When freshman year at the University of Alabama draws to a close, Sara
Donovan finds herself grappling with the same old question—listen to
her head or follow her heart. What she ends up doing is purchasing an
souvenir funerary mask, and after a mysterious phone call, she’s certain a
ring of antiquities smugglers are operating in Tuscaloosa.
With finals never far from her mind and her return to ‘Bama hanging in the
balance, she should be studying. Instead she launches her own investigation
to prove her mask is indeed a stolen artifact, and not a cheap trinket. When
it comes time to snoop, Sara is more than ready, or at least she was until a
hot new teaching assistant moves in next door.
Suddenly she learns things are never as they seem. Ever.
About the Author
After a long career as a business executive, B.T. Polcari tried to retire.
Spoiler alert: he’s really bad at retirement. Bowling, tennis, and sailing
can only keep you busy for so long, so B.T. is now pursuing his childhood
dream of becoming a published author.
More than a year after graduating from college, Nyra is beginning to wonder
when her life, professional and personal, gets started. Was it like this for
her mother? She doubts it, but things were different, then. Nyra’s reality
is nothing like her mother’s. Each generation confronts its own
Still, she’s tired of feeling like she’s wading through waist-deep wet
cement. Buried somewhere deep in a future she can sense but not feel, Nyra
can hear the siren’s song of hope and hypothetical options whispering to
her. She’s so ready! But is the song she hears hope or just an
Best Case Scenario is the first act in Nyra Westensee’s journey from
student to self-aware, fully actualized woman.
Chapter 2—The Face in the Mirror
The mirror in the women’s room offers no refuge from Nyra’s conflicted pride and dissatisfaction. Expressive green eyes set off by her light olive complexion get lots of second looks. A prominent hawk nose calls attention to high cheekbones and overall symmetry. Striking—even pretty, maybe. Time to tweeze her eyebrows, though.
Lips a taste too full for her thin “ish” face? A boyfriend from a couple years ago had called them “kissable.” He’d wanted to do more than kiss, but had moved on to the busty blond in their Mass Marketing class—just when Nyra’s simmering sexuality was about to overwhelm Sister Elise’s warnings against “promiscuity.”
The modest swell of her breasts is all but camouflaged by her flowy tunic. Turning sideways in the mirror, Nyra pulls it tight and pouts. Does anyone even notice? She twists and stands on tip toe, for an over-the-shoulder look at her stern. Does her slender waist make her ass look too wide?
She’d once overheard her brother’s best friend Mark commenting on her “sassy chassis.” Nyra’s all-through-high school crush on Mark dated from that off-hand remark. He’d flirted persistently, but nothing ever came of it. Had Kip warned him off?
The door swings open and in walks Toni, the IT Applications Manager. Nyra pivots hastily toward the mirror.
“Hey, Nyra!” Toni smiles, pulls plum-shaded lip stick from her purse and gets to work. “You look just fine leaving, if that’s what you were wondering. How goes it in the call center?”
“Nothing but a party.” Nyra fishes lip-gloss from her own purse and concentrates unnecessarily on applying it.
“One of those days, huh? I feel you… Had a few of those working the IT help desk before I got my certification.”
“Nothing I won’t get over,” Nyra says.
“That which does not kill us?” Toni’s lips twitch in irony.
Their eyes meet in the mirror and Nyra’s stomach twists. Toni has most of what Nyra wishes she had. Full, prominent breasts, perfect symmetry. Her mahogany skin seems to glow, calling attention to generous, kissable lips.
A light dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks spills down both sides of her neck, inviting speculation. A thick cascade of glossy black curls frames her face, brushing her shoulders. And those liquid brown eyes…
Toni drops the lipstick in her purse and pulls out a cell phone chiming to a text message. Her brow furrows as she reads. “Gotta go.” She meets Nyra’s eyes again and smiles. “Keep the faith, Girlfriend.” Nyra follows Toni’s graceful departure until the closing door cuts her off.
About the Author
Dirk’s path to authorship wasn’t quite an accident, but almost.
