Getting Down and Dirty in the Sand with Escaping Exile Author Sara Dobie Bauer

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What happens when you maroon a brutal, brooding vampire and a smart-cracking human naturalist on a tropical island? Primal urges. Hidden desires. Battles with cannibals. Sweaty jungle nights. And a tantalizing story by Sara Dobie Bauer that elevates vampire mythos to new, exciting, erotic heights. If you like reading about sexy men who love sexy men, this first installation in the Escape Series, Escaping Exile, is for you.

Today, I have Sara on the blog to talk vampires, deserted islands, and writing scorching sex scenes.

As evidenced by both this series and the Bite Somebody series, you like setting vampiric stories in beachy locales. Why do you think you keep winding up in the water and on the sand?

I want to live at the beach. Sure, it’s a vision of utopia because all my “beach time” is based on vacation experience. Therefore, my “beach time” is just me on a beach drinking all day and making strange friends. I’m not sure what it would be like to live on a beach full time … but I’m willing to give it a try. I love the laid back lifestyle, and I would wear nothing but bathing suits. I’m also a water baby, so I’d rather be swimming than walking (although I would miss the high heels).

If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you rather have with you – Edmund or Andrew? Why?

Edmund because of his sick sense of humor. And he’d keep me warm at night, whereas Andrew—as a vampire—would not. Plus, Edmund’s look is based on a buffed up Timothee Chalamet, and I wouldn’t mind waking up to that face every morning.

And who would you rather accompany to Mardi Gras in New Orleans?  

Oh, tough one! Probably Andrew because he could defend me from murderers and thieves due to his vampiric prowess. His superhuman strength and height would assist me in efficiently getting drinks, and he knows all the best brothels.

What are your favorite lines from Escaping Exile? (no context needed)

“Not everyone is as morally reprehensible as the two of us.”

“Thank God.” I suck his lower lip and let it go with a pop. “The entire world would be nothing but blood and orgies.”

What is the theme song for our lovers while they’re living on their island?

“Better Love” by Hozier. Such a sexy, sexy song.

What was the best part about writing Escaping Exile? What was the worst?

Best part: Writing the sex. There is so much tension at the beginning of this series, so when the boys finally DO IT … oh, what a relief. They are very good at sex together.

Worst part: Typing “The End.” I love these boys!!! (Although, thankfully, this book is part one of a trilogy, so there’s more to come …)

There are some very, very sexy scenes in this novella! Is there anything in particular you do to get yourself in the mood to write these scenes? Do your characters beg for it?

Ha, I’m always in the mood. TMI? In all honesty, I’m a big fan fiction reader, so I’ve been known to visit Archive of Our Own for some sexy inspiration. Fan fiction writers are sorely underrated. I’ve learned so much about writing sex from reading Johnlock and Charmie stories.

In the case of Escaping Exile, I’m not sure who was more desperate to get laid: Andrew or Edmund. By the time they finally kiss, I’m pretty sure they were both begging for it.

Some say that vampires are written to death (pun intended). Why do you think readers still crave stories about vampires? And why do you still crave stories about vampires?

Vampires will always be sexy—and we all love sexy things. Often, humans like the idea of immortality, too. So maybe we’re fixated on that: the idea of eternal youth. Personally, I’m a fan of biting and vampires are generally darkly charismatic with loads of sensuality and a touch of the nasty. I like all these things. No … I love all these things.

What can we expect in the next installment of the Escape series? Give us a little hint, pretty please?

The love story of Andrew and Edmund continues in New Orleans. Orgies. Eternal love. More vampires. A trans-Atlantic sea voyage. Did I mention orgies?

And, in case you were wondering, here’s the fantasy movie cast of Escaping Exile. 

EE movie cast

 

ABOUT ESCAPING EXILE:

Andrew is a vampire from New Orleans, exiled to a tropical island in the 1800s as punishment for his human bloodlust. During a storm, a ship crashes off shore. After rescuing a sailor from the cannibals native to the land, Andrew becomes fascinated with his brilliant, beautiful new companion, Edmund.

Edmund is a British naturalist who has sailed the world seeking new species. Intrigued by creatures that might kill him, immortal Andrew is this scientist’s dream-but so is making his way back home. Edmund will fight to survive, even while wrapped in the arms of a monster.

As light touches and laughter turn to something much more passionate, the cannibals creep ever closer to Edmund. Can the ancient vampire keep his human alive long enough to escape exile and explore their newfound love, or will Andrew’s bloodlust seal his own doom?

 

BUY LINKS:

https://amzn.to/2LAMPWi

https://ninestarpress.com/product/escaping-exile/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40958274-escaping-exile

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, she lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody series, among other sexy things. Learn more at http://SaraDobieBauer.com.

 

SARA DOBIE BAUER SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSaraDobieBauer/
https://twitter.com/saradobie
https://www.instagram.com/saradobiebauer/
https://saradobiebauer.tumblr.com/

 

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An Interview with Witchy Writer Babe Sara Dobie Bauer

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Today, Pen and Kink Publishing has a new book out in the world – Enchanted: Magic Spark! Hooray!

To celebrate the release, I have the ever-witchy, ever-fabulous Sara Dobie Bauer on the blog for an interview. But first, here’s a little about the Enchanted: Magic Spark…

The first of a trio of trilogies by three amazing romance writers. These stories all have two things in common: magic and romance!

