Bonus Scenes: The Rules of Love

Max has never been in love. She knows what it looks like after years of studying the phenomenon but her autism keeps love at bay… until she meets Ruby. My latest novel, THE RULES OF LOVE, is available now on Amazon.

Read the bonus scenes below.

Ruby talks to Megan

They had started out as friendly exchanges, two girls who used to date catching up and asking each other about their respective grad school experiences. Megan was always the brainier of the two of them, and she was going to medical school to pursue her dream of becoming a forensic pathologist just like Temperance Brennan in Bones – or at least, that’s how Ruby always thought of it.

Megan said that school was going well and she was acing all her classes, and then she said Northwestern was a little emptier without Ruby. That tugged at her heartstrings, and opened the wound left by their breakup all over again.

The text messages kept pouring in all week, and every time Megan found a way to show Ruby how lonely she felt without her. Ruby wondered if she regretted her decision not to make an honest go of their long-distance relationship, and her heart hurt more in this past week than it had all summer since she moved back to Chicago to live with her parents.

That ridiculous nickname, given to her in jest while they were pledging the sorority together freshman year, had stuck and become a term of endearment when they finally admitted their feelings for each other at the beginning of their third year at Northwestern. I miss you – what did that mean? As a friend? A sister? A lover?

Ruby had no idea whether all of this was genuine, or a mind game Megan invented to pass the time now that she didn’t have sorority duties eating up her extracurricular hours, or simple loneliness after an intense two-year relationship that felt a whole lot more like a lifetime.

Call me.

Ruby reflects after slapping Max

“I fucked you because I thought we wanted the same thing,” Ruby said, her voice having gone steady and severe while she glared at Max. “And we were having a good time until you decided that wasn’t good enough and you had to get all clingy and weird.”

Max opened her mouth to object but Ruby cut her off.

“Having Asperger’s is no excuse to become a level five clinger until the other person doesn’t even have enough room to breathe,” she said, feeling at that very moment as if her throat was closing up. She knew the moment she said it that it was a mistake, that was something that Mira had told her in confidence, but in the heat of the moment it was hard to control her words. It was also hard to separate the things she was mad at Max about from the things she had residual anger toward Megan for, and she knew some of the things she just said weren’t fair. She’d said them now, though, so she had no choice but to stand by them.

So she put her hands on her hips and defied Max to challenge her.

Did you enjoy this book? Please take a moment to leave a review – they mean a lot to me and to fellow lesfic readers who are looking for their next read.

Sneak Peek: The Rules of Love

Max has never been in love. She knows what it looks like after years of studying the phenomenon but her autism keeps love at bay… until she meets Ruby. My latest novel, THE RULES OF LOVE, is available now on Amazon.

Read the first chapter below.

Social functions weren’t really Max Saddler’s thing. In truth, she would have rather spent the next hour in a dentist’s chair, or riding public transportation, or better yet, she’d rather stay in her dorm and watch Netflix. But she promised her best friend, Mira, that she would try to be more social and make a few additional friends in grad school, and so here she was.

Tonight was her first official night of the program, not counting orientation and the day she came to the library just to wander around and familiarize herself with all of the classrooms, and her first class was scheduled to start in an hour and a half. First, though, there was the meeting that she swore to Mira she would attend.

Mira was the acting president for the Granville Library Science Student Organization, or GLiSS, a professional organization meant to help librarians-in-training begin building a professional network for their career – at least, that’s what the organization’s webpage said. Max had read it many times in the past couple of weeks, trying to convince herself to attend one of its meetings despite the near certainty that socializing would occurring there. What finally convinced her was Mira’s promise that Max could throw her hat into the ring for president when Mira’s term was over at the end of the semester.

In her entire four years of undergrad, and in high school before that, Max had never backed down from an opportunity to excel academically and to cement her position at the top of her class. Given that library school appeared to be something that was carried out mainly at night and on weekends and no one hung around the school much outside of classes, there were precious few opportunities for this, so

Max was determined to be the best damn president GLiSS ever saw – even if it did include some social function responsibilities.

So about ten minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start, Max left her apartment in the graduate dorms and walked across campus. Granville State University was bustling with activity on a Monday evening in early September – all the underclassmen looked so impossibly young and starry-eyed, coming back from their last classes of the day and heading toward the dining hall in big groups full of budding friendships. Max found it a little more palatable to observe this as a grad student than it was when she’d been in their place four years ago. She might have been their age, but she’d never been one of them – no matter how hard she tried, she could never escape the feeling that she didn’t really fit

in.

Now at least she had the luxury of being a graduate student, mildly irritated by the boundless energy of the undergrads rushing past her on the quad, like an old dog putting up with playful puppies. She didn’t fit in because she really wasn’t one of them anymore, and that was okay.

Max headed straight for the library, a five-story brick cube that loomed taller than all the other academic buildings on campus, dwarfed only by the skyscraping undergraduate dorms. The first three floors were dedicated to the books – which Max had grown quite familiar with in the last four years – as well as the computer labs and reference librarians. The top two floors would be her home for the next two years – that’s where the library science department was housed, and where all of her classes would be held.

She walked through the lobby and waved at one of the librarians sitting at the reference desk. She hadn’t managed to make a single friend except for Mira in her entire four years of undergraduate study, but she knew every librarian in the building by name and favorite book – it was a bit like making friends with the lunch lady, but Max always felt at home in any library she entered.

“First night of classes?” The reference librarian asked, her voice echoing slightly through the tile-floored lobby.

Tonight it was Maureen on duty (favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird), and when she found out that Max had decided to become a librarian, Maureen had quite possibly been even more excited than Max herself. It made sense – she’d seen Max come to the library almost daily for four years.

“Yep,” Max called back, enjoying the way her voice reverberated off the tiles until Maureen put a finger to her lips and gave Max a warning look. She reduced the volume of her voice by a few decibels and added, “I’m going to the GLiSS meeting first, and then I have Information Theory with Wilson McDermott.”

“Have fun,” Maureen said with a smile as Max walked over to the bank of elevators. “Let me know how it goes.”

“Okay, I will,” Max said as the elevator doors opened.

She went up to the fourth floor, where there was a conference room for things like GLiSS meetings.

