A small addition to Heading East...


*Spoiler Alert! Do not proceed if you have not read Heading East.*

I've seen a few reviews mentioning that the Sabrina issue was left unresolved. Honestly, this came as a bit of a surprise to me because I thought that Sabrina was not that important. She was the embodiment of Kat's insecurity with West, and so when Kat finally found her confidence at her fashion show, Sabrina and all the drama she brought with her faded away. To confront her was to give her more power over Kat's emotions, and I really wanted Kat to progress past that jealous, insecure person she used to be.
However, I failed in making that clear enough. That was my bad. So I added a little more to her conversation with West after her fashion show to clarify the point. I hope the few extra sentences help explain why Sabrina was not heard from again, why Kat never even gave her another thought.
Here's the scene in question:

I fell into him easily, pressing my face into his chest and breathing him in. I wrapped my arms around him and felt the strong thud of his heart against my cheek.
“I missed you,” he said, sliding his hand up my neck and bringing our lips together for a kiss that was hot and needy. “God, I missed you.”
 “Me too.” I looked up at him to let him see the effects of last night on my face.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know how soon I could get back,” he said, running his thumb along the hollows under my eyes.
“So you went to Alaska and brought my dad here?” I asked, glancing back towards the screen that separated us from the audience.
“I had to make sure he was here for this day.” He bent down and took my lower lip between his own, sucking it into his mouth gently.
I pulled away. “When you didn’t come home last night, I thought you…”
He cradled my face in his hands and pressed his forehead to mine. “I thought you said you trusted me?”
“I do. At least, I tried.”
“About Sabrina—”
I shook my head. “You know what? It doesn’t matter.”
“I dropped my phone during sound check and she found it. She didn’t give it back until later—”
I raised a finger up to his lips. “I don’t care about Sabrina.” So she’d tried to play on my insecurities to ruin what I had with West but in the end she was the one who lost.
“You mean you’re not going to confront her and kick her ass?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
 I let out a laugh. “The old me would have relished punching her in the throat. But something happened between last night and today. I realized she didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things,” I said. “I wasted so much energy worrying about her, worrying if she’d seduce you, when I should have been concentrating on us.”
“You’re not even the least bit—”
I grabbed the back of his head and rose to my toes, kissing the words right out of his mouth. He slowed and I felt his lips form a smile against mine. “Did you just shut me up with a kiss?”
I laughed. “Maybe,” I said and kissed him again before he could form a reply. 
 
---

What do you think?
 

We have a release date!

Heading East is going to be available for the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo readers. 

 

Thank you so much for your patience! I've spent the past few months writing SURRENDER, the third in the DISARM trilogy. It has been a long, emotional road writing Julie's story and now that it's done, I feel like I'm surfacing from the depths of the ocean.

Now that the manuscript has been handed in to the editor, I can now concentrate on writing books to self-publish, starting first with Heading East. After that, a standalone story about Sheriff Drew, though I'm not sure how long that story will turn out to be.

Also in the works is a 4-part series of novellas about four people living together, each story focusing on a roommate. This series is not going to be as emotional as my previous works, but it will be fun and—hopefully—entertaining!

So stay tuned!


A DISARM Giveaway!

To celebrate the upcoming release of DISARM in paperback, I am giving away TEN (count 'em ten) signed paperbacks with a set of Henry Logan's dog tags.



In case you can't read it, one tag is embossed with Henry's details and the other tag says, "Disarm by June Gray."

I will choose the winners on the release day, February 4, so get your entries in!

Note: Giveaway is limited to US residents only. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

The One with the Bad News...

Hey all, I have some bad news that I've put off telling you for the longest time: I won't be able to get Heading East done before Christmas. I thought I'd be able to get the bulk of it done in November, but with Thanksgiving, family visiting, and my daughter's birthday all in the same month, I wasn't able to hit my goal. I'm still working on it, but it looks like it won't be out until January. I'M SORRY!!! Trust me, nobody feels worse about delaying the release than me!

But look, here's the cover for ARREST! Ooh, shiny! 


New Finding West cover

Hi all! Sorry I've been AWOL! October and November are busy, busy months! My aim is to have Heading East (the sequel to Finding West) at the end of November. If I can't make that deadline, I'll be sure to let you know asap.

In the mean time, I've redesigned the cover for Finding West to avoid the whole Amazon/BN/Kobo debacle as I've heard they've targeted books with nude bodies on the cover. 


Anyway, I hope you like the new covers!

Is a sequel really necessary?

I wanted to address the question: why have a sequel?

If you've read Finding West, you'll know that the story isn't complete at the end of the novel. I originally intended on writing one stand-alone novel but my publishing contract for another book restricts me from self-publishing anything over 70,000 words. Finding West clocks in at nearly 60,000 words. I couldn't finish telling the story in 10K words. Just not possible.

I hope this clears up any confusion. I'll be working on the sequel, Heading East, in September and will hopefully have it out by November *crossing fingers*.


Cover Re-Reveal!

I've redesigned the cover to Finding West because I really wasn't feeling the first cover. But now I love it, and I hope you do too!

And now, without more ado:


Coming August 21, 2013

Teaser Tuesday #3

It's Teaser Tuesday!

Here's another unedited teaser from Finding West:




---

Holy shit.

I pressed my back against the door, trying to control my breathing. My body felt like it was on fire—my throat dry and my crotch throbbing from that one kiss.

Kiss: that one word didn’t seem enough for what we’d just done. Mouth-fucking more like. I could still taste him, could still feel his warm tongue invading my mouth, could still feel his hands sliding all over my body. My face heated up at the thought of his hard length digging into my hip. He’d felt so ready.

The question was: was I?

I changed out of my dress and shoes and into my usual sweats and hung the dress up in my closet, a little surprised that the seams were holding together. It was safer to be in my regular baggy clothes, far easier to evade the advances of an incredibly sexy man. If he found me attractive in this grey cotton cloak of ambiguity, then there was definitely something wrong with his head.

He looked up from the couch when I came out of my room. Apparently I’d been gone long enough that he had time to clean up the table and wash the dishes. “We need to talk about that kiss,” he said, standing up.

“No, we don’t,” I said.

The skin between his eyebrows wrinkled. “We can’t just ignore what happened.” He motioned to the space between us. “Something’s happening here.”

I swallowed hard, my heart pounding wildly at the thought of confronting my growing feelings for him. There had been something in that kiss, but what would it cost me to admit it aloud?

“Know what? You can pretend to yourself that you don’t feel it, but you’re not fooling me. You’re not fooling the Sheriff either.”

“What would you know about me and Drew?”

“Absolutely nothing apart from the fact that even he could tell you wanted me here,” he said. “And he wasn’t very happy about it.”

I toyed with the sleeves of my sweatshirt. “This isn’t about him.”

“You’re right. This is ninety percent about you.” His eyes bore into mine, trying his best to unnerve me. “And ten percent me.”

