NEW RELEASE: A Billion Reasons Why

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A wayward billionaire looking for love. An activist who also happens to write the most scorching dark romance novels to ever hit the bookshelves. Every time they think they're clicking, they're reminded of the differences that shackle them to the same old lives. 

That's what happens when Phoebe Dahl walks into the office of Preston Bradley, the man who owns her publisher. What's a mere formality for her turns into the best day of Preston's life. 

Because he's found the one. 
Phoebe's distrust of capitalism and drive to help those less fortunate than her puts her at instant odds with the man who lives by himself in a huge mansion in Portland's affluent hills. 

Yet he wants her. He's pretty sure she wants him too. Otherwise, how is she ending up in his bed? 

But there's one thing Preston doesn't know about Phoebe. He's not her first ride at the billionaire boyfriend rodeo... and the last rich boyfriend nearly destroyed her ability to love. 

While Phoebe plugs away at her next bestseller, Preston comes up with a plan to prove to her - and the world - that they are destined to be together. 

Even if there are a billion reasons telling them to give it up.

AMAZON

DRABBLE: Gossip Girls

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Gossip Girls

Alisha, Aimee, Mandy, Anita & Valerie

            Alisha grabbed the handle of the café’s door the moment her cell phone went off. The door instantly snapped shut again with a mighty of roll of her eyes to accompany it.

            “Sorry,” she mouthed to café host watching her through the glass. To be fair, Alisha had been three seconds away from speaking to him about where her group was meeting that day. Instead, she was back on the blazing hot sidewalk, shrugging in her tight, white blouse and readjusting her black pencil skirt as it threatened to keep riding up her sweaty ass. “Yes, Mrs. Monroe?” she said into her work phone.

            There was a pause. Oh, no. “As flattering as it is for you to think I am my wife, I’m afraid it’s the other Monroe.”

            The adrenaline now spiking in Alisha’s veins made her sweat more. “Sorry, sir. I’ve been mostly communicating with Mrs. Monroe today. I assumed… anyway, what can I do for you?”

            “I know you’re on break until three, but if you could squeeze in a moment to forward me the reports from Dublin & Sons to myself and my real estate lawyer, that would be fantastic.”

            “Christie Stevens, sir?”

            “Yes, that’s the one. Thank God you remembered her name, because I can barely keep all the lawyers straight.”

            It was Alisha’s job to remember, wasn’t it? “Of course, sir. I’ll get the files to her as soon as possible.”

            “And me.”

            “And you, of course.”

            She hung up and rushed back into the shade. Why you gotta interrupt the one fucking hour I get off all week, Mr. Monroe? Alisha rued the day she took the big promotion from receptionist to personal assistant. Not that she rued the money and benefits, mind, but what good were the money and great health benefits if she didn’t have the time to use them?

            Her monthly meeting with her guild of personal assistants, a group of women who got together to talk shit, deal with their unique challenges, and express the eternal disbelief that their bosses – who had way more money than they had any right to – existed, was the kind of thing she needed in her life. It helped that they always expressed admiration that she joined their meetings, unlike her predecessor, Sarah Clayborn.

            Alisha entered the café and discovered she was the last one to arrive. Four other members of the guild were already sitting around the table in the corner of the sunlit café, one of them nursing a baby as if she had not a single fuck to give.

            Naturally, Alisha chose to sit next to Valerie.

***

            To Aimee, the only one in attendance who was not an American citizen, this group was the difference between having a social life and being the only French girl who didn’t know how to say, “Kicked right in the cunt!”

            Valerie had taught her how to say that at the first meeting Aimee attended two years ago. I can’t believe I’ve been in America for two years! When she was growing up on France’s Atlantic coast, she often dreamed of fording the waves and seeing the sights of New York, D.C., and Chicago. Her employer, the well-traveled Miguel Bolivar, gave her plenty of opportunities to stay close to home and call other parts of the world her temporary abodes. He was only invested in this part of earth as long as he had a casino to oversee and a mistress to bed, but Aimee was the last to complain!

            Even when her English was still as such that she had no idea what Valerie meant when she went on about “breast ducts” and “sewed me up tighter than a corset.” What does sewing a corset have to do with her baby? Oh, fuck it. Look at the cute little infant! Look at its gassy smile and how eagerly it grabbed at the air! Look! Look!

