A Slumbering Fire – Free Story

In February, I wrote a short story about two women, a princess and a soldier. They both have a similar difficulty, the feeling that life has passed them by. And then they are thrown together (YES I ALMOST WROTE A “THERE IS ONLY ONE BED SCENE” OKAY???) in an unusual place, in especially unusual circumstances. A Slumbering Fire

“A Slumbering Fire” can be downloaded here. No newsletter sign ups, to strings attached. It’s April 1st, March was the longest decade we’ve ever experienced, so here is my gift to you. Enjoy my two cinnamon bun ladies who need to find some happiness.

“All Ends” or Things Are About to Get Stabby

So, hey!

A little while ago, I won an award. I’m usually an “honorable mention” kind of person, so to actually win something felt a little bit unprecedented. But the wonderful people who frequent the r/fantasy subreddit had a vote and my story “All Ends” won for Best Short Fiction of 2019.

(Some notes: I tied with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January.)

(The story can be found in the anthology Heroes Wanted, currently available for FREE on Amazon)

The award arrived yesterday. It is aptly named “The Stabby.” I am giddily proud of this little sticker.

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In – minor – celebration of this event, I’m going to post “All Ends” in its entirety here (I mean, the anthology has nineteen different fantasy stories from authors like Michael Sullivan and Will Wight and Phil Tucker and K.S. Villoso and many more, so my suggestion would be to check that out) for those who just want a quick click and read.

So without further ado, here is… “All Ends.”

***

She is such a small thing. Small and delicate, made all of limbs and sharp angles yet to be grown into. Marit notices this first before anything; the slightness of her, how she seems to have shrunk with the absence of breath and life. 

Pale hair, stiff and straight as straw scattered across the floor. Eyes closed, thank God. Lips gray and parted. Nostrils still flared with fright, or anger, as if she is ready to clamber up from her pose on the floor and admonish everyone around her for letting such a thing come to pass. 

And there is her neck. Broken, Marit thinks. Decorated with livid bruises. 

The dead don’t bruise.

The thought slips away as swiftly as it came. Marit brushes her hands across the front of her skirt – once, twice, three times – and steps forward. 

“Fetch the police.”

The other girls stand around, still in their shifts and dressing gowns. Yesterday’s rouge and face paint is smeared across their cheeks, smudges of kohl deepening the shadows beneath their eyes. Mrs. Talbot has yet to be roused, so it is Marit’s voice that carries above the hum of restless worrying. 

“The police!” She tugs at the sleeve of the girl closest to her, a more recent arrival to Mrs. Talbot’s establishment and the one who is the nearest to being properly dressed for the day. “Stop gaping like a trout and go!”

Now that she’s spoken the others begin to press in, but Marit shoos them away. “Someone wake Mr. Fanny. Clear him out of here before we’ve got everyone traipsing in and out of the house.” One of the kitchen maids glances around at the assembled company before peeling away from the group and rushing towards the back stairs. “The rest of you go to the dining room. There’ll be breakfast, for those of you who still want to eat it.”

They shuffle away, some of them twisting their heads around to look back, the strips of rags tied into their curls bobbing around their shoulders. 

“Julia,” Marit calls, and one of the women pauses at the door leading out of the bedroom. “Will you wake her?”

Julia sets one hand on the side of the doorframe, her lacquered fingernails scraping at the soft, peeling paint. “I’d rather not.”

Marit stands beside the body. Her fingers twitch again and she looks towards the bed, wondering if she should take one of the sheets and use it to cover the girl.

Cora, she reminds herself. The girl’s name was Cora. 

Continue reading ““All Ends” or Things Are About to Get Stabby”

Lady Griffith’s Second Chance – Chapter Three Sneak Peek

AHHHH!

Only one day until the official release of Lady Griffith’s Second Chance! I am doing a very good job of not letting anxiety take over by crocheting and baking and scrubbing my bathroom tiles and laundry laundry laundry and really super wishing that I could have chocolate right now.

Did I mention the laundry? There’s a lot of it.

So! Today I bring you the third chapter and the last early preview of Lady Griffith’s Second Chance! (If you want to catch up, you can check out Chapter One and Chapter Two first.)

*deep breath*

Here. We. Go.

Chapter Three

The roses were not yet in bloom. The lack of flowers in no way inhibited the beauty of the garden, narrow paths of white gravel and a small maze of stones laid out on the way towards a gazebo, pleasantly situated in the center of it all. The gazebo’s trellised walls had long disappeared beneath the foliage of the roses-in-waiting, and Regan brushed a surreptitious hand across her brow as she sent up a prayer of thanks for the shade the lush greenery provided. 

