Thursday, 28 July 2011

Stinky Feet and Aunt Tilly’s Visit

***Due to a problem with blogger yesterday, this post has been re-published. Readers can comment on this post or go to the original post HERE and leave comments.***

Welcome today's guest author, Jennifer Johnson!

Years ago, when I was collaborating with a friend on a story, the topic of feet came up. My friend suggested I take the socks off my hero.

“Bare ankles on a man are so sexy when he’s wearing shoes.” She heaved one of those girly sighs. You know the type of sigh-heaving I mean.

“Seriously?” I said in disbelief. “If a man wears no socks then his feet stink.”

No. I couldn’t let my hero wear shoes without socks, and yet if as the all-powerful creator of this hero, I can bare his feet, can’t I create them without bad odor? How far is the reader willing to go with me in my story with her suspension of disbelief? Will she believe a man would sleep naked in bed with a woman and only cuddle her, but not believe he has body odor? Where’s the line?

As I reflect on the eye rolling I’ve done when I’ve labored through a really dumb passage in a book or my own sigh-heaving when I’ve read a page that simply melts my heart at the well-written romance, I’ve decided what we want is the realm of possibility. We want the meaningful moments, but never the awkward ones. After all, don’t we have enough of those “wish the floor would swallow me up in my embarrassment” moments in real life?

Take, for instance, our monthly cycles. Period. Menstruation. Aunt Tilly’s visit. Whatever you want to call it. Now I’ve read a lot of romance books, and the only time a heroine thinks about her period is when it’s late, and she’s thinks she’s pregnant. I’ve never read a scene in which the hero and heroine are hot and heavy with each other, and she says, “Wait, honey, before you go down on me, I just want you to know I’m on my period.” It seems to me how the guy reacts to that statement is going to brand him as a true romantic hero or my brother. Why my brother? Well, as a teenager I may have chased him around the house with a used sanitary pad. He was four years older than I was so to get that kind of reaction out of him was awesome. However, it also taught me that males think period blood is disgusting.

Come on, people. Women menstruate once a month. Our romantic heroines also menstruate. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have so many plots in which she has to work things out with her baby daddy.

Is the actual menses akin to smelly feet? We’d rather not read about leakage unless it has to do with vaginal lubrication or semen? Really? I readily admit I cannot stand weeping unless it is coming from a woman’s eyes. And also I do not want to read about hot spurting. You know what I’m talking about.

But back to Aunt Tilly’s monthly visit. If I wanted reality, I suppose I’d close the book. But isn’t menstruation one of the core symptoms of the feminine? Are we turned off from it because it’s not sexy to be fertile? Or is it the double standard that the sign of a woman’s fertility (her period) is deemed gross whereas a man’s sign of fertility (his semen) is his biggest demonstration of sexuality so that we loooove to read about it in all its spurted glory?

I think it might be an interesting exercise to have a heroine bloated and crampy, and to let the hero react to her in her feminine menstruating state in a true, romantically heroic way. And what would that way be?

Wax poetically about the dark red color on her panties?

Fetch some chocolate, tampons, and Midol from Kroger?

Get the heck out of her face and go wash his freakin’ stinky feet?


Jennifer Johnson’s newest book is Double Dog Dare from Turquoise Morning Press. So far none of her heroes have waxed poetically about menstruation. Nor do they have stinky feet.

The Blurb:

We’re all mad here.
~The Cheshire Cat

When Cheris McDowell wakes up in a hotel room next to the husband she doesn’t remember meeting, she decides the only practical solution is a quiet divorce.

Too bad the rest of the world disagrees.
As an Internet advice guru, Cheris ought to know how to fix the mess she woke up to, but when her own web master conspires to keep the marriage going, Cheris is at a loss.

Geoff Arrowood III, her new husband, isn’t helping the situation. He’s way too charming and looks a little too good in a Tuxedo.

Will Cheris choose a little storybook madness or the sensible advice of the wisdom she’s followed all her life?

The Excerpt:

Drink Me

“I dare you,” her companion murmured.

“I don’t take dares,” Cheris replied shooting him a disdainful look.

“What about a double dog dare?” He winked, and Cheris’ stomach fluttered. “Do you take those?”

It was silly, really, letting this stranger impel her to anything. Squaring her shoulders she stepped forward into the looking glass and retrieved the drink. Bringing it to her lips, she sipped once and discovered it to be mild yet sweet—similar to cantaloupe in the peak of its season.

“Mmm. Very nice.” She tilted the cup and drained it. “I’ve never tasted anything quite like it.” She licked her lips and tilted her head. Picking up another glass, she set the empty one in its place. “Go over there and drink one.”

The man raised his eyebrows, but walked to the chair. They faced each other as he determined the correct glass to pick up.

“Yes. That’s the one.” Cheris drank from the second glass enjoying the cool liquid. “I’ve got to find out what this stuff—oh!” She gasped as she tripped over the frame.

At once he was at her side steadying her. “Careful there, Alice. It’s the rabbit hole you’re supposed to fall into.”

Oh. My. Goodness.

Cheris’ hands were on his arms, her fingers sliding over the material, reveling in the solid flesh underneath. She raised her face and blinked up at him. “Whoever you may be,” she drawled. “I have always depended on kindness in strangers.”

Like what you read? Click on Double Dog Dare for the book link at Turquoise Morning Press.

If the link doesn’t work, the URL is below.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Moving/Packing Blues

It’s been a whole lot of years—like 20—since I’ve moved. But that’s exactly what I’m doing. Moving.
I’m going to another state and finally going to live my dream of living on the coast! I’m excited for sure.
And a little scared.

In the meantime, I’m making lists. And the lists keep growing. Today we start our first official packing day. You’d think this would be relatively easy. Well, not easy—labor intensive—but not involve a bunch of stupid stuff.

You need boxes to pack, right? Right. Well, finding boxes isn’t that easy. I guess if you don’t mind spending a ridiculous amount of money it’s easy—but not me! I called a couple of moving places about boxes. It was going to cost me $300.00 for boxes and packing tape. HELL NO! I looked in Walmart. Half that price but still a big HELL NO from me. I went online and found  a couple of sites that sell used packing boxes. Used packing boxes? Man…this was getting complicated. Those boxes were about the same price as new ones at Walmart.

So what did I do?

