Archive for the ‘opinions’ Category

 Here’s an excerpt from my adult romance novel Maid of Honor.  It needs some work, but it should be good enough for a teaser.  Enjoy!

“God, I hate weddings,” Ariel proclaimed, tossing her controller on the bed. She watched as it bounced once, before switching the television off.
 The whole beautiful disaster that was flowers, and music, and what cake to have.  And don’t forget what color dress, and how to stand for this picture and that picture.  Ugh. It was just too much.  That is why I’m never going to do it.  They were just too much of a bother and God knew they never worked.  What were the recent statistics?  Over fifty-percent of all marriages failed?  Yeah.  No, thank you.
            “Well, it’s not your wedding, Ari,” Cat reminded her.  “It’s mine.”
            “Ah, yes, but as your maid of honor I’m expected to go through absolutely every awful stage of this thing with you.  You’re going to want to know if pink or red roses are better or should you hire a DJ or a band?  Sit down or buffet?  Not to mention the hours of invitation addressing.”  She shivered at the thought. “Then you’ll cry or scream at me when I don’t pick the one you wanted to begin with.”  She knew. She’d seen it before. 
How many times have I been a bridesmaid now?  She counted them quickly in her head.  Six, she’d been a bridesmaid six times in the last five years. What was that statement?  Always the bridesmaid, never the bride?  Not that she wanted to be the bride.
            Cat’s whispery laugh echoed through the phone lines. “I’m not going to be that bad.  Promise.  The whole big wedding is to appease our mothers anyway.  They’ve pretty much got the whole damned thing planned out for us.  So, please, please, please will you be my maid of honor?”
            Ari ran her ring-studded hand through her black hair. She hated it when Cat used that tone of voice.  It always crumbled her control.  “Damn it. I hate when you beg.  Fine. Fine.  When is it?” she asked.
            “In a month.”
            Ari’s jaw dropped.  “A month?  Are you crazy?  Why so soon?”
            There was a long pause, and then Cat asked, “Why not?”
            “Why not? I’ll tell you why not.  There is no physical way you can get everything taken care of in a month.  I can’t even comprehend the fact that you’re doing this but…wait…you’ve never rushed into anything in your life.  That’s my job.  Why so soon?” she asked again. 
            Cat sighed, making a sound like static on the phone line. “I just want to. Anyway, I’ll explain everything when you get here.  You’re coming for two weeks anyway.  Can’t you just extend the trip?”
            Knowing Cat could keep her mouth glued tightly shut when she wanted to, Ari glanced at her calendar.  She didn’t have anything pressing to do and her boss was harping on her to use up all her vacation time this year. She’d just have to see if she could use it all up at once.  “I don’t know. I’ll have to call my boss and find out.”
            “Great,” Cat said.  “Call me when you know. Toodle-loo.” She hung up, leaving Ari staring at the phone.  Why is she always doing that?  Back you into a corner until you had no choice but to agree, than leave you standing there to figure out the details on your own.
             Shaking her head, Ari punched in the numbers for her boss and crossed her fingers that she would side with her.
She should have known it, she thought, an hour later. Everyone is insane.  Who knew my bitch of a boss actually had a soft streak for weddings in that icy heart of hers? 
            “Go, go,” she’d said. “Weddings are fun.  So romantic.  Go and bring back lots of pictures. I just love weddings.”
            Damn it, Ari thought as she packed. The one person I’d hoped could stall the inevitable had failed me.  Now what? 
            Now, I fly to North Carolina and watch my best friend fall into the trap of Holy Matrimony.  Lovely, she thought with a grimace.
* * *
            Wonderful, Josh thought with a scowl, simply wonderful.  Not only had he gotten roped into marrying his best friend’s sister, now he had to go pick up her best friend from the damn airport. What did she have to come so early for, anyway? The damn circus–oh wait, that’s marriage, how could I forget?– isn’t for another month anyway
            He stared at his watch. The plane was late.  Figures. The damn things never came on time.  Especially when you needed them to.  He really didn’t have time for this.  He had other, more important, things to do.  Like supervise the construction on that pretty little Victorian he was restoring. 
            Idiots.  Who in their right mind would try to “modernize” a Victorian?  Well, at least with his restorations, the old lady would once again shine. Probably even before the wedding.
            He looked at his watch again.  Where the hell was that damn plane and how was he even supposed to recognize her?  All Cat had said was, “Pretty, with black hair and blue eyes. My height. Thin.”
            Nice description, Cat. How many thin women with black hair and blue eyes are going to get off that plane? He’d reserve judgment on the pretty part.  Most women thought their pals were pretty.  Didn’t mean they actually were.
            And what the hell kind of name was Ariel anyway?  Didn’t the mermaid have red hair?  And if she was named after Shakespeare’s Ariel, wasn’t he a guy? 
            Just then he saw a fairly attractive woman of about thirty with black hair step through security.  Straightening his shoulders he walked up to the woman, who was holding her bag to her body as if terrified that someone would steal it.
            “Hi. I’m Josh. Uh, Cat sent me instead of Connor.  I’ll take your bag for you,” he told the woman, who just kept staring at him like he’d lost his mind. He felt a hand on his arm and looked over to see another dark haired woman.
            He goggled at her.  She was simply stunning.  Her hair wasn’t really black, more of a sable, and there were yards of it.  Her eyes weren’t simply blue, either. They were cobalt and just as striking as the rest of her.  She was petite. A curvy five-two, he reckoned.  And all of it leg. 
            When she smiled he almost swallowed his tongue.  “Hi. I think you’re looking for me. I’m Ariel Sutherland.” 
            This was Ariel? She couldn’t have been older than twenty-five.  He turned away from the other woman who took off like a mouse who’d just escaped from being eaten.
            He grinned at Ariel causing her to blink. “Hi.  Josh Stanton.” He held out his hand and she took it without hesitation.  That is, until he brought it to his lips and kissed it. 
            She raised an eyebrow, trying to pull her hand away when she felt sparks shoot up her arm at his touch.  “You’re Cat’s fiancé, right?”
            He grimaced.  He’d forgotten for half a second he was engaged and wasn’t too happy she’d reminded him of it. “Yes,” he said and took her bag from her, slipping her arm through his. 
            She let him lead her to his car, but didn’t say thank you when he opened the door for her.  How rude, he thought, obviously manners weren’t something they taught in New York. He tossed her bags into the trunk and then drove away from the airport. She was staring out the window, but he could see her quite plainly glaring at his reflection.
            What the hell did I do? he asked himself. He tried a few more times to start a conversation, but she only ignored him or answered shortly, continuing to glare at him in the glass.
            Giving up, he drove the rest of the way in silence.  When they pulled into the driveway of Cat’s parents’ house, a beautiful old plantation home, she visibly relaxed. When she saw Cat, with her long blonde hair, blue eyes, and long, lean figure, waiting on the wrap-around porch, she started bouncing on the seat.  Weird woman, he thought, as she tore out of the car toward Cathy before he’d even put the car into park.
* * *
            God, what a creep, Ari thought, watching Josh on the other side of the dinner table.  The way he had stared at her in the airport should have been illegal.  It had made her blood pressure skyrocket before she’d reminded herself he was her best friend’s fiancé. 
            Well, to be truthful it wasn’t just his stare that had done it.  It was the thick wavy brown hair that had just begged for her to run her fingers through it and the eyes -the same color as her grandma’s prized jade elephant- that did nothing to detract from his tough, sharp jawed face. Even the small scar on the bridge of his nose was sexy.  She shivered, remembering how his eyes had clouded with just a hint of desire when they’d looked at her.
            Then, remembering, she scowled.  He was taken.  Not just taken, but taken by her best friend.  That louse, she decided.  Already fantasizing about other women and he isn’t even married yet.  Maybe he didn’t want to be married, she thought. 
            If he didn’t want to get married, why was he?  It’s not like he had to.  Even if Cat was pregnant it’s not as if her father would make them have a shotgun wedding.  She pursed her lips as she thought about it.  Maybe it was a shotgun wedding. This was the South, after all. She tried sneaking a glance at Cat’s stomach, surreptitiously.
            Idiot, Ari thought, shaking her head, she wouldn’t be showing yet
            The front door banged open and Connor, the male equivalent of his younger sister, Cat, slammed through. 
