It’s #WritingChallenge time again!

Writing Challenge BubbleThe SOLD #WritingChallenge is back! This weekend’s creative challenge, should you choose to accept it, is…

Give us your best ‘cute meet’ between your hero and heroine. The twist? One of them is a single parent!

Have fun, enjoy, and we can’t wait to read them all on Monday!

Happy Writing!
The SOLD Editors x

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  1. April Arrington

    Totally hooked on these! So much fun! Can’t wait to read them this weekend. 🙂

    “I don’t feel good.”
    Chase Fulton rounded the corner and cringed. Neither did he.
    Kimmie, his six year old niece, looked up and frowned. A strand of tangled blond hair clung to her damp mouth in a matted clump. Her normally bright eyes shadowed over and her lids drooped.
    His chest clenched. That bothered him enough. But what had his stomach churning wasn’t so much the stench of vomit floating on the air but the colorful stain rapidly spreading across the front of a white, silk shirt. Kimmie fisted a bit of the soft material and dragged it across her mouth.
    “Do you have any paper towels handy?”
    Chase’s eyes flicked away from his niece’s uncouth act and followed the soft, feminine tones to the source. Lush lips, ivory skin and red curls snagged his attention.
    Beautiful.
    “Mr. Fulton?” The woman’s grin slipped. Chocolate eyes narrowed on him. “Paper towels?”
    He cleared his throat. “Y-yeah.” Tucking his hands under Kimmie’s armpits, he pried her grip loose from the woman’s shirt, hoisted her up onto his hip and stepped back. “In the kitchen.”
    “Uncle Chase.” A little hand tugged at his jeans. An equally mussed head tilted back to gaze up at him with disapproval. “You s’ppose to ask her in. Girls like that.”
    His palms turned clammy. “Er…yes. Please come in, Ms…?”
    “Parks.” She rose from her crouch in the doorway and stepped across the threshold, waiting as he toed the door shut. “Did I get the time wrong? I thought we’d agreed on eleven.”
    “We did. I just got a late start is all.”
    Her eyebrow rose. She scanned the tight confines of the living room, eyes lingering first on the trail of empty take-out containers, scattered piles of video games and dolls then freezing on the air mattress in the floor.
    “Do the twins sleep out here?”
    “No,” he hastened. “Kimmie and Katie stay in my room. I sleep out here. And Brad has the guest room.” He bent down and dug into a to-go bag at his feet, pinching out a napkin and wiping gently at Kimmie’s mouth. “This apartment’s just temporary. Until the paperwork goes through for the house. Then, we’ll be moving there.”
    She nodded and pulled a tablet from her purse, scribbling something down with a stylus.
    “Kimmie ate all the cereal. There’s nothing left to eat.”
    Chase spun. Brad shook an empty box in the kitchen doorway with disgust. The kind of disgust only a teenager could perfect.
    A slick smile replaced Brad’s annoyed look as he took in Kimmie and the woman at his side. “She puke again?” He tipped his chin at Kimmie. “That’s what you get, squirt, for hogging all the sugar pops.”
    “Shut up, Brad,” Katie spat at Chase’s knee.
    “Yeah, shut up,” Kimmie murmured, tucking her head underneath his chin. “Tell him to shut up, Uncle Chase.”
    Chase winced. “That’s enough. All of you. Brad, get some paper towels for your sister and Ms. Parks, please.”
    He complied, disappearing back into the kitchen with a scoff.
    “But Mama used to let us eat all the cereal we wanted.”
    Kimmie’s hot tears scorched down Chase’s neck, pooling into the collar of his T-shirt. He blew out a breath and rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand.
    “Look, Ms. Parks. I apologize for not being ready. I’m just…” Just what? Heaven help him, there weren’t words for this. “I’m still adjusting to everything. To losing my sister.” My freedom. “We’re all still dealing with it.”
    “I understand,” she husked. Her eyes warmed, roaming over the silent girl at his thigh and the bundle in his arms, before meeting his. Her lips parted on a soft breath and her face softened. “I know it must be difficult.”
    Warmth flooded through his veins, blood pulsing. Her soothing tone touched him deep. Made him long to wrap around her, pull her close and tuck his face against her skin. Cling to her. Much like Kimmie clung to him now.
    She swallowed hard, mouth tightening, and went back to making notations on the tablet.
    “But we both have jobs to do, Mr. Fulton. Yours is to take care of these children properly. And mine is to see that you do.” She glanced back up, expression grim. “And I’d suggest you start proving to me that you can. Otherwise, you’ll have other things to deal with.”

  2. margie stewart

    ‘Oy, that’s mine. I just put it down for a moment–’
    Tansy Wells turned to the stranger beside her with a cap pulled low over his eyes. By his tone, he was clearly a man hot-wired to getting exactly what he wanted.
    She glanced at her hand. The last thing she needed was a fight over a stupid candle after the day she’d just had. A day fraught with questions she knew she’d have to face one day. And oh boy, today turned out to be that day.
    Thank goodness it was nearly over.
    ‘If this candle was yours, you’d have it in your hot little–big hands.’ Tansy faltered but held her ground.
    A power cut throwing the whole beach community into total darkness was supposed to be the last hurdle for the day. And now this. Him.
    ‘Hot hands?’ He pushed his cap back and grinned. ‘I’m usually told the opposite.’
    Even in dim, generator induced light, Tansy now had a clearer view of his face.
    Oh, dear. Her heart did a funny little jig. Thick lashes shielded a set of dark eyes loaded with a million exclamation marks dancing her way.
    She tried pulling her gaze away but it seemed her will power too had switched off. In that extra moment, a flash of alarm zigzagged across her chest.
    Focus. ‘Possession is nine points of the law. I have possession and a man–work to finish tonight.’ If she didn’t hit send tomorrow, she wouldn’t get paid on time, and that would put her in needy street. But clearly Mr Pushy wasn’t the sort to have the slightest interest in anyone else’s problems.
    ‘And I have a patient that needs looking after.’ He frowned, clamping his lips together, forming a dimple on each cheek.
    Tansy crossed her arms. Dancing eyes. Dimples. Damn him. What some people wouldn’t flaunt to get their way. ‘Your pet dragon, I suppose.’ She wouldn’t normally be so churlish, but–
    ‘Okay, time out you two. Why don’t you share?’ Storeowner Lizzy said from behind the counter.
    They both turned and said in unison, ‘Share?’
    ‘You know the saying, save power, share with a friend? I mean, shower with a friend, oh…you know what I mean.’
    ‘So you’re saying, cut the candle in half?’ Tansy hugged the candle into her chest. She had hours of work ahead of her and needed the whole candle.
    ‘No, sillies. For two bright young ones, you’re both being very dim.’ Lizzy beamed. ‘It’s all very simple. Share as in pool your resources for the night.’
    ‘That could prove interesting.’ More white grins and dimples.
    ‘No way.’ Tansy slapped the solitary candle on the counter and covered it with a five-dollar note. ‘We’re strangers. He could be a crim hiding out, for all I know.’
    ‘I’ve known both your families forever. You Bram since your gran first brought you to Shipwreck Bay after—well, that time. And you, Tansy since you used to sit on the stool here behind this counter eating ice cream just like⎯’ she paused to brush at something behind the counter. ‘Anyway, I’m a Justice of the Peace and I formally pronounce you “friends”. Doc Bram O’Neil, meet romance author, Tansy Wells.
    Both stared a little warily at each other.
    Tansy felt the creep of warmth flush under her skin. Oh, he’s a Doctor. Of course he’d have patients. No wonder he was amused by her comment about hot hands. She flushed all over again.
    ‘Right, formalities over.’ Lizzy lifted a bottle of wine off a nearby shelf, pulled open a freezer door and slipped three TV dinners into a carrier bag. ‘There’s your dinner. On the house. Heat on top of the wood burner and you’re sorted. Now get out of my store, I need to close before that storm hits.’ Lizzy said, dropping her gaze behind the counter, her face softening. ‘How was that, sweetheart?’
    A little boy complete with ice cream moustache skipped from behind the counter and headed straight for Bram. A small dimpled hand then reached for his, tugging at his fingers.
    ‘Are you my Daddy? Mummy promised today she’d find me the bestest Daddy in the whole world…’

