Chapter Two of Love Me Tinder, Love Bytes: Book One (Subscribers ONLY)

Chapter Two

Randi

“I can’t go back there like this,” I whimpered as I stared down at my broken ankle.

“So don’t.” Sid shrugged. “Come back to my place. I have not one, but two spare rooms and my only roommates are of the furry variety. I find they’re less judgmental and super easy to talk to.” She glanced at her phone. “It’s closing in on seven in the morning. Let’s get breakfast, fill your meds, and then sleep all day.” Sid smiled gleefully. “What do you say?”

I nodded, thrilled to avoid facing either Milo or the reality that he was gone. “Yeah. Let’s do that.”

At the time, it seemed like a wonderful idea, the perfect scenario. Unfortunately, I never considered what I’d be in for when I returned to the house around dinner time. As soon as I hobbled through the door, I heard him grumbling in the kitchen. With a sigh, I made my way into the room and dropped onto the bench at the dining room table.

“You dirty whore,” Milo growled.

“What are you talking about?” My eyes widened in shock.

He pointed angrily at my clothes. “I woke up and you were gone. You stayed gone all day.”

I gestured to my walking cast and opened my mouth to explain when he planted himself in front of me and leaned so close our noses nearly touched.

“Didn’t take you any time at all to find a side-piece.” Milo looked me up and down. “You probably had one all along.”

“I didn’t. I don’t.” He had me so unsettled I could barely express a coherent thought.

“Lies,” he sneered before he reached out and patted me on the head. “Don’t worry, Randi. I have a side-piece too.” Milo stood and chuckled as he strode over to the stove to stir whatever he was making in the saucepan.

My mouth was still hanging open when he started in again.

“I’ve had lots of strange in the last ten years.” He grinned in a way that had me shaking inside. “Your maid of honor…”

“Jen?” I blinked back tears.

“Yeah, after we made it back from the honeymoon. She dropped by, you weren’t home, but I didn’t want her to have come all that way for nothing.” Milo waggled his eyebrows.

I inhaled sharply. “Awesome.” I struggled to cover the hurt and feelings of betrayal with a shrug, but I’m pretty sure I just shrank down in my seat instead.

“You know your good buddy Lisa?” He turned and leaned on the counter. “We fucked on and off for years when we lived in New York.” He laughed and shook his head. “Hell, we even rekindled when she came to visit us here in Charlotte, a couple of years ago.”

Squeezing my eyes shut for a moment, I inhaled deeply. When I met his glare again, I had one thought in mind. He’d opened the door, but I was going to strut through it. “Who else? Go on. You seem determined to hurt me. Don’t stop now.”

Milo stood and held out his hand, ticking off my old friends, his former co-workers, and some random chicks I’d never heard of. By the time he’d stopped listing all the times he’d cheated, I’d made a decision. “Are you done?”

Staring up at the ceiling, he tapped his chin a few times. Finally, he glanced at me and shrugged. “Yeah. I guess.”

I struggled to my feet, then took a couple of painful steps to meet him with only the counter between us. “Good. Now get out.”

“I live here. You leave.” His brow shot up in challenge.

“My parents own this house. Who do you think they’ll want to rent to, hm?” I leaned closer to him. To my satisfaction, he stiffened and rubbed the back of his neck. “Exactly,” I hissed. “Now go. I never want to see you again.” Milo rushed past me, presumably on his way to the bedroom, but I stopped him. “You forgot the garbage bags.”

He whipped around and growled, “What do I need those for?”

“Packing.” I smiled sweetly. “All of the luggage is mine.”

“What makes you think they’re yours?” Milo growled.

“Well, I bought them before we were married. And while you could pull the whole North Carolina communal property crap, I doubt you want to do that when you have so much to lose,” I reminded him not so subtly.

Stepping closer to me, his hands balled into fists at his side. “Let me get this straight. You expect me to leave with my clothes in a garbage bag?”

My head tilted to the side. “We might still have boxes in the spare room, but you’ll probably need those for your video games. You’re the one moving. You decide.”

Milo’s face turned a dangerous shade of red. I knew what to expect and he didn’t disappoint. Grabbing one of Lucy’s old toys from the sofa, he turned and threw it as hard as he could. This time, however, his aim was off and instead of it harmlessly bouncing off the wall, the giant kong shattered the window beside the fireplace.

“Fantastic.” I scowled. “Expect a bill from my parents.” I crossed my arms over my chest and winced as I tried to shift my weight to my good foot.

This time he let out this animalistic roar and started to reach for another toy before I interrupted him.

