To keep this space from getting too clogged, I’ll only include the two or three most recent stories. For example, the two books that are due to come out this year and the most recent one from last year. If you’re interested in previous books, I recommend downloading a sample.
Seeking: Maiden Queen Excerpt
Hanging onto a galloping horse while limited by the confines of a full gown proved challenging. Attempting to do so while bound hand and foot was harder still. Especially in light of her poor horsewoman skills.
Stefana, Princess of Montequirst, had never established herself in this realm. Much to her own chagrin and that of her family, all of whom were superior horse people, she had failed to shine on horseback.
Her heart gyrated with each pounding hoofbeat of the stallion carrying her far away from her own country. Sweat pooled at the base of her spine. And if honest, everywhere.
The nervous, sticky variety that now coated her body in an unbecoming way.
Her new bodyguard had been appointed to her because the new queen and king suspected Stefana was in danger. Her bodyguard’s duty was to prevent this sort of thing from happening. His sole purpose—to keep her safe.
Yet here she was, trying desperately to be left behind, but her captors had bound her to the saddle. Of course they had.
She couldn’t even scream, since they had also gagged her. Bound on her side, on a galloping horse, wasn’t how she had envisioned spending the rest of this evening. Stefana had never heard of anyone dumping someone on a horse on their side, and she concurred. It was a terrible idea…
The only glimmer of hope in this unfortunate situation was that her absence during the evening’s mandatory ball, given by the parents of a friend whose wedding loomed, would rouse people’s attention. The bride intended on soon marrying the man of Stefana’s dreams. No one other than her best friend Raene was aware of Stefana’s feelings toward the intended groom, including the groom.
In hindsight, Stefana probably shouldn’t have stalled in getting dressed this evening.
Being carried off by someone she had yet to identify did not rank as better than presenting a false smile at tonight’s ball. She entertained a few suspicions as to her captor’s identity, but these did not ease her discomfort or anxiety.
The horses were of the capable variety. Someone had evidently planned out her abduction to maximum efficiency. The horse she “rode” appeared to know the way back to the stable and intended to reach it as soon as possible.
Another unexpected jolt jarred her entire left side.
The smelly blindfold twisted and now dug into her left eye. The tossing to and fro from the cantering animal, paired with her inability to see and speak, caused enough horrors. Being tossed hither and thither made her grit her teeth as an acute case of nausea made itself known. Stefana counted herself lucky that she had not eaten this eve.
Otherwise, her stomach abruptly dispelling its contents likely would have killed her. Provided the ride itself didn’t. Her left shoulder jammed continuously into the not-made-for-laying-on-one’s-side saddle horn. The bruising along her left hip would be colorful, and she prayed it soon turned numb, as her hands had long since done.
Not to mention her feet, as her ankles were also bound, and attached to her bound wrists. At least one bloody gash oozed on her upper chest where a tree branch had scraped her. Her voluminous skirts provided no cushioning because her captors had left them hanging any which way, so she also periodically endured blasts of cold air.
After long hours of the teeth-rattling gait, the scent of decay and neglect grew stronger the longer they hurtled from Montequirst. It slapped her gag reflex. Clearly not the fresh, clean air she was used to at home.
So they must have passed into unknown territory.
The horse beneath her had to be well trained and used to long travel, because his pace didn’t abate. From the way he ran, it seemed he understood the need to pace himself, because the stallion’s gait remained steady and sure.
With this realization, her stomach muscles cramped. Or the stomach squelches might have to do with her awkward position. At least they could have sat her astride. Despite the court dress she still wore.
They had not bothered to wrap a cloak around her, and as the nervous sweat cooled, shivers chattered her teeth. All too soon though, the blasts of cold air grew increasingly furious. She thankfully had lost feeling in her limbs, and especially her left side, where the saddle horn seemed intent on piercing her.
What were the stages of hypothermia again?
Stefana winced as the horse carrying her tripped. It jammed her already sore shoulder and hip against the rounded part of the saddle. And probably increased the size of her bruise. Since she had passed the point of feeling, it merely made her clench her teeth, but didn’t hurt too much. She’d rue the pain later.
Stefana longed to cry out at the indecency of her situation.
While she hadn’t been the acting princess very long, she already hated the position. Not the work, but the politics.
She had willingly taken on the princess undertakings at the behest of her best friend and the new queen, Raene of Montequirst, once her best friend’s mother abruptly took ill and died. Stefana had spent enough time with Raene and their late queen to accomplish all necessary monarch responsibilities.
This is why she had recently become the acting princess. With only Raene left of her line, and her mother’s abrupt death, someone had needed to step into Raene’s former role. Stefana had been only too happy to assist.
Now she seriously considered resigning.
This is why Vidar and Raene insisted she be plagued with a bodyguard, but he hadn’t done her an ounce of good in this instance.
