Tuesday Tales:From the Word BARE

Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. Each week I join a few select authors and post a snippet from mt work in progress based on a particular word or picture prompt. This week’s word is BARE. I’m continuing with my Holiday Romance, Forever in my Heart.

Calvin picked up the receiver. “ Cathy, I told you I wasn’t to be disturbed …  Oh, I see, put her through.” He pushed the button to put the phone on speaker. Mike heard the call connect.

“Ms. Hayworth. Thank you for getting back to me so promptly.”

“I don’t have time for small talk, Mr. Ross,” the woman’s voice came across the line clearly, the pain and concern in it touching his heart. “You said there’d been a fatal accident. How is my sister? Is she … is she dead?”

The agony she suffered was clear in her voice.

“I’m afraid so. She died instantly. Her husband passed away a couple of hours later.”

“Oh God!” The sound of heavy crying came across the line.

“Their babies?” She managed to get out the words.

Mike frowned. If there had been no contact between them, how had she known about the twins?

“The girls were not with their parents at the time of the accident,” Calvin said, not acknowledging the faux pas.

“I’ve booked a flight to Calgary for 6:30 tonight. I can be in Timberton tomorrow morning.”

Mike shook his head. “Ms. Hayworth, this is Mike Branscomb, Luke’s brother. There are several things that have to be done in Calgary, including the formal identification of the bodies,” he said. “Stay in Calgary, and we’ll come to you. After we take care of things, you can come back to Timberton with us, and we can take it from there.” He hoped he didn’t sound as desperate as he felt. The silence at the end of the line seemed heavy and ominous. “Ms. Hayworth, are you there?”

“Yes … I … I’m here.” Her voice trembled, her words so softly spoken he could barely hear them. “Where … where will I meet you?”

“My secretary will book a room for you in Calgary and I’ll arrange for the Ambassador Limousine Service to meet your plane and take you to the hotel,” Calvin said. “My firm will see to all the details. Just give me your flight number.”

Through her tears, she mumbled out the airline and flight number.”

“Very well. The driver will take you to the hotel, and Mr. Branscomb and I will see you in the morning. Please accept my deepest sympathies for your loss.”

“Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She ended the call.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales

Tuesday Tales: From a Picture

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, and welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. Our prompt this week is a picture, and our scenes ate limited to 300 words. I’m continuing with Forever in my Heart. This scene is a flashback Callie has after the shock of learning about the accident.

Callie put two slices of bread into the toaster. From the refrigerator, she removed a tomato and the jar of mayonnaise. Nothing calmed her nerves and settled her stomach better than a toasted tomato sandwich. Mom had considered toasted tomato sandwiches more therapeutic and beneficial to the soul than chicken soup, and so did she.

The toaster popped. Callie reached for the slices of warm bread, her memory flashing to a scene from six years ago when she and Luke just started dating, and life had been good.

Since Luke had driven Grandma to her bocce ball game, Callie had offered to make lunch. They’d only been dating a few weeks, and the shine was still bright on their relationship.

He stood at the stove, turning over the slices of bacon for the BLTs they were having. She reached for the toast.

“Good God, woman. I know you said cooking wasn’t your thing, but is the toaster broken? Those slices aren’t ready—they’re barely warm.”

She chuckled. “Says you. I happen to like them this way, and don’t burn the bacon. It’s best just slightly crisp.”

“Well, put mine in for at least three times as long. I like them dark, not quite as brown as your hair but close.”

Callie laughed. “You mean burnt. Cassie and Grandma like them that way, too.”

“Cassie? Who’s Cassie?”

He turned off the ring and came to stand beside her, nuzzling her neck as she slathered butter on her toast, turning the bread a golden yellow.

“She’s my sister—my twin actually. We don’t look alike. I’m dark like my father, not that I ever knew him; she’s blonde like Mom was. Our parents divorced when we were just a year old. I didn’t even know she existed until just before Mom passed.”

