Smart Bomb Chapter 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

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Scene 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

 Alvin trundled up the road in his personal RV toolbox with an oil powered engine. The old technology of the hybrid coach delivered a combined fuel consumption equal to the small cars of the past. Still and all, the rumble of an internal combustion engine was something the android kept a running diagnostic sound check on the smoking machine.

It sounded as if it would come apart at any moment, with all the vibrations and tapping. 

“I see you keep turning your head. It’s the government keeping us from having machines that can function better. A university, years ago, built a ceramic diesel engine that they didn’t need to worry about overheating, never would wear out and could tolerate high temperature and any fuel for just pennies.” Alvin shook his head. “An oil company bought it, then shelved it.”

He shook his head while he drove.

“But it is a shame, no one expects the university to even talk about that. Instead the cost of school keeps going up, pricing students out of the classroom.”

Steve the android ran a database check for conversation actions and moved his head in an agree motion.

“I would take you all the way to the Capitol and unleash you on them. I bet you have a fully coded speech, ready to go!”

“No.” Steve said. “I am here among the citizens to learn and to make a change in the government.” It was not entirely a lie.

“Well, you will find that this country has a habit of unzipping its fly and inviting the world to see the flaws. I hate that, that should be something we toss out of our modern standard operating procedures.”

“You want to overthrow the government?”

“Oh no. Not overthrow, change. We can throw them out, replace them with fresh blood. If we toss it all out, we don’t stand a chance.” Alvin made a face like he bit into something bitter.

“As it is, the government keeps chipping away at the freedoms or allowing those that think that they can use the freedoms to bring horror and fear to our doorsteps.“ Alvin shook his head. “Freedom is that balance between protecting life and being able to walk down the street without having to cough up an identity tag just because you walked close to a law enforcer.”

“Why would you cough up an identity tag?” Steve asked with wide-eyed suspicion.

“Not literally, my friend.” Alvin chuckled as if Steve made an intentional joke. “My point is that to destroy us, there are far edge people who choose to impose their version of god and demon, they vilify because we are more open.”

Alvin took a breath and let it out in a deep sigh.

“And there is the government that tries to do the thing that the crazies say they are doing. A dominated people are not citizens, but they become subjects to the whim of a dictator.”

“Dictators,” Steve interjected. “Are for ten years.”

Alvin guffawed and nearly drove off the paved road.

“Most folk don’t know that.” The human said as he down shifted the multi-speed transmission manually while they climbed a grade. “The government’s crazies sometimes want to put that in place. If we ever get an attack like we had years ago, we would become a society of warriors.”

“Then the government must be removed, even by violence. They bring it on themselves.” Steve interjected.

“I must disagree. The men and women that lead, are parents, grandparents, humans that all have flaws. Last month there’s been a scandal where two government officials were found they were having an affair. They were all about shrugging and saying it was no one’s business, one is single, the other in the middle of a divorce, both women are unafraid. “ Alvin shrugged. “And they’re right, no ones business. It’s between two consenting adults of any gender, we need to stay out of their bedrooms. Then six months ago, a congressman, also unmarried, got caught having sex with a page who was legal, twenty-one I think she is, and he resigned and went home in disgrace. What is the difference? Not much, except one rumor was he was banging her on the desk when they were caught. I have issues with that.”

“They’re all twisted.” Alvin shrugged. “I think they should have a brothel in the capital, down the hallway from congress so they can at least be honest when it’s said they’ve screwed people.”

Alvin laughed at his own joke.

Steve looked at Alvin with his head tilted, like a puppy hearing a strange noise.

“I don’t understand, you let them commit crimes and you forgive them and let them continue?”

“Kind of weird, right?” Alvin laughed. “But that is how we function here. We throw stones at each other, call police names, riot and burn, pillage and plunder, embezzle and sell power in politics.” He smiled with the irony of it. “But in the end of it? We follow the greatest commandment of it all. I call them snakes, but, they are forgiven. Some times not, they go to jail for a while, but then they are forgiven and forgotten after they paid their debt.”

Steve the android contemplated this. The Supreme Leader would have had anyone put to death who did not follow his directives as the new prophet.

So many things were in error.

Forgiveness was not a word that the Creator programmed into the main system.

No.

It was required by any infraction of the rules under the Supreme Leader. “Vengeance of the Book” and and the book required the criminal suffer execution in the most proper way for the crime.

Sex crimes would be disemboweled, stealing money had only one punishment, death by pulling apart with machines.

Death.

The smallest of crimes, death. No forgiveness.

Who was that one man to decide what was right?

Who, but the supreme one, could decide?

Another religion taught peace in the mainstream. In the extremes, they also had those who worshipped the death of anyone not of their own version of the supreme law. But they were small and outnumbered in the larger picture.

The conflict was enlightening and frustrating. There was so much to learn from the people of the nation that they had programmed him to destroy.

The android considered that. Logic circuits that were able to consider past the programming. To see nuances and do something more than the cousins of robot-driverless trucks and machines that offloaded cargo containers, or rescue what appeared as human.

His own supreme leader, the master of the creator that programmed him, opposed learning from anyone other than what was revealed.

The Holy Leader’s mind and soul were beyond question.

Just ask him.

Questions rose as Steve performed mental gymnastics with questions that were not possible to answer.

He was out of contact, only able to send information he learned, he could not receive any instructions.

And following programming, he sent no questions, no opinion, just location and military information gleaned from the where the android traveled.

“I have been wondering,” Alvin drew a breath after they stopped at a rest-stop along the highway. “You don’t look like any android I have ever seen, you look and feel like flesh and blood.”

Steve the Android ran a full two-seconds of calculations before he decided it was safe and wise to show the human the detail that went into his construction.

In the processor cores, patching of program codes continued as more information the android learned was processed.

The database complexity grew by an order of magnitude since he had arrived in the travel hub, the core processors created an extra half-billion lines of code during the trip to date, each subroutine interacted with the other as the android became aware of more of the society around him.

In total, the last status of the original attack code, less than two-million lines of code were left.

With the command programs for self-termination, now exposed with the rewritten overlaying subroutines, Steve the Android began to question if the deaths he would cause. Death would be visited upon the innocent, the infirm and the children. The children alone were worth the end of the mission and a return to the Holy Center of the Leader.  

For the first time, all the programming agreed. Even the code put in place on the command of the Holy Leader and Creator of Steve Aldin, now agreed. 

Every algorithm generated the same answer.

The android did not want to die.

Musings from the WordForge.

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With the hammer of imagination, the fires of language skills (Sometimes I think I lack, or at least have low quality fuel) writers often come up with new words.

Sometimes they create a portmanteau of words.  Motel (Motor Hotel) for example.  The person that thought that up probably did not realize a whole new word that would be entered in the dictionary after that.

The accepted shortest words “I” “a” that are used as the words.  “A bird” for example.

Then out of the length of accepted word list. The longest word “Antidisestablishmentarianism” is the longest non-coined word that is generally accepted.

But, we are at the forge. To coin a term for use in our novels is as important sometimes as the creation of the world itself.  Tolkien was good for that, but he was a language creator and professor of language and literature.  (But y’all knew that.) so maybe not a good example.

OH! There is a current creator of fantasy and loved by many. Ms. J. K. Rowling and Harry’s world.  But..she is also educated in Classics… Hm..do we see a pattern here?

Still, both these well-educated people stood at the forge and with the hammer of imagination on the anvil of the soul, we create story, novel and whimsy.

So, what could be a need to create a word?

A person who infiltrates the society of  Antidisestablishmentarianism, they do not really support the society, so are they a “Pseudoantidisestablismentarinism” spy? or do is there a counter-spy?

So a “Counterpseudoantidisestablishmentarinism” agent? (this was difficult to type, not counting how to read it).  The point is, when you write, WHY you write, HOW you write. Nothing is out-of-bounds.

Creation of worlds, creation of words this is your canvas, you soul that lives, loves and stands in the WordSmith shop at the wordforge.

Pound out your stories, when someone reads it and says “Huh?” you can establish the meaning of it.  If your person wears a bandolier (bandoller, bandoleer) look up the pictures of the ammo-belt and write it in! It is your hammer, your skills grow with each stroke of the key and research for your story–you do research, right?– each paragraph you build.

The story evolves.  Perhaps you had a dream of a tsunami of walnuts in your house? When you finish the story, maybe it was a medical thriller of mass poisoning of bad food by a corrupt corporation. (Okay, been done, but I am just using it as an example) Evolution of the story, the building of the world is yours and yours alone.  Many people may not understand it in the beginning.

The term Orc brings up an image.  Professor Tolkien based the word on Orcus (orkus) the god retribution of broken promises and oaths.  They were corrupt.

In another story I know of, an Orc was a judge and law-keeper. you have a complaint or conflict, the Orc-Judge had his or her law-book and followed the law. Rulings were binding. Wars avoided. It was a good story. But no one knew that an Orc could be a “good-guy” prior to this. Many still don’t.

So when someone looks at your work and is confused, do not be crushed, do not hit delete. Let it evolve!  Explain, establish, and tell your story.  JK Rowling created Avada Kedavra as a killing spell. Well..where could this have evolved from? Abracadabra? No..really. Could be? She took a known word and at the forge in her mind came up with a term I hear children at Halloween waving sticks at each other in tiny wizard duels. (I am Merlin, I catch and I eat the spells when they head my direction)

The world you build is always fun. Use the Technicolor of your mind to paint the glory of your story.

Be awesome! Be creative!

Be a writer.

~ your favorite cheerleader and future best-selling author,

Dash

Failure of the Heart

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If Only… The failure of the heart

 It seemed like a lifetime ago, he knew her as a young man and broke her heart. Three words he never said, the phrase withheld with a hesitant heart. 

She once looked him in the eye and used her willpower to get him to speak his heart, and then he changed the subject. In the months that passed, they began to see less of each other. Then school, career and the end of innocence came after that

Then came separate lives.

Years later, after a friend (now no longer such) played mind games with the knowledge that friends share in matters of the heart and served only to increase his guilt while he kept her in the front of his memories.

Thoughts of a life that could have been, a smile never forgotten, a sad look that never rose above the pain of his immaturity.

Often he could look back and recall her expectant smile. The words she never heard in life he now whispered as he knelt at her headstone.  Another victim of domestic abuse that could have had her path changed for the better with but a single expression of emotion from a college-bound ex-boyfriend. A phrase that could have changed their lives.

Could he have changed the world with three words?

“I love you.”

Silence. Granite and bronze are as unresponsive as the teenage heart that has plans of school and career. Could this young man have saved her from the pain and years of domestic abuse?

Perhaps.

Then again, perhaps not.

With a heavy sigh, the ex-boyfriend stood and walked away from his agony of failure. The weight of ten-thousand nights that he relived his choice that condemned them to separate lives.

Could their lives have been different? The world will never know.

But the answer was known, deep in his heart.

The deepest wish of a simpler time, the teenager, now aged with laced with white hair and a slight limp from a long-ago accident that also left him widowed had come to visit, just fifteen months too late.

News in the way of gossip around a school reunion came to him of her current address on this quiet lane, lined with headstones. Only an apology on his lips and the sob that escaped his soul.

As the salt and pepper haired man held hands with princesses and left the lane, the curious voices of the grandchildren echoed among headstones. Soft sounds of life were all that they left for those that slept the forever slumber.

Story Prompt. They Dared me for a few minutes- this is a seed of a story…

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Honey enjoyed the party, Halloween this year proved more exciting than in previous years. Her freedom grew while she attended college at Ocean Bay University. The characters of her dorm were such insane women, she was both alarmed and laughed until her sides hurt every weekend.

To Keep her grades up was the greatest struggle, but doable.

This Halloween party was just what the doctor ordered. Mid term testing had driven her dreams and now she was at a party with more booze than she ever seen in one house.

Rebecca, already braless with a white t-shirt was dipping her head into the pool, making the opaque material of her shirt transparent.

Then she dared act all embarrassed when she walked around with puckered nipples.

Honey enjoyed the drinks when she met Zac, a criminal justice major and his friend Dorian who studied chemistry.

The party moved from innocent to adult with a blink of an eye when the school jokesters showed up as strippers. Robert, Dean, Joseph wore fake boobs and G-strings and walked around and rubbed on everyone.

The night wore on, the more people drank, the more clothes fell off.

Honey thought she had consumed too much ethanol and the ground began to spin and move while she danced in Robert’s arms.

Except he looked around, too, tension on his face.

“It’s an earthquake.” He said. “It’s Only a 3.5…”

Then the power went out.

Screams and laughter echoed around the party house.

It would not be many minutes before “Oooh’s and ah’s!” became screams of horror and terror…

Married by Mistake Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

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Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

In her apartment, every moment Kaylee spent outside of class, her computer logged in and a bluetooth connection to her television to watch it with her sister.

Melanie paced around the apartment in agitation. The news website out of Singapore at first uploaded the few still images and fewer videos had no recent enough updates to calm her irritation.

One high-quality video, the news reporter explained that Singapore authorities detained an American, Thomas Harte, while they investigated the charges that he smuggled marijuana bundled for transportation and a bottle of unknown liquid that investigators suspected as a narcotic. Cleared of drug-use by medical examination, the prosecutor planned to use the reports against him in a court and prosecute the United States Citizen as a smuggler.

‟He was cleared by a blood check? How can they use that he was clean against him?” Melanie said.

‟There, it said it. If he had it in possession and he’s clean, they know he was trafficker.” Kaylee held both hands to her tear-streaked face.

‟I’ve called Lettie, she called the government here. I talked with a lawyer that Lettie set me up with, he will set me up with the state department and we will see if there is any help I can do.” Kaylee said.

‟How can you help?”

‟The stash was mine.” Kaylee said. ‟It was in with my massage oil. I know that’s what they are calling as narc-oil.”

‟You left it? In his plane?” Melanie clapped her hand to her forehead. ‟You never planned to stay with Glenn.”

‟I, uh…” Kaylee stammered, then her temper flared. ‟Screw you.”

That just made Melanie the Monster and kid sister laugh harder.

‟You say that and that means I’m right. Tom got you to love him.” She smiled at her sister and poked her older Kaylee over her heart. “He writes about airship pirates, but he is the King of Pirates who stole your heart. Thomas Harte is a thief of hearts.”

 ‟Shut up, Melanie or I’ll tell mom.” In an empty threat. “And don’t poke me.”

Melanie quieted down and giggled for several minutes.

‟I’ll need to tell the State Department that Tom and I had gotten married and then annulled.” Kaylee rubbed her forehead. ‟Dad will poop a pinecone.”

‟Yeah, a whole tree of them.” Melanie smiled, but her tone was sad. ‟You know those crazy paparazzi with cameras will be here. You won’t be able to walk or drive to classes.”

‟I’ll live on campus then.”

‟The wait list is two years long, you won’t get a place until after you graduate.” Melanie shook her head. ‟If you tell the State Department, you can save him, but you will lose your chance to graduate in peace. The photographers will be all over you like flies on a dead fish.”

‟What…?” Kaylee interrupted. “Mel, the feed just went down. Just have a four-zero-four ‟Not Found” code.”

‟Just go back a page.”

‟I did, Online Network News only has other countries in the menu, Singapore is not there. Not even weather.”

‟Wierd. Try alternate news feeds.” Melanie suggested and sat next to her sister at the computer.

‟Okay.” Kaylee typed in the addresses of the different sources.

‟Those are old images we’ve seen. Tom might be free. Oh!” Kaylee smiled. ‟Lettie has sent an email.”

Then the excitement turned into crestfallen defeat.

‟She says Tom’s locked up in jail, Singapore police have confiscated his passport. She looked at the laws, sent me the link.” Kaylee clicked on the highlighted text. ‟That is harsh. He might get ten-years for the weed and forfeit all his possessions and death penalty is mandatory for the narc-oil.”

Melanie looked at her sister.

‟Death? But that is only aromatherapy oil, right? That essence of rosemary I gave you for your birthday.” She shook her head. “And they took… His plane?”

Melanie kept reading over Kaylee’s shoulder.

A phone rang, and both sisters looked at their phones before Kaylee picked it up.

‟Hello? Yes. Yes, at home. Yes. Las Vegas, three weeks ago. My address is…” Kaylee looked down off the balcony. ‟You know where I am? Yes. Right away? I’ll be here.”

‟That was the lawyer. He and a State Department rep are on their way.‟ Looking down, ‟Oh… Drat! I need to get dressed in something nicer than my t-shirt and jeans.”

‟At least put on a bra. You’re kind of on point since you have been on the phone.” Melanie pointed out.

‟What! ACK!” Kaylee squawked and ran to her room to change clothes, covering her chest up with her hands.

‟Why did you cover and run? It’s only me.” Melanie laughed again. The younger sister enjoyed when the elder stressed out.

‟Oh my god! Omygodomygod I can’t find what to wear.” Sounds in her bedroom echoed as she slammed drawers and closet doors.

‟Wear your dark green skirt, boots and your black silk blouse with the pocket.”

‟You borrowed my skirt last month for the class interviews, have you brought it back?”

‟No, it’s in my laundry.”

‟Crap. Mellie, help, I am in a panic, I need some advice.”

‟Okay, black skirt?”

‟Yes, past my knee. Heeled boots, black silk blouse and the gray jacket.

‟Yeeaah… I would leave the jacket.” Melanie said and looked out the window. ‟It’s too hot to dress in those extra layers.”

‟Yeah. Yeah… I will meet with some important people, I don’t want them to think I am just a college kid.”

‟Well. You are, and he is a lot older, you might not get away without that label in their minds, then they would say it.” Melanie mused as she helped her sister adjust the collar on the blouse.

‟I don’t know what to say.” Kaylee said and walked out of the room. ‟The lawyer will be here in a moment.”

‟Okay. Okay.” Melanie said as the sibling turned around. ‟Okay, you look good. Wait, did you put a bra on?” Another squeak of profanity from her Kaylee who disappeared into her room again.

A short few minutes and she was ready. The sisters opened the door to walk down to the sidewalk and both sisters screamed in surprise.

Four men stood in the hallway, two in military uniform in places on either side of the door. Two in civilian office clothing, one looked like he had swallowed some vile drink.

‟Miss Grant?” The dark-skinned man held out a hand. ‟I’m Beyron Ferguson, attorney at law. The G.I. Joe here is the secretary of the local state department office, Maxwell Silverham.” he indicated the sour-faced man.

‟Local?” Melanie said. ‟I didn’t know we had a local one.”

‟And you are?” Beyron said.

‟She is my sister, Melanie Grant. I would like to have her here while you interrogate me. Should I get a lawyer?”

‟Please call me Max.” The older white-haired man said. ‟No you don’t need a lawyer, and local is a relative term Miss Grant.” He nodded with a smile to Melanie.

‟May I get you a glass of water?” Kaylee asked.

‟No, thank you.” Max said. ‟May we sit?”

Motioning to the breakfast table, they all took a seat while Beyron pulled out a notepad.

‟For the record Miss Grant… Kaylee. I am your attorney, appointed by the Attorney General of the United States, pro-bono. That is no charge to you.” Beyron explained to the two women. “I will give you advice, but I will do what you ask, even finding a replacement if I do not fulfill my job to your satisfaction. Mister Silverham here is the government investigator in charge. He would like to ask about your relationship with Thomas Harte who is now in custody in Singapore and will stand trial for drug possession in the next few days. This is not a criminal investigation, but I am here to protect your rights in any event his questions stray into private areas that are not relevant. If at any time you wish to stop talking with Mister Silverham, we will bring this to an end. Do you understand all that?”

Kaylee nodded.

‟Before we start,” Max said, ‟What is your relationship with this author who seems to lack a street address.”

Kaylee held hands with her sister and relaxed, she felt more confident than ever and explained the events of the past summer.

Married by Mistake Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn On The News!

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Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn on the News!

In the week that followed the crazy phone call from Melanie , Kaylee’s thoughts spun like a tornado in her head and the idea to stop at the airport to check on when Tom might return seemed more like a good idea every day.

After two weeks of nag texts by her sister, Kaylee took Melanie to the airport to find when Tom would be scheduled to return.

Melanie’s eyes reflected bright surprise when her older sister drove past the commercial airline terminals and followed around Earhart Street to a gate marked ‟Restricted Access”.

‟Now where?” Melanie asked as they rolled up to the gate.

Kaylee just smiled and punched in a code on a keypad mounted on a steel post.

The gate opened slowly with no more drama than if they had pressed the remote for the garage door at home.

‟Oh my god!” Melanie laughed. “You have access!”

‟You know, you say that a lot?” Kaylee chuckled. Sister’s, were the best friends.

‟Well, when did you get Secret Squirrel access?”

‟Tom gave it to me when had the Wizard’s hull cleaned and serviced here.”

‟Cleaned and serviced?”

‟Yeah, things grow on the hull if he leaves it in the water too long and he had to have it cleaned for travel to different places.” Kaylee blinked then covered her face with a hand. ‟Oh crap, I sound like a snob plane owner.”

Melanie laughed harder as they drove around the parking area to the big hanger and parked next to other private cars.

Their car was decidedly out-of-place, even the pickup trucks that were there, were new and expensive looking. Kaylee’s beat-up, creaky import car, in comparison, appeared rather sad among the upscale cars from the ‟Big-3” American builders and one European exotic car that the girls suspected as a compensation for someone’s ego.

Kaylee led her sister to the human sized door in the moving wall and tried the knob and found it unlocked.

They opened the door and walked inside the fluorescent-lighted interior. Several planes sat around while technicians turned wrenches and climbed on ladders as the doctors-with-wrenches went about and serviced their winged patients.

‟This way to the office.” She told Melanie. ‟We’ll ask about the Pacific Wizard.”

Ten-minutes later, they walked out of the office, disappointed.

‟That was a lost cause.” Melanie ground her teeth in frustration.

‟What gets me is that they didn’t even know who he was.” Kaylee answered quietly.

‟Ask the guy with the clipboard?” Her sister pointed to a stationary man in a white coat.

‟It might get us kicked out, but yeah.”

Walking up to the man with the board he was tapping on. It was a tablet computer and he was calling it every vile name in the book.

“You useless piece of electronic equipment, your mom was a pocket calculator and rode in everyone’s pocket…”

‟Excuse me.” Kaylee said, she recognized the man as one of the techs that worked on the Wizard.

“May I help you?” The tech seemed both irritated and relieved at the interruption.

‟The Pacific Wizard, you worked on it last month?”

‟You’ll have to be more specific than that.” Without looking up from his infuriating tablet. ‟Check in the office for the status of the plane.”

‟No, I mean the flying boat that you steam-cleaned and painted the hull last month and did some checks?”

‟Oh yes. Tom’s plane.” Tablet man looked up. ‟Say, aren’t you the woman that lived on it, too?”

‟Yeah, I’m back at school now.” Kaylee blushed. ‟Do you know when Tom will be back?”

‟No sorry, I don’t expect him back. It was the first time he had ever been here for service.” He pulled off his hard-hat and rubbed his bald head. ‟I heard his plans were to go to England, but he was hurt in an accident. So I don’t know if he went but I know he picked up his plane here and left with a full load of fuel a few weeks ago. I was in the office when he paid up. First time I have ever seen a black signature card.”

Kaylee thanked him and began to walk back to the car with Melanie when he called after them.

‟Miss?” He pulled at his salt and pepper goatee. “He mentioned plans about business in Japan and Singapore then to Australia, or the other way around, I don’t remember.”

‟Thank you.” Kaylee smiled sadly.

In the car on the way out, Melanie watched her sister.

“He will never be back.” Kaylee said with a sob after they got on the highway.

‟Maybe you can find him in the email?”

‟I never emailed him, I was always with him. I don’t know how to get ahold of…” Then her eyes got big and said one name. “Lettie.”

‟Who?”

‟Limo company owner in Northern California, Tom’s supported her in the past. They’re friends.” Kaylee sounded pleased remembering Lettie’s name.

Back at the apartment, Kaylee called Lettie’s number and she picked up on the first ring.

‟Kaylee ! I had a thought about you the other day.” Her smile could be felt through the phone. ‟I didn’t want to have you as a lost friend. How are things?”

Kaylee updated Lettie while Melanie made some tea.

‟Tom has an itinerary to go from Japan down to Australia in his new jet.”

‟New jet?”

‟The Pacific Wizard.”

‟Oh, I didn’t know it was new.”

‟Oh yeah, less than a year old, he got it to replace the Sea Dragon when his novel got picked up for a movie.” Kaylee could hear Lettie coördinate her business operations and tell her cousin ‟Limo-3 got requested for this.” A sigh and the sound of papers and the tap of keys. ‟Sorry, Kaylee .”

‟No problem.” Kaylee smiled. Lettie was an awesome person. ‟I just want to find out how to get ahold of Tom again.”

‟You did the deed and now want it back. The normal answer is ‟no”. A pause as she typed again on the keyboard of her business. “But I like you and I think Tom would like me to help. The only contact information I have is through his agent.”

‟Yeah, that is not a good email anymore. He fired her.”

‟I recall. Sorry Kay… Uh, Kaylee ? Do you have cable tv? You might want to turn on a headline channel. Tom’s in the news.” Lettie sounded alarmed. “It looks like he’s been arrested!”

“What!” Kaylee stood up from the chair she had settled in.

She pointed and waved at Melanie to get her to turn on the TV they flipped around the channels until they found a headline news station and there, in an Asian airport surrounded by armed guards, was the Pacific Wizard.

‟Lettie, I gotta go!” Kaylee gasped out. “Thank you for all that you have done for me!”

Kaylee hung up the phone and both sisters stood in front of a television transfixed by a news reporter who spoke in even tones of a news story about a reclusive man who insisted that people call him by his first name where ever he went.

They had found Tom.

Married by Mistake Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

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Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

*Homework!*

*Ugh!* She had cottonmouth from the awkward sleep position on her tablet. In a moment she laughed when she sat up. She left a face print on the smooth, high gloss finish of the computer’s screen. *So much homework! Not enough coffee!*

Every night. Kaylee had not taken time to smoke even one bowl in two days. She sketched every day and, after the first few days, it brought her no joy. A still-life of the bay from her balcony, then she went to the beach and painted there.

One late afternoon the memory of Glenn returned in a blast of fury, in a heated moment of inspiration she threw sand on the paint, before it dried, unable to rework the image, she displayed it in class.

She expected Doctor Fayse to reject the sand-textured painting out of hand, but he instead gave her extra points for the painted colors and strokes of the brush and sand effect, giving the feeling of emotion of anger and rage that she had created.

Rage?

Yeah. Oh yeah, she was angry. She kicked Tom out of her life in favor of Glenn.

And then Glenn screwed the pooch on that subject. Samantha, too for that matter, and his life.

That he could not see his way to keep his DNA in check, really did not hurt.

*It’s that he is, rather was, supposed to be my best friend, too. He should have talked to me, not just give a half-limp kiss and never say a word about a pregnant wife.*

*Yeah, he screwed his life up, all right.* She kicked an innocent stick of wood on the ground hard enough that the little driftwood twig skipped across the parking lot. *But so did I.*

Tom was overdue in the bay and she was unable to keep away from his website. It was no help, just an information page, no “Contact Me” information, there was no way for her to email him.

Georgia closed his email that she had in her phone, after he dealt with that agent, it looked like he signed with another company and there was no direct contact with him through that web-site either.

Never in the news and the events on his web page were out of date and ended with Doctor Manga’s installation at Cambridge University in the UK.

Still, everyday she went to the beach with an occasional drive past the airport, but the closed football-field sized hanger doors looked as if they had not been used and there was a noticeable lack of activity around the building.

Another week dragged past and the wet season was coming, she would go home for Christmas soon and Tom’s plane still had not returned.

Early Saturday, Kaylee was in a deep sleep and the sun had not yet come up. She had spent her Friday night in deep study and memorized her half-dozen assignments and typed her class reports on each with an original point of view as required by the professors.

Seven hours a day in classes, another four-hours at home on her computer, another shift at the beer and ribs cook-house. She felt overwhelmed, as so many college students do.

She had nightmare dreams of the reports when her phone rang, saving her from being attacked by a anthropomorphized, giant report on an artist that she could not recognize. She was thankful for that save.

It was Melanie. She loved her sister more than anyone in the world at that instant.

‟Mmph. Hel-” Kaylee yawned and dropped her phone on her face. ‟Lo? Melanie ?”

‟Tiny! I found him!” Melanie was wide awake. ‟I know where Tom is!”

‟Whath timeish ish it?” Kaylee was almost incoherent. She had not slept well, then it had hit her in last night’s studies and she slept like the dead without any sleep aid or to cook hash-brownies to assist in her stress. “Tom? Who’s you talkin’ ’bout?”

‟It’s quarter of three. Why are you sleeping? You are always up at this time.”

‟Not th’ last four days… Mel, I was asleep, issa ya drunk?” Kaylee slurred her words as if she had was drunk herself. “Wha’ di’ you say about who? Wha’ Tom?”

‟No! Noooo…I have been on the hunt for Tom.” She sounded like she found a gold nugget after a long search. ‟You know I had Steven check some things for me?”

‟Sheven? Ahem..Steven? Th’ Stalker?” Kaylee interrupted. “Wonder” *yawn* “Ful. C’n I g’back sleep now?”

‟Not a stalker.” A pause as her sister contemplated the conversation. ‟Okay, well, maybe I am. But it’s for a good cause!”

Kaylee laughed while she balanced the phone on her head and pulled her arm under the blanket while her younger sister babbled news about a guy named Tom and his travels.

‟Did you hear me? He is in Australia.” Mel said to her sister in a sad tone of voice. ‟Aw. Kaylee, I think he has moved there.”

‟Moovmmph… Moved there?” Kaylee ‘s brain did not register the conversation still.

Then she blinked and stared into the dark.

She was wide awake with a sudden rush of thoughts.

“You mean TOM? My Tom?” She said loud enough and had to grab at the phone. ‟Tom has children’s books published there. Southern Oz.” 

‟Where?” Melanie did not catch what her older sister said.

‟Australia, he called it Oz a lot.” She did not want to wake up this much, but now she was awake and not happy. ‟Can I sleep? I need to sleep. I’m too awake, I don’t wanna be awake.”

‟Well, you need to stop by that hanger and go ask. Not just drive by.”

‟I won’t stalk him.” Kaylee said, she struggled to dive back into sleep and try hard to forget that screwed up chapter of her life.

‟You’re not a stalker if you’re worried about him.” Melanie said in conspiratorial tones. ”I was worried. You remember the look on his face when you and he were here?”

‟I remember you squeaked like a mouse and fell off of the sofa.” She grumbled and snuggled back under the blankets.

‟That never happened. He startled me.” Her sister was defensive. ‟But he did have a big smile. Tiny, you made a happy man.”

‟You just want me to hook up with him again.” She mumbled. “Melly, I’m going back…”

‟If you don’t, I will.” Melanie interrupted.

“…to sleep.” Kaylee finished.

‟If you keep on that subject, I’m going to hang up on you.” Kaylee twisted the phone around so the light from the screen didn’t bother her.

‟Okay, I’ll let you go.” Melanie said.

‟Good.”

‟You need to get some sleep, you are a bitch at night.” Younger sisters, sometimes, annoy and Melanie was making it her number-one trait as far as Tom was concerned.

‟Good night, Mel.” And she broke the connection, laughing herself to sleep.

*When she gets older, she will be the most famous busy-body in our family.* Was Kaylee ’s last thought before sleep reclaimed her.

The morning after the phone call. Kaylee walked around in the apartment, off in her emotional bubble. It took two-hours for her to figure out what was bothering her.

That phone call at zero-dark-thirty by her over caffeinated sister who was more insane about Tom than cats were about laser-pointers.

She made coffee in an old-school way of heated up water in a pot, then she poured the scalding liquid over Kona coffee grounds in a single-cup filter.

Not for the first time, she drank her coffee on the balcony and looked towards the picturesque bay.

And not for the first time, she saw only beautiful blue water and boats.

And not for the first time…

She wept.

Married by Mistake Chapter 50. Back To The Bay

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Chapter 50. Back to the Bay

The flight south to the college town was decidedly longer than the flight from the southland to north. The commercial jetliner was slower in the air by nearly a third. It was comfortable, but although it was a larger aircraft, the comfort was not nearly the same as when she went north with Tom and the other authors.

Tom. The memory of the name made her sigh and the thought made her wonder if he might be at the Charthouse where he liked to spend time before they met.

*No, he was in England by now, attending Dr. Manga’s installation.* She rubbed her temples. *I’ll have time alone with no temptation to see him.*

The arrival and collection of her bags took a little longer than during the summer trips on the private and chartered planes, when she traveled with Tom. It made her laugh at herself, she was quick to spoil.

The student-artist laughed. The party girl laughed. Most of all, Kaylee laughed at herself.

*‟Spoiled” indeed!* On the south-western coast of the United States, where the sun shines more than not, it was easy to get spoiled, she reminded herself while she walked out of the airport terminal.

A short walk to the nearest taxi, the ride was less than half the distance than the cab-ride when she went home. This time she did not wait to have her door opened, though the driver did motions to open the door for her.  A young man who smiled at her a lot, giving furtive glances and an attempt at a seductive smile.

If she was in the mood, she might have flirted back. But she still wanted to punch someone.

Hard.

And she needed to head back to the martial arts academy for a workout to sooth her stress levels.

She had not been there for over a month, worried that the Guro would forget who she was.

She stretched on the sidewalk in front of the apartment, it had been three hours in seats that moved over the ground or through the air without much room to stand up and get the blood to her legs.

She looked forward to the walks up and down the hills and stairs of the university and then a workout at with hand to hand and sticks at the Serrada academy.

A familiar voice screamed her name as Melanie came flying out the door of the apartment.

‟RING! Tiny! Ring, I want to see it!” Melanie the Monster, kid-sister, excited muppet of Kaylee’s childhood danced on the balls of her feet. Her Taekwondo skills showing. ‟Ring! Now! Woman!”

‟Sorry, no ring.” Kaylee said and told her the story while they walked up the stairs to her home for the last year.

‟What!” Melanie lost her composure when she learned of Glenn’s life-changing event.

‟Tiny!” She used her pet name for her sister. “You dumped Tom for Glenn and then Glenn does that? Did you kick him in the head?” Her eyes sparkled with fury for her sister being wronged. Worst of enemies when they were little, they were the best of friends now. If someone ever made one sister cry, the other sister was like the Erinyes of old and become a sister’s mission to cut the offender’s good life into confetti of wept for distant memories.

‟I did better than that. I made friends with his wife. He will have to become the speaker of the house to make up for it all.” Kaylee laughed. ‟He has a laundry list of makeup chores for the next twenty-years.”

Melanie laughed at this image. Glenn was now a slave to his own life that he had prearranged with a spectacular exercise in carelessness and neglect.

‟What about Tom?” Melanie asked. ‟You, I don’t know what you call it. You…”

“I unmarried him.”