It’s not that he didn’t write. He did. But through two previous
careers, first as a Marine officer and subsequently as a corporate trainer,
Dirk started way more stories than he finished.” But in the backwash
of the 2008 financial meltdown, his employer filed for Chapter 11. Cordially
invited to leave and not return, Dirk found himself out of work and
Since then, Dirk has published West of Tomorrow, Best-Case Scenario and a
collection of short fiction entitled, Through the Windshield and Tier Zero,
Volume I of The Knolan Cycle, all available from Amazon in Kindle and
paperback formats. Works in progress include The Year of Maybe, sequel to
Best-Case Scenario, and Eryinath-5, Volume II of the Knolan Cycle.
At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.” Even though she’s getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a “chicana from Beverly Hills” because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceañera.
Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is. What’s a girl to do?
Strength and determination help pave the way for the future. And, as she approaches her graduation, she is faced with a difficult decision: should she leave Los Angeles and leave behind her family, her home, and everything she’s known? Ever since she was born in the California barrio of Hawaiian Gardens, she’s always had to look over the fence, wondering what she’s been missing. Now she’s taking a flying leap over to see what’s beyond the little barrio. What’s beyond her family, her friends, and her past? What’s beyond the little nothing town, where dreams don’t exist? What’s beyond The Gardens? Is it life, love, a future?
About the Author
Sandra C. López is a writer, artist, blogger, and book reviewer. She is one of today’s funny and influential authors in YA and chick lit. Her first novel, Esperanza, was published in March 2008 WHILE she was still in college. She wrote the follow up starring the same leading heroine in Beyond the Gardens, which recently had a cover re-design. Her most recent and bestselling book is Single Chicas, a collection of humorous short stories about zany chicas. When not writing her stories, Sandra supports the art and literary communities with freelance work and book promotion. For more info, see below:
After nearly four years with Jeff, everything fell apart. For the first time in my adult life, I found myself single, scared, but liberated as well. Rather than stumble into another ill advised relationship, I would spend the next few months “finding myself” sexually. This is how The Rebound List came to be.
A virgin, a silver fox, a stranger and a threesome- These are the experiences I chose.
It’s my very own naughty bucket list. A series of challenges set for myself, to figure out what I want out of men and relationships. An excuse to let my hair down, and have a whole lot of fun with zero strings attached.
Will you join me on my journey?
The Rebound List is the second book in L. Moone’s Undateables series. This body-positive novel contains colourful language and casual sex.
The first real warning sign that our relationship was doomed came a few weeks prior to our fourth anniversary. During a chat with Sally—arguably my best friend as well as colleague—she speculated whether or not Jeff might propose to me. The thought filled me with dread. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate him. I actually kind of still loved him but the idea that this was all that life had in store for me depressed me greatly. There was more I had to do; more experiences I was yet to have.
Was he really planning to propose? I certainly hoped not because I couldn’t accept. No way. And I have always hated confrontations, so having to say ‘no’ was an extremely unpleasant prospect.
In a way, finding the inappropriate emails from him to an old lover had been a relief. A chance to make a relatively clean break without having to confess uncomfortable truths. I moved out within the month and found myself free but also apprehensive about what might be in store for me next. Would I find what I had been missing?
I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. Starting a new relationship on the rebound, not fully celebrating my newfound freedom were definite ‘no-no’s. I needed a plan to figure out when I would be ready to settle down. A means of measuring whether I had lived single life to the fullest.
That’s how the list was born. While it mentions only the highlights, between the lines I intended to not just vary who with, but also how or where I would get it on.
Actually I’m omitting a few steps taken to get to this point; the depressing realisation that I was—for the first time in my adult life—alone in this world. The resulting evening spent with Sally, drinking wine, crying and complaining about how unfair life is, until a few glasses later her eyes lit up with the best idea ever.
Unlike most drunken ideas, this one was pretty workable. She asked me about my deepest, darkest sexual fantasies. She encouraged me to let my inner slut out and enjoy myself in ways I hadn’t been able to while playing the squeaky-clean committed girlfriend.
While we spoke our minds, our combined imagination or the wine, probably more the wine actually, awoke something in me. I could feel myself getting excited, blushing feverishly while listening to anecdotes of some of her less responsible exploits. She didn’t hold back on the details and I felt an urge grow inside me.
I wanted to be that girl: the one who walks into a room and causes heads to turn in her direction. She made me feel like I had this potential, in the way she described how she saw me. Not boring and average as I had felt all my life, but a rare and exotic beauty who could wield immense power over the male of the species. It was a revelation.
