Free Short Story: The Untethered House

We were excited and anxious, or maybe we were anxiously excited, but either way, this was the first house we were purchasing as a couple. It signified a big step in our relationship and our lives. On the advice of our agent, we had the house inspected before finalizing the purchase, but, well, we passed on some of the steps because they didn’t seem necessary. I mean, everything looked fine.

We should have known better.

Yes, we hired a professional to check the foundation, the plumbing, and the electrical wiring, not just for soundness but also for insecurity. The last thing anyone wants is a home that lacks confidence. We made sure there were no infestations of Dadaists in the attic (we were told that’s where they typically nest when writing manifestos) and we also had the house scanned for dentists, particularly orthodontists, who are almost impossible to get rid of once they’ve established themselves. We even had it checked for existential termites, the kind that eschew wood but keep you up all hours of the night by doubting your existence – even when you’re right there in front of them! It’s maddening.

So, when we woke up that first morning after moving in, we were quite surprised to find our beautiful backyard view of the woods was gone and we were now looking out on a strip-mining operation. We attempted to put an optimistic spin on the change, telling ourselves it was probably just the house getting used to its new owners and we’d be back at our original address the next day.

We decided to simply go about our business. We painted one of the bedrooms – post-apocalypse blue, it’s all the rage. We even attempted our first barbecue on the deck, but with all the strip-mine phosphates in the air, we had to call it off. There’s a limit to how much thyme and rosemary you can put on chicken to cover up the taste of variscite.

That night we went to bed tired but hopeful we’d wake up in our original neighborhood. Our situation only became more precarious as the next morning we found ourselves suspended several hundred feet over a scientific outpost in Antarctica. How did we know it was Antarctica? The emperor penguins tipped us off. How did we know they were emperor penguins? Because of all the coronation ceremonies.

We wrote a note, rolled it up, tied it to one of those little Hummel statues – I think it was “Girl with a Deringer Hunting Sheep” – and dropped it out the front door so someone from the outpost could let our families know we were okay. Cell phone service was really spotty at our altitude.

Knowing our families would be informed, we opened up a bottle of Chateau de Micky Dolenz, my partner’s favorite – it had hints of boysenberry, newsprint, and innocence – and discussed our situation. We both agreed we should have asked more questions of our realtor, especially when she commented that the neighborhood we were looking at was “on the move.” You know how it is though, you see and hear what you want to see and hear. We needed to contemplate our next move, figuratively and literally.

First, we came to grips with reality. We were the owners of a dimensionally unstable house. It’s not completely unheard of, but it is rare. It usually occurs when a house, which given its stationary nature, is unduly influenced by owners with a high concentration of nomadic DNA. Some houses are just more sensitive than others. My partner had Phoenician ancestors and I came from a long line of furniture movers, so we fit the bill.

Faced with our new situation, we determined we had two choices. We could relist the house which would require full disclosure, so we’d end up selling at a loss. Or keep it and have our dwelling desensitized by a gravity druid, which wasn’t always guaranteed to work, as it depended largely on the house’s receptivity. But which to choose?

We decided to make a list of pluses and minuses. On the plus side, if we kept the house and it remained dimensionally unanchored, we’d never have to deal with surprise visits from in-laws. We could also earn some extra income by listing our home on WhoKnowsWhere BNB. On the minus side, mail delivery would be inconsistent at best, our daily commute could last weeks, and throwing a party was out of the question unless it had a scavenger hunt theme.

Our debate went on for several days as we found ourselves waking up in different locales each morning. Once we found ourselves in the savannah, surrounded by thousands of migrating accountants. We let them pass through the living room while we hid upstairs. We didn’t want to risk an audit.

The next day, we seemed to be in the middle of a town square, which at first seemed benign, until we discovered it was the day of the annual hippogriff celebration, which naturally included a parade. And guess where the staging area was? Yep, right where we were. That was preferable to what happened the following day. We were precariously balanced on a ledge on K2. Lucky for us, the local sherpas offered to share their oxygen in exchange for some tea and crullers.

