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ADaringRide MD

Simon “Frizz” Frizzell sneaks away to the rodeo on weekends, and it’s not until after he wins a buckle that he tells his parents about his bull-riding. He knows they won’t approve of his choice of sport, but his parents own a Christian bookstore, and he couldn’t possibly tell them the whole truth: he’s gay. And so are some of his rodeo friends, like Dante and Ryan, and Jacky—a young man he wishes could have been more than a one-night stand. When Simon sets his sights on his dreams, he finds work with Dante and Ryan, and bumps into Jacky on the job.
Jacky Douglas is a rodeo fanatic, plain and simple. He loves the ride, and he loves the cowboys. He fell hard for Frizz when they met, and theirs was a one-night stand made in heaven. When they meet again, Jacky thinks it’s a stroke of luck. Frizz takes some convincing, but once he’s on board, they begin a relationship. The fledgling romance faces a challenge when news of it travels all the way to the one place Frizz doesn’t want it to go: his parents’ bookstore.
Reserve a copy at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4183

Excerpt
“Hey, kid, give ’em one hell of a show. That’s all you need to do,” said the old man standing near the bull chute as Simon Frizzell walked past to take his ride on Geronimo’s Revenge, the bull he’d drawn. He kept the Frizzell part quiet and went by the nickname “Frizz,” ostensibly because of his curly red hair. No one on the rodeo circuit knew his last name and everything that went along with it, and that was exactly how he wanted to keep it.
“I’ll do my best,” Simon said as he checked his equipment over for the last time and got into position. Bull rope, protective vest? Check. Hat, chaps? Check. Sanity? Well, by most people’s standards that was debatable, but from the rush of blood through his body and the zing, bordering on a high, that sang through his brain, he could put a check behind that as well.
The handlers signaled that they were ready, and Simon climbed on the rail. “Ladies and gentlemen, Simon the Frizz will be riding Geronimo’s Revenge, one of the meanest bulls on this part of the circuit. So put your hands together and let him hear it.” Simon the Frizz. That was a new one, but he liked it. He heard the people in the stands around the outdoor ring whoop and holler. It was doubtful that any of them had ever heard of him before—this was only his sixth rodeo. He’d wanted to ride rodeo since he was big enough to sneak away from his folks’ place to the ranch next door and pull himself up the fence so he could see the men practice busting broncs and take turns riding the bulls. This was what he’d always dreamed of doing.
Simon waved from the top of the fence, smiling wide and mugging for the crowd. Then he climbed over the fence and settled on the bundle of caged power that was Geronimo’s Revenge. He could smell sweat and pure testosterone coming off the beast. He waved to the crowd one more time and then took hold of the rope, making sure his legs were in the proper position before giving the signal.
The bull leaped out of the gate, landed, and then bucked straight up, turning in midair, landing and then turning the other way. By sheer luck and the grace of God, Simon managed to stay on. He jumped again and began to whirl. Simon moved with him, trying his best to anticipate the animal’s next move. His training said one thing, but that voice in his head told him something different. He went with the voice, and dad-gum, he was right. That fucking bull switched directions, but Simon was ready. It wasn’t pretty, and he forgot to use his hand the way the professionals did to make it look easy, but he was still on. Simon yelled at the top of his lungs, shouting the joy of lasting this long to the universe. The bull switched gears again, and Simon felt his balance begin to go. Just one more second. He held on, using his legs to last just a split-second more.
The bell sounded, and Geronimo’s Revenge seemed to have had enough. He jumped straight up once again, then landed on his front hooves. His rear hooves touched the ground and then bounced right back up. Like being flung from a slingshot, Simon flew off his back. Thankfully, he had the presence of mind to let go of the rope, and instantly he was in the air, sailing over the bull. Simon landed and rolled, hoping like hell the bull didn’t come after him. He’d only just come to a stop before he scrambled to his feet and raced toward the fence. He didn’t even look back as he climbed the fence. Bang! The fence shook, and Simon leaped over and onto the ground. He found his feet, barely, and one of the spectators grabbed his arm to keep him from sprawling into the stands.
“Whooee, what a ride!” the announcer called. “The kid’s okay. Let’s give him a hand for making the count!” The crowd cheered, and Simon went to take off his hat, but realized it was gone. Someone shoved it into his hand, and Simon turned in time to see one of the rodeo clowns nod to him. Simon waved the hat in return and then climbed on the fence, holding his hat high to the Saturday rodeo crowd while he waited for the score. “Well, folks, it wasn’t pretty,” the announcer said, and a chuckle went up from the ring of bleachers that lined the ring. “But Frizz stayed on Geronimo’s Revenge, and that’s a feat, I must say. The score for that ride is 87.3. He’s in the money, folks.” The crowd cheered once again.
Simon knew that because of his ranking, most of the score had been for the bull, but he’d take it. Like the announcer had said, it might not have been pretty, but he’d done it. Simon waved one last time and then climbed down from the fence and headed around the arena walkway toward the space between sets of bleachers.
“Frizz, you did it,” Gardner cried as soon as Simon made his way behind the crowd. Simon and the bronc rider had formed a deep friendship over the years. They’d grown up relatively close together outside Oklahoma City and had discovered a mutual love of rodeo. Simon and Billy Bob—which was why he went by Gardner—shared rooms at rodeos to save expenses. Gardner’s dad was like a second father to him, and they were the only two people who knew Simon’s little secret. “Can’t believe you stayed on that sumbitch!” Gardner teased.

