Teaser Thursday- The Alpha’s Bride

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Over the next few days, some of the other women in the pack approached Tareth to talk about the baby and the upcoming wedding. Tareth was bemused by the attention. While most of these women had been friendly to her, none had made an effort to actually be her friend until now. They seemed fascinated by her pregnancy and her upcoming wedding to Justin, which wasn’t even planned yet. Tareth had mentioned it to Justin at one point, and he’d asked to put off the topic until after Christmas.

Christmas morning, Tareth woke to find that Justin had already left the bed. She was a little disappointed. She’d hoped he would let her unwrap him before they started on their presents. “Maybe later,” she said out loud to herself as she got out of bed.

The smells of bacon and hot chocolate filtered down the hall from the kitchen when she left the bedroom. She followed them to find Justin standing at the stove, frying eggs and the bacon she’d smelled. He wore only the boxer briefs he’d slept in, and Tareth’s mouth watered from the sight of her mate more than the smell of the food.

Her stomach rolled, reminding her that eating early in the morning hadn’t been a good idea lately anyway.

“Thanks for cooking.” She smiled when Justin looked at her. “I don’t know if I can eat right now.”

“I can probably eat enough for both of us, but isn’t it bad for the baby if you skip meals?” He paused. “That’s why you haven’t been eating breakfast. Morning sickness?”

“Yeah. Though weirdly, sometimes hot chocolate helps.” She sat at the table beside a cup filled with the beverage. Her stomach rolled again. “Maybe not this time. I do eat enough, Justin. I just can’t eat until about ten or eleven in the morning. That’s when the nausea starts to let up. I think for most women, morning sickness goes away after the first trimester, which means I should be almost done with it.”

“You can ask the doctor.” He turned back to the stove. “You called the doctor, right?”

“On Thursday. My primary care wants to see me first, and then there’s an OB-GYN in the same practice who’ll see me. Not till after New Year’s Day, though.”

“That’ll be soon enough.” He put some eggs and bacon on a plate he’d set on the counter and turned toward her. “I’ll eat over here if the smell bothers you. I need to eat something before we open our presents.”

Tareth nodded. “I can wait. I think. I have to admit I’m a little excited, though. There’s this big box under the tree with my name on it. I noticed it last night. I want to find out what that is.”

“There are three other presents with your name on them, and the big box has to be the last one you open.” Justin put a piece of bacon in his mouth. Tareth’s stomach churned again, and she ran into the bathroom.

A few minutes later, cursing her stomach but satisfied that the worst was over for the day, she brushed her teeth before returning to the kitchen. Justin had finished his meal and was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in front of him. He stood when she entered the room. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. That’s been happening every day. Sadly, I’m used to it.” She returned to her seat and took a cautious sip of now-lukewarm hot chocolate. “Are we ready for presents?”

“I am. I can’t wait to see the look on your face.” He grinned and reached for her hand. “Come with me.”

She took his hand and let him help her up. “Are you one of my presents?”

He laughed. “Later.”

Stock Cover Images

Since a lot of publishers tend to use stock images in the creation of their covers, it isn’t surprising that occasionally the same image shows up in more than one place. Sometimes in a lot of places.

I’ve had it happen with a couple of my own books, though one of the books in question is now out of print, so I don’t have that cover anymore. But I had two books, one a male/male and the other a hetero, that I would swear had the same guy as part of the cover image, just reversed from one to the other.

After changing my website theme, it occurred to me that I probably had way too much in this site’s media library, including the covers of all of my out of print books. So I decided to go through and clean things out. And then I saw this:

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I uploaded that image in late 2012 for a guest author’s post. Tonya Kinzer, I believe. According to the tag on the image, it was meant to represent a character named Nick. I had to check on that, especially to find out when I’d uploaded that image, because it looked very, very familiar.

Does “Nick” look familiar to you? He should…

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Two years later, one of Loose Id’s cover artists decided this guy made a perfect Erich Zahn.

And it amused me so much I had to do a blog post about it.

Teaser Thursday- Beta Test

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The next morning, Justin awakened with his arms around Tareth. Throughout the night, he had awakened every time she moved, although he was usually a heavy sleeper. He didn’t want to let her go. After what had happened the day before, he didn’t want her out of his sight.

Which meant she wouldn’t be the only one staying home from work that day. He still didn’t want to leave the room, but he had a few phone calls to make. Carefully he eased himself out of bed and went to the living room. He hoped he hadn’t disturbed Tareth. She was thoroughly exhausted from everything that happened the night before and in the middle of the night that he wanted to let her rest as long as she could this morning.

