CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Terry Spear

Posted October 30, 2016 By Jennifer

We have two more awesome flash fictions, today, from two more returning Featured Authors at Coastal Magic. Terry Spear writes stories that are always among readers’ favorites, and I’m sure this short will be no different.

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Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

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The Halloween Masquerade Ball

 

A medley of lyres, mandolins and lutes intertwined in a pleasing melody as Elizabeth Wheeler stepped into the ballroom, wishing she hadn’t agreed to going to the Halloween masquerade ball and watched something on television at home instead. She could have run around the suburbs as a cougar instead, being really scary. She tugged at the bodice of her brocade gown, the cut appropriate for the century it represented, but totally too revealing as far as she was concerned. Her fingers touched the diamond necklace dangling like a strip of sparkling lace at her throat.

She wrinkled her brow in annoyance. Why had she agreed to help Armand sell his creation, tonight of all nights?

At least everyone in here was a cougar, and that helped put her at ease a bit. A couple of shifters were even dressed in their cougar coats, one wearing a bowtie, another a diamond collar.

Though when others attended high-priced Halloween balls just for the fun of it, what did she do? Attempted to sell a piece of high-priced jewelry.

She straightened her already stiff back knowing that many of the attendees at the masquerade party had tons of ready cash. Any one of them surely would be interested in buying the necklace for his ladylove. At least that’s what Armand told her. And so where was he tonight of all nights?

Perusing the crowded room where women flaunted floor-length gowns of taffeta, brocades and velvet, she noticed a few eyes that focused on her necklace. Good. Maybe a buyer would approach soon. Still, Armand was supposed to introduce her to the men who’d be willing to purchase such an item. No way was she going to waltz across the floor and hawk his wares without an introduction.

Then from across the room, she noticed a man watching her whose mouth curved up considerably when she met his gaze. His intense stare dropped lower. Was he interested in the necklace? Or just the dip in her bodice? Her face grew flushed with embarrassment. Where in the world was Armand?

She needed a drink.

Though she waved at a waiter, she missed catching his eye. She tapped her foot on the floor. The fluted glasses of golden champagne wobbled slightly on the waiter’s silver tray as he moved farther and farther away from her, deeper into the jungle of elegantly-dressed bodies.

She wasn’t much of a drinker, but tonight, she needed a drink.

Lifting her long skirts slightly to avoid stepping on the hem, she made her way for the waiter and the bubbly nectar he carried on his tray. Winding her way through the crowd, she concentrated on the glasses of champagne dwindling in number as thirsty guests served themselves.

The waiter was nearly across the room when a man suddenly stepped in front of her, causing her to run into his chest…to her annoyance. Without looking up at him, she attempted to sidestep around him, but he maneuvered in front of her again.

More frustrated than a cat watching a bird through a window, Elizabeth looked up at the man and scowled.

The man with the dark eyes, a deep brown, his hair the same rich color curling in waves behind his ears, stared back at her as she looked up at him.

“Excuse me,” she said with an edge to her voice, fully intent on pursuing the waiter further.

The light of the chandeliers dripping with crystals high above reflected in the man’s eyes making them appear to sparkle with mischief.

“You wished a drink, no?” He clicked his fingers in the air and immediately a waiter appeared with more champagne.

“Thank you.” She couldn’t curb the frustration in her voice. She didn’t need a man…any man, to help her out…even as hot as this one looked. His woodsy scent permeated her breathing space as his body rested so close to hers, he warmed her to the pit of her stomach. With no room to maneuver, she couldn’t take a step in any direction, without crunching on someone’s toes with the spikes of her heels.

The smile returned to his lips.

He must have thought her a lush the way she raced after the waiter like some kind of alcohol-craved maniac.

“Someone as attractive as you are should have a gentleman companion to fetch your drinks, Madam.”

Drinks. Now she knew he thought she was a binge drinker.

She sipped her champagne, the bubbly tickling her nose. Stifling the urge to sneeze and make a complete fool of herself, she shook her head. “He hasn’t arrived yet.”

“No? I would have thought he should have escorted you here, Miss–”

“Elizabeth.” She switched the glass to her left hand and offered her right for a handshake.

Dimples appeared in his cheeks as the tanned skin beneath his eyes crinkled with laughter. But he didn’t shake her hand as she expected. Instead, he lifted her fingers to his lips and kissed them, his gaze remaining on hers as if he wanted to see the affect he had on her.

She nearly swooned. That’s how he affected her. Or maybe it was the champagne. She couldn’t be sure. Her head grew light, her stomach fluttered unsteadily, and she leaned further into his chest.

“Damon Deveroux,” he said, still holding her hand hostage. His deep voice and firm touch brought her back to reality.

Damon Deveroux? The multimillionaire philanthropist who owned several art galleries in the city? Was he interested in purchasing the necklace?

When a tipsy partygoer bumped into her, Damon released Elizabeth’s hand and wrapped his arm around her waist pulling her against his body, nearly making her spill the remainder of her champagne. She wanted to rest her head against his chest, to have him embrace her warmly, and kiss her passionately when the clock chimed midnight. Was she nuts? She didn’t even know him, and she was certain she’d given him the wrong impression. Instead of sharing the special evening with a man on her arm, she’d been unaccompanied and chasing the waiter down for a drink.

“Would you care to dance, Elizabeth?”

Dance? Dancing was the farthest thing from her mind. She took another sip of her champagne, not ready to let go of the glass until she was done.

“After you finish your drink of course.”

Once she finished her champagne, she wasn’t sure she could dance without stepping on his toes.

“I’m really waiting for…”

“Armand?”

Her heart stopped dead. He knew Armand? Well everyone in rich folks’ circles knew Armand, she supposed. Her blood coursed through her veins as her breathing quickened in anticipation. Was Damon willing to buy the necklace?

She parted her lips to speak. “You know Armand?”

Damon drank the rest of his champagne and handed the glass to a passing waiter. He touched her necklace. Then his fingers traced the rows of diamonds moving in a v-shape dipping toward the crevice between her breasts. She caught her breath in her throat as she watched his movements.

“He made this and wanted you to find a buyer for it, no?”

