Happy release day to me! The Dreams & Desires Vol. 3 anthology comes out today! Dreams & Desires is a collection of dozens of short romance stories by a fantastic group of authors put out yearly by Freya’s Bower. It’s unique, and a project I’m always proud to be a part of, because 100% of the proceeds from this book are donated to help victims of domestic violence. All the editing, stories, cover work – everything! – associated with the book have been donated, so it’s an incredibly great collection for an incredibly great cause.
My contribution this year is a short story called “Watching You”. Here’s a short excerpt…
9:07pm. She walked in her front door. Dropped her briefcase on the floor, kicked off her shoes. Heels. Always heels, this one. Dale wondered if maybe she had a height complex. From a distance, he judged her to be petite, no more than 5’3”. She was slim and compact, not a surprise considering how many hours he’d watched her put in at the gym. Ten in the last week. Even he had to be impressed by that.
She pushed a button on her answering machine and a mechanical voice told her she had no messages. Not, of course, that Dale could hear it from his car across the street. But he knew there were never any messages by her body language, the way she quickly turned away from the machine, the way her shoulders slumped ever so slightly forward. The way she never called anyone back. He wondered why she kept checking day after day.
She crossed into the kitchen, obscuring Dale’s view for a moment. He took the opportunity to readjust his binoculars, wiping a single bead of sweat from his forehead. It was easily ninety, even with the sun setting behind him into the San Francisco Bay. He would have killed to flip on the AC but was afraid the engine running might attract attention. No, better to suffer the heat. The last thing he needed was some yahoo calling the SFPD on a peeping Tom.
She emerged from the kitchen, crossing in front of the windows again, a glass of wine in hand. Something white and dry. He knew she didn’t go for that fruity shit. He’d been a step behind her at the supermarket yesterday when she’d purchased the bottle.
He shrugged his tight shoulders, sweat dampening the back of his t-shirt as he watched her flip on her stereo. Her head rolled back, her eyes closing, her body instantly swaying ever so slightly to the rhythm. He wished he knew what she was listening to. Jazz? Beethoven? Some pop singer? He had no idea. But in his mind, he liked to pretend it was a smooth Sinatra standard. Light, clean, classic. It fit her.
She carried her glass of wine into the bedroom, her movements fluid as the music made her tense shoulders loosen. She worked too hard. Most lawyers did, but he could tell she was driven in a way that just making associate at age twenty-five, or partner by thirty wouldn’t ever be enough for her. Something inside drove her. She was single minded, relentless. She would never quit, never stop, never be satisfied with less than everything. He admired it. And yet, at the same time it was exactly what made him know he needed to be here. That as much as he knew it was wrong to follow her, to track her every movement like some sort hunter with his unsuspecting prey, he had to do this. Had to watch her. Had to follow her. Had to be that shadow, just waiting for the right moment.
Still swaying to the music, she slowly pulled her blouse over her head, exposing a lacy, pink bra that made Dale shift in his seat. This was his favorite part of the night. When it was just the two of them, alone. When she was relaxed and uninhibited. He felt like he was seeing the real her, the real Isabella. Not the tough defense council, not the stylish urbanite, and not the dutiful daughter. Just her. Bella.
She reached down and unzipped her skirt, letting it fall to the ground in a pile.
“Wash day, honey?” he whispered to himself, noting the plain, white cotton panties she wore beneath. Not that he minded. He shifted in his seat again. She had the kind of body that didn’t need lace to dress it up. She could have been in polka dots and still made him swell against his zipper.
She turned, her back to the large, floor to ceiling windows that flanked the walls of her loft. Then undid the clasp on her bra, letting it fall away to reveal the smooth expanse of her bare back.
Dale held his breath. What he wouldn’t give to make her turn around right now.
Instead, she crossed the room, disappearing into the bathroom.
He let out a long breath through his nose as if to cleanse himself of her image. He knew she’d spend the next twenty minutes in there, bathing, then emerge wrapped in a towel, slide beneath her silk sheets, set her alarm, and fall asleep.
Dale set the binoculars down, wiping the back of his hand across his forehead. Jesus, it was hot. He pulled his little notebook from his pocket.
9:26pm. Bubble Bath.
He leaned back against the torn headrest, flipping on the radio, listening to the Giants game while he waited for her to finish her nightly ritual. When she was done, he’d drive back to the shitty little apartment he’d rented two blocks away and close his eyes for a couple hours before being back here at dawn again.
He’d close his eyes, but he was never sure if sleep would actually come. Lately, all he saw behind his eyelids were images of her.
He breathed in deeply and could swear he almost smelled the soft, floral scent of her bubble bath.
Soon. It would all be over soon.
The one thought that kept him sane. She’d become his whole world, his every thought. He didn’t know how much more of this he could take.
Interested in reading more? You can order a copy of Dream & Desires at amazon.com or directly from Freya’s Bower: www.freyasbower.com.
~Trigger Happy Halliday
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Posted by Gemma Halliday at 5:00 AM