Today is the day! My latest is out and ready for eager eyes to devour the story of Chance and her mystical genie Hayes.
Here's a sneak peek at these two unique people and their explosive romance.
“You like old bottles?” an older woman asked.
Chance smiled. “I like everything old.” She turned the bottle over, admired the way the glass swirled at the bottom and decided it might look charming on her kitchen windowsill with a few fresh flowers in it. “How much?”
“Sold.” She paid the woman, tucked the bottle into her jacket pocket and made arrangements with the gentleman to pick up her lumber.
Eager to get home and borrow the neighbor’s truck, Chance rushed to her car, tossed the bottle on the passenger’s side floor and forgot about it. The next three hours consisted of running to the neighbor’s, undergoing twenty questions about why she needed the truck, returning to the old farm, dropping her lumber at her barn and then returning the truck, followed by another twenty questions. When she pulled up in front of her shop she felt as though she’d already put in twelve hours of work.
“Wasn’t sure you’d make it in today.”
Jenny Marshal, a seventy-eight-year-old woman who kept after the shop for her, sat outside in the warm sun in an unsafe lawn chair. She and Jenny had adopted each other when Chance first opened the place. Jenny would wander in every day, look things over, chat, tell a few stories and, before Chance knew it, had become a confidante. Jenny had become the closest thing to a grandmother Chance ever had.
“I wish you would throw that old chair out,” she said, grabbing a box from her car and walking toward the door. “It’s going to collapse and you’re going to get hurt. I’ll be very angry if you get hurt, Jenny.”
“It’s a little ragged around the edges but still strong enough to hold this ass,” Jenny replied. “Find anything good today?”
Chance held her breath as Jenny pushed herself up out of the chair and it wobbled, creaked and shifted sideways. When Jenny left today Chance was throwing that dangerous piece of crap out. “I have a few boxes we can go through and I bought some old, rough lumber at that farm sale. I should be able to make some beautiful pieces out of it.”
“I have no doubt.” Jenny followed her inside. “Debbie from the flower shop came in and bought all your vases this morning, said the vintage look was doing well for her.”
“That’s great. Did you sell anything else?” Chance moved to the computer and sat down. She checked the bids on her items listed and grinned. Not bad—two of the five items were already over the reserve. It looked as though she’d be able to pay her bills next month.
“We had a couple come in and spend a lot of time looking over that light fixture you created. My gut says they’ll come back to buy it.”
“Now that would be great.” She’d put hours into cleaning up the old strips of metal and twisting them, polishing, welding them to a base and wiring the light. “Let’s go through the boxes and see what we’ve got.”
She and Jenny spent the rest of the afternoon picking out what could be used and what needed to be tossed. She’d done well. They found a small wooden jewelry box with a few antique pieces in the clutter. Even the jewelry box could be sold for a nice profit after a little cleaning up.
“I think it’s time to call it a day, Jenny. I’m bushed.” Chance yawned and her stomach growled.
“You need to eat more,” Jenny groused. “I know you didn’t have lunch and I bet you didn’t eat breakfast either.”
“Don’t worry, Jenny. I pulled out the last of the frozen lasagna you gave me this morning. I’ll be eating just fine tonight.”
Jenny nodded. “I’ll get busy on filling your freezer tonight.”
“You don’t have to do that. I’m a big girl and can cook for myself.” She’d never admit it but having someone worry over her the way Jenny did filled her heart.
Jenny made an annoyed sound. “I’ve tasted your cooking. You’ll waste away to nothing.”
She had a point. Cooking wasn’t something Chance excelled at. Never having anyone to teach her, she simply didn’t develop an interest. “I think I’m offended.”
“Don’t care. I’ll see you tomorrow and don’t stay up all night, young lady.” Jenny waddled out the front door and when she disappeared out of sight, Chance grabbed the old lawn chair and took it around back to the garbage. Tomorrow there would be a new one to replace it.
Done for the day and ready to slip into her yoga pants and tank top, Chance locked up and headed out. It wasn’t until she pulled into her driveway and the old bottle rolled on the floor that she remembered it. Snatching it up, she went inside, put it on her counter and put the thawed lasagna in the oven.
A quick change of clothes, a nice fire in the fireplace and the day came to a pleasant close. She pulled a chilled bottle of wine from the fridge and poured a glass, and saw the old bottle again. Chance snatched it up, somewhat ignored the tingle in her arm and tried to tug the cork out. No matter how hard she twisted, pulled and stabbed the thing with a knife, it wouldn’t come out.
