#52weeks52stories “…a time to every purpose under heaven”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 43

Word prompt: superhero

Word count – 2180

Reading time – 7:07


Being a superhero had its off-days.

Setting the city bus filled with passengers down in the center of the street, Dex winced at the sharp pain in his right hip.

Shaking off the discomfort, he approached the mangled guard rail. Gripping the jagged, twisted metal, Dex pulled the ends together and squeezed them tight within his fist, creating a seal better than any welder.

Dex found it difficult to open his clenched fist and release the railing. He rubbed his fingers over the knuckles on his right hand.

Dex couldn’t remember the last time he felt pain.

Well, he could but it wasn’t important. He turned and approached the bus passengers gathered outside the bus. They cheered and called out his name, some with tear-stained cheeks.

They loved their hero.

Tilting his head to the left, Dex heard the sirens of the first responders.

After finding no injured passengers, Dex assured the frazzled bus driver help was moments away.

He waved to the crowd and turned to leave when a blue-haired senior citizen stepped away from the crowd, calling his name.


Puffing out his chest, Dex flashed his winning smile. “Yes, madam? How may I help you?”

She walked right up to him, her movements agile and fluid for a woman of her years. Standing on tip-toes, she reached up and cupped his cheek.

“Young man, are you okay?”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Yes, ma’am.” He pointed at his chest. “MegaDex, remember? Nothing can hurt me.”

“Yes, dear. I know your personal superhero mantra, it’s just…” Her voice trailed off.

“Ma’am? You were saying?”

“Well, it’s just my Harold had that same look in his eyes you have… right before he got sick.”

Dex’s heart went out to the old woman. Her husband was ill, and she was seeing sickness everywhere. He took one of her frail hands into both of his.

“I’m sorry your Harold is under the weather, ma’am, but I assure you I’m fine.”

“Oh no, dear, he isn’t sick, Harold died ten years ago.”

Her response shook him and he heard conversations in his head from long ago but pushed them away from the front of his mind.

“I’m sure the two of you enjoyed a wonderful life together, but I can’t even catch a cold. MegaDex is fine, but I am touched by your concern.”

She smiled as she flipped her hand over in his and squeezed, but it was sadness he saw in her eyes.

“Take care, dear.”

He watched her walk away to rejoin the others waiting for first responders.

The gentlewoman stopped, turned her head and spoke over her shoulder. “But I know that look when I see it. I’ll never forget it.”

She disappeared into the crowd as unease settled in the pit of his stomach like a rock.

Dex saw the news station helicopters before he heard them and his inner turmoil grew.

Not wanting another microphone shoved in his face by an over-eager reporter looking for the big story, Dex turned to leave the scene.

Instead of being satisfied with saving several lives from disaster, Dex’s mind hummed with confusion.

I heard the first responders when they were still six miles away. I heard the old woman’s soft voice, and she was twenty-five yards away.

How did the helicopters get right on top of me before I knew they were here? It had to be the old woman. I was thrown off and unfocused.

Dex was moved. Her concern appeared to be genuine, and it had been a long time since anyone had cared about Dexter Richard Jacobs.

He smiled remembering she’d called him young man and wondered how she’d gotten that wrong. Everyone knew MegaDex was the oldest living human.

If he was still human.

Convinced his creation was ready, Earlie McGinty asked Dexter Jacobs to grab a pair of his dungarees from the clothesline for testing.

Just as Dexter opened the door to the workshop behind Earlie’s barn and stepped back inside, he heard Earlie laughing with his two brothers. “How could I forget the secret ingredient?”

Earlie held a jar of red liquid over the boiling vat and poured.

And Dex walked through hell.

The blast of the explosion doused him in Earlie’s secret formula and blew him into the far wall. He crumpled to the floor in a heap. A deafening cacophony of bells blared through Dexter’s brain bringing with it a wave of nausea. Dexter clamped his hands over ears and cried out at the pain the movement caused. Something wet caused his hand to slip off his ear and Dexter stared at his hand for several seconds trying to focus before realizing it was blood. His blood.

The ringing in his ears died down only to be replaced by screams.

Still unable to stand, Dexter propped himself on one arm and looked across the room. He froze in horror. The three McGinty brothers twirled in circles and writhed on the floor… engulfed in flames.

A second explosion blew out the wall near the vat and took one of the brothers with it.

Dexter leaned over, emptying the contents of his stomach in violent heaves.

He caught one last glance at the angry flames dancing toward him then passed out.

Dexter awoke thirteen days later in a hospital bed surrounded by faces hidden under surgical masks.

He stared back at the eyes full of curiosity and what appeared to be surprise. When his eyes found the lone female eyes in the room, Dexter relaxed. They belonged to his wife, Janet.

“How are you even alive?”

The question didn’t come from Janet but a tall, bearded man next to her.

He considered the man. “I don’t understand.”

Janet Jacobs gripped her husband’s hand as the man recounted the last thirteen days to Dexter Jacobs.

The McGinty workshop burned to the ground. Even the bones of Earlie and Elliott were little more than charred ash. Brass buttons on his coat identified oldest brother, Eason, blown through the wall by the blast.

Janet told the authorities her husband was headed to the McGinty’s when he left home earlier that day, so they assumed Dexter had perished with the brothers.

However, four days later, after the site had cooled, volunteers went through the debris searching for clues to the explosion… and something for the McGinty widows to bury.

Moving a large mangled section of the tin roof, workers screamed for the coroner several yards away supervising the packaging of bone fragments.

Dexter Jacobs was found… alive. Other than singe marks on the cuffs of his pants, Dexter showed no signs of being in a fire.

The year was 1865.

Dex reached his Kawasaki Ninja H2R but paused before mounting the powerful machine. Bitterness mixed with regret consumed him. The memories of all the years he was studied and tested, all the questions about what Earlie was working on and if it was a weapon, of all the time spent away from Janet and the boys caused Dex to bury his face in his hands.

When Dex’s condition couldn’t be explained, doctors gave up and researchers stepped up efforts to duplicate Dex… make more men like him. They were never successful, and more men showed up wanting to send him on missions for the good of his country.

