DRABBLE: Awkward

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AWKWARD

Henry & Victoria

The stuffed penguin dropped to the carpet before the head of blond curls barreled forward like a bull charging at a red flag.

Too bad Henry was the red flag that day. And he wasn’t even wearing red!

“Whoa, whoa!” He barely caught his daughter before Abigail flipped over his leg and cracked her skull open. White lace flew into the air along with her skirt flying over the top of her head. Toddlers had no sense of propriety, after all. “I know I look like a jungle gym, but come on.”

Abigail was only able to throw her head back and laugh in glee because her father had safely caught her. Otherwise, she would be screaming until the nanny waltzed in with the girl’s favorite snack and blanket. They tell me this is normal kid behavior… Henry was second only to his wife when it came to hovering over their daughter, though. Every kid looked like a sweet little puffin in need of protection when a man was six and a half feet tall.

“Papa up!” Abigail’s pipes may have been young, but they had power. This was the same girl who had screamed with gusto when she was a baby. Almost a shame to know that high society and private schools would soon fight to turn her into a proper, soft-spoken lady like her mother. (But not like her aunt. Genetics would win out, either way.) “Up! Up!

There was no game Abigail Warren loved more than Flying, although Henry had been warned more than once to not play that game after his daughter had just eaten. When was the last time she ate? To be on the safe side, Henry held his daughter above his head but did not spin her in circles.

Good thing, because that was the moment nanny Matilda walked into the small nursery.

“Enjoying yourself, Mr. Warren?”

Abigail screamed in delight. Her blond curls bounced when her father placed her back down on the carpet. After another fit of giggles, the toddler took off across the nursery and dove into a stack of pillows.

“Quite,” Henry said. “Afraid I must get going soon, though. I hear another toddler is throwing a tantrum back at the manor and needs my assistance.”

“I do hope that Ms. Eva can figure out that account soon,” Matilda said with a wry smile. It can’t be easy holding that burden.”

Abigail burst from the pile of pillows as if she were a monster about to kill the poor populace beneath her feet. Quite the sight in her frilly white dress and patent leather shoes. Henry didn’t gush about how much the scene reminded him of his sister’s babyhood. To think, I was old enough to remember it.

“If everything is fine here, Matilda,” he said to the nanny, “I’ll be heading out. Long drive back to the city.”

She nodded. “See you soon, sir.”

Henry gave his daughter a kiss on top of her head before heading into the hallway. One of the Chateau’s maids almost bumped into him on her way into the madam’s chambers.

He had every intention of kissing his wife goodbye before heading down to his car. Not that Monica Warren would notice his coming or going on a Friday evening. The weekend was the biggest time for business at the Chateau, and she would be so busy with entertaining, planning, and socializing that she wouldn’t realize she missed her husband until he came to get her on Monday morning.

The poor maid almost bumped into someone else when she recovered her bearings from almost crashing into Mr. Warren. The guest emerging from one of the private rooms chose the worst time to make her presence known.

“Sorry! Excuse me!” The woman, dressed in nothing more special than a pair of jeans and a black jacket, offered to help the maid pick up her linens. “I wasn’t paying attention…”

Indeed, she hadn’t been. Because in the months since she became a patron at the Chateau, Victoria Nicholson had done a bang-up job avoiding her ex-boyfriend.

It was a fact Henry often forgot, since they had dated for such a short period of time so long ago. How many years? Ten? It must have been around a decade since their parents set them up in the hope of a quick, fortuitous match that would make everyone – especially the Nicholsons – richer. Until Henry went and married a commoner, he had been one of the most sought-after bachelors in the world, let alone America. Victoria was one of the only women to not have appreciated it.

Because, as it turned out, she was gay as hell. Her girlfriend was one of Monica’s employees. When Henry first heard about it months ago, his reaction had been neutral. “Oh, yes, Victoria. I remember her. Very pretty. Well-mannered. Did not appreciate my skills in the bedroom.” Then they bumped into each other for the first time since he heard the news, and remembered what made it so awkward.

To be fair, he wasn’t the one who made it awkward. It was Victoria, who turned beet red once she recognized her ex and sputtered a curt greeting. He was, after all, the madam’s husband, and was due more than the usual common courtesy. Victoria was well-bred enough to know that.

Even if she clearly did not like it.