It was only seven o’clock, but Justin doubted Chal was still asleep. Even though Chal had left him in charge, he wanted to check with the Alpha before he decided to take the day off. He also needed to talk to him about Tareth. The more he thought about it, the less he wanted to leave her behind in Boston while he went to the hunt the following night. She would be alone in the house while the wolves hunted, but that would likely be safer than staying in the city. If an intruder showed up at Sharon’s, the wolves would smell him.

Chal once again answered on the first ring. “Justin.”

“Alpha.” Justin chose to be formal, hoping it would help his case. “I’ve told Tareth to take the day off. After what occurred at the office yesterday, I think she should take a break. She was injured worse than she wanted to let on.”

“I agree. It might be best if she takes the rest of the week off, since the office is closed tomorrow.” Given how many pack members worked for Chal at the office and warehouse, both locations closed on the day of the full moon each month. Chal paused. “You want to take today off as well.”

“I’m concerned about leaving Tareth alone.”

“Put Connor in charge of the warehouse and Jillian in charge of the office for the day,” Chal said. “I think they’ll be best able to manage.”

“Thank you, Alpha,” Justin replied. “I have one more thing I wanted to discuss with you.”

“If you bring Tareth with you tomorrow night, how will you keep her safe?”

Once again, Chal had read his mind. That made things easier, though it also disturbed Justin somewhat. “I can make sure she’s in her room before the sun sets. If I tell her to stay there, she’ll listen. She knows that it might be dangerous, and I don’t plan to bring her unless she agrees. I just think that surrounded by the pack, she would be safer than at her home or mine.”

“You have my permission to bring her if she’s willing to go,” Chal said. “None of the pack is responsible if she is harmed there.”

“Thank you, Alpha.” He wouldn’t hold any of the pack responsible. He knew all too well how shifting affected one’s thoughts. If Tareth wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time, it would be no one’s fault if she was hurt, but his.

He would kill any wolf that hurt her. He just wouldn’t hold that wolf responsible.

Friends With the Ex?

Last week, I posed the question on Facebook of whether it’s possible to become friends with an ex. A couple of people responded that it hadn’t worked for them, but for the most part, the consensus seemed to be that if both parties are adult about it, and the relationship didn’t end on a hugely negative note, it is possible. Especially with time.

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In my life, for the most part, it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m only in contact with two of my exes, and one of those is only because he and I have kids together. We definitely aren’t friends. Just co-parents.

But the other one, surprisingly, has become a good friend, and I think that’s probably because he and I were more friends than anything to begin with. It was a long-distance relationship, so for the most part we just talked on the phone or texted. The relationship actually ended because he was in my area on business for a few weeks…and seeing each other didn’t work as well as talking and texting.

Because of the way things crashed between us, he chose to sever all contact with me, and it took six months before I was comfortable enough to reach out to him. But as soon as I did, we spent part of a conversation hashing out what had happened, and then picked up the friendship right where we’d left off. He’s now one of my key support people, just like he was before, and he’s the one I trust with the most about my life because he’s the one I know won’t judge anything I say.

If you’ve been in a relationship with someone, the ending isn’t easy. Even if it’s completely amicable and you’ve already agreed you’re better as friends, sometimes you need space for a little while to decide whether the friendship can work and how to go about it. And if there were hurt feelings on either side, the healing process might take longer.

But to my mind, if someone was worth having in your life in the first place, and assuming there weren’t strongly damaging reasons (like abuse) for relationship to end, they’re worth trying to keep as a friend as well. It might require time and patience, but there’s no reason not to try.

Teaser Thursday- Their Home Port

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Saturday morning, she woke with nothing to do except laundry and grocery shopping. At least, she would do her shopping if she dared brave the grocery store on a Saturday morning, which she usually didn’t.

Other than those things, she would just sit and wait for Micah’s call. She hadn’t been this nervous about a date since high school, and her nerves then had come from the knowledge that her stepsister would do something to mess it up for her. Now she had no reason to be nervous other than knowing that she was about to have her first date with a man who made her entire body tingle.

Laundry sounded better than sitting around thinking about tingles. It was just a date. No reason to be all sappy about it.

