sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Boldly Going Where I’ve Never . . .

For the first time in my life,
I’m in control of colors that surround me.
Always the good girl in the past,
I chose what seemed right
rather than what made me smile.

For the first time in my life,
I’m responsible — me, responsible –
if it works, is dreadful,
or simply tolerable . . .
such a heavy weight to bear.

For the first time in my life,
I’m listening to that passionate
inner me, the one who wants
brilliance shining, nudging
me to try more scary things.

Rose Parade1

For the first time in my life,
my office will have a Rose Parade
red wall, cheered on by dove gray.
I’ll make my own bulletin board as
a canvas to hold treasures.

Teal, Magenta, Gray

For the first time in my life,
the loft next to my office
will share the dove gray
with Albuquerque Teal
to remind me of joy.


For the first time in my life,
Victorian shades of magenta, tinged
with orchid, will define my bedroom.
Rich, sensuous, ripe, emotional,
dramatic dancing colors.


For the first time in my life,
the rest of my house
will pull in some glorious greens –
true connection to the beautiful
backdrop we see from all sides.

For the first time in my life,
I am boldly going where I’ve never
gone before. Courageous,
steadfast, scared of my swatches,
I’m a fledgling on a colorful limb.




I have sleep apnea, and am in the process of getting treatment. Yesterday I saw the sleep doc and gave her one of my cards.

“Have you written any poems about sleep?” she asked. “I’d be interested to see them.”

I went home and checked. I searched SLEEP and NIGHT in my large Google Docs colletion of poems. I have a lot.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Weather Reportblueroad

The far side of the room
might as well be Europe.
I conjure morning’s gray sky,
stumble over backpack,
piles of pillows
tossed onto cold, bare floor.
I need a new lamp.
I knocked mine
off the nightstand,
my hand unsteady
from sleepless nights
dozing over a book
until four AM.
Coffee spilled
on my kitchen floor,
a wild whirl of my arm,
some time between
sleep and waking.

Night Journey

I drift weightless in nothingness
On my left is a yellow pail
Full of sea shells
On my right, a dirty white fox terrier
The terrier barks and runs towards me

I walk at twilight down a road full of shadows
The only sound is the clack-clack
Of my buster brown oxfords
On the uneven pavement

I round a corner and the fox terrier
Jumps out from behind a bush
He clamps his teeth around my ankle

I walk on a beach
Of smooth pale sand
That slopes down
To a navy blue ocean
A sliver of moon hangs on the horizon
The wind blows in my faceWP_20130517_002

I turn and the yellow pail erupts from the sand
My fingers melt onto the handle
I scream

The fox terrier crawls out of the hole
He jumps up and grabs the pail in his teeth
He pulls and I am free

The next morning the fox terrier
Is curled up on the end of my bed
A shell sits on a table by the door
My feet are wet and sandy

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Poetry book news

One of my goals for this year was to publish my poetry collection Chiaroscuro. Last year I researched publishers, and compared their sites and stats. I made a list of what I most wanted in a publisher. It wasn’t about the royalty. It was:

  • clear information
  • print options
  • listed response time
  • ease of submitting (email)

I know self-publishing is an option, especially for poetry, but I’d prefer to go through a publisher for the formatting, marketing, cover book, all those things that intimidate me. It’s a process I’d rather not go through alone.

One of my top choice was SynergEbooks. I am very impressed by their website, and how much information they give in the process and what to expect, and what they expect of their authors.

I didn’t have to wait long after querying SynergEbooks to get a response. They were impressed with my sample poems. They were very upfront to answer the few questions I had, and less than a week later I was signing an Author Contract.

I am very happy to be working with SynergEbooks to publish my poetry book. No release date yet. It will be published digitally and available through the publisher website, as well as on and B& If it does well enough, there is a possibility for a print version.

In preparation for publication, I have created a site dedicated to my Chiaroscuro poetry book. I will be creating individual sites for each of my major projects, where you can learn more, read excerpts, and get news on their status. You can see my new author website here. I also created one for Lifelines.