  3. Fiona Marsden

    It was hard to look cool when you were doing a spit and rinse at the dentist. Harder still to get the gumption up to ask out a chick who’d had both hands in your mouth up to her elbows. Jesse wiped his chin with the paper towel and watched the dental assistant leave the room. Leaving him alone with Doctor Madeleine Wu. Now was his chance, if he could get his numb tongue around the words.
    “I was wondering.” *Oh craptastic, he sounded like some slow-mo cartoon gag*
    She looked up, her thin brows arching up over eyes that looked like chocolate, framed in long strands of black liquorice. So he was hungry. She looked delicious. Small, delicate, and under the loose fitting white coat he could see the hint of some killer curves.
    Her lips stretched into a brief smile. “I don’t think you’ll need any follow up. Just don’t go breaking any more teeth.”
    “I wouldn’t mind.” If it meant another six weeks of visits.
    She pulled the surgical gloves from long slender fingers and dropped them in the waste. “It’s not a good habit to get into. Though lucrative to me.”
    This time the smile reached her eyes, giving him courage. Her hands were bare of rings and she looked around mid-twenties like himself. Though everyone said he looked older than his age. The advantage of being dark with a permanent five o’clock shadow.
    “I was wondering if I could see you.”
    “Another appointment? Is there something else bothering you?”
    “No. I mean out of here. Like, a date.”
    Her hands, which had been unbuttoning the coat, paused. “A date?”
    Her mouth formed a round circle and he looked away, trying not to think dirty thoughts about the lush pink lips. He should have stuck with the girls he was used to. Hangers on at the skate park. They did all the heavy lifting when it came to organising a date. “Yeah, dinner somewhere, or a movie.”
    “I haven’t been out to a movie at night for years.” She actually looked interested.
    She peeled the coat off, revealing light fawn trousers and a white button up shirt. Not exactly what he’d been fantasising about but the curves were there. Her breasts pushed nicely against the blouse, straining the buttons just enough to be sexy and her tiny waist accentuated the shape of her hips above legs surprisingly long considering her small stature. “Then a movie it is.” It hadn’t been so bad after all.
    He followed her out to the reception area. It was empty except for a young guy sitting reading a comic.
    She attracted his attention with a snap of her fingers. “I won’t be a minute.” He nodded and went back to his book. “So when are you thinking of having this date?”
    Jesse ran his schedule through his head. “Sunday? 6pm?”
    “Great.” She rattled off her phone number and he keyed it into his cell.
    The guy had stood up and wandered closer. He was tall, built like an All Black, towering over Dr Wu and giving Jesse a run for his money. “I’d better let you go. I didn’t realise you had another patient.”
    She laughed, her hand reaching out to rest on the guys wrist. “Dillan isn’t a patient. He’s my son.”

  4. Sheritha Singh

    Jamie grinned. How appropriate. Undoubtedly it was one of Leanne’s gone tanning breaks that had gotten her pregnant in the first place. Jamie shook her head and secured her yellow floral sarong. “I have no intention of engaging in any encounters that will leave me pregnant regardless of how gorgeous and enticing the man may be,” she told herself. She grabbed her bag and towel before she set the burglar alarm and locked the door.

    She did not feel a hint of guilt when she checked the door once more to make sure that it was secure. There wasn’t a customer to be seen for miles. Jamie removed the keys from the door. It fell out of her hand before she had a chance to shove it into her bag. She bent to retrieve it and when she looked up SUV had come to a quiet and smooth stop outside Exclusive Kids.

    Jamie’s heart fell. There was a soft tap on the pavement. She caught a glimpse of highly polished Italian hand crafted shoes. Her gaze shifted upward, admiring the black designer suit that accentuated the most well built masculine body that Jamie had ever seen. She inhaled sharply surprised by her own body’s response to the deep oriental cologne that wafted from the man. It was incredibly sexy and alluring.

    “You’re not closed are you?” the man indicated at the Exclusive Kids “Gone Tanning” sign. The deep voice held a note of disdain and a hint of irritation.

    “…Er no.” It took a few moments for Jamie to realise that the well heeled gentleman was a potential customer. She was aware of his steely grey eyed appraisal while he waited for her to say something. “How may I be of assistance to you?” She paused and wondered if he had divulged his name. Her cool aqua eyes met his and she curved her pout into a quick friendly smile.
    The stranger opened the passenger side of his Jeep. “I need to attend a rather urgent meeting and I would appreciate it iF you could please watch over Kiera for me.” He helped a six year old with blonde ponytails jump out of the Jeep. “I’m willing to pay anything above your regular fees since I arrived at such short notice.” He ran his hand through his thick shock of jet black hair. She noticed the glint of a gold ring but she couldn’t be sure on which finger he wore it. Disappointment enveloped her when she realised that there was a possibility that the man could be married.

    He held out a business card as Kiera walked towards Jamie. “Call me if something urgent comes up.” With that he sat in the driver’s seat in one swift elegant movement and sped off. Jamie wrinkled her nose in concentration while she regarded the neat, rather severely dressed child in front of her. A pair of soft grey eyes looked back at Jamie somewhat apologetically. Like father like daughter, Jamie told herself before she read the name on the business card. “Mark Stevens.”
    She raised her eyebrows. So this was the Mark Stevens who many regarded as a cold and calculating business man who had snapped up most of coastal property on the coast with the intention of developing a fabulous eco resort that would rival the world’s best. Mark Stevens had most recently opened up his own merchant bank and launched his private airline. Jamie sucked in her breath. She had seen his photo in the media occasionally but nothing compared to his magnificent real life presence.

    “I’m sorry.”

    The tiny voice broke into her thoughts and reminded that she wasn’t alone. “Why?”

    “For ruining your afternoon.”

    Guilt flooded Jamie. Kiera obviously felt like a burden. Perhaps that was Mark’s doing. He was a self declared bachelor according to the tabloids. Mark probably spent as little time as possible with his daughter. He probably has no time for his daughter, Jamie corrected herself. His life is all about work and money. She smiled gently at Kiera Stevens. “I’m Jamie Kane and you haven’t ruined my afternoon at all,” she assured the little girl. “In fact I was on my way to the beach and needed some company.” She surveyed the black polka dot pinafore and baby doll shoes Kiera wore.

    “I’ve only ever been to the beach once,” Kiera said in a solemn voice. “Daddy says that the beach is a dangerous place.”

    Jamie’s heart melted. Being the only child of a billionaire tycoon was certainly not an easy thing. Kiera was far too serious for her age. “I’d love for you to join me. First I need to get you changed.” She held Kiera’s hand while she unlocked the shop door. “I have more than enough beach wear for you to try on.”

    • Charlotte

      “The engines have restarted,” Heroine’s voice shook ferociously, her stomach still roiling from when the small plane had seemed to drop out of the sky.

      “Good, you’re doing great,” the low, commanding voice came over the head-set, calming her and quietly instructing her as it had done for the last couple of hours.

      “Forget about the dials in front of you. All you have to think about right now is landing her. This time when you bring her around, you’re going to line up just like you did last time, descend exactly the way you did before, but this time you’re going to go slower. Much slower. Alright?”

      She swallowed hard, fighting back the sense of overwhelming terror.

      “You can do this,” the confident voice reassured her. “Say it.”

      “I can do this,” she echoed weakly.

      Heroine had been circling the runway for what seemed like hours and this was her sixth…no, seventh…attempt at landing. She shut her mind to the ditsy flight attendant who was tending to the unconscious pilot, and to her young charge who, mercifully, had been asleep throughout the entire ordeal. She just trusted the man on the ground.

      “Good,” his voice encouraged. “You’re doing fine. Now remember, this time go slower.”

      “Slower. Right,” she muttered, quashing down the absolute terror as she gave all her focus to lining the plane up and keeping it straight. She could feel it dipping wildly from left to right to left again. If they got down alive it would be a miracle.

      And then everything else receded and it was just her and the man in her headset. She hit the runway, bounced and felt the weight of the nose pull down, only just wrenching back up in time. A second later and she had veered off the runway, unable to hold the plane straight, desperately searching for the brakes.

      Heroine already had the child in her arms, soothing him after his abrupt awakening when the paramedics raced on board and rushed him off to check him over. Another set tending to the pilot and third set to her.

      She stepped off the plane with shaking legs, straight into a see of flashing cameras. Her eyes automatically sought out the owner of that inspiring, unruffled voice who had talked her through the last few hours but instead, Hero, sauntered up to her, blocking her view.

      “So you’re who my manager hired to look after the kid?” he sized her up and down with those infamous striking blue eyes of his, the practised smile a perfect balance of admiration and lust.

      Heroine blinked in shock. *This* was the man who had reassured her? She hadn’t correlated the calm voice of the last few hours with the voice she was used to hearing in video clips of Hero, yet there was no doubt it was him. Disappointment engulfed her. For hours she’d trusted this man, who’d cared about the boy, the crew, her. But all he’d really been concerned about had been his precious plane.

      She knew all about Hero. The epitome of a rock-star bad-boy, he was in the papers on almost a daily basis. The endless string of stunning photos highlighting why women were constantly falling over themselves to also fall into his bed. But none of those photos had come close to how oh-so-wickedly-delicious he was in the flesh. It was only a miracle that no women had stepped forward before this year to declare he was father to their child.

      The guy loved his sex, drink and rock’n’roll, which included his own plane and pilot’s license. He was famed for personally flying his high-profile dates to exotic locations for a dinner date and, she didn’t doubt, dinner-for-two. Yet he couldn’t be bothered to fly the same damn plane to be there to pick up a frightened, unhappy seven year old boy who had just found the body of his junkie mum, and was now being bundled off to a father he had never even met.

      “So you’re like the Mary Poppins of Nannies. Nice.”

      *He was seriously coming on to her? With barely a cursory glance at his new son to see he was alright?*

      In one day she’d discovered that all that child wanted was someone to love him. Her eyes pricked with unshed tears, she knew exactly how that felt. All the emotions Heroine had spent the last few hours quashing, suddenly came roaring up through her core, spilling out and overwhelming her.

      “Maybe if you paid less attention to the woman hired to look after your son, and more attention actually to your son, you might do better,” she hissed.

      Hero face changed in an instant.

      “You’re not here to judge me. You’re here to look after the kid,” there was a dangerous edge to the low voice. “Just because you read the papers, don’t think you know anything about me.”

