Pro-Life Death Threat – Part One

Pro-life. Pro. Life. The words were bloated with irony as it occurred to her that hers was coming to an end. She stared at a thin scrap of paper in her right hand, a torn envelope trembling in her left. Saliva began to build in the back of her mouth as she read it again. The words on the paper were blurry. No – she shook her head and squinted. No, they were clear, and she could tell they had been typed on a typewriter with some of the letters whited out and re-typed.

You have been contaminated with the deadly anthrax virus.

You will be dead within forty-eight hours.

Pro-life. Who would do such a thing? Who in the name of life would attempt to kill someone just because of where she worked?

She blinked hard and noticed a fine, powdery substance on her fingers. Her stomach lurched. Grabbing the trash bin under the desk she retched into it, her body convulsing with unexpected force.

Suzanne, one of the nurse practitioners, stopped outside the door in the hallway.

“Are you okay, Erin?” As she began to step into the office, Erin’s hand flew up to stop her.

“DON’T COME IN!”

Suzanne froze. “What is it?” Her eyes darted back and forth from the soiled trash bin to the paper and envelope in Erin’s hands. “Oh, God. Is that…Oh, God.”

“Yes, GET OUT.” Erin retched into the bin again, her eyes welling up with hot tears. Suzanne backed up.

“I’ll call 9-1-1. Don’t move. Protocol requires us to shut down and quarantine the area, I have to shut the –“

“Just close it!” The heavy door slammed shut, ringing metallic in her ears. Erin slowly set the paper and envelope on the desk and wiped her hands on her pants. She looked down at them. It’s no use. Dropping her head into her contaminated hands in defeat, her forehead was cold and clammy against her palms. Odd, since her skin was burning. It’s happening. I’m going to die.

— to be continued —

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Day 307 – A snippet from my second book

Day three hundred seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

In the midst of writing my second book, I’m having a good time. The first draft of my first book is resting. I need more distance from it to be able to do a proper re-write. So it rests, and I write. As I fling myself into the throes of a second book, I have found a completely different voice. It has been fun to explore.

I decided it’s time to share a bit. I gave the first beta-read of this snippet to my seven year-old son. That may be the smartest thing I have done in a while. Well, you be the judge:

I was a young girl once. I remember it. Well, parts of it anyway. I remember the sky was a brighter blue than it ever looks to me now, even on its most beautiful days. I remember the grass smelled so sweet in the summer, my best friend Bea and I came up with the idea of the sweet grass lollipop. We loved that smell so much we just knew it would be the most delicious lollipop we’d ever have. Like too many childhood dreams, it never came to be. But it was sure fun to talk about. I remember climbing trees and skinning my jeans on the rough bark, making my mama so mad I thought she’d tan my hide to purple. She didn’t. She sewed patches on my jeans instead.

I remember playing ball with the boys and running just as fast as them, hitting the ball just as hard. My mama yelled from the front porch, “be careful!” and “don’t get so filthy!” None of the other moms ever yelled those things at the boys.

I remember being sprawled out on the front yard, looking up at the clouds, dreaming about all the things I could do someday. You know, someday when I was a grown-up. I could be an astronaut, or a chef, or own a candy store – the first ever to sell sweet grass lollipops, of course. My mama told me I could be a teacher or a nurse someday. My daddy agreed. “Those are fine choices,” he’d say. “Fine choices for girls.”

Day 290 – How do we know?

Day two-hundred ninety of my 365 Day Writing Project.

How do we know that we are doing something worthwhile and that it isn’t all for naught? How do we know that we are writing something that will interest others and will bring them enjoyment in life? How do we know that our time building a dream isn’t time wasted? Or even worse, are we just chasing that dream? How do we know? Well, here is a dingle berry of an answer: we don’t.

