It will be a wide preorder
& in KU 1 week after release
An FF Holiday
Morgan loves three things; Books, women, and being
single. But when Grad school costs more than her rent, she needs to come up with a way to
make some money and fast. After a one-night stand with a beautiful woman, she wakes the
next morning in a hurry to make it to her interview as a live-in nanny.
Despite acing the interview, she has to pass one final test;
meeting the mother—who just so happens to be her one-night stand. They both decide to
call it a one-night thing and move forward, with Morgan becoming her son’s nanny.
As a divorced, single mom Lucy can get all the help she
needs. But as the mistletoe is hung and the stockings are filled, are sparks flying too? As Lucy
begins to fall for her son’s nanny, she shows her love in a series of her favorite books.
Counting down the 24 days of Christmas with Morgan, by trying to tell her how she feels,
worried she doesn’t feel the same.
Morgan devours each book, desperate to know if Lucy is
sending her a sign. But as Christmas approaches, will each woman get what they want? Or
will they be stuck out in the cold as the days of Morgan’s nannying contract are up?
About the Author
Shannon O’Connor is a twenty-something, bisexual, self-published poet of several books and
counting. She released her first novel, Electric Love in 2021 and is currently working on
several sapphic romance novels. She believes there is a lack of positive Female/Female
romances in the world, and wants to make them more accessible. She is often found in
coffee shops, probably writing about someone she shouldn’t be.
Christian Kringle: College
professor, reluctant Santa, and…fake dating my neighbor?
I’m a grinch and proud of it–but this year, there’s no
avoiding the Christmas cheer.
First, I get roped into playing Santa. Shudder. Then, while
trying to dodge a setup with my boss’s brother, I somehow promise to attend a holiday party
with my boyfriend–who doesn’t exist.
Next thing I know, my (soon-to-be former) best friend has
set up a profile on a hookup app to find me a date. With the username of….wait for
Go ahead and laugh. He sure did, the traitor.
Before I can delete the profile, I match with an easygoing
guy with amazing photos. His teasing about Santa kink makes me laugh, and blush, and feel
things I haven’t since my divorce. For the first time in years, I look forward to dating.
Until we meet, and he turns out to be my neighbor. My
very young, very off-limits neighbor who I’ve clashed with for years. Only now I know just
how sexy, charming, and sweetly devoted to his daughter he is.
I should walk away, but I still need that fake boyfriend. The
only problem? Jaxson’s so convincing I can’t tell where the pretense ends and real feelings
Falling for him is easy. Loving his daughter? Effortless.
Trusting that I can keep them is the hard part.
It’ll take the magic of love, family, and yes–even
Christmas–to teach this old grinch new tricks. Sexted By Santa is a standalone holiday
romance set in the Thrust Into Love universe.
In the following scene, Christian logs onto a hookup app after his friend made
him an embarrassing profile with the username SantaWantsYourChimney:
I finally opened the app that Barry had installed on my phone.
Time to change this ridiculous profile—or maybe delete it altogether.
There were a handful of notifications. Huh. I had some match requests, more than I would
have expected given the lack of any real photos on my account. But my notifications also
included men who had accepted my request—a neat trick since I hadn’t made
Barry, you scoundrel…
I should delete the whole lot of them. Why would a normal guy go for this Santa schtick?
With great skepticism, I took a peek at one of the messages.
I want to ride Santa’s pole!
Charming. I checked the guy’s stats. He was older, at fifty, but clearly not mature, as my
profile—well, the one Barry had written for me, at any rate—had requested. He wasn’t bad
looking, slim but handsome. His user name, Best_You’ll_Ever_Have, didn’t encourage me. It
was too close to my ex-husband’s brand of ego. Fynn was beautiful, and he knew it. He’d
used it to his advantage on more than occasion. But when that didn’t work…Oh, he became
furious. His ego was huge but fragile. Even for a single date to a work party, I wanted a guy
who’d be a little more even-keeled. The last thing I needed was some ridiculous drama
playing out in front of my colleagues.
I bypassed him to review another match. This one in his sixties.
If you’re tired of naughty boys, maybe Santa needs a Daddy.
I picked through a few more, not overly impressed with the offerings—until I reached
I almost passed him by—until I realized this wasn’t another Daddy wannabe. This was an
actual dad. Was that good? Not for anything serious—I wouldn’t know the first thing about
dealing with a kid—but luckily I only needed a date to a party. No commitment required.
I checked his profile for red flags.
