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Archive for the category “Promptly Penned”

Promptly Penned: Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

promptlypenned

Heads up, guys. This promptly penned is probably going to to be super short. I’m heartsick (and terrified) at the latest (continued?) political shitstorm facing this country. But I’m going to give this a go anyway.

Prompt: Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For example, there are 20 spells for making tea but none to save yourself from falling off a cliff.

I stood in the richly appointed penthouse office, my feet sinking into carpet so plush, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t the entrails of enemies or something, and forced myself to maintain eye contact with this guy.

He laced his fingers together beneath his chin and stared up at me–charming smile firmly in place. “I’m surprised to see you. Our business has been satisfactorily concluded.”

“Maybe for you. I want it back,” I choked out.

He leaned back in his chair. “You know the rules: no refunds or exchanges. All sales are final.”

“You misrepresented the product.”

He smiled. “That’s called advertising.”

“There’s a difference between advertising and lying.”

“Tomato. To-mah-to.”

I sighed. Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “There are twenty spells for making tea but none to save yourself from falling off a cliff.”

“So, stay away from cliffs.”

“Funny.” I glared at him. “That was just an example.”

“Look, you sold your soul. You got the ability to do magic. I don’t know what else you’re expecting.”

“I expected to be able to fix the government. I thought I could make all this,” I gestured toward the morning’s newspapers spread across his desk, “go away. I thought I could make things better for people.”

He was laughing before I’d even finished speaking. Asshole. “There’s not enough magic in the world for that.” He made a shooing motion with his hand. “Off you go.  Why don’t you go make yourself a spot of tea.”

He burst into another fit of laughter as I stalked from the  room, stepping aside as his assistant headed toward him carrying a cup of coffee. I muttered a spell under my breath as she passed. I may not have been able to save the world from certain destruction, but I’d managed to manipulate a couple of the tea spells to include coffee. I hoped he had a padded toilet seat. He was going to be there for a while.

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out Jess, Siobhan, Deelylah, Kris, and Gwen’s stories, too.

Promptly Penned: Complete Douchebag

promptlypenned

Prompt: “Wow. Can we just pretend, for one second, that you’re not a complete douchebag?”

So this prompt fits a story that I’m working on really well, so I’m just going to  throw it at these characters and see what happens.

 

Eliza spotted her charge in one of the glass elevators, descending from the twenty-seventh floor, looking for all the world like he was still half asleep. Though, when the doors opened and he stalked into the lobby, he looked less sleepy and more surly.

Oh, good. The diva behavior continues. This is shaping up to be a banner fucking day. “The driver’s out front.”

Angus grunted in response as he walked past her toward the revolving door. At least, she assumed it was in response. For all she knew, that could be his way of saying “good morning”. Or “fuck off”. She knew which was more likely.

Whoever said “never meet your heroes” must have been talking about Angus. And it was just her damn luck she’d been assigned to babysit him.

Following him outside, she pointed out the black SUV the publishing house had hired. He got in and immediately shut the door, leaving her to go around the other side of the vehicle. And of course, it had to be the kind she was too short to climb into comfortably. Or gracefully.

Once she was seated, the driver pulled through the half circle drive and onto the street past hordes of convention-goers, many, if not most, cosplaying their favorite characters and waiting in line for the doors to open.

Angus blinked blearily at the lines of people then sat up and turned toward her, his expression equal parts confused and accusatory. “Where are we going? I thought the whole point of staying at that particular hotel was because the con was being held there.

Eliza took a deep, slow breath, held it for a couple seconds, then slowly let it go, trying to release the sudden stress spike with it. “That is why we’re staying there. But, with all the other con guests, the hotel couldn’t accommodate your reader breakfast, so we had to book the—”

“My what, now?”

She stared at him, growing sense of dread curdling her stomach. “Your reader breakfast.”

His dark brows drew together, and annoyance gave way to confusion. He was still ridiculously gorgeous. But every time he opened his mouth, that fact was getting easier to ignore by the second.

