Articles for the Month of January 2014

Special Guest Konstantine Paradias

Please welcome Breathless Press author Konstantine Paradias. Thanks for stopping by!

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The hardest part about explaining why you dislike something that has proven itself to be popular beyond the shadow of a doubt is primarily that fact that you can’t beat the general consensus. Going up against something that has proven itself to be a runaway success sometimes is most time a vain attempt to proved that you’re that special little snowflake to most people, which is what spawned the ‘you can’t account for taste’ aphorism.

But in the vain attempt to make my point, here is a list of 3 things I hate that everybody loves.

 

1-      Supernatural (or, Adventures in Metrosexual Monster-Hunting)

Supernatural is the best series ever for most of the people I know and associate with and that includes book editors, writers and even close friends. And the problem is that…I don’t get it. I don’t get why it’s a success, I don’t get why people like it and I don’t understand why it ever became so popular.

The main characters, Dean and Sam, were apparently written with a completely different presentation in mind. When my friends told me that Dean is the ‘roughneck metalhead brother’ and that Sam is the ‘quiet badass’ I imagined a towering older bastard of a brother with a Lemmy-beard and a beat-up Camaro, with his quiet nerd sibling in the passenger seat, a violin case filled with an automatic stake-launcher on his lap. What I got was…well it was tween book cover material. When I look at Supernatural’s main characters, I can’t help but see a pair of then 23-year olds struggling to play the parts of 30-something-year-old roughnecks, deepening their voices and fighting the forces of evil that prey on mankind with a metric ton of hair product on their heads.

The other problem I had was with the execution and presentation of the series. Perhaps I was expecting too much, when I realized that the main antagonists weren’t going to be people in rubber suits, but I definitely did not think I would have to go through suspending my disbelief so I can just put up with yet another guy or gal in a suit who claims to be a denizen of Hell. Charmed did it and we put up with it because the alternative was terrible Hercules-era CGI. This is no longer acceptable.

The entire series is way too clean and PG for the tone they are gunning for. It’s obvious that its success is mostly attributed to the fact that it was going to be sold to teenagers (or 20-year-olds in need for escapism) but a grimmer, less idealistic approach could have made this show more sincere (and perhaps more watchable).

2-      The Dark Knight (or, Killing Joke without the subtlety)

The Dark Knight blew everyone’s minds when it first hit theaters. Heath ledger’s performance (and untimely demise) became so iconic that his rendition of the Joker forever replaced Batman’s most important villain forever in the comic book medium and Christopher Nolan was hailed for his mastery at conveying his message about human nature or something.

Except that this movie was 90 minutes longer than it should have been and it reveled in rubbing its political message in your face and the Joker bored me. It was very hard for me to put to words, on the first screening. I was there and I watched the thing along with everybody else, who gasped and moaned at the visual cues but I just couldn’t give a damn about it. Why? Well the reasons are many fold, but I will try to keep it short.

The Dark Knight tried its absolute best to be Alan Moore’s ultimate Batman story The Killing Joke and failed miserably. The original story was what actually set up the Joker as the homicidal anarchist who changes his life story to tug at the reader’s heartstrings and his little jingle was what told us that when your life falls apart around you, you shouldn’t “get eeeven, get mad!”. Through the story, Batman was just as insane as the Joker and the irrationality of our lives was outlined in six (count’em, six) panels, where as the Dark Knight dragged the surveillance culture and the prisoner’s dilemma points on forever, just so the director could say ‘when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back, m’kay?’

Sometimes, if you are going to rip off a classic, you should just rip it off all the way. And also make the damn Killing Joke Jingle while you’re at it, because it’s awesome.

3-       China Mieville’s The City and the City (or, Franz Kafka, will you marry me?)

The City and the City has been hailed by a number of critics and websites as ‘Kafka for the 21st century’. It has received recognition as a murder mystery taking place in a setting steeped in irrationality and it involves the story of a man trying to induce the specifics of the murder of an exchange archaeology student in a country that’s divided by a metaphorical divide between the two cultures that comprise it. It sounds like a very interesting and artsy thing, all in all.