Yes, but this wasn’t the way in which she was supposed to sell it, wrapped up in Damon Deveraux’s arms like he considered buying the whole package. She laughed inwardly at herself. He wasn’t interested in buying the necklace. But maybe he figured he could convince her to share the night with him. Hmpf. Why would he want her when he had half a dozen other women chasing after him at any given time?

But if she could sell the necklace on her own… She cleared her throat. “Are you interested?” She swallowed the rest of her champagne, wanting to wash away the words that spilled from her lips. When smile returned, she quickly added, “In buying the necklace?”

He freed the empty glass from her hand. “Let’s dance.”

“But I’m waiting for Armand.”

He guided her to the dance floor where men and women circled to a waltz. “How well do you know him?”

A blush rose to her cheeks. She’d met him two years ago at a party like this one. She’d been alone then too, only because her fiancé had jilted her. But Armand had loved her looks and asked her to model his jewelry. Flattered beyond reason, she’d done as he’d bid and earned a substantial commission on every piece she’d helped him sell.

“Well enough.”

Damon smiled. “Has he never mentioned me to you?”

Elizabeth’s body heated in embarrassment. Armand’s lovers included several well-to-do men. Was Damon one of them? Sure, he was good looking enough.

“Listen, I’m just here to…”

“Sell your wares.”

Her blood boiled with anger. “Armand’s necklace.”

“A woman who looks as good as you, shouldn’t have to attend an affair such as this one, alone.”

She attempted to squirm out of his grasp. “This is a mistake.”

“He’s not coming tonight. He asked that I meet with you instead.” He rushed his words as if he feared losing her.

She ceased her struggles. “What?”

“He asked for me to look out for you tonight.”

“Can you introduce me to some of the men here who might be interested in buying the necklace for their–”

“Lovers?” He grinned. “Or wives.”

Her back stiffened again.

“Relax. Someone here tonight already wishes to purchase the necklace.”

She couldn’t relax. Every molecule of her body churned with annoyance. Damon already had a buyer for the necklace, so why the charade? Why not get on with business?

“You don’t remember me, do you?”

Damon’s words totally threw her. Remember him? As overwhelmingly handsome as he was, how could she not have recognized him if she’d ever met him before? His broad shoulders blocked her view of any other dancer that night, and he held her close, possessively close. His hands traced her spine as she touched the satin of his jacket.

“We’ve met before?” She looked up at him and was surprised to see his eyes darkened with desire.

“We attended the same college and a lot of the same dances.”

She tilted her head to the side. “No. I would have remembered anyone who looked like–” She cut her words short. He had to have been mistaken.

“You were engaged at the time. I guess you had eyes only for him.”

Her brow wrinkled and she looked down. Just remembering the hurt her fiancé had caused when he started seeing another woman behind her back filled her with anguish.

“Armand felt you should be dating again.”

Her cheeks grew hot. “Armand shouldn’t be telling others what I should be doing or not doing with my life.”

Everything she said seemed to amuse him. A smile tugged at his lips again. “Don’t be too hard on my brother. I’m the one who’s been pestering him about you.”

Damon was Armand’s brother? Her mouth dropped in astonishment.

He grinned. “I know. No family resemblance. We’re half-brothers, but we’ve been close all these years as if we’d been brothers.”

Actually, now that she studied Damon’s sturdy jaw and angular features, the color of his eyes and hair, she could see a slight family resemblance.

“So how about it?”

He couldn’t be half bad if he was Armand’s brother, and certainly he had some pretty winning moves. The way his hands caressed her back, she sure wished he’d kiss her at the summit of the bewitching hour. Still, she wasn’t certain what he had in mind. “How about what?”

Damon kissed the top of her head. “Nothing too risqué. Maybe breakfast at Jardenes. Crepes and coffee?”

Breakfast? And what in between?

She took a deep breath. What had Armand told his brother about her? Surely not that she was easy.

When she hesitated to respond, Damon picked up the slack. “I could collect you at your place whenever you were ready to go.”

Instantly relief washed over her like a warm, welcome shower. “I’d like that.”

He chuckled, the sensuous, throaty sound triggering in her deep-seated longings for comfort and companionship.

When the clock rang twelve at the top of the hour, Damon kissed her. She knew then the way his mouth kissed hers with tenderness, this night was only the beginning.

“Want to run around the neighborhood as cougars?” she asked, when he finally let her up for a breath of air. She wanted to shed her expensive gown for her fur coat and what better time to do it but with someone who might like to run with her too?

He smiled. “Exactly what I was thinking. Lead the way.”

 

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CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Kiernan Kelly

Posted October 29, 2016 By Jennifer

Today through Halloween (Monday), we will be showcasing multiple authors’ stories! Today we’ve got two flash fictions, both from authors who are returning to Coastal Magic in February.

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Kiernan Kelly has been with us every year, and always brings something fun, interesting, and unexpected to the event. She’s doing the same in her story today. (Dracula at Disney?? Ok!!)

Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that pairs up with this story…

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Spring Fling

            Fireworks explode across the black velvet sky, sizzling drops of reds, blues and whites blazing blindingly for a moment before slowly fading and dripping into nothingness.  Thunderous explosions and crashing symphonic music rattle bones as small children shriek in eardrum-shattering harmonies. The smell of gunpowder rides the smoke and ash that sifts over the crowd as the finale comes to a close.

I do love fireworks. They remind me of sunlight. For that single moment as the shell explodes the night transforms into that time of morning when the sky brightens to day I can almost feel the sun’s heat on my skin; can easily pretend that it is the sun’s light behind my closed eyelids, even though more centuries have passed than I care to count since I have been able to allow myself such pleasure.

I’m such a sentimental bastard.

Winter at home has always been harsh. Bitter winds and deep snows accompany a cold, syrupy mist that covers the mountain crags like a shroud. The sky turns the color of lead and the trees stand naked, stripped of their autumn brilliance and transformed into stark skeletal sentries as the entire landscape fades into a dreary, dull monotone.

Worse yet is the silence that descends with the first snow, so thick that I often feel that I can reach out and shear it in two with a sharp knife. It is suffocating, and it perversely magnifies the smallest sounds into deafening roars. The tap of my heel on the hard marble flooring reverberates like a gunshot; the pulse of blood in my ears is as vociferous as a tsunami crashing ashore.