“When Demigods Court Death” by Wendy Sparrow:
As the demigod of fertility, Aster Slone has a thriving doctor’s practice. In fact, the incidence of triplets has made it too thriving. He needs more time with his neighbor the demigoddess of death to dampen his powers. Chandra Linton being gorgeous and sweet makes his task less of a hardship. Hitting the zenith of heretofore-unknown powers without enough exposure to her match is killing Chandra. Accepting all that her crazy, but hot neighbor says is her destiny…well, it muddles her convictions, but her real concern is: does Aster want Chandra because she’s the woman he desires or because she’s Death?

“These Roots Run Deep” by Em Shotwell:
Spitfire, New Orleans weather girl, Cheyanne Murphey has everything, and that is exactly how she likes it. When she discovers evidence of her fiancé’s philandering, she refuses to let her perfectly cultivated image fall to pieces. Cheyanne has worked too hard, dragging herself up from the trailer park into New Orleans’ society, to give in without a fight…even if that means trading a year of her life in exchange for a love incantation from her ancestor’s spell book. A skyclad, moonlit dance, a mysterious potion, and magic gone awry leave Cheyanne with a very peculiar life lesson: love can take on many forms, so be careful what you wish for.

“Destiny’s Dark Light – Part One” by Sara Dobie Bauer:
In modern day Charleston, lonely white witch Cyan Burroughs has waited her whole life to lead the battle against dark witches and eventually meet the man she is fated to love. A tragic trolley accident brings Liam Cody into her life. He is her destiny, but he’s also in love with someone else. Now, Cyan and her magic family must find the dark witch who caused the accident while Cyan fights her feelings for Liam—a charming Irishman with secrets of his own.

Speaking of “Destiny’s Dark Light” and Sara Dobie Bauer…

What is it about witches that gets your cauldron bubbling? Why do you love them and love writing about them?

Ever since watching The Craft when I was, like, a fetus, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of being able to cast spells and make shit happen. I went through a phase where I played with magic, actually, although I wasn’t really serious about it. Plus, witches (sort of like vampires) are historically sexy and cool. I further fell in love with them thanks to the epic hotness levels of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic. Meow. The idea of being able to use “powers” to do things just seems so cool. I mean, who doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts?

Give us a five-word explanation of part one of “Destiny’s Dark Light.”

Big accident in little Charleston?

Okay, okay, that was mean. Give us a longer pitch of the story.

(Jeesh, that was super mean!) In modern day Charleston, lonely white witch Cyan Burroughs has waited her whole life to lead the battle against dark witches and eventually meet the man she is fated to love. A tragic trolley accident brings Liam Cody into her life. He is her destiny, but he’s also in love with someone else. Now, Cyan and her magic family must find the dark witch who caused the accident while Cyan fights her feelings for Liam, a charming Irishman with secrets of his own.

Enchanted: Magic Spark presents the first installment of “Destiny’s Dark Light,” so yes, it does end on a cliffhanger. Part two comes out in February and part three in April!

Anyone who’s read your work (and interviews about your work) knows that many of your male love interests are based upon your real-life muse Benedict Cumberbatch. Is there a particular Cumber-look or Cumber-era upon which Liam Cody, the sexy Irishman in “Destiny’s Dark Light,” is based on?

You bet. Liam’s look is based on a precise event. Benedict did a reading at the burial of Richard III. (He’s even distantly related to the hunchback king AND he played Richard III in The Hollow Crown.) Liam’s short, auburn hair and bespoke suits all revolve around Benedict at this specific event, and yes, I am a huge nerd.

Liam-collage

Obviously, destiny plays a big role in this story. I mean, it’s in the title. And a little birdy told me there’s something about a prophecy in your tale. In real life, how much do you believe in destiny versus happenstance? How does your personal view align or contrast with those of the characters in “Destiny’s Dark Light?”

I don’t believe in “destiny,” but I believe in a guiding God, so … hmm. I believe some things are meant to be in our lives. I believe I was meant to meet Jacob Anthony Bauer at a dive bar in Charleston, fall in love with him, and eventually marry the guy. I believe I am supposed to be a writer, but is that destiny or a personal decision? Arguably, it was destined to happen because everything else I tried failed—but I had to decide to keep moving beyond the failure to eventually follow the career I loved. Perhaps, destiny is a sort of guidance, but we can accept it or deny it.

The characters in “Destiny’s Dark Light” believe in destiny wholeheartedly, no matter the crappy repercussions. Cyan was destined at birth to be the light witch who would kill the dark witch—or die trying. She’s also destined to love Liam. She might not like her destiny, but she accepts it … Well, at least in part one …

Why should readers pick up Enchanted: Magic Spark?

Readers get three very different stories from three very different female authors, all focused around magic and romance. I’ve been a fan of Wendy Sparrow and Em Shotwell for ages, so I’m honored to be included in the Enchanted series with them. You really don’t want to miss this!

Got any prophecies for 2018? (I’m thinking perhaps we could use some!)

Let me check my crystal ball—and by crystal ball, I mean my absinthe glass. Yes, I see a wedding in Phoenix. (See you there, Tiff.) I see me, naked on a moonlit Florida beach at some point. And I see a world not ruled by social media but founded on patience and love … but that’s probably only in my dreams. Oh, and I’m totally gonna hug Mr. Cumberbatch one of these days.

About the Author:

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Photo credit: Bill Thornhill

Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling, award-winning author, model, and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Her short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody from World Weaver Press, among other ridiculously entertaining things. Learn more at http://SaraDobieBauer.com.

