He pressed his full, warm lips against mine so hard that my words of protest were stifled. And then he was swiftly gone, slipping down the dark tunnel and disappearing into the shadows.
You cannot leave, I think, my soul weeping for him. They will catch him surely, and they will know what he has done. To think the king would show any sympathy would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening.
I must stop him. The thought rings through my head more clearly than anything I’ve ever known. Whatever the cost, I must stop him.
I don’t hesitate, but rather, I plunge into the darkness after him, feeling along the walls, heading straight to the dungeons of the castle.
To the tip of the earth and the blackness of the sea, I will fight for you. I will chase you, here and now, until my legs can go no further, and I will scour the lands of my next life, until my very breath is stolen from me. You warm the air in my lungs, and you’re the thought that opens my eyes each day – to see that shining hair catching the light of the morning sun when all other hope has gone away.
His arm is heavy, resting over my ribs as light streams through the billowing, sheer curtains. The room is a blur of milky white, and I squeeze my eyes shut, tucking my nose beneath a fold of the blanket.
The slight movement makes him stir behind me, and the weight of his arm shifts lower. The warmth of his breath sinks into my hair as he dips his face into me, and his voice is rough and low when he speaks.
“What?” I ask, unable to decipher his half-awake murmuring.
I feel his hand press into my lower stomach, resting firmly though the tips of his fingers taunt me with their closeness. I press my body back against him, grateful as he slowly becomes alive, moving against me, and he gradually turns me towards him.
Dark stubble, full lips, and an expanse of neck comes into view before he grips my chin and brings my mouth to his. He groans in satisfaction as I push myself against him, need in my movements.
“Let’s stay here,” he murmurs again, more clearly this time. Then, assured by my widening, hopeful eyes, he says, “Stay here. With me.”
It was hot the day we met. You had a thin line of sweat above your brow, and I remember thinking you tasted like the ocean when we kissed.
One too many margaritas under the sun is what happened.
You were riding your board along the shallow surface of the water close to shore, and I was lounging under an umbrella because I didn’t want to risk frying in the sun. I remember seeing you fall – that’s when you caught my eye. You went crashing into the sand, rolling, and then you hopped back up with a broad smile on your face as your friends laughed and jeered.
You shook it off, sticking your surfboard nose-first into the sand at a sharp angle, then floating over to the nearest drink shack.
That’s when I got hit with the volleyball.
I cursed loudly, sitting upright and rubbing the top of the head where it’d smacked me. I remember feeling dizzy, but my greatest concern was that I’d spilt my drink all over myself. The guy who came to get his ball didn’t even apologize, and I was glaring at him as I cleaned myself up. I didn’t even see you walk over.
“Here you go,” you said, extending your arm towards me with an oversized margarita in hand.
I’d been drinking mojitos, and I was pretty sure what you were offering me would give me a brain freeze that would amplify my already aching head.
I tried to wave you off, but you sat down in the sand, drinking from one margarita while you held the other, keeping it ready for me, though you didn’t pester or insist.
I asked your name and you said Josh. Of course, it would be Josh. You were like a walking cliché – chiseled abs, golden hair, bronzed skin, and shockingly straight, pearly teeth that went well with your dimples when you smiled.
I told you my name was Amanda, but it wasn’t. You decided to call me Holly instead, and I liked that you thought I looked like a Holly. I liked that you knew by the way I said Amanda that it wasn’t my name.
I liked you.
We stayed at the beach all day, and I remember being surprised that the sky was getting darker – and even more surprised that we were surrounded by empty cups that, at one point, held a variety of margaritas. We tried every flavor.
You had talked someone into sharing some steak kabobs with us earlier, but I remember feeling hungry then. Famished, actually. You asked me if I wanted to find some cheeseburgers somewhere – that your car wasn’t far.
You were so gloriously beautiful with the wonderful topic of food leaving your lips, and I suddenly found my face very close to yours. I’m sure I’m an expert at timing, but it was nice, nonetheless, that you didn’t flinch away when I smooshed my lips against yours.
You laughed a little, telling me I was tipsy even though you hadn’t moved your lips from mine. Your lips felt rough, like you were dehydrated, and I remember thinking I wanted to lay in the sand and kiss you, so everything felt rough like that.
But then you hoisted me to my feet, helped me gather my things, and lugged our stuff to your car. Your friends were leaving too, and you called to them to grab your board, eliciting more jeers when they saw you were with a girl.
You asked me if I had a phone – whether I wanted to call someone – and I sent a text to my roommate. You opened the passenger door for me, and I slinked towards the seat, but I was worried about the sand.
You came up behind me then, subtle and sweet, and you curled an arm around my waist. “It’s okay,” you murmured into my ear. “I’ll clean it later.” You tossed a towel across the seat anyways to make me feel better, and I turned and kissed you again.
