexes were sophisticated but also relaxed like they didn’t need to preen or flash a sexy smile for those next to them. It’s like they knew someone was waiting for them, so they didn’t have to do anything special to attract each other’s attention. Most were already paired up or held close by a significant other, or groups of girls gave the flirty eyelash flutter, and groups of guys gave the universal chin lift for hello, or gave a wave. There was familiarity. It was a small town after all. It wasn’t like the meat markets at the clubs in downtown Detroit.

She’d looked over to the other side of the building. The crowd was older, but no less done up like the younger group. There was something different at this place, and she wanted to know what it was all about. The calm side drew her, and she walked up to the large wooden door and went in. The line had been for dinner reservations and it warm enough for patrons to stand outside. She had approached the bar and sat down. The decision to get a drink and stay a while had changed her life. She’d met the owner, Ricky, as he was known and he’d offered her a job. It never occurred to her that she would move to the small town and make a home and it would start at On the Rocks.

The timer dinged on her last load. “Thank God,” she mumbled.

She looked at the time on her phone and quickly grabbed the last of her clothes, stuffing her unmentionables in the basket and then topping that off with her folded white shirts and black pants. Yvette grabbed everything else to fold it later. She needed to get home to get ready, late already, her first impression was going to suck.

With one basket on top of another her visibility almost zero, she rounded the corner and raced toward the door.

“See ya honey!” the woman with the gum and big boobs yelled over the whirring of washer and dryers.

Yvette turned to politely say good-bye trying to make up for her rudeness as she opened the door. She pushed her back up against it and spoke as she went. “Bye, uh…”

“Dallas,” the woman replied.

“Dallas,” Yvette said. “Nice to meet you.” And she waved. Turning to get to her car, which was a block away, the wobbling clothes baskets giving her trouble, she ran anyway, but within a couple of steps, she unexpectedly ran into a large immovable object just as the sky unleashed another torrential downpour. She crashed into said mountain which sent Yvette’s momentum backward. As she righted herself and before she fell and broke something important, the baskets with all her clean clothes went flying.

She reached out to try and catch at least one set before they hit the ground so she’d have something to wear for the interview because she wanted to make a good impression on the new chef. But that didn’t happen. She only had two hands. With her red hair dripping wet across her eyes, she was mumbling expletives as she gathered her now dirty, soggy mess. She flipped the tangled mop out of her eyes and started to straighten up with her soiled armload when fingers curled around her arm steadying her. And then a voice that sounded like sin and sex danced across her skin. “I am so sorry.”

When she stepped back the man who had clearly been the one she’d run into was now kneeling and gathering up the clothes she’d missed. And boy what a view of a very fine backside. When he finished helping and finally stood and held out her clothes, she lost all forms of communication. Because standing in front of her had to be one of the hunkiest men she’d ever seen in her life.

She swallowed hard her throat suddenly very dry.

The man’s arms dropped still holding onto–she looked down–her lacy underwear. Heat blazed through cheeks which were probably bright red knowing her pale complexion. She looked back up and was about to say something when their eyes met. His hand reached out, and his fingers pushed back an unruly curl that had sprung from the wet mass on her head. He pushed the curl gently behind her ear, skimming the curve of it down to her earlobe. She shivered.

She blinked a couple of times. What was she doing? Oh, right, she thought. She needed to get home.

“I’m Jacob.” He gave back her panties and smiled, a dimple forming. All she could do was stare at his smile. A smile only the devil would recognize it was so full of sin. Holy Moses and the four horsemen. She just died and went to heaven. All her girly parts, which had been dormant for far too long, saluted hello, how are ya’.

She licked her lips, and his eyes tracked the movement. Her lips pinched tight. Her heart started beating as if she were freefalling over a waterfall. She didn’t have time for a relationship. She needed to work, earn, and pay for tuition. Not think about one night stands with hot guys that had see-through shirts. Thank you, God, for the rain.

She grabbed the panties dangling from his finger and nodded like a big dork.

“You are?” he asked when she couldn’t say anything.

She blinked and finally got a hold of herself, only a little drool pooling at the corner of her mouth. She licked her lips again, and again his eyes followed the motion.

Oh, dear Lord, she needed this man in a big way. He was tall, at least six two. The rain still coming down hard, sluiced over muscles that were held in by the white t-shirt. She loved that white t-shirt. And his face, a play on chiseled angles and sharp brows, with hair that was as black as a still lake at midnight, plus that killer dimple, sent tremors through her body making her skin feel tight and tingly as she became more aroused.

“I’m…I’m Yvette,” She stammered.

“Nice to meet you, Yvette.” He held out his hand, and she took it and froze from the contact. Not that she was cold, oh no. She was getting very, very, warm.

