Bosom Buddies Episode One

Sabrina

Everything in life is a tradeoff.

At least, that’s the way I look at things. Take today, for instance. Here I was at the end of a twenty-four-hour shift at the hospital, and by all rights, I should have been heading back to my condo to collapse into bed for a solid eight hours of desperately needed sleep. But instead, I’d turned left out of the hospital parking lot and aimed my car toward the small town of Burton, located about forty-five minutes due west of Savannah.

I wasn’t driving all the way into town today, even though I was tempted to pop into my friend Celeste’s adorable lingerie shop and shoot the breeze with her. No, my destination was about ten miles outside of Burton: I was driving to a picturesque little piece of property that boasted a small lake, two acres of wooded land, and over a hundred years of fascinating history.

Oh, and it also included a rambling old mansion that hadn’t been occupied for several decades. Seeing the beauty it could become hadn’t been easy, but I had a discerning eye for spotting potential, and this house had it in spades. I’d fallen head over heels for the place and made a rare impulsive decision. I’d forsaken the search for a cookie-cutter suburban starter home and committed to another year or two in my soulless Savannah condo in order to fund the rehab of my dream home.

Last month, the work on the bones of the house—the structural support, electricity and plumbing—had all been finished. This week, the company I’d hired to handle the historical rehab was supposed to begin working its magic, and I couldn’t wait another moment to see what they’d done so far.

Hence, the tradeoff. I was giving up sleep in exchange for a quick walk-through of my dream home.

It was late afternoon, so I wasn’t completely surprised to see that there weren’t any trucks in the winding driveway that led to the house. Was I a tiny bit disappointed? Sure. I wanted to think that the people I’d hired were giving my precious project all of their time and energy and attention, but the truth was that they probably had other jobs going on at the same time.

Anyway, being alone would give me a chance to really soak it all in without anyone there to rush me along or ask pesky questions. There you go—yet another tradeoff.

I let myself in through the front door only because I wanted the full effect of stepping into the magnificent foyer. I wasn’t disappointed. The walls were freshly painted in an updated shade of their original color, and the woodwork we’d selected for this space was already up, and even though it hadn’t been finished yet, I could already see how gorgeous it was going to be.

“Oh, baby,” I murmured. “You are going to be so beautiful when they’re done. I’d say we’re restoring you to your former glory, but I think it’s going to be even better than that. Kind of like getting a facelift that makes you look like a sexier version of your twenty-year-old self.” I giggled to myself, thinking of all the women who would line up for that kind of surgery.

Kneeling down, I ran my fingers over the baseboards and craned my neck to examine the molding that ran along the top of the walls, seeing in my mind’s eye the old photos one of my contacts at the county historical society had dug up for me, the ones that we’d used to make style and color decisions. It really was like the original, only better.

I was about to stand up again and make my way toward the kitchen when I heard footsteps upstairs. That was disturbing; if the crew had left for the day, no one should have been here. But there they were again: yeah, someone was definitely upstairs, and whoever it might be wasn’t making any effort to disguise his or her presence.

My mind raced through a number of possibilities, landing on the worst one first. I’d heard that sometimes vagrants or addicts or criminals scoped out empty houses and camped out there when they were fairly sure no one else was around. My place was pretty far off the beaten track, but still . . . if someone happened upon it, they might not like the idea of being chased away, and if they felt cornered or had a weapon, I could be in trouble.

I moved slowly, reaching into my purse and groping blindly. Like most women, I’d learned young the defense method of threading keys through my fingers, and if I could find them now, I might be able to buy myself time to get to my car. I thanked my past self for feeling safe enough out here that I’d left it unlocked. The door was just a few feet away, and if I could get to it silently—

And then the footsteps sounded again—this time louder and coming closer. My heart pounded, and sweat broke out all over my body. I tried to swallow, but my throat was bone dry. I took a deep breath and was about to make a run for the door when I heard a deep voice.

“Sabrina?”

