Friday, February 10, 2012

Cupid's Choice Blog Hop

Welcome to the Cupid's Choice Blog Hop! Thanks for stopping by today. If you've just stumbled upon my blog, well, this weekend, I'm taking part in a multi-author blog hop, celebrating Valentine's Day. If you're interested in following the whole hop, just follow this link to take you back to the hop's central page. A lot of excellent authors are participating, and there are a ton of prizes up for grabs. Go ahead! It'll be fun!

Today, I decided to write a short story inspired by prompts I was given. I say inspired by, because they were really out there, lol. Trying to find a way to make a cohesive story out of all of them would have been crazy. But I like what I came up with, and hopefully, you will, too. :)

Time's Up

When the digital clock mounted on his dashboard changed to 12:01, Dan's heartrate doubled, and his hands tightened on the wheel. Valentine's Day. This was it. He had one more stop to make, then he could drive back to the station, drop off his bus, and spend the next twenty-four hours scouring the streets of New York City. All he had was one day left to find her. It had to be enough.

The empty street loomed in front of him. It had rained all day, melting away the rest of the snow, and the road was dark and shiny from the moisture it refused to give up. His last stop was always abandoned, but he had to make it anyway. They had trackers on the buses now to ensure the drivers didn't skip anything. It didn't matter that he had one of the least traveled routes in the city, or that in the year he'd had this job, he'd not once picked anyone up at the battered bench. A stop was a stop. He'd pull up, open his doors, close them, and be on his way.

His thoughts were elsewhere as he eased up to the curb, on a night not unlike this one, under a moon not unlike the full golden orb that hung high in the sky. He could feel the wind on his face, soft grass beneath his feet. Best of all, he could look to the side and see Eliza's sleek body racing next to him, the way her lithe muscles flexed beneath her silky pelt, the gleam in her eye when she'd glance over and find him watching her. It was his favorite fantasy, his best dream. The memory he clung to when he wondered if he'd ever see her again.

The door whispered open. He'd opened it automatically. Dan counted silently to ten, his obligatory wait for those who might be racing to catch him, and when nobody came panting up the stairs, reached for the button to close the door again.

A hand shot out and caught the metal frame before it could start to shut.

Dan's nerves leapt beneath his skin at the shock of getting a passenger, but he kept his features calm and even as he glanced down to greet his last fare. At least until he met the eyes of the last person on this earth he ever wanted to see again.

"No..." he said under his breath. His stomach rebelled, the coffee he'd been downing all night to stay awake threatening to come back up. Every hope he'd been clutching disintegrated into dust, his body locked as Warden Hart took the first step.

"H'lo, Dan."

In the year he'd been away from the reserve, nothing had changed about the man he feared encountering on a daily basis. Hart might not have run with his herd in decades, but his whipcord frame told any and all that he could still keep up if he ever had to take chase again. His head was bare, age spots mottling the smooth scalp, and the deep grooves etched around his mouth proved both his age and his normal good humor. Dan had always liked Hart. Everybody did. But all of that had changed when he'd been granted his reprieve and Hart assigned to his case.

"What're you doing here?" he blurted.

Hart looked pointedly at the clock Dan had been grateful for only moments before. "Time's up."

"No." This denial came out firmer than its predecessor. He'd found the strength to force the Elders into giving him the chance to go after Eliza. He sure as hell could stand up to one lousy Warden. "I have twenty-four hours yet."

Hart shook his head. "You know the deal."

"But I have one more day."

"No, you had until Valentine's Day. No specific time was ever set." He climbed another step. "And it's after midnight. Time's up."

Panic shot through him. The deadline had always been the big black cloud on the horizon, the marker by which he set his days. But being granted the reprieve had meant subjecting himself to the rules of the outside world. He'd been slipped into this life like it had always been his, Dan Anders, still single at thirty-two, a bus driver for most of his adult life. He had an apartment in Chinatown in a rent-controlled building, but he still had bills to pay, he still had to eat. That meant working forty-eight hour weeks and using his free time to search for Eliza in this city teeming with more humans than he'd ever seen before. His shifting abilities had been stripped from him, which meant he couldn't hunt her down the only way he knew how.

