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Our Love is Here to Stay: Launch & Giveaway from Madison Michael

 

 

 

Madison has some fabulous giveaways for this tour. Remember you may visit the other tour stops to increase your chances of winning. You may find those locations here.

 

Romance and TimeTravel Prize Package #1: Includes Books: Outlander, Time Traveler’s Wife and Beyond the Highland Mist and DVDs: Somewhere in Time, The Lake House, the eBook Our Love Is Here To Stay.

 

Romance and TimeTravel Prize Package #2: One of the books above and 1 of the DVDs plus the eBook for Our Love Is Here To Stay.

 

Romance and TimeTravel Prize Package #3: One of the books above or one DVD plus the eBooks Our Love Is Here To Stay.

 

 

 

 

Can Love Transcend Time?

 

 

 

 

Thirty-year old Matthew Herrington is weary of solo nights in strange cities. He is ready for a change. And that is exactly what he gets when he steps into Swing Night at The Green Mill and is instantly immersed in the sights and sounds of another era. Intrigued by the club’s authenticity, Matthew is enchanted when he meets Patty, a mixture of sexy and sweet who steals his heart.

 

Patty Dennison has never met a man like Matthew in all her twenty-one years. A sophisticated man, he stands out from the usual Swing Night crowd. He is self-assured, smart, charming, and handsome as hell, even if he is a lousy dancer. Once he takes her in his arms, Patty is more than willing to give him a few dance lessons along with her heart.

 

Repeated missed dates and unanswered phone calls strain the relationship and frustrate the pair. But unraveling their mystery exposes an impossible scenario, one that will torment their sanity and test their love.

 

How can they make their fairytale last? Can love transcend time?

 

Buy Links:

Amazon | All other formats

 

 

 

Our Love is Here to Stay Excerpt:

A waitress came to take it off his hands. “Another?” she queried and he nodded agreement, placing a crumpled dollar on her tray. “Too much,” she told him shaking her head no. Matthew was surprised by her response but the tray was covered with loose change so he removed his bill and left the equivalent in quarters. Everything was so inexpensive but the server still needed to make a decent living.

She gave him a grateful smile and turned to move to her next customer, carefully balancing her tray above the heads of the young people around her. In the process, she nudged Matthew slightly causing him to lose his footing and fall gently against another body. Turning to apologize he found himself staring into the clearest, lightest blue eyes he had ever seen. He couldn’t look away.

“Sorry,” he mumbled when he finally regained his composure.

“That’s okay,” she replied with a quick, bright smile. She was lovely, in a wholesome girl next door way. She had her blond hair pulled into a ponytail that curled like a hair product ad, clear-skinned cheeks that were pink with warmth and perhaps exertion, and a curvy body displayed under a bright red sweater and a flared plaid skirt.

Matthew felt his mouth go dry and his palms get sweaty. She did something to him, this fresh faced woman that he found incredibly sexy. Her red lipstick was a slash of bright color mimicking the red of the sweater. Until this moment, bright red lipstick screamed “tough broad, stay away” to Matthew but on this girl it whispered “come hither.”

“Matthew,” he squeaked out, extending his hand to shake hers. Thinking twice about it, he retracted his arm, running his palm against his pants swiftly, and hopefully surreptitiously, before he extended his hand again.

“Patty,” she responded, placing her soft fingers in his large palm. She shook like a girl. After all the bone-breaking handshakes Matthew had endured across the globe, this limp, fingers-only shake surprised him. She looked athletic, not tough but toned, and not sickly pale like most Chicagoans in winter. The handshake didn’t match the image and normally would have bothered him. Nothing about Patty bothered him. Everything about her bothered him.

 

 

 

 

 

About Madison:

 

 

 

Madison Michael traded 28 years in Fortune 500 tech and management positions for a chance to spend her days with sassy heroines, sexy, rich heroes and nothing but happy endings. Growing up the daughter of a librarian, she learned to love books, especially classics and romances, and spent winters cuddled under blankets losing herself in books.

 

Madison is the author of three novels in the Beguiling Bachelor series, as well as several short stories. She is a member of Romance Writers of America.

 

After living in the northeast, southeast and the west, Maddy returned to her Midwest roots. She lives in Evanston, IL with two feline editorial assistants and great views of Chicago’s famous skyline.