Doubt is as much our friend as it is our foe. Doubt can infest our minds to the point of paralysis of motivation. It can choke our creativity and stifle our drive to succeed. In my opinion, doubt is worse than fear, because fear is born out of doubt which is a fear of the unknown. It’s an ugly thing. But on the flip side, doubt helps us self-govern and self-regulate. It causes us to keep ourselves in check, to not let our egos take over. Doubt forces us to subscribe to an “all or nothing” philosophy. We either give our all to crush that doubt to rubble, or we get too scared to crush anything. Yes, we can fail and crash in a pile of flaming turd, but just think: we can soar and reach the stars.

As a writer, doubt be damned…I keep thinking about those stars.

Day 142 – Getting what you want out of the story

Day one hundred forty-two of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,300

So. Much. Fun. I started Chapter Seventeen tonight after ending Chapter Sixteen in suspense last night. I thought about it often today, my fingertips itching in anticipation. With the kids in bed and husband home after working late, I finally got into it after a long day and it was hugely satisfying. Even more satisfying was getting what I wanted out of the story.

I’ve mentioned quite a few times lately that I’m nearing the end of this book. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the plot is circling back and characters are being reunited just before the end of a long struggle through dangerous adventures. Writing that moment – when two main characters finally reach each other after being separated and unable to find each other for an agonizing period of time – was like having dessert. I couldn’t wait for them to be together again. They couldn’t wait to be together again. And when they finally were, it was…pretty awesome. I’m so jazzed about it I have to share a little snippet – pardon the raw, unedited feel of it:

“Skylar!” Thomas immediately took off at a run toward her. With awareness in the moment that felt more out-of-body than the wildly visceral experience it actually was, Skylar stumbled toward him through the deep snow like a weak-kneed drunk. Never so happy or relieved in her life, she felt like she needed to vomit or cry, or maybe both, as they reached each other and embraced with a driving force that would have dented a Buick.

Ahh. Now that is getting what I wanted. And the story still has more satisfying moments to come.

Day 84 – A short day of writing and an excerpt

Day eighty-four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 650

I took some time to write before dinner tonight. Usually, my time to write is after the kids are asleep. Getting some writing time at an earlier hour was great, but it came with a lot of distractions. So, it didn’t last long. When I had time to write more later after everyone went to bed, I decided to give myself the night off and catch up on Modern Family episodes. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

Without much to report here tonight, I realized that it has been quite some time since I have posted a snippet from my book. So here you go.

Three months to the day after their mother’s suicide, Deacon was admitted to the Vermont State Hospital. Finding their mother hanging in the barn had caused him massive emotional trauma and he had been unresponsive ever since. The doctors diagnosed him with catatonic depression. For three months, Skylar and her father tried to care for Deacon themselves. They did their best to bring him back to his normal functioning state, but they were unsuccessful. If anything, Deacon had actually gotten worse. He was slipping away from them more every day. And it was killing her father.

When her father first mentioned that he might need to send Deacon away, Skylar tried everything she could think of to get her brother better. She told him jokes, she read to him, sang to him and even danced to his favorite music like a crazy person to try to get something, anything out of him. A laugh. A giggle. A snort or grunt. A raised eyebrow. Anything. But nothing worked. Behind his eyes all she could see was blankness. He wasn’t there anymore.

Skylar refused to believe that he was totally gone. When watching her father waste away in desperation at the demise of his son, Skylar made a decision to try one more thing. She decided to bring Deacon outside to see the sheep. He had always loved the sheep and had been devoted to caring for them since he was six years-old. He would get up early every morning to feed them, without fail. He used to shear them and talk to them like they were people. He even named them all. They were a part of him. Skylar figured if anyone could get Deacon to “wake up” out of his catatonic state, it would be the sheep.

She bundled him up in his wheelchair and rolled him outside. But she made a grave error. When she pushed him toward the barn, Deacon had a seizure. Skylar had to leave him to sprint back to the house to call 9-1-1. In her haste, she didn’t think to turn his wheelchair away so he couldn’t see the barn. She left him there, facing the barn where he had found his mother dead.

