Thursday, 27 November 2014

Don’t leave me behind

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld  in your block!

The hiking trail was not a long one but it was enough for her to tick off exercise on her weekly to-do list. And the threatening fog didn’t worry her. Peering through the trees she saw a body through the mist; it was a man and he was lying on his back. Approaching carefully, she started off wondering what he was doing and then moved to concerned that he might be injured... or dead. She groused at herself out loud. “If he is dead, then he can’t hurt you.”
But he wasn’t. She could see his chest rise and fall. His naked chest. He must be freezing. “Hey?” she said.
A pause for an answer that didn’t come.
“You okay?”
No answer.
It was too cold to be in the forest with just jeans on. “Where are the rest of your clothes?” she asked him. But he didn’t respond.
He did seem to hear her. A smile crept onto his face. Slowly.
Too slowly. He looked drugged or drunk. Ugh. He was just off his face.
She started to walk away when he mumbled something. It kind of sounded like ‘don’t leave me behind.’
She turned back and leaned down over his face to sniff. No scent of alcohol, so he wasn’t drunk. She scanned down his body. Not a mark on him. No needle marks up his arms. Wait... he had a bruise around his upper arm and his wrist. On both sides. It had to be recent because it was just starting to show and it was an odd place to have a bruise, as if he had been tied up or restrained. And if he had, was he dangerous? Should she even be standing near him? She cursed herself for being a Good Samaritan.
He groaned. It sounded painful.
She made a decision. “What can I do?” she asked. He looked too heavy for her to lift alone.
“Help... me,” he whispered.
She took a deep breath. “I’ll try.”
Grabbing his hand, she tried to pull him up to sitting. He let out a noise of pain and she let go. “Sorry.”
He lay on his back and gasped for breath, “Tt-ry again.”
Ignoring his groans, she put his arm over her shoulder and tried to lift him. They both fell. He ended up on his hands and knees.
“This isn’t going to work.” She glanced around, looking for something to help them.
A nearby fallen branch served as a tall staff for him to lean on. He climbed up the stick and leaned on her back until he stood up right.
“I have a car.”
He staggered, but she and the stick kept him upright. He felt too warm, but he was shivering. “And you have a fever,” she told him. “Guess you already know that.”
A few stumbling steps.
“And why can’t I shut up?”
He made a noise that might have been an attempt to laugh, followed by a groan.
“Sore ribs, huh?”
He nodded without speaking. She started to wonder about what had happened to him.
They staggered back to her car. It took much longer than she expected, his feet were bare and he was stumbling as he walked. It was starting to get dark by the time they reached the parking place.
She kept taking surreptitious looks at him. He was very handsome with tousled blond hair. He didn’t even need a shave so whatever had happened to him, he hadn’t been held more than a day or so. Now his skin felt clammy and cold.
“Should we go to the hospital?”
He shook his head.
“The police?”
Another shake, more vehement than the first.
She was starting to think this was a very bad idea, but she was in it now. Up to her neck; the neck around which he had his arm.
When they got to her car, she helped him into the passenger side.
“Not ... hurt,” he said as if he knew what she was thinking.
She was fairly certain that he couldn’t physically hurt her, he was too weak, but she couldn’t really be sure. Taking the chance to grab an old picnic rug from the trunk, she wrapped it around him. As they drove off, she glanced up to the mirror; not sure why, she had a sense that someone might follow them and she needed to check. Nothing behind them; not that she could see.
“Where should I take you, then?”
No answer. He was asleep or passed out.
“My place, then?”
They repeated the stumbling, painful walk at her place. She left him unconscious on the sofa before wandering back and forth wondering if she was doing the right thing. She had nothing worth stealing; other than her car. In a way it was easier to deal with him when he was out, but if he woke up and left her house that would be good, too.
She hadn’t been coerced; there was no point calling the police now. And what could she tell them?
It wasn’t so much that she made a decision to help him, as she couldn’t make a decision to do anything different. She heated up some soup, filled a thermos and placed it on the coffee table where he would see it when he woke up. She got a water bottle as well and some packets of painkillers in various strengths.
And then she went and locked herself in her bedroom with the few valuables she had.
Sleep seemed impossible but came eventually; she was so emotionally drained. And she worried that the thin internal door would not stop anyone if they really wanted to get in.
It was the shower that woke her up. It made an odd clunking noise when you turned the water off. She was instantly awake, threw the covers off and rushed to the door. Then she stopped, uncertain of what she intended to do. Luckily, she was still dressed.
“You awake?” he whispered through the door.
A pause.
Another pause.
“My name’s Ciaron.”
“Okay.” Should she tell him her name? “Mine’s Nikki.”
“Thanks, again, Nikki.”
Opening the door was too much for her and he didn’t seem to expect her to. She sank down and sat on the carpet and listened to him close the door behind him. She counted to a thousand, very, very slowly before she opened the door.
She didn’t breathe until she checked he was really gone. She had fully expected things to be stolen, but nothing appeared to have been touched or missing.
Then she washed everything up and tried to get on with her life.
Small gifts appeared for her after that. She never saw him. First it was a container of herbs. She put them on the balcony where they could get sunlight. Then a new picnic blanket and finally a new thermos.
She chuckled. “Cheeky bastard.”
© AM Gray 2014