Over the course of the morning and early afternoon, she made several trips down and up the stairs between her apartment and the building’s laundry room. Just for something to do, she’d decided to wash all her bedding and everything she’d worn even once since her last laundry foray. It didn’t amount to much, but the landlord had only sprung for an apartment-sized washer and dryer in the basement, shared among the tenants of the six units in the building, so it took a while for Reesa to finish all her laundry.

During her final trip up the stairs, her cell phone, which she’d shoved into the pocket of her cut-off shorts, rang. With her arms full of sheets, she couldn’t answer it, so she ran the last flight to her apartment and tossed the bedding onto the couch. By the time she managed to yank the phone from her pocket, she’d missed the call.

The display showed an unfamiliar number. She waited a few minutes to see whether the caller left a message. No voice mail showed up.

It had to have been Micah. Still, she didn’t usually return calls from unfamiliar numbers, and it took her a few minutes to work herself up to calling this one back.

“Hello?” Micah’s deep voice came from the other end of the phone.

Reesa’s heart gave a happy little skip. “Hi, it’s Reesa. Did you call me?”

“I did,” he replied warmly. “I wanted to see what time you’d be able to meet. And…” He cleared his throat. “My stupid car still won’t start. I’m having it towed to the mechanic down the street. He said it won’t be ready ‘til Monday at the earliest, though. So even though it’s highly irregular, I wondered if you’d pick me up instead of the other way around.”

Her cheeks ached from the grin which spread across her face, and she chuckled at “highly irregular.” “Sure, I’d like that,” she replied casually. “Your place?”

“I don’t have a place,” he reminded her. “But yeah, please pick me up at my parents’. I feel horrible about not being able to give you the full date experience, with me picking you up and handing you flowers and everything. I’ll crawl on my hands and knees if you want.”

She laughed. “I don’t mind a bit. You don’t even need to crawl. So I assume we’re going somewhere other than your parents’ house?”

“Bringing a date to my parents’ would make me feel about fifteen years old,” he muttered. “Like I said, I want you to have the full date experience. Maybe I won’t be able to do the picking you up part, but I can still take you somewhere nice. Would you rather spend an afternoon walking in the park, or go somewhere for dinner?”

“You decide.” Reesa hated making decisions like that. When she’d gone on dates before, she’d always let the men decide where to take her.

Of course, that hadn’t worked out too well with Charles.

Micah’s parents’ deck looked like a nice, quiet place to sit and talk. With the trees surrounding it, it gave the sense of being in the country somewhere, even though it sat only a couple miles from the city. She wouldn’t have minded just hanging out with him there. She understood his point, though.

So they’d go somewhere. He’d called it a date, which gave her a warm, fuzzy feeling. No wonder he didn’t want to just sit on the deck. Dates didn’t do that.

Honesty

In a relationship, honesty is one of the most important components. If you aren’t honest with your partner, you’re betraying their trust, even if they don’t find out about it. Relationships need a foundation of trust and respect, and being dishonest erodes that foundation.

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Sometimes people are dishonest with their partners so they won’t hurt the partner’s feelings. I don’t mean things like “Sure, that dress looks great” when it doesn’t. I mean saying things about your relationship or your feelings that are untrue, or making promises you don’t intend to or know you won’t be able to keep. When you love someone, you don’t want to hurt them, but finding out that one’s partner has been dishonest can hurt far more than the truth would have.

Of course, sometimes dishonesty is intentional. You’re trying to cover up something you don’t want your partner to know about because they’ll get angry, or they might leave, or you don’t respect them enough to admit what you’ve done wrong. Sometimes you just don’t care about their feelings; it’s more important to hide the truth than it is to face the consequences.

Regardless of the intention behind dishonesty, when someone learns that their partner has been dishonest, it hurts. And it can destroy a relationship. If someone has lied to you, you can’t know for sure whether other things they say are true or not. If they’ve lied once, they might lie again. Worse, if the dishonesty was about the relationship itself, you’re left wondering whether the entire thing has been based on lies. Whether you ever mattered to your partner in the first place.

There are times when being dishonest is a matter of safety, particularly in an abusive relationship. If you believe you’re in danger, then yeah, do what you need to do in order to keep yourself from being hurt or killed.

But this post is about the dishonesty that serves no real purpose. If you’re in a relationship with someone you say you love, part of that love, in my opinion, should be respecting them enough to be honest no matter what. We all hide some things, but when you know the other person would be hurt if they learned the truth, how do you think they’d feel if they not only found out the truth but also found out you’d lied?

Keep your partner’s trust. Keep their respect. Be honest.

