Hi All! – This is the first chapter of my next book OUR VOYAGE BACK. This is a draft and is likely to change upon the official release! Enjoy!



“Are you anxious today?”

It’s just her and I in the small room on station North. She sits by an oval window, a silhouette. The room is dark, the only source of light the distant stars. I can barely see her face and yet it feels like she’s a breath away from me. She’s the ghostly woman.

Although she terrifies me, I want to believe she’s here to help. “Orlo,” she says. “Are you anxious today?”

She knows the answer. She knows all the answers. The only reason she’s asking me is because she likes to play games, and she feasts on her control over me. I mean, of course I’m anxious, otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting with her for another one of our sessions. I’d be with the other teens, living a normal life on North. I’d be perfect like the rest of them.


“Not like yesterday,” I respond, trying to sound sincere. What I really want to say is, “These walls suffocate me. And the darkness, the tightness of this room, why do we meet in here? This place drains me.”

I can’t say it.

The ghostly woman leans forward, showing a hint of her crooked smile. “A better today is the right direction, even if it’s slightly better. Did you have any dreams last night?”

“I don’t remember. I don’t think I want to remember them.”

“Did they cause you panic?”


“Why are you stressed?”

Another question for which she already knows the answer. Why can’t she cut out the trickery and be straight with me? I can handle it. Of course, that would ruin her fun. “The adults on North are sick,” I say. “The virus could spread to us.”


“Under the age of twenty. It—”

“Orlo.” She leans closer, a blurry, smothering presence. “The virus will not reach you. You’re too young, and that’s why you’re chosen for the voyage back to Earth. Aren’t you excited to see where your ancestors lived?”

“It’s all buried in snow.”

“It’s not as bad as it used to be. We wouldn’t send you if it were. I promise you that, Orlo. Your safety is our priority. Believe me.”

Believe me are two words signifying an imminent downfall. The small room darkens as the stars drift away. I try to focus on the light outside the window, but the ghostly woman’s blurry face emerges from the shadows. Her presence locks me in place.

“Can you hear me, Orlo?”

I want to see her eyes. I want to see the way she looks at me when she talks, but there’s only a voice. “Yes. I’m not anxious today.”

She waits a moment to respond. “Depressed?”

“I know how to deal with it now.”

“That’s not what the others say, and we found you in the garden. Why did you go to the garden?”

I no longer want to speak. Freedom, I crave it. Need it. I can’t listen to another one of her manipulative questions, and to make matters worse, I realize I’m no longer sitting across from her. I’m on a table, strapped. Trapped.  She hovers over me, and my skin crawls. Where is the woman who only tries to help me? Did she ever want to help? I need out of this room. I can’t be here, or breathe, it’s sucking the life out of me.

The garden calls my name, wanting me to escape the small room.  Soft blades of grass touch my wrists and ankles, and birds chirp, and the ceiling is a bright blue sky. A sky usually only seen in pictures, I have it to myself in the garden.

“I was there,” I say to the ghostly woman.

“You were. What happened at the garden, it was the first violent act in the history of North. Did you know that? The Universe designed humans as peaceful creatures. We are not meant to commit acts like you did. It’s okay, though, Orlo. Now we will help you. We’re not to be feared, and you’re not alone.”

I know what I did was wrong. It was never my intention, though, it… just happened.

But, why is she focusing on me when there’s a deadly virus wiping out all the adults? “You’re dying,” I say. “You’re leaving us. How can you help me?”

“You and the others will save us.”

“You don’t believe that.”

“Of course I do.”


“You have nothing to fear.”

I try to look away from her but my head is locked in place. “You scare me,” I whisper. 

“I scare you? Why?”

“Because you haven’t told us the truth.”

“What truth?”

“Why we’re going back.”

“You’re saving us, Orlo. You know that. The cure is there, and you’ll give it to us. The virus will be destroyed.”

My neck strains as I try to turn my head. I catch a glimpse of the oval window. The stars outside the room, they tease me of a new world.

“Why don’t you believe me, Orlo?”

Why? There are so many ways I can answer her question, but I go with the simplest of responses. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“What do you mean?”

“How do you know there’s a cure? Nobody has been back. Unless that’s a lie. Have you been back? Has anyone?”

She doesn’t answer me, and seems to drift away to the shadows. The room darkens completely. For the first time since our sessions began, I feel like I can breathe. I defeated the ghostly woman at her own game, had fought back with armed questions, and she’ll no longer treat me like the fool she believes me to be.

