The Rise of Hylzarie ~ A Flash Fiction Fantasy by Liza Roberts

Oct 26 2017, 10:48 pm in , ,

The Rise of Hylzarie

 

     Luciana walked towards the sinking rays of the sun, basking in their orange light where she reached a rocky clearing beside a small stream.

     The light turned salmon pink and the horizon swept to lilac, an evening star twinkled, signalling that this was the place. 

     Luciana knelt on the dusty earth at the water’s edge, capturing the cool liquid in her hands. Her thirst quenched, she opened the sleep sack that she had carried on her back and laid it out against the soft sand.  The earth still warm from the sun and smelt of sun baked clay. Breathing in the warm air, she sank into the soft layers of the sack, head cushioned against the mound she had made.  Eyes widely gazing out to the indigo endless sky. She smiled at the small stars, each twinkling in their own time and pace. All her life had led to this moment, to this night, to this place in her journey now.

     She was ready.

     Fulfilled with all that she had achieved and ready for what was to come. Butterflies fluttered and danced inside her, in anticipation of the moon rise. 

     Then, across the mountain range, a glow, a slit of light rising. Luciana closed her eyes.  Hoping for a moment, to be suspended, without the wrinkle of time to change it. A cool breeze wafted across her body, light and smooth as a silk scarf, sending a quiver through every part of her. Sensing that something had changed, she opened her eyes. 

     The moon had now risen in the sky as a luminous ball of pearlescent light. All around her was a blaze of silver and white shadows.

     Sitting bolt upright, she peered closer, making out shapes of heads, a scramble of legs and manes.  A soft hush flowed from the circle, the sound of gentle pawing and stamping of hooves against the earth and the occasional snicker and snort from flared nostrils.  It was then that Luciana noticed the glittering horns. Her butterflies rose again, but this time with each flap and flutter of their wings, bursts of joy exploded from their energy.

     This was her destiny!

     Luciana stepped from her sleep nest towards the circle.  The largest unicorn stepped forward to meet her and the rest of the clan, bowed their heads and murmured “Biancha the great white powerful one.”

     Biancha shook his long mane, jewels twinkling within the tumble of curls.  Upon his breast, a crest, which Luciana recognised immediately to be that of her family. Luciana bowed her head, reaching out to touch the crest with trembling fingers and whispering “I am yours” Beneath her fingers she felt Bianchas powerful muscles and strong beat of his heart thud within him.

     “I name you Hylzarie, lover of the moon,” he bellowed. His muzzle dipped, touching Luciana lightly on her head, sending an electric flash between them both. 

     Luciana shuddered and felt her long silver blond hair tumble across her shoulders and back. Her pale skin became translucent and her fine hairs stood on end.  Each strand grew and glimmered into shining fur.  Her coat flashed, sending rainbows of sparkles along every hair, a mane and tail shimmered silver pearl and her aura changed from blue to violet. Her delicate doll like hands and feet melded before her eyes into pearly hooves and upon her head, pointed ears grew.

     With a shake of her jaw against her dainty neck, she flung her head from side to side and her dark blue violet eyes and rosebud lips transformed.  She felt a tingle at the place of her third eye and at once knew that she too had a horn like her sisters.

     The moon high in the sky now, its luminous gaze of approval to the birth of Hylzarie below.  A shooting star shot across the sky adding to the celebration.  All was quiet. Then there blew up a breeze, and with it across the dark blanket of sky, clouds raced towards the moon. Their great billowing tufted balls casting shadows across the earth.

     Hylzarie looked up to see great Pegasus, imposing and encircled with cloud.  Shades of magenta, aqua, violet and blue swirling, flowing, circling about him, his long mane flowing with the breeze, unable to see where his mane ended and the circles began, his huge powerful wings arched high into the heavens, powerful beyond anything Hylzarie had ever imagined. His presence filled her, His voice inside her, a part of her.

     “Hylzarie you are the chosen one, you are the light and doorway to our future, you must keep the gateway safe, guard it with your life and only allow those with the gift through.  If you fail you will die along with your clan and their future.”

     Hylzarie reared, her feathered hooves reaching high into the sky, she threw back her head releasing a cry. Her powerful hind legs exploded her entire being into the sky, her spirit soared into the clouds, propelling her higher and higher. She felt so powerful and limitless. Her entire being filled with energy and light. 