Checking her watch during the ride up, she saw that there were only four minutes left before it was supposed to begin – she’d timed her walk across campus perfectly to avoid the need to stand around awkwardly with her fellow grad students and attempt the anxiety-inducing act of small talk.

There were about a dozen people standing around the room when Max arrived, acting like they enjoyed asking each other about their hometowns and undergraduate degrees and the weather for god’s sake.

No one particularly noticed her – which was exactly the way she liked it – and she looked quickly around for Mira. She wasn’t here, which Max was slightly irritated by but not surprised about. Mira was always busy and running in at the last possible second, so Max went over to the large oak conference table in the middle of the room and found a seat two chairs from the end. In her past observations, this particular spot was the best one for seeming like she was a part of whatever conversations were going on around her without actually drawing attention to the fact that she was on the outside looking in.

She set her ragged old backpack – the same one she’d been carrying since high school – on the floor at her feet, then pulled out a brand-new notebook and a pen. Snippets of conversation floated through the room (I just got back from a summer abroad… My fiancée and I are trying to buy a house but it’s crazy timing right now… My undergraduate capstone was on gender studies and popular culture…).

Max knew that Mira would have wanted her to insert herself into one of them – pick a subject she knew about and go introduce herself. But every time she’d ever attempted this in the past, people seemed to think she was bragging or being a show-off. She didn’t understand the difference between I just got back from a summer abroad and I was at the top of my class in undergrad and now I’m getting a dual master’s degree in library science and user experience design. Everyone else seemed pretty clear on why one was categorized as ‘sharing’ while the other was ‘gloating,’ and Max found it was almost always best to just keep her mouth shut.

She flipped open her notebook and wrote the date and ‘GLiSS – First Meeting’ at the top of the first page, and then checked the time again. The meeting was overdue to start by two minutes, but Mira still wasn’t here to call it to order. Max put her pen to the page, falling back on one of her oldest hobbies to fill the time until this limbo of waiting was over.

Max looked around the room, observing the little pockets of conversation taking place, and she scribbled down every example of non-verbal communication she could find. It was like a scavenger hunt, searching for eye rolls and sighs and body language to decode the subtext running underneath all that small talk.

There was the summer abroad conversation, taking place between two girls whose postures hinted at adversarial attitudes beneath their benign conversation. There was the guy trying to buy a house, who seemed not to notice the fact that the people standing with him were beginning to divert their attention elsewhere, looking around the room.

And there was the gender studies talk.

Wow.

The girl at the core of that conversation – the largest group in the room by far – was strikingly beautiful, so much so that Max’s hand involuntarily scribbled the word onto the page along with all of her other notes. Wow. She was tall and lean, built like an athlete but with womanly curves that Max had a hard time not lingering on. Her skin was smooth and her dark hair stood out in delicate ringlets framing her face. Something inside Max stirred, urging, Go talk to her.

Bonus Scenes: Love in the Stacks

My latest novel, LOVE IN THE STACKS, is available now on Amazon.

Mira Lockhart is married to her work. One of the youngest library directors in the state, she has been climbing ladders for so long she’s forgotten what life is like outside the library. Not that she has time for love and all that mushy stuff – Westbrook Public Library is the most challenging place she’s ever worked, and every day there’s a new crisis to avert. Her new library page, for one.

Read the bonus scene below.

JACK ACCUSES MIRA

Jack was really starting to get under Mira’s skin. He had cornered her at the bar and spent the last five minutes dancing around an accusation about her and Chelle. It was obvious that the alcohol had gone straight to his blood and he was more than a little tipsy – something that Mira hoped would stand in her favor by the time he sobered up tomorrow morning – and what had begun as an anxious flush in her cheeks was quickly boiling into anger.

“Why don’t you just come out and say it?” She hissed at him through clenched teeth. He may be about six months overdue for a verbal lashing, but Mira had just enough presence of mind about her to keep from doling it out in a room filled with her colleagues.

“Fine,” Jack said, straightening up and preparing to deliver his final blow. “You’re giving that girl preferential treatment, you’re letting her walk all over the union contract, and I believe the reason is that there’s a professionally inappropriate relationship going on between the two of you.”

Mira shook her head dismissively at him. “It’s really sad that you still haven’t gotten over the fact that I got the director position instead of you. The fact that you would fixate on Chelle and take your anger out on her-”

“We’ll see about that director position after the board hears about your relationship,” he growled back at her, cutting her off. “They’re coming next week. You better watch your back.”

“Is that a threat?” Mira asked, incredulous. “Jack, you better go back to your room and sleep it off before you say something you regret.”

Then, taking her own advice, Mira set down her water goblet on the edge of the bar and walked away from Jack. If she’d stayed there much longer, she would have really gotten into it with him and all the things she’d been holding in about his slack work ethic, his questionable commitment to the patrons, and his absurd vendettas would have come streaming out of her mouth. So, huffing angrily as she pushed her way through the crowded room, she did the managerial thing and walked away.

Did you enjoy this book? Please take a moment to leave a review – they mean a lot to me and to fellow lesfic readers who are looking for their next read.

Sneak Peek: Love in the Stacks

My latest novel, LOVE IN THE STACKS, is available now on Amazon.

Mira Lockhart is married to her work. One of the youngest library directors in the state, she has been climbing ladders for so long she’s forgotten what life is like outside the library. Not that she has time for love and all that mushy stuff – Westbrook Public Library is the most challenging place she’s ever worked, and every day there’s a new crisis to avert. Her new library page, for one.

Read the first chapter below.

Chelle Tate sat in one of the worn-down chairs that lined the lobby of the Westbrook Public Library, clutching her resume and waiting for a job interview. It was mid-morning on a weekday, so there were not many people in the library – just her, the slightly mean-looking man at the reference desk, and a couple of patrons who looked like they might be homeless and just looking for an air-conditioned place to cool off for a few hours.

It certainly would not be the most glamorous job in the world if she got it, nor the most suited to the degree she’d just earned in exercise science. It was only a page position – a part time job putting books back on the shelves – and it really didn’t require anything more than a basic competency with the Dewey Decimal System. A high school kid could do it.

