If you missed Episode One, read it here.

If you missed Episode Two, read it here.

If you missed the Bonus Episode, read it here.

If you missed Episode Three, read it here.

If you missed Episode Four, read it here.

If you missed Episode Five, read it here.

If you missed Episode Six, read it here.


{Trigger Warning: this episode contains a description of an abusive situation, including violence. If this is a trigger for you, you might want to skip this one.}


“My God, it’s a tornado.”

The words had no sooner slipped from my lips than Wesley grabbed my arm and yanked me with him down the steps. I wasn’t sure my feet actually touched the ground; he ran so fast that the world spun around me.

Terror pounded in my veins. I knew what tornados could do. Growing up in southeast Wisconsin, I’d learned that when the dreaded siren sounded, I had to drop what I was doing and race to the basement, where we huddled until the radio assured us that it was safe to leave. We’d never been hit by a twister directly, but I’d seen the grim pictures of nearby towns that had been devastated by storms.

I was so worried about getting away from that looming funnel cloud that I didn’t even think about where Wesley was dragging me until he paused to tug open the door that led to the basement.

“Wait!” I yelled over the sound of the wind, rain, and thunder. “I don’t want to go down there.”

“Sabrina.” Wesley gripped my wrist. “We don’t have any choice. That tornado is heading this way. The basement is the only safe place.”

“But it’s horrible. There’s not even a floor. I talked with Linc about putting in a subfloor and some better walls, but he said we should focus on the main part of the house first.”

“We don’t have time to debate this. You’re coming down here with me, and that’s all there is to it.”

I opened my mouth to argue some more, and growling in frustration, Wesley bent and scooped me into his arms. Stepping down onto the top step, he slammed the door behind us and made his down into the pitch black of the basement.

It was ridiculous to be frightened, I scolded myself silently, even as I hid my face in Wesley’s shirt. It was just an old basement. But it smelled of earth and decay and mildew, and I couldn’t help feeling as though we were about to be buried alive.


“It’s not so bad, Brina girl.” Wesley’s breath was warm as he murmured against my ear. “Better than being upstairs and getting carried away to Oz.”

“Oz has its virtues,” I mumbled, keeping my eyes squeezed shut. “It’s all dirt down here. There are probably mice and rats and snakes.”

“Doubtful,” he answered, but I noticed that he didn’t exactly sound convincing.

“No, there are,” I insisted. “I remember my grammy’s basement in Ripon. There were mice.”

“Yeah, probably, but my point was that if there are snakes, there probably aren’t mice. Snakes eat mice.”

“Well, that’s just great.” I curled my fingers into Wesley’s neck. “Thanks for the biology lesson.”

“No problem.” He came to a stop, his back against the earthen wall, and then I felt him slide down until my feet hit the dirt floor.

“Hey!” I pulled in my legs and rolled up my body like a little potato bug. “Why are you sitting down on the ground where the snakes are slithering around?”

“There aren’t any snakes. And I’m sitting down because if I don’t, I might drop you.” Wesley brushed one hand down my back and then wrapped his arm securely around me, snugging me tight against him.

“Well, thanks for that.” I began to struggle against his embrace and then remembered the possibility of rodents and reptiles and stayed put. “Are you saying I’m so heavy that you had to get off your feet?”

“Not at all, babycakes. Just that I ran down here, and you’ve got a stranglehold on my neck. Safer for both of us if I’m sitting.”

“Okay.” I closed my eyes and let myself lean into Wesley. The one positive thing about this solid earthen basement was that I could barely hear the sounds of the storm anymore. Everything was muffled and softened. “Do you think it’s going to hit the house? The tornado, I mean?”

“Hard to say. Those things are so damn unpredictable. It could hit us. Or it could dance around and hit a bunch of other stuff.” He rolled his shoulder. “Impossible to know for sure.”

“Hmmmm.” I tried to focus on good stuff, to settle my mind, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d seen growing up. “Wesley, do you remember the year the twister hit Genessee?”

I couldn’t see him in the dark, but I could feel his body tighten. “Yep.”

