You might have heard (and even checked out) Ana Newfolk’s flash fiction-themed Valentine’s Bash on her Facebook Group, Café Lima. The party has just ended, and we now have permission to share this FREE compilation she made featuring many of the shorts that were posted during the authors’ takeover hours.
It includes a Valentine-themed short with my characters from Déjà Vu. Besides my own contribution, it includes shorts featuring beloved characters from these wonderful authors: Ana Newfolk, Avery Cockburn, Brigham Vaughn, Caraway Carter, Carly Marie, Chris Ethan, Clare London, Colette Davison, Dev Bentham, EJ Smyth, Eleanor Musgrove, George Loveland, Helena Stone, Jack Braegan, Katerina Ross, Katherine Wyvern, K. Evan Coles, K.M. Neuhold, Michele Notaro, Miranda Turner, and Noah Steele.
During Ana’s Valentine’s Bash I shared three Valentine-themed shorts. Now that the party is over, I’ll share them here, too! Each of mine was written using 5 random prompt words pulled from a random word generator.
“You’re such a little traitor,” Raymond muttered as Pandemonium wound her way around Kevin’s ankles, scenting him as he stepped barely two yards inside Raymond’s apartment. “Keep it up and you’ll get coal instead of catnip in your stocking this year.”
Kevin squatted and lightly brushed his fingertips along the back of the cat’s neck. “Who’s a good girl, huh? Who’s a good girl?” he sing-songed as if he were talking to a dog. Pandy loved it, though, judging by the way she lightly nipped and tongued Kevin’s hand.
“Bet she smells Corky and Isabelle on you.” Raymond’s grin contradicted the snark lurking in his words, just as the fresh whiff of berry scented shampoo wafting from Kevin’s damp hair gave lie to them. Doubtful that Kevin had handled his pet mice between stepping out of the shower and walking down the hall to Raymond’s apartment.
But, Kevin didn’t refute him. Not with words anyway, although the cockily raised eyebrow probably meant to. Instead, he stood with a beaming smile and handed Raymond a red, heart-shaped candy box. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Kevin gave Raymond a light peck on the corner of his mouth as he relinquished the package. An ABO package. Already-Been-Opened.
“Thanks!” Raymond spun before his eyes could divulge his mixed emotions regarding the pre-opened candy box. His hand wobbled as he placed it on the countertop.
Sure, he and Kevin had been together only a few months, so it wasn’t like they had a whole lot of emotion invested in their fledgling relationship, but Valentine’s Day gifts weren’t supposed to be like bringing over whatever snacks you had on hand when getting together to watch videos.
Raymond had agonized over the decision of what to give Kevin. A three-month-old relationship was tricky. Risky, even. Doing too much and scaring away the boyfriend he was falling hard for worried the crap out of him. So did doing too little.
In the end, Raymond had also purchased a red, heart-shaped box. He sighed, picked it up, and turned back to Kevin with a smile pasted on his face. “Don’t worry, it’s not candy.” Unlike Raymond, Kevin didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, which made that opened candy box all the more inexplicable.
“Thanks!” Kevin’s word mirrored Raymond’s own from moments earlier as he took the proffered box. “So what is it, then?” The question in Kevin’s eyes seemed more concerned than curious as to the contents. Probably concerned about Raymond’s total inability to hide his emotions, damn it. Raymond had never been able to cover his feelings and was probably reading too much into the stupid unwrapped box anyway.
“Go ahead, open it.” Raymond’s smile was more authentic as Kevin peeled off the cellophane. Beef jerky was one of Kevin’s favorite snacks, so when Raymond had found a Valentine’s sampler of the nasty stuff, he’d known he’d found the perfect balance between thoughtfulness showing that he knew what his boyfriend would appreciate and going overboard into the scaring-him-off zone. He bounced on the balls of his feet as Kevin lifted the lid.
“Fantastic!” The unaffected delight in Kevin’s tone washed away the last of Raymond’s qualms about his decision. Kevin looked up with a smile. “Thank you! Open yours.”
Raymond’s eyes widened when he raised the lid. Every spot in the interior organizing form was occupied, but obviously not with the candy that had come with the box. The pieces were all square, but many of the spaces were meant for round confections.
“It’s caramels,” Kevin said quickly. “I know they’re your favorite, but I couldn’t find a heart-shaped box of them, so I bought an assortment for the box and substituted them. Sorry,” he bit his lip and rushed on. “I only just switched them and didn’t know how bad the fit would be.”
In that moment, Raymond knew exactly how the Grinch had felt when his heart had grown three sizes that day. He sniffed and threw his arms around Kevin’s neck. “They’re perfect.”
Henry jerked as he blinked awake, then he snickered at the sight of Sam’s hand hovering over his head as if its owner couldn’t quite decide the struggle between petting Henry’s head and letting him sleep. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” Henry murmured.
