What’s Your App-titude?

So, I was in a class the other day and  the lecturer mentioned something that shocked me.

He said within the next ten years, folks won’t go to websites, but will only open apps. And not from a computer but from a tablet.

I have a Mac, Desktop, and iPads.

I don’t really use apps on my iPad, preferring to type in the address instead of the short cut. Not quite sure why, although my wordpress app is a little less user-friendly than my Mac.

Still, in an effort to drag myself kicking and screaming into the future, I will be downloading a note taking App in which to store my notes for my world war 1 historical. I imagine the learning curve will be a pain in the posterior.

So what about you? Am I behind the times? How is you App-titude?

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Hadean 2: Survivor Road, Chapter 3, Coming July 21st

KoboChapter 3

My wife should kill someone more often. Brent Zindell stuffed the tongue of his belt through the loop on his trousers. A pleasant hum spread through his body. They’d made love two times in the last half hour, twice their normal weekly allotment. But more than that, her bashing in the face of her coworker had drawn them closer together, a force united. Just like they’d been after their daughter Cheyenne’s rape.

Especially after Brent had killed the rapist’s parents and made certain the criminal would be incarcerated for the next two decades.

Toes sinking into the plush beige carpeting, he sauntered past the rumpled king-sized bed and stopped by his dresser. Tucking his wallet into his trouser pocket, he fingered the oily rubberband wrapped around a tin of mints. Such an ordinary object, but it had concealed any evidence he tampered with a car’s brakes.

Had his wife taken a trophy?

Of course, a paper shredder would be too obvious.

His wife, Kelly, strolled out of the bathroom. Blond highlighted her chestnut hair. Blush and foundation concealed the bruise swelling her right cheek. Shiny pink lips blew on the scarlet nails perfuming the air with a chemical smell. Her eyes shone as she approached, lush hips swaying inside her black yoga pants. “I’m almost sorry to share you with the neighbors.”

Brent held out his hand. When she looked at him like that, he was no longer a five foot six middle-aged bureaucrat, but a six foot tall superhero. “But you love Ellen’s pizza.”

Kelly slid her palm across his. “I love you more.”

“And I love you.” After today, the words were sweeter, filled with an abyss of meaning. Skimming past her hand and up her forearm, he pulled his wife against his chest.

She rested her head on his shoulder and buried her nose in his neck. “I love how you smell.”

He tilted his head, giving her access to his neck. “We shared the same soap.”

His hands skimmed her sides to rest on her waist. She was so perfect. The exact amount a man needed so he didn’t cut himself on sharp bones.

“It smells different on you.”

So she’d said. He recognized the symptoms. His senses had been heightened after his first kill, too. He detected the peppermint scent of her toothpaste and the richness of her building arousal. He swatted her on the left butt check. “Come on, woman. I need my energy if you keep that up.”

Her chuckle nearly matched his pulse. “That you will. I have plans for you. Later.”

Later, he could do. He brushed his mouth across hers.

A jet rumbled overhead.

Would this one drop its payload on their neighborhood? Would his family be injured? Staring at the popcorn ceiling, he set her away from him. A second passed. Two. Five. At ten, he released the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He hoped the military was restoring order.

Not that things should return to the way they were.

But a little discipline, respect for authority, and obedience to the law would soon return society to the way it should have been.

He saw that, now.

After giving his hand one final squeeze, Kelly sashayed to her black ballerina flats and stepped into her shoes. She spun on her heel. “What do you think? Post-crazy chic? Or everyday casual?”

“I think you look beautiful.” And her choice of shoe minimized the inch she had over him. Tugging on his socks, he worked his foot into his shoes making certain the insert didn’t roll.

She grinned at him and dipped into a shallow curtsey. “Thank you, kind sir. But I’m still not giving you my pepperoni.”

His lips curled into a matching smile. “Your daughter isn’t so stingy.”

“My daughter thinks she’s a vegetarian, even though she loves to eat steak.” Kelly flipped her hair over her shoulder, wiggled her lush bottom, then skipped to his side.

“I believe that’s because she’s complex.” At least, that was her explanation the last time Cheyenne dived into a nine ounce filet mignon. Brent didn’t care as long as she ate. For months after her rape, she’d barely moved, let alone touched food. Sweat blistered his forehead.