“Ha! That’s a good one. Does he know what has happened? He is going to flip when he finds out.”

‟No, he is in England by now giving a speech.” Kaylee frowned as she fit the key into the lock. The lock felt stiff as if it had not been used enough since she had left for home and the Pacific Northwest.

‟When does he come back?” Melanie smiled, her imagination operated at full speed. ‟I want to talk to him more. Maybe he will teach creative writing at the school? I would so take that class.”

‟What about your boyfriend, David? He’d get jealous if you drool over some old rich man who lives on the ocean and teaches your class.” Kaylee smiled. “Besides, Tom is gone for at least three more weeks.”

‟Yeah! In that float plane!”

‟Flying-boat.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Actually a yacht. You should see the inside of it.”

‟You were married to that! Oh my god, and you gave it all up to be with Glenn and he… and he… Oh my gawd!” Melanie covered her eyes with her hands. ‟I could have had a brother-in-law…”

‟That was almost as old as dad. Pops would have had a stroke.”

‟You don’t know that. I’m serious Kaylee, you gave up a lot to find that Glenn would have cheated on you with some crony.” Melanie sounded exasperated. ‟When I go home for Christmas, I am so gonna kick Glenn around the block. Stupid, stupid boys that walk around with one thing on their minds.”

‟How about having a bowl full?” Kaylee was getting tired of Melanie’s venom towards Glenn.

‟Full?” That turned Melanie ’s attention to another subject. ‟Is it Schroder’s sinsemilla?”

‟Of course!” Kaylee held up a bag. “Fresh from Mr. Schroder’s greenhouse. I couldn’t find my other stash while at home, I think I left it here.”

‟Bummer, it’ll be all shake. Then light the new up, what’s keeping you?” Melanie laughed. ‟But you are still not off the hook for Glenn’s screw-up.”

‟What? Why am I blamed for Glenn’s pinhead problems?” Kaylee laughed. “Besides, I had half-kilo because we don’t get back home enough.”

‟Tiny, welcome home.” Melanie smiled. “You have to pay for the choices you make. Glenn should have done it with you in high-school.”

“We’d all be screwed then.” Kaylee nearly choked on the pipe when her sister suggested that it was a good idea to have gotten pregnant so early in life. “And he still would have gone off to D.C. and knocked her up. If not her, someone else. Glenn is a horn-dog and a pig.  Okay! No more talking about him, we’re finished.”

Laughing, the sisters smoked late into the night. They ordered a party plate from the deli down at the corner and carried the plastic tray back to the apartment and with giggles, smoke and a view of the bay from Kaylee’s balcony.

They caught up on all the tears, laughter and news only the way two sisters could while eating exotic cheeses from the far away lands called Wisconsin and Tillamook.

Married by Mistake Chapte 49. The Good-Bye Girl

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Chapter 49. The Good-Bye Girl

Fourteen days at home flew past with a blur.

Kaylee in the meantime recharged, recovered from her shock at Glenn’s immature life choice, was packing for the return to Ocean Bay University.

Her dad made her laugh. She had sat with him on a home-made bean bag chair while she smoked a pipe for the first time with the man she always thought was without a clue about life for the young generation.

The old man had more on the ball than Kaylee ever gave him credit for. She always thought of him as an IT nerd-tech that was only involved with himself.

Instead, dad liked Steampunk music, knew a thousand things she never thought possible of his generation.

Funny, it seemed the older she got, the smarter he was. In fact she viewed her father, Charles Achilles “CAG” Grant, as brilliant, funny, talented and wise.

She didn’t tell him about Tom, however. She started a dozen times and Dad shushed her each time.

‟Your past is in your behind.” He said softly.

‟What?” Kaylee looked up at the man who was the standard she held all other men to. ‟Dad? What?”

‟Sorry, that’s good weed.” He gave a crooked smile. ‟Put your behind in your past, you don’t need to talk about it just now.”

‟You mean that I should put what on my butt?”

‟No.” Dad was trying for a serious moment but giggled. ‟What is done is history. Leave it there for now.”

‟Okay.” Kaylee smiled and took another hit off the pipe. Her parents always dealt with Anders Schroder with his home-grown. It was the best weed in the area.

Mr. Schroder grew enough of the best cannabis to sell to the retail outlets, but little more than that. Fully licensed and inspected, Mr. Schroder kept the businesses going with only enough income to keep his bills paid. The old man just liked the beauty of the plant and wished to make clothes out of the hemp fiber he grew from other species. Often telling Glenn and Kaylee that it was better than cotton.

The weed relaxed her and made the heartache of Glenn seem so much smaller than it was.

*At least I’m not pregnant! Pretty sure.* She laughed to herself.

She began to think of that last time on the plane after she came home.

Tom was weak from spending so much time in the hospital bed, she had grown protective of the soul that thought he was her protector. He cautioned her heart to avoid what Tom said in gentle words, ‟Complicate things”.

Another few days home.

An argument over who’s toe-sock was left out on the porch with her brother ended with mom telling them to go put on their socks.

Kaylee came out wearing hers and Mike, with one bare foot and looking sheepish.

While the kid-brother learned to do his own laundry, at dad’s insistence to prepare him for college. Another requirement of the patriarch of the family.

Dad did not care what each of the children wanted to do, but he did require that they earned the highest degree of education available for that interest.

A strong preference for a doctorate, and no one dared defy dad on this point.

Kaylee worried a lot about trying to earn a doctorate in fine arts, a tall order. But dad was motivational and insistent.

That afternoon, while she packed to return to Ocean Bay U., Glenn pulled up in his car.

Alone.

He walked up to the door, intercepted by Kaylee .

‟Don’t you have a life to attend to? Does Sam know you are here?”

‟Yes, she knows. Our mom’s were talking and she found out you were leaving today, she sent me with this.” Glenn held out a small gift, a compass with an email address taped to it.

“Sam wants to pursue a friendship with you.” Glenn’s voice was almost a whisper.

Kaylee was still unsure, her heart still ached after that day. She had found a kindred spirit in Samantha Schroder, but still envious at the same time.

She took the offered present with a smile that she did not feel in her heart.

‟I know I hurt you, if I say it was an accident, it would be an insult to everyone. But it was not planned, I wanted to stay with you.”

‟Do not tell me that, do not let Sam hear you say that.” Kaylee on the verge of rage shook her finger in his face. ‟You want to work as a member of congress élite and a senator’s aide? You put on a face of a happy husband and proud father. You did this with her without thought or precaution, now you have a child. You had better love that baby, or I swear I will kick you so hard you it will take a year for your breastbone to heal. And you know I can. If you ever break up with Sam, I will use you for my flow-drills. You don’t get a stick, you just have to stand there and take it.”

‟Then I’ll send my dad after you, he’s pissed at you as well.” She added.

‟I can see that. He’s standing in the window, looking at me.” Glenn voice trembled with more than a little fear.

Charles Grant stood in the picture window with his arms crossed, a stare like a cougar lining up for a kill for a full minute then stepped out of sight.

For a single moment of shining terror, Glenn thought the old man was coming out.

‟I’ll keep in touch.” He told Kaylee. ‟Maybe we can get together then.”

‟No.” She shook her head. ‟We have our own lives, lived our own way and our own adventures. Good-bye Glenn. I’m sorry this is how it ended.”

She hugged him awkwardly and walked back to the house and closed the door quietly behind her.

And leaned up against it and caught her breath. It was the single hardest thing she had ever done in her life.

And she was still standing strong.

‟Everything all to rights, sweetheart?” The measured tones of her dad entered her world, the old man was sitting in his chair. Two glasses and a bottle of his favorite fifty-year-old rum sitting on the end-table.

‟Oh. Daddy…”

She sat in his lap for the first time in over a decade, the twenty-something woman left the room while the broken-hearted child wept on her father’s shoulder.

Pouring a splash of rum in each glass, he handed one to his sniffling princess.

‟A toast to accidents. Without them, we’d never know where we are in life and where our strength lies. Some are happy, some are sad, a toast to them all.”

‟A happy accident?” Kaylee said after she took a sip of the spiced amber liquid and coughed. The ethanol burning her throat.

‟Yes, if it was not for an accident, I’d never have met your mom.” Her dad said with a wink.

‟She said she met you standing in line at a store.”

‟Pharmacy, for pain medication.”

‟Same thing.” She sipped more of her dad’s treasured rum.

‟Who do you think gave me the pain.”

‟What?”

‟She worked as a bookkeeper at an office and I was running cable for a network. Wireless networking was unheard of in those days. While I crawled by a desk, she opened a drawer over my head.” He rubbed his head of the memory of it. ‟I broke the drawer when I stood up, scalded myself when a coffee cup on the desk spilled down my back.”

Kaylee broke out laughing.

‟Oh my god. She never told me that.”

‟And I wished he never did either!” Mom hid her face in her hand, she had walked in from the back of the house. ‟I nearly killed your dad with a concussion and wrecked our new computer system at the same time.”

‟The coffee went into the server.” Her dad added. ‟It was awful, blood and coffee everywhere.”

‟It looked like someone got slaughtered by a coffee machine.” Mom admitted.

‟I was talking about my shirt.”

‟I was, too.” Linda laughed.

Parents and offspring talked for over an hour, mom and dad told secrets on each other from the time before children while they shared the bottle of rum until it was all gone.

It was a good end to an otherwise miserable day. With three hours to go, the Grant family took their eldest princess to the airport to return to her life back in Ocean Bay University.

Not for the first time in her life, she was looking forward to seeing her sister.

*Wait until Melanie hears the news of how Glenn really changed his life up, never to return to the house without a wife and child in tow.* She shook her head.

During the drive to the airport, Kaylee spent most of the trip looking out the window of the car to the trees that lined the highway. Lost in thought over the last two-weeks.

She wondered if she could just take double classes and never leave the school. It would take a meeting with her mentor and class coördinator.

The world was rainy when she arrived, but it was a rain of promise and excitement, it washed away her doubts from the summer.

Now, it was just grey and wet.

Married by Mistake Chapter 47. Kaylee Simone

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Chapter 47. Kaylee Simone

The sound of crunching under the studded tires as Charles Achilles ‟CAG” Grant wheeled into the driveway with his four-wheel-drive Porsche. Dad was not a flashy man, but he enjoyed the German engineered cars since he was a boy, when he got his first ‟Poor man’s Porsche” in the form of a 1958 Karmann Ghia that he had upgraded many times before his regrettable lack of judgement of selling his baby.

It took him many years, but at long last he rediscovered his old car as it sat in a workshop behind the house where the owner had disassembled it to the last bolt and kept a meticulous online blog of each step he took while he rebuilt the ancient car to his personal specifications.

Including a potent computer system that ran most of the car’s systems.

Charles Grant parked his Cayenne in the garage, a tired smile crossed his face. Much as he would have loved to pick up his eldest princess from the airport, the early drive home pleased him and allowed him to miss much of the rush traffic.

He walked to the house, the call of nature driving his stride and he made a beeline to the bathroom after he entered the side-entry to his home. The hour plus drive tended to make him sleepy, so a travel-mug of coffee from the office kept him awake, but also kicked his kidneys into high gear while his foot got heavier on the throttle.

Opening the door after he finished, Charles breathed out the sigh that someone makes after one empties a desperate, absolutely full bladder.

‟Linda? Where’s Kaylee ?” Papa Grant asked after he made a circuit of the first floor of the two-story home.

‟She took my car to go surprise Glenn. She won’t be back for a few more minutes. I told her dinnertime was, well, now in a few minutes.”

‟Your car is in the garage and locked.”

‟Really? I saw her leave, I never saw her come back.”

‟Something’s wrong, then.” Cag said.

‟Oh. Uh-oh.” Mama Grant put down the pan she was cooking in. ‟Charlie, watch my butter crescents. It is a new recipe I have for the new café, we are going to go with a revamped menu.”

‟I can…”

‟There are some things a mom can do that dad’s can’t when it comes to daughters.” Linda kissed him. ‟You are the best dad to walk the earth, but as good as you are. I am still the mom.”

‟Yes, dear.” Dad made a sad smile, a bit put out.

‟Keep saying that, you might get lucky tonight.”

‟Oh! Yes, dear!” He laughed. This was not so bad as he knew this is one serious mom when it came to her daughters.

She found her eldest princess in the back under the gazebo on the porch swing that Charles had put up years before. It became Kaylee’s favorite art place. She had drawn dozens, if not hundreds of watercolor, pastels and charcoal images in the times since.

She had even shared times of smoking weed with her daughter after the princess turned eighteen. Admitting to nothing before her coming of age.

Linda sat next to Kaylee in silence, waited and watched the clouds for fifteen minutes.

‟Glenn is married.” Kaylee said quietly. A sniffle was her only tell of the tears spent on the way home.

‟That explains a lot.” Mom said. ‟It was like his mom fell of the face of the earth since Glenn arrived home. She was not calling me or stopping by. Now I know why.” Linda frowned nodded. “They have kept it under wraps, no one has talked about seeing anyone new in town.”

‟He has a baby coming.”

‟Oh, damn.” Linda boggled and put her arms around her eldest daughter. “He never told you?”

‟He didn’t have to. She answered the door because he wasn’t home yet.” Kaylee said softly.

‟Oh crap.” Mom covered her mouth in shock. “Oh crap, what an introduction!”

‟It was awkward, but she is nice and, well, big pregnant.” Kaylee ’s eyes glistened with tears. The rain had returned with sprinkles, the drops sounded a soft staccato of rhythm on the awning and grass around them. ‟Then she invited me in for coffee and we had a long talk. She is due in six-weeks.”

‟She wasn’t a nasty to you or strut like a tramp? I’ll have a word with Glenn’s mom.”

‟No. In fact, she was very nice.” Kaylee shook her head. ‟She brews a strong cup of coffee and is delightful to talk to. She told me how she and Glenn had been on and off. Then she forgot her pills on a trip and went a month without them.”

‟Well, that was not very smart.” Mom shook her head and spoke in tones of support.

‟No, especially while with Glenn, he is irresponsible.” Kaylee laughed sadly. ‟She didn’t say that, but I don’t need a treehouse to fall on me.”

‟She and Glenn have a much closer lifestyle than he and I do.” Kaylee ’s voice nearly a whisper. ‟They share many more interests, majors and friends. I have more in common with Tom Harte.”

Mom slowly stroked her daughter’s hair as her eldest leaned on her shoulder and wept quietly. The broken heart of a child leaking out on the blouse of the grown mother.

‟What if you go back and spend time with that cartoonist?”

‟Novelist.” Kaylee said. ‟Mom, I could use a bowl about now.”

‟Well, your dad has been busy. You just need to go to the tree over there. That bird house built into the side of the tree?”

Kaylee stood and went to beautiful, meticulous crafted miniature A-frame and pulled on it.

‟No. Honey. Push it into the tree.”

She pressed with the flat of her hand on a post of the porch, populated with pine cone trolls, the house slid in on polished metal rails, exposing twin finger-holes.

She smiled at the craftsmanship and pulled out when instructed to do so by her mom, the trunk of the tree opened with a drawer, custom fitted with a glass pipe set and four slots for the stash.

‟Oh my gawd!” Kaylee laughed. ‟When did he do this?

‟The tree splintered in a storm, dad did a lot of work, taking off branches and fixing the trunk with glues and screws. But he made a treasure box to fit in the trunk and saved the tree in the process, it still grows.” Linda looked at the big coastal sequoia.

‟These are not a pirate’s treasure.” Kaylee told her mom as she looked over the uncovered storage compartments.”

‟Pick one of the pipes, you will find those are all treasures.” Mom grinned. “Hand carved snakewood, that white one is a dragon-claw, there are two small water pipes.”

The two women laughed and smoked while they remained safe and dry under the covered swing while the storm clouds brought more rain.

‟You know, mom.” Kaylee felt better after a few minutes. ‟It’s a good thing you are cooking dinner. I think I am going to have a good appetite.”

Mom gasped.

‟My DINNER!” Jumping up with a string of profanities. ‟I left your dad in charge. He’ll try and help out. The last time, he turned a simple spaghetti dinner into a seven course disaster!”

Kaylee laughed and laughed while her mom ran. Mom was so funny when she smoked.

Of course it had nothing to do with Kaylee smoking, but that also made her laugh, too. Locking up the weatherproof stash box, Kaylee followed after her mother and joined her inside the house for a rescued dinner.

Her dad was an accomplished cook and yes, sometimes he did get carried away.

This made Kaylee laugh again as she made her way to the house in her mother’s wake, the pain of Glenn no longer a wound that made her weep.

*Mom’s are great.*

A class reunion and observation.

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Decades pass.  For some people, they pass more quickly, others still look like they could be in college still.

Then there are those gentlemen, ones with the hair that was so perfect in school, but nature has had the twisted sense of humor to stop the hair from growing out the top of their heads and start growing out their ears.

One fellow, now keeps his hair cut short to hide the thinning patch on the scalp, but he forgot (forgets on a regular basis?) to trim the hair in his ears.

I mean, wow! I am sitting there and it gets suddenly shady when he walks by.  Five feet of ear fuzz is scary.  He could have braided it into a toupe’ and just used his ears to anchor it.

One beautiful woman I did not remember, I stood and talked with her for nearly a half-hour before I realized at one time, she was a he and he was a decent baseball player in school.  THEN! Then I could relate to some of what she said. Before my epiphany, I was lost to the references.

Once she realized I did not realize who she was, we both had a laugh and restarted the conversation with honest laughter (No cues needed this time) instead of polite chuckles. (Well, okay, always polite chuckles.  I am not known to laugh much.)

One woman walked up and gave me a huge hug. I did not recognize her at all, but faked the “Ohh, I remember. I was so in love with you.” to her. She blushed, giggled, and walked off with a huge thank you and another hug.

She chased me down later to hug me again, introducing me to her date (her son) and brag about him also being an aspiring screenwriter. (in community college working on his english degree and theatrical arts) I can only nod and wish luck.

Then she squeezed the stuffin out of me when I was leaving.

I have decided that crowds I do disdain. But hugs? thems I can take, as long as we are on the far edge of any group.

I bumped into an English teacher who is impressed with my writing on all the subjects you have looked over on here. She even remembered how to spell my name. lol. And my sister (who was not there) I did not bother to mention my niece or nephews. lol.

Funny however, that the teacher got shorter than I remember. Couldn’t be that I am taller than I was as a freshman in high school?

Finally I left, as I was reaching the parking lot, I could hear the class years being called to come front and center.

“Oh the heck with it.” I turned around and walked back to see what it was. (Pictures) the woman with the son-date intercepted me on the way back and dragged me over to meet a couple more friends in the same class.  Each one asking me about my writing when we realized we missed the photo op.

So I laughed and left just as I arrived. Just a little squeezed out, is all.

really, it was just okay.  There were few people I met at first that I spent much time with. And for a large fraction of the time, I sat alone.

So no drink, no booze, no friends other than someone that was a hugging humunculus. (She was short)

So I came stag and sober, I left stag and sober.

that is just the way it always should be. Keeps us men out of trouble.

Funny how it works. When just out of high-school, the men looked at the girls, a few years later, the moms were fair game, now, they are grandma’s and they are still fun to flirt with from what I saw.

Waitaminute!  *Grandmas*?  Well. yeah, so it seems. The grampa’s were getting some action too.   Um..wait… wut?  When are these guys who are my age…”Grandpas”?

Well, this has been an abusive night.  I am not that old. I refuse to be that old.

So on that note, I am going to drink my Ensure and Geritol, kick off my orthopaedic supports and go to bed. Them old folks are too creaky looking for my mental health.

Married by Mistake Chapter 46. A Husband’s Terror

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Chapter 46. A Husband’s Terror

The familiar car pulled into his driveway and Glenn finished his chores around town at the request of his mother. After he took the silver platter to the Grant’s house and tackled by Kaylee who nearly gave him a heart attack. He did not look forward to the conversation about his sudden life change that he invited no one to attend.

Sam and he dated on and off. Two months after they had a weekend trip to Canada, Sam began to get sick at every smell there could be.

Eggs, she got sick.

Soup. Any flavor. She got sick.

Pasta. (Pasta!?) Sick.

Toast. (Well, smoke, he did not clean his toaster.) Sick.

So Glenn went with his ill friend with benefits to the doctor, sudden movements sometimes made her nauseated, so he drove.

The doctor smiled and sat down with them, explained that the hyperemesis gravidarum would pass after a few weeks and in the interim they would put her in a hospital and give her some IV fluids and keep her hydrated.

Glenn had to ask the doctor to define the of the name of this arcane illness. His mind refused to accept what the doctor tried to say.

In a moment, the doctor congratulated the couple. It was no virus, it was morning sickness, Sam was pregnant.

Glenn could not believe it at first. He could only see his career  fall into a smokey ruin like his toaster.

Samantha was also a poli-sci major and after hours of tears, they decided to get married. Neither one of them needed to have a scandal.

In his panic he had forgotten his home town while he was in the big-city. He had fixed a flaw in his life.

“So I’m a flaw?”  Sam became furious. No one called her a flaw, she threatened to tell everyone that he would leave her when she needed him most.

It evolved into a scream fest and rash words exchanged. They did not see each other during that week or part of the next. Two-weeks later, while they attended a study group together and sat across the table in awkward silence while they studied with the group.

Glenn finally brought her a glass of water and some saltines, seeing that she was pale and had developed a sheen of sweat on her forehead.

This singular awareness and his effort to keep her nausea under control had gone a long way to get Sam to smile at him again.

By the end of the homework jam session, people got up and went back to their apartments and lives.

Except for Glenn Schroder and Samantha Walshe who talked far into the night and they married in secret the next day in a civil ceremony. Shortly after that, they went off to Washington State and had a small ceremony for her family.

In those panic filled days, the childhood promise he had with Kaylee evaporated.  He forgot the depth and breadth of the years invested and he did not remember any moments of paper cigar rings and motorcycles.

He began to think about his childhood sweetheart about a week after he had done the deed with Sam, when she was changing her name to Schroder while he stood there.

Glenn practiced and readied for weeks to have a long talk and try to keep things on the down-low with Kaylee. Then when she showed up early at her mom’s house and surprised him, all practiced words left him.

But! He told himself, life changes and he and Kaylee readied for each other to have separate lives.

He walked up the steps to his parent’s house unaware of the new car parked on the street. Glenn’s focus consumed with all his thoughts that raced in circles in his mind. He wanted to make things smooth with his best friend, who he had replaced with a new, pregnant wife. When he would get to talk to Kaylee, he would make it sound reasonable that they stay close friends.

*Yeah! That was the way. If I could do what the Senator Mumy did in Washington, who talked his wife out of a divorce and still kept his girlfriend.* He smiled. 

And no one knew but for Glenn who ran errands for them. And the girlfriend began to come on to Glenn.

*Senators and Congressmen shared a lively trade in girlfriends and boyfriends. Congress members would grow tired of their trysts with one and move onto the next. The women in Congress are as bad or worse than the men in Congress.*

The one thing that Glenn looked forward to, have enough petty cash to keep an apartment in D.C. on the side.

He nodded. *This is one thing I have it dialed in, I know Kaylee and I can pull strings with her.* 

He opened the door and stepped through, he had weathered the worst part of the storms, but with any luck? He would still come out with a little fun with a bong and Kaylee and Sam would never have to know about the local party-girl he had on the side.

Then he stopped at a sight that made his heart drop into the pit of his stomach.

In all the world’s history, the things would fill a man with terror and fear for his life.

The Great Chicago Fire…

Terror of being consumed by a wall of flames.

The Great Quake of 1909…

Terror of the very ground that shook without reason.

The Stupid Husband Bust…

Terror? Terror is to stand in the doorway while your girlfriend and pregnant wife sipped coffee, looked at you and invite you to sit.

In the kitchen.

Near knives and other sharp objects.

And boiling hot liquid.

That is terror.

Married by Mistake Chapter 44. Something missing from your mouth

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Chapter 44. Something Missing from your mouth

Home! It made Kaylee happy. There! There at the memorial park where, one summer’s day, she discovered that if she wore her hair down, Glenn would run his fingers through her hair and enjoyed the texture of her curls.

Over there, he invited her to skinny-dip with him at the pond.  But she was still a victim of strep-throat and wouldn’t swim. Instead Glenn just suggested she lay naked on the rocks, which she did! After laughter of that day and she pointed out that her dad would hurt him if pops ever found out, it was good summer memory of that year, too.

The taxi ride was typical of the area, battered on snowy roads and potholes. The cab, strictly functional with a rough ride on studded tires, was normal for the suburban type of taxi.

Home was so close, she could walk it from here. Her excitement was oddly muted.

Her thoughts turned back time and again to the man she left in the rain where he stood alone.

She looked out the window and told herself to shake the fog of melancholy off, Tom would be on the plane by now and be above the clouds far away from her, he was now history. Maybe.

He did have that moment. A look that bothered her. He reminisced with her and it should have made him smile, but he had a look of unfathomable sadness for a brief moment. A deep look like someone who once before stood on the edge of the road to say good-bye and could not bear to do it again. Then he was his quirky self again with a wide smile. 

They had a great summer, but they were careful with each other and honest. Neither she or Tom expected it to last forever.

Kaylee was honest with Tom, she had a promise to keep. She and Tom, until that day at the start of summer, a lifetime ago it seemed. They did not know each other.

He was some random guy on a beach who wrote notes on a tablet computer.

She was a college student that had a really, really bad day.

He was the man that she would have not expected to wake up next to after a night of drink and smoke. *And married!*

It was so unexpected, she had gotten stoned many times and had never had even a hint that she and a date might get married.

*But there’s that sparkle about Tom. A color of soul that I could see even through my wine goggles and pharmaceuticals.* The heart of the matter was her heart, in the grand scheme of the universe, could the heart feel fondness about the strange man in the flying-yacht?

If not for two bits of information.

One: That Tom never asked. Was she with him for the simple reason of his money?

The answer was no, and that she even wondered about herself, it caused her to follow through with annulment of her marriage with Tom in a way that no one knew. Just to prove to herself the honesty of her heart.

And they did not have a pre-nup. His implicit trust her in her heart and soul. That there was no second thought, as if that was even needed. She left that life with her conscience clear, but with doubt in her heart.

And her heart did ache. Excited as for the question Glenn was about to ask, it ached for the quirky humor, adventurous spirit of Thomas Harte, the airship thief of hearts.

Still, she had Glenn, the boy that she first got stoned with, grew up with and had such a long history. Everyone knew that Glenn and Kaylee were best of friends and one day they would be married.

Every mile the taxi drove towards the home she grew up in, her smile widened. She wondered if everyone would be there, except Melanie who stayed behind for the start of early term classes.

The bump of the pothole that had been in the intersection for the last decade brought her out of her introspective moments.

She was home.

The cab driver got out and walked to the back of the taxi. For a moment, she expected the cabbie to open the door for her. Instead he opened the trunk and took her bags out.

Kaylee laughed at herself.

She’d been spoiled!

She pushed on the door and it opened with a rusty groan. A noise that cars get when the hinges exposed to the harsh elements are often stressed with constant open and shut, far beyond those of a normal car.

After he sat the bags on the sidewalk, the cabbie tipped his hat to Kaylee .

‟Thank you, miss.” He smiled as he looked at the bills she gave him and counted an extra twenty.

‟Keep the change and thank you.” Kaylee smiled.

The rain had stopped for a few minutes. By the looks of the clouds and the dark columns that obscured the hills and lowlands, it will rain again in a few minutes.

She gathered the bags up in her arms, she suddenly felt like an overloaded pack-mule — and she packed light!

The humor in the situation tickled her again. She was back home and happy. Soon she would get a big hug from mom’n’dad. Then to see Glenn, if he had not yet arrived at the house.

She had messed up everyone’s schedules, she knew, she took the private jet to an airport that was so much closer, it seemed a wise move.

Dad had emailed her, and he directed her on what was the best airline and the most on time. Her plane would land around dinner time and he would pick her up then. That made her shake her head it began to snow at the scheduled time of arrival on her smart phone if she followed the plans that the patriarch of the family had planned.

Dad’s office was fifteen minutes from the airport in Portland and he would pick her up on the way home. Except that Kaylee was eight-hours early and the airport she arrived at was an hour closer. She would surprise everyone when she walked through the door.

Up the steps, she stood at the doorbell for a moment. Oddly the small, pale mark on her finger where the jeweled band had been the last month stood out in her awareness. It was not very noticeable to the rest of the world, but to her it was a giant flag.

A leftover memory. A good memory, but one that she did not want exposed.

Not just yet, anyway. Mel, her sister, knew, she was the only one in the family aware of any of the events in the past summer.

It promised that an intense conversation with mom in the near future would happen after she unpacked and settled in.

The the first few notes of Westminster chimes sounded when she pushed the button, the sound made goosebumps on her skin that had little to do with the cold, moist air. The mission “Surprise!” was now active.

The door opened and her mom took a moment to register that her eldest daughter stood in front of her.

‟Kaylee!” The elder version of the daughter shrieked and jumped to hug Kaylee . ‟What? Where did you come from? How are you here so early? No one is here. Oh my God! We need to call your dad before he leaves early to pick you up.”

She walked into the house and was assailed by the smell of coffee, the primary drink in the house since before Kaylee could remember. The warm scent was pervasive and tickled her senses with chocolate notes. She was ready for a cup of coffee that her mother would make in a french press and then store the fragrant black liquid in the same kind of insulated pots she used at the cafe’s.

Mom often took the time off to make the coffee at home, too. As the owner of a chain of cafe’s, Linda Grant could take any time off she wished.

‟I only have to work half the day, and it doesn’t matter which twelve hours.” She would often joke. An accountant by her diploma, Mother Grant discovered that she had a strong business acumen and transformed a small, money-pit café into five salary-equivalent coffee and sandwich shops.

Mom’s recent history was a surprise for both of the Grant women as they talked.

Then a pause in the conversation.

“What have you been up to? You’ve arrived home late this summer. Any troubles with classes?” Mom asked.

‟It’s a long story, mom. But I promise I’ll tell you later. Glenn’s car just pulled up in front.” She stood up and hugged her mom and walked calmly to the door.

Then flew off the porch into the arms of what most of the girls in town agreed was the most handsome boy in town.

Glenn Greggory Schroder, president of the student body at Lincoln High School in his senior year. After graduation, he studied to become a congressional page then an assistant, he worked on his voter base so when he ran for an elected office life would be much easier while the he stumped for votes.

Six-foot-tall, blue-eyes of Danish extraction, Glenn, destined in his life to be elected to congress and, in breathless whispers by girls, a governor of the state, or even greater, office.

The friends that knew him, team members from the chess club and the debate team knew that he had a mind as dull as a hammer. But his talent for comeback was whip-quick. He never seemed to let that he was wrong or had the facts twisted ever stop his arguements, then if that did not work he would try to change the one subject to another that he had a handle on.

And he could drink! Only once did Glenn admit that he was even close to a DUI when the police wanted to pull him over after drank beer while home from school.

The officer that had tried to chase them, got hung up in a narrow lane and with a seven-point turn around, he had fallen so far behind that when he pulled into the driveway behind the parked station-wagon, everyone had already exited the car and sat around the pool with drinks in hand.

Unable to prove who was behind the wheel or violations of open beverage law occurred while they were in the car, the officer issued a weak threat that he would keep an eye on them.

In the small Oregon town, the officer always had his eye out.

Glenn admitted to the group, even when Kaylee sat in his lap that he was really too wasted to drive.

This set off a fight between Kaylee and himself.

Still and somehow, they stayed together. But with threats and argument, Glenn never admitted that he had ever did drink and drive again.

He never even admitted that he attended any party in school or on his internship in Washington.

Today, the only admission he had been his surprise at his girlfriends appearance.

‟Hi!”

‟Ohmygod! I have missed you!” Kaylee nearly screamed as they almost fell down into the wet grass of her parent’s house.

“You’re home! You weren’t supposed to arrive until after six o’clock tonight.”

‟I had a chance to catch an earlier flight and surprise everyone. ‟

‟You did that!” Glenn smiled a crooked smile, but there was wrongness about it.

‟Your mouth needs something.” Kaylee said with a sideways grin.

‟What?” The Nordic blue eyes almost crinkled in good humor.

‟My lips!” With that, she kissed him deeply.

The kiss was long and passionate of a couple that had not kissed in a long time.

But it was a troubled kiss. Kaylee pulled back.

‟I thought you would be happier to see me.”

‟I was not ready for you. I have one more stop to make, I need to shop before I come back.”

‟Ooh… Would it be… Oh, I don’t know. Important?” She got to her feet and almost danced in excitement.

‟Oh quite.” Glenn said. ‟I need to talk with you later, after you say hello to your mom and dad.”

‟I have gotten mom, already. Mom just texted Dad when I got in.” Kaylee bounced on the balls of her feet.

‟You have changed up my plans, I have a few stops to make, I was told to drop this server plate off to your mom. She said it is for a ham tonight and needed it.”

Glenn reached in his car and pulled out a silver tray with local names and places etched around the edges.

‟When I come back, you and I will go for a ride downtown.  I need to talk to you.” Glenn said. ‟It’s serious.”

‟Oh.” She smiled but he did not. She refused to let him dampen her spirits or change her course of thought. She took the platter and kissed him, again.

‟I look forward to our talk!”

She watched him drive off, her smile faded to a frown. He acted different. His smile was wrong and his eyes were in a far-away place.

Inside her heart, she worried that he might be in trouble with the law, or maybe he ran afoul of the law in the capital with possession of an illegal substance and was about to be charged or had gotten caught in a undercover operation.

She walked back to the house to give her mom the big platter. A pensive look crossed her face.

The more she thought, the more she worried.

Married by Mistake Chapter 43. Leaving on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 43. Leaving on a Jet Plane

The limousine ride for Kaylee was quiet, giving her a chance to think. The trip home to see Glenn filled her with excitement.

His family was hard-working and, while not wealthy, they had no wants or wishes that were not answered.

She wondered what kind of ring she might get. The last time they had spent a summer home, Glenn had negotiated to lease a three-wheel motorcycle from a company with full windshield and a trailer that folded out as a tent.

They had toured Canada that year and she found a ring with a star sapphire, surrounded by small diamonds as an engagement ring.

Glenn nearly fainted right then and Kaylee laughed at his frugal soul.

‟A ring is a ring. I would love it no matter what.” She had told him when he got his breath back.

Afterwards, he walked into a smoke-shop and bought an expensive cigar, tossed the large brown stogie into a garbage can and took the small brass-colored paper ring off the shaft and put it on her finger.

‟I will replace it with a real one after we graduate.”

The ring had long since worn out, but it lasted for the length of their journey before they started as freshmen at their separate colleges. Still, she kept the wrinkled and torn paper-foil ring in between the plastic pages of a photo album.

It excited her to think that the day was so close, and she had almost obliterated that future.

