Articles for the Month of April 2015

Teaser Thursday- With Every Touch

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“Hey.” Standing shirtless in a pair of swim trunks, Erich gave a slow, lazy smile that sent heat through Sheila. Five days had slightly dulled her memory of exactly how sexy the man was. He stepped back and made a sweeping gesture with one hand. “Come on in. The place is a little messy, but I did some cleaning while I was waiting.”

“You didn’t have to clean up for me.” Sheila went through the door into a living room furnished with a brown couch and two mismatched chairs. “I’m not here to inspect the place.”

“That’s a relief. It’s gone downhill a bit since my divorce.” He walked past her into the kitchen area, which was mostly open to the living room. “Pizza’s here, and I have water and cola in the fridge. Help yourself unless you’d rather I serve you.”

“I can serve myself, thanks.” Realizing she had spoken more irritably than she’d intended, she smiled. “I appreciate a gentleman, though.”

“I try to be a good guy.” He opened a cupboard to one side of the kitchen sink and took out a plate, which he held out to her. “Here you go. Unless you’d rather swim first. I did say I’d leave it up to you.”

“Don’t they say you shouldn’t swim for half an hour after eating?” Sheila took the plate but didn’t open the pizza box on the counter. “It looks like you’re all ready to dive into the pool, and I know I am.”

“Then let’s start with that and work up an appetite.” Erich winked. “This way.”

He led her out the backdoor to a small tidy yard, which was mostly occupied by a large above-ground pool. The water was clear and so inviting Sheila couldn’t wait to dive in.

“Go ahead,” Erich said. “I’ll get towels. Should have thought of that first. I’ll be right back, but don’t wait for me if you want to get wet.”

Sheila grinned. “What makes you think I’m not already wet?”

“Oh, it’s like that, is it?” Erich winked. “We’ll see.”

He went back inside, and Sheila stripped off her shirt and shorts and set them on a lawn chair by the door. There was no deck around the pool. The only way in was to climb a ladder and either jump in or descend the ladder. The ladder was rickety enough to make her nervous as she stepped onto the bottom rung, but she didn’t care. The humidity in the air had her sweating even though she had only been outside a few minutes, and she was ready for the cool water.

A noise behind her made her jump, and she almost fell. Immediately someone grabbed the ladder. “Careful,” Erich said. “I should have warned you about that. Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” She smiled at him over her shoulder. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” He gave her an appreciative look. “Nice view.”

“Thanks,” Sheila said again and turned away.

She reached into the water and decided it was warm enough to just jump in. She finished climbing the ladder and jumped off, allowing herself to sink under the water.

When she surfaced, Erich was on top of the ladder looking at her with sheer desire.

She beckoned to him. “It’s your pool. Get in here.”

He took a shallow dive in and approached her underwater. Sheila considered dodging him but, curious about his intentions, stayed put.

He wrapped his arms around her legs and lifted her as he surfaced. Laughing, she swatted his shoulder. Water dripping into his eyes, he looked up at her. “Damn, you’re sexy as hell.”

“So are you.” The playful mood between them was enjoyable, but lust underlay it. Sheila didn’t mind a bit. He wanted her. That was good.

Sometimes It’s Nice to Hear

Back when I first started writing romances, an editor criticized me for having my characters say “I love you” too often.

Maybe in fiction, there’s such a thing as saying it too often. Especially since readers do tend to frown on repetition in a story.

But I wrote that way because in my own life, I couldn’t hear it enough. For me personally, at least, there’s no such thing as hearing “I love you” too often.

For some people, though, it’s difficult to say even when they feel it. They might assume their partner “just knows”. Or they might have had negative experiences in the past that leave them reluctant to open their hearts that much.

You can’t really push a partner into saying something they don’t feel able to say. On the other hand, you can’t expect your partner to read your mind. My past left me unable to trust my own judgement about relationships, so even if I see signs that a partner loves me, I’m never completely certain unless they say it. In fact, if they don’t say it, I manage to convince myself that I’m reading too much into the things they do and say–even if *they* believe those things are clearly showing me they love me.

If you love someone, don’t just assume they know. Try saying it to them at least once. Because sometimes it’s just nice to hear.

