Weekend Excerpt–Just One Night

Just One Night 2Just One Night is my new naughty little summer novella and it went live on Tuesday.  It’s the story of sassy red-head Katie Parker, a teacher on her summer vacation.

She and her best girlfriends head to Tampa for their annual get-together, a Caribbean cruise.  Just off a bad break-up, she’s looking to meet a man for a one-night fling.

On the ship, she meets handsome and sexy Mac Coleman, a man who knows a thing or two about bad relationships.  He’s surprised by her straight-forward proposition, but he’s captivated by her beauty and intrigued by her spunky attitude.

At her request, they don’t share personal information.  They don’t even exchange names.  Will either of them be satisfied with just one night?

Just so you know, this is a naughty excerpt.  You’ve been warned…

As her body shuddered in release, he gave in as well, reveling in his second climax in the span of about half an hour.  Slowly spiraling downward, they gasped trying to catch their breath as Mac gently lowered both of them onto the bed, pulling Katie close and spooning her in his embrace.

“That was…” she panted.

She could feel the chuckle in his chest.  “Yes, it was.”  He lightly kissed her temple.  “Would you like some more wine?”

Dressed in fluffy white bathrobes emblazoned with the crest of the cruise line, Mac and Katie took their glasses out onto the veranda.  The full moon was setting on the horizon as a light tropical breeze ruffled their hair.

Mac watched her thoughtfully.  “This is revenge sex, isn’t it?  Somebody did you wrong.”

Katie returned his gaze but said nothing.

“I don’t mean to pry.  I know you said no personal information.  But you don’t strike me as the kind of woman who does this kind of thing all the time.”

She sighed.  “I don’t.  Like I said, this is a ‘one night only’ event.  Besides,” she looked away, “he wouldn’t care anyway.”

“Then he’s a damn fool.”

Katie laughed humorlessly.  “Be that as it may…”

Mac gazed out over the water.  “I haven’t had the best luck myself.  My last relationship ended in a restraining order.”  Katie looked at him sharply.  “I mean, I had to take out a restraining order after I broke up with her and she started stalking me.  I’m moving to get away from her.”

Unable to resist, Katie blurted her question.  “You’re moving to get away from a woman?”

“Well, it’s also a good opportunity.  A promotion and a raise and all.  But mostly, I don’t want to have to deal with her anymore.  A new town, a new job…all waiting for me when I get back.”

Katie sipped her wine thoughtfully.  “I suppose all in all, it worked out for you.

“I suppose.”  They stood in companionable silence, appreciating the soft Caribbean breeze caressing their faces and the quiet rumble of the ship’s engines tickling their feet.

Mac turned to Katie.  “I’m wondering if there’s any chance of us getting together tomorrow night.”

She smiled sadly.  “That would be breaking the rules.  Just one night, remember?”

“You sort of have this school teacher thing about rules, don’t you?”

Again, Katie looked at him sharply and didn’t respond.

Mac reached to grasp a lock of her red hair and twisted it around his finger.  “Well, seeing as how we have just this one night, I’d like very much to take you back to bed and make love to you one more time.”

Back inside the cabin, he gently helped her off with her robe and into bed, before dropping his own and climbing in beside her.  Head propped on one elbow, he gazed down at her, lightly tracing his finger along her body.  “You’re so pretty,” he murmured, leaning down to capture her lips with his own.  Katie responded, wrapping her arms around his broad shoulders, kissing him passionately.

In contrast to their earlier frenzied and frenetic fucking, this time was unhurried and deliberate.  Mac placed himself between her legs, nudging them further apart with his own, and he held himself over her.  Katie gripped his shoulders as he slid himself home, fresh condom in place, and began pumping himself slowly in and out of her battered sex.  The pair kept their eyes locked on each other as once again, their moments built, Katie raising her knees to allow him to penetrate her as deeply as possible.  She shattered as she came this time, crying out unintelligibly and he followed after her, pausing to plant a chaste kiss on her lips before collapsing on the bed beside her.

Mac wrapped his arm around her and Katie rested her head on his broad chest, toying lightly with the smattering of hair there.  He gently brushed his lips against her temple.  “So what are you doing tomorrow in the Caymans?  Today in the Caymans?”  He glanced at the bedside clock.

