Title: Into the Mystic, Volume Three
Author: Ava Kelly, Bru Baker, Lis Valentine, Michelle Frost, L.J. Hamlin, K. Parr, Artemis Savory, M. Hollis, Ziggy Schutz
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: May 7, 2018
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Paranormal Romance, LGBT, shifters, fantasy, mythology, magic, steampunk, vampires, disabilities, demons, bisexual, curses, ghosts, lesbian, paranormal, romance
Nine lesbian/bisexual paranormal short stories…
It Started Before Noon – All stories must begin somewhere.
Heart’s Thaw – A frozen heart is no match for ignited passions.
Fire and Brine – Of all the bars in all the world, Alice had to wander into Cassandra’s. Are either of them ready for what comes next?
Dance with Me – Can a werewolf and a vampire put aside their differences to catch a thief in the Windy City?
My Cup of O Pos – Not every visit to the ER has to be stressful.
Home – A stray, an alpha, and a question: Where does she belong?
Swoon – Falling in love is tough when you’re a cursed pirate.
The Hunt – A first bite is never easy for a teenage vampire.
By Candlelight – A girl and her ghost await a funeral
It Started before Noon by Ava Kelly
Talida’s job as a muse is to tend to storypuffs, which she sells to storytellers when they need a spark of inspiration. One day, a gray-clad scientist named Ingrid comes into Talida’s store, trying to buy inspiration. However, scientists are boring and always adhering to strict rules, so Ingrid wouldn’t have any use for it, would she?
Heart’s Thaw by Bru Baker
As the daughter of the Duke Keering, Lady Helena Alexandra Gertrude Heart is well versed in propriety. Her purity has never been called into question, and many go so far as to call her frigid.
When a scorned incubus bespells her, Lady Heart must find a way to unlock her inner passions—and her true feelings for her trusted companion, Calliope—or risk an icy death at the hands of the creature’s curse.
Fire and Brine by Lis Valentine
Cassandra’s night was full of bar fights and angry truckers, and it’s about to get much longer as a strange woman appears claiming to be a plumber sent by a friend. Things heat up quickly and the pipes are forgotten as two women who know what they want come together. But Cassandra and Alice each have secrets of their own.
Dance with Me by Michelle Frost
Dominique Silver, Werewolf PI, isn’t in the business of catering to rich vampires even if they are gorgeous. When vampire Madeleine’s signet ring is stolen, she risks Dom’s ire if it means having the best investigator in the city on the case. Animosity simmers even as attraction sizzles, but when the trail leads them to an unlikely thief and hidden truths are revealed, will it rip apart the tentative trust they’ve built?
My Cup of O Pos by L.J. Hamlin
Vampires and humans are treated separately by different doctors, so one human doctor gets a surprise when her patient has no heartbeat. The young British vampire has Ehlers Danlos syndrome and is very used to hospitals and she charms her American doctor.
Home by K. Parr
Raised in the foster system, 19-year-old Farah is used to fending for herself—even after getting bitten and transformed into a werewolf. So, on the night of her fourth full moon after being bitten, she handcuffs herself to her bed and prays for the best.
But things don’t go according to plan.
Farah wakes up the next morning outside, naked and sprawled on the back lawn of a beautiful yet intimidating woman. An alpha werewolf and Farah has trespassed on her property.
Swoon by Artemis Savory
Mira, a pirate, is losing her voice, and if she doesn’t have sex soon, she’ll lose her life. But she isn’t drawn to men like her sisters are, and she can’t bring herself to touch one. Will she be able to find a woman to suit her needs and save her life? Or will she fall in love before taking the plunge?
The Hunt by M. Hollis
Belinda’s teeth have been itching and bothering her for weeks. Her mothers say this is just another part of being a young vampire and that she’s ready to hunt. But having a crush on the human girl she needs to bite was not what she expected from a Friday night.
By Candlelight by Ziggy Schutz
Zoe has been obsessed with death ever since she found out she would die young. Still, stepping out of her body to be met by a ghost was not completely as she expected, and Zoe finds herself less than eager to take the final steps toward her afterlife.
A few months after a big move, Opal hasn’t managed to meet people in her new city. Adrift without her sorority sisters and keg parties, the loneliness drives her to the online personals. She’s only looking for a friend… so why did this Misty girl send her a winky face?
Once Misty and Opal meet up, Opal quickly decides they’ll be BFFs. Meanwhile, Misty’s crushing on her. Will Misty figure out Opal’s straight before falling even harder? Or will Opal realize the connection they share goes deeper than friendship?
(Femme 4 Femme is a 45,000-word standalone friends-to-lovers lesbian romance, complete with lots of heat and a happily ever after ending.)
~ CHAPTER 1 ~
The view from her window wasn’t that impressive as she looked at the dismal aged and gray buildings outside on an equally dismal and gray day in New York, but at least she had a window and a view. Not all associates had a window, most were in inner offices but she was a senior associate, a lawyer of council if you will, and it was part of her perks. She looked out it a long time, lost in thought even though she knew she should be getting to the pile of briefs on her desk. Instead she daydreamed about the incredible offer she had just received. She had known it was coming, she knew she deserved it, but at the moment wasn’t sure if she should be insulted.
