Category Archives: Dorlana’s Books
Werewolf, Young Adult, Dark Fantasy inspired by Little Red Riding Hood
Silverweed: A supernatural fairy tale will be free July 29, 2016 – August 2, 2016.
Once upon a time Granny was attacked by a werewolf. Eighteen years later her grandson, Aiden Young, arrives in Indiana for his aunt’s funeral, and his unfortunate discovery of the family secret leads to a fatal mistake. Before the weekend is over, he’s trapped by a blizzard along with his superstitious cousin, Diesel, and Scarlet, Diesel’s manipulative girlfriend. In his grandmother’s spooky, old house in the middle of the woods, the teen faces life and death decisions: who can be trusted, and who needs to be saved? However, he must first figure out what the true monster is… werewolf or fear. Because in this Little Red Riding Hood-inspired supernatural fairy tale, the roles of prey and predator become interchangeable.
Paperback and Ebook available
Chapter 1 – Once Upon a Time
Aiden Young stared out the window of the rental car. His mom, Lucy, had described early fall in Indiana as spectacular, but they’d missed autumn altogether, and she’d failed to mention that the heart of winter was so freaking bleak and bitter. He pulled a pen out of the spirals of his notebook and forced himself to ignore the poem he had written about Summer, his newly ex-girlfriend, on the previous page. On the next blank page, he wrote:
shivers through the claws
of dense skeleton branches
“What are you writing?” his mom asked from behind the wheel, rescuing him from comparing the cold poem to the way he felt. “I would love to hear something. You haven’t shared your poetry with me in a long time. You know, I still have the very first one you wrote to me. Let’s see, it went… ‘Mommy, mommy—’”
“Hey!” He cleared his throat. “Umm… are you sure you turned down the right road?” He couldn’t stomach his mom’s “when you were a little boy” stories, even if guilt did nudge at him. He knew in her mind the reason he had tagged along was so that they could spend time together. In real life, her trip on the same weekend Summer had planned to come over had been perfect timing, and that’s all. Summer wanted serious answers, and he didn’t even want to talk about it, didn’t want to think about it. “It’s been forever since I’ve seen a house. Only trees and more trees and dead trees…”
“Nervous?” She smiled as she glanced back and forth from him to the road, her new, short hairstyle bouncing to the movement.
“You not watching the road is making me a little jumpy.”
“No, I think city boy is scared of the woods.” She gave a quick laugh before saying, “Granny once told me she saw the devil out there. Pitchfork and all.”
“Well, if I was scared, that wouldn’t help.”
His mom watched the road in silence for a moment. “How much do you remember about my family?”
He shrugged. “I remember Augustus was a jerk.”
“I’m sure he’s changed by now.”
“I hope some other stuff has changed, too,” she mumbled. “There are a couple of things about them you probably don’t remember.”
“Wait!” Aiden pointed. “There’s a house down that hill. Is that it?”
“That’s it.” She made a sharp left.
As they drove down the driveway, Aiden frowned. The house was old and worn, the paint peeling like someone had raked the white two-story from the top of the black trim down to the dead bushes. The windows, with a brownish build-up on the glass, didn’t catch a single reflection. But the porch actually triggered a memory. He knew it wrapped the entire house because he remembered running around and around it when he was a little boy.
Lucy parked beside a red BMW. “I don’t remember it being so—”
“I was going to say old. Anyway, how do I look?” She sat up straight and examined herself in the rearview mirror.
Aiden didn’t say anything because after the first fifty times he had told her she looked fine, he’d realized she wasn’t listening for an answer. She was just nervous. They had almost missed their plane because she had changed her outfit a few hundred times. She had finally settled on black slacks, black leather jacket, pastel shirt, and low heels.
Aiden opened the car door. His Texas winter coat, actually a thin jacket, was no match for the icy wind. Since it had been shorts weather back home, he was thankful that at least he had worn long pants. As he walked toward the house, he tucked his hands inside his pockets and tried to look down at much as possible to keep the miserable cold from hitting his face.
Lucy knocked on the front door and looked around at the containers of flowers, plants, and condolence wreaths on the front porch. “I don’t see the one I sent.”
The door opened abruptly. Aiden had been seven the last time he saw his cousin, but he recognized the guy with dark, slicked-back hair and swollen eyes, one green and one blue, as Augustus. He wore jeans and an unbuttoned black shirt, which revealed a chain that dangled down a muscular chest.
