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Brushing Off the Dust

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I’ve been on indefinite hiatus from writing romance while I dealt with some personal stuff, including both my kids moving out of the house, one to college and the other to be a partner and stepparent.

It’s been a stressful few months, with occasional breaks of fun and entertainment.

Many of my books are now out of print. Those include the entire Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series and all associated books with MLR Press and Passion in Print Press, as well as all of my other titles with those two imprints. They also include all but three of my Ellora’s Cave titles, though I’ve heard rumblings around the internet that all Ellora’s Cave authors are having their rights returned in December. All of my Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens books are off the market, since the publisher closed.

On the plus side, my Loose Id titles are still available, as are Love Like Vampires from Dreamspinner Press, and Dawn Over Dayfield from DSP Publications. Dawn Over Dayfield is now an award-winning book! In August, it took first place in the Mystery category of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards! That was hugely exciting. Now I’m waiting with bated breath to see what happens with the Edgar Awards, since Dawn Over Dayfield is also nominated for that.

My self-published novel Vengeance Is Sweet is also still available as an Amazon exclusive, e-book only.

I haven’t written any new romances. I don’t know whether I’m going to. I used to love writing them, but once I started writing for publication, and trying to get more and more books out there in the world, it became stressful and painful. Personal life circumstances didn’t help. I haven’t even been able to think of a romance *plot* in over a year, and I’m not sure whether that’s going to change.

But I still have books out there in the world, and I want to make sure people find them. I want to make sure people know *I* still exist. And someday in the future, I might self-publish some of my previously-published books even if I don’t write anything new. It remains to be seen.

I’m still writing young adult fiction under my Jo Ramsey pen name, though. I’m working on some nonfiction projects about healing, trauma recovery, and magic. (The witchcraft/spiritual version, not the up on stage with a top hat kind.) I’m starting a business related to those topics as well. I’m getting used to being an “empty nester,” and spending time with my partners and friends.

I’ll be blogging here twice a week. Mondays will be posts on a variety of topics; Thursdays will be short excerpts from my books, including some of the off-the-market ones. So I hope you’ll tune in, same Karenna time, same Karenna channel. (Wow… I hope I’m not the only one old enough to know that reference…)

Teaser Thursday- With Every Touch

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Sheila nibbled at the bits of lobster in her sandwich and willed back her tears as lightning flashed outside the window beside her. She had left her hometown as soon as she had graduated university, twelve years earlier, and she hadn’t looked back since. She didn’t need to think about it now, and she definitely didn’t need to think about Jack, no matter how difficult it was to put him out of her mind.

After moving to the city, she’d gotten help to deal with the emotional scars Jack had left. She hadn’t been able to do anything about the physical ones.

It was in the past now, and she wanted to focus on her present. She wasn’t even sure why she had brought it up to Erich. Part of her was surprised he hadn’t walked away. Most guys didn’t want to deal with a woman who’d been damaged the way she had.

Most guys didn’t even earn enough of her trust to hear about her life before Portland, but Erich’s calm demeanor encouraged her to trust him.

“These lobster rolls are excellent,” Erich said.

“Yeah.” Sheila glanced at him. No judgment, no discomfort. He took a bite of his sandwich and smiled as he chewed.

He might be a guy worth knowing better. Maybe having around more.

She dismissed the thought immediately. Neither of them wanted a relationship, and she hoped to move to Boston soon. If she repeated that to herself enough times, it might get through. She couldn’t have Erich around her more than a friend would be. There was no point in even thinking about it.

She wouldn’t have wanted him to be with her constantly anyway. She didn’t have time or patience for it.

“I want to say something to make you smile,” Erich said. “I’m not having much luck thinking of anything.”

“It isn’t your job to entertain me.” She ate another fry. It tasted like cardboard around the lump that had risen through her throat.

“Something hit a nerve.” He held out his hand. Although Sheila wanted the physical contact, she didn’t take it. It would only have given her comfort, which would have been a bad thing when she was so close to losing her cool and bursting into tears.

Erich hesitated a moment before resting his hand on the table. “I don’t know if it was something I said or something you said. Either way, it happened while we were talking, and I want to help.”

“I don’t want to spill my sordid past.” She twisted her mouth in something that felt close enough to a smile and took a sip of her soda. “No issue. Memories are crap sometimes, but the good thing is they’re in the past. I want to think about now.”