      After the evening she’d just had she wasn’t about to be easily intimidated. She tilted up her chin defiantly.

      “I *am* here for your son. He’s my only priority,” she bit out. “And believe me, if you were the last man on earth I wouldn’t *want* to know anything more about you.”

    • Fiona Marsden

      Lots of great tension between the hero and heroine. I just wish you named your characters because it distracts me a little.

    • April Arrington

      Great opener, Charlotte! Lots of action and conflict right from the start. This would definitely prove to be a bumpy but fun ride with the sizzle between them.

    • Harriet Hale

      I loved the beginning of this, Charlotte. Setting up her expectations against the “reality” and giving us the action first.

    • Sold Editors

      Charlotte, your scene certainly packs a punch and is brimming with conflict! We hope the heroine can bring out the best in your hero and show him that together they can be the perfect family!

    • Charlotte

      So Sorry Sheritha, hit the wrong reply and tagged mine onto yours! 🙁
      Love the hint of his past/beach fear, and how sparks are gonna fly when he founds out where she took Kiera!

    • Calida Ally

      Loved this, Charlotte! Wonderful writing style. Could really feel her tension when she was trying to land the plane. Great characters! 🙂

    • Sold Editors

      Poor Keira! We think Jamie is exactly what Mark Stevens needs! We’d love to have seen a little more interaction between the hero and the heroine but we love that Jamie takes Keira under her wing, Sheritha!

  5. Elle Marlow

    “Are you watching Super Batter down there? Pure genius. The way he holds that bat, his stance. His steely eyes on the ball. Yeah, his dad was probably a professional at one time. Some guy must’ve spent hours teaching that boy how to play the game, yes sirreee.”
    Jeannie lowered her visor on her head to block the hot afternoon sun as the comments from the smexy guy below radiated to her ears. They were surrounded by hundreds of other little league parents all talking at once, but somehow she managed to catch everything smexy said to his dog right before he’d sneak the mutt a chip loaded down with nacho cheese. Jeannie had never seen anything like it in her life. She thought she was the only one who’d share her food and talk to dogs.
    Alex hit a homer in the bottom of the ninth and sent everyone to their feet. Smexy celebrated a little too much, throwing his hands in the air and sending his lunch airborne. Cheese landed perfectly on her face and down her Diamondbacks T-shirt. She’d barely had time to react when two yellow paws jumped up and landed square on her shoulders. The wet tongue of a golden retriever glided across her cheek, licking her clean.
    “Babe Ruth, get down!” he ordered, pulling on the leash, his face three shades of red. “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I guess I got carried away,” he told her looking mortified.
    “It’s fine, really.” Two beautiful whiskey colored eyes returned a look of longing, then followed up with a pitiful whine. “Your dog is really cute.”
    “My dog is addicted to cheese. By the way, I think Babe Ruth missed a spot.” Smexy reached out and used a finger to swipe at a stray spot of cheese still resting on her cheek bone. Damn, he was cute. Then she thought about Alex.
    “Thank you for what you said about my son. It hasn’t been easy raising him alone. I taught him the game by watching Youtube, if you can believe that.”
    He gave her a squinty look. “Your son?”
    “Super Batter.”

  6. Yvonne

    Anya reached out and grasped the arm of the three year old girl before she did a face plant on the grass right in front of her and Jenny, Anya’s German Shepard.

    “Whoa there, are you alright?” Anya asked, and the wee girl got her pink runners under her again, lifting her dark head and looking up at Anya, with clear sapphire blue eyes.

    “Yes. Thank you for helping me,” She said breathlessly. “Can I pet your puppy?”

    “Sara!” A tall man with the same dark hair ran down the walking trail, his long muscular legs ate up the distance between them and Anya was treated to the same sapphire blue eyes as they cut to her, then her hand resting on the little girls shoulder.

    “I’m sorry if my daughter is bothering you.” He said as large tanned hands lifted the wee girl up and away from Anya, settling her on his hip.

    Sara let out a sad soft regretful sound, reaching toward Jenny.

    Jenny’s nose twitched and her ears swivelled as she watched her potential admirer being moved further away.

    “Sara is no bother, she just wanted to pet Jenny.” Anya smiled and lifted her sunglasses up to sit on her head, pushing gingerbread curls away from her heart shaped face.

    Sara’s father blinked at the full impact of Anya whisky coloured eyes, and devastatingly breathtaking smile.

    “Please Daddy!” Sara looked up at her dad through her long black lashes.

    Anya expected this man with his hard jaw and chiselled features to completely fold for this tiny siren.

    “What should you be saying first?” He asked sternly, raising his eyebrows at his daughter.

    “Sorry for not holding your hand.” She mumbled. “Hug?” She asked.

    “Yes.” He agreed and Sara squealed as she wrapped her arms around that thick muscular neck and he in turn held his daughter tight against his wide chest.

    Anya forced a smile, these two were adorable, but it still twisted her heart to watched so,she dropped her eyes to Jenny and the Shepard, sensing Anya’s discomfort, leaned against her leg and tongue lulling out.

    Anya rubbed Jenny’s ears.

    “If it is okay with this lady, then yes you can pet Jenny.” Sara’s daddy turned is stunning blue eyes back to Anya.

    Oh boy, Sara’s mommy was a lucky lady. “Sure, no problem, Jenny is a PTSD service dog. She is used to all kinds of people and loves the attention.” Anya smiled again this time with genuine love at Jenny.

    “Lay down Jenny.” Anya commanded, but Jenny was already anticipating the request and eagerly flopped down to receive the attention she loved.

    Sara was placed on the ground, and she offered her fist to the dog. “Like this Daddy?”

    “That’s right Sara. Just like that.”

    Sara received a sniff and a lick.

    “George Rugger.” He extended his large hand to Anya.

    “Anya Penny.” She looked up into his deep blue eyes as his firm hand engulfed hers and Anya knew there was a connection between them she wanted to explore.

  7. charlotte mcfall

    Jenny turned the shop sign to open, hoping beyond hope that the grand opening of Cookie Magic would be a huge success. Returning quickly to her place behind the counter she adjusted Beth’s pram blankets making sure her four week old daughter was snug and warm. Sinking all her capital into the place might not have been the greatest idea she ever had. Living in a small one bedroom flat with a newborn had been worse. Now at least they had a bigger place to live above the shop. All Jenny cared about was that her daughter would be well provided for.
    The door chime test didn’t wake her and until Sophia decided to show up Beth would have to stay with her.
    Tinkling bells alerted her to someone walking through the door.
    “Can I help you?” Jenny asked before she had finished checking Beth.
    “Hi Jenny, nice place you’ve got.”
    The voice was so mellifluous; Jenny knew instantly who had walked in “Paul Ashley,” keeping her voice mater of fact. His jet-black hair piercing blue green eyes like the sea in Mediterranean holiday postcards. Jenny couldn’t believe Paul’s body as she eyed him hungrily, still solid with all the weights he obviously continued to lift.
    “I’d like a dozen boxes of your truffles, all flavours.”
    “You haven’t looked at what I do make yet, the flyer is on the counter.”
    “I don’t need to look. I have a good memory.” His voice so low it was almost a whisper.
    Paul looked around the bakery; he was impressed with the old fashioned design. If he remembered correctly Jenny had a penchant for the 1920’s. His eyes settled on the pram and the pink bundle of fluff ensconced within. “Babysitting?”
    “Erm no she’s mine. In fact I’m waiting for the babysitter to show up and look after her for a while.”
    “I didn’t know you were with anyone, congratulations. When did you get married.”
    Paul watched as Jenny’s eyes clouded over slightly as they had so many times before.
    “I’m not married, I bring up Beth on my own.”
    “Oh,” You really know how to put your foot in it don’t you what an idiot. “Sorry I didn’t know. Her dad not on the scene?”
    “When do you want the boxes of truffles?” changing the conversation was she. Paul smiled wryly, “Would Friday be alright?”
    “Sure. Say 3pm Friday, just write down what you want written on the cards.” Jenny replied passing him an order form. Diligently he wrote out his order, Jenny’s truffles were to die for. Even after having a baby she looked so sexy with her new womanly curves.

  8. Gina Hagedorn

    Blake Forrester walked the grounds of the Life House Inn. It didn’t look like anyone was here. And no one had answered the bell when he’d gone inside moments ago, even though the hair on the back of his neck had stood up as if someone were watching him. He rounded the corner of the inn and stepped toward his black Jeep Rubicon, sweeping his ice blue gaze over the frozen landscape. Where was everyone?

    Turning back to the quaint inn, he pulled the collar up on his wool coat. The winters in Colorado were brutal, but Canada had it beat. And to make matters worse, there was a storm warning for tonight. If he waited around here much longer, he’d be staying for the night. Fighting the urge to get in the Jeep and high-tail it out of here, he swallowed his reservations and walked through the entrance once more.

    “Hello?” He stopped at the front desk again, tapping the bell repeatedly. Nothing. He took a solo tour of the first floor – a large reception area, a long hallway, two doors. One led into a large bedroom, unoccupied. He ducked back out, then stepped through the other door, into a state of the art kitchen. Again, finding no one. Leaning against the counter, he ran his large hand through his thick dark hair. What was he thinking, coming here on a whim? What was he hoping to learn, or to find? He shoved his hands in his pockets, crossing his legs and staring down at the hard wood floor.

