Kennedy and Theo

This is the scene where Kennedy outs her brother, Theo. This piece got written (for me) then put in, then taken out, then put back in (edited shorter) then removed, and well, then just left it to fragmented memories here and there, but you get the gist. I warred with this one a lot. I ultimately decided to leave it out, because I felt that this was better left for another story (wink, wink).

And that’s all I’m saying about that, because, spoilers.

I even debated NOT sharing this scene because I don’t want to ruin it for the next story, but after I mulled it over the past few weeks, I decided to give this to my readers. I think it gives a lot of insight into Kennedy’s headspace that night, why she did what she did, and how her sanity just frayed.

Fair warning, this one is…heavy.

I looked over to Ibrahim as he pulled around the large fountain in the cobblestone, circular driveway to my childhood home in Weybridge. 

“This is where you grew up?” Ibrahim blinked several times looking at the sprawling estate.

“Unfortunately, yes.” I frowned looking at the opulent, French chateau home that had been in my father’s family for decades, now completely renovated and decorated by Elizabeth. She’d made sure of that as soon as she moved in, removing every memory of my mother, every piece of furniture she sat on. I may have only been ten years old when they married, but thankfully I had the wits to stash away the few personal keepsakes of Mum’s before they disappeared forever. “Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” 

“I should have worn a suit.” He grimaced as he turned off the engine, looking at the other guests filing in the door. 

To me, he looked amazing, wearing a tight-fitting, burgundy mock-turtleneck. His snug, black trousers hugged his muscular legs. His dreads were pulled back into a ponytail, showing off his two gold hoop earrings that I thought were sexy as sin.

He was a beautiful man. The perfect mix of elegance and edge, brains and brawn. Just my taste. 

“Ibrahim, you look dashing.” He could have worn the finest linens imported from Paris, and it still wouldn’t be good enough for Elizabeth. Hopefully, with Theo brining his new boyfriend, Emerson, for once, my stepmother wouldn’t be focused on me. It was the only reason I agreed to come, to support Theo as he came out.  

Mummy was going to have a fit. Part of me was nervous, for Theo. Part of me was proud for him being so brave, and yes, a big part of me was ready to sit back with a drink in hand and watch the drama unfold. 

I dug into my purse, pulling out two small bottles of vodka. “Here,” I passed one to Ibrahim. “A little pregame to thaw the frost.”

“You’re mad, Kennedy.” He laughed and we toasted quickly, both downing our shots. He breathed heavy as the liquor burned our chest. “But I like how you think, you little rebel.” 

“And I like you,” I leaned across the car, planting a kiss on his full lips. He was the first man in a long time that I’d fancied enough to bring to such an event, and I was hoping he’d stick around. Although I did fear I how this evening would weigh on him. Ibrahim was a poetic peacemaker at heart, about to walk into a room full of vultures. 

“Well, let’s crack on,” I said, grabbing the handle. 

Hand in hand we walked up the marble steps and through the front door. Ibrahim’s jaw dropped open as we entered the large foyer, slathered in holly, garland and sparkling ornaments. One of the many Christmas trees stood floor-to-ceiling, probably twenty feet tall. 

“Magnificent…” he whispered.

“Would you like me to check your coat, sir?” One of the staff greeted us. 

“Yes…” He swallowed the lump in his throat as he shedded his coat. “Thank you.” 

I grabbed his hand and walked him into the reception hall, which was just as ornately decorated. Dozens of flocked trees lined the perimeter with glittering white lights, large red ornaments, and golden bows. Fairly lights hung from every inch of the ceiling, as soft Christmas jazz played in the background. Everything was perfectly coordinated and absolutely spectacular. 

A butler passed by with a tray full of champagne and I quickly grabbed us each one as Theo came flittering over. “Hello, sister,” he said, snagging his own flute. “Long time no see.” He winked and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I’d been living in his flat nearly a year and we still kept up this charade, coming separate to any gathering. If Elizabeth knew I was living with him, she’d have a fit, considering I was technically cut off, financially. 

Pinky finger lifted he took a long sip. “You must be Ibrahim.” He extended his hand. “Nice to meet you, mate.” 

“Pleasure to meet you as well,” my handsome date replied. 

I glanced around the room for his partner, Emerson, who was nowhere to be seen. I’d seen photos of the bloke, much older than Theo, but that made sense for my brother.

“Ibrahim, would you mind grabbing me a plate?” I motioned to the buffet. “I’m famished.” 

“Of course.” He nodded. 

“Oh this will be fun,” Theo whispered in my ear. I turned to my brother, the gold in the center of his bright, green eyes swirled with mischief as he eyed Ibrahim’s arse. “He is delicious. Well done, sister.” His head tossed back in maniacal laughter. 

“Where is Emerson?” I hissed. 

Theo shrugged sipping his champagne. “Couldn’t make it.” Obviously, a lie. 

You chicken-shit little prick. 

“You look lovely tonight, sister,” he said, toying with my hair.

I swatted at his hand and growled. “Theo, we had a deal! It was the only reason I came. Elizabeth wouldn’t dare make a scene in front of her guests. She’ll have no choice but to put on a brave face. You finished uni last spring! You have a doctorate in music theory for fuck’s sake. It’s time to grow up and get a job!”

We stood there, arguing, nasty words being slung between the two of us until I saw Elizabeth weave her way over to Ibrahim.

Fucking hell. This was going to be a disaster. 

I quickly downed my entire glass in one gulp and exchanged it for a second then elbowed my way through the crowd, hoping to save my date. 

“And you are…” Elizabeth had already started in on him.

“Ibrahim Abioye.” He offered his hand. “I’m here with…” 

“Me,” I said, snaking my arm around him. “This is my date, Ibrahim.” I shot Elizabeth a pointed glare that hopefully conveyed shut-your-bloody-trap.

Her brown eyes blinked several times and she plastered on a smile singed with acid. “Of course he is.” She lifted her chin. “Welcome.” Oh she was dying inside. Just as I suspected. 

“Thank you for the hospitality.” He nodded with a slight bow. “You have a lovely home Ms. Murphy.”

“Lady, Elizabeth Murphy,” she corrected. 

“My mistake.” He placed a hand across his chest.

I rolled my eyes. The hag only got that ridiculous title thanks to my dead father being a landowner. She used me to get to his money, then cut me off. 

“And what is it you do, for a living, Ibrahim?” 

“I teach history and government at the same secondary school as Kennedy.” 

“Finally have a steady job now, do we? Still an aide, are you?” Elizabeth looked to me, cocking her head to the side. 

“No. I finished uni.” No thanks to you. “I’m teaching orchestra full time now.” I squared my shoulders. And I’m a much better instructor than you ever were. 

“Hmmph. Interesting.” Oh Elizabeth was seething inside at my minor success. “Well, enjoy your evening.” With a quick patronizing pat on his shoulder, she continued to work the room.

The evening wore on and several “guests” came over to talk with Ibrahim and I. I suspected Elizabeth kept sending them our way to discuss history and politics, to try and throw him off balance. 

Ibrahim held his own very well, and stuck to his beliefs, but my entire life I’d listened to politics, and frankly, I was over it. So much arguing and nothing was ever accomplished. It all made my head spin. Finally, I couldn’t listen anymore. I turned and went to the bar to grab another drink. “Vodka, neat.” I strummed my fingers on the counter and tried not to dive too eagerly when the glass was placed in front of me. 

“Had quite a few tonight, haven’t you?” Ibrahim appeared behind me as I sipped my drink. 

“Can you blame me?” I motioned to the room. 

He snorted and bobbed his head. “I think I’m going to call it an evening, Kennedy.” 

“That sounds like a good plan.” Now that I knew Theo didn’t need me, I was more than ready to leave. I quickly swallowed several gulps. “I’ll go fetch our coats.” 

“No. I’m going to call it a night.” He rubbed my shoulder. “I’ll pay for your cab.” He dug into his wallet. 

I shook my head. “No, it’s fine, I can get a ride with Theo back to the city.” I swallowed hard. “Call you tomorrow?” 

He frowned. “I think we both know this isn’t going to work out. I can’t put on fake pleasantries and hold my tongue. It will only cause problems in the future, and I’m not a man who cares for drama. Long-term, our families would never mesh.” 

“Elizabeth is barely family,” I mumbled into my drink. 

I should have never brought him. Elizabeth’s political status scared off the decent blokes, and the ones who didn’t care to impress were not that impressive to begin with. 

“Add to it your drinking. Your stepmother said—” 

“She said what?” I cut him off. 

“Nothing I didn’t already suspect. It just seems like every time we’re together, a drink is in your hand.” 

I nodded, staring into my glass. “Understood.” 

He kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll see you at work Monday, Kennedy.” 

Oh yes, working together after a breakup would be loads of fun. 

And with that, he was gone.

I finished my drink and ordered another. I was already beyond pissed, may as well go for blackout, just to forget. 

I stood in the shadows, watching as my stepmother called everyone to attention. Theo waltzed up and took the seat at the grand piano. “I’m so very proud to announce that my son, Theodore, has just finished university…” she droned on with his entire CV of accomplishments for quite some time “…and now, he is going to grace us with a performance.”

Rounds of applause came from the room and my brother beamed, with a slight nod and half-bow. 

With a deep breath he placed his hands on the keys and began to play “Carol of the Bells.” 

I loved him and hated him in that moment. The way that he so effortlessly was in his element. His ability to focus,  like he’d forgotten the entire audience was watching him. He was fucking brilliant. 

As the song played I looked above the mantle to our family portrait. It used to be me, Mum and Dad, which Elizabeth immediately replaced with an image of Dad, herself, myself at ten, and a young, smiling, adorable little Theo front and center.

It was as if my mom never wandered these halls. Erased from existence.

I tried not to think too much about what my life would be like had she lived, because it would send me spiraling. Unfortunately with the drinks coursing through my system and the high emotion of the evening, it was all transporting me to my dark pit of despair. 

I closed my eyes and imagined a very different Christmas Eve. Mum never was one for fancy soirees. Christmas to her, was about the family. She’d of given the staff a few days off and cooked for us herself. Dad of course would still be alive, reading me The Night Before Christmas by the fire. He only started drinking heavily to numb the pain of her illness, and then her loss. 

Ding-dong, ding-dong. My brother’s deft fingers played the melody flawlessly.

But then there was Theo. If mom hadn’t died, then I wouldn’t have him. Maybe I’d still have a little brother, or sister, or both. If she wouldn’t have gotten ill, surely, they would have had more children.

Ding-dong, ding-dong. He was mixing up the composition, adding in a bit of the Harry Potter theme. It was…perfection. 

Yes Theo, we all know you’re brilliant. 

Swaying to the music, I swallowed more of my drink as the room spun around me.

“Maybe it’s time to stop the drinks, Kennedy.” Elizabeth stopped me from spinning and pulled me to the side.

“You’re not my mother.” I chuckled, taking a long gulp. 

“Like father, like daughter.” She scoffed. “It’s ruined you, just like it ruined him.” 

I growled under my breath. Speaking of fathers and being ruined…that is when I noticed Father Wilson was in attendance. The bastard. He always fancied Theo far too much. I had a hunch he got my brother all twisted in the head, making Theo forget the fact he’d liked boys far before Father Wilson did well, whatever it was I suspected he did to my little brother. 

She sighed. “Where did your friend Abraham go?”

“Ibrahim,” I corrected. I took another gulp. “He’s gone.” You made sure of that. 

“Can you fault him? You’re a mess, Kennedy.” She pulled the cup from my hand. “If you could just put down the drinks and get your life right, you’d find someone of good status.” She passed my empty cup to a waiter passing by. “Look at your brother.” She beamed at her little boy. “Theo has always made the right choices. Worked hard in school. Went to uni, stayed focused on his studies and far away from women until the time was right. Now he’s found Emerson,” she said right as my brother finished up. “I only hope she’s good enough for him.” 

I laughed like a woman possessed. So loud, in fact, that people turned and stared. 

“Kennedy!” Elizabeth hissed. 

I clutched my belly, unable to contain my giggles as the room spun around me. “You’re fucking delusional.” 

She blinked, utterly confused.

“Emerson. Is. A. Bloke.” 

Elizabeth’s jaw flopped open and she shook her head. 

“Look at him!” I pointed to my brother as he stood from the piano wearing his prissy little, red and black, paisley, sport coat, that no straight man could ever pull off. “Theo. Is. Gay.” 

Theo’s green eyes widened as he paled. “Kennedy…no…” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “Please stop…” he begged.