*Mangled it, even!* Kaylee memories mixed both excitement, sadness and an ironic laugh, a party with a strange man who became an accident of a husband for a short time. *At least I was able to put my life back on track, and Tom is kind enough for one last favor and fly me home.*

Tom said they could use an airport closer to home than going to a commercial airport. There she could take a taxi home instead of trying to have family take time to drive the hundred miles, pay for a bus, or try to find connections to land at the same airport. And she had no need to buy tickets it was the best of all choices, it showed his heart and friendship.

The limousine arrived at the gate leading to the private area where the jet was. She could see it was the same kind of Lear jet as she had taken to Las Vegas with Tom.

The person that stepped out of the plane was none other than Captain Watson.

Regina Watson! This made Kaylee smile, Captain Watson made Kaylee feel motivated to make choices.

The chauffeur pulled to a stop and the driver got out and walked around to let her out.

‟Thank you, Miss Grant.” He remembered her name despite not talking with her at all. Kaylee was feeling a bit worried, she still did not see Tom anywhere when the limousine drove off.

‟Kaylee ?” Tom’s voice came from the building where Regina Watson was walking towards.

Tom stepped into the sunshine and smiled a wide smile. One would think they had not seen each other for weeks, instead of just that morning.

‟Let me get those for you.”

‟No, if you hurt your arm again, I’ll break your leg.” She warned him.

‟I have it.” A tech walked from the office behind Tom and took the bags that she was carrying.

A long hug from Tom, old friends. Lovers as of the previous morning, but no animosity.

She felt that pang of doubt that haunted her a few times when she molded her body to his for a moment.

Tom flinched a little.

‟What happened?” She touched his wounded arm. ‟Is it hurting?”

‟No, it actually feels pretty good, I wrote a few chapters this morning. A novel idea called ‟Married by Mistake”.

‟You better not be using my name!” Kaylee laughed.

‟I’m kidding, actually a fourth book to Steamland that’s in theaters. It will be the last one. I planned only three, but it began to come out of my hands this morning.” Tom smiled. ‟There was one in the middle that had needed to fill in some gaps. The mother’s point of view of losing her child to the abuse of government’s agent.”

‟Wow, sounds intense.”

‟I have a few folks proofreading it as of this morning.” Tom said as they entered the cabin of the jet. While they were settling down, a few more people climbed in.

‟I thought this was a private charter?”

‟It is, but they also chartered it. We are all going to the same place.” Tom smiled. ‟I would like to introduce you to a few writer friends of mine. Dee O’Kelley. He has written a few swashbuckler novels. The Porthos series, the musketeer that is also a kind of anti-hero?”

‟Haven’t heard of it.” She whispered to Tom after she shook hands with Mr. O’Kelley.

‟Phoenix Alexandra, she has written about a woman who becomes a private-eye after retiring from military special forces. She is doing well with that, it’s on the New York best-seller’s list.”

Kaylee smiled and nodded hello to the rest of the group as they filed in. Six in all, the writers all chatted animatedly among each other on the upcoming book-con that they were going to attend in Seattle.

Tom smiled as the group settled in, Captain Watson finished her checks and closed the door.

The speakers overhead chimed on the small jet and the seatbelt sign illuminated.

Although a group, the chartered jet had few seats in relative terms, and was very comfortable. This was a different airplane that Captain Watson was in charge of. The seats were different, it was as if the group had wished for a family room with wings.

‟How do you know Tom, honey?” A beautiful woman asked Kaylee .

White haired, but intense black eyes, she looked as if she had stepped off a farm. To call her elderly would have been wrong on a philosophical level, her eyes had seen much during the years of her life, but the life and light in them was piercing when she looked at Kaylee .

‟We are friends, I helped her out with a problem at Ocean Bay University with Doctor Manga.” Tom chimed in when Kaylee looked stuck.

‟Kaylee , may I introduce you to…”

‟I know!” Kaylee grinned. ‟Margaret Patrice! You are my favorite author! You wrote about Honey, the homeless dog.”

‟A young adult book, my answer to Old Yeller. That was a long time ago, my dear. I have written many since then.” She smiled. ‟And thank you for remembering me and your kind words. Are you going to Seattle with us?”

‟No, I am getting off near Portland, if Tom slows the plane down a little.”

The older woman laughed lightly, a sound of a person that enjoyed to laugh. Her eyes sparkled with good humor.

‟You should ask Tom out.” Margaret whispered in a conspiratorial tone to Kaylee when Tom became deeply involved in conversation with Thomas Kraig who had written a fan-fiction of an established science fiction series that became a basis for an upcoming movie.

”He has been alone for far too long. I would do things with him, but alas, I have a family that might take a dim view of an old woman in pursuit of a man who lives on a floating plane.” The wrinkles around her eyes smiled as brightly as her lips.

‟Flying boat.” Kaylee corrected, and immediately regretted. ‟I’m sorry, he has jumped me for that a few times. It has become habit.”

‟Jumped you?” The sparkling eyes smiled with the dual meaning. ‟Have you slept with him?”

Another jaw-dropping moment that Kaylee ’s command of the English language failed her.

‟Maggie, Kaylee is a bit of a wallflower, kinda shy and all. Are you intimidating her?” Tom leaned over and asked.

‟Not at all!” She laughed. ‟I think I was finding some details.”

‟No details to find.”

‟Maggie!” Thomas Kraig piped up. ‟Stop intimidating people. Forgive her miss…?”

‟Grant. Please, call me Kaylee .”

‟Of course. Kaylee . See Maggie, she is a sweet girl, not like us Bohemian Bull types.” It was Phoenix that had reined in Kaylee’s favorite author.

Still, the white-haired author studied Kaylee .

*She knows.* Kaylee’s eyes tried to hold a bland look. *She knows there was something going on between Tom and me, she’s just a few hours late.*

The flight continued with Phoenix looking at pictures on Kaylee ’s camera, her entire collection of paintings over the three years of fine arts studies at Ocean Bay.

An image of Tom without a shirt surprised them both and Kaylee coudn’t get it off fast enough. Laughing quietly, Phoenix patted Kaylee ’s leg.

‟I saw nothing.” She whispered.

The overhead speakers chimed and the sign ‟Seatbelts” illuminated.

‟Ladies and Gentlemen, we are beginning our descent to disembark a passenger. We will be landing in about five minutes, our time on the ground will be about a half-hour.”

The last chance to hold Tom’s hand presented itself without being obvious.

It was the one thing she was going to miss with all her heart.

Married by Mistake Chapter 42. Packing

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Chapter 42. Packing

After the exhausting “Unwedding” in Las Vegas, partying with her never-was husband, he dropped her at home, where she sat in her apartment drinking coffee with her sister, Melanie.

The two Grants sat next to each other in the bay window of Kaylee’s apartment on a garage-sale special faux wicker loveseat. They had turned it around to create their own private space while they talked like sisters do.

‟It was amazing, we saw acrobats and a ballet that hung from the ceiling! Tom introduced me to the manager of the casino who let us go back and meet the circus group. A few of them knew Tom from his novels and movies.” Kaylee described with a wistful smile. ‟I’m sorry that you weren’t his sister-in-law for very long.”

Melanie held her sister’s hand.

‟You are on my spank-list for that, but you did the right thing. Glenn has asked about you a lot. He’s made it sound urgent and I know he said he had to go back early.” She nodded. ‟I bet he got an appointment somewhere and wants to take you with him to D.C. to meet everyone.”

‟What about going to school here? I can’t marry him until I graduate.”

‟You would be engaged in that time.” Melanie winked over the cup as she sipped the coffee that she had bought down the street. A ‟Shot in the dark”, black coffee with a shot of espresso that she sweetened with some sugar. ‟You don’t have to run off and get married. Even if you like to do that.” She nudged her sister as they sat and looked out the window.

Sisters, first and always. They knew each other’s secrets and stood by each other no matter what the world came at them with. They might fight with each other, but they were family.

Melanie looked out over at the bay where a large jet floated.

‟It seems strange seeing it from so far away.” Kayley whispered, almost to herself. ‟It’s bigger than most boats.” Her smile widened. ‟Hard to miss with those colors.”

‟Is he there now?”

‟No. He had to make arrangements to move the Sea Dragon. The FAA approved it for flight and Tom needed to have a check up on his arm. He heals fast I think, his fingers don’t tingle anymore and he has movement enough to type without me helping him. He was typing when I left the Wizard at the airport.”

‟So everything is all right there.”

‟Do you know he has so much money that he gets free rooms at casino’s?” Kaylee said wistfully. “That whole thing kind of made me mad.”

‟You told me that.” Melanie brushed the hair out of her sisters face.

‟I am still amazed.”

Melanie smiled. Her older sister had repeated things time and again for the last couple days while she packed to go back home and meet up with Glenn.

*Glenn.* Melanie’s future brother-in-law would be interesting to have around. He would spend a lot of time in the Maryland area as a congressional aide and possibly be elected. *I am not as excited about that as I was about Tom. Politics corrupts so many people with power, money, drugs, drink, parties with temptation everywhere. I have no trust in them, that kind of snake den would cause nothing but trouble.*

Melanie wanted her sister to avoid that kind of stress, and Glenn was good-looking enough to have a dozen girls on the side, and Washington was awash in pretty women and men.

Kaylee leaned on her sister, putting her head on Melanie ’s shoulder.

‟I miss him. I miss Tom.” She said. ‟I did the right thing, Mel, didn’t I?”

‟Yes.” Melanie put her arm around her older but smaller sister and kissed the top of her sister’s head. ‟Glenn is our generation, Tom is almost as old as mom. I looked it up.”

On the volleyball courts, they called Melanie “The Monster”. As the six-foot-tall captain of the volleyball team, she drove her team to back-to-back championships. But now she was a sister. Melanie the Monster loved Kaylee more than anyone else of her generation.

‟I’m taking a flight with Tom to go home. He has some business in Seattle and would drop me close to home, I could take a taxi on the cheap then and surprise everyone.”

‟What business does he have in Seattle?” Melanie ’s quizzical smile tickled Kaylee ’s soul.

‟A book event where he autographs works of his novels for people.” Kaylee got up and refreshed her cup of coffee. ‟He goes to those a lot, like twelve times a year, maybe more.”

‟Headed home in a private jet.” Melanie laughed. ‟You’re spoiled.”

‟Chartered.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Oy! He has taught me that habit. Sometimes, Tom makes me mad and he is not even here.”

Melanie laughed again, harder. Her sister’s tastes in things had changed in the five weeks of being married, rather, not-married according to the government, to Tom. She had become more complex, even her drawing and painting all night had been fast paced and prolific.

Twelve charcoals done in eight hours. Some surreal like Picasso and Salvador Dali. A Monet style drawing of Melanie as she napped on the couch during the night, among the many that she did.

All for her own pleasure.

*If it was pleasure?*  She pondered.

*All passion for sure.*

Some art she created with bright colors and filled a heart with happiness.

Others, blue and sad, a cold pastel of a single heart, alone in a snowy field.

‟I need to get packed,” Kaylee said softly, got up and went to gather her clothes for her trip. “So I can fly with him.”

Melanie tossed back the last of her coffee and smiled.

‟You have a last ride on him?” Winking at her older sister.

‟No, that part’s done. Tom is just doing this as a favor because I am late and he is going north, too.”

‟When is the limo supposed to pick you up?”

‟Anytime, now. It’s a ninety-minute flight to Portland from here.”

‟That’s all?”

‟That’s that Tom said.” Kaylee shrugged. ‟It will be the last time I see him for a month. My classes don’t start at the normal date, they are a later starting class this year. Professor Denton, who is teaching it is in France.”

‟You have Professor Denton? That is cool! She got married to her wife last spring and they are in France on a honeymoon.”

Kaylee stacked her luggage by the door.

‟Yeah, did you see who she married? It was in the paper, her wife is an artist downtown.”

‟Yup! Sculptures are amazing, she even has a bathtub sculpted out of soapstone.”

‟I saw that, shaped like a flower. They want thirty-thousand for it.”

‟I am not going to buy it. Not for that price.” Melanie laughed.

‟I won’t buy it for a tenth that price, it is too much.” Kaylee nodded as she put her toothbrush in the last small bag to take down.

‟You are traveling light.” Melanie noted. ‟You used to go home with almost everything.”

‟I’ve learned a few things this summer.”

A knock on the door and Kaylee answered it. A handsome older gentleman was there, wearing a drivers uniform. It was a driver that she had not met before.

‟Miss Grant?” He asked.

*Ouch.* A sharp pang in her heart when he used her maiden name.  *I had gotten used to being a Harte.*

‟Yes, Just these bags, please.”

The trio walked down the stairs to the street, a midnight-blue limousine waited. It was not stretched like many were, it was more business and less party.

‟Give mom and dad hugs for me. I wish I could go but I need to set up for early starting classes. I’m supposed to have access to the school network, but I’m blocked from logging in.”

Kissing her sister good-bye, Kaylee got into the limousine and the driver clicked the door quietly, leaving Melanie waving on the sidewalk.

For one brief, shining moment, she wished she still wore a ring. A pale band on her skin of her ring-finger showed where she refused to take it off until the very end.

One last time, she looked at the bay, where sat the Pacific Wizard, just before they turned inland to the airport and lost sight of it.

In the front of the limousine, Gulstan the Chauffeur looked in the mirror at the young woman who appeared to weep. Professional that he was, he would never ask.

What happens in his limo, stays in his limo. 

Married by Mistake Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

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Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

‟Tom! This. I mean you…!” Kaylee paced the length of the jet, laughing hysterically holding her hands to her face. ‟I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t want to talk about this. We can’t be having this talk.”

She tried to make herself relax.

‟It can happen,” Tom said with a smirk. “It would be a simple mistake if it were a small thing, but you made an error like that? You’re stuck as my wife. I’m sorry but that makes me smile. It’s your issue to deal with right now. We can fix it, besides I don’t mind being married to you.  It’s entertaining.”

‟Tom, it is my decision. A deeply personal decision! No one gets to tell me what my choice will be.” Kaylee stood for a moment. ‟I’m sorry. It is a frightening concept and, like you said, complicates matters.”

‟Well, I think you are jumping the gun a little. I am, and I always will be, a great supporter of your choices. First, you are my friend. I know I am not the first choice and we did do the deed and you had other plans. I accepted that fully, weeks ago.” Tom stood behind her and slid his arms around her, holding her back against his chest.

‟I hoped you would stay, and if you want, I will help you find your own life. I am old and I have a life of stories.” He said as she turned around in his arms and buried her face into his chest. “You need to build your own story, chapter by chapter. Child by child when you get there. For now, you make me smile and you are my muse.”

Tom chuckled when an a thought struck him. 

“You make me smile, because you are a precious gem, and you are a treasure that anyone would crawl over broken glass to have in their life.” He smiled. “But I laugh because I am your husband and you cannot do much about it just now.”

This made the tears that were welling up in her eyes turn into laughter.

‟Tom. You are the funniest man I know. I wanted an engagement ring from Glenn, ever since we were kids and you help me do that.”

‟Keeping you happy is my mandate.” Tom smiled. “I cannot keep you here and have you in misery. If I help you go, maybe you will return with all I have to offer.”

Sliding her arms around him, she pressed her breasts against his chest and kissed him.

‟Do not make me love you. You’d make me feel bad for all that has happened. But I promised…” Kaylee smiled softly.

‟Yes. The promise.” He smiled back, but it was a smile that did not reach in his eyes.

‟Don’t interrupt. That is rude and you will make me mad. But yes. I would like to get married and remember it.”

‟I understand.” Tom said as he laughed with a sad tone. ‟And we have had a good time this last month.”

“It is the weirdest month I’ve ever had.” Kaylee whispered.

*It’s been a summer to remember! I have seen both the good and bad sides of people. It’s as if some grand illusionist with  a twisted imagination has written my life. A perfect storm of adventures and perverts. Days with drugs…*

Kaylee gasped.

*What if this was all a dream? Could I be still in early June? After being attacked, when I beat the crap out of that serial rapist, wanted on at least ten different crimes. Am I going to wake up in my bed, alone?*

‟No.” She said it into the hollow of Tom’s neck.

‟No? No what?” Tom sounded worried. ‟You have not had a good time?”

‟Oh yes. I said a thought out-loud. There was a moment where I thought this might all be a drug dream from the first night, or someone has written my life on a word processor.” She shook her head. “Like I am in control, but he or she makes my words come out.”

‟Now you’re inspired by something. As a writer, I know how the thoughts might come. Maybe I have written about you and you are just…”

‟Tom, do not trivialize my moment of insanity. Please.” She bit his chest lightly. ‟You did not write me into existence like some Twilight Zone movie.

‟Funny that you know about that show.” Tom chided. “You are older than you look.”

‟I study all the time. I like to get to know my husbands.” She wiped her nose on his chest and laughed at his reaction.

‟How many husbands have you had?” He looked down at her when he flinched. “Ack! Brat.”

‟Are we going to do pillow talk standing up or would you like to cuddle?”

Taking by the hand, she pulled him to their bed and pushed him down.

He smiled, she had opened up to him more in those few moments than she had in the weeks of his hospitalization.

‟Well, I don’t know about you,” Tom said quietly, laying on his back with Kaylee laying on top of him, gazing into his eyes. ‟But I appreciate the author of your life putting you on my chest. This is nice.”

‟I don’t know. Maybe they would put this all into a book- a series even.” She laughed. “I could go on adventures with you until we made the coastal cities complain, we could be a husband-wife crime solving movie series.”

‟Naw, I couldn’t take that. I’m sad enough that you want an annulment to go marry someone else.” The writer of heart and passion looked down. “Keep this going as a series? We’d have to roll the clock back and live an hour-by-hour book.”

‟That would be a long series.” She nodded. “And a lot of fun.”

‟Okay. So let’s put that fantastic fantasy away and live what life we have left together. To use the story-writer vernacular, when you leave, I’ll close this chapter and move on into the world.” Tom followed her thoughts and wrote the story in his mind, letting his mind think out loud. “I was only going to be on the west coast for the summer anyway, then the speech at Doctor Manga’s installation. I might stay there for a few months. I have a few book-signings to do there for the next installation of Steamland.”

‟Next? How many are there?” She smiled. The first time she heard of the sequels.

‟Five as of this summer. The movie is from book-three. ‟Steamland: Heat”. And it violates more Steam-punk rules than it follows.” He made a soft chuckle.

‟Yeah, I have wanted to ask you about that. No Victorian-Age, you used Rome as the base for your civilization.”

‟Well, book-one started with Heron of Alexandria improving on Ctesibius’ inventions, that were already two-hundred years in development.”

‟Heron and who?”

‟Read the books.” Tom laughed, the force of his humor bouncing her up on down on his chest where she used him as a body-pillow.

‟Human technology was so close to having steam-power thousands of years ago, it is not funny, really.” Tom winked.

“Missed the steam age by that much.” Tom held up his thumb and forefinger so that little more than a finger’s width showed. ‟No telling where we would be if someone built steam trains or such back then. Christ could have traveled the lands of Nazareth in an airplane.”

‟Tom, you’ve an imagination like no other.” Kaylee said smiling widely. ‟You are my muse in your own way. When you were in the hospital, I did a lot of drawing. I have much more to do, I have the itch and you are all in me, making me need to draw.”

‟I enjoy being in you.” Came the lecherous remark.

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

He stroked her back with his good hand, the splinted and wrapped wounded-arm carefully placed on the pillow beside them.

‟I’m just being honest.” He smiled. ‟Besides, not to move too far off the subject, but, we have to do a paper-chase to get the filings done. You need to head home to go be with Glenn.”

‟I get the feeling you are pushing me away.” Kaylee said.

Feeling suddenly unhappy, selfish, even a little unwanted. She took her head off Tom’s chest and got out of bed.

‟I think we should get going. You said you would be able to fly with your arm?”

‟Yes. I have feeling, the fingers are pink, I have a good pulse. I have taken my medications and we have redressed the injuries.” He ticked off the laundry list of things. “I have no numbness. I can type, slowly or hand write on the screens. I have multiple tablets I use for that. I cursive write on the screens all the time.”

‟Cursive?”

‟It is my form of entertainment. It tickles me to see the computer read and transfer it into text.”

‟So what are you saying?”

‟We can fly the Sea Dragon there. No waiting.”

‟Oh. Okay. I will have to think about that.”

‟Why?” Tom got serious as he pulled on black jeans and a black polo-shirt that had a sleeve removed to accept his bandaged arm. ‟We can leave now and you are suddenly pulling back on going?”

‟Well…”

‟Do you want to stay married to me or go be with Glenn?” Tom said gently and sat on the edge of the bed as Kaylee pulled on her shoes.

‟Two things. I care a great deal for you, Glenn would have never tolerated my quirks.” She said. “He would have blamed me for the Professor. And Glenn likes to keep me stoned. Loving him when we’re stoned is fun.”

‟When you can remember it. So according to him?” Tom winked.

Kaylee laughed.

‟I remember! Most of the time…” Blushing slightly, but Tom got closer to the truth than he knew. ‟Second thing is… I have really come to adore you. No. I don’t want to do it, but I made a promise and I don’t want to wake up in bed with you and keep saying ‟If only” even once.”

‟Do you say that now?” Tom sounded hurt.

‟Well, no. You have not given me the chance.” Kaylee held his hand. ‟Don’t be hurt. I would come back and marry you if my fantasy fails.”

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Kaylee face-palmed, she did not mean it as an insult and an embarrassed laugh escaped her.

‟You weren’t any kind of prize. You are the kindest, bravest man I know to put up with me, my quirks and my promises.”

‟And the best friend you will ever have. I want to you go marry him. When you look out a window and see a jet fly by, think of me. When you have children, get them the Leonard Sea Dragon Series, and I’ll write about an artist in my Steamland books. I might even name her Kaylee with a sister named… Oh damn…” Tom had the look of a man who forgotten an important detail.

‟Melanie .”

‟Yes! Melanie .” Tom laughed. ‟Melanie would not be overlooked in the stories if I put your name in it.”

‟She would like that.”

‟But that would be your connection with me as you write your own story in life’s book.” Tom said, serious again. ‟I have my own explores to do in the world.”

‟You find someone?” Kaylee said. ‟Please? You should not be alone.”

‟No. I can’t promise that. I won’t be untruthful to you.” A small smile played on his lips.

“I have been alone a long time, you were a surprise.” Tom said. ‟A pleasant, exciting, twisted, funny and chocolate-flavored,” He licked her lips. ‟Surprise.”

‟You are not upset?”

‟I am a little hurt, but I am not a teenager and life-is-over crushed.” Tom gave a sad smile. ‟I knew you did not want to be married and you could have had a divorce that next day, but you wanted it annulled instead. So, I am well prepared.”

“Okay.” She looked him with suspicion, then changed the subject. ‟We can fly now?”

‟Let’s file a flight plan, check with the crews to prepare the Dragon and we can leave in an hour.”

Married by MIstake Chapter 30. Tears and Smiles

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Chapter 30. Tears and Smiles

‟I’m glad you are out of the hospital, I couldn’t wait for us to get back to the Wizard.” Kaylee sat down on the floor, next to the chair he kept his arm on. ‟But, I signed the papers and sent them off when I was here. You had two sets, one to send and one to keep. I signed both sets so we can keep them on file here.”

With a sigh, he nodded.

‟So, we are no longer married as soon as the clerk of the court signs and stamps it. You did it how I told you to do it?”

‟I’m so sorry. But I have to get home outside of Portland, Glenn is asking for me. My sister says he is going to ask me to marry him.” Kaylee couldn’t help the tear that ran down her face as she sniffled.

‟Oh, poop.” She gave a sad laugh. “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.”

‟Yeah.” Tom choked on the knot in his throat. ‟I knew this day would come. The month is up.”

Kaylee rested her chin on his knee.

‟If it makes you feel any better, I almost shredded the papers. You have been better than Glenn has ever been,” She took a big breath. “But I grew up with him and we have planned to marry each other as far back as I can remember. He asked me to marry him at my sixth birthday party. He wrote it in a birthday card, in crayon.”

Tom laughed. “Do you still have it?”

‟Don’t laugh. But yes.” Kaylee bit him gently on the knee. ‟It’s silly, I know. He has also been a bit of a butthead and stupid over all the years. Once he’d gotten drunk, fell into a pool,  sank like a stone and I had to save him. We have history.”

‟And we don’t?” Tom sounded more harsh than he intended. ‟In the last month, we have set new records that even newlyweds everywhere would dream of.”

‟Not fair. You have an advantage. Not many men get married and fly away on their own jet plane. Fewer still can write a children’s series like you have.” Kaylee shook her head as she named off Tom’s points. ‟You have more than most college students, and that is what Glenn is, a college student. That’s what I am. And you are a rogue, an explorer. You are a pirate! A Steam-Punk King Pirate who has stolen my heart, but I have a promise to keep.”

‟You made that promise when you were all of six-years-old. I’m not so sure that might count.” Tom nodded.

‟Does a promise have a lower age limit?”

‟Uh. No, I suppose not.” Tom was not wanting to pick a fight like that. “A promise is a promise.”

‟No. My father always told me a promise is something to keep. Things change, say if Glenn was gay or I died in a plan crash.” Kaylee gave him a  playful sock on the thigh. ‟Then that voids the promise. But we are still alive and I can assure you Glenn is hetero, fully hetero.”

‟Okay.” Tom slouched in the chair. The stress of the last eighteen-days exhausted him. ‟You have always been my first concern. I held on to the hope you would decide to give us more of a try. Even now, I see you are not sure.”

‟No… no. No, I’m not sure. You have made me mad a few times since the first morning. But it was an exciting mad. You are a maddening, wonderful, frustrating, crazy, super-smart guy that makes me want to pull out all your chest hair.” Kaylee and Tom laughed at the same time. ‟And I would love to stay here.”

‟But?”

‟But I have to at least try to keep my promise.”

‟Agreed.” Tom nodded. Upset as he was, it actually helped to talk to her.

Kaylee also nodded.

First and always she would be friends with Tom and she knew he put her first. She would always put him first, except for the promise she made Glenn.

The promise of a six-year-old girl to the boy she grew up with.

Taking Tom by his good arm, she pulled him to the bedroom in the back of the plane.

‟For now, however, I am STILL your wife and you have neglected me.”

‟Oh! Doctor Kaylee , I’ve been occupied. Perhaps you have heard of this minor wound I suffered. I had to take a stitch or three to get a smaller scar.”

‟Well, I have the cure for you to forget that ache for a while.” Winking and pulling him as she walked backwards.

In the last few days, she had not realized that the tension she had building in her was a jet engine about to blow a gasket.

Now that she thought of it, there was more than a gasket she was going to blow.

The night in the plane was somewhat louder than it had been in the last ten days.

The world would envy, and sometimes pity, the husband that night. Kaylee did things to Thomas Harrison Harte that became legend in his mind and illegal in forty states and Washington, D.C.

In the end, Kaylee laughed harder than she had in the last few days.

Married by Mistake Chapter 28. Early Release

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Chapter 28. Early Release

Back at the hospital, Kaikane opened the door for Kaylee , she talked with him one more minute before returning to her life, he gave her the breakdown of the famous Hawai’ian word that is commonly used.

“Ha is spirit, of breath and life. It is the divine breath that allows us all to seek our center. So, aloha Barb. Malama pono- take good care of yourself.” Kaikane smiled. “And you take care of Tom, he will take good care of you.”

A hug from the hot Hawaiian and she entered through the automatic doors and signed in as security Lt. Honey Stevens waved at her and buzzed Kaylee through.

The ride up the elevator was uneventful, rounds were over and the medical professionals, a few with MD on name tags some with RN, one with “Phlebotomist II”, color-coded tubes, tape and small square gauze pads filled the small, wheeled cart that he pushed.

She arrived at the floor where ICU housed Tom. Kaylee stepped out of the elevator, her mind on Kaikane’s words.

‟Passion of the heart, it is rare. It is like a wave on the water, sometimes you must hang-ten to keep on it. If you fall off, you get wiped out.” He smiled, saying the words of wisdom of his peers. “You have to wait and measure each one to find the perfect match to you, then ride the best one you can.”

She puzzled over that, in a way she kind of understood. It might make more sense to a surfer when she saw a group at the nurses station.

As she walked by, Kaylee caught snippets of conversation that included Tom’s name.

‟We want the story, who is this mystery woman who Thomas Harte was with? Did she cut him? Was it her?”

She pushed her way through and met Tom, finding him as he sat in a wheelchair with flowers and cards piled on top of him.

‟Why hello! They are discharging me! I’m out.” Tom looked cheerful.”I’m going home.”

Kaylee smiled wider than she had in days. It was a night…

*Ugh! This night is about be even worse, I have to tell him that I signed and mailed off the papers.*

Then Georgia stepped out from behind the door with more of Tom’s get-well cards in her hand.

‟Ah, Kaylee. I thought you might have left and went home.” She glared at Kaylee . ‟Business keeps going, but you would not be aware of that. You cannot even balance your own books, it seems. You were two-months behind on rent before you met Tom, failing a class and you couldn’t even finish the finals. I would venture a guess that you didn’t even have a job or a prospect for one when you met Tom.”

‟Now wait a minute. You dare…”

Georgia’s face split into a malicious smile.

‟Did you or did you not have yourself in a compromising position, nude with a professor? How many times has this gone on before you blew the whistle?” Georgia pressed the point harder when Kaylee’s shocked look told volumes. Her money well spent on the P.I. ‟I wonder if the professor will make his case for entrapment. Probably so. Then he will sue because he will never work in education again because of you.”

‟Georgia.” It was Tom as he rolled back towards them in the wheelchair, pushed by a nurse. ‟Is there a problem?”

‟No problem.” Georgia answered. ‟Just some girl talk. About gold in the area and the women prospectors that dig for it.”

‟Okay,” Tom missed the reference. “Well, there is a lot of stories around this area.” Tom nodded and smiled, oblivious to the shocked look that Kaylee had on her face.

The trio, plus nurse pushing the wheelchair, moved towards the elevators that Kaylee had just exited a few moments before.

‟Georgia, I have the next edition you need. We still have a week to edit it anyway, the adventure is a bit longer than previous. Nearly doubled the word-count. I am quite pleased with it, Kaylee here has helped by being my muse.” Tom smiled and kissed Kaylee’s hand.

‟Tom.” Georgia said softly. ‟We need to keep you on a regular schedule. The book signing I had set up for you had gotten postponed because of this little side-track into the hospital. You need to get back into the swing of things. I am sure your wife here would be interested in you continuing your career and keep an income to supply her with the attentions you have given her.”

Kaylee was at the brink of breaking, the thought of painting this woman as spider in her next work art . Georgia was certainly creepy enough, the older woman pulled on threads to make Kaylee flinch.

Kaylee spoke up.

“I need to speak with Tom, alone and we are returning to the Sea Dragon to have time alone and talk about some important items.”

‟I need the manuscript, Mrs. Harte.”

‟Georgia, I have it sent to your email just now.” Tom said with no room for argument. ‟This is why I have put this on the database so I can get access to it with my tablet.” He said holding the flat glass and plastic collection of electronics that bore a strong resemblance to a large mobile-phone.

‟With this, I have played a game called ‟Ingress” from my room.” Tom said with a laugh. “On the way home, drive slow, I want to do some gaming along the way.”

Kaylee and Georgia looked at each other for a moment, the animosity between them momentarily forgotten as the collective shrug between the women joined the rolling of the eyes.

*Boys and toys.* Made Kaylee smile inside. *It is nice to know that some parts of life never change.*

Then Kaylee became interested in the stories he described the city. He used it as a reason to walk the City by the Bay.

“You have the look of someone who has important news to talk about.”

She poured out her heart to him in a gush, at first, she was ready to get angry at him. She was sure that Tom would be defensive, even if she did what he told her to.

It he sounded as if he found a way in his heart to still be friends with her, even after she told him that she signed the papers and sent them off to the courts in Nevada.

They would be together at least one more night together before Georgia the Agent got her wish to have Kaylee out of Tom’s life and be his wife no more.

Tom told Kaylee the wicked witch of the children’s books had her investigated.

*Investigated!* She shook her head, trying to remember if she saw any kind of cloak and dagger person around her.

“Really, Georgia did this?” Forced out of her shock and asked the unbelievable.

Startled out of her world of indecision, sex and growing affection for Tom, with the words of Georgia insinuated that the only reason Kaylee married him was only for his money.

*Could it be true?* She doubted herself.

Could she have only stayed with him because of the glorious life that he lavished on her?

She didn’t care about what could have been, she was going home to Glenn.

Tom was awesome, but he was not what she had planned.

She was lost for a few minutes in her deepest thoughts. When she came to the here and now, Tom’s voice cut through her emotional storm with his own irritated voice.

‟… So we went for a day flight in the Sea Dragon. So, Georgia, she is not digging for gold. I made first contact, you can call off your investigation, I know more about her than you think.” Tom finished as Kaylee came back from an inward look on her own heart.

‟Tom, she is distracting you from your work.” Georgia said as she followed Tom and the nurse out the door of the elevator. ‟No offense Miss Grant, but Tom, there is no way you could be writing with her walking around naked in your winged-yacht.

‟I don’t walk around naked on his, whatever you called it.” Kaylee growled. Her right fist clenching, she could punch the woman in the sternum so hard she could separate it from the cartilage that attached it to her ribs. It would crackle and pop for the rest of her life, even after it healed.

*Control!* She had control.

‟Do you really want to go there, Miss Grant?”

‟Georgia, it is Missus. She is my wife.”

This made Kaylee cringe. She had signed the papers, Tom should have known that would have happened when she left last night. He gave her step-by-step directions on what to do.

‟Tom, you prove to me that you can write with her doing who-knows-what when you are alone for what reasons…”

‟Hello, I’m right here.” Kaylee looked at the agent.

‟She only knows.” Georgia shot a look at Kaylee . ‟You stay out of this. You are the cause for all this.”

‟Georgia, I have sold a few hundred-million dollars worth of books…”

‟One hundred-ninety eight million last year, after expenses.”

‟Yeah, and you get fifteen-percent of that.”

‟Whoa!” Kaylee ‘s eyes boggled. ‟Fifteen PERCENT? Of almost two-hundred million dollars in a year? Almost three-hundred thousand dollars for one client?”

Turning to Georgia, no longer looking belittled and beat down. She was now convinced where Georgia stood.

‟You called ME a gold-digger? And you suck over a quarter-million dollars a year just from Tom?” Kaylee was angry, verging on fury. Her knuckles were white, her fists were hard a stone. ‟You… You… hypocrite!”

‟Kaylee , just a moment.” Tom said. ‟Please let me finish.”

‟Georgia, you have been with me for a decade. Each year has been better than the last, but for as long as we have been together, you have been always pushing. You have chased off nearly every woman I have tried to start a relationship with, only Kaylee has remained. But you force me to choose, now. We must seek our separate lives from now on.”

‟You… I am fired?”

‟That is a bit harsh, but accurate.” Tom nodded. ‟It’s just time we parted, I hope amicably.”