All she could think to say when their eyes met again was, “Oh, boy,” because sparks were flying as their gazes stayed locked.

And then Jacob smiled even bigger.

Yvette squeezed his hand tight and tried not to groan. He didn’t just have one dimple. He had two.

Under the Table

If you missed this over at Deadwood Writers Voices, here is a character from Hot Blacktop that gets his name dropped only once.

Frederick St. John, or Rick as his friends called him, pushed open the heavy carved door of his restaurant, On the Rocks. A cab had dropped him off at the front saving him some time. It was peak in the dining room, and he was late. As soon as he cleared the doors, his pounding headache made a grand entrance, reawakened by the rush of voices and music. “The singles mixer, shit!” He’d have to make an appearance. But later. He rubbed his temple. The party was in full swing, and the bar side of the restaurant was hopping. He kept on walking avoiding those who wanted a piece of time he didn’t have to share.

He glanced down at his phone when it pinged again. Urgent emails beckoned, one fire to put out after another. He pulled up the next one as he bumped into somebody, apologizing while wanting to swear, not about the collision but the emails. Expletives tumbled to the edge of his tongue, but luckily the patrons couldn’t hear what he was thinking. He squeezed his phone tighter. The special reserve vodka he’d ordered for a private party had burned up in an auto accident. The driver was unscathed, but the loss of the delivery was the least of his problems.

Scrolling back, he re-read another message through again for the hundredth time. He’d gotten another call from the assisted living director. His father who he’d placed there recently decided it would be fun to go skinny dipping. In January. The director had sent another email trying to schedule an appointment. His wayward and frisky father would be the death of him. The message had included a very visual recounting of what had happened. Rick tried not to laugh.

He loved his father and would do whatever he could to keep him comfortable. The man lived life as if it was his last day on earth, tending to listen to whatever fun was whispering his name. Rick shook his head, barely squeezing out a smile.

A breathy voice came from out of nowhere. “Hello, Mr. St. John.”

Rick looked up. A perky…very perky, blond he’d hired to replace the previous hostess he’d mistakenly slept with stepped in front of him. What was her name? He smiled and stepped to move around her. He promised himself this time he wouldn’t let his need for release–time outside of his mind–lead him around like a hound catching a scent. She didn’t get the hint as she wrapped her arm around his and pressed against him.

“How are you this evening, sir?” He gently took her fingers and peeled them back off his arm to force her to back up, but had to immediately drop them otherwise he would have had a handful of double D’s as she turned into him to get closer. “Jesus!” He took a step back, but she followed.

“Listen…awe…” Shit, what was her name?

“Crystal,” she said with a pout.

“Listen, Crystal, I don’t have time for,” he waved his hand between them, “so,” he flicked his finger back to the hostess stand and continued, “get back to your station and make sure our customers stay happy.” He winced when her eyes widened and they quickly lowered with the most wicked smile he’d ever seen. He licked his lips, really tempted to use sex as a numbing agent, but no. He couldn’t get involved in another meaningless relationship.

“Yes, Mr. St. John. Whatever you say.”

Would she really make his customers that happy? Jesus, what had he been thinking when he hired her? Oh, right. He hadn’t been thinking.

“Go on.”

She curled her lip down in what looked like a very practiced move to show disappointment and walked back to where she’d been when he’d entered.

Rick continued to move to the other side of the building putting the new hostess out of his mind right after he decided he would hire a man next time. Fewer distractions that way.

The bar connected to the restaurant by a long arched hallway. Ricky loved the transition. By the time a patron arrived at the dining side, the sound was more sedate, more intimate. Mounted on each section of wall, iron sconces held large candles. Flames cast shadow and light as they danced and flickered across rough fired brick walls as a customer moved through the final archway. He had a thing for rustic-contemporary design and his architectural designer had taken his ideas and returned with a fantastic plan. On the Rocks, had opened with good hype and continued to give him great returns. The most important of them, his customers loved it too and often returned for the food and atmosphere. He hoped any who met at the mixer wandered over in pairs to dine in.

He made eye contact with Casey, his bartender, and hit him up with a chin lift toward his office and a sign to meet him in five. Rick needed to figure out where his vodka for the private party was going to come from before he even considered the discussion he would have with his dad. A naked dalliance in a private area was one thing, but in the retirement center’s pool, that was a different matter.