Nia Toyomoto worked for one of the most prestigious law firms in Manhattan. It wasn’t a small thing to be an associate at Chase-Dunham. It wasn’t a small thing to be a lawyer of council either. To be offered a partnership though was something that Nia had worked towards for years. Everyone knew she was on the fast track, everyone knew that she deserved it, but at this moment, she wasn’t sure. When Stewart Dunham had scheduled this morning’s meeting she had assumed it was for a personal update on certain cases that she was handling for him, for others, and with others. Although she had eventually expected the offer, the stipulations had surprised her. She didn’t realize her personal life would be part of the offer. Not that she had anything to hide but being a partner at Chase-Dunham required a certain panache that Nia simply didn’t have at this time. Stewart had kindly pointed out that they needed her to ‘spruce’ herself up, to become a bit more social. It was not a matter of her talents as a world class attorney, no, that was why they wanted her to be a partner. It was a matter of smoozing with the right people, having parties, attending the elite of the elite. Her reputation was such that she fit in but her appearance left a little to be desired. She was all business. They wanted her as partner but they also wanted her to use every means at her disposal to get them new clients. Not that she hadn’t drawn them in the past with her incredible expertise but being a partner meant that she would represent the firm on levels that she hadn’t thus far. Her talents alone wouldn’t sell the firm.
Nia sighed. She wasn’t one to get ahead on her looks. She was overly tall for the average woman at 5’10” and this for someone of Asian descent was almost unheard of. Not that you could tell she was Asian except for the certain narrowing of her eyes that gave her a feline like appearance. Her father was pure Asian, a former executive from Japan, he had fallen in love with a German-American woman who Nia had inherited most of her looks from. The clunky black glasses she wore hid the slightly exotic Asian tilt of her eyes. Her smooth round face v’d becomingly, but with her straight dark brown nearly black hair with occasional reddish tints that she held severely back in a bun, she gave herself a no nonsense appearance. She had never cared for her looks. She wasn’t like other women. Her nails were cut short, purely functional; no polish had ever graced them. Her long legs were encased in nylons and this only because she was fairly pale in appearance and the style was to have a semblance of tan. She had business suits but these too were merely functional. She owned six or seven that she interchanged to provide variety but these were of lessor quality and again, she just hadn’t cared. Now they were making her care, in fact making it a condition of her partnership.
The suggestion and not too subtly that her partnership hindered on her doing a makeover, buying better clothes, and a better place to live was ludicrous. But Nia knew that the good ole boy network could find other reasons to deny her this plum chance. She also knew at thirty that she would be one of the youngest partners in Manhattan. She also knew she deserved it. She had worked hard all her life for this very thing.
She had graduated high school in three and a half years and would have graduated in three but for the moron that was the principal at the time thought her too young at sixteen to graduate her junior year. She had to wait until she was seventeen and graduated halfway through her senior year. It wasn’t that her grades hadn’t warranted an early graduation, no, she had always been effortlessly at the top of her class but this was an age where he felt her social abilities would be hindered by not graduating with her peers. Nia didn’t have a lot of friends and those who really knew her knew she was destined for great things. Graduating early would only expedite those goals she had set for herself. Once she graduated from high school she had gone straight to college. Wellesley College she had sailed through in three years before enrolling in Harvard Law School for her graduate work. If she could have done it in one year she would have but had done it in the normal three years before graduating at the top of her class. An offer from Wall Street and Chase-Dunham had been the culmination of her dream. She’d had other offers of course, many from those she had worked for in summer internships, but Walls Street and Chase-Dunham’s reputation was such she knew that was where she wanted to be. For her to be an associate there had guaranteed her future, something she didn’t really think about in the broad spectrum of life, instead she wanted very specific things in life and now this partnership was part of that dream.
To hold it up because she wasn’t properly garbed or social or looked right for the part angered her but when she thought about it practically she understood. She was perfect for the job and she knew she would eventually capitulate but it didn’t set well with her that it was mandated by the men in this firm. Then she thought of how few partners over the years had been women, especially on Wall Street much less in Manhattan.
She thought for a long time about what other goals she had set for herself and realized that at thirty she had achieved most of them. She had gotten into Wellesley on a scholarship and paid for extras through the little her mother sent her after Papa’s death. Papa had died after he knew his only child had graduated from high school and his life insurance had paid off their home but left very little for frivolous living, her mother had pinched every penny. Going to an Ivy League School had never been in doubt but paying for it had been. It was expensive to be so highly educated. Nia had taken that seriously. Never had she thought about any other school after Wellesley but Harvard. It had not been a dream but a serious plan that had only been in doubt due to a lack of funds. Nia had graduated in due time with debts so high that they boggled the mind. The job that she had expected from her high grades, internships, and moral standards had come through and she had begun to pay off those debts through her frugalness.
She lived in a studio apartment that was so small she couldn’t swing a cat for hitting everything. Her mother had passed away and Nia had sold everything of value including the house that they owned except for nine boxes of ‘trinkets,’ paying off her student loans and using the little left to buy stocks to help fund her IRA and for security later in life. Her salary was such that she could move to a larger apartment and in fact she had enough now to buy a very nice place but she had no one she wanted to show her postage stamp apartment to, no one really saw it other than one or two close friends, she didn’t need a larger one, until now. Her frugal living though would pay off now. She had the funds to do what they wanted and with style but her innate sense of fair play almost balked at the idea of changing her lifestyle, her appearance, her everything for a promotion. It was sexist and discriminatory and they would get away with it unless she refused to play, did she want to give up everything she had worked for to stand on the moral high ground? She could sue, theoretically. What they were asking was illegal but did she really want to be known as the lawyer who sued their own firm over her looks? That would certainly create waves in the legal community and also insure that she wouldn’t get another job with any other firm in New York, much less Manhattan, ever.