I decided that I deserved FREE boxes. Yep, I did. So I went into my local grocery store and asked for them. Took them about a week to get them together as they realized I’d need different sizes, but they did it. Now these boxes aren’t quite as sturdy as the REAL packing boxes, but I don’t care. They’ll do nicely. I’ve got packing tape to reinforce them, and I can manage. I’ve still got to rent a big truck to the tune of $250.00 a day. I figure I’ll need it a total of two days. Basically, I’ve got the packing and moving part solved. But I’ve got a problem.

No place to live yet. LOL

I’ve been online to every site I can find in the area where I’m moving. I’ve written down the particulars on probably a hundred different houses. And boy did it take a lot of work to find those houses. I never realized so many people were against having pets! But they sure as hell are. LOL And if you do have a pet, be prepared to pay a ridiculous non-refundable pet deposit. Yeah, I know why they do it. Not all animals are the kind you want in your house. Hell, sometimes I don’t even want mine. LOL But they are house broken and they don’t chew. My dogs are the kind that just couldn’t survive outside. They each have their own doggie beds but sometimes you’ll find one in a bed, head on pillow!

The other problem I’ve had with finding a house is location. I don’t want to be on the beach. I’m afraid of storms and flooding. But I don’t want to be more than a few blocks away—within walking distance. Then, of course, there is finding a “good” neighborhood. That takes a lot of research. I’ve even made phone calls to the local police to ask them about particular streets/areas.

There’s one thing for sure, though. I’m learning what is overpriced, underpriced, and spot on. Any time anything is below market value, I wonder why. So I mark those with questions about condition and area. If something is overpriced, again I want to know why. For instance, there is a house I’m interested in because it’s exactly what I want in a house. Hardwood floors throughout. Simple floor plan. Big kitchen. Four bedrooms and a sunroom. Two baths. It even has a nice size yard. In the back there is a huge live oak complete with Spanish moss. Gorgeous!

There are three problems. It’s farther away from the beach than I want to be. Ten blocks. And the yard has NO landscaping. Just a bare yard. But the biggest problem is price. Because of its location and the lack of landscaping I think it’s overpriced. So it’s doubtful I’ll be getting that house. We’ll see.

The worst problem I am facing with this move is cooperation from my kids. They are supposed to be helping me do things. They aren’t. It’s like pulling teeth to get them to do a damn thing. I’m sick of it. So this morning I had to pitch a fit. Now I have a headache. They are working—just barely. I’m not happy. There is just no way I can do everything alone and I shouldn’t have to. But it’s not right I have to beg and finally lose my temper in order to get anything accomplished.

Anybody got any really good suggestions on moving in general. AND…on getting the kids to move their asses!!!!

At least I'm getting good reviews for my latest release from Ellora's Cave--Strip Down. Check it out! 
Also available through Amazon

Monday, 25 July 2011

That Weird Lady at the End of the Road with All the Cats

Grab a cup of coffee and visit with today's humorous guest author Ruth J. Hartman.

My husband, Garry, is afraid people will call me ‘that weird lady at the end of the road with all the cats.’ And I tell him. Too late. They already do. It’s a label I’m proud of. Why not? Everyone has to be good at something, right?

I have two spoiled cats who live in the house. And several wild ones I feed outside in the shed. Although, I’m aware I’m feeding other furry mammals, too. Can’t be helped. Just yesterday, we caught an embarrassed raccoon in our live-trap. It was fat. And its fur looked so soft and fluffy. My husband said it’s from the vitamins and minerals in all the cat food it had been guzzling.

Since I have no children, my cats are my kids. Always have been. I’ve loved cats since I was in the womb. No, really! Every picture of me of a little kid has me holding at least one cat. When I look at those old photos, I feel sorry for them, though. As a toddler, I carried them around with both hands. Around their necks. Eyes bulging. Bodies squirming. Those cats must have been made of tough stuff. None of them died from asphyxiation.

Lucky for me, Garry has morphed into a cat person, too. It was bound to happen. I had cats long before I had him.
And we’ve been married nearly 29 years. He could see the writing on the wall. Love me. Love my cats. I mean who doesn’t like being awakened at 4:00 a.m. by a cold, wet nose on their eyelid?

I ambled downstairs yesterday morning, looking for a Diet Mountain Dew. My caffeine drink of choice. I wandered into our living room where my husband sat reading the paper. Nothing new there.

Before I could mumble “Mornin’” he was pointing.

Why was he pointing? I knew I didn’t look my best, obviously just having gotten out of bed, but come on. My hair wasn’t sticking up anymore than usual that time of the day.

And his wasn’t any better. He had no right to ridicule me. We both looked like frightened peacocks.

He kept pointing.


More pointing. I finally looked down. Well that’s just great. A pile of kitty upchuck congealed on the floor. Who knows what time it got there. My bare feet had narrowly missed being slimed. Having that stuff ooze between your toes is disgusting. And yes, I know that from experience. Chunks of
partially digested Iams lay in a puddle of I-don’t-want-to-know.

My husband, a wonderful man who I adore, will not clean up a discretion of that kind. Ever. I sighed. Just what I wanted to do before I had breakfast, took a shower, and got ready to drive 30 minutes to my dental hygiene job in another county. Where I got to scrape goo off of people’s teeth.

Of course, the cats were fascinated, watching me wipe up the goo. They both stared at me, swishing their tales. Neither one would admit, though, who’d done the deed. I knew whoever it was would still be hungry, obviously, since his or her tummy was once again empty. But they were both now whining, asking to be fed. Again. I gave in, just like I always do, and fed them. One would once again be satisfied. The other would now be pushed further toward his or her coveted goal of fat cat.

What’s equally disconcerting, though, is getting out of the shower to an audience. The male, Maxwell, stares at my drippy nakedness. He doesn’t even blink. The female, Roxy, simply yawns and turns away. Not sure which is worse. I’m either a naked freak or I’m boring. Hmmm. I’ve always wondered if the cats whisper about me later on. Comparing notes about my ghastly appearance. And I know I’ve heard them giggling before. Don’t they realize that hurts my feelings? I mean, I try not to laugh at them if they’re having a bad hair day, o
r writhing on the floor in the throes of catnip drunkenness. Seems they could return the favor.

But, they are my muses. They’re always around when I write. Giving me ideas. Purring encouragement. Looking for a lap, or just wanting to sit and unnerve me by staring at me. Right now, Maxwell is sitting on one of our closed laptops. Roxy is lounging in my inbox. Purring. Ready to be processed.

Where would I be without them? Unpublished? Childless? Let’s not find out. Okay?