The problem with the City and the City is that the book drags on longer than necessary. Somewhere in the 82 thousand word mark longer, to be precise. The novelty of the setting wears off past the 30-page mark, becoming a drag on the reader as the omnipresent investigation obstacle is a literal invisible wall and begins to wear you out until you’re just flipping pages hoping you didn’t miss out on anything important while you were doing it. The twin cities seem alien and irrational, which harms the reader’s immersion. If this had been a short story, it could have been a classic.

Credit where credit’s due, the final chase scene is pretty cool, but it is the one and only time where we see the invisible wall playing any active part in the narrative. Problem is, it takes place in the last ten pages and it’s concluded in three.

 

Author Bio:

Konstantine Paradias is a jeweler by profession and a writer by choice. His short stories have been published in Third FlatIron’s Lost Worlds anthology, Unidentified Funny Objects! 2 and  the LeoDeGrance flash Fiction Anthology. People tell him he has a writing problem, but he says he can quit, like, whenever he wants. You can find him on FaceBook (https://www.facebook.com/konstantine.paradias) or follow him on Twitter (@KostantineP) or you can cut the middle man and go straight for his blog, Shapescapes (http://shapescapes.blogspot.com).

About Loved By Heaven, Fouled by Hell:

When Lucretia Mandrake was tasked by her sorcerous father to bind the creatures of Hell and Heaven sent to his deathbed, she thought she had claimed for herself immortal slaves, to satisfy her every whim.

She could not know that each of the creatures had their own plans for her. To love and foul her, to save her and destroy her. She thinks herself safe and content but it won’t be long before her world comes apart at the seams, torn by supernatural forces.

Loved By Heaven, Fouled By Hell is the story of a woman who finds herself at the top of the world, having to choose between Moloch or the manger.

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When Lucretia Mandrake was tasked by her sorcerous father to bind the creatures of Hell and Heaven sent to his deathbed, she thought she had claimed for herself immortal slaves, to satisfy her every whim.

She could not know that each of the creatures had their own plans for her. To love and foul her, to save her and destroy her. She thinks herself safe and content, but it won’t be long before her world comes apart at the seams, torn by supernatural forces.

She turned to him and saw his face healed somehow, his flesh rejuvenated by this act, his lips slick with her juices. He looked different now; his eyes bore a confidence she had never seen before. She gasped when he grabbed her by the hand, pulling her up. Her knees were weak, and she stumbled, spilling the last standing stack of books as the angel put his hand on the back of her neck, raised her leg, and beat his wings.

Once they beat, and the tug of gravity let go. Twice, and they were already hovering in the air. She held on to him, her legs wrapped around his waist as he flew her around the great library. She let out a long, passionate shout when the angel began to move inside her in long, slow strokes, and she felt the entirety of his length.

Hael flew her across the great library, holding her against him, then buried himself inside her to the hilt, holding her close. He turned in the air and beat his wings, steadying himself, placing her with her back to the loft’s railing. Gasping with both pleasure and relief, she spread her hands and held on to the railing as the angel  moved inside her, this time in faster, harder strokes, many feet from the ground. The glare of the midday sun as it shone through the library’s balcony matched the warmth that radiated outward from inside her.

It was then that the angel forced himself inside her, and she leaned back against the railing, letting out a howl of pleasure, her neck craned back, looking at her father’s great portrait inverted, the old man unimportant and detached from her for the first time since her birth. Her sex convulsed then, and she let herself go. Suddenly, she was filled with light, and she held on to him for dear life. She shuddered as she rode the angel’s member constantly, perfectly synching her motions with his, shaking her head as he let go inside her, and this time it felt good. This time she felt whole and complete, and she climaxed again and gasped for air, milking the creature dry.

He picked her up in his arms as she wheezed, stepping up on the railing gracefully and beating his wings so he could lay her on the floor. Lucretia almost collapsed the minute he let go, but he grabbed her again, helping her steady herself.

