Dec 11 2013

Second Chance Layover — Part 9 (FREE Holiday Blog Serial)

Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.

Prefer to read on a Kindle or Nook? No problem, just head over to Smashwords every Wednesday to download last week’s (parts 1 – 4) and this week’s (parts 5 – 9) volumes, FREE! I also post the volumes on ARe on Thursdays. Really, there’s no excuse not to read this serial!

Of course, you can catch up here: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

And now, PART 9 of Second Chance Layover (Click title to read a quick summary of the story.):

Cover9Charli ~

“That’s my flight,” I whispered.

Cal’s touch left my face, and he took a step back. His Adam’s Apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. Had he been about to kiss me? “Good to see you, Charli.” He leaned over and pulled me into a one-armed hug, and kissed the top of my head. Like he would do to a little sister. “I’ll give you a call after the holidays.”

I hesitated. I wanted to link my hands around his neck and give him a kiss he’d never forget, like one of those dramatic breathless kisses the leading lady gave her hero in the movies. I certainly wasn’t looking leading ladylike standing awkwardly staring up at him with nothing to do but nod in acknowledgement. He winked and left me to board my flight. A shiver zipped up my spine as I watched him walk away.

The chatter of the people standing too close jarred me back to reality. My few hours in Cal’s and my private world had come to an end. Time to grudgingly shuffle onto an overcrowded airplane to spend the holidays in overcrowded condo with my family. I walked to the cattle line waiting to board.

***

Cal ~

A collective groan sounded throughout the terminal nearly drowning out the rest of the announcement. No flights would be taking off that night. The runways had been closed due to a losing battle with snow and ice accumulation.

Great.

I sprinted to the nearest ticket agent, and after a solid fifteen minute wait, got my tickets for a flight out the next day.

My mind shifted to the lone bright spot: Charli Tierney. I pulled out my phone and dialed her number. The call went directly to voice mail. I smiled at her goofy message and wondered if our game had used up the battery life of her phone. Worried that she’d be left stranded without her phone, I quickly scanned the gates as I dodged frustrated travelers.

Aspen. Bingo!

I craned my neck over the crowd of people hoping I hadn’t missed her. I smiled when I spotted a familiar blonde dragging an obnoxious pink carry-on and moving away from an agent’s counter. She stared at her phone, oblivious to my approach.

“Hey, that thing works better if you turn it on.”

***

Charli ~

I whipped my head around, relieved to hear his voice. “Cal.” I glanced back at my phone and blew out a deep breath. “I’m just delaying the inevitable. You know, the call to Mommie Dearest. Somehow this will all be my fault.”

Cover of "Mommie Dearest (Hollywood Royal...

Cover via Amazon

“She can’t possibly blame the Nor’easter on you.”

“Not the storm, but she’ll say I should’ve left earlier. She’ll bring up how my brother and sisters found ways to get to Aspen on time.”

“Is Duncan there yet?”

“He wasn’t when I called a few hours ago, but he probably is by now. Why?”

“Give me his number,” he said with a smirk.

I narrowed my eyes but gave him the number. Shit, I’d do anything if it’d save me from the wrath of my mother.

He waggled his eyebrows, and I giggled. He put his finger to my mouth and shushed me.

“Hey Duncan, my old friend. You know who this is?…Yes…Hey man, how’ve you been?…Well, funny thing just happened. Guess who I bumped into at O’Hare?…Uh, huh…yup.” He laughed and nodded his head. “Listen, they closed the airport and no more flights are leaving today. Charli’s phone died, and she’s with a ticket agent trying to get a flight out tomorrow morning. She feels horrible about being so late. Can you let your mother know? Yeah, thanks. I’m moving back to New York, so let’s get together after the holidays…Yes, of course, man…I’ll take care of Charli. She’ll call tomorrow. Okay … talk to you later.”

Cal winked and tapped his phone.

I breathed a sigh of relief. “I owe you my life.”

