December 31st, 2017

New Year’s Eve with an Excerpt from Safe! #erotica

Ah, my negligent blogging continues! First, I lament that I missed blogging about the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17. I did not personally forget about it (and deliberately wore a red long-sleeved shirt in support under the layers I wore to the no-kill shelter where I volunteer to walk dogs that day), but I did not manage to draw attention to it here.

It is now New Year’s Eve, and I am blogging to offer an excerpt of one of my stories to celebrate the new year. “Hers to Keep” is in my short story collection Safe and is one of the four stories in that collection that was not previously published. As you’ll see if you read below, my posting this snippet right now is deliberate and timely!

Writing the main character in “Hers to Keep,” Leslie, was an interesting experience for me because I don’t particularly relate to her in a few ways. She has shy tendencies, feels self-conscious around initiating sex, and tends to experience a lot of mental concern about the “implications” of almost every sexual encounter she has. Yet her character came through clearly to me when I started writing the story, as did the setting, which I could then and can still picture clearly whenever I recall it.

Here is the beginning of the second story in Safe, “Hers to Keep”:

“Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!…”

It was the pause between each shout, the literal split second of anticipation before the next number, where Leslie felt like she was. Perpetually in that place of waiting, watching, wondering, the in-between of what was happening rather than actually living among it.

Of course, that was a bit of an exaggeration. The countdown to the annual climax mere seconds away just seemed to highlight the anticlimactic feeling of her current circumstances. Between jobs, between relationships, between any experience that seemed exciting or interesting in her life.

She watched the glittery ball on the oversized flat-screen TV as the frenzy around her grew until the shout of “One—Happy New Year!” reverberated in her ears and the ball dropped amid a flurry of camaraderie and confetti and chaos. The crowd in the room turned to the floor-to-ceiling windows to watch the barrage of fireworks that shattered the frigid air amidst the pandemonium of kissing, drinking, and laughing that took over the large suite for the next several minutes.

Leslie watched the colored sparks reflect in the window. Since the fireworks were shot from the park right across the street from the hotel, their view was unparalleled—one of the reasons they’d chosen this location for their party. The presidential suite wasn’t cheap, to be sure, but with twelve of them pitching in for the multi-hosted party, it had been doable. As Leslie turned back to watch the merriment around her and join in to a somewhat subdued degree, she conceded that the plan had been successful. More than fifty people filled the spacious suite in paper tiaras, hats, and banners that read “Happy New Year!” in glittering letters, and they all appeared to be having a good time.

And she was too, she acknowledged as she took a sip from her champagne flute. She was glad her friends had suggested the suite rental, citing the view of the fireworks, central location, and lack of next-day cleanup duties as justification for the financial splurge. Particularly right now, Leslie had noticed, hotels appealed to her—the lack of commitment, responsibility, ownership. Just a space of indulgence, catering to a specified period of carefree luxury. The perfect setting for a party, and for her, the start of a new year.

She suddenly noticed that her eyes had landed on the man she’d seen enter the room only about ten minutes before midnight. She’d taken note of him then, no doubt, but she had no idea who he was or whom he knew there and felt no desire to approach him on her own.

Actually, that wasn’t true. The desire was there. She squirmed uncomfortably, taking another drink of champagne. Sometimes her own shyness frustrated her. It was more that she didn’t feel comfortable going up to him, especially since she was obviously not the only one who had noticed the particular presence he possessed, as he was now surrounded by a group of partygoers and appeared perfectly comfortable as the center of attention.

She stepped into the mob and made the rounds, placing chaste kisses on the cheeks of her closest friends and, with a bit of a blush, some of the new people she was just meeting tonight.

Without really trying, she eventually she found herself in the group surrounding the mysterious—albeit popular—stranger, and as her friend Ed kissed her cheek and turned to introduce him to her, she blushed harder.

“Leslie, this is Grant. He heads up the IT department at our branch in Colorado. Grant, this is Leslie, a good friend of mine.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Grant said, his eyes on hers as he offered a warm handshake. Leslie nodded and returned the sentiment even as his touch made her body tingle. He was even more magnetizing up close than he’d appeared from across the room, his smile glittering like the ball that had just dropped in Times Square. She was suddenly sorry that the kissing part of the evening had just passed. She thought wistfully for a moment about her less shy friends and what they might do in this situation before she looked down, flustered, and let go of his hand.

She shifted to face the rest of the group, standing somewhat awkwardly between Grant and Ed as the conversation picked up where it had presumably left off. She could feel the heat of Grant’s body next to her, and it made breathing more difficult.

