I am usually good for about three-thousand words (sometimes less, sometimes more) before my heroes aren't so heroic and my heroines get lost in ramblings that do not add to the story.
What to do?
My own solution (reached without the help of a psychiatric physician) is to keep starting over. At least it's writing.
Let me show you... (beware...unstellar/unedited writing to follow)
At precisely three seventeen p.m. on Tuesday, January eighth, Daisy Pemberton’s best friend, Joseph Michael Sullivan, lost his ever-loving mind. “What?” Either that or she misheard what he’d just said. But her money, if she had any to spare, would have been on option A.
“I said, let’s have a kid.”
Hmm. So it really was the mind thing. “Uh…” She didn’t even know what to say. “A kid?” This would be like the fish, the turtle, the lizard and the dog. He’d loved each one of them until he forgot to feed the fish, water the turtle, turn the heat lamp on the lizard, and had to clean up a pile after he forgot to let the dog out.
“You know, a miniature person.”
She would have smacked him in the head, tried to knock some sense into him, if he hadn’t been using his eyes to plead with her. “Yeah. I know what kids are. I think what’s confusing me is…what has your biological clock ticking down. You have plenty of time to go out, meet some girl, make her yours and put a bun in her oven. You don’t need mine.”
Joey sighed. “You know as well as I know, I am not the marrying kind. I’m good for four or five dates then…you know.”
Yeah. She knew. She’d seen it hundreds of times with the harem of women he paraded through their apartment. It always came right back around to his boredom or disillusionment. Whatever it was that caused the too-soon endings to his relationships, it didn’t stop him from falling in love with every single one of them, but neither did it stop him from crashing back out either “What makes you think it would be any different with a kid?”
Instead of pacing, like she expected, he sat beside her, laid his head in her lap like he’d done a thousand times before. Only this time, she noticed every fleck of blue in his eyes, the way his eyelashes curled up—the rat bastard—the way he caressed the hand she laid on his chest. “You are my best friend. The one person I know I can count on no matter what. And if we had a kid, it would be so…amazing.”
“You’re losing it, pal.” That had to be it. Nothing else made sense.
“No. I have thought about this. A lot. I’m tall and you’re funny. I’m athletic and you’re smart. Think of what our kid would be like.”
She shook her head. “What if it goes the other way? What if we make a short, boring, klutzy, dumbass?”
He chuckled. “I would love it anyway. And so would you, so stop trying to shoot this down before you’ve given it any real thought. It’s a great idea and you know it. Neither one of us is getting any younger. We have plenty of money between us.” He had money. She had barely enough to make it through to her next paycheck. Before she could tell him, he covered her hand with his and gave her fingers a little squeeze. “Our schedules are perfect for t-ball and soccer games. My mom lives close enough to babysit.” He sighed again. “I really want this.”
“Like you wanted the dog we had to take back to the pound? Or the poor fish, who right now, is circling the sewer system? Want it like you wanted those?” But a baby. A cuddly little person with his eyes and her hair…
No. Not until she was married. At thirty, she had plenty of time.
And no prospects for a potential husband. She sat back and tried to remember the last time she’d even been on a date. Was it June? No. May. With the banker who waited until dessert to tell her he’d declined her loan.
“Those were different. The dog hated me, and all the fish did was swim back and forth in the tank with those big bulging eyes and that flappy little fin. It creeped me out.”
“What if the kid creeps you out?”
He held her hand up to his, slipped his fingers through hers. “I watch Susan’s baby all the time. Change diapers even. I feed her. I bathed her. I am a great uncle.”
This was crazy. What was crazier was that she was even considering it. “You get to send that baby back at the end of the night.”
“But I never want to…when she wraps her little hand around my finger…” He smiled. “I want that.”
“Are you sure you aren’t just lonely?”
He pressed a kiss to her palm. “I’m not lonely. I have you.”
That was true. He did have her. And she had him. And she didn’t see anything that would ever change that. But… “Don’t you want to build a family with someone you love?”
He ran his tongue over his lower lip. She’d seen him do it a million times, but now, it kicked up the pulse rate. What the hell? It had to be all this baby talk.
“I do love you. More than anyone else in the world.” Oh Lord. Her heart was going to beat right out of her ribs. “This makes sense for both of us. Think of how loved the kid would be with the two of us as parents. I don’t know anyone with a bigger heart than you or with more smiles. And your hugs…God, Daisy, they make everything that’s wrong right again.”
“Will you think about it?” He batted those eyelashes to his extreme benefit. “Please?”
“What if I say no?”