A year ago, he'd been confident he could find her anyway. They loved each other. She was his mate, even if the rest of the reserve refused to acknowledge it. That meant something.

Maybe it didn't mean enough. Because in three hundred and sixty five days, he hadn't been able to see her except in his dreams.

Warden Hart's presence took away his last real hope.

His shoulders slumped. "So what now? I have to go turn my bus in."

"Leave it."

"Here? They'll need it for tomorrow."

"That's not your problem anymore."

Of course not. The Elders could pull him out of the life they'd given him as easily as they'd put him in. Dan Anders would cease to exist, scrubbed from memories or maybe just killed off in some random act of violence like so many other faceless victims in the city.

When he glanced past Hart's shoulder, Hart shook his head. "I wouldn't try it. You know I'll catch you."

"You couldn't just go away for another few hours? Give me a chance here, Hart."

"You run, and the Elders will punish you when we get back to the reserve."

"I won't have Eliza. That's punishment enough."

The look in his eye was pure pity. "They don't have to hurt you to do it."

His meaning sank in, and Dan's nausea became its own entity. Eliza had been permanently banished from the reserve for seeing him behind her pack's back, but just because she no longer knew who or what she was didn't mean she was free of the Elders' power. "All right." Turning off the engine, he pocketed the keys. Hart cocked a brow at him, but Dan shook his head. "Nobody's stealing my bus."

Hart let it go, hopping back down to the curb to wait for Dan to join him. Every step Dan took was leaden, as heavy as his heart. He'd blown it. Eliza would never be his now.

The air was chilly, the wind brisk, cutting through his thin jacket and drawing goosebumps and shivers even after he pulled his coat tighter and buried his chin in the collar. "If you tell me we have to walk back to the reserve, you might as well kill me now," he bit out.

Hart headed up the street, long strides forcing Dan to quicken his pace to keep up. "We have to get out of the city for the Elders to find us."

"Did you not hear the part about me not walking? It's freezing out here."

"Which is why we'll find a taxi."

Dan ground to a halt. "Are you nuts? No taxi is going to be in this neighborhood at this time of night."

Hart didn't speak. He just smiled and looked up the road.

Following his gaze was natural. Dan didn't know why he was surprised when the twin headlights approached their spot on the corner. The cab slowed, then stopped right in front of them.

Dan sighed. "You just have everything figured out, don't you?"

As the passenger window rolled down, Hart took a step back. "Something like that."

"Did one of you call for a ride?"

The husky alto erased the cold and the night and all the aches that had taken over in the time he'd stuck to his duty and pulled over for an empty stop. Slowly, Dan bent down and met the warm brown eyes he'd given up hope on ever seeing again. "That would be me," he said, hesitantly.

She looked past him at Hart, giving Dan the chance to sneak a peek at her ID on the dashboard. Eliza Jensen. Her golden-brown hair was pulled back into an unflattering ponytail, and she had shadows under her eyes like she never got quite enough sleep, but it was her, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

"You coming, too?" she asked of Hart.

"Not this time."

With a brisk nod, Eliza sat back in the driver's seat, the click of the back doors unlocking sharp against Dan's ears. He reached for the handle, but paused before opening it.

"What about...the reserve?"

Hart shrugged. "Looks to me like you did what you were tasked to do. I don't have the power to take you back now."

"I get to stay?"

"That's what it looks like."

He had the overwhelming urge to hug the crap out of Hart, but the cab was idling, and Eliza was too close to turn his back on now. He settled for a small wave and slid into the rear of the taxi.

"Your friend's going to freeze his ass off out there," Eliza commented once he was inside. "He sure he doesn't need a lift somewhere?"

"No, he'll be fine."

"Then what about you?"

He rattled off his address, unable to take his eyes off her, lest she disappear on him again. Though Eliza pulled away from the curb, her gaze continually jumped back to her rearview window, catching his every time.

"Have you been in my cab before?" she said. "You look familiar."

"I don't think so." He couldn't risk lying to her and getting caught out. He needed her trust. He needed her. "Maybe I just have one of those faces."

She smiled, and every second of misery of this last year without her was forgiven. "Maybe."

