Devastation

Although written five years ago, this short story about the characters from The Chemical Attraction Series is still a topical subject.  Those of us left behind after the death of a loved one can struggle to cope with our responsibilities while we grieve.

I think these characters must have been real in a previous life for me to know their rich backstories.  In fact, I love them and know them so well that I used Matt Connor’s father, Orrin, as the main character in my novel, Dearest Mother and Dad, set during the Korean War.  I consider “Devastation” a lead into Dearest Mother and Dad and Chemical Attraction.

“Devastation”

On the overcast September day, Police Chief Matt Connor jumped out of his cruiser in the circular drive of Allenton General Hospital. Glancing around, he strolled briskly toward Emergency Services and the Occupational Health Department, which shared a large waiting room. He had to warn his wife, Eva, of the torrential hailstorm bearing down on her.

Even before he had become Chief seven years ago, Gail Connor had used her influence to bend people to her way of thinking. Then, she felt entitled. After all, her son was the Chief of their rural town and her daughter-in-law worked at the town’s small hospital. Seeing through Gail’s gossiping and demanding persona, he loved her. However, today was tougher than usual.

Leaning on the counter, he waited for Nettie Day, the semi-retired nurse, to look up from her paperwork. She had shown his wife the ropes years ago. The staffs’ hatred of Gail carried over to Eva. His meddlesome mother had pretty much blackmailed the hospital president with a lawsuit about false gossip that he and Eva had secretly married. The president caved and gave Eva an internship earning her the job after graduation.

Within two months, Eva won the nurses over when they saw her devotion to him and David. She had also squashed any criticism of him like an aphid eating the roses in her garden. The hospital employees appreciated that Eva stepped up and dealt with her mother-in-law’s visits and appointments, which she did rather tactfully he thought.

Nettie slid open the glass window. “Hello, Chief. Eva’s with a patient.” With a dark chignon popular in the fifties, she puckered her lips in disdain. “Did you know your mother left two messages about coming early for flu shots before the clinic even starts? Your mother’s a piece of work.”

OccHealth provided pre-employment physicals, drug screens, and treatment for work-related injuries to area businesses. They also organized the influenza inoculation clinics and the Allenton County Health Fair for the community.

He glanced at the front entrance and cringed. Gail, Orrin, and their seventeen-year-old grandson, David, headed this way. “Yes, and that’s why I’m giving you a heads up,” Matt said. “I’ll run interference until Eva’s available.”

Nettie nodded. “Best Chief ever,” she said, before sliding the window closed. She disappeared to inform Eva.

“Matthew, what are you doing here?” Gail asked.

“I took a break to visit my wife,” he replied, watching David sit in a corner chair. Resting his elbow on the arm of the chair his head leaning on his fist, he looked bored and tired.

“Are you getting your flu shot early?” Orrin asked.

“No,” Matt replied. “The clinic starts at one, Mother. You’ll have to wait an hour, but you will be first in line.”

“I have time right now,” Eva said from behind him.

He turned away from his parents and whispered, “The nurses are going to love you more than they already do.”

“Will you love me more than you already do?” she whispered back.

“It’s not possible,” he replied as he kissed her cheek. “I’ll stick around and escort them out.”

“Let me get a vial,” she said, waving the family back to their small lab area.

Gail sat on the only stool while Eva opened the fridge for the serum.

“Looking for these, Eva,” Dr. Ellis asked from behind her. As gaunt as his patients in the morgue, he held out two vials. “I have the rest in the little fridge in my office. Chief, make sure you get yours, too.” He chuckled and left. Matt thought Ellis’s weirdness came from his other job as county coroner.

Eva prepared the needle. As she swabbed Gail’s arm, she smiled. “So this is finally my payback from years ago.” She pretended to stab her in the arm before gently administrating the shot.

Orrin laughed as David quietly leaned on the doorway.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Gail replied, standing. “Orrin, take your payback.”

An older, grayer, and quieter version of Matt, Orrin sat on the stool. “I always behave.”

Eva gave him the shot then kissed his cheek. “Yes, you do.”

Standing, Orrin smiled. “David, you’re up.”

Seeing Nettie at the OccHealth counter, Gail harrumphed and walked in her direction. Orrin quickly followed. Matt hoped Dad would stop any mayhem. Without a word, David plopped down onto the stool while Eva drew serum from the vial. She swabbed his arm with alcohol then paused. Frowning, she felt his head.

“Honey, you’re burning up,” Eva said. “We’ll do this a different day.”

Matt felt David’s head with his hand to confirm. “I’ll drop him off at home before I head back to the station,” he said.

“I’ll do it. Someone should stay with him,” she said. Eva quickly put the serum back into the vial. “We have enough extra hands for the clinic today.”

While Eva let Nettie know, Matt walked with his son toward his parents in the atrium.

“I’m not a baby,” David said without much energy.

 “Your mom likes taking care of you, so just enjoy her pampering,” he replied.

After the averted drama at the hospital, Matt headed to the station. Eva, thank God, had an enchantment spell calming the storm into a gentle rain. He smiled. She had mesmerized him from the start. His dull and dry life had bloomed into this vibrant garden, Eva the rainmaker.

At the end of his day, he swung by Hillcrest Floral. The intoxicating smell in the tiny shop enticed him to open his wallet wider. He chose a bouquet of colorful wildflowers, three red roses in its center.

“You in trouble, Chief?” Mrs. Fletcher asked as she slid her reading glasses attached to the chain around her neck onto the edge of her nose.

“No, Ma’am. A Thank You for putting up with me,” he said.

“And to gain a few extra husband points for when you do mess up?” she asked.

“That, too.” Hmm, he wondered if he should cause a little trouble; their disagreements had paid dividends in the bedroom.

In a mischievous mood, he parked the cruiser in the garage and entered through the mudroom. Coming out of David’s bedroom, Eva held a washcloth. She smiled at the flowers and met him in the kitchen.

“What did you do?” she asked in mock anger.

He winked. “Nothing yet. How’s David?”

She ran cold water over the washcloth. “He has a hundred and one degree temp.”

He was about to say, Does he need to go to the doctor? But he stopped himself from getting the eye roll from his physician assistant wife, who knew almost as much as a doctor. Before he could speak, his cell rang. While he answered, Eva took the compress to their son.

“Matthew, come over,” his mom said, coughing. “Dad’s collapsed.”

“On my way,” he said, tossing the flowers on the kitchen table. “Eva!” She shut David’s door and shushed him. “Dad’s collapsed,” he said in a higher than usual tone.

After telling David they’d be back in a few minutes, she grabbed her doctor’s bag then beat Matt out the front door. At six in the evening, they raced across the dark street. Still in his uniform, Matt shoved open the front door. His parents, unconscious on the living room floor, looked flushed and sweaty. Reddish brown vomit partially covered his mother’s sleeve and the carpet beside her.

“Shit,” Eva said, racing for Orrin.

Adjusting his gun on his utility belt, Matt knelt down beside his mother. “She’s barely breathing.”

“Orrin’s not,” she replied.

Their training kicked in. Eva started CPR on his dad while he monitored his mother’s breathing and called for an ambulance. Thankful that his role as Chief took priority with dispatch, he set his cell aside.

“Mom. Mom. Can you hear me?” he asked, feeling her neck for a pulse. None. “Shit!”

He and Eva continued CPR on his parents as the two EMTs burst through the door. “My father’s been unconscious longer. Help him first,” Matt said.

