Can Illegitimacy Drive Modern Mystery Plots?

Silhouette of pregnant woman

Illegitimacy and the consequential stigmas of extramarital children have played a key role in the works of great authors, including Shakespeare, Voltaire, Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Hardy, to name but a few.

Some noted mystery writers also have used out-of-wedlock birth as a plot centerpiece, including Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Nine Tailors. But there’s no arguing that times have changed.

As of 2015, 40.3% of all births in the U.S. occurred outside of marriage (compared with 7% in 1940). And today’s illegitimacy rates are even higher for most European countries. The majority of births (over 50%) are outside of marriage in Iceland, Estonia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Portugal, and nearly half of births also are extramarital in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Belgium, Hungary, Spain, Austria and Finland.

Family Baby Portrait, Young Mother Father Holding New Born Kid

As out-of-wedlock birth has become more commonplace, the social and legal status of illegitimate children, unwed mothers and cohabiting couples has improved. In the United States, for example, U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s found that most legal disabilities imposed on illegitimacy violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Yet extramarital children can still provide mystery writers with murder motives.

Even the old “Secret Shame” plot can be updated. For example, while illegitimacy alone may no longer be as socially unacceptable, illegitimacy resulting from other taboos–such as incest, rape or even adultery–can create a secret that someone will murder to conceal or avenge. Another plot device that still resonates is “The Unwanted Heir.”

When there is an inheritance to divide, even legitimate siblings can turn on each other, and a family outsider who stakes a claim can spark more than rude confrontations. “Cain and Abel” is one of the oldest plots around, so it’s easy to imagine bitter feelings between marital and extramarital siblings going to lethal lengths as they vie with each other for social status, financial gain or parental affection. Finally, there’s the traditional “Revenge” plot. Although many loving couples raise happy children outside of marriage today, there are less sanguine situations in which the violent feelings of a spurned lover, a betrayed spouse or an abandoned child can lead to murder.

For more famous fiction works with an illegitimacy theme, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegitimacy_in_fiction

The Ultimate Single Girl’s Guide To Enjoying Fall

beauty woman

Everyone talks about how the ocean is full of fish after a breakup, whether that was yesterday or last year, and how the winds of change shut a door but open a window. That’s great, but you really don’t care about fishing or crawling out of windows right now.

The winds of change have come with fall, and this season your singlehood is all about you being Lady Robinhood with your band of Merry Leaf Jumpers:

  1. Coffee With Friends + Relaxing Shenanigans

Mid Adult Women Enjoying a Warm Cup of Coffee

Don your best scarves over fluffy sweaters where the sleeves pull over your wrists as your wrap your hands around warm cups of coffee. Fill the warmth waft over your nose as you taste the cinnamon on top of the foam.

Invite your friends out for coffee, and haunt the coffee shop for an afternoon or evening. Bring supplies for shenanigans, including nail polish, adult coloring books, tarot cards and tabletop board games. Let the fun unfold with girlfriends for the price of a cup of Joe.

  1. Cuddle Up With a Good Book and Mulled Wine

Happy young woman reading book by window in fall

Has your stack of borrowed books gotten too high? When was the last time you sat down and dedicated an afternoon to reading a good book? Make it so.

Let yourself get absorbed in an entirely different world, particularly on a chilly, rainy day, with a glass of mulled wine. What will you read? Is it a dystopian romance between a werewolf and a human detective? Is it a nonfiction book about the lives of the Tudors or Marilyn Monroe?

Mulled wine is typically made from red wine, such as Merlot, and heated up with honey/sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks, ginger, an orange and brandy. Your mulled wine can be ready in less than thirty minutes, but some recipes call for it to heat slowly for hours, letting the spicy scents fill your home.

  1. Do a Wine Tasting at a Vineyard

Happy friends having fun an drinking wine in autumn time

It’s fun to relax with friends over a glass of wine at the end of a long week, but why not do a wine tasting at a vineyard? Learn how to properly taste wine with your girlfriends, and enjoy a group meal first to avoid getting a little tipsy and dulling your palate while there.

Small things can also dull your palate and senses when wine tasting, including chewing gum or mints or wearing strong smelling perfume. Dress casual, but avoid couch potato wear, such as yoga pants or sweatpants. When wine tasting, know that it’s okay to sip and even spit your wine out. It seems rude, but many wine connoisseurs sip the wine out to avoid a buzz getting in the way of the taste of wine.

  1. Go Apple Picking

Apples on blanket outside with bike in background

Fall is the season of apple picking, especially October. Look for the closest orchard near you, and get your apple picking baskets ready. There are many kinds of apple varieties, and whoever runs the farm or store at the orchard can advise you which you might like best. To pick an apple, grab at the base and twist — the apple will come right off of the branch.

When you get home, sort your apples together, and choose a recipe to try, such as an apple pie or simple apple slices dipped in homemade caramel.

Don’t forget the bottle of wine you all took home from your vineyard adventure! Prepare a big feast together with an apple recipe for dessert.

  1. Walk a Nature Trail and Watch the Leaves Fall

Female hiker walking under the rays of the sun in the mountain forest

Fall reminds you of how change happens quickly, with the shifting of the leaves from green to gold and red. The season also reminds you that change happens slowly, as you watch a solitary leaf break away from the branch and drift gently to the trail before you.

Get back into nature to be present in your body. City dwellers are at an increased risk for anxiety and depression, and time and nature does the brain good. Studies have shown that spending time in nature boosts your mood and sense of creativity. Bring your camera or sketchbook and capture the beauty.

Change isn’t always a bad thing. Let the fall season teach you about the beauty of change, transition and ultimately personal transformation.

Scoop up a big pile of leaves on a nature trail and jump inside. Go apple picking. Gather friends for a coffee date and play board games or color. Go to a wine tasting, and make mulled wine at home while you read a good book. Lady Robinhood, your band of Merry Fall Jumpers await your fall call into the wild winds of singlehood adventure. What say ye?

By Kasey at Never Liked It Anyway

Pumpkins and Pirates

Teacher With Children On Field Trip

I glanced across the field of pumpkins; the last leg of our pre-school field trip. It was a crystal clear fall day, the air crisp and fresh. An insistent tug on my hand drew my attention.

Allison Morrison frowned up at me, her blond curls bobbing. “Miss Bailey, Josh left.”

“What?” I spun my head around, looking for the dark-haired boy. He was one of my charges.

Besides Allison, two little girls and one boy stood gaping at me. Where was Josh?

“Julie?” I spotted my assistant teacher herding her group of five, but she had no extra charges tagging along. “Have you seen Josh?” I called.

Julie shook her head, her red-gold hair flailing over her back. “No. Is he missing?”

I nodded.

“Maybe he’s with one of the parent groups.”

“I sure hope so.” Just my luck two of the parents who’d signed up to help with this field trip couldn’t make it. Because of that. Julie and I had to keep five four-year-olds in check instead of the usual three or four. The parents who’d come along lagged behind us. I’d only given them three children apiece, including their own.

I turned around. “Gather everyone together. We need a head count.”