“It was so bad. Up until then, I didn’t take the storms seriously, you know? I always dragged my feet about going to the cellar when the radio warnings sounded. It seemed ridiculous because they always missed us. But when that one hit so close . . . I saw the pictures. We were in . . . what, eighth grade? Seventh?”

I felt Wesley’s throat work. “Eighth. I remember because . . .” He expelled a long breath. “It was spring of eighth grade. I was playing baseball. First base, remember?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Of course. I went to every game and sat on the first row of the bleachers—until you broke your collarbone and couldn’t play.” Something inside me clicked suddenly. “Oh, my God, Wesley. You—I thought you fell down the steps. That’s what you said. But that wasn’t what happened, was it? It was him—it was your father, wasn’t it?”

His head moved slowly. “He didn’t want to go downstairs because he was watching something on TV, and my mom begged him—she said what if we got hit and he was trapped up there? I said—” Wesley’s breath hitched. “I said, let him stay up here if he’s so hell-bent on doing it. I was standing at the top of the steps of the cellar steps, and before the words were even all the way out of my mouth, he came charging at me. Knocked me down, and I heard the crack—I knew it was bad. My mom was screaming at him to stop, but he dragged me back upstairs and made me stay there with him. Forced my mother down to the basement and locked the door—she was pounding on it, yelling for me, but after a while, the wind and the storm were so loud, I couldn’t hear her anymore. I was in so much pain—I puked, and he smacked me again for doing that. And then he held me down while the twister went past us, and I prayed—God, I prayed that it would hit us, suck both of us up and end all that misery. But it didn’t. And when it passed, he gave me a kick and then left the house. I had to drag myself over to let my other out of the basement.” He was silent for a beat. “So yeah, I remember it. We were sitting in the emergency room watching the coverage that day.”

“Oh, Wesley.” Reaching up, I stroked his cheek. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I didn’t know. I was so clueless. You must’ve hated me for not realizing.”

“No way.” His response was swift, and I wasn’t sure, but it felt as though he’d brushed a kiss over the top of my head. “You were my safe spot. My happy place. If you’d been part of that, if you’d known . . . I would’ve hated that. But there is no fucking way I could have ever hated you. Not ever.”

I toyed with the collar of his shirt, my nose pressed into his neck. He smelled delicious, like sawdust and musk and the woods at sunset. It was a killer combo.

“Maybe not back then, but more recently . . .” I sighed, and Wesley shivered as my breath tickled his skin. “I’ve been a raging bitch. I acted like a spoiled kid who’d gotten her feelings hurt, and I never stopped to listen to you, to ask what happened. Why you left. I’m sorry, Wesley. So fucking sorry.”

“Hey, I told you before. Nothing to apologize for.” He cupped my cheek with one warm hand. “Second chances mean not saying you’re sorry for things that happened before.”

“Oh, really?” I teased, loving how his touch made me feel. “So you’re making the rules now?”

“I’m making that rule.” His head bent over mine. “Brina girl . . . can I ask you something?”

“Of course. Anything,” I whispered, my heart stuttering erratically.

“If I promise that I’m not going to leave town unexpectedly in the foreseeable future, could I kiss you?”

My mouth curved into a helpless smile. “That depends. Will it be as magical as it was when we were sixteen?”

His deep chuckle jostled us both. “Baby, you can count on it. All that and more. I’ve picked up some moves in the past fourteen years.”

“Then I say . . . a little less talk and a lot more action.”

Taking that as the assent it was, Wesley nudge my chin up until the back of my head rested on his arm. When he angled his mouth over mine, I was suddenly catapulted back to that young hopeful girl having her first kiss . . . and at the same time, I was me, the older and somewhat cynical woman who still couldn’t resist the man holding me in his arms.

The moment our lips touched, I knew for sure that we’d never lost any of the spark between us. Wesley groaned, and I trembled, my entire being catching on fire, needing his touch more than I needed to breathe. I arched my back, wild to be closer to him, to press my body against his and feel every subtle movement he made.

One of his hands—the one not attached to the arm that was cradling my head—wandered down to squeeze my ass and then back up toward my breasts, cupping first one and then the other through the thin cotton of my shirt. His thumb stroked the stiff tip of my nipple, and I was pretty sure that I was going to melt into nothing right then and there.

