Release Blitz & Excerpt: Chasing the Spark + Giveaway

Chasing the Spark

by Kori Blue

Book 1 in the Between Lovers series

Heat Rating: Burning
Sexometer: 3
Word Count: 32,005
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 130

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Book Description


It’s Valentine’s Day, and Nina’s loving Master has a kinky surprise for her. The gift of a violet wand is shocking, but the sparks will soon fly.

Nina can’t wait to spend the Valentine’s Day weekend with Trey, her Master. He’s a perfect, loving boyfriend and the ideal kinky match for a submissive like Nina. He’s also a world away from the bad Doms she’s dated in the past, but when Trey gifts her a violet wand, she’s surprised…and daunted.

The thought of electroplay scares Nina, yet she yearns to give herself completely. Can she learn to trust her Master enough to let him push her limits?

Luckily for Nina, Trey’s ready to show her just what pleasure awaits. Over a Valentine’s Day weekend of romantic, steamy kink, the couple explore their new toy, and Nina comes to realize just how much she can learn from the sparks her Master creates between them.


Valentine’s Day was a Friday, and it wasn’t much different from most others. As usual, Nina left work at 5:28 and walked down to the parking lot of Volkmann Industries with a couple of her colleagues. After a day cooped up in the beige-and-gray tedium of the office, it was a welcome chance to blow off some steam, and their laughter danced against the concrete walls of the building they were only too glad to leave behind for the weekend.

“Are you sure you guys don’t want to come with me?” Jazmine wheedled one more time. “C’mon. It’ll be fun. We’ll go to that Thai-Japanese place on Lakeview, hit the dinner buffet…they have à la carte makimono and a martini bar, remember? Perfect. Comfort food while we get wasted and talk about how this stupid holiday is a meaningless corporate invention designed to suck everybody’s wallet dry through the soulless application of guilt, greed and—”

“And eventually someone will take you home,” Arielle cut in, “because it’s two in the morning and you’re wandering around Riverfront Park, rambling drunkenly about how you’re one more bad date away from deciding to become a reclusive cat lady. You know, when you say it that way, it does sound like a pretty lit start to the V-Day weekend.”

Nina laughed and shook her head as Jazmine clutched their friend’s arm.

“Yes! You understand! Come on, Ari. You said you didn’t even want to go on that stupid blind date thing anyway. I’m depending on you. Nina’s let me down. Nina has plans.”

A cold breeze rippled across the icy asphalt, causing them to pick up their pace as they headed for their cars.

“Shit, it’s cold,” Nina murmured, rooting through her purse for her keys. She flashed Jazmine a smile. “Hey, Nina already apologized, so don’t blame me! I’d come if I could, girl. Promise.”

The black ends of crushed winter leaves and tire-shorn dirty slush fringed the lot, and the sky looked heavy and gray, promising more wintry weather to come. It was a sight almost as depressing as her friend’s dejected grimace.

“I know you would,” Jazmine admitted, shaking off the pout she was pulling for laughs, “and, seriously, you guys know I don’t really wanna make you feel bad for having fun without me, right?”

“We know,” Nina assured her, as Arielle hugged Jaz’s arm. “And we don’t feel bad at all. Not even a little tiny bit!”

Nina giggled and poked out her tongue, and Jazmine wrinkled her nose.

“Nice. Really nice, Nina. Oh, man… You know, it just sucks when plans change at the last minute. That’s all I’m saying.”

Nina slowed her steps a little so she could give her friend an affectionate bump on the shoulder.

“We know that too,” she said, glancing at Arielle, past Jazmine’s puffy, wind-tousled curls. “And it’s not your fault Jamie was an asshole. Look at it this way, at least you dodged the bullet early.”

Jazmine snorted. “Yeah, and I dodged a nice dinner, maybe a gift and some good dick too. Not that I was in it just for that, but—”

“Sure,” Arielle teased. “Sure you weren’t.”