Monday, 24 November 2014

Free cover maker - Derek Murphy

I have a problem with doing photo manipulations or trying to make my own covers. I tried Gimp and failed spectacularly. I felt as if I needed another gimp-centric degree to use it. Using the available photo edit programs in photobucket or whatever account you store them in… yeah… they just look lame. And the one for making covers built into Wattpad is very limited.
So I had posted a couple of things, and then stopped because I didn’t like the covers and I didn’t have time to make my own. I also felt that asking someone to make one for a giveaway thing was unfair. I have real trouble asking people for help.
And then I watched a Joanna Penn video interview with her book cover maker, Derek Murphy. They had an issue with video, but it is worth listening to. 
Derek is clearly one of those people who has a hundred ideas and actually does something about implementing them. He talked about a cover maker program he had designed and set up, and how easy it was to use.
Hey, I’ve got nothing to lose, I thought.
He called it free cover maker because it is. He’s giving it away. It works in flash; which means that you just load stuff into the webpage and you can save in three different formats if you are worried about making mistakes. I learned the hard way that you can’t edit a completed and saved project - say, remove or edit a text box, unless you have saved a version pre-adding the text. Note to self.
It is super easy and he is still building features into it. You can add stickers, or borders and it layers images so that you can merge and do what are basically professional image manipulations. It took me a while to get that I had to put text on the page before I could edit the options, as well. Call me slow… He also has a dozen help videos loaded and spaces for more - presumably when he gets the time.
I would highly recommend it. Thanks, Derek.
Be sure to check out his website, he has lots of idea for budding author-preneurs (a term Joanna uses to describe writers who are trying to do everything themselves).
And just look at what I made! They look much better than my previous attempts.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

You can’t expect me to just abandon him

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
AN: this one got lost in my writing folder and never got posted.
The others made ready to leave. They all avoided looking at the prone figure on the bed. He was almost hidden away in the corner. Out of sight and so on.
The female of the group dithered. She kept glancing at the bed, opening and closing her mouth as if to say something and then thinking better of it.
The clear leader ushered the others towards the door.
She balked, stopped and then with a fierce determination, she put her backpack down.
“What?” the leader asked her.
“You can’t expect me to just abandon him!”
“He’s dying.”
“All the more reason to stay with him.”
“Why? If he’s dying.” He waved a hand at the unconscious man. “He wouldn’t even know you were here.”
She set her jaw. “Nevertheless, I am staying.”
He looked disappointed for a beat and then he shrugged. “It’s your choice, but you will just be burying him.”
“If I have to; I’ll do that, too.”
“Don’t break a nail,” one man muttered.
“He saved my life.”
“Yeah. Idiot,” muttered another.
The leader cuffed him.
“Go!” he ordered them.
He gave the woman a final look.
She just shook her head.
He slammed the door after him.
He didn’t die.
But he might have, if she hadn’t been with him.
She spent days sitting with him, changing the wound dressing on his body until she no longer had any clean cloths left. She boiled water for laundry, sponged him down to reduce his fever and dripped drinking water down his throat when she could. The bruises on his throat looked really bad.
There was only one bed in the cabin so she slept sitting up in the chair.
Day three his eyes cleared. He could look around and he seemed to recognise her, but couldn’t speak.
Day four he clutched her arm. It took her some time to understand that he wanted to piss. They managed it with minimal embarrassment.
He took in more water after that but it took some effort. It became obvious that the throat damage was going to have long term consequences. He could swallow some broth but it pained him to do it.
The other wounds healed over time. She had to hunt soon, they were running out of supplies.
Because he could no longer speak, he used his eyes. He watched her constantly. She would look up to see him staring at her. Once he could move his hands, he spoke with those, too. Gestured and waved and banged on things to get her attention.
She gravitated between chatting inanely and saying nothing at all, like him.
The next day she announced she was going scavenging.
He glared at her and frowned.
“I’ll be fine.”
He waved at his leg.
“I know. It’ll be days before you’ll be up.”
A hand signal. Stop or wait?
She guessed wait. “I have to go now.” She picked up her bag and bow. “I’ll be back soon.”
He held his hand out to her.
And waved impatiently when she didn’t take it.
She grabbed his hand in hers. He squeezed.
She wasn’t sure what that meant, but she squeezed back.
Maybe she was rushing things because she was worried about him, maybe she wasn’t careful enough because she hadn’t hunted alone in years, but in any case, after she’d snared one small rabbit she came across two men. A woman, alone meant only one thing to them. Sport.
She couldn’t fight two.
She ran.
They hooted and catcalled and ran after her.
She headed for the cabin, thinking she could barricade it and they’d give it up as too hard.
As she came pelting towards it, he appeared in the doorway. He must have heard them coming still shouting at her. She ducked behind him and loaded her bow.
The men stopped.
“She yours?” one called out.
He nodded.
They just stood there, eyeing each other off. He reached over and pulled her knife out of the back of her belt. He tossed it in one hand. She could see beads of sweat on his neck, from the effort of standing. She prayed that the men didn’t notice. She prayed he didn’t drop the knife.
The standoff, such as it was, ended when they decided that even numbers was not their game.
They made a few empty threats, that he didn’t respond to and then they left; bravado intact.
She caught him before he hit the floor and dragged him back to the cot. She latched the door, pulling the cord handle through so it couldn’t be opened from the outside.
He had torn the leg wound open.
She groused at him as she repaired the damage and bound it up again.
Then she dressed and prepared the rabbit, and stewed it in a pot with a handful of root vegetables she had dug up. He was awake by then. She fed him the stew even though he probably could have fed himself and he let her do it, staring at her with serious eyes.
When she went to settle in the chair he waved at her.
She approached him and he tugged at her arm.
She got the message. She lay down next to him and he put his arm around her. It was good to stretch out and lie down for a change. It was also warmer with him.
“Thank you,” she said just before she fell asleep.
A tentative hug was her answer.
She guessed that meant ‘you’re welcome’.
© AM Gray 2013

