( Photo by Fays cakes on Foter.com / CC BY-ND )
The fun we had planned for last week went off without a hitch, including going to the booksigning yesterday. It was so much fun to meet an author whose books I’ve loved for many years, and to see another I haven’t seen in a few years, and, of course, my idol, Nora. Plus we had amazing lunch afterward, and I brought home something inspirational, which is now sitting on the top of my desk, staring at me from above my monitor:
We still have a few crazy days to get through at the day-job in the coming week, so I’ll be head down, nose to the grindstone for a couple days, and then will be able to breathe for a couple days heading into my birthday next weekend. And speaking of next weekend, I think I might do a little party over on my Facebook page next weekend, too, to celebrate the big day. A little virtual cake and ice cream (No calories, so that is definitely on my diet plan!), maybe a few gifts to give away. If you take a peek over there, I’ve got an event page set up, so you can join in the fun with me next Saturday, July 28, 2018.
In the meantime, I have a little story snippet to share with you from one of my shifter stories. I had intended that Joe’s story would be the third and final in that series, but right now his is the fifth story, and there are a few other characters in the series who really need to have stories, so it looks like Joe might not be the last after all.
Joe listened to Piper and Keely down the hall, the little girl’s tone tinged with a whine. He smiled. She didn’t want to go to bed, but he’d bet she’d be sound asleep in under ten minutes. Probably as soon as her head hit the pillow in her little pink bed–she’d had a long day with his nieces and nephews, playing all over his parents’ house. He wondered if she’d ever had so many playmates all at once before.
His smile faded a little. Keely had enjoyed herself much more than her mother had.
Piper hadn’t wanted to go in the first place, but she’d been polite. The wariness had never eased, though, not all afternoon and evening, no matter what his mother had said or done.
He wondered when she’d trusted anyone last, even just for casual contact. Maybe not in a couple of years. Probably not in a couple of years, he thought, shaking his head. Chris.
Joe listened. No sounds from the hallway now. Probably a good sign.
He paced to the first bookcase and stroked the spine of a history book with one forefinger, then turned at a whisper of sound.
Piper stood at the door, eyes still wary.
“Is she out?” he asked lightly
“Like a light.” She made no move to come into the room. “I think–”
“Sit down, Piper. She’ll be fine.”
“I promise. And you need to relax. Being on guard all the time must be exhausting.”
Something flashed in her eyes, but she looked away before he could identify it. “I was going to say I think I’ll find a book and a quiet corner to read, out of your way.”
He frowned. “You’re not in my way, Piper.”
She gave him a steady look for a few seconds. “I imagine you’re used to having your house to yourself.”
He shrugged. “But I spend most of my time at the office or my parents’, so I’m hardly ever alone.”
“And now you’re not even alone when you get home,” she said softly.
He huffed out a rough breath. “By my choice, pretty Piper.”
She flushed and looked away again, and he realized what he’d called her–he used to call her that when they were kids, usually when she was dirty or injured from some escapade the three off them had survived. Fuck.
“Sorry,” he muttered, shoving his hair away from his face. “I don’t know why I said that. Not that it isn’t true,” he added. Fuck, he needed to shut his mouth. “Find a book, find a comfortable seat. You’re not in my way, Piper. If I didn’t want you here, I wouldn’t have brought you here.”
She swallowed, her expression even more guarded. “Why did you bring us here, Joe?”
He studied her for a moment. “Sit down, Piper,” he said, more gently. “Please.”
She dropped onto the arm of the chair just inside the door, and he noted the stiff set of her shoulders and mouth.
He took a slow breath. “I brought you here because you needed somewhere to go. Somewhere safer than where you were.”
Her lips thinned into a flat line for a second for a second. “I am not a charity case, Joe Wentworth.”
He quelled the urge to smile at her careful tone, just on the verge of snotty. “No, you’re not, but let me help you anyway.”
Her brows dipped a little. Finally, she sniffed. “I’ll go to the office on Monday, to interview, but I don’t want to stay here any longer than absolutely necessary, so I’m going to look for a place and get out of your way as soon as I can.”
He didn’t protest that, just nodded once.
Suspicion clouded her eyes, as if she’d expected an argument.
Joe relaxed a little. “I was thinking about a piece of that cake Mom sent home. How about you?”
Piper’s eyes widened a little, and then she shook her head. “It’s too late for me, thanks.”
He didn’t argue that either, just straightened. “Find a book, Piper. Relax.” He passed her on his way out of the room, and resisted ruffling her hair. It had annoyed her when they were kids and would probably annoy her more now. He wondered absently if her hair was still as soft as it had been then.
The idea made him frown. He had no business wondering things like that.
He shook off the idea as he uncovered the chunk of cake they’d brought home and found a knife in the dishwasher. She should have some cake, too–she was too thin. He cut off a slender piece for her and a bigger piece for himself, then got a couple of forks and carried the cake back to the library, where Piper was kneeling in front of a bookshelf.
She frowned when she looked up, then blinked when he dropped to his knees beside her.
“It’s just a little piece.” He held out the plate.
For a moment, she stared at him, before her gaze dropped to the dessert. “It was good,” she murmured, reaching for the plate.
He stuck his fork into his own cake and lifted a big bite into his mouth.
Piper cut off a much smaller piece, chewing it slowly, her eyes closing briefly, as if she were savoring it.
Joe wondered when anyone had last taken care of her. Her brother wouldn’t have, he wasn’t the type. Keely’s father? He frowned. He didn’t even know who that was. Now didn’t seem the time to ask, though. Maybe another day.
Or he could dig up the info on his own–and kick the guy’s ass for leaving them to fend for themselves this way.
Now I’m going to do a little reading, and some more writing. Oh, and I’ll have a guest blog post up at Delilah Devlin’s blog later this week, Friday, July 27th, so I hope you’ll visit me there, too.
Maybe a little more cake before I go…
( Photo by bochalla on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )
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