Petting won the battle. “Love you,” Sam whispered the return greeting as his fingers laced through Henry’s hair. “Sorry, you looked like you were having a bad dream.”
“I dreamed about the island again.” But Henry didn’t want to worry his husband with details of that stormy night he’d relived in his dream. He grinned and turned on his side to face Sam. He had good memories to balance the bad. “I wonder what I was doing a year ago today?” Sam already knew that he and the other survivors had stopped tracking individual days a few months into their experience. Ultimately, they’d kept track of the longer periods like moon cycles and years but hadn’t wanted to know which specific day it was out in the world. That would have been too depressing.
“Same as every other day?”
Henry snorted. “Yeah, pretty much.” They’d had plenty to do each day just to survive, but there’s also been time to sit and watch the grass grow and the waves lap the shore while obsessing over what Sam might be doing. Henry closed the gap between them and kissed his husband. “How about you? I guess it was better than our first Valentine’s Day apart.”
Sam would have spent last year with Nash, his fiancé at the time. In fact—Henry winced, remembering that Sam had previously mentioned he’d proposed to Nash on Valentine’s Day. Based on Sam’s grimace, he was remembering that, too.
“Sorry,” Henry muttered. “Will I ever learn to think before I speak?” Hell, Sam wouldn’t want to recall their first Valentine’s Day apart, either. Poor guy had probably wished for a medically induced coma to get through it.
“Forget it.” One side of Sam’s mouth quirked up, and he took a deep cleansing breath. “Remember our first Valentine’s Day together?”
Henry nodded. “We were also celebrating my recent promotion. You gave me a gorgeous bouquet of lavender and cream-colored roses.”
Sam’s fingers traced a tingly trail down Henry’s side. “We’d already said ‘I love you,’ but still, I’d wanted to do something different from clichéd red roses.”
“Perfect choice.” Henry snuggled closer. Even after eight months back home, he still relished quiet moments in Sam’s arms more than just about anything. Just about. He pressed a kiss to the curve of Sam’s neck. It was early enough they might have the opportunity to—
They sprang apart at the sharp click of the door across the hall opening. Sam puffed out a soft laugh. “Tonight.”
“Tonight,” Henry whispered as Aiden knocked on their closed door.
𝒱𝒶𝓁𝑒𝓃𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑒 𝐹𝓁𝒶𝓈𝒽𝐹𝒾𝒸 featuring Gavin and Matthew ~and~ Victor and Bryan from Déjà Vu. This is the one that’s included in the compilation that I’ve linked to, above.
Gavin spun his wedding band with his thumb and clasped Matthew’s hand. The Valentine’s Day crush at the restaurant had been worth the effort to bask in the wide smile Matthew beamed at him now.
The cold, February night air chilled his cheeks, but it would be only a short walk home. Plenty of people—couples—were out and about, so Gavin had no sense of foreboding before the strange, naked man appeared yards in front of them in a brilliant flash that split the night.
Matthew stumbled to a stop, and Gavin pulled him close. People who’d been behind them hastily detoured around them, giving a hard nudge with their shoulders. “Outa the way, dumbasses.”
Did they seriously not see the hairy, naked guy? Matthew clearly did. He stared like a deer caught in the…well…the glow of a shimmering…cupid?
“What the hell?” Gavin gasped as whatever-it-was pulled a bow and arrow from behind his back and pointed it straight at Matthew.
More walkers on the street jostled them into the entry alcove of the storefront they’d stopped in front of. There was nowhere to run to as the creature took aim. Gavin shoved Matthew behind him, and the bizarre cherub commanded in a booming voice, “Move!”
“No!” Gavin yelled. He stared at the shimmering being, but his peripheral vision caught the turning heads of passersby as they gave him a wide berth.
Matthew struggled, muttering, “You’re not made of armor.” Meaning, if the thing wanted to shoot Matthew, Gavin didn’t need to go down with him.
“No!” Gavin repeated, and the arrow loosed.
He felt nothing, but some corner of Gavin’s mind realized it had gone through him…and Matthew, pinning them to the building. His legs buckled, unfeeling, beneath him. The arrow had hit him dead center, severing his spine.
A gut-wrenching gurgling noise erupted behind him as Matthew’s upper body slumped forward.
* * * *
Bryan snorted a laugh and petted Felix, who lay curled beside Victor’s keyboard. “If you’re writing these wacky death scenes to get me to stop reading over your shoulder, you should know that they’re having the opposite effect.”
“I know.” Victor smirked and pushed back his chair. “Who knew you had such a sick sense of humor?” And it wasn’t as if Bryan didn’t know Victor would rewrite the scene to something more befitting the romance/mystery novel it was a part of. Victor glanced at his watch. “Time to leave?”
“Unless we want to lose our reservations.”
Victor stood and pulled on the heavy coat Bryan handed him. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Love.”