     Full of power from the moon and universe, her hooves fell towards the earth once more.  When her front hooves felt the thud of the earth beneath her, the full heaviness of gravity oozed back into her being and the comforting sensation of mother earth, warmed her blood again.

     She was ready.

 

 

     Liza is an Australian social worker and successful social entrepreneur with three teenage children and four cats who is harnessing increased time and the space to extend on her writing. 
     Previously published co-author of social work practice programs, Liza is putting pen to paper in a new genre.  Filled with sentimentality and adoration of human resilience, Liza incorporates paranormal, fantasy and spiritualist concepts and philosophies into her fiction writing.  Writing sets her soul free and allows her imagination to wander, creating new landscapes and worlds for her readers to explore. 

Rise of Hylzarie is Liza’s first flash fiction in a fantasy world, and is an excerpt from a wider piece that encompasses a world where unicorns run free, and where magic transcends the human race.

 

Ring Pop ~ A Flash Fiction Romance by Rebekah Simmers

Oct 25 2017, 11:56 pm in , ,

Ring Pop

 

     Graham was kneeling, sinking into the muddied trail, with a broad smile and his arm outstretched holding the ring. A cherry red ring pop.

     “You’re such a son of a bitch,” Annie said, biting her lip, hands hard on her hips.

     “Get up,” she said, cocking her head and motioning with her hand. Seriously? What is this? He can’t really….

     “Answer me first.”

     Thousands of thuds pounded around them, spitting through the naked tree limbs laced thickly above, smacking against rocks, earth and piles of sun burnt leaves around their feet. Looking up, Graham belted out a hearty laugh.

     “What’s so amusing?”

     “This,” he laughed.

     “Can we just go? We’re getting soaked,” Annie sputtered, looking frantically around. I can’t do this. I’m not ready.

     He coughed and shook himself, his hair flying around like a wet dog.

     “Not until you give me an answer woman,” he said in a playful draw, fluttering his thick brows.

     “You can’t be serious. This isn’t the time for this!” Annie’s arms though covered in her jacket, were rife with goosebumps, her nerves flying electrically through her skin. She shook her feet alternately, her socks swollen with water than had soaked through her sneakers and diverted her eyes. Damnit.

     “There’s never been a better time,” Graham said, broadly swiveling around, gesturing around them. “C’mon love. Say you’ll marry me. Take me, here, now – all these trees will stand witness.”

     Annie smiled, but her heart rose sharply into her throat.

     “I love you,” she said. “Really, I do but…..”

     “Then say yes.”

     “I don’t want things to change,” Annie said, her voice cracking. He moved to her, lifting her chin gently to see into her eyes.

     “WE won’t,” he said.

     “Then why? Why do we have to be married?” Annie said. I’m going to lose him.  Here. Now. This is how this will end.  

     “Why?” Graham repeated, with a soft smile. “Because I love you. You love me. I want you to be my wife. To be married. Married old fools who go hiking in the rain.”

     She shook her head, trying to throw the words away from her. I can’t….give that much…..Bare myself….risk it all. Again.

     “I can’t…”

     Graham’s brows hardened and his jaw twitched at her words.

     “I just can’t,” Annie repeated quietly.

     “You’re not making sense,” he said, bobbing his head trying to regain eye contact.

     She turned and walked into the trees, leaning against one heavily.

     “You don’t understand – what it was like to….try so hard…..lose so much……”

     “You’re right, I haven’t been through what you have.” He trudged up behind Annie, turning her with a solid yet soft grip on her shoulder. “But love, I am NOT him.”

     “I know that.”

     “Then don’t let HIM, what he did, ruin US. Please,” Graham said. “What we have is great. It’s actually pretty fucking great. I love you. You’re a STUBBORN ASS, but you’re brilliant, and funny, and sexy as hell…..We’re good together. Better than any of that bull-shit. You know that.” He shook his head. “Damnit. Have I ever done anything like that? WOULD I? Don’t be afraid of me because of…….”

     “It’s not just me in this,” Annie said sharply. “You know that. I love you. So much. I just don’t know if getting married is the right thing. I promised myself that I wouldn’t – for Adam’s sake. He’s the most important thing in my life.”

