Weekend Excerpt–Waffles…With a Side of Drama

A platonic Dom/sub relationship?
It’s a damn odd arrangement.

When I started writing BDSM romance, I wanted to do something different. While I enjoy stories about Dominant billionaires as much as the next girl, I was more interested in exploring the lives of regular everyday couples who live the intimacy of a power-exchange lifestyle.

In FOR SPARROW, Jessi Crenshaw has unexpectedly lost her husband. He was her best friend, her lover, the father of her grown children, and her Dominant.

But it turns out that Graham must have had an inkling that his health might be on the decline. Seems he has asked his friend and protege in the ‘lifestyle,’ firefighter paramedic Judd Farris to look out for Jessi in the event that something should happen to him.

Judd never imagined that he’d have to fulfill the promise he made to his dear friend, but nothing will stop him from completing that mission. He’ll watch over Jessi until she finds a Dominant of her own.

But what if he’d like to be that man?

Here’s an excerpt from FOR SPARROW:

In the quiet of the morning, Jessi poured herself a cup of coffee and sipped carefully. The kids were still asleep, a fact that didn’t surprise her in the least.

Glancing at the clock on the stove, she figured she’d give them another hour or so before she tried to tempt them awake with the smell of homemade waffles.

She heard the slam of a car door out front. That, combined with Buddy’s beeline to the front door, let her know that Judd had arrived. Smiling to herself, she carried her coffee with her, opening the door to let Buddy tear across the lawn to greet his favorite human.

Judd set down his toolbox and stooped to ruffle the puppy’s ears, then stood, grinning broadly. “Good morning, Jessi!”

She felt herself grinning back. “Hi, there. How are you this morning?”

“I’m great. Am I too early?” He frowned slightly.

“Not for me, you’re not. The kids are all still asleep. Can I get you some coffee?”

He nodded. “Coffee sounds great, actually.”

Judd followed Jessi into the kitchen and stood leaning against the center island. “So everybody got in okay?”

“They did. We didn’t get to bed until after 1:00,” she handed him a light blue mug of steaming coffee, “but I woke up about 7:00 and couldn’t sleep anymore.”

He accepted the mug and sipped gratefully. “This is good.”

She smiled at him. “I’m planning on making waffles for breakfast. Are you hungry?”

Judd’s eyes widened. “Waffles? I had a granola bar on my way over, but there’s no way I’d pass up homemade waffles.”

Jessi patted the counter. “Have a seat, then. Waffles are coming right up.”

Judd sank onto one of the high stools and sipped his coffee, watching Jessi expertly measuring ingredients into a large yellow mixing bowl. Soon the aroma of freshly cooked waffles filled the kitchen.

“There you are,” said Jessi, sliding a pair of crispy golden waffles in front of him. “Syrup? I have maple and strawberry.”

“Oh, man, I’m never going to get to that pool pump today.” He laughed as he lifted the bottle of maple syrup and poured a generous helping all over his breakfast.

Jessi sat with him and nibbled on a waffle of her own as they chatted amiably about their week. Soon enough, Judd was finished.

“That was delicious,” he said, carrying his plate to the sink, where he rinsed it and placed it in the dishwasher. “Thank you!”

Jessi blushed slightly. “Oh, it’s just waffles, but I’m glad you liked them.”

“I did. Very much.” He held her gaze for a moment. “Well, off to the pool pump, then.”

“Thanks so much, Judd. I’ll send Adam out there after he eats.”

From the back door, Judd waved, and headed out to the pool deck.

Jessi stood watching him through the window, Buddy snuffling around his feet as he set to work. She smiled to herself, happy to have Judd there at her house.

“Ummm, what smells so good?”

She turned at the sleepy voice of her son. “Good morning, sweetie.” Crossing the kitchen, she hugged him tightly, kissing his cheek. “Are you hungry?”

“For your famous waffles? Always!” Adam claimed the stool recently vacated by Judd.

As Jessi ladled more batter onto the waffle iron, Adam’s brow furrowed. “Um, Mom? There’s a guy out by the pool.”

She glanced out the window. “Oh, that’s Judd. He’s working on the pool pump. I told him you could help him in a while.”

“Sure,” he shrugged, taking a bite of his breakfast.

Cara came down the stairs followed closely by Trevor. Both were dressed in shorts and casual shirts, ready for the day.

“Good morning, you two. Did you sleep okay?” Jessi asked, dropping more batter onto the hot appliance.

“Hi, Mommy,” Cara murmured as she sank onto a stool beside her brother. She yawned sleepily.

“I slept great, Mrs. Crenshaw, thanks. And something smells delicious,” Trevor added as he sat beside Cara.

“Good, I’m glad. I thought I’d do a homemade breakfast this morning. Maybe we can go to brunch tomorrow before you leave.”

She eyed the three of them. “So, what plans do you have for the day? It looks like a perfect beach day. You can pack a lunch and take it up to Juno. It’s breezy, so there might be kiteboarders today.”

Jessi noticed that Adam and Trevor both looked to Cara uneasily. Cara sat up straight. “Well, Mom,” she hesitated.

Suspicious, Jessi narrowed her eyes, crossing her arms and leaning back against the counter.

Cara cleared her throat and continued. “We wanted to talk about Dad’s stuff.”

“Dad’s stuff?”

Cara nodded. “His clothes and tools and things. You haven’t started doing anything with them yet?”

Jessi sighed. “No. I haven’t packed up Dad’s things.”

“That’s why we’re here. I figured you hadn’t done it yet. That’s what we’re going to do today.” Cara’s face, so precisely a mix of Graham’s and Jessi’s own, was determined.

Feeling panic rising, Jessi took a slow breath. “No. We’re not packing your dad’s things today. If that’s the only reason you came home this weekend, you’re going to be disappointed. I will pack up your father’s belongings when I’m ready to do it, and not a moment before.”

“Look, Mother,” Cara slid off the stool and came around the island toward Jessi. Her short auburn hair hinted at her stubbornness as her light blue eyes glinted sharply. “It’s been long enough. You have to let go. I read an article, and…”

“I don’t care what you read, you do not decide for me when to get rid of my husband’s belongings.” Jessi knew her voice was getting louder and she didn’t care. Adam and Trevor looked like they wanted to crawl into a hole.

“Denial! It’s called denial. Dad’s dead. And hanging onto his things won’t bring him back!”

Adam, ever the peacemaker, tried to intervene. “Maybe we should just drop it, Cara.”

“Shut up, Adam!” she snapped.

“It’s not denial, it’s a process. I’ll clean out his things when I’m ready. Don’t push me on this, Cara!”

Outside, his focus on the inner workings of the pool pump, Judd became aware of raised voices. Glancing up, he could see Jessi and her daughter squaring off in the kitchen. He gnawed his lower lip thoughtfully. It really wasn’t his business. But his position was to protect Jessi.

Even from her kids? He debated another moment before setting down the wrench in his hand and heading to the kitchen door.

“Someone has to, Mother. Someone has to help you when you can’t seem to help yourself.”

“Everything okay in here, Jessi?” Judd’s tone suggested quiet authority.

Cara whirled around. “And who in the hell is this?!” Dramatically, she flung her hand in Judd’s direction.

Judd started to answer. “I’m…”

“What the fuck makes you think you can come into my house and speak to my guests like that?!” Jessi shrieked.

