Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Conflict of Interest" by V.H. Folland (Novella)

Genre:  Crime

Short Story Type:  Novella

Summary:  A new job, a fresh start, and things are looking up for Harry. Maybe going straight isn't so hard.
He didn't expect to stumble over a job aimed at his new employer, for the kind of money a crook could retire on. It should be simple enough: tell the police, let them arrest the criminals, claim a reward. Sorted.

Except Harry's not a snitch - and it's being organised by his mate...

When his old life meets his new job, Harry's going to have a few hard choices to make.

"Heard you got two of Joe's boys nicked last night." Dave said it casually, over his beer.

"They the two that tried to mug me?" I took a mouthful of my drink while I thought about that little problem. Joe was a nasty piece of work, but then he'd say the same about me.

"That's right. They were meant to be casing the place, only to find you already robbing it." He grinned and I laughed, even while I swore to myself in my head. If they'd watched me working the place over last night they knew at least two ways to break in.

"Small world." Crap. My first security job, and there was already a professional crook targeting the offices. At least with a pair like that involved it wasn't going to be more than burglary – probably through the same window I'd used.

"He's not best pleased." Dave smirked and I shrugged, waving for another beer.


"Not with you. With the idiots who broke the plan 'cos they thought they'd get a five-finger bonus." I nodded. They might share the results of the burglary, but the chances of them handing anything they got off me to Joe were slight. He never took being stiffed well. "Hey, ask nicely and he might cut you in. Heard he's short-handed all of a sudden."

"Think I'll pass thanks. I've got a job already." Taking jobs with people who hated you wasn't bright. It was too easy for them to even the score somewhere along the way.

"I heard. Joe ain't going to be pleased, you working the same target."

"He can lump it. I'll be there for a while." Joe wasn't the one that got mugged, and I wasn't feeling sympathetic. If he was going to make my job complicated, I might as well return the favour.

"Yeah? So what's this about you working for 'em in security? Ain't they doing you for theft?"

"Nah." I grinned at him. "They paid me to nick the cash box."

"Jeez, Harry!" he spluttered into his pint, "I thought you were out of the insurance game after last time." I muttered something about it paying well, and dug into my pockets for a distraction. After ten years inside, courtesy of Inspector Rivers, I didn't have many career options. I was meant to be going straight, but old habits could be hard to get out of.

Buy this short story for the Kindle or buy it on Smashwords.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Once Upon a Beanstalk" by Kate Avery Ellison (Short Stories)

Genre:  Fantasy

Short Story Type:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  In this humorous collection of fairy tale mashups combining modern day technology with fairy tale sensibilities, Rumplestiltskin and Red Riding Hood are married and running a royal wedding planner venue, Rapunzel has been rescued from her tower and is about to start her happily ever after, and the Grimm Brothers are a group of notorious thieves who are forced to rescue a kidnapped princess in order to avoid execution.

Penelope scanned her official orders again before stuffing the papers into her bag with a sigh.

Her best friend, Tom Thumb, studied her face from his place beside her on the seat.

“You don’t look happy. Bad news?”

She was already out of sorts for having to use a carriage to get to the palace—apparently it was a wedding tradition for the guests to arrive drawn by horses. This piece of news only made her mood worse.

“Work, as usual,” Penelope said. “Apparently I can’t ever get away, not even for my best friend’s wedding. We’ve just received a tip that the Grimm Brothers will be in town for Rapunzel’s wedding, so I’m going to have to keep a lookout for them at the reception instead of enjoying myself. The boss is sending some manpower, and I’m in charge.”

The carriage bumped over a pothole in the road, jostling her against the cushions, and Tom grabbed hold of her pinky finger to steady himself. “The Grimm Brothers? That band of criminals?” He let go of her finger and sank into the pillow beside her, which was as large as a bed for him. “You’re still looking for those guys? I thought they were apprehended for their crimes a month ago.”

“Nope, that was just a copycat team hoping to impress their buddies. Apparently the real McCoy will be in town for Rapunzel’s wedding, probably hoping to stuff their pockets with expensive wedding presents. The boss thinks it’s incredibly lucky that I’m going to be present anyway, so I can use the opportunity to try to catch the devils.” She pinched the place between her eyebrows and sighed. The stress was already beginning to settle over her shoulders like a blanket of iron. “Oh well, it’s not like I had anybody I was looking forward to dancing with anyway.”

“I would dance with you myself, but…” Tom indicated himself with a sweep of his tiny hand, and Penelope smiled. One of the downsides of being best friends with someone the size of her middle finger, she supposed.

The tip-off about a band of notorious thieves couldn’t have come at a worse time, because she’d been looking forward to this wedding for months, and now she was going to have to be running around making sure that nothing was stolen. These guys were real professionals, too. They’d lifted thousands of dollars in wedding gifts from the last royal wedding they’d crashed, the one where the prince and princess had gotten married waist-deep in a pond, to celebrate the way they’d met. (Apparently the poor guy had been turned into a frog.)

“I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to Rapunzel. I’m her maid of honor. I have responsibilities. I don’t know why the job couldn’t have been handed to someone else who isn’t actually in the wedding.”

“Maybe your boss figured you’d be the best person to keep an eye on things,” Tom said.


Either way, it wasn’t worth fretting about now. She’d do her job and she’d do it well, of course.

Tom climbed to the carriage windowsill to watch as they approached the castle walls. Flags in the king’s colors floated on the breeze to celebrate the wedding, shimmering like rainbows against the blue sky. Penelope stared at the family crest emblazoned across the flapping fabrics, and she remembered something else. Something rather unfortunate.

“Oh no.”

“What?” Tom asked.

“I forgot—Prince Greg’s younger brother Andrew is going to be there.” Greg was Rapunzel’s princely fiancĂ©.

“Andrew?” Tom scratched his head, and then a smile broke across his face. “You mean that fellow that used to always flirt with you at finishing school?”

“Yes, and he didn’t flirt with me,” Penelope said, her voice coming out a little sharper than she’d intended. “He annoyed me, pulled my hair, stole my school books, and got mud on my dresses.”

“I seem to recall the mud on your dresses being your own fault,” Tom said with an arch of his eyebrow as he plopped down on the window’s edge and let his legs dangle. “Seeing as you were always climbing trees and running around in the fields.”

“Yes, well—Andrew got me in trouble constantly and made my life miserable, thank you very much, and we never flirted even once. Fought tooth and nail is more like it.”

Despite her vehement protests, she blushed as she spoke—hopefully Tom didn’t notice. Darn it, that horrible prince! He was still causing her problems. Well, with any luck at all he’d be married and stodgy now, with a potbelly and thinning hair.

The carriage lurched to a stop, sending Tom tumbling. Penelope smoothed her skirts and brushed tendrils of hair from her eyes. She needed to look presentable, professional, and—oh, hang it. She didn’t care if Andrew was going to be there. She had a job to do, and a friend to see married.

She didn’t have time for this nonsense.

Picking up her skirts and her bag, she descended from the carriage and found herself face to face with none other than the queen herself.

“Your Majesty,” she murmured, dropping in a curtsy. “My name is Penelope, and I—”

“Pen!” Rapunzel appeared from behind the queen, hugging Penelope so hard she staggered. “I’m so glad to see you!”

Over her friend’s shoulder, Penelope saw the queen mouth turn down, probably at the scandalous lack of decorum they’d just exhibited. Oh well. She’d never been good at impressing queens, especially not her own mother, so why should she care if this one didn’t like her either?

It was, after all, Andrew’s mother.

“Your Majesty,” Rapunzel said after she’d let go, letting Penelope recover a few shreds of her dignity. “This is my best friend, Pen.”

“I’ve heard a great deal about you,” the queen said with a sniff.

Penelope smiled. “Well, I’m sure Rapunzel has greatly exaggerated my escapades—”

“Not from Rapunzel,” the queen said, with another sniff. “From my son Andrew.”