Dex had enough and walked away. His strength had increased to immeasurable levels and efforts to stop Dex from leaving… by any means necessary, failed.

He tried to live a quiet life, returning to the profession of his father and opening a small lumber mill. But there were always shadowy figures around, lurking and watching. Some even approached him with satchels of cash, and others with threats against his family. He made it known any harm to his family would bring devastation no one wanted… or could stop.

Dex’s family had been his pride and joy. His boys, Rowan and Maynard, grew into fine young men who attended college and distinguished themselves. Janet was his rock, supporting his decisions in his new life. When Dex was inundated with offers, requests, and threats, it was Janet Jacobs who stood at the front door and dared anyone to cross the threshold.

In a newspaper interview, Dex said while Earlie’s concoction had changed him biologically, his true strength came from his wife who was a force of nature all her own.

Which is why it was even more heartbreaking when Dex and Janet, at last, broached the subject they’d both been avoiding.

Janet was aging—as she should—but Dex wasn’t.

The years passed and Dex watched his sons marry and become fathers—as his wife looked first more like his mother, then his grandmother.

Janet tried to send Dex away to start a new life, but the thought horrified him. He could not leave the woman who had been a part of his heart since he’d first laid his fourteen-year-old eyes on her at the county fishing contest—the only girl to enter.

He would never leave her side.

And so it was in his arms Janet died on the morning of April 18, 1906, her seventy-fifth birthday.

Dex could only shake his head days later when he learned his beloved Janet passed away at almost the same moment an earthquake devastated San Francisco and northern California.

One force of nature unleashed as another was extinguished.

He mourned with his boys but it wasn’t easy. They were aging too.

He lost them both before Hitler invaded Poland.

Dex’s three granddaughters were now grandmothers. He stopped calling them and dropping by twenty years ago. What was the point? He had all these powers that were useless to save those he loved most. He couldn’t watch another generation die.

He lived as a recluse, selling lumber from his property, only venturing to the city for supplies.

Returning from one of his trips into town, Dex came upon a flurry of activity at the Hadley farm. He slowed his old Ford pickup and figured out they were trying to upright an overturned tractor.

Not wanting to interact with people, Dex moved his foot from the brake to the accelerator but his conscious stopped him. Pulling over and parking the truck, Dex headed into the field.

No one saw him approach. Four men and two young boys called out to each other as they positioned two-by-fours under the tractor. Miriam Hadley stood on the edge of the commotion crying. When Dex reached the tractor, he understood.

Both Jonas Hadley’s legs were pinned beneath the tractor.

In one move, Dex lifted the tractor and set it down several feet away. When he turned the men and boys all stared at him, their mouths agape—then they cheered.

But Miriam was on the ground next to Jonas, her arms wrapped around his neck, still crying.

Despite his obvious pain, Dex watched the man lift his hand to pat his wife’s arm, comforting her.

He found his mission that day. His calling, his purpose.

Jonas made a full recovery and went back to working his fields with only a slight limp. He and Miriam added two more children to their family.

Dexter Richard Jacobs sold his lumber mill and moved to the city.

Sitting on his front porch, Dex focused his hearing, listening for accidents, explosions, fights, and calls for help.

It wasn’t the praise and hero-worship that motivated and spurred Dex on and it wasn’t simply saving lives.

Everyone had someone waiting for them somewhere and he didn’t want them robbed of time together.

Dexter Richard Jacobs became MegaDex, superhero to all, for love of family… and the loss of his own.

He mounted the bike, wincing again at the hip pain.

Those people with clipboards and test tubes and medals on their chests all those years ago had part of it right.

Earlie McGinty’s formula was intended for the military, but not as a weapon, because if it worked, he’d also planned to approach the garment industry, and farmers, law enforcement, firemen—anyone who wore a uniform.

After his wife’s many complaints about the endless mending of work clothes, Earlie, infamous in the county for his tinkering and crazy inventions, only sought a way to make fabric more durable and lasting.

Dex wished he could tell Earlie his invention worked… on him.

He fired up the engine but instead of riding off, Dex looked over his shoulder.

Back up the road, the scene was much calmer and shuttles had arrived to get the passengers to their loved ones.

But she was still there, standing apart from the crowd again, as though she’d been watching him the entire time.

She waved, and he returned the wave, then turned the bike toward the mountains and his secret retreat.

Her words ran through his mind.

“But I know that look when I see it. I’ll never forget it.”

He thought of his new aches and pains and all the human things happening to him.

Earlie’s formula had made him durable and long-lasting.

But nothing lasts forever.



©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “Give You My Heart” – Babyface & Toni Braxton

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “give/giving.” 


Recorded by R&B singers Babyface and Toni Braxton, Give you My Heart was part of the soundtrack for the 1992 film, Boomerang, starring Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry. The collaboration was released as a single the same year, reaching #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (behind another song from the Boomerang soundtrack, Boyz II Men’s End of the Road).

The song can be found on two of Braxton’s greatest-hits albums, 2003’s Ultimate Toni Braxton and 2007’s The Essential Toni Braxton, and as a B-side on some editions of her 1993 single Another Sad Love Song.

The upscale R&B Remix version is played during the end credits of Boomerang.


See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.


Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Give You My Heart

by Babyface & Toni Braxton

#52weeks52stories “Like Minds”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 42

Word prompt: schizophrenia

Word count – 1313

Reading time – 6 mins


Anna Furlong was a weirdo.

At least, that’s what she’d been called for most of her thirty-seven years.

Sometimes people were kind and referred to her as offbeat or quirky, but no one had any use for kindness or manners in the new social climes. Taunts of kooky, strange and crazy no longer fazed her.

Anna knew she was special. Her Aunt Sadie told her so… right before the family had her aunt committed to a mental institution. Sadie Preston was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with a high probability of being a danger to herself and others.

Anna’s thirteen-year-old heart broke watching her beloved aunt sit in the straight-back chair in the corner of the family room while her parents, Tarla and Deacon Furlong, gathered the few things Sadie was allowed to take with her.