The kitchen fell silent. Neither Adam nor Cara had ever heard their mother use profanity. Eyes wide and mouths open, they both stared at Jessi.

She took a calming breath and continued softly. “This is Judd. He’s a friend of your father’s, and he’s here today fixing the pool pump.” She met Judd’s eyes with a grateful look.

Adam recovered first. Proffering a hand, he introduced himself. “Hi, man. I’m Adam, that’s my sister, Cara, and this is Cara’s boyfriend, Trevor.”

Judd nodded to them all. “Nice to meet you.” He looked to Adam and Trevor. “Gentlemen, maybe you can help me out back while the ladies sort this out, what do you say?”

“Sure thing,” Trevor answered, glad to have an excuse to scuttle out of the line of fire.

–FOR SPARROW is the 2018 Golden Flogger Award Winner for Best BDSM Book, BDSM Light.

FOR SPARROW by Pandora Spocks

2018 Golden Flogger Award Winner FOR SPARROW
is Dream Dominant Book 3.
It’s available at your favorite online bookseller:
books2read.com/ForSparrow

Weekend Excerpt–LUKE & BELLA

LUKE & BELLA is Dream Dominant Book 1, and it’s where it all began for me. It’s the first book I ever published, so in many ways, it’s a sentimental favorite. It’s about an ace television reporter and a veteran photographer who are thrown together to create a new television travel program. Traveling the world, finding adventure at every turn, is it any wonder they fall in love?

I orginally started writing it just for myself. Then I began posting a chapter at a time on Tumblr, and much to my surprise, it gained quite a following. Shout out to Kinky Tinkerbella, LOL!

About halfway through, I stopped writing for a while, only to pick it up much later, and I posted it chapter by chapter here on WordPress until it was finished. By then, I’d met many writers who self-published their work and I started thinking, why not?

The Dream Dominant Collection, a series of stand-alone contemporary erotic romance novels featuring light BDSM themes, is now four books strong. In addition to LUKE & BELLA, there is LOST & BOUND, 2018 Golden Flogger Award Winner FOR SPARROW, and WARRIOR MINE. At least one more book is planned, hopefully to be released in 2020.

For now, here’s a little snippet from the book that started it all.

While Luke showered, Bella went online to make hotel reservations for their next destination. Never a fan of huge corporate places, she located a nice boutique hotel near the city center. Still feeling a bit sheepish about her little tantrum when they arrived in Scotland, she debated over reserving one room or two.

Obviously we want the best suite or suites available. Does the nicest suite really have to have that name? Bella sighed in exasperation.
The cheeky part of her smirked in delight. What should I do? she wondered. One room or two?

This is not how you were raised, her father’s voice reprimanded sternly.
Her finger wavered over the touch pad.

“All yours, m’lady,” announced Luke, startling her and causing her to jump.
He’s always doing that, she thought.

You’re too jumpy, her cheeky self said. You know what’s good for that…
Bella shook her head and clicked, her decision made. “Great! I’ll try to be quick,” she said.

“Take your time,” he smiled, heading out onto the terrace in his bathrobe to smoke a cigar.

Bella hurried anyway, anxious to get on with the evening. Why did I agree to a ‘date’? she wondered.

Cheeky self was quick to answer: You know exactly why.

Her father’s voice was harsh: This will not end well.

“Oh, shut up,” she said aloud.

After showering, she quickly did her hair and make-up, dressing at last in a form-fitting sleeveless black sheath with sheer lace at the neckline.

Checking herself in the mirror she decided that she looked decent enough. She wondered what Luke would wear, smiling as she imagined the two of them entering the award winning restaurant, she in semi-formal attire and he in the khaki cargo pants and chambray shirt he seemed to favor.

Handsome, yes, but not appropriate for the occasion. Maybe she should suggest another restaurant. Hmm…

“All ready,” she called out as she opened the bedroom door. Luke wasn’t in the sitting room. She walked out onto the terrace but he wasn’t there, either. She looked around.

You always were stupid, her father’s voice condemned. You gave him what he wanted. Now he’s at McTavish’s, laughing at you.

Bella’s heart sank. He’s ditched me, she thought, feeling foolish. Why would he want to go out with me anyway? Threatened tears stung her eyes and the sudden lump in her throat felt as big as a pineapple.

A knock at the door broke into her thoughts. Bella cautiously opened it to find Luke standing in the hallway, mischievous smile on his face and a bouquet of pink and white roses in his hand. He was stunning in a black suit, crisp white shirt, and a black silk tie.

“Good evening, m’lady,” he said. “I’m here to pick you up for our dinner date.”
She was too surprised to say anything but she stepped back to let him in the room.

“You look beautiful, by the way,” he said as he walked past her.

“Um, thanks, so do you,” she stammered. “I mean…” she laughed lightly, dabbing at the corner of her eye with her pinky finger. “Where in the world did you get that suit?”

He turned and hit her with a dazzling smile. “I keep it in my ghetto luggage,” he smirked. “Because a guy never knows when he might wanna get all gussied up.”

She laughed again. “Well, you look really…nice.”

“I brought you these,” he said, gesturing with the roses.

“They’re so pretty, thanks!” she replied, blushing. “You didn’t have to, really, I mean…It’s a super nice thought, it’s sweet, actually, but like I said before, I don’t have any expectations, just because…you know…” she trailed off, trying to interpret the meaning of the look on his face.

Luke smiled patiently waiting for her to finish speaking. “They’re just flowers, Bella,” he said softly. He found a glass pitcher and put them in water. “Are you ready?” he asked.

“Yes, ready,” she answered.

As soon as they were seated at a table for two at Hadrian’s, Luke ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc. They ordered the shellfish bisque for their starter. For their main course Luke had the filet and Bella, the salmon. After the waiter left them, she looked at him across the flickering candle in the center of the table. Luke winked at her and her breath caught in her chest.

I can’t understand this effect he has on me, she thought.

“You really do look beautiful,” he said. “The candlelight and your hair…” he just smiled.

She could feel herself blushing. “You’re sweet,” she deflected.

“I’m truthful. Always,” he said firmly.

Their wine arrived and Bella was grateful for the distraction. The sommelier poured and left, and they sipped appreciatively.

“So…you were married a long time ago to a douche bag,” Luke summed up. “You never took the plunge again? Never even other long-term relationships?”

Bella sipped and shook her head. “No, I was too glad to get out of that mess. I’ve dated some, but never felt serious about anyone. I think I run guys off.”

Luke laughed.

“No really! I’m particular and I work all the time…if there’s overtime to be had, I’m the one who asks for it. I’d rather keep busy than have down time.”

She sipped again. “There was this stalker once,” she admitted. He looked at her across the table, concerned. “It was kind of bad,” she continued. “This was in Asheville. I met him in a bar, and, well…It became obvious that going out with him was a mistake. Turns out he met me on purpose. I ended up filing a restraining order. The station had to hire extra security. I was working the 11:00 show, always coming home around midnight.”

She paused, watching his reaction. “I got home one night and, I know this sounds weird, but something felt off. Maybe it was that my front mat was just a little crooked, I don’t know. Anyway, I turned around, got back in my car, and called the cops. They found the guy in my bedroom, under my bed, naked.”

“Holy shit, Bella!” Luke gasped. “I’d kill a motherfucker…”

“Yeah, that was a little freaky,” she said quietly. “He went to jail, of course. I got out of Asheville as quickly as I could.”