The EMTs had to zap his dad twice before they got his heart started. Eva held the oxygen mask on Orrin as they loaded him into the ambulance. Briefly conscious, his mother coughed and threw up on the lawn before they lifted her stretcher into the bus. Food poisoning?

On the crowded ambulance, Matt tried to ask her what had happened, but the tech wiped her mouth and attached an oxygen mask. Three minutes later, the ambulance stopped next to the ER entrance. Two nurses and a doctor rushed to his unconscious parents quickly wheeling them into the building.

Matt hopped out then lifted Eva out by the waist. She briefly hugged him before she hurried inside. Neither said anything, too stunned to even complete a thought. In the empty waiting room, he paced. Should he demand to go back there? He was the police chief of this damn town. Instead, he scrubbed his hands over his crewcut in frustration and let the doctors do their jobs.

A half hour later, he watched their friend Madeline Pierce escort her sobbing aunt from a treatment room to the waiting area. Sylvia Folkert stumbled. Matt caught her before she fell and easily lifted her thin frame to a chair.

“What’s happened?” Matt asked, on a knee beside her.

“He died,” Sylvia whispered in shock. “We were happily dancing yesterday.”

“Herbert?” Matt asked, looking at Madeline. Her red eyes and nose confirmed the answer.

“They said it was the flu,” Madeline replied. “He got a shot earlier today. I guess it didn’t have a chance to work.”

Matt hid his horror. The EMTs thought his parents had the flu, too, not food poisoning.

“Chief, would you walk us to my Jeep?” Madeline asked. “We’re both a bit shaken.”

“Of course,” he replied, helping Sylvia stand. He had a firm grip on her elbow. Leaning against him, she rested her other hand over his.

His distraction was short-lived as he walked back to the waiting room that had been empty ten minutes ago. Fifteen would-be patients were hacking, coughing, puking. Their distraught family members offered futile comfort.

Looking though the reception window, he saw Eva wearing a mask, her mascara smeared from tears. His heart sank; he knew. He raced through the Authorized Personnel Only door. Her body shook.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered against his uniform shirt. “The doctors couldn’t revive them.”

My God! Both of them? Stunned, he silently hugged her. Three people had died from the apparent flu; others with symptoms waited to be seen. His first thought: David.

“Honey, I need you to go home,” Matt stated. “I’ll call Bobby to come and get you.”

“Matt, I can stay and make arrangements,” she replied, stepping back.

“No, David needs you.”

Reading his mind, Eva gasped and nodded. “Tell Bobby I’ll wait out front. Come with me,” she said.

“I need to stay and coordinate with the hospital about a possible outbreak,” Matt replied.

She handed him a mask from the lab drawer. “Protect yourself then. I’ll call the funeral home and make the initial preparations.”

“I love you, too,” he replied. “Please, avoid the waiting room while I call Bobby.”

By the time one in the morning rolled around, the hospital reported twelve deaths. Matt stayed to listen to the administration discuss their procedures for those with flu symptoms arriving at the hospital. With the hospital preparing for the town’s crisis, Matt called the station and informed his officers about their protocol for dealing with illness calls.

The hospital’s president would make a basic statement about flu prevention to the news crews in the morning. Matt offered to stand beside him to show that the professionals had the situation under control—a necessary lie against any disorder and chaos.

From the hospital, Matt walked the mile home at two in the morning. He needed the time to process this ordeal before the media frenzy. Pushing down any thoughts of losing his parents, he entered the house through the mudroom next to the garage.

Eva greeted him. Her makeup removed; her soft features red and puffy from tears. The smell of bleach and lemon disinfectant overpowered his senses.

“Strip here then shower. I’ve scrubbed every surface with bleach,” she said. “I’ll wash your uniform and wipe down your badge and equipment.”

“How’s David?” he asked, setting his utility belt on top of the washer.

“His fever has dropped to ninety-nine. No cough, chills, or nausea. He’s sleeping now, but he’s in the denial stage of grief. I am, too,” she said, wiping her eye with the back of her hand. “I heard that Herbert Folkert died.”

He nodded and stripped to his boxers. “Twelve deaths so far.”

“So far? Oh God,” she whispered.

After his shower, he found his wife using a disinfecting wipe on his handcuffs. All his equipment laid in a row on the kitchen table. She handed him a wipe for his gun and holster. Without speaking, they sat at the kitchen table and focused on the items. Eva had even disinfected his keys, nail clippers, and change from his pants pocket. He used a few wipes on the inside of his cruiser. Better safe than sorry.

In the bedroom, Matt set his alarm for six and slid under the sheet next to his wife. Eva cuddled next to him. He wanted to tell her to stay home, not to go into work, not to be around those sick people, to hide away until the crisis passed.

She must have read his mind. “I’m staying home to care for David. Mr. Banks from Gordon’s Funeral home has Orrin and Gail’s premade wishes on file. When you’re ready, we’ll stop by to confirm a date and time for their funerals.”

“I have a feeling I’ll be dealing with the chaos. Will you set up a time in the afternoon to meet with him? Then remind me?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Thank you.”

For three days, Chief Connor worked to calm everyone distressed over the flu epidemic. Twenty-three people from Allenton had died; funerals had taken over their somber town. The public schools had closed as a precaution giving crews time to disinfect everything inside. Local stores had bare shelves where cleaning products had been.

The hospital suggested that everyone stay home, if possible. People were upset that the flu vaccine didn’t work. BennTech, having developed the serum, issued a statement that the strain from the epidemic wasn’t what the CDC had recommended for this season … talk about passing the buck.

Defeated and exhausted, Matt stripped off his black tie in their bedroom. In a black dress, Eva slipped off her black heels for a brief reprieve. They had attended Herbert Folkert’s funeral and then his parents’ right after. Eva’s family—well, his only family now—had joined them for Orrin and Gail’s joint service and now relaxed in the living room giving them a little quiet time.

Matt had no time to process his parents’ deaths. He still had to go through their house and find their financial papers and wills. What was he supposed to do about the house? Would he sell it? Rent it out? He had so many questions, and he just buried the man who always had the answers.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he rubbed his hands over his eyes suddenly overwhelmed. Strong and stoic for his son, his wife, Sylvia, Madeline, and his town, he hadn’t had much sleep.

Eva sat beside him. “They’ll understand if you want to take a nap.”

“I just need a few minutes,” he replied.

Standing, she lifted his face with her hands and kissed his forehead. “Take your time,” she said, before shutting the bedroom door.

Eva gave him strength. He felt bad that they hadn’t talked much, talking even less to his son. David’s teenage hormones caused him to be sullen and moody as he processed their family tragedy. Matt needed to reconnect with them.

With another sigh, Matt stared at the tie on the floor next to his pinching black dress shoes. Hearing a ruckus in the hallway outside the closed bedroom door, he waited not moving from the edge of the bed. His energy had long drained from his body to react to the commotion.

“I don’t have to talk to anyone if I don’t want to!” David yelled.

A second later, Joe said, “In there. Now.” His serious tone, not often used, made David stomp into the guest bedroom. Matt could hear them through the wall. Joe continued, “I understand you’re mad at the situation.”

“The situation? I’m angry at them. Why couldn’t they have fought harder to stay alive?” David demanded. “They helped raise me, and now they left me alone.”

Matt groaned. He felt that way, too.

