Friday, February 24, 2017

Crossed Lines by J.T. Marsh




Crossed Lines


At seventeen Keith is a troubled young man from a broken home. At thirty-four, Karen is a strict but lonely Spanish teacher working her first teaching job at the inner-city East Vancouver high school Keith attends. They fall in love and carry out an illicit affair while each manages their own way through their difficult lives, until they learn they have more in common than they ever thought possible. It continues when they meet again ten years later, changing them in ways neither had ever thought possible, in ways neither would’ve wanted. Following a common thread through both their lives, their love causes them to do things they’d never thought they’d do, pushing them to the brink of personal ruin, and nearly into death.

Told through a non-linear narrative, Crossed Lines follows Keith as a teenager and as a late-twenty-something as he falls in love with Karen, only to learn, ultimately, what it means to let go. A literary romance, Crossed Lines shows obsessive love in the satisfaction it can provide and horrifying consequences it can entail when followed through to its end, against all reason the single-minded pursuit of happiness leading instead to pain, suffering, and the destruction of lives.


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About J.T. Marsh

J.T. Marsh was born and raised in the Vancouver area. He's always hard at work on his next novel and can be contacted at: jtmarshauthor@gmail.com


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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Chasing Their Losses by Lucia Sinn FREE 2/18-2/20



Chasing Their Losses


"Tony moved closer, enveloping her in his warmth and the faint smell of Armani. It had always been that way between the two of them...a visceral reaction whenever they were in close proximity..."

31 year-old Cara Mackenzie is back home from Miami, starting a new career as nutrition director of Sycamore Hospital, and in a blossoming romance with Dr. John Drakos. But when she runs into her former lover, the suave and sexy Tony Cabella, she's drawn into a dangerous web of addiction and murder.

Tony invites Cara to his home under the pretext of helping his diabetic daughter, and pressures Cara into taking his children to lunch. That's when Tony's stepson vanishes, and Gail Cabella blames Cara for her son's disappearance. The police consider Dr. Drakos a possible suspect, but as the mystery surrounding the boy's kidnapping heightens, unanswered questions point to a conspiracy. Who shot Tony when he and Cara met in secret, and why won't he call the police? How is Tony connected to the new physician from California who seems hell-bent on undermining Cara's efforts? Cara's suspicions send her on a perilous journey that nearly destroys her.

At the heart of this novel are four damaged people: John and Cara, whose passionate relationship is clouded by painful memories and fear of commitment; Tony and his second wife, Gail, who gave up everything for sexual fulfillment, only to find disillusion and heartbreak. As the tragic events spin out of control, the heart thumping suspense builds, with twists and turns that take you from the verdant farmland and dangerous waterfalls of Indiana to the vast, lawless sand dunes and nude beaches of Texas.





About Lucia Sinn


Lucia Sinn is the author of TAKE THE MONEY; ROMANTIC SUSPENSE IN COSTA RICA available on Amazon. She is a graduate of Purdue University and was the Nutrition Services Director at an acute care hospital for many years. She and her husband live in a century old farmhouse in Indiana and spend winters in a condominium overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. They have six grown children.


I was compensated for creating this post via Fiverr.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Read Chapter 2 from What a Tangled Wed by K.D. Harp



What a Tangled Wed



Evening gowns and tuxedos embellish a hall set for romance, so their eyes should’ve met across a crowded room

…but the stuffed partridge glued to her shoulder blocked his view.

Pierce Grayson, Engineering Genius, a man who repairs disaster zones as easily as most make a cup of coffee, just destroyed his best shot at True Love.

A string of hopeful Mrs. Graysons (who take the term "chained to my desk" a bit TOO literally), make the billionaire appreciate the rare intelligence and selflessness of gifted muralist Allison Stanford all the more. (Allison's a woman so loyal, she's willing to humble herself in the World's Most Ridiculous Maid Of Honor Outfit at the wedding of the season for an impish little sis with an axe to grind. It's a fashion disaster but worldly wise Pierce is smitten by her golden heart!