I’ve won.

The sting comes to my neck like something bites me.. A giant needle. Fluid shoots into my veins. I jolt on the table, my body convulsing, held down by the straps on my arms and legs. My heart races as I try to find the stars, but they vanish into nothingness. The stinging expands through my limbs, and my skin burns like someone is scraping it, and all I want to do is yell for help and be pulled from the small room forever.

Then it’s over, as if someone snaps their finger and makes everything better.

“Orlo,” she says. “Are you here?”

I find my silent breaths beneath the ghost. “Yes.”

“How are you feeling?”    


“Okay. You’re doing great. Now, I need you to answer one question before it returns. Can you do that?”


“Good.” Her blurry face, a hidden identity, is right above me. “Why were you in the garden?”

I see Becks, a hint of her face, a scent of her blowing hair. The sun behind her, I know it’s not real. Nothing in the garden is real. But when I’m with Becks, it doesn’t matter. She whispers my name.


I want to respond. I want to tell her everything.

“Orlo. Are you with me?”

I am, Becks. I always have been.


Why can’t I say anything? Why can’t I tell her the truth?

“Orlo. Orlo.”

I’ll tell you everything. I promise.

“Orlo. Orlo. Or—”


“ORLO,” screams the voice next to me.

Red lights flash in sync with frantic beeping. My entire body is jerked in my seat like I’m a rattle in a baby’s hands. My jaw smacks the thick harness over my shoulders. Reality stings my teeth.

I’m inside the passenger bay with the others. Inside the TBU-1 shuttle to Earth.

“We’re going to crash!” yells one of the boys across from me. The others, their faces flash red, black, red and black.

From the seat next to me, someone grabs my hand. “Thought I lost you,” she says. When the bay turns red again, I see my best friend, Becks. She smiles at me, a smile which usually provides calmness, but she seems to be forcing it beyond the terror in her eyes. “Stay with me, Orlo.”

I want to answer her but can’t find my voice.

“Do you hear me?” she asks. “We’re going to be fine.”

The passenger bay rocks like it’s smacked by an asteroid. Becks loses her grip on me, and her scream is loud and quick. She grabs her harness, shuts her eyes, and mouths something. Her fear terrifies me more than anything else, because she’s the toughest person I know. Nothing seemed to phase her until the expedition to Earth, and we haven’t even landed yet.

I focus on the floor and try to block out the mayhem. All the pain I suffered on North has prepared me for this moment. I breathe, silencing the chaos, sending my mind into a peaceful plane of stillness. When I’m in my place of tranquility, I’m free from the constantly surrounding dark weight. It’s almost as if I’ve returned to the garden, during the good days.

Unfortunately, I’m still new at this meditative practice, and a distressed voice easily sucks me back to the passenger bay. “We’re getting close,” Kace, the pilot, says over the TBU-1’s intercom. “Hold on, everyone!” Her heavy exhales remain online, and I assume she forgot to turn off her mic. “You got this,” she says in a tense whisper to herself. “You got this, baby girl. Come on, come on, come on, baby!”

Some of the passengers laugh, others cheer on Kace.

The shuttle drops like it’s fallen off a cliff. A collective gasp unleashes throughout the room. Passengers cry, while others scream like it gives them a better chance to survive.

“Holy furk!” Kace yells over the intercom as we fall. “Oh no. Oh no!”

“She’s going to kill us,” one of the passengers say.

“Kace will get us there, you guys. Just let her do her thing and—”

“We’re goners!” Kace screams.

The shuttle plummets. The beeping and the flashing explode into a violent dance. Flash. Beep. Flash. Beep. Flash, flash, flash. Beep, beep, beep.


Then dead, empty silence.


“Where did you go?” the ghostly woman asks, sitting in the corner of the small room on North.

“The garden,” I say.

“Yes. What about it?”

The garden, with Becks, was once my sanctuary from the prison of station North. The two of us would talk and work through problems. We would make each other laugh. A respite from our lives, it’d once been our beautiful place. 

I feel her there, and the surrounding grass and sky. Our arms are near each other, my hand wanting to grab her hand. For so long I wanted to touch her. She leans up next to me and smiles. “Tell me again,” she says.

“What again?”

“What made you laugh so hard you spit up your drink? What brought you so much joy this morning?”

