Friday, February 11, 2011


~Beth Hill~

Jeffrey stood in front of her house, stretching his neck to see over the freshly painted fence.

She was in there. Belinda. Belinda Allison Palmer.

He knew, because he’d followed her home. From half a block behind and on the other side of the street. He’d watched her skip with Patty. Watched as she played with Mrs. Tenney’s Golden Retriever. Thor had tumbled in the high grass while Belinda laughed and laughed.

And sparkled.

Her hair sparkled in the bright sunshine, so shiny that Jeffrey wanted to close his eyes, but didn’t. No, he liked that sparkle and shine. It made him feel sparkly himself, on the inside. He’d never felt sparkly before.

Belinda’s wrist sparkled too. Jeffrey grinned, knowing he’d made that happen, given Belinda a sparkly wrist. Well…given her a bracelet. She’d put it on and shown it to everyone at school, including the principal.

TJ had laughed at him, called him a sissy girl lover. Jeffrey’d wanted to hit him. But Belinda had pulled him away and pressed her lips to his ear. She’d whispered thank you so softly that Jeffrey had to screw his eyes closed to hear. With closed eyes, he’d still seen her face, soft and pretty. He could trace the pattern of freckles on her cheeks. And he knew that her eyes were just as sparkly as the fake—no, faux, Mom called them faux—diamonds that circled her wrist. Something inside Belinda brightened everything around her. And Jeffrey wanted that bright heat on him. ’Cause when Belinda looked at someone that way she had, fire shooting from her eyes, then that person would never be plain and normal. No, he would be alive and full of fizz. And strong. Jeffrey was strong when Belinda smiled at him.

Jeffrey leaned into the fence. He’d followed her home to see if she’d take the bracelet off or play with it or throw it away or…

Mrs. Palmer came out with Belinda, hugging her. The two of them sat on the porch swing—it squeaked as they rocked. He scooched down to peek through the fence slats.

She was twisting her arm around, showing off his present! Jeffrey’s chest relaxed, his smile growing wide. Her mom liked it. But more importantly, Belinda liked it. Enough to show her mom. Enough to wear it home. Enough to be excited about a gift one of her friends had called silly.

He didn’t care about her friend or TJ or anyone else. He’d found a way to get Belinda to smile at him that sparkly way. And he planned to make her smile every day.


Jeffrey popped up when he heard the door slam. Mrs. Palmer was gone, and Belinda’s hand was on the screen door. She was looking down, away from the sidewalk where Jeffrey stood. He pushed himself higher. What was she doing? She lifted her eyes without warning, meeting his. Then she smiled. And Jeffrey lost his heart.


“Hey, Bel? Where’s that bracelet I got you when we were in elementary school? You used to keep it in some old box. What happened to it?”

Belinda straightened from her contortions under the kitchen table and settled her butt on the floor. Why did that man insist on asking questions when she was screwed into the most awkward positions? Scrubbing bubblegum off the underside of the table—ask a question. Head poked up the chimney, arguing with the flue—ask a question. Riding him like a cowgirl on an annual rodeo—ask her a dozen questions!

She pulled on his leg to help herself stand. And then stared into his eyes. Those beautiful, get-lost-forever-in-them eyes. Hell, she didn’t know why he always bugged her when she was busy, but she certainly knew why she put up with it. It was those eyes. And the mouth. The mouth that made promises that both his body and his love had carried through on.

She shivered. The kids were with Mom tonight. They had the entire house—two stories and basement—to play in. And when Jeffrey was in the mood to play, she had a whole lotta fun. She wondered what he’d planned. But unlike him, she didn’t ask. She’d rather be surprised. She felt a tightening in her chest when she thought about the surprise she’d arranged for him. What if he didn’t like it?

Belinda jumped when he pinched her nearly numb butt. “You listening to me, Belinda?”

“Um… Thinking. I know I had it… Last year. I’m not sure…”
“Honey, did you let Jenny play with it? She could’ve broken or lost it. Damn, Bel, you know there are things the kids shouldn’t get into. What were you thinking?”

