What readeres are saying:
Beautifully crafted settings
NOTHING TO FEAR
She needed a creative haven. She got a house with its own agenda.
Nothing But Cheer
Someone's going to have to deal with the spirit of the season...
Nothing to Fear
(Scroll Down for Nothing But Cheer)
Out in the yard, a chill breeze bullied its way through the tangle of tree branches and undergrowth that grew right up to the Cottage in some places while hanging well back in others. The tip of a limb tapped window glass on the south side of the house, then dragged slowly across weathered siding in a screech pitched perfectly to be felt in gut and bones. Eliza shivered and tugged the zipper of her hoodie up to her chin. Then she let her head fall back against the door and laughed tiredly. “God, this house…” She shivered again, feeling very tiny all of a sudden compared to the hulking decay of Chaste Tree Cottage.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket with an incoming message and she thought, what now? The sad truth was that she got more calls and texts from the pharmacy regarding her mother’s medications than from anyone else. After checking her fingers for blood, she pulled out her phone, handling it awkwardly with her uninjured left hand. Her face broke into a smile. It wasn’t the pharmacy—it was Joey.
Her very hot but mostly absentee upstairs tenant.
They weren’t friends, exactly, but they were friendly. Joey always texted her when he was coming back to the Cottage for a few days between assignments. Sometimes because he wanted her to check something in his place for him—make sure the fridge was still running, see if rodents had gotten into his cereal. That sort of thing. But sometimes it was just to touch base. Eliza lived for those texts. Her life might be a bleak existence of managing Minnie’s mental illness and performing futile acts of maintenance on a terminally neglected Victorian, but somewhere out there a hot guy was thinking of her.
Before she could click on Joey’s message, Eliza’s phone flashed a notification that she was now connected to the EcoAbode 3 Smart Thermostat. “Lies,” she muttered, thumbing the window away. Yes, there was a smart thermostat installed in the foyer next to the stairs, but there was nothing else in the house modern enough for it to connect with. No alarm system. No central air. Certainly no solar panels.
Her phone lagged (that was becoming an all-too-frequent issue), then finally disgorged Joey’s text: Coming home tomorrow p.m. for extended stay. Can you turn the heat up in my place?
Eliza tried not to be disappointed. Joey usually prefaced his requests with a little chitchat—where he’d been, what the weather was like there, funny (though non-NDA violating) anecdotes about the clients he was protecting.
Maybe he was having a bad day. He probably wasn’t coming home for a long stay by choice. Joey was a nomad to the bone.
Sure, she replied. You ok?
A small text bubble appeared. Yep. A moment later, he added, minor concussion—no biggie.
Eliza’s heart gave a hard thump and adrenaline trickled cold through her veins. She didn’t know exactly what Joey’s work as an executive security specialist entailed. She’d been too shy to ask. But she worried about him while he was away. Which was stupid, because she had more than enough to worry about between Minnie's mental health and her threadbare finances. Plus, Joey was the epitome of competence and good sense.
But she couldn't help it. He was a good guy, and, through no fault of his own, the highlight of her current living situation. So she worried.
Nothing But cheer
A Dos Alamos holiday novella!
“We’re late,” Joey murmured against Eliza’s mouth.
She nipped at his bottom lip. “Weird. We had so much time when we started getting dressed.”
He grinned. “I wonder where it all went?”
“Total mystery.” She slid a hand around to cup his butt
through his jeans.
He groaned. “We don’t have to go to the craft festival.”
She sighed, nuzzling Joey’s neck. “We really do, though. The moms are expecting us. And I paid for a vendor spot.”
Tonight was the potluck dinner kicking off the winter solstice craft festival at the art colony where Eliza’s mother, Minnie, lived. Resident artists, alumni, friends, and family would get a sneak peek at the wares, then the festival would open to the public tomorrow.
Joey inched her sweater up past her waistline, caressing the skin of her belly with his thumbs. “You could set up your stuff in the morning. It’s pouring out there,” one thumb dipped inside her jeans, “and it’s so warm and dry here at home.”
She laughed, squirming as his touch turned ticklish. “Stop teasing. You know you’re not going to stand up your moms when they’re driving all the way up here from the city. Besides,” she stepped back and adjusted her sweater, “setting up tomorrow would mean being there before dawn. Doors open at eight.”
He sighed. “I was hoping to sleep in this weekend.”
“There ya go. No skipping the potluck, mister.”
Resigned, Joey pulled on the “fab-yule-us” sweater Minnie had knitted him for the occasion. It was a very un-Joey shade of purple, but decadently soft, and it fit him perfectly. He spread his arms and turned in a circle. “How do I look?”
“I mean…” She gestured at the words on his chest. “Obviously, you look fabulous.”
He grinned. “You’re looking pretty fab yourself, hot stuff.”
Eliza glanced down at the long-eared equine decorating her own purple sweater. Happy Mule Tide!
“Are you sure I don’t look like an ass?”
Joey snorted. “Never.”
Coming in 2021!
April: Werewolves in Near Future Los Angeles #1
July: Werewolves in Near Future Los Angeles #2
October: Dos Alamos #3
Coralie lives in Northern California with her spouse, two teens, two dogs, a cat, and a lot of plants. (Poor plants—always an afterthought.) She loves books, hiking, native flora, stunning vistas, chocolate, and naps.
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