    He was a fool. Acting out of frustration from the disappointment that was his life. After what he’d just been through, he wasn’t ready to face the woman who had haunted his thoughts for over half a decade. Yet, here he was.

    A thumping from the floor above drew him out of his thoughts. His feet were moving before he could think. His breathing became shallow as he reached the top of the stairs and headed toward the room the noise had come from. He felt an unreasonable excitement, although common sense told him it was probably a maid, or the owners. He hesitated at the door, listening for any other sound. It was quiet again. Lifting his hand to knock, he was stunned when the door swung open and a more mature, sleepy-looking version of the woman who’d taken up residence in his thoughts, stood before him in the flesh – sexy bed-head and all.

    Sharona.

    He couldn’t find the words to say to her. She was the reason he was here – but now he was speechless. Dumbfounded. And the look on her face did little to help his unease. Her wide-eyed stare and the firm set of her lips told him she was not pleased to see him. In fact, she looked shocked and…sick.

    “Sharona – I…” Blake stumbled on his words. All he could do was look at her. Still the petite, hazel-eyed spitfire he’d known for just one special night, she was even more beautiful than he remembered. At six foot two inches, he towered over her, but she stood her ground.

    “You have to leave – you can’t be here!” She spoke low and firm, as if she were trying not to disturb anyone.

    Blake took a step towards her, and she backed up. He held the door with his hand, preventing her from shutting it.

    “Please leave,” she repeated, almost desperately.

    Blake hesitated, realization dawning. He’d been chasing a dream. He had no right to be here. He nodded, dropping his hand and stepping back. “You’re right. This was a mistake…” He turned to go, but a tiny voice stopped him in his tracks.

    “You see, Mommy. I told you Daddy was here.”

  9. Theresa Kemble

    Falling for the Manny.

    Reed Watkins just finished going over the payroll when he got a frantic call from one of his employee’s.

    “Boss, I’m so sorry but my car broke down and I’m waiting AAA to come. I can’t make this assignment!”

    Reed’s calmness took over the situation. “Not a problem, Terry. I’ll go over myself. Just text me the address and I’ll be on my way.”

    Within a moment he got the text and immediately he texted the client apologizing and assuring the client that a replacement would be coming over soon.

    ***
    “Okay kiddo, you need to finish that Broccoli before my shift starts” Stacy Milford said while adjusting her scrubs.

    Her eight year old son Jake, huffed as he played around with the said Broccoli on his dinner plate. “It’s yucky!”

    She sighed knowing the only solution was to bride him. She knelt down to him. Placing a loving touch over his shoulder, she bargained. “If you finished that, I promise you right after my shift we’ll go to the zoo!”

    His eyes lit up like a firefly dancing over a blade of grass. “Really? Really?”

    She nodded as there was a knock on the front door. “Now, that’s the Nanny, you need to be polite and listen to her.” Then she pointed to him as only a mother could. “I mean it, Jake!”

    He rolled his eyes. I’m not a big baby! I don’t want a Nanny!”

    She shook her head as she opened the front door. Her eyes widened as she saw probably the most handsome man she laid eyes on. Six foot two. Azure blue eyes. Blond hair and buffed. Very buffed. She cleared her throat. Um, May I help you?”

    He extended his hand for shake. Hi, you must be Dr. Milford, I’m Reed from Millie’s Nanny Services.”

    Her mouth gaped open and blinked. “Oh, you’re the Nanny?”

    He grinned. “Yes, I am. But it is customary to let the Nanny inside the house to take care of the child. Unless you want me to take your kid out somewhere.”

    Warm rushed to her cheeks, she started to stammer as she let him in her home. “Um, sorry. I’m just not use to seeing-“

    He finished her sentence lifting an eyebrow. “Seeing a guy as a Nanny? Surprisingly, I do get that a lot!”

    “Sorry.” Then Stacy bit down on her lip and asked. “Would it be horrible for me to ask for your credentials?”

    “Not at all.” He said producing his id from his wallet. “As you can see I’m a certified care giver and I’m certified in CPR.”

    Giving back his id she apologized. “Forgive me, it’s just I’m new here in Philadelphia and we’re adjusting. Can’t be too careful, right?”

    “Sure, no problem” Then he chuckled looking around. “But I will say I don’t see your doctorate on the wall, and yet I believe you’re a doctor.”

    She rolled her eyes. ‘Really? You want me to get out my doctorate?” Then she grabbed her hospital Id and placing it his hand. “That should suffice, I believe.”

    Reed actually enjoyed teasing her but he needed be careful or he would lose this assignment. Pretty. She was even pretty on this god awful id. “Dr. Stacy Milford, Emergency Medicine, very impressive.”

    “Thanks.” She said with the slightest annoyance in her tone. “Perhaps, I should introduce you to my son, Jake.”

    Before she could called out his name her son was right at her side. Then Jake stepped out, he looked up at Reed crinkling up his nose. “Are you, really a nanny?”

    Reed nodded. “Yep! Cool right!”

    Jake smiled. “Yeah, I never been with a guy nanny before. I’m Jake!”

    Reed took his hand. “I’m Reed.” Then he asked. “What do you want to be when you grow up, Jake?”

    “Jedi Master.”

    Then Reed playfully put his hands to his mouth. “That means we get to play Star Wars tonight, I get to be Darth Vader.”

    “Alright! This is going be so much fun, let me get my light saber, and I’ll be right back, Reed.”

    Stacy was dumfounded she never saw her son so animated before. With a faint smile she glanced over to Reed. “Thank you, Jake loves Star Wars. Looks like you might have your hands full tonight.”

    He winked. “No worries here, Dr. Milford. I got this all covered. I was a little boy who loved Star Wars too!”

  10. Carol Opalinski

    Remy secured his official vehicle and checked his watch. Late. Evie’s new teacher would have to understand as not only a single parent but sheriff of the parish, his time was at a premium. The school’s secretary must’ve been watching for him because she buzzed him in as soon as his foot landed on the top step.

    She stood in the office doorway, a smile creasing her face. “Good afternoon, Sheriff, would you like me to show you to Miss Honeycutt’s room?”

    He smiled but didn’t break stride. “Thanks, I can manage.”

    Angie Benoit of the pencil thin eyebrows, one of Evie’s former teachers, loitered in the hall that led to his destination. “Good afternoon, Sheriff Fontenot, so good to see you again. Can I assist you with anything?”

    “Always a pleasure, Mrs. Benoit, but I can find it on my own.”

    Where were all these helpful women last week in New Orleans? He could’ve used their assistance to locate the sexy as sin woman who had approached him in a crowded piano bar and demanded a kiss to win a bet with friends. Before he’d had time to recover from the smoldering encounter, she’d disappeared amongst the partiers on Bourbon Street. Even now he stifled an urge to touch his lips.

    Light spilled into the hall from the open door of the second grade classroom. When he entered, a prim-looking woman in a gaudy vest decorated with apples and black boards rose from the desk and approached him.

    He strode into the middle of the room, extended his hand and froze, unable to believe his eyes. Or his good fortune. “You! I didn’t recognize you for a second. You’re all…all…teachery.”

    She stared at him, her skin tinting an appealing pink as her eyes widened. “Yes, well…”

    He extended his hand again. “A pleasure meeting you, Miss Honeycutt…officially, that is.”

    “I…” She stared at his hand as if he had—and he blamed Evie for the word—cooties. “This is rather…awkward, Sheriff.”

    “Awkward isn’t the word I’d use.” No, he had a much better word in mind. “And please, call me Remy.”

    She swallowed, her throat muscles visibly contracting. Another moment’s hesitation then she took the hand he offered. Judging by her sharp intake of breath, she felt the same jolt from their skin-to-skin contact. He searched for the sexy siren he knew lurked beneath the frumpy disguise.

    When she tried to pull her hand back, he tightened his grip until she raised her gaze to his. Grinning, he said, “Fortuitous.”

    She jerked away. “Excuse me?”

    He leaned closer, lowered his voice, “The word I’d use instead of awkward.”

    “W-why?” Her hand fluttered around until she caught it with the other, like caging a bird.

    “You disappeared and didn’t leave a glass slipper to identify you. Your girlfriends vanished too.”

    “May-maybe I didn’t want to be found.”

    He raised his eyebrows. “That’s why I’m calling today’s meeting fortuitous.”

    As if to punish him, she led him to a table with a second grade chair in front of it. Did she really expect him to squeeze his six feet three frame into that tiny seat? She must have because she walked around the other side where there was a chair designed for an adult.

    Neat stacks of paper were laid out across the tabletop like parade-ready soldiers. He had the sudden urge to scatter those papers across the table, bend her over and—**Bon Dieu avoir pitié**. Good God have mercy. He needed to stop this or he’d embarrass himself.

    To divert his lascivious thoughts, he surveyed her ultra tidy classroom as he would a crime scene. Once again he had the urge to make a mess. His gaze landed on a framed picture on her nearby desk and he picked it up. Was it a boyfriend? He turned it over and barely managed to disguise his laugh with a cough. “Is this yours?”

    Her cheeks flushed with color, and she lowered her chin. “Henry is my cat. His picture helps break the ice with some children.”

    Remy nodded and set the photo on her desk at an angle. “How long have you lived in Bayou Fortier?”

