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FREE Short Story – Sinners Trick, Sinners Treat

Sinners’ lead guitarist, Brian Sinclair tugged at his restrictive collar and offered his best friend and fellow guitarist, Trey Mills, his most scathing look. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. I look like a complete idiot.”

Trey scanned Brian from head to toe. “You look great.” Trey bit his lower lip and snorted. “For a wuss.”

Brian ran a hand over his quilted vest and stared down at his slippers.Slippers! He was wearing freakin’ slippers. And he couldn’t consider those things on his legs socks, more like hose. Rock stars did not wear hose. Eyeliner? Sure. But not hose. Had men actually worn this lame stuff back in the Elizabethan era?

Trey stifled his sniggering by popping a pair of pointed teeth into his mouth.

“I’m wearing frickin’ capris and a cape, Trey. A cape!” Brian’s knee-length pants were purple (purple!) to match his quilted vest and both garments had fancy designs sewn all over them with golden thread. The cape fell to his hips, which was wrong on so many levels. Brian didn’t even want to think about the ruffles at his throat and the loose, flowing sleeves of his blouse. Yeah, he looked like a complete tool.

“I’m wearing a cape, too,” Trey said, his words garbled by his vamp teeth.

“Not quite the same, bro.”

Trey wore mostly black, except his face which was painted white with red rimming his vivid green eyes. Lined with red satin, the hem of Trey’s cape just brushed the floor.

He looked cool, not like a tool.

Trey rang the doorbell. Loud music and boisterous voices came from within Sed’s beach condo, but the door was locked so they had to wait for admittance. This party was for invited guests only.

“Besides, you make a lovely prince.” Trey moved out of Brian’s reach before busting out laughing. “Charming even!”

Before Brian could thump him in the forehead, the door opened. Their lead singer, Sed, who was ripped beyond belief, stood there in nothing but a loincloth. From the tropical smell coming off him, he’d applied a healthy slathering of coconut oil to draw even more attention to his disgustingly perfect physique. Sed took one look at Brian and joined Trey’s riotous laughter. “You forgot your purse, Brian,” Sed said, his baritone voice breathy from laughing so hard.

“I’m leaving,” Brian said. He didn’t want to be here in the first place. What fun was a party without the woman you loved? Myrna was still in Kansas City working at her professor job and he was stuck here alone. Again. Sometimes he wished she’d give up her career and be a constant fixture at his side, but then, she wouldn’t be Myrna and he didn’t want her to change.

“What are you supposed to be?” Trey asked Sed.

“Tarzan.”

“So where’s Jane?”

On cue, three fur-bikini clad young women plastered their bodies to Sed’s. Triplets. Where on earth had Sed found three hot triplets to act as his costume accessories?

“Here we are!” the three Janes said in unison.

When they noticed Brian their eyes opened wide in astonishment. He winced, waiting for the insults to start flying.

“Master Sinclair!” the three said in harmony. “You look so handsome!”

They moved away from Sed to wrap Brian in an enthusiastic group hug. While Brian was trying to untangle himself from long, female limbs, Trey moved up behind one of the young ladies, lifted a squeeze bottle, and trickled something red down the side of her neck. He lowered his head to suck the sticky syrup from her throat. She went limp in Trey’s arms and he pulled her into the open door of Sed’s condo.

“Do you really think Sinclair looks good like that?” Sed asked his two remaining Janes, a puzzled scowl on his face.

“Oh yes,” one of them said, “What girl wouldn’t want a handsome prince to sweep her around the dance floor? Will you dance with me, Brian?”

Jane Number 2 grabbed Brian’s hand and yanked him through the front door, leaving Sed with but one Jane of his own.

“I don’t dance,” Brian insisted.

“Wow,” Eric Sticks, Sinners’ tall drummer, said over the crowd. “Who’s the fine woman in the purple dress?”

Brian snarled at him. “Bite me.”

“Can do!” Trey headed toward Brian with his bottle of cherry syrup.

“Keep your fangs to yourself, Mills,” Brian said.

“My turn,” some attractive brunette said, intercepting Trey and tilting her head to the side to give him access to her long neck. Trey grinned and complied, sucking on her throat until she moaned in torment. A line of eager blood donors formed behind Trey’s current victim.