When she ran back to him less than a minute later, she realized what she had done. She had unintentionally made him face the demon that had seized his spirit just three months before. In an instant, any drop of hope of getting him back evaporated. Deacon, the brother she had grown up with and loved all her life, was gone forever. And it was her fault. The ambulance arrived and the EMT’s worked to get the seizure under control. They were loading him into the ambulance when her father got home. He was panicked. He tried to refuse treatment for Deacon to keep them from taking him, but they convinced her father to let him go. As the ambulance pulled out of the driveway and her father peeled out behind it in his truck, Skylar knew. Deacon was never coming back.

Day 45 – A snippet of fiction by a tired writer

Day forty-five of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: ?

Words: 500

After another night of trying to write through exhaustion, I see a real need to find time to write during daylight hours. Even if only for a short span of time, writing when I can keep my ideas fresh and eyes open will be far more productive than what I have been doing lately. Late night after late night takes a toll when one must get up early and work all day. It cannot be sustained for long periods. If only a day here and there, I need to fit in some days when I’m not burning the midnight oil. I think it is a manageable goal, but we’ll see how it shakes out. 

In the meantime, here is a raw, unedited snippet from the latest chapter:

“Do you think we’re safe here?” She looked out the window as the train slowed down.

“I think the more we keep moving and changing course, the less chance there is that someone can follow us. C’mon, and stay close.” Ben started walking toward the front to the door. Skylar zipped up her coat and grabbed her bag, joining him by the door. Waiting for it to open she whispered to him, looking past him over his shoulder.

“Isn’t this a bad idea? Getting up in front of everyone so they know we are getting off here? If someone is following us –“

“Then we’ll see them get off here, and we can try to lose them before we get back on the train later,” Ben said quietly near her ear. “Just stay close, no matter what.” He looked over his shoulder, making Skylar even more nervous. Her heart pounded, causing her to swallow hard. They waited.

With a loud “ppsshhhhhhhh” the doors opened. In an instant Ben stepped off with Skylar on his heels. The cold air met them quickly, causing Skylar to catch her breath. The platform was empty but for the few people exiting the train. As if to outrun the cold, everyone charged in different directions with their heads down. Ben took quick, long strides to a staircase and headed down, with Skylar doing her best to keep up with him. At the bottom was a parking lot dimly illuminated by sparse street lamps. Instead of heading into the parking lot, Ben cut sharply to the left into the shadows of the platform looming overhead. He skulked along the concrete wall, looking back over his shoulder. Skylar stayed close, afraid to look behind them.

“Damn!” Ben whispered, turning back forward and stepping faster.

“Someone’s there?” asked Skylar, short of breath and quickening her step to stay with him.

“Stay close – follow me, and be ready,” said Ben urgently. At the end of the concrete wall he turned left and started to run. Skylar’s heart leapt into her throat as she took off after him, unbelieving that this was happening.

They ran a short distance before they had to scramble up a steep embankment on all fours. When they reached the top they were at the tracks. The train was pulling away and they ran across the tracks behind it as it left the station. Reaching the other side of the tracks, Skylar looked over her shoulder. She could hear a man grunting as he scrambled up the embankment after them. Too dark to focus, she could make out a figure emerging by the tracks. Immediately the adrenaline in her body lit up like a wildfire from core to fingertips. She took off at a full sprint behind Ben, running across a mowed field covered in a thin blanket of fresh snow. Entering some woods, darkness consumed them. Her senses flared. She could hear the sound of snapping twigs in front of her. She followed the sounds and what little she could see of Ben’s footprints in the shallow snow and dead leaves.

Suddenly, she came out in a back yard with a swing set. Skylar could see Ben now, running up to the house and squatting down to wait for her by some shrubs. She stumbled as she neared him, slipping on the snowy grass. She dropped down on her knees by him, grabbing onto his arm to catch herself.