“I’ll settle for you having dinner with me, but first let’s get a place to spend the night. There’s a hotel in the next terminal. We’ll check in and get dinner, stay ahead of or avoid the crowds.”

“Yeah, right. The hotel is probably booked by now. I was about to lay claim on those chairs against the wall before they’re taken. Come on, there’s enough room for both of us.” I took his hand and turned toward a group of unoccupied chairs, but he wouldn’t move. My hand slipped from his.

“No need to do that. The firm I work for has a deal with the hotel chain. I reserved two rooms on the chance we weren’t getting out of here tonight.”

I cocked my head and smiled. “Really?”

200612 jakarta airport hotel

200612 jakarta airport hotel (Photo credit: iambents)

He laughed. “I always prepare for contingencies. And I never joke about a hot shower and warm bed. Let’s go,” he said holding out his hand.

I slipped my hand into his and looked away as my grin broadened. So this is what it felt like having someone look after you. I liked the feeling. I liked it a lot.

***

Want more? Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 10!

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Dec 10 2013

Second Chance Layover — Part 8 (FREE Holiday Blog Serial)

Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.

Catch up here:  Part 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6,  7

And now, PART 8 of Second Chance Layover (Click title to read a quick summary of the story.):

Cover8Cal ~

Charli, looking almost as flustered as I felt, checked her watch. “Oh my goodness! Me too!”

What’s your gate? I’m at H-10 in Terminal 3.” In our geocaching fun, we had somehow meandered to Terminal 5 where all the international flights arrived and departed. Typical Charli to go exotic on me.

Charli tapped on her phone bringing up a digital image of her boarding barcode. She always was a smarty-pants. I still hadn’t developed enough trust to abandon paper boarding passes.

“I’m flying out of gate K-11, also in Terminal 3. I guess we better get a move on.” She tacked on a smile full of beautiful white teeth surrounded by a pair of lush red lips.

A primitive urge rose up and began stirring my hormone pot. I would be having some vivid dreams tonight. But now was not the time. I motioned for her to precede me out of the bookstore’s narrow aisle and out into the concourse. My eyes drifted to the pert ass swaying with every step she took in her heels. With a pang of regret, I abandoned the view and moved to walk beside her.

We chatted about the weather and how long before we thought our flights would de-ice. We took bets on the number of times we would have to be de-iced before taking off. When the unspoken regret of parting ways began to weigh heavy, Charli piped in with a change of subject: “So how’s Renata doing? Is everything okay with her.”

Had she read my mind and plucked out the one topic I dreaded discussing but couldn’t avoid?

“I mean, I emailed her several times but never heard back from her. All my calls went to her voicemail and she never returned them. I finally gave up.”

“How long ago was this?”

Charli shot me sidelong glance, full of tentative delicacy, like she wanted to ask so much more but tiptoed through a landmine field. I wondered how much she already knew.

“About a year ago. I finally gave up. Duncan said you guys hadn’t been in touch in awhile either so he had no idea.”

I steered her to the side and out of the flow of human traffic. “Listen. There’s no right way to tell you this other than to just state it flat out. Renata’s dead, Charli.” How I managed to convey the news and keep a hitch out of my voice, I had no idea.

Charli’s hand flew to her chest. “What! Oh my God! When did this happen?”

I gave up the last breath holding my secrets in check. “She started dying about a year and a half ago.”

NYC - JFK Airport: TWA Flight Center - Departu...

NYC – JFK Airport: TWA Flight Center – Departure Board (Photo credit: wallyg)

Started dying?” She gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. “Was it cancer?”

“Of a sort. You knew she tried to make a career in Hollywood, right?” I hoped Charli knew at least some of the preamble, because the less I had to rehash, the better.

“She mentioned wanting to be an actress, many times, of course she did. What happened?”

I scraped my hand over my face. “She moved to L.A., had some minor success at first, but it wasn’t enough. She sank into a depression and turned to… self-medication—”

“What? Like drugs?”

