I know I've been away a while...I'm working feverishly during this NANOWRIMO season to finish my newest novel, "Missing in Manitowoc." HOWEVER, I thought I'd check in and just remind you all that I also have several other books you can read while you're waiting for that. The newest one is "A Hero's Spark" which I published this spring. Here's a tidbit of that! Enjoy!
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What woke him, Collier didn’t know, but even in the haze of deep sleep, he knew he wasn’t alone in the loft. Someone latched the door quietly and stepped closer to the bed before turning on the overhead light.
“Who’s there?” he called out as the light flashed on, momentarily blinding him. A woman’s scream pierced through the shock of light and he squinted in her general direction. He recognized the black hair immediately. Surprise mingled with confusion.“What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing.” She held her bulky shoulder bag in front of her like a shield. “Who are you?”
Collier shifted to sit up. She froze. “Don’t move. I’ve got mace in here.”
“Calm down. I’m not going to move, since I’m pretty much naked here.” Collier grinned. “But you and I both know you don’t have mace.”
The angry light in her eyes quavered, giving way to uncertainty. “How would you know what I have in my bag?”
“Well,” he kept his voice calm, sensing she was more afraid than dangerous, “because if you had mace in there, you would have started spraying it the minute you realized there was a man in the room. That’s what I hear from most women, anyway.”
She blinked away the uncertainty, her face settled into a mask of defensiveness. “Oh, and you know most women, do you?”
“No, Miss, I don’t. But I’m pretty sure most women wouldn’t ask any questions before mentioning they have mace. So relax, put the bag down and tell me what you’re doing here.”
“I’ve stayed here before. I’ve worked with Shara.”
“You’re trying to be mysterious. Why do I feel like you’re lying to me?”
“Okay, well, I’ve lived here almost my whole life, and you’re a stranger. That’s enough mystery for me to call the cops. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t.”
“My uncle said I could stay here and Molly Hunter brought me here.”
She seemed less likely to want to kill him, but her countenance remained stony. “Who’s your uncle?”
“You know him?”
“Everyone knows about Archibald James.” She relaxed. “Okay, maybe you’re not a mass rapist.” She sat in the rocker. “But still, you can’t stay here.”
“Because, I’m staying here.”
Collier chuckled. “I was here first. And, I’m not wearing pants.”
“I’ll close my eyes. Get dressed, and get out.” Her tone was clipped, cold. Collier again sensed she was covering fear.
“Why should I get out? I got here first. I was sound asleep, and you woke me up.” He gave her a small smile, hoping to soften the deep furrows in her brow.
She shrugged. “Not my problem. You can’t stay here.”
“It is your problem. I’m not leaving.” He grinned. “We could both stay here. It’s a big enough bed.” He patted the spot next to him.
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Of course that’s what you want.” Her eyes flashed hot and angry.
“It’s not what I want, Ma’am. I want to go to sleep. But if you have other ideas, well, I am from the South. We believe in accommodating women whenever we can.”
She stared at him, and Collier doubted his humor was warming her attitude. Clearly, some sort of battle waged behind her emerald eyes.
Her face slacked into exhaustion. “I need to stay here.”
Collier’s curiosity made him push the point further. “Well, I’m from out of town and have no place else to go. From what I hear, Miranda Pierce, you live in Rock Harbor which means you do have someplace else to go.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Isn’t it your name?”
“Call me Mira.” A shadow crossed her face. “I’m not going to that house tonight. You can’t make me.” her voice held the echoes of a willful child. “And how do you know my name…oh, wait…”
Mira nodded. “She knows everyone and everything in this town. Steer clear of her if you want to keep anything private.”
“She didn’t strike me as a person who spread gossip.”
“She doesn’t. She just knows everything. The potential is always there.”
An interesting read on the lovely Miss Molly. “So the two of you aren’t grand friends then?”
She leaned back in the rocker. “I try not to make attachments. It’s easier to leave if there aren’t any attachments.”
“Sounds like someone who wants to run away.”
“I’ve always wanted to run away. I feel like I’m running away from something every day of my life.”
Collier wanted to be annoyed by her cryptic statement, but watching her face, he sensed it was probably the one completely truthful thing she’d said. Collier tried to assess her age. “You’re what, thirty? You’re old enough to go out on your own. What’s stopping you?”
“I’m twenty-eight, thank you.”
“Oh, that’s a huge difference.” Collier nearly laughed aloud at the wounded expression on Mira’s face.
“I can’t leave because it’s complicated. But I can’t go home tonight.”
The glimmer of true fear returned in her eyes. Collier relented. “Fine. Just go…go in the bathroom for a minute, let me get my crap together and I’ll go sleep on the hay downstairs.”
“You want a blanket or something?”
Her friendly tone annoyed him. “What, now that you’ve won the bed, you’re worried about me?”
The softness melted from her face and her jaw line hardened. “Not really. I couldn’t care less about you having a blanket, so long as you’re not in here.”
“Suits me fine. I’d rather sleep with horses than up here with you. Less shit to deal with.”
“Oh, very nice. They teach you that language in the South where men are supposed to be so mannerly?” She glared at him as she stomped into the small bathroom and slammed the door.
“No!” Collier yelled as he pulled on his jeans. “I learned manners just fine, because where I come from the women aren’t complete bitches!” He stuffed a few things into his duffle bag and slammed the door behind him, startling the horses in the stalls below.
There was a blanket hung from a hook near a stack of hay bales. Collier spread the blanket over the bales and stretched out on the hay, thankful his years on the road in the Renaissance Faire circuit had toughened him. Staring at the ceiling, he watched the light that glowed from between small cracks in the loft floor. When the light switched off, he closed his eyes. Still, she is pretty.
Mira waited for Collier to settle downstairs. Within a few minutes, everything was still and quiet. She sat on the edge of the bed and pulled off her boots, letting them drop to the wooden floor with a loud thud. Collier’s muttered curse made her smile. She wasn’t sure why annoying him gave her pleasure.
She stretched out on the bed, still warm with his body heat. She pushed her face into the pillow and inhaled his scent. It wasn’t unpleasant.
Closing her eyes, Mira saw him again, sitting in the bed, shirtless, the sheet and blanket pooled at his waist.
Also not unpleasant.
She shook her head. Now is not the time to be thinking about a guy. No matter how good he might smell.
She picked up her boot and tossed it in the air, giving it more velocity so that when it hit the wooden floor it sounded like a thunder clap. The sound of the horses below whinnying and rustling in their stalls didn’t cover Collier’s curses, this time spoken at volume she knew was meant to reach her ears.
Mira smiled, closed her eyes, and went to sleep.