Something’s Gotta Give (A Demonic Short Story) Available Now!

Copy of Something's Gotta Give Cover

 

$0.99 on Kindle or for Free on Kindle Unlimited.

An assignment in Hollywood? That sounds like Paradise …

Ronoven should have known better.
In Hell, nothing was ever as easy as it sounded.

Take a trip above, they said. Use your human name. Go around as Ben again if you want.

Collect a movie star’s soul.

It’ll be easy, they said.

And he bought it.
Hook. Line. And sinker.

Then he met her. An innocent; caught up in her own pain, in the whirlwind fame of Hollywood’s heyday.

He couldn’t save her life, but if he was willing to play the odds, he might just be able to save her soul.

Ben had always been a gambling man.

Something’s Gotta Give – Available now.

http://mybook.to/somethingsgottagive

Wrong Number

Another writing prompt. This one is actually from a couple of years ago, but I liked it a lot and couldn’t imagine revisiting it with something new. If you come up with something, I’d love to see it in the comments. ~ J

“Write a conversation about a man who calls a wrong number and ends up talking to an angry woman. End the conversation with the line ‘Well, I suppose so’.”

bar-club-nightlife-274179

Ed reached into the back pocket of his jeans for his cell. It slipped from his grasp and fell onto the floor. There was a distinct and depressing crunching sound. Someday, he thought ruefully, he would get his head out of his ass and buy a decent case. This was his third phone in as many months. He got carefully off from his perch on the barstool and retrieved his phone, sure Salvatore would let him use the bar’s phone, but knowing in his present state there was no way he could remember Frank’s number. And the bastard owed him one for playing Taxi the last time he’d tied one on. As he’d suspected, the screen was spider cracked all over. Crap. Crap. Crap.

He squinted at the icons through the web of broken glass and hit what looked like his contacts button. The destruction that used to be his iPhone caused him to swear quietly when he got a splinter of glass in this thumb as he tried to scroll. Between sucking his bleeding thumb, the fuzzy buzzing in his head, and the fact that he’d worked the early today following on 2nd shift last night he was only half certain that he’d hit Frank’s name, but he brought the phone up anyway.

“Ed, you son of a bitch,” was the icy greeting that met his ear.

Oh hell. “Ginny. Shit, I’m sorry.”

“You damned well ought to be!” There was more emotion in her voice now but, not unexpectedly, it wasn’t pleasant.

“Look, I didn’t mean to call you. I don’t even know what time it is.” Now he could hear that he was slurring a little. Damn, his bar tab was going to be impressive when he had to settle up.

“Color me surprised.” There was a lot of contempt there, but it wasn’t venomous as it had been the last time they spoke.

“I was just trying to call Franny for a ride. My phone’s busted.”

“Again? Just how drunk are you Eddie?”

He hated it when she just had his number without even looking at him. It was like freaking witchcraft.

Now Ed was starting to feel a little annoyed back. “Well, pretty damn drunk I guess. I hate my job.”

Her voice softened, “You’re still there?”

Ed was defensive, “Yeah, even though it blows.”

There was a knowing note in her voice now, “And you’re at Sal’s place to cope with that fact.”

His inebriation caused some petulance to creep into his voice. “I don’t wanna crash with my folks forever and I can’t do rent on my own.”

“That’s your own fault, Eddie, and you know it, so don’t try to guilt trip me. I haven’t even taken my sneakers off yet from job number two and I’ve got a 7:30 in the morning. Tomorrow’s Tuesday. In case you forgot.”

“I know what day it is,” he snapped, even though that was 100% not true.

He was pulling so many odd shifts trying to get enough money together to get back into school that the days were starting to blend into each other. The dorm was better than with his parents for sure, but damned if he didn’t miss the mattress on the floor of the crappy apartment he and Ginny had shared all semester, until he’d blown it over summer break. Getting fired, then arrested for pissing on that dumpster…at least that cop had been decent enough to just call it vandalism and not public urination. If he’d wound up on the sex offender registry for being drunk and stupid, Ginny wouldn’t even care enough to chew him out. She wouldn’t have answered her phone. She’d kicked him out after that; her name was on the lease after all; told him not to call her unless he dried himself out a little and got his shit together. She couldn’t afford to deal with his childish crap her senior year. She had law school admissions to worry about. He’d lost his financial aid and had to drop out of school on top of everything else.