She crossed her arms over her chest. It was either that or strangle him. “Just out of morbid curiosity, when’s the last time you actually read a message from your editor? Or your publisher?” When he didn’t respond, she continued. “The breakfast was also listed on the schedule I gave you last night…which obviously, you couldn’t be bothered to read.”

“Nope. It’s still laying on my desk with my room key.”

“Wow. Can we just pretend, for one second, that you’re not a complete douchebag?”

He glared at her. “I don’t know. Can we also pretend that you’re not a ball-busting bitch?”

She stared at him, biting back every last thing she wanted to say. Things that would likely get her fired before the end of the day.

“No?” he continued. “Didn’t think so.”

Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyou!

Swallowing her internal scream, she maintained eye contact. “Eight a.m.: reader breakfast. 11 a.m.:panel: Near Future Sci-Fi — Genre of the Future or Too Close to Reality?” 

“Wait…I’m on that panel? I don’t even write Near Future Sci-Fi.

Eliza smiled sweetly. “Huh. Guess maybe you should read your email more often.”

That’s it for me this week. Now, I’m off to see what the other bloggers came up with for this prompt. Jess, Gwen, Kris, and Deelylah.

Promptly Penned: Three More Days

promptlypenned

Prompt: Three more days of this.

I looked at the calendar.

January 17th, 2021. 

Three more days of this. Just three more days, and the nightmare would be over.

That’s it for me this time–short and sweet. Be sure sure read the other bloggers stories. Jess, Deelylah, Jessica, and Kris.

Promptly Penned: Reliable Wi-Fi

promptlypenned

Prompt: “That’s what happens when you don’t have reliable Wi-Fi.”

 

Caleb squinted at the phone then looked up and did the same at our surroundings. He gestured toward a particularly dense area of forest. “It should be right through there.”

“We’ve been walking for hours. Are you sure you put in the right coordinates.”

He glared at me. “Yes. I’m sure. The Wi-Fi at the diner was shitty, but I’m sure these are the right coordinates.”

I glanced around. “I know the resort is supposed to be super exclusive and remote and accessible only by hiking, but this is ridiculous. What happens if one of their guests has a medical emergency? They can’t possibly be this far out in the middle of nowhere.”

“They have Wi-Fi–I’m sure they can get help if they need it.” Caleb hit refresh on his phone, then frowned, holding the device up in the air, clearly trying to get a signal.

“C’mon. Let’s just go back to the main road and head back toward that last little town we passed.

Still holding his phone up in the air, he ignored me and marched into the thick stand of trees.

“I don’t know why you’re bothering,” I muttered, following him. “It’s not like you’re going to get a signal now.”

He didn’t answer, but I really didn’t expect him to. My brother was nothing if not stubborn.

Another hour had passed by the time we stumbled across the log cabin that looked more like a large hunting shack than resort. I was pretty sure the blisters on my feet were bleeding, and I had to pee. At this point, I didn’t care what the place looked like.

Caleb pushed open the door and swept his arm to the side, motioning me in. Laughing in relief, I elbowed him as  I crossed the threshold, my brother close behind me. Turning, I glanced around the room, searching for a bathroom and stopped dead unable to take another step forward.

Every inch of wall space was covered in antlers. Antlers everywhere. Behind me, Caleb started humming the tune to Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. They cast long, grasping shadows wherever I looked. It was like we’d wandered onto a set for Hannibal

Peering more closely at the nearest wall, I swallowed hard. They weren’t all antlers. There were bones. So many bones. An icy chill ran down my spine as I continued to stare at them. Far too many of them looked human.

I grabbed Caleb’s arm and dragged him toward the door. “This,” I hissed. “This is what happens when you don’t have reliable Wi-Fi!”

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out Jess and Deelylah‘s stories, too!

Promptly Penned: Bruises and Glitter

promptlypenned

Prompt: S/he showed up at his/her door, soaking wet, bruised and covered in glitter.