Mary Butterfly Signature

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Ship of Dreams - Artimals

Ship of Dreams – Artimals


is Haiku –
texture writ
through sounds

China Cabinet - Centercrystal
worn as layers

in shoulds
and spring snow

rules apply

when springLisa's Tea Pot
what is left
to thrive


Blue Birdfat squirrels
hog birdfeeder,
never share

ivy thinned
by the deer
it kept alive

defiant bluesScarf and silk
elbow clouds
for the sun


Peace - Kitchen

A recent discussion among us Muselings had us musing on subjects to write about. Sice I am reading Natalie Goldberg‘s Writing Down the Bones , in which she suggests mushroomsgenerating just such a list, I volunteered to post mine — mine and Natalie’s.  Here it is:

What to write about, the list so far

Write about a favorite poem. Wrie about a poem you learned in school. Write about a poem you hate. Write about memorizing poetry. Did you feel differently about the poem after you memorized it?

Write about flat feet. Write about aching feet. Write about orthotics. Write about shoes. Write about high heels. Write about fashion in shoes.

Write about art in your childhood home. Write about art in your present home. Write about art museums.

Write about school. Write about a particular year in schol. Write about a favorite teacher. Write about your least favorite teacher. Write about your favorite subject in school. Write about your least favorite subject in school.

Write about writing. Write about the physical act of writing. Do your fingers cramp? Do you like to write by hand?

Write about pens. Do you have a favorite? Do you like pencils? Do you do crossword puzzles, and if so do you do them in ink or pencil, and why?

Write about laundry. Write about laundromats. Write about laundry detergent. Write about bleach. Write about fabric softener.

Write about a favorite author. Here a few of mne:

Robert A. Heinlein. One of my favorite authors

Lewis Carroll. I am a big Lewis Carroll fan as well, both of the Alice books and of his poetry. I love the whimsey.

Write about a favorite book: Here are a couple of mine

Alice in Wonderland. I reread this every exam-time at College.Peter Pan by James M. Barrie. One of my favorite books as a kid. I also saw the play with Mary Martin as Peter. Pure magic.


Bookshelves, and what’s on them.

Food poisoning. Have you had any notable encounters with bad food?

Toothpaste. Rolling up the tube. Squeezing out the paste.

TV Advertisements. Do you watch them? Do you watch TV?

The ASPCA. ASPCA ads. Dogs. Cats.  Birds.

I remember…  Pick a memory and write about it.

Choose a color and write about it. Choose a color word and write about the word.

Write about light. Write about darkness. Write about shadows.

People you have loved.

People who have influenced you.

City streets. Country Roads. Getting lost.


Pick subject  you hate and write about it as though you love it, even if you don’t. How does this make you feel? Do the opposit: pick a subject you love and write about it as though you hate it. Do you feel the need for a disclaimer at the top of the article: This does not typify my personal opinion.?

Write about today. Write about yesterday. What was notable? What was different?

Write about ‘leaving’. This can mean anything you like.

Write about your first memory. How old are you? How detailed is the memory?

Open a poetry book, pick a line, and take it from there. See where you go.

What kind of animal are you? Are you an animal at all? Can you do this, or do you draw a blank?

Write about sex. Write about how you learned about sex. Write about your first sexual experience.

Write about the closest you’ve ever felt to God or nature.

Write about God, about your belief, or lack thereof.

Write about the stars. Write about the planetarium. Write about the Museum of Natural History.

Write about the movies. Write about your favorite movie. What movies have you watched more than once? Why?

The most frightened you’ve ever been.

Write about swimming. Write about learning to swim. Write about beaches. Write about sea shells.


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Courtship Moon

On this day of romance, we celebrate loved ones, both current and potential. My novel, Fey Moon, has a holiday similar to Valentine’s Day.

The fourth moon (month) in the realm of Dashevona is Courtship Moon. It is the first moon of summer and the traditional month for courting. Those single and at least fifteen years in age are given more leeway this month, with less responsibility. The first night of Courtship is the ritual dancing and exchange of gifts. Though some cities, such as the capital Valadilene, celebrate on multiple nights.

The Human belief is that the Earth created everyone Herself. Her courtship with the moon causes magic in the world. When their dance is strongest (full moon), magic is strongest.

moon dance

Excerpt: The song was a variation of the usual Courtship song, a familiar tale of boy meets girl. She had intended to watch and learn from the dancers, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of Cail. He did have a gift. The rise and fall of his voice put her in a trance. He didn’t stop the song after the third verse, but began singing a fourth one that was new to her.

