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When You Need a Break

This last month has been stressful. I won't go into detail, but when you have a month like that, you need a break. So today, I took one with a friend.

We headed to Longwood Gardens and spent a few hours moseying around looking at all the pretty things, and then went to have a late lunch. It was pretty much a perfect break, and I feel better. The pictures above are just a few I took today--I always take a ton of them when I go there, even if it's something I've seen before. I like to have the pretty for a later time when I need it, or just want to remember having spent a few hours with something so enjoyable.

But since I spent most of the day away, I do have a few things I need to get to before the day is over, so I have a quick snippet of Protecting Medusa for you.


            The man had some nerve.

            Philomena glared into the skillet and dragged the spatula through the eggs vigorously. Too vigorously, as the spatula scraped the side of the pan. Letting out a shaky breath, she tried to push Ryder out of her head for a few minutes.

            She’d called her mother when she came downstairs, and Aggie assured her they were fine. Jason was watching his favorite Saturday morning cartoon in his pajamas before breakfast. Philomena felt a bit better knowing he was safe and happy.

            Her gaze slid to the window over the sink. She could see the woods that lay between her mother’s house and her own. Only a couple miles of distance. Not far enough.

            She stirred the eggs at a more normal pace now. Sure, she’d known when the curse fell on her eight years ago that the Harvesters were a serious threat. But somehow, she’d hoped after all this time they wouldn’t find her.

            She shivered, thinking how lucky they were Ryder had been waiting for the Harvester yesterday. Otherwise, her mother and Jason might have arrived to find her dead in the kitchen. She touched the top of her dagger handle through her skirt. She knew how to wield it, but who knew how the Harvester was armed.

            She’d have to ask Ryder.

            Her pulse quickened. Back to him. 

            He was showering. She knew because she heard the water running, and it didn’t take much effort to imagine him standing beneath the streaming water. After all, she’d gotten a terrific view of his naked body last evening.

            Heat pulsed in her middle at the memory, then more when she thought of later.

            She shook her head. No, that was a mistake. Both times. She turned the burner off and covered the pan, then pushed the bread down into the toaster.

            The water shut off in the next room, and she swallowed, trying not to let her brain go there again. She busied herself with getting plates and silverware out, then took butter and jelly from the fridge. While thinking of website coding, she poured orange juice into two glasses.

            When he emerged from the guest room, his hair was towel-dried, though still damp, making the blond look darker. He wore a soft black t-shirt over faded jeans. She jerked her gaze to his face in time to see that grin disappear.

            She narrowed her eyes, but kept her mouth shut and dished up breakfast.

            He waited until she had eggs in her mouth before he spoke. “What work do you have going right now?”

            She forced down the eggs and chased them with a quick swallow of juice. “I’m nearly done with a big site, then I have a few smaller ones waiting. Regular maintenance on others.”

            “You can work on them away from home, right?”

            She glared at him. “I’m not leaving.”

            He raised one dark blond eyebrow. “I don’t remember asking you.”

            She set her fork down. “Just because I made a mistake and slept with you does not give you permission to make my decisions. Also, you are no longer in the military, and not my commanding officer. And, FYI, I will not be sleeping with you again.”

            He laughed. “Not much sleeping going on, the way I remember it.”

            Heat scorched her face, and Philomena growled, curling her fingers into fists on the table. “I am not looking for a relationship, and even if I were, you wouldn’t be at the top of my wish list.” Good Gods, no. 

            Ryder took a drink, though she couldn’t understand how, with that miserable grin still spread over his face. “You, Mena, are afraid to be in a relationship with a man stronger than you are.”

            She blinked at him, her heart pounding faster. “What?” How could a man she’d managed to avoid for so long know so much about the way her brain worked?

            “I’ve seen your ‘dates’. Bunch of pansies, without a spine in the whole lot. You pick men who won’t argue when you decide you’re done with them.” He lifted his fork. “It’s a tactic I’m immune to.” He scooped up more eggs.

            Her mouth was dry, but she refused to lift her glass and let him know he’d hit the mark with his assessment of her. “How long have you been spying on me?” she asked instead.

            He shook his head, swallowing his eggs. “Just trying to make sure you were safe. Can’t have you bringing danger home to Jason.”

            That was low, and she shot him a fierce glare. “I have never dated anyone who was a danger to Jason,” she ground out.

            “I know.” His grin remained smug, and she wanted to smack it off his face.  “You’ve never dated anyone who was a threat to your remaining single either.”

            She shoved away from the table, her chair screeching with the sudden movement. “My dating is none of your business.” She jolted to her feet and spun away.

            “You haven’t dated anyone who would present any sort of challenge to you,” he continued from behind her when she walked the few steps to the sink. “Is it because you’re really that afraid, or because you were just waiting for the right man to come along?”

            She shook her head, anger and fear clogging her throat, and gripped the edge of the sink so hard her knuckles turned white. There was no ‘right man’ for her. Not for the Medusa. 

            Behind her, his chair scraped over the floor. “I’m not a spineless wonder like any of those guys,” he said, his booted footsteps drawing nearer. “And I’ve been waiting a very long time, so I’m not going away quietly.”

            Philomena shut her eyes.

            His big hands settled on her shoulders. “But I promise I’ll never hurt you, Mena,” he whispered, too close to her ear.

            She jabbed her elbow into his ribs, hard, surprising him into releasing her. She slid away along the counter. “But I might hurt you.” She patted the hilt of her dagger through her skirt as she faced him. “You know I’m armed, right?”

            He rubbed his side where she’d elbowed him, still grinning. “Bring it, baby.”

            Her jaw dropped, and he laughed. Suddenly, his smile vanished.

            “Get down.”

            “What?” She frowned.

            He pushed her to a crouch, then moved through the doorway of the guest room, grabbing his gun from the open bag on the bed.

            Her heart jumped into her throat at the sight of it.

            “We have company,” he breathed, peering through the narrow space she’d made when she parted the living room curtains earlier to let some morning light in.

            She fumbled her skirt out of her way and unsheathed her dagger, wrapping her fingers tight around the hilt. It felt good against her palm, but her hand shook. Two days in a row was a little much.

            “Hang onto that.” He stepped to the alarm panel and shut the system off, then eased out the back door, his posture cautious.

            Philomena shut her eyes. Oh Gods, don’t let the Harvester hurt him. She’d never forgive herself if something happened to him because of her. Jason would be heartbroken. She opened her eyes and took a quick breath. She couldn’t be sitting here in the middle of the floor if Ryder didn’t walk back in. She crawled behind the door, where she could see through the crack between door and frame.

            And waited.


I would love to hear what you do when you need to take a break and hit the mental reset button after working through a lot of stress. Have a great week!


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