“Fancy bumping into you here,” Henry said, his attempts to keep his voice light and polite only making Victoria redder. “I mean… I know why you are here… but… uh…” Damnit. He had known what to say a moment ago. “Good evening, Victoria.”

“Morning… I mean evening.”

They stared at one another, the air between them growing heavier with every passing second.

“Having a nice time?”

Whoops. That was also the wrong thing to ask, given where they were.

“Uh… it’s nice enough. Was just visiting with my girlfriend before heading home. I hear Fridays are busy around here.”

“They are. Hence why I am also escaping before half the men I went to college with start showing up to act like fools.”

Victoria’s eyes widened. “Same reason why I’m leaving. Only I think of them more as my father’s friends.”

Henry cleared his throat.

“So, uh… nice catching up with you…” Victoria scooted backward before turning on her heels and hustling down the hallway. “Maybe I’ll see you around!”

“Have a pleasant one,” Henry called after her. When he was alone, save for the maid still gathering linens from rooms, he realized that the problem hadn’t been him, but Victoria.

Well, not a problem per se, but Henry had approached that interaction from a man’s perspective. A polite man’s, to be precise. Regardless of Henry’s feelings about Victoria or whatever he remembered from their short time together a lifetime ago, he had to be polite to a fault. This was compounded by the fact she was one of his wife’s clients. The marriage wouldn’t last long if Henry was scaring off the few female patrons running around the Chateau.

But Victoria wasn’t thinking like him. She saw him and probably had instant flashbacks to when they dated, how it made her feel, and what kind of person she had become since then. Did she… think of sex the moment she saw me? Henry pondered that for exactly two seconds before stepping into his wife’s chambers to get her opinion – oh, and to bid adieu.

“If you bumped into one of your ex boyfriends whom you dated ages ago,” he began, once he found his wife sitting at her vanity. “What would be your first thought?”

Monica raised her eyebrows. “Depends. Is this a man I want dead?”

“Ah, no. Amicable split.”

Her grin implied she knew where this was going. “I’d probably face a few intimate details in my head, whether I wanted them there or not.”

“Would that embarrass you in front of him?”

“Only if he was making it awkward too.”

Henry contemplated this before approaching his wife and kissing her forehead. “Thanks, Princess. I must be going. Give me a call later if you feel up to it.”

Her chuckle followed him out the door. “You might want to wait a few minutes, Henry.”
“Why is that?”

“Because if I were Victoria right now, I would be more mortified that you were following me down the hill in your car. The poor dear doesn’t need your constant presence haunting her until you reach the highway.”

“How did you…”

“I figure everything out within two seconds, Henry. It’s one of my charms that made you fall in love with me.”


Well, he had her there.  


DRABBLE: Study Buddies

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Study Buddies
Nala & Alyssa

Nala walked into the café section of Powell’s with one mission: to find a place sit and study on a crazy Sunday afternoon.

When the hell will I learn? There was no finding a place to sit on Sunday afternoons. The place was always packed. If she were lucky, she might find an empty chair between a guy with a stack of books and two children forming a human pyramid, but it was hardly enough room to whip out her laptop and textbook. That would be convenient. A student’s life is not meant to be convenient.

Judging by the number of students frantically studying in every corner of the café, there wasn’t a shred of convenience to be found. The line for drinks and snacks was also atrocious. With any luck, Nala might have her hazelnut latte and a place to study within half an hour. What was she supposed to do until then? Go check out the erotica in the corner? Ugh. Shoot me. I’d rather die than read about people getting it on. The only thing that could possibly be worse than that was finding out other people read about her getting it on.

She texted her boyfriend Vincent, who currently nerded out in the computer programming section of the large bookstore. “We need to bounce. There’s no way I’m going to find a place to study here.”
“I’m still waiting on that guy to find me that book I need,” Vincent responded. “Maybe you should make some friends :)

“You’re a sick man.”

Nala put her phone away. After a cursory glance around the café again, she realized she only had one hope.

There was a young woman commandeering a small table in the corner of the room, her table stacked with business and economic textbooks. Gross, but not surprising. At least it was a change from the amount of organic chemistry and biology textbooks half of Portland carted into cafes.

If Nala could convince her fellow college student to stack up some of those books and make a little room for her… well, Vincent would never let her live it down, because he was a dumb nerd like that, but whatever. Nala might have to risk it if she were ever going to get her work done.