Playing with another girl was never meant to make the list, which is just as well because it happened way too quickly. The exact details of how that night ended are beyond my grasp; all I know is we woke up fuzzy-headed and half-dressed in my bed, with one of Sally’s arms draped across my chest.
This fact alone should probably have been a lot more awkward than it was. Instead of dwelling on blurry memories, we simply agreed that the night had served its purpose and that ‘we should do this again sometime’.
Anyway, back to the list. Some additions were clear choices I had thought about for a long time: hooking up with a virgin and an older guy for example. Other details came to mind after drunkenly bouncing ideas off of each other. These usually started with the phrase ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if…’
In the cold light of day, some of the excitement still lingered, however I had also lost a little confidence and started to doubt whether I could pull this off. Indeed Jeff was only the second guy I had slept with, and I’d be lying if I said that baring all in front of various men wasn’t at least a bit unnerving.
But I would cross that bridge in time, so I set about executing the initial stages of the plan. Sally had shown me a site she had used to hook up before, like a social network for dirty minds. To avoid any risk of early commitment issues, my backstory was decided to be that of a bored wife, looking for fun on the side.
I set up my profile with a suitably disguised photo, sparse personal details mentioning my supposed marriage and a well-filled list of sexual interests and kinks. The opening line was simply my newly adopted motto: No commitment, only pleasure.
The possibilities were mind-boggling. What kind of man would I like? Who would I look at in the street? I couldn’t form a clear answer; I don’t have a “type” only a long list of potentials, so I wrote down all I could think of. Long hair, short hair, beard, clean-shaven, fat, athletic, older, younger, black, white, anything in between. The whole point of this exercise was that I didn’t have to settle for just one; I could have them all.
Despite not showing any flesh in my photograph, it didn’t take long for friend requests and messages to start coming in. Among the inevitable stream of creepiness I had braced myself for, there were also more thoughtful messages than simply ‘show me ur tits’. Perhaps I would indeed find kindred spirits, to share my body with in addition to good conversation but without the expectations of monogamy hanging above my head.
When I logged back on after work on Friday, my inbox was full and my friend list had grown considerably as well. I felt empowered to explore more of the site, to join a few groups and read through some message boards. It surprised me how extensive the site’s membership was. I even found a group with local personal ads, which would keep me occupied for quite a while.
ABOUT L. MOONE
Realistic characters, pure emotions, true passion. Everything I write is about the characters: how they interact, what’s going on in their heads, how the passionate relationship develops and affects them. I don’t believe in keeping things hidden, or dressing them up just for show. Some of my characters are potty-mouths, most of them are less than perfect (yes, even physically). I aim to write a happy ending for all of them, without keeping anything behind closed doors.
I won’t bore you with details about the mysterious medical issues I’ve had over the last year;
the sudden severe allergies to food and medication, the sleep paralysis. All I’ll tell you is that they turned my life upside down.
But I’m a rational person.
Naturally, I assumed that my mind was playing tricks on me when I saw the strange figures standing over me.
But it felt so freakishly real;
especially one face in particular that always stayed with me long after I woke up.
Something about him always drew me in and I knew he was different. He made me feel different.
All my life, romance has felt like something that was reserved for everyone but me. I’d accepted that the only love in my life would be experienced through my artwork.
Now I’m questioning everything I know about myself, about reality, and especially about love.
EXCERPT from Chapter 1
The girls would always tease me about how put together my life was. Sure, it looked good on paper; top-rated artist in my department, an amazing house which I always kept immaculate, and when I wasn’t working, I was at the gym. They seemed to think that I had a perfect life. They had no idea how much I envied them. They both had incredible relationships with gorgeous men who doted on them endlessly. They were always commenting on how jealous they were of my body, but they also never missed a chance to eat delicious foods that I couldn’t so much as smell without getting sick. They didn’t realize that my house was always clean because it was empty and sterile; just like the rest of my life.
I didn’t even have a pet. Ever since little Ivan died, I accepted that I wasn’t pet owner material. If I couldn’t keep a goldfish alive, what chance did I have with a more complex and emotionally dependent animal? Besides, with my work schedule, it would be cruel to even try.
“Before we get started with what we’ve got on today, I need to ask you guys a really important favor,” Abiola said, circling the desk to take both mine and Laura’s hands in hers. “The two of you have been such a huge part of my life. You’ve been there for me through all my family drama and I couldn’t love you more if you were my flesh and blood sisters.”
