Thursday, January 3, 2013

LOOKING FOR ME? I've Moved!!!!

*Beep, beep, beep....*

That my friends is the sound of the moving truck. In case you missed it in my previous posts, I have moved from Blogger to Wordpress! No worries, though because all of my previous blogs on writing have been taking with me and are now easier to find! Follow this link to my new site, and be sure to submit your email address to stay in the loop! New things are happening in 2013! I'll see you there!!!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Interview with Minnie Lahongrais!

I had the privilege to meet Minnie on Twitter over a year ago, in response to a blog post she'd written about dealing with the negativity family/friends can have towards your writing. Since then, we've become friends and have encouraged each other along the way. I've had the opportunity to read her first novel, Sinner's Ride, and I have to tell you, that was a different type of story, nothing like what I've read before! I like different, something that steps outside the 'box' and breaks the rules, because it's what I do with my writing as well.  December 12th was the release of her second novel, Divergent Lives, and let me tell you, it too is different! Next week, Minnie will be dropping by again to talk about her new release, so for now, I'll let her tell you about herself!

Welcome, Minnie!

What inspired you to write?
I have always been an avid reader and I still have books I purchased as a teenager. In fact, I was a member of the Doubleday Book Club as well as the Book of the Month Club since I was about thirteen until my early forties. I still have books I purchased that way. I absolutely love the smell of a new book as you crack its spine.

My father passed away in 2005 and I became increasingly despondent. Four years later, after enduring a really bad break-up that left me in the hole for thousands of dollars, I still wasn’t any better; in fact, my depression became worse. I was broke and couldn’t afford therapy and a friend suggested I keep a journal to pour my feelings into. I didn’t want to do that because if anything happened to me, I didn’t want anyone to know what I was really thinking or feeling. I put on a smile and every day I went to work.

The fact that there were constant terror alerts in the neighborhood where I work – Times Square – didn’t make it any better.

While sitting on the train one day, I glanced over at the woman sitting next to me who was holding a book opened to a chapter entitled When Dreams Die and I had an epiphany. I desperately wanted to know what she was reading but didn’t want to intrude.

As I walked to my office from the train station, I asked myself “What if dead dreams could be resurrected?” and Resurrection of Dead Dreams was born. That was on May 13, 2010, a week before my father’s birthday.

I began writing in earnest that day, at my desk, at my day job.

What genre do you write? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?
I’ve created my own genre: the Pink Diamond Genre! I am often asked that question and frankly, I don’t like being boxed in. Labeling myself feels claustrophobic to me. That is why I enjoy being an Indie Author. Both Sinner’s Ride and Divergent Lives are psychological thrillers. My Resurrection of Dead Dreams series is urban fantasy.

As a newbie author, I want to try different things. I do have a dark imagination so I will probably write more books like my two previous works, but I would also like to try my hand at erotica … oooh. That didn’t sound right! Ah! Double entendres!

What you probably won’t see from me – I won’t say never because never is a long time – but it is unlikely that I’ll be doing love stories with any happily-ever-afters. Call me jaded, but I can’t relate.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I have a very demanding day job where the hours tend to be long. I’m usually up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. when I automatically reach for my phone and go through emails, tweets, blog posts and Facebook postings. I then physically get out of bed around 6:15, perform morning prayers then get ready for work.

My commute is between an hour and an hour and a half long, so I usually read from an eBook or research I may have printed previously. If I don’t have lunch plans – which I rarely make – I write or research during my lunch hour and then I read some more during my evening commute.
When I get home during the week in the evening I do the social media thing for about an hour, exercise a bit and then I prepare to do it all over again the next day. I’m usually in bed by 9 p.m.
Weekends, I don’t leave the house unless it is absolutely necessary. A couple of times during the month I’ll hang out with my daughter and her family or I’ll have my grandson over. When I don’t have plans with them, I will leave my office Friday night and not leave my apartment until Monday morning because I’ve been writing or researching.