But no, my drunken mouth wouldn’t close. “You’ve always been blind to it.” My last thread, frayed. I was delirious with rage, laughing like a madwoman so much, I could barely catch air. “You sent him to an all boys Catholic school! Do you have any idea what really happened there? Tell her, Theo!” Tears rolled down my cheeks as gasps came from the crowd. “Your perfect little angel told me every sordid detail! Every fondle under the desk. Every fellato in the coat closet!” I screamed from the bottom of my lungs. “You didn’t protect him from girls! You let him loose in the candy store!” 

Elizabeth snapped her fingers. “Get her out of here!” She hissed at her staff, her minions. 

“Now, he just wants to be himself, happy with another bloke, and he’s too fucking twisted in his head due to his mommy issues to even accept himself for the beautiful gay man he is!” Two arms grabbed me, dragging me out of the room kicking and screaming like a toddler having a tantrum. “So frightened he’ll disappoint you! Terrified he’ll be like me, cast out, discarded, with nowhere to turn, no safety net, not a soul in the world who cares.” 

Photo of bonfire n the woods with text 'Silas and Erin deleted backstory"

Silas and Erin

As I said in my previous post, I’ve got a TON of deleted backstory from Take Me Down. I’m sure many readers may question WHY Silas was with Erin for so long. (I did try and give her some redemption by the end of the book, showing her regrets, and that she’s just as wounded from the fame as he is). In the novel, I explained BRIEFLY at dinner with Silas and his brother WHY he was so smitten with Erin.

Erin and Silas went to high school together, and she rejected him. So, when they reconnected as adults, he let his ego get the best of him. It all boiled down to his rejection. (Rejection does not sit well with Silas.) Also, there was something about Erin that reminded him of home, and part of him was holding onto that nostalgia. And as you know, Silas loves hard, fears change, and doesn’t back down from something until the universe forces his hand.

But this was not Silas and Erin’s story, this was Silas and Kennedy’s story. A couple readers have suggested an Erin book, and I’ve toyed with it in my mind. I love the idea of telling her story and seeing things from her perspective. From Erin’s side, Silas would be the bad-guy. Someone that was just with her because she was famous and pretty. He stuck it out because he was lonely, and scared to be alone. He didn’t truly love her, he tolerated her for the sex. He hid secrets from her as well.

But, I could be asking for trouble there….but then again, trouble is my middle name.

But I digress. Anyhow. Onto the deleted scene. Here is Silas, as a teen, when he totally blew it with Erin the first time.

I stood at the keg talking to Erin Barclay. 

Me. Having a conversation with a cheerleader. 

It was a fucking dream come true. 

As she bent over and refilled her red Solo cup, I couldn’t take my eyes off the epic set of tits popping out of her tiny, white tank top. My gaze traveled down to her long legs extending from her barely-there cutoffs. Capping it off at the bottom were a pair of sexy as sin cowboy boots. I swallowed the lump in my throat, imaging her–heels to the heavens–and those boots wrapped around my virgin neck. 

Thank God for country girls. 

She cleared her throat, and my eyes snapped back to her face.

“You performed really well tonight,” she said. We’d just finished our fourth, and final, performance of the school musical, Little Shop of Horrors, where I played Seymour. “You were really funny.” 

“Thanks.” I lifted my cup to my lips and took a swig of beer. 

Her eyes raked over me and she gnawed on her pouty bottom lip. Best guess, she was contemplating if it would be social suicide to speak to me. “Are you new here?”

“No,” I replied. We moved a lot due to my dad’s military career, but we’d been in Oklahoma for three years now that he’d retired as a chaplain of the National Guard and taken up pastoring a small, country church.

“Oh.” She frowned. “What’s your name again?” 

“Silas.” I flashed her a lopsided grin. 

No response.

“Silas Graves?” Seriously, she didn’t even know who I was? I sat behind her all of Freshman year in history. The girl never carried a pencil. The first time she asked me for one, I just gave her my only one, because, well, duh. Hot girl. I started carrying extras in my bag solely for her. “Mr. McKinley’s history class?” 

Her brows went up, like a lightbulb went off in her head. “Oh my god.” She laughed. “That’s right! You used to wear those thick glasses.” She laughed. “No wonder you looked familiar playing Seymour! It was the geeky glasses. I kept trying to figure out how I knew you.” 

Heat flushed in my cheeks. “I’ve got contacts now,” I mumbled. 

“Good call.” She smiled. God, she had perfect teeth. Mine, not so much. They weren’t eat-an-apple-through-a-chain-link-fence bad, but crooked enough that I was self-conscious of them. “You have really amazing eyes,” she added. “They’re so big and blue.”  

“Thanks.” An awkward silence hung in the night air. Say something, you idiot. “Your eyes are pretty, too,” And legs. And tits, and her long, dark hair, and, well, everything. Erin Barclay was a solid ten. She’d already been in a country music video, and she was only going to get hotter, and probably more famous. 

“You’re really cute, for a drama geek.” 

Um, thanks? A backhanded compliment, but I’d take what I could get. “Would you, um, like a beer?” I nodded to the keg. 

“I’ve already got one.” She wiggled her cup and laughed. 

“Oh yeah, silly me.” I rubbed the back of my neck. I had no game. None. 

“It’s okay.” She flashed a supermodel smile that I was certain would grace the pages of fashion magazines in years to come. “Let’s just hang.” She closed the gap between us. 

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was lying on a blanket locking lips with Erin Fucking Barclay, the most popular girl in school. As our tongues tangled, my hands roamed over her smooth thigh, up and around the curve of her hip, the dip of her belly and finally, I was under her shirt, cupping her breast. 

We made out for so long, my dick was about to bust through my jeans. It was painful how much I wanted to be inside of her. 

“Do you want to go somewhere more private?” she finally asked. 

Fuck yes. But instead I cooly replied with a, “Sure.” I had a condom burning a hole in my wallet that I’d finally be able to put to use. 

Outside I was calm, cool and collected, but inside I was a bundle of nerves. I was about to lose my virginity to Erin Barclay. I was an actor, after all. Fake it till you make it. Standing, I bent down to grab the blanket we’d been lying on, praying I didn’t choke under the pressure. 

Squinting in the dark, I looked for the cup I’d sat down. I could barely see my own two feet now that the bonfire had died down. Finally, I found it and retrieved it from the ground. Right as I turned back around, I somehow lost my footing on a rock, or a branch, or God knows what, and went barreling straight into Erin. The plastic cup crumpled between us, as beer went everywhere. 

“What the hell?” she shouted, pulling back, shaking off her dripping wet arms. 

“I…I’m sorry…” I stammered. “I…I…I’m just a little drunk,” I lied, scratching my brow.

Beer dripped down her nose, face, chin and was soaking into her white tank top. A crowd of her cheerleader friends began to form around us. 

“What’s wrong?” one of them asked, holding a flashlight. Thank fuck. I could see again.

“This geek spilled beer all over me!” Erin shouted.

Twenty minutes ago I was cute and talented. Now in front of her friends, I was a geek. I rolled my eyes. “It will dry off,” I mumbled. Jesus, it wasn’t that big of a deal. “Take mine if you want.” I grabbed my shirt at the back of my neck and pulled it off, offering it to her. Mine seemed much drier than hers, considering I could  see her nipples through the fabric. 

All her friends looked at me, then exchanged a wary glance. 

“But the smell. What am I gonna do?” Whining, she glanced to one of her friends.

“I’ve got a change in my car,” another friend offered, giving me the stink-eye. “Come on, I’ll go grab it for you.” 

Crossing her arms, she frowned, glancing at me, standing there, shirtless. “I’ll be there in a minute. Go on.” She snagged the flashlight from her friend. 

Her friends reluctantly walked away. 

“I’m really sorry.” I looked down to my feet. 

“Accidents happen,” something in her expression softened. Probably because I looked so sad and dejected, standing there, shirtless. “I gotta clean up or my parents will kill me.” Her head cocked to the side and she ogled me up and down. Thank fuck I’d been doing some lifting in the garage with my dad. I’d also shot up several inches that year, thinning out all that baby fat. “Another time, maybe?” 

“Yeah. Sure. Another time.” I pulled my shirt back on. But I knew it would never happen for me. Not in a million years. 

She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, then, with a quick wave, she was gone. 

I walked a few feet over and sat down on a log. Leaning my elbows on my knees, I dropped my gaze and cursed myself for blowing that one so epically. 

Stupid. Clumsy. Me. I’d always had two left feet, unless I was under the bright stage lights. That was my wheelhouse. 

Time for another drink to drown my sorrows. I really didn’t want to go to college a virgin, that is, if I was going to college. Maybe Erin would talk to me on Monday. All I knew is if I ever got another chance with her, I would not blow it.   

Standing, I turned my gaze toward the parked vehicles in the distance, where I knew the keg was sitting on my friends tailgate, but behind me it was nothing but a sea of black. Turning, I grabbed a few logs and tossed them onto the fire, hoping to illuminate the area a little bit more. Then, I wandered into the distance. My foot caught something on my trek and I heard a squeal from a girl, and a male grunt as I tumbled toward the ground.

“Fuck, Graves, what’s your deal?” My buddy, Ryan Wilson, growled at me. “We’re trying to get a little privacy here. Jesus.” 

“Sorry man.” I stood and dusted myself off. “Didn’t see you there.” Maybe I was a little more buzzed than I thought, and it was time to call it a night. Driving drunk was a big hell-no for me. Best not press my luck. “I’ll catch you Monday, dude.” 

I pulled my keys out of my pocket and used the flashlight on my key ring. My dad had gifted it to me along with a spare key to his truck the day I got my license. I’d rolled my eyes at the gadget that had everything. Flashlight, bottle opener, corkscrew, pocketknife, you name it, the thing had it. My dad was such a survival nerd, always prepared and always trying to teach me his ways of doing things. But the stupid thing actually came in handy. The last thing I wanted to do was trip on more bodies. 

Finally, I reached my dad’s truck and climbed in, firing up the engine. I flipped on my lights and started rolling, bumping and jostling over the rough terrain of the field, but even with the brights on it was difficult to see anything other than what was directly in front of my hood. 

I opened my eyes wider and leaned closer to the wheel as I turned around the bend. 

Damn. Maybe I shouldn’t be driving. 

Right as that thought flew through my head, there was a loud thud, and something rolled across the hood. I slammed on my brakes. With a sickening thump, whatever it was I hit rolled to the ground. 

Please be a deer. Please be a deer. 

Not like I wanted to kill Bambi, but it was better than a human. 

Panic seized my veins and I gripped the wheel, shaking. After a couple calming breaths, I got out and checked around me.

“Dude, what the fuck?” My other cast member and friend, Patrick McDowell hopped off the ground, dusting the red dirt off his jeans. 

My heart rapped against my ribcage, threatening to break through my chest. “Dude, are you okay?” I finally croaked out, trying not to throw up. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you.”

“Yeah, I’m fine, but fuck, man. How drunk are you?” 

Honestly, I felt stone sober. Not sure if it was the adrenaline pumping through my veins, or what. A few of my other theater buds came over, and my cheeks heated with humiliation for the third time that night. 

After a few calming breaths—and now that I knew Patrick was alright—I inspected the damage to the truck. There was a slight dent in the hood. “Fuck, my dad is gonna kill me.” I rubbed my brow. “If he catches whiff that I was drinking…” I shuddered to thinking about the heat I’d take for this. 

“Your dad is the least of our worries. If Mr. G finds out, we’re toast. We’ll get cut from drama club,” another one of my friends, Brad Finch put his two cents in.  

“Pop the hood,” Ryan said, jutting his chin to the truck. 

I did as bid, then walked back to the front of the vehicle. Ryan took his fisted hand and bumped up on the inside of the hood a couple times, the dropped it. “No biggie,” he said, pointing to it. “Popped right out.” He dug into his pocket and looked to Brad. “Take my keys, follow us back to Graves’. I’m gonna drive him home.” He pointed to the rest of the cast and crew. “Everyone keeps their mouth shut about this, you got it?” 

The rest of our friends nodded. 

Ryan looked to me. “Get in.” He jutted his chin to my truck. 

We drove in awkward silence for ten minutes down the dark, two-lane highway. 

“So, what’s up with you, dude?” Ryan finally broke the silence. 

“I guess I drank too much,” I lied, staring out the window into the blackness.  

“Bullshit. I know you. You’re stone sober right now.” His tongue clicked and he hesitated, like he didn’t want to say what he was thinking. 

“What?” I growled at him. 

“You nearly killed Patrick tonight. That’s what.” 

“It was an accident. It was dark. He came out of nowhere.”  

“You also stumbled all over Lisa and I on the blanket.”

“You were on the ground in the middle of the woods,” I protested. 

He just shook his head as he turned into my neighborhood. 

“It’s just…” He groaned. 