“Listen, Kid,” Joe said. “I sympathize. Eva, Taylor, and I went through this when Taylor’s parents died. It sucks. However. You are not even close to being alone.”

Matt pictured David crossing his arms in defiance.

“I know,” David said. “It’s just … Dad hasn’t been around much … too busy dealing with town business.”

That was true. Rubbing his hands roughly over his head, Matt listened.

“David, consider this. Fair or not, your dad has responsibilities to this town, and he may not have had a chance to sort out his own emotions yet. He is a son who just lost both of his parents. No matter how old you are, it affects you. Instead of causing a problem, you may want to offer support,” Joe said. “Whenever you feel lonely, you pull your family closer. That’s what I do.” Joe spoke with authority and experience on the subject.

A few minutes later, Matt was splashing water on his face when someone knocked on the bedroom door. “Come in,” he said through the open door of the master bath.

“Hey Matt,” Joe said. “Peter got a call from work, so we gotta leave.”

He quickly dried his face. “Of course, I appreciate you and Peter coming today.” He gave Joe a bro hug with a back slap. “And thank you for talking to David. You’re right.”

“Wait. What? I’m right? Would you mention that to my sisters?” Joe chuckled. “And I got your back with the kid.”

Leaving his suit jacket and tie on the bed, Matt followed Joe to the living room to see him and Peter out. Eva and Stuart talked while David humored seven-year-old Lily by playing with her and her Barbie Dolls. Matt would rather play than cope. He hadn’t much experience with dolls though. When his stomach growled, he headed for the kitchen and ogled all the casseroles and side dishes on the table. By the sink, Taylor turned from rinsing a plate.

“Did you know I have a thick, homemade cookbook with all your mom’s recipes?” Taylor said.

Matt smiled. “Eva has one, too.”

“Yeah, and we probably made all of them today to keep busy,” she replied. “So I guess Gail is here in spirit.”

Matt nodded and picked a clean plate up from the table. He’d always remember the smell of Mom’s cooking.

“It’s okay to reminisce. Find comfort that your parents loved you and were so proud of your decisions raising David, marrying Eva … well, eventually … and then becoming the Chief,” Taylor said, casually. She turned back to the sink to finish washing the plates.

“You know, Mom always dominated the conversation never letting my dad get a word in edgewise,” Matt said with a sad chuckle. “But he had a knack for supporting me without ever speaking. I’ll miss that.”

Taylor dried her hands and hugged him while he held his full plate. “As we remember the ones we’ve lost, we must appreciate those with us now. They are the ones who make life worth living.”

“Are you always this deep?” Matt asked, giving her a one-handed squeeze before stepping back.

“Ha! No. I’ve been through this before,” she said.

“Well, thank you for those wise words,” he replied, sitting at the table suddenly starved.

After they put away the food and said goodbye to their family, Matt collapsed onto the couch. He stared at the blank TV screen. In a t-shirt and sweats, David plopped down beside him. Neither made any move toward the remote. Wearing Matt’s old police academy t-shirt and yoga pants, Eva sat on the other side of David. They continued to gaze at their reflection on the screen, the house silent.

Finally, David blew out a long even breath. “Wow. That was one big ass storm that hit town.”

“The clean-up may take a while,” Eva added.

“We’ll get through it though,” David replied.

“Yeah?” Matt asked.

“For starters, we can watch Grandpa’s favorite movie—Rio Bravo,” David suggested.

“Sounds good,” Matt said. David grabbed the remote.

“I’ll make popcorn,” Eva said, jumping up.

At Joe’s suggestion, Matt, David, and Eva pulled their family closer with Orrin’s tradition of silent support.

xxx

Continue reading about my favorite people:

Searching for Her: an anthology of short stories

Chemical Attraction

Dearest Mother and Dad

#HumbleBrags

A humble brag is a complaint with the intention of drawing attention to something of which one is proud. Humble bragging is said to be more irritating than outright boasting. Is it?

For example, I might say, “I’ve been so busy spending my gobs of royalty money I haven’t checked my Amazon ranking for a while. Much to my surprise, I was just above 1,000,000. Yay me!”

Are you impressed? Nope, me either. What would your mock humble brag be? I know you can do better.

Well, I’ve seen the fun lists of favorites on social media, so I decided to make a specific author’s list as a humble brag. Is this bragging or promoting? Humble bragging or not, I’d like to share my achievements; and I want to celebrate and learn about your passion projects.

Let’s have some fun. Are you an author? Copy and paste your answers on your blog or Facebook page then put the LINK to your humble brag list in the comments below. I’d like to read them.

Are you a fan of my books? Do you agree with my favorites? Let me know what your picks would be in the comments below.

Here’s my list:

The name of my Series: The Chemical Attraction Series

The number of books in my Series: 4

The total number of books I’ve published: 8

The number of rejections before my 1st publication: 162 (Yikes! Well, I’m proud I didn’t give up.)

The number of years I’ve been writing: 15

The year and name of my 1st book published: 2012, Chemical Attraction

The number of books self-published: 4

The number of books with publisher: 4

My publisher: 48fourteen

My book ideas come from: Life and NPR

Out of all my books—my favorite book: Dearest Mother and Dad

Out of all my books—my favorite cover: The Garden Collection (My daughter drew it.)

Out of all my books—my favorite character: Joe Roberts from my Series

Out of all my books—my least favorite character: Cindy Carter from Their Rigid Rules

Out of all my books—my meanest character: Vincent Jordan from Chemical Reaction

Out of all my books—my nicest character: Brianna Carlson from The Garden Collection

Out of all my books—my favorite couple: Joe Roberts and Madeline Pierce from Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction

This minor character from my books deserves main character status: Aunt Sylvia from Chemical Attraction

This backstory tidbit about a character isn’t actually in my story: Spoiler Alert: In my Series, Peter Bingaman is Joe Robert’s biological father.

My favorite place to write: any quiet place—office, car, backyard…

My favorite topic to write: the synchronicity of life and romance

My writing preference—computer or paper & pen: paper and pen

My reading preference—print or eBook: print

My favorite social media platform: the WordPress community

My favorite part of writing: the magic of the characters telling me their story

My least favorite part of writing: blogging (My books are exciting; I’m boring.)

My writing rituals: brushed teeth, no bra

The best advice I’ve received: Write what you would love to read.

The worst advice I’ve received: Write about the trends that are popular right now.

Link to my Amazon Author Page

Thanks for stopping by.

AUTHORS, don’t forget to copy/paste onto your blog/social media platform then put the LINK to your humble brag list in the comments below.

FANS, what are your favorites? Post them in the comments below.

 

 

On the Verge of Giving Up

While his charisma masks his loneliness, Joe Roberts is far from perfect. On the surface, he’s a womanizer dismissing many after one date. Deep down, he’s searching for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults not in spite of them.

In this short story leading into Chemical Attraction, Joe is on the verge of giving up on his search. Find out what changes his mind.

 

“King Midas in Reverse”

Using his cell phone’s flashlight and carrying his shirt and shoes, Joe Roberts tiptoed around the coffee table and sofa. Glowing, glaring eyes held sentry on the table by his only exit. The damn cat hissed as Joe reached for the door knob. A growl from behind stopped him. He sighed. The overhead light flipped on. Busted!

“You’re seriously sneaking out without saying goodbye?” Kala Ross asked, wearing a ratty low-cut Ohio State hockey jersey. Last night’s smoky eyes had become 1:00 a.m. raccoon eyes.