Thinking she was getting her daughter into trouble for no reason. What had she been thinking? Jeffrey was sentimental. That bracelet tied them in a way she had never been able to understand. Three strands of glittering beads, repaired half a dozen times, spoke love and commitment and something soul-deep for Jeffrey. As if they were a testament to their devotion.

She wiped away his frown with a caress. No, her surprise couldn’t wait for candlelight and a sexy dress, soft music and perfume.

“Sit.” She pushed him onto one of the kitchen chairs.

“It’s okay, Bel. I wasn’t mad. It’s just—”

“Hush. My turn.” She watched him, one eyebrow lifted. He covered his mouth and slumped into the chair.

Belinda stepped through the maze that was the kitchen floor—Legos and dump trucks and candy wrappers. She sighed. This was certainly not the most romantic Valentine’s Day, no matter how diligently she’d planned.

She reached into the cabinet that held her cookbooks, recipe boxes, and baking supplies. Pulled out an old, tin box. She returned to Jeffrey, knowing he’d watched her. She’d have to reward him for not asking what she was up to.

“I know how you feel about the bracelet.” She sank to her knees, resting one palm on his leg. “How it says love for you. And because that love has always been so deep and safe and freeing, I wanted to share it.” She felt his thigh jump under her hand. “Not give it away. Share. With those created by that love.”

She lifted the tin to his lap and opened it. She drew out the three velvet pouches that had been stuffed within.

“I had the bracelet taken apart—so each of them would have part of the original. And I asked the jeweler to make three identical bracelets based on that first one. For the kids, Jeffrey.” She looked up at him, throat tight, hands shaking. Would he understand what she’d done? Or think she’d destroyed something precious? “One for Jenny, so she’d know the love her parents had, and when she’s older, the passion as well.” She rose higher, gripping his knees. “And one each for the boys. So that maybe one day they’ll give a girl a gift, a gift that tells her how very cherished she is by a special boy.” Her throat closed up. “I’m so sorry. I wanted to show our children love, and instead I’ve ruined your favorite memory.” Hot tears blurred her vision.

Jeffrey yanked Belinda closer, lifting her until her head was nestled next to his heart.

“God, Belinda, you show them that every day. We show them love. It’s in your hands when you soothe them and when you caress me. It’s in your voice when you correct their mistakes.” He tightened his arms. “It’s in your eyes, when they sparkle. God, honey, when they sparkle with life and joy and that thing that makes you… My heart. My life.” He cradled her face, stared into her eyes. “You are love in every movement you make, every word you speak.” He kissed her once softly and then with passion. When they finally broke the kiss, he rested his forehead against hers.

“I’m overwhelmed by what you’ve done with the bracelet. It’s a symbol, a powerful symbol, but it’s not our love. We haven’t broken that apart. You’ve only made it stronger.”

He slid her off his lap before standing himself.

“Wait here.”

He stepped down the hall and into the garage. When he returned, he carried a jeweler’s box. “I should have done this long ago. You are worth so much more than shiny beads and string.” He eased open the box. “More than diamonds too, but I wanted—”

Belinda threw herself at him and wrapped her arms around his neck.

There, highlighted on a bed of black velvet, sat a triple-strand bracelet of diamonds and sapphires.

“They’re sparkly.” She twisted until she could see the box and then reached out a shaking hand. “They’re so sparkly.”

“I told the guy I needed something that shined as bright as my wife.” He grinned. “This was the best he could do.”

And that was all right. Because what could ever match the brilliance of their love?

Or the fire of their hearts?

Beth is an editor and a fiction writer (contemporary romance and medieval adventure). Her undergraduate degree is in psychology, her MBA in human resources. Beth trained as a flight attendant; worked in dinner theatre; managed a dance studio, a framing store, and multitudes of volunteers as a church administrator. These experiences, as well as many others, have given her a broad base for both her editing and her own writing.
Beth Hill writes fiction and loves words. She thinks that being a writer is the most satisfying and best job, hobby, career, and/or addiction one can pursue.