     Graham’s shoulders pulled back, as a wave rolled through him.

     “I know he is. He’s your son,” he said.

     Annie nodded, crossing her arms over her chest as hot tears rose behind her eyes.

     “I’m sorry for what happened to you.”

     “That’s all over. Behind me.” She looked away, lost in thought.

     “He’s a great kid. Adam.”

     “He is.”

     “He told me you liked cherry.”

     “What?”

     “Cherry,” he said, flicking the ring pop into his mouth and winking at her. “I almost forgot. He wanted me to give you this.”

     Graham handed her a sloppily wrapped box and then held his backpack over them like a canopy.

     “You work so hard,” he said as she pulled at the crinkled paper. “You do everything right by Adam. For him. And you love him fiercely….”

     Annie opened the flaps of the box and saw a card. “Mommy”.

     “I want to be a part of that. Take care of, and do right by you BOTH. You – and Adam – deserve that. I know he’s not my blood, but I love him. And with every part of me, woman, I love and adore you,” Graham said, his hand brushing the line of her cheek. “Adam has an incredible, strong mother – I’d like to show him what it’s like to have a real man for a father. One who respects his mother. Treats her right. A man, a father, who will fight to my very last breath to give you both the world. Let me be that man. Let us be a family.”

     A small sob escaped as Annie opened the card. Adam had drawn a picture of the three of them on the mountain – him in the middle, holding both of their hands. On her other hand was a large cherry red diamond. The curved smile drawn on his face spoke volumes and three words he had written in crayon were simple and blunt – “say yes Mommy”

     Annie straightened, her eyes tracing over the soaked mess in front of her. This is a good – really good – man. And he’s right. THIS is right. I can’t let fear…my past…dictate my future.

     Graham nodded towards the box and the blue jewelry box nestled into the bottom. When she opened it, a ring with three diamonds sparkled up at her.

     “One for each of us,” he smiled, with a large exhale.  Tears freely falling, she leaned into him, kissing him on his cherry flavored lips.

     “You’re right. There’s never been a better time.” She smiled, her heart warm and at peace within her chest. “Yes.”

 

 

 

    I’m addicted to words. As a kid, I wrote about bunnies. My teenage years were full of short stories and poems, as I tried to figure out who I was and where I wanted to go with my life. At 40 – the road here and ahead look pretty grand. I’ve dove head first into writing and research as I work to complete my first novel in a trilogy – a lifelong dream that I’m working hard to realize. In my “spare time”, I’m a military spouse, mother of five (awesome) children and one furbaby (meow), volunteer and “Peaker”. Currently located in Germany, (which luckily supports my research habit of studying castles and medieval life), my greatest joy now is balancing raising five good hearted resilient children with my best friend, with combatting the stress of military life and special needs parenting, while happily re-adding the word “writer” to my life story.  Rebekah 

 

 

Burning Revenge ~ A Flash Fiction Contemporary Romance by Alyssa Henderson

Oct 24 2017, 11:45 pm in , , ,

Burning Revenge

 

     “Mal, I don’t think this is such a good idea anymore.” Katie’s dark-lined eyes scanned the corridor they stood in. Her hands nervously tugging the cords hanging from her black hoodie. They thought it would be a good idea to dress in Mission Impossible black outfits for their covert op, but now she looked down at herself and best friend, she felt ridiculous. This was probably the stupidest thing Mallory had ever talked her in to. She might as well put the handcuffs on right now.

     “This is a brilliant idea. Best one yet. Have I ever steered you wrong?” Mallory crouched in front of apartment G-7 and aptly pick the lock.

     “Yes, on several occasions.”

     “Pff, I get you out of that damn comfort zone you’ve boxed yourself into.” Mallory jiggled the door knob and it opened. She gave Katie a sly smile. “We’re in.”

     “How do you know how to pick a lock?” Katie asked. An incredulous tinge to her voice.

     Mallory stood, shrugging her shoulders. “I know people. Now let’s go.” She pulled her hoodie down and walked into the apartment as if she had every right to be there.

     Katie’s eyes darted around the hallway again. Why did she agree to this? Oh-wait, that’s right. Her ADHD on crack co-worker did everything he could and almost succeeded in sabotaging the promotion she’s been busting her ass for. Anger jackhammered through her as the memories of today’s meeting flashed in her head. She was not going to let that dickhead Tommy Trent get away with what he’d done.