“That was…promising.”

“It was. But there is a creature of Hell here with you who you have tortured. It won’t…”

 

Konstantine Paradias is a Greek writer, who has always thought that erotica should be more than just steamy sex scenes. When writing Loved by Heaven, Fouled by Hell, he drew heavily from his influences of the Quabalah and the Ars Goetia to provide his readers something more than just a raunchy tale.

He is hoping that he has achieved that much and that you have enjoyed this endeavor. If you did, come and find him over on his blog, Shapescapes (shapescapes.blogspot.com) or add him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/konstantine.paradias) and let him know what you think.

He pretty much also answers every tweet he gets, so dropping him a line at @KostantineP won’t hurt.

 

Teaser Thursday- Pervy Old Man

Yeah, the title needs work… this is from an unpublished short story about a 60-year-old man who falls for a younger man…who is actually a centuries-old fae. And a stripper and porn star. 

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The lights went out completely, eliciting gasps and a couple shrieks from the crowd. When the lights came up again, a young man stood in the center of the stage.

His cowboy hat and emerald green shirt, with faded jeans and tooled leather boots, were nothing remarkable, but Ted’s eyes were drawn to him immediately. The man’s dark hair flopped adorably into one eye, and despite the distance Ted would have bet anything the man’s eyes were the same green as his shirt. Even if it wasn’t a probably color for human eyes.

Padraic’s movements on the stage made the other dancers look like clumsy amateurs. He was smooth, graceful, everything ninety percent of the men in the audience either wanted to be or wanted in their partner. From the small smile which played at the corners of his mouth, he knew exactly the effect he had.

Ted found himself pushing toward the stage without conscious decision. He had to see Padraic’s closer up. He needed to touch him. Touching was allowed if one was giving the dancers money. Ted reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet without stopping. He had a couple dollar bills inside. Those would do.

Of course, he wasn’t the only one who had gone to the stage. Everyone wanted to be closer to Padraic. Everyone wanted to touch him. Ted knew he was crazy to think the guy would even notice him, but when Padraic turned in his direction, he was sure he’d been seen.

The dancer, shedding his clothes as he went, altered his moves so he occasionally reached out to the men and few women on the floor in front of the stage. Hands held up crumpled cash, and the dancer took it all. His fingers brushed those of the crowd, but he didn’t allow any of them to touch him.

Ted’s hands itched to touch the man’s smooth, oiled skin. He pressed against the stage and held up one of the dollar bills.

Padraic’s smile grew and he stopped in front of Ted, still undulating but staying in one spot. And instead of taking the money from Ted’s hand, he lowered himself, bending his knees without losing the beat of the music, and motioned for Ted to put the money in the waist of his briefs.

Ted did, and when his hands touched Padraic’s bare skin, he thought he would die from pleasure. The man’s skin was pure satin.

Padraic swayed slowly while Ted, with shaking hands, slipped the dollar into his waistband. Then he took Ted’s hands and placed them on his brief-covered hips. Ted had never been much of a dancer, but he moved in perfect rhythm with Padraic. He looked up, barely daring to meet the other man’s gaze, and his cock grew even harder when he saw he’d been right about the color of those eyes.

“Dance with me,” Padraic mouthed. Or perhaps he spoke aloud. Ted couldn’t hear over the music.

Padraic suddenly jumped down from the stage and put his hands on Ted’s shoulders. Some of the other audience members grumbled and gasped, but Ted barely heard them. He was entirely focused now on the young man whose eyes drew him in. They moved so smoothly together, as if they had been made to dance with each other.

He forgot he didn’t know how to dance. Forgot how young the other man was. They were the same height, and he saw nothing except those brilliant green eyes.

The song shifted to something with more bass and a slower tempo. Padraic squeezed Ted’s shoulders and gracefully stepped back. “Thank you. You’re a wonderful dancer.”

He leaped back onto the stage, and Ted stumbled, feeling as if the breath had been taken from him. His heart pounded and his arousal rose to a level he hadn’t experienced in years.

