|A compilation of three sweet reads.|
It's a cold, dark Halloween night in New Orleans. Will Frank get a trick or a treat?
Hardnosed construction worker, Frank Hickman, has got to be hallucinating. Is the shimmering beauty in bed beside him a figment of his imagination? Or some warped Halloween prank pulled on him by his boys?
Azure Blackstone has been carjacked. Will Frank's realization come too late to save her?
Copyright © October 2016 by Mickie Sherwood All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are coincidental, and if not coincidental, are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. No part of this ebook may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and email, without prior written permission from Mickie Sherwood.
Halloween Night...Loner Frank Hickman set out for the bar after his last walking tour of the evening. He slid the broken cell phone he picked up out back in the dust into his pocket. Break-ins plagued the construction site, as recently as this morning, forcing him to make periodic rounds each day. Late material shipments and impossible deadlines filled his days. Nevertheless, he would rather suffer through those inconveniences than this evening's upcoming interactions.
He was out in New Orleans' cold October air almost as soon as he pulled his truck up on the lot. Children's chatter electrified the air, drawing him up short. He stopped to watch a group of chaperoned ghouls, goblins, princesses, and superheroes scatter all over the sidewalk across the street. It was Halloween. And—they certainly dressed and acted the part.
His own kids were grown and seemed to be in no hurry to make him a grandfather. At that moment, he realized he didn't know whether to be happy or sad. He shook his head in a dismissive manner. An aloof swagger got him passed the front door of the lounge and his tall, muscular body belly up to the bar next to his cronies. For grown men, the other three reacted childishly to a photo one shared. It was Frank's turn to take possession of the iPhone for a look-see.
"Man, I know you haven't been with one in so long," his friend teased. "You don't know what you're looking at."
Boisterous laughter jumped from one man to another.
You're right, Frank thought. It had been a long time since his last real relationship. So long, in fact, her face was practically lost in obscurity. He silently admitted she was a pearl. What he longed for, though, was a rare gem. "I'm looking at the demise of your marriage if you don't control your urges," he warned.
Tyrone snatched his phone back. "See what I mean! A regular old fart."
They moved to a table.
Along with them came more laughs at his expense. It was uncomfortable to sit with the broken cell in his pocket. Therefore, he removed the bulge when he sat. He placed the cell in plain sight on the table. A waitress wandered over to take their drink orders. He signaled and each man placed his own. "Put this round on my bill," Frank said as she walked away. He noticed they now ogled the waitress. "Y'all are pitiful."
"Frank, you got to let your hair down sometime, bro." It was Tyrone, again, with that bit of advice. "Let me see your phone."
"Why?" Frank asked.
Nooney jumped him, too. "Just do it."
Then, Bud. "You gotta try it, Frank. I guarantee you won't regret it."
Reluctantly, he obeyed the request. Frank's iPhone changed hands. He watched as "ole school" Tyrone exhibited his prowess with today's technology. He went through the menus so fast, before Frank knew it, their signals paired for the transfer.
"What did you just do?"
"I just unlocked your universe," Tyrone crowed. "Opened you up to a whole new world."
Talking stopped. The snickers started when the waitress appeared with their drinks.
Frank took a drink of his beer while giving Tyrone a distrusting look. He thumped the brown bottle to the table. "I'm going to pay for this later, I suspect."
"No, man," Tyrone countered. "You're gonna thank me."
Frank grabbed the other phone and his, the second Tyrone dropped it to the table. He looked it over to decipher what new Apps existed on his screen. There was nothing out of the ordinary. However, something was strangely different about the display. Instead of using his holster, he dropped each phone in a front pocket and forgot about them. The next few hours were spent in the company of his college buddies. The time flew by. Soon, all went their separate ways.
Frank headed home.
It was late when he walked into his pitch-black apartment. He kept right on to his room where he sat on the side of his bed. Feeling a little tipsy, he fell backward on the mattress with an arm over his eyes. He wasn't a drinker and knew his system would purge all before morning.