Her rooms should have been secure. The powerful safeguards in place should have ensured this, so that led her to believe someone had given safe passage to her abductors. The very thought of a traitor in their midst made her stomach muscles seize.
If she ever got out of this situation, she might fire her Aasguard warrior bodyguard. Only this wasn’t his fault, and she knew it, deep down. He had taken drastic measures to secure her bedchamber and suite of rooms immediately upon accepting this post.
How had someone circumvented those safeguards? Lajos’ measures should have hindered anyone not permitted within her private domain. The unsavory men waiting for her, in her own bedchamber, ranked among that number.
Another jolt to her hip created a wave of pain so intense it blinded her. Nausea roiled in response to the agony in her hip. Squeezing her eyes shut, she rode out the pain, stifling the urge to vomit, because that was unladylike, but also because the gag would make it quite impossible, if not lethal.
She swallowed, but stomach acid clawed up her throat. A terrible sound emerged from her traitorous throat as more of the bile surged upward. Shuddering, Stefana fought harder, but still she retched.
Someone yelled and the gag was yanked from her mouth as she vomited. Spasms racked her as she struggled not to sob. More pain ratcheted from her entire trembling body, and that shouldn’t be.
The agony became so intense she finally welcomed the blackness that claimed her.
Baking with Nerds excerpt
Book 13 – The Morrison Family Series
Baking with Nerds is Ainsley Morrison and that cranky former Marine, Brett Bentwater’s book. Brett is honorably discharged from the military—a fate worse than death—due to a PTSD diagnosis. He’s returned to civilian life with some major baggage. Meanwhile Ainsley, with the aid of her cousin, is suddenly thrust into opening a much needed coffeehouse in town. With his baggage and her new business they don’t have time to fall in love. Or do they?
Baking with Nerds
Well, this isn’t going well.
Ainsley Morrison pursed her lips. She no basis for dealing with her current situation.
Brett Bentwater, the former Marine who had moved into Sara Newton’s apartment, Ainsley’s best friend, was nothing like sweet, personable Sara. This imposing, scowling man couldn’t be further from the petite blonde who Ainsley missed so much there weren’t words.
Ainsley’s brother, Clay Morrison, had coaxed her into introducing herself to the man.
She had been willing to be friendly.
Morrisons did friendly.
The nearly snarling man in front of her didn’t appear to appreciate this fact.
He also didn’t seem impressed with the brownies she’d made for him as a house warming gift. The ones she’d labored over for days. After a few experiments, this recipe was perfect.
Even she, her worst critic, hadn’t had a bad thing to say about the resulting product.
Most people lit up at the appearance of a homemade baked good. Not Brett Bentwater.
“Thanks.” His rusty voice sounded as though it hadn’t been used in a while. He cleared his throat and indicated the disposable container she used to bake the brownies.
“You’re welcome. Hope you enjoy them.” Although she had to admit to some dubiousness of this man enjoying anything. “Welcome to Hershey.”
He nodded, his lips thin, nostrils close to flaring. As though the very sight of her made him long to trample her into the nondescript carpet lining the hallway.
She rubbed her moist palm as unobtrusively as possible across the fall-appropriate material of her long skirt. Then fiddled with the hem of her sweater. “Okay… well.”
The ding of the elevator made her jump. A woman exited the car and paused outside a door near the stairs. It didn’t take her long to unlock the barrier, and she soon disappeared inside.
The elevator signal had never startled Ainsley before. So what was the big deal? She breathed deeply until her heartbeat settled.
Brett’s unblinking eyes narrowed on her. He didn’t say anything. His cold perusal didn’t give her a case of the heebie-jeebies. It should give her the creeps. The reason why his coldness didn’t freak her out finally popped into her head.
“You remind me a lot of my brother when he first retired from the service.”
“Your brother was in the service?” His hand tightened on the disposable container. It creaked in protest.
“He was an Army Ranger.”
This appeared to impress him. For a nanosecond. “Knew some Rangers.” He must not subscribe to the Marine-Army Ranger rivalry.
Brett’s baritone voice sent a shivery sensation down her spine. The consequence wasn’t uncomfortable, not entirely. Ainsley still didn’t care to repeat the experience. She rubbed the back of her neck, before offering a fleeting smile.
“Why did you come?” He didn’t bother to hide his suspicion. At least it didn’t sound as though he made an effort.
Her spine went rigid. “Because my cousin’s husband, Mitch Monahan, a former Marine, and my Army Ranger brother, insisted.”
If she spat what she was really thinking, she’d disappoint her grandfather. Disappointing Granddad wasn’t her favorite thing to do. It ranked near the bottom of her least Favorite Things To Do list. And yes, she did keep such a list. In a mental file in her brain, but this list did exist. Ainsley preferred organization over chaos.