            “You must teach her Francais,” Aimee insisted shortly after the last of the iced teas and cherry cokes were delivered to their table. “She is going to be tres beau and such a sophisticated dauphine that her second language must be French!” That’s what Aimee’s dear mother would have said, so it was only right she pass it along.

            Valerie was the queen of diplomacy and hid her desire to roll her eyes well. It was Mandy, the perky 1950’s pin-up model that responded with, “You should quit your job and be the baby’s nanny so it can hear your cute voice all day!”

            Everyone laughed. Except for Aimee, who covered her blushing face with her handkerchief and insisted that she was not good enough to be anybody’s nanny.

            “No, she doesn’t need to be a nanny,” Valerie said. “What this girl needs is some homegrown American romance.”

            That acquired more sage nods. Except for Aimee, who once more, only knew how to turn redder than Anita’s Shirley Temple.

            “There’s a recently divorced lawyer of Mr. Cole’s that looks like he could use a new lady friend,” Mandy said with waggling eyebrows. Perfect eyebrows, it should be noted. “He’s not that much older than us. Maybe thirty-seven?”

            “What’s a thirty-seven-year-old doing being a pro lawyer for a billionaire?” Alisha asked. “All the ones my employers work with are old enough to be my grandparents.”

            “I think he’s a junior partner at the firm that works with Thomas-Cole.” Mandy shrugged. “Who cares? He’s rich and hot. He divorced his wife because he caught her cheating on him, so he’s got some morals! Score!”

            Aimee giggled. “You don’t understand us French very well.”

            Valeria guffawed, jiggling her baby in her arms. Mandy sputtered into her Coke, and Alisha excused herself to go to the bathroom before she snorted her iced tea onto the table. Anita was the only one who looked lost.

            “Girl, go get that ménage a ass already.”

            “Trust me, I know all about the ménage a toi. My employer Mr. Bolivar engages regularly enough that his scandalous pictures are all over the French press.”

            The laughter exploding at the table was the stuff Christmas cards were made of.

***

            “This guy would not believe that I was the executive assistant.” Mandy snapped her plastic straw in half. “Because I’ve got big tits, don’t dress like y’all, and wear glasses. Glasses! Since when does being an assistant mean I have to wear contacts?”

            Anita perked up. “I wear glasses! Do people think I’m not a real assistant too?”

            That garnered her a few snickers. You really are dumb sometimes. Jeez. Mandy couldn’t believe that Anita had been working for someone as discerning as Kathryn Alison for so many years. What was she? One of Kathryn’s many charity cases? It’s a good thing I like you, Annie! She would never call Anita that out loud, though. Anita may be a blank slate of emotion half of the time, but the one time Mandy called her Annie? Anarchy. She should do it again. As a party trick! “Look, guys, I can make Anita angry!”

            “People are assholes,” Valerie said with a tired sigh. “If you’re not supermodel hot, they question what you’re doing working for a man who can surround himself with buxom beauties who also know how to type 200wpm. And if you are supermodel hot, it’s assumed that he’s fucking you. Do you know how many times I’ve fielded comments about me screwing my boss?” She wrinkled her nose, implying that her and Ian Mathers in bed together would be like two siblings having a Flowers in the Attic moment. Bonus points for Anita, the personal assistant to Mr. Mather’s long-term girlfriend, being in the room when she said that. “Bastards think they’re so cheeky when they see me sitting next to him and we have one of those a language only we understand moments. Fuck! That’s just the nature of the job!”

            “Tell me about it,” Alisha slammed an elbow on the table. “Uppity douches have heart attacks when they come into meetings because I’m black. Then I see the looks in their eyes. Once they quell the burning fires of racism, they’re calculating how much of a racial fetishist my boss is. Because obviously the only reason Mr. Damon Monroe would have a black assistant is if he’s boning her.”

            “What happens if it’s Mrs. Monroe you’re with and not her husband?” Valerie asked.

            “Short circuits. The brain can only handle so much.”

            “I can vouch for your boss not being a fetishist of that kind,” Anita coolly said, sipping her drink. “Because I was the one who arranged the hotel for him to fuck my boss.”