“Just what?” He was starting to piss me off. “Spit it out.” 

“You always seem to have trouble at night.” He snorted. “And backstage before curtain call…” He groaned. “You nearly knocked down the flats.” 

“Yeah, it’s so fucking funny that Silas can’t see shit in the dark,” I spewed out. The guys always poked at me about it. Hell, even my dad would gripe at me and tell me to grow up when I’d cling to him and cry about not being able to see in the dark. Case in point, my stupid keychain. His way of telling me to man up. 

“Dude, that’s not normal.” His tone was flat. Ominous. “My uncle Larry was like that, and, well, you know…” 

His uncle Larry was the only church member allowed to bring a pet into the sanctuary, if you get the gist. 

My gut clenched. I’d always had this small voice at the back of my head telling me something wasn’t quite right, like how come everyone else could see the stars at night, but I couldn’t? But I constantly pushed it out of my mind. I shook my head and laughed it off, not wanting to even entertain that thought. “I get my eyes checked every year, dude. I’m fine.” There was no way. 

“Yeah. Of course you do. You’re right,” he quickly backpedaled. “It’s probably nothing.” He shrugged. “Forget that I said anything.” Ryan killed the engine and handed me my keys. 

Headlights shined into the cab as Brad pulled up behind us. “Thanks for the ride,” I mumbled as I climbed out of the vehicle. 

“Hey, Graves,” he hollered for me as I headed to my porch. “Don’t be all weird about it, okay?” 

I shoved my hands in my pockets and rocked back on my heels. “Yeah, no problem.” I jutted my chin to him. “I’ll see you Monday.” 

close up of woman holding a passport and a boarding pass. Text reads: Deleted scene from Take Me Down

Kennedy’s Move to the States

I have a ton of deleted material from Take Me Down. Both Kennedy and Silas have a pretty heavy backstories and even though I wrote it, a lot of it wound up getting cut from the book.

But, I still want to share these parts of the story with my readers, so I plan to release them over the next several weeks/months. Since this was the original beginning, go for it and read now if you like, it shouldn’t spoil anything. There may be spoilers in future ones, and I’ll pre-warn you on that. I loved how it showed Kennedy’s spunk, but overall this turned out to be far too heavy for my liking. The published opening sets more of the tone for the book than this wold have (and I also feared it wouldn’t endear readers to Kennedy). So, it was axed.

“We will now start boarding for flight 1083 from Heathrow to JFK…” the attendant spoke over the loudspeaker. 

That was my cue. 

With a sigh I shouldered my bag, and went to the queue. 

“Kennedy Murphy?” A male voice chimed behind me. 

Glancing over my shoulder, my eyes met George Davies, one of my brother’s mates from secondary school. Actually, mates was incorrect. George Davies was nothing but a bully. He tortured Theo relentlessly his entire life. Many nights I’d consoled my brother after George had pretended to befriend him, only to turn around and play another cruel joke on poor Theo. 

I closed my eyes and swallowed hard. Should’ve known I wouldn’t make it out of London unscathed. 

“Oi! It is you!” He clutched my shoulder, shaking me a bit. Bloody hell, he smelled like booze. “Guys! Look! It’s Kennedy Fucking Murphy!” he shouted to his mates. 

I shrugged out of his grasp, then inched forward in line, staring straight ahead, hoping he got the hint.

But no, he sidled up next to me. “So shocking to see you after all this time. Everyone assumed you were…”Dead? Drunk? Lying in a gutter?  “Off the grid,” he said instead. 

“Yes, you could say I have been.” Please don’t be sitting next to me on this flight. If I had to sit next to George Davies for six hours and fifty-five minutes, I would keel over. 

Please, just leave me the bloody hell alone. 

I got to the front of the line, scanned my boarding pass and headed toward the plane. Of course, George was hot on my heels. “You look so…” he blinked “…fit.” 

“Sobriety works wonders.” I adjusted the strap on my shoulder and kept moving forward.

“My boys and I are heading to New York. Going to hit up all the clubs. Visiting the states, are you?” 

Moving to the states,” I corrected. 

He whistled, rubbing the back of his neck. “Can’t fault you for that. Everyone still talks about that display of yours at the Christmas party.” 

My jaw clenched. “I’m sure they do.” 

Yes, it was quite the drunken display. 

My stepmother had just scared off the one decent bloke I’d met in quite some time. Then, she proceeded to berate me, blathering on about how proud she was of Theo for always making the right choices. How he’d finally settled down with a nice girl, and how she couldn’t wait to meet Emerson, totally clueless to the fact Emerson was a he, and Theo was gay. 

“Emerson. Is. A. Bloke,” I’d hissed to my stepmother through vodka-laden lips. “Look at him!” I pointed to my brother as he stood from the piano wearing his prissy little, red and black, paisley, sport coat, that no straight man could ever pull off. “Theo! Is! Gay!” 

Theo’s green eyes widened as he paled. “Kennedy…no…” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “Please stop…” he begged.

The only reason I agreed to come to the party was because Theo pleaded that I be there since he’d be bringing his partner. I’d come to support him, and he hung me out to dry. 

“You’ve always been blind to it.” My last thread, frayed. I was delirious with rage, laughing like a madwoman so much, I could barely catch air. “You sent him to an all boys Catholic school! Do you have any idea what really happened there? Tell her, Theo! Tell mummy dearest what her precious little altar boy did.” Tears rolled down my cheeks as gasps came from the crowd. “Your perfect little angel told me every sordid detail! Every fondle under the desk. Every fellatio in the loo!!” I screamed from the bottom of my lungs. “You didn’t protect him from girls! You let him loose in the candy store!” 

Elizabeth snapped her fingers. “Get her out of here!” She hissed at her staff, her minions. 

“Now, he just wants to be himself, happy with another bloke, and he’s too twisted in his head due to his mommy issues to even accept himself for the beautiful man he is!” Two arms grabbed me, dragging me out of the room kicking and screaming like a toddler having a tantrum. “So frightened he’ll disappoint you! Terrified he’ll be like me, cast out, discarded, with nowhere to turn, no safety net, not a soul in the world who cares!” 

George’s tongue clicked behind me, pulling me from my dismal memories “I feel just awful for how poorly I treated your brother, especially considering what happened afterward…” He grimaced, but didn’t look a bit remorseful. 

Please. Just. Stop.

“Of course, I’m sure you feel even worse.” He slumped into his seat. First class, of course. 

He had no idea how I felt. My whole life I’d tried to protect Theo. But I grew weary. This pawn could only hold the defensive line for so long.

“Do you, George?” Do you feel awful?” I peered down at him, blinking. “Do you feel awful for giving him wedgies on the playground? Pulling his trousers down in the middle of the hall? Throwing him in the rubbish bin? Dumping milk on him? Locking him in the custodian cupboard? Do you, George?” 

He paled. “I…I…” he stammered. 

“Well, do you?” I shouted and stomped down the aisle toward second class. Fuming, I shoved my carry-on in the overhead compartment, then flopped into my seat.

Before I knew it, the fight attendant was making her way toward me. Bloody fantastic. “Excuse me, miss?” she asked. “Was that man harassing you?” She pointed to the front of the plane.

This one is for you, Theo. 

“Why yes, he was.” I leaned in closer to her, and added in a whisper, “Got a bit handsy with me in the queue.” I blinked innocently. “I think he may be intoxicated.” Neither of these were lies, just stretching the truth a bit.

The flight attendant frowned, patting my shoulder. “I’m so sorry. We’ll take care of him.” She elbowed her way back to George. “Excuse me, sir!” she shouted to George. “I’m going to need you to come with me.” 

And with that, George was escorted off the plane. 


Scott and Brandi

These are the deleted scenes from Scott’s time apart from Tori, when he had a brief stent with Brandi. A lot of this was shortened and recapped in Brandi’s head as memories in her book, to give my readers a gist of what was going through her head, but you never got the full details.

I think it really shows how Scott is still obviously in love with Tori, and how him and Brandi were just not a good fit, but this was just TOO much of another woman/another man to add to the other books, so it ended up on the chopping block.

**Disclaimer** These deleted scenes have NOT been through my editor, so please forgive any typos in them!

“What’s all this?” Scott asked as he walked into his condo. Brandi had opened up several boxes and was sifting through them.

“I figured I could help you unpack,” Brandi shrugged. “With the storm outside, I didn’t have much else I could do, but it looks like it’s starting to let up.” She nodded to the snow falling outside the large windows. 

“That’s sweet of you.” Scott wrapped his arms around her and gave her a kiss.

“How was the interview?” 

“Good,” Scott said furrowing his brow.

“But…” Brandi looked at him knowing full well he was holding back. 

“They want me, my resume is impressive, it’s just…”

“It’s the leg.” Brandi frowned.

“It’s gonna be a hard sell to get people past it.” Scott shrugged. 

“You know, you don’t have to do this, Scott. You could come back to Texas, live there, you could get some land, raise cattle like your daddy…” Brandi trailed off. “DC is really no place to raise a family anyway…” She made a sour face. “You have nothing to prove anymore, you’ve served your time so bravely.”

Family? Woah, slow down. He liked Brandi, a lot, but he wasn’t ready to walk down the aisle yet. Not until he had a career again, and raising cattle, living on the farm was not what he wanted to with his life. 

“You haven’t even seen the city yet,” Scott protested. “The public school system is in dire need for good teachers.”

“I saw the airport, and it was disgusting. So was that cab.” Brandi wrinkled her nose. “I shudder to think what the public school system is like here.” 

Maybe his dad had a very valid point. Brandi did not seem like she was exited at all about the prospect of DC. Flaw two, Brandi was a bit of a snob. 

“Let’s go out.” Scott nodded to the window. “The snow is letting up.”

“Oh, can we go to the Smithsonian? Pretty please?” Brandi seemed excited about that prospect. 

“Which one?” Scott asked. 

“There is more than one?” She asked curiously.

Scott blinked for a moment, not knowing how to answer that.

“I’m kidding silly man, I know there are more than one. What kind of teacher do you think I am?” 

Scott laughed. “You had me worried there for a minute. Get your coat on, we’ll grab a cab.”

His phone vibrated in his pocket as Brandi went to get her things. He pulled it out and glanced at the screen.

Tori: Hey sexy, how’s it going? Haven’t heard from you in some time. You off saving the world again?

Scott sighed, and debated on not responding. Why not respond though? They were friends, actually she was practically his best friend and he missed talking to her. 

Scott: Interview today, not sure how it will pan out.

Tori: How so?

Scott: Hard sell getting them past the nub.

Tori: Well, fuck them then. They don’t know a good thing when they see it. Bastards. Just keep at it. Don’t fucking give up on your dream. Don’t settle. Ever.

“Ready?” Brandi asked as she came out of his bedroom dressed warmly and ready to go. 

Don’t settle. Those words felt like a knife being twisted in his chest as he stared at the wonderful woman in front of him. Was he settling? 

“Yeah.” Scott nodded, shoved his phone in his pocket and grabbed his coat.

* * *

Scott took Brandi to the Natural History Museum. He figured with her being a teacher and all, that would be a good place to start. There was no way they’d get through it all, but he could at least show her a little bit of DC. As they stood in Ocean Hall in front of the large whale, he was shoved to the side by a large school group that came through. 

“Lord, will you try and stay caught up with the group please!” He heard a familiar, yet exasperated shrill voice echo over the crowd of unruly children. Scott turned around and there stood Keith, badge around his neck, and headset in his ear. His face was as red as his hair and he looked positively spent. 

Keith didn’t even notice Scott standing there, arms crossed, just watching him, totally amused at how out of his element Keith was trying to wrangle all those kids. What on earth was he even doing there? This wasn’t even his museum. 

Keith glanced at his watch. “Oh thank Lord, it’s lunch time.” He clapped his hands. “Alright kids! Back down the stairs, follow your teachers!” Keith began ushering them out of the area and he stopped and took a double take when he saw Scott, standing there, grinning ear to ear.

“Scott Harris? What the hell are you doing here?” Keith placed his hand on his hip.

“I could ask the same for you. I thought you worked at the Hirshhorn?” Scott laughed. “What in the world are you doing trolling around with a bunch of kids on a field trip?”

“A favor for a friend.” A sly grin morphed on his buddy’s face.

“Why do I have a suspicion this has something to do with sex?” Scott whispered slyly so the kids wouldn’t hear him. Brandi cocked her head to the side and turned around. 

“Because you know me well.” Keith cackled and wiggled his brow. “Worth it.” His blue eyes darted to Brandi curiously. “Who do we have here?” 

“Brandi.” She offered her hand to Keith, who accepted it and greeted her with a kiss on the knuckles.

