I can’t imagine not having pets, whether I’m living here on Earth or in outer space. Fortunately my parents felt the same way so at a fairly early age I can remember us having white rabbits – Meadow and Thicket. I know not everyone is a pet fan, or can have one for various reasons, and you can certainly love animals and not have one in the house. All animal lovers welcome here!
Later last year, author Pauline Baird Jones and I started thinking about doing an anthology mixing science fiction romance and pets. We invited a few of our author friends to join us and it was fun to see what nine authors will do when they start from the same basic story prompt – totally different stories, I promise!
I always had cats – the first one was Cinderella Pussytiptoes and she was kind enough to produce nine kittens for my amusement one summer! (My parents weren’t as excited.) We kept two of them, Amy and Nancy, and found good homes for the others. Since we lived in the country at the time, for each cat there came the morning when she failed to return home from nighttime roaming, no matter how long and hard I stood outside calling “kitty kitty”. I was inconsolable each time the cat population at our house went down by one more. My parents regaled me with a story of them living happily in the forest. While I was pretty young, the tale was sort of similar to the Santa Claus story – I wanted to believe it, despite some suspicions it might not be true. I never asked too many probing questions.
I currently have two rescue cats, Jake and Keanu, who supervise my writing from the chair next to my desk.
So of course my story for Pets In Space includes a cat – Moby, who’s a dainty white rescue cat. There’s also an alien pet, Midorri, who’s cat-sized, green with six legs and all kinds of interesting abilities. She and Moby get along fine and rule the spaceship. Of course! Hey both ‘belong’ to Owen Embersson, the ship’s cargo master.
Here’s an excerpt from my story, as the two animals have lured Owen into investigating a problem on the cargo deck:
Stepping onto the echoing deck, he called for Moby. She spent most of her evenings hunting vermin lurking among the monstrous crates and containers, but she usually passed the first part of the evening in his cabin, eating the incredibly expensive cat food he had the ship’s AI keep in stock. Not much else to spend his salary on. “Come on, cat, I want my dinner even if you don’t,” he said to the elegant vision in white fur who trotted from the murky recesses of the deck. How she stayed clean when she spent her days prowling the cargo deck, he’d never know.
Purring, she came to his steel-tipped work shoes but evaded his effort to pick her up, moving just out of range the way felines did, as if cats could teleport. Moby scampered toward the towering stacks of cargo then turned. Seeing he’d failed to chase her, she sat, tail twitching, head tilted, eyeing him.
“What‘s the matter with you? I’m not in the mood to throw cat toys and retrieve them right now.” Embersson headed toward the gravlift. Moby regarded the entire ship as her territory and could find his cabin for her dinner when she was hungry.
In the next minute, he nearly tripped as she rubbed his ankles, nipping at one in passing. Swearing, he caught himself with a hand to the bulkhead. “What in the seven hells is wrong with you tonight? Giving me a concussion won’t get you fed.”
Moby yowled at him and ran toward the stacked cargo again.
Figuring she wanted to show him a recent kill, which he’d then have to dispose of, he followed.
Moby moved faster now that she’d gotten him with the program.
He followed her around the corner of the pallet the ship had taken on earlier in the day and found Midorri, the Zephyr’s other pet, crouched beside a free trader container. “What mischief have the two of you gotten into now?” he asked Moby. Midorri came aboard the Zephyr originally as the pampered pet of a princess, but after the whole outbreak incident, Sector authorities refused to let the lady disembark on Sector Hub with the undocumented animal, so the ship had kept the odd green fluffball. Dr. Shane was her official owner of record, but the entire crew liked the slightly clumsy but always amusing creature.
Midorri sneezed, as she was often wont to do, allergic to humans perhaps, and flicked her plush prehensile tail before lowering her head and extending her long green tongue to lap at something on the deck.
