Brain Ramblings From Sandra R Neeley!
Hello, happy reading peoples!
Wanted to take a minute to let you know that I've released the first book under my new pen name, Ava Leigh Marchande. You notice anything unusual about that name? It's a play on Avaleigh's name, from I'm Not A Dragon's Mate!. I took her first name, split it up, and then I stole Bane and Bam's last name. I'm pretty pleased with it. Anyway, Ava Leigh Marchande, aka Me, has just released book 1 in her new series. It's called, 'Alone, Exiled Book - 1'. It's a SciFi Romance, but with closed-door intimacies. The pen name is to establish between my usual writing under Sandra R Neeley, and the clean, closed-door stories Ava Leigh will be offering.
Instead of the blurb, let's try something a little different. If it goes well, I might continue it in future blog posts. Here's the first chapter for your perusal.
“Stupid bird!” Delaney practically growled, lunging for the chicken with both hands and landing chest down in the muck as the rain relentlessly came down around her. “I ought to just let Mr. Meatball eat you!” she snapped irritatedly as her hands clamped down on the chicken she’d finally caught. She cursed the squawking bird with every step she took through the mud and pouring rain on her way to the new chicken yard and enclosed roosting shelter inside it.
Clenching her teeth, she fumbled with the latch and carefully placed her body in the screened-in doorway to keep any of the others from bolting for freedom as she shoved the runaway chicken back into the safety of its enclosure. “I hate chickens!” she grumbled, closing the door securely and throwing the latch. “How did you even get out? I know I closed this latch!”
A fresh gale of wind blasted her as she turned to walk away, causing her long, wet hair to slap her cheeks before it wound itself around her head practically blinding her. She shrieked in frustration as her mud-encrusted fingers pried the hair from her face, then stomped toward her barn to secure the door that kept banging in the wind.
A sorrowful howl filled her ears as she walked toward the barn, but she didn’t even look back. “Hush, Meatball!” she ordered. “I’m almost sure you opened the chicken pen. Couldn’t do it while it was sunshiny, could you?” she demanded.
Immediately the howl stopped.
Then a bright flash lit up the sky, followed by a near-deafening boom as the thunder clapped overhead.
Delaney shrieked, hunching in on herself as she ran for the barn in case another bolt of lightning hit nearby. She peeked outside already knowing exactly what she’d find. There was no sign of Mr. Meatball. He’d ducked into his doghouse, or doggie-condo, according to the pet site she’d bought it from. Lord only knew why she’d spent so much money on an outside doggie-condo… he practically lived inside with her.
Taking a deep breath and shaking her head at the sequence of events that had her wandering around in a freaking monsoon chasing soggy chickens and putting them back into the chicken pen one chicken at a time, she secured the side door that had blown open, then walked out through the gates at the open end of the three-sided shelter she called a barn. When she stopped to secure the gates with the chain she used to keep them closed, she slipped in the mud, just barely catching herself on the gate itself. “Seriously?!” she shouted, slamming one side of the double gates so hard it bounced back causing her to jamb her wrist when she tried to catch it.
Grinding her teeth in frustration, she forced herself to maintain control until she’d finished securing the barn and checked on the chickens once more, before trudging past Mr. Meatball’s outside kennel and pausing only long enough to open his gate so he could get out. She walked toward her house, letting the rain pelt her as she went, turning her face up to the sky to let some of the mud and grime hopefully wash away. She both felt and heard the heavy thumps on the wooden steps behind her as Mr. Meatball followed her up the steps to her side porch. She was still mad at him for chasing the chickens that had managed to get out in the storm, and pretended not to notice when he licked her hand as she reached out to open the door. “You made it worse than it needed to be, Meatball,” she scolded. She stepped out of the rain and into her mudroom, holding the door open for Mr. Meatball to follow her inside.
He walked past her into the house with his head lowered, trying to show her he knew he’d been wrong.
“Do not go into the house. You need a bath. Go get in your kennel,” she said, pointing to his indoor kennel.
Mr. Meatball looked longingly at the open doorway that would take him to the interior of the house.
“You go in there and so help me, I’ll put you back out in the rain. And if you mess with that chicken-coop door so the chickens can get out again, you will live in your kennel until I decide otherwise.”
Mr. Meatball hung his head even lower and went straight to his kennel.
Delaney toed off her muck boots, leaving them beside the extra-deep utility sink in her mudroom before stripping her clothes off and dumping them inside the same sink. She walked naked to the shower her husband had installed for her after her first winter here with him. It had only taken her a few weeks of cleaning both themselves and the trail they left through the house after working outside to decide that not only did they need a mudroom, they needed a shower in the mudroom. It wasn’t much of a shower, shaped more like a phone-booth with a plastic shower curtain over the open front, but it did the job.
Reaching for the liquid soap she kept there, she quickly lathered her body, then washed her hair with the same soap before rinsing herself and pulling back the shower curtain. “Meatball!” she called.
Before she had even finished calling his name, Mr. Meatball was crowding her in the shower. She stepped out of the shower onto the indoor/outdoor square of carpet remnant she kept there and took the shower nozzle off its hanger on the wall and leaned over to start rinsing him. “Get a big dog, they said, he’ll be great protection, they said,” she mumbled to Mr. Meatball who seemed to smile at her and lick the length of her face from chin to eyebrow. “You’re lucky you’re cute,” she told him. She rinsed Mr. Meatball’s fur as best she could, then hung the shower nozzle back in its holder before squirting liquid soap on him and lathering him up before rinsing his fur again. Once she was sure there was no more mud or soap clinging to his fur, she had him step out onto the rug remnant with her and she used a towel to dry most of the water from his body. After she’d finished, he shook himself hard enough to almost lose his balance, then she dried him again.