“Brandi, this is Keith, a good friend.” Scott introduced them.

“Former roommate as well. Pleasure to meet you, hun.” Keith’s eyes raked her over, sizing her up. “You’re positively stunning.” He smiled warmly at her and glanced at Scott, a smirk tugging at this lips. “You sure do like them blonde, don’t you?” 

Brandi chuckled coyly and she leaned her head on Scott’s arm, feigning embarrassment. Scott rolled his eyes at Keith, but didn’t acknowledge his snarky comment. 

“Heard from Vic lately?” Keith grinned like the devil. Scott reciprocated with a fuck-you glare. Damn dirty of Keith to mention her, then again he was Tori’s best friend.  

“Yeah, here and there,” was all Scott offered. 

“Sounds about normal.” Keith snorted. “Listen, I gotta go.” He waved as he flittered away. “Call me and let’s do lunch!” 

“He’s…flamboyant,” Brandi said with a smirk once he was out of earshot. 

“He’s a red-hot mess.” Scott just shook his head and they walked along looking at the exhibits in awkward silence.

“Scott, who’s Vic?” Brandi finally asked.

Who is Vic? He frowned, not knowing how to answer the question. To say that Tori was just a friend was a lie. She was far more than that. To say she was a former girlfriend, also another lie. Tori was a big grey area topped with a huge question mark. After four years of knowing the woman, he still couldn’t figure her out.

“Tori is…” Scott sighed. “Tori’s my best friend.” That was honestly the most truthful answer that he could give Brandi. 

“Well then, silly, we should go meet her. I want to meet all your friends,” Brandi said warmly. 

Yeah, not happening.

“Well, she’s in New York last I heard.” He shrugged. 

“Oh.” Brandi frowned, seemingly chewing on that nugget for a moment. “Well, I’d love to meet her, someday.” She slipped her hand into Scott’s and they continued on. 

* * *

Back at his loft that evening they settled in on his sofa, watching some mindless television. “Oh come on, you have to at least try it.” Scott held the glass of whiskey out to Brandi.

“I don’t drink hard liquor, Scott.” She pushed the glass away. 

“One sip, for me, pretty please?” He gave her a sexy pout.

Brandi curled her lip and crossed her arms, pretending to be exasperated with him. It was so adorable when she made that face. “Fine. One sip, just for you.” She took the glass from his hand and took a swig. She swallowed it. “Not bad.” She tried to keep a straight face, but Scott could tell she didn’t like it.

Scott narrowed his eyes. “You’re so bullshitting me.”  

Brandi let out a breath and made a grimace. “Yes, it was terrible.” 

Scott laughed at the expression on her face. It wasn’t even straight whiskey. It was mixed with Coke. “So prissy.” 

“Prissy? Just because I don’t like a drink?” She huffed, stood and walked into his kitchen, uncorking a bottle of wine. She poured it into the glass, and placed it down on the counter. “Scott Harris you should be ashamed of the amount of mail you have piled up here,” she said, shuffling through the pile that was on his counter. 

“Eh, it’s mostly junk. All my bills are auto paid and I get e-statements. I don’t really even bother anymore with it.”  

“Well, you have a handwritten letter here it looks like it got sent to the wrong address. It’s addressed to Mike Reynolds, hmm, Canadian postmark from a Sheriff Rusty Cote. Someone must have sent it to the wrong address.” She hummed then cleared her throat. “You also got an invite to a gallery exhibition from Victoria Johnson, I’m assuming that’s your friend, Tori.” There was a definite edge to her tone.

Fuck. He rubbed his face, shifted in his seat and took a swig of his drink. “Just let it be. I’ll sort through it all later.” Brandi seemed to be a bit nosy, between her unpacking him the day before and sifting through his mail.

She waltzed back over and curled up next to him with her glass of wine, and turned her head to the TV. Scott went back to watching reruns of The Office

“Are you going to go?” Brandi asked after several minutes.

“Go where?” Scott turned and looked at her.

“To Tori’s gallery thing, silly.”

“Oh.” He shrugged. “I haven’t even looked at the invite yet.”

“Well, it’s this weekend. Tomorrow night, actually.” Brandi handed him the invite and Scott looked it over. It was here in town. Tori must have been coming back to DC for the weekend for it.

“Oh, well then, probably not.” Scott focused back on the TV. Jim had put all Dwight’s office supplies in Jello. He snorted in laughter. This episode was one of his favorites. 

“So, you’re telling me that you don’t want to go to see your best friend? Seems kinda rude if you ask me.” Brandi sipped her wine. “We should go support her. She’s obviously important to you. I’d like to meet her.” 

Scott sat his tumbler down on the coffee table and rubbed his face. Brandi and Tori meeting was not on his agenda. Ever. Scott thought about the finality of that and it twisted his gut. Things were turning serious with Brandi, so really that meant that his “friendship” with Tori was over. That thought caused a hollow ache in his chest, and not just because he’d miss fucking Tori. Sure, Tori was, well, she was fucking amazing in bed. The best he’d ever had. That’s not what he’d miss the most though. 

That laugh of hers. That stupid, loud, obnoxious laugh, that was first on the list of things he’d miss. Nobody could make him laugh like Tori did. He’d miss how uninhibited he was around her. That woman brought out the wild in him, probably to an unhealthy degree, but that’s what good friends do. He’d miss that. 

He looked over at Brandi. She was so beautiful, kind and had so much innocence to her. She was rock solid. Steady. Always made the right choices. Things were going good with Brandi. This could become something really amazing, and if he wanted to keep it that way he’d need to cut ties with Tori. It was the right thing to do. 

“This is our weekend to be together.” Scott rubbed Brandi’s leg. “Tori will understand, the art stuff, it’s not really my thing. She doesn’t expect me to be there. I never go.” 

“If you say so.” She shrugged, sat down her wine glass on the coffee table and went back over to one of his packed boxes, ripping it open.

He groaned. “What are you doing? I thought we were relaxing?” 

“Eh, this show isn’t really my thing. I don’t understand it. They just follow them around like a documentary, but it’s actually a sitcom? Putting office supplies in jello, isn’t that kinda mean?” 

“You said the word funny wrong.” Scott laughed. Brandi smirked and rolled her big, brown eyes. 

“Seriously Scott, you need to unpack. Unless you don’t plan on living here, just let me be your girl and help you.” Brandi’s voice went up an octave. Yeah, she’d only dropped a thousand hints over the past two days that she wanted him to move back to Texas. So much in fact, he was actually debating it. “Let’s see what’s in this box…” 

Scott pinched his nose, leaned over, flipped off the TV and stood, giving in to her. “What’s in the box? What’s in the box?” he wailed woefully. Brandi’s brow went up, not catching the reference.

“Seriously?” Scott raised his hands as he walked toward her. “Haven’t you ever seen the movie Seven?” 

“No.” She shook her head. 

“Oh my god, forget packing you have to watch it. It’s about a serial killer who kills his victims based on the seven deadly sins,” Scott explained. “It will leave your head spinning. It’s fucking great.”

Brandi cocked her head to the side. “You have a filthy mouth, Scott Harris.” She gave him a wide grin. “I can think of much better uses for that filthy mouth of yours.”

“Oh, can you now?” Scott growled and pulled her in close, kissing her neck. He felt her soften in his embrace as his lips grazed her creamy skin. “How about I toss you on this sofa, and bury my filthy mouth between your thighs?” 

“That does sound much more fun than unpacking.” Brandi giggled as Scott yanked down her pants and tossed her onto the sofa.

Scott climbed on top of her, planting his lips onto hers. “Say it.” Scott’s brown eyes looked into hers fiercely. “Say you want me to fuck you.” He ran his fingers over her full lips. 

Brandi’s brow furrowed, her lips tightening. “Scott…”

“Come on Brandi, say it,” he whispered in her ear. “Tell me how bad you want it.” He nibbled her ear. He wanted to hear that sweet voice of hers whisper filthy things. 

She let out a soft moan. “I want you, darling.” The way the word darling purred out of her mouth with that sweet little accent made his cock so damn hard. He wanted to hear more from her.

“Please what?” He lifted up her shirt and began showering kisses on her belly. His fingers clasped the side of her panties and pulled them down with a swift yank. Scott looked up at her and grinned, breathing his hot air onto her crotch to tease her, making her squirm. “What do you want, Brandi? Tell me what you want me to do to you.” He took his finger and rolled it in circles around her clit, then shoved two fingers and shoved them up inside her. She gasped in pleasure as a wide grin crept across her face.

“I want you to make love to me,” she breathed.

Scott tried to read her expression. Her eyes were clouded with tears it seemed. He knew it was time to back down with the dirty talk, because even though it worked for him, it obviously wasn’t working for her.

“You got it, beautiful.” Scott grinned and buried his face into her crotch.   

* * *

Scott walked into the kitchen the following morning and grabbed a mug out of his cabinet and poured himself a cup of coffee. “Ok, seriously what’s up with you and the unpacking?” he teased as he walked into the living room. Brandi stood over an open box and he admired the view of her from the backside with her little lacy panties sticking out from underneath her nightshirt. “I’m not ready to unpack yet, still thinking things over.”

Brandi didn’t say anything, her back was turned to him. Did she not just hear what he said? He was trying to give her what she wanted. He leaned against the counter and sipped from his mug. “Hello? Earth to Brandi.” 

She turned to him, her head was down staring at a frame she held in her hands. Her head slowly lifted up and he could see moisture in her eyes. “She drew this?” she hissed through her quivering lip. 

Shit. Scott put down the mug and walked over to her, prying the naked drawing of him that Tori made out of her hands. “That is from a very long time ago, Brandi.”

“You said you were friends.” A tear rolled down her cheek.

“We are,” Scott said honestly. 

“Best friends,” her tone grew icy, her normally warm brown eyes dark and cold. 

“We are.”

“You’ve slept with her.”

Scott looked at Brandi with softness. He wouldn’t ever lie to her. “I have,” he said plainly. 

She shook her head as tears rolled down her cheek. God, he felt like a bastard. “I don’t understand.”

You and me both. “Listen. Tori and I, we are…” He searched for the right word.

“Are or were?” Brandi placed her hand on her hip, cutting him off. He could see that Texas fire flash through her big brown eyes. He half expected her to haul off and slap him. It’s what he deserved after all for making her cry. 

He ran his fingers through his hair. “We were friends who occasionally fucked, that’s all.” That’s what he told Brandi even though he knew full well that Tori was far more than that. “She does her thing, I do my thing, every once in a while we’d hook up for fun. No strings attached.” 

“Do you love her?” Her brow went into a high arch.

“She’s just a good friend. She was there for me this past year, she helped me get through it all. I owe her a lot.” He knew he loved Tori as a friend and cared for her. Brandi still didn’t look convinced, and neither was he from the hollow ache in his chest.

“So that’s it?” Brandi asked, her expression softening. “She’s just a friend who’s on booty call?” 

“Pretty much,” Scott said as he wrapped his arms around her, feeling like a damn son of a bitch for lying to her. But Tori and him probably would never happen. It was exhausting chasing that woman. It was time to take the easy road. “I’m with you now, so that’s over. That is why I don’t want to go to her exhibition. I want to be here, with you.” Scott lifted her chin and gave her a kiss. “I will never be unfaithful to you. You have my promise.” 

Brandi opened her mouth to speak as Scott’s phone rang. He glanced over to it and let it ring. It could go to voicemail. She was more important.

“You need to get that.”
“It can wait.” Scott squeezed her hand.

“It could be them calling about the job, Scott,” she said wisely. 

She was right. Scott walked over to the table and grabbed the phone. “This is Scott.” 

“Harris! This is Jack Riley. Hey we’d like you to come on in tomorrow for the final round of testing. Need you to plan to stay all night through Monday if possible.”

A wide grin crept across Scott’s face. “Wow, that was fast.” He scratched his beard as his eyes bulged. He was really not even certain that they were going to consider him as a legitimate candidate, much less call back so quickly for the final round. 

“You sound surprised.” Jack’s laugh bellowed through the line. 

“I, I just…” Scott stammered. He wasn’t usually at a loss for words but they failed him at the moment. 

“Didn’t think we’d get past that nub?” Jack chuckled.

“Well, yeah, that was my initial impression.” Scott raised his brow in acknowledgment.

“Nonsense. That’s not gonna hold a guy with your credentials back. As long as you pass through the next round Harris, I can say with confidence we’d be glad to have a man like you aboard.” There was some shuffling on Jack’s end of the line. For the next several minutes Jack briefly went over with him everything he’d need to do for the physical and psychological examinations. “I’m assuming you got yourself a proper running leg for that nub of yours?” 