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales

IWSG Blog for October

Well, another month has come and gone. Around here, there are still many new cases of COVID 19 and we have a vaccine passport rule for restaurants, gyms, and sporting events. There may be more cases, even among the vaccinated, but other than the unvaccinated, most cases are mild.

This month’s question seems easy, but it’s actually quite complex.

October 6 question – In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

For me, it’s a question of values. I will not write porn or erotica in any of its incarnations, rape, incest, or slasher-style horror. There are some vivid murder scenes visited by police in some of my suspense novels, but you don’t see the deed done. I have love scenes, some descriptive but definitely miles away from erotica.

In terms of language, I do use some mild swearing where it seems to be needed, but I do not use the F word–ever. The best way to describe me as a writer would be prudish. Since I am straight as they say, married 50 years to the same man, I also don’t write LGBQT literature. I’m not knowledgeable enough to do it properly, and rather than insult members of that community, I will stay away from it. I have no problem including them as minor characters, but that’s the best I can do.

What about you?

Read other comments here. https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Hope you have a lovely fall!

Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on Pexels.com

Tuesday Tales: From the Word PAINT

Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales, the weekly blog where a select group of authors share their work in progress with you, writing either to a word or picture prompt. This week our word is PAINT and our scenes are limited to 400 words.I’m continuing with my holiday romance, Forever in my Heart. Enjoy!

It certainly explained Luke’s preoccupation with what he’d done and his final request.

“Sadly, the heart wants what it wants. They did try to stay away from one another. Cassie went back to Banff, and Luke poured himself into the resort. Cassie sent several letters to her sister, as did I. She didn’t answer, and about a month later they were returned , stamped undeliverable. I sent a certified letter to her through the lawyer who’d handled her mother’s estate, informing her of her inheritance. She replied through the Vancouver lawyer that she wasn’t interested in anything the Knowles family offered her. Cassie tried again, called the lawyer and asked for her sister’s information, but the firm claimed they were under strict instructions not to release it. That was six years ago. They’ve had no contact since. I realize this doesn’t paint Luke and Cassie in a good light, but they did try to reach her. Cassie refused to believe she wouldn’t eventually come around, maybe fall in love and get married, finally understanding what had motivated them. Her share of Tilda’s estate is still in the bank in the account Cassie had me open for her.”

Mike ran his hand through his hair. “Okay. I don’t understand how such a mess could’ve happened, but if you say so, I believe you. So, where do I find her? She might’ve been pissed at them both but she needs to know what happened.”

He sighed heavily. “I contacted the legal firm in Vancouver and explained the situation. Reluctantly, they gave me a contact number. I called earlier this morning, but she hasn’t returned my call. I’ll keep calling until I get her.” He shook his head. “I tried to talk them out of this, but Cassie was adamant, and Luke would’ve given her the world. This is why I think everyone should have a clear and open discussion with those they’re entrusting with their children.”

Mike frowned. “What’s there to talk about? As their legal guardian, I’ll do everything I can for the girls.”

“That’s just it, Mike. You aren’t their legal guardian.”

Mike doubled over as if he’d been sucker punched. After catching his breath, he jumped out of the chair. He couldn’t lose the girls. They were all the family he had left.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales

Revised and Revitalized. Winter Weddings Series is Ready for Christmas.

Every now and then, it’s good to go back over older material and look at it with critical eyes. If a book is listed as a contemporary romance, then it should be just that. So what have I been doing? I’ve been editing and improving my Winter Weddings series, while working on Book Four, hoping to get it finished by January 2022 at the latest.

Every series has an opening book, and Winter Weddings is no different. Book one, Holiday Magic, is Georgia’s story.

Seeing is believing, or is it?

Georgia Baxter loved everything about Christmas until she walked in on her fiancé in bed with another woman. Wounded and heart sore, she canceled her Christmas Eve fantasy wedding and fled to New York City, leaving everything and everyone, including her twin sister, Eleni, behind.