“I’d be fucking stupid if I developed feelings for someone who doesn’t remember who they are,” I finally said. “What if you’re married? What if you have kids?”

He held out his left hand. “I’m not wearing a ring, or the telltale white line that means I used to wear one.”

I smacked his hand away. “That doesn’t mean anything.”

“It proves I’m not married,” he said, slipping his hands in his pants pocket. “Your real worry is that I’ll get my memory back and I won’t want you anymore. You think that the person I used to be won’t think you’re worthy.”

My chest hurt with his words, because even though they weren’t said with malice, they were still tinged with the same spite as the taunts back in high school. “Fuck off,” I said, feeling the sting of tears at my tear ducts. I turned away, wishing he was a vampire so I could rescind my invitation. “I’m going to bed.”

He stepped around me and blocked the way to my bedroom with his large body, his arms folded across his chest. He looked so daunting and a little more than irritated. “Fine, but think about this—” He grabbed the sides of my head and kissed me hard. There was a desperation to this kiss; the way his lips mashed against mine, the insistent thrust of his tongue as he devoured me.

My body gave in, and I found myself sighing into his mouth once again despite myself. To be so easily manipulated made me feel so weak but I couldn’t fight it, not when my entire body wanted him so badly it trembled with his touch.

He bit my lower lip and sucked on it a moment before pulling away. He pressed a soft kiss to my cheek and then breathed against my ear, “With or without my memory, I still want you, Kat."

Then he left me standing by myself, aching all over from his absence.

---

Finding West is due out in August 2013.

Teaser #2 from Finding West

-->

Note: This excerpt is still unedited and may change before final publication.

___

I ate my sandwich in the living room while he remained at the dining table, both of us needing some space, which was hard to get in such a small house. Every move I made, every breath I took, I felt him with me. I realized with a start that I felt comforted by his presence; the thought made my face burn with anger.
I have always prided myself on my independence. Ever since my father went off to prison, I’d taken care of myself and I’d be damned if I let someone else come in and invade my space, making me dependent and weak and shit.

No freaking way.

After finishing my lunch, I stalked over to the sink and washed my plate. As I made my way back to my studio, the stranger’s deep voice reached out to me, stopping me in my tracks. “Don’t be mad, Kat.”

I looked over my shoulder, surprised once again by the face of the man looking back. “I’m not mad.”

He raised an eyebrow. “So this is happy, then?”

“Fucking elated,” I said deadpan.

He chuckled. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about, you know,” he said. “You have a nice body.”

My pulse picked up again, despite my wishes. “Nice. Yep. Right.”

“What, you don’t think you have a nice body?”

“I think I have a strong body,” I shot back.

“Don’t tell me you think you’re fat?”

I whirled around, my hands already clenched. “God, you’re so confrontational.”

His eyes burned into mine. “So are you.”

“For fuck’s sake, no, I don’t think I’m fat,” I said. “Do I think there are better bodies out there than mine? Sure. Do I bemoan the fact that I’ll never have a sexy, Hollywood body? Hell no. Do I care about what I look like? Take one guess.”

“Do me a favor, Kat,” he said gently from across the room. “When I’m gone, stand in front of your mirror and take a look at yourself. Really look. Pretend you’re seeing through someone else’s eyes.”

“What’s the point in that little exercise in futility?”

“I want you to see yourself for what you really are,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to look.”

Okay, that incensed me. Nothing like telling me I’m a scaredy-cat to piss me off. “I’m not afraid. I just don’t want to be all gussied up for absolutely no reason. I live alone; the only person I have to please is me. And you’d better believe I’m okay with what I see.”

“There’s a distinct difference between okay and happy.”

“I was happy before you came along.”

“Were you really?”

___


Finding West is due out August 2013. 





Teaser from Finding West.

Note: This excerpt is still unedited and may change before final publication.

___


“Hey, did you hear what I said?” I closed the fridge door and found the man staring at the computer screen, his face pale from shock. I walked over and set the bottles on the table. “What is it?”

He tried to shut the laptop, but I wedged my fingers in between. “It’s uh—”

“Don’t say it’s nothing because I will punch you in the throat,” I said, wrestling the computer away from him. He gave up without a fight.

I flipped open the computer screen, studied the picture, then laughed. “That’s not you.”

He blinked a few times, relief seeping into his taut features. “Are you sure?”

I set the computer back down and pointed at the screen. “Look, the bridge of your nose is thinner and you have a little less forehead than he does.”

He stared at the picture, still apparently unconvinced.

“I’ve been looking at your face all morning, I think I can spot the difference.”

“Please be certain.”

I rolled my eyes before focusing on his face, starting with that bushy beard that covered a good portion of his face, to the straight nose, and ending with those luminous grey eyes, which were looking straight into my own, seemingly holding me in place. My chest felt tight, which was in itself a scary reaction to studying the face of a stranger.

I don’t know how long I stared at him—probably longer than was socially acceptable—but I finally wrenched myself away from his gaze and straightened. “I’m…” I cleared my throat. “I’m sure.”

Then he smiled and any lingering doubts in my head melted away as his eyes wrinkled at the corners and his nearly perfect teeth shone against his dark beard. The kind of look that seemed genuine enough to make me feel warm inside. Uncomfortably so.

I grabbed my beer and made a big production of opening it in order to ease the tension. I didn’t know this guy; he had no business making my stomach feel this way.

For the first time, I questioned my decision to bring this man into my home. For the first time, I felt fear.


___


Finding West is due out August 2013. 


The Dutch cover!

Here's the Dutch cover for the DISARM series! 


It has a different feel from my original covers, but Bruna's designers had to stick with a certain look for their Amber line. What do you think?

What in the world is June Gray working on?

I know I've been quiet for a while, not releasing anything for what seems like forever. I wish I was as fast as some other authors out there! Seriously! I feel like a snail compared to some of y'all!

So what have I been working on?

Let's see... I'm 2/3 of the way through the first draft of ARREST, the sequel to DISARM. As I was writing ARREST, an idea struck me so hard I had to write it down right away. Now it won't let go. Henry and Elsie will probably force me to write that story after ARREST is done. But I guess that will all depend on how DISARM/ARREST are received by the public, if the publisher wants another book, and most importantly, if readers even want another H&E story. Which is to say, I don't know if there will be a third H&E novel.

(This is probably not good news considering the whole Crossfire Series debacle, huh?).

As for self-publishing endeavors, I am in the midst of writing another erotic romance, which may become two or three books. To honor my contract with Berkley, I have to keep anything I self-pub under 70K words, so you see why the story might be broken up into two or three books if it becomes overlong.

I'm expecting the first (maybe only?) book to be done by August 2013. For now, I have a blurb and a cover to show you, though it might change over and over seeing as I'm a little anal retentive when it comes to my covers.





West
(A True North novel)

Kat Hollister is a tomboy who lives in t-shirts and dirty jeans and doesn’t give a shit what the world thinks. She lives alone and closes everyone out, with only her dog Josie by her side. For Kat, love and relationships are for the weak, and she is anything but.

