Moving On…

1

“Oh… sweetie… I’m so sorry! Are you all right?”

She’s sorry?!

We skipped straight to a dish session – our patented way of diffusing dark, heavy conversations about to explode into a fight. The usual, who’s married, who’s dating, who’s getting divorced…. who’s married, and dating, and about to get divorced… But I didn’t really have any juicy gossip, and apparently neither did she, so our conversation was risking to dangerously slip back to the previous pattern.

Then I remembered – guess who got married? Continue reading “Moving On…”

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – …Or For Worse (Fragment)

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The woman in the mirror wasn’t the one she remembered. No matter how hard she struggled, she would never see that reflection again. Time had a perverted way of leaving scars on her body in spite of all her best efforts. Turning slowly, analysing every particle projected in the horridly honest mirror, she felt her spirits lifted by the image of a still beautiful, mature woman. Her thighs were almost cellulite free… and her stomach, almost flat again… her behind was no longer as firm, but the right pair of jeans made it look just as luscious… her breasts had definitely seen better days, but she would do something about that as soon as possible. It was a game of make-believe these days, she thought to herself.

[…]

“Babe… I don’t know what I would’ve done tonight without you… After the day I’ve had… you wouldn’t believe it if I told you!”

True enough, Lover would find it unbelievable, were he to find out. His image of her just wouldn’t allow it. The thought alone made her feel better. So did his wild passionate kisses. The man in the restaurant may have been her unfulfilled future, but the one in the car with her, whose strong arms were wrapped around her, whose luscious lips were going lower and lower on her neck… he was certainly her sexual present.

[…]

Hours of drinking and dancing with Lover and his friends, followed by hours alone with Lover between the sheets in the five star hotel proved to be just what she needed. The credit card wouldn’t be cancelled so soon, she knew that much and she deserved one more luxurious night courtesy of the one she believed to be the man of her dreams up until the previous evening. In fact, a morning of mindless, senseless shopping seemed appropriate as well. She needed to make herself feel better only because he shattered her dreams the night before, Regina reasoned.

[…]

She was waiting for years to see the old hag gone, years in which all King ever did was put his mother on a pedestal and point out all the ways in which she, his wife, was unlike her, his mother. The now defunct mother became less of a strain on their marriage after his father’s death, when she finally managed to convince King to put her in a nursing home in a different town. Regina no longer had to put up with inopinate visits and unbearable family functions, but the crone still cast a long, heavy shadow, often suffocating those few pleasures left from her shattered illusion of marital bliss. But she could feel the taste of victory. Regina was winning by default, she managed to outlive her nemesis and even if she couldn’t voice out her true feelings, she found that childish enjoyment coursing through her veins absolutely marvelous

[…]

He looked at her and after all those dark days, walking behind the closed coffin, King felt he finally had his wife back. The woman he thought was the love of his life was finally back, replacing the apparently heartless creature from the past few years. He squeezed her hand in his.

She looked at him in a comforting manner, the way only she could. Walking behind the coffin, Regina felt she could be generous. Seeing the remains of the woman she hated, envied and dreaded approaching the burial plot sparked a barely containable sense of power mixed with mischievous joy. She was alive and she was not going to let it go to waste. She looked at her husband again and her heart sank. How the hell did she end up there, next to that sorry excuse for a man?

*

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords – and you can download it for free until February 15. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Solitude

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“She stands still, looking around, never moving, never changing. People leave. People change. New people always arrive, so they would take their turn leaving sooner or later. And they live and die, they experience a constant transformation. Yet she transcends stages of life without moving, because she cannot undertake the usual, normal human evolutionary road and follow it through the same ditches of failure and disappointment. So she stands still, most of the times alone, breathing steadily and sometimes stopping someone to keep her company, help her forget fear and loneliness and hatred… and just trying to live.’

Parallel Lives – Ana Linden

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In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Solitude.

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – For Better… (Fragment)

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The frantic scrolling stops abruptly as the busy fingers’ and blue eyes’ attention is now required by the buzzing phone. A large smile lights up Regina’s face, a languorous sigh accompanying her reply. She had spent the entire morning trying not to think that the text might never arrive and now her patience was finally being rewarded.

The picture on the desk caught her eye in spite of all her rushed gestures. It had been such a wonderful day! Everything she had ever dreamt of, really… look how beautiful she was, she had the most expensive dress and most extravagant wedding anyone in her group of friends and acquaintances had ever seen… and on top of everything, the man she was marrying was so wealthy and handsome… A real prince had come to finally rescue her from an average existence and she would not let this one get away.

[…]

“I needed this so much… you have no idea how I missed you, Lover…” the woman purred into the young man’s ear.

Regina wasn’t lying; his absence had occupied most of her thoughts. Her recreational drug, as she liked to call him, was losing his interest, she could feel it. There was no incontestable proof to it, but a woman knows such things… he seemed somewhat aloof, guarded and atypically quiet during the last couple of weeks. Letting him hold her silently while waiting for the rest of the story about her day, the woman started scrutinizing his features with a knowing eye. There was more than satisfaction altering that kind smile. It wasn’t the look of a man who had just made a conquest and satisfied his sexual urges; that spark in his eyes belonged to a man who still cared deeply about the woman he had just enjoyed, the same woman tracing little hearts with her long nails all over his toned chest and abdomen… the same woman he was holding so tightly, having felt her absence during the previous days…

[…]

With a fake, conventionally happy expression suiting the occasion, Regina was singing Happy Birthday. But her mind was working fast, all the pieces of the puzzle having fallen into place. She and her husband hand in hand, doting on their son, were the beautiful image of the ideal family. King only had eyes for her and their wonderful son, the child was truly happy, especially since he got to spend so much time with his mother planning the party, but Regina was focusing on the woman on the other side of the table. For one moment only, her feelings were written on her face, in that loving look she let wash over King and the little boy. But one moment was all it took for Regina to understand. She knew that look so well…

*

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina and the Engagement Rings (Fragment)

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The key didn’t turn and she opened the unlocked door without giving it any thought. She often forgot to lock it, so… Clickety-clack, clickety-clack on the hardwood floor and then the high heels flew in a corner, preceded only by the laptop case, which landed with a thud. Oh well, it’s just the work computer – what are they going to do if it breaks anyway, give her a newer and better one?… Her personal mobile phone was another story though, that one found a nice, cosy resting place when carefully placed on the hall table. Curling and stretching her toes happy to have escaped the restrictive pumps, her feet started blindly feeling around the cold floor, reaching for the comfort of those favourite slippers. They weren’t there.

[…]

Her heart was throbbing faster and faster. Could it have been with admiration for that man some would call disturbed, who had put such passion in finding out what she had been up to of late? Or was it just fear that he might have discovered it all, thus making it impossible for her to pose as the innocent, shy, heartbroken victim next time they inevitably got back together?…

[…]

She liked it enough, she decided. And she was as good as engaged. Another container covered in velvet made its appearance from the depths of a large box filled with shiny, fashionable costume jewellery. Smaller and more modest looking, set carefully on the bed next to the other one, it shed a brighter, more optimistic light on Boyfriend’s choice… on her choice.

With a gentle, elegant movement, the young woman extracted what had once been another engagement ring from the older box and placed it on her finger, on the other hand. Then and now… that one and this one… and as past and present merged in one emotional instant, the big blue eyes filled with tears again… tears of regret… tears of frustration… Alone in her room, in one of the happiest moments of her life, Regina couldn’t fight the tears and for one ephemeral moment she couldn’t fight the truth either.

*

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Driving Regina (Fragment)

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Damn it, it’s all his fault… But the person Regina had in mind in her state of shock was not the driver of that other car. Now I won’t get to see him again, not this night… Or will I? An idea occurred to the woman as her trembling fingers were fishing for her work phone in the purse on the seat on her right. Involved in an accident on my way to your place. Need you. Pls. This should get him to come over and see her…

[…]

It doesn’t look like there was anybody else in that car, just the driver… and he seems fine, just terrified, the same way she feels right now. But he’s a man… I can work with that. I can get out of this and keep my driver’s license. And the insurance will pay for that piece of junk of his… Regina’s big, innocent eyes fill with tears and the shawl on her shoulders opens up, revealing her beautiful cleavage while she finally decides to emerge from the shelter of her somewhat damaged vehicle.

[…]

Taking a quick look at the two cars and at the two shaken drivers, Boyfriend cannot help but feel somewhat responsible… she will certainly blame him. He was the one who left after their fight; he was the one who took her phone, because he wanted to read all her emails and messages, suspecting that there might be more to be discovered about her so-called friendships with other men; and he wanted her to come running, asking him to go back to her. That was their game, they had played it so often! He just hadn’t expected her to be so careless and stupid. Look at her, she left wearing that house dress and flip-flops, speeding down the road to get to his place as fast as possible… His heart filling with pride when understanding how desperate she was to see him again, Boyfriend feels he can be generous and overlook the fact that she dares wear another man’s jacket.

[…]

Regina’s perfectly contoured lips part and then close again. For once, she has decided to think before speaking. Five minutes later you finally reach your destination. You and everybody else on the streets are finally safe, as Regina is neither a driver, nor a passenger… for the time being. Perhaps it’s you who’s exaggerating the importance of certain things. After all, the rest of the drive to her place was uneventful… if you don’t count being stopped and fined by the police, because she simply refused to inconvenience herself by wearing the seatbelt. Of course she’ll pay the fine, she mentioned in a very offended tone. But whether you like to admit it or not, experience has already taught you otherwise…

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 64

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“You treat that kid badly, that’s all. I’m not jealous, I’m just curious, you know. But you treat him badly and it gets to me to know that he just lets you be a bitch to him.”