“Ginny, I’m sorry. I’m trying to get myself together. I am.”

“Sure you are, Ace. Which is why you called me on your broken phone. By accident. From Sal’s. Where I am sure there is now a paucity of tequila.”

Now she just sounded weary.

“It’s not like that … I hardly ever do this anymore.”

“Really?”

She honestly hoped that was true. She actually loved the dumbass. She just wasn’t going to get sucked in to his bullshit.

“I haven’t been here in a couple of months. Hell, I’m the guy the old crew usually calls for rides now. And I know better than to get behind the wheel like this, myself.”

He could hear her breathing but she didn’t say anything.

“That why I was calling Frank for a lift. Douche owes me one. I picked him up off the strip a couple weeks ago and he puked all down the door of my truck. I had to take it apart and everything. Hot wings, vodka, and stomach acid are not the sweetest perfume a guy could hope to ride to work with.”

She gave a soft laugh. God, he’d missed that sound.

“I’m not sobstory-ing or anything, but my ‘rents got into another one of their ‘let’s throw things at each other and scream’ contests and I just had to get the hell out. I don’t know why I came to Sal’s. Just seemed like the thing to do.” He sighed.

“It seemed safe.” Her voice was quiet, sympathetic.

“Yeah … I guess that’s it.” He took a deep breath, and said in a rush, “Last place I felt safe was with you.”

She drew in her breath sharply. “Eddie, I …”

“I’m sorry … You don’t need me crying on your shoulder, even over the phone.” He sighed again. “Go take off your sneakers. Get some sleep. I know your lecture days suck.”

“Eddie,” she paused, not sure if she’d regret what she was about to say, but determined to say it nonetheless. “Do you want me to come and pick you up?”

He really did, but he took a second, not wanting her to hear the naked need in his voice and pretty sure he was too lit to hide it. “I … I don’t really want to go home. God knows they’re probably still at it.” He was met with silence, but it felt warm to him, like before all this. “Could I come over … Just to sleep on the couch? I’m off tomorrow; I’d clean your place to return the favor. Maybe we could talk when you get out of class … Please?”

When she answered it was full of her old humor, full of promise.

“Well, I suppose so.”

Dear Diary

I’m participating in a writing challenge this month. The first prompt is, “Put your music player on shuffle. Write 250 words inspired by the first and last lines of the very next song that plays. (Bonus points if you share a link to the song)”.

Below is the result.

The song is Social Distorion, Angels Wings

~ J

check-class-desk-7103

From the journal of Ben Brody …

I never really stopped to give a damn what happened to me, beyond survival.

That’s a Hell of a way to live, right?

Even survival wasn’t always a priority. Some things cut so deep, you don’t care if you come out the other side, I guess. Then, even surviving just became about getting one over on the other guy, outlasting the bullshit, to prove I could.

I mean, I helped people along the way, sure. I’d like to pretend it was altruistic, too, but if I’m honest, it made some meaning out of my pain. And it passed the time. I get bored. You can get bored with suffering, too. Even agony becomes something you don’t feel after a while.

I’ve fought pretty hard to stay on this side of oblivion. I never knew why, never thought there was a much of a reason for the fight, other than its own sake. I think that’s how I knew I’d fallen in love with her. I suddenly knew what the point was, knew I’d stayed in the game for a reason.

Mal is a good reason for a lot of things.

There are days I still feel hopeless. Those days usually come after nights of dreaming what Hell’s got in store for me if they ever catch up to us. She never says much about it, but I know she knows about the dreams. She thinks there’s a way out, totally out.

And when she holds me, I have to believe it.