Pierce messes up big time with Allison and rushes to apologize …right in the middle of her date with another guy on the biggest night of her career!

Allison’s not one to drop people (or business commitments) just because some hunky rich guy wants to horn in and puts him off. Undaunted, Pierce arrives at her home, flowers in hand but neither of them expects him to end up facing off with an angry grandmother guarding Allison's threshold (and her heart).

Mema takes a fancy to the lovelorn exec but decides he needs special education on women in general (and Allison in particular) before he can earn a second chance with her granddaughter. She puts Pierce through his paces and suddenly the man who helps OTHERS for a living is in need of aid! (The feisty granny parlays her brief tutoring session into a free, extended, 5-star French vacation with ALL the perks ...without explaining her sudden disappearance to anyone, including her panicked granddaughter!) Certain Mema wouldn't vanish unless something bad was afoot, cash-strapped Allison chases after them to rescue her from whatever scheme the business magnate is plotting ...all as covertly as possible so as not to embarrass her 'helpless' grandma.

From Georgia's laid back vacation coast, to the French countryside, the glitter of Dubai to the exotic streets of Nepal, Mema puppet masters the two headstrong young hotshots into Happily Ever After before they know what hit them.

(With only minor damage).

If Pierce and Allison were half as smart as everyone thinks they are, they'd just surrender to Mema's will from the start. When they don't, it's a laugh out loud, ride on the romance train; or, as Mema would say,

"trickier’n carvin' a turkey with three dogs underfoot".

Snuggle up and escape the craziness of modern life as you join Pierce and Allison while they navigate the insanity of theirs in this smart, clean, read suitable for all audiences from tweens to twilight years who can tolerate a smooch or two and understand Mema Knows Best!



Available in ebook and paperback!
(includes coupon codes!)




Read Chapter 2:

CHAPTER TWO


Pierce clamped his hard hat on as he clamored down from the helicopter. With the city in chaos, a weed-infested ball field transformed into a temporary landing site and ‘home’, at least until Grayson established its base. His escort for this disaster turned out to be a wise-cracking crew from the U.K., who took pleasure in calling him ‘Yankee’, a pleasure merely heightened by the Atlanta native’s explanation the term held far different meaning in the States.
Pierce credited the Brits for organization, (even if the humor of their helo pilots left something to be desired). Ground crews already secured a perimeter around the field, erected housing, supply depots, laundry and kitchens, providing a safe location for his team to rest and rehydrate, (along with the U.N. forces and other relief workers established there). With China overshadowing Nepal’s north, a host of War-Torn-Istan countries to her west, and monsoon deluged Myanmar to the east, the chief supply routes would eventually wend north through the heart of India. This first base of ops, the closest to the epicenter, would depend on drone-assisted air drops and plain ole ‘copter-ferried pallets direct from carriers and freighters in the Bay of Bengal.
Pierce’s helicopter lifted off to make yet another run, stranding him a quarter mile from ground zero the moment its cargo of water off loaded. A lengthy and turbulent plane flight left him groggy and a bit muddy headed as he jogged after his escort in search of the commanding officer. The thick humidity veiled him like the hot fogs of home and within moments his body glistened with the sweat of a runner after several circuits of the track. He yawned and worked to cloak his weary thoughts with a survival mindset.
Priority one: a safe place to work. Water, housing, hospitals, looters, reconstruction and even the dying took second place to establishing a secure command center. Experience taught Pierce’s teams to move quickly, while the local populace still stood shell-shocked. Once Grayson’s offices were up, the island of order would serve as a magnet, both to the government entities involved in organizing relief and the people in such desperate need of it.
He wiped his dusty palm before shaking hands with the CO. Checking in and confirming Grayson’s future GPS location with him, he left the base operations to the capable Brits.
Pierce’s responsibilities rested deeper in the city’s destruction. He left ‘civilization’ behind, and hiked through the carnage, following the signals toward Grayson’s designated plot of ground. He gnawed a travel-beaten protein bar, activated his satellite phone, and began checking in with his ground crew, taking data, formulating strategy, and issuing directives as he dodged potholes, injured animals, stunned people, and crushed vehicles. Too early, too messy to arrange ground transportation, he picked his way across the debris-strewn streets into the heart of disaster, bumping shoulders with shell-shocked locals as they crisscrossed in all directions, everyone running, (or stumbling) toward different goals, all of them overwhelmed by Mother Nature’s latest smack in the face.
A little boy sat crying on a sidewalk, alone, frightened, homeless in a sea of traumatized adults too busy, too overwhelmed, to register his terrorized plight. Pierce paused long enough to lift a finger to his lips for secrecy and checked to ensure no one watched them. The boy sniffled up at him but didn’t completely stop crying, even when Pierce extended what should be his dinner, another protein bar, to the youth. He noted the GPS coordinates of the lad and called his location in to the base operations, hopeful someone could connect the child with sustenance and shelter, if not his family.
That’s your job; building safe housing for these people. He blinked hard and his gut burned as he suppressed the urge to pick the child up. Man up and get to it, Grayson. Pity does nothing for anyone.
With another glance to make sure they went unnoticed, he handed the boy some local cash and pressed on. So many surged around him; injured, homeless, wandering, fearful of the next aftershock, searching for food, water, sleep. Bodies pressed through narrow passes and bumped over uneven terrain. They seemed to suck the dusty air from Pierce’s throat. An uninjured foreigner drew a lot of attention, especially one as tall as Pierce, and the bright reflective stripes on his safety vest gave him the air of a bit of Vegas in motion.
The trick is to see enough to navigate and not enough to absorb. Whole worlds of ancient splendor were laid to dust in the space of a minute. The revered and grand made humble, sanctuaries turned to haunted houses, the peaceful to terror, all under a cloudless sky. Their ghosts moaned from every direction.
