DRABBLE: 'Tis the Season, Scene 1 (Eva & Nadia)


'Tis the Season

Scene 1 (Eva & Nadia)

Eva never got over how small the Gaines’ house was. It was her third official visit in the past year, and she still wasn’t used to the tiny-ass porch and the other single-family homes crammed on either side of property.

            This house is smaller than the one she used to rent. Nadia’s old house in Savant’s Town was considered huge when it was built, but in the age of excess and capitalism run amok, the two-bedroom craftsman style house in a small Podunk town on the edge of Virginia was better described as a vacation bungalow than a permanent residence. Where did the housekeeper sleep?

            Different world. That’s what Eva had to remind herself as she got out of the back of the cab and escorted her girlfriend up to her parents’ home. Just because Eva had her own wing in her family’s mansion and her own apartment in the downtown metro didn’t mean everyone else was so privileged.

            Not even privileged enough to have a housekeeper. That was something she really had to get used to.

            The front door opened. Out came a middle-aged woman wearing the tackiest Christmas sweater Eva had ever seen, and she hosted her fair share of tacky Christmas sweater parties over the years!

            “My baby!” Mary Gaines barreled down the front steps and threw her arms around Nadia, currently buried in five layers of winter clothing. Not even her wavy red hair was noticeable beneath such a puffy, fur-lined hood. “You’re so late!

            Nadia returned her mother’s hug. The heater had been on in the cab from the local airstrip, and now that the cold settled into their bones, all the couple could think about was getting inside and warming up again. “Sorry, Mom. We were late flying out. Weather was bad.”

            “I don’t understand why you didn’t just drive.” Mary opened her arms to Eva, who returned the hug at arm’s length. “Who flies on Christmas Eve?”

            My family does? It’s not like Eva had commandeered the family jet for such a short flight. Her brother had insisted after postponing his own takeoff to finish up some work at the last minute. Henry, Monica, and little Abigail were on their way to Montana to have Christmas morning with Eva’s parents. Something she had politely declined joining when Nadia suggested they have Christmas with her parents. Anything was better than putting up with Eva’s mother’s homophobia on Christmas. In Montana. Especially in Montana!

            Christmas on the Virginian border was much more acceptable. Besides, Eva liked her future in-laws well enough. Mary Gaines didn’t have a problem with her daughter’s sexuality and cooked some damn good food.

            Too bad the place was so cramped.

            They were only staying three days, but Eva and Nadia had managed to pack enough luggage to scare the shit out of the TSA – assuming they would ever fly commercial. (They would never.) The cab driver brought most of it to the door. Right. We don’t have servants to carry this shit for us. Nadia grabbed both of her suitcases and entered the house as if she lived there. Eva was left with four of her own and feeling quite silly.

            “Is that my girl?” A man’s voice boomed from a lounge chair by the fireplace.


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DRABBLE: Nameless, But Not Faceless


Nameless, But Not Faceless

Ken & Lana Andrews

Miami nights in November were not the coldest in America, but Lana Andrews felt the ocean chill in her bones when she realized what her husband had done.

“I love you,” she said with an exasperated sigh, “but you’re an idiot, Kenny!”

Her husband pursed his lips in disbelief. He had long given up searching his pockets for his wallet, which must have still be in the nightclub, because how else had they gotten in without their IDs? 

“Trust me, I’m not loving myself much right now, either.”

“You’re lucky we already had sex tonight.” Oh, the evening had been lovely until they left the club and discovered someone’s wallet was missing! A wallet with Ken’s most important cards, cash, and both of their IDs! Lana’s skintight red dress didn’t have any pockets, and she didn’t carry a bag into the clubs if she could help it. For thirteen years it had been Ken’s job to hold onto the important shit while they partied. Granted, thirteen years without a fuckup wasn’t a bad run at all. Not that Lana was thinking that clearly when they were stranded in Miami with no cash or cards. “Otherwise you’d really be feeling those blue balls tonight.”

“Duly noted.” Ken pulled his phone out of another pocket. At least he had that! “I must have lost it in the private room.”