Friday, 21 November 2014

The dog sniffled at it a bit

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

The dog sniffled at it a bit, but soon backed away with its tail between its legs.
“Bad aftershave?” she joked.
“Huh?” he said. He still seemed to be watching the dog as if it would get brave and come back for his jacket.
“Your aftershave scares dogs away,” she explained.
“Not wearing any.” He bent down and snagged the jacket from the park bench with a finger.
“It was meant to be a joke,” she over explained.
“I know. It just wasn’t very funny.”
She huffed out a breath. This was the worst first date ever. This guy was so stiff and wooden that she had spent the whole night talking too much to try and cover the silences. He seemed uncomfortable and distracted in the restaurant so, in desperation, she had suggested coming up to the lookout, but that had been a really bad idea as well. They had actually got out of the car to look at the view. Who did that?
“This isn’t working, Daniel,” she said. She sounded as disappointed as she felt. He was everything she liked in a man: available and he owned a car. It was even a nice car.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s not y-”
“You say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ and I swear to god I will kick you.”
He stood there, with his mouth hanging open and then shut it again.
She tried to get into the car but it was locked. After waiting for a beat she asked, “So?” and waved at the car.
“Oh, right.” He dug around in the pocket of his jacket and then looked up at her with a horrified face. “The keys...”
“Oh, crap. Did you drop them?”
“I don’t know.” He was looking in the direction that the dog had run.
“You are not suggesting that the dog stole them?”
“No.” He started to stare at the ground, scanning his eyes back and forth.
“It’s pitch black! You’ll never find them.”
“I have to look; we can’t stay here all night.”
“How would staying here even help?”
“I might be able to see them when the sun comes up,” he said desperately.
Her bag was locked inside the car and she had noticed that his phone was on the car charger. They had nothing and no way to call for roadside assistance, or even phone a friend. There was no way she was staying here all night... with him.
She made an annoyed sound and just started walking down the access road.
“You can’t walk all the way home,” he said.
She ignored him and kept walking.
“Paula,” he shouted after her. “You can’t walk alone.”
“So, you had better come with me,” she said to herself, but in seconds she heard his feet as he ran after her.
He walked in silence next to her for a few minutes before asking, “Whose house is closer?” They compared addresses.
“Mine is,” she said. “I can break in. My keys are locked inside your car.”
“No spare key under the welcome mat?”
Now he gets chatty, she thought. “No.”
The road was very steep and she had the wrong shoes on; she wore date shoes, not trainers and the last thing they were designed for was walking down steep hills but if she took them off she would ruin her stockings.
She was starting to get a blister as well. That made up her mind for her.
After limping along for a bit, she said, “Hold up. I need to take these off.”
He stood and watched her take her shoes off.
They were almost at the bottom of the lookout road. It was clearly badly sealed because she could feel sharp gravel sticking into her feet, but at least it had a streetlight. “Turn around,” she begged.
“I need to take my stockings off.”
“O-okay.” He turned his back.
“Can you step back towards me? I need to hang onto something.”
Silently, he backed another step towards her. She hoisted her skirt up around her waist, then reached up with one hand, holding his shoulder with the other, she balanced on one leg and pulled her stocking down. From the side of the road she could see the street light reflect in an animal’s eyes. “Hey, that dog is back.”
He glanced over his shoulder in the exact direction that the animal was. She thought that was kind of odd; he couldn’t see where she was looking.
“That’s not a dog,” he said, his voice low and quiet.
She was finally done with her stockings and hauled her skirt back down. He shuffled around and stood between her and the animal. He was staring intently at it; his whole body tense.
“Daniel?” she checked.
His arms reached back to stop her moving. “Stand very still.”
“It’s a mountain lion.”
“I don’t think it will attack us,” he added.
“Why not?” A woman had been attacked by one weeks ago as she walked down to her mailbox.
She felt his hand fumble for hers. Holding his hand and pressed up against his back was the closest they had been all night and she felt better for it. Then she realised that he hadn’t answered her question. “Why won’t it attack us?” she asked again.
“I scare away dogs, remember?”
She frowned. The dog had been scared but the mountain lion wasn’t. It actually paced carefully on giant paws out of the shadows and closer towards them.
She let go of his hand and gripped the top of his arms; peering around his body. He stepped sideways and she shuffled across with him. She was starting to be alarmed.
“I didn’t want to do this,” he said. “Paula, don’t panic. It will be alright.”
“What?” she sounded vaguely hysterical to herself.
“Hang on.”
She felt his body tense and then he growled at the mountain lion.
Actually growled. She could feel it vibrate through his body and it sounded totally like a wild animal.
She emitted a startled squeak.
The mountain lion decided that they were too much trouble, and it reared back and bounded away.
Paula darted around and stared up into Daniel’s face. His eyes were very yellow when they had been blue, and his mouth barely closed over his teeth. He blinked at her, and as she watched, his face seemed to fade back to normal. How did all those teeth fit back in?
“What was that?” she asked. She was impressed that her voice only shook a little bit.
“I’m a... werewolf.”
He hadn’t actually tried to hide it from her.
“Right. So the dog-?”
“Happens all the time. They get my scent-”
“A werewolf?”
He shrugged. “You were very brave.”
“Are you changing the subject?”
“I felt something in your back pocket,” she said.
He frowned.
“Your keys,” she said.
He patted his own butt and then he snorted, and that turned into a full bodied laugh. In a moment she was laughing with him. Maybe it was stress relief, maybe it was so ridiculous that they were half way between the car and her house and the keys were literally the last thing they needed right now, but they both laughed until they cried. And then, she kissed him.
He kissed her back and it was really good.
And then he held her hand, and she carried her shoes in the other hand. They chatted and they walked on the concrete pavement until her feet hurt. Then he carried her the rest of the way home. She fell asleep; her face pressed in against his neck.
He woke her up with a kiss to ask how she was going to break in.
“Stay. My house is closer to the lookout.”
“You’re sure?”
She nodded.
“I can jog back to get the car in the morning.”
“This is the best first date, ever,” she mumbled at him.
© AM Gray 2014