     They spent the next few minutes sorting through the two boxes of dildos that cost damn near half her paycheck. The plan was simple. Decorate his entire apartment with them and ruin his top-secret date with Daisy, the HR Director with their firm.

     “Who knew they made so many different types. I mean look at this one?” Katie said holding up a double headed penis. It was velvety soft and confused the hell out of her. “How does this even work? Is it like a raunchy tug of war game?” She tilted her head and squinted.

     “Ooo, what about this one!” Mallory held up a gigantic cock like a trophy. Her fingers didn’t come close to meeting as she waved it back and forth like a sloppy noodle. “Awe, that’s sad. I think this one needs some Viagra.”

     Katie laughed. Snorted and then laughed harder causing Mallory to fall backwards laughing hysterically. Katie hit Mallory in the arm with the double edge dildo. “Shh” snort snort “We’re gonna get caught.” Snort. “Seriously…” and she was gone, lost in fits of snorting hysteria.

     “Who’s going to catch us the dildo police?” They dissolved into hysterics again.

     “Ohmygod, did you hear that?” Katie pulled herself upright.

     Voices came from the other side of the door. Mallory’s eyes widened and Katie’s mouth dropped.

     “I thought you said he had reservations.” Mallory whispered. Straining her ear toward the door.

     Katie shrugged looking at the colorful penis display they had thrown around them. “Maybe she stood him up?” she whispered back, swinging her arms wide. “What are we going to do?”

     Mallory bit her bottom lip as she tossed her hands up with the larger-than-life dildo still in her hand.

     Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

     Mallory’s mouth dropped open. “Ohmygod, Katie. It vibrates.”

     Katie rolled her eyes. “Well, it has to do something besides being limp. Now, turn that thing off.”

     Mallory turned it upside down, then rolled it in her hands before looking back at Katie. “I don’t know how.”

     Katie’s lips pulled to one side as she stared at the puzzle in her friend’s hand. “Shake it?”

     Mallory pumped the mammoth penis in the air three times. Harder each time. “I can’t get it to work.” She looked at Katie in disbelief.

     Katie chewed on the inside of her cheek, desperately trying not to lose it.  “Don’t!” She held up a finger in warning to Mallory then pointed to the door.

     Mallory’s eyes danced as she scrunched up her face.

     The snorting hysteria followed.

     The sharp click of the lock sobered them in an instant. Plastic penises flew through the air as they scrambled to find a hiding place finally cramming into the pantry.

     Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.   

     The hum of the vibrating Goliath dildo still reverberated through the apartment. 

     “What the fuck?” Tommy’s voice boomed.

     Katie scrunched her eyes closed. They were so getting busted. She could smell the stale, musty jail cell now.

     “Is this some kind of joke Tommy? Or do you have some kind of fetish?” Daisy’s soft southern belle voice floated through the apartment.

     “No. NO! I-I don’t know what this is. I swear.” Tommy said.

     “Cause, you know, I don’t mind.” Daisy said all breathy.

     Katie and Mallory side-eyed each other.

     “I think it’s sexy,”

     “You…uh…you do?” Shock evident in Tommy’s voice.

     “Mmhm… like this one. Ooo, it’s already turned on for me.” Daisy giggled.

     Katie pulled back bumping into the shelves behind her. She looked to Mallory. “If they go at it right here and I have to listen to it, I’m killing you.” She half mouthed- half whispered as low as possible.

     Mallory gave an outrageous eye roll then mouthed “whatever.”

     “Well.” Tommy cleared his throat. “I guess we should put this to good use then… in the bedroom?”

     “You read my mind, you dirty, dirty boy.” Daisy giggled again. “Oh, grab that bottle of lube too.”

     Mallory gave Katie a broad smile and two thumbs up. “Told you, swapping out the lube with unscented Bengay was going to be epic.”

     Katie glared at Mallory. “I hate you. I’m never letting you talk me into shit like this ever again.”

     Mallory laughed. “Sure you will. Now, move it before we get caught.” Her eyes glittered in the dark, a mischievous smile playing on her lips. “Think he’ll get fired?”

     “Oh yeah.” Katie grinned back.