            This was Mandy’s first time hearing that Kathryn Alison and Damon Monroe once had an affair when they were still single, and she was all about getting the hot deets – until her phone buzzed in her purse, and she was forced to get up.

            “Yes, Mr. Cole?” Her voice instantly changed, as if she were walking to the front of the department store to handle an unruly customer. “Did you get those print-outs I left on your desk?”

            It didn’t help Mandy’s mood that uproarious laughter sparked behind her as she walked to a private corner of the room. Damnit, she was missing out, and it was all her stupid boss’s fault!

***

            Anita couldn’t believe she divulged those details – in public, no less – about her own boss’s love life. What would Kathryn think if she found out that Dear Anita had spilled the Monroe beans? Not even Mr. Mathers had known about it for the longest time!

            No wonder Valerie had her hand clamped over her mouth, looking like the most spoiled mean girl at the boarding school.

            “Tell me what billionaire hasn’t fucked another,” the woman with a baby eventually said. “Even the guys are fucking each other. And the women are, too!”

            “Please, we don’t bring up Amber’s name here,” Mandy said when she returned from her phone call. “Although I am forever grateful that she resigned. So I could have her job.”

            “The one you can’t get away from? I feel you.” Alisha held up her work phone, currently going off yet again. Which Monroe was it this time? And how badly were they communicating via their proxy? Anita was glad that Ms. Alison was so good about not bothering her assistant on her off time. It helped that Kathryn was currently having a romantic time abroad with her boyfriend. Valerie was still technically on maternity leave, but it didn’t matter today.

            Aimee piped up for the first time since her uncontrollable laughter. “I do not know how everyone can keep apart the drama that happens in this town! You know things that even the paparazzi do not!”

            “It’s our jobs to know,” Valerie said. “That’s what we get paid the big bucks for.”

            “Speaking of big bucks…” Alisha was wasting no time. “Who wants to compare notes about time off? Because I think I’m getting shafted compared to some of you.”

            Valerie held up her daughter. “Have a baby. You’ll get all the time off in the world. Trust me, I’ve done it twice now.”

            Conversation derailed – all anyone wanted to talk about was the baby, and Anita could not say she was disappointed.

***

            One by one, the other assistants were called away to deal with whatever hell their employers were currently in. Alisha had to grab her coat and mumble that her daft boss forgot his mother’s birthday and needed flowers and a gift now. Aimee’s boss wanted a flight scheduled back to his home country of Monaco yesterday. Mandy got a call not from her boss, but from his wife, who wanted to surprise Mr. Cole with a fun night out. Could Mandy help make that happen?

            All three women were nothing but smiles as they performed to the best of their abilities. They were consummate professionals, after all. For many of them, these were dream jobs that they had fought for and weren’t about to let go. The money was great. The healthcare? Fantastic. Side bonus if they met the rich man of their dreams, although not everyone was a Sarah Clayborn. (Nor did they want to be. The rumors about that crazy train had blindsided everyone. Orgies with rich dicks. That’s some crazy heiress level of shit. Valerie had seen her fair share of dumbassery in her years working for Ian Mathers and alongside Anita.

            They were practically sisters now. When Ian started dating Kathryn, it was more than a convenient relationship between those two souls. They had created a blended family when they dragged their assistants into it. Valerie wasn’t impressed about changing more litter boxes, but at least she could use her pregnancies as an excuse to get out of it! Anita was still single. Forever, probably.

            And the only reason they were the ones left at the table was because their bosses had chilled out and were probably having sex on some sandy beach somewhere. Good luck with that sand in your pussy, Kat. Valerie looked down into her daughter’s chubby face and sweetly muttered, “I’ll teach you all about avoiding sand in your bits one day.”

            “Huh?” Anita asked.

            “Nothing!” Valerie looked around before pulling a notepad out of her bag and plopping it onto the table. “Shall we?”

            Anita also had her notebook and tablet out. “Let’s get to it before he changes his mind. Again.

            To be fair, coming up with the perfect wedding proposal for Kathryn Alison was no easy feat when the woman was not in the mood to get married. So happened Ian was not confident about his own plans, and threw it at the assistants to figure it out in his stead. “You’re ladies. You know what’s romantic!” Valerie had half a mind to throw her pen into her boss’s face.