“So where’s Alicia?” Ed asked, and Grant nodded acknowledgement of the question as he took a drink.

“She skipped this trip, not wanting to be stuck watching me work on New Year’s Eve,” he laughed. “We didn’t know about your party at the time.”

He was married. Leslie dropped her eyes to his left hand, which she’d forgotten to check. She stared dully at the silver band there. A lightness in her that she hadn’t even fully noticed yet plummeted, disappearing into the ether as Ed gave some response.

With a subtle sigh, Leslie excused herself a few moments later and returned to the bar in the corner of the suite’s main room. Abandoning her champagne flute, she grabbed the ice scoop and a glass and looked around for the bottle of Scotch.

Leaning against the bar, she took a sip and looked out the window at the black sky, void now of its pyrotechnic display and filled again with only the still, chilly-looking glow of orange streetlights and a cloud-shrouded moon. A few of her co-hosts came over, and she swallowed her frustration and made an effort to join the conversation.

“Do you know where you want to sleep tonight, Leslie?” her friend Kayla asked. There were two bedrooms included on either side of the suite. While many would probably crash on the floor of the main room, it was understood that the party hosts were privy to the bedroom accommodations.

Leslie pointed to one of the doors. “I put my stuff in that one. I brought a sleeping bag and don’t really mind sleeping on the floor if need be.”

Kayla nodded and started to say something, then stopped and smiled over Leslie’s shoulder.

Leslie turned and found Grant behind her holding the bottle of Scotch. He smiled at her, and she smiled back somewhat stiffly, doing her best to quell the attraction in her now that she knew he was married. He gestured toward her glass with the bottle, and she held it out to him with a shrug.

“I understand you’re one of the hosts of this shindig. Great party,” he said, raising his glass to her. “I’d suspected I’d be spending New Year’s alone on a computer somewhere.”

She nodded acknowledgement and couldn’t help smiling.

“I knew Ed lived here and had gotten in touch with him about getting together later in the week, and he told me about this party,” he continued. “As it turned out, I wrapped up what I needed to just in time to come ring in the new year. I’m glad, since it turns out I’ll be flying back home tomorrow. Holiday or not, information systems don’t take breaks.” He smiled and took another drink.

“Well, your wife will probably be glad to see you,” Leslie said lightly, reminding him that she knew he had one.

“Yes, she probably would have come with me if she’d known I’d be going to a party,” he responded, showing no sign of embarrassment or hesitation at the mention of his wife. He met her eyes. “It’s too bad. I’m sure she would have loved to meet you, too.” He trained that smile on her, and it seemed to emanate heat straight to her core. Leslie looked away and fumbled with her glass, finding the comment odd even as she tried fervently to ignore the tingling arousal Grant’s attention set off throughout her body.

“We’re in an open relationship,” he continued easily as he lifted his glass to his lips.

“An open relationship,” Leslie repeated. She tried not to display her ignorance. She’d heard the phrase, but she’d never personally known anyone who was in one.

“We have sex with other people,” he clarified.

Leslie stared at him.

“Not that I mean to be implying anything.” Grant’s demeanor suddenly shifted to slight embarrassment, and Leslie realized her response was probably making him think she wasn’t interested in such a thing regardless of what kind of relationship he and his wife had. The heat returned to her cheeks and, flustered, she realized she needed to say something.

“Do you mean—your wife knows you do that?” She blushed harder for having answered with something she immediately deemed one of the dumbest-sounding things she had said in some time. The truth was that at the words “other people,” her breath had caught, and the dizzying effect he seemed to be having on her had increased exponentially. Was he hitting on her?

“It’s not really something either of us ‘does’ that the other needs to ‘know’ about,” he said, the smile back on his face. All discomfort had evaporated from his countenance, returning him to the self-assured state she was already finding familiar in him. “It’s just the style of relationship we have. But in answer to your question, yes, we communicate openly about what we’re up to.”

Thank you so much for reading! Safe is available in print and e-book form at the list of retailers here.

In the meantime, I’m very preliminarily playing with the idea of creating another short story collection, and I have the rights back to a novella I have been considering expanding into a novel (which would be my first, assuming I don’t finish my long-in-progress novel first!).

Thank you for coming by, and wishing all a very happy New Year’s Eve and 2018!


Closing the bathroom door behind her, Leslie stepped back into her dress and looked at herself in the mirror. Her cheeks were still flushed, and she smiled at her disheveled reflection. Something looked different, though she couldn’t quite place what.
-from later in “Hers to Keep”


  1. […] and perhaps appropriately, it closes the book out. Like “Hers to Keep” (from my New Year’s post), this story was one of the ones that was previously […]

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