Motionless as a Greek statue, Sadie did turn her head when Anna stepped on that one squeaky floorboard across the doorway.

The stone face disappeared, replaced by the sparkling eyes and the mischievous grin Anna loved so much.

They held each other’s gaze for only seconds before Sadie held out her hand to the young girl.

Anna rushed to her aunt, wrapping her arms around her neck.

“I was hoping I’d see you before I left, Anna-banana.”

“I don’t want you to go, Sadie-milady.”

“There’s nothing can be done about that now, child. I doubt they’ll bring you to visit me, so never forget how much I love you. You are the daughter I was never blessed with.”

Anna pulled away, her face wet with tears. “I don’t care what they say, milady, you’re not crazy as a road lizard.”

Sadie chuckled and swiped at the tears on Anna’s cheeks with her thumb. “I see my brother-in-law still isn’t shy about sharing his opinion of me.” Her smile faded. “Anna, I am sick -”

Anna tried to protest.

“No, let me finish. I’m sick and everyone knows it, even you, Anna-banana -”

“But, milady -”

“Please, child, hush. We don’t have much time. I’m not going away because I’m dangerous. They’re locking me away because I’m an embarrassment. The old pills don’t work for me anymore, Anna, and I need such high dosages of the new pills I can’t think, can’t function, so I stopped taking them.”

Images of her aunt arguing and railing at voices only she could hear flashed through Anna’s mind.

“Ever since I turned twenty-three, I haven’t been quite right in the head, but it’s not only me, Anna..” She grasped both of Anna’s hands and pulled her close. “Several of the women in our family have dealt with or are dealing with different levels of schizophrenia. As far as we can tell, it began with your great-grandmother—the one you were named after—Anna Preston.”

Anna stiffened in horror and tried to pull away from her aunt, but Sadie held on.

“I know this is a shock, baby, but you have to listen. I left a journal in your closet under the black shoe box. It contains some of our history… of those of us who are… sick. Your great-grandma, her cousin, Bertha, Bertha’s daughter, Lois Jean, me… and your mother.”

Anna’s face crumpled. “Mama? I don’t understand, milady. Please -”

“I wish I had the time, Anna-banana, but you must read the journal, and don’t let your mother see you with it. I told her I burned it by mistake twelve years ago.”

“I’m scared, Auntie.”

“I am too, baby. I wish your mother had talked you last summer when you complained of headaches and hearing voices. But, she’s lived in denial most of our lives and said you were too young for it to be schizophrenia. When you didn’t say anything else about hearing voices I thought she was right.”

Anna averted her eyes and her aunt shook her. “Anna, no! It did happen again, didn’t it?”

She turned back to her aunt as her eyes welled with tears again. One simple nod caused the tears to spill, leaving new tracks on her face.

Sadie pulled her into a tight hug. “I’m so sorry, baby. So, so sorry. I hoped and prayed this ugly thing would never touch you.”

She paused, hearing footsteps in the upstairs hallway.

“We’re out of time, Anna. Promise me you’ll read the journal. Promise me!”

The lump in her throat made speaking impossible right then and another nod was all she could muster.

“It’s time, Sadie.”

They both turned to see Deacon Furlong’s massive frame fill the doorway.

Sadie averted her eyes as the voices told her Deacon was Satan intent on killing them all and she had to kill him first. To stay safe. To keep Anna safe. Instead, she shook her head and stood, pulling her beloved niece into another tight embrace.

“I love you, Anna Rose Furlong. Never forget that.”

She released her niece and strode across the room with her head held high. She pushed past her brother-in-law in the doorway without a word and walked out the front door to the car.


Anna closed the journal.

Now in her possession for over twenty-five years, she’d had the family keepsake longer than any other family member.

She caressed the dark burgundy flowers hand painted on the thick fabric cover. This beautiful book held the story of her family and its joy and celebrations, births and losses from three different centuries.

It also bears witness to the anguish and cost of mental illness to women with like minds and tortured souls.

From Anna Preston who was seen as fragile and eccentric and lived most of her life on her own terms, to her cousin, Bertha Riley Williams who never acknowledged her illness and lived life in a riotous circle of confinements to prisons and mental institutions until drinking herself to death before her sixtieth birthday.

Bertha’s daughter, Lois Jean, took her own life after her diagnosis of schizophrenia and the man she loved walked away.

Anna’s mother, Tarla Furlong, with a few exceptions, lived a normal life on medications that affected everything from her temperament to her weight. But her need to control and fear of being ostracized ensured Tarla never missed a pill right up until her death last year.

Unlike her sister, Sadie Preston, who grew weary of higher and higher dosages just to be normal and gave in to the mania… and lost her freedom. The irony was that after Sadie’s committal, she was medicated every single day, only showing the presence of mind during Anna’s visits.

After Sadie was sent away, it took another eight years for the disorder to fully manifest itself in Anna. Because she had the misfortune of finding doctors who believed in less traditional medicines and more homeopathic treatments, it took another two years for Anna to find new doctors and have a manageable life.

She finished college with a degree in library sciences.

She met a man and they planned to marry, but his family didn’t rest until they’d torn the couple apart.

Always upfront about her illness, Anna had a small supportive group of friends who made the taunts and shunning from others bearable.

And she had milady, never missing a weekly visit in seventeen years.

But there would be no more visits. With only Anna at the graveside, Sadie was laid to rest yesterday morning.

And now Anna was not only alone, but she was also the last family member diagnosed with schizophrenia. She had five distant female cousins who were living happy, healthy lives. While men aren’t immune to the disorder, none in her family had ever shown any signs.

Folding the journal in her arms, she hugged it one last time then slid it into the desk drawer.

Anna hadn’t decided which cousin she’d pass the journal on to but it would be passed on because life goes on.



©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “The Love I Lost” – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “lost.” 

As long as I’m in the Way-back Machine, may as well stop by the 70s! 😀

The Love I Lost  by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes was originally written as a ballad by Philly soul songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The song was transformed into a disco song and released from the Black & Blue album in September 1973. Selling more than a million copies, it peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and spent 2 weeks at number one on the Hot Soul Singles chart.  It also reached number 21 in the United Kingdom on the BBC Top 50 singles chart in early 1974.

