I spent some time this week looking at this month's goals and where I am with that list...A bit behind on the shifter, but I had to stop earlier this month to try to organize scenes I wrote out of order. This week, I spent time on a newsletter behind-the-scenes project I hadn't planned on having this month, so that hogged up time while I figured out some tech stuff.
Not on my writing goals list, but on the non-writing to-do list for the month is putting my office back together since the hubs finished the last part of the painting portion. I had figured on just putting things right back where they had been, but along the way have decided not to do that, and instead reorganize and thin things out. This week some of that was getting rid of paper things--old agent and editor submissions, all those chapters and synopses printed out and snail-mailed (so that tells you how long some of them have been taking up space here), manuscript binders, that kind of thing. My paper shredder is getting a work out--I don't need that many copies of some of these stories. One fun thing that has been part of that is looking at critique notes from a long-defunct critique group on a series I plan to buff up and start releasing this year. Reading through some of those slowed me down, and I don't care. It was a nice walk down memory lane. I hope the reader friend who is looking at the first one right now likes it as much as that critique group did when I wrote it originally.
Aside from writing time today, almost everything else is checked off the weekend to-do list, so before I need to get the rest of supper prep underway, I have a quick snippet for you this week from Protecting Medusa.
She frowned into the skillet, stirring more vigorously than she needed to. Had he really been spying on her? For how long? She didn’t even remember the last date she’d had.
When her mother’s car pulled into the driveway beside hers, she inhaled deeply, forcing some of the tension from her shoulders and neck. After three days of forced solitude, she wanted to see her family. Very much.
Jason burst through the back door. “Aunt Phila!”
She smiled and held out her arms, bracing when he flung himself at her. “Hi, baby.” She scooped him up, even though he really was getting too big for that. She kissed one of his cheeks, then his mouth, then his other cheek, while he giggled. It was their ritual for whenever she’d been away. A kiss for each day they’d been apart.
He wrapped his arms around her neck, tight. “I missed you.”
“You know I missed you, too.” She caught sight of her mother coming in and gave her a strained smile. Her mother lifted one eyebrow, and Philomena shook her head. “How was school today, buddy?” She set him on his feet and unzipped his coat.
He shrugged out of his superhero backpack and his coat, bouncing the whole time. “You know the hamster in our room? Harvey? He got out of his cage during recess today, so we had to crawl around looking for him till Nita found him hiding under the bookcase in the back corner. Oh, and we got a new girl in our class today. Her name is Rose, and she has red hair and a million billion freckles on her face. And Eddie brought a picture of his new German Shepherd puppy with him. Eddie’s gonna train him to be a guard dog an’ keep bad guys away. He said I should come see him this weekend. Can I go?”
Philomena relaxed a bit more, listening to him while she heated some frozen vegetables and set the table.
When Jason came up for air, he frowned at the table. “Hey, how comes there’s four plates, Aunt Phila?”
Her spine stiffened, and she took a quick breath as she turned from the stove.
“Because I came to visit, little guy,” Ryder said from the foot of the stairs.
“Daddy!” Jason shrieked and met his father halfway across the room.
Ryder’s grin was as big as Jason’s, and he swung his son around in a big hug while Jason clung tightly to him.
Philomena watched as they greeted one another, doing silly guy stuff--funny handshakes and high-fives, and hugging again--and her heart squeezed in her chest, painfully. She’d never seen such naked delight on her nephew’s face. Or imagined it in his father’s.
“What’s got you so uptight?” her mother asked quietly.
“You should have told me he was coming.” She kept her voice low, too, and shot a sharp glance at her mom.
Agatha Gregory smiled instead of looking abashed. “You needed to come anyway, and I couldn’t tell him ‘no’.” She shrugged with one shoulder. “You’ll have to deal.”
Philomena opened her mouth to tell her mother what she thought of her suggestion, but Ryder crossed the floor to them, Jason at his side. “Supper’s ready,” she said instead.
“Let me help.” Ryder winked at her.
“I’ve got it.” She moved around Ryder to the stove, shutting the burner off and scooping the beef mixture into a bowl. When she turned around, he blocked her way, a dangerous glint in his brown eyes. “I’m fine, Ryder,” she said stiffly.