 

Buy your copy HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Spark-Enchanted-Book-1-ebook/dp/B0776ZP5ZX/

 

5 Reasons to Read Wendy Sparrow’s Servants of Fate Series

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I am utterly twitterpated with Wendy Sparrow’s Servants of Fate series! Set to publish in November, each novella in the trilogy follows one of Father Time’s sons—Zeit, Tempus, and Ruin—immortals who must sacrifice a human’s lifetime to the Fates each New Year’s Eve. In return, the sons are allowed to dole out small increments of time to deserving mortals throughout the year. About to get hit by a bus? Zeit might freeze time, move you just a millimeter to the right, and save your life.

Despite their work among mortals, Father Time’s sons are anything but. They keep to themselves and definitely don’t understand human follies…until a trio of vivacious, beautiful women capture their attention—and their hearts, turning their worlds upside down and showing them just how precious time can be.

And if that premise alone isn’t inspiration enough for you to dive into this sweet, delightful romance series, here are five more reasons to read Stealing Time, Taking Time, and Keeping Time come November.

1. The Men

Wendy Sparrow likes her immortals tall, dark, and dressed in trench coats. I’m not complaining. Zeit, Tempus, and Ruin sizzle on the page. With their striking good looks and bad boy demeanors, it’s no wonder mortal women are immediately drawn to them. However, Father Time’s sons become even more irresistible when they start to experience everyday human life and gravitate toward certain things that make them softer and more relatable. An obsession with chocolate oranges, a motorcycle, and a love for mystery novels render them alluring and adorable.

2. The Women

What kind of women can inspire immortals to slum it with humans? Smart, quick-witted, lovely ones who challenge Father Time’s sons to look at the world and their very existence differently. Each woman in this series is decidedly unique, but I found each of them wonderfully relatable, too. Sparrow has a knack for writing women with humor, honesty, and emotional resonance. I want to be friends with Hannah, Lacey, and Phoebe.

3. The Kissing

After reading this series, I was inspired to make out with my fiancé. I wanted to straight up mack in the backseat of a car. Because the kissing scenes in this series take you back to those first passionate kisses you shared with someone who ignited a spark of desire in you. The kisses are sweet and sexy and play you’re your senses in all the right ways. Readers, have chap stick and mints on hand. You’re going to want to host a makeout party after reading this series.

4. The Dialogue

As a writer, I truly admire Sparrow’s mastery of dialogue. She infuses conversations between characters with healthy doses of chemistry and humor, and the repartee is on point. There were many times when I couldn’t help but smile or snicker or blush.

5. The Seasonal Cheer

When December rolls around, I will be reading all three novellas again, because they are the perfect way to usher in the holiday season. Since Father Time’s sons make sacrifices on New Year’s Eve, the stories are chock full of Christmas references—mistletoe, hot chocolate, snow, Santa, gifts, classic movies. All of the trimmings are there. And is there anything more romantic than a snowy lodge during the holidays? Sigh.

Here’s a little more about each novella and their fabulous author, Wendy Sparrow:

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Father Time’s son, Zeit Geist, must sacrifice a mortal’s lifetime to the Fates each New Year’s Eve. Last year—inexplicably, really—he made an 11:59 substitution. The Fates are pissed and they’re after his mortal Hannah. With the year ending, he ought to figure out why he’d saved her—and why he keeps doing it.

Following an unlucky year, Hannah Lyons needs a week’s holiday in a lodge to unwind. What she gets is near-death experiences and a sexy immortal who can’t avoid kissing her, but might have to kill her. After all, even Zeit can’t hold back time indefinitely.

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Tempus fugit. Time flies…unless you’re Tempus Halt, Father Time’s son. Day in and day out are the same, except for New Year’s Eve when he steals the life of a mortal on behalf of the Fates. This year marks his first failure to stay the monotonous course. A mortal’s kiss and her insistence on taking the place of his year’s sacrifice stalled out everything. Now, Tempus has to keep her alive for a year so his sacrifice isn’t wasted, but that’s the only reason—definitely.

One of these crazy grim reapers stole Lacey Carpenter’s estranged father’s life two years ago. She’ll give her own life rather than letting it happen again. It backfires when Tempus doesn’t actually kill her, and they have to spend the year together. She’s falling for an immortal who stops time, not just to save her life, but also to ruin her dates and steal her books. This can never work and fate is just not on her side—in fact, they’d really like her dead before Tempus falls for her in return.

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When Ruin’s mortal sacrifice to the Fates on New Year’s Eve is already dying, it should be the easiest life he has to take, but not this year. The dying man knows Ruin is there to kill him, but he asks Father Time’s son to look after his twin sister. Ruin can’t stay away from the sweet and sensual Phoebe. His previous interactions with women changed the definition of his name, Ruin, so he can’t fall for her, especially when the lovely mortal doesn’t know he killed her brother.

Phoebe’s brother promised to send her a guardian angel, but Ruin seems too devilish to be holy. He only wants to be friends and keep watch over her, but she can’t resist him. Loving Ruin is a sin tempting her heart. How wrong is it to cause an angel’s fall? Ruin and Phoebe’s time is running out as another New Year’s Eve sacrifice approaches, and Ruin might lose everything for keeping his true hand in fate secret.

About Wendy Sparrow

Wendy Sparrow lives in the Pacific Northwest with two quirky kids and a wonderful, amazing, handsome, sexy husband who dotes on her and who did not write this bio. She’s an autism advocate and was featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum. Wendy loves telling stories and has since she was a child–which is why she heard the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” so many times she could have written the screenplay at age five. She believes in the Oxford comma, the pursuit of cupcakes, and that every story deserves a happily ever after.