“Alright, that’s as good as it’s getting today. Go lay down in your spot.”
Obediently Mr. Meatball trotted out of the mudroom, headed toward the living room and his favorite napping spot. Which was not the spot Delaney referred to. He wanted the loveseat closest to the fireplace. His actual spot was the over-sized dog bed on the floor next to the loveseat.
Delaney got back in the shower and rinsed herself off again before turning off the water and drying herself off. After drying her body, she wrapped the towel around her head so her hair could dry somewhat and hung Meatball’s towel to dry over the side of the sink. She pulled on a pair of sweatpants that had once belonged to her husband and a sweatshirt of his as well, slipped her feet into a pair of warm slippers and went to make herself a cup of hot chocolate.
Delaney poured the milk into what she thought of as her favorite hot chocolate pot, added the cocoa, vanilla, a splash of cinnamon and nutmeg, and way too much sugar before hurrying back to the mudroom to double check the lock on her door. Satisfied that she had locked it, she went back to the kitchen to finish her hot chocolate. After it was ready, she poured it into a huge mug and walked around the house, double checking all the doors and windows.
It wasn’t that she was paranoid, she was just cautious. She had to be. It was just her and the animals now. She had to be sure they were safe at all times, and with the added pressure from those who simply didn’t want her here, she couldn’t be too safe.
She walked back into the kitchen to top off her mug of hot chocolate, and Meatball nudged her hand. She looked down at him. “We’ve got this. It’s me and you and we’ll keep it together, won’t we?” she asked. Meatball gave her his typical ‘grin’ as he noisily sat, his powerful tail sweeping the floor as he did his best to keep his rear-end on the floor until she rewarded him. Delaney reached into the bowl of treats she kept on the kitchen island and handed him one.
“You’re a good boy, aren’t you?” she asked.
Meatball lumbered back to the loveseat, climbing up on it to enjoy his treat despite the fact that Delaney shouted, ‘That is not your spot!’ after him.
Delaney, with her mug in hand, followed to the living room and curled into the overstuffed chair near the window to sip her hot chocolate while she watched the rest of the storm play out. “What is with the storms the last year or so? They never seem to stop. Soon as we get past one, there’s another one hitting us!” she complained to the room itself.
The wind whistled as the curtains of rain fell, obscuring her view of the front of her property. Despite the solitude, and having to do everything herself, she loved it here. She had no intention of leaving at any time, no matter how hard she was pushed toward giving up and going back to where she came from. This was home now. She wasn’t running from here, no matter how alone she was.
She sipped her hot chocolate again and gazed into the rain, completely unaware of the male who stood in the storm, within the shelter of the trees, watching her silently.
Walker was standing on his porch watching the storm pass through. Of all the things he’d encountered on this godforsaken planet, the storms were his favorite. The uncontrollable wildness of the winds whipping and the electrically charged clouds, as they lit up the skies made dark by the storms themselves, made him feel not quite so alone. He looked around the land he’d managed to secure as his own as the rain washed the red clay stains from his truck, his home, and his storage buildings. This storm was actually what one would refer to as a torrential downpour, and he absolutely loved it.
Just then a deafening clap of thunder shook the house as a bright bolt of lightning slapped the trees a few feet from his front porch. With a sad smile he stepped off the porch and walked around to a small patch of ground between his home and his workshop in an effort to get a little closer to the still sizzling energy the bolt left behind. His nostrils flared as he took in the familiar scent. His own people were at one with nature — the nature of their planet anyway. They’d mastered the elements and commanded the electrical energy contained in their storms, even harnessing that energy to use at will. It was easy for them… they were at their basest form derived from that energy, and capable of things that would kill humans as nothing more than an afterthought.
Standing in the pouring rain, he raised his face to the sky and began to hum a melody native to his planet. More a sequence of frequencies than an actual melody. It was irritating to the humans, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t around humans very much, and when he was he was careful to always appear just like them. Still humming his melody, he smiled when another bright flash touched the ground near his feet in answer to his call. While he was at his core very different from the inhabitants of Earth, their elements were very like those on his home planet.
At first, he’d been angry and resentful that of all the planets she could have chosen, his Majka had seen fit to cast her vote to send him here. But after his anger subsided, he’d realized he could commune with the nature of this planet, just like he and his people could on their own planet. He’d thought she was as angry with him as the rest of his people were, but no, she wasn’t. Her actions of insisting he be left to fend for himself on this planet proved that. Here he had shelter. Here he had food. Here, if he chose, he could form friendships with the humans around him — though he didn’t. And here, in the privacy of the spaces that were his own, he was able to drop the guise of being human himself, and soothe that part of him that hungered to be fed from the energy of the planet’s resources.
Walker’s body vibrated — literally — as he absorbed the energy rebounding through the air around him. He loved these storms. They calmed him, they strengthened him. Thoughts of his planet, his people, the majority of them anyway, soothed him, the storm making him feel closer to the things he missed most as he let his guard down.
Then his eyes opened, the liquid silver of his pupils swirling with excitement as another bright bolt of lightning followed by a deafeningly loud rumbling of thunder surrounded him. As he thankfully soaked it all in, beneath the effusion of energy and