Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Books I Keep Meaning To Read

 Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge

Books I Keep Meaning to Read (and haven't yet)

This post could get incredibly long if I start listing titles. I'm an avid reader, but I'm not a fast reader. I'm often reading three books at a time: one at my bedside, one on the little table by my easy chair, and one on my tablet. Although I do intend to read every night before bed, I'll have to admit I too often end up working until I'm too tired to see straight and then just crash. So, my list just keeps growing, especially since I can't help myself when I take a grandchild or two or three into the local bookstore and find something that catches my eye. Those reasons combined are why my main bookshelf currently looks like this:


Well, I have had a lot of help with little hands to make them look like this, since they've all been taught how wonderful books are and they absolutely must look at Grandma's shelves, too. Never mind, that bottom right shelf was cleared of mine to make way for theirs. One day, I'll get around to organizing it again.

In the meantime, I'm working, sloth-like, at reading those pictured that I haven't yet. Currently, those I've read and those I haven't are all mixed together. I have read all of the John Jakes Kent Family Chronicles and a few of his others, several of the Irving Stone books, Winter's Tale, and a few Lisa Genova books. I intend to read the rest of hers, and Stone's, plus the Jakes North & South series.

Other main intend to read and haven't yet books:

~~ The rest of Shakespeare's plays. I have read quite a few.

~~ The rest of Mark Twain's books.

~~ I read The Iliad last year and meant to read The Odyssey this year. By now, that will be on next year's list.

~~ More of John Irving's.

~~ More of Edward Rutherford (in the middle of New York right now)

~~ More Joyce Carol Oates.

~~ More classic lit in general.

~~ Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is sitting behind some of those books, also.

In between my beloved classics and lit fic, I pick up current authors when they catch my eye, often beach/scenic reads for a little brain vacation. :-)

What's on the top of your list of Books you Mean to Read and haven't yet? (If you click on the top image, you can add your own blog post to the list.)


In Memory. Photo ©LK Hunsaker 2001.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Tough Topics in Fiction

 Weekly Blog Prompt

Today's Prompt: Books That Deal Well With Tough Topics

I've been meaning to jump into this challenge for some time, and keep ending up using whatever writing time I can find to ... well, write/edit/publish. This one, though, dragged me right in because it's up my alley.

I'll admit it. I read big books with tough topics. Regularly. I also read fun things in between and I have a particular penchant for cozy mysteries. I suppose reading literary fiction is my way of trying to figure out the world. I like to see things from so many other viewpoints in order to get that balance that makes things make sense. Things do make sense when you read widely enough.

Some of those books that stand out in my reading memory include:

~~ The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I read this way back when and it's an eye-opening novel about a young girl raised in Barbados who must move to Puritan New England, and the cultural differences that mark her as an outcast.

~~ The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I assume almost everyone read this one in school, but it stuck with me because the unfairness of the situation was infuriating.

~~ The Cider House Rules by John Irving
Also a well-read novel, at least many years ago, it was well-read. I like that it showed both sides of the abortion issue, the disgust the main character had of the practice and the desperation of unwed young girls.

More recently:
~~ A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
A short YA book (which I almost never read) that tells the story of a young girl who must make a 2 hour walk to find water for her family and a young boy who becomes a refugee and travels on foot to avoid being recruited as a soldier. An important read to aid in understanding of other cultures.

~~ East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Just read it. Seriously.

~~ A Prologue to Love by Taylor Caldwell
This one, too. (It's often marked as a romance, but it's lit fic.)

~~ America, America by Ethan Canin
Highlights the powerful connection between the government and the media, based loosely on the Kennedys.

