Created for Christmas – Novella Update

Throughout this month (October) I shared my Christmas Novella: Created for Christmas. As of November 1st, I had to take it down to prevent being in violation of my contract with Amazon. (The story publishes November 15th.)

Thank you all for your support! If you didn’t get finished reading the story, you can grab a copy HERE. Also, for new arrivals, the first chapter is posted below.

But, I have some exciting news for all of you who read it! I had many people interested in Ivory and Ethan’s story, so I’m in the process of writing Validated by Valentine’s. It’s up on Amazon now and you can pre-order HERE it if you like.

Sweet Little Holiday Romance Series

 

Created for Christmas:

December 5th: Twenty-Two Days until Christmas

Chapter 1

In the tiny Dream Droids’ waiting room, my hands fiddled with the hem of my skirt. After two years of contemplating an artificial companion, I gathered the nerve and gave myself a Christmas present.

The door opened on the far corner, and a thin man with dark rimmed glasses and light brown hair stuck his head out. His ice-blue eyes caught mine, causing my heart to pick up speed. “Ivy Weldon?” he asked.

I dropped the hem of my skirt and grabbed the bag containing my dad’s Christmas gift that rested beside my chair. I had swung by the comic bookstore next door before this meeting, not expecting to find the perfect present. I slung the bag’s handle over my arm, smoothed out my skirt with the other hand, and crossed the room, trying to ensure I looked presentable. “Yeah, that’s me. Are you Dr. Pierce?”

He nodded and greeted me with a soft, warm handshake. “You can call me Dayton. I prefer the more informal.” When our hands parted, he shoved his into his lab coat pocket.

“I’m so happy to finally meet you.” I stepped through the door Dayton held open into a brightly lit hallway.

Dayton and I had been emailing back and forth and talking on the phone for over a month now. He had patiently explained the process of creating a humanoid to me. I was almost as excited to meet him as I was to create my Dream Droid.

“You’re much younger than I expected,” I said.

He laughed. “I must have an old-sounding voice. I get that a lot.” His voice was deep, but didn’t sound old.

“It’s just that you were so knowledgeable of the process and great at explaining it to me. It was nice. If it wasn’t for you, I may have given up on this concept.”

“Thank you. It means I’m doing my job well. Dream Droids pays me to put you at ease. You’re younger than I expected, too. I mean, people making a Dream Droid are usually a little older.”

“I’m older than I look. I’m in my upper thirties.”

He laughed. “I doubt that.”

“Okay, thirty-six, but it’s beyond my prime.”

I caught a smile on his face when he glanced over his shoulder while leading me down the hallway. “You never told me what brings you to Dream Droids. I know you want a companion, obviously, but we still haven’t touched on the specifics, and don’t tell me it’s because you’re past your prime.”

My cheeks heated. We never discussed the specifics because I had deliberately avoided pouring my heart out to a man I had just met. I looked around to see who was listening, and lowered my voice, searching for the words. “I guess I’m just tired of being alone. Even with my dog Sharky at home, the house still feels empty.” That wasn’t the whole story, but hopefully it was enough.

Dayton’s words were way too loud. “Are you looking for a short-term or long-term companion?”

“Long-term, of course!” Why would anyone go to this extreme for something short-term?

Dayton opened the last door in the hallway and held it open for me. As I stepped inside a room twice the size of my bedroom, he pointed to a pair of comfortable-looking brown leather chairs sitting around a TV screen that monopolized one wall. I took a seat, setting Dad’s present beside me, and Dayton picked up a wireless keyboard from a table between the two chairs.

After Dayton settled in the leather armchair closest to me, the room filled with the soft clicking of keys and the TV came to life, flashing through a series of digital paperwork. “We need to fill out a series of forms that will be used to create your humanoid’s programming. This data will control everything about him, from his baseline knowledge, his physical appearance, personality, and even what information he innately knows about you. From our conversations on the phone, I’ve already filled out about half of them, but Dream Droids likes to meet our clients in person to complete the more critical information. Are you ready to get started?”

I took a deep breath and nodded.

“First off, I need to know why do you really want a droid?”

“I already said I’m looking for companionship. Someone to occupy my home with. Someone I can talk to when nobody else is around.”