Alex stood in line of the grocery store clutching the last bouquet of slightly wilted roses they had and red plastic shopping basket filled to the brim with all of Izzy’s favorites. He set the flowers and everything else on the conveyor and grabbed one of those reusable cloth shopping bags. She was always bitching about plastic bags. She’d probably appreciate the cloth bag. Hopefully.

“What’d you do?” the cashier asked.

“Huh?”

“Fancy wine, three different kinds of chocolate, and flowers.” He nodded knowingly. “You fucked up, bro.”

Alex pulled his debit card out of his wallet and as he finished swiping it, the other guy grabbed his wrist. Alex yanked his arm away. “What the hell?”

“Dude. Look at all that glitter on your arm. You can not go from the strip club straight into apology mode. Chicks hate that. Trust me, on this. Personal experience talking, here.” He nodded sagely as he handed Alex the bag. “Personal experience.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Alex squelched quietly to the car. Well, he tried, anyway. It was hard to be unobtrusive when his clothes were so wet he could probably wring out enough water to fill a kiddie pool. And how was it the cashier noticed the glitter but not the fact Alex had created a puddle in front of the register? Douche. 

With a sigh, he sat on the grungy beach towel he’d found on the floor in the backseat, hoping against hope it would protect his seat from the worst of the water and glitter. Putting the car into gear, he drove the few short miles to Izzy’s and forced himself to march up the steps and ring the bell.

The porchlight switched on, and he squinted in the glare.

“Alex! What happened?” She ushered him into the foyer. “You’re soaking wet! Are you okay.”

“I’m stupid. And I was so, so wrong.”

She brushed at his cheek. “Is that…glitter?”

He sighed. “Yeah.”

She lifted his hair off his forehead. “And a bruise?”

He shoved up his sleeve and showed her his arm. “Bruises.”

“What–”

“I promise, I’ll tell you all about it. But first I owe you a huge apology.”

Izzy’s eyebrow rose. “Oh?”

He shoved the flowers and goodies at her, waiting until she took them before he spoke. “I am so, soso sorry I ever said your job was a piece of cake.”

Her lips twitched. “Actually, I believe you said my job was a cakewalk.”

“Oh, it’s a cakewalk, all right. A cakewalk in the seventh circle of hell filled with tiny, demonic, soul-sucking monsters with voices so shrill I’m pretty sure my eardrums are still bleeding.”

“You don’t say.”

“I’m the worst little brother in the world for not believing you. Please say you’ll forgive me.”

She stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment, until all at once, an evil smile lit her face. “You got assigned to a preschool room for student teaching, didn’t you?”

He nodded miserably as she laughed so hard, tears slid down her cheeks.

“Help?”

The only answer he got was more laughter.

That’s it for me this, week. Be sure to check out Deelylah, Jess, Gwen, KellieKris, and Paige‘s stories.

Promptly Penned: Too Late

Promptly Penned

It’s the last Promptly Penned of the year – yeah, I don’t know how that’s possible, either. Here’s the prompt, and my story’s down below.

It’s odd how life is rarely about those big important choices, but hinges on the small stupid choices you didn’t even realize were choices until it was too late.

 

Pink or blue?

Chocolate or vanilla?

Wheat or white?

Cake or pie?

Apple or cherry?

The waitress stopped at my table and pulled a handful of those little non-dairy creamer containers from the stained pocket of her apron and dropped them on the table–the plastic and liquid rattling strangely against the formica.

“I’ll be back with your pie, hon.”

I forced a smile. “Thanks.”

Coffee or tea?

Cream or sugar?

Dumping five of the little creamers into my coffee, I watched as the clouds billowed upward, swallowing the inky darkness.

Paper or plastic?

Pencil or pen?

Right or left?

Diet or regular?

I reached for the Sweet ‘n Low then changed course and grabbed the sugar container instead.