Abandoning the idea of opening it, she grabbed a cloth, wet it down and began to rub the thick layer of dirt away. The more she rubbed, the warmer and stronger the tingle in her arm became. It even seemed the glass itself vibrated.
“What the hell?” The bottle jumped in her hand, pulsed and then shot into the air. Chance froze in place as it hung there in front of her, suspended by nothing. The cork popped free with a thunk, releasing a thick, green mist into the air.
Unable to move, rooted to the floor and paralyzed by fear, she could only think that she’d unleashed some toxic chemical into the air. Instincts had her holding her breath as she watched the cloud roll and gather only feet from her. Oddly, it didn’t dissipate but stretched into a six-foot column as it hovered over the floor.
Her lungs burned, her heart raced and a cold sweat broke out all over her body as she watched the vapor form what looked like a hand and grab the bottle. But it couldn’t be a hand, could it? Sure looked like one though. Oh shit, what the hell was happening?
Hallucinating, that’s what it was. She’d breathed in the fumes and now her brain was slowly melting. Yep, had to be because now the mist began to take the shape of a human and things like that didn’t happen. Except, legs were forming, a waist, torso, wide shoulders, thick arms and oh crap, there was the head.
Her knees wobbled and then clanked together. Every muscle in her body quivered so fiercely she thought for sure she’d shake apart. The foggy form tipped its head back and let out a low, rumbling groan that sent icy fright thundering through her bloodstream. With teeth chattering, she tried to move her legs, ordered them to run, do something.
Slowly the green haze cleared, starting at the floor. Chance shifted her gaze there and to her shock and amazement a pair of worn cowboy boots appeared along with the hem of ragged jeans. She blinked several times, reminded herself this was all a trick of her poisoned mind, but continued to follow the denim up parted legs. Strong legs with a narrow waist.
Chance sucked in a much needed gulp of air as the chest became clearer. Broad with wide shoulders, covered in a faded black shirt. The sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, revealing defined muscles in the lower arm. Wow, did she know how to hallucinate or what? And then the face cleared. Chance’s eyes grew wide at the sight of the hard, chiseled features staring back at her. Square jaw, slightly crooked nose and dark, gleaming eyes were things of fantasy. They shouldn’t be standing in her kitchen.
Not in your kitchen, she reminded herself. Hallucination, that or I’ve gone batshit crazy. Still, she couldn’t stop looking at the wavy black hair hanging past his shoulders. Damn, whatever chemical she breathed in had some powerful effects on the mind.
Suddenly those gleaming eyes snapped to her face and she felt a punch to the gut and chest that actually made her whimper. Her body rocked slightly. It took everything she had not to collapse into a puddle on the floor. Well, as imaginations went hers was stellar. If you’re gonna dream up a man, do it right.
“Good evenin’, ma’am. Hayes Martin at your service.”
The low, slow drawl wrapped around her, caressed her nerve endings and made her stomach flutter and then clench. It spoke. Her new imaginary friend just spoke and he had a dreamy bedroom voice. PCP, some new form of mind-altering drug? Whatever
she’d unleashed inside her home would have an unprecedented street value. Holy cow, she could even smell him and he stank of stale whiskey.
And then he bowed, a graceful, elegant bend of the waist as if she were royalty. Too much, too damn much. Chance grew hysterical and began shaking her head, opening and closing her mouth, but words wouldn’t come. Her legs chose then to work, making her stumble backward and catch herself against the counter.
The man reached out as if wanting to catch her. She stammered, slipped to the side and almost wet herself. “No touch, no touch, no touch,” she managed, until he jerked his hand back.
“I startled you. My apologies for that, ma’am,” he told her slowly but kept his distance. “If there were some other way of leaving the bottle I assure you I would do it. Can’t tell you how many people I nearly send to an early grave with all that smoke and mirror bull.”
Chance’s gaze shot to the bottle in his hand and then back to his face. Nope, not believing it for one second. That man did not come out of that old bottle, much less a man with a Southern drawl who should be modeling underwear and tuxedos. A hysterical laugh bubbled up and out. Chance slapped her hand over her mouth but couldn’t contain it, especially when he, it, whatever, looked a bit annoyed.
“That old couple must have been playing around with a chemical kit or something,” she muttered between laughs. “Whatever they concocted, it’s good stuff. I can actually smell you and you stink.”