“I’ve met Mitch once or twice.”
Ainsley eyed the man looming in the doorway of Sara’s old apartment. “He’s married to one of my cousins.”
His shrug couldn’t have been more casual. “Thank you.” He waved the brownie pan, stepped back into the apartment, and shut the door.
She gaped at the closed door, before remembering there was a peep hole. Stepping away from the door, Ainsley grappled with the entire interaction.
Had she been rude? Had she said something inappropriate?
Maybe she’d been too chirpy. Her heart dropped. That possibility remained all too realistic. Sara, once when Ainsley had pressed, admitted that Ainsley tended toward chirpy. Her best friend had hastened to reassure that she liked chirpy. Some people, on the other hand, hated chirpy people.
Brett Bentwater, surly former Marine, must fall within that category. The man could scare off a grizzly with porcupine quills in his bottom. Not that she in any way resembled a grizzly bear. From what she understood, they didn’t chirp.
It was too bad he didn’t like happy people.
Being a Morrison, she was well loved, and she possessed the usual blue-green eyes most of the family sported. Also, as a Morrison, at least her branch of the family, she tended toward the tall end of things. She was statuesque, as her mother preferred to call it, and carried ten extra pounds, probably due to her profession as a chef and pastry artist, with light brown hair and her Morrison family eyes. Nothing special.
Of course, a man who bordered on handsome wouldn’t notice her. Of a size with Mitch and Clay, Brett could also hold his own with those gray eyes and black hair. She happened to like a little beard stubble and flat stomachs. But she drew the line at cranky.
No one wanted to live with a cranky pants.
Brushing off her hands, both physically and philosophically, she had done what was asked of her. Never again did she have to deal with Brett Bentwater.
The Nerd Who Spied Me excerpt
Book 12 – The Morrison Family series
Cian Hunter is tasked with the impossible: find Verity Wellington and bring her home safely. His survival is not guaranteed.
Everyone in their business knows Verity is perfectly capable of getting herself home, since she’s the gut-them-first-and-ask-questions-later type of operative. She also has the advantage of knowing where she is, which would be helpful.
He accepts the assignment, aware two operatives are better than one when dealing with the nebulous factions who lurk in the shadows. Plus, the chance to get close to Verity to see if his attraction to her is more than a fleeting interest is too good to pass up. Provided she doesn’t gut him first.
Cian is confident in his secret operative abilities, despite wishing to leave them behind. However, his relationship goals leave something to be desired. If he can figure those out… he might stand a chance of getting them both home alive.
The Nerd Who Spied Me
If his skills hadn’t kicked in, he’d probably be dead right now.
The brush of hair on fabric gave his attacker away. Cian Hunter twisted at the same time as he grappled with the hand wielding the gleaming knife aimed at his throat. He spun, then clapped the assailant against him, so his lips nearly brushed her delicate ear.
Her clean, feminine scent enveloped them, clouding his senses.
“Did you miss me?”
“I thought you were dead.” Verity Wellington’s voice didn’t carry any further than his in her hotel room.
“Patrick Mallory is dead, not me.” Patrick Mallory being his alias from what felt like another life.
She sniffed. “Ah, but the great Cian Hunter lives another day.”
Despite his years of service and experience, it took her two-point-four seconds to break his hold. She rotated in a cat-like gesture to face him.
Seeing her in person kicked him in the stomach. Just like old times. Although those instances had been far too few and too long in between. And had equated to little more than mere acquaintances meeting at random times.
“Still as beautiful and enticing as ever,” he drawled.
Her sneer did not detract from her loveliness in any way. “What do you want?”
When her frown grew hot enough to scorch the paint, he relented. Since he didn’t relish the idea of being gutted. Now, or later, in his sleep.
“Your brother sent me.”
“He’s sending dead men on missions now?” One perfect eyebrow arched and his stomach might have somersaulted. He didn’t dig into the nuances.
“My Patrick Mallory alias is dead, but I don’t mind being sent out as myself.”
Her perfect chin rose as her eyes clouded. “I report to Vlad, isn’t this a conflict of interest?” Her voice was smooth chocolate interlaced with rich caramel, yet also held husky notes for texture. It blended perfectly with her platinum blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and that innate feline quality within. A femme fatale in the flesh.
He had heard this very quality and her breathtaking good looks were the banes of her existence. While he hadn’t understood it then, he thought maybe he did now.
Her eyes narrowed, assessing his story and him.
What she felt did not show on her face. She didn’t hug him like he’d hoped. Actually, he had hoped not to be disemboweled, if truth be told.
Still, she could have thrown him a bone and said hello.