Since I’m just recovering financially, when I take vacation time, I stay close to home and spend 90% of that time writing. I am my most productive when I know that I have a big block of time that I can dedicate to writing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can only write in complete silence because I am living what I write. I become my character. Also, I don’t drink alcoholic beverages when I’m writing and my best writing is done at night.

Are you a pantser or plotter?
I am more pantser than plotter though I have begun to list the issues I need to address in my manuscripts.

With Divergent Lives I did use the Marshall Plan to flesh out the characters but I couldn’t get into planning every little detail of the story. Whenever I tried to stick to the plan, the characters rebelled and went their own way. When I allowed them to take over, the story flowed and evolved organically.

I’m thinking I might try Scrivener for Resurrection of Dead Dreams because it is a much bigger, more complex story. I’ve put together a masthead for the characters already created along with background information on each, psychological profiles and their connections to each other.

Are your stories based on experiences based on someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share and example?
All of my stories have a grain of truth in them. They all contain an experience, a feeling – something from my own life that I engorge with fiction.

For example: Like Adina and RJ from Divergent Lives I was born of immigrant Puerto Rican parents in the dead of winter in the middle of the night. I grew up in East Harlem in the late 60s and 70s -- just like Adina.

RJ grew up in Lebanon, Pennsylvania where I have cousins.

I live near Riverdale.

I actually frequent the Thai restaurant Qi -- the place where Adina has a major event.

Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Write, research and write some more. Never stop looking at the world around you. Let your imagination roam freely. Don’t be afraid to fail. Not everybody will like your work, but don’t stop writing.

 MJ: Wonderful advice and oh so true!!

Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?
Sinner’s Ride was published by a vanity press. Divergent Lives is published under my own banner Lahongrais Books.

I love the creative control I have being a self-published author. I love being able to see in real time how my book is doing. I love choosing my own team. I don’t love the expense, but I love what I do and I know I will always find a way to make things happen.

What are your current projects?
Right now I’m focusing on marketing and promoting Divergent Lives. Soon, I’ll revisit the eighteen chapters I have completed in Book One of my series Resurrection of Dead Dreams. I have a list of things I need to research before I can begin thinking about how this story is going to play out.


Divergent Lives is a psycho-thriller with decidedly deviant twists to a sociopathic theme. It tells the story of RJ and Adina who enter the world as fraternal twins, one raised by old-world, controlling immigrants in El Barrio, the other sold into a religious home filled with lies and scorn. Both are sociopaths.

Turns out, RJ’s got a secret that enrages him with the flip of a switch. Adina uses her sexual power to dominate every man in her life. They are on a mysterious trajectory to cross paths in New York City, where the end of their lives culminates in an apex of horror and carnage.


Check back next week for a guest post by Minnie sharing more about her current novel, Divergent Lives!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Check out Chicki Brown and her New Release, Ain't Too Proud To Beg!

Amazon Best Seller, Chicki Brown has stopped by to share her latest release, Ain't Too Proud To Beg!

Vaughn Breland, the hot actor, has appeared in several of her novels, Hot Fun in the Summertime and Hollywood Swinging. Now he's back in a story of his own, and man have things changed!

Vaughn Breland has never been one to let a woman tell him what to do. When he finds himself at the mercy of beautiful physical therapist, Trenyce Clark, he has to decide what's most important-recovering from his near-fatal car accident or maintaining his macho image.