            “Well, really, Connor.  Can you make any more noise?” Amelia, Cat’s mother, demanded.
            He grinned at her. “Sorry,” he said, his blue eyes scanning the room until he saw Ariel sitting by his father, Colin.  His smile got larger and he leapt across the room in three large bounds, picking her up and kissing her soundly.
             “There you are, gorgeous.  How was your flight?” he said, oblivious to his mother’s shocked stare.
            Just fine,” Ari replied, ignoring his demonstration.  He’d done the same thing every time he’d seen her, ever since they’d dated five years earlier.
            “Connor, sit down this instant and leave Catherine’s guest alone,” Amelia said.
            He grinned again and sat in Ari’s chair, pulling her with him and into his lap.  His mother scowled at him, but he didn’t release her. “How’s my best girl?”
            “Perfect, now that you’re here,” she told him, glancing over at Cat who was grinning at her.  Cat was way too used to the openness of their friendship to be concerned. But when Ari looked over at Josh, he was scowling at her. 
            Wonder what got his nose out of joint, she thought, before turning back to Connor.  “So, what was so important that you couldn’t pick me up from the airport?” she asked.
            He smiled and whispered in her ear, “What else would keep me away?”
            Ari laughed, knowing the only thing that would keep him away would be another woman. 
* * *
            Josh sat on the front porch enjoying a cold beer.  One of those rare moments in his life he usually enjoyed.  The hot, muggy air and a cold beer. Listening to the cicadas croon along with the crickets.  Even the mosquitoes weren’t a bother tonight.  But, not even the calm of the evening could relax him tonight. He wasn’t enjoying the sounds of the cicadas or crickets and, while he appreciated the mosquitoes finding their dinner elsewhere, he really couldn’t have cared less. He was annoyed.  And that annoyance held a name, along with its shapely figure.  Ariel Sutherland. 
            His reaction to her was simply male hormones, he told himself.  What man wouldn’t want her? Jesus. She had legs up to her ears and her voice had poured through him like warm brandy on a cold night. If that didn’t set a man’s nerves to humming, nothing would.
            It wasn’t any of that that was bothering him.  No sir, it was how she’d responded to him.  Warm and friendly one minute. The ice-queen the next. And it was obvious that she only had a problem with him.  Look at the way she’d responded to Con.  No ice on her then.  Betcha he’s had a piece of her, Josh thought with a scowl. 
            So, what? It’s not like you’re interested.  She’s your fiancée’s best friend.  Shit, now how did that happen?  He was going to get married.  Not for another month, but he didn’t want to be married.  Never wanted to be married. He saw his parents’ marriage.  Not a marriage, a farce.  Not a very funny farce, though. More of a cataclysmic disaster.
            Why they still lived in the same house was beyond him.  It wasn’t sex that was for sure. As far as he could tell, they hadn’t so much as slept on the same side of the house since he was ten. 
            And now, he was letting them do what his father’s parents had done to his father.  Forcing him to marry someone he didn’t love all for the family name.  How pathetic.  He should have said no. He should have put his foot down. 
            But no, his mother and father had ganged up on him and he’d caved.
            “Joshua, you are thirty-three years old.  It is time you settled down and married.  Since you haven’t found someone suitable, we have found someone who is,” his mother, Debra, had told him.
            He’d laughed and poured more brandy. “Who do you believe is suitable, Mother?”
            “Catherine Kordovan,” she’d said with a smile.
            He’d set down his brandy with a snap of glass against wood.  “No, she’s one of my closest friends. Practically my sister.  I refuse to destroy her life, and our friendship like you and dad did.  For some stupid ideological bullshit about bloodlines and heirs.”
            His father stood up. “You will marry her or I’ll cut you off.  I’ll make sure that every trust fund you have is cut off and if it can’t be, it’ll spring a leak.  By the time you hit thirty-five it’ll all be gone. Then how are you going to fund your precious house-flipping business?”
            Knowing his father all too well, Josh knew he’d make good on the threat, so he’d agreed to the marriage. And he’d asked Cathy.  To his great surprise, she’d agreed.  Now they were to be married and he was miserable.
            He looked up when he heard laughter and saw Ari and Connor start up the walk from the gardens.  He had his arm around her and she was leaning into him, her face lifted to his, and her mind-blowing smile on her luscious lips. 
            Josh scowled into his drink before he could entertain any thoughts in that direction.  Nope, that would cut off his trust fund faster than refusing to get married.  She was exactly what his mother termed unsuitable.  Gorgeous, but unsuitable.  Any woman who looked like a Playboy pin-up had to be, didn’t she?
            Connor and Ari glanced over when they walked up to the porch and Connor stopped laughing.  “Hey, Josh, why the long face?” he asked.
            Josh looked up and over at Ariel pointedly. “No reason.”
            Ari laughed, knowing that she was the problem, and kissed Connor’s cheek. Serves him right, she thought.  “I’ll see you later, Connor,” she promised, and ignoring Josh completely, flounced into the house with hips swinging.           
            Connor stared after her, and then sighed and patted his heart. “I love being a man.” He sat down next to Josh.
            “Isn’t it hard to make time with her through all that ice?” Josh asked.
            “Ice? On Ari? Man, have you got it wrong,” Connor told him, stretching out.
            “She was nice enough when I first met her and, Jesus, her looks stab right through you, but the minute we hit the car she iced up.”
            “What did you do?” Connor asked, looking at him. “Ari’s the nicest woman I know.  Most are vindictive little wenches in pretty gift-wrap. Not our little Ari, though.  She’s as sweet as they come.”
            Josh snorted. “Yeah, right. I’ll believe that when I see it.”
            Connor twisted his body to look at him. “What did you do?” he repeated.
            “I didn’t do anything.”
            Connor laughed. “You did something.  Ari isn’t one to turn ice-bitch for no reason.”
            “She asked me if I was Cathy’s fiancé and I said yes.  That’s when she went all ice-queen on me.”
            “Connor?” Ari’s voice called out from the door.  “Your father wants you.”
            “Damn.  I’d better go,” Connor said jumping up.  “It’s probably to discuss the ‘business’ again. I really hate that.”
            Josh chuckled and waved his friend away.  He heard his footsteps go into the house, then Ariel’s as she walked on to the porch. “May I?” she asked, gesturing to the space beside him. She’d heard what he’d said about her and thought it better to try and be friends, at least until the wedding.  Then, she could forget all about him.
            When he shrugged, she sat next to him.  “It’s beautiful here. I keep forgetting that.”
            “So, you’ve been here before?”
            “Yes, I used to come with Cat on our school breaks.”
            “Didn’t want to go home?” he asked, rudely. When she didn’t respond he looked over and saw sadness on her face. 
            “No. I didn’t really have a home to go back to.  My parents died when I was three. Car accident.  My grandmother raised me, but she died right after I graduated high school.”
            Insensitive clod, he chided himself. Stepped in that one. Keep that up and she’ll never like you.  Not that he cared whether or not she did.  “Sorry.”
            She turned her face to him and smiled. His breath caught in his throat and he had to turn away so he could breathe again. “It’s okay. I don’t really remember my parents.  And it’s been almost ten years since Nana died. It’s just a bittersweet memory now. I miss her though.  She was an awesome woman,” she told him.
            “Ten years?  How old are you?”
            He spun around to stare at her. “You graduated high school at fifteen?”
            She smiled and his heart skipped a beat.  “Yeah, I’m a good student. My grandmother pushed me, but not too much.  I was the one who decided to go as fast as I did.  I preferred it.  I wasn’t really good around other people so I studied,” she said, shrugging.
            He stared out over the backyard, trying to control the hormones surging through his body. What is with that smile? It should be banned as an illegal substance.  “It was good of you to agree to be her maid of honor,” he finally managed. 
            She frowned. “I guess. I’m not into the whole let’s-go-crazy-and-spend-the-rest-of-our-lives-together, thing. Usually ends up in divorce.
            Boy, did he agree with that. “Or worse,” he muttered.
            She looked over at him, her cobalt eyes searching his face. “Or worse,” she agreed. 
            “Yet, here you are,” he pointed out.
            “She’s my best friend.  There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for her.”
            They were silent again, then she blurted out, “Did you knock her up?