    “Forty-five days.” She straightened the frame.

    “Your accent tells me you’re not from the South.” His fingers twitched from the need to move the objects on her desk, to leave a mark that he’d been there. He picked up a stapler and laid it back, perilously close to the edge.

    “No, I grew up outside Dannemora, New York.” Her hand fisted before she relaxed it to nudge the stapler away from the edge.

    “The prison?”

    “There’s a town there, too, Sheriff.” She smiled and his heart thumped harder. He liked making her smile.

    “How did you end up way down here in our little town?” Like the objects on her desk, Remy wanted to stick his hands in her blond hair, make a mess of her neat bun.

    Emotions flicked across her face but disappeared before he could identify them. She smiled again, but this one didn’t light up her moss green eyes. “My college roommate was from here and recommended me for the job.”

    Before his mind could prevent it, his mouth blurted out, “Have you been to a **fais do do** yet?”
    She brushed a few stray curls behind her ear. “No, I haven’t.”

    He grinned. “Then I insist on correcting that, Miss Honeycutt. Would you join me tonight for crawfish and Cajun music?”

  11. Karen Macleod

    So Daisy had an interesting approach to cars and breakdowns. It was an approach based on zero knowledge of mechanics and a good deal of foolish optimism. Basically, she thought that if a warning light appeared on the dashboard of the car, the best response was to turn up the music so she couldn’t hear any suspect rattles or misfires, ignore the light and pretend nothing was wrong. That way everything would be just fine. Sadly it was an approach which had proved fairly catastrophic to her little car which had limped to a halt in the grass verge of the deserted country road.
    Briefly she had indulged in the luxury of a good old fashioned sweary rant… A luxury forbidden to her since her daughter Amy had learned to talk. Swearing over, she then more practically phoned for a mechanic and sat down to wait for assistance. Luckily, she didn’t have to wait too long before the welcome sight of the tow truck appeared, lurching down the road before grinding to a halt a few yards in front of her. Slowly the cab door opened and out stepped… A GOD. He was quite possibly the most attractive male she had ever seen in her life… dark blonde curling hair, stubble covered strong jaw, bare muscular arms and those heavenly streaks of grease and oil on his tight, torso hugging t-shirt. Suddenly the afternoon was rapidly improving!

    If anyone had asked Daisy what they had talked about on the journey home she really could not have said, she had pretty much been focusing on not salivating over him. She was hoping that she had come across as witty and cool but she suspected she had probably seemed more like she was tragically awe struck. Well they were home now and he was busy unloading her car from the truck. Quickly she darted inside to her sister, Sophie, scooping up Amy on the way and giving her a hug.
    “Oh my God Sophie, you should see Mark, the mechanic. He is super hot!” Daisy exclaimed.
    Sophie peeked out the window.
    “Definitely super hot!” She confirmed, handing Amy an ice lolly she had just taken from the freezer.
    “Mummy can I see your poorly car?” Asked Amy, already making good progress with her lolly.
    “Yes love, come on” Daisy replied, setting her daughter on the floor and together they walked out to where Mark was just finishing unloading the car.
    “Here you go” he said handing over the paperwork “I have put my personal mobile number at the top for you, give me a call.” He said, giving her a meaningful look.
    She looked at him blankly “Errr for car fixing stuff?” She asked.
    He smiled at her “yeah… or maybe a drink?”
    “Wow, yes!” Daisy answered, her ability to play it cool deserting her entirely and she blushed.
    Suddenly a little voice piped up from by her side. “Mummy?”
    “Yes Amy?”
    “Shall I give him my ice lolly?”
    “Um, no darling. That is very kind of you wanting to share, but I think you should keep it yourself” Daisy answered, basking in the glory of having raised a daughter so eager to share.
    “But Mummy, you told Aunt Sophie that he was super hot, maybe it would cool him down?”
    Mortified, Daisy looked up at Mark.
    “Super hot?” He questioned with a raised eyebrow and a wide grin.
    And that, reflected Daisy, was another reason to watch what she said in front of her daughter.

  12. Chris Buono

    Love Conquers All

    As Cheryl Montgomery opened the latch on her oversized, pleather pocketbook, she wondered about her situation. Could she really find love at a dance for singles, shouldering baggage like an albatross?

    No, we’re not talking about the pocketbook here. How easy it would be if that were the case. We’re talking bigger baggage, much bigger…and more…teddy-bear like. Hmm. Getting the picture?…

    Sure, Cheryl loved children as much as the next woman, but this, she believed, was far beyond the call of her duty. Thing is, what could she do about it? After all, she needed her “baggage.”

    She withdrew a small, weathered, antique compact from her pocketbook and fondly passed her finger over it. Then she flipped it open. Studying herself in the hand-held mirror, she lightly tapped her stiff, bouffant hairstyle. It was full of a sweet, vanilla aroma from an over application of vintage-scented hair spray. A hairdo locked in the 1960s, you might say.

    Checking her smile, she finger brushed a smear of red lipstick from her front upper teeth, they shifted on her gums, and she sucked them back into place. Then she wiped her quivering finger dry on her worn, sparkling, beaded, pink-colored dress, closed the compact, and tossed it back into her prized, aged bag. A memory of her husband flashed through her mind and of him mouthing to her the words “be happy,” as he departed from this world so many years ago with her beside him.

    “Don’t know what I’m hoping to find here,” Cheryl uttered, her voice quivering, as she scanned the dance floor, while Gene Austin’s song “Yes, Sir! That’s My Baby” played. Her parents had told her that had been their joyous song, when it topped the charts in 1925 — the year in which Cheryl was born.

    As the tune now filtered through Cheryl’s hearing aids, she wondered about those on the dance floor. Funny, she thought. Just yesterday, foldout metal tables and chairs filled the open floor. Who knew that today the cream of the dating crop from Bingo last night would all be here?

    And that’s when she saw him approaching — Earl Brooks, the “you’re only as old as you feel” guy. He was the Don Juan of her senior citizen’s club. All the women had a crush on him, but he had his eyes locked now on Cheryl. She blushed. He looked quite spiffy in his bowtie, avocado-colored suit, and polished brown shoes.

    “So, having a good time, Mom?” asked Bonnie, holding two cups of Fruit Punch, coming to stand before her mother.

    “Not now, teddy bear,” Cheryl voiced, waving off the drink that her daughter was offering. Then, after leaning her walking stick against the wall, Cheryl turned back to Earl as swiftly as her arthritic knees would allow — all the while Bonnie tenderly admiring her mother’s fortitude.

    “May I have this dance?” asked Earl through a thin voice, shuffling toward her.

    Cheryl reached out her hand and replied through a warm, wrinkled-face grin, “You may.”

  13. Karen christopherson

    “Open up, Cassidy, Casem Michaels. Right now,” Beth gritted through her teeth.

    “Ah-uh,” Cassidy mumbled, gripping Beth’s finger like a little piranha!

    “Cassidy,” Beth warned again. She glanced something at the end of the aisle, but it was gone in a whisper when she turned to look. Beth’s face heated with embarrassment. That’s all she’d need, someone to see her with her finger in her little girl’s mouth. Thank God, they didn’t stop or decide to peruse this aisle at this exact moment!

    Her little girl’s eyes glittered with evil. Five years old and Cassidy already knew what she wanted and when she wanted it. Beth only wished she had that kind of backbone at twenty when she’d met Cassidy’s father. “Let go, Cassidy.” She took a breath and then let it out. Her finger was starting to ache. “Please…you’re hurting mommy’s finger.” Her sandy blonde hair fell over her face and there it was again! The shadow moved at the end of the aisle, but was gone again in a flash.

    “Ah-uh.”

    “Cassidy,” she said and looked at her daughter’s resentful face. “I’m going to count to three and then—“

    “Can I help you?”

    Beth grimaced while looking down at the plain square tiles. She dared a glimpse in the man’s direction, but didn’t want to look in his face. This wasn’t exactly a moment she was proud of! He was dressed smartly in a white dress shirt and a pair of black dress pants, which was odd, because they were in Super Mart, not exactly the land of the smart dressed man! “No…we’re fine…” Beth gritted her teeth and rested her forehead on her upper arm and closed her eyes, wishing the man would just keep walking. “But thanks, anyway,” she added in a high pitched voice. Cassidy grinned and wiggled her teeth from side to side against her mother’s sore finger, while her mother flushed with embarrassment. Please keep walking…please keep walking. Oh…it was such a good thing that she loved her daughter!

    “Sorry, for noticing, but you don’t look fine…”

    Really? What part told him that? The part with her finger in her daughter’s mouth, or the part where she was practically begging her daughter to release her? Tears sprang to her eyes. It was bad enough her boyfriend couldn’t keep a job and drank like a Guppy and acted like he was a four year old himself sometimes. This was not how she pictured her life! Standing in a Super Mart with a disgruntled daughter fighting over a damn Barbie doll that she couldn’t afford, because her boyfriend drank and spent all their last month’s rent money! And now this stranger decides to point out all her faults as a failing mother! “I’m fine. Cassidy…open up your mouth right now!” she felt a tear fall and she cursed at it. She was not a crier, but her body was telling her otherwise and she was starting to lose it!

    “Hey…Cassidy,” the stranger said stepping almost in between them.