Teaser Thursday- Tempeh for Two

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“Before I start, I want you all to understand no one will face any consequences for anything you say here,” I said. “I gave Kendra my word no one here will be harmed in any way by me or by Kyle.”

“He staked it on his rank,” Kendra said. “Some of you may not comprehend that, but for these guys, if they stake something on their rank it’s like magic. They break their word, the rank is taken from them. So you can trust what Tobias says. He can’t hurt any of us, and Kyle won’t either.”

“Too bad he didn’t make that promise before yesterday,” Bill muttered.

“Yes,” I said, “it is, though it might not have saved Andrew. You all know what silver does if it enters a werewolf’s bloodstream. We can handle touching it for short periods as long as it’s only a surface touch. If it enters our blood, we die. Three lives were at risk in my office yesterday. We tried our best to disarm Andrew. He wanted to be disarmed, I could see it in his eyes. But he was unable to fight off the power controlling him, and I wasn’t able to break through it.”

“So you take the fucking gun out of his hands,” Bill said.

“It wouldn’t have helped.” Jeannette, one of the housekeepers, said.

Her comment was so unexpected that for a moment, I couldn’t come up with a response.

“How do you know?” Avery asked. She didn’t sound as if she was arguing, just asking for clarification. The question I should have asked.

“One of the alphas who was here last fall.” Jeannette clasped her hands together. “He…Tobias, may I speak with you privately after we’re finished here?”

“Of course.” My heart sank. Other than myself, I only knew of one alpha who’d attended the September gathering who had the power to compel humans. And I was all too aware of what he’d done to other women.

I’d hoped Saul had confined his abuse to female werewolves. That was bad enough, but hearing he’d also used human women sent a black rage through me. If he hadn’t already been dead, I would have hunted him and killed him myself.

“Anyway.” Jeannette took a deep breath. “I tried to stop him, but I couldn’t. Only a small part of me wanted to. The rest just did what he said.”

“I’m sorry.” Avery put her arm around Jeanette’s shoulders. “You shouldn’t have had to go through that. We should be safe here.”

“You should be,” I agreed. “And I’m doing everything I can to make sure you are in the future. I wish I could change the past.”

“I didn’t tell you so you’d give me sympathy,” Jeannette snapped. She looked at me with wet eyes. “I told you so you’d know there wouldn’t have been any way to stop Andrew other than what Kyle did. If someone was doing to him what was done to me—the control, I mean—he wouldn’t have been able to fight it off no matter what he did.”

“He did try,” I said quietly. “I saw it, and I did my best to help him. Sometimes I’m able to break through others’ control. This time, I couldn’t. If you all blame anyone for Andrew’s death, I share the blame. Kyle was the one who acted, but he only did so because I failed.”

“Then you should have tried harder,” Bill said.

“Maybe so, but if someone was holding a gun on you or someone you loved, would you talk?” I demanded. “Or would you act to save your life or theirs?”

He glared at me but didn’t answer. His silence was the only response I needed. He wanted someone to blame for Andrew’s death, but in Kyle’s place, he would have done the same thing.

Teaser Thursday- Hummus on Rye

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“I wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble,” Candace said.

That rang a little insincere. She might not have wanted to be trouble, but she definitely wanted to be the center of Tobias’s and Suzannah’s attention. Of their protection. I didn’t call her on it, but I stored it away to mention to Tobias later if he hadn’t picked up on it.

“It won’t be trouble,” Tobias said. “This is your first hunt with our pack, and it would be irresponsible of me not to stay with you. You’ll be fine with us. Kirk and Kyle will be along as well, and maybe a couple of our friends from City Pack.”

“But I don’t know them.”

“You’ll meet them before we shift.” Tobias spoke in a low tone, the way he spoke to me when I had to shift back to human after spending a few hours as a wolf. I hated the shift and needed him to guide me through it even now. I didn’t know if his calming effect was an alpha power or just part of him. Probably the latter, since none of his other alpha powers worked on me.

The tone had the same calming effect on Candace as it did on me. “As long as you trust them, I guess I can.”

“Yes, you can.” Tobias sat on the chair opposite her. “We always hunt in groups, Candace. And it will be good to have other wolves with you in case I have to leave the group to address an issue with another pack member. You’ll have four wolves you know right there with you, and I’ll make sure you’re introduced to anyone else who’s going to hunt with us before the shift.”