Kitty Carter is used to getting into strange situations when she chases her cat, Arthur. But this latest escapade is just too much! When Arthur chases a mouse at the marina while she's doing researc

h for her book, she follows him down the dock and onto a yacht. Not entirely her plan, since she falls down some stairs and hits her head, and wakes to find herself out to sea. And she and Arthur aren’t the only ones on board!

Oh no. Not again. “Come back here you little rascal!”

Kitty Carter trotted down the warped wooden dock of the marina chasing Arthur. She was always chasing Arthur. And Arthur was always running.

Away. From her.

“Slow down, will ya? I’ve only got two legs.”

Why does he always do this to me?

Arthur, her black cat, scurried on, stalking a minuscule brown mouse.

Her cat’s claws dug into the pine boards of the dock, leaving gouges the size of three-penny nails. As Kitty looked up in time to see the tip of Arthur’s tail disappear over the shiny metal railing of the small yacht, her foot slipped in a spare tire-sized puddle.


While her feet flew over her head, her left shoe flew off her foot and splashed into the water. Perfect. The back of her head smacked the dock. Hard. After a moment of staring into the blue Alaska sky, she smiled as hippos in yellow mini-skirts pranced among the clouds.

Wait, that couldn’t be right, could it?

She sat up and shook her head. The dancing hippos vanished. Kitty sighed. It wasn’t the first time she’d witnessed cavorting animals in the sky after hitting her head.

Graceful, she was not. At the rate she was going, next time she’d see an entire kick-line of bowtie-wearing giraffes.

Taking inventory of her person, she surmised most everything was still intact. Still had feeling in her arms and legs? Check. Too much blood loss from the scrape on her forehead? She could probably live with what she had left. And drat! One of her shoes was missing. Now she had a naked foot to deal with. She’d loved those sandals, too.

Kitty let out a heavy sigh and pushed up to her feet. Wind-milling her arms while hopping on one foot wasn’t highly effective. Better to have one dingy, bare foot than to lose her balance off the dock and end up with a bath she hadn’t counted on. Especially since she couldn’t swim.
She ran the rest of the way toward the yacht where her wayward cat had last been spotted. Gripping the rail so she wouldn’t follow her left shoe into the water, she climbed over the rail onto the deck. The shiny white deck and teak wooden cabin sparkled in the mid-morning sunshine. The yacht’s name, “MT Pockets” was painted on the side.

“Anyone here?”

No response.

“I’m just here to rescue my cat.”


“Or, I guess I should say, to rescue a mouse from my cat…my cat from a mouse?”

Still nothing.

She shrugged and looked around the small, tidy deck. Not finding Arthur there, she headed for a set of stairs descending below deck. Kitty peered into the darkness.

“Arthur, are you down there?”

Her cat didn’t answer. Neither did the mouse. She wondered if that meant the mouse was already in Arthur’s tummy.

Okay, here goes. Taking it slow, Kitty inched her way down the stairs. She tried a switch, but nothing happened. Deciding the small lever must have been for a purpose other than turning on a light, she continued on in the semi-darkness. Third step from the bottom, her naked foot hit the edge of the slick metal step. Her feet flew up, her head swan-dived down. Pain lanced across the back of her head as she thwacked it on the last step. Kitty groaned and rolled into a cat-like ball. As her world faded to black, she whispered, “Arthur, are you even down here?”


Art Katz carried two large cardboard boxes and a red duffel bag slung over his shoulder on board the yacht. Two weeks sailing and fishing. Unbelievable. He’d waited all year. Hoped to have formed gills by the time he reached his destination. He chuckled, remembering his dream from the previous night. He, of course, had been a fish. Salmon or halibut? He couldn’t remember. Not that it mattered. But no doubt about it; he’d been a fish.

Deciding to unpack later, he set to prepare the yacht, checking gauges and levels. After a short time, he headed out to sea. He’d spent enough time on this particular yacht to know its quirks. No doubt he could make the journey safely. But not everything in his life was so predictable. Like his business. He worked like a dog. Every weekend. Most evenings. But he still wasn’t making the money he wanted. His employees often called him a slave driver. But hey, you didn’t make money just sitting around.

He flipped open his cell phone.

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Hi,” said his friend, John. “Thanks again for delivering my yacht. I still can’t believe your vacation coincided with my move. I owe ya, man.”

“You’d do the same for me. If I had a yacht. Or a place to put a yacht. Or money to buy a yacht.”

“Yeah, yeah. I hear ya.”

“I expect to be treated like a rock star when I get there.”

“You got it. See you when you get here, then.”

“Later.” Art closed his phone and put it in his jeans pocket.

John seemed to have it all. The lucrative medical practice. The beautiful wife and kids. Not that Art had time for the family part. He wasn’t like John. He didn’t have money stashed everywhere. He had to work. All the time. That’s why this trip was so special. He hardly ever left the office.

For the next several hours he sailed, admiring the whipping green waves and diving birds. Eagles and puffins splashed about, more often than not emerging with fishy treasures in their beaks. He envied them. He couldn’t wait to start fishing himself. Although, he’d be using a pole. He wasn’t crazy about biting into raw fish.

A soft sound floated up from below deck. He turned his head.


A meow?

Perfect. All he needed was a stowaway cat for the next two weeks. He’d never been a fan of felines. Far from it. With their tiny, impaling claws and creepy purring sound, he’d been able to avoid most of them.

So far.

Ever since the incident. Putting the yacht on autopilot, he walked to the stairs. His hand reached to the light switch. Nothing. And of course, the light bulbs were in a cabinet downstairs. He sighed and made his way back to his duffel bag. Flashlight in hand, he cautiously made his way down the dimly lit stairway.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

A Totally Killer Marriage

Welcome today's guest author, Margaret Ethridge, who has a hilarious outlook on marriage.

We all know love can be elusive—like the gossamer wings of a butterfly flitting along on a spring breeze. Capturing love can make a Salzburg nun’s attempt to catch a wave upon the sand look easy enough for Gretel Von Trapp to nail. And, oh! How delightful it is! Every brush of his hand sends shivers skittering down your spine...Every little joke is hysterical...And the looks! Those heated, hungry glances make your toes curl in anticipation.

And once you’ve corralled that fickle flame of true love and used it to light that perfectly pure, virginal white unity candle (because we all deserved to wear that white), everything is hunky-dory. The minute the ‘I dos’ are exchanged, you and your beloved float down the aisle on a pastel pink cloud of love so billowy no bump in the road dare disturb it. You truly become one mind, one heart, one soul existing only to nourish and feed—

Aw, crap. I’m making myself sick. I guess I’m not the mistress of fiction I aspire to be.