“Well, you could break something else, I suppose, or you could channel all that energy into getting your shit together.” My eyes narrowed on him.

At first he hesitated, then he stormed off and seconds later the bedroom door slammed. I didn’t want to be anywhere around him, but at the same time, I had to ensure he took nothing of mine. He’d already stolen ten years of my life. I’d give him not one more fucking thing.

An hour and a dozen minor skirmishes later, I’d managed to evict Milo. After limping around the house and locking the place up as much as possible, I collapsed in my office.
The house was finally mine. Now what the hell was I going to do with it? I hobbled around the emptier rooms and felt plenty empty inside too. There was still so much clutter. I’d let him hoard all manner of crap. Naturally, he had no desire to take it with him. Apparently, his fresh start meant leaving as much junk behind as possible, and not just me.

I glanced at the clock. He’d packed quicker than I expected. The clock showed it wasn’t quite 8:15pm. I had an idea. Picking up my phone, I called Sid. “Come over,” I urged when she finally answered.

“Ugh. It’s after eight. This better be an emergency. You know I about hibernate the moment the sun sets. The other night was an exception.” She sighed. “I suppose tonight could be too. You need me?”

“Yeah. I do,” I admitted quietly. “But I promise I’m not going to be all mopey. And there won’t be any drama because Milo moved out.”

“Wow. That was fast. Say no more. Let me put on pants…and a bra. Then I’ll be right over.” Sid laughed.

While I waited the twenty minutes for her to arrive, I covered the broken window with cardboard, secured it with packing tape, and began to plan the redesign of my life, which was why I needed Sid. I was all ideas. She was execution. Together, we were unstoppable. When I heard her knock, I rolled over to the door using my office chair and unlocked it. The window repair had taken a lot out of me. The second Sid entered the house, I was in work mode. “This one.” I tapped on the color swatch I had pulled out of my desk all of ten minutes ago.

“Cool shade of teal. Where?” Sid glanced around at my stark white office walls.

“The door. Just the door for now. I think.” I shrugged.

“Where did you get this?” She pointed to the stack of color swatches I had stacked on the corner of my desk.

“I’ve been holding onto them for a while.” I inhaled deeply. This part hurt, admitting how much I’d let Milo hold me back. “You’ve seen the rest of the house. I kept wanting to paint. My parents had no problem with it. Only, Milo never wanted to, never wanted me to, refused to hire anyone. I gave up. Pretty much on everything but life.”

Her head cocked to the side as she eyed me carefully. “You know, this is your chance to live. Take it from a woman who was suddenly single and seriously knows what it’s like to be on her own. There’s a beauty in losing a man and finally finding yourself. It’s not all pain. I promise.”

I stared up at her. “I believe you. And thanks to the Vicodin, I don’t even need to feel the pain for a bit.” I laughed, but sobered quickly when I saw the fear in her eyes. “Relax. I’m limiting my addiction to tacos. Let’s go grab some paint and start with the overhaul.” Pasting on my best fake smile, I hefted myself out of the chair and began moving toward the door. “You coming?” I called over my shoulder.

“I am. How are you even going to make it through the store?” Her brow furrowed.

I shrugged. “Simple. I grab one of those handicapped carts. Try and keep up.” I winked playfully. If I could only keep Sid around long enough, I bet I might actually feel as optimistic as I pretended to be at the moment.

“Fine, but the minute you plow into my heels, it’s on. Got it?” Her eyes narrowed.

I snorted. “Please. In that thing? No way you could catch me.” Sid stood beside me and I leaned heavily on her shoulder. “No way I’d hurt you, either. I need you too much right now.”

She shook her head and sighed as we exited the house, carefully locking up behind us. “Awesome. Just what I needed. Friendship security.” Still, when I met her eyes, I realized she was being playful and my oversensitive ass was taking everything the wrong way.

We rode in silence to Lowe’s. Sid dropped me at the entrance before parking her car. I was supposed to find my electric shopping cart, but I’d only managed to sit in it and start it up. For some reason, I couldn’t drive.

After assessing the situation, she bit hard on her lips to keep from laughing. Quietly, Sid wandered behind me and unplugged the cord. “Try it now.”

And I was off, racing into the store, feeling incredibly giddy. After more than five years of living in that house, I was finally going to make it mine. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that meant.

“Let’s grab paint first,” she suggested when she saw me frozen in the middle of the store. “We can look around while they’re mixing it.”

I nodded numbly. When we reached the counter, I passed the guy my paint swatch, which had become soft and almost malleable while clutched in my sweaty palm. The lights glinted off the diamonds and my eyes were drawn to my wedding rings, which suddenly felt ridiculously constrictive. “This, please. One can.” Then I began to twist the rings in a fruitless effort to remove them.