“Maybe. But your brother and prince wouldn’t be too happy with you if you gut me.” He didn’t bother to hide his smirk, because this was fun. If dangerous. Still, it was better to forestall her natural instinct to take him out. It might keep him alive another day. Or two.
Her snarl contained everything he had hoped for.
“My brother personally sent you?” Suspicion laced her question.
“General Vladimir Wolfgang Wellington, Commander of the Rurikstan Military himself.” He didn’t rock back on his heels because that kind of ridiculousness got a person killed. Still, he now understood the appeal.
“I know my brother’s name and title.” Verity’s pouty upper lip curled. If people had fangs, one of hers would have showed. “What does he want?”
“Your general tasked me with escorting you back to Rurikstan.”
“What? Since when does he send an American who works for their government after a Rurikstani citizen?” Her voice didn’t raise, but he did check that the paint on the hotel room wall remained intact.
How to say this delicately? “There have been some danger signs.”
“There are always danger signs.”
“True.” He had to acknowledge her scoff. “However, there has been some extra suspicious activity.”
As he hoped, this tidbit snagged her attention. She padded to a chair, the one placed so her back faced the wall, and where she could see all the entrances and exits of the room.
He hauled another chair beside hers for the same reason. Then dropped into it, his eyes busy, because otherwise, death came impolitely knocking. Or pounding. Or sometimes shooting in a fountain of bullets.
“What activity?” She gnawed the inside of her cheek. “If it’s got Vlad worried . . .”
“He’s concerned enough he sent me to make certain you return to Rurikstan in one piece.”
“What about you returning in one piece?” A smug little air swirled around her.
This woman is so after my heart. “I’m supposed to do my best.” He lifted an eyebrow.
“Right. He can’t guarantee your safety.” Her smirk should have been cute, but in the same vein as the rest of her, it veered into downright sexy instead.
“Safety guarantees are nonexistent. Everyone knows this.” He could state this with absolute confidence to Verity Wellington. And her older brother Vlad. As well as a few other associates. They understood.
“Correct. So why does Vlad believe you’re the man for escort detail?”
He hoped an innuendo hovered in there, but based on his knowledge of Verity, he expected to be disappointed. She didn’t wink at him, lick her lips, or send him a sly look from the corner of her eye.
This woman stared at you straight on and wouldn’t blink at slashing through your guts while discussing the weather.
Again—a woman after his own heart.
“I’m available. And I’m not afraid of you.” He winked at her. “Much.”
“Ah, availability.” She swept him up and down. “I could have sworn I heard you met a bomb who won.”
“Patrick Mallory met that bomb. Cian Hunter dragged his sorry carcass to safety and his team found him.”
Her forehead pleated. “What kind of bomb nearly killed you?”
“One that blew up before it was supposed to.”
“Ah. Michael Lamont kicked it the same way.” Michael Lamont had been Greg Gilmore’s favorite alias as a secret operative.
“You’re better with bombs than he was.”
“Yeah. Not sure what happened.” He winced. Memories from that night remained fuzzy at best.
She studied him as though she found him a very interesting specimen under a microscope. Not that Verity resembled a scientist in any way.
Especially not with her restless eyes and deadly skill set.
If he had to choose someone to watch his back, and he had several colleagues he trusted, this woman ranked near the pinnacle. That is if she ever decided to trust him.
I need to work on this.
“So these rumors and warning signs?”
“Yeah, about those. You remember Clay Morrison?”
“The Army Ranger?”
“He’s a retired Army Ranger.” Cian appreciated her wince. “Yeah, he’s not happy about it, but he escorted his girlfriend to Rurikstan because there were some bad guys after her. Actually not her, but her namesake, who happens to be a bioweapons engineer.”
“Exactly. This ditzy genius didn’t have any idea about all the bad guys who are interested in what she knows.”
Gaping should not be so gorgeous on anyone. Yet she even did that in a breathtaking manner. He should know, since he had to breathe through his mouth to obtain enough oxygen to live another minute.
“She didn’t realize bad guys like people who know the ins and outs of bioweaponry?”
“Not a clue.”
The noise she made was funny. At least to him. “At any rate, these guys were interested in Clay’s girlfriend because she has the same name. The girlfriend had a couple of stalkers. The one is dead, I think. But the other party keeps leading us to dead ends.”
Verity sat up straighter as her eyes narrowed. “So terrorists.”
“That’s what the bigwigs are concluding.”
“Hence, you got sent to babysit me.” She didn’t pout or protest, but did look resigned.
“I don’t know any woman less likely to need babysitting.” He sent her a censorious look.
“Would my brother send me to escort you to your home country if something nasty lurked in the shadows?”
“No.” He didn’t even think about his answer.
Her spine stiffened. “Exactly.”
“Because I’m a man,” he agreed. Although it pained him to do so. But the problem wasn’t with her skill set, which rivaled his own, and her brother’s. Her uterus-bearing status caused this furor.
