Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

My Guest ~ Ashe Barker

Totally Bound, 2016

Contemporary erotic romance


Three books, average 66,000 words each

Cliffhangers, but eventual HEA ending

#bdsm #eroticromance #ashebarker #discipline #dominance #spanking #contemporary

Buy Links

NB. Darkening is FREE at Totally Bound and All Romance until 30 April 2016

Hi, and thank you for inviting me over today to chat about the re-release of The Dark Side.  This series was my first attempt to write anything more steamy than a birthday card and I was delighted with it. I’ll always be proud of how well the books did and the fabulous reviews they received. I am eternally grateful to Totally Bound for accepting them and for taking a chance on the unpublished rookie I was back then.

So, if it ain’t broke, why mend it?

As I wrote The Dark Side I had no idea if anyone but me would ever read the books. I knew next to nothing about the world of publishing or professional writing, so although my editor did a fabulous job of making the books fit to be seen among decent folk (or should that be indecent folk?) there were always aspects of the story I felt could be improved. There were scenes I thought about writing but left out, and ways in which I believed the connection between Nathan and Eva could be deepened. The re-release was a rare opportunity to have my time again and complete the job.

There’s new content in each of the three books, but I won’t spoil it by saying exactly what. Suffice it to say we see yet another quirk in Eva’s already complex nature, and aspects of Nathan which I hope will endear him to readers even more. He’s a hard Dom, stern, demanding and insanely sexy. We lose none of that, but the additional content helps to bring out his caring nature a little more.

There’s also a whole new epilogue to conclude the story. This picks up a loose end which always bothered me so I feel the series is better rounded now.

Enter my Rafflecopter for a chance to win ALL THREE BOOKS in the series. The competition ends on 1 May. 

Find Rafflecopter Here

Series Blurb
The Dark Side trilogy charts the sensual journey of academic musician Eva Byrne as she struggles to overcome painful shyness, sexual inhibition and personal tragedy. Lonely, unsophisticated, desperately seeking love and approval, Eva is easy prey for sensual and experienced Nathan Darke.

He wants her submission, and he knows how to go about getting it. Eva is quickly caught up by the whirlwind of his effortless seduction, though she has her own reasons for agreeing to join him in his world of pain and pleasure, on the dark side.

Inexplicably fascinated and at the same time totally frustrated by his new submissive, Nathan is increasingly drawn to her as she opens up in his hands and he realises there is much, much more to his latest playmate than he ever could have imagined.

The Dark Side charts the turbulent relationship between Eva and Nathan as their mutual fascination builds. They both discover what surrender truly means as together they explore the fragile bonds of desire, trust, risk and reward, and the destructive power of betrayal.

Darkening (Book 1 Blurb)
Who knows where pain ends and pleasure begins?

The chance of a new life out in the wilds of the Yorkshire moors sounds too good to be true to shy musician Eva Byrne. Stifled and smothered within the cocoon of her brilliant academic career, Eva yearns for something different. Something real and exciting. Something she can feel.

Excitement. Passion. Pleasure. She finds that sexy, enigmatic Nathan Darke can provide all these and more when she moves into his home as violin tutor to his young daughter. But Eva’s sensual encounters with her demanding, domineering new employer quickly evoke her deepest fears, as he introduces her to the trauma of submission and marks her with his particularly dark brand of love.

But will Eva’s natural curiosity and thirst for new experiences be enough to withstand the sting of Nathan Darke’s exquisite touch? Will simple surrender be enough as he challenges her every inhibition, taking her on an erotic journey of self-discovery and liberation?

Darkening (Book 1 Excerpt)
He breaks the kiss to start nibbling his way down my neck. As if not finding the angle to his liking, he suddenly, effortlessly lifts me from the chair, turns and lays me down with my bare back flat on the table top. He holds both of my wrists in one hand, pinning them to the table above my head and, standing between my legs, leans over to look down at me, stroking his other hand the length of my body from neck to waist.

“Beautiful… Holy fuck, so lovely,” he murmurs before he leans down to take my right nipple between his lips.

I squeal, the shock jolting through me even though I had sensed what he was about to do. His body weight and his hand around my wrists hold me in place as he continues his work. The sensation is everywhere, starting at my nipple, which is now painfully engorged. The tingling pulses radiate out through my whole body, connecting as if by some sort of internal electric current to that spot between my legs, which is now drenched. It feels exquisite, acute, intense, forbidden and overwhelming. I arch my back, pushing my breasts toward his mouth, his tongue, his teeth, this source of ecstatic pleasure.