“What?” His cousin’s voice sounded groggy, like he had been woken from a nap.
“Augustus? Hi. Remember us? Aunt Lucy. And this is Aiden.”
Augustus remained unenthused. “Oh,” he said, walking away. He left the door wide open, presumably for them to follow.
Aiden had half expected the inside of the house to look as unkempt as the outside. Other than the sheet-covered frame that hung on the wall with only a tarnished corner peeking out, there was nothing wrong or special about the spacious foyer. He glanced at the formal dining room, which was to the right, and at the hallway, stairs, and ramp on the left.
As they followed his cousin into a warm living room, Aiden noticed Augustus’ hair wasn’t short like it had first appeared but hung down in a pony-tail.
“Whoop,” Aiden said as he tripped on the corner of the rug.
Augustus turned and glared at Aiden. “Watch your step.”
Aiden smoothed the rug with his foot in case it was expensive or something. “Sorry, man.”
“The last thing we need around here is more bad luck,” Augustus said.
“Oh, everything is fine,” Lucy offered. “Aiden’s just real clumsy.”
She looked at Aiden sternly, as if to say, “Please, play along.”
“Right…” Aiden said with full sarcasm. “I’m a klutz. I fall down all the time.”
Augustus shook his head and walked to a chair that faced a blazing fireplace. A dozen or so pillar candles, at all stages of being burned, lined the mantle. A sofa, a wooden console television that looked so ancient Aiden doubted it received cable, and a small end table furnished the rest of the room.
They stood behind the sectional like two dummies. Slowly, Augustus swiveled around. “Sit down,” he said.
After they made it to the front of the couch, Lucy only sat on the edge, clearly uncomfortable. “Augustus,” she said. “I don’t know how to express how sorry we are.”
“Diesel,” Augustus said.
“I’m sorry?” Lucy replied.
“My name is Diesel.”
“Oh! Your middle name. When did you start going by your middle name?”
“Five years ago.”
“Oh,” she nodded. “How… are you?” She smoothed her hair. “Are you doing all right?”
“The funeral was yesterday,” he said.
“Yeah. I know, and I’m so sorry. I hoped we could drive out to the gravesite.”
“You missed your own sister’s funeral.”
“I know. I know. We really tried to get here on time but the airport, you know, and Christmas. It’s insane. Trying to rent a car was…”
Diesel shifted in his seat.
Lucy cleared her throat. “How’s Granny?”
“She’s sleeping. Do you want to see her?”
“Nooo, not if she’s resting.”
“I’ll be right back.”
When Diesel jumped up and walked out of the room, Aiden tried to exhale the tension with a silent whistle. The fire crackled as they sat waiting.
They both turned when they heard a loud knock coming from above. A railing supported by carved wooden balusters edged the open landing. “Gran,” Diesel said loudly. “Aunt Lucy and Aiden are here. Finally.” The bedroom door creaked open.
After he heard the door shut, Aiden leaned over to his mom and whispered, “Man, he sure did get weird.”
“Well, he’s been through a lot. He just lost his mom.”
“Sorry.” Aiden felt bad for a second. But still… “What was with the rug and bad luck stuff, and you making me look like such a dweeb?”
“I didn’t mean to. I was trying to make him feel better. It’s so strange. I had no idea Augustus believed in all that stuff, too.”
“Diesel,” Aiden corrected with a smirk.
She nodded. “I mean Diesel. They’re all a little different… a little superstitious, old-fashioned.”
“How do you mean, superstitious? Black cats and stuff?”
She nodded. “It seems like every little thing. You see, the reason Diesel got upset earlier is because stumbling is suppose to be bad luck in general.”
“How do you know that?”
“I grew up with all of it.”
“But you’re not superstitious.”
She leaned in closer to Aiden and whispered, “Because I knew all the old wives’ tales, omens, and folklore Mom told me and Rose were only make-believe, like fairy tales. Now Rose, she soaked it all in and actually believed. But she didn’t go all,” she waved her hands, “you know until…”
Aiden shook his head because he didn’t know. His mom rarely brought up her sister in conversation.