But here she was, dressed in a black blazer while the August sun beat down through the skylights, waiting for the library director and trying not to look too desperate whenever the reference librarian glanced over at her. Chelle needed this job – the only one in Westbrook that she was even remotely qualified for – because her parents had been threatening to cut her off ever since she declared her “useless major” (their words, not hers). Now that she’d graduated, the job search was getting dire and she had to cede the point that there weren’t a lot of places clamoring for exercise scientists.

“I don’t know why you couldn’t have gone into accounting like me. I make good money and work decent hours, and there will always be a need for accountants.”

Chelle could hear her mother’s objections running through the back of her mind like a nagging playlist.

And of course, there was her father’s more blunt criticisms.

Why do you need a degree to be a personal trainer? Michelle, I never did understand where your head was.”

The general consensus around the Tate household had always been that Chelle was a bit of a screw-up, a fact that was amplified the closer she stood to the golden child, her older brother Daniel. So while being a library page wasn’t exactly Chelle’s dream job, she hoped that it was enough of a step in the right (responsible, adult, bill-paying) direction that her parents would acknowledge the effort and back off a little while so she could figure out her next move.

Perhaps it would be a literal one, to a place where people really did want to hire exercise science majors. That, of course, would take a bit of capital, and Chelle was hoping that this library job could help with that goal, too.

The reference librarian looked over at her again and narrowed his eyes – sizing her up, Chelle thought – so she straightened her blazer and ran a hand over her long red hair to tame any fly-aways that the summer heat might have caused on the drive over here. She was determined not to mess this up.

A door opened just behind the reference desk and Chelle straightened up.

“Michelle Tate?”

The girl who called her name was petite, dressed in a very conservative black pant suit and pointed heels with her chestnut hair done up in the stereotypical librarian bun, and the wispy strands of her bangs were the only thing about her appearance that didn’t scream ‘formal’. These were the first things Chelle noticed about her, but as soon as she stood up to greet her, she noticed what was actually the girl’s most prominent feature.

Her large eyes were a stunning, icy blue that drew Chelle into them and awoke something wanton in her core. She had to make a conscious effort not to bite her lip or turn on the charm like she most definitely would have done if she’d been doing almost anything except waiting on her job interview. The girl was gorgeous, and all the stuffy business-woman suits in the world couldn’t conceal the curve of her hips.

A bit of a rake at heart, Chelle tucked the thought into the back of her mind that perhaps this girl would still be around after her interview was over as she said, “I’m Michelle.”

She went across the small lobby, past the reference desk where the librarian still hadn’t found anything better to do than openly watch the exchange between them. Then the girl held out her hand and said,

“I’m Mira Lockhart. I’m the director.”

Chelle slid her hand into Mira’s waiting palm, trying to disguise her surprise at this announcement. Mira was so young, she’d been expecting her to be the director’s assistant. The handshake lasted only a couple of seconds – Mira’s palm was warm and soft and she gave Chelle’s hand a firm, almost aggressive shake – but it made Chelle’s heart rate jump a little.

She had a long history of reading into handshakes, smiles, and the language of the eyes, and however brief it had been, there was something flirtatious about the way Mira’s hand lingered in Chelle’s just an instant too long.

“We’ll go to my office for the interview,” Mira said, then turned to the reference librarian and asked,

“Holding down the fort okay, Jack?”

“Have been long before you got here, my dear,” he replied with a somewhat tense smile that did a

pretty half-hearted job of making his comment into a joke.

“And we’ve only had one trash can fire this week,” Mira shot back, completely unfazed by this apparent effort at insubordination. “Keep up the good work.”

Then she opened the door and gestured for Chelle to follow.

Once she was at Mira’s back, trailing her down a narrow hallway with office doors lining one side and a large, window-lined conference room on the other, Chelle felt free to smirk. She was liking Mira more and more with every passing minute, a woman who didn’t take shit and managed to look damn fine even in a shapeless pant suit.

Chelle let her eyes fall down from the tight bun of Mira’s, over her small frame, to her cinched little waist, and finally down her slender legs swimming in formless black fabric. She was just trying to keep herself from imagining Mira in a stereotypical librarian’s outfit – skin-tight pencil skirt that hugged every curve, blouse billowing open just beyond decency, horn-rimmed glasses, and a pair of sheer stockings with a seam running up the back of her legs and disappearing under her skirt – when Mira opened a door at the end of the hall.

“Home sweet home,” she said, stepping aside to let Chelle enter.

The office was on the smaller side, not cramped exactly but not what one would expect for the director of an organization – then again, Westbrook was not the most metropolitan of towns. The room was cozily decorated and it was obvious that Mira spent a lot of time here – from the extra blazer hanging on the back of her door, to the mini fridge along one wall, to the small pile of well-worn books on the arm of a comfy-looking plush chair by the window.

Chelle went to one of the less inviting straight-backed chairs in front of a large oak desk while Mira closed the door and walked behind the desk.

“So,” Mira said, settling into her chair. “Tell me about yourself, Michelle.”

“Chelle,” she corrected automatically, having adamantly resisted her full name for her entire life. Then she bit her lip, wondering if it was appropriate to ask this steely-eyed goddess to call her by her nickname. “Sorry. I just always thought Michelle sounded… uptight.”

The space between her words and Mira’s response seemed to stretch out for a beat too long, during which Chelle wondered how bad a breach of interview etiquette she’d just made, but then Mira smiled. It lit her whole face up, erasing any lingering formality she’d worn in the lobby. Chelle hadn’t thought it was possible for her to be any more breathtaking, but clearly she’d been wrong.

“My name is Miranda, so trust me, Chelle, I understand,” she said with a slightly self-conscious laugh, and the craving stirring in Chelle’s core made itself known again as her name passed over Mira’s delicate lips.

“Oof,” Chelle answered with a playful wince. Even as the logical part of her mind was screaming at her to take this interview seriously, the more primal parts of her couldn’t help turning on the charm. “You’re right. Mira suits you much better – it’s soft and beautiful, like you.”

“Umm,” Mira paused, looking away as a faint blush formed on her porcelain cheeks.