She’d exchanged her battered bonnet for one in better shape, though in her haste she’d tied the ribbon too tight and now the thing irritated her throat. Small wonder she never wore a hat unless in company, no matter the risk of a tan and freckles that Aunt Agnes seemed to take tremendous pleasure in warning her about. Itchy, uncomfortable tools of torture, hats were. Even worse than stays, in her opinion. And only marginally worse than stockings. 

But there she sat, properly laced and stockinged and hatted, while Katharine dispersed tea cups and milk and strawberry tarts. Even Jack and Maria behaved well on the other side of the garden, following the progress of a turtle they’d followed up from the stream. 

“Did you have any opportunity to visit London for the season?” Regan directed her question towards Mr. Talbot. Since only a few minutes after their arrival, Mr. Cranmer seemed to have withdrawn into himself. Gone was the smiling, seductive gentleman from the previous evening. This version of him was more withdrawn, yet no less observant of what happened around him. Regan tore her glance from him and returned her attention to Mr. Talbot. Smiling politely, she sipped her tea, which was ridiculously sweet, just as she liked it. “Or have the delights of town already begun to lose their luster for the year?”

“Business kept me from London this year,” Mr. Talbot said, his smile faltering at the edges. “As my father’s health declines, more of the responsibility of caring for our family’s estate falls to me. Not that I am one to complain!” he added quickly, and with a brief glance in Katharine’s direction. “It will all settle on my shoulders one day, so I assume it’s better to be prepared in advance, don’t you think?”

Regan held her smiled and nodded, though she guessed it was to Katharine alone that he was determined to impress his ability to take on the family yoke. 

“And what of you, Mr. Cranmer?” Katharine asked, drawing their other guest into a conversation he had otherwise been sitting on the sidelines of thus far. 

Continue reading “Lady Griffith’s Second Chance – Chapter Three Sneak Peek”

Lady Griffith’s Second Chance: Chapter Two

Last week I brought you a sneak peek at the first chapter of Lady Griffith’s Second Chance! Today I bring you the entirety of Chapter Two! I hope you enjoy this special look!

(And you can pre-order the book here, if you find you can’t wait for these little teases.)

 

Chapter Two

“Oh, Mama! I was so glad to have you there!”

Regan patted Katharine’s hand and kept her eyes pinned to the trees that bent low over the pond. Beneath their branches, Jack and Maria batted a shuttlecock between them, their arms swinging with the force of an all-out war.  

“And I was happy to be there with you,” Regan said, casting a benevolent smile towards her daughter. “But you still need to tell me about the part of the dinner I missed.”

She tilted her face upwards, allowing the sunlight to warm her cheeks and forehead. She squinted at the brightness of the day, while clouds like dandelion fluff floated from one horizon to the other, drawing shadows on the lawn. She’d abandoned her bonnet some time before and the heat from the sun prickled at the part in her hair, no doubt already turning her exposed skin to a warm pinkish hue. But it was summer, and the rain had finally ceased, and the shrieks and laughter of her younger children filled the air around her.

They followed the same routine every morning after a ball, or assembly, or even a small dinner party accompanied by a game or three of cards. After breakfast and the children’s lessons, Katharine would regale her mother with the previous evening’s entertainments. No detail was ever spared, from the unbearable press of bodies in a ballroom to the quality of a Miss Simpson’s performance on the pianoforte. The only difference this time was that Regan had been there as well.

Regan felt her heel slip on the ground and looked down at her hem, the edges bearing three inches of mud and moisture on the darkened fabric. Two days of rain after a particularly wet spring had turned the ground into a sodden, squelching mess. She frowned at the stains, though half her gowns bore the evidence of too much time spent out of doors as she traipsed around the grounds with her children.

Her thoughts went to her gown from the previous night, stained beyond repair with half a glass of red wine. Those thoughts, of course, leading her to memories of a young man named Thomas, whom she had stumbled into head-first in a lonely hallway. A man who had presented himself as all too forward for his own good. A man who had taken to flirting with her within the first moments of their meeting, and before they had been formally introduced. A man she had done everything within her power to respectfully ignore for the remainder of the evening. 

It had not been difficult. Between Thomas’s late arrival and the ruination of her gown and an incident of Mr. Boyd knocking into a table and breaking one of his wife’s most treasured figurines, avoiding an introduction had taken no great skill. But Regan had caught herself glancing at him occasionally—more than occasionally—from the other side of the room, from her place with the other older ladies, the widows, the mothers with children grown. Where she belonged, and not lusting after gentlemen far beyond the circle her age and situation in life described around her.