“Yes, I have one,” Scott said. Thank god he was smart enough to go to the clinic in San Antonio and get fitted for one before he left. It was quite simple since his socket was a great fit now. They just used the same mold to create the new prosthetic. He hadn’t spent much time on it and he hoped that didn’t bite him in the ass. He figured it would be weeks before he heard back from them and he’d have plenty more time for more practice on it. 

“Alright then, Harris. We will see you tomorrow.” The line went dead. Scott sat there staring at his phone for a moment.

“Well?” Brandi said, her brown eyes were wide as he turned to her slowly. “Was that good or bad?” 

“They want me to come in tomorrow for the final round. They want me.” 

Brandi smiled warmly but her mouth twitched in the corner, as if the smile was forced. “Well of course they want you.” She opened her arms up to him. “Well get over here and let me congratulate you.” 

Scott walked over to her and lifted her off the ground and spun her as she squealed in amusement. He finally planted her firmly back on her feet. “I have to go run.”

Brandi looked outside at the snow falling. “Are you suicidal? It’s coming down hard out there.” 

“Good, it will give me a challenge.” Scott nodded to the window. 

“Or make you split your head open after you slip on a patch of ice.” She frowned. “Then you won’t be able to do their standards at all. There has to be a better idea.” 

Scott scowled. She didn’t like him questioning him, but she had a valid point. If he got injured he was out of the running. “I have an idea.” Scott picked up his phone. “I think I know just the place where I can go.” 

* * *

“Well hey there fucker.” Nicole put her hands on her teeny hips as Scott walked through the door of the PT room on base. “I heard you cheated on me and went to San Antonio, and now you come crawling back to me.” She scowled and pretended to be angry but a wide smile broke across her lips and she flung her arms around Scott. 

“Good to see you, Piccoli.” Scott said as she beat her hand on his back. “Ow! Easy there killer.” 

“Who’s this?” Nicole let go of her embrace on Scott and nodded to Brandi.

“This is my girlfriend, Brandi.” Scott placed his arm around Brandi and gave her a squeeze. 

“So very nice to meet you,” Brandi said sweetly and extended her hand.

“Ditto.” Nicole gave her a hearty handshake, releasing a labored breath. “Alright, let’s see this blade they gave you.” 

Scott leaned over and unbuttoned the sides of his jogging pants, and pulled them off, revealing his shorts underneath. Nicole bent down and examined the blade, running her fingers along it. “Not bad, not bad at all.” She stood up. “How’s the socket?” 

“It’s great. They molded the one you had made for me and used that to make this one.”

“They better have. I nearly killed myself trying to get that damn thing to fit your shape shifting nub.” Nicole crossed her arms and frowned, which just made her traps look even more immense. The girl was a powerhouse. 

“Yeah, they had to adjust it a bit around the top.” Nicole nodded in understanding as he said that. That had always been one of his problem areas. “It’s still shrinking, but the bottom feels great.”

“Ok, so if it fits so great, why are you here, Harris?” Nicole raised her brow.

“I have a PT test tomorrow…” Scott started.

“Are you getting back in?” Nicole exclaimed and a wide grin broke across her face. “God damn that’s great news. I knew you had to miss hunting men.” 

Scott laughed. “No, not going back in, I have an interview with a private contracting firm.” 

“Oooh.” Her lips puckered. “Someone wants the big bucks.” 

He grinned sheepishly. Yeah, the money was good in the private sector. “Anyhow, I’ve had this thing about a few weeks now, and I haven’t had much practice time. I was wondering if you could maybe take a look at my gait and give me some pointers.” 

“How far do you have to run in it?” 

“Three miles.”


“Twenty-nine minutes.” 

“Three miles is a lot.” Nicole whistled.

“There’s more,” Brandi interjected and nudged Scott in the arm. “Tell her, she’s here to help.” 

“I’m listening.” Nicole crossed her arms.

“Fifty yard body drag at my weight.” Which was currently two twenty-five. “Agility test, shuttle sprint between cones,” Scott sighed, “and, three-hundred yard sprints in kit to include ballistic plates and magazines,” he scratched his beard, “and scale four foot wall and climb a twenty foot ladder.”

“Fuuuuck,” Nicole whispered. “You’re out of your goddamn mind, you know that?”

“You can’t tell this man to back down from a challenge. I”m learning that.” Brandi frowned and looked at Nicole, almost as if she was pleading her case and expecting Nicole to jump onto her side. At least that’s what Scott assumed. She must have saw him frowning, because she backpedaled quickly. “But, I know he’s going to be just fine, in fact I bet he will blow the rest of them away.” Brandi reached over and rubbed his shoulder, trying to dig herself out of the hole.

A smirk tugged at Nicole’s lips. “You’ve got this Harris. Come on you crazy bastard, let’s head over to the gym and get you ready to blow their fucking minds.” 

“So where’s that other chick? Tori was her name, right?” Nicole whispered to him as he climbed up on the treadmill, once they were out of Brandi’s earshot. Her eyes darted over to said subject—who was sitting on a nearby bench watching them intently. 

“New York,” Scott said abruptly.

“You know that’s not what I mean. I liked her. What happened to you two?” 

“We were never together.”

“Bullshit.” Nicole cocked a brow. “You were living with the girl for Christ sake.” 

Scott laughed. “It sooooo wasn’t like that.”

“Whatever you say, Harris.” Nicole rolled her eyes as if she didn’t believe that for a second. “So are you seriously with this Barbie Doll now?” She nodded to Brandi. 

“Brandi is sweet. You need to stop it,” Scott growled at Nicole, growing protective. He wouldn’t put up with anyone talking shit about Brandi.

“She actually is really sweet, and gorgeous, I’ll give her that.” Nicole gave her the once over. “Maybe we could use a little sweet in our lives. You may be onto something here. Who knows.” Nicole shrugged. 

Scott sucked in a heavy breath. “Let’s just do this.” He flipped on the treadmill and began bumping the speed up. He didn’t come here to talk about his relationship with Nicole. 

“You may want to take it slow at first,” Nicole warned.

Scott bumped up the speed higher and flipped her off. 

“You are a stubborn asshole, you know that, Harris?”

“You know you love it.” Scott flashed a wolfish grin. 

* * *

Brandi lay there staring at the ceiling. She’d had a hard time sleeping ever since she got to DC with the noise from the traffic of the city. It was not something she was accustomed to. She was a country girl, through and through. 

She looked over to Scott who was sleeping soundly next to her. Was she falling for him again or just the idea of him? She wasn’t sure if she was in love with the man he is now, or the boy she met back in high school. The military had changed him. It had hardened him. She couldn’t begin to imagine what he went through over there. What it must have been like to lose part of himself. She hoped that playful boy she knew years ago was still in there. She’d seen sparks of it in the past few weeks, but he always seemed so solemn, so serious. No matter how hard she’d tried, she couldn’t bring out that kid again. 

She quietly got out of bed and wandered out of the bedroom, kicking the heat up a notch on her way into the kitchen. His apartment was so cold and industrial, and it matched this city—and his current personality. She’d hoped to help him unpack and make the place a little more homey. Ok, that was a lie. She’d hoped that he would just seal the boxes up and move back home to Texas. 

If he loved you, he’d do it. He’d go to the ends of the earth for you.

She poured herself a glass of wine, hoping that would induce sleepiness. As she stood in the kitchen taking a sip, Scott’s phone vibrated on the counter. Text message from Tori, it read. 

Brandi reached out for the phone and hesitated. She didn’t want to be one of those girls. The girls that were so insecure that they couldn’t trust their man. Her mind flashed to her ex-fiance, Cody. The sight of him on his knees in her living room in front of his best friend was seared into her mind to this day. A pang went through her chest as she shoved the memory aside. 

Really, it wasn’t Scott that she didn’t trust. It was this girl, and the hold she feared she had on him.

Scott is a good honest man, she reminded herself. If Scott says there was nothing going on, then there was nothing. It’s not like she hadn’t been with a few other men in their years apart, hell, she’d been engaged. Of course she never called those men her best friends—not even Cody. Brandi gulped down the rest of her wine and picked up his phone, clicking on the message. 

Tori: Damn. Saw your Facebook post. That running leg is sexy, just as I suspected. You’re still a fucking badass. I knew you had it in you still. Hope you can make it to my exhibition this weekend. Bring the panties, gorgeous.

Brandi dropped the phone like it was scalding her hands. She should not have invaded his privacy like that, and she felt ashamed of herself. Bring the panties? What on earth did that mean?

And that’s where the deleted content ends! If you’ve read Fighting the Blaze you know that Brandi snagged the invite and snuck into Tori’s exhibition, and if you haven’t well…I suggest you go read that now to find out exactly what happened.

She then came back to Scott’s apartment, packed her bags and broke it off with Scott (as we saw in Chasing Fire).

These two were good people, just not good with each other. Scott needed his Tori, and Brandi needed her Blaze.


Shitty tour guide

This was a deleted scene from Burn for You. This happens after Chad shows up on Scott and Tori’s doorstep in the middle of the night (my evil plot device to torture the reader a bit more with Tori’s secrets). Anyhow, I really loved this scene but I took it out because it just didn’t progress the story between Tori and Scott, it was much more Chad-centric as far as what HE was going through…and his book and self-reflection is for another time in another story that will be coming.

“Where to now tour guide?” Chad asked as they neared the Capitol reflecting pool. His feet were throbbing. Riding boots were not the best option for a day full of this much walking and he wished he would have swiped a pair of his brothers’ sneakers. 

They’d started at the Washington Monument, worked their way around the entire mall, looped the entire Tidal Basin and Chad had seen each one of the monuments. He was about done, but his brother’s chick looked like she was just getting started.

“Well, we could hit up a museum, but really if you see one more thing here I think you need to go to the National Archives.” She seemed very excited about that prospect. The girl had such an abundance of energy—far more than he had.

He frowned. That sounded dull to him. “I don’t want to see a bunch of boring books and shit.” 

“Oh my god you dork, it’s the Constitution and Declaration of Independence!” she exclaimed. He felt a little silly that he didn’t realize that, then again, he wasn’t book smart. Never applied himself and dropped out of high school. 

“Seriously, every American needs to go see it. It’s awe inspiring and will make you all warm and fuzzy on the inside. I want to see it through your eyes and I can live vicariously through you.” She clutched her hand to her chest with passion.

His eyes clouded up with tears like a fucking baby at her words. He couldn’t say no to that, no matter how blistered his feet were. 

His stomach rumbled, breaking the silence and he cleared his throat. “Do you have lunch on the agenda? I don’t know about you, chickadee, but I’m starving.” That and my damn feet hurt like a motherfucker. He guessed that entire trek was about five miles. He just needed a few moments to sit down and regroup.

“Yeah, I guess lunch would be a smart idea.” She cocked her head to the side. “What are you in the mood for?” 

“You’re the one that works around here. You know this place better than I do with your eyes closed, apparently.” Tori had pointed her building out to him as they passed it a ways back. It amazed him how she knew exactly where they were the entire time. Well, for the most part. She did point way too far to the left of the Washington Monument and Chad had to move her hand to the right spot. They both got a good laugh from that one. The girl was something else. 

“Well, it’s Tuesday, the deli I normally go to has this special—”

“Tori, it’s Wednesday.”

She grimaced as if something just dawned on her. “Shit! I didn’t work on Monday so I’m totally off a day.” She bit her lip and tugged on it as if she was worried. She tapped her Apple watch and it blurted the time. “We have to go, now!” She looped her arm with his, extended her cane and took off. She’d been leading him much more on this journey than him leading her.

“Woah, where’s the fire?” Chad stopped, pulling her back. 

“I just…it’s just…there’s just something I do every Wednesday. I’ll explain on the way, but he’ll be waiting and I don’t want him to think I forgot about him.” She urged him forward.

“He?” Chad laughed as they walked along the sidewalk. “You have lunch with another man every Wednesday? Does my little brother know about this?” 

She groaned. “No, I’ve never mentioned it to Scott—and I’d prefer it if you don’t either.”

“I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that.” He may have not been the most truthful and trustworthy person, but the thought of keeping the fact his brother’s finance had lunch with another man every Wednesday was some sketchy shit. “How would you like it if Scott was having a secret lunch meeting every Wednesday with another woman?” He grew protective of his little brother.  

She laughed as if it was the dumbest thing he ever said. “It’s so not what you think Chad, I promise.” 

“Well, do explain.”  

“I buy lunch every Wednesday for a homeless man named Owen.”

Ok, he had to admit, that was kind of her. Also very dangerous, especially since she was blind. Knowing his brother like he did, Scott would have a shit-fit if he knew. “You sure that’s safe?” He frowned as they crossed the street.