“Semi-gloss? Eggshell?” He stared down at me, his focus on my fingers, rather than the paint project.

“Um.” I stopped tugging on my band, blinked a few times, and glanced at Sid for help.

“It’s an exterior door. What do you recommend?” she asked calmly before reaching out and resting against my shoulder.

“Then you’ll want a high gloss enamel. And I recommend using a primer on it first, like this Kilz.” He turned and grabbed a can from the nearest shelf. “One can should be plenty unless you’re doing a garage door too.”

“No garage door.” I shook my head.

“Okay. I’ll have this ready in a few minutes.” He was an older man with salt and pepper hair. “You know, I have some liquid soap. Could help with that.” He pointed to my left hand.

Tears filled my eyes and I sniffled. “I’m good, thanks.” Then I tried to back up and speed away, but the damn cart drove even slower backwards while emitting this ridiculous warning beep. Then I started forward again at such a pathetic pace, my only hope for avoiding further embarrassment was for the floor to open up and swallow me. I wasn’t opposed to the option. Behind me, I heard Sid speaking calmly.

“We’ll be back shortly,” she murmured.

I’d barely rounded the corner at the end of the aisle when she caught up to me. “I’m not going back there,” I grumbled.

“No worries. I’ll pick up the paint.” She shrugged. “What would you like to look at next?”

I scanned the area. “How about…décor? I want immediate change, you know…like Milo’s departure. Only this will be good!”

“Milo’s departure will be good too. Give it time. You’ll see.” Sid jerked her head toward the next aisle. “Come on. Let’s shop.”

Sid strode down the next aisle with me rolling right behind her. She started to stop in front of a lighting display, obviously realized I might have trouble braking so quickly, and jumped out of the way. “Damn, that was too close.”

“Why’d you even stop?” I grumbled.

“Life looks different with the right lighting. You’d be surprised how something so small can make such a big difference.” She smiled and gestured. “Pick. Your first lighting fixture is free.”

I scanned the shelves for a sign explaining the promotion. “Where? I don’t see anything…”

Leaning low, Sid murmured, “I’m buying, Randi. You deserve nice things. Let’s work on designing you a better life.”

My face burned. “I can’t have you do that.”

“Right.” She pointed to a flushed mount light. “This one?”

“I’m pretty sure I politely declined your generous offer.” My brow rose.

“Yeah. And I’m pretty sure you can’t stop me.” She snickered.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “What makes you think so?”

“Well, two feet will beat those four wheels every time,” Sid joked. “Good luck racing me to the checkout.”

With a groan, I sank low in my seat. “I hate this.”

“Come on. Chillax. You’re going to love it.” She lifted a fixture from the shelf and tucked it under her arm. Sid quickly discovered it was too bulky and, from the look on her face, too heavy. She sighed and stuck it in the basket on the front of my slick ride.

“Leave it there. I mean it.”

“Fine.” I sighed, but secretly, I liked that she was making some decisions for me. For now, I’d lost all confidence in my ability to do so.

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Sunday Snippet: Love Me Tinder

 
From Love Me Tinder
 
I glanced at the clock. He’d packed quicker than I expected. The clock showed it wasn’t quite 8:15pm. I had an idea. Picking up my phone, I called Sid. “Come over,” I urged when she finally answered.
 
“Ugh. It’s after eight. This better be an emergency. You know I about hibernate the moment the sun sets. The other night was an exception.” She sighed. “I suppose tonight could be too. You need me?”
 
“Yeah. I do,” I admitted quietly. “But I promise I’m not going to be all mopey. And there won’t be any drama because Milo moved out.”
 
“Wow. That was fast. Say no more. Let me put on pants…and a bra. Then I’ll be right over.” Sid laughed.
 
While I waited the twenty minutes for her to arrive, I covered the broken window with cardboard, secured it with packing tape, and began to plan the redesign of my life, which was why I needed Sid. I was all ideas. She was execution. Together, we were unstoppable. When I heard her knock, I rolled over to the door using my office chair and unlocked it. The window repair had taken a lot out of me. The second Sid entered the house, I was in work mode. “This one.” I tapped on the color swatch I had pulled out of my desk all of ten minutes ago.
 
“Cool shade of teal. Where?” Sid glanced around at my stark white office walls.
 
