Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Morning Breakfast Serial Catch Up

OKAY, I'm back. Hope you haven't "starved" in the meantime. So, first off, if you want a sneak peek at the first chapter of the first book in the new series go to the joint blog. It's posted.

Are you back? GOOD. Now, if you want to see the first chapter of the upcoming Sazi book, I BELIEVE (thank you Webmistress!! Thank you Webmistress!!) it's available on our website. You can go there.

Back again? WOOO, you're REALLY into this aren't you? Okay, here's the re-run of the first part of the serial since you've probably forgotten it all by now. Posts are separated by asterisks. New stuff is at the bottom.


"Wow Jen, think you've got enough suntan lotion? And whoo hoo, look at the bikini. Yowsa!"

Bonnie, the checker at the local discount store looked over at one of her favorite regular customers. "I'm guessing somebody is headed out of town on vacation. Maybe even with that handsome state cop she's been dating? Hmmmn?"

Jen laughed, "Guilty as charged. We're headed out to Hawaii," she paused for effect "to meet his family."

Bonnie goggled, "Ohmigod, the big family meet and greet. Is it really that serious? Already?"

Jen squirmed uncomfortably. "Maybe. I think so. But I don't want to rush into anything." She really didn't. Her divorce had been finalized less than a year. She was over Todd. That wasn't the question. She just wasn't sure she was ready to be with someone else. And she really didn't trust her judgment when it came to men. After all, Todd had been handsome, and charming, and all sorts of wonderful---right up until the day they said their "I dos." Now she desperately wish she hadn't. But hindsight is ever 20/20 as they say.

"Oh, don't fret. You'll do fine. Just take your time. Enjoy yourself." Bonnie gave a saucy wink as she ran Jen's items over the price scanner. "Not that I have to tell you to do that, what with that handsome hunk you'll be travelling with. He is fine."

Jen couldn't argue with that. Jake was really, truly, all that and a bag of chips. Not only handsome, he was smart, funny, and seemed to instinctively know not to push---to go slow. Jen was almost positive he was as nervous about this whole meet and greet as she was. But his baby sister was getting married, so it seemed logical . . .

"When are you leaving?" Bonnie's question brought Jen back to the present.

"Day after tomorrow. First thing in the morning."

"Ah, then you probably want to buy your ticket now?" The lilt in her voice made it a question.

"Oh, yeah. I should, shouldn't I." Every week, without fail, Jen bought a single lottery ticket, cash option, same numbers every time. It was her little ritual. Probably silly, but worth the money if for no other reason than the number of fantasies she'd had thinking what she would do with the winnings from the prosaic, setting up a family trust, to the exotic, quitting her boring job and going on a world cruise. Not that she ever would win. But then, you never know. Which was the point, after all. "Let me dig out my numbers."

"You're kidding, right. As if I don't know them by heart after all this time." Bonnie waved her hand in a dismissive gesture and walked over to the machine. "9, 15, 27, 32, 48, 54, right?"

"Right." Jen blushed a little, feeling foolish. Just how much money had she spent on tickets over the years that the cashier could rattle the numbers off so easily? Then she shook herself. It was cheap. It was fun, and it didn't hurt a thing. In fact, if the ads were to be believed, she was helping fund the state schools and park maintenance.

Bonnie hit the buttons and the small square of red and white paper popped out of the machine. Handing it across the counter she said, "Now you put that in a safe place. It could be the winner the way you're luck has turned around. I mean, really, a handsome man and a trip to Hawaii? I am sooooooo jealous."

Laughing Jen pulled out her wallet. Folding the ticket in half she stuck it in the coin purse, then pulled enough bills from the wallet section to pay for her purchases. Who knew what could happen? She was certainly feeling lucky.


Jen stared out the window over the wing of the plane. Ohmigawd! That was the ocean. The Pacific. This was really happening. All her life she'd wanted to travel and Hawaii had been at the top of her list. Even the words were exotic. Aloha, luau, lava-lava. Her stomach flip-flopped and she told herself it was excitement and not fear of flying. This was her first time on a plane. She'd never really gotten to travel anywhere. Even her honeymoon "hadn't worked out." The ex had been supposed to make the travel plans, but they fell through because . . . well, honestly, because her ex was her ex. But she was going now.

"You okay? You're looking a little pale." Jake touched her hand, drawing her attention away from the window. He wasn't faking his concern, she could tell.

"Fine." Jen smiled at him. "Just a little nervous. This is my first time on a plane and I'm going to meet your family. It's a bit much, but I figure you'll make it up to me." She winked at him and was rewarded with a heart-stopping smile.