Joe slipped his shirt over his head, hopped into his shoes, then lied. “I got called in,” he said, wiggling his cell in his hand. “And I didn’t want to wake you.”

“You used that excuse last time. Since when are truck drivers on-call?” she asked with a grating whine.

He ran a hand through his dark brown hair. Her sexy curves no longer held his attention. He had pursued the Starbuck’s barista for a week. On their first date, he took her to Sweet Lorraine’s sharing a bottle of wine from their long list. After dinner, she invited him back to her apartment. During last night’s rare second date, Joe couldn’t retreat fast enough when she threw out words like boyfriend and relationship. Needless to say, he won’t be going back to that Starbucks.

“You’re always on the move,” she added. Her stiff, bleach blond hair stuck out around her face like a lion’s mane.

He tried to break the tension. “Hey, you didn’t complain about my moves earlier.”
“I won’t be your whore,” she said, crossing her arms, which lifted up her breasts creating a canyon of cleavage.

Joe had been in this uncomfortable situation before. He never liked hurting these women, but he lost interest quickly. Eva and Taylor said he enjoyed the chase more than the catch. He agreed with his sisters’ assessment.

Instead of arguing—which never worked—he quoted a Hollies’ song that seemed to sum up his life. “I’m not the guy to run with, ‘cause I’ll pull you off the line. I’ll break you and destroy you. Give it time.”

She relaxed her angry stance, which surprised him. “I don’t think that.”

He stepped toward her and kissed her cheek. “Bye, Kala.”

The stealthy tabby had moved across the back of the couch and now sat in the chair next to Kala. If it could talk, it’d probably say, “Good Riddance.”

In his car, he thought about the other lyrics from “King Midas in Reverse” by The Hollies:

I’m not the man to hold your trust,
Everything I touch turns to dust.
I wish someone would find me,
And help me gain control.
Before I lose my reason,
And my soul.
I’m King Midas with a Curse.
I’m King Midas in Reverse.

Joe trudged down the dark hallway to his tiny apartment. The fact was he genuinely liked Kala. That’s why he asked her out again. Although ditzy, she had a nice personality. He wanted more than a sexy body though. Was he too picky? Should he settle with someone like Kala?

Joe’s list of negatives outweighed the positives, the general case when he assessed women. For example, Kala thought Jethro Tull was a guy, she couldn’t name a single Beatles’ song, and she liked the Buckeyes. He thought Taylor would disown him since Stuart taught at the University of Michigan.

In the shower, Joe contemplated his love life. He had dated many women, but he’d never had a steady girlfriend. These women pushed him to commit, and he pushed back by moving on. Was he selfish? Broken? Cursed? He felt nothing for any of them. Dating wasn’t fun anymore.

The only women he seemed to care about were his sisters. He wanted that chemistry like they have with their husbands. They’ve both been happily married for nine years.

Should he try abstaining for a while? To stop dating? To just stop pursuing women? To reevaluate his personal life, he’d give himself a six-month attempt … okay, maybe a three-month shot. Although his focus has always been on his career with the FBI, he’d talk to Peter Bingaman, his boss and friend, about more responsibilities. The distraction would be good for him. Too wired to sleep with the new outlook on his life, he headed for the office.

On the dark twenty-sixth floor of the Federal building, offices surrounded the perimeter with the hallways connecting as a square. In the middle were eight larger rooms for meetings, evidence, and work areas. Joe preferred the larger workroom. He didn’t want an office since he wasn’t around to use it. He preferred undercover work.

In jeans and a gray t-shirt, he walked toward the back corridor. Across from the breakroom, he used his passkey to open the door. The impersonal room was plain but functional. Shoved together, four desks with phones faced each other in the middle. Only two had flat-screen monitors and keyboards.

Sitting behind the one with a computer, he used a tiny key on the bottom drawer and pulled out three folders. He’d use the time to finish the paperwork closing these cases. At five-thirty, he sat back propping his tennis shoes on the corner of the desk. Grabbing a yellow legal notepad, he started a bullet point list of reasons for Peter to give him more responsibility and tougher assignments. He needed a bigger challenge.

Hearing the increase traffic of agents outside the workroom door, Joe ripped off the top page and stuffed it into his back pocket. He headed for the small café on the first floor for some breakfast.

Returning with a large black coffee, Joe nodded to Jane Whitmore, the doe-eyed young woman behind the reception counter. Peter’s assistant had a secret. None of the agents knew she was also Peter’s oldest daughter. Joe had seen her picture at Peter’s cabin. He appreciated her need to succeed without the agents treating her differently because of her father. The nepotism in this place was full of unprofessional agents.

“Is he in?” he asked, pausing by the counter.

“Yes, but he’s in a briefing,” she replied.

“I’ll catch him later then.”

Jane knew the truth that Joe and Peter were friends outside the office—much different from the rumors that Director Bingaman hated Joe. The agents assumed the Director berated Joe when called to his office. Actually, he and Peter played chess. Joe held his own, winning some, losing some.

Whenever Peter lost, he’d jokingly reprimand Joe for any minor issue—usually his casual attire. From the open doorway, he had hoped to scare the other agents into working harder. They stayed professional in public. The rumors amused them though.

Passing the first open office door, Agent Rita McMillian winked and gave him a flirty little wave. Joe winced and kept walking. Because of her bigwig uncle, Rita had yet to take her job seriously and flirted with the agents for favors. He despised that about her. Besides, Joe had a strict No Dating policy with the women in the office. Now, he added the No Dating Any Women rider to his rulebook.

Baby-faced Agent Mike Garrett waved a folder to get Joe’s attention. With a slight curl to his brown hair, Mike usually boasted his Love ‘Um/Leave ‘Um strategy with women. Joe knew the truth, which is why he added Mike to his team two years ago.

Mike’s fiancée had died in an automobile accident a week before their wedding. Hiding his depression and pain, he became a habitual Yes Man. Hating it, Joe worked Mike hard pushing him to the edge in the hope that he’d find his passion for life again. Joe still hadn’t figured out if losing the love of your life was worse than not finding one.

Out of breath, Mike stopped in front of him. “Agent Roberts, we may have a new case. Agent Orr said that you have a personal connection to the town Allenton.”

Surprised at a case in Eva and Matt’s hometown, Joe took the folder holding a single page. “I do, so let me read this over first. Orr took the call?”

“Yes, Sir,” Mike replied, before heading to the computer lab.

In the empty workroom, Joe read over the half sheet of paper that was the short transcript of the call, which didn’t give him much information. A woman scientist working at BennTech’s Medical Research Facility in Allenton uncovered possible illegal financial and chemical component errors there. That was all they had to go on? He suddenly felt a compulsion to find out why she would call the FBI and not the locals like Chief Connor. Joe would keep this assignment hush hush from his family until he knew more.

Joe dialed Eva to make arrangements. She’s been bugging him about attending a fundraiser for the twenty-three people who had died from the flu last year. Sylvia’s husband and Matt’s parents were among the victims.

With his left hand holding the phone to his ear, his right hand turned on the computer screen. “Hey, I got some time off in a couple of weeks. Do you still have a ticket to that shindig?” Wincing, he pulled the phone away from his ear. Why did Eva just squeal?

“I do!” She sounded too giddy for his question. “Joey, you can stay in our guest room.”

