Tag Archives: romance novels

Broke-your-back Mountain

It was going to be a long, cold winter.

After the last of the sheep had entered the shed, Andy Stills pulled the door shut, fighting against the stern rush of wind and the ever accumulating drifts of snow that had marked the third day of unrelenting storm.  The ominous pewter and rust colored skies gave every indication that there would be no let up in the angry weather.

Andy Stills and Barney Coltart had started their relationship years ago, in these same wind-swept, high grasslands of Eastern Wyoming.  An accidental meeting between a hard-scrabble rancher and an itinerant cowboy had culminated in a deep closeted relationship.  Despite their separate ways and marriages, Andy had agreed – more and more reluctantly as time passed – to meet once each year here on Barney’s sheep farm.

Brushing the snow from his shoulders, Andy reminisced about how their affair had started over a decade ago in a situation similar to this one.  Two down-on-their-luck young men, trapped together for weeks during a bitterly cold winter roundup, had found that their mutual attraction was more than just respect and admiration; it was a bond of love that they both tried, at first, to deny, Andy more so than Barney.

Barney knew better than Andy that he always had affection for other men, despite the fact that he, like Andy, had used marriage to offset his deep-seated desires.  Barney shuffled carefully in the close quarters of the shed, pulled off his gloves, brushed off his hat and placed both down on the small wooden stand, next to the oil lamp.  He turned to Andy with a wistful look and said, “That’s the last of the herd, thank God.  Takes longer and longer each year to round ‘em up.”

Andy spoke slowly and softly to Barney.  “I don’t know when this weather will let up but soon as it does, I got to get on my way.  You know that, Barney.”

Barney sobbed “Andy, it’s hard.  I ain’t got no words to tell you what you goin’ away each time does to me.  I just wish you could make up your mind and stay.”

Moved by his words, Andy reached to embrace Barney but Barney pushed forcefully back.  “No, not here, not in front of my wife, Sheila.”

Andy jumped back with a start, swiveling his head from left to right and back again in sharp, jerky motions to see where, in the confines of the small sheep barn, Barney’s wife could have hidden herself.  He had never met Barney’s wife and now was not a good time to start.

“I don’t see your wife anywhere.”

“She’s right there in front of you, Andy.  The one with the bright red bow” proclaimed Barney with a note of pride.  Barney reached out, patting and caressing a large round sheep wearing an intricate and brightly colored red bow around her neck.  “We’ve been married for going on seven years.  I got her the bow for an anniversary present.  I’ve never told Sheila about me and you until now.  It’s been real hard to find the moment to break the news to her and I’m all worked up about it.”  Tears streamed down the front of Barney’s face.

Andy sighed and looked forlornly out the small, now frosted window of the sheep barn, the accumulating snow working its way up the bottom half of the outside window pane.

It was, indeed, going to be a long, cold winter.

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The Minot Misery

; Novellas of Broken Romance.

[With thanks and apologies to Carrie Rubin.  Carrie, please don’t wish a plague on me.  Read more here about Carrie Rubin’s new novel The Seneca Scourge.]

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Chicken feed.  People always laughed when Ben Johnson told them he worked for chicken feed.  That’s what he did: deliver chicken, hog and cattle feed to farmers and ranchers on over a thousand miles of land in the Plains States, mainly the Dakotas.  Yeah, it brought a smile to their faces when he told them but, right now, Ben’s face wore a grimace of pain.  He was focused on getting back to Minot, his home, as quickly as his truck and this damned case of the trots would let him.  What the hell had he eaten to give him something this god-awful?  He squirmed uneasily in his seat as his belly and guts rebelled for the umpteenth time.  He could not get to Minot’s Walter E. Feckle Emergency Clinic soon enough.

