In the Shadows

I was five when I knew something was different about me.

My first memory.

I had no recollection of who my parents were or what they even looked like. All I knew was that I was alone at the orphanage, disconnected from the outside world. I picture it even now, almost like an oil painting: the thick bristles of the paintbrush created the bright blue sky as it connected to the shockingly white snow. The snow blanketed everything around me, as if protecting me, the green forest displayed at every angle.

The orphanage was out of place in such a nature-infused environment. A large, two-story building, its windows seemed to cover almost every surface. I remembered the brightness of the sun as it hit my sleepy face through one of those many windows. It would instantly warm my body, greeting me to yet another day.

Vines covered old gray bricks as they coursed over the external surface of the orphanage. I had nightmares about those same vines making their way into my room as I slept. They’d appear ominously as their shadows pounded against the walls, taunting me as a storm brewed on outside. Venturing toward my bed, the vines would slither across my body, trapping me in place. One would wrap around my neck, squeezing tightly, as I struggled for air. Rendered frozen, the feeling of fear would take hold, bubbling up deep inside my chest. And as I felt the burning pain in my throat, a thought would flash through my mind of thismoment being my last. It never was, though, as I would instantly wake up.

I always did have a wild imagination.

To chase away the terror, I would stand before my windowpane the morning after. Sighing in relief, my eyes would be drawn to the vast forest off in the distance. It surrounded the orphanage, like a gatekeeper, the leaves of the trees bristling in irritation. The wind blew right through those tall structures, whistling, as my ears picked up the all too familiar sound.

I somehow found myself standing directly in front of that very forest. My memory was hazy on exactly how I got there but I recalled waking up, after one of my many dreams, to the feeling of immense hunger as my body stirred in discomfort.

Then suddenly I was at the foot of the forest.

I would not describe the sensation as simple hunger. I would almost describe it as a feeling of starvation, like there was some essential component my body was missing. Whatever it was, this need was so powerful I was weak in the knees with the pain; my belly contracted and released, contracted and released, continually. Food provided temporary relief for me, but there was always this presence in the corner of my mind as my brain searched for the one thing my body craved.

I ignored that nagging voice in my head, the one whispering for the one thing I needed. It was something unfathomable yet inherent. I paid it no attention and just openly stared at the forest beckoning me. Taking shallow breaths, the cool air blew in and out between my cold, chapped lips.

It was at that exact moment I realized the forest isolated me from everything and everyone outside of its confines—almost like a hungry bird circling its prey. Even young, my instincts picked up on that, immediately telling me something.

Eyes were watching me.

…………………

Excerpt from Dahlia, available on Amazon and other ebook retailers.

Demons

Demons.

We all had them. Some of us were just able to deal with them more than others. Sometimes it was merely an annoyance, like a bee buzzing near your ear that you wanted to swat away. It’d eventually lead to a sharp sting if you weren’t careful.

Other times, demons buried you so deep you were unable to climb out of the hellhole you’d been tossed into. At least, not without someone offering a helping hand.

My demons lived with me, enveloped me and kept me warm like a fur winter coat. Embraced me like a comforting hug from a friend. Caressed me like a lover. My demons planted a seed inside me and slowly grew like a beautiful poisonous flower.

Now that they’d blossomed, my existence had only just begun.

…………………

Excerpt from Never Letting Go, available on Amazon and other ebook retailers.

Four Letters Christmas (Part 4)

When I opened my eyes again, I stared back into Reed’s calming face. But I wasn’t outside, freezing my behind and trying to get warmth from his body.

No. I was back in my bedroom with the love of my life.

Reed stroked my face, almost like butterfly wings.

“Merry Christmas,” he said. Then he bent down and tenderly kissed my stomach. “Merry Christmas, baby.”

I smiled widely, placing my hand against my full belly.

“You feeling better?” he asked.

I nodded. “Yeah, but I had the weirdest dream.”

“Really?” he asked, scooting closer to me. He brushed my hair back. “What about?”

“I was living the life I would have lived if I was never adopted. Connor was still my ex—”

“Figures—”

“My parents were Amelia and Dan instead of Mom and Dad. B was a stranger but Keener was performing at a party. And I was blonde.”

“You, blonde? Completely messed up.” Reed’s body shook with laughter. “What about me?”

I stared at him. “You were a douche.”

He looked shocked. “Me?”

“Yes,” I said with a straight face. “You were totally hitting on me at the Christmas party.” I rubbed my chin on his shoulders like a cat. “You wanted to get in my pants.”

“In real life and in your dreams.”

“It was awesome though, in a way. I got to spend Christmas with Amelia, Dan and the kids. And I saw Nina. It was so surreal.”

“I’m sure it was amazing to see her again.”

I nodded. “Yes. Yes, it was.”

“So what?” he asked. “You wish you were living your dream world instead?”

I thought about it seriously and answered truthfully. “It was like the perfect life that could have been. But, it’s not my life. I enjoy the craziness. In this world, I have two families. I’ve known you all my life. We’re creating a baby, which is so much bigger than you and I. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.”

“And you’re not blonde.”

I laughed. “And I’m not blonde.” My name isn’t Jade Callaghan.“What’s my name?” I asked suddenly.

Reed smiled in question at the random question. “Jade Reamer.”

“What will be my name?”

“Jade Donahue, of course.”