He stepped backward, colliding with others as he scrambled away from the stage. He couldn’t believe what he’d done. Dancing with a stripper? Who does that?

Busy, Busy!

Last week was my first week of following the new plans and schedule I’ve set up for 2014.

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So far, so good! I updated this website and the website of my YA pen name Jo Ramsey, I set up a workable promotions schedule, including some new things I hadn’t thought of doing before, and I started on some of the tasks that Mary Muse Charmer suggested during my career consultation with her. I also revised and submitted a new young adult novel.

Even though it was a long and kind of tiring week, I’m feeling really positive about everything I accomplished. The schedule is full but not impossible, and I made sure to build in time to relax and take breaks. Some of the things Mary suggested, like scheduling some of my tweets, is already paying off in new followers and more name visibility for me.

This week, I’ll be starting the final novel in the Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series, which in addition to being the last of that series, will be the last paranormal romance Karenna Colcroft will write. After that, my new pen name Kara Costegan will take over the paranormals. And another of my tasks for the week will be building at least the beginnings of Kara’s website.

Writing is a business, but sometimes even if you’re doing it full time, it’s hard to remember that. But after last week, I’m definitely feeling it and living it, and I can’t wait to see what happens this year!

Teaser Thursday- Midnight Kiss

There’s a saying I’ve heard, something about “the one you kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve will be in your life forever.” So I wrote a story…

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Charla stood on the corner surrounded by far too many people. She must have been crazy to let Thea talk her into going into Boston for First Night. Dressed in the silver metallic miniskirt, black nylons, and black boots Thea had insisted she wear, along with a too-thin black sweater under the only dressy winter coat she owned, she was freezing.

And there were too many people.

“This is fun!” Beside her, Thea grinned and spread her arms. “Look around! Everyone’s having a great time. No one’s drunk or stupid like at that party we went to last year.”

“Yeah.” Charla was pretty sure the couple to her left were drunk, judging from the way they held each other up. Or else they just liked being draped over each other.

“It’s almost midnight.” Thea held up her smartphone so Charla could see the display. “Twenty minutes to find someone to kiss.”

“I am not kissing a random stranger,” Charla muttered. “I don’t care if it’s New Year’s Eve. I don’t want to kiss anyone.”

“You can kiss me.” Thea laughed. “Yeah, yeah, you aren’t into ladies. More’s the pity. You wouldn’t be having so much trouble finding the right one if you were open to possibilities.”

“I am open to possibilities. Male ones.” Charla rolled her eyes. Thea was cheerfully bisexual and had been trying to talk Charla into “jumping the fence,” as she put it, for years. It was all friendly teasing, but tonight it rubbed Charla the wrong way.

She was straight, her boyfriend of three years had dumped her just before Christmas, and the last thing she wanted to do was kiss someone. Anyone. Even if it was tradition.

“I should have stayed home.” She leaned against a trash can and sighed. She wasn’t having a good time. It was her own damn fault, of course. She could have faked smiles and enjoyment until it felt real. She could have decided Ian could go fuck himself because she deserved better anyway.

But he’d dumped her two days before Christmas Eve, and she’d spent the following week back in Maine with her parents and siblings and other assorted family members. They hadn’t given her time to wallow and mourn the relationship she’d hoped would lead to the happy marriage and family she’d always daydreamed about. She’d returned to Boston only the day before, and now, back in the city where she and Ian had talked about settling permanently, she couldn’t help feeling like shit.

If she’d stayed home, it wouldn’t have mattered, but she was harshing Thea’s good time too. Thea had dragged her out to have fun. She hadn’t wanted Charla to be stuck home alone on a night that was supposed to be about celebrating. But Charla would have been better off at home. At least she wouldn’t have felt guilty about wrecking Thea’s night.

She stuffed her hands in her coat pockets and hunched her shoulders, hoping for something resembling warmth. The night was colder than she’d expected, another reason she wished she’d stayed inside with a cup of hot cocoa.