Pierce dragged his eyes from their struggle and concentrated on making it to Grayson’s site. Focus served as the key to survival. Look into too many eyes, register the limp body you step over, listen to too many cries of pain or despair, and you sink into the suffering with everyone else and become useless. He recalled the advice given him from a relief veteran on his first project: if one must look into eyes when on the streets, let it be the eyes of a cadaver dog, full of purpose, anticipating a reward of wrestling with its handler for its toy. The last thing Nepal needed is another victim in their midst. Pierce couldn’t afford to register the destruction in people’s lives. He must focus on mending damage to their city, so they could mend their hearts and move forward.
The going got easier as he picked up the trail of his crew. Yesterday’s emergency meeting in New York secured the requisite U.N. funds and clearances for his people to begin operations ASAP. With the assistance of U.N. operatives who cleared the area of victims (both dead and alive), a series of machines airdropped only hours ago already chewed a clear swath through the devastation, gathering chunks of concrete, downed trees, litter and anything else obstructing the roadways. They crushed it into fine rubble, (the first step in becoming base material for Grayson’s patented ceramics-based reconstruction technology). The street might not be smooth as pool table’s felt, but traffic flowed better here, a brief omen of the future. The tiniest step to normalcy, any sign of progress, buoyed local survivors, emergency responders, and foreign relief workers alike.
He reached Grayson’s ground zero and nodded with pride. His crew already scanned with FLIR, sonar, and trained dogs to locate bodies and hidden injured in the space before establishing a perimeter for operations. They put machines in motion, clearing the first patch of rubble. He confirmed footings to be dug by noon the next day and after a few modifications, approved the start of fabrication. The walls would be ready to install the moment the inspector signed off on the foundation. His next few hours comprised a relentless back and forth crawl over irregular, shifting, debris. His head ached with the constant call of his name ringing in his ears. He answered questions and summons to non-stop meetings with employees, contractors, military units, and city officials. He secured a precious water supply for the crews, and supervised off-loading vehicles to provide shuttle service to the tent city being erected by the U.N. at the helicopter landing site.
In short, one issue settles; three rise up.
Even the fatigued sun dropped behind the horizon to escape work, cloaking Nepal’s fresh, raw fractures in indifferent velvet darkness, but Pierce simply stretched his sore shoulder muscles and pushed his people to continue prepping for groundwork construction at dawn. At last their fuel supplies gave out and he sent them back to renew man and machines at the U.N. camp.
His foreman Nadir shared the melted ice from the cooler, dipping handkerchiefs and t-shirts in the cool water with his crew. He tossed the last bottle of water to his boss.
Pierce hesitated. Oppressive heat sapped all their energies. “Don’t you want it for the hike back?”
Nadir shook his head. “We’ll be luxuriating at Tent City in no time but from what I hear, you won’t be back for hours.”
“See ya first thing.” While not a five-star resort, Pierce knew they’d all secure decent food and safe bunks for the night. He scrambled up an uncrushed slab of fallen concrete wall; a modern chunk of Stonehenge reinforced with twisted rebar, silent testament to another time and place. The city softened to a mournful quiet and he paused to take a breath before calling Max and starting over, this time with the stateside operations.
Engaged in the day to day details of Grayson International far longer than planned, he finally crushed his water bottle into a flat pancake, hopped off the slab, saluted the site guards, and began the long hike back to the ballfield alone.
He’d scrounged six hours of decent sleep over the course of two days. His raw throat added gravel to his tone. “Anything else, Max?”
“Did you speak with ASD?”
“Who?”
“The specialty painting firm you stood up yesterday, for the Buckhead renovation.”
(You know you’re having a gruesome day, when the unending details of piecing together a decayed old house make you smile.)
Pierce sighed with fatigue. The issue would just have to settle itself. “Hire them.” 
“I sent the key and paperwork, but you should call.”
Pierce smelled gasoline and urine as he leapt across a solution-filled pothole. “They’re mad?”
“She had to leave. She didn’t seem mad, just businesslike. She had another appointment.” Max paused. “You should call.”
“It’ll wait.”
“It can.” Max hesitated a moment. “I don’t think you can, Mr. Grayson. You gave your dinner away again, didn’t you?”
A bloody handprint blurred into shadow on a doorway, giving the impression of a detailed carving. “I’m fine, Max.”