 

 

Contact Madison Here:

Website | Madison’s Blog | Maddy’s Romance Madness | Facebook | Twitter

 

 

 

 

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A History in Laundry

(From the archives)

“We went through a lot of workout clothes this week,” I say. Raymond is making coffee and I’m folding clothes in front

of the drying rack that clutters our kitchen whenever we do laundry. Sometimes it clutters our kitchen all week long until I finally get around to folding the clean clothes and putting them away. However this week I don’t get to them until the weekend.

 

“We’ve had extra workouts this week,” he says as we both listen to the satisfying gurgle of the mocha maker sitting on the cooker.

 

“Both your gees are clean and ironed, all ready for Saturday.” I nod to the pristine karate uniforms hanging over the kitchen door. He teaches a karate class on Saturdays in Sutton and goes into London for a workout in the morning as well.

 

“Thanks.” He says, getting out the coffee cups. Raymond doesn’t iron, but he makes kick-ass coffee and a mean bowl of oatmeal. “Are you going in with me to walk?”

 

“I plan to.” I just happen to be folding the breathable Eddie Bauer shirt I wore last week when I took a long walk on the Downs, and I smile at the memory. I don’t smile at the memory of the ratty tank top I wear whenever I do the roots of my hair between visits to the hairdresser – always something I put off until I start getting skunk strip down the centre of my part. I fold it hastily and put it in the basket. Interesting that I take care in folding the clothes that I have fond memories of wearing recently, and not so much with the ones I don’t.

 

Raymond hands me the coffee just in time as I turn my attention to the frustrating task of folding his myriad black socks. The thing is, he has a gazillion pairs and they’re all look almost but not quite exactly a like. They’re just different enough to make matching them a real nightmare. Some have different coloured toes, some are ribbed differently and there are at least three kinds that are identical except for the ribbing on the cuffs which varies in width by millimeters. I hate folding men’s black socks. This morning he has mercy on me and takes the task off my hands so I can return to the pleasure of folding the history of our week told in laundry.

 

“You’ve got a rip there on the sleeve,” I say, holding up a blue shirt. “And the collar’s getting tatty. I think we should retire this one.”

 

He studies it for a moment and nods his agreement. “I caught it on the corner of the filing cabinet in the printer room. Something needs to be done about that.”

 

“You know, every week we can detail the past week’s history in our clean laundry,” I say. In our dirty laundry too, I think, but I’d rather not think about that so much reminded of the ripe load of workout clothes I put in with extra detergent on long cycle.

 

He gives me The Look – the one he always does when he thinks possibly meds might be requires. Then he nods to my coffee cup, because clearly I haven’t had enough caffeine yet this morning.

 

“No, seriously. Look” I pull a pair of his blue workout shorts off the rack. “Remember kettle bells last week?”

 

“That was a killer,” he says with a smile that says he likes kettle bells class best when it’s a killer.

 

“And look, those walking trousers — I wore those in to try on new boots at the North face shop, but they didn’t have my size. Then I got ‘em muddy on the walk to Newland’s corner the day after.

 

“And that long-sleeve t-shirt there,” I nodded to a faded red V-neck. “I wore that last Wednesday when the house was like a deep freeze and I was working on my blog. I wore that blue hoodie too and spilled tea on it in the process, and then I got toothpaste on it that evening when I brushed my teeth before bed.”

 

“I guess you’re right,” he says, looking around at our partially folded history lesson. “I never thought of it that way.

 

Neither had I, but there have to be a thousand stories in people’s laundry – dirty or clean. My laundry mostly tells the story of someone who writes and works from home, someone who walks a lot and works out a lot. Raymond’s tells the story of a man working in management, seeing clients, catching up on never-ending reports. They tell the story of a man who loves martial arts and loves being active. Sometimes there are travel stories, like the stain from some exotic sauce acquired while entertaining clients in a seafood restaurant in Alexandria. Sometimes there are anatomy stories, like the way his socks wear on the heels while mine wear out on the bottoms. We both threw away a couple pairs of socks after we’d finished the Coast to Coast walk a few years ago. I wear high socks when the weather’s cold and I’m sitting on my arse spending long hours in with my characters. I wear short light socks in the gym.

 

The point is that the stories of our lives and the fodder for the stories of lives I make up can unfold – or fold, in this case – in unexpected ways. Perhaps Raymond was actually using his martial arts skills to fight off spies who infiltrated the copy room to steal company secrets. Perhaps that’s how he ripped his shirt. Perhaps I woke up this morning and found myself folding the laundry of some stranger, none of it mine, none of it familiar. Perhaps the mud on my walking
trousers was actually from my night haunts of staking vampires in old churchyards.