Buy this short story collection for your Kindle or on Smashwords.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"His Fifth Avenue Thief" by Abbey MacInnis (Novella)

Genre:  Historical Romance

Short Story Type:  Novella

Summary:  Two years prior, Irishman Aaron O’Connel took his life from rags to riches. Chance and wits have kept him alive in 1850’S New York City. But no amount of money or success can bring his love Cathlene back from the dead. When a thief sneaks her way into his mansion, the last woman he expects to find absconding with his belongings is his long lost wife.Abandoned on New York’s shores, a widowed, penniless, and ruined Cathlene O'Connel was left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar world. Fear and circumstance drove her to a life of thieving in order to survive, but her heart risks the biggest danger of all when Aaron hands her a scandalous proposition: A son in exchange for her freedom.

Now that he has her back, Aaron doesn't intend to let Cathlene slip between his fingers. He'll do whatever it takes to regain her trust and love. But when an enemy from Cathlene's past resurfaces, Aaron not only faces battling for Cathlene's heart, but also her life.

Shock plowed into her gut, twisting her stomach into knots. The hope inside her deflated. He wanted her to give him a child? “Are you mad?” she demanded, her eyes blazing.

He continued staring coolly across the small table at her. The space separating them seemed to shrink. With his eyes locked on her face, Cathlene found it difficult to catch her breath.

The sheer sensual magnetism he exuded radiated from his every pore. His proposition called to mind memories of entwined sweaty limbs entangled in damp sheets.

A tingling sensation began at the base of her spine and spread through to her fingertips. “No I’ve not gone mad. I need an heir. I’ve amassed quite a large fortune, and I have no doubt by the time I’m an decrepit old man, I’ll have expanded my finances even more. I need a son to continue my legacy.”

He didn’t just want a child, but a son. She could be trapped with him for years until she had a son. And too, what if she only had daughters? And horror of horrors, what if she didn’t conceive?

“How will this arrangement benefit me?”

“For every month you remain with me, I’ll give you two hundred dollars. And on the birth of our first child, whether it be daughter or son I’ll triple that sum. Once you bear a son, I’ll double the amount I’ll have given you thus far. Then, you’ll be free to go and do as you please without any interference from me.”

A wife acting as whore with her own husband. Quite ironic, Cathlene thought, but if it would grant her the freedom she desired, she’d do it. Once she gave Aaron a son, she could go anywhere and start a new life. One where she wouldn’t be beholden to anyone but herself. The thought sent elation skipping through her that went cold as she thought of the children she could have then lose.

Once she clapped eyes on her child, boy or girl, could she leave them behind all for the sake of freedom? Could she live with herself and her choice?

“Would I still be allowed to see our children?” She swallowed the last drops of tea in her cup, but the dryness in her mouth persisted.

“If you leave, they won’t grow up knowing you are their mother. But I won’t deny you their company if you wish to remain in their lives.”

She lowered her lids to conceal the sudden burning tears which clouded her vision. To miss the opportunity to nurture and love and rear her children would shatter her already broken heart to splinters. But she had no other choice. Aaron was offering a once and a lifetime chance. One she had to take. Remaining in New York could bring great risk to her if she were discovered. And discovery would only bring her certain death.

She was on her own, and relying on Aaron for protection could only bring trouble down upon him. She hated that he’d stolen from her, but he didn’t deserve to die for harboring a criminal.

Buy this short story on Amazon or on B&N.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Wild Wild Widow" by Emma Jay (Novella)

Genre:  Erotic Romance

Short Story Type:  Novella

Summary:  Rebecca Chatham is no stranger to scandal. She and her husband delighted in shocking San Francisco society with their sexual exploits, not hard to do in 1888. But now her husband is dead. He left her penniless, forced to live under her wealthy father’s thumb. While searching for a protector, she once again becomes the focus of society gossip, and her father exiles her to her brother’s ranch in Central California.

Rebecca is miserable, until she meets the very handsome, very virile ranch foreman Judah Merrill. A real cowboy. Though she’s aware of their differences in status, she pursues him with a single-mindedness, until he catches her in the creek (and in the barn and on horseback). But what happens when she falls in love with him? Will he accept her wild wild heart?

She let herself lean against his chest for a moment, warm and firm, and the next thing she knew, he was lifting her into the saddle. “A girl could get used to all this being carried around.”

“A man could get used to having his arms around a beautiful woman,” he replied, swinging into the saddle behind her and pulling her closer than he’d held her on the ride out.

His scent surrounded her, warm and male and earthy. Oh, how she missed being held by a man, feeling the differences in their bodies. She loved everything about a man’s body, the strength, the roughness, the hardness.

She was nearly boneless with longing as he stopped Rojo outside the stall and swung from the saddle, then brought her down. This time, Rojo’s restlessness didn’t distract him. He slid her the length of his body so her skirts snagged between them. His fingers closed around her waist and he held her a moment, until she looked up at him. He didn’t smile, exactly, but something glinted in his cinnamon-colored eyes before he bent his head and brushed his lips over hers. Just that one simple caress sent heat racing through her body, her pulse pounding in places too long neglected. She whispered, “Yes,” against his mouth and wound her arms around his broad shoulders, pressing against his chest.

He made a sound deep in his throat, pulled her closer and covered her mouth with his, a claiming kiss that made her skin tingle. His stubble rasped her skin. He tasted nice, minty, unexpected, as he tilted his head and slipped his tongue between her lips. She curled her fingers in the thick hair at the back of his neck, holding him to her as his tongue explored, as she lifted hers to meet his and return the intimate caress.

He shuffled his feet a bit and she found her back pressed against the wall of the stall, his hands tight on her waist, his knee between hers, tangling in her skirts. They would measure up just right, if only he would lean closer. Why didn’t he touch her? She wanted him to touch her everywhere, wanted to feel his rough fingertips against her skin.

Her restless fingers wound into the fabric of his shirt at his shoulders, when she wanted nothing more than to work his buttons open and slide over his chest, where the hint of hair teased her. What would he do if she loosened his buttons and slid her hands inside?

Suddenly he broke the kiss, his expression dazed as he looked down at her.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Chatham. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Mrs. Chatham?” His formality amused her. She touched her fingers to her lips, her gaze on his mouth. His lips had been surprisingly soft amidst the prickly facial hair. So many sensations to absorb—she had missed some. Would he indulge her in an encore performance? She forced her gaze to his. He was apologizing, after all. “I’m Rebecca.”

His cheeks were red. “I shouldn’t have taken liberties.”

“I invited them, Judah.”

He drew a breath through his nose at her use of his given name. “You know what I mean. I’m a working man. You’re a lady.”

Not anymore. She turned her hand from her lips to his. “Say my name, Judah.”

His eyes flicked to her mouth. “Rebecca.”

She smiled. “May I come riding with you again tomorrow?”

“Your brother—” “Has no business knowing.”

Buy this short story on your Kindle.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Therapy Rapture" by David Russell (Short Stories)

Genre:  Romance

Short Story Type:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  Ever had secret thoughts about a counsellor? Fitness trainer? Ever put two and two together? Therapy Rapture does just that, skillfully blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality.
The accompanying poems deal with aspects of romantic sensuality, with some emphasis on the aesthetics of disrobing and the relation between swimming and sex. They have been featured in several anthologies produced by Forward Press in the UK, and three of them, “Bathing Girl”, “Beach Girl”, and “Lovers Undress”, are on the internet. The story, the poems, the illustrations set out to explore the erotic with delicacy, refinement, and sensitivity.

One Story from the Collection:
Therapy Rapture

A breeze smiled on me, soothing the migraine of the day's travelling. Rowena, my therapist, was so soothing. Her almond eyes were a warm synthesis of liquidity and matured resin, her lips verging on purple. She was dark, sultry, feline, laid back, reserved, accommodating, but with such potential for elusiveness! Her low velvet voice melted my reserve and made me ache, my fingers poised to do that touch talk. She had a hold on me, so tender, so yielding but so firm; I had some token resistance, some caution, but I wanted that, I arranged it; but I did not know what to do about it. I'd been in my self-protective shell for so long, and always tended to put others down for being conned. Good that I finally got out of that job – where I had had to stretch my upper lip near snapping point – what I felt about my supervisor; that good lump of severance pay will give me time so sort myself out. But I had committed myself to what I had decided was essential treatment. She had to bring me out, and it would be a sustained operation – as she outlined to me, there was a multitude of blocks. We had been consulting together for several months, and at the mental level had melted quite a lot of defensive barriers. How often had our breath felt like a string, pulling us closer to that introductory caress, how often had I felt we nearly touched each other as we delicately paced our minds through those depth confessions! (Or how good she was at covering up a possible web of stresses and tensions which was strictly her private area!) What traumas must she have experienced to get that delicious equipoise which now faced me, defined me, challenged me, the positives balancing the rejection taboos of my past? Her body language rippled and throbbed; the way she controlled the crossing and uncrossing of her legs, they way she wore skirts of just the right length, or jeans just loose enough to ripple – knowing how to caress herself, knowing how to make her clothes caress her. Rowena just had to get really turned on by her favourite, delicate fabrics. She certainly showed me a wide variety of outfits at our various consultations. My wishful thinking simmered; perhaps there was a coded message underneath her assured professional front. My eyes alternated between her body and her file, between the hand controlling her pen and the eyes, brain and body controlling me. I had laid myself open to her by consulting her . . . there is always two-way potential . . .