“Myrna is so gonna dump you for looking like a pansy,” Eric said to Brian, his own costume some mix of gangster, Rambo, and gladiator. Ammunition belts crossed his bare chest. A scabbard with sword hung from one hip. He’d strapped a pistol to his right thigh and had a small shield fixed to his left forearm. He was also wearing what had once been Brian’s lucky hat—a floppy black-leather fedora that had been tainted one steamy evening on a motorcycle with Myrna. Brian grinned to himself. If Eric knew what had happened in that hat, he would not be wearing it. Apparently, their bassist, Jace, who knew all about the events of that evening, could keep a secret.

Eric fished his camera phone out of the pocket of his low slung black cargo pants and aimed it at Brian. “I’ll send Myrna a pic. Maybe I’ll finally get my chance with her after she sees you like this.”

“You wish.”

“Damn, straight.”

Brian smacked the phone out of Eric’s hand and it landed in a nearby punchbowl. Punch sloshed all over Jace who was drinking the stuff like it was water. From his obvious sway, the punch must’ve been spiked. He apparently needed something to increase his confidence. And who wouldn’t if their costume consisted of ass-less chaps and a pink thong.

Brian grinned, feeling slightly less ridiculous dressed as a prince. “Jace, what are you wearing?”

Jace wiped the punch from his naked chest and licked at his fingers. He shrugged, refusing to meet Brian’s eyes and chugged another glass of punch.

“He lost a bet,” Eric boasted.

“Eric cheated.” Jace scowled. “I could have easily done a hundred pull-ups if he hadn’t used that feather duster on me.”

“Did you know Jace is very ticklish?” Eric chuckled.

Jace flipped him off.

“Eric always cheats, Jace. You should know that by now.”

A sexy cat woman wandered over to Jace and slid a hand over his bare butt. She whispered something into his ear and he blushed crimson to the roots of his bleached-blond hair. She slapped his butt with a resounding crack and slinked toward the spare bedroom. Jace tossed back the rest of his punch and followed. The vivid red handprint on one butt cheek wasn’t nearly as red as his face.

“I thought for sure the pink thong would keep the ladies away,” Eric said and slapped himself in the forehead. “That backfired.”

Someone tugged at Brian’s sleeve. He turned to find Jane Number 2, or 1, maybe 3 (he couldn’t tell them apart), looking up at him expectantly.

“Yeah?”

“Are you going to dance with me now?”

Brian didn’t want to dance with anyone. Well, Myrna. Maybe. If he were drunk enough and if she were present. God, he missed her. He felt so alone and exposed without her body pressed against his. “I think Sed is looking for you.”

Jane glanced across the room at Sed who was surrounded by the other two Janes and half a dozen additional women. “Doubtful.” She went to join him anyway.

Eric moved to the punchbowl and ladled his cell phone into a cup. “I lose more phones this way. Good thing it’s still under warranty.”

An expanse of ivory satin near the spiral staircase caught Brian’s attention. He could only see the woman’s back, but she was stunning. The wide skirt of her elegant ball gown brushed the steps as she ascended to the second floor. Her thick auburn hair was drawn up off her neck and fashioned into an intricate knot decorated with large pearls. Several tendrils of hair had escaped the severe style to caress the creamy skin of her neck and shoulders. She reminded Brian so much of Myrna his heart skipped a beat. Brian watched, transfixed, as her high-heeled shoe tumbled from beneath her skirt and down the steps.

Brian went after it instinctively. He collected it from the floor and looked up to find she hadn’t descended the steps to retrieve her shoe. She’d continued to climb, seeming oblivious to its loss.

“Miss, you dropped your shoe,” Brian said from the bottom of the staircase. When she didn’t respond, he started after her.

She climbed faster. When she reached the landing, she sprinted toward the back of the loft in the direction of Sed’s well-used bedroom.

Had Brian startled her? He hadn’t meant to. He probably should have just left her shoe at the top of the stairs, but he chased after her, not sure why his pulse was racing with excitement. He only had eyes for one woman, but for some reason he wanted to see this lovely stranger’s face. At the top of the stairs, he watched the hem of her ivory gown disappear into Sed’s bedroom. She must be one of Sed’s women. Maybe Sed had said something to hurt her feelings. The dude was notorious for crushing women’s hearts. For some reason, their tears always got to Brian. He couldn’t stand to see a woman cry.