 

Mind you, most of the time, the folding and putting away of laundry is cause for little more than a sigh of relief that it’s done for this week and I can take down the racks and unclutter the kitchen. But sometimes, even folding the laundry can be more than it actually appears to be, and at the end of the day, everything tells a story – even men’s mismatched black socks.

 

Buried Pleasures: Meeting the Villain

 

 

In my last post, I introduced you to Samantha Black and Jon, the heroine and hero of Buried Pleasures. The recurring theme of Medusa’s Consortium is that sometimes the monsters are the good guys. Sometimes it’s not so obvious who the bad guys really are, and sometimes … it’s very obvious. Adrian Fox is a villain who is both terrifying and sexy, and there’s little chance of surviving that fatal attraction to him. Here is a little excerpt. Enjoy.

 

Buried Pleasures Blurb:

When Samantha Black shares her sandwich with a dog, his owner, Jon—a homeless man living in the Las Vegas storm tunnels—gives her a poker chip worth a fortune from the exclusive casino, Buried Pleasures. All Sam has to do is cash it in. Sam is in Vegas for one reason only—to get her friend, Evie Holt, away from sinister magician, Darian Fox, who holds her prisoner in an effort to force Sam to perform at his club, Illusions. A neon circus tent of strange and mystical acts, Illusions is one of the biggest draws in Vegas, and he’s hell-bent on including Sam in his disturbing plans.

The shadowy Magda Gardener will do anything to keep Sam from cashing in that chip. She knows that Buried Pleasures is the gate to Hades and cashing in the chip is a one-way ticket across the River Styx, which runs beneath the storm tunnels of Vegas. Jon is really Jack Graves, owner of Buried Pleasures, and Graves is really the god of death, himself, and if things aren’t already confusing enough, he and Magda know what Sam doesn’t. Sam is the last siren. That her song can kill is only the beginning of her story. Jon wants her safe on his side of the River, protected from Fox’s hideous magic. But even Death fears Magda Gardener, who is none other than Medusa, and the gorgon has her own agenda. If Sam is to understand her heritage and win the battle against Darian Fox, not only will she have to trust her heart to Death, but they’ll both have to work for the gorgon, whose connection with Sam runs deeper than any of them could imagine.

 

Buried Pleasures Excerpt in which We Meet Darian Fox

 

 

With a soft clink, he dropped the key in a small ceramic bowl on the dresser, not bothering to lock the door behind him. There was no need now.

He heard the rustle of bedding and a soft female moan before his eyes fully adjusted to the gloom. Then he saw the shape of her, duvet thrown back in spite of the chill, the pale silk of the negligee rising and falling with her anxious breathing. He always asked that they be clothed in white silk. Occasionally there was blood, and the red of blood against white silk made the experience more formal somehow, and it always felt like such an occasion should be formal.

As he became used to the gloom, he could see that she had been well-groomed for the occasion, fully made-up and hair freshly coifed, just as he had requested. It was a condition that wasn’t strictly necessary, but made the whole experience seem a little more ceremonial, a little more festive. After all, presentation was a key ingredient in every good restaurant, wasn’t it? Why should his situation be any different?

“Gabriella, you look exquisite tonight, my darling. I can’t tell you how much I’ve anticipated being with you, having you here in my bed.” He removed his jacket and hung it carefully over a cedar hanger on the back of the door. “Did I not promise you that the time would come when I would invite you into my own home, into my own bed?”

Of course it wasn’t his own bed. He never took them to his bed. He had several other rooms in several other places where he took from them what he needed, though this one was special. This one was for feasting. He carefully undressed by the side of the bed where she would be able to admire his every move. She moaned softly and writhed, not taking her eyes off him, needing him almost as much as he needed her. Almost.

At his leisure, he took in the curves that were still luscious enough to be tempting—the rise of nipples, the dilation of pupils, the rhythmic shifting of hips, all of which he could now make out. Ripe fruit, he thought. She was ripe fruit. The experience was always most ecstatic, always most satisfying, when his chosen had not yet passed her peak, when he had not used her so much that her looks had suffered, nor her hunger for him weakened. He needed her hunger as much as he needed her beauty. The two always went hand-in-hand. He needed her hunger to be her driving force, driving her to him over and over again, until all strength was gone. Most often he controlled his hunger, careful not to allow himself more than what was necessary to survive and thrive.

