Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hump Day Goodness

A Dad for Sebastian


"What's your name, kid?"
"Sebastian Love," he said, holding out his hand to shake Aries's. "Pleased to meet you." The kid's name was, again, setting off all kinds of alarm bells. He should know this kid, but damned if he knew where.
"Aries Grayson."
"Aries?" The kid's eyes got big. "The Greek god of war?"
"The very one," Aries chuckled. That comment about his name usually got his hackles up, but Sebastian was looking at him with something like awe. His glasses seemed to take up half his face and he continually pushed them up on his nose. With the thick lenses, he reminded Aries of the really smart baby chicken from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoon.
"Wow! Are you really a Navy SEAL?"
"Used to be."
He looked confused. "I thought once a SEAL, always a SEAL."
Aries couldn't help but smile. "You know about stuff like that, do you?"
"Well, that's what I read. Was that book wrong?"
"No. That's pretty much the way it is. I hurt a knee, then got offered a job in a different area of the Navy." He shrugged. "I guess when you get old you want away from the action." Aries grinned at the child. He didn't look like he was old enough to read. At least, not a book about Navy SEALs.
"How old are you?"
"Six. How old are you?"
"What book have you been reading about SEALs at your age?"
The kid immediately went fishing in his backpack and pulled out a book. It didn't look like it was geared toward kids his age. In fact, it was by an author he recognized as being a New York Times bestseller. The book too.
"Isn't this a bit old for you?" No way this kid could read and understand something like this. The thing had to be more than six or seven hundred pages long.
"Well, it's a bit violent, but since I've never seen the stuff it's describing it doesn't give me bad images." Was this kid for real?
"I mean," Aries pinched his forehead, "you can read and understand the story?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm advanced for my age." Sebastian talked like an adult. Read adult books.
"What else are you, uh, advanced in?"
"Pretty much everything," he said matter-of-factly. "I have a special teacher for math and science. My reading and spelling teacher just lets me work through the books on my own and tests me when I reach an end of a section." Then he got a down and out look on his face. "But I suck at music."
Aries blinked. "Music."
"Yeah," the kid shook his head as if it were the worst possible failure. "My mom says I'm tone deaf." He shrugged. "She doesn't seem to mind, though. Just laughs and says I have to not be good as something."
"So, music and basketball then?" Aries couldn't keep the grin from his face.
"Pretty much. Well, basketball and every other sport. Mom says I have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time but she loves me no matter what." This kid was just… God, just... to damned cute!
"Maybe we can play ball sometime," Aries said, in no way able to keep a straight face now. "I'll bring some bubble gum along. That way, you'll be able to tell your mom you can so walk and chew gum at the same time."
He giggled then. "I think I like you, Mister," he said. "I bet Mom would like you, too. You want to meet her?"
Actually, he did. Anyone who would leave a kid alone in a public park needed a good talking to like he'd given the young bullies. He'd gone from trying to redeem himself to being this young boy's protector and teacher. How the fuck had that happened? The second he thought it, the more the band around his chest since his brother had left seemed to loosen a little. What he was doing felt right. Necessary. Both for him and for the boy.
"Tell me something, Sebastian. What are you doing here by yourself? This is a great park and all, but it's dangerous for someone your age to be here alone."
Sebastian immediately flush and looked away. Aries thought he might not tell him, but he finally sighed, that defeated posture again tugging at Aries's heart, and confessed. "I told my mom there was after school supervision so she wouldn't leave work early. I heard her boss told her if she left early or brought me there again he'd fire her."
Well, goddamn.
"Sebastian!" A female voice came from behind them, the shrill panic evident. "Get away from him!"
Sebastian turned and grinned, oblivious to the woman's discomfort. "Hey, Mom! Come meet my new friend! He's a Navy SEAL! Can you believe that?"