Read more about Ben’s journey in Always Darkest, Book I of The Arbitratus Trilogy

 

On the seventh day of Fic-mas, a little something sweet, prepare for merry gatherings wherever you meet …

Kitchen Witch

Eye of Newt

It was the night of the new moon, the perfect time to begin her work.

The witch bounded up the steps of her home, an almost wicked smile on her lips, and all the necessary ingredients in her bag. She couldn’t wait to work her magic and present her intended with a gift that she was certain would make him love her for life. Well, it would seal the deal, anyway.

She prepared her space carefully, wiping everything down, and starting the fire with the reverence she brought to all tasks she’d set her heart to. Each bit of spice, each little herb was set carefully out in its own ceramic container. Every necessary component at the ready for the perfect moment to add it to the pot.

She murmured the words written on the old, stained, reverently passed-down piece of paper in front of her as she set to each step in her unfamiliar but promising task. This was her first time attempting this concoction, although the women in her family had sworn by it for generations.

It wasn’t exactly like other things she’d let bubble in a pot in her little apartment for the purposes of enchantment, but the currants it called for were a step up from eye of newt, she supposed. And her little home was infused with the smells of it, exotic and familiar, warm and inviting. It told the tale of pleasures yet to come.

From simmering pot, she gave it one last reverent stir and tipped it into the pan to set in her oven, a little ring of seductive perfection.

When it was done curing and setting she tool it out and set it on an iron ring on her counter. “Now,” she smiled, “I’ll just infuse you with most powerful spirits.”

Her task accomplished, she laughed to herself. “I believe I’ll infuse myself too!” and she tipped the bottle into a waiting glass.

A whole month her creation waited. Infused each night of the waxing moon with more of the spirits that would make it great, make it perfect, make it last. Finally, on the eve of the Solstice, the moon full and round above her, she knocked on he beloved’s door, her work wrapped in festive silver paper and tied with a red and white bow.

He invited her in, grinning, thrilled that she had made it, and eager to share her holiday with her, as she had promised to join he and his family for Christmas in a few days.

She led him by the hand into his kitchen and set his gift on the counter. He opened it and though he was smiling, he raised a skeptical eyebrow at the strange looking lumpy contents of the beautifully wrapped box.

“Is this some kind of weird witch thing?” he asked, laughter in his voice.

“It’s my grandmother’s fruitcake recipe. It’s the first time I’ve ever made it,” she answered. “I thought it would be nice to share for dessert tonight. And we could take some slices to your folks this weekend. It’ll last for months,” she beamed.

“I mean, you know because this is … Yule?” he asked, wanting to get it right.

“Ummhmm,” she nodded, encouraging him.

“I meant is it, like, magic?”

She laughed and moved to cut them each a slice. “Well, if how buzzed you’re going to get from a little taste of it is any indication, then probably.”

He took the proffered bite, eyes rolling in pleasure. “Yeah, this is definitely witchcraft, of the very best kind.”

Get the recipe for Real Magic Fruit Cake in

The Twelve Days of Fic-mas – Holiday Tales With a Twist Vol. I

*****

The Velvet Dark

Here’s the opening to a little trifle I started a while ago. No sparkles, I promise. Just a little darkness, easy to dispel. ~ J