Kelly hooked her arm through his. “Hey, now. She’s okay. You saw her for yourself just forty minutes ago.”

Yes, he had. But he’d also seen something else, something his normally observant wife had missed. “She’d been scared though.”

“I’m sure that went away as soon as she saw us. Saw you.” Kelly tugged him through the double doors leading into the hallway. “I knew you could keep me safe. And she knows the same thing.”

Across from them, band stickers decorated their daughter’s closed door. The cloying stench of strawberry incense mingled with the scent of fabric starch emanating from his wife’s craft room on their left. Turning right, they hustled down the short hall, veered left at the formal dining room clipping the corner of the living room, and aimed for the front door.

“Those girls are going to need you, too.”

He twisted the knob. “Girls?”

Cheyenne’s friend Raine had the black lined eyes of a seventy year old in a seventeen year old’s body. Brent’s skin prickled whenever she stared at him. He could swear she knew more than she should. But she hadn’t caved when other teenagers would have. She’d stuck by Cheyenne, defending her, wearing bruises from the fights she’d been in, defending his daughter’s reputation.

“The Robelski girls, Ellen and Rosa.” Kelly snatched a pink umbrella from the hook mounted on the wall. The ribbon emblem marked his wife’s participation in the three day run to raise money for breast cancer. She unfurled the umbrella with a flourish, then held it over both their heads.

Rain pelted the walkway and barreled down the cracks in the driveway. Stray sun rays pierced the black clouds, not having the sense to stay out of the storm.  Smoke laced the pervading odor of wet asphalt.

Brent wrapped his arm around his wife, turning his head to fill his senses with her familiar scent.  “I’m sure Ellen and Rosa will turn to their father for guidance.”

Paul Robelski was one crafty predator, who always seemed to be several steps ahead of everyone. It was what made him a successful defense attorney, a formidable chess opponent, and a dominating conversationalist. The man could turn the tables on anything and anyone.

There’d been times, Brent would have sworn the sky was green if Robelski had said so first.

“I don’t think their parents are home.” Kelly jumped the clots of garbage in the gutters. Her flats splashed at the edge of the growing puddles. “Grace mentioned heading north to say her goodbyes to her mother and then arranging the funeral.”

Brent shifted his wife’s hand so the bigger side of the umbrella protected her. Moisture pattered his shirt sleeve and wicked across the fabric. With Robelski out of the picture, the girls would need some guidance. Except… “I’m sure Paul’s plan will work until the National Guard restores order.”

He hadn’t seen any soldiers while driving home from his wife’s work. Even the police, sheriff’s deputies, and firemen had been scarce.

His wife’s shoulder brushed his. “They’ll need your expertise.”

“I ride herd on a bunch of social workers, not plan offenses against a crazed horde.”

Kelly stumbled when her hard-soled shoes slipped on a patch of oil. “I know, I depend upon you.”

Catching her before her knee hit the black top, Brent helped her regain her footing. Anticipation unfurled inside his gut. He had successfully delivered justice to over a dozen people. Even the cops with their high-tech forensics hadn’t linked all his kills to him. Maybe…

A gate slammed on the side of the Robelski home, then bounced open. The green trash bin glinted in the gray light. Two feet propped the lid open.  He didn’t know who had killed the guard, but he’d had help taking out the garbage. “Ellen has a friend with her. Andrew, I think it was. He seems capable.”

And there had been a look in the man’s eyes. A predatory look.

The base of Brent’s spine tingled in warning.

He doubted his wife was the only one who’d bagged a crazy today, especially since Andrew had smelled of gunpowder and had carried a pistol with ease.

Kelly snorted. “Ellen has horrible taste in men. Just look at her ex-husband.”

True. Alan Duncan was a real piece of work. Brent guided his wife around a puddle in the driveway. The shower tapered off into a mist. Over the garage, the security lights blinked on, bathing him in golden light.

“They need you, dear.” Stooping, his wife picked up a silver key from the rubble of a garden gnome. “Without the parents, it’s up to you to keep us all safe.”

She dropped the house key into his trouser pocket then stroked his leg.

He had kept his wife and daughter safe. Brent squared his shoulders as they turned up the walkway to the house.  “Why don’t we see what happens, first?”