Katie raised her head and gave him a cautious look.

He rolled his eyes.  “I didn’t mean…  I just meant…”  He sighed.  “My brothers and I are scuba diving.  I just wondered if you were diving, too.”

She rested her chin on his chest and shook her head.  “I’ve always wanted to dive but I’ve never gotten certified.”

“You should.  You’d love it.”

She watched him for a moment and sighed.  “We’re going to Stingray City.  Jayma’s pick.  I think it sounds touristy.  Like we might as well wear fanny packs and dark socks with sandals.  Put streaks of zinc oxide on our noses.”

Mac chuckled.  “It’s not so bad.  And the stingrays are cool.”

“So you’ve been there before.”

This time Mac smiled enigmatically and didn’t answer.  Katie grinned ruefully.  “Touché.”  She gently pressed her lips to his chest.  The light hair tickled her nose.

Looking back up at him, she sighed again.  “I should probably be going.”

“You could stay.  Sleep here.”  His eyes were hopeful.

Katie shook her head sadly.  “No, I should go.”

She retrieved her dress and stepped into it, sliding the straps over her shoulders.  She picked up the remnants of the black lace panties and dropped them in the trash.

“Sorry about the panties,” he said, grinning.

“I’m not.”  She matched his grin.

Mac reached for his robe and stopped.  “I’ll walk you to your cabin.  Just let me get dressed.”

“No, that’s okay, I’ve got it.”

Reluctantly, he walked her to the door, shrugging into the robe and tying the belt as he did.

Katie paused, her hand on the door handle.  “Tonight was…amazing.  Just what I needed.  Thank you.”

“Amazing.  And then some.  It was my pleasure.”  Mac leaned down to kiss her gently.

“Well,” she paused in the doorway, “good night.”

She headed down the passageway and stopped, turning.  “Hey, you!”

Mac grinned broadly.  “What?”

Katie looked faintly alarmed.  “Be careful.  Diving, I mean.  Please be careful.”

He smiled confidently.  “Always.  Good night, beautiful.”

Just One Night is available exclusively on Amazon.  It’s even FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

 

Invisible–Just One Chapter

Ever get something stuck in your mind and you just can’t let go of it?  This is a chapter from a story I haven’t written yet.  Just thought I’d try putting it down.  Maybe now I can go on with what I’m actually working on and come back to this later.


Henry sat across the table watching her devour his hamburger and fries.  When he’d asked, she’d said she wasn’t hungry, but when his food arrived, she hadn’t been able to take her eyes off of it.

The impromptu meal started when he’d asked if he could buy her a coffee.  It seemed a small thing, seeing how she’d rescued him from an embarrassing predicament.  He never should have tried to go after Joanne.  He’d been a fool.  She hadn’t just now decided to break up with him, it had been brewing for a while.

He’d found himself trapped in the door of her building, the sleeve of his overcoat caught when it slammed shut.  He’d pulled and tugged, kicking at the door, but to no avail.  He couldn’t even manage to take the damn thing off and the driving rain was soaking him anyway.

That’s when she’d appeared.  “Are you stuck?” she’d called to him up the steps.

“No, I enjoy standing in the rain!” he’d fired back.

She’d shaken her head and bounded up the steps, pulling her soaked black fleece hoodie tighter around herself.  “No reason to be an asshole,” she muttered.  She began pressing all of the buttons beside the door.  “Let me in!  It’s rainin’ out here!”  The door buzzed and he was free.  She gave an exaggerated bow and hurried down the steps, stopping under the awning of the building next door.

Sheepishly, Henry followed, standing beside her under the awning.  She glanced down at him then resumed looking out at the rain.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t mean to be an asshole.”  She continued staring toward the street.  “Can I buy you a coffee?  My way of saying thanks.”

She looked back at him again seeming to think for a moment.  Finally she sighed.  “I guess I’m not goin’ anywhere until it stops rainin’ anyways,” she said.  That was when he noticed her drawl.  She certainly wasn’t from around here.

She must be homeless, he guessed.  He figured her to be in her early twenties, twenty-three tops.  She was pretty, too, as far as he could tell.  Her long wet hair was plastered to her head, but it seemed to be brown.  She had huge blue eyes that were watchful, flitting all around the room as she ate.  He’d never seen a woman eat like that.  And she was skinny, too.  “I’m Henry, by the way,” he told her.