You see, I really just need to confess something. Ten minutes ago, I gave serious thought to whacking my spouse upside the head with the blender. Something was said about my stirring technique and…seriously? He thought I don’t know I need to scrape the sides? I know he needed to take about two steps closer…I mean, what better way to say, ‘I love you, I need you, I’m glad I chose you’ than a nice concussion?

Let’s be honest here. If you’ve been married for more than five minutes, chances are you have imagined doing your beloved bodily harm. Am I right? Yeah, I’m right. You have.

It’s only natural. I’m sure there have been times my knight in dingy white boxer-briefs has considered using my pillow as a muffling device. I’m certain he’s noticed the speculative glances I shoot at the guardrails and concrete embankments that whiz past as He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Passed speeds along the highway.

What? I only stare at the ones on his side of the car?

Oopsie daisy.

I joke. You know I’m joking, right? Thoughts of harming one’s darling have long been fodder for comics. I love to use Eddie Murphy’s old ‘Why don’t you just…go to sleep?’ bit from Delirious on my husband. It’s a joke—one of those jokes that have more than a grain of truth nestled in its dark depths.

When I was in my twenties, my girlfriends gifted soon-to-be brides with a nice heavy cast-iron skillet as an engagement gift. It was a gag gift. It was funny. Now we all know it was truly the gift that keeps giving. Not only can that skillet turn out delicious pork chops and light-as-a-feather cornbread, it’s also potentially more lethal than a Glock. Not that we’d ever use it for anything nefarious...Why risk denting such a marvelous instrument?

The fact of the matter is everyone, male or female, has caught their spouse doing something so irritating they’ve considered seeking annulment on the grounds of diminished capacity. It’s just a toss-up whether to claim their beloved’s, or their own when they said, ‘Till death do we part’.

In any marriage, it isn’t the big betrayals that lead to thoughts of murder and mayhem, it’s the little ones. It’s the fact that your beloved can sink a jump shot like Reggie Miller but can’t manage to hit the hamper with a pair of balled-up socks. The females of the species love to ridicule the males for their inability to ask directions. It’s true. They can’t and it drives us crazy. But, let’s not forget that to them, our ability to ignore the weird rattle-y sound the car has been making for...oh, about three weeks, I guess...counts as grounds for justifiable homicide when the car blows up.

These are the triggers. This is where the plotting begins. You see, the act itself is merely the launch point for a myriad of spectacular speculation. For me, it usually goes something like this:

How can I do this without making a mess I’ll have to clean? What defense should I use? Would I wear all black to the funeral or maybe a touch of plum? Do they still make those little hats with the veils like Joan Collins wore on Dynasty? How many husbands did Alexis go through on that show, anyway? Would my brand of mascara make it through the courtroom scenes or should I switch? Oh! Speaking of switches, should I keep the house or move to a swanky new condo? Can I afford a swanky new condo? How much life insurance does he have, anyway?

Crap—insurance! Did he make his appointment for his annual physical? Will his doctor check his blood pressure again? It’s been running a little high...I wonder if I can get him to start eating more fruit...We both should start eating a little healthier. We’re not getting any younger...He looks good, though...Pretty damn good...God, I love the salt in his hair...Oh, look! He brought me a Diet Coke...Nice guy...Mm, sweet kisses...

So, um, yeah...Where was I? That’s right...I was going to kill him, wasn’t I? Oh well, I’m sure he’ll do something to set me off tomorrow. We do like our routine.

So, if you’ve hatched any good plots lately, share! You never know where you’ll pick up a good tip. Oh! And what do you think of a hat with a veil? Too much?

Ooh! More kisses! Yes, I know they’re just a ploy, but I like falling for it. Circle of life...marriage...whatever the hell this madness is called...

Gotta go. I think I may still have a few butterflies to chase.

Buy Contentment: LINK
My Website:


Tracy Sullivan seems to have it all, a handsome, devoted husband, three beautiful children, a steady career, and the perfect suburban home; but she isn’t happy.

The petty resentments that have built over fifteen years of marriage surface when Tracy tells her husband, Sean, that she is no longer interested in sex, and their marriage threatens to implode.

For the sake of their children, Tracy and Sean agree to lead separate lives under the same roof. With the help of a healthy dose of adult-rated fiction and some gentle prodding from a good friend, Tracy begins to rediscover who she is, what she wants, and the reasons she fell for Sean once upon a time.

After two years of soul-searching, Tracy is finally ready to embrace her happily ever after having learned that while happiness may be fleeting, contentment can last a lifetime.


March 2006

Marriage, and the fairytale implied therein, is a cosmic joke. A giant conspiracy propagated for the sole purpose of clinging to societal mores which should have been cast adrift long ago. Tracy snorted and bent to scoop up a pile of dirty laundry from her son Patrick’s floor. This was no fairytale, and from where she was standing, happily ever after seemed interminably out of reach.

She paused in the doorway and stared at Patrick huddled under the blankets. Her eyes traced the outline of her baby’s body, marveling at the way he stretched almost to the bottom of the narrow twin bed. When did he get so tall?

Patrick was her first born, and in just over a month he would be fourteen. He was the first she held just moments after he was born. The boy who opened his eyes and stared right through her with his father’s piercing blue gaze. He was Sean’s son, through and through. Not only did he look like his father, but he inherited his father’s restless energy. Even when he was a toddler, Patrick trailed after Sean. He often sat fidgeting on a chair, inundating them with a steady stream of chatter which never seemed to bother her husband the way it wore on her nerves.

Clutching an armful of smelly boy laundry, she trudged down the hall and peeked into Erin’s room. She smiled as she caught her daughter curled on her side with the comforter pulled to her ears, but not quite concealing the glow of a contraband flash light.

Erin gave a guilty jump when Tracy sat on the edge of the bed. “Good book?”

The girl’s smile was sheepish as she placed a Hogwart’s bookmark in the crease to mark her page. “Not bad.”

She relinquished the book and the tiny flashlight she had smuggled from the glove box. Tracy smiled and placed the book on the nightstand, tucking the flashlight into the back pocket of her jeans. She leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to her daughter’s forehead. “Go to sleep, the book will still be here tomorrow,” she whispered. “I promise.” She scanned the room and stood, thanking God at least one of her children had inherited her orderly streak.

“Night, Mom.”