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Authors After Dark was incredible and I wanted to share a few of the things I learned.

 

1) Pecan fried chicken is worth not eating for three days.
2) C.J. Ellison, Boone Brux, and Marianne Moria throw one heck of a party.
3) The best way to start an evening is with a marriage proposal. Right BA and Julia?
4) Being nominated for a Bookie is great. Winning kicks ass!!!!!
5) Sharing a ride to the airport with Kate Douglas was the fastest half hour cab ride ever.
6) Doing on interview with Simply Ali was so much fun. She was great to spend time with.
7) Stella throws an amazing three day party.
8) Savannah is a town I can’t wait to visit again
9) K. C. Wells is a complete and total dear heart.
10) If you want to get noticed, wear a white tail coat to dinner.

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Love Comes in Darkness, the follow up to Love Comes Silently released at midnight last night.  This story really truly touched my heart.  The opening scene with Howard in the car and being left by the side of the road came to me while I was laying awake one night.  The helplessness, loneliness, and fear of being stranded that way had me shaking and I couldn’t get those feelings to go away until I’d written the scene.

LoveComesInDarkness MD

 

Howard Justinian has always had to fight for his freedom. Because he was born blind, everyone is always trying to shelter him, but he’s determined to live his life on his own terms.

When an argument with his boyfriend over that hard-won self-reliance leaves Howard stranded by the side of the road, assistance arrives in the form of Gordy Jarrett. Gordy is a missionary’s son, so helping others is second nature—and he does it in such an unassuming manner that Howard can’t say no.

Life is barely back on track when Howard receives shocking news: his sister died, leaving him her daughter to care for. Howard now faces his greatest challenge yet: for Sophia’s safety, he’ll need to accept help, but will he learn to accept it from Gordy, the one man who will not curb his independence?

Dreamspinner Press:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4071

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Love-Comes-Darkness-Senses-ebook/dp/B00EER6FM2

Rainbow eBooks:  http://www.rainbowebooks.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=11533

All Romance:  https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-lovecomesindarkness-1266324-149.html

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

“You’re going too fast,” Howard Justinian said. He sat with his arms planted on the armrests.

“I’m going sixty in a fifty-five,” Cedric returned sarcastically.

“I didn’t mean that and you know it,” Howard retorted. Riding in strange cars was always very disorienting for him. He had no idea how fast he was going, and the sound of the road varied with tires, pavement, and even the wind. Cedric had shown up at Howard’s with what he said was a new car. But there was none of the scent he equated with a “new” car, and the seats had enough lumps that Howard had to consciously keep from fidgeting. He only hoped he wasn’t riding in some sort of death trap.

“Howie,” Cedric began coaxingly, “it would be so much easier for me to help and take care of you if I was living with you. You need some help, and if I was there, I could make sure everything was the way you like it.”

On the surface the offer sounded good, and a few days ago, Howard probably would have said yes without question. Before what had happened. Cedric lived just down the street in a second-floor apartment. It was summer, and when Howard had opened his front door, he’d felt the sun on his face, so he’d decided to take a short walk. He’d picked up his cane and made sure he had his keys before he closed the door behind him and navigated the two steps down to the walk. Eight steps later, he reached the sidewalk and began his careful journey to Cedric’s. The air had been warm, and people must have had their windows open, because he’d heard snippets of conversation mixed with television programs as he made his way.