I could go on and on, but I'll leave it at this. Of course, since I read books with tough subjects, I also write them. A brief list so far:

Pier Lights: Professional loss, personal loss, physical and mental scars, mental illness

Shadowed Lights: Social anxiety disorder, weather devastation

Pieces of Light: Autism, failed marriage, family expectations

Shadows of Greens & Memories: Outcast stigma, family issues, dementia

Shadows of Blues & Echoes: Depression, long-term illness

Shadows of Rust & Reels: Bipolar disorder, job loss, family loss

My purpose in writing about these topics is the same reason I read tough subjects: to try to spread understanding and alternate points of view. I also believe in leaving stories on an upbeat note, and not everything I read does this, but I do. They are lit fic, but they're also happy/upbeat ending romances shedding light on dark subjects.

Do you read tough fiction? Share books in the comments that you think deserve attention for adding light to the dark.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Re-Start (again) AKA Artists Books Officially in Print

There's an incredible amount of work involved with putting books out in print and e-format. Especially when you're doing three at a time. More especially when you're doing it all yourself.

They've been a long time coming, in print, that is. But here they are, the first three Artists & Cottages books now available through Ingram, meaning you can find them at any book retailer you use, including your local indie store. No, they are not likely to be stocked on shelves, since, understandably, most stores won't order non-returnable books, and making them returnable could lead to a hefty cost on my end since all costs and risks are on me, but they can order them for you if you prefer bookstore pickup.

Now, beyond the technical details:

~~ ~~ ~~
Shadows of Greens & Memories

Francis Barrett returns to her hometown of Storm Lake, Iowa to take care of the family holdings after her father passes. While turning his garden shed into a small but livable cottage, she runs into an old flame she admired from afar but never dared speak with during their high school days. Using her secret passion of oil painting to unwind from long days of clearing out the mess, Francis finds her father also had a secret passion and left behind a tale of a man she didn't truly know.

George Frederick McKenry never left the Midwest town where he was born other than brief travels with his four children, who he now has custody of since his ex moved into a condo with her new boyfriend. Running into the one girl from school who rebuffed him when he asked her out, G.F. can't help checking on her and making sure she's getting along alright. False assumptions and past resentments fade as Fran and G.F. let down their guards in order to create new memories.

Print ISBN 978-1-948370-03-5  264 pages  $9.95  eBook $4.95

~~ ~~ ~~
Shadows of Blues & Echoes

Gillian Hart is an ambitious reporter for a small circulation paper in Denver, Colorado. When her editor and friend assigns a story about some rich businessman who chucks it all to live in the woods alone outside Durango, she does her best to fight it but gives in for the chance to rise higher and have more choice in future stories.

Hank Dennison wants nothing but solitude while he recovers from a life-changing devastation he has managed to hide from the public. The last thing he wants is another nosy journalist badgering him, especially one who knows nothing about survival in the wilderness who taxes his waning strength. He soon notices the darkness of depression weighing her down, despite her attempt to hide it, and determines to keep her off the path that led him to his own illness.

Print ISBN 978-1-948370-04-2  264 pages  $10.95  eBook $4.95

~~ ~~ ~~
Shadows of Rust & Reels

By day, Holli Jacoby is a jewelry artist in her hometown of Williamstown, West Virginia. Abandoned by her family, Holli mainly stays to herself, preferring her potter's wheel to the risk of letting others see, and take advantage of, the uncontrollable effects of her bipolar disorder.

Isaac Bradshaw is a welder who spends much of his off time assisting his parents due to his father's declining health. While playing pool, he notices a fiery brunette eye him as though she knows him. He soon learns "fiery" is an understatement, and his buddy warns him against the girl, but something keeps him drawn to her.

Despite their earlier crossed paths and a shared love of adventure, Holli's roller coaster life might be more than Isaac is willing to handle. When the bottom falls out beneath her, their relationship hits a critical test.