As she did every night, Tracy crept across the hall to Kevin’s room. Pushing his door open a little wider, she peered into the dim glow cast by a football shaped nightlight, and smiled. She dropped the pile of laundry to the floor, and moved to the bed. A tuft of jet black hair stood straight up on top of his head, defying the strictures of the haircut she had insisted on the week before. She smoothed the cowlick, lowering herself to the bed and curling her body around his.

He slept soundly. The heat of his skinny body warmed her. It’s March—almost spring. She snorted at the thought. Spring hadn’t reached Chicago, no matter what some hairy rodent in Pennsylvania predicted. She draped her arm over Kevin, snuggling a little closer and inhaling his little boy scent. A sharp pang of nostalgia made her stomach clench. She remembered doing the same with Patrick. Now, her older boy smelled like the Axe body spray factory exploded.

Tracy inhaled one last whiff and groaned, rolling onto her back and swinging her legs from the bed. She stood and gathered the discarded clothes strewn about the room, adding them to the pile before trudging back into the hallway with her nightly haul.

A draft of cold air seeping under the front door made her shiver when she passed. In the laundry room, Tracy tossed whites into the washer and sorted through the rest of pile. Pockets were checked for the stray pens, pencils, and the occasional crayon that always seemed to find their way into the dryer. As usual, her husband was the worst offender.

Once she started the machine, Tracy wandered into the rec room, flopped back onto the couch, and pulled the remote control from the cushions. Flipping through the channels, she finally settled on a sit-com rerun before slumping into the cushions.

Please let him be asleep before I come to bed.


An hour later, the whites tumbled in the dryer, and Tracy gave up the fight. Her steps dragged. The usual litany of excuses ran through her head, competing with her fervent hope she would find Sean fast asleep.

She nudged their bedroom door open and held her breath while she listened. When a low, deep snore split the silence of the room, she exhaled her relief and padded toward their bathroom.

Ten minutes later, Tracy dropped her clothes into the hamper and hugged the oversized flannel shirt she had long ago claimed as her own around her as she shivered her way to the bed. Her teeth chattered when she slipped between the sheets.

“Spring my ass,” she muttered, pulling the down filled comforter to her chin.

Sean snorted and smacked his lips as he rolled onto his side, reaching for her. “Finally.”

She stiffened, fighting to keep herself from pulling away from him entirely. “Laundry,” she murmured, ticking off the first excuse on her list.

“Always laundry.” He moved closer, pressing against her side.

“Always will be, unless we become nudists,” she answered, instantly regretting her flippant remark.

A throaty chuckle rumbled through the darkened room. “There’s an idea.”

She closed her eyes, trying to ignore the hopeful prodding of his burgeoning erection against her hip. “Go back to sleep.”

He nuzzled her ear, mistaking her shudder of distaste for pleasure. “I’m awake now.” His lips grazed her cheek, working their way to her mouth, following a trail he had beaten down years before.

“Sean, I’m tired.” She gave his shoulder a none-too-gentle shove and then rolled onto her side.

He stiffened and pulled back slightly. She closed her eyes and slowed her breathing, dragging in a deep lungful of the thick air. She held herself as still as possible, hoping he’d get the hint and roll over.

“What’s going on, Trace?”

The silence threatened to smother them both. “What?”

“I have to know. I didn’t think I wanted to, but I have to… Is there someone else?”

“No! No! Why would you think that?”

“Why would I think that?” he repeated, his voice rising with anger. “Gee, I don’t know, Trace, why would I?”

She glared at him. “No!”

Sean’s gaze cut through the darkness straight into her. “I don’t know if you’re telling me the truth,” he mumbled at last.

“Of course I’m telling you the truth!”

“There’s no ‘of course’ here,” he argued. “We haven’t had sex in months. Months, Tracy!” When she opened her mouth to retort, he shook his head. “You don’t talk to me anymore. You don’t want me to touch you. I can’t remember the last time you kissed me. I don’t know what to do.”

The silence hummed between them. She stared back at him, searching in vain for one scrap of the desire she had once had for this man. “There’s nothing to do.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you don’t have to do anything.”

“That makes no sense. Obviously I have to do something.”

“It makes perfect sense.” She huffed a sigh. “It’s not you. It’s me.”

“Well, that’s fresh,” he grumbled.

“Sean, come on, this doesn’t have to be that big of a deal.”

He gaped at her, incredulous. “Not a big deal?”

She snapped. “I just want to be left alone. Is that too hard for you to understand?”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s me.”

“You? What about you? Is there something wrong with you?” Tracy didn’t answer. Sean sat up, propping his elbows on his bent knees and pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes. “I don’t understand,” he said at last. “Is there someone else?”

“There’s no one else,” Tracy said quietly. “I don’t want anyone at all.”

He turned to look at her, his face blank. “What?”

“I don’t…I don’t feel that way anymore.”

“What way?”

“You know, like that,” she answered, impatient with his questioning.

“Like what? Sex? You don’t want sex anymore?”



“I don’t know, maybe,” she said, trying to be truthful.

Sean blinked at her as if he didn’t recognize her. “I see.” He drew the words out, his hands dangling helpless against the soft flannel covering his long legs. He swallowed hard. “What about me?”

Tracy pressed her lips together, a myriad of answers filtering through her head, but she couldn’t bring herself to speak any of them aloud. All she said was, “I don’t know.”

He raked his hands through his close-cropped hair and then shook his head again. “Un-fucking-believable.”

He threw the covers back and launched himself from the bed. Sean snatched his pillow from the headboard and tucked it under his arm before stalking toward the bedroom door. The eerie blue glow of the hall nightlight cast him in shadows. “Let me know when you make up your mind. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

She closed her eyes, wincing as she saw the anger and pain in his bright blue eyes flashing behind her lids. She’d stared into those eyes thousands of times, reading his thoughts, gauging his moods, and basking in his pleasure. She could map every line on his face. She knew every story behind every scar, and could paint from memory the exact pattern of gray and rogue red hairs speckling his stubbly beard.

Her hands had smoothed the salt through his peppery hair, stroked the worries from his furrowed brow, and teased his body to the edge of ecstasy. But now, lying alone in the bed she had shared with him for almost half of her life, she had a hard time remembering what she had seen in him.
Tracy tugged at a loose thread on her comforter and the seam that bound the corner unraveled.
She stared at the string, wondering how everything seemed to fall apart so easily.

Rolling the thread between her thumb and forefinger, she worked it into a knotty ball. The moment she released the pressure, the poly-cotton blend started to unfurl then fell from her fingertip to the tangle of sheets and blanket below. A flash of blind panic seized her by the throat, and she groped blindly, desperate to find the thread once more.