“Well, right now there’s a hell of a thunderstorm going on outside.” A crash of thunder punctuated his words. “You’re not looking at the lightning. It’s pretty spectacular.”

Sheila turned to the window just as a bolt of forked lightning shot from the clouds to the surface of the water. It was beautiful and exciting, and she couldn’t help smiling. “God, I love that! I wish I was out there.”

“You might get struck,” Erich pointed out.

“Stop being reasonable.” She stuck out her tongue at him, and he laughed. So did she. Something about thunderstorms—the power, the electricity in the air, and the beauty of the lightning had always lifted her mood. Now she was able to dismiss the tears and memories. They couldn’t stand up to the crashing thunder and waves.

She wanted to be outside. It was pouring hard enough that the water looked like sheets running down the window, and judging from how closely thunder followed on the heels of each lightning bolt, the storm was close to overhead. It didn’t matter. She needed to be outside.

Teaser Thursday- Changing Planes

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“Coming out?” Colin raised his eyebrows. “Are you gay or bi?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m a person-sexual.” Oliver had no other name for it. “I’ve been really into guys, and I was really into Sophia before things crumbled.”

“Okay.” Colin didn’t look any less confused. “So you aren’t going to tell your would-have-been in-laws that you sometimes like men?”

“Yeah.” When Colin put it that way, even Oliver was confused. “And I definitely don’t plan on telling them I like you.”

Colin grinned. “Okay. Well, now that you’re single, maybe we can see where that goes. Except you’re not staying in Sacramento, are you?”

“Not past the weekend.” Oliver sighed. Colin at least seemed interested in the possibility of getting something going, but it wasn’t enough to keep Oliver from going back to Boston. They weren’t together yet, and even if they had been, two days of knowing each other wasn’t enough to warrant him going through with his move. Especially when it would be so much easier to return to Massachusetts. “How do you feel about long distance?”

“I’m a flight attendant. Every relationship I’ve had has been long distance.” Colin hesitated. “We aren’t really talking relationship right now, are we? You just broke off your engagement. I can tell you’re relieved about it, and to me it sounds like you and she weren’t really much more than friends in the first place. That doesn’t mean you should just jump right into something with someone you barely know. I like you too, and I’m attracted to you. I won’t deny it. But I think you’re kind of on the rushing-things side right now.”

“Yeah.” The barista called his order, and he went to the counter to get it, both disappointed and relieved. Colin was right. Oliver was so thrilled to be out of the tangle with Sophia he was ready to plunge into a relationship—or at least a bed—with someone he’d just met. He had a feeling he and Colin would turn out to be pretty compatible, but he didn’t want to push his luck.

He returned to the table and decided to just say what was on his mind. “Okay. I’m attracted to you too. If you said right now that you wanted me to go back to your hotel room, I would, and damn sure wouldn’t say no to anything you suggested.”

“That’s because you need to get laid.” Colin lowered his voice and gave Oliver a wicked grin. “We’ll see. Friends hook up sometimes.” He folded his arms over his chest. “Seriously, I won’t be your rebound, okay? Let’s get to know each other. If it ends in bed, so be it. If it ends in more, it’s all good. I have no problem with long-distance friendships.”

“Sounds good to me.” Oliver drank some of his coffee and tried not to seem too happy. He and Colin would be friends. At the moment, that would have to be enough.

They chatted over coffee about their jobs and interests and parted after a while so Oliver could go back to the condo and make the calls necessary for his return to Boston. He didn’t actually want to leave Colin. He could have made the calls just as easily from Colin’s hotel room. But it was better to leave. He was free to lust after whomever he wanted, and right then he wanted Colin, but he didn’t want Colin to think he was only rebounding.

Teaser Thursday- Stepping Stone Not Doormat

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“It is what it is.” Navon didn’t know whether to sit or stay on his feet. The one thing he could be certain of was that Solara wouldn’t allow him to stay much longer. The guy hadn’t wanted him there in the first place. “Charlie?”

“Solara,” the other man snapped.

At least there’s some emotion there now. “Sorry,” Navon said. “Solara.”

“I go by Solara Flare. My stage name and the name I prefer. And female pronouns.” Solara sighed. “Not that it matters, because once you walk out this door, you won’t be seeing me again.”