Courtship Song

A tale I sing of girl meets boy
He labored in her pa’s employ
With wooden flute he played a tune
They danced beneath the Courtship Moon

They walked and talked, their love grew swift
One day he shared a precious gift
A golden pendant, meant to swoon
They danced beneath the Courtship Moon

A picnic meal down by the lake
Where he proposed her hand to take
With hearts that yearned to marry soon
They danced beneath the Courtship Moon

From out of darkness came a birth
And Moon looked down on Mother Earth
His heart engaged, he took a chance
As Earth and Moon resume their dance

With one full turn, from left to right
He courted her most every night
Then with a nod, they each advance
As Earth and Moon resume their dance

From birth, to marriage, then to death
Their love makes magic with each breath
An endless cycle of romance
As Earth and Moon resume their dance

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Blog Post - The Storymatic

Yup. Take “The Storymatic”, with six trillion story/poem ideas tidily arranged in a tasteful box smaller than a grocery-store size block of cheddar. Add a book, “642 Things to Write About”. Send them to your favorite aunt whose Muse has been MIA for the past year or so. Stand back and wait for the fallout. Giggle when you get the call and hear that auntie’s Muse came out of hiding long enough to hyperventilate. Wait for the first poem to pop out. Smile, knowing you jump-started the process at just the right time. This is what my darling niece did for me.

The Storymatic is similar to refrigerator magnet words. In this case, you draw two gold color cards that you combine to create a main character. (Like “daydreamer” and “taxidermist” — two cards I chose at random.) THEN draw two copper color cards to lead you into your story. (Mine were “”handcuffs” and “yet another get-rich-quick scheme”.) Now, you can start writing, using these four cards as prompts.

Blog Post - 642 Things to Write AboutSince I live by the motto, “Why be difficult when you can always be impossible?”, I’m mixing the Storymatic prompts with one of the 642 things to write about. I page-flipped to “She’s lying! This is what she really wants most in the world.”

So, Darling L — here’s what your aunt came up with for her first poem. And, wonder of wonders, a second, deeper one:

The Real Truth?

Part 1: She Lied

When I was a little girl
I was the constant daydreamer
rarely slept, even as a child

always somewhere else
in my head
in my heart

handcuffs of time and place
kept me from drifting
too far from  – what?

For years, my Dad
tried to feed his family
on hopes and smiles

Never at home in his home,
yet another get-rich-quick scheme
slipped away, and away again

My life turned inside out,
a taxidermist nightmare
of guts where freckles should be

when he died
away from home
rotting in the jungle

I said I wanted everything
to be as it was
before. I lied.

What I really wanted
most in the world
was a different life
from start to end.

Part 2:  The Real Truth

She’s lying. Does it all the time.
Daydreamer lost in all the possibilities
Soft, porny handcuffs she can escape
but leaves in place
because it’s easier this way

Maybe one of her wild ideas
will fly today, another
get-rich-quick scheme
that really does work

Reverse taxidermist process
– bringing back to life
all who were close to her –
just for a day or two

To say a proper goodbye
To say what she was too scared
To utter when the time was right
Then, to release them, one by one

This is what she really wants
more than anything else in the world.
To let go with love and compassion.
Closure. Rich beyond money, at peace.


The “642...” book not only has interesting ideas, but was written in one 24 hour period by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. As the compiler, Bo Bronson, wrote on the first page, the idea sprang from a discussion among a few folks; an email asking for ideas went out, and great writing prompts came pouring in from thirty-five writers. A day later, the finished manuscript was delivered to the editor.

I loved these words in that intro: “…I tell the story because it’s a lesson in hidden potential. You never know what might happen. … And it doesn’t even have to be your own idea. You just have to get creative and plunge in.” That, my friends, is like showing up — and sharing. You never know what can happen. Our book, LIFELINES, is one such creation.

The Poetic Muselings have traveled far together during these past several years. Besides our book, we’ve all worked on individual projects — written and other media, as well as dealing with a variety of health issues. We are looking at our collective work efforts on this blog, and considering changes in 2014. Not sure what direction we’ll take.

We thank you, our readers, mentors, friends, colleagues, guest posters, and critics, for being part of our world. May the New Year bring us all joy, contentment, success in our adventures, and connection with those who are important to us.


PS: I challenge you to write a prompt poem to share in the comment below.