“I wasn’t! The first couple times we hung out, he seemed really cool. I liked him. I mean, it wasn’t serious. It’s not like I was naming our imaginary cats or anything.”

“Cats?” Nina laughed.

“Cats, kids…whatever.” Jaz shrugged. “I’m just saying, it was super early, but he seemed nice. Not the type of person who’d blow somebody off by text, like a complete fucking asshole, three hours before a goddamn date. On Valentine’s Day, no goddamn less. Dude didn’t owe me anything, sure, but come on.”

“Asshole,” Arielle agreed, patting Jaz’s hand.

“I know, right? I guess I should have been like a fuckin’ lawyer and had the ‘but what are we?’ talk early enough that I could have made other plans. Nobody’s going to be free now.”

“Oh, of course they are,” Arielle said breezily. “If it’s that important, get out your phone, pick some random guy on some random app, and—”

“Yaaaay.” Jaz fluttered her fingers in the air, her face mournful. “Desperation! It’s, like, my favorite perfume. Nah, I don’t think so. It’d be too weird. See, this is what I hate about this time of year. So much pressure, and so much bullshit. You know? It brings out the worst in people. Like Black Friday, but for sex.”

Nina’s fingers closed around her keys. Her gray Kia Rio was parked a little closer than Arielle’s old blue Civic, and she felt guilty for how eager she was to climb into her car and head off to her own Valentine’s Day weekend.

Jazmine could joke and insist as much as she wanted that she hadn’t been that invested, and maybe it was even true. All the same, Nina was far too familiar with the sour, bruising crush of rejection to take her friend’s protests at face value, and guilt eased its way into the pit of her stomach.

“You know,” she said doubtfully, the keys jangling in her hand, “I could always call Trey and reschedule. I mean, there’s the whole weekend, and—”

“Don’t you dare!” Jazmine batted at her wrist. “I’m messing with you. Well, mostly. I’m pissed, sure, but I don’t want to drag you down with me. You’ve got your night planned, and the last thing I wanna do is take you away from Mr. Dreamypants. Just, I don’t know, think of me when—well, no. Don’t, actually. Don’t think of me when he’s got your legs up around—”

“Jaz!” Nina warned as they both broke into another peal of giggles.

“Look,” Arielle said, pulling her phone from her pocket, “why don’t I ask Meghan if this blind date girl has a friend?”

“Uh…wait. I’m disillusioned, but I’m not ready to give up dudes entirely,” Jazmine protested, a hint of surprised laughter coloring her words.

“Oh, shh.” Arielle was already texting. “You don’t have to. Anyway, who knows? She probably knows some guys. We’ll find out. Maybe the four of us could go to dinner, just have fun. No expectations, no big deal. Then I don’t have to be a flake and break plans, and you don’t have to be miserable, drinking alone with your cats. Plus, if either of our dates is creepy, we can escape together. Sound fair?”

Jazmine pursed her lips. “I guess… But what about your blind date? She was expecting an actual date. I don’t want to fuck that up for somebody.”

“Eh.” Arielle wrinkled her nose. “If she hasn’t got enough compassion to accommodate my poor, heartbroken friend—”


“Then she and I don’t have a future. Same goes for if she’s not down for a sashimi special and sake.”

“Well, when you put it like that…”

Nina laughed along with the two of them, almost missing the single life that she’d had a few months ago. “I wish I could come with,” she said, even as the wistfulness tapered away. “I really do.”

“No, screw you!” Jazmine taunted playfully. “Find your own lesbian. Anyway, fuck off, Nina. You’re going to have an amazing weekend with your amazing boyfriend. You bitch.”

Arielle glanced up from her phone. “How is Trey, anyway?”

They were almost at Nina’s car. Tiny flakes of snow began to fall, melting onto the slushy ground. Nina bit her lip.