Chelle was thoroughly enjoying her front row seat to watch Mira’s reactions. It was pretty obvious that she wore her heart on her sleeve and by the flush of her cheeks she probably wasn’t much good at poker. Chelle could see the effect she was having from halfway across the room, and she wondered how much closer Mira would allow her to get.

But Mira cleared her throat and composed herself, sitting a little straighter in her chair and looking Chelle sternly in the eyes as she said, “You never answered my question.”

“You’re right,” Chelle said, smiling back at her. “I’m a new graduate. I majored in exercise science, which my parents thought was a dumb idea and which I’m starting to agree with them on since no one in Westbrook except my exercise science professors has ever heard of that term. I spent the last four years in the circulation department of the university library as a work study student. I’m a runner, I like long walks on the beach, and I forgot to give you my resume when we sat down.”

As a job interview, this was one of the worst ones Chelle had ever been on. There was something about Mira that just made her want to sweep everything off the desk between them and lay her down on it, regardless of what it meant for her bank account, her parents’ support, or even her reputation in their small community as an unprofessional person who doesn’t know how to act in an interview.

As a study in flirtation, though, it was a master class.

She’d only been in Mira’s presence for around ten minutes, but she couldn’t imagine making it through the rest of the hour giving straight answers and ignoring the heat building between them. Chelle looked down at the neatly printed resume that she’d all but forgotten was in her hands, and she decided to go for broke.

***

Mira Lockhart reached across her desk to take the resume that Chelle had offered. It would be a welcome distraction from her plump, cherry-stained lips to look down at a piece of paper while they talked, but Chelle didn’t actually give her the resume that she held in her hand.

Instead, she fixed Mira with the same sultry stare that she’d been wearing since they sat down, a somewhat cocky expression that seemed to say I know exactly what you’re thinking. It was more than a little unsettling to be so emotionally undressed in the middle of a job interview that Mira was, quite frankly, failing to conduct in a professional manner.

Chelle was at least ten years younger than her, and filled with the youthful abandon to prove it. Her fiery red hair fell to her shoulders in a way that was just this side of messy thanks to the August heat, and her cheeks were rosy and slightly dewy. All of it together gave her the look of a woman who’s just been fucked, and it woke something in Mira that she had spent years ignoring.

Maybe that’s why it was so hard to stop playing into Chelle’s seductive looks. Or maybe it was how confident and brazen she was, two words that had never defined Mira’s personal style of flirtation. Her comments were patently inappropriate for a job interview, but every time Chelle smiled at her, Mira forgot she was even conducting one.

And now…

Rather than reaching across the desk to place her resume in Mira’s outstretched hand, Chelle stood up and walked slowly around it. Mira opened her mouth to object, to take control of the situation and tell her to sit down and tell her why she wanted to work at Westbrook Public Library. But the words caught in her throat as her eyes locked on Chelle’s, and she watched her sway her hips seductively back and forth with every step. She had a slightly plump figure and Mira could see the curve of her breasts and the dip of her waist through the tight blazer she wore.

As Chelle rounded the corner of Mira’s desk, stepping into the narrow space between the desk and the window behind it, Mira stood. They were nearly eye to eye, Chelle a few inches taller than Mira, and the space between them was rapidly closing. Mira felt her heart beginning to thump against her chest, and some small part of her brain that was still functioning in a work capacity was demanding that she take the resume and send Chelle back to her seat.

So she reached for the document again, but Chelle didn’t let it go. She was looking at Mira with stunning turquoise eyes that sparkled in the sunlight and invited her to get lost in them. Chelle tugged the resume, bringing Mira’s arm closer to her body, and the next thing she knew, Chelle’s arm was around her waist and she was pulling Mira into her.

She closed her eyes and felt Chelle’s body against hers, soft and supple, their hips connecting as Chelle held her close. Then Mira felt her lips, big and plump and tasting ever so faintly like cherries as they closed over hers. Mira gave in to the kiss, melting into Chelle as her tongue glided over Mira’s lips and her arms wrapped around her waist.

Everything about the moment felt right… until Mira’s brain caught up to her, screaming, What are you doing? You’re the library director for crying out loud!

“No,” she murmured, breaking away from Chelle. “I can’t.”

“I’m sorry,” Chelle said, taking a step back. By the way she was looking at Mira, though, with that same sultry stare, it didn’t seem like she was sorry about any of it.

“I think you should go,” Mira said, squeezing past Chelle and going to the door. She couldn’t be alone with her any longer or she might do something truly regrettable.

“Wait,” Chelle said, a hint of pleading coming into her voice. “Please don’t end the interview.”

“I don’t know if I would call it that,” Mira said, opening the door and turning on her professional demeanor once again as she stepped aside for Chelle to leave. Chelle opened her mouth to voice an objection, but Mira cut her off. “Thank you for coming in, Ms. Tate.”

This curt dismissal, delivered in the most managerial and disparaging tone she could muster, was enough to make Chelle realize that she would not budge and the interview was over. Chelle picked up her resume from where it had fallen to the floor when she grabbed Mira, then kept her eyes down as she walked through the door.

“Do you remember your way out?” Mira asked, pointing down the hall. Chelle nodded, and before she had the chance to offer any final words that might lure Mira back into a dangerous situation, Mira closed the door behind her.

Alone in her office, she sighed and leaned against the door. Never in her entire career had she conducted such an unprofessional interview, and she was just as shocked at her own complicity in that kiss as she had been at Chelle’s brazen behavior.

She found that she was a bit irritated by it, if she was being honest. What about her made Chelle think that she could interrupt a job interview to kiss her?

Mira straightened her jacket and brushed a few wrinkles out of her pants, then went back around her desk to sit down. There was a copy of Chelle’s job application sitting there, which she’d printed to refer to during the interview, and now she swept it into the trash.

With the taste of Chelle still on her lips, no closer to filling the library page position, Mira was feeling rather impotent as a library director. It was very close to the feeling she got every time something disastrous happened in the library and Jack was never far away, eager to point out how he would have handled the situation if he’d been chosen as the library director.

Mira had only been in the position for six months, and in that time it seemed like the library had more catastrophes than books – today’s adventure adding to her never-ending list of problems.