“Yes, that’s why you want a droid, but maybe I should rephrase the question. Why are you choosing a droid over a human? Remember, I need the whole truth to truly create a Dream Droid.”

I sucked in my bottom lip, then blew out a breath. I felt raw admitting these words, but I let them be spoken for the first time out loud. “Because I’ve already loved once in my life. I don’t need to do it again.” As an image of Niles, my ex-fiancé filled my mind, my eyes flooded with tears. It was like I was right back there, a few Christmases ago, and he was leaving me once again.

“Many people love more than one person in a lifetime.” He tilted his head at me, and I tried to school my face. “You’re afraid of something…afraid to get your heart broken?”

My tears dried as quickly as they came. “I’m not afraid. I just don’t need to do it again. Why subject yourself to that kind of pain?” But his words stirred something inside. Was that fear? Was I a coward? I had loved Niles for nearly ten years, but three years ago, he stomped on my heart without warning, leaving me for a coworker who was carrying his child. At the time, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get out of bed for more than a week, and I never want to feel that again. “A droid just seems less…complicated.”

Dayton nodded and typed non-human companionship into the form. When he was done, he balanced the keyboard on his armrest and leaned his forearms on his thighs. “I need to make sure you’re clear about something. A droid will never love you. They’re hard-programmed against that sentiment.”

“That’s perfect. I don’t need love. I’ve already had love once in my life and it wasn’t fun.” I fumbled with the hem of my skirt again. “Besides, I have love. Lots of love. My family is amazing and supports me with everything I do. I have five siblings.”

“Five?” Dayton laughed. “That must be a handful! When I was younger, I was happy that I was an only child since I didn’t have to share Mom and Dad’s attention with anyone. Now that they’re gone, I wished I had a big family.” He smiled awkwardly, then looked away. “I shouldn’t share this. Go on about love not being fun.” There was almost a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Not the mean kind, but the sweet, teasing type. Like you do with a long-time friend.

“I didn’t mean love wasn’t fun. I just meant the end wasn’t fun.” I shook my head. Making a humanoid wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d expected. It appeared that I was going to have to face my deepest, hidden emotions to get my droid companion, but I was tired of being lonely. “I did have fun with Niles…and loved him with all my heart…he just didn’t seem to love me the same way.”

Dayton nodded, then turned back towards the computer screen. “I have some gaps in the earlier forms we need to fill in. Some basics, like what is your favorite color?”

I rattled off answers to about a hundred questions before Dayton clicked around on a collection of forms and finally hit Save.

“Very good,” he said. “We’re done for today.”

“That’s it?” A kaleidoscope of butterflies filled my stomach. We were one step closer to my loyal companion that would never leave me. One that would go with me to my family events so I didn’t have to go alone. One that would be waiting for me at home every day after I finish with clients at my accounting firm. I couldn’t wait.

“Our hour’s up and that’s it for today. We need to meet once a week for the next three weeks to finish the build.”

“Three more meetings? I was hoping to have him soon.” Like by tomorrow for my family’s Parade of Presents tradition, but on the bright side, I’d see Dayton a few more times before this was over.

“We just finished the basic information and still need to create the complexities that will make him seem human. Next week, we’ll go over physical appearance. The following will be personality, then at the last meeting, we’ll bring him to life…so three more meetings. You’ll still have him in time for Christmas.” Dayton looked down at the gift I purchased for Dad. “Sorry, I couldn’t help getting a glimpse inside your bag, but is that a vintage Spider-Man action figure?”

I pulled out the vintage toy. “Yeah. It’s a gift for my dad. I figured since Dream Droids is right next to AmaZing Comics, I’d check it out for a perfect Christmas present. See, when I was a child, I used to watch the Spider-Man cartoon with my father. It was the only bit of TV he had time to watch. I loved…well, I still love Spider-Man and so does Dad! He’s going to love this!”

“Can I see it?” Dayton cautiously reached out.

“Sure.” I proudly handed the package over.

Dayton fondled the package as if it was made of delicate glass, turning it over in his hands. “I always check out the Spider-Man table at Comic-Con.”

“Comic-Con?”