One or two ill-fated fumblings from other students when I was a teenager at university did nothing to prepare me for this. I have never, ever felt anything remotely like this before. I might have read about it, known the theoretical possibility was out there, somewhere. Happening to other women—women who were attractive and had lush, sexy bodies and soft, wavy hair. But this is here, now, happening to me. 

I feel the hard table beneath my shoulder blades as I writhe under his skilled lips, his expert tongue and teeth, desperate for more. And he knows what he is about—he knows what I need and he has more for me. Opening his mouth wider, he takes more of my breast in and sucks hard, first one side then the other. He slides his free hand, palm up, between my shoulders and the table to raise me up, giving him easier access with his mouth, his tongue, his teeth. Gently grazing my now helplessly sensitized nipples with his teeth, he suckles me relentlessly, nipping slightly harder, just enough to hurt, maybe—I’m not sure where pain ends and pleasure begins now. What does it matter, anyway? He can do whatever he wants to me as long as he doesn’t stop.

He is no longer holding my wrists—he has no need to because I’m lying boneless under him, spread across his kitchen table, pleading wordlessly for…for what? More? Less? The ecstatic pleasure tinged with a hint of pain is so intense now that I can only moan, ride the waves of sensation pulsing from my breasts out through my fingers and toes, each wave bigger, heavier, more compelling than the one before until I am writhing with need.

“I can’t. Please, it’s too much…” Is that me? Or someone else whimpering nearby?

“Yes, you can, you are. Don’t fight it, sweetheart, come for me. Now. Come now.” His words—insistent, soft and low, seductive—are breathed into my ear before he returns to my breasts, nibbling and sucking mercilessly, building the tension, increasing the sensations coursing through every part of me, winding me tighter and tighter until I burst, screaming out loud as fireworks explode in my head, my groin, everywhere as the earth shifts beneath me. My inner core clenches violently, the wetness surely flooding across the table. I feel I am falling, floating as the tension is released and I hear myself moan in delighted satisfaction, drifting back down toward reality.

Me, the girl who can’t bear to be touched. Somehow—God only knows how it happened—I have just spent the last ten minutes spread out half naked on Nathan Darke’s kitchen table, his hands and mouth all over me until I totally lost control, and he watched me thrashing about in the throes of my very first orgasm, right in front of him. Christ! How wonderful, how intimate. How unlike me. And he’s achieved all this without so much as a button of his coming undone.

Darker (Book 2 Blurb)
Can Eva outrun the secrets of her past, or is surrender her only choice?

Eva Byrne’s first encounter with the darker side of Nathan Darke’s sensuality ends in disaster. Frightened, hurt, betrayed, she struggles to regather her shattered confidence—in him, and in herself.

Desperate to continue her journey of exploration and self-discovery, Eva has to convince a skeptical Nathan that she’s worth the trouble. And that she can learn to submit to him. When she is forced to reveal elements of her past she has preferred to keep hidden, both her brilliance and her vulnerability are laid bare. Will Nathan accept Eva as she is, and help her to become the woman she longs to be, or will she face yet another rejection?

Terrified and intrigued in equal measure, Nathan has no idea how to deal with the exquisitely enigmatic Eva Byrne. Should he cut his losses and run, or allow their relationship to continue, and watch as Eva’s delicate beauty unfurls in his hands?

Fascinated and ensnared by Nathan, Eva longs to taste what he offers and her erotic journey continues. But how much will she have to surrender to him in order to liberate her own desires? 

Darker (Book 2 Excerpt)
We continue to stroll in the direction of the waterfront once more, and arrive back at Nathan’s apartment around midnight. As soon as the lift doors close he is on me, kissing me, exploring my mouth with his tongue while pulling my shirt from my pants. Deftly undoing the buttons, before I know it he has my hands caught behind my back, tangled in the sleeves. Lifting his head to glance appreciatively at my new, pink lacy bra he cups my breasts, squeezing gently, lowering his head to kiss the mounds visible above the lace. “So sweet, Eva, so pretty,” he breathes, and I vaguely wonder if he means my underwear or my body. Who cares? He flicks open the front fastening of my bra to bare my breasts for his ministrations. With his mouth and clever fingers my nipples are brought to swollen, aching hardness before the lift arrives at the penthouse, and the doors glide open.