Print ISBN 978-1-948370-05-9  384 pages  $12.95  eBook $4.95

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Future blog posts will feature topics focused on the arts and mental health issues from the books. Time to get this thing jump started.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway for Shadows of Rust & Reels

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Shadows of Rust & Reels by Ella M. Kaye

Shadows of Rust & Reels

by Ella M. Kaye

Giveaway ends June 28, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Release Day! Holli's Clay

Holli picked up her newest vase. It was still leather-hard, still able to be carved, due to the cool dampness of the cellar. She didn't plan to carve it, only to paint it, and she hadn't planned to play with her clay tonight. She'd meant to crash on her couch and do nothing but watch whatever she found on Netflix, maybe the new female Avenger show. She forgot the name and then she laughed at herself for sounding like Brenna who forgot the name of everything. Bren always remembered every detail of every piece of clothing and accessories someone wore two weeks before, but never their name.
Holli would have to call her back since she finally listened to her messages and had missed several. First, she had a calling to work on a vase, something different, something ... maybe something to represent Isaac's name as a return gift. But what represented Isaac?

She had to do some research. Trudging back up the stairs, Holli turned her laptop on and went to pour herself a drink while it booted, but she changed her mind and made coffee instead. She was tired enough already. She needed more up, not more down.

Letting the coffee maker do its thing, Holli went back to her laptop which she kept on the edge of her kitchen counter for easy access to the outlet, and typed Isaac meaning in the search bar. 

Laughter. It meant laughter? How did you symbolize laughter other than with a big open-mouthed smiley face, which she was absolutely not going to put on a vase? Shouldn't there be an actual symbol for laughter?

Isaac was the son Abraham was told to sacrifice and an angel stopped him. Maybe she could do something with that. While searching, she found an illustration of Isaac having wells built to replace those his father had built that were destroyed.

Wells of stone. She could do that.

Pouring a cup of coffee before it was done brewing, Holli took a swig and enjoyed the strong rich black taste. She didn't mind the heat. Her mother used to bitch that she didn't let things cool first, usually pizza straight from the oven, but it didn't bother her, so Holli didn't know why it should bother anyone else.

She set the mug on her table and picked up her small wood knife. The clay was dry enough to make rough edges along where she carved out alternating lines to simulate rectangular stones. Except she wanted the wall to jut out, so she set the straight-edge pot aside and pulled out new clay to roll in a thick slab. Instead of creating a pot on the wheel and then carving bricks into it, Holli decided to hand cut the slab into individual bricks and build it the way a wall is actually built, placing one by one, using slip instead of mortar to hold it together. It would take more time, but she didn't at all care how much time it took.

Planning in her head while cutting out bricks, she could see ivy crawling up through the outer crevices and from the smooth inside to meet along the top. It maybe didn't make sense, since water came from wells, not ivy, but that's what she saw, so that's what it would be, whether or not it made sense. Art didn't always, and it didn't have to. That was one thing she loved about art. She could do as she pleased and it would only be called creative, not crazy.
(from Ch.8)

Holli Jacoby is a bipolar artist who paints intricate jewelry for a living and works with clay in her off-time. The physicality of working with clay (pounding, rolling, slapping, and scraping) gives Holli a needed emotional release and reflects the aggression aspect of her disorder. The patience and calm needed for the more intricate work of shaping wet clay on the wheel and carving and/or painting the hardened clay reflects the depressive, quiet aspects typical of the downs of bipolar disorder. 

There are many ways Holli uses her art as personal therapy and she both includes it as part of who she is and separates it from herself as just clay, depending on her need at the time.

In Shadows of Rust & Reels, art itself is a metaphor. Holli has an ongoing fight within as to whether she's crazy as has been inferred by others or if she's perfectly fine and it's just others who don't understand. I doubt there's an artist on earth who doesn't understand this inner fight.

Holli and Isaac's story is now available in E-format at most major bookstores and by request from your library. Here are a few buy links to get started:

Smashwords  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Amazon (coming soon)

Find it at Goodreads (I love reviews!)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Music of the Heart: A Melody in the Dark

Be my friend, my buddy, my dear companion.
I’ll hand you my hand when you’re deep in the goo
of despair.
Laugh with me, cry with me, cradle me softly.
But when night falls and silence takes over,
Intoxicate me, too.

