S’nogged: A Jenna Ray Christmas story

Share

A seasonal Thursday teaser

By Kayla Dawn Thomas

The house buzzed with energy and alcohol. Around nine-thirty a loud, “HO! HO! HO!” came from the foyer followed by the slamming of the front door. Silence followed until a man in a Santa Suit entered the living room where most of us had settled. Cheers erupted at the sight of him. This was a new addition to the party lineup.

“Has everyone been good this year?” Santa shouted over the crowd.

A chorus of catcalls and whoops filled the room, and Santa threw his head back and laughed jiggling his padded belly. Mack pressed a mug of eggnog into Santa’s hand, and with that, Jolly Old Saint Nick became part of the party. The red suit mingled its way through the living room, somehow keeping its back to me. The voice seemed familiar, but I’d had just enough champagne to doubt myself. No matter how I moved, I couldn’t get a good look at the eyes above the beard.

Finally, I made my way over to Kennedy. “Who’s Santa?”

“Oh, it’s one of the new guys from Mack’s office. He’s a total clown,” she replied with a dismissive flick of her wrist. Then she clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “It’s time for the white elephant gift exchange!”

Another round of cheers went up, and everyone refreshed their drinks before heading to the corner where a giant Christmas tree covered in delicate designer ornaments held court.

“Hey, Santa, why don’t you pass out the gifts?” Mack said.

“My pleasure, ho, ho, ho!” Santa’s voice had a mock depth to it. Sandwiched between my mother and sister on the floor, I wiggled around trying to get a good look at his face, but he turned around and presented me with a red, polyester-clad ass. Stretched taut, the pants revealed well-shaped, firm buns. This Santa was no fatty.

“Mmm…Santa’s been working out,” Nora murmured in my ear.

The sound of her voice pissed me off. We’d never been the type of sisters to giggle and share secrets and ogle boys together. I was happy her life was on an upswing but was struggling with it colliding into the one I’d built. It should have been Kennedy whispering in my ear.

A small box plopped into my lap wrapped in red paper with elves frolicking on it. I tore my attention away from my sister to watch as gifts were unwrapped, and the thievery began. The Dean white elephant gift exchange had a long tradition of randomness. There were usually a couple of really nice items, lots of cheesy things, and the occasional suggestive oddball. I was pleased when Nora unwrapped an ugly teddy bear candleholder.

“That’ll look great in your new living room,” I said loud enough for the whole group to hear bringing a roll of laughter.

Nora flashed a fake smile and cradled the ceramic bears in her hands. “Hey, Mom, you know you want it.”

“Like hell I do, unless Jenna opens something amazing, I’m going for that bottle of Jameson. That guy doesn’t look old enough to appreciate it.” One of Mack’s baby faced techs flushed and pretended to hide the whiskey under his shirt.

“All right, Jenna, you’re up,” Kennedy called from the couch where she’d stretched her legs across Mack’s lap.

Feeling adventurous, I decided to go with the package in my lap. Dropping the paper to the side, I revealed a glossy black box with a model wearing dark purple edible panties on the front. Grape flavored. Laughter bubbled up from deep within me, the silent kind that just makes you shake. Really? Two years in a row I get the naughty gift.

“What did you get?” Someone hollered from across the room. “Hold it up so everyone can see!”

Before I could react, Nora squealed and snatched the box, holding it triumphantly over her head. “Who’s hungry?”

“Oooo,” Mom said in my ear. “I had a pair of those recently. Strawberry. Tasted like a stale fruit roll-up.”

I snorted as a fresh wave of laughter tore through me. This was just surreal. Then I peed a little. Startled, I yipped and jumped to my feet making a mad dash for the bathroom. The living room buzzed with laughter and dirty jokes in my wake, but I didn’t care, I was about to completely wet myself.

Someone caught my arm as I passed through the doorway leading from the living room to the hallway. Startled, I whirled around and found myself nose to nose with Santa. A pair of familiar, electric blue eyes pierced me with an intense stare from above the white beard. My heart jumped into my throat, and I couldn’t swallow it.

The Collection

S’Nogged is Story 3 in the Jenna Ray series, available in The Collection.

Think twice before you slip off that ring, boys.