After gathering all the parents and children together, we counted, and sure enough, we had one missing child. And it was Josh.

My heart raced as I envisioned a police investigation of the teacher who’d lost a child on a field trip. How could this have happened? I’ve always been extra careful.

I was in full panic mode by the time Julie raced up to me. “Look, Kate.” She smiled, pointing toward a line of pine trees.

Glancing up, a sigh of relief escaped me. A man led Josh by the hand. A hunk of a man. He was tall and lean-muscled, with chestnut-colored hair and a close-cropped beard.

Leaving my other charges in Julie’s care, I raced up to them. “Josh,” I reprimanded. “Where did you go? You had us all worried.”

“I wanted to see if there were bears in the woods.” Josh grinned up at the man, who smiled back.

“We’ve been talking about how the forest helps the earth. Josh, here, is a very perceptive young man.” He rubbed the boy’s dark head.

Suddenly, I felt a bit uneasy. Who was this guy? What if he was a per­vert?

I snatched Josh’s hand. “Well, thank you for finding him, Mr. . . .” I waited for him to introduce himself.

He dropped Josh’s other hand and extended it to me. “I’m Neil Holloway. I work here.”

“Oh.” I flushed, my worries eased. “I’m Kate Bailey, Josh’s pre-school teacher.”

He nodded. “You’re the school tour. I saw you all go by, but I was working in the nursery. I’m to be your guide for the trip to the pumpkin patch.”

“Oh, well that’ll be fine.” Anything coming out of my mouth seemed to be lame at this point. Neil stood close and his spicy, woodsy scent held great appeal.

Get a hold of yourself, Kate; he’s probably married with four kids.

He gestured to the left. “Here’s the hay wagon. If you’d all like to climb aboard, we’ll be on our way to the pumpkin patch.”

The kids cheered as well as a few of the parents. Besides three moms, we also had one dad and a grandma.

Neil took charge, urging everyone into the two wagons. Each had a strong gelding hitched to it, instead of a tractor—one a beautiful cream-colored, the other black. The chil­dren chattered excitedly at the sight of the animals.

I gathered the group together and took another head count. Can’t be too careful. Neil lifted the children and assisted the moms and grand­ma on. After the first wagon was full, he started to guide the rest into the second wagon. I was the last one left.

He turned and smiled. “I’ll help you up.”

I flushed, hoping my face wasn’t beet red. He grasped me around the waist and hefted me up into the bed of the wagon, then jumped up to sit beside me. He waved and the wagon ahead moved off. Ours followed with a jerk. Unable to stop myself, I slid practically into the man’s lap.

“I’m sorry.”

He laughed. The spicy, woodsy scent of him threatened to over­whelm me.

Whoa there, I told myself. I’m on a field trip with my students and some of their parents. This is no time to lose myself in a man, even a virile, great smelling one.

Once the wagons came to a halt, Neil jumped down and lifted me to the ground. My face heated yet again.

As we gathered the children for their jaunt to pick the perfect pump­kin, I turned to find Neil speaking to one of the drivers. He glanced my way and his lips curved into a smile.

Get a grip. He’s probably a happi­ly married man and just likes to be friendly to tour groups.

Julie crept up beside me. “Pick a good one,” she called out to her charges. Then she elbowed me. “Nice, isn’t he?” I followed her glance at Neil.

I shrugged, not wanting to betray my feelings. This was ridiculous any­way—a full-grown woman ogling a guy.

He bent over the wagon bed to retrieve something.

“Ooh,” Julie crooned. “He sure has a cute butt.”

I smiled. I couldn’t exactly deny I’d noticed.

Neil led the children through the patch, so each and every one could find the perfect Halloween pumpkin. I watched as he interacted with the kids. He’d make a great dad, if he wasn’t already one.

Josh returned, apparently  impressed with Neil. “See my pumpkin, Miss Bailey? Neil helped me pick it.”

“Did he now?” I grinned, and Neil returned a smile. He really did seem like a perfect guy.

I clapped my hands so my group would all gather around. “It’s time for lunch. After that, we’ll visit the pet­ting zoo.”

As I settled at the picnic tables with my bag lunch, I couldn’t help but steal glances at Neil. Since col­lege, I’d stayed away from men, wanting to concentrate on my stud­ies. My last steady relationship was in high school. Brad and I had been an item until he broke our date for the prom. I found out later that he’d dumped me for a girl in the junior class. I’d wasted three years on Brad and had vowed that was it. When I was ready to settle down, I’d go looking for a better man, but now the time had come, and I had no clue about how to find the right guy.

My family and friends all seemed to be on the lookout for the one for me, but none of their picks mea­sured up. Over the years, I’d retreat­ed into spending time alone with a good book.

After lunch, I led the group over to the small petting zoo. Goats and sheep grazed in a fenced-in pasture. The kids all screamed with delight and prodded the adults to give them change so they could feed the ani­mals. I rounded up my charges and set them free inside the fenced area, keeping a sharp eye out to be sure none of them wandered away or got hurt by the animals.

Young beautiful girl stands near wooden fence in city zoo

I leaned against the fence and sighed when a presence jolted the fence beside me.

Neil stood practically arm to arm with me. “Having a good time, Teach?”

I grinned. “Well, it’s a nice change from the classroom. But I can tell you I’ll be good and tired when I finally get home.”

He laughed. It was a hearty, mas­culine sound. I liked it. “Where to after this?”

“The gift shop, of course. I’ve a hunkering for fresh apple and pump­kin pie. My mother requested an apple too, so I’ll be buying three, I guess.”

“What kind does your husband like?” He glanced down at my empty ring finger.

“I don’t have one yet.”

“Boyfriend then.. .”

“Nope.” I shook my head.

“Just what I wanted to hear.”

Before I could reply, one of the workers called Neil away. I figured we’d catch up before we headed home. A thrill ran through me when I realized he was interested in me. I’d be sure to catch him before our trip was over.

But as fate would have it, the buses were loaded and there was no sign of Neil. I was heartbroken, but shrugged it off. It probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway. But I had sure been ready to give it a try. In my line of work, the only men I met on a regular basis were the fathers of my students. Although some were divorced, they didn’t hold much appeal for me.

Neil had seemed like a really nice guy who was great with kids. Just the type of guy I’d want to meet.

Julie sauntered up, a pie in each hand. “Guess it’s back on the road.” She glanced around. “Where’s Mr. Hot?”

I smiled. “I suppose you mean Neil? I don’t know where he is. It’s a big place, and he’s likely back to work at whatever it is he does.”

“Did you give him your phone number, at least?”

“Didn’t have a chance to.” I shrugged. “He’s likely married, anyway.”

Julie scowled. “Yeah, the good ones always are. Tough break.”

We boarded the bus, did a final head count, and I sank back into the seat for the ride back to school.

Hours later, I sank into a fragrant tub of bubbles. Field trips always exhausted me, but I tried to schedule as many as I could throughout the school year. It was a great treat, as well as a unique learning experience for the kids.