Dinner arrived and their conversation slowed as they enjoyed their food. After a few moments, Bella ventured, “Now the former Mrs. McGillicutty…Did she get tired of your being gone all the time?”

“Um, no, she got tired of being poor all the time,” he replied. “She went and found a sugar daddy.”

“You’re kidding,” Bella said. “She left you over money?”

“Yep, that’s it exactly,” he said ruefully.

Bella shook her head. “That’s the craziest thing I ever heard,” she said thoughtfully.

“Says the Ivy League debutante,” Luke said softly.

She gave him a sharp look. “I’m just saying, if I found a great guy, money wouldn’t even enter into it,” she said decisively.

“A great guy, huh?” he smirked, knowing he’d be rewarded with another stunning blush. He was not disappointed.

“Oh, you know what I’m saying,” she stammered.

Boldly, Bella countered. “How about you? Besides your marriage, did you have other long-term relationships?”

Luke set down his fork for a moment. “Well, I went right into a five-year relationship after my divorce. Big mistake, but at the time I’d lost my confidence, so…”

Bella looked at him sympathetically. Luke continued, “It was a bad situation I should have ended much sooner than I did. Hell,” he chuckled, “it was a situation I should never have started, but you live and learn. Then, shortly before I retired, I was with a woman for about two years. She left me for an eighty-year-old man.”

He laughed at Bella’s shocked expression. “He had money. What can I say?”

“Again with the money,” Bella murmured, shaking her head.

They continued enjoying their meal, moving their conversation toward the work they’d done and away from their personal stories.

During dessert, after a pause in conversation, Luke voiced, “So, you’re really not telling me where we’re going tomorrow?”

Bella smiled. “Nope.”

LUKE & BELLA by Pandora Spocks

LUKE & BELLA is available at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/LukeAndBella1

Weekend Excerpt–FOR SPARROW

FOR SPARROW is the 2018 Golden Flogger Award Winner for Best BDSM Book in the category of BDSM Light. It’s the story of young widow Jessi Crenshaw. When her husband Graham dies unexpectedly, she’s devastated. She’s lost her husband, her best friend, and her Dominant.

But as time passes, she discovers that Graham had made provision for her in the event of his death. He’s asked firefighter paramedic Judd Farris, his good friend and protege in the Lifestyle, to look after Jessi until she gets back on her feet and finds a Dominant of her own.

Together, Jessi and Judd try to navigate their way through a platonic Dom/sub relationship. For Judd, it’s nothing less that what he owes to the memory of his friend. But resisting their mutual attraction is becoming more and more difficult. What if Graham had more in mind than merely a temporary arrangement?

Here’s a steamy teaser from FOR SPARROW.

Up to her neck in lavender-scented bubbles, Jessi sighed.  The room was lit only by a handful of tea light candles she’d placed around the edges of the garden tub.  She closed her eyes and recalled the feeling of being in Judd’s arms earlier in the day.  He’d told her that he was proud of her, and that had pleased Jessi immensely. 

And he’d given her permission to come.  The impish sparkle in his eyes had held the promise of a skilled lover. 

Her eyes popped open.  Why had she thought that?  Nevermind.  Focus on the task at hand. 

She leaned back once again, eyes closed, as she began to stroke and knead her breasts, pulling her nipples tightly, picturing lips suckling them, a tongue caressing them, as the heat built between her thighs.  She slid one hand lower to stroke her needy sex, finding the sensitive nub erect with arousal.  Rubbing intensely, she brought herself to the edge of orgasm, but slowed down.  If she was only getting one, she was going to make it last. 

Her hands retreated to her breasts again, then slowly traveled back down to her pussy, where she nearly rubbed herself to completion again.  This time, she picked up the pink rabbit waiting on the edge of the tub and clicked it once.  Lowering the vibrator to her clit, she gasped as her eyes rolled back with pleasure.  Realizing she couldn’t hold out much longer, she slid the phallus to her sensitive entrance, pressing slowly into her core, all the while imagining Judd, holding himself over her, pushing his way into her needy space.  The outer part of the dildo vibrated against her clit as she fucked herself. 

“Oh, God,” she moaned softly, her moment building.  “Oh, shit, holy…Judd!”  Orgasm thundered over her as she gasped, her body shuddering with intense release.  As her quaking subsided, she switched off the dildo, but left it in place as she floated back to earth. 
 
*****
 
Dressed in a silky eggplant chemise, Jessi padded back into the bedroom and slipped into bed.  She stacked the pillows behind her against the headboard, intending to read the new erotic romance on her Kindle.  But glancing at her phone on the bedside table, she remembered Judd’s charge: “Report back to me afterwards.”

The time on the clock blinked 12:09.  Was it too late?  If it was, he could just see it in the morning.  The idea of reporting on her orgasm made her feel nervous. 
Maybe it was just better to get it over with. 

She put down the Kindle and picked up her phone.
 
*****
 
“So, what do you think about Amanda?” Alex asked, shouting above the pounding music.

“She’s nice,” Judd replied noncommittally. 

“I’ll say she’s nice.  Nice and stacked.  When the girls get back from the bathroom, do you want me and Trish to head out so you can work your Judd Farris magic?”  Alex grinned gleefully.

“No, no need to do that.  Let’s all hang out.  Do you want to go someplace quieter?”

Alex laughed.  “Young folks and their crazy rock and roll bothering you, old man?”

“No, it’s just…”

“Well, the fact that they didn’t ditch us while we were in the bathroom is a good sign,” Trish joked as she and Amanda returned from the ladies’ room. 

“Where would I go, baby, you know I love you,” Alex cooed.  “Come on, let’s show these two how it’s done.”  He took Trish’s hand and twirled her once, before leading her out to the dancefloor. 

Judd leaned closer to Amanda.  “Would you like another beer?”

She nodded.  “Yeah, that would be great.”

Judd stood, nodding toward the bar.  “I’ll be right back.”  Waiting to order at the bar, he looked back toward their table.  Amanda was a friend of Trish’s from work, and somehow, Trish and Alex had decided that Judd should meet her. 

She seemed nice, and she was pretty, with her blonde hair and blue eyes.  She was a little shy, and Judd wondered if that was why she didn’t currently have a boyfriend.  But he knew that he didn’t feel a connection with her, so it definitely wasn’t worth Alex and Trish leaving them to flounder on their own. 

He returned to the table, two beers in hand, just as Alex and Trish left the dancefloor.  “No beers for us, homie?  Seriously?” Alex laughed, dropping off Trish and heading to the bar himself. 

Amanda accepted her Corona and nodded.  “Thanks!”

“You’re welcome.”  Judd took a pull on his beer and felt his phone buzz in his pocket.  He retrieved the device and swiped it on, checking the message.  It was from Jessi.  According to the clock on his phone, it was 12:10.  Smiling reflexively, he opened the message.

Mission accomplished, Sir.

His grin broadened.  Mission accomplished.  Had she already had her allotted orgasm?

He looked up to see that Alex had returned and was watching him closely.  “Good message?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s just…”  Judd stood.  “If you’ll excuse me for a minute.  I’ll be right back.”

Dodging gyrating dancers and the crowd around the bar, Judd made his way to the sidewalk outside, where it was much quieter, despite the fact that he could still hear the deep pounding bass of the music inside the club.  He opened Jessi’s message again and pressed the telephone icon. 