“Excuse me.” Ew. What was that saccharin-coated voice she used? Did this woman really look like such a fragile, feminine flower that Nala had to treat her like a dainty princess? “Would it be okay if I share this table with you? This place is so crowded.”

The woman gave her a quizzical look at first, but once she realized how rude she was, quickly stacked her books as if her mother were about to swoop in and rap her knuckles. “Of course! I’m so sorry! I don’t need all this space, huh?”

No, but Nala wouldn’t tell her that. Nor would Nala ever admit that she would totally take up a whole table in a crowded café as well. When in Portland…

As soon as half the table was cleared, Nala plopped down with her backpack. She dug out her wallet and laptop, while her tablemate pretended to be infatuated with her Economics.

“Thanks,” Nala said again, before heading for the line that would give her that hazelnut latte. When she checked in with her boyfriend, Vincent informed her that he was still waiting for that book. Probably some shit from the ‘70s. Vincent was on a huge kick collecting layman’s and theoretical textbooks about computer programming – from generations past. His latest pride and joy, currently on display in his downtown high-rise office, was a 1971 textbook by a college prof from his alma mater Stanford. Something about the future potential of computer programming and the theory that every house in America and people would be real-time talking to friends and family on the other side of the world as early as… what… 1987? So he was off a few years… Vincent had theories about that as well. Nerd.

The woman at the table averted her eyes the moment Nala sat down again. She wouldn’t have thought anything about it, except Nala had only become more perceptive since getting in a relationship with a man like Vincent. That perception told her that this woman was checking her out. Perhaps not sexually, but there was a definite attempt to suss out who the fuck she was.

Great. Before Vincent, Nala would write this moment off as a stranger getting weird and nothing more. Maybe Nala looked like someone she knew from class, although the stickers on the woman’s laptop said she went to PSU, and Nala hadn’t taken any classes there yet. But since dating Vincent, one of the richest men in Portland, Nala figured this woman recognized her from elsewhere. The fact he she had so many business-related textbooks did not help.

They had probably run into each other at some regional functions for rich men and women to show off their shit. Nala rarely remembered people she met in those locales, because she often didn’t care enough.

“Do you go to PSU?” the woman finally asked.

Nala shook her head. “Nope. PCC. Although I’m transferring to PSU later this year.” She was going to stop there, but they were invested in this conversation now. “You must go, though. Unless those stickers are all lies.”

The woman blushed. “I’m a senior. Trying to work on my thesis.”

“What’s it on?”

“That’s a fantastic question, huh? I’m supposed to hand in a proposal at the end of the week, but I’m not sure what I’m doing yet. My boyfriend…” she stopped. “My boyfriend thinks I should write about euro forecasts, because that’s what his business is concerned with right now, but…” she laughed. “He can write his own thesis about that.

“Who’s your boyfriend?” When her tablemate did not immediately respond, Nala continued, “He’s some hotshot businessman, isn’t he?”

“How did you know?”

“I can tell by this point.”

“Well… it’s Julian Marcus. Of Bra…”

“Bradley & Marcus. Right.”

“You know him?”

Boorish asshole who thinks that because he’s hot and wears nice cologne he gets to boss everyone in Portland around? Duh. Vincent had done technical business with him more than once. Hell, according to Vincent, Bradley & Marcus was one of the first major corporations to invest in Lane Technological Solutions. Didn’t mean Vincent and Julian were friends, though. Julian Marcus was the kind of uptight dick to make Vincent go home and take out his frustrations on video games. And my pussy, but that’s a benefit.

This woman, with her delicate femininity and submissive airs screamed Julian Marcus’s type. If only Nala could remember her damned name, because they had met in passing before.

“In that case,” Nala said. “I’m Nala Nazarov. You probably know my boyfriend, Vincent Lane.”
“Know him? He was one of the subjects of my last business class!”

Note to self: tell Vincent he’s a big enough loser to be talked about in stuffy college classrooms. He’d probably get a kick out of that.

“I thought you looked familiar. I’m Alyssa. Alyssa Pendleton, although I don’t expect you to know me. I haven’t made a name for myself yet.”