“The door. Just the door for now. I think.” I shrugged.
“Where did you get this?” She pointed to the stack of color swatches I had stacked on the corner of my desk.
“I’ve been holding onto them for a while.” I inhaled deeply. This part hurt, admitting how much I’d let Milo hold me back. “You’ve seen the rest of the house. I kept wanting to paint. My parents had no problem with it. Only, Milo never wanted to, never wanted me to, refused to hire anyone. I gave up. Pretty much on everything but life.”
 
Her head cocked to the side as she eyed me carefully. “You know, this is your chance to live. Take it from a woman who was suddenly single and seriously knows what it’s like to be on her own. There’s a beauty in losing a man and finally finding yourself. It’s not all pain. I promise.”
 
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Love Me Tinder, Love Bytes: Book One (Subscribers ONLY)

Chapter One
Randi

 

You and Milo will be fine, Sidra wrote in a message that randomly popped up while I was scrolling through Facebook.

Swallowing hard, my hand shook as I tried to type my response. No. We won’t.
I rubbed my eyes, which ached from hours of crying. Then I frowned and typed again. How did you know? Sometimes with Sid, it was like she read my mind.

Her response was swift. Look at the prints you’re posting. Look at the songs you’re sharing. Anyone who knows you sees how you’re feeling. You’re all heart, Miranda Jane.

A hollow laugh escaped my lips. She was right. Everything going on with me ever was on display for the world to see.

PS. No one is going to buy them. Too much sadness to hang on a wall. Hell, I hurt just looking at them.

More tears leaked from my eyes. I’m sorry. I had so much more I wanted to write, but I felt completely paralyzed. The fear was so strong, I could barely breathe. So, I stared at the screen and tried to calm down, but all I kept thinking was what the fuck am I going to do? On the desk beside my glass of Jack and Coke, the phone began to vibrate. I almost didn’t answer because I didn’t know how to talk, but it was Sid. She’d know how to make it all come out right. She had a gift for making me feel better. I pushed the button, held the cell to my ear, and said nothing.

“Start with what happened,” she murmured in her most soothing voice.

I sniffled and laughed sadly. “You know, if this whole advice columnist thing doesn’t work out, you can totally get into radio,” I teased. Okay, I attempted to tease. My words fell miserably flat.

“Go on. Time for the healing to begin,” Sid urged.

With a long sigh, I leaned back in my chair and listened for a moment. Milo was silent. Maybe he’d gone to bed after all. I glanced at the clock. It was closing in on midnight.

“Why are you awake?” I asked sadly.

“Eh. Decided to work ahead. I’m thinking about writing a book. In order to do this, I need to carve out more time. And I can’t do that if I’m behind.” I heard her chair creak and I knew she was in her office. She was serious. “Now stop deflecting and start talking.”

“But your book,” I joked.

“It’ll be a relationship and dating advice book. Duh. You’re currently a case study. Don’t let me down. Tell me.” There was an edge to her voice and I knew I had to simply concede.

“Fine. I give up,” I grumbled.

“You’re having a bad month,” Sid admitted quietly.

“Three deaths.” I blew out a breath.

The tapping on the laptop keys stopped and she spoke. “I knew about your dog and your grandfather. What’s the third?”

“My marriage.” Even saying the words had warm, salty tears flowing down my cheeks.

“Are you sure you aren’t being dramatic?” I could absolutely picture her face, the way her brows furrowed, and her lips pursed slightly. I bet her hair was in a ponytail, but not a messy one. Hers were always tight and smooth.

“I wish I was.” I chuckled. Suddenly, the wave of emotions I’d been surfing ended and I was completely worn out. “Can we talk tomorrow?”

“Great idea.” The wheels of her chair rolled across the floor. “By the time I get there, it’ll be tomorrow. See you soon.”

She started to end the call, but I whimpered. “Wait.”

“What?” Her voice was crisp.

“Milo is here.” I chewed nervously on a pen I grabbed from the desk.

“Cool. So, we’ll go out.”

“Wait.” My mind raced as I tried to come up with an excuse for staying here and wallowing. I was afraid to leave. What if I came back and he was gone? What if I remained and he took off anyway?

“I’m already in the car. Bye.” Sid ended the call.

She was one tough nugget. Standing, I carefully made my way through the office, into the house, and to the master bedroom. The door was open a crack. I peeked in, hoping he’d be asleep, praying I would feel comfortable leaving.

Milo was in bed, laying on his stomach. His face was lit by the glow of the phone. He was clearly chatting with someone. Then I saw boobs. I’m pretty sure they were boobs. Pierced nipple boobs. I could see the barbell with the big balls on either side. He was laughing, smiling, and he began to shift his hips. The fucker had a hard on. I clapped a hand over my mouth as tears stung my eyes. Slowly, I backed away, not that he would’ve noticed me anyway.