Aries glanced over his shoulder...and nearly lost his breath. Hurrying toward them was the most exquisite woman he'd ever seen. Strawberry blond was pulled back into a bun but strands fell about her face in unruly curls like they'd escaped during her day. She impatiently batted at one curl doggedly swinging in her eyes only to have it blow right back. And he fucking knew her!
She dressed in a waitress uniform of pale pink, the skirt hitting just above her knees. The V of the collar was low enough to show cleavage if she'd had any, but her breasts were either too small or she wore a minimizer bra. Aries was dying to figure out that little secret. Why had he never noticed her figure before? Probably because she'd still been a kid. Now, her pale skin was a temptation. She sported a generous amount of freckles, but not enough to camouflage her creamy complexion. A thought struck him in the head so hard and the image boured into his brain, refusing to be jostled loose. What it would be like to connect every single one of those freckles...with his tongue.
God! He had to stop thinking like that. The girl was so much younger than he was he didn't even want to think about the difference. She'd been his brother's age but still a couple of years behind him in school. And he'd been eleven years older than Apollo.
"You don't know this man, Sebastian," she said as she picked up his backpack, urging him up to hurry him away.
Aries raised his hands in a non-threatening gesture when Sebastian spoke up. "He kept the Rat Pack away from me, Mom. He's cool." He resisted her trying to force him away, as if his explanation were enough to satisfy anyone.
"Sebastian…" she started, glancing at Aries. The wide eyed expression on her face told Aries she remembered him. Which was good since he planned on getting acquainted with her really soon. Then she gently turned Sebastian to her by his shoulders. "We've talked about this, baby. You're not supposed to talk to strangers. And where's your teacher? I thought you said there was a math workshop the rest of the week?"
The kid's face turned beet red as his mouth worked, obviously trying to form an answer his mother would believe. Sebastian looked at Aries helplessly, looking for help Aries couldn't give since he had no idea what was going on.
"Hi, Ms. Love," he said, addressing her in a familiar way so she knew he remembered her, but also for Sebastian's benefit. Also, he wanted to steer Sebastian away from trouble. "I'm working with St. Mildred's Outreach to keep the park clean."
"Sounds like community service to me," she said, not meeting his gaze. There was a becoming blush across her fair cheeks that kind of made the freckles across her nose blend in to her face slightly. "Are you on probation or something?"
"I promise I'm not. Check me out with Father Luke if you think you need to. Though, I suspect you remember me and know I'm not a bad person." That answer seemed to satisfy her a little. At least, didn't look like she was going to bolt.
After a moment or two, she let out a weary breath. "Why are you here, Aries? And don't call me Ms. Love." She scowled. "I hate that," she mumbled.
"Sure," he fought a grin and lost. "Honey."
Aries  couldn't help it. Having been teased his entire life about his name, he should be the last one to smile at an unusual name, but his lips quirked. They always had. In the past, when he'd even thought about her, he'd grinned. Now, when the smile came, Honey Love punched his arm. Hard.
Aries chuckled, unable to help himself. So she punched him again.
"Mom! You don't mess with a SEAL unless you're ready to fight!" Sebastian's eyes were wide as he stood, moving his little body between his mother and Aries to push her away. "He'll clobber you!"
"Relax, little man. I'd never hurt your mom." Aris rested a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Your mom has just as an unusual name as I have. I'm thinking she doesn't like people grinning at her name."
Sebastian turned to Aries. "Wait. You smiled at her?"
"Unfortunately, yes."
"Oh, man." The boy winced. "No wonder she was ready to fight you." He turned back to Honey. "I still don't think it's a good idea."
Her lips twitched even as she went for a scowl. "He grinned, therefore he's taking his life into his own hands. Besides, don't let my size fool you. I can take care of myself."