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I don’t know if a lot of you have seen my posts lately, but I’m finally out on submission.  I say finally like it hasn’t been a blink of an eye since I found my wonderful agent.  But I want to clear up a few misconceptions I’ve been noticing lately.  First, my agent isn’t my agent because I paid her.  In fact I will never pay her.  She will pay me—in a matter of speaking. 
The way an agent works is she looks through her (used loosely.  There are wonderful male agents as well) slush pile (the stack of unsolicited manuscripts, partials or query letters they receive) to find something that interests her.  Usually it’s with a query letter so we’ll start there.  She reads the query letter and decides she likes it enough to read more. 
Now with my agent she had the first 50 pages and my synopsis, so she was able to keep going.  From the query she read my first 50, determined she liked it, and then read my synopsis.  Since she liked that as well, she asked for the rest.  After reading the rest, she offered me representation. 
When I accepted, she sent me her notes.  I edited my MS based on those notes and sent it back.  Then she read it through again, sent me her notes, and I edited it again and sent it back.  This process can keep going for awhile folks, but in my case it’s stopped here and we moved onto submission.  Now it’s in her hands and I feel a little awkward. 
Why?   Because it’s a little like the querying process to find an agent, but it’s in someone else’s hands now.  She’s doing all the work.  Researching where and who to submit to, when to nudge, perfecting the pitch letter, etc.  I’m perfectly confident she’s going to find me the perfect match for my MS, but it’s hard relinquishing control like that. But that’s why you want your agent to understand you, your MS, and love your MS as much as you do. 
So you may have noticed I have not once mentioned money exchanging hands.  And that’s because it hasn’t.  I have not paid her a single penny.  She is essentially working for me for free. 
How does she get paid, you may ask?  Well, she gets paid when I do.  When a publisher makes an offer it’s usually offering an advance and then a royalty off the cover price of the book.  Since my agent will make 15% of everything I make, including the advance, it’s in her best interest to get the best deal. 
The publisher will send her a check with my advance; she takes her 15% and then gives the rest to me.  It will be the same with royalties.  So as you see, I never pay her anything. 
As you might have guessed that is why agents are so picky.  They are essentially working for free until your MS sells.  If it doesn’t sell, then they don’t make money.  So they need to find MSs they fall in love with so they can champion it properly. 
So, how can you make sure yours gets picked up?  Write a good book, get feedback on said book and edit appropriately.  Research agents thoroughly and query widely. Be patient.  In the meantime, write a new and better book and start the whole process over again.  Eventually you will get picked up. 
I hope this shed some light on agents and how they work.  So how about you?  What’s your experiences been like?  I’d love to hear from you.
Tomorrow, contests.  What they’re about and how they can help you in your career.

If you’re an agent, editor, or author and would like to do an interview or guest blog with me please contact me at j.souders (at) jasouders (dot) com

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Well I thought I’d share one of the new scenes I added for Mirror Image.  Next week I hope to have my teasers from my new WIP up.  Hope you enjoy.