It read: I’m a dad first. Just looking to relieve some stress and have fun. Open to casual
dating, but I don’t have the time or energy for anything serious.
Well, that sounded perfect. Plus, he’d accepted a match request Barry sent on my
behalf—rather than seeking me out—so perhaps he wasn’t a weirdo turned on by a
pixelated Santa. Why he’d accepted the request was a still a mystery though. Maybe he
didn’t see it actually going anywhere. Why would he, when the guy requesting a match was
a fictional person?
CasualDad’s pics were enticing.
He had a broad, firm chest with script over his pecs that read Love leaves no room for
regret. A nice sentiment, though I didn’t know if I agreed. My love for Fynn had
created plenty of regret. But I didn’t have to agree with the man’s tattoo to take him on a
date. Preferably, a date that ended very pleasurably for us both.
I’d gotten on this app to find a date to a work party, but these pictures reminded me that my
body had its own needs, which had been ignored for some time now. Maybe I could get
more than arm candy for a boring night with my colleagues out of this.
My mouth watered as I studied the various pics showing his chest and stomach, not overly
muscled but solid. There was no direct face shot, but there was one shot of him in profile.
He had nearly shoulder-length hair, which was blowing across his face. Water—maybe a
lake—filled the background of the image. I could just make out the edge of his smile—and it
was mischievous, maybe a little amused by someone off camera.
Jaxson Hicks flashed through my mind for a split second. His smile as he took pot shots at
my Santa performance had that same edge of mischief. But I shut that thought down. I’d set
my filters to hide anyone under thirty-five—and a quick look at CasualDad’s profile
confirmed he met that threshold. Jaxson was much younger. He’d dropped out of college
about seven years ago. If my math was correct, he would be somewhere around twenty-six
Even if he were old enough, Jaxson and I had never been anything but oil and water since
we’d first met as student and adviser. He hadn’t liked what I’d had to say, and the feeling had
Better to focus on this guy in front of me. This delicious-looking guy.
I decided to send him a quick message.
Hey, there. I like your pics and your profile. You seem like someone I’d like to
know better, maybe over drinks? Apologies for the ridiculous username and profile. I’ll
His response came just as I was putting aside my reading for the night and turning off the
CasualDad: The name gave me a good laugh. If you change it,
does that mean you won’t be cleaning my chimney? And is that a euphemism for what I
think it is?
I groaned, mentally cursing Barry again.
SantaWantsYourChimney: My jerk of a friend thought it was
funny. Obviously I need a new friend. If this doesn’t work out, you can have the spot. As long
as you can resist matchmaking and setting up ridiculous profiles for me on dating
CasualDad: That’s a high bar. I don’t know if I can meet it. I kind
of want to see where a Santa kink could go 😉
hate Santa, and Christmas, and all this seasonal nonsense.
CasualDad: That only makes this name funnier. Now you have to
I dropped my head back on the pillow. It seemed as if I were destined to play Santa in all
aspects of my life. But even I had to admit it had served as a pretty good ice-breaker with
CasualDad. His easy teasing made me smile.
Maybe I can keep the name if it means you chat with me
again, I typed.
He was quick to reply: Maybe I’ll chat with you again if you send me some
sexy Santa pics.
Oh, hell no. Volunteering as Santa was bad enough. But posing for X-rated Santa selfies
wasn’t happening. I sent him a reply, then turned off my phone before I could be tempted
into embarrassing myself.
Listen, I’m just not that kind of Santa. I don’t rush down anyone’s chimney.
But I do hope we can chat again…
When I woke the next morning, the first thing I did was check the Thrust app for his reply.
Hahaha, okay, Santa. We’ll play it your way. Message me again when you’re
ready. I’m not going anywhere.
About the Author
DJ Jamison writes romances
about everyday life and extraordinary love featuring a variety of queer characters, from gay
to bisexual to asexual. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those
influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems:
money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent
more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write
fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that and continues to avidly devour her fellow
authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, one snake, and a
sadistic cat named Birdie.
Two strangers, a twisted ankle, an ancient stone ship, and a New Year’s Eve they’ll never forget
Petter sneaks out of the New Year’s party he didn’t want to go to and treks to an old burial site he’s dying to see. Alone. Without telling anyone on a freezing December night. Without cell service…a huge problem when he twists his ankle.
Someone passes by Isak’s house on the path leasing to the stone ship. When the person never returns, Isak worries and sets off to investigate. What he finds is Petter, a pack of sparklers, and an instant connection.