“Don’t tell me that you haven’t heard of Comic-Con? It’s where all lovers of fantasy and superheroes get together and share their passion. There’s one going on this weekend downtown. It starts Friday night. You should check it out. It can be a little odd and overwhelming, but they have lots of stuff like this for sale. Usually for a good deal, too.” He lifted the Spider-Man action figure up, turned it over one last time, then slipped it back into the bag.

“Hmm. As tempting as it is, I don’t need to go,” I smiled, taking the bag back from Dayton. “I already have the perfect gift.” Part of me wanted to get to know Dayton a little better, but he didn’t exactly offer to take me to Comic-Con. Besides, I didn’t need the distraction. I had lots of family Christmas festivities in the next few weeks, end of the year tax documents to begin at work, and what purpose did it have? I was committed to my no more men mantra.

A sweet smile emerged on his lips. “Well, if you’re bored, it’s quite a sight to see.” His eyes glistened in a way that made me want to share the joy that he felt towards Comic-Con

Dayton stood. “I really need to get to my next appointment. I’ll see you next week.”

Next week. I took a deep breath and nodded, certain that this was going to be the longest month of my life as I waited in anticipation for my Dream Droid.

Grab the entire story HERE.

 

Created for Christmas – A Blog Serial Novella

Throughout this month (October) I shared my Christmas Novella: Created for Christmas. As of November 1st, I had to take it down to prevent being in violation of my contract with Amazon. (The story publishes November 15th.)

Thank you all for your support! If you didn’t get finished reading the story, you can grab a copy HERE. Also, for new arrivals, the first chapter is posted below.

Here’s the blurb:

Need the perfect man? No problem—simply create him!

Ivy wanted nothing more for Christmas than to have someone to come home to…to have a companion to chat about her day with, and someone to show off at her family holiday celebrations.

This Christmas, she’s not going to be alone! Ivy decides to create her perfect companion at Dream Droids, the premier robotics company specializing in sentiment humanoids. Ivy spends weeks with Dr. Pierce, creating her dream man, from his appearance, personality, and even his knowledge of her life.

There’s just a few problems: when a special gift she purchased for her father goes missing, and Dr. Pierce agrees to help her find it, she finds herself falling for him. After getting her heart stomped on by her ex-fiancé, there’s no way she can open it up again…besides, she just created the perfect man.

A Serial Novella (1)

December 5th: Twenty-Two Days until Christmas

Chapter 1

In the tiny Dream Droids’ waiting room, my hands fiddled with the hem of my skirt. After two years of contemplating an artificial companion, I gathered the nerve and gave myself a Christmas present.

The door opened on the far corner, and a thin man with dark rimmed glasses and light brown hair stuck his head out. His ice-blue eyes caught mine, causing my heart to pick up speed. “Ivy Weldon?” he asked.

I dropped the hem of my skirt and grabbed the bag containing my dad’s Christmas gift that rested beside my chair. I had swung by the comic bookstore next door before this meeting, not expecting to find the perfect present. I slung the bag’s handle over my arm, smoothed out my skirt with the other hand, and crossed the room, trying to ensure I looked presentable. “Yeah, that’s me. Are you Dr. Pierce?”

He nodded and greeted me with a soft, warm handshake. “You can call me Dayton. I prefer the more informal.” When our hands parted, he shoved his into his lab coat pocket.

“I’m so happy to finally meet you.” I stepped through the door Dayton held open into a brightly lit hallway.

Dayton and I had been emailing back and forth and talking on the phone for over a month now. He had patiently explained the process of creating a humanoid to me. I was almost as excited to meet him as I was to create my Dream Droid.

“You’re much younger than I expected,” I said.

He laughed. “I must have an old-sounding voice. I get that a lot.” His voice was deep, but didn’t sound old.

“It’s just that you were so knowledgeable of the process and great at explaining it to me. It was nice. If it wasn’t for you, I may have given up on this concept.”

“Thank you. It means I’m doing my job well. Dream Droids pays me to put you at ease. You’re younger than I expected, too. I mean, people making a Dream Droid are usually a little older.”

“I’m older than I look. I’m in my upper thirties.”

He laughed. “I doubt that.”

“Okay, thirty-six, but it’s beyond my prime.”

I caught a smile on his face when he glanced over his shoulder while leading me down the hallway. “You never told me what brings you to Dream Droids. I know you want a companion, obviously, but we still haven’t touched on the specifics, and don’t tell me it’s because you’re past your prime.”