Three years later, still hurting but knowing it’s time to move on, she agrees to come home to help her sister, despite the fact she’ll be doing so at a time of year she now associates only with pain and betrayal. Discovering she’ll have to work closely with the man who shattered her dreams only makes things harder, especially when her body craves his touch.

Mark Anderson has no memory of his bachelor party other than waking up naked in the wrong woman’s bed. He clings to the hope someday he can convince Georgia to give him a second chance, but until she’s ready to listen, it won’t happen. Discovering she’s coming home to manage Holiday Magic for three months may be his lucky break.

Is there enough magic left in Christmas to help them overcome the past?

The second book in the series, currently being revised, is The Perfect Choice. Book one and two are written within the same time frame, but whereas Book One’s heroine is Georgia, book two is Eleni’s story. Some scenes found in book one are repeated but from the new heroine’s point of view.

All’s fair in love and war…or is it?

Eleni Baxter has always been the impulsive twin requiring rescue from one scheme or another. Avoiding relationships because of trust issues, Eleni throws herself into her wedding and party fantasy firm, Holiday Magic. When her designs for a Halloween decorating scheme win her a shot at being the exclusive special events coordinator for the Ocean Front Casino Resort, she jumps at it, without reading the fine print. As always, twin sister Georgia comes to the rescue.

Reclusive millionaire casino owner Garth Joseph Smits Simmons has shunned publicity and gold-diggers for as long as he can remember, hiding behind a series of disguises to protect his identity. When beautiful, talented special events coordinator Eleni Baxter walks into his life, he’s determined to find a way to make her fall in love with him without revealing his true identity. Designing a contract to hire her and keep her in close proximity for three months seems like a stroke of genius, but having a double life becomes more complicated than ever.

With the holiday season in full swing, Joe decides it’s time to come clean, but will the magic of the holiday season be enough for Eleni to forgive him his deception, or will he lose it all on one throw of the dice?

Book Three, Come Home for Christmas has also been revised. In this book, we leave the Baxter Twins behind and return to Canada.

This past year has been a miserable one for Krista Jacobs, and what’s going to make it even worse is having to spend Christmas at Seven Oaks, the Alberta ranch that was her home until her uncle tossed her out on her ear before her nineteenth birthday. But Uncle Charles is gone and has left her something in his will—something she can only have if she spends Christmas at the ranch with Ethan Terrance, her step-cousin, and the man she’d hoped to marry ten years ago.

When Charles Terrance died, the last thing Ethan expected to discover was that not only had his dad sabotaged his relationship with Krista, he’d cheated her out of the inheritance that should’ve been hers ten years ago. Since Ethan’s never been able to forget the woman he loved, he’ll do whatever he has to in order to make things right—including having his lawyer send her a request she can’t ignore. Krista has to come home for Christmas.

Book Four, Forever in my Heart , also set in Canada, is currently under construction as it were, but you can fo9llow the story’s development on my weekly Tuesday Tales posts.

Love is immortal, but it will take a miracle to heal these bruised and broken hearts.

Michael Branscomb swore off women years ago, after getting jilted by the woman he loved and trusted. The last thing the confirmed bachelor wants or needs is a wife and children, but you don’t always get what you want. A deathbed promise to his twin brother has to be honored. The problem is, the lady involved may not agree, and with good reason.

Six years ago, Callie walked in on her fiancé and her sister and walked right back out again—out of the house, their lives, and the town—and did her best to forget it all, including the magical Christmas wedding she’d planned. She’s made a new present and future for herself, intent on cutting all ties to the past. If she’s lonely at times, well that’s the price she pays protecting herself from more heartbreak.But sometimes, things are easier said than done, especially when the past shows up on her doorstep, carrying twin girls, and proposing marriage—on the very date she should’ve wed his brother.

Can Callie and Mike overcome the pain of the past to give love a chance and provide their orphan nieces with the family they deserve?

You can get the first three Winter Weddings books on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09B7YRN35 and enjoy an early Winter Wedding.