Prelude

The dark pressed in around her from all sides. It felt as though the darkness was, itself, a physical thing, enveloping her like a blanket. And truly, it may as well have been. Her back pressed firmly against the pillow-like softness beneath her, and she could only move a few inches to either side. She could not even move enough to shift her position and lessen the prickly sensation in her limbs that she knew would, after a time, become pain, and then numbness. In front of her, she could just raise her hands to touch the satin lining of the lid to the box that held her here in the blackness. They felt sticky, yet dry, and she couldn’t imagine why that would be. When she awoke, it had come slowly, through a haze. She could not remember where she had been or what she had been doing. Her first coherent thought was that maybe she’d had too much to drink at the club. That was so easy to do, to just drink and lose yourself in the sensations of the place. It would not have been the first time that Nightingales had made her forget herself and take things a little too far. More than once in the last few months her roommate had helped her make it back to her room to sleep it off.  “Keep this up, Vicki, and I’ll start to think you’re really one of us,” Mere had said. She tried to roll over to get out of bed, but found that she could not even get all the way onto her side. She tried moving the other way, thinking dimly that she, in a fitful sleep, had tangled herself in her blankets. This time she felt her shoulder contact something very firm, but soft. Undeterred, she attempted stubbornly to sit up and quickly smacked her forehead on the same firm, soft surface that held her shoulder back. As she became more truly awake, she began to feel the closeness around her. It felt as though she was enshrouded in an endless smooth blanket. Her heart began to beat faster. Thump, thump, thump; a quick staccato beat in her ears. She began to struggle against her newly discovered bonds, thrashing first one way and then another. The atmosphere in her prison grew hot and close and she realized finally that she was in a very tight space. Conceivably, she could be wasting a limited supply of air. Her exertions and the accompanying surge of adrenaline had awakened her fully.

Now, regaining her wits, she tried to assess her situation. The blackness was total, as if the sun ceased to exist, or more truly, as if she were in a world that had no sun. The thought felt utterly melodramatic, but at the same time completely true. She tried to slowly move her hands and felt the firm silken softness on all sides. Her arms and hands ached inexplicably. She knew she was lying on her back because her weight rested there, rather than on her feet.  Her senses told her that she was in a box of some sort, comfortably lined with cushions and soft folds of fabric. Her pulse began to race again. Her predicament, this box, no, if she were honest, this coffin, meant that only one person could be responsible for it. And she began to remember why this was so. She tried to push against the lid with her hands, to force it open, but found that she did not have enough room to gain advantage against it. Then, she tried to bend her legs to kick at it, but neither could she get purchase with her feet. She was becoming as much frustrated as afraid. She knew that it had always been about keeping this on her terms. Despite her rising panic, she realized that if it were a simple matter of pushing against this lid to regain the light, he never would have left her here. No, he would have been sure to see that her captivity was total, and that only he could free her. He would want to return for her at his leisure. She felt a cool breeze disturb her hair. Air was making its way into her little cell somehow. Apparently he intended for her to be alive when he returned. Of course he did. The moment was still hers. She still had options open to her.

Remembering how she had caused the aching in her hands, she ran her fingers down the silken lid. She laughed, just a bit at first, and then with increasing hysteria. It had all seemed like such an amusing game when they met. The way he dressed, the way he played his part at Nightingales, the way he’d used her name, and her nickname for him. It seemed like they had known each other forever, on the first night they’d ever met. It seemed, in fact, that he knew her and her intentions better than she did herself. As such, she never would have expected him to intervene in her life in this way. He had brought her here for a reason, left her in this softly luxurious tomb. In a way, how he had left her here was too perfect. Left her; locked away in this soft lush place, waiting for The Velvet Dark.

 

July 9, 2016 ~ JF

“Think of a word. Search it on Google Images. Write something inspired by the 7th image.”

Plateau

She could hear the drone hovering, not that far overhead, so she knew the cameras were watching. Why had she agreed to this? Sure, if they won it would pay for the wedding, the honeymoon, hell, the everything, but she’d watched The Challenge before. She knew she was in for this at some point in the game. She looked up the rock face again, taking a long slow breath. Her cheeks felt cold. She wondered if the cameras could see just how pale and sweaty she was. If they could, it would certainly be part of the clips tonight. Revealing a weakness to her competitors was not an idea that she relished. She glanced at Drew. He was calmly laying out and inspecting the climbing equipment that had arrived with the Challenge Envelope this morning. Right now she envied his military experience and wondered if he felt as unbothered as he looked. He felt her eyes on him and looked up, eyebrows climbing just a little to express his concern, but keeping the cocky smile that had quickly made their team a fan favorite.

“You okay, Reggie?”

She swallowed hard, nodded, and then smiled back. “Yeah. Million bucks, right?