She grimaced at the mere thought of Jack getting wind of her unorthodox interview. He was always looking for ways to undermine her authority or bring evidence that she was unfit for her position to the library’s Board of Trustees. Kissing the candidate during a job interview – particularly when said candidate was a woman – would be a scandal big enough to rock the conservative old men of the Board to their core.

How could she let the interview stray so far off course?

She should have shut down Chelle’s flirtations the moment she called her beautiful. But the truth was, Mira was lonely. She enjoyed Chelle’s silver tongue and she allowed herself to get carried away with the feeling of being seduced.

It was something she hadn’t had time for in a long while. Even before she’d taken the job at Westbrook, Mira had been steadily and determinedly working her way up the ranks in the library world, and she allowed herself to become entirely immersed in her work. It was so hard to climb the management ladder, especially as a woman, that Mira decided she would do whatever it took to land her dream job as a director. When the Westbrook position opened up, she moved across the state to take it.

She hadn’t even noticed that she’d sacrificed her social life – and any romantic interests along with it – until one day she woke up to an empty bed in a nearly unfurnished apartment, living out of the boxes she hadn’t had the time or the energy to unpack. That’s when she realized how solitary her life had become. She started spending as little time as possible in the sad, sparsely furnished apartment, and because she was finally getting what she wanted professionally, she focused on pouring her heart and soul into the library and pushing away any errant desires for companionship.

Mira had come this far, and she couldn’t possibly jeopardize all of that progress by getting mixed up in Chelle’s whirlwind of smoldering looks and passionate kisses. Besides, Mira thought as she shoved her job application further into the trash and covered it with a few scraps of paper, the girl was overqualified for a page position anyway.

Bonus Scenes: Awakened

My first novel, AWAKENED, is available now on Amazon. In the sequel to Sleepwalking, Leah McAllister is starting a new job in a bland maze of tan cubicles where she hopes to blend in with her surroundings – she’s had enough attention for one lifetime. What she never expects is to find herself working under Morgan, a mesmerizing woman who turned her world upside down when they met one year before.

Read a bonus scene below.

LEAH TALKS ABOUT HER TRAUMATIC PAST

“Oh! Did I just hear you say it? You like girls?” Chelle teased, grabbing onto Leah’s arm and taking an excited little skip down the sidewalk. “I wish I’d recorded it.”

“Shut up,” Leah said, giving her a snarky little smile.

“Seriously, though? Love is fucking hard no matter who you’re with.”

“I know,” Leah said. “I just think it would be better if I didn’t make things even harder on myself.”

“You don’t get to choose who you love – man or woman,” Chelle said.

“That’s the truth, or else my mom wouldn’t have stayed with my dad for so long,” Leah said with another long sigh. She’d had just enough alcohol to make her pensive, and now that the adrenaline rush of being with Christy was wearing off, all she had left of the beer in her system was a propensity to run at the mouth.

“He was an alcoholic, right?” Chelle asked delicately.

Leah almost never talked about her father, and in the three years she’d known Chelle, he’d come up in conversation only a handful of times – one of which was during the week when she had to miss all her classes to help her mother make funeral arrangements.

She hadn’t found the news of her father’s death surprising, or even particularly emotional. When you spend your childhood turning in your dad’s empty Budweiser cans for the meager change the recycling center offered – which was the only way Leah ever got luxuries like chocolate milk or an extra cookie with her state-sponsored school lunch – you learned to temper your expectations. Leah had been waiting years for her father’s addiction to kill him, when the news came she accepted it with stoicism.

“Yeah,” Leah said to Chelle, “and a mean drunk, just like the stereotype.”

Leah remembered many weekends spent at the neighborhood branch of the library, or the dollar movie theater – anywhere that wasn’t home. When she could get away, she did, and when it wasn’t possible, she retreated to her room and clicked the flimsy lock on the hollow door that would prove no challenge at all if her father got it in his head to beat down the door.

Most of the time, though, the illusion of privacy was enough, and Leah felt safe in her room. She’d lay on her bed and stare at the plastic, glow-in-the-dark stars taped to the ceiling while music from her Walkman streamed through a pair of chunky, noise-cancelling headphones. Or else she’d curl up in the ratty old wingback chair that just barely fit under the window, reading whole novels in a single sitting, her physical reality fading away until she disappeared into better worlds.

Disappearing became an important skill. The more Leah could fade away at home, the less her father’s drunken tirades were aimed at her. The more she could disappear inside her books, the less she needed to acknowledge the world around her – the deteriorating condition of the house, the slurring, staggering way her father moved around it, and the purplish-yellow bruises that her mother was always trying to conceal with a thick layer of foundation, but which always peeked through her fair skin.

When they lost the house, Leah started disappearing at school, too.

Her mother worked long hours but without her father’s income, it wasn’t enough. They downgraded from a ranch house in the suburbs to a trailer in the worst part of town, and overnight Leah became untouchable at school.

It was surreal, that first day after the move. It felt like walking around with a giant sandwich board over her chest, screaming in red, angry letters, OUTCAST! POOR! DRUNK DAD! Leah never did find out how the whole school managed to come to a unanimous decision about her overnight, but somehow they all seemed to know exactly how her status changed, and they didn’t want anything to do with it, like the breakdown of the family unit was contagious.

One by one, all her friends distanced themselves from her. They made new friends, had parties she wasn’t invited to, stopped having her over for dinner, and slowly slipped away. No matter what she did to try and shed the screaming label on her chest, it was indelible. So she became invisible, relying on those old tricks to fade into the background, unremarkable and unnoticed, in order to survive the rest of high school.

It wasn’t until college that Leah finally saw a fresh start waiting for her.

She jumped at the chance to live on campus, out of the cramped trailer and away from the stench of poverty and undesirability that seemed to linger on her. And as long as she kept working hard to conceal the real Leah McAllister – the one who lived in a grimy trailer and had no friends and an alcoholic father – people seemed to buy it when she made a new sandwich board that read NORMAL.

That was why she couldn’t risk taking on any other adjectives that would make her stand out from the crowd. Any crack in the mortar might make people look deeper, and then they would start to see those real descriptors that she tried so hard to conceal.

Leah had tears forming in her eyes by the time she explained all of this to Chelle, and she scooped Leah up in a bear hug as soon as she finished. “You’re not an outcast. Your shitty childhood doesn’t define you.”