            “Engagement ring in the champagne glass?” she said.

            “That’s the best idea we have so far. And I’m not convinced Ms. Alison will swallow it, whether on accident or in spite.”

            This was the kind of plotting they couldn’t do around the others – and Valerie lived for it.
            

NEW RELEASE: Not For Sale

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One not-so-simple renovation project is about to get dirty…

Nobody knows how flip like Reese, a woman with nothing to prove to her family of real estate kings. When her mother’s chronic affliction almost claims her life again, Reese knows that there’s only one way to save her family.
All she needs is a leave of absence from the corporate office in San Francisco and a toolbox full of lesbian stereotypes.
Has fate finally come to rural Oregon?

Kimberly is a mild-mannered property manager who only wants to do her job and go home to her nosy parents…
And fall in love, because a woman can only be untouched for so long!
Reese’s unruly and disruptive renovation projects promise to make Kimberly’s life hell. Too bad she’s enamored with the handywoman from the moment they lock eyes.
The feeling? Absolutely mutual.

Life’s about to get more interesting – and sensual – in a sleepy Oregonian beach town!

NEW RELEASE: Now & Forever

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What do you do when everything – and yet nothing – changes?

Seven years ago, bartender Gwen met a customer who would change her life forever. The charming and handsome James Merange, the only child of a local business dynasty, won her heart and convinced her to become his one and only. 

Too bad his family – and one other – had different ideas.

Over seven years, Gwen had learned that she has no power in her partner’s family. If they want the perfect, genetically engineered grandson of their dreams, they get it – even if it means going behind James and Gwen’s back to inseminate an old childhood friend. If they want to humiliate the woman who Never Belonged, they find a way. And if they want Gwen gone?

No amount is too little to get rid of Gwen Mitchell.

While James balances surprise fatherhood with the love of his life, Gwen debates whether it’s best to stay with the man she loves and trusts unlike any other… or to leave, effectively closing that chapter of her life.

But James isn’t about to let her go. Now, and forever.

NOW & FOREVER details the aftermath of the Christmas story CHRISTMAS WITH CASSANDRA. However, it is not necessary to read that book to enjoy Gwen and James’s first story. Includes bonus flashbacks to the start of their relationship! 


DRABBLE: A Day In One Man's Life

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A Day In One Man's Life

Vern

“Blueberry or marionberry?”

            Vern sat at the kitchen table overlooking the yard in desperate need of a good mowing. He didn’t even know who mowed the lawn for his family. Probably his father-in-law. Or was it the neighbor? Did his wife pay some kid from down the street to do it? Vern hadn’t mowed a lawn in years. He didn’t have the time – and when he had the time, he didn’t have the energy to do something as mundane as yardwork.

            “Surprise me.”

            His wife slathered jam onto a piece of bread and deposited it into Vern’s lunch sack. It sat on the counter alongside a teething chain and a stack of home and garden magazines that hadn’t seen a human’s eye in weeks.

            Kinda hard for Melinda to get around to renovating half the house when she carried a beach ball beneath her bathrobe. Their three-year-old son made a mess with his porridge, and it was Vern’s job to put down his tablet and clean up the goo on his son’s hands. Only then did he realize that the sonogram of their daughter (currently still in utero) was a victim of Chase’s porridge art on the kitchen table.

            Vern wiped it off and hid it beneath his wife’s purse, left on the end of the table. Melinda didn’t need a heart attack so early in the morning.

            “Here you go.” She placed the lunch bag on the table and kissed her husband’s temple. “And make sure your boss actually gives you a lunch break today.”

            Vern inhaled a deep breath before breaking his whole wheat toast in half. He better eat a big breakfast, in case he didn’t have a chance to eat his lunch.

***

            Another sidewalk was closed.

            Vern looked up and down the one-way street before making a break for the other sidewalk. A Blue Line MAX chimed in the near distance.

            Normally, it was a fifteen-minute walk to work from his house in Goose Hollow. Except it was summer, and the city and half the developers in Portland decided they needed to construct, construct, construct before the bubbles burst. That meant half the sidewalks in town were completely closed at any given moment, and Vern got in an extra two thousand steps on the way to work. When would he learn and fork over the cash for the MAX?

            He couldn’t afford to be late to work!