“Maybe I do treat him badly, but as long as he’s happy with it, it’s nobody else’s business. I don’t pretend to be outraged by the way you treat your wife; nor do I get enraged with her because she allows you to get away for a couple of days with another woman, and meanwhile she pretends not to notice what’s going on right under her nose. It’s not my business to decide what should make other people happy; and when they do get what they go looking for, then they’re the only ones to be blamed if they don’t like the outcome.”

“You are something else…”

“Thanks.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good thing this time.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Blind Date on Christmas – Part 2

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Part 1

I had to admire their stubbornness, resourcefulness and shamelessness – once I had refused to meet any of these so-called suitors, they found a loophole and came up with one I had already met before… moreover, they actually snuck him into the living room when I literally wasn’t looking. Who was I not to appreciate the humour in it?

To be fair, they had done worse in the past… This one might actually make for a fun fling. A good sense of humour, not hard on the eyes… She was right, we did get along well, there was some chemistry there, from the moment we had met a couple of years earlier; it never went beyond innocent flirting, we had never been single at the same time… until then.

So much for being comfortable around each-other… they’re singing my praises. Isn’t that a nice tree? She decorated it, you know… here, have some more cake, she baked it. She’ll make somebody a great wife someday. I chocked on my food instantaneously – they’d gone too far with that one. Oddly, our guest didn’t even flinch.

Poor thing… how he suffered after the break-up… But I know you’ll find someone right for you, you’re such a great guy. So my mother was in charge with talking him up. If only I didn’t know what she really thought of him, the disposable boy toy… I knew that if I wanted to get back at her, all I had to do was to seriously get involved with him… or any other guy like him. Hmmm… she would deserve that, wouldn’t she? Let’s see how the night goes…

Strike one – he’s all of the sudden intimidated by my mother; he’s even afraid of her! A man in his thirties, who’s been friends with her husband for about a decade… that’s simply unacceptable. Oh well…

On the bright side, at least this one wasn’t gay, like the one they had in store for me the previous year. Casual dinner with some friends, they said. Yes, a married couple and their son… their clearly gay son (clear to everybody but his parents and my stepfather). And playing the part of the jealous party crasher, none other than the son’s “best friend”… Come to think of it, this was actually an improvement.

Somehow, dinner crawled to an end and we, young folk, were sent out in the world to have some fun. The guy thought we’d go see a movie, he had already gotten the tickets. I rolled my eyes – strike two. Predictable and boring. I hate going to the movies on a first date. I would rather spend that time getting to know the person, not in a movie theatre where we can’t talk. Family holiday, that’s what Christmas is, how could you not come and spend it with us? Of course it is… I had flown thousands of kilometres the day before so I could spend Christmas Eve in a cinema, watching a movie I didn’t feel like seeing with a guy I barely knew, surrounded by strangers. Merry Christmas to me!

It was all too ridiculous and harmless to be angry, really… And I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the innocent victim he was in our family antics. I could just see him as he was approached earlier that day and told I would really like to spend the evening with him, but I was just too shy to ask him out… so the date might come as a surprise to me, a really pleasant surprise… he hadn’t thought they wouldn’t tell me… but he couldn’t waste such an opportunity, could he?… Poor, poor, poor guy – he’s expecting who knows what sexy vision of a woman and instead he gets me in all my messy, domestic glory. Yet, he’s still happy to go out with me, even after that charming appearance and my parents’ behaviour. That says a lot (most likely, that he’s crazy and/or desperate)…

But he’s slowly becoming the guy I used to find quite attractive, so the walk to the cinema turns out to be just what we needed. After all, an outlet, a refuge from my family during my stay with them is always beneficial. And we are both consenting adults, perhaps later – if things go well – we could openly discuss the rules and limitations of short term dating. Aren’t I the romantic one?…

Let’s see what he suggests we do after the movie and how he behaves. Dancing the night away in a club was the perfect antidote to that evening (if fun I was supposed to have, fun I would have, and they would end up regretting it). But introducing me to his friends as his girlfriend halfway into our first date… well… strike three! That’s not to say he didn’t make for a fun escape that holiday season… But best of all, the way I simply – and apparently insensitively – said goodbye to him when leaving, according to the initially set rules, hurt his little boy toy heart, becoming a great source of gossip for their entire group of friends and acquaintances, thus insuring the end of all attempts to set me up with various individuals.

Blind Date on Christmas – Part 1

7

 

It was shortly after lunch when I started looking forward to the comfort of a hot shower, a fluffy bathrobe and a pair of soft slippers . I made it back from the local shopping centre frozen, hungry and somewhat scarred for life by the madness of last minute shoppers – one of which I had unwillingly become that year. But at least my frozen claws were clenched, holding on to their sought after and fought over prey – a not too big cardboard box containing a brand new artificial Christmas tree and a plastic bag with a few decently looking ornaments.

She could’ve at least checked to see what state it was in, I couldn’t stop thinking somewhat resentfully, because my mother’s old Christmas tree was beyond redemption, as I got to find out earlier that day. But after fighting tooth and nail with the cat in order to recover each and every one of the bobbles my mother so gracefully spread all over the floor for the little animal to play with, after figuring out where the tree could be safely set, out of reach of the spoiled four-legged menace, after some pre-Christmas cooking and baking, the evening ahead seemed promising. I was exhausted, but it looked like we were about to have a nice, calm, peaceful family Christmas Eve for a change.

Fluffy robe and cute slippers on, hair in a messy ponytail, all relaxed and reinvigorated, I’m making my way to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee before I decide on something nice and comfortable to wear – and all of the sudden I feel like I’ve forgotten how to breathe… and utter words. I don’t blush. I never do. But I feel my face burning, it must be red this time. There he is, the family friend… all dressed up, looking festive, uncomfortable and equally speechless. And there’s my mother urging me to be polite and hug the man – after all, we hadn’t seen each other in such a long while. And there’s her husband, grinning smugly, whispering to me, I couldn’t fit him under the Christmas tree, but you can thank me later.

I really should have known better… both of them had been on their best behaviour the entire day, occasionally exchanging amused glances or leaving the room in order to make various phone calls. But I fell for the mirage of that simple, tranquil, boringly normal Christmas Eve dinner, and you just don’t question a miracle if you feel it’s about to happen.

I needed help with my outfit, so the gentlemen had to excuse me, while my mother had to explain herself as soon as we were out of the room. It was really all his fault – she would blame it on her husband, as usual; she would have preferred someone better. But this one would have to do on such short notice… it would have been nice of me to let them know I was single at least a few weeks in advance. What’s the harm in it, anyway? He’s a nice guy, I had met him before, we always got along well… and you have to admit he’s hot, she tells me. And he broke up with what’s-her-name, now you two can finally have some fun.

I really should have known better. It was all about the perfect package – and as long as I didn’t have a date for Christmas or for the New Year’s Eve party or for any of the other holiday related events, I was not the full package. I had once again forgotten that everything I had accomplished held value only if there was a man there to hold my hand. And since I was in my mid-twenties, I was practically an old maid already. It didn’t really matter if I was dating somebody at home or not – as long as I didn’t bring anybody with me to introduce to them, I was fair game and they took it upon themselves to set all sorts of uncomfortable dates for me. I had no problem getting dates on my own, thank you!

To be continued…

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 63

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I can be such a dumb fucker sometimes… Robert looked at Amalia, trying to smile apologetically, hoping for an opening to explain himself. Come on… But her sunglasses covered her eyes, her head turned away from him and her thoughts lost god knows where. She probably regrets this trip now; I just became one of the crowd of idiots she undoubtedly considers men to be. He hadn’t intended to offend her in any way, after the night spent together he felt as though things could be talked out openly between them. So what if he wanted to know every little detail of her sex life? So what if he needed every little fact to paint a picture of her? He was going to ask her for details, he would’ve shared some of his own, but then that dismissive look of hers shook him, the past refused to stay buried and words took over.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina Gets Engaged (Fragment)

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Like any other long-term couple, they had discussed marriage. The fact that they had spent more time apart than together, bickering and disparaging each other was generally an irrelevant matter to both of them. They’d swear to never reconcile again, professing their mutual loathing and would occasionally yell out their indifference in hurtful, offending words. But everything would be forgiven and forgotten in a few weeks, when they’d be back together again. Behaving as though nothing had happened came naturally to both of them.

[…]

A fresh breeze of confidence carries her dreams and hopes even further, as Regina receives the most pleasing news from the jeweller’s where she has her ring appraised first thing the following morning – for insurance purposes only, of course, material matters are inconsequential… But who could ever suspect her of anything remotely resembling greed? She even manages to make it back home before sweet, dear Future Husband gets a chance to arrive – he insisted on taking that beautiful token of affection and have it resized for her delicate finger. It’s his mistake, after all… so why should she waste any time and effort because of his carelessness? As soon as the jeweller provides her with the pleasing information, Regina can finally give in to her engagement bliss and share the happy news with anybody willing to listen.

[…]

Just thinking of trying on weeding gowns makes her giddy with excitement, her heart beating faster, her cheeks blushing with anticipation. She already knows what she’s going to choose, what her heart is set on, but what’s the point in getting married if you’re not going to make the best of all the fun that comes with these preparations and bask in your friends’ jealousy? Torturing these women with her remarkable beauty, reducing their self-esteem to nothing and having them take care of the more exhausting parts of planning a wedding is something Regina has been dreaming of for years… And now the time has come for her to live her fairy tale.

Yes, that is the endpoint and she will not lose sight of it – after all, she already knows even how she’s going to redecorate Future Husband’s beautiful house. Regina will do everything and anything necessary for the accomplishment of this vision of marital bliss. Isn’t marriage all about compromise? Well, at least until both parties sign the marriage license… She is, after all, one to think about her man’s needs first. She will still smile while reluctantly agreeing to the number of guests he wants. She will wear the dress he chose for her, even if she would have preferred another; and if he wants to wear that hideous suit… well, what can a woman do but love him with all his flaws?