“Hello?” she answered tentatively.

“Mission accomplished?  That was fast,” he laughed.

“Shit!  Well, oops, sorry, I just…  Well, I didn’t think you’d call.  Geez!”

“Two words do not a report make, little one.  I need details.”  He grinned, picturing her discomfort.

“Details?  Seriously?”

“Um-hmm, starting with, where were you?”

“In the bathtub.”

“Were there bubbles?”

“Yes, there were bubbles.  And candles, too.”

“Good, this is sounding good.  And you touched yourself where?”

“You know where I touched myself,” she quipped huffily.

“Humor me, little one.”

She sighed loudly.  “I started with my breasts and moved to my pussy.”

“Okay, did you use a tool?”  Judd realized that he was becoming immensely aroused.

“A tool?  Like a dildo?  Yes, I used my rabbit.”

“Ooh, penetration.  I like it.  And did you come?”

“Yes, Sir, only once, just like you said.”  She sounded pleased with herself.

“Good girl.  Were you thinking naughty thoughts?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!  Everybody thinks naughty thoughts when they…”

Judd knew he was enjoying this way too much.  He swallowed a laugh.  “When they what, little one?”

Her heard her huff.  “When they masturbate.”  She whispered the last word.  “Oh, my God!”

“Nicely done, Jessi.  A full and complete report.  It’s a shame that you used up your one cummie so quickly.  It’s going to be a long week for you.”

“Yeah, and thanks to your detailed report, I’m feeling horny again.” 

Judd burst out laughing.  “You are something, Jessi.  Listen, I suppose that one orgasm a week might not be quite enough.  Suppose we say that you can have a total of three for the week.  But I’m going to want a report on each one.”

“You know, having to file a report takes a little of the fun right out of the whole thing,” Jessi complained.

Judd laughed again.  “We could probably find a happy medium between two words and an in-depth play-by-play.  Something we’ll work on, okay?”

Jessi laughed, too.  “I like that idea.  And Judd, thanks again for everything today.”

“You’re very welcome,” he answered.  He looked up to see Alex leading Trish and Amanda out of the club.  “Have a good night, Jessi.  We’ll be in touch.”

“You do the same.  Have a great week.”

FOR SPARROW by Pandora Spocks

FOR SPARROW* is available at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ForSparrow

*At the Apple Store, FOR SPARROW is called DREAM DOMINANT BOOK 3.

Weekend Excerpt–FOR SPARROW

When I started writing the Dream Dominant series, my collection of stand-alone novels featuring light BDSM themes, I wanted to do something different. There are tons of billionaire Dominant stories out there, and I love reading them, don’t get me wrong.

But I was more interested in writing about ordinary people who quietly live out a power exchange dynamic in their real, every day lives. There are plenty of couples out there who have discovered their true Dominant or submissive selves and are blessed enough to have found partners who understand them. I know. I’m one of them.

One of the most rewarding moments of my writing career thus far was winning the Golden Flogger Award for Dream Dominant Book 3, FOR SPARROW. It’s meaningful to me that not only did they like the story, they approved of the way I portrayed the lifestyle.

In FOR SPARROW, Jessi Crenshaw is devastated when her husband Graham dies unexpectedly. But he seems to have had an inkling that his health was in decline, because he made provision for Jessi in case something happened to him. Turns out he’s asked his protege in the lifestyle, firefighter paramedic Judd Farris to look after Jessi until she’s on her feet again.

As the pair struggle to navigate their unorthodox platonic Dom/sub relationship in the face of their growing mutual attraction, they each wonder if maybe Graham had something more permanent in mind.

Here’s an excerpt from FOR SPARROW.


Downstairs, Judd was battling his own imagination.  Ducking under the outdoor shower, cold water ran over him, washing away the traces of salt and sand from their surfing adventure, but his thoughts were on Jessi, currently naked and in his shower.  He’d spent the afternoon drinking in the sight of her perfect ass as he held the surfboard for her.  Not like he hadn’t had his hands on it before, but always with the barrier of clothing.   

His misadventure in dating had done nothing to slake his libido which was currently doing a floor show in his swim trunks.  All he wanted was to unleash his inner beast on a woman who could not only take it, but would enjoy it. 

Was it wrong to think of Jessi like that?  Could that possibly be what Graham had had in mind all along?  His thoughts drifted to the last conversation he’d had with his friend.   

“I swear, Judd, I want Jessi with every fiber of my being.  Once I gave her a safe space in the context of a Dom/sub relationship, she bloomed sexually.  She’s so sexy and uninhibited.”  Graham shook his head sadly.  “Truth is, I can’t keep up with her.  Things don’t…work the way they used to.  I’m too old for her.  Always was.  Hell, she was eighteen when we met.  I’m a selfish fool.” 

Turning off the water, Judd sighed deeply, dried quickly with a towel, and headed into the house to prep the fish for the grill. 

He was humming softly as Jessi came downstairs.  He still had on the black board shorts, and he’d pulled on a white t-shirt.  She was wearing the same pink and green Lilly Pulitzer sundress she’d worn to the baby shower, but she’d scrubbed her face clean of makeup, belatedly realizing that she’d forgotten to toss her makeup into her bag, and she’d towel dried her hair as much as possible, leaving her red waves to dry the rest of the way on their own. 

“Hi!  What can I do?” 

Judd turned, started to reply, and stopped, mouth open.  Without makeup, Jessi looked ten years younger.  And he’d never seen her hair when it hadn’t been straightened.  It was drying in sexy waves around her face.   

“You look—“ 

She rolled her eyes.  “I know.  I forgot to pack my makeup.” 

“I was going to say, you look very pretty.  Is your hair naturally wavy?” 

“Yeah,” she blushed, “I usually blow it out straight, but…” 

Judd shook his head.  “I don’t know why you do that.  It’s beautiful the way it is.” 

Jessi blushed a deeper shade of pink and clasped her hands together in front of her.  “Anyway…  What can I do?” 

“Well,” he said, picking up a plate of fish fillets, “I just seasoned the mahi.  Rice pilaf is going on the stove.  If you wanted to throw together a salad?”  He raised his eyebrows. 

She nodded firmly.  “Salad.  I’m on it.” 

They enjoyed dinner on the patio, the sky shifting from the orange and pink Jessi had noticed upstairs to a deep indigo twilight, the stars blinking on over the gentle swells of the ocean.  The teak table was lit with a pair of citronella candles against the odd mosquito, and Judd had built a fire in the pit just off the patio.   

Conversation over their grilled mahi dinner and sauvignon blanc centered on their adventures over the past couple of weeks.  The mood was light and happy, and Judd, for one, was glad for Jessi’s company.  Her face lit up as she recounted her surfing attempts and the pair laughed easily.   

Buddy devoured his bowl of kibble and promptly passed out again.  Judd and Jessi carried their dishes into the house, quickly restoring order to the kitchen.  Jessi glanced at her watch and decided that she should be leaving soon. 

“Do you have to go?” Judd asked, noticing her checking her watch. 

“Oh, you know, I should probably head home.” 

“We haven’t had dessert yet.” 

Jessi chuckled.  “I’m so stuffed from that delicious dinner.  I don’t think I could take another bite.” 

“Come on, Jessi, there’s always room for dessert,” he coaxed.  “Wait til you see.”  Judd opened a cabinet, removed a few items, and placed them on the counter. 