Chicki Brown's Book Cataloge


“Any other questions?” The statuesque therapist asked.
I shook my head.  She touched my arm, and I could’ve sworn I felt a familiar stirring, if it hadn’t been for the pain pushing it away. My good eye studied her face. She was definitely attractive, and she smelled like good perfume. Could even be beautiful with her hair and makeup done. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.” 
“We can talk about this another time. I don’t want to tire you out. If you need anything else, just have one of the nurses contact me. My office is just upstairs. Please give serious consideration to putting off the move to California.”
The second she left the room, Devon said, “I’m with her, man. Craig was serious about his offer. It would be cheaper and safer, even though I know the idea of staying here in Ski-ville doesn’t thrill you. But you’d be living in luxury.”
Finally giving the option consideration, I said, “I guess I would need a nurse.”
“Yeah, until you can get around by yourself. I’m sure the hospital can arrange private duty. Do you want me to check into it for you?”
“I’d appreciate it, man.” I hesitated. “But I don’t want her as my physical therapist. You got me?”
“Why not?”
“For one thing, I don’t want a woman.”
Devon’s eyes widened. “Are you kidding me?  You, the lover of all things female?” He snickered.
“Not when I’m incapacitated.”
“I just met her. You’d change your mind if you saw her.  She’s beautiful. If I was single, I wouldn’t need to be convinced to let her massage me.” That got a snort from me. “Since when have you ever had a problem with a beautiful woman?”
“Look at me, Dev. I can’t even take a piss by myself, and for all I know, I might look like Freddy Krueger under these bandages. Not very sexy.”
“Oh, that legendary Breland pride is getting in the way. Tell me why you need to be sexy with your therapist. You wouldn’t start working with her until you’re on your feet anyway. Maybe they can find you another PT. One that’s less attractive.” Devon snickered. “It’s up to you, V. Just tell me what you need me to do.”
“Get Dr. Liu for me. He can tell Ms. Clark my decision.”
“All right, I’m going to the nurses’ station to see if someone knows where to find him. You’re such a punk, you know that?” Devon exited the room on a laugh.
The expense of transport back to L.A. had made my decision for me. Although it had been years since I’d lived under someone else’s roof, I decided to take Craig up on his offer.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Interview with Jamallah Bergman!

Hello everyone! Today I'd like to introduce you to a fellow author from Atlanta, Georgia! I met Jamallah on FB one night when asking questions about her publisher. She was  very helpful and wasted no time answering my questions. She's recently released a new book, Sorry, Wrong Number. But before I share the excerpt, lets get to know the author!

Okay, how often do you get to pose with your books male cover model????? How cool is that!! You go girl! 
What inspired you to write?
What inspires me to write is basically life and what interest me. If I find a topic that interest me and I know it will make for a great story, I think up my characters and then I go on and start to write.  Either that or someone gives me the idea when I am talking with them or if I see a picture of someone or something, I will think up a story to write about it.

What genre do you write? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?
I mainly write about Interracial Romance dealing with heroines who are what I like to call ‘Big Beautiful Women”. I write about Contemporary as well as Erotica Romance dealing with Interracial couples.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Well my work schedule usually begins after I get the kid off to school. Once I get home, I figure out which story I will be starting back on. Right now I’m in the midst of writing on two different stories at one time. Which can be stressful BUT for me it isn’t. I take my time with my stories and once the flow is going, it’s rather easy for me to get back into my writing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I tend to put some of my favorite things in my stories. If you notice in most of my stories, certain things  are often repeated.  You will see some of the following:
References to old movies ( I am probably the biggest old movie fanatic I know)
Flowers (I’ve always wanted a man to give me a big bouquet of flowers)
Food ( Who doesn’t love food….especially dessert)

Are you a pantser or plotter?
Oh I can say I am a little of both....I don’t think you can write a good story without a little of both.

Are your stories based on experiences based on someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share and example?
Well the best example I can give is actually two of my books, which were my first and second books to be published. “If…Only You Knew” was about a woman, who was a writer, who had been friends with a guy since they were in college. But during the years, she has strong feelings for her friend, even though he’s completely oblivious to the fact that she in love with him. When I was in high school, I had a guy friend, who even though we were real good friends and had helped me get through a rough part of my life. He didn’t know it but I honestly fell in love with him but my problem was I was extremely shy at the time. So I never told him how I felt about and in a way, I think it was for the best. But it did make for a sweet story. “The Lady of Gladstone Manor” is particularly close to my heart though because it deals with acceptance. The woman in the story is scarred due to an accident that happened when she was young. She secludes herself from everybody in town in her family’s home. She is afraid of what other will think of her when they see her face to face and therefore she hides from the world. For most of my life, I hid from the world because I was afraid of what others would think of me when they saw my face. (I’ve had plenty of health issues over the past couple of years but they ended up affecting my face) It was a slow process BUT now I am out and about and I’ve been accepted by so many that it has made me feel good about myself.