I shook my head. “Jade Reamer-Donahue, please and–”

“Shh,” Reed interrupted, placing his finger against my lips. I looked straight into his eyes. “I don’t care what your name is, all I know is that I love you.”

“I love you too.”

He gave a wink and I swore I melted then and there.

“Before I forget.”

Reed pulled out a present wrapped in red wrapping paper.

“Merry Christmas, Jade.”

Grinning, I took the gift from his hand but before I could open it, a knock sounded. I jumped out of bed, rushing to the front door. I opened it to see our family grinning from ear to ear.

“Jade!” exclaimed B, rushing forward. He picked me up, spinning me around.

I slapped him on the back. “Put me down, B.”

“But it’s Christmas,” B said happily, but he obliged my request. “You have to be perky Jade today.”

I grinned then gave him a peck on the cheek. “Merry Christmas, Bryn.” Then I looked at everyone else. Mom, Dad, Reed’s parents, Amelia, Dan, and the girls. “Merry Christmas, guys.”

Reed came up from behind me, giving a squeeze and I knew all was right with the world.

“Hey, look! It’s snowing,” Marie exclaimed as she pointed at the living room window.

I looked out the window and sure enough, snow was falling from the sky, slowly blanketing the city. It was the perfect Christmas because I had everything I wanted. My family, my love, and a beautiful winter wonderland.

Thanks, Nina.

Merry Christmas indeed.

…………………

Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.


Books in the series:

 

Four Letters Christmas (Part 3)

I woke up to my name being called over and over again. My eyes fluttering open, I looked up into concerned faces. No. This wasn’t still happening. Why hadn’t I waken up yet? I quickly sat up, determined.

“This isn’t real,” I mumbled to myself.

“Do you need me to call a doctor, honey?” Amelia asked, placing the back of her hand against my forehead. She glanced over at Dan. “No fever but I think we should call a doctor.”

“Maybe she hit her head or something.”

Yup, this was definitely a dream. There was no way I had been transported like Alice in Wonderland where my parents were Amelia and Dan, and not Mom with her blue contacts and Dad with his stern, you better listen to me or else, persona. This was some weird alternate version of my life where Bryn Reamer was not my brother and I had mini-mes waking up next to me every Christmas morning in matching red Christmas themed pajamas.

I looked at faces I’d only known for a few months, yet were the closest people to me in the world, at least, biologically close. Since I wasn’t getting out of this dream by force, I guess that meant I had to play along.

But no Reed and family? No fun at all.

“I’m fine … Mom.” Seriously, that was super strange. “Must have been some bad juice or something.”

Amelia raised a brow. “Are you sure you should go to the party tonight? You might be pushing it.”

“Tonight?”

Two parties in a row?

Damn, Jade.

Marie gave a toothy grin. “Yeah, that Christmas party at the outdoor rink your weirdo boyfriend invited you to.”

“Weirdo ex-boyfriend,” supplied Annabella.

“Thank god,” muttered Dan as he gave Amelia a pointed look.

“Oh yeah,” I said, pretending like I knew who the hell they were talking about. As long as it wasn’t Connor, I was cool.

“Enough party talk for now.” I stood, getting out of bed. “And I’m really fine—I promise!”

My family looked at me skeptically.

“Well, come on,” I urged, heading toward the door. “It’s officially Christmas! Let’s open up these presents.” I wasn’t particularly being my normal self but it was a dream so there were no rules.

The entire gang followed me down the staircase. Stepping into the foyer, I was unsure where to go.

Marie noticed my hesitation and grabbed my arm, pulling me to the left where it opened to a living room. At the end near the fireplace was this huge Christmas tree decorated in blue and silver ornaments. It was rather breathtaking and as I walked closer, my eyes took in the beauty of the sparkle and shine that seemed to be bouncing off the tree.

I turned around to say something then burst out laughing when I finally noticed that all of us were wearing matching reindeer print pajamas in red.

Good lord.

I shook my head, trying to muffle my laughs. “Whose idea was it for our Christmas getup, anyways?”

“Um … yours,” said Annabella.

I immediately got myself together. “Right.”

Settling around the Christmas tree, we started exchanging gifts. I watched the kiddos get excited by the latest tech gadget or outfit. I stared across at Amelia and Dan staring lovingly at each other. I’d gag if it were anyone else—hell, I’d gag if it were Mom and Dad—but to see them this way opened me up to what I had missed all these years apart from them.

But it was bittersweet because being with the Callaghans like this made me really miss my family.

It made me miss Reed.

I felt the tears well up in my eyes and I immediately excused myself and headed to the bathroom.

I almost screamed again when I saw myself in the mirror.

“Holy crap on everything that’s holy.”

My hair looked like it was dipped in fucking French vanilla ice cream.

I was blonde.

“What the hell,” I stated, pulling at a curly tendril. This Jade liked to experiment with hair. I started inspecting my body further. “What else is different in this world, Reamer?”

I had three tattoos of the most random of things in the most random of places. A ladybug on my left shoulder, a treble clef on the inside of my right wrist, and a sprinkle of stars across my back.

Random.

And let’s not forget the most obvious thing. I wasn’t preggers. My surprise baby was a surprise no more. Apparently in this world, I knew what a freaking condom was and remembered how to use one.