Casey had just turned to talk to his bartender when his eyes widened, and he smiled, quickly turning away. Rick tried to catch his reflection in the bar’s back mirror when he suddenly looked down to see a very nice, very well rounded ass, sticking out from under a table. “What the hell!” He was so taken aback by what he was seeing, and the instant reaction his body was having, he didn’t respond as quickly to the woman attempting to stand up. She let out a squeak as the table rattled from the impact of her head, which gave him an armful of soft and very pliable female as she stumbled into him. His fingers took hold of her hips and then his arms wrapped around her as her momentum carried her backward. His meeting with Casey forgotten, Rick was consumed by all the luscious curves and warm body he held in his arms. But that changed in an instant when she pulled out of his grip and stepped on his foot causing her to turn awkwardly. He had to shift quickly to get a better hold on her, but he rammed his knee into a chair, which caused the now wiggling female to turn his way. And as sure as he was that his dad would again cause mischief, he knew that he was going to wind up with his ass on the plank floor.

“Ompf!”

“Ohh!”

With his arms, full of woman, he tried to stop the ringing in his head and nausea that settled in his gut after he hit his head on the floor. Rick groaned. His headache was no longer an annoying ache, but a throbbing avalanche of astronomic proportions.

As the woman started to twist again attempting to get off him, his body reacted in a very inappropriate, but exciting way. So, he did the only thing he could and held on tight, whispering in her ear, “Don’t move, little sprite,” It did nothing to help his sexual response to her, as he hardened and she shivered in his arms as his words seemed to tickle her ear. Well, that was interesting, he thought. He squeezed a little bit tighter, and she shivered again. Well, well, that was interesting too, but all too soon he remembered where he was and decided to end his agony, the good kind, which he could use right about now to help rid him of his headache.

Rick rocked forward, and groaned, bringing them both up into a sitting position where he was overwhelmed by the scent of her. She was musk and flowers, and he wanted nothing more than to inhale her as he spread her out on a bed of satin, devoured her, pleasured her until she couldn’t take any more until she screamed out his name.

“What the hell!”

Rick looked past the woman’s hair that caressed his cheek to see an infuriated man looking down on them.

“Sorry man. We were just trying to untangle ourselves.”

“Duncan, would you please help me up?” the woman asked. There was something vaguely familiar about that voice, Rick thought.

Duncan, now confirmed an asshole because he crossed his arms staring down at them both. Rick helped the woman up off him. He quickly got up and straightened his dress shirt, dusting off his slacks when he heard a gasp. When he looked up, he fell into a tumultuous ocean of dark blue eyes. Rick blinked and glanced over every curve and dip of the petite woman in front of him. As his eyes moved their way down her petite body, he couldn’t help but lick his lips wanting more than anything to have the restaurant empty so he could make this encounter more private. Rick would push her back and lay her out on the table and slowly untie the siren’s red dress she wore. Uncover every inch of her pale skin so he could fill his hands with her ample breasts, touch and taste her as he gave them as much pleasure as they both could handle and then he’d do it all over again. When he made his way back up from his long perusal, he noticed her breaths coming fast and hard.

She took a step forward, and he finally looked up to see her face was now a lovely shade of red.

“Ricky?” she said. She took another step toward him.

There was a moment when he still couldn’t recognize the face that went with the voice, but then she smiled and his eyes narrowed, and then widened as he recognized a distinct dimple in her cheek. “Olivia?” He said her name again, “Olivia. Oh, my God!” This time he took a step forward. When he went to reach out and touch a face he barely recognized now, he found himself on the floor again, this time, with an aching jaw.

“Duncan!” Olivia screamed. When she would have come down to him, the asshole grabbed her and pulled her close to him.

“What the hell, man!” Rick said. He got up from the floor, again, and pressed forward getting into the assholes face.

That’s when Casey stepped up, “Everything okay here?”

“Yeah,” Duncan said. His mouth twisted and pinched. “We’ve lost our appetite. Come on Vivvy. We’re leaving.”

“Vivvy?” Rick mouthed to Casey.

“Duncan, we just got our food, and I need to find my mother’s necklace, the clasp broke again.”

Rick laughed not looking away from Duncan, still unsure of what the guy would do next. “You still haven’t gotten that fixed.”

Olivia looked over and gave him one of her smiles, the ones that had only been for him, but it suddenly turned sad. He wanted to know what had happened so he could fix it and make her smile again.

“Screw the necklace, I said we’re leaving.”

“But…”

That was all she got out before the guy grabbed her arm and started pulling her toward the front door of the restaurant. Rick went to go after her, but Casey held him back.

“Let go, Case.”

“I’m going to kick that guy’s ass, man.”

Casey pulled him around. “Find the necklace,” he pointed under the table, “and I’ll make sure she’s okay.”

“I should go after her.” He began to step around his closest friend, his fists curling into balls. Why would Olivia put up with that guy? And what was with him calling her Vivvy? She hated that. Or does she? But her grandmother called her that. She still must feel the same way. Rick wouldn’t know, though. He hadn’t seen her in at least eighteen years.

“I’ll do it,” Casey said. “Find the necklace. I’ll make sure she’s alright. The boyfriend’s bad news.”