“He’s good. Been busy, y’ know. The whole pre-tax-day rush starts soon, so he’s got a bunch of new clients who think they’re ahead of the game. I think he could use some time off. We’re going out for a meal tonight, and then—”

“Yeah, yeah. We all know what you’re doing later.”

“Shut up, Jaz,” Arielle said, in gentle admonishment.

Nina just grinned.

Her friends had no idea about the details of her sex life with Trey—or the nature of their relationship at all, come to that—and she much preferred it that way. She had no real desire to explain to them that she was the kind of girl who got wet only when she was on her knees.

Nina doubted they would really have been shocked. Hell, pretty much everyone had dabbled in a little kink at least once. However, she was into more than just a casual spanking and a rough blowjob or two. Nina’s world lit up in the moments she saw approval in the eyes of the man she called Master and, more than anything, she cherished the hard journey it took to get there.

She wasn’t ashamed, but she didn’t want to answer the kind of questions Jazmine would ask if she found out about it. Nor did she really want that part of her life open to prying eyes. It was hers, and his. Special, secret…maybe even sacred, in some kind of way.

It was her own private universe, and she couldn’t wait to get back to it.

“Have fun, though,” Jazmine said, dropping the playacting. “Seriously. Don’t worry about me.”

“I won’t,” Nina promised, leaning in to give them both quick goodbye hugs. “Lemme know how it goes, okay? Both of you. I hope it’s awesome.”

Arielle winked at her, the cold wind whipping at her dark hair. “It will be. We’ll make it awesome. Have a great weekend and say hi to Trey for me. We should all go out again sometime. He’s cool.”

“Yeah, he is,” Nina admitted shyly. “Text me?”

“Promise,” Arielle agreed.

“Promise,” Jazmine said, and ripped off a mock salute. “And give Trey’s ass a squeeze for me or something, ’kay?”

“Yeah, sure.” Nina snickered. “Enjoy yourselves, ladies.”

Arielle waved the hand she wasn’t using to text with, and they both peeled off to her Civic, with Jazmine chattering about the prospect of an all-she-could-eat Japanese dinner, overpriced cocktails and a buttload of sake.

Nina unlocked her Rio then grabbed the scraper from the passenger side footwell so she could brush the thin dusting of snow off the roof and windshield. She couldn’t help smiling to herself as she worked, listening to the receding voices of her friends echo against the asphalt.

It felt good to know Jazmine wasn’t going to spend the evening alone, and it was a relief—albeit perhaps a selfish one—for Nina to know she wasn’t going to be distracted from her plans by the sickly tug of guilt or shame.

She’d been looking forward to this for far too long to have anything go wrong, or impinge on her time with worries and distractions. Maybe that was silly. It was just a day, but then so was any holiday, and there was nothing wrong with wanting to make it special.

Maybe Jaz did have a point, and Valentine’s Day was kind of a hustle. All the commercial bullshit, the overpriced flowers and candy, the two-dimensional depictions of love in pink or red heart shapes… It didn’t even scratch the surface of what something between two people could be. And yet, here Nina was, ready to put her all into the occasion, loving the chance to use it as a fun, candy-coated excuse for something special.

Oh, she definitely had plans.

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About the Author

Kori Blue

Kori Blue writes adult romance with an edge. In her stories, you’ll find sharp, sassy women who know what they want… and strong, sexy men who’ve got just what they need.

Kori’s stories often involve some kinky fun, and explorations of fantasies from the sinfully sweet to the downright dark and dirty. From the intimate stories of couples in Kori’s Between Lovers series to the daring exploits of a call girl-turned-madam in the Midnight Candy books, and the dark, twisted tales of passion and obsession in Juniper Lake, a Kori Blue book is guaranteed to pull you into a world of intrigue and intensity, with characters you’ll love, and heat you’ll never forget!

You can find Kori at her website.