I didn’t know what to think about this. I had gotten used to being pregnant. Sill had a mini meltdown session on the daily about giving birth and being in charge of a living tiny person that wasn’t a pet, but yeah, I had gotten used to it. And not being pregnant now was a complete mind fuck and I didn’t know how to feel. I mean, I want this baby, and I can’t wait to meet our baby. Reed—

Damn.

I stared at my reflection in the mirror before closing my eyes and sighed.

Reed.

In this world, I didn’t even know who or where he was.

I came out of the bathroom and bypassed the family, rushing back up the stairs to what apparently was my bedroom.

“Bingo,” I said, eyes immediately landing on a cell phone on the nightstand next to the bed. I pulled the charger from the phone and stared down at the screen momentarily. I wondered if Reed would have the same phone number in this world. But I’d call him and then what? It wasn’t like he knew who I was. I was a stranger to him.

Would he even be the same Reed that I grew up with?

But the urge to hear his voice was something fierce so I punched the familiar numbers into the cell that were no longer programmed as a contact.

I brought my cell up to my ear, listening to the ringing that seemed to go on and on forever. My chest felt full when his familiar voice answered.

“Hey—”

“Reed,” I breathed.

“—you’ve reached Donahue. Not here to get your message but leave the details right after the beep and I’ll be sure to get back to you.”

I was frozen in my spot and the only thing that brought me back was the beep signaling for me to record a message.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “Wrong number.”

I ended the call immediately. “What is wrong with you? You freak out over a voice message—a voice message! Get it together, Jade.”

It’s not like this was real or anything.

I needed some fresh air, stat.

Jogging down the stairs, I grabbed a coat thrown over the staircase, shouting back into the house.

“Going for a walk!”

Slamming the door shut before anyone could reply, I made my way to the sidewalk, not even caring that I probably looked like a homeless person wearing pajamas outdoors and what looked like Dan’s winter coat. I was cold, my breath making its presence known in the cool air. I hunched my shoulders and tucked my hands into the warmth of the jacket pockets, cursing the fact that I didn’t look for a hat or scarf or something.

I paused by a park only to find a girl sitting on the bench. She was blonde and bundled up and I wondered why she sat so still by herself on Christmas day. I walked over closer, then closer still until I saw her face. Then did my best to not break down right then and there.

It was Nina.

I opened my mouth but no words came out. I didn’t know if this was the worse dream or best dream of my life.

Jade, keep it together.

It was just your best friend, your dead best friend, right in front of you.

“Hey,” I finally said softly.

“Hey there,” Nina said, smiling back. She tilted her head to the side, eyes narrowing slightly. “Do I know you?”

I shook my head. “No.”

Not in this world.

“Well then,” she said with a shrug. “I know it’s still early but hope your Christmas is a blast so far.”

I stared back at her as if she’d disappear at any second, then shrugged. “Well it’s definitely … something.”

Silently, I sat next to her on the bench and stared forward, looking at the mass of Christmas trees. There was no snow coating the scenery, hopes of a white Christmas dying as each second passed. But that didn’t really matter. I was sitting in the middle of a park with my best friend who I had slowly forgotten what she even looked like. But seeing her again, her mass of blonde hair, vivid blue eyes, and that mischievous glint across her face, it was like she was never gone. We said nothing to each other and I welcomed the comfortable silence shared between us.

“It’s not even snowing.”

I glanced back at Nina who spoke as if we were in mid conversation, then looked back at the brittle grass brownish in color, the ground with a fine layer of ice where you would slip if you weren’t careful.

“No,” I said. “The one thing I love about Christmas is when it snows. Oh well, maybe next year.”

“Well if I could, I’d totally give you snow as your Christmas gift.”

I chuckled. “Well that’s definitely cost-saving, but I don’t know if Mother Nature will give you that favor though.” I turned, staring at Nina’s profile. “What do you want for Christmas?”

Nina finally turned until she faced me directly and I blinked, trying to prevent any tears that threatened to fall when I saw the somber expression on her face.

“Forgiveness,” she whispered, a tear streaking down her cheek. “For some reason, I feel as if I need the whole world to just forgive me. I don’t think I’ve been a very good friend.”

I placed my hand on top of hers and squeezed gently. “I forgive you.”

She smiled tearfully. “You don’t even know me.”

“Don’t be so sure about that.”

“Thank you.”

The two of us remained in that park for I don’t even know how long. Just sitting side-by-side, each staring at the scenery before us, wishing things were different.

A cell phone buzzed in my pocket and I pulled it out. I was surprised to find myself staring at a familiar number.

“Connor?” I answered in confusion.

“Yo. Jade!”

It really was Connor. Did that make him my peeping Tom ex-boyfriend?

Creepy.

“So—” he burst out before I had a chance to speak and I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to come up with anything. “You coming to the Christmas party tonight?”

“Right, the Christmas party.”

How many parties did this Jade attend in a weekend?

“Yeah. You promised me you would, Jade. Don’t wimp out on me now.”

Wait … were we dating?

“My favourite band will be playing. Plus you know I have a thing for Bianca and she’s gonna be there. You need to be my wing-man.”

Alright, not dating. Thank god. “Don’t you mean, wing-woman?”

“Yeah, sure. Whatever you want.”

I closed my phone shut and turned to Nina to apologize but she was gone, and I was alone. I wondered if I had imagined the entire encounter. Then I remembered this whole thing was a dream to begin with.