Saint Nick’s Christmas Excess



One Christmas night,  fat old Saint NickSnow

ate so much roast goose he got  sick,

thus was forced to belay

that night’s ride in his sleigh,

rushed the gifts all to FedEx. How slick.


Next Christmas, when faced with a chimney,

hr muttered, “I will not be able to shimmy

down that narrow slot,

with a fire so hot.

I’ll go in the front door, by Jiminey.”


What Happens Christmas Night


Do you wonder how, in just one night,


Saint Nick can make such a long flight?

He sends some gifts by mail,

and some others by rail,

which makes his sleigh load quite light.

I’ve noticed that Saint Nick’s a bit

too big around for him to fit

inside our chimney, Christmas night

the struggle must be quite a sight.


Perhaps he oils his nice red suit

all over so that he can shoot

right down the chimney. Then you’ll see

he‘ll cut his hand and sprain his knee.


I guess that all those aches and pains

will hurt so much that he’ll complain

that getting down was such a chore

he’s going to leave us by the door!

White Christmas

Winter wonderland of woe

all we have is snow and snow.

Piles and piles of slushy glop,

mushy, wet and nasty slop.

Wets my socks and wets my shoes

numbs my toes and shorts my fuse.

Watch it snow and wish for Spring,

no more snow and shoveling.

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‘Tis the season of giving. This year, I decided to do a Christmas countdown for my husband. I handmade 25 cards, and numbered the envelopes. On each card, I wrote an activity, a compliment or thank you, a service, or a gift. I even wrote him a poem for one. I wanted him to feel loved and appreciated. I took some inspiration from the internet, and had to get creative to decorate 25 different cards. It was a fun, time consuming project which I spread out over multiple days. Here are a few of my favorite cards:

card 1 card 2

In other news, I now have a new desktop muse. Not long ago there was a sale on My Little Pony Funko mystery boxes. We ordered eight. They are so darn cute! Here’s the line-up:

MLP train

This one is my favorite, and has been dubbed my magical muse.

Lyra Heartstrings

Lyra Heartstrings

Mary Butterfly Signature
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Santa Claus has hijacked this blog! He wants you to have a free copy of “A Christmas Fling” by author Beth Barany. This novella is the perfect read to get you in the mood for Christmas!

BB A CHRISTMAS FLING by Beth Barany-400x600

Spotlight on A Christmas Fling: A Magical Tale of Romance and Adventure
by Beth Barany

Thanks Anne for having me on Poetic Muselings to give a shout out about my new sweet paranormal romance novella, A Christmas Fling.

A Christmas Fling is free today, Friday, December 13 through Sunday, Dec. 15th, 12 midnight PST. Just click here to download your copy. If you like it, please tell others by posting a review. Thanks! (If the Amazon link above doesn’t work, just copy and paste this link into your browser:

About the Book
She’s a Santa’s Elf. He’s a Human.
What if falling in love put the life you cherished in jeopardy?

Dahlia, a Santa’s Elf, has 21 days left before Christmas to create the best toy in the world without using magic or revealing her true identity. Stuck on how to complete the prototype, and working as a temp in San Francisco’s financial district with no time for love, will her innocent Christmas fling get her unstuck, or will she turn her back on her beloved career for her heart?

Liam, an up-and-coming financial analyst, swore off women after getting dumped by the love of his life. He just found out his ex is going to the company Christmas party with his rival Michael Hendricks. Up for promotion against Hendricks, Liam has to win the favor of his boss. His best bet is to invite the vivacious secretary Dahlia to the party. Will Dahlia be a welcome distraction, or will she turn his life upside down?

A Christmas Fling: A Magical Tale of Romance and Adventure has received 5-stars from Amazon readers.

“A Christmas Fling is a fantastic tale of love coming at the most inopportune time…If you want a story filled with Christmas cheer and a warm, tender romance, this is the story for you.” — C.A. Malone

“I absolutely loved this book. It was a nice quick holiday read … I have been reading some really crappy books lately and this one came right along and renewed my spirits.” — Shawntay Fenyo

“I loved it, a sweet little Christmas story. A story to my taste and liking. Dahlia and Liam, at the end tears in my eyes, a happy ending.” — Brigitte Stotzka

Here’s an excerpt:

Dahlia strolled through the small neighborhood park. It was great fun to think about how the children would enjoy her toy once she was done with it, but she had to complete it first. She only had twenty-two days to fix whatever was wrong with it before returning home. She’d gone over her designs and schematics and taken it apart and put it back together a dozen times, but it still wouldn’t work.
Dahlia left the park and headed down the street toward the detached studio she rented on Miles Avenue.
A dog bark had her look up just in time to almost but not quite avoid getting tangled up in a long leash. A man with the warmest brown eyes she’d ever seen gazed down at her, a half smile on his face.
She smiled back startled out of her daydreaming, but not before she noticed his endearing dimple on one side of his mouth.
She said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you. Thank goodness for your dog. Oh, she looks like a Husky.”
Dahlia shifted her bag to one hip, so she could bend down and pet the dog.
The dog wagged her tail.
Dahlia said, “You must feed her really well. Her coat is so soft and luscious.”
“She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog. Sally. My roommate’s.”
His voice was deep. She had to look up to smile into his deep brown eyes. He was a whole head taller than she was. Almost two meters. She translated into American measurements. Six foot three or something.
“My uncle, well one of my uncles has one—that he uses for work. But I hardly see him because he lives—” She paused. “I’m prattling, aren’t I?”
“Yes, you are, but I like listening to your accent. Scottish?”
“Yes, wow, you guessed correctly. Most people here can’t do that. Yeah, we’re from Scotland, but it’s been a few generations.” She couldn’t very well tell him how Santa’s elves lived a very long time. It had only been her grandparents that had immigrated with Uncle, known as Santa to most, and some neighbors to set up the North Pole.
“So, you’re in school here?” He waved off toward what she knew was the art college a few blocks away.
“No. I’m here on an independent research project for a few more weeks.”
“So you’re from—”
“Alaska. Well, near Alaska, anyway. I—I best be going,” she interrupted and gestured to her bag of goodies. She shifted from foot to foot on the corner of Miles and Clifton Streets, still tangled up in the Bernese’s leash. “Gifts to wrap. For the kids. Big project.” She gulped and held out her hand. “I’m Dahlia, by the way. Dahlia MacMillian.”
With a half-smile, he shook her offered hand. His grip was firm and strong. “Liam. Nice to meet you, Dahlia MacMillian.” He led the dog around her, slowly untangling the leash.
How he moved with grace and power, even in his simple gestures. He was tall, lean and muscular, broad shoulders identifiable even in his sweatshirt with the UC Berkeley name and logo on it.
“There we go, Sally,” Liam said, his voice a rumbling, soothing cascade.
Sally licked Dahlia’s hand, bringing her out of her staring. She gulped and felt the heat of a blush creep up her neck and onto her cheeks. Dahlia stroked the soft fur to cover her embarrassment. It had been a long time since she’d felt attracted to anyone. Everyone she’d dated at the Pole was so familiar to her, and mostly related. She didn’t have time for a distraction.
She looked up when she heard Liam chuckling. He was shaking his head.
“What?” She couldn’t help but ask.
He shrugged. “I guess I should run into girls more often with my roommate’s dog. I didn’t realize it could be such a pleasant experience.”
“You must not walk her very often then.” Oh my, she was flirting. The Elf boys back home never brought that out of her. She felt her pale skin flush. Och, yes, this was a man, she thought. “Thank you, then. For the pleasant experience. And the untangling.”
“You’re welcome.” Liam said to her, smiling, that one dimple showing again. Then he spoke to the dog. “Come on Sally. Let’s finish your walk, so we can go watch the game.”
Dahlia waved good-bye and turned to go down the street and head for her apartment. But first she had to watch Liam walk away. He fit nicely into his jeans. For a moment, a pang of wistfulness washed through her. She shook her. She had other things to focus on, like completing her toy on time so she could get her Master Elf badge, and even win the Grand Prize.
She was sure she’d be able to make progress on her toy tonight. Maybe it was something about meeting a happy dog and tall brown-eyed man that made her feel hopeful. Yes, she would get her toy done in time.