I looked up, lifting my eyes to the banister on the second floor where a man was staring down at me. I blinked, my mind darting this way and that as I tried to make sense of the stranger above me who knew my name.

It wasn’t Linc Turner, the co-owner of Kent and Turner, the historical restoration company I’d hired. I’d have guessed it was one of the men who worked for him, but I hadn’t met any of them. It might have been someone local to Burton—someone I’d met with Celeste or maybe through Young Survival Coalition, the breast cancer support network and organization where we both volunteered. But it wasn’t. Somehow, I knew I hadn’t seen this face in a long time.

But I didn’t know him. The familiarity was frustratingly fleeting and vague. I frowned, rising slowly as the guy who seemed to know me jogged down the steps. My keys were still in my hand, so if he turned out to be psychopath who somehow happened to know my name.

“I didn’t put it together . . . I mean, Hudson is a common name, right? But then I heard your car in the driveway, and when I looked out the window to see who was here, I knew it was you.” He took a step toward me.

I moved backward. “I’m sorry. I don’t . . .” My voice trailed off. “How do you know me?”

He was quiet for a moment, and then a half-smile curled his lips. My heart sped up again, but this time it wasn’t fear making my pulse race. It seemed that my body had realized who he was, but my head was slow to catch up.

And then he spoke, his voice low and husky.

“Brina girl.”

Just like that, it all came flooding back to me, and I knew without a shadow of doubt who was standing in front of me.

“Wesley?”

***************************

Who is Wesley?

And how does he know Sabrina?

Read next week and find out!

Meanwhile, catch up on all of the steamy romance happening in Burton right here!

The First One is only 99 cents today!

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Bosom Buddies Episode Eight

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.

If you missed Episode Seven, read it here.

 

Coral

There’s never an invisibility cape around when you really need one.

I don’t write fantasy or paranormal or any other kind of book that might include such a thing—my gig is strictly historical romance—but that doesn’t stop me from wishing they really existed. And if they did, that I had one that I could stash in my purse for moments such as these. Times like this, when I’ve said or done something so mortifying that I just can’t bear the idea of anyone looking at me.

But since this kind of wish almost never comes true, I did the next best thing. I whipped my phone from my huge handbag and put on my best expression of horror.

“Oh, my God, I can’t believe this! My sister’s been trying to get in touch with me—she just texted that she’s stuck along the side of the road. Her car broke down.” I rose to my feet, grabbing at the napkin that had been resting in my lap before it could hit the ground. “I’m so sorry about this, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave.”

Maybe part of me was still holding onto hope that I hadn’t embarrassed myself beyond redemption—that maybe the total fox sitting across the table from me might look at least slightly disappointed that I had to take off. If so, that hope was in vain, because if anything, the sexy face only appeared to be relieved.

Not that I could blame him. Tonight hadn’t been the romantic frolic that I’d been fantasizing about ever since my best friend Sabrina—well, one of my best friends—had offered to set me up with a hot hematologist from the hospital where she worked. Tonight was meant to be the meet-cute, the warm-up act to the big event that was happening this weekend.

But it looked like this show was closing before opening night.

***

Crap.

My date—and I was using that term loosely now—did not offer to come help me rescue my sister. He didn’t even stand up to acknowledge I was leaving. Matter of fact, he didn’t bother to put down his fork.

“Best of luck,” he mumbled through a full mouth of risotto. “Great meeting you.”

“Yeah, you, too.” I pushed the chair under the table with just a little too much force, rattling all the dishes and glassware on the table. The doc never missed a beat; he kept chewing even as he reached out to steady his glass of wine.

“Pig,” I muttered to myself as I walked away from the table, clinging to as much of my dignity as possible. I mean, was it my fault that the date was an utter disaster from the word go? Probably, yes. Was I as awkward as all hell? Definitely.

But still, that was no excuse for him to be so rude. Just because he looked like sex dripping from a stick didn’t give him the right to treat other people like they were the dirt under his very fancy, very expensive Italian leather loafers.