It’s only when he takes my elbow to tug me forward into the apartment that I realize my hands are effectively tied behind my back, still caught up in my discarded blouse. I wriggle, trying to free myself so I can kiss him back, hold him, but he smiles down, knowingly. I realize he’s done this on purpose. And that he won’t free me until he’s good and ready. After dropping a light kiss on my lips, he opens the door to the apartment and gestures for me to enter before him.

Once inside, Nathan leaves me standing, topless, in the middle of his living room as he goes over to the fridge. Pulling out a chilled bottle of wine he quickly uncorks it and pours one glass. Strolling back toward me, the glass in his right hand, his eyes are on my breasts, admiring, lustful. I realize my usual inhibitions might be diminishing, but have not yet disappeared as I wish I was better endowed, curvier. Nathan doesn’t seem to mind, though, as with his free left hand he cups and massages my breast whilst he reaches with his right hand, still holding the glass, to curl it behind my neck. He pulls me close, kissing my ear, nibbling the lobe before dropping his face to my neck.

“Christ, Eva, you are a beautiful sight. Perfect. Exquisite.” He kisses me again before sipping the wine.

“Would you like a drink, Eva?”

I nod. “Yes, please. But you’ll have to hold the glass.” I roll my shoulders to indicate my bound hands.

He smiles. “Ah, yes, anything to be of service, Miss Byrne.”

He lifts the glass to my lips, tipping a little of the crisp chilled liquid into my mouth before immediately following it in with his tongue, tasting the wine before it disappears down my throat.

“I do like to share, Miss Byrne,” he murmurs before taking another sip himself. This time, though, he catches my mouth in a deep, open-mouthed kiss, letting the liquid pour from his tongue onto mine. It feels sensuous, intimate, delicious. I moan, swallow quickly in surprised contentment.

Darkest (Book 3 Blurb)
When his past destroys Eva’s trust in her Master, can he win her back?

As their turbulent, complex relationship deepens, Nathan Darke is increasingly aware that Eva Byrne has become much more to him than his submissive. She’s in his home, in his family. And in his heart.

Eva hasn’t found it easy to trust, to believe in herself and in a relationship that might last. But happiness, once so elusive, is within her grasp. Nathan is her Master, her lover and her soulmate.

However, no sooner do they manage to find a fragile balance between them—a way of entwining both their worlds—and start to build a future than their past comes crashing back to destroy their emerging love. Jealousy and hate brutally shatter Eva’s and Nathan’s delicate trust in each other, and their life together crumbles.

Can they overcome the crushing pain of betrayal and deceit to regain some sort of future together, or are some wounds just too deep to heal? Are some risks too great? Some rewards just not enough? 

Darkest (Book 3 Excerpt)
“I just… I’ve never done anything like this before. It feels sort of… Well, as if I shouldn’t be doing it. On my own, that is.”

“Ah, but it’s the forbidden that makes it so much fun. Lie back and enjoy, Miss Byrne. Let me help you…”

“I wish you were here.” My voice is small, thready, needy. I miss him so much.
His tone is low, gentle, caressing. “I will be. Soon. But I’m with you now in spirit, sweetheart. So, tell me what you’re doing at this moment.”

“I’m lying on my bed, talking to you.”

“Smart-ass. I think you’re taking advantage of the situation. If I was there you’d be lying across my knees, and your bottom would be smarting for that little wisecrack.”

“Ah, yes. I’m sorry.”

“I think you mean you’re sorry, Sir. Okay, now, are you lying on your back?”


“Can you put your phone on speaker and leave it on the pillow next to you? You’ll need both hands free for this.”

With a gulp I shove any embarrassment into a far corner of my mind and decide to go for it, go with it. I push a few buttons and lay the phone beside my head. “Okay, I’ve done that.”

“Open your legs wide and look at yourself in the mirror on your wardrobe.”

“What! I…”

“Do it, Eva.” His tone is firm, the command one to be obeyed. So I do it. I obey.

I hadn’t even realized how strategically placed my wardrobe was, but as I lie there, my thighs spread wide, I can see the lips of my vagina, still gloriously naked following the Brazilian wax, glistening with my own juices. Just waiting to be touched, and stroked, waiting to be gently opened to slide a smooth, warm dildo inside me. Oh. Wow.