Brian entered the bedroom and found the elegant lady seated on the loveseat. She had her skirt hiked just high enough to reveal one lovely barefoot and her face turned toward the large window along the far wall.

“Is everything okay?” he asked, his heart hammering with excitement. Why did this unknown woman unsettle him? Was it her mystery? Her elegance? That big freakin’ dress, which made her look impossibly feminine? When she didn’t answer, he eased further into the room. “You dropped your shoe.”

She wiggled her manicured toes, but still didn’t look at him. He had an unsettling feeling of familiarity when he looked at her. He carried her shoe closer and crouched down at her feet. When her delicate scent engulfed him, Brian’s eyes drifted closed.

Couldn’t make it, huh? Liar.

He didn’t know why Myrna was here when she’d insisted she couldn’t get out of work, but her scent was unmistakable. The sizzle of attraction between them undeniable. The instantaneous surge of lust to his groin unavoidable. He didn’t need to look up at her face to know it was her. It couldn’t be any other woman on the planet. No other woman drew this response from him. He dropped her shoe on the floor and massaged the instep of her foot with both thumbs. Her toes curled in response.

“Did you twist your ankle, miss?” he asked, his hands sliding up to her ankle. He chanced a peek at her face and found all but her mouth and chin concealed behind an elaborately decorated, ivory mask. Those pouty pink lips were definitely Myrna’s and he definitely wanted to kiss them.

She shook her head slightly.

His hands slid up her calf. “Did you lure me here to seduce me, princess? My lady’s out of town, so if we’re discrete, she’ll never kn—”

His teasing words were cut off by a hard foot to the chest. He tumbled back onto the carpet.

“What?” Myrna bellowed, standing over him with fists planted on either hip.

Brian laughed, reached up to grab her around the waist, and tumbled her to the floor. He pinned her beneath him with his body, knowing she couldn’t kick him with her legs all tangled in yards of satin.

“Don’t you dare touch me.”

He kissed her jaw. “I knew it was you, sweetheart.”

“Did not.”

“No woman stirs me up the way you do. But if you want to pretend you’re a beautiful stranger who lured me to bed by losing her shoe…” His lips trailed along her jaw line to her chin.
The tension drained from her body and her arms slid around his back to draw him closer.

“I’m supposed to be Cinderella.”

“So if I place the slipper upon your foot and it fits, you’ll love me forever?”

“I already love you forever. The shoe fits and I wear it.” She touched his face and claimed his lips in a kiss that made his skin tingle. When she drew away, she said, “You do make a handsome prince, Brian Sinclair.”

“You’re beautiful. Always.” He stared into her green-flecked hazel eyes. Something about the mask obscuring her face made his blood run hot. “That was a naughty trick to play on me, princess. Making me think I was going to have to spend Halloween without you.”

She released the leather band holding his hair at his nape and ran her fingers though his shoulder-length locks until they settled around their faces. “If you can figure out how to get this obnoxious dress off me, I’d say you’re in for one heck of a treat, my prince.”

 
31 Comments

Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Short Story

 

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FREE Short Story – Welcome to the Family

Christmas Eve two years before the book Backstage Pass

The tour bus pulled to a stop outside the storage area. This was where Sinners stored their stage equipment when they were off tour and kept their private vehicles while they were on the road. Jace Seymour slung his duffle bag over one shoulder and lifted the case of his bass guitar with his free hand.

Home again.

Though Sinners had been on the road for most of the past six months, Jace would prefer they never took a break from touring. The tour bus was more his home than any brick and mortar structure.

“Do you have big plans for the holidays, little man?” Eric asked and poked Jace in the rib with the drumstick he’d been twirling.

No, but he wasn’t about to admit that to Eric. “Yeah. Lots.”

Jace massaged the small hoop in his earlobe and pretended to find the floor interesting.

When Jace didn’t elaborate on his lots of plans, Eric’s ADHD-self turned his attention elsewhere. “Sed? What time does the party start on New Year’s Eve?” he called to the lead singer, who was standing at the front of the bus, waiting for lead guitarist Brian to collect all his stuff and get out of the way.

Sed glanced over his shoulder and grinned crookedly so that one of his dimples showed. “I don’t recall inviting you, Sticks.”

“Will your sisters be there?” Eric asked, hopefully. He leaned in closer to Jace and whispered, “Hot, young thangs. Both of them. Certified Grade A–”

“If you touch my sisters, you die,” Sed warned in a baritone growl.