Tonight, however, he was drained and starving from effort and exhaustion, but from excitement as well, from the knowing that Samantha Black was capable of so much more than even he had anticipated. Tonight he would take deeply from the ripest fruit, take as though it were the first and the last fullness of summer, and Gabriella was just at that point of fullness.

“I’m going to make love to you, darling.” He didn’t even try to disguise his hunger. Anxious anticipation was as much a part of the ritual as savoring the moment, and he wanted her to know how much he hungered for her, how much he needed her. “I’m going to make you come as you have never come before, my sweetheart.” He slid onto the bed next to her, his left hand stroking her soft, dark hair, his right cupping himself, making himself ready. “Would you like that, Gabriella? I know you would, I know how impatient you’ve been.”

There was a soft whimper, and the woman shifted her hips and threw back her head with a little gasp as he slid a thumb across her heavy bottom lip. He was hard, always hard when he hungered. It was a part of the ritual, a part of the consuming, a part of fulfilling his need.

Carefully he slipped down the straps of the negligee so that he could admire the fullness of her breasts. Yes, presentation was so important—ripe cherry nipples against silken white fabric, so succulent, so ready. Her skin was the color of expensive mocha, and for a moment, he took in the feast for the eyes waiting for him. Then he cupped her sex, and she arched up, her eyelids fluttering beneath lush, dark lashes so perfectly made up, so perfectly prepared to meet her lover.

La petite mort,” he said. “It’s what we all long for, isn’t it, my sweetheart? Over and over and over again, we long for it. It’s what we dream about in the darkest hours of the night. It’s what we wake up longing for, goosefleshed, slick and heavy with need from those elusive dreams of perfect love, perfect union, perfect dissolving of the self into the other. Oh, my beauty,” he slid a hand between her thighs, and her tongue flicked over her lip in concentration, in anticipation, “I’ve kept you waiting too long. I do apologize. La petite mort is a small gift for a long wait. So tonight, my dearest girl, I shall give you something far grander than the little death. And our joining, our perfect dissolving into one another, will be beyond anything you could ever imagine.”

He positioned himself above her and she opened to him, rising up to meet him in gasps and groans and whimpers that neared desperation. Oh yes, he would give her so much more than la petite mort, and then, in the instant when her body dissolved in pleasure, he would take it all back, all of it and so much more.

There was breath and then there was blood, and there was the life force coursing through the beautiful Gabriella. That life force entered his body through sex, through making love. And truly he did make love, for the gift that the beautiful creature writhing beneath him, no longer strong enough to keep her legs grasped around his waist, was giving him was worthy of lovemaking. The taking of the life force in such a way was sex raised above and beyond ecstasy. He seldom partook to the end. He usually made it last for months, sometimes even years, depending on how powerful the life force was.

But Gabriella had no particular power, nothing but her exquisite beauty to linger on. He saw such as her as fast food, really, a needed energy boost in desperate times, and this was one of those times. Her sacrifice would ensure that he was focused and ready for whatever obstacles Graves could throw in his way where Samantha Black was concerned, because he would have her. He had to have her.

The woman beneath him shuddered with release, and he took her mouth more fully, swallowing back the harshness of her breath to blend with his own, teasing him to join in her ecstasy. She would climax over and over, and that would be her final memory. She would come to her death in rapturous pleasure, and she would not even feel that moment when all of her breath, all of her life force, all of her power, passed to him, and the darkness took her.

Her eyelids fluttered again and again, for now she truly had not the energy left for more than the flutter of eyelids above huge, dark eyes. Even the quiver low in her loins had transferred itself to him, and he felt her orgasms as though they were his own, as though through the breath, through the coupling, he had become her and she him. He had taken her into himself as she had him into her, so open, so inviting, so willing.

“You see,” he whispered against the seashell hollow of her unhearing ear, “I have given you so much more than la petite mort, just as I promised, darling. So much more for both of us.”

The sharp burning in his side came before he could fully disengage, and his focus had been such that he would hardly have noticed if the penthouse had collapsed around his ears. At this vulnerable time he depended upon the well-trained guards who watched outside his door. He was unable to defend himself, for at least those last powerful moments, and he never took risks where his person was concerned. It had to be such for his needs to be accomplished.