“Freaking flares, do not tell me we’ve got leaking cargo. Damn free traders and their beat-up equipment.” He hoped Moby hadn’t sampled whatever Midorri was drinking. The alien animal could probably handle anything up to and including nuclear fuel, who knew, but Moby was definitely a terrestrial cat, with a more delicate stomach. He tried to shoo Midorri away from the slowly growing puddle of green goo, dripping from a dented corner of the container. Musta gotten banged when the shuttle crew offloaded the final pallet too fast and had to straighten everything in a rush. Funny, he’d never have picked this box—well constructed, made from high-quality materials—to be a problem. “I better see what’s in there,” he said to the interested animals.
Moby yowled, startling him as her voice echoed, and Midorri emitted a high-pitched chirping that grated on his ears like a physical assault.
Spurred on by the animals’ distress, which confirmed his own suspicion he faced a genuine problem, Embersson used his cargo master key, which was supposed to open any container on his ship. Nothing happened. Swearing, he tried again. “This free trader’s never shipping anything with us again, idiot forgot to set the damn code for my access. Maeve, can you open this?”
“Of course,” the ship’s AI said. “I haven’t forgotten all my military skills just because I run a cruise ship nowadays.”
“Wait a second.” He stepped aside, encouraging the animals to do so as well. He imagined a gush of whatever was leaking when Maeve did her hacking thing and overrode the container controls.
Midorri tried to climb over his boot to return to the growing puddle.
A loud click echoed in the cargo bay and the seams on the crate glowed yellow, unsealing in a smooth progression along the rim.
Pets In Space
The blurb for Pets In Space:
Even an alien needs a pet…
Join the adventure as nine pet loving sci-fi romance authors take you out of this world and pull you into their action-packed stories filled with suspense, laughter, and romance. The alien pets have an agenda that will capture the hearts of those they touch. Follow along as they work side by side to help stop a genetically-engineered creature from destroying the Earth to finding a lost dragon; life is never the same after their pets decide to get involved. Can the animals win the day or will the stars shine just a little less brightly?
New York Times, USA TODAY, Award Winning, and Best selling authors have eight original, never-released stories and one expanded story giving readers nine amazing adventures that will capture your imagination and help a worthy charity. Come join us as we take you on nine amazing adventures that will change the way you look at your pet!
10% of the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.
And the blurb for Star Cruise: Stowaway:
Cargo Master Owen Embersson is shocked when the Nebula Zephyr’s ship’s cat and her alien sidekick, Midorri, alert him to the presence of a stowaway. He has no idea of the dangerous complications to come – nor does he anticipate falling hard for the woman whose life he now holds in his hands. Life aboard the Nebula Zephyr has just become more interesting – and deadly.
Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Three time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “City On the Edge of Forever.”
The idea of two complete strangers getting hitched has always intrigued me, for one simple reason—why would they do such a thing? Could such a relationship succeed? By successful relationship, I understand not only the longevity of the marriage…but is it possible for the participants to actually fall in love with each other in such a strange arrangement? Love is found in the most unexpected places.
A Convenient Marriage grew over a number of years. The basic story was simple—a divorcee with two children, an ex-husband being difficult over visitation, as well as a fiancée unable to commit. Holly’s friends suggested that she needed a new husband, placing an advert in the paper for one behind her back. Joshua was struck by a simple plan when he saw the ad and responded to it.
Why would Holly marry a man she’d never met, and why would Joshua respond to an ad for a husband, then actually propose to a woman he had never clapped eyes on? So, in came the dawdling fiancée, Nicole. Both Holly and Joshua were justified in not planning the marriage to be a real one, because they each had an agenda of their own, but Nicole was the injured party. For their plan to succeed, they had to marry—the real kind, down to that all-important piece of paper married—and they had to seem to be totally in love with each other. That it is all a scam, only they would know.