Tuesday Tales: From the Word CARELESS

Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. Our word prompt this week is CARELESS and I pick up where I left off last week in Forever in my Heart.

“Tilda Knowles recognized Callie the minute she saw her and contacted Cassie. The reunion was an emotional affair, and while the girls kept in touch and visited fairly often, neither of them lived here. Luke was away in Europe then, getting that bachelor’s degree in international hospitality management.”

“Yeah. Since he’d decided to turn the ranch into a resort, he wanted to do it the right way.”

And he had. The Timberton Resort had been thriving—until COVID 19 made its appearance. Since part of the land had remained a working cattle ranch, they’d managed to keep their heads above water. Now that some of the tourists were returning, it was slowly getting back on its feet.

The lawyer nodded and shifted in his chair.

“Just before he got back to Timberton, Callie gave up her job in Vancouver and came back to look after her grandmother. Tilda wasn’t sick, but she was getting up there and needed help. That was when Callie and Luke hooked up—literally. He rear-ended her car and got his grill stuck on her bumper hitch. Everyone thought they made the perfect couple. Six months later, he proposed. Tilda was thrilled, knowing that Callie would stay here and be closer to Cassie. They made plans for a Christmas wedding at the Banff Springs Hotel. Cassie came home to visit … when she and Luke met … Tilda saw it, saw the sparks. Sadly, she was careless and tripped going out to feed the birds. She broke a few ribs, her pelvis, and her arm. She tried to talk to the girl. Cassie did her best to fight her feelings as did Luke, but it was like a runaway train. Within a matter of days, Tilda developed pneumonia, and it was all over. Callie walked in on Luke consoling Cassie after the funeral. That was a month before the wedding. The poor girl was crushed—said some cruel things and then packed up and left that very night. Not that anyone blamed her.”

“I remember Luke talking about the girl he was going to marry—about how lively and vivacious she was. He always just referred to her as C. He asked me to be his Best Man. I thought he’d mentioned a Christmas wedding, but then it didn’t take place until September. I assumed they’d put it off because of all the excitement around the opening of the resort.”

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales

Tuesday Tales: From the Word SOUND

Back from an incredible vacation and celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. Now, I’m ready to tackle all of my fall reading, writing, and editing challenges. Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. Our word prompt is SOUND. I’m continuing with my holiday romance, Forever in my Heart. My trip allowed me to have a closer look at the area where I’ve set the story. Below are a few of the places I’ll be mentioning in the book

Images from top left: Icefield Skywalk, Lake Maligne, Banff Springs Hotel, Bow Lake, Jasper Lodge, Various Glaciers en route, Victoria Glacier, Lake Louise, John and I atop Sulfur Mountain in Banff.

Here’s this week’s scene, Enjoy.

Calvin sat in his chair across a desk that could probably serve as a dining room table for a family of ten.

“I always caution my clients to discuss their wills with the executors when there are custody issues. Did Luke and Cassie talk to you about theirs?”

Custody issues? Mike shook his head. What was there to talk about? He was Luke’s only living relative, other than the twins. Everything went to them in trust, and he would see to it that the resort prospered. He would look after those two little ladies as if they were his own.

“No, but Luke was talking crazy talk before he died. He said something about Cassie having a twin sister, one he was supposed to marry.”

The lawyer nodded. “Tilda was on her deathbed, but she saw it coming. She tried to warn Callie, soften the blow, but that girl was so blinded by love and those Christmas wedding plans, she couldn’t see the nose on her face. But you just had to see Cassie and Luke together to know there was something magical there. They were meant for each other.”

“Are you telling me he jilted one sister practically at the altar and then married the other one?” He shook his head in disbelief. “That doesn’t sound like the brother I know—knew. Why would he have kept something like that from me? The last thing he asked me was to look after the girls and make things right with the aunt. He even had me promise to marry her.”

“Did you?”