* * *

Hart watched the taxi turn the corner, ignoring the sudden presence of the man at his side.

"You're taking a big risk," Wolfe commented. "We're not supposed to interfere."

"The Elders gave them jobs that would make it impossible for them to find each other. I just gave them a fighting chance."

Wolfe nudged his shoulder. His size scared anyone with half a working brain cell, but Hart had known his fellow warden too long to be intimidated. "There will be repercussions, you know," Wolfe said.

"I know."


The car was gone, with Dan and Eliza inside, fulfilling the Elders' demands, satisfying the kismet that had chosen to throw these two together as mates in spite of their opposing packs. Hart turned away and gave Wolfe a broad smile.

"It's worth it."


Remember those prizes I mentioned? I'm giving away a pound of See's truffles and a $10 Amazon gift card to a random commenter (unless you're outside of the US, in which case you'll receive a $30 Amazon gift card), as well as adding a copy of my m/m wolf shifter story, Moon-Touched to the Nook Touch we're giving away as a grand prize. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the rest of the tour!


Gem Sivad said...

I love this story. What a neat way to bring two lovers back together.

savannah said...

Loved the story!! And thanks for the chance to win!

Drea Becraft said...

Great story! Oh and I loved the design of your site very pretty.


cholub1968 said...

Great Story! Pretty site! You have a typo you said UK when you meant US. Sees is a US company. :)
Cindy H.
cholub1968 at aol dot com

Vivien Dean said...

Thanks for catching that, cholub! I've fixed it. I write UK so much that it becomes ingrained (my husband is British and I'm always talking/sending stuff to my UK family), lol.

And boy, do I know Sees is a US company. I live in the Bay Area. I can't turn around without bumping into one. It's very dangerous this time of year, lol!

Alanna Coca said...

Lovely story. (kismet is a great word lol)

Cathy M said...

That was such a great story, Vivien, thank you for sharing it with us.

Wishing you a very special Valentine's Day.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

Savannah Chase said...

Really great read...Wishing you a naughty Valentine's Day...

Sarah said...

Great story

Hope u have a lovely valentines day :-D

Sarah S

cheralyn said...

I enjoyed your great story. Happy Valentine's Day! cheryllynne(at)rocketmail(dot)com

BookAttict said...

Thanks for a great story -- and a chance to win some great chocolate!!!

elizabeth @ bookattict . com

Jean P said...

That was a great story. Wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day!

skpetal at hotmail dot com

CAHM said...

Wow - thank you and Happy Valentines Day to you!

mcv said...

Very sweet ending! Happy V Day!
mcv111 at hotmail(dot)com

Stacia Kelly said...

A beautiful way to bring them back together, even if she doesn't recognize him, yet.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Alianne Donnelly said...

Very nice =) Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!
kimberlyjuliene @

Anonymous said...

mcv111 at hotmail(dot)com

Darkreader said...

So glad he had the heart to give them a chance! Great story!
Happy Valentines Day!

desitheblonde said...

great story and i would use the candy for my bd on the 18

desi the blonde at msn dot com

Julianne said...

Thanks for sharing, that was great.
luvfuzzzeeefaces at yahoo dot com

SiNn said...

ty for sharing was agreat story

wanda f said...

Great story

jessica said...

Love the story. A little confusing when I first started reading it but by the end I was so clapping for Dan and Eliza and happy (and a little worried) for Hart. I hope that you have a happy Valentine's day!
jessangil at gmail dot com
-Jessica B

Unknown said...

loved the excerpt- i want more :)

thanks for the chance to win!

catherine0807 at hotmail dot com

DawnM said...

Thanks for opening this up to international entries with the GC option. Great story.


books4me said...

What a sweet, wonderful story for Valentine's Day!

books4me67 at ymail dot com

Angie Adair said...

Great story! Thanks for the awesome giveaway!Happy Valentines Day!

ilona said...

lovely story

felinewyvern at googlemail dot com

Barbara said...

FAB story! Thx for the giveaway op...Happy Valentines Day <3

barbbattaglia @

Jennifer L. said...

great excerpt and I luvvve See's!

jslindzy at