A knock on her door had her spinning around in her leather chair and looking up surprised as Stewart Dunham stuck his head in the door. “You busy?” he inquired with a smile. Stewart Dunham was a spare man of fifty five who had inherited the firm of Chase-Dunham through the expedient manner of marrying Elliott Chase’s daughter. They had worked together through some lean years and had expanded it exponentially from their partnership. When Elliott Chase had passed away Stewart Dunham had been one of the first on Wall Street to hire women and bring in clientele that had appreciated his foresight. The people he hired were excellent; he had an eye for talent and had picked Nia Toyomoto himself. She had worked a summer internship up in Boston for a friends firm and he had raved over her insight, her brilliance, and her enthusiasm. He had watched and learned as she participated in the debate team up at Harvard. An Alumni himself he had availed himself of her records and been suitably impressed. He had romanced her into coming to work with his firm right out of college and had never regretted it. Her work was consistently superior and she deserved every promotion they had ever given her. His other partners had been worried that they were giving the youngster too much too soon but he knew she could handle it. She had been only twenty three when she graduated Harvard but had within one year won them an impossible case. The lawyer of record had to drop out at the last minute for cause and she had picked up the slack despite her lack of experience and with very little supervision had won and the senior partners had been suitably impressed. Her record since then had been equally impressive. If she just didn’t look so…frumpy. From her horn rimmed square glasses to her unattractive and severe bun of hair she screamed ‘old maid’ and he knew some of the clients wouldn’t want to work with a partner that made them feel like she was their grandmother. He had often wondered if she were a dyke but she gave no appearance of that either. She didn’t date men, she didn’t date women, she didn’t date that he knew of. She was kind of uni-sex and that didn’t set well with the partners. Many insisted that if she represented the firm she needed to take advantage of her feminity and had complained about her lack thereof for years, now they insisted on this change or no, they didn’t want her as a partner.
She smiled kindly and this changed her austere appearance, without really answering the CEO of Chase-Dunham she asked instead, “What can I do for you Mr. Dunham?”
“Would you come with me for a moment?” he gestured outside her office.
Nia rose up and walked immediately over to her small office door. Stewart held the door for her and she walked out before him. He indicated the elevator and she assumed they were going up to the Senior Partner’s level to the private offices of the CEO which were on a floor above the associates and counselor levels. They stood as equals as they waited for the elevator. Nia’s own height was only an inch or two below Stewarts. He thought she would be even more impressive once she realized her full potential, it had to be her decision though, and she could still turn them down, although they both knew she would be foolish to do so. Stewart was risking, big time, that she wouldn’t take offense to what they had shoved down her throat in their offer. Instead he hoped, and gambled, that she would grasp it with both hands and prove the nay-sayers wrong, very wrong. He had always seen the potential of this woman from her days at Harvard, he still saw potential, if his daughters had shown any inkling of the talent of this young woman he would like to think they would be as good as she. His son had gone in a totally different direction and become an accountant. He had been very disappointed but survived the blow to his ego.
Stewart led, not to the CEO offices but to a corner office at the opposite end of the building. Nia hadn’t really been to these offices since she had very little business with some of these partners and almost none with the senior partners except when they needed a consult on a case they were handling. They walked into a nice little office that would suit any executive secretary or assistant as people now called them. Through this empty and rather plain office they walked into an immense corner office that had not one but two banks of floor to ceiling windows. The room was absolutely bare of furniture. Stewart led her to the windows and they stood looking out at the impressive Manhattan skyline as Nia wondered why she had been brought here. They hadn’t spoken the entire ride up in the elevator or really since they had left her office.
“I thought perhaps you might need a little something to make the offer even more worthwhile,” Stewart began.
“Mr. Dunham, I assure you…” Nia began but stopped when he held up his hand.
“Please, if you accept this position you will have to begin calling me Stewart. This isn’t a standard partner agreement we have offered you, Nia. This office is just one of the perks. You will have to choose a car that we will pay for. You will have to choose an apartment that we will make sure your mortgage is handled through our banking contacts and the payments reasonable. You will have six weeks paid vacation. The perks you might pass up from refusing are more than you realize.”
Nia looked at him incredulously. They hadn’t even discussed the perks of her partnership agreement. This office? It was incredible. She glanced around and for some reason the sun began to shine through the impressive windows. She could already picture the office with deep cherry wood furniture making it a warm and professional one. She could even put in an electric fireplace she thought barely controlling the grin that threatened at her thought. A car? What was wrong with her little Fiat? She realized though that she would be a fool to pass it up but she had played her cards too well for too long to show them to this master player. She nodded coldly as she considered her options which she really knew were few. She could quit but that would be self-defeating, besides she loved her job. She could refuse and remain an associate but it would never be the same, they would treat her as though she had insulted them. She could sue but then she would never again work in Manhattan and who wanted to hang out their own shingle with that on their resume? She could accept and have a make-over. She needed to think about it but she had already told this man and his partner’s that very thing when they made their initial offer.
“Here is one more thing for you to think about,” Stewart finished with. Nia looked at him expectantly. “We are waving your buy in, your bonus’ will be deferred for the first three years but you do not have to come up with the normal buy in amount. Based on your performance and what we anticipate you bringing into the firm in the future we have decided that this will be enough for your buy in.”
Nia was incredulous, this offer, this incredible deal was worth possibly a million dollars or more!
~ CHAPTER 2 ~
That night as she let herself into her apartment she thought about what a new apartment would mean. While material things didn’t mean much to her she knew they did to some people. She liked nice things but you wouldn’t know that for what she had in this minimalistic apartment. She didn’t cook much and the stove was a joke, only two of the burners actually worked but she couldn’t remember a time when she had needed all four. The only thing the oven ever got used for was to heat up pizza. She didn’t even own a microwave, something her friends couldn’t comprehend. She changed from her suit skirt to a pair of slacks that still managed to give her a professional appearance but a more relaxed one before going out to meet some women she had been socializing with for years.
There was group of ten of them from various walks of life who met every Thursday and caught up on each other’s life. Some were closer than others, some didn’t come every week but overall they had been friends for years. Tonight there were six of them who met at the same table in the same restaurant/bar and ordered the same drinks as they socialized.