“Well, when she was pregnant, her boyfriend, Harley, ran off and left her. I think something completely snapped. Even though I had already moved out by then, I heard she took it hard. At least that S.O.B. left money for Diesel when he died.”
“She’s not feeling very well,” Diesel said from directly behind them. They both jumped. “She wants to know if you guys can go up there.”
“Sure, sure,” Lucy said, her face bright red.
They followed Diesel into the foyer and up the stairs. After a few steps up, the stairs turned to the right. Aiden could see over the banister, down into the living room.
When they arrived at Granny’s door, Aiden’s heart thumped in his chest. He hadn’t seen her in ten years. His own grandma, a stranger. He could also sense his mom’s anxiety; she took her time walking inside the room.
Granny sat in a recliner covered by a worn quilt. Her grey, bushy eyebrows went all the way across and met in the middle of her brow. Her cheekbones sank in, and her long, silver hair draped over both of her shoulders.
“Lucille, you came,” Granny said, her voice ungrateful.
“Mom,” Lucy said. “How are you?”
“I’m hanging in there.”
“I’m so sorry about Rose.” Lucy leaned over and gave her mom a distant hug. “I can’t believe she had a heart attack.”
“I don’t believe it, either. Doctors. All of them, money hungry. Hmph, it doesn’t matter, anymore. She’s gone. Rose is gone.”
Aiden heard the door close behind him. Diesel had left the room.
“She was a good daughter,” Granny said. “I could count on her. Always here for me.” She looked at Aiden. “My, my look at you. Come give Granny a hug.”
Aiden walked over to Granny’s stretched out arms and hugged her, smelling the scent of grassy earth. He pulled away, and she smiled warmly.
“It’s so good to see you in person,” she said. “I’ve been sent pictures, but it’s not the same. Look at you. You remind me of your grandpa; he was tall and thin.” She looked around Aiden. “Where’s my new grandson? How old is he now, two? Seems a shame, a grandmother never even getting to meet her own grandson.”
“He’s three and… he has a cough, and I thought it would be easier.” Lucy cleared her throat. “Mike stayed home with him.”
Granny eased her attention over to Lucy. “I see. So when are you running off? I guess it’s just as well, anyway.”
Lucy straightened and smiled curtly. “There’s something I need to talk—”
“You can stay in your old room if you want,” Granny interrupted. “It’s the same. We haven’t changed a thing in case you ever decided to come home. Aiden, honey, you can take the guestroom downstairs. I’m feeling quite weak. Please ask Diesel if there’s some leftovers from Rose’s friends that I can have for my supper tonight. Rose always made supper…”
“I’d be happy to cook,” Lucy said.
“I suppose that will do. Turn the light out when you leave.”
Lucy stood for a second, wringing her hands, and then took a couple of steps to the bedside table and snapped off the lamp. The room went dim but not dark because of the daylight sneaking in from the window. Lucy turned abruptly and left the room. Aiden smiled at Granny, feeling awkward. “See ya,” he said before following his mom’s exit and shutting the door behind him.
Aiden caught up with Lucy on the stairs, mid-ramble. “She chose to live with Rose, and now she’s acting like I abandoned her or something. She wouldn’t even give me a chance to ask her. What makes me even think she would want to move in with me?”
“It was a little soon to ask, don’t you think? Hi. Condolences. Want to pack up and move across the country?”
“Shhh. Why don’t we go to the car,” she said as they reached the foyer, “and we can talk.”
Once in the car, Lucy placed her hand on her cheek as she stared out the front windshield. “I hope you can understand why I need to do this.”
“I know, you and Dad explained it all at home. I mean, she’s old, and you don’t think a college kid like Diesel can take care of her.” Ever since his mom had brought up her plan, he had been apprehensive, especially since his mom suggested she extend the invitation to Diesel, too, at least until after the holidays. However, after seeing Diesel, he didn’t think he had to worry about him wanting to bunk together. He didn’t seem the type. And, since Diesel was legally an adult, he could have the entire house to himself. Aiden knew what he would pick if he was given the choice.
“I didn’t realize it would be so hard,” his mom said, speaking more to herself than to Aiden. “I can’t believe she’s saying I ran off. I didn’t run off. I got married… I couldn’t bring myself to come back very often because every time I did, Rose acted and looked so strange, like a witch or gypsy or something. I couldn’t stand to see her like that. She used to be so pretty. The last time we came here, I swear she was in the kitchen making some kind of potion.”