In this position of vulnerability, of ecstatic consumption of the last of Gabriella’s beautiful life force, he had not noticed the door quietly open, nor had he noticed Evie’s silent entrance. He would have noticed nothing until the burning in his side, and the warm flow of blood that was his own brought him back to himself, as Evie raised the knife a second time and plunged it with a wild, animal growl. “Get off her, you bastard! Get off!”

And he did as she asked, cupping his hand against his wounded side, the pain still far off, kept at bay by the ecstatic remains of his feasting. As the knife came down a second time, instinctually he grabbed her wrist, surprised at her strength considering how he had taken from her earlier, but then, it really didn’t matter, did it? No strength would be enough, not now.

He pulled her to him, the knife dropping silently onto the white carpet, his blood falling like rose petals at his feet. “Oh, Evie,” he whispered against her ear, his head still buzzing from the golden life force he’d taken, his cock still hard with the lust for the power enveloped in flesh, his limbs still tingling with the flow of it through his veins, even as it drained away through the vicious wound, “my dearest girl, I very much wish you hadn’t done that. It’s such a waste of a very delicious life.”

 

 

Buried Pleasures Launch Day

 

It’s launch day for Buried Pleasures, book three of Medusa’s Consortium. Buried Pleasures takes us away from the Big Apple and sets is smack dab in Sin City, or should I say underneath Sin City. Magda Gardener’s network is expansive and worldwide, and not all of the members of her consortium are monsters. Some of them come from seriously powerful families, and the head of the Las Vegas consortium is none other than the God of Death himself.

As I have mentioned before, while the events in Blindside are unfolding in NYC, Las Vegas is seeing some scary-assed action of its own. Same time, different city, same gorgon in charge. Today’s post and the next one will introduce you to the hero, the heroin and then the villain of this first novel in the Las Vegas timeline. When siren, Samantha Black, meets Death up close and personal, it’s not at all what she expected.

Enjoy the excerpt and follow the links to the book page and it’s buy links.

Buried Pleasures Blurb:

Blurb:

When Samantha Black shares her sandwich with a dog, his owner, Jon—a homeless man living in the Las Vegas storm tunnels—gives her a poker chip worth a fortune from the exclusive casino, Buried Pleasures. All Sam has to do is cash it in. Sam is in Vegas for one reason only—to get her friend, Evie Holt, away from sinister magician, Darian Fox, who holds her prisoner in an effort to force Sam to perform at his club, Illusions. A neon circus tent of strange and mystical acts, Illusions is one of the biggest draws in Vegas, and he’s hell-bent on including Sam in his disturbing plans.

The shadowy Magda Gardener will do anything to keep Sam from cashing in that chip. She knows that Buried Pleasures is the gate to Hades and cashing in the chip is a one-way ticket across the River Styx, which runs beneath the storm tunnels of Vegas. Jon is really Jack Graves, owner of Buried Pleasures, and Graves is really the god of death, himself, and if things aren’t already confusing enough, he and Magda know what Sam doesn’t. Sam is the last siren. That her song can kill is only the beginning of her story. Jon wants her safe on his side of the River, protected from Fox’s hideous magic. But even Death fears Magda Gardener, who is none other than Medusa, and the gorgon has her own agenda. If Sam is to understand her heritage and win the battle against Darian Fox, not only will she have to trust her heart to Death, but they’ll both have to work for the gorgon, whose connection with Sam runs deeper than any of them could imagine.

Buried Pleasures Excerpt: The Hero and the Heroine

“I always heard that when you die, you’re supposed to go toward the light, not away from it,” Sam said as they entered the gloom of the storm tunnel. “Does this mean I’m going to the bad place?”

“You don’t believe in all that rubbish, do you?” the man asked in a soft voice.

“I don’t know. I guess I figured you die and that’s the end. You know, all your bits get broken down into smaller bits and you get recycled. I never really thought about it much. I wasn’t planning on dying any time soon, though.” But she was dead. There was no doubt. Had to be. She was looking down on her body from near the ceiling, and frankly, it wasn’t a pretty sight—lots of blood and trauma and stuff that would probably make her throw up if she wasn’t dead. But she followed along, feeling no pain and no stress, looking down on the dog and the man, as he carried her into the tunnel, beyond the light, beyond the outside world.

Though she was talking quite conversationally, her mouth wasn’t moving. She figured that was a sure symptom of being dead. She wasn’t moving at all actually. There was no heartbeat, no breath. She didn’t know how she knew that, but she did. Strange, but now that the initial anger, the initial shock, was over, she felt pretty indifferent about the whole thing.