“You sure it wasn’t before then?”

“I paid for our drinks with cash. I must’ve had it by then.”

“I just hope to God that somebody didn’t steal it.” It was at a high-end swinger’s club, but that didn’t mean unscrupulous characters might not make off with Ken’s black and platinum credit cards. Let alone the hundreds of dollars in cash! “You can still get us an Uber back to the hotel, right?”

“Of course. The app is connected to Paypal. We’ve at least got that.”

“You getting us a ride now?”

Ken glared at his wife, currently leaning against the guardrail between the busy Miami boulevard and the half-busy sidewalks. This was the time of night the 2am clubs started letting out while the all-nighters boomed with kids on too many stimulants. It had been years since Lana could party all night like that. She turned into a pumpkin at midnight these days. If the party wasn’t popping by ten, she was out.

“No, I’m calling the club.” Ken held his phone to his ear. “I want to know if they have my wallet before I cancel the cards and order us new IDs.”

Lana groaned. All she wanted was to curl in the back of a car and go back to the hotel suite, where they would cuddle beneath the plush comforters and sleep in until noon. That was the dream when their night started. It didn’t matter if they found other people to play with or not. Most of the encounters ended the same, whether Lana and Ken flew solo in the sack or invited another one or two people to join them. Sex, kisses, and sleeping in until noon. What the fuck is better than that? Lana would have snapped her bag strap in two… if she had one!

Ken hung up. Lana knew the answer to their dilemma before he opened his mouth.

“No sign of it,” he muttered. “I told them to keep an eye out and let us know, but I’m going to go ahead and cancel the cards and get us new IDs.”

“Ugh! This sucks!”

“I concur.”

Lana didn’t like this kind of vulnerability. She was practically naked in her skimpy dress. So were half the other women stumbling down the sidewalk, but that wasn’t the point. They had their wallets. They could get in their Ubers and go back home with their dignity intact. The police cruising up and down the street had no way to tell her apart from the other blond American billionaires. If we were back home, half the people we encountered would know who we were on sight.

“C’mon, Bunny. There’s an Uber coming.”

She reluctantly pushed herself off the guardrail and took her husband’s hand. You’re still in trouble, dumbass. Ken had lost all nudity privileges in the club for the foreseeable future. When he lost his pants was when he lost his wallet. Unless the club has a pickpocket problem. It would be a few days before Lana found out for sure.

They rode for ten minutes in silence. Lana stared out the window at the bright lights of Miami while Ken texted one of his connections at the DMV back home. The man in charge wasn’t awake yet, but Lana knew he was an early riser and would do his best to make sure new IDs were printed for them first thing in the morning. Until then, however, they were SOL.

“I’ve got cash and the spare card in the safe in the room. We’ll be fine, Bunny. Just a little setback.” Lana put her phone down in her lap. She almost regretted getting the phone back from her husband, because now he had silent ways to talk to her. “I’ll call the credit card companies as soon as we’re in our room. Why don’t you take a hot shower when we get back?”

Ken had too much faith in getting them back to their room. What were they going to do when they had to fly back home? Lana hadn’t brought her passport to use as a backup ID. What did you mother always tell you, girl? That woman always told her daughters to take their passports wherever they went, because they didn’t know when their rich husbands might fly them to a foreign country for work or pleasure. The one time Lana didn’t listen!

She really wished she had her damned ID when they reached the hotel and Ken realized the room key was in his wallet.

“I’m sorry,” the night auditor on duty said with little sympathy. “I can’t issue you a new key without an ID to confirm your identity.”

Ken attempted to smooth things over and explain what happened. Lana, on the other hand, had no patience for this shit.

“Excuse me,” she growled, leaning across the counter with her eyes narrowed and her finely polished nails extended, “but we don’t have time for this. My husband’s wallet was stolen and it had both of our IDs in it! Kenny!” She smacked him on the arm. “Do you have some kind of ID on your phone?”

“No. Do you?

Lana snarled. “Of course I don’t. That’s not even a thing, is it? Fuck it. We should invent it!”

The night auditor folded her hands over her keyboard. “I’m sorry. I need to see real ID.”