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Looking for answers

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Source: Fushimi-inari, Kyoto
“This is an inari shrine, right?” she asked.
“Oh, yes. Says here on the brochure, that it is one of the oldest in the world. Dates back to 711.”
“Seven eleven?”
“The year, not the store.”
“Oh.” She snorted.
“What’s so special about Inari shrines?”
“Their messengers are usually kitsune. Didn’t you notice the statue of that one at the gate holding a key in its mouth?” 
Kitsune were magic fox spirits. Once they reached an age of more than one hundred years, they grew an extra tail - anything up to nine - and they acquired the ability to take on a human form. They were smart, loyal and the older they were, the more skills they had.
She frowned at her friend. “A kitsune.”
“Yeah... what a coincidence,” she tried to sound breezy.
“It is no coincidence at all.”
“I do not know what you mean-”
“You do! Is that why you suggested we come here?”
She tried to look astonished and failed. Her face fell. “I... miss him.”
“How? You were together for one night and it was months ago.”
“Gah!” She waved her hands in the air. “I know... and it was utterly amazing!”
“You are hopeless.” Her friend sighed. “So tell me why we are really here.”
“I did some research after he told me what he was.”
“Uh, huh.”
“The oldest kitsune are white or gold and they can see or hear anything anywhere in the world.”
“Right. And assuming we actually manage to find one, you want to ask them what?”
She bit her lip.
“Oh, heck, honey. You have got it bad. You want to ask them where he is!”
She waved her hands in a dismissive gesture. “Male kitsune are very rare; they must have heard of him.”
“Utterly freaking hopeless. I mean, really... was he that good?”
Her friend blushed. “He was-” She gave a whole body shiver. “He was that good! And I wanted to ask about something-”
“Tell me you used protection!”
“Of course we did.”
“So what is this extra thing?”
“He... ah... how can I say it... he scratched me.”
“I do not need to know your kinks-”
“It hasn’t really healed.”
“Jesus. We should be at the hospital; not the temple.”
Over her friend’s shoulder, she noticed a very old Japanese woman watching them. She was shamelessly listening in to their conversation. Her skin was wrinkled and her hair was stark white.
Without saying a word, she grabbed her friend’s shoulders and just spun her around. “Check that hair.”
She heard her suck in a breath. “White.”
She took the opportunity to peer inside the neck of her friend’s shirt while she was distracted. “Crap! Look at that. He really marked you up.”
The old woman started to shuffle towards them. She was in traditional Japanese dress of a kimono and she was wearing wooden zori; the thonged sandals. It took her a long time to reach them. They were both so unsure of what to do that they just stood there and waited for her to approach them.
The old woman took the hand of her friend and tugged her along the path. “Come,” she said.
They went; it never occurred to them not to.
The old woman folded the young woman’s hand over so that her palm lay on top of her arm. She patted the top of it with her other hand. “You came,” she said.
She was a little confused. “You knew I was coming?”
Her English was perfect. “I see all.”
The girl walking with the old woman glanced back over her shoulder. The girls exchanged a glance pregnant with meaning. See she mouthed at her.
Her friend looked down at the old woman’s legs. Under the kimono she was sure she could see something moving. A tail? Maybe nine of them? This was a crazy scheme but she knew her friend and she knew she had genuinely made a connection with the guy she had spent a whole night with. But the scratches worried her and the only way to understand why they hadn’t healed was here.