“Actually, I thought I’d stay at Sylvia’s,” he said, logging into the FBI’s computer system. He could come and go as he pleased at Sylvia’s B & B whereas Eva would track his every move.

“Even better,” she exclaimed. “Do you want me to reserve you a room with her?”

“No. I’ll do it. I want to pay in advance for the two weeks.”

“You’re going to have so much fun,” she said.

“What’s the matter with you? You sound too cheery about my visit. You’re freaking me out. Are you high?” Joe asked.

“How dare you! I’m a mother,” she replied, sliding back into her usual domineering attitude. “Bring your suit. This is a formal affair. Love you. Bye.”

Before he could mockingly complain, she hung up on him. He’d confirm his ticket for the fundraiser with her again next week.

Agent Tim Orr entered their workroom. The weightlifting hulk with massive arms sat across from him. “What did you think about that anonymous call from Allenton?” Tim asked.

“Since my sister’s married to the police chief, I think I’ll go alone and talk to the woman. I’ll call if I need help,” Joe replied, uncomfortable mentioning anything about his personal life.

“Not really your sister,” Tim corrected.

Joe glared making Tim flinch. “Close enough to one.” It shouldn’t surprise him that his team checked into his background. After all, he knew all of theirs.

Tim nodded. “When are you going?”

“In two weeks, the town is sponsoring a fundraiser. Since she wants this to be a clandestine meeting, she can meet me there. Call her back.” Joe paused. “Let’s go with the lyrics from “King Midas in Reverse” by the Hollies.”

Tim took the sheet of paper with the number. At least she was smart enough to use a burner phone, not her work phone or, worse, her home phone. Joe wondered what spooked her to be so secretive.

While Tim made the call, Joe struggled to keep a straight face. Tim had to explain three times that the anonymous agent wanted her to use a code word from the song to identify herself at the fundraiser.

Frowning, Tim hung up. “She’ll do it, but she wasn’t happy.”

“She should have given her name then,” Joe said, using a hardened tone that the agents knew intimately.

Joe handed Tim the three finished case files to submit to Director Bingaman’s office. Tim left and Joe made another call to Taylor, who was nine months pregnant with her second child. Joe hated not knowing the gender.

“Hey, did you have that kid yet?” He knew she hadn’t; Stuart had promised to call.

“Any day now,” she replied. “What’s new? How was your second date with Kala?”

“There won’t be a third,” Joe replied.

“So Eva told me you’re going to the fundraiser in a couple weeks,” she said.

“You already heard? Damn, Eva’s got a big mouth,” he replied. “Yeah, I have a few weeks off.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re going to show support to Matt and David. I think I’ll be a bit busy to attend.”

“Can Stuart handle this delivery without me?” he asked with a laugh.

“Good Lord! I better have this kid by then! I can’t take much more of this.” She paused. “Joey, promise me you’ll have fun while you’re there.”

“I’m taking my fishing pole,” he replied. “Keep me posted.”

“I will. Love you.”

“You, too,” he replied. He swore off other fun for six—for three months.

Joe typed BennTech Medical Research & Development into the FBI’s data base search engine. Their website popped up. Under the Distinguished Scientists page, he scanned the list of names and easily identified the anonymous caller as Dr. Madeline Pierce, the only high-ranking female scientist working at their Allenton facility.

Propping his feet on the corner of the desk again, Joe clicked on her name bringing up her bio and picture. In the professional headshot, the gorgeous woman with her hair in a tight bun smiled back at him.

In that instant, a sharp electrical charge surged through the computer mouse jolting his body. Twitching, he howled in pain. From the abrupt shift, his chair tipped over knocking him on his butt. His arm buzzed with numbness.

He blinked. “What the hell just happened?”

XXX

Joe’s Quest for Love continues in the romantic thriller, Chemical Attraction

#FreebieFriday for Chemical Attraction

My publisher at 48fourteen is running a Giveaway TODAY ONLY (6/7/19)

How Exciting!

Chemical Attraction is FREE on Amazon.

 

TODAY’s the ONLY Day!

1) Grab your FREE copy of CHEMICAL ATTRACTION!

2) Read. Enjoy. Write a Review.

Thank you.

“…the Perfect Mix of Mystery, Suspense & Romance…”

In this gripping stand-alone novel, Dr. Madeline Pierce, a dedicated scientist working in nanotechnology, has pain in her heart from an abusive relationship. She hides in her research. His charisma masking his loneliness, FBI Agent Joe Roberts searches for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults not in spite of them.

When Madeline discovers discrepancies at her medical research facility, the FBI sends Joe as a courtesy.  Joe and Madeline soon realize they have bigger issues to deal with other than their Chemical Attraction.

In the nearby farming town, animals violently attack the residents. Someone is experimenting outside the laboratory. Are human test subjects next? With the help of Joe’s sister Eva, a physician assistant at the local hospital, and her husband Chief Matt Connor, Joe and Madeline hunt for this new bio-weapon before the death toll rises.

 

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” ~ Katharine Hepburn

 

Seniors in college, Joe and Eva debate Taylor’s interest in the visiting professor of their weekend seminar in this excerpt from Their Rigid Rules.  Is Joe right?  Or is he just mad Taylor’s drawn to someone else?

***

Sitting on her bed in their dorm room, Taylor bit her thumbnail again. Joe quickened his pace between her and Eva’s beds and mumbled about not protecting her enough. For some reason, Eva smiled and watched him. He didn’t say anything for a while.

“Joey, are you mad at me?” Taylor asked, pulling her pillow onto her lap.

“Yeah, I’m pissed. This is some mess you’ve gotten yourself into,” he replied.

“Me? What did I do?”

“You’re flirting with your professor at the bar and at class. What’s the matter with you?”

With her mouth open, she stared at him then looked at Eva. She didn’t think she flirted although she considered trying. Feeling the tears in her eyes, she buried her face in her pillow.

“What’s wrong with flirting?” Eva asked him. “You can’t go an hour without hitting on a woman. Fess up. You’re really pissed that Taylor’s interested in a guy.”

Taylor looked up as Joe glared. “He’s her professor! It’s wrong,” he replied, scratching the back of his neck.

“Who do you think you are? The sex police?” Eva asked, leaning back.

Taylor’s eyes widened. “Sex! Jeez, we watched a couple of football games. That’s it.”

Joe turned on her. “That is not it. Reese Forester is not a student. He’s a private investigator.”

With her mouth open, Taylor stared in shock.

“Working for whom?” Eva asked.

“I have no frickin’ idea,” he replied, falling into her desk chair.

Taylor’s head spun. How much more confusing could this get? “Can we just call Dr. Morgan?” she asked, handing him the business card.

Joe glared at the card then at her. “No, you’re not calling him. We don’t know who hired Forester. He’s obviously checking into you.”

“What should I do?” Taylor asked, hugging the pillow tighter.

“Until I get those answers, stay away from Morgan,” he replied.

Eva jumped from the bed and stood level with Joe in the chair. “Wait a minute. Taylor hasn’t done anything wrong. They were only watching the game when Reese grabbed her arm. I would think you’d be happy that Dr. Morgan made sure she got home safely.”

“What are Morgan and Forester up to?” he demanded.

“I don’t know, but she can’t stay away from him. We need the credits from his seminar to graduate,” Eva replied.

After Joe stormed from the room, Taylor slid sideways from a sitting position on her bed to a fetal one. She needed to stick with her life plan. Any minor deviation was obviously a mistake.