Arriving at her parents’ house for an impromptu visit, Jenna Ray gets her own surprise when she finds her father lip locked with a strange woman. Then, her brother-in-law defiles her sister’s car with a waitress in a parking lot. Jenna Ray snaps the night she discovers her mentor with his receptionist wrapped around his waist and proceeds to dump the guy in nothing but his boxers at his wife’s feet. Discovering her hidden talent to seduce, Jenna walks away from her IT career and reinvents herself as a vigilante seeking justice for women who are too tired and hurt to stand up for themselves.

A side effect of the job is losing her ability to trust any man. So, when she finds herself getting lost in Thad Benson’s hypnotic blue eyes, Jenna fights the attraction with all she’s got. But Thad’s a patient man, who’s up to the challenge of taming Jenna.

With a cast of quirky friends, clients, and family, the Jenna Ray Stories will have you laughing and cringing at Jenna’s predicaments.

Get it on Amazon.

You can also get the full S’Nogged story for free by subscribing to the BestSelling Reads email newsletter. Just fill out the form above right.

Kayla Dawn Thomas

has been telling stories since she could talk, telling her wild tales to a jump rope until she learned to read and write. Her mother was relieved when she made the transition to paper.

Today Kayla writes contemporary romance, weaving her experiences growing up on a cattle ranch into her work as well as whatever is striking her funny bone or curiosity at the moment. When Kayla isn’t writing she enjoys swimming, reading, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

Learn more about Kayla and her books at her

Share

The importance of holiday traditions

Share

A seasonal Monday musing

by Raine Thomas

My love of the holidays started in my childhood. As busy as my mom was while working full time and running our household of six, she always managed to find the time to dig out the holiday decorations from their storage boxes in the garage and get them up so we could all enjoy them. For many years, we had the same disheveled artificial Christmas tree that she decorated with so many strands of lights you got a little shock if you pulled the plug the wrong way. That sad tree is a memory invoking notes of A Charlie Brown Christmas, another tradition in our household.

I also remember spending days in the kitchen with my mom. She had a variety of cookie recipes she made every year. Magic cookie bars, thumbprint cookies, butter balls, lemon squares, and iced sugar cookies were at the top of her list. She’d make enough cookies to put into pretty tins to give our teachers, our neighbors, the mailperson, the garbage collectors, and anyone else she wanted to recognize. Everyone loved them! It helped me and my brothers learn that gifts don’t always have to cost a lot of money to be appreciated. In fact, those gifts requiring time and thoughtfulness are usually among the most beloved!

When I got older, some of my best holiday memories involved going with my mom from store to store looking for bargains on gifts and new decorations to add to our individual households. We would stop for breakfast at the local diner (boy, do I miss their biscuits and gravy!), then venture around the malls and shops of south Atlanta. Once all the shopping was done, we set a day to get together, indulge in some alcoholic holiday cheer, and spend hours wrapping presents together while watching one Christmas movie or another.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

My mom passed away earlier this year. I can’t help but think about all of those traditions now as we venture into our first Christmas without her. My 13-year-old daughter was very close with her grandma, so I know memories of our many Christmases with mom are also at the forefront of her mind.

I’ve come to realize just how important those many holiday traditions were. They weren’t just “traditions.” They were memories in the making. They were moments that we can revisit now and feel joy when otherwise we might be mournful.

Rather than focus on our loss, we’ve decided to focus on happy traditions…those traditions I had with my mom and those we’re creating ourselves. We’ll be making fresh gingerbread cookies and decorating them together. We’re hunting for Christmas movies my daughter hasn’t seen and spending time watching them. We’re playing the Christmas carols we all love every chance we get, and we’ll read the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore on Christmas Eve.

This time of year invokes a lot of nostalgia, especially in light of my mother’s passing. I’ve been taking time to write about my thoughts and feelings in hopes I can infuse them into a future story, as all life experiences should guide us authors. For now, though, I’ve got cookies to bake…and more importantly, memories to make.

Raine Thomas

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

Raine is a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know more about Raine on

Share

Christmas in paradise: Palm Trees & Snowflakes

Share

The holiday shopping season is officially on. From now till the end of the year, Teaser Thursday will feature holiday-themed books and novellas for your holiday entertainment.