“You listen to me.” For years people had chided Lana Andrews for being a shrewish harpy when she thought it most pertinent. She was that bitch who wasn’t afraid to get in someone’s face and put them in place, and some little tart in a cheap uniform wasn’t going to get between her and that shower and bed. That they had already paid for, no less! “We have had one helluva night, Ms. Jefferson.” Yeah, even when she was half-sober and half-asleep, she could still read those tiny nametags. “Right now we may be a couple of nameless mother fuckers, but we’re not faceless. Do you see this shit?” She jerked her finger toward her furrowed brow, wrinkling in ways her doctor claimed should no longer be possible. “This face costs thousands of dollars a year to maintain. You don’t get skin like this at my age without paying for it!”

“Very impressive, ma’am.”

Ken let out a low whistle. “Bunny, this isn’t…”

“Shut up! I’m tired!” Lana slammed her hands on the counter. Countdown to when security shows up. She didn’t care. the longer this went on, the more she was inclined to take the worst lessons she learned from her mother and turn the dial up to eleven. “I’m tired, and I want to fucking sleep in a nice bed tonight. A bed we paid several hundred dollars for tonight!” She inhaled a deep breath before the night auditor had the chance to press the button for security. “Does this not look like a face that occupies one of your nicest suites? Also, didn’t your underling take our IDs earlier and make copies of them? Or did I make that up? Surely your eyesight is good enough to compare these haggard faces to a couple of pieces of paper!”

The night auditor swallowed her pride. “Just a moment, please.”

“Bunny,” Ken said with the usual exasperation he sometimes held for his wife, “be nice to the poor lady just trying to do her job.”

“It’s ultimately your fault, you know.”

“You say that.” Ken leaned in closer to her. “But aren’t you the one who insisted I take these pants off and have my way with you?”

“That’s beside the point.”

“Is it really?

“If you’re fishing for me to share in the blame, it’s not working.”

The night auditor returned, her face frozen in mild horror. “It’s all been taken care of.”

“It has?”

A new room key slid across the counter. “My apologies for the misunderstanding. Everything has been cleared up.”

Lana, of course, took this to mean that her usual intimidation tactic had worked. But she couldn’t help but notice her husband’s smug look as they entered the elevator and ascended several stories to their suite.

“What did you do, Kenny?”

He wrapped his arm around her waist and held her close. “Back in the car, I was texting someone.”

“Yes? Your contact with the DMV. What about it?”

“He also happens to personally know the mayor of Miami.”

“So your friend woke up the mayor in the middle of the night to vouch for us? And the mayor called the…” Lana jerked back in understanding. “Oh, Kenny, you’re so smart.”

“Except for when I’m losing my wallet.”

“We all make mistakes.”

They shared a kiss the moment the elevator doors opened. It wouldn’t be the last one that night.  



New Release: BOUND

Get it on Amazon!

Nature vs. Nurture Takes the Battle to the Boardroom - And to Natalie Chen.

What's the first thing they teach you in business school?

Never let emotions decide your fate.

That's how people get hurt. That's how millions lose their jobs. That's how I almost lost everything.

When I accepted one of the most highly coveted internships in America, I never expected to fall in love with my boss by the end of the first month.

I never expected that my boss, Eric Mann, used to go by another name a long, long time ago. And the woman the world forgot is screaming to come out and speak of the atrocities once wrought upon her life.

Do I follow my heart and help her expose her family's deepest, darkest secrets to the world? Or do I follow my head and get as far as possible from this debacle?

If I'm telling you this, we already know which path I chose.

Get it on Amazon!

DRABBLE: Spanish Lessons


Spanish Lessons

Joseph & Miguel

“Look at you!” The buxom blonde woman nearly bowled over fair and petite Sylvia. “I’ve never seen you so filled out!

Later, Sylvia would tell her boyfriend, “Fucking hilarious for her to say that, when she’s the one who always looks like she’s one missed period away from baby bloat!” But Sylvia had remembered her manners that night at the black tie charity dinner in Seattle. “It’s this ridiculous foodie culture they have here in the PNW. You don’t know how many times I have to turn down beer and pizza.”