He knew where he was by the feel of each section of the sidewalk. To most people it felt the same, but to Howard’s keen senses, small differences in pitch, places where tree roots had raised slabs, even cracks, were like signposts telling him exactly where he was. At the large crack that made one piece of the walk rock slightly, Howard took two more steps, then made the turn as he verified with his cane that he was truly where he thought he should be. He took the twelve steps and climbed the three stairs to the porch in front of the house. He stepped across the porch, careful to avoid the loose floorboard. Howard felt for the doorbell and was about to ring it when faint sounds drifted down the fourteen steps he knew were in front of him.

Howard pulled open the screen door and quietly took a step inside. Yes, it was what he’d thought. Loud moans reached his ears, and then a cry of, “Fuck me,” in what was most definitely Cedric’s voice. Howard stood stock-still, unable to move.

A Harley Davidson rumbled as it came up the street, the potato-potato sound vibrating around him. Howard opened the door and stepped out, then let it close behind him. Then, as dejection cascaded off him, Howard had slowly made his way home.

“Don’t ‘Howie’ me,” Howard said now, as he felt the car slow down a bit. “You’re not moving in with me.”

“But you need help,” Cedric said again, and Howard refrained from grinding his teeth. “There are so many things I can do.” Cedric stroked Howard’s leg, so Howard pulled it away, shifting closer to the door. When they’d first met, Cedric had been solicitous. He’d helped without intruding and had actually made Howard’s life easier and better. Howard had fallen in love with him quickly—way too quickly, it turned out.

“I don’t think so,” Howard said. “Just give it a little more time.” They were on their way to a party being given by his friend Ken, and he just wanted to get there and have a nice evening. He should have canceled on Cedric and called to see if Ken could pick him up.

“I’ve given things plenty of time already. How long am I going to have to wait before we can be together?” Cedric asked. Instantly Howard regretted this whole thing and wished he was back home, where he wasn’t under Cedric’s control.

“Can we please talk about this after the party?” Howard asked levelly and as sweetly as he could manage.

“No,” Cedric said, and Howard felt the brakes being applied. A loud rumbling sounded as the car continued to slow.

“What’s happening?” Howard asked as the car pulled to a stop.

“Get out!” Cedric said roughly. “You think you’re so independent and don’t need me, then you can find your own way to the party. Now open the damned door and get the hell out.”

“Are you serious?” Howard asked, scared.

“Get the fuck out!” Cedric screamed, and suddenly Howard was more afraid of Cedric than anything else. Howard felt for the handle and pulled it. He pushed the door open and unfastened the seat belt. Then he carefully got out of the car and stood up. He closed the door. Tires squealed, and he turned away as bits of gravel pelted him. He listened as Cedric’s car sped up and the sound disappeared into the whizzing of traffic as it zoomed by him.

Howard didn’t move. He didn’t even have his cane with him. He had folded it up when he got into the car, and it must have shifted when Cedric braked, because he didn’t have it with him. Slowly, he took baby steps back from traffic. Just a few—he didn’t dare go any farther. He had no idea where he was or what was around him, other than cars passing by. Was there a ditch, a wire fence, a creek? He had no idea. At least he should be far enough back that he wouldn’t be hit. “Don’t panic, think,” he told himself as he pushed down the fear that welled inside him. With no points of reference other than the cars flying by and the ground under his feet, he was lost and getting more confused by the second. To make matters worse, the wind was coming up and the heat from the sun he’d felt when he’d first gotten in the car was gone. He inhaled deeply and groaned when he smelled water in the air. It was likely coming off Lake Superior, but it shouldn’t be in that direction. Either that or he was very turned around and even more lost than he thought. He patted his pockets quickly and found his phone. Breathing a small sigh of relief, he raised it to his ear. “Call Ken,” he said, and then he took a deep breath to calm his nerves.

“Calling Ken,” the rich male voice said, and Howard waited.

“Ken,” Howard said when the phone was answered, but all he heard was a mumble. “Patrick, is that you?” Two simple vocal tones sounded. “I need Ken. We were on our way to the party and… well, Cedric and I had a fight, and he left me along the side of the road.” A long wait followed, and then he heard movement behind Patrick.

“Howard, what happened?” Ken asked as he came on the phone. “Patrick looks like he’s ready to kill someone. Are those cars I’m hearing? Are you by a freeway?”

“Yeah,” Howard said as he swallowed hard. “Cedric kicked me out of the car. I’m standing by the side of the road. We were on our way to the party and we had a fight. He kicked me out of the car and left me,” he repeated, desperation kicking in.