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 62

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Amalia was dizzy. Why? Why are these comments always a must, no matter who the guy is, no matter how evolved he might appear at a first sight? Inevitably, disappointment strikes and one’s self-defence system will overwrite all previous reason. He may be a man, but he is mainly a male and he cannot help but being human; he will push the limit and he will refuse to accept things for what they are, so one needs to assert one’s will in order to remain on the same level with him.

“Come on, don’t be silly. It was just a joke, I know how you see things, but I also get his side of the story. And from his point of view, he’s in love with you, he’s trying to have a relationship with you, and you’re the bitch that’s screwing anyone but him. By the way, are you still screwing him? When was the last time the two of you did it?”

“It’s been a while. And it’s also going to be a while before this bitch screws the likes of you again… I’m spending a couple of weeks with my family and I’m leaving the day after tomorrow.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina and the Nice Guy (Fragment)

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It was a particularly beautiful summer when they met, one filled with sweet poetry of hope and unrequited dreams, when the remains of old loves become the seeds of new ones and the magic of a sunset can make everything seem possible… even for a beautiful, intelligent and independent young woman like Regina to fall in love with a Nice Guy like him. Tall, with deep, dreaming blue eyes and a kind smile, elegant in his middle management suit, he couldn’t resist consoling Regina right after she presented her resignation two days into the trial period for a new job. Who could have resisted those beautiful doe eyes of hers, mystified by tears of despair she was trying so hard to stop from rolling down her pale, silky cheeks?

[…]

True to form, Regina promptly fell in love – so she said – with her new leading man, not one week after proclaiming her undying affection for Bad Boy, who so carelessly and unjustly shattered her dreams of a happily ever after. Yes, Nice Guy is the way to go, the key to open the door to that much sought after realm of marriage. He is that reliable shoulder a real woman like her needs to cry on, he is the sweet puppy she thinks she wanted as a child, forgetting for a moment how much she really hates dogs and how these loving, loyal creatures cannot stand the sight of her either.

[…]

In a matter of minutes, Regina glues back together all her shattered dreams involving Bad. Nice Guy may be nice, but does that make him right as well? After all, he seems stuck in a dead end job, he has no money and no ambitions, he might very possibly be the most boring man alive and sex with him is… let’s just say it, a yawn. Honestly, the dullest date or sexual endeavour with Bad Boy are far more interesting than the best moments with Nice Guy. Besides, how can she pursue her career as a victim next to him? Anyway, whenever things go wrong with any of those she considers real men, Regina can always go back to Nice Guy. He will always be there, waiting quietly for her return, hoping she would not leave yet again. What better match could there be?

[…]

In his elegant expensive Italian suit, the tall, athletic man is the epitome of calm and self-control, his blue eyes focused on the couple checking into the five star hotel. The woman adjusting the shoulder strap of her designer bag hasn’t seen him yet, and Nice Guy is happy he can chase away that wave of emotion building inside him, that strange vulnerability he hasn’t felt in years. But Regina’s big, bored eyes wonder around the hotel lobby, looking for something entertaining to annihilate her ennui, so when he meets his gaze and inexpressive smile, surprise, hopes and memories jolt her back to a present full of unexpected possibilities. The man accompanying her doesn’t notice the exchanged glances, but the truth is, he hardly ever notices anything besides his reflexion in the mirror.

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 61

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Their night in the mountain resort was one of innocence lost, but what surprised Amalia was how normal it felt to her. It wasn’t so much a change, but a realisation of how things should be, who she was as a woman and how great it felt to control and lose control at the same time. Insecurity left room to pride and she felt happy, as she realised what an effect she had on the man who was now driving silently.

“What do you think about a repeat of all this in a week or so?”

“I wouldn’t say no, but at a different time.”

“Why? Have you got plans with your boyfriend?”

“No need for sarcasm…”

“I was just saying… Maybe the poor sucker is looking forward to coming back and seeing you and for once you don’t want to disappoint him.”

“You’re the poor sucker, if that’s all you could understand so far. That being said, perhaps we shouldn’t make plans in advance.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Glass Slippers an Stilettos – Regina Experiments (Fragment)

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Eeeh! That hurt! The high-pitched moan escaped her lips as soon as the woman in a white uniform removed the first strip of wax. It’ll be worth it! Pain followed by pleasure, it’s always worth it, she had to remind herself. As the wax touched her skin again and again, she felt the need to congratulate herself on the wise decision of taking the day off. She needed a few hours of pampering before the big trip, a reprieve from all the stress, so she could get ready to fully enjoy the weekend’s pleasures. But time was also required to clear her mind and figure out the optimal plan, that perfect balance between delectable debauchery and worthwhile, career-oriented depravity. Experience had taught her men were more open and supportive of her cause in an intimate environment and she was relying on this opportunity to reacquaint herself with an old friend.

[…]

With her professional prospects sorted out, Regina could now focus on everything and everyone else. She knew exactly who she wanted. She had resisted him for so long, they had played such a sensual seduction game from the very beginning, but it was finally time to indulge herself. Sure, he was now pretending not to want her anymore, his tantrums making it impossible for the two of them to work together, but it was exactly this distance that made her understand how much she really wanted him. With every offending word, with each disrespectful gesture, Regina came closer and closer to the belief that he might just be her soul mate. She wasn’t about to let him become the one who got away just because of office politics…

[…]

The man’s voice betrayed feelings deeper and more conflicted than he wanted to admit even to himself. He hadn’t gotten where he was by being naïve or oblivious to human nature. He had heard all the rumours about her, of course he had; but he wanted to believe those big, innocent looking eyes. He wanted to believe that there are women like the one she appeared to be when they first met – gorgeous, intelligent, modest, selfless, loyal and honest. Knowing that he could have such a woman warmed his heart in those dull, cold business hours as well as in those moments of impaired consciousness, when he found delight in the most obscene pleasures his successful existence offered him. If he believed the rumours, that meant she wasn’t such a woman. Then he wouldn’t have had such a woman, he wouldn’t have been a man who could have such a woman. His ego didn’t allow for such a possibility.

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

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Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 60

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Images of the sun setting over a vineyard fade away in one’s mind; so do those of the mountain peaks seen from a hotel room. It’s the sensations of some summer nights that cannot be swept away by storms over the years, because they find a special corner in a woman’s mind, sheltered as defining instants and melancholy triggers.

The first time a girl has sex is one of those memories, but it’s often facts, not sensations, it’s often contexts and people that confer it an unalterable place in the girl’s mind. Some women, some special women, choose to also note and treasure a different kind of a first time – the one with that man who has finally taught them what it is and what it feels like to be a woman. Because it takes more than sex and more than just a male for such a moment to come to life for the first time – it takes a real man, one with real character and personality, one with ambition, experience and strength, one with a past and a future. And it also takes a woman able to note and appreciate such qualities, one that can be his equal and can also allow room for him to be himself.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 59

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The barrier of polite speech was gone between them and being crude about the realities of their interaction was not meant to be offensive; if anything, it was a term of endearment, a testimony of their intimacy, but also a turn on for him.

“I don’t think I was so exhausting, you didn’t have a problem keeping up with me.”

“That’s not what I meant. I was referring to your mis-en-scene. The outfit, your actions, everything was perfect, like a movie moment really. That’s what I hadn’t had since too long to remember: a beautiful woman, who’s not afraid to be perfect, who creates a night like that, who turns screwing into a phantasy… or the phantasy into real sex… I don’t know. You know what I mean.”

“Sure. You like me because I’m not real. Or you think such a thing cannot be real. And I agree with you.”

“So… what do you think? Was I what you expected?”

“Of course,” she muttered, looking away distracted.

Everything and more… so much more. But that’s something to carefully dissect and think over at home.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Belated Introduction (Fragment)

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She is friendlier than anybody would have expected a pretty girl to know how to be. She is incredibly hardworking, even when she doesn’t really do anything right. But most importantly, she is so deliciously vulnerable. The one everybody expected to be so smug and conceited is actually so surprisingly modest and demurred, even insecure at times, her big eyes filling with tears when she does something wrong. So nobody can resist helping her, nobody can bring themselves to criticize her, thus risking to cover that delicate doll face of hers with a dark shadow of regret, insecurity and fear. It’s ok, don’t worry, we’ll fix this…. No, no, no, it’s not your fault, you’ll learn, we all make mistakes, especially early on.

Eyes humbly staring at the floor, supported on either side by a benevolent figure, Regina will find her way towards the end of her first week, understanding how everything works and what needs to be done. Not yet having found her path to confidence, she will still strive to do everything right. Incidentally, she does find her way to the hearts of her older colleagues as the perfect daughter they always wanted. She warms up the soul and phantasy of the men in the office as the embodiment of a dream, that of the perfectly sensual, yet proper woman. As for the other girls, not even the ones who don’t look up to her, wishing to emulate her in every way, can bring themselves to dispute her obvious merits and openly antagonize her, because she has already quietly established herself as the innocent face of the office.

[…]

Slowly, but surely she has evolved from doing her job and appreciating everybody else’s help to giving orders, pouting and letting her colleagues carry out her tasks, because she simply doesn’t see why somebody of her calibre should be bothered with such menial things… even though they are part of her job description and she does get paid handsomely for it. Regina has bigger and better things to do, like pout, look pretty and check out all the latest status updates, while she is waiting for everybody else to notice and understand that she is meant to be one of the leaders, not one of the cogs in the system, since she is indeed above all mere mortals. She will not verbalize any of these thoughts just yet, her education is above that after all, and Regina will make do with silently looking down on everybody and occasionally pretend not to notice her co-workers having to do her job.

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

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Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 58

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She did want to get home, but not just because she felt suffocated; she also started to like this, to like him, his company was pleasant and intrusive at the same time, and that was much stronger a reason. Certain complications need to be avoided.