Neither have I, but at least I still own up to who I am. Nala’s long-term goal was to be good enough to be hired at her boyfriend’s company. What her actual role would be could be figured out later. Sometimes she merely entertained fantasies of them staying up half the night putting together bullshit apps. God knew they did that with video games already.

“So your boyfriend is a big investor around town, and mine is responsible for half the computers in the city working,” Nala mused. “What kind of conspiracy is this that we’ve been brought together?”

Alyssa pursed her lips in thought. “Well, my boyfriend would say this is a pretty fortuitous meeting.”

“What would you say, though?”

Alyssa put down her pen and sat back from her stack of books. “What a coincidence?”

“That the studious girlfriends of two of Portland’s biggest billionaires are hanging out in the Powell’s coffee shop because we can’t get any studying done at home?”

“Probably for similar reasons.”

Nala grinned. It wasn’t often she met women who knew what it was like to be the girlfriend of a Portland billionaire, and wasn’t an insufferable idiot at the same time.

Well, whether Alyssa was insufferable could be determined at a later date. Right now, Nala was content to hunker down and get that studying done. She expected Vincent to quiz her on it later, and she wouldn’t want to disappoint him with wrong answers. (Or maybe she did. It would depend on how frisky she felt later. Point was, she should at least know the right answers, even if she told him the wrong ones on purpose.)

Nala thought of the devil, so he appeared ten minutes later, an old, tattered book in his hands and a smirk on his face that said his conquest had been fruitful.

He kissed the top of Nala’s head the moment she recognized his approaching presence. “Studying hard? Hey, I know you…” He nodded to Alyssa. If she hadn’t known who Nala was yet, she certainly did now. “Haven’t I seen you at some of the fundraisers?”

Nala rolled her eyes. “The fundraisers.” Very descriptive.

“You’re Vincent Lane, aren’t you?”

“Hey, you told me to make some friends.” Nala grabbed a chunk of her boyfriend’s sweatshirt. “So I made nice with the girlfriend of Junior Mark.”

Both Alyssa and Vincent gave her a look. “Julian Marcus,” Vincent said. “He and I go back.”

“I don’t think we’ve ever formally met before,” Alyssa said. “I’m Alyssa Pendleton.”

“Charmed. Be sure to tell your boyfriend that I still look better in a suit.”

“When do you wear suits?” Nala asked, the moment Vincent lined up for a drink. “Seriously. Where are they?”

“I’m protecting the world by keeping that level of sexiness in the back of my closet.”

“Excuse him,” Nala said. “He tells lame jokes like they’re going out of style.”

Giggling, Alyssa said, “At least your boyfriend knows how to tell jokes. Watching mine try to be witty at social functions is like watching someone try to parallel park.”

“Do you want some of my boyfriend? I’ll take the suit-wearing part of yours.”

“Maybe, if we Frankenstein them, we could create the perfect businessman boyfriend.”

When Vincent returned with coffee, Nala informed him the he would be dissected upon returning home. He agreed to it, as long as Alyssa promised to keep the best parts of his brain.


That could be arranged. Nala might need some of his brain for the midterms coming up right around the corner!

SEE THEIR STORIES HERE
Julian & Alyssa

Vincent and Nala

NEW RELEASE: Seven Minutes In Heaven

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Claire Finn agrees to marry aging producer Arthur Carter for one reason only: status. And the money isn’t so bad, either. Connections to Hollywood? Check.

But not only is Arthur old enough to be Claire’s grandfather, but he’s a known philander who goes as far as fooling around with a hot young starlet at the engagement party. Claire fires back by picking up the first handsome stranger she sees.

Jake is game for a round of seven minutes in heaven if she is…

What should’ve been a regrettable one-time fling turns into hell on Earth when Claire finds out that Jake is actually Jacob Carter, a member of her future family.

And the father of her unborn child.

It’s all fun and games until gold-digging Claire is knocked up with the wrong guy’s baby.

DRABBLE: Crop Tops

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Crop Tops

Nadia & Jasmine

Sundays at the mall were always a toss-up, but Nadia’s scheme had never failed her. Three weeks after Christmas is the prime time to go on a Sunday with minimal interference. Kids and adults were back in school. Everyone who had to exchange or return their gifts got it out of their systems. The only crowd in the mall in the middle of January came from the novice ice skaters lining up for their classes on the ground floor, but they were easily avoided.