It’s all so fucking depressing.

And yet there I remain, cocooned within the ancient walls of my chosen prison and for no reason other than nostalgia. Actually, that isn’t entirely true. In all honesty, the raison d’être has less to do with nostalgia and more to do with the fact that the local villages have yet to acquire security alarms and motion detectors.

But when the icicles that dangle from the eaves have grown as long and sharp as my teeth and first begin to melt, splattering dirty drops of wetness on the cold square cobblestones that line my courtyard, and the wind kisses my cheek with the promise of Spring, I pack up my shorts and tee shirts, my fanny packs and my Nikes, and head west.

For obvious reasons, I always take the red-eye and almost always fly coach. It may not be romantic, but it is practical. You try being a one and a half-pound bat flying across the Atlantic with seven pieces of luggage and a Hefty bag full of topsoil and then tell me that vampires don’t need to hoard their frequent flier miles.

In any case, that is how I come to find myself in the wang of the New World each Spring, wearing brightly colored shirts bedecked with flamingos and palm trees. It is why I bare my lily-white legs in cargo shorts and flip-flops, and mingle with the tourists in their ice cream-stained tee shirts and mouse-ear beanies. After the sun sets and the bright lights along the main street wink on I join them, walking along and indulging myself in the fantasy of normalcy.

I buy cardboard cartons of freshly popped corn that I never eat, and waxy cups of soda pop that I never drink. I browse elbow to elbow with the human tourists, shopping for cheap ceramic statuettes and sweatshirts emblazoned with rodents that will end up in the nearest trash receptacle. I stand in the ever-present queues that wiggle their way in neat coils in front of every attraction so that I might park my immortal ass on the sticky seats of the roller coasters, straddle the horses on the carousel, and grin like an idiot at the squeaking animatronics.

Pathetic, I know, but it makes me feel almost human.

I suppose that I could go to any major city on the planet and achieve the same effect. But there is one other reason that draws me here to this land of make-believe, and it is simply that I too, have fantasies. I may be a vampire, but I’m not dead.

Not technically.

You see, throughout my long life I have developed a fixation of sorts with royalty. And here in this citadel of sycophants, there be princes.

My obsession with those of noble blood was born of a dull and unimaginative rationale. Early in my second life (or first death, if you feel the need to be picky about semantics) I discovered through trial and error that those of royal lineage were privy to better food and cleaner water, therefore having fewer diseases than their peasant brethren. As a result, quite frankly, they tasted better.

In addition to my hearty appetite, I also happen to be a lusty soul.  Since I have never held with the philosophy of self-denial in any way, shape, or form and considering the clandestine and precarious nature of my uninvited visits, I usually found it most expedient to fuck and eat at the same sitting. A royal bedchamber was more often than not sumptuously appointed, draped in silks, damasks and furs, and I much preferred to indulge myself over a coverlet of velvet spread across a thickly stuffed featherbed than on a scratchy, flea-infested pallet in a dank and drafty thatched hut.

Alighting on a balcony and slipping myself into a bedchamber, I’d sink my teeth into a throat and my cock into an ass nearly before the owner of said throat and ass became aware that I had arrived. They barely knew what hit them. I left a trail of befuddled-looking newly anemic sovereigns all throughout the Middle Ages.

Unfortunately, over the last century progress has rendered my midnight visits not only dangerous, but damn near impossible. Windows are wired with sensitive alarms, and it seems that nowadays everyone has a cell phone with the Police on speed dial, not to mention a handgun buried underneath their mattress. Not that any of these things would keep me from my prey, but sirens and gunshots tend to ruin the mood.

As a result of this recent technological boom, I have been reduced to returning to haunt the tiny Eastern European backwater villages and hamlets that had been my mainstay so long ago when I was but a fledgling. History, it seems, does repeat itself.

While my stomach and my cock are both appeased by the progress-challenged villagers I am forced to hunt, my driving desire for stimulation and for fulfillment of my sexual fantasies is left pitifully unattended, and I yearn for the days of old.

There is only one solution to my problem. To recapture the glory of my heyday, I need a prince. And as I have mentioned before, this place, this fantasy in fiberglass, this nirvana of make-believe, is Prince Central.

Here I can easily find a Prince to suit whatever mood I might be in at the moment. From charming princes to beastly princes, to princes on flying carpets or white horses, from brunettes to blondes to carrot tops, this place is a veritable prince smorgasbord.

Now I stand in the courtyard of the castle, seemingly naught but one of many pairs of eyes that watch as the fireworks explode over the mock stone and the gilded turrets.

There, just within the cavernous hole that slices through the middle of the castle, stands a likely candidate for my discriminating tastes. He is tall, as a prince should be, dark-haired and handsome, with skin so clear and flawless that it makes one wonder whether he’d yet begun to shave. He looks vaguely familiar to me, but then again, after standing for so many seasons in this same princely buffet line, they all tend to look alike to me. Broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, his body has been poured into his jacket, a second skin of white polyester blend. Fringed golden epaulettes grace both of his shoulders, and his leggings are of a fabric that clings to each sculpted thigh, and are of my favorite color, blood red.

He is waiting for the last of the fireworks to drift down and fade away, ready to trot back to center stage for the last meet and greet of the night with his adoring subjects.

I follow the crowds who divide themselves equally between the Princess and the Prince, making certain that I get into the correct queue and that I, above all else, am the last in line. I do not wish to be shooed away in favor of some vertically challenged, sticky-faced prepubescent.

His eyes, a twinkling midnight blue, lift to meet my own several times as my turn draws inexorably closer. When at last I stand before him, the expression on his face is a bit muddled as he quickly scouts the area about my knees searching for the rug rats that he assumes to be waiting with me. Finding none, he looks into my eyes again, curious. His features color with understanding when at last he realizes why I would waste an hour of my time standing in an endless queue that culminated with me in the presence of a false Prince.  His perfectly shaped lips lift in a small smile, and his pale ivory cheeks ghost over pink.

His eyes drop again, but this time he looks no lower than my crotch and that small smile turns into a lecherous leer.

Beautiful? Yes. Princely? Definitely. Subtle? Not on his best day.