“You were great last night… It was like you were reading my mind.”

“Was I really?”

“Give me a break, false modesty doesn’t become either one of us. You were unbelievable and you know it very well.”

“What can I say, I aim to please… See, I can do cliché as well.”

“You can do lots of things. Is there something you can’t do? I got a hardon only seeing how prepared you were… that sexy outfit of yours, the massage oil… and that stuff with the ice cubes, I didn’t even know I liked that. I haven’t been fucked this way in a long time, you know…”

She flinched at the sound of the word. Why can’t men just call it having sex?

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina and Separate Beds (Fragment)

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Alone once more, with nobody to share her tragedy, having to face and accept the separate beds situation, Regina also has to accept taunting memories that refuse to stay selectively lost. Inconsiderate has no knowledge of it, but when initially leaving her for not being appealing enough, he became an influential factor in Regina’s evolution. Non-revealing, somewhat blend, often boring outfits used to be her signature style. That’s how you get a husband, she had been taught; she was also quite sure her mere existence would be reason enough for any man to reach ecstasy. On top of everything else, she had the upper hand, she looked the part of the moral compass she believed herself to be, thus feeling entitled to pass judgement on any other woman.

What really annoyed her at the time, she remembered, was the fact that her style had worked on several men, all enthralled by her innocent beauty and charm. She was particularly fond of one memory… After a pleasant evening together, her date was walking her home. It was a warm summer evening and she was wearing the most unassuming, somewhat outdated dress and pink flip-flops. They had had such a great time together, that she just didn’t want their date to end, so she invited him to stay for coffee. But it was only their second date, so he chose to be a perfect gentleman… yet when he held her tight and gave her a long, passionate goodbye kiss, pressing his body against hers, she could clearly feel how much he desired her. So men had to make an effort to control the wild desire she stirred up in their loins, in spite of those unrevealing outfits she used to wear. However, she failed to remember a few insignificant details… They had to run through torrential rain that beautiful summer evening and by the time they reached her door, the boring dress was nothing but a semi-transparent piece of cloth clinging to the naked body underneath. But such things rarely make a difference when it comes to a man’s desire anyway…

Meeting Inconsiderate was a revelation. He was the first real man she fell in lust with and not only did he fascinate her, but he also made her feel small and simply not good enough. Everything about him exuded power and success, she felt; and she absolutely loved how he only wore designer clothes and accessories… She was equally impressed and intimidated by his disdain for people who found it acceptable to drape their bodies in cheap, ordinary clothes and in case one didn’t manage to catch a clear glimpse of all the labels he was wearing, he would certainly find a way to work it into conversation. Women were occasionally exempt from the designer rule, if and only if the flashy outfits covering their perfect bodies left very little to the imagination and their pretty faces expressed endless awe and admiration for him. Complete with an equally extravagant car he would change at least yearly (because he kept wrecking each and every one of them), the stunning new man in Regina’s life was absolutely irresistible. Anyone saying otherwise was just too jealous to admit it!

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

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http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 57

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“Nice place… You can’t even see this entrance from the main road, how did you find it?”

“I got lost years ago and I took this little country road by mistake, thinking it was the one which was supposed to take me to a hotel I had never stayed at before. Instead I found this place and decided to spend the night here and do some damage to their wine collection. Plus, they’re very friendly at the little inn they have, and the food is great.”

“Of course, the stuff of legends, the universally agreed upon way to find little gems and picturesque places.”

“Sure, go on, mock all you want, but it’s a very nice place, you’ll see.”

She looks absentminded, staring at the vineyard like I’m not even here… Robert couldn’t avoid acknowledging the return to her original distance and cold front. One person last night and another one now. The view of the vineyard surrounding them while having lunch didn’t fail in melting some of her indifference, but she was still restless halfway through her desert, when a small revelation cleared her mind.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – …Or For Worse (Fragment)

Ana Linden

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The woman in the mirror wasn’t the one she remembered. No matter how hard she struggled, she would never see that reflection again. Time had a perverted way of leaving scars on her body in spite of all her best efforts. Turning slowly, analysing every particle projected in the horridly honest mirror, she felt her spirits lifted by the image of a still beautiful, mature woman. Her thighs were almost cellulite free… and her stomach, almost flat again… her behind was no longer as firm, but the right pair of jeans made it look just as luscious… her breasts had definitely seen better days, but she would do something about that as soon as possible. It was a game of make-believe these days, she thought to herself.

[…]

“Babe… I don’t know what I would’ve done tonight without you… After the day I’ve had… you wouldn’t believe it if I…

View original post 498 more words

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 56

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She did want the full experience, she thought; in his turn, Robert not only wanted the same thing, but he was clearly a lot more invested in obtaining it and enjoying it than she was. That might have something to do with one’s age, but the real culprit is most likely the selfishness that makes some people so detached and indifferent to others’ needs, once the body and the ego have obtained the sexual gratification and acknowledgement for which they were initially striving.

“You said your family had a small vineyard when you were a child, right? You’d go and play around, while watching the adults pick grapes and make wine every autumn.”

“I did, yes. And your point is…”

“Then I know where we’re having lunch. It might be too early to fool around and watch how they make the wine, but it’s never too early to take a few bottles home with us.”

The car swerved abruptly to the left on a deserted country road and after a few hundred metres Amalia could see the name of a vineyard carved and painted on an old wooden sign as they were entering the gates.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 55

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The two day trip was as close as you can get to an out of body experience, a step towards something else that resembled readjustment, more than change. The drive back home takes forever when all you want is to finally be by yourself, so you can analyze and categorize all aspects of a new experience. Closeness becomes overbearing, and indulging in another person’s company all of the sudden turns into an ordeal. Sex tends to bring people together, all the barriers or propriety and privacy are expunged and such devouring closeness allows for no personal space. So Amalia was trying hard to accept, perhaps even enjoy the other person’s company, in spite of his growing, suffocating familiarity towards her. She knew he meant well, she knew he was trying to offer her a beautiful day in the mountains before heading home, and she knew that – above everything – he was trying to prolong their little adventure away as much as possible.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 54

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Amalia slowly climbed in bed opposite to him, her long legs stretched on top of his, his fingers finally touching her, taking their time, moving gently higher and higher, until their warmth would finally settle on the white flash of her thigh, between the stockings’ line and the lace panties. The lust in their eyes became a comprehensive language, as words were now obsolete. The young woman allowed him to unhook her stockings and remove them slowly, with experienced moves, one by one, followed by the garter belt. Without looking away from her even for a moment, he picked up her shoes, his eyes inquiring, “Can you put them back on?” She smiled and the stiletto heels were again part of her ravishing being, while her right hand finally reached out to open his bathrobe, revealing the perceptible protuberance it was covering. The strong hand was caressing her thighs again, until the other arm suddenly grabbed her small waist, pulling her body close to his. The warm hand finally reached between her thighs, the fingers pushed the panties aside , sending an electric thrill through her entire body, while he was finally kissing her, as she threw her arms around his neck.

“I’ve been dying to do this since the moment you first entered that restaurant, looking down on me, so distant and so cold…”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 53

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She had been right from the beginning, she had read him well after all.

Such a predictable character when it comes to what he’s hoping to get from me, to what he wants me to be.

So he was a cliché from some points of view; but wasn’t she one as well, with her sexy outfit on, trying to be elegant at the same time?

Certain instances, certain feelings and emotions are classic, not cliché… and so are certain behavioural types, she thought, we repeat timeless actions and we fail to see how new we are to them and how jaded it all is on the outside.

But the subjective novelty is what I want, why I am here… I don’t care about the rest.

And everything disappeared, the only thing that mattered was their desire and the promising climax.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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Ages and Stages of Watching “Dirty Dancing”

 6

I kept changing the channels, barely noticing what was on… nothing was interesting anyway… not the book I was reading, not the homework I knew I was never going to finish, not the outfit I was going to wear the following day, and certainly not my life that evening. A movie was about to start and I decided to give it a chance. And this is how I got to watch experience Dirty Dancing for the first time.

I would have been too young to understand or show the slightest interest in it in the 80s, but the 90s teenager was absolutely fascinated by the romance unfolding on TV. Of course, the fact that Patrick Swayze was absolutely yummy didn’t hurt; I also loved the dancing, but it was the passion between the characters that I envied. Their story wasn’t exactly what I would have imagined as the dream romance, yet it was subjugating nevertheless. I wanted to feel something like that, the kind of consuming, overwhelming, out of control love which gives you wings and the strength to defend the object of your affection, no matter what. Such an ecstatic experience was definitely one worth having, I decided. But the ending… it made me sad. Sure, he came back for her, he didn’t allow for anybody to put Baby in a corner, they had one last amazing, unforgettable dance, but then I was left with the feeling that the end of summer was also the end of their romance. Why couldn’t that sort of love motivate two beautifully passionate people to try and find a way to be together? The movie ended on a cheery note, but I was sure that was the end for Baby and Johnny. It couldn’t have been any other way, yet I didn’t want to look beneath the surface and acknowledge the obvious answers to my questions.

2

I had experienced that unbelievable, unexpected, overpowering passion, I had even done some dirty dancing of my own by the next time I watched the movie, in my very early twenties. Sometimes, when we get to experience the materialization of one of our dreams, the reality doesn’t meet the expectations. That wasn’t such a case. The reality was every bit as deliciously amazing as the dream. In some instances, it might have even been better, because some sensations cannot be fully understood if only imagined and not even once perceived.