I made my way out of the restaurant and into the lobby of the ritzy hotel, pausing for a moment to catch my breath and get my bearings. I’d taken a YouRideIt to dinner, partly because I figured I’d be drinking, partly because I’d hoped the night might end with me not being alone . . . but mostly because I didn’t drive. That little factoid wasn’t such a big deal usually, but tonight, being stranded at a hotel in Savannah, almost an hour away from home, felt huge. And overwhelming.

I knew I should probably just go outside and flag down a cab to take me . . . where? To Sabrina’s townhouse? That was a possibility, though she was more than likely at the hospital, working a shift. I wasn’t going to get any taxi to carry me all the way to Burton, to the house I shared with our other best friend, Celeste. It was too far and too late.

So my options were taking said cab to another hotel, which seemed absolutely ridiculous, or checking to see if this lovely and fancy place happened to have a vacancy tonight. It wasn’t like I couldn’t afford it. I almost never splurged on anything, so I could’ve booked a month in the priciest suite in this place and never even blink.

There was only one small detail holding me back, and that was so silly that it didn’t even bear considering. Who cared if Dr. Dopey, formerly known as my date for the evening, spotted me checking into this hotel and realized that my reason for abandoning him at the table had been nothing but a clever ruse? He had it coming. I didn’t owe him a damn thing.

“Not a damn thing,” I said aloud, and then I pivoted on the balls of one foot, intending to march toward the reception counter with my head held high.

Instead, though—because I’m me—I slammed into something solid that was moving in the opposite direction. And before I could help myself, my stupid high heels—the ones I’d picked out for this evening and paid way too much money to own—okay, so maybe sometimes I did splurge—anyway, those shoes lost their contact with the shiny, highly polished marble floor.

The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air. Someone was shrieking, and it occurred to me that someone just might have been me. Then I was falling, and my head struck something hard and unyielding that would probably turn out to be the ground.

The world waved and shimmered around me, and the edges of my vision grayed.

“Oh, fuck, are you all right?” An unfamiliar but very attractive, very sexy male face came into my wavering line of sight. “Miss, hey, there, miss! Can you hear me? Can you see me? Are you okay?”

I wanted to open my mouth and say something witty—or maybe just something basically appropriate for once in my life. But instead, my lips formed words that my brain hadn’t approved.

“Hey, there, hot stuff. What’re you doing Saturday night?”

And then the world went dark.

Want to know what comes next?

Episode Nine is coming next Friday, October 22nd!

And we’ll find out who knocked Coral off her feet.

What about Celeste?

Her romance is revealed in

TITS THE SEASON

which is part of the holiday benefit anthology

TINSEL AND TATAS

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An excerpt from THE CHRISTMAS KETTLE CAPER

Enjoy this sneak peek from

Mysteries of Christmas Past Anthology!