My cheeks heated. We never discussed the specifics because I had deliberately avoided pouring my heart out to a man I had just met. I looked around to see who was listening, and lowered my voice, searching for the words. “I guess I’m just tired of being alone. Even with my dog Sharky at home, the house still feels empty.” That wasn’t the whole story, but hopefully it was enough.

Dayton’s words were way too loud. “Are you looking for a short-term or long-term companion?”

“Long-term, of course!” Why would anyone go to this extreme for something short-term?

Dayton opened the last door in the hallway and held it open for me. As I stepped inside a room twice the size of my bedroom, he pointed to a pair of comfortable-looking brown leather chairs sitting around a TV screen that monopolized one wall. I took a seat, setting Dad’s present beside me, and Dayton picked up a wireless keyboard from a table between the two chairs.

After Dayton settled in the leather armchair closest to me, the room filled with the soft clicking of keys and the TV came to life, flashing through a series of digital paperwork. “We need to fill out a series of forms that will be used to create your humanoid’s programming. This data will control everything about him, from his baseline knowledge, his physical appearance, personality, and even what information he innately knows about you. From our conversations on the phone, I’ve already filled out about half of them, but Dream Droids likes to meet our clients in person to complete the more critical information. Are you ready to get started?”

I took a deep breath and nodded.

“First off, I need to know why do you really want a droid?”

“I already said I’m looking for companionship. Someone to occupy my home with. Someone I can talk to when nobody else is around.”

“Yes, that’s why you want a droid, but maybe I should rephrase the question. Why are you choosing a droid over a human? Remember, I need the whole truth to truly create a Dream Droid.”

I sucked in my bottom lip, then blew out a breath. I felt raw admitting these words, but I let them be spoken for the first time out loud. “Because I’ve already loved once in my life. I don’t need to do it again.” As an image of Niles, my ex-fiancé filled my mind, my eyes flooded with tears. It was like I was right back there, a few Christmases ago, and he was leaving me once again.

“Many people love more than one person in a lifetime.” He tilted his head at me, and I tried to school my face. “You’re afraid of something…afraid to get your heart broken?”

My tears dried as quickly as they came. “I’m not afraid. I just don’t need to do it again. Why subject yourself to that kind of pain?” But his words stirred something inside. Was that fear? Was I a coward? I had loved Niles for nearly ten years, but three years ago, he stomped on my heart without warning, leaving me for a coworker who was carrying his child. At the time, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get out of bed for more than a week, and I never want to feel that again. “A droid just seems less…complicated.”

Dayton nodded and typed non-human companionship into the form. When he was done, he balanced the keyboard on his armrest and leaned his forearms on his thighs. “I need to make sure you’re clear about something. A droid will never love you. They’re hard-programmed against that sentiment.”

“That’s perfect. I don’t need love. I’ve already had love once in my life and it wasn’t fun.” I fumbled with the hem of my skirt again. “Besides, I have love. Lots of love. My family is amazing and supports me with everything I do. I have five siblings.”

“Five?” Dayton laughed. “That must be a handful! When I was younger, I was happy that I was an only child since I didn’t have to share Mom and Dad’s attention with anyone. Now that they’re gone, I wished I had a big family.” He smiled awkwardly, then looked away. “I shouldn’t share this. Go on about love not being fun.” There was almost a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Not the mean kind, but the sweet, teasing type. Like you do with a long-time friend.

“I didn’t mean love wasn’t fun. I just meant the end wasn’t fun.” I shook my head. Making a humanoid wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d expected. It appeared that I was going to have to face my deepest, hidden emotions to get my droid companion, but I was tired of being lonely. “I did have fun with Niles…and loved him with all my heart…he just didn’t seem to love me the same way.”

Dayton nodded, then turned back towards the computer screen. “I have some gaps in the earlier forms we need to fill in. Some basics, like what is your favorite color?”

I rattled off answers to about a hundred questions before Dayton clicked around on a collection of forms and finally hit Save.

“Very good,” he said. “We’re done for today.”

“That’s it?” A kaleidoscope of butterflies filled my stomach. We were one step closer to my loyal companion that would never leave me. One that would go with me to my family events so I didn’t have to go alone. One that would be waiting for me at home every day after I finish with clients at my accounting firm. I couldn’t wait.