Not because she couldn’t get herself safely home. Especially if she called her prince and demanded his private jet, which she had done in the past. Prince Aleksi usually sent a plane for her, no questions asked. And not only because they were cousins.
“As a female, you’re in much higher demand to terrorists. Especially based on your personal assets.”
“Meaning if any of these slimeballs can force me to be his wife . . .”
“He’s got more bargaining power than any other faction in the world.”
Her gusty sigh revealed definite notes of annoyance.
“Hey, look at it this way, they’d just kill me.”
“Right. The idea of being forced to marry someone you loathe is so much better than outright death.”
“Oh please.” He rolled his eyes. “If you didn’t manage to kill your new husband before the marriage was ever consummated, your brother would personally gut him and force him to eat his own entrails.”
“I’d enjoy making the pervert do that.” She nibbled her bottom lip in such a way his thoughts scattered. It took long moments before he steered them back onto the conversational track.
“Right. I forgot how blood thirsty you Wellingtons are.” He appreciated being among his own kind again.
“You and Greg always did fit in well.” She sent him a little smile and the gesture lit him up far more than it should have.
He dialed down his reaction and reset his breathing. And yanked on years of experience and sheer willpower to force the issue.
“Anyway, we know there is someone, probably terrorists, out there, who have some of our people in their sights.”
“Right. I’ve heard rumors, but nothing else.” She kept watch on a shadow in the corner.
“Ah, so you were expecting me.”
She didn’t shrug, but he caught the impression of one. “I knew my brother would send a minion. That’s why I didn’t put much effort into slicing your head off.”
He grinned. “You should be thankful he sent me. What if he sent Decker?”
“See, I’d rather Decker than most.”
“Did you date Decker?”
“Not that I’m aware.” She pursed her lips. “We were assigned a mission together and posed as a couple then. But he’s enthralled with his wife.”
“Decker got married?” He blinked.
“About four months ago. He’s so happy he bursts into song randomly.”
“He’s retired then?”
“Yeah. Had to take a desk job. Blew out his knee.”
“Was that on the mission with you?” Why had he not heard any of this?
“No, the one directly after.”
Ah, that’s probably why he hadn’t heard.
Not that he was stalking Verity. He just kept an eye on her. On a regular basis.
Yeah, time to change the subject in his head.
“Glad life is working out for them.”
“He seems happy and so does his wife.”
He grunted. “Does she work in the business?”
“Do you remember Salma Rodriguez?”
The image of a dark haired, dark eyed woman, with plenty of curves to even out the underlying muscle, all wrapped up in a sweet smile popped into his head. “Sure. Hard to miss her.”
She didn’t say anything.
“You introduced them?”
Her cheeks took on a pinkish glow.
“Verity Wellington, a matchmaker.”
Her snarl made him grin, and make a note to add extra protection around himself before he slept tonight.
“Every time I interacted with them, I kept thinking they would be good together.” She sniffed, but it didn’t ring true. “So I made a point to introduce them. That’s all I did.”
“I can totally see them working.” He had to give her credit.
“They started dating soon after and got engaged six months later.”
“How long ago was that?”
“They’ve been together a little over a year. Married a few months now.”
“A fast wedding then.”
He wondered what that little note in her voice meant? Did the unshakable Verity Wellington actually have human needs and desires?
His heart skipped a beat.
I wrote Tall Golf for my final project for Creative Writing in high school. That’s when I finally found my “voice” in writing. I realized, ‘Hey, I’m not a dark, grim, tormented writer at all!’ My voice finally made itself known and for the first time ever the writing flowed and was fun! It’s actually light and fairly easy-going and writing has been much easier ever since.
I’m happy to report I got an A on this project. I’ve always loved it and am thrilled to be able to share it with you now.
By: D.R. Grady
I’m rather tall, 6’8” to be exact. So, of course, every one tends to believe I’m a basketball player. Sure, I like basketball and I’m a competent player, but my favorite sport is golf.
Pretty odd, but my dad is a great golfer, as is his father before him. So, I’m not the first of my family to be so tall and love golf. The blame can firmly be placed on one of my early ancestors. He had a putting green near his home and because it was owned by his wife’s father’s brother’s cousin’s nephew’s aunt-in-law’s, at least I think that’s how it goes; anyway he could play at his leisure. He still had basketball coaches pounding down his door, though. The funny thing is he was always at his leisure on the golf course.
My story begins on the golf course. My dad and I and Gramps were taking a round, Gramps was winning, the old fart, but Dad and I were close behind, until I hit a wild shot and sent the ball spiraling over the next two hills.
Gramps was bent over in pain (laughter), and Dad gleefully calculated the shots I’d need to get that stupid ball (if I ever found it) in the stupid hole, as I jogged away to retrieve it like a good boy. (Hardy Har Har!)
