Very few can see into the spiritual realm of good and evil.
Serenity Charles is a young woman given that special gift of spiritual vision. With it, she commits to fight off the powers of wickedness.
Her spiritual eyes are open to see evil deceit, and she observes demons that live within humans causing destructive behavior.
Wearing a sacred armor, Serenity (Rena), goes into battle to protect those who the demons would coldly harm or annihilate. With her shield she is protected from their flaming darts while using her sword of the Word, she cuts them asunder sending them screaming away in panic.
Three of Gods Waring Angels, Avigdor, Ariel, and Akim, are her guardians and collaborators, supporting her to accomplish a victory.
Aiden Baker, a mining boss, meets and is apparently taken by Rena’s beauty. He fights his attraction for her by either ignoring or voicing his reluctance to pursue a promising relationship. Will this angry man remain stubborn or will he chase Rena when she leaves town to return to her birthplace?
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It was dark and quiet in the house when Rena awoke with a start. Three huge golden angels stood at the foot of her bed. Dressed in white each carried a sword in a breast band around their shining bronze bodies. The angel in the middle began to communicate from his mind to hers. No words were spoken aloud to Rena, and his mouth didn’t move, yet she completely understood every word.
“My name is Avigdor, it means, the Lords Protector. These two with me are my helpers, Akim and Ariel. I am the leader in charge and will do most of the communicating. Father God has sent us to instruct you on your work and also to go everywhere with you helping to overcome the encountered evil.”
Every word received was spoken to her in the heavenly language, not English, yet she understood. She also knew demons did not know this language so it would be an extra strength.
“Come,” Avigdor motioned to her to stand. “Tonight we take you on a journey through to the spirit world. You need to behold the places of good and evil. There should be no fear because the holy armor of God is your protection.”
As he spoke, a breastplate covered her chest, with a wide belt around her waist, a helmet sat down on her head, and her feet became shod in golden boots. Through the air spun a sword that secured itself into her hand. Seeing her image in her full-length mirror, she glowed, just like the angels.
“Take your shield to guard you against the flaming darts. Be ever mindful lest you are struck.” Avigdor handed her the shield; it was enormous, big enough to cover her yet light in weight not to cause a hindrance. Strangely when holding it, she could see straight through, yet when Avigdor held it she could not. Of course, it - like her armor was spiritual and more powerful than an earthly covering or weapon.
In the time since her heavenly visitors appeared Rex remained asleep. Glancing down at him snoring Rena wondered why he didn’t wake up. He was a guard dog and liked to be a part of everything.
“He will remain here,” was spoken with authority. The angels raised their arms, flying upwards through the roof and to the open star-filled sky. Astonishingly, Rena found she could fly beside them.
Out of the earth’s dome and into the magnificent atmospheric space, her planet disappeared, left far behind. Rena propelled faster than light up into an ambiance of strange sights that continued forever. It all seemed inconceivable. They traveled in unison, with planets and stars flashing by and yet - when looking to the horizon; it always seemed the same distance away.
No words could explain what Rena saw or how she felt within herself - it was beyond words and beyond everything that she comprehended
Part espionage thriller, part romance, part fantasy, part adventure, ‘Notoriously Naked Flames’ is Mike Steeden’s first novel. Spanning the lead up to WW2, the war itself and into the early 1950’s the unnamed heroine of the piece, a bewitching albino of Bohemian bent, masquerades in all manner of risqué guises dishing out her own version of clandestine justice to those evils souls spawned of conflict’s disregard for compassion, law and order. Additionally, she also finds herself nursing her lover, a giant of an Englishman once in the employ of MI5, back to a semblance of his former self following his torture at the hands of Cold War Soviets that had left him deaf, mute and blind. Her task is made a little easier with the help an Eastern European girl she befriended in bizarre circumstance.
Together the trio of ‘notoriously naked flames’ take on life in all its demonstrative disguises while the racy heroine keeps under wraps the tale of her otherworldly evolution for were it to become known to the public at large it might just invalidate religion as we know it and bring forth a new Dark Age. Can she keep safe her secret?