Standing up from the bench, I looked around one last final time before making myself back to the Callaghan residence. It would be bizarre to call it home.

I didn’t know how time worked here but it was suddenly dark outside, and I found myself getting ready for a Christmas party. My closet was completely different from the usual black attire I found myself in, but I managed to find a pair of black skinny jeans and a cute red sweater.

Then like a film moving on to its next scene, I found myself standing amongst a winter wonderland. A regular skating rink was now the centerpiece for holiday festivities. While people took advantage of the skating rink, some chose the less sober option by partying it up in one of the various giant dome-like tents surrounding the rink.

I walked into the closest tent and found even more excitement. Loud music, bodies dancing, and booze.

All the ingredients to a successful party.

I actually managed to find Connor quite quickly. He was making out in the corner with, who I assumed was the Bianca that he was talking about earlier. Not needing my duties as a wing-woman anymore, I made my way to a section of the tent that was less crowded. A glass of vodka and Coke seemed to magically appear in my hand by the time I got there and I sipped on it slowly, wondering why I was here in the first place.

“I love how in real life and in my dream, I still manage to have Connor as an ex-boyfriend,” I mumbled to myself.

“Are you okay over there?”

My eyes widened at the sound of the familiar voice. I turned slowly and turned to find glinting green eyes staring down at me inquisitively.

“Re—” I breathed then stopped myself. Reed didn’t know who I was in this reality. I inhaled and tried again. “Yes. I’m fine.”

“Really?” He stepped closer and I impulsively stepped back.

Get it together, Jade. This may not be your Reed but he is Reed.

Shaking my head, I settled my drink on a nearby table. Shoulders back, I looked up at him directly. He smiled when I caught his eye.

“It’s just—” Reed continued. “I don’t know what to think when I see everyone having fun at my party except this one girl who apparently likes to talk to herself.”

“Your party?” I asked, surprised. “And I was not talking to myself—”

“Well, okay, then mumbling to yourself.”

“I was not—” I shook my head exasperatedly. “Okay, fine. But it was just a short conversation.”

Reed grinned. “I like a girl who’s honest.”

I tried not to make it show how much his smile affected me.

“I’m glad you approve.”

His eyes seemed to scan my entire body from top to bottom until it settled straight into mine. “Yes. I do.”

If he kept going, I’d be preggers all over again.

“So you mentioned this was your Christmas party?” I asked, breaking off our connection.

He nodded, the grin not leaving his face. “Yeah. I manage Keener.”

I almost choked. “Keener!”

“I see you’ve heard of them. Yeah, the lead guitarist, Bryn, is my best friend,” he gestured to the stage.

My eyes immediately followed. “B,” I whispered, a grin on my face. I didn’t know how I could have possibly missed him. Yeah, he was playing Christmas tunes instead of rock ones, but you’d think I’d recognize his voice. He had this easy aura to him as he strummed on a guitar, singing in unison with the rest of the band.

You made it, B!

“Well, no one’s ever called him that but it has a nice ring to it,” Reed said. He moved closer, green eyes staring into mine.  “I know this might sound too forward, but I want to show you something.”

His fingers encircled my wrist, tugging me toward him. I followed him through the crowd of people as we weaved in and out between them.

We stepped outside of the tent. “Where are you taking me?”

Reed looked back, grinning. “Don’t worry, I’m not sneaking away to have my way with you.”

I snorted. “I’m not worried.”

“The fact that you just snorted makes it even less likely.”

I pulled my hand away from him, eyes narrowed. “Excuse you.”

“I’m just kidding,” he smirked, taking my hand in his again. He squeezed softly and continued to pull me forward. I looked around and realized he had pulled me across the street where a giant Christmas tree was on display. The lights shone brilliantly in the night and we could still hear the sounds of music playing from the party.

“I’m being selfish bringing you here but it was way too loud in there, and I wanted to hear your voice.”

“Who would have thought the organizer would be complaining about the noise level of their own party.”

He looked as if he didn’t hear me; he seemed focused on something else. “Your voice…”

“What about it?”

“It sounds familiar somehow.”

I remembered the phone message I had left him earlier. “I get that a lot.”

“Do you?” He appeared doubtful but he let it go to my relief. “Care to dance?” offered Reed, hands out to me.

“Should I curtsy now?” I asked with raised brows.

“Come on now. It’s been crazy organizing this party and you’ve been the highlight of the day, conversing with a girl who doesn’t seem to care about my job, and actually engages in conversation.”

Nodding my head once, I grabbed on to his hand and he pulled me into his arms. We swayed back and forth to the sound of Christmas jams played by my brother’s band, and I relished in just being with him.

“What’s your name?”

I smiled into his chest then looked up. “It took you long enough to ask.”

“So why are you keeping me waiting?”

“Jade.”

“Jade,” Reed said to himself. “That’s a very pretty name.” He tilted his head to my ear. “My name’s Reed in case you’re wondering.”

I said nothing, just smiled softly to myself.

“What?” Reed said, looking down at my face.

“Would you believe me if I told you this wasn’t our first dance?”

Reed replied by pulling me closer, whispering in my ear. “I’d believe anything you say, Jade. And I’m pretty sure this won’t be our last.”

I saw that he was going to say more but I quieted him by placing my fingers against his lips.

“Don’t speak,” I murmured, resting my head against his shoulders as I listened to his heartbeat. “Let’s just listen.”