If she’s not writing or wrangling kids, she’s on Twitter– @WendySparrow and she’ll chat with anyone. Really.

Check out the series’ official page on Pen and Kink Publishing’s website for release dates and to pre-order your copies!

 

 

Read “French Kiss” In Romance Magazine

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Today, my short story “French Kiss” is published in Romance Magazine. It’s a semi-autobiographical piece because it represents the one regret that I have about my experience studying abroad in Paris, France, between my freshman and sophomore year of college.

My summer in Paris was everything I dreamed it would be. I stayed with a lovely French family who were truly kind, drank the most sinful chocolat chaud of my life—twice, danced my way through La Fete de la Musique, spent my 19th birthday in Chartres at the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever seen, shopped for Parisian couture, and took in exceptional architecture and art, all the while earning the foreign language credits I needed to pursue my degree.

But the thing about this adventure that made it truly unique and created so many memories is that this was before smart phones and international cell phones were the norm. I had no phone. Access to the internet? Nope. My French host family had a dial-up AOL connection that I felt guilty using, because they rarely used it themselves. There were internet cafes, but frankly, those creeped me out a bit. There was one TV in the house, and I think me and my friend, Kristen, who I was lucky enough to be paired with for the trip, watched it all of two times. Essentially, our trip was “unplugged.”

So, I wrote letters on rose-colored stationary and prayed they’d make it to Phoenix, Arizona, before I flew back. I read voraciously for entertainment. I finished ten books during the trip. And I invested in calling cards and became an expert at figuring out time differences between Arizona, Paris, and Thailand.

Why Thailand? Well, my first college boyfriend was vacationing there with his family, and I couldn’t imagine seven weeks without speaking to him. A few nights a week, I would walk down la rue from my host family’s flat and wait on a bench until a certain time. Then, I’d cross the street to a pay phone and make my calls.

A few weeks into my trip, an Italian boy (I say “boy,” but he was probably only a year or two younger than me) started sitting next to me. His uncle owned a pizza parlor not far from our flat that was too die for. And he unabashedly flirted with me all the time. It was flattering, but…my thoughts were in Thailand.

Fast forward to when I’m back in the States and I go to visit my boyfriend before the school year starts. He brings me roses at the airport…and then dumps me 24 hours later. And then he took me to meet his mother. I was a really rough week. Sigh…young love…

As I look back on our fledgling relationship, I realize we were all wrong for each other. The warning signs were there. Even still, I don’t regret the calling cards and the time I spent in a phone booth in Paris. I don’t regret the love letters I wrote to him. I don’t regret all the crazy feelings of first-time romance.

So, what’s my biggest regret?

I clearly should have kissed the Italian boy.

In “French Kiss,” armed with hindsight, I explore what would’ve happened if I’d thrown caution to the wind and allowed myself a little Parisian romance.

Download your copy today and let the love in. Gros bisous!

Smoke and Mirrors – Part 3

Shit’s about to go down. Are you reading this yet? If not, get to it. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2…Then, you can enjoy…

***

Aubergine. Yes, Karen had decided it was the color of eggplant. The girl’s dress had fluttered and shifted deliciously for two blocks. Now they were on Sixth Street and Karen had yet to devise a plan as to how to get the diamonds off this young girl’s neck.

Excuse me, but do you know you’re wearing stolen diamonds? Yes, they are pretty, gorgeous even, but I’m going to be in big trouble if I don’t get them back from you. I’m sure that ginger-haired ass gave them to you as some sort of lover’s present – oh, he accidentally ran over your cat? That’s terrible, but I’m going to need that necklace. Yeah, right now. Maybe he can take you out for Mexican food or something in penitence.

Somehow Karen didn’t think that would work. She sighed and stuck her hands in the pockets of her jacket, her footsteps steady, her eyes never drifting from the auburn hair 20 yards in front of her. She’d figure a way out of this…somehow.

Photo by flickr user "alternatePhotography."

Photo by flickr user “alternatePhotography.”

Karen’s ears picked up the sound of a motorcycle approaching, the engine purring and a bawdy rock song playing from its jimmied radio station. Jake wanted to buy a motorcycle, but Karen would never let him. She had no interest in throwing her skinny legs over the seat of one, even if it was behind her devastatingly handsome husband. Besides, she was afraid Jake would break his neck. Sometimes he was a real speed demon–well, as much of a speed demon as you can be in a Volvo. Karen rolled her eyes and smiled.

As her sight readjusted to the sidewalk before her, Karen saw that her target had stopped. The girl stood 20 yards away, wisps of her auburn hair blowing gently in the breeze, her focus turned toward the street. The motorcyclist had pulled up next to the curb and was staring the girl down, a disgusting smile plastered on his mug.

Men are so stupid, thinking they can just pull up and get a girl on a bike. Someone needs to stop this cree–

 That’s when Karen noticed the girl’s right hand was at her throat to cover the diamond necklace protectively. She was gesturing wildly with the other hand as she spoke. Karen couldn’t hear anything the girl was saying over the loud music blaring from the motorcycle, but she could tell there was pleading involved, and the girl kept nodding her head dismissively.

Karen’s focus shifted to the cyclist. He looked to be in about his mid-40s, greasy, hard as steel, dressed in all black, tension radiating from his body, an amused smirk playing on his lips as he watched the girl squirm. The cyclist’s hands barely rested on his thighs, encased in black leather gloves, a holstered gun nearby on his right hip. The hint of a smile suddenly dropped from the man’s lips and his gaze hardened with hostility.