MJ: Both books sound like beautiful stories! I love the way writing can help deal with matters that are close to home. 

Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Don’t ever let others tell you that you can’t be a writer. If you know you have a gift of writing, then I would go for it and write that story that’s been buzzing around in your head. Write and write until you feel like you can’t write anymore. Also it’s best to go on writer’s sites that will have other writers help critique your work. Also submit some of your work to publishers who deal in the genre that you write about.

Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?
I publish with Secret Cravings Publishing

What are your current projects?
Right now I am working on getting my 5th book “The Biker Next Door” out for next month. I already got my cover which I love. I have another book coming out in March called “The Admission” which I know will really have people talking. I’ve already sent off the 2nd story in “The Wrong Number Series” and I am going to send off another story that will also be part of a series as well. I am also currently working on two stories that I hope to have out next year as well. So yeah…..I’m pretty busy!

 Connect with Jamallah at the following sites:

MJ: This is an interesting blurb and excerpt you've sent. Do you mind telling us a little bit about this story?

Jamallah: Have you ever gotten a phone call from a stranger only to find out that they had the wrong number?
It’s a coincidence that happens far too often for people on a daily basis.

My story “Sorry…Wrong Number” goes beyond that and asks the question, “What would happen if the wrong number ends up being something way more unexpected?”

When I got the idea for this story, I said to myself this would make for a really interesting story because honestly it’s something that happens every day as far as getting a wrong number. But then I thought what would happen if the two people started talking and what would happen if the conversations between the two got a tad bit….well….freaky.

Hence “Sorry…Wrong Number” was born!

“Sorry…Wrong Number” is book one of “The Wrong Number Series”.

 All good things have a beginning and with this story, it all begins with a call. Marcie Reynolds thought nothing of grabbing the phone that evening but she never thought that once she answered and heard the amazing voice on the other end that anything would happen, since the fact that the man had the wrong number.

Jonathan Sutton thought he had the right number and after the second time he calls, he couldn’t help but be enthralled after listening to the sweet voice on the other end. Soon he strikes up a conversation with the girl who calls herself ‘Joan’ and quickly sparks fly.

Watch as Marcie and Jonathan make what seems like something as innocent as a phone call into something that neither one of them will never forget.

     “Wonder if he’ll call back?”
     “Why would he want to call me back?”
     “You never know, Marcie, he just might call you back if he thinks you sound cute. Even better, if he sounds as hot as you said he sounds, there’s no telling what will happen/where this will go.”

     How in the hell was she to know that this would happen again? As soon as Marci walked into her apartment that evening after work, the phone rang. Of course, like an idiot, she picked it up. “Hello?”
     “Hello again dear, how was your day?” Marcie thought his voice sounded very inviting even though this was her fourth time hearing it and this time he was calling her “dear.”
     “Hello again, my day was fine and yours?”
     “It was good, thank you,” he said, then sighed.
     This was crazy, she thought, and couldn’t believe she was standing there talking on the phone with this stranger. Marcie took her shoes off and sat down on the couch. “Why are you calling me?”
     “Because you sounded cute and I want to get to know you,” he said.
     Even though he couldn’t see her, Marcie shook her head in response. “For all I know, you could be a serial killer who likes to call up unsuspecting women over the phone. Hell, I don’t even know your name and you act like I’ve known you for years,” she said.
     “Jonathan, my name is Jonathan, and yours?” he asked.
     Marcie was very apprehensive about letting this man know who she was and there was no way in hell she would give him her real name. She had to make something up, so she decided to give him the first name that popped into her head. “Joan, I’m Joan.”
     “Nice talking with you, Joan. Don’t worry, I’m kind of nervous myself. I’ve never done this before, getting to know a perfect stranger over the phone.”
     “Well, this is a first for both of us, then.” Marcie giggled as she sat down on the couch.
     “You have a really cute laugh, Joan.”
     Who the hell was this guy? All this cuteness he kept serving her up. “You must do this often, Jonathan. You are way too cool and calm, talking to me like this.”
     “Well, what would you like to talk about?”
     “Did you ever talk with your friend Frank?” she asked, hearing him laugh this time. It sounded just as good as his voice.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Release Day for 5 Prince Publishing Author Bernadette Marie!