Dead or not, the man heard her and replied. Perhaps he saw dead people, like that kid in the movie. “You don’t need to worry. This is just the storm tunnel,” he said. “You’re not going to a bad place. You’re going to a very good place, Samantha.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” she replied. “I mean, I don’t mind being recycled. I’ve never liked waste, but I’m not too keen on being tortured for eternity. I think that’s rather unfair, actually. I mean, I’m not that bad, am I?”

“I’d say your balance tips considerably toward the good side.”

She took note of a man in baggy shorts and a T-shirt. On the concrete walls, he was delicately painting a particularly rude, if rather well executed, enormous cock, complete with hairy balls. The artist in residence tipped his baseball cap and the headlamp strapped to it made the tunnel dance in light and shadow. “Jon, Gus. Delivering this one personally, are you?” He nodded to her body. “She must be pretty important.”

“Samantha’s special,” Jon answered.

So, his name was Jon. At least now she knew what to call him. She tried to remember when she had told him her name. Surely she wouldn’t tell some stranger who she was without damn good reason, cool dog notwithstanding.

“Looks like she had the crap beat out of her,” the man observed.

That was not very polite, Sam thought. It was a bit like someone saying you look like shit without your makeup.

“You should see the other guys,” Jon replied.

“Good for her! If you’re gonna get beaten to death, might as well get in a few good licks on the way out, I say.”

“I broke my neck, actually,” she said matter of factly. “The rest is pretty superficial.”

The man looked her over, but didn’t respond.

“Nice work,” she called over her shoulder as they continued on down the tunnel. The guy’s comment was enough to get him back in her good graces. Sadly, she didn’t think he heard her. Then she turned her attention back to Jon. “I’m really glad to hear that. I mean, glad that I’m not going to the bad place. For a minute there I thought I’d have to stay in Vegas.”

The man chuckled and, in spite of the fact that she was very clearly floating above his head, she felt the rumble of his laughter against her cheek coming from deep in his chest like the comforting purr of a cat.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked.

“Home.”

“Good. I’ve been gone too long.” Then she added as an afterthought, “Are you an angel?”

“Hardly.” This time Jon laughed out loud and she felt the whoosh of his breath warm against her cheek, and the muscles of his belly tensed and relaxed against the body she was no longer in. “If you want to get technical, I suppose you could say the angels work for me.”

It was her turn to laugh. “You don’t look anything like I expected God to look, though I do love it that God has a dog.”

“Our perception of things often varies from their realities,” he said. “As for Gus, well I guess you could say he’s the angel. He doesn’t actually belong to me. We just work together.”

“An angel with a taste for peanut butter sandwiches. That’s nice.”

Gus offered a soft woof as though he understood every bit of the conversation. Of course, if he were an angel, he no doubt did.

“Oh, he’s not picky. The mutt’ll eat anything,” Jon said.

Sam recalled the ripping and tearing of flesh and the blood of her assailants outside, and she shivered.

The three fell into a comfortable silence, with the dog flanking Jon while she hovered above them. She didn’t know how long they walked. Time seemed a bit of a fuzzy concept. She supposed that had something to do with being dead. There was far more activity in the tunnel than she would have expected. She’d have figured Jon would want to keep a dead body secret if possible, but if the tunnels had a main street, he seemed to be walking right down the middle of it. And Sam had to admit, the place was fascinating. They moved through sections of the tunnel that could have passed as living rooms or kitchens in any above-ground house, other than the twilight gloom relieved only by camping lanterns, flashlights and candles—that and the furniture was set up on bricks and wooden pallets to keep it out of the endemic water. In some places it stood only in puddles, in other places it slicked the whole floor of the tunnel like a lake of glass that splashed and trickled beneath Jon’s heavy boots and reflected the strange world around them.

The smell of damp and mildew permeated the air and disappeared only as olfactory fatigue set in. Sam took note again that she could smell all the smells in spite of being dead, and a fair few of them she didn’t think she’d miss too much if she couldn’t.

There were spaces staked out along the walls with nothing more than a sleeping bag and a couple of black jumbo trashcan liners filled with belongings. There were paintings and family photos and banners for favorite football or baseball teams hung on the walls.

Above one rather Spartan space with an army cot and several plastic crates, a battered American flag hung upside down. Beaded curtains, pieces of plywood, even heavy rugs draped over strung rope, separated individual living areas.