"I'll do my best." He paused, "You really don't need to worry about my family Jen. I know they're going to love you. Almost as much as I do."

She blushed with pleasure at his words, but didn't necessarily believe him. If there wasn't some basis in truth to them the legends about mother-in-laws wouldn't have survived this long. Her own mother was no saint. In fact, she'd been decidedly chilly to Jake. Then again, she loved Todd and was still holding out hope for a reconciliation.

"We'll see."

Sensible man that he was, Jake decided to distract her. It was a long flight, and it'd be no fun for either of them if they sat here worried and brooding. "So, is your mom watching the house and taking care of Obsidian for you?"

Jen pasted a smile on her face. She'd asked her mother. It had been a mistake. Her ears were still blistered from the response. "No, Wendy's watching him."

"Wendy?" Jake shook his head. "Are you sure that's a good idea. I mean, I like your sister, but she's a little bit of a . . ."

"Flake." Jen sighed. "Yeah, I know. I love her, but she is who she is. And Obsidian will be fine. He's not that social of a cat to begin with. I left out a huge roasting pan filled with hard food, and the toilet seat is up. So if she flakes out and misses a day he'll be fine." Actually, her huge black tom cat would probably be fine for a week considering how much kibble she'd left him. And he wasn't particularly social with anyone but Jen and surprisingly, Jake.

"I don't even mind her so much. But her husband . . ." He let the sentence trail off unfinished rather than say something irretrievable. But Jen could guess what he meant. Kevin was a serious creep. Then again, every man her sister dated was, one way or another. Wendy just knew how to pick em. There could be 100 really great guys in the room and one loser, and she'd gravitate to the loser every time.

When Jake and Kevin had met at the family holiday cookout there had been the kind of instant animosity that you see with large, dominant dogs. It hadn't gotten ugly, but only because Jen and Jake had left before it could. But it had been a very close thing. Of course it didn't help matters that Kevin was Todd's best friend in the world.

What a mess. Jen looked at Jake for a long moment, leaned over, and gave him a quick kiss. Nothing big, just a peck. But he'd earned it. Her life was such a mess. But he never complained, never did anything but make her feel safe, loved, and laugh. Lord how he made her laugh. She'd almost forgotten how it had been so long. Now she wouldn't give it up for anything.

"What was that for?"

"For being you." She smiled. Taking a deep breath, she said the words she knew he'd wanted to hear, but she'd never been ready to voice. "I really do love you, you know."


Todd stared up at the television in the corner of the bar. The Lakers had lost. The game hadn't even been close. There went another hundred bucks. Dammit. He knew he shouldn't gamble, but it was a habit. And what the hell else did he have to spend his money on now? He shook his head. She was gone. With JAKE. In HAWAII. Where she and Todd had been going to go on their honeymoon. Until he lost the money. Of course that wasn't what he'd told her. He'd lied. She'd believed him. She'd even seemed to take it okay. Until suddenly one day, she just didn't. And it was over, and there was nothing for him to do except sign the divorce papers and come down here to the bar and get drunk with Kevin.

Kevin came back to the table carrying a pair of beers and two doubles of whiskey. Neither of them needed it. They were both well past tipsy and on their way to wasted, but Todd didn't want to think clearly. Not tonight, knowing she was there, with Jake.

The commercial break came on and the lotto box appeared on the screen with its bouncing numbered balls. Todd watched the screen as individual balls popped out to be placed in a row. Damn those numbers looked familiar. Why? What was special about 9, 15, 27, 32, 48, 54?

"Holy shit. Those are Jen's numbers." He hadn't meant to say it out loud.

"Really?" Kevin got a look on his face. Something about it bugged Todd. A lot.

"Too bad she's in Hawaii and didn't buy herself a ticket." He forced himself to smirk. "Serves her right. " He raised his beer bottle, as if toasting the bitter words. Kevin clicked bottles. But the expression on his face didn't change.

Jen checked her watch, did the math, and decided that it was probably a decent hour to call her sister. There really wasn't ever a "good" time. Wendy kept very irregular hours. She did shift work, and it changed a lot. But she also partied---hard. It was how she'd met Kevin. Jen had always hoped her sister would "grow up," but thus far there'd been no sign of it. Of course, she thought Jen was a horrible "stick-in-the-mud" because she didn't party any more. Hell, she hadn't done it much even back in the day. It just seemed such a waste to get wasted. Why work that hard for a paycheck and then blow it on one night so that you had to struggle and scrape just to get by?