I wish I knew. I remember waking up, feeling free of the grim weight that burdens my body, or as my mother likes to call it, my dark cloud. When the cloud looms, my disconnection worsens. I don’t feel present in my body, or like I exist. Sometimes the dark cloud will smash me, forcing me into the floor so I’ll be stepped on for the rest of my life. When that happens, it feels like no one can save me. The only way to avoid it is to run away, curl up in a ball, and hide. Usually even that doesn’t help.

Usually I lose all hope.

Not in the garden, though. Not this morning with Becks. The fictitious sun glows behind Becks’s head, and the wind blows a strand of black hair across her cheek. It’s real. Connected. The sparkle in her smile glimmers like the twinkle in her eye. Her soul sets me free.

It’s real, but the ghostly woman takes it away, sucking my mind right from tranquility. “Orlo,” she says. “Where did you go?”



“I was alive with her.”

“When they found you in the garden, you were alone.” The ghostly woman rises, stepping from the shadows. Her face is still a blur, and she can’t be an actual person, and the small room doesn’t exist. None of it is reality, except for my time with Becks. “Let’s focus,” she says. “I want you to forget about Rebecca. I want you to dig in deep and see the truth, Orlo.”

“What truth?”

The ghostly woman’s smile survives the falsity of her existence. “See that you don’t love her.”


The TBU-1. Our shuttle.

I’m in the passenger bay, my vision clearing. The rattles of the landing are gone, so either we made it to Earth, or we’re somewhere much worse.

Unfortunately my entire body is numb, limp, and although I’m in the bay with the others, it’s as if I’m locked in a different world. I can’t speak or move. I’m still strapped in my chair by my harness. Helpless, I watch while the others rejoice in their safe arrival to Earth.

That must be nice. I want relief. I want to feel anything. Even Becks brings me nothing when she kneels at my feet, and she’s my favorite person. She’s in her skin-tight thermal suit. Her grey eyes and flushed cheeks glow from the bay’s red illumination. Her light brown hair is tied back in a ponytail, revealing some sweat on her forehead.Touching my neck, she moves her mouth but her words come out in a jumbled mess. Then I hear, “You still have a pulse. You’re okay.”

I can’t answer her. Nothing is okay. What happened to me?

Behind Becks, the other teens are a crowd of silhouettes, until the tallest one of them towers over her. Levin. His eyes narrow on me. “What’s wrong with the freak?”

“Don’t call him that,” Becks says, keeping her hand on my neck.

“Yeah. Sorry. What happened?”

“Concussion from the landing, I think.”

Levin wipes his clean-shaven head. “His eyes are open. He’s faking it.”

“He’s not. You can be unconscious with your eyes open.”

Becks is one of the best medical officers on North, even at the age of sixteen, so if she says I’m unconscious, I believe her. However, why do I still hear them? Why am I aware of my thoughts? Maybe I’m in a dream.

Levin crouches next to Becks and touches her shoulder. “Hey,” he whispers like he’s sympathetic, as if he’s trying to be a good boyfriend. “What can I do to help?”

Still, she doesn’t look at him. “See what happened to Captain Suller on the bridge.”

Something happened to the captain? That must be why her daughter Kace took over the TBU-1 when we broke Earth’s atmosphere.

“What are you going to do?” Levin asks.

“Get Orlo outside. Maybe the fresh air will wake him up.”

He groans. “I’ll need approval from my dad before we open the ship.”

Levin’s father is commander of the Rangers of North, and an even more miserable person than his son. Most of the rangers are grumpy bastards, though. I don’t like them, or trust them. However, they’re supposedly here to protect our group.


Standing, Levin lingers for a moment while still touching Becks. She reaches up, grabs his hand, and looks at him. “We’re here,” she says, smiling. “We’re going to save them.”

“Be careful,” Levin says and then stares right at me. “Especially with him.” He vanishes into the crowd, just as there’s an eruption of claps and cheers.

Kace Suller enters the passenger bay to a standing ovation.

“You got us here!” someone yells excitedly.

“Nice landing, pilot,” says another. 

“We made it!”

“You’re the best!”

“Thanks for not killing us.”

Eventually Kace makes it through the crowd to the back of the bay where I’m locked in place like a worthless pile of trash. She stands next to Becks, her eyes bloodshot, her short platinum hair a disheveled mess.

Becks launches up and hugs her. “You got us here,” she whispers. “How’s your mom doing?” 

“I think it was the virus,” Kace speaks in a mumble. “I don’t know. Levin’s dad is with her.”