As much as we enjoyed the travel, the situation was becoming untenable. We had both taken a week away from our jobs to work on the new house, but our time off was coming to a close. We had to get back to our routine, one way or another.

We think the house must have sensed our anxiety because something changed.

Each and every weekday morning the house now materializes quite close to where we each work, usually in an open lot or atop a parking garage. We have breakfast, leave for the day, after which it vanishes until it’s time to pick us up at the end of the day.

Each evening, we and our newly responsive house return to our original address. But the weekends? Well, our weekend destinations are always something special.

The relationship with our house is so good now, we can leave a list of things to do on our refrigerator door and the house will materialize in the backyards of whichever contractors we need for the job. It’s come in very handy so far, especially when something unexpected happens, like the day we found a litter of hippogriffs in the broom closet.

Now, whenever we talk to anyone who’s thinking about purchasing a home, we tell them all about the three most important real estate considerations to keep in mind: dislocation, dislocation, dislocation.

About the Author: Rob Roy O’Keefe is the author of Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel.


LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Past Imperfect by Michael Parker

Thanks for joining us on our 15th anniversary scavenger hunt! There are two ways to enter to win and it’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the first Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC (along with other prizes). Follow and visit authors’ social media pages on the second Rafflecopter and you’re entered to win another $100 Amazon/BN GC (along with other prizes)!

It is two years since the wife of best-selling author Max Reilly died in a car crash along with her lover. Max is still recovering from her death and deception, but when he meets Emma — who is awaiting divorce from her violent husband — he quickly becomes attracted to her. Emma is cautious and keen to hold back. Max is determined but needs to keep his secrets from her. This becomes increasingly difficult for Max when he finds himself facing his past and one secret in particular involving violence, murder and betrayal.

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Winter Blogfest: D. V. Stone

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a gift package containing a 2022 wall calendar, D. V. Stone limited edition t-shirt, bookmarks, and memo binder. Sorry only shipped to US addresses only. If out of the US, I will award an e-copy of Rock House Grill via Amazon. .

My Thoughts about Christmas

Many anxious shoppers are worried about giving gifts this year with so much product stuck on a boat somewhere. But there are so many more important things than physical giftsmemories

Every year my husband, who was born on St. Nicholas day, creates memories for our neighbors, friends, and family. He assembles a massive Christmas display inside and out. Year after year people come to see it and bring their children and grandchildren. It’s a tradition in our neighborhood.

I remember one of my sons friends many years ago was asked by the local newspaper what he remembered about his favorite Christmas. Guess what? It wasnt wrapped under the tree. His best memory was walking in the snow with his family. This was a twelve-year-old boy.

Several years ago, DH and I began a new tradition with our son, his wife, and our grands. Instead of toys that break or clothes they grow out of, we decided to give memories. Each year they receive a family gift of a camping gift card. So far, theyve been to Gettysburg, Texas, and Tennessee. They dont have a camper yet, so stay in the camp cabins.

For birthdays they get complimentary gifts like a fishing pole or sleeping bag. As a family, they now have the camping bug and will be buying a camper in the near future.

Let me tell you, the joy we get from the pictures they send or the phone calls about what fun they are having is priceless and could never come from a box. Memories are things that can never be taken away.

We celebrate Christmas in our house. Many of our friends have different beliefs and celebrations. I think we all agree on one thing. The joy of love, family, friends, and the memories we make together, those remembrances that burrow deep inside each of us, can never be bought, wrapped, or destroyed.

Order cheap levitra is not a brand name of levitra found available in affordable price in best quality.. If you avoid sex then soft cialis online your life will become more positive. Hence, to get rid get cialis of this erection issue but this problem can t be cure permanently. Exercising is another levitra line great thing for impotence. So, are you looking for a gift and wondering what to do? Look around you. What experience and memories can you give? Does she want a horse but lives in a city? How about looking for a nearby stable that offers lessons. Does he like trains? Is there a train station that offers scenic tours?

Stuff gets old and broken. Clothes get torn and grown out of. But memories? They last forever. Rock House Grill has a celebration scene. They all gather together, and looking around the table, the main characters conclude that they have much to be thankful for.