A Hawaiian holiday season teaser

By Scott Bury

When she opened her apartment door, her reflection in the hall mirror shocked her. Her shoulder-length, light brown hair was tangled from the night’s activity and frizzy from Hawaii’s humidity. Her large green eyes were dark with fatigue, with semi-circular shadows under them. Blood smeared the sleeve of her overpriced jogging jacket. The little bump on her nose still frustrated her, as it did every time she looked in a mirror.

Her black-and-white cat wound around her ankles, making “Brrr-rp” sounds. She bent to pat him. “Hello, Tux. Did you miss me?”

Photo by Mel Gardner on Unsplash

Tux purred in answer. She carried him into the kitchen, where she saw her answering machine flashing. After filling Tux’s bowl, she hit the button. Her mother’s attenuated voice came out. “Hello, Honey. I was hoping it wasn’t too early when I called. I can never remember what the time difference is over there.” Vanessa could hear her father in the background, explaining it. Her eyes went to the photo of her parents that hung on her kitchen wall, taken on their thirtieth anniversary. A pang of guilt shot through her. “Oh dear, you’re probably asleep right now. Okay, I’ll just remind you to let us know when you’re arriving so we can pick you up at the airport. You know what the roads can be like at Christmastime. Call us. Love you.”

Vanessa did not have the energy to disappoint her mother by telling her she did not know whether she could come home to Vermont for the holidays. As she kicked off her running shoes, her mobile phone chimed. She looked at the screen and thought I’m even more tired than I thought.

No, her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her. Perry Boyd. I’m coming to Hawaii tomorrow. Wd lv 2 C U.

She hadn’t seen Perry for over two years, hadn’t even spoken to him or exchanged emails. Now he wanted to come all the way to Hawaii from Vermont, just to meet her?

Vanessa always found Alan King’s sad disappointment harder to take than the tough dressing-down her previous commanding officer had preferred. Sitting across his desk from King, she had to think about not fidgeting. She glanced at Alan Terakawa beside her, then focused on King’s receding hairline.

After two hours of sleep, Vanessa had returned to the FBI office dressed according to the Bureau dress code, plus a little added Vanessa Storm flair: grey linen pants, a silk blouse under a stylish cotton jacket that concealed her shoulder-holster yet didn’t get too hot in the tropical climate. Her moderate heels brought her almost to her partner’s height.

Terakawa was dressed, as always, in FBI standard dark suit, white shirt and perfectly knotted tie.

“How did this go so wrong?” King asked, his eyes filled with pain. “A body in the morgue, two people in the hospital with gunshot wounds, one of them a law enforcement officer. I have to make an official statement to the media. Of course, after a detailed report to Washington. So tell me everything you can. First, though …” King focused first on Terakawa until he shifted in his seat. Vanessa saw sweat on his brow. Then the SAIC turned to Vanessa. Time telescoped. Her mouth went dry. “Are you two all right?”

“We’re fine,” Vanessa stressed. “I’m anxious to question the suspect.”

King sat back in his chair. “What do we know about the snowflake case?”

“Not much more than before. We got a tip from an informant that a new shipment was coming in on 9 Pier, but they didn’t know which container. The pills we found were concealed in children’s toys that came from Shanghai via Manila. Which is baffling. Previous shipments of snowflake have come from other ports, including Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur. One came in a container from Seoul. The methods for smuggling are different every time, too. While this shipment was in a child’s toy, others have been in flat-screen TVs, tires, cutlery, you name it.”

“Maybe you can find some answers in Ferreira’s computer,” King said. “Thank you. That’s all for now.”

Alan left, but Vanessa waited for a moment. “There’s one more thing.” She took a deep breath. “I’d like to request some vacation time to visit my parents in Vermont at Christmas.”

Photo by Alasdair Elmes on Unsplash

King’s cheeks puffed out as he sighed. “Normally, I’d say no problem. But we’re up to our elbows with this flood of new drugs, plus we’re short-staffed .”

“I appreciate that, sir. But things slow down during the holidays, even for the FBI. I have more than a week of holidays coming to me. This would be the first year I’ll have been away from my parents for Christmas. I’m an only child—”

King’s tone changed. His posture straightened. “I can appreciate that, Special Agent Storm. But I need you to understand how critical the snowflake case is. It’s the newest designer drug, and it’s sweeping the mainland. There have been six snowflake-related deaths among teenagers in the past two months, and Washington has made it a priority. Our best intelligence shows Honolulu as its first point of entry into U.S. territory. I’m sorry, but we need you here.”