He’d observe Andy and the geeky kid Rosa had brought home. If things didn’t work out the way they should, he could begin a takeover. Quietly, of course. Shouldn’t Ellen’s first concern be her young, vulnerable children? Shouldn’t Rosa be using her science knowledge to better use? And his daughter would keep Raine busy. He pressed the door bell. The chimes rang deep inside the sprawling ranch.

As for Andy and the other guy… There were plenty of empty garbage bins up and down the street.

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Friday Funny—Bring Potato Chips

 Take 60 seconds to read this story. It will give you time to settle your brain, Gather your thoughts, calm down and finish your week off on a positive note.

Potato Chips

A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, So he packed his suitcase with a bag of potato chips and a six-pack of root beer And started his journey.

  When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man. He was sitting in the Park, just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his Suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that The old man looked hungry, so he offered him some chips. He gratefully accepted It and smiled at him.

  His smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a Root beer. Again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all Afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word..

  As twilight approached, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave; But before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the Old man, and gave him a hug. He gave him his biggest smile ever..

  When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was Surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today That made you so happy?”

He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? He’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

  Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was Stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked, “dad, what did you do today That made you so happy?”

  He replied “I ate potato chips in the park with God.” However, before his son Responded, he added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

  Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, An honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to Turn a life around. People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime!

Embrace all equally!

  Have lunch with God…….bring chips.

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Hadean 2: Survivor Road, Chapter 2

KoboChapter 2

A soft groan raised the hair on Andrew Whiteangel’s neck. Ellen! Yanking the gun from his waistband, Drew whipped around and dashed from the master bedroom. Down the short hall, a blade of light cut across the satillo tile.

Drew’s stomach did a slow roll. He’d sworn to protect Ellen and her family. And he’d failed. Like always. The damn suburban ranch house had too many windows and doors. Too many points of entry for the enemy. And everyone was an enemy with crazy sweeping the Valley. He palmed his gun. The weight was reassuring and cold as hell.

If he lost Ellen…

His sneakers squeaked on the tile. Stopping in front of the open door to the attached garage, he raised the pistol.

Ellen stood in the middle of the empty bay. Shoulders hunched, arms in close, she swayed near a pile of litter seeping into the space reserved for two cars. A humid breeze darted in through the open side door and thumbed through the debris.

Drew ground his back molars. Dammit. He should never have accepted her excuse of seeing the body outside. He should have known it for the lie it was. He was an addiction counselor for God’s sake, and well versed in the art of bullshit.

Ellen had seen someone outside and not told him.

Ellen knew his record.

Did she think he was going to kill some random neighbor?

Not unless the bastard deserved it. And so many did. Drew rolled his shoulders. Cradling the grip of his gun, he sidled toward the door. He peeked out. Left. The hard wall of the garbage alcove. Right was the walk leading to the back yard. No shadow shifted in the shade of the afternoon sun. No one hopped a fence. “They’re gone.”

Lowering his weapon, Drew eased the door shut behind him. Hollow board. Two kicks and someone could enter through the door. He twisted the lock in the brass knob and swore. A child could pick that in ten minutes. He’d done it in five when he was six. Of course, he’d known there were crackers on the other side. Nothing like motivation. And speaking of motivation…

His gaze cut to Ellen.

She scrubbed her hand down her face and sighed. Frustration and sadness bowed her shoulders.

Maybe he’d been a little hard on her. Maybe he shouldn’t have reminded her that safety was an illusion. But then he hadn’t grown up with clean clothes, a bed, or a reliable supply of food. Drew returned his gun to his waistband. His palm itched with the need to touch her, contact with her calmed the whirlwind inside his head. He set his hand on her shoulder and allowed his fingertips to tease the silky skin just beyond her ribbed collar. “You okay?”

She straightened her arms at her sides. “Who in their right mind would do this?”

“We kinda established that most aren’t in their right mind.”

She pointed a finger at the mess. “That food is just going to waste.”

He’d eaten worse. Crouching, he poked the pile. A can of Dr Pepper rolled down. Motor oil dripped like a loogey from a cellophane packet of dehydrated chicken something-or-other. Picking up the pouch, he wiped it on his jean-clad thigh. Chicken enchiladas. Nice. “Looks like the packaging is waterproof.”