You can reach Beth at her website, A Novel Edit or her blog, The Editor's Blog

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Place Between

~Kat Sheridan~

This is a copy of a poster I own by Howard Johnson
Love is found in the margins. In the places between. At the edge of the river between earth and water. The place where green meadow surrenders to regal forest. In the gloaming, between the brilliance of day and the exhilaration of night.

Such were Darius’s thoughts as he sat on the Old Stone, at the edge of Malgren forest, on the banks of the Zoran River, as the sun hovered, no more than a rosy hue on the horizon. In these moments, love lived.

Darius of the Fang and Carillon of the Fae. They should never have met.

The Fang—the vampyres—creatures of dark and moonlight and unbridled lust.

The Fae. Beings of golden light. Of joy. Creatures of passion.

Fang and Fae. Ice and Fire. And never the twain…Darius laughed. He and Carillon. The unlikeliest couple on the planet. Even now, the memory of their first meeting brought a smile to his face and joy to his heart.

Sleepless, he had begun the night early, prowling in the shadows, waiting for the release of full dark. Restless, she had chased the day late, reluctant to let the sun go. They had come upon one another in this place, in the sunset hour. Each had been surprised and intrigued by a creature so different from themselves. They had met again the next dawn. And at dusk. And dawn again. Lust and passion had collided. A gift—a once in a millennium gift—bestowed by Valentine.

And now Darius waited in the twilight. Waited for those moments—that glorious, silver hour—when he and Carillon could be joined. For a thousand dawns and dusks they had come together in this place between. Valentine himself, that wily priest, had blessed their strange union, but with a caveat.

“My children,” he had said when they’d sought him out. “Should you wish to be together always, each of you must be willing to live in the other’s world. You, Carillon, for a night. And you, Darius, for a day.”

“But my kind withers and dies in the dark,” Carillon had said, a tear marring her rose-petal cheek. “When night falls I must be safely in the Fairy Hall, surrounded by the glow of light and fire and heat. The Fae cannot survive in the dark and cold.”

“And you, Darius?” Valentine asked. “Would you dwell in the light with Carillon?”

“I cannot, sir. You know that. My people have no tolerance for anything stronger than moonlight. I would die in her heat.”

The old man had shaken his head sadly, then clasped his hands over his round belly and sighed. “Here, then, is all I can do for you,” he said. “For a thousand dawns, and a thousand dusks, you may meet here in the place between. For one hour only, the sun will stand and the moon remain motionless. For that hour you may be together. At the end of the thousand days, if neither of you chooses to live in the other’s world, you must part and come together no more.”

The old man had smiled at them, at the same time admonishing them gently. “Much can be moved in heaven and on earth by the power of love, but time will not stand still forever.”

Tonight would mark the end of their allotted time.

Of late, Darius had noticed the strain writ on Carillon’s sweet face—the shadows that matched the lavender hue of the setting sun, etched beneath her verdant eyes. She’d likely seen the same on him. The pale skin and ebony eyes were normal; the deep grooves bracketing his sensuous red lips and the needle-straight mark between his narrow black brows were new.

She raced across the meadow toward him, gossamer blue gown and iridescent wings floating in the soft summer breeze. He rose to meet her, arms outstretched in welcome, his own black wings held in abeyance so as not to frighten her, though she’d long since ceased to be afraid.

Their lovemaking was fast and fierce and desperate. When at last they drew apart, the sun’s last rays shimmered on the horizon.

”Go now, love.” Darius pulled Carillon into the last sliver of light. He was not ashamed of the tears coursing down his cheeks. “Know that I will love you always.”

She drew back, shocking him. “No, Darius. No. Tonight I will stay with you.”

There was no time to argue. The sun slipped away and with it, Carillon’s last hope. There was no point in berating this soft, golden creature. Her courage shamed him. She’d done this for him. For love of him. He enfolded her in his great black wings and drew her down to sit with him on the grass, no longer green, but gray in the rising moonlight.

“You know I can make you one of my people,” he said. “You would live forever, beside me. You don’t have to die, Carillon.”