“Cool, magic potions.” Aiden imagined his aunt standing over a black cauldron, stirring it with a long wooden spoon.
“She wasn’t normal,” she whispered and wiped her eyes. “I tried to tell Mom that I wasn’t sure Rose should be taking care of anyone and to come live with us. Of course she wouldn’t hear anything bad about her Rose. She chose her over me… So it’s not my fault. But I really didn’t mean for ten years to pass. Now I feel like a terrible daughter and sister.” Lucy inhaled a long breath and let it out quickly. “I’ll never see Rose again, you know.”
“I’m sorry.” Aiden pulled a t-shirt out of his duffle bag from the backseat and handed it to his mom to wipe her tears.
“I know it’s too late to make it up to Rose, but maybe I can help Mom and be there for my nephew. He doesn’t have a mom or a dad now. We’ll sit down and have a nice dinner and discuss everything with them, as a family. I’m sure they’ll see that it’s the best solution. Right?”
“I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to get all into that.” She nodded and patted him on the leg. “I’m so glad you decided to come with me. I can’t believe you chose to spend your holiday with me. It means a lot to me.”
“Let’s just get the bags—”
“Wait a minute,” he said. “You’re not suggesting we sleep here, are you?”
“We don’t have a choice. After dinner it’ll be too late to drive very far. You saw downtown. Did you see a Holiday Inn?”
They had driven straight through Kingwood, Indiana. Surrounded by worn-down shops sat an old, two-story courthouse, complete with bell tower and soaring front steps that led to a columned porch. Unfortunately, he hadn’t seen anything that even resembled a modern hotel.
Lucy said, “Anyway, aren’t you the one who told me I should take my time?”
“Yeah, but I meant during the day and after we checked into a hotel that had room service.”
“It’s only for the one night.” Lucy sighed and stared at the house. “How bad could it be?”
He didn’t look forward to being in the house at night; it already had a creepy Poe atmosphere during the day. He imagined Diesel looming over his bed with a butcher knife chanting, “You’re bad luck. You’re bad luck…” Aiden shuddered. “Right,” he said.
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This short story was originally published in the online fairy tale magazine, Enchanted Conversation . It is included in my fairy tale inspired paranormal short story collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales.
His Soul Inspiration
by Dorlana Vann
“Have you read this?” My husband, Philip, held the book of fairy tales I had bought from a used bookstore for my niece’s ninth birthday.
“Well, not that one, but I’ve read fairy tales before,” I said as I shut the door and stepped out of my heels.
He shook the hardback of nearly 500 pages. “Not like these.”
“Yeah, sure I have. ‘The Ugly duckling,’ ‘The Emperor’s New Suit,’ ‘The Little Mermaid’…”
“Right-right-right. These are them, but not like the ones I’m sure you’re thinking of. They’re not all fairy princesses and happy endings. They’re darker, full of hardship and pain and broken hearts.”
“All right,” I said. His excitement confused me because it didn’t match what I thought he was saying. “Do you think I should take it back and get Emily something else?”
“No. I mean, yes, you should get Emily something else. But no, don’t take this back.”
I scratched my head. “Are you okay?”
“I’m more than okay—I’m terrific!” He set the book down on the couch, wrapped his arms around me, and twirled us around. As he put me down, an amused smirk transformed into a wide smile and huge eyes. “The Little Mermaid!” he exclaimed.
Philip had been having a rough year, trying to find his inspiration to paint. This sudden strangeness made me queasy, and I was a little surprised that he had cracked before I had. Not that I didn’t respect his work, goals, and dreams, it’s just that I had some of my own. And working two jobs to support a starving artist had never been my plan.
He had picked up the book again and was flipping through it when I decided to go run a bubble bath.
“Syrena, here it is. I want to read this to you right fast.”
“I’m really tired. I just want to go soak in the tub.”
“Please…. This is it. This is what I need to get me out of this slump. Please, just listen and see.”
I sighed as softly as I could manage and took my place beside him on the couch. He began to read: “The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson… Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep…”
“Well, it’s definitely different than the Disney version,” I said after he had finished reading the tale. “I didn’t realize it was so sad.”
“Anything else?” He asked slowly.
I shook my head and shrugged.