“Stay down,” Ben said, panting, his breath puffing gray clouds that disappeared into the black night like small specters. “Maybe we lost him.” He gripped her arm. With pupils dilated wide and darting to and fro, he looked manic. In an instant, he yanked her arm to pull her to a stand and said, “GO!” pushing her hard in the opposite direction.

Out of the corner of her eye, Skylar caught a glimpse of the man emerging from the woods. She took off toward the front of the house. Her feet scrambled to find traction on the snow-covered lawn without much success. Seeing a paved driveway before her, she took a big leap to reach it. As her feet met solid ground covered by a thin sheet of ice, she slipped. Her feet went immediately out from under her. Skylar knew she was going down and it was going to hurt. As she contorted to try to get her feet under herself and reached out with her arms to brace for the landing, she felt a strong hand slip under her arm and catch her, giving her just enough time to right herself. Stopping still with her legs bent and arms out to each side like a surfer riding a wave, Skylar was stunned that she was still standing.

“C’mon! Out to the street,” Ben said, his voice urgent but low enough to be nothing more than a loud whisper. Skylar picked up running again, this time more carefully, down the slippery driveway to the street. Ben reached out a hand to her and she willingly took it, needing all the support and balance she could get as her feet slipped in all directions. Suddenly, they heard a loud “Ooof” behind them. Skylar turned to look over her shoulder and saw the man lying flat on his back in the driveway. The black ice had taken him down, hard.

Day 38 – Unproductive and uninspired can still amount to something

Day thirty-eight of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 40 minutes

Words: 500

Today was not a very productive writing day. I guess I’ll have those sometimes. It was tough to pick up the story where I left off because I wasn’t sure where I wanted to take it. I also got a very late start which did not help. Exhaustion was thick. Motivation and creativity were thin. After very little time I realized that I’m probably better off breaking and picking it up again tomorrow.

Despite it being a short and uninspiring writing session, it wasn’t all for naught. It isn’t anything special, but in the interests of reminding myself later that even the tough days are worthwhile, here is a paragraph I wrote a little while ago:

Mike looked around one last time and pushed open the back door. In the low, late afternoon sun he stepped out onto the street. The frigid air turned his breath into small, white puffs of cloud, prompting him to button up his coat. As he did, he noticed the long, ominous shadows cast by the nearby buildings. It was getting late. He looked left and right, at a loss for where Skylar and Ben would have gone. About four hours had passed since they had been there; they could be anywhere. Mike walked back to the door of the restaurant and turned around to face the street again. Imagining himself fleeing from someone, he tried to figure out which direction they might have run. He took off straight and then turned to the left, jogging down the sidewalk. Seeing all of the buildings and intersecting side streets ahead of him, he stopped. It was no use.

Day 36 – It happened

Day thirty-six of My 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 2 + hours

Words: 2,400

Well, it happened. On day 34, I didn’t do any writing. I was on a mini vacation with my family and we had a full day with good friends. By the time I had a moment to myself…well, wait – I never did have a moment to myself. I went to sleep late with two out of three kids in my bed and that’s the end of the story. The funny thing is, I didn’t feel badly about losing a day of writing. Instead, I woke up the next morning determined to write more than usual for the rest of the long weekend. And I did. I wrote 1,500 words yesterday and 2,400 today, amply making it up. I’m happy with that. 

Not writing for a day for the first time in 34 days got me thinking about how far I have come in that time. Writing daily has not yet become a habit, but it has become a solid priority. I have to work hard at it. Finding time to write is not easy for me. While I can’t deny that I feel a bit of guilt for not abiding by the no days off mantra this past weekend, I have to cut myself some slack. My main goal in doing this project is to make writing a constant in my life and to consistently work on it. As of today (day 36) I’m accomplishing that. 