Kneeling on the floor beside him, Ellen selected the top packet. “We should be saving the water for drinking and bathing, not wasting it on washing the food.”

They should be packing the stuff into oh-shit bags to hightail it out of the Valley. But he doubted she was willing to leave while the plan was still in place. And then there were her AWOL parents… Yeah, he had his work cut out for him to convince her to leave. Story of Drew’s life. He never did things the easy way.

“We got running water now, Betty. I suggest you get busy.”

Her blue eyes narrowed and she pushed her blond hair out of her face. “If you must typecast me, then I prefer Julia. As in Julia Childs. Gourmet food for everyone.”

He’d known a Julia once. She was a stuck-up bitch. “Betty, it is.”

Ellen’s mouth opened.

He chuckled. He was growing on her. Soon, he’d get to do more than touch her casually.

A footstep whispered behind them.

Twirling around, he jerked the gun from his waistband and aimed it at the entrance to the house.

Ellen’s sister raised her hands and froze. “Whoa. Whoa.”

He wasn’t a damn horse. “It’s been a day. Rosa? Isn’t it?”

He quickly stuffed the weapon back in his jeans.

“Yeah.” Where Ellen was blond and blue eyed, her sister Rosa had brown eyes and hair. Her clothes were standard issue for a professional who valued comfort over fashion. “Lunch is served. If you all want to eat, you need to get a move on. There are four teenagers in the house.”

Her outfit would look better on Ellen. Hell, Ellen would look better with nothing on. Drew forced air into his lungs and chased away the thought. There was an apocalypse on; he needed to focus. His gaze swept the curve of Ellen’s breast. Then again, he wasn’t dead yet.

Setting her hands on her knees, Ellen pushed to her feet.  Her stomach rumbled. “I think I’ll have a cup of soup. I’m not sure I’m up to eating tomato sauce.”

Drew rose and cupped her elbow. His first thought was she was sacrificing so others could have more. But she’d been sick this morning. God, was it really just this morning that the world had gone loco?  “I’ll make it. And some crackers, too.”

Crackers were supposed to settle a stomach, weren’t they? Good Lord, he had watched one too many chick flicks. Next thing, he might develop breasts. He jerked his t-shirt down and checked. Nope. Not yet.

Ellen’s lips twitched. “Careful, or I might start calling you Buddy Crocker.”

Had she realized she’d linked their last names? Drew wouldn’t tell her until they were alone. He did have a nice comfy couch all to himself and her kids had to sleep sometime.

“I’m strong like bull. I can open cans.” He flexed his bicep. Chicks dug his muscles. A benefit of working out, to keep himself disciplined and beat back the drug cravings.

Framed in the doorway, Rosa rolled her eyes. “I’m going before I lose my appetite.”

Ellen watched as he made his bicep dance.

“We’ll be there in a minute.” Or two. Maybe three. Drew would push his luck.

Rosa shifted then stilled. “What in the world?”

Ellen blinked then shook herself. “We had a break in.”

“The guard.” Rosa propped herself up against the door jamb. “He had my keys. He must have gotten in here, to wait for me, to…”

Drew stepped forward.

Ellen cut in front of him, reaching her sister first and pulling her into her arms. “It’ll be alright.”

Drew’s nails dug into his palms. Rosa had killed the man, in self-defense. Nothing would be alright for a while. He’d added four more corpses to his tally today. Good kills. Righteous kills to save Ellen’s cousin and friends. But those faces were bound to haunt him. Things were bound to be worse for Rosa. She’d been sober. She’d remember all the little details. “When you’re ready to talk, I’ll be here.”

Straightening, Rosa pushed out of her sister’s arms. “Why would I need to talk? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Drew is a counselor.” Ellen smoothed the dark flyaway strands of her sister’s hair.  “He can help.”

“I’m fine. Just fine.” Rosa stomped away.

Chewing on her bottom lip, Ellen stared at him.

Drew shifted closer and traced her jawline with his fingers. “I’ve had more reluctant clients.”

He really needed to learn when to shut up. His reluctant patients had either returned to drugs or killed themselves. Somehow, he didn’t think Ellen would find those outcomes acceptable.

She leaned into his touch for a moment. “I trust you, and am willing to help. She has a fondness for my chocolate chip brownies.”