Soon, I was back in the office. I stared up at the camera, watching and waiting for Sid to arrive. Even when she pulled in, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. Then my phone rang. As soon as I accepted the call, she started speaking while I stared at the screen.

“I know you know I’m here.” She waved at the camera. “Get your ass out here. I mean it. I will go in and get you.”

I sighed, but at the same time, I kinda laughed as I pictured little Sid rushing in here and dragging me out. “I’m coming.” Swallowing hard, I stood and grabbed my purse from the office couch. Then I trudged out the door, locking it behind me. Sidra sat behind the wheel, smiling at me. I could tell she felt super proud of herself for getting me out of the house, so I curtseyed. The gravel shifted beneath my feet and while I didn’t exactly collapse, I did manage to twist the shit out of my ankle, twingle my knee, and beat the hell out of my pride. I hobbled to the car and pulled open the door.

“Are you okay?” Sid asked, her face blanketed with concern.

“Of course I am,” I snapped to cover my embarrassment.

“Where to?” She smiled pleasantly, while studying me.

I shook my head and bit on my lip to hide the pain. “Anywhere but here,” I finally grumbled.

“Right.” She nodded. Sid shifted the car into reverse, backed out of my driveway, and then sped off without saying a word.

Curiosity was actually killing me more than my ankle at the moment. “Where are we going?”

Sid grinned. “Taco Bell. This seemed like an emergency. We’re making a run for the border.” She glanced at my rapidly swelling ankle. “Although right now, I doubt you could even manage a brisk walk.”

“I’m fine,” I lied.

“Oh, good. Then you won’t mind if we park at the far end of the lot where there are more lights, right?” Her brows rose as she smirked at me. With a growl, I looked away. “That’s what I thought,” she muttered. “Drive through it is. And then the ER.”

“I don’t need the ER,” I objected loudly.

Half an hour later, after we’d parked and finished our tacos, I was singing a different tune. “Maybe the ER isn’t such a terrible idea,” I grumbled.

“Uh huh. And after they give you something for the pain, we can talk.” Sid winked at me as we drove to the hospital.

“I’m surprised you’re willing to wait that long.” I sighed and reclined in the passenger seat.

“Well, I figured you’d let me know when you were ready. You seemed pretty upset when you left the house.” She reached out and squeezed my shoulder. “How can I help?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know. I can barely think.” Staring out the window, I began replaying the night in my head. “Milo came home the other night. Lucy took a turn for the worst. We brought her to the vet and they told us her kidneys had shut down. We had to put her to sleep.” I sniffled and swiped at my eyes. “After we said our goodbyes and drove home, Milo tried to hug me, but I stiffened. Next thing I know, he told me he was done.”

Sid groaned. “All guys say that. Back when we first started dating, Jayce said that all the time. We never were, mind you, but he said all kinds of stupid shit.” She shrugged.
I shifted in my seat to face her. “No. He means it. When he says something, he has thought it through and made a decision. We’re separating and getting a divorce.”

“Give him a chance. There’s a lot going on. Your grandfather…your dog…” Sid frowned.

I licked my lips as I tried to figure out how to explain. “We want different things. We’ve outgrown each other. He was my college boyfriend. We married when we almost didn’t even date.” I shook my head. “I shouldn’t have let him push me into it.”

“So, you want this? The divorce?” Sid asked as she pulled up to the curb at the ER.

“No.” I shivered and wrapped my arms around my body. “But I want kids and he doesn’t.” Before she could ask another question, I pushed open the door and struggled to step out of the vehicle. “See you in there,” I mumbled as I shut the door behind me.
While I limped into the ER, I recalled the discussion I’d had with Milo only hours ago. I’d been mourning the loss of our fur baby in the bedroom when he walked in and announced we were done. Initially, I struggled to process his proclamation. I couldn’t understand why he suddenly wanted a divorce, but he quickly explained we didn’t want the same things anymore. “You want kids. And the idea of having a baby freaks me the fuck out.”

“You’re only saying this because we just lost Lucy,” I argued.

“No.” Milo raked his hands through his hair before sitting hard on the bed. “I’m not. I’ve been thinking about this a long time. Losing Lucy simply cemented it for me.”

“Our dog died. And this is when you decide we’re not supposed to be together anymore?” I shook my head angrily. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“What makes you think anything is wrong? Maybe finally everything is right.” Milo stood and began to pace around the room. “It’s like I’ve had this moment of clarity. I spent the last six weeks staying in hotel rooms and I felt more at home there than I do here. I felt happier away from you than I do with you. It’s just time to end things.” Then he walked away and I was left alone in the room with my thoughts, battling all my fears. At first I didn’t know what to say or do.