“You? A taste for beer and pizza?”

“I know, right?”

Joseph kept his distance while his girlfriend met up with an old friend from the east coast. Sylvia and this blond woman named Judith could share all the squeals and cheek-kisses they wanted. Besides, Joseph intended to keep a close eye on his little sister Reina, who had accompanied them as part of her reintegration into high Spanish-speaking society.

It was actually Reina’s idea to come to the annual black tie fundraiser that donated to a different cause in Latin America every year. This year’s was anti-violence against women and children. Had it really been a year since Reina was abducted by a human trafficker? Great. Now I’m thinking about it. Joseph held himself closer to his sister. The once spunky and silly Reina had turned into a more reserved shell of herself overnight. She had delayed starting college until this past term, and confided to her family that she intended to switch her major from Hispanic Literature to Humanitarian Studies. Her father had shrugged, and her mother had immediately questioned if this had to do with thoughts the therapist filled into the youngest Montoya child’s head.

Joseph never volunteered it was his suggestion after hearing his little sister speak a few times. “Better for you to do something that you believe in than anything else,” he had told his sister. “Don’t worry about the money. You’re in a position where you don’t have to.” He would know. He wasn’t getting a dime of inheritance from the family, but Reina would get a sizable share when their father passed.
“You all right?” he asked her at the edge of the room.

Reina was one of the few women in the room not confined to a black dress. She instead wore a conservative sapphire blue gown that made her stick out more than Judith King, whose breasts were barely contained in that little black dress of hers. As far as Sylvia knows, I never noticed.

Asi asi,” Reina sighed. “Crowds make me nervous sometimes. Sorry that… whoa, ¿quién está?
Joseph had so successfully ignored what else went on in the room that he barely noticed the arrival of Judith’s date. Boyfriend. Patron. Whatever. Truth was, he couldn’t keep up with the terms Sylvia used from her old life as a courtesan. All she knew was that Judith was coming with a Spanish-speaking date named Miguel. Some kind of casino magnate. Joseph never thought much about it. Until now.
Because he recognized that look on his sister’s face. That boy-crazy expression she hadn’t espoused since before she was abducted.

Great. Who the fuck had caught Reina’s eye?

Jesus Christ. Look at that guy! The man was built like a fucking linebacker, and was easily the tallest, biggest guy in a room full of men and women who could afford personal trainers and some of the best diets on the planet. In Miguel Bolivar’s case, however, it was a hearty helping of genetics that made him look like that. Judiciously curvy Judith was practically a pixie next to him. Sylvia was completely dwarfed when she shook hands with him. That’s the kind of guy you like? Joseph thought that while looking at his sister. Did his job as her biggest brother ever get easier?

“Hey, you two!” Sylvia flagged them down. “Come over here!”

Joseph took his sister’s hand and hauled her blushing cheeks over to Judith and Miguel. “Pleasure to meet you,” Miguel said, sticking out his own hand for a shake. What the hell is that accent? Joseph was better acquainted with local accents than most, due to the nature of his job as an agent for the Portland police. He spent half his days listening to interviews and telling investigators where suspects were from based on their accents. Nobody stood a chance if they were Mexican or Salvadorian, the two parts of his family. Miguel was definitely neither.

Mucho gusto,” Joseph muttered, completely caught off guard and forgetting his manners. 

Somewhere, his stepmother had a heart attack.

“Ah! And who is this?” That accent only grew thicker when Reina shyly approached to shake a hand the size of her face. “Encantado de conocerte, señorita.” Reina almost fell into a fit of giggles when Miguel kissed her fingers. “Me llamo Miguel. Y usted?

Oh. Oh. The man was Castilian. That explained everything. Including Reina’s fit. She always had a huge crush on that Enrique Iglesias guy. Spaniards will be the death of us.

Somewhere, their father was having the heart attack!

“Would you stop?” Judith lightly smacked her boyfriend’s broad chest. “Flirting with young girls is a deportable offense in this country.” She said it with a sweet candor only Miguel’s girlfriend could get away with. “We’re not as enlightened as you Europeans.”