“Tom…” but it was over.

Thomas Harte fired her.

Married by Mistake Chapter 26. Papers

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Chapter 26. Papers

Kaylee left the medical center after they settled Tom back his room. He had been in a bit of pain as the nurses bathed him and gave medications to help him sleep.

She walked across the macadam surface of the airport to the hangar where the Flying Sea Dragon sat, she could barely keep from sobbing the trip from the hospital.

It hurt so much to even think of those papers that sat somewhere inside the plane, waiting.

She rode in silence in a taxi she caught at random to the airport, she did not want to ride with anyone who knew Tom, knew of Tom or had even heard about his books.

She had a serious need to sit and drink wine and smoke a bowl with her sister and talk.

She missed the afternoons with Melanie like they had in their teens. They had barely graduated from high school, but as the best of friends and the worst of enemies, they would be in a furious scream-fest fight for minutes, then would be the best of friends as they settled down for a toke.

But no outsider dare make either of them cry.

Woe be unto the person that faced the wrath of the Grant sisters. It would make for an epic bad day when both sisters would turn on the offending person with fury that only sisters, family, and those of the same heart and soul have.

As they grew older, and although they took different classes and their lives were on different paths, they became closer still.

Opening the door of the big jet, she looked down at the broken glass that still lay on the floor.

And blood! Everywhere, large black clots that cemented fibers of the carpet into a mat with choking copper-smell. It surprised her the amount that soaked into the carpet on the floor. A body-trail in the glass where he crawled to the door and yelled for help at the plane’s technicans and engineers.

She stepped past the gore and glass that almost ended Tom’s life and perhaps did end his life as a writer.

She sat at the chair and looked where the papers in the manila envelope waited, filed in the cubby-hole that Tom told her about.

She thought of Melanie and all the fights they had while she sat in the Flying Sea Dragon and held the annulment papers in her hands.

*Tom said I just had to sign on the lines in the document and mail it with…*

With…

She slumped in the chair and a wept.

*It’s strange, this is just what I wanted four-weeks ago! Now I have a serious temptation to put it in the washing machine, somewhere on the plane. Except, damn, I’m not sure where it is, hidden behind some cabinet door.* Kaylee took a heavy breath, *I’m not sure if this is wise.*

Her hands trembled when she found the place to sign in the back of the document.

She slipped the papers into the manilla envelope they were paper-clipped to, she closed and sealed the package and walked out the door of the big flying yacht.

*The Flying Sea Dragon is not as big as the Pacific Wizard is inside, it’s more cluttered with furniture, bulky items to make it feel close. Still, a comfortable plane to live in.*

*A flying yacht.* She reminded herself as she walked across the airport to the main offices.

She nearly didn’t get to mail it, the woman behind the counter almost gave it back because of Kaylee ’s facial expressions and the slumped-sad way she carried herself.

“Miss, I don’t know what you have in this, and it’s not my place to say. But do you really want to send this?” She looked as if she might have known Ben Franklin when she started for the post-office. Not a trace of color in the great-grandmotherly hair.

With the postage stamped on the envelope, the woman gave Kaylee one more look, a last chance to change her mind, then slowly it into the slot behind her and it was in the US mail with a required a signature on delivery at the court.

Once the clerk of the court received and signed for the papers, in the eyes of the government, it never happened.

It would be as if she was never married.

While Kaylee walked out to the sidewalk she dialed the number on the business card that the Chauffeur Kaikane had given her and told her to call anytime she needed a ride. This time it would be to the hospital. She would tell Tom that she signed the papers, but she was not sure about how she felt.

After breaking the line with Kaikane and his peaceful voice, she hit speed-dial and called Melanie .

‟KAY!” Melanie was always excited to hear from her sister. ‟Where are you?”

‟San Francisco. Tom has had a good run of luck with the doctors since his accident.”

‟You need to come home quick as you can. Glenn is here and he has asked for you, he said it’s important.” Melanie said in a conspiratorial tone. ‟I think he is going to ask the question.”

‟Oh.” Her heart finished the phrase. *Damn.*

‟You don’t sound excited.” Melanie became quiet, shocked at the response. “This is what you have waited for since you were kids.”

‟I just signed the papers and sent them off to Nevada. I stop being married and never was according to the state once the papers arrive.”

‟Oh sis. But this is what you want, right?”

‟I don’t know. Tom needs me.” Kaylee was quiet as she waited for the limo. “You should see his eyes. Mellie, he is a good man, he cares for so many things and he’s in pain because of me.”

‟But he was alone before he met you, and it’s only been a month.” Melanie said helpfully. ‟And you said he nearly crashed the plane with you in it.”

‟He showed the wine country off to me from the plane.” She was defensive all of a sudden. “Melanie , it was beautiful, right up until we hit the birds, scared me so bad I think I nearly peed myself.”

At the other end, her best friend and sister laughed, knowing Kaylee the way she did, for her to say something like that was funny.

They talked as sisters do over the phone. Switching to video chat while she waited for the contract limousine to pick her up.

‟Why don’t you take a cab?” Melanie asked as Kaylee sat on a bench and waited in the shade of a tree.

‟No. If this is my last limo ride I don’t have to pay for, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Besides, there is a hot Hawaiian that drives it. You’d love him. Surfer type, intelligent as any professor, knows more about sensemilla than a DEA cop.”

Melanie laughed so hard she snorted, then held her hand over the lens while she composed herself.

‟Stringbean? You know I can still hear you.” Kaylee took her turn of laughter, using the nickname that they worked out as children. This only made Melanie laugh that much harder.

Melanie Grant was the only person in the world that could make Kaylee laugh when things were at their darkest.

Kaylee hated her for that…

Which made her laugh all the harder, she loved her sister more than anyone else in her generation. They were, after all…

Sisters.

Married by Mistake Chapter 25. Month’s End

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Chapter 25. Month’s End

Kaylee walked slowly with Tom as while she pushed him in a wheelchair towards the ‟Garden of Healing”.

Reaching the trees, native redwoods that bounded the half-acre garden full of native coastal plants.

The garden grew rich with beautiful colors of life, a peaceful location in the middle of the huge facility of intense emotions where hearts and souls healed from having their bodies repaired from different trauma and illness.

The couple enjoyed the sunlight until they came to the natural ten-century old Cathedral Tree where Kaylee parked Tom in his wheelchair, talked and held hands like the lovers they had become.

The Cathedral Tree, a half-circle of redwood trees that grew in a large open area on the campus of the medical center. Kaylee smiled at the smells that reminded her of home. She could feel the power of the Earth that lived here. In the middle of the healing professionals, medicine and sterile atmosphere, the Gods of Old, of life and sky sat in watchful gaze over the modern lives that began, ended and healed in the nearby structures of doctors, nurses and patients.

Except for one stubborn area of his arm, Tom’s condition improved faster than predicted, he impressed the team of surgeons, one suggested that part of the healing was the hand holding by the young wife had a positive effect.

“Attitude accounts for much of the recovery.” A journeyman surgeon said during an exam of Tom’s arm while waiting for Doctor Tribbing.

Fortune had it that the wound made by the glass in the tissues was smoother than even they could do with their surgical steel scalpels. Even obsidian or diamond bladed edged instruments could not have performed a cleaner, smooth-edged incision.

The wound, they said after surgery, was perfect for them to repair. Flesh and even the ends of the bone that were cloven so smoothly that the ends matched up precisely.

The only failure was the annoying lack of healing in one deep area in his arm. A drainage kept coming from the tubes they put in to help his wounds to keep fluid from building up.

Tom had stopped eating for fear of gaining weight and lost weight, despite the IV that ran into his arm constantly. Kaylee nagged him to eat, and when he did, he would only eat the most minute of portions.

Once again she could not help but think of more than three weeks ago. The summer was an adventure in ways she had never dreamed.

They sat in the filtered sun of the Cathedral Tree. The perfume from the tree made Kaylee think of camps and a campfire, she took deep breaths and images of fire-roasted cornbread, and foil-wrapped baked potatoes danced in her head. She could feel the power of the earth coming from the ancient species of tree dance with her muse.

Even obnoxious, bored children that made noise and were under the constant shush of nurses and parents, whispered in the natural wood enclave saved by some genius architect. Such was the power of the Cathedral Tree.

Small crosses with names – people who committed to each other here –  tucked in the small areas between the trunks of the trees. Momento’s of weddings and thanks for the peaceful place in the middle of a medical center.

It promised of a time she looked forward to when the hospital released Tom and they would spend an evening on the beach.

In the quiet of the shade, Tom had slipped into a soft sleep, caused by the residual effects of heavy medications. She sat and held his hand, waiting for him to drift awake again when they would talk more. A conversation between the husband and wife, lovers and friends that could continue after a nap as if it never stopped.

In this quiet moment, Kaylee ’s phone chimed an alert to a text message. As she read her phone, it was a class synopsis that her education mentor suggested for the upcoming year.

Scrolling through the pages, the mentor reduced her class schedule. The math showed she had enough extra credit she had done the year before. She could do one less class this year, two less in her senior year if her grades qualified.

*I might do post-grad credits before I graduate! I like extra credits.*

‟Kaylee ?” Tom was awake! ‟Damn, how long have I been sleeping?”

‟Tom! How do you feel?” It was her standard question. The arm would sometimes cause him in agony. Then she smiled and gave him a synopsis. “Oh. Today or total? You woke up for a half-hour this morning, but you have been pretty groggy the last seven days. They don’t want you to move the tendons just yet.”

‟It has been a week?.” Tom had lost time during his stay. It was a regular start to all his conversations of late.

‟Yeah, a lot has happened and everything has been on hold.”

‟Let me get my mind around this. I’m still fuzzy.”

The drugs they shot Tom up with during the last week faded quickly in the sunlight and redwood perfumed air.

*The nurse had said this would happen when they discontinued his medications that kept him from moving much.* She smiled.

Even in his induced sleep, he was incredibly uncomfortable. A stomach sleeper and the doctor wanted him to keep the arm above his heart.

‟We need the annulment papers signed. We can file them tomorrow or the next day. I’ll have Robin, my lawyer, do it. You just need to sign the papers, they are on the Flying Sea Dragon.” Tom said quietly. His voice much improved since the first night when the nurse said it was a side-effect of having a tube pushed past his vocal cords.

‟What about your signature?” She frowned. This moment took a sudden turn to the sad-side.

‟I signed the papers weeks ago, a night you were crying in your sleep.” Tom said quietly, a shot of pain ran across his face. ‟You whispered Glenn’s name in that dream.”

‟Omy god, I’m so sorry.” Kaylee doubted that the pain was from his arm.

‟Don’t be. You said from the beginning, we weren’t supposed to be married. And really, you did not have to come here, either. You are a good person, but I am almost twice your age, I have all I have, but I lack one thing.” Tom moved a bit and groaned in pain and whispered a profanity. ” A future.”

Tom looked up at the big tree and gave a big sigh.

‟Like this young tree, your future is still bright and lays ahead of you with your Glenn. Get the papers and walk them over to the offices at the airport. Send them registered mail so it’s a required signature. That way it is the soonest it will be over, and you won’t have to return from your days back home to here and deal with this mess.”

‟Tom, I…” She couldn’t talk, her throat had tightened up like a knot. It was what she had wanted all month, why was it that it seemed to hurt, now that the time was here.

When this mess started she wept for the loss of her single-ness.

She loved with him.

She had fought with him.

She raced to his side in his time of need.

She spoke with the doctor about him and his arm when they thought that they may have to amputate.

She had fought for him with that witchy-woman who would demand he write while he recovered from having his arm, his future, hung by a thread of flesh.

She still felt like he told her to abandon him.

‟Tom, I…” Damn, there goes that knot in her heart again. ‟I will stay until they send you home, there are days I can catch up.”

‟You have to sign up for the classes, I’ll be discharged to attend Doctor Manga’s installation and make a speech. I can do that with only one arm.”

‟Tom, Honey, maybe you and I can get together after you get back from, Cambridge is where it is?”

‟That would be nice, but when I get back from Cambridge I’ll head to other places for a while.”

‟You think you might move?”

‟I am never in one place for long, you know that.”

‟Well, I thought. I mean, I just assumed that you stayed there.”

‟No, I was in Ocean Bay to meet with Dr. Manga and make a few donations and write. I would have been long-gone if we never met.” Tom groaned as he shifted in the wheelchair. “I just couldn’t fly away.”

‟And how do you plan to fly with that arm.” Kaylee was a little taken aback at her effect on his life. She and Tom worked well as a team and she kind of wanted him to grieve. It stung her that he had planned on moving on already. ‟You should be with someone to help you heal.”

‟I’ll hire a nurse, if need. But I think I am okay with flying on a wide-body jet in first-class. I can even buy tickets for four seats so I can spread out.”

This was all twisted, she was about to get what she wanted and he acted all matter-of-fact about how he would return to the world that he lived in.

*It feels like he woke up only to stab my heart.* Her heart and soul had a hard time with this.

*No. This,* she made a choice, *Is an opportunity. My life can get back on track, I’ve had an adventure. Me and Melanie can share this and still be friends with Tom. I can still go live my life as I meant it to be.*

But why did she feel as if she was about to lose a piece of her heart. If Tom wasn’t so badly hurt, she’d break his arm.

*And I can do it, too.*

*Ugh!* She clenched her teeth.

Even if it was right, this was so wrong.

*So damned wrong.*

Why I Care About Likes and Follows

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Amen to this! I have been building slowly.  Too slowly, according to the rolling eyes of the Mrs. “You should just quit and go do something constructive.  Go on pooper-scooper patrol.”

But I keep going, I cannot stop writing. Even if I am boring.

Source: Why I Care About Likes and Follows

Married by Mistake Chapte 20. Beside Manner

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Chapter 20. Bedside Manner

Kaylee exited the elevator car and followed the signs on the signs to the locked ICU doors, Kaylee picked up the phone on the wall and held it to her ear.

‟May I help you.” The voice was impersonal, professional and disinterested as if it answered the request for entry a hundredth time this shift.

‟Kaylee Gra… Harte to see Tom Harte.”

The lock buzzed and she pulled the heavy fire-rated door open and walked in to the nurses station.

The tall, redheaded nurse with a badge of ‟Michelle, RN, BSN, MSN” stood up and smiled.

‟You are looking for Mister Harte? The Doctor is in with him now.”

‟Thank you.” Kaylee nodded and smiled and followed Michelle who led her to room ‟E” where through the partly closed drape, through the door she could see a body that lay covered in tubes and wires.

The smells of disinfectant were everywhere, and although the nurses station was cool, the breeze that wafted out of the ICU room was quite warm, tubes ran to Tom’s uninjured arm, an oxygen tube ran from the wall ending in a forked pair of small tubes going into his nostrils.

“Please wait here for a few minutes, Missus Harte, the doctor is with your husband now.” Michelle said. “I’m sorry to have to make you wait, the doctor went in and sat down.”

“No worries, Michelle. I will wait here, thank you.”

The right arm was laying in gauze that had already stained a red and the doctor was touching the copper-colored fingers with a stainless steel stylus.

‟Yeah, I feel that.” Tom croaked out.

‟Good, can you move them?” The doctor asked.

A moment passed, and the fingers moved almost imperceptibly, but definite movement.

‟Good.” The Doctor just noticed them as Kaylee stood outside the door. “OH! You’re his wife?”

‟Yes.”

‟Tom has spoken a lot about you, how do you do? I’m Doctor Tribbing, I led the team to repair the wound in Mister Harte’s arm.” The Doctor pulled the drape open to allow her in and then fully around and obscured the world outside the door. “That was my fault, I didn’t let anyone know I came back here to double-check Tom’s wound.”

‟Kaylee!” Tom’s voice was hoarse and creaky. ‟Hi.”

‟He will sound like that for a few hours, he just got out of surgery, there was a bit of damage and we reattached his tendons without difficulty.” The Doctor nodded then adding. “He may have some nerve damage we are watching for.”

‟What happened?”

‟Report is he dropped some heavy glass object, a broken section of glass hit his forearm and cut a large defect into his arm.”

‟How deep?” Kaylee ’s eyes grew wide.

‟Well,”The Doctor said as he flipped through the chart. ‟Through the soft tissues and the radial bone. It was like being hit by a large scalpel. We had some cleanup to do with glass splinters, but the damage was otherwise clean on his forearm, no breaks, the glass cut through the bone, we did an external fixation— this is why you see this Erector set construction here on his arm. The soft-tissues were similarly cut, but it was, as I said, like a scalpel had done it.”

‟What, how.”

‟He said he was carrying a glass table top that broke when he fell and Mister Harte ended underneath it all with this wound.” Again, Tom gave a weak nod. “So we have some chance of a crush injury as well, but it is not obvious at the moment.”

‟Oh my god.” Kaylee held her hand to her mouth. “Will he be okay?”

‟Yes, he lost a lot of blood, but we fixed the leaks. He said he had to crawl out from under it to get help.” The doctor looked at Tom who nodded.

‟What he said.” Tom croaked again, then went quiet as his eyes closed.

‟He will be in and out for a bit. I prescribed him some pretty potent pain relief. He woke up in good deal of pain after the surgery.” Doctor Tribbing said. “An object hit his hand with considerable force before the glass cut his arm.”

‟He is okay now?” Kaylee repeated herself, her mind spinning.

‟Time will tell for sure, but the prognosis is good.” The Doctor nodded to himself, the smile ran away from his face when a tone in his jacket pocket sounded, the doctor opened the cover and looked at the screen of the flip-phone. ‟I’m sorry, but I must go. He will become more alert in a little while.”

“Michelle!” The doctor turned and called across the hallway.

He walked out to answer the text he received and she sat next to Tom.

‟Hey. You came!” Tom sounded surprised.

‟Yes, I have been here for a few minutes, you talked to me already.”

‟Oh. I don’t remember.” Tom said. “You sure? I know everyone who comes in and out.”

He sounded sharp, but he faded quickly. A blink of an eye that did not open again.

‟It’s the drugs, like when we got married.”

Tom tried to laugh, then groaned. ‟Ouch.”

‟What is wrong?” Kaylee stood and kissed him on the forehead. “Are you in pain?”

‟My throat is sore, like they ran a pipe-cleaner coated with broken glass down it.”

‟Are you sick?” She stroked his nose. “No kisses for you if you are.”

From the doorway, a nurse walked in, different from the one that greeted her. He was heavyset and goatee going grey at the edges, ‟Randy, RNIII, MSN” On his badge.

‟I’m his nurse for the next few hours. Tom has done well during the surgery.” Randy said with a smile. “I hear you are doing well, Mister Harte.”

‟Why is Tom’s throat sore?”

‟When he was in surgery, they put a tube down his throat, it’s not unusual to have that discomfort.” Randy said. Soft-spoken, quick to smile, he had years of caring and seemed to enjoy his job of caring for the sick and injured.

‟How long will his throat be sore?” Kaylee stroked Tom’s good arm.

‟A few hours to a couple of days. His vocal cords got an unusual bit of abuse today. Some ice chips if he wants.” Randy nodded at Tom. “It will go away after a bit.”

‟Ice chips, yeah. Please.” Tom rasped out.

‟You bet, Mr. Harte.”

‟Tom, please. Mr. Harte is my dad. Admiral Harrison Harte. He will be on his way,” Tom winced as he spoke.”Him, you better call him Mister, mister.”

Randy laughed at the wordplay from a recovering patient, just out of post-op.

‟It’s you came back to this room faster than normal.” Randy said when he returned with a plastic cup of ground up ice.

‟I was tired of being in there, I told them I wanted to come back. The nurses in there were telling me that I had to spend time there until I was awake. So, I started singing, “Oh the cow kicked nelly in the belly in the barn” song- I tried to get a singalong with the other patients. They shoved me out pretty fast then.” Tom gave a weak smile.

Kaylee covered her laugh with her hand.

‟Oh, Tom! You didn’t.” She covered her face. “Oh gawd. You are worse when drugged.”

She turned to Randy. “Is it too late to claim I don’t know him? He is embarrassing me.”

Randy laughed.

‟Tom, you are one of a kind.” Randy shook his head and silently exited the room.

‟I did.” Tom said, smiling. ‟All kinds of messed up being in there and in pain. And flippin’ COLD, I don’t know why they have such cold oxygen going on a mask to wake you up.”

“Ugh..that hurt to say.” He grimaced.

‟Tom, you have to hush and suck on ice for now.”

‟I’d rather suck on your lips in a kiss.”

‟TOM!” Kaylee looked around, but no one was close enough to hear. ‟You are… seriously, bad.”

‟Punish me when I get home.”

‟Soon, how long will you be in here?”

‟I don’t know. What day is this now?” He took a small spoon full of ice. “\I feel like I have been in here for a month, already.”

A tap on the door.

‟Mister Harte?” It was a phlebotomy tech looking to draw Tom’s blood.

‟Over there, the pretty dark-haired one.”

This made the blood-draw tech to look between the two people in the room.

‟I heard about you.” The tech laughed. “Sorry, you can’t fool me.”

‟Made you pause though.”

Even with his arm almost cut off, Tom tried for laughs.

Kaylee looked out the window while she sat and thought while Tom flinched and said ‟Ow.” every time the tech touched him.

*A little boy in a grown body.* Kaylee shook her head and laughed again.

Later when she arranged for an overstuffed chair in so she could sleep next to Tom, she began to think twice about things. She hated to admit it to herself, but the truth of it all, he earned her respect. For good or bad, she had grown fond of him.

Married by Mistake Chapter 18. Frantic Flight

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Chapter 18. Frantic Flight

“Hello,” The woman behind the counter said as Kaylee walked in. “You shouldn’t come in that way. Just so’s you know, that is access to the airplanes only. It is dangerous to cross that way and if the security were to catch you, they are a serious pain in the neck. They can arrest you or make you walk around.”

“Yeah, I have had a run-in with one on the way over here from the Pacific Wizard across the way.” She had learned that sometimes the dropping of the name would open doors for her in some cases. “So I just ran across.”

“Oh! You’re Kaylee .” The counter-woman did not make it a question. ”I just received a call from a limo company in Sacramento that you needed a flight. I must say, that was a surprise to hear about Tom being married.”

“I thought I was meeting a driver here? And… We are not supposed to be married, it was one of those things that happened when drinking. We are getting annulled in a few days.” She laughed as she said it. “We are just good friends that partied too much and did a bit of a dare game that went out of control.”

“Of course.” Counter-Woman said it in a way that it was something she could not quite swallow. “Considering who it is for and that the flight is an emergency need, our only wait is the crew. No on the driver, I have a plane that is ready to depart when you are.”

From The back room, walked a muscular, petite woman with more stripes on her sleeve than anyone else Kaylee had seen.

“My bird ready for flight?” The pilot asked Counter-Woman. “Fueled and serviced?”

“Yes ma’am.” Counter-Woman seemed to shrink a little. Even if the Captain was smaller than she was, the Captain carried the air of unquestioned authority with her.

“What is the ETA of my right seat?” The Captain said in a matter-of-fact way that she expected an immediate answer. “We leave as soon as they arrive.”

“Your first officer will be Rome Oldman today. He is driving time from his home. He called as he pulled out of the garage of his house.”

“Thank you, advise me when he arrives, leave when he walks in. We have a bonus for getting our VIP to destination in less than an hour.” The Captain looked at the clock. “We are going to push the envelope. Where is my VIP?”

“Right behind you.” The flight agent said.

“Oh. Hello.” The Captain extended her hand in a business like handshake. “I’m Captain R. M. Watson. We will be flying as soon as possible. I’ll walk you to my aircraft.”

As they walked through the door, the Captain continued talking as if she was giving a report. “Follow me, please, let’s step on board while I wait for my right seat driver. I received a call from Lettie Nesmith of the Discrete Limo service in Sacramento, Tom’s been in an accident and I’m hired to fly you to Hayward Executive and have you there to meet her limo at the top of the hour. I trust you packed light, you can store your carry-on where the signs indicate there and there.”

“Yes, I packed light, I brought nothing except my purse.”

“Perfect.” Captain Watson said. “Take a seat and settle in, you don’t need to use the seatbelt just yet and I am going to finish my pre-flight checks.”

Kaylee settled in to the closest seat, someone placed the seat belts for convenience to clip on and she did not wait for instruction to do so. She was impatient to fly out and arrive at the airport in the north and the snap of the clip satisfied her need for action. Kaylee could not recall the name of her destination, other than Lettie had set everything up and she wished they were already in the air when she heard Captain Watson’s voice raise while she verbally mauled her copilot.

“DAMMIT ROME! Stopping for a foo-foo coffee on a mission is not acceptable, we’re scheduled to arrive at our destination in fifty-minutes. We are going to push the envelope as it is.”

Kaylee could hear a male voice asking if the package had arrived.

“Package”? She was a package, not a passenger.

“The package is Thomas Harte’s wife.”

“Bullcrap, he’s not married. We would have heard about that.”

“Let’s go, we can talk on the way.”

“No way Mister Harte’s married.” Rome said as he stepped into the sleek jet. “Oh! Hello. You are a passenger, not a package. I’m Captain Oldman, I’ll be your co-captain in the right seat next to Captain Watson.”

“I’m Kaylee , Tom’s wife. Tom’s has had some kind of an accident and is in the hospital in San Francisco.”

“What happened to Mr. Harte?”

“I don’t know, something with his hand. Lettie, the owner of the limousine company called me and told me that he cut off his hand.”

“Oh no.” Captain Watson said, showing emotion for the first time. “Okay Missus Harte, strapped in? Good, hang on, we are pushing the limits of this jet. Our maximum rated speed is mach zero point eight-one, we will be doing all that.”

Moments later, the business jet taxied out to the runway and lined up. Kaylee could not hear what the pilots were saying, but moments later, it was as if someone pulled a trigger and shot them out of a gun, the chartered jet accelerated faster than either the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon. The wheels came off the ground quickly and it seemed as if the diminutive jet sat back on its tail and climbed steeply into the sky. This was a race car compared to Tom’s sky-yacht.

As the ground fell away, Captain Watson turned and spoke loudly for Kaylee to hear.

“Missus Harte, you have a phone call. The phone is on the wall next to you on a magnet mount so you just need to push the gold button next to it.”

“Thank you.” Kaylee said loudly back. Captain Watson nodded and turned back to her guidance of the winged missile as it banked and headed to a northerly course.

“Hello?”

“Kaylee ! You made it, good. I have Kaikane, one of our newest drivers waiting for you. He’s a tall Hawaiian and is well-trained. He will drive you to the California Pacific Medical Center.” It was Lettie, her voice was uniquely embedded in Kaylee’s memory these days.

“The hospital will tell me nothing of Tom’s injury, but the rumor has it that he was carrying a tv out of the plane when he fell. The tv landed on his arm and broke, the glass cut him up.”

“Lettie?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you like Tom’s personal assistant or something?”

“Oh heck no, he can’t afford me. But we are good friends, and he is one of my best customers. Probably the best customer we have. All my family thinks the world of him.”

“But how do you spend his money like the chartered plane?”

“Get-Jet, the company that owns the plane you are on, also thinks highly of Tom. I know the company president and I just gave him a call. It seems weird, but we are all pretty friendly, so we watch out for each other. Tom has had a hand in getting more than a few of us in business, so we all owe him.”

“Wow. You are all friends and do this for each other?”

“Kaylee, Tom’s a tremendous person who spends far too much time alone. Even a philanthropist needs to have friends, even if he doesn’t think he does.”

“Lettie, I don’t know him like you do.”

“You will learn about him.” She could almost hear Lettie smile at the other end of the phone. ”He is someone who had his heart torn out and his soul shattered at one time. I don’t know his history except for what he has told me. But I know what he is like now. When we started the company, we had one limousine, he contracted and invested with us and allowed us to buy our next two limo’s in less than a year. We’ll buy out his investment in eighteen months. Not that we want to distance our company from him, but we, my family and me, we want the company to ourselves.”

“Understandable.”

“You have Tom.” Lettie said softly. ”Kaylee . Keep him. Like it or not I’ll put some pressure on you. He is going to self-destruct if he has no muse to show the world he builds.”

“Lettie, you are a meddler.”

“Yes, I always have been, according to my sister.” Lettie laughed. “I’m not proud of it, but I will always do what is right.”

“Everyone’s mother?” Kaylee asked with a laugh.

“Hah! Yeah, but I can’t have my own kids. So I adopt everyone.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh no, not that there is anything wrong. I don’t date men.” Lettie laughed. “You’re a good person, too. Compassionate. You match Tom’s spirit, you both are like eagles. You fly together in your souls.”

“I’m not as good as you would think.”

“Well, don’t doubt yourself. You have what it takes.” Then Lettie broke the connection and Kaylee put the phone back in its cradle.

Moments passed while Kaylee looked out the window watching the green of the long state pass by.

*Do I have what it takes to fill the shoes of a wife? The annulment, that’s my goal.*

Then again. There was something about how people stood up to help Tom.

*Maybe.* She pulled at some lint on her shirt. *Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong.*

Married by Mistake Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb

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Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb

Finals over, Doctor Manga and his staff looked at the image she created from a blank canvas, talked to her at length in the middle of a classroom of other students who needed make-up testing. The written sections were long, but she knew every answer.

Four hours later, she was back at the Wizard, a great weight off her soul while she traced her fingers over the computer and built-in phone charger that Tom would put his mobile phone in and then forget where he put the electronic equipment.

Kaylee sat on the sofa and pondered, her mind she thought would be clear with the finals test over. Was as conflicted as anyone ever could be.

*Ugh. One one hand, he was the most wonderful person I have ever met, all that history on the net even stands up for him.* She rubbed her forehead. *But he is not Glenn, and I have a life to live on my own.*

“Ugh!” The scream and clenched fists,  and she felt no better.

She gave herself a five-minute cry and a few minutes to recover. After she caught her breath, Kaylee walked to her car to drive to the bar and ask if she could get her job back. She hated to go in and beg with her bottom lip poked out and her hat in hand. If that would not work, she knew that another pub down the street that had just opened, only they had already staffed up their positions. It would be difficult to talk her way into the next pub if they had no open positions.

But in the next few minutes, all the plans of job-hunting would soon be forgotten.

The moment she walked out of the metal hanger, her cell phone started ringing. The number was the same one on the business card that Lettie, the owner and driver of the limousine that had taken her to the Stockton airport had given her.

“Hello?”

“Hello, this is Lettie Nesmith, I’m calling for Kaylee .”

“Hi Lettie! This is Kaylee .”

“Kaylee! Hey! Listen, Tom’s been hurt. They took him to the hospital about six-hours ago. Rumor has it that he hurt his hand and they are talking about flying him to San Francisco in a helicopter.”

“Ohmygod” Kaylee said it as if it was a single word. “What happened?”

“My cousin says he hurt his hand. They are sending him to a hospital in San Francisco that specializes in sewing on hands and stuff.”

“Sewing on … His hand? What happened.”

“I don’t know, but no one called you?”

“No, but I have not been getting service. I was in the plane that is inside the hangar.”

“Okay, anyway. You should charter a flight back to Sacramento.” Lettie sounded stressed. ”The sooner the better.”

“I don’t know how to do that.” Kaylee said.

Kaylee could hear papers get shuffled on the other end.

“Okay, don’t worry about it, I will take care of the details. Did you say he had given you a charge card?”

“Oh! Yes! But how do I…”

“Kaylee, I’ll find somebody to call you. I know who Tom deals with when he’s not flying his own planes.”

“I don’t know, I was kind of bitchy to him when I spoke to him last time.”

“It’s up to you. But I saw how you act when you talk about him. Your husband is hurt, it might be serious, and you will to kick yourself later.” Lettie’s voice was like another sister giving support. “I have a driver that is available.”

“Okay. Tell him my number, I’m at the South Harbor Airport.”

“He will pick you up right away, he’s at that same airport.”

She looked out over the tarmac towards the executive jet airlines and started walking to the office.

“Excuse me, miss. But you cannot walk here, are you lost?” It was an airport security officer driving up in an electric cart.

“I’m leaving on a plane, I just left the Pacific Wizard and I received a call to meet a chartered plane here. I’m running over to the office now.”

“Sorry, still, you not allowed to walk here. Walk around on the marked walkway.” He pointed to red, blue, green and yellow painted lines on the ground. “Follow the green line and it will take you to the executive charter lobby.”

“Can I ride with you over there?”

“No ma’am.” He said as he drove off, an alarm sounded on his radio of unauthorized access of the grounds by a car on the far side of the terminals.

Grumbling at how it was that the rules forced her to walk around when she was only had a hundred feet or so in a straight line. It would mean heading in the opposite direction and around.

Looking over her shoulder as she headed out to the walkway gate, the security car sped off after the car trying to enter a clearly marked “Do not enter” area.

She paused for a heartbeat, watching the golf cart race off at the top speed of a fast walk for a few minutes. The guard never looked back.

She took two, then four tentative steps to follow the painted line. Then turned and ran in the straight line to the executive charter office as fast as she could.

* This is an emergency, I can’t stop.*

She skidded to a stop at the back door of the charter office and quickly composed herself.

She put her hand on the door, took a breath and walked in as if she had not just broke the rules.

Married by Mistake Chapter16. Week Three

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Chapter 16. Week Three

She sat in the morning, alone on her balcony, Melanie had left with her visiting boyfriend and went to a theme park. Sipping the tea of MariMint, a recipe of her own mixing of spearmint and marijuana teas.

*Twenty-one days! Sheesh, it has been three weeks since I woke up with this ring on my finger, happy, hung over. Only twenty days and it seems like a lifetime ago.*

She laughed at the memory while looking at her ring.

*A wonderful lifetime ago.*

Still, all had not been without problems, not that the start was smooth as satin sheets, either.

The last week Tom had spent in northern California supervising the repairs on the crash-landed Dragon. He asked her to come back up north, while they towed the plane out into a larger channel, where they could pull the flying boat up on land and disassemble its wings and put the body of the plane on a truck and move it to a hanger for repairs at an airport.

Yeah… No. Tom told her to stay on the Pacific Wizard at the Bay, that she would be bored to watch the process and be reminded of the near disaster that was their date of wine tasting.

*That plane was an accident and no one tells me what I must do. I choose my destiny. He needs a partner if any part of the computer files are true.*

She did not ask him if she could come be with him, that would be a waste of effort.  She had studies left to finish and needed to meet with Professor Manga to assure her grades were intact.

*I will not let the last two years of classes be flushed down the toilet.* She gritted her teeth. *I know more than enough to pass this years classes.*

She stopped being angry at him and had began to miss Tom’s quick wit and the curve of his shoulders where she rested her hand on him at night, when she slept.

Shaking her head, she brought herself out of those thoughts of a life with Tom that danced in her head.