As I soaked my tired muscles, an image of Neil drifted over me. Maybe I should have gone looking for him before we left, but there hadn’t been time. Besides, the last thing I wanted to do was come off as needy.

No, it just wasn’t meant to be.

A few weeks later, we held our Halloween pageant, the children decked out in their Halloween finery. Apples, candy, and decorations—including spider webs and witches’ brooms — adorned the classroom. The pumpkins we’d collected at the nursery were lined up on the windowsills. The painted faces had been our project over the last couple of days. The kids would be taking their finished projects home today to decorate their own homes.

Julie grazed past me as I tied strings on the take-home bags of candy. “You going to the party at Dave’s?”

I shrugged. “I got an invitation, but I don’t know. I have no idea for a costume.”

“Oh, you’ve got to go, Kate! I’ll come over after school and help you look for a costume. In fact. . .” She clicked her fingers. “I have a cos­tume from last year that would fit you perfectly.”

I frowned. “What kind of cos­tume?”

Before she could answer, a gaggle of kids romped up to collect their bags. The school day was nearly done. “Don’t forget your pumpkins,” I called out.

“I’ll bring it over this afternoon,” Julie said.

At my answering scowl, she added, “You’ll like it, Kate. Stop being such a spoil sport. It’s Halloween, after all.”

I was decorating the window of my condo when Julie drove up. She pulled a garment bag out of her car. I bit my lip, wondering what she had in store for me.

The dress had ruffles and frills and a really low neckline. “What am I supposed to be?” I asked, examining the material.

“A serving wench.”

I frowned.

“You know, like in an 18th century pub. You could be a pirate’s woman.” She grinned.

I wasn’t amused. “I don’t know.”

“Oh, come on.” She poked my arm. “Live a little. I guarantee there’ll be hot, single guys there, all decked out in costume. Think of the mys­tery.”

I groaned. The only mystery I wanted right now was a good novel I could curl up with. I sighed. “All right.” I gathered the costume to take to my bedroom. I’d try it on there.

The gown fit like a glove, maybe a bit too tight. The top of my breasts heaved out the top. I flushed in embarrassment. How could I show up for a party in front of strangers wearing this? But I had no time to look for something else. I’d have to bite the bullet and wear it.

That night I adjusted my costume, trying to push the top up to cover me better, but the corset waist wouldn’t permit it. I grabbed a wool shawl from my closet. At least it would give me coverage until I got to the party. And then what?

I hopped into Julie’s car. “You look great!”

“So do you.” Julie was dressed as a vampiress in a long black gown, her red hair flowing and streaked with a white line. Her makeup was excellent—cheeks a pasty white, contrasting dark eyes and red lips.

She pulled from the parking spot. “I can’t wait to get there. We’ll have so much fun.”

I bit my lip, but resigned myself to go along. It would only be one night. I just hoped I wouldn’t attract any needy creeps. I yanked up the bodice of my gown again, feeling extremely self-conscious.

Julie knocked on the door of the townhouse and was greeted by a guy in a bear costume. I swallowed a laugh as we squeezed past into the living room. Although the house was fairly small, it was jam packed with bodies in all kinds of getups. I spotted a few gray faced aliens, a number of vampires, cheerleaders, a fireman, and a guy in a trench coat. I didn’t want to imagine what he wore—if anything—under it.

Julie broke away from me to greet one of her friends. I glanced around the room, my gaze settling on a tall, well-formed man in the corner of the room by the staircase, dressed as a pirate. Something about him looked familiar. He wore a black eye-patch, had chestnut-colored long unruly locks, and a matching colored—although well-trimmed — beard.

As his eye settled on me, he lifted the patch and grinned. “Well, I’ll be…” He eyed me up and down.

“Isn’t this a coincidence?”

“It sure is.” I flushed self-con­sciously as his gaze roved over my costume. “Julie insisted I wear this,” I said lamely.

“Well…” He lifted his arm. “I’d say a pirate needs a good serving wench by his side. What do you say?”

I smiled. He took my arm and guided me through the crowd to the buffet.

“It looks like we came together.” His warm breath in my ear sent shiv­ers down my spine.

Close-up portrait muscular pirate in the studio on a dark backgroundThe woodsy scent that had attracted me at the nursery was still with him. Apparently, it wasn’t just because he’d been working among the pines. I inhaled deeply. Pressing his hand possessively against the small of my back, he escorted me to the buffet table. Snacks of all kinds filled the tabletop. He lifted two plates in one hand, then let go of me to settle a plate in each of his hands.

“What would you like?” His head swiveled to look oveiritle array.

“Oh. . I don’t know.” I suddenly felt self-conscious again and wasn’t sure I could eat anything at all.

He handed me a plate and started filling the other. He piled chicken, spooned potato salad, and grabbed me a large pickle and a roll. After he’d finished, he handed the filled plate to me and started again. When I hesitated, he glanced at me side­long.

“Is it okay?”

“Sure. I love all this. It smells deli­cious.”

He smiled and I felt like the smile was just for me. He gestured with a nod. “Let’s find a place to sit.”

As we settled on a couple of fold­ing chairs in the living room beside the coffee table, I spotted Julie. Her eyes widened and she nodded. I almost expected her to give me a thumb’s up.

“So,” my pirate escort said, “what do you do when not escorting groups of kids through the pumpkin patch?”

I shrugged. “Oh, you know, the usual pre-school teacher things. We do finger painting, learn about letters of the alphabet, play games. . .”

“But what do you do when you’re out of school?” He spooned potato salad into his mouth, then watched me expectantly.

I flushed. What did I do? “Nothing exciting,” I said. “I read a lot.”

He nodded. “Reading’s good.”

“I guess you do all kinds of out­doorsy things.” I glanced away shyly. He must think I’m a boring person.

“Well, I work outdoors most of the day, so when I get free time, I like to spend it at home, but it would be nice to have somebody there with me.” He eyed me. “Maybe a good serving wench.”

I flushed again. “I don’t know if I’m all that good. I can do your basic cooking, but I’m not that great around a kitchen.”

“Never fear, madam…” He leaned toward me, so close I could almost feel his lips brush mine. “I do know my way around a kitchen and a grill.” He straightened and waved his fork. “In fact, I’d like to invite you over for a barbecue.”

“A barbecue? But it’s the end of October.”

“I’ve been known to barbecue past Christmas. . .providing it doesn’t snow.” He flashed that enticing grin again. “What do you say, m’lady?”

I laughed and lifted the skirt of my costume. “I’m a serving wench.”

“Then what do you say, wench?”

I smiled. “I’d like that very much.”

He reached for my hand and drew me to my feet, then gathered the plates for disposal. “Be right back. Don’t you go away.”

I nodded and stood, waiting for his return. He slid one arm around my waist and led me through the house to the back. A deck stood off the kitchen. Although it was a bit chilly, we stepped out into the starlight. A full moon shone off to the right.

“It’s beautiful,” I breathed.

He gathered me close. “Is it too cold out here?”

“Oh, no. It was getting a little too hot inside anyway.” I glanced side­long at Neil. His presence beside me sent a thrill through me. I hadn’t felt this way with any other man, includ­ing my high school boyfriend.