Melody pulled her fingers from her guitar strings and shrugged. Okay for now, she supposed, although goo wasn’t working for her and would have to be reworked. She meant it as a primordial reference, an origination thing that was supposed to hint at a love that was meant to be, that was planned in the stars, or some ridiculous romantic shit such as that. She doubted anyone would get it, though. It would have to be reworked.

Her newest song was a direct rip-off of her favorite song. Maybe indirect. The music was fully different since she was a folk singer, not a rock singer. The lyrics weren’t close to as good, as sensual. The only thing she really ripped off was the one word. Not so much a rip off. Legally, nothing wrong with it.

Professionally, it didn’t probably matter since few of her songs had actually sold and this wouldn’t likely be different.

She glanced at the clock and then looked back at it. “Not again.” Jumping up from her chair beside the window where she always wrote, Meladee ran to throw herself together well enough to jog to the school and pick Josie up. They’d yell at her again, even while she was huffing and puffing from being too out of shape to jog the five blocks to her daughter’s school. They could see she at least tried, couldn’t they?

Hands up... How many of us have fixated on a particular singer/ musician at some point in our lives?

I have. I'm music obsessed. How would I not? I still do. It's no longer that teen angst kind of obsession. No posters all over my walls these days. No dressing similar... Okay, I didn't actually do that, but I have many friends who did. When you're music obsessed but not so terribly musically inclined yourself, you do the next best thing. You write about it.

Or at least that's what I do. I write about lots of musicians at various stages. Research is always fun since it includes catching local live music as well as scanning through songs of the right era online. How often can you indulge in music videos and tell your family, "I'm working!" I do. Research is work, after all. Inspiration is necessary for a writer. Communicating with musicians is also fun, um, work, and necessary for insight. Just today, I chatted with local singer/songwriter JD Eicher through Facebook Live as he did a one hour show through a local paper. In the past, I've gotten to know quite a few singers/songwriters/musicians, both local and of national/world renown. There are the music memoirs, the music business books, and of course the radio.

Of course, then there's the story about the struggling musician single mom who obsesses over a famours musician as she tries in some way to imitate her musical idol but with her own style, as she believes she'll never find a guy who can live up to him. Especially since she's met him. Briefly. One incredible, memorable night, she actually met him, face to face and personal, before she even knew who he was.

And then came another memorable night...

A Melody In the Dark

1979. Pittsburgh. Just after the big snowstorm that paralyzed the city has cleared into a cool, crisp spring, Meladee Lerner runs into Niall Dillon, literally and accidentally. A struggling songwriter and single mom, Meladee has no time for dating or romantic notions, but sometimes in a single wonderful moment, something unexpected happens....

I'm proud and excited to be part of the newest anthology release from Fire Star Press, Music of the Heart. Five authors share music-related tales from five decades (1940-1980): tales of love, longing, obsession, and happy endings. My included novella features the 1970s with the theme Wonderful Tonight. Meladee's story pulls in a very minor character from the Rehearsal series (under author name LK Hunsaker) who is obsessed with the lead guitarist from Raucous, my fictional Rehearsal band. He's hard to live up to, but it doesn't take long for Meladee to realize you can never say never and life can be funny.

Fire Star Press is featuring Music of the Heart by Tanya Hanson, Sara Swann-Barnard, B.J. Betts, Ella M. Kaye, and C.A. Jamison with a chance to win a free E-copy if you leave a comment.

Stay tuned for more about this great anthology from Fire Star Press (an imprint of Prairie Rose Publications).

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Shadows of Rusts & Reels: Chapter 1

Outside the Sternwheeler Snack Bar, Williamstown WV
Photo courtesy Brenda Rainwater and Charles W. Showalter
(The following is a pre-release excerpt and may change somewhat during edits.)

Holli did her best to block out the menagerie of local voices mixed with the whiny country-pop female artist streaming from the too-loud jukebox as she stepped inside the Beachcomber and scanned the crowd for her friend. During the day, the nondescript little building next to the Ohio, its view of the river blocked only by a wide row of trees, was nearly always quiet to the point of looking abandoned. On Saturday nights, though, it was hard to get in through the door and to the bar with its row of black vinyl stools. She rarely bothered to try, to deal with the crowd.