“Wow.” Jasmine looked around the store, awed that there wasn’t anyone else shopping in their corner. “This place is empty. Think it’s going out of business soon?”

Nadia glanced at their piles of shopping bags. Every so often, they dumped their bags off with the poor shopper assigned to trail them all day. The woman thought she would get to have fun with two people attached to some of the wealthiest assholes in the county. Instead, she played bag girl. Every hour she ran out to Jasmine’s car and dumped everything in the trunk, only to return to find her clients filling up another bag of the latest looks for themselves and their friends who couldn’t come.
“I don’t think this mall is in any danger of closing soon.”

Jasmine examined a rack of factory-made clothes. For their excursion to the downtown mall, they had both dressed in their middle-class clothes of yore, back when putting on brand-new jeans and a nice top from a department store was both fashionable and let them fly beneath the radar. This wasn’t the place for their designer outfits and shoes that cost more than semesters at some colleges. Besides, both Jasmine and Nadia were long past needing to dress up to shop in high-end boutiques. Everyone who cared knew who they were. All it took was one glance at Jasmine’s dark, curly hair and Nadia’s bold red locks to know that they had a billion dollars in their back pocket. When was the wife of businessman Ethan Cole and the long-term girlfriend of heiress Eva Warren not in the society pages?
Poor personal shopper. She really thought she would put her skills to use today, huh?

“Is it just me,” Jasmine began, studying the racks of club-wear and everyday college collections as if they were in a fine-art’s museum, “or are these the same looks they had back when we were in college?”

“You make it sound like that was years ago.”

“Getting closer to thirty is fucking me up, Nads.”

Nadia rolled her eyes. “You sound like my girlfriend.” She plucked a sheer, canary yellow top off the rock. “Think I could get away with wearing this to work?” Nadia answered herself before Jasmine had the chance. “Actually, this color would look way better with your hair and complexion. It would totally wash me out!”

“Ooh, this is cute.” Jasmine grabbed a hanger and pulled out a blue, long-sleeved top. Her face fell once she realized the cut was much shorter than she initially assumed. “Damnit! Another crop top! Is that all these places sell these days?”

These days? The whole reason I had a collection of crop tops before working in an executive office is because I had no other choice.” Hadn’t helped that Nadia was curvier than most crop tops could accommodate. She had to wear a thick cami beneath every one, and then she had to deal with her breasts flopping around!

“Blah.” Jasmine put the top back on the rack. “It’s not fair. I think I’ve totally aged out of these stores.” She ignored the middle-aged woman shopping in the petites section. No one could argue she shopped for her daughter, for she held every shirt up to her body and admired it in the mirror.

“You know…” Nadia grabbed the shirt Jasmine had just hung up. The sheer nature of it was what took it from tacky to hilarious. “I’ve got an idea.”

Jasmine raised her eyebrows. “Go on.”

“We grab a bunch of these and try them on. Grab some mini-skirts, too. C’mon! We’re not thirty yet. This could be our last great dressing room hurrah.”

“Excuse you. I plan on looking this great at forty, too.”

Nadia grabbed the yellow crop top and added a sparkly black one on top of it. “We’re doing this. And you bet your ass I’m sending pics to my girlfriend.”

“Hmm…” While Jasmine didn’t turn down the offer to play dress-up with clothes they never intended to buy, she also didn’t stop Nadia from forging a path to the fitting rooms. “I kinda wanna see Eva in a crop top, I bet with that figure she could…”

Nadia had a picture up on her phone and shoved in Jasmine’s face before she could say another word. “Last Monday. Dinner.”

Damn!” Jasmine whipped her sunglasses off the top of her head. Apparently, the blinding white of Eva’s exposed Scandinavian abs had blasted them away. “How did you sneak this photo? She’s slumping down to eat and she still has no rolls! You didn’t shop this, huh?”

Nadia shrugged, arms laden with hangers and clothes. “She’s in her late twenties now. It’s only a matter of time before the hormone gremlin gets her.”

“So not fair. I really don’t wanna try crop tops on now.”

“Pussy!” Nadia called. She had been loud enough to catch the attention of more than one customer in the store.