Karen’s throat froze. There’s something really wrong with this picture.    

The man astride the bike made a quick movement by his right hip, aimed his gun toward the girl on the sidewalk, and fired off three shots into her chest. As the shots sounded, a woman coming the opposite way down the street fell to the ground and then scrambled on her hands and knees into a retail shop nearby. Karen heard a scream, but didn’t know where it came from, didn’t know if perhaps it was her own.

Karen watched in horror as the girl’s innocent knees collided with the pavement and then the rest of her body crumpled to the ground.

As Karen’s body lurched forward, she was vaguely aware that the motorcycle was gone, leaving behind only the faint stench of oil and leather. When she reached the girl, she dropped to her knees and covered her mouth with her hands, watching crimson and aubergine paint the sidewalk. The girl was convulsing, gasping for breath, and staring up at the sky. Karen reached out a hand and cupped the young girl’s cheek.

Shiny leather loafers and suit pants appeared in Karen’s line of vision. She looked up and found a businessman looming over them, a disturbed and questioning look on his face.

“Call an ambulance. And duck into that shop to see if they have scarves, shirts, anything to help with the bleeding.” Karen surprised herself with the quiet and controlled nature of her voice.

The man nodded. As he retreated into a store nearby, Karen heard two cars whizz by in quick succession. Both of them slowed, but neither stopped. She looked around. On the opposite side of the street, about a block away, a small group of people were gathering, pointing, whispering, and on their phones, but no one made any moves to approach the scene. A homeless man about 30 feet away made eye contact with Karen, yawned, and then looked away. A boy in his late teens rounded the corner, stopped dead in his tracks, and then threw a hand over his mouth. He pulled out his cell phone, started dialing wildly, and then disappeared around the corner he came. Another car drove by and Karen blinked hard and sighed.

“It’s fucked up that no one’s stopping,” she shouted, and then softly to the girl on the pavement, “It’s fucked up that this happened to you.”

The girl’s eyes darted to Karen’s and she made a gurgling sound. Air rushed haphazardly through her windpipe and her brow furrowed with effort. Karen felt a pull on her blouse, followed by the wetness of pooled blood reaching her exposed kneecaps. The girl pulled Karen an inch closer and opened her mouth as if to speak.

“What…what is it? Who did this?” Karen whispered.

“I…..” the girl started and then looked exhausted. Her eyes rolled, closed, reopened.

“….m….nt….Kar…”

The girl swallowed hard.

“Not…Kar….n…”

Karen’s blood ran cold as she pieced together the young girl’s sentence. I’m…not…Karen. A new panic swept through her body and she muffled a sob with her free hand. She closed her eyes and felt hot tears fall over her cheeks. It was supposed to be her on the sidewalk, surrounded by blood and trying to hold on. This had been an orchestrated hit.

But why didn’t that bastard take the diamonds?

Karen clenched her jaw and forced herself to breathe, her heartbeat pounding in her ears. When she reopened her eyes a few moments later, it was with new resolve. 

In a calculated daze, Karen reached down, grabbed the diamond necklace with bloody hands, and with a jerk, freed it from the young girl’s neck. The girl’s body shook with the jolt and then stilled as her skull hit the pavement with a dull thud. Her chest continued to rise and fall raggedly, but her eyes closed.

Karen stood, one hand clutching the necklace, the other clutching her abdomen. She was having trouble breathing, animal-like noises escaping from her mouth as shock took over her body.

It was then that she registered the suit standing nearby, watching her with a horrified expression on his face, an open cell phone in one hand, bath towels in the other.

Karen didn’t think. She ran.

  ***

Jake glanced over his shoulder for the fifth time since starting his trek toward…he didn’t know where. Paranoia sat on his shoulder like a pirate’s parrot, balking in his ear and making him twitchy. His palms hadn’t stopped sweating since leaving the apartment building, which Jake attributed both to the aftereffects of the coke and the fear he was experiencing. Every man who passed him resembled Gio somehow and Jake braced himself to get punched in the gut each time he turned a street corner.

Jake’s stomach growled and stopped him in his tracks. He chuckled and did the math. It had been nearly nine hours since his last meal. His brain was fried and he felt empty.

The aroma of pastries and curry suddenly hit Jake’s nose and his mouth watered. He turned his head to the left and found himself peering through a large window into a small café that was a mix of modern and Mediterranean flair. A Middle Eastern man, Jake was guessing the owner, met his gaze. The man at first looked surprised and then happy, and gestured for him to come inside.

Every man should be entitled to a last supper, Jake thought whimsically and he grabbed the handle of the door.

When he entered, the Middle Eastern man strode to him from a black leather couch nearby, abandoning what appeared to be coffee.

“Welcome, welcome,” the man said in a heavy accent. “Care for an afternoon coffee or refreshment?”

“Yes,” Jake said. He pointed to a dark wooden table in front of a black leather chair. “Can I sit here? Or do I need to go to the counter to order?”

The Middle Eastern man gestured to the leather chair and Jake sat down, stretching his limbs and sighing heavily.

“You need something with a kick, young man. I can tell,” the man said.

Jake recoiled slightly, remembering his conversation with Gio that morning. Gio claimed to have known what Jake needed. Asshole.

Jake shook off the thought, cocked his head to the right, and looked at the man.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Adeel,” the man said. “My wife and I own this shop.”

Jake nodded and relaxed.

“Well, I definitely need some caffeine,” Jake said.

“Perhaps a Thai coffee then?” Adeel asked.