Drugs, sex, cutting. I tried to get her to get some help, but the people she hung out with … they kept dragging her back down.”

“Oh, how awful. I wish I’d known,” Charli said softly. “How did she die?”

“A drug overdose, a lethal mixture.” I left out that Renata had been doing porn for her drugs. I found all that out later. The filmmakers kept her stoned, cultivated her habit. It would be a mercy to Charli and to Renata’s memory to keep that part of her life locked away. Charli also didn’t need the details of how my little sister danced on the boundary between life and death for nearly two weeks before I made the difficult decision to remove her from life support and watch her die. “I’m just so sick of Hollywood, of the entertainment industry, of film and television, of the leeches who prey off on girls like my sister.”

Charli pulled me into an embrace. “I’m so sorry, Cal. That’s why you decided to move back to New York?”

I nodded.

***

Charli ~

Died? Overdose? The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t believe Renata got caught up in such a horrific downward spiral. She was a couple of years younger than me, but we became pretty close in high school.

“I wished I had done a better job at staying in touch with her. Maybe I could’ve helped in some way,” I said quietly.

“I doubt you could’ve done anything.”

“Damn. Too many girls who fall into that trap; it’s easy to get caught up in the glamour.”

He glared at me. “Glamour? Shit, Charli. Watching Renata destroy herself and waste away to nothing was not my idea of glamour.”

“That’s not what I meant. Look, I’m in the entertainment business, too. I know what goes on—how young girls are forced to starve and quickly drop weight to get a job on camera. I know it too well. I’ve been told if I have any chance in getting on camera for our magazine’s cable TV channel I’d need to lose twenty pounds. I tried too. Unsuccessfully, obviously.” I snorted and rubbed my hips.

His eyes softened. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Renata’s death is still really raw for me. She was perfect the way she was, and,” he cupped my cheek, “you are too.” His husky voice dug through me and my eyes flicked to his.

Attention. Flight 1097 to Aspen will board in ten minutes.

***

Want more? Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 9!

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Dec 09 2013

Second Chance Layover — Part 7 (FREE Holiday Blog Serial)

Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.

Prefer to read on a Kindle or Nook? No problem, just head over to Smashwords every Wednesday or All Romance eBooks every Thursday for the weekly digest to catch up. Volume 1 is already posted.

Or catch up on my blog:  Part 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6

And now, PART 7 of Second Chance Layover (Click title to read a quick summary of the story.):

Cover7Cal ~

I checked the coordinates Charli texted me again. My phone’s GPS app put me in the general area where she should be. The only clue she had given me besides the coordinates was “Have a sip of water.” I spun in a circle scanning the area. A pair of men’s and women’s lavatories on the right with two water fountains between them offered the most likely hiding places given her clue. But where was my mischievous treasure?

I picked my way through the human currents running perpendicular to the direction I needed to travel. Advance. Pause. Step back. Pause. Step left. Advance, just like that old video game, Frogger.

Finally I reached the water fountains. Those had to be the water sips she meant and not that I needed to invade the ladies room or that she was hiding in the men’s room.

An old memory of Charli wormed its way into the present. I was fifteen. Back then, her brother Duncan’s room offered the best hangout on bad weather days when no adult would chauffeur us anywhere. Duncan had a better stereo, a better dirty magazine collection, better everything. He also had a pesky little sister who liked to hide and spy. Duncan had three sisters, but only one gave me grief, the same one deviling me with GPS coordinates not leading me to her, my living, urban geocache.

While that Charli might have hidden in the men’s room, visions of a very grown up Charli huddled in the handicapped stall, perched on the toilet seat encroached into ridiculous territory. On the other hand, no one I knew but Charli had the guts to do something so crazy. No doubt she was snickering, pressing a hand against her mouth to keep as silent as possible. Perhaps I only needed to listen for her to give herself away.