As she walked away, my dad came in from outside, his rig parked at the far end of the diner’s parking lot. He leaned over and kissed the top of my head before sliding into the molded plastic bench across from me.

Top or bottom?

Up or down?

Happy or sad?

It’s odd how life is rarely about those big important choices, but hinges on the small stupid choices you didn’t even realize were choices until it was too late.

“What’s so important that you wanted to talk to me in the middle of a haul, Abby-girl?” he asked as he glanced over a plastic laminated menu that had a sticky-looking jam smear across the front.

I shrugged. “Can’t a girl just want to spend some time with her dad?”

His eyebrows rose ,and he looked at me over the top of his menu.

Cash or credit?

Good or bad?

Boys or girls?

I took a sip of my still too-hot coffee and scalded my tongue. Quickly gulping the metallic-tasting tap water, I tried to cool the burn and figure out how to approach it.

“Abs?” he asked. “You okay?”

I closed my eyes. “Kevin and I broke up. I’m pregnant, and Katie and I are getting married. We don’t want anything from you, except for you to be there.” My words left me in a rush, and I cracked open my eyes.

He nodded once then turned to the waitress who was wiping down the counter. “When you get a second, hon, I’m gonna need a lotta  coffee–black. Oh, and all the coconut cream pie you got.”

She nodded, and he turned back to me. “Okay, how about you start at the beginning.”

That’s it for me this week, but please be sure to check out Jessica and Kris‘ stories.

Promptly Penned: Outcome Engineer

Promptly Penned

Prompt:

Person A: She smiled a little. “You’re a manipulator.”
Person B: “I like to think of myself as an outcome engineer.”

This is going to be a short one this week. I’m too far behind with everything I need to finish by the end of the week.

 

Byron sighed and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk. “I don’t know… It just seems like you don’t care.”

“I’m confused.” Candice uncrossed and recrossed her legs. She didn’t want her boss to think she was fidgeting, but she had no idea what he was talking about, and she was tired of being called in there to discuss vagaries.  “What does it seem like I don’t care about?”

He shook his head, mouth turned down. “Your job. Your co-workers. The company. Me.”

Her mouth dropped open. “I’ve been here past midnight every night this week trying to get this project finished. Everyone else is out of here by six-thirty at the latest. And I’m back in by seven am. How does that seem like I don’t care?”

He folded his hands in front of him. “Look, you’re still relatively new here.”

Addie nodded and waited for him to continue while anxiety dampened her palms.

“And I know you want to make a good impression, but there are some people on the team who are feeling a little threatened by the number of hours you’re putting in and how much of the work is being logged from your account.”

Her brow furrowed. “Sooooo…you want me to put in fewer hours and just not worry about whether or not the project is complete by the deadline?”

“You’re not listening.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“I–”

He cut her off. “Look, I know you don’t intend to come off like you are.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Glory hound. Brown noser.” He ticked off the jabs on his fingers. “You have a savior complex.”

She just stared at him. Did people even use brown noser any more?

“I know this sort of thing is hard to hear–which is why I wanted to pull you aside and discuss it with you privately.”

“If I’m not supposed to put in extra work, I’m not sure the project will be finished in time for the client.”

“I want to help you, Addie. I want to see you do well here.”

Unease slithered through her, but she waited for him to say more.

“I’d like to propose an idea that might help.”

She continued to wait, muscles tensed.

“You continue to keep whatever hours you need to keep to finish on schedule.”

“Okaaaay.”

“But use my login profile.”

A quiet alarm bell began clanging in the back of her mind. “So, then all my work will be attributed to you, then?”

For the briefest moment, his mask of concern slipped and she glimpsed the flat, hard anger in his eyes. And just as quickly, it vanished and he was smiling. “You don’t need to worry about that. I’ll attribute credit where it’s due.”

The tension seeped out of her limbs and she settled back in her chair. “Then why not just let me continue as I have been?”

“I’m not sure why you can’t understand how much this will lower tension in the office.”