She had put on no scent, but the natural perfume of her aura permeated me. I was a confused cocktail of trance and articulation.

She had spent one long session struggling to coax me into positive thinking. Through the usual heavy family conditioning, and through a good number of snubs and vicious deceptions I had grown so many defensive membranes that now felt congealing, coagulating. Next session I had to go back to her, with a progress report on the programme of self-redirection she had drafted for me. As ever, Rowena urged me to incorporate my dreams into the healing process. She switched on some rippling, vaporous meditation music with a background of natural sounds, water and breeze on her hi-fi, got me comfortable on the couch, then sat beside me, looking me, hypnotically straight in the face. I felt that she always mentally undressed me in these sessions, put out laser rays on my buttons and zips; that was what made them so effective, sustained her hold on me. Her mind embraced me; I wanted her to take it into her own body, and absorb mine. Her lips and nostrils were in titillating concert as she faced me and acknowledged me. I ached for her hands I longed to reciprocate. The buttons on her blouse, the suggestion of the crisp bra within, were so magnetic. And when she touched the buckle of her belt, her fingers almost clinching to undo . . . Rowena induced a trance in me, barely repressed by formality, and I felt it was taking hold of her. It was obeying a non-verbal instruction; it was tunnelling out of the prison of routine obedience. I ached for her hands to undo my clothes. In my interview sub-text trance I was transported, with her, to luscious glades and woodlands, to sultry beaches, or to a velvet-padded bedchamber, where that lithe but ample form would be revealed in its full glory, through a modulation of half-clouded moonlight and maroon lamplight, open windows, alluring skirts of half-drawn curtains, caressing breezes . . . some pigeons cooed in the distance, as if they might have registered something . . .

"OK; take your time; relax. You had to sustain top speed throughout the day, so slow down now. If you feel you’re on the point of rushing at anything, take a deep breath. Sift through your past, and let the key facts come clear. Try to tell me everything. Don't be shy, don't hold back, even though something might hurt a bit; but if it does, that’s a signal for a better sensation to be on the way. All that's happened, all you've wanted to happen, all that's held you back, enforced an orbital rather than a linear progression” – there was the implicit drawing together of our lips through her words. Lips make a perfect balance of the solid, the liquid and the vaporous. My mind sustained the distance; my mind also wanted to become a bridge . . .

I was writhing, aching, panting, yearning for my dreamy encounter to happen. I told myself what she had repeated to me so often, live, and with her tantric chant and natural sound recordings – breezes, waterfalls: get all of your will, all of your imagination in harness, and it will happen, it will, it will . . .

Express your deepest dreams and longings, no matter how preposterous they may seem to your rational faculty, or have been in other people’s dismissive judgments. You've got to hold on to your dreams, and build up your trust that they can be made real . . ."

I recounted a composite of fact and fabrication. You’re a perceptive reader, so I am sure you can tell truth from fabrication. The day after I had fixed up my therapy, I took the plunge and placed my ad in the contact magazine. I'd held back from it for ages, battling with that preconditioned revulsion against the top shelves, but what the hell? The behavioural revolution had gone on in leaps and bounds; I just had to join it. There was absolutely nothing to lose . . . if everyone who read it thought it was ridiculous, or dicey, or dangerous . . . then they simply need not bother to reply. "I want a fearless encounter with a fully liberated woman who knows how to elicit the libidos of repressed males from under several layers of inhibition. I can gently initiate, and slowly release the sluicegates of orgasmic abandon. What is postponed in enriched." There was a nod, a wink, and a smile, but no patronising giggle; I felt opened up, and able to continue.

There: silly adverts get silly responses; or inspired adverts get inspired responses; nothing to lose either way. OK, just place it on your mental back burner, provisionally forget about it while you attend to your everyday business, but wait and see . . .

The reply letter, true to form, came through the post when I had got over my initial itching expectations, and half put it out of my mind. It was on pink, perfumed stationery; the envelope was deckle-edged. It was a terse message: "I can give you what you want, but I must prepare you to give me what I want: you must be fit. Through me you will shed your layers of reticence" – with telephone number of course.

That got me thinking: I had admitted to myself my need to work on myself. So should I have hired a fitness trainer? Good idea basically, but maybe a little cold and clinical – though some of those photos at the Pilate Centres are pretty impressive. Must keep some suspense and mystery, some sense of the unknown. But maybe she would have some aspects of that . . .

Rowena’s lips quivered in an attentive smile. Her eyes darted in all directions, but frequently sparkled into my face; she was playing a good game of pin-pong with her professional detachment.

But it did work: what was this. “I spent many years in the Andes, tutored by a tribal sage, and shared the stored wisdom of the millennia. My clairvoyance is all-embracing; I can read your body and your mind. I intuit every depth of your needs." Just what I needed! Throbbing magnetism in the last straw! Breathy words to commit me, to tip me out of my trough of hesitancy. She was exercising me, toning me up by letting her eyes over all over my body . . . her eyes, in turn, bated me, drew me; she was the moon; I was her tide.

I located the block where she lived half an hour before the appointed time. I felt I needed split-second timing to make this work properly, so I walked around the block several times, twitchingly – every 30 seconds or so looking at my watch, using the cracks between the paving stones to divide and carve up the last of my waiting time.

Marina came to the door with inaudible footsteps. Wearing a navy-blue tracksuit and white trainers, greeted me – blonde, hair down to her shoulders, lithe and lean, with a touch of Spartan austerity, but also rippling and glittering – one who had done her balancing exercises at the gym, literally and metaphorically. Her tanned complexion looked authentic, weather-beaten; no sign of make-up – to my eyes, anyway. She sized me up with a benign but penetrating glance. “You’ve spent too long been overly in awe of the hard-to-get, take their remarks too literally. Your previous situation is going to be reversed with me. You’re going to get into shape; but you’ll realise that discipline is what sets you on the path to true pleasure.” Her laid-back facial expression, the warmth and softness in her eyes assured me that the discipline would not include canes or whips! She could command an exquisite poise in muscular tension – the right amount of strain for this human elastic band. There was something lunar, tidal in her soft breath control.

Her 10th floor apartment was warm, alluring after the bleak concrete staircase; sparsely furnished, a balance of thick purple carpeting, a dark green divan and armchairs, large glass-topped table and four long wall mirrors, ideal to reflect bodies full length, seeming to be of polarized glass. I attuned to the thought of her flexings, her press-ups, as those keen green eyes peeled back their lashes and answered my penetrating gaze. I felt my tight stomach muscles matching hers.

"Hmm; I could see from your advert that your mind is right; now I've got to get your body right."

She went to a back room, and came back carrying a grey tracksuit and a pair of new trainers, black edged in white.

"Get changed. We'll go for a jog first, limber you up a bit." She went into the bathroom; I obeyed her instruction.

It was bitterly cold in the frost-tinted park, but this was counterbalanced by the simmering heat of desire, its thermals shimmering skywards. Her breathing was exquisitely timed. The rippling of her loose tracksuit gave me a thrilling intimation of her lovely proportions, counterpointed the underlying firmness.

It was quite a spacious park where we did our preliminary jog. It was bitterly cold, and for a few seconds I wished I’d never embarked on this adventure. I knew there were people who did it in the winter cold. But then the heat circulation got into its stride, and my sense of well-being began to well up. My legs got tingling good after the first ache. Delayed action, long-fused timer . . .