I was subjected to what amounted to the silent treatment on the train trip, though in truth Jenny Dee chattered and chortled enough for all three of us. Lilly maintained a stoic silence, staring out at the passing scenery as we chugged southwest in the direction of the state capitol in Austin.
I’d been surprised when Lilly suggested she might come along on the trip, but she’d sullenly said, “I spent two Christmases apart from ye, James. I’ll not spend another.”
And that was all it took. One tiny indirect mention of the Great War, and I felt my hand twitching again as memories of the horrors battled their way to the front of my consciousness.
As the train rounded a bend, I was at once thankful for Lilly’s deafening silence and annoyed by Jenny’s endless prattle.
“… but their daddy didn’t love her as much as her much prettier sister. And so she had no choice but to marry someone she didn’t love. Isn’t that the saddest thing you’ve heard, Daddy?”
The little flask in my coat pocket beckoned me, and I spared my wife only a moment’s glance before retrieving it to take a long swig of fine Irish whiskey. Her frown was searing, and I decided I must be a glutton for punishment because heaven help me, I liked the burn of both the liquor and of the woman born of the Emerald Isle.
“…so then the two sisters are on a train,” Jenny continued, curling her legs under her in her seat. “Um, I think heading for El Paso, maybe. But anyway, that’s when some dastardly robbers decide to hold up the train.”
“Jenny, sit properly, lass. You’ll muss your fine traveling dress.” Her brogue wasn’t nearly as strong as it had been when I’d met her, and certainly not as much as her grifter brother’s. But that was only because my wife had taken great care to work the accent out, despite my assurances that I much preferred her native drawl.
I sucked down another sip of the whiskey, then slipped it back into my coat as I watched our daughter ignore her mother, instead pushed up onto her knees and leaning towards the window to get a better view of the passing scenery.
“Oh, Daddy! Look at that. They’re longhorns! Do you know…”
“Sit down, Jenny!” I bellowed, smacking the arm of my chair. “Did you not hear your mother admonish you to sit?”
Her eyes were wide as saucers, and I knew that most children her age might burst into tears. But not my Jenny. She fixed me with a long, hard stare, then she carefully plopped down onto her backside with her legs out in front of her. I nodded my approval, then she crossed her arms over her chest and pivoted to look out of the window again.
It seemed I would get the silent treatment from both of my girls.

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Tinsel and Tatas Release Day!

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*******

Enjoy this little tidbit of my story, Tits the Season . . .

“You know, Celeste,” I began conversationally. “I could be remembering wrong, but I think you and I used to like each other fine. Back in the day, I mean. When we were growing up, and when we were in high school.”

“What’s your point?” Her hands gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. 

“You’re pissed off at me for something, and you have been since I got back to town. I don’t know what I did to deserve it, though. You called and asked me to perform this weekend, and I didn’t even hesitate. I said yes. But from the time I saw you at the bar last night until now, you’ve been bristling at me like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”

Celeste shot me a glare filled with venom. “I don’t bristle. And don’t compare me to a cat.”

“I happen to be a big fan of cats, so it’s not like that’s an insult,” I returned calmly. “My point is, darlin’—” 

“Don’t you darlin me, Ty Hollins.” 

I ignored that. “The point is that you’re acting like I’ve wronged you in some way, and I can’t think of anything that might qualify. So I’d like you to enlighten me.” 

She was silent, but I saw the tension in her jaw. With a sigh of defeat, I slumped down and stared out the window. 

I forgot sometimes how dark it got out here in the country, especially around midnight in December. Still, the headlights picked up enough of our surroundings that I had a good idea of where we were. Almost without thinking about it, I began to reminisce. 

“Krissy and Carl Hochuck’s place is out this way, I think.” I paused for a moment. “That was some party they threw that year—it was the end of the summer a few years after Danny and I graduated. Do you remember?” 

Celeste snorted and rolled her eyes, and it was about that time I began to get a clue. 

BOSOM BUDDIES EPISODE SEVEN

 

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.}

Sabrina

“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

TITS THE SEASON

which is part of the holiday benefit anthology

TINSEL AND TATAS

Releasing Today!

Get your copy of Tinsel and Tatas Today:

Amazon

Apple Books

Kobo

Google

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BOSOM BUDDIES EPISODE SIX

 

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.

Wesley

“Are you sure you’ll be all right out here?” Linc raised his voice to be heard over the howling wind that was bending trees outside the house. I peered through the window, frowning at the darkening sky.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I answered. “You need to get home, dude. Not every day your daughter turns seventeen. And I want to finish the trim on the window seat upstairs in the master before I knock off for the day.”

A horn sounded close by, and Linc rolled his eyes. “Hollister needs to keep his pants on. He wants to get back to the shop before it rains—like he thinks he’ll melt.”

“But he’s giving you a lift, so let’s not keep him waiting.” I reached for the doorknob and tugged on it. The wind whipped it out of my hand, throwing it backward, and it might have banged into the wall if I hadn’t caught it.