He frowned, the corners of his mouth dipping and his brow furrowing slightly. He raised his arm and took a sniff of his shirt and winced. He lifted the bottle and stared at it a moment.
“I need to sit down.” Chance pushed away from the counter but her legs were still weak and she stumbled again.
This time the man stepped out and caught her. She could actually feel his arm wrap around her waist, tug her close to his solid, real body. Her hand rested on his chest and she could feel his heart beating beneath her palm. Terror the likes of which she’d never experienced struck. This man was real.
Chance released a high-pitched scream, shoved away and went running into her bedroom where she retrieved her small handgun. He was real and standing in her house. For what? Half-crazed and out of her mind, Chance held the gun out in front of her, rushed back out into the kitchen and pointed it at his chest.
“Who the hell are you and what do you want?” Oh boy, if he didn’t leave she’d be forced to shoot and the way her hands were shaking, she’d hit everything but him.
“Whoa,” he said, putting his hands out in front of him. “Take it easy. No need for violence. I don’t mean you no harm, ma’am.”
“Stop calling me ma’am,” she snapped. “I’m not even thirty yet.” Chance groaned. Why the hell did she tell him that? She had to pull it together. Get her head straight.
“Just bein’ respectful,” he said in that slow drawl. “Don’t mean nothin’ by it. Please, put the gun down.”
“Well, now, I can’t do that.” He lowered his arms to his sides, still holding that old bottle as if it were a lifeline.
“Yes you can. Turn yourself around and walk out the door.” Her finger twitched on the trigger.
“It ain’t that easy. Believe me, if I could, I’d be makin’ tracks.”
Chance frowned at the sad look in his eyes. He reminded her of a puppy pouting and, damn it, it tugged at her heart. “Oh no you don’t,” she groused. “I don’t know what your story is but it doesn’t involve me.”
He sighed, a heavy sound that made his chest rise and fall. Using his free hand, he scratched his jaw and then jammed his fists on his hips. “I’m afraid it does. See, you rubbed my bottle and released me. That makes you my master for a while. Until I fulfill your wishes, like it or not, you’re stuck with me.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” And she thought she’d lost her mind? This guy had gone off the edge, wallowed in insanity and come back for more. That made him dangerous.
“Okay, let me explain it this way. I’m a genie. I live in this bottle. You rubbed the bottle and released me. That means I have to grant you three wishes before I go back into my bottle and wait for the next person to rub it. Simple.”
A genie? “You’re crazy.” She needed to call the police, tell them to bring the white coat that lets you hug yourself. This guy was delusional in a grand way.
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “I thought the same thing when I was inside this infernal thing looking out.” He waved the bottle around. “After a hundred years I was forced into acceptin’ it.” He rubbed his temple. “Look, let me show you.”
With a point of his finger toward her, the gun vanished out of her hands and appeared in his. Just like that. Chance gasped, ran into her bedroom, slammed the door and locked it. Before she could grab her phone, he appeared right in front of her. With a screech she rushed out and ran for the front door. He appeared out of thin air, blocking her way.
“I can do this all night, ma’am.” He jammed his fists onto his hips again and grinned. “Although watchin’ you run around is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
Chance backed away slowly, shivering beneath his lazy gaze roaming down her body. Oh yeah, she was in trouble. A perverted lunatic and she had no way of escaping. Well, he’d have one hell of a fight on his hands if he had visions of violating her body. She may not be able to stop it but she sure as hell could do some damage to him.
“Stay away from me unless you want to lose vital parts of your anatomy.” She kept moving, one small step at a time.
He frowned again, tilted his head to the side and then sighed. “I’m afraid you got me all wrong, ma’am. I ain’t that kinda man. Never forced a woman to do anythin’ against her will.”
“Uh huh.” Chance was near the small hallway. She could run into her bedroom and hopefully be halfway out the window before he popped in. If she ran fast she could make it to the neighbor’s before he figured out where she’d gone.
“We really started out on the wrong foot,” he muttered, rubbing his forehead.
Chance took that single moment of distraction and dashed inside her room, slammed the door, turned the lock and ran to her window. After pushing it up she slipped her legs through and heaved her body. It wasn’t a big drop to the ground but seconds before her feet hit earth he appeared, held out his arms and caught her. She kicked, swung her arms, thrashed, did everything she could to free herself, but his strong arms held tight.
“Stop overreactin’,” he grumbled.
Chance watched in terror as he dipped his head. Warm breath washed over her ear. “Sleep.”
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