“Tell me what you see, Eva.” The voice is soft now, a seductive whisper brushing my ear.

“I can see—me. All of me.”

“Tell me exactly what you see. Use any words you want.”

“I see my—my vagina. And my clitoris. They’re very pink.”

“That’s good. Your slick, pink little cunt is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. And are you wet, Eva?”

“I, I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Find out for me now, love. Slide your hand down there. Stroke your cunt just like I would if I was there with you. Tell me if you’re wet.”

Despite what’s happening, despite my willing participation, I am still a little shocked by the crude language. This is explicit, even by Nathan’s standards. And it makes me hot as hell. He thinks I’m beautiful. There. God!

Watching every movement in the mirror I slide my hand along my stomach, trailing my fingertips across my lower abdomen to gently, lightly probe between my legs. I deliberately skip over my clitoris, although I can clearly see that hot, needy little nub starting to swell. Instead I run my fingers around the entrance to my vagina, and gently dip the very end of my middle finger inside.

“I, yes, Nathan. I’m wet. And, oh my God, this feels so—decadent. I can’t believe I’m doing this. Talking to you like this. About this.”

“Decadent? I like that, Eva. And does it feel good?”

“Yes,” I whisper. “So good.”

Review Quotes
  • Holy crow! I knew Eva was intelligent but WHOA! (OK no spoiler reveals).
  • The sex … is bow-chica-wow-wow hot! Note to Eva - if you get tired I'll tag in for you! Yes this is an erotic story but there is so much more than just sex. The soul baring and secret revealings have me alternating between laughing, gasping and tears.
  • Author Ashe Barker has definitely mastered the art of cliffhangers because just when I think her books are going to end on a high note, BAM! there it is. I know I will just be crushed to see this story end … an absolute must read and I do highly recommend reading the Dark Side Trilogy.
  • What a fantastic third book. The ending was everything you could hope for. Ms Barker knows what it takes to satisfy her readers, and she doesn't disappoint. My only complaint is that there are no more books to read in this trilogy.
  • Wow, I have enjoyed these three books so much that I would like his version of this love story, please it would be nice. 

About Ashe
I’ve been an avid reader of fiction for many years, erotic and other genres. I still love reading, the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse for my guilty pleasure—research.

I tend to draw on my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters. An incident here, a chance remark there, a bizarre event or quirky character, any of these can spark a story idea.

I live in the North of England, on the edge of the Brontë moors. When not—which is not very often these days - my time is divided between my role as resident taxi driver for my teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, tortoises.  And a very grumpy cockatiel. 

I have over thirty titles on general release with publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, and I have several more in the pipeline. I write M/f, M/M, and occasionally ring the changes with a little M/M/f. All my books feature BDSM. I write explicit stories, always hot, but they offer far more than just sizzling sex. I like to read about complex characters, and compelling plots, so that’s what I write too.

I have a pile of story ideas still to work through, and keep thinking of new ones at the most unlikely moments, so you can expect to see a lot more from me.

Find Ashe Here 

Rambling & Galley Proof

Today I'm doing Galley Proof on Intended Mates 1: Lay Your Body Down... as soon as it's done I'll be sending it back to the amazing Annette S at MLRPress. I'm hoping that it's all okay and I don't have a ton of things to be fixed. I also have a release date : May 13.

Today at home is bin day so I've been running around all morning doing chores to get the bins ready... and because we live so far off the road I have like a 200 metre round walk to get the bins up for collection.

I was cooking the other day and went to test the chicken dish I was making for my daughter... when I dropped a piece of chicken on my bottom lip and ended up with a huge fricken blister. I hope it goes away soon, because it's a total pain--literally.

I've been busy as and getting nowhere. Sometimes I wish there was at least 6 more hours in every day so I can get all the chores done, and catch up on my writing. Or possibly an extra day in the week. I know I can't be the only one thinking this.

Just watching the news and another person has died because of a COWARD PUNCH. If you don't know what this is... it's when someone gets punched in the head...usually the back and the victim falls and hits their head on the ground. Too many people die because of idiots... I honestly don't understand why people do this shit. If you can't handle your drinking then don't fricken drink.