How about you? Do you have a memory that is greater than any present from under the tree?

Aden House, successful but driven chef and TV personality, refuses to slow down. His life implodes one night, damaging him both physically and emotionally. He’s rescued by a woman he thinks of as his angel.

Shay McDowell has rebuilt her life after her divorce. She juggles volunteer EMT duties and her job, while dreaming of becoming a chef. She finds her way to Rock House Grill and back into the life of the man she helped save.

Can love be the ingredient needed to survive the many obstacles they face?

Recently retired from full-time employment in a medical office, she’s wife to an amazing husband, mother to one son, and not your average grandma to three beautiful grands. A woman of faith, D. V., believes and trusts in God. When not behind the wheel of 2Hoots—a 41 foot long 13.2 feet high 5th Wheel camper she rambles around town in Northern New Jersey in a white Camaro.

“My greatest pleasures are spending time outside with friends and family, cooking over the open fire, sipping a glass of wine, and reading.”

Hali, her rescue dog, always reminds her to let readers know, “Woof, woof.” Which is loosely translated as support your local animal rescue.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Sweet Dreams at The Palace Hotel by Stella Jayne Phillips

Thanks for joining us on our 14th anniversary scavenger hunt! There are two ways to enter to win and it’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the first Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC (along with other prizes). Follow and visit authors’ social media pages on the second Rafflecopter and you’re entered to win another $100 Amazon/BN GC (along with other prizes)!

Nikki Benton crossed the threshold of the historic Palace Hotel, leaving her shattered dreams behind. Determined to follow in the footsteps of the hotel’s original owner, she put her heart into creating an intimate lodging experience while becoming an integral part of the community. So what if she takes lessons on embracing life? And, does it truly matter that her teacher, Mrs. Victoria Wyatt, is the hotel’s live-in ghost?

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Gelato Surprise by Sadira Stone

Thanks for joining us on our 14th anniversary scavenger hunt! There are two ways to enter to win and it’s easy to play– first read the blurb below, then answer the question on the first Rafflecopter. You might win a $100 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC (along with other prizes). Follow and visit authors’ social media pages on the second Rafflecopter and you’re entered to win another $100 Amazon/BN GC (along with other prizes)!

She came to the beach to find herself—and found him.

Forty-two-year-old divorcée Danielle Peters ends up alone on her family’s annual beach vacation. Maybe time to herself is exactly what she needs. That and gelato from her favorite ice cream shop. But when the owner’s intoxicating young nephew offers more than sweet treats, she’s tempted to indulge in a hot summer fling before returning home.

Thirty-one-year-old Matteo Verducci craved a fresh start to mend his broken heart, and he’s found almost perfection in Ocean View, where he scoops gelato by day and crafts furniture by night. But when a sexy older woman stops to sample his wares—Mamma mia! He only has two weeks to convince her their passion is more than a delicious surprise.


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City of Lights by Kelly Byrd – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kelly Byrd will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What happens when oh so ordinary Mary Jingo, follows her instincts (and her nose) and ends up in a magical land Far From Home?

In City of Lights, author Kelly Byrd introduces readers to Mary, who is one week away from finishing fifth grade. Mary’s mind is on starting middle school in the fall and finally getting her own phone. But then this ordinary girl notices glimmers of light and meets a strange little man who conjures the best smell she has ever smelled. Before she even stops to consider what she’s doing, she agrees to accompany the man to the land of LeeChee, where our Mary Jingo from the Shadowlands in seen as warrior and a great hope.

Now this very ordinary girl must find a way to help save LeeChee from Thrall and restore the Everything—a magical life- and joy-giving force that somehow connects Mary’s world to LeeChee. How can she face the Void, the foul-smelling Shoeboxians, or the evil Mellie? And how can she do all of the Far From Home?

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It wasn’t quite a dragon. The winged figure circled them once, and stirred up such a strong wind that Mary had to raise her arm to cover her eyes. The giant creature landed soundlessly on the grass on the other side of the split-rail fence. Its eyes pierced Mary with such intensity that she wondered if she would shrink and shrink until she could hide under a rock on the ground. Its body was almost ten feet long and almost as tall. The wingspan was three times that, and its beak was huge and curved. The unusual animal stood on four legs, that ended in long sharp talons, each one a pale shade of gold.