“Our hour’s up and that’s it for today. We need to meet once a week for the next three weeks to finish the build.”

“Three more meetings? I was hoping to have him soon.” Like by tomorrow for my family’s Parade of Presents tradition, but on the bright side, I’d see Dayton a few more times before this was over.

“We just finished the basic information and still need to create the complexities that will make him seem human. Next week, we’ll go over physical appearance. The following will be personality, then at the last meeting, we’ll bring him to life…so three more meetings. You’ll still have him in time for Christmas.” Dayton looked down at the gift I purchased for Dad. “Sorry, I couldn’t help getting a glimpse inside your bag, but is that a vintage Spider-Man action figure?”

I pulled out the vintage toy. “Yeah. It’s a gift for my dad. I figured since Dream Droids is right next to AmaZing Comics, I’d check it out for a perfect Christmas present. See, when I was a child, I used to watch the Spider-Man cartoon with my father. It was the only bit of TV he had time to watch. I loved…well, I still love Spider-Man and so does Dad! He’s going to love this!”

“Can I see it?” Dayton cautiously reached out.

“Sure.” I proudly handed the package over.

Dayton fondled the package as if it was made of delicate glass, turning it over in his hands. “I always check out the Spider-Man table at Comic-Con.”

“Comic-Con?”

“Don’t tell me that you haven’t heard of Comic-Con? It’s where all lovers of fantasy and superheroes get together and share their passion. There’s one going on this weekend downtown. It starts Friday night. You should check it out. It can be a little odd and overwhelming, but they have lots of stuff like this for sale. Usually for a good deal, too.” He lifted the Spider-Man action figure up, turned it over one last time, then slipped it back into the bag.

“Hmm. As tempting as it is, I don’t need to go,” I smiled, taking the bag back from Dayton. “I already have the perfect gift.” Part of me wanted to get to know Dayton a little better, but he didn’t exactly offer to take me to Comic-Con. Besides, I didn’t need the distraction. I had lots of family Christmas festivities in the next few weeks, end of the year tax documents to begin at work, and what purpose did it have? I was committed to my no more men mantra.

A sweet smile emerged on his lips. “Well, if you’re bored, it’s quite a sight to see.” His eyes glistened in a way that made me want to share the joy that he felt towards Comic-Con

Dayton stood. “I really need to get to my next appointment. I’ll see you next week.”

Next week. I took a deep breath and nodded, certain that this was going to be the longest month of my life as I waited in anticipation for my Dream Droid.

Grab the entire story HERE.

 

Sneak Peek of “The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives”

I finished my first real draft of The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives and also came up with a new cover design. I wanted to share both with you. Next up is beta readers for this story, a round or two more of edits…then the editor…then it’ll be done! Woo Hoo! This one took me way to long, as it was my November NaNoWriMo Project.

(Just shows you that you can lose NaNoWriMo, and yet still finish your novel.)

Okay…new cover! 

LOW QUALITY SH WIVES

And here’s the first day of my story. It doesn’t have chapters, as I thought I’d try something different. (It takes place over a three week time span.) This story is lighter and…naughtier than anything I’ve written before. Nothing graphic, but there’s definitely tension. Maybe cozy mystery mixed with chick lit and superhero fiction? (I suck at writing to market.)

**Remember, this is a first draft and subject to beta readers and editing yet.**

YOU CAN FIND THIS ON AMAZON HERE.


Saturday, April 3rd

ARIANA 

‘Psst, Ariana. I’m gonna be late.’ Adam’s hushed voice whispered in Ariana’s mind, jolting her out of the present.

“Hold still,” her mother said.

Ariana stiffened and ignored her mom, focusing on her future husband instead. She wondered how long it’d take to get used to his telepathic superpower. She opened her mind to him and sent a reply, ‘Why?’

‘I’ve been…detained.’ Adam forced an image to flood her mind: his naked body with his manliness poorly covered by his hand. Her cheeks tingled and warmed as she looked at her mother’s smile. She focused on the image in her head instead, noticing the scorch marks on Adam’s skin. Black ash against his thighs and across the ripples of his abdomen. What had happened? She assessed his skin, unharmed as usual.

Her fiancé’s voice continued. ‘I may not make it in time.’