“Cozart will take care of her.”

“I know.” The pilot pulls away from Becks and looks at me. “What’s with him?”

“He hit his head on the landing. It knocked him out.”

“Then why are his eyes open?”

Becks laughs. “Levin said the same thing. Will you help me get him outside?”

“You got it.”

The girls release my harness. I’m slumped to the side, unable to move. Useless. I don’t understand how I can sense everything, but my body is shut down. I know I’m here. I have to be. Is this shock? Effects from medication?

My vision blurs again as the girls carry me to the TBU-1’s elevator. It’s just big enough for the three of us. Once inside, the girls place me on the floor and Kace hits a bright blue button that says LOADING DECK. She then fidgets with her jumpsuit’s collar.

“You okay?” Becks asks, observant as usual.

“Yeah. You?”

“You seem nervous.”

“You aren’t?”

“Keeping focused.”

Kace nods at Orlo. “Not worried about your boyfriend?”

Smiling, Becks says, “Shut up. I’m with Levin.”

“I know,” Kace says. “Who doesn’t love that mad boy?”

Becks laughs “Lev is harmless.” Then, seemingly timid for a second, she adds, “Usually.”

Levin is many things, and those things don’t equal a boy who deserves Becks. She’s a spark of hope in a world of disconnection, and he’s an impending doom. One day their relationship will end in disaster.

I’ll be the one to—

The elevator jerks and then the doors open. The girls carry me into the landing bay. Becks holds my arms while Kace has my legs. The landing bay’s walls are brightly lit, similar in appearance to North. Metal railings outline a catwalk surrounding the loading deck in the center of the bay. Two staircases lead to the deck. When we reach a control panel on the catwalk, the girls lower me to the floor. I stay there, helpless.

By the control panel, Kace raises her wrist scanner to her mouth and says, “Bridge. Requesting clearance to lower L-deck.”

“Clearance denied,” a deep, hardened voice says. Sounds like Levin’s father. “Wait until I get down there.”

“Becks said we—”

“Wait, Kacey.”

The Walsh men are known for being short with people, so I’m not surprised by his response. Kace looks at Becks and shrugs. “I guess we wait.”

“Guess so.” Becks kneels over me and slides a hand around my neck. She must be checking for my pulse again. All her concentration is on me, and I hope she figures out what’s wrong with me soon enough.

Kace lingers over us. “Do you think he’ll be okay?”


“Good. Kid has been through enough already.”

Rather than responding to her, Becks shines a small light on my face. The light doesn’t burn my eyes, or make me squint, or have any effect. Behind her, Kace paces, looking more anxious than me on my worst days.

Becks notices this and asks the pilot if she’s okay.

“Sure,” Kace says. 

“You’re twitching.”

“We’re on a planet that doesn’t want us here, so yeah, I’m twitching.”

I remember sitting in class years ago, I think I was seven, and my teacher showed us a video of Earth, of what it once looked like before the ice. The different continents and oceans and sky. The buildings and people. Trains, ships, and planes. A colonized beautiful world.

Now it’s nothing but white powder. The exact cause of the new ice age is still unknown, but according to most of the evidence, it was a natural phenomenon that couldn’t be stopped. I suppose I believe that. The planet changed so it could no longer support our existence, is what many say. Others say it was intentional, that Earth got rid of its pests.

I’m not saying that’s wrong, but I also tend to question everything.

Becks goes to Kace and takes her arm as she guides her several steps away from me. She’s a kind spirit, and a good friend. “Tell me what’s really getting to you.”

Kace nods. “Okay.”


“Damn I hate when you insist, but, what’s the first symptom of the virus?”

“Depends on the patient. Why?”

“Just wondering.”

“Your mom will be fine. Even if she has it, we’ll retrieve the cure in time to save her.”

The cure. When I hear them speak about it, I hate I can’t tell them—

The door next to me slides open. Boots clank against the catwalk as a swarm of teens dressed in all black surround us. The Rangers of North, led by Levin. They’re geared up, holding their weapons, ready to protect the Earth expedition. However, I suspect they have other motives than keeping the group safe.

Maybe I’m biased because of Levin’s hatred toward me.

“What are you doing?” Kace asks.

“Heading out,” Levin says. “Your mother wants to see you on the bridge.”

Kace sprints from the loading bay like something chases her. I know she’s very close with her mom. I understand her terror. At least, I want to believe I understand. Who knows what really goes on in someone’s head, or how someone really feels?