He lifted his hand and cupped my chin. The roughness of his callused hands excited me. He was a man who worked for a living. A strong man. How could I not be intrigued? I started to wonder what his kiss would feel like.

Before I knew it, his mouth was on mine. His kiss was light and tender, then when I opened to him, he deep­ened it, pressing against my lips, my breasts flattened against his chest. So lost was I in this first kiss, I didn’t notice the doors slide open to another couple.

“Oh, sorry,” a woman’s voice apologized.

We broke away and I glanced over at the couple dressed as a mobster and a flapper.

“It’s okay,” Neil said with a glance at me. “We’re going in anyway.”

I swallowed my disappointment, but we really couldn’t continue the way we were in this setting.

Neil led me back inside. The party was in full swing. Heat rushed to my cheeks at the press of people all around, laughing and conversing. Rock music blared from the speakers in the living room. I suddenly wanted to be alone with Neil, but that wasn’t possible now.

I spotted Julie with her arms around a masked man’s waist. It had to be her current boyfriend, Alex.

As if in answer to my thoughts, he caught my gaze. “Great costume, Kate!”

Julie hit his arm. “Don’t you remember that costume?”

His grin widened. “Ah, yeah…last year, when I dressed as Captain Hook.” Julie shook her head.

“You look good too, Alex.” He wore a long black cape and a puffy shirt. “Zorro, I presume?”

He took off his hat and bowed. “Very perceptive.”

I turned to Neil. “Neil, this is Alex, Julie’s friend. Alex, this is Neil. He works at the nursery.”

Alex nodded and the men shook hands.

A half hour later, I fought to stifle a yawn. It was going on one in the morning, way past my usual bed­time.

“You tired, Kate?” I glanced up to find Neil hovering at my side. He’d hardly left me all night long. Nice to have a man so attentive.

I smiled. “Guess it’s time for this wench to turn into a pumpkin.”

“Can I drive you home?”

I hesitated. The thought was tempting, but I didn’t want to leave my car here. I’d need it tomorrow. I explained to Neil and he nodded.

“Drive safely then. And I’ll call you about that barbecue. If you’d like, I can pick you up.”

“That would be nice, Neil. I look forward to it.”

All the way home and as I got ready for bed, my thoughts drifted to Neil, his scent, the feel of his muscular arms under his shirt sleeves, the thrill of his lips on mine. I very much looked forward to that barbecue.

Neil called the following day to get my address. He promised to pick me up at three. I paced my condo, antic­ipating being alone with him for the first time. How far would it lead?

Neil picked me up and drove me to his home on the north side of town. He lived in a modest town­house that had a charming front porch and a fenced-in garden in the back. A deck was set off the dining room and kitchen, a floor above the garden.

He led me onto the deck and invit­ed me to sit. The grill sat just past the glass doors opposite the seating area. A large tree provided shade for the deck, and potted plants sat around the rails, giving a variety of scents and color.

“It’s beautiful out here.” I glanced around. “And not too cool today.”

He nodded. “Be right back with some drinks. You like iced tea?”

“It’s my favorite.” I sank into a padded lounge chair while Neil returned to the kitchen for our drinks. I wished my place had an area like this. All I had was a small balcony off my tiny kitchen.

Neil grilled steaks and brought out a garden salad and potato salad he’d purchased at the grocers’. “Not skilled enough to make my own potato salad, I’m afraid.”

I grinned. “Can’t blame you there.” I took a forkful. “This is very good.”

“I think so, too.” He glanced at my plate. “How’s the steak?”

“Excellent. You’re right, you are a good cook.”

He smiled. “We’ll have dessert inside. I’m afraid it gets too chilly to sit out here long this time of year. It’ll be getting dark soon, anyway.”

I agreed and helped Neil clean up and get everything inside. We sat at his small dining table to sip coffee and eat pumpkin pie for dessert.

After the first bite, he inclined his head. “Store bought, too.”

“I kind of guessed that.” I nudged his arm. “Didn’t think you were the pie-baking type.”

“No?” He leaned toward me. “Just what type am I then?”

“The grilling steaks, chopping trees, and spreading mulch type.”

He laughed. “This pie reminds me of the first time I saw you.”

“It was only a week ago. How could you forget anyway?”

He reached his arm to cover the back of my chair. “I could never for­get someone like you, no matter how long ago I met her.”

I moistened my lips. “Even though we’ve basically just met, I don’t think I’ll easily forget you either.”

He smiled. “I’m very glad.” He reached for my hand. “Come into the living room.”

We settled on the couch. Anticipation threaded its way through my stomach. I knew what was coming next, and boy did I want it. We kissed for what seemed an eternity, and my core melted into a puddle of pure heat. This was even better than the kiss we shared at the party with all those people around.

After a while, he offered to drive me home. We made plans to see each other again in a few days. We caught all the current movies, went out to dinner, and spent time in each other’s places. By mid November we’d become more intimate, but still hadn’t made love. Neil said the time would come when we were both ready, and he was right. As much as I cared for Neil, I didn’t want to rush things.

On Christmas Eve, Neil told me he was falling in love with me and I told him the same. A week later, we sealed the deal by making love for the first time. It was wonderful, and I was glad I’d held out for him. With my high school boyfriend, I’d never let him get that far, and there was really no one after. . .until Neil.

A year later, on Halloween, we took our marriage vows. He joked about showing up dressed as a pirate with me as a wench, but I was adamant. We were having a tradi­tional wedding. I’d waited long enough and wanted this, as well as my mom. She wouldn’t have stood for anything less.

I sold my condo and now live in Neil’s townhouse. I still teach pre­school, but will gladly give it up to start a brood of my own. Neil can’t wait for the first addition to our new family, either. He’ll be the ultimate perfect dad.

What If Social Media Turns Murderous?

scared female teenager with computer laptop suffering cyberbullying harassment

Social media use has become so ubiquitous that it’s no wonder mystery plots are mining social networking for clues, motives and even psychological weaponry.

follow meOne example is the Social Media Murders Series by Angela Clarke, starting with Follow Me. If you think social media feeds fame monsters, you’ll appreciate a plot in which recent graduate Freddie, who is trying to get her journalism career started via online contacts and posts, bumps into old friend Nasreen, now a police officer, and seeks a scoop by following her to a crime scene where a dead man lies slumped over his computer. Social media-savvy Freddie realizes the victim was a troll and finds the Twitter account of the “Hashtag Murderer,” who takes credit for the murder and posts cryptic clues to the next target, titillating press and public. Freddie and Nasreen are soon in the crosshairs as they race to catch the fame-crazed killer.

other twinOr, maybe you fear that some folks in your social network of “friends” are playing unfriendly games.Then you won’t find any comfort in The Other Twin by L.V. Hay. In the British thriller, Poppy returns home after her sister India dies from a fall off a railway bridge and hacks into her sister’s laptop seeking the truth about her death. Poppy finds a social media world where resentments are played out online, identities are made and remade, and secrets outnumber truths.