I watched the latest Star Wars movie... and loved it. I can't wait for the next one to be released. It was different then I expected, but enjoyable just the same.... What am I reading... Right now I'm reading two authors: Christine Feehan ~ Dark Carpathians... & Alexis Morgan ~ Paladins of Darkness I think reading no matter what has to be good for the brain, that and it helps me unwind after an exceptionally hectic day.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Manic Monday

I think I may have signed up for Riveting Reads Australia for 2017... Actually it's kind of confusing. I sent in the application a couple of months ago and only just got the registration fee... To be honest, I'm not even sure what I've signed up for. I'm hoping the people in charge will send me out some info. I will fill you all in when I find out more.

I'm also all caught up on the housework, so I can sit down and write today. Though I do have to pop out in a little bit and sign some paperwork. Meeting up at the library as that's where a JP will be to witness our signatures.

I will be back to working on Lancaster's Way 3: Pre-loved... I need to seriously catch up on that story. I feel I have been slack of late, but the truth is I have been run off my feet with family commitments.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

A Battle Won

Okay, so the new story idea Guardians Of The Dragon Born 1: Cullen Arianan has won the battle to remain in my head for the day.  So I'm giving myself one day to get as much as I can written before it gets put on the shelf and I get back to my other writing. I hate it when I get side tracked this way.

I don't really know much about the story yet except the Main characters are Cullen Arianan & Lucian (no last name as yet)

This is how I'm kind of picturing Lucian, but with sea green eyes. he appears to be in his early twenties, but is in fact over 3 Millennium years.  All I know for certain is he is one of the ancient dragons who have been trapped in the heart of the mountain by a spell of some kind. I'm not sure what the spell was for, or why they were trapped. I just haven't gotten that far yet. I'm not even sure how many dragons are left and in need of rescuing. I guess I'll figure that out as I come to it. All I know Lucian has been waiting a very long time for the one person who could be his guardian to come along and set him free.

And this is kind how I see Cullen Arianan, running through his veins is the blood of the guardians from old. He and those like him have the ability to protect and sustain the Dragon Born they free from imprisonment. I'm guessing the story will be tracking down the other dragon born and their guardians, and hunting down whoever trapped them in the first place.

I figure I will let you all know when I actually know where this story is heading. Right now it's all up in the air and can meander down any path.

Saturday, 16 April 2016


I must remember to start taking notes as I write my stories, it will make all those that follow much easier to keep track of what's going on.

My next chore in life is to work out how to get my daughter to go through her stuff stacked in the library since she moved home... I can no longer walk in there without tripping over everything.

I need to figure out a way to write the story I'm meant to and not get sidetracked by a new story idea like I have been for the last of days... whenever I'm flat out getting stuff done. new story ideas seep to flood my mind until I can do nothing but write down the basics so that i don't forget them. It drives me nuts... I have all the same characters, but three different versions of the story, I'm not even sure which storyline I will eventually go with.

A couple of songs or 4 that are stuck in my head ~ so enjoy.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

What's Going On?

Life is like an ice cream cone--when you thing you have it licked it drips all over you. 

Today feels kind of like that. Not that I'm really complaining. because I mean, who the hell wants to listen... LOL.

So yesterday Emily and I did the yard work... I never realised how big 5 acres is until I had to mow and whipper-snip... buy the way I suck at the latter. I seen to be too short to hold that damn thing... Though my BIL tells me I can get a W-S on wheels I might have to look into it.

I hope to God winter hurries up and gets here. I am tired of the heat. Hell, I'd be grateful if we only got to the 20 degree mark Summer is so overrated

Today I have also been fixing/reworking the blurb for The Connelly Chronicles 2: Beautiful Goodbyes... I should also be receiving edits on Wardens Of The Guild 1: The Real You... though in essence today I will be working on Lancaster's Way 3: Pre-loved. though I lost my notes on the first two books so I have to go back and rewrite them.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Herc & Pyotr Go to White Palace

Herc & Pyotr
Storming Love: Meteor Strikes 5

Publisher: MLRPress
Release Date: 25 March 2016


Herc is a psychotherapist dealing with his own issues—not wanting to get out of bed after his partner leaves him for another man—when a meteorite crashes into his car and leads to meeting the sexy, new neighbor, astrophysicist Pyotr, who’s studying the recent spate of global meteor strikes.