She paused, french fry halfway to her mouth.  “I’m Shelby.”  She chewed thoughtfully and swallowed.  “What were you doing stuck in that door, Henry?”

He looked down at his hands.  “Acting like a fool, I suppose.”

She smiled knowingly.  “It was a girl,” she said definitely.  Henry declined to answer.  “So what do you do, Henry?”

“I’m a professor of English Literature at Columbia,” he answered.

Shelby’s already large eyes grew bigger.  “No shit?” she said softly, and she laughed to herself.

Henry felt his temper rising.  Having been born with dwarfism, he’d faced ridicule all his life.  “What, is it so unbelievable that someone like me could be a university professor?” he demanded.

Shelby stopped laughing.  “That’s a hell of a chip on your shoulder, there.  A chip that big ought to have its own name.”  She shook her head.  “What I meant was, who would have thought that someone like me would ever meet a professor, let alone sit and have dinner with him?”

“What do you mean, someone like you?” he asked, realizing that he owed her another apology.

She shrugged.  “I’m not very smart,” she said simply.  “I never even finished the eighth grade.  I don’t even know anybody who went to college, let alone anybody who teaches there.”

Henry let that thought sink in.  I’m not very smart.  “Where are you from, Shelby?”

She shook her head, grinning.  “You never heard of it.”

“Try me.”

“I’m from Pine Grove, West Virginia,” she said, watching him carefully.

Henry smiled slowly.  “You’re right, I never heard of it.”

She laughed.  “Count yourself lucky, then.  It’s smack in the middle of nowhere.  Everybody there works in the Hastings plant, processing natural gas.  They actually have red lights to stop the cars about a mile away from the plant, just in case the shit hits the fan.”

Henry nodded.  “Is that why you left?  You didn’t want to work in the plant?”

Shelby looked him dead in the eye.  “I left in the middle of eighth grade because I was tired of getting fucked by my mama’s boyfriends.”  She paused.  “I figured if I was going to be doing it anyway, I might as well be getting paid for it.”

Henry’s eyes widened.  “You’re a…” he stopped.

She narrowed her eyes.  “Now who’s judging?” she asked.

Henry backpedaled.  “No, I mean, I just…”

“I don’t do that anymore.  I quit three years ago.  I have a new gig,” she said.  “I take pictures.”  Henry noticed that she pronounced it pitchers.  “I have a friend who sells postcards and shit to the tourists.  He sells my postcards and splits the profits with me.”

“Really?” Henry said thoughtfully.

“I have a nice camera,” she said, for the first time opening up her jacket to reveal a small camera bag.  She placed it on the table, opening it carefully.  “It’s mine, I bought it at a pawn shop,” she said, slightly defensively.

Henry looked over the camera appreciatively before handing it back to her.  “It’s very nice,” he said.

“That’s why I came uptown.  Somebody told me that I’d like to take pictures at Columbia.  Said there’s cool buildings there.  I was pissed off and not thinkin’ straight.  It was dark by the time I got here.  Plus I didn’t know it was going to rain.  I wasted a whole damn trip for nothing.”

“Where do you live?” Henry wondered.

Shelby rolled her eyes.  “Long story,” she said, “but when I’m in between places, I usually stay at Grand Central.”  He thought of the train station.  “It’s pretty clean, and you can leave your stuff in a locker for two weeks before you have to move it.  There’s a guy who lets me clear tables for a few dollars.  Plus, you can eat what people leave on the trays.  You wouldn’t believe how much food people just waste.”

Henry listened, astounded.  He’d never known a moment when he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from.  “So you came uptown to take pictures at the university?”

“Yeah,” she said around another mouthful.  “Kind of stupid, I guess.  It was too late to begin with and then when I came out of the subway the bottom just fell out of the sky.”

“So are you going to go back to Grand Central?” he probed.

Shelby shrugged.  “I guess so.  I’d better hurry, though.  The good places get taken early.”

Henry sat back in his seat, picturing Shelby stalking through the train station dripping wet, trying to find a good place to settle down for the night.  His own words surprised him.  “You could stay with me for the night.  I’ll take you to the university in the morning, give you a tour.”