“Damn straight. I would’ve promised him the moon if it had helped. So what really happened? He claimed you knew all about it.” Mike swallowed the lump in his throat. It didn’t seem right to talk about his brother this way, but he had to know. “How could he have done such a thing … and Cassie, to do that to her twin … I don’t get it.”

Calvin rubbed his chin. “Love does strange things to people. Cassie and Callie were separated as infants, one parent each taking one child. It wasn’t until Callie’s mother died that the girls learned they were sisters. That was about ten years ago. Callie was a nurse in Vancouver, and Cassie was a school teacher in Banff.”

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales

Sweet & Sassy Falling Into Love: Great New Box Set From the Author’s Billboard

There is never a wrong time to snuggle up and fall in love! The Authors’ Billboard has another Sweet and Sassy boxset aimed directly at Falling Into Love.

This four-book set from USA Today Bestselling, Award-Winning Authors contains stories of second chances, single parents, small-towns and large. With some touches of suspense, unexpected sparks, and close-knit families, these characters are out to find more than they bargained for while Falling Into Love.

Stacy Eaton, USA Today Bestselling Author, Bradley, Loving a Young Series: With a new house in her name, Nolan Nickels seeks out the perfect plan to get the house ready so she can bring her two daughters’ home, but is her fixer-upper more than she bargained after Brad Young comes to help?

Susanne Matthews, Bestselling Author, – Make Mine a Manhattan: Assuming her heroine’s identity, Savannah Long heads for New York to experience life and gets far more than she bargained for.

Denise Devine, USA Today Bestselling Author, – Unfinished Business: When Alana Morgan’s life is upended by a suspicious death and a betrayal, she joins forces with Reid Sinclair to uncover the evidence she desperately seeks.

Taylor Lee, USA Today Bestselling Author – You Can’t Always Get What You Want: He’s a hard as nails police chief. She’s a feisty ADA. The one thing they have in common is arrogance. Sparks flare when the challenging duo face off.

Each and every book in this series is worth its weight in gold! I’m going to focus on my newest book in the set, Make Mine a Manhattan. This book is also part of the Cocktails for You series, which means it’s full of humor as well as serious, romantic scenes.

What’s an author to do when, thanks to writer’s block, she’s hopelessly stuck?

With only eight weeks left to finish her newest novel, bestselling author Sydney Sanders, aka Robin Langford, is stumped. On impulse, the thirty-three-year old introvert decides to take her agent’s advice and shift gears, but instead of going on a short vacation, she decides on hands-on research. Immersing herself in her story and assuming her heroine’s identity, she heads to Manhattan to live out the plot. What could possibly go wrong?

As Savanna Long, she boards the train, expecting a quiet ride and time to refresh her muse for the chore ahead. But a lot can happen during the thirty-eight hour trip, especially with her imagination and the drop-dead gorgeous passenger in the next car.

We all know that the best laid plans can often go awry, and for Robin that’s exactly what happens.

Here’s a glimpse at the opening scene from the novel.

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

Dr. Seuss

Chapter One

“Please, Mom, can’t you just let it go?” I begged, regretting my decision to stop in for a cold drink after my morning run. “You asked and I said no, and I mean it. I’m not interested. Nyet, nada, nein, non.”

There were two disadvantages to wearing a mask to protect myself and others from COVID-19. The first was the difficulty breathing when one was hyperventilating and the second was the inability to see someone’s lower facial expressions, but the eyes never lied.

From the storm clouds in my mother’s gray ones, I knew she was angry with me, but I was just as mad at her—well, maybe not at her exactly—but I was frustrated, and this scheme of hers was just one more complication I didn’t need, one more reason for my heavy breathing, and it had nothing to do with being out of shape. At the moment, I was hot and sweaty. I just wanted my iced capp and then a shower.

“It’s not as if Mayor Loucks asks you for favors every day,” Mom continued with another volley in an argument I was determined she would never win.