I started avoiding any and all mirrors and reflective surfaces and it wasn’t long before all of my friends had noticed my odd behavior, but everyone–besides Ty–seemed to think my hang up on mirrors was due to the injuries I had. 
            Carly and Leah tried several times to convince me it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and even Noah and Owen would go out of their way to tell me how pretty I was.  In an effort to distract me, Leah had come up with a plan to go to the carnival that was down the street and Ty agreed it was a good idea so we all trooped down the street.
We walked around the fair, deciding what ride to hit next.  Ty wanted something gentle so I could go with, but I didn’t really care.  I just enjoyed getting out of the hotel.  When we stopped outside the house of mirrors, Ty glanced over at me and a strange look passed over his face. 
            “Come on, we’ll go in here,” he said, watching me carefully.
            A wave of panic rushed through me and I stopped in my tracks.  “No.”
            He leaned down to whisper in my ear, “Lily, he’s not real.  You need to face this.  It’ll never go away if you keep letting it bother you.”
            “No.  I don’t want to go in there.”  I started to feel sick to my stomach and dizzy as my heart rate picked up.  A sure sign of an oncoming panic attack.
            The others had stopped to see why we had and Leah said, “Ty, if she doesn’t want to go, don’t force her.”  She watched me carefully and twisted the strap of her purse in her hands.
            He sent her a look, but didn’t say anything before turning back to me.  “You can do this, Lil.  I’ll be with you the whole time.  You just need to prove to yourself he doesn’t exist.  I know you can do this.”
            I closed my eyes.  He was right.  Jackson didn’t exist and I needed to face this.  I couldn’t just keep avoiding mirrors for the rest of my life.  When I opened my eyes, I nodded. “Alright, but don’t leave me.  Okay?”
            “Never,” he promised and slipped an arm around my shoulder to lead me into the attraction.
            Leah reached out and tugged on my arm.  “You don’t have to do this, Hun.  You can wait until you heal.  There’s no need to rush into this and make it worse,” she said, her narrowed eyes on Ty.
            Ty made a growling sound in his throat, but otherwise said nothing.  I smiled at her, conveying my thanks, but shook my head, even as butterflies flew around in my belly making me feel even sicker.  “No.  This is something I have to do.  For me.”
            She watched me, then nodded and let go.  She gave one last glare to Ty and then stepped back to follow us into the building. 
            Ty kept a tight grip on me as I shook, but I forced myself to look in every mirror we passed. 
Jackson never appeared.
Eventually, I relaxed enough to let go of Ty and wander to a few mirrors on my own, laughing at how silly I looked.
            I moved from mirror to mirror, feeling lighter than I had in days.  I was over it.  I was fine.  No, I was ecstatic. Jackson didn’t exist and I wasn’t going crazy. Thank God.
When I got to a mirror that made me look not only short and fat, but made my face look all squished and gnome-like, I giggled and turned to get Ty’s attention.  But he wasn’t near me.  In fact, no one was. 
            Cursing myself for not paying attention, I tried backtracking to locate my group, but only succeeded in getting myself more lost.  So, I stopped and tried to think about the way I’d come and how to get back, but tingles of panic started to creep in. I’d been so focused on the mirrors I didn’t remember the path I’d taken.  And where the hell was Ty?  He’d promised he wouldn’t leave me.
            I debated calling for help, but decided that would only make me look stupid. I looked up and saw Jackson’s sad eyes staring back at me.  My heart leaped into my throat and my feet froze to the floor.  This isn’t happening.  This isn’t happening, I thought over and over. 
            He reached out to the glass, and mouthed, “Please.”
            I shook my head rapidly.  “No,” I whispered, backing up.  I bumped into another mirror and turned around, only to see him staring back at me from this one instead.  I spun again, and again, but no matter where I turned, there he was. 
            Oh God, this can’t be happening.  It isn’t real.  He doesn’t exist.
            “Please,” he repeated, his eyes turning even sadder.  “I won’t hurt you.”
            “No!” I screamed, squeezing my eyes tightly shut.  I dropped to my knees and slapped my hands over my ears as my screams echoed back to me. My heart felt as if it were trying to escape from my chest as Tyler raced to where I was. 
My eyes flew open when he grabbed a hold of me and pulled me into his chest.  I clung to him, but it still didn’t help much.
            “Lily!  What’s wrong?  What happened?” he demanded, but I couldn’t tell him.  I couldn’t get words to form coherently.  I could only babble things that didn’t make sense even to me.
            Leah ran in next and stopped when she saw me. She dropped down next to me and tried pulling from Tyler, but he held tight. She glared at him.  “I knew this was a bad idea.  You stupid son of a–”
            “Now’s not the time,” he said, cutting her off.  He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Was it another hallucination?”  I could only nod once before I sobbed and buried my face into his chest.  “Oh, man, Lily.  I’m so sorry.  I didn’t know.  I didn’t realize.  I’m sorry.”  He encircled my waist with his arm and, ignoring all the people who’d come running, led me back to the hotel and to his car, apologizing the whole time.
 I curled up into a ball in his passenger seat, making mewling sounds in my throat. He took me straight to my parent’s house, checking on me constantly as I trembled and rocked.
            He rushed me inside and my mom turned from the sink with a smile when she heard us.  “You two are back early…” she trailed off when she saw me.  “What happened?”
            “She’s seeing things.  A boy.  In mirrors,” Ty said, keeping his arm firmly around me as I trembled harder. 
Dishes clattered in the sink as she rushed over to me.  She placed the back of her hand on my forehead and looked into my eyes.  “How long?”
“Since the accident.  I think something’s wrong with me,” I finally managed.  Hot tears poured out of my eyes and she wrapped her arms around me as my father, who’d been listening from his seat at the table, called the hospital.

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Here’s the first chapter of my current WIP, tentatively titled SPIRIT DETECTIVE.  I started it a while ago, but put it off to the side to write MIRROR, but it’s calling to me again so I thought I’d pull it out and see what people thought.  It’s rough as it only has the bare minimum of editing done, but hopefully that won’t detract.

Blurb:  I don’t have a blurb yet.  Sorry.  