“Why female pronouns?” Navon asked the question before he could stop himself. It wasn’t any of his business how Solara chose to refer to him—herself. He didn’t need to know the reasons because Solara was probably right. They wouldn’t see each other again.

That hurt like hell. Navon didn’t know what he’d expected from this visit, but he’d hoped his former lover would at least be happy to see him. He’d believed that maybe after so long apart, Charlie would want to spend a little time with Navon before Navon returned to Los Angeles. Obviously he’d underestimated the impact of the past on Solara.

To Navon’s surprise, Solara answered. “I’ve always asked for female pronouns when I’m in drag. I use my drag name as a daily thing, so I carried the pronoun thing over as well. And it’s another layer of protection. A female named Solara didn’t seem as likely to be on certain people’s radar.”

Mason’s radar. Navon had no doubt that was what Solara meant. Mason had always been pissed off if anyone referred to Charlie by his drag name or used female pronouns or even terms like “girl” or “bitch.” The jackass had been adamant that the “woman shit” remain only onstage or during other appearances and not cross into Charlie’s regular life at all.

Navon had to wonder if Solara had chosen deliberately to go against that order, not only to hide from Mason but because she knew it would have infuriated him if he’d ever found out.

“If you’re going to give me what you brought, better do it now,” Solara said. “Nice to see you, nice to fuck you. Now get out. Please.”

The raw pain in that single word pushed Navon into action. He knelt beside his backpack. “I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”

“It is what it is,” Solara said with a slight note of sarcasm. “Just like I always say. You asked why I never told anyone? I tried. That last time in the hospital. They laughed at me. Said he was so much smaller that I should have been able to ‘take him’ in a fight. A gay man hammers the shit out of another gay man, and no one cares. Especially if the one doing the hammering is smaller. I knew that. I wouldn’t have said a damn thing if they hadn’t recognized the injuries as an assault and told me to report who did it.”

Navon pressed his lips together and focused on opening the backpack. It was bad enough he’d wanted to kill Mason when he’d found out about the beating. Now he had a whole list of others to hate. Everyone who had let Solara down.

Himself included.

Teaser Thursday- Last Chance Tattoo

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Dorsey still hadn’t gotten Rad’s number, and he wanted to kick himself for it. The last time he’d heard anything from Rad was Friday when they’d gone their separate ways after lunch. Now, on Sunday afternoon, Dorsey was faced with a day off and no one to spend it with.

It was no different from all the other days off he’d had, but at the same time, everything was different. He had a friend now. Or something more. Whatever he and Rad were to each other, the one thing Dorsey knew for certain was he hoped for more time with Rad.

And he hadn’t asked for Rad’s number, which meant he had no way to invite Rad to get together. The tattoo shop wasn’t open on Sundays, so if Rad went there to find Dorsey, he would be disappointed.

Then again, Dorsey was only assuming Rad wanted to see him again. They had parted on Friday with an agreement to continue seeing each other, whatever that meant. Unfortunately, with no way to contact each other aside from Rad going to the shop, chances didn’t look good.

By midmorning, Dorsey’s thoughts had spiraled into a dark mass of things he didn’t want to deal with. Part of him still felt as if he’d been disloyal to Chester by messing around with Rad. Part of him wanted to go further with Rad. He’d even gone to one of the department stores outside the city limits the day before to stock up on condoms and lube so next time Rad visited, they would be prepared.

If that ever happened.

He couldn’t stand any more time alone in his apartment, so he dressed in the same clothes he’d worn the day before—the only clothes he had that were clean enough to wear until he went to the Laundromat—and headed to the coffee shop.

As he walked, it occurred to him that Kelly knew exactly how to get in touch with Rad. After all, he’d put his contact information on the application. If Dorsey could figure out how to ask for it without sounding like a creep, he might be able to talk to Rad. That alone made the walk through a light, cold drizzle worth it.

At that time on a Sunday morning, the coffee shop wasn’t very busy, since most people were at church or sleeping in. Dorsey went straight to the counter, where Kelly was arranging a tray of muffins.

She smiled at him. “Long time no see.”

“Sure.” He hesitated. “The usual coffee, please.”

“Why do I have the feeling that isn’t what you were going to say?” She set two more muffins on the tray and slid it into the display case, then turned to get Dorsey’s coffee.

Dorsey looked out the window. Because of the weather, few people were out and about. April wasn’t being particularly springlike so far.