This time you let me. Your breath was like warm strawberries as your lips parted, and you leaned me back against the car. I couldn’t get enough of you, and it was dark enough that no one noticed us. I bit your lip and pressed myself into you, letting your hands roam over me, squeezing gently. I knotted my hands into your hair, and when you cupped my ass and lifted, I gasped, my eyes popping open in surprise.
You grinned at me then, pulling back and shaking your head. “Food,” you reminded me. “And then I have to take you home, please.”
I knew you meant alone. That you wouldn’t be joining me in my bed, even though I could tell you weren’t quite ready to be done with me. But that’s what we did. You bought me a cheeseburger and drove me home, helped me carry my things to the door, and asked me to meet you at noon the next day.
And it was just my luck that something came up, and I never saw you again. I didn’t make it to the beach the following day, but I went every day for a month after that, hoping I’d see you. And I was disappointed every time.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I looked up from an appetizer at dinner three months later, and I see you making your way through the front door of a restaurant, especially since we’re two towns away from where we’d met. And you can understand the absolute panic I felt when I saw the girl next to you, recognized her as the best friend of my date, and realized we were about to be on a double date.
But based on your expression, you’re not panicked at all. No, you seem devilishly pleased that things turned out this way, and your attention seems to be pinned to me as you find your seat across the table.
Misty wisps of clouds and a world of stars stretched above them. Ana rolled onto her side, studying Rhen as he stretched long on his back.
He was different here, away from the city and the busyness of daily life. The anxious energy had left him, and he seemed utterly still. It was a calmness that consumed, effecting everything around him. Even her. She had thought their meager friendship had been irreparable, but now she wasn’t so sure.
A tiny grip inside her, the tightening of her core when he glanced at her and lifted a brow, made her consider that they could be more. Maybe their incessant bickering was because they weren’t supposed to be friends at all, but something far more important. After all, the reason she pestered him so much about taking breaks from work was because she cared. Maybe the reason he teased her relentlessly about Jon was because he knew she deserved more – someone present.
“It’s rude to stare,” he murmurs quietly, but he turns his face towards her, pinning her with his gaze.
Ana turned away, rolling swiftly onto her back and twisting her fingers together in front of her stomach. “I was just thinking,” she muttered, though what she was thinking wasn’t something she cared to share at all. “The stars are brighter out here,” she rambled, trying to stifle the flutter in her belly. “There’s so many of them. I’ve never seen the sky like this.”
Rhen pushes onto his elbow, turning towards her, and he rests his cheek on his hand. “There’s starlight in your eyes.”
Ana dragged her gaze to him, the breath freezing in her chest.
His eyes searched hers, uncertain, but when she didn’t flinch away from his scrutiny, he rolled towards her, stretching an arm across her.
She suddenly couldn’t keep her hands to herself, and she wrapped her fingers through the hair at the back of his neck as he brought his face to hers. Their lips met without timidity, like they had done this a thousand times before, and she felt herself becoming alive beneath his touch as his large hand cupped her waist.
Everything about him felt so big all of the sudden. His hands, his shoulders, his leg as his knee came between her thighs, so he could settle himself over her. Or maybe she just felt small – fragile like the situation they had just thrust themselves into.
Her hands clawed at his back and shoulders greedily as his heavy weight eased on top of her, his forearms pressed into the blankets on either side of her head. She could feel herself shifting beneath him, her body quickly slipping out of her tightly reined control, and she wondered, would it always be like this now, or would it end when they went back to the city?
She knew it before she’d even walked out onto the pier. She could feel it.
But he had promised. No matter how much he hated this little town, no matter how stuck he felt – she didn’t think he would actually leave her. Not again.
She let her feet carry her cross the planks of wood, but her vision glazed. She hardly let herself see the people scattered about – some fishing, a couple linked arm-in-arm as they grinned at each other, a mother giving her child cotton candy from the busy vendor. None of them seemed important. None of them wore his smiling face.
She let herself drift to the very end, and she sat down, letting her feet dangle high above the water. She had been so sure he would stay. Now, she just felt stupid.
Humbled again, it would seem. She would be stuck in this sorry little town forever. Without him. Again.
She waited until the sun started to go down, sitting at the edge of the pier for almost half an hour. Then, when there was little left to do, she pushed herself to her feet and made her way back towards the parking lot.
She was lost in the flow of people, nearly to the start of the pier, when she heard a familiar car lock beeping. Her head jerked up in alarm, her eyes widening in disbelief.
And there he was. Running towards her and shaking his head, his arms half-lifted in a shrug of apology.
She didn’t even hesitate to run to him, and a grin stretched across his face just before he wrapped his arms around her, picking her up and spinning around.
“I couldn’t go,” he says, the words muffled by her hair. “I couldn’t leave this stupid town after all.” He laughed, and when he looked down at her, his eyes were bright, without any sign of doubt.