“I heard you were up for partner.” Tiffany toasted Nia with her wine.
Nia looked at her disbelievingly from behind her horn rimmed glasses. “How did you hear about that?” she asked.
“I have my sources.” Tiffany grinned slyly.
Nia was sure she did. She slept with everyone so she was the center of many little webs that she wove. Tiffany ran an import/export business and sometimes some of her products were a little brow raising. Nia had helped her out of few tricky situations over the years with customs and others.
“Are you going to accept?” Eleanor asked astutely. Eleanor was the senior woman of their bunch of thirty something’s and her mothering had annoyed and delighted all of them from time to time. She worked for a prestigious real estate firm and sold high end product.
Nia shrugged. “I’m not quite sure,” she began.
“What are you waiting for?” Nadia asked outraged. “It would mean you’re the youngest woman on Wall Street!”
Nia smiled at the blonde. “I don’t actually work on Wall Street Nadia, it’s a law firm that handles Wall Street firms as well as many other diverse clientele,” she explained not sure if Nadia really understood.
“Whatever,” the blonde retorted sounding about sixteen. “It would mean a lot of money.” To Nadia, who had worked her way up from the streets and didn’t realize that an education meant she would go farther, money was god.
They discussed Nia’s options which really were few. When they heard the conditions they all jumped on board with opinions of their own and suggestions. Nia refrained from telling them about the buy in being waved, which was unheard of!
“You have got to get rid of those horrible glasses first thing,” Millie dictated. Millie was in fashion and looking at her always demoralized Nia if she thought she could ever compete with that type.
“What’s wrong with my glasses?” Nia goaded her; she knew already but thought it would be fun to hear the breathtakingly beautiful Millie go on about what she thought was wrong with Nia.
She took the bait and proceeded to outline exactly what Nia should do to ‘improve’ herself. That the others agreed for the most part was a surprise and an eye opener for Nia. She had thought she was fine as she was but apparently it was the consensus that she needed a makeover, and not just to land the promotion.
That night she lay in bed thinking over the offer. She did an excellent job didn’t she? She knew the money she would make for the firm would be returned to her eventually in the dividends she would receive as a partner and eventually the bonuses. Why did she need to change her appearance to be even more successful? As she turned on her side to go to sleep she realized the answer to the last question, because she wanted this, it was the culmination of many of her dreams, a dream partnership…
That week she felt she had no time to really worry about it. She had been given a week to make up her mind and sign the papers to her partnership. It would go into effect two weeks later when she returned from her vacation. Since she was leaving shortly it meant she had to clear up everything on her desk before she left. If she accepted the position, she would return from vacation a partner in the firm of Chase-Dunham. The thought was exciting. By the end of the second day though she knew she wouldn’t wait. Not a procrastinator by inclination or design, something the law community was good at and judges appreciated that she didn’t play at; she went up to the CEO’s office late that afternoon hoping to catch him before he left for the day.
“Is Mr. Dunham in?” she asked Sally his executive assistant or secretary as he still referred to her.
“Yes, but he is about to leave,” Sally told her warmly. She liked Ms. Toyomoto. She was a kind and generous woman despite her reputation as a lethal litigator. Despite the Japanese name she looked nothing like a Japanese woman should. It always surprised new clients who had expected a small demure Asian woman and instead got this Saxon woman with the feline like eyes if they could see them at all under the heavy rims. Ms. Toyomoto had always been pleasant and kind to those under her and always remembered secretary’s day and not just for her own secretary. Any of the partners or associates she had worked with over the years and their assistants she made sure the secretaries received a bouquet of flowers for this day and at Christmas a box of those delicious and expensive Wrothman Chocolates. Those who hadn’t worked with her understood but were envious of the few who got their presents from this woman. Her own secretary got extra perks and Colleen was the envy of those whose bosses weren’t as kind or as thoughtful.
“Can I go in for minute?” Nia asked cautiously. It never paid to offend an assistant, they had more power than people realized. They made life easier for them all to do their jobs and do them well. God knew that Nia depended on Colleen for a lot. She made sure she was compensated accordingly as well as given perks.
“Yes, go right in,” Sally smiled; she knew that Mr. Dunham wouldn’t mind, he wasn’t in conference, or on a phone call, and was just packing up to leave.
“Mr. Dunham?” Nia asked as she stuck her head around the open doorway into the luxurious and immense office.
Stewart looked up with genuine pleasure. “Nia! What a surprise! I was just getting ready to leave,” he indicated the open briefcase he was placing papers in.
“I won’t keep you then.” She smiled. “I’ve decided to accept your offer.”
He smiled very pleased, she hadn’t kept them waiting and he found this to be the best sign yet. “And the stipulations?” he asked hesitantly, knowing they had been out of line, way out of line. He couldn’t help himself as he looked at the horrible black horn rimmed glasses on her face.
She shook her head and rolled her eyes as she grinned at him. “Okay, I’ll take care of them immediately.”
He smiled and rubbed his hands together. “Good, good, I’ll have the contracts drawn up for tomorrow. No reason to wait eh?”
She nodded once and said, “Have a good evening Mr. Dunham.”
“Stewart,” he corrected her and they shared a grin of mutual understanding.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Nia left work and went to a place called Head Hunters, one of the ‘girls’ had suggested it and probably it was Millie who knew everyone in fashion and who to go to. She had called ahead to get an appointment and been surprised to even get in. When she got there though she found Millie had called ahead and warned them that she ‘might’ be calling which was why they had an appointment available for her. She laughed, it was all about who you knew or what you knew about whom and she accepted that. She discussed with a ‘consultant’ about what she wanted. She didn’t want a total makeover where she wouldn’t recognize herself but she knew she needed her hair done up professionally and attractively. Head Hunters was only the start. Because her hair was so dark and so straight they wanted to cut it short and in a pixie cut but she refused. She hated that look. It led to an argument with her ‘consultant’ and finally the manager intervened.