He shrugged. “I would be sad about it, but it won’t change anything between us.” Somehow, she didn’t believe him and that worried her. She’d known him for twenty-five years and she could tell when he was lying. It was the smile, the way it didn’t quite reach his eyes, the way his full lips compressed into a tiny line, the way he wouldn’t look at her. “It’s just an idea.”
She pursed her lips. “I’ll think about it.” Not because he’d made many valid points in his bid to convince her, but because until he’d mentioned it, she hadn’t realized how much she wanted a baby of her own.
By three a.m. she’d cleaned the entire house, washed down the patio and driven herself the kind of crazy that had her talking to herself as she rolled the hose back onto its spool. “So, we have a yard that is perfect for kids and a house meant for a family. So what?” Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, the very reason she had no money. “But a kid costs a lot of money.”
Down the block, a dog howled in reply, and she shook her head. “Absolutely right,” she said imagining the dog coming down on her side of the argument. “What if something happens? Like we don’t agree on whether or not the kid should go to private school or public school?” Joey was a trust-fund baby who’d gone to all the best schools—ones with headmasters and uniforms—while the walls of her school had been tagged by more than one graffiti artist.
And how the hell did he propose she get pregnant? No matter how drunk they’d ever been together, he hadn’t made so much as a single remark, never came onto her whatsoever, not even when he’d asked her for kissing lessons when they were fifteen. She’d taught, hoping…then he’d turned right around and used all her technique help on Janelle Currington. The simple truth was Joe Sullivan did not find Daisy Pemberton one bit attractive. And that hadn’t sucked until now. And not only did it suck, it would make getting pregnant more scientific than magical. And she’d always dreamed of the magical part of it.
She flopped onto a chaise and looked up at the stars comparing herself to some of the women he’d brought home recently. They were all stick thin where Daisy had curves and a couple out-of-her-control jiggles. The last two—Barbie and Mikaila—had come from his world—old money and plenty of privilege. The only old money Daisy had ever seen was a wheat penny she’d found lying on the sidewalk. Not that she had any experience with new money either. Her only familiarity with money was watching it leave her bank account.
Her world was so different from his. It amazed her sometimes that they’d ever become friends. At five, he’d showed her which fork to use at dinner. At ten, she’d taught him to climb out his window and shimmy down the drain pipe. At twelve, he’d taught her to waltz and at fifteen she’d dolled herself up, slathered on a mouthful of strawberry flavored lip gloss, and taught him how to kiss.
And, my oh my, he had been a quick learner. Of course, then she’d gone to Chad Morell’s end of the summer party and caught Joey making out with Janelle, holding her face between his hands, just like Daisy had told him to, and it had sent Daisy running home to cry herself to sleep. It was two whole days before she could pull herself together. Even after all the years that had passed since then, the memory of it ached just a little.
But a baby?
She marched into the house, straight up to his room and flipped on the light. “Wake up.” He didn’t so much as stir. She walked over to the bed and shoved his shoulder.
“Daisy, unless you’re waking me up to finish what was going on in that dream, could you please shut off my light and go away?”
This from the man who wanted a baby. Did he know nothing about middle of the night feedings? Still, she was here on a mission with a question burning in her mind. “Are you talking test tubes and turkey basters or…what?”
She crossed her arms over her chest, the tizzy she’d worked herself into making her impatient and annoyed. “Am I going to be a science experiment or are we…are we sleeping together?” She couldn’t ask much plainer than that.
“You’re really thinking about it.” He said it as if she’d ever lied to him or led him to believe she would not do something she’d said she would.
“Yeah. I’m a great girl. Now answer the question.”
He grinned and sat up, pulled her onto his lap and wrapped both arms around her waist. “I vote for the old fashioned way.”
She’d hugged him more times than she could count, woken him from a million deep sleeps, even sat on his lap when the situation called for it, but she’d never noticed how truly handsome he was—even up close—with sleepy eyes and mussed hair. Her skin prickled with goose bumps. “The old fashioned way.”
He nodded. “Oh yeah.” He pulled her closer until her shoulder rested against his chest and her ass was nestled over top of his morning wood. “I’m all about the old fashioned way. Of course…” He pressed a kiss against her throat. “If you want to be on top every once in a while, we can do that, too. As a matter of fact… we could practice now…if you want.” Each pause was punctuated with another kiss or nibble along her neck and jaw. She could have melted right there.
Instead, she leaped off his lap. She hadn’t shaved her legs in weeks. Or anything else. Ordinarily, she would have told him and they would have laughed, or he might have even known it, since he kept up with her dating routines like they were his own. But since he was the guy she was considering making a baby with—and to be honest, she couldn’t believe she was considering it—she kept the information to herself. “Go back to sleep, Joey.”