Today is release day for  5 Prince Author, Bernadette Marie, and the fourth book of the popular Keller Family Series!


Keller Family Series Book 4
Bernadette Marie
Center Stage
John Forrester is a simple man whose never needed more than his work, his truck, and a small apartment with his flat screen TV. After a bad breakup with his ex-wife John swore he’d never get married again and has done his best to keep to himself. But one woman always creeps into his mind—Arianna Keller.

Arianna Keller had an amazing career, center stage on Broadway. However, her run in New York is over and circumstances have forced her back home to Nashville, Tennessee.

The relationship John and Arianna have forged over the years as friends has always had a romantic spark, which has been ignored. Now they are working together to restore an old theater and their desire for each other can no longer be denied.

It’s only a matter of time before sparks ignite into a passionate fire. But Arianna is keeping a secret which threatens to destroy more than her relationship with John—it threatens the lives of the entire Keller family.

Bio for Bernadette Marie:
Bernadette Marie has been an avid writer since the early age of 13, when she’d fill notebook after notebook with stories that she’d share with her friends.  Her journey into novel writing started the summer before eighth grade when her father gave her an old typewriter.  At all times of the day and night you would find her on the back porch penning her first work, which she would continue to write for the next 22 years.

In 2007 – after marriage, filling her chronic entrepreneurial needs, and having five children – Bernadette began to write seriously with the goal of being published.  That year she wrote 12 books.  In 2009  she was contracted for her first trilogy and the published author was born.  In 2011 she (being the entrepreneur that she is) opened her own publishing house, 5 Prince Publishing, and has released contemporary titles and began the process of taking on other authors in other genres.

In 2012 Bernadette Marie found herself on the bestsellers lists of iTunes and Amazon to name a few.  Her office wall is lined with colorful PostIt notes with the titles of books she will be releasing in the very near future, with hope that they too will grace the bestsellers lists.

Bernadette spends most of her free time driving her kids to their many events.  She is also an accomplished martial artist who will earn her conditional second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do in October 2012.  An avid reader, she enjoys most, the works of Nora Roberts, Karen White, Megan Hart, to name a few. She loves to meet readers who enjoy reading contemporary romances and she always promises Happily Ever After.

Author Contact Info:

Excerpt from Center Stage:
     Arianna pushed down on the suitcase and forced the zipper to close. The rest of her apartment was packed and ready for movers, but she’d need all her clothes before her belongings arrived in Tennessee.
She looked around her small, New York apartment. It had been a good home to her for the past decade. She’d accomplished everything she’d wanted. When she’d moved there, it was to try her hand on the stages of Manhattan. She’d played in some dives and had worked her way up to leads on Broadway. She had a few commercials to her credit and had graced a few TV shows as an extra, but her love was still on stage. But now it was time to go home, back where her family was. Something would come together for her there.         It always did.
      Arianna looked at her watch. She had barely enough time to get to the airport. If there were any accidents backing up traffic, she’d miss her flight.
      Her brother-in-law, Zach, had called and said her sister Regan had gone into labor with the couple’s second baby. She figured she’d arrive just in time to get to hold the bundle of joy. Then in a few more weeks, her brother, Curtis, and his fiancĂ©e, Simone, would have their first child. She knew moving back to Tennessee was right, and getting to spoil new nieces and nephews was reason enough to be closer to home.

