Truth be told, the list is long...and even once I made the list, and counted said projects and determined I was in no position to add any more until I completed some, I went ahead and added like three more. But that's a me problem, that's not a you problem.
Having said that, the next project most likely to see completion (at least based on its current place in the running at this very moment - this could change as soon as tonight, so don't get attached to my predictions) is a little ROM COM I'm tentatively calling DATE MY EX (No, Zeke. It's not about you.)
I already think these characters are pretty awesome, and I'm still in the getting to know them phase, so short of one of them revealing a plot twisting split personality that turns out to be a super asshole, I think things are looking pretty promising.
On that note - take a peek at CHAPTER ONE and tell me what you think! (Keep in mind, it's a first draft - it's supposed to be messy and FULL of mistakes :-P)
“You were going to be on time three minutes ago!” I shout up the stairwell. “What are you doing up there?” Even before I finish my question the tender thunder of footprints rumbles down the hall and over the steps in my direction.
“I couldn’t find socks,” Ripley huffs as she zips past me, dark blonde mane identical to mine whipping me in the face as she makes a beeline for her backpack on the kitchen table. Apparently, she couldn’t find a hair tie either.
As if activated by the word ‘socks’, my eyes travel straight to her feet. “You know those don’t match, right?”
She takes a two second break from packing up her lunch and zipping up her bag to glare at me and roll her eyes halfway before she finishes up and slides the strap over her left shoulder. “Matching socks are overrated,” she mumbles as she slides her pink and yellow polka dot toes into a sneaker.
“Guess it’s only appropriate given your shirt and shorts don’t match either,” I tease, tugging at the galaxy t she’s decided to pair with green shorts covered in yellow pineapples.
“You just don’t get my fashion sense,” Rip mutters, shoving her second foot (this one is covered in a solid purple sock) into her shoe.
“I’m not so sure you get fashion,” I tell her, grinning, “Or punctuality. Seriously, kid, do you have plans to attend first period today at all?”
She swings the door open with grand dramatic flair. Just as the buss pulls up at the curb, perks of living in the cul-de-sac. “My timing is awesome,” she declares as she jumps forward to smack my cheek with a loud kiss before she runs from the house and straight for the school bus.
“Love you,” I call after her and I hear a faint, but distinct, ‘love you too’ before she disappears behind the closing doors. I watch through the windows as she walks through the bus, greeting her friends as she goes, until she takes her seat in the very last row, same as she does every day.
I watch until Ripley’s bus makes a turn out of my line of sight before I go back inside and close the door. A quick walk through of the downstairs to make sure the coffee maker is off and the dishes from breakfast are rinsed and in the dishwasher, and then it’s time for me to head out as well.
“Come on, Dorian,” I coax our grumpy old chihuahua from the sofa where he’s been enjoying his early morning nap, “Time to go see all your buddies.” Hearing ‘buddies’ always perks him up a bit, and though it’s lacking in enthusiasm, he shows signs of cooperation as he begins to stretch his front legs and gradually hops down to join me at the front door.
Minutes later, I’m zipping in and out of traffic in my mini-cooper, Dorian strapped safely in his car carrier and now enjoying his mid-morning nap. There are plenty of bonuses when it comes to my gig. Even if I am just a glorified and overpaid dog walker, as my Ex likes to put it.
Of course, he’s pretty much the only one who puts it that way. Sure, I walk my share of dogs, but it’s only one of the services I offer. I’m also trained in canine massage, an animal reiki master and, according to some of my more woo-woo clients, a pet psychic. I’m not prepared to put that one my business cards, but I’m confident in claiming I can read animals, certainly better than I can read most humans. I also tend to like them more.
Which, of course, makes that the number one best thing about my job. The other is my flexibility in hours. I make my own schedule, take clients based on my availability, and as a single mom, that’s worth it’s weight in gold. As is the fact, I’ve established from day one, that kid and/or chihuahua could possibly be present anytime I am.
These days, with Ripley in sixth grade and her after school calendar filled with dance, she hardly tags along anymore, but Dorian still makes most trips with me.