A child’s shriek pierced the air.

Ellen stiffened. “We better go in. I want to see these cooking skills of yours in action.”

“Prepare to be amazed by me and my sidekick, Microwave.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets. Her kids liked him well enough as the neighbor, but how would they react when he turned into something else? He’d hated the stream of ‘uncles’ his mother had paraded through their tenement. Most of them had hated him back. Drew rolled the tension from his shoulders.

He had more important things to do.

With his brother off saving the world with his magic detective’s shield, Drew needed an ally and he had a small pool to draw from—two teenagers, a geek and a neighbor who handled a dead body like yesterday’s fish.

Drew needed to assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Then he’d figure out how to use them best.

Or defeat them, if they turned crazy.

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Friday Funny—God Looked Down

Courtesy of my mother…

 At last some good news for seniors.

Most seniors never get enough exercise.  In His wisdom God decreed that seniors become forgetful so they would have to search for their glasses, keys and other things thus doing more walking.

And God looked down and saw that it was good. 

Then God saw there was another need.   In His wisdom He made seniors lose coordination so they would drop things requiring them to bend, reach & stretch.

 And God looked down and saw that it was good. 

 Then God considered the function of bladders and decided seniors would have additional calls of nature requiring more trips to the bathroom, thus providing more exercise.

God looked down and saw that it was good. 

 So if you find as you age, you are getting up and down more, remember its God’s will.  

It is all in your best interest even though you mutter under your breath.

 Nine Important Facts To Remember As We Grow Older
#9  Death is the number 1 killer in the world.
#8  Life is sexually transmitted.
#7  Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
#6  Men have 2 motivations: hunger and hanky-panky, and they can’t tell them apart. 
If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.
#5  Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day.
Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.
#4  Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.
#3  All of us could take a lesson from the weather.   It pays no attention to criticism.
#2  In the 60’s, people took acid to make the world weird.   Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.
#1  Life is like a jar of jalapeno peppers.  What you do today might burn your butt tomorrow.

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We’ve Grown

Apparently, my husband and I have decided to be a crazy cat couple.

We have 3 cats and one dog. Okay technically, we have a cat and a dog and my son has a cat and my youngest daughter has another cat. But we all live in one house, so I stand my my original count.

When my oldest moved out, she got a dog then she got a kitten. The friend whom she got a kitten from has a cat who after having one litter decided to get pregnant with another litter.

Since the friend couldn’t have 8 cats in an apartment, my oldest asked if we could take two. Apparently kittens are like aspirin, they come in doses of two.

Hubby said no. I said we’d think about it. The weekend neared its inevitable conclusion and hubby asked if I’d decided about the kittens.

My answer, “Well, we’d had four cats. Then one died and we still go through the same amount of food, but now the dog is getting fat from eating all the leftovers.”

His reply. “So we should get the kittens.”

Do the math: Kitten + Kitten = Cat.

So we got them. Meet Pluto and Gus-gus (named after the mice in Cinderella)

IMG_0139

Pluto

IMG_0142Gus-gus

 

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Hadean, Part II: Survivor Road—Coming mid-July

KoboChapter 1

The body is gone. So why can I still see it? Ellen Duncan fisted the silk curtains, viewing the front yard through the slit between the panels. Rain spat on the gravel, glistening on the clumps of bone and brain matter. Red blood snaked through the brown rock and crept toward the street. Water gurgled in the gutter and eddied around dams of soggy paper and rotting vegetation.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, a soft percussion accompanied by the deep-throated roar of bombs exploding in the Phoenix suburbs. Columns of black smoke slammed up against the descending vault of gunmetal thunderheads. Fighter jets throttled over the Carefree neighborhood, racing back to Luke Air Force Base to reload.

America was at war with itself.

And everyone was losing.

Ellen’s lungs labored to draw the cool air into her lungs. Stick to the plan. The plan got us this far. It’s my best hope to keep my family together. To keep my children alive. Her dry tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. Despite swallowing hundreds of times since arriving at her parents’ house half an hour ago, she tasted death.

Meaty, metallic death.

It had nearly been hers, her sister’s, her cousin’s, her son’s and her daughter’s.

Her hands trembled, opening up the view.

Opening her to the view of others.

