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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.” 

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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. 

Enjoy!


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.

 

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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.”

halloween

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.