 

 

I’m Alyssa Henderson.  Like all things in my life, I came a little late to the writing party.  I’ve been a professional dreamer all my life, but it wasn’t until my early thirties my stories refused to be squashed. I began writing and I haven’t stopped since. Creating the perfect plot twist for my story is seriously one of the best things EVER.  I am a book junkie with a coffee habit and no desire to stop either. I love practicing yoga, enjoying good food with my family and friends – with wine, of course (got to balance out the caffeine) and walking my dogs if the weather is nice. When I’m not writing and juggling daily life, I love traveling and using my experiences to enrich my stories and characters and meeting up with other writers.  The writing community is truly amazing.

Today ~ A Flash Fiction Romance by Jo Jackson

Oct 20 2017, 6:09 am in , , ,

Today

 

     “So, what’s it going to be today? Chicken or ham?” Her voice wasn’t as chipper as it could have been but then given the sodden trainers that were squelching her around the office space and the torrential rain battering the windows, no one could have been overly surprised.

     “Do you have tuna?”

     “Really? We’re really going to do this. Again.” The sandwich girl sighed wearily, switching her basket of clingfilm smothered sandwiches and rolls to the other hip. The plastic wrap decorated with droplets of water that sparkled under the lighting. She rolled her shoulders to try and get the wet shirt to stop clinging to her back, the fabric making her want to shiver.

     “Well, do you?” his tone was hopeful.

     “Dan, let me ask you a question. It is Dan, isn’t it?”

     Dan nodded.

     “Dan, did I have tuna yesterday?”

     He shook his head.

     “Or the day before?”

     Another shake and his overly bright smile began to fade ever so slightly.

     “Have I ever, in all the months I’ve been bringing sandwiches to your office, had tuna?”

     “No,” he replied quietly.

     “And do you know why that is, Dan?”

     “Because no one orders any?”

     “Because no one orders any. No one has ever ordered tuna and so no tuna sandwiches ever make their way into my basket. And yet every day, every single day, you ask if I have one.” She tried to keep her voice down but there was little chance that her words didn’t carry to the nearest cubicles around them, even more so given that most people seemed to have paused their work to listen in. “May I suggest if you’re so keen to have a fish based sandwich for your lunch, Dan, you bloody well order one when asked!”

     In the silence that followed a droplet of rain dripped from her pixie cut hair and ran down her forehead and dripped off the quirked brow currently aimed at the hapless Dan.

     Somewhere, in someone’s cubicle, a phone rang and the bubble burst instantly. Quiet noise filling up the office space once more and prompting Dan into responding.

     “I’ll have ham, please,” Dan took the offered sandwich with a muted word of thanks, dropping some coins into her outstretched hand to cover the cost.

     Closing her eyes and taking a slow breath to try and calm herself down she turned away from Dan and his non-tuna filled sandwich and headed to the next cubicle. The man inside clearly amused by what had just gone on given the grin on his lips.

     “Well, that was rather dramatic for a Tuesday lunchtime, even for you and Dan and your daily battle of the baguettes.”

     “You need to get out more, that was nothing. You want drama? Go to the office where only one gluten free sandwich has been ordered and someone else has taken it.”

     “I can imagine,” he chuckled, holding out a box of tissues. “Handbags at ten paces.”

     “You’re not far off,” she smiled gratefully, setting her basket down on the corner of his desk and taking one of the offered tissues to wipe at her face.

     “Aren’t you worried someone might make a complaint?”

     “Oddly enough, this isn’t my dream job,” she countered defensively, balling up the damp tissue and tossing it into a nearby bin. “If I’m completely honest, when I left the sandwich shop and the heavens opened I was genuinely tempted to just chuck this lot on the ground, put the basket over my head and go home.”

     As if to emphasise her point there was a massive flash of lightning outside followed by a crash of thunder so loud it shook the huge windows that stretched from floor to ceiling.

     “I don’t blame you,” he assured her, frowning slightly. “But, even so, you’d probably need a reference, wouldn’t you? A bad comment from a client could really mess that up.”

     “I appreciate your concern,” her voice was a little softer, it surprised them both, “but if he hasn’t got the balls to order the sandwich he wants I highly doubt he’s going to be picking up the phone to start making complaints any time soon.”

     “Fair point.”