Watching curiously, Jessi had to laugh.  “Chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows.  S’mores?” 

Judd nodded proudly.  “S’mores.  You can’t resist s’mores.  Nobody can.  It’s a known fact.” 

Laughing again, Jessi followed Judd back outside.  “I haven’t had s’mores since…  Well, probably not since that time I took the kids camping.” 

“Then you’re long overdue.  This stuff is left from when my sister and niece were here.”  He took two steel barbecue skewers, placed two marshmallows on the end of one, and handed it to Jessi.   

“One, please.  I just want one marshmallow.” 

He grinned, sliding a single marshmallow onto the other skewer, and they traded.  “Lightweight,” he teased.  “Now, let me show you how it’s done.”  He held the marshmallows a distance away from the flames, allowing them to slowly begin to warm. 

“Careful there, you might accidentally roast those guys,” Jessi jibed.  She poured more wine for him and for herself. 

“Kid if you must,” Judd replied, “but these bad boys are going to be perfection.” 

Jessi sipped her wine, watching as the marshmallows began to slowly expand while remaining pristinely white.  “I have a different method,” she commented. 

“Oh, you do, do you?” 

“Yup.”  She prepared a graham cracker, breaking it into two pieces and placing a square of chocolate on one of them.  “Watch and learn, fire boy.” 

Taking her skewer, she fixed him with an arched eyebrow before plunging her marshmallow directly into the flames.  When she pulled it out again, the round white confection was engulfed in blue flame.  Gently, she blew out the fire to reveal a charred marshmallow. 

“You burned it,” Judd observed. 

“It’s crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside.  Pure perfection.”  She lay the marshmallow on top of the chocolate and used the other graham cracker to slide it off the skewer.   

She waved her hand over the top of her dessert with a triumphant flourish.  “Tah-dah!” 

By this time, Judd’s marshmallows had tripled in size and were just beginning to turn a toasty golden brown.  “See, this is how you make a s’more.” 

Carefully, he carried his marshmallows to the table where Jessi had prepared his graham crackers and chocolate.  He slid the marshmallows off the skewer and pressed the top cracker on, gooey marshmallow running over the sides. 
Judd motioned for Jessi to sit, and he perched on the stool at an angle to her, their knees just brushing under the table.  He lifted his s’more and held it out to her.  “To adventure!” 

Jessi picked up her own dessert and touched it to Judd’s, laughing lightly.  “Adventure.” 

He continued to watch her thoughtfully as she nibbled her s’more.  “Thank you, Jessi, for such a great day.”   

In the candlelight, his eyes flickered and Jessi felt the tingle in her belly.  And lower. 

“It was fun.  It really was,” she murmured, hoping the dim light hid her blush. 

Judd bit into his s’more with gusto, leaving a trail of marshmallow down his chin that dripped onto his shirt.   

Jessi giggled happily.  “I knew that was too much for one s’more.” 

“It was just the right amount,” Judd returned, sweeping the errant goo off his shirt and licking it off his finger.  “The graham cracker just couldn’t hold all the awesomeness.” 

Jessi laughed again, pointing to his chin. 

“What?” 

“You missed a spot.” 

He cocked his head, trying to see his chin.  He aimed his tongue at the corner of his mouth.  “Now?” 

She shook her head and slid off her stool.  “I’ll get it.”  Stepping closer, she swiped her finger up his chin, removing most of the white confection.  Without thinking, she popped her finger into her mouth, but she didn’t miss the heat in his eyes. 

Impulsively, she leaned forward and lapped at the corner of his mouth.  He tasted of chocolate, marshmallow, salt water, and sin.  A low groan emanated from Judd’s chest.  Jessi leaned back to look him in the face. 

“Little one,” he whispered. 

Stepping deliberately closer, she straddled his right knee and leaned in again, planting light kisses where the marshmallow had been. 

Judd placed his hands on her hips and moved her back a bit.  “Are we crossing this line?”  His voice was soft, hopeful. 

Jessi blinked and nodded.  “Yes.  Please.” 

He didn’t wait for further permission.  He wasted no time in claiming her lips, devouring them as he pulled her closer, raising his knee to meet the warm needy place between her thighs.   

Jessi gave herself over completely to his kiss.  She’d craved it for longer than she was willing to admit to herself.  She’d loved Graham.  But Graham was gone.  And he’d given her permission to move on.  It was time she gave herself permission. 

Judd broke off the kiss and stood her back from him, steadying her when she wobbled a bit.  He fixed her with his best Dominant glare.  “You will be kneeling at the foot of my bed in two minutes.  You will be dressed.  I will undress you.” 

Jessi immediately bowed her head.  “Yes, Sir.” 

Watching her scurry into the house, Judd leaned back, interlacing his fingers and placing his hands on the back of his head, and exhaled slowly.  The thing he hadn’t dared hope for was happening.   

He’d known the minute he’d seen Jessi, way back at Graham’s funeral, that he was attracted to her.  The time they’d spent together had only solidified that fact.  But convention and their own agreement had kept him from considering a relationship a possibility.   

Now it seemed they were both on the same page.  He sighed again, thinking of the responsibility of formally being Jessi’s Dominant, and he realized that it was precisely what he wanted. 

He nodded to himself.  “This is right.”  Dousing the candles, he pushed away from the table, checked the dying embers of the fire, and followed Jessi inside. 

FOR SPARROW by Pandora Spocks

One-click award-winning FOR SPARROW today!
mybook.to/ForSparrow

Weekend Excerpt–FOR SPARROW

I’m still beyond grateful that the BDSM Writers’ Con honored Dream Dominant Book 3, FOR SPARROW, with 2018’s Golden Flogger Award for Best BDSM Book in the BDSM Light category. It means so much to me that they not only liked the story, they also approved of the portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle.

In the preface to the book, I talk about the way I write BDSM romance. There are tons of books about billionaire Doms who reveal their brand of Dominance to young, naive submissives. And I love those stories, don’t get me wrong.

But I’m more interested in exploring the lives of real-world people all around us who quietly live the D/s lifestyle and go about their day-to-day business. The deep intimacy involved in a power-exchange relationship is the stuff of romance, and that’s what excites me as a writer. And it’s what you’ll get when you read any of my Dream Dominant books.

Here’s a little snippet from FOR SPARROW.

Judd Farris scanned the room uncomfortably.  He didn’t belong here, not really.  The truth was, he had been friends with Graham Crenshaw.  Good friends.  But Graham was his only connection to this gathering, and Graham was dead. 

Judd had attended the funeral at the church, and then the burial out at the cemetery.  There’d been no need to follow up with the gathering at the Crenshaw home.  But he’d been asked for a favor, and he hadn’t yet completed it.  There hadn’t been opportunity at either the funeral or the burial.  Maybe he could find a moment here.

He took a glass of wine from a buffet table in the dining room simply to have something to do with his hands, then made his way to a vacant spot by the wall in the living room.  His position on the edge of the crowd afforded him a perfect place from which to people-watch.

He’d spotted Jessi in her simple black dress from the moment he’d entered the house.  She was hard to miss with her bright auburn hair, her air of tragedy.  Of course, he’d seen her at the other two places as well, but not up close.  There were dark circles under her green eyes, and she looked thin and drawn, not unexpected under the circumstances.  But she was pretty, too, in an unassuming kind of way.

Take care of Jessi for me. 