 

 

mercedesNow if you’re a person who feels vulnerable to online-savvy miscreants, join tech-impaired, retired Detective Bill Hodges of Mr. Mercedes, the first entry in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy. In an unsolved case at the end of Hodges’ career, the “Mercedes Killer” used a stolen Mercedes to mow down a crowd of people waiting outside a job fair. Miserable in retirement, Hodges is jolted back to life by taunting messages from the killer and drawn into a cat-and-mouse game on an anonymous social media chat site, leading to a race to stop a psychopath.

 

secretsMaybe you’re worried social posts are attracting undesirable followers who’ll try to move from virtual to actual contact. Then you’ll be terrified by The Secrets She Keeps from Michael Robotham. Unwed and pregnant Agatha, who works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store, is fascinated by chic customer Meghan, who writes a droll parenting blog and boasts two perfect children and a happy marriage. When Agatha learns her blog idol is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she approaches the unsuspecting Meghan and sets something terrible in motion.

 

youOr test your social nerves with Caroline Kepnes’ novel You. Beautiful Guinevere Beck shops in a New York bookstore where smitten employee Joe “Googles” the name on her credit card. Joe soon finds all he needs to know from her public Facebook account and constant Tweets. He begins to orchestrate meetings and events designed to push her into his arms, and removes any obstacles to his passion–even if it means murder.

For thrillers featuring social media, check out https://strandmag.com/seven-thrillers-featuring-social-media/

ABOUT  KATHERINE SHARMA

Katherine Sharma’s family roots are in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. But after her early childhood in Texas, she has moved around the country and lived in seven other states, from Virginia to Hawaii. She currently resides in California with her husband and three children. She has also traveled extensively in Europe, Africa and Asia, and makes regular visits to family in India. After receiving her bachelor’s degree. in economics and her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan, Katherine worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for more than 15 years. She then shifted into management and marketing roles for firms in industries ranging from outdoor recreation to insurance to direct marketing. Although Katherine still works as a marketing consultant, she is now focused on creative writing.

Does Marriage Kill The Romance in The Relationship?

Not talking to each other

As a wise man once said, “Problems are not stop signs; they are guidelines.” This can’t be truer than in the case of marriage.

During the initial phase, marriage might seem like a bed of roses. One thinks, what can be more fulfilling and satisfying, than spending the rest of your life with the one you truly love? However, as a couple strolls down the lane of life, all the initial love and romance tends to get lost somewhere down the way. As soon as the honeymoon period ends, the couples come face to face with the harsh realities of life.

While on one hand you have to earn the bread and butter for your family, you also have to make sure to fulfill all the duties you owe towards your loved ones. From your parents to children, everyone looks up to you as a couple to fulfill their financial as well as emotional needs. In order to make everyone around them happy, the couples often tend to compromise on their own personal time together. As a result, in a short amount of time they become distant from each other. Love tends to take a back seat and romance becomes non-existent.

Romantic couple holding hands together over candlelight

So is it true when people say that marriage kills the romance in a relationship? No, that is defiantly not the case. While marital commitments often tend to keep a couple busy, they are not the ones responsible for degrading the romance in a marriage. The couple always needs to remember that love and romance are the very basis of a happy marriage. Hence, there are a few things that one can do in order to keep the romance in a marriage alive:

 

  • Sweet and small gestures: you do not need to make an elaborate show to remind your husband or wife that you love them. You can keep the romance alive by doing small gestures like leaving stick on notes on their cupboards, office bags, refrigerators etc. expressing your love to them. You can go a step ahead by preparing their favorite meal, or giving your spouse a surprise gift or flowers.
  • Marriage dating: Marriage dating is one of the finest ideas to keep your married life alive and kicking. Take your spouse out on a date, just the two of you. Spend some quality time together, doing your favorite things. Relive your courtship period. Nothing can be more romantic and de-stressing for you as a couple.
  • Appreciate and respect your spouse: your husband or wife need and deserve your respect. Make sure to thank them for the efforts that they put in in order to keep your lives running and happy. This small gesture will surely increase their love for you.
  • Express your love: though you both know that you love each other, still it is important for you as a couple to express you love. Never miss a chance to tell your husband or wife that you love them. By merely saying “I love you” every day, you can make your spouse fall in love with you over and over.

 

Romance in a marriage never gets lost. However, it is up to you to rediscover it and keep it alive. All the best!

Remember This One Thing When You’re Single

Pensive lonely young woman sitting on beach hugging her knees and looking into the distance with hope

“There are plenty of fish in the sea,” someone will probably tell you immediately after a breakup. But why? Is it because they don’t know how else to comfort you or express that they’re there for you, and this is one of those trusted and reliable cliches that never fails for some reason? Or is it because they know you have an insatiable love for deep-sea fishing? I’ll give you a hint: it’s probably not the latter.

Why do we (as a society) place such an importance on being constantly romantically involved with somebody? And not only that, why do we let it determine the worth of ourselves and others as well? When you’re seeing somebody, you might get a pat on the back or some sort of variation on the statement “Congrats, good for you!” When you’re not, people may question what’s wrong with you, and ultimately hit you with some sort of statement of pity and reassurance (“don’t worry, there are plenty of fish in the sea…and not all of them will give you mercury poisoning like your last fish-boyfriend”). What if I told you that you don’t need to be reassured about your relationship status, because there is nothing wrong with being single? You might think, “Well, duh!”, but if that’s how we all really feel, why is the hallmark of being a twenty-something unfailing desperation for a romantic relationship? It’s because we are made to feel, sometimes subliminally, that there is sense of urgency to our relationship status and our romantic lives, when in reality, there is not.

I’ve had distant family, basic acquaintances, and even my dental hygienist ask about my love life (the only question that they have the right to ask is if I floss enough…and I think they already know the answer to that). And what’s more is that they will probably never stop asking, since most people believe they mean well when they do. So the only thing you can do is keep this one thing in mind when they do, the single most important thing to remember when you’re single: it’s perfectly normal. The only urgency in life is to loving yourself and living the life you have imagined, and whether that involves another person or not is your prerogative! So let’s all make an effort to stop telling people how many eligible fish there are in the sea…sometimes, you just want to swim alone.

By Brianna Porter at Never Liked It Anyway

4 Ways to Get Asked on a Date

Cheerful African American couple enjoying tea in the cafe

If you are looking to be in a relationship, it is important that you stop paying attention to this myth that it is difficult to find the right person. Your mindset impacts your life largely and if you never stop thinking that dating is not for your generation, you might never find your Mr. or Mrs. Right. If you want a satisfying relationship, you can find one by making a few changes in your life. Here are four things that we’ve found to be really effective in getting asked out by multiple people:

1. Be the Person You Want to Date:

 

happy friends and chef cook cooking in kitchen

It goes that you should become the change you want to see in the world. The same applies when you are looking for a date. If you want to be asked out by a compatible person, make sure that you will make for a compatible partner as well. The more you go out, the more chances you will have of being asked out. If you are someone who enjoys concerts, attend more and more concerts. If you are someone who enjoys cooking,  it will not hurt you to join a cooking class. Turn yourself into the kind of person you find interesting and do things that you have dreamt of doing with your date. Stop looking at couples you find interesting and thinking that if you had a partner you would do these things they do too. Do them on your own and stop waiting for someone else to go out and live your life. You can also use Online Dating Apps which let you add your interests and soon you can find someone who has the same interests as you.