We completed a circuit, and then returned to her flat, where we had a ten-minute cup of black coffee – no sugar. Then Marina took me by the armpits and drew me up to face her.

"You've done all right" said Marina, "certainly rose to the first challenge. But I want to put you through a further physical ordeal – which will make fulfilment total. I want you fully toned to do me justice."

She led me out of the flat, down another spookily-lit corridor in the block, to that clinical space, bathed in subdued neon – “OK; it’s the gym”.

There it was, full of equipment but bare of people, except for the odd shadowy dark blue uniformed attendants, male and female, lurking in the background. We changed into our clingy black shorts and tops, provided in the changing rooms. I followed all the gruelling exertions which she led, up and down the wall bars, up and down the ropes, over the vaulting horses. She also forced me into some press-ups. It must have taken several hours. I felt a strange cocktail of aching and tingling; the frissons were gradually simmering. I was aching, but guided by that gymnastically garbed body, ached for that body . . . the lighting was just right; not so glaring as to detract from the sight of the physiques. Legs straightened and angled beautifully.

“Are you OK for the next?” she said with a smile.

"I'm on, darling" I replied.

"OK Honey; first of all we've got to loosen up with a dance. You're going to go through all the steps you know, and then you'll discover some new ones."

She led me into an empty ballroom, glittering with mirrors, strewn with plush maroon velvet armchairs and sofas, dimly lit in orange from ornate chandeliers. Sure enough, the sounds of Madonna's Immaculate Collection were honing through the loudspeakers elevated on the walls. That album was just right: parts of it made me reflect coolly – parts were bitter, hurting; parts of it bade me to enter new, deep areas . . . hypnotic videos throbbed through my mind . . .

"Just give me a minute for the next wardrobe change."

Marina disappeared through a mahogany side door, leaving me agog with expectation. She came out in a flowing, low-cut purple satin dress, split skirts – like I'd seen in some 'Come Dancing' broadcasts. Her stockings were near flesh-colour, on the tantalizing edge of bare legs. Those lovely forms moved alluringly through and behind the splits. Sure enough, true to my intuition, Justify My Love came on, deep and sensual. Her shoulders were available to touch; her lips came close. My mind modulated between that video and our tactile reality, as if they were vying against each other. We swayed each other backwards and forwards; through Maria’s undulating movements, beautifully raising her skirt, her shoulders were available to touch; our lips came close. Her body wings flirted alluringly with the horizontal. Her back zip was giddily tantalising. Our dancing was sinuous, muscular, delicious. She drew out of me ballet steps and movements that I never thought I could do, undreamed of suppleness on my trunk, spine and legs. I felt as if I had satisfied a professional. I must have managed a pirouette. Our bodies orbited each other, into planet, out of asteroid, out of planet, into asteroid, into nova, out of nova . . .

"Well done, honey; you got every bit of me moving. Now we'll go on to Part 2. Undo me at the back." I had had a welling up of fantasy desire to do just that, cumulative too; all those years of Hollywood and video belles I had longed to disrobe, the chaperoned sensual icons . . . and then to have the sluice gate opened by an order from reality . . .

Oh, what I'd dreamed of, brought to life! The dress shimmered down to reveal Marina in an exquisite cream corset, luminous, reflective, flickering in the orange light. Madonna in the flesh! At last I could see her legs in full. I had already kicked off my shoes. She stripped me down to my shorts and singlet. We danced on, writhing, edging into an embrace. I massaged her back, felt her erected breasts under the boned corset. We swayed ourselves breathless. My inner fires were rising, seething.

"Now for the deeper plunge; we'll do a swim together."

We left our clothes in a heap in the ballroom. Marina led me through a long, dark corridor to the pool. It was huge, glass-roofed, warm, exotic, flanked with palm trees. The water was turquoise; it was an encapsulated lagoon. She pointed to the changing room in the far corner. There's a costume for you in there, ok?"

What suspense as we changed! Marina had been really telepathic in her planning. They were 50s-style Jantzen trunks. I got a wonderful thrill as I pulled them on in a real flush of hitherto unfulfilled youth. Never before had I felt so sexy in trunks, with someone eyeing me up that I really wanted to; it was almost as if I was going to appear in a male strip show, to show myself to all the most beautiful women in the world, who would sigh in ectasy at the sight of my body. And Marina felt like all those beautiful women rolled into one.

We both tiptoed out of our cubicles, and came to the pool's edge. Now was the other side of the coin: I had been pretty turned on by the corset, but now Marina was in a clingy purple swimsuit with white stripes top and bottom. My bathing icon was before me, the sight of her glorified by the tinting of subdued light, Ursula Andress and Esther Williams rolled into one. Had there ever, in my whole life, been a plunge like this?

I got into the water first, and drew Marina down by the shoulders to join me; such beautiful shoulders too, just muscular enough. We splashed about a bit at first, then raced together, on and on, until I lost count of lengths and laps. All this unaccustomed exertion was releasing ever more energy. We did lots of different strokes, but my favourite was to see Marina doing the backstroke, her lovely breasts and thighs thrusting up through the water. My reverie alternated between the pool and a bed. We felt so youthful, so healthy, so supple, so strong. The heady power of this exercise was turning us into two supermodels. We submerged, embraced under water. Our self-made maelstrom was tightening our clinch. This was a breathtaking build-up – the flow, the ripples from outside building up the flow, the ripples from within. The Swim Fan sequence surged through my brain. I loved the first stirring of erection in my trunks, and sensed her fires were rising with mine. We were within an ace of doing it there and then, but Marina held me firm.

"We've got to go one step further on our path to make things complete.”

She took my hand and led me on. We approached a shower cubicle. She grabbed me by the waist and pulled me in, “next item in the unwinding sequence” she whispered.

It was so delicious; the steamy water pouring down, that tight embrace in front of the mirror, us still in costumes, the slow peeling down, the clinch, the foaming soaping, the gell, the abandoned thrusting in quasi-tropical heat, the total cleaning, the thrust together of all body parts, the rubbing all over with voluminous towels. It was so transporting, we could have been anywhere in our world of travel dreams.

We went back to collect our clothes.

“We've done the water element; now is the time for the air: we're going to parachute to ecstasy."

Whatever happened next passed in a flash. Rapid dry and change, zoomed into taxi, careering but coolly controlled ride through the night to a small airfield. We opened the taxi doors, to be caressed by a warm breeze. There was a charter plane waiting for us, sleek, with swept-back wings, its piston engine purring alluringly. In the cabin were two parachutes and jumpsuits, one for each of us. The pilot was tall, lean, angular, a bit Latin looking. He rapidly veiled his face in goggles. The plane did a rapid take-off, almost vertical. Marina beckoned me to the porthole. The whole of the planet below felt fleshy, voluptuous, crying for us both to join in its embrace.

"See the earth below, darling" said Marina, the woodland and scrubland bristling, the shimmering veins of streams and rivers. Now we're going to take our plunge through the air, just as we've taken it through water." She put on her jumpsuit and parachute; I followed suit.

The cockpit cover slid open; we tumbled out of the plane, embraced and kissed in free fall. The sky bore down on us; the ground rose to clasp us. We tumbled out of the plane, embraced and kissed in free fall. Then our parachutes orgiastically bloomed above us. We swayed to the ground, and cast off our parachutes; they billowed aside, writhing erotically.

"You've passed your test, and earned my love. Now take me darling. I've toned up your body, so now you're gorgeous. Now give your all to me, every gram of your firm flesh, your every muscle, sinew and bone. Give me all!"

A wind was rising around us. We kissed deeply, going to the bottoms of our lungs as if drawing from the power of the wind. We unzipped. There was a thunderstorm above us, answered by our own. Some night-owls made a brittle accompaniment. Our limp wet clothes were electrified by our lusting bodies. Off they peeled, to show us to each other like two naked gods, proclaiming themselves to the elements. I threw myself on the ground, and pulled Marina on top of me. The earth was soft, the grass was thick, the natural bed was just yielding enough. We lunged into the bed of nature. It was so fulfilling, so wonderful to feel the wet leaves on the flesh of my back, and Marina on my chest, heaving, our muscles clinched. We rolled over; upper and lower rotated into an exquisite blur; hard strength came swelling, muscular. It felt as if the thunder clapped to our every thrust. It was long and slow, strong and deep. It was long and slow, strong and deep. Time was frozen, suspended by our volcanic fires, earth, water, fire and air welded in orgasm around ours. Then the thunder did clap, for real, with our climax, and released a warm shower to bathe and bless our fulfilment.