On first glance, Mary thought it was covered in scales, but the creature was actually fitted from talon to tail in a thick black armor. Unlike any other bird she had seen, it had a long tail that whipped back and forth as the creature stood quietly in front of them.

It smelled like a rainstorm and lightning, and Mary could tell that this being was powerful beyond anyone she had ever met. The creature’s eyes were so intelligent that Mary was certain it had something to say.

Bobble, Mikeala, and Van Clare led Mary over to the entrance of the fence towards the giant creature and Van Clare quietly said, “Listen, Mary. Do you have Thunderbirds in the Shadowlands?”

“What are ‘the Shadowlands?’” Mary asked.

“Never mind,” Van Clare said, shaking her head slightly. “Do you have creatures like these where you come from.”

Mary shook her head.

“I know you are afraid, Mary Jingo,” Van Clare said, turning towards Mary. She looked down at her. “I was afraid, too, the first time I met a Thunderbird. Fear isn’t a bad thing. It lets you know that danger may be near. But these creatures have been allied with our People for hundreds of years. If you are kind to WindRunner, he will be kind to you. Do you understand?”

Mary nodded quickly, and wondered of all things, what had happened to her fuzzy pink slippers. She had not seen them in a while.

About the Author Kelly Byrd is a middle-grade author by choice, a writer by discipline, home-grown chef, and amateur gardener. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and two cute-as-buttons rescue pups. The Far From Home series is about growing up, finding your voice, and rescuing the Everything.

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Winter Blogfest: Avery Easton

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Love Me A Little in a format of your choosing: Kindle, paperback, or audiobook.

Getting In The Holiday Spirit with Musicals

When Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to Tootie in Meet Me In St. Louis, I have a hard time keeping it together. There’s a reason I write romances centered around Broadway–music has a way of making a story soar. 

Just one song can bring a tear to my eye. When the Whos down in Whoville start singing “Welcome Christmas”? You’ll find me needing a tissue. And if a little kid is singing (lookin’ at you, Love Actually), forget it. It doesn’t even have to be an emotional song. But if there’s a melody, and bonus, a key change, I’m going to get goosebumps and probably cry. 

I’ve always been this way, and that’s why musical theatre means so much to me. Music can bring us together in a way that not much else can. When we all come together to sing and our voices blend… it doesn’t matter if you’re a trained vocalist or can’t carry a note. That’s true magic any time of the year. But especially around the holidays. 

Every year around this time, I throw a huge holiday party and we all gather around my piano and sing every carol and festive song in the songbooks. This year, I will miss gathering my friends close, arms around each other, and singing our hearts out. 

This year, I will have to keep myself company with all the music from movies and musicals on my Christmas playlist, which is almost all I will listen to until December 26th. And of course, I’ll watch the classics: Meet Me In St. Louis, White Christmas. I’ll throw Mame in for good measure (we do need a little Christmas, right this very minute!). 

The cast recordings of She Loves Me, Elf, and A Christmas Story will feature heavily, and of course the Muppet Christmas Carol. It doesn’t get better than “It Feels Like Christmas”. There are also the Broadway Carols for the Cure compilations. The cast of Hamilton singing “Joy to the World”? Yes very much, thank you. 

And for me and every other theatre kid that came of age in the late nineties, Rent is a necessity. It starts and ends on Christmas Eve and is therefore a Christmas musical. 

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So Judy’s song hits different this year. But I will still get in the spirit, grateful for the health of my family and friends and the technology that keeps us together. I will keep the faith that better days are ahead. 

Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then… we’ll have to muddle through somehow. 

Happy holidays, to one and all.

Heartbroken, Evie O’Hara is trying to move on after her world was changed by a tragic accident. She seeks comfort in her favorite showtunes, sung by her one-time Broadway crush. Although fiercely protective of his privacy, stage and screen star Ethan Carter is lonely. Happy enough with his career and his dog, he still feels an emptiness in his life.