‘Like hell you won’t.’ She shifted her weight on the chair she stood on. Her hand jolted to her rump, swatting her aunt’s hand away. “Ouch!”

“Hey, you need to keep still.” Her aunt gripped her hips to keep her in place.

Ariana sprang off the chair, the bustle of her white gown half pinned, and half flowing behind her. “Um, I gotta go.”

Her mom’s jaw fell open. “You need to go? Now’s not the time for cold feet.”

Ariana found her mom’s purse, pulled out the minivan keys, and gave her mom a kiss on the cheek. “Trust me, if I don’t go now, there won’t be a wedding.”

Her mom’s jaw opened, and she appeared to search for words, but Ariana ignored her, focusing on Adam instead. ‘Where are you?’ She sent to Adam.

‘The alley behind Top Perks Coffee Shop.’

‘Do you know what time it is?’

Adam sent an image of his bare wrist. ‘I was going to look for my missing my watch, but I couldn’t find the time.’ He transmitted a chuckle.

‘Of course, you have a joke. You always have jokes. Come on! Our wedding starts in less than an hour.’

‘I know.’ Adam’s words enunciated in her mind. ‘That’s why I’m telling you I’ll be late.’

‘Stay there.’

Ariana flew out the door, her mother hot on her tail. “Where are you going?”

“No time to explain. Meet me at the church,” she panted.

Ariana stopped in the study of her parent’s house and snatched Adam’s Tux, flinging it over her shoulder. She wrapped yards of her gown’s white fabric around her arm and ran to her parent’s minivan.

“Ariana, you can’t do—” Her mother’s voice drowned by the purring V-6 of the sensible gold party machine.

The tires squealed as she flew down the driveway, leaving her mother yelling at her in the front yard. “Sorry, Ma, but there’s no way I’m being stood up on my wedding day.”

More than one neighbors’ necks turned to rubber as they watched the scene of the runaway bride. Ariana waved and blew them a kiss before she further pressed the accelerator and clenched the steering wheel.

The van lurched one way and then the other as she rounded the corners through the back streets of the city, running a few red lights and ignoring the speed limits. Who had time for that crap, anyway?

Leaving a track of rubber on the pavement, she screeched to a halt in front of a rusted dumpster at the end of the alley, perfectly matching the image Adam had sent. She clicked the button to open the side door, yelling into the empty ally, “This better be good.”

With caution, Adam emerged from behind the dumpster with one hand covering his frontside and another covering his backside. The hair was singed off his chest. Hmm…was all his hair below his neck burned off? She looked down at his legs. Yup, that’ll be interesting.

He crawled into the van.

Not waiting for the door to close, Ariana threw the vehicle in reverse and spun the tires out of the alley, heading for the church.

“Here,” she huffed, handing her naked fiancé a small foil-wrapped package.

In the rearview mirror, Adam twirled the package in his hand. “Fingernail polish removing wipes?”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t be complaining right now. Get the soot off and throw your tux on. Honestly, today, I don’t care what you look like. I wouldn’t even care if the hair on the top of your head would have been burned off. You have a wedding to be at in thirty minutes.”

Adam ran a hand through his short, light brown locks, appearing to ensure it was still there. “Don’t you want to know what happened?”

“That’s not important right now. Focus.” Ariana pointed at the tux then to Adam.

Adam laughed. “Well, he got away.”

“I said, get ready.” She hid any amusement from her voice.

“Isn’t it bad luck to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony?”

Ariana looked up at the ceiling and held up a finger. “One day. All I ask is that you show up ON TIME this one day.” Ariana’s arm was shaking. She returned her hand to the wheel and tightened her grip. Note to self: don’t let Adam out of your sight on days with important events.

Adam was laughing now. “Don’t you ever worry about me?”

Ariana’s her heart raced and her palms were wet from sweat. “You’re invincible. You’ll always be fine. Now put that tux on!”

Pulling the van up to the church steps, she turned to her future husband. His lip curled up, and all her anger melted away. She took a deep breath as he leaned forward and placed a kiss on her forehead, giving one of her blond ringlets a little tug. He whispered, “I love you, but, I think, you’ll be late.” In a flash, Adam was out of the van and disappeared into the church.