“Right.” He gave her that look, the one that said if these rocks were made of rusty nails, he’d carry her up them if she needed him to, but also told her that he knew she didn’t.

They spent a few minutes dealing with the daunting equipment. Reg didn’t even know what half of it was called, although he’d coached her as much as he could during their approach. They knew they had the lead, but it wasn’t by a lot. Screwing around or stalling could cost them their place in the top three. No way was she going to let that happen. They’d been through too much already in this game. And she’d asked him to do this. He was sort of shy, definitely not one for cameras or performing, but had reluctantly agreed, knowing that the money could give them the start they both wanted. Everything was ready. The cameras were close now, stirring the dust behind them. As they always did before starting one of the Challenges, they put their arms around each other and kissed. It was for the cameras in a way, but it was still a good kiss, and gave them just enough privacy to check in.

Putting his mouth right next to her ear, Drew whispered, “Can you really do this?”

She nodded, just a little, and whispered back, “”Course I can. This is all us.”

He pulled away grinning and started up the rock face with the practiced ease of an experienced climber, his weekends of recreational search and rescue paying off in his rapid ascent. After a few minutes the expected rope dropped down from the first good ledge. She took a minute to go over everything he’d said this morning, determined to be at the top celebrating the second to last challenge before anyone else finished the approach. Drew knew even open stairs made Reggie nearly panic and had offered to back out as soon as he’d opened the envelope in their hotel room. She’d just said he was a climber and she knew he’d get her through it. She’d talked him threw the underground tunnels last week; almost certain he was going to call an end to things at any minute in the oppressive, cramped, sweaty, dark. She owed him this. He said he’d coach her through the handholds, tell her when she had a good foothold so she didn’t ever have to look down. “Just keep your eyes on me, on your hands. I’d never let you fall.”

That one sentence summed both of them up really. Remembering gave her what she needed to get her feet moving.

Reggie stepped up to the rock face, clipping in just like he’d showed her this morning, checking the connection. Her mouth was dry, but she managed, “On belay?”

She thought she sounded all right, a little shaky maybe, but the wind had picked up a little, so maybe the cameras had missed it. After he rechecked everything, Drew called down, “Belay on!”

One last deep breath. She felt a lot more confident than she expected. This was so in the bag. Acrophobia be damned. “Climbing!”

She could hear him grinning as he called down to her, knowing the cameras were pulling in tight on his dimpled smile. His ‘I love you’ was implicit in his voice, “Climb on!”

 

July 5, 2016 ~ JF

“Write a conversation about a man who calls a wrong number and ends up talking to an angry woman. End the conversation with the line ‘Well, I suppose so’.”

Ed reached into the back pocket of his jeans for his cell. It slipped from his grasp and fell onto the floor. There was a distinct and depressing crunching sound. Someday, he thought ruefully, he would get his head out of his ass and buy a decent case. This was his third phone in as many months. He got carefully off from his perch on the barstool and retrieved his phone, sure Salvatore would let him use the bar’s phone, but knowing in his present state there was no way he could remember Frank’s number. And the bastard owed him one for playing Taxi the last time he’d tied one on. As he’d suspected, the screen was spider cracked all over. Crap. Crap. Crap.

He squinted at the icons through the web of broken glass and hit what looked like his contacts button. The destruction that used to be his iPhone caused him to swear quietly when he got a splinter of glass in this thumb as he tried to scroll. Between sucking his bleeding thumb, the fuzzy buzzing in his head, and the fact that he’d worked the early today following on 2nd shift last night he was only half certain that he’d hit Frank’s name, but he brought the phone up anyway.

“Ed, you son of a bitch,” was the icy greeting that met his ear.

Oh hell. “Ginny. Shit, I’m sorry.”

“You damned well ought to be!” There was more emotion in her voice now but, not unexpectedly, it wasn’t pleasant.

“Look, I didn’t mean to call you. I don’t even know what time it is.” Now he could hear that he was slurring a little. Damn, his bar tab was going to be impressive when he had to settle up.