Under a starry sky, they learn they have a lot in common. Will the attraction burn hot and fizzle out like the fireworks going off over their heads when they return to the real world? Or will it deepen, grow, and turn into something real? Something everlasting like the stone ship?
“Did you come here to ring in the new year?” He nods toward the bottle still positioned between my legs.
“Yeah. I’ve always wanted to visit this place and since I was dragged to the village, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I even brought sparklers.” I pull them out of my pocket, holding them up for him to see.
“Bubbly and sparklers by the stone ship. Sounds like the perfect New Year’s celebration to me.”
I stare at him. He sounds serious enough, not like he’s mocking me. And he doesn’t know me, so he won’t know what buttons to push to get me to agree to do shit I don’t want to, like my friend Jonas, who’s the sole reason for me being here. “You can’t be alone on New Year’s Eve, Petter. Only losers and people with no friends stay home alone on holidays. Besides, you don’t want Maja to think you’re not her friend, do you?” Bastard played me and used his girlfriend to get me to agree, knowing how much I like her. More than him, most days.
But this guy, this stranger, seems honest. “You really mean that?”
“I do.” He grabs the bottle and takes a swig, his face scrunching up in a grimace.
“Yeah, I know,” I snicker. “It’s vile. Serves me right for grabbing someone’s bubbly from the fridge before heading up here.”
“I’m not a wine expert, but that was…”
“…too sweet,” we say simultaneously.
He nods. “Exactly.”
“Listen. What do you say we ring in the new year a bit early? New Year’s is just an arbitrary mark of the passage of time invented by humans anyway, so who says we can’t do it now? Light some sparklers, tell each other our resolutions. Try not to barf as we drink more of this.” He holds up the bottle. “Then I can help you down. Call a doctor if you need one. Or take you back to your friends if you prefer. I assume you’re at the Andersson house for the party?”
I raise an eyebrow. “How did you know?”
“It’s a teeny tiny village. Everyone knows what’s going on in their neighbors’ houses.”
“Really? That can’t be good?”
“It has its downsides, that’s for sure. But I’m mostly fine with it.”
“Okaaaay.” Because surely, he doesn’t mean the neighbors know everything? Not what other people have in their nightstands and stuff? Ew.
“So what do you say?” He nudges his knee against my leg.
“Sure. I approve of the plan.”
Isak removes his gloves and holds out his hand. “Let me light the sparklers. Did you bring a lighter?”
“Yeah, hang on.” I dig into my pocket without taking off my mittens—my fingers are pretty cold—until I find it. “Here you go.”
“Awesome. Are you the kind of person who makes resolutions?”
“Usually not.” I accept the lit sparkler he holds out to me. I’ve loved these things since I was a little kid, even more than fireworks, and up here, in the howling wind with a sky full of stars above my head, in the company of a kind stranger and huge ancient stones, they’re more beautiful than ever.
“But this year is different?”
“Yeah. I’m doing some…significant changes in my life this coming year, so I thought ‘why not?’ It can’t hurt, right? Even if I agree with you about the arbitrariness of this so-called holiday.”
“Sure. It’s not a thing we celebrate because of some natural phenomenon, like the solstice. It’s just to mark that the Earth has done another lap around the sun. I mean, that’s great and all, but why do we need to celebrate it?”
Isak’s face lights up in a wide grin. “Yes! This is what I always say when people complain because I refuse to embrace the spirit of the holiday.”
I return his smile. “Exactly!”
“I’ll drink to that.”
About the Author
Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)
Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.
Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.
Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.
Happy Holidays from everyone at T.A.G. Your one-stop shopping source for all your killing needs. It isn’t all stabbings, poisonings, and shootings here at The Assassins’ Guild. We decided to pause that and take a little time to celebrate being alive, and for some, being in love. This is your friendly communications agent, Mr. No, here to tell you about the holiday fun Mr. H and his boys got up to this one Christmas. Once upon a time, there was a Bob. This Bob got tasked with three missions. Not just any old ordinary missions, but missions of love… Between guarding Connor, being stalked by Enrique, and being his usual sneaky self, Bob must put into motion three big surprises for his chosen family. But it’s not all snowman contests and catching Mr. Ti in potentially embarrassing situations while they vacation in a chateau outside of Paris. Oh no, something is afoot. Mr. H won’t let the new problem code-named The Poacher interfere with family time. So, take a little time out of your busy schedule and join us for a T.A.G. Family Christmas the likes of you’ll never forget. Attention: This story contains adorableness taken to a whole new level. There are adult situations, language, kinky snowmen, and all the churros you can eat.