She smiled at him sadly, already shivering with cold. “I would not be happy in the dark, Darius. I would die for want of light and the colors of the day. No.” She shook her head. “Better to die here with you—with my memories untarnished with loss and longing.”

They spoke little after that. What could be said at a time such as this? He held her through that long night. He kissed her brow as it grew colder under his lips, murmured endearments in her ear; he watched the roses turn ashen in her cheeks and felt the strength and life ebbing away.

“Hold on, Carillon. Hold on, my love. It’s nearly dawn.” But in that darkest part of the night, just before the sun cast its first rays into the new day, Carillon away slipped into that final sleep. He held her still body close—and wept.

Fury tore through him with hurricane force. He stood, with Carillon in his arms, and strode toward the light, cursing the gods and the cruel priest who had granted them so little time.

“Damn you, Eros! And damn you, Venus! And thrice damnation to you, Valentine!”

He dropped to his knees in Carillon’s meadow and placed her gently on the ground. He would not keep her in darkness—in the everlasting night to which he’d been cursed. She would have light and warmth on her body. He would stay by her. What difference did it make now?

The sun rose higher in the sky. He shielded his eyes with his wings, but the heat seared through them. A thousand fires ignited under his skin. Was this what Carillon had endured with barely a murmur? This pain? He lowered his wings and bared his face to the sun. So these were the colors his beloved had adored so much. Such vivid hues; his eyes burned with them. Life seeped from his body, until he had no choice. He curled up on the ground next to Carillon, wrapped himself around her, and gave himself over to death. His last prayer was that Valentine would take pity on them and bury them together in the place between.

The sound of singing woke him. The gloaming had come again; the sun, a bare sliver, hung low on the horizon. He gasped, a drowning man who’d found air. He surged up, but a soft hand stopped him.

“Go slow, love. It takes a bit of getting used to.” Carillon. He spun toward the voice. Carillon?

She smiled at him, then nodded at the man standing beside her. Valentine, his face lit with a beatific smile.

“The gods are celebrating this day,” he said, “and all the stars in heaven are dancing. True love, that most precious, most wonderful, most inexplicable of gifts, is always rewarded, given time—and faith. Each of you showed yourselves willing to give everything—even your lives—to be with one another.” He stretched out his arms to the dark and to the light and to the place between. “All this now is yours. Darius, you will find much joy in the light and heat of Carillon’s love. And Carillon, you will discover the pleasures to be found in the quiet cool of the night.”

And so it was. They built their home at the edge of Malgren forest, on the banks of the Zoran River, and taught their children to clamber to the top of the Old Stone and embrace the whole of night and day.

A plaque—painted by Darius and embellished by Carillon—hung over their bed. It read, “To those who will risk all, everlasting love is the reward.”


Kat Sheridan, former project manager and business analyst, used to write specifications for new software. The powers-that-be believed these were detailed descriptions of software that would actually be produced. The computer programmers, however, considered them to be hilarious works of speculative fiction. This turn of events inspired Kat to try her hand at intentionally writing fiction (it also inspired an as-yet-to-be-realized plan to send all computer programmers on a deep-space mission to the planet Xorg).

Although she has a reputation for being a hard-bitten, whip-cracking corporate type, her brash exterior hides a secret romantic, known to wear glitter-pink nail polish under her combat boots (when she bothers wearing shoes at all). She is equally fond of bourbon and tiaras.

Kat spends summers in the north, and winters in the south. No matter where her body is, Kat’s brain can more often be found meandering through shadowy moonlit gardens and dark, haunted halls, plotting historical romances that include forbidding castles, menacing villains, and heartthrob heroes. She imagines a world where men are men, and courageous, spirited women can conquer even the toughest of them with a sultry glance, a passionate kiss, and a few well-chosen words!

After all, Kat does write fiction.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday's Musings: My Exciting Life (Snork!)