She stayed silent until they reached the other side safely and he watched her let out a labored breath. “Owen is perfectly harmless.” She lifted her chin. “Sure, there are the crazies and the druggies around here, but mostly they are just people who took a wrong turn in life. Sometimes they just need someone who gives a shit about them.” 

Kinda like me. 

“I guess that’s a wise way to look at it.” Or naive. He couldn’t decide which. Regardless, the way she cared for others was pretty incredible. Scott had told him a little about what she did after his injury, how she took care of him. Hell, Tori even saved Chad’s ass and bailed him out with Jett without even thinking twice about it, and she had only known him a couple days. Instead of repaying her for what she’d done, he’d just showed up on her doorstep with more problems. Now here she was taking time off work to show him sights that she couldn’t even see herself, and not acting the least bit put off by it. The more he thought about it the shittier he felt.

Not only had Scott got arrested the past weekend, she was assaulted by a total asshole. His mother had filled him in a little bit that she also had been having seizures. He’d asked her about her health while they were walking along the monuments, and she played it off like it wasn’t that big of a deal. Chad could easily see that it was hard on her and she was putting on a tough front. He couldn’t imagine the tailspin that was sending his brother into, and how worried he must be. 

Tori lost her father at a young age, had a drug addict mom, lost her vision and now had epilepsy. Scott fought bravely for his country and came back a wounded man, missing his leg and he still found time to volunteer and help other veterans get back on their feet. Life had hit them with blow after blow, yet they somehow rose above all the bullshit they were dealt. Chad was raised right, by a good, loving family and he’d fucked his life up royally. He had no excuse for his behavior.

Chad Harris, you really are a selfish prick.

She lifted her chin slightly, almost like she was taking a whiff in the air. He could smell the food, so she sure as hell must have. “The food truck should be right around here if I have my bearings right.” She pointed to her left.

“Close.” Chad laughed and grabbed her hand and moved it thirty degrees to the left, just like he’d done at the Washington Monument.  

“You turd.” She snickered.

“Sweet Victoria! I thought you forgot about me.” An older, thin, African American man with an unkempt, grey beard limped over in their direction. He wore a hat that said POW MIA on it, a raggedy old shirt with an American flag on it and a threadbare jacket. The old man screamed Vietnam Vet if Chad had ever seen one.

“I couldn’t forget about our lunch date, Owen.” Tori grinned at him. He returned the smile and hugged her. The stench coming off him was unbelievable, but his brother’s girl didn’t even shy away from the man.

“You brought a bodyguard today?” Owen teased.

“This is my brother, Chad.” Tori rubbed his arm as she said that. It warmed Chad’s heart that she called him her brother, even though her and Scott were not married yet. 

Chad nodded to the man and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Owen.” 

“Would you like the usual?” she asked, propping her cane against her chest, digging into her purse.

“Yes please.” The man nodded and grinned. He was missing several teeth but had a kind smile with soulful eyes that had seen far too much pain in his lifetime. 

“My treat. I insist.” Chad pushed her hand down as she pulled out her wallet.

“Alright.” She nodded. “Owen likes a hot dog with everything but onions, with a Coke.”

“Yes, no onions.” The homeless man patted his stomach. “They don’t agree with me.” 

“I’ll take one with the works, with a Diet Coke,” Tori added.

“I think the hot dog negates the diet in the soda, Tori.” Chad laughed at the absurdity of girl-logic. 

“That’s why I drink the diet.” She shrugged. “You gotta level the evil with some good now and again.” 

Chad paid for their order and the three of them sat on a nearby bench. Tori chatted with Owen like they were old friends or something. She could adapt to whatever social group she was around it seemed. Chad had seen her hang now with what some would consider the lowest in society, himself included, but also knew she worked in that fancy circular building he could see in the distance. The girl was a chameleon.

Chad’s phone chimed in his jacket pocket and he pulled it out.

Scott: Has my girl worn you out yet?

Chad: God yes. Heading to some archive place next. Just finishing up lunch.

Scott: Ah, it’s Wednesday. You must be having lunch with Tori’s homeless buddy, Owen. 

Chad snickered. Tori turned his direction and a curious look washed over her face. “What’s so funny?” she asked.

“Nothin, just something my brother said.” He wasn’t going to give away that Scott knew exactly what she was up to. He also wasn’t going to spill the beans on Tori either. Those two were too funny with their stupid little secrets from each other. 

Chad: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Scott: Surrrre ya don’t. Don’t tell Tori I know. Let her have her little secret. I’ll catch up with you all later.

He glanced up from his phone and saw the man walking away. He offered him a friendly wave and the man smiled and waved back. 

“Does he look warm enough? Does he have a coat?” She leaned and whispered. 

Chad’s heart squeezed at her caring enough to ask that. “Yeah, he’s got a coat on, some layers.”

“Good.” She nodded in satisfaction. 

“Why do you care so much anyway?” Did Tori feel like she had some debt to repay to society? That’s how things worked in his world. “I mean, there are thousands of homeless people, why him?”

“Because it matters to him. Hell, I know I can’t feed a thousand homeless people, but if everyone took the time to reach out to one person in need, how much better of a place would this world be?” 

Chad cocked his head to the side. She was a better person than he was. She didn’t deserve the shaft that she got in life by losing her vision. “Tori, you’re a damn good person in this fucked up world, you know that? Sometimes things don’t make a damn bit of sense.” He slung his arm around her and gave her a squeeze. “I’m sorry I said you weren’t no angel. I guess you have wings after all.”

“Those and a very dented, tarnished halo.” She chuckled nervously and sucked in a deep breath. “I’ve done a lot of devilish things.” An awkward silence hung for a moment as she shifted and cleared her throat. “Well, are you ready to go?” She placed her hand on Chad’s thigh.

“Yeah, I think my feet have recovered.” He groaned.

“You Texans and your big trucks are spoiled driving everywhere.” She gave him a playful nudge. “Stop being a sissy boy. It’s not too far, just half a mile.” She nodded and gripped the handle of her cane that was draped over her shoulder.

A half mile? He died a little inside.

“You east coast people really hate your feet.” Chad nudged her back. “Fine, let’s roll.” 


Blondie and Blaze

This was a deleted scene from Chasing Fire. When Scott and Tori first show up in Miami, he leaves Blaze in charge of his girl and they wind up shopping and then Tori gets a tattoo. Blaze winds up in bed with the girl from the swimwear shop…and it does NOT end well. This ended up cut because length of the first book and it was taking too much focus off Scott and Tori at this juncture of the book. I do reference the memory in other books. In Smoke and Mirrors when Tori has to go rescue Blaze after he got robbed, he says they’re even after she drug him shopping all day. Then again, I reference this in Blaze and Brandi’s book as well. 


After Scott took off Tori and Blaze walked down South Miami beach for a few hours. Tori knew the poor man’s patience was wearing thin with her dragging him in and out of shops, but he was a trooper.

“Come on, one more please,” she begged.

He groaned. “When Scott said to keep his girl out of trouble I figured our day would be full of much more excitement than you dragging me from store to store. Now I’m just your steward carrying your bags. I guess I had you pegged all wrong. You’re just a girly girl who wants to shop just like the rest of them.”

Tori huffed and crossed her arms defiantly. “Last one. I promise. Then we’ll do something really fun.”

“Fine,” Blaze said, opening the door for her, “But only because this one is called Beach Bunny Swimwear. After you, Blondie.”

She looped her arms with his as he guided her through the door. It was the same song and dance at every store. Eventually a sales associate would see them and come up and ask to help once they saw the white cane.

Footsteps approached. “Can I help you find something?” a young female asked, Tori suspected in her early twenties.

“Ask miss Shopaholic here, honey. I ain’t the one looking for a string bikini,” Blaze snorted.

Tori elbowed him in the side. “I’m looking for a hat. Something cute to wear on the beach. Straw, not overly big and obnoxious and also a swimsuit cover.”

“Well, you came to the right place,” she said. “Follow me.” Blaze led Tori over following the associate.

“Our covers are here on this wall; did you have something in mind?” she asked.

“White preferably…” It was hot out and she wanted something cool. “…and sexy,” Tori added with a sly grin.

“Ok, I think you would look super-hot in this one.” A few moments later fabric was in her hands. “It’s sheer and lacy, split open down the back, with little straps across the shoulders that cut open to the sleeves that are long. Very sexy. Want to try it on?” she asked as Tori ran her hands along the fabric, getting a feel for it.

“Please.” She nodded.

She guided Tori to the dressing room in the back. “Ok, so I picked you out a medium, but if you need another size, just holler at me ok?” she said sweetly. “Your boyfriend is super cute by the way. You two are adorable together.”

Tori snorted. “Thanks, but he’s not my boyfriend, just a friend.” Well, she supposed he was a friend. She’d known the man all of three hours now, but she had a feeling they were going to become great friends.

“Oh,” the girls voice went up an octave.

“I think he’s single.” Tori grinned, playing wing man. “Go flirt with him a bit while I try this on. See if he bites.” She jutted her chin.

Several moments later the associate came back, knocking on the door. “How’d that work out?”

Tori opened the door up. “Great. I was about to ask the same for you,” she teased.

“He flirted back a bit,” she said coyly. “Let’s go find you that hat.” She looped her arm with Tori’s and led her over to the hats.

“Ok, you would look super cute in this little straw fedora. It has a paisley black and white ribbon around it. It’s neutral and will go with anything,” she said placing it in Tori’s hand. Footsteps drew close, Blaze’s she assumed, followed by a clearing of his throat.

“How’d it go, Blondie?”

Tori placed the hat on her head turning in the direction of his voice. “Good. What do you think?”

“Looks fine.”

“Oh, come on you have to do better than that!” She frowned.

“I dunno what am I supposed to say?” He sighed. “Oh. My. God. Super cute!” he added with a valley-girl lisp followed by what sounded like him slapping his face.

The associate and Tori rolled in laughter.

“See, that’s the response I was looking for!” Tori giggled. “Now you sound like my best friend, Keith. You’re making me feel right at home.” She reached out and squeezed his arm. “You aren’t by chance a fiery red head, are you?” She trailed her hand up his arm to his head and pulled on a strand of his hair, realizing his hair was quite longer than she guessed.

Blaze chuckled. “Not even close. Keep guessing.”

Tori pulled the hat off her head and ruffled her hair. “I’ll take it, can you ring me up please, so I can relieve this poor man of his suffering?” She turned to the associate.

“Sure thing.” The woman plucked the hat from Tori’s hand and her footsteps faded.

Tori hooked her arm to his. “She’s hot for you by the way, if you didn’t catch that,” she whispered in Blazes ear as they walked.

“Oh, I caught that alright.”

So modest.

“Well is she cute?”

“She’s not bad. A bit young but doesn’t look jailbait.”

“Then get her number already.” Tori nudged him as they approached the register.

The associate rang them up and thanked them. Tori could practically hear the drool hitting the counter as the poor girl fumbled over her words. She figured Blaze had to be extremely good looking to elicit that type of reaction.

“So, what’s fun to do in Miami?” Tori asked the girl, trying to keep the conversation flowing. “I want to go dancing tonight, preferably Latin music. Know anywhere nearby for that?”

“Well if you’re into Latin music you could go to Mango’s…but honestly, it’s a bit of a tourist trap in my opinion,” she advised.

“Agreed,” Blaze said. “Mac’s is good, local dive bar. Not salsa music though, but also no shiny-shirt guys.”

“Yeah Mac’s is good if you’re looking for hookers, local weirdos and a bar where you could possibly get stabbed.” The associate groaned. “Although tough guy like you wouldn’t have much trouble there. I can see why you’d like it.” She cleared her throat. “I did once find roach in my drink.”

“Hey, that’s protein honey,” Blaze said as his arm rose and fell next to Tori’s with a shrug.

Tori slapped the counter. “Hookers and weirdo’s sounds fantastic! Who needs Latin music when you have that to look forward to?” She giggled.

The associate chuckled. “You all have fun tonight. Nice meeting you.”

“Maybe we will see you there?” Tori asked. “Blaze will keep an eye out for ya, when he’s not checking my drinks for roaches. Won’t you Blaze?” She jabbed him in the side.

“Maybe I will,” the girl said. “Have a great day.”

They got outside. “What the hell are you doing, Blondie?” Blaze asked.

“Getting you laid. It’s the least I could do after dragging you shopping all morning.” She pulled the hat out of her bag and placed it on her head.

“You say that as if I have trouble getting laid.” He laughed as if it was the most absurd thing he’d ever heard.

Tori shrugged. “She said you were really cute, but she could have just been being nice since I can’t see you. You could be a total troll with a hunchback for all I know.”