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Kori Blue’s Chasing the Spark


Book Blitz & Excerpt: Teddy’s Truth + Giveaway

Teddy’s Truth by KD Ellis

General Release Date: 12th January 2021

Word Count: 92,509
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 357

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Book Description


Teddy De Luca thought being born into the wrong body was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. Then he met Julian…

All Teddy De Luca wants is for his outside to match his inside—so badly that he takes a loan from a Mexican cartel. It’s not like he can borrow the money from his alcoholic mother. She got him into this mess in the first place when she poured his savings into bottles of Jack. He figures he’ll get his operation, pick up a second job, then pay the debt off quickly and put it all behind him. When the cartel raises the stakes, his plan falls apart and he’s left with a mounting debt and no way out.

Ian Romero is a second generation Hispanic-American whose only goal is to live the American dream—finish college, find the perfect partner and settle down. His inappropriate crush on his brother’s best friend isn’t going to stop him. But when his troubled brother becomes another victim of the local cartel, his plans change. He can’t save his brother, but he can get his revenge.

After years apart, Teddy’s and Ian’s paths cross again, neither expecting the passion between them to re-ignite even hotter than before. Can Ian forgive Teddy’s role in his brother’s death to become the Daddy the younger man needs—or is their relationship destined to fail again?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, rape, and a live burial. There are BDSM elements including Daddy kink and mild power play. There are scenes of loan-sharking, blackmail, torture, public sex, parental neglect and domestic violence.


Teddy tugged at the hem of his overlarge sweatshirt then discreetly scratched beneath the band of his sticky sports bra. As far as he was concerned, breasts were disgusting lumps of fat that hoarded sweat, bounced like painful beanbags on his chest when he was busy catching a football and strained the front of any button-down he tried to wear. He couldn’t understand why boys were so obsessed with them. He personally couldn’t wait to get the damn things cut off.

Hormone therapy had deepened his voice and given him a shadow of patchy fuzz on his jaw. Clippers had sheared him of his blond hair and his mother’s Italian heritage had blessed him with broad shoulders and narrow hips.

It was unfortunate that it had also cursed him with breasts that not even puberty blockers had been able to thwart.

He wished he could blame her awful time-management skills on their heritage as well, but he knew better. The fault lay with either Jack or John—the bottle or the boyfriend, whichever she was currently in bed with.

He’d been sitting on the hard, concrete steps of the high school for almost an hour. It wasn’t like he could call her. His cell was out of minutes, and hers was probably dead on the nightstand.

Just as the final school bus trundled back onto the parking lot and Teddy was about to give up on waiting, someone stepped up beside him, casting him in shadow.

“Stay there,” Teddy ordered, craning his head back until he could grin at his best friend. “Perfect. Be my sun block.”

Shiloh, still in his leotard, laughed and nudged Teddy’s hip with his shoe. “If you don’t think I shine brighter than the sun, then clearly I’m not wearing enough glitter.”

“Shine as bright as you want, but just keep standing there. Fuck, it’s hot!” Teddy gripped his collar and tugged at it repeatedly, trying to stir a breeze. All it ended up doing was wafting the stench of boob sweat up into his face.

“Well, duh, it’s ninety degrees—and you’re in a sweater.” Shiloh rolled his eyes and dropped onto the curb beside him. “And it’s not even pink.”

Teddy opened his mouth, his usual response dancing on his tongue—that boys don’t wear pink—but he swallowed it. Shiloh was currently in a hot pink leotard and pink Chucks.

Instead, Teddy shrugged and glared down at his baggy jeans and boring blue sweater. “You know why.” It was hard enough getting people to call him Teddy instead of Thea. Or, worse, Theodora.

“I’m going to make you a shirt. It’s going to be pink and fabulous. It’s going to say, ‘Call Me Teddy’. And it’s going to be in glitter.” Shiloh threw an imaginary handful into the air, then fell back to lie on the sidewalk, his arms flung out.

“With your handwriting, they’d probably think you wrote ‘Daddy’.” Teddy dropped back to use Shiloh’s arm as a pillow.