     The flight had been miserable. Leaving New York in a January snowstorm always meant delays and aggravation. It was almost eight o’clock at night by the time the flight landed two hours late. Carlos would be livid if he’d been waiting at the airport the entire time.
     She made it to baggage claim, retrieved her two pieces of luggage, and then scanned the area for her brother. There was no sign of him, or any member of her family, anywhere.
     “I thought I’d missed you,” the familiar voice behind her said.
     She spun quickly to find John Forrester, Zach’s most trusted building foreman, standing there.
     “Missed me? Were you looking for me?”
     “I have been sent to pick you up. Carlos and Madeline ended up with Tyler for the night.”
     Arianna narrowed her stare on him when he’d commented about her nephew. “I thought Mom was watching him while the baby was born.”
     “Well, it seems as though your family is going to grow quite a bit tonight. Regan is still in labor, and Curtis just took Simone in. She’s having her baby today, too.”
     Arianna gasped. “Simone isn’t due for two more weeks.”
     “Babies come when babies want to, and Emily thought she’d better be there for Simone.” He picked up her suitcases, one in each hand. “C’mon, my truck isn’t too far.”
     Who would have thought she’d get to be there for the birth of both babies in one night. God had blessed the Keller family—that was for sure. Carlos and Madeline’s kids were teenagers, and in the next few years, they would be off on adventures of their own. Eduardo, their eldest, was already working for Zach after school. Christian, their second son, was an all-star athlete—baseball, she thought. And Clara, well, Clara was a girl after her own heart. She was an accomplished musician on the acoustic guitar. And, boy, could that girl sing.
     Regan and Zach’s son, Tyler, was as anxious as any sixteen-month-old child could be for a new sibling. But Arianna figured he’d need the most spoiling from her to make everything just right.
As for her, she’d never wanted children. It just hadn’t been in her plans. Her career had always been more important. She came and went as she wanted, carried on in any fashion she saw fit, and, of course, traveled the world.
     But now Nashville, Tennessee called her back home. Perhaps she could share her talent with the world in some other way.
     John led her to his truck in the adjoining parking lot. She was comfortable with John, she thought, as she walked behind him. They had been each other’s dates to both of Carlos’s weddings last year, and they had hit it off, as friends of course. They might have hit it off more, but he was very conscious of their age difference, even though she wasn’t worried about the thirteen years between them. His ex-wife had burned him badly ten years ago, and it was clear he didn’t trust any woman.
     Not that she’d been looking for a man, but she often thought if John hadn’t been so worried about everything, they might have had something. As it was, they could keep each other’s company comfortably. Coming home with all her brothers and her sister being married, that might just be what she needed—someone to keep her company.
     John’s truck was probably one of the most beat up pickup trucks she’d ever had the displeasure of riding in, and she’d been born and raised in Tennessee—she knew bad pickup trucks. But that was John’s character. If it still worked, there was no need to replace it.
     He backed out of the parking lot and headed toward the highway. Also common with John, he didn’t have much to say unless you started the conversation.
     “So, how is the construction business?” she asked.
     “Zach keeps me busy. That’s for sure.”
      “I’ll bet. Do you think he’ll take some time off after the baby is born?”
      John laughed. “Sure he will. He will work from his office at home.”
      Arianna followed suit and laughed too. That sounded like her brother-in-law.
     She watched as John merged lanes. His tanned skin showed the many years that he’d worked in the elements. The deep lines around his eyes never made him look old, she thought, only distinguished. Arianna liked her men distinguished. Age on a man had never bothered her. Oh, if her parents knew about some of the men she’d dated in New York, they certainly might have had an opinion on the matter.
     She must be feeling the pang of needing someone to connect with, she decided, because the thought of running her fingers through John’s salt and pepper shaded hair was almost irresistible. But she denied herself the pleasure. He probably wouldn’t take too kindly to the lunatic sister-in-law of his boss making a move on him.