Our first stop of the morning is at the Forresters, to care for their two Dobermans, Rich and Robert. Dorian loves coming here, because he gets two boss both of them around. Seniority outranks size in the canine community.
After their massages, we head over to visit Pearla, an award-winning poodle about to give birth to her first litter. I do energy work on her, and her owner, whose nerves are shot from the stress of impending labor and thus needs it more than Pearla does.
By the time Dorian is snoozing for his late morning nap, we’re pulling up in front Ezra’s house. Well, mansion is more like it. Beachfront, with ocean views from every deck, and there are seven. It’s the ritziest place in the county, maybe the whole freaking state. Or it would be, if it weren’t for his whorish ways and the never-ending stream of women, all looking like they just survived a category five hurricane and loved every second of it, walking down his driveway and through the gate to meet their Uber in the street.
Today is no different. Not true. It’s a little different. Today, as I’m pulling in through the gate, two women are walking out. I smile and wave, because I’m polite, but also because I’m awkward, and waving at your best paying client’s one-night stands as they leave is the sort of awkward thing an awkward person like me does.
Dorian tucked against my side under my arm, I make my way up the steps to the front door where I let myself in. Ezra’s much better at letting women out then he is at letting them in at this time of day, and thus, he thought it best to give me my own set of keys, complete with gate code and garage door clicker, the day I started taking care of his bulldog Weasley, six months ago.
“Hey, buddy,” I greet Weasley who’s waiting inside the door for me. Dorian is instantly energized at the sight of his current best friend, and wiggles to get down. I just barely get him close enough to the ground to dodge a crash landing, when he leaps from my grip and takes off running, Weasley glued to his side as they disappear down the long hall leading from the formal foyer.
“I’m going to pretend that didn’t totally hurt my feelings,” I mumble to myself, noting not for the first time, how low I rate among those whose lives essentially depend on my willingness to feed them.
“You’re looking at it all wrong if it did,” an unexpected voice greets me from the den to my left.
“Personally, I find it considerate when they make a run for it first thing in the morning.”
My nose does a half-twitch the way it always does when my face is torn between amusement and disgust. “I don’t know which is worse. You comparing our dogs to the women you sleep with, or the fact you think it’s still first thing in the morning. You’re not even my first job this morning.” I turn to fully take in the sight of him, and my face continues to stay in limbo between both emotions. Ezra. God’s sense of humor clearly expressed at the expense of women.
The man, in a superficial capacity, is perfection. It tends to wane once his mouth opens, and words fall out, but I have a vague recollection of being in awe of his beauty once, somewhere around the first fifteen minutes I spent with him. Logically, I can still see why. Even this morning, as he’s standing there, raking his hand over his scalp trying to wake up and baggy sweatpants barely clinging to his hips while one pantleg is pushed up all the way above his calf and the other is nearly covering his foot. Ezra is tall, with broad shoulders and lean, sculpted muscles defining every inch of him. His skin is flawless, but for the scar on the side of his chin, evidence of a dirt biking accident from when he was nineteen (I asked) and randomly dappled in ink in a way that is neither excessive nor thoughtless (I asked about those too but he was less expressive). Even on days when he hasn’t combed his hair, or has opted to dye it something silly like a light shade of lavender, it still has a way of creating a wavy, carefree look that is downright charming on him. And, naturally, pairs well with the forever present dark stubble gracing his strong jawline and highlighting his pearly whites every time he smiles. Which he does a lot. Except now.
“Job,” he says, scrunching his face as if he’s in pain, “Such an ugly word.”
“Says the guy who doesn’t have one.” I shake my head, laughing as I start to follow the dogs and make my way deeper into the house. I doubt Ezra has made it to the kitchen yet today, but his coffee maker runs on a timer, and I could use another cup.
“I don’t know why you always think that,” he says, and I can tell by his voice, he’s following right behind.
“Probably because I’ve been coming here daily for the last half year and all I’ve ever seen you do is release women back into the wild after you’re done with them, and play video games,” I say snidely, veering right at the fork and landing smack at the center of his massive kitchen. Which he doesn’t use, but for coffee and storing take out. It’s tragic.