This isn’t the greatest video… because video wasn’t a thing 45 years ago, but it is an original recording and the tall guy in the center is a very young Teddy Pendergrass before his Love TKO/Close the Door days.


See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.


Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

The Love I Lost

by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

#52weeks52stories “Watching You Watching Me”

This may or may not be Halloween-inspired! 😀 #Suspense #Horror


#52weeks52stories: Week 41

Word prompt: aroused

Word count – 2656

Reading time – 7 mins


He blamed Monica Montgomery for his predilection.

Four years his senior, the nineteen-year-old had lured him to her bedroom and introduced him to sex… and erotic asphyxiation.

Terrified at first, he soon learned how the right amount of pressure on her carotid arteries enhanced her orgasms. Her heightened arousal and reaction was a turbo boost to his own and soon he couldn’t have sex without the strangulation hold.

When he arrived at Monica’s for one of their weekly visits, she stopped him at the doorway with a kiss on the forehead and informed him she was headed to Europe to continue her education.

His devastation only worsened when he learned days later, Monica Montgomery moved to Germany… with her fiancé.

Despite his good looks and wealth, high school girls weren’t throwing themselves at him and he was miserable until he got to college.

He found some college coeds were more adventurous and had no problem with his request, yet most girls found it a total turn-off and whispers of pervert and weirdo grew around him.

By his senior year, he was frustrated and humiliated. He stopped frequenting the local favored eateries and pubs of the college crowd and ventured into more adult hot spots, which is how he met the lusty Vanessa.

Encouraged by the older woman’s enthusiasm as she dragged him from the nightclub, he didn’t make his usual sexual request.

Which was a mistake.

Vanessa had screamed in pleasure twice as he still struggled for his release.

Leaning on his elbows, he’d slipped his hands around her throat. He increased the pressure with each thrust and a smile grew on his face as his climax neared.

But the moment was short-lived when Vanessa bucked him off her with such force he ended up on the floor on the other side of the bed. She ran from his apartment naked and screaming he was trying to murder her.

It cost his father millions in legal fees and to buy Vanessa’s silence.

And, he’d lost his spot in his family.

Directed by his father’s attorney, with lightened hair and a new beard, he’d been uprooted from his home in the toney Chicago suburb of Lake Forest and dumped in Denver, Colorado.

No one asked him if he wanted to leave Illinois or where he wanted to go.

The attorney purchased a three-suite office complex and small estate in his name and handed him the keys, an envelope containing several credit cards and banking information… and the business card of a psychiatrist. After admonishing him to keep his therapy appointments and to not cause his family any more embarrassment, the stone-faced counselor walked away, headed for a return flight home.

So began his exile.

But rage and resentment burned in his soul. He should have stood his ground and protested. They had no right to cast him out. He was one of them. He was just like them.

His father called it an enrichment program for girls, but he knew the only reason Peter Stanhope created the nonprofit, Girls Can was to give himself easy access to nubile young girls.

His mother knew all about his father’s habits and couldn’t care less. Rita Stanhope had a thing for blue-collar men and spent her time cruising the construction sites and pubs of downtown Chicago. Stanhope money had lured dozens of working-class men to hourly motels.

And his older brothers? Peter, Jr. and Jarrett worked for the same law firm and between the two of them, had screwed every man and woman in the building, sometimes at the same time.

Joseph had a violent temper and was an abuser. Peter Stanhope had spent millions to silence two ex-girlfriends and two ex-wives.

Even baby sister, Rhonda, at twenty-four, wasn’t an innocent. A hard-core drinker and self-professed pain slut, she’d been thrown out of and barred from most of the BDSM clubs in and around the Chicago area. They didn’t like the type of public attention Rhonda’s behavior attracted.

But he was the deviant. He was the one judged for showing aberrant behavior.

For two days, he sat in his sparsely furnished mini-estate replaying everything in his head. As he railed at the hypocrisy and double standards and fumed over the judgmental glares from his mother and siblings his mind fractured.

With an eerie calm only the psychotic could understand he decided if his family didn’t want him, he didn’t want them, and they didn’t deserve to know his whereabouts.

A quick Internet search brought Marley Hennicks to his front door.

The bottle blonde grinned too much, exposed too much of her breast implants, and reeked of Caron’s Poivre, just like his mother. But she was a competent realtor and in less than a week, she’d sold his home and office building and found him a place in California.

He packed up his Mercedes GLS 450 SUV the same day he signed his sale and purchase documents and left Denver. Eleven hours later, he stopped for the night in Las Vegas. When he checked out of the Double Tree Hotel the next morning, the disgusting hair dye rinse and offensive beard were gone… and so was his mind.


Six Months Later

Tonight was date night, she just didn’t know it yet.

But she would. Soon.

He’d planned the evening down to the last detail.

Taking one last glance in the mirror he was pleased with his appearance. New navy dockers he paired with a button-down shirt the same shade as his ice-blue eyes. A fresh haircut to tame his unruly dark curls complimented his look.

She would be impressed.

He went into his back bedroom and peered out the window.

She was home from work.

He could see into her kitchen and dining area and watched her prepare her evening meal.

Gone was the conservative dark business suit she wore every day to City Hall. He wondered what her staff would think of the city’s senior accountant dancing around her kitchen in boy shorts and a tank top.

He knew she was putting on a show for him, teasing him. Running his hand over his crotch he anticipated how sweet she would be, how he would get what he’d craved since the day they met.

She was struggling with boxes in her driveway and he’d rushed across the street to offer his assistance.

“Hey, new neighbor! Can I give you a hand?”

“Oh, thank you! I don’t know what I was thinking of packing so many books in one box.”

He grabbed the box and followed her through the garage to the mudroom, setting the box down against the wall.

“I appreciate the help. Thank you again…” Her words trailed off and he didn’t miss a beat, thrusting his right hand forward.

“Hart Stanhope.”

Accepting his hand, she looked into his eyes for the time.