Neither Holli nor Brenna could remember, while on the phone a couple of days before, how long it had been since they’d met face-to-face. Holli preferred the phone. She could hide her not-so-good days over the phone much better than she could in person. Especially in crowds. More especially in crowds in small places. The bar was now called something with letters and #95 because of the games room, but it had been called the Beachcomber for so long, that’s how she and most other locals still thought of it.

With luck, today was an okay day. Not terribly up. Not down. Just okay. She liked okay days. It felt normal, or what she assumed was normal. At least people didn’t look at her funny on okay days. She figured that was as good as it was ever going to get.

It was easy enough to find Brenna. Her friend’s long straight light brown hair was again highlighted, this time with a few blonde streaks running scalp to ends and some dark red peeking through from underneath. Always fashion conscience, back in school and now. She was planted on a bar stool in the middle of the bar, of course. Brenna was always in the middle of everything, the popular groups, social gatherings, fundraisers, everything. The girl had a constant up attitude. Everyone loved her for it. If she hadn’t been such a good friend through so much of what Holli put her through, Holli would definitely not love her for it. It was plain annoying.

Brenna Townsend, who had gone back to her maiden name after her recent divorce, was the only high school friend Holli still had, not that she’d had many then, either. Some of it was her own doing, on purpose. It was easier to stay away from people than to think they’d be cool to hang out with just to have them walk away later. They all wouldn’t, she supposed. But how did you know when so many had?

You didn’t. It was a gamble. And Holli was not the gambling type. Too impulsive at times, definitely, but not a gambler.

Which, maybe, was why she was twenty-seven and single with no reason to hope that would change any time soon.

Holli made her way through, making sure not to notice whether anyone in her path or vicinity recognized her, and Brenna jumped off the bar stool to give her a big hug. Only Brenna got away with hugging her, and only sometimes did she get away with it.

“I’m so glad you actually came! It’s been so very long. We have to do this more often. How have you been? Well, I know that already since we talked a couple of days ago, but it’s different in person. Anyway, I could only wrestle one bar stool away from this hot guy behind me.” She pointed a thumb and a grin at a guy Holli would never call hot. “You can have it, though. I’ll stretch my legs a while. We can trade.”

“Hi to you, too.”

Brenna laughed. “Sorry. I’m just so excited to see you again. Sit. I’m doing this incredible mixed drink thing Beth suggested. I forget the name, but you’ll love it. Should I order another?”


Brenna nodded toward the bartender. Of course she knew her name. Probably knew half her life story already, if Bren had been there more than ten minutes. Since the drink was half gone, Holli hoped she had been.

“Want one?”

“Thank you, no. And I’d rather stand. Go ahead.” She ordered an iced tea with no sugar and ignored the look she got for ordering tea in a bar.

Brenna leaned closer. “Not a good day?”

“Yes, it’s fine. I want to keep it that way.”

“Oh. Good. Because I thought we might cross the river and go dancing at that club. You know, that one we used to go to all the time. I don’t remember the name of it.”

“I think it closed years ago.”

“Did it? Oh, well, we could go to the Enigma. I think it’s Ladies’ Night, so no paying to get in...”

“Bren, you know I’m not going there again.” She pulled away from an elbow to her back and didn’t acknowledge the apology. “Anyway, how are things with Rowdy Ronnie? You sounded strange about it over the phone.”

“Yeah, I broke it off last night.” Brenna shrugged and chugged part of her drink she couldn’t name. “He got too rowdy.”

“He didn’t hurt you?”

“No. No, nothing like that. I would have sent my brothers after him if he even thought about it.” She shrugged again. “Just too much to deal with all the time, you know?”

“I warned you.” Holli returned the stare of some guy at the end of the bar, back in the corner, until he looked away. Some days, she’d yell down to him to either talk to her or don’t, but don’t be a rude ass and just stare. Today, she let it go. More proof it was an okay day.