And here comes the ‘but’. Holly and Joshua’s plans go awry from the moment they meet on the steps of the chapel where their fake marriage is to take place, when both recognize the immediate attraction. Back at Joshua’s wine estate—yes, he is a rich landowner where Holly expected him to be a pauper—Holly meets Joshua’s mother, his brother and sister-in-law, and Nicole, the fiancée, who found out about Joshua’s duplicity in a room full of people. No one can blame Nicole for being a tad upset. Or can they? To add to Holly’s woes, she seems to have acquired a ‘ghost’ demanding she tell a story.
Amidst Nicole’s shenanigans, Joshua’s mother’s disapproval, Holly’s ex’s aggression, and the ghost following Holly around, will these two accomplish what they set out to do? Or will life get in the way?
Joshua’s and Holly’s journey through the uncharted seas of a blind marriage, where no rules apply, is a stormy one.
Maggie Tideswell lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband, Gareth. She began writing when her kids were still very young, squeezing a few paragraphs at a time between the hectic schedule of raising three children, and working full-time in the catering industry. She wrote many books before considering having them published. Now that the children have all made lives for themselves, there is more time for writing.
After much experimentation, Maggie writes passionate paranormal romance, of varying levels of heat. The paranormal, things that happen for which there are no logical explanations and ghosts are of particular interest to Maggie. What events in a person’s life would prevent that person from ‘resting’ after death? The ‘Old Religion’ is another special interest. And love, of course. Why do people fall in love? What keeps them together for a lifetime when so many relationships fail?
Maggie’s advice to aspirant novelists is two-fold. Never give up, and write every day. Writing is a craft that has to be honed with practice. And the only way to practice writing is by doing it. And a bonus, never stop reading your favorite genre. Reading it and writing it is the only training for a writer.
“Maggie Tideswell’s latest novel, A Convenient Marriage, will have you turning pages as her characters cope with a marriage of convenience, well-meaning but nosy friends, a meddling ghost, jealous exes, and more. My advice: Make room on your Keepers shelf for this story!” (Loree Lough, best-selling author of 107 award-winning books, including Harlequin Heartwarming’s “Those Marshall Boys” series.)
I’m up to my eyeballs in work! For months, I’ve eked out little stories here and there, edited and released golden oldies, but there were so many distractions (kid’s surgery, grandma’s fall) that writing took a back seat. Today is the day I get back in the saddle. I have three things to accomplish today:
Work on edits (two chapters) for a client
Work on edits of the next Night Fall story, Truly, Madly…Werely
Write a chapter of Flashpoint
Not much, right? Well, I have a window without responsibilities or kids, so I’m taking it! Watch me fly! Where’s the coffee?!
Comment for a chance to win one of these stories!
“Attagirls” would be helpful!
Wolf in Plain Sight
“[Wolf in Plain Sight] has suspense, intrigue, and surprises that grab your attention and never let you go until the last page.” ~ 5 Stars, Just Erotic Romance Reviews
“A wickedly funny and passionate series, fans of paranormal erotic romance will enjoy [Wolf in Plain Sight] tremendously. Ms. Devlin has done it again!” ~ Romance Reviews Today
“Her realistic writing of well-packaged vampires and werewolves leaves the reader thirsting for the forbidden and a driving need to be possessed within her erotically charged worlds.” ~ 5 Blue Ribbons, Romance Junkies
To Super-cop Max Weir, the only good vampire is a dead one. Since his special police unit integrated with vampires, he’s had to suppress his natural hatred to work side by side with the undead to hunt down and terminate the deadliest killers. Now the unit’s hot on the trail of a new menace in town, a pack of werewolves prowling for vampires who don’t care whether humans get in their way.
When a stakeout goes awry, Max enters a bar looking for a fight or woman to help him blow off a little steam. What he finds is a winsome siren whose sexual appetites match his own.
Vampire Pia D’Amato is on a secret mission to take out Max–either by seduction or turning him. He’s become a liability to the Masters’ Council setting up jurisdiction in southern Florida, and she’s not leaving until she’s done the job. But Max is more man than she bargained for with a deadly secret of his own.