Shiloh shifted but didn’t pull away. He just rolled onto his side, his blond hair flopping into his eyes. He left his arm beneath Teddy’s head, bringing their faces close enough that their noses nearly touched. “It’s not that bad. Besides, you’re clearly not a Daddy.”

Teddy rolled his eyes. Ever since he’d borrowed Shiloh’s laptop to finish up his college application essays—and forgotten to clear his search history after falling down the rabbit hole of kinky porn—Shiloh’s teasing had been less than subtle. Teddy refused to be embarrassed, though, especially since the only reason he’d stumbled onto that website in the first place was because Shiloh had left three separate bookmarks for it.

It reinforced everything Teddy knew about their relationship. They were destined to be the bestest of friends—but nothing more. They were both too attracted to the same type of man—tall, dark and dangerous.

Still, knowing his friend was into the same kinks that he was didn’t mean they needed to talk about it. He ignored the leading comment and switched back to the far safer topic of handwriting. “Remember when Mr. Carmine thought you wrote an essay on Storage Wars?”

“Hey, Mr. Carmine also thought you wrote an essay about Quasimodo.”

“I did write him an essay about Quasimodo. Well, really about how the novel by Victor Hugo helped raise the money needed to restore the cathedral, and—” Teddy felt the beginnings of a spiel on gothic architecture creeping up.

Shiloh interrupted, “Yeah, buttresses…a rose window. I remember. I still think the gargoyles are creepy.”

“You said buttresses,” Teddy snickered, shoving Shiloh’s shoulder.

“Teddy, can I touch your buttress?”

“Your hand can stay far away from my buttress, fuck you very much.”

“It’s like a butt fortress. I just want to invade your buttress! Why are you so mean to me?” Shiloh rolled onto his back and kicked his feet against the sidewalk like an angry toddler, except for the smile on his face.

“No, it’s impregnable!” Teddy stuck out his tongue.

“Well, duh, you’re a boy. Of course you’re impregnable.”

“Something tells me you don’t know what that word means.”

Immediately, Shiloh rattled off the definition. “Impregnable. Unable to be captured or broken into. Also, unable to be defeated or destroyed. But you have to admit that it sounds an awful lot like it means you can’t make babies.”

“And thank God for that,” Teddy shivered at the thought of being responsible for a little, squalling, helpless baby. “I might miss wearing pink, but I won’t miss that.”

Teddy froze at the accidental admission. His therapist had told him that it was normal, that gender was a spectrum and that just because he still liked feminine things didn’t make his desire to transition less valid. Still, it was the first time he’d admitted it to anyone except his therapist.

Shiloh sat up slightly to face him better. “You can still wear pink. You can wear whatever the fuck you want.” Shiloh’s voice hardened. “And if anyone bothers you about it, I’ll cover their lockers in gay porn. Just say the word.”

“The poor football players won’t know what to do with themselves. Think of all the spontaneous erections.” The few he’d dated had been far more interested in his ass than a straight guy probably should be—not that he’d obliged, since he refused to be anyone’s dirty little secret.

Shiloh sighed. “It would be a beautiful gift to all of us.”

A black Mercedes pulled up to the curb, barely parking before the driver was leaning on the horn.

“Impatient bastard,” Shiloh grumbled. “I don’t know why he’s in a hurry. He gets paid by the hour.”

“Well, that stick is so far up his ass it has to be uncomfortable sitting down.” Teddy sat up and straightened his sweatshirt. The Becketts’ driver was a homophobic dick. He didn’t understand how the man hadn’t been fired yet.

Shiloh pushed himself to his feet. “I bet he has hemorrhoids. That’s probably where he rushes off to every night.”

“Ew. You picture him rubbing cream on his ass?” Teddy teased.

Shiloh gagged, shoving Teddy to the side. “Gross. You’re such a dick. I don’t know why I hang out with you.”