The Walter E. Feckle Emergency Clinic sat unobtrusively in a one story building off Second Avenue in downtown Minot, next to the “Why Not Minot?” billboard erected by some civic-minded citizens a few years back.  Walter E. Feckle, a successful plains farmer had, many years ago, used his fortune to create the small clinic that bore his name and had funded positions for its small staff of doctors, including one for blood relatives, like his great-grand daughter, Dr. Beverly Baudot.

Beverly Baudot was the spitting image of Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, except not as smart.  The good graces of family connections had gotten her a position at the clinic after a number of less than stellar performances at more recognized centers elsewhere.  Beverly tried to make up in enthusiasm what she lacked in professional knowledge.  Fortunately the clinic was also staffed by other physicians whose skill and professionalism attempted to cover any discrepancies caused by Beverly’s presence.  The head of staff was the handsome but aloof Dr. Brad Zilfer, a Christian Slater look-alike, who Beverly admired and lusted after.

It was the handsome Dr. Zilfer who walked in on Beverly and her patient, Ben Johnson, as Beverly, wanting to impress Dr. Zilfer, explained the results of her tests.  Ben Johnson wore an expression of both concern and pain on his face as his listened to Beverly’s prognosis.

“Yes, it says here on page 178 that all such occurrences should be treated with some antibiotics as well as …”

Dr. Zilfer interrupted with incredulity: “Page 178 of WHAT?!  Are you using a novel to treat this patient?!”

Beverly, startled, responded: “Why, yes, they come in quite handy and this one, The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin, is very well researched and written.”

Dr. Zilfer’s eyes grew large like a two ripe melons.  “You realize that it is a book of fiction and, however well written, cannot be used to diagnose a patient.”

Beverly retorted “But its medical topics, especially with regards to pathogens, are as good a job of medical research as you can find.  Besides, it’s so much more interesting than a boring medical journal.”

“Dr. Baudot,” Brad became formal in his indignation, “we are physicians, not fiction readers.  We can’t have our patients believing that we get all our information from dime store novels.”

“But I told you, it’s NOT a dime store novel.  It’s a well-written and well-structured book that explains exactly how a pandemic occurs.”

“Pandemic!”  Dr. Zilfer nearly jumped out of his uniform, “We are dealing with a bad case of diarrhea, not a pandemic!  Do you realize what alarms you could raise if you start spreading the word that we have a pandemic on our hands?  We had enough trouble last month when you misdiagnosed that case of measles and we had half the town thinking that we had a breakout of cholera.”

Beverly sighed.  This was probably not the best moment to tell Dr. Zilfer about her reliance on Diseases for Dummies.  She could have prevented her mistake if only The Seneca Scourge had been in print a month earlier.  She hoped Carrie Rubin would be starting her next book soon.

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Read more here about Carrie Rubin’s new novel The Seneca Scourge.]

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Corned Beef on Spy

 Novellas of Broken Romance.

Chapter Eight

[With loads of thanks and apologies to Diane Henders.  DH, please, please, please don’t send someone from Sons of Anarchy to beat the crap out of me; you asked for more Fallen Arches.  Read more about Diane Henders’ spy novels here.]

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Lillian Fasbark never wanted to be a spy.  She didn’t want to be a neurosurgeon or an astronaut or a lab technician or a race car driver either.  Well, maybe she liked the idea of being a race car driver just a little bit.  But all of those were non-starters because she was, in fact, a spy for her government and, right now, she was acting as a short order cook at the Long Branch Café on the north side of South Forks.

Lillian took all her assignments seriously.  She wasn’t going to pretend to be a short order cook; she was going to be the best short order cook this side of the Continental Divide.  Every morning she arrived by five am to get things ready.  She washed and sliced all the vegetables, peeling the potatoes and cutting them into precisely aligned slivers for perfect fries.  She made all the salad dressings ingredients herself, prepared all the day’s soup, and formed uniform hamburgers, resisting the temptation to squeeze them under her armpits to get back at the jerk of a boss she worked for.  It wasn’t fair to the faithful and unknowing customers.  She also turned on the grill, the deep fryer and got all the pots and pans ready.