“No shit.” He looked toward where they disappeared through the exit. He turned back to his friend. “How long has she been in town? Where’s she been? Did you talk to her?” Her parents had moved away, no notice, nothing, he remembered. He’d lost the first major crush he’d ever had, his body just awakening, and he had wanted to take that ride with Olivia. God, how he had wanted her to be his first. But he’d lost her, and part of himself, when he found out they had gone.

“Alright,” he heard himself saying.

As soon as his friend rushed to find out if Olivia was okay, he searched for the necklace under the table. He pulled out his phone to light up the floor and forgot about all his worries, his father, the restaurant, everything. All he was focused on was finding Olivia’s necklace.

“Got, it!” He backed out to find Casey standing over him laughing.

“Shut it, asshole,” he said as he rubbed his head. Casey informed him that Olivia had ridden off with that Duncan asshole in a cab.

“Was she okay?” Rick asked.

“Nope,” Case replied. “She’ll kick Duncan to the curb, now that she’s seen you. Or we can hope. She’s been in the restaurant a couple of times since she’s moved back into her grandmother’s house. I’m surprised you haven’t run across her actually.” He ran his fingers through his hair and pulled. Rick knew that was a sign that Case was worried. “That guy is a prick. Not once have I seen him treat her right.”

“She’s moved back home?” Was his first words, but then he understood what Case was saying. “Is that guy hurting her?”

“I don’t know. But I’m keeping my ear to the ground, so to speak. So far I haven’t seen any evidence that the Duncan’s hitting Olivia.”

Rick nodded and took a few even breaths to put a lid on his temper. Casey would never let her leave the bar if he knew that she might be in trouble. However, since Casey had put his two sense in where it didn’t belong, protecting his girlfriend at the time, the dumbass he’d beaten the shit out of had pressed charges, he now minded his own business.

“Anyway, yeah, she’s moved back home.” The man crossed his arms and surveyed the dining room. “I’m surprised you hadn’t heard. Her grandmother finally bit it. I can’t believe it hadn’t been sooner. That woman was the true meaning of an evil bitch.”

Rick nodded. “I’ve been busy if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Too busy if you ask me. You need to delegate more. Let someone else deal with the club side of things. I know you enjoy the dining side more.”

Rick let Casey’s words fade as he thought of Olivia as a teenager. She was beautiful then, her innocence always at the forefront. It was one of the reasons he’d taken to her so quickly, his teenage hormones letting him know that she was worth every embarrassing hard-on he’d gotten in gym class when he thought of her. But he also remembered the way Olivia’s grandmother was the few times Olivia had invited him over. If the old woman scared the crap out of Rick, he couldn’t imagine how Olivia felt at the age of sixteen. It must have been why they moved away. Something awful must have happened. What could it have been, he didn’t know, but he was willing to find out. He wanted to know Olivia again. He needed to know her again. Gripping her necklace tighter he headed for his office to dig up as much as he could about Olivia James because seeing her again made something deep in his chest ache for something more meaningful than a one night stand.

Out Now! Hot Blacktop

Reflection

 

Hot Blacktop’s arrival has been a treasured ride. It started as a free write and morphed into something that caused countless hours of questions. Dreams woke me in the middle of the night. A few name changes occurred. My motorcycle racing consultant thought I wouldn’t be able to get away with the name Crash, so out the door, it went. I also needed to write down thoughts that popped into my head in the shower. Of course, the latter wasn’t possible until I told my mother. She ordered me waterproof notepads!  She wants me to succeed so she asks herself how can she help. I laughed a lot about those packages because she sent me five of them.

All that aside, it took a lot of help and time to develop a great story, one that had me asking questions, especially two. What would Saint do? What would Sienna do? Sometimes I didn’t know the answer, and I’d have to wait until an idea or direction would flash in my mind.The editing stage was crazy, I never thought it was finished so I was always going back in and tweaking it here or there, writing the same sentence in different ways to say the same thing. I told myself one more time until it had to be the final one more time.

The editing stage was crazy. I never thought it was finished so I was always going back in, tweaking it here or there, and writing the same sentence in different ways to say the same thing. I told myself one more time until it had to be the final one more time.

Then, the final leap was made, I uploaded the ebook, and my success is now in the readers’ hands.

There are many people to give thanks. You can see the full dedication in the ebook, but I want to give a big thank you to the people in the Deadwood Writers Group. They’ve supported me since I started on my writing journey always with encouragement, positive criticism, and constructive criticism. I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this if it were not for that great bunch of writers.

I hope you enjoy Hot Blacktop! Happy reading!

Available now on:

Kindle: http://amzn.to/2fQTElT

Nook: http://bit.ly/2g0R7pb

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2fQvAPO