“Anyway!” Sylvia wedged herself between Miguel and Reina, as if Joseph had trained her himself. “That’s your boyfriend. This is my boyfriend. Let’s all sit down and reconvene later!”

The black tie affair was a bit more informally arranged than others, since there were no assigned seats and most of the conversation was in informal Latin American Spanish. Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinean, and Chilean accents were the most dominant ones in the room, although Joseph quickly picked out the Salvadorian his grandmother spoke and some Honduran and Colombian. Miguel was the only one conversing in pure Castellano, and every time another guest caught on, their eyes lit up with sudden understanding. The only hilarious thing was that the poor bastard had no idea every American was so thrown off by his accent.

“Isn’t he dreamy?” Reina whispered to Sylvia at their table. Judith and Miguel hadn’t sat with them, but the man was so huge he was impossible to not spot moving through the crowd. “He kissed my hand!”

Sylvia rolled her eyes in Joseph’s direction. “Dreamy is one word to use, I guess.” To Joseph, she muttered, “There’s a reason Judith’s his girlfriend, you know. Reina wouldn’t make it one day with him.”

“Don’t you dare,” Joseph snapped. He would not tolerate that image in his head. Miguel had to be in his thirties, probably older than Joseph. Definitely way too old for Reina! “And don’t encourage the infatuation.”

“Aw, look at her. How long has it been since she smiled that much? Let her have her fun. Trust me. Miguel won’t risk Judith’s ire by openly flirting with her anymore.

Don’t be so sure. Men like Miguel left reputations in their wake. If half the women in the room were gazing longingly after him, it was because he was more than good looking. He was a philanderer.
Meanwhile, Reina remained turned in her seat, sighing.

“Let her have her little fantasies, Joseph. They’re not serious.”

“He’s a Castilian, Sylv. You don’t get it. Our father would shit himself.”

“Technically aren’t you all Spaniards going way back when?”

“Yes, and we’re also native Aztecan, Incan, and Mayan. I don’t have to tell you how that happened.”

“Never thought you would be the one to broach the colonization subject.” Sylvia laughed. “As it so happens, Judith says she convinced him to come because his family used to own plantations in Argentina and it was the right thing to do. She says she’s so woke now.”

“God, no, she didn’t say it like that. Please.”

“She did. She was 100% serious, too.”

“I see why you left New England, mi bella.

Reina remained infatuated for the rest of the evening. Joseph was willing to let it slide until Miguel and Judith joined them again, and the man in question immediately picked Reina out for conversation.

Well, it was more like Reina started it.

“What part of Spain are you from, Señor Bolivar?”

“Valencia,” he responded with a flavor that quickly grated on Joseph’s patience. “It’s the most beautiful part of España, of course. But honestly, I did most of my growing up in Monaco, so I consider myself Monegasque in nationality.”

“Oh, right! España!” Monaco didn’t speak Spanish, so apparently that didn’t register in Reina’s head. “I’ve always wanted to go there! I’ve been to France and Italy, but for some reason my family has never sojourned to España.”

“You speak such beautiful Spanish, though.” Miguel turned to Joseph. “Your brother must take you.”

“Yeah, hon.” Sylvia propped her elbow on the back of her chair. “Take us to Spain for a change. Forget the family vacation home in Oaxaca. Pshaw.”

“What’s wrong with Oaxaca?”

“Nothing! Just we’ve been there twice in one year. Time to change things up.”

Joseph knew his girlfriend was ribbing him, but remained annoyed, anyway. It didn’t help that Reina and Miguel spent the next half hour talking about the merits of Spain – What merits? You guys sound like a mess over there! – while Reina picked up more and more Castilian inflections. The first time Joseph heard Miguel refer to Judith as his “corathon,” he knew it was only a matter of time before his sister started copying it.

“It’s such a shame he’s already spoken for,” Reina sighed when the couple left again.

Joseph glared at her.

“Let her have her fun,” Sylvia muttered.