That would be a good thing. He had to be capable of managing his crew all over again tomorrow.
He lay inert for a long time until an unusual warmth touched his skin. His hand traced the feeling to his pocket. The heat forced him to reposition farther across the bed. He also snatched the phones from their hiding places in favor of a spot next to his body. Contented now, Frank drifted off.
He slept for what seemed like hours before his system hauled him out of bed. It was just as expected when he raised his head from the commode. Why a man in his forties put himself through the punishment to fit in was beyond him. He knew his stomach would be roiling for days.
Frank stepped over to the sink to revive himself with a splash of cool water. Brushing and gargling got rid of the sour taste in his mouth. The water was so refreshing he lingered until he felt good enough to stumble back to bed. He looked in the mirror. His rugged brown features reflected green around the gills. Beyond that sight, he saw a glow from the bedroom behind him.
Knuckling his eyes didn't clear his vision.
Whirling around, he thought he was mistaken, for everything looked all right now. However, another look in the mirror had him doubting his eyes, again. The aura magnified until the entire room behind him glowed red. This confirmed for Frank that he'd overdone it. He decided the best way to dissolve his drunken stupor was to enter the room on the attack.
What he confronted stopped him dead in his tracks.
The phones were the culprits. They looked red hot on his bed. Yet, the bedspread remained unsinged. He took cautious steps within reaching distance as he eyed them. Then, as if on a dare, Frank scooped his cell up ready to feel the intense, fiery pain.
It flared brightly in his hand without burning before changing to a cool azure color. The same hue as the one left on the bed. The phenomenon entranced him. He stared at it, determined to dispute the woman's face on his distorted screen. Huge round eyes seemed to ask his help. Her mouth worked soundlessly.
"What the—" he declared aloud, hitting the END button.
That did the trick. The glow vanished as things returned to normal around him. Frank flopped on the bed fully clothed, too tired and confused to think about the event. He was just glad it was over.
He lapsed into a troubled sleep. He couldn't decipher real from unreal. Those soft brown eyes, lingering in his dream state, lured him deeper into the depths. Suddenly, she took full form beside him. Frank twitched to gain his freedom. But, he couldn't break loose from his semi-conscious state.
It was just no use.
He could only lay nose to nose with the seductress dressed in blue velvet now on his bed. She still talked to him. His rapidly batting eyes latched onto her luscious-looking lips. His attention jumped from her mouth to her eyes. Trying to disconnect failed. So, his eyes finally closed, again. He gave in to her will, losing himself in another realm.
Her mouth continued to work.
Frank's senses tuned in to her apparition. Although, he didn't understand her need, he knew she wanted something from him. Yet, his mind refuted what happened. He fell into suspended animation. His psyche continued to play tricks on him. The fight simply to wake up continued.
His lids hiked upward in alarm. A blue haze replaced the fiery mist in the room. To prove it was just a dream, he staggered from bed to turn on the bright overhead light. The surreal sight nailed his feet to the floor. She was stunning. Curled on her right side in a tight S ball, silky chestnut hair brushed the almond-toasted skin of her face. Her voluptuous body's positioning looked extremely uncomfortable. Especially the way her arms pressed into her abdomen because her wrists were taped.
A tear slid from her left eye to slide across the bridge of her nose. He watched in awe. At that point, her condition became clearer to him. The dress she wore bore evidence of foul-play. Black grime and dirt led his horrified eyes to her shredded stockings. Then, he scanned all the way down to her bound ankles and bleeding bare feet.
Frank stood in disbelief. He tested his consciousness with the aftershave test. He slapped both sides of his face. It hurt. He was awake. But, how could that be?
Again, her hologram image spoke to him in the mist.
He dropped to his knee. Her eyes followed. She was afraid to lose eye contact. Frank stretched out a tentative hand. That hand entered on one side of her body, and exited on the other. "This is crazy!" He jumped up to leave.
Her silent plea—stopped him. The fact he read her lips—stumped him. His desire to calm her—floored him. His yearning to rescue her—astounded him.