***

THEIR RIGID RULES on Amazon

 

REVIEWS

“A fantastic job of balancing all the plot points for an enjoyable story and a satisfying ending.”

“The pace is quick, filled with action…the suspense was riveting.”

“If you’re looking for a new book to keep you on the edge of your seat, this would be the one to pick up!”

BLURB

Taylor Valentine, a senior at Western Michigan University, has had her life planned out since kindergarten. After her parents died while she was still in high school, she had perfected it to make them proud. Now, with the help of her best friends, Joe and Eva, she focuses on graduation and a career—romance in the far distant future. However, when the visiting professor enters the lecture hall, her perfect plan hits a snag.

Handsome history professor and decorated Marine, Dr. Stuart Morgan keeps infatuated students at a distance using his own set of strict rules. Nonetheless, he’s drawn to Taylor’s empathetic outlook. When death threats upend his boring life, he inadvertently puts her in danger. With pressure from family and foe pulling them apart, Stuart wonders if they can sustain the stress.

My Podcast Adventure with @AuthorCKBrooke

I recently did a podcast with C.K. Brooke, a fellow 48fourteen author and gracious hostess. In my usual awkwardness with social media, I had a pit in my gut for a week leading up to this interview. This fun chat between authors made me want to barf. (FYI: I suck at small talk.) However, my New Year’s resolution was to do new things.

I’ve never used Skype so my tech savvy son and daughter gave me a tutorial—basically Look there, Click here. Great! Got it!

Luckily, my son, an avid gamer, set me up using his equipment. I wasn’t totally clueless—listen through the headphones and talk into the microphone. I’ve seen his charismatic stream on Twitch many times so I would try to channel my inner Son.

To practice, I Skyped with my daughter. Surprisingly, I had fun with her—talking like Johnny Fever spinning records in his booth. (Yeah, I know. I dated myself.)

The morning before the call, I paced. I already had a list of possible topics to keep from freezing up. My big concern now was choking, figuratively and literally, but my son pointed to the mute button for those emergencies. With two thumbs up, I took a deep breath, flashed back to Mr. Martin’s high school speech class, and then cringed.

Game time!

C.K. Brooke was an absolute delight. With my background in holistic health, I talked about my experience with Past Life Regression and how it related to my writing. She had written a series on the topic, The Past-Life Chronicles Vol. 1 and The Past-Life Chronicles Vol. 2. (I already downloaded my copies. The idea of past lives has always fascinated me.)

C.K. has a natural gift as an interviewer and she understands the nuances of promoting on social media. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from her.   She. Is. Awesome.

After the interview, I wondered why I was so nervous. Would I do this again? Sure. Would I still be nervous? Of course.

So how did I do? You be the judge.

Listen to Our Fun Chat between Authors

 

You can also subscribe to C.K. Brooke’s YouTube Channel and listen to her interviews with other authors.

 

Faith for the Lonely and Heartbroken

As part of my short story anthology, Searching for Her, I wrote “Purple Roses” for those missing loved ones during the Holidays.  It’s also for the lonely ones searching for love.

Joe Roberts and Sylvia Folkert are two of my favorite characters in The Chemical Attraction Series.  I wanted to give them a poignant scene through the remembrance of a lifetime of love and the hint of a new passion with all its possibilities.

“Purple Roses”

In her black winter boots and wool coat, Sylvia Folkert slipped on the top step of her big farmhouse-style bed and breakfast. The softball of used tissues flew out of her purse and dispersed across the wraparound porch. Her gloved hands broke her fall forward. She twisted her knee, but she thought she could walk off the ache. In her early sixties, she couldn’t afford a broken hip in this day and age.

“Thank you,” she whispered with a grateful glance toward the overcast sky.

Setting her purse inside the door, she grabbed the jug of winter salt and sprinkled it across the porch and steps, a basic melt of the snow and ice since the B & B would be empty until next week. Her hired man had done the intense shoveling of her small parking lot and sidewalks yesterday. The forecast projected only light snow tonight.

After hunting down all the tissues, she dropped the wet wad into the trash just inside the door, slipped off her outerwear, and then smoothed down the static cling of her favorite navy blue dress. This morning’s church service wasn’t as joyous as usual. The young children’s choir usually made her smile. Today, she cried. Christmas wasn’t the same without her sweet husband, Herbert, who rose to heaven three months ago.

She and Herbert had talked about funeral provisions. However, he died so quickly she never had a chance to say goodbye. Her grief had been unbearable. She and her niece, Madeline, leaned heavily on each other. While Madeline lost herself in her work, Sylvia started talking to Herbert as if he could hear her.

“Are you with me today, my Love?” she asked. “I desperately need a sign that you are.”

She paused and listened. The blue and white Christmas lights were silently coiled around the cedar and spruce boughs throughout the parlor and living room. The wood and ceramic nativities soundlessly surrounded Baby Jesus on the two corner tables. The abundance of red and white poinsettias remained quiet, too.

“Madeline and I should have gotten a tree. I’m sorry, Darling,” she said, looking at the empty space in front of the bay window. Herbert had brought home a live tree every Christmas since they bought the B & B over thirty-five years ago, replanting them throughout town in the spring.

A few blocks from Allenton’s downtown shops, the historical farmhouse had two other bedrooms and a small bathroom on the main floor next to her large country-style kitchen. Four bedrooms, her living quarters, and another communal bathroom were on the spacious second floor.

In the kitchen, she opened the cupboard under the sink for the dust rag. She needed to keep busy, and this would help work out the stiffness in her knee. She preferred to stay home today even though she and Madeline were invited to Eva and Matt Connor’s for dinner. She’d encourage her niece to go.

“You know, Herbert, my favorite chore has always been dusting,” she said to the cold emptiness.

After adjusting the thermostat, she started in the parlor by the front door. With a sad smile, she reminisced about each of her knickknacks, which held wonderful memories. She carefully dusted her homemade gold and burgundy stained glass lamp with golden tassels, the stand made from the thick banister of Herbert’s childhood home back in Alaska, Michigan, a golf course now. Herbert had made the Tiffany-style lamp the first year they were married.

“After forty-four years, it still works,” Sylvia said not at all surprised by her husband’s craftsmanship.

She moved on to her large cherry curio cabinet with a few antique vases. Herbert loved buying her flowers for milestone events in their life, some good, some bad. Every moment reminded her that they had weathered them together.

Eyes glistening, she held a tall, pale pink, crystal vase. Long ago, it was full of tulips and daffodils. The morning after the doctor told them they couldn’t have children, she found the spring flowers on the kitchen table. God’s plan was greater than theirs Herbert had said. Grateful for all they did have, they had kept their faith alive, together.

“You were a wonderful uncle,” she said, sniffling her nose. The various trinkets in her China cabinet shared more of her and Herbert’s life story.

Sylvia slowly shuffled into the living room and swiped the top of her baby grand piano, a gift from him on their tenth wedding anniversary. He had said we needed more music in our lives. In the large room, they often pushed the furniture against the wall making a small dance floor on the hardwood. For their guests, Sylvia would play and Herbert offered to teach the waltz.

Madeline had become an accomplished piano player and social dancer. They adored their niece as if their own daughter.

Sylvia chuckled. “Do you remember what you said to me the night it was delivered?” she asked the empty room. “You said that I could teach Madeline to play during the summers she stayed with us, so we could dance. You were always a schemer.”