Son of a bitch. “All right. How about this—if I can make a breakthrough and an arrest in the snowflake case by the twenty-third, I can take a week off at Christmas.”

A tiny smile broke King’s command façade. “Okay, Vanessa. If you can make a significant arrest by the twenty-third, you can take time off. Consider it a reward for a job well done.”

Now you’ve done it, Storm.

Palm Trees & Snowflakes

In Honolulu, where the palm trees are strung with lights for the holidays, FBI Special Agents Vanessa Storm and Alan Terakawa have their hands full trying to stop the deadly flow of snowflake, the newest designer drug. Faulty intel brings the agents into a deadly firefight, which yields even more puzzles. Time is running out to stop this lethal flood.

Available exclusively in Kindle e-book format from Amazon.

Scott Bury

It turns out a farmers’ market is not the best place to sell books. Who knew?

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

Share

Bookshots: Stories read with the speed of light

Share

It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

By Caleb Pirtle III

Several years ago, something happened.

And I don’t know why.

My writing changed.

My style changed.

I began writing short.

Then shorter.

I didn’t sit down one morning, stare down at my keyboard, and say, “Well, I think that sentence would work better if it were shorter.”

But there they were.

Scattered on the page.

Short words.

Short sentences.

Short paragraphs.

Short chapters.

Shorter books.

Jump into the story.

Don’t tarry.

Leave when the story is told.

Now, apparently, the great James Patterson agreed with me.

Patterson launched a whole new line of books.

He called them Bookshots.

They were short, 40,000-word novellas designed to be read quickly and cheaply and at one sitting.

You can race through these, Patterson says.

They’re like reading a movie.

He calls them stories at the speed of light.

Patterson says he wants to tap into a new market: the twenty-seven percent of Americans who have not read a book of any kind in the past year.

Why?

Books, they say, are too long.

Hardcover books, they say, are too expensive.

In reality, Patterson brought back the dime novel.

In today’s hectic, fast-paced, impatient world, there’s no reason to write long when short can do the job much better.

For example, I no longer write a chapter describing the sunset.

I merely write: “The sun fell red like blood beyond the trees and into the river.”

No more.

No less.

I don’t need to write a thousand words to describe the sun going down.

We’ve all seen it go down.

We know how it looks.

We know what it does.

My latest release is Lonely Night to Die, which has three noir thrillers written as novellas.

Each one stars the same character.

He’s CIA.

He’s rogue.

The CIA wants him dead.

Patterson would call them bookshots.

I won’t disagree.

More and more, I am embracing the admonition that’s it’s best to enter a story late and leave early.

Others in the writing profession have been doing it for a long time.

As August Wilson said, “The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is.”

And Josh Billings pointed out, “There’s great power in words if you don’t hitch too many of them together.”

Even Thomas Jefferson had an opinion: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

As far as Baltasar Gracian was concerned, “Good things, when short, are twice as good.”

John Rushkin believed, “Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them, and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.”

Said Diderot: “Pithy sentences are like sharp nails driving truth into our memory.”

Mark Twain warned, “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”

And Friedrich Nietzsche summed it up by writing: “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”

When it’s all said and done, however, I prefer the insights of Arthur Plotnik and Robert Southey.

Said Plotnik: “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside of you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”

Southey then drove the point home: “It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”

That says it all.

No need to write anything more.

I’ll quit.

And let Southey’s words burn and be read at James Patterson’s speed of light.

Caleb Pirtle III

began his career writing about history and travel. He learned quickly, however, that what happens is never as important as those who make it happen. Many of those people have made their way into his novels.

He is the author of more than 65 published books, including the new noir suspense thrillers, Golgotha ConnectionSecrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies and Night Side of Dark. His other novels include Back Side of a Blue Moon and Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever

He has written such award winners as “XIT: The American Cowboy,” “Callaway Gardens: the Unending Season,” “The Grandest Day,” “Echoes from Forgotten Streets,” and “Spirit of a Winner.” His nonfiction works include Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk and No Experience Required.

Caleb earned a journalism degree from The University of Texas and became the first student at the university to win the national William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. As a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he received both the Texas Headliner’s and Associated Press Awards.

He served as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, and his travel writing was given the National Discover America Award three times. For more than two decades, Pirtle was editorial director for a custom publishing company in Dallas.