Come the end of summer, came the end of romance as well – a known, anticipated and planned ending. The truth couldn’t be denied. It was exactly that pre-established ending that increased the intensity of our passion. The awareness that our infatuation wouldn’t last forever allowed us to give everything and open our hearts, souls and bodies to each other’s desires and feelings. It was the kind of passion that would haunt us for years to come. It was the kind of passion that would make us see the other person’s features everywhere. It was the kind of passion that brought tears to our eyes when hearing a certain song, knowing we wouldn’t see the other person anymore. It was the kind of passion which even when no longer felt, but only remembered, would make us pick up our phones and send the other a text, sharing a memory or an instance which triggered a feeling. We both had our own separate lives, yet those texts never went unanswered. It was the kind of passion that needed no explanation between the two persons who had once shared it.

1

I watched Dirty Dancing that second time, melancholically wondering if I would ever find that sort of passion. Experiencing it only once was never going to be enough for me, few things could compare to it, few times had I felt that alive. I had a feeling I would experience it again, just as I knew I would watch that movie over and over again. I didn’t question the ending anymore. The ending was absolutely necessary… but perhaps it could be changed in real life, under the right circumstances… or so I liked to think, even if I didn’t really believe it.

I couldn’t see past that happy ending separating the couple. Actually, I could, but I preferred not to look. I didn’t want to see a drunken, aged, frustrated Johnny, unable to cope with Baby’s successful career, incapable and unwilling to be part of her world. I didn’t want to see a sad, lonely, frustrated, prematurely aged Baby trying to make ends meet, regretting her choices, wishing she hadn’t given up her future and squandered her potential for a man she barely knew. They had made the right decision, the only smart one.

3

I watched Dirty Dancing many times since. I got to experience that passion again, more than once. I don’t know if I’m luckier than others or that kind of passion is out there, available and real for everybody, as long as we allow it and accept it for what it is. What I do know – now that I’m in my thirties – is that I could live it again, if I decided it was worth it. Knowing the inevitable ending, being able to recognize the stages deprives it of some of its magic. Watching Dirty Dancing again makes me realize I’ve become more jaded and cynical than I thought I was. I no longer feel that strong wish to live such a story, and not because I don’t think it’s worth it – it definitely remains an incredibly great mixture of emotions and surprising moments – but because I now know it’s not as unattainable as it might seem. While each and every one of these stories is special in its own way, none of them is really unique… And they all die out the same way. It’s passion able to regenerate its strength that’s truly hard to find, not consuming passion that burns out with a bright, short lived flame.

So what I wish now while watching Dirty Dancing is that I hadn’t lost all my naiveté, what I dream is to occasionally forget how jaded I am. That way, next time I am presented with a Dirty Dancing kind of passion, I wouldn’t stop and wonder, Is it worth it?… even if I’m pretty sure the answer would still be Yes.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 52

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“Cheers!”

“To us!”

And they both drink their burning courage, hoping to be able to remain true to themselves and provide each other with all the fulfillment craved.

“To you and I,” whispered Amalia, carefully setting the empty glass on the nightstand by his side of the bed.

“You’re amazing… I can’t believe the way you look, I never dreamt of something quite this spectacular.”

“I like to make an impression.”

“Oh you do… this is the stuff of memories, every boy’s wet dream.”

“How about men? Real men? Since that’s really my target audience…”

“Oh… you’re what we dream of when we say our prayers at night, just before we have to fuck our wives. You’re what keeps us hard, that phantasy which makes life worth living.”

“You do like your clichés…”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 51

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Those eyes will wonder from the stiletto heels, upwards on the long, graceful legs, even more enticing in black stockings; they will linger hungrily on the garter belt and on the lace panties and they will take their time, being thankful for the tight corset, sending a distinct message to the tip of the fingers which almost feel it, anticipating the moment when they would struggle to tear it off the woman’s body; they will feel the heat of the body, as they focus on the whole image of the sensual woman standing a few metres away, the white flesh contrasting with the sexy black lingerie, her soft, long hair covering her shoulders and her naked back. The happiness becomes complete when those eyes meet another pair of long lashed, desire filled eyes which mirror the same wishes and carnal promises for the moments to follow. The young, beautiful face becomes even more irresistible, when the sincere smile lights it up with images of seduction and satisfaction, as the woman acknowledges her power, beauty and control over the man, yet again. She knows what effect her standing there, a speechless embodiment of sex, has over the man in front of her, and she takes her time, because this is one of those sensations which need to fully be perceived in order to set the right tone for the night to follow. She then motions slowly and lasciviously to pick up the almost forgotten glass offered to her moments or maybe centuries ago.

“Cheers!”

“To us!”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 49

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He had already planned to have a quick look thorough that bag when she’d be in the shower, but he hadn’t thought about the fact that she would need it exactly then. Never mind, everybody’s tricks would become clear soon. After closing the terrace doors and the curtains covering the windows, Robert lay down on the bed, pulling the hotel bathrobe, so that he would maintain a certain amount of decency, absently watching TV while waiting for her to finish with the bath.

I’ve certainly taken my time… The room was endowed with a very elegant, large bathroom, of which Amalia took full advantage, and she finally felt relaxed and ready to move on. She could hear the room service waiter knocking at the door a few minutes earlier, the drinks had arrived. One more glance in the mirror. Good, exactly how it was supposed to be. It’s time. Game on.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

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https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 48

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“Breath-taking, isn’t it?”

“Maybe, but it needs a river or a lake, water of some sort, it’s just out of balance.”

Was she serious? What kind of an answer was that?

“I think there’s a few streams of water hidden away out there, some creeks, maybe even a river.” Continuing what seemed to be her joke was the only thing to be done, after all.

“But you can’t see them. That doesn’t help much, does it?”

“Yes it does, it’s fun to think about the things you can’t see and then discover them one by one, see if you were right in the first place.”

“That’s one way to look at it. Anyway, I’ll go take a nice, long bath, if you don’t mind.”

“The bathroom is all yours. I might order something from room service. Anything you might want? A drink, maybe?”

“I’m sure I can rely on you to pick a nice vintage.” Amalia winked at him, walking away.

She took her beauty case and a few other things from her bag, but that happened in an awkward corner of the room, which couldn’t be seen from the terrace. What was it she said earlier, when Robert asked about what she had in that beauty case of hers? Something about a girl and her bag of tricks… a girl needs her bag of tricks, maybe.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 47

Out on the generous terrace or their room, Amalia was struck by a lazy image of mountain peaks, dark forests and what looked like little toy houses scattered around, following no distinct pattern. It was almost dark and she could guess more than actually see their shape, while trying to relax, leaning against the banister and breathing the dry, cool mountain air. People find such things extraordinary, she thought, but she was not one of them. Of course, the view was nice and the smell of the fir trees reminded her of Christmas, but try as she might, the reason for which such a view, such a place subdued and amazed people was just out of her grasp. There’s nothing special about it, it’s just nice and fun, she thought, but not at all out of the ordinary… But is it just the mountains?

The faint noise of water running in the bathroom wasn’t perceptible anymore and the silence felt heavy when Robert appeared in front of the terrace door, wrapped in a fluffy terrycloth bathrobe.

“Enjoying the view?”

Amalia nodded, looking away from him.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 46

“So… how did you like dinner?”

“Nice place, good food, just the way it was supposed to be.”

Back in the hotel room, without the escape route of random conversation about scenery, restaurants, people in the mountain town and all other miscellaneous things tourists use to keep themselves occupied, the two of them couldn’t avoid the obvious reason for their being there and a bridge needed to be forged between what they had been thus far and what they needed to be that night. Avoiding any sort of physical intimacy or closeness up to that point might have been a mistake and a way to remedy it had to be reached immediately; but a solution didn’t appear to be at hand, as they both seemed slightly uncomfortable and out of place.

“I think I’ll go take a shower. Or do you want to go first?”

“You go; I should sort out my clothes, see if they need to go in the wardrobe or something.”

“Ok then,” and he picked some stuff from his overnight bag, heading into the luxurious bathroom without another word or even a look.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 45

She was terribly amused by the new him… or was this actually the old him, the one he was a long time before they ever had the chance to meet? The two tourists were finally at ease with each other and the remaining part of the day was a nice promise for them both.

And tourists they were. The other’s life is a territory one cannot and does not want to explore to its full extent, as the intricate paths of thought and feeling and the prosaic everyday dramas are just the inherent death of any sort of magic that might have sparked an interest in the first place. The tourist is looking for the perpetual delight of uncharted territories – many have been there before, but what really counts is their own discovery, the thrill of the experience. And although the mark of a good trip is the sad feeling you get when your cases are already in the hotel lobby and you’re on your way back home, any experienced traveller knows better than to linger until the novelty wears off. Shedding light on the unknown becomes that sort of addiction which makes the journey worth traveling, in spite of all the dead ends and godforsaken experiences. And the perpetual thrill is only matched by the perpetual denial of the obvious – there is that type of tourist who will never feel at home anywhere and for whom safety becomes the necessary compromise. This tourist in another person’s life is a most selfish creature.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 44

A very new kind of euphoria took over as a first consequence of pressure disappearing in Robert’s case. He wanted to experience everything with her, he wanted to share the beautiful place, to show her new olfactory, visual and taste stimuli. He wanted to make her a part of everything he had always valued about the picturesque towns in the mountains. Nostalgia about times gone by would be nothing now, compared to everything he wanted to make her a part of for that day. The mountains were for him what the sea was for her. So that’s who he is when he doesn’t doubt himself anymore… And that’s who he is when he forgets who he is supposed to be… And I am the reason for this transformation, it’s happening because he knows now that I’ve accepted him. The sense of empowerment and the loss of any insecurity of her own were sublime.

“I’ve been dying to try some venison, so we should really go there.”

“Oh, that’s perfect, you’ll love it, you have no idea… And then we can take the cable car to the top of the mountain, the view is something else up there. You don’t have a problem with heights, do you? Of course you don’t, airplanes don’t scare you, so a cable car is clearly no issue.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 43

The hotel parking lot was quiet, just like the last part of their trip. Once the car engine became silent, neither one of them seemed to be aware of the fact that they had reached their destination.