“You mean lower your tension because you’ll be getting credit for my work.” She smiled a little. “You’re a manipulator.”

He was quiet for a minute, then finally said, “I like to think of myself as an outcome engineer.”

“I see.” She stood up. “Well, good luck with your outcome.”

He looked puzzled. “Where are you going?”

“It’s wine o’clock. I’m going home.”

 

That’s it from me, today. Be sure to check out Deelylah, Paige, and Kris‘ stories.

Promptly Penned: The First Line

Promptly Penned

Prompt:

Use the first line of a nursery rhyme as the first line of a dark narrative.

Side note before I begin this prompt. I was researching nursery rhymes and realized that most of them are plenty dark on their own without my help. Like Goosey, Goosey Gander is apparently about killing Catholic priests who were in hiding when they refused to convert, at Henry VIII’s insistence, to the Church of England.  Also, I recognized a vast majority of the nursery rhymes (including Goosey, Goosey Gander) from my own childhood. And my mom wonders why my short fiction tends to be on the darker side. Gee, mom…I can’t imagine why. I wonder why on earth that would be. *gives her the side-eye*

Okay, so here’s the story. (You’re welcome, mom.)

“Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,”

The sounds of children’s voices echoed through the valley–high and sweet, lilting through the chilly autumn air. Girls and boys rose from their beds or left their evening chores, shambling dazedly out into the dusty road, and turned toward the emerald green hill rising in the distance. They dragged hobbyhorses and poppets behind them as their song carried hauntingly across the land.

“To see a fine lady upon a white horse.”

The children plodded forward, eyes fixed unseeingly on some the middle distance, unaware or uncaring as their parents called to them, their cries becoming increasingly more desperate. Pitious. Attempts to tug or carry the young back into the houses failed. Even the smallest of the small were able to pull free of their parents’ frenzied grasp. They stood watching, shivering in the cold, their breath puffs of steam. The children didn’t shiver. Nor did their breath cloud the air.

“With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,”

Every house in the village stood empty of children, save those too young to climb from their cradles. But they sang their own mournful song, longing to join their sisters and brothers as they marched onward toward the green hill in the distance. The hill they’d been warned away from time and time again. The hill where none of the village folk would tread. The hill, it was whispered, would swallow a person whole. Perhaps none in recent memory, but it had happened, and so the warning remained.

“She shall have music wherever she goes.”

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles followed behind, weeping  and helpless beneath the purple dusk that crept across the sky. At the head of the procession, I looked back at my new charges from atop my snow colored steed and smiled. Turning in my saddle, accompanied by the delicate jingling of bells, I led the children forward as twilight cloaked the land drawn toward the hill by the scent of sweetmeats and warm puddings, fruits and ale cakes.

Whispering the spell to lift the glamour, the side of the hill opened, spilling golden light on the ground, forming a pathway to lead the children forward.  Raucous music drifted out into the gloaming, the rhythm twining around the procession and urging it closer. As the music took hold, the lethargy that had claimed the children lifted and they began to dance as they made their way into realm beneath the hill, heedless of the cries of their parents. Centuries have passed since we’ve had fresh blood.

Be sure you check out the other bloggers’ stories. Deelylah and Jessica.

Promptly Penned: Pencils Down

Promptly Penned

Prompt:

In school, tests started with a class bell and ended with a “pencils down”, outside of school things weren’t so well defined.

 

This is a continuation of this story, but I’m pretty sure this will stand on it’s own if you don’t feel like going back and reading the other.

 

In school, tests started with a class bell and ended with a “pencils down”, outside of school things weren’t so well defined.

Like now, for instance. Things were so poorly defined, one might call them vague.

Or murky.

Perhaps hazy was better.

They were definitely pear-shaped.

And egg-splattered.

Bailey was positive that this had to be some sort of test from the universe. Why else would have mistaken her neighbor’s car for her stupid replacement roommate’s car? Why else would said neighbor–said ridiculously hot neighbor–have caught her throwing eggs at his car like she was some kind of twelve-year-old delinquent if it wasn’t a cosmic test? And she was pretty sure she’d failed. Miserably.