“It was fun while it lasted, though, right? No big deal.”

With a swallow of her tea, Holli couldn’t help wondering how Brenna could shrug things off so easily. Holli’s mother used to call her friend an airhead, said of course she shrugged things off because they never really got into her head in the first place. Holli disagreed. Brenna was smart. She was. She didn’t always show it, but it was there. She was, after all, number four in their class. Some may have gotten up in the top ten by cheating, but not Brenna. The girl was far too honest for that. And far too honest to deal well with most men who generally weren’t.

Her mother also said Holli should have been number three. Those other two would have been hard to beat since once did nothing at all with her life but study and read and the other wasn’t above cheating and everyone knew it. But she should have been third, instead of eleven, which meant exactly nothing since it wasn’t that big a class and eleven didn’t get recognized. Unlike horseshoes and hand grenades, close to the top ten didn’t count for anything.

Whatever. Her mother didn’t understand her struggle. The woman always called her spoiled and dramatic. How her mother could ever call Holli spoiled was way beyond her comprehension. She worked for everything she had. Even when she was little, she’d swept the floors every day with that old heavy broom that was taller than she was. Earning her keep, so she was told.

Maybe she would have whatever Brenna was drinking.

As she tried to catch the bartender’s eye to ask for one, Holli got a glance of a tall blond guy with a pool stick in hand and muscles big enough it should be illegal. She knew him. Didn’t she?

He returned her gaze and she gave him a nod before ordering a drink that was actually a drink. She wouldn’t look away as though he hadn’t caught her looking. That was a coward thing to do, and Holli was a lot of things, but she was definitely not a coward.

“He’s cute. Going to go talk to him?” Brenna leaned against her shoulder.

“No. Just thought I recognized him.”

“It’s a small town. How would you not recognize someone like that in a small town? I don’t remember him, but then, I’m not in town much anymore.”

“Neither am I.”

Brenna laughed. “You live in town and you work in town. How are you not in town much?”

“I go to work and then back home, sometimes with a quick stop at the grocery store. And I don’t live in town. I live out of town.”

“Your grandma’s cottage is technically in town, Holli. Still like it there?”

The guy on the stool next to her got up and said she could have it, so Holli pushed herself up onto it and propped her arms on the narrow ledge of the thin black bar counter. She hated that ledge. It would be more comfortable without it, but she supposed there would be far more spilled beers without it, also. “It’s free other than the property tax. It has electricity, running water, and flushing toilets. And it’s easy to heat up in the winter. What’s not to like?”

“It’s small.”

“It’s just me. How much space do I need?” Again, she pulled from a bump of her shoulder when some guy leaned in to grab a beer.

“I guess. But coming from how you grew up...”

“I like small and cozy.”

“Okay. As long as you’re happy. Hey, don’t look now, but Mr. Someone You Recognize is looking your way.”

Holli looked back over at the blond guy as Brenna fussed that she wasn’t supposed to look now because he would know Brenna just told her he was looking. This time, he gave her a nod. Not a coward, either. The way he was built, why would he be? The guy had to be nearly a foot taller than she was and half again as wide. What in the hell did he have to lose by flirting, or looking, or whatever?

Her friend was still fussing that she looked when she shouldn’t have when Holli turned back. “We’re not sixteen, Bren. Relax.” She definitely recognized him, but she couldn’t at all think from where. She only knew people by where she’d seen them. If she ran into them in a place she didn’t expect them to be, she might recognize their face if she bothered to look at it, but not who they were. This guy, though... “Oh.” She had to hide a laugh when it came to her.

“What?” Brenna’s gaze shifted. Her expression said the blond stud was still looking, or looking again.

Managing to thank the waiter for her drink, Holli took a sip and tried to calm herself.

“What’s so funny?”

“I know where I’ve seen him.” The picture was suddenly vivid. Too vivid. If she was the blushing type, she’d be all-over red by now. Luckily, she wasn’t the blushing type.