"I've come, darling; I've come", moaned Marina, "I’ve always been able to choose; I've had so many, and some of them were really good, but of all of them, you're the first man who ever really made it with me."

* * *

We must have fallen asleep on the lush ground. The next thing I remember was being woken up by a long, breathy kiss, to find myself back at the hotel. Marina was wearing a bright blue dressing gown, obviously fresh from a bath or shower.

"You outstripped my expectations – hmm; that body, that self-assurance. we've really sealed our pact, darling. Now we must both part, to make our big marks on the world, to meet again with all the wealth and power we have won by the strength we have given each other. But let's make it special, and make our parting add the finishing touch to our perfect sensuality."

I realised I had had my clothes changed while I was asleep.

She led me to a luxury suite. All was soft and sheltered, in counterpoint to the elements. And that fresh satin underwear: what a fabulous modulation on the open air theme. Wild nature and the heights of artifice certainly did fill in each other's gaps. Dew and quality soap formed a super gamut. There was a last clinch and goodbye in the airport lounge. Something really great had happened; I was built up.

* * *

All through the account, Rowena was rapt, riveted, penetrated my eyes with her stare. "Well, I was really hypnotized by your story. You can really feel positive about the world now, can't you," she breathed, "and so can I. For the first time ever since I started practising, I've really got through to a patient. It feels to me as if all the blocks that have been built up since childhood have been cleared away – yours and mine. I feel so fulfilled; I . . ." she blushed and stopped short.

"What is it?" I asked, a little taken aback. In a split second, our roles were reversed. My prompting instruction came quite naturally.

"Yes; this is two-way now. You can tell me."

"Did that really happen to you?"

"No, it didn't; but I really wanted it to."

"If you really want something enough, you can will it to happen; just let your imagination take you over . . . You . . . made me feel like Marina. I want to be Marina. I want to have that effect on you."

My courage gelled. "You can be; you are." This was the realisation. We joined each other on the sofa, quivered to an embrace, held a breathy, tongued kiss. Arms, shoulders, legs, hips all harmonized.
Rowena took a deep breath: "I love dressing up, feeling caressed and massaged by soft, delicate fabrics, feeling clinched, embraced by tight-fitting but comfortable shoes, belts, bras, blouses, jackets, even the occasional hat. It's like music really; it's great for the whole process to go in reverse, getting undressed – the flip side of dressing in front of a mirror, fabric caresses being phased into body caresses – play the film backwards, then let the caresses of a body take over from those of the fabrics, the elastic, the leather, allowing an interlude of gentle wafts of air . . ."

The words coagulated in mny throat, then burst out in a loaded whisper: "Be yourself, find yourself, reveal yourself. Let the layers of your body answer the layers of your mind, by the rolls of a Turkish bath. Please . . . undress."

Rowena stood up, very straight. For a moment, she looked almost cold and official, as if she were, professionally, going to end the session. (That, by the way, is always a turn-on for me. I always find hard professional women so sexy.) But then a power far greater than her status radiated through her.

"I must confess . . . I have often fantasized about being a stripper, ached to do the seven veils . . . but it's so much better when it's a real, personal response."

Rowena disrobed magnificently, with all the freshness of novelty and coyness newly abandoned, half-giggling, half shily, but getting more of a thrill at every move on zip or button. My zips and buttons made a delicate harmony with hers. Her sober, dark green consultant's outfit came off, then her crisp cream blouse. Now she stood before me in a clingy black crimped body stocking. She blossomed out of her repressive cocoon. How her breasts had strengthened! Her eyes lit up at the sight of my legs and torso as they were revealed to her; my body, too, was what she wanted. In her secret world of thoughts, she must have always been prepared for this occasion. So had I. I had put on my sexiest black briefs in anticipation. I divested to accompany her. She beamed with delight. "Your body's so gorgeous" she panted. Our undressing half-felt like athletic rivalry. But we both came out winners. What a revelation when the clinical detchment of a profession was cast aside with the clothes!

Necking and petting rose to their fullest refinements. Rowena raised her arm in the air. "We surrender, darling" she cried. The suspense was almost unbearable as I pulled down her body stocking, to reveal her in brief underwear to match mine. "Give yourself to me, as I to you," I panted.

We took each other with the full force of our deepest dreams and longings. Every sensual vibration of my account of Marina came here into concentrated play. Rowena had had a repressed childhood. It almost felt as if it was worth all those years of repression for both of us to get such a fabulous turn-on form this final release. Every move was crowned with kisses and clinches of muscle, all over, breasts in armpits, hip to hip. Erections, general and specific, were beautifully extended; we dived into the immersion of two-way orgasm.

First the carpeted floor after that, then a shower, then the consulting couch, then the bath, then the bed, gave both of us the most marvellous therapy either of us had ever given or received. Rowena's in-depth consultation had really worked on me – and mine on Rowena. Good to bridge the gulf between the professional and the personal!

Now both of us really could face the world positively. Our interviewing and persuasion skills have improved a thousandfold. All the blushings and fumblings were now confined to areas of intimate encounter. And we're both super-fit now too – ace swimmers and parachutists, unflinchingly, perpetually camera-ready, determined to preserve those sexy bodies, clinch and caress to perfection.

Wouldn't it be great if everyone's life could be like that!

Buy the entire collection for your Kindle.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Evolvement" by Isaac Sweeney (Short Stories)

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Short Story Type:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  A college student faces a supernatural battle on a bridge. A man sees the dark side of humanity after his car breaks down. A writer obsesses over a fictional woman, sometimes forgetting about real life. A strange cat reveals much about a young couple. An elderly man experiences new loves and losses ...

... watch these characters evolve!


Twelve Years From Then

Twelve years ago, Anthony began writing his memoirs, sitting each morning in his breakfast nook, where the sun beat on the evergreen outside a small window. Anthony felt old back then and he wanted to write down his life, mostly just to remember how things used to be. Today, an aged black and gold dog named Willy sleeps on his right.

Twelve years ago, 1982, Willy was a bouncing puppy, running across the wood floors, sliding into walls as he rounded corners. He was a gift from Elaine, Anthony’s neighbor, a woman just his age.

“What’s this for?” Anthony asked after opening the box that contained the whimpering animal.

“Company,” she replied. She had been in the two-bedroom house next door for two weeks, and she had been stopping by Anthony’s house every day for the last week. She and Anthony sat and talked, sometimes over coffee, sometimes over dinner. In one week, Anthony had told her most of his life: how he survived war, a scar on his leg from when a mine stumped and killed his best friend just ten feet away; how he almost married the perfect girl in one of those storybook heartbreakers in which her father doesn’t approve and forces his daughter to leave town; how all of his siblings died of cancer; how his father, his hero, lived to be 98 years old.

On Elaine’s third week in the neighborhood, she brought Anthony a journal.

“What’s this for?” he asked.

“Memories.” Elaine told him to write down everything he could remember. She had been doing it for years – writing every morning for at least an hour. She told him she had boxes of journals in her basement and attic.

So he began a new custom – a new tradition of writing everything down. Every morning at eight, he took Willy in the breakfast nook with him so he could write without the destructive puppy tearing up his house. Elaine came over promptly at nine and asked Anthony what he had written that morning, listening to him with her whole body as he read his stories. His deep and scratchy voice enunciated slowly, adding necessary emphasis. He told her tales of war and love. Sometimes she closed her eyes and, when he was finished, they would sit there silently. Then Willy would whimper, and they would laugh.

In about a year, Willy stood full grown at a perfect height – Anthony could pat his head without bending over. Willy learned the routine and waited in the breakfast nook every morning for Anthony to take the seat beside him. The mornings were so precise that Willy slept there for exactly one hour before running to the door to wait for Elaine. Entering without ringing the bell, Elaine would throw Willy a treat and meet Anthony in the nook. One morning, she kissed Anthony.

“What was that for?” he asked.

“Love,” she said and held his hand. He smiled big as he told her his stories. They kissed again before she left. Twelve years ago, Anthony, already aging, shared another first kiss.