“Come on.” Thea tugged Charla’s sleeve. “There’s more room over here, and we’ll be out of the wind.”

Charla didn’t even look in the direction Thea indicated, just allowed her friend to pull her along. Even in a good mood, Charla had found it was usually best to just go with the flow when Thea was involved. With the effort it took to keep herself from thinking about Ian, she didn’t have the energy left to resist Thea.

They stopped beside the Boston Public Library on the other side of Copley Square. Definitely out of the wind, since the huge building blocked it quite well. A passing police officer studied them for a moment before moving on. Security was all over the place that night, as it had been at every public event in the city since the Marathon. Charla understood the need, but being constantly scrutinized was getting on her nerves.

Just like almost everything that night.

Thea sat on the stone bench along the library wall. Surprised there were any spots open, Charla sat beside her. “Why are we here?”

“You mean by the library or in this universe?” Thea chuckled. “Lighten up, kid.”

“Yeah. That’s easy.” Charla leaned forward, elbows on her thighs. “I’m sorry. You should have just let me stay in my cave.”

“Don’t be sorry.” Thea patted her on the shoulder. “You needed to get out. I know you’re still upset about Ian. He’s an asshole and he doesn’t deserve you, but you guys were together a long time. Of course it hurts. If you’re still like this next week, I’ll worry, but I get it.”

“Thanks.” Charla forced a smile.

“You know what they say.” Thea grinned. “The one you kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve will be with you forever.”

“I don’t think anyone says that.” Charla shook her head. Thea was trying to cheer her up, but the grey cloud around her wasn’t going anywhere.

“I say it.” Thea nodded toward a man who’d stopped a few feet away. “See? He’s cute.”

“You kiss him, then.” There was no way in hell she was going to walk up to a total stranger and ask to kiss him. Not on New Year’s Eve, not ever. She didn’t even bother looking at the guy.

No one would be with her forever anyway, no matter what Thea’s silly superstition said.

“I have my someone,” Thea said. “For now, anyway.”

“Then why aren’t you home kissing her?” That was one thing Thea hadn’t explained. Why she’d badgered Charla out of the house instead of coming to First Night with her girlfriend Marnie.

“She pulled an extra shift at the hospital,” Thea said. “Workaholic, that one. But it is what it is. Hey, he’s coming over!”

Charla took a second to realize Thea meant the man she’d pointed out. She turned just as the man stopped in front of her, a cute but confused smile on his face. He wore a long wool coat, unbuttoned despite the cold air, over a grey sweater and blue jeans. He was tall; Charla didn’t bother trying to judge his height. In each of his black-gloved hands, he held a foam coffee cup.

“Can I help you?” Charla sat up straighter. She wasn’t about to let herself be attracted to Random Dude, but that didn’t mean she wanted him to see her all slumped and grumpy.

He smiled and held out one of the cups. “You can help me drink the coffee.”

“Um, yeah, because I’m likely to take a drink from a stranger.” Charla tilted her head and studied the guy. His blond hair was messed by the wind, and his blue eyes were partly hidden by thick lashes and heavy eyebrows.

He was good-looking. And something about him clicked with her. She didn’t believe in insta-love or whatever people called it, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be intrigued by someone she’d just met.

Though she hadn’t actually met him yet.

He shuffled his feet and glanced at Thea. “Sorry. Yeah, it would be pretty stupid to accept a drink.”

“Yeah, and we are not stupid,” Thea said. “Why’d you buy two coffees?”

“Because I was with someone.” He shrugged. “Blind date. Apparently she decided she’d been better off not seeing me.”

“That stinks.” Charla moved over a little, leaving a gap between her and Thea. She wouldn’t drink the guy’s coffee, but the way he mentioned his date struck a chord with her. At least she wasn’t the only one feeling crappy on New Year’s Eve. “Join us if you want. Just don’t expect us to take the coffee.”

“Thanks.” His face brightened and he squeezed between them. “I’m Wes, by the way. Wes Hyland.”

“Anything like James Bond?” Thea said.