She nodded and swallowed hard. “Okay. I’ll try.”

“That’s all I ask.” He smiled at her again. “You’re one of our pack, Candace. That isn’t going to change unless you endanger the pack, and I don’t think you’d do that, would you?”

“Not if I could help it.” She paused and then looked up suddenly as what he’d said hit her. “You talked to my old Alpha. You know why he sent me away.”

“I e-mailed him,” Tobias said. “The Anax didn’t tell me much about you, and you said you were asked to leave the pack only because of the arguing. I needed to know the whole truth.”

“I didn’t lie to you!” She jumped to her feet. “It was because of the arguing. I didn’t go near any humans!”

“Sit down.” This time, Tobias spoke as Alpha. We all felt it. Candace immediately plopped back down in the chair, tears running down her face. “I am not accusing you of anything, Candace. Don’t twist my words. You knew that your former Alpha believed you showed yourself to humans, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” Her voice broke. “But I didn’t!”

“Please only answer what I ask you.” Tobias leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “We were just talking. Now I need to be your Alpha, because you’re upset and frightened and you’re about to lose control, aren’t you?”

“I need to run.” She tensed but didn’t stand. “Please let me run.”

“No. Not by yourself, and not in daylight. You’re safe with us, Candace, and as your Alpha I will keep you safe if you can’t do it yourself. This is how you felt when those humans found you on the bridge, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” She brushed a hand across her eyes.

“Tell me what happened.”

I didn’t know if Candace actually wanted to talk about it, but she couldn’t ignore Tobias’s compulsion. “I didn’t go on the hunt with the others. Two of them had threatened me earlier and I was afraid they’d follow through.”

“Why didn’t you tell your Alpha?” Kirk asked. Tobias glared at him and Kirk shrugged.

“He believed I caused the problems the others had with me,” Candace said. “When I asked him for help he told me that if I stopped causing problems, everything would be okay. But it wasn’t my fault.” She paused. “The ones who threatened me, they’d talked to him. The wolf who—who did things to me. I saw them. Afterward, they said they didn’t know what I was talking about. They didn’t remember seeing him. I think he made them threaten me.”

That sure sounded like something Saul might have done. And I wasn’t a bit surprised to hear that the other weres hadn’t remembered seeing him. Kind of like Tobias didn’t remember fighting him two nights earlier. I think she’s right, Tobias.

The Power of “Yet”

Years ago–not very many years, to be honest–I said “I can’t” a lot.

I can’t write books people will want to read.

I can’t do yoga. (Okay, that one’s true again, because of lack of practice.)

I can’t sing.

And so on.

When I said some of those things to a friend of mine, the same friend who encouraged me to start writing erotic romance, he told me I should add the word “yet.” As in, “I can’t write books people will want to read *yet*.”

Saying you can’t do something closes doors. “Can’t” sounds like a permanent thing. If you tell yourself you “can’t” do something, you might decide it isn’t worth trying. It would be a waste of time to work on or learn something you “can’t” do.

But adding “yet” makes it temporary. It means that *right now*, you aren’t able to do something, but in the future you might be. “Yet” contains possibilities.

Saying I couldn’t write books people would want to read was true at that time. But it isn’t anymore. And saying “yet” helped me realize that I could reach a point where people *did* want to read my books.

As I said, I can’t do yoga now. Nor could I do it when I said I couldn’t. But at one time, I worked hard and learned so much that I was certified as a yoga instructor.

Right now, singing is a problem for me. But I’ve learned the power of “yet.” I can’t *yet* sing the way I’d like to, but I will.

What are you doing to encourage yourself about things you can’t do *yet*?

Teaser Thursday- Hummus on Rye

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We were both clean, dried, and dressed in five minutes tops. Well, clean enough to pass inspection by whomever was at the door, anyway. Tobias left the bathroom ahead of me and opened the door to Suzannah, who had her hand up to knock again, and Kirk.

“Didn’t mean to take so long,” he said. “You caught us at, er, an awkward time.”

Suzannah laughed. Kirk’s face turned a little red. “Sorry,” Suzannah said. “It’s time to be the Alpha. We have a problem with the new wolf.”