“You sound jealous. Are you jealous, Greta?” he probes, hip leaning against the kitchen island as he smirks at me in a way that almost makes me feel dirty.
“Of your wasted hours spent playing video games? No. Not remotely. I prefer my fun to take place in the real world, not on a screen.” I keep my back to him while I respond. I’ve always thought I was pretty skilled in verbal combat, but I find Ezra to have the edge more often than not in our little exchanges. Especially when he’s half naked and I haven’t been on a date in forever.
“Avoidance.” I can hear the shuffle of his feet as he moves in closer to me. Next his arm stretches out over my head to open the cupboards and retrieve a mug, a step in the coffee procuring process I was just getting to myself. “Definitely jealous.”
I turn around, suddenly determined to shut him down beyond a shadow of a doubt, except I completely miscalculated his proximity to me and wind up face first in his bare chest. It’s sticky. Probably from some chick’s saliva. “Ew!” I push back, desperate to escape him and the disgusting train of thought I’ve been pummeled over by and am now being dragged through every nasty scenario with. “Personal space, Ezra! Especially in a work environment!”
He shrugs, chuckling at my discomfort. “We’re in my kitchen. How is that a work environment?”
I contort my face a million different ways, wanting so badly to spew the perfect insult at him but coming up empty. “Fine. Working relationship then,” I huff. “Now move. You’re blocking the coffee.”
His hands move up in surrender as he slinks sideways, clearing my path.
Three minutes and half a cup later and I’m starting to see where I broke free from the restraints of my sanity and perhaps committed more to my emotions than necessary.
“I’m sorry,” I mumble, mouth still resting on the edge of my mug. “I think maybe I accidentally redirected some stored anger from last night that really wasn’t meant for you.”
Ezra opens the fridge than lingers there, apparently unable to decide between the left-over Chinese from two days ago and whatever he brought home last night. “No worries,” he says, corner of his mouth cocked in a knowing grin, “Ross?” He emerges with a small white box, red Chinese text on the side of it, and closes the refrigerator door again.
“I don’t understand why the divorce isn’t sticking,” I whine. “It’s been three years. Why am I still dealing with him on a daily basis?”
Ezra pulls open a drawer and pokes around inside until he finds two chopsticks (they don’t match, why is that so hard for people in my life?!) then uses his crotch to bump it shut before turning around and hoping ass first onto the counter, where he proceeds to eat cold Chinese straight from the box. “Are you still sleeping with him?” he asks while casually digging around in his lo-mein – probably in search of shrimp he likely already picked out the first time he ate it because he’s a flesh fiend, whether it’s in his food or his bedroom.
“God no!” I almost shudder at the thought. “Wasn’t doing that even when we were still married.”
He looks surprised, so much so, he’s temporarily abandoned his breakfast. “Why?”
I move to refill my coffee, because half a cup isn’t going to get me through this particular conversation topic. “I don’t know. I think at some point I just became so disillusioned by him, there wasn’t any trust left. And that might not mean much in your standard exchanges, but in a marriage, no trust is pretty much a death sentence. In all areas of the relationship.”
He watches me for a moment, I can feel his eyes on me even with my back to him. When I finally turn around with my full cup of coffee cradling in my hands, he’s eating again.
“Trust is required in every intimate exchange,” he says in his usual, nonchalant Ezra way, “doesn’t matter how casual or temporary.”
I have to reconsider what he’s said before I answer. He’s not usually so insightful. “Kind of surprised you actually get that. I was all set to have you making fun of me for giving up sex over something stupid like trust.”
He shakes his head. “Not stupid at all. Now if you’d said you found him annoying, or couldn’t emotionally connect or some bullshit like that, then I would have made fun of you for not having sex with him just for the sake of getting laid.”
“Uh-huh.” Standard Ezra is making a comeback already.
“Like not sleeping with me just because you hate me. Completely illogical.”
“I’m going to go walk the dogs now,” I announce, heading toward the doorway, coffee still in hand.
“We’ve got trust, Greta. Let’s build on that,” he calls after me.