“What happened to drone boy?” one of the rangers ask.

“He has a name,” Becks says, kneeling over me again. “He’s out but he’ll get better.”

“But why are his eyes open?”

“Come on,” Levin commands under a groan. The rangers step around me, one after the other. I try to turn my head to see where they’re going, but I’m locked in place. Helpless once again. This is so obnoxious, and all I want is to—

The bottom of a boot sends my world dark.


“—you don’t love her,” the ghostly woman says.

Her words nearly make me gag. “I do. I always have. I always will.”

“Your mind is corrupted. I need you to work with me. See the lie in your heart.”

She’s wrong. My heart is the one thing in my life that doesn’t lie to me. I can’t take her manipulation anymore, or her voice, or her presence. I know my response will get me the needle, but I don’t care. Becks is worth every stab to the neck. “You’re the lie,” I say. “She’s real.”

“So be it,” the ghostly woman says. She nods at someone behind me, someone I can’t see because I’m trapped on the table. I sense the needle’s approaching sharp point. My skin burns at the thought of another injection. I squirm, but it’s futile.

There’s no fighting the ghostly woman. I’ll forever be a—


A stream of white crosses over me. I’m lowering. My eyes adjust slowly, but I figure I’m on the loading deck with the others.

Sure enough, the rangers come in to form. They’re standing around me, while I’m on the floor and being held by someone who I assume is Becks.

The platform lowers into the brightness of Earth. I imagine a rush of cold air filling the TBU-1, but once again, I feel nothing. Apparently a boot to the face didn’t heal me.

Which Ranger stomped me, I wonder. My best guess is Redge, because I doubt Levin would make the same mistake twice and suffer the repercussions from Becks. Plus Redge is Levin’s loyal henchman. Sometimes I wonder if those two have a secret love affair and that’s why Levin is so angry all the time.

“What do we shoot first, boys?” Redge says.

“Hopefully nothing,” a ranger responds.

“There’s nothing left to shoot,” another says.

“Yeah, I guess.” Redge sounds disappointed. “But I want to blast the head off something.”

“Relax, Edgy Redgy.”

“Yeah. Right. Sorry.”

He’s a moron.

Everyone keeps quiet for the final seconds of the descent. Then, the deck hits the snow between the ship’s two massive landing skids.

“It’s beautiful,” someone says.

“It’s empty,” a girl answers.

I see nothing but white. My immobility is really starting to frustrate me. What in the Universe is happening? Maybe the dark cloud has finally shut down my body, but my mind remains alive to torture me for the rest of my days.

No. I’ve had enough sessions to maintain hope. I can beat it and just need to power through. Something good will be on the other side of all this. There has to be.

Levin shouts orders to his rangers. They scatter off the deck and across the snow. Meanwhile, Becks looks down at me as she holds my head on her lap. Her thermal suit covers her head and orange-reflective shades hide her eyes. She looks made of rubber in her suit. “This is it,” she says. “This is Earth, Orlo. You’ll wake up soon and see it.”

I want to tell her I know I will, but of course my mouth won’t move. Maybe she can see it in my eyes.

Levin kneels by her. “Hey.” He lingers for a moment like he doesn’t know what to say. “Is your thermal suit at a nice seventy-four?”

“Of course. Are you set at a cool sixty-eight?”

“You know I am.”

I don’t even know if my thermal suit is on. Will I freeze if I’m already numb?

“Help me get Orlo on the snow?” Becks asks, touching Levin’s wrist.

The ranger gives her a long stare, like hearing my name interrupts his world. “Sure,” he says. “The sooner he wakes up, the better.”

They carry me off the deck and place me not far from one of the ship’s landing skids. I wonder what the snow feels like against my body. I mean, I’ve been in the simulators on North, but how close are they to the real thing?

In my experience, reality always betrays dreams.

Once again, Becks holds me on her lap, her hand on my neck. Tell me I have a pulse, Becks. Please. Unfortunately, I have no idea what she thinks is wrong with me. All I can do is look up at the sky, not that I have a choice. Sunlight fights its way through thick grey clouds, and maybe when the sky clears, I’ll be brought back to life.

Nah, that’s too absurd.

“What’s that?” Levin asks, sounding like he’s talking through his earpiece. “Understood. Send the civilians down.”

The civilians, they have no idea what’s waiting for them. I suppose I don’t know either, but I have a better understanding than everyone else. One of the perks of being the President’s son, I assume. Most days it feels like a curse. Positions of power aren’t easy, but I suppose people without power feel the same way.