"Oh, I have no doubt," Aries said, trying his best to keep a smile off his face.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tasty Tuesday -- Perfect Grilled Cheese

I'm on a lifelong mission for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Why? Because it's much easier to write if you rely on a sandwich based diet.


Two slices bread, white is ok, herb is better
cheddar cheese
mozzarella cheese

Simple ingredients, I know, but the trick is in the grilling, which took a lot of failed attempts until I got it just right.


Spread butter on both sides of both slices of bread. Then, heat up frying pan to minimum, melt butter and a dash of salt. This uses a lot of butter. It's not diet food.

Toast each side of each slice of bread lightly. Then add the cheddar to one slice; the mozzarella to another.

Grill as usual.

The double-butter effect makes the bread toastier and the sandwich crisper. It's divine!!!

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The Excerpt:

Zhang had nothing against London. It was a respectably large city, though a bit on the cold and rainy side. He had to get used to it. The cities in this part of the world weren't like those in the East and certainly not like those in the celestial realm where he did most of his business.
Still, Zhang had a job to do. He was here, by special request, from the Goddess of the Hunt herself. She ruled beasts and fighters and those with the wild nature. Creatures whose lives were ruled around the chase and the hunt. Shapeshifting creatures like himself.
He strolled through the pouring rain, past the shops and the streets and the taverns. Women in uncomfortably long dresses skittered past; orphans with not enough clothes shivered in the dark spaces between alleys.
There were so many more people in the world since the last time Zhang had visited. It was louder, busier, and the air was dirtier. The wild spaces were being encroached upon with frightening speed.
No wonder the Huntress was keen to have someone look after her earth-dwelling patrons. It was far too easily for them to become despondent and lose their way.
Zhang finally found the place he was looking for. It was a stone building, firmly built, but with broken windows and detritus surrounding the outside. If the excessive noise didn't indicate it as a place for a Pack meeting, then the smell of Wolfkin in rut certainly would.
Wolfkin. It had been some time since he'd dealt with any of them.
Zhang pushed open the door and stepped inside.
It was a Pack meeting all right: one part eating; one part fighting; one part rutting. Wolfkin conversed between bites of food and the occasional punch.
The hall was clearly too small for all of them. Rows of tables from one end of the hall to the other with chairs left barely enough room to walk between them. The Wolfkin didn't seem to mind.
The Wolfkin ignored Zhang. His scent gave off no threat, so few paid him any mind. Zhang was just one more figure lurking in the corners. He was dressed down for this event, having traveled for three days in human form. Dragon form was quicker but Zhang wanted to be low key. Besides, people might notice. Wolfkin sightings were easily explained away but Dragons took quite of bit of magical spellwork to conceal. Zhang wasn't in the mood to have to pay some greedy sorcerer just to cover up a sighting.
And then there was the sex. Zhang spotted at least three not so discreet encounters. Couples, triples, even enthusiastic solo practitioners. There was always a dark corner somewhere.
Zhang had no issue with group sexual indulgence.
Voyeurism? Oh those long, heady days in the temples of ancient Egypt.
Exhibitionism? Thank the gods for Persian pleasure chambers and a penchant for extremely accurate conceptual art.
Orgies? There was a time when 'Lord Prince Zhang' was known throughout Rome for his orgies. And in Rome, to be noticed for orgies was really saying something. May the First Fires bless those legions of Roman soldiers, Zhang thought with a sigh.
This public display of affections was not to Zhang's taste. Rolling around on the floor -- especially one of questionable cleanliness -- in a lust-filled fever was not his pleasure.
Besides, his only interest in the world of Wolfkin was sitting in a large chair at a separate table on a dais like a king in his throne. Stephen Skollsgaard, the Alpha of all the Alphas.
Stephen was a handsome bastard too.
Zhang kept close to the walls as he approached the Alpha Wolf. Two Wolfkin, reeking of alcohol, were having a heated argument nearer the front. One of them fell out of his chair at Zhang's feet. Zhang stepped over him with a sigh.
"Aye!" Another Wolfkin grabbed him by the shoulders. He was a large man with thick hands and menacing eyes.
"Do not touch me," Zhang said smoothly and confidently.
"That's my friend you stepped over," the Wolfkin said.
"That's your friend you pushed down." Zhang shrugged the man's hands from his shoulders.
"Are you Omega? A Lower Beta?" The man pushed Zhang again as his voice rose.
Zhang tolerated watching Wolfkin fight, but he had no intentions of being pulled into one.
Zhang pushed back his hood and locked his eyes on the Wolfkin. The man's eyes went wide. Zhang knew he saw the change, the flicker of fires from the First Fires that rose in Zhang's belly and now was simmering deep in his soul.
"Do you know what I am?" Zhang said.
The Wolf shook his head, unable to leave Zhang's gaze.
"Remy, stop," a voice boomed across the hall, and even Zhang looked over.
It was Stephen, of course. He made it across the room in short leaps until he was next to them both.
"Remy, take Cade with you." Stephen nodded toward the Wolf sprawled on the floor.
Remy backed down immediately. He reached over the prop his friend up, and the two shuffled back toward the group.
"Why are you here, Dragon?" Stephen said.