“Note to self: let’s get those wall guards added sooner than later.” Linc pulled his hat down more securely. “Okay. I’m heading out then. Don’t forget—”

“—to lock up and make sure all the windows are closed and check the tarps on the questionable spots on the roof,” I finished for him. “Got it, boss. Get out of here. And tell your girl I said happy birthday.”

Linc nodded and jogged out to the waiting pickup. I closed the door behind him and then stood for a moment, glancing around the house. It wasn’t often that I had her all to myself. Patting the gleaming banister, I spoke aloud.

“Alone at last, huh, beautiful? Let’s see what I can do to make you even sexier than you already are.”

There was no answer as I climbed the steps, not unless you counted the creaks and groans of the trees. I’d been in plenty of houses where sometimes, I got the sense that I wasn’t quite . . . alone, even when I was. Like most of the guys who routinely worked historical rehabs, I’d had my share of experiences that bordered on the creepy. I didn’t scare easily, and I didn’t have a problem with former residents hanging around to see our work, even if they happened to be spectral. Still, I was vaguely relieved that Sabrina’s house didn’t seem to fall into the possibly haunted category.

Sabrina. I forced away a wince as I thought of her. Last weekend, I’d joined the rest of the crew at the Turner home where we’d all enjoyed a barbecue. Linc had introduced me to his wife Jenna and demanded that I repeat the same history I’d given him—to tell the story of why I’d ghosted on Sabrina back in high school. Apparently, Jenna was friends with Sabrina’s BFF in Burton, the one who owned some kind of store. Linc had slapped me on the back and assured me that he had everything covered—that with his help, Sabrina Hudson would shortly have full knowledge of the truth.

“Does it even matter?” I muttered to myself, taking out a tape measure to check on the length of a piece of trim. “We were kids. We weren’t dating. We weren’t in a relationship. Not even a teenage one.”

***

But even as I spoke those words aloud, I knew I was lying to myself. The night my mom and I had fled the only home I’d ever known, Sabrina had been the one person I’d mourned, the one regret I’d held. I’d missed her keenly for months. And even now, seeing her again reminded me of the deep feelings she’d stirred within me once upon a time.

Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, throwing weird shadows on the opposite wall. It was getting darker and darker, and I paused for a moment, squinting out a nearby window, wondering if maybe I should call it a day. Storms like this weren’t uncommon in the late summer, but this time of year, with autumn in full swing, it was a little more unusual. There was a better than decent chance that the power would go out, and if it did, I wasn’t going to get anything done anyway.

Still, for now, I had electricity and decent light. I dropped to my haunches and laid the strip of trim, examining it with narrowed eyes. When I worked on houses like this, I had an image of what the result should be, and if reality didn’t match my vision, I kept at it until I was satisfied.

I’d just lifted the nail gun and filled it with the tiny finishing nails when I heard a loud bang downstairs. It sounded like the door again and swearing under my breath, I set down the tools and trotted toward the steps. I must not have closed the door all the way, and with gale-force winds like these, I probably should have turned the deadbolt, too.

But I came to a sudden halt when I saw a figure in a bright red slicker climbing up the steps. A wide hood obscured the person’s face, and out of instinct, I reached for the hammer hanging from my tool belt.

“Hey!” I hoped my voice sounded deep and threatening, with none of my trepidation noticeable. “What’re you doing here?”

And then the hood was thrown back, and it was Sabrina standing midway up the stairs. Her face was damp, with drops clinging to her long eyelashes. Blonde hair was plastered to her head. But none of that mattered when I looked in her eyes because for the first time in fourteen years, what I saw there wasn’t hurt or anger or accusation. Instead, I saw a soft eagerness that made my heart stutter.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, slipping her arms from the sleeves of the oversized raincoat. “I wasn’t sure . . . I saw your truck or at least a truck, but I hoped it was yours. Anyway . . .” Her voice trailed off. “I didn’t mean to spook you.”