“Howard, hon, the party is tomorrow,” Ken said softly. “We had to reschedule because Hanna needed to go in for some tests.”
“Is she okay?” Howard asked, forgetting for a moment about his predicament. Seven-year-old Hanna had been through leukemia treatments, and everyone hoped she remained cancer-free.

“She’s fine. Just routine follow-up,” Ken said. “I called you last week and… shit, Cedric answered your cell. Let me guess, he didn’t give you the message.”

“No,” Howard said, clutching the phone like a lifeline.

“Do you know where you are?” Ken asked. “We’re on our way to the car.” He heard a door close in the background.

“I must be someplace between Marquette and Pleasanton, but I’m not sure where. I’m by the highway. We’d been traveling for about ten minutes, I think, if that helps.”

“It does. Just stay on the line,” Ken said. “We’re leaving now.” The connection clicked, and for a second Howard thought he was going to lose them. “Hanna and Patrick are in the car with me. The phone is on hands-free, so I can drive.”

“Okay,” Howard said a bit nervously as cars continued to zoom by. “I think someone is stopping. God, I hope it isn’t Cedric coming back.”
“If it is, you tell him to hit the road. I’m driving as fast as I dare,” Ken said with energy, and Howard breathed a bit easier.
“Okay. The car is definitely stopping. But I don’t know if it’s Cedric’s.” He would have known the old one by the ticking sound the engine made, but he hadn’t immediately registered a unique sound for Cedric’s latest car. Howard heard a car door slam closed and he flinched slightly.

“Do you need help?” a melodious voice asked, definitely not Cedric’s slightly nasal tone.

“Yes, please,” Howard said, turning toward the sound of the voice. “I have friends coming to get me. Can you tell me exactly where I am?”

“Huh?” the man asked.

“I’m blind and I got dumped here. My friends are on the way, but I’m not sure where I’m at,” Howard said, hoping the guy didn’t decide to rob him or something.

“You’re between mile markers 135 and 136, or pretty close,” he said, and Howard relayed the message to Ken.

“That son of a bitch,” Ken swore. “We’ll be there as fast as we can.”

“Where were you headed?” the stranger asked.

“To Pleasanton,” Howard answered.

“No wonder. You’re going the other way,” he told him, and Howard swore.

“He did this on purpose,” Howard said mostly to himself. “The bastard did this to me on purpose.”

“Why would he do that?” both Ken and the stranger asked in each ear, and Howard shook his head.

“I’ll stay with you until your friends arrive,” the man said. “They can call you when they get close.” Howard relayed the message to Ken, who swore again.

“What?” Howard asked, concerned. Ken rarely cursed, and almost never in front of Hanna.

“I picked up a cop. Shit,” Ken said.

“Daddy, you swore… lots,” Hanna sang. “Potty mouth. Does that mean Daddy Patrick will wash your mouth out with soap?”

Ken groaned, but didn’t swear. “I’ll be there as soon as I can explain what’s going on,” Ken said.

“Call when you’re close. I’ll be okay.” He hung up but held onto his phone.

“You can sit in my truck if you want,” the man said. Howard heard him take a step closer, and he tensed. The man’s touch on his arm made him jump, but only for a second. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. Let me guide you toward the truck.” His touch was gentle and he stayed slightly behind, guiding rather than tugging Howard forward. Cedric had never gotten the hang of walking with him. He’d always tried to pull Howard along. “I’m Gordon Jarrett, but my friends call me Gordy.”

 

LoveComesSilentlyMD

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LoveComesInDarkness MD

 

Howard Justinian has always had to fight for his freedom. Because he was born blind, everyone is always trying to shelter him, but he’s determined to live his life on his own terms.

When an argument with his boyfriend over that hard-won self-reliance leaves Howard stranded by the side of the road, assistance arrives in the form of Gordy Jarrett. Gordy is a missionary’s son, so helping others is second nature—and he does it in such an unassuming manner that Howard can’t say no.

Life is barely back on track when Howard receives shocking news: his sister died, leaving him her daughter to care for. Howard now faces his greatest challenge yet: for Sophia’s safety, he’ll need to accept help, but will he learn to accept it from Gordy, the one man who will not curb his independence?

Purchase an advance copy: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4071

Excerpt:
Chapter 1

“You’re going too fast,” Howard Justinian said. He sat with his arms planted on the armrests.

“I’m going sixty in a fifty-five,” Cedric returned sarcastically.