Until one cold night when she finds a stranger stumbling on the side of a dark road, a man who has lost his memory.

She gives him temporary shelter against the snowstorm, but what she doesn’t count on is the friendship that blooms. This man—who has no identity—starts to teach her things about herself she never knew, and she begins to wonder if maybe she'd been wrong about love and trust all along.

 

---

If you'd like to add this on Goodreads, you can go here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18041650-west

Stay tuned. I'll post teasers and such in the months leading up to publication!


Oklahoma

If you've read my books, it should come as no surprise that I love Oklahoma. I practically grew up there, in the southside just west of Moore. The places I wrote about in DISARM are real, they are places that I've visited often.

I was there during that infamous day on May 3, 1999 when tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma. I was working at Montgomery Wards at the time, watching the emerging weather on the small TV in the break room. We called all of the customers inside the stock rooms to take cover, huddling under racks of clothes as the winds howled outside. The mall was spared but my neighborhood was not so lucky. Going home that night proved impossible. Streets were blocked off, people were parking at the side of the road and just walking home. I couldn't get anywhere near our house, so I just stayed at a friend's place, not knowing if I even had a home to go back to.

Thankfully my family and our house was spared with minimal damage. We were lucky. Three houses down began the real damage. Brick houses were reduced to cement foundations and a jumble of wood, mud, and personal belongings. I can't even describe it, how it looked as if the place had been bombed. It was the worst thing I'd ever seen, like I'd been dropped in the middle of a war zone.

But the spirit of Oklahoma is resilient and giving. I bore witness to the community coming together, and slowly our homes, hospitals, and businesses were rebuilt brick by brick. We recovered in time.


Yesterday, a monster tornado went through my beloved Oklahoma again. The disaster zone you see on TV is literally right around the corner from my old home, where my parents still live. Once again, I could only sit in front of the TV—this time from all the way across the country—and watch helplessly while my beloved state was torn to pieces. My parents' house was in the tornado's direct path, and for a tense thirty minutes we couldn't get a hold of my mom, who was home alone at the time. Thankfully, she had taken shelter in our neighbor's storm cellar.

Once again, my parents' home was spared as the tornado veered a different direction at the last minute. Others were not so lucky, including two elementary schools where children were trapped inside. Reports state that over a hundred people were found alive overnight, but many more are still missing, many of them children.

I can't even imagine how people over there must be feeling; I feel so impotent, powerless over here. Every part of me wants to go home, to don gloves and run to those schools and help sift through the rubble to find survivors. But all I can do from here is donate money and show gratitude to rescue efforts, and pray that they may find many more survivors today.


So thank you to Lola and Stewart, who took in my frantic mom and kept her safe. You'll never know what the tiny gesture of making room in an already-cramped space means to us.

Thank you to good Samaritans who help, any way they can.

Thank you to the rescue workers who are working tirelessly, laboring against the odds and the elements to find survivors.

Thank you to the teachers, who stayed with the students inside the school. You are truly angels in human form.

If you can, please donate to the Red Cross to help with disaster relief HERE. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 for a $10 donation.

To my fellow Oklahomans: my thoughts and prayers are with you today.

And finally, here's a photograph taken by Nancy Dodd Poole of Broken Arrow, OK.

"My Niece and Nephew live in Edmond and OKC and 
they went down to try to help in the clean up at Moore. 
Here is one of their pictures. Just gives you chills!"

Highlight: The Vampire Cookbook

Hello all! I don't normally do this, but I wanted to highlight the new release by my dear editor, MJ Heiser. Not only is she a lovely person, but she is also one helluva writer!

Her newest novel is paranormal romance/urban fantasy and is titled The Vampire Cookbook.




Blurb:

Kelly Kerbey's life is like something straight out of a reality television show: She's dating a gorgeous Hollywood actor, her best friend is a supermodel, and she is the best-selling author of a series of supernatural romance novels that she secretly hates writing. Unfortunately she's attracted the attention of the wrong kind of fan, and that fan is going to make her an offer she literally can't refuse: He's going to force her to help him write a cookbook, and if she doesn't comply she could end up as an entree.

Part Tim Burton farce and part Jane Austen voyage of self-discovery, The Vampire Cookbook will make you laugh out loud and take a second look at the strangers lurking in the dark corners.


And now for a short excerpt:
 
The drive home from Toro Bravo didn’t take long, but it was a chilly ride. Brent’s solution to that was to pull me closer on the bench seat, right up against him. He opened his jacket to me and, after a moment of awkwardness, I snuggled up against him. He was warm and lean, and he smelled amazing. I tried not to get ahead of myself and wonder where this night was leading, but seriously, there was no math puzzle or baseball statistic that could overwhelm the potent mojo of Brent Cox. I tentatively put my right hand on his abs. I felt them flutter under his shirt, and a low rumbling noise, like a growl, resonated from his chest. That was a huge turn on.

Even after that, when he pulled his flashy red convertible into my driveway, I was scared to assume things were moving forward. Even when he asked if he could come in for a nightcap, I tried to focus on only pouring him a drink. I mean, sure, I tried to remember if I’d taken every single precaution earlier that day: Shaved legs? Check. Manicured ladybushes? Check. Scented powder on my sheets? Check. I moved like a zombie through my house to the sideboard in the dining room, careful not to assume—

I was seized from behind and turned. For a split second I was too disoriented to understand what was happening to me, but Brent’s smell was all around, warm and heady and intoxicating. He pressed me against the sideboard and kissed me. I was dizzy, and I hate to confess that my first thought was that I owed Celeste big time for the shopping trip. His hands slipped around my waist and pulled me closer by my hips.

“Kelly,” he said in my ear, his voice a low rumble.

“Mm, Brent,” I responded, my hands on his arms moving upwards to his shoulders.

“God, Kelly, what are you doing to me?” he asked as he pulled me up against him. I suppose it was an attempt to demonstrate exactly what I was doing to him, but all I had on the brain was endorphins, and they were making it pretty much impossible to think. He dipped his head down to that sensitive spot right behind my ear and I trembled like a junkie.

He slid his hands down my hips and around to my backside. His fingers dug deep as he lifted me in his arms and placed me on the sideboard. I squeaked, but I don’t think it was a protest. Again, I’m not at all sure what that noise was. Maybe it was surprise. Regardless, I was delighted to be at a different vantage point, to be able to look down on the splendor of him from a different place. Plus, I could now use my legs as hooks and drag him closer to me.

I looked down into his eyes and saw an expression on his face I’d never seen before. He looked overwhelmed and confused, helpless. I felt a surge of power as a result; I’d made him helpless, somehow. Dumpy, plain old me, simple little Kelly Kerbey The Nerd had made a man look like that, and not just any man, but this man, my physical and temperamental ideal. It was amazing. It was glorious.

It was batshit insane crazy.

Before I could make the mistake of overthinking it again, Brent crushed his mouth against mine and made it impossible to think. There was something more than just an exchange of saliva and breath at work here, more than pressure and friction and warmth and wetness. I felt energized, alive. I felt like I could do anything, absolutely anything.