     The long flight and drive out to the hospital must have worn her out more than she’d thought. She woke to John’s hand on her arm.
     “We’re here. If you hurry, you might not miss the show.”
     She rubbed her eyes. “Aren’t you coming in?”
     “Not my place to be. But I’ll drop your bags off for you. I assume you’re staying at your place?”
     She nodded. One of the perks of keeping your house when you moved away, especially if you knew you’d be back. “Yes. Of course.”
     “That was a sound business decision to keep the house and rent it out. Benson, Benson, and Hart keep good care of it.”
     “I wouldn’t expect anything different. I know I have a renter in the basement, too. Hope they don’t make too much noise. I’m a day sleeper.”
     John smiled. “Oh, he’s a good guy. He won’t bother you.”
     Arianna nodded and looked up at the hospital where her brother worked as an emergency room doctor.           
     “Guess I’d better go meet the newest members of this crazy family.” She slid across the seat and placed a kiss on John’s unshaven cheek. “Thanks for the ride. I’ll take you out for pizza and a beer.”
     “Never could turn down a woman who offered up pizza and beer.”
     She opened the door and climbed out. He was just her kind of man.
     The waiting room was full of Kellers, including Carlos and Madeline, who held a sleeping Tyler.
     Carlos stood and greeted her with a hug when she walked into the room. “I thought you were babysitting him so he didn’t have to hang out here.”
     “C’mon, what’s better than meeting your baby brother or sister in the middle of the night and knowing this is the kid you get to beat on for the rest of your life?”
     Arianna laughed as Clara rushed over and hugged her. “Auntie, I have a new song for you. I wrote it myself.”
     “And I bet it’s the best song ever.”
Arianna pulled her niece to her side. This was just what she’d needed—her family.

     John opened the door to Arianna’s house. He supposed he’d have to relinquish his key now that she was home. He shut the door and carried her bags to the bedroom at the top of the stairs. He didn’t open the door. He knew it was empty, but still, it was her bedroom.
     The house was dark and quiet; he’d miss that too. There hadn’t been a renter upstairs for months; he’d had the house to himself. Oh, he kept to himself downstairs in the little apartment in the basement, but he’d enjoyed using the front door access and the kitchen from time to time. There was a grill on the back porch, which offered the perfect view of the sunset. He was sure Arianna wouldn’t mind him cooking a steak or two for her, just for access to the porch.
     John grabbed a beer from the refrigerator as he passed through the kitchen. He figured he’d better get his plugged in downstairs. It had been a saver on electricity since the one he had in his kitchen was old, and Arianna’s kept the beer colder.
     He started down the stairs to his little apartment. The door locked from her side, which kept the renters out of the house. He’d taken liberty with that since the house was empty, but certainly he wouldn’t disrespect that rule when she came back home.
      His small apartment was just the right size. He was a simple man who didn’t need much—and who didn’t have much since his ex-wife took everything he’d ever had. Ten years after she’d left him for another man, he still wondered what he’d ever seen in her. Well, he’d never make that mistake again. Women just weren’t worth it. Most women, he corrected himself. His mind had been preoccupied with one woman in particular for months. And now he faced the dilemma of knowing she’d be living only feet from him.
     The last thing he wanted was a relationship—platonic or just sexual. Relationships had never brought him anything but grief.
     John sat down on his Lazy Boy recliner and turned on his big screen, flat panel TV. A man had to have his luxuries. He pulled from his imported beer and thought life was good.
     But only a moment later, his mind wandered to Arianna. With her hair piled atop her head, her eyes dark from lack of sleep, and her ripped jeans, she’d still stirred him up more than he’d have liked.
     Beer and pizza sounded like a great idea, but he wouldn’t take her up on the offer until he knew they’d cemented their relationship as landlord/renter and friends—only friends.