“I didn’t mean that and you know it,” Howard retorted. Riding in strange cars was always very disorienting for him. He had no idea how fast he was going, and the sound of the road varied with tires, pavement, and even the wind. Cedric had shown up at Howard’s with what he said was a new car. But there was none of the scent he equated with a “new” car, and the seats had enough lumps that Howard had to consciously keep from fidgeting. He only hoped he wasn’t riding in some sort of death trap.

“Howie,” Cedric began coaxingly, “it would be so much easier for me to help and take care of you if I was living with you. You need some help, and if I was there, I could make sure everything was the way you like it.”

On the surface the offer sounded good, and a few days ago, Howard probably would have said yes without question. Before what had happened. Cedric lived just down the street in a second-floor apartment. It was summer, and when Howard had opened his front door, he’d felt the sun on his face, so he’d decided to take a short walk. He’d picked up his cane and made sure he had his keys before he closed the door behind him and navigated the two steps down to the walk. Eight steps later, he reached the sidewalk and began his careful journey to Cedric’s. The air had been warm, and people must have had their windows open, because he’d heard snippets of conversation mixed with television programs as he made his way.

He knew where he was by the feel of each section of the sidewalk. To most people it felt the same, but to Howard’s keen senses, small differences in pitch, places where tree roots had raised slabs, even cracks, were like signposts telling him exactly where he was. At the large crack that made one piece of the walk rock slightly, Howard took two more steps, then made the turn as he verified with his cane that he was truly where he thought he should be. He took the twelve steps and climbed the three stairs to the porch in front of the house. He stepped across the porch, careful to avoid the loose floorboard. Howard felt for the doorbell and was about to ring it when faint sounds drifted down the fourteen steps he knew were in front of him.

Howard pulled open the screen door and quietly took a step inside. Yes, it was what he’d thought. Loud moans reached his ears, and then a cry of, “Fuck me,” in what was most definitely Cedric’s voice. Howard stood stock-still, unable to move.

A Harley Davidson rumbled as it came up the street, the potato-potato sound vibrating around him. Howard opened the door and stepped out, then let it close behind him. Then, as dejection cascaded off him, Howard had slowly made his way home.

“Don’t ‘Howie’ me,” Howard said now, as he felt the car slow down a bit. “You’re not moving in with me.”

“But you need help,” Cedric said again, and Howard refrained from grinding his teeth. “There are so many things I can do.” Cedric stroked Howard’s leg, so Howard pulled it away, shifting closer to the door. When they’d first met, Cedric had been solicitous. He’d helped without intruding and had actually made Howard’s life easier and better. Howard had fallen in love with him quickly—way too quickly, it turned out.

“I don’t think so,” Howard said. “Just give it a little more time.” They were on their way to a party being given by his friend Ken, and he just wanted to get there and have a nice evening. He should have canceled on Cedric and called to see if Ken could pick him up.

“I’ve given things plenty of time already. How long am I going to have to wait before we can be together?” Cedric asked. Instantly Howard regretted this whole thing and wished he was back home, where he wasn’t under Cedric’s control.

“Can we please talk about this after the party?” Howard asked levelly and as sweetly as he could manage.

“No,” Cedric said, and Howard felt the brakes being applied. A loud rumbling sounded as the car continued to slow.

“What’s happening?” Howard asked as the car pulled to a stop.

“Get out!” Cedric said roughly. “You think you’re so independent and don’t need me, then you can find your own way to the party. Now open the damned door and get the hell out.”

“Are you serious?” Howard asked, scared.

“Get the fuck out!” Cedric screamed, and suddenly Howard was more afraid of Cedric than anything else. Howard felt for the handle and pulled it. He pushed the door open and unfastened the seat belt. Then he carefully got out of the car and stood up. He closed the door. Tires squealed, and he turned away as bits of gravel pelted him. He listened as Cedric’s car sped up and the sound disappeared into the whizzing of traffic as it zoomed by him.

Howard didn’t move. He didn’t even have his cane with him. He had folded it up when he got into the car, and it must have shifted when Cedric braked, because he didn’t have it with him. Slowly, he took baby steps back from traffic. Just a few—he didn’t dare go any farther. He had no idea where he was or what was around him, other than cars passing by. Was there a ditch, a wire fence, a creek? He had no idea. At least he should be far enough back that he wouldn’t be hit. “Don’t panic, think,” he told himself as he pushed down the fear that welled inside him. With no points of reference other than the cars flying by and the ground under his feet, he was lost and getting more confused by the second. To make matters worse, the wind was coming up and the heat from the sun he’d felt when he’d first gotten in the car was gone. He inhaled deeply and groaned when he smelled water in the air. It was likely coming off Lake Superior, but it shouldn’t be in that direction. Either that or he was very turned around and even more lost than he thought. He patted his pockets quickly and found his phone. Breathing a small sigh of relief, he raised it to his ear. “Call Ken,” he said, and then he took a deep breath to calm his nerves.