And there was no way she was leaving her here; not alone. She muttered some swear words under her breath and then hurried after them.
Into the foxes’ den.
© AM Gray 2014

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
The game was televised. Well it wasn’t really a game; not for the people put inside the bio-dome. For them it was life or death ... mostly death.
The viewers laid bets on who would survive. They were down to six from the original twenty four. And one guy was getting all the attention. And a lot of large bets had been put onto him in the first days; before his abilities showed and when the odds were higher against him.
He had hair down to his waist; a dark tousled mane that he left loose. The swarthy stubble grown after a couple of weeks in the chamber got a lot of attention from the ladies, too.
The commentators were starting to think that he was milking this event somehow. Not that they could tell what he stood to gain from it. ‘Players’ were randomly selected, if you could call taken off the streets by the police when their ID number came up. Best case result was that he survived. No one could know when their turn was coming up. No one could prepare for such an event.
But prepared he was. He was fit, strong and intelligent. As if he had studied for it, somehow. He knew the kind of hiding places where they usually hid the ammunition supply kits, and the first aid boxes. If he didn’t carry them himself, he hid them in his own hiding places. And he set traps.
He robbed the bodies of the dead and took anything they had that was valuable to him. If they had nothing he took some other kind of item. A couple of things he wove into his hair; beads, rings or rags cut from their clothes. Trophies.
He seemed to be playing it up for the camera. He knew where the fixed ones were located. He had a flair for the dramatic. If he was moving, the camera was following him in preference to the other occupants.
Today he leapt out, running up a wall in a parkour move, leaping over crates and shooting at the other player. Gun held to the side in a move that any firearms expert would tell you was more artistic than functional. The hot shells tended to hit you if you shot from that position. Not that he seemed to care.
He wore only boots and jeans, slung low on his hips with a white towel stuffed in his back pocket like a flag. The camera certainly picked it up. Just to make sure, he had red ribbons tied around his upper thigh. They looked like a tourniquet. That sparked a lot of discussion about whether he was injured or not. The final consensus was that he wasn’t but by then the discussion boards were full of his name.
Today, his shirt had been removed and was wrapped around his face, to limit the amount of gas he inhaled. This particular room had noxious gas piped in at a low level but he had wrapped up his face and burst in running up the walls. One less competitor.
On a leather thong around his neck, he had hung a few smoke grenades. No one knew where he had found those.
His shirtless state exposed a number of tattoos. By the next day all the televised chatter was about how many tattoos he had and what they might mean. He was now the clear favourite.
The organisers were starting to worry how they would handle him when he got out and stepped up onto the winner’s podium. One thing they could be sure of was that he would do whatever worked best for him. He was the wildcard. And they could not bet on what he was going to do.
Whoever had laid all those early bets was going to make a killing, unless, of course, they already had.
© AM Gray 2014

Monday, 17 November 2014

Are you bleeding?