Liam tugged on Sally’s leash. It had all happened so fast. She’d practically run into him. He’d had to yank on Sally’s leash to prevent the girl from running into him, which had made the normally quiet Sally bark.
The girl, well, actually more like a very nice looking woman—all that wild hair and those sparkly eyes that seemed to practically twinkle when she spoke. Must have been a trick of the afternoon light. She seemed so light-hearted. Dahlia MacMillian, with the soft lilt in her voice. Her mess of red hair part frizzy, part curl that turned golden red as the winter light touched it. A winter jacket covering tantalizing curves. Strong legs in hugging jeans. He almost wanted to make her do a pirouette so he could check out her ass. But he hadn’t.
She was so unlike the highly polished co-workers and high-rise office colleagues he worked with. He loved that environment. He loved his eclectic neighborhood, too. They were right next to an art school. By now he should expect to run into the artsy design type of people in this neighborhood in Oakland. So different from the financial district where he spent over sixty hours a week in downtown San Francisco.
He realized he’d been standing on the corner with Sally when she tugged on the leash, done with her business with sniffing every fifth bush. She needed to get walking. His roommate Josh Kleine, one of his best buddies from college, was away in Paris at a conference and had made him promise to walk Sally himself at least once a day. He did, even though a dog walker helped out during the week, while he was at work. But on the weekends, Liam thought he should walk Sally himself for her twice-daily walks, as he promised Josh.
“Okay, girl. Let’s go.” He picked up the pace and jogged with her up the quiet street.
Dahlia had been so friendly to the dog. She’d made him smile. God. He couldn’t remember the last time a woman made him smile like that. Maybe he could ask her out. No, he’d sworn off dating, even casually, since the fiasco with Christine back in February, seven months ago.
He turned up Clifton, crossed College Avenue, jogged up it a little more until he got to Broadway, then he crossed Broadway and took the dogleg turn and hiked up Broadway Terrace at a good clip to the golf course. On his way back down the hill, his cell phone rang. It was Josh, no doubt checking up on him to see how well he was treating Sally.
“Hey,” Liam answered.
“So?” Josh asked.
“She’s fine. We’re just heading back from our walk. We went as far as the golf course today. She’s got her miles in. Don’t worry. Second walk today, too.”
“And she got her food?”
“Of course. Who do you think I am?”
“It’s just the responsibility—”
“Seriously? We’re going to have this discussion again? I manage crazy-ass databases with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line for Cooper, Andrews & Sons. And you don’t trust me to feed your dog—”
“Cool your jets, Liam. Numbers don’t require regular feeding and—”
“Sally is your baby, I know, Josh. You’ll be back in a week, and you can look after her yourself. How’s the Transportation conference going? Meet any hot Parisian chicks yet?”
“It’s good. No, on the Parisian chicks. Just—no, never mind. Hey, I ran into one of your colleagues here. Michael Hendricks. He’s in your department, right?”
“Yeah, he handles the transportation portfolio analysis. Right. I forgot he was going.” Liam frowned.
“He told me he’s bringing his fiancée to the company Christmas party. And implied that you were going to lose out big time. Something about gaming you out of the corner office. MacAuley, that guy has it in for you.”
“Yeah, always does. He always wants what I have. Now he wants the same promotion I’m after.” He stole his girlfriend, ex-girlfriend from him. And Christine let it happen. “What’s this about bringing his fiancée to the party? What fiancée? Is it Christine?” He really didn’t want to see Christine ever again. He ground his teeth.
The promotion was a straight shot to a corner office, weekly golf with the shareholders, and a seat at the C-level table.
“I don’t know who,” Josh said. “Not surprised he plays the field. He’s a jerk. I heard his talk was poorly attended. Don’t worry, man. I didn’t go.”
“Anytime. Hey, how’s Brett? You guys do your weekly squash game last week?”
“Yeah. Like always. What? You’re homesick or something?”
“I don’t know. Yeah. Whatever. Something happened in our behind-the-scenes tour of the Paris Metro that shook me a little. I’m fine. We’re fine. It’s nothing. Just miss home, and my buds—”
“And your dog.”
“Yeah. I miss Sally. Put her on the phone.”
“Come on.”
“I’m on the street.”
“So? It’s a crazy town, so just do it, okay? Hey, the French wouldn’t think it’s weird. They love their dogs.”
Liam huffed, but put his cell phone to Sally’s ear, so Josh could coo or whisper or whatever he did when he talked to Sally through the phone. Sally paused from her sniffing the millionth bush and lifted her ear a little, as if listening. He gave Josh a minute tops, then put the phone to his ear.
“Yeah. Gotta go get some shut eye to get up early for the conference tomorrow. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Sure. Take care. And go meet some French women, will you? Sounds like you need to get laid.”