The Long Branch Café was short on staff but not on service so Lillian did double duty as a waitress.  She had “meet and greet” down pat.  The customers loved her and she loved them, at least she did a fine job of acting as if she loved them.  Lillian had been working there for nearly two years, waiting each day for the arrival of “Mr. Wright,” a diminutive, balding accountant on whose fate many lives depended.  So far, Mr. Wright had not shown up.

If Lillian became frustrated over Mr. Wright’s failure to appear, it was mollified a great deal by her handler, a beautiful hulk named Jim Tolls, who would come in from time to time to check on Lillian.  Lillian’s heart, not normally affected by bulging biceps and a square jaw, always fluttered a bit when Jim came into the diner.  Today, she would find an excuse to follow Jim out to his car and tell Jim that she was tired of her assignment and was ending it now.  Plus, she wanted to look at those biceps and that square jaw one more time.

Jim finished his usual breakfast of shit-on-a-shingle, washed it down with the last of the coffee (made fresh each morning), paid the tab with a modest tip and slowly ambled to his car across the street.  Faking a need for a brief break for fresh air, Lillian followed him out to the car taking her jacket and her current reading material along and got into the passenger seat as Jim climbed into the driver’s side.

“Well, Jim-boy, what’s it going to be, coffee, tea or me?” Jim let out a short snort in reply to Lillian’s old one-liner.

“Lillian, we’ve been through this before,” the exasperation present in Jim’s voice, “You are not a spy and I am not your handler.  You are, and have been, a short order cook.”

Lillian looked at Jim with a startled expression.  “Cut the crap, Jim, we both know that I’ve been undercover on assignment for close to two years. When’s this going to stop?”

Jim turned to Lillian with a worn look on his face.  “It never started.  Look at the book you have in your hand, Lillian.”

Lillian looked down at the book, a freshly minted copy of Diane Henders’ latest novel, How Spy I Am.

“This is the fifth time you’ve done this, Lillian” said Jim.  “Every time you pick up one of those spy thrillers, you believe that you are a spy on a secret mission and that I am your handsome handler.  One time you were a saleslady at Macy’s, another time you were a bank teller at the local Bank of America branch and now a short order cook.  You keep following me wherever I shop or bank or eat breakfast, get a job and pretend that you have this secret assignment.  Get a real life, Lillian.  Now, get out and good bye.”

Slowly, Lillian opened the passenger door and walked back to the café.  She hoped she could explain to her jerk of a boss exactly why she had substituted gasoline for cooking oil in the deep fryer.

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Read more about Diane Henders’ spy novels here.

The City Never Changes

 Novellas of Broken Romance.

Chapter Seven

[With loads of thanks to Madame Weebles and her 38s and to merlinspielen for his not-so-faulty memory of cheap detective novels]

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The City never changes; just the weather and the people who inhabit it.

The dry spell of hot, sunny days had given way to an unending period of rain, sometimes misty, sometimes drizzly, sometimes heavy and relentless but always cold.  In the same way, the absence of homicides and murders had given way to a rapid succession of one-eighty-sevens, DOAs and gangland wars and Joe Hardcore, First Lieutenant LAPD, found himself in the middle of most of them.

He and his lovely sidekick, Sgt. Lorraine (Lolita) DeSantis, were huddled in confined quarters exchanging gunfire with a notorious gang of east side hoodlums who they had just accidentally stumbled on and who, with the ferocity of a bunch of hornets whose nest had been knocked over, were angrily rewarding them with a hail of bullets.  Normally, pressing flesh with the hottest woman in the department wasn’t too bad if you forgot the circumstances that put you here and the fact that one bad move meant that it was the last piece of flesh you would press against unless you counted your own laid on a slab at the county morgue.