Levin, standing over me, touches his earpiece. “Redge? What? What was that?” He starts pacing. “Say it again. Do you hear me? Say it again!” All of a sudden the ranger drops to his knees. He seems like he’s digging at the snow in a frantic panic, but I can’t see exactly unless someone turns my head. “No,” Levin says. “No, no, no.”

Becks lets go of me and crawls to her boyfriend. “What is it, Lev?”

Levin says something to her but I don’t hear it. It’s not like I need to, because after she let go of me, my head turned toward them. I see what brought Levin so much fear.

We landed on ice. A large crack runs through it, all the way up to my face.

My vision fades.


The ghostly woman sits at the edge of the table, her identity still hidden by the shadows. Whatever she injected me with gives me a false sense of calm. It’s a trick to keep my mind stable. “Are you anxious today?”

“No,” I say.

“Tell me about the dark cloud.”

“My mom calls it that.”

“What do you call it?”

“What normal people do. Depression.”

“Ah, but Orlo. Normal people who live with, as you say it, depression, they don’t commit acts like the one you did in the garden.”

I don’t want to think about the garden anymore because it’s a lost place I’ll never get back. And, as much as I don’t want to accept it, the ghostly woman is right. Normal people don’t act like me. Only I’m to blame for losing the garden. I’m a freak. A mindless drone. A boy without a soul. The others are right about me, and I don’t belong with them, or anyone else.

Wait, I understand now. We’re going back to Earth to get rid of me. I’m the flaw in their system, and they don’t want to deal with me anymore. I bring nothing but pain. A burden. A curse.

The ghostly woman rises from the table. “What’s happening to him?” she asks the other person in the room who I can’t see.

“I don’t know,” the person responds. “He’s reacting differently to the medication.”

“Inject him again.”


“Do it!” The ghostly woman lunges over me, her distorted face smothering like all those other times in the small room. “Your thoughts, Orlo, the thoughts created by the dark cloud, or the depression, or whatever you want to call it, I need you to fight them. I need you to be stronger than it. You hear me? I need you to breathe!”

Instead, I smile at her.


Cold air pours down my throat. My chest pounding, I sit up and touch my cheeks, feeling my skin for the first time in what seems like an eternity. The numbness has faded. I’m here. Alive.

Unfortunately my peace in existence is short lived. 

Cries come at my ears like vicious, howling winds. Nearby, the group of at least twenty teens all look in one direction. At first I think they’re staring at me, my pitiful self, but the cries come from behind me. I turn around.

Kace is on her hands and knees at the edge of a massive hole in the ice, She unleashes tremendous pain, and her loudest wail hits me with reality.   

The TBU-1 is gone.

Dread surrounds me worse than when I was in the small room with the ghostly woman. Even her voice can’t chill me like this planet.

“Orlo,” she says once more. “Are you anxious today?”

Stalker, My Love (coming May 14, 2017)

Here is the cover and first chapter from my next release, Stalker, My Love. This is an untraditional love story about a young woman who vanishes from her small town, and her stalker who sets out to find her.




Chapter One: Once Upon A What? 

A young couple fought with each other on an episode of some reality TV show. The girl spat at the boy, while the boy seemed ready to unleash a suppressed rage.

Rhett didn’t know why the fight started because he’d been focused on holding Rosalyn Ray. Her head rested on his chest, her face hidden by waves of her soft, black hair. She smelled like mangos.

They were on her bed, in her room decorated for a teenage girl. Posters of some pop stars hung on pink walls, and various colorful stuffed animals sat on her windowsill.

When the show went into a commercial break, Rhett rubbed Rosalyn’s back and said, “Two snowmen stand next to each other in a yard.”

“Oh boy,” Rosalyn whispered. “Here we go.”

“One snowman says to the other, ‘Funny, I smell carrots too.’”

“Terrible.” She laughed, which was one of the best sounds in the world. Hearing her laugh made Rhett whole. Making her laugh was even better.

“Kind of funny?”

“Maybe. What else do snowmen talk about?”

“Their plans for summer.”

“They die in summer.”

“No. They just melt together.”

Rosalyn slid her body until her chin was on his sternum. Her face was so round and full of life, and her striking ice-blue eyes, they froze him in time. “You’re cute,” she said. “Cheesy, but cute.”

He kissed her forehead. “How did I get so lucky?”