He wondered what Rad was doing. Going to church with his grandmother, possibly, though Rad didn’t strike Dorsey as the church-going type. More likely either job hunting or spending the day out of the rain.

“Here you go.” Kelly set a cup on the counter. “On the house this morning because you look like you need it.”

“Thanks.” Again Dorsey hesitated. “You have Rad’s number, right?”

“Yeah. I kind of have to if I’m going to hire him.” She looked confused. “You don’t have his number?”

“No. You’re going to hire him?” That would be great news for Rad. And for Dorsey, since he would be able to see Rad simply by going around the corner.

Wow, you really have gone too long without a friend. And without sex. Get over it.

“I am, but don’t tell him.” Kelly grinned. “I’d pretty much already decided to, even before I interviewed him. But half the town knows I used to date his brother, so I can’t let it seem like I’m playing favorites.”

“Yeah. I understand.” Dorsey wondered whether Kelly knew what her brother had done to Rad and decided it would be better not to ask. It wasn’t his place to talk about it.

He drank some of his coffee and glanced out the window again. Rad was walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, heading toward the lake.

Without thinking, Dorsey hurried out of the shop. Rad had already passed. Behind him, Kelly called a question, but he didn’t pay attention. He crossed the fortunately empty street. “Rad!”

Rad jumped and whirled around, then relaxed. “Hey.”

Dorsey closed the few yards between them. The drizzle was turning into full-on rain, but he didn’t care. If Rad could stand it, so could he. “Hey. How’s it going?”

Rad shrugged. “Been better, been worse. I was going down to the lighthouse, except I’m not sure walking out there is a good idea in the rain.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” The lighthouse stood at the end of a half-mile or so causeway accessible only by foot. In three years, Dorsey had never taken the walk. The lighthouse was nice to look at from the shore. He saw no reason to go all the way out to it.

“Probably not.” Rad sighed. “When I was a kid, I used to go out there all the time. Even in the summer, it was a quiet place. I could think. Not to mention get away from my brothers and everyone. Even though I wasn’t far away, I could pretend I was alone in the middle of the lake. I liked it.”

Dorsey’s heart went out to the guy. From everything Rad had told him, his childhood had been pretty damn lonely. No one should have to be alone, especially with family around, but it sounded as if Rad truly had been.

That was one of the things Dorsey wanted to make better. Both of them had been alone too long.

Teaser Thursday- I Should Tell You

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Upstairs, he discovered to his relief that he’d been right about his roommate. The place was completely dark and silent, exactly as Hunter liked it. He turned on the dim light over the kitchen stove, then proceeded to the living room at the other end of the apartment where he only had to open the curtains to let in enough light to see—thanks to Logan Airport, across a narrow strip of harbor on the other side of the train tracks.

As he watched, a plane took off. The noise had seemed ridiculous when Hunter first moved in, but within a few weeks he’d become accustomed to the planes and trains. The building had double-paned windows paid for by the agency that ran the airport, and though they did little to block the noise, they at least dulled it.

And Hunter enjoyed watching the planes, especially at night. The lights that rose into the sky reminded him of possibilities. Right now, he was stuck living in this dump with the son of the building’s owners, who expected life to be handed to him and who spent most of his money partying. Right now, Hunter worked at an office with a tyrant boss, doing menial paperwork that almost put him to sleep. But his life would change someday. Someday he would take his money and buy a ticket on one of those planes. It wouldn’t even matter where he ended up. He could go anywhere.

The possibility was the only thing keeping him sober some days. Things would change. He would make it happen.

He heard a sound behind him and tensed. It was the smallest noise. He barely noticed it over the roar of the plane’s engine, but it was there. His heart pounded. He was in his home, and the only other person who could be there was Jack, unless the guy had brought someone in to spend the night. He was safe.

Reminding himself of that did little to take down the fear.

“Don’t sneak up on me.” His voice came out as a croak, and he cleared his throat. “I mean it, Jack. Remember what happened last time.”

“Not sneaking. Fucking thirsty.”

Hunter let out a long breath and sagged against the frame of the glass door that led onto their tiny balcony. Of course it was only Jack. No one else could have entered the apartment. Even if someone had, it was unlikely they would try anything on Hunter. They might rob the place blind, but they wouldn’t be able to touch him. If they tried, he would fight them off. He’d taken three years of Krav Maga before he’d stopped because one of his classmates had become a little too interested in physical contact.