“No, no, no,” a voice piped up from behind Adeel. “Too much sugar. He’ll be up all night. Although maybe you want that?”

A slim woman with almond-shaped eyes had joined Adeel. Jake smiled at her, appreciating her warmth and humor immediately.

“He needs our dark roast, with a hint of cocoa and rosemary. He needs a plate of olive bread, cheese, and lamb, too,” the woman said matter-of-factly.

She turned on her heel and disappeared into the back of the shop to prepare the meal.

“My wife, Majidah,” Adeel said with a shrug. Jake nodded.

Adeel stood there for a moment, staring off into the distance, and rubbing his fingertips together. Finally, he returned his attention to Jake.

“Do you mind if I join you to finish my coffee?” Adeel asked.

Jake hesitated. He’d envisioned this meal as a solo venture so he could recharge, refuel, and refocus. He had a lot to think about and not a lot of time to do it. 

“I can see you are…busy,” Adeel said, but did not turn away.

“Uh, no, no,” Jake stuttered. He swallowed. “Of course you can come sit with me. I mean, you own the place, right?”

Adeel’s face lit up with a smile. He retrieved his coffee and took a seat in a matching leather chair to Jake’s left. Majidah suddenly appeared with a large, steaming mug and Jake graciously accepted it. The woman gave him a smile and then scuttled away. Jake raised the cup to his lips and took a quick sip. The liquid was piping hot, so he’d have to let it cool, but the seemingly strange combination of cocoa, coffee, and rosemary was delicious.

“So, what do you do, Jake?” Adeel asked.

“Marketing and advertising,” Jake answered, his standard response when asked about his job.

Adeel nodded sagely. “I had a desk job once,” he said. “Finance. But I grew tired of the suits and politics.” He paused and then said slowly, “I prefer to do things my own way now.”

He nodded in Jake’s general direction. “Is this business casual these days?”

“Uh, I, uh, actually have the day off,” Jake muttered and took a sip of his coffee.

“Must be nice,” Adeel commented. “I don’t get many days off. People love their coffee. And when we aren’t open, we are arranging new shipments, testing new recipes…” He gestured to suggest the never-ending cycle.

Jake nodded politely.

“So, Jack…”

“It’s Jake actually…”

 “Yes, yes, Jake, you’re married, too, huh?”

 Both men paused.

“I saw your wedding band,” Adeel explained.

Jake didn’t answer. Something about this conversation was making him nervous.

Wait, I never gave him my name…

“Your wife was in earlier today,” Adeel said brightly.

At that moment, Majidah reappeared with a plate of food–salty olive bread, a soft, white cheese, and little cubes of cooked lamb on skewers.

As she set down the food, Jake digested Adeel’s last admission. Was Karen in here earlier buying coffee or something and she mentioned they live nearby? But how would Adeel know what Jake looked like? How…?

Photo by flickr user "bmills."

Photo by flickr user “bmills.”

Instead of retreating, Majidah strode to the front of the café and turned the lock on the heavy entrance door. She flipped the placard hanging on the door from “OPEN” to “CLOSED” and released a curtain to cover the front window. The room darkened and the hairs on Jake’s arms stood on end. Realization hit him in the gut like a bowling ball.  

Of all the shops to stumble into today…I pick the one with connections, Jake thought glumly.

“Jake, I lied–or maybe it was just an omission,” Adeel said. “This isn’t my only business. You see, I never truly abandoned finance. I just don’t do it in an office building these days. It’s more like backrooms and alleys, places like that. I’m sure you’re familiar with them in your sort of marketing and advertising.”

Adeel took a long swig of his coffee and then sighed appreciatively.

“It tastes good, doesn’t it?” he asked. “But I’m off topic. Jake, coffee isn’t the only thing that is delivered here. There was supposed to be a delivery at two o’clock today, but it never came. My delivery boy said you never showed up…There’s been a lot of this fucking up lately.”

Jake swallowed. He couldn’t speak.

A phone rang in a back room somewhere and Majidah left to answer it.

“Now, if you work with me,” Adeel said, picking up one of the lamb skewers and taking a bite, “nothing will happen to your pretty little wife.” Jake had officially lost his appetite.

Adeel ran his tongue under his lips and across his front teeth. “She’s a beautiful woman, too,” Adeel said. “I would hate to have to do something to her.”

“The fuck you will,” Jake breathed.

“He speaks,” Adeel said. “That’s good. You’ll need to do some talking in the next few minutes or I’m going to have to make some decisions.” Adeel threw down a skewer and Jake shuddered as it clanked on the serving plate. “And you aren’t going to like it if I have to make decisions, Jake.”

 ***

Home. It was the only place that Karen could think to go. But even as she thought of the serenity of her worn leather couch and a Sade CD, Karen knew she wouldn’t be safe there. Regardless, she felt it was her only option, so she was homeward bound. At least there she would be able to wash away the rest of the bloody aftermath of the morning.

Karen had already made a pit stop. She’d ducked into a busy Starbucks a few blocks from the shooting to use their bathroom, ignoring the shocked looks of the customers and one of the baristas asking if she were okay. She wondered briefly if someone might call the cops or an ambulance thinking she was hurt.

Once inside the ladies room that smelled of orange cleaning liquid, Karen had crumpled neatly in the corner and had a good cry. No one knocked on the bathroom door and Karen relished the opportunity to clean herself up the best she could. She still had crusted blood beneath her fingernails and her skirt was stained, but at least she was no longer a walking HAZMAT case.