Over the hill and through the stream (Dad couldn’t possibly be counting enough par now) I tracked the dumb thing, and came upon her.
She was the tallest woman I’ve ever seen. At least 6’ and most of her looked like leg. She was golfing with a friend, who compared to us, looked about 4’0”. (I later found out she’s 5’5”.)
Our response was simultaneous.
“Do you play golf?” we said in unison, wide-eyed, and in mock astonishment, looking each other up and down.
“I hate when people ask me that,” she said fiercely.
“So do I,” I agreed.
She held out a hand and simply said, “Annie.”
“Troy.” I gladly shook her nice, warm hand.
We spoke at the same time.
“Go ahead,” I encouraged.
“Played golf long?”
“I played golf before I even knew what basketball meant.”
“Same here.” She laughed. “My mom was a basketball champion, my dad’s a doctor and he has this thing about golf. He even golfs during his lunch break.”
“Wow,” I said, “was it hard to choose?”
“Not really,” we finally found my ball, but continued talking. “I enjoy basketball, and I’m pretty good. My mom’s a good coach, but I really love golf. What about you?” she inquired.
“Long story, I’d bore you…”
“No, come on,” she coaxed.
“Okay, weeellll, my ancestors have all been pretty tall, except my grandfather, he’s only about 6’3” or so.” She sighed and I laughed but went on. “Coaches would bang down the door of my ancestors’ houses to try and get them to join the team. They were flattered at first, but after a while, well, you understand, they got sick of the game. The rebel of the family, my grandfather’s grandfather,” she rolled her eyes this time, “got into golf. He passed it down to us, so here I am, a living example, as are my dad and Gramps, who are golfing with me today.”
“Was the rebel short?”
“You really want to know?”
“Yes!” The gleam in her eyes probably matched the gleam in mine.
“He was seven feet something.”
“Yeah, it’s true.” I nodded, with the idea of further making my point.
“That’s hilarious,” she exclaimed, laughing.
“I know. Coaches were at his door by the time he reached thirteen. For a while, basketball was his life, then he discovered golf. Committed the family sin by dropping basketball for another sport.” I shook my head sadly.
“Family sin? You’re nuts.”
“Nah, you just don’t play basketball.” I sniffed, and got punched for my efforts.
“Yeah, right. I’d beat you silly,” she assured me.
“Perhaps in basketball, the bloody sport, but I’d whip your tail in golf,” I told her in my best British accent, careful not to inform her of my current score. Which was dismal at best. Right along with my British accent.
She pretended to gag, then gently whapped me with her club. Probably to get my attention.
“Hey,” I yelled, “you didn’t even tell me your last name.” She had turned and trotted toward her friend, who waited patiently down the green.
Annie turned around and grinned. “Look, Chester, we both play golf, right?” At my nod, she continued, “So we’ll probably see each other constantly. I don’t know if I can take it.”
I threw my recently retrieved ball at her, and she hit it back to me, more than competently, after scribbling her phone number on the white-pitted surface. I memorized her information then and there. I was sure I’d need it in the near future.
I turned, and after a golfer’s salute, which she returned, rejoined Dad and Gramps.
“It’s about time you showed up, boy, I’m slaughtering your dad.”
“Don’t believe him, Troy, he’s just trying to comfort himself because I’m only three par behind him…”
Math Nerds and Mechanics
By: D.R. Grady
The expensive car sputtered for a moment then abruptly died. Josh had just enough time to steer the vehicle off the road and coast to a stop at the shoulder before the engine shut off. He took a deep breath as he rested his head against the steering wheel. When he assessed the situation, he wasn’t hopeful. He was in the middle of who-knew-where after that last, obviously wrong turn, with a dead car. Without another vehicle in sight, of course.
Beside him lay field after field of varying green. Most of the crops like corn and hay he actually recognized. Not that that knowledge and the assorted other random facts rolling around in his head were going to help him with his current situation.
When he glanced around, Josh noticed he did have an audience. On the other side of the road stood a herd of black and white cows, all chewing with apparent contentment as they watched him grapple with what to do. He didn’t figure they could do much about telling him where he was. This was a shame because it was embarrassing to find himself in this predicament.
Give him a complicated calculus problem and he could solve it. Sometimes without a calculator. Give him a difficult theorem and he could explain the mechanics without having to look up the rules. He was even adept at handling unruly clients and belligerent suppliers. But please don’t give him an automobile to fix.
Out of sheer desperation he checked the gas gauge. Half-full, so forget that theory. Now what? He hopped out and popped the hood. Not that he knew anything about what was underneath, but wasn’t that what people did when they had auto problems? He figured he could look. At least it would give him something to do. Make him feel like he knew what he was doing.