Graham’s words echoed through his mind.  He’d met Graham a few years earlier, and they’d struck up an odd friendship.  Graham was a good twenty years Judd’s senior.  Maybe that was why they’d clicked.  Judd had looked to Graham as a mentor, and the two had met for coffee about once a month.  The last time they’d gotten together, nearly three weeks earlier, the older man had seemed preoccupied. 

If something should happen to me, please take care of Jessi for me.  She’ll be lost at first.  

At the time, Judd had noticed that Graham seemed to have lost a little weight, and he was perhaps a bit pale.  Judd had promised that in the unlikely event something should happen, of course he’d be honored to look after Jessi, see that she got her feet under her.  Before they parted that last time, Graham had given him two envelopes.  One was labeled with Judd’s name.  On the other one, he’d written For Sparrow

Open yours if something happens to me.  The other one, you should give to Jessi.  You’ll know when the time is right.

She’s young for a widow, he mused.  Graham had said she was, what, forty-five?  That made her five years older than Judd, he calculated for no reason in particular.  He watched as she hugged her son and daughter.  They seemed close.  Graham had spoken proudly of Adam and Cara, both out on their own and doing well.  He knew Jessi was glad to have them here.  They’d eventually have to go back to their own lives, though. 

He imagined he could feel Jessi’s envelope in the inside pocket of his suit jacket.  He’d opened his immediately when he’d heard the news of Graham’s death.  He’d read it over and over until he knew it by heart. 

Dear Judd,
If you’re reading this, I must be gone.  Dammit, I didn’t mean to leave this soon.  It shocks the hell out of me, really.  I want you to know that I appreciate your friendship.  You’re a good man, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.  Hopefully I’ve been able to pass along some things I learned the hard way. 

I respect you as a man and as a Dominant.  I know that you’ve worked hard to be the best of both that you can be.  That’s why I’m tapping you to be the one to look after my Sparrow for me.  Jessi is a smart, strong woman, but she’s a born submissive, and although I know she’ll be stubborn, she needs a Dominant to take her in hand, at least until she finds someone.  I can’t bear to think of her falling prey to some of those psycho ass-wipes out there posing as Dominants. 

The letter to her explains some of my thinking on this subject.  That and a few other things.  I’ll trust you to give it to her when the time is right. 
The other part of this letter is a to-do list of sorts, things that will need to be done around the house.  Things Jessi will never ask anyone to do, because like I said, she’s stubborn.  I’m also giving you the number to an account that I’ve set up to cover the expenses of these projects.  Please don’t use your own money to fix up the house.  I’d be awfully pissed off if you did. 

I appreciate you, Judd.  I hope that somehow some of the things we talked about will help you as you make your way in the world.  I hope that one day you find your own Sparrow, and that she makes you as happy as Jessi has made me.  You deserve every happiness.

So long, pal.  See you on the other side.
G.

The clatter of something dropped in the kitchen brought his thoughts back to the present.  He watched the new widow as people buzzed around her, pausing to murmur some heartfelt platitude before buzzing off again.  God, people said some stupid shit when they didn’t know what to say.

Judd saw a large woman in an ill-fitting black pantsuit lean over Jessi.  He’s in a better place?  What the fuck kind of thing is that to say?  Jessi was facing his direction, and he watched her eyes widen with disgust.  She simply excused herself and pushed past the ignoramus, retreating into the kitchen.

Thinking that this might be his chance, Judd set down his glass and followed her.  He made it into the kitchen in time to see her disappear through the back door.  He continued to follow her, but hesitated just outside.  Jessi crossed the pool deck and perched on the far side of the spa.  He watched her hunch over, and he realized that she was crying. 

Shit!  I’ll know when the time is right?  I sure as hell know when the time is wrong.

He waited a few minutes longer before beginning to slowly walk towards her.  His loafer scraped on an uneven paver, and she immediately sat up and looked his way. 

“I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to bother you,” he offered.

“I just needed some air.”  She wiped at her face, and seemed to be trying to hide the fact that she’d been crying.  As if someone would judge her for mourning.  “I buried my husband today.  That’s the first time I said that out loud.”  There was a haunted look in her eyes.

He felt his heart melting in his chest.  “I’ll leave you alone.  I just wanted to say,” he cleared his throat, “that Graham was a good man.  He was my friend and I’ll miss him.”

She smiled sadly.  “He’d be so please that you came.  Did you work with Graham?”

This is so not the right time to get into all that.  “No.  We were friends.  I’m Judd, by the way.”

She seemed to take in what he was saying, but he noticed that she didn’t introduce herself.  He decided to push forward.  “I thought maybe I would come back on Saturday, maybe help you with the lawn,” he said.

She gave a vague answer, and he felt that he’d done enough for one day.  “Alright, Jessi,” he said.  “Take care, now.”

–FOR SPARROW, Dream Dominant Book 3

One-click your copy of FOR SPARROW today!

FOR SPARROW–2018 Golden Flogger Award WINNER for Best BDSM Book (BDSM Light)

I’m thrilled that the third Dream Dominant book, FOR SPARROW, was selected for this honor!  The Golden Flogger is awarded every year by the BDSM Writers Con, which is why it means so much.  They not only like the story, they approve of the way the book portrays the BDSM lifestyle.

FOR SPARROW is near and dear to my heart–it’s set here in Palm Beach County, my home for the past 25 years.  Throughout the story, I take the characters to some of my favorite places.

As a teaser, here’s the first chapter…

I buried my husband today.

The thought tumbled through Jessi’s mind over and over, like clothes in a dryer.  Voices around her sounded oddly muted, as though she were underwater.  Occasionally, someone touched her, a simple grasping of her hand, a gentle pat on her shoulder, and the sensation felt like burning embers showering down over her.

Following the graveside service, mourners had gathered at her home.  Hers and Graham’s.

Only Graham isn’t here.  We left him at the cemetery.  I buried my husband today.

Food had appeared in her kitchen.  Casseroles, desserts, salads.  There was even a brisket.  An army of women had set up a command post and were making sure guests had plenty to eat and drink.  Jessi wondered briefly if there was enough ice for the drinks.  Maybe she should ask Graham run to out and get some more.

I buried my husband today.

Since that day, her phone hadn’t stopped ringing.  Friends and neighbors hadn’t stopped calling and dropping by.  “How are you?”  “What can we do?”  “What do you need?”

Her business partner, Sarah Reid, had been her rock, taking over the events they had scheduled for the week, returning calls Jessi didn’t have the strength to deal with.

“You take all the time you need, hon,” Sarah had told her.  “We’ve got it under control.”

Since that day.

“Sparrow, I need to get the oil changed in my car.  Why don’t you drive to the mechanic’s and I’ll meet you there?  I’ll drop you at your office, and then we can do the reverse this afternoon.”

Jessi had waited at the mechanic’s shop.  After an hour had passed, she’d tried his phone.  A stranger had answered.

“This is Officer Brooks.  The owner of this phone has been in an accident.  Are you the wife of Graham Crenshaw?”

A police car had picked her up and driven her to the hospital.  “I’m sorry, Mrs. Crenshaw.  It appears your husband suffered a fatal heart attack behind the wheel of his car.  When the car hit the utility pole, he was most likely already deceased.”  The doctor had had an air of resigned sympathy.  Jessi had wondered how many people he pronounced dead on an average day.