She’d holstered the diamond necklace next to Nixon on her thigh, reapplied her lipstick from Majidah, and exited the bathroom.

Now, with every step, she felt the necklace twitch and shift against her thigh, a constant reminder of what had happened. Karen’s memory unceremoniously played over and over the moment when the girl’s knees hit the pavement. It made her shudder.

Between the recollections of the shooting, Karen’s brain had been swarming with questions to which she had no answers. Why the hell hadn’t the thug taken the necklace? It’s clear that’s what he was after…besides my head. Who would have sent him? Is he connected to that shifty guy from this morning?  Is he connected to Carlos? Do they know where I live? How do the diamonds fit into all of this?

One thing was painfully clear to Karen. She had to get the hell out of Chicago. And she had to tell Jake everything. Dear God.

The necklace shifted and Karen could feel one of the delicate hanging jewels come free from the holster. Karen stopped walking to halt the motion of the necklace. She was successful and after a moment’s pause, she began her trek again, the small jewel repeatedly hitting her thigh like the beat in a pop song.

She wanted nothing more than to rid herself of the necklace, but in her gut, Karen knew she needed to keep it until this whole mess was figured out. Survival was the name of the game at this point, and the necklace might be her key to it. Without it…she didn’t want to think about that.

Karen suddenly became aware of footfalls sounding resolutely behind her. Her heartbeat sped up and so did her pace. At first, the steps behind her didn’t seem to quicken, but as Karen continued to listen, the steps became more pronounced…and closer.

She had to think fast. Karen didn’t feel like pulling Nixon out on a public street. There had already been enough public gunplay today. She hurriedly wondered if the diamond necklace would impede the retrieval of Nixon from her thigh holster. Well, only one way to find out.

Photo by flickr user "runran."

Photo by flickr user “runran.”

Karen ducked into the next alleyway and walked about halfway down the corridor before letting her right hand drop to her thigh. In one quick motion, she turned toward her predator and attempted to pull Nixon from her holster. The gun didn’t come free with the first tug, but on the second the necklace clattered to the pavement and Karen was able to raise, aim, and cock the gun.

Surprise coursed through Karen as she recognized the man who had been following her.

“Carlos, what the hell? You scared the shit out of me.”

Carlos sighed heavily and showed Karen his palms to signal that he wasn’t carrying a weapon.

“Carlos, I’m sorry, but show me your waistband, remove your coat, and take off your shoes.”

Carlos didn’t move.

“Do it!” Karen shouted.

“Okay, okay,” Carlos breathed.

Karen watched as the man first removed his shoes and then his jacket, which he tossed at least six feet away. With his hands in Karen’s sight, he performed a full turn. Satisfied that Carlos was unarmed, Karen let the gun drop slightly.

“Seriously, Carlos, what’s the hell is going on? First, you don’t show up this morning, then this girl…I…I…”

“It’s Mario,” Carlos said.

“Mario?” Karen said wondrously. “He got out early?”

“You really think they’d let that hombre out early? He escaped.”

“Holy shit.”

“Yeah, that’s what I said when I found out.”

The two shared a moment of silence and Karen put Nixon back in her holster.

Mario was a bad man. He’d been canned for tax fraud, the only crime the Chicago PD could book him for since no one was brave enough to testify against him. His sentence had been abnormally long since the judge presiding over the case knew Mario’s laundry list of crimes. Karen shuttered as a memory of Mario smoking a cigar and drumming his fingers on a wooden table flicked across her mind.

“You owe him a lot of money, Carlos.”

“I know.”

The diamonds. The delivery. The set-up, Karen thought. She kicked the diamond necklace toward Carlos and it rattled against the pavement.

“Is this his?” she asked.

Carlos nodded.

“And this morning?”

“Not my guy.”

“Where the fuck were you?”

“I overslept,” Carlos said with an embarrassed shrug.

Karen let out a grunt of disapproval and ran her hands through her hair.

“Do you know what’s happened?”

“Goose told me they put a hit out for you.”

“Yeah, they did. They did, Carlos. I almost died,” Karen stated. Carlos looked down at his feet. “But right before the hit, I got mugged. This stupid kid stole the necklace, which he gave to his girlfriend. And she’s probably in an ICU right now…if she isn’t dead.”

Carlos met Karen’s gaze, regret heavy in his eyes. He gestured down at the asphalt.

“But you have the necklace now.”

“Not something I’m proud of.”

“It was a smart move.”

“It was a selfish one.”

Karen took a few steps to her left and leaned up against the wall of the alleyway. She was tired, spent, utterly wiped out. But there were a few more pieces to put together.

 “So,” Karen said, “since you haven’t paid up…and probably won’t, no offense…Mario’s men are taking out your people to get to back to you…”

“And then he’ll come after me,” Carlos finished.

Karen closed her eyes and shook her head. She’d been a pawn for the better part of the morning. How humiliating.

“If he doesn’t get caught first,” Karen offered. “I’m sure every cop in Chicago is looking for him right now.”

“I don’t know. I think the cops might be scared to go after him.”

“They should be,” Karen muttered.

She scratched her neck and then her gaze drifted back to the dirty necklace between them.

“Today had nothing to do with diamonds, did it?” Karen asked. Carlos simply looked at her with a frown.  

On a hunch, Karen picked up the necklace and walked over to a wall covered in graffiti to her right. She took a deep breath and grated the largest stone of the necklace on the wall. The concrete slowly but surely gouged the large jewel and its beauty dissipated.