Continue reading “Lady Griffith’s Second Chance: Chapter Two”

Read the First Chapter of Lady Griffith’s Second Chance!

My next book, the historical romance Lady Griffith’s Second Chance, releases in less than three weeks! Lady

I’m offering up the first few chapters for everyone’s perusal, and this week brings us Chapter One. So read ahead for a glimpse into Regan and Thomas’s story…

Pre-Order Here!

Chapter One

Regan stood beside her son’s bed, the light from the candle casting flickers of gold and shadow across his face. 

He slept like his father: sprawled across the bed, bare feet sticking out from beneath the edge of the blankets, his head nearly dangling over the side of the mattress while his pillow already lay in a rumpled lump on the floor. She set the candle on the nightstand, returned all of his gangling limbs to their proper positions, and swept his dark hair back from his brow before slipping the pillow back beneath his head.

She bent down to kiss his cheek, and still he didn’t stir. Just like Edmund, she thought, before crossing to the other side of the room.

There, Maria slept in her bed, her small figure a contrast to her brother’s while in repose. Not only did Maria’s dark head still rest in the center of her pillow, but she had tucked her hands beneath her cheek, her pink lips forming a soft pout as she slumbered.

Regan gave Maria’s blankets a perfunctory tug before leaning over to kiss her forehead. She was about to stand up and turn away when she paused to sweep an errant curl, a ribbon of hair as black as ink, from her daughter’s cheek. 

All of her children possessed their father’s coloring, the same curling dark hair and bright blue eyes. When they had been younger, she recalled her disappointment at their lack of her hazel-colored eyes or the auburn cast of her own hair. But then Edmund had gone and left her as a widow, making her forever grateful that in each of the children she had something by which to better remember him. 

Continue reading “Read the First Chapter of Lady Griffith’s Second Chance!”

Here, Have a Fluffy Short Story

The world is crap right now. So I’m going to throw this little story at you in the hopes it might make one of you smile. Warnings (if you’re used to some of my darker stuff): It is not fantasy. It is contemporary. It kinda sets up a potential for romance (in what a few thousand words can do.)

Have at it, and enjoy. 🙂

So That Happened

Rebecca ran towards the train platform, one hand grasping at the strap of her bag before it could slip off her shoulder. A few more seconds, she thought. A few more seconds and she would make it. Her lungs burned as she pushed forward, and she regretted all of the times she’d told herself she needed to get outside and exercise. But the winter had been so cold this year, and the snowstorms every few days hadn’t helped matters. That was what she had told herself, while sitting on the couch ensconced in fleece and drinking far too many cups of cheap hot chocolate.

A familiar whoosh of sound and Rebecca saw the doors of the train car slide shut. Even if she stuck out her arm, she knew she wouldn’t make it. As she watched the train set into motion, her bag finally slid down and landed in a puddle of some unidentifiable liquid. 

“Son of a—” She bit down on her lip and snatched her bag up from the ground, careful to hold it with an outstretched arm in case any bit of the mystery fluid should transfer itself to her.

This was it. She would lose her job. And all because the universe had decided to conspire against her. The one day she’d been told she absolutely could not be late. Well, apparently the universe wanted her to live on a steady diet of Ramen noodles and tap water until she could find another means of employment, since there was no way Mitch would let this slide.

And she hadn’t even taken the time to shave her legs this morning. Stupid universe. Stupid stubbly legs.

Continue reading “Here, Have a Fluffy Short Story”

The Gleam of an Update and a Short Story

I’ve been quiet lately because of my health. After several months of not feeling well, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (the ER doctor described it as being turned into a hummingbird) which is… not fun. But I’ll talk more about some of that later. Today I bring you a short story (since that’s what most of my updates seem to encompass more often than not) that I wrote while pregnant with my last child.

Warning: It’s a darker one. My apologies for that, but the mind can be a dark and terrible place when you’re busy bringing new life into the world.

So here is We Will Wander. I hope you enjoy it.dscn0480

***

We Will Wander

Her hand shakes.

He tells himself he will remember that much, at least. The hesitation. It is what he fools himself into believing it is: a reluctance to finish the thing, even after she has brought him here, has bound him, forced him to his knees, broken his bones, left his blood to flow out into the gaps between the stones of the floor beneath him.

Her hand shakes.

Or perhaps it is fear. Has she killed before? A mother. She is a mother. No, she was a mother. And that is what frightens him more than anything, that simple change in tense. What she once had that is now lost. What she insists he bears some of the blame for taking from her.

Continue reading “The Gleam of an Update and a Short Story”