Her exit was as speedy as her entrance, and she plopped on her own bed before she had a second to process what had just happened. He’d kissed her. That was what had happened. And he’d done it with way more technique than she’d taught him. Lord, the man had skills. Enough that she had almost dropped her panties right there—leg hair be damned.
Holy mother of God. What was she doing? This was a twenty-five year friendship that would be wrecked if something went wrong. She didn’t want to let him down, or herself for that matter, but losing him wasn’t an option, either. But she had promised to think about it.
1. If something happens, we could end up not being friends anymore.
2. I would have to take time off work to have the baby, which I cannot really afford.
3. Babies cost a lot of money and I don’t have a lot of money.
4. We had to give the dog back. Babies are non-returnable.
5. Joey paid me a hundred dollars tonight to change a diaper.
6. My car is seventeen years old and his car is too small to accommodate a baby seat.
1. Joey would be a great dad. He’s athletic and smart, handsome and out-going.
2. Sex with Joey.
3. Sex with Joey.
4. Sex with Joey.
If the moaning and screaming she’d heard through the walls over the years was any indication—that and the way her body reacted to those few kisses—sex with Joey deserved a whole page on the pro side. She pushed her warm milk away, crumpled her list into a ball, and tossed it at the trash can. In three short hours, she had to be at work. She had to at least try to get some sleep.
The house was quiet when she woke which either meant Joey had left for work or he was still sleeping. She peeked into his room. Already gone. Good. Though she wanted to talk more about his “idea”, it would make her late for her shift at the hospital and today, of all days, she couldn’t afford to be anything but on time.
Yearly evaluations determined the size of her raise. Last year, she’d gotten a dime. But this year, she’d put her heart and soul into her job, came in early, stayed late, took shifts no one else wanted. Nursing demanded long hours as it was, since the hospital was so horribly under-staffed, but she’d done her part to make sure her patients didn’t feel that particular pinch. And even if she didn’t decide to take on the expense of a baby, she had twenty thousand dollars in student loans still to pay. All those years of trying to decide what she wanted to be had cost her a lot of time and money.
All the way to the hospital, she rehearsed her answers to the questions she knew they would ask. What do you feel is your greatest strength? The ability to calm a patient under extraordinarily trying circumstances. The ability to remain focused on patient care under any pressure.
Pft. That was two answers. Damn. She couldn’t think straight with so much Joey in her head. Joey’s lips against that vein in her throat. Joey’s soft murmurs as he tasted her skin. Sure. They were calculated. She wasn’t so blind as to think there wasn’t some game in those kisses, but she’d take a little play over wondering what being worshiped felt like. Because that was what he’d done in those few minutes. He’d worshiped her.
She pulled the car into an empty spot and took a minute to breathe. Deep.
Ten minutes later she was back in the car, banging her hand against the steering wheel. Worst day of her life. Laid off. Lack of population in the hospital, they’d said. We’ll give you a sterling reference, they’d said. Two month’s severance, they’d said. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Well, they hadn’t said that, but it was clearly implied when they asked for her badge and her key to the medicine closet.
To her credit, she’d waited to cry until now, alone in her car. She needed this damned job to make rent, to pay her loans, to finance this baby idea with Joey. There wasn’t another hospital for miles. Yeah, there was a nursing home, but she’d make half of what she made at the hospital, and that had already been an uphill struggle.
At this rate, she’d end up back at her mother’s living on the fold out sofa while Penelope Pemberton stood in the kitchen doorway watching her and making clucking sounds with her tongue. God. Anything but that.
She shoved down her sense of fair and unfair and drove out of the lot as if she had somewhere to go. Which she didn’t. Instead of heading home, she applied for jobs at the mall, the coffee shop, the gas station, three fast food places and the nursing home. What choice did she have? She drove home and parked behind Joey’s sporty little coupe.
She walked in the door and found him on the sofa with a beer and a bowl of cheese puffs. “How’d the evaluation go?” She should have known he’d remember a detail she’d told him last week.
Instead of answering, she snatched his beer and drank every last drop.
“That good, huh?” He squeezed her knee. “So no raise?” He shrugged. “That’s okay.”
“Oh, if only. I got laid off, which is just a nicer way of saying fired.” The words burned and she sighed. This was not the turn she’d imagined her day taking.
“Why?” He slung his arm around her shoulders and tucked her in at his side.
“Budget something. Under population mumbo jumbo.”
“They’re fools to let you go.”
“Well, they do not share your opinion. And because of that, I spent the day job hunting.” She kicked her feet up onto the coffee table, snuggled closer. Joey was and always had been her comfort in her dark hours. “And I am exhausted.”
