Monthly Archives: April 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Chapter Five of The Unspoken Game

Hey gang! I totally missed last Friday thanks to the holiday weekend but I’m baaaack with the next chapter in The Unspoken Game: The Mummy Maneuver, the kickoff story to my new action/adventure series about an unexpected group brought together by a mysterious technology billionaire to find technologically advanced artifacts of the ancient world that were lost to time.  The first four chapters have already been posted: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4. Catch-up if you haven’t read them yet! The full story and the first full novel in the series are BOTH coming out next month!

Have a great Friday everyone!

The Unspoken Game-JS

Chapter Five

When Antonia stepped off the jet in Atlanta she was greeted by a smiling mountain of a man.  He was probably a good two inches shorter than Donovan (which still made him enormous) but he was built like a linebacker.  His presence was intimidating even from a distance. His muscles made Donovan and Scott look like weaklings, and his voice when he spoke, was like a deep purr.  “Jonathan Sparks, nice to meet you.”

“Antonia Warren,” she replied taking his hand.  To her surprise, he didn’t crush it.  Instead he shook it firmly, but gently.  “It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading while I waited for you three.  It seems we share a few friends.”

“I’m sure we do,” she replied.

Jonathan looked over her shoulder.  “Donovan, I’d say it’s good to see you again but…”

He and Cole shook hands.  Ever since he told her his first name Antonia had been rolling it around in her head, which she really needed to stop doing because, more than likely, she was going to say it.

“…But it’s not.  I know.” Donovan replied.  “I’m sorry to call you in like this, but we really could use your help.”

“And so here I am.”

Jonathan smiled back at Antonia, a split second before he caught sight of Sophie.  “And who do we have here?”

She walked right up to Jonathan with her hand out.  “Sophie Reynolds.”

His voice dropped another octave, which didn’t seem possible.  “It’s very nice to meet you Miss Sophie.”

She wrenched her hand out of his grasp which only made him laugh—a deep belly laugh that bounced off of every surface in the hangar.

“It’s Sophie or Miss Reynolds.  Keep it straight, asshole.”  Then she stalked off toward the waiting Suburban.

Jonathan leaned in and spoke quietly.  “I just did that because I knew it would bug her.”

“Do you two know each other?”  Antonia was under the impression she and Sophie were both completely new to the Seleron Technology experience.

“Naw,” Jonathan waved in Sophie’s direction like he was batting away a fly.  “I just know her type.  I like riling them up for fun.”

“Cool it, Sparks.  I don’t need any help pissing people off.”  Donovan’s irritated voice matched the expression on his face.

Jonathan nodded in the direction of the Suburban.  “Where we headed, boss?”

It was interesting how they’d all fallen into calling Donovan “Boss” so easily.

“We just got a tip I want to check out.”

“Shotgun,” Sparks said as he moved toward the waiting truck.

But when they got there, the passenger seat was already occupied by Patterson.  He had taken over the entire seat with two laptops and two tablets.  Ear buds dangled from his ears with music loud enough to be heard even from a distance.  Sophie was sitting opposite him in the seat behind with the strangest look on her face.

It had been interesting working with her.  Sophie was blunt, clearly miserable, but smart as a tack.  She didn’t seem to be the kind to work well with others.  And since Patterson had joined them in New York, she’d looked like she’d seen a ghost.

Patterson pulled out his ear buds when he realized he had company.  “Hey, nice for you all to finally join the party.  It isn’t exactly a long walk from the jet to the tuck.”

“You seem to have made yourself comfortable,” Donovan drawled as he started the engine.

Patterson was a little younger with longer hair that flopped around his ears and eyes.  “Was I supposed to sit around twiddling my thumbs instead while you morons wandered around?”

Antonia moved into the far back of the Suburban, giving the other middle seat to Sparks.  She couldn’t imagine a world where he could squeeze his frame all the way into the back of anything.  Even as he sat in the bucket seat, he turned so that his long legs were in the aisle.  Besides, the back was the perfect location to sit and observe—one of her favorite things to do.  She liked to blend into the background, giving the others the opportunity to forget she was there.  That was when people relaxed, said things they might have otherwise kept to themselves.

Donovan talked as he drove.  “Let’s get the introductions out of the way.  This is Gerard Patterson.  He’s an asshole, but he’s a brilliant asshole.  Outside of the men and women employed at Seleron Technology, he’s the only person to ever write software and code that perfectly mimics ours.  I was in charge of the team that tracked him down.”

“And,” Patterson replied, “I’m very grateful you let me live.”

Donovan tightened his grip on the steering wheel and the muscle in his jaw flexed.  Antonia was getting the impression Donovan didn’t like Patterson too much.

“Behind me is Sophie Reynolds.”  All three pairs of eyes swung to her.  “She has many talents, but the ones we are most interested in today are her connections to the art world.  Sophie has been studying and tracking down several high level dealers over the last three years.  Since antiquities and art tend to go hand in hand, we’re hoping she can help.”

Sophie gave a little wave.

“Next we have Jonathan Sparks.  Former military turned gun-for-hire turned philanthropist.  He’s got knowledge of how these operations work, plus the added bonus of keeping you all safe.  I call him the Giant Teddy Bear.”

“I’m trying really hard to stay on the straight and narrow, boss.  So you three need to find this mummy fast and don’t make me kill anyone for you, ok?”

Antonia wasn’t sure if he was being serious or joking.  It was impossible to tell with the way he spoke.  At first he sounded so genuine, but then he laughed at the end.

“And in the back we have Dr. Antonia Warren.  She’s friends with the scientist who was taken, Dr. Simon Green.  She is also an expert in both archaeology and the dealers and collectors who would be interested in a prize like our mummy.  What did you call it?”

“The Little One,” she replied and a chill ran over her skin.

“Right.  It’s now…” Donovan checked the time. “Six twenty-three on Saturday.  If we don’t have Dr. Green and the mummy back in our possession in the next thirty-six hours, we’re screwed.”

“I guess we won’t be sleeping until we find it, huh?”  Patterson asked.

Donovan glared at him.  His knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel.  There was no doubt about it, Patterson was driving Donovan nuts.

Jonathan was leaning back in his seat, his arms folded over his enormous chest, eyes closed. He was already sleeping.  “I think Sparks here is getting his sleep in now,” Antonia joked.

Donovan smiled at her in the rearview mirror.  “That’s a thing with Sparks.  He’s a napper—like a shark.  He closes his eyes and dozes off for a few minutes at a time here and there.  Don’t worry, he doesn’t sleep deep, he’s ready.”

“I’m not worried,” Antonia replied.  Jonathan Sparks had a way about him that exuded competence.  She had no doubts what that man could do if he was provoked.

“I should learn to do that…” Patterson looked back at Jonathan with pure jealousy in his eyes.

“You should learn to follow orders,” Donovan quipped.

Patterson made a face at him and went back to his work.

“So where are we headed, Donovan?” Antonia asked.

“Thanks to your tip we were able to locate the residence of an art collector named Randall McQueen.  My team is already there searching.”

So Randall McQueen the art collector. Things were starting to get interesting.  “What do we know about Mr. McQueen?”

“Very little,” Donovan replied.  He was completely focused on the heavy traffic.  Atlanta, as usual, was a nightmare.  “We can’t seem to find anything on him which for us, is pretty hard to do.”

Very interesting.  Antonia tried to keep her mind clear of thoughts.  She wanted to approach Randall McQueen’s apartment with a fresh set of eyes and no preconceived notions.  She would let the others handle that.

They pulled up outside the apartment building and quietly filed inside.  There was that uncomfortable silence of people who really didn’t know each other hanging in the air.  Sparks immediately started walking the perimeter of the room, checking every window, door, and vent.  Patterson made himself at home beside the guy sitting at the counter with a laptop, and Sophie began studying the art on the walls.

Every man and woman in the room was dressed identically in head to toe black.  They looked ready for war.  They all wore gloves and glasses, though many were different from the pair Donovan wore.  They all had guns strapped to their hips or backs or chests, and various other tools along their belts.  Seleron didn’t mess around.

Sophie began yelling at one of the technicians who was pulling a piece of art off the wall.

“Careful with that moron!  Do you even know what you’re holding in your puny little hands?”  Sophie was red in the face and her forehead was scrunched up so tight it gave Antonia a headache from across the room. Sophie somehow managed to always move at full speed. She was passionate, intense, and occasionally terrifying. Her personality matched her red hair perfectly.

The technician rolled his eyes and set the gold framed artwork on the carpet. “It’s a copy, don’t worry.”

Sophie’s voice shot up three octaves.  “A copy?  A copy?” She took the frame in her hands and looked at the painting the way a mother looks at her child. “This is a perfect copy by Emily Song. Her copies are so perfect they are worth nearly as much as the original.  It is a work of art in its own right.”

Antonia turned and found Donovan was talking with a tall woman in the corner of the room who looked like she was in charge.  She stood very straight and her eyes were on her team, not Donovan, as they spoke.  Not knowing what else to do, Antonia clasped her hands behind her back and started examining the room.

It was a large, open apartment with wide, curtainless windows, houseplants, and modern furniture.  It looked sparse and staged at first, but the more Antonia looked around, the more she saw signs of life.  The collection of books on the bookshelves weren’t random.  There was an old set of encyclopedias, Dickens, Camus, Heller, Sagan… McQueen was someone who tended toward darker reading.  On the end tables were recent editions of Popular Science, Forbes, and People magazine.

It was such an odd combination of reading material.

In the sink was a spoon and in the trash she noted a banana peel.  Antonia was so focused on studying the apartment she didn’t notice Donovan come up behind her.  Not until his musky scent hit her nostrils a split second before she felt the shift in warmth from his body.

“Would you like a pair of gloves?” he asked.  His eyebrow was cocked as he nodded toward her hands behind her back.

She smiled.  “I would, thank you.”

He dangled a pair for her to take.  “Do you always walk around with your hands behind your back?”

The latex glided across her skin easily.  “I know it is less conventional.  Most of my colleagues clasp their hands in front, but most of them were trained by medical doctors in college.”

“Not you?” he asked.  His eyebrow was quirked up again.

“No,” she replied, pulling open the kitchen cabinets.  “I was trained by my parents, who are, admittedly, a bit old school.  Hands behind the back,” she winked and clasped her hands behind her back again as she bent over and began examining a sculpture in the corner of the room.  “If your hands are in front it is easier to accidentally bump things.  When you are looking at artifacts or examining sites you are in a lot of weird positions, not just in front of an examination table.  It is better practice to have your hands behind your back, not in front.”

“You sound like you’ve been doing this for years…” he drawled.

“I have,” Antonia replied.  “Both my parents were anthropologists.  I spent half my childhood on digs, and the other half in labs and museums.  Thank god my parents didn’t have more kids… I think they would have had a nervous breakdown.”

“No playing on the playground then?”

She shrugged and stood back up.  “I was an adult by the time I was five, I’m sure of it.”  Donovan laughed and she smiled.  “I had my fun.  I was the only daughter of two incredibly uptight, by-the-book anthropologists…”

Donovan smiled, “So you rebelled?”

A lot,” she replied.  Antonia couldn’t count the number of times she was in trouble growing up.  It definitely helped form her personality.  “Rules were made to learned, understood, and properly broken.”

She had moved on to another bookshelf when she realized Donovan hadn’t moved.  He was standing right where he was, his arms crossed over his chest, and a huge grin on his face.  “I like the way you think, Warren.  I think we’re going to work well together.”

It was Antonia’s turn to stop.  Something about his statement surprised her.  Maybe it was the way he was smiling, or maybe it was the tone of his voice.  It didn’t really matter.  The shocking part was the way it made her feel.  Antonia was incredibly pleased.  She liked the way Donovan smiled and appreciated her rebellious nature.  It made her feel something… something she couldn’t come to terms with.  The man was a stranger, and yet, Antonia was pretty sure she was attracted to the smug, suit-wearing asshole.

She silently groaned inside already hating herself.  Donovan was not someone she wanted or needed to be attracted to.

His brows suddenly dipped and his head cocked to the side.  “They need us in the bedroom.” He must have heard something in his earpiece.  He stalked right past her, brushing her shoulder as he passed.

A current of electricity shot up her arm and her heart rate spiked.

Now she really, really hated herself.  But she followed him anyway.  The bedroom had high windows near the ceiling that lit up the whole room with natural light.  A king-sized bed dominated the room, there was a chair in the corner, and to the left, the closet was open.  On the bed was a pile of clothes, a wallet, and an ID badge.

Even from where she stood in the doorway she could read the badge: Simon Green.

“Simon was here?” she asked.

A man emerged from the closet.  “We found these in the laundry.”

Donovan was holding up the clothes in the light which made Antonia realize the way the room was arranged so that the light from the windows hit the bed and chair and it all became very clear.

“Antonia?”  Donovan asked when he saw her face.

But Antonia was speechless.  They’d all been wrong.

Read Chapter 6 now!


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Flash Fiction Friday: a little tease from “Tease”

Teasepromo

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday, where I share a little bit of what I’m working on right now. For the last month I’ve shared the beginning of my new action/adventure series, but this week I’m changing things up and giving you a first look at the serial I’m starting to put together. It is very erotic, but this sample should be Safe For Work (SFW) (except for one line that kind of pushes things…). It will be a five-part serial coming to you as soon as I finish revisions (aka, very soon).

I think this first chapter is a little back story heavy and bogged down, feel free to let me know if you agree!

And don’t forget the First Kiss Flash Fiction Blog Hop that is going on this week! Twenty-five free stories to read!


 Tease

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“Your usual?” Mitch the bartender asked without even looking up.

“Please,” I huffed as I threw myself down onto the barstool and slammed my purse on the countertop. Seychelles Bar and Grill wasn’t just the restaurant I tended to eat dinner at every night, it was the restaurant on the ground floor of my apartment building. Inside was dim, but elegant. Dark wood was the main architectural feature and white table cloths covered every table. The bar was situated so that guests had a view out the back window of the beach.

I waved at Hannah, the hostess, as I settled in at the mostly empty bar.

Mitch grabbed the bottle of Wente Cabernet Sauvignon, my favorite of the month, and filled my glass generously.

“How’s it going so far? You aren’t lonely yet are you?” his forced smile told me my unhappiness was obvious.

“I’m up and down,” I confessed. In the short time since we moved to the South Carolina town of Calhoun Beach, Mitch had become a friend and sometime confidante. “I’m sure I’ll get used to it.”

I wouldn’t get used to it.

The problem was my entire world consisted of two people: my little sister Lily, and my best friend from college, Allison. Both of whom, as of two days ago, had left me. Lily was back at Yale for her last year of college, and Allison was on assignment with the London branch of her architectural firm for the next six months. Except for a group trip to London for the Thanksgiving break, I wouldn’t see either of them until Christmas.

I’d been abandoned, or at least that was what I told them as I put them each on their respective planes.

Mitch shook his head, “They’ll be home before you know it and the three amigos will be back here for drinks with me, yet again.”

“I need to make new friends, don’t I?”

Mitch nodded at me. “Pretty much.”

“Ugh.” I grunted and laid my forehead down on the cool surface of the bar. “But I don’t like people.”

“Thanks.”

I looked up but didn’t move. “Not you, you’re awesome. But most people… they kind of suck.”

Mitch just shook his head like I was a lost cause. “Look, give it a try, you might be surprised. You’ve only been here a few months and you’ve barely scratched the surface on all Calhoun Beach has to offer.”

I grinned as I sat up and shifted back against the barstool. “You mean there are places to eat other than Seychelle’s?”

An old historic building that had been completely refurbished ten years earlier, it was the perfect place to live in the tiny, historic beach town. We had food downstairs nearly every night, a bar any time we needed a drink, the beach out our back door, and a huge, gorgeous apartment. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when Allison and I did our first walk-through.

“As much as I love having a job…yes, there are other restaurants in town,” Mitch snorted.

“I eat at the diner across the street…”

“You’re hopeless,” Mitch agreed with a totally serious face. I would have punched him in the arm if there hadn’t been a bar between us.

“Fine, I’ll start getting out more, sheesh.”

“That’s my girl.” He pushed my wine glass closer and I took a sip. “Know what you want to have tonight? I can get your order in.”

“Scallops, please.” My stomach started growling at the mention of food.

“Coming right up.”

While Mitch busied himself with my order and the other two customers at the bar, I pulled out my Kindle and dove back into the book I’d wasted most of the day on: a ridiculously over-the-top romance. It wasn’t my usual fare, but with my friends gone, no life, and absolutely no desire for a relationship, it was actually kind of liberating to live vicariously through a fictional character. Love belonged on the page and as far away from my real life as possible. It was safer that way.

By the time Mitch brought me a water, I’d read three more chapters. “Dinner should be right up—” Mitch stopped mid-sentence as something over my shoulder caught his eye. “Hey Adam, It’s been a long time!”

I glanced back as a tall man strode up to the bar and enthusiastically shook Mitch’s hand. He was gorgeous.

Incredibly, perfectly, gorgeous.

My heart jumped and I had to swallow to stop a sigh from escaping my lips. Tan skin, chiseled jaw, straight nose, bright brown eyes, and a muscular body. The immediate physical reaction I had to the sight of Adam was embarrassing.

And much to my delight and fear, he grabbed the seat next to me, sitting down at the bar. Only inches away.

Why was he sitting so close to me when the bar was nearly empty?

Except the bar was packed. Sometime while I was zoned out in my book, the restaurant had filled to capacity—and the only empty seat was the one beside me. Lucky me.

“How’s Germany?” Mitch asked, leaning against the bar with his arms crossed. There was genuine curiosity on his face—this wasn’t small talk.

Adam leaned back in his seat and clasped his hands behind his head, giving me an enjoyable view of his long, lean body. The black t-shirt was fitted enticingly tightly around his biceps. “Man, it’s awesome. I’m having the time of my life. It’s been a real pleasure to see it all come together like this. I never would have imagined.”

“I’m so jealous, but happy for you. I always knew you’d do great things…”

“Thanks, I appreciate that,” Adam replied with a proud grin on his handsome face. “Glad to be back home, though. How are things here?”

Mitch chuckled, straightening up. “Same old stuff, nothing really changes. Can I get you a drink?”

“You still got that Golden Goose Ale on tap?”

“Sure do.”

I sat there listening, pretending to read, as Mitch and Adam continued to exchange random information. I couldn’t help but wonder what Adam did for a living, why it was in Germany, or what brought him back home to Calhoun Beach.

Or why he was so damn sexy.

For the first time in two days I wasn’t moping about Lily and Allison—heck I was half glad they were gone. I needed some fun in my life and Adam seemed like perfectly good way to start—if I could form coherent thoughts while looking at his delicious body.

My phone vibrated against the countertop, startling me from thoughts of stripping the stranger beside me naked. Allison’s name was emblazoned across the screen along with a picture of the two of us on the beach. An hour ago I would have been ecstatic to talk to her while I waited for dinner, but things were different now. Now, I wanted to soak up as much as I possibly could of the mysterious gentleman beside me.

I tapped out a message letting her know I’d call her later, when Mitch grabbed my glass and started refilling it.

“Thanks Mitch.”

“No problem Elizabeth. I just got the signal your dinner is ready. I’ll be right back.”

Mitch disappeared and Adam and I sat there, side by side, neither of us with anyone else. It was that awkward silence that comes when you are both fully aware the other one is also fully aware.

“You like the Wente? It’s a favorite of mine as well.”

My heart skipped a beat. He was talking to me in a deep, smooth voice that was softer than when he was speaking to Mitch.

“Yes, it’s very nice. I get it every time I’m here,” I answered quietly, flashing a small smile and making eye contact. Sweet Jesus… his eyes were amazing.

“You come here often then?” he asked, cocking his head to the side studying me as he turned to face me.

I blushed involuntary and suddenly wished I wasn’t wearing a sun dress. My telltale nervous flush extended all the way down my chest, I could feel its burning beacon prickling across my skin. It was a dead giveaway. “Yes, I actually live upstairs,” I point up towards my apartment, hoping to distract him.

But it didn’t work, his gaze was locked on me. It was steady and curious, with just a touch of confusion. “Really? How is it that we’ve never met before? I’ve been eating here for years and Mitch is a childhood friend.”

I took a steadying breath and tried to relax my nerves. It was scaring me how attracted I was to this man. My mind was filling with images of his hands against my skin, roving over my breasts, down my stomach, and between my legs. I wondered what it would feel like to have his lips on my breasts with his cock buried deep inside me as I rode him.

The images were so real and insistent. I felt like I needed a cold shower just to sit beside him.“I actually just moved to town about four months ago.”

He stroked his chin and I couldn’t stop focusing on his long fingers as the brushed past his lips. “Makes sense then,” he replied. “I’ve only been in and out of town briefly over the last few months. So what brought you to Calhoun Beach?” He leaned his elbow on the bar and I got the distinct impression he was genuinely interested in hearing about me. Which felt weird.

“Work. I’m an assistant professor at the college,” I answered his question but I didn’t want to talk about myself. I wanted to hear about him. “And what brings you to Calhoun Beach from Germany?”

His eyes didn’t move. “My family lives here, I come visit every few months.” The corners of his lips turned up slightly in a half-smile. “Where did you move here from?”

I fought my instinctive need to flee when his questions turned toward my past. I don’t ever talk about my childhood, I avoid all questions related to my parents, and I never tell people my real name. But there was something about Adam, so instead of asking for my check and ducking out the door, I searched for an answer I could live with. “I’m not really from anywhere. My family moved around a lot…the longest I lived anywhere was during college.”

“And where was college?”

“New Haven.”

Adam nodded thoughtfully, “Yale? Good school. And what are you teaching at the college?”

The questions were hard and fast. This wasn’t a normal, casual conversation between two people stuck at the same bar. This was a questioning. Why Adam felt the need to question me, I hadn’t figured out, but a small part of me was hoping it was because he was as attracted to me as I was to him.

“I’m in the Historic Preservation and Community Planning department.” Being a professor was the only thing I ever wanted to do. It was the furthest thing from my childhood I could imagine and it gave me the power and control I so desperately needed.

Adam’s eyebrows shot up. “Wow, you sure picked the right town for that.”

Calhoun Beach was pretty much one giant historic district, with buildings from nearly every era. The College of Calhoun Beach had one of the most prestigious departments for historic preservation in the country. Landing my job at my age was a coup.

It was at that moment that Mitch returned with my dinner. The scallops looked amazing and the smell alone made my mouth water. “Bon appetite, darling. Enjoy!”

“Thanks Mitch.” He caught my gaze, giving me the distinct impression that he was amused, then walked away to serve another customer.

“Those look delicious,” Adam murmured. “You’ll have to let me know what you think. I was going to order the steak tonight, but I think I might change my mind.”

I could swear his eyes were twinkling. Were they twinkling at me? I took a bite and the perfectly prepared scallop practically melted like butter in my mouth. I barely suppressed a groan.

A strange look of pleasure crossed Adam’s face, but he shook his head and closed his eyes, erasing it.

“They really are wonderful tonight, you should get them,” I said between bites, curious about his reaction.

He looked away from me as if he couldn’t stand to look into my eyes. Was I imagining it? I didn’t think that I was. Something had suddenly shifted and Adam seemed almost as uncomfortable around me as I first did around him. He downed the remainder of his drink, clinking the glass against the counter as he waved at Mitch, indicating he’d like a refill.

*****

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Flash Fiction Friday: Chapter 4 of The Unspoken Game

Welcome to the next addition of Flash Fiction Friday! This week I’m continuing with The Unspoken Game and next week I have some special stuff planned! Not only am I participating in the First Kiss Flash Fiction Blog Hop on Tuesday, April 8th, but (if all goes as planned) I will also have something different to offer next Friday!

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I’m super excited about the First Kiss Blog Hop! Not only are there more than twenty authors participating, but every piece of flash fiction is brand-new, original content! Every story will be different, but they are all based on the same premise: two strangers kissing for the first time on cameraI can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with! Make sure you stop by here on Tuesday, April 8th to see my piece! (Click on the link above for all the details plus the schedule of every blog on the hop!)

I have a special giveaway for my email newsletter subscribers! This month I’m giving away a signed copy of Tracie Puckett’s new New Adult novel, Breaking Rules! Make sure you are signed up for my newsletter! A name will be chosen on April 15th!

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Alright, now onto today’s Flash Fiction! (If you aren’t caught up, you can still read Chapter One, Chapter Two, and Chapter Three!)

The Unspoken Game: The Mummy Maneuver — Chapter Four

“Who are you?” the fiery red head looked Donovan up and down.

“My name is Donovan and this is my associate Dr. Antonia Warren.”

“Should I be excited?”  Sophie Reynolds looked tired, as he would expect after a night in a Vegas jail.  She was wearing black pants, a white blouse, and day-old makeup.

“I have a job offer for you.”

She laughed and tried to walk around him, but Donovan blocked the way.  “From Theodore Seleron.”

That got her attention, it always did.  Everyone knew The Old Man and they were always surprised he was looking for them.  It was a real selling point.

She stepped back, put her hand on her hip and looked Antonia up and down.  Antonia returned the careful examination with equal fervor.  “I’m not interested,” Sophie said without looking away from Antonia.

“At least let me tell you what the job is.”

“Not interested,” she repeated.

“We can help you find Bernard Redemski in exchange for your assistance.”

Sophie Reynolds glared at him with her jaw thrust out as she struggled.  She’d been the hardest of the team to track down.  The woman was angry, smart, and hell-bent on revenge for the death of her brother.  She had other objectives in her life, but the exact skills Donovan needed.  He was more than willing to exchange helping Miss Reynolds with her revenge for her help—if he could keep her out of jail long enough.

“Fine, what’s the job?” She finally looked back at him.

Donovan pulled out the tablet computer once again, “We need your help tracking down a mummy.”

Miss Reynolds snorted.  “I haven’t heard that one before.  Painting, sculpture, jewelry… not mummy.”  She ticked the items off on her fingers.

“I have a private message from Mr. Seleron for you.” Since she was walking out of jail, Donovan assumed she’d need a set of headphones to listen to the message.  He handed her both the tablet and the ear buds.

She frowned about half way through the message.  When it was done, she scowled at Donovan before practically throwing the tablet back at him.  “Fine, give me the contract.”

He quietly handed her a document nearly identical to the one he’d given Antonia.  Miss Reynolds signed it with a great deal of enthusiasm, folded it back up, and slapped it against his chest.

“Thank you, Miss Reynolds,” he said, slipping the contract into his jacket pocket.

“Call me Sophie.  Now, get me food.”

The three of them drove through a fast food restaurant that was open late at night (like everything else in Vegas) before heading back to the airport.

“I need a hamburger! No pickles.  And a double order of fries… with cheese.  A diet coke!  Aaaaand… another hamburger!” Sophie was leaning across Donovan’s lap as she screamed at the intercom.

“Will that be all?”

He looked back at Antonia who simply shook her head.

“Yep, that’s it.”

“We’ll have your total at the window.”

Donovan drove around the side of the building and waited at the window.  “You must be hungry,” he said to Sophie dryly.

“I haven’t eaten in twelve hours,” she replied.  Then she turned back toward Antonia.  “What’re you in for?”

“I know the man with the mummy.”

Donovan kept his eyes forward.  The less he looked at Antonia the better—even in the rearview mirror.  He’d already noticed his tendency to stare whether she was talking or not.

“Ah,” Sophie nodded.  “And what is it you do?  Wait, don’t tell me, let me guess.  Jeans, t-shirt, ponytail… yeah I got nuthin’.”

“Archaeologist.”

“Oh!” Sophie cooed, clapping her hands.  “That makes sense, actually!  Except I would have expected a bandana or something.”

Antonia laughed, “I do have some.  I’ll try and wear one for you.”

“Thanks!” Sophie exclaimed.  “How about one of those funny vests or a pith helmet!”

“I’m afraid all I’ve got for you are my boots.”  Antonia clunked her foot down on the console.

“Hey,” Donovan exclaimed.  “Get your dirty feet off the rental car!”  So far this car was in perfect working order.  The last thing he needed was one of these women adding to his track record.

Both ladies gave him questioning looks.

Antonia shrugged and pulled her foot back down.  “He has a thing about rental cars.”

“I can tell,” Sophie drawled.

They got their food and Donovan hurried toward the jet.  When he pulled up at the private hanger Scott was already laughing.  Donovan had no idea why Scott was laughing which made him feel very, very uneasy.

“Man, we can’t let you go anywhere, can we?”

“What do you mean?” Donovan sighed knowing full well when he turned around he was going to see something wrong with the car.  Sure enough, there was a beautiful ding on the rear bumper.  He swore a few times before shoving the keys at Scott and stomping aboard the plane.  At least everyone was used to his luck.

Unfortunately Scott was right on his heels.  “I’m sorry Donovan, but there’s more than bad luck with rentals.”

He spun around, coming nose to nose with Scott.  “Don’t tell me Patterson said no.”

Scott shifted uncomfortably and cracked his neck.

Donovan swore.  “Can’t anyone do their job?”

Scott shrugged.  “Patterson sent you a message.  He said ‘it would be a cold day in hell before he worked for you’.”

Donovan grunted.  Apparently the little twerp was still bent out of shape about their last encounter.  He’d hoped Patterson would take one look at the check and agree to let the past stay in the past.  Apparently money wasn’t a good enough motivator.

“Looks like we’re stopping in New York, Scott.”

Scott nodded, “Thought you might say that, boss.  We’re ready to go.”

After Antonia and Sophie boarded the plane and settled into their seats, Donovan jumped into bringing Sophie up to speed.

“Dr. Warren has been reviewing the data from the crime scene and our team in Atlanta is tracking down some leads she gave them.  What I need from the two of you now is a list or an idea of who would be interested in taking a mummy like this.”

Sophie slammed her feet down on the table and made herself comfortable before closing her eyes and holding her hands in the air like she was meditating.  “What are we working with here?”

Donovan looked at Antonia, “I believe you can handle bringing Sophie up to speed.”

Antonia took a deep breath and dove in.  “The mummy was nicknamed The Little One by the team that excavated it in 1923 and is approximately four thousand years old.  It was acquired by a small museum in Boston where it remained for several years before it was stolen in 1937.  It was found in the private collection of a formerly wealthy aristocrat and was returned to the museum.  In 1953 it was acquired by the University of Georgia.  It was stolen again in 1977 and returned a year later.”

“Why do people keep stealing this mummy?” Sophie asked without opening her eyes.

“A couple of reasons.  The Little One was excavated by Liam Pembrooke.  Pembrooke was famous for taking items under the guise of research and never returning them.  Add that to the fact he was a ladies man and did a brief stint in early Hollywood, the man had become a legend in his own right.  Collecting Pembrooke items are a niche market for a certain crowd of unusual items.”

“And the other reason?” Sophie prompted.

“Egypt requested the mummy be returned years ago.  It has been caught up in a legal battle ever since.  Because of the mummy’s strange history, a series of claims were made on the item.  Because of some other political things happening at the same time between the US and Egypt, it became a sore subject.  The mummy was scheduled to be returned last month when Simon put in a plea for a final scan of the mummy.  Apparently he was only granted the extension when Seleron stepped in.”

“So we’re looking for Pembrooke collectors, Egyptology fanatics, and political connections for anyone who has anything to gain by poking Egypt and the United States for funsies.  You guys sure know how to pick your friends.”

Antonia looked right at Donovan and he suddenly felt very naked.  “You have something to add, Antonia?”

“I still think we should look into the possibility they were after Simon, not the mummy.”

Donovan hesitated.  He never liked divulging too much unless it was absolutely necessary. “I already have someone looking into it.”  And by someone, he meant Sparks.

Donovan pulled out two phones and two computers.  “Work whatever magic you can between here and New York.”

Then he turned his attention to Gerard Patterson.  How the hell was he going to get Patterson to come to Atlanta?  The Old Man had made it very clear he needed all four of them or it wouldn’t work and this whole crazy extravagant plan would fall apart.

One thing was clear, Donovan was going to have to do something he’d tried really hard to avoid: apologizing to the kid.  Technically he’d done nothing wrong.  Patterson had perfectly duplicated an unduplicatable piece of Seleron technology.  It was Donovan’s job to make threats like that disappear.  He tracked down the kid to his apartment in New York with the plan to either hire the kid or scare him so badly he never dared come near Seleron Technology ever again.

The only problem was Patterson wasn’t really a kid and he was hardly your average computer geek. He was younger than Donovan by seven years, and thinking of Patterson as a punk teenager instead of a twenty-six year old man, helped Donovan hate him more—even if it wasn’t logical.  Patterson was brilliant, savvy, and incredibly quick on his feet.  The kid could take care of himself in a heartbeat and it caught Donovan completely off-guard.  When Patterson laughed at the job offer from Seleron, Donovan took it upon himself to teach the kid a lesson in spectacular fashion.  Not only would it keep Patterson from meddling in Seleron Technology affairs, but it felt damn good.

And all would have been fine if there hadn’t been one little hiccup: needing Patterson now.

The minute the jet was on the ground in New York, Donovan was out the door and on his way, leaving Antonia and Sophie behind to work their combined connections.

Since it was New York, he took a cab and saved himself the joy of a three-peat of rental car hell in a single trip.  Patterson lived in the same apartment and walking up to the familiar door Donovan remembered the anticipation he felt a year ago.  It was now replaced by dread.

He reached up and knocked anyway.

A minute later he heard the locks inside sliding and the deep laugh of Gerard Patterson.  The door swung open, the kid’s longer hair dancing in the rush of wind from the opening door.  “Well, well, well… to what do I owe this expected visit from my old friend?”

Donovan resisted the urge to roll his eyes.  “You know why I’m here.  Let’s make this simple.  We need your help, what can I do to change your mind?”

Patterson grinned, a wide proud grin.  His hazel eyes were dancing with absolute delight—he was loving every second of this.  “Oh, my dear, dear Donovan.  I think you and I both know I’m never going to work for Seleron and it has everything to do with you.”

Of course it was.  If this whole thing weren’t so damn important to The Old Man, and if they had any more time to find someone else, Donovan wouldn’t even consider what he was about to do.  But things were the way they were.

He swallowed down his pride and apologized.  “Patterson, I’m sorry for the way I so aggressively shut down your operation.  Your problem is with me, not Seleron.”

Patterson ruffled his hair and leaned against the doorjamb.  He was barefoot and for some reason that irritated Donovan.  “Yeah, but as your associate already explained to me, I’d be working under you, not Seleron.”

It took everything Donovan had not to simply grab Patterson by the scruff of his neck and force him to come along.  They could argue and hash things out later.

“I promise I’m much nicer when you work for me, not against me.”

Patterson chuckled low in his throat.  “Nicer maybe, but I’m not sure you’ll be much more fun.  It was one of the best days I had all year.  Sparring with you was a true test, not one I get very often.”

The kid had raw talent mixed with extensive training.  Sparring with him had been fun for Donovan, too.  “How about this?  I promise to leave you alone to do your thing with no interference from me—”

“And no wise cracks.”

Donovan sighed, “I’m not going to say anything unless it relates to the job.  I’ll leave you alone and spar with you when we’re done.”  He cracked his knuckles and grinned for the first time.  “I won’t hold back at all.”

Patterson perked up, pushing away from the door frame.  “Promise?”

Oh, he had no idea.  Donovan was going to thoroughly enjoy kicking the crap of Patterson.  “I promise.”

The kid smiled and walked away.  “Give me a minute to grab my bag.”

“And a pair of shoes,” Donovan called.  Now all he had to do was get to Atlanta and find a missing mummy.

Read Chapter 5 now!

*****

Thanks for reading! I’m really excited about getting this series out to you! Let me know what you think in the comments!

And don’t forget to stop by the First Kiss Blog Hop next week!

25 Romance Authors25 First Kisses

 

First Draught: Music as Muse

Our Music as Muse broadcast was full of laughing, silliness, music, songs, technical difficulties, and writing. In other words, it was incredibly entertaining! You should watch it.

Stay tuned for details on our next show! And if there are any topics you’d like us to tackle, please send us your ideas! Comment here or email me at: alexisannebooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

Writing and Music: First Draught is On TONIGHT!

Music and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Two totally different substances with completely different tastes and yet, put them together and what do get? Genius, that’s what.

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I have lots of theories on why this is: from the roots of the written word in storytelling, to the relationship between the mind and creativity. You can hear my babbling tonight (live) at 8:15 pm est. The ladies of First Draught are welcoming back special guests Tracie Puckett and Lashell Collins (because we love them!) to talk about what music inspires us, if we listen to it while we write, and what our favorite tunes are.

Plus we’re just fun to watch. RSVP now! We’ll be monitoring the event page, Twitter, and Facebook while we are on air, so hit us up with your questions and comments. #FirstDraught

So what do you have to look forward to from me (besides my deeply insightful commentary on the history of writing)? The artists and lyrics that make my imaginations run wild. Here are some of my favorites:

Snow Patrol

The Lightning Strike (my all time favorite!):

“What if this storm ends?
And I don’t see you
As you are now
Ever again”

“What if this storm ends?
And leaves us nothing
Except a memory
A distant echo

I want pinned down
I want unsettled
Rattle cage after cage
Until my blood boils

I want to see you
As you are now
Every single day
That I am living”

I listen to this song on repeat when I need to get my creative juices flowing. Check it out here.

Alex Clare

Treading Water:

“If my concentration,
Seems spread too thin.
And when you speak, my eyes glaze over.
I’m sorry girl, it’s not you, it’s her.

And you’re another chance,
To mock myself again.
Maybe you’re another chance,
I’m sure I’ll fuck things up in the same way.
Maybe it’s another chance.”

Love You:

“Though I left you there sleeping
No I dare not say a word
Silently weeping
Knowing what I heard
What can I say
I was never good with words
My tongue always got it wrong
Hoping that you knew all along
I love you, I love you.”

Alex Clare is amazingly talented. Check out this video of him singing Hummingbird!

I’d put Mumford and Sons on this list, but if you guys know me at all, you know that would be is every single song with every single lyric, so I’ll save you the fangirling… for now. (Whoops… how did those pictures get there….)

Gentleman of the Road Tour St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour
St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour
St. Augustine

So anyway, those are just some of the lyrics that get my mind running down plot ideas, character arcs, and scenes. You can visit my YouTube channel and peruse my playlists for more insight (should you care!). We’ll be talking about it all tonight, it is sure to be a blast! Here is the link to our event page on Google! 

 


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