Reed tightened his hold around me and we swayed back and forth to the music coming faintly from the party. We danced like we were the only ones in the world. I closed my eyes and just relished in the moment of being in Reed’s arms on a perfect Christmas night.

…………………

Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.
Chapters posted weekly until Christmas day.

Four Letters Christmas (Part 2)

The sound of Jingle Bells being sung by some sort of choir who sounded like they were high on drugs crashed into my eardrums. I quickly covered my ears and shoved my head under my pillow to prevent any further torture.

“Make it stop. Please,” I moaned.

A few beats later and I was greeted by silence. Heaving a sigh of relief, I burrowed myself even deeper into the bed, definitely not in the mood for Christmas cheer.

Just five more minutes, please.

A hand touched my arm. “Jade.”

“Go away, Reed,” I whined, waving a hand.

Two more minutes. Tops.

“Who’s Reed?”

I paused, my brain trying to decipher the voice speaking to me. It was a voice that didn’t sound like Reed at all. A voice that sounded like a preteen more than anything.

What the…

Raising my head from beneath the pillow, I stared at my bedmate.

Or rather, bedmates.

My sisters stared back at me in confusion while I did the same.

“What are you two doing here?”

Annabella and Marie gave each other a look, then two pairs of eyes were directed back to me again.

“It’s Christmas, Jade,” offered Marie.

“Yeah,” thirteen-year-old Annabella said slowly. She shook her full head of hair off her face and stretched. “We always sleep in the same bed Christmas Eve. It’s tradition.”

“Duh,” supplied nine-year-old Marie.

I frowned as I continued to look from one sister to the other. Then I glanced around my room, my frown deepening when nothing looked familiar. “Where the hell am I?”

“Jade!”

I glanced at Annabella who gave me a stern look. She gestured to Marie.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, clearing my throat. “Where the H-E double hockey sticks am I?”

“In your bedroom,” Marie said simply like I was the dumbest person on earth.

“This is not my room. And where the—” I paused, shooting Annabella a pointed stare. “—heck is Reed?”

“You mentioned that name earlier. Reed. Was he your date last night at the college party you went to with Kimber and Star against Mom and Dad’s strong suggestion not to?”

“What?”

“Is it spelled R-E-I-D or R-E-E-D?” implored Marie.

Seriously, what the fuck was going on?

“Did you have too many drinks and now you’re having some sort of mental fit that Kimber says Star always has on Friday nights, sometimes Saturdays?” questioned Annabella.

I shook my head firmly, as if that would put my entire life back into place, and then gave each of them a look. “Look, kiddos. I don’t know what kind of crazy prank you and Reed are pulling—”

“Who’s Reed?” Marie asked again.

“—and if I had to guess, this has B written all other it—”

“Is that supposed to be a name?” asked Annabella.

“I’ve had enough of this,” I screamed, yanking the covers off of my body. How in the world did they move me in my sleep without me knowing? But then I completely flipped when I looked down at myself and saw that my belly was not a belly.

I was no longer pregnant.

Just as I started feeling dizzy, the door to my room burst open and there stood my biological parents, identical looks of confusion on their faces.

“What’s going on, honey?” Dan said. “We heard screaming.”

Amelia made a face as she looked over at the window near the head of the bed. “I swear, if it’s that peeping Tom ex-boyfriend of yours again, Jade Callaghan, I will go bonkers on his ass.”

Annabella raised two furrowed brows. “Mom, language.”

It took a moment before I registered what Amelia just said. Jade Callaghan. I glanced around the room, seeing unfamiliar photos of myself with my biological family at different stages in my life. I saw pics of me with my newfound cousin, Kimber and her BFF, Star, and random people I had never seen before in my life.

Then I glanced down and hesitantly touched my flat stomach. It felt surreal to no longer be carrying this being that had been inside of me for half a freaking year.

Seriously, what was going on right now?

I looked around at the concerned faces of the people in the room. Jade Callaghan?

They really weren’t playing. They actually thought that I was where I was supposed to be … with them. People that, yes, were related to me but I had never lived with before!

There were only a couple of reasonable explanations for this. I was high, drunk, or this was all a messed up dream. But I didn’t drink nor do drugs since I was pregnant eight hours ago so that meant this shit wasn’t real.

It must have been the damn Chinese food.

In a situation like this, I did the only thing that any rational person would do: I squeezed the flesh of my forearm so hard it brought tears to my eyes. When that didn’t work, and I was still staring across at four people who looked at me as if I were from outer-freaking-space, I did the next best thing.

I passed out like a patsy.

…………………

Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.
Chapters posted weekly until Christmas day.

Four Letters Christmas (Part 1)

The smirk on Reed’s face made me want to smack him.

I mean, really. Who was I engaged to again, and was there a way for me to get an exchange or refund?

Or were there no refunds allowed?

“Why’d you make me eat all this, Reed, huh?” I stared at him from across our tiny kitchen table over a mountain of food. The Chinese takeout in their Styrofoam containers littered the red and green tablecloth decorated courtesy of one Bryn Reamer.

My stomach would be turning from all the Christmas adornments showered across our condo by Reed and my brother, Bryn, if it weren’t already catapulting from the food that was currently trying to digest in my pitiful stomach.

Unsuccessfully.

Reed raised his hands, quickly shaking his head in denial. “Don’t look at me, Jade.”