“Where did that come from? Speak for yourself.”
Liam barked a laugh and clicked off the cell phone.
Josh was worse than Liam’s own mother for the way he checked up on him. At least his mother only expected to talk to him once a week. Tonight. He groaned inwardly. First he’d watch the football game. Then he’d call his mom. She’d still be up in New York, testing out new pastry recipes for her boutique Italian pastry company.
In five minutes he reached the bottom of the hill and crossed Broadway, turned right on College. A few minutes later, he turned at Forest Street, passing the toy store. He’d never really noticed it before, though he must have passed it hundreds of times on his runs, and certainly seven times in the last seven days he’d been walking Sally for Josh. This store must have been where Dahlia had done her toy shopping, though he hadn’t seen the bag logo clearly. She’d had stuffed animals and some tubes of sparkles sticking out of the top of the bag.
Perhaps she had kids. A wistful pang washed through him. He thought he’d start a family with Christine, but she killed that dream before it had a chance to blossom when he caught her cheating on him with Hendricks. He hadn’t had a serious girlfriend since he ended it with Christine seven months ago. Thank goodness he hadn’t proposed to her. He’d been thinking about it. Since then, he’d sworn off all dating. And he’d sworn off love.
Love was for losers. He had to bring someone to the party and show up Hendricks, and Christine, if it was Christine that Hendricks was bringing. Show them he was fine. Have a great time. Live it up, and all the while beat Hendricks out by getting his analysis in on time and under budget, so he would get the promotion over Hendricks.
His stomach grumbled, tearing him away from the past.
“Time for an early dinner, eh, Sally?” he said.
She gave a soft woof. He picked up the pace and jogged back home to the house on Locksley he shared with Josh. Sally kept pace with him the whole way, the perfect running companion. She didn’t talk and could keep up with him. He’d take her out for their morning run tomorrow at 5 a.m. before he left for work.
It wasn’t until he put the key in the front door that he realized what Michael’s jab about bringing his fiancée to the Christmas party was all about.
“Damn,” he muttered under his breath. Hendricks was bringing Christine. The guy was trying to psych him out, acting like having Christine at his side was his ace in the hole, his secret weapon. Hendricks wanted to push Liam’s buttons and have him lose focus on the big job. He wanted Liam to crash and burn so that he would get the promotion.
Liam slammed the door and felt like throwing his keys down the entry hall. His buttons were pushed all right. But throwing the keys would startle Sally and leave marks in the hardwood that he didn’t want to have to deal with or explain to Josh. So he dropped his keys in the ceramic bowl his grandmother had made for him eons ago. He slipped off his shoes, lined them up next to the entry mat, and unhooked Sally’s leash. She trotted off probably to find her favorite chew toy and settle down for a nap by the fireplace.
He tromped to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and grabbed the celery and Parmesan. He knew how to handle his anger. He’d focus it into something creative. He chopped some onions and celery, hammering the knife against the cutting board. Got the water going. Heated up some homemade tomato sauce. Grated some cheese.
What the hell was he going to do? He really wanted this promotion. It was what he’d been striving toward for the last eight years, through grad school and propelling his way up the ranks in the financial companies he’d been employed at across the country, until he’d landed at Cooper, Andrews & Sons three years ago.
He pictured contacting the vivacious Dahlia, the girl he’d just met, but brushed that thought aside. He didn’t even know where she lived, or how to contact her.
His cell phone rang. “Hi Mom. I was going to call you after the game. It’s about to start.”
“Liam, dear, have you married and made me a grandmother yet?” His mom’s favorite question of the day.
“Mom, not tonight.”
“What? Bad day? Did your team lose?”
“Ma, the game hasn’t started yet. Just got back from the dog walk.”
“Then what?”
“Nothing, Ma.”
“You’re cooking, aren’t you?
“You always cook when you’re upset. What’s the matter?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Then at least tell me what you’re cooking.”
Liam sighed and relented, telling her what meal he had in mind. That took them both off his problems. For the time being.


About Beth Barany
Based in Oakland, California, Beth Barany writes magical tales of romance and adventure to transport readers to new worlds where anything is possible.

In her off hours, Beth enjoys capoeira, travelling, and watching movies with her husband, bestselling author Ezra Barany, and playing with their two cats, Kitty and Leo.

Where to Find A Christmas Fling
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