His eyes quickly dart to the side, eyeing his keeper, an overweight young man with horrible acne and a ten-dollar haircut whose sole function is to escort the Prince through the park unmolested. At the moment, the keeper’s attention has strayed from his charge. He is busy ogling the neckline of the Princess’s demure ball gown, which has evidently slipped a bit lower than the guidelines advise in the Official Costume Handbook of Princess Décolletage.

Looking into my eyes yet again, my Prince leans forward a bit and whispers that he would gladly meet me at just inside the exit next to the wheelchair and stroller rental booth in an hour hence. I bow to him, a courtly, graceful bow learned an age ago in the Houses of long dead Kings, and turn away.

Smiling as I make my way to the exit, I debate where in the kingdom I should take my Prince. Somewhere secluded would obviously be the best choice. Perhaps I shall spirit him away to the nearby campgrounds, where poorly lit nature trails zigzag amid thickets of towering pine and majestic oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Unfortunately the trails also drip with poison ivy and oak and I have a fleeting vision of a hive-covered Prince, swelling and scratching before my very eyes. Not attractive, to say the least.

Mayhap instead I will bring him to one of the many golf courses in the area, to be taken by me on an emerald green fairway. I giggle as I picture his Princely dick sticking up on the eighteenth hole as straight and as stiff as an oversized golf tee, and realize that I’ll never be able to keep a straight face long enough to fuck him, let alone eat without choking.

As it turns out, my ruminations are of little value, for within an hour my Prince walks towards me carrying a small garment bag over his shoulder. In the garment bag he carries is a white cotton shirt and matching pants, both trimmed with green and purple, the costume of the custodial keepers of the kingdom.

In a hushed voice, my Prince, whose real name is whispered into one of my ears only to immediately fly out of the other, explains that by my donning this atrocious attire we might remain at large after hours and move about the kingdom without fear of reprisal.

Normally I would hold myself above such shenanigans, but today I am in a playful mood abetted by the fact that my cock is straining at the zipper of my cargo shorts.

A long, slow smile lifts my lips. Here before me is an unexpected opportunity that I have yet to have sampled in all my years of visiting this counterfeit kingdom. Dining and debauchery within the walls of my favorite place in all of the New World in the guise of one of their own!  I nod, take the garment bag from his slender hand and slip into the men’s room to change.

As it turns out, it is the first time in over a thousand years that I have thanked whatever gods might still be on speaking terms with me for not allowing me a reflection in a mirror.

The material of the costume is stiff, scratchy, and smells vaguely of overripe bananas. It is badly wrinkled, and sports a few stains the origins of which are thankfully mysterious.  The shirt is too tight and stretches almost painfully across my chest, and the cuffs of the both the shirt and the pants are at least two inches too short, baring my wrist and anklebones. However, since the pants’ waistband is two sizes too big, my ankles are covered after all when the pants slip down over my hips and puddle at my feet. I sigh, pull them back up, and cinch the canvas belt as tightly as possible around my narrow waist.

There is also a small nametag in the bag, a hard, oval piece of pin-on plastic. The name on the tag reads, “Vlad.” I hold it in my hand, staring at it for a moment, shaking my head. After all, what are the odds? As I pin it on I remind myself to stop at a local convenience store later that night and play the lottery.

My Prince is very lucky that I am both very hungry and very horny, for nothing else would force me to show myself in public in such a laughable outfit.

As I exit the bathroom my features show no sign of my inner thoughts and I remain as poised and dignified as I have ever been. I do come precariously close to knocking my Prince’s head right off of his shoulders when a slight smirk crosses his face as he spots me. Luckily for my Prince’s health, he recovers quickly and hands me a broom to complete my disguise.

He asks me if I’d like to grab a bite to eat. I reply that I have every intention of doing so, but would like to have sex first.

The look on his face at that point is priceless. Evidently he isn’t used to such candor among the men he picks up while he is masquerading as the Prince. It takes him a bit longer to recover from my honesty than it did for him to cover his smirk of a moment ago.  Now it’s my turn to smirk and I make no effort at all to conceal it from him.

Almost imperceptibly, he nods. Good, I think to myself. I’ve gone through enough trouble tonight for this Prince and wish to get on with the show. I smile, careful not to show too many teeth, and get a winsome smile in return.

He leads me back toward the castle, and my custodial artifice seems perfect as we pass by several security guards unchallenged. Through the hole in the castle’s belly we walk, and out into a haunting parody of the daytime fantasy of this place.

The carousel sits before me, its gaily-painted horses colored a dismal gray by the night. The lights are dark and the platform stilled from its incessant spinning, and yet the music plays on, loud and gaudy and yet somehow eerily poignant in the blackness of the night. All around me the familiar amusements, so colorful and animated a mere hour ago, sit in silhouette as deathly still as bones in a graveyard.

I toss my Prince a pained expression. If I had wanted to be depressed, I would have stayed at home.

My Prince seems ignorant of my thoughts as he leads me to an attraction set to the left of the castle. I can smell the dank odor of old water and hear its softly sloshing rhythms. Once inside, I gaze with ill-disguised distaste at the barge-like boats that bob in the brackish water.

He asks me to wait, and I agree, although most reluctantly. This is taking far too long as it is, and my patience is growing thin. I should have been sated and on my way back to my hotel room by now. My foot taps impatiently on the dock as I wait for him to return.

A short time later, my Prince trots back, and cavalierly motions me into one of the boats. As we board, I look up into the control center that is suspended above the canal and see a young man grinning down at me. I wonder what favor my Prince has promised to the happy young man in the booth in order for us to be allowed this midnight ride.

With a sudden jerk, the boat begins to move forward as the air is at once filled with the jangling music of a familiar song. That song. That nerve-grating song so irritatingly sweet that it threatens to give even me cavities. I’m certain that you’re familiar with it, for once heard it’s likely to remain stuck in your head forever, popping up when you least expect it until you’re quite ready to drive a stake through your own heart. The lyrics speak of laughter, of tears, of mountains and oceans, of moons and golden suns and smiles and friendship for everyone. I have news for whoever wrote those sickeningly saccharine words. The world is not small. It’s fucking huge, and I did not fly halfway across it to get my rocks off amid the creaking and clanking of rhinestone studded, perpetually grinning, bobbing and spinning mechanical munchkins.