Enjoy this sexy excerpt!
Pia D’Amato wondered how things had gotten this out of control so quickly.
She’d planned to play hard to get ever since she’d glimpsed him striding toward her. His large, heavily muscled body had radiated hunger, and he’d moved with a rangy, masculine grace that raised her nipples in an instant to full alert. When his gaze had found hers, she’d felt the searing heat of his brand.
Never one to question the vagaries of fate, she accepted that tonight was meant to be.
His golden eyes had honed sharp as an eagle’s on a bunny rabbit. Assholes she could deal with, and she’d prepared her standard rebuff. However, the hint of wary desperation—and his expectation she’d resist—made her hesitate. She’d sensed he needed to win their battle of wills, but that he also needed her to give him hurdles to overcome. Why pleasing him became important mystified her.
Not that she intended to refuse him.
Then she’d found herself uncharacteristically tongue-tied, overwhelmed by his relentless pursuit. At first, all she could do was blink dumbly and try her best not to drool. What woman could resist the mesmerizing intensity of a full, frontal assault?
His gaze had stripped her while she sat on her bar stool. The look he’d given her once he’d finished said he’d staked his claim. If any other man had so blatantly given her that once over, she’d have delivered a set down he’d not soon forget.
But Max was a man like no other. He embodied a mix of strength, stubborn determination, and an underlying vulnerability she was sure he kept buried from the world. Already, he attracted her—madly.
When his jean-clad thigh had scraped the tender flesh between her legs, she’d laughed at herself, at her eagerness to rub on him like a cat in heat. And she’d thought to manipulate him!
All she wanted was him—inside her. Now.
He turned his head, and his hot mouth kissed each thigh, the scrape of his evening shadow glancing against the lips of her pussy. Covered by the sheerest silk thong she owned, she felt moisture dampen them in an instant. As uncomfortable as she found her perch, there was something pretty damn exciting about having all this mega-male’s attention concentrated on the core of her femininity.
His gaze smoldered, and his nose twitched as he inhaled deeply. But he didn’t give her the kiss she wanted. He really was going to wait for her to ask him sweetly before he plundered her body.
The man was blatantly male; he called to her body on its most primitive and elemental level. Built large and rugged, his shoulders were so broad they easily spanned her spread thighs. His biceps were so thickly muscled they strained the arms of his dark T-shirt.
His face was too hard and masculine to be handsome. A square jaw, heavy brow, and a broad nose that was slightly askew on his face, were a match for his rough and ready attitude. He was too much man to manipulate. Too much man to refuse.
His hot breath gusted against the wetness gathering at her entrance, and her belly tightened around a coil of desire so strong she trembled.
But her pride demanded she couldn’t beg for release. Bad enough he’d managed to ride roughshod over her willpower. She still wasn’t certain how he’d managed to get her into this predicament—holding on to the top of a bathroom stall with her legs draped over his shoulders—waiting for him to fulfill the promise in his golden gaze.
And why her? She took a deep breath and glanced down her body. Why had he chosen her? Had she somehow given herself away? Or was she just an easy conquest to him?
While the thought rankled, she had to admit, the evidence was pretty damn convincing. She was after all splayed wide for his taking, her small breasts squeezed beneath the hem of her halter. Her nipples constricted so tightly they begged for attention.
Like she would have to beg if she was ever going to feel the warmth of his mouth on her dripping sex.
And how long had it taken him to convince her? Fifteen minutes? Maybe.
He tongued the crease between her thigh and her pussy, wetting her skin. The air conditioning cooled on her open thighs. The contrast of the cool air on her crotch, and his warm hands, each cupping a bare buttock, drove her over the edge. To hell with who had control. And to hell with the last remnants of her dignity. She needed his mouth on her most intimate flesh.
“Please,” she said, surprised by the husky timbre of her voice.
He kissed her thigh. “I like the way you say that, but I want the words, baby,” he said, and lapped at the fabric covering her sex again.