“You did! I knew it!” Max sighed in frustration but composed her voice before continuing. “I had them supply an extra bar. What happened?”
“Pregnant lady pleading with the Landrover driver.”
“Oh great! Now Colonel Stick Up His Butt’s going to be on you for encouraging beggars at his base, and he’ll be right, Mr. Grayson. You know the rules! You’d have the hide of any of our people if you caught them neglecting their care under this much stress!”
A brick tumbled from the ornate heights of a flared temple overhang. It crashed some twelve feet behind him to the street. Pierce tensed and turned toward the sound of shattered history. “Thanks, Max.”
“I’m serious, Mr. Grayson. If you fall, the operation stagnates. So many people are counting on you. Not just there in Nepal, the company--.”
“Got it, thanks. I promise I’ll eat when I check in with the U.N. folks, OK?”
“It’s very late on day one and you’re already--.”
He passed a single fence section standing alone and upright amidst debris, its optimistic red pickets, shiny with new paint, hiding beneath a thick dusting of tragedy. “Enough, Max.”
“Call the artist. Give your mind something besides this tragedy to think about, if only for a few minutes.”
As if she’d conjured it, yet another long, aching primeval howl curled through the dusty air, daggering into the back of Pierce’s neck. Wild predators weren’t common but could be a factor. He considered unsheathing the knife strapped to his calf, but waited. Lacking the inner strength of a wolf’s cry, or power of a jaguar’s call, the familiar, primitive lament personified loss and suffering, the moan of a soul helpless, imprisoned to pain; calling in vain for relief in the midst of crowded solitude.
The feral notes were human.
Something besides tragedy. Pierce stopped in his tracks, searching the darkness for the mournful caller. “As soon as we hang up.”
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
He found the wail’s origin, on a third floor balcony. A woman wrapped her arms around the crying man and pulled him inside. I’m good. Thanks Max, for everything.”
“My pleasure, Mr. Grayson.” Max paused. “Mr. Grayson?”
Something furry rubbed across his ankles, a rat, or a small cat. In the darkness, he couldn’t tell. Pierce decided to believe it was feline. “Yes?”
“ASD’s in your project dossier. Call them.”
I’ve got five more minutes of hiking before I can find a bunk and crash anyway. “I will.”
They didn’t pick up on the first ring, or the second, or the third. Just about the time Pierce figured he’d be leaving a quick voicemail, he heard an odd noise, not helped by the down-in-a-barrel echo of the overseas transmission. Satelites are so jammed they're switching me to the transatlantic cable.
Mmpff?” A feminine voice mumbled. Pierce swore he heard the smacking of lips, but the sound had to be random pops on the faulty connection. “Hole mon.”
Whole what?
A moisture-drenched gurgle of beverage worthy of the most tantalizing Coca-cola advertisement followed.
Pierce could picture the condensation dripping from the bottle and the ravenous clench of the drinker’s throat. The connection’s better than I thought. He swigged his tepid water.
A throat cleared. “Hello?”
“Hello. I’m trying to reach ASD designs.”
“You got ‘em.” A short pause delayed her. “Sorry about that, I’m grabbing lunch.”
Pierce studied a still upright brick wall surrounded by rubble. Fractures in the mortar separated the expanse into a hundred pieces or more, and the slightest breeze, (or the lightest brush of a rat’s, er, feline’s tail), could topple everything, but for now, it still stood, a ghost of Nepal’s past, denying death. “I’m ten hours ahead of you. It’s a bit late for lunch, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I’m eating when I can lately. I’m flat on my back working on a scaffold at the moment, so if you hear a crashing sound, it’s my phone dropping one and half stories. Give me a second to climb down and retrieve it, will you?”
Pierce grinned. “You must have a heck of a warranty on that thing.”
She laughed. “Better yet, it’s encased in a crash box, invincible.” She took another bite of whatever she tried to eat. “Sthpeaking of time, it’s even later for business callths where you are. Grayson works their people hard.”
“…From the sound of it, no harder than ASD does. So, what does one eat while painting on one’s back these days? I figure Michelangelo ordered pizza.”
“Too messy. You have to go for something you can eat blind with one hand, self-contained with no crumbs.”
“That leaves out pasta al dente….” Pierce hopped a crater in the road. “A sandwich?”
“Very good.”
“I can do better. You said no crumbs, so I’m thinking you’ve picked something that’s basically glue.”
“You’re cheating. You’ve heard how stuck my tongue gets when I picked up the phone.”
“OK, so the peanut butter’s obvious, but are you a grape jelly gal, or strawberry? Apple, or peach preserves…. As an artist, you’d probably pick something unusual, like figs.”