“Because you love me.”

The Mercedes blared its horn again, a demanding series of honks that only ended when Shiloh threw a hand up in acknowledgment. “I gotta go. Do you have a ride?”

Teddy shrugged. “Yeah. She must just be running late or something. I’m sure she’ll be here soon.” He knew she wouldn’t be, but he’d rather walk than listen to the driver sling slurs. He didn’t understand how Shiloh dealt with it.

Shiloh hesitated on the bottom step, looking like he wanted to say something, but all he did was give a small nod and say, “Okay. See you Monday?”

“Yeah, see you.”

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About the Author

KD Ellis

KD Ellis is a professional cat wrangler by day, and an author by night. She moved from a small town to an even smaller village to live with her husband and wife and their two children. She loves reading—anything with men loving men. She writes queer romance in between working her two jobs and cuddling her pets—all six of them, which confuses the turtle.


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KD Ellis’s Teddy’s Truth

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Lost in L.A. + Giveaway

Lost in L.A.

by Amy Craig

Heat Rating: Simmering
Sexometer: 2
Word Count: 91,876
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 353

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She agreed to a fake relationship to shield her feelings, but their rules don’t address his secrets or the magnitude of what they can build together.

Wylie’s beachside yoga classes feel like the California dream, but when an eviction notice sends her scrambling for a new place to live, she realizes that life on the streets isn’t for the faint of heart.

She strikes a promotion deal with a food truck vendor named Nolan, but an impromptu kiss proves she wants more than a side of fries from the man. He asks her out, but she demurs, knowing she can’t handle a relationship right now. When her SUV gets towed, Nolan helps her recover the vehicle and proves his heart of gold by renting her a room in the plush compound he calls home.

Faced with a bevy of overachieving new roommates, Wylie tries her best to impress the neighborhood elites. When an elderly couple stops by unannounced, she takes her act a step too far and pretends she’s Nolan’s girlfriend. When he asks her to play along to help him close the deal on a commercial kitchen, she agrees to mask her feelings, but their rules don’t address his secrets or the magnitude of what they can build together.

Reader advisory: This book deals with homelessness. There is a scene of attempted mugging, a gunshot injury, references to suicide, an implied abusive relationship and a brief scene of sexual harassment.


Wylie stood in the shadowed hallway of the two-bedroom apartment, her fist clenched as she brainstormed ways to fight an eviction notice.

Dottie, her roommate, was texting her from the security of the bathroom.

Couldn’t she face me? After four months of cohabitation, Wylie knew very little about the woman. She mostly found it funny when the overpaid nanny confiscated candy from her sugar-restricted charges, retreated to the bathroom and savored the contraband where no one could see her. Today, Wylie struggled to find humor in the situation. Breathing through her frustration, she released her fist and sank to the floor. “The wrappers in the trashcan give you away,” she whispered. “We both know what you’re doing in there.”

She looked down the hallway and focused on the living room couch where Dottie’s orange-and-white cat luxuriated on the corduroy fabric, as smug as its owner. White mini-blinds cast stripes of sunlight on the room’s beige carpet, valance drapes and dusty brass fixtures. As a native of Santa Monica, Wylie understood that the furnished apartment on Montana Avenue and Fifth Street relied on its location to attract tenants. The nineteen-hundred dollars a month sublease let her walk to the beach where she taught yoga, but the cat paid nothing for his sunlit pleasure. Maybe I’ll take you with me. I could hold you for ransom until Dottie adds me to the lease.

The cat yawned.

You’re right. You’re not worth the trouble.

Steam seeped beneath the bathroom door, as nebulous as her counterarguments and self-doubts. Ignoring the tacky feel of the semi-gloss paint, she leaned against the bathroom door and pulled her fingers through her long blonde hair. This is what I get for being too trusting and naïve. I should have put my name on the lease. I should have known better than to get myself into this mess. I could find Dottie a boyfriend. A girlfriend. Whatever. Threaten to reveal her undocumented cat. Light her bed on fire. She laughed and released her hair to cover her mouth. Shit, that wasn’t appropriate.