What he took for the engine looked fine. He noted the windshield wiper fluid was three quarters full. Always nice to know. The radiator looked whole and a little shiny. The battery appeared fairly new, with little corrosion. Even though he recognized those things it was still probably a good idea to scratch the plan that he could figure out what was wrong by gazing under the hood. Why couldn’t automobile repair be more like rocket science? Rocket science was easy, this was… not.
He stood by the side of the road with the cows watching him with no other plans as to what to do. A rather uncomfortable feeling.
Surely he could figure out a Plan B or even Plan C. Fumbling in the console he grabbed his phone and after a quick glance at the screen, noticed the battery bar did show enough charge for a text message. Who could he contact to come and look at his vehicle? His parents were on a cruise. His sister was probably at work but Tia wouldn’t have thought to check the gas gauge like he had, so she’d be more useless than him. Bryan, his lawyer brother was at a conference in California and Nick was so busy with four kids and no help he was a barely living version of a zombie. Josh thought his mechanic might be on the same cruise as his parents.
That still left all of his Morrison cousins. Which meant he had to figure out which one to text. Lainy, Ed, and Max could easily help, after they laughed themselves sick. Hey, his Grandmom was knowledgeable about cars, he could contact her. She’d at least be nice about this.
Good, now he was getting somewhere and he quickly scrolled through his contacts before his excitement died. Grandmom was a great idea except he still had no idea where he was. The maps feature on his phone was excellent but it lost the satellite signal a few miles back because his phone was nearly dead and he forgot the car charger. That’s why he took a wrong turn in the first place. When he glanced around again, the fields hadn’t changed and the cows were still staring at him.
Josh glared at the phone, and decided he would take an auto mechanics class, because this was just plain ridiculous. As a grown man, he ought to know how to fix his own vehicle. With both mechanical and electrical engineering degrees and plenty of physics classes to his name, one would think he’d know something about the inner workings of his vehicle.
At this point, he would be thankful for anyone who had any sort of clue as to the inner workings of his car. He made a note in his phone to sign up for that auto repair class he needed to look into. Or he could talk his Grandmom or Lainy into giving him some pointers. Grown men should not stand helplessly beside their useless vehicles. His mechanic would laugh himself sick, but then he usually did when Josh showed up, so that wouldn’t be unusual. Old Jeb was probably sitting by the pool on his cruise ship, being served iced tea by some nice waitress.
With a sigh Josh looked down the road and his heart skipped a beat. Careening toward him, in a truck far older than his sporty little car, rattled a decrepit vehicle along the lonely stretch of road. As it neared, the clanking and sputtering grew louder. The driver evidently spotted him because with some protest, the truck whipped in front of him and stopped. Personally, Josh thought the backfire from the listing muffler unnecessary.
Feeling a bit skeptical, since the owner obviously didn’t maintain his own mode of transportation, Josh watched in some bemusement as a short, coverall clad figure emerged from the cab. The name stitched to the coverall read Ron. Great, he’d tower over the fellow who had been nice enough to stop and help him. Maybe he should stoop a little.
The man pushed the bill of his cap up, waved, and then shoved the front seat forward with a creak. A tool box, well-used, with ominous looking spots of… something covered the beaten surface. But when the man swung the box to the ground and opened the wide mouth, sunlight gleamed off the shiny, well cared for tools in a nearly blinding stream.
The fellow seemed to deliberate for a moment before selecting a tool Josh couldn’t name. He peered under the hood of Josh’s car and then tapped a few things with skill. When he looked up and grinned, Josh caught his breath. No wonder he towered over the fellow. His rescuer was a woman. With bright amber-green eyes and the prettiest smile he’d ever seen. The grease smear on her smooth cheek was endearing and seemed …right.
“Your alternator died. You’re going to need a new one.” She spoke with a husky, albeit feminine, cadence. His heart flopped sideways.
“And where exactly will I find another alternator? Where exactly am I, for that matter?” he asked wryly.
She laughed – it was a throaty, magical sound he wanted to hear a lot more of. “You’re between Oakdale and Franklin. I’m on my way to Oakdale now to pick up some parts. Want a ride?”
Relief and something else unfolded somewhere near his still-not-behaving heart. He smiled at her because he couldn’t help himself. Those amber-green eyes twinkled with a light he really liked. There was something about the entire woman he really liked. And it wasn’t just that throaty laugh, the red-gold ringlets escaping her cap, or her knowledge of automobiles.
“That depends. I’m Josh Morrison.” He held out his hand.
She took his hand solemnly and he appreciated the warmth of hers. The calluses he felt there intrigued him. “I’m Ronnie Lawson.”
“Nice to meet you, Ronnie.”
She murmured a like statement. He enjoyed the semi-smile that played around her lips.