“What is going on here?” she asked in her false European accent. Nia spotted the fake tones immediately. She didn’t want to insult the woman though and while she knew Millie had helped get this appointment she didn’t want them chopping up her hair.
Nia explained politely that she was looking for a new ‘do’ and didn’t want the pixie cut that the ‘consultant’ had suggested.
“Oh no, no, nooo, we won’t do a pixie cut for you,” the manager said taking over immediately. She turned Nia’s head each way, spun her back and forth in the chair as she squinted at her and examined her from every angle. “I think for you we will do an ‘angle’ cut.”
Before Nia could ask what an ‘angle’ cut was the manager reached out to a line of books on a shelf beside their station. She rapidly opened a book and looked for a diagram that she showed to Nia which explained what they would be doing. There were all sorts of ‘angle’ cuts but she suggested a one hundred eighty degree cut for Nia which would give her many layers that all were the same length if she stood on her head but once right side up would be many different lengths all over her head. “It will give you bounce, it will give you flair, people will rave over your beautiful hair,” she picked at Nia’s hair running her fingers through the long thick length as she eyed the Eurasian woman speculatively. “It will take a lot of weight off but give you I think some of the curls that are dying to come out from under that weight.”
Nia looked at her doubtfully. This was why she hadn’t wanted the ‘pixie’ cut. Her hair curled horribly when it was too short. She had done it once in high school and the resulting perm like results had been embarrassing. She had kept her hair long ever since. The woman had seen something though and she sounded more professional than the other ‘consultant’ and Nia trusted her as she nodded and agreed to the one hundred eighty degree cut.
Nia left the salon feeling wonderful. The woman had been right about the weight. Her head and neck felt weird without the mass of hair that had been up in a bun all these years. It still had the length halfway down her back but the riot of curls that came at the ends looked incredible. The woman had suggested she streak it too but Nia had balked since she needed professionalism in her career and the curls were enough of an effeminate look. She didn’t need to go punk or something to play with her hair further. She found herself looking in shop windows as she walked down the street heading for another appointment she had.
Dr. Nelson had been her eye doctor since she had moved to Manhattan. She didn’t go except for her once a year appointments and this suited them both fine. It had only been three months since her last appointment so he was concerned that she wanted to see him and so quickly. She had asked for an appointment the same day she called and but for a cancellation they would not have been able to accommodate her.
“What seems to be the problem Ms. Toyomoto?” he asked concerned when she was in his office.
“I need to get Lasik’s surgery as soon as possible and contacts until then,” she told him.
He was surprised. She had always seemed a plain and sensible woman to him. Not concerned about her appearance which was apparent by the ugly horn rimmed glasses that she always wore. He pulled her file up on the computer and was happy to see that her prescription was something they could accommodate easily. He was also relieved to find she had no stigmatism that might negate the ability to get her Lasik’s surgery. “You understand we are going to have to destroy some of your eyesight for the Lasik to work and you might have to have this done more than once in your lifetime for it to continually work?” he explained. After a quick exam to determine that her sight had not changed he showed her how to put in the contact lenses. After a few tries and some watering eyes she got the hang of poking herself in the eye. Leaving the contact in was another lesson learned much less taking it out to try again. It didn’t make her happy but she was determined. She left with a small supply of disposable contact lenses, her horn rimmed glasses in her purse, and an appointment for Lasik’s surgery scheduled six weeks from now.
She was tired from her haircut and eye appointments and stopped for dinner at one of the numerous little restaurants that abounded in Manhattan. It was chilly this fine spring evening and she was grateful to eat alone as she watched the world walk by the windows of the cafe. She was surprised as she noted several men and women looking at her. She thought it was her imagination but she realized she looked totally different with her glasses gone and her new hair style. She was relieved to finish dinner and head for Macy’s and Bloomingdales. She bought some higher end business suits and accessories from both but still didn’t find what she was really looking for. She knew that she needed to go to some finer stores for the look she was trying to achieve. She couldn’t do it all in one day but she wished she could, she wished it was that easy, she wished she was already done. She picked up some things for her vacation that she was leaving on the next week; she had needed some new swimsuits anyway.
She was pleased that a ‘beauty’ consultant was still working at Macy’s and she found herself several hundred dollars poorer after the woman taught her and explained the make-up she would need. She returned more than half of it the following day realizing she didn’t and wouldn’t need it all. Her skin was fine thanks to good genetics. A light base covered any freckles or imperfections from acne scars or any other age related blotches. The rainbow of colors for eye shadow and lipstick weren’t necessary and she was fairly conservative. She didn’t need every single one that the woman said she did. Nia was grateful though for her knowledge and expertise though as she learned from her. She practiced with the makeup all weekend long and found a look she could live with.
On Saturday she called Eleanor and asked her to help her find a new apartment, not to rent but to buy. That magic word ‘buy’ had Eleanor excited, especially when Nia told her the addresses she would consider.
“Can you afford that?” Eleanor nearly gasped knowing what apartments and co-ops cost in that area.
Nia smiled into the phone. “Oh absolutely,” she answered confidently. She knew with the firm’s help of a low interest mortgage that she could. She had lived frugally all her life and despite high rent in Manhattan had managed to sock a majority of her paychecks away for the last few years. She had a pretty good down payment and the loan she would get through the firm would be to her advantage. Her credit was excellent since she had never lived beyond her means and she knew what she could afford.