I continued to stare. “I feel like I’m going to projectile vomit.”

Reed narrowed his eyes, unsure if I were serious. “You were the one begging me for Chinese food. I’ve learned that when baby wants food, you give baby food. No arguments.”

I rubbed my distended belly in discomfort. “Well, baby made a mistake.”

Reed got up from the chair and walked over to me, leaned down, and kissed me on the forehead. “You really gonna hurl?” he asked, brows high.

“No,” I said slowly, forcing my body to listen to my words. “But if you say it again, I might just surprise you.”

He straightened, tugging on my ponytail gently and I made a face at him. “A girl after my own heart.”

I followed suit and rose from my seat, but definitely at a slower pace courtesy of the gut I was rocking. Yay for being almost six months pregnant! Reed stepped closer to me and gave a sexy wink. I wrapped my arms around his neck, my fingers finding a comfortable home at the nape of his neck. I smirked right back at him. It was not like I could stay mad at him forever. “I already own your heart, babe.”

His hands slid slowly up and down my sides and I instantly reacted to his touch when a shiver passed through me. He bent his head and I tilted back my own, falling into his arms. Our lips met on a sigh and I sunk further into him, kissing him deeply. I honest to god didn’t want to stop feeling his lips against mine but we finally came up for air when he pulled back.

I breathed heavily as I gave him a look. “Why’d you stop?” I asked. Reed’s kisses made me forget my head sometimes.

Hell, for those seconds I forgot I was experiencing major gastrointestinal distress.

He placed his palm against my cheek and smiled. “Have I ever told you that I’m the luckiest guy in the world?”

I smiled back but tried my best to hide it as I gave a stern look. “Are you being sappy because of the holidays, Reed? ‘Cause I don’t know how I’m supposed to handle both you and B if you continue to be this sentimental. B was going on how he was gonna learn to knit so he could make a sweater for the baby. I’d rather not subject our future child to the fashion sense of my brother.”

Reed gave a chuckle but soon lost his grin. “I mean it, Jade. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Well,” I said, pulling him closer, the only thing preventing us from full body contact was our future kid. “You’re stuck with me. In this life and the next.”

Reed wrapped his arms around me and squeezed, resting his chin on the top of my head. “Now who’s being sappy?”

I gave him a slap on the back and he jumped, pulling back.

“Seriously, Jade. I think you’re getting stronger with the pregnancy.”

My eyes narrowed. “And I’ll be she-woman if you don’t knock it off.”

He ignored my deathly stare and grabbed my hand, tugging me toward our bedroom.

I let him.

“You seem pretty eager to get to bed,” I observed, watching him toss the sheets back and tear off his shirt.

Throwing the shirt in the hamper next to the closet, he turned back to me, his tattoos on full display. He decided to add on more tats and now his left arm was a full sleeve. It was sexy as hell and I had contemplated getting a tattoo of my own, but Reed still hadn’t been able to get me into the chair.

I wasn’t particularly good with pain.

“You know, this will be our first Christmas together as a couple.”

I raised a brow in mock surprise. “And?”

“And the quicker we get to sleep, the quicker you can sleep off the food poisoning—”

“Which is totally your fault—”

“Which is totally not my fault, by the way.” He settled into the bed, resting against the headboard. “Then you’ll wake up as chipper Jade and not bitter Jade, and we can have a fantastic time with our family who you know is going to get here at the crack of dawn.”

I huffed, but he was right.

“Well, then,” I simply said.

The fact that I didn’t mind going to bed before midnight when normal people my age would have been out partying was a disgusting thought. But who the hell cared, my stomach hurt.

And I needed to use the bathroom ASAP.

Making my exit as chill as possible, I rushed into the smaller room and did my thing. I felt slightly better but knew a good night’s sleep would definitely help with the slight discomfort. After taking the fastest shower known to mankind, I slipped into my pajamas, and quickly brushed my teeth. When I came out of the bathroom, I saw Reed passed out on the comforter.

The bedtime was more for him than me, apparently.

Making my way into the bed, I snuggled up against Reed, then yanked as much of the comforter from under him, pulling as much as I could over myself. Placing a soft kiss against his cheek, I whispered to him softly.

“Merry Christmas, love.”

…………………

Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.
Chapters posted weekly until Christmas day.

The Masks We Wear

Putting on a mask. We all did it.

It wasn’t some strange occurrence that only happened to X, Y, and Z. We all hid things from the world; it was just how we were. I mean, it wasn’t like we meant to do it. It was more of a natural phenomenon, like saying “bless you” after someone sneezed, or stopping at a red light. A reflex if you will.

Here were some examples:

The man a couple cubicles over could have just lost his daughter in a custody battle, yet still brought cookies to work on a weekly basis. The old lady from next door could secretly be in a toxic relationship with her spouse of fifty years, name calling and such. Yet she smiled widely in greeting with the flick of a delicate wrist whenever you saw her each and every morning in the elevator on your way out. Your boyfriend could be hiding dark demons of his own behind kisses that made you moan, whispered promises in your ear, and that oh-so-amazing grin of his that made you say yes to anything he wanted.

Or if you were me, you were waist deep in school debt, credit card debt, you name it, I had it, debt.

I think I did it better than everyone else; I hid behind a mask that declared calmly to the world that everything was okay.

Everything was fine.

