Thursday, January 10, 2008

xPost - Surprise!

I just received an e-mail that "GIFT WRAP OPTIONAL" is in an athology that will be available on the Ellora's Cave print book site next week. I'm waiting for a cover - as soon as I get it I'll put it up here and on my site at www.tjmichaels.com.

In the meantime, here's an excerpt:

Melaniece Matthews muttered to herself, carefully navigating the icy winding road leading up to the high country.

“Man, what a weird dream. Michael, a vampire?” The same strange dream plagued her at least twice a week for the past six months. They’d started immediately after she’d returned from a short trip home to California. It had been so good to see her friends and family after being away for eight years. And beyond lovely to see Michael Bannon again—the man she’d always loved. And, sigh, the man who’d seen her as just a great friend. Instead of marrying her, he’d hooked up with someone else, a woman named Janna. The end result? Six years of hell on earth for him. And now he haunted her in her sleep.

While Melaniece could admit she’d thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with him after so many years, she sure as hell wasn’t going to admit he’d been on her mind ever since. Her dream crept around the edges of her mind. “What if he is a vampire?” she smirked to herself, a sarcastically evil grin plastered across her lips. “That would explain why he ripped my heart out by marrying Janna. There’d certainly been plenty of blood to go around.”

Peering through the cold, clear windshield, Melaniece grimaced as her thoughts turned to her favorite holiday. Instead of the usual elation about Christmas, she was assailed with a mix of emotions she couldn’t quite nail down. There was the thrill of spending time with her children after a whole year of separation, chased by a longing for intimate companionship so acute she found herself on the verge of tears. Then, right there at the back of her mind was an elusive sense of naughty anticipation. But for what? A good lay? Not likely. She had no prospects and no interest in hunting for any. Michael’s handsome face popped into her head complete with fangs and a roguish grin, just like in her dream. Damn, she could practically feel the gorgeous, redheaded hunk making love with her as his incisors rasped over her skin. Yep, right there on the big sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace. Perfect spot.

“Hah, right!” she laughed with an unmistakable snort and waved the image away. But her breathing quickened in spite of a refusal to acknowledge the fine-assed man with fangs dancing around in her head. Give it a minute and her pulse would return to normal, right? Woo, she needed to turn off the heat. In spite of the freezing cold, the car was hot as hell. After a quick glance down at the console, she rolled her eyes up to the roof of the car. The damned heat wasn’t even turned on!

“Good grief, I’m hopeless,” she quietly grumbled. And it was all her dream man’s fault. Key word—dream. First off, she’d long given up hope in that quarter. Second, there was no such thing as vampires. So Michael was single again. Big deal. They’d had a great time reuniting in California six months ago. Who cared? None of it meant he wanted her now any more than he had eight years before.

With the car packed full of wrapped packages and luggage, Melaniece focused on the upcoming holiday. A glimpse at the pile of boxes in the backseat brought a small smile as she reminded herself this was a season to give generously to those you loved…and those who loved you back. And boy was she prepared to do just that.

Her children had spent the past year in an exchange program teaching English in Japan. It was amazingly expensive to live on the exotic little island. With most of their meager salaries going toward rent, groceries and train fare, the two had gone without some conveniences. When they returned to Minato-ku, a suburb of Tokyo, they’d sure as hell take lots of top-of-the-line goodies with them. Nothing but the best for her kids.

Christmas Day was fast approaching. She looked into the rearview mirror and spoke sharply to the woman reflected in the narrow glass.

“Okay you,” she said to herself. “No more goofy dreams, no more wasting time mooning over someone you can’t have and no more vampire nonsense. It’s Christmas and you’re gonna accept whatever Santa decides to give you. Got it?”

Got it. She popped a classic holiday CD into the player and hummed along with “Santa Baby”. With genuine laughter, Melaniece let Nat King Cole chase away her blues as she headed up the highway to her vacation home to meet her family. Up there among the snow-capped peaks, the long-toothed boogeyman was not allowed, no matter how yummy he looked in her sleep, damn it.

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