Eleanor was thrilled and asked if she wanted to start looking that very afternoon. Nia agreed meeting her outside of Macy’s after she returned the excess makeup. Eleanor almost didn’t recognize her friend. The new hairstyle looked great, the curls had come out in a riot after its washing, it was an easy style to brush out, and it look incredible on her, the light makeup and the casual clothes she was wearing turned many heads. “What happened to you?” she asked as Nia got in her Mercedes.
Nia smiled at her friend. “I accepted the position, effective immediately.” She knew she looked pretty good and her smile reflected that. In fact for one of the first times in her life she felt pretty. She had never thought about it before. It was already giving her a confidence, a spring in her step that hadn’t been there before.
“Wow, wait until the gals get a look at you!” Eleanor smiled in return. “You’ll knock some of those bitches on their ends.” She grinned evilly in anticipation and they both laughed.
Eleanor had two properties to show her that afternoon, it was all she could get on such short notice. The market in Manhattan was very competitive. But with the price range that Nia had given her and the addresses it narrowed down what was available considerably. Eleanor was pleased that Nia obviously knew what she wanted and that was quality, it made her life a whole lot easier than if she had said she just wanted a place in New York. She had clients like that and it always boded for a bad situation when she couldn’t satisfy their vague requests.
The first one was a fourth floor apartment in a building that had just gone co-op. The owners were out so they could look at the furnished apartment to their hearts content. Nia wasn’t impressed, “This is what my money will buy?” she asked disappointed. It was small, it was cramped, the floors creaked, and it was stuffed wall to wall with their possessions, not giving a favorable appearance. It had a small living room, a separate kitchen, and a separate bedroom. It was a step up from her postage stamp but if she was going to own it, this wouldn’t be it.
“We’ve only just started looking. I’m sure if you were serious about this place they would come down. Personally I think it’s overpriced.”
The second place was a little better but Nia hated the building on sight. It was built in the seventies and had a ‘modern’ look to it with metal in various colors interspersed with the windows. Personally she would have preferred all windows but the place was not properly set up and it was apparent that they had cut what had been a good sized apartment into two or possibly three apartments that now made everything way too small. Nia was already discouraged.
“Don’t feel bad darling, we’ve only just begun to look. I’ve got several places in mind for you now that I know more of what you’re looking for. No one gets it on the first try,” Eleanor tried to console her.
Sunday wasn’t much better. They went out in the morning and looked at a couple of places as well. Nia liked it better sometimes if the places were empty of furniture. It was even better when the homeowners weren’t at home as they felt it was a personal attack on them if she dared to criticize the size of the place or something else.
Sunday afternoon she went and shopped and found a few more items to add to her wardrobe. She didn’t want to go overboard yet but what she had bought already would allow her to get rid of a few of her ‘bargain basement’ suits as she was coming to realize they looked. Still it was giving her an immediate education and she looked forward to Monday’s meeting with the few partners who would be there when she signed her agreement. They would be pleasantly surprised that she put their plan in action so soon, or at least she hoped they would. She liked what she saw already.
“Ms. Toyomoto?” Colleen said in surprise as Nia walked into their offices on Monday morning, her new red briefcase hanging from her shoulder.
Nia grinned. She knew she looked a lot different than she had on Friday and it felt good. It felt really good. For the first time in her life she felt desirable and attractive. Getting rid of the glasses had been a huge adjustment but having her hair down had softened her otherwise severe features. “Yep, it’s me,” she smiled to her assistant.
“You look great!” Colleen enthused.
“Thank you,” Nia said quietly appreciating the compliment. She handed Colleen several file folders and said, “These are for three of the cases that Burt gave me,” before she proceeded into her cubicle of an office. Sitting on her desk was a thick book of office decor with a stick on ribbon on the cover. She laughed; it could have only come from Stewart who knew she would have to decorate her office. She spent about fifteen minutes paging through the book enjoying the decor she saw before she put it aside and got to work.
At ten in the morning she walked up the flight of steps to the Executive level instead of waiting for the elevator. It helped to keep her in shape taking the steps but also she avoided the delay the elevator could take or the potential for someone to button hole her in the elevator and she never discussed cases outside of the office. She was prompt as she presented herself into the boardroom. The partners and Stewart all stared in astonishment at the change in her. She held back her grin knowing it was drastic already and she had only begun to enact the changes they had requested. She signed her new contract with a flourish and received their congratulations and handshakes with aplomb. A few of the partners had resented the deal that Nia was offered but seeing her now and knowing the financials and her potential they realized it was a good investment. They welcomed her as though nothing had happened and she was grateful for the compliments she received.
“Well girlie, you did it,” Stewart said with a grin after the others had left.
She nodded not sure what to say.
“Now, we are going to see you soar,” he promised. “You sure surprised a few people today,” his thumb indicated the partners who had witnessed her contract and left.
She grinned, “I live up to my agreements.”
He examined her as he noted the makeup, the lack of glasses, and the new hair style. She really was an attractive woman. It had all been hidden before. He was really pleased with the surprising result. “Yes you do,” he agreed. “Have you picked out a car yet?”
She shook her head laughing, she had only had the weekend to think about things much less do them, “I think I will have enough to do finding a new place to live,” she said wryly.
“Where are you looking?” he fretted. It was important to have the right address for many reasons, safety, equity, prestige.
She told him the addresses she was considering and he nodded relieved knowing she was showing good sense. “Do you have a realtor?”
“Yes, I have Eleanor James handling it for me,” she answered.
“Eleanor James?” his eyebrows rose in surprise. “I’m impressed. How did you get her to take you on as a client?”
She smiled, she knew Eleanor had a reputation as an exclusive but she was a friend. “I called her, she’s a friend of mine, and she took me out over the weekend.”
He was impressed. If she knew people like Eleanor James she had even more potential than they had thought. He was pleased she had risen so quickly to the challenge they had given her. “She won’t steer you wrong.”