Then it all came to me in this rush of anger. I confronted him out in the kitchen. “I can’t believe you want to end things this way. I didn’t want to date you ten years ago and you pushed it. Now you want us to be done. Maybe I should push it.” I stomped my foot angrily.

“You could try that.” Milo frowned. “I just think it would be a terrible waste of energy. And I don’t want to waste one more minute of my time on this earth. I especially don’t want to waste it fighting with you.” He sighed and his shoulders sagged. “My mind is made up. I’ll never want children. And I no longer want you.”

I froze at his coldhearted words. In my chest, my heart stopped beating altogether. And all I could think was this is how it ends. Only…I meant for me. I had to be dying. His words had knocked the air from my lungs. I had no idea how to move on and keep living like this. Suddenly, I was filled with an indescribable rage. “I can’t believe I wasted my best years on you. I gave you my best eggs. Now I’m pushing thirty. Who’s going to want me now?”

He actually laughed at me and shook his head. “Your best eggs? Really, Randi? That’s all you have to say?” Milo snickered. “Keep making this easy on me. I’ll be out by next weekend. I promise.” With a chuckled, he walked away and disappeared into the master bedroom.

I wandered into the office and shut the door behind me. As was so often the case, I lost myself in social media. Sometimes, it was work. Sometimes, it was a way to numb my mind and forget my problems. I scrolled through Facebook, periodically posting images that I found, and sharing every sad song that came to mind. This was when Sid found me. This was how we ended up here in the ER waiting for x-rays.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked as she stared at me sadly.

“I think there’s someone else,” I whispered. Now that I had spoken those words aloud I finally felt the truth of them. “When I left, he was on a chat app. I watched him for a minute. Then I saw boobs, and I left. It made me sick. I literally threw up in my mouth. To think that I’ve spent all these years with this man, and I guess I never really knew him.”

“Everyone thinks that when a relationship ends,” Sid announced.

“Really? Did you think that when Jayce died? Because I didn’t hear you saying anything remotely like that when you lost your husband.” I looked away. Those were probably the most hateful words I’d ever spoken to her. And I couldn’t bear to see the pain in her eyes after my careless outburst.

“It’s different. Jayce died; he didn’t choose to leave me. There’s really no comparison.” She tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear.

I blew out of breath. Slowly, my eyes met hers. “I’m sorry. I’m just hurting. I know it doesn’t give me the right to hurt you back.” I smirked. “Although there’s nothing wrong with me right now that a few pain pills couldn’t fix.”

Sid laughed. “I get it. I understand. No offense taken. You didn’t mean anything by it.”

She reached out and gave me a gentle hug. “You’ll get through this. We’ll get through this together.”

Tears welled up in my eyes. Still, I pasted a smile on my face and murmured, “Right now, I don’t see how. I guess I’ll just have to trust, since you have experience in this department.”

“About the other woman…” Her voice trailed off as she studied my face. “Don’t jump to conclusions. It’s probably nothing. Just concentrate on you. Be the best Randi you can be. Make him regret ever wanting to leave you.” She grinned.

“And when he doesn’t?” I asked sadly.

Sid wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “Then it won’t matter because so many others will want to be with you, spend time with you. Just wait. You’ll see.”

Sunday Snippet: Stay

 
I’m almost done with Stay, so this is the last snippet you’ll see before I publish. Hope you love Cadence and Xander.
 
Preorder for 99 Pennies! LIVE 1/29!
 
 
💜💜💜
 
I wrapped my arms around my body. “I can’t just follow you around and piggy back on your dream. I have to have my own thing too. Make sense?”
 
“This makes perfect sense.” He paused in the hall outside our door. “So, what are you passionate about? Start building your dream. I’ll support you in every way you’ll allow.” Xander opened our door and motioned for me to enter first. Once I stepped inside he asked, “Seriously. What do you like?”
 
I laughed. “That was an easy question. Food and wine. Maybe especially wine. It makes me feel sophisticated.”
 
“I should’ve known this. After all, your first act around the silo was to make wine.” He chuckled. “How much longer until we can test the product of your efforts?”
 
“Probably at least a week still.” I moaned. “So…forever.”
 
“Look, you haven’t seen the land yet. You have no idea what’s out there, but I’ll give you the grand tour now that you can move around.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I planted grape vines. You know, just a few to start, but they seem to be taking hold. They produced. Not a ton, but they are still small.”
 