She rapped on the bathroom door. “Dottie! Let’s talk about this situation like grown women. I’m this close to finishing two-hundred hours of professional certification and landing a full-time job with benefits. What am I supposed to do now? Live on the streets?”

Her ostensible roommate remained silent.

“There has to be another alternative.”

The faucet ran as Dottie added hot water to her tub, ignoring their shared utility costs and the environmental impacts of her two-hour bath. “What’s done is done. Cousin’s in and you’re out.”

Wylie exhaled, finding it impossible to reason with a woman who lacked the courage to face her. “This isn’t right. Don’t you have to give me some notice or something? Don’t you even feel bad about what you’re doing?”

“Not really.”

She hung her head. It doesn’t matter if she stays in that bathtub until the floor caves in. Her name’s on the lease and she calls the shots.

“I know I promised you a year—”

Wylie’s hope soared.

“But we all thought my cousin would fail her semester at UC and have to repeat it. Maybe, like, twice. Now that she’s graduated, she’s decided to come to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career.” The plastic snap of a toiletry bottle echoed in the tiled room. “My aunt called and told me this morning. What am I supposed to do?”

“Tell your mom you already have a roommate? One who’s never been late paying rent?” She considered kicking down the door and upending the bubble bath all over Dottie’s head. “A roommate who changes the litter box for the cat you’re not even supposed to have in the apartment!”

“Leave Snickerdoodle alone.”

Wylie eyed the cat. “I love animals.”

The cat stood, repositioned himself and presented his ass to Wylie.

Wylie stared at the bathroom door. “This is bad karma!”

“Sorry, kid.”

“Your cousin will never make it to her auditions on time.” Her words sped up and she stood, hoping her hard-won native logic could override the aspirations of a wannabe actress. “Your cousin needs to live in one of the San Fernando Valley neighborhoods. The Central and Eastside neighborhoods would be even better if she’s looking for a deal.”

“She’s a trust-fund kid.”

“She might decide this apartment isn’t a good fit. I don’t want you to end up with zero roommates. Maybe she could sleep on the couch for a while.” Water sloshed on the other side of the door and Wylie crossed her fingers, hoping her magnanimous offer cloaked her desperation.

“That’s the thing. My cousin wants the second bedroom. My aunt already wired me six months of rent.”

Of course she did. Wylie bit her lip and decided to play her final card. “I guess I could take the couch.”

The bathwater stilled.

Wylie clung to a moment of hope.

“You’d still have to pay me the same rent.”

The counteroffer hit Wylie like a rogue wave. Her eyes widened and she slapped the door in disbelief. “You can’t charge me the same amount you’re charging for a bedroom.”

“Why not? My name’s on the lease. We’re not friends, Wylie. Take it or leave it.”

She opened her mouth to accept a month on Dottie’s fur-strewn couch.

The other woman pulled the plug on the bathwater. “You know what? Scratch that. I don’t want to put up with three women sharing one tiny bathroom. It’s not like we’re desperate.”

Tears streamed down Wylie’s cheeks as she hung her head and let her hair shield her face. The draining water sucked away the last bit of her hope. Right now, I’m the definition of desperate. She cleared her throat, determined to retain her pride. “How long do I have until your cousin shows up? Like, a week?”

“She’ll be here in the morning.”

Wylie stared at the bathroom door. “Are you serious?”

“Honestly, I thought you’d be gone by now.”

She wiped away her tears. “Funny. I’m still here.”

“You should probably leave tonight and make a clean break.”

Laughter bubbled up in Wylie’s throat, displacing her desperation. “This is not helping me out. This is, like, the definition of not helping me out.”

“I guess you can stay the night. I’ll use your deposit to pay for a cleaning service.”