Look, I’d kissed Brent Cox before. Several of those kisses had slid into second base without any problems. But never before had I felt this kind of abandon, this kind of freedom. He was responding to me in a different way. I didn’t understand it, and I was pretty sure I didn’t want to. Whatever was happening would probably complicate things, and my basic physiological urges didn’t want complicated.

I seized his shirt in my hands and yanked. The sound of ripping and of popping buttons was immensely satisfying. He grunted, his head dipping down to my collar bones. I could feel him inhaling deeply, then nuzzling deeper into my flesh. I thought I heard a whine, then he slammed his hips against mine, leaving no doubt about his intentions.

I came up for air and gasped, “God damn, Brent, is this about the blouse?”

His warm, wonderful hands skimmed up my skirt to that orange blouse, then up over my breasts to the drooping cowl neck. He gathered it carefully in his hands, then pulled it down, exposing way more of my cleavage than I would dare expose in any situation but this one. He pushed his face down into the space between my breasts. For a breathless, giddy moment I wondered if he was going to motorboat me, which, honestly, wouldn’t have surprised me, knowing his personality the way I did. He didn’t. He instead rained a dozen light kisses over my skin.

I was panting by the time he was done. I wondered when the last time was that I’d been this turned on, but the endorphins took over again and I realized that I had never been this turned on. I could feel his bare skin under my fingers, and that incredible feeling of invincibility swept through me again. He pulled my blouse up and off over my head, then unclipped my bra and slid it off my arms. The cold air made the stiffness of my nipples seem almost painful—and then he drew one into his mouth.

As I’ve said, we’d been to second base before. It had been confusing, just a makeout session in the back of his car that had gotten a bit steamy. It hadn’t felt like this. He sucked on my right nipple and I swear I felt him draw something out of me. I rolled my head back and tried not to swoon. I made a guttural noise in the back of my throat and wrapped my legs around his torso.

“Please don’t stop,” I moaned as he switched to the left nipple. “Oh, God, Brent, please don’t stop.”

For a moment I thought I was going to get my wish. He broke away from his oral worship of my breasts and pressed his body against mine. Flesh to flesh he kissed me, and I thought I heard a swell of music, something triumphant like an anthem. He breathed into my mouth, and his breath tasted spicy and a little wild. I breathed some of that into my lungs and felt my body grow even warmer, a flush blooming on my chest and my face. Suddenly I was certain that I would know exactly how to please him in bed. I knew that it didn’t matter how inexperienced I was, or how long it had been since I’d had sex. I could do this. I wanted to do this. And I only wanted to do this with him.

“Mine,” he growled, kissing me softly on each cheek in a display of tenderness that made my belly tremble. “You are mine, Kelly. You are mine, and I am yours.”

The words hinted at a permanence I couldn’t understand in my flustered state. Was he trying to complicate things? I would find it sweet if it didn’t hint at something far more significant. As it was I found the words sobering.

My body didn’t care. I was still grinding against him, still warm in my belly and flushed from my forehead to my navel. I thought of how he was with his friends, boisterous and outrageous, loud and silly and funny. I thought of how his fans saw him, a foul-mouthed cocky hothead. I thought even of how he’d been with me for the past year, respectful but reserved and always detached from me just a bit. Something had changed, and now I saw this new side of him, hot and sexy, yes, but also full of tenderness and compulsive passion.

I really, really wanted to get him to bed, but I knew full well I’d fuck him right here in the dining room, propped up on my sideboard. Didn’t matter. It was go time.

--

Available now for the Kindle and Nook.


The Kobo Booth at the London Book Fair 2013

(alternate title: I Should Have Gone to London).

At the beginning of this year, after dismal sales of the DISARM series at kobobooks.com, I received an email from one of their marketing people telling me that she was impressed with my covers and was going to highlight it on romance>erotic category page.

The boxed set immediately flew up the charts and was in the Top 50 for several weeks (every now and then, it still fights its way onto the charts but bigger and better books have been published since then).

Fast forward to a few months, when the same Kobo employee emailed me an invitation to the London Book Fair. I was even offered a speaking opportunity. And I—being the introvert that I am—started hyperventilating at the thought and almost immediately shot off an email explaining why I could not attend (too far, I'd have nothing to contribute, I'm a hybrid author, etc.).

But guys, I should have gone! I'm a total dickhead for not going. Just look at their booth!


You'll see very many familiar self-pubbed books on that wall. I mean, Bella Andre and Abbi Glines? Goodness! Now look a little closer...


Oh. My. God! Those are my covers! Not one, but TWO of them. In their Writing Life booth. Next to the big guys.

I mean... CRIPES. I should have gone, right? I would have peed myself like a frightened little mouse, but still...

Next time, Kobo. Promise.

Quick reminder...

The separate DISARM novelettes will be coming down soon (as will the boxed set of the series) so if you haven't already, you might want to get them before they come off sale. I'd hate to have readers mad at me because they couldn't buy the rest of the series, so please pass this message along.

I'm still here! I promise!

I'm so sorry for the long radio silence!

I am a terrible blogger. Seriously. I'll sometimes forget to blog then, after a some time passes, the idea of writing a long blog post about my past news just becomes too intimidating and I put it off even longer...

It's a terrible cycle of procrastination, I tell you!

For the past few months, my family and I have been busy packing and saying goodbye to our friends in California as we prepared for our next PCS. This time, we're headed to Miami (I swear, I can't NOT hear the Will Smith song each time I write that!) in the summer.

We're in Virginia right now, staying in base temp lodging for the next several weeks while my husband goes through even more schooling. I've never lived on base before; I'm really enjoying the feeling of community and the fact that housekeeping can come to my house every single day if I choose! lol. Seriously spoiled here!

And onto the news that I've managed to announce everywhere else BUT here: I've agreed to a three-book deal with Berkley Books! Cindy Hwang, Sylvia Day's editor for The Crossfire Series, has pre-empted The DISARM Series!

Can I get a SQUEEEEE?! ;)

The first set of novelettes will make up the first novel, then I will write two more. The second novel (which I'm working on right now) is tentatively titled ARREST.

I'm so excited about this! I love self-publishing and will continue to do so, but I just couldn't say no to this kind of opportunity and exposure. If my series becomes even half as popular as The Crossfire Series... oy vei!

Life is very lively around here, for sure!

Thank you again for your emails and messages about Henry & Elsie. I sometimes can't get around to replying each one, but know that it's all appreciated! I hope you'll enjoy reading the next chapter in H&E's life!

Bye again for now. I promise not to be a stranger!