Shelby’s eyes narrowed.  “I don’t fuck for a place to sleep.”

Henry blushed furiously.  “God, no!  That’s not what I meant at all,” he stammered.  “I just thought, you’re all the way here, you’re soaked, it’ll take you, what, another hour to get back to Grand Central.  What if you can’t find a place?”  He cleared his throat.  “I’m just saying you could stay on my couch, go with me to work tomorrow.  You can get your pictures and get back at a reasonable time.”

Shelby popped the last bite of hamburger into her mouth, gazing steadily at Henry.  “Okay,” she finally said.

Another Great Indie Author

I want to tell you about a great author I’m really enjoying.  Amber Lea Easton writes spicy adventure fiction featuring strong female leads and hot romantic action.

The first of her books that I read was Anonymity, the first in her Wanderlust Series.  I absolutely loved this story!  The plot was somewhat predictable, but don’t say it like its a bad thing.  Alyssa McNeil, recently jilted by her cheating ex-fiance, decides to start working on her bucket list by booking a solo trip to Belize.  There, she meets the handsome and mysterious Luke, and decides he fits the bill for her anonymous romantic fling.  Pretty soon they each find themselves breaking their self-imposed rules for a no-strings-attached relationship.  The setting is romantic, the characters are intriguing, and I found myself pulling for a ‘love conquers all’ ending.  I can enthusiastically recommend Anonymity by Amber Lea Easton.

Anonymity gets 5 out of 5 plugs.  Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.

25460271

I had to immediately download the second Wanderlust book, Proximity.  I loved this book.  It follows the further adventures of Savannah Willis and Bill Evans, characters we met in the first book in the series, Anonymity.

In Proximity, Savannah and Bill head off to the jungles of Costa Rica along with the other members of their dive club to do some cave diving. The action is exciting and the sexual tension is…well…hot. Will Savannah realize that she’s always been in love with the man she considers her best friend or will she lose him forever?

Proximity gets 5 of 5 plugs.  Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.Crystal Premium Glass: Anal Plug (Medium/Purple) 3" (80mm) 100% Hygienically superior borosilicate glass.

Amber Lea Easton is releasing book three of the Wanderlust Series, Duplicity, on July 11, 2015. Who has two thumbs and is pre-ordering that book right now? This girl!  Any questions?  Um-hmm, I thought not.

Big News For Luke & Bella

New cover for Luke & Bella Part 1(1)Drumroll please!  I’m beyond thrilled to announce that my first novel Luke & Bella: Two Streets Over is available for purchase from Amazon.com.

If you’ve followed along on this blog, are a fan of spicy romantic fiction, or are simply a supporter of Indie Authors, use this link to get your own copy.  I’d be forever grateful if you leave a review, good, bad, or indifferent, with Amazon.

If you know someone who would enjoy a good summer read, please reblog or pass along the information.

Thanks so much for your support!

Coming soon: Rannigan’s Redemption: Part 1, Season of Hope

Experiment–Just One Chapter

Ever get something stuck in your mind and you just can’t let go of it?  This is a chapter from a story I haven’t written yet.  Just thought I’d try putting it down.  Maybe now I can go on with what I’m actually working on and come back to this later.


Henry sat across the table watching her devour his hamburger and fries.  When he’d asked, she’d said she wasn’t hungry, but when his food arrived, she hadn’t been able to take her eyes off of it.

The impromptu meal started when he’d asked if he could buy her a coffee.  It seemed a small thing, seeing how she’d rescued him from an embarrassing predicament.  He never should have tried to go after Joanne.  He’d been a fool.  She hadn’t just now decided to break up with him, it had been brewing for a while.

He’d found himself trapped in the door of her building, the sleeve of his overcoat caught when it slammed shut.  He’d pulled and tugged, kicking at the door, but to no avail.  He couldn’t even manage to take the damn thing off and the driving rain was soaking him anyway.

That’s when she’d appeared.  “Are you stuck?” she’d called to him up the steps.

“No, I enjoy standing in the rain!” he’d fired back.