“I’m the lucky one. You saved me.”

Flashes of the past, when Earl Wick had struck Rosalyn, stung Rhett’s chest. Luckily, Rhett had acted in time to stop any severe damage from being done.

He recalled the look Rosalyn gave him when he’d saved her. A look from a princess to her prince. “I won’t let anyone hurt you again,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be here, not without you.”

“I’ll always be here for you. You can rest easy.”

“You better be.” She touched his cheek, shooting warmth through his flesh. “You’re my knight.”

Her lips looked so soft, so kind and so full. He needed to feel them, but he waited to kiss her.

“What is it, Rhett?”

He didn’t answer.

“Are you okay? You can tell me. What is it?” She kept speaking, but her voice trailed away until it vanished within the rustling leaves.

Rhett opened his eyes. He straddled the branch of a tree outside the Rays’ property, the wind picking up around him. The leaves swayed intensely, as if yelling at him to join the real world.

He raised his binoculars to make sure Rosalyn was still inside her room. She was on her bed, lying on her stomach. Her legs kicked back and forth as she watched TV. She laughed at something. Rhett laughed with her. She wore black boy shorts and a purple tank top, and while Rhett could’ve stared at the exposure of her toned legs, or at her revealing cleavage, he liked to look at her face.

He lowered his binoculars, shut his eyes, and listened for her voice within the wind and the leaves. Her voice called for him, bringing him back to her room. The reality TV show was no longer playing. All of Rosalyn’s focus seemed to be on Rhett. “Are you happy?” she asked.

“Me? Yeah. I don’t need much to be happy.”

“What do you need?”

Rhett smiled, and using one finger, brushed Rosalyn’s hair behind her ear. “Just this.”

“I like this.”

“I love this.”

“Me too.”

The temptation to kiss her returned, but he asked, “How are your friends?”


“Elliott and Mimi. Who else?”

“Us three.”

“What do you call yourselves again?”

“REM. What about them?”

“I only ask, because Avery is back in town. Maybe all of us could hang out together.”

“I think you’re intentionally delaying the inevitable.” A glow in her eyes complemented the way she bit her lip, and when she touched his hand, he couldn’t resist any longer.

Nothing else mattered when they kissed.

They lay together and watched old episodes of some show Rhett couldn’t care less about. The way Rosalyn rested her head on his chest made him feel like the protector of their world.

She yawned, snuggling into him. “Let’s sleep.”


“Rosalyn and Rhett.”

“You and I.”


When Rhett spent time with Rosalyn, he lost himself. For minutes, and hours, he was gone, somewhere better than Pine Bridge. However, deep down he knew he should return to work.

Rosalyn fell asleep, and Rhett opened his eyes. Still on the tree, he looked at his phone, realizing he’d been there for far too long. He lifted the binoculars and looked at Rosalyn’s room. No light inside. She wasn’t there.

Headlights punched through the trees covering the Rays’ driveway. The leaves swung violently above Rhett.

“Oh no.” He looked at his truck, which he’d parked on the side of the road after delivering the Rays their dinner. Although he knew he’d never make it out of there in time, he lowered to the next branch in a swift panic. His foot chipped bark. He slipped off the tree for a flashing second but caught himself.

The car leaving the driveway closed in on his spot. He was about to jump from the tree when the strap of his binoculars squeezed his neck. He was caught on something.

Headlights landed on him. The car stopped, staring into Rhett’s soul. I’m a deer. I’ve always been a deer. He squinted to see the driver, but the lights overpowered him.

The car slowly rolled up to Rhett’s truck. The window lowered. More beautiful than she ever was in his thoughts and dreams, Rosalyn looked up at him and said, “What the fuck are you doing?”

“I. Uh. What?”

“Is your truck broken?”

She doesn’t see the binoculars yet, he thought. She can’t know. “Yeah, it just needs to cool down,” he said, trying to shield the binoculars caught right above his head. “Overheats a lot.”

What am I even saying?

“Rhett, you delivered the food a long time ago. Did you call anyone?”

He remembered how excited he’d been when Rosalyn’s delivery was called in to the restaurant, and how he’d sat in his truck all nervous at the thought of speaking with her. But her dad had answered the door.

The past didn’t matter because his chance arrived to say whatever he wanted to Rosalyn. A lie left his mouth: “My phone isn’t working.”

She saw the binoculars. “What are those?”


She turned, looking at her house, at her room, and was quick to realize what exactly Rhett had been doing. “Holy shit,” she screamed.