R and R



“This place is, uh, interesting,” Henry said the moment we walked into the room, pursing his lips at the overenthusiastic beach cottage décor. The walls were covered in whitewashed beadboard and the furniture was all white rattan, even the headboard. Seashells, real and plastic, were scattered on nearly every surface.
He set the bags down on the worn wood floor and entered the only other door in the room, painted a faded blue. “Well, at least we have our own bathroom.”
“No dorm-room sharing with other guests then,” I called, drawing aside the frilly white curtain and looking at our view of the quiet street and the abandoned little shack across the road with a large FOR SALE sign in its broken window. I grinned to myself. This place certainly had its charms.
“This place is not like they said in the website,” Henry said, emerging from the bathroom with a shaking head.
“I think it’s kind of cute.”
Henry raised an eyebrow. “Cute?”
I jabbed a thumb out the window. “Yeah, in the way that the hobo at the corner is cute.”
“There is not…” He walked to the window and looked out. He let out an exasperated gust of air. “Of all the bed and breakfasts in Key West, I chose the most ghetto one.”
I hugged him from behind, pressing my cheeks against his back. “It’s fine, Henry,” I said. “As long as we’re together.”
He grasped my linked hands and held them up to his lips. “This is not how I pictured our honeymoon, Els. I wanted to give you something classy and nice.”
“This is perfect,” I insisted. We hadn’t been able to afford the trip to Prague that we’d envisioned, so we had opted for something a little closer to home. Key West, with its warm waters and lively atmosphere, seemed like a wonderful alternative.
Henry turned in my arms and took my face in his hands. “You sure?” he asked, his dark eyebrows drawn together. “We can get a room at the Waldorf Astoria.
I shook my head. “We can’t afford that.” Both of our savings accounts had been depleted after the wedding and putting a down payment on a house in Cherry Creek, Colorado; it was a minor miracle that we’d managed to go on a honeymoon at all. I wasn’t about to start nitpicking minor details because, at the end of the day, I was with Henry, we were healthy, and we were in love. Everything else was just icing on the cake.
“How about the Best Western then?” he asked with a teasing grin.
I squeezed him. “This bed and breakfast is perfect. Really.”
He kissed my forehead, inhaling deeply. “I just want to give you so much more.”
I pulled away and walked over to the bed with the simple white covers and lay down, leaning back on my elbows. “Give it to me then,” I said in the most seductive voice I could muster.
Henry reached behind his neck and tugged his shirt off in one swift movement, advancing towards me even as he worked on the fly of his shorts. My eyes raked over his firm and angular form, the perfect complement to my soft, smooth body.
With a dark look on his face, he swooped down and captured my lips, kissing me with the same passion we’d had since the beginning. He slipped his hands under my back and held me close to his naked chest, his erection digging into my crotch. One hand slid along my thigh and under the hem of my skirt where his fingers found my panties. He tugged them down with slow deliberation and threw them across the room.
He crawled over me, undressing me while we kissed, our lips only breaking apart long enough to slide my tank top over my head.
“Starfish,” I said against his lips, shifting my backside.
He pulled away with a wicked grin. “You want me to play with your starfish?” he asked, his fingers massaging my ass.
I burst out laughing. “No, I meant there’s a starfish digging into my back,” I said, shifting again and dislodging the large red starfish that had lain on the pillow moments earlier. I held it up to him, still racked with laughter.
He chuckled with me, grabbing the starfish and throwing it across the bed. He fell sideways onto the bed, a smile still splitting his face, and pulled me close.
I gazed at the beautiful man in my arms, having to remind myself that he was now my husband. When he grasped my hip and slipped into me, I realized that no other man could ever complete me like Henry could. Nobody else had even come close. I held onto the back of his head and pressed my forehead to his, our eyes burning into each other as we said with our bodies what our words could not.
We made love on that simple bed that afternoon, bathed in the warm sunlight, completely absorbed in each other. The outside world could fall apart around us and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
We were together.