My heart accelerated in my chest as I stood looking at the abandoned house in front of me. Simply put, it was falling apart.  Most of the windows were broken, their dark depths imploring me to follow my instincts and leave.  The paint was peeling and chipping, revealing the termite riddled wood beneath it.  The once white porch sagged and groaned under my feet, begging me to leave.  The door was broken and tilted at an odd angle, leaving the house open to the elements.  The ripped screen door squealed as it opened as if some unseen person was inviting me in.
            Just step in Rowena, I told myself with a quick glance over my shoulders.  My best friend, Lucas stood at the end of the cracked sidewalk where the squeaky gate for the splintered picket fence opened and shut with the wind.
            He grinned at me, brushing back a stray blonde hair the wind had blown into his eyes.  “If you’re scared, Ro, just say so.  We’ll go home.”
            With a growl, I yelled back, “I’m not scared.”  The one remaining shutter slapped against the house, causing me to jump.  Luke barked out a laugh and I straightened my shoulders and turned to face the house again. 
            It’s just a house. It’s just a house, I repeated like a chant in my head as I stepped toward the gaping hole that was the front door.  The wind blew through the house, causing a sound like a moan to emit from it and me to stop in my tracks as my heart jumped into my throat.
            My hand trembled as I reached for the knob.  Why am I doing this again?  Oh yeah, that stupid ten-dollar bet, a bet I’d made on a dare. 
            Luke and I had been sitting outside on my front porch, drinking soda and playing truth or dare, but–because we knew everything about each other–it was more along the lines of dare or dare.  He’d dared me to spend an hour at the abandoned house and bet me ten dollars I couldn’t do it. I’d, of course, taken it. 
            If it had been just the ten dollars I’d have backed up and gone back home, laughing, but it wasn’t.  There was a much more important thing on the line than just a measly ten dollars.  My pride. 
            I’d never welched on a bet, or chickened out from a dare.  I wasn’t planning on starting now.
            With a deep breath, I pushed aside the tilted door and jumped when the last rusted hinge broke and the door feel into the house and crashed to the floor. 
            “Well, geez, Ro.  Why don’t you just wake the dead while you’re at it?” Luke called, his voice laughing at me.
            “Very funny,” I yelled over my shoulder and winced when my voice echoed throughout the house.
            Taking a minute to let my heart settle again, I looked around inside. I’d never seen it before. If you took the outside into consideration, the inside looked pretty good.  If you didn’t take into count the spider webs and dust that covered every square inch I could see.
            With another deep breath, I took the first step through the doorway and then stopped to turn around.  “I’m in.  Start the clock.”
            “Got it,” Luke called back and even through the howling wind I could hear the beep that symbolized the start of my hour. 
            Well, I’m in.  Now what? I’ve got a whole hour to kill. Might as well explore. 
            The house was three stories and I decided to start on it and then work my way down.  A house this old had to have something interesting in it. The dust on the floor was so thick I left footprints in it with each step.
            It had been abandoned for as long as I could remember, but my mom and her Bunko buddies talked often about the Mooney Mansion.  It had been the first house in Seminole County in the late 1800s.  The Mooney’s had had a whole plantation of celery, hundreds of acres, but when they died, the children had sold off the land an acre at a time until only the land surrounding the home was left.  Eventually the house was sold off to pay the taxes.
            Since then, the house had been bought and sold numerous times, no one staying longer than five years; earning it it’s haunted house title. 
            It didn’t appear too scary, now that I was inside.  In fact, the inside looked pretty darn good.  The staircase creaked slightly with each step, but the wood appeared to be in good shape and the carpet was only slightly threadbare.
At the landing for the second floor, a mouse scurried in front of me, squeaking at me as if yelling at me for ruining it’s nighttime stroll.  I slapped a hand across my mouth to block the little yelp that tried to escape and continued on up to the third floor, trailing my hand along the surprisingly smooth banister. 
A shiver racked my body as a breeze blew through the hall and I frowned as I wondered where it had come from.  There weren’t any windows and the doors to the rooms were all shut. 
I paused.  Which way should I go?  Left? Or right?  After a quick game of “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe,” I went left.
A feeling of unease settled in my belly almost immediately as I walked to the room at the end of the hall. Whatever was in that room I was sure I didn’t want to know about, but I was still strangely pulled to it.
            A flash of memory came to me as my hand wrapped around the crystal doorknob. 
            My mom and her friend Kate had been sitting outside on the front porch of my home the summer after I’d turned five.  They were both sipping their tea and gossiping about neighborhood news and almost daily pastime.
            “Did you hear about the old Mooney place?” my mom had asked, her face showing the hope and excitement it always did when she was sure she had something juicy to tell.
            “No.  I thought that young couple bought it a few months back, but they’ve never done anything with it,” Kate replied, sipping her tea.
            My mom beamed.  “No, and they won’t.  The woman was staying there about a week ago trying to decide on paint samples while her husband went to get food.  Well, she went to one of the rooms on the third floor, but the door was locked.”
            Kate sniffed and then winked at me.  “Well, couldn’t she get a key?”
            My mom rolled her eyes.  “Kate.  The doors don’t lock.  Not the bedroom doors.”
            “So, anyway, thinking the door was just stuck, she rammed the door with her shoulder and the door opened as easy as you please.”
            Kate shrugged.  “Maybe she just didn’t push hard enough the first time.”  She smiled down at me and then, when she was sure my mom wasn’t looking, slipped me a piece of toffee she had hidden in her skirt pocket.
            I took it with a smile and carefully unwrapped it, hoping my mom wouldn’t hear the telltale crinkle of the wrapper.
            My mom still looking away from us said, “Maybe, but when she stepped into the room you’ll never believe what she saw.”
            Kate rolled her eyes at me, causing me to giggle.  “What?
            “Well,” my mom said, leaning forward toward Kate, dragging out the story, “she opened the door and on the walls, written in blood, were words.”
            I choked on the piece of candy, and Kate gave me a few thumps on the back to dislodge it, while she laughed.  “Oh, come on, Lynn.  You don’t really believe that, do you?”
            My mom laughed and shook her head.  “No, of course not, but she did.  Screamed like the devil himself had visited her and ran straight out of the house.  When her husband came to get her, she demanded they leave right then and there.  Don’t know if he saw it, but they left that night, leaving everything they had there.  ”
            Another cold chill shook my body as I turned the knob easily in my hand and stepped into the room with my eyes closed.  I was sure this was the room they were talking about.  Why else would I have been drawn to it?
            A voice in my head told me to turn around and wait for the remaining minutes downstairs, but despite being scared out of my mind I was insanely curious.  Would there be words written on the walls?
            The minute I stepped through a breeze blew through and slammed the door shut, causing me to jump and yelp again.  My eyes flew open and I took a relieved breath.  The room was empty, minus a few stray pieces of furniture.
            The room was large, especially for a home as old as it was.  The wallpaper was torn, almost shredded in places, showing the slat walls behind it.  In the corner was a trunk.  I wandered around the room, tracing my fingers over the wall, half hoping to find a switch that would open a secret door. 
            I paused when I got to the trunk and then, wanting a closer look, knelt in front of it, my hands shook for some unknown reason as I touched it.  It was metal and had strange symbols etched onto its black sides. There were three locks in the front that prevented me from opening it, each lock in the shape of a skull.
In the hopes of finding the key, I searched the room oblivious to the time. I noticed a roll-top desk on the wall by the door and slid the top up and searched the drawers. When my fingers probed the middle drawer, they found a hole only big enough for my finger.  I slipped it in and pulled up, revealing a secret space.  Cautiously, I slid my hand in the space and felt something cold and metal brush against my fingers.
When I pulled it out, it was a strange looking skeleton key, which matched the chest.  I rushed over to it and slipped the key in the middle lock, smiling when I heard a soft click. Excited, I unlocked the remaining two locks and pushed open the lid, revealing a trunk full of old clothes. 
The smell of lavender permeated my nose as I pulled each article out.  This was so cool.  These clothes had to be hundreds of years old.  The little white muslin I’d just pulled out had to be from the Victorian era at least.  The high-neck and sweeping skirt proved it. 
I don’t know how long I spent going through the chest before I found a leather-bound book and wooden box.
I opened the wooden box first and pulled out a necklace.  The charm on the end of it was three triangles interconnected within a circle.  With a shrug, I slipped the leather cord around my neck, letting the symbol rest between my breasts. 
The book was the only thing left, so I flipped through it. 
“It’s just a bunch of mumble jumble,” I said in disgust. I flipped to the first page and tried figuring out what it said.  Thinking maybe it would make more sense I read it aloud, stumbling over the handwritten words.
være på vakt forbannelsen av gudene
snakker ikke ordene nedenfor
skjenket på deg øyet av tre.
The minute I finished, a bright light filled the room, blinding me. And I started screaming as a searing, shocking pain ran through my head, as if I’d been struck by lighting.   