Her womb tightened. He wanted the coarse, nasty words—the ones that made her flinch. Saying them would strip away any pretense she might want to keep for her pride’s sake that this was anything but what it was—a physical mating, a carnal fuck.
Pursing his lips, he blew a stream of warm air over her damp flesh.
Her breath caught on a sob she didn’t know was coming. “Eat me, Max.”
His lips lifted, baring his straight, white teeth. Not a smile—more an animalistic grimace of triumph. His hands slid from her ass and around the tops of her thighs. They met at her mons.
He bent his head and licked the seam of her pussy through her underwear. He rubbed his tongue over her, pressing into the silk, poking inside her opening to swirl his tongue in the shallow sheath he’d made.
She moaned and felt her womb clench. All too soon, it wasn’t enough. Why hadn’t she taken off the goddamn panties?
One clever hand tugged rhythmically at the strap that rode between her buttocks, drawing the elastic tightly against her anus. The other traced her slit through the crotch of her panties.
“More, please,” she begged, looking away from the hard-faced man who was quickly ratcheting up the heat of his caresses.
“Tell me you want me to fuck you with my fingers,” he said, his voice rough as gravel.
Oh, yes. She pumped her hips, eager for him to hurry.
“No, baby.” He nipped an outer lip through her panties. “Tell me.”
She gritted her teeth. “Please, fuck me with your fingers,” she said, her voice rising. “Please fuck me, Max.”
With his nose, he nuzzled aside the crotch of her panties, and his tongue touched her directly for the first time, delving between her labia to flutter the tip against the notch at the top of her slit.
Pia nearly screamed, biting her lips to hold it inside.
His gaze slammed into hers as he curved his fingers to plunge inside her.
She wished he wouldn’t watch her so intently. She didn’t want to reveal how vulnerable she felt this near to release. Or how close she was to tears at the powerful rush of desire that swept through her.
“Come for me, baby,” he growled, while pressing his fingers deeper. Then his lips closed over her clitoris, and he sucked—hard.
Pia flung back her head and howled, her body shuddering as the coil unwound, pulse by pulse.
When finally her climax waned, she clung limply to the wood, gasping for breath, her body sagging.
He kissed the nest of hair that covered her mound before sliding her soaked panties back into place. “Come home with me.” Not a request. But not exactly a command. His expression betrayed his naked need.
Naked as hers still was.
Her throat closed. This powerful but needy man was her quarry, and she’d betray him tonight.
I have all my rights back for the Members Only Series!! What is the Members Only Series you ask? Let me tell you! It’s a series that started my publishing career and 9 books have been lost in the EC land of No Royalty payments. It’s been two years of hell but I can now say ALL my rights are mine again! Yay!! I’ve republished all of them and I can be proud of sharing them again. Totally surreal!
Here are all the pretty covers…..siiigghhhhh…..I’m so in love with them. 🙂
You can find the first one, Together in Cyn, here with lots of yummy blurbs and excerpts!
To celebrate I’m having two giveaways! One is a carryover from last month because the winner never claimed her prize….
And here’s the second one which includes a print copy of Together In Cyn and all sorts of other goodies!!
Here’s how you enter – tell me what your favorite thing about reading kink is! Being able to let everything go, the reality of it, the fantasy of it, the 5 alarm scorching fire aspect of it! Let me know! And please make sure there’s a way for me to reach you. If you win I want to be able to send you your goodies!!!
And please help me spread the word of the Members Only Series….
Within the walls of The Library, a members only BDSM club, anything goes. It’s a dark oasis for every Dom and sub to discover their happily ever after. Screams of pleasure and pain echo through the walls every night, but beneath each cry lies a confession. Unrequited love, cravings of domination by more than just one, even the desire for someone of the same sex. Each member learns, to find their forever, they must unearth the strength to reveal…everything.