I tiptoed into the men’s room and scanned the stalls. None of the doors were closed all the way, but I pushed them open one by one. All empty. Reversing my tracks and ignoring the puzzled faces of the men watching me from the urinals, I headed to the water fountain.

The anemic water pressure made taking a sip of water a risky business. As I ducked my head to the water, I spied a tiny post-it note tucked between the edge of the fountain and the wall.

Traditional water fountains

Traditional water fountains (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good Job! Read any good books lately?

A rush of adrenaline made my insides tingle and put a smile on my face. Behind me, and opposite the lavatories, sat a bookstore. Of course. She was probably watching me right now.

Not yet, Charli.

Rising, I made a big show of glancing all around and scratching my head before ambling down the concourse. I melted into the crowd until out of the line of vision for anyone inside the bookstore. A nearby vending machine offered the perfect blind from which to wait and spy.

Sure enough, within a few seconds Charli emerged from the bookstore and cut her way through the crowd to the water fountains. She paused, took a drink, and then darted into the ladies restroom. Time to go. I hightailed it to the bookstore, praying the whole time she wouldn’t pop back out and bust me. I hid between some shelving units near the front. A few relocated paperbacks and I had created the perfect spyhole out into the concourse.

My cell phone chimed with an incoming text. Shit! Should have silenced the damn thing. Aha!

Dude. I’m going gray waiting for you 2 find me.

I dashed off a taunt of: “I’m hot on your trail.

Right. If you don’t find me in 10, you forfeit.”

I had to stifle my laugh when she emerged from the ladies room, and after a quick glance right and left, trotted into the bookstore. My heart pounded as I waited for her to draw even with my hiding spot.

The clicking of heels and the purr of a roller bag gave her away.

With expert timing, I lunged out, grabbed her hand, and tugged her into my secluded nook.

“And this is how you find a moving cache!” I said laughing.

She giggled and charged me, her fists thumping against my chest with what I knew to be mock fury. “Damn. I thought I had you!”

I caught her wrists and pulled her against me, both of us still laughing. Her soft body fit perfectly against mine, warm and pliant. Our racing hearts, pressed together through the fabric of our clothing, seemed to synchronize to a common rhythm. I’d never wanted to kiss a woman so desperately in my life, especially if she kept looking at me like that.

Borders Books - SeaTac Airport

Borders Books – SeaTac Airport (Photo credit: brewbooks)

She would soon be jetting west while I headed east, and who knew how long it would be before the next time we saw each other. After all, it had been over ten years since the last time. Destiny might have thrown her in my path, but karma wasn’t done collecting my debts. Charli hadn’t asked me about Renata yet.

The drifting voice of a woman urging her husband to hurry, coupled with her announcement of the time, broke the moment. My time in O’Hare had trickled down to minutes. I hadn’t even noticed the passing time thanks to the woman in my arms. With searing regret, I released her.

“Um, I have to go catch my plane,” I said quietly.

***

Want more? Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 8!

Be sure to leave a comment. There **might** be an extra something in it for you later on…like say, an Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter each week. ;)

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Dec 06 2013

Second Chance Layover — Part 6 (FREE Holiday Blog Serial)

Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.

Catch up with parts 1,  2,  3,  4,  5

And now, PART 6 of Second Chance Layover (Click title to read a quick summary of the story.):

Cover6Charli ~

Heat traveled up my neck and settled into my cheeks. I tried to hide the flush of my cheeks by resting my elbows on the table and cradling the coffee cup in front of my face “Oh, no thanks. You know what they say. A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips.” Crap. That just went down as one of the most stupid things I’d ever said to a man. My cheeks must’ve been a bright shade of Santa Claus red.

Cal chewed the first bite, and his eyes widened. “Mmm, so good. Here, try. One piece won’t hurt.”