 

2. Be Open to New Experiences:

 

Couple kissing outdoors at night

I have realized that many people like to believe that there is a particular type of person they want to be with. They wait forever to meet the ‘right’ one and limit their opportunities to really meet the right person for them. It is good to have preferences, but makes sure that you allow yourself to look outside of the box. For example, If you find someone nice, but he doesn’t meet your criteria of a perfect boyfriend, go out with them once. You never know when you might end up changing your criteria for the ‘right’ one. If you think that you will find your prince charming in a charming place too, you are wrong. Don’t block your opportunities out by believing in such theories. You might end up meeting your prince in the bar around the corner only if you let yourself be open to new opportunities. Love will come to you if you let it.

 

3. Join the Dating Game:

 

Couple drinking milkshake

It is important that you go out with new people every once in a while. Even if the connection fails in the end, at the end of the day you will feel happy that you let yourself have a good time. You can use online dating sites to meet someone you find interesting or someone you met at a coffee shop. These dates do not have to be conventionally perfect, but don’t let your dating life go stale by telling yourself that you will only go out with your ‘true love’. How are you supposed to find that love if you are not letting people in every once in a while. Be open to new opportunities and say yes from time to time.

 

4. Invite Them:

 

Couple having intimate dinner of summer eveningListen up ladies. It is alright if you are a fan of old-fashioned chivalry, where a man asks the girl out first. But it is important that sometimes you initiate a start to a new beginning. If you find someone interesting, reach out to them. It does not mean that you have to ask your potential boyfriend out for a coffee, but let him know that you are interested. Making eye contact and smiling are two tricks that always work. Chances are, he might end up asking you out or asking for your number. Be welcoming and open when it comes to dating. If you fail to do such, you can always use a dating app to invite men.

Moonlight Drive: A Wild Ride You’ll Never Forget!

Young woman sitting in a car and using smart phone

The car sputtered, coughed, and then with one final gasp, died. I coasted it to the side of the dark, country road and slammed it into park. Now what do I do? I asked myself. It was almost midnight, and I was stranded all alone, surrounded by nothing but soybean fields. Darkness abounded, and there were no lights on the horizon. There was only the star-filled sky and I, feeling foolish and afraid.

I popped the hood, wiggled a few wires, whispered a prayer, and hopped back into the car to give it another try. I held my breath, fighting back tears, while I turned the key. Come on, baby, I begged. Start! It sputtered and promptly died. Just my luck.

My options were few. My cell was dead, so I could either walk in the dark and risk being eaten by wild animals, or I could wait until help came down the lonely road. The coward in me chose the latter. Clint wasn’t expecting me until the next afternoon, so at least he wouldn’t be worried.

My visit to my parents’ home was cut short when I decided to return home a day early. Even after a year, there was still too much tension between my sister and me. Although Shannon is engaged to Nathan, she still blames me for stealing Clint away from her. When the jabs got too sharp, I lashed back. “Maybe if you weren’t such a bitch to him, he wouldn’t have come my way!”

I was tired of defending Clint. Clint and I were having disagreements lately, but he was still my boyfriend. I threw my bags in my old Junker and said my goodbyes. “Sorry, Mom,” I apologized. “I really do have a lot of things to do at home. How about you and Dad visiting us? We do have that sofa that folds out to a bed,” I reminded her.

I was glad to get away. That way, I wouldn’t have to deal with my spoiled, rotted, diva-of-a-sister, who acts like she still wants Clint back. Actually, it was Shannon who cooled the romance. She wanted to keep her options open. One option in particular was Nathan, now her fiancé. What really hurts is that I suspect that Clint is still harboring feelings for Shannon, even though we’ve been together for a year.

I can remember that fateful night, when Clint stopped by to pick up my older and much prettier sister. Shannon left no more than ten minutes earlier. “If Clint calls, tell him I’m working late,” she told me. “I’ll be home at ten; I’ll call him back then.” Then she hopped into Nathan’s new car and headed out for dinner.

There was no way that I was going to lie to Clint, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that his girlfriend is a cheat. “Gosh, I just got here myself.” I boldly flirted with him when he called. “Why don’t we grab a bite and check and see if she’s still at work?”

“Sure; I’m starved,” he quickly replied.

“Let’s go to Mario’s,” I suggested. In my one-horse town, there’s only one real place to have a good meal. I knew that Shannon was there with Nathan, and I couldn’t wait for Clint to see for himself what a cheat Shannon is. I smiled to myself as we pulled into the parking lot. Sure enough, there was Nathan’s car.

As we waited to be seated, I casually took hold of Clint’s arm. I caught Shannon’s eye from across the room. She looked like she couldn’t make up her mind whether to kill me on the spot or slide under the table with shame.

Clint also saw Shannon sitting there with Nathan. That is the moment that any feeling he had for her died, he told me later. I could feel his icy demeanor as we walked to our table. Her name was not spoken once that night. Clint acted as if I were the only woman on the planet. Holding my chair as I sat down and reaching across the table to hold my hand, Clint made me feel special. I knew it was all a show for Shannon, but I didn’t care. It was about time that I got some attention.

He asked me back to his apartment and I went willingly. He poured some wine and lit candles. I kicked off my shoes and curled up on the couch as Clint put on soft music.

Close-up of young couple with champagne about to kiss“You are so sweet,” he whispered, his fingers trailing down my neck. Dizzy from the wine, I seductively leaned back, allowing him to slowly unbutton my blouse and fondle my breasts. He kissed me fiercely and I responded likewise. I slipped my hands under his shirt, caressing his toned abs. I unzipped his jeans, releasing his strong erection. He moaned as I went down on him.

Fighting for control, Clint pulled me to my feet and led me to the bedroom. Our clothes dropped to the floor. His hands sought out my body, his fingers dipping into my wetness. His lips felt hot as he sucked my breasts. His mouth over mine muffled my cries of pleasure as he thrust deep into me. You belong to me now, I thought as he exploded in me.

Two weeks later, he got a job in the city and asked me to go with him. I never hesitated. Even though he made no promises or pledged his love, I packed my bags and went willingly.

I estimated that I was about forty miles from the city. I made it halfway at least, I thought. If I can just get to a phone, Clint can come for me. Ahh, my knight in shinning armor, save me!

About an hour later, I spotted headlights. What appeared to be a car turned out to be two motorcycles. They roared up beside me and stopped when they saw the hood of my car up.

“You need help?” the bearded biker gruffly asked.

Cautiously, I rolled the window partly down. “It died on me,” I told him.

The two guys poked under the hood while their leather clad girlfriends leaned against the bikes, smoking. “Turn it over,” the biker barked. The car made a feeble attempt, but would not start. “You out of gas?” he growled.