Making herself a target. Making her children and family vulnerable.

She snapped the curtains together. Get a grip. Hold it together. The others will look to me for guidance. My parents are counting on me.

“What’s out there?” Andrew Whiteangel’s deep baritone resonated in her bones. His footsteps were a whisper across the plush carpeting.

Ellen’s nails dug into the silk. The fabric didn’t run. It was tougher than it looked. Like she would have to be. Like she was because he was near. After drying her damp palms on the fabric, she turned. “You scared me.”

Darkness squatted in the living room behind her, reducing the Ethan Allen furniture to chunks of coal. Muffled voices drifted out of the kitchen and rippled down the hall. Cabinet doors opened and closed, no doubt her sister and cousin setting the table. The air thickened with the scents of tomato sauce, cheese, and baking bread.

“It’s been a scary kinda day.” Drew’s white tee-shirt glowed in the dim light. He flicked the switch on the floor lamp.

She blinked until her eyes adjusted, then she focused on him.

A mass of dark chocolate hair swirled around his head, then dipped toward his milk chocolate eyes. Skull tattoos winked from cocoa-colored biceps. “Unless it’s me you’re afraid of.”

Ellen snorted. What a ridiculous question. “Are you feeling homicidal? Crazy? Or just a little nuts?”

“I have my squirrelly moments.” Drew stuffed his hands into his jeans, pushing them lower on his lean hips.

“Don’t we all.” She glanced toward the closed curtains. But this time everyone seemed to be going crazy at once. Ordinary people had attacked each other, then the police, and now the National Guard. The governor of Arizona was dead. And there was no telling what was happening around the country.

“Right now it feels like we’re having a picnic in a park overrun by rabid animals.” He inched closer, heel against toe, as if fearing she’d bolt at any sudden movement.

This was her turf, her home. She would stand her ground, with him at her side. She held out her hand. “We’re safe here.”

“For now.” After freeing his hand from his pocket, he tapped the pads of his fingers against hers then rolled his hand against her palm and laced their fingers together.

“We only have to hold out a bit longer.” The plan was to last for three days. Three days of food and water waited in the garage. Ellen’s dad had laid in more—for others that needed it. He always said there was safety in numbers.  Drew was part of that number now. “We can last until order is restored.”

Drew cocked a dark eyebrow. “Hate to crack your rose-colored glasses, Polyanna, but the restorers of order are currently out of order.”

An explosion rippled underfoot. Mom’s collection of artwork rattled on the beige walls.

Ellen shook her head. Not everything had changed. Drew still used pop culture to wrap everyone into neat packages. At least he wasn’t calling her Betty Crocker anymore. She considered her catering business more Julia Childs. “People will come to their senses soon.”

Drew’s grip tightened and his lips thinned.

Son of a biscuit. He didn’t believe her. Ellen pushed aside her doubts. She’d stick with the plan her parents had created. They hadn’t failed her yet. “This is just a temporary thing. You’ll see.”

He grunted.

She tugged him toward the entry hall. A buzzer sounded in the kitchen. The pizza was ready. “Let’s go eat.”

His nose twitched and he licked his lips. “Home made pizza. Yum.” But he planted his feet on the satillo tile paving the entry and didn’t budge. His hand in hers tethered her to him while his free hand brushed the bulge at his hip. Despite hiding under his t-shirt, the gun outline was unmistakeable. “What did you see that upset you?”

She clamped her lips together.  Was it too much to ask to eat their late lunch and pretend things hadn’t gone to hell in a picnic basket?

He swept his thumb over her knuckles before stroking the sensitive skin between her fingers with the callused pads. “We can stand here all day, holding hands.”

He eased closer. A wall of body heat loomed over her. Gold flecked his brown eyes. He raised his hand to cup her cheek.

Her heart bumped in her chest. Good gravy. They had things to do. Things like… She glommed onto the last bit of sanity. “It was the body. I kept seeing it.”

And her sister, gun in hand, standing over it.

Drew’s fingers delved into her hair. Cupping her head, he forced her to shift forward and lean on him. Forehead touching forehead, they mingled their breaths. “I would have done a better job cleaning up, but I didn’t want anyone to see we were here.”

Ellen buried her face in his chest, inhaled the pine scent of his body wash and the musk that was uniquely his. “We’re supposed to be safe here.”