His stomach flip-flopped and his pulse raced. She had gorgeous brown eyes and smooth clear mocha-kissed skin. A few wispy strands of gray graced her temples, making her older than what he’d assumed.

Hart liked that.

But it was her neck, her long, feminine neck where his eyes rested. He imagined his hands around her neck, squeezing, taking them both to heights of pleasure.

“Thank you, Hart Stanhope. I’m Penelope Driver. Friends call me Penny or PD.”

Startled from his fantasy, Hart stuttered and rebounded.

“It’s… nice to meet you, Penny, and welcome to the neighborhood.

Focusing on the mudroom to hide his embarrassment, Hart took note of all the boxes already stacked along the walls.

“Wow. Are all these filled with books? What do you do?”

“I’m a senior accountant in the city comptroller’s office, and yes, most of these boxes are filled with books.” She looked around as though checking for eavesdroppers. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. These books have nothing to do with my job. I just love to read.” She chuckled and headed for the door.

Hart followed her out to her SUV.

“Need help with any more boxes?”

“No. The movers have everything else and should be here soon.”

It was his cue to leave.

“I’m just across the street if you need anything. I’m sort of the neighborhood geek-to-the-rescue for computer problems. Most of our neighbors are older and every time there’s a Windows update it gets crazy around here. But I’m a consultant and work from home so don’t hesitate to knock on my door. For anything.”

“Thanks, Hart. I’ll do that.”

Only she hadn’t.

Hart waited weeks for her to come to him. But other than friendly waves and smiles as she came and went, she ignored him.

Was there another man?

He’d never seen anyone visit Penny other than friends on the weekends.

Hart took advantage of the high walls and shrubbery people used to isolate themselves, using them as cover and entered Penney’s house several times while she was at work.

She was neat and had good taste in furnishings.

Her bedding was exquisite and he couldn’t help but admire a woman who lived alone and slept on organic linen chambray.

One side of her walk-in closet held the severe suits she wore to work in the obligatory navys, grays, and tweeds, but the rest of the closet was all silks, cashmeres, and wools.

Penny’s wardrobe was worthy of any supermodel or CEO’s wife. But he found no evidence of another man or that anyone was taking care of her.

Hart liked that.

She took care of herself and had standards. Just like him.

She was meant for him and they would be together.

It was time.

The lights in her dining room dimmed and Hart knew she was cleaning the kitchen.

He headed for his garage, stopping to pick up the handcuffs, chloroform, and dagger from the kitchen counter.

He’d never hurt Penny. She was his. But he had to be safe to avoid another Vanessa-episode. His family would find out and he never wanted to see them again… or the disgust and contempt in their lying eyes.

He backed out his driveway, stopping to wave at the Sondheims who were just arriving home from dinner.

He turned right at the corner on to Corral Cove but instead of continuing on to the Huntington Drive main drag, he took another immediate right onto the access alley which ran behind the houses on Penny’s side of the street.

Hart stopped three houses away from Penny’s and killed his motor. He sat there listening to the ambient sounds of the night.

He knew these people and their routines. Those who weren’t already in bed were watching Dancing with the Stars or reruns of shows from days gone by. Some were online chatting with family or hunting down the latest remedy for rheumatoid arthritis.

Locked inside their expensive homes, they were not concerned with what happened on the other side of their doors.

Hart left his vehicle and walked the short distance to Penny’s back gate. He hadn’t been able to master the combination lock but scaled the fence with little effort. His jump to the ground on the other side startled two feral cats and they roared and hissed. Hiding behind a rose bush, Hart watched Penny pull the kitchen curtain back and look out only for a few seconds before returning to her cleaning.

He rushed to the other end of the house and the bedroom next to Penny’s bedroom. He took down the window frame he’d loosened yesterday and pulled the screen back, slipping inside with ease.

Hart stood in the darkened room and relaxed, taking in the scent of Chloe Narcisse. Not pricey like Caron’s Poivre, but distinctive, and its spicy, rich oriental floral blend was a perfect match for his Penny.

His steps were slow but deliberate as he entered the dark hallway. He’d planned to wait for Penny in her bedroom but his need for her propelled him toward the kitchen.

Hart stood just outside the kitchen doorway, still shrouded in darkness. She was still at the sink, singing along and wiggling her ass to some 80s nonsense as she washed dishes.

Just as he was about to step into the kitchen, the feral cats sounded again, this time at war with each other.

She looked out her window again.

“Damn cats! Who keeps feeding you? If they can feed you, they can catch you and take you to a rescue shelter. Damn!”

His heart sank. Her mood had changed and now she was annoyed. She didn’t go back to dancing and singing, but stood with her back stiff, arms perched on the edge of the sink.

He fingered the dagger in his pocket.

He didn’t want to hurt her. He couldn’t.

Hart slid the blade from his pocket. He would only use it to keep her calm… until she realized it was him and this was their night.

He gripped the blade tighter as sweat beaded on his forehead. He looked at the distance between them and counted seconds.

Her shoulders lowered as she relaxed and slid her hands back into the dishwater.

Hart raced toward her, the blade raised in his right hand, but just as he reached her, Penny whirled around to face him.

He froze. The calm in those beautiful brown eyes showed she wasn’t surprised. She knew he was there.

Hart tried to speak but no words came.

Penny’s eyes went to his chest and he looked down… to see the handle of a butcher’s knife—the rest of the knife buried deep in his chest.

His eyes went back to her face. The calm was gone, replaced by a dark, malevolent glare.

She smirked and twisted the knife as she pushed him away from her.

Hart’s brain exploded with pain as he fell to the floor. His mouth filled with his warm blood.

He watched her stoop down next to him, her eyes filled with the same disgust and contempt as his family. She spoke.

“Did you think I didn’t know, Hart? After all this time? I’ve been watching you watching me for weeks.”

He watched her stand, step over him and walk away. He couldn’t go after her. He couldn’t even turn his head.

As his lungs filled with blood, Hart tried to make sense of what happened, but his mind went sideways again and he smiled.

She knew. All the skimpy outfits and sexy dances had been for him.