“No, I have half a tank,” I answered through the window crack.

“Then it must be the fuel pump. Nothing I can do. You need a tow truck. I’ll call when I get home.”

“Thank you,” I said timidly.

“Don’t thank me. I’ll call, but don’t expect anyone before morning. You going to be alright?” he asked, his tone softening slightly.

“I’ll be okay.”

They roared off and I was relieved to be alone again. I locked the door and settled back, pulling my jacket tight around me. I guess I’m going to be here awhile. The starry sky was spectacular. I picked out a lucky star and made a wish. Please help Clint and me work out our problems. And then I added, or give me the courage to move on.

A bit later, I saw a single headlight as it came over the knoll toward me. Don’t panic, I told myself, double-checking the door locks.

It was the younger, silent biker; he showed up alone. “I don’t feel right about leaving you here alone,” he started.

“Oh, I’m okay,” I tried to assure him.

“There’s a truck stop on the main highway. You can wait for the tow truck there.”

It made sense, but still I hesitated.

“I promise I won’t hurt you,” he said with a roll of his eyes.

I climbed out of my car and glanced warily at the motorcycle. It looked intimidating. The moon illuminated the polished chrome while masking the color. I guessed it was black, maybe blue. “I never rode on a motorcycle before,” I stammered.

He laughed. “All you have to do is hang on.”

He handed me a helmet. My fingers fumbled with the strap.

The young biker stepped close and pulled the strap tight under my chin. His eyes were as dark as the night and ebony stubble covered his strong jaw. He mounted the bike, reaching around to pull down the foot pegs. “Just like riding a horse.” He smiled for the first time.

I tentatively put my left foot on the peg and swung my leg over the seat. My arms encircled his slim hips. The potent smell of his leather jacket filled my senses as I took deep breaths to calm myself.

“All set?” he asked. I nodded and with a push of a button, the bike roared to life. I didn’t have a clue if my body was trembling or if it was just the vibrations from the bike. There was no doubt, though, about the racing of my heart. “Hang on,” he called over the rumblings as he put the bike in motion.

He started off slow, but then he hit the next gear, and I was thrust backward. That’s when I wrapped my arms even tighter around him and hung on for dear life. I peeked over his shoulder and saw the lines on the highway flash by in the headlights. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to stay calm. I concentrated on the wind as it tunneled around his body, whipping my long hair.

Much to my surprise, I was beginning to enjoy this wild ride. I leaned into his slim body and let the vibrations surge through me and the cool, night air flow around me. I was tingling all over with excitement. All too soon, we were turning at a neon sign that flashed OPEN ALL NIGHT.

“Wooo!” I exclaimed. “That was fun!” Under the glare of the parking lot’s lights, I could finally take a good look at the beautiful bike that I just rode. It was midnight blue with delicate, silver flames flowing wildly over the tank. The black, leather saddlebags were adored with silver conches. “Your bike is gorgeous,” I gushed.

“Thanks,” was all he said, but he smiled. I liked the way the corners of his dark eyes crinkled when he did. “Let’s get some coffee. You can make your calls, too.”

The solitary waitress motioned us to a booth. Knowingly, she brought us two cups of steaming coffee when she dropped off the menus. I took a sip of coffee and excused myself to go to the ladies’ room. “I’ll be right back.”

I dragged my fingers though my long, mousy hair. Hopeless, I thought. I pulled it up into a quick chignon. That’s one way to deal with the tangles. I dug some change from my pocket and dialed my home number on the payphone. One-thirty in the morning; I bet Clint is sleeping. It rang six times, and then the machine picked up. I hung up. I dropped another quarter in the slot and redialed. “Pick up, Clint,” I whispered under my breath. The phone was on the nightstand—no way could he sleep through it. I’ll try again later.

I slid into the booth, suddenly embarrassed. “I’m sorry. You’ve been so kind and I don’t even know your name.” I blushed. “I’m Sonya.”

He took the hand that I offered, giving it a two-handed squeeze over the table. “They call me Dice.”

“Is that your name?” I asked, puzzled.

“It’s more a warning than a name.” He laughed. “With me, it’s always a gamble. By the way, I went ahead and ordered. You looked hungry.”

Dice looks like a man who naturally takes charge. He has a bold tattoo of tribal feathers around his bicep that told me he’s unconventional. “Thanks, Dice.”

The waitress winked at Dice as she set down bowls of vegetable soup. A delicious aroma filled the air. Suddenly, I was famished. Cheeseburgers followed, the plates heaped with golden French fries.

Dice listened quietly as I nervously rambled. “I don’t know why Clint’s not answering the phone. I’ll try again in a few minutes.” Chances were, he was out with his friends again. Whenever I asked about his whereabouts lately, he got defensive. I quit asking and caring, but I still wondered where and how he was spending his time.

“I called the local garage,” he told me. “The message said they don’t tow on Sundays. And a tow from the city will cost more than that car is worth.”

He had a point there. “What should I do?” I asked.

“I can take you home tonight and your boyfriend can figure that out,” he bluntly stated.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Personally, I didn’t mind another ride, but Clint isn’t very handy mechanically and would likely be angry to have to take care of my car troubles.

“It’s no problem,” Dice said. “I live in the city. I’m headed back.”

“I’m sorry about messing up your weekend. Will your girlfriend be mad?” I asked thoughtfully.

He shook his head and I saw a hint of sadness in his eyes. “Tracey’s not my girlfriend,” he protested. He paused and then admitted, “At best, our relationship is toxic. For Tracey, the road goes on forever and the party never ends. I can’t live like that.”

I nodded my head sadly. Toxic, harmful, destructive, poison—those words can describe my relationship with Clint these days. Where is he tonight? I asked myself for the hundredth time.

Changing the subject, I asked, “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a drug and alcohol counselor. I work mostly on the reservation,” he said.

“You must find that very rewarding.”

“Not when you can’t help the ones you love the most,” he whispered sadly.

I waited until the waitress walked away after refilling our coffee, and then asked, “You want to talk about it?”

“I grew up on the reservation. My mother is Native American, and my father’s white. She died last month from liver failure caused by alcoholism.”

“I’m sorry,” was all the comfort that I could give. I could sense the helplessness of the situation, but I was at a loss for words.

“Let’s move on to a happier subject,” he said. “What do you do in the city?”

I smiled. “I work for a neurotic artist. I’m her office manager slash assistant. Mostly, I make herb tea for her. Caffeine makes her crazier.”

He laughed in a genuine, warm manner. “What were you doing in the middle of nowhere?”

“I had to escape the insanity for a few days,” I lied. I was really running from Clint. The bickering had become unbearable. “I went home to visit my family. It got sort of crazy there, too, so I started home a day early. That road cuts fifteen miles off the trip, I’ll have you know!”

“You have a big family?” he asked.

“Just my mom, dad, and one sister,” I told him. “Shannon and I don’t get along that well.” I went on to tell him briefly of the rift caused by Clint. There I was, pouring my heart out to a perfect stranger; you would think that I was one of Dice’s clients by the way I opened up to him.