Glancing across the room, she smiled at the nineteen collectable wall plates on the special shelves Herbert had made to hold them in place. Madeline’s mother, Allison, had sent one to her after each of her worldly adventures as an environmentalist. The collectables were nature paintings of wild animals near prairies, forests, lakes, and oceans. Allie gave her a doe and fawn at the edge of a meadow as her way of telling them she was pregnant with Madeline.

“Herbert, will you hug my baby sister?” Sylvia asked, sitting on the piano bench. She looked around hoping for a sign. Her faith wavered. Hearing the kitchen’s back door open, she wiped her eyes and checked the wall clock behind her. Eleven-thirty.

“You’re later than usual,” Sylvia said to her sweaty niece in her winter running gear.

“I know,” Madeline said, unscrewing her water bottle in the kitchen doorway. “I told myself rain or shine, but it was really hard getting out of my warm bed this morning.”

Sylvia tossed the rag back under the sink and started a pot of coffee. After Herbert died, Madeline had started running as some sort of punishment for not finding a cure for the flu. It’s not like it was her fault or her area of expertise, but she took it personally nonetheless. Lashing out, she had blamed BennTech and the CDC for not having the right strain to prevent their tragedy.

After her morning treks around the outskirts of town, Madeline would stop by each time before she headed to work. Sylvia stocked the fridge with water for her, but she couldn’t get her to stay very long.

“Are you going to Eva Connor’s for dinner?” Sylvia asked, knowing Eva’s brother, Joe Roberts, would be there.

“No, I have some paperwork to catch up on. I thought I’d come back later,” Madeline replied, leaning back on the kitchen counter. “I guess dancing’s out, but we could take turns playing the piano.”

“I’m not ready for that yet,” Sylvia said. “I’d prefer you mingle with people your own age, like Eva and her family.”

“I’d be a miserable guest.” Madeline wiped sweat and tears from her face. “My heart has shattered into a million pieces. I don’t have the energy to pick them up and happily socialize,” she said, turning away to dismiss the topic.

“That’s not a healthy attitude,” Sylvia replied, not letting her change the subject. “Your uncle wouldn’t want you to hide in your research.”

Madeline tossed her empty water bottle in the recycling bin. “So many people died and left behind family. I want to do my part. My ultimate goal is to save everyone with a neurological disease.” She kissed her aunt’s cheek. “I’ll stay over tonight, and we’ll play a board game or cards or something.”

Madeline left and Sylvia sighed. “So close to meeting Eva’s brother and yet so far away.”

She and Eva had conspired for a few years to put Joe and Madeline in the same room at the same time to no avail. Sylvia had thought for sure it was a match. Herbert had thought so, too. Actually, he was the one to suggest it. For an hour, Sylvia hobbled around the farmhouse looking for some kind of sign from Herbert. Not a one.

As she put creamer in her mug, someone knocked on the front door. Curious, she walked toward it. “Now, who could that be? Mary and Joseph looking for an inn? That was last night,” she said, amused with herself.

Opening the door, she grinned at her guest. Part of that couple stood on her porch, figuratively and literally. Joe Roberts held a canvas grocery bag and a bouquet of purple roses.

“Joseph, come in. Welcome,” she said, stepping back. He would always be Joseph to her now.

Inside, he stomped his boots on the door mat. “Merry Christmas.” He handed her the bag. “The care packages are from Eva, and these are from me,” he said. His hand held the square box that stabilized and protected the short, fat vase. The florist had created a tightly packed dome of a dozen, vibrant, purple roses.

“Oh my! They’re absolutely majestic.” Their lovely fragrance floated toward her. “Can you stay for coffee?”

“Sure. A break from the chaos at Eva’s would be nice,” he said, slipping off his boots.

“Wonderful.” Carrying the canvas bag, she motioned him toward the kitchen.

Joseph set the flowers on the table and slipped his coat over the back of a chair before sitting down. “I thought these were pretty, too. For some reason, they called out to me and made me think of you.”

“This is considerate of you and your sister,” she said, unloading the bag.

Sylvia put the food containers of ham, scalloped potatoes, yams, and slices of pumpkin pie in the fridge. Eva must have known Madeline wouldn’t stop by there, so she sent Joseph here. They had horrible timing.

“I wanted to check in with you since I didn’t have a chance to attend Herbert’s funeral,” he said as she poured them each a cup of coffee. He leaned over to smell the flowers then took the mug she offered. “How have you been doing?”

Sitting diagonally to him, she sipped her coffee. “Some days are better than others.”

“Yeah, the holidays can be rough,” he said. “After our best friend Taylor’s parents died, that first Christmas was brutal. All the traditions we grew up with seemed to have died, too.” With a matter-of-fact attitude, he empathized with her grief. She found it comforting.

“I miss him every day. I still expect him to walk through the front door,” she replied.

Leaning back, Joseph retrieved the box of tissues on the counter by her stack of cookbooks and set it between them. “Is all that pain worth it?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Tennyson’s quote: Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” He shifted in his chair. “Is it better?” he asked.

Pushing the tissue box aside, she reached for his hand not sure if he’d pull away. He gently lay his other over hers, warming them. His eyes seemed to search her face for the answers.

“I have a lifetime of loving memories with Herbert that I’d never give up. Your time will come,” she replied.

He sat back in his chair, letting go of her hand, shielding his vulnerability. Her niece did that often. Sylvia had tried to get her to share her feelings, too, but Madeline had only touched the surface, pushing her pain deep down inside her core.

Contemplating her answer, Joseph stared into his empty mug. “I want my life to be better, but I’m tired of searching.”

“Trust in God’s plan,” she said. She supposed she should do that, too. It was easier giving good advice than believing in it. Today, it proved extremely difficult.

He looked up and smiled. “Eva has said that to me on many occasions. Are you two hanging out together?”

She chuckled. “Maybe,” she replied.

“Well, I better get back,” he said, sliding his chair away from the table. “Thank you for the, uh, coffee.”

Glad he trusted her enough to open up albeit briefly, she joined him at the front door. After shoving his feet back into his boots, he gave her a brief hug and a peck on the cheek.

“Thank you for the roses, Joseph. Take care.”

“You, too,” he replied, before leaving.

Sylvia inhaled the scent of the roses and snatched the tiny envelope sticking out of the top. Joseph had drawn two linking hearts on the otherwise blank card. She smiled at his thoughtfulness. Taking the bouquet out of the protective box, she saw another printed card from the floral shop stuck to the side:

Purple Roses symbolize transcendental enchantment.

The giver of the purple roses seeks to express a deep magnetism and charm

enticing the recipient to fall in love at the very first meeting.

Sylvia wondered if Joseph saw this and knew about the meaning. Touching a velvety petal, she sighed. She suspected loneliness had invaded Joseph’s life as it had Madeline’s.

“Why can’t we get them together? Herbert, are you seeing this disconnection? I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do.” A dash of anger added to her mixture of sadness and heartache.

Carrying a backpack, Madeline stomped the snow off her boots as she entered through the kitchen’s back door. Spotting the purple roses, she tossed her winter coat toward the hook, missing it. She absently kicked off her boots.

“What did I miss?” Madeline asked. “Who brought you flowers?”

“A friend. Aren’t they beautiful?” Sylvia replied.