Somewhere farther down the tunnel, the driving beat of hip hop echoed back on itself. Closer to them, Sam could make out the soft buzz and twitter of conversation among the residents. There were knickknacks and books tucked away in stacked plastic milk crates and on shelves of cinderblock and ply board.

One very attractive blond in a red satin dress perched in front of a vanity mirror, putting on makeup in the light of a Coalman lantern. She eyed Jon hungrily. He ignored her, but Gus growled a soft warning as they moved on. They passed a couple lounging on a bed that looked like it might have come straight from a hotel suite—right down to the wood-framed mirror above the headboard. They shared a bucket of KFC and passed a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke back and forth. Calling out greetings to Jon, they offered Gus an unidentifiable chunk of chicken, which he downed in a single gulp with a quick sweep of his tail in thanks.

Sam tried to imagine the place, which almost had the feel of an underground neighborhood, all washing away in heavy rains. Again and again. She knew it did periodically, but it all seemed so permanent at the moment.

As they moved away from Main Street and deeper into the unoccupied areas of the tunnels, she realized that she saw just fine even in the thick darkness. She supposed that was just a part of being dead. As far as she could tell, Jon carried no source of light. But then God would hardly need it, would he?

 

Shameless Reading

(From the archives)

 

No doubt you’ve all seen the checklists that periodically go around with must-read books, or the hundred best books of all time, or the checklists that test how well read you are. Honestly, who can resist? And who can resist possibly even cheating just a little bit and ticking the boxes of a couple of the ones we’ve not actually read, but maybe we’ve started, then got bogged down and finally just gave up and watched the movie or the mini series instead. Oh come on! Admit it! I’ve done it. Being thought of as erudite, well read and worldly is just so damned appealing.

 

Right now there’s a link going around on Facebook to another such list. But this list contains the titles of ‘books you’ll never brag about having read.’ Some of them are just mindless guilty pleasures and smutty bonk busters. Some of them are infamous for being poorly written, but making their authors a mint. What writer isn’t a little green around the gills where those books are concerned? Some of them were the trend of the day — all the rage one week, forgotten the next. Some of them were written by people who were once admired, but have now fallen from grace. Some of them are rubber-necking books – you know the type – literary train wrecks and gossip fests just too juicy to resist. Some of them had me scratching my head and wondering why they were even on this list at all – especially when I could think of a few of my own I’d have added if I’d been making up the list.

 

Of course I had to test myself and felt slightly smug that I’d only read six. Yup! That’s me, Social Media folks! I pat myself on the back, I stick my nose in the air! I read only the highest quality literature. As for those six, well everyone lapses a little now and then, right?

 

But the lovely refreshing surprise that really got me thinking about what we read and why, was that most of the people who responded to my sharing this link on Facebook were unabashedly unashamed of reading their share of the books on this list. It’s reading, rights? These very smart people realise that. Whether it’s a bonk bust or a train wreck, the power of the written word is totally awesome! It’s an eye on the world that’s nothing less than magical.

 

The world we experience in the rarified air of what’s considered great literature is no more the real world than the one we get when we read fluff ‘n’ stuff. Reading isn’t now, nor has it ever been a reality check. If anything it’s the ultimate escape, the voyeur’s view into how the other half lives, the opportunity to be entertained, titillated and even occasionally transformed. Being educated and well read is a thing we all treasure, and rightly so. But the experience of the written word is as much about pop culture and gossip and trends and history unfolding in all it’s marred, messed-up glory as it is about being educated. In fact, it seems to me that there is a point of cross-over that we can’t really afford to miss if for no other reason than because it’s a part of our culture, a part of the world we live in — bonk busts,
bunny fluff, woo-woo and all. Besides, we need the escape, we need the view from outside ourselves. Guilty pleasures
are often the best, and they’re never better than when we feel we should be reading Dickens, but end up reading Dan Brown over a pint of chocolate ice cream consumed straight out of the container.

 

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best, most life-changing reads have been classics, and they were wonderful and transforming, and I see them as mile-markers in my life. But I have my own list of fluff, woo-woo and mindless pulp
novels, my own dirty little secret reading list, and I’m fine with that. Those books make me feel good when nothing else will. The fact that I can read, that I do read, that everything is out there for me to read; the fact that the written-word, no matter how shallow or forgettable is still the written word, well that’s nothing short of wonderful. At the end of the day, reading is an activity worthy of respect in its own right. The fact that we DO read is of far greater value than the purity of what’s on our checklist.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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