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

“Are you bleeding?” she asked Emyr, as she tried to lift his shirt to check. He was sitting on one of her kitchen chairs. Again. She didn’t know how he kept getting into her house. She was thinking of just leaving it unlocked. Giving him a key seemed like a big step.
“You noticed?” His face lit up with delight that she had both got close to him and taken notice of him. And she had touched him. He tried to grab her hand but she sidestepped him.
“Soon, Valeria, you will accept me.”
“Uh, huh.” She gave him a look. “Lift your shirt.”
He rose to his full height, stood inside her personal space and just took his shirt off. He let out a pained noise as he did it. He was hurt.
She rolled her eyes. “I said lift.”
He had an amazing body and he took any opportunity to show it off. Especially to her. He was young, gorgeous, and a werewolf. He was also the son of the wolf alpha and had, she suspected, never had anyone who had ever said no to him.
She said no... repeatedly, but it didn’t matter to him. “You tricked me, and you know it,” she pre-empted before he said anything.
“No, I didn’t. It is common practise for a wolf to offer food to his mate.” He stroked one finger down the top of her arm.
It made her take a shaky breath. “I wasn’t your mate and I didn’t know.” He did affect her; she had to admit that. She just wasn’t convinced about the mate for life thing and she had no idea why he wanted her; she wasn’t a were-anything.
“You took the food and you know now.”
She rolled her eyes. She had even eaten it from his hand and in front of witnesses. That made it ten times worse. They had had this argument a hundred times. He considered himself her mate. She considered him an annoying irritation.
“Let me see that wound,” she scolded before looking down at his ribs. She blinked. “That is not a bandage.”
“It is.”
Not. It is duct tape and... what is that?”
“Kitchen towel,” he said.
“Ugh.” She tore it off in one quick movement and he yowled. “Oh, you big baby.”
“It’s bleeding again,” he whined.
“It was anyway. That’s how I noticed it.” She tossed the ‘bandage’ in the kitchen trash. “Stay,” she ordered, “While I get the first aid kit.” It was actually much worse than she had first thought.
”I can stay all night,” he called after her.
She tried to ignore that.
When she got back, he was leaning against the sink, legs crossed at the ankles. He lifted his arm up helpfully so that she could put antiseptic on the wound; even though she knew he said he didn’t need it. They’d had that argument before too. They had also had the one about hospitals and stitches.
“This looks bad.”
“It’s healed a lot.” As he spoke, he was looking at her hair as if he wanted to touch it.
“What was it?”
His eyes closed and he let out a small sigh when her hands pressed the tape against his skin.
“There,” she said and looked up at his face. She stopped. “Emyr?” He looked miserable and his colour was bad.
“Please let me stay.”
Her mouth opened.
“Please?” he interrupted.
She frowned. He seemed too upset. “Why?”
“It’s the mate thing.” He held one hand up. “And before you say what I know you are going to say... it does matter; it matters to me.”
“Healing,” she said. Merely because he was in her life she was learning more about shape shifters than she had thought she needed to know. Being with a pack member hastened healing.
“Yeah. Hurt wolves go to-” he paused and then substituted, “-people they want to be close to.”
She was silent.
“Please, Val.”
He had actual puppy dog eyes.
She sighed. “Fine. But you stay on the sofa.”
“That’s not close,” he argued.
“You’re inside the house. It’s close enough.”
More beseeching eyes. “Won’t you be going to bed soon?”
He knew her routine. She’d process that later.
“I have some reading to do.”
“You could read in bed?” he asked hopefully.
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. I don’t have time to argue with you and I need a shower.” She was walking away as she said it, but threw over her shoulder, “And no, you cannot come with me.”
“The bandage will get wet.”
“Yeah, that’s the only reason,” she muttered to herself. He could probably hear her anyway.