She’d shaken her head and bounded up the steps, pulling her soaked black fleece hoodie tighter around herself.  “No reason to be an asshole,” she muttered.  She began pressing all of the buttons beside the door.  “Let me in!  It’s rainin’ out here!”  The door buzzed and he was free.  She gave an exaggerated bow and hurried down the steps, stopping under the awning of the building next door.

Sheepishly, Henry followed, standing beside her under the awning.  She glanced down at him then resumed looking out at the rain.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t mean to be an asshole.”  She continued staring toward the street.  “Can I buy you a coffee?  My way of saying thanks.”

She looked back at him again seeming to think for a moment.  Finally she sighed.  “I guess I’m not goin’ anywhere until it stops rainin’ anyways,” she said.  That was when he noticed her drawl.  She certainly wasn’t from around here.

She must be homeless, he guessed.  He figured her to be in her early twenties, twenty-three tops.  She was pretty, too, as far as he could tell.  Her long wet hair was plastered to her head, but it seemed to be brown.  She had huge blue eyes that were watchful, flitting all around the room as she ate.  He’d never seen a woman eat like that.  And she was skinny, too.  “I’m Henry, by the way,” he told her.

She paused, french fry halfway to her mouth.  “I’m Shelby.”  She chewed thoughtfully and swallowed.  “What were you doing stuck in that door, Henry?”

He looked down at his hands.  “Acting like a fool, I suppose.”

She smiled knowingly.  “It was a girl,” she said definitely.  Henry declined to answer.  “So what do you do, Henry?”

“I’m a professor of English Literature at Columbia,” he answered.

Shelby’s already large eyes grew bigger.  “No shit?” she said softly, and she laughed to herself.

Henry felt his temper rising.  Having been born with dwarfism, he’d faced ridicule all his life.  “What, is it so unbelievable that someone like me could be a university professor?” he demanded.

Shelby stopped laughing.  “That’s a hell of a chip on your shoulder, there.  A chip that big ought to have its own name.”  She shook her head.  “What I meant was, who would have thought that someone like me would ever meet a professor, let alone sit and have dinner with him?”

“What do you mean, someone like you?” he asked, realizing that he owed her another apology.

She shrugged.  “I’m not very smart,” she said simply.  “I never even finished the eighth grade.  I don’t even know anybody who went to college, let alone anybody who teaches there.”

Henry let that thought sink in.  I’m not very smart.  “Where are you from, Shelby?”

She shook her head, grinning.  “You never heard of it.”

“Try me.”

“I’m from Pine Grove, West Virginia,” she said, watching him carefully.

Henry smiled slowly.  “You’re right, I never heard of it.”

She laughed.  “Count yourself lucky, then.  It’s smack in the middle of nowhere.  Everybody there works in the Hastings plant, processing natural gas.  They actually have red lights to stop the cars about a mile away from the plant, just in case the shit hits the fan.”

Henry nodded.  “Is that why you left?  You didn’t want to work in the plant?”

Shelby looked him dead in the eye.  “I left in the middle of eighth grade because I was tired of getting fucked by my mama’s boyfriends.”  She paused.  “I figured if I was going to be doing it anyway, I might as well be getting paid for it.”

Henry’s eyes widened.  “You’re a…” he stopped.

She narrowed her eyes.  “Now who’s judging?” she asked.

Henry backpedaled.  “No, I mean, I just…”

“I don’t do that anymore.  I quit three years ago.  I have a new gig,” she said.  “I take pictures.”  Henry noticed that she pronounced it pitchers.  “I have a friend who sells postcards and shit to the tourists.  He sells my postcards and splits the profits with me.”

“Really?” Henry said thoughtfully.

“I have a nice camera,” she said, for the first time opening up her jacket to reveal a small camera bag.  She placed it on the table, opening it carefully.  “It’s mine, I bought it at a pawn shop,” she said, slightly defensively.

Henry looked over the camera appreciatively before handing it back to her.  “It’s very nice,” he said.

“That’s why I came uptown.  Somebody told me that I’d like to take pictures at Columbia.  Said there’s cool buildings there.  I was pissed off and not thinkin’ straight.  It was dark by the time I got here.  Plus I didn’t know it was going to rain.  I wasted a whole damn trip for nothing.”

“Where do you live?” Henry wondered.