“Wait.” Rhett unhooked the binoculars and tossed them to the ground. He hopped onto his truck, then the pavement, and went to her car. “Rosalyn. I can explain.”

“You’ve been spying on me?”

“Listen. Please.”

Have you been spying on me?

“I was… I was… oh no. This is so embarrassing.” Rhett grabbed his blistering, sweaty forehead. For some reason, he thought everything would be smoothed over if he told his joke, so he said, “Two snowmen are standing next to each other.”

“Snowmen? What the hell are you talking about?” Rosalyn exited her car and marched around the front of it until she stood a few feet away from him. They were about the same height. “Tell me what you were doing. I’ll call Sheriff Mancini if you don’t.”

His breath made some sort of strange noise. “I wanted to spend time with you.”

“Spend time with me? By watching me? Holy shit. This is so, so freaky. Even for you, man.”

They stood on the road for what seemed like an awkward eternity. Rhett knew what he’d been doing was weird; he was quite aware of that, but maybe after all that time Rosalyn needed to know the truth. “Rosalyn,” he said, his words lost under the rapid beating of his heart.

Say it now. Now or never. Say it.

“You what, Rhett?” Rosalyn asked. “What do you want to tell me?”

Say it. Say it. SAY IT. “I love you.”

Rosalyn dropped her hands from her hips and squinted at Rhett like he was the dumbest person in the universe. “You what?”

“Ever since elementary school. I’ve always loved you. Remember when we held hands back in the first grade? That first touch. I knew, Rosalyn. I knew I loved you.”

“First grade? What? We held hands? I don’t remember that.”

That’s okay, he wanted to say, it was a long time ago. We were kids. We didn’t know any better.

He said nothing.

“You can’t love me,” Rosalyn said. “You don’t know me.”

His head became weightless. “I know you.”

“No, you don’t. Watching me is not knowing me. You get to know someone by talking with them, not watching. We’re in our twenties, man, you should know this.” She stepped back. “This is crazy. You need to grow up. We’re not teenagers anymore.”

Rhett didn’t know what to say, and his body was ready to give out. A sickness consumed him. He needed to lie down and lose himself in something, anything to end that moment forever.

Before the night circled into the sewer, he found the strength to say, “I’m sorry.”

Rosalyn stared off the road, deep in thought. “I know you watch me in town. You watch me when we’re in the same place. I’ve always known. All of Pine Bridge knows, but you seemed harmless before tonight.”

“I would never hurt you.”

Rosalyn raised a hand like she wanted to swat him away. “Don’t ever do this again. You say you love me? Fine. What do you expect me to say? I don’t know you. I don’t watch you. What should I say?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yeah. Okay. I’m calling the sheriff next time. I’ll even call Earl. Hear me on that.”

Lightning struck Rhett, paralyzing him in a pit of obscurity. I’m a stupid boy who thought he saved his princess. I was tricked by all those fairy-tale endings. The noble prince saves the girl and gets the girl. That’s not real. It never has been.

When he came to his senses, Rosalyn was gone. Likely forever.

The quiet in the trees thought the same.


Interview on

Did an interview with Here are some of the questions and answers. You can view the full interview here.

Tell us something unexpected about yourself!

I can’t do one-handed pushups.

What kind of books do you write?

Suspense, satire, character-driven action-packed adventures that contain dark humor, fantasy and horror. Some romance.

One time I wrote a children’s story.

What inspired you to write?

When I was a kid I used to create stories for my GI Joe action figures. I’d give them character names and outline a plot for them to follow.

My imagination brought me to the keyboard.

What makes your writing stand out from the crowd?

It’s taller.

What advice would you have for other writers?

Keep writing. Even if you feel like the worst author ever, and even if other people make you feel that way, just keep writing.

What’s your next step?

I just finished my zombie apocalypse trilogy THEIR DEAD LIVES. I’m now working on a mystery/suspense and a romantic thriller





A Blanket for Decay, released!

Hi All,

A Blanket for Decay, the final installment in THEIR DEAD LIVES, was released on kindle today. The paperback edition should be live in a few days. It’s been fun following Jeff, Kale, Scot and Alec on this journey, and felt great to write The End.

Having said that, a new journey will unfold for the core four. I’ve begun working on a sequel series titled THEIR DEAD WORLD. Stay tuned for a sample chapter and other updates.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy A Blanket for Decay, and thank you for reading.