This new routine continued for about three years. Neither of the two wanted more than what they had. Elaine had married once; Anthony felt he was too old to marry. They spent most of each day together, teaching Willy tricks, touching each other always – a kiss, a hug, an arm around a waist.

One morning, when Willy waited by the front door, Elaine never entered. Anthony had set his pen down and stood up to greet her. He stood for at least twenty minutes before he sat back down. He knew what had happened. He had seen it with his brothers and sisters. One day they had just stopped calling. The next day, a call had come telling him they were gone. It wasn’t a surprise with them; they had cancer. It wasn’t a surprise with Elaine either; old people don’t last forever, he thought. Anthony sat back down and picked up his pen. By this time, he had filled up about six journals. On this day, Anthony wrote for hours and hours. Willy stayed at the door for a while, waiting for Elaine, but he soon returned to Anthony’s side. When his black and gold fur touched Anthony’s leg, Anthony began to cry. It was a warmth he had come to recognize and love, but it came now at an awkward time, when things were supposed to have been different.

Twelve years ago, Anthony felt old and began falling in love. This morning, twelve years from then, Anthony woke up and met Willy in the nook. Willy had picked up a cough and the vet had prescribed some pills that Anthony worked into his routine. It hadn’t taken long for Willy to stop going to the door after Elaine passed. These days, he just lay beside Anthony for the whole hour. When Anthony would rise to leave the nook, Willy would follow. Where Anthony would go, so would go Willy.

But not this particular morning. When Anthony rose to leave the nook, Willy lay silently in his spot. Anthony knew what had happened. He picked Willy up, the smooth fur warm against Anthony’s frail arms. Willy’s tongue, dead and limp, hung from his mouth and Anthony thought about all the licks. How he would miss Willy’s kisses and the warm mornings against his leg. Anthony cried when he buried his dog. No matter what a man sees, expects, gets used to, loss is hard. That was the last time Anthony cried.

Twelve years ago, Anthony felt old, fell in love again, and began to write his life down in journals. By now, he had acquired numerous stacks of them in his breakfast nook. Outside a small window, the sun beat down on the evergreen. Shadows danced across Anthony’s paper as the wind blew hard. He noticed, and looked out the window. The wind blew so hard that the evergreen swayed heavily, repeatedly disappearing and reappearing. For a second, all was quiet. Then a gust tore the tree at its thick trunk. Finally, after year in and year out of unfaltering green, something brought the tree down. Anthony was not surprised. He had known it wouldn’t last forever.

Buy this short story for the Kindle or buy it on Smashwords.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Everblossom: A Short Story and Poetry Anthology" by Larissa Hinton (Short Stories)

Genre:  Fantasy

Short Story Type:  Short Story and Poetry Collection

Summary:  An anthology that will quench your thirst for more than the ordinary.

Everblossom is a journey through poems and short stories that may seem ordinary on the surface but dig a little deeper and the world not only shifts. It changes.

From the author who brought you Iwishacana/Acanawishi, she now brings you a dash of everything from dark fantasy to the paranormal to even romance. So prepare yourself to delve into the three stages of the flower from bud to blossom then back to seed, you'll go through them all with a whole new perspective on what it all truly means.


College Life

The lights were not back on instead darkness greeted me when I opened my eyes. I tried to flicker the images away; I tried to make the knowing pain disappear but it never did. I gripped my stomach, the slice so deep that blood dribbled onto my fingers. Desperately trying to get a move on, I put one foot in front of the other and soon a rhythm developed. The ancient rhythm of fear and regret echoed through my staggered footsteps as I crossed the threshold of the Student Center. The splash of a deep winter night hit me across the face, my breath came in colored fogs. Inhale. Exhale The break came out ragged, and the inhale just burned a deep hole in my throat.

Get a move on.

Denying the impulse to look behind me, I took a sharp turn left and paused. Waiting. Always waiting for the next split second delay tell tale sign of--I took a break and paused. There. Right there.

Right beyond my reach was a panther strolling down the cracked over used sidewalks. The strut of this particular panther seemed to just glide right out of a book and right back into reality. The muscles in his face tensed as he lifted his head and took a scent.

Hunting. Always hunting.

I slid a little bit closer towards the building, hoping to scrub away the detection of fear smell away from my body.

The panther jerked his head towards me, hearing the oh-so-hard-to-hear ripping sounds of my clothes against the ancient brick building. I debated running or staying still. The logic in constant tango with my instincts. Then it happened.

I envisioned then I became the panther.

I didn't feel the change, not at first. The growl from my throat surprised me, then my hands changed, covered with luscious black fur. My eyes shrunk, my nose elongated then well, you know the rest. I stood there, soaking in the hard facts that my body completely transformed from human into a black panther.

Then I ran.

Nice long leaps of running, my paws softly touching the floor each time with a soft clicking sound. When I finally stop at the Memorial Chapel I peeked between the high arches to see that the other panther has disappeared. I suppress the snarl that threatens to rip my throat as footsteps, one sniff designates it as human, came closer. I try to imagine myself human once again, but all I feel is my fur rising, ready for the attack.

A man steps out into the streetlight looking strangely out of place. For one, he's white at an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) that stands out immediately, not only that but his walk seems somewhere out of a model's catalogue. His walk was smooth until it halted right at the other side of the chapel entrance. His all white suit dimmed in the shadows as he sniffed the air then his gorgeous rum-colored eyes connected to mine.

Right then I knew, I was toast.

He trapped me with his gaze which never left mine as he took one step by one graceful step closer. I snarled as he dared to step up to me with no fear in his eyes then he had the audacity to give me a grin.

"Caught you." He whispered.

Before I had enough time to process his response I changed back. My paws turned back to hands which were deep black in the shadow, as dark as midnight itself, but the fur was gone. My back stood ruler straight at exactly six feet. My onyx black hair swished behind me and hid some of my unmentionable parts and shaded my copper-colored almond eyes and luscious lips I had, fortunately, inherited from my father.

I shivered as the cold night reminded me of my nakedness. I clinged to my furless mocha colored skin. That's when I noticed it. My hand skimmed across my stomach and I gasped softly.

The blood, the injury all vanished into thin air. There wasn't even a scar.

The stranger looked down to where I traced the wound that was there, but instead of lingering his gaze he shot his eyes right back into mine, determined almost to get straight to the point.

I licked my lips, then asked, "What do you want from me?"

That damn smile still was on his face as he took a seat on the brick steps right at the entrance of the too gorgeous to believe church. He patted a spot next to him which I hesitantly took. Silence sat between us as comfortable as a blanket full of bed bugs. Until his voice disturbed it.

"I don't want anything from you," He said, "except answers."

I raised my eyebrow. "Answers?"

"Yes, I want to know how you became a shape-shifter." His eyes pierced mine with such intensity I looked away.

I contemplated for some time then asked, "Aren't you a shape-shifter? Wouldn't you already know?"

His laugh came out bitter and bleak. "If I knew how to control my shifts and the history behind it, I wouldn't be chasing you now would I?"

I thought that made sense. Only, how would I make sense of how I changed. How I became who I didn't even know existed until moments before? I looked at him wanting answers, so many answers none appropriate or right but all the same I wanted them.

So I explained. I weaved him a tale that would permanently damage both of our lives. Forever.


Buy this short story on the Kindle or on Smashwords.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Soldier Evolution Revolutionary Girl" by Tiffany Fulton (Novella)

Genre:  Supernatural Fantasy

Short Story Type:  Novella

Summary:  Bunny Lilka and her friends have just completed another school year as anyone would. They just want to shop and enjoy themselves before high school examinations begin...but who said anything about the origins of the universe and a mishandling of power being on thier exams? If you loved Sailor Moon as a child (and perhaps still do), then you'll love this story!

Soldier Evolution Revolutionary Girl

Stage 1:

Rebirth of the Stars

A sugar-pink haired, emerald-green eyed girl stands outside on the regal steps of the refined, but old white Victorian style school building.

Ten seconds later...