“You’re funny, Dottie. Fucking hilarious.”

The woman remained silent for a minute. “Sorry, kid.”

Wylie retreated to a bedroom full of mismatched furniture and cursed her stupidity. She shoved her clothes into her duffel bag, folded a set of sheets and crammed them on top of her clothes. People have done more with less.

Dottie emerged from the bathroom wearing a towel and a hair turban straight from the archives of the home shopping channel. She tossed an envelope of cash on the bare mattress. “Here’s your deposit. I hope everything works out.”

Wylie stared at the clumsy script bearing her name, Wylie Winidad. The sight of the familiar envelope brought tears to her eyes and she shook her head, realizing Dottie had never felt the need to deposit her hard-earned cash. “Thanks, I guess.”

The woman nodded and retreated without saying another word.

Wylie picked up the envelope of money and shoved it into her purse while she considered her predicament. Why do bad things happen to good people? I’ve done everything right since my parents left town. How am I going to scrape together the money I need for a deposit on my own place? I need to figure out a way to take care of myself, but there’s no wau I’m calling my parents. Most of the people I know have moved away and like…grown up.

She thought of her mom and dad ensconced in an Oregon complex full of California refugees. ‘They’ll be the hardest years of your life,’ her mother had said, boxing up a lifetime of dishes and serving pieces. ‘You’re only twenty-six years old. Instead of fending for yourself, why don’t you tag along with us?’

‘Because I belong here.’

‘Oh, honey, you’ll always belong with us.’

Wylie blinked away the sting of tears. ‘Thanks, Mom.’

The next day, her parents had driven up the coast in a rental truck full of furniture and left her in Santa Monica with a wardrobe of frayed designer jeans, a jumble of high-priced loungewear and the athletic gear she needed to host her beachside classes.

She’d gotten drunk with Natalia to celebrate her independence. Clinking glasses, they’d toasted having everything they needed. Most of their sporadic interactions involved yoga classes and cocktails, but Wylie knew her best friend would let her crash for a few days if she happened to be in town. Unfortunately, the spunky yoga enthusiast worked as a studio scout and her social media feed showed her scouting battle sites on the Horn of Africa. Who would let me in? Nobody. I have nobody left in this town.

She wheezed as the reality of her situation set in. The muscles in her airways tightened and stress impeded her breathing. Now is not the time for an asthma attack. She focused on calming her rapid inhalations, but the muscles in her neck and chest tightened as panic set in. The pain of the clenching muscles echoed through her body. Doubling over, she scrambled for the rescue inhaler in her purse and dumped out the contents of the bag. The metallic inhaler caught her eyes. She pumped the cartridge, slumped to the floor and waited for the rush of the short-acting bronchodilator to relieve her systems. What would I do without my medicine?

Twenty minutes later, her breathing slowed and she wondered when the misery of this day would end. Trusting her heart rate to remain stable, she struggled to her feet and hefted her duffel bag, testing her strength against an upset stomach and shaky limbs. I can do this.

Dottie sat on the couch in a pair of pajamas, her turban in place while she watched a cooking show with the cat.

I’m surprised she’s not hiding in her room.

The cooking show went to commercials.

Dottie looked up. “Do you need any help with your stuff?”

Oh, so now you’re helpful? Wylie shook her head, dropped the first duffel bag by the front door and returned to the bedroom to grab the second one. She straightened her spine as she walked between her former roommate and a television chef demonstrating how to make pasta. “Adios, Snickerdoodle. It’s been swell.”

The cat’s eyes remained closed.

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About the Author

Amy Craig

Amy Craig lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA with her family and a small menagerie of pets. She writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with intelligent and empathetic heroines. She can’t always vouch for the men. She has worked as an engineer, project manager, and incompetent waitress. In her spare time, she plays tennis and expands her husband’s honey-do list.

Find Amy at her website, on Amazon and follow her at BookBub.


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