Sixteen Days till Christmas
Lights twinkled, making the bare trees that lined the Champs Elysée seem full once more in the early evening darkness. This far north, the sun was long set by five. My breath puffed in the chilly air in front of me as I looked down the wide avenue with the Arc de Triumph behind me. The sound of the cars zooming around the large roundabout was dim to my ears as I stood in awe of the sight before me.
Ice glistened on the branches as the smell of—a sharp elbow jabbed my bicep. “Are you going to stand here all evening gaping? I’m freezing my nuts off here, and you promised me lots of mulled wine and fresh churros.”
I side-eyed Yoshi with a huff. “I was imprinting this moment to my memory. Plus, look how pretty it is. Besides, I told you to wear a thicker jacket.”
“Well, if we move, I won’t be so cold, and I didn’t want to look like a marshmallow man.”
“At least I’m warm and fashionable.” I’d worn a poofy teal coat that went to mid-thigh, toasty flannel lined jeans with fleece-lined boots. I topped off my outfit with matching earmuffs that had cat ears on them and a pair of our special cold weather gloves that kept my hands perfectly warm while not losing any dexterity nor the ability to operate any of our touchscreen electronics.
Yoshi pogoed on his toes, and I looked back over to Bob, who shrugged. “Well, at least let me get some photos first.”
“Fuck. It’s cold.” Yoshi blew into his hands.
“Well, I offered you earmuffs, but you scoffed at me. Dmitry told you to at least take a scarf and you scoffed at him. I think you just like suffering and complaining about it.” I took the opportunity to pull my scarf over my nose to try to warm it. The wind by the Arc was a bit too much for my comfort.
Yoshi laughed heartily. “Of course I like suffering.”
“That’s not what you said this morning. You were begging for Dmitry to stop torturing and fuck you,” I quipped.
“Damn thin walls in that place.” Yoshi blushed a little then shrugged it off. “I’m not the only one who’s loud. How tight is your Daddy’s hole? I don’t think I quite heard.”
I grinned wide and licked my lips. “Mmmmm, so tight. He hugs my cock—”
Yoshi shoulder checked me, nearly making me stumble into someone walking in the opposite direction. “And he’s so hot and the way he flexes—” I dodged Yoshi and caught up to Bob, who had taking point. He arched an eyebrow at me as I used him as a shield.
“You’re just jealous.” I stuck my tongue out at him.
“I do not want to know what Oz’s ass even looks like, much less feels.”
I fell back in step with Yoshi. “Eww, no, of course not, but I meant that you never get to fuck Dmitry.”
Yoshi shrugged. “Eh, it’s not something I need. Sometimes it’d be nice but I’m good.”
We were finally topside again. So many people were out shopping or having dinner. There were many tourists as well, but it was the Champs Elysée, so that was expected. The next day they were going shopping in the fashion district. I wasn’t a clothes whore by any means, but if you’re going to come to Paris, you must at least do some clothes shopping.
“Do you want to stop for a coffee?”
“No, let’s go to Tiffany’s like you want first.”
A nervous excitement bubbled in my gut as we got closer to the store. “Are you sure you don’t want something too?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. We do a lot of things together, but I think we can skip this one.”
“Don’t you want to marry Dmitry?”
“Sure, someday, but it’s not something I really think about. He’s not going anywhere. He promised and he has my key.”
I nodded as I walked through the door that Bob held open to the multilevel shop. “Maybe you can get him like a diamond-encrusted cock ring?”
“Nah, do you know what a pain that would be to clean?”
About the Author
A.G. Carothers is actually a dragon very cleverly disguised as a human. They are a non-binary author of LGBTQIA Romance and Urban Fantasy, who enjoys writing original and entertaining stories. They are very excited to share the worlds they’ve created with you.
A.G. currently lives in Tennessee with their platonic life partner, who is not a dragon. They yearn to live back in Europe and will some day. In their spare time they are addicted to losing themselves in the lovely worlds created by other authors A.G. is committed to writing the stories they see in their head without restrictions. Love is blind and doesn’t see gender, race, or sexuality.
Andreas Mitchell is single, stupid and bored, and should have a good long think about the amount of bad life choices he has made lately. Instead he heads straight for the one guy he knows will become his worst mistake yet.
Luca Germano makes no choices at all, instead he lives quietly in the background, and prefers the safety of his own hand to risking his heart. And someone as pretty and fearless as Andreas Mitchell, is the last person on earth he should let into his life.