“That’s too bad. Nothing should come between family,” he said. Then, in a nonjudgmental tone, he said, “Clint used you as much as you used him. No one wins in those situations.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I agreed. The one thing that Clint and I have in common is the drive to get even with Shannon. That’s what kept us together. I admit that I do have a lot of guilt for the way that I went after him in the first place.

“Listen to your heart. You can’t change the past, but you don’t have to live with mistakes,” he told me with conviction.

I smiled, a burden lifted. Dice, letting me talk, let me come to my own conclusion. I needed to resolve my differences with my sister. If that means dissolving my relationship with Clint, so be it.

“Ready for another ride?” Dice asked, giving my hand a squeeze.

“Sure.” I grinned back at him. “I live off Jackson Avenue,” I told Dice as we walked to the bike.

“I know the area; just let me know when to turn,” he said.

I shook my hair out as Dice handed me the helmet. He tightened the strap, and then, cupping my chin in his hand, he lightly kissed me. This time, I didn’t hesitate climbing behind Dice. It felt so right. I wrapped my arms confidently around his slim waist as we set off down the highway.

The normally bustling city appeared to be asleep in the Sunday A.M. hours. The streets belonged to only us as we turned down my street. I tapped his shoulder and pointed to my apartment building. Dice pulled in and cut the engine. I scanned the parking lot for Clint’s car; it wasn’t there.

I removed the helmet, shaking out my hair. Dice’s eyes met mine as he took the helmet. “Are you going to be all right?” he asked.

“Clint’s not here,” I told him.

Dice took hold of my arm. “I’ll walk you in.”

Silently, Dice followed me inside the building and waited as I fumbled with the key. Protectively, he stepped into the darkened apartment and switched on the light. Glancing around, I noticed a few items missing. Then I spotted the note, lying on the coffee table. My hands shook as I opened it.

Dear Sonya,

I’m sorry, but I can’t go on living this lie. We were never meant to be together. I used you and I’m sorry. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. I will be by later this week for the rest of my stuff.

Clint

I handed the note to Dice and sank slowly to the couch. He read the note and handed it back to me. “I’m sorry. Do you want to be alone or should I stay?” he asked, reaching out to me.

Like a moth to a flame, I went to his arms. “Tonight, I made a wish on a lucky star.”

Couple of lovers on motorbike

Tips on How to Create The Perfect Online Dating Profile

Internet dating, Valentines day concept.

You have just signed up for an online dating site. What next? It’s time to create your online dating profile. When you are creating a profile for yourself through an online dating mobile app, you’re likely trying to put your best foot forward in order to impress potential matches. It’s important to make sure your profile is not only a direct reflection of you, but that it’s put together in an appealing way. You probably wouldn’t be attracted to someone who has a profile that’s filled with a bunch of spelling mistakes and poor language, right? Well, neither would anyone else.

Here are a few helpful tips and tricks you can use to make your perfect online dating profile.

 

  • Spelling and Grammar: First, make sure your spelling and grammar are up to par. Everything doesn’t have to be 100% perfect, as though you’re writing a paper for school, but if you can’t put together a proper sentence without a dozen errors, people are going to notice, and think you were too lazy to put a lot of time and effort into your profile. Stand out from the crowd by having a professional-looking profile when it comes to your grammar.
  • Describing Yourself Honestly: Don’t be afraid to be honest about yourself, even in specific ways  – that’s what makes you stand out from everyone else. If you’re honest and open upfront, by the time you actually go on a date with someone, there will be less pressure and awkwardness, because they’ll already know about you. That being said, it’s easy for us to sometimes focus on our flaws. This can be done in a sort of ‘joking’ manner, and it’s never a bad idea to humble yourself, but don’t go overboard when talking about your flaws on your profile. On the same note, try not to list off things you don’t like about other people (smokers, people with pets, etc.). While you may not like those things, you’re automatically eliminating a lot of people from your potential search.

Beautiful redhead woman using smartphone

  • Likes and Dislikes: List what you like and what you dislike instead writing “I hate liars, I hate cheaters and I hate smokers”. This will turn off most potential dates of yours. It okay to dislike all that stuff but you have to write positively for both of your likes and dislikes.
  • Choose Profile Photo Wisely: One of the biggest and most important things you can do to get started with your online dating profile is to choose a profile picture that truly captures who you are, and how you want others to see you. It’s the first thing they will see, and many times, a good profile picture will determine whether or not someone will continue reading the rest of your information or not. So, be sure to choose something that shows who you are as an individual, features your best qualities, and shows off a bit of your personality. Consider your profile picture to be the first informal introduction to your next potential date!

 

Online dating doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially when you’re setting up a profile for the first time. Follow these simple rules and tips, and in no time, you’ll have put together the perfect profile that reflects who you are, and caters to the type of people you’d want to date. Good luck!

4 Critical Rules To Follow For Safe Summer Flings

Young Man in Swimming Trunks Lying Face to Face With a Young Woman in a Bikini on a Beach

What girl hasn’t dreamed of a fun, flirty, summer fling with a handsome stranger, frolicking through the ocean waves à la Sandy and Danny from Grease? The truth is, they’re kind of hard to come by, as they don’t happen as naturally as the movies make them look (and they definitely don’t involve any musical numbers, unfortunately). But if you for some reason find yourself faced with the opportunity for one of these “relationship quickies” while on your envious European vacation this summer, or even just back at home, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here are 4 critical rules you should follow to have a fun but safe summer fling that will have all your girlfriends wondering how you snagged something so rare and wonderful!

1. Know who you’re hooking up with.

I know, it sounds a little silly, since there is a good chance you’ll know little to nothing about this person. But before you make any sort of commitment to this person, do a little cyber-stalking to make sure they’re at least semi-normal, and don’t have any sort of sketchy past. If you can’t find them at all on social media, then that might be a cause for alarm, but certainly not the end-all, be-all. Use your discretion, and listen to your gut!

2. Have clear, set boundaries. 

Make sure you’re both aware of what your limits are before you even get into anything. That may sound like a bit of a buzzkill, but if you both have opposite ideas of what your ideal fling consists of, that’s going to be a potential cause for conflict.

3. Tell at least one person what you’re doing. 

As with most things you do, you should let at least one person, like a close friend, know who you’re with, where you’re at/going, and what you’re doing. There’s no need for a play-by-play (please, spare your friend the particularly explicit details. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t really want all of that), but just make sure someone knows your general whereabouts and that you’re available to contact.

4. Don’t get attached. 

Unless there’s a mutual understanding between you two that this fling could turn into something more long-term, try not to take the whole thing too seriously. Because if one person catches feelings and the other doesn’t, feelings could get hurt…and this is the origin story of a crazy ex. That’s where unnecessary glitter bombs come in…and on the opposite end of the spectrum, and a little more dangerous, car-keying, threatening text messages, etc. Know that it’s all just for fun…but take your safety seriously while you’re at it!

Source: Brianna Porter at Never Liked It Anyway