Knowing the search was hopeless, she pressed her hand to her hammering heart and stared up at the ceiling, wondering how she thought that tiny bit of thread could fix anything. Everything was broken. She was broken. Once, she had dreams. Not too terribly long ago, her life was driven by purpose and ambition. Now, her only purpose seemed to be attacking endless piles of laundry, and it took every ounce of drive she had to negotiate the car pool pick-up line. She peered in the mirror each morning and she barely recognized the woman staring back at her. Sometimes she looked at Sean and wondered what she could possibly have been thinking when she said, ‘I do.’

What in the world possessed her to look at this one man and think, ‘Yes, you’re the one’?

She’d hurt him deeply, but somehow she couldn’t muster the energy to care. She told him the truth. He wasn’t the problem, she was. Somewhere, somehow, someplace along the line, she had lost the girl she once was. And, if she didn’t know who she was anymore, how was she supposed to hang on to the man someone else had chosen?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

What Did I Miss?

Publicity photos Savage Jazz Dance Company 
taken by Crow Comoda 
Help me with this conversation, please.

Background first:

We're watching So You Think You Can Dance Canada and one of the male dancers says something along the lines of: Jazz dancing gets a bad rap because people think it's for girls.

An innocent enough statement, I suppose, though it struck me as off this time. Why does something being associated with girls give it a bad rap?

Which is what I said to my t.v. watching partner to which he answered: "I guess if you're a guy, it could be considered that way."

Me: "But if a woman wants to do something that's traditionally a men's thing, there's no bad rap. She's considered strong. There's no stigma."

Him: "Yay for women's lib. It wasn't always that way. In the old days, a tomboy wasn't a good thing. It was practically considered being a lesbian."

Me: *getting irate* "There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian."

Him: "I just meant...never mind...not interested in having this conversation. You don't get it."

O.o Clearly. (The fact he just shut me down with no discussion is for another, much less public rant in which smoke will likely billow from ears and my eyes will glow a dull red.)

So back to this gender role thing: please help me with what I "don't get". Just what is it I am not getting? Because I've already had this conversation with my eight year old son. I've suggested he rethink the idea that there's something wrong with being compared to girls. No one bats an eye when comparing girls to boys and being impressed when they measure up, but they disparage boys who measure themselves against girls. Why? What's so wrong with being a girl that you'd be embarrassed at being compared to one? When I asked the boy that, he couldn't really give me an answer.

I thought it might be a little hard for an eight year old to put into words, so I asked him instead what his sister could do that he would be find embarrassing if he could do it too. Would it be being able to do karate as well as she can, or being as good a jazz dancer as she was (he is also, by his own choice, taking jazz dance lessons, and does a fair decent job of it, when he's not preening and being tough, cool dude) or would it be being able to swim as well as she can, or being able to do math or read or play the piano as well. He said he wished he could do any one of those things as well as she does, but she's older and has been doing them all longer, so naturally, she's better.

So I asked him what, about being a girl, his sister should be ashamed of.

I think he got my point. I worry that the older men in his life don't seem to. Is it just hardwired in their heads to think this way?

Or am I actually missing something? Because if I am, please help me out here. Enlighten me.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Summer Lovin’ is Tough

Here's a post every mother or guardian can relate to! Welcome author Miranda Baker to Four Strong Women today!

It’s there. I can almost see it. September beckons me like all things shiny and good. My youngest child is going to full-day kindergarten. I am monstrous with delight.

Sure, I’ll cry at the bus stop, just like I cried at every pre-school graduation. I’m not certain why, though. Just one of those things hard-wired in the tear ducts I guess, because the sight of five-year-olds in mortar boards makes me snort. I mean, seriously? ABCs and 123s? College is going to rock their elementary little worlds. But I digress. I do that.

My oldest girl is almost ten, my middle girl is seven and my son is five, so it’s been nearly a decade of keeping one ear cocked for the sound of all hell breaking loose and one eye on the clock so I’m not late for pre-school pick-up. I almost can’t imagine what having every weekday to myself will be like, and as September draws near, I’m getting antsy. Even though I truly do know (as my ever-lovin’ husband is fond of saying) the children are precious, precious gifts, there are two mothers with very different voices living inside me this summer. I say one thing and my impatient alter ego finishes my sentence with something wicked.

Good Mommy: Darling, don’t touch my ankles when I’m going up the stairs. You’ll make me stumble, or worse, I might step on your fingers.

Wicked Mommy: Or mule kick you, like you deserve, ya little ankle grabber!

I love the press of their seamless flesh but Mommy’s ready for some boundaries, and the closer I get to September, the more impatient I become.

Good Mommy: Stay close. Watch out for cars.
Wicked Mommy: Oh, ye gods, stop bumping into me like drunken sheep!

It’s my own doing. I’ve trained them to stay close to keep them safe in parking lots, and they do an excellent job. I actually had to tell my son not to walk on my freakin’ feet this morning at Wegmans, which is only slightly less annoying than his other best trick. He always takes my hand when we are walking, and somehow that triggers a switch in his central nervous system. Suddenly, I’m pulling him along like I’m a tugboat, expending energy, while he drags his feet. I say, “Don’t make me pull you,” meaning it as a statement, but I’ve caught the odd look from a stranger who must think it sounds like a threat. *g*

I love them. Swearz. I nursed each of them for a year. By the time I weaned the last one, I could slam my boob in a car door and not feel it. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is, but I’m sooo ready to move into the next phase of their childhood.

I’ve been alerted that it doesn’t get better, only different, but bring it on! Three perpetual demand machines are wearing me out. Three meals a day plus God knows how many snacks really cuts into my writing time. Dirty glasses, dishes and forks appear on the counter as if delivered by replete fairies. I suppose I should be glad they return their snacking implements to home base. I’d really be nutty if I had to collect plates from the garage, the family room and the backyard in order to serve their dinner.

Good Mommy: Move aside. Move aside, sweetie.
Wicked Mommy: If you want me to make you a sandwich, don’t stand in between me and the friggin’ refrigerator!