“It’s a convincing reproduction,” Karen muttered and tossed the fake to the ground while Carlos’s mouth hung open. She wiped her hands on her skirt.

“I’m getting out of town, Carlos. I suggest you do the same. For your daughter’s sake.”

Karen glanced down at the asphalt. The fake diamond necklace glittered dully, blood money as beautiful as rubies against the muck of the alleyway.  It was no longer an insurance policy but a pawn in a gruesome game of chess that Karen was sick of playing.

She walked toward Carlos, gave him a quick nod, and then continued out of the alley, determined not to look back. It was time to leave all this behind.

 

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bmills
runran

A Funny Thing Happened at the Singles Auction

Well, I have killer heels, a hell of a dress, a decent basket, and it’s for charity. This isn’t about love connections. It’s about fundraising. Time to charm your ass off!

That was my inner pep talk as I readied myself at the 2012 1n10 singles auction. I’d caught wind of the auction through a good friend and it piqued my interest immediately. An opportunity to put myself on an auction block for a charity that provides much-needed services and community for teens who’ve just come out and are facing adversity? Sign me up!

I bought a dress, an expensive one that would make an impression and show off my million dollar gams. I collected donations of cigars, wine tastings, and artwork from local businesses to put together a goody basket that the highest bidder would win–along with me, of course. I convinced two girl friends to auction themselves off along with me–power in numbers.

I arrived the night of the auction ready to flirt my ass off…and realized it would be a little harder than I thought. I was surrounded by a sea of gorgeous gay men, which is a fabulous place to be if you’re sipping cocktails and dancing to house music, but if you’re a straight girl trying to get these beautiful men to bid on you instead of the handsome stud next to you in tailored Cole Haan–yeah, it’s a little bit harder.

Thus, the pep talk.

I resorted to strutting around in my five-inch heels, being overly-provocative by asking if random men would like to “check out my package.” If they said “yes,” I presented my list of goodies to them from between my legs. Some men laughed, loving my brashness, and considered bidding on me. A few did! Others, afraid of all things vagina, looked a little anxious and passed on my advances.

package

After making a few laps, my friend who had roped me into this–I mean, graciously offered me the opportunity–told me that she wanted to introduce me to someone. Ooh! Was she giving me a little boost here, perhaps directing me toward a friend with money who would graciously bid on me?

I saw his hair first and the chords of the infamous Jaws theme song rang through my head. That faux-hawk was glorious.

My friend ushered me over to her friend, introduced us, and then said, “I can’t believe you guys don’t know each other yet. You’re both straight and single.” And then she walked away, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

I’m pretty sure my first comment to this guy was, “I like your hair,” or something equally suave.

But I guess it was enough, because we struck up a conversation. Just as I was starting to think, Maybe I can charm this guy–this straight guy!–into bidding on me, we were interrupted by the host of the evening. The host explained that word had gotten around that there was a straight guy in our midst (oooohhhh, aaaahhhhh!). Well, the other straight guys who had initially volunteered for the auction had backed out at the last minute (pussies), and well, would you mind putting yourself up for auction?

NO! NO! NO!

I knew he was the proverbial unicorn in the crowd, but dammit, he was my unicorn – perhaps my only shot at making some money for 1n10. Alas, his novelty proved too strong. He agreed to auction himself off. Suddenly, he was part of the line-up and I knew I’d need a new strategy–again. We teased each other a bit about being each other’s opening bids, but in the end, we went our separate ways to work the crowd.

Though I was disappointed that I couldn’t keep hustling this guy, I was impressed, too. A lot of guys in his position wouldn’t have offered themselves up, too scared of being checked out or bid on by a gay man, their machismo getting in the way of doing good. But not this guy. It took some guts…and some heart. I have to admit that I was a little turned on.

cupcakes

The patio at Province proved to be small and we kept running into each other. I found out that he had once had his own cupcake business (what a coincidence!), that he was a graphic designer, and that he was vegetarian–to which I think I made a smart ass comment like, “How sad for you.” (Seriously, who handed me those champagne cocktails?! Oops.) Luckily, he didn’t take it personally and we kept talking.

At the end of the night, I was bought for $450 by a dapper man who bought, I think, three or four of the singles that evening. I was proud of myself. I put myself out there, did something different, and racked up some karma points by raising money for charity. I strutted away in my expensive dress and heels with a big smile on my face.

I guess I owe Facebook for what happened next. I got a friend request from “Jaws,” which I accepted. About a week later, I got a personal message. Would I like to go out for drinks sometime? Yes, in fact, I would.

tie

On our first date, we went to Hanny’s where we shared tales of drunken nights on tequila and the best concerts we’d been to. I felt myself smiling…A LOT. It was easy, we laughed a ton, and I remember being very impressed that he was wearing a tie.

When we reached the bottoms of our glasses, there was still energy in the air and I don’t think either of us wanted to call it a night. We decided to move to Copper Blues for some music, dancing, and maybe one more drink. There, he requested the DJ play “Ice, Ice Baby” (which we’d discussed in length at Hanny’s) and I house danced in my black motorcycle boots to showcase my mad dance skills. He walked me to my car, kissed me, and then asked to see me again on Wednesday for swing dancing and The Sugar Thieves.

I said “yes.”

It’s a year later (to the day) and now we’re creating drunken tequila night memories, still laughing together, and I’ve been introduced to my man’s impressive tie collection. I can’t believe it’s been a year…It’s been a pretty fantastic year.

I met my best friend and someone who makes me happy every day by taking a chance and participating in a singles auction for charity. Even better, I got him for free.