She waited until she heard Jack’s feet on the stairs and the sound of his door closing up above. It was a lot later than he usually came home on a weeknight. She hoped his change in schedule wasn’t somehow due to her trashing pelting his car with raw eggs.

Taking a deep breath, she climbed the stairs and knocked on his door. She could make out the sounds of mumbling and a creaking floor behind the door. Neither sounds helped her nerves at all.

The wooden door flew inward so quickly, the motion startled her, and she almost dropped her apology.

Jack looked at her, his face almost impassive except for the hard tilt of his lips. “Can I help you? If you needed to borrow eggs, I’m fresh out, too.”

She lifted the plate of cookies and muffins she’d made. “I wanted to apologize. I thought I was throwing eggs at Aaron’s car.”

Jack just stared at her.

“I suggest you and your boyfriend figure out a better way to work out your issues. Otherwise innocent bystanders end up smelling like rotten eggs by the end of the day from sitting in egg that managed to hit their seats through the open windows. It was a bit distracting for my students and my colleagues.”

Bailey closed her eyes and groaned. “I am so sorry. Also, he’s not my boyfriend. He’s my roommate’s idiot brother who’s subletting her room while she’s in Paris.”

“Let me guess, he’s not paying rent or any bills? Eating all your food?”

“You’ve heard the yelling, huh?” She sighed. “I’m sorry about that, too. Aaaaand this morning I discovered that his friends thought it would be great to steal my laptop, TV, and DVD player. I kinda snapped.”

Jack’s lips twitched. “If it’s any consolation, you’ve got a great arm.”

He surprised a laugh from her. She offered him the plate again. “I should give you these and let you get on with your night. I really am sorry.”

He took the plate and paused. “You’ve had a really shitty day, too . You wanna come in for a beer? And whatever smells so good under the foil?”

Have a beer with the hot neighbor or go back downstairs and deal with Aaron? Allison couldn’t get home back from France soon enough. “That would be great.”

He backed inside and she remembered the other thing she had for Jack. “Here,” she said, handing it to him.

“What’s this?”

She blushed. “A book of gift certificates for the carwash. Just in case.”

 

Be sure to check out the other authors’ Promptly Penned posts.

Jess

Jessica

Kris

Promptly Penned: Where the Story Ends

Promptly Penned

Prompt:

This would normally be where the story ends, if this were a story; the world has been saved, the prince has found his bride, and there’s nothing left to do. Only this isn’t a story and the loose ends that are left belong to people that aren’t the prince, or the dragon, or the little goose girl.

This story is continued from one I started last year. You can find the first part here and the second part here.

Open or closed, the university library tended to be a popular place for hookups. Hollis crept as close as she dared to the couple making out in the stacks. It wasn’t that she wanted to get up close and personal with them, but she needed to be near enough to them that when she caused her diversion, whichever disinterested student worker, assigned roust out stragglers from the library, would blame the noise on them. And more importantly, not notice that she’d and darted down the stairs toward the off-limits basement.

The arriving elevator’s chime didn’t slow the couple’s frantic groping. They either didn’t notice, or they didn’t care. Hollis slid her hand into the bookshelf that was at hip level with the couple as she peered through the space in the shelf above, hoping to see the kid from her theatre 202 class. He was always so busy memorizing audition pieces, an alien craft could land next to him, and he wouldn’t notice.

The doors slid open and Hollis’ breath caught in her throat. It was the hot T.A. from her history class. The exchange student with the Irish accent to die for. He was far more observant than theatre boy. Son of a bitch! But, she couldn’t put this off another day. She had to get down there and find whatever is was her grandmother wanted her to find. The stones in her grandmother’s rings glinted in the dimming lights of the library as if to urge her on.