And yet, it seems that is precisely my Prince’s intention.

Our barge slowly threads its way through the day-glow painted continents of 60’s flower-powered papier-mâché, past singing moppets in sombreros, coolie hats, saris, and wooden shoes, past grinning crocodiles, pink kangaroos, and hula dancers, until it finally enters the last room. There my Prince takes my hand and steps out onto one of the floating platforms, dragging me along with him. The barge leaves us behind, and we are marooned in a blue and white, silver and rhinestone-studded multi-national Lilliputian nightmare.  Finding myself pushed down onto my rear end and trapped between a lasso-spinning cowboy and a Native American in a full feathered-headdress, I wonder briefly where the rest of the Village People have been hidden.

My Prince wastes no more time. He pushes me backward and straddles my hips, already unbuttoning his jacket and slipping it from his shoulders. His chest is as pale and as smooth as marble and he has an admirable bulge in the crotch of his blood red leggings, but by this time the grinning moppets and that infernal eternally-looping song have robbed me of what little desire I had managed to hold on to since boarding the barge. I am no longer horny – I’m simply hungry. I want to eat and get the hell out of here. Now.

Without warning and with little effort I flip him over, and look into his eyes as I slowly bare my teeth.

Perhaps my Prince is not very quick on the uptake or perhaps he has been drinking the canal water, but in either case something is not right in that pretty little noggin of his, because instead of fear etching his face as would be right and proper for someone staring at the business end of a hungry vampire’s incisors, he chuckles.

His chuckling deepens into a hearty laugh, and it is I who am taken by surprise, because as he laughs he gives me a good view of his teeth.

My Prince’s incisors are long, sharp, and look amazingly familiar.

It seems that this is not the first time that this particular Prince and I have crossed paths.

I sit up, a laugh warming my own belly. I remember him now. It was the spring of ’76 or ’77 that I first met him, dressed very much as he had been that afternoon. I had tasted his blood and sampled his charms in the shadows under the twisting waterslide of a pool at a nearby hotel.

He smiles his toothy grin and calls me “Sire,” and I pinch his cheek fondly. Admitting that he knew who I was from first sight, he begs my forgiveness and my indulgence for his humor in bringing me here. A little payback, he says, for having killed him in the first place.

His is only one in a long line of princely faces, but I seem to remember that he was a good lay and had tasted sweet. I tell him that the nametag was a delightful touch, and he tells me to keep it as a souvenir. As we reminisce, my stomach rumbles loudly and we laugh again before we both change forms and fly out of the attraction and up into the control booth.

I never thought to ask what promise my Prince had given the smiling young man in the control booth before we set sail on our happy little voyage, but I’m willing to book money that whatever the deal had been it hadn’t involved two hungry, horny vampires.

As morning approaches we part ways once more. The following night I will catch my flight home, planning to return again the following spring. This vacation, while not the most satisfying, has indubitably been one of the more interesting ones I’ve taken.

My only regret is that now I have that fucking song stuck in my head.

 

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CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Alethea Kontis

Posted October 29, 2016 By Jennifer

Today through Halloween (Monday), we will be showcasing multiple authors’ stories! Today we’ve got two flash fictions, both from authors who are returning to Coastal Magic in February.

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Our resident Princess, Alethea Kontis is joining us to share a fairy’s tale, and to celebrate the release of her brand new YA Horror novel HAVEN, KANSAS.

Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

falling_fairies_by_alexaidonidis-d4847wi

 

Canarina fluttered to perch on the windowsill of the abandoned cottage and peered into the darkness, searching for the source of the call. Twilight had come and gone. It was past time for her to be back in the grove with her sisters. But she could have sworn she’d spotted the flutter of a hunting blackbird’s wing and the faint cry of—

“Help!”

There it was again.

Blasted blackbirds would ever be the plague of the fairykin.

Canarina reached into the pouch at her belt and sprinkled dust over her wings. The brown stripes stayed brown, but the orange-peach patches between them brightened considerably, illuminating the ever-growing darkness. She launched herself into the air prettily, searching the wreck of the place with a taskmaster’s efficiency. So many stories had been told about this rotten old shack—Canarina had even told one or two of them to younger fairies. There was the one about the peaceful family of bears who’d fallen prey to a golden-haired home invader…and the one about the silly pig brothers…or the one about the orphan human girl child who was taken in by either a trio of fairies or a band of dwarves, depending on the teller. That one never ended well.

Stories involving pesky human children rarely did. Human children were more of a blight in the Wood than blackbirds, in Canarina’s honest opinion. Always trampling about where they didn’t belong, demanding flowers out of season for one reason or another, and they were terrible witch-magnets. Wherever there were human children about, a witch wasn’t far behind.

And no one wanted witches.

“Help!” came the cry again. Canarina could make out the source now: a crystal glass that sat on an empty table in the middle of the room.

“I’m coming,” she called out as she flew over. “Help is coming. Help is here.”

Canarina’s tiptoes grabbed the edge of the crystal and she peered in. The glass didn’t look so terribly large from the outside, but from this vantage point it seemed as deep as a well. As soon as Canarina’s wings illuminated the water, she could see the fairy trapped below the water’s surface. The fairy might have been one of her sisterkin, with skin as dark as earth and pink eyes and striped wings. Just like Canarina.

“Eminii?” Canarina called into the crystal well. “Abyssinica?” But whichever sister it was, the fairy could not hear her. The trapped fairy beat her hands against the surface of the water, over and over again, but try as she might, she could not break through.

“Hold on,” said Canarina. “I’ve got you.” She hooked one leg over the edge of the crystal glass and stretched down as far as she could. Her fingertips skimmed the surface. If she was only a little bit taller…

“Reach!” Canarina yelled at the trapped fairy. “If you can hear me, reach as far as you can! I’ve almost got you!”

Canarina felt another brush against her fingertips, but it was not water. Triumphantly, Canarina clasped the trapped fairy’s hand tightly. “I’ve got you! Don’t worry, sister, I’ve got—”

With a triumphant cry, the shadow creature pulled Canarina beneath the surface in a poof of fairy dust. The water in the crystal glowed with the light of Canarina’s magicked wings as she dissolved.