Teaser Thursday- With My Heart

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He chose to wait outside and checked the time on his phone every few seconds. No messages came from Cole, and the clock didn’t seem to be moving particularly quickly. Finally, at ten minutes past seven, he saw Cole heading up the street toward him. Ignoring the impulse to meet him, Merit stayed where he was until Cole reached him. “I was getting worried you weren’t going to show.”

“Sorry.” Cole didn’t sound especially apologetic. “I ended up having to work a little later than planned—” He broke off and stared at the passing cars for a moment. “No, that’s bullshit. I’m pissed at you, but I’m not going to lie to you.”

Merit’s heart sank, and he knew he didn’t want to hear what Cole was about to say. But he asked anyway. “Where were you?”

“Last night I went out with a guy from work.” Cole hesitated. “I thought about taking him home. I didn’t. I left him at the bar and went home alone. That’s part of why I’m so pissed at you right now. I had the chance to get laid, and I couldn’t do it because I felt like I would be betraying you. And then I find out you had the same chance and took it.”

“I’m sorry.” Merit could barely hear his own voice over the noise of the traffic.

“Don’t be.” Cole took a breath. “Tonight, I asked him out again. When you told me what you did last night, I wanted to do the same thing. And once again, I couldn’t. He was in my truck, hand on my thigh, and I told him to stop because I still felt like I would be betraying you. And I wouldn’t have liked myself very much if I’d fucked him just to get payback.”

“You’re a better person than I am.” Merit let out a long breath. Cole hadn’t done what Merit had feared he would. Merit didn’t know whether he would have fucked someone for revenge if the situation had been reversed, but he didn’t want to give himself too much credit. He might have. And Cole hadn’t. That was what mattered. Cole hadn’t done it.

“No, I’m not,” Cole said. “I thought about fucking him. I wanted to hurt you. That isn’t good. But you aren’t a bad guy, Merit. As you said, you didn’t do anything wrong. Let’s go in and talk about this over food. My blood sugar is dropping too much to handle this conversation right now.”

“Okay.” Merit’s stomach was churning so much he doubted he would be able to eat, but given that he hadn’t had a solid meal since breakfast that morning, he figured he should try to choke down some food.

They found a seat fairly easily and placed their orders before continuing their discussion. “I can’t forget about you sleeping with someone else,” Cole said.

“Can you forgive it?” Merit braced himself for the answer.

“You didn’t do anything I need to forgive you for.” Cole sighed. “I kind of think I should forgive you, or not. I feel like you did something wrong, but you really didn’t. This whole ‘we aren’t exclusive’ thing isn’t working for me, though. I know it’s only been a day, but I don’t want to do it. The way I felt when you told me you were with someone else last night, I don’t ever want to feel again.”

“Yeah, and I don’t ever want to hurt you like this again.” Merit stopped himself before he rambled on about how sorry he was. He hadn’t done anything he needed to apologize for. The only thing he had done wrong was suggest they see others in the first place.

It had seemed a good idea at the time. They were arguing too much, and taking a breather had sounded reasonable. He wasn’t entirely sure it hadn’t been, but looking at the man across the table from him, he could see the pain he had caused. He definitely didn’t want to do that again.

Thoughts About Love

Just some random observations…

“Being in love” the way most people mean is like a firework. It’s bright as hell. Lights everything around it. And it’s beautiful. But fireworks fall apart and burn out, leaving only darkness. Love is more like a campfire. Sometimes it burns so brightly it hurts; other times you can barely find an ember. But either way, there’s warmth and at least a speck of light, and it doesn’t completely go out unless someone puts it out.

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Love is when you feel more like yourself when you’re with that person than at any other time in your life. As if they see the you that you wish you could be and reflect it back at you so you realize you’re already there.

Love is when you feel their arms around you and know that no matter what, you’ll always be safe there.

Love is when you want to spend time with the other person, even when you aren’t really doing anything together, even when you’ve had a stressful, crappy day or week and don’t want to deal with the rest of the world.

Love is when the other person looks at you as if you’re the most valuable, incredible treasure they’ve ever seen, and they’re the most valuable treasure you’ve ever had.

Love is letting the other person see your needs and vulnerabilities because you know they won’t judge you for them, and it’s realizing that showing the other person those parts of yourself makes you stronger.

Love is trying to remember your life before them and not being able to, because it feels like they’ve always been there. And it’s wondering what your life would be like without them and hoping you never find out.

Love is recognizing the other person the first time you meet, even if you’ve never seen them before. Not recognizing their face; recognizing THEM.