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Going back to MIRROR IMAGE for this week’s Teaser Tuesday.  

This scene takes place as Lily realizes she’s not in love with Tyler and that she’s starting to have feelings for Jackson.

“Tell me a secret?” Jackson asked.
“A secret?”
“Yeah.  Tell me something no one else knows.”
I shook my head and gave him a coy smile.  “It won’t be a secret if I tell you.”
He crept closer to the mirror.  “Please, Tiger Lily, I promise not to tell anyone.”
I giggled.  “Who would you tell?”
“All right.”  I took a breath. “I still have my baby blanket.”
He smiled at me.  “Really?”
“Um hmm.” I got up and pulled open a drawer.  Inside was my pink baby blanket.  It was ratty and torn in a few places, but otherwise intact.  I held it up.  “See?”
He laughed as I tucked it back into the drawer and sat again.  “That’s very interesting,” he said.
“Your turn.”
He thought for a second and then said, “My mom has this fake flower arrangement in the front room and she likes it to be just so and it drives her crazy if it isn’t.  Every night before I go to bed, I turn it a quarter of a turn to the left.  When I get up in the morning, it’s back to its original position.”
I burst out laughing.  “Oh, that’s bad.  Does she know it’s you who’s doing it?”
“Probably.  Who else would it be?”
“Give me another,” he said, sending me one of his heart stopping smiles.
“I count the steps if I’m going up the stairs.”
“Toilet paper has to be over the roll, not under.”
“I know what I’m going to wear for three days in advance.”
“I have to let my ice-cream melt a little before I can eat it.”
“I never step on sidewalk cracks.”
            “Neither do I,” he gasped.  We were both laughing so hard we couldn’t catch our breath or finish our list.  Every time we’d stop, we’d look at each other and it would start all over again.
            Finally, when we’d stopped laughing, he said, “Tell me another secret.”
            “Another? Like what?”
            “How about what do you secretly want to be?  Every one has one.” He grinned at me.
I thought about it and then glanced at the door.  “I’ve always wanted to be a singer.”
            He raised an eyebrow and a strange look crept into his eyes.  “A singer?”
            “Yeah, but I’ve never been brave enough to do anything about it. That’s why you always hear me singing in here.  It’s the only place I’m brave enough to do it. I never realized anyone could hear me. I’ve wanted to be a singer ever since I was a little girl and I heard Jewel on the radio. I know it’s the smart thing to go to college and get my degree, but what I really want to do, is audition for American Idol.”
            “What is that?” he asked.
            “Uh, it’s a show where people from all over the country audition in front of people who’ve been in the business awhile and then they go on TV and sing in front of the whole country and people vote.  By the end of the season, whoever is last wins a recording contract.”
            “So, why don’t you do it?  Your voice is beautiful.  You’d win for sure.”
            I laughed “No.  I doubt that. One of the judges is a real ass, but he’s good and he knows what sells.  I heard him sing once.  He was awesome.  I’m sure he’d chew me up and spit me out.”
            “I don’t think so, Lily.  I’d bet he’d be singing your praises when you finished. No pun intended.  You’d be rich and famous.”
            I shrugged.  “My parents wouldn’t like that at all.  They’d never let me.”
            “Yeah, I know the feeling.  I tried starting a band once.  My mom put the brakes on that one immediately.”
            I chuckled and scooted my legs underneath me.  “You tried starting a band?  That’s so cool. ”
            “Yeah, I wanted to be the next Ricky Solano.”
            “Who’s Ricky Solano?”
            “Only the best lead singer for a rock band there is.  Hold on.” He ran over to his desk and a few seconds later music flowed from his speakers, a male voice crooning in direct contrast to the edgy beat
            After a few bars, I found myself bobbing my head along with it.  “Yeah, okay. I’ll agree with you.  I think he’s better than a lot of the ones we have here,” I said when he turned it back off.
            He walked back toward me, a huge grin on his face, but stopped when his mother poked her head in his room.  “Jacks?  It’s almost midnight. Why are you still awake?  You have a meet in the morning.”
            He glanced at me.  “Nervous, I guess.”
            She gave a light, tinkling laugh that made me smile. I’d never seen her before, and it was impossible not to stare. She was beautiful and he looked just her, down to the green eyes that sparkled in the lamplight.  “I would be, too. This is a big one.  You want me to make you some warm milk?  It’ll help you sleep.”
            My smile grew bigger.  My mom made me warm milk too when I couldn’t sleep and it always worked.  She reminded me of my mom, especially when she walked over and ruffled his hair.  My mom always did that with Alder, but unlike Alder, Jackson only grinned up at her instead of batting her away.
 “No, Mom. I’ll be fine.  I’ll go to sleep in a few minutes.”
            She kissed him.  “You’ll be great.  You always are.”
            She glanced over at the mirror, and her eyes narrowed and she shot a look over at Jackson, but said nothing as she walked out the door.
            When she left, he came back over.  “So, you like the band?”
            “Does your mom know about me?”  I asked, ignoring his question.
            He frowned and shook his head.  “No, why?”
            “She glanced over here and I would have swore she saw me.”
            He twisted his head to look at the door.  “I don’t know how and I’m sure she’d have said something if she had.  I mean really, remember how you handled it.  Do you think she’d have handled it any better?”
            I drew my eyebrows together.  “I guess not,” I mumbled.
            He ran a finger down the mirror between my eyes.  “So, what other secrets would you like to share?”
            “Jackson,” I said, with a smile and a shake of my head.  “You have a meet in the morning.  Go to sleep.”
            “No. I haven’t gotten to talk to you all day.”
            “We’ve talked for over an hour. Besides, I’ll be here when you get back.”
“No, you won’t.  I’ll bet Ty comes over and takes you somewhere.”
            “Yes I will.” I reached over and pulled out my compact from my purse, opening it to show him the tiny mirror.  “See, I have this.  Even if I go somewhere, I’ll be able to see you.”
            He studied it carefully.  “You think it’ll work?”
            “Sure.  We’re starting to see each other easier, why wouldn’t we?  Remember, I even saw you at Ty’s house.  Twice.”
            He yawned.  “Okay,” he said.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
            “Good luck! You better bring home the gold.”
            “The gold?  Why would I bring home gold?”
            I burst out laughing.  “Sorry, that’s what we say for the Olympics.  People who win first place get a gold medal.”
            “Oh.  Okay.  We just have places.  We get a trophy. Not in this one though.  It’s more of a qualifier.”
            “Qualifier?  For what?”
            “Well, it’s kind of complicated, but basically it’s the first of six races.  If I win this, then I’m considered a favorite, which is just a fancy way of saying I get a free ride into the next race.  The others who place move on too, but they have to ‘qualify’ first to see where they should be placed in the next race.  Each race gets harder and harder because only the best make it.”
            “So, what’s it for?  That Coubertin thing you told me about?”
            He puffed out his chest.  “Yep.”
            “Okay, well now you know that when I say ‘go for the gold’, I want you to win.  Which you will.”
            He grinned.  “I hope so.” He turned to walk to his bed.
            “Oh, wait,” I said and waited for him to face me.  “Does your mom take pictures?”
            He gave me a “duh” look.  “Doesn’t every mom?”
            “Good.  I want to see them.”
            “What?  Why?”
            “Well, I can’t be there to see it, but I want to.  So, I’ll have to settle for pictures.”
            He looked dumbfounded.  “You actually want to see me race?”
            I nodded eagerly.  “Yes.  Why wouldn’t I?”
            He came close to the mirror again.  “I’ve never wanted anyone at my races before, besides my mom, but I really want you there.”  He extended his hand and stroked the mirror where my cheek was.  “I’ll bring the pictures.”
            I put my hand on my cheek and could almost feel his hand under mine.  “I’ll be waiting.”
            His expression changed as the mirror glowed brighter and the feeling of his hand grew more intense.  Our eyes met and I saw his widen as we rushed to touch the mirror, but it was just as sturdy as always. 
            “Damn,” we both muttered.
            “I thought…maybe…” I said.
            “Yeah, me too,” he agreed. 
            We gazed at each other for a few more minutes, until I sighed.  “Go to sleep, Jacks.  I’ll see you in the morning.”
            He grinned.  “Do you hear what you just called me?”
            I thought back on it and bit my lip.  “Yeah. Is that okay?”
            “It’s fine.  It’s perfect. Tiger Lily.”
            “Go,” I whispered, secretly wishing he’d stay.
            “I will.”  He didn’t budge.  “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
            “I’ll come home straight after the meet.”
            I closed my eyes and backed away.  “I’ll be waiting.”  He didn’t say anything else and I opened my eyes to see the mirror bouncing my image back to me.   