“Silly fairies,” the first witch said from the darkness.

“You’d think after a thousand years they would have learned,” cackled the second witch.

“All the better for us,” crowed the third witch. “Another hundred years of life! Who wants to take the first sip?”

“After you, dear sister.”

“Oh, no. Please, after you. I insist.”

 


unnamed150 years ago, in Haven, Kansas, a witch was burned at the stake. This October, in Haven, Kansas, a boy plays a prank on his big sister. Suddenly, crows fill the skies, a female scarecrow plagues the town, and teenagers are dying left and right. Amidst the violence, strange things keep happening. Lora Townsend discovers a secret room behind the wall of her bedroom, in which a dark and foul Book of Shadows has been hiding for over a century. The book belonged to an ancestor who documented the spells and stories of the strange woman he loved…a woman the town later killed for practicing witchcraft.

There are whispers on the wind. The death toll is rising. And Lora and her family seem to be the center of it all. They must call upon Lora’s small knowledge of magic to help them. Will they be able to take the town back from the witch, and can they manage it without losing their lives in the process?

Lois Duncan meets Joss Whedon in this literary slasher for the twenty-first century!

Barnes & Noble     Amazon

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CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with A E Via

Posted October 28, 2016 By Jennifer

Today I’m happy to welcome yet another “new to Coastal Magic” Featured Author, A E Via. Today is day four of our Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event, and A E has another fun, and a little sexy, story for us.

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Today’s contest entry is a little different. Rather than just leaving a general question or comment — A E has asked a question about your Halloween traditions. Be sure to chat with us about your holiday fun to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

Fall For An Eternity by kkart

Fall For An Eternity by kkart

 

Making Scary Sexy

Genesis Godfrey and Curtis Jackson

(From the Best-Selling series: Nothing Special)

Genesis watched his boyfriend of almost two years walk back and forth while he spoke with one of his two fathers. He would stop every couple passes and run his hand through the long blond hair on top of his head.

“I know, Dad. I tried to talk to him, he’s just an evil bastard that enjoys his little bit of authority.”

Genesis had just finished pulling his shirt on when Curtis tapped him on the shoulder, handing him his cell phone. He barely refrained from rolling his eyes when he took it and left the room. He went into their den and hit the speakerphone so he could tie up his boots. “Hey.”

“What the fuck, Gen? Why’s my boy still getting the business at that school?”

“Hi Ruxs, it’s nice to hear from you too.” Genesis sighed. His boyfriend’s fathers were two badass detectives with one of the most dangerous narcotics task forces in Atlanta. Terrifying was a gross understatement to describe either of them.

“Cut the crap. I asked you to handle that prick,” Ruxs growled.

“Curtis is a grown man, Ruxs. You know he doesn’t like anyone stepping in to fight his battles. He may be smaller than us but he can handle his own business.”

“I know he can! You think I don’t know that. Curtis will keep taking the abuse because he’ll do anything for those kids. He’ll never risk losing that job. So now I want you to go and put the fear of God in that piece of shit. He’s probably doing it because he’s gay or who-the-hell-knows – I don’t give a damn. Just handle it, Genesis… without Curtis knowing.”

“Alright,” Genesis huffed, peeking around the corner to make sure Curtis was still down the hall.

“I mean it. I don’t want to hear him so upset again. Either you do it… or we’re coming to do it,” Ruxs snarled.

“No! No, no, no. I like this city. I can handle it.” Genesis didn’t need the Enforcers coming to DC. No damn way.

“Good.” Click.

Genesis went back into their room and tossed Curtis’ cell phone on the bed. “I’m sorry you had a bad day today,” he whispered, coming up behind his lover and resting his chin on top of his head, massaging his tense shoulders.

“Yeah. Damnit.” Curtis leaned his head back against Genesis’ broad chest. “I don’t know why he treats me like that. I’ve never done a thing to him but he rides my ass like a goddamn horse jockey.”

Genesis chuckled at his boyfriend’s unique sense of humor. “Okay first, I don’t like that reference whatsoever, and two, it’s a volunteer job, babe. Why don’t you find another center?”

“No. I love those kids. They trust me. I can’t just walk out, Gen. I know what that feels like.” Curtis dropped down on their large bed and began pulling on his tan leather boots.

“Alright. Let’s not think about that anymore tonight. We both finally have a weekend off, let’s kick this Friday off on a more enthusiastic…” Genesis yanked Curtis to his feet, pulling him into his body, loving the way he melted into him. “…and sexier note, whatd’ya say? Just me and you out on the town, enjoying the fall weather. You love this time of year… colorful leaves, fun decorations… trick-or-treaters.”

Curtis smiled up at him. “You’re right. I sure do. Okay. Let’s do something fun.”

“You wanna go to a club or something?” Genesis ran his rough stubble across Curtis’ soft hair. “Whatever you want.”

“Ugh. No club. Someone always recognizes you and wants an autograph, then they want to spend the rest of the evening talking about football. No, thanks. You’re all mine tonight.”

Genesis was a Heisman trophy winner with the Georgia Bulldogs his senior year and was a first round NFL draft pick, but choose to take his engineering scholarship and opt for a less complicated life in DC with the love of his life. People called him insane for turning down millions, but he made a good living working for Apple and he liked coming home to his partner every night.

Walking close to each other, with his arm draped over Curtis’ shoulder, they passed decorated storefronts with standing ghost statues and door entrances encased in fake cobwebs “I used to love Halloween. We should pass out candy.”

“What?! I’m not… you can.”

“Why?” Curtis frowned.

“Because it’s on Monday night. Bears are playing. It’ll take the National Guard to get me off that couch for even a second.”

Curtis hugged him closer, using Genesis’ bulk to shield him from the brisk weather. The scary holiday was only a few days away and the city streets were full of holiday attractions. Walking past a popular DC park, Genesis looked up and read the huge banner decorated to the nines. HALLOWEEN HAYRIDE.

“Hey, let’s go in, babe. It looks fun.” Genesis was already walking up to the gate, pulling Curtis behind him, to pay the five-dollar admission. It wasn’t their first time at that particular park, but it was awesome to see it all decorated with inflatable pumpkins, carved jack-o-lanterns, ghouls hanging from trees, and glow in the dark skeletons. Genesis let Curtis stop and peruse vendors selling candy apples and fall decorations, simply enjoying his smile.