“Her skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf, and her eyes as blue as the deepest sea,” he quoted. “And she wrapped herself in her long, thick hair.”
“I’m sorry, Philip. I’m tired. I’m not getting what you’re getting at. Just tell me.”
“It’s you! You have to be my model.” His eyes sparkled, and he looked so happy, happier than I had seen him in a long time. I even felt a tinge of exhilaration myself. It had been awhile since he had asked me to model for him.
“Okay.” I smiled. “Mermaids are topless, right?”
He danced his eyebrows up and down. “You betcha.”
“It sounds like fun. Saturday morning, I’m all yours.”
“No, no, no. Now.” He stood up and held his hand out to me.
“Now?” I whined.
“I can’t take the chance of losing this, this feeling.”
After a few seconds of staring into his imploring but loving eyes, I agreed by taking his hand and letting him lead me to the studio/guest room/home office. A few of his paintings hung on the walls: abstracts from his college years, pencil drawings sketched when we were on vacation at the beach, and one of me when we first met. The evening really made me think of that time, when he was so vigorous and full of dreams. When his passion oozed from his fingertips, and he saw the world differently than anybody I had ever met before; he noticed colors before shapes and talked in hues and aura, like others talked current events.
It didn’t take him long to put me in position: on the floor leaning on my elbow, legs out beside me, and my hair down and draped over the front of me like a mermaid’s. I knew he was in his zone, no longer seeing me, but seeing through me and to my spirit.
“Beautiful.” He took his place behind the easel and white canvas.
Unable to see his face, only his arm as it gently followed the hand holding the paint brush, I knew not to talk, not to disturb him as he created the new, improved me. However, after what felt like hours, my mouth began to dry. I needed water. Surely, he would understand that I needed a little break—I opened my mouth to tell him, but my tongue was completely limp, and I couldn’t even swallow. The silly words from the story came to mind: “Then she cut off the mermaid’s tongue, so that she became dumb, and would never again speak or sing.”
Trying to laugh at the thought, I felt a strange pinch in the middle of my stomach. An involuntary grunt finally came from my throat, and when I realized I could make this sound, I tried to get Philip’s attention, but he didn’t hear me—too focused in his work.
I squeezed my eyes open and shut, trying to clear the buzzing that had begun in my head. And then I saw it…. waves of color beamed from me to Philip’s swooping arm. At first I thought it was the result of the light bulbs and my blinking, but it didn’t go away. It was dark outside, so there was no sun playing with the window’s glass. These streams of gold and red and blue were coming from me.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain run up my arm, and it couldn’t hold me up any longer. I collapsed. “…and it seemed as if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body: she fell into a swoon, and lay like one dead…” I thought Philip would soon look at me and tell me to sit up—but minutes passed, and he never glanced away from the canvas. The pain moved down to my legs and so did the beams of colorful light. “…she felt as if treading upon the points of needles or sharp knives.”
As I grew weaker, my confusion faded. It became clear that if I didn’t get Philip’s attention, I would die, which promptly turned into: if I don’t stop Philip, I will die. “Haste, then; he or you must die before sunrise.”
I pushed my torso up with wobbly arms, every muscle burning. I couldn’t feel my legs at all. “She has given us a knife: here it is, see it is very sharp. Before the sun rises you must plunge it into the heart of the prince; when the warm blood falls upon your feet… return to us to live.” I remembered the scissors on my desk behind me. I loudly grunted as I reached and grabbed them, dropping immediately back down. I lay there, time passing until I was able to pull myself by plunging the scissors into the carpet and using them as a means to move across the floor.
With each breath, my lungs tightened as if the air itself was poison. I coughed and gagged, but still Philip did not stir. Finally, I lay beside him at his easel, taking a moment to gather some strength. The hand that held the scissors ached and so did my heart at the thought of what I had to do to survive. I used the rest of my might to pull myself up, leaning on my left hand, and brought the weapon behind my head with my right.
When I shifted my view, the painting came into focus. It was complete, save for the sun. Philip dipped his brush into the yellow and orange mixture, and I examined The Little Mermaid, letting the scissors fall behind me as I marveled at her beauty. She was alive. This painting was Philip’s dream, his life’s work… his masterpiece.
Easing the brush away from the bright sun, Philip whispered, “Finished,” as I fell into soft darkness…
“…and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether.”