Enter my current situation. I thought taking this job would be my ticket out of this dump of an apartment, this dump of a life, really. Living pay check to pay check would be nothing but a distant memory.

Right?

Instead I was covered in blood.

I bet you didn’t expect that … the blood part. But it was as real as giving birth to a nine pound baby boy or, the strangeness that was my name. Instead of diving into a story, telling a tale of madness and mayhem, I was living it for real.

In the words of Jade Reamer, fuck my life.

I stood motionless in a tank top and shorts, gripping the handle of a butcher knife in my hand. Blood pooled on the floor as it rolled down the blade and landed plumply on the floor next to my bare feet.

I couldn’t tear my eyes off the body laying right in front of me. It took up my entire field of vision and in that moment, nothing and no one else existed.

It was the first time I’d seen a dead body this up close and personal. You know, besides watching it while streaming a TV show online. Looking back, I realized that I probably wasn’t particularly good at dealing with death. As a child, I mourned for an entire month when my pet rabbit was run over by a car. I wore nothing but black and felt guilty each and every time I was happy over something else. Whenever I found a spider in the house, my first instinct was to catch it and try to release it outside. When my paternal grandparents passed, I often liked to pretend that they were off exploring the world, maybe Venice or Cape Town. Even when my own parents died I refused to walk to their caskets, not wanting that visualization of death early on in life engrained in my memory like a tattoo I couldn’t laser off no matter how hard I tried.

I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

Even now, I didn’t know what to do. I could hear the sound of cars through the open window, the wind brushing my already chilled skin, goose bumps quickly erupting like they were racing against each other on which one could get me to flinch first. But none of that mattered, it was all white noise to me. My mind wandered for a moment and I thought of my landlord.

Did I pay him this month?

The sound of the front door opening didn’t even get me to react. I just stood there, staring at matted dark hair. Dead. I didn’t react to footsteps approaching me calmly, cautiously. Instead I noticed the  tattoo on the left biceps that wasn’t moving, the majority hidden by a t-shirt, from a body that didn’t breath. Dead. I saw that his neck seemed slightly out of place, his head hanging at an odd angle. Dead. I wondered if death felt cold. As his life slowly seeped out of his body, did he welcome coldness instead?

I couldn’t take my eyes away from every inch of him, this motionless body sprawled on my living room floor. But then my vision was obscured and a man—a living, breathing man—stood in front of me, and blocked my view.

He grasped my arms slowly, fingers digging into my flesh. I knew it should hurt but I didn’t feel anything. I actually didn’t think I was there.

Or was it here?

Alarmed eyes looked straight into my own glassy ones. “Kimber,” he started hesitantly. “What did you do?”

It wasn’t until then that I finally dropped the knife, the clattering echoing in my ear.

What did I do?

I blinked a couple times before I said anything. It was the only thing I could think of to say.

“What do we do with the body?”

…………………

 Prologue from Love, Lies, X’s and O’s, Four Letters 2 (Publish date TBD)

Cover Reveal: Never Letting Go

Never Letting Go (Delphian, 1)
By Christina Channelle

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Age Category: Mature Young Adult
Release Date: April 26th, 2016
NLG

Synopsis:

It’s hard piecing things together after waking up in a random apartment with no memory of who you are, surrounded by mostly welcoming strangers. The only thing remaining of her past is the tattooed name imprinted on her skin. But with no place to go, these strangers decide to take her in and name her Mia.

Inexplicable things start happening to Mia within the four walls of her confinement, including her presently mute status, strange abilities, and secretive roommates harboring their own hidden agendas. With a serial killer on the loose, this apartment is her only place of refuge.

But when she finally remembers who she really is, her refuge is no longer safe. Mia wakes up to find out her name isn’t Mia at all, and that her life is nothing but a walking tragedy. Her previous actions of refusing to let go of the only person with the power to break her heart leaves dire consequences.

Especially since it involved striking a deal with the devil.


Excerpt:

I never believed in it, love at first sight. It seemed foolish, like something you’d see in a romantic comedy or read in a book. Those standard happily-ever-afters that leave you crying yet grinning ear to ear as the “love interest” of the day declares his deep and undying devotion to the heroine of the story—the sun setting, a burst of doves flying above their heads at that precise moment when the director yells, “Cut!”

Or maybe it was butterflies.

I thought love was something you had to nurture, to grow. Falling in love with your best friend would be a prime example. So I looked to my parents as a model to what love truly was, being childhood sweethearts and all. What else was I supposed to do? Mom and Dad had been gaga over each other: whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears day and night; writing love letters back and forth, and leaving them in secret places for the other to find around the house. Or simply holding hands as they strolled side by side in the middle of a park, me trailing after them from behind. All this was my inspiration for true love. That is, before each of my parent’s untimely deaths.

Tragic, I’ve been told.

My goal when it came to love was to mirror what Mom and Dad had. I thought that one day, I, too, would fall in love with my best friend—with Liam. Only this time, we would both live until our children and grandchildren stared back at us in awe.

So no, I didn’t believe in love at first sight. That is, not until I met him. After that, I would have believed anything—hand to God. And I would have followed him anywhere, even straight to Hell.

Trip Down Memory Lane

Do you remember what it was like to be in eighth grade?

“Callaghan!”

I startled and turned at the sound of the male voice, heart hammering in my chest. I knew that voice from anywhere.