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BACKGROUND: This week’s teaser is an excerpt on my paranormal YA, THE EXILED.  This particular scene is after Bree and Patrick’s big fight and after he tells her the truth about why he loves her.

He smiled down at me and the setting sun glittered behind him like a halo. I couldn’t speak.  He’d taken my breath away. 
“I was just thinking the same thing,” he whispered and lowered his head to kiss the side of my neck.
I closed my eyes and enjoyed the feel of his warm lips against my throat just under my ear. My hands twisted in the cotton of his t-shirt. After a minute he groaned, stood up and held out a hand to me. 
“It’s getting late and I have to work the stick.”
I giggled.  It sounded so dirty.  
He smiled.  “The bar.  I have to serve drinks.”
 I tried not to be disappointed.  It was the smart thing to do, but all I wanted to do was bask in the glow of our newly healed relationship. 
“I’ll make it up to you,” he said, and kissed the side of my mouth.
My breath hitched at the touch. “Promise?”
“Promise.” He intertwined his fingers with mine as he we walked back home.
He had a sparkle in his eyes when he slipped into the pub and I wondered with a smile what he was hiding this time. 
He grinned at me and kissed my knuckles.  “Why don’t you come down around closing and wait for me?”
“Okay.”  I ignored the butterflies his touch had caused, but gripped the collar of his shirt and yanked him back to me, kissing him.
He nudged me away and stepped back.  “Wear something pretty.”  He grinned and slipped down the stairs. 
I grabbed a book and read until the designated time.  Then slipped into a red summer dress with flared skirt and matching heels.  I didn’t know what he’d planned, but I wasn’t going to complain and I was damned sure going to make sure I looked my best.
At the door that led into the pub, I pressed a hand to my nervous stomach in an attempt to control the butterflies.  I didn’t even know why I was nervous.  It’s not like this was a first date.  I was just waiting for him to finish. 
Taking a deep breath, I stepped through the door and frowned at the dark room.  Candles sat in the middle of the tables he’d lined along the walls, leaving the center of the room empty.  Patrick stood in front of the jukebox.
He wore black slacks and a white dress shirt with the top buttons unbuttoned that glowed in the candlelight.
            He smiled at me and held out his hand. 
Without hesitation, I walked over and took it.  “What’s this about?”
            “I’m making up for everything.”  He pressed a button on the juke and music poured through the speakers.  He brought my hand up to his mouth.  “May I have the pleasure of a dance?”
            Overwhelmed, I nodded. He led me out to the middle of the floor and placed his other hand on my waist.  He spun me around the floor, holding me close.  Our bodies swayed to the music as the sounds of the tympani bled from the speakers. I recognized it as one of my favorite songs.
            I gave him a questioning look and he smiled.  “Remember I have known you through our dreams.”
            “I know.  It just feels weird.  I don’t really know you that well.  Considering.”
            “I’m an open book, Angel.  All you have to do is look.”
            I rested my head against his chest and closed my eyes, letting him lead me around. He held me close, his hands trailing over my skin he sang the lyrics in my ear.
When the song ended, he whispered,  “I love you.”
 Tears stung my eyes at the rush of emotions that filled me.  How could I have almost thrown this away?  This was everything I wanted.  Everything I needed.  I just hadn’t known it. 
“I love you, too.”
He pulled back and brought a hand up to brush the loch of hair, which had fallen across my eye, resting his knuckles on the side of my head as he smiled at me.  Then he brought his lips to meet mine.
The warmth of his body surrounded me like a blanket, his woodsy scent filling my nose and I expected the overwhelming giddiness, but instead felt something else.  Something stronger than I’d ever felt before.  It was like a lock had snicked open and released a torrent of emotions.  His and mine.  I was drowning in them.
Tears spilled over my cheeks, and he pulled away. I buried my face into his chest, hoping he wouldn’t see them.  He lifted my chin, oblivious to the mascara I’d smudged onto his shirt, and asked, “What’s wrong, Angel?”
I stroked my hand down his face, noticing for the first time how smooth it was.  Like glass.  It made me wonder if all this was an illusion and it would shatter just as easily.  “Nothing.  Everything is perfect.”
His eyes searched my face, before he grinned and picked me up to spin me around in a circle, his lips on mine.  I giggled and clung to him, praying for the night to never end.
A movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention as Patrick set me down. His eyes followed my gaze and he tensed, gripping my hand.  Kian stood in the doorway that led from the kitchen.   He stared at the two of us, pain pouring from him in waves, before he turned and bolted.

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This is from my finished MSS MIRROR IMAGE. 
Blurb:  You’d think imagining a handsome stranger in your rear-view mirror, crashing through a guardrail, and careening into murky water would be bad enough. But when the imaginary boy–who gives his name as Jackson–rescues seventeen-year-old Lily Baker, that’s just the start of her problems.