“Abi,” Laura pushed out her bottom lip. “That’s the sweetest thing you could possibly say.”
“Well, I would be so honored if the two of you would be my bridesmaids this spring. Please say yes!”
The three of us all wrapped our arms around each other in a sickeningly sweet display of female solidarity. I forced a smile and swallowed the lump in my throat as I imagined walking down the aisle on the arm of some random groomsman who had a wife or girlfriend somewhere in the church. This would be the second time I was a bridesmaid at someone’s wedding. The old saying ‘three times a bridesmaid, never a bride’ rang out in my mind.
“I would love to be a bridesmaid at your wedding,” Laura crooned.
I mustered the minimal amount of excitement I could get away with for the situation and said, “Me too. I love you, woman,” then patted Abiola on the back.
Abiola nodded and wiped at eyeliner from beneath her watering eyes. She was an old soul with a soft heart. She spent her weekends volunteering at a children’s group home. That was where she met her fiancé Trevor, and they bonded over their dysfunctional family situations. They would probably adopt a bunch of foster kids right after their wedding and live happily ever after. She deserved that; it was all she ever wanted.
“Okay ladies,” Abiola clapped her hands. “Today we’re looking for something we can use for the promotion of the OSA campus, which will be opening next year in Portland, Oregon. Boss says our primary focus is to attract engineering and architectural students for the Lunar-retreat that’s in the works.”
“So, where do we start?” Laura said, looking right at me.
“I am going to need to work up some concept drawings for the Lunar Resort. Also, if you could give me the clearest photos of the most beautiful views the Lunar Surface has to offer, that would be cool to show exactly what the students should be aspiring to be a part of. I want to see some dramatic landscapes with visible craters, maybe some rock formations. Anything to pull people in.”
“I’m on it,” Laura nodded and sat down at her touch responsive computer.
“I’ll go to engineering to get permission to use blueprints of the resort that you can use to make the concept drawings,” Abiola said, then turned and headed towards the elevator.
It was an exciting project. I used to fantasize that by the time I was ready to retire, I would be able to cash in on all the vacation time I had accrued and maybe even spend a few of my golden years at that resort. The thought of waking up in the morning and looking out the window to see the Earth just as we see the moon from down here always gave me a sense of calm.
Four hours later, all final decisions had been made on what I wanted to use on the project. Right on cue, my trusty assistants started complaining that they were starving to death.
“If I don’t get some corned beef nachos in me in the next ten minutes, I might actually die,” Laura said and stood up dramatically from her desk.
“I want waffles and bacon,” Abiola rubbed her belly.
I sighed at the memory of bacon; I would probably just have some raw vegetables and berries. I was still looking at my screen and inspecting one of the photos, trying to decide on how I would alter the image to bring it to life. My eyes burned. I clenched them shut and rubbed them, forcing them to rest. Eye strain was the enemy and this day was proving to be particularly difficult since I had hardly slept the night before. I couldn’t shake my anxiety about today’s social gathering after work. Stress and lack of sleep usually meant a big fat migraine, which was the last thing I needed at Laura’s party.
“I’m going to head to the chill room. I need a nap more than anything.”
“You better be rested for tonight’s festivities,” Laura wagged her finger at me.
“I’ll bring my party face, I promise,” I said. I stood up but couldn’t stop the oncoming yawn. “The fatigue is killing me.”
“Yeah, no coffee or sugar in your morning will do that to you,” Abiola said with a shake of her head. “I don’t know how you do it.”
“Well, it’s easy since a cup of coffee could put me in the hospital again, I guess.”
“Jesus,” Abiola pressed her fist to her mouth. “I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s fine, Abi,” I assured her. “I just need to get a little rest.”
The two girls headed down to the food court while I made my way to the sleeping pods. White, plush, and stacked like a honeycomb, they were an inviting image that screamed comfort. I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief to find my favorite lower level pod was unoccupied. Turning on the sound system, I selected a playlist I knew I could sleep through. Sometimes I would choose guided meditation tracks or audiobooks. Today’s selection was soft cello. Something about the deep tones helped me unwind no matter what was on my mind. I settled in, turning on the heated cushions and closing my eyes.