~

After taking a nap on the surprisingly comfortable bed, we headed out on a night on the town. We walked down to Duval Street and took in the sights and sounds. The street was lined with restaurants and souvenir stores, all of which appeared to be overflowing with customers.
“I didn’t realize how busy this place would be,” I said, feeling a trickle of unease at the sheer number of people walking around us. Everywhere I turned there were people in shorts and dresses, most in various stages of inebriation.
Henry squeezed my hand, walking ahead of me to part the way like he’d always done. He must have sensed that I was starting to feel claustrophobic because he abruptly pulled me into a store alcove, a pocket of calm away from the crowds. “Better?”
I nodded, my heartbeat slowing. “What’s going on? Is there a parade or something?”
“I think I saw a flyer about a brewfest.”
“Figures,” I said, laughing softly. “We schedule our honeymoon during drunkfest.”
“Brewfest,” he corrected.
“Same thing.” I looked at him as he craned his neck around, no doubt in search of the location of the festivities. “You want to go, don’t you?” I asked, a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth.
His eyes flicked back down to me, gauging my reaction. “Only if you want to go.”
His answer came as no surprise. Henry was never one to turn down a cold one. “Come on then, let’s find this brewfest,” I said, tugging on his hand.
“Are you sure?” He pulled me close, holding my body against his. “We can skip it if you’d rather do something else.”
“No, really. I’d like to try a few beers myself.”
He hugged me tight, lifting me off my feet a few inches. “Best wife ever,” he said into my hair.
“Damn straight,” I laughed.
A little bit of wandering later, we finally figured out that the brewfest had adjourned from the beach to a place called The Porch. After asking around, we finally found the place a few blocks from Duval Street. The Porch was actually a house that had been converted to a bar. Patrons could either sit at the bar inside or take their drinks outside and sit on rattan furniture on the porch. We did the latter, preferring to steer clear of the rowdy crowds.
We took our frosty glass mugs and sat in a white loveseat at the end of the porch. Henry automatically lifted his arm and I snuggled into his side; we sighed at the same time. “I love you,” he said.
I looked up to return the sentiment when I realized that he was looking pointedly at the beer in his hand.
“I love you so much,” he said before taking a sip. He glanced at me and grinned.
I smacked him in the stomach. “I love you too, my pear cider,” I said, taking a large swig of my drink. Henry chose the same moment to touch his cold mug to my cheek, taking me by surprise. I gulped, tipping the mug too much and getting foam all over my upper lip and nose.
He laughed, deep and untroubled, then stared at me with a warm look in his eyes. He cupped my cheek in his palm and bent his head down, but instead of kissing me, his tongue darted out and lapped at the foam on my lip. A second later, he kissed the end of my nose. “Woodchuck is a good taste on you. But if you tasted like beer, you’d be the perfect woman.”
I pulled away and raised an eyebrow. “If you tasted like chocolate, I’d suck on you all day long.”
His eyes widened. “Well what are we waiting for?” he asked, taking a large swig of his drink. “Let’s get out of here and go melt some chocolate.”
I laughed. “Fondue for dinner then?”
“I’m not above dipping my dick into scalding chocolate if it means you’ll suck on it all day long.”
“Your Gristle Whistle, you mean?” I asked with a grin.
He threw his head back and laughed. “My purple-helmeted airman,” he said.
“Your Vlad the Impaler.” I shook my head and giggled, realizing that other people had heard us and not caring.
Henry was suddenly close, his breath on my ear. “God, I love you so much,” he said, and in the next moment, his lips were on mine and the rest of Key West dissolved.
Twenty minutes later, we were back in our room with a bar of chocolate in hand. We hadn’t found a fondue set or even chocolate syrup, but hoped that melting chocolate with our own body heat would be just as sexy.
Henry lay in bed completely naked with his arms folded under his head as we watched for the rectangle piece of chocolate to melt on his erect penis.
“Anytime now,” I said, on my knees between his legs as I held his shaft steady.
He sighed. “We’ve been waiting for ten minutes. My bushwhacker is very impatient to whack some bushes.”
“Give it a few more minutes,” I said, leaning down to study the chocolate. “It looks like it’s starting to soften.”
“The chocolate or me?”
My tongue darted out and licked the tender skin at the base of his penis. “Better?”
“Mmm,” he said, closing his eyes. “Maybe you need to do a bit more of that to melt the chocolate.”
I took a deep breath, inhaling his masculine scent. “Ah, fuck it,” I said and bared my teeth. I only saw a glimpse of Henry’s wide eyes before my open mouth descended on his cock and I bit the piece of chocolate. I let it melt in my mouth for several moments before I took his cock into my mouth and coated his skin with the chocolate. I pulled away and studied my handiwork. “Yum.”
“You are a genius,” he said between breaths. He sat up and kissed me, the milk-chocolate flavor intermingling between our tongues.
I pulled away and focused on my chocolate treat, wrapping my lips around the tip and, with a vacuum-tight seal, sucked my way down. His fingers laced through my hair and he held on, neither speeding me up nor slowing me down.
“God, Els,” he groaned, his hips coming up off the bed when I cupped his balls. I stopped when I heard his breathing change, when his taut muscles signaled that he was starting to crest that hill. His eyes flew open. “What is it? Do you need more chocolate?” he asked, his hand scrambling for the chocolate bar.
I wiped at the corners of my mouth. “My turn.”
He tried to catch his breath and nodded. “You’re a genius, yes, but an evil one.” With a deft motion, he flipped me over so that he was on top and put two pieces of chocolate in his mouth and chewed on them. He moved to my crotch but I stopped him.
“Not there,” I said. When he frowned, I added, “Just trust me.”
He nodded and moved up my torso, stopping at my breast. He covered one mound with his mouth and I felt his gooey tongue sliding along my skin, making circles until he reached my nipple. He took the tip between his teeth and smiled up at me a second before he bit down gently. He lapped up the sweetness and moved to the other breast, laving it with the same loving attention.
Struck with an idea, I slid out from under him and stood up. Hey, we’d already played with food. Might as well try this too.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, taking hold of my wrist.
“Just wait,” I said, digging into my luggage then running to the bathroom to change. “Did you know this place used to be a bordello?” I called out.
“Yeah, I read that somewhere on the website.”
Several long minutes later, I came back out and struck a pose in the doorway. Henry’s jaw dropped as his eyes raked over me, making me feel every bit as sexy as I felt.
I sauntered over to him in my fire-engine red corset and matching lace panties, a whip with a feather in my hands. He visibly swallowed when I straddled him, running the feather down his torso.
“Elsie, you’re so sexy,” he said, his fingers digging into my ass cheeks.
“I’m not Elsie tonight,” I said, leaning over so that my breasts were nearly falling out of the tight bodice. “Just call me Madam.”
“You planned this, huh?” he asked with a grin. “I approve... Madam.”
“Anything to please my one and only customer,” I said, raking my nails along his sides.
He folded his hands behind his head. “Then go ahead and please me.”
I leaned down and grabbed his wrists, taking the opportunity to run my tongue along the pronounced cupid’s bow of his upper lip. “Keep your hands up here,” I ordered in a husky voice. “The one rule in this bordello is that you must not touch me with your hands.”
He lifted his hips, his erection nudging me in the most delicious way. One dark eyebrow rose in question.
“Yes, you may touch me with that.” I sat up and whipped his nipple tentatively with the leather side of the crop.
He made an inarticulate noise like ungh before I whipped the other nipple. The muscles along his jaw were jumping but he kept his hands by his head. “I didn’t know you liked this kind of stuff.”
“I like anything that involves teasing you.” I ran the feather end of the whip along the length of his erection.
“Teasing?” he said in a pained voice. “More like tormenting me.”
With a smile, I sat back on my heels and gave little gentle lashes on his penis, making it jump each time. Six, seven, eight times, each time hitting a different area, finishing with one final whip at the tip.
His chest was heaving and the muscles in his arms were straining. “I want to try that whip out on you,” he gritted out.
“No touching me, remember?” I asked and stood up on the bed. I slid my palms along my waist, my fingers hooking into my panties and pulling them down as my hands continued sliding down my thighs. Completely bent over, I stepped out of my panties and flashed him a seductive smile, knowing my breasts were in his full view. I walked my fingers from my feet to his legs, up his muscled thighs and to the twitching muscle in between. My nails raked at his velvety skin, teasing him.
“That’s it,” he said and bolted upright, capturing me in his arms. In the next instant, I was on my back and Henry was crouched over me, his face dark and triumphant.
“You’re breaking the bordello rules,” I said breathlessly, completely aroused by his show of dominance.
Fuck the rules,” he said and grabbed my thighs, pulling them apart with no amount of gentleness. Then he was surging inside me, taking me like a man deprived. He pushed my legs upwards, resting them on his shoulders as he thrust into me over and over. He leaned forward, the strain on my legs a delicious mixture of pain and pleasure, and nudged at me even deeper. He caressed his cheek against the inside of my leg and then bit at my skin.
I came instantly, my legs trembling above me even as he licked at the tender spot on my calf. He continued the assault, taking me over and over before he grabbed both my ankles and plunged one last time, his face contorted into ecstasy.
Later that night, after the chocolate and costume had all been put away, we lay together completely sated.
“You were wonderful, Madam,” he said, kissing my head. “I think I might have to hire you full time.”
“Works for me,” I said, snuggling into his side, feeling the hair on his chest tickling my cheek.
“Els?”
“Mmm?”
“Do you like that stuff?” he asked in a soft, raspy voice. “Play-acting like that?”
I opened my eyes and lifted my head. “Like bondage?”
“Not just that,” he said quickly. “I mean, just trying other stuff.”
I bit my lower lip and considered his question. I looked down at the man, his face open and hopeful, and I knew I would do anything and everything with him. “I’ll try it all with you.”
He grinned like an excited little schoolboy. His expression changed a moment later as his eyes took on a meaningful glint. “You sure? I can think of a lot of kinky things to do to you.”
“Kinky, huh?” I asked, my heart beating wildly at the thought of things to come. “Bring it on.”