    Beth watched as the man scooped up her daughter and Cassidy’s mouth dropped open in absolute terror, releasing her mother’s finger. Beth lurched forward in mommy protectiveness, but he held out his hand to stop her. Beth just stood there awkwardly, rubbing her finger absentmindedly as she watched this stranger hold her daughter. It was uncomfortable to say the least, but in a matter of five seconds, he had managed to do what she could not!

    “Hey,” he said quietly, but firmly. “I don’t think that was a nice thing you did to your mommy, was it?” he asked her and Cassidy’s face fell with a blush, her puffy cheeks pouting gently. “Does your mommy usually buy you things?”

    She shook her head, her lower lip extending.

    “Oh…come on now…” he said talking sweetly to her. “Surely you must have some toys at home that she bought you?”

    Mirroring her mother’s sandy blonde hair she peeked through a few strands that fell over her face. “Maybe…a…little,” she offered and then resumed pouting.

    He shifted her in his arms. “This is a pretty dress. Did your mommy buy you this?”

    She nodded and then looked guiltily at her mommy and then away. Beth didn’t know how she felt about this. One side, she was happy she was getting a break from being the bad guy all the time and the other a little perturbed at the boldness of this man. She stared at the two as he continued to talk to her daughter quietly. Beth was surprised how comfortable he looked with a child in his arms and she secretly wondered if he had any himself. But then she looked at his hair. No way. That was not daddy hair. It was gelled and full and dark and wavy. And those were not daddy arms. He looked like he worked out in a gym…a lot and she had to admit he fit that dress shirt quite well.

    But his smile…that was different. It was full and real and looked like it would never scowl, rant or rave or fit the end of a beer bottle. And then when he looked at her, his eyes were soft and compassionate and green and they made her suddenly want to cry, because he looked like he would know how to take care of a family. He looked like the kind of man she thought she’d end up with. Someone who would make a good father…someone who would never steal from his family.

    “Are you alright?” he asked.

    She nodded, barely holding it together. Oh…my God! She bolted around facing the new and improved Barbie in a beautiful pink fancy dress standing beside her blonde bimbo surfer husband to be! Seriously? The past few years of her life flashed before her. Gorgeous guy…pretty girl…and then baby changes gorgeous guy to spaced out beer hugging, potbellied couch potato! Her face crumpled. She felt her breath hitch and she hiccupped loudly. Her body just released itself and she suddenly realized how much she needed to cry. But not here! Of all the places! In Super Mart? In the Barbie section! Where there were all these beautifully dressed Barbies waiting for their prince charmings to come and rescue them on a white horse! And of course…there…over there was the stupid white horse made especially for Barbie! Really? She sobbed uncontrollably, her hand covering her face as she had her own twenty-five year old tantrum disguised as an adult meltdown. A few dreadful seconds later she breathed and waved the back of her hand above her head to the man behind her, signaling that she’d be alright in a second or two!

    “What’s wrong with my mommy? Are you crying mommy?”

    Beth straightened and took a deep breath. “No…no,” she sniffed. “I’m fine…”

    “My daddy took all our money and left us…” Cassidy told the stranger.

    Oh no! Beth’s heart raced as she wiped her face quickly and then turned around reaching for her daughter. “Oh…yeah…Honey…please don’t tell people—“

    “But it’s true and that’s why I can’t have this Barbie!” she said into her mother’s face as her tiny legs wrapped around her mother’s waist. The man’s warm hands grazed Beth’s and she tried not to notice the heat between them.

    “I’m Drake, by the way,” he said smiling and trying to change the subject. “I work here as a manager.”

    Beth smiled sheepishly at the stranger, knowing she looked like a puffy, pink tear streaked marshmallow face. “Thank you, Drake. And I’m sorry about all this…” she motioned toward her daughter and then to the right of her where she’d had her mini break down.

    “Hey, I understand completely,” he said, compassion darkening his eyes. “My sister has three kids and they can be a handful. I help her out sometimes, so I’ve seen them at their best.” He grinned at her.

    “Wow,” she said and shifted Cassidy who had now wrapped her arms around her neck and was hugging her into a strangled mommy-bear neck hug and then kissing her face repeatedly. But that was Cassidy for you. She could act like a little devil one minute and then be a sweet little girl the next. It could leave Beth feeling like she had just been through a Tantrum Tornado at times, but in the end things would calm down. They always did. “That’s nice of you…for your sister I mean. I wish I had a brother like you…” Oh, no! She did not just say that! She turned her head and her hair fell over her face.

    He smiled when she looked back and his face blushed. “Do you have someone to help you? Mom’s need a break sometimes, to go out even if it’s just to the grocery store…to be by themselves.”

    “Oh, yeah…I have some…people…” she completely lied. Truth was, she had no one. Nada. Her mom died five years ago of lung cancer and she never knew her father and as far as she knew her mother was an only child. She never even knew her grandparents! But she wasn’t going to tell this to Stranger Drake who worked in Super Mart! She had already ranked high on the pathetic scale. “Well, we should go. Say goodbye to the nice man, Cassidy.”

    “Good-bye nice man. Hey, Mommy, can we go get some ice cream? Please, please, please…”

    “Honey, we got to go…”

    Mr. Fancy Pants cleared his throat. “I’ve got an idea.”

    Oh, great. She smiled politely and looked at him. “What’s that?” All she wanted was to get out of Super Mart, go home and make herself a cup of tea. Then she was going to pour over the newspaper ads for a job. Babysitting was not cutting it any longer.

    “Why don’t I take you both out for ice cream? I have to do something for five minutes, but after that I’m all yours…that is if you don’t mind waiting?”

    “Oh I—“

    “Please Mommy, Pleeeease!”

    Oh boy. Not again. She was exhausted. She never knew tiny people could dwindle a normally strong woman into a giant heap of mommy mush!

    “Come on. It’s just ice cream,” Drake coaxed. “We have really great ice cream here at Super Mart.” He winced. “Sorry. That sounded better in my head.”

    Beth giggled. “I’m sure it did. But I don’t know, we really have to get going…”

    “Help me out here, Cassidy,” he said turning to the little girl. “I’m trying to ask your mommy out for a little date and she might say no to me. We can’t have that now, can we?”

    Drake grinned slowly and Beth would have smirked back if her heart wasn’t racing so fast! A date? She swallowed discreetly and looked away.

    “Oh, no…” Cassidy grinned, sprouting two cute little dimples in her cheeks and then quickly turned to Beth and cupped her face with her two little hands. “You’ve had a tough day Mommy and you deserve a break…and some ice cream too!” She turned to Drake and puffed out her little chest. “Yes, my mommy and I will go have ice cream with you.”

    “Well,” Beth said knowing she was defeated. “I can’t really say I admire the way you get your dates, but…I guess we are getting ice cream.”

    “Yay!” Cassidy exclaimed. “And my mommy is going on a date and so am I!”

  14. Jan VanEngen

    Saqr watched her closely. She looked ready to run to give his most charming smile edging back, giving her room to see her relaxed stance. She didn’t like her space being invaded. What she was wearing was indeed very tasteful and modest a full length ivory long sleeved dress with embroidery and matching shawl that dropped behind her back with her arms, not shoulders. Nothing like the outfit she had worn earlier that day. Then again, she had been modelling Harem Nights newest designs. She also wasn’t as cold and aloof as he had expected thought kept her distance and respect. Not at all what he expected. No ego, no pretense, still and respectable.
    He opened his arm in suggestion towards his table to have her look across the room, her partner nodding for her to move forwards towards his table. Saqr signalled over a man to his side to instruct him to find out whom that man was and what he was to her in Arabic.
    They reclined into a velvet soft circular sofa behind a black glass, low table surrounded by silken curtains of mixed colours given the flavour of his country noticing how she looked around taking it all in. “To your liking?” he asked softly.
    Large brown eyes turned to him.
    “It’s very Arabian Nights,” she stated.
    “Not Harem Nights?” he teased. Carmen leaned further back to glance around the whole room, taking in the Persian carpet, low tables, cushions, curtains, archways. The harem attired waitress and waiters wearing harem pants with multi-coloured scarves as belts.
    “Was that what you were aiming for? Reminds me more of Arabian Nights.”
    “Is there a difference?” he asked interested in her answer.
    “Yes, very much so. Harems are a place for keeping women just for the Sultan’s pleasure. Arabian Nights is about the culture, flying carpets, genies and a picture of their lives through one hundred and one stories.”
    “Ah, you know your Arabian Nights.”
    “Read it many times,” she smiled. “I do find this all so relaxing,” she admitted, “especially after a long shoot.”
    “Yes, it must be hard work, standing in front of a camera all day.” She eyed him closely to see her doubt of believing him.
    “Under the heat, yes, your highness, I do.”
    “So you’re not fond of the heat?”
    “Not really, I do prefer the colder weather,” she answered honestly. “Oh isn’t he just adorable,” Carmen noted to have Saqr’s head turn, heart sunk to stand. This was intolerable. The last thing he wanted to excuse himself to cross the crowded room to swoop down to sweep up the little boy in robes whose arms went around his neck.
    “Papa,” he cried with delight.
    “You should be in bed, my little monkey.”
    “Hello,” a soft voice purred behind them. She had followed him.
    “Please excuse me, Miss Carmen; I have to see to this.” Saqr stated factually, almost coldly, trying to distance himself. However, his son had different ideas reaching out behind him with his arms towards the model.
    “And who might you be?” She asked in Arabic to Saqr’s surprise to look at her over his son’s head. She was tall. However, her attention was elsewhere smiling at the boy.
    “You didn’t tell me you spoke Arabic,” he said to be frowned at. Obviously she didn’t, only knew a few phrases. Why would she even bother? “Please go back to our table, I will join you shortly. Abdul,” he called over his man. “Find the nanny, she is fired,” he whispered, then walked out of the reception with his son who was reaching behind him, whimpering for the model that was intolerable.
    Once out of the reception followed by his men he headed towards the elevator, his son settling to rest his head on his shoulder, only to have it pop up again. “She’s behind me, isn’t she?” he asked his man at his side to receive a positive to curse softly.
    “Shall I escort her back sire?”
    “Sire! Sire!” A distress woman, arms flapping madly, wailing. Great, the nanny, who was supposed to keep his son safe. What about the guards? They were all gone.
    “Obviously you need to sort this out, here, let me.” He swung around to Carmen who held out her hands to wrap around his son’s squirming body who eagerly went into her arms to be placed on her hip. She looked at one of his men. “Perhaps we should go back to our room, hmm?” She smiled jogging him on her hip. Saqr lifted his hand to silence the incompetent woman. He nodded to his man. Carmen and his son departed to be taken to his suite, not his son’s.
    Finally Saqr arrived back to his suite of rooms to find Abdul standing guard outside his bedroom. “Until this is sorted, you’re in control of my son’s welfare.”
    “Of course, sir.”
    “And the woman?”
    “With your son.” Opening the doors Saqr stepped in to find his son under the covers snuggled into the pillows. Carmen on top her shoes on the floor at her side, holding a book reading to him. His big brown eyes watching her as she spoke in a soft tones telling a story of Ali Baba and his forty thieves, when in reality she holding a book about the history of his homeland. She really did know one and hundred Arabian Nights and off by heart by the looks of things.
    “Time for a disobedient boy to go to bed,” he told his son in Arabic.
    “Papa!” His son leaped up, to crawl across the king sized bed to launch himself into his arms. Carmen closed the book to place on the bedside table where she found it to ease off the bed, collected her shoes and departed. Nodding at the guard in passing, she paused to slip on her shoes then headed out.