Jennifer Kacey is a writer, mother, and business owner living with her miniman in Texas. She sings in the shower, plays piano in her dreams, and has to have a different color of nail polish every week. The best advice she’s ever been given? Find the real you and never settle for anything less.
People always ask me where I get my ideas. And I have to say I get them everywhere. From the news, from snippets of conversations, and sometimes, I get them from pictures. This past month, I’ve been taking advantage of a special bargain depositphotos.com has where you can purchase 10 photos a day for a month for just $79.00. The first couple of weeks, I devoured the site for pictures I knew I needed—hunky, bare-chested males, pretty women, couple clenches, some background photos. The past few days as I near the end of my buying period, I’ve been picking up photos that simply catch my eye, hoping one will spawn a story.
Here’s one of those intriguing photos…
So, let’s play. For a chance to win an Amazon gift card, tell me a story inspired by this photo. It doesn’t have to be long or complete. Just have fun!
So, this post was originally going to be about the inspiration behind my story Sanctuary which appears in the Crazy Cat Ladies anthology, but I have to veer a tiny bit first, of course.
Have you ever had one of those moments where life truly imitates art? I don’t have them often, but every once in a while…
Well, Friday was one of those rare days.
I woke up a bit later than I wanted and was rushing to get my six-year-old and myself ready for her dentist appointment. Let me back up a moment and give you a teensy piece of back story…my cat. She’s big and fluffy and basically thinks she’s starving all the time. (Don’t they all?) She also suffers from the “my food is gone from the center of my bowl and piled around the edges; therefore, I’m going to starve to death” disorder. As I left my room and headed to my daughter’s, my sweet fluffball made a mad dash, and by that I mean a bat-sh!&-crazy, mow-you-down, NFL worthy rush, for the kitchen. Somehow, she ended up under my feet, and in an effort to not squish her, I guess I threw myself off balance.
I heard not one, but four distinct crunching pops.
Oh yes. Yay, me.
I fell, of course, cause graceful. And I knew something was very wrong with my ankle, but I’ve twisted it before (remember that whole graceful thing?), and it’s made noises when sprained, so I hobbled around and went ahead with the dentist appointment.
As one does.
Cue all the people at the dentist office gathered around me, peering at my ankle in abject horror. “Why aren’t you in the ER?” “You need to have that looked at immediately!” “Prop your foot on this chair, now!”
So, I listened. Which I totally always do. Sure. Yeah. Definitely. *wink, wink* And I took myself, my six year old, and my gigantic, somewhat mangled looking ankle to get an X-Ray.
Lo and behold, it’s broken.
So, the week before my story releases in the Crazy Cat Ladies anthology, I literally break my ankle saving my cat…or because of my cat…or something having to do with my cat. If only my doctor had been a crazy hot guy, I’d have my next story. Hm, maybe I already do. 🙂
Now, about my story. Sanctuary is set on an exotic cat refuge where Indy, my heroine, works to provide a good life for lions and tigers and leopards that were once kept as pets.
Jake, my hero, has struggled with a slightly different cause; canned lion hunts. He’s seen first hand what that industry does: the hand-raising of lion cubs, the tiny cages, the constant breeding, and eventually the death at the hands of a hunter at close range.
Now, I’m not typically one to “get political.” I’m empathetic to a fault and can usually find some way to see the other side of the coin, to walk in someone else’s shoes, to bring sexy back (wait, no, that doesn’t fit there). But the inspiration for Sanctuary came from a film called Blood Lions. If you haven’t seen it, I highly encourage you to check it out (Amazon). It details the canned lion hunt industry and what’s happening to these animals. And it’s heartbreaking.
There are currently more lions living in captivity at these canned hunting establishments than there are in the wild. But that’s not the worst part. Nope, not by a long shot. The worst part is that each and every one of them is essentially on death row, just waiting for a person to pick their picture out of an email and pay some serious money to shoot them, stuff them, and bring them home as a trophy. And these lions have been raised by humans, in most cases literally bottle fed, so they have no natural fear of them anymore. They walk right up to the man with the gun.