~

The next day we woke to the smell of cinnamon rolls. We dressed and wandered downstairs until we came upon the dining room. Jan, the B&B owner, was setting up food at the sideboard while guests sat at the dining table. My mouth instantly watered at the sight and smell of it all.
“Good morning,” Jan called and motioned to the table. “Find yourself a seat.”
The dining table was already full, with only one seat left open. With everyone still eating, I guessed one of us would have to stand to eat.
Henry walked over to the empty seat and promptly sat down. I was about to grumble about chivalry when he patted his thigh. “I have the best seat in the house for you,” he said with a grin.
I sat on his leg, slightly concerned about propriety. Sitting at the table with us were two women in their twenties as well as an older couple, a man and a woman with grey hair and age-lined faces.
“You two on your honeymoon?” one of the girls asked, eyeing our wedding rings.
Henry wrapped an arm around my waist. “Yes. Is it that obvious?”
Jan set two coffee cups in front of us and filled them. I reached for the cream and sugar and fixed our coffees.
The girl, who had long dark hair and a beautifully exotic face, nodded. “Yes. You two have the look.”
“What look?” I asked, taking a tentative sip.
“The just fell in love look,” the other girl said.
The older lady shook her head. “I think they look more like they just had some wild sex,” she said with a faint smile. “Of the sweet, sticky kind.”
I nearly spit out my coffee. Henry let out a low, deep chuckle. “That obvious, huh?” he asked.
“Our room is right next to yours,” the older woman said, causing my face to flame instantly. I didn’t realize that Henry and I had been so loud.
The older gentleman touched her arm. “Lori, stop. Can’t you see you’re embarrassing the young lady?”
“I’m sorry if we were a little loud,” I said.
The woman named Lori shook her head. “No, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. You’re on your honeymoon. Be as loud as you want.”
“So tell us your story,” one of the girls said. “How did you two meet?”
“Well, her brother was my best friend, so we pretty much grew up together,” Henry began, his palm warm and comforting on my back. “We were just roommates until Elsie here changed everything.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” I said in indignation. “At least, not entirely.”
So we told our story, beginning with the night at Tapwerks when we’d danced and the flames of lust had devoured us both. Breakfast was long over by the time we’d finished. The younger girls had excused themselves and gone on their way to meet with friends, but the older couple, Lori and Stan, had stayed until the very end of the story.
“You’re lucky, young man,” Lori said, wagging a bony finger at Henry. “If I were her, I would have moved in with Seth and told you to take a hike.”
I felt Henry’s muscles turn to stone beneath me at the woman’s words, but he said nothing. He just sat there silently while Lori gave him a tongue-lashing, telling him things that he’d no doubt thought of already.
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I mean, this was my husband we were talking about. “Trust me, Lori, he knows, and has been trying to make up for it ever since,” I said, squeezing Henry’s leg under the table.
Her face softened. “I’m glad to hear it.”
“On paper Seth seems like the logical choice, but I didn’t love him,” I said, leaning into Henry’s chest. “I love this guy here, the one who makes mistakes and admits to them. The one who’s loved me since I was a little brat.”
Stan gazed at us, silent and strong, reminding me of someone else I knew. “Indeed,” he said. “If you had done the logical thing, you wouldn’t be here right now on your honeymoon.”
Lori smiled with some mischief in her eyes. “I just wanted to make sure your husband knew how lucky he is.”
“I’m very much aware of it,” Henry said, his breath so close to my ear it was almost a private moment. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

After breakfast we walked a few blocks to the scooter rental store. We had enough money for two scooters but decided one was much more romantic. Henry was suffering from the misconception that I would be passenger, which didn’t pan out for him when I insisted I take the proverbial wheel.
It was a tiny yellow two-seater scooter and I’m sure he felt like a giant on it, but he didn’t complain. He just climbed on behind me and grasped my waist.
“You ready?” I asked and twisted the throttle. The bike jumped forward, throwing us backward in our seat. Henry’s feet immediately found the ground and he steadied us as I pressed on the brakes.
“Please don’t kill us,” he said, laughing.
I turned around and flashed him a smile. “Chicken?”
“With you at the wheel? Yes.”
I tested the sensitivity of the throttle and, after a few test runs in the parking lot, we were finally off.
I took us around Key West in a nonsensical fashion, driving by Ernest Hemingway’s home then taking in the open-air aquarium. It was wonderful, being in control of where and when we were going. Whether it was imagined or not, I felt a surge of power, as if I was finally in charge of my destiny. Henry had given up control of our relationship and was allowing me to take the lead. It was exhilarating and scary, but most of all it was liberating.
It was around four-thirty by the time we found ourselves at the southernmost point of the island, at the famous red, black and yellow concrete buoy. We got off the scooter to take pictures like the rest of the tourists. I was exhilarated that Henry and I were here together, at the southernmost point of the continental United States during the northernmost point in our lives.
After a dinner of delicious Cuban food we took a walk on the beach and watched the sun set. As the sun went from orange to purple, Henry pulled me to a stop by the water’s edge and gathered me into his side. “There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away,” he murmured.
His words sent tingles down my spine. “That’s beautiful.”
He squeezed my shoulder. “It’s a quote from Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet. I just thought it fit the moment.” He turned and faced me, his face rendered in shadows by the waning light. “You’re the shoreline and I’m the ocean, and I will never stop coming back to you.” He led me deeper into the water, the waves now lapping nearly up to my knees.
He faced me, cupping my cheeks in his hands. “Every time I look at you, I can’t help but want to tell you how much I love you,” he said then grinned. “Corny, isn’t it?”
I dug my toes into the sand to keep from swaying. His words, coupled with the tender look on his face, made my heart clench in my chest with a feeling so powerful it rendered me speechless. I simply nodded and tried my best not to cry.
He looked away to the horizon where the sea was kissing the last remnants of the sun and took a deep, cleansing breath. “Life is good.”
I was about to issue a heartfelt agreement when I felt a sting on my leg that began at one point and quickly spread around my calf. “What the hell?” I asked, jumping backwards. “Ow.”
Henry scooped me up into his arms and carried me back onto the dry sand where he set me down and crouched by my leg. “Jellyfish,” he said with deeply furrowed eyebrows. He picked me up again and started towards the water.
“What are you doing?” I screeched.
“We need to wash the venom off,” he said, looking at the water closely for any signs of jellyfish before dropping me in ankle-deep. He reached for his wallet and pulled out a credit card, then began to scrape at the tentacles that were still on my leg.
I winced, hissing between my teeth to keep from crying out loud. I didn’t know what hurt more: the stinging tentacles or the plastic grating along my tender skin. Either way, that shit hurt.
“Sorry,” he said, scraping gently but insistently. “We gotta get all of it off.” When he was satisfied, he scooped up some seawater and poured it over my leg where several angry lines were already puffing out. He repeated the process a few times and asked, “Does that feel a little better?”
“Surprisingly, yes,” I said. I thought the salt in the water was going to make it sting worse, but it had the opposite effect.
“Let’s go to the drugstore.” Henry tried to pick me back up but I wriggled out of his grasp.
“I can walk,” I said, wincing with each step.
He rolled his eyes, bent down, and threw me over his shoulder. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” he said, walking back towards the street.
“I’m fine,” I protested, noting a few people glancing our way. “I’m not completely useless.”
He set me down by the scooter. “Listen,” he said, rubbing my arms. “I promised in front of God and everyone that I would take care of you, so just let me, okay?”
“Okay, fine,” I said, then reached into my pocket and handed him the key. “Here. You drive.”