     “I’m sure I’ll be back here tomorrow, with a basket devoid of tuna based lunch items, just as I always am.”

     “Well, I hope so. I kind of like watching you and Dan every day.”

     “Then I’ll do my best not to disappoint, assuming I don’t get washed away on my way to the next office on my list of course.” She blushed slightly. “So, what’ll it be? Chicken or ham?”

     “Today?”

     “Today.”

     “Today I’d really like to take you out for dinner but I didn’t put that on the order slip this morning so…” his words tailed off and her eyes rose from the basket to his face. “I guess it’ll have to be chicken.”

     “Dinner?” she repeated quietly, suddenly hoping her eyeliner wasn’t too badly ruined by the rain.

     “No, chicken,” he repeated slowly, stressing the syllables slightly.

     Grinning bashfully, she pulled out a chicken roll from her basket and held it out.

     “But, I don’t even know your name,” she admitted as he took it from her and pulled his wallet from his suit jacket pocket.

     “You’re Sophie, the sandwich girl, and I’m Chris. I like sandwiches and walks in the rain. Seems like we’d be a good match.” He held out a ten pound note to pay for the sandwich along with his business card.

     “I don’t have enough change for this.”

     “Don’t worry, you can bring it along tonight. Give me a call or a text later and we’ll sort out where to meet.”

     “Ok then,” Sophie smiled, pocketing the card and hoping like hell that it survived the rest of the lunchtime deliveries.

     “Ok,” Chris repeated, watching her walk away.

     “So,” Sophie approached the next cubicle with a much brighter expression than she had been wearing a few minutes earlier. “What’ll it be today?”   

 

 

       

I’m Jo Jackson and I’ve been writing stories since I was a child. I wrote my first serious attempt at a novel at the age of 14 and wrote regularly after that until real life and ‘adulting’ got in the way.

A few years ago I allowed myself to have enough belief and confidence in my writing to try and do something about the stories that have been trapped in my imagination for too long. I’m a British born preschool teacher and photographer who’s been living for the last 12 years in Northern Finland with my husband, two children and our crazy black labrador. Here I write under the northern lights in winter and the midnight sun in summer, taking large amounts of inspiration from family holidays spent in the Scottish Highlands as well as the adventure games of my childhood. I tend to write about love, in various guises. Check out my book, ‘Moments Matter: The importance of family photography’

 

 

 

Bitter ~ A Flash Fiction Mystery by Carolyn Greeley

Oct 20 2017, 6:09 am in , ,

Bitter

 

         The woman thrashed across the bed. Sheets and covers tangled her legs. She clawed at her throat, fighting to breathe. Specks of light floated before her eyes as she strained to see through the darkness.

     Familiar male laughter rumbled over the ringing in her ears.

     Jane Harris gasped awake. Her heart pounded as she struggled upright and flipped on a lamp, focused on her surroundings. She scanned her small Manhattan bedroom. Empty. The scent of sour sweat sickened her as she raked trembling fingers through her hair.

     She hadn’t heard the last of her ex-boyfriend.

     Slipping out of bed, she checked the window latch before heading to the kitchen. Lights flicked on as she went.

     See? He’s not here. No one’s here. He can’t hurt me again. Her hand tightened into a fist. He won’t.

     She inspected the apartment, then entered the bathroom. Stared in the mirror as she filled a cup with water. The woman reflected looked alien: hollow blue eyes and snarled hair framed an ashen face. A quick swallow, then she faced her bedroom again. And thoughts of Tom Ridley, her ex of two months past.

     Memories chased away sleep. The first bruising grab after she teased his football team’s loss. The belittling of her choice of Miles Davis over his AC/DC. The time his punch cracked her ribs because he claimed she’d flirted with another man.

     As if I’d ever do that. I can’t even think of other men. Another slow breath. But at least I finally ditched him.

     Spring blossomed the next week. The dream didn’t return, and Jane enjoyed the mundaneness of spring cleaning, errand-running, and doctor visits that marked her personal season change. Routine brought a gratifying calm.

     One evening, an eerie sensation crawled over her as she left the dentist. Dusk crept into the streets. Lights winked on but didn’t dispel sidewalk shadows. She glanced around. Nothing unusual. Still, tingling iced her spine. Entering a boutique on her block, she ducked behind a display, and turned to look outside.