All well and good for Reina to have her girlish fantasies. It was quite another when she was came back from the restroom fifteen minutes later and swore up and down that Miguel had winked at her.
“You’re calling this fun?” Joseph hissed in his girlfriend’s direction.

“You’re being a bit too much of an older brother, hon.”

“Can you blame me? Look at that guy!”

“Like I said, he’s just being European. Judith won’t let him actually try anything. There are some morals in the courtesan world, you know.”

“A world you left.”

“Just in time too, apparently. Can’t even imagine being assigned to a man like that. You know what she told me?”

No, and I don’t wanna know.

“Dude’s got a monster cock. Like the stuff that gets laughed off the sex toy showroom for being too unrealistic. No thanks.”

“For the love of God, Sylv, I don’t need that shit in my head.”

The final straw was toward the end of the mixer, when Joseph witnessed his sister put her hand on Miguel’s arm before jetting off squealing into her shawl.

No. This had to stop. It wasn’t just Reina’s age. It was her vulnerability after everything that had happened to her. One thing for a teenager to have her fun. Quite another for it to be Joseph’s little sister.

Okay. So it had a lot to do with her age and relation to Joseph. Could anyone really blame him? He wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy his dinner until he convinced Miguel Bolivar to back off.
“Mr. Bolivar.” Joseph left Spanish of every kind behind him when he approached a man twice the size of himself. “Can I speak with you for a moment?”

“Of course.” His accent was gone. “What can I do for you?”

Joseph cut right to the chase. He explained that his sister was young and vulnerable – in all the wrong, unattractive ways. As nice as it was for Miguel to flirt with a pretty young woman, and even nicer for his girlfriend to be understanding about it, wasn’t it best for them all if Reina didn’t get the wrong idea? Because Miguel surely did not mean to impart the wrong idea to such an impressionable young lady.

 “Señor Montoya, I can assure you that I have nothing but the purist, friendliest interests in your sister.” Nope. Miguel was still too cocky for Joseph’s tastes. “Perhaps I am too detached from American culture. In Europe, it is common to be flirtatious with all women.”

Joseph narrowed his eyes. “Did Judith tell you what we do down in Portland, Mr. Bolivar?”
“She said something about investment banking.”

“Yes, that’s what our father does. He’s a very successful investment banker from Mexico City.”

“Yes. I didn’t go into the family business, though. Well, not my father’s. I followed my mother’s personal path.”

“Is that so?”

“Of course. I’m a senior agent for the Portland Metro Police, and my mother is the commander of my division. We specialize in undercover operations. Like, say, human trafficking and statutory rape.”
Miguel’s eyes grew wide in understanding. “I see! Thank you for your service, Señor Montoya. I believe Judith needs my attention. Thank you for the conversation.” Miguel hurried so quickly out of their corner of their room that he almost barreled over a woman in a floor-length gown.

“Oh my God, Joseph.” Sylvia had her head propped up on her hand when Joseph returned to their table. “You didn’t pull the cop shit, did you?”

“It gets the point across.”

“Your sister is nineteen. Even if something happened between them, it would be totally legal. And Judith would kill him before you ever found out about it.”

“Yeah, well, he doesn’t know that. Besides!” Joseph crossed his arms. “He pulled the uptight American card first.”

“The horror!”

Miguel wasn’t around when they left later, a feat that made Reina more crestfallen than Joseph thought it might be worth. Judith was the only one to come by and say farewell before flying back to the east coast. She briefly looked at Joseph and said, “Miguel sends your mother his regards.”

“You brought up your mother?

“What about your mother?” Reina asked. “Mi Cristo, Josef. You didn’t say something to Señor Bolivar, did you?”

Yes, Joseph was totally the bad guy here. When he, Sylvia, and Reina piled into his car the next day to drive back to Portland, the only way he could get back into their good graces for the duration of the car ride was by promising to take them to Spain for Reina’s spring break. Joseph hoped to God that he didn’t have to see a single Bolivar there.

(Instead, his sister would meet a more age-appropriate boy from Barcelona to piss her brother off. But that was another adventure.)


Miguel and Judith

Joseph & Sylvia