Herc thought he had the perfect life: a great partner and a meaningful career as a psychotherapist—until his partner left him a week ago and Herc became too depressed to see his clients. When a random meteorite punched a tidy hole in his car’s engine, it seemed like the world had it in for him, but bumping into Pyotr, the handsome older man who’s moved in a couple of doors down and happens to study things like falling stars, things might be looking up for Herc—and more may be falling than the skies in this light-hearted, apocalyptic romance.

A Word From Atom
 As readers have been reading my latest book, Herc & Pyotr, I’ve noticed some comments about the ages of my main characters, and their age difference.

See, Herc is a forty-four year-old, Asian-American psychotherapist. Pyotr is a Russian-American astrophysicist in his mid-fifties. I didn’t think these qualities, except for maybe their professions, were important enough to mention while I promoted Herc & Pyotr, but maybe I need to rethink that.

As I’ve said before in other interviews and essays, I’m new to the genre of M/M and gay romance. I assumed that having older characters, and an age difference between them, wouldn’t be anything noteworthy, as it’s fairly common in the world of gay men. It’s even a stereotype in Asian/Western pairings, with theories about it stemming from Asian cultural respect for elders and the European cult of youth coming together quite fortuitously. (Asians do tend to appear younger for longer, but I’ve also noticed this Dorian Gray effect where after a certain age, we age rapidly and go from smokin’ to Yoda).

I happen to be someone who falls into that stereotype, and have always preferred older men. We could delve into some psychobabble about daddy issues, but let’s not suck the joy out of this and instead, pump some of it in where it belongs: older men have different sensibilities and get into different kinds of troubles in novels than younger men do, and their potential for emotional maturity, wisdom, and patience can be the anchor in a younger person’s storm when they’re paired together in a story.

However, Herc & Pyotr isn’t about a huge age difference. Pyotr, being over fifty, may qualify as a “daddy” in gay culture, but if we’re counting years, Herc would be a daddy, too, being over forty. The point isn’t that there’s a power differential in my story, though—it’s not a daddy/boy or a daddy/son dynamic. It’s really just about two men who have lived a while and learned a bit—and have now met and will try to love each other despite the odds, for as long as they can (Herc & Pyotr is part of MLR Press’s Storming Love series of disaster romances, so there’s always a possibly world-ending catastrophe in the mix).

I suppose it’s unusual because many stories out there are about twenty- or thirty-somethings getting their foot in the door of life—coming out of the closet, leaving college, beginning adulthood, true love for the first time…It’s fun and I love what I’ve read, and those are great ages for shenanigans (did you know, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for decision-making, emotional regulation, etc isn’t fully developed until age twenty-five? I kid you not).

And what I wanted to offer readers was a taste of my world. I want to add my voice into the fray with stories about forty-somethings looking for love and finding it. I want to show that our stories—the stories of anyone searching for love—are worth telling, worth reading, and worth sharing. If we don’t tell a story about it, does it exist? And if we do tell a story about it, will it exist more?

Let’s hope so. I write stories with themes that I want to explore, but until today, I hadn’t fully realized that what I want to explore also means that it’s new or unfamiliar territory to others. I’m not preaching to the choir with an oft-used trope—I’m inviting people to commune with me, as Maude put it in Harold and Maude, with nature—with love in its many forms.

Chapter One
 I took care of my car.

 Regular maintenance, oil changes, carwashes--the works. I figured I'd sell it one day, and I didn't want it to have a scratch or a sticker to drop its value, let alone anything wrong mechanically. Everything worked on it--the power windows, radio, CD player...until today.

 "Great," I said, staring at the fist-sized hole in the hood. I clicked my key fob and turned off the alarm. A few of the neighbors came out and turned off their car alarms, too, that had been set off by the very loud boom that shook all of our windows early this spring morning.

 "Jeez, Herc, what happened?" Nestori, my friend and neighbor down the way, stood there with his blond bed head, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He wore a rumpled white tee, sweatpants, and socks--we were dressed alike except I had slippers. Maybe I appeared as lost as he did. Or worse, since I hadn't changed my clothes since the beginning of the week.

 "I don't know." I gawked at the smoking hole. "Lightning?" I pieced together the evidence I had, and only came up with a timeline that started with a crash, followed by my car alarm, then a couple of minutes later the aforementioned boom, and finally the other cars being triggered. "A frozen turd from an airplane?"