Shelby rolled her eyes.  “Long story,” she said, “but when I’m in between places, I usually stay at Grand Central.”  He thought of the train station.  “It’s pretty clean, and you can leave your stuff in a locker for two weeks before you have to move it.  There’s a guy who lets me clear tables for a few dollars.  Plus, you can eat what people leave on the trays.  You wouldn’t believe how much food people just waste.”

Henry listened, astounded.  He’d never known a moment when he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from.  “So you came uptown to take pictures at the university?”

“Yeah,” she said around another mouthful.  “Kind of stupid, I guess.  It was too late to begin with and then when I came out of the subway the bottom just fell out of the sky.”

“So are you going to go back to Grand Central?” he probed.

Shelby shrugged.  “I guess so.  I’d better hurry, though.  The good places get taken early.”

Henry sat back in his seat, picturing Shelby stalking through the train station dripping wet, trying to find a good place to settle down for the night.  His own words surprised him.  “You could stay with me for the night.  I’ll take you to the university in the morning, give you a tour.”

Shelby’s eyes narrowed.  “I don’t fuck for a place to sleep.”

Henry blushed furiously.  “God, no!  That’s not what I meant at all,” he stammered.  “I just thought, you’re all the way here, you’re soaked, it’ll take you, what, another hour to get back to Grand Central.  What if you can’t find a place?”  He cleared his throat.  “I’m just saying you could stay on my couch, go with me to work tomorrow.  You can get your pictures and get back at a reasonable time.”

Shelby popped the last bite of hamburger into her mouth, gazing steadily at Henry.  “Okay,” she finally said.

Experiment

Ever get something stuck in your mind and you just can’t let go of it?  This is a chapter from a story I haven’t written yet.  Just thought I’d try putting it down.  Maybe now I can go on with what I’m actually working on and come back to this later.

Henry sat across the table watching her devour his hamburger and fries.  When he’d asked, she’d said she wasn’t hungry, but when his food arrived, she hadn’t been able to take her eyes off of it.

The impromptu meal started when he’d asked if he could buy her a coffee.  It seemed a small thing, seeing how she’d rescued him from an embarrassing predicament.  He never should have tried to go after Joanne.  He’d been a fool.  She hadn’t just now decided to break up with him, it had been brewing for a while.

He’d found himself trapped in the door of her building, the sleeve of his overcoat caught when it slammed shut.  He’d pulled and tugged, kicking at the door, but to no avail.  He couldn’t even manage to take the damn thing off and the driving rain was soaking him anyway.

That’s when she’d appeared.  “Are you stuck?” she’d called to him up the steps.

“No, I enjoy standing in the rain!” he’d fired back.

She’d shaken her head and bounded up the steps, pulling her soaked black fleece hoodie tighter around herself.  “No reason to be an asshole,” she muttered.  She began pressing all of the buttons beside the door.  “Let me in!  It’s rainin’ out here!”  The door buzzed and he was free.  She gave an exaggerated bow and hurried down the steps, stopping under the awning of the building next door.

Sheepishly, Henry followed, standing beside her under the awning.  She glanced down at him then resumed looking out at the rain.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t mean to be an asshole.”  She continued staring toward the street.  “Can I buy you a coffee?  My way of saying thanks.”

She looked back at him again seeming to think for a moment.  Finally she sighed.  “I guess I’m not goin’ anywhere until it stops rainin’ anyways,” she said.  That was when he noticed her drawl.  She certainly wasn’t from around here.

She must be homeless, he guessed.  He figured her to be in her early twenties, twenty-three tops.  She was pretty, too, as far as he could tell.  Her long wet hair was plastered to her head, but it seemed to be brown.  She had huge blue eyes that were watchful, flitting all around the room as she ate.  He’d never seen a woman eat like that.  And she was skinny, too.  “I’m Henry, by the way,” he told her.

She paused, french fry halfway to her mouth.  “I’m Shelby.”  She chewed thoughtfully and swallowed.  “What were you doing stuck in that door, Henry?”

He looked down at his hands.  “Acting like a fool, I suppose.”

She smiled knowingly.  “It was a girl,” she said definitely.  Henry declined to answer.  “So what do you do, Henry?”

“I’m a professor of English Literature at Columbia,” he answered.

Shelby’s already large eyes grew bigger.  “No shit?” she said softly, and she laughed to herself.