If you wish to be a writer, write.  – Epictetus

 

Here is a raw, unedited snippet from my current piece of fiction:

She gathered herself, opened the bathroom door and walked straight to the back of the restaurant. The dining room was dark and alive with lunch-goers talking politics, weather and holiday plans. Waiters were hovering around the waitstaff station, entering orders and pouring glasses of water. Skylar saw the door to the kitchen behind the waitstaff station. Just go in. She took a deep breath and walked past the waiters into the bright white light of the kitchen.

Inside it was hot and noisy. Steam was rising from the dishwasher station in the back and line cooks were plating food and yelling table numbers to the servers. Skylar walked slowly through the commotion, looking side to side in case anyone might approach her. No one did. As she neared the back she stopped by a large walk-in cooler at the end of a short hallway. On either side it was bordered by shelves filled with non-perishable bulk food items. There, standing by a mop and bucket in the shadows, was Ben. He stepped out into the light and gave her a polite nod.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” said Skylar, looking back over her shoulder to see if anyone else was there. They were alone. Ben was not much taller than she, wearing brown corduroy pants and a grey hooded sweatshirt. He had dark brown hair that was a little too long and very curly. His chin, jawline and upper lip were covered in dark stubble, as though he had not shaved in days. Skylar thought he looked much the same as he did in high school, just older. His eyes showed strain and worry.

“You don’t have to be afraid,” he said, noting her nervousness. “I’m not going to hurt you. I promise. I want you to be safe,” he said, taking a step toward her as she took a step back. “I see…I see that you have been in contact with them. They haven’t hurt you, have they?” He looked genuinely concerned.

“No. But I was followed,” she began, Ben’s eyes flying open as he leaned to one side to peer past her. “No, not here,” she continued, “I am pretty sure I wasn’t followed here. I mean, I lost him. He was following me earlier. I lost him in the subway.”

Day 25 – Unstuck and on a roll

Day twenty-five of My 365 Day Writing Project.

Time: 2.5 hours

Words: 2,300

After getting a bit stuck in the story yesterday, I picked up today where I left off with no problem. The story flowed naturally. Like a reader commented on Day 24, sometimes a break is the best thing. She is absolutely right. Yesterday, I was staggering and stumbling in the story when I decided to break for the night. It was the right choice. Today, I found my legs again and the story did too. One thing I know for certain: my creative process is most fruitful when it happens organically.

Here is a raw, unedited snippet I wrote today:

“Is everything all right, Ms. Battelle?” asked Lisa, looking concerned.

“I think so. I hope so,” replied Skylar, trying to appear calm. She put on her coat and grabbed her things. She was about to step out into the hallway when she saw Marisa standing by the reception desk. Skylar stopped in her tracks, waiting for an opportunity to slip out unnoticed. She could feel Lisa watching her, but she had no time to worry about appearances now. Finally, Marisa walked away and went into her office. Skylar said goodbye to Lisa one last time and scooted out to the elevator. The doors opened immediately and she got in, pressing the button several times to close the doors. C’mon, c’monnnn. The doors seemed to take forever to shut but as soon as they were closed tight, Skylar exhaled, trying to think of where to go. “Get lost somewhere. Somewhere no one would think to look for you.”

She quickly thought of something and hit the button for a few floors down. The elevator pinged and the doors opened, just in time for Skylar to see Mike Shanahan standing by a co-worker’s desk in the middle of a political rant. As soon as he saw her, he lit up and was about to greet her with a big welcome when he noted the expression on her face. Instead, he politely said to his co-worker, “Excuse me,” and walked straight toward her.

“Skylar. What is it?” he quietly asked, taking her by the elbow and ushering her to his desk.

“Mike, I think I’m in trouble,” she said in a scared whisper.