Especially at Christmas.
This is a work of fantasy and fiction. This story contains descriptions of sexual roleplay and consensual violence, and elements of mild BDSM, which are not intended to be taken seriously, or imitate real life. Please read with caution if these themes might trigger or upset you.
Find more stories from the fictional British town of Chistleworth, in Custard and Kisses (free to download from Prolific Works) and This thing with Charlie (part of the Winter Wonderland giveaway starting on Jan 1, 2021)
I barely finish that thought, before my office door opens. He doesn’t even knock, Luca Germano, before entering and walking up to me with determination in his steps.
“We are ready to deliver. I was just wondering if you would like to come down and look her over before I go home.” He grunts.
He’s wearing skinny jeans today, and a torn knitted hoodie. A speck of oil still lingering on his hand, and a polishing rag stuck in his back pocket.
“I trust you.” I say, taking the glasses off my nose, and placing them on the table in front of me. “The crew downstairs speak very highly of you. Thank you for helping us deliver on this one. I’m sure the car will be much appreciated by its new owner.”
I’m talking a load of shite, in a voice that belongs to someone like Mr Lambert. I do that, sometimes, when I speak with older clients. Try to make myself more mature, more sophisticated, and less of the twinkly brat I really am.
“Ahm…” He grunts, again. He’s a man of few words, Luca Germano. He still scares me, because he’s unpredictable. I can’t read him, not really. Sometimes he comes across as happy and carefree, at other times he seems almost terrified of me.
“Let me guess…” I tease. “Tonight you are working out, then you are going to go and have a nice glass of water at Club Eden. Am I right?”
“What?” he huffs.
“Yeah? That’s what you do, most weekends.” I giggle. I’ve immediately lost the stupid fake maturity. It doesn’t take much. Told you, I’m an idiot, and clearly a fool, because now Luca Germano is blushing and squirming, and looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.
“Why would you say that?” He huffs out, suddenly back to being annoyed with me. Then he looks scared, breathing too heavily, running his greased hand through his cropped hair. He’s had it cut again. I bet it’s soft against his fingers.
I’m clearly losing my touch here, and I need a break. Luca Germano turned me down for a simple reason. He’s probably gay, because most people frequenting Club Eden, are… gay. Since it’s a gay club. Yet, I’m feeling less confident by the second here, sat behind my desk being… frankly, both rude and stupid with one of our freelance tech crew. Because I know what I am doing, I’m flirting, and why the hell I am flirting with him, of all people? I don’t understand myself anymore. Well, I do. He’s handsome, in a rugged way. A little bit scary, because the man clearly works out and is both tall, fit and muscular. The kind of man with big hands that would toss me around a bed with ease and completely dominate in the bedroom. He’s also staring at me like I have two heads.
Note to self, also the kind of man I should avoid, because I usually end up in a state like last weekend. Do I take any notice? No. Here I go again.
“You usually spend the evening stalking me around the club, and staring at me.” It’s a little bit of a lie, but I’m smiling and batting my eyelashes. I’m giving the guy a chance here. I wouldn’t mind a hookup with him. I would even let him do me, like a little good pick-me-up.
“Look, mate.” He says again, with surprising strength, as he walks up to my desk and leans his knuckles on the top. Leaning over me and staring at me with an intensity that scares me. I actually shuffle my chair an inch backwards, because… Yeah. Intense.
“Don’t mess around with me, I’m not into all that.” He’s serious too, enough for me to feel intimidated.
“Mate, it’s an invitation to fuck, not a bloody job interview.” I nip back, trying to blow my chest up like a bloody baboon. I’m not impressive, I realise that, as he smirks at me.
“Just leave it. Not interested.” He huffs. I just laugh, because as he stands back, he turns around far too quickly for a man not interested. He’s also sporting a semi in his jeans, unless he’s hung like a horse. He’s probably hung, but that bulge…?
“Look, Luke.” I try, but he cuts me off.
“Luca. Not Luke.”
“Luca, my bad.” I try a smile, but he doesn’t take the bait. Just stares, like he does. Maybe it’s just his thing, and perhaps I have read all this wrong from the start.
“I go to Eden for a drink at the weekend, because my best mate from school mans the bar. That’s why I go there. I hang out and shoot the shit with a guy who I have known since I was three. Is that clear?” He’s pissed off, and now he’s frightening me. Just a little. In a good way.