Henry felt his temper rising.  Having been born with dwarfism, he’d faced ridicule all his life.  “What, is it so unbelievable that someone like me could be a university professor?” he demanded.

Shelby stopped laughing.  “That’s a hell of a chip on your shoulder, there.  A chip that big ought to have its own name.”  She shook her head.  “What I meant was, who would have thought that someone like me would ever meet a professor, let alone sit and have dinner with him?”

“What do you mean, someone like you?” he asked, realizing that he owed her another apology.

She shrugged.  “I’m not very smart,” she said simply.  “I never even finished the eighth grade.  I don’t even know anybody who went to college, let alone anybody who teaches there.”

Henry let that thought sink in.  I’m not very smart.  “Where are you from, Shelby?”

She shook her head, grinning.  “You never heard of it.”

“Try me.”

“I’m from Pine Grove, West Virginia,” she said, watching him carefully.

Henry smiled slowly.  “You’re right, I never heard of it.”

She laughed.  “Count yourself lucky, then.  It’s smack in the middle of nowhere.  Everybody there works in the Hastings plant, processing natural gas.  They actually have red lights to stop the cars about a mile away from the plant, just in case the shit hits the fan.”

Henry nodded.  “Is that why you left?  You didn’t want to work in the plant?”

Shelby looked him dead in the eye.  “I left in the middle of eighth grade because I was tired of getting fucked by my mama’s boyfriends.”  She paused.  “I figured if I was going to be doing it anyway, I might as well be getting paid for it.”

Henry’s eyes widened.  “You’re a…” he stopped.

She narrowed her eyes.  “Now who’s judging?” she asked.

Henry backpedaled.  “No, I mean, I just…”

“I don’t do that anymore.  I quit three years ago.  I have a new gig,” she said.  “I take pictures.”  Henry noticed that she pronounced it pitchers.  “I have a friend who sells postcards and shit to the tourists.  He sells my postcards and splits the profits with me.”

“Really?” Henry said thoughtfully.

“I have a nice camera,” she said, for the first time opening up her jacket to reveal a small camera bag.  She placed it on the table, opening it carefully.  “It’s mine, I bought it at a pawn shop,” she said, slightly defensively.

Henry looked over the camera appreciatively before handing it back to her.  “It’s very nice,” he said.

“That’s why I came uptown.  Somebody told me that I’d like to take pictures at Columbia.  Said there’s cool buildings there.  I was pissed off and not thinkin’ straight.  It was dark by the time I got here.  Plus I didn’t know it was going to rain.  I wasted a whole damn trip for nothing.”

“Where do you live?” Henry wondered.

Shelby rolled her eyes.  “Long story,” she said, “but when I’m in between places, I usually stay at Grand Central.”  He thought of the train station.  “It’s pretty clean, and you can leave your stuff in a locker for two weeks before you have to move it.  There’s a guy who lets me clear tables for a few dollars.  Plus, you can eat what people leave on the trays.  You wouldn’t believe how much food people just waste.”

Henry listened, astounded.  He’d never known a moment when he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from.  “So you came uptown to take pictures at the university?”

“Yeah,” she said around another mouthful.  “Kind of stupid, I guess.  It was too late to begin with and then when I came out of the subway the bottom just fell out of the sky.”

“So are you going to go back to Grand Central?” he probed.

Shelby shrugged.  “I guess so.  I’d better hurry, though.  The good places get taken early.”

Henry sat back in his seat, picturing Shelby stalking through the train station dripping wet, trying to find a good place to settle down for the night.  His own words surprised him.  “You could stay with me for the night.  I’ll take you to the university in the morning, give you a tour.”

Shelby’s eyes narrowed.  “I don’t fuck for a place to sleep.”

Henry blushed furiously.  “God, no!  That’s not what I meant at all,” he stammered.  “I just thought, you’re all the way here, you’re soaked, it’ll take you, what, another hour to get back to Grand Central.  What if you can’t find a place?”  He cleared his throat.  “I’m just saying you could stay on my couch, go with me to work tomorrow.  You can get your pictures and get back at a reasonable time.”

Shelby popped the last bite of hamburger into her mouth, gazing steadily at Henry.  “Okay,” she finally said.