Fifteen minutes later, she and Jasmine shared the largest stall in the fitting room, their rainbow-colored collection of fashionable crop tops hanging from every hook and the back of their locked door. Nadia was the first one to rip off her blouse and approach this pointless endeavor with gusto. Jasmine whimpered behind her.

“I’m doing it.” She sat down on the bench, proving how many stomach rolls she had compared to her girlfriend with the superheroine genetics. Jasmine didn’t have a full-time job and spent way more time with a personal trainer than Nadia ever would. She ain’t got no room to complain when it’s just us! “Join me or die.”

She pulled a black top with gold glitter over her head. The shoulders were so tight that she almost couldn’t get the first arm through. Didn’t help that her hair was caught on the tag, and Jasmine was called over to help blinded Nadia before she ripped the top in half, Hulk-style.

“You’ve got the smaller stomach, and…” the bottom of the shirt sucked to Nadia’s breasts, “the smaller boobs. Do it.”

Nadia turned to the mirror while Jasmine unbuttoned her plaid shirt. Sure enough, Nadia looked like the saddest woman in the club, with her poochy stomach hanging out and her breasts acting like two oranges in a banana hammock. Even her hair was limp after that ordeal with the shirt tag.

“If I die right now…” Nadia began, “will my ghost be wearing this outfit as it roams the earth?”

Jasmine had her top off, but remained in her bra. “That’s a look, Nads.”

“And I ain’t taking it off until you join me in this misery.”

Jasmine tightened her bra straps before wiggling into the canary yellow crop top. Nadia attempted to help her friend into her shirt, but lifting her arms was next to impossible thanks to the tight shoulders and her breasts threatening to burst through the fabric like Porky Pig at the end of a Looney Tunes cartoon.

“Oh my God, shoot me!” Jasmine was in, but her reddened cheeks claimed she could barely breathe. 

“Who designed these things? Are we trying on corsets or some sick shit?”

“Wow.” Nadia leaned against the wall while her friend gaped at her unfortunate reflection in the mirror. “I told you that color would look better on you. But I’m not sure your shoulders agree.” She whipped out her cell phone and took an unflattering selfie, complete with peace sign and puffed out cheeks. “Your turn. It must be done.”

“Fiiiine.” Jasmine took a picture of her reflection, but made sure to make the most pathetic face she could muster.

“All right. Now, for the palette cleanser…” Nadia sidled up next to her best friend and attempted a cute smile and seductive pose. “We’re sending the best ones to our lovers, to prove that they love us!”
“That’s twisted.” Jasmine scratched her naked stomach. “And diabolical.” Her grin said she was game to catfish her own husband with unflattering crop top shots.

They huddled for an over the top, overhead selfie that was destined to become Nadia’s phone background as soon as they were back in Jasmine’s car. The only thing left for Nadia to do was to touch up the makeup that was smeared when she put on this ridiculous top – and to take the most seriously sexy selfie possible. With angles. Lots of angles.

“You gonna send yours?” Nadia already had her photoshoot attached and ready to go.

Jasmine finished punching in her strings of emojis. “I’m doing this. But if I regret it later, I’m coming for your ass.”

Nadia hit send and dumped her phone in her bag. She wasn’t checking for a response until she had real clothes on again.

They ended their shopping spree with foot massages and soft pretzels from a kiosk. Nadia checked her messages and wondered what the hell Eva was doing to not immediately reply to those embarrassing photos. She didn’t glance up twice when the personal shopper zoomed by with a bag from the ill-fated teen store.

Night had long fallen by the time Nadia reached her apartment a few minutes away. Her sore feet carried her to the elevator and up to her floor, but all she could think about was the lack of a response on her phone. Where the hell was Eva?

Apparently, Eva had been home all day.

“Why hello there!” She leaped up from the couch, her leggings and baggy T-shirt an instant delight to Nadia’s fatigued senses. “Have a good day shopping?”

“Yes. Did you check your phone, by chance?”

“Hm? Oh, no. I left it charging in the bedroom. Sometimes it’s good to unplug, yes?”

Nadia sighed on her way to the bedroom. “Never mind, then.”

She opened the door and found the black crop top from the shop spread across the bed.

“Put it on!” Eva called from the other room. “And never take it off again!”

Nadia soon received a text from Jasmine saying she regretted everything. Some sights were never meant to be shared.

READ THEIR STORIES HERE


Ethan & Jasmine
Eva & Nadia