Out came Ariana’s mother, her wavy gray hair wild in the wind. Ari stepped out of the van, took a deep breath, and smiled, letting it all sink in. She was going to marry the man of her dreams today. This was truly the beginning of the rest of her life. A fabulous life with an amazing partner at her side.

Her mom took her hand and helped her out. “We have ten minutes to finish getting you ready.”

Her dad stepped beside them. “You look beautiful, Dear.”

Ariana smiled. This was everything she ever wanted. Loving parents and marrying a man, everyone drooled about—even if they only drooled when he was in costume, saving the world.

 VICTORIA

Victoria swirled her straw in her Diet Coke. She hated Diet Coke, but being in a newer relationship, she needed to keep her figure in better shape than a marshmallow Peep. The duck kind, not the bunny ones. The thought was making her hungry. She enjoyed being “full bodied” and wanted to keep her curves. It was a fine line to not be too skinny, nor too heavy. The Diet Coke was her balance, but it reminded her how much it sucked to be thirty and no longer married.

Today, her mind was on everything except the man in front of her. Work, the book she was reading, and her grocery list.

“Vicky?”

Victoria shook her head and looked up at Mike. “Sorry, I was distracted. I have a lot going on. What did you say?”

“I had asked if you wanted to get away this week. You said you took a few days off of work. We could go to my cousin’s lake cottage. It would be romantic.” He winked at her.

Should she tell him she hated winking? It was creepy and something a sleaze-bag would do. She bit her tongue and focused on his question. “This week? Um… I’ll have Chew-Barka. Can I bring him?”

The smile on Mike’s face dissolved as he rubbed his temple. “I can ask, but can’t your ex take him?”

She sat back in her chair. “Ask him to do me a favor? I’d rather give up chocolate.”

Mike tilted his chin. “You know Thursday’s our anniversary.”

“Anniversary?”

“We’ve been dating for three months.”

Had it been that long already? “You’re counting months? I thought only teenagers did that.”

Mike’s lips tightened. “Are you not into this relationship?”

She swirled her straw, splashing soda over the edge of the glass. “Yeah, it’s fine… I mean good. It’s just—”

Mike looked up. “Speaking of the devil. How is it he always seems to interrupt us?”

She ground her teeth, not needing to spin around to know her ex-husband stood behind her. “Yes, Vance, how is it you always seem to know where I am?”

Her ex made his way to the side of their table. His voice was smooth, deep, and familiar. Victoria tried to forget how much it appealed to her. “Coincidence, I guess. I was on my way to the mayor’s campaign headquarters, but saw you here.”

“Come on. Campaign headquarters is across the city.” Victoria played with her straw.

“You’re a supporter?” Mike asked. “I thought nobody liked the Mayor. How he won, I’ll never know.”

“Obviously, more than half the city likes him, otherwise he wouldn’t have won. Besides, I always root for the underdog.”

Mike leaned forward. “I read that they are trying to have a recall election. Nobody believes he won.”

Victoria turned to Vance and didn’t hide the annoyance in her voice. “So, why are you here?”

Vance’s smile said I’m-hiding-something-I’m-not-going-to-tell-you. “I was simply getting extra steps in.” He turned to Mike. “So, how have ya been?” He gave Mike a small punch on his shoulder.

“Ow—” Mike jerked away, shielding his bicep with his hand. He straightened and recovered his manliness.

Vance didn’t seem phased. “Were you done here?”

Victoria ground her teeth together. “No. We hadn’t ordered yet.”

“Great!” Vance smiled. “I’m starving.” He grabbed a chair from the neighboring table, turned it backwards and straddled it.

“Join us,” Mike said to the already sitting down Vance. “I think Victoria has a question for you, anyway.”

Vance picked up the menu that laid in front of Mike. “Were you done with this?” He tipped down his sunglasses and stared at Mike’s hot coffee for a moment.

He better not use his power.

He tipped his sunglasses back in place and smiled again. A smile that made Victoria sweat. “A question for me? You were thinking about me?”

Victoria shook her head and sputtered out the lies. “I don’t have a question, and I never think about you.”

Mike interjected. “What she means is would you keep Chew-Barka until the weekend?”

“This weekend?”

“Yeah, I’d like to take Victoria away for our anniversary.” Mike picked up his coffee.