“So… do we need one room or two? I booked two, just so you know, there’s no need to feel pressured or anything…” Robert only turned his eyes to her when he finished speaking, so he couldn’t perceive the intensity of her expression.

“I think one room is all we need. Don’t you agree?”

“I was hoping…” and a sigh of relief was more eloquent than any words could have been.

Once you get there, you don’t need to hurry anymore. As soon as the luggage was taken to their room, things between the two guests were quietly settled, the rapport seemed to have finally clarified. Once certain aspects become straightforward, anything else escapes the burden of pressure.

“Let’s go have lunch. I know this great restaurant, the food is amazing and the atmosphere… Wait, I have no idea whether… do you like game or do you have an issue with hunting wild animals? Because if that’s the case…”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Love of Her Life

3

The luxury car crawled by slow enough to let her notice every detail, from the tinted windows, to the impeccable paint shining in the sun, to the speckles rims. But in the congested early evening traffic it was still moving faster than most. A few more elegant manoeuvres of an experienced driver and it disappeared somewhere among the SUVs in front.

“Did you see it?”

Of course. A car like that was hard to ignore. So was the hungry, tormented look behind her sunglasses and those tiny beads of nervous sweat that had appeared on her forehead as soon as she noticed that ghost of a car on the other lane.

“Could it… Do you think it was him?”

No, his car is a different colour.

“Who knows…” She was already fidgeting in her seat, her eyes searching for the car that slid by just moments earlier.

“Can’t you catch up with him? Follow him, see where he’s going, see if it’s him?”

No way.

“Look at this traffic… there’s police everywhere, what do you want me to do?” I didn’t even try to hide the irritation in my voice, but she never noticed it. All she had eyes, ears and thoughts for was that car… was him… just like all those years ago.

“But you could try anyway,” she ordered, forgetting it was a favour she was asking for.

“No,” but the answer fell on deaf ears.

I had done more ridiculous things than try and follow a car, all in order to help with her romantic games over the years, but not this time, not for him… Even if I knew it wasn’t him in that car, she couldn’t have known. She was still chasing him, no matter what, no matter where, no matter who got in her way, no matter who got hurt. Well over a decade had passed since she hadn’t seen or talked to him, yet he was still haunting her. All it took was a glimpse of what might have been.

I tentatively moved forward, upsetting other impatient drivers, but the mystery car was nowhere to be seen, as expected. Yet now she could tell herself she had tried… and hopefully she wouldn’t have to tell me as well.

“Anyway, it couldn’t be him… I think I caught a glimpse of the driver and he looked nothing like him,” she tried to convince herself, settling down, disappointed the unexpected sighting was not going to become anything more. There was no way she could have seen the driver, but then again, she could never see clearly when it came to him.

The rest of our drive home was quiet. I knew all the memories, the regrets and the what if’s that car had triggered. While I may have despised him for the way he had treated her, while I resented her for what she had put everybody else through for the sake of their relationship, I couldn’t deny understanding at least part of her melancholy.

He had been and would always remain the love of her life. The love of her life and the passion of her life, both entwined in one selfish, arrogant, irresistible person…

Once in a while, she’d try to convince herself the man she married was the one she loved most. And once in a while, she would believe it. Yet, the more she saw herself disappearing in a marriage with a good, loving man who could never understand her, who had nothing in common with her, the more she looked back, remembering only the good times, only the passion, only the happiness. She used to have a life of her own, a career, she used to travel and be independent. She used to be alive.

Now she was somebody’s wife and nothing more. A housewife nobody minded anymore, that was all that she was, and most of the time she couldn’t even be bothered to care. She didn’t go anywhere anymore. She hardly left the house to go anywhere but the grocery store. She cooked meals, she cleaned their home, she listened to his boring work stories and once a year or so she managed to convince herself to visit me. So when one of her old, snobby, so-called friends told her how well he was doing and casually happened to mention one of the cars he was driving, she suddenly found herself canvasing the streets, hoping…

But she no longer was the strong woman she used to be. Seeing him, being rejected by him would have broken her. As one of the two persons who would then have to put Humpty Dumpty back together, I reasoned there was nothing wrong in trying to prevent Humpty from falling off the wall in the first place. Some feelings will never remain in the past, and just like she could never forget how much she loved him and how passionate their relationship had been, I would never forget how much I loathed him. She deserved a night out, I figured. She deserved some fun and she deserved to forget for a moment or two. She also deserved to be happy, but that wasn’t something I or anybody else could offer her anymore.

The luxury car drove by, obnoxiously manoeuvring through rush-hour traffic. This time, it was his car. This time she wasn’t with me. He drove the same way he lived – fast, recklessly and passionately. In his own twisted, selfish way, he had loved her too, that I knew; but he had never really cared. He would always be the love of her life. She might be his. For many of us, the greatest love of our life is one we can’t help but leave behind before it consumes our entire soul. That love remains so great in our memory also because it had no time to die on its own, to become mundane, boring and real. It existed in a dimension of its own, even when it lasted for years.

Reality is a different sort of game. She continued her life with her husband, who never started really seeing her. Once in a while, life would through a tantrum and they’d lean on each other, weathering the storm, hoping that would bring them closer. Then they’d forget it as soon as the weather was good again and they’d go on ignoring each other, living apart together, until the next storm would throw them back into each other’s arms. But one way or another, the past would always loom, breeding frustration and unhappiness. Or was that happening because the present was breeding frustration and unhappiness?

In response to WordPress Weekly Discover Challenge – The Things We Leave Behind.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 42

“I know of it, my mother used to come here with an old boyfriend of hers. I hear the place is pretty great.”

“I’m sorry. I’m such a dick… I had no idea, believe me.”

“How could you have known? I didn’t even know this place still existed.”

“We can go somewhere else, if you want. Anyway, I assume it used to be different back then, they have refurbished, almost rebuilt the entire place a couple of years ago.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry. I’m sure it’ll be nice.”

The platitude didn’t convince him, but it did restore some of her initial calm. Nothing is the same. I’m different. And this is my life. She doesn’t matter, she’s irrelevant, and so is her past. She’s not worth my happiness. Anger overcame any other emotion: a mother’s past would not destroy a daughter’s happiness again. Anger only makes one’s resolution even stronger.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 40

Some journeys are not just about the destination, but the cliché doesn’t apply to all situations. If all their previous outings had been about nothing else but the experience itself, a means to discover each other’s secrets and hidden frustrations, past and present, the current one was all about where it would take them, the climax of this stage. It occurred to him that he couldn’t remember when he last waited for so long before sleeping with a woman; whether it was casual or not, sex would always follow soon after opening lines. It occurred to her that she may appear to be the prude she was not; she had initially thought he was a good choice for a first one night stand, not just as a first married man. Instead they had dragged everything, she allowed for things to become something slightly different, to know him and to like the person he was behind the wedding ring. They could and should wait no longer, everything had to get on the right path and neither one of them wanted to avoid or postpone the destination anymore.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

“Glass Slippers and Stilettos” or My Summer News

It started off as the MissShy Chronicles in the early days of this blog… Some of you may have read those posts, some may even remember them. I was really fond of my MissShy character, I wanted her to grow, so she became Regina and the Chronicles evolved into a collection of ten short stories. After months of procrastination, it all came together under one title, behind one girly cover and now I can finally share Glass Slippers and Stilettos with everybody.

cover1

Regina’s adventures are nothing like Amalia’s from Parallel Lives. Light and humorous, the stories present the bratty, entitled character in various stages of her attempts to secure a husband and a fairy tale ending, all the while trying to preserve appearances and comply with pre-established patterns.

Regina is the woman everybody loves to hate and hates to love. Behind the gorgeous, demurred façade lurk selfish ambition, ignorance and a desperate need to find her happily ever after. The search for a man to rescue her and make her dreams come true follows a sinuous, often obscure, but entertaining path. Regina may try to deny it, but she is no innocent princess, Prince Charming can be a beast in disguise and modern-day happy endings are nothing like their fairy tale version.

The ten short stories are a satire of her journey, presenting the almost stereotypical character in various everyday moments and contexts, all of them related to her extraordinary ability to manipulate the men in her life. Other (often equally shallow) characters, such as Nice Guy, Boyfriend, Ex, Impeccable Pedigree, Sweet Girl, Lover or King will keep her company, allowing Regina to use them and occasionally using her, thus supporting her belief that she is a victim of circumstance. Charismatic and wild, Regina likes to enjoy all life’s pleasures and wants to have the best of everything, while endeavouring to preserve her “good girl” image. There are many obstacles between Regina and her ideal man, but her high heels relentlessly walk over them and the people in her way, hoping for her dream marriage to become reality.

In spite of her many flaws, Regina remains a likeable “villain”, able to trigger a spark of compassion mainly because one can occasionally relate to her amusing predicaments and moral dilemmas. After all, many have struggled with some of these issues – or similar ones – at least once.

If you’re heading for the beach this summer, Glass Slippers and Stilettos might just be that light, entertaining read you want. You can pre-order it on iBooks, Kobo and Barnes&Noble (release date – August 5th). I hope you enjoy it!

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Have a nice summer, everyone 🙂 .

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 39

The morning didn’t betray the sleepless moments of the night before. A few hours of good rest are all a woman Amalia’s age needs to recover, especially when the metabolism is already used to late nights of reading and studying and even later nights of adrenaline and dancing on loud, exhausting rhythms, which have the benefic effect of helping one forget the misery of life, at least for a while. The freshness of the new day reinstated Amalia’s confidence and vanity, settling her nerves and allowing for full enjoyment of the little escapade.