When her best friend gifts her with a weekend trip to New York to see Ethan perform, Evie is thrilled when he singles her out of the crowd. For the first time in over a year, she feels almost…happy. And while inviting a fan backstage, even a pretty one, isn’t what Ethan would normally do, something tells him that Evie is different.

They spend an idyllic, passionate weekend together, forging a deep connection. Neither is ready to say goodbye forever. The odds seem against them as they battle Ethan’s enthusiastic, often intrusive, fans, the hundreds of miles between them, and Evie’s fear of risking her heart again. But if the magic of that first wonderful weekend can endure, theirs could be a love that hits the right note–a love that lasts forever.

With over ten years of wedding planning experience and a lifetime onstage, Avery Easton knows romance. She began writing stories in a pink Snoopy notebook when she was seven years old, and hasn’t stopped since. If she’s not reading, writing, or planning weddings, you can find her cross stitching or belting out showtunes. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two adorable cats.


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Arresting the Warlord by Gail Koger – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Gail Koger will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

CeeCee Tsosie is a Navajo Nation police officer and shaman with the ability to control the weather. She’ll admit arresting Jake Jones, a Coletti Warlord, for speeding was not one of her better decisions. But hey, the law was the law and the drop-dead gorgeous warlord pushed every one of her buttons. She might have been a tad over-zealous with her rainstorm and stun gun, but the Jackass had it coming.

An alien serial killer is stalking the Navajo Nation. The Coletti Empire is hunting a galactic fugitive. Turns out they need each other’s help to stop the shapeshifting predator. Can she work with the Jackass? Can Jake convince CeeCee she’s the one? Only time, and the spirits will tell.

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Thirty seconds later, we appeared in sick bay. “Get your hands off me,” I snapped.

Jake pushed me away. “Yes, ma’am.”

Shrek’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Where’s my father?”

Shrek handed me a chocolate bar. “Please follow me.”

“There’s not enough chocolate in the galaxy to get me to accept this lying jackass.” I threw the bar at Jake.

Jake grabbed it out of mid-air and tore off the wrapping. “Your loss. This is the good stuff.”

I gave him the one-fingered salute and hurried after Shrek.

“Your father is still very weak. Do not upset him,” Shrek warned.

“You have my word I won’t tell him about the murders or Elder Benally’s death until he’s stronger.”

“Elder Tsosie knows you two are mated. Please act appropriately.”

“What?” I squawked. “Who told him?”

“Zarek.” Shrek walked into a private room.

Jake dropped an arm over my shoulders. “Smile, buttercup.”

I bared my teeth at him.

“CeeCee?” My father’s voice was a harsh whisper.

Shrugging off Jake’s arm, I hurried over to his bed and forced a smile. His face was pale and gaunt. “I thought I had lost you.”

“And I you.”

“Hey, I was wearing my magic vest. Nothing penetrates it.”

Jake gave me a smacking kiss. “My girl’s hard to kill.”

“You have accepted Jake Jones as your mate.” Relief filled my father’s face.

I took a deep breath and lied, “Yeah. He’s one of kind.”

“Good. Good. You need a strong man at your side. Did you kill the Chupacabra?”

Jake beamed proudly. “CeeCee fried his ass.”

“The murders have stopped?” My father had assumed his Council Elder demeanor.

“Ah. Well.”

Shrek jumped in. “Jake and CeeCee can bring you up-to-date after you have rested.” He tapped his bracelet and my father fell asleep. “You can tell him tomorrow.”

“Does my father know he was given Zarek’s blood?” I couldn’t keep the hostility out of my voice.

“He does,” Shrek replied.

“Was my father told he’ll become a Coletti hybrid?” I knew I was being a bitch, but my entire life had been turned upside down and soon I would be sporting a nifty pair of fangs too.

Shrek’s calm yellow eyes studied me. “Everything was explained to him.”

“When you’re facing death, it’s an easy decision to make,” Jake interjected.

“My father is very proud of his heritage and he would never give it up.”