“For the last time, Mom, I refuse to go out with every eligible Tom, Dick, or Harry someone throws in my path,” I stated, my teeth gritted so tightly, they ached. “Besides. We’re still supposed to be staying socially distant. I’m perfectly content in my own bubble. I like my life here as it is, without a lot of fanfare. Shakespeare and I are just fine.”

Mom harrumphed as she finished putting the final touches on my iced cappuccino. The good thing about having a parent who owned a coffee shop was the free drinks, the bad thing was the unsolicited advice.

“I don’t understand why you’re being so obstinate and selfish,” she continued. “The pandemic is winding down. There hasn’t been a new case in days, and this is just one little dinner—a barbecue picnic, for heaven’s sake. You’ll be outside. The man is in Flowerfield to look over the old Dog Mountain ski area. If he agrees to invest in it, it’ll be a shot in the arm for the town, and Lord knows, we can use it. Franklin assures me the man has had both of his Coronavirus vaccines and has a negative test. You can’t get any safer than that these days, and you know it. Besides, Lacey says he’s gorgeous, cultured, and filthy rich. You aren’t getting any younger and quality husband material isn’t easy to find around here. I would think you would be happy to take one for the town.”

“Take one for the town? Just what are you suggesting, Mother? I’m perfectly happy without a prick between my legs or anywhere else,” I hissed through clenched teeth.

“Sydney Robin Langford, you watch your mouth. I didn’t raise you to speak like that and you know it. That is most definitely not what I meant. There are decent folks in here who want to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee without listening to your foul language. The way you’re behaving these days, I swear you’ve become anti-social. Maybe you should see Doctor Edwards. You could’ve started premature menopause.”

I exhaled forcefully. I couldn’t say prick, but my mother, in the same quiet tone a five-year-old uses to whisper, could inform the town that her thirty-three year old daughter was menopausal.

“Mom, I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to play nice-nice with some rich carpetbagger who’ll probably walk away from the deal anyway.”

“You’re too busy? I doubt that. You’re the only person I know who actually enjoyed all those months of quarantine. If I hadn’t insisted you come to dinner last night, you would’ve brushed off your sister and your nephew as well as your dad and me. So tell me, Miss Too-Good-to-Do-The-Town-A-Simple-Favor, what is it that you’re working on? And don’t say school work because you started summer vacation last week.”

“I’m … I’m working on a special course—something online,” I stammered, the half-lie slipping out of my mouth.

“You’re always working on something online. The governor says that the kids will be going back to in-classroom learning this fall, so you can quit trying to develop those—what did you call them? Oh yes—innovative and exciting online lessons.” Her eyes narrowed. “I was reading about screen time dependency. Are you addicted to video games? Good Lord, don’t tell me you’rewatching porn or chatting with some stranger who could well be a serial killer.”

“Mother! I don’t know where you get your ideas, but no!”

I shook my head, rolled my eyes, and reached for my cappuccino. And here I thought I was the one with the wild imagination. It was perfectly acceptable to send me on a blind date with a stranger who had money and might invest it in the town, but if I were to meet anyone online, he would be the next Jeffrey Dahmer.

“Forget it. You wouldn’t understand. You never have.” I stepped back. “I have to get home and feed Shakespeare.”

My mother turned and glared at me.

“You treat that cat better than you treat the members of your own family. Fine. I’ll call Franklin and make some excuse, but you’ll regret not helping out when the town needed you. If Stargazer Enterprise does reopen the mountain, having a close personal relationship with the CEO would be quite advantageous.”

Would she never give up? On the defensive now, I harrumphed.

“Since when does a blind date barbecue picnic I have no intention of attending morph into a close personal relationship? Forget it, Mom. I’m not the sacrificial virgin ready to be tossed into the volcano to save the town. Unless you agree not to harp on this again, I’m not coming back for lunch with Callie and Mickey.”

The bell rang announcing the arrival of another customer.

Thank you, Lord.

“Fine,” Mom agreed, but her tone made it clear she wasn’t happy about it. “Maybe he doesn’t need a date per se. There will be plenty of single women there. I’ll see you at one thirty sharp.”