His Soul Inspiration is one of the stories from my fairy tale inspired paranormal short story collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales. .99 cent eBook available at Amazon.
Tags: amwriting, dorlana vann, Enchanted conversation, fairy tale, fairy tale inspired, fairy tale remix, fairytale, fiction, free story, short story, supernatural, supernatural fairy tales, The Little Mermaid
I’m very excited to share my latest contemporary romance, The Trouble with Scarecrows. I have posted the first chapter below. I would love to know what you think. And if you leave a comment, you’ll be in the drawing for a copy (Kindle or Pdf – winner’s choice). I’ll post the winner on Saturday – April 16, 2016.
Love and Laughter,
The Trouble with Scarecrows
by Dorlana Vann
Brenda Fisher hesitated at the door of the multiplex as if she stood at the entrance to hell. The long corridor was faintly lit by electric candelabras that hung between ordinary doors; the numbers One, Two, Three, Four were their only difference. “Who in their right mind would find this place quaint?” she grumbled as she forced herself to walk inside and shut the door.
The 1920’s brick home had been renovated into a four-apartment multiplex years before she’d bought it, and only one resident, Zadora Hart, lived there now. She had taken over the monthly payments from a previous tenant, and that lease was almost up. But Brenda had never intended on being a landlord and sure as hell wasn’t going to reside there permanently. Unfortunately, she did have to live there for a couple of weeks while her apartment was being remodeled and so she could get the old house ready to sell. She planned on staying in the former owner’s apartment, which was the largest of the four. More importantly, it held no personal scars . . . like Haley and Larry’s apartments did.
Brenda held her breath as she grabbed the glass doorknob and opened the apartment Haley Monroe, her former assistant, had lived in. Even though only a few pieces of generic furniture had been left behind, Brenda’s memories brought every miserable detail to life. This apartment had been the beginning of the end for her and Larry. She had outwardly kept it together the day she’d walked in and discovered that Haley and Larry had slept together. But on the inside, she’d had this sinking feeling that nothing would ever be the same again. She’d been right.
Brenda closed the door to Apartment Two and went across the hall to Larry’s old apartment. In that few seconds, her hurt transformed into anger, and she hated herself for buying the house for that ungrateful son-of-a-bitch in the first place. She nodded. “Good.” Resentment was exactly what she needed to open that door and to get on with her life. Facing the apartment was the next step in getting over Larry White. “I can do this,” she said as she eased the door open.
The apartment was arranged and decorated exactly the same as it had the day she’d surprised Larry with the expensively furnished writer’s retreat. But why did it look as if someone lived there now? Dishes had been left on the coffee table, shoes on the floor, the air-conditioner ran, and a lingering smell of bacon filled the air—all of which was strange because Larry had moved out months ago.
Her heart did a little flip. Perhaps not everything had gone the way Larry thought they’d go. Maybe he had left Haley and hadn’t had a chance to call or didn’t have the nerve to come crawling back. She’d told him he would come back. He always came back. A huge smile broke across her face. She would make him pay . . . but just for a little while. She still loved him, no matter what kind of jerk he’d been to her.
When she heard a noise coming from down the hall, she hurried toward it. “Larry? Larry, are you here?”
Brenda stood at Larry’s open bedroom door. Sure enough, clothes were everywhere. Larry had always been somewhat of a slob. Ever since college, she had to get after him to pick up his plate and to use a clothes hamper.
She heard the shower running and Larry whistling. She missed him so much. She wished she had done so many things differently. But everything would be okay now. Everything would go back to the way they had been. No, things would be better. Larry knew what she wanted now. He knew that she loved him and wanted a real relationship.
Forget about making him pay, she thought as she set her purse on the end of the unmade bed. She would give him a homecoming he would never forget. She removed her heels and then unzipped and slipped out of her dress. As she crossed the bedroom, she unfastened her bra and let it fall to the floor.
Brenda eased the bathroom door open, the steam from the shower blasting through the coldness of the bedroom, and walked inside. Her heart pounded with anticipation and excitement as she stood beside the shower and removed her last piece of clothing, her black panties. She gave her hair a quick tousle and struck a pose before pulling the curtain back with one swift yank.
“What the f—!”