Owen Wilder. He was probably the most likable guy at school. He wasn’t the hottest, he wasn’t the tallest, or the biggest, but there was something about him that made every girl, from sixth grade to eighth, swoon at even the mention of his name.

Including me.

Maybe it was his quirky grin, or the fact that he’d always pick the smallest kid when picking teams. Or the air of confidence that he took with each step, which was crazy for someone our age to have. But there was something about Owen that made everyone pause as you tried to figure him out.

We were at the stage in life where everyone seemed to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Hannah was currently seeing Scott (boyfriend number five). Despite being fourteen, Hannah was a serial dater and I could never keep up with whether Tim had been last week’s or last month’s boyfriend. According to her, she had to practice dating now so she’d be ready for when it was really important.

Mateo had recently been dating Kiera before she kissed another guy at the talent show and they had quickly split, leaving Matty crushed for weeks. He presently wanted to experience the “single life”, not particularly in the mood for backstabbing girls.

But I had never seen Owen with anyone.

I wondered if he was gay like Star, my cousin’s BFF, and just didn’t want to say anything to anyone yet. But no matter what kind of rumors circulated about Owen in school, he was as popular as ever with the girls, perhaps even more so with the possibility that he might be gay.

Many would envy the girl or guy who would snatch Owen Wilder.

I stood from my crouched position in front of these purple tulips and tried my darndest not to show how nervous I was.

“Hey, Callaghan,” he said, approaching me. “What are you doing?”

He dressed simply in a graphic t-shirt and jeans, holding his skateboard at his side.

I held up my phone. “Taking pictures.”

He nodded, noticing the rabbits nearby then grinned, eyes back on me. “Where are your sidekicks?”

I sighed. “They’re not my sidekicks, they’re my friends. Hannah and Mateo are at the mall.”

“And why aren’t you with them?”

“I’m waiting for my sister.”

He nodded then paused, brushing his dark hair off his face. “You want me to wait with you?”

My shoulders raised in reflex despite feeling nervous as ever inside. “If you want.”

…………………

 Excerpt from Four Letters in Reverse, available on Amazon

Life As An Indie Author

I have this tendency of checking Goodreads on a regular basis. I may not post and interact as much as I’d like to, but I do check my author profile.

So as I sift through the many happenings on Goodreads, I notice my overall rating is down. Upon further investigation, I realize it’s from a recent rating of Those Four Letter Words.

Damn, my first one star.

Okay, it’s not my first one star. Been there, done that. But it is my first one star rating for Those Four Letter Words.

Sigh.

Okay, yes, I feel a momentary sting of pain in my chest. I’m only human and that’s a natural reaction to disappointment. I guess I’m not as tough as I portray myself to be around my family and friends. But my writing is that part of me which is vulnerable, and yes I do keep it close to my heart–it took years to actually admit to my friends that I even write books!

I’m over that momentary sting. Of course not everyone is going to like my books, that’s a given. Everyone is and should be entitled to their own opinions. And it’s not like I’ve never given a one star review or hated a book or character for this reason or that. Hate is such a strong word, isn’t it? But differences of opinion is what makes the world go round.

C’est la vie.

But the one star review gave me food for thought, some raw truths. The life of an author has its peaks and its lows.

Peak: self-published my first book.

Low: said book gets pirated on multiple sites.

Peak: people are actually buying my books. Me? This Canadian chick that no one knows.

Low: barely any ebook sales to buy a coffee. Let’s not even talk about print sales.

Peak: cover reveal for Jaded Little Lies happens and people love the cover!

Low: Those Four Letter Words gets its first one star.

That’s just naming a few.

Besides being my birthday next month, December is the anniversary of my first book, Dahlia, being published. That’s three years ago. I’ve come to learn more about myself as a writer and as a person over these past three years.

I’m trying to figure out what I want to do as opposed to do what I’m expected to do with my life. I’ve been going through some life changes and that isn’t stopping anytime soon at this rate. Mind you, it’s not like this one star rating gave me a revelation (although it did give me something to write about).

Starting out, I had this dream of being this amazing writer and everyone would buy my books. That if I worked hard at it (I took a year off to focus on writing and publishing) I could have that dream of being a full-time writer, doing what I love to do. That one thing that makes me feel happy. A wish that many writers have.

A wish that might actually never come true.

I forgot to mention a peak in that makeshift list above.

Peak: meeting other writers and bloggers (well, one blogger in particular who shares my passion for the Walking Dead) that I can seriously say I’ve connected with. These are people that I’ve never even met yet I consider my friends because they totally understand me and relate to me without even meeting me. I just want to say thank you for being a part of my life as an indie writer as it can definitely be tricky.

So in conclusion (I hope I’m not giving you an essay vibe here but I’m paying tribute to the lovely Jade in Those Four Letters Words who has a way with words), I do wonder what the future has in store for me. Writing isn’t something that’s going to disappear from my life. It’s just how the writing will be implemented. As a full-time writer? I don’t know. It’s a nice dream and I’ll keep dreaming.

So how will I deal with my one star rating? Well, the rest of the night will be of me working on Jaded Little Lies and watching Supernatural to dull the slight pain I still have.

Just kidding.

The pain part, not the Supernatural part. I do love me some Dean Winchester. And Sam did just give a shout out to Canada. He referenced a Canadian trucker, but still.