I spread my hands. “I wasn’t spooked exactly. Just surprised. I thought I was here by myself.” Pointing to the large window downstairs, I added, “I figured no one was fool enough to go out in this crazy weather.”

“Only me.” She offered me a tentative smile, and it was suddenly hard to breathe.

“Can I . . . I mean, do you need to see something? Are you here for an update? Linc’s not here, but you can look around, of course. It’s your house.”

“I’m not here to see the house. And I knew Linc had left because I called him on my way over to see if you were working today.” The tip of her tongue darted out to trace the seam of her lips. “I came to see you, Wesley.”

“Me?” I echoed dumbly, frowning. “Why?”

“Because.” She took a deep breath. “I owe you a massive apology, and I didn’t want to wait another hour before I told you how sorry I am.”

I had a pretty good idea of where this was going, but I’ve never been the kind of man to assume thing. “Why are you sorry?”

“I didn’t listen to you. I didn’t give you a chance to explain what happened all those years ago back in Wisconsin. I jumped to some pretty shitty conclusions back then, and I never let you tell me the truth. I’m really sorry, Wesley. So deeply sorry.”

I gazed at her without speaking for a long moment. “You had no way of knowing. If you’d vanished on me back then, I’d probably have been a little bitter, too.”

“Probably not,” Sabrina argued. “You’ve always had that thing where you think the best of people. You used to give me more credit than I deserved. I bet if the situation had been reversed, you’d have been nicer to me when we met again, too.”

“Maybe, but—” I shook my head. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. I accept your apology, Brina girl, if even if I don’t need you to give it to me.”

“Thank you.” She climbed the last few steps until she stood only a couple of feet away from me. “I really missed you, Wesley. Every single day of the rest of high school. Nothing felt right after you were gone. You were my best friend.”

The sad note in her voice cracked me open. “It gutted me to leave you, Brina. But I didn’t have a choice, you know? Mom wouldn’t leave without me. If I’d kicked up a fuss, she’d have gone back to that house, to getting knocked around by the asshole who called himself my father, until he finally killed her—or until I killed him. Either way, it wasn’t going to be a pretty ending. As much as I—cared about you, I couldn’t do that to my mother.”

“I understand that now. Back then, I honestly had no idea.” Sabrina lifted her hand as though reaching toward me, then dropped it back to her side. “Why didn’t you tell me, Wesley? Before then, I mean. Why didn’t you let me know how bad things were at home?”

I rolled my shoulder. “I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want your pity, and there was nothing anyone could do—not until we had a way out. And I didn’t want you to look at me differently. You know how you hated being the girl whose mother died? I didn’t want to be the guy whose dad was abusive.”

“I guess I see.” She nodded, lowering her gaze to the floor. A silence stretched between us, and I wondered if Sabrina was thinking the same thing I was—what now?

“Well, I guess that’s all I came to say.” She straightened her spine. “I’ll just—”

A gust of wind rattled the house, making it groan and creak. Then all at once, it was dark, the power cut off abruptly. Sabrina shrieked, and I reached for her, my hands grasping. She leaped into my arms, wrapping herself around me.

“It’s okay.” I ran my hand down her back, offering what little comfort I could even as my body responded to her scent, her soft curves, her very nearness. “Probably the wind blew down a line, and it’ll be fine in just a little bit.”

But my last words were drowned out by a roar like I’d only heard once in my life, and my stomach dropped even before I pivoted to look through the rain-splattered window behind me where, in the black sky,  I spotted the unmistakable sight of a funnel cloud.

“My God. It’s a tornado.”

 

Want to know what comes next?

Episode Seven is coming next Friday!

The tale of Coral’s movie premiere date

is coming in this month, too.

What about Celeste?

Her romance is revealed in

TITS THE SEASON

which is part of the holiday benefit anthology

TINSEL AND TATAS

Releasing this Tuesday!

October 5th

Preorder Tinsel and Tatas Today:

Amazon

Apple Books

Kobo

Google

Barnes & Noble

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