He used his fork to slice a triangle of the warm bun, which he dunked into the gooey icing before offering it to me. I leaned over the table and inhaled the sugar and spice aroma. I opened and slid my lips over the fork, taking the warm morsel into my mouth. Oh, he was right. So good. I closed my eyes and groaned. When I reopened them he was staring at my mouth.

Like a shot of tequila, the influx of sugar made me brave. It helped I was about to board a flight in a few hours and might never see him again for another ten years, if ever. “You know, I had such a puppy dog crush on you back in the day.”

He chuckled. “I thought you hated me. You used to tease me like crazy.”bigstock-Picture-of-young-woman-with-re-41834266

“Yeah, I remember. You gave it right back though. But when I got to high school you and Duncan looked out for me.”

“Duncan looked out for you; I was just there for backup.” He chuckled and began tackling the second half of the bun. He pointed with his fork. “Want to know something I never told you?”

“Okay.”

“During my senior year I was going out with–”

“Loose Lucy!” I squealed, remembering the girl I wanted to kick in the shins every time she walked by me in the hall.

Cal snorted. “Oh yeah, that’s what you used to call her.”

I rolled my eyes. “That’s what everyone used to call her.”

He nodded knowingly. “I guess there was something to that. Anyway, she broke up with me right before the senior formal and I didn’t have a date. I asked Duncan if I could take you.”

I opened my mouth. “You did? What did he say?”

“He said if I did, he’d kick my ass. So I didn’t.”

“Wow. I had no idea.” I wondered what would’ve happened if we had gone to the formal together. I glanced up into eyes that seemed to be thinking the same thing. I cleared my throat. “You did a nice job on the cinnamon bun. So what should we do now to kill time?”

He pushed away his plate and took his smart phone from his pocket. “Want to play a game?”

“A game?” I laughed. He suddenly reminded me of the Cal from ten years ago.

600px-Geocaching.svg“Yeah. I heard of this new geo tracking app.” He put his phone in the middle of the table and swiped his finger over the on button. I glanced down and spied the Meet-And-Go.com site on the screen. No way.

“Were you on Meet-And-Go dot com too? So was I, in fact I was–” My eyes flicked to his. “Wait. You’re not BroadwayBound, are you?”

He let out a hearty chuckle and slapped a palm against the table. “I don’t believe it. This must be the weirdest thing to ever happen to me. Nice to meet you, Chartier.”

My jaw dropped even further. I slowly shook her head, my eyes pinched shut. When I opened them again, we locked gazes and our laughter slowly tapered off. To whatever deity or mystical force responsible for throwing this man in my path again, I offered a silent but heartfelt ‘thank you’. To Cal, I simply said, “I guess we were destined to meet here one way or another.”

He continued to stare at me, his smile growing wider and deeper, blooming over his face until his eyes sparkled and threw off tiny creases in the corners. The sadness I had thought I had seen before evaporated.

I couldn’t help but grin back and warmed in places other than my cheeks. I pointed to his phone. “Okay, show me what you got.”

***

Want more? Be sure to come back on MONDAY for Part 7!

Prefer to read on your e-reader? You got it. Weekly digests of the previous week’s blog posts are available Wednesdays / Thursdays at Smashwords and All Romance eBooks, respectively, in multiple formats.

Be sure to leave a comment. There **might** be an extra something in it for you later on…like say, an Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter each week. ;)

Dec 05 2013

Second Chance Layover — Part 5 (FREE Holiday Blog Serial)

Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.

Prefer to read on a Kindle or Nook? No problem, just head over to Smashwords every Wednesday to catch up. Last week’s (Volume 1) is already posted for you. Alternatively…

Click to read parts: 1,  2,  3,  4

And now, PART 5 of Second Chance Layover (Click title to read a quick summary of the story.):

Cover5Charli ~

There were plenty of other lonely travelers at O’Hare to keep BroadwayBound occupied for a while. I was sure he was probably already scrolling through the list as I stood staring at my reflection in the mirror.