Tell us about your new work. My latest book, my 65th release will be LAWYERED. It’s about a highly successful lawyer in New York who thinks she has it all. She graduated early from high school, college, and was picked up by a firm on Wall Street. Because of her hard work she is offered a junior partnership at the age of 30. There are conditions though and that’s when she realizes a lot of change in her orderly life.
Why do you love to write lesbian fiction? I can relate on so many levels, not only because I myself am a lesbian but because I enjoy romances and drama behind them. No romance is smooth sailing and sometimes the trip to get there is full of drama and excitement.
Cookies and why they are amazing… because they are a guilty pleasure and we know we shouldn’t eat too many and do it anyway…that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Lipstick…love it or hate it I love it because it enhances some basic good looks I was blessed with.
Writing advice Just DO it. I’ve heard people say all the time….I wish I could write or I’ve always WANTED to write…unless you do it you won’t know if you are good or bad or could improve or what…TRY!
Whatever your heart desires….my heart desires travel. I enjoy it to see other places and times and meet new people. It also stays with me in my mind forever and in the pictures I take which helps with the stories I write.
Interview for LAWYERED:
Tell us about the main character: Nia Toyomoto, I just love how that name rolls off my tongue. Saying it completely just does something for me. I made it up, or so I think I did, but her character developed on its own. She is complex, a classic over achiever and successful at an early age on so many levels. She graduates high school early, college early, and gets her ‘dream’ career early only to realize she missed a few things along the way, such as relationships.
She is exposed to some classic ‘bad’ boys and girls. From a serial murderess, to a professional thief, to the spoiled rich boys of sports and things of that nature.
Finding out she is attracted to women and dealing with that with her own insecurities show a side of her that is vulnerable. I like vulnerable, it shows the human side of her and I think everyone who reads this book is going to enjoy Nia.
Tell us about some of the secondary characters: Nia’s best friend is Annie, she’s a bi-sexual and very down to earth. She keeps Nia grounded and doesn’t let her become too stale in her attitudes on life. I introduced some characters from other books. Alice from my Malice series, Simone from my Charming Thief series, Sasha from my Kept novella, I enjoyed letting them play together. Nia also has a group of about a dozen women she meets (or tries to meet) every Thursday and I introduce several characters this way, some of whom appeared in the other books I’ve mentioned, a way of tying all my books into each other.
So the book isn’t ‘just’ about Lawyers? Oh no, it is much more than that. It delves into first times, her personal life, coming to grips with her sexuality, dealing with abuse, falling in love. It’s a very complex story and one a lot of us can relate to because life is so very complex.
Nia’s ‘assistant’ Colleen because a major character, would you describe her: Colleen I felt was a wimpy character at first. I am attracted to and I portray strong female characters. Colleen though surprised me as she dealt with so much in her own life and her admiration for boss that developed into so much more. She is actually one of those quietly strong women who take care of things without making a big deal of it. I actually came to admire her as she came out in my story.
What do you want your readers to come away with from this story?: That anyone can surprise you, what you think you know about someone isn’t necessarily who or what they are. That they can change, they can grow, and they aren’t a stereotype. I think a lot of women will relate to this story and admire the characters as they develop throughout the book.
About the author:
K’Anne Meinel (pronounced Kay Ann My Null), an American author was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and emerged full formed behind a keyboard, sometime in the 1960’s, where she still resides today after a seventeen year detour through Southern and Central California on the beach. Her first novel, SHIPS written in 2003 was to be the beginnings of many masterpieces. Bringing her characters to life in the pages of her books she discovered a real talent for writing romances. She is the best-selling author of the novel REPRESENTED and her other works include LONG DISTANCE ROMANCE, GERMANIC, and TIMED ROMANCE. Her novella Sapphic Surfer has been a best-seller and others such as Sapphic Cowboi, Sapphic Cowgirl, and Ghostly Love have received acclaim. In 2011 she started her infamous MALICE series including an anti-hero/killer by the name of Alice. Writing well-researched romance novels with humor and a bit of spice she plans to travel some more to fuel her ever hungry keyboard with many more places she hasn’t already been in her books!
Join her on July 11th, 2014 on Facebook for her release party!
I’m not going to lie. When given carte blanche to write about anything I wanted for this guest blog I found myself overwhelmed with the possibilities. For those of you who know me, I’ve got a lot going on – my love of neon, my constant power struggle with Spencer (the cat), and making pie charts that summarize my take on the quirkiness of life. But honestly, those really don’t have a lot to do with lesbian fiction – well, I mean, aside from the fact that I’m a lesbian and that I write fiction.
So, I thought about it … and I thought about it … and I went for a run and I thought about it some more. And then it came to me! I should write about what I know (aside from neon, Spencer and pie charts) which is the study of culture, the impact that has on who we are as a society, how it influences our lives and how I incorporate that into my writing.
As many of you know, I teach anthropology. And I love it because it’s a social science that delves into the reasons why we are the way we are. To fully understand why a culture (and society) is the way it is, you have to really examine it holistically. You have to look at the interplay of all of the parts: the politics, economics, belief systems, marriage rules and gender roles. And the interesting thing about all of these cultural universals, is that they’re human-designed constructs – constructs that change over time.
Taking the long view – looking at change over time – fascinates me. And it’s something I focus on in my novels. You see it in “NUDGE” where faith and belief is examined in a way that shows that religion – ALL religions – are at their core, the same.
As background, “NUDGE” is the story of a New York advertising executive and life-long atheist named Sarah Sheppard, who, is visited by a mysterious client who offers her a job to write and market a comprehensive addition to the world’s religious texts. She, of course, thinks it’s an elaborate joke and turns him down. But a series of events transpire that result in her having no choice but to take the assignment. She is quickly relocated to a remote estate in upstate New York where her job is to work with a group of scholars and theologians to compile The Addendum. As work on the document progresses, Sarah has to decide whether to deny her natural skepticism or buy into the idea that she really is working for a universal God.