Sarah had met her at the hospital and had driven her home.  Jessi wasn’t sure how her own car had gotten back to the house.  She’d somehow made the calls to Cara and Adam.  “Something has happened.  Your dad died.”

Cara, age twenty-three, had made her excuses at her job with the Weather Channel, and had taken the first available flight from Atlanta to West Palm Beach.  Adam, age twenty-one, had driven from Orlando where he worked as a video game animator.

Jessi and the kids had gone to the funeral home the following day to see to burial arrangements.  The funeral director had neatly folded his hands on top of his huge mahogany desk and smiled kindly.

“Mrs. Crenshaw, your husband has everything prearranged.  You don’t need to worry about a thing, it’s all taken care of.  He has requested that he be buried in a navy suit, with a white shirt and a blue and red paisley tie.  Do you know the things he means?”

Jessi had nodded dumbly.  What he’d described was her favorite suit of Graham’s.  He always looked so handsome, and he’d worn it when they’d celebrated their anniversary a few months back.

He had it all planned out.  But when?  Did he do it after the heart attack a few years ago?  Why didn’t he mention it?

“We’re just so sorry for your loss.”  The statement shook Jessi from her thoughts, returning her to the morbid gathering in her living room.  It was a neighbor couple from down the street.

“Thank you,” she murmured, not meeting their eyes.  She sipped her wine to have something to do, and wandered into the kitchen.

“Hey, hon, how are you holding up?” Sarah asked.

Jessi shrugged and gave a weak smile.  “I’m okay.”

“Can we get you something to eat?”

Jessi shook her head and headed back to the living room.

I buried my husband today.

“Jessica.  I was just chatting with your lovely daughter and son,” said Rev. Lyman.  “Graham was a good man, taken before his time.”  He looked at Jessi with slight reproof.  “I hope we’ll be seeing you and your family on Sunday.”

“Maybe, Reverend,” Jessi replied softly.  “If you’ll excuse me and my children.”

“Of course.  Family has to pull together at a time like this.”

They watched him work his way across the room.  “I’m not lovely?” quipped Adam.

Jessi smiled at her son.  “You’re lovely to me.  And you’re welcome for getting the good reverend to move along.”

“Do you love the way Rev. Lyman tried to get in a plug for going to church?” commented Cara.

“My personal relationship with God is exactly that.  Personal,” replied Jessi.  “How are you two doing?”

“It’s hard,” said Adam, his voice breaking.

“I know.  You don’t have to stay for all of this.  I have no idea when people will decide to leave.”

“I’m here until Friday,” Cara said.  “I don’t want to leave you alone to deal.”

Jessi kissed her cheek and then Adam’s.  “Thank you both.  I love you so much.  Your dad loved you, too.”  She felt tears forming again.  She felt as though she’d cried out her very soul, and yet tears were always near.

Cara’s here until Friday.  What day is it again?

Cara and Adam moved out to find their friends.  Jessi turned to look for a place to sit.  She was so weary.  She was stopped by a woman she vaguely recognized.

“Jessica, I’m Harriet.  From church?”

“Oh, yes, Harriet.  It was good of you to come.”

“Sweetie, I just want to remind you that Graham is in a better place.”  She beamed at Jessi, as though her words bestowed onto the new widow some sort of miracle.

Jessi felt a twitch begin at the outer corner of her left eye.  If I don’t get out of here right now, I’m going to scream.

“If you’ll excuse me, please,” she murmured, pushing past the woman.  She hurried through the kitchen, ignoring Sarah as she called to her, and slipped out the back door.

The lanai and pool deck were blissfully quiet in the early evening twilight.  The sun had set and the lights had come on automatically.  She crossed to the far side of the pool, and sat on the raised edge of the spa with her back to the house.  Finally alone, she leaned forward with her elbows on her thighs and let the tears flow.

She’d only been there a few minutes when she heard a sound, the soft scuff of a leather shoe against the brick pavers.  She sat up abruptly and whirled around.

“I’m so sorry.  I don’t mean to bother you.”  The man was tall and muscular, his dark hair in short waves framing a handsome face, his dark suit cut slim.  Large brown eyes were soft and sympathetic.

Jessi sniffed and stood, swiping at the tears on her cheeks.  “I just needed some air.  I buried my husband today.”  She looked up at him, shocked.  “That’s the first time I said that out loud.”

He smiled kindly.  “I’ll leave you alone.  I just wanted to say that Graham was a good man.  He was my friend and I’ll miss him.”

“Thank you.  Did you work with him?”

“No.  We were friends.  I’m Judd, by the way.”

Jessi nodded.  “Thank you for coming, Judd.  I’m sure he would have appreciated it.”  She began walking back towards the house.  Judd fell into step beside her.

“I thought maybe I would come back on Saturday, maybe help you with the lawn,” he said.

Jessi was only half-listening, wondering if Harriet had gotten the hell out of her house yet.  “Mm-hmm,” she murmured.

“Alright, Jessi,” he said.  “Take care, now.”

She nodded and went to find her children.

FOR SPARROW is available in both digital and paperback
at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ForSparrow

Weekend Excerpt–FOR SPARROW Has Big News!

This week brought great news for Dream Dominant Book 3, FOR SPARROW.
It’ s been named a 2018 Golden Flogger Award FINALIST for Best BDSM Book in the BDSM Light category!

I’m so excited!  This book is special to me in several ways.  The story grew out of a ‘wonder’ I had about two dear subbie friends of mine.  And it’s set in my home, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’ve infused it with some of my favorite places.

In a nutshell, Dominant firefighter paramedic Judd  Farris made a promise to his dying friend and he’s going to keep it.
He’ll be there for recent widow Jessi Crenshaw, at least until she finds a new Dom of her own.
But a platonic D/s relationship is a damn odd arrangement.
Could it be that maybe his friend had something more permanent in mind?

Here’s a little snippet from FOR SPARROW.

Jessi sat gazing out across the moonlit water to the red lighthouse on the opposite side of the inlet.  In the cool evening breeze, she was almost cold in her casual pink and orange sundress.  She thought about the ride from her house, unable to recall the last time she’d ridden alone with a man other than Graham.  The uncomfortable feeling had returned, and she’d chided herself mentally.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, grow up!  We’re going out because obviously, there’s nothing in the house to eat.

She’d been surprised when Judd played country music on the truck’s radio, although she couldn’t figure why that had been surprising.  She knew nothing about the man and his taste, in music, or anything else for that matter.

When they’d pulled up in front of the Square Grouper, she’d also been surprised.  It was not the kind of place Graham had liked, he’d been more a fan of quiet and sedate restaurants.  Places that were actually indoors, unlike this bar with sand for a floor and palm trees for a roof.

She found she rather liked it.  Looking back, she realized that she and Graham had rarely ever gone out to a bar.  Occasionally for girls’ night out, she and Sarah and a few of their friends met for cocktails at the bar of the local Cheesecake Factory, but that was usually just a preamble to going to the movies.

The bar had been noisy and crowded when they’d entered, and she’d stiffened apprehensively, unsure of where to go.  Judd seemed to have noticed, and he’d placed a hand gently on the small of her back, guiding her through the crowd to the table by the water where she now sat.

Judd seemed to be well-known among the crowd there, several times his name was called out raucously.  “Yo, Judd!”  He’d laughed and returned the greetings.