Hollis fixed her eyes on Eoin, the T.A. and waited until he was almost on top of the aisle where the couple was still going at it. As his footsteps drew nearer, Hollis gave several unabridged volumes of Chaucer a good shove, almost startling herself as the thick tomes hit the hardwood floor. The couple jumped and cursed as Eoin’s footsteps stopped. Hollis took that opportunity to dash for the short hallway that held the door that led to the basement stairs. Behind her, she heard Eoin say, “Christ, right your clothes, pick up the books, and find someplace else to get laid.”

Hollis quietly closed the door behind her and jogged, as quickly as she dared, down the dimly lit stairs into the basement. The scents of old books and cleaning supplies mixed as she finally reached the bottom step and crept into the heavily shadowed room. According, to her grandmother’s note, there was a hallway around here labeled with a sign that said “No Exit”. Pulling the small flashlight from her jacket pocket, she shone it around the cavernous area. The basement appeared to be one giant room filled with endless boxes, filing cabinets and huge pillars.

Finally spotting the sign she was looking for, she picked her way around several old filmstrip projector carts—Shouldn’t those things be in a museum somewhere?—and inched down the crowded hallway until she was standing in front of the wrought iron cage front elevator her grandmother had described. Hollis lifted the cage and it slid upward on a surprisingly soundless track. Stepping inside, she closed the gate and pushed the only button in the car. The car descended soundlessly and so quickly that her stomach flipped.  Apparently, it was in much better working order than anything else down here. Which she realized was a somewhat comforting thought considering she was descending into a sub-basement that didn’t appear on any maps of the university’s campus on the word of a dead woman.

As soon as the car stopped, Hollis raised the gate and stepped out, staring in awe at the seven locked doors arranged in a semicircle in front of her. Her grandmother had been completely serious. Up until this moment, Hollis hadn’t been truly sure.

Sensing movement, she glanced behind her as the elevator car ascended. It must have some sort of auto-return function. Slightly panicked, she looked for a call button. The last thing she needed was to be trapped down here without food or water. Finding what she was looking for, she turned back to the doors.

They were all wooden. All huge. And all seemed to represent different historical periods. The iron studded door to the far left looked as though it had been removed from a medieval castle. The one in the middle—the one she found herself inching closer to—looked like it belonged on gothic manor. Tall and arched, the dark wood door was elaborately carved. It was adorned with an elaborate, aged brass knocker and handle. That was the door. That was the one she knew she had to open. She pulled the key out from where it dangled on a cord inside her top then fit it into the lock and turned. Straightening, she tucked it back into her shirt and put her hand on the knob, her pulse skittering wildly beneath her skin.

She’d found what her grandmother had asked her to find. She’d completed her quest. This would normally be where the story ends, if this were a story; the world has been saved, the prince has found his bride, and there’s nothing left to do. Only this isn’t a story and the loose ends that are left belong to people that aren’t the prince, or the dragon, or the little goose girl.

“You’ll be happy to know you got an ‘A’ on your midterm.”

Hollis whirled and pressed herself against the door, stomach leaping into her throat. “What the fuck, Eoin?!”

“Well played, upstairs. Chaucer was a nice touch. I might have even fallen for it, but when you scooted past me, it was impossible to miss your scent.”

She blinked. “My scent…?”

Eion shrugged. “Perfume? Reminds me of wood violets back home.” He glanced around at the different doors, coming to rest on the one she was currently plastered against. “So…what are we doing?”

Hollis tried to ignore warm burr in his voice and focus on his actual words. “We’re not doing anything.”

He grinned, his bright blue eyes twinkling mischievously. “That’s where you’re wrong, love. This looks like the beginning of an adventure.”

She stood there with her mouth hanging open.

“Unless you’d rather be reported to campus security.” He shrugged again. “Your call.”

“Asshole,” she muttered. Somehow, she doubted this was what her grandmother meant when she said Hollis’ life would change forever.

That’s it from me this week. Be sure to check out the stories from Jess and Jessica, too!

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