“Your dad has lost nothing. He’s still a Navajo shaman but now he’s harder to kill and his lifespan is a lot longer.” The expression on Jake’s face was pure steel. “I thought you’d be happy to have the old guy around longer.”

“I am. A lot has happened in the last twenty-eight hours and I need time to process it all.”

About the Author I was a 9-1-1 dispatcher for the Glendale Police Department and to keep from going totally bonkers – I mean people have no idea of what a real emergency is. Take this for an example: I answered, “9-1-1 emergency, what’s your emergency?” And this hysterical woman yelled, “My bird is in a tree.” Sometimes I really couldn’t help myself, so I said, “Birds have a tendency to do that, ma’am.” The woman screeched, “No! You don’t understand. My pet parakeet is in the tree. I’ve just got to get him down.” Like I said, not a clue. “I’m sorry ma’am, but we don’t get birds out of trees.” The woman then cried, “But… What about my husband? He’s up there, too.” See what I had to deal with? To keep from hitting myself repeatedly in the head with my phone, I took up writing.

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Free Short Story: Look, Don’t Touch! by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

She was cute. I’ll agree to that. Three years, perhaps. Hard to tell. She wandered amongst the vendors at the craft market. Alone. At least, that’s how it appeared. There was a woman pushing a stroller several vendors behind. Perhaps she was the mother. She certainly didn’t seem as attentive as I would have been when my family was younger. However. Sign of the times, I guess.

The girl wandered to my booth and stood looking at my art cards and books. She glanced quickly at me, said a cheery “Hi”, as she made eye contact. She definitely wasn’t shy. I returned her greeting. Satisfied that she had my attention, which perhaps she interpreted as a sign to grant permission, she reached one hand up to the table, presumably to touch one of the books. She was of the age where touching things was a part of learning. However, with a sucker in the other hand, I could only surmise that her hands were sticky.

I flashed a quick look at the woman I assumed to be the mother. The woman was too busy talking to the other vendor to show any care or concern for her daughter’s whereabouts or for her safety, for that matter. I was being forced into an awkward position, protecting my display or being ‘nice’ to a little girl who was unsupervised. I chose the former.

In my best, gentle teacher’s voice, I said, “Look. Don’t touch!”

She quickly pulled back her hands and smiled at me. There was a reflection of guilt in her eyes. She started chattering, incoherently. I glanced at the mother again and received a glare in return.

The little girl moved on to the next table. Cosmetics. I watched. The vendor was busy with a potential customer. I knew that cosmetics could be toxic if used incorrectly. The girl reached for one of the cute little jars. “Remember,” I quickly cautioned, using my gentle, but firm, teacher’s voice. “Look. Don’t touch.”

There was nothing threatening about my voice. The girl was at that age where manners and proper etiquette could easily be taught. I knew it was the parents’ job to do this, but, in the absence of even the mother’s attention, I made use of my teaching skills. Sweetly, she pulled back her hands again and smiled at me. The mother glared at me. Again. And marched right past my table.
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Two tables along, the mother started handling sewn creations. The girl was with her mother, now. Still ignored. But that didn’t stop her. “Mommy,” she said in her sweet voice. “Look. Don’t touch.”

I bit back a smile as the woman glanced my way, a glare creasing across her brow. She moved along again. And handled a few more items on display. Each time the mother touched something, the girl repeated her newly learned knowledge, “Look. Don’t touch.”

About the Author:
An avid gardener, artist, musician and writer, Emily-Jane Hills Orford has fond memories and lots of stories that evolved from a childhood growing up in a haunted Victorian mansion. Told she had a ‘vivid imagination’, the author used this talent to create stories in her head, allowing her imagination to lead her into a different world, one of her own making. As the author grew up, these stories, imaginings and fantasies took to the written form and, over the years, she developed a reputation for telling a good story.