Snippet No. 4

Sitting at her desk that evening, Skylar’s fingers danced on the keys of her laptop.  She was determined to finish the Motion for Summary Judgment in the Bally matter, which was a complex commercial lease case. Mr. Bally was the CEO of a company that owned multiple commercial properties around the city. Many millions of dollars were riding on this case because the tenant had skipped out after only eight months on a five-year lease. An added problem was the fact that the tenant had also made material alterations to the property, leaving it in a condition that was going to require six figures in repairs and modifications. When Lipstein handed her the file last spring he had been ominous. He had held the file in a tight grip after Skylar reached out to take it, releasing it into her hands only after saying to her in a very serious tone, “Mind this one closely, Battelle. Treat this client like you would your own child; one for whom you will need to care and nurture for years to come.” 

Skylar stopped typing to take a bite of the cold pad thai delivered to her an hour before. Strange, she thought, that Lipstein wanted her to treat a multi-million dollar company like a child. To say it was a reach to do so was an understatement. Skylar loved kids and working for a faceless corporation was about as far from a mother-child relationship as you could get. For her it was, anyway. To Skylar, Lipstein’s remarks translated to mean that she needed to work really hard and give the client everything she could. Mr. Bally was high maintenance to say nothing of his intense demeanor, but Skylar had figured out how to handle him by now. Plus, Mr. Bally liked her.

She had been putting in tons of hours on the case and knew Lipstein was quietly watching her.  Now that she knew he was passing her up for work and instead giving it to Marisa, she was going to put in all the time she could on this case. That meant staying at the office even longer than she normally did. That meant racking up billable hours. She had planned to prepare the Motion for Summary Judgment next week so she could focus on other cases this week. But Bally was more important to Lipstein. Despite being late, her meeting with Mr. Bally had gone quite well. Skylar had left Bally’s and returned to the office to work on the motion since her depositions had been canceled. Seven hours later she was still at it. It was 9:30 and she was exhausted. 

She chucked the to-go container into her trash can with only half of its contents eaten. If she was going to finish this motion, chocolate was in order. Skylar got up out of her chair and stretched, feeling her vertebrae crack in several places. Sitting at a computer for hours on end really did a number on her body. For a second she went through a thought process about how a trip to the gym would be far better than stuffing her face with chocolate at the moment, but she quickly dismissed it. If she was going to work all hours of the day and into the night, she deserved it.

She pulled opened the top drawer of her desk, rifling through its contents. Checking all of her drawers without success, Skylar walked out into the hall in pursuit of chocolate hidden in someone else’s desk. She knew her assistant, Lisa, was on another diet so she did not bother looking in hers. Down the hall on the right was Valerie’s office. There was a good chance there would be some sweets in her desk. Valerie was a paralegal who did good work but had a terrible attitude. She was never happy and was always complaining about something. She was also known to drink too much. Her husband of less than two years had left her for a younger co-worker of his. Valerie was refusing to negotiate with him so their divorce was still dragging, and she was extremely bitter. 

The hall lights were out since it was so late, and the only lights still shining were the exit signs and various tiny green, blue and red lights on computer monitors, printers, phones and other electronics around the office. Skylar slowly walked into Valerie’s office and turned on the light with a loud, click. She headed straight for the bottom right drawer in her desk, wondering for a second why she still had her high heels on when nobody was around and her feet were so tired. She forgot about her sore feet when she saw what she was looking for. Jackpot. M&Ms and a bag of chocolate kisses. Skylar reached in for a small handful when she heard a noise in the hallway.

She froze. Who could be here now, this late? Everyone had gone home hours ago and security wasn’t due back around for at least another 45 minutes. She didn’t move, trying to listen for another sound. And then she heard it. A slow, very quiet swishing sound was making its way down the hall. Her heart was thumping so loudly Skylar put her hand filled with the chocolates up to her chest as if to muffle it. The noise was getting closer. She looked down, ready to jump under Valerie’s desk to hide. But she felt like she was stuck in quicksand. She couldn’t move her legs to do it.

“Hey babe,” said Jordy as he popped his head in the doorway. “What are you up to in here?”