***

            “Vern!” The voice bellowed through the office the moment the man in question stepped off the elevator, his briefcase in one hand and lunch pail in the other. Would he remember which was which when he hit his desk? “Where the hell is he?”

            There was never a moment to simply sit and check the office email. Not even if he showed up fifteen minutes early (instead, he was a mere five minutes early.) Someone always needed him the moment he walked through the door. Sometimes, like that morning, they needed him before he showed up.

            “Thank God.” His boss, Julian Marcus, was in front of his desk. “You’re here.”

            “Good morning, sir.” It was the first thing Vern said since leaving his house. “What can I do for you?”

            Mr. Marcus always had that moment of incredulity whenever Vern spoke like a device named Alexa. “Right away.” “What can I do for you?” “That’s not part of my protocol.” Like he could ever get away with that last one.

            “Young & Roberts have moved up the meeting to nine-thirty. I need to know that everything is already…”

            Vern knew when to risk interrupting his boss, and this was definitely one of those times. A man who wanted to save seconds like a desert-dweller saves water like Mr. Marcus did would absolutely appreciate it. “I took care of it before leaving yesterday.” Vern opened the second drawer in his desk and pulled out a red folder marked Y&R. “All copies already prepared. I’ll have them on the conference table by…”

            Mr. Marcus was just as talented at interrupting. “Have one of the interns do it. I need you in my office in thirty seconds because I need to pull a five-minute conference call with the director wanting to use one of our properties for his movie.”

            “Yes, sir. Twenty-five seconds it is.”

***

            “Don’t tell me how to do my job, Julian!” Mr. Young of Young & Roberts spat enough fire to burn down the building. Vern, who was a Libra born in the Year of the Rabbit, did an excellent job writing down the minutes while maintaining his cool. He wish he could say the same thing for his boss.

            “I wouldn’t have to tell you how to do your job if you paid attention to anything but your Cadillac collection for more than five minutes!”

            Vern dithered on how to create a shorthand code for “Cadillac.” He had a feeling it would be flung around multiple times over the next few minutes, and he needed to catch up.

***

            “Blue cheese,” Mr. Bradley, who made the other half of Bradley & Marcus, said while Vern was heading out the door. “No! Make it ranch. But only if it’s the low-fat kind they still have. Do they still carry it?”

            Vern neither shrugged nor maintained perfect decorum. “I’m not sure, sir. I can ask.”

            Mr. Bradley popped back into his office the moment Mr. Marcus appeared from the elevator.

            “What are you still doing here?” His words flitted on the air as he rushed by, tie askew and sweat dotting his forehead. “I was hoping to have my lunch by now!”

            “Was just on my way, sir.” Vern hopped into the elevator his boss vacated before Mr. Marcus could ask anything else of him.

***

            Vern sat down to finally eat his lunch when one of the interns tentatively approached. A quick glance at the clock said the executive assistant had exactly ten minutes to scarf down a sandwich, banana, and cold mac and cheese from last night’s dinner.

            “Uh…” The boy looked like he was barely out of high school, let alone about to be a senior in some university. “What does ‘calcollect’ mean?” He referred to the shorthand notes Vern typed up during that morning’s meeting. It was the interns’ job to translate his shorthand into full reports that would go into the company records. This happened every time Vern had to come up with something on the fly – let alone out of context.

            “Cadillac collection.” Vern shoved cold macaroni and cheese into his mouth. Too bad he didn’t have time to throw it into the microwave first.

            The intern looked between the notes and the man shoveling food into his mouth. Appointment exactly at 1:15. Must be there to take notes and dole out reference materials. Eat faster. “Cadillac… collection.”

            “That’s what it means.”

            “All right. Well, thanks. Enjoy your lunch.” The boy went downstairs to the intern farm where he belonged. He could have simply emailed Vern about it, but he couldn’t blame the kid for wanting to stretch his legs, let alone during lunch.