“Color me surprised.” There was a lot of contempt there, but it wasn’t venomous as it had been the last time they spoke.

“I was just trying to call Franny for a ride. My phone’s busted.”

“Again? Just how drunk are you Eddie?” He hated it when she just had his number without even looking at him. It was like freaking witchcraft.

Now Ed was starting to feel a little annoyed back. “Well, pretty damn drunk I guess. I hate my job.”

Her voice softened, “You’re still there?”

Ed was defensive, “Yeah, even though it blows.”

There was a knowing note in her voice now, “And you’re at Sal’s place to cope with that fact.”

His inebriation caused some petulance to creep into his voice. “I don’t wanna crash with my folks forever and I can’t do rent on my own.”

“That’s your own fault, Eddie, and you know it, so don’t try to guilt trip me. I haven’t even taken my sneakers off yet from job number two and I’ve got a 7:30 in the morning. Tomorrow’s Tuesday. In case you forgot.”

“I know what day it is,” he snapped, even though that was 100% not true.

He was pulling so many odd shifts trying to get enough money together to get back into school that the days were starting to blend into each other. The dorm was better than with his parents for sure, but damned if he didn’t miss the mattress on the floor of the crappy apartment he and Ginny had shared all semester, until he’d blown it over summer break. Getting fired, then arrested for pissing on that dumpster…at least that cop had been decent enough to just call it disorderly conduct and vandalism and not public urination. If he’d wound up on the sex offender registry for being drunk and stupid, Ginny wouldn’t even care enough to chew him out. She wouldn’t have answered her phone. She’d kicked him out after that; her name was on the lease after all; told him not to call her unless he dried himself out a little and got his shit together. She couldn’t afford to deal with his childish crap her senior year. She had law school admissions to worry about. He’d lost his financial aid and had to drop out of school on top of everything else.

“Ginny, I’m sorry. I’m trying to get myself together. I am.”

“Sure you are, Ace. Which is why you called me on your broken phone. By accident. From Sal’s. Where I am sure there is now a paucity of tequila.” Now she just sounded weary.

“It’s not like that…I hardly ever do this anymore.”

“Really?” She honestly hoped that was true. She actually loved the dumbass. She just wasn’t going to get sucked in to his bullshit.

“I haven’t been here in a couple of months. Hell, I’m the guy the old crew usually calls for rides now. And I know better than to get behind the wheel like this, myself.”

He could hear her breathing but she didn’t say anything.

“That why I was calling Frank for a lift. Douche owes me one. I picked him up off the strip a couple weeks ago and he puked all down the door of my truck. I had to take it apart and everything. Hot wings, vodka, and stomach acid are not the sweetest perfume a guy could hope to ride to work with.”

She gave a soft laugh. God, he’d missed that sound.

“I’m not sobstory-ing or anything, but my ‘rents got into another one of their “let’s throw things at each other and scream” contests and I just had to get the hell out. I don’t know why I came to Sal’s. Just seemed like the thing to do.” He sighed.

“It seemed safe.” Her voice was quiet, sympathetic.

“Yeah…I guess that’s it.” He took a deep breath, and said in a rush, “Last place I felt safe was with you.”

She drew in her breath sharply. “Eddie, I…”

“I’m sorry…You don’t need me crying on your shoulder, even over the phone.” He sighed again. “Go take off your sneakers. Get some sleep. I know your lecture days suck.”

“Eddie,” she paused, not sure if she’d regret what she was about to say, but determined to say it nonetheless. “Do you want me to come and pick you up?”

He really did, but he took a second, not wanting her to hear the naked need in his voice and pretty sure he was too lit to hide it. “I…I don’t really want to go home. God knows they’re probably still at it.” He was met with silence, but it felt warm to him, like before all this. “Could I come over…Just to sleep on the couch? I’m off tomorrow; I’d clean your place to return the favor. Maybe we could talk when you get out of class…Please?”

When she answered it was full of her old humor, full of promise. “Well, I suppose so.”