Madeline deeply inhaled their scent. “Oh my gosh, these are intoxicating.” She grabbed the card with Joe’s interlinking hearts, flipping it over. “Do I know your admirer? I’m a little jealous,” she said with a grin.

“No, you don’t know him,” she replied. She wanted to add yet, but she held her tongue.

“I think I’d like to,” Madeline whispered almost to herself as she caressed the petals.

Surprised by her comment, Sylvia watched her niece sit down and pull the roses closer. She hadn’t seen Madeline smile in a long time. Was she enchanted with Joe’s purple roses? Her niece’s mood lightened as she put her face near them to breathe in the fragrance.

Tilting her head, Madeline looked closer at the vase. “Didn’t Uncle Herbert give you a vase like this one, years ago?”

“What?” Sylvia said, seeing the cobalt blue rose bowl for the first time.

“I think this is identical to the one on the dresser in your bedroom,” Madeline said with a smile.

Gaping in disbelief, Sylvia flashed back to the night she fell in love. At the local American Legion’s Annual Spring Fling, the young man in the black suit and crooked tie had smiled at her. She had blushed bright pink when he took her hand for the first time. She and Herbert had danced the night away as if they were the only ones at the party. The next day, he had sent her the exact same vase filled with pink roses.

Reaching for a tissue, Sylvia sobbed. Her body trembled. This was the message she desperately needed. Herbert was nearby, and he would have a hand in Joe and Madeline’s eventual romance.

Thank you, my Angel. Her shaken faith now fortified.

xxx

What happens next?  Will Joe and Madeline meet?  Sylvia and Eva plot to make it so.  And, yes, sparks most certainly fly.

Continue Joe and Madeline’s romance in Chemical Attraction.

 

 

My Series in a Nutshell

Lately, I’ve dabbled in another writing medium that condenses every word and sentence to a bare minimum—screenwriting. Challenge accepted. I’m competitive with the me I once was yesterday, last week, last year.

In a Can I Do It moment, I shortened the descriptions of the books in my Series into four lines each. Why? For practice, of course. Is it poetic? I don’t know, but I like it. At the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most to a writer?

 

The Chemical Attraction Series

Taylor, Eva, and Joe

Siblings by Choice since Childhood.

Following different Paths after College.

Afraid of Drifting Apart . . .

 

Their Rigid Rules

A Professor’s Rigid Rules.

A Graduate’s Perfect Plan.

A Jealous Friend.  A Vengeful Foe.

His Seminar sparks the Blaze.

 

The Kindred Code

Icy First Impressions.

Hopeful Second Chances.

A Willful Spitfire.  A Heroic Cop.

A Boy longing for a mother.

 

Chemical Attraction

An Abused Scientist hiding from Love.

A Lonely Agent searching for it.

Surrounded by the Sinister Shadows.

A Dance and a Kiss jolt their Fate.

 

Chemical Reaction

Her Life.  Their Future.  The Nation’s Security.

All in uncertain peril.

Professional Integrity over Personal Desire?

Wounded Hearts may not recover.

 

Thanks for stopping by today.  I appreciate your support.

Want to read the full descriptions? Check out my Amazon Series Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Perfect Mix of Mystery, Suspense & Romance”

Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Scientists don’t fully understand how nano-drugs affect the body’s chemical and physiological processes.

It’s fascinating and terrifying. What if these small particles invaded our body without our knowledge? What if someone could tap into our brain to control our actions? Who would have the courage to stop it?

In this gripping stand-alone novel, Dr. Madeline Pierce, a dedicated scientist working in nanotechnology, has pain in her heart from an abusive relationship. She hides in her research. His charisma masking his loneliness, FBI Agent Joe Roberts searches for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults not in spite of them.

When Madeline discovers discrepancies at her medical research facility, the FBI sends Joe as a courtesy.  Joe and Madeline soon realize they have bigger issues to deal with other than their Chemical Attraction.

In the nearby farming town, animals violently attack the residents. Someone is experimenting outside the laboratory. Are human test subjects next? With the help of Joe’s sister Eva, a physician assistant at the local hospital, and her husband Chief Matt Connor, Joe and Madeline hunt for this new bio-weapon before the death toll rises.

Explore sinister scientific research and the intense chemistry of love and lust in the thriller, Chemical Attraction, now on SALE for $0.99

 

Reviews

“Christina manages to keep us involved in this rather intellectual venture without ever losing our interest in the romance side.”

“The medical mystery at the heart of the story is an intriguing one parlaying it out in bits and pieces, making for an exciting read. Intriguing throughout, but the action at the end had me on the edge of my seat and delivered a few surprises I hadn’t expected.”

So this happened…

I came across the Greenlight Adaption Contest—a contest adapting novels to screenplays and then into movies—and thought, “Sure, why not?” I had extra in my budget. What’s the worst that could happen? A rejection? Please. I’m a writer. It’s part of the job.

I focused on the positives. With hope and excitement, I submitted Chemical Attraction, my romantic thriller. I had no idea what the judges were looking for in their screening process. When I wrote it, I envisioned the movie in my head. Isn’t that what writers and readers do?

Well, the day came to announce the quarterfinalists. I checked my cell phone for an email. Nothing. Okay, moving on. It wasn’t until later that day that I got on my computer. There it was in my spam folder.

“Congratulations on being a quarterfinalist.”

Awesome! I wanted to post on my social media sites, but I texted my husband, our children and my sister instead. To me, this was a big deal. Validation.

Can I make it over the next hurdle? The day of the semifinalist announcement, I checked the website then the results link. What did I see? The cover art of Chemical Attraction.

What! I proudly texted my husband, children, and sister: “Guess who’s a semifinalist? Me!”

Checking out the amazing stories, covers, and authors, I knew I had stiff competition. Doubt seeped in. I’m not a runner. Can I make it over the next hurdle to become a finalist? The battle in my head volleyed between of course and of course not. Again, I withheld the news. Only one other friend knew—a fellow writer, who also steps out of her comfort zone for her passions.

Then, I watched the video announcing the finalists—a tiny taste of what Oscar and Emmy nominations felt like. Announcer James Northway called out the third finalist out of the ten: “Chemical Attraction by Christina Thompson.”

I’m in? No joke? I had to watch the clip two more times to make sure I didn’t imagine it.

Holy Moly, I’m a finalist! I would receive a crystal award no matter what happened next. Still not wanting to jinx my chances, I withheld my excitement from social media. I did send the link to my publisher at 48fourteen. Juanita Samborski’s the reason I was a finalist after all. With the release of last year’s The Kindred Code, the three other books in the Chemical Attraction Series received new covers and were put in chronological order. (I had previously referred to The Kindred Code as the sequel to the prequel…too much of a mouthful. 48fourteen agreed.)

When I asked my son where I should put my award, he mockingly knocked all of his Air Force medals and memorabilia displayed on a bookshelf onto the floor. His funny gesture made my heart soar. He understood how hard I worked as a writer. He shared my excitement.

Now another ten days of waiting…

How do I not think about the possibilities? How do I productively pass the time until the announcement? My concentration level now at a new low. I needed busy work. Our house is cleaner than it’s ever been. We also have two organized junk drawers.

Finally, Greenlight made the announcement. I didn’t win.

So what happens now? Like always, I keep preparing for the next opportunity. I keep working hard. I keep taking chances. I keep pushing through my comfort zone.

 

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Thank you for sharing my excitement. I appreciate your support.

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