A second of confusion past as Brenda realized he was not Larry. But he was a man all right: a muscled, tattooed, naked man. She sucked in a breath as tiny splashes of water sprayed her face and breasts, bringing her head up to speed with her eyes.
“Whoa.” The guy eyed her up and down.
She shielded her body the best she could, turned and ran. A few seconds later, she was in the hall, stopping just shy of the apartment she’d be staying in.
Brenda glanced down at herself. She had to go back in there! She forgot her clothes on the bedroom floor. She had more clothes, but she had left them out in the car. For a second, she actually considered going outside instead of back in there with that man.
She hurried back through the apartment to the bedroom and gathered her things. Her Chantelle bikini undies were in the bathroom . . . a $32.00 sacrifice.
Brenda heard the guy banging around before appearing at the bathroom doorway. She held her head high and trotted away.
“Hey! Hey, wait!” The guy chased after her.
She didn’t stop running until she reached Apartment One; thankfully the door was unlocked. Once inside, she stood there with her back against it, catching her breath.
Zadora Hart was supposed to be the only tenant in the house. Everyone else had moved out. So who was that guy? “What do I do?” Her heart thumped behind the retrieved items she held against her chest as her mind went crazy with thoughts. The guy could be an ax murderer. Zadora Hart might be all chopped up in little pieces and stashed somewhere in the house or buried in the yard. Or the guy could be some bum or a druggy who had found out that the house was practically empty. She had to call the police. She fumbled inside her purse until she found her phone.
Brenda pressed the nine and then let out a quiet sigh as she remembered the bum’s body. He sure didn’t look like someone who lived on the streets. More like someone who lived at the gym. His head was clean shaven, and he seemed to be around her age, thirty. He had huge, ripped, tanned arms and legs, a body-builder’s chest and stomach and . . . tattoos. He had a lot of tattoos.
“Wait a minute.” Was that Larry’s assistant? It had to be. She was sure of it. She’d met him at Larry’s book signing months back. The one she’d dropped everything to attend, and then Larry had dumped her right there in front of all his fans. What an ass.
She jumped when she heard a knock at the door.
“Hey naked lady, are you in there? I’m not complaining about seeing your boobies, but who are you?”
“Just go away,” Brenda shouted, heat rising to her face.
“This house belongs to a buddy of mine, and if you don’t open this door right now, I’ll be forced to call the cops.”
“What?” Brenda dropped her things to the floor. She stomped into her dress, heaved it up, and then swung the door open wide. “Call the cops on me? You’re the trespasser! I’m Brenda Fisher, and I own this house.”
“Oh, okay,” he said and turned to walk back down the hallway, wearing nothing but a towel.
“Excuse me, Mr. . . .?”
He stopped, turned around, and smiled, making him seem a bit less intimidating. “I’m Neal. Neal Parker.”
“Larry’s assistant.” She’d been correct. She rarely forgot a face or body like his.
Neal frowned. “Have we met?” He studied her for a second before his eyes widened. “Ooooh, I remember you. You cut your hair. You came to Larry’s book signing that day. You’re Larry’s friend, the ambulance chaser.”
“I’m a corporate—”
“So what was that?” Neal interrupted, pointing to his apartment and then back at Brenda, his finger and eyes then sweeping up and down her body before the devilish smirk appeared.
That’s when she realized she wasn’t wearing any underclothes, and her dress wasn’t zipped up in the back, but she wasn’t about to fidget with it.
He was saying, “It was a nice morning surprise. A bit unexpected. You should have called first.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “Mr. Parker, is it? I thought you were . . . I thought you were someone else. What were you doing in there, anyway?”
“You thought I was Larry.” Neal now folded his arms and seemed satisfied that he’d figured this obvious thing out. “And, by the way, I’m not his assistant anymore. His fiancée took over, so you know.”
The word fiancée didn’t play fair. It kicked her in the stomach, making her realize how utterly stupid she was for thinking Larry had left Haley and had come back to her. Her humiliation teeter-tottered between a scream and tears, and she fought to keep control with everything she had.
Neal whistled. “Wow. Hit a nerve.”
“You didn’t answer my question, Mr. Parker,” she spat. “What are you doing here?”
“Larry’s letting me stay in his apartment since he doesn’t need it anymore. Didn’t he tell you?”
“We’re not exactly on speaking terms.”
“I see. No talking.” He raised his eyebrows. “Only body language.”