When she got out of the shower she made sure to wear pyjamas. He was stretched out on her bed. He was naked and on top of the sheets; lying on his uninjured side with his knee up and his arm stretched across the bed. He was also sound asleep; his face buried in the pillow.
She stood and allowed herself to look at him for a minute before she collected her papers and climbed into the bed to start reading.
It was quiet, just his low breathing and the small sounds as she shuffled papers and scribbled in the margins occasionally.
At one stage, he moved and let out a noise of pain. She couldn’t help it; she put her hand on him and patted his shoulder. He shuffled a tiny bit closer to her. Still reading, she chewed her pen and put her hand on top of his head. His hair was cut short on the sides, but the top was longer and started to curl before he cut it again. He needed a cut now. She liked it this length but she’d never tell him.
As if he felt her in his sleep, he shuffled closer. He was definitely asleep; it was just instinct.
She kept reading.
When she woke with a jolt and an ugly snort sound, his head was in her lap and his arm around her back. Her papers were scattered. She was very warm and didn’t feel too bad given she was asleep sitting up. His colour looked much better.
She tried to shuffle her papers together and dumped them on the side table. Pushing at him woke him up enough for her to slide down and lie flat. When she lifted her hair up onto the pillow, he just grabbed her again. His arm under her neck was uncomfortable, so she rolled onto her side with her back to him. That arm folded up across her chest and gripped her other shoulder. His other arm slid around her waist and he pulled her back until she was held firmly spooned against his body.
“This was a bad idea,” she muttered to herself.
She took a moment to be glad that the sheet was between them before she fell asleep.
Yep. It was definitely a bad idea to let him stay.
When Val opened her eyes, Emyr was no longer on top of the sheet; he was under it.
Under it.
And all of that extraordinary body was pressed up against all of the back of her.
And it was morning, and most parts of his body were constructed from muscles that were hard but now there was a part of him that was harder.
“Gah,” she said.
He was awake. His lips pressed delicately against the back of her neck; right where the hairline started.
“Gah,” she repeated and tried not to moan it.
She did try to move, but those arms held her like steel bands.
Against him.
All of him.
“Good morning,” he whispered.
“It is.”
“Val... you really should think about it.”
“Believe me, I am thinking about it and the answer is still ‘no’.”
“Why?” he sounded hurt and confused.
“You are younger than me. You are gorgeous. You are sexy. You are naked in bed with me and all of that is incredible and amazing-”
“Yes. But I don’t belong in your world and I can’t help but believe that you have made a mistake and that I’m not any kind of the sort of woman that it would be possible for you to choose to have as your mate-” a quick breath before she continued in a rush, “-because I am just ordinary and you are spectacular and high ranking in your world and I can’t see why you would ever want me for a night, let alone forever, and I might be rambling and overtired but that is exactly what I think every time I see you... that you are so rare, and so beautiful that I can’t possibly see why you would choose me.”
“What are you like after coffee?” he asked.
“I hear you, Val. You said it enough times, but I don’t agree.”
“You’re a were,” she argued, “You should be with another were.”
“I thought you didn’t know anything about weres?”
“I don’t.”
“Ha,” he said, with a note of triumph, as if he had won the point.
“Why do we fall in love with a particular person?” he asked her.
“You’ve been in love?”
“And they weren’t your mate?”
“It was different.” He let her go, slid out of the bed and bent down to pick up his clothing from the floor. “I know what I am doing, and for you to suggest that I don’t is rude.”
“I didn’t mean to be rude-”
“I’m fully healed because I slept with you. That tells me everything.” He stalked off towards the bathroom.
“I knew this was a mistake,” she muttered.
© AM Gray 2014