Holy crap, Cal Wheaton. How long since I’d last seen him? I closed my eyes and did the mental math. Ten years. He had changed so much, I barely recognized him. I had a crush on him when we were kids, even though I never let that fact on to him or Duncan.

Cal’s appearance had certainly changed over the past ten years. His chest and shoulders filled his button down shirt nicely, a hint of well formed biceps strained the fabric in all the right places. His year round, L.A. tan favored his dark features.

I examined my pale face in the glaring artificial light. I overslept and hadn’t enough time for my normal makeup ritual. I pinched my cheeks to bring some color to the surface. I’d seen Tiffany do the same before talking to Brock, the new hottie at the station. Pinching made me look like I had a weird rash. Great. I dug to the bottom of my purse for the emergency tube of cranberry tinted lip gloss and a stray Tic Tac. Thank goodness the breath mint gods were on my side. I found and popped a Tic Tac into my mouth. After giving my hair a good fluff, I headed back to the coffee shop.

I spotted him before he noticed my return. I used the couple of spare seconds to leisurely give him a good once over. His knee bounced under the booth table. His body wore a tense stress I didn’t recall him having. His eyes flicked from the menu to me, like he sensed me studying him.

Sadness peeked through the mask of his smile. His eyes still crinkled at the corners. Cal always smiled with his eyes, a look I’d never forget. He waved me over, and I rolled my ridiculously pink carryon to the table.

“Pink, huh? I don’t remember you as much of a pink girl, but apparently that seems to be the vogue color these days,” he said, handing me a menu.

I snorted. “Got it on sale. I can always pick it out at baggage claim when I check it during longer trips, when I can’t be without my favorite hair products.” I glanced over the menu filled with usual fattening coffee shop fare. “What are you having?”bigstock-Two-White-Cups-Of-Cappuccino-C-50378666

“I already ordered you a latte, but you wanna split a cinnamon bun?”

My tastebuds went into overdrive, flooding my mouth at the thought of gooey goodness smothered with icing. Unfortunately, I may as well attach the bun to my ass because that was where it would end up.

“Just the latte’s fine.” I smile and studied his face. “I can’t believe it’s been ten years.”

“I know. Seems like just yesterday your brother and I raced you to our clubhouse.” He chuckled.

“Yeah, you said if I beat you, you’d let me in. Do you remember what I used to ask?”

A grin passed over his lips, and he crossed his arms like I used to do. “Do I get a head start?”

I laughed. “You bastards never gave me one.”

His eyes met mine. “I was so stupid back then.”

A glint of wonder in his eyes made me lose my train of thought. I cleared my throat as the waitress stopped at the table to take our order. Cal rattled off our order, which gave my brain time enough to recover from its lusty hiccup. “I hear you’re a big time LA lawyer now. You must’ve traded your motorcycle for a shiny red convertible,” I said when the waitress left our table.

“You still remember that bucket of bolts?” His eyes widened, brows hiked up.

“Remember? How could I forget that summer you and Duncan got it running. I thought my father was going to kill Duncan for all of the grease stains on the driveway.”

bigstock-Motorcycle-On-A-White-Backgrou-3542653The waitress brought the cinnamon bun wearing an extra few tablespoons of icing. She spent a little too much time refilling Cal’s coffee cup. The diversion gave me a chance to recall how I’d rush to the window every time the rusty motor chugged to a rest in front of my house, an almost daily occurrence. I used to fantasize about Cal swinging open the front door and taking my hand in his. He led me to the motorcycle where I straddled the seat and nuzzled my cheek against his back. I wrapped my arms around his waist. The heat from his body radiated through his thin t-shirt, touching me in places I had never been touched.

“Earth to Charli.”

A flash of metal from the fork he waved in front of my eyes returned me to the present.

“Want a taste?” He raised his eyebrows, forcing my brain down a more grown up trail of impure thoughts.

***

Want more? Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 6!

Be sure to leave a comment. There **might** be an extra something in it for you later on…like say, an Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter each week. ;)

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