Hart Stanhope took his last breath and died a happy man. He’d been right. She was his.


Penny Driver checked the window Hart came through… to make sure he hadn’t closed it. She went into her bedroom, grabbing her green silk robe and cell phone.

Back in the hallway, she ripped the sleeve away from the robe, dropping it to the floor. She overturned a slim bookcase and lamp table on the way back to the kitchen. She pushed the breakfast table aside and overturned two chairs. Then Penny left the kitchen, never even looking at Hart’s body.

She stared out her front window at the quiet of the night… as she pulled strands of hair from her ponytail and ripped the strap of her tank top.

She sighed, dreading the next few hours.

The cops would show up, spending more time during their thorough investigation staring at her ass and bare legs than doing any real investigating.

They’d decide on the spot she’d defended herself from an intruder and whisk her away to the ER to be checked out.

A victim’s advocate would stand at her bedside, patting her hand and telling her how lucky she was to be alive. They’d go on to explain how difficult it was for the average person to take a life, but they would be with her all the way to help her get through it.

Penny smirked while powering up her cell.

It was a long time ago, but she hadn’t found the first kill difficult at all.



©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “Can’t Hide Love” by Earth Wind & Fire

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “hide/hiding/hidden.” 

I FINALLY get to use a song by the Kings of old school music from the 70s and 80s – Earth Wind & Fire!
Written by Skip Scarborough as You Can’t Hide Love, it was the debut single of Creative Source in 1973. Earth, Wind & Fire included it on their live album Gratitude in1975. Can’t Hide Love was released as a single in 1976 and reached #11 on the US Soul and #39 on US Pop Singles charts. Their version was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).
Fun Fact: The nominees for the 1977 Best Arrangement for Voices were:
  • Starland Vocal BandAfternoon Delight Lyrics
  • QuireAin’t Misbehavin’
  • Queen Bohemian Rhapsody Lyrics
  • Earth Wind & FireCan’t Hide Love Lyrics
  • Singers Unlimited I Get Along Without You Very Well

Even though Earth Wind & Fire and Queen would reign at or near the top of music charts around the world and both groups had released ground-breaking hits by 1977, it was the Starland Vocal Band who walked off with the award for Afternoon Delight. 😀

I was surprised… and bummed to find there is no decent video of Can’t Hide Love available so I went with the Vevo original recording.


See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.


Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Can’t Hide Love

by Earth Wind & Fire

#52weeks52stories “Begin Again”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 40

Word prompt: memories

Word count – 2328

Reading time – 7 mins


I can do this.

“Sherry? Over here.”

Her belly roiled as the butterflies in her stomach staged an epic mutiny. She ran her thumb over the empty spot on her left ring finger.

Moving toward her coworkers seated by the stage, Sherry Davenport plastered a friendly smile on her face, wishing she was any other right now than Dave & Buster’s.

Millie Kemp, a thoracic surgical nurse with twelve years’ experience, squealed like a teenager.

“Sherry! I’m so happy you joined us tonight!”

“C’mon, girlfriend. We saved you a seat.” Jaynie Pomeroy, new to their department, motioned to the seat next to her.

“Hey, everyone. Thanks for inviting me.”

Sherry took the seat, sinking into the overstuffed lounge chair and spreading her silk scarf across her lap.

“Oh, sweetie, you just stop that right now.”

Sherry turned to the kind smiling face of Sue Grant. At sixty-two, she was the most senior employee in the department and the best surgical nurse Sherry had ever seen.

“You’ve always had a standing invitation to our Saturday night meet-ups, and not just because you’re our boss. You’re one of us, Sherry. We care and we want you to never forget that.”

Sherry smiled, unable to respond because of the growing lump in her throat.

Prep nurse, Lucy Gomez, agreed. “This last year has been a rough one for you and we get that. But you don’t have to isolate yourself, Sherry. We’ve all lost loved ones and understand. It’s damn hard.”

Sherry found her voice. “Thank you. Thank you, all. I haven’t been approachable for quite some time, but I appreciate everyone’s patience and am touched by your concern.”

A single tear slid down her face as she rubbed the empty spot on her left ring finger.

“Dammit, Sherry,” group cynic Melody Simons barked. “I may be ornery as hell but no one gets to cry in my presence without me joining in.”

Eyes welled up as heads bobbed in agreement.

Bolting upright to the edge of her seat, Sherry threw her hands up.

“Nope, we’re not doing this. You all were gracious to invite me out for some fun and good times and I’m ready for that. Who’s up for a game of pool, and why don’t I have a drink in my hand?”

The women laughed and cheered, lightening the mood.

Melody grabbed Sherry’s arm, dragging her toward the billiard room.

Though she was smiling, Sherry was trying to quell the battle of anxiety and nausea burning in the pit of her stomach. She clenched her fist to avoid rubbing her left ring finger again.

They came to an abrupt stop near the bar. Melody yelled out a drink order that minutes later was passed to her through the crowd.

“Wow, who do you know?”

Melody grinned. “I used to date the bartender’s uncle. We didn’t last but turns out his family likes me more than him. His brother is my dentist and his mom still bakes me chocolate chip cookies.”

Sherry laughed, realizing for the first time the ornery persona was a mask Melody wore.

She’d had no time to get acquainted with the surgical scrub teams after she took over the department before Warren got sick. However, it didn’t take long to learn every team member was skilled and dedicated. Bad management, personality conflicts, and favoritism had driven department moral to a new low. Jealousy and infighting had taken their toll and six employees had taken positions with other hospitals and surgery centers before Sherry took over.

She’d worked to exhaustion interviewing the staff and meeting with administration to find the point of compromise and stop the exits of valuable team members.

Sherry had even taken her laptop with her when she sat with Warren during his chemotherapy treatments. The work distracted her for a while and kept her tears at bay. She could forget the powerful cancer drug was only palliative and stalling the inevitable. Pancreatic cancer would take Warren from her sooner than later.

Startled from her thoughts, heat rose up the back of her neck. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Is your drink okay?”

Embarrassed, Sherry took a long sip through the decorative straw and smiled. “Honey Jack. How did you know?”