After coming home from the hospital, Jackson starts showing up in any and all reflective surfaces — mirrors, puddles, windows, you name it. Lily, fearing others will think she’s crazy, keeps the visions to herself. After all, they’ll just go away if she ignores them, right? Not if Jackson has anything to say about it. And it isn’t long before he convinces her he’s real. Even when Jackson starts talking about strange cults and parallel dimensions, she can’t deny his powerful pull. The more time she spends staring into her mirror, the more she realizes she’s falling in love with a boy her family and friends insist is nothing more than shadows in her mirror and the hallucinations of her healing head injury.

 This is the scene after her parents start realizing something isn’t right about Lilly’s new boyfriend and wonder why if she likes him so much, why she’s constantly locking herself in her room.  In the previous scene she reassures them everything is okay, but they don’t believe her.  She doesn’t realize that though and so we from there.

Hours later, happy and exhausted I padded into my room a smile on my face.  The whole evening had been a blast and made me realize what a wonderful family I really had.  I never really fought with my parents or my siblings.  We had the occasional row, but nothing serious.  The best part was that they always stood behind me.  No matter what stupid thing I’d done.
            I glanced at the mirror, but it only showed my room, not his.  Damn it.  Where is he?  I really missed him.  As much fun as I had with my family, seeing my parents together had only made me miss Jackson more.
            My radio was still playing and another slow song came on as I pulled out a silk nightie from my drawer.  I hummed along and moved my hips slowly as I removed my shirt and imagined my hands were his. I trailed them along my skin, tracing lightly over my stomach, up my sides and along the curve of my breast, before sighing and pulling the top over my head. 
            “Stop daydreaming, Lily.  It’ll never happen,” I said to myself.
            “What’ll never happen?” Jackson asked, startling me.
            I spun around, and ran to the mirror, too happy to care he had scared me.  “Hi!”
            “Hey, Gorgeous.  Miss me?”
            I gave him a sly smile.  “Nope.”
            His lips curved.  “No? Well, then I guess I didn’t miss you all that much either.”
            “Good, then we can go on not missing each other.”
            He laughed and his eyes made a slow pass down my body and then up again.  His eyes darkened to almost black along the journey and goose bumps rose along my skin when his eyes met mine.  “That was some show you just put on.”
            My face warmed from the heat of my blush.  “You saw that?”
            “Well, not all of it.  Your back was to the mirror.”
            “Oh,” I said, oddly disappointed.  I should be glad he hadn’t seen anything.  Shouldn’t I?
            “But I liked what I did see.” His fingers caressed down the mirror and sketched down it, in almost the same pattern I had used with my own.  My skin tingled as if he were touching me instead of the glass.
            For the first time since we’d started talking, I noticed his shirt was off and he was only in pajama bottoms.  I gave him a saucy grin.  “I like what I see, too.”
            He grinned back and placed his palm on the glass in front of me and waited until I did the same. As one, keeping our palms together we slid down, until we were sitting on the floor in front of each other.
            His eyes roamed over my body again, sending more tingles over my already supercharged body.  My heartbeat accelerated and, from what I could see from the pulse in his neck, matched his.  My breath clogged in my throat when he said, “You are so beautiful, Lily.”
            “Thank you,” I managed after a minute.
He moved so only his fingertips touched the glass, sliding along the area my palm covered.  The surface was so warm already, I couldn’t be sure, but I would have sworn I felt a change in the temperature. A slight one, but enough to cause a shiver to run down my arm.
 “Are you cold?” he whispered, his eyes moving from my palm to my face.
 “No.”  I raised my other palm to the glass and he copied me, trailing his fingertips down the image of my hand.
 My heart skipped a beat and I had to look down for a moment, to stop the spinning in my head.   When I looked up again, he was watching me.
 “The moonlight is different over there,” he said.  “Softer, somehow.”  He moved his fingertips to the center of the mirror, brushing the surface in a curve.  “It just barely touches your cheek.”
 I covered my cheek with one hand, certain I would find some trace of him on my skin. As it was, I could just barely feel that cheek was warmer than the other. My heartbeat filled my ears in the quiet of my room.  It surprised me he couldn’t hear it.
            “It’s not fair that it gets to touch you, but I can’t.” His voice was husky, making me tremble even more. “Is it strange to be jealous of it?”
Jackson pressed his right hand to the center of the mirror, and I brought mine to meet it.  Palm to palm, we stared at each other.  Without a shirt on, I could see that he was breathing shallowly.  If I tilted my head, I could make it look like my hand covered his heart.
 “It’s the glass that makes it unfair,” I whispered.  “How did you get through to save me, and now we’re both trapped?”
 “Maybe if we concentrate…” he murmured.
 We matched up our hands once more and stared into each other’s eyes.
 “Concentrate,” he whispered.
 I nodded, afraid to even blink.  I imagined my hands sinking into the warm surface and finding the heat of his palms on the other side.  I could almost feel it thinning.
 “Close your eyes.”  Jackson’s voice was just a breath, but I did what he said. How could I not? “Concentrate.”
 No more glass, no more glass, I chanted in my head like a prayer.
 The heat under my hands grew–it was hot, almost to the point of pain, but it didn’t burn me.  “Do you feel something?” I whispered.
 “Yes.”  His voice was tight.  “You feel closer.”
 I heard a rustle and opened my eyes to find Jackson up on his knees.  His fingers were still splayed on the glass, fitted to mine, but now his chest was just inches behind them and his mouth was close enough to steam the glass.  I swallowed, hard.  He was so close, but just out of reach.  I mimicked his position, raised up on my knees.  My breath steamed the mirror a few inches below his, and I tilted my face up to close the gap.
He opened his eyes and found me gazing at him.  With a slight tilt of his head, our breath made a perfect match.
My body tingled and strained toward the glass.  “Please,” I whispered.
“Please,” he echoed, his eyes slipping shut again.
I closed my own and pressed hard into the glass, willing it away.  The heat between our hands crested and for a moment, I could have sworn I felt the touch of flesh, but then as quickly as it came, it was gone.  I gasped and looked into Jackson’s eyes.
“Did you feel that?”
“I’m not sure.  I felt…something,” he sighed.
I rested my forehead on the glass, while disappointment made me aware of the floor biting into my knees and the chill of the room.  He touched his forehead to mine, mere millimeters of glass keeping us apart.  I leaned back and used one fingertip to scrub away a bit of the condensation from my breath.
            He leaned back as well, but his eyes were still dark, his breaths still uneven.  He straightened his shoulders.  “Does this mean the same thing in your world?” he asked, and drew an X and an O in the steam on his side.
I nodded as an overwhelming sense of relief poured through me.  “Yes.”  I huffed a new patch of steam near his markings and drew a heart.
He smiled, and touched his fingertip to mine at the base of the heart.

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