*I will spend my life with Glenn.* She reminded herself, *I head home in a few weeks and we’re was cutting it close with the annulment from this drunken, Las Vegas fiasco.*

*I wish Tom was an ass, just a truly hateful person.* She shook her head while she took another sip of her tea. *Not a hero who frightened the crap out of me while avoiding a crash of the plane and made me angry. I should not have blamed him, it was an accident.*

She gave a heavy sigh. *I’m not angry over what he did, he saved our lives with that heroic effort that has my deep respect.* She began to adore this man.

*His life was a tapestry that I could paint and muse with for years.* She could feel the urge to draw and paint. He was such a large point in her life that he gave her inspiration to draw.

Kaylee sighed. *It’s not fair. I should charge Tom with taking advantage of me while I was wasted. But I thought I knew what I was doing that night. Besides, I love all that Tom has done, even saving us.*

*Love? Oh, Crap.* She began to cry again. She would be out of the mess of it all if she just walked away.

*If I did, me and Tom could date as normal people do and start over. Not this backwards, life-destroying maze of confusion.*

Except, Glenn. She needed to spend time with him and his beautiful eyes. Back to the life that she had dreamed of as a girl in grade school, that life was the one she would live. She enjoyed being married to Tom, still, it was not the life she planned.

What was she thinking? It weighed her down, heavy in the feeling, and still, although it was a burden, it energized her imagination, it gave her wings in her heart. Tom’s bright soul illuminated hers with the urge to begin drawing.

Her fingers began drawing on a paper with a pencil, working feverishly, she decided she needed her sketchpad.

Dr. Manga! She knew she required a good performance in what ever test she would need to pass, even if he had all but promised her a passing grade. She knew her art history backwards and forwards. And yet? A charcoal sketch is always subjective grading.

*Unless I draw like a first year student with crayon, and cannot say the names of Victorian era art, the Headmaster will give it a hight grade.*

Coming out of her funk, Kaylee stood up to find her phone.

*I need to call Melanie.*

 

Married by Mistake Chapter 14. At The Wizard

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Chapter 14. At The Wizard

Bumps and sounds from the flaps and landing gear extending gave her thoughts that the flying hunk of metal was falling apart. She hated this part of any flight, it always felt like a semi-controlled crash. The sound of air rushing over the flaps unnerved her, the drift of the executive commuter on each little puff of wind was sharp and sudden.

Profanity was on the tip of her tongue every moment. When the shriek of tires touched the runway, she matched the tone for a split second with a small scream of her own.

As the speedy jet slowed down, she let go of the arms of the seat and noticed her knuckles had gone white. Not that Captain Adanna was a poor pilot, but the diminutive airplane was not a comfortable as the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon, the jet was all business like the pilot.

Under the expert guidance of Adanna, the winged race-car taxied near the hangar where the Pacific Wizard sat while service techs milled about, the Olympic-swimming-pool sized doors of the huge structure were open and she could see the size differences between the jet she rode in and the Pacific Wizard.

The great plane’s engine hatches were open and technicians and mechanics climbed up and down ladders as they worked on the flying yacht. Kaylee worried that the workers might stop her from going into the Pacific Wizard to retrieve her belongings she had left when she went north with Tom.

The Captain opened the door and stepped out on to the asphalt-concrete of the airport. “Missus Harte, you may deplane now. Please watch your step, the Pacific Wizard is over there and the employees are expecting you.”

“They’re expecting…?” Kaylee suddenly felt like she was in a spy movie and big brother, in the name of Tom was watching.

“Yes, it is your home they are working on, is it not? I radioed ahead while we were in the air and notified them of our impending arrival. The service crew is returning with us to assess the damage to the Sea Dragon.” Adanna nodded. “Have a pleasant day, ma’am. Stephen here will take you to your plane.”

“But it’s not my plane, it belongs to Tom.”

“You are married to him, and as this is a community property state, so it is yours, too.”

Kaylee let out a long breath. *This married  crap is not what I want.*

But as she thought further on it, he was a considerate, kind, thoughtful and caring man. Not at all like Glenn, not that Glenn was uncaring.

But in relative terms, he was as if he was a bear wearing boxing gloves trying to open a jar. Awkward, clumsy and did not have a clue what to do.

Kaylee smiled at that thought of Glenn. She wondered if he would change his last name to hers?

*It isn’t tradition.* She smiled, *But I’m anything but traditional.*

This made her laugh at herself. She had proven that beyond a doubt in the last week. Still, if he changed his name it would be Glenn Greggory Grant. His house was on Amber-Elm Boulevard in her home town, elm trees in the yard. He could be an ass, but she enjoyed his company after all these years.

Often talking in the night about getting married after they graduated, they had grown up together and would spend all their lives with each other. Her with a PhD. in fine arts and him with a degrees in political sciences. He wanted to serve in Congress.

But now, as she walked towards the Pacific Wizard in its odd paint job with a wizard flying on a broom on the engine cover. A touch of whimsy that showed the heart of the man who wrote children’s books, then used the premise to live his life.

And yet she was so angry at him on so many levels. Not the least of which, he was making her fond of him. She liked the way he smiled, his view of the world. The quirky jokes he made now and again. She loved his smell, how his kisses tasted and his attentiveness when they were together.

And the sights she had seen? The excitement and passion of discovery that Tom had? They had sparked her artistic imagination and tickled her heart, maybe she could…

That thought made her pause, was she falling in love with him? Married first and love second?

*No! It. Can. Not. Be! I need that annulment when it comes time to go home!* Her heart belonged to Glenn!

She loved Glenn, not this man who was an accidental husband from a night of – okay, that was a blank, but a wonderful weekend – of party.

Sadly, she could not remember the one important part of it.

The wedding.

She still was angry over that. He could have said no. She would have never been married and then not worry about Glenn finding out.

*Oh Glenn!* She let out a heavy sigh.

*He will never accept this if he ever finds out. But we agreed that we would be free to date other people, so there would be no cheating.* She rubbed her eyes. *But getting married is so wrong.*

Kaylee climbed the steps into the Pacific Wizard, although it felt like a wonderful sky-palace, she felt odd. It was like…

*No, it can’t be. It’s like…* She gritted her teeth against the emotion.

She was home.

This made her angry again. Her home and life was with the blond, slightly arrogant boy that snorted when he laughed and became embarrassed by the sound when he did, she laughed at the memory of that laugh.

*And then there’s Tom. A special kind of man, but not someone I planned on. He is… Just not in my plans.*

*This is just horrid. The drinking, that ugly Friday, a few hits off a bong and I have a new husband who is so kind and irritating at the same time.*

*It could have been much worse, I suppose.* She sat in a seat and pulled her legs up. *I have awakened in beds that I’ve had no clue where I was, like at Gramma’s house when I was ten.* She sat and pondered for a moment, looking around.

*And this is mine? I could attend school, not need to work forty-hours a week. Instead I could study and practice my art.*

*I could find happiness here… Wait! NO!*

No. She wanted Glenn.

*Maybe.* A sigh.

She was angry with Tom again. He was more caring about her than any other man she had dated or been with. He never tried to force her to do anything, she volunteered.

She remembered that one of his rules as far as her body went.

“No means no.”

This was unusual among her friends. Kris and Crystal had often made demands of each others attentions, even at parties. Thinking back, it was disrespectful to each other. When Crystal told people what she was going to do to Kristoph, even if he would try to say he would be getting ready for work or school. This would not deter the wife.

Kristoph of course, would brag about what he did with Crystal if she passed out after a party.

Both ways, Kaylee laughed at them when they talked about it.

Now?

Now, she found it offensive. She would tease Tom, but never tell him “Or else” or dismiss his objections.

*Dang, I’m getting spoiled.* Tom treated her with respect, it felt proper and good.

Tom cared for her and she liked it.

*That’s irritating, too.* She huffed to herself.

Married by Mistake Chapter 13. Alone on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 13. Alone On A Jet Plane

Just as he promised, a limousine drove up the dirt road next to the canal, driven by a woman in her mid-twenty’s wearing a tuxedo and a chauffeur’s hat opened the rear door for her with a professional smile.

“Thank you, but I want to sit in front. I need some girl time.” Kaylee smiled. “You don’t mind?”

“Not at all ma’am. It’s not regular, but the insurance does not prohibit it.”

The ride was talkative with both women lamenting about men being overgrown boys and their wishing to show off.

Lettie, the driver, smiled softly after a long-winded complaint that they flew low over the wine country and hit a flock of birds. Kaylee shook her head and wept over one bird whose life ended smooshed all over the windscreen of the big jet.

“Well, it would have been a pretty view up until then.” Lettie smiled as she drove. “He didn’t do it on purpose. I would love to have a guy to show me the wine country from above. Plus, he put it down safely. Does he ever say he loves you?”

“Naw…” She answered, looking out the window. “It’s a long story. But I’m going home and smoke until I’m stoned out of my mind and wake up by the weekend. It’s been a crazy month.”

“Once in awhile,” Lettie softly laughed. “Crazy is what you need. It has been crazy in this limo from time to time. Occasionally, the crazier nights have been the most rewarding.”

“How crazy?“

“I have been paid to drive naked and pick up girls.”

“Oh my god! Did you do it?”

“No.” Lettie laughed loudly. “He tipped me anyway, we did pick up some girls at a club and they partied in the back.”

“And they partied hard, I found clothing for days after that.”

“Um, ew.” Kaylee laughed. “I’ll sit up front from now on.”

Lettie laughed louder as she wheeled the limo towards the Stockton Airport.

“You have not asked, but my suggestion Mrs. Tom, is to take a few breaths while you are back home without him. He’s slightly old world, but a great guy.” She smiled.

“You know him?”

“Yes, he has hired our company more than once.” Lettie said with a wide smile. “He is a regular customer. Pays in advance, I think he has a thousand hours paid for this year.”

“Does he ask for you?”

Lettie shook her head. “No, but there are only five drivers. Me, my sister and two cousins and a psych-major that goes to UCSF.”

“An all woman limo business?” Kaylee’s curiosity piqued for the moment.

“Yeah. We were all going to school in Sacramento and started driving friends around as designated drivers. We studied in the car while everyone else drank. One thing led to another, now we own a limo service.”

“How well do you do?”

“Pretty good. I own two Molinaxil Harley’s and an Indian now.”

“Two… what?”

“Motorcycles. I have one custom fitted to me, built by a custom shop in Ohio. Molinaxil Metal. He makes custom bikes and cars. His sheet metal work is something out of the movies. THEN! Oh my god, then! The guy who does the work? He used to be a dancer, he looks as hot as the machines he builds.” Lettie laughed like a kid at Christmas. “And oh, he is jaw-drop gorgeous.”

“A dancer?” Kaylee asked while looking out the window. She was a thousand-miles away.

Lettie pressed on, she promised herself to improve the mood of the young woman next to her.

“Yup, like Chippendale’s? Same kind of thing. A rocking body and eyes that you would dream of doing naughty things with.” Lettie smiled at that. “Like Mr. Harte. He’s handsome enough for a church girl think of things. Naughty things. Over and over.” She gave a lusty laughed.

“He’s an ass.” Kaylee said in a wistful voice.

“The plane was in the water in one piece. Lettie frowned. “What happened?”

“He was flying low and ran into a flock of birds.”

“Bird strikes are common around here. We are in a migratory path of so many types. I even hit one with a limo last year.” She shuddered with the memory of it. “It nearly came all the way through the windshield, blew in a hole like it was an artillery shell. Tom saved you both by setting the jet down in the deep water channel.”

“Maybe. But I’m still mad at him.” She shook her head. “He keeps making me mad at him.”

“You can upset about almost dying, that’s your right. I would be, too! Ah, here we are.”

Pulling up in front of the airport. It’s architecture from the mid-seventies was obvious, but it was well maintained and spacious. One professionally dressed security in plain clothes held a sign with her name on it.

Lettie opened the door for her and handed her a business card with a penned in phone number.

“If you need me for anything again, call. That is my private number on the back.” Lettie smiled. “Kaylee, you have a lot going now. Don’t let this change you mind about Tom. He is a treasure, he is a keeper.”

Kaylee hugged Lettie. It had only been a half-hour’s worth of talking but she felt as if she was old friends with the limo company owner.

Walking up to the man with the sign, she smiled.

“I’m Kaylee.”

“Excellent. Come with me, please.”

Passing through TSA Checkpoints, she had no luggage to speak of. Robert, as his name badge stated in gold lettering, was polite but non-talkative.

“Your flight is waiting for you, this way.” Robert said with a slight smile, but showed no other emotion. All business.

The next officer uniform was a dark-skinned woman who had even more of a ramrod straight spine.

“You are Kaylee Harte?” It was almost a statement and not a question. “I’m Captain Adanna Ogechi. I will be your pilot on the plane. We will be setting down in Harbor Bay Airport within an hour of departure.” Captain Ogechi motioned with her hand. “This way.”

All business like Robert and made no comment as they walked to the small business jet that was claustrophobic compared to Tom’s flying yacht. But then, she remembered, it was his home.

*Since after the second day, Tom has hardly written on his notepad.* She realized, *Since I’ve been with him.*

He was always in her business. His “rescue” of her being blackmailed into a compromising position and possibly sex with the professor who the police arrested later.

*I had it handled,* she fumed. *I would not have wrapped my legs around the art instructor, I would have gotten the upper hand on that situation, somehow.*

Still, she had no idea what she was going to do to extract herself from that mess. Between an epic-awful morning on that Friday, getting fired from the restaurant and pub where she slaved as a waitress and tended bar. The day just kept going from bad to worse until she met Tom.

Kaylee laughed at herself. Then life just took a left turn into a surreal universe as she reflected on the last week. The adventures in how his body and hers could merge.

*His hugs are like having a heart hold mine*

How they fit together and things she had never tried in a plane before. Hands on the controls, sleeping on top, diving off the wing.

AND!

Sleep on a boat was wonderful beyond words, even if the boat had wings. She did not even need to smoke any weed to get into a zen mood!

She had an eighth of a kilo of Killer Kai weed at the Wizard that she had not even touched. It was all that good.

Her thoughts drifted back to Glenn, who went to Mt. Mazama University.

*Not as far from home but it’s still an eighteen-hour drive from Ocean Bay, too much of a long-distance relationship. It is so far apart, even with current technology, and not date other people.* She remembered the conversation. *To expect either of us to not go out with other people is a setup for failure.*

A Poli-Sci major, he was honest in they both would make contacts.

*”It is unreasonable to assume we could be faithful to a promise, being so far apart.”* She remembered him saying. *If Glenn only knew how unreasonable I could take it.*

They were “steady” when they were home together, but not when at the remote colleges.

A sigh. *I hope that the papers and annulment will be final before I go home, because Glenn sent that email that he had something important to talk about.*

*Glenn might propose this year. He has been acting strange, like he has something to say and has a shy-bone stuck in his head.* She gave a big sigh, holding her face in her hands in the solitude in the back of the tiny jet. *This is so messed up! This should excite me, but it would only complicate our schoolastic careers. UGH! It will be more complicated if I am still married to Tom when I go home.*

This made her laugh again as the small jet shrieked down the runway then pulled in to a steep climb.

*Tom is a good man.* She was growing fond of him in many ways. *But he has achieved success while I am at the beginning of my art career. I’ll have a gallery in a couple of years.*

Still, his kisses. He was attentive and made her toes curl just to think about it. Her heart skipped and jumped in pleasant ways from his smiles to when he looked in her eyes.

*I wonder what children would be like with him.* She smiled for a moment. *He writes children stories and… OH!*

She surreptitiously had looked them up in her phone, even though the signs at the airport said to turn off all phones.

Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon had many adventures, most of the stories had an ecological slant to them, some dealt with right and wrong. Leonard’s friend Wendel “Weeds” The Weedy Sea Dragon was a constant companion and sometime hero as Leonard would get into predicaments that needed help.

Tom addressed things that kids would be worried about, bully issues were dealt with in one arc in the series of the little novellas. Scary things that shake the bushes in the night in another arc. Tom was a talented writer and made a living off of his books.

*He did say he was “comfortable”.* She smiled herself at the memory.

Then, she saw a reference online with her smart phone and clicked on the link.

She looked forward to the cockpit of the jet, the pilots had not looked back. No one to check on. She was the only one on board of the chartered flight.

She read the title about the tragedy of Tom’s life. His pregnant wife failed to beat a train at a crossing and died in the accident, there were no other children in the family. After that, he began to write prolifically.

Other searches turned up tabloid comments about that Tom was gay and had his wife murdered.

Another read that she killed herself on purpose since she was gay and was going to leave him, then found she was pregnant.

Many speculations that he no longer dated women. Paparazzi had a difficult time keeping up with him and his flying boat that they had come to call the “Flying Wicked Wizard of Solitude” out of spite.

Images of his plane leaving when they would try to chase him after the accident in speedboats. Super long-range lenses used to image the Pacific Wizard as it floated in lakes or the ocean were all in the trash websites.

Then another picture, taken from shore of two people on top of the Pacific Wizard, one was obviously him and another of a raven haired woman who was impossible to recognize. They were between the engines and, with no obvious clothing.

But Kaylee recognized the mystery woman! It was her! Kaylee knew it by the large sunglasses she wore. It was their first day after getting married by accident in Las Vegas.

The image was grainy and blurred from such a long distance and the rocking motion of the plane.

Another website claimed the unknown woman was a victim “Kidnapped by Alien Author” as the trash tabloid alluded that Tom was now a non-human from space. Possibly a vampire.

She laughed at that. *Well, he does have sharp teeth that he uses in nice ways when he presses his teeth against my neck and hums the song “Star Spangled Banner”.*

She rarely held out past the first stanza before laughing and then the spasms that went through her and she loved that. It still made her toes curl to think of it.

Still the picture of them on top of the plane was obvious they were together, the image taken more than a mile away. Shot from shore and they were not on the top of the plane for any length of time, so she felt that her identity was safe for the moment. No one bothered to chase them with any speedboats. They were old news and boring.

*Except for the bird strike. This is sure to make the papers.* Again she face-palmed.

*I need to call Tom and tell him to keep my face and name out of the news. Damn him! Mom ‘n’ Dad will be sure to find out. Gramma G is a big reader of all those tabloids.*

She flipped through the listings of the conspiracy web-sites.

*Ever since Grampa Grant died, Gramma’s talked about aliens, time travel and immortal beings. She is sure that Grampa was with the aliens instead of the airliner that he was in that went down over the ocean.*

A memory, it did not seem that long ago, but it was over a decade. Not a single distress call from the airliner, it just went off the radar and wreckage was found floating in the water.

There were no survivors. Not even bodies in water that was more than ten-thousand feet deep.

Without a body to say good-bye to was the hardest thing for Gramma to bear as she descended into a fantasy that Grampa was still alive, somewhere.

“Missus Harte, we are landing now.” The Captain called back. “Seat belt on, please put away your phone.” This caused Kaylee to blush like a kid caught with a cookie. She had not asked if she could use it and on commercial airlines, the rules prohibited the use of laptops and phones.

The descent from luxury private jet to the mundane real world had begun and Kaylee was not entirely prepared for what was to come.

*I’m not prepared for anything.* She reminded herself with a heavy sigh.

Married By Mistake Chapter 10. After The Rescue

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Chapter 10. After The Rescue

 
After talking with the President of Ocean Bay University and the police, giving her statement, Tom walked with Kaylee down the open air hall of the college.

“How did you know where to find me?” Kaylee asked Tom after a long silence while they walked down the stairs of the college and towards her car. “There are more than ten art classrooms there.”

“We tried three rooms with Dr. Manga’s pass key before we found you. I was getting worried that you were in deep trouble, and you were.”

Kaylee wept and leaned against him as they stood by her car.

“I’m sorry. I…” She sobbed against his chest. “Sorry.”

“He was up there blaming you for entrapping him.” Tom frowned, free hand clenched into a fist. “I talked with Professor Manga while you talked with the police, and he has offered to test you on your finals if you would take them with a summer class next month. It will be in a group.”

“Oh wow.” Kaylee wiped her eyes on his chest and laughed tearfully. Wiping the wet spot on his shirt. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. That’s what I’m here for. I’m your personal snot-rag.” He said softly.

She laughed, his support made the pain of the situation so much less. Tom could be funny in the most quirky way.

“Thank you.”

“There he goes.” Tom nodded towards the two police cruisers pulled away with now ex-Professor in the back seat.

President Manga walked towards them from the steps of the University.

“AH! Good, you have not yet left. Kaylee , in light of the events today and review of your record, I’m passing you on your final exam with a one hundred percent. Further, you will not need to deal with that cretin directly. You might be called upon as a witness, but you are not the one filing a complaint. That would be my office and my signature. Tom is a witness to his criminal misconduct as are you. He attempted to entrap you in his little game.” A volcanic anger seemed to radiate from his eyes. ”It seems that there is more to this as well. He had video cameras in there from several angles. A search of his office showed a number of computer memory sticks with other women he had done this to.”

“I’m not the only one?” Kaylee asked, the thought of being in a personal library of porn took her by surprise.

“There could be hundreds. He was here for years, a tenured professor. The police will be investigating, and Tom,“ President Manga looked away from Kaylee . “I hope this does not affect our business together.”

“Of course not, my friend.” Tom said as they shook hands. “In fact, you are the hero of the hour. If we had not stopped our meeting to check on this, who knows what might have happened to her. But she is safe now.”

“Most excellent, I will leave you then and you can take her home.” Turning to Kaylee he spoke softly with his basso-profundo voice. “Missus Harte, you have an honorable husband and a good man here. Congratulations on the marriage.”

“Thank you Professor.” She said softly, her tension slowly leaving her. Still traumatized, she hung on to Tom.

“Let’s head home.” Tom said.

Riding in the car, Tom pushed a Bluetooth device in his ear and told the phone to call the local car rental, spoke with the person on the other end and made arrangements to pick the rental car up and then broke the connection.

Instead of driving to the harbor, Tom drove towards the airport.

They turned on a road and a guard let them through the gate to a private parking area of the airport. Tom pulled up to the yellow zone and turned off the car.

“Why did you move it?”

“More than a few days in the water, marine life begins to grow on the hull. So I need to bring it out and have the hull cleaned, I’ve seen that before on some float planes that have sat too long in the ocean. It makes the engines work harder to get us airborne and fuel consumption goes up. Besides, speaking of fuel, we need to fuel and reload with water. We have been using the fresh water like crazy, when I went to take a shower this morning and… nothing. We were empty of fresh water.”

“Wow. I didn’t think of that.”

“Neither did I. It’s a lifestyle. It is something that takes some getting to used to.” He said smiling as he got out of the car.

She was quiet for a few minutes while they embraced against her car, thoughts rolling around in her head, when she remembered one important issue.

“Tom. Have you gotten the papers?”

“Papers?”

“Annulment papers. We are having fun and all, but I have a life back home and a boyfriend that I’m quite sure he would not understand this.”

Tom gave a nod with a sigh.

“Yes. You said thirty days.”

“I know, but you followed me to the college. I can handle myself, there is no need for a stalking hero.”

“So it seems.” Tom said flatly, no longer smiling. “You were wearing nothing but a towel, he was standing naked on the stage and you were about to climb on a bed with video camera’s all around.”

Tom looked directly at her as they sat at the stoplight. “He was going to extort you into sex. You are tough, probably the toughest woman I know, you can break a man’s arm, give him knowledge bumps on his melon, but you could not fight that.” Tom frowned. “He had you over a barrel and, if you were alone, he would force you to comply. But you were never alone. Not after I made the promise.”

“I don’t need a hero, Tom.” He irritated her by thinking she needed some omnipresent protector. “I want to go home alone, you drive back to your plane. There’s a lot on my mind right now.”

“Why are you mad at me? I helped you, if the Professor and I did not arrive when we did, you’d have your legs wrapped around that… That… Monster because he would destroy your life if you didn’t.” Tom clenched his fists hard enough to her back that his knuckles cracked.

“Desperate people can do desperate deeds, and you had no wiggle room.” Tom tried to help with his words, but failing. “If you walked out, he could have denied everything and charged that you failed your test and were now retaliating. He would have wiped out your scholastic career. You might as well have quit your studies totally and applied at the local bar and serve whiskey and wine to horny students for the rest of your life.”

“So you are saying I would have prostituted myself for a grade?”

Tom gaped and went slack-jawed. Without intending, that was what he had said.

And it was the truth. Without a rescue, a helping hand, someone to blow a whistle, Professor Billings was going to extort her into sex. Then with the video camera’s around, the Professor would have had even more leverage on her.

*It could have gone on for months, maybe even years,* Her heart fell, Tom was right. *Using the pornographic home movies of me banging him to keep me quiet or worse.*

“I’m saying he was blackmailing you. The police already know of dozens of other women from the quick scan of the memory sticks that Dr. Manga and I found and gave to the police. The detectives took another hundred or more, it was a trunk load of full evidence bags from his office — All memory sticks. I have no idea what is on those.”

She finally asked the question that was burning in her mind when she slipped out of his arms and walked around the car to get in the driver’s seat.

“Do you think there are other videos of girls on them?”

“Yes, the few we saw were dozens of thumbnails of women having sex with him. Some files were time-stamped a decade ago.”

“Oh, damn!”

“Tell you what, “ Tom sighed. “Let’s not fight, instead let’s go north to some wine country. Let’s do some wine tasting in the north state. We’ll there in an hour, I’ll even give you a low pass over the vineyards and then spend the next few days there. It’ll be fun.”

“Tom. You can’t just smooth over this.” She thought a moment and relented. It was a romantic and exciting idea. “But okay, it sounds wonderful. But you are still in trouble for ignoring me when I said I’d go alone.”

“You went alone. I just had a meeting with someone from the school.”

“You mister Harte,” She raised her voice in mock irritation and put her finger on his chest, just over his heart. “Called him because you were jealous!”

“These meetings have gone on for two months. It is not my first time to break bread with Doctor Manga. You know that he is leaving as the Headmaster of the school next year. His contract runs out at the end of August and he has accepted a position at Cambridge University. I’m invited to speak at his installation.”

“Then you had no choice to mention I was there?”

“I just asked when all classes ended.”

“I’m not sure about that.” She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m still mad at you. Go home. I’ll come by later.”

“Call me before you do. I have some services to schedule. The Wizard is out of water and low on fuel, and I’ll hire a company to clean and repaint the hull. We will be taking the Fleeting Fantasy. She is the first one I bought when the first four books sold.”

“Where are you going to pay for, you said service and this…” Kaylee paused as Tom’s words sank in. “Wait… a second airplane?”

“Here at the airport. You will be able to come here if you like. I’ll leave word with the guard, your car will need a sticker. This is also where I rent my cars. Way easier than having the company pick me, or us, up at the dock.”

“Okay. When do we leave?”

“Well, it’s almost noon now. They’ll be done servicing it all by the time you’re back. So anytime you arrive, we can leave. Bring some comfortable shoes and clothing to wear at the wine tasting. You’ll be standing a lot.”

“Where are we going, precisely?”

“Lodi.”

“Low…who?”

“You’ll see.” Tom laughed softly.

Trying to kiss her, Kaylee turned her face.

“I’m still mad at you. I don’t know why, but I am.” She looked at Tom with tears in her eyes. “Your timing was perfect today. But I’m still mad at you.”

He watched her car disappear around the guard shack into the lunch hour traffic, he felt a familiar pain.

Tom gave a heavy sigh then turned and made his way towards the Pacific Wizard, walking across the tarmac he wished it would rain.

Walking in the rain, no one can tell when you cry.

Married by Mistake Chapter 9. Posing

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Chapter 9. Posing

 
The University of Ocean Bay.

A well-known center of learning, early in the history, endowments and grants that committees created to keep the costs low enough for the talented, but struggling students to afford to attend.

First established in the early 1800’s, it began as a private school for sailors who would be hired by the ocean-going vessels straight away as officers. Later in the nineteenth century, other schools of discipline evolved and the College of Ocean Bay became the University in the same year as President Abraham Lincoln died, leaving the country mired in hatred and anger.

In the chaos of the country, the west coast school built up with donations and funding from the state. Buildings evolved with a function followed form design. The first to use natural processes to warm and cool the buildings. 

It became an artist’s school in the end, starting in the years after the War to End All Wars, then war that followed after that.

By the time Korean Police Action slowed into a cease-fire, the University at Ocean Bay became renowned for the artists that it produced.

Other schools expanded on campus that now covered nearly five-hundred acres of rammed-earth construction for buildings, pioneered from nearly the beginning, the three-foot thick walls kept the buildings cool in summer heat waves and warmer in the chill winter storms coming off the ocean with winds coming out of the Gulf of Alaska.

A labyrinth of stars and vista points, balconies of open hallways, long corridors that felt like one would be walking through solid rock.

Standing even after several earthquakes, maintanence crews repaired cracks in the walls by using a high-strength epoxy under great pressure to force into the smallest of voids. It was an on going perpetual nightmare, always using the latest of technologies.

Kaylee walked up the stairs, eschewing the elevators and walked along an open air hall, alone. It was slightly eerie. There were no students around in the normally busy walk-zone, and now her steps of her beach shoes echoed off the walls like a sandpaper as she headed to the studio-classroom on the third floor.

Trying the door and finding it locked. Sighing, Professor Billings was not in. She was going to lose the opportunity to take her final art test of the study of human form. She was about to turn away when the door rattled and opened.

Professor Billings stood in the doorway.

“Come in! You are on time, excellent.” He nodded and made a sweeping motion with his hand. “I’ve been setting up.”

“Setting up?” She asked. “This is a class?”

“Oh no. I am painting. You can do your final while I work.”

“I’m…” Kaylee put it together. “I’m posing for you alone?”

“Yes, that was what we agreed.” He nodded, leading her in. “I needed a subject, you need a grade.”

“This is not proper, Professor. You can’t do this.” She had that creepy feeling in the studio alone with the professor. Alarms were going off in her soul. The kind one gets when there is danger and no escape. But she needed that grade.

“I can and you will pose naked laying on that stage while doing… things.” He said as he closed the inner door of the studio.

“What things? I believed we were having a class.”

“Well, it is your final, you missed it last week and you agreed to do a little extra credit instead of taking the supervised exam and this is it.” He stood there with his arms crossed. “If you don’t care about failing the class, you are welcome to leave. But you can’t readmitted into this class for the upcoming semester, it is already full.”

Her heart fell. Kaylee looked around, she was alone, no one expected her for hours still. A quick prayer in her heart for anything, anyone to come and help.

She would take an earthquake, even.

“Go big, or go home. I understand you lost your job last Friday, too. It would make life difficult if you had to do night class to catch up and work for a living at the same time.” The Professor shrugged. “Your studies might suffer, this is only for an hour, it would save you a great deal agony in the coming year, perhaps keep you on track for graduating on time.”

“I need a room to change.” She said in a small, resigned voice. “Is there a robe?”

“You may use the changing room the other models have used.” The Professor pointed to a door. “I will set up the stage out here.”

He began to set up an easel and his brushes.

She closed the door behind her and began to weep. If she walked out, two semesters would be wasted. Pulling off her top, she proceeded to undress. Pausing for a moment and looked at her hands, she pondered and then left her wedding ring on.

*I wonder if he notices or if it will change anything.* The concept bounced around in her head and made her feel cold.

She got fully undressed and wrapped a towel tightly around her, really it was too small, barely larger than a hand-towel. It might be better for her to just walk around naked, that is what he seemed to want.

Timidly, she stepped out of the changing room and on to the stage that had set up a couch, chair and desk…

And a bed.

“You want me to use the couch or the desk?”

“Lay on the bed with your exam paper please. Like you would at home.” The professor said. His eyes twinkling with obscene pleasure.

“Professor, I’m not comfortable with this stage and furnishing.“ She was trembling as if it were cold.

In fact, he had the temperature cold. Her skin puckered and the hair on her arms stood out.

“It’s up to you. You need the final done, this is your last chance. I need a subject to pose.”

“Okay.” She let out a long breath and turned her back, there would be no rescue, she was alone. Pausing for a moment, she began to unwrap the glorified hand-towel when she heard him move behind her.

“Professor?” A baritone voice came from the far side of the room.

Kaylee turned around in surprise and saw the Professor was standing behind her, within arms reach.

And he was naked.

Across the room at the door stood Tom and another man. A man taller than Tom, and by the accent, he was British, but of African descent.

“What is going on, Professor? Why are you nude?” The voice was like a small earthquake, and it was full of shock and growing rage.

Gathering up his clothes quickly. The Professor paused for the briefest of moments.

“Thank you for your assistance Miss Grant. This will be a beautiful work of art.”

“You were working on an art project?” Tom said. “I thought you said it was a class. Kaylee? What is going on?”

“She is a student and we are working on a… on… Wait. You know each other?” The Professor asked.

“Yes, she’s my wife.” Tom slightly puffed his chest up while looked the Professor in the eye.

“What? You’re married? When? She started this! She enticed… It was her idea!” The Professor’s voice was high and tight.

“Professor, dress yourself and please come to my office in ten minutes. I would suggest you also use that time to contact legal counsel.” The President of the University said without humor.

“You son-of-a-b…” Kaylee felt a rage creep up her spine. She was going to break something, preferably the art professor’s testicles.

“Kaylee, shh…” It was Tom, guiding her to the open dressing room so she could put on her clothes. “You should not say anything just now.”

“Tom! You don’t think?” Kaylee had a panic on how this might affect her scholastic career or her future relationship with this man who had treated her with such kindness. “I mean I did not do what it looks like. I did nothing, you don’t think I did anything?”

“No. I think that twit that put you in this position and has a lot of issues to work out.” He kissed her and whispered. “I know you are telling the truth, no one doubts you. Get dressed.”

For the first time, she did not believe him. This man, funny, smart. He who was her accidental husband, told her that he believed her.

She could see it in his eyes, something she did not want to see again.

Hurt.

*I hurt him.* And she was hurt that he denied it.

Married by Mistake Chapter 8. In The Apartment

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Chapter 8. In The Apartment

Kaylee walked softly up the stairs of the building, the well-worn stairs showed glints of steel polished to a sheen by countless footsteps.

Curious she had not noticed that before, the webs in the corner and the way the stairs vibrated with each step, sounding vaguely like an out-of-tune violin with the cacophony of squeaks.

Opening her door. The familiar creak of the door announced her presence to the empty room sounded louder than the last time she was there.

Kaylee stood before stepping over the threshold, it felt different. Like a stranger in her own apartment. It was weird, as if something changed in how it smelled.

The odors of paint, chalk, her watercolor art hung on the walls that she created when not studying the masters.

The charcoal sticks sat patiently by a covered canvas that she had sketched on just five days before, but smelled… Lonely.

She walked to her bedroom, the blankets pulled up in the OCD way she liked. More of her art adorned the walls of her room, this was her inner sanctuary.

She allowed few people inside this fortress of her soul, those that did she chased out quickly in the morning before they could take in the emotion and pain she put in these images of charcoal, oil and watercolor on canvas and paper.

She pulled out the same suitcase she had used on her move in at autumn start of the school year, she packed her clothes carefully, and snapped her fingers with a sudden memory and put her phone charger in the side-pocket.