“Try honey.”
Pierce grinned. “I am trying.”
“No, I meantf, the stuff bees mafe. You know, Wimmie-the-Poof and the honey tree?”
The combination of peanut butter mouth with flustered self-consciousness made for unusual phonetics. Pierce’s grin reached his eyes. “Sorry, it’s been a long day here and I couldn’t resist having some fun at your expense.”
“I hope your day’s improving.”
He blew out a peaceful breath, surprised to feel tension easing from his shoulders. “It’s ending …and improving.”
“Excellent! Did you get a chance to go over the proposal for the house?”
“You’ve been by already?”
“Ms. Metaxas said it’s top priority. That’s why I skipped breakfast …and lunch.”
“I’m sorry about your meals. No, I didn’t get it. I’m away from my computer until we establish power here. Can you describe your ideas?”
“…As long as you don’t mind me working and eating through the conversation. I’m usually more professional, I promise you, but I’m under another critical deadline, high profile.”
Something made a noise on the line. It could be static, or a digital echo, but Pierce’s ravenous stomach turned the noise into the image of contented lips licking honey from her fingertips. For the first time all day he listened to answers, not questions, solutions and options, not problems and shortages. She proceeded to outline his project room by room, answered his questions, adjusted her concepts and returned excellent solutions on the fly, like a consummate pro. He dodged a downed power line and pictured her engaged in work, painting with one hand, dining with the other while they conversed. He grew all the more confident in her expertise.
You just can’t bluff your way through this stuff.
“We seem to be on the same page. Usually this is where I submit the formal proposal. I can send it to Ms. Metaxas, if you like.”
“Copy her, but send it to me. It’ll get to me …eventually. Go ahead and start when the supplies come in.”
“I must warn you it’ll be slow going at first. My crew’s dedicated to the other “If it helps you to hire a second crew, we’ll cover the expense.”
She paused in thought. “I can do that. …It’ll be a good chance to give my best artist a shot at project lead.”
“Excellent.”
“I guess we’re done then.”
“Yes.” After a day of a million issues to be handled, Pierce regretted hitting the end of this list.
“Be careful.” No peanut butter mouth this time.
Her admonition startled him. “Excuse me, what did you say?”
“Nothing really, just …good-bye.”
“No. You said, ‘be careful’.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“You didn’t.”
“It’s just …you’re obviously exhausted.”
“I am?”
“I hear it in your voice.”
“I don’t see how. You don’t know my normal voice.”
“You sigh a lot. It’s not a depressed sigh from how awful things are there, either. It’s fatigue, plain and simple.”
“How awful things ar--.” A tight smile flickered on Pierce’s face. “You know what this is like? You’ve seen the aftermath of an earthquake?”
“Not firsthand, but I hear the people yelling in the background. Women pass by you, crying. People sound tense when they shout to each other; others are in obvious distress and mourning. You’re coughing.”
I’m coughing?”
“Yes. It’s a dry hacky cough like clearing dust from your throat, not like you’re sick. Are you sick? No, you’re too alert for that…. You’re probably inhaling a lot of airborne junk. You need a mask don’t you? And water, I’ll bet.”
Pierce shook his head and smiled. “Now you’re telling me to gear up.”
“Don’t you need to?”
“Well yes--.” But no one tells me to. I’m the boss.
I never introduced myself. Maybe she doesn’t realize….Maybe that’s why she’s so relaxed with me.
“Can you find gear?”
“Yes, thanks.” Pierce coughed and blinked. His sore throat told him she’d hit the mark, even if he’d been too absorbed in other things to notice. In the fog of fatigue and the press of decision making, the city’s heavy toxic haze, and his body’s reaction to it, slipped by him. I should gear up or I’ll be no use to anyone. “Thanks.”
“You need sleep.”
Pierce grinned. “Oh do I?”
“A guy like you didn’t get this far making dumb mistakes.” He could picture the grimace in her tone. “…not that you are now.”
Pierce laughed. “Yes, I am, and you’re right, I do need sleep.”
“I didn’t mean for it to come across like that.”
“It came across like you’re observant and empathetic.”
“Oh.” The levels of relief reflected in a single syllable were like a strong Southern accent, full of extra layers, all of them smooth and soothing. “Then I did mean to come across that way.”
“Thank you, for everything.” Pierce hesitated. He didn’t mean just for being good at her work. “It’s grim here, and our chat’s been a positive diversion. …Almost like I know you.”
“Well, you’d better! You’ve heard me talking while eating peanut butter, and been able to understand me.”