     Tom Ridley pinioned her with his stare.

     Minutes ticked by.

     He didn’t move. She couldn’t.

     A clerk approached. The distraction startled Jane, and she bumped into the rack, dislodging items. She stammered an apology, then looked toward the window.

     Tom had vanished.

     Oh, God, where is he?

     Fumbling fingers dialed her friend Helen. Voicemail. She hesitated, then slipped out. Phone and keys in hand, she peered around and hurried home. The deadbolt slammed behind her.

     Over the next week, Jane’s life deteriorated. The standoff with Tom left her jittery, fearful of other surprises. Her nights became restless, nightmare-plagued. She suffered through long days with an achy head and an acid stomach.

     “Maybe visit your dad for a couple days,” Helen suggested. “Get your mind off things.”

     “I’d hate to worry him. He and Tom never got along, and hearing this would upset him.” She shook her head. “I’ll just hope that was the end of it.”

     That night, Jane writhed across the bed. Rough hands choked her again. This time, though, she awoke gagging. She stumbled to her bathroom, spat out the mouth guard she slept with. She’d cracked off a piece and swallowed it.

    What a joke! This is supposed to help?

     Her dentist instructed her to sleep with the guard because stress had her grinding her teeth. She returned to bed, but nausea and sleeplessness overwhelmed her.

     Her boss frowned when he saw her the next morning, noting her sunken cheeks and bloodshot eyes. “You look like death with a side of fries. You need a doctor.” He patted her shoulder. “Go on, get outta here.”

     Great, I’m freaking him out, too. I guess the doctor isn’t a bad idea.

     She’d tried over-the-counter remedies. Nothing helped. Still queasy, she felt more drained every day. The negative pregnancy test result brought relief, but even one less major stressor didn’t alleviate her symptoms.

     Something else was wrong.

     “Don’t worry, Ms. Harris,” said the doctor. “We’ll have your results in a few days. The office will call to follow up. In the meantime, try to get a good night’s rest.” Her hand twitched, wanting to smack him.

     She headed to the dentist next, to replace her mouth guard. The entrance flung open, and Jane jumped as a man dashed out, nearly sideswiping her.

     Tom.

     She stumbled backward. Her uneasy gaze scanned the area for help before she noticed his lab coat and supply bag. She’d forgotten he was a technician for one of her dentist’s suppliers, though they’d met during his rounds.

     His gaze pierced her. “You feeling okay, Jane? You look like hell.”

     She ignored him, hurried inside, feeling daggers in her back.

     The dentist took Jane’s guard to return to the supplier. Because Tom had left, the lab dispatched another tech for the pickup.

     Now we wait and see….

     Three nights of solid sleep helped, but a call from her dentist disquieted Jane. The tech examined her mouth guard and found it wasn’t made of the usual material. Molded to last for years, it shouldn’t have broken. The tech was running tests to determine its chemical composition.

     The phone rang again. What now? Her doctor’s words chilled her. Her bloodwork showed unusual inclusions; she was to return to the office immediately.

     Jane listened to the doctor as a steady buzz intensified in her head.

     Traces of arsenic.

     “What? Poison?” She hugged herself tight.

     “Exposure occurs in numerous ways. From the volume we detected, it was small but prolonged. Let’s go through any changes in your routine over the past two months to see if we can isolate anything unusual.”

     Jane’s horror escalated as they dissected her life. She described her recent improvement and the conversation with her dentist. She shook her head. But she couldn’t ignore her mouth guard as the likely conduit.

     And Tom Ridley the only suspect.

     The arresting officers found his apartment abandoned. Fear, fury streaked through Jane when she heard. Soon after, she began to plot her revenge.

             

 

 

                     Carolyn Greeley is the award-winning author of Emerald Obsession.                       Equal parts city slicker and beach bum, she concocts mystery-adventures, combining elements of both locales. Contemporary action and historic exploits infuse her stories, creating an engaging escape. A former Manhattanite, she now lives in St. Augustine, Florida, where things like cellphone photography, wine-and-cheese adoration, dictionary reading, and investigating everything are perfectly acceptable pastimes.  Visit her at carolyngreeley.com.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, GoodReads, and Pinterest.

 

 

   

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