The real kick in the pants is that bedtime gets later every night. The children don’t want to go to sleep and yet when we finally call a halt to the day, they are abruptly too tired to climb the stairs on their own. They must be carried, led or um, gently dragged. When they reach the top of the stairs, my precious little darlings lie down on the carpet and fake snore. Adorable, right?
Now, I’m the one responsible for their touchy-feely quirks, but their ability to stay awake is my husband’s fault. He doesn’t need much sleep either, so most nights, I leave bedtime to him. Of course, if I go to bed before the kids, I don’t get laid. I suppose we could leave them downstairs watching television and go upstairs and lock the bedroom door, although it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Even when we get naked after bedtime, somebody always knocks, usually the oldest. As it turns out, meeting her every demand within thirty seconds of her having it for the first year of her life wasn’t such a good idea. Now every time her bug bites itch, she wants Calamine. She can’t sleep if the dog is snoring, the moon is full, or the hall bulb is sixty instead of a hundred watts of personal night light for her enjoyment. Unfortunately, she’s also the one who always knows the exact instant my husband decides to go down on me. And she’s relentless. She won’t go away. The blanket goes up over my naked self. My swearing husband drags on his sweatpants. He opens the door and performs some act of magic while I ponder the crack in the ceiling until he returns.
Control the kids, you say? Set limits? Make actual boundaries? Nah, they are interesting little people. Affectionate, intelligent and resilient. When I can’t gag my evil other voice and I actually say what I’m thinking aloud, they laugh. They get the joke. It’s crucial to develop a sense of humor, right? Maybe they’d like to rant about their surly waitress, the housekeeper who won’t look up from her laptop or the nerve of that half-dressed bug bite physician with the crappy bedside manner. It is as it should be. They don’t need to suffer because I sold four books last year and I’m a wee bit obsessive about getting the next two submitted to my editors. It’s all good. I can survive until school starts in the fall.
Because I believe in September… when Wicked Mommy gets her wings.
About Miranda Baker
It makes me chuckle to think about all the romantic short stories I wrote in my rather too literary creative writing classes in college. If only one of my professors had steered me toward popular fiction! On the other hand, if I had discovered my calling back then, I wouldn’t have gone to culinary school, I wouldn’t have met my husband, we wouldn’t have had three children and I wouldn’t have turned to erotic romance to get my mojo back during all this hair-raising kid raising. Please visit me at if you’d like to talk about romance, writing or recipes.


It takes two to toy with love.

Come Again, Book 2

When librarian Alisa Mane’s boyfriend accuses her of being frigid, she sets out to prove him wrong the only way she knows how—with research.

A visit to the local sex shop uncovers the sizzling sensuality locked beneath her cool fa├žade, and she eagerly accepts the opportunity to test sex toys for SoloPlay Enterprises. Under the code name “Sologirl”, she begins exploring her body on her own terms. After all, no one was ever rejected by a vibrator.
Mark Winters needs his new DoublePlay line of toys to hit big, and there’s only one tester for the job—Sologirl. She fires his imagination with playfully erotic reviews and never fails to pick a winner. There’s only one problem—Sologirl refuses to test the DoublePlay toys for couples. With his company’s success on the line, he decides to make his offer again, up close and in person.

One look at the icy hot Mark and Alisa realizes he’s her best chance to discover if any man can satisfy her. A red-hot month of experimentation more than answers that question, but now Alisa has another problem—DoublePlay is almost ready for production and her feelings for Mark have nothing to do with business. Is she brave enough to continue playing…with her heart?

Product Warnings: This book contains a sexy librarian, an icy hot businessman, scandalous emails, scorching male/female and female/female play time, and vibrating, well…everything.

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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Missing a gene and lack of gentility

Do you ever wonder if you have a missing gene? At least one of the genes that makes you your gender? Sometimes, I do. According to society, in order for me to be a true woman, I must shave my legs, obsess over my hair, wear make up, and love high heels. If all do all of those things, I’m a true woman. Except I rarely wear make up, I rarely shave my legs, I don’t obsess over my hair, and high heels are about as exciting as cat throw up to me. So, it should come as no surprise to you that when I saw some galoshes with 3” wedges advertised in a Nordstrom’s catalog, I found this to be a bit blasphemous. (grin) On top of that, the price for a pair of impractical rain boots (you can’t puddle jump without taking a dump in heels), even on sale, is astronomical. ($98.90 instead of $175 -- Oooo… what a bargain! snort)

All of you women who claim that heels are comfortable I have one question for you: what drug are you on? For me, that’s the only explanation. Do they make my calves look nice? I guess, but the pain overrides any satisfaction.

My wandering mind wondered where high heels originated. A quick Google search brought up this link. And it made complete sense. Despite popular belief, high heels aren’t sexy. That’s not how they originated. It’s about how much money you have. You really had to be one of the gentility to wear them. Yes, gentility.

Think about it. How can heels be comfortable? I don’t care if they are Manolo Blahnik’s, you will not sell me on the so-called “comfort” of heels. I will gladly wear my flip flops, tennis shoes, Ugg slippers, or go barefoot first. But maybe they aren’t meant to be comfortable. Maybe it’s that very discomfort that’s supposed to denote gentility. I mean, who could be on their feet all day working in the fields in a pair of high heels without suffering horrible discomfort, disfigurement, and varicose veins?

High heels are not much different than the ancient Chinese practice of foot binding, in my mind.

Perhaps I’m not missing a gene. Perhaps it’s that my genes are really of peasant stock. My father’s family (at least part of them) comes from good pig farmer stock. I am sure a pig farmer is more practical than someone of gentility. You aren’t going to wear your Christian Louboutin’s slogging through a sty now, are you? I wouldn’t, but you probably wouldn’t find me wearing them anyway. At $695 for the cheapest pair, I just can’t imagine paying that much for something that will sit in the closet. Heck! I can’t see paying that much for a pair of shoes I’d wear every day period! (These aren't the cheapest pair. I’m not sure how much they cost, but it's more than I’ll ever be willing to pay. g)

Now, I could say that my genes from my mother’s side are noble…several generations back, but the marriages to a variety of peasants has sufficiently watered down that blue blood to a drop or two because Mom isn’t into heels either. (g) Of course, my sister Janna was, but she was only 5’3”. She was also a fashion plate. As you may have guessed, I am not. LOL

So, maybe I’m not missing a gene. Maybe my genes are exactly what they are supposed to be: peasant. And, you know, I’m okay with that because I’ll only wear heels if I have to. Otherwise, you’ll find me barefoot, in flip flops, or tennis shoes and my Ugg boots in the winter. (g) Besides, Charlie is distantly related to the British royals. So, perhaps the stench of the trough is enticing after all. ;)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Got Crazy Neighbors?

Welcome today's guest, D.N. Lyons.

Have you ever had a crazy neighbor?

Honestly, I thought living next to my friend was a good thing. I hadn't seen her in years. But when I met her ultra-organic vegan, crunchy boyfriend, I didn't like him one bit. (His diet didn't offend me----I raised a child vegan for a year.)