The lights of the U.N. base glimmered like home away from home, an island of hope in the midst of destruction, but second to the warmth this woman instilled. Max, you deserve a raise. I needed this. You’re right. It couldn’t wait. He wanted so much to say, ‘Call me Pierce’, but that’d let the cat out of the bag, and his longing for normal conversation only heightened when deployed to a disaster zone. He hoped she wouldn’t take offense. He wanted her name, but to ask now would prompt his reply, so he made a note to ask Max tomorrow.
His scratchy throat betrayed him again. “I appreciate the call, and your dedication to the project.”
“Is there anything else?”
Pierce swallowed more of the tepid water. “Can’t think of anything. I’ll check in with you tomorrow.”
“I look forward to it.” Her next pause had nothing to do with high protein sandwich spreads. “I ah--.”
Pierce nodded at the sentry on duty and signed in to the logbook. “Yes?”
“Be careful.”
Be careful. A thousand conversations today, ten thousand requests or questions, but this was the second time anyone expressed concern for him. “Thank you.” Pierce smiled. “Same to ya. …Don’t go rolling off any scaffolds without a crash box.”
Stay invincible.
Her laughter rang like music across the miles. “Deal.”
A soft joy shielded him from the city’s carnage as Pierce exhaled and signed in at the guard post. “Good-night.”
“Talk to you tomorrow.”
“Newlyweds, eh, Mate?” (Not all of the U.N. relief forces were from the U.K.) Light shone from behind the sentry, casting him in silhouette. His dark face blended in with the shadows, save for the glint of pristine white teeth.
“Married? Nah.” Pierce scanned the tent city erected during his absence. Marriage passed me by. The options available to him now were far too about what he had, not who he was, part of why he felt a bit of guilt, but still withheld his identity from the graining artist. Talking to her as some rep for Grayson, instead of as Grayson, let him pretend to be normal for a few minutes. If he could find a marriage like his grandparents shared, two people with mutual respect, trust, and passion, he’d happily put Max on the case, but besides being beyond even Max’s skills, the task violated a couple hundred workplace harassment laws. Not willing to surrender for less, he gave up on the idea. He blew out a breath and straightened his shoulders. I traded normal to make a difference.
“I need chow. Any chance the DFAC’s open?”
“The dining facility’s available at all hours to your kind, but you’ll get more conversation over your meal if you hit the showers first.”
Pierce looked down at his once immaculate clothing. Grease, dust, water and smears of indefinable substances decorated already torn fabric. He shook his head. He’d thought his day was mostly mental. “Right.”
The sentry handed him a map. “Your bunk’s here. They’ve put you upwind of the latrines. You must be pretty important.”
“Thanks.” Pierce grinned and set off for ‘home’. “We’ll see if the winds agree.”
A showered Pierce hit the construction site with a full stomach, a fair night’s rest and clean clothing the next morning. He made far faster progress on the uncrowded dark streets of pre-dawn, quietly discussing the day’s goals with his team. No injuries in these first few days, everyone seemed to cope with the shock of witnessing the tragedy at close quarters, and all channeled their grief for Nepal into action. It’d be another good day.
It ended with another midnight call to the artist while the team headed back to build and compete in a traditional round of Carnage Croquet. Grayson’s unofficial local entertainment offering, they scavenged guttering, wire, broken bricks, plastic bags and anything else deemed useful to construct a course resembling some post-Apocalyptic Rube Goldberg contraption, (minus the mouse cage at the end). The opening tournament served to advertise the ‘course’ to volunteers and locals alike and would become a favorite diversion of anyone able to locate a length of stick for a mallet and a reasonably round can, bottle, or rock for a ball.
Pierce stayed behind at the worksite, fielding questions from local government officials, surveying the day’s progress and drafting tomorrow’s schedule. Fabrication proceeded at haste all day, and stacks of new walls, roof sections and even some furniture, (bunks, tables, and benches), stood ready for installation. Foundation piers were set and checked off by the local inspector, who’d been more interested in drinking the hot coffee on site than asking questions. Pierce relied on Kama’s more conservative time tables instead, but if the weather, equipment and spirits held, they’d be moving out of the tents and containers of the U.N. compound and into their own quarters the day after tomorrow.
He rubbed his sore neck as he punched in the artist’s number. The routine continued throughout the week, each day filled with stressors of all kinds, and bone-wearying activity. Each night ending with a fragile connection to a calmer place, a half world away, and yet delivered to his heart with the punch of a few numbers.