As I said, I’m not one to cast judgment, but this issue has truly broken my heart. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share a little bit about what’s going on with this industry and how alarming it is.
That said, Sanctuary isn’t all sadness and drama! Jake and Indy are pretty hilarious together, if I do say so myself. Their banter and ability to laugh at themselves is my favorite part of their love affair. Well, that and they’re pretty hot together, too. 🙂
I really hope you’ll check out Sanctuary and the rest of the awesome stories in the Crazy Cat Ladies anthology. The stories are incredibly diverse and there’s something for everyone!
The Crazy Cat Ladies boxed set lets 9 new purr-fectly wild romance stories out of the bag. We hope you enjoy these paw-some tails from New York Times, USA Today, & other authors.
I don’t know about you, but Halloween/Samhain/Dia de los Muertos is kind of a big deal around here. We don’t buy candy because we live in the boonies—no one goes door-to-door with their kids. We’ve painted pumpkins, put up our Halloween tree (a silver metal tree to hold our Strangeling ornaments), and begun purchasing the pieces of our costumes. We’re still hunting down all the face and hair paint we need to make a credible Harley Quinn. 🙂
All this made me wonder what sort of prep you do for the big date? Tell me about it and you’ll be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card!
The morning he’d woken, feeling as though he had the worst hangover ever and rushing to the fridge for the hamburger I’d thawed the night before, he’d recognized the signs.
I’d awoken with him standing in the doorway, his eyes haunted.
“What’s wrong?” I’d asked.
He’d given me a tight smile, but then I’d noted the deep gray shadows beneath his eyes, the slick of perspiration on his forehead. The reddening irises. “Danny?” I’d asked, sitting up on my elbows as my stomach roiled.
No, it can’t be happening. Not to us. We’d done everything right. We’d stayed clear of quarantined areas. Used our own vehicles rather than public transportation to get back and forth to work. We never drank after one another. Didn’t eat out in restaurants where we couldn’t watch the cutlery and plates being sterilized. Didn’t kiss.
“How?” I’d asked, my throat thickening with tears.
He shook his head. “I don’t know, baby. But I have to go. I’ll walk to the center. Turn myself in. I won’t tell them where I live, but you’ll need to sanitize when I’m gone.”
My stomach tightened in rejection. “You aren’t going there.”
His sweet smile stretched, although his eyes watered with unshed tears. “I don’t have any choice. I’m already scared to death I may have infected you.”
I shook my head, the back of my throat burning. “You know what they say about those places. I won’t ever see you again.”
He spread his hands and gripped the doorframe, his head bowed. “I love you, Trish.” Then he backed away from the door.
I threw back the covers. “No! We’ll find another way. Wait this out. They’ll find a treatment.”
But he walked away, down the hallway toward the front door.
I scrambled from the bed and followed. Before he reached the door, I encircled his waist with my arms and held him back. “Don’t do this. Stay with me. We’ll find a way to keep me safe. You still have a little time.”
While he’d finished the raw hamburger and I’d drank a pot of hot coffee, we’d conspired. By the end of the day, I’d hit the hardware store two counties over, and he’d cleared his beloved studio.
That hug at the doorway was the last time I’d touched him.
I locked the door and walked around to the glass. The pile of clothing was where I’d left it. My gaze shot to Danny. He hadn’t torn the clothing to shreds as he had every time I placed a fresh stack inside his cage since the illness had taken his mind.
Instead as I watched, my eyes filling, he hobbled toward it. He shucked the grimy, blood-encrusted sweatpants he’d worn since he’d slipped the manacle around his own wrist. He bent and picked up the washcloth and clumsily soaked it in the water, rubbed it on the soap, and began to wash.
The fact he could think through the process of cleaning himself made me sob.
The sound must have penetrated the glass because his dark gaze found mine. His features were still cast in a dull, emotionless mask, but his red eyes told another story. He was there.