Love isn’t about labels or names. It’s knowing that the person is there for you, and wanting to be there for them no matter what’s going on in your life. It’s smiling when you see their name on your friends list, and cheering up even on your worst days when you remember time you spent with them or a silly joke they told. It’s accepting them at their worst and knowing they’ll accept you at yours.

Love is realizing the other person knows you better and more deeply than anyone else—and that they accept and want you not in spite of it all, but because all of those things, all the flaws and scars and fucked-upness, are part of you, and you are valuable to them. And it’s accepting and wanting them fully and completely as they are, because even the things about them that make you nuts are part of them, and they’re valuable to you.

Teaser Thursday- Dancing Away

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They headed down the sidewalk. “I teach dance. I perform. There’s a lot to do,” Merit said.

“Right. That makes sense.” Cole paused. “You’ve really settled in here, huh?”

“Very much. I love living here. It’s a lot more open than our hometown.”

“Yeah.” Cole looked around at the buildings and people they were passing. “Yeah, I can see that. I’m glad you found a place where you’re happy.”

“So am I.” Merit glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. He sensed Cole wanted to say something else and didn’t quite dare. Despite his curiosity, he wasn’t about to ask what that might be. If Cole had something to say, he could just say it.

Cole didn’t say anything for a moment, just kept walking. Merit stayed beside him, willing himself to stay silent. Whatever the guy was thinking, Merit refused to try to read his mind or to push him in any way.

“I work for my uncle,” Cole said suddenly.

“You told me that,” Merit said. “Is there a reason you’re repeating it?”

“If I didn’t work for him, things might be easier.” He hesitated. “If I didn’t work for him, I’d be able to move. He has everything set up so that when he retires, I take over the company, and he’s retiring pretty soon. Within the next couple years, most likely. I can’t just leave him in the lurch.”

“Did anyone ask you to?” Merit felt a bit of mental whiplash trying to keep up with Cole’s thoughts.

“I asked me to.” Cole shook his head. “I know I’m not making a lot of sense. I haven’t really thought this through, and it’s hard to figure out what I’m saying while we’re walking up the street. Too many distractions.”

“Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?”

Cole snorted. “Not always. Look, we need to sit somewhere and talk. This place looks good.” He gestured at the bar and grill they’d stopped beside. “Hopefully it’ll be quiet enough we can hear each other.”

“Sure.” Merit hoped so, because he was growing a little tired of not really knowing what was going on. Cole obviously had something on his mind, but he was jumping around so much with his words that Merit couldn’t even begin to keep up.

It sounded like Cole was thinking about moving to the city. And he didn’t have any reason to do that other than being with Merit. Merit didn’t know how to feel about that. A guy—not just a guy, but Cole Dellany—was thinking about changing his whole life for him.

He decided he was better off not trying to figure out what to say until Cole clarified what he was talking about.

They went inside and found a small table near the front window. “What do you want to drink?” Cole asked. “My treat.”

“I won’t argue with free drinks, but I’ll just have a soda,” Merit replied. “Rehearsal in less than an hour, remember?”

“Right. I’ll be right back.” Cole went to the bar to order their drinks while Merit sat and looked out at the passers-by. He’d only come to apologize to Cole for the way he’d acted on Sunday. He hadn’t planned on having a serious, potentially life-changing conversation, and yet that seemed to be where they were headed.

Cole returned with a bottle of local beer and a glass which he set in front of Merit. “Soda, as requested.”

“Thanks.” Merit took a sip. “Look, you obviously have something to say. I’m having a little trouble figuring out what it is and we’re running short on time, so if you wouldn’t mind just saying it, that would help me out a lot.”

Cole swigged some of his beer and took a deep breath. “Fair enough. I don’t want to go back. I want to stay here. With you.”

Random Thoughts

Because I was having a hard time thinking of topics for this week’s blog, I decided to just be random about it. I guess these are more questions than thoughts, so feel free to answer if you’re so inclined.

Why do some people think hugs can be given to total strangers with no hesitation, while others think hugs are foreplay?

Do cats have some kind of radar that tells them where you are at any given moment? Because mine always lurk near me, even when I try to hide…

Same thing with kids. How do kids always know where you are?

How many dishes have to get broken before I stop my 20-year-old from washing them?

How does my 20-year-old not know how to wash dishes yet?

How the heck is she 20??? That makes me… old!

Why is it that sometimes friendship seems more intimate than a relationship?

Why does it have to Monday?