Jen shook her head. She was doing it again, being judgmental. Her sister was doing her a favor. She needed to focus on being grateful. Because she was. Wendy's helping out made it possible for her to be here with Jake having the time of her life. And she was: romantic walks on the beach, playing in the surf, playing in the hotel room. Oh it was wonderful. The wedding yesterday had been gorgeous, and so romantic. Every one of Jake's family seemed to like her too. They were being so much nicer than her family had been to him. Of course they might just be on their best behavior because of the wedding, but she really didn't think so.

She dialed the number to Wendy's cell phone from memory. It rang four times before a very sleepy-sounding voice came on the line.


"Wendy, it's Jen."

"Right, Jen. Hang on a sec', 'kay?" Jen heard Kevin grumbling, then her sister fumbling around in the background, finally there was the sound of a door closing, and Wendy's voice came back on the line. "I'm back." Wendy announced, following it up with a huge yawn. "So, how's Hawaii with hunkalicious?"

"It's wonderful. I'm having the time of my life! Thanks so much for agreeing to watch Obsidian. How's he doing anyway?"

"Um, Jen . . . about that . . . "Jen's stomach clenched at the words, and she closed her eyes, praying silently that her cat was all right. Wendy would never deliberately hurt him. But oh Lord, if anything bad had happened . . .

Wendy started in on one of her long, rambling explanations. "See, I would'a sworn I hung the key on the hook. But when I went to get it, it wasn't there. But I mean, I knew I had to take care of the cat. I mean, you're counting on me. So, I figured I'd just go in through the window. No harm, no foul. But it broke. And while I was waiting for the guy to come replace the glass . . . he said he'd bill you for the work . . . I'm really sorry Jen. But, um, the cat . . . well, he got out. I've seen him. He's still hanging around the house. But he won't let me get near him. So I moved the pan with his food outside. And I'm still going by in case I can get him to come inside."

Jen didn't pound her head against the wall, but she wanted to. Dammit, dammit, damn it! Obsidian was up to date on his shots, and he was smart and tough. But there were raccoons in the neighborhood, and she'd heard an owl hunting just a couple of nights before she left. DAMN it.

"Jen? Say something. Please? I'm really, really sorry. I know you were counting on me. But I'm sure he's all right. And you're coming home tomorrow. He'll come in for you."

"It's all right." Jen lied. It was not all right. She was furious and hurt, and worried. But there wasn't a damned thing she could do about it and there probably wasn't anything Wendy could do. Because Obsidian wasn't going to come to her. No chance of that at all.

"You're mad."

Hell yes she was mad? Why wouldn't she be? Wendy'd lost the key to her house, broken a window, and let the cat get out. The only thing that she could've done to screw up worse was burn the place down or leave it unlocked so that burglars . . . oh shit. "Wendy, sweetie" Jen took a deep breath, fighting to make sure her voice was calm, pleasant even. "Did you lock the house back up when you left? Maybe get mom's key to let yourself back in?"

"Mom's got a key? Why didn't I think of that?" Jen actually heard her sister smack her palm against her forehead. "I'll go get it from her. Then I can lock the place up."

She hadn't locked up. Jen counted backwards from twenty-five. It was supposed to calm her down. It wasn't working. She felt more like she was counting down to lift-off.

"You're pissed. I can tell." Wendy's voice was accusatory. "You're breathing funny. You practically sound like an obscene caller."

Of course Jen was pissed. Why wouldn't she be? It's not like she'd asked her sister to do anything hard.

"Look, it's not like you live in a bad neighborhood or anything. The place is nice. Your neighbors are sweet little old ladies. Nothing's going to happen."

Nothing's going to happen. Famous last words. Well, maybe not last words. Although at the moment Jen would gladly and happily strangle her sister she wouldn't actually kill her. Probably. No. She wouldn't. She loved Wendy. She really did. She just needed to remind herself of that over, and over until she calmed down.

"Are you all right?"

Jen gave her boyfriend a look that would've curdled milk."Okay, admittedly a stupid question. " He shook his head. "God, what a mess." He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number from memory. The police station, of course. Jen only half-listened as he reported a break-in and presumed robbery.

The place was a wreck. It was as if a tornado had come threw. The contents of drawers were dumped on the floor, her bookcases emptied, their contents strewn everywhere. Her couch cushions and throw pillows had been shredded with a knife. There was broken glass everywhere. And that was just the living room. Jen hadn't even looked at the other rooms in the house. It was too damned depressing. Outside she heard a faint, plaintive mewling.

Obsidian! He wasn't in the house! Oh thank God. He could've been hurt, even killed.

Jen pushed past Jake to stand on the front porch step. "Obsidian. Here baby. Come here. It's all right now. I'm home."

She saw a twitch of movement in the bushes, and the mewling grew louder. Crouching down, she clucked her tongue and started making the little squirrel sounds that never failed to draw him out. Sure enough, he began his approach, warily at first, but crossing the last bit of space in a rush.