She frowned, her mask moving up her face almost obliterating her eyes.

I sighed, knowing full well that this wouldn’t be the end of it, but if I didn’t make lunch, I wouldn’t survive the lecture that was sure to follow. How old would I have to be before she would let me live my own life?

“I’ll be here.”

Turning abruptly, I collided with the mountain behind me, splashing my iced capp all over both of us, the beige froth settling and melting on top of his loafers.

A collective gasp filled the room, and I was suddenly aware of the dozens of gazes fixed on me. This was the icing on my sucks-to-be-me day!

There was Frank, the town mechanic and Sylvia who ran the dry cleaners. Was that Mayor Loucks? Hard to tell with the mask, hat, and sunglasses. When news of my latest debacle got around—and it would do so at super-sonic speed, His Worship would be glad to have avoided setting up his big buyer with the Queen of Klutz and Bad Luck.

“Oh my God,” Mom cried. “What have you done? I swear when God was handing out clumsiness, you asked for a double dose. Don’t you ever watch where you’re going?”

Where I’m going? Injured party here!

Speechless, I gaped at the huge, wet spot spreading across the man’s tan shirt and khaki pants, scarcely noticing the fact that my white cotton t-shirt was just as wet. Tilting my head up, I stared at the black mask, mirrored sunglasses, and brim of a Panama hat. When had I ever seen a man with such broad shoulders? To rub a little salt into the wound of my humiliation, despite my mask, the aroma of his aftershave tickled my nose, and I sneezed.

Heat filled my cheeks. No doubt the top half of my face was as red as a ripe tomato, and considering I had frizzy, carrot-colored hair, currently pulled up into a messy bun on the top of my head, it wouldn’t be a good look on me. I peered at the mess I’d made, suddenly aware of the fact that my tightened nipples were poking out of my wet shirt.

Mortification mixed with indignation, and my brain clicked into gear. I set the empty cup on the table beside me and tried to cover my wet chest with my arms.

The stranger just stood there, looking down on me.

Not known for my patience and diplomacy, I lashed out at him in a tone worthy of Katerina in The Taming of the Shrew.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you were there. Of course, if you hadn’t been standing right on my ass, we might’ve avoided the collision. Or don’t you know what six feet, social distancing means?”

He hissed in a sharp breath but didn’t speak, no doubt because he knew I was right.

Mom raced around the counter with a damp cloth and a pile of napkins.

“Don’t just stand there, do something.”

Gritting my teeth, I grabbed the damp cloth from her, and started dabbing at the coffee on my t-shirt.

“Not you, for heaven’s sake,” Mom barked.

So much for motherly love and compassion!

Pasting a fake smile on my face, I turned to the man and began rubbing at the stain on his shirt and pants, praying they wouldn’t stain; otherwise, I would be expected to cough up for replacement designer clothes that cost more than my annual tax bill. My new t-shirt was probably ruined, and that annoyed me more, causing me to rub harder.

I stopped dead, my heart pounding out a primitive beat, my lungs refusing to function.

While the stranger had to be at least six foot six, I was barely five feet tall. Most of the coffee stain was on his crotch, a fact my addled brain had ignored. My hand was essentially massaging that area of his anatomy, and I could feel something cylindrical growing hard under it.

I jumped away as if I’d been tasered. The old, Is that a flashlight in your pocket or are you happy to see me joke ripped through my mind, and I smothered a giggle.

“Robin, you’re just making it worse,” my mother said, handing the man the pile of napkins. “Perhaps you would like to step into the washroom, sir?”

The man grunted and reached for the napkins. I couldn’t help noticing his hands. Whoever I’d collided with had the hands of a pianist, with long tapered fingers. What would it be like to have hands like that caress my body?

Mother of God! What is wrong with me? As soon as he moved away, I rushed out the door, jogging the three blocks home faster than I’d ever run them before, grateful that at seven in the morning, the street was all but deserted.