It had always been safe before.

Her children needed it to be safe now. So did her sister and cousin and their friends.

They were counting on her to make it so.

Her legs trembled from the weight of the responsibility.

“There’s things we can do to make it more secure.” Drew’s lips brushed her temple.

There and gone so fast, she might have imagined it.

He lowered his hand, gliding his fingers through her blond hair as he did so. “Why don’t we check the doors and windows before we eat? That’ll give me some time to think of a few security measures before nightfall.”

Nodding, she straightened. She could do this. She wasn’t alone, and he had experience, even if it was from the other side of the law. “Did you ever break into a house like this?”

“House. Condo. Hotel room. Apartments. Businesses.” Releasing her hand, he draped his arm around her shoulder. His muscles were taut as violin strings against her side. “Anything within a couple blocks of the train was fair game.”

His Brooklyn accent wrapped around his vowels. Had her questions upset him? Thanks to her father’s fellow lawyers, she knew all about his past drug problems. Drew had even flashed his five-year sobriety chip. “You were a young Bugsy Siegel.”

His lips quirked. “Charming. Charismatic. But dumber than dirt, and I never played well with others. Hunger does that to a kid.”

She blinked. Okay, maybe she didn’t know everything about him. She paused. The family room opened up before them. Family room. She shouldn’t take such a thing for granted again. Two six foot long tables radiated from the sides of the modest oak table. Her cousin Raine kicked at the long green tablecloth as she set plastic forks by the place settings. Trailing behind her, her friends Cheyenne and Colton doled out paper napkins and plates.

The ebony sectional pushed against the wall swallowed a dark-haired teenager. He watched Ellen’s children while pointing out hazards popping up on the driving video game. Nine-year-old Rafe leaned into the turns, while six-year-old Erin stuck her tongue between her lips and twisted the controller this way then that.

Ellen’s sister Rosa glanced up from the granite and cherry wood island separating the family room from the kitchen. Handing the pizza cutter to her geeky friend, Marcus, she opened and closed the red pot holders on her hands. Tension tightened the skin around her eyes. “Can you bring in more soda?”

Rosa looked good considering she’d just killed a coworker in their front yard.

Of course, she had thrown up just half an hour ago.

Ellen knew the reaction to the trauma would strike tonight when reason couldn’t bar Rosa’s memories of blowing the guard’s head off from replaying in her subconscious.

Flattening her palm against Drew’s chest, Ellen angled him toward the garage on the left side of the house. “I’ll grab two, but give Rafe and Erin milk.”

God knew what sugary treats they’d consumed before her ex-husband arrived home and threatened to kill them all. That nightmare would return tonight for her, as well as the children.

Drew traced her collar bone through her tee-shirt. “You gonna talk about the plan and what happened today over lunch? Or are you gonna pretend nothing’s happened in front of your kids?”

Disapproval infused his final words.

She knew what he would do. But he wasn’t their parent. She shrugged off his hold. “It’s not wrong to want to protect them.”

“Not unless you’re placing them in more danger by doing so.” Drew folded his arms over his chest. “The world’s fucked up.”

“This neighborhood isn’t.” She set her hand on the brass knob on the door across from the coat closet. They could hold out for three days. People would be over the crazy then.

They’d have to be.

Drew growled.

“What?”

“This ain’t the Fortress of Solitude, Superwoman. Batshit crazy rolls down hill and you live in the Valley.”

Ellen’s foot twitched with the need to kick him. She hadn’t planned on being delusional forever, just until lunch ended. And maybe digested. “Go check the windows and doors.”

He touched two fingers to his forehead in mock salute then headed toward her parents’ bedroom at the end of the hallway.

With a vicious twist, she shoved open the door to the garage. A wall of sultry air reeking of motor oil, antifreeze, and WD-40 slapped her in the face. Canned goods, water bottles, soda cans, and packets of freeze dried foods formed a heap in the center of the concrete slab. Automobile fluids, syrup, and cleaning products dripped from the pile like demon spit.

She braced her hand against the door jam. A moan lodged in her throat.

Through the open side door, she watched rain pelt the pavers.

The house had been breached.

They weren’t safe inside.

Her children weren’t safe anywhere.

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