Melody smirked and shrugged a shoulder. “I overheard you and Sue talking about favorite drinks one day. Figured the info would come in handy one day.”

It was Melody’s turn to smirk. “I’m keeping my eye on you, Simons… and watching what I say around you.”

They both giggled like school girls and Melody tilted her head toward the billiard room. “Ready to play?”

“Ready to lose?”

Melody choked. “Aw, now I gotta serve you some humble pie.”

They laughed as they made their way through the crowd, selling wolf tickets the entire way.

*   *   *

“Woman, where in the hell did you learn to play pool like that? Pros couldn’t have made some of those shots. It was your dad, wasn’t it? He must have been aces.”

The crowd had thinned and they found seats at the bar.

“Believe it or not, it was my mom who taught me, not my dad.”


Sherry guffawed at the woman’s slack-jawed expression.

“Yep… momma.”

Melody frowned, her dark eyebrows forming a deep V.

Sherry continued. “Grandpa Ernie, mom’s dad, was a champion pool player. Even held a national title twice. He started teaching me before I could reach the table. Used to stand me on phone books or in a chair. He passed away when I was seven and momma continued teaching me and my older sister, Angela.”

“How did your dad feel about that?”

“Oh, it irked him that he never beat momma in a game during their entire fifty-two-year marriage, but the bragging rights field was still level. He’s the one who taught me to cook.”

Melody shook her head. “Guess the battle of the sexes didn’t exist in your home.”

“Don’t you believe that. A simple meal of Salisbury Steak and mashed potatoes could turn into a cooking challenge with a simple glare between the two of them. Dad would remind momma the best chefs in the world were men, and she was quick to remind him the best chefs were chosen by men so it was a no-brainer. Some nights I thought I would starve while they perfected sauces and plating.”

Sherry laughed aloud at the memory.

Melody turned away.

“Hey, you okay? Did I say something wrong? Melody?”

She turned back to Sherry, her eyes downcast. “No, I’m fine. Ready for another drink?”

“Forget the drink, Simons and tell me what just happened. What upset you?”

Her head dropped, her chin almost touching her chest.

“Just forget it please, Sherry? I don’t want to make you angry or have you hate me.”

“Hate you? C’mon, Simons. Have a little faith in me.”

Melody raised her head and Sherry’s heart broke seeing the dark brown eyes filling with tears.

“I remember your first day on the job. When you introduced yourself to the staff, you talked about your husband and how the two of you did everything together so we shouldn’t be surprised if he popped into the department often. So, when you lost him I know it was devastating for you. But, I don’t know that feeling of loss since I don’t let any man stay around long enough to develop true feelings for them.”

Melody blew out a harsh breath and continued.

“You smile and love is written all over your face when you talked about the things your parents taught you… and those family moments.”

Her eyes could contain the tears no longer and they spilled down her cheeks.

“You lost the people you loved the most. The ones who helped make you the person sitting next to me. I’m not trying to be mean or discount any of that, Sherry, but to someone like me, you caught the brass ring.”

Sherry frowned, not understanding.

Melody held her hands out in front of her, trying to explain herself. “At least you had them, Sherry. You were loved and cherished by good people who you loved and cherished just as much. That’s why losing them hurts so much.”

“But, when you’re a biracial teenager with a chip on your shoulder, you don’t have many good memories, only nightmares… of a father who beat your mom until he got bored and walked away for good; of a mom so broken by him leaving, she drank herself to death, and by a foster care system that can’t decide if you’re black or white, so they shuttle you from one disgusting foster home to another.”

She wiped her face with her sleeve.

“The luckiest day of my life was when an older couple showed up at the residential center where I lived to donate new toys for Christmas. They saw me sitting outside on the swing… in the dead of winter. They talked me into going back inside and they followed me around, asking me questions. It hit me, at last, these good people cared, and we sat down and talked. The director hid in corners as discrete as a KGB agent.  When the Simons asked him about the process to become a foster care home and how adoptions from the system worked, I thought he’d swallow his tongue. By Christmas the following year, I was the legally adopted daughter of Ed and Wilma Simons.”

Sherry’s face was wet too. “But that’s a great memory, right?”

“It could have been. The Simons were good people who were good to me, but they had four grown children who were suspicious of the quiet girl with the tawny skin and kinky hair. Instead of siblings, they felt like cops, always watching me, waiting for me to screw up. Even after my adoption was official, I still felt like if I didn’t something they didn’t approve of, they would convince their parents to send me back.”

“I’m so sorry, Melody. That had to be awful for you.”

“I got through it. At least there was no arguing, fighting, or drinking. I went off to college a couple of years later and developed my own routine for living alone, taking care of myself. Mom died six months after I graduated… dad, a year after that. My adopted siblings washed their hands of me and I was on my own for real… and alone.”

“Where you have painful losses, Sherry, you have wonderful memories to bring you some comfort. I have an empty void and only rejection and fear to fill it.”

Sherry smiled, and Melody’s face scrunched up in confusion.

This was her A-ha moment Angela assured her would come.

Having lost her own husband in an industrial accident nine years earlier, her big sister had tried to be encouraging after Warren’s service.

“I can’t tell you when or where, kiddo, but the day will come when breathing doesn’t hurt anymore. Losing mom and dad rocked us, but losing a spouse is different because you feel like a part of you died too… like your soul’s been ripped in half.

But one day you’ll be able to hold your head up without feeling exhausted. You’ll be able to take a step without fear of falling, and you’ll smile without the guilt of betrayal. The best part is it will be the love you shared with Warren that holds you up and moves you forward.”

As teenagers, Sherry would rather cut out her tongue than admit Angela was right about anything. However, the truth and wisdom of her words made Sherry’s smile grow.

I can do this.

She considered her friend who still sat wracked with confusion.

“It couldn’t have been easy to admit those things, Melody. Thank you for sharing them with me.”

“Wait. You’re thanking me for dumping my drama on you? No more drinks for you.”