“You okay?” Jack’s slightly slurred voice sounded closer. He must have come through the kitchen instead of just getting a drink and going back to his room. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

“No problem. I’m a bit on edge tonight. I’ll be going to bed in a few.” Hunter wasn’t sure he’d be able to sleep, but he had to at least make the attempt.

“Sorry,” Jack said. “Just got up for a drink. See you.” He shuffled back to the kitchen, and water ran a moment later.

Hunter stayed where he was, staring out at the runway lights and the harbor on both sides of the airport, though he could barely see it.

Teaser Thursday- With Every Touch

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Erich couldn’t shake the feeling that Sheila shouldn’t have left. He should have kept her with him. She belonged with him.

It was a completely stupid idea that he tried to ignore completely. They were friends. She had opened up to him in the restaurant, and doing so had hurt her. He wished he’d tried to persuade her to tell him more, while at the same time knowing it would have been the worst thing he could do.

He didn’t watch out the window as she went to her car and backed out of his driveway. He wouldn’t do something like that. It would have been creepy and stalkerish.

It would have meant he had stronger feelings for her than he had any right to have.

After the sound of her car’s engine faded, he locked the door. With her towel, he mopped up the puddle where she’d stood. He should have invited her into the house instead of making her stand by the door.

I did invite her in. I said she could go into the bathroom to change out of her dress, I think. And I told her she could shower here.

A flash of lightning brightened the room for a second, and Erich turned off the light. He didn’t need to leave it on. He knew his house, and he would probably just go to bed. Sleep would be the easiest way to shut off his brain.

Someone had hurt Sheila in the past. Badly, judging from how she had acted when she’d hinted about it. She’d been close to tears. Her ex had controlled and stalked her, and had probably done worse.

If it hadn’t been so far in the past, Erich would have wanted to kill the guy. She had trusted Erich enough to share her past. He doubted she did so with just anyone. He wasn’t sure how he had earned her trust, but he was honored by it.

He wished he had asked her to stay longer. Their fucking on the beach in the rain had been hotter than anything he’d ever done, but that wasn’t the only thing Erich wanted from Sheila. He had promised her they would only be friends. He wasn’t ready for a relationship. Neither was she.

But after their quiet conversation in the restaurant and the rough, fast fuck outside, and taking care of her at home, he knew there was no way in hell he would be able to keep his feelings for her purely at a level of friendship. He was starting to fall for her. He might never let her know, but he couldn’t prevent himself from feeling it.

“Just what I need,” he muttered. “Another woman who’s going to move on the second she has the chance.”

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.

I Wrote That?

One of the reasons I decided to take a hiatus from writing was because I felt like my writing–especially sex scenes–had become stale and repetitive. That’s sometimes the price one pays when one tries to write too much in too short a time.

Here are two scenes that show a little of what I’m talking about. One is from one of my most recent releases. One is from a few years ago. I’ve taken out character names so there’s no hint of which book is from which year. (Both have been published.) See if you can guess which book is which. I’ll let you know at the end of the post.

 

Snippet 1:

She turned her face up to look at him, and he met her lips with his. The kiss was filled with love and heat, which quickly grew to hunger. Hers. This man was hers and she was his, and she couldn’t believe they had waited so long to say so.

His tongue met hers. He cupped her breast. Moaning, she took one hand off him to fumble with the buttons on her blouse. She craved his touch on her skin.

 

Snippet 2:

The beat of the song was low and throbbing. For West Coast Swing, the music worked well because of how easily the count of the beat could be followed. However, this song had obviously been written with something in mind that involved much more contact between bodies. The bass thrummed through her and her pussy kept time, moistening with arousal so strong it nearly pushed her out of the dance.

 

When I re-read some of my older stuff, written and published prior to 2012, I’m sometimes astonished at how good it is. Especially the sex scenes. I’ve found a few recently in books I wrote in 2010 and 2011 that I could hardly believe were actually my work. And it wasn’t only in published books; I found scenes in a couple of unpublished manuscripts, meaning they didn’t have the benefit of an editor’s guidance. I wrote those scenes myself.