“You’re out of your mind,” he laughed, “Let’s just say the ladies like what they see.”

“Long, dark hair, blue eyes, devilish grin?”

“Keep guessing,” He chuckled. “Now where, Blondie?”

“Any tattoo shops nearby?” She flashed a wide grin.



Run With Scott

So, I’m going through my manuscripts and pulling out some deleted scenes to share with my readers. I’m gonna try and post one for you a week (as I have them).

This scene moved all over the place. At first, it was in Chasing Fire, but my original draft was clocking in at 113K…WAY too long for a first time author to get folks to actually read her work, so this one was chopped from book one. I then moved it to Smoke and Mirrors before they leave for Texas, but again…word count, and I already had a lot of sweet & fluffy scenes with Scott and Tori, so instead I just had Scott reference this happening to his father in conversation at the table while they’re having breakfast at the Harris home.

So here is Scott and Tori’s first run together. Enjoy!

“Did you do the dishes again?” The hum of the dishwasher echoed in the kitchen. “I should have asked you to move in years ago. I could get used to living with Mr. Clean.” She grinned as she grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. Scott had done the dishes every single day for the past week.

“And I could get used to watching you prance around in that.” His footsteps echoed over the floor nearing her and his arms snaked around her waist. “Damn that ass.” He squeezed her butt in the tight yoga pants. “You going to the gym?”

“Just downstairs for a run on the treadmill, then I need to come back and shower. I promised Jane I’d go over there for dinner tonight.”

He snorted. “Did you ever consider asking me to go?”

“For the run?”

“To Janes, silly.”

“You sure you want to meet my dysfunctional family? Jane just texted me and warned my mom will even be there. Apparently she’s thirty days sober, so you may not have the amusement of watching one of her drunken binges.” Tori laughed a little too loud. She could just hear all the skeletons in her closet threatening to break free.

Do you honestly think you can keep your secrets forever?

“You are going to meet mine in a week, it’s only fair I meet yours.” Scott huffed. “Also, I’ll run with you. Let’s go to the park. I could use a run myself. I’ll be your running guide.”

She bit her lip. She had only ran with highly trained guides on an enclosed track back in O&M, a public park was a different story.

“Do you not trust me?” he asked.

I’m sure as hell trying to.

If anyone could handle it, Scott could. She plastered on a phony grin. “Sure, a run outside would be great.”

He grabbed her by the hand and drug her toward the bedroom. “Let me get changed and put on my blade, and you tell me what I need to do.” She sat down on the bed and crossed her legs.

“Ok.” Tori scratched her temple. “We will need to get a rope or something I can tether to you.”

“Gotchya.” Rustling came from the closet.

“Let’s try and find a path, something that won’t be too uneven of terrain. Use descriptive words to tell me of the route, and be clear, please. Bumpy, rough, uneven, dog off leash, cyclist…etcetera. If we are passing something say, pass left or pass right and I’ll move either direction following your lead. Don’t say things like ‘watch out’ or ‘don’t’ I’m blind, not psychic.”

He chuckled. “Understood.” The bed dipped down next to her as he sat, as the prosthetic grazed her thigh.

“May I?” She reached down for the prosthetic. He’d never worn this one with her.

“Sure.” He guided her hand over it. “The top is pretty much like my other, the bootm just curves into a large C like shape.”

She nodded, understanding as she felt the cold metal.

“What’s this?” Her hand pushed on something squishy on the bottom. Rubber?

“Rubber. For traction. I don’t wear a sneaker with it.”

“How fast are you with it?” She tugged at her lip. She was certain he could out run her.

“Pretty fast. It’s slightly a bit longer than a normal foot but once I get going on it I can generate pretty much as much speed as I used to, but I expend less energy. I’m probably more efficient than you are.”

“Yeah, I saw a few videos of you pushing and dragging sleds in this thing faster than what I think I can jog.” She cringed remembering some of his old Instagram posts from before she lost her sight. “You may end up dragging me behind you like a sled.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll match your pace.”

He rustled for a bit next to her, then the mattress lifted as he stood. The floor shook as he jumped, she assumed he was making sure his prosthetic was in place. “You ready?”

“Sure, but we have to stop by the store and get some rope.”

“I’ve got some,” he said, and she could tell he was grinning wickedly as he said that.

A sly smile morphed on her face.

“You never know when I’ll need to tie you up, baby.” He planted his lips to hers.


They headed to a nearby park. It was the best option for a paved jogging trail nearby. The late morning sun was heating the air and the humidity was rising, so she was already working up a sweat and she hadn’t even started running yet.

The wind was blowing slightly and it carried with it the sound of children hollering from the playground in the distance. Bikes flew past them at the entrance to the trail and other jogger’s feet pounded the pavement. She was sure they were a sight; her standing there nervously with her cane and Scott and his damn robot leg.

“You ready?” he asked.

She grimaced. “As ready as I’ll ever be.” Her heart rapped heavily against her chest. She collapsed her cane and handed it to him. Scott brought his rucksack. He told her he didn’t mind running with the extra weight, and it gave her a place to stash her cane. The bag zipped then she felt the rope slid around her left wrist, as planned.

They decided to have her left hand tethered to his right, that way she could stay on the inside of the trail, away from others. The rope was long enough to give space but short enough she could feel the direction changes.

“Ok I’ll give you 3, 2, 1 countdowns to changes,” he advised her. She nodded. “3, 2, 1 run.” And they were off.

For the first fifty meters the path was straight. He notified her there was a slight uphill curve ahead, which they took with ease.

“Ok we have a large group of bikers coming the opposite direction of us so we will narrow in about twenty feet.” He pulled his arm behind him and she followed his cue for the narrowing. “Ok great job.” He pulled his arm back out to his side and she followed suit. “We have low hanging branches coming up, duck down in 3, 2, 1.” She tucked her head but not far enough and the branches grazed the top of her head. At least they didn’t smack her right in the face.

“Ok stand straight now.” They continued for a couple hundred meters and it was uneventful.

“You’re doing good, baby. I’m gonna ramp it up.” He hollered as he picked up the pace.

“Ok group of walkers coming up. We are going to pass them on the left side in three, two, one…” He moved to the left and she followed his lead. Her breath was becoming labored and she was working up a good sweat. Scott, on the other hand, she couldn’t even hear breathing. It was as if the run was nothing for him.

After some time they approached the two-mile mark and that is where they had planned to turn around at the trail and head back. Four miles was way more than enough for her. She hadn’t ran that far in a long time, but she didn’t want to look like a sissy in front of him. She was secretly dying inside.

“Ok, we’re about to flip around and do a u-turn and head back. The path ahead is clear so I’m going to do a sharp one eighty in three, two, one…” And that’s when she fucked it up. She lost her balance and fell into Scott, nearly taking both of them to the ground. Somehow by the grace of God he caught her. They finished out the remainder of the trail with him giving her verbal cues. When they reached the end of the path, he untethered them and they caught their breath for a moment.

He grabbed her by the waist and gave her a twirl in the air. “I could have never done what you just did babe. I’m so damn proud of you!”

She grabbed his face and planted a kiss on him. The salt of his sweat stung her lips, but she didn’t care. She felt alive. “That was amazing! It felt exhilarating to run in fresh air.” He handed her a water bottle and she took several large gulps. “Thanks for doing that with me.”

“I’ll run with you strapped to me anytime, hottie.”


First Halloween

Last year I posted a deleted scene/flashback of Scott and Tori on Halloween. In this flashback we find out that Halloween is Tori’s favorite holiday.

I thought this would be a fun tradition to carry on this year, and post a little short story about their first Halloween together as a REAL couple in their new home.

This story would fit into the timeline in my upcoming book Burn For You between Chapters 4 & 5. I did my very best to not give spoilers for what is coming in that novel. (Yes, they get a dog in Chapter one of my upcoming novel, and my readers will learn ALL about Kahn there.)

For those that haven’t read, this gives you a little glimpse into the lives of Scott and Tori. After years of being friends with benefits (this story is in Chasing Fire) they finally have committed to each other. They’ve promised forever and are engaged (this story is told in Smoke and Mirrors) Burn For You will pick up right where we left off in Smoke and Mirrors. Scott and Tori happy, committed and starting their home and family.

So, without further explanation here it is:

Scott eyed Tori as she wandered downstairs, their German Shepherd, Kahn, hot on her heels. Only two weeks together and those two were best buds. Mainly because his bride to be spoiled him to no end. 

 “You’re up early,” he remarked. It wasn’t like her to wake up early, especially after the past week of her not feeling so swell. “You going back into the office today?” 

 “Nah. I’ve still got some leave so I’m gonna take a couple more days.” She ruffled her fingers through her disheveled platinum locks, shook her head and pattered into the kitchen as the dog followed.

 “I can work from home today,” he hollered to her.

 She was quiet for some time while he listened to the opening and shutting of the cabinet doors. “Good, I can use your help,” she shouted back as her mug hit the counter with a clank. 

 “My help?” 

 She emerged from the kitchen a few moments later, coffee in hand. “Me being down this past week has put us on a time crunch.”

 Kahn came over to him and rested his head on Scott’s thigh. “Time crunch?” He gave the pooch a good rub on the head.

 “Today is Halloween, goof.” When she got close to the sofa she reached out for him. 

 “Ah, I’d lost track of the date.” He grabbed her by the hand and gently pulled her down next to him.

 “We need candy for trick-or-treaters, costumes—”

 “Costumes? That sounds like a lot to put together last minute.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe we should just kick the porch lights off and pretend we’re not home.”

 She snapped her head in his direction and scowled as if he’d just suggested to a kid they cancel Christmas. 

 “I mean we already decorated the front of the house…” She’d done that before they were even finished unpacking boxes from the move. He knew that Halloween was her favorite holiday, and he obliged to her whims. It took hours for them to get it just like she envisioned when there were so many things higher on his priority list. They decked their porch out in skeletons, spiderwebs, bats and they even had tombstones littering their yard. 

 “I will not be those kind of Halloween people.” She sucked in a breath then lifted her mug to her mouth. “My mom always tried to pull that kind of shit and it pissed me the hell off,” she mumbled behind the mug before taking a sip. Finally after a long swallow she lifted her chin and set her mug down. “I want us to be the Halloween house. The house that people talk about in the neighborhood.”

 He snorted and rolled his eyes. “I think we’ve got that covered already.” Between him doing yard work in his prosthetic blade and his blind bride-to-be coming and going with her cane, they’d drawn plenty of stares from rubberneck neighbors. A few had introduced themselves, but many whispered and kept their distance. This was par for the course in their world. People feared the unfamiliar. Some teens in the neighborhood had taken to pranking them. They loved to ring the bell to see how long it would take for them to get to the door, only to run at the last minute. It just solidified the fact to Scott that teenagers were awful creatures. 

 “Which is exactly why we need to make a show.” A wicked smile morphed on her face. 

 “What evil idea do you have brewing in that sneaky brain?” 

 She threw her head back and cackled like a madwoman. “The neighbors want something to talk about, let’s give them something to talk about.” 

* * *

 They spent the day running all over town to gather the items on her list. Shopping included a trip to the thrift store where they’d purchased a used dress for her, and a suit and tie for him that she planned to rip to shreds and trash. 

 “Do you really think this is a wise idea? To freak out the people in the neighborhood?” He pulled the big bottle of faux blood out of the package and set it on the kitchen counter with the other makeup items they’d purchased. “I mean, fuck those awful teenagers, but what about the younger kids?” 

 “Listen, you big softie.” She crossed her arms and turned to him. “Getting scared as a kid is a rite of passage on Halloween. Also, parents aren’t idiots. Our lawn already looks like a graveyard, so it gives fair warning. If their kids are too freaked out, they’ll just pass us on by.”  

 A knock came at the door, followed by a bark from Kahn. 

 “That’s Keith!” Tori clapped her hands and jumped up and down. “Come in!” She shouted. 

 The door creaked open and Keith popped in, with Jonathan, his latest fling behind him. Kahn emitted a snarky, low growl. 

 “Kahn hush!” Scott snapped at the dog who lay on the floor obediently. 

 “Oh shut the fuck up you beast.” Keith reciprocated with his own snarl back at the dog and a middle finger after he shut the door. “Why does he hate me so much?” 

 “Because you won’t pet him in fear you’ll get fur on your pristine pants.” Scott chuckled looking at Keith’s very tight, white, skinny jeans.

 “I love the yard. You two really go all out for Halloween,” Jonathan said as they wandered into the kitchen. “Amazing kitchen!” He eyed the large kitchen with the white cabinetry and ran his fingers over the double-door stainless-steel fridge. “I can’t wait to get to work in here!” He pulled items out from paper sacks. 