    • Sold Editors

      Saqr sounds like our kind of sheikh! Seductuve, a single dad and a real alpha, seeing the softer side of his character alongside his commanding side was a fab way to discover he’s a single parent. And Carmen sounds like she could be the one woman to tame this bad boy sheikh! We love the chemistry between these two characters too! Great job 🙂

  15. Narelle Buxton

    Exhausted didn’t even begin to cover how Sophie Foster felt at that moment, especially after the disastrous morning she’d had. She was looking forward to a huge dose of coffee and a few hours to relax and take a much needed nap after dropping her vivacious three-year-old daughter off at the hotel’s kids club. She turned the corner that led back to the main building of the luxurious tropical Queensland resort as she wiped tears of exhaustion from her eyes. Of course she chose that moment to not look where she was going.
    Suddenly, her feet were no longer on the ground and she landed hard on her hands and knees on the stony path. Heart racing and breathing heavily, she looked around, taking stock of herself and her surroundings as she got over the initial shock of the fall. She was in one piece and she was sure she hadn’t broken anything, but by the sting in her hands, she’d be surprised if she hadn’t taken chunks out of her skin.
    Then big warm hands were around her and lifting her up and a deep voice caressed her. “Are you alright? I’m so sorry.”
    “It’s fine. I’m fine,” she denied as she looked down at the red suitcase that she’d tripped over. Wobbling on her feet, the warm hands held her tightly. She tried to push him away, realising too late that she had blood on her hands and he now had blood in the middle of his pristine white shirt. “Oh, no, look what I’ve done now,” she gasped, horrified. She was really not having a good morning.
    “It’s nothing, it’s just a shirt,” he dismissed and she looked up over the open collar and up to the gorgeous man in front of her. The messiness of his brown hair and the light dusting of stubble on his strong jaw gave him a sort of sexy, just climbed out of bed look. His dark glasses at least hid what she assumed would be gorgeous eyes, if the intensity she felt from them was anything to go by. She clung even tighter to his solid forearms for fear of falling over. Again.
    “Is everything alright, Sir?” a hotel employee appeared beside them.
    “Fine,” he nodded. “Please take my bag to my… ah… room.”
    “Certainly, Sir,” the employee said and scurried away with the suitcase.
    Whether from embarrassment, his intensity, or her exhaustion, tears just started leaking from Sophie’s eyes. She didn’t usually cry. So it had to be the exhaustion. And the drama of the morning. She couldn’t remember feeling this tired or emotional since Jasmine was a tiny baby. But she supposed the three and a bit years of being a single mother and working full time, as well as meeting all of the demands of her challenging family had just built up to the point where she’d really needed this holiday. And some much needed sleep. Or a bucket of coffee as soon as possible.
    Now she had to clean herself up and apologise to him, before any of that. That thought had her tears turn into sobs. It really was not her morning. Why did these things always happen when she could least handle it? First it had been Jasmine waking up at the crack of dawn, after staying awake until nearly midnight as she’d been so excited from their day trip to the crocodile farm the day before. Then her daughter had tipped milk all over the bench. Then, while Sophie had been trying to clean up that mess, Jasmine had put a whole roll of toilet paper in the toilet, and spread soap all over the bathroom. And now this. All Sophie wanted to do was crawl back in bed and hide under the doona until she had to pick Jasmine up from the kids club, when she’d have to find a way to entertain the little for a few hours before she could get her in bed for the night. And then do it all again the next day.
    “Hey, it’s not that bad. We’ll get you cleaned up in no time,” the man said as his arms wound around her and held her closely. So close her head rested against his chest, covering his white shirt in tears as well as her blood.
    Whoever he was.
    “I’m Tom,” he murmured once her crying had subsided into deep shaky breaths.
    She stepped back. “Sophie,” she sniffled and dabbed at her face with the immaculate white handkerchief he handed her. “Sorry about that. Again,” she murmured, mortified at the state she was in in front of a complete stranger.
    “It’s nice to meet you, Sophie,” he smiled, exposing his perfect white teeth and lifted his glasses from his face and she felt her knees go weak again at the intense look in his slate grey eyes. “Hey, are you sure you’re alright?” He grabbed her around the waist, holding her still as he examined her.
    Sophie looked down at where her hands gripped his strong tanned forearms, resisting the urge to run her fingers along the soft skin and dark hairs. “I will be, thanks,” she dismissed and glanced up, taking in the serious set of his jaw and the dark brown hair falling over his forehead before she dared look in those disturbing eyes again. They were full of concern as he looked her over, from head to toe, as if taking note of every part of her. She felt naked and exposed. Swallowing hard, she pushed back from him and felt the absence of his hands on her waist when he dropped them. “I’ll just go back to my room and put a Band-Aid on this.” And she could collapse on the bed in embarrassment and hopefully sleep.
    “Can I at least buy you a drink?” he asked politely.
    She looked at her watch – it wasn’t even ten yet. “It’s a bit early for that.” Even still, she could feel herself wavering, if only for some adult company.
    “Coffee then?” he asked, a grin on his face.
    She fought a smile of her own. If he’d said anything else, she would have graciously declined. “Coffee sounds good.”

  16. Harriet Hale

    Lucy quickstepped through the parking lot and checked her watch. Thirty minutes … book club started in thirty minutes. At her house. Ten women were going to show up, book in hand, and expect dinner and witty conversation.

    And she’d forgotten they were coming.

    The supermarket door swished open and the curtain of cool air cleared her thoughts. Wrestling a cart from the row, she swung it around and charged into the after work shopping fray, intent on her mission.

    Goat cheese
    Preserves
    Crostini
    Ready to bake pizza
    Salad in a bag
    Vegetables for the salad, pay extra for the ones that are already chopped
    Angel food cake and lemon curd
    Fruit salad
    Chex mix

    Wine … if she had enough wine no one would mind if dinner was late. Or that dinner was iceberg lettuce and rubbery crusted pizza.

    She checked her watch. Twenty minutes.
    Rounding the corner, she narrowly avoided a mother who was wresting her toddler back into the cart while keeping her older child from reaching for every colorful box on the aisle. The next obstacle was a man in a suit, holding a basket and staring at soup while he listened to his phone. Dodging him, Lucy quickened her pace down the empty stretch to the liquor aisle.

    And then she saw her – a little girl alone in the middle of the active center aisle. Her pink hoodie swallowed her tiny frame and hung low enough to squash the tutu beneath it. Thin, tights-clad legs ended in purple tennis shoes.

    Walk past, Lucy. You don’t have enough time. Her parents are close by. There are plenty of other people.

    She’s too close to the exit door. Anyone could … You’re off-duty, Lucy. Let someone else …

    The watery sniffle undid her.

    Closing her eyes, Lucy skidded to a stop and backed up. Putting on her best smile, she knelt in front of the little girl. Her lashes were spiky and tears trickled to her quivering chin.

    “Hi. Are you lost?”