Jace smiled at the floor. He loved being caught in the dynamic of these guys, but as he’d been a part of this band for less than six months, he always felt like he was intruding on some sacred bond between them. Sinners had been together for almost ten years. It only made sense that they were a close-knit group. Jace didn’t mind looking in from the outside. It was enough.

“No worries,” Trey, their rhythm guitarist, said. He brushed his long bangs from his forehead, green eyes twinkling with their usually orneriness. “I’ll just consult my little black book and invite enough babes for everyone.”

“More like an encyclopedic black book,” Eric whispered to Jace.

Jace chuckled. Trey got around. A lot.

“You’re coming, right?” Eric asked Jace.

Jace shrugged. Sed hadn’t invited him. Actually, Sed hadn’t invited anyone. It was a tradition to party at Sed’s place on New Year’s Eve, but as this was Jace’s first year with the band, he wasn’t a part of any of those traditions. The guys in the band spent Christmas with their families and New Year’s Eve together. Jace was already dreading Christmas. He really struggled with holidays.

The band members shuffled off the bus, carrying luggage and gear. As Jace’s feet touched the asphalt, he crinkled his nose at the warmth and palm trees outside. Even though he’d lived in southern California for over a decade, he’d never get used to Christmas in a warm climate. Jace’s family had moved to Los Angeles from Montana right before his mother had died. The holidays just weren’t the same without snow on the ground. He still remembered playing Christmas jingles on the piano with his mother. Yeah, Christmas was supposed to mean family. Jace didn’t have one of those anymore, which all things considered, was for the best.

Laughing and joking all the way to their car, Trey and Brian left the parking lot together. The two guitarists were roommates and had been best friends since elementary school. Late for dinner at his parents’ house, Sed sped off in his Mercedes. Eric tried to coax his vintage, piece-of-crap Corvette into starting. Jace headed out of the parking lot on foot. It was only a couple of miles to his apartment and he liked to walk. Plus, he didn’t own a vehicle. He could afford one now. He just hadn’t gotten around to buying one.

After proceeding less than a block, a loud, knocking sound drew his attention to the road beside him.

Eric, his wild hair stirring in the breeze, grinned at him from behind the wheel of his emerald green convertible. “Need a lift?” he asked.

“No thanks, I prefer to walk.”

Eric shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He gunned the engine, probably trying to speed off with spectacular flare, and the car died. “Crap!” The engine whined as he tried to start it again.

“Maybe you should walk, too,” Jace suggested.

“Shut up, little man. She’s just temperamental.”

If that’s what he wanted to call it. “Later.”

He left Eric swearing at his temperamental piece-of-crap and continued towards home. While standing on a street corner waiting for a green crossing light, something brushed up against Jace’s calf. He looked down and a pair of inquisitive amber eyes gazed up at him.

“Brrroowww owww owwwn?” the black tuxedo cat meow-purred up at him.

The scraggly thing looked like it had just crawled out of the sewer. Jace nudged it aside with is foot–he didn’t like cats–and strode across the street. He chanced a glance behind him to find the creature on his heels. The cat trotted with purpose, its white paws rhythmically striking the pavement, its tail high in the air, its eyes never leaving its target. Jace walked a bit faster, hoping to deter the little pest. As he passed an alley, a set of tires screeched. Jace’s heart skipped a beat.

He turned to find the black scruff-ball cowering under the front axle of a huge SUV in the alley’s entrance. Jace set his bass case down and held up a hand to alert the driver to stay put. When he was sure he wasn’t about to be run over, he bent under the vehicle and reached for the cat. As he scooped the trembling mass of dingy fur into his arms, he couldn’t believe how light the animal was. The cat must have only weighed a couple pounds, tops. It crawled up his chest and planted the top of its head under his jaw, purring in earnest.

“Easy there,” he murmured and ran a hand down the cat’s narrow back. His palm bumped over its bony spine and he cringed. He lifted the cat around the middle and held it in front of him so he could look it in the eye. “You’re just looking for a meal, aren’t you?”

“Brrooowww owwwn,” it meowed within its motorboat purr.

“Alright, I’ll get you something to eat, but then I’m dropping you off at the pound. I don’t like cats.”

The cat grabbed Jace’s hoop earring with one claw, tugged him closer, and stared directly into Jace’s lacerated soul. He had to look away. The cat rubbed its face over the beard stubble along Jace’s jaw and rattled an even louder purr.