People who get a hair up their bum when their next-door neighbors cook steak and the smell just happens to float into their house, really twist my panties up...and he was the biggest wedgie-inducer I know. Something about a guy who never washed or combed his hair, insisted on playing piano at all hours of the day (and night), and always wanted his food (even his apples) to be organic just didn't sit right with me. Besides, don't people wash
apples before they eat them anyway?

Cyrena and Forrest didn't have internet. I sympathized. (I mean, come on, who doesn't have access to the internet these days? The Amish even use it for their businesses.) But very soon, I went back to Qwest and their awesome DSL, only this time I bought a wireless router for my laptop. This was where the problem began.

My upstairs neighbor "Heather", as well as Cyrena and Forrest, heard I had internet. Heather began paying me $5 a week for internet, while Cyrena and Forrest went for $35 a month for both their computers. I signed in the WEP on their computers, collected the money, and thought nothing more of it. Besides, having someone pay me for internet use couldn't be so bad, could it?

I was wrong.

Heather was good about paying, and this was cool. As far as I was concerned, she was fine. But Cyrena and Forrest wasted no time in downloading spyware-infested programs, using shareware sites, and otherwise just being stupid about using the internet. (Honestly, if you use the internet, have a spyware blocker. Please. Your computer will thank you.) They obviously had problems with their computers, because every so often I would hear someone cussing up a storm at 3 am.

Then, one morning, I found a laptop between my screen and the door. As well as a note that said essentially this:

"You put spyware on my computer. I don't want my information stolen. Take it off or I'll go to my friend in the military. And when he finds your traces of spyware on my computer, I'm going to sue you for everything you have. Take off the spyware on my computer right now. And I've told Heather, and we all want our money back."

How stupid, right? I mean, how in the universe could someone
put spyware remotely on a neighbor's computer? But due to the fact that I had every right to keep the money (they did use my internet, after all), I changed my WEP key and kept the money. And I thought it was over.

Not. A policeman came over to my house, asking me if I knew anything about a case of identity theft next door. He looked very official, very normal, and he said that I was accused of identity theft and he needed to check it out.

Whoa boy. So Forrest was trying this shit on me, was he? He was going down.

I told him flat-out what had happened, and handed him the note——and then he politely said, "Thank you, I'm sorry to trouble you." He took the note with him.

Forrest never got over it. Now at 3 in the morning, we heard Heather getting mad at Forrest and Cyrena, because one or the other of them was turning their TV up full blast at night, playing their piano, and Heather was taking it out the only way she could——by shouting expletives at the nasty neighbors at the crack of darn, when everyone was asleep. Honestly, I had no idea what to do.

But then——a light in the dark. Forrest and Cyrena were kicked out of the apartment for non-payment of rent, non-payment of the cat deposit, and just generally being jerks. The good of it was, I never had to deal with them again...and I never saw them again.

The bad of it was, the people who moved in made LOUD whoopee every free moment they had, which coincided with my work, my naps, and midnight. But then, you have to take the bad with the good, huh?

At least the crazy neighbors moved out. :)


What do you get with Mercury, Pluto, and sticky, yummy, drippy ice pops? Sex, two super hot bodies, and did we mention sex with ice pops? Get the picture? If not, here's the equation. Mercury + Pluto + hot sex = One great time! The only question is: What flavor are you?

This is the first in the Inherently Sexual Series.

Rating: SizzlingBook Length: Micro
Price: $1.49
Genre: M/M/Fantasy

By reading this excerpt, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are younger than 18 years old, you must exit this site at once.

Midday, Camelot Beach

An ice pop…oh, what wondrous things one could do with an ice pop.

Especially a peach-vanilla ice pop fresh from the cooler, eaten by one very, very sexy Planetary Wizard.

“Whoopee, it’s a good hot one! 103 degrees! I’ve already got a burn on the back of my neck. How about you, AvaChopper?”

“Yessir, Ric Ray, I’ve got one too! The traffic is slower than hot tar. Not to poke fun at our own Camelot Construction, but boy, it’s really thick out there! A five-Norinberg pileup has us stuck like a dragon in mud!”

The ice pop twirled, spun and sank down between a pair of full lips slicked with perfect green-blue lipstick, lipstick that never mussed, no matter how many kisses those lips had. Tense, Mercury watched the ice pop bob in, out, in, out. In response, his cock twitched in his bikini shorts.

“Pluto,” he chided, “don’t eat all of the ice pops.”

“Do you want one?” Pluto’s delicate, long-fingered hand held up an unwrapped strawberry-banana ice pop. He licked slowly up the length of the first treat.

“Yes!” Mercury’s cock jerked again, and he groaned. “Will you give me the ice pop?”

“And speaking of tar, Ric Ray, we’ve got tar tracks in front of the High Courthouse, and those councilmen don’t look happy! A couple of novices and their dragons have tracked that mess all over the sidewalk! I’d hate to be caught with tar on my boots!”

The beauty in the pink-striped lounge chair laughed and tossed his straight, white hair back. He lowered his sunglasses and wagged the second ice pop back and forth in front of Mercury. “You’ve been at work nearly nonstop for weeks, Mercury, and you haven’t attended nearly enough to me.”

He rotated his hips in time with the wagging treat and licked an errant drop of peach-vanilla from the corner of his mouth. Twittering laughter, he sucked his ice pop down, finishing it off.

Mercury’s gaze lowered along the pale length of Pluto’s body. So sleek, he was like an otter or a beautiful snake...yes, a snake. Pluto was a crafty one.

“Could you squeeze yourself into a smaller bikini?” Mercury teased, but it was nice to see Pluto in those little triangles of white cloth tied together with a silver chain. And there was that itsy-bitsy, high-cut, sequined silver thong bikini bottom, his lovely, long cock trapped under a little wisp of fabric….

“Whee, ladies and gentlewizards, there’s a Norinberg wash at the Avalon Racing Circuit to fund their new demolition races! Come on down and wet your whistle with fountain drinks, and there’s water-balloon fights for your kids! Don’t forget; the ‘Prettiest Familiar’ contest is being held today at Phoenix RaraBreeders, the original dragon breeders since 910!”

A drip of strawberry-banana sailed down through the air and splattered across the rise of Pluto’s bikini bottom. “Now look,” Pluto said. “It’s getting all over me.”

Mercury’s gaze met Pluto’s, and he looked at the drip sinking beneath the sequins of Pluto’s suit.

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