He has also written teleplays for network television.

Find more about Caleb at his:

BestsellingReads author page    |    Amazon Author Page    |    Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

Share

Beautiful Finale

Share

Enjoy this sample from the fourth House of Archer rock’n’roll romance novel

By Raine Thomas

Jada wished the evening would never end. It seemed all too soon that everyone walked out to their cars to head home.

She merely headed to her car.

Home, sweet home, she thought with a sigh as she settled into the driver’s seat. When she was sure the rest of the band had gone and no one else in the parking lot was paying her any attention, she lowered the sun visor and looked at her reflection in the vanity mirror.

“Great job,” she told herself. “You busted your ass for this. You deserve it. Now stick with it and don’t ever fucking give up.”

Once upon a time, she would have felt sorry for herself that she was the only one she could turn to for support and encouragement, especially for such a huge moment. Now she chose to look at the bright side. At least she wouldn’t ever let herself down.

The restaurant closed an hour later. When the night manager turned the lock and spotted her sitting in her car, he frowned and headed over to her. She obligingly rolled down her window.

“Hey, Nico,” she greeted him.

“Hi, J,” he said, stopping a few feet from her car. “Been awhile.”

“Yeah, it has. Listen, I need a favor.”

“J…”

“Please, Nico? I swear it’s just for tonight. I was here celebrating my new job.”

That had the discomfort easing from Nico’s expression. “Is that right?”

“It is. I’ll only be mobile another couple weeks until I get my first paycheck. ‘Til then I just want to make sure I’m somewhere safe to sleep at night. This is a well-lit parking lot and I know you won’t call the cops on me.”

“Well…”

The faint sound of a throat clearing had Nico glancing over the roof of her car. Jada looked out the passenger side window to see who had interrupted. When she saw a camo T-shirt tucked into a pair of khaki cargo pants, her spine stiffened. Xander was too tall for her to see his face but there was no mistaking that spectacular body.

Had he heard their conversation?

“Hey, man,” Xander said to Nico. “You work here?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I think I left my phone earlier. Can you help me out?”

“Of course.”

Nico immediately turned and walked back to the restaurant, fishing his keys out of his pocket as he went. Jada forced herself to stay calm. Xander had been standing on the far side of her car and that window hadn’t been open. He probably hadn’t heard anything, she assured herself.

She heard the sound of his heavy boots crunching gravel as he strolled over to her side of the car. It was impossible not to notice how gracefully he moved, like a powerful predator. Her hands gripped the steering wheel for no good reason other than she didn’t know what else to do with them. She swallowed audibly as Xander placed a hand on the roof of her car and leaned over so he was looking in her window. He was so close she could smell the mouth-watering scent of his aftershave.

“Hey there, Jada,” he said casually. “Or should I call you J?”

Fuck. He’d heard everything.

Beautiful Finale

A rock band. A reality show. A marriage on the rocks.

In the span of four months, Lily Montgomery has gone from touring with her best friend to marrying him. It feels like someone has stomped on the gas pedal that is her life. Right now she is more than ready to pump the brakes.

But that’s not how it works in the world of show business. Her new husband is off filming and recording more often than he is at home. He sees more of his beautiful co-star than his own wife. Lily is finding it harder and harder to distinguish between performing and reality, adding more stress to a marriage that the tabloids already wager won’t last the year.

Thank God for Jada Morgan.

Lily’s new assistant quickly becomes indispensable, covering The Void’s social media while Lily pursues her own writing. When Lily learns that Jada is temporarily rooming with Void guitarist, Xander Phillips, she isn’t concerned. Xander has hard-and-fast rules when it comes to relationships with women. The only way he’ll break Jada’s heart is if he breaks all of his rules.

Even with Jada’s support, Lily struggles to adjust to her new life. From her own personal stalker and ongoing family drama to the constant bombardment from the media, she’s quickly reaching her breaking point. She’s about to learn if marrying a rock star will result in a beautiful finale…or in absolute disaster.

Where you can get it:

Raine Thomas

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

Raine is a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know more about Raine on

Share

Thursday teaser: What Had to be Done

Share

The new young adult novel by USA bestselling author

DelSheree Gladden

I lose my train of thought when my pool cue is suddenly yanked out of my hand. I whip around to find a tall, not-at-all-lanky frame and set of blue eyes staring down at me. The combative set of his jaw is surprising and a little upsetting. Suddenly, I remember Carlos’s warning.