“I was afraid we might.” Tobias ran his hand through his wet, loose hair and stepped aside to let them in. We settled in the living room. “She’s afraid to go on the hunt, isn’t she?”

Kirk nodded. “We’ve both been over there talking to her since early this morning. Suzannah made sure Candace had her cell number, and she called at about four this morning panicking because she felt like she was about to shift.”

“She’s been on her own too long,” Tobias said. “She may have forgotten what it’s like to hunt with a pack, or maybe she’s just worried about how the rest of us will treat her.”

“I think it’s both,” Suzannah said. “She has a lot of fear, Tobias. Have you found out why she was asked to leave her old pack?”

“Her side of the story. Not her previous Alpha’s. I haven’t checked my emails yet.” He went to his computer. “I figured this might be the best way to contact the Sunset Pack Alpha. This way he can just tell me the whole story without being interrupted. Assuming he’s willing to tell me anything at all. Hang on.”

“What happens if a wolf doesn’t go on the hunt?” I asked. Even though I hated the end results of a hunt, i.e. the dead animals that my packmates chowed down on while I stayed in the bushes and tried not to vomit, I loved the hunt itself. Running freely in an area big enough to allow it, not having to worry about being seen. I even enjoyed chasing the deer and other animals. I just didn’t like the part where they became the evening meal.

“They’d be pretty miserable,” Kirk said. “They can’t help changing. The full moon does it to all of us, and I’ve never yet heard of a wolf who can resist. Even you; you don’t shift between full moons, but when that moon comes up you go furry just like the rest of us.”

“Yeah.” I thought about that. “I’ve never tried to stop myself from shifting at the full moon. I just kind of assumed it wouldn’t be possible.”

“I don’t think it is,” he said. “I mean, Candace could stay here if she wanted instead of going to Sharon’s place with the rest of us. She’d still change and she’d still have the urge to run and hunt. That would be a big problem around here. There’s nowhere to run where a human wouldn’t see her. We’ll be changing so early that humans will still be coming home from work. And there’s nothing to hunt here unless she finds a squirrel or something, which wouldn’t be enough to take care of the energy she loses in the shift.”

“The Sunset Pack Alpha answered,” Tobias said. “And I don’t think he was too happy about being asked. He says the Anax already heard the whole story.”

“The Anax refused to tell you anything,” I said. “So either he didn’t hear the whole story or he’s hiding things from you.”

“If he’s hiding something, he has a reason.” Tobias leaned closer to his computer monitor. “He says she was causing too much conflict, which is what she told us. She’s ‘unlikeable’.” He did air quotes with his fingers. “Some of the pack members felt like she was a drain to be around. Others liked her and defended her. The Alpha and Peacekeeper had to resolve disputes all over the place. That alone wasn’t enough for her to be asked to leave, though.”

“What happened?” I walked over to stand behind him. Whatever had finally gotten Candace kicked out of her previous pack, it hadn’t been good. And it meant that my first instinct about her might have been right.

“She refused to go on a hunt,” Tobias said slowly. “She’d had an incident with a couple other pack members the day before, and she was afraid they’d retaliate. The Alpha let her stay behind, and when he and the other pack members returned some of the humans who lived nearby were tromping around looking for wolves. A little girl had reported seeing two wolves, one brown and one grey. The Alpha wasn’t sure who the grey was, but he knew the brown was Candace.”

“I know who the grey was,” I said. “Saul.”

Tobias nodded. “I think so too, but the pack didn’t know he was there and Candace didn’t say anything about him.” He looked at the computer again. “She hadn’t actually revealed that werewolves existed, and the humans were easily convinced that the little girl had just seen a coyote. So the Alpha chose not to pass a death sentence on her. But she’d put the pack at risk, so he told her she had to leave.”

“It’s no wonder she’s afraid to go on the hunt,” Suzannah said. “But she has to go. There are too many humans here.”

“Not to mention a child living right above her.” Tobias stood. “Suzannah, see if she’ll come over here to talk to me, please. I went to her last time, but I think she needs to understand that isn’t how it usually works around here.”

He was making a dominance move on a wolf who was probably scared half out of her mind. I didn’t think that was a good idea, given what we knew about Candace, but Tobias was in charge.