“You’re going to pick up some parts in Oakdale because?”
“Because I’m the only mechanic in Franklin and the parts I need to fix Mr. Slightbow’s Chevy didn’t come in. So I’m on my way to Oakdale to pick them up myself.”
Now it was his turn to laugh. “You’re a mechanic?” He sent her truck a disbelieving look.
“I am. The best one in Franklin,” she said with a wicked grin. Two mischievous dimples peeked out of her cheeks. He was entranced. What in the world was a woman like this doing buried in some small town in the middle of fields and cows?
“Nice to be the best there is,” he answered, tongue-in-cheek.
“Yes it is. So are you interested in a lift to Oakdale to pick up your alternator?”
“Are you certain that truck will get us there?” His voice sounded dubious. Most likely because that’s how he felt. His car had to be fifteen, if not twenty, years newer than the truck she’d arrived in.
“Mr. Slightbow’s truck has never let me down.” Those dimples popped again and he was enchanted all over again. Josh hadn’t been aware of having a dimple fetish. This must be new.
Then what she said clicked in his brain and he forgot her dimples for a moment. “Ah.” Now, that explained a few things. This was a client’s vehicle.
“Yep. The best way for me to make certain I’ve fixed the right problem, and figure out if there are more, is to actually drive the vehicle.” She darted a dubious glance at the truck in question. “I’ll have to have another look. I thought I fixed the backfiring problem.” Her frown made the dimples disappear but he still caught himself staring at her.
He found he wanted to spend more time with her. “Of course.” However he could manage to fit in spending time with her, he didn’t particularly care. Josh just knew he intended to do so. “Thank you, I’d love a ride into Oakdale. I suppose I could always push if Mr. Slightbow’s truck lets us down.” For some reason, that thought didn’t bother him nearly as much as it might have before she arrived.
The cows wouldn’t mind if he and Ronnie were stranded together, and he knew he wouldn’t mind, either. Her next statement shattered that little daydream.
“It won’t,” she promised. “I’ve been working on this truck for years, since he never listens when I bug him to buy another one. It’s shot, but the truck still works. It should since I’ve practically replaced everything in it.” She shrugged. “So what brings you to town?”
“I’m an engineer and on my way to meet a client in Oakdale.” He’d just have to figure out another way to coax her into spending a little more time with him. That shouldn’t be too hard. He was supposed to be smart.
“You’re a math geek?” Her husky, delighted laugh made his heart swell. He desperately hoped she had a math geek fetish.
“Absolutely.” He sent her a return grin. “So, you, um, have a problem with having dinner with a math geek?”
“None at all.” And those amazing dimples returned.
Later that evening, after being shown to their table, Josh found he had difficulty focusing on the menu. His companion cleaned up well. Which he told her as soon as he set eyes on her and hadn’t been able to look away since.
She had blushed and preened a bit under his praise before he settled her in the car she had fixed with little effort this morning. Now her dress swirled around her legs and her high heeled shoes brought her head to his shoulder, barely. Her gorgeous red-gold hair tumbled around her shoulders and down her back. The light glinting off it reminded him of her tools in the sunlight and kept distracting him.
“How did your client visit go today?” She asked after they gave their order. He was glad for the excuse to stare. Why couldn’t he take his eyes off her?
“Fine. I’m pretty sure I fixed their problem.”
“Do you do a lot of this? Travel to fix problems?”
He took a sip of water. “Yes, it’s part of the job. Although I don’t do a lot of traveling. But troubleshooting is something I enjoy.”
Ronnie cocked her head. “Should I call you Dr. Morrison?”
Now it was his turn to blush. Something he hadn’t done in a long time. “No, my sister has a Ph.D. I just have two Master’s degrees.” He cleared his throat. “You should call me Josh.”
There was that smile again, the one that seemed to light her from inside and he basked in the glow. “I’ll be glad to call you Josh then.”
“Thank you,” he managed to utter through the lump in his throat.
“So where do you live?” He liked the sound of that slight teasing note in her voice. Like she liked him and enjoyed his company. Josh agreed – that’s how he felt about her.
“Oh, that’s not too far from here.”
“No, so long as a person knows where he’s going.” His voice was just dry enough.
She laughed, as he hoped. There was no way he’d ever get tired of that amazing laugh. “Maybe you should invest in a car charger.”
“I have, I just forgot it. I also think I’ll take an auto repair class.”
“I’m surprised you don’t know how to fix your own vehicle. I thought engineers knew a lot about mechanics.”
He surveyed her face at a leisurely pace. “Not nearly enough, Ronnie.”
The delight on her face warmed him. “Maybe I could teach you.” Her eyes sparkled.
He discarded his idea of asking his Grandmom to teach him. He decided he still definitely wanted to learn all about auto mechanics. But only this one.
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