“Alright,” he yells just as my hand reaches the handle to the sliding door which leads out to the yard and the beach beyond. “But just in case, I’ll probably be in the shower when you get back. And you’re welcome to join me.”
I listen for the door slamming behind her and pop a piece of red pepper into my mouth. Decided two weeks ago to give this vegan thing a go, but I still find myself searching for the animal protein every time I get my meal. I’m sure I’ll stop eventually, in the meantime, I can’t deny I’m feeling pretty great physically from the switch. Even if my brain misses the meat, my body doesn’t.
“You in here?” It’s Mason, my neighbor. Judging from the sound, he’s already crossed the lanai and has made it into my formal living room, which I never use, except to walk through on my way to the pool. Or the beach just beyond it.
“Kitchen,” I shout back, still trying to chew my last bite.
Mason walks in a second later. “Saw Greta leave with the dogs, figured it was safe to come over.”
I laugh. “You scared of Greta?”
“I’m scared of that little rat that follows her around. Have you ever gotten close to it? That thing is mean. Nearly bit me last time I crossed paths with it.”
“Dorian? Her seventeen-year-old chihuahua?” I laugh harder still. “I don’t even think he has teeth anymore.”
Mason scowls and proceeds to pour himself a cup of coffee. “I’m glad you think it’s funny. I went and got a tetanus booster just because of that thing.”
I shake my head, but don’t say the ten or so offensive things that spring to mind. “Did you come over here for a reason? You know, other than providing entertainment with my breakfast.”
“You’re a jackass. And yes,” he says, walking around the bar to take a seat in one of the stools, “I have a reason. Amira.”
“A what now?”
“Amira. She’s Beth’s best friend from college.” Beth’s his wife. She’s a teacher. I think. I try not to express too much interest in her. She gets a little too touchy for a woman whose husband I’m pals with.
“I’m still not following, man,” I admit, abandoning the lo-mein and getting back to my coffee.
“She’s coming to visit,” Mason goes on, slight exasperation in his tone. “Beth wants you two to meet. Thinks you guys would really hit it off.”
I frown, tension tightening my brow. “Beth knows the extent of my relationships with women, yes?”
He shrugs, smiling uncomfortably. “I think she believes you can be reformed.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I’m interested in Beth’s reforming, but thanks.” I slide from the counter, grabbing the nearly empty box of takeout and tossing it in the trash as I go.
“Come on, dude,” Mason persists. “What’s the big deal? You go out with a different woman every night. I’m just asking you to pick this one. Take her on one date. That’s all.”
“You realize I’m not your friendly neighborhood escort service, yes?” I shake my head, trying to find him amusing while it’s so easy to be offended. “You can’t book me for dating gigs.”
Mason’s shoulders slump. When he looks this pathetic it’s hard to imagine him as the CEO of a major investment firm, but he claims it’s what he does and I no reason to doubt him. Especially because I know a teacher’s salary wouldn’t pay for the house next door to me, or any house on this stretch of sand for that matter.
“Just agree to one dinner. All four of us together,” he pleads. “It wouldn’t even have to be a date, just a group thing. Please. I really don’t want to have to go home and tell Beth that it’s not going to happen.”
I’m tempted to ask if he’s scared of her too, but he just admitted to being terrified of a toothless chihuahua so there’s really no point in asking what’s basically been answered already.
“One dinner. As a group. But then I’m out. No after dinner drinks. No shows, no movies, no nothing. Just food and friends and a casual night,” I set the terms.
He nods, relief lifting his smile. “Deal.”
“I’m going to take my coffee and walk away now,” I inform him dryly, “I’m going to need a little distance from you to recover from this unpleasantness between us.”
Mason nods. “Totally understandable.”
Alright, that's all you get for now...there will be more, so tune back in frequently for updates ;-)
In the meantime, you can snag FRUIT PUNCH KISSES now (because it's done, written, edited, published, the whole she-bang!)
Or, if you're not quite ready for a long term commitment like that (I get it, some of us hardly know each other), snag this here free collection of first chapters from some of my most popular novels -