Leah opened her mouth to object, but Chelle took her head in her hands and looked sternly into her eyes.

“Listen to me,” she insisted. “No one worth knowing is going to judge you for being yourself. No matter who that is.”

Did you enjoy this book? Please take a moment to leave a review – they mean a lot to me and to fellow lesfic readers who are looking for their next read.

Sneak Peek: Awakened

My first novel, AWAKENED, is available now on Amazon. In the sequel to Sleepwalking, Leah McAllister is starting a new job in a bland maze of tan cubicles where she hopes to blend in with her surroundings – she’s had enough attention for one lifetime. What she never expects is to find herself working under Morgan, a mesmerizing woman who turned her world upside down when they met one year before.

Read the first chapter below.

The uninspiring, tan-walled offices of Harper Billings were the absolute last place that Leah McAllister expected to find romance.

It was a hot, late-summer morning and the pencil skirt she’d purchased specially for her first day at her new job was already clinging to her thighs by the time she arrived at the office. She tucked a few loose tendrils of her honey-brown hair behind her ear, then with a deep breath, she went inside.

Leah graduated from Westbrook University just two months earlier, and she’d spent most of the summer learning just how creative one must be in order to find a good job with nothing but a bachelor’s degree in English to qualify her. This was especially true now that everyone in journalism had come to terms with the fact that ‘print is dead,’ as they say. It was only after four years of working on her college newspaper that Leah realized everyone who worked for a real newspaper subscribed to the ‘you can pry this job from my cold, dead hands’ philosophy, and no reporting jobs were likely to open up any time soon.

So after a protracted search for a runner-up dream job, she’d landed on technical writing. It was something she discovered after interviewing a technical writer last year – one of the strangest interviews she’d ever done – for a series in The Western Review about career opportunities for English majors.

While the most ringing endorsement the woman could give her was, “As careers go, you could do a lot worse,” she had been right about two things – technical writing jobs were plentiful, and they paid better than almost everything else Leah could find.

So she applied at Harper Billings, one of a few companies in town that employed technical writers, and she got a job documenting the company’s medical billing software. Leah had to temper her disappointment that a journalism job was out of her reach, at least for now, and in the meantime, Harper Billings seemed like a good place to get lost in the crowd. The hiring manager – a stern-looking woman named Pam with streaks of silver in her dark brown hair – was currently showing Leah around the office.

It was just one big room with tan cubicles throughout, and despite the large space it was quiet except for the occasional ringing phone and low, business-oriented conversation. Pam walked her through the maze of cubes, and Leah had never before imagined that the term ‘cubicle farm’ could be so literal. But every department in the office was nothing more than a cluster of cubes – quality control, software development, technical support, and so on – and Leah glanced into each of them as she walked by.

Every cubicle was composed of three low walls that came up to Leah’s chest, and she was struck by how they were all devoid of personal effects.

“Doesn’t anyone bring in pictures of their families, or decorations?” Leah asked.

“We don’t permit push-pins to be used on the cubicle walls,” Pam said, as if this was a sufficient explanation for the starkness of the office.

As far as Leah could tell, her new coworkers matched their surroundings perfectly. She wondered if they conformed to fit their surroundings, or if this work environment reflected their own demure natures.

Each cubicle Leah peeked into contained another blank-faced worker, their eyes darting up to look at the intruder and then immediately back to their computer screens. Even their clothes seemed to follow some sort of unspoken dress code, muted and plain.

She supposed it could have been terrifying, looking at all those lifeless cubicles spread out across the large office, but instead Leah found it oddly comforting. It was pretty obvious that no one here was working at their dream job. They were just punching their time cards, doing their work, and blending in – this just so happened to be exactly what Leah wanted out of her first office job.

Pam led Leah to the other end of the building, past a long row of conference rooms along the wall and down a short hall to a large lunch room that Leah could see was filled with big, round tables.

“If you brought a lunch, you can put it in the refrigerator there,” Pam said, going into the lunch room and pointing to an industrial-sized fridge on one wall next to a bank of microwaves.

Leah was trailing a few feet behind her, about to say she’d only brought a peanut butter and banana sandwich, when her attention was diverted to a man and woman ducking out of a conference room at the end of the row.

They were flushed and smiling, and it was obvious that they didn’t know they had an audience. He was tall, with ebony skin and a commanding presence even from a distance, and his emerald green tie seemed to clash with their surroundings. The girl looked younger than Leah, a little nervous and eager to walk away as she self-consciously brushed the wrinkles from her flowing floral skirt. Leah knew she shouldn’t be watching this intimate moment – he caught the girl’s hand and pulled her in for a brief but passionate kiss, then let her go – but they were so different from all the other slack-jawed workers Leah had encountered that she couldn’t look away.

It only lasted a moment, then they were gone – filtering through the cubicle maze in different directions – and Pam was back at the mouth of the lunch room, looking a little irritated that Leah hadn’t kept up.

“Are you ready to meet your trainer?” She asked, a slight annoyance edging into her voice.

“Sure,” Leah said, then when this casual response didn’t do much to wipe the irritation from Pam’s face, she amended, “I mean yes, thanks.”

They weaved back into the cubicle maze in the same direction that the man had gone, and Pam brought Leah to the middle cubicle in a cluster of three. Pam knocked on the top of the cubicle wall and said,

“Morgan, your trainee is here.”

“Okay,” a voice called from within the cube, and Leah thought it sounded vaguely familiar. She hung back a little bit, listening to her trainer tapping out a few last words on her keyboard before stepping out of the cubicle.

“Oh-” Leah said as soon as she saw the owner of that familiar voice. Her mouth gaped slightly open and her pulse quickened.

“This is Leah McAllister,” Pam said, stepping aside to make the introductions. She seemed oblivious to the sudden charge in the atmosphere, or maybe it was just Leah who was feeling it so acutely. “Leah, this is Morgan Park. She’s going to show you the ropes this week, and then next week you’ll start working on your own.”

Morgan Park needed no introduction. Standing in front of Leah was the woman from her most memorable Western Review interview, someone Leah had hoped fervently that she’d never run into again.