“Oh, Jesus! You scared the life out of me, Jordy!” Skylar straightened herself up and took a deep breath. She held up her hand full of chocolate kisses and replied, “Chocolate fix. Highly critical to my productivity this late.”

“Mmm-hmm. Does Val know you swipe from her stash?” Jordy said, raising an eyebrow.

“Nope.” Skylar popped a kiss in her mouth. “And she doesn’t need to. You want one?”

“Sure, thanks,” he replied as he reached out. Skylar tossed a kiss at him.

“Have you been here all this time?” She asked with a mouth full of delicious chocolate.

“Yeah, you know, trying to get some things done to jump start my morning tomorrow. But, I’m headed out of here. I’m going to meet somebody for a drink at The Asp. Care to join me?” He spun his Rolex around his wrist to check the time. “You can’t possibly be staying much longer.” Skylar heard something different in his voice and felt a little uncomfortable. Jordy stepped closer and reached out to touch her arm, raising his glance to meet hers. “Come out with me,” he said in a low tone.

Skylar stepped back, pretending to fumble with the chocolate wrapper. “I…I can’t. I’m working on a motion so I’m here for the long haul. You know how it is,” she said a little too tartly.

“Oh, c’mon,” said Jordy, “you’re only young once. You really need to get out more.” He looked at his watch impatiently and gave her a look that told her he thought she was a little pathetic.

Now thirty, Skylar sometimes felt fifty. She rarely spent nights out at restaurants and clubs like other thirty year-olds. When her friends did manage to get her out, she felt uncomfortable and reserved. Her friends often made comments like, “we need to loosen you up!” They were always trying to get her to go out and meet men. When she did, her friends gave each other looks throughout the night like they were in cahoots in coordinating some pathetic mission to fix her boring life. Skylar noticed. But dating didn’t interest her. She knew plenty of handsome, successful guys, but she had no interest in playing the dating game with any of them. It was no secret to her friends or her, for that matter, that she had forgotten how to have fun. Or maybe she never really knew. She reached in Valerie’s drawer to grab a few more kisses and then slammed the drawer shut. “Have a good time.” 

As she walked past him and headed to her office, she felt Jordy’s eyes on her ass.

“Hey, Skylar,” called his voice from behind her, “why is it that you never have a guy in your life?” The accusation in his voice was noticeable, stopping Skylar in her tracks.

She turned around slowly looking down at the floor, noticing the ridiculous gold and burgundy pattern in the carpet. “Not that I need to explain my life to you, I have had guys in my life,” she said, trying to ignore the violated feelings rising in her chest, “but none of them so far has proved to be worth keeping.”

“Really? Because honestly, and don’t take this the wrong way, it seems like you try pretty damn hard to shut people out of your life. At least, that is what you seem to do with me,” Jordy shrugged and smiled.

Skylar was floored. At first she thought he was just playing her like she had seen him do with so many women. He had tried to sleep with her before, but this was different. Looking into his eyes she realized he was being genuine. He seemed hurt.

“Jordy…I just…I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say,” she said, looking at the chocolates in her hand, feeling more than a little guilty for being curt with him. “I guess I’m not really open to a relationship right now. You know, being so busy with work and everything.”

Jordy straightened up and laughed. “Relationship? Is that what you think? Nah, sweetheart. I just figured we could have some fun. Lord knows you could use some,” he said with a wink. “Your loss, babe. I’m off then, but before I go, how about a little kiss?” He cocked his head and gestured for her to come plant one on his willing lips.

Fucking Jordy. Rather annoyed but not exactly surprised, Skylar held back from swearing him up and down. Instead, she took a step and then slowly walked toward him. Jordy, trying not to look shocked that she was taking him up on his offer, leaned forward, reaching to take her hand and pull her in for the kiss. Skylar stepped closer, reached her hand out to his and then dropped a chocolate kiss into his palm.

“Muah.” She gave him a wicked smile, turned and darted into her office.