“Anniversary? What’s it been? A few months? I thought only kids counted months.” Vance shook his head and focused on the menu. “Nah. That won’t work. I’m busy.”

Victoria set her menu down and glared at her ex. “You’re busy? How is it that you always seem to find enough time to find me and torment me?”

“Well, I have plans now.” Vance turned away from Mike, towards Victoria, and curled the corner of his lip up into a sly smile. Of course he had plans. They involved keeping her and Mike apart. Now throw in a little irritating her and Vance’s week was full. Did he really hate her that much? She had broken his heart.

Victoria chocked down a sip of her Diet Coke. “That’s okay. I think it’s time I found a kennel for Chew-Barka.” She turned to Mike who lifted his coffee mug to his lips.

“No—” Victoria tried to stop him, but it was too late. He had tipped the coffee cup back and taken a sip. The icy cold liquid sprayed out of his mouth, all over the table.

Mike set the cup down. “What the hell! It’s freezing.”

Victoria wiped her face and glared at Vance.

Vance’s sly smile appeared again, then a little chuckle. “I don’t know why you’re looking at me.”

Victoria shook her head at him, trying to tell him, she was on to him. On to the fact he used his freeze vision.

Vance set the menu down and changed the subject. “No kennel for Chew-Barka. That’s like doggie jail. Let me see what I can do. I’ll get back to you.”

Mike frantically wiped the coffee off the table. “That would be great if you took him for the whole week.” He reached over to reciprocate the punch Vance gave him.

“No!” Victoria tried to warn him again, but it was too late. Mike shook out his fist after slugging Vance’s shoulder. Vance hadn’t budged. Like a rock as always.

Mike opened and closed his hand. “Wow, man, you must spend a lot of time at the gym.”

Victoria stood up. “I’ve lost my appetite. You two enjoy each other. Vance, I’ll see you tomorrow when you pick up Chewy.” Victoria left the men alone for their romantic lunch.

EMMA   

When Becky opened the door to Emma, the first thing she saw was her bright white smile. “Hey, Sis! I’m so glad you could come over at the last minute. I hope I’m not pulling quality time away from you and your hubby.”

Emma bit her lip, holding back a smile of her own. Quality time? Ha. She purposefully didn’t leave out his costume when she left. Would Estavon be able to find his black leather super suit without her? “It’s really no problem. Besides, I want to hear your news.”

A little curly-haired, pig-tailed girl, wearing a black sweat suit and black mask, pranced across the room like a gazelle, finally stopping in front of Emma. Swooping her niece up in her arms, Emma kissed her chubby cheek. “How’s the little princess today?”

Samantha lisped out. “I’m not a princess. I’m a superhero.”

“Oh, well I’m mistaken. What are your secret powers?”

“I’m just like Capitán Rápido. I can move super-duper fast and can see into the future… a whole day into the future.”

“Instead of only ten seconds? You’ll be unstoppable!”

Samantha slid from Emma’s arms and ran as fast as she could around the living room.

Emma laughed, “She’s so cute!”

Becky took her purse from the shelf beside the door. “I’ll be home in about two hours. Do you want to hear the news now, or later?”

“Well… Now, of course.”

A big smile grew across Becky’s face, swallowing all her other features. “I’m pregnant!”

“Really?” Emma heaved her sister into her arms. “That’s fantastic!”

“Hopefully, you’ll have success soon, too.”

Emma shook her head, pushing the thought away. “This isn’t about me right now. I can’t wait for another niece…or maybe a nephew this time.”

Becky looked down at her watch. “I gotta go. Josh is meeting me at the doctor’s office. I have my first ultrasound today, three months along already.” Becky gave Emma another hug before heading out the door.

“Watch this, Auntie Ems!” Samantha crawled up on the couch and jumped off the back with her arms outstretched. “Did you see that? I can fly!”

“Wow, you’re even better than Capitán Rápido. He can’t fly. Not like The Kite.”

“Mommy says I’m going to have a brother or a sister, but I need to be patient.”

“Your mommy’s wise. You’ll need to be very patient.”

Samantha ran around the sofa again, crawled back up and jumped off, one more time. Emma smiled. Oh, how did she want a child of her own.

Was that even possible in her life?

Someday, I hope.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek. 🙂 Have a great day.

–Joy

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