 “Have at it Jonathan. My kitchen is now yours!” Tori grinned and turned in Keith’s direction. “Did you get ahold of your friend at the theatre, Keith?” 

 “Yup. Got what you ordered.” He dug into his messenger bag and pulled out several vials of what looked like fluid.

 “Woah. What’s this?” Scott picked up the vial and eyed it.

 Keith laughed and jostled his shoulder. “Look at you examining it like its heroin or something.” 

 Scott read the vial that had Theatrical Lenses imprinted on it and raised a brow. “Contact lenses?” 

 “Scott you’ll get the zombie, icy ones and our little blind bat gets the creepy as hell black ones…”

 He cringed at the thought of something going into his eye. He couldn’t even do eye drops. He placed the vial down and caught Jonathan quietly holding back his giggles. 

 “Oh put on your big-boy pants and suck it up buttercup.” Tori patted his back. “What about Kahn’s costume? Can you hand sew some items on it for me quick?” 

 Scott held his hands up. “Wait. What? We’re dressing the dog now? Is that what the stupid dog sweatshirt was for?” He just figured that was to keep him warm. She spoiled that dog rotten.

 “An un-dead family need a zombie dog.” She shrugged. “That’s also why I got the huge bone.” 

 “What are we doing with the bone?” Scott assumed that ginormous bone was to keep him occupied while they handed out candy. 

 “We’re sticking it into one of your sneakers for him to chomp on, of course.” Tori threw her head back and laughed like a crazy person. “You’ll be going sans-prosthetic tonight, babe.” She patted his shoulder. 

 She had the sickest, most twisted sense of humor. He scratched his brow and mumbled. “We aren’t just going to scare the neighbors, we’re going to traumatize them.” 

* * *

 Two hours later after having makeup slathered all over his face Scott sat on a chair in their bathroom, growing impatient. 

 “Ok. You have to stop blinking every time I get near your eye,” Keith huffed after trying to get the contact in his eye the millionth time. 

 “I got them in just fine, babe.” She turned to him and blinked a few times. She looked positively terrifying. Keith had done a phenomenal job with her makeup and Scott was seriously impressed. The way he drew the black lines from her lips made the corner of the mouth extend into what looked like a fully slashed open cheek. The contacts she was wearing were something Keith called “sclera” lenses. Whatever they were, they were all-black, freaky as hell and covered her entire eyeball. That haunting look added with dripping black and red lines her lids was horrifying. He shivered a bit looking at her.

 “I’m sorry, but that’s an unfair comparison. She can’t see it coming for her. I see something coming for my eye, I blink!” Scott barked back. They’d been at this for thirty minutes and they’d only managed to get one contact in. “Just let me try it myself!”

 “But I don’t want you to see my masterpiece until I’m finished!” Keith whined. “Come on, you’ve been through getting your leg blown to bits. I assume you’re tough enough for this.” 

 “Fine.” He took a deep breath and leaned back, tilting his head to the ceiling. He zoned out and thought about the boring contracts at work sitting on his hard drive, anything to get his mind off the fact a finger was coming toward his eye. 

 As soon as Keith neared him again though, his natural reflex took over and he once again blinked. 

 “Oh for fucks sake. You promised!” Keith stomped his foot. 

 “I’m sorry.” He shook his head and could only laugh. Finally Scott cheated and turned to look at himself in the mirror. “Holy. Fucking. Shit.” 

 “I told you not to look!” Keith scolded him. “We still haven’t got the contacts in!”

 “Dude, this is excellent even with just the one in!” He tilted his jaw side to side, admiring Keith’s handiwork. 

 His skin was a blanch shade of reddish-purple, and his eyes were huge, dark circles perfectly blended into the skin. Lines were drawn on his face to give the impression of veins underneath the paper-thin looking skin, and his lips were blackened. Keith had sprayed his hair and beard full of grey to give it a dulling, dying look. The one eye that had the contact in was a whitish-blue with a small, black pupil. 

 “Fuck it. I’ve got a contingency plan. I give up on the other lens.” Keith waved his hands. He then turned and opened the linen cabinet that had their medicine on the top two shelves. “Oh, come on, tell me you’ve got some gauze in here.” 

 “Top shelf left-hand side there is a tackle box that’s a first aid kit,” Tori chimed as she tucked her hair up under a wig cap. 

 “Leave it to Scott Fucking Harris to use a tackle box as a first aid kit.” Keith chuckled.

 Just then Jonathan came into the room. “Any luck with the lenses?”

 “No.” Tori frowned, as she slipped on a pair of grey tights over her lacy, black underwear. Even with the gory makeup the site of her prancing in next to nothing made him a little stiff. He adjusted himself. 

 “Are you seriously getting an erection?” Keith huffed as he walked back over, gauze in hand.

 “I can’t help it. She’s hot.” He shrugged. 

 “Not my cup of tea.” Jonathan set a large bowl on the counter then wrapped his arms around Keith from behind. “But she does have a pretty decent rack, for a girl.” He winked at Scott who could only chuckle inwardly that Tori was practically naked in front of three men—two of whom her smoking hot body was totally lost on.

 “Yeah, yeah. Vic’s tits are a work of art.” Keith rolled his eyes. 

 “What’s in the bowl?” Scott nodded to the counter. 

 Keith yanked his chin toward him. “Hold still.” Keith wrapped his head in the gauze, covering one eye. 

 “Jello eyeballs.” Jonathan flashed a pearly-white grin and held them out for him to see. 

 Scott belly laughed looking at the bowl full of eyeballs. “So fucking gross.” 

 “Which just helps my plan here!” Keith cackled. “With her all black orb’s and you patched up, this works perfect!” 

 “Seriously, you don’t think this is all too much?” Scott looked down at his residual leg poking out from under the ripped pants. Keith had bloodied it up and added some bite marks. The scarring and stump alone was probably enough to frighten small children. 

 “Nah.” They all chimed in unison. 

 “Babe, this isn’t any scarier than the stuff people see when they walk into the Halloween store.” She waved her hand. 

 “What about you two?” Tori asked as Keith as he dabbed some faux blood to the eye covered in gauze. “You two should get zombiefied with us.” 

 “We’ve had our costumes ready for weeks now.” Jonathan chimed. “Ya, know for the big party.” 

 Scott winced. Jonathan was not supposed to mention that. Keith shot him a shut-the-hell-up look. 

 Tori stopped dead in her tracks and turned to him. “What party? Do you mean Natalie’s party? As in my boss Nat?” 

 “I…I…I’m not sure.” Jonathan grimaced and rubbed the top of his shaved head. His brown eyes pleaded with Scott and Keith for help. 

 “I didn’t’ think she was having it this year…” The wig clutched in her grasp fell to the ground as she swallowed hard. “Guess I wasn’t invited.” She reached to the ground and swiped her hand across the floor, looking for the lost wig. 

 “Here, baby.” Scott picked it up and handed it to her and helped her slip it on.

 “Vic, Nat was just worried about you, she didn’t know if you’d be up for it this year.” Keith rubbed her shoulders. “You’ve been through a lot, and she didn’t want to pressure you.” 

 “No, what she didn’t want was the embarrassment of having me there after the bad press I gave them. God forbid I have any other embarrassing mishaps in front of her hoity-toity DC friends.” Tori stood and straightened her wig. “I should consider myself I’m lucky I’ve still got a job.” 

 “Vic, you know that’s not true. She gave you the entire private event area for your exhibition next month and—” 

 “Just stop.” She held up her trembling hand. “Scott, did you know about this?” 

 Scott reached out and clasped it in his grasp, rubbing it. “I didn’t want to upset you. I’m sorry, baby.” 

 She lifted her chin, and a silence fell over the room, and he waited on her backlash. Finally, she lifted her chin and spoke. “I’m not gonna let this get under my skin. This is my first Halloween in our home. I don’t need her fancy, snobby party. I’ve got all I need right here.” She squeezed his hand tight. “Now, where is my fur baby? Kahn!” She whistled, and the dog came charging into the bathroom. 

 Scott laughed as the dog ran into the room, breaking the tension. “Holy shit babe, he looks fantastic.” Keith had given him a dog onesie and sewn and open rib-cage to the side, covered in blood. “He looks like one of those damn hellhounds from Resident Evil. It’s epic.” 

 She reached down, and felt the side of the costume, taking it in. “Perfect. Just what I wanted.” A grin morphed on her face as Kahn gave her cheek a good lick. 

 “Don’t let him lick you, Vic!” Keith shrieked. “He’ll fuck up that makeup.” 

 “Well, then let’s give him Scott’s leg.” She made air quotes with her fingers as she said the word leg.

* * *

 Before the guys took off Scott made Keith snap some photos of their little family—him, Tori and Kahn—on the front porch. Then they said their goodbyes and took off. 

 He exhaled as he slumped down onto the porch swing, and his crutch hit the deck with a thud. “Dammit, I forgot the bowl of candy…” 

 “I’ve got it. You’re in worse shape than me right now.” She chuckled and disappeared into the house. 

 It was true. With only one crummy wooden crutch—she wouldn’t let him use the metal one—and only one eye he could barely see out of, he was feeling very disabled at the moment. 

 His phone chimed in his pocket and he yanked it out. Keith had quickly texted all the photos to him. He grinned wide looking at the megawatt grin on his girl’s face. All the agony of the exhausting day was worth it to see that smile. Honestly, this was the best damn costume he’d ever had. The certifiably looked dead and decomposing. The lack of his leg helped…a lot. He posted them quick on Facebook and tagged Tori. His mom was gonna have a fit when she saw them. He was never allowed to wear gory costumes growing up. He chuckled at how irked she’d be as he tucked his phone back into his pocket. 

 He laughed louder as he looked down and saw Kahn chomping on the leg bone shoved into his sneaker. It was positively gruesome. 

 Tori came back out with the bowl of candy in hand and sat next to him. 

 “Now what?” he asked. 

 “Now we wait and see who’s brave enough to come to the creepy house.” She smirked and rifled through the bowl, unwrapped a piece of candy and popped it into her mouth, looking quite satisfied. 

They sat there quietly for a few moments as the street lights flickered on. In the distance he could see their first wave of trick-or-treaters heading down the sidewalk. “We have our first.” He nudged her in the side.

“How old?”

“About thirteen.” That was his best guess based on the height. “There’s a big group of them. I think it’s the teenagers.” The ones that loved to Ding-Dong-Ditch them.

“Perfect. Follow my lead.” She plopped the bowl of candy in his lap and exchanged it in her for the bowl full of Jello-eyeballs sitting on the patio table next to her. Scott stifled his snicker watching her zombie walk across the porch, dragging a foot behind her.

Whispers came from the kids and one pushed their pack leader out toward her.

“Trick Or Treat!” the boldest one chimed through his vampire teeth as they walked up. Tori slowly extended her arm with the bowl. The kid went to dig his hand in and froze.

“My eyes!” Tori moaned and clawed under her left eye with her free hand.

The teenager looked over his shoulder at the kids cowering behind him. His eyes shifted to Kahn mowing on the “leg bone” and that’s when the kid squealed and jumped back a few feet.

Scott stood and leaned into his crutch, grabbed the bowl of candy with his free hand, and groaned as he limped over, offering the candy.

The kids all exchanged side-eyes debating if the candy was worth it. Scott grunted and nudged the bowl closer to them and flashed a wicked grin.

A smug grin morphed on the kids face and their eyes locked in mutual respect for the payback prank. The kid jutted out his chin. “Sweet costumes, dude.” The kid palmed the candy and shoved it into his bag. The others shoulders relaxed and followed suit, then they turned and left.

“Holy shit, did you see that?” Scott could hear their whispers as they ran down the sidewalk. “Those people are crazy!” He grinned in satisfaction at the street-cred he just earned with the kids.

After the kids were gone they sat back down. A wide grin was plastered on Tori’s face.

 “You seem happy.” He patted her thigh.

 She swallowed. “Stoooopp.” 

 “What?” He feigned ignorance.

 “That whole droop in your voice. Just don’t.” She shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about my boss, and the fact I wasn’t invited to her party. I don’t want tonight to be about worry over me. I’m glad I wasn’t invited. Honestly. There’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be than right here, on our front porch, with you, scaring kids.” She reached up and touched his cheek, then grimaced. “Ew, your skin feels nasty.” She giggled and rubbed the smudged makeup between her fingertips

 “Yeah, I’d kiss ya, but you’re pretty nasty yourself, woman.” 

 They both erupted in laughter. His heart swelled with adoration for this amazing, strong woman that he was going to spend forever with. Every day he fell harder, deeper and more in love with her. 

 “Aw fuck it. I love your nasty ass.” He leaned in and kissed her.