I practiced the deep breathing exercises the doctor had taught me as I pictured myself floating through a dark endless sky toward the moon’s surface. The pictures I had looked at for over four hours served to be the subject of my meditation. I inhaled deeply, focusing on relaxing my arms and legs. Exhaling, I imagined moving further out into space. In… and out…
As soon as sleep found me, I was swept up in a flurry of blinding light. My stomach turned as the light began strobing violently, causing me to feel disoriented. My body tensed as I realized it had been several weeks since I’d had an episode. Right on schedule, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Oh no, no, no, no… I can’t deal with this right now, not at work!
I struggled to wake myself, I couldn’t move. The cold sensation of a smooth metallic surface beneath me was confusing. I felt my fingertips twitch as I tried desperately to flail any and all limbs that might respond to my will, but my body remained where it was. I strained to sit up or scream, but I couldn’t even open my mouth. I was trapped, overwhelmed by the weight of my chest collapsing in on itself. If I didn’t put every ounce of will I possessed into sucking air through my nostrils, I had a very real fear that my body would simply shut down, leaving my body as a cold stiff corpse which might be found hours later in my cozy little pod. Filling my lungs with intention, I gasped for air, breath after panicked breath, hoping someone would notice and wake me.
The strobing intensified for what felt like several minutes and when it finally stopped, there remained a constant blinding light that made my eyes water. Tears streamed from the outer corners of my eyes into my ears.
“Help… me…” I managed to whisper to no one in particular.
From the edge of my vision, a blurry figure leaned over me.
“Please,” I sobbed, trying to turn my head to get a better look at who it was, but I couldn’t.
My chest burned as my heart pounded out of control. I tried to calm myself by reciting the scientific facts about what I knew was happening.
During REM sleep, your muscles are essentially turned off to keep you from sleepwalking. When a person wakes up during REM, they are fully conscious but completely paralyzed. Usually, physical stimulation from someone rubbing or shaking them will pull the victim out of the purgatorial state. Unfortunately, living alone means I have no one to rescue me during these episodes, which can sometimes last for hours.
“Just close your eyes. Everything will be okay,” a distorted voice spoke through the fog of my half-conscious state.
Maybe my brain is morphing the cello music into a voice. Sleep paralysis is often accompanied by waking dreams or hallucinations, after all.
I thought I could force myself to come out of it but, instead, I moved even deeper into unconsciousness. It wasn’t like falling, but more like being underwater and sinking slowly. I struggled against what felt like a chemically induced calm. I tried again to force myself awake but couldn’t. The darkness swallowed me up and I finally surrendered to it.
To my surprise, I suddenly found myself vividly aware of two things; one, the fact that I was breathing without much effort, and two, I was no longer in my cushioned sleeping pod, but rather stretched out flat on my back on a cold metal surface. All efforts to move just made me realize that what I was experiencing was very different from the sleep paralysis I was familiar with. I could move my fingers and flex my wrists and feet. There were actual physical restraints fastened around my wrists, neck, forehead, and ankles that were preventing me from moving.
Blinking hard, I strained to look around at my surroundings. The entire room was reflective as if every surface and object was made from surgical steel. It was shockingly cold, almost like the inside of a walk-in refrigerator. I grunted, twisting my wrists in hopes that I could slip out the straps.
There was a continuous hum that was so low I didn’t hear it so much as felt it vibrating through my entire body. There was a spherical light that seemed to be floating in the air a few feet over me. The ceiling was high above that and almost too dark for me to make out anything but the vague shape of what might have been a reflection of myself and the rest of the room around me. I strained to see past the light so I could study what else I could make out in the reflective ceiling. My heart pounded in my ears as my attention was drawn to a distorted human shape in the darkness at my side.
A chill spread through my body as I realized that someone, or something, was quietly watching me struggle but I couldn’t for the life of me work out who, as the silhouette disappeared from my view the moment I noticed it. Even when I turned my eyes as far as I could, the dark corners of the room remained completely obscured. Regardless of the deafening silence and the fact that I couldn’t see anyone, I knew someone was there.
About the Author
Alice Bane holds a BSc and a voracious interest in all things extra-terrestrial. Self-identifying as a citizen of the universe, she has opted to travel the cosmos through her words. Million Miles Away is her debut Sci-Fi Romance novel.