“You’re staying?” she asked, still disbelieving. “You know all the reasons I can’t leave.”
His eyes softened, and he slipped a hand into her hair, lifting her face to his. “Then we’ll be stuck together,” he says, and he brought his lips to hers, tasting of sun and love and kept promises.
He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. We locked eyes in passing, and even the rising sun seemed like a dull warmth compared to the heat of his gaze. He’d been there all night, lost in the mass of others along the beach who’d stayed to enjoy the bonfire, and it wasn’t until it was time to leave that I’d stumbled across him. It didn’t seem fair.
Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I let my eyes drift to the car park over a hundred yards away. I catch sight of him just as he pulls himself into his light blue jeep, and he turns in my direction.
I look away quickly, but it’s too late. He’s caught me staring. I’m about to plop down in the sand instead of continuing the trek to my own car, but I hear the sound of his engine starting, and I’m relieved the lingering embarrassment will be gone soon. I wait for the sound of his car to fade away, but I’m alarmed when I realize he’s getting closer.
My head shoots up in surprise, and I see him driving across the sand. I shift nervously on my feet, but he pulls up next to me and slows to a stop.
He flashes a wide smile, cheeks dimpling. “You too tired for breakfast?” he asks, pinning me with an unwavering gaze.
“What?” I ask quietly. I’m hardly audible over the rumble of his engine.
“May I take you to breakfast?” he asks, but this time his brows pinch forward as if he’s concerned he misread the obvious signals.
Unable to find my voice, I nod, blinking in surprise.
His wide grin returns, and he reaches down, nodding towards my hefty bag. I pass it over hesitantly, knowing it’s heavy, but he takes it easily and places it in the back. He watches me as I circle around the front of his jeep in a dazed state, still unable to process that this is happening, and he reaches across to open the passenger door.
“I like pancakes,” I say as I plop into the seat.
“Perfect,” he says, laughing, and he steers us towards the road and city that awaits us.
As a writer, I feel it’s important to read constantly, but as a writer with very limited time, it’s hard to give up those precious moments of free time to reading. However, I’m making an effort this year to read more – read more popular books, read more books by friends that deserve more recognition, read outside my typical genres, and read books set in other countries that celebrate other cultures and show parts of the world that I’ve never experienced.
My reading goal is pretty hefty (at least for me) at a book per week. I know some of you surpass this number easily, but as a single mom trying to pursue a career in writing, that’s a pretty big number! We’ll see what happens, but I know I can do it with the right focus.
Whatever your goals are, I hope wonderful books find their way into your lives. Happy Wednesday and happy reading!
If you’re looking to heat up your winter with an adult (18+) romance, check out my series, The Pell Playhouse, available in paperback and FREE with Kindle Unlimited.
Is it determined by time? Is it determined by word count? Are you trying to do a little more than yesterday – or more than last week? Are you keeping track of a larger goal to reach by a later point?
No matter how you break down your goals, it’s good to have a predetermined point to reach to tell yourself, “I did it!” Goal setting can become daunting – especially during the first few weeks of the year – but when you set small, attainable goals, it can be such a rewarding feeling to meet them.
What do I do?
What do I do? I use my Sundays to set a weekly goal (usually my weekly goals are pretty consistent because I break down my year goal into months, then weeks), and then I adjust my goal for the day each morning to make that weekly goal attainable by the end of the week. I also try to reach that weekly goal ahead of time, so I’ll have less work at the end of the week when I want to relax.
At least, that’s what I usually do. If I’m completely honest, the beginning of this year has been a whirlwind so far, and some nights feel like I’m working backwards with how sluggish my brain has felt. This week, I felt like I finally had a break through and have gotten back into my regular flow of writing. Hurray!
So, what was different?
I usually determine my writing goals by setting a specific word count, or if I’m editing, I’ll set a number of pages, chapters, or sections.
This week, I told myself I was going to work on things for at least an hour each night. Having a stopping point that was determined differently from my usual stopping place was so refreshing, and it had taken so much stress off my mind that I could actually write! Such a great feeling!
What should you do to get out of a slump?
Try changing how you set your goals!
If you usually write for a certain amount of time, choose a certain amount of words instead – or vice versa. It’s surprising how much it can free up your mind. You might be shocked by exactly how much stress you’ve put on yourself without even realizing it, and you can always switch back to your old goal setting ways when you’re needing to switch it up again.
Thanks so much for reading, and I’m wishing the best for you on your writing journeys! Don’t forget to love your writing as you work – it’ll shine through in the finished product!
If you’re looking for a hot, steamy romance series (adults, 18+), check out The Pell Playhouse series, on Amazon – FREE with Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback. I’m currently working on book three every day, and it’s getting closer and closer to being complete!
Hope you’re reading some good books and having a happy 2022!