Wes’s face reddened. “No, unfortunately. If I were a secret agent, I probably wouldn’t have lost my date. I’m just a boring IT geek.”

“I’m Charla Johnson.” Charla held out her hand, and Wes set down one of the coffees on the ground in front of him to shake it. “Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise.” Wes set the other coffee beside the first. “So are you from around here?”

“Charlestown,” Charla said without thinking. Giving a total stranger her location was probably stupid as hell. Then again, she’d only mentioned the town.

And her first and last name. If Wes was a psycho-killer, it wouldn’t take him much effort to find her.

“Chelsea,” Thea said. “And I’m Thea. You’re not a lunatic, are you?”

Wes chuckled nervously. “No. Not a lunatic. You don’t have to worry about me tracking you down. Like I said, I’m just an IT geek.”

“Ten minutes!” someone in the crowd shouted.

“Ten minutes until midnight,” Wes said. “Great. Guess I’ll kiss my coffee cup.” He looked at Charla and rolled his eyes. “Sorry. I might be a little bitter about my date bailing on me.”

“I get it.” Charla smiled. Those eyes. Insta-love wasn’t a thing, but crushing on someone at first sight definitely happened. “My boyfriend dumped me last week, so that’s why I’m here with Thea and not with someone I plan to kiss.”

“You know what they say,” Wes said. “The one you kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve will be with you forever.”

“I really don’t think anyone says that,” Charla muttered.

“And you wouldn’t want the coffee cup with you forever anyway, would you?” Thea said.

“No. No I wouldn’t.” Wes leaned back against the wall behind them.

For a few minutes, Charla watched the crowd thicken as more people joined the throng waiting for the countdown. She was acutely aware of the warmth of Wes’s body right beside hers. It was nice to sit with a guy who wasn’t criticizing her or complaining. Someone who didn’t know her and just felt like sitting beside her.

Until Ian had dumped her, she hadn’t even realized how much of an ass he’d turned into. And even though she hated the end of the relationship, it was a relief. Thea was right. Ian didn’t deserve her. She deserved a nice guy. Maybe someday, someone like Wes.

Someday after she was over the whole thing. No rebound guy for her. She thought things through too much for that. Which was another thing Ian had complained about.

And she seriously needed to stop thinking about Ian before she drove herself nuts.

“Are you okay?” Wes leaned a little bit closer to her, and she smelled the coffee on his breath.

For just a second, having him that close flustered her so much she couldn’t answer.

“Um, yeah.” She took a deep breath. “Yeah. Unhappy memories.”

“I hope tonight gives you a happier one,” he said.

She smiled. “I think it will.”

“Oh, get a room,” Thea said.

“Maybe in a few months,” Wes said without looking away from Charla.

Charla snorted.

“Ten!” The number resonated through the crowd.

“Nine!” Wes and Thea joined in.

“Eight!” Charla stood, and Wes stood beside her. Thea stayed in her seat.

They counted down the rest of the way, and with each number Charla’s heart beat faster. She was standing beside a cute guy. A guy she didn’t know, who she would probably never see again. And it was New Year’s Eve.

As the crowd shouted, “Happy New Year!” Charla decided what the hell.

Before she could turn toward Wes, his arms were around her. Their lips met, and the cheers of the crowd faded into a rushing in Charla’s ears. Her heart soared, and her entire body tingled as the kiss went on. For the first time in weeks, she was happy.

She had no clue what the hell was going on, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the kiss.

The one you kiss at midnight…

Wes broke the kiss and stared into her eyes. “Wow.”

“Yeah.” Charla gave him a faltering smile. “Um…”

“Sorry if I was out of line.” He let go of her. “I just… It felt right.”

“Yes, it did.” Her smile grew more certain. “The one you kiss at midnight, huh?”

“That’s what they say.” He grinned and pulled a phone out of his pocket. “I know you just broke up, and you probably aren’t even close to looking for someone else to spend time with, but I would love to take you out for coffee sometime. Someplace where you can see that I didn’t put anything in it.”