Hello?”
He’d swear she’d been waiting for the call.
“Just checking in on the Buckhead renovation.”
“I know.”
You can’t know. Inbound SAT calls are listed on caller ID as ‘unknown’. He could drop it, but chose to press. “You know?”
“I--.” She paused, realizing how she sounded. “I just …knew. How are you? You missed the update yesterday.”
“It sounded like your project manager would be supervising a lot more sanding and priming after the lead removal teams left. Did something major happen?”
“Everything’s fine here. The substructures are in surprisingly good shape. They’re even putting the base coat on the dining room moldings already.”
“I’m missing something. Why were you worried?”
“You didn’t make your follow-up call …for days. Rumor is the earth’s got a crack in it where you are, and I’ve no idea how strong your bungee cord is, if you should get swallowed up.”
Pierce’s face dimpled. “Thanks for your concern. I wear the best bungee money can buy at all times.”
“That’s disappointing.”
Pierce cracked open a bottle of water and arched a brow. “Disappointing?”
“I figured Max the type,” he heard her strain to reach something. “…to fit you for a jet pack.”
Pierce chuckled. “I’ll put it on her agenda. You’re working again. …Are you on the scaffold or a ladder this time?”
“Ladder. How’d you know?”
“You shouldn’t reach so far. Can’t you use a scaffold?”
“Too …short and the space is too small for a hydraulic lift. There, it’s done with no damage to me, or the ceiling. Don’t call OSHA. I’m coming down now. …I hope people can see it from the floor.”
“See what?”
“It’s part of a mural; monarch butterflies in migration. The trail starts at eye level but climbs the wall and up a vaulted ceiling toward the sky window. This is the final brush-in layer. My crew will start sealing it tomorrow.”
“Monarchs are orange and black so, two layers?”
“Try twenty-two and you’ll be closer. In addition to the orange and black, they have white, multiple shades of yellow, and brown. It’s not a stained-glass technique where one layer filling in an outline is sufficient. I lap transparent layers of color over each other to achieve a more three dimensional affect. When I get it right, they even seem to move …at least in your peripheral vision.”
“Sounds wonderful.”
“Well, thank you. Hopefully it passes muster.”
“You’re a native.”
The sounds of feet on aluminum rails greeted him. “Yep. How’d you figure that one? My drawl all but disappears when I’m engaged with clients from out of town.”
“Out of town? I may be run down by a cycle rickshaw at any moment, but I’m a native Atlantan, too.”
“Not you, I just got off a conference call with the board overseeing this project, lots of transplants.”
“It wasn’t the drawl so much as your attitude. Southern women are the polar opposite of Northern men, notorious for underplaying their accomplishments. I’ll bet a year’s wages your work more than ‘passes muster’.”
The ladder clanked a protest as it ratcheted downward. “That’s a terrible thing to do to an artist! You’re offering me a payout by betting I’m horrible at my job.”
Pierce loved the laughter in her voice. “I didn’t think of it that way.”
“Is everything going OK over there?”
He loved this part the most. Asbestos, lead, a hiring shortage, delayed supply delivery, her other project deadlines, anything and everything could be running afoul on her end, but she never failed to take the pulse on how he was doing. “Better than expected. Thanks for asking. I get to fly home late tomorrow, if all continues at this pace.”
“Safe travels. I won’t hear from you for a while then. I can email some pictures of the progress if you want.”
“Thanks. It’ll save me a trip to the house.”
“Oh.” Disappointment tinged her voice. “Yes it does.”
It took a few microseconds for the disappointment to circle the globe. For the first time since he started dialing, Pierce’s mouth sagged. Mr. and Ms. Efficiency just missed a shot at sharing a private grand tour. “I look forward to talking to you stateside--.”Allison.
“Me too. Have a safe flight.
“Thank you.”
The post sentry winked at him as he disconnected and signed in for the night. He showered, ate a late dinner and headed for his bunk. He dialed Max to request delivery of a case of gourmet organic peanut butters and local honey to be shipped to Allison Stanford, care of ASD, and slept like a baby.



Want more? Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 3.


About K.D. Harp


WHAT A TANGLED WED-- a Book Worth Reading Again by K.D.Harp.

Native Atlantan K.D. hooked her own Georgia Tech engineer years ago and knows firsthand the off-beat workings of a mind that shapes the future, and how to bolster its heart! The author’s been recognized by international competitions/organizations as a GENESIS semi-finalist, honored by the Hook. Line & Sinker! Awards and listed among 'Most Popular Authors" and “Most Popular” titles on Goodreads!)

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