“Hayride is right here.” Curtis stood behind another couple waiting for the next small pony-drawn buggy.

Since it was dusk, there wasn’t much activity and they were able to get their own trailer. The ride was bumpy and the creepy individuals lurking in the dark forest were more entertaining than scary. Genesis let Curtis lean back against him, wrapping him up tight while they smirked at the valiant attempts to frighten them. Instead of focusing on that, he reclined and enjoyed the weather. “At least we’ll have some vacation time when we go to my brother’s wedding in a couple months. That’ll be good.”

“Yes, Jesus. I need it, too.” Curtis tilted his head up, silently asking for a kiss.

Genesis nipped and licked at Curtis’ soft pink lips, neither of them breaking to acknowledge the young woman dressed up as a witch jumping onto the side of their buggy. Rolling her eyes, she jumped down and got back in position, ready for the next one to come through.

The ride came to a stop and the driver, wearing a mummy costume, turned and told them the ride was over and pointed to a small one-story building. “You can go through the poltergeist house or cut through the haunted graveyard to exit.”

Genesis stepped down, reaching back for Curtis. The buggy pulled off and both of them stood there, staring at the small concrete path that led to an iron door between two large concrete pillars. It wasn’t the dark gray asylum-style door itself that was spooky; it was the vast amount of dead vines that cloaked it. It appeared dreary and desolate, as if the building was too ancient and unique to tear down. Clearly, it wasn’t inhabitable, it just sat out there in the middle of the old park; an abandoned structure that looked like a dwelling fit for the crypt keeper.

“Yeah, we’ll just go through the fake cemetery.” Curtis chuckled nervously.

“No. Let’s go in. I wanna know what it looks like in there. It’s all made up.” Genesis nodded toward the doors.

“I don’t think that’s made up. It looks like the Blair witch naps in there. I’ll pass.” Curtis turned in the direction of the field cleverly decorated with artificial tombstones and fake fog.

Genesis ran up to his lover and grabbed him from behind, pressing his mouth behind his ear. “You scared, baby? It’s alright, I’ll protect you.”

Curtis scoffed, “No, I’m not scared. I just think it’s stupid. I don’t wanna go in.”

“Oh, come on. We’ve paid the fee for the park. Let’s do it. Besides, I haven’t been in a haunted house since my sophomore year in college.”

“I wouldn’t tell anyone that,” Curtis deadpanned, letting Genesis pull him up the four concrete steps covered with dark orange and yellow fall leaves.

Genesis pushed open the heavy door, the sound of the metal groaning loudly. He looked back to see Curtis practically on his back. He smiled at him and winked mischievously. Since he didn’t see any more buggies approaching, Genesis closed the door behind them.

It was dark, but the deep purple and red strobe lights helped them find the crack in the blood red curtain that hung a few feet from the entrance. There was a sound machine in the corner playing loud, howling wind sounds and screaming banshees. There were no other people inside or anything jumping out at them as they surveyed the dreary interior. It was more a ghoulish art display than frightening. In the main area was a long, ten-chair dining room table, which Genesis had to admit was cool as hell. There were glowing skeletons propped in various positions in front of plates that held everything from realistic-looking depictions of guts, eyeballs, and brains, to decapitated heads and body parts. Gothic candles illuminated the exhibit and more strobe lights danced around the table. Curtis held on tight to his arms while they looked around the gruesome set-up.

“Wow, someone really put a lot of work into this,” Curtis whispered.

“I can only imagine how packed this place is on Halloween,” Genesis said, walking around the one wall into what he guessed was supposed to be the poltergeist room. As they moved, black lights flickered and ratty sheet-covered ghosts, hung from the high ceiling, dropped and ascended in quick intervals. Curtis flinched when an extremely old-fashioned turntable came to life and began playing sounds of a man moaning like he was being tortured.

“Okay, I’m done.” Curtis tapped him on his back. “That sounds disturbing.”

Genesis laughed. “I know, right. I wonder where they got that soundtrack from. This is supposed to be PG-13, I’d assume.”

Genesis spun around, walking Curtis backwards against the door that’d lead them out of the freaky house. He pushed his hard body against Curtis, talking to him in that deep, whisky drawl that he knew got his guy going. “It sounds like the moans that guy was making in the video we watched online the other night, doesn’t it.”

Curtis looked up at him, his beautiful baby blues were hard to see in the darkness, but Genesis knew they shone with amusement, and probably a little lust. “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t possibly be getting turned on right now. There’s a drooling zombie in the corner.” Curtis wrapped his arms around Genesis’ waist, pulling him closer to him.

“I don’t care where we are or what’s around, I’m always turned on with you in my arms,” Genesis whispered, gripping Curtis’ chin in his calloused hand and tilting his mouth up to his own. He didn’t waste time with timid kisses – he’d done that on the ride – now he was thirsty. With his other hand, he gripped the back of Curtis’ neck and devoured his mouth, right there amidst the fake horror scene. It all seemed to disappear for a moment, especially when Curtis’ moans mixed in with the recorded man’s. Genesis pressed his body in closer, using his brawn to keep Curtis exactly where he wanted for as long as he wanted. He was getting hard, and as much as he wanted to reach inside those well-worn jeans and make Curtis moan a little louder, he wouldn’t risk anyone catching them.

“Ohh, Genny. Hell. How do you do this to me every time?” Curtis whispered, licking at the corners of Genesis’ mouth.

“Mmm. Because you’re mine, sweetheart.” Genesis drawled, running his hand down Curtis’ back to his supple ass, giving it hard squeeze, earning him a sensual groan against his stubbled cheek.

“Let’s get the hell outta here, so you can finish what you started,” Curtis murmured.

Genesis laughed, pushing open the door. “Does Halloween bring out the freak in you, baby?”

“I think it does for everyone.” Curtis grinned slyly, stealing another quick kiss on his way past.

The End,… for now.