“What are you trying to say?” I huffed. “Spit it out. Dammit.”
 
“You could plant more. You could grow all the grapes you want. I have so much land. I’m talking more than fifty acres. That’s a lot of grapes.” His eyes sparkled and I knew he thought he was on to something. He wasn’t wrong.
 
“Why would you do that?” My brow furrowed.
 
“I thought that was obvious, Cadence,” Xander whispered. Then he leaned low and kissed my cheek before murmuring in my ear, “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you, give you whatever you need, if only you’ll stay.”

#WIP Wednesday: Stay

#WIPWednesday

From Stay…
 
Cadence looked so sad all of a sudden. I knew I’d hit on a painful subject. I suspected as much when I forced her into the conversation. I’m not sure what came over me, but when her face paled, and tears began to flood her eyes, I had to kiss her. Leaning closer, I lifted her chin with my finger. When she didn’t pull away, my spirit was bolstered. As I drew near, I pressed my forehead to hers while digging deep for the courage I needed. “May I?” I asked quietly as I stared into her eyes.
 
She closed them and tears dripped down her cheeks. She nodded slightly. When I didn’t move, she whispered, “Yes.”
 
I knew it wasn’t me. I figured there was some memory eating at her. Even though I wanted to hear all about her past, all about what had shaped her into the person I couldn’t stop thinking about, I didn’t want to pry. Oh, but I would. “Help me understand, Cadie,” I murmured against her cheek as I brushed my lips over her smooth skin.
 
She inhaled sharply. “What’s to understand?” Her voice had taken on a faraway quality and I guessed she was already lost in another memory.
 
I kissed a trail to her ear. “You,” I whispered. “I want to understand you.”
 
💜💜💜
 
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1/7: Sunday Snippet for Stay (Coming 1/29!)

You know what today is…
 
SUNDAY SNIPPET
 
From Stay…
 
Apparently, the clatter or my whimper had forced the return of the guy with the silo. I heard his footsteps as he came down the hall. He stopped in the doorway and I imagine he scanned the room a moment before he found me a few feet away on the floor. His steps drew closer. I forced myself to peek up at him. “Yo,” I mumbled.
 
He chuckled. “’Sup?”
 
“Listen, Bundy, I don’t have the energy to be coy right now. In fact, I’m downright cranky.” I moved my arm enough so he could see I was glaring up at him.
 
“Al?” His brows peaked hopefully.
 
I shook my head. “Ted.”
 
“I was afraid of that.” He sighed. “So, how do I redeem myself?”
 
“You could start by setting the knife down.” I smirked.
 
“This?” He hefted the imposing blade higher. “It’s a machete.”
 
“Not making this better, Ted.” I crossed my arms over my body and shook my head.
 
“I was about to go out in the garden. I’ll have you know this is the best multi-purpose gardening tool I’ve ever owned.” He shrugged and set it on the side table.
 
“I’ll have you know, it’s truly terrifying.” My brow arched.
 
He frowned. “I can see that.” He walked around my body and started to hold out a hand.
 
“Wait. Before you get a hernia trying to yank me off the floor, can I at least get the name of the guy who’s going to sue me for damages, unless you’ve grown accustomed to the name Ted, or…it’s your real name.” I batted my eyelashes at him and offered my most winning smile.
 
“Oh, right. Yeah, I’m…” His eyes flitted about the room and I had a sense he was trying to come up with some fake name.
 
“Got it. You don’t want me to have your real name. Ted it is.” I held out my hand. “I’m Cadence. Real name. Oh, and my dental work is up to date, so unless you do a seriously good job of the body dump, they will figure out who I am.” He hesitated before touching me.
 
“I’m not going to hurt you, Cadence,” he murmured. “I’m Xander.” His hand wrapped around mine. “Let me help you get back to the sofa.” Gently, he pulled me to a sitting position. Squatting in front of me, he added, “And I carried you to the car all by myself. No extra help, no dolly, all me. Now, stop downing yourself.”
 
I averted my eyes. My self-deprecating sense of humor had begun to develop in college when the freshman fifteen found my fanny. I felt better if I made light of what others were probably already thinking. “To the couch then?”
 
💜💜💜
 
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WIP Wednesday: Stay

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I’ll be the first to admit I completely failed at Teaser Tuesday. Forgive me?
 
Here’s another taste from Stay
 
I rolled into the room at a breakneck pace, and managed to come to a stop some inches before I would’ve crashed into the desk where I’d left my purse. My hands shook slightly as I opened it and hauled out my Kate Spade planner. The damn thing had cost me almost a week of rent, but as much as I used it, I considered it a bargain. When paired with my phone, I was completely unstoppable.
 