“Yes, you are,” he breathed, leaning closer and cupping the bowl, his hands directly over hers, sending bolts of heat shooting along her arms. “But I’m going to help whether you like it or not.”
“Here. Take it.” She slid her fingers free and let him have the bowl. Somehow, though, she didn’t think he just meant supper preparation, and that made her nervous.
She sat across the table from her mother, as always, with Jason between them on her right, which meant Ryder sat to her left. Even though there was more than a foot of space between then, his nearness made her stomach do back flips. She answered Jason’s questions automatically, though tonight, unlike every other month when she’d been gone for three days, most of his attention was on his dad. She ate little, tension stealing her appetite.
Between the Harvester and Ryder’s unexpected appearance, she thought she might prefer another three days of suffering through Athena’s infernal curse.
It wouldn’t have been so bad, really, except he kept touching her.
First, while she passed the buttered peas, he made certain to slide his fingers over hers when she handed him the bowl. Then he nudged her foot with his under the table while he talked to Aggie. Tiny, innocent things, really, except for their encounter earlier in the bathroom. That was far from innocent.
By the time Jason shouted it was time for his favorite show, she wanted to jump from her chair and run out into the snow just to get away.
Ryder caught her wrist when she started to push her chair back. “I want to talk to you and Aggie,” he said quietly when his son had left the room.
Her mother linked her hands and rested her chin on them, concern lining her brow. “What’s wrong, Ryder?”
“I’ve been following a Harvester.”
Philomena tugged her hand free and clasped her fingers in her lap, looking at her half-empty plate. Her stomach squeezed, and she was grateful she’d hardly eaten.
“Met him here earlier, right, Mena?”
Her mother’s gasp made her shoot a glare at him.
“I think you should take Jason to Mena’s tonight, Aggie. Just in case.”
“I think you’re right,” her mother said after a moment. “How did he find us?”
One of his big shoulders lifted. “I wish I could say for sure, Aggie, but I imagine they’re just tracing families like when Kallan was still hunting. But this guy seems to know, or at least to believe, that Mena’s the Medusa. He’s been in town for two days, checking out the lay of the land, driving by the house.” His dark gaze slid to Philomena’s face. “I’m going after him again.”
She swallowed, feeling a little guilty for wishing he’d leave, and averted her gaze.
“Will you go right away, Aggie?”
“Well, yes. But what about the two of you?” Her mother got to her feet, her frown deepening as she looked from one of them to the other.
“We’ll be fine here for tonight,” he said. He rose and caught one of Aggie’s hands. “I’ve got a buddy coming tomorrow to upgrade your alarm system, though. Everything needs to be sensored, not just the first floor. This guy came in upstairs.”
Her mother shut her eyes, no doubt imagining what would have happened if she and Jason had been home, or if the Harvester had come in the middle of the night. “Whatever you think is best, Ryder.” She squeezed his hand. “Let me get some things together.”
That left Philomena alone with him, and the tension ratcheted a few degrees higher.
“You don’t think he’ll come back, do you? Tonight, I mean?” She remained seated, not wanting to bump into him while she cleared away the remains of their meal, keeping her gaze on the table. Flitting from her plate to the leftover peas and sloppy joes. The open bag of rolls. Jason’s empty plate.
“I don’t know. He seems to believe this is your primary residence, which means your mother and Jason need to be out for now. But I winged him earlier, so he’ll have to patch himself up first.” He inhaled deeply. “We’ll be fine until my buddy gets here.”
She arched one eyebrow. “‘We’?”
His lips curved into a cocky smile that made goosebumps lift on her arms. “Yeah. I think I can protect you.”
“Who’ll protect me from you?” It was out before she could stop it, and she colored again.
“If you need protection from me, I’m sure you’ll do fine. You wear your knife all the time, right?”
“Not to bed.” Dammit, what is wrong with my mouth? More heat crawled up her throat to her face.
“Well, that’s reassuring,” he drawled, his eyes darkening.
Do you get slowed down on your projects, too, when you find things like I have this week? Or do you plow through no matter what? I'd love to hear!
Stay warm, and happy reading!