SFX: (Sound of school bell, clear and strong):


A flood of students-girls dressed in dark mint green and white sailor uniforms with white knee highs and pure white Mary Jane pumps with a 4 ½ inch thick chrome heel and heart-shaped emerald over the adjustable buckle straps and boys dressed in gray and white semi-formal suits and ties cover the stairs immediately, as if the automatic sliding doors to the building can't open up fast enough to let them all escape fast enough. The faculty and staff hurry along after them, loosening up just a little, though most of them are hiding it, just like most of the students are-for that tiny moment, anyway. The girls whip out knives and slash their long, pleated skirts down to makeshift ripped minis, while the boys toss their ties to the wind.

" Ah," says a girl as she walks hand-in-hand with a boy, " It is finally over, right?"

" Yes," says the boy as they hop on a bicycle built for two (him in the front, her on the backseat), " All that cramming was so worth it and now that we have been released from that suffering, we can focus on our future,"

The girl looks at the giant diamond ring on her left hand as it glitters in the afternoon sunlight. "It is beautiful and full of hope, just like our love will be," She says and they pedal away.

The pink-haired girl remains at the stairs for a little while longer, staring up at the building, which is now abandoned and silent. Her child-like eyes are wide and anxious as she folds her hands together.

The future...she thinks, Any future at all...

The girl looks around suspiciously and then leaves the campus, making sure to lock the Black Iron Gate. She stands and waits patiently, though still lost in thought.

Gate Sign:

Avalon Private Academy for the Gifted (APAG)

" Bunny?"

" Eh?"

An ice-blue eyed girl with wavy, whitish blonde hair styled in a ponytail waves a manicured hand in front of the pink-haired girl's shocked face. She wears the same school uniform as the students from the academy. She waves, but the concern on her face does not vanish just yet.

" What's up, Bun-bon? You're spacing out lately...more than usual," the blonde girl says.

Bunny shakes her head, forcing a smile on her face as she comes out of her meditative state. " It's nothing, Elle," She says. " School's finally out and now we have to worry about college entrance exams,"

Eleanor wrinkles her nose in disgust and mutters sarcastically, "Oh joy. I can't wait for that. Time for procrastination!"

Bunny giggles, and Eleanor looks relieved, and then annoyed again as a few more girls walk in their direction.

" Hey girls," Bunny greets them.

" Hi," they greet both girls.

" Eleanor, what's wrong?" asks a shorter girl with straight, black hair and ocean blue eyes. " What are you staring at that requires so much concentration?"

Eleanor grits her teeth and points at Bunny's chest.

" I swear, if she doesn't get a man by her stellar G.P.A., then that will be the reason she marries before any of us do,"

Eleanor has been poking at one of Bunny's breasts with a pencil.

"Can she not feel that or something?" gasps the black-haired girl. " Amazing, her chest bounces,"

Bunny turns red in the face as she insists softly with a not so subtle hint of irritation, "Please don't tease me. I can't take it today."

Eleanor crosses her arms. " I'm jealous. You're so lucky, but you won't even tell your male admirers the time of day at school,"

" They don't like me at all," Bunny insists, " They just love the fact that my hormones wanted an early start, so I went through puberty a little earlier than everyone else in their tweens,"

A dark-brown eyed girl with a bowl-shaped haircut named Evelyn Vega presses her index finger to her forehead. " Why don't we express a different kind of love, like the shopaholics we are?" She suggests with a sly grin.

The other girls stare at her.

"Oh right," says Sari, the black-haired girl, " Why are we still standing here, school ended like thirty minutes ago and we've been running our mouths like we've got nothing else to do. Bunny, are you still treating us to the mall to celebrate graduation?"

The other girls look at Bunny with puppy eyes. She looks at them, thinks, and nods. They walk away from the school, and Eleanor finds herself shoved to the side.

Bunny, Evelyn, and Sari stop walking and hold out their hands to her.

Bunny winks at her. " It's've got the smallest body of us all, so get some patience and grow up a bit more before I steal your thunder,"

Eleanor giggles as they pull her up on her feet. After dusting herself off, she walks off arm-in-arm with her friends.

" Wait a second, Bun-bon," Evelyn says suddenly.

" You didn't slash your skirt," the others add. They watch as Sari hands Bunny a knife.

The girl now wears her own makeshift mini-skirt.

Avalon Prime was the largest and youngest of four major department stores in Avalon, Aria. The girls were now at one of the two hawker centers at the mall, having completed their shopping spree. Each girl had five bags each, overflowing with what appeared to be something that glittered and was expensive.

And yet, they do not even spend half of their money.

The four girls are sitting at a booth, and Bunny keeps looking out of the window. She rests her chin in her hands.

Eleanor sits next to her and notes that Bunny is the only one of them who hasn't taken a bite out of her grilled chicken Cesar salad, which is slightly warm. Sari and Evelyn nod in her direction, and as if on cue, Eleanor links her arm with Bunny's.

She jumps in surprise and looks at her friends, almost guiltily.

" If you're going to sit around and mope about something," Eleanor says, " Then let us join you. Friends don't let friends mope alone,"

Bunny laughed at this, and everyone else joined in.

5:30 pm.

" Thanks for today, Bun-bon," Sari, Evelyn, and Eleanor say as they exit the neon-lit building. The four girls leave the mall feeling very good about themselves.

Sari suddenly starts to shiver, and then her eyes widen.


She falls to her knees for a few seconds, and Bunny helps her back up.

" I felt it," Sari says slowly, " The scent of the wind has changed...there's spilled blood. Lots of it,"

"Sari? Your stomach!" Eleanor gasps.

Sari moves her left hand away from her stomach to reveal a enormous bleeding wound across her stomach, just above her navel.

"Damn it," Evelyn mutters, " Just when we were getting into our vacation, someone has to mess it up every time."

" The sky..." says Sari, "It's not..."

Above them, a swirling mass of black and gray clouds has merged to form a giant funnel, as if a tornado was about to form. Black lighting whips out across the blackened sky, which is tinted with an ominous purple haze of light. Sari looks down at her stomach in shock.

"My wound is gone," She announces. " That was a vision..."

" Can you still smell the blood?" Evelyn asks.

" Yeah," Sari replies, "It's thickened...but what's up ahead of us is unclear by the scent of the damage it's doing. More people are dying,".

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Midnight and Holding" by Joyce DeBacco (Short Stories)

Genre:  Women's Fiction

Short Story Type:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  Sometimes we wish we could stop the clock and rewind time. Maybe to savor a happy moment, take back words spoken in haste, or fulfill an ambition. Other times we want to turn the clock ahead, hopeful of better times or fortunes. Midnight and Holding (short story collection) is a collection of stories reflecting those desires.

Rubies and Other Gems – A woman’s trip back in time puts her present problems in perspective. (Not to be confused with my novel of the same name.)

The Shed – A newly erected garden shed is the catalyst that reconnects a driven executive with his neglected wife and children.

Harvey’s New Suit – A woman buys her husband his first new suit in years.

Rainbow Years – A carefree youth calls to mind a woman’s own dreams and desires.

Mad Dogs and Fishermen – A humorous account of an innocent suggestion taken to extreme.

Midnight and Holding – A parent’s rite of passage.

Excerpt from "The Shed":
Robert Borden punched in his home phone number. He knew Debra would be at Bobby’s game tonight and would have her cell phone with her. He also knew if he actually spoke to her they’d probably argue, and that would put a damper on his good news, not to mention Bobby’s if his team actually won.

“Debra, I have great news,” he said to the answering machine. “We got the contract! So I’ll be heading home in the morning. I hope Bobby had a good game. Give him a high five for me. See you soon.”

He heaved a sigh. There, done. At least both his wife and son would know he was thinking of them tonight. But, damn, he forgot to add, “Love you” at the end of his message. He always ended his call with those words. He wondered if Debra would notice.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Gold" by Arthur Mackeown (Short Stories)

Genre:  Drama

Short Story Type:  Short Stories

Summary:  This short story collection contains stories in a variety of genres: Drama, Tragedy, Humour, Nonsense and more. It also includes several stories told in dialogue only. Here you will find a trip down the Nile that ends in tragedy, the kindness of a poor man, a Moroccan adventure, and even the cautionary tale of Chang, the world's only vampire Pekinese dog.


After a long, slow day in his cramped and musty book shop, Mr. Green was dying to close up and escape to the pub. As he hunted for his keys, the bell jangled and his friend Will Saunders came in.