Only right now, I didn’t want to go. I was afraid of returning to my apartment, which was already a constant reminder of my shortcomings and failures…all 249 square feet of it. Sure, when I had a job, I could think of it as a rest stop on my road to greatness. When I was terrifyingly unemployed, it was my tomb. Seriously, I once discovered that sarcophagus sites at the local cemetery were larger. Jordan was quick to point that out a little over a month ago when he’d appeared suddenly at my door to pick me up when the bus I usually rode broke down and I was going to be late.
 
“Good God. You live here?” He stepped inside the door and looked about while behaving as if he were afraid poverty was contagious. “What is this…like two hundred square feet?”
 
“Two hundred and forty-nine,” I corrected while rubbing my forehead.
 
“Wow. We just stuck my mother in a mausoleum. It was three hundred and seventy-eight square feet.” Then as we stood waiting on the elevator, he leaned low and murmured, “So, when you die, you might get a bigger place. Something to look forward to.” And he clapped me on the back while laughing.
 
“Man, I hate that guy,” I muttered under my breath as I collapsed on the chair. Hot tears stung my eyes, but I refused to cry.
 
“Thanks?” Xander had quietly moved to my side.
 
I rubbed my eyes before fixing them on him. “I thought you were taking a shower.” I sighed.
 
“Because you told me to?” He laughed. “I do what I want.”
“Cool, Cartman.” I looked away. “And for the record, I wasn’t talking about you.”
 
“Whew.” He blew out a breath and leaned against the desk before he stiffened. “I mean, whatever. Love me, hate me, makes no difference to me.”
 
I snickered. “You may want to work on the tough guy act.”
 
“Hey, Cades, it’s no act. I’m tough.” He removed his shirt to display an abundance of tattoos across his back and biceps. Xander nodded my way like this was proof.
 
“That’s pain tolerance, which has little to do with being tough, genius.” I crossed my arms over my chest.
 
“Let’s agree to disagree. So, who do you hate?” His head tilted and I found myself distracted by the delicious looking spot at the base of his neck.
 
“Jordan.” I huffed.
 
“Oh, your boyfriend.” Xander stood and stretched. I could feel him pulling away.
 
Making a face, I shook my head fervently. “Ew. No.”
 
He casually sat on the edge of the desk. “No? Then…what?”
 
“My boss.” I sighed. “Actually, Jordan is my ex-boss.”
 
“Everyone hates their boss.” His chest puffed out. “This is why I work for myself.”
 
“Not all of us have that luxury, Xander.” I huffed. “Some of us struggle to survive in LA and would do whatever it takes to make that happen.”
 
His brows rose.
 
“Not me, mind you. If I was that girl, Jordan would still be my boss. And I would’ve let him paw all over me. And I wouldn’t have ended up on the side of the road.” I babbled in frustration now. “And I wouldn’t be in a missile silo with a sprained ankle…”
 
“And you never would’ve met me.” Xander blew out a breath.
 
💜💜💜
 
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Sunday Snippet for Stay

From Stay Coming 1/29/2018

 “Stop it,” I hissed as I pushed Jordan’s hand off my bare knee for the fifth time in a matter of minutes. “I’ve tried subtle. I’ve tried sweet. Now, I’m pissed.” I stared at him. In his mid-thirties, my boss was considered incredibly attractive by most with his sun-kissed hair, bronze skin, and green eyes, but I saw him differently since we worked so closely together.

“You shouldn’t mess with the driver,” he teased. “I really need to concentrate on these country roads.”

“Right. So, maybe you shouldn’t mess with me.” I glared at him.

He chuckled. “Do you have any idea where we are?”

Chills ran up and down my spine. I glanced out the window and watched for a sign. There was nothing but trees surrounding the narrow road. I opened up my map app, but it refused to load. “The middle of fucking nowhere,” I grumbled.

“Exactly. It’s a long drive back to L.A.” He grinned, much like a wolf who had homed in on his prey. “Hell, I don’t know what you’re complaining about. You should be thrilled I’m even remotely interested in you.” Jordan looked me up and down briefly before turning his attention back to the road.

I sucked in a breath of stale air as my eyes widened. “And why is that?”

“You’re not exactly my type,” he sneered. “You’ve seen the women I date…long, lean, drop-dead gorgeous. Basically, your complete opposite.”

With a hollow laugh, I considered my words. “I thought female was your only requirement. Oh, and alive. I had no idea you had such discerning tastes.”