            Vern hadn’t started as an intern at this company – he was a direct hire, after Mr. Marcus poached him from a rival at Intel – but he had seen countless waves of them. He rarely learned their names. What was the point? While a select few became direct hires after completing their degrees, they rarely stayed in the Portland office. Six months, three months… bam. They were gone like the sun on any given day. The only intern to have ever made an impact in Vern’s life was…

            “Hi!” It was Alyssa Pendleton, the energetic – and somewhat corporately capable – girlfriend of Mr. Marcus. While Vern had dealt with a number of Mr. Marcus’s girlfriends over the years, watching him date an intern was a shocking first. Mr. Marcus was usually more discerning, not to mention cautious of his image. He was the type to not mind the youthful vigor co-eds offered, but not want anything to do with their inanity. That’s why Mr. Marcus hired a no-nonsense man like Vern to be his assistant. “I hear you only got ten minutes for lunch. How about I help Julian with that meeting at 1:15 so you get a proper break?”

            Vern’s banana was half peeled. “I…”

            “I insist.” Alyssa’s smile had no effect on Vern. But it had quite the positive effect on Mr. Marcus, and that was what mattered around that office. “I can handle it. I just need today’s password for the work station.”

            Vern took a tepid bite of his banana. His stomach thanked him for finally slowing down.

            He wasn’t about to say no to the boss’s girlfriend, especially when Alyssa did a good enough job covering Vern when a man truly couldn’t be in two places at once. But she was daft if she thought he was somehow getting a long lunch. Something else will come up. It always does.

            Alyssa went into Mr. Marcus’s office to announce she was doing Vern’s job during the meeting. So happened that Mr. Bradley had walked right behind her and heard the good news.
            Vern started counting down the seconds in his head.

            “Since you’re free…” Mr. Bradley said. “Could you do me a favor and run down to the flower shop and pick up those roses I ordered for Gloria? You know, the lady I’m taking to…”

            “I certainly can, Mr. Bradley.” Vern closed the top of his lunch pail and took a deep breath. “I’ll be right back.

***

            Vern walked back into the office with the dozen roses that were to await Gloria’s arrival in Mr. Bradley’s office. Unfortunately, Mr. Bradley had a somber look about him when he caught Vern’s eyes.

            “She broke up with me,” he said with a dramatic sigh. “You can have the roses. Give them to your wife. God knows you have the best relationship track record around here… you might as well reward the misses.”

            Vern wondered what the hell he was going to do with a huge bouquet of red roses until it was time to go home. Whenever that would be.

***

            “What do you mean you’re not coming home until eight?” Vern’s wife sighed into her phone. “Does he really need you at this dinner? Is he even going to feed you this time? Tell him to take the girlfriend that wants your job so badly!”

            Vern, who had yet to finish packing up his desk for the day, matched his wife’s exasperated sounds. “She has her own thing to go to tonight. It’s me. Sorry.”

            “Chase really misses his daddy. That’s all I’m saying.”

            Vern glanced at the red roses on his desk. One of the interns walked by, unknowingly entering a trap the executive assistant rarely set. It was the kind of trap he could only get away with once in a blue moon.

            “Excuse me. Could you do me the immense favor of arranging to have these flowers delivered to this address?” He handed a copy of his home address to the intern in question. “Thank you so much. Doing me a huge help.”

            Red roses better be the balm that kept his marriage together that day.

***

            Vern stumbled through his front door at a little before nine. His son leaped up from the Adventure Time episode playing on TV and ran straight to the man he saw about one hour a day.

            “Daddy!” The chubby guy latched onto Dad’s leg. Meanwhile, Vern was considering it a miracle that he didn’t fall over and crush his oldest child. I can barely feel my body. Turned out that the dinner meeting included walking laps around a roof-top track near OHSU. Mr. Marcus had no trouble stripping down to his trousers and dress shirt while power walking alongside a professional marathoner. Vern struggled to keep up for the hour they burned off dinner. It was only toward the end when somebody thought to give him a golf cart.

            “Oh, honey!” Melinda popped out of the kitchen, dressed in the same robe from that morning. She had probably gotten dressed that day, but Vern hadn’t been around to see it. Thanks, life. It was a good thing Vern made some good money. Good enough for them to have a house in Goose Hollow and for his wife to be a stay-at-home mom, her dream career. But that didn’t mean she wanted her husband to be absent for half of his life. “Thank you so much for the flowers! But do you need anything to eat?”