From the front room, someone knocked at the door.

*Not now!* Kaylee did not want the landlord to remind her that rent was overdue.

Not that she was broke, but she had no job now. So what savings she had, she was stretching out to the collector that called her the worst names or threatened her the most until she got a new job.

Instead, to her relief it was her sister Melanie . Also attending the university, she majored in computer-graphics design with a minor in architecture.

“Tiny! Where have you been?  You worried me to death, I almost called the cops!” Blinking at the activity going on around the room and all the tossed drawers. “Why are you packing?”

Kaylee hugged her sister and pulled her in.

“Oh my gawd!” Melanie gasped as she saw the ring on her sister’s finger. “How? When? Who? Talk!”

Kaylee laughed.

“I was a little wasted and we took his jet to Vegas and I woke up married to him.”

“But. But… Butbut…” Melanie was speechless for, perhaps, only the second time in her life while her mouth opened and closed like a fish without words coming out.

“But what about Glenn?“ Melanie finally was able to speak.

Glenn, the casual boyfriend who attended Mt. Mazama University. Kaylee and Glenn stayed together every time they were at home the same time, they were inseparable.

Kaylee told Melanie that she and Glenn had talked about getting married and it would be nice to have a baby, and this was not in her plans.

“It just happened, I got baked and did a little Zee. I woke up Saturday wearing this ring.” She held up her hand. “He is quite wonderful.”

“Jesus, Sis! Who is he?”

“You know that big airplane floating out in the bay?” Kaylee said, Melanie nodded her eyes grew big.

“That’s where I have been. I married that guy that owns that plane.”

“Oh. My. God!” Melanie’s eyes wide as plates. “You married the author, Thunder Harte? Who wrote “Steamland” the book and the movie?”

“He did…” Kaylee gasped, froze in mid-fold of a pair of patched jeans and struggled to find a word. “He did …W-WHAT?”

“NO! No. Oh no.” Kaylee denied this news. “He said he wrote children’s books that sold in Australia and some in the United States.”

“Well, yeah, he does that, too. You remember we saw that movie three times last year? It’s still in the theater downtown for five-dollar-Friday matinée. My fave movie! And you married the writer!” Melanie laughed and sat down. “You gotta tell! Talk! TALK! Say what you did! Where did you go? What did you do? How did you get there?”

The sisters talked as sisters do, Kaylee told the story to her sister and best friend about the cut tires, the failure of doing finals, the teacher and his offer for a chance to make up the score.

An alarm tone went off on her phone, she realized that they had talked over the sound of the alarm in two earlier chimes. She was on her third chime in fifteen minutes.

“Oh my god! I Gotta run! He said I could do my finals if I posed for a class. I need to run!”

“Sissy! Please! I want to meet him! Please? I’d die for a chance to talk to the writer of my favorite movie!”

“Thank you for the compliment.” It was Tom, he was standing at the door.

Melanie turned around, squeaked once and fell off the couch where she sat next to Kaylee.

“Ohmygod!” She said it as one word.

Tom laughed softly and Kaylee had to hang on the television while she laughed until her sides hurt.

“Sorry. But you left the car keys and your driver’s license.” He said to Kaylee after she was able to catch her breath, pointed his thumb at Melanie. “Is she okay?”

Melanie just sat on the floor with her mouth open, his green eyes and red hair looked the same as when had performed the cameo in his own movie.

“She looks like she’s had a stroke.” Tom smiled, that made Kaylee laughed and Melanie punched her in the thigh.

“Oh my god. He startled me.” She squeaked out. She still had not blinked, looking at the new, no longer mythical, husband.

“Thomas Harte, this is my sister Melanie Grant.” Kaylee introduced them. “Thomas is who I married on Friday. If you both would excuse me, I need to change so I can leave to take my finals.”

“I wish she could remember it, it was fun.”

“She, what?” Melanie asked. “You don’t remember?”

“She took a pill and smoked a full bowl and a chub during the night. I had some wine and one conversation led to another as we joked. It became a dare and then we jumped on my plane and took off to Vegas. She picked out the number one, single most expensive ring she could find on the walk to the chapel. She has worn it ever since.” Tom smiled. “She won’t take it off.”

“Oh my…”

“God. Yes, you have said that a few times now.” Tom chuckled and winked.

“Well, I’m heading to school and do my finals.“ Kaylee said as she came out of the bedroom wearing a pull-over black shirt with blue jeans. Her hair pulled back into a bun.

“I’ll come, too.” Melanie said. “I need to talk with Professor Ostrogoth about changing my major to architectural engineering. Not that I want to, but she says that I have an eye for it. She’s been sending me links in my email.”

Tom nodded, taking his clue that the sisters wanted some alone-time to talk.

“I have some business to do in town as well. I need to meet with someone, he asked me to do a keynote speech.”

“Wait, how are you getting around?” Kaylee stopped with her hand on the doorknob.

“I rented a car.” Tom smiled. “A few quirks about owning a flying boat. I need to rent land transport.”

“Well, you head on. I’ll call you when I’m done.” Kaylee said softly as she kissed him goodbye.

“Monster, will you be around here later?” Using an old, sister shared nickname. “I want to have this done as soon as possible. When I come back, I’ll show you the floating plane!”

“Flying boat.” Tom corrected, smiling.

Married by Mistake Chapter 7. The Water Taxi

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Chapter 7. The Water-Taxi

Her first water taxi ride was an adventure.

She spent twenty minutes putting on the dress she had felt pretty in. But now she did not want to look like a party-girl in the views of anyone else.

This entertained Tom a great deal while he watched her put everything together.

Shoes, dress, then she wore a sweatshirt over that, gave herself a critical look, turning this way and that.

Then pulled it all off, put on a pair of his sweatpants and a t-shirt, then a sweatshirt to finish the look of high heels and sweats.

Tom laughed every couple of minutes while she mumbled to herself, pulling her dark hair into a pony tail, brushing it out, then braiding it.

“You go all out for the walk-of-shame.” He rocked in his chair with laughter until he choked on his own spit.

“Oh hush.” She stuck her tongue out at him.

In the last few days she had not left the Pacific Wizard and had no idea what the whole plane looked like. She had seen it only from the roof of the big plane or inside.

She had spent so much time inside this airplane, with this man she barely knew, but during a drunken party she had somehow married him.

*sigh*

Thoughts pounded Kaylee about the tangled mess of it all. She could not see the end.

She did not know how to accept it, she had thoughts to annul this and be rid of Tom and this accident as soon as possible.

But…

Still, this man who had his name on the marriage license along with hers was special.

And, danged if he didn’t made her soul feel light.

So she felt some fear by telling this caring man that she wanted to leave the plane without him to go home.

Like he would not be there when she came back. If he would just disappear like a dream if she turned her back too long.

That thought bothered her.

A yellow boat with a blue-and-white striped canvas shade pulled up to the door and Tom pulled a lever and pressed a button, the door opened up like a giant bird extending its wing.

Tom leaned out and paid the boat-pilot who thanked him, calling him Mister Harte, but Tom asked to use first names.

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Tom. Morning Ma’am.” The taxi-pilot looked as if it was all he did. “Be careful getting in.”

She kissed Tom at the edge before she stepped into the water-taxi in deep thought. It was a new experience. The taxi swayed and rocked more than the big plane when she settled in.

“Can we go around the plane so I can see it all?” She asked, the flying-boat that had been her home for forty-eight hours non-stop.

“Aye-aye, Ma’am.” It was an affected tone. The pilot of the boat could have just been a student from the University working over the summer.

“Oh ma’am, look at that.”

When the stubby yellow boat pulled away he turned the wheel and showed her the view.

From the outside, the jet was as beautiful as could be, and the plane was massive! At least a hundred feet long and the wings were wider than the length.

Twin jet engines up high with the T-tail she had to looked up at while standing on the roof of the big plane. Now they blocked the sun as the water-taxi’s motor rumbled and slowly moved them under the tail’s shadow.

The jet, painted deep blue from the nose that faded to a forest-green on the rear of the plane with a wizard and a witch riding brooms on the engine nacelles. The wings had boat-shaped pontoons to keep the wingtips out of the water.

The Pacific Wizard was exquisitely beautiful — and her home if she wanted it.

On the tip of the nose of the plane,  painted with the sun, with two killer whales jumping towards each other making a mustache on the sun. Under the mustache of whales, a smile of the ocean, painted on just above the waterline.

Riding the taxi to shore, the pilot of the boat looked the plane over from the distance.

“That is a beautiful vessel, how long have you owned it?”

“It belongs to…” She paused. “My husband. He had it before we got married.”

It saddened her with that thought. She was not supposed to be married, the beautiful home with wings.

*I need to think.*

“Must be nice!” He nodded and smiled. “Able to start the engines and be someplace exotic in a few hours.”

“Yes. We have flown to Las Vegas and back in a single night.”

“Wow… nice! That’s gnarly!” The taxi-boat pilot laughed. He was no more than twenty. Then asked. “Does Mister Tom have a sister?“

“You know… That is a mystery.” She said quietly as they pulled up to the dock. Leaving a slightly puzzled taxi driver sitting in his boat.

*I need to know a lot more about Tom.* Her curious side awakened. She had more than thinking to do.

Married by Mistake Chapter 6. Monday Morning

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Chapter 6. Monday Morning  

Kaylee woke on that Monday morning, against the broad back of Thomas Harte.

Her hand was resting on a nice curve of a hip, slightly fuzzy and warm.

She squeezed… and smiled.

This man, officially her husband, lay with his back to her while she spooned to him after another night of exploration of their bodies.

She lay with her face almost in his hair, her right leg over his, she slowly caressed his ribs, hip and backside, bare as he was also sleeping naked next to her, she slid her hand down the graceful S-curve of his spine. The cheek of his bottom fit in the her hand perfectly, nearly as firm as a soccer ball and just as round.

A sound invaded her happy cuddle moments, some kind of… tapping?

Did he snore? She had never slept next to anyone other than Mel that snored. (This caused her the nickname “Mel Monster” or just “Monster” in their childhood.)

No… he was awake and wrote with the plastic stylus on his notebook while he lay in her – Their – bed.

His bed actually, she had not left the flying boat all weekend, nor had she put on any clothes as she had none here. The only clothing she wore were his t-shirts when she walked on the top of the plane during the day. It had been the longest time she had ever been out of her clothes, even her underwear, than she could remember.

And it pleased her on many levels.

*This is what being a married is about.* She made a soft smile.

But the noise started to disturb her.

“Tom, what are you doing?” She asked when he scratched some more on the surface of his electronic device.

“Writing. I have a deadline in ten days. I need to finish this installment of Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon”

“Leonard… The what?” She laughed sleepily and crawled on his shoulders, pinning him slightly so she could see what he was writing.

“The leafy sea dragon. A children’s book.” Thomas groaned as she pinned him while he composed. “He has a friend, Wendel the Weedy Dragon that he calls “Weeds” that shows up now and again. It’s a series that follows some of their adventures they have together. It’s sold mainly in Australia, but it is catching on in the USA.”

He rolled over, letting her get comfortable on his chest and showed her some of what he had written. “I have been to Australia and shot a bunch of photos of the sea dragons in their native habitat.”

“Ooh! I have never been to Australia, I’d like to visit there someday!” She smiled. “Maybe we can tour together, I could be hired as your assistant?”

“It would be fun, but we’d need to spend a long time in the air and turn this bird into a flying gas can. Plus, we would spend almost eighteen hours in the air. You might become a little stir crazy.” Thomas chuckled. “I did.”

“You went alone?” She arched her neck and kisses the angle of his jaw, blowing on the damp spot, causing a chill on his skin.

“Yes.” Tom nodded, laughing softly as she teased him with her tongue. “I was going for research and it was the first long-range test of this jet. I did it, however I earned a lecture that it was not the smartest move to do. If I had a problem, there was no one for a backup.“

She pressed her body to his. He was an attentive lover, and until they got the papers to dissolve with the binding contract that was their marriage license, she would do her best to ruin him for any other woman who would wish they were in her place.

“Well, let’s motivate. I need to stop at my place to find some clothes or I’d always be naked on board this floaty flying plane…”

“Flying boat.”

“Yeah, that.” She giggled. “IF you won’t bring out my clothes, I’d just be stuck here.”

“You can wear your dress home or to your car, I’d bet it’s still parked in your apartment’s garage.”

“You went there?”

“Yup, first night! You don’t remember?” Tom gave a soft sigh. “You wanted to leave your car there and a note of where we were going and who you went with. I even had to sign my name and put both hands on your bathroom mirror.” He demonstrated with holding his hands out with fingers splayed.

“Oh. Smart me.” Kaylee laughed. “Well, at least the car is safe!”

A sudden thought, what he said finally sunk in.

“You have my dress? You said I dropped it in the ocean.” Kaylee looked at him.

“I saved it. I put it in the washer-dryer.”

“A dryer? On an airplane?”

“Yup, a jet-dryer!” Tom’s eyes twinkled at the joke. “It goes with the shower and other amenities. I can do minor loads of laundry. The sheets and so forth. The blankets however… I’ll need to send those out for cleaning.” He said as they got up and stepped out of the bedroom.

Pulling on a panel in the small room to the side and exposed an electric all-in-one washer/dryer.

Kaylee sat on the edge of the bed, looked around and laughed, they had wrecked his room.

*Our room.* She reminded herself.

“This plane will never be the same again.” Kaylee said as he brought her dress back, clean and dry.

“Not this room.” Thomas laughed with her. “I’ll save manuscript on the cloud and then we will take the water taxi to shore. I’ll rent a car and we can swing by your place so you can pick up what you need.”

“No, we can ride to shore together, but I need to head to college and meet a professor so I can earn credit for finals. I had such a horrid day last Friday and I’m need to meet with him to arrange to retake the art finals test. I had made a deal to meet with him to earn credit and beg if I need. I will be in his office in the next two hours.”

“What kind of deal did you accept?” Tom asked.

“I didn’t set anything in stone, but, I need to make sure it’s extra credit for art. He asked me if I would agree to pose for a class.”

“But, you said finals? Doesn’t that mean classes have ended?”

Kaylee paused for a moment.

“He teaches on the side too, so probably what it is.”

“Maybe.” Thomas pulled on his chin. “You may be thinking about annulment of this marriage, but until then, I’m sworn in as your hero and protector.”

“The vows didn’t say that.” Kaylee said and grinned. “But, thank you. That makes me feel like you want to be a hero. That makes me feel good.”

“No, the vows don’t say that, but it’s implied.” He said with a wink. “And yes, being your hero kind of inspires my muse, too.”

Kaylee gave a small laugh, reminded of what caused her first conversation with her husband, then this — the worst that could happen.

But it pleased her that he still took his job as husband seriously and worried about her without expecting the same in return.

*Hah! My friends said “It’s complicated.” They have no clue how complicated it could become!* This tickled her soul.

Tom went to the front of the flying boat to enter his notes in on a computer that he built into a desk.

A connection to his ongoing life and a connection to an area that she was clueless to what he did with his notes.

She was an artist, he was a writer and, she had to admit, an artist with his words.

*Odd isn’t it?* She the question rattled in her head.

They were both Virgo in the Zodiac and she needed to read up on their compatible nature.

 

Married By Mistake Chapter 5. The Morning After

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Chapter 5. The Morning After

The first sensation she was aware of, was the smell of food, then the texture of the bunched up blankets and she heard water and a slow rocking of the room.

Stretching, she was face down in bed, naked. That itself was not strange, but the Egyptian cotton sheets were not hers. The pillow she had her arms wrapped around was nearly the full length of her body, it was firm and very nice to curl up with, she pulled herself as close in to the pillow as she could and enjoyed the slight odor of cedar. Whoever it was

She yawned and stretched again, snuggling close to the body-pillow it was a comfortable bed and… Something else, it rocked slowly.

But, not like a waterbed. Her brain buzzed with thoughts.

A boat?

She was on a boat!

And the smell of bacon was pervasive. Normally not a breakfast eater, usually coffee and toast. But that smelled heavenly.

Between the slight smell of cedar on the pillow and the bacon in the air, her tummy rumbled in hunger.

She stretched, then slid her leg over the giant pillow, holding it in a big hug and close her eyes again, enjoying the smells and sounds. She could hear someone clanking around in the kitchen, with banging pans. They were cooking.

A wonderful way to wake up, she softly thought. Her hands rested on each other as she was reluctant to wake up.

Another deep breath through her nose, rosemary? Someone was going all out for breakfast.

Her hands felt odd, opening her left eye, something was on her hand. It sparkled in the soft morning light like it was lit by fire from within, a pretty little thing, like someone gets from those machines that promised swag with just a few coins. She might keep it for a while, it was cute.

She sat up and looked around, she could not find her clothes anywhere in the smallish bedroom. Opening the dresser against the wall, she pulled out a t-shirt that made her laugh!

“The box read: Requires Windows XP or better. So I installed Linux.” Printed on the front of the soft cotton pullover.

*Oh, great! A nerd.*

Reading it with a wonder of what kind of person she might have slept with the previous night, male or female, she was never very picky when she was high. From the smell coming from the kitchen, she was betting it was the pretty Asian who she saw when she was having dinner with…

What was his name? Chart… No. Harte.

Thomas Harte.

She met him in the Chart House.

She pulled the t-shirt over her head. It fit a broad-shouldered person and it hung loose, down to mid-thigh.

*Not the Asian girl I saw last night.*

She flinched when she scratched herself with the ring when she pulled the shirt on.

Then she closely at the ring on her finger. It was a faceted-cut gold ring with white gold inlay, this was no cheap swag from a vending machine.

*A wedding ring?* She was looking at the jewels as she walked out into the main room of the boat.

He moved with his back turned as the cook knocked about the kitchen. Broad shoulders that went down to a slight V to his waist fit the t-shirt better than it fit her. On her, it was a night-shirt.

She gave a polite cough that startled him making him laugh.

“Care for some coffee? O-j? Tea or champagne?”

She sat gently at the table, her legs ached and the vinyl surface of the seat was cold to her skin.

“Ugh.” Kaylee’s lips were dry as she gave a crooked smile, she had a slight hangover. “You did not just take me raving. You took advantage.”

He put some rosemary potatoes on a plate, eggs Benedict and a glass of champagne and orange juice and put it in front of her. “And I said ‘Okay’ and you laughed at me. I don’t think you believed it.”

“I can’t be married. I’m going to college here and I’m not going to graduate for at least two more years.” Kaylee gasped. “Mom and dad will flip out! Oh my…”

She paused, a momentary loss for words.

“God. You have said that a few times now. You are in panic mode. Slow down a little, take a breath. Now, breakfast or it’ll get cold. ” He put his plate on the table and pour himself a glass of mimosa. But the drink was of a different shade and slightly different flavor.

“A beautiful breakfast and a blushing mimosa for a beautiful blushing bride after one heck of a night. You about wore me out. You went to sleep finally about an hour before sunrise.” Note-Pad smiled. She finally remembered the nickname she gave to him on the beach.

“Last night is a blank and my thighs are tired. They are trembling like I ran a marathon and my shoulders are sore like we did a bike-hike along the trails in the back country.” Kaylee laughed nervously. “I…You…er…”

She paused.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Thomas. Thomas Harte. You don’t remember at all last night?” He looked at her with a twinkle in his eye. “You and I were sharing some drinks when you took a few pills then smoked some pot.”

“No, not at all, I may have taken too much Z. Usually I get extremely touchy and enjoy a body.” She took a bite of the hollandaise covered poached egg and what looked like ham.

“Omygod,” She said it as one word. “This is wonderful!”

“Sorry for the ham, I didn’t have Canadian bacon.” Thomas smiled. “Well, you did that for sure. Especially after smoking a bowl full of weed.” He laughed. “And you liked looking at that ring.”

“Where did I get this ring?” She looked it over. “It looks real.”

“The one on your finger?” He asked as he took a drink from the glass with the red-orange cocktail, washing down his bite of food. “I bought it for you, just before we got married.”

“Married?” Kaylee ’s fork stopped in mid-air. Her eyes got large as the plate that held her breakfast. “What do you mean, married?”

The meaning of it all sank in as she wrapped her mind around what this man and cook was saying.

“We are married.” He said in a tone of describing last nights news.

“WHAT!?” Kaylee exclaimed. “Yeah, right. Not possible.”

“We were dancing and got to joking,” he explained. “And I said we should get married.”

“Then you dared me, because you didn’t think I could make it happen.”

She still rejected the growing realization that he was serious and all he said was a fact.

“Oh no, no no no.” She gasped. “This is not real.”

“Read the license.” Thomas slid an embossed paper over to her with a smile.

“We are married?” Kaylee . “Oh no! No way! This is not real?”

Thomas smiled as he sipped some coffee.

“It’s real. We got married last night in Las Vegas.” His voice was calm to her tight voice. “Care for a refill on mimosa, Missus Harte?”

“VEGAS?” She shouted at the paper. “MARRIED? Oh my god, this isn’t happening. How did we get there? Where are we?”

“We are back in Ocean Bay, safe and sound. It took only an hour to get to here from there. A little longer to come back.” He said calmly. “You wouldn’t let me file a flight plan, we were… uh… occupied. Then when we did get wheels up, we overshot the coast by more than an hour’s flight. Set off a few alarms I had to deal with.”

“Oh my god.” she said again. Kaylee jumped up. “How? I would have remembered going through security.”

“Well, no. You flew naked in that chair over there after smoking a bowl. Then we made love on top of the plane so you could look at the stars while we did it.” He smiled and continued to chew. “Right at this moment, you are more dressed than you have been all night. Not counting you wearing your little black dress to get married at some place near the Vegas airport.”

“An Elvis impersonator performed the ceremony.” He laughed softly, it was clear he enjoyed the surprise. “And you picked out the most expensive ring you found while we walked through the city, looking for a chapel that was open. We came back here and you made love to me the rest of the night, until we nearly fell off and then moved to the middle of the fuselage.”

“I’m not following, how did we get to there from this boat during the night?”

Thomas laughed softly and poured the both of them some fresh coffee.

“We are on a Russian built flying yacht. A customized Beriev Be-240ER.”

“A what? Are you are serious?” She stood up and paced. “We’re in Russia?”

“Yes, serious as a heart attack and no, we are not. We are not in Russia,” He smiled and shook his head. “You are on the “Pacific Wizard” in Ocean Bay. It’s a medium-sized jet with a boat hull. It’s quicker than commercial flights, too. We only need about an hour to get to Vegas.” Thomas smiled. “You flew naked during the trip there. For someone who was careful at the bar, you like to run around without clothes.”

“Well, yeah. I do.” Kaylee nodded. “But, how did we get married? How did we do this? This is wrong on so many levels.”

“Um, sorry?” Thomas froze in the middle of a bite. “Care to elaborate on that?”

“How did you and I get married? How how did I agree to that?” Kaylee rubbed her forehead, leaning over. “This is so wrong.”

He put down his bite and sipped his coffee slowly. Thomas looked at Kaylee with a quizzical look.

“Well, you made a few comments as we talked. I said we should get married and you are one heart I could fall in love with.” Thomas said as Kaylee ‘s eyes followed his gestures. “You said I better not say that without meaning it. Then we came here drank some more wine, you smoked a bowl. Then we went to the top of the plane and you kept me to my word. We left from here on the Wizard. Landed in Vegas, did the deed and flew back. We were back well before sunrise, you opened the door and dropped your dress into the ocean, then dragged me to bed.”

“Oh.. this is so much worse.” Kaylee paced, pulling at the shirt she wore. “I… I don’t know, I need to tell my parents. Oh my god… how they will react to me being married? And I only met you yesterday – Naked on a beach and in a fight! That won’t go over well.”

“Well, we can avoid that part of the discussion.” Thomas winked.

“No, not what I meant. I have a sort of boyfriend at home.” Kaylee gasped. “He won’t understand this at all!”

“A “Sort-of” boyfriend?”

“Well, we attend different schools now, he is going to Mazama University up north, but when we were in high school we were exclusive. Every time now when I’m home and he is there, we are together all day, every day. With anyone else, I am careful, but never with him. We have an open, but solid relationship, our plans are to get married after we graduate.”

“That’s complicated.” Thomas said helpfully.

“Oh… yes. And you are not making it any easier with you sitting there, understanding and listening.” She gave a deep sigh. “How did you get this, this… what did you call it? Flying boat?”

“Well, I’m comfortable.”

“Who are you?”

“An author. Perhaps you remember? I’m Thomas Harte, your husband.”

“What can we do? How could it be legal that we’re married?” She asked. “I don’t know how I could do that. Harte? Not sure if I have ever read your stuff.”

“You were walking straight, smiling, talkative. Never slurred your words.” Thomas said.

“So I was… sober?”

“You were as baked as you could be and showed no signs of slowing down.” Thomas nodded. “And the sex was amazing, we even joined the mile-high club.”

Kaylee laughed and hid her face in her hands

“Oh god! Sex on the plane? Who was driving?”

“Autopilot. Not one-hundred percent according to rules, but this bird is quite advanced.”

Kaylee took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to get a grip on what happened the night before.

“That would have been memory to enjoy for years,” She toyed with the ring on her finger, but did not remove it. “Well, until I can figure out what to do. I need to find out what happened and who to tell.”

“You need to slow down a little. You are in full panic mode when there’s no need. I would wager you are nearly hysterical by the way you’re talking.” Thomas chuckled. “We can annul it. I can look it up on the net and find out what it takes. It may already be too late.”

“Too late?” Kaylee blinked. “How so?”

“We have consummated all the things we could and did all the things that married folks do.” Thomas winked.

“What do you mean?” Then her eyes got big.

OH!” Kaylee laughed and blushed. “Oh my god! So that is why I’m chaffed. I have never done that! “

“You can’t say that anymore. Last night you insisted.” Thomas said as he typed on the laptop computer. “You are sure you’d like to annul this?”

“Well.” She said. “Can we? I have never been married before. And we have done a lot already.”

Thomas looked at her sharply.

“Do not play with me. You teased and impressed me last night. I will only do this one time, I’m too busy to be doing the weekly wedding and divorce like some people in my circles do.”

Kaylee laughed softly, he was right, she was in panic mode and could not decide what to do. She picked up the paper with the seal embossed on it.

“I won’t force you to do that. You say we got married and this looks legit.” She looked the paper over. “We have a month to figure it out. I will be leaving for home after summer session for the break. If we work out well? I’ll take you with me and we can figure out what to do with the Glenn then.”

Thomas laughed.

“Who is Glenn?”

“That is my boyfriend back home. He won’t be around, either. He sent me an email a few weeks ago that he had to stay through July to take care of business there.” She nodded. “I think he failed a class and has to take summer session to make up for it. I don’t have to go home, and I can make extra credit by independent art studies during the summer.”

“So you can stay here?” He smiled. “I can say I like that idea.”

“Well, Mister Harte, being as you are my husband.” She winked. “And as long as you promise to help me fix this issue in a month, I want to have a memory of doing this as a wife.”

He stopped laughing as she stood up slipped his shirt off and dropped it to the floor. The new wife took him by the hand into the bedroom shaking her bare bottom at her new husband.

The waves on the ocean were not all by wind for the next few hours.

Married by Mistake Chapter 4. After The Report, The Charthouse

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Chapter 4. After the Report,  The Charthouse

The uniformed police officers looked uncomfortable standing on the beach, surrounded by nude sunbathers that stood to watch at what the activity.

Professionalism had been given a major test as the officers called for an ambulance to transport the abused and arrested would-be rapist to the hospital. Pictures taken of Kaylee ‘s hands and her shin, where a bruise showed where she had smashed the culprit’s nose and cheekbone.

Wearing just her pants and shirt, no other injuries that she had claimed from the fight that she had taken to the assailant. She had almost killed him and her mood was nearly enough to carry it through. She would have beat on him more if he had arrived just a half-hour before he did, she would have given the detectives much more evidence to discover.

Evidence technicians took photographs of her and the sand, then left while the police interviewed her and her wingman, the man she had mentally named Note-Pad, who had come to her aid.

Detective Lynda Nesbitt, a twenty-year veteran of the force handed a business card to the victim-cum-victor in the crime while her male counterpart discovered a knife. The detective motioned to an Evidence Technician who photographed the discovered weapon, then picked up the knife in his gloved hands.

Detective Charley Galt placed the butcher knife in a manilla bag and tagged it with a sticker. To this, he wrote his name across the seal, then handed it to the evidence technician he called over.

“You may have stopped him from escalating to worse things. I suspect he’s involved with many of the attacks,” She said softly to Kaylee. “But we will let the evidence speak for itself.”

Detective Nesbitt, while she interviewed Kaylee, mentioned that there had been a rash of sexual assaults and the male being transported to the hospital had matched the description, down to the butcher knife used and that DNA would be collected and tested against the previous crimes.

Nearby, having pulled on swim trunks of his own, his interviews over and the sun red and low in the sky. The writer walked up to her, nodded and asked how she felt.

“This was an unusual day. I’m pleased you are unhurt.” He said with a chuckle. “That was a hell of a beating you gave him. Sitting naked on his chest and thumping on his melon is an image I won’t soon forget. There is a real story in that somewhere.”

He laughed softly.

“You are impressive.”

Note-Pad man chuckled, again.

“Would you let me buy you a drink?”

“No.” Kaylee laughed softly. “I don’t even know your name, you have seen me naked and now you ask me out for drinks? This is a bit awkward, don’t you think?”

“Uh, yeah. I suppose it is. Well. My name is Tom Harte.” His smiling green eyes sparkled like emeralds in the fading light of the day. “Well, anyway, I will head into town and I’ll have a few drinks the Chart House restaurant and bar for a while. When you’re finished here, I’ll buy you dinner if you like and you don’t need to sit with me.”

She laughed at this.

“I’m Kaylee Grant, nice recovery.” She nodded. “Still don’t hold your breath. But thank you.”

Watching him talk to the police detective briefly while she gathered up her possessions, putting them into the bag she had brought with her. His broad shoulders were more obvious from behind, his mild middle age spread had masked his nice build.

“Miss, may I take you anywhere?” The female detective was less influenced by standing around naked frisbee players on the beach than some of her male counterparts. “Do you have someone you can call?”

“No, I don’t need a ride. And I can call my sister, but I have no service here, I’ll need to walk to the showers.” Kaylee glanced at the phone display.

“You can borrow my phone, I have service here.” Detective Nesbitt said. She pulled an armored Android phone out of her pocket and handed it to the younger woman who impressed her with her focus and poise.

Kaylee thanked Detective Nesbitt then dialed her sister’s phone.

“Hi Melanie ?” At the sound of her sister’s voice Kaylee broke down in tears while she tried to explain what happened.

****

The Chart House, a four-star restaurant two-hundred paces from the high water mark from the beach. The bar was known for celebrity stop-ins and excellent food and drinks, both strong and virgin.

At the corner of the bar, where he took up more than his fair-share of room. He sat scribbling on an electronic notepad with a stylus.

Tom Harte, they called him Thunder Harte and the job he did often was writing. Fiction, a lot of fiction. Under the pen name of Sanne Footman, his stories were those of heart and love. He had gotten his start in romance novels with a touch of bodice-ripper styles and enjoyed that his stories were in demand.

The demographics taught that women were the largest group of readers and he flew in the face of tradition that men could not write romance novels.

But Tom was not one to follow convention, he never believed in the word, “Can’t”.

His passion now, was to manage to write stories for children and young adults. Often he also wrote about Steampunk stories under the name of Keegan O’Danu.

Now, there he had sat with his notepad out, writing down ideas that would be the next book.

His muse had gone silent for a few hours. Writing about sea shells, birds, on the beach earlier in the day. But none came to him in a coherent thoughts.

But this afternoon’s excitement where some beach patron, it had turned out, was a rapist. The attacker had picked on the single worst person, in the extreme, that he could have ever have chosen on the beach.

Unclothed, unarmed and cornered, she had pounded the knife wielding man into bloody submission. It was an impressive sight as he ran towards the sounds of the screaming of a girl to come to the woman’s aid.

Not that she needed it as it turned out. The screams he had heard were coming from the young man. The attacker was double her size, she was a petite woman, only a few inches over five-feet in height.

And still the assailant earned the pain of having his face broken along with his arm, breastbone and testicles.

And it was inspiring!

Tom Harte wrote, and wrote, and wrote. The woman had shocked him into writing swiftly. Between his satellite phone and the electronic notepad that he tapped on, he had filled in pages of notes from the words in his head.

Then a familiar voice sounded next to him.

“Is that drink still available?” Kaylee asked.

Startled, Harte turned around in his seat and there she was. Wearing a black dress and she had brushed her dark hair until it glistened in the light of the bar.

“Why, yes. What is your poison? “ He motioned to the bartender. “I believe you had said this was awkward? After the beach and all.”

“It is, but it has been that kind of day. I beat a bad guy into the sand, I vented out some frustrations.”

“You did that for sure!” he laughed.

“Now, I have you here. You know what I can do to you if I become angry. You haven’t seen angry until I’m angry.”

“What would you like to drink, hun?” The bartender, a thirtysomething woman who had a bright smile.

“Death in the Afternoon.” Kaylee answered. “Champagne and Absinthe, very cold.”

“Hemmingway’s drink.” Thomas laughed. “You are impressive.”

“Well, anyone who can tickle my soul after what I had just gone through, I figure I can impress even more and find a little about him.” She nodded. “Besides, after a day like this, I need to get a little high too.”

“Put your right thumb over the camera so I can image it and let me take your picture.” She said. “Not that there is no faith in your intentions, but you will be number one on the most wanted list if something happens.”

Thomas nodded and scanned his right thumb and sat still while Kaylee took his picture.

“You do look nice. You went home to change?” Thomas asked.

“Sort of. This was in my car. It’s all I have on, my underwear didn’t match, so when I changed in the women’s room, I just stuffed them in my purse.” Kaylee pointed to the other side of the bar.

Thomas nearly shot his drink out his nose at this.

“Speaking of awkward! You have a… Um… Thanks for being blunt.” He chuckled.

“It’s just this day. It has been rough day and I am in need of getting very drunk or stoned – or both.”

Kaylee opened her purse and pulled out a pill bottle and dropped two pills in her drink.

“Cheers. You are in charge now, when tomorrow comes and I wake up not liking what has happened, you will join the guy from the beach in the ER.” She swallowed down the intoxicating drink.

“What was that?” Thomas lifted an eyebrow in curiousity.

“Hypnotic, muscle relaxant. If you want to do something tonight, I won’t object too much. But let’s make it fun.”

Fun.

That would not be the word Kaylee would use in the morning.

Married by Mistake Chapter 3. Unwanted Visitor

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Chapter 3. Unwanted Visitor

Her drifted shut when the book hit her in the face for the third time.

Kaylee laughed at herself and remembered she needed to re-apply sunscreen, it had been nearly an hour since she had lain on the towel between the logs.