Tamping down my fear, I hop down from the pool table where I’d been sitting. I land a scant few inches away from him. He dwarfs me by about six inches, but that doesn’t stop me from glaring at him.

“I wasn’t finished with that.”

“Sure looked like you were.”

“Looks can be deceiving,” I say, almost choking on the words. “Take you for instance…tall and built as you are, I would have pegged you for someone willing to look out for a girl new to town, not one who goes around snatching pool cues out of their hands and making them want to slap you.”

“What does you being new to town have to do with anything?”

I snatch the pool cue out of his hand and stamp it down on the ground. Thankfully, he is still focused on my eyes and not on my shaking hand. I do not want to start off my tenure here in Santa Fe as the class weenie. “Generally, new arrivals like me come to a party to make friends, not a hit list.”

“Maybe I’m not interested in friends.”

“I doubt that,” I say.

“Why?”

“Because you wouldn’t have come over here and barged in if you didn’t want to know who I was.”

In a flash, his pushy demeanor disappears. A grin replaces his scowl. “Wrong again. I already know who you are, Anna Elizondo.”

“Then why did you come over here, Dave?”

He laughs at the fact that I know who he is as well. He must realize Carlos warned me about him. The merriment in his expression folds quickly. “I came over here because I’ve heard some not so nice things about you, but you look too sweet and innocent for them to be true.”

Surely Carlos wouldn’t say horrible things about me to his friends. Is that why he disappeared so quickly?

“Who told you about me?”

“You don’t know?” Dave asks. “Didn’t Carlos tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

Photo by Santiago Steinkamp on Unsplash

He doesn’t answer. What he does is turn around and call out to someone. When he turns back, all of my false bravado falls away when I see who’s coming toward me. In three years, he’s grown nearly a foot. I can see the same honey-colored eyes I looked into almost every day for years, but never before have I seen such brazen anger in them.

“Felix,” Dave drawls, “look who’s here. It’s your favorite person. Say hi to Anna.”

In front of Dave, I stood my ground. In the face of Felix’s frozen glare, I wilt like flowers in July. My hand shakes to the point that the pool cue I’m holding clatters to the ground. I can’t stop staring at him. The same lips I wanted to kiss a thousand times curl up in a sneer. His hands held mine so many times, the touch always strong but gentle. Now, both of his hands are balled up at his sides.

I haven’t cried since my mom died, but I feel a tear slip down my cheek.

“Felix.”

The single word slips out unbidden. He flinches as if my voice were acid.

“What are you doing here?” he demands.

“I…I live here,” I say weakly. “What are you doing here?”

He half turns. For a moment I think he’s going to walk away from me like I did him three years ago. He almost does. Before his face vanishes completely, he snaps back around. “I spend summers with Carlos’s family. He’s a real friend, unlike other people.”

After his attack, he waves me off and walks away. Dave, who called Felix over in the first place, looks stunned by Felix’s reaction. He watches his friend storm off with a frown.

“Well,” Dave says, “I guess Carlos didn’t tell Felix you’d be here, either.” He walks away after him.

I’m too shocked to move. Lacey comes around the pool table to stand next to me.

“I’m gonna make a wild guess and say Felix is the friend you crushed.”

I swipe at my eyes to brush away the evidence of my betrayal. What I did to Felix…crushed is putting it mildly.

What Had to be Done

Everyone has bad days. Anna Elizondo is going on three years of bad days.

It started with her mother’s illness and eventual death, continued with a decision that ruined a friendship, and culminated in her father announcing they were broke and moving away right before her senior year of high school.

Maybe a fresh start will turn things around. Or maybe it will put her face to face with her former best friend, Felix, and the hatred in he still carries for her.

The only bright spot in Anna’s move to Santa Fe is meeting her new swim coach, a long-time hero who has big plans for her athletic career. The pool is her refuge, but she can’t hide there forever. Living in a small town makes it impossible to stay out of Felix’s way, and unlikely their history will remain just between them for long. If Anna can’t find a way to make things at least tolerable with Felix, it’s going to be a very long summer.

Get it from:

DelSheree Gladden

was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read.

Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.

Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their seventeen cousins close by.

When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.Check out her latest books, get updates and sneak peeks of new projects at

And find her on social media

Share