You can read all about Robin’s adventures in Make Mine a Manhattan, part of the Sweet & Sassy Falling into Love box set available now for only 99 cents USD. Preorder your copy today.

Tuesday Tales:From a Picture

Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. This is picture prompt week. Here’s the picture I chose:

Brick walls usually symbolize a dead end. In Callie’s case, it will be a beginning, one she never expected. I’ve just returned from a wonderful vacation out west where I visited Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, and Calgary, adding a little business to my pleasure as I checked out the area that will feature predominantly in this book. Now, I’ll continue with Forever in my Heart.

Sofa cushion soaked in useless tears, Callie sat up. Whatever had caused the body aches was no doubt responsible for these blues, too, and since it was almost her time of the month … From experience, she knew that the only way to cure the melancholy was either a good, long run or a pint of ice cream. Considering her aching body, she headed for the freezer and opened it.

“Rats,” she groaned the word.

There was none of her favorite salted caramel, no chocolate mint chip, not even any French vanilla. The only frozen treat—if you could even call it that—was a small container of the black cherry frozen yogurt she’d bought by accident, thinking it was ice cream. How could she have a pity party without decent ice cream?

Opening the lid, she stared at the antacid pink interior of the yogurt container, noting the ice crystals that had formed along the sides and top. Her stomach revolted.

“Yuck! I should’ve tossed it away the day I bought it. I may be having a rough day, but I’m not ready to make myself sick over it. I might as well smack my head against a brick wall, hoping it’ll make the headache go away.”

She’d just placed the container in the sink to melt when her phone rang. Hoping it wasn’t Brett again, and not certain she was ready to talk to Becca yet, she let it go.

Too curious for her own good, she checked the message.

“Miss Hayworth, this is Calvin Ross, an attorney from Timberton. It’s imperative that I speak to you as soon as possible. I’m afraid your sister was involved in a fatal accident…”

Whatever else he said was lost as a void as profound as the universe sucked Callie down.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales

Tuesday tales: From the Word FIGHT

Welcome to September. Where has the year gone? Today, I continue with Forever in my Heart. The Tuesday Tale word is FIGHT.

“I suppose I shouldn’t have turned the phone off,” she admitted. “I apologize. Leaving like that … I guess I just wasn’t thinking straight. You know—the old fight or flight instinct—not that we were going to fight…”

No, she’d been in full panic mode, a wounded gazelle fleeing a pride of hungry lions.

“Maybe not,” he said. “But I understand why you did. Becca explained things to me. I wish you’d told me first, but a lot of things fell into place. I can see my rushing you like that wasn’t a good thing. Why don’t we just let things go back to the way they were between us? No talks of marriage. We’ll be like Leonard and Penny, and who knows, maybe someday … I love you, Callista. I’m not ready to face the future without you.”

The pain in his voice was her undoing, and tears streamed down her face. To agree to his suggestion would be courting disaster because, despite wishing it might be different, she didn’t love him. The only man she’d ever loved had been Luke Branscomb, and he’d chosen her sister over her.

“Brett, I need space right now, and I think you do, too. I like you more than I’ve ever liked any man, but I just don’t love you the way you deserve to be loved,” she said, her voice hoarse with emotion.

“Why not let me be the judge of that?” he argued. “We’re great together in bed, we have fun … maybe you just don’t recognize love when you see it.”

“You may be right, and I may be throwing away the best thing in my life, but if we stayed together, the love you think you have for me could turn to hate. I would rather hurt you now than crush you later. I’m sorry. This is my fault. I’m broken, and I don’t think I can ever be fixed. Goodbye.”

She hung up before he could say anything, walked over to the couch, and threw herself down, dissolving into tears for what had been and could never be. It wasn’t that she’d loved Brett; it was that with her mother and grandmother gone, alienated from the sister she’d barely known, and dumped by the man she’d planned to spend her life with, she suddenly felt more alone than ever. Callista Hayworth, not worthy of love, trust, or fidelity.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales