Monday, August 25, 2014

My first podcast interview is now live, plus...Dragoncon!

I am truly honored to be featured as the new and noteworthy author on this week's episode of PNR Radio, hosted by the lovely and talented author Arial Burnz.

This was the first time I've ever been the subject of a live audio interview, so of course I was a nervous wreck about doing it. Fortunately for me, Arial is a terrific interviewer who made it fun and painless. Plus, best-selling author Jade Lee is also featured in this episode, and we're both giving away free books, so please give it a listen and go enter to win, people! And if you want to leave Arial a comment thanking her for having me on or telling her how much you enjoyed her interview with Jade Lee, that would be wonderful and I will be eternally grateful.

A couple of things — we recorded this before the release date of SPIRITED AWAY was moved to Sept. 18, so ignore me when I mention it's already been released. And second, I am a lot older than I sound. Yeah. I'm not a big fan of my voice, but who is, right?

You can find more about the episode and listen to it on the PNR Radio website HERE. You can also download the podcast directly from iTunes HERE, or listen to it on the Stitcher Radio website HERE. To go straight to the page to enter the giveaway, simply click HERE.

Thank you for listening!

I also want to invite all of you to the Facebook party for "Winning Love" by Abby Niles. Abby is my awesome-sauce critique partner, and this book is amazing! I'll be taking part in the Facebook party, which is happening between 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. ET tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 26. You can join the party HERE.

And finally...Dragoncon!

That's right. It's time for my annual journey to the Atlanta convention for all things sci-fi, fantasy, comic book, paranormal, and gaming. Anyone else going? I always have a ton of fun and report back on my adventures, so expect plenty of that to come your way next week! I will be lurking around the convention with my camera taking lots of pictures of cosplayers and celebrities and trying hard not to embarrass my niece and her boyfriend, who will be my sidekicks again this year. I am sure we will be at all the Buffy-related panels, I will try to get up enough courage to say hello to Veronica Belmont if I happen to find myself standing next to her again this year (yep — happened 2 years ago, but I totally chickened out at talking to her), and I hope to high-five the guys from "The Guild" again. They were awesome when I met them briefly a couple of years ago. And, the cast of Syfy's "Being Human" will be there, along with several cast members of my new maybe favorite show, "Arrow." It should be an exciting event this year.

And no, I'm still not in shape enough to cosplay as Wonder Woman, or anyone else. *sigh* Maybe next year?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meet the Character Meme

I was tagged for this meme by Sonya Clark, who writes awesome paranormal and urban fantasy books. Since the third book in my series, Spirited Away, releases Sept. 18, I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce the book's main character, Emma "Spider" Fisher. And many thanks for tagging me, Sonya!

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Spider is definitely a one-of-a-kind fictional character, or so I like to think. She was born Emma Fisher, but she gave herself the nickname Spider for a reason — mainly so she could feel a little bit more badass, and so she could put her troubled past behind her. She's not proud of who she was when she was known as Emma.

2) When and where is the story set?

It's set in Atlanta, Georgia, where Spider works in the private detective agency owned by the hero of On the Scent

3) What should we know about him/her?

Spider is a computer nerd — the agency's cyber security specialist — and a major geek. She often gets treated like everyone's kid sister, which drives her beyond crazy because she wants to kick butt like her associates. Even though she's 25, she also still lives with her father, which is why she jumps at the chance to housesit for Zach while he honeymoons. 

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

She meets Noah West, the hottie neighbor next door, but he's very mysterious, which intrigues her. She decides to find out more about him and ends up being pulled into a deeper, dangerous mystery surrounding the house in which he lives and his past.  

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

She wants to prove she's every bit as capable as her associates at solving an investigation. Establishing her independence is her main motivation throughout the book. 

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Spirited Away is the final title, and you can read more about it on my website. There's an excerpt and I also created a short playlist. You can find it here. And here's the short synopsis.

Socially awkward Emma “Spider” Fisher prefers her laptop to people, so she’s more than happy to oblige her boss when he asks her to pet- and housesit while he honeymoons in London.

It doesn’t take long for accident-prone Spider to lose a dog, get locked out of the house, and set off the house alarm. Thankfully, her hot new neighbour is more than happy to come to her rescue.

But Noah West is a mystery to Spider—and one she intends to solve. Because either the man is seriously living in a haunted house, or he’s a serial killer. Either way, he’s a total hottie, so Spider will have to guard her heart while she and the animals sniff out the truth.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

It releases Sept. 18.

Please visit the following authors who were also tagged this week:

Amy Burgess

Eleri Stone

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Written Fireside Christmas Blog Hop: "The Misfits of Christmas" Part 2

Welcome to the 

Written Fireside August Blog Hop!

Fifteen authors from Harper Impulse, a digital first imprint of Harper Collins 
will write fifteen stories all starting from one shared starting paragraph 
written by competition winner Georgia Beyers

Each author will share a snippet/s from her story according to the schedule below, and then at Christmas time all fifteen complete short stories will be available to download as one awesome and free holiday anthology. 

Come, join us by fire

Enjoy how each author's voice takes the starting sentences and creates a unique tale.

Lori Connelly - Aug 1,2,3  
Erin Lawless - Aug 4,5
Mandy Baggot - Aug 6,7 
Aimee Duffy  - Aug 8,9
Teresa F. Morgan - Aug 10,11
Angela Campbell - Aug 12,13 
Lisa Fox - Aug 14,15 
Lynn Marie Hulsman - Aug 16,17
Linn B. Halton - Aug 18,19 
Carmel Harrington - Aug 20,21 
Charlotte Phillips - Aug 22,23
Romy Sommer - Aug 24,25
Jane Lark - Aug 26,27 
Zara Stoneley - Aug 28,29 
AJ Nuest - Aug 30,31

Without further ado, here's part 2 of my contribution. Be sure to enter the giveaway below!
The next afternoon, Lucy grumbled in her arms and tried to wiggle away while they waited for one of the sisters to come let them in. Charlotte probably should have left her cat at home, but it was Christmas and they’d both been invited. Why not?

The door opened, and Trevor stood there in a god-awful ugly red holiday sweater sucking on a candy cane. His smile enveloped his whole face when he saw her.

“That sweater reminds me of my Chinese friend,” he said. “His name is Ug Lee.”

She tilted her head in mock sympathy. “Just how closely related were your parents?”

“I see Lucy’s not the only one who has her claws out today.” He fake kissed each side of her face. “Merry Christmas. Get inside before that devil cat turns this into a horror show and kills us all.”

Set free, her cat explored her new surroundings with caution. Charlotte glanced down at the eyesore of a sweater her grandmother had given her at some point—the one that looked like giant snowmen were attacking a village of Gingerbread men—and sighed as her stomach growled out its hundredth complaint of the day.

Of course Daniel would choose that moment to appear around the corner, a bowl cradled in his hands as he frantically whipped something up. “Dinner’s almost ready. Help Trevor finish setting the table so Mildred and Eugenia can relax.”

Her face grew so warm she wondered exactly how red it was and if it matched Trevor’s gaudy sweater. A tiny squeak of dismay escaped her lips after Daniel disappeared back into the kitchen. She grabbed Trevor’s sweater and pulled him close.

“I thought you said he wouldn’t be here!”

“Relax, darling. Even men are allowed to change their minds.”

“You didn’t think to warn me? The plan was for me to change into a sexy outfit and take him leftovers later.”

“We’ll just have to improvise,” he said before sauntering toward the kitchen.

Trevor, improvising? God have mercy on them all.

She took a look in the mirror, groaned at her tacky attire and winced because she hadn’t bothered with too much makeup. Her honey blonde hair was a hot mess and—

Her gaze spotted her calico cat sitting on the dining room table behind her, chowing down on something in a bowl. “Lucy!”

Springing over to pick the cat up, she wrestled to get a piece of something—was that sliced ham?—out of the growling feline’s mouth.

Eugenia came out of one of the back bedrooms, walker in hand, and froze when she saw them.
“What on earth are you and Wendy doing over there? Is it time to eat yet?” Eugenia yelled because she was so hard of hearing, she always yelled.

“Who’s Wendy?” Charlotte yelled back, setting Lucy on the floor.

“That cat.”

“You mean Lucy.”

“Who’s Lucy?” Eugenia yelled.

“My cat.”

“Oh, okay.” Eugenia sat in one of the recliners and bent to wiggle her fingers at Lucy. “Come’re Wendy. Let me pet you.”

Lucy ran underneath the sofa like some kind of rabid animal, a large piece of meat hanging from her mouth.

Oh, for heaven’s sake.

After taking a moment to bury her face in her hand, Charlotte finished setting the table while Mildred gossiped about everyone in the building who wasn’t there. Charlotte’s gaze kept straying to the kitchen, wondering what on earth Trevor was up to in there. Curiosity got the better of her, and she wandered in on the excuse she needed more silverware.

“Anyway, I’m not saying she’s a slut, but she’s been on more wieners than Ketchup.” Trevor lifted his drink and glanced in her direction.

Had he been talking about her? He’d better not have been talking about her, because she absolutely was not promiscuous and—

“I was just telling Daniel some facts about Janet. You know her, right? The tramp who swore on her mother’s life she and Daniel played hide the willy at your office party a few weeks ago.”

Her eyes widened. “Trevor!”

“What?” He reached behind him for another glass. “Mimosa?”

She grabbed Trevor by the arm and dragged him out of the kitchen. “You are not helping.”

“He was eating out of my hand. Trust me. He was very interested to hear what dear Janet had told you.” Trevor poked her in the chest. “He’s still into you. I can tell.”

Feeling flushed and, to be truthful, hungry and therefore irritable, Charlotte was loosing her patience with the entire situation. “Trevor, just stop. Let me handle this.”

Spinning on her heels, she went back into the kitchen to find Daniel putting the finishing touches on a very delicious-looking turkey. Mouth watering, she stared at it, distracted. Her man sure knew how to dress a turkey.


Daniel’s husky voice drew her attention back to him. “I just wanted to apologize for Trevor and whatever he told you. I wanted to tell you myself so that you would, hopefully, understand why I freaked out and believed her.”

A hint of a frown teased his lips. “Why did you believe her? You and Janet aren’t close friends. I didn’t even know you liked her.”

“I don’t, especially now.” Charlotte tugged at the hem of her sweater. “All I can say is that I’ve been very stressed at work, waiting to hear about the promotion, and she caught me at a bad time when I was so jumpy I was willing to believe anything she said. Like you mentioned, I barely know her. Why would she lie about something like that?”

Sighing, Daniel removed the apron he wore. “I don’t understand why she would say something like that either, or why you would believe her without giving me the benefit of the doubt.” He leaned closer. “I love you, Charlotte. I thought you felt the same way.”

Love. Not past tense. That gave her a boost of courage. “I do! But you know you’re out of my league. We both know it. Janet is gorgeous and I saw the way you were looking at her at that party and—”

“Whoa! I wasn’t looking at her any way because I was a complete and total nervous wreck that night. Believe me, if I paid her any attention, it was all an act.”

Charlotte’s brows drew together. “What do you mean? Why were you a nervous wreck?”

“When are we gonna eat?” Eugenia yelled, and Charlotte turned to see the elderly woman standing in the doorway a few feet away. “It’s already past my supper time. What are you trying to do, starve me to death?”

Charlotte glanced at the clock. It was only four-thirty in the afternoon!

She helped the sisters get seated at their table, and then turned to find Trevor sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, messing with Lucy. He snickered, and when he stood up, she saw why. He’d written “I don’t need Christmas because it’s not food. Is it food? Where’s my food?” on a piece of paper and hung it around the cat’s neck like a sign.

Trevor bent down to take a photo with his phone, no doubt to post on Instagram or some such nonsense. Charlotte smacked him on the arm.

“What are you doing to my cat? That’s not funny.”

“Oh yes it is. That’s hilarious!” He snapped away. Lucy grew tired of the hindrance and fell on her side, chewing at the paper. She probably thought it was food.

After removing the paper from her cat’s claws, Charlotte wrangled Trevor into a seat before sinking down into the chair beside him. Please! It was like dealing with a pack of naughty children.

She took a deep breath and tried to relax. What had Daniel meant he’d been a nervous wreck that night? He carried the turkey in and sat it on the table. Trevor and Mildred began clapping, but Charlotte was too anxious to join in.

“Is somebody knocking?” Eugenia yelled and glanced toward the door. “What’s that noise?”

“Oh, you old coot, it’s just us.” Mildred snorted at her sister. “Why don’t you go put some Christmas music on while Daniel puts food on our plates. I left an album out over there for us to enjoy today.”

Oh, that would be nice. Charlotte always enjoyed hearing Christmas music while eating the holiday dinner. That would help settle her nerves.

Scooting her chair back, Eugenia slowly ambled over to the old-fashioned record player near their small television. A scratching sound blared from the speaker as she made her way back to the table.

The loud guitar strings on Johnny Cash’s classic track “Ring of Fire” blasted out of the speakers. Charlotte blinked and glanced around. Trevor looked confused. So did Daniel. But Mildred and Eugenia were reaching for food without a care in the world.

“This is a good song,” Eugenia yelled. “Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas,’ ain’t it?”

“No, you coot,” Mildred returned. “It’s Dean Martin. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” She turned and shook her head at Charlotte. “I swear my sister is as deaf as a nail.”

Trevor settled his hands on both sides of his face. “Oh. My. God. We’re trapped in an episode of Candid Camera, aren’t we?”

Oh, this was absurd.

Charlotte shoved her chair back and leaned close to the younger of the sisters. “Do you mind if I put on something else, Mildred? This song, er, makes me sad.”

“Oh, you poor dear. Go right ahead.”

Sighing, Charlotte lowered the volume and flipped through the set of albums off to the side of the record player until she found a nice one: a Christmas album by Elvis Presley. His soulful voice crooned the beginning of “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” and some of the tension melted away from Charlotte’s tightly wound muscles. It was a bonus that Elvis was one of her and Daniel’s favorite artists.

Taking a seat across from Trevor, she realized Daniel had piled her plate full of the most delicious-looking food she’d ever seen. Bless his heart.

She smiled up at him as he filled his own plate. Catching her expression, his own softened into a warm smile. “Go ahead and eat up. We’ve got enough for leftovers.”

Bless. His. Heart.

Charlotte’s hand hovered over her fork. “It’s Christmas. We can’t eat without saying a prayer first.”

She expected a smart comment from Trevor, but he only nodded, closed his eyes and waited, palms clasped in front of him. Daniel sat in the chair beside Charlotte.

“Mind if I do the honors?” he asked. When no one objected, he bent his head and shared a lovely prayer, wishing each of them blessings and giving thanks for the ones they had. Before he finished, he added, “Thank you for reminding us all here today that family isn’t always about blood. It’s also about the people in your life who want you in theirs and accept and love you no matter what.”

After a chorus of “amen” from everyone except Eugenia, who was already chewing away, completely oblivious to the wonderful words that had just been spoken, Daniel’s hand covered Charlotte’s. He leaned over and murmured, “We’ll talk after. Now, eat up.”

Hope unfurled in her chest, erupting in a smile as she sampled the mouth-watering feast Daniel had presented without scarfing it down like a starving wolf. Daniel and Trevor traded good-natured insults while Mildred talked over them, determined to make it known “that man in 205” had cut her off at the mailbox a week ago, and young people these days simply did not have any ethics whatsoever.  God bless their souls.

After dessert, Trevor, Charlotte, and Daniel cleaned up, and the atmosphere had lightened so much that Charlotte felt almost…normal. As if this was an average Christmas gathering and not some awkward circumstance forced upon each of them.

“Mildred and Eugenia, thank you so much for inviting us into your home today,” Daniel said before grabbing Charlotte’s hand and edging toward the door. “Charlotte and I have something to discuss. Trevor, stay out of trouble.”

“Never.” Trevor winked at them and settled in on the couch beside Mildred, in no hurry to leave. Then again, “White Christmas” was on the television, and lord knows he couldn’t resist a musical.

Charlotte scooped Lucy up and followed Daniel across the hall to his apartment. Her heart was galloping around her chest. What should she say? Should she let him start?

“I didn’t cheat on you with Janet,” he said, making the decision for her. He hit a switch and lit the large Christmas tree in his living room. “Let’s get that straight right now.”

“I know.” Her cheeks grew warm. It hadn’t taken her long to realize Janet had been after Charlotte’s promotion and had been playing some serious mind games to earn it. Janet had admitted as much after Charlotte had been named an associate partner at the advertising firm.  “I’m so sorry, Daniel.”

“Good.” He bent and reached beneath the tree to retrieve a small package. “I bought you this the morning of the party, so I was a bit nervous and preoccupied about whether you’d like it. I was in no state to so much as think of another woman. Go on, open it.”

Holy smores. Was the small box what she thought it was?

Hesitantly, with trembling fingers, she tore away the wrap and revealed a ring-sized jewelers’ box.

“Daniel!” The lights on the tree caught and sparkled in the diamond on the ring inside.

“Charlotte, you silly woman.” He dropped to one knee. “Now that we’ve cleared a few things up, I would still be honored if you would be my wife.”


Standing, he silenced her by pressing his lips to hers. “Say yes, and we can sort out the rest later.”

“Yes!” She threw her arms around his shoulders.

They stood there embracing, Charlotte’s world suddenly feeling all right again, until a rustling from the tree caught her attention and drew them apart. Seconds later, the tree tilted and fell crashing to the floor amidst a loud, “Mreoow!”

“Lucy!” she and Daniel shouted at once.

The cat sauntered out from the mess as if she had no idea what the fuss was about. A ribbon trailed behind her, and a crocheted decoration hung around her neck proclaiming “Merry Christmas!”

Smiling because she couldn’t help herself, Charlotte realized, as crazy as this holiday had been, it was a Merry Christmas indeed.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Written Fireside Christmas Blog Hop: "The Misfits of Christmas" Part 1

Welcome to the 

Written Fireside August Blog Hop!

Fifteen authors from Harper Impulse, a digital first imprint of Harper Collins 
will write fifteen stories all starting from one shared starting paragraph 
written by competition winner Georgia Beyers.

Each author will share a snippet/s from her story according to the schedule below, and then at Christmas time all fifteen complete short stories will be available to download as one awesome and free holiday anthology. 

Come, join us by the fire

Enjoy how each author's voice takes the starting sentences and creates a unique tale.

Lori Connelly - Aug 1,2,3  
Erin Lawless - Aug 4,5
Mandy Baggot - Aug 6,7 
Aimee Duffy  - Aug 8,9
Teresa F. Morgan - Aug 10,11
Angela Campbell - Aug 12,13 
Lisa Fox - Aug 14,15 
Lynn Marie Hulsman - Aug 16,17
Linn B. Halton - Aug 18,19 
Carmel Harrington - Aug 20,21 
Charlotte Phillips - Aug 22,23
Romy Sommer - Aug 24,25
Jane Lark - Aug 26,27 
Zara Stoneley - Aug 28,29 
AJ Nuest - Aug 30,31

Without further ado, here's part 1 of my quirky contribution. Check back tomorrow for the conclusion, and be sure to enter the giveaway below!

Charlotte sat at the bus stop wondering whether she would make the naughty or nice list this year. Last year she had rescued a stray kitten and therefore considered herself most definitely ‘nice’. This year she had broken Daniels heart into a million tiny pieces, so ‘naughty’ seemed to be the only answer. There’d be no Santa Claus coming down her chimney anytime soon.

“Ain’t that your ride, miss?”

Charlotte glanced up from her book at the lime green Ford Fiesta idling quietly at the curb before settling her gaze on the weathered face of the elderly man huddling beneath the small enclosure beside her. He’d been here each of the three days Trevor had picked her up outside her office building. Judging by the fact he’d been wearing the same clothes each day, Charlotte guessed the man was homeless.

She had no less than a dozen problems, but at least that wasn’t one, thank goodness.

“Oh! Yes. Thanks.” She gathered her bag and hurried toward her ride, pausing halfway to search through her purse. She had enough coins to pick up some canned food for Lucy. Turning back to the man, she said, “Merry Christmas.” And forced a smile as she held out the last of the paper cash she’d have until she got paid again Friday.

Eyes lighting up, the stranger reached out, but rather than taking the offering, he clasped her hand between both of his. “Bless you. May something wonderful happen to you today. Merry Christmas.”

“Er, Merry Christmas,” she repeated, hurrying along before Trevor gave up on her, and he would, too. Her cheeky neighbor was not known for his patience.

“What did you go and do that for? I might have needed some gas money for the Green Queen Machine,” Trevor complained as soon as she sank into the passenger seat. “He’ll probably spend it on alcohol or drugs or, god forbid, a booty call.”

She rolled her eyes. “I thought you hated stereotypes, Mr. Gay and Flamboyant. Please tell me you don’t actually call your car the Green Queen Machine.”

Sucking in his cheeks, he gave her a once over before he pulled into traffic. Trevor didn’t hate stereotypes. He embraced them. Not only was he was closely acquainted with eyeliner, every hair product known to man, and designer clothes, but every aspect of his speech and mannerisms flaunted his sexuality without shame. Charlotte actually admired him for his bold and brash approach to life. She did until he scoffed. “Maybe your car wouldn’t have decided to abandon you at Christmas if you’d given it a proper name.”

“My car has a name!”

His sideways look was not amused. “Chuck.”

“Chuck and I have been through a lot together!”

“If you named me Chuck, I’d have protested by breaking down on your skinny self a lot sooner, sister.” She gasped, so he quickly added, “Oh that’s right, Miss Who-Knew-Transmission-Fluid-Was-Even-A-Thing? It wasn’t Chuck’s fault. It was yours.” He waved a dismissive hand toward her. “I’m gay, and even I know about routine maintenance.”

“I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

Trevor breathed a sigh. “Oh, honey, I know you’re not pretty enough to be that stupid. This situation with Daniel has really messed you up, hasn’t it?”

Wait. Had he just insulted her or —?

“Anyway. Guess who suddenly has fabulous plans for Christmas?”

“Definitely not me,” she mumbled.

“Oh, you poor thing.” He sped his wipers up as the windshield fought against a thickening onslaught of white. “Anyway. I’m spending the holiday at a resort in Cancun. My co-worker won a trip, and she invited yours truly to accompany her. Pretty sure she just wants to be a fag hag, but if it gets me a few days in the sun, who cares? Here’s the good news for you.”

“For me?”

“I’ve decided to let you drive the Green Queen Machine while I’m gone. Just drop me off at the airport in thirty minutes, promise no harm will come to my baby, and she’s yours for a week.”

“Really?” The unwanted news he wasn’t going to keep her company for Christmas was somewhat offset by the revelation that she would have transportation again.

Seeing him off at the airport with a hug and a promise not to so-much-as scratch his ridiculous vehicle, she stopped by a grocery store long enough to grab Lucy a few extra cans of food. The snow was really starting to come down now.

A white Christmas. She hadn’t seen one in years. Not since she’d moved from White Falls, Colorado, to Atlanta, Georgia, anyway.

Oh, she did hope that poor homeless man would be able to keep warm tonight. People in the South could not handle much snow. Pretty soon, things would be shutting down. At least she’d given him enough money to have a good, warm meal—and something, although it was probably wishful thinking, told her he would be spending the money wisely.

A comfortable warmth settled in her chest and in her cheeks as she realized she’d done at least one good deed today. That should surely land her at least halfway between naughty and nice on Santa’s list.

The feeling stayed with her until she reached the floor of her apartment and passed by 101. Daniel’s apartment. Probably empty since it was Christmas Eve, and his usual ritual was to spend the holiday with his family in California.

She quickened her pace toward 105, her unit, craving the solitude and peace of her modest home. Her heart banged against her ribcage at the sound of a lock turning and a door opening behind her.


Her breath left her lungs on a rush. It wasn’t Daniel.

“Hi Mildred,” she said, hurrying to push her key into the lock so she could escape the elderly woman’s gossip.

“You’re home late.”

“I dropped Trevor off at the airport.”

“He’s not going to be here for Christmas?” The petite white-haired woman pressed a hand up to check that her finely coifed hair still had enough hairspray holding the curls in place. “You’ll be here. Isn’t that right?”

No way could she afford a plane ticket home now that her transmission had drained her savings, so she’d be spending Christmas right here with her cat Lucy watching sappy Christmas movies on TV. Not that she’d been looking forward to helping her mom and Aunt Susie struggle to prepare a vegan holiday dinner because Lilly, She Who Could Do No Wrong, had recently decided to shun meat and, therefore, the entire family had to suffer.

Meat. God, she could go for a burger right now, but she was so poor, she’d have to put a happy meal on layaway. As it was, she’d probably be eating cat food until Friday.

Her stomach grumbled a complaint. “Oh, shut up. I doubt tofu would have made you happy anyway.”

“Say what?” Mildred shuffled closer.

“Nothing.” She gave up on escape and turned toward the older woman. “When are you off to your daughter’s? Is Eugenia going with you, or is she visiting with her son’s family this year?”

Mildred and her sister were both in their late eighties and had managed to avoid assisted living, probably because they were each too stubborn to ever admit they needed it. Charlotte had taken them grocery shopping a few times, as she knew Trevor had done also, and the two siblings had bickered nonstop. It was a wonder they hadn’t killed each other by now, really.

“I’m not going.”

Charlotte blinked. “Why not?”

“I’m not going out in this mess. We’d be killed!” Mildred shook her head. “Eugenia and I wondered if you wanted to join us tomorrow for Christmas dinner. I guess us old maids will just have to make do together.”

Wait. Old maid? Oh god. “Um, I—”

The grinding of rolling luggage on concrete was suddenly loud as someone approached.

“Trevor!” Charlotte stared in amazement as he came into view, dragging his luggage behind him. And he wasn’t alone either.

Daniel lingered behind him with his own bags in tow.

“Surprise!” Trevor greeted. “Flights are canceled. Lucky for me, good old Daniel was there to offer me a lift home.” He stopped in front of them, hands on his hips. “Who decided to have a hallway party without inviting me?”

The door of Mildred’s apartment opened, and Eugenia’s silver head poked out. “Millie!” She yelled. “Something’s burning. Better come see what it is.”

Two seconds later, a smoke detector alarm screamed through their apartment doorway.

“For crying out loud, Eugenia! Don’t you know how to turn the burner off on your own?” Mildred scooted off toward the apartment, but not before Trevor rolled his eyes and beat her to it.

That left her and Daniel standing there alone. Her gaze ate him up, as hungry for the sight of him as her stomach was for food. His neatly trimmed brown hair looked as if his fingers had been pushed through it at least a few times. His hazel eyes gave no hint of whether he was happy or upset to see her.

The screeching of the alarm stopped.

Charlotte swallowed back the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat. “Your flight was cancelled, too?”

“Afraid so.”

“I’m sorry.”

His jaw muscles clenched as he moved to his door and set about unlocking it. She chanced a few steps closer. “I’m sorry about a lot of things.”

“Where’s the new boyfriend? Isn’t he spending Christmas with you?”

She would have face palmed herself so hard if she’d been alone. Slinging that lie in his face had been a kneejerk response to finding out Daniel had cheated on her. But, of course, he hadn’t. She knew that now.

“There is no one else, Daniel. I lied.”

He turned and stared down at her as if she’d just admitted her parents were Cookie Monster and Elmo. “And why would you do that?”

“Because Janet told me you and she had, well, had a fling, and I believed her. I was hurt and wanted to hurt you. It was stupid, but there it is. That’s the truth. I’m sorry.”

“Janet told you that, and you didn’t even come to me and ask if it was true?” He scoffed. “I’m too tired for this. Merry Christmas, Charlotte.”

The slam of the door behind him was meant to shut her down and shut her out in one fell swoop. Tears stung the back of her eyes, so she retreated to her apartment before Trevor or Mildred could stop her.

Once inside, Charlotte scooped her pet up and cuddled her close. The vibration of Lucy’s purr calmed her nerves enough that she was able to move to the sofa before breaking down into sobs.

It didn’t help that even her cat reminded her of Daniel.

It had been a few weeks before the last Christmas when Charlotte had rescued the scraggly stray kitten from behind the dumpsters downstairs late one night almost a year ago. Poor thing had been meowing pitifully, covered in fleas, and starving when she’d carried it up to her apartment.

Charlotte had never owned a cat, had no idea what to do with a kitten, and had realized too late she didn’t have the proper supplies to care for one either. She’d gone across the hall, hoping that Mildred and Eugenia had some cream she could borrow, but they hadn’t answered her knocks.

So she’d taken a chance and knocked on her new neighbor’s door. She hadn’t yet met the handsome chef the elderly sisters had gone on and on about. He’d only moved in a few days before.

And, oh my, he certainly had been good looking. He’d come to the door, his silky brown hair ruffled from sleep, a hint of stubble shadowing his strong jaw. His muscular chest had been bare, but a pair of black sweat pants had covered the rest of him.

“I’m very sorry to wake you, but I found this stray kitten and I really need some milk to give it. Do you have any I could borrow?” she had babbled like an idiot.


“Yes.” She briefly squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m Charlotte. I live next door.”

His smile had lit up his eyes, too. “I’m Daniel.” He seemed more awake then. “I have milk, and you’re welcome to borrow it but I don’t think it’s a good idea to give it to a kitten.”

“It’s not?”

“You’ve never had a cat before, have you?”


“Mind if I take a look at it?”

“Please do.” Relief had flooded her. “I’d be so grateful. I probably should have left it, but it seemed so miserable, I was afraid a dog or something worse would come along and snatch it up.”

He took only enough time to pull on a shirt before following her into her apartment. He’d handled the kitten gently, but that hadn’t stopped the tiny ball of fur from hissing and spitting at him the entire time.

“Has it scratched or bitten you?” He’d asked.

“No. I handled it with a towel and it’s been off doing its own thing since I let it loose in here.”

“Good. You don’t want to have to get a rabies shot.”

“Rabies?” She’d squeaked out the word. “Should I be worried?”

“Probably not. It’s about six weeks old. I doubt it could have survived if it had rabies. All in all, she looks very healthy, but you should get her to a vet as soon as possible.”

“How do you know?”

“I have two sisters. I’ve handled more kittens than a grown man should ever admit.” He’d smiled down at her after he set the spitting beast back on the floor, where it scampered off underneath the sofa. “The milk we drink is actually bad for cats. Causes stomach upset. Make sure she has plenty of water and give her some tuna or canned food. She’ll be fine.”

“So it’s a girl?”

“Looks like it.”

Hearing tiny claws ripping at the sofa had prompted Charlotte to nickname her new pet Devil Cat, which Daniel had eventually changed to Lucy, short for Lucifer, a few weeks later. He’d come over the next day to see how they were getting on, and again the next, until one day he’d offered to make her dinner.

Charlotte supposed she owed Lucy for bringing them together.

Too bad the cat couldn’t mediate a reunion now.

Her phone rang, and she suffered through a round of twenty questions from her well-meaning mother. No sooner had she ended that call before loud knocks hit her door.

“Daaaamn girl. Have you been crying? Cause your face is fifty shades of a hot mess right now,” Trevor greeted. “Just sayin’.”

“I thought gay men were supposed to make great friends.” She sniffled. “I don’t think I like you very much.”

“Please.” Shutting the door behind him, Trevor slid an arm across her shoulders and pulled her close. “Consider me your Christmas angel meets fairy godmother. Since I have nothing better to do, I’m going to help you win back your prince.”

“I don’t think any words have ever terrified me more.” She pulled away from him. “I don’t think you should get involved. No way. Don’t even think about it, Trevor.”

Spreading his lanky body across her sofa, he pooh-poohed her protest. “Now, we’re going to need a few things.” He ticked each item off his hand as he went along. “Makeup, because did I mention what a hot mess you are right now? A sexy outfit. An ugly Christmas sweater. Some—”

“Wait. Ugly Christmas sweater?”

“Oh, yes. Did I forget to tell you we’re having Christmas dinner across the hall with the sisters? Remind me to pack some extra mimosas for that. Lucy is invited, too.”

“What about Daniel?”

“He was invited, but he declined. That will make things tougher, but I do love a challenge.”

She sank into the chair across from him. “He hates me.”

“If this little misunderstanding is the worst thing to ever happen between you two, consider yourselves lucky.” Something about his tone hinted at hurt, piquing her interest.

“Are you upset to be stuck here with me, Trevor?”

He flicked a wrist dismissively. “Where else would I be? Oh wait. Sunning and looking at hotties on the beach. Yes, I’m upset.”

No. That wasn’t what he was upset about. Charlotte scooted to the edge of her seat. “What about your family?”

“Those trolls? What about them?”

“Aren’t you upset you aren’t going home for Christmas?”

“No.” He sprang to his feet and began rearranging the knick-knacks in her apartment.


“I’m not welcome there. Are you happy? The whole lot of them disowned me when they realized the gay wasn’t going away.”

She’d heard of that happening but had never known anyone to have actually experienced it. The only other gay man she thought she knew worked in the office with her, and he was about as opposite of Trevor as a man got. Roger was masculine, clean cut, lived with another man, and had introduced Charlotte to his adoring mother one day when she’d run into them at lunch.

“I’m sorry.” Charlotte’s family might get on her nerves, but in the end, she was grateful she had each and every last one of them. “You know, if it weren’t for the snow and the fact I’m completely poor, you would have been welcome to go home with me for Christmas.”

He tinkered with a crystal figure sitting on her bookshelf. “Really?”

“Of course. So you’d better not make plans next year, mister, because you’re coming home with me. My family is crazy enough that you’ll fit right in.”

A broad smile spread across his face as he flopped across the sofa again. “First, we have to get through this one, and I am not stopping until I’ve given you the best present a gay man can give his fag hag. A hot man wrapped only in a bow.”

She stood and crossed her arms. “I am not a fag hag. I resent that label. It's offensive.”

“You resemble it too.” His satisfied smirk reassured her he was only teasing.

Daniel wrapped in a bow? Yeah, that pretty much topped her want list this year.

So she sat down again, sighed, and listened to Trevor’s ridiculous plan simply because she had nothing better to do.

Check back tomorrow for the second part of "The Misfits of Christmas"!

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