Sherry laughed. “Yes, ma’am, I’m thanking you. You’ve made me remember all the good things in my life. I had amazing parents, and I loved Warren with everything I am. We did do everything together and I couldn’t have a conversation without mentioning his name. But after he died, I stopped talking about him… and anything else.”

“You nailed it. I am this person because of the people who loved me and that love and the memories it created aren’t diminished or erased because they’re gone.”

She hopped off the bar stool. “And in that spirit, we shall make new memories. And maybe we’ll start with a man worthy of you.” She twirled around and disappeared into the crowd, but she could hear Melody begging her to stop and come back.

Sherry laughed all the across the bar. Stopping in the hallway outside the Ladies’ room, she glanced back over her shoulder and caught glimpses of a nervous Melody Simons through the crowd, looking around as though something bad was about to happen.

She felt bad at causing her friend stress and would apologize the second she got back to her seat. Sherry had no intention of pressing Melody into anything. She wasn’t ready and Sherry still didn’t know her well enough to know if she would ever be ready for that level of trust and commitment.

Sherry Davenport glanced down at the pale spot on her finger where her wedding ring sat for twenty-three years.

It took as much trust and commitment to take it off as it had to put it on, and both times, she found strength in her love for Warren.

She had no idea what her future held but she’d move into it, even if only by baby steps. She and Melody were both shaped by their pasts and they both had the same problem. Life was happening all around them but they were static, not moving in any direction, and that was no way to live.

Sherry pressed her lips against her barren finger. She couldn’t pick up where she left off, but she could begin again.



©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “find/found.” 

I took a long walk on a very short limb to use this song!
I’ve never been a huge Diana Ross fan but this song remains one of my oldies favorites.
Much like Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me, Ross’ Touch Me in the Morning is about a couple’s last night together.  In verse two, she sings, leave me as you found me, empty like before.”
Touch Me in the Morning was somewhat of a comeback for Ross in the music industry as it was released when she was receiving excellent reviews for her film debut Lady Sings the Blues.

This was written by ballad lyricist Ron Miller and songwriter/producer Michael Masser. It was Diana Ross’ first hit produced by Masser; he continued to produce more songs for her over the years, including Last Time I Saw Him, Theme From Mahogany,  I Thought It Took a Little Time and It’s My Turn.

Ross felt that this song was too difficult for her and recorded several takes on it. In a documentary about her, Masser said that she tried very hard to “get the vocals right for this particular song” and that it was a “draining experience.” Luckily, it became her longest-charting Pop record and also became her first #1 Adult Contemporary hit.
But it’s obvious the song wasn’t an easy one for her to sing. All of the performance videos I found were tinny and whiny… and pretty sure engineering wasn’t to blame, so I chose the original recording played over stills.


See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.


Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Touch Me in the Morning

by Diana Ross

#BookBirthday “In the Best Interest of the Child” by Felicia Denise

Book Birthday_Best Int


Best Interest 9

In the Best Interest of the Child is

number 2

years old!

Severely injured in an accident that forever changed her life, 10-year-old Olivia becomes Best Interest 9another faceless, under-served child in foster care. With no time to mourn or grieve, the young girl is easy prey for uncaring social workers and ambivalent foster families.

Olivia quickly learns to hold her tongue and mask her emotions. Even when exposed to neglect, bullying, and assault, no one seems to care. Holding fast to the teachings of her late father, Olivia ages out of the system broken, but no longer a victim.

Now a successful child advocate attorney, Olivia is a passionate voice for children. However, a routine case assignment by the court plunges Olivia back into the trauma of her childhood. If she doesn’t face her demons, a child will be sent into foster care.

Foster care for her young client is not an option. But Olivia’s emotional scars run even deeper than she realized. Reconciling with her past means Olivia must confront the one woman she blames for her battered soul.

A woman who has no idea who Olivia is.

NOTE: This book is intended for mature readers – 18+.


What Readers are saying…

“Each page left you wanting to read more to find out what would happen next.” -Kotrish W., Amazon review

“I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction or contemporary fiction.” -Kathy G., Amazon review

“I can’t wait to read the next installment, and I highly recommend this book to everyone.” -A.C.M., Amazon review

Best Int 5 Stars



Olivia was far from an innocent.

She’d had her share of relationships… if you wanted to call them that. To her, they’d always been ‘friends with benefits’ situations, purely sexual. Starting out as casual meetings once or twice a week, she’d undoubtedly begin to hear words like ‘exclusive’ and ‘permanent’ creep into after-sex pillow talk, and she knew it was time to move on. Most of the men took it in stride—a couple became angry and accused her of using them. To which she would state the obvious. They had used each other. She had asked nothing more of them. The only exception was Kenny—Kenneth Lane Connors.

Olivia tried to break things off with him after he told her he was tired of meeting in hotels and wanted her to come to his home, but he would not be deterred. Olivia never felt threatened by Kenny, but he came pretty close to crossing the line from persistent suitor to stalker. She’d find him: standing next to her car when she left her office; sitting on the front stoop when she got home at night; standing in her favorite coffee shop, holding a cup of her special dark roast blend. Olivia finally acquiesced, more from the ennui of the situation, and agreed to trial dating.

She didn’t last two weeks.

At the end of their first week as a couple, Kenny surprised Olivia with tickets to sunny Miami, for a getaway weekend. She was genuinely touched, until Kenny mentioned that while they were there, the two of them would stop in and see Vonnetta and Kenneth, Sr.—his parents. Olivia not only flatly refused to even go to Florida she grabbed her bag, told him to never call her again, and stormed out.

While a few times Olivia felt as though she was being watched, she never saw Kenny again. And she was okay with it. There was no remorse, or heartache due to missing him. What she did have was even more resolve to not allow any man get close, her new unspoken rule was no man got more than three dates, period. No exceptions.

And then along comes Bruce Bellamy.

She had seen Bruce a total of three times, and each time, he’d left her speechless, flustered… and smiling.


Best Interest_Lunch Date


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To celebrate its book birthday, In the Best Interest of the Child is


on ALL platforms September 30th and October 1st!


All other retailersbooks2read.com/BestInterest

Add to Goodreadshttp://bit.ly/BestIntGR