            The roses were the centerpiece of the kitchen table. Vern had given his wife a number of second-hand bouquets over the years – most of them from Mr. Bradley, the die-hard romantic who couldn’t keep a girlfriend for a week – and she was never any the wiser. She probably thought they were a consolation prize Vern sent her because he would be home late.

            Vern slumped into the couch. He needed to shower and get to bed. An early tele-conference was being held at seven in the morning.

            But he wanted to be with his family, even for half an hour.

            Chase climbed up into his lap while Jake and Finn went on another animated adventure. The scent of leftover spaghetti made the Italian dish manifest in Vern’s lap. He needed the carbs after all that power walking.

            But he needed his wife and his kid more.

***

            Vern had just closed his eyes to finally go to sleep when his work phone rang.

            “Don’t you dare answer that,” Melinda muttered beside him. “You’re not available.”

            The phone kept ringing. Too bad Vern had already fallen asleep.


            He had a feeling he would still have a job in the morning. 

DRABBLE: Man Flu

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Man Flu

Alice & Damon

Alice was used to dealing with pissy clients and business associates who didn’t care to know their asses from their own elbows. What came out of those asses was particularly forgotten in polite conversation, although she had the great misfortune of overhearing the occasional comment when the men thought the ladies were out of the room.

            None of that compared to having a husband with the man flu.

            Her mother had warned her. Alice had seen the man flu hit her own house while growing up, although her father taking a few days off work to cry into the couch and demand that nothing but “M.A.S.H.” reruns play on the TV felt like child’s play compared to what Alice now faced as a grown woman with a household of her own.

            “And if I should die,” Damon said, sweaty hand clasped on his lawyer’s wrist. The old, wrinkled man politely shook the feverish billionaire off him before the flu virus spread yet again. “My mother must be assured her continued residence in her apartment.”

            “You’re not dying!” Alice snapped from the corner of their bedroom. Honestly, it had been amusing at first to see her big, stubbornly brilliant husband felled by a flu virus he contracted after insisting on a turn-around trip to India a week ago. At first, he claimed to be too jet-lagged to go into the office the day after her returned. Then, the shivering started. God help me the night I woke up to him sweating buckets and moaning from the backache knocking him out of bed. Damon had been unfit for the office for three days. The first day, he insisted on working at home out of “concern” for their employees. “I do not wish to get them sick. We can’t afford for people to get sick now that the deal with the Williamses is underway.” But by day two, Damon was sleeping half the day away and waking up to moan some more.

            According to his assistant, Alisha, he hadn’t been sick in over ten years. And the last bout of illness was food poisoning he got over in twenty-four hours.

            So, Alice had her work cut out of her.

            “Don’t write that down,” she said when the lawyer was asked to leave Damon’s shares in the company to their daughter, a freakin’ one-year-old. “Because my husband is not going to die anytime soon. He may kill me with his annoying flu, but he is not dying.”

            Damon’s sweaty hand fell over the side of the bed. The tank top clinging to his muscular frame was soaked through, because when this man broke a fever, he broke it with purpose. The air-conditioning kept the bedroom a crisp sixty-five degrees, but a stack of blankets on the chair in the corner of the room reminded Alice that her husband could turn into an ice cube at any moment.

            She had yet to contract this terrible illness, but she also slept at least eight hours a day, ate well, and exercised at least thirty minutes to an hour every single day. She also kept the nanny and baby Clarise far away from the plague to ensure that her daughter did not contract what Damon brought home from India and incubated in his jet-lagged body. You. Idiot. Alice always told her husband that flying halfway around the world, having a meeting, then coming right back home would hit him harder as he got older. He couldn’t play fast and loose with his immune system forever!

            But had he listened to her? Nooo. Damon was so big and tough that a little virus couldn’t bring him down! Until it had.

            Now look at him.

            “Tell our daughter that I love her.” He lazily rolled over, a large sweat spot remaining on the pillow. Alice remained standing by the wall, arms crossed and phone buzzing with messages from work. “Tell my mother I love her.”

            “What am I?” Alice asked. “Chopped liver?”

            But Damon took the leaving of his lawyer as a sign that a new part of the day had come. He jerked upright in bed, eyes wild with a terrible bloodshot hue and his hair clumped with sweat. The man could take enough showers to fill his day, but within five minutes, he looked like this again. “The Williams deal!”