“Why don’t I run you a bath and you can relax while I cook supper?”
Something about the offer, the idea of being taken care of, nurtured on a bad day—the worst day—made her blood boil. She sat up straight, faced him head on. “Always the hero, huh? Run me a bath. Cook me supper.” She shook her head more at the venom in her words rather than the words themselves.
“Something you want to say, Daisy?” If he would have smiled, she couldn’t have said she wouldn’t slug him.
“Could you just stop being so God damned you for once?”
He cocked an eyebrow, “So God damned me?”
“Mr. Sensitive. Mr. Perfect, always glass half full. Just once I want to see you with your glass spilled on the freaking floor.” She stood and bumped her shin on the coffee table. “Just once I don’t want to feel like I’m the only one that life is shitting on.”
“Welcome to your pity party.”
“Screw you.” She stomped three steps then turned to face him again, ignoring the throbbing in her leg. “You know what?”
She opened her mouth to tell him that she was upset, not over losing her job, not for any other reason than because she’d decided that having his baby was an adventure she’d been willing to go on. But the softness of his voice, the kindness in his eyes, the willingness to let her rail on him, stopped her. Instead, she snapped her lips closed and blew a loud breath out her nose. “Nothing. Never mind.” What good would saying it now do? None. “I’m going to bed.”
In the darkness of her room, the tears came, then the sobs, then Joey. He slipped onto the bed beside her and pulled her close, let her tears soak his shirt as he smoothed her hair and stroked her back. “It’s okay, you know. There’re other jobs.”
“I know.” In the dark of the room, or in the light so long as he was the only one there, she could tell the truth. Even if the sound of the syllables tore out her own heart. “I just feel so useless. At least when I had the job I had a reason to get up in the morning, somewhere to go where people...I don’t know…needed me?”
“I need you.”
It was lovely to hear, but it was another of those things he said because he was her friend. “No. You have your own life and friends. A job to go to where you’re too important to get laid off. I couldn’t even afford to live here if you didn’t pay two-thirds of the mortgage.” She shook her head. “I hate this. I hate feeling like this.”
He tilted her chin up and even in the almost darkness she could see the blue in his eyes. “Don’t you know that you are the most important person in my life? I get up in the morning and try to beat you to the kitchen because I am so afraid I might miss something you say.”
She chuckled. “Who would I be talking to in the kitchen if you weren’t in there?”
With every brush of his finger from her chin to her earlobe, a fraction of her tension ebbed. “I don’t know, but I’m not willing to take that chance. That’s why I asked you to have a baby with me. I want to share something so big with you that, no matter what happens, we’ll be connected for the rest of our lives.” He sighed. “Go to sleep now. We can talk in the morning.”
He kissed the top of her head. “Shh.”
And then there's ...
Erin Ellis--not her real name--put the phone to her ear. To any passerby, not that there were any this far from civilization, it would look like she was simply calling for a tow for her broken down VW Bug. But with each number she spoke, televisions all over some town, somewhere, changed stations. Digital clocks ran backwards. Lights blinked. Car horns honked. But most importantly, a security system--the one located at 7119 Merlin Court in Hughes, Missouri--switched off.
All according to plan.
Thunder rolled overhead and rain splattered the windows, obstructing her view of the house, but also distorting anyone's sight of her. Perfect. She pulled off the bra under her thin white tank top and shoved it under the seat. "Now or never."
And Never certainly wasn't an option.
Inside the cabin that was more mansion than cabin, Wyatt Shayne's spidey senses were tingling. Use the house, they said. It's only 3 days, they said. No one comes out there, they said. Well, if that was true, the vintage VW steaming in front of his house must have been an apparition. And the leggy blonde getting soaked as she blundered in the trunk must have been a ghost. But the way she looked up at the sky, closed her eyes and exposed an expanse of tanned rain-slicked throat his mouth watered to taste, that had to be real. His dick, which hadn't seen action since he'd taken the job with Lionel Simnel III three months earlier, said so.
He moved away from the window and popped open the front door. "Hey, you okay?"
"Yeah." She shouted her reply over another thunderous boom. "I have groceries and the tow truck guy said it was gonna be a couple hours."
Better judgment be damned. What good southern boy left a damsel soaking out in the rain? One who was supposed to be guarding a couple million dollars in diamonds. His brain supplied the answer his cock didn't want to hear. His cock, not to be outdone, pointed out that she was all of 5'2" and a curvy 110 pounds. Luscious. Curvy. Pounds. Plus, she'd have to tear the house apart to find the safe. Surely, he could overtake her before she managed that.
He grinned, decision made, and ran from under the covered porch into the downpour.
SEE THE PROBLEM??????