Brenna pushed for an answer, but Holli couldn’t say it out loud in a packed bar where she had to talk over whatever music someone put on the jukebox. She had to force herself not to look at him. Instead, she focused on the wallpaper border below the old tin ceiling. Planes, trains, and automobiles, like that old movie she loved. Transportation. People going places and seeing things. It always made her jealous to think about it. Trains, especially. If she ever...

“Excuse me.” A deep voice at her back turned her head. Figuratively. A nice voice. And then literally.
The blond had actually come over without standing across the room flirting half the night in between playing pool with his buddies and then getting pushed by them to take a chance. Definitely not a coward.

“Do I know you?”

Forward, though. Or a line. She wasn’t sure. Holli tried to choke back the vision of him swirling in her head, not at all easy to do, considering. He tilted his head, which somehow made his massive chest muscles move enough to take her attention. The blue and black plaid shirt with rolled up sleeves did little to cover how tight the black T-shirt was underneath.

“No. We haven’t met.” Holli congratulated herself on the line. It was true. They hadn’t been introduced. Not exactly.

“You were looking at me like you knew me.”

“Yes. Sorry. I’ll stop.”

“No problem. I was just curious. If I’d seen you out and about, I think I would have remembered.”
Her back straightened. “Yeah? Why?”

“Defensive, aren’t we?” He ordered a beer and returned his attention. “So, you’ve seen me around, or...?”

“Why would you remember?”

“Those eyes would be impossible to forget.”

She laughed. Out loud. “Okay, really bad line, dude. Considering...”

“Didn’t mean it that way.” He looked actually insulted. “Honest. I meant it ... well, just as a fact. Are those contacts?”

“No. They’re just green. All natural.” She shrugged. “How about you? All natural?” Holli skimmed his build without trying to hide that she was studying him.

“No steroids, if that’s what you mean. I do work at it. Part of it’s just the job, though.”

“What? Olympic weightlifting?”

He smirked. “Is that a line?”

“No. Sorry. I’m a little...”

“Sarcasm is just her thing, but she doesn’t mean anything by it.” Brenna stuck out her hand. “Hi, I’m Brenna Townsend. This is Holli Jacoby. She thinks she recognizes you...”

“Bren.” Holli flashed her a stop it look. They were supposed to use first names only with strange men. Long-standing rule. And she didn’t want to tell this guy why she recognized him.

“Guess I’m just one of those faces.” He took a sip of the beer after reaching past her to accept it from the bartender, still eying her, and not accidentally rubbing his arm against her shoulder. Holli had to give him points for letting her out of it so easily.

Brenna laughed and said he absolutely wasn’t one of those faces, but he cut her off by offering Holli his hand. “Isaac Bradshaw. No relation to the football player, so you don’t have to ask.”

“I wouldn’t have, but I can guess why people do.” She accepted his hand. A strong gentle rough grasp. His hands were working hands. Hard working hands. More points for him.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

She grinned and nodded at the one she just got. “Thanks, but I’m good.”

“Okay. So how about finding a table in the back so we can talk?”

A table? Already? Too fast. Points subtracted. “I’m here with my friend, so...”

“I meant all three of us. I know how it works. You gotta stick together to fend off the assholes. I get it.”

While Holli was trying to decide how to answer and whether or not to return a few of those points, Brenna accepted the offer. Holli thought about kicking her friend under the bar, and then considered allowing another hug. She wouldn’t mind, actually, talking to him for a few minutes, just because. Since he let her out of it, she wouldn’t have to tell him where she’d seen him.

Or how much of him she’d seen.

He stopped to tell his buddies he was done playing pool for a while and led Holli and Brenna around the wall to the few tables in the back hallway. Surprised there was one open, she took the inside chair beside her friend and Mr. Blond Muscle Man took the outside chair on the other side. More points in his favor.

She added more points when he was every bit as friendly with Brenna as he was with her.

Watch for Shadows of Rusts & Reels late Fall 2016 from