Emily-Jane can now boast that she is an award-winning author of several books, including Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 1 (Telltale Publishing 2018) which was named finalist in the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards, Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 2 (Telltale Publishing 2019), Mrs. Murray’s Home: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 3 (Telltale Publishing 2020), Queen Mary’s Daughter (Clean Reads 2018) which won the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards, King Henry’s Choice (Clean Reads 2019), and several other books. A retired teacher of music and creative writing, she writes about the extra-ordinary in life and the fantasies of dreams combined with memories. For more information on the author, check out her website.

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Free Short Story: What I Meant to Say by Marianne Arkins

The bell rang over the door, only five minutes until closing. Before the sound had faded a man’s voice cried, “I have an emergency!”

Di stopped putting the cut flowers into the cooler and looked at him, puzzled. “You do realize this is a flower shop, right? Not the hospital.”

He dragged a hand through his already messy brown hair and then waved it about impatiently. “Of course. But it’s my mother’s birthday tomorrow. She lives in Nevada. What do I do?”

Di couldn’t help but smile at him. He was tall, lanky and completely disheveled. “You tell me what kind of message you want to send her.”

“Message? I don’t want to send a message, I want to send flowers, you know, lilies or roses or something. She likes yellow ones.” He looked around the shop, a wild look in his eyes. One finger jabbed at some flowers. “And those.”

Di only shook her head. She laid a hand on his shoulder and directed him to the front counter. “Yellow roses are for friendship, and that lily you just pointed at? Means ‘I burn for you’, which is probably not a message you’d send to your mother.”

He frowned and shook his head. “She won’t know that, so what does it matter? It’s pretty.”

“She won’t, but I will. And so will you once I’m done.” She pulled out a notebook and opened it in front of him. “Now, tell me how you feel about your mother.”

And when his face softened and his lips turned up into a slight smile, Di’s heart gave a squeeze. Nothing was sweeter in this world than a man who loved his mama.


She thought about him often over the next seven days, Mr. Seth Armstrong who loved his mother. She wondered how his mother liked her specially chosen bouquet, hoped the florist in Nevada had included the sheets she’d emailed to include with the gift.

She thought about the stories Seth told her about his mom, the things she’d done for him and his brothers, the cookies, the discipline, the love. She sounded like an amazing woman, and seemed to have raised a pretty incredible man.

She was just finishing a bouquet for an engagement dinner, and slipped in a sprig with lemon blossoms, ‘faithful love’, to set off the rest of the flowers. A moment later the bell rang and she pasted on a smile then turned to face her latest customer.

“Seth.” She blurted out his name without thinking and wondered if her thoughts of him showed on her face. “Another emergency?”

He grinned. “Sister. She’s pregnant with twins and worried. Her husband is deployed overseas. I just want to let her know I’m thinking of her, but couldn’t bring myself to send flowers like usual since I might end up saying something like, ‘I wish you were dead’ or ‘you’re one hot mama’. You’ve ruined my ability to order flowers online.”

“Best news I’ve had all day.” She laughed and pulled out her notepad again. “Tell me about your sister.”

He did. He talked about how he made her the scapegoat of all their adventures as children, how he scared off most of her boyfriends until the man she married wouldn’t be intimidated. He mentioned how frustrated he was that they lived so far apart and how much he missed her.

Seth Armstrong truly wore his heart on his sleeve.

“I know just the bouquet.” She scribbled a few more notes and then looked up at the man leaning on her counter. He wasn’t handsome, not really, but certainly not repulsive either. The kind of guy you really didn’t notice until something he said or did lit him up. His smile was magnetic, his warm brown eyes glowed whenever he talked about his family and he was funny and clever.

Di was well and truly enamored of the man. Too bad he didn’t seem to see her as anything but the flower lady. Her own fault, really. She was no good with conversations unless they were about vegetation and flowers, had never learned to flirt, didn’t bother with make-up and couldn’t see the point in a hair-stylist when all she did was French braid her hair every morning to keep it out the way when she worked.

She imagined that she was much like Seth: unremarkable unless she became passionate about something.

He came in a few more times during the month. Flowers for his assistant, or an elderly neighbor whose 16-year-old poodle had passed, or his niece’s first ballet recital. He shared small details about each person, things most folks likely wouldn’t have noticed: the way they smiled or the perfume they wore or their favorite color. He was incredibly sweet and remarkably observant, except when it came to noticing the crush she was fast developing on him.