    The nod was hesitant, but the tears came quicker. Her wispy blonde braid unraveled further. “Daddy was getting stuff to fix my hair, and I saw a card with a ballerina on it.” She held up the wrinkled greeting card as proof. “I went to look and he was … he was …” The tears turned to sobs.

    “It’s okay. We’ll find him. I’m sure he’s not far.”

    “I looked everywhere.”

    And he was probably looking everywhere else. Lucy stared longingly at the bottles of wine on the shelf to her left. The customer service desk was at the opposite end of the store. “I’ll help you find him.”

    “I’m not supposed to go with strangers.”

    Smart kid. Lucy pulled her credentials from her purse. “My name is Lucy Monroe,” she said as she held the badge and ID at eye level. “I’m a police officer.”

    “Monroe. Like the president.” The little girl said as she sniffed.

    Lucy nodded. “What’s your name?”

    “Jamie Adams,” she sniffed again and stuck out her hand.

    “Like the president,” Lucy teased as she touched the dainty fingers. “Let’s find your daddy, Jamie.”

    Standing, Lucy snagged the closest three bottles of wine, not caring about the label or even the kind. “Put your hands on my cart and keep your eyes peeled for your dad. If you see him, tell me. Okay?”

    Jamie nodded, causing more strands of fine blonde hair to slip free.

    Not only did they not see Mr. Adams, they didn’t see a supermarket employee until they reached customer service. Lucy had given up checking the time. She was going to be hopelessly late for her own party.

    She lifted Jamie to the counter. “What’s your daddy’s name?”

    “Wesley Adams.”

    The employee nodded, and called into the microphone. “We have a lost child at customer service. Wesley Adams, please come to the front of the store.”

    Jamie started to cry again.

    “Are you a dancer?” Lucy asked, searching for a distraction.

    “Uh-huh. Today’s my first lesson, but we’re going to be late.”

    “There are worse things than late,” Lucy assured her. “Are you sure you’re not a runner? These purple shoes look pretty cool.”

    “I didn’t want to get my ballet shoes dirty, and daddy said—“

    “Jamie!”

    “Daddy!”

    Lucy stepped out of the way just as a tall man bolted to the desk and scooped the little girl into a hug. If not for Jamie’s reaction, it wouldn’t have been clear they were related. His wavy dark hair brushed the collar of his white polo shirt, which contrasted with his dark tan.

    “You scared the crap out of me,” he scolded as he stared down at his daughter. “How many times have I told you not to wander off like that?”

    “I said I saw something I wanted to give to my teacher,” Jamie reasoned as she held up the card. “See. Isn’t it pretty?”

    “It is but, Baby, you have to wait for me to stop and see stuff with you. Okay?” He tossed the card in a plastic basket full of mousse, hairspray, pins, and pink ribbons. Then he turned to Lucy. “Thank you. I’d looked everywhere.”

    The wild look in his dark eyes and the tangled sweep of his hair convinced Lucy that he was indeed Jamie’s dad, despite the lack of resemblance. “She had, too.”

    “She’s not a stranger, Daddy. She’s a police officer, and she’s named after a president too.”

    “Let me guess. George?” His lips quirked in a smile, but Lucy saw his fingers tremble.

    “Lucy Monroe,” she said as they shook hands. When she would’ve pulled away, he kept hold of her. His grip was warm and strong.

    “Thank you, ma’am.”

  17. Calida Ally

    Caitlyn knocked on the suite door and waited for a response. When none came, she entered with her trolley of fresh linen. After locating the bedroom she began to strip the huge bed. Just as she was about to reach for a fresh sheet, a tall figure filled the doorway nearly making her jump out of her skin.
    “You frightened the living daylights out of me!” she gasped, her hand flying to her chest. The raven haired man, who had the build of an athlete, subjected her to an intense appraisal. With her heart pounding against her ribcage, she smoothed her clammy hands down the black skirt of her uniform. “I assumed your weren’t in so… so I came to change the bed… but I can come back later if you wish…”
    “Go ahead, finish your job Miss…?”
    “Caitlyn Hamilton.” She tried to meet the grey eyes unwaveringly but it was hard. He was so damn sexy! Just looking at him was enough to set her pulse racing.
    “Don’t mind me Caitlyn.” He drawled coming further into the room and making his way to the walk in closet. “You carry on with what you’re doing, pretend I’m not here.”
    Caitlyn stifled a laugh. Yeah right! There was no way of ignoring Nikandors Xenakis’s presence. He had an aura of charismatic sensuality and authority which set him apart from other men. The photographs she’d seen of him did him no justice…
    “Daddy! Daddy!” A little girl came bounding into the room. Instantly Nikandros was at the little girls side.
    “Emily, what’s wrong?” He knelt down and looked at her searchingly, a deep frown etched on his brow.
    “I’ve cut myself.” she held out her hand to show him the cut on her tiny thumb.
    Caitlyn watched as, Nikandros took hold of his daughters hand for a closer inspection of the injury.
    Caitlyn felt her heart flip over at the smile he gave Emily.
    “Do you know what will fix this?”
    “What?” mumbled the little girl.
    “A plaster…”
    “I can get one for you.” Caitlyn groaned inwardly. Why did she have to chime in like that.
    Two pairs of eyes darted in her direction. Caitlyn clutched the fresh sheet tightly to her.
    Nikandros trapped her blue eyes with his. “We’d appreciate that, wouldn’t we Emily?”
    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the little girl nod in agreement.
    Swallowing hard, she tore her gaze away from his and dropped the sheet on the bed. “Right, I’ll go and get that plaster.” she muttered and hastily left. As she closed the door behind her, her cell phone rang.
    “Caitlyn?” A female voice demanded. “Are you there?”
    “Yes.”
    “Have you seem them yet?”
    Caitlyn paused. “Yes, I’ve seen them.” she said quietly.
    “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you dare tell me you’re going to back out…”
    “I think you’re wrong about Nikandros, he does love her, I’ve just seen him…”
    “Don’t let him fool you.” The other woman’s icy tone made her wince. “You better stick to our plan and help me get my daughter back or you can kiss your law degree goodbye!”
    “After seeing him with Emily, I don’t think I can…”
    “Caitlyn, I’m warning you we had a deal…”
    “I’ve got to go, I’ll call you later, I… I need to think about this.” Caitlyn ended the call and turned off her phone. Returning to the penthouse suite with a plaster, she handed it to Nikandros.
    As he took the plaster from her, his fingers brushed with hers. The jolt of electricity which bolted up her arm floored her. Avoiding meeting his gaze she focused on the little girl who looked up at her.
    “Will you be my new nanny?” Emily asked suddenly. “I like you.”
    Caitlyn felt her breath catch but didn’t dare meet the narrowed assessing gaze which settled on her.

    • April Arrington

      Okay- sooo did not see that coming! Fantastic twist, Calida! This is a great, charismatic, conflict-fueled set up. Lemme know when you finish it– cuz I’ll be in yours & Harriet’s lines for signed copies of y’all’s books! Really enjoyed this!
      🙂

    • Calida Ally

      Love you April! Thank you SO much for your incredibly kind words!!! I can’t tell you how moved I feel by your overwhelming kindness!!! Thank you so much, April! 🙂 xoxoxoxo

    • April Arrington

      Hey, Calida- my other posts to you and Charlotte are awaiting moderation- (I promise it was nothing inappropriate) LOL 🙂
      Just a second note here that I really enjoyed this
      🙂

    • Chris Buono

      Nice, Calida. I liked the setup, the way that the characters unfolded, and their interaction.

      I was thrown a bit by your use of “plaster.” Did you mean “plastic…bandage” or “band-aid”? When I first read “plaster” I thought “plaster…cast.” But because Emily only cut her thumb, I didn’t see how “plaster” would apply here. Did I miss something?

      Clever ending twist. Still, while on the surface, the fact that Caitlyn is doing what she is doing is because of the money she needs to get a law degree, I’m not certain that would be a strong enough hook/plot to carry an entire ms.

      My two cents: Perhaps the law degree is essential to Caitlyn, because the woman on the other end of the phone is Nikandros’ ex-wife, and she wants Caitlyn to be the lawyer for their divorce, so that she (the ex-wife) can be assured custody of Emily?…

      Also, a law degree takes time to get. At what stage is Caitlyn with regard to getting it?

      I think there are interesting possibilities here. 🙂

    • Calida Ally

      Thank you so much Chris, for your very kind words! 🙂 And I so appreciate your kind advice 🙂 I did mean “band-aid” 🙂 I’m so used to calling it a plaster! Will make sure I avoid doing that again next time! 🙂 xoxoxo

    • Sold Editors

      Your hero sounds delicious and we love that your heroine has got more to her than first meets the eye! It’s also great to see that your hero and heroine are from different worlds! We think Caitlyn would make a brilliant nanny for Emily…and the perfect partner for your gorgeous Greek hero!

  18. Sold Editors

    And that’s it for this week’s writing challenge! We’ve so enjoyed reading all your wonderfully adorable scenes. They’ve pulled at our heart-strings, made us laugh and had us wanting to read more!
    Happy writing 🙂
    The Sold Editors x

  19. Sheritha

    I loved reading all the posts :-). I’ve been so caught up with training. I haven’t had a chance to reply. Ladies, I wish I could write as wonderfully as all of you 🙂 It has been my dream to write for Harlequin ever since I was old enough to read.