 "Are you serious? Holy shit."

 "Ha ha."

 "What?" His golden eyebrows crinkled together, and then he grinned. "Oh."

"To be fair, it did fall from the sky." Everybody huddled closer to peer into the puncture. "I don't know. I don't even know who I should call about this."

 "What about Jason?"

 Nestori's innocent question should've felt like a sucker punch, but the numbness from seeing my killed car protected me. "He left last week. We're not together anymore."

 "Bro. Why didn't you say anything?"

 Because you would've wanted to get me drunk and laid.

 "I would've totally come over with a bottle of Jack and helped you get some D, man."

 "So that's why I haven't seen him jogging for a while." Pihla, the widow who lived across the street, had the perkiest personality--and breasts--in our neighborhood. "I thought he left on a business trip." She wore a pink satin robe over a pink nightie with matching pink slippers. A small, thin, gold cross on a gold chain stuck out sideways from her cleavage and wobbled back and forth, unable to rest flat. Her son, Sami, clung to her leg, his head just above her knee, avoiding eye contact like some toddlers do. This suburban Madonna in pink held a mug of expensive coffee I could smell and envy from where I stood, and rested her French manicured hand on her shy boy's head. By the way she had batted her eyes at Jason during block parties, or how she happened to pick up the morning paper from her driveway when he'd jog past, I always thought she had a crush on my partner.

 Ex. I meant ex-partner.

 "Yeah, he didn't leave on a business trip. He just left me." I wondered if I died inside my home from choking on a chicken bone while eating, single and alone, how long it would take for my neighbors to notice my dead, bachelor body. I thought I smelled something funny, one would say a week later. Jeez, what happened? another would ask. Who the hell cares? my ghost would spell out on a Ouija board, life sucks.

 "Meteorite," said a faintly accented voice from the crowd. Slavic, I would guess.

 "Whoa! You think a meteor hit Herc's car?" Nestori asked. "How do you know?"

 "Meteorite," the voice gently corrected. "It's a meteorite when it lands. I saw everything as I was jogging this morning."

 "Meteorite," I mumbled. My geek brain fetched a personal wiki page from when I wrote a report in sixth grade about asteroids crashing into Earth and destroying all life, because I've always been a cheery person. The word "disaster" comes from the Italian disastro, meaning "ill-starred event."

 Why couldn't it have been a pretty shooting star that vaporized all sparkly in the atmosphere, so I could make a wish? Instead, it'd dropped a deuce on my perfectly maintained car.

 The hole in the hood gaped back at me, and I thought about the day Jason left. He had requested I park on the street instead of in the garage, so he'd be able to get his things out of the house without too much trouble.

 I should make a wish anyway.

 Something realistic, not like true love and a happy-ever-after ending with a handsome, emotionally intelligent man, because that obviously doesn't happen. How about a nice pair of shoes? Good shoes are more reliable than men.

 "I'm sorry this happened," the voice said, this time to my left. "There have been worldwide reports of meteor strikes over the past few weeks."

 I turned and came eye to eye with the concerned face of a middle-aged man only slightly taller than me. He wore a red baseball cap and his black hair, lined with a few strands of gray, escaped his hat around his ears and a little over his forehead. His color-coordinated stubble, speckled with silver, defined a square jaw and framed full lips. Perspiration darkened his loose, gray shirt, forming something like a Rorschach inkblot in the center of his defined chest. Despite the smell of engine oil and gasoline coming from my mortally wounded car, the scent of his clean sweat cut through and woke me from my daze.

 "Hi, I'm Pyotr. I moved here last week." He offered me a firm handshake and a smile, and returned to surveying the damage to my car, his hands on his hips. "You should probably call your insurance and not your ex. I work from home a few days a week, so if you need a ride, let me know? I live down the street." He started running lightly in place. His feet were bare, which I hadn't noticed.
"Thanks for the offer...Pee-yo-ter. I may take you up on it."

 "Please do." Pyotr smiled again, nodded a succinct farewell, and trotted off.

 "Yeah, if you need a ride..." Nestori and a few neighbors offered, but I didn't pay attention.

 I was busy making an unrealistic wish. And it wasn't for shoes.

About Atom
Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it'd be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too--so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He's named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character, in case you were wondering.

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