Her heart skipped a beat as Morgan came face to face with her. She was dressed in a pair of khakis with a white button-down shirt, and Leah had to force her eyes up to keep from lingering on the buttons that gaped around her breasts. Morgan wore her thick hair in the same undercut that Leah remembered from the coffee shop, only this time it was neatly combed back rather than hanging messy and tousled around her face. Her icy blue eyes weren’t as tired as they’d been that day, either – Morgan looked even better than Leah remembered her.

Leah tucked the loose strands of her hair behind her ear again, subconsciously reaching down to tug her skirt away from her sweat-drenched thighs. The air conditioning pumped strongly through the building, but her roommate was right – even though her apartment was just a few blocks away, she never should have walked to work on her very first day.

Leah felt self-conscious – she must look a mess – but she couldn’t tell from Morgan’s expression whether she recognized Leah. She felt her cheeks getting hot and knew that her freckles must be horribly visible against her fair skin, doing nothing for her appearance. What was worse than finding out that Morgan was her new trainer was the possibility that she didn’t remember Leah, because their interview had made a lasting impression on at least one of them.

Sneak Peek: Sleepwalking

My first novella, SLEEPWALKING, is available now on Amazon. It’s a prequel to my first novel, Awakened, that asks the question, how many times have you walked past your soul mate before you noticed her?

Read the first chapter below.

Leah McAllister had never felt quite so acutely uncomfortable as she did walking into Westbrook University’s LGBT student organization with her best friend, Michelle. It was past seven and they were running late thanks to Leah’s stalling tactics, and when they opened the door to the library conference room, a half dozen heads all turned in unison to watch them enter. Leah felt nervous butterflies filling her stomach and she fought the urge to clutch the steno pad in her hand defensively in front of her chest.

She hated to be the center of attention like this, and she’d rather melt into the floor–or better yet, scurry back to her dorm room where Netflix and a package of Oreos waited for her–than come to this meeting.

But Chelle insisted, saying it would make for a good article in the student newspaper if nothing else. Leah felt her hand gently on the small of her back, pushing her further into the room. There was a red-headed guy sitting at the head of the table and as Leah took a few tentative steps into the room, his hand shot up in the air and he waved the girls in.

“Welcome to Open Doors,” he said with a large, friendly smile.

“Hey, would you shut that door behind you?”

“Huh?” Leah asked, as a few people around the table laughed and there was more than one groan. One of them came from Chelle.

“Alex, if you don’t stop making that joke we’re going to vote you off the island,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Leah, that’s Alex. He’s the Open Doors president, and he’s not as funny as he thinks he is.”

“Hey,” Leah said, returning his wave.

Chelle made introductions all the way around the table–there was Donovan, linking his arm in Alex’s as he nodded at Leah, and then Christy, who looked familiar but Leah couldn’t place her yet. Chelle gave Leah the names of the other girls and guys sitting around the table, too, but she was starting to feel a little bit anxious again and they didn’t stick in her mind. She was wondering what would happen when they got back around to her.

Leah glanced around the room–it was pretty sparsely furnished, and aside from the conference table in the center of the room, the only other piece of furniture was a long rectangular table pressed up against the wall by the door. There were an assortment of chips and dips and cookies and a veggie tray spread out on it, as well as a couple two-liter bottles of soda and a stack of red solo cups.

Replace the soft drinks with coffee slowly cooling in a grimy carafe, and replace the conference table with a circle of folding chairs, and this would be an Al-Anon meeting. She didn’t know how to introduce herself to an LGBT student group, but she did know what to say at one of those meetings.
She tried the words out in her head. My name is Leah and I’m a lesbian. She’d say them out loud to a round of polite clapping from the other group members.

The idea made her pulse quicken. No, after three years of pestering on Chelle’s part, Leah had finally agreed to come to an Open Doors meeting, but she’d made it very clear that she was here in a journalistic capacity, to cover whatever event the group was planning for LGBT History Month in October. Leah thought that it had been a fine compromise, and she hoped that it would get Chelle off her back for at least a little while.

“And this is my roommate, Leah,” she was saying, and Leah could just tell by the sideways grin she was giving her that this was not the first time the group was hearing her name. Chelle always did have trouble minding her own business. She prodded Leah lightly in the ribs and said, “Introduce yourself.”

“Umm,” Leah said, looking around the table. The girl with the familiar face–Christy–was studying Leah with an intensity in her eyes, and it made her feel flushed. “Well, I’m just here because I got kicked out of Westbrook’s fight club. They really take that no talking rule seriously, and I figured I’d come check you guys out while I’m waiting to hear back from the intestinal parasites support group I applied to join.”

She got a much heartier round of laughter than Alex’s overused one-liner, and Chelle pulled her over to a pair of empty chairs to sit down before she had the chance to second-guess her presence here.

“Leah writes for the school paper,” Chelle said as the laughter died down. “She’s going to write an article about our LGBT History Month events.”

“Well then I guess that means we better come up with some ideas,” Alex said, calling the meeting back to order. “What do you guys have for me?”

People started throwing out ideas–movie screenings and panel discussions and poster campaigns–and Leah flipped to a new page in her notebook to jot down notes as ideas flew around the table.

Once when she glanced up, she caught the stare of Christy sitting directly across from her. She looked tall even in her chair, with impeccable posture and an athletic build. Leah was almost sure that she’d noticed her last spring when she’d gone to the university’s pool to interview the coach of the swim team after they won Divisionals. Christy was very pretty, with long, sandy blonde hair and eyes that had just a hint of emerald in them. The way she was looking at her made Leah feel anxious, and she fixed her eyes down on her notepad for the duration of the meeting.



After the flurry of ideas for LGBT History Month died down, Alex called a snack break and everyone started to push away from the table and move toward the refreshment table. Leah felt the anxiety beginning to well up inside her again, but thankfully Chelle saw the way she was gripping her notepad like it was a lifeline and stuck beside her.

Chelle had always been the more social one between them, Leah preferring to fade into the background in social situations and become more of a wallflower, and as the meeting became more casual she wasn’t sure that her journalistic façade was going to carry her much farther. Chelle took Leah by the elbow and pulled her out of her chair, then they headed over to the snack table where everyone was piling cookies and chips onto little paper plates and chatting with each other.