“Crystal.” I nip back.
“I’m not interested in being one of your fuckbuddies, okay? So leave it. I’m very happy to work for you, and you have a great team downstairs, so if you have a project you need me for? Ring me. If not? Then I hope you have a great Christmas… and all that.”
He’s lost his steam at the end, clearly not holding a planned-out speech. He would never make a salesman, because now he is twirling around in a circle again, almost tripping over his own feet as he walks out of my office, leaving the door wide open behind him.
I don’t go down and check out the car. I probably should, before the handover to the new owner this afternoon. I should probably be there to sign it off. Instead I lean back in my chair and let my eyes close. Just for a second to calm myself down.
What on earth am I doing? That? That display of complete and sheer unprofessionalism was … staggeringly stupid. I could lose my job. It could be seen as harassment, on a grand scale. I need to stop, whatever it is I think I am doing.
In any case, I need to go home, grow up and grow a bloody brain, because the one I have at the moment? It’s fried.
About the Author
Sophia Soames should be old enough to know better but has barely grown up. She has been known to fangirl over tv-shows, has fallen in and out of love with more popstars than she dares to remember, and has a ridiculously high-flying (un-) glamorous real-life job.
Her long-suffering husband just laughs at her antics. Their children are feral. The Au Pair just sighs.
She lives in a creaky old house in rural London, although her heart is still in Scandinavia.
Discovering that the stories in her head make sense when written down has been part of the most hilarious midlife crisis ever and she hopes it may long continue.
Find me on social media @sophiasoames on all platforms.
Aurelia Morris is a cover artist, photographer, photoshop wiz and eternal fangirl.
She works in many mediums under more aliases that she can keep track of.
Gwen Cook has returned to Williamsburg, Virginia, after more than a decade away from her family estate. Frankie Porter has spent the last year renovating that same estate, turning the dilapidated Cook mansion into a showpiece. Gwen and Frankie shared a childhood full of hard secrets and ripe with first love. Now adults, their paths cross again and sparks fly.
A HEA with content warnings for PTSD and implied child abuse.
The boathouse had barely changed in twelve years. The creek ran quite a bit deeper and wider. Brown water had swallowed up much of the far bank and licked in pools about the base of the boathouse itself. Frankie had to shove back kudzu and sumac as she walked. The soles of her boots sank inches into mud. Tiny pink-and-white wildflowers grew up between the trees, and here and there she spotted a drooping hedge bright with red berries.
She made her way cautiously through the undergrowth until she could touch the old building. Standing against the foundation, she cocked her head and squinted up along brick walls. The boathouse seemed as sturdy as she remembered. Two stories high and crumbling on the outside, it was ruler straight and strong except for the roof, which still sagged but hadn’t given in to the elements and fallen.
“Used to be, they knew how to build to last.” Frankie patted the warm brick.
The structure didn’t tower the way it had in her childhood, but she supposed it wouldn’t. She had grown—her bones had lengthened into adulthood. She’d managed to top five feet, barely. At sixteen, she’d feared she would be stuck forever just above four.
Frankie hesitated, glancing up into the sky. The trees had grown tall, and she could see less of the sun than she remembered. The place was definitely cooler, definitely shadier; but on a warm summer afternoon, shade wasn’t such a bad thing.
She leaned against the boathouse and untied her boots. Stripping off her shoes and socks, she stood barefoot in the mud, regarding the brick walls. Twelve years gone and she was no longer a child. Could she do it?
Of course she could. Was it wise?
But her fingers and toes found the old cracks easily, and before she knew it, she was halfway up the wall. The brick brushed her khaki shorts, leaving brown stains. A branch streaked her white shirt with sap. Frankie didn’t notice. At the top she hoisted herself over the edge of the roof and onto the shingles. She sat very still, holding her breath, waiting to see if the roof would protest. The shingles held, even when she rose to her feet and tiptoed across the top of the boathouse to her old perch.
She looked up and around first, admiring the oak and the dogwood and the ash with their green-as-grass leaves. She sucked in the fragrance of the creek as she brushed her bangs from her eyes. Then she took a deeper breath and looked down.
James Creek glittered below, cut into geometric shapes by dim sunlight. Shadows gathered at the edges of the water and then spread away along the bank. From where she stood, the water looked deep and inviting.
About the Author
Sarah Remy/Alex Hall is a nonbinary, animal-loving, proud gamer Geek. Their work can be found in a variety of cool places, including HarperVoyager, EDGE and NineStar Press.