As I approached the research and writing of “NUDGE,” I tried to remain objective. In anthropology, we don’t look at or judge if a religion is right or wrong. (Seriously, who are we to judge anyone else?) What we look at are the commonalities present in all beliefs so we can compare them. We focus on the idea that religion (again, all religions) do three main things:
With “NUDGE,” I tried to incorporate those similarities to show that all belief systems are really very similar. At their core, they provide structure and agency.
In addition to belief and faith, I’m also fascinated with gender roles, how they vary from culture to culture, and how they have changed through time. It’s an underlying theme in my novel, “Letters Never Sent” in that the characters of Kate, Annie and Claire struggle against the prescribed gender roles of the early 20th Century, just as Joan, Kate’s daughter, struggles equally hard in 1997.
As background, the novel opens when Joan travels to Lawrence, Kansas, to clean out her recently deceased mother’s home and prepare it for sale. As she’s cleaning, she finds an old suitcase containing a wooden box full of objects that include a spent bullet casing, a key ring, and a packet of sealed love letters – which she reads. And it’s through these unsent letters that Joan begins to understand that her mother’s unhappiness was, in part, because of the prescribed roles of wife and mother expected of her by society. She also comes to realize that despite the fact that her mother was functioning within the paradigms of the 1930s and Joan was working in the 1990s, their lives were in many ways, paralleled.
That last sentence might seem strange given that more than 50 years of “advancement” in regard to women’s rights had occurred between Kate’s experiences and those of her daughter, Joan. And change had occurred. But despite those political changes, in many ways, the underlying expectations of “what it was to be a woman” remained the same.
Despite all the cultural change of The Progressive Era, the passage of the 19th Amendment, the relative freedom of the flappers in the 1920s, and women going to work in traditionally masculine jobs during World War II, the underlying perception of women’s roles remained (and I would argue continues to remain) subtly the same: cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. Even today, 50 years after President Kennedy signed legislation calling for equal pay for men and women, women still make 77 cents to every dollar made by a man.
Long story short, we are products of our culture. Every day we work within its parameters and its rules. Again, there is no right or wrong – there just is. And it’s that “is” that I like exploring as a writer. And at the end of the day, if I’ve done my homework, what we find is that perhaps we’re (and by this I mean ALL people) really much more alike than we realize.
I started writing lesbian fiction several years ago. My undergraduate degree is in newspaper journalism and I had worked as a magazine writer, as a political speech writer and also as a staff writer for an educational publishing company. I knew I wanted to write novels, but I really didn’t feel like I had “lived” enough to have much of anything to say. So, I waited and waited until one I day, about three years ago, I realized I was ready – I actually had something to say. I wrote a couple of manuscripts, but it really all came together when I wrote Letters Never Sent.
I write because … I can’t not write. Stories are everywhere and I find myself fascinated with why people do the things they do. Heck, I’m fascinated by why I do the things I do.
Flats … unless I’m wearing a suit or a dress and then heels.
I like to write about real, flawed, complicated characters. In Letters Never Sent, for example, all of the characters (Kate, Annie, Joan, Claire) were flawed and sometimes, not very likeable. In my new book, NUDGE, all of the characters have something about them that makes you not want to trust them – makes you question their motivations. I like exploring the darker side of what makes these people tick and what ultimately drives them to do the things they do.
NUDGE is very different than Letters Never Sent. In short, it’s the story of a New York advertising executive and life-long atheist named Sarah Sheppard, who, is visited by a mysterious client who offers her a job to write and market a comprehensive addition to the world’s religious texts. She, of course, thinks it’s an elaborate joke and turns him down. But a series of events transpire that result in her having no choice but to take the assignment.
She is quickly relocated to a remote estate in upstate New York where her job is to work with a group of scholars and theologians to compile The Addendum. Within days of taking on the assignment, she discovers that nothing and no one are what they appear to be. And, as more questions than answers mount up, Sarah has to decide whether to deny her natural skepticism or buy into the idea that she really is working for God.
Stacks of textbooks and readings I need to review for next week’s classes, a Eucalyptus-Spearmint candle from Bath and Body Works (that has googly eyes pasted onto the side), and a green letter opener from the 1933 World’s Fair.
7. What are some of your favorite lesbian fiction/romance/erotic authors?
I love the work of so many that it would take forever to list them.
8. Favorite dessert?
Hot-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies or Snickerdoodles. Or peanut butter cookies. Or sugar cookies. Or almond macaroons. So … yeah … cookies.
MAJOR plotter with maps, post-it notes and taped-together timelines.
10. What are you working on now?
I am currently writing a novel titled All That We Lack. It starts with a bus crash between New York and Boston and then works backward a day, six months, a year and two years, to show the interconnections of a funeral director from Seymour, Indiana, an insurance risk analyst from Chicago, a 10-year-old boy from Philadelphia, and a paramedic from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
11.Tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know.
I once took a job as a hand model for a Walmart advertisement. My hands were photographed holding a notepad with a grocery list and a pencil (or it may have been a pen). I was “discovered” while working as a server because, according the photographer, I had (and I quote) “every shopper’s hands.”
Sandra Moran is an author and assistant adjunct professor of anthropology at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.
A native Kansan, she has worked professionally as a newspaper journalist, a political speech writer, and an archaeological tour manager. In her novels, she strives to create flawed characters struggling to find themselves within the cultural constructs of gender, religion and sexuality.
She is the author of “Letters Never Sent” and “Nudge.”
Find out more about her at: http://www.sandramoran.com