We stopped at the drug store, where Henry asked the pharmacist for jellyfish sting treatments, then proceeded to buy everything that was suggested.
My leg was stinging and itching something fierce by the time we got back to our room, but we were armed with a bunch of stuff that included a bottle of vinegar, some hydrocortisone cream, and even a can of shaving cream should the vinegar not work. Henry emptied the plastic bag on the bed and scrutinized the loot with his hands on his hips. “Which should we try first?”
“Vinegar,” I said and got up to get a washcloth.
Henry grabbed me by the waist and set me back down on the bed. “Let me,” he said and went to the bathroom with the bottle of vinegar. He came back a few moments later with a damp, smelly washcloth in his hands and a towel over his shoulder. He laid the towel underneath my leg and placed the washcloth over the puffy red welts on my leg. “Okay, so thirty minutes of this,” he said, sitting down beside me. “How does it feel?”
“It’s nice and cool,” I said, leaning back on my elbows. “It still stings pretty bad.”
“You want an Advil?”
I shook my head. “The pain’s still bearable,” I said. “It just sucks that it ruined our moment. It’s not everyday you recite poetry to me.”
Henry grinned. “It’ll happen again. Maybe.”
“Now?” I asked with a hopeful look.
He stared at me for a long time. Finally, he said, “Nothing. I got nothing.”
“Why Henry, is this your first case of performance anxiety?” I teased.
A wicked grin split his face. “I don’t get performance anxiety,” he said and crouched over me. He took my face in his hands and kissed me insistently. “It’s just that you smell like a jar of pickled onions.”
“Aw, you know just the right words to make a girl’s panties melt.” My hands stole under his shirt and played along the taut muscles of his stomach.
“How does your leg feel?” he asked in that raspy, turned-on voice.
“Still hurts. I think you need to kiss it better.”
“Oh, I’ll kiss it better. I’ll kiss it all better,” he said, running his palms under my skirt, up and down my thighs. His lips captured my mouth again, but as turned on as I was, the stinging on my leg wrenched me out of the moment. Henry must have sensed that I wasn’t in the mood because he pulled away and peeked at my leg under the washcloth. He patted the cloth back into place and fell back onto the bed beside me.
“Hey Henry,” I said, holding his blue gaze captive. I licked at my lips, my mouth suddenly dry at the thought of bringing up a subject that I’d wondered about for months.
“Hey, Elsie,” he echoed with a tug on the side of his mouth.
“Remember when you said at the museum that our memories gave you a sense of identity?” I asked.
He twisted to the side and propped his head on his hand. “Yeah?”
“But in the tapes, you said that you’d lost sight of who you were because I consumed you?” I said. “What did you mean?
“It’s both,” he said with all sincerity. “They’re two sides of the same coin. That thing that confused me, that made me feel lost, turned out to be my salvation in my darkest hour. Everything changes. That changed.”
I swallowed. “What if it changes again and you leave me?”
“That will never happen. You’re my wife now.”
I turned away. “That’s sweet,” I said with a voice as sour as the liquid on my leg. “Staying with me because some piece of paper said so.”
He held up my left hand and fingered the rings there. “Please stop trying to pick a fight,” he said, kissing my knuckles. “I’m not staying because a piece of paper or some priest said so. You know that.”
“You’ll change again, Henry. We both will.”
“Els, leaving you was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it helped me come to terms with myself.”
“What if I need to leave and find myself?”
“Then I’d let you.”
I recoiled. “You’d let me go?”
“If that’s what you needed.”
“And if I don’t come back?”
“Then I’ll come and get you,” he said simply, lacing a hand around the back of my head. “You’re stuck with me forever, remember?”
“We’re back to staying together because we’re legally bound.”
“I see our marriage as a give and take, a pliable, moldable thing that will transform over time. A house, children, grandchildren; all of that will inevitably change us. But the thing that you can count on is that I will be there for you, because I made a vow.” He kissed my forehead. “And I wholeheartedly intend to keep it.”
His blue eyes bore into mine, wordlessly asking me to believe. “I’m never leaving you again, Elsie,” he said. “And if need be, I will reassure you every single day of our lives. If that’s what it takes to convince you.”
I nodded, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” I said, shaking off the nerves that seemed to sneak up on me at random times. “This is not appropriate honeymoon conversation.”
He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing up. “I hope one day you’ll finally, completely forgive me.”
I didn’t say anything. I just looked into his face and hoped the same thing for myself. For as happy as we were right now, our old issues were still lingering under the shiny surface of our new life together, and sooner or later the sheen was going to wear off and the issues would show once again.
Henry got up then and went to the bathroom to rinse off the washcloth. “Another thirty minutes of vinegar?” he called.
I looked at the red welts and weighed the pain against the smell. “No. I think it’s ready for the hydrocortisone.”
He came back out with a non-smelly washcloth and wiped my leg before applying a healthy dose of the cream. “Do you feel better?” he asked, moving all of our drugstore purchases off the bed and onto the bedside table.
“It’s getting there,” I said with a meaningful look. “Thank you for taking care of me.”
He resumed his place on the bed beside me. “Anything for you.”
That last night of our honeymoon was the only time we didn’t make love. We were happy enough to simply snuggle, bare skin touching, and talk. Henry tended to my leg a few more times before he finally gave me some peace about the damned sting. It was only later, when his breathing against my hair had deepened, that I finally understood his motives.
My forgiveness wasn’t the only thing Henry was waiting for because the man still hadn’t completely forgiven himself.
~

Our honeymoon came to an end the next day. We woke up early to return the scooter, Henry riding it to the dealership while I followed in the rental car.
Then began our 3-hour drive back to Miami to board the plane that would take us back to reality. Back to the fixer-upper we had just put a down payment on, back to my job at Shake Design, and back to the Police Academy where Henry would take the 27-week course to become a cop.
The sun was only just beginning to rise when we traversed the bridge over the body of water between Stock Island and Boca Chica Key. I gazed out over the horizon, at the brilliant yellows and oranges staining the sky, finding it an appropriate symbol for the dawn of our new life.
Henry reached over and grasped my hand. “What are you thinking?”
“I was just thinking about our new chapter together, wondering what’s in store for us.”
“It will be perfect,” he said with a confident nod of the head. “We’ll be that boring old couple with the drama-free life.”
I smiled up at him, hoping he was right. “I’ll learn to knit and you can smoke a pipe while reading the newspaper every evening.”
He caught my teasing tone and tickled my sides. “Exactly. It’ll be smooth sailing from here on out.”
We really should have known better than to tempt the fates.


~ the end for now ~