“See,” he murmured against my lips. “So much better than when we were sixteen. This is the kind of stuff that I only fantasized about doing back then.”

“Did you really?” I nuzzled his jaw and then hummed with pleasure when his lips trailed down my neck. “Did you really fantasize about me?”

“Only all day, every day.” His soft laughter rumbled again. “Took me way the hell too long to get up the nerve to actually do something about it. If I’d acted sooner . . .” He heaved out a long breath. “Let’s just say my timing sucked.”

“Hey now.” I kissed his chin. “Remember your rule.”

“Right.” His fingers slipped lower until his palm flattened over my stomach. “Brina, babe, about that second chance—”

“Wesley? Dr. Hudson? Are you down there?”

The voice calling from above jarred both of us from this sweet world where no one existed except the two of us. Dim light illuminated a slice of the basement, and I heard the clump of Linc Turner’s boots on his way the steps.

Without thinking, I jumped up from Wesley’s lap, brushing at my jeans and raking my fingers through my hair. God, did I look like I’d been making out in the basement? What would Linc think?

“Yeah, boss, we’re here. We’re okay.” Wesley rose slowly to his feet, stretching his back. “Is it all clear up there?”

“It is.” Linc hit the bottom step and squinted toward us. “Lord A’mighty, I’m glad you made it down here. I was just leaving the office when we heard the report of funnel clouds, so I called home to make sure they were taking cover, then the guys and I hightailed it to the interior bathroom.” He glanced at me. “No basement at the office, so that was the safest place. But let me tell you, after spending fifteen minutes in that space with four sweaty, dirty men, I’m putting in a storm cellar just as soon as I can.”

“I bet.” I cleared my throat. “I’d just stopped by the house, and as I was upstairs, uh, talking with Wesley, the power went out and we saw the cloud. Wesley was smart enough to drag me down here.” I couldn’t bring myself to meet his eyes yet, so I gestured toward him instead. “Note to both of us, Linc—let’s make getting this basement fixed up a priority, okay? I know we put it on the back burner, but if I’d have had to spend any more time down here than I did, I wouldn’t have been very happy.”

Too late, I heard the words that came out of my mouth and realized what they might sound like to Wesley. Shit. That hadn’t been what I meant, but going back now to clarify wasn’t going to help either of us. Linc Turner was a great guy and a hell of a restoration contractor, but I wasn’t in a hurry to share my deepest, darkest secrets with him. He didn’t need to know that I’d been in a lip lock—and more—with one of his employees.

The overwhelming stress of it all—rushing over here to spill my heart to Wesley, the storm, the basement, revisiting our past—not to mention a very hot make-out session with the guy who’d always made my insides go gooey—suddenly rolled over me, and I needed to get out of there as fast as I could.

“The tornado didn’t hit the house, right?” I asked Linc. “Nothing’s damaged? And my car’s okay?”

He shook his head. “Everything’s fine here. There are a couple of branches down, but they didn’t hit anything. The twister passed by about a mile south. Mostly, I think it stuck close to the road, though I heard a couple of farm fields might have been torn up. Let’s hope it was the ones that have already been harvested.”

“Yes, sure, let’s hope,” I babbled. “I better get out of here and check on my friends. Make sure they’re all right.” I skirted behind Linc. “House looks great, Linc. Awesome. Wonderful work. I’ll be in touch.”

With my foot on the bottom step, I paused and finally glanced back at Wesley. “Thank you. For saving me. For getting me down here. For—everything.”

It was too dim for me to make out his expression, but in my mind’s eye, I already knew that he was probably scowling.

“Sabrina—” he began, moving toward me, but I didn’t give him a chance to go on.

“See you all later!”

And then, racing like the devil himself was on my tail, I ran up the steps, through the kitchen and out the door.

Want to know what comes next?

Episode Eight is coming *next* Friday, October 15th!

But . . . Wesley and Sabrina’s HEA will have to wait a bit.

Because it’s time for the tale of

Coral’s movie premiere date!

What about Celeste?

Her romance is revealed in


which is part of the holiday benefit anthology


Releasing Today!

Get your copy of Tinsel and Tatas Today:


Apple Books



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Peace, love and romance~

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