Charla laughed and took out her own phone. “I’d like that. Give me your number and I’ll text you mine.”

Wes’s smile broadened and he recited a number. Charla sent the text and burst out laughing again at the chimpanzee noise Wes’s phone made. He looked at the screen and pressed something. “Saving your number. And I’ll give you a prettier text tone. Bells, maybe.”

“Okay.” Charla put her phone back into her pocket and hesitated. What the heck did one say to a random guy one had just kissed?

“Time to go.” Thea hooked her arm around Charla’s, saving her as usual. Though for a change, Charla didn’t want to be saved. “Wes, it was nice meeting you. Might see you again sometime if you’re nice to my girl here.”

“I wouldn’t dream of being anything else.” Wes put away his phone. “And it is time to go. But you know what they say, Charla. We’ll see if it holds true. Talk to you soon.”

Before Charla could respond, he walked away.

“He forgot his coffees,” Thea said. “That was a hell of a kiss.”

“Yeah.” Charla touched a gloved finger to her lips. “It was. With you forever?”

“That’s what they say.” Thea patted her arm. “Forever’s a long time. Time enough to keep him from being a rebound.”

“Yeah.”

“So stop staring after him like you want him to come back, and let’s get home.” She wrapped her arms around herself. “I’m freezing. Why’d you make me come out here?”

“It was your idea!” Grinning, Charla took off at a run toward the subway station several yards away. Behind her, Thea’s heels clacked against the sidewalk as she followed.

Getting home took longer than Charla would have liked. Public transit was insanely crowded, and even with extra trains and busses running, it wasn’t easy to get back to her apartment in Charlestown. She walked through the door and flipped on the lamp just as her phone chimed.

She pulled it out of her pocket, heart beating fast again, and couldn’t help smiling when she recognized Wes’s number on the message.

We kissed at midnight. I don’t know about forever, but I’ll take one day at a time with you until you tell me to stop.

It sounded like Wes wanted more than Charla could give, and yet she didn’t have the sense that was what he’d meant. She sat on the couch without taking off her coat and typed a reply.

Right now I’m not in the market for more than friends.

His reply came within moment. Friends are always a good way to start. One day and then the next. And I hope tomorrow can be day one. Coffee at two? You name the place.

She couldn’t let him think it was a date. Hell, she couldn’t let herself think so. But he wasn’t asking for much. Just coffee. Friends went out for coffee together. She and Thea did so all the time.

And she wanted to see him again. Forever was far more than she could handle, and after Ian’s bullshit the last thing she wanted was another relationship. But one day at a time was easy. They could start with coffee and see where things went. One day at a time for as long as they chose, whether only as friends or eventually as more.

That sounded good.

Two at Dunkin. She typed the address of the donut shop up the street from her apartment and hoped he wouldn’t think it was too far, since he hadn’t told her where he lived. After a brief hesitation, she added, Looking forward to finding out more about you.

Likewise, he replied almost immediately. I could keep typing at you forever, but we should get some sleep, huh?

As if his words had power over her, Charla’s eyelids started to droop. She’d had to work that morning and had awakened at the ungodly hour of five a.m. Of course she was tired.

Sleeping would give her time to make sure she wasn’t just seeing sparklies from meeting someone new. To make sure she really did want to meet him for coffee. And to accept that she hadn’t dreamed the electrical jolt of a kiss in Copley Square.

“The one you kiss at midnight,” she said softly. It was a ridiculous superstition that she would have suspected Thea of making up if Wes hadn’t voiced it as well.

Ridiculous or not, she couldn’t deny that she liked the idea of Wes being with her. At least for a little while. At least as her friend.

Yeah, she typed. Sleep is good. See you tomorrow. Let me know if plans change.

They won’t, he replied. Not if I can help it. Pleasant dreams.

You too.

She set down the phone and leaned back, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth. She knew exactly what she would dream about that night.

A kiss that might lead to something amazing when she was ready. And that would lead to a friendship for now.

Something better than she’d had in a long time.