When I look at some of my newer stuff, though… it’s different. The technical aspects of the writing are still good, but my heart clearly wasn’t in writing those scenes, and nothing my editors and I did could change that. Between the end of 2011 and now, I tried to write too much. I got burned out. My personal romantic life went through some changes, and PTSD did some figurative ass-kicking on me, and somewhere along the line, I lost my ability to write scenes where the characters–and hopefully the readers–are begging for more.

Reading my older stories, I remember how much I loved writing them. Even though writing sex scenes has never been exactly easy for me, I at least *wanted* to write them. My heart was fully invested in showing all aspects of the growing relationship between the characters, physical and emotional. And I liked finding different ways to show what they were feeling, without resorting to cliches, repetition, and flat out saying it.

If I wrote that way before, I will be able to again. But I think taking the step back and giving my brain some breathing room was definitely a good idea. Maybe this way, I’ll find the joy in my real life again, and that will bring the joy back to writing these books.

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The covers above are in the same order as the snippets. With Every Touch was released in March of this year. You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This was released in February 2011.

Teaser Thursday- With Every Touch

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Sheila didn’t call Erich that night. Although she could have used an ear and maybe a shoulder, she didn’t want to rely on him too much. Not when she might not have him around much longer. Instead she watched TV until her brain was numb and then went to bed.

Sunday, she went through the motions of cleaning and making sure her wardrobe for the week was ready. She wished she could see Erich again. Their day together had been the most fun and relaxation she’d had in longer than she could remember, and she wanted a repeat. But she refused to lean on him. It was just her luck that right when she found someone she was comfortable enough to care about, she would probably have to leave him. There wasn’t any point in getting too close.

The problem was she had already let herself get close to him, and she didn’t want to lose what had developed.

She called him Sunday afternoon as she had promised. “I think I’m going to stay home and relax. I have to be in Boston at nine tomorrow, and the drive’s going to be crazy because of traffic. I’m probably going to have to leave at six or earlier to make it.”

“That’s okay,” Erich said. “How are you feeling about the interview?”

“Good. It’s going to be good.” She had no clue how she felt other than nervous as hell. She was good at her job, and she had plenty of practice talking to people. That didn’t mean she would make a good impression.

Getting the job in Boston was important to her, but so was Erich. She’d only known him for a week and a half, but she wanted to see where things went between them. She wouldn’t be able to do that in Boston. Relationships were difficult enough. Long-distance relationships were almost impossible.

“You’re going to be fine,” Erich said. “They’d be idiots not to hire you.”

“Yeah.” It sounded like he wanted her to leave, which pissed her off. It wasn’t as though she expected him to break down and beg her to stay, but it would have been nice to hear he wasn’t eager to lose her.

“Are you going to work after the interview?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” She hadn’t even contacted the director to let him know she wouldn’t be at work the next morning.

“You aren’t too talkative today.” Irritation filled Erich’s tone. “I’m glad you called. I was a little worried about you. But I don’t think you actually want to talk.”

She clenched her jaw. He had no right to get pissy with her because she wasn’t being all bubbly and shit. She had stuff on her mind, things far more important than making small talk. “I kind of don’t,” she snapped. “I have this fucking interview to get ready for. I promised you I’d call today, so I called.”

“Yeah, you did.” Now he sounded even more annoyed. “You could have just said up-front that you weren’t in a conversation sort of mood.”

“Whatever.” Her voice rose. “I’m sorry I’m not following your preferred phone call format. I have to drive to Boston in the morning. My entire life might change depending on what they say. I might have to sit back and wait for an answer from them. I have to figure out what to tell my boss about not being at work tomorrow. I don’t have time to soothe your feelings.”

“Wow. Okay.” He paused. “I still want to see you tomorrow night, but I’m going to leave you alone for now. I don’t want to argue with you or have one of us hurt the other’s feelings. There isn’t any reason for it when you’re nervous. Take care, and please call me tomorrow when you’re ready to get together. I’ll give you space until then.”

Tears filled her eyes. She was being a bitch. He intended to be supportive, and she was lashing out the way she always did when someone tried to take care of her. She should have known better. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” He didn’t sound angry or upset, but that didn’t do much to ease Sheila’s concerns. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay? And you can call me again before then if you want to. I don’t deserve having you snarl at me. But I think this is how you get when you’re upset or worried, so I don’t hold it against you. Just please don’t call me until you’re sure you want to talk to me, okay? I’ll be here, I promise.”