 

nothingspecial-banner-jayaheer2015-bw150dpi-cityHope you enjoyed this teaser of Curtis and Gen. You’ve been asking for more of them and I love to give the readers what they want. This event was so much fun to participate in, and I found it extremely entertaining that the time frame perfectly coincides with Nothing Special 5, that’s releasing on Christmas Day. Be sure to keep an eye on my website for more current information; or read the extensive excerpt at the end of my new release: The Secrets in My Scowl. You might be one of the lucky winners in my current giveaway to receive an advanced copy.

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. Leave a comment on what you and your special someone / or family likes to do on Halloween.

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CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Dee Davis

Posted October 27, 2016 By Jennifer

Day three of our annual Flash Fiction event brings us a sexy, emotional Halloween-time story from another first time Featured Author at Coastal Magic, Dee Davis!

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In addition to sharing her short story here… Dee’s sent us the cover of the first book in a new romantic suspense series!! Check below her flash fiction to see a first look at FADE TO GRAY!

Don’t forget to comment on this post with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

halloween_background_3_by_moonchild_ljilja-d9ch0nz

 

In My Dreams

Caroline lay in her bed in the dark wishing Ethan weren’t so very far away.  It was only the second time they’d been parted since they were married, and there was so much she wanted to tell him.  

She rolled onto her side, the golden glow of the jack-o-lanterns on the porch flickering through a crack in the curtains.  Automatically, her hand moved to her still-flat belly and her heart fluttered at the thought of her news.

Pregnant.  She was pregnant.  No, they were pregnant.  The doctor had confirmed the news this morning.  This time next year they’d have their own little ghost or goblin for Halloween.  It was all they’d talked about, starting a family.  And now, in the most important of moments, Ethan was gone.

Of course she could text him.  He’d still be in the air.  And he usually bought Wi-Fi.  But somehow she wanted to share the news in person.  This wasn’t the kind of news one texted.  She snuggled into the soft down of the comforter, the cool October air caressing her cheek.  Her eyes drifted shut, and she let her thoughts move to Ethan.  

His strong hands.  His hard body.  His beautiful face.  With a smile, she let sleep entice her, the dark closing around her, dreams of her husband and their beautiful baby dancing in her head.

Somewhere in the darkness the clock struck twelve, the chimes clear in the cold night air.  The bed depressed with the weight of another body and Caroline rolled sleepily into the warmth of her husband, his scent soothing and familiar.  

“You’re supposed to be flying,” she murmured as she lifted her head for his kiss.

“I wanted to be with you,” he said, his strong arms pulling her close as his hands stroked her body.  Heat coiled deep inside her and she shifted beneath him, wanting his touch.  

His lips met hers, brushing her lips once, twice, then deepening the kiss, his touch passionate and possessive.  And then his mouth moved lower, tracing the column of her throat, caressing the hollow between her breasts, his silky hair brushing her against her skin. Her nipples hardened and molten fire pooled between legs.

God, she loved him so much.

He pushed the fabric of her nightgown above her hips and she quivered in anticipation as his mouth moved from one breast to the other, his fingers slipping between her legs, stroking, caressing.

She arched upwards as he found her core, and suddenly he was there, filling her.  Loving her.  Faster and faster they moved, each stroke more exquisite than the last.  As they found release, she wrapped her arms around him, knowing that he was her soul.  Her heart.  That with him—anything was possible.

They lay in the darkness, the sound of his heart beating beneath her cheek.  Her fingers moved in lazy circles across his chest.  This was heaven.  The two of them together.  Surrounded by the velvet darkness of the night.

She sighed, wondering if she could possibly be more content.

“Whatever the reason, I’m glad you’re back,” she whispered.  “I have something important to tell you.”

She felt him smile, and her heart rejoiced.  “I saw the doctor today.”  She paused, snuggling closer, savoring the moment.  “Ethan, we’re having a baby.”

“I know,” he answered, his voice hoarse with emotion.  “I love you, Caroline.  I will always love you.”

She nestled against him, content to lie there against his warmth.  “And I will always love you.”  Sleep curled through her mind, and she drifted away, knowing that he was there, holding her, keeping the night at bay.

The sound of the phone broke through her sleep and for a moment Caroline felt anger.  She’d been so warm and cozy and…

She sat up, pushing her hair from her face, the phone still screeching.  She fumbled for the bedside table, looking to Ethan’s side, surprised to find it empty.  Still, fog-headed from sleep she picked up her phone and glanced at the screen.

Ethan’s laughing face smiled up at her.  A photo from last summer.

The image changed as she answered the call, a number she didn’t recognize.  “Hello?” Confusion warred with a sudden sense of unease.

“Is this Mrs. Daniels?” a deep voice asked.

“Yes?” Concern morphed to alarm.  “Who is this?”

“I’m calling from the airline, ma’am.”

“The airline?”

“Yes, I’m afraid I have some news,” the voice paused for a moment then rushed on.  “We usually like to send someone in person, but I’m afraid with the…well, with the magnitude of it all…it’s just…not…”  Again a pause.  “I’m afraid it isn’t possible.  I’m so sorry.”

Her gut clenched and she grabbed her belly, instinct urging that she protect herself and her baby.  “About what?  What are you sorry about?”  Her mind was screaming but her heart insisted it couldn’t be anything terrible.  Ethan was home.  He’d made love to her last night.  She’d told him about the baby. She’d fallen asleep in his arms.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Daniels,” the voice said.  “Flight 761—your husband Ethan’s flight—there was a malfunction.  The airplane crashed.  There were no survivors.”

She dropped the phone, reaching for the bed, is if somehow she could make Ethan materialize.  Make him come to her.  

Come to her…

“We’re having a baby.”  Their conversation repeated itself in her head.

“I know.” How had he known?  Not even she’d known until the doctor.  “I love you, Caroline.  I will always love you.”  Ethan’s final words echoed again through her head.

She grabbed the phone.  “What time was it?” she asked, her voice cracking as she struggled for words.  “The crash?  What time was it?”

“At midnight.  The plane exploded at midnight.”

In My Dreams, Copyright, Dee Davis, October 2016, all rights reserved.


Be sure to keep your eyes open for the release of FADE TO GRAY — the first in a new romantic suspense series!!

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And her newest release, available now…

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When not sitting at the computer writing, award winning author Dee Davis spends her time exploring Connecticut with her husband and Cardigan Welsh Corgi.  Visit her at www.deedavis.com

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