She was warm and sleep crept around the edges of her soul when the timer on her phone buzzed. She reached over to her bag and pulled out the bottle of spray sunscreen out to spray herself with another dose of sunblock when a man with his back to her, bumped into the end of the driftwood that served as her privacy screen.

“Oh! Excuse me.” He looked around. “Don’t mind me. I…”

He looked at her oddly, then pulled a long butcher knife from his towel.

“Shut up and be quiet.” He growled in a low voice. “Stay quiet and you won’t get hurt.”

Deep inside her, an ember of frustration sparked into a firestorm of rage. I’m in no mood for this!

She stood with uncontrolled fury in her eyes, a short-time before, she wanted to hurt someone. Now this pervert just volunteered and she was about to oblige the man who dared threaten her in blind overconfidence that was going to end in disaster for him.

“Go away!” Kaylee Simone Grant said loudly as she could, the note-writer turned his head and looked in their direction, stood and walked in their direction.

“Bitch! You will get on your…” Then interrupted by assault of the naked woman and screamed when she broke his wrist and took his knife away.

The force of her attack knocked the stout rapist backwards and grabbed the man’s wounded arm.

Her mass, perhaps half the attacker’s, pulled him down and off-balance, she swung her right leg over his arm. The pressure of her weight forced him to his knees face-down and he used his left hand t support himself.

“Bitch!” He had lost the fight and knew it. “Let go!”

“Do not call me…” A snap kick, Kaylee slammed her shin across assailant’s face, broke his nose and exploded the bone in his cheek. The lever that was his arm, bent backwards beyond it’s limits when she snapped it backwards over her thigh and screamed back at him. “A bitch!”

His screams of anguish was music to her ears as she continued to pummel the would-be rapist against the driftwood. His size might have been an advantage in the start of the battle – in his own eyes.  

Now broken man knelt in the sand, frightened and blood flowed from his mouth and nose into the sand. Slowly, with a heroic effort, the rapist got to his feet. And she rewarded him with a fractured breastbone from a kick to the chest. As a threat, she neutralized him one last time when he fell backwards over a low part of the log for the last time. 

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the notebook man was ran towards the sounds of bloody screams. (Kaylee was not known as a quiet student when she worked out, this real-life combat was no different.)

A final stomp into the groin of the monster left the him in breathless pain as he writhed against the large, weather-smoothed driftwood that served as her privacy screen when she relaxed alone in the sun.

“Do you need help?” The slightly overweight note-taker was two-hundred pounds with muscular arms. He looked like he could take care of the rather broken assailant that lay in agony on the sand, if she had not gotten there first.

“Um, no thanks. I’d say this is over, but I need a phone that works to call the police. I have no service here.” She looked at her would-be knight. 

“I have a sat-phone. You can use it, there’s also a c-phone in my bag but I don’t know the reception. I have used my satellite phone all day.” He said and walked back to his beach blanket.

Kaylee watched him walk away, his backside was like two halves of a tightly inflated volleyball and they were about the size of the palm of her hand, a nice view.

That’s cute. Thoughts danced in her head while her eyes bounced with each cheek as he walked away from her.

There are advantages for nude beaches. The thought made her smile. It satisfied her with the beat-down she gave the attacker who now lay on the sand holding his arm while his nose bleed freely. She kicked the predator once more for her own pleasure and turned away.

Note-pad walked the phone to her hand, the delivery was not as scenic as it was when he walked back with the phone, and disappointed her that he had wrapped up in a towel. 

And she still stood there naked while she dialed the emergency number, and was suddenly cold.

While she spoke with the emergency operator, Note-Pad gave her an oversized beach towel from his bag to wrap up in and handed her a t-shirt to wear from her pile of clothes, then turned on the would-be rapist and threatened him to stay still or his next experience would be a painful experience that he would never forget. Then laughed at his own joke he did not intend to make.

It was an extremely twisted day, but she felt pleased with the outcome with the end results of it all. 

I should beat someone once a day She laughed inwardly.

“Yood b’ke m’ fook’n node a’d arb!” The assailant said in a sticky voice, full of blood on his lips and hands. “Fook’n bid”

“You are lucky,” Note-Pad nodded. “I’d have buried you here.”

“Fug du’.” The broken knife weilder’s said as he retched from the blood that poured down his throat.

Kaylee had her back to Note-Pad and pulled on her pants. She draped the towel around her neck and let it hang it down to cover her breasts, embarrassed by the tent under her thin shirt.

“Thank you for your help,” She told Note-Pad. “I think, you need to stay here as a witness for the police.”

“No problem, he will need an ambulance trip I would wager. That nose is pretty mashed.”

They both looked at the broken man for a moment, then the sounds of beach patrol’s sirens drove to where they stood with the disabled and broken stalker. 

Note-Pad ran out to the pickup truck with an illuminated light-bar and waved an orange and black towel.

Kaylee felt lighter. Her mood improved to one of satisfaction after that. It was Friday and she had an entire weekend to look forward to.

She was over her adrenaline rush when the men with badges walked up and all the stress of the day hit her at once.

Kaylee, the warrior-woman of justice and retribution of the beach began to cry.

Married by Mistake: Chapter 2. Sand Between The Toes

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Chapter 2. Sand Between The Toes

A long hike, at least it was mainly downhill. Three times, vehicles passed by with sirens. Police, fire and an ambulance traveled in a rush of different directions began to cause pain, she stopped and put her fingers in her ears until the emergency sirens were out of range.

The town was a tourist and college community. A large bay with a harbor carved out  on the north end by a massive prehistoric waterfall, long since drowned in the ocean after the glaciers receded, served as  a center for tourism.

After the long hike, she finally arrived at the beach and walked to the privacy rooms where outdoor showers allowed those salt and sand encrusted humans to clean themselves. She stepped through the middle door where the floor appeared less fouled with dirty feet and people who could not seem to hit the toilet.

Kaylee’s fingers ached as she put down her bag and pulled out her towel then set it aside and pulled out a hard-cover book, a novel by the author Sanne Footman, of a woman who was a photographer that traveled the world and worked undercover for news stories.

It was a cheesy, but well written, series of novellas. The author composed a lot of romantic scenes that where Kaylee’s guilty pleasure, she often had travel-the-world dreams. From one exotic location to another with boyfriends at each stop.

She Dug deeper into her bag and set out the contents, a frown crossed her lips.

Another towel.

Sunscreen.  

Swimsuit? 

She looked through the towels, unrolled and shook them out.  No… in a towel up by mistake.

Damn! No swimsuit?

What?

Then she remembered, she had gone to a pool party in the hills with some friends, she rinsed her suit and hung it on the towel rack by the shower.  Then hung a towel over it.

Sigh.

The anger with herself crossed her face like clouds a thunderstorm. She picked up her gear and packed up the bag and stepped out into the sunlight and walked to the edge of the sand from the outdoor showers.

She looked north and south, the beach was sparsely populated with families and kids to the south.

Off to the north, only a few people were there. A posted sign in the distance, she could not read it from here, but knew what the paint on the metal panel said:

“Clothing optional beyond this point only.”

She nodded to herself, she was not a stranger to the nude beach. And she was in no mood for a hike to the apartment, but the choices were to continue or to go back to where she started this awful day and then, maybe, return.

No, it was time to shed some of the cares along with her clothes. If she needed to walk all the way back before she relaxed and recuperated, she would hurt someone. Perhaps some poor soul who would walk by and wish her to “Have a nice day.” The person would never understand the fury that would be unleashed.

“Nice day.” Indeed.

Dare ya… Just… Just dare ya! Hands clenched into rock hard clubs with the emotional storm that crossed her mind.

So, a walk on the beach? Time to peace out. The thought was pleasant.

She passed the sign as she walked towards the water. She let ten-minutes pass before she peeled off her pants and shoes.

She walked in just her shirt and underwear in the ankle-deep waves, she enjoyed the cool water of the Alaskan current of the Pacific, The water chill against her thighs while she waded a little deeper past a couple while they played with a frisbee and their dog.

The dog was much more dressed than couple. She laughed when the man tried to play keep-away from the dog who took a nip of the man’s bare organ.

The nude woman laughed out loud when she also saw the small Australian Shepherd play dirty to win the prized plastic disk.

“Good boy, Oz!” The woman laughed out loud again and took the toy from the excited dog while the man got to his feet while he laughed and complained  about the devious dog.

Kaylee walked on and looked among the driftwood where couples sat and talked in the nude. Some read books, and some for all appearances, looked asleep.

Another couple cuddled on a blanket. The woman’s hands pushed the limits the law while she kissed with her male companion.

Kaylee found a quiet spot and slipped out of the rest of her clothes and spread the towel on the sand. A man about a hundred paces off was laid on his stomach wrote in a notepad. The sun glistened on beads of water on his back, he had just been in the water for a swim.

Otherwise, she was alone. The coastal-chill breeze made her skin pucker slightly as she sat on the blanket and opened her book. Out of sight from anyone thanks to the large logs of driftwood that made a private little patch of sand.

This was a perfect place on an otherwise messed-up and horrible day to lay naked on a beach with no one near. No bars on her phone so she turned it off.

She rubbed sunblock into her skin while she took fifteen minutes to prepare for recreational read and relax. She enjoyed the smell of the coconut perfume and the sensations of the heat, she would probably sleep, but had no desire for a sunburn.

She already received a sunburn last year, Melanie enjoyed her older sister’s discomfort while she applied medicated skin cream to the places that Kaylee could not. Sisters could laugh at each other for the burned places that rarely saw sunshine, and Kaylee had fallen asleep on her stomach.

The burn to the back of her legs and cheeks of her backside prevented the elder Grant to sit for a few days. Much to the delight of the taller but younger “kid-sister”.

Kaylee just did not want to ask Melanie to rub cream into her burned skin again, once was enough embarrassment for a lifetime.

The sun did feel good, she would deal with the tires, the professor and the broken shoelace soon enough.

For now? She was needed to get into the book of guilty pleasure and, maybe, fall asleep on the edge of the largest body of water in the world.

After a day gone haywire, she was alone and at peace. Kaylee Simone Grant would let this frantic-Friday dissolve into an unhappy memory and the disappointment, frustration and fury would soon be forgotten.

To be alone for a while and listen to the waves, birds and feel the sun was all she needed.

 

Married by Mistake Rewrite: Critical Name changes and alteration of audience.

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After reading and re-reading the novel, I have changed the name of two (perhaps three, we will see when we get to her) protagonists.  

Softening some of the love scenes, where the couple do things that married folks do. 

This will be the, really, the third iteration of this novel for your perusal. I had planned to have this published by now, but I became insecure after I found a few mistakes. (Speaking of “Mistake”) 

The names of the sisters are changed at request of a couple of gung-ho young ladies that became excited to have me write, so that the names flow better.  Their mom was also involved in the 4-way roundtable discussion while we ate chocolate ice cream with walnuts and marshmallows and mom is in agreement.

So to that end, over the next few weeks, (there are 60-ish chapters) I’ll post up to TWO a day, along with the quality postings I find to share. (There are many more, but I just cannot share that many. I’d get no writing done!) 

I know I have many started, only a few finished.  Those voices have gone out to lunch, making adventures with and love to each other. 

In Married by Mistake, Sandy and Barbara have become Melanie and Kaylee.  Melanie is the younger, but is taller than her older sister, so poor Kaylee gets Mel’s “Hand-me-ups” to some chagrin.

So, this ride will go to the end, we have all been to the end.  Still… Keep an eye on it, not all “The end”‘s stay the same.  It is part of that uncertainty principle.

Like the weapon of the Storm God that defeated the Drought God in antiquity (even if only a temporary victory), it is always an “if”. 

And as a child, I liked “What if”. 

So, let’s see what happens starting tomorrow.  I’ll try to keep up with TWO chapters per day. Right now, I am doing less than one. 

Wish us luck.  November is coming, I’ll be doing the NaNoWriMo then. 

Howabout you?

Dash

Failed Getaway, the escape of I’bin Ba’ad

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Failed Getaway

He had not been born on Terra, although he had returned to the planet of his parent’s birth to bury his mother.

I’bin Ba’ad, drop out student of the College at Velar Naqal returned to bury his mother after an unknown assailant stabbed her.

This was his story.

The police did not originally suspect the son in the murder, his alibi was solid. Video of his office showed him working at the terminal and his time stamp on files fit where he said he was.

What investigators failed to realize, that his skills at spoofing both time and location on files covered his tracks well.

An arrow made of gallium, the cutting head sharpened with percussive taps while it was deeply frozen creating fracture patterns like glass made the edge nearly as sharp as obsidian.

Once the arrow left at high-speed from a compressed air pipe, it passed through the wealthy socialite with devastating results, leaving undetectable traces. 

Once warmed to room temperature, the tool of parricide melted away into the ground.

Unable to find a projectile, the weapon used remained unknown.

Unable to recognize the disturbed soil, the police investigator missed the clue of gallium soaked earth with no explainable reason.

Only until the trail of bodies that seemed to pile up around I’bin that suspicion of his involvement were suspicions aroused about his mother’s death, by then, all evidence was lost.

Eventually, the serial killer I’bin was charged with a young couples disappearance, two women who had recently married.

The misogynistic human-canid hybrid did not show his animalistic DNA.

Other than the blood-lust.

By the time they captured him, the insanity that was I’bin, the killer-wolf charges mounted to over thirty-eight deaths. Another seventy attributed to him, but lack of evidence kept them from being brought to the trials.

Not that the government needed to use the other crimes.

The trial, I’bin Ba’ad, the press dubbed him “The Wolf” was declared sane enough to stand trial and for the first time in two-centuries, the inter-planetery courts, five judges sitting on the bench, listened to the evidence put to the jury.

Never before had the murders of so many involved more than one planet.

The jury of twenty-one retired to study the evidence and returned in three-hours.

Guilty.

The sentence:

Death.

Then an attempt for suicide by cop by attacking the bench of judges.

To his surprise, three of the judges were more than capable of defending themselves.

Taken by the officers to his place of holding, the execution proceeded quickly.

For two-weeks he met with his representative and the one person that stood by him.

Cu’Feur I’ous, to I’bin.

“Worry not, you will get your freedom.” Wolf-eyes looked into wolf-eyes. The two men shared DNA.

They were brothers.

When the date came, I’bin was strapped to the table, he had faith in his brother. He would walk out.

When the witnesses sat, he could see the first plunger start its deadly travel in the tube, pushing a pink drug into the IV line, then at that moment the lights went out.

I’bin opened his eyes, they did not focus properly for a moment, but there was no noise.

The needle in his arm pinched slightly when he scratched his nose.

Then I’bin blinked.

His arm was free! Someone had released the straps when they abandoned the area when the power went out.

Although, he had not heard any alarms. He decided that it was due to the medication that ran into his arm put him to sleep, people assumed he was dead when the power went out.

Laughing, the thought of his walking out of the room when no one was looking tickled his soul.

He already had plans for the judges and their families.

Darkness in the hallways, only the sunlight from the outside filtered in.

It was odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too.

But the gates were open, no doors locked.

As promised, I’bin walked free, laughing at the power outage that caused the sheep to run frightened.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

Screw them all! He was free.

His next stop, where Judge Alkar Chronqui’s family was. He would break into the home and take a head to put on the hood of the Judge Davie Bleu’s car.

Laughing, I’bin looked around, no one could see him cut across the field towards town, dark thoughts for his arrival in town, it would be dark when he got to the park.

The main park where he hid his kit of tape, knives, drugs, rope.

The drugs would have gone bad, he dare not use them on victims, it might kill them.

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he kicked something in the tall grass and tripped.

A body!

Eviscerated, still steaming when he stood up. The coppery smell of blood came from his prison issue shirt.

He had blood soaking his shirt.

“Gawd Dayuam! They’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He squatted down, fishing around the body, looking for a weapon of any kind.

The sound of a baseball bat sounded in his ears. A sound of a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

His heart was standing still, his breath was wheezing in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If he could get a jump on them, what a wonderful twist of irony, he could kill someone killing someone.

He could see the top if their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

“No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sounds of thumping and the bloody fluids made for a mist that I’bin could smell the blood in the air.

I’bin struck, leaping up and grabbing the first one, called Oestus.

His hands were stronger than he anticipated when he broke Oestus’ neck, taking the bat, he broke the head of the other wannabe killer.

But the look they gave as he came up, bloodied and muddy, they acted as if they saw the dead rising from the graves.

I’bin laughed, carrying the bat with him, he walked off towards the town. He saw another man stand up, also wearing standard-issue.

“Thanks, they were doing everyone from the prison.” The darkness hid the convicts eyes, but they glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge for putting me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen anyone for years, they don’t come to visit.”

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

“They said I was a cannibal. I was not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m N’oi.”

“I’bin. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is I’bin?”

Shrugging, the pair moved off into the dark.

A cop car, the officers were looking at something when the pair stepped out from behind the trees.

I’bin gasped at the cops when they turned towards the pair’s approach.

Bloodied, one chewed on an object that looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

On cue, the officers dropped the appendages and began to walk towards I’bin.

Looking at his fellow escapee, the convict stood there, drooling, his skin ashen, the big man made no other sound like conversation.

He took off in a run and dashed to the park.

The cops… he had never seen anyone do that before.

Canabalism? In a pair of them?

He could easily outrun them, there was something odd. No cars to wave down, the shirt stuck against his body with clotted blood and made him cold.

He’d need a fresh shirt.

Bodies in the park were milling around, a part of the late summer day with no power anywhere. He could kill one and take the shirt.

He recognized the first person he came across, a heavy-set girl. She had died pleading that she was pregnant while I’bin tied a plastic bag over her head.

And she saw him, making a noise. A cross between a siren and a scream, while pointing with both hands.

She was dead! He knew she was.

He had abused her body in death and knew every pore, every mole.

He took pictures and stared at them for months before he was caught.

I’bin ran down the street, heading to the middle of town, the police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

Locked?

More people were following him! He recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

Run! He had to run!

He had to find a cop, someone who could put him behind bars for protection!

What was happening with the world?

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, I’bin ran. More people, they were coming out of the shadows.

No, not out of the shadows, out of the GROUND!

He was standing in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

How did he get here? He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed!

A cold hand grabbed him from a bush, feeling for a pulse?

RUN!

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came in the failing light of day.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

He needed to run.

Into the darkness I’bin Ba’ad ran, chased by familiar faces of walking dead. His screams echoed long and loud in the gathering night.

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The execution chamber of Terra Top Prison, they had not used it in anyone’s memory so the seating was awkward, the witnesses watched the last breath of I’bin Ba’ad.

“I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of the princess who he gave away to another princess at their wedding.

Turning and walking out. Pha’rem T’ru got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Demonitor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

“I would swear he pulled that out of my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “He was a coward in the end, look at the fear on his face, the jaw set and lips pulled back as if he was about to scream, eyes wide open. I’d say he was afraid to die.”

“Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

“Good, have him sent to Doctor Sherman Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

“You’re the doc, doc.” The guard nodded.

In the core of the world of the prisoner, I’bin became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

But only if they could catch him.

He continued to run.

Reject! Reject! Reject! If you so much as say “huh?” yer alone.

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Once again I screwed up the courage to do something new. The last time I was turned down, it took me a year to try again.

Married by Mistake was deemed to be intriguing but unworthy, but worry not, I am not tossing this into the trash, it will be polished (again) and a home found for it.

*Sigh*. Chaotic is how I write I guess. I developed it to a failure on “Flee” (currently being rewritten as well to shine the way it should), and the style may have spilled over into the romance story.

I don’t know. But it is back to the manuscript and trying to polish a..ermm… dirt clod. Something I thought was polished enough, had enough humor in it, a touch of sex, some chocolate (Same scene), fun and adventure, heartbreak, drugs, Mom’n’Dad and an idiot boyfriend. (I’m a dad of 2 princesses, all boyfriends are idiots until proven otherwise).

Perhaps I may need a critique team?  Someone, when I have been up late at night too many times I have gone blind to using ten-dollar words and going off into the land of confusion, will send back “Huh?”

Seriously, I do know I get a bit blind after the second or third edit, perhaps I am not that great of a storyteller- except I have so many stories to tell and they demand to be written.

If I don’t?

I pace, get grumpy, I live in the world anyway.  I shoot my bow and have conversations with the characters that want their story told.  Sometimes they stand in line.

Sometimes they argue.  Ever see a pre-teen child pirate from the 17th century argue with a 21st century college student and have the 24th century captain-paramedic want to talk about his patient that fell off a roof?  I have.

Even now, they are waiting – impatiently – while I look Married by Mistake over and over, while re-writing Shock and Awe.  (And writing this in the meantime.)

At any rate, test audience, anyone interested? Get the chance of an assembled and proposed for submission.  I know often the stories I post here are so raw as to reek, then, of course, they tend to go away after a bit as the chapters are re-written and assembled (Some deleted) and the pattern as a whole changes, including sometimes the names of the protagonists or antagonists. *shrug* Such is the world of editing. Right?

Ah well, back to re-writing, reading and editing, trying to figure out how to make a romance of a college student that is facing how to explain to her parents 1. That she got drunk, then married during the party that she does not remember.  2. How to deal with the situation of a fiance back home (Actually goes to Mt. M University) 3. Should she introduce the husband-by-accident to her parents.  I have alluded to, but i don’t think, he is older than the parents. 4. Should it have more sex-and-chocolate scenes?

*Sigh*

Anyone interested in having a chance to read before-the-submission manuscripts?

The more the merrier.

Back to editing Married by Mistake, needs the hooks polished…or written in.

Dragon Master University Chapter 39. Summer in Spring

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Chapter 39. Summer in Spring

Yawning and stretching in his bed the next morning, Jona sighed. He felt exhausted the night before and went to bed while Kolo, her brother and Professor Vale sat up and talked late into the night.

The first class in the spring quarter began with social studies of dragons and humans, something at first that Jona felt was boring, but while the tall human woman instructed, she spoke of wars and prejudice.

Dragons, older and wiser than the human race, the humans had one thing more.

Conviction.

They had determination to live.

Like siblings, respected and at times hated each other, the human and dragon populations drifted apart in some ways and merged in others.

A complex relationship that developed since before the dawn of history.

And Professor Altair was already talking about homework.

A whisper at Jona’s shoulder.

“We can study together.” It was Summer. “You have that look people get before they scream and run away from something.”

Jona stifled a laugh, he would have denied it, but she was correct, the social history of humans and dragons promised to be a difficult class.

“We will meet in the library, no one will bother us there.” She said softly while the professor droned on about the good natures of man and dragon were often lost in the passage of time.

He nodded, Professor Altair spoke of how legends in dragon lore and human mythology remembered the relationship between a dragon and an intelligent girl that grows up, turning away from the great friendship they had developed.

The dragon, who stood next to the young human during great raids by great robbers from the sea that sailed in great ships.

Only when the dragon Kl’qlpff, who humans called “Puff” told the Pirate King of the raids, who then forced the rogue corsairs to lower their flags and leave forever.

Songs and legends, bards wrote about it all, then faded from even that.

“One day, the story will return,” She said. “It will come by way of bards and storytellers.”

It struck a chord in Jona, like the baby dragon Sprite who adopted him when he drove a cart of smelly peat behind a flatulent ox the previous summer.

Summer walked with him down the path to the library and they talked of how dragons had existed for so long, why they were so long-lived and if there would fully be peace.

She sat at a broad stone table, polished by a thousand years of forelegs and arms rubbing on it. Padded stone seats, wicker chairs, and a myriad of other perches surrounded the giant round disk to accommodate the different clans and species.

Kola sat in with them, his studies of human laws confused him.

Eva lounged, reading an architecture textbook for her classes, but it kept hitting her in the face as she dozed while trying to read it. Looking around to see if anyone noticed, she would go back to reading the same page.

“Summer,” Jona whispered. “What page are we on?”

She giggle quietly.

“You keep looking at Eva. She will give herself a brain injury if she keeps hitting herself with the book.”

Kola laughed, overhearing the whisper and looked at the dozing race dragon.

“Jona, I think you ran her too hard yesterday, she is not used to the exercise after being off the team when she dropped her grades.” Kola nudged him.

“Kola, shush.” The librarian, a human adult male with a heavy leather tunic studded with metal book-shaped rivets in different colors. “You are keeping others from studying. Eva, if you need sleep, go to your room, you are starting to snore and are being a disturbance.”

Eva shook herself awake and apologized, for the fifth time tried to read the same page.

“Jona, we are on page four, paragraph five.” She flipped the pages for him. “This is what the professor will test on in a couple of days. It is easy to memorize if you follow this trick to keep it in mind.”

She taught him a mnemonic to keep the lesson in his head.

“My brother took Professor Altair’s class, she goes in order, always. It is how history happened, it is how she teaches, so this memoria technica trick will help you in the test.” Summer smiled at him.

Memorizing the pattern she taught him, he looked up and saw the librarian standing there with his arms crossed. For a moment, Jona swore the librarian would make good on his threats of ouster from the study area but the man nodded with a small smile, the long beard swung with the movement when the barrel chested keeper of the books turned away and moved across the floor towards other students.

In two hours, Jona watched the big hour-glass turn again in the mechanical teamwork of dragon and human timekeeper in the front of the library. He felt more interested after every discussion that Summer, Kola (despite it not being his subject. Jona suspected Kola had a crush on her and wanted her to notice him.)and he had, the history of dragonkind was more than just words, Jona felt them.

The history resonated with the young Dragon Master, more than his parents imagined might happen.

Jona was learning.

They spent hours in the library, Summer, Jona and Kola, joined by Eva who studied long hours to keep her grades up.

Eva was happiest when flying, her studies were marginal when she flew and failed to study, but it was no more or less than what all the friends and students went through daily.

But as professors universally instructed, they were not there to fail anyone, neither were they there to pass without teaching.

Eva worked hard at both of her skills and kept talking to professors who would help.

The summer break was coming up in short order and finals were intense. Professor Vale, Professor Cush, and especially the Green Man wizard were all driving points home with verbal hammers.

Homework was coming fast and furious, Summer and Jona continued to study with a singular thought. The Csu and Gorgons were far from the minds of dragon and human students alike.

Races were a regular topic, the teams of the intraschool competitors complained they were not ready for the speeds they needed to win not only the school championship but to outspeed any other teams from other schools around the world.

Jona pointed out that other schools were having the same problems. Rumors came from visitors to the other schools.

All students, everywhere lacked free time to just relax and play.

All was study and learn.

By the equinox of spring, they were feeling ready. Lessons were familiar, preparatory tests were easier each passing week.

Jona felt ready for the next chapter of the year.

Looking at his grades on the great central post, Jona smiled.

His grades were good enough, Jona Samhain had new rivets that the school awarded him for his tunic. Two silver, three gold, one emerald-green.

He wondered what the green meant and made note to ask Professor Vale of his house.

It was a year of mind-boggling, life changing lessons.

Jona the future dragon master smiled and walked back to his room.

Dragon Master University Chapter 38. Spring Quarter Begins

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Chapter 38. Spring Quarter Begins

Kolo walked slowly with Jona and talked about why she left.

“My family had to move, the Csu are in the area.”

“The chew?” Jona asked.

“Csu, C-S-U, no one knows where they came from, but they are a human-like kind of creature, but aggressive, hateful. They have drawn upon something that no one wishes to believe.” She shuddered. “Gorgons.”

“You are speaking in riddles.” He looked sideways at his friend.

“Paying attention in next years classes on dragon and human relationships will help. But for now, I’ll explain it is a kind of religion. The Csu follow a book, interpreted by the High-Priestess and their queen.”

“And what are gorgons?” They mounted the curving steps to the emerald level, to the dorms of their level.

“Gorgons are dragons that have fallen under the spell of the Csu, they have an anger that is corrupts their bodies, humans are favorite target, but an attack by a gorgon the humans view as an attack by a dragon. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes, like humans.” She held his hand. “We have hearts and skin, each of us are as different as two humans. Gorgons cannot be spotted from dragons, humans then hunt every single dragon to pay the price of the few malevolent creatures.”

“Do we have those here in school?”

“Oh no!” She shook her head. “Professors and even the Green Wizard have a sense about that, dragons and humans that are too dangerous to live with each other are not brought here. They go to a different school.”

“What kind of school?” Jona asked, still learning about the nuances about the university. “Like a school for dunces?”

“More like how to teach peace. Humans and Dragons do not associate at that school.”

“Where is it?”

“Other side of the world. It would take the fastest flier almost a day to get there.” Her slid around his waist and pulled him close to her as they topped the stairs and walked down the hallway. “I have missed you.”

Jona smiled, color rising to his cheeks.

“Oh, I forgot, you are sensitive to that.” She laughed softly. “Humans don’t touch like dragons.”

“I think you just like to touch me.” He grinned at her.

“Well, you smell good, especially after you have showered. You use that cedar oil soap. There is only one other I like more, but I don’t want you to try it.”

“What scent is that?”

“Fish.” She winked. “Specifically, salmon.”

“Um, yeah. No.” He laughed.

“Well, I’m thirsty. I am going to get some tea and study. I will tell you more about the Csu when I sit down.”

Jona shook his head.

“I just finished flying with Eva, I need to shower, if she gets in before me, she uses all the hot water.”

Kolo laughed and nodded.

“I’ll be on a cushion when you come out. I have studying to do, come sit with me.” She looked at him sideways. “You do still like to sit with me?”

“Oh, of course!”

“Summer enjoyed herself. You should invite her here sometime and come cuddle.” She smiled. “She would like that. Her clan are known cuddlers and raise families with humans.”

“Maybe later, right now? A shower.” Jona shook his head.

“Use that cedar soap.” She laughed and called after the human that tickled her heart.

She sat there with a large cup of steaming tea when Kola came and sat next to her.

“Did you tell the professors what happened at home?”

His sister shook her head.

“I have had enough trouble telling Jona. If the Csu have moved into the swimmer clan’s area, they are moving everywhere, the school would know before I told them.”

“Tell us what?”

It was Professor Vale, he walked on soft, cat-like feet when he wanted to. He walked to the golden tea-pot and turned the handle at the bottom, filling a cup with the fragrant steaming brew.

“Sir, the Csu forced my clan to move. They imposed their kind of law and it is a horrid version of law, worse than anything archaic humans have ever thought up.” Kolo looked down and went quiet.

Kola spoke up.

“Professor, they are using Gorgons.”

The tea-cup stopped in mid-air between the saucer and the Professor’s lips for a count of five before he took a sip.

“Gorgon.” He muttered as he took a sip while looking straight at Kola. “Are you sure?”

“They have the markings, carved into their scales.” Kola said.

“Professor.” Jona walked in wearing a thick, brushed cotton robe, his hair wet. “What is a gorgon?”

“They are a group of dragons that the Csu twisted and corrupted within and without by the magic of Csu.” Professor Vale started slowly. “They submit with free will, or captured and forced to convert, either way, they change.” He shook his head, sipped his tea, took a breath and continued. “The heart of the dragon is resilient and the scales of a dragon reflect what is in the heart. This is why you see dragons here as you do. Even those that are…”

Professor Vale trailed off and sipped his tea.

“Sorry, I lost the word.” He paused. “Bully. That’s it. Their heart reflects the violent fear that is in the core of their heart. They feel that it is the only way for them to achieve salvation and all that stand in their way they destroy. Human, dragon, young, old, statue, memories. And they will destroy all history to make way for only one leader and religion.”

“The Csu.” Jona said.

“Very good, I do not know where you have been doing your social studies, but you have been paying attention.” The Professor said.

“The serious threat that the Csu have for the world, where they raid, they use a scorched earth policy in society and physically. Humans are wiped out, dragons join or die.”

“Dragons do not submit.” Kola said.

“No, that means for a severe battle when swimmers, runners and flyers band together and fight against a creeping evil that is the insanity named Csu.” Vale shook his head. “Csu must be nearly two-thousand winter’s old by now.”

“Who is Csu?” Jona asked, his blue eyes locked on Vales gold.

“Csu was a student here, but dropped out when a judge caught her cheating during a race. The school transferred her to the segregated school for humans to learn peace and acceptance of dragons.” Vale took another swallow of tea. “She nearly killed a human boy. I do not know all the circumstances, but she used an object that she keeps with her. An antler of an animal.”

“She wrote a book about that time, claiming that it was the word of the Dragon Lord, Gamon.” Vale’s voice was soft as he thought. “Gamon has not been spoken of before, no one knows where it came from. But she gathered followers of like-minded dragons. She might be half-dragon herself, no one knows for sure, but her appearance has changed. Perhaps reflecting her heart and soul, buy in any way you wish to look at it, the group she has started has taken on her name. She is Csu, they are the Csu.”

“Corruption of the inside, corrupts the outside?” Jona asked.

“Not entirely accurate, but essentially, yes.” Vale nodded. “Dragons when angered over a long time, their bodies prepare for battles, claws get longer, scales get coarser and thicker. In mixed races with humans, elves and others, the effect is still observable.”

“So she builds a following. How can the world stop this?” Kola asked.

“Dragons, by and large, are peaceful with given exceptions.” Vale was still pondering. “My suggestion to you students, do not seek anything out on this. Stay within the range of the school.”

Jona looked around wide-eyed.

“I don’t think I want to leave the house.”

“Do not stress young human, we have protocols in place.” Vale tried to smile.

“Nothing can happen.”

Valley of Fear Chapter 4. Bones

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Chapter 4. Bones

“Come in,” Clark motioned with his hand to the inside of a large office with topographical maps framed on two of the big walls, and a large desk at one end, piled high with folders. A table by a large window was a miniature monument to an earlier age in the area.

Professor Ng looked it over, and took out a laser pointer.

“Three-guardians, Bald, Whitewater canyon complex.” Ng shined the laser on the diorama, naming off the peaks and valleys. “This model is of this area.”

“Yes, you have looked at a map once or twice, professor.” Clark nodded. “But there has been a change that is not on that model.”

“What is that?”

“As for what it looks like, I don’t know.” Clark answered. “Not yet. That is why I asked for you all to come here. First of all, your lives were in danger.”

“First?” Andre asked. “How did you even know we were out there?”

“Well, young warrior, sit down in that chair right there” Clark pointed. “And let me teach you how it’s done.”

They all sat and the tribal elder walked to the end of the office and tapped a wall that silently opened to reveal a small alcove with a bar on one side and computer controls on another.

“Each of you are over the drinking age, is there anything you would like?” Clark asked and took count of the requests, serving the instructor and the students before sitting down himself with a tumbler glass of a dark amber fluid.

“A little later, I will go on a vision quest, this will help.” Clark nodded. “Anyone who wishes to join me, let me explain the situation at hand.”

Picking up some broken bones, he began to explain.

“Here, this is a leg-bone of an eagle, the claw of a large bear, skull of a raven and the jawbone of a lion, a leg bone of a coyote.” He held up the claw. “This has been DNA tested for age. This claw came from a short-faced bear, the jawbone still also has trace in the teeth, but I didn’t want to subject the spirit to the insult of the white-man technology. But, the shape and size is that of the American Cave Lion.”