Hardcore remembered the first time they met.  He was sitting at his favorite bar after his regular shift ended and she walked in.  He sensed she was a cop right away and he could tell she was packing heat.  Sweet Jesus, he thought, a cop packing a pair of 38s – and a gun.  She poured herself into the chair beside him.  She smiled at him and he said “Are those loaded?” She laughed and slid a hand up his thigh.  “I could ask the same thing honey – is that loaded?  And do you have the safety on – cause I wouldn’t want it to go off half-cocked.”  She moved her hand to his chin and looked him in the eyes, “My eyes are up here, douche bag, otherwise I’d have a hard time seeing through my blouse.”

He knew she was hot.  She knew he knew.  He knew she knew he knew.  She knew he knew she knew he knew.  He knew … oh, hell with it.

Three double Bourbons later they were splayed across her bed in a jumbled mass of clothes and weaponry – some still loaded; the rest discharged.  Hardcore had been around the world a few times but she took him to places he had never been.  He had met hot women before but she was so hot she could be solely responsible for global warming.  She had curves so severe she could send a race car driver right off the course.  She was 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound sack.  She was …oh, hell with it.

A hot sting across his cheek from a stray ricochet pulled Hardcore out of his daydream and brought him back font-and-center to their current predicament.  He involuntarily pushed away from the bullet and pressed his flank even harder into Lolita’s.  “Ya know, babe” Hardcore muttered  ”after we crush these scumbags, I could use a little rest and relaxation back at your place, if you know what I mean.”

Lolita, still firing, reached slowly behind her with her left hand and dug her beautifully manicured fingernails into Hardcore’s thigh.  She turned her head slightly and whispered into his ear with a throaty voice: “Did you just fart?”

Space, the Final Frontier.

Novellas of Broken Romance.

Chapter Six

Space, the final frontier.

No one knew that phrase better than Brad Armstrong.  As a volunteer for the deep space mission, he recognized that his voyage was “final” in the sense that all he knew had been left behind on Earth many hundreds of years of space travel ago.

It had been 877 Earth days since his arrival on Magna 1B, an Earth-like planet orbiting the star Canopus, and the similarities between Earth and Magna 1B were shocking, to say the least.  In all respects, the landscape, vegetation and life forms looked just like Earth, with the exception of Magna 1B’s two moons – Adro and Damon – and the peacefulness and orderliness of its inhabitants.  Perhaps it was attributable to the matriarchic structure of its society.  Men, in groups, served women with order and compliance.  Conceivably that thought would resonate with whatever remained of Earth’s shattered society, if it were possible to communicate such thoughts.  It would take several hundred years just to receive the message.

Brad had been fully accepted into Magna’s society.  Not only had he been welcomed with open arms but now one of the female leaders had asked him to join her as her mate, a “first mate” in fact.  He sat next to the lovely Stea at the dinner feast in his honor.  Soon they would consummate their union in her bed chambers.  He marveled at her dark, svelte form, her obsidian eyes, her tall and graceful features wrapped tightly in a black gown.

Slowly she led him to her exotic and unusual bedroom, replete with black webbing and intricate concentric patterns radiating from her circular bed.  She disrobed and, as Brad stared in awe at her wondrous figure, she lovingly embraced him and led him to her bed.  His hands roamed up and down her sinewy shape and, as he caressed her, he noticed the hour-glass shaped mark in the small of her back.  As Stea’s half-shrouded eyes and soft moans indicated her rising passion, Brad saw the mark redden and throb.

“What a strange birthmark” Brad said to the undulating Stea.  “Yes,” she replied as she enveloped his body with her own, “We all have such a mark after our assimilation with the Arachnids.  It was painful but gave us all so much more order.”

“The Arachnids” said Brad with alarm, “aren’t they the alien race that are like spi…”

Brad’s last thought was of a beautiful but strange form whose mouth widened to consume his head.  Stea slowly munched on Brad’s brain, regurgitating it several times before consumption.  Hmm, she thought, he is the best tasting astronaut that I have dined on in a long, long time.