Jace cuddled the cat against his shoulder, holding it securely with one hand, and lifted his guitar case in his free hand.

“Do you have a name?” he asked the cat, feeling rather ridiculous talking to an animal.

“Brrrooooww owwwn.”

“So you’ve said. Are you a girl or a boy cat?”

He looked down at the cat when the purring stopped. The well-duh look she gave him made that perfectly clear. Definitely female.

“Alright, Brownie, what do cats eat? Mice, right?” He knew he didn’t have anything to feed Brownie at home. His apartment was small and sparse, but not mouse-infested. He’d have to stop at the store. There was a quirky shop near the end of his block that sold everything from snacks to sunglasses to action figures. He hoped they sold cat food, too. He tucked Brownie inside his jacket and she curled around his waist, purring so loudly they’d think he had a Harley hidden in his coat.

“Shh.”

She went quiet, as if she actually understood him. Strange creature. And a bit tickly as she stirred against his belly.

Jace hefted his duffle bag and bass guitar into a cart, thinking he probably should have dropped his baggage off at home first, and then perused the aisles. He found the cat-needs aisle and tossed every type of canned cat food available and a few small bags of dried food into his cart. He didn’t know what Brownie liked. He’d just take the extra food to the pound when he dropped her off later. He also decided to spring for the litter pan and some cat litter, just in case she had to go during her short visit. And she’d need a bowl to put her food in. And another one for fresh water. Maybe a toy or two. Some treats. He was eyeing the belled collars when he decided she didn’t need a collar. It wasn’t as if he planned to keep her or anything. As he headed up the next aisle to the checkout  counter, a set of claws dug into his side. Jace stopped. One paw protruded from above his jacket zipper as if pointing at something.

“What?” he whispered, moving in the direction the paw indicated.

The paw extended farther out his neck hole and batted a small red Christmas bulb on a decorated tree.

“Do you like that?” he asked. Why was he talking to a cat?

She let out a meow and reached for the bulb with both paws, squirming about in his jacket as she tried to reach the ornament.

“You’re making a scene,” he said, shoving her back into his coat and tugging the zipper higher.

Into his cart the little, gaudy decorated tree went. Brownie purred her approval.

By the time he’d lugged his duffle bag, guitar case, several bags of cat supplies, and a hideous Christmas tree upstairs, he was exhausted. Dropping everything in the corridor, he opened his apartment door, plagued by the emptiness that always filled him whenever he came home to nothing.

“Honey, I’m home.” His voice echoed in the barren living room.

Inside his jacket, Brownie meowed. He unzipped his coat and she sprang out, trotting into his apartment as if she owned the place. He let her roam while he dragged everything inside. While he was unpacking the impressive collection of canned cat food, Brownie jumped onto the kitchen counter and watched him. She placed a definitive paw on one can of food and meowed.

“Is that the one you want?”

The well-duh look she gave him made him chuckle. He rinsed her new bowl and emptied the can of fishy-smelling grossness into the bowl. She gobbled it up, purring between gulps. Jace extended a hand in her direction, knowing he shouldn’t pet her, knowing he couldn’t get attached. He was dropping her off at the animal shelter as soon as she finished eating. Her face still in the bowl, she twisted her body sideways until it collided with his hand. Her tail curled around his forearm. He didn’t have a choice but to pet her then. Stroking her soft fur was somehow soothing. Her purr settled the turbulence with him even further. He hadn’t expected that.

“Why were you out on your own?” he asked. “Someone abandon you?”

Licking her lips, Brownie lifted her head and looked up at him, those soulful amber eyes meeting his. He turned away and found the gaudy Christmas tree on the floor. He picked it up, set it in the living room in front of the window, and plugged it in. It was only knee high and the most pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree Jace had ever encountered, but it brought a smile to his face. Ten minutes later, the tree was bare except for its flashing colored lights. Red bulbs and garland lay in disarray across the floor. A very pleased cat lay amid the destruction.

Jace shook his head at her. “You don’t really think I’m going to keep you, do you?”

The well-duh look she gave him left no doubt in his mind. Brownie rolled onto her back, paws batting the air and tugging on heartstrings. Jace hated to admit it, but this Christmas he had a family again.

 
24 Comments

Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Short Story

 

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