When one of the cialis online cheapest seven chakras is blocked, the cooling would not be proper. The drugs best price on levitra are available at affordable prices and fast delivery is ensured. discount cialis Presently, it is being utilized as the prime remedy to take care of erectile dysfunction or ED is a physical change and not a disease as most men consider it to be. His unique ability to age actors is spell binding and so is his talent levitra prices for sculptured prosthetics. Tonight, Friday, Di was determined to get a real life instead of living in her head. She headed for the front door to lock up, and then she’d call her newly single neighbor about having a girl’s night out somewhere. Just as she slid the deadbolt into place, Seth’s face popped up in the window. He folded his hands into a prayer, clearly pleading to be let in.

How could she possibly resist?

“Thank you!” He dashed inside and grinned. “As always, I’m in desperate need of your help.”

“Who’s it for this time?” Di asked, moving to her counter and picking up the notepad to write down details of this latest lucky lady.

Seth’s cheeks colored a bit and he ducked his head. “Well, there’s this woman I’ve been thinking about for awhile now, and I figured I just needed to bite the bullet and ask her out. You’re so good with flowers, I knew you’d be able to find the perfect assortment to tell her I’d like to get to know her better.”

Di’s heart dropped. The pen in her hand trembled a bit, but she forced a smile on her face and asked, “What’s she like?”

His eyes lost focus and his lips turned up into a hesitant smile. “She’s amazing. Quiet but sweet and friendly and caring. Smart but not conceited or snarky. Kind to everyone including goofy forgetful men like me. Both unremarkable as well as unbelievably amazing. I can’t stop thinking about her.”

Di murmured ideas, writing them down on the pad in front of her. Once she’d brainstormed a bit, she’d see what she had on hand, and which of her ideas would mesh the best together.

“Maybe blue salvia for ‘thinking of you’, a single red rose for the romance, a few daffodils for ‘new beginnings’, jasmine for its amazing smell and for ‘sweet love’ which is a great first date sentiment…” she wandered away into the cooler still muttering to herself. A moment later, she poked out her head. “I’ll just be a minute. This is going to be gorgeous!”

Seth gave her a thumbs up and rested a hip against the counter.

Fighting back a growing bit of jealousy and sadness, Di determined to make the most stunning bouquet she’d ever done. Once done, she stepped back to look at it, pleased with the result. She scooped it up and headed back out to the front sales area.

She handed him the flowers with a wobbly smile. “Here you go…any girl should be thrilled to get this. I’ll just ring it up.” She took his credit card and processed the payment quickly, ready to be done with this awful moment. She handed him his receipt. “Thanks, as always. You’re becoming my best customer.”

“Glad to hear it. I’m also glad you let me barge in after closing time. I mean, it’s Friday after all. You probably have a hot date.”

She scrunched her nose. “Possible girl’s night out is all.” She rounded the counter to let him out. “I hope she appreciates the thought you put into those.”

“I hope so, too.” He smiled a little, took a step toward the door and then pivoted to face her. There was the slightest pause before he stuck his hand out toward her. The one holding the flowers. “Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Appreciate them?”

Di stared mutely at the flowers and then up at him and back to the flowers. “For me?”

He grinned. “For you. It’s you who’s kind and smart and funny. It’s you I can’t stop thinking about. It’s you who I keep making excuses to come see. You who I want to spend this Friday with. And next Friday. And the next.”

The smile on my face stretched so wide my cheeks ached. I reached for the bouquet, my hand resting on his. I squeezed and said, “Yes, I appreciate them.”

Marianne is originally from California but currently living in much colder New Hampshire with her husband, daughter, dogs and cat as well as a few hundred wild birds, chipmunks and a backyard bear that keeps trying to grab the feeders.

She can’t imagine a world without romance or not having stories rattling around in her brain. There are nights when she dreams a complete story, and watches it acted out in her head. Those are the times she wakes up and grabs for a notepad to jot down the important parts – without turning on the light – and hopes it’s coherent in the morning.

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