She did not appreciate the way this man, this stranger, made a fool of her. “I haven’t received a rent check for his apartment. I do not have a signed lease, and I did not agree to a freeloader.”
He shrugged his shoulders, calling attention to the huge scorpion tattoo on his left pectoral. “Larry said it wouldn’t be a problem since he wasn’t paying anything anyways.”
“Well, Larry was wrong. You have two weeks to get out,” she said with pleasure, watching his smug expression transform into a one of confusion. “You’re lucky I’m giving you that long.”
“Why? Hey, I’m sorry I was in the shower instead of Larry. And I’m sorry I saw you naked. Okay, that last part not so much, but you walked in on me. I didn’t do anything!”
“It has nothing to do with earlier. I’m selling the house.”
“What? You can’t!”
“I can do what I want.”
Neal took a step forward.
Brenda put her hand up to indicate he’d better not take another step.
He stopped and frowned. “I’ve used everything I have to pay for culinary school,” his voice boomed, matching his physique. “If you sell this place, I’ll have to quit before I even get started. I’m barely scraping by as it is.”
“Not my problem. My penthouse is being redecorated, so I’m going to be staying here until then. So you have about two weeks before it goes on the market.”
“F—,” Neal said through his teeth. “You’re a real bitch, aren’t you?”
Brenda didn’t flinch. It was hardly the first time she’d been called that. “Is there anyone else living here that I don’t know about?”
“Just Zadora in Three. She’s a psychic, so she probably already knows you’re here to pull the rug out from underneath us. I don’t see why you couldn’t have given me some sort of warning, lady. It’s not right, you strutting in here all f—”
Brenda turned and marched back inside the apartment, slamming her door, shutting out his barking. “Warning? Ha! He doesn’t even belong here.”
She breathed a sigh of relief that at least she had turned the situation around to her favor. Nevertheless, the morning had shaken her up a quite a bit, and she didn’t rattle easily. But being here already had her on edge. Fiancée. Larry and Haley were engaged. “Whatever.” Brenda wiped her eyes and tucked her hair behind her ears. “It was a mistake to come here,” she whispered and then immediately shook her head. No. She refused to let Haley or Larry or even that caveman, Neal Parker, get the best of her. She listened now, seeing if he still stood out there. Thankfully, she didn’t hear anything.
Had Neal said culinary school? Wasn’t he a bit old to be a student? Very mature and very masculine. Too much testosterone for her taste. The way he’d stood there in the hallway, all confident, wearing only a towel, not even checking once to see if it was secure around his waist, told her exactly how full of himself he was. Plus, he was obviously a button pusher. A button pusher who would never let her live it down that she had stood naked by his shower. A button pusher who was friends with Larry and had probably already heard all kinds of lies about her that he would bring up in the future. She had to stay far away from him.
She took a couple of deep breaths and took in the apartment. She winced at the zebra striped chairs, the tribal and animal print pillows and lamps. The tall fake trees probably had more dust on them than real plants. And she had to carefully step around a dead animal skin on the floor. “Please don’t be real.” She could almost hear drums and jungle sounds. “This is going to be a long two weeks.”
The second book in my Trouble with Men Series is now up for preorder (Kindle eBook) The official publication date is April 13, 2016.
by Dorlana Vann
A scarecrow is the opposite of a wingman, a dating decoy used to scare away any “crows” who are giving unwanted attention, making it difficult for the right man to have a clear shot.
Thirty-year-old Brenda Fisher believes the best way to get over her ex is to face her past and find a new guy. She knows the type of man she needs in her life … and the type of man she does not, which includes alpha males like Neal Parker.
Neal Parker’s friend and former boss, Larry White, had been gracious enough to let him stay at his old apartment rent-free while Neal pursues his culinary degree. But now the owner of the multiplex–Larry’s high-strung ex-girlfriend, Brenda Fisher–is threatening to sell it out from underneath him. Brenda is possibly the sexiest woman Neal has ever met. Nevertheless, he’s aware of her past destructive relationship with Larry and knows it’s best to stay clear.
When Neal finds out Brenda might be in need of some help in the romance department, he tries to trick her into an exchange: scarecrow services for the apartment. Brenda does not appreciate being manipulated. She ups the stakes, and if Neal wants the future he’d planned, he’ll have to play by her rules.
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