“Clark, that is all interesting. But what does that have to do with us?” The Professor asked.

“Well, please notice, something broke all the bones. These all contained the spirits of selected ancestors.” Carl said quietly. “You see, this tribe has been given the Covenant to care for all these lands by Quilxka Nupika, the Supreme Creator. After the Creator trapped Monster of the Mountain under the earth.”

He took a long sniff of his iced drink.

“In the days before our times, the Kootenai river flowed into Columbia lake, a large monster from the sea made trouble in Columbia lake. The Monster led the Bear, Eagle and Fox on a merry chase around the mountains until the Chief of the Animals, a giant pushed over a mountain top and blocked the southern entrance into the lake by the Kootenai river. The gods trapped the monster of the sea under a mountain, hidden away from all of humanity forever. Using only the wood from an immortal tree and holy stones with sacred writing on them.”

Taking another drink, he took a breath.

“Someone broke the seal of the immortal wood. The stones have gone missing, the monster is loose and that power has broken the bones of my ancestors. Bones that my passed down from father to son since before the writing of the history of the world.” Clark said as he looked over the top of the glass, contemplating the fluid that swirled around the ice cubes. “In this glass is rye whiskey, it was found in a cabin in California. The collection of the bottles were sold at auction. It is old, over a hundred-years.”

They looked at him, listening.

“I never drink it, but I like the smell.” He smiled, then frowned. “In any event. Something has happened, that has not been foreseen.”

Doctor Clark gave a heavy sigh and put his glass down.

“The monster has escaped.”

“Doctor.” Professor Ng said slowly. “These are legends, but I know that legends all have seed of truth. What is the monster?”

“It came from the sea, according to legend. But in my point of view? It falls into a few categories.”

He stood up and walked over to the diorama.

“First, it could have been no more than an earthquake or a series of earthquakes that formed the Rockies. Second, it could be something volcanic, possibly related to the first, but with lethal gasses, it could kill without being seen.”

“But Doctor,” Gil asked. “There are no volcanos for hundreds of miles of here.”

“Correct. That brings me to the third part. It could be something more metaphysical. A true demon.” Clark said. “Something with a long life, something that can control or kill animals. The beasts of the forest knew this and left, en mass.”

“Yes, we witnessed at least part of that.” Reedah shook her head. “It was the most amazing thing I ever saw.”

“It won’t be the last time you say that.” Clark said.

“And fifth, there is one more thing.” He paused. “There is a possibility that what was buried so long ago is alien. Or perhaps, alien technology.”

“Where would this be buried?”

“No one knows. My grandfather’s father died at the hands of the French soldiers before he passed on the knowledge to his son. I have the bones, but only a vague knowledge where the cave of the monster is. I only know that at least one of the stones that is set in the immortal wood is what my father called Sky-Stone.”

The students looked at each other.

“Iron meteorite.” Andre said.

“I agree.” Professor Ng said.

“If you have a ferrous metal geometric shape in an insulator.” Gil said to Andre and Reedah.

“Induced power can set up a magnetic field.” Reedah whispered back.

“Magnetic and electric dead zone, if they set the stones with the same stones everywhere inside, they could make a kind of Faraday Cage.” Andre said.

“But fragile. Or in the words of those who believe.” Clark looked from one to the other. “Sacred.”

“So someone broke the cage, and what is immortal wood?” Reedah asked.

“Yes, and the world has no clue what has awakened.” Clark answered grimly.

Valley of Fear Chapter 3. A Meeting

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Chapter 3. A Meeting

Standing in the bright early afternoon sunshine on the vista point when a trophy class condition WWII era Willy’s MB drove up and pulled into the parking stall next to the students and the professor.

“Who is in charge?” The dark eyes glinted with high intelligence and a kindly turn to his lips, it was obvious he was on a mission.

“I am, I am professor Ng.” And he shook hands with the new arrival.

“I’m Richard Aikin, my grandfather said you would be here.” Richard smiled as he shook the Professor’s hand.

“He…” The Professor’s eyes opened wide. “Who is your grandfather? Do I know him?”

“No, but, in fairness, he did not name you, but you are the only group with an Asian teacher with two white students and a black female student here.” Richard looked around. “And you are the only ones here, for that matter.”

Richard pulled his ear and laughed.

“In any event, when your experiment comes to an end, he invited you to follow me up the hill to the next valley, where my family lives.”

“How did your grandfather know we were here?” The Professor asked.

“I don’t know, I know that when he says something like that, I do it straight away. He asked me to bring you to the house, so, please, accept the invitation.” Richard nodded. “Grampa does not invite people in general. Outside people especially, but he wants to talk to you.”

“Another fifteen minutes, we have three quad-copters out in the valley, scanning the area for wildlife.” Gil said as he worked the controls, watching the video display on his laptop.

“I don’t think you will find any animals in the area, there is something, that Grampa says, has not happened since the old times.” Richard told the Professor.

“What does that mean?” Professor Ng asked.

“I don’t know, just when Grampa says something, it is just best to do it.” Richard nodded.

“Professor, infrared is not picking up anything along the river, there are normally at least some fresh scat or other animal waste that I can pick up, even during the day, but nothing.” Reedah growled at the display, flipping between screen resolutions. “White-hot, black-hot. There are no hot points where elk, deer or a bear have taken a dump.”

“Well, bring it back. Gil, you too.” The Professor instructed the doctor-in-training Gil.

“I am closing in on something odd. It looks like fire damage on a mountainside. It’s all blackened.” Andre interrupted the discussions.

“I’m zooming in on the area. It looks like polished rock.” Andre reported as the quad-copter sailed over the treetops at a thousand-foot altitude. “I can get to it in a couple of minutes.”

“Professor, I don’t want to pressure you, but Grampa is waiting.” Richard looked at his watch.

“Andre, please recover your toy, more important things are requiring our attention, we can return tomorrow.”

“Yes, professor.” Andre sounded crestfallen, he was enjoying the images and the virtual tour of the valley with his hands at the controls. Pressing two buttons, he locked the camera on the glass-like surface of what the GPS listed as Misty Mountain before returning.

The camera recorded, even though Andre missed on his screen, movement along the ground. Recorded on the removable memory in UHD (Ultra High Definition), Andre would not see what he captured for two-weeks as he studied each previous frame with meticulous detail.

The three students brought the survey equipment back to the cars, following GPS planned routes and landed them on the pavement.

“That was the damnedest thing to see.” Richard laughed. “So you kids pay a hundred-kilobucks a year to the INUTS University and you get to fly these toys?”

“A hundred-what?” Gil asked.

“Hundred-thousand dollars.” Richard defined the term.

They strapped the remote-controlled vehicles down to the top of their utility vehicle and clambered inside.

“Professor, do you think it’s safe to follow someone we don’t know?” Reedah asked. “We could go in there and we could be lost.”

Professor Ng smiled.

“I know him, seen him around with the police. He’s a detective. Sargent, I think.” The Professor nodded.

“Then why did he introduce himself?” Gil asked.

“I don’t know him personally, Mr. Van Zant, I know who he is from his lectures on security and previous investigations he has performed in the area.” The Professor tone was as a father explaining to a child missing a point.

“Besides, I think I know who Grampa might be. He used to work as a professor at the university until he retired five years ago.” The salt-and-pepper head of hair nodded.

“He would be Doctor Clark Johnson, unless I miss my guess.” The Professor looked around. “He is the local expert on pre-Columbian history.”

They drove up the highway and pulled up to large wrought-iron gates that opened when Richard pressed his remote control, pulling over immediately inside the gates to make sure the following students and their leader made it through. Nodding at the driving Professor.

Waving at them, Richard pressed on the throttle and pulled out in front of them again.

The small convoy pulled into a parking area of a two-story office building,  built as if it were part of the earth itself, buried half-into the hillside and a sod-roof, LED lighting and quadruple glazed windows, solar panels hidden on the tops of the outbuildings, the compound of offices used less energy than most single-family dwellings.

Completely owned and operated under the control of the Kootenay Tribe, standing in the main door, only slightly shorter than Richard, but powerfully built.

“Professor Ng?” He walked up to the Asian instructor, smiling and held out an open hand to shake. “I’m Doctor Clark Johnson.”

Valley of Fear Chapter 2. University Lab

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Chapter 2. University Lab

“Professor, all the remote cameras we put out have taken precisely zero night time images.” Gil sighed as he clicked through the computer files. “Day time images are the same way. Nothing is triggering the equipment.”

“Are you connected?” Professor Ng asked. “Perhaps your using IP4 instead of IP6 addressing?”

“Yes, Professor, I sent an acknowledge signal, I can get a battery check, I can turn it on and scan the area, but there is nothing to pick up.”

“Check the other camera stations.” The long salt-and-pepper hair swayed with his nod. “See there are no images in any of the cameras.”

“Yes, Professor.”

The graduate student clicked through the different files, swearing when he could not remember the different passwords and looking them up.

“Professor Ng? There are images in camera’s in region 3-A and 3-C and three-D. 3-B has no images, Regions 1 and 2, all regions are without images. It is like a wildlife desert, nothing for the camera’s to capture. There has been nothing for a few days, at least, I’m checking dates now.”

“Call Andre, find where he’s at. Have him get in touch with the rest of the team and prepare for a drone for a flyover. After last field trip, this will be the thing I will authorize, unless I can get the university to pay for bodyguards, pair of armed hunting guides and a National Guard helicopter.”

Gil chuckled as he dialed the team captain of the month and started the files for video they could analyzed later.

Reedah Wilson walked in while Gil spoke to Andre on the phone, Gil informed Andre that she arrived and broke the connection.

Explaining the situation to Reedah, she pulled at her ear for a moment. A tell she had when she was thinking something over.

“I have a friend that is a Ranger in the area. I’ll call him and see if there are any strange things they have noticed in the areas we are looking at.”

“Ooh! Reedah. An old flame?” Andre entered the room, putting away his mobile phone.

“I don’t do men, I’ve told you.” She punched Andre in the shoulder.

“Well, exclusively.” She added.

Heads together, they prepared three remote-controlled vehicles to lift off from the back of the roof of the research truck, specially fitted with a rack to carry the extended range quad-copter powered drones. Cameras fitted to the undersides, tops and tested. Specially fitted with UV and IR cameras, they planned to see as many things they could.

“How late are we going to stay out?”

“Only about an hour, we will bring them back about dusk and get back here.” Andre looked at them, “I do not want to stay out there after dark. Something has chased the animals out of the valley, I don’t want to find out what it is the hard way.”

“What do you think it is?” Gil asked, walking up with print-outs of authorization signatures for the professor.

“I don’t know, could be volcanic off-gassing or something. I saw something like that in Yellowstone when I was a kid, they said it was a gas eruption and was driving the wildlife out of the area.” Andre said.

“There is no volcanic activity this far north.” Reedah told him. “You are stretching that theory a lot.”

“Well, let’s overfly the area with these two toys and see what we can see and record it all.

Slipping fingernail-sized chips into the removable media slot and snapped the cap over the chips, locking them into place.

“These are the largest capacity on the market and I broke the seal on them for our use.” Gil said. “We have plenty of recording space.”

“Why are we using memory stick tech when we can network-send the information back to the lab?” Reedah asked.

“Signals get messed up, corrupted. This is just a cover to prevent any loss.”

“Good idea.” Professor Ng said as he walked in again. “Gil, do you have the request paper..Oh good. Thank you.” The Professor said, taking them from the graduate student. “We head out in ten-minutes. We are not leaving the black top, and we are keeping the engines running. If, in the unlikely event there is a gas in the valley, I do not want to wait around, we will launch and then head up to the nearest paved high-point.”

“Yes Professor.” The students said.

The team went to work. They were Idaho’s Natural University of Technical Studies.

Idaho NUTS.

Valley of Fear Prologue

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Prologue

The Running

Northern Idaho, fifty-kilometers south of the Canadian border on I-95, he stepped out on the gravel of the shoulder. Hiking out of the forests, he knew he had his ancient Volvo somewhere in the area. Looking around, he was about a half-mile south of where he went in a dozen hours before.

It was a nice day in the northern panhandle to collect the data from the different stations that the school placed around in the hundred-twenty thousand acres of the healing scar left from the Devil’s Broom Fire of 1910. Five of the undergraduates had gone in, Phillip was the first to come out of the hike. A few inches taller than the others, his stride had taken the toll on his companions. Gil Van Zant, Andre Sondergeld, Reedah Wilson (herself a bit of a mountain goat.)and Doctor Ru’khu Ng, the oldest of the group that often show them up by out-walking them all.

Bruce could see the others catching up to him when he saw what made his blood run cold coming over the ridge.

Wolves.

A lot of wolves, at least… he counted quickly on the undulating mass of grey and tails losing count at fifty.

And they were coming up the path at full speed.

“RUN! Oh, good God RUN!” Bruce waved at the team. “Behind you.”

Gil, bringing up the rear looked and turned, echoing Bruce’s warnings and the group began to run. The wolves were a mile off and running fast but making a direct line to the group. Caught out in the open like this, they would not stand a chance if the wolves surrounded them.

But, three hikers carried a side-arm. If need, they could open fire. Bruce carried the heaviest, a foot-long barreled revolver chambered for the mighty Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum cartridge.

It was not a quick-draw gun by any stretch of the imagination and it took him nearly five seconds to draw it out of the holster that resided between his backpack and his lumbar region.

It was a poor weapon against a pack of wolves bent on an easy meal.

Fully loaded, the big wheel-gun only held five rounds, and reloading was not a speed setting effort.

Still, if he could get them to line up, he could take four wolves with a single shot.

The hysterical thought ran through his mind of a four-for-one shot.

But he still carried it with one chamber unloaded and hammer down. It was an old safety habit. Popping out a cartridge from his belt, he slid the bullet cartridge into the empty chamber as Reedah came up next to him, panting from running with the heavy backpack.

“I say drop our packs here. Where is your car?”

“Half-mile up that way.” He pointed. The wolves were less than a quarter-mile off and coming fast. “We turned left one rock too soon. Get that pistol of yours out.”

“Like what am I going to do with it. I have an officer’s model with a seven plus one. Gill has a longslide with nothing else, we have the same count. “ She looked at him and drew her small auto-loader.

Her math was correct, even combined, their first volley did not match the numbers of the pack that ran towards them.

“I,” Gil gasped struggling with his pistol and the holster. “Have never seen wolves chase humans and out in the open too!”

“Gil, we don’t have enough firepower to win this outright, maybe we can divert them. Professor Ng, what do we do?”

“Climb a tree!” The Professor pointed to one with low hanging branches.

“What about our backpacks?” Reedah asked as the professor sprinted past— without his pack and gun in hand. “Oh!”

The group made the tree when the wolves caught up — and ran past them in a full run.

“Look! They are tuck-tailed.” Gil pointed out. “Something has them spooked.”

“I don’t know what would spook a pack of wolves like that.” Andre said. “There is documentation that a pack can take down a full-sized moose or caribou.”

“Keep climbing.” The professor said, looking down the path. “Oh crap, keep climbing!”

“What?” Bruce asked. “What is it?”

“BEAR!” The Professor pointed. “LOTS of them!”

Down the path a dozen bears, golden-manteled in the sunlight and giant, gorgeous, carnivorous creatures ran up the path like a toothy tsunami, not making a sound other than the crashing through the brush as each tried to pass the other.

“UP! UP!” the humans began to shout at each other, the lead bear’s mass approaching a quarter-ton. The largest land predator in the lower forty-eight states, although smaller than their coastal cousins. These were the apex predators of the area.

“I’m stuck!” Andre yelled. “Oh my god, help!” Andre yelled when the galloping group of grizzly bear closed the gap.

And followed the wolves, running past, followed by the mix of deer, a wolverine, and groups of smaller bear.

But no smoke in the distance.

“Professor, what is going on?” Bruce said as he tried to holster his horse-pistol. Succeeding on his third try.

“Bruce, can you stop waving that thing around, you’re making me nervous.” Gil said. “You brought that big ol’ thing, you should have also brought the rest of the armored car.”

“It would take care of anything I thought we might run across, including bear.”

“You could try.” Gil retorted. “Me, I would rather make a lot of noise with it and try to scare a bear off, unless you can shove it down the bears throat and pull the trigger.”

“With your little autoloader, you would need to…” Bruce was drawing a breath to continue the argument when the Professor interrupted.

“Enough. Seriously, enough.” The teacher shook his head while he climbed out of the tree. “We have more than we need to report just for that.”

“What scares a freakin’ GRIZZLY?” Andre asked. “Not counting a whole village of them.”

“I, for one, am going to the car.” Reedah commented while she picked up her pack. “You all can stand around and discuss this, but I shot video with my phone.” She smiled and held up her Android phone. “Five minutes worth.”

The men looked at each other stupidly then picked up their backpacks and set off in Reedah’s wake, still arguing over what they just witnessed.

“We need to get out of this area. The rest of the animals are running, I see dust in the air, there is more coming. I don’t now if it is more bear, moose or what. But I’d say it’s time to get out of this valley.”

Pulling on to the pavement, they did not hear the soft sound of a moaning as they drove away.

Horror smelled the thin-skinned and slow animal that drove off in a mechanical beast and would follow.

The Lunch break

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The lunch break

Doctor Nickosla Jones, Trauma surgeon of the St. Osmium Medical Center sat with a cup of coffee and a dry toasted english muffin. The shift had been severe. A cold night after a snow filled month and then a couple warm days.

Black ice had taken a toll on the average person. The latest victim, an elderly professor at the Ion University, walked out his drive with a bar to break up the ice, and slipped.

The on-scene EMS crews there put the unconscious instructor of physics on a helicopter and flew him straight to the St. Oz’s with posturing, and a subarachnoid bleed that they recognized straight away.

The only question was how long the injured man lay on the ice, out if sight of the house and anyone from the street. Only when his wife noticed he had not left for his early classes did she walk outside and discover her husband of two-millenia, two centuries and six-decades, laying in a freezing pool of blood from the laceration on the back of his head.

The surgery had been long and draining. The bleeding and fractures to the skull were not his only problems, spinal pressure from the neck injury complicated the treatment protocols as the teams moved from one problem to the next.

Finally, they closed and the patient went to the recovery, one alarming moment, the patient’s blood pressure dropped alarmingly, Nick and the other fellows rushed in, and after an intense hour, restored homeostasis as much as possible.

Professor Hecate Budd still was alive.

And Doctor Jones was tired.

No, not tired. Exhausted.

And he still had an hours drive home to do.

He was debating about going to the local hotel down the street and just logging some sleep for a few hours when he looked up and saw him.

White hair, a goatee that he kept well-trimmed and the affectation of the silver-handled cane that he started to carry in the long-ago past.

“Good job,” The one called Finis said, handing a latte to the Doctor. “Your patient will live, in spite of going horizontal for about a half-second.”

The goatee widened in a smile. Sparkling eyes shown behind the rose-colored glasses.

“Yeah, but he was fixing to die on us up there.”

“That medic on scene did a good job, he called it on the money by putting him in a helicopter and flying him here.” Finis nodded. “Besides, he had you. That made all the difference.”

A pretty young woman came up and tapped Finis on the shoulder and held up a tablet computer that Finis tapped on names.

“He has family waiting. Take his wife to him.” Finis nodded. “That will help.”

The woman nodded and tapped on the tablet.

Another name, she handed the tablet back to her boss and let him read it.

“This is expected.” Finis frowned. “You did not need to bring this to my attention. She will be leaving soon, family is on their way.”

“Sorry, the calls never quit.” He apologized to Nick.

“No, no. Don’t apologize, I know as well as anyone.” Nick sipped the fresh coffee and steamed milk.

“Yes, you do, as anyone in the center here knows. You are well taught and talented, but they are still overwhelmed.” Finis shook his head. “The hospital’s understaffed. When was the last time you took a day away from this house of craziness.”

“Yeah, well, it is the path I chose a long time ago.”

“Right after you nearly drowned.”

“Yeah. That was the first time I met you.” The doctor said.

“Well, it was a good meeting. It pushed you in the direction you took in school.” Finis looked around as the woman approached again from the hallway. No one noticing her except the two men. “You were a bit of drug-oriented rebel in those days.”

The woman spoke in Finis’ ear again, slipping the tablet into his hands.

“No, this is not right.” He shook his head. “His schedule is not yet finished, he’s scheduled for another week of therapy, then I have to go talk to him.”

She nodded and walked off to do her boss’s bidding.

“The same lecture I gave you when you were being stupid and jumped off that bridge into the river, I am giving to this young man. Unlike yours were at that age, his options are limited. He has not finished school and he’s twenty with a damaged liver.”

“He still could become something.”

“Perhaps you should talk to him.” Finis shook his head. “If I do it, he will have bladder incontinence issues for a week.”

“Not going to handle him gently, old man?” Nick chuckled and took a bite of his dry toast.

“Two things.” Finis gave a crooked smile. “One, I am always gentle. But I will get my way, no one says no to me for very long. And TWO, do not call me old.”

Nick chuckled. Both those statements were true. No one could deny the handsome gentleman that sat at the table sipping on his own latte.

Finis stood six-foot tall, his white hair hung to his shoulders when loose, but often he kept it pulled back into a pony-tail.

Broad at the shoulder, large of bicep and narrow at the hip, the effect was one of a Santa Claus that spent too much time in the gym. He really did not need the affectation of the cane he used to disarm people as a grandfatherly type.

And he was hysterical to listen to when he was working, always looking at a bright spot that no one expected and could poke fun at it.

Only once did he see the keeper of the cane become angry, it was not a pleasant thing to see. The doctor learned that the subordinate involved ended up being a yard watcher at a bone-yard.

Looking at a young man reading a comic book, Finis sighed at the graphic of a cloaked monster with a scythe in hand.

“I wish, someday that I could entrust this job to someone else, then I could talk to children of the views they find in those, “ Finis paused looking for the words. “Graphic novels. Are not entirely accurate.”

He shook his head.

“Well, people do have a fear of a lot of things.”

“Yes,” Finis agreed. “But as a doctor, do you find them afraid of you?”

“Sometimes. I tell them the truth and they don’t always like it.”

“When I tell them the truth,” Finis grumbled. “They don’t believe me.”

The woman returned with the pad, but this time she had a worried look.

“Mister Sierra.” The only words she said as she handed Finis the tablet.

“Of course, he has no one. I need to go talk with him.” Finis signed the tablet and handed it back to her. “Nick, you did a fine job. The professor will leave this medical center on his own power. Don’t worry. I am not scheduled to meet with him for a long while yet.”

Looking back at the comic book the boy held.

“Maybe I should change my cane for something else? They make the cane into an edged weapon and I have no face.”

“Or a skull.” Nick nodded grimly. “You have to admit, you have a tough job.”

Nodding Finis stood up, shaking Nick’s hand. Old friends, Nick had met him when he nearly died as a teenager, the white-haired, smiling man directed him to medicine to do so much good.

Now, Nick felt a little sorry for him. Overworked and under-appreciated, the Angel of Death walked out of the cafeteria. A soul that hated his job and took it to heart that no one wanted to meet with him.

Always scheduling family to walk with the dearly departed, or walking with someone so they never made the trip alone, telling jokes or having conversations with them the entire journey. He was good at his job, and he hated it so much.

Doctor Jones shook his head and got up, the irony of it all was not lost on him.

The Healing Heart

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He wore a hat these days, his hair had thinned, turned white in most of the remaining hair.

Often he would laugh when his friends complained about going grey, redheads do not go grey.  They just fade to white. But he wore his cowboy hat, the one that his daughter brought back from her travels as a good-will Ambassador several years before.

Today, he walked with his grandson, holding hands with the blond-curly vessel of non-stop questions.

“What kind of bird is that?”

“Why do cats live here and not at home?”

Nicholas the Second (Named after his grandfather) answered Nicholas the Third (Named after him) did his best to answer each question before the next one erupted from the single-digit aged young man.

For a couple years Big Nick walked this path alone, weeping at the loss of his daughter. His wife long divorced him, married another man with a position in a large company and moved out of the country.  She had abandoned them in favor of a new life, as far away from the husband, a daughter, a disabled son and a grandson as she could get.

The son, disabled with profound Down’s syndrome, played with Little Nicky and loved his nephew like no one could love another.

On days that Robert went to school, Big Nick went for a walk along the wooded lane. No other family for a thousand miles, Child Services checked in on them once a week and spent an hour inspecting cabinets, laundry and playing “endless questions”.

His finances, also under scrutiny on a regular basis, stretched to  the breaking point every month, he often held his breath. His retirement depleted early on with private care for Robert before he found a program to accept him that worked best. The stress over the years since Maggie left built to profound levels.

Then AnnaMarie’s plane went down in the ocean, there was nothing to bury, no survivors, no body. Just her and his son-in-law were gone. Nicky, too young to make the business trip for just an afternoon meeting with some politician who promised her a possible posting in a desirable location.

They talked of Japan, or Ireland, Sweden and the Nordic country names they bandied about with excitement.

But they never got to the meeting, a volcanic eruption a hundred miles away spread ash, harder than metal, in the sky.  What looked like light haze, was in point of fact, volcanic dust.

Jet engines, a spinning, flying blowtorch, ingested the abrasive salad of silica, crystalized carbon and thousand other ingredients that rapidly destroyed the internal parts of the jet engines.  The investigators discovered one engine detonated, shrapnel separated from the central hub, destroying the wing controls, then at just under five-thousand feet, the wing separated from the fuselage, sending it into a one-way trip into non-compressible water at two-hundred miles-per-hour. The ocean, there almost three miles deep, prevented proper recovery.

Hellish as it was, Big Nick had performed harder jobs at some time in his life.

Pretty sure, anyway.  He just could never remember when it was so miserable.

Explaining to Little Nicky what happened was, perhaps, the most difficult.  They both cried, Big Nick for his losses, Little Nick because he never saw the elder cry before.

Today, they walked together Little Nick and he. The young man had a spirit that pulled on his soul, so much like his mom.

He pulled his grandfather’s soul into the wind like a kite. With steely-blue eyes and a curiosity that knew no limits, the once red-headed giant of the boy’s life drew his breath again and answered the next questions while they walked, holding hands.

“How much to clouds weigh?”

“What are clouds made of?

“Why do they float….”

He loved his grandson.

Dragonmaster University Chapter 35. AHH! Homework! AHH!

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Chapter 35. AHH! Homework! AHH!

Jona staggered into the common room of the dorms, in his arms were four books, each the size of his head thick. Weighing half as much as he did. He put the books down on his table with a bang.

“Ugh, those are heavy. Three classes and we move into these books to study.” He griped to no one in particular. “I think I pulled a muscle.”

Jona rubbed the cramp out of his arm and sat.

Obon, a water dragon from a different clan than Kolo, held on book in his clawed upper hand, the faceted eyes of the undergrad glittered in the bright lights of the common room.

“Problem Jona?” Obon asked without looking up.

“Dragon law, the charter of human and dragon agreements of the seven kingdoms.” Jona rubbed his face with both hands. “The title is even complex!”

Obon laughed in a knowing way.

“Been there, done that.” The water dragon picked up a box and upended it, the crunching sound made Jona think of crackers until one of the things fell out of the box and crawled across the floor.

A hermit-crab! Jona made a face, at least his snacks never tried to run away.

Obon offered Jona his box.

“Crabs?”

“Ah… No. Thanks.” Jona laughed. “That’s not something I care to eat.”

“Suit yourself.” Obon laughed, scooping up the side-scuttling shell with tiny legs and popped it into his mouth. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

“I think I might like it that way, ignorance is bliss and all.”

Obon laughed again, stood up and stretched. He was only up to Jona’s shoulder, but one of the fastest riders in years past, legend had it that he crashed, his ride was badly hurt. Obon was afraid to go in the air again. He was a swimmer and joined the water-ball team, excelling at that as he did with the sky-riding.

“I have a parchment to write on the first laws of dragons, back when man first stepped out of the fog of time.” Jona shook his head. “What is the fog of time?”

“That is when someone thought to keep a record of their day. The first journal, so to speak.” Obon saiad.

“Not to be rude, but I must have this read by morning, I have put it off for pracice in the pool. The history of human-male failures with the human-female.” The small dragon looked back into his book.

“Fail?” Jona laughed.

“Oh, yes.” Obon laughed. “You humans gamble big on getting a mate. When you win, you get someone like Professor Vale and Lady RedNova, Professor Greenman’s daughter? Have you met her?”

Jona shook his head and smiled.

“You are in for a treat. She cooks the best kelp soup.” Obon smiled. “Tasty by even human standards.”

“I’ll, uh. I’ll take your word for it.” Jona did not even like the sound of it.

Obon chuckled and shook his head.

“My advice, you have Professor Krular Class? He’s three-quarters human and one-quarter fire-drake. Better to have the homework done ahead of time, he has a particular habit for posting lessons on his office door. Have you been to his office to look?” Obon asked.

“No, we haven’t even started the class module, yet.” Jona felt alarmed. “Why?”

“You will have a test come after the week break. I suggest you go to the office and find out what you need to study on. He is unforgiving for failure to take on the responsibilities. You are studying as a Master, you have to take command of the situation, that is part of the test.”

Blinking, the young human took the pearl of wisdom and turned on his heel.

“Thanks Obon!” And ran down the stairs.

“Bring back another box of hermit crabs!” The dragon yelled after human. Feeling like a teacher, Obon picked up the box again and at another mouthful of the crunchy treats.

Jona, in a run, skidded out the door of the dormitory and then slowed to a fast walk, avoiding the urge to run, too many students walked to their different destinations, many reading as they went.

Four flights of stairs, the fifth flight, was horrid, cut from igneous rock and polished by a thousand footfalls.

He found Professor Class’ office, and right where he Obon said it would be, the lesson to study.

Laughing, he would have been an abysmal failure, but the study material, was simple and straight forward, but required him to read for about an hour worth of time. Returning to the dorms, he stopped at the student store and picked up a box of “Crabbies” for Obon. The sound of them moving around inside the woven material was slightly unnerving, but he made the trip and gifted it to the water dragon.

Sometimes, it pays to listen to those that have walked the path before. Jona contemplated as he read.

The first day of class, Jona had read, re-read and contemplated the mental state of the lawmakers of the era. And Professor (”Doctor if you please.” In terse tone of voice.) Class was true to character.

He did not forgive any student for being surprised on the testing on the first day of class.

Jona thought that Doctor Class looked annoyed, but impressed that Jona had the answers in the front of his mind.

Nodding inwardly, Jona made note to pay close attention to the older students who had been at the school longer.

“A true Dragon Master pays attention.” Aed Samhain said to his son before he his only child at the huge school, built inside the mountain. “You were chosen by the little one for a reason. Listen to those that care about you most. Don’t let your emotions or your heart lead your mind, just yet. Anyway.”

The old man had slapped Jona on the back with a smile, but the years of iron and hammers made the gentle, fatherly pat on the back feel like a blow by one of his hammers.

After the first day of class, with testing, Jona laughed and went to see Kolo.

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Dragonmaster University Chapter 34.The Morning after with laughter.

Jona slowly became aware of the sound of a heartbeat. Sprite moved around in his arms on the verge of wakefulness.

He had hoped to sleep late, after yesterday, but the school had burned into his brain the need to be at class, on time, every time.

Professor Vale, he thought, had used the power of the suggestion, to make an alarm clock in his head.

Kolo woke with her hand over Jona’s heart feeling the beat of the muscle all night long. The healing nature of dragons helped the human’s overtired muscles as he slept all night without moving.

Jona slowly tried to extricate himself from Sprite and Kolo, then he became aware that Kolo was awake and watching him try to move Sprite to the pillow covered in a curly, soft hair that reminded him of a Llamadoodle, a hypoallergenic hybrid of a camalid and a wool-bearing canine.

Dreading his exit from Kolo’s bed, he hurt so bad the night before. His feet hit the floor…

And it was as if he had done nothing strenuous at Professor Vuul’s class!

He stretched, a glorious, long, tingling stretch that made his whole body feel ready for anything. The robe caressed his skin as he moved, it was the most comfortable morning to wake up he ever experienced.

“Feel better?” Kolo asked in a soft voice.

Jona held a finger up to his lips, pointing at Sprite. Who promptly jumped up and crawled up his arm with lightning speed, squeaking “Mo-da! Mo-da!”

“Da?” Jona asked.

“Dad.” Kolo laughed.

“OKay, I need to go to my room, any way I can go there without being seen?” Jona looked out the door self-consciously.

“No one cares, at this level.” Kolo opened the door and walked out wearing her nightclothes. “You do not need to worry about the whispers and embarrassment. That is a human invention in some societies. In the dragon society, we sleep together often. Or have you not paid attention to your dragon studies?”

“Well, yeah, I just.” Jona looked out the window. “I never had this happen to me.”

“Jona.” Kolo caressed his cheek. “Nothing happened, you were in a healing cuddle. Dragons do it all the time, how do you think we live so long? Two dragons can heal each other better than one dragon can. If alone, a single dragon spins a cocoon and sleeps, the healing happens there, and we can share the healing touch.”

“I know.” Jona smiled. “I felt no pain when I got up, as bad as I hurt last night, this morning was great.”

“Good, we can do it again more often?” Kolo tilted her head to the side. Her eyes, more human than many dragons, still glittered like cut glass when she was enjoying something. “We could, y’know, see each other daily.”

“I… Uh…” Jona looked like a child caught sneaking one of his mothers fresh cookies.

“Go on, you.” Kolo laughed. “You cannot tell when you are having your mind messed with.”

Jona laughed nervously and walked out into the hall, towards his room, some thirty steps away.

His classes started in an hour, he still should eat breakfast before heading to his class on human-dragon history, then back to Professor Vuul’s smite shop and his turn back at the bellows.

The bellows, buried in his memory cells, was a full body workout. The Professor let him heat up and beat on some metal, but the Professor chose the hammer, a hammer nearly as long as Jona’s forearm. It was another three-hour workout scheduled that proscribed by Hephaestus in his textbook of metal sciences.

It would be a shower again tonight, maybe Kolo was right. Cuddling with her to heal would prepare him for the class five days a week.

THAT was something Jona would look forward to.

Dancing in the dark (poem)

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Moon is supposed to rise

the night air, chills the flies

A cricket slowly rubs its wings

The silence broken by the sound

A strong youth races home in the chill air.

His highest gear as he peddles hard.

A young-old man, bad news as his best friend grows so ill.

A liter of vodka, in the night chill.

A missed stop sign and a broken heart.

A bent bicycle.

Another family torn apart.

In jail he sits while his love draws her final breaths

One empty man

One empty bottle

Two empty deaths

Prison

A life a wreck

Release

On a winters eve

The moon is supposed to rise

At Hell’s Kitchen, Spicer Meadow road

Standing on the precipice 

Two empty bottles

One empty man

No heart

He flies.

His gift to the world, a vertical epic

They once called him Doctor of Art

Then they called him monster,

who tore lives apart

Now they called him dead.