Although Robert hadn’t lost any sleep over the next day’s trip, he was relieved to see she was going to keep her word and not cancel the plans they had made. He felt he could trust her entirely regarding so many aspects of his life, he wanted to confide in her, but he had no certain ideas when it came to what she would allow to happen between them. His doubts were of a different breed and he had had the necessary time to learn how to ignore most of them. In any case, he would generally not allow such fancies of his imagination to have a relevant influence over his course of action. He wanted Amalia, Amalia appeared to want him, but it didn’t seem like she had made up her mind whether to act on it or not. Furthermore, she was a beautiful woman, much younger than him, and he knew she could easily twist a man’s head into submission, so he might not be good enough for her. She might want a younger, better looking guy; but his ego allowed for no such matters to inflict any change upon his resolution. He would take his chance, he was worthy of the pleasure and happiness she could clearly offer a man, and if he wasn’t good enough to make the cut, he would just lick his wounds, leave her and find solace in a sex bender with some worthless girl, until he’d manage to forget the bitter taste of her rejection and burry the entire experience deep into oblivion and indifference.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 36

More than ever she felt like a girl that night, and not at all like that person she knew she would become, like that woman she so longed to be. Amalia was certainly no ingénue, no virgin or prude, the men in her past and present could attest it without a doubt, and she was indeed well-aware of the effect her body had on them, she adored the sense of power she extracted from their desire and satisfaction. Few things can be more reassuring and addictive to a woman than perceiving the males’ ecstasy, than the thrill of control their desperate lust for her can convey, or than the vague victory in an unmentioned battle with the other members of her own sex. It is all about superiority and control, the reassertion of the self, it is so much more than just the physical pleasure, the satisfaction transcending so many levels.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 35

It was a good thing he wanted to leave the very next morning, that way nobody had enough time to overthink things and give in to their nervousness, cancelling the trip as a result of fear or overactive analytic abilities. It was the right moment for the next step, Amalia thought, and the worries such a moment may have brought up were matched by heightened expectation.

She spent the next hours deciding on outfits, trying things on in her mind and planning all the little details of the night she knew they would spend together, avoiding any ideas that might make her feel nervous and prevent her from going through with it. Misrepresentation is a common trick for both men and women and although she knew that some of the traits Robert had presented her may have been shaped to portrait exactly who he wanted to be or who he thought might attract her more, the girl was worried about her own image, what she had put forward as being her true self. Nothing she had said was untrue, but she had left out various details about her sex life, so she had created an appearance that could have been interpreted as that of a seductress, the woman who does not get involved with her male victims, who uses them for her pleasure – sexual and otherwise – the woman who does not see anything wrong in having a brief sexual affair with a married man, the woman devoid of feelings and remorse.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 34

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 9 in the morning.”

As soon as he could see Amalia entering her building, the sun reflecting in the glass window, Robert looked up the number of one of his favourite hotels in a nice mountain resort; he lingered for a while before dialling, staring blankly at the screen. Should I actually book one room or two? If you fail the woman’s test at that particular point, there is no turning back and no making up for it… especially with certain women. In some cases, it’s exactly the ones that put up the most impenetrable, holier than thou front, that turn out to be the loosest, and it’s usually an easy and safe guess as to how they might react, given the chance to bathe in the depravity they condemn so loudly, yet crave so desperately. The ones that are open about such things, however, tend to be those that constantly surprise you. For some reason, they live with the belief they are above all others, having a very strong sense of entitlement, which spawns exactly from their open-mindedness and sometimes paralyzing bluntness.

The young woman motioned very slowly after she closed the entrance door behind her, leaning her head to one side in such a manner, so that she could catch one more glimpse of the car parked in front. The man to whom she had just bid goodbye was looking up something on his phone, then he dialled someone. She understood. She smiled contented and hurried up to her apartment. Good.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 33

The direct way proved to be the easiest approach, yet again.

“The hell with it all… I need a break.”

“Meaning?…”

“I’m going to the mountains for a couple of days. Do you have any plans for tomorrow or could you be persuaded to keep me company for a change of scenery?” He paused, waiting for a reply. “You can have your own room. No expectations, no pressure. Just two people having a couple of days off from their lives. I’m leaving anyway, I set everything up already, but I just don’t want to be alone.”

“Ok.”

“Ok?”

“Yes, ok. That could be fun, as long as you are aware that I like my hotel rooms comfortable and my heels high, so there will be no mountain climbing or anything of the sort.”

“Agreed.”

How exactly does she manage to ignore all my allusions and turn the conversation into something completely different than what I meant it to be? The little bitch… there is no such thing as letting me know exactly where I stand with her.

He thought he saw her winking at him. But did he really want to know for sure or was this just part of the game?

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

A Time For Chance Encounters

10

The car slows down and stops next to mine. We’re listening to the same radio station, I instantly realize, as our open windows allow for the warm wind, traffic noises and the same music to intertwine. I turn my head to the left, curious to see who else feels like listening to ‘80s songs today. Equally curious, the other driver looks to his right and just for a moment, through the dark tint of our sunglasses, our eyes meet. We exchange a quick, playful smile as our attention seems to switch back to the traffic. The light turns green, but we motion forward slowly even though ours are the first cars stopped at the traffic light.

Half smiling to myself, I scrutinize discretely while feeling scrutinized myself. He’s cute, he’s driving a great car and he’s younger than me. I know I don’t show my actual age and today I feel even younger, but it’s still flattering and amusing at the same time. I speed up a bit and so does he, keeping up with me.

It’s that time of year again… summer is in the air, it’s still mainly us, locals, so we still have the town to ourselves. First weekend this year when it really feels and looks like early summer and everybody’s enjoying the moment in their own way, it seems… From angry, aggressive, frustrated drives we become flirty drivers… at least for a few brief moments, until we get used to the summer routine and fall back on our jaded cynicism.

Nobody is in a hurry on such a day and it looks like many have taken their summer toys out for a spin, thoroughly enjoying them and showing them off. It’s fun to see 80’s music lover keeping close to my car even when I challenge him with a couple of unexpected turns. He’s played the game before, I see… But I must admit, today’s lazy traffic isn’t that tricky. As he passes my car and smiles at me once more, I can hear the same music. I catch myself inadvertently smiling and I effortlessly keep up with him for a couple of minutes and then pass him again. I’m a lady, he needs to chase after me, right?

I don’t normally drive with my window down, I simply switch on the AC. But even those of us, mere mortals, having to drive through life without a convertible, like to feel the wind messing up our hair once in a while. I don’t normally listen to that radio station either, but I’m restless today, I’m bored of the predictable, repetitive rhythms of the usual one and I don’t feel like playing something in particular either. I want to be surprised… And as I can hear the same music reverberating in the car next to mine at yet another traffic light, I realize the surprise is an entertaining one.

The car on my right is slowing down, waiting for me to do the same. As I don’t, he speeds up until he’s right next to me. While waiting patiently for pedestrians to cross, he points to the right, to the parking lot belonging to a trendy pub. They’ve gotten their umbrellas out and the terrace looks so inviting. I know they don’t play ‘80s music there… He still looks at me, his head tilted to the right, smiling crookedly and inquiringly. I smile back when the last of the pedestrians is on the other side of the street and I really have no excuse to be stopped there anymore. With a quick wave of my hand, I drive straight forward while he pulls over in the parking lot to the right. I can see him wave good bye as well. Then the street bends to the left and he disappears.

Yes, it’s that time of year again… when the sun brings out the best and the worst in us in this little corner of the world. It’s that time of year when the fun begins again, when it’s acceptable to be wild and young, no matter how old you are. This time of year, in other years, I would have stopped to have a drink with a cute stranger and see what chances a chance encounter stands to become more. Yet these days I keep driving, and not because of my age, but because I choose to. There are chance encounters and chance encounters… some of them serve as innocent reminders that the person we have in our life for the time being is one we have chosen, not one we have settled for, in lack of better options.

In response to WordPress Weekly Discover Challenge – Chance Encounter.

Books, Reviews And Awareness – Carol Balawyder

Carnations are the symbol for Multiple Sclerosis, I recently learnt from Carol Balawyder’s blog. In order to raise awareness, she is offering one of her books, Not By Design, for the bargain price of 0.99$ the entire month of May. While I don’t usually review books on my blog (this is only the second time it happens), I find Carol’s writing worthy of such an exception. Not only is she a talented writer, but she is also very supportive of fellow authors, so if you haven’t come across her blog yet, perhaps it’s time you had. Summer is right around the corner and in case you’re looking for something to read on the beach, her books are a nice alternative – engaging, entertaining, yet also well researched and interesting.

Getting To Mr. Right

getting to mr right

Carol Balawyder has managed to create four relatable, strikingly real protagonists and this, together with the highly relevant and complex subject it tackles is what makes her book a real page-turner. Whether we like to admit it or not, the Prince Charming myth – under its various shapes and interpretations – occupies a significant place in a contemporary woman’s love life, regardless of her age, social status or background. No matter if she is desperately seeking this ideal man or she is incessantly trying to debunk the controversial myth, a woman cannot deny the relevance of this concept and the inner struggle it creates.

So much more than a selection of dating stories and disastrous sentimental experiences, the book gives a detailed account of the profound effect an absent father figure might have in determining a woman’s development and the way she will perceive and handle future relationships with men. Getting to Mr. Right is certainly not a “how to” manual. On the contrary, what becomes clear early on is that finding the right partner needs to be a journey to understanding and finding one’s true self.

Campbell, Missi, Suzy and Felicity could be any one of us and most likely, we have been in their shoes more than once. The four very different ladies have one thing in common, they all face some sort of personal, emotional crisis, and this is what brings them together. What might at first sight seem to be a narration focused on the relevance of finding the ideal man and the perfect relationship is actually an ode to female friendship. These four wonderful ladies manage to find their way, realize their potential, understand who they are and what they need not with the help of a man, but with the support of their friends. Once they heal, they make peace with their past and form a realistic view on relationships, they can find balance and love.