“Let’s go say hi to Alex,” Chelle said. “He’s been the Open Doors president for two years now, and he’s the reason we’re as functional as we are. If it wasn’t for him, our meetings would probably devolve into sitting around someone’s dorm room eating cookie dough and watching Orange is the New Black.”

“And that would be a tragedy,” Alex said, his voice dripping with hyperbole at Chelle’s prediction. Then he smiled and held out his hand to Leah. “Nice to meet you, Leah. Glad you could finally squeeze us into your schedule.”
Leah blushed, then shot a look at Chelle.

“I may or may not have mentioned you a time or two,” Chelle said.

“Well, thanks for having me,” Leah said. “And I’ll be happy to do a follow-up article when you get the details of the panel discussion worked out.”

Alex arched one eyebrow at her, and she was worried that she’d said something wrong. Then he cocked his head to the side and asked, “Are you sure you’re only here in your capacity as a reporter?”

Leah felt a lump forming in her throat and she swallowed it down hard, glancing over to Chelle for backup, but she was very unhelpfully wandering away to talk to a pretty girl with beachy brunette waves in her hair who was standing near the drinks. Leah rolled her eyes and then turned back to Alex, ready to defend her motivations, but thankfully the boy Chelle had introduced as Donovan came over and threw his arm around Alex’s shoulder, distracting him.

“Baby, we’re out of regular Coke,” he said, resting his head against Alex’s. “Do you have any more in your car?”

“I suppose you couldn’t possibly drink a diet soda instead,” Alex said, playfully poking Donovan in his somewhat pudgy stomach and eliciting a scowl from him. After a moment, he relented. “Oh, fine. I think there’s another bottle in the trunk. I’ll go get it because I wouldn’t want you to die of aspartame ingestion.”

“Thank you,” Donovan said sweetly, planting a kiss on Alex’s temple.

“Excuse me, snack emergency,” Alex said to Leah as he dug a keychain out of his pocket. “It was nice to meet you, Leah. I hope you’ll come back to Open Doors sometime. Oh, and help yourself to some food.”

“Thanks,” Leah said. She looked around for Chelle and found her sitting at the conference table, eating chips off the brunette’s plate while they talked and smiled at each other. Then she looked at the snack table. It was clearing out now as people took plates back to their seats, so Leah wandered over.

She was pouring herself a cup of diet soda when she sensed someone approaching behind her. She turned just as Christy grabbed a plate and gave Leah a flirtatious little grin that made the butterflies in her stomach burst into flight once again. She was even taller standing beside Leah, lean and muscular through her bare arms, and she thought that she caught a slight smell of chlorine in her thick blonde hair.

“Umm, you’re Christy Jameson, right? You broke the school’s hundred-meter freestyle record last year,” Leah said, then went back to busying herself with the snack table so she wouldn’t have to look into those smoldering eyes. It was obvious from across the conference table that Christy was flirting with her, and it made her heart race.

“Yeah,” she said, a broad smile breaking across her face as she set down her plate and turned to face Leah. “How did you know?”

“I write for The Western Review,” Leah said. “I didn’t cover that particular story, but I remembered your name because I did do the article on the team’s Divisionals win last spring.”

“Very cool,” Christy said, leaning against the end of the snack table and sliding a few inches closer to Leah. She looked around at Chelle, wondering if she could use her as a feasible excuse to run away, but Chelle was watching the two of them and shot Leah a devious look.

She thought she knew everything about Leah, from the first moment when they’d been assigned to be roommates freshman year. It took Chelle exactly ten seconds to look her up and down and decide exactly who Leah was, even if three years later Leah still hadn’t quite figured it out for herself. She knew that Chelle would be of no use in this particular situation because she would fail to see the problem.

“So this is your first Open Doors meeting,” Christy observed, and Leah felt another flush rising into her cheeks as she felt Christy’s eyes on her. “You’re not a freshman, though?”

“No,” Leah said, grabbing a plate and piling it with chips and cookies for lack of something better to do. She wasn’t even particularly hungry, but she didn’t like the way her insides went fuzzy and fluttery when she made too much eye contact with Christy. “I’m actually a senior.”

“Me too,” Christy said. “What are you studying?”

“Journalism,” she said, her voice cracking just slightly as she spoke.

“Oh, duh,” Christy said with a laugh. Then she took a step closer and Leah could feel her body heat. It was making her pulse throb in her ears and an uncomfortably strong, thrumming warmth build somewhere deep in her core.

“It just seemed logical,” Leah replied with a nervous laugh. Finally, her plate was full of food she didn’t really want and she had nothing left to do but turn and look Christy in the eyes.

She was at least a full head taller than Leah, with long, straight hair the color of the wheat fields that surrounded the campus. Her lips were full and pink, and her eyes sparked with something wild while she studied Leah’s expression. It felt almost obscene to be looked into like that in front of so many strangers. Leah’s eyes darted around the room, expecting to see an audience hanging on the tension growing between them, but instead, everyone was wrapped up in their own conversations.

“Do you want to come to Tink’s with me after this?” Christy asked, and her voice was practically a whisper. Leah bit her lip. Tink’s was another place that Chelle had spent three years trying to drag Leah to. Christy saw the hesitation in Leah’s face and added, “Hey, how can you write about the Westbrook LGBT community and not mention Tink’s? Bring Chelle, of course.”

“The thing is…” Leah said, then paused. Her heart was racing all the more as she said, “I’m not gay.”

Christy’s brow knit together, and while it wasn’t quite the skeptical eyebrow arch that Alex had given her, it didn’t look as if she was fully picking up what Leah was putting down. She was just about to thank Christy for the offer and say that she had an early morning tomorrow–it was true, after all–when Christy said, “Doesn’t matter to me. So are you in?”

“In for what?” Chelle asked, finally choosing to come over and rescue Leah at the exact wrong moment. Of course she was going to want to go to Tink’s–it was her favorite place in Westbrook. Leah knew there was no way she was getting out of it now.

“Tink’s,” Christy said.

“Hell yeah, we’re in,” Chelle replied, shooting a shocked glance over at Leah, who returned it with a somewhat helpless shrug.

“Why not?” She said.