“Here you go, Jessi.  I’ll go get us some beers and order a couple of burgers.”  And he’d left her to ignore the crowd in favor of the tranquility of the full moon on the water, the rotating beam at the top of the lighthouse, the occasional boat that passed by.

“I’m back,” he said, handing her a bottle of Blue Moon and sitting beside her with his own.  “The burgers will be out in a while.”  He took a pull on his beer and sighed.  “This is one of my favorite places to sit and relax.”  Glancing at her, he frowned a bit.  “Are you alright?  I mean, is this place okay?”

Jessi nodded.  “It’s nice.  I’ve never been here before.”  She looked back towards the bar as the laughter peaked again.  “They seem to know you.”

He grinned.  “Yeah, I’m here quite a bit.  I hate to cook for myself.”

She watched him thoughtfully for a moment.  “You aren’t married, then?”

Sipping his beer again, he shook his head.  “Nope.  I was for a while a few years back but it didn’t work out.”

“I’m sorry.  That’s sad, I think.”

“Sometimes people just grow in different directions,” he said with a shrug.

Jessi felt awkward, like she should be more sympathetic but she didn’t know what to say.  Thankfully, their food arrived, large cheeseburgers with what looked to be homemade French fries.  For the next few minutes they concentrated on eating.

Judd groaned appreciatively.  “This place has the best burgers in town.”

“It’s really good,” Jessi agreed, although she barely picked at her plate.

He looked thoughtful as he dipped a fry in ketchup.  “Tell me about your business,” Judd prompted.

She looked up, surprised.  “Oh, well, it’s event planning.  You know, weddings, parties, fund raisers, that kind of thing.  About four years ago, my friend Sarah and I got tired of teaching and decided to take the plunge.”

Judd grinned.  “You were a teacher?”

“Ninth grade English.  I did it for a long time, but I was ready for a change.”

“How is your business doing?”

Jessi smiled a little.  “Pretty well, actually.  We average about three events a week.  Matter of fact we have a big party tomorrow night.  I’ll probably spend most of the day taking care of last minute details.”

He nodded.  “You said that Friday worked out better this week.  I’ll be working tomorrow, too.”

“Have you always been a paramedic?” she asked.

“After I graduated from Florida State, I started out as a firefighter,” he said.  He laughed at her automatic grimace.  “Don’t tell me, you’re a Florida graduate.”

Jessi laughed lightly.  “Go, Gators!”

He chuckled with her.  “Anyway, after a few years I went to EMT school, and then later I completed my paramedic training.”

“Does being a paramedic keep you safer than being a firefighter?”  Her brow furrowed with worry.

Judd smiled.  “I suppose.  I don’t run into many burning buildings anymore.  We wait for the guys to bring victims out of the fires.  And we respond to heart attacks, injuries, car accidents, that kind of thing.”

He watched Jessi’s eyes widen.  “No,” he shook his head.  “I didn’t get the call for Graham’s accident.  I was off that day.”

“How did you know…“

“Jessi, your eyes show everything you’re thinking,” he said gently.  “It’s the damnedest thing I ever saw.”

Jessi immediately looked down at her plate, concerned about what else her eyes might give away.  Judd went back to eating and she picked at her burger some more.  Looking back up, she spoke again.  “How did you know Graham?”

Judd looked back up at Jessi, swallowed his bite of burger, and cleared his throat.  “I followed his blog for quite a while.”  Jessi blinked, trying to make the leap from following a blog to being friends.

He sighed, wiping his mouth and setting down his napkin.  “I told you my marriage ended because we wanted different things in life.  As things started going south, I realized that one problem was that both of us wanted to be in control.  And it didn’t work.  There was no yin to the yang, you know?”

Jessi nodded, frowning.

“I started looking online for anything that could help, some kind of advice to help me save my marriage.  The more I looked, the more I realized that in my core self, I’m Dominant.”

Judd paused to let that sink in.  Jessi was listening raptly.  “I found a few websites about being Dominant, you know the kind of thing, ‘do this’, ‘don’t do that’.  When I started going out again after the divorce, I tried some things, some really stupid things.  I made a few dates through FetLife and they were disastrous.”  He shook his head, half smiling.  “Graham’s writing was a revelation.  I thought, here’s a guy who knows what it is to be Dominant, to lead a submissive in the right way.”

She still didn’t say anything so he pushed on.  “I became something of a stalker,” he laughed, “reading every article, digging through his archives…  I commented on his posts and asked questions, and he was always nice, he always took the time to answer me.”  Judd took a break, nibbling on a handful of fries.  Jessi sipped her beer and waited.

“When I realized he was local, I worked up the nerve to ask him to meet me for coffee, and he agreed.  We met at Howley’s, and we talked for hours.”

“Howley’s,” Jessi repeated.

Judd grinned wryly.  “Cooked in sight…”

“Must be right,” she finished, smiling sadly.

He nodded.  “We met about once a month after that.  He was my mentor, but he was also my friend.”

“He never told me this.  I never knew that he was meeting someone, mentoring someone.”  Jessi gazed out over the water.

“That last time,” Judd began, “he was preoccupied.  He kept talking about what would happen to you when he was gone.”

“Why?” Jessi quietly pleaded.  “Why did he think something was going to happen?  Why didn’t he tell me if he thought something was wrong?”

Judd shook his head.  “I don’t know.  I think maybe he was feeling like something was off, and he didn’t want to worry you.”  He looked at Jessi and sighed.  “Graham asked me to promise I’d look out for you, make sure you were alright.  Those things I work on at your house?”  Jessi nodded.  “Before we left Howley’s that day, he handed me an envelope with my name on it, said in the event something happened to him, I should open it.”

“It was a list of chores around my house?” Jessi asked.  Judd nodded solemnly.

Jessi frowned.  “Was the dog on that list?”

Judd laughed.  “Yes.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to make that happen.”

He looked down for a moment.  “The list was the second page.  The first page was a letter outlining how he wanted me to make sure that you were okay.  He worried about you, Jessi.”

She looked away and swiped at a lone tear with the heel of her hand.  “I just don’t understand,” she said quietly.

“There’s more, Jessi.” She looked back at him expectantly.  “Graham gave me two envelopes that day.  The one for me…and one for you.”

Jessi’s eyes widened.  “You mean you’ve had—“

Judd put up a hand to stop her.  “He told me to give it to you when the time was right.  Jessi, I had it in the pocket of my jacket on the day of the funeral.  But you were surrounded by assholes saying really stupid things, and you looked like you’d been hit by a bus, and it didn’t seem like the right time to give it to you.  I’ve had it in my truck every time I’ve come by.”

He placed his hand over hers.  “I think it’s the right time tonight.  I’ll give it to you when we get back to your house.”

The drive back to Jessi’s was accented by tense silence.  Judd watched out of the corner of his eye as Jessi wrung her hands together anxiously, her face tight.  When they pulled into the driveway, she unbuckled her seatbelt.

“Hang on a second,” he told her.  “I’ll get your door.”

*****

Standing at the kitchen island, he handed her an envelope.  Her heart ached at the sight of Graham’s familiar left-handed scrawl across the face of the envelope.

For Sparrow.

Jessi’s eyes filled with tears.

Judd spoke softly.  “I’ll be out back when you’re finished, and we can talk about it if you like.”  He squeezed her shoulder gently.  “Come on, Buddy.  Let’s go outside.”  Happily, the puppy followed Judd out the back door.

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