We are never too young or too old to discover ourselves or to make a change for the better, we are gracefully and discretely reminded. As for all those huge everyday questions we all have about compromise, independence, career and the way they affect or are influenced by romantic relationships and family connections… it’s a delight to see Campbell, Missi, Felicity and Suzy try to figure them out. At times hilarious, at times heart-breaking, their adventures and feelings are nicely punctuated and enhanced by setting and weather, thus improving the reader’s literary experience. But I’ll let you discover such details on your own…

Not By Design

not by design

Sometimes we have control over our destiny… and other times life simply happens, and not by design. That’s what Felicity Starr, the protagonist of Carol Balawyder’s fourth book in the Getting to Mr Right series, finds out when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Not By Design is not your typical “boy meets girl, they overcome various obstacles and live happily ever after” romance.

We find Felicity about to reach a fairy-tale ending – a spectacular wedding in Rome – but her life turns upside-down when she discovers her illness and Marco, her wonderful prince, turns into a frog. Struggling to deal with health and financial issues all on her own, left by the man she was about to marry, recovering after her father’s unexpected death, Felicity needs to accept the truth about her own life. In many respects, what she believed to be real turns out to have been an illusion and her choice in men still reflects some of Felicity’s past mistakes. It may have taken her a long time to see her father for who he really was, but that hasn’t obliterated her need for acceptance and approval. Not only does she acknowledge it eventually when she has to sort out all the emotions triggered by his death, but we see it clearly when looking at Marco and noticing how much his character and behaviour towards Felicity resemble her father’s.

The father-daughter relationship becomes secondary in Not By Design. Felicity’s relationship with her mother, Nicole, is emphasized this time, as the two finally get closer and past wounds start healing. Her need for a mother figure also plays a big part in Felicity’s choice to marry Marco, as it becomes obvious from her feelings for his mother. But the relationship that needs the most work is that with herself – her MS helps her grow, become independent and establish a new, more realistic system of values and priorities. First and foremost, she needs to accept herself. As her story progresses, we find Felicity using a cane, but she no longer uses people for crutches.

The setting complements the flow of the story, also enhancing our reading pleasure. Rome and its history infused streets are the romantic, almost surreal scene for the first part of the book, but as the fairy-tale mirage starts dissipating, Felicity moves back to Montreal, the place where reality takes precedence in the best of ways. That is where she finally finds her way and starts seeing her dreams come true, as soon as she understands what is important and what she truly wants.

Felicity is a strong character and the first person narrative brings her closer to the reader in what is a very enjoyable, interesting story. Just like in the first book of this series, Getting to Mr Right, Carol Balawyder has managed to provide us with relevant facts (this time about the physical and emotional struggles of those suffering from MS) without disrupting our reading pleasure. In spite of all these complex matters, Not By Design is a light, relaxing read, perfect for a lazy day on the beach or for a quiet evening at home, when one needs to clear one’s mind and forget about all those troubling daily issues.

Parallel Lives – Sample fragment 31

Amalia and Robert knew what they wanted, and where they would end up was something they both became aware of in a very short time; first the girl, then the man. It was almost shocking how much it would take them to move on in an era when making acquaintance, having sex and breaking up happen almost simultaneously, at times not even in that order. But they wanted more than sex, and by that neither one of them understood commitment – they wanted the fun, the thrill, the mystery and the challenge, they wanted to discover and be discovered, and they wanted to make the experience and the adrenaline last for as long as possible. None of them desperately needed sex or a new sexual partner, the type of satisfaction they were seeking in each other was slightly more complex or multifaceted, although also derived from basic lust.

Amalia knew that she could have him at any moment, moral issues and prejudice had no place in their resolution, and the fact that he had not made an actual physical attempt to seduce her heightened her sense of power: for once, she perceived a man as a potential equal, he was not afraid of her, he didn’t need to prove his affection or lust. It was clear that he wanted her, and taking his time resulted not from insecurity, but from his conceited nature, which once in a while she found great pleasure in shaking.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Gentlemen, I Apologize!

1

Yes, I know for a fact there still are many of you left out there, although you are part of what appears to be a rapidly dying breed. To all of you who still open the door for us, who still offer us flowers on special occasions and not only, who still help us with our coat or hold the chair for us in a restaurant, who plan a romantic date and don’t suddenly remember they forgot to bring their wallet, to all of you who treat us with respect, appreciation and consideration, I offer a blanket apology. To all of you able and willing to make a woman feel like a lady, I apologize for all those times your kind gestures went unappreciated or scorned, thus pushing you towards overcoming your decent nature and good manners.

It can be a trialling time of year for any man wishing to show his love and appreciation for those important ladies in his life. Having barely survived Valentine’s Day’s trials and tribulations, now that spring is finally here, many of them have to deal with Mother’s Day and/or International Woman’s Day being celebrated in many places. It’s a murky pool of rules and shifting expectations out there and much as they may try, it seems that the kindest of intentions often turn against them. It’s not as simple as having good manners or being altruistic and generous anymore. Expectations vary from one woman to another and in a world of feminist tendencies, conservative needs and a variety of trends in between intertwining (often in the same person), it’s all about timing and intuition. Does she want/need/expect him to bring her flowers or open the car door or pay for dinner… or will she feel offended if he does any of the above, considering him a Neanderthal wishing to control her, treating her as an inferior, weaker creature rather than his equal? Or is she by any chance saying one thing and expecting another, in which case he needs to carefully anticipate exactly when, how and which rules may apply? None of this can be easy for them, so those of us expecting men to be gentlemen might occasionally have to stop taking such behaviour for granted and show some appreciation and understanding.

I used to think they have an easier time once they get to know the lady well enough in order to know what to expect and what she expects… but how many times have I been told they never really know what to expect from us and no matter how close they may be to us, we keep surprising them with our behaviour (and not always in a good way)?

The flowers hadn’t arrived. It was Valentine’s Day and her flowers and chocolates hadn’t arrived, so he was a bad, bad husband! Bad, inconsiderate, detestable man! But the flowers, chocolates and card had been ordered weeks ahead, the special day hadn’t gone unnoticed or forgotten, even if he had to be away for work. A thoughtful gift and a romantic dinner were going to follow when he got back home. Irrelevant! All of that was irrelevant, as was the confirmation email forwarded to her in order to prove the veracity of his good intentions. The delivery company had made a mistake, everything would get there the following day, but that was also irrelevant and he was still and awful creature who ruined her Valentine’s Day… because she had nothing to show off that day! Obviously, flowers are beautiful, chocolates are sweet, the sentiment is nice on that day alone and nothing else matters!

In case anybody expected this to be a teenager throwing a tantrum, I must add the story above involved middle-aged people married for well over a decade. If only this were the one situation of the sort I ever got to witness… I know the bad, bad man in question and while he certainly has his flaws, just like everybody else, he didn’t deserve any of that. It got me thinking – just how many men doing their best to be real gentlemen go through such experiences with those significant ladies in their life?

As a woman, I couldn’t help feeling somewhat small and petty… I keep feeling disgruntled and unfairly criticised when my gender is labelled materialistic, selfish, petty and ungrateful by men becoming irrational hysterics around various holidays and special occasions. I generally blame it on their unwillingness to be generous and understanding or on their poor choices in women, thus leading to frustration they spread around and for which they blame all womankind. After all, there are women looking just for what these men have to offer, so why should they bother with those of us wanting something else? Obviously, the situation is a lot more complex and the truth can no longer be denied – some of those men may have very well made significant efforts to be decent gentlemen, yet we ladies may have been exactly what convinced them it was not worth it.

Last, but not least, how about reciprocity?… Before turning men and their feelings for us into mere accessories we can brag about (although we complain bitterly if they treat us that way), we might want to take a moment and wonder if we actually offer something in return, thus justifying all those stellar expectations we often have… those very same expectations we blame them for not living up to… We are all guilty of occasionally taking for granted those people who care about us and who treat us well, but turning it into a way of life is something else. And since we were on the topic, Valentine’s Day (for instance) is a two-way street, we can and we should be generous and romantic as well – they may not look as delicate as we do, but that’s not to say they have no feelings, egos or insecurities. Oh… and apparently they might also have a sweet tooth, so it was brought to my attention that they might actually appreciate it if we shared those delicious chocolates they brought us. (Hmm… couldn’t I just offer a few roses? Pretty please? Asking me to share my chocolates with anyone is almost cruel… Oh well… that might be the ladylike thing to do, though…)

Therefore, I apologize to those of you, gentlemen we have been treated unfairly! But don’t give up on us or on that kind side of your nature. Just like you, we also make mistakes and once in a while, we even try to atone for some of those mistakes.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 16

“The idiot is in love with you.” He didn’t know whether to get angry at her or just laugh at that guy’s stupidity – something from the past was trying to claw its way to the surface, but he instinctively pushed it back deeper, the way he had always done.

“Let’s leave this cliché for another time. He’s just in need of finding himself a new mother figure, someone who would tell him what to do, would control his every action and would relinquish all his responsibility when things go badly; because, after all, it was only her fault, as she was the only one with a say in it, and he can just relax, enjoy the ride and bask in the amount of drama him being the victim of the soulless woman would offer.”

“I almost feel sorry for the poor guy. You don’t appreciate him at all, do you?”

“Of course I do, we’re actually friends, but anything more than that is subject to certain rules. I do care about the fact that he was there when I wanted him to be there and about the fact that he’s a nice guy, but on one hand that’s not enough for me, and on the other hand, I get the feeling that by ‘appreciation’ people tend to understand changing yourself in order to fit some idea of what would please another person. And the irony is, the one I am now is what he’s obsessing over, whereas the washed-out cloth I’d become by changing to please him would hold no interest whatsoever.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169