An: yes, I know, it feels unfinished. There is clearly a heck of a lot more to this story.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

I don’t exactly know why he did it.

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

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I don’t exactly know why he did it. He had a way of leaning over me and I felt as if he was going to bite me on the back of my neck. It unnerved me. He was very tall and that seemed to make the looming worse. It didn’t help that he was strikingly handsome with olive skin and black hair.
I was trying to play bridge and he had unnerved me so badly that I made a huge mistake. “What was trumps, again?” I asked.
The looks on the faces of the other players showed that I may not be invited next time. Forgetting what trumps were was a cardinal sin. They took their competition bridge seriously and in competition, or duplicate bridge, the other tables would play exactly the same hands. Each play mattered.
There was only one other table as some people had called in sick at the last minute that was why he had no table and was hovering... staring at my neck a lot, evidently.
“Have you made a mistake?” he asked as he leaned over me again.
“Are you sure you do not want to sit in for me?” I asked him, holding my cards protectively against my chest.
The other players looked desperate for him to accept.
“No, no,” he demurred.
At the break, I had had enough. I headed for him as the others headed for the snack table. “I need to talk to you,” I whispered.
He made a face of mock surprise. “Certainly.”
Everyone seemed to watch us walk outside.
I spun on my heel. “Stop it,” I hissed at him.
“Stop?” He had a slight accent. Spanish... maybe.
“Leaning over me... it-”
“Makes you shiver.” He smiled down at me. Again with the sense that he could eat me... and maybe not in a good way.
“Yes, it does. It is ...observable.”
I blinked at him, stunned. “What?”
“The ... what do you call them? Goose bumps on the back of your neck. It is most entrancing.”
“Entrancing?” I repeated. My hand lifted and rubbed the spot. “It’s freaky and... odd.”
“It shows that I have the effect on you.”
The? I guessed English was not his first language. “And that-” I pointed at him “-stop with that.”
“That?” He obviously didn’t understand me.
“Honestly, is that how you always talk to women?” I waved my hand suddenly. “Don’t answer; I do not want to know.”
He raised an eyebrow and reached for my hand, lifting it to his mouth. “Normally, as you say, I do this.” And he kissed the back of it. His eyes sparkled.
I snatched my hand back and he seemed to understand that he had done something wrong. “I am sorry. I have upset you.”
I made some non-committal noise.
“I must take you out to dinner... to apologise.” He beamed at me.
My eyes narrowed. “Was that your plan?”
Another smile. This one looked raffish.
I smiled back at him before I could stop myself. He was starting to get to me. “You are looming again.”
He looked adorably confused. “Looming?”
I wasn’t sure when he had shifted from being annoying to being mildly attractive. Okay... very attractive. “Never mind.”
His hand reached up and brushed up the side of my face. I inhaled sharply and then those long fingers travelled past my ear and stroked ever so gently down the back of my neck. I made an embarrassingly loud sighing noise and almost fell into him.
“I like your neck,” he whispered to me.
Goose bumps popped up everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I had no idea it was so sensitive.
We just stood there and stared at each other with his hand resting on the back of my neck for what seemed like the longest time. Until our host, who had clearly drawn the short straw, poked her head out the door and made a throat clearing noise that suggested that break was over and they needed me back at the bridge table.
“Bridge,” I said.
We hadn’t moved. “Can you play? Fill in for me?”
He gave an elegant shrug. “If you wish.” He gave me a look. “Will you wait?” A pause.
I nodded.
He tilted his head; it almost looked like a bow.
I felt as if I needed to explain. “I got a lift with Ruth, so I am technically waiting for her.” I pointed ineffectually towards the room... and Ruth.
Looming again, he gave me a smile that should be illegal. “I understand.”
I was utterly certain that he didn’t understand, or better, that he chose to misunderstand.
I ate too many brownies and drank too much coffee and tried very hard not to watch him. He totally ignored me, but I knew he knew I was there. He concentrated on the game.
After the games were finished I looked around for my lift home but Ruth was so annoyed, she had left without me.
I had to go back inside and ask the hostess if I could call a cab.
“Enrique could probably give you a lift.”
So that was his name. “He’s gone already.” Thank goodness.
“No, he just had to use the bathroom.”
Crap. He was still there.
Walking up the hallway, he beamed at me when he saw me.
“Ruth left,” I pre-empted before he thought I had stayed for him.
“And you need a... ride?”
“No, it’s fine, I’ll get a cab.” I suddenly realised that if he drove me home he would know my address.
I took one look at his face and knew that he had thought the same thing. He looked eager. No, not eager... expectant? Maybe hopeful?
“I will drive you,” he said and it was a statement.
He owned an expensive sports car. I huddled over to the side and looked out the window after telling him where I lived.
“What is wrong?” he asked.
I shrugged but said nothing.
After a minute or so he asked, “Angela?”
I hadn’t told him my name; he must have asked one of the others. I rather liked the way he said my name; it seemed to have extra consonants. “Slow,” I said.
He decelerated.
“No, not that. Me.”
He gave me a confused glance.
“I... need slow.”
“I j-just do.” I blinked quickly.
“Ah,” he said as if I had actually explained. “Your heart... it is broken.”
I couldn’t deny that. It was why I was playing bridge rather than trying to date.
He walked me to my door, held my hand and looked down at me. “We have...,” he waved his hand around as if he was looking for a word and then he just brushed my neck again instead of speaking.
I felt it; I really did. “Yes,” I agreed. “We do.”
“Slow,” I added after a pause. If he agreed to that, we might really have something more than just chemistry. I kind of hoped that we did.
Looking up at him, that hope was in my eyes.
He gave another enigmatic shrug. “Slow can be good.”
And then he smiled at me. That smile was a promise.
He didn’t try to kiss me, just pressed his lips against my hand again.
Glancing up at the house, he said, “I will drive when the lights they go on in your bedroom.” A wicked look. “The window?”
I pointed. “That one.”
A nod.
He waved when I peered out to see if he had kept his word.
I fell back on my bed and for the first time in a long while my heart felt fuller.
© AM Gray 2014