"Evening all," said Will. "Got anything new for me?"

"Depends where you want to go," said Mr. Green. "South Pole? Outer Mongolia? A little jaunt among the Zulus, perhaps?"

"Anywhere, so long as it's warm."

"Let me see." Mr. Green rummaged under his desk. "Where did I put it…? Ah, here it is: 'Camel train to Mecca—Letters of a gentleman adventurer.' That should suit you right down to the ground." The thought of Will Saunders, plump, bespectacled and sixty, bouncing about on a camel, made the normally dour-looking Mr. Green smile.

"Have you read it?"

"Me?" Mr. Green looked gloomy again. "I saw enough foreign travel during the war."

"You don't know how lucky you are," said Will. His greatest ambition was to travel the world and experience all the wonders he read about in Mr. Green's books. Up to now, he'd got no further than Brighton, yet he could speak with such authority of Ankor Wat and the pyramids at Giza you almost believed he'd discovered them himself.

"Then why don't you just go?" said Mr. Green impatiently. "It's always the same with you…talk, talk, talk, but you never do anything."

"Go? Just like that?" said Will doubtfully. "I suppose I could, but…"

" 'Course you could," answered Mr. Green. "It can't be that difficult. All you have to do is buy a ticket and someone else does all the work. Even you can manage that."


Will returned to the book shop several days later, interrupting Mr. Green in the middle of his accounts.

"What's this?" asked Mr. Green. "Why aren't you at work?"

"Never mind about work," said Will. "I've given in my notice."

"What on earth for?"

"Because I'm going, Eric. I'm off," stated Will triumphantly.

Mr. Green stared at him. "Off? Off where?"

"First Paris, then Rome, Venice, Athens, Istanbul, Jerusalem and then…Africa." Will sounded as if he intended to conquer Africa single handed.

"You must be joking. On your own?"

"You're the one who said there'd be nothing to it. Besides," Will reddened slightly, "who said I'm going on my own?"

"Well, well, well, you have been keeping secrets, haven't you?"

Mr. Green was not really surprised; despite his age and roly-poly appearance, Will Saunders possessed a mystifying ability to charm women like birds out of the trees.

"So who is it this time?" he asked.

"Her name's Dianne," said Will. "I met her at the bingo club."

Mr. Green laughed. "And now you're going round the world with her? You must be barmy."

"You'll see," replied Will. "I'll introduce you when I get back."

"I can't wait," said Mr. Green. "Just you remember to send me a postcard now and then, so I'll know you're really out there and not holed up in some cheap Brighton hotel."


The first postcard came from Paris. Will had little to say about the city of light, just that the Eiffel Tower was closed for repairs, and that in France the British were known as 'Les Roast Beef.' He wrote with much greater enthusiasm about their next destination, which was to be Rome. In Rome, however, it rained cats and dogs, so they did what the Romans did and stayed indoors. When they reached Venice, it was sinking, so they didn't hang around there for long. Athens was on strike. Istanbul shivered as freezing Black Sea winds howled down the Bosphorus. In Jerusalem they ate Falafel and in Cairo the pyramids were hidden by a choking yellow sand-storm.

Mr. Green shook his head at this and sighed. Why do they bother?


About three months after Will had set off a registered parcel arrived at the book shop. It bore an Egyptian postage stamp and lots of official-looking stickers printed in Arabic. Inside were several school notebooks. There was also an envelope containing a hand-written letter.

'Dear Mr. Green,

My name is Dianne Stevens. Will told you about me, I'm sure. I'm very sorry to inform you that Will died ten days ago, March twenty-third, in Aswan, a small town on the Nile in southern Egypt. We'd gone there to visit the famous Abu Simbel monument, but Will died in his sleep the night before we were due to set out.

He'd been ill for some months and his doctors had already warned him it was time to put his affairs in order, but this was his last chance to make the trip he'd always dreamed of, so he kept his condition secret even from you because he was afraid you might talk him out of it.

That's all I have time for now, I'm afraid, because I'm told the Consul has just arrived from Cairo. When we get back, I'll let you know about the funeral arrangements. We can talk properly then.


Dianne Stevens.

P.S. The postcards Will sent you were his idea of a joke. The real story of our journey is in the notebooks. He wrote everything down, so you'd know we didn't spend all our time in Brighton.'


Mr. Green took the notebooks home with him after work. He knew he'd have the evening to himself, as his wife was away visiting her mother and wouldn't be back until tomorrow. After supper he settled down in front of the fire with a glass of whiskey and began to read

The journal was written in pencil, and each entry was preceded by a water-colour sketch: boats on the Seine, the Colosseum, an Athens street market, a snow-filled Ottoman graveyard overlooking the Bosphorus, prayers at the Western Wall, the golden Dome of the Rock against a stormy sky and, finally, those same pyramids at Giza Will was always talking about.

Mr. Green read for hours, leaving his armchair occasionally to put on more coal whenever the fire got low. He was a little surprised by the beauty of the watercolour sketches, and guessed they must the work of Dianne, as Will had scarcely been able to draw a recognisable egg. Only the last entry, dated March twenty-third, had no water-colour sketch, just a rough pencil outline of a sort of yacht, with what appeared to be two people, a man and a woman, standing in the prow.


"Hotel Rameses, Aswan. 6.00 p.m.

I think I'll get an early night after writing this, because we're due to take a jeep to Abu Simbel at dawn tomorrow, before the sun gets too hot.

We made most of our way down here on the night train from Cairo and left the train early this morning, just for the fun of completing the last leg of our Nile journey on a felucca, one of those small boats with the huge white sails. The boatmen demanded such a ridiculous price for Aswan that Dianne wanted to return to the train, but it was already too late for that, so I paid up and loaded our baggage into the boat. The captain was all smiles by then and even offered to help but I said no, thanks, because I knew the 'help' would only be added to the bill.

In less than half an hour, we had everything stowed away, the sail was raised and we pushed off down the river. It was like sailing slowly back into another time. The view hardly changes at all: sand, rock, more rock and then more sand. The villages are surrounded by enormous palm trees and have flat-roofed houses that are sometimes painted blue against the Evil Eye. Veiled women walk along the banks with water jugs balanced on their heads and white-robed nomads bring their camels down to the water to drink. Occasionally, you can see ruined mud forts on the hilltops.

All this sounds very romantic but the novelty doesn't last for long, and then it's difficult not to doze in the heat. I think both of us must have dropped off immediately after lunch. I've been doing that a lot, lately. Sometimes I wonder if I'll have the strength to go much further, but I'm not giving up the ghost just yet. Perhaps I'll show those doctors there's more life left in this old dog than they thought.

When I woke it was late afternoon. A hot, dry wind was blowing and the Nubian crew sang as they pulled with all their strength on the ropes of the great sail, which flapped and boomed away above our heads. Dianne was still asleep on a pile of cushions in the stern. I was thirsty, so I got up for a drink, then went and sat on a pile of fishing nets in the prow. "Aswan, one hour, sir," said the captain.

The fishing nets made an uncomfortable seat, but I didn't care about that, because I was finally face to face with what I had come so far to see. And what a sight it was. The river ahead of us was filled with the triangular sails of boats like ours, but I could barely make them out in the glare, for we were sailing through a haze of dazzling, blinding light. Everything glowed: the sand, the rocks, the clouds, even the air, as if the entire world had turned itself to gold while we slept. When I glanced over the side I could see myself reflected in the water together with Dianne, who'd come up to stand beside me, and the water was gold as well, liquid gold, with our faces shining up out of it, all mixed with blue and silver.

As I sat there, with my hand shading my eyes, I suddenly had the oddest feeling—it took me a moment to realise what it was. And then I knew: I felt free; not your old, everyday kind of freedom, like when you wake up on a Saturday morning and remember you haven't got to go to work, but as if things I'd been carrying around with me all my life had simply dropped away and it was enough just to be me, boring old Will Saunders, at that time and in that place.

'Under a reddening sky, the Nile burns like molten glass.' I read that in one of your books, Eric, and it's true. It really does."


Mr. Green put the notebooks on one side and sat until morning, smoking his pipe and thinking and wondering what Mrs. Green would say when he told her they were going to Paris.   

Buy this short story collection for the Nook.