Being snowed in there isn’t a lot of exciting things going on in my life. Well, I suppose a blizzard falls into excitement category. Sort of. My husband went to work last Monday and was unable to get in again until Friday. It wasn’t like he didn’t try, but side roads aren’t a priority here. However, due to the volume of ice—4inches of the stuff, followed by 7 inches of snow—even the interstate (three miles of hell from our house) was in bad shape. He got about 6 miles from the house on the interstate missed being hit by a driver going too fast and not able to stop, and said screw this and turned around and came home. We were able to shovel the snow away but the ice was impossible to shovel on our driveway without the use of a jackhammer.

We were more than prepared for outages and no water. We had about 150 gallons of water set aside in the house. Sounds like a lot but I also have 3 horses, 3 outside Great Danes, and a rescue chow/lab mix, as well as 4 outside cats, so water is vital. Dogs all have insulated oak houses with plenty of hay bedding so they’re warm and toasty. Horses have a humongous barn to go into if they need shelter, although they rarely use it—they did during the blizzard.

We also have enough lanterns, lamps, and fuel to start a second hand shop not to mention long burning candles by dozens. We are fortunate to have three sources of heat for our house, central heating (which requires electricity to ignite), a big propane wall heater which operates whether we have electricity or not, and a cast iron wood stove which can double for cooking. I think we’ve use it all of two times. We have a very nice propane camp stove and a grill outside. I’ll take the camp stove, thank you. We take being prepared very seriously.

But we didn’t lose power. The linemen have been out daily the week before, cutting limbs, checking lines. The day before the storm, they were on our road finishing up a couple of pole/line replacements.

We live 7 miles from the nearest town—a mere flyspeck on the map but it does have a grocery store, two Dollar type stores, a couple of banks and diners, and about 3000 population and that's probably counting pets, lol! Our *big* town of 14, 000 is a little over 30 miles away. Our property is a mile down a gravel county road. It never sees a plow unless my neighbor hauls out his big combine styled tractor and clears it from his house (a mile away from us) to the paved road. He does that so he and his wife can get out if they need to.

Friday was sunny and clear. Really beautiful. We needed some supplies from the store after a week of being snowbound and another snowstorm due in Friday night (we got 7 inches of new snow). I needed to get out and see real people who weren’t on TV or my husband.

It was my first excursion outside my property driving a car. The car handled the 4 inches of packed sheet ice our little mile long section county road pretty good. Driver was only moderately white knuckled. The paved road was worse than my county road. Who would have thought that possible? I only had to traverse .4 miles of that and my car showed me how well it could shimmy. Yah, I zipped along going 15mph. Maybe. Then I was able to turn on a road that is usually plowed. It was better but still had lots of patches of ice, but at least I could see blacktop. Funny, I never paid attention to how hilly it was until Friday when I had to worry about,  a) not going off the road, b) getting up the next hill.

That road is only .9 of a mile long and it felt like ten. I was never so glad to see the stop sign and clear road. The two-lane interstate? Clear as a bell and dry. If I hadn't just snail-paced my way through 2.1 miles of rutted slushy, sheet iced yuck I would never have guessed how bad the side roads were.

Town roads were better. I did my banking and went to the grocery store, which at least had been sand & salted so it was mostly slush with patches of ice. It was nice to be out in the bright sunlight and I rode around a bit in town after shopping. The ugly clouds boiling up on the horizon made me realize the storm was imminent so I reluctantly headed home.

Return trip wasn't nearly as bad except the last 1.4 miles. Oh, and barely getting up my driveway. That took two tries and angling the car just right. By that time the clouds had caught up with me and most of the sunshine was gone. I did have time to feed and water the animals before the snow hit.

I lead such an exciting life.

So how have things been with you?


I’ll be posting a few reviews on some really good books I’ve read lately from Elaine Coffman, Linda Wisdom, and Olivia Cunning. I’ve also gotten the latest books by Judi Fennell (squeeee) and Stephanie Rowe. So long as I have good books to read let it snow—which it will be doing off and on the next 3 days or so.

Some upcoming guests on Over Coffee: I have a couple of Valentine Short stories this week and Deborah Cootnz, Anjali Banerjee, and Jane Odiwe, to name a few. I have a few more lined up but I’ll tell about those later.