“Calling Ken,” the rich male voice said, and Howard waited.

“Ken,” Howard said when the phone was answered, but all he heard was a mumble. “Patrick, is that you?” Two simple vocal tones sounded. “I need Ken. We were on our way to the party and… well, Cedric and I had a fight, and he left me along the side of the road.” A long wait followed, and then he heard movement behind Patrick.

“Howard, what happened?” Ken asked as he came on the phone. “Patrick looks like he’s ready to kill someone. Are those cars I’m hearing? Are you by a freeway?”

“Yeah,” Howard said as he swallowed hard. “Cedric kicked me out of the car. I’m standing by the side of the road. We were on our way to the party and we had a fight. He kicked me out of the car and left me,” he repeated, desperation kicking in.

“Howard, hon, the party is tomorrow,” Ken said softly. “We had to reschedule because Hanna needed to go in for some tests.”

“Is she okay?” Howard asked, forgetting for a moment about his predicament. Seven-year-old Hanna had been through leukemia treatments, and everyone hoped she remained cancer-free.

“She’s fine. Just routine follow-up,” Ken said. “I called you last week and… shit, Cedric answered your cell. Let me guess, he didn’t give you the message.”

“No,” Howard said, clutching the phone like a lifeline.

“Do you know where you are?” Ken asked. “We’re on our way to the car.” He heard a door close in the background.

“I must be someplace between Marquette and Pleasanton, but I’m not sure where. I’m by the highway. We’d been traveling for about ten minutes, I think, if that helps.”

“It does. Just stay on the line,” Ken said. “We’re leaving now.” The connection clicked, and for a second Howard thought he was going to lose them. “Hanna and Patrick are in the car with me. The phone is on hands-free, so I can drive.”

“Okay,” Howard said a bit nervously as cars continued to zoom by. “I think someone is stopping. God, I hope it isn’t Cedric coming back.”

“If it is, you tell him to hit the road. I’m driving as fast as I dare,” Ken said with energy, and Howard breathed a bit easier.

“Okay. The car is definitely stopping. But I don’t know if it’s Cedric’s.” He would have known the old one by the ticking sound the engine made, but he hadn’t immediately registered a unique sound for Cedric’s latest car. Howard heard a car door slam closed and he flinched slightly.

“Do you need help?” a melodious voice asked, definitely not Cedric’s slightly nasal tone.

“Yes, please,” Howard said, turning toward the sound of the voice. “I have friends coming to get me. Can you tell me exactly where I am?”

“Huh?” the man asked.

“I’m blind and I got dumped here. My friends are on the way, but I’m not sure where I’m at,” Howard said, hoping the guy didn’t decide to rob him or something.

“You’re between mile markers 135 and 136, or pretty close,” he said, and Howard relayed the message to Ken.

“That son of a bitch,” Ken swore. “We’ll be there as fast as we can.”

“Where were you headed?” the stranger asked.

“To Pleasanton,” Howard answered.

“No wonder. You’re going the other way,” he told him, and Howard swore.

“He did this on purpose,” Howard said mostly to himself. “The bastard did this to me on purpose.”

“Why would he do that?” both Ken and the stranger asked in each ear, and Howard shook his head.

“I’ll stay with you until your friends arrive,” the man said. “They can call you when they get close.” Howard relayed the message to Ken, who swore again.

“What?” Howard asked, concerned. Ken rarely cursed, and almost never in front of Hanna.

“I picked up a cop. Shit,” Ken said.

“Daddy, you swore… lots,” Hanna sang. “Potty mouth. Does that mean Daddy Patrick will wash your mouth out with soap?”

Ken groaned, but didn’t swear. “I’ll be there as soon as I can explain what’s going on,” Ken said.

“Call when you’re close. I’ll be okay.” He hung up but held onto his phone..

“You can sit in my truck if you want,” the man said. Howard heard him take a step closer, and he tensed. The man’s touch on his arm made him jump, but only for a second. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. Let me guide you toward the truck.” His touch was gentle and he stayed slightly behind, guiding rather than tugging Howard forward. Cedric had never gotten the hang of walking with him. He’d always tried to pull Howard along. “I’m Gordon Jarrett, but my friends call me Gordy.”

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