            Alice pulled out her phone to read a text from her mother. When do I tell him. “Don’t worry about the Williams account. I’m taking care of it.”

            “But…” He collapsed off his weak arm and slumped into the middle of the California king bed.

            “But I’m taking care of work right now. Don’t worry. The office won’t burn down. Alisha and I have it covered.”

            “But the baby…”

            “We have a nanny, Damon, or have you forgotten about Griselda?” Contrary to how old it made the girl sound, Griselda was a spry twenty-five. “She’s with Clarise right now. Office is taken care of. Baby is taken care of. Your job is to lay here and follow the doctor’s orders.” She snatched the pitcher of half-melted ice water off the nightstand and poured her husband more to drink. “Get your fluids and your rest. The worst of it will be over soon.” She would know. She used to get the flu once a year, regardless of how many flu shots she also got. Perils of once being engaged to a med student. “Once you’re better, you can get back to work and the family. You won’t get better unless you actually take it easy and drink your damned water.”

            She thrust the glass of water in his face. Damon defied her by slamming his body face-first into the mussed comforter.

            “I am dying, Alice.”

            “You’re a big fucking baby is what you are.” She left the glass of water within reach and checked her phone again. “Luckily for my biggest baby, I’ve got backup coming.”

            “The Williams are expecting me at the dinner tonight…”

            “The Williams are expecting me. I’ve gone over what’s happened with them already. They completely understand and send you their get betters.”

            Before Damon could protest again, Griselda knocked on the bedroom door and said Alice’s guest had arrived.

            “Don’t worry, my dear.” Alice blew her husband a kiss. She loved him enough to kiss his sweaty cheek and rub his wet hair, but she couldn’t risk getting sick, let alone passing it along to their daughter. Blown kisses would have to do until he was no longer contagious. “I’ve taken care of everything. Including making sure that you’re not alone while I’m out of the house.”

            She didn’t have to introduce her guest. The woman barged through the door with a bag labeled “Man Flu Prep Kit” and a demeanor that suggested she wasn’t taking any prisoners.

            “No!” That was the most like his usual self Damon had sounded in days.

            “Put a cork in it,” Linda Culver, a registered nurse and Damon’s revered mother-in-law, barked. “I’m not going to put up with your crap, Damon. Look at you! When’s the last time you bathed?”

            “Two hours ago,” Alice muttered.

            “I’m hallucinating.” Damon shoved his face into his wife’s pillow. “She is not here.”

            Damon and Linda had an amicable relationship – when he was hale and healthy. Linda made it known that she did not quite support her son-in-law’s domineering personality and how much he tried to take over everything he touched, but as long as he was good to Alice, she stayed out of it. Yet when her daughter called asking for help managing the Monroe fort while the patriarch was out of commission, Linda didn’t hesitate in accepting the offer to fly into the city and spend some quality time with a man she could finally boss around for a change.

            She popped a DVD of “Armageddon” into the bedroom’s entertainment system and wrung a washcloth beneath cold water in the bathroom sink. One eye was always locked on Damon, who continued to bemoan his dying fate.

            “Couldn’t have called my mother, could you?” he asked Alice.

            “Your mother is in Italy enjoying her summer at the villa we borrowed from the Coles.” Besides, Alice wouldn’t wish this on Damon’s delicate mother. Julia only deserved to see her son at his best after being refused to see him for so many years. This mess? This was something only Linda Culver could deal with. She had made a living dealing with flus and colds. She had the immune system of a brick wall and the attitude to deal with it. “Thanks for coming, Mom. I’m gonna check on Clarise and get ready for tonight’s dinner with the Williams.”

            She shot her husband one last loving look before departing the bedroom. The last thing she heard was, “Oh, no, you don’t!” There was a thump, followed by a masculine moan. Then? The starting credits of “Armageddon.”

            “Remind me that if I ever have sons,” Alice said to Griselda in the nursery, “that my mother is raising them.”

            “I’m sure Mr. Monroe will love that, ma’am.”

            Alice kissed her daughter’s head. “He’ll love whatever I decide. I can guarantee you that.”


            Okay, so maybe he wouldn’t love having his mother-in-law riding his ass while he rode out the flu, but everything else? Alice knew how to carefully play this game with the love of her life. That was part of the appeal of being with him.