"Oh baby, I've missed you too." She petted him, tears stinging her eyes. He was a mess. leaves were tangled in his long, black fur, and there was a long scab running diagonally across his nose. Jen sank into a sitting position, taking him into her lap. As she finger-combed his hair she felt the purr rumbling through his body.

Jake came over and sat down beside them. "The police will be here in a couple of minutes." He told her. "Hey big guy." He reached over, letting the cat sniff his fingers before scratching behind the cat's ears. "Looks like you've had an adventure while we were gone. If only you could talk."

"Next time, he stays at the vet. I don't care how much boarding him costs." Jen's voice was unsteady. "If he hadn't been outside . . ."

"Don't think about it. He's fine. He's safe. You're safe. That's what's important."

"But my house." She felt so violated. And oh God the work it was going to take cleaning that mess up. It made her tired just thinking about it. The vacation had been fun, but it hadn't been restful. She was already exhausted. Damn it! The tears that had been threatening began falling in earnest.

"I know. I know." Obsidian squirmed out from between them as Jake took Jen in his arms, holding her close. "It's going to be all right. It sucks. And it's not the homecoming we would've wanted for you. But we'll get through this."

She felt like such a baby. She was all right. Her cat was fine. There was nothing in the house that couldn't be replaced. Not really. She'd taken all of her jewelry with her, and she didn't have much else valuable. Even her TV was a crummy old 19 inch.

"You know baby, it looks as if the intruder was searching for something. Any idea what?"

"No clue. I mean, I don't have anything worth hiding."

"Well maybe he just got mad and destroyed things because he didn't find anything he could fence." Jake's voice was soothing, but his expression was doubtful. "Are you sure there's nothing . . ."

"Not a thing. I don't keep anything valuable at the house. It all goes in the safe deposit box at the bank. The jewelry is going back there first thing Monday morning." She rummaged in her purse for a tissue. "Why would somebody do this?"

Why indeed.


The police had come and gone. They took her statement. Spread yellow dust around getting fingerprints. They'd also talked rather urgently (and privately) with Jake. That bothered her a bit. Actually more than a bit. Because he'd spent the rest of the time he'd been here looking very worried, and more than a little angry.

He'd tell her whatever it was eventually. He wasn't the secretive type. Unlike someone she knew. But in the meantime there was a ton of stuff to do. First of which, she had to go to the store and buy cleaning supplies and one of those disposable cameras so that she could send pictures to her insurance agent along with a copy of the police report to file a claim.

She'd get reimbursed for most of the damages . . . well, at least the part that was over her deductible. But that didn't help her today. No, today she was going to have to rack up her credit card right to the limit.

The bathroom wasn't too much of a mess, so she cleaned it up and locked Obsidian inside. Then she climbed in the car and drove over to the Discount Palace.


"Hey Jen. Welcome back!" Bonnie gave her a huge smile, "Look at the tan on you. Have fun?"

"Oh the trip was wonderful." Jen forced herself to smile. "It's coming back that's hard."

"Isn't that always the case." Bonnie gave a sympathetic sigh.

"Yeah, but this is worse. Somebody broke into my house. They completely trashed the place."

"Oh NO!" Bonnie stared at the overflowing shopping cart. "That's awful! You called the police, rigiht?"

"Yeah, they've come and gone. And I'm making a claim on my homeowner's insurance. But it's so awful. I mean, it's my home. And now I don't even feel safe. Why would somebody do that? It's not like I have anything worth stealing."

"People." Bonnie harrumpfed. Grabbing the first item from the counter, she began scanning Jen's purchases with practiced speed. "Changing the subject, have you heard?"

"Heard what?"

"Somebody won the big lotto jackpot! They haven't claimed it yet. But rumor has it they bought their ticket here. They told us because the store gets a bonus for selling the winning ticket. I'm so excited. Somebody I know is a millionaire! How cool is that? And who knows, I may have even sold the ticket! Hope they remember me if I did, you know what I mean."

"Bet they will." Jen forced herself to smile, even though she didn't feel like it.

Bonnie hit the button to total Jen's purchases. Jen winced. She had enough on her card to pay for it. . . barely. She ran the little plastic card through the machine, then signed on the line showing on the screen.

"I'm really sorry about your house honey." Bonnie passed over the receipt. "Things are bound to get better eventually."

"God I hope so."


DinahT said...

Whoo Hooo, new Sazi book! Do you have a release date yet?

Dolly said...

You wouldn't believe how much I missed this serial. I also read the excerpts for your upcoming books. So excited. Thanks for sharing.