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EARLY SUMMER 1952 – SUSSEX, ENGLAND
She examines her defenceless giant searchingly as he bathes. He, the one who is a portrayal of rare full-fledged innocence, and wonders if the macrocosm inside his head replicates the one outside of hers. She hopes against hope that locked within exists a rainbow’s multi-coloured arc, or is all this lost upon the extraordinary self, empty of speech, hearing and sight, unaware that gesture is the only language he bestows. Touch and smell his native inside-out lone connection.
She communicates as best she can. Upon his awakening, she is always there. Her ‘hello of sorts’ a lover’s tangled tongue kiss. No passion though, they are no longer the passing lovers they once were. More that the sharing of her unique taste serves to let him perceive her, recognize her. Always has him gift a beaming smile just for her. She wears the self-same perfume each new day also, it helps him identify her proximity.
With no great difficulty she aids him out of the bath, warm towels, warm heart care. Time for drying and dressing, though the palaver of dressing irks him, induces a frown. Regardless he is immune to nakedness within his ambushed consciousness, his curious dominion. Not for him the embarrassment of the earthly collective.
The sun shone the day before. Albeit keeping a caring eye open, she chose to let him wander the lawn, uncovered. From nowhere a summer storm brewed, small hailstones. She watched as he held out his palms, threw his head back, greeted the spheres of water ice, an air of amazement, no suffering.
The eternal ‘what next’ frustrates her day; muddles her mood. She undresses, calculates he may have no recollection that human beings come in two packages. Her hands upon his chest, fingers spread wide, sensation of touch inviting. Invitation accepted, he mirrors her actions, stroke for stroke, his look curious, questioning, captivated. No folly in innocent exploration.
A telephone outside of his realm rings. Might be important, she pulls away. Notices he sheds a single loaded tear, from which continent of emotion it heralds, likely she will never unearth.
He has been this way ever since she rescued him.
Dr Beth Nichols thinks she has been held captive by Edwin Evans for about 8 or 9 years now. Amidst her grief she often looks back and thinks about her fiancée Liam; theirs was the greatest romance of all. She lays awake at night staring at the one light bulb that is never switched off, and prays that he is still out there somewhere searching for her...
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MY HEAD IS pounding, and a bright light above ensures I quickly have to close my eyes again. Feeling nauseated, I lie still, using my other senses to try and recognise sounds or a particular aroma which could confirm to me that I am still in the accommodation unit. However, I can hear nothing at all; not even the usual birdsong, and there is an unaccountably earthy, damp smell. Suddenly curious, I fight sickness and confusion to sit up and take note of my surroundings.
I have no idea where I am. I am lying on top of a double bed. It is not the bed where I wrap myself contentedly around Liam. There is a duvet beneath me covered with a surprisingly clean-looking lilac flowery cover, which is complete with matching sheets and pillow cases. There does not seem to be any other furniture. There are no windows, and the bare bulb above my head is the only source of light.
Slightly panicky now and ignoring the increased hammering in my brain, I stand up shakily on the cold, concrete floor. The room is quite small, and I reach the only visible door after taking just a few steps. It is not the sort of door that I could break down. I turn the handle, but it refuses to yield.
I am locked in. I want to scream in fright, but stop myself at the last moment from sliding into rampant hysteria. I reason that whoever is keeping me in the room against my will would not want me making too much noise which might alert searchers to my location. I figure that I need to keep on the right side of my captor.
Allison Stevens became a Christian at a young age, but she makes a wrong decision that takes her on a collision course of disappointment and heartache. God loves her and wants her back, but Satan wants to keep her in a life of despair and lies.
Heavenly Spirits are sent by God to instruct and remind Allison of God’s promises. Can she learn to trust God's word and become the woman God meant for her to be?
A family she didn’t know she had, a man grieving a personal loss, and a felon who wants her dead makes her relationships more complicated than ever. Can she learn to trust God again and walk by faith?
On the road back to God, she discovers that the path doesn’t come without trials but now she realizes she isn’t alone. God is with her. Can she stay strong and follow God's path?
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It was two years since Allison Stevens had been to her hometown of Rustin, Colorado. She left after high school graduation, due to an unresolved issue with her father. One minute she was in a heated argument and then she was grabbing her suitcase walking out the door, only looking back once, but it was long enough to see the hurt look in her mother’s eyes.
She threw her suitcase onto the back seat of Tom’s Chevy and got into the front seat. Tom leaned over, gave her a quick peck on the cheek, and then started the car. At that time her heart and mind were a million miles apart.
Tom who was a couple of years older had swept her off her feet. Tall, with gorgeous brown eyes and a voice that dripped like honey, he was always telling her she was the most beautiful girl he ever saw. When he ran his fingers through her long auburn hair, it would send chills through her body and when their eyes met, she felt as though she would melt.
“Tom, where will we go?” Allison asked, now faced with the reality of the hasty decision she had made.
“Collingwood. I’ve been offered an internship with an advertising firm there. I know you’re scared. It’s a big step, but you’ll see. Everything will work out. We’ll get married. Isn’t that what you want?” he asked -glancing over at her with his dazzling smile that seemed to make her lose all common sense.
“Yes, of course. But where will we live? Do you have money to get a place? Allison asked, feeling unsure of her future. Doubt was beginning to creep in.
“We’ll stay with my brother and his wife until we can get a place of our own. I already talked to them.”
“It sounds like you have everything all figured out,” said Allison leaning her seat back. “How long will it be till we get there?”
“About an hour and a half,” Tom said. “Why don’t you get some sleep and I’ll wake you when we’re there.”
“Okay.” Allison took one last look out the side window as the highway stretched before her leaving her home behind. Her final thought before her eyes shut was, I will probably never see my parents again.
The years had not been kind to Allison. Tom was not at all what she had expected. He did get his job at Bedford Advertising and seemed to settle in quite nicely, and Allison even managed to get put in charge of the advertising for their magazine. She started to get one pay raise after another and felt she was finally living the life she was meant to live right before the bottom dropped out.
Allison was called into Mr. Bedford’s office one day in the middle of June. In the time she had been there, she knew that nothing good ever came from a special meeting with the boss.
“You have been a valuable asset to our company, but with the conflict between you and your husband, due to our company rules we have to let one of you go.” Mr. Bedford got up from his desk and came towards Allison. “I hate to have to do this, but we are terminating you.”
“I’m not sure I understand why.” Allison got up and walked towards the door. “But I’ll clean out my desk.”
“Stop by accounting and pick up your check and your letter of recommendation before you leave. I wish you the best, Allison.”
That was the end of the life she treasured. One-day Allison had a high paying job, a husband she loved and hoped to have children with some day, and then it was all gone.
Saidah's Christmas memories have been warped by personal tragedy. A chance encounter brings her unexpected love and a new outlook on life.
Here's to finding love where you least expect it!
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“I don’t know why you’re being so difficult, Saidah. Just put on some clothes, run a brush through your hair and come over.”
“Maybe I don’t want to go over there. Maybe I want to sit on my couch and watch A Christmas Story back to back while I drink myself into oblivion.” As if I needed to prove my point, I loudly sipped from my mug of spiked hot chocolate.
“That’s the exact reason you need to bring your behind over here. You don’t need to be by yourself on Christmas. Especially on Christmas.”
I rolled my eyes while switching the phone from one shoulder to the other. I was comfortable, deeply implanted into the corner of my new leather couch, under a chenille throw, in my pajamas and fuzzy Christmas socks. The socks weren’t actually necessary, since it was the warmest Christmas Atlanta had seen in years, but they were red and had little green Christmas trees on them, so they were helping to ring in the holiday season as best they could.
The trees on my socks were about the only sign of cheer in my condo. It had been years since I put up a tree and decorated for the season. It had also been years since I joined Faith, my friend-as-close-as-a-sister, and her family for Christmas dinner. My new tradition wasn’t one I picked up by choice; it was a natural consequence. And I was in no hurry to change something like a natural consequence.
“I promise you, honey. I’m fine right here. Enjoy your meal and your family. Are we doing after Christmas sales on Saturday?”
Faith sighed that long, drawn out sigh that usually accompanied a roll of her dark brown eyes and pursing of her pouty lips. “Why do you have to ruin everything, you stubborn brat?”
“Wait, what? I didn’t know we were name calling on today of all days, the celebration of the birth of sweet little eight pound, six-ounce baby Jesus.”
“Yes, we’re name calling when you’re being stubborn. I was trying to surprise you. Jay is coming to dinner.”
My heart skipped a beat at the mention of him. I didn’t have to ask for a last name or a clarification on who Jay was. I knew very well, and Faith knew, too. The very thought of him brought his face to my memory—strong square jaw with the dimple in the chin, skin like whipped mousse, chiseled cheekbones, classic nose, wide-set eyes so dark they looked black and the longest, prettiest eyelashes you ever saw on a man. Always impeccably dressed and intelligent to boot.
Jay was the one that got away.
“Don’t lie to me, Faith. Jay is really coming to dinner?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you, Saidah. Never have, never will.”
“Well. When did that happen? How did you even get in touch with him?”
“I have my ways,” said Faith. In the background, I heard the clank of the heavy lid to her Le Creuset Dutch oven. A Le Cordon Bleu trained chef that owned a successful catering company, Faith could tear up a meal like nobody’s business. You’d swear you were dining at a five-star restaurant and be right in her dining room.
“I’m serious, Faith! How did you manage that? How do you know he’s really showing up?”
“Anthony ran into him in Nashville a few weeks ago at that conference he went to— you remember they’re in the same frat? They started talking, catching up. He works in… building design or something. Was doing pretty well, but he hinted that his wife left last year.”
“Left him? Women are giving up rich handsome men these days?”
“Girl, I guess. There was an affair, or at least that’s the vibe Anthony got from talking to him. Anyway, he seemed to be having a hard time, said something about being alone this year so Anthony invited him over. He came home and told me and that’s when I called you and asked if you were coming over.”
As stubborn as I was about spending the day in my pajamas, alone, on my leather couch, the thought of seeing Jay after all these years could be a game changer.
We’d all gone to college together at Albany State University. Jay and Anthony were line brothers in Alpha Psi Alpha. Anthony and Faith were dating and were trying to hook me up with Jay. He and I were friends, then close friends, and then one night after a party, on the walk back to the dorms, he pulled me into the shadow of a building and pressed himself against me, walking me backward until I was caught between the cold brick wall and the warm man with the racing heartbeat.
His lips pressed against mine, tentatively at first and then with a moan and a tilt of his head, deepened the kiss with an open mouth and a probe of his tongue. After a few minutes of breathless kisses and roaming hands, I pulled him from the darkness and around the corner to the side door into the building.
I dragged him to the room that Faith and I shared, that I was pretty much living in alone since she spent a lot of her time at Anthony’s place. Jay wasn’t my first, but he may as well have been. Being with him felt so different than the few guys that had stumbled through quick, awkward sex. Jay moved slowly, fluidly, I felt like we were meant to be together. There was definitely no stumbling and zero awkwardness.
After, we talked and talked, tangled up in the sheets with my cheek plastered to his warm skin. I listened to his heartbeat and splayed my fingers across his broad chest, feeling him catch his breath. I was already falling in love.
We were inseparable, except when we were with Faith and Anthony. We were those cute couples that did everything together and always hung out together. Until we weren’t.
Jay was from a small South Georgia town and the college experience seemed overwhelming to him. While he did well in classes, he wasn’t used to having so many social options. The allure of being able to date so many women was tempting. So much so that, before the end of our sophomore year and right after Anthony and Faith got engaged, Jay broke up with me.
Over the next few weeks I saw him on campus, hands tightly clasped around the waist of one girl and then another. Looking into someone else’s eyes with that gaze I used to think was reserved for me, laughing that laugh that I thought only I could bring out. I was devastated. I tried everything to get him to realize the mistake he’d made, what he was giving up and leaving behind. Jay was more interested in the next party, the next girl, the next conquest.
Faith and I graduated, and a few months later, I walked down the aisle as her Maid of Honor. Though I hadn’t seen him in years, Jay was at the wedding, as handsome as he ever was, with a beautiful cinnamon toned woman on his arm.
Twelve years later, we’d be in the same room. Him so handsome, more mature and all grown up; hurt and vulnerable from the demise of his marriage. And me so… well, me.
“So, is he still fine? And what are you making?” I made a valiant attempt at sounding nonchalant but Faith was on to me. I could almost hear the grin in her voice, knowing full well what my moments of silence represented.
“I haven’t seen him, so I don’t know. But Anthony didn’t say he’d let himself go or anything. And I’m not going all out— just a bone-in prime rib, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, collard greens, macaroni and cheese. Maybe a wedge salad with bacon bits, some yeast rolls. Oh, and a Dulce de leche cake. And I’m thinking about whipping up a pound cake with buttercream frosting.”
“Not much? Not going all out? I just gained five pounds listening to that.”
“Dinner is at three o’clock. I’ll save you a place next to Jay. Bring some wine, a nice cabernet or merlot.”
“I already told you— what makes you think I’ve changed my mind?”
“Because I know you. And I know I can always change your mind. See you in a bit.”
My retort was cut off by a dial tone. I sucked my teeth, rolled my eyes and tossed the phone onto the couch. I stomped to the bedroom, heading straight for the closet. Dressing for this dinner was going to be of utmost importance. I hadn’t seen Jay since he paraded that woman in my face and had the nerve to be smug about it.
“Hamm…” I hummed, stepping into the closet to survey my options. “I’ll want to make a good impression… but not look like an attention whore.”
I eyed a pair of skinny jeans, dark rinse. My full figure did look ridiculously good in them, but the way Faith cooked, I would need more room than those would allow. “I need to show off my grown and sexy…. but not look thirsty.”
I thumbed through a few more options before I grabbed up a brand new black sweater dress with stylish zipper embellishment across each shoulder. It hugged my ample hips and showed off my bust in glorious fashion. At a perfect mid-thigh length, it was long enough to be classy but short enough to be sexy. I’d pair it with my over-the-knee, three-inch suede boots.
I plugged in my flatiron and turned on the shower. I was going to be a spectacle or die trying.
Time to show Jay what he’d been missing all these years.
If you ain't got love you're . . . LIMPIN'. Ida Evers shares all of the trials and victories of their lives together, with her husband, James Evers, who has Alzheimer's. His reactions are hilarious and heartwarming. Her gripping storytelling is filled with all of the angst, surprise, joy and loss of lives lived thoroughly with love as its anchor. Tales of family life will come and go, but you will never forget the Evers.
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The blazing, early morning summer sun roasted the ancient tin roof of our tiny house as I watched my husband of fifty-four years make a mess of his supper. Sometimes, James would let me feed him as if he were still a human. Other times, he would become agitated and snatch the spoon out of my hand. Pleading with him did no good now. His mind was so far gone he didn’t understand much of what I said anymore.
James would usually put his spoon down when he was done piddling in his plate. Lately, I could only hope he wouldn’t throw it when he was done. He had started doing that about a month ago. So far, he had only hit me with it once when my back was turned. I wanted to throw that spoon right back at him, but he wouldn’t have known why I did that either. Instead, I thanked God it hadn’t been a knife or a fork and went back to doing whatever I was doing before.
The doctor told me James had Alzheimer’s four years ago, and that he would forget things and do strange things he had never done before. I thought that diagnosis was funny at the time because corn liquor had been doing that to James for over fifty years. As far as James doing anything he had never done before, I thought that impossible. If he got his back up about something or a load on, James always could and would do some pretty stupid things.
The doctor told me James was physically fine, but he would need to be watched all of the time because people with Alzheimer’s had a tendency to wander off and not be able to find their way back home. These people stuck their fingers into electrical outlets and fire on the stove. James has never done either one of those; however, he did decide he wanted to get something out of the well one night. The sun was up by the time we got him out.
None of this disturbed me. I had cared for my mother until she died twenty years ago. That doctor called Mama senile and gave me the same symptoms as this doctor was giving me for James’ Alzheimer’s. Mama was a piece of cake to take care of compared to James. My mother forgot some things most of the time, and was mean as hell all of the time. But, Mama had been a pistol all of her life. Expecting her to turn into a sweet, docile old lady would have been ludicrous.
James had slowly forgotten everything in the past four years. Speech had even escaped him most of the time these days, and the last things he said had not made much sense. It’s hard as hell watching a man who could rattle the windows with the anger in his booming voice turn into a six foot seven inch, two hundred and forty pound infant; aimlessly wandering around as if trying to remember what he was supposed to be doing all day.
I’m the only one who remembers anything now. All of the ups and downs of the lives and love of James and Ida Evers would disappear forever when I shut my eyes. James had no idea who I was most days, and the constant yelling and wrestling with a man who could snap my neck on a whim could only be done with pure trusting love.
Occasionally, out of the blue, James would still say something that made me wonder if he was all gone. As I cooked and cleaned the house, James would sit in his chair and watch me. The sound of his clear, coherent voice startling me, as he would ask, “Ida, what are you doing?”
“I’m cleaning up this mess you made, James. Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m fine, Sweetheart. Come here.”
I would walk over as James held his arms up for a hug. Seeing the recognition in his eyes always ripped at my heart. I knew it would disappear as quickly as it had come. I would give him his hug and a kiss before the light of recognition left. I always kissed him until his body went limp. That would be the signal that James was no longer present. These were the moments I lived for now. Brief glimpses of the original James Evers, though painful, were all I had left.
Our children and the doctor insisted I put James in a nursing home. No one seemed to understand that my life had revolved around James Evers since I was twelve years old. I couldn’t comprehend James not being here with me. Abandoning him when he needed me more than ever . . . never . . . I loved him.
Train. Fight. Repeat.
That's been Princeton "The Prince" Lattimore's life for as long as he can remember. But when an interruption to his heavyweight champion world comes in the form of an alluring journalist who sees well beyond his undefeated stature, he quickly learns there’s a lot more to life outside of the boxing ring.
Write. Submit. Repeat.
As a budding journalist, Bella Stevenson is determined to solidify her place as one of the best writers in the game. But when she’s assigned to cover a boxing match – a sport she knows nothing about – she realizes that it’s going to take a lot more than just a good write-up to do so. And once chasing a good story turns into meeting the man of her wildest imagination, her world is quickly turned upside down in more ways than one.
Falling for each other proves to be an easy feat. But going the distance becomes the biggest challenge either of them has faced, especially as Princeton discovers who’s really in his corner…
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Jack Gard and Catlyn Lyte become friends in high school. Although he cares for Catlyn, Jack refuses to get into a relationship with Catlyn, due to her age. Then Catlyn is raped and her world is torn apart when Jack sides with his best friend. Devastated, Catlyn flees Newburgh, NY.
25 years later, someone is raping and killing young black females in Jack Gard, Chief of Detectives' hometown. Working against an escalating killer, Jack requests help from a special division of the FBI.
Enter Supervisory Special Agent Catlyn Lyte. She has always done her job well but is wary of working with someone she doesn't trust. Sparks fly between the two officials as Catlyn puts herself in the path of their quarry.
Can two ex-friends bury their differences to solve not only the mystery of the Newburgh Slasher, but also the one that ruined their budding romance 25 years ago?
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Do any of us truly know the people we love and trust?
Keegan Henderson married the love of her life—twice.
And divorced him—twice.
An intelligent and high-spirited thirty-four-year-old, Keegan finds herself once again living with her parents while juggling her duties as a mother to her preteen son and discovering who she is as a newly single woman.
Her ex-husband, Will, a state police investigator working undercover, is a man with a past. His buried secrets are catching up with him, forcing their way into his present, and as a result, he chooses to deceive those he loves in order to protect them.
On her journey to moving on, Keegan has a chance meeting with Jack Grady, a local firefighter, and their attraction to each other is one that neither can deny. But Jack also has baggage of his own that is proving to be too much for Keegan to handle.
As their vulnerabilities are exposed, a series of unexpected events occurs, shattering lives along the way.
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“Of all the places you could have ended up, why are you here? Why didn’t you go home?”
“This is home. I’d think you would be happy to see me here, establishing a business, putting down roots.”
“When your roots pull mine out, we have a problem.”
Leslie Baker, owner of Potter Lake’s original hometown beauty shop, the Curl & Dye, has a problem.
Her problem isn’t her dwindling customer base. And it’s not the shifty, shady Mayor of the idyllic lakeside town.
Her problem is a muscular, handsome, 6’4” former basketball superstar with a solid physique and colorful sleeve tattoos. Kade “KC” Cavanaugh is back in Potter Lake following his NBA retirement and the business he’s opened, a slick and shiny co-ed salon, directly competes with Curl & Dye.
KC is all too eager to to pick things up where they left off fifteen years ago, but Leslie can’t forget how he pushed her away after an intimate encounter, then dropped out of college and left her behind for the bright lights of professional ball.
Though she won’t admit it, time and maturity have eaten away at Leslie's anger and her long-buried attraction to Kade Cavanaugh has resurfaced.
With a vengeance.
Now there is a larger problem: Leslie and KC find themselves in the center of a city wide drama, and with both sides of Potter Lake at war and their livelihoods at stake, the two have to stop sniping at each other and start working together.
And maybe, in the process, forget the past and revive a budding romance that was very special...a very long time ago.
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I sensed movement at the door and opened my mouth to let the customer know that we were just about to close. To my surprise, Kade Cavanaugh stood in the doorway.
Earlier in the day he'd worn a pair of shorts that looked like he'd pulled them straight from the dryer and a misshapen t-shirt. Tonight, he wore khaki carpenter shorts and a form fitting black t-shirt that spread over his pecs and hugged his biceps and...whew.
I reached out to grip my chair since I was a little light headed. A lightning bolt of attraction punched me in my chest and rushed through my body so quickly, so fiercely, it took me by surprise.
I inhaled deeply, sucking in a steadying breath before I addressed him. "Evening, KC. I'd have thought your shop would be too busy for you to be over here, checking out your competition."
He smiled, quietly laughing while his eyes surveyed the salon, starting at the reception desk, a plain old desk from Caine Brothers Wood Works. Then he took in the mismatched leather chairs that comprised the waiting area; the salon chairs with peeling vinyl patched with black tape and the shampoo bowl that was a refurbished and redesigned laundry sink.
To the naked, and maybe the more upscale eye, the Curl & Dye wasn't much to look at. But people came to the Curl & Dye for the atmosphere.
"I mean, with all due respect, Leslie..." KC shrugged and gestured toward the small salon. "You're not my competition."
That lofty, lightheaded feeling was zapped as quickly as it came on. I felt like I landed face first on the pavement. There went my moment of attraction.
Tamera stood beside me, her arms crossed. "Look who decided to slum it over on the old side of Potter Lake."
"I’m not… slumming. I hadn't been over here since I moved back and— "
"And you decided to pop in and start some shit with us?"
KC's eyes narrowed and his brows formed "V" of irritation. The glare he gave Tamera gave me an uneasy feeling.
"Tam, why don't you close out the day for me? Pull the receipts and get the deposit ready." I led her to the front desk and pulled out the chair for her to sit.
As soon as she was settled, I grabbed KC's arm and guided him back out of the shop into the warm evening. I heard Tamera grumbling, not even under her breath, as she sat at the desk and began the daily closing ritual.
"What do you want?" I asked him, noticing the enormous black Escalade parked in front of the window. "We're about to close up."
He shrugged a shoulder, tossing his keys from one hand to the other. Back in college he used to do the same with a basketball. "I just... was around and— "
"Bullshit. You have no reason to be on this side of the lake except to be snooping around this shop. So... what? You wanted to gloat? To say some more shit about stealing my clients?"
"I'm not steal—" He heaved a deep sigh and shoved both hands into his pockets. "I felt bad. About earlier. You surprised me by showing up at the shop. I felt cornered and I get mouthy when I feel like that. Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot— "
"No, I think the foot we got off on was right. You came out here and opened a business in direct competition with mine— "
"That was not my intent, Leslie. I keep telling you, I didn't know this shop was here."
"Well, now you do."
I paused, giving a wide-eyed stare at ruggedly bushy eyebrows, at long, undeservedly lush lashes, at almond shaped eyes, at full lips and well-edged goatee.
Damn, he was fine. Had always been fine but... damn, he was fine.
"Now I do," he acknowledged, with a head nod. "All I'm saying is that we should be able to co-exist."
I gestured toward the building that was The Curl & Dye, catching a glimpse of Evonne and Tamera standing in the middle of the shop watching us talk. I pulled him away from the window, toward the driver side door of his truck.
"It would be one thing if you were just a barbershop. Most of the men in this town do their own hair; they only come to me if they want something real nice. That cheap cut you offer is perfect for them."
He scoffed, but I ignored it. "We can't co-exist because women are going to your shop instead of mine, for services I offer, my mother offered, my Grandy offered for years. Your shop could lose a customer or three and it wouldn't hit your bottom line. I need every client I can get. Your shop is some kind of..."
I shrugged, shaking my head. "Get rich quick scheme, it seems. Except you're already rich, so now you're just being greedy. The Curl & Dye is my bread and butter. It keeps me and my parents in food and electricity and Grandy in good care at Primose Gardens. It's about more than a cheap haircut."
I began to back away from him and his truck and his intoxicatingly sexy smelling cologne. It was making me heady and I was feeling all kinds of really familiar feelings from being too close to him.
"I just want to run my shop, KC."
"And I want to run mine," he responded, a hand splayed across his chest. "What do you want me to do, Leslie? Close up, give up my business ‘cause you got first dibs?"
I sighed, lifting my face to the starry sky. "No," I finally answered, making my way toward the front door. "I want you to stay out of my way. You do your thing over on that side of the lake and I'll— "
"Leslieeeeee!" Gisela's high pitched wail made me whip around, my eyes wide in expectation. She tore through the shop from the back room out to the parking lot. "The pipe busted again! Hurry!"
"Shit!" I hissed, rushing back inside where water was gushing from the back room and quickly spreading through the shop and toward the front door.
"Where's your shut off valve?" I heard KC yell, hot on my heels.
"Behind the washer!" I yelled back. Tamera was already pulling the washer away from the wall. KC helped, easing the old monstrous machine out of its spot and reaching his long arms behind it to shut off the water at the valve. The busted pipe stopped gushing, now just trickling out what was left inside.
Gisela and Evonne grabbed the towels stacked on the shelf and began sopping up water. Tamera grabbed the mop and bucket and began swiping waves toward the drain under the sink.
KC was squatting in front of the pipe, inspecting it. "Looks like it's been soldered a couple of times. Not very well, though. This pipe needed to be replaced a long time ago, Leslie. It’s not to code."
"I know," I said, leaning against the doorjamb. "The last time Jessup was here, they said it was a temporary fix until I replace them." I waved a hand at the mess that was our plumbing system. "The whole place needs to be redone. I just haven't... yet."
"I could probably give you a better fix. At least replace this pipe. It'll buy you some time."
KC looked up at me from his squatting position. His eyes were earnest, his expression neutral. It was as if time had never passed and we'd never had that conversation where I gave him an ultimatum. And he didn't take it.
I chuckled, grabbing his arm, then laughed at the thought that I could pull him up. He was well over a hundred pounds heavier than me. "I don't need you to fix my pipes, KC."
Not those pipes, anyway.
Once he'd slowly made his way up, I urged him out of the shop and toward the front door. "I have a daddy and a granddaddy, and believe it or not, there's still a plumber or two over here. They'll come out and take care of it."
KC stood next to his truck and glanced back at the other girls working hard to clean up the mess, like he didn’t want to leave.
"Go on, get back to your shop. They must be helpless without you telling them exactly how to give that cheap ass haircut y'all do."
"You got jokes." KC chuckled, the sound of it a light rumble from his chest that hit me directly in mine. My feelings were all out of control and I needed this man and his eyes and his laughter and his chest and his cologne to get the hell off of my side of Potter Lake.
He opened the driver side door and climbed up into his truck, slamming the door shut. The truck roared to life a moment later, then I heard the quiet whirr of the window sliding down.
"Not for nothin, but you know my dad is a General Contractor. I learned the business inside and out, growing up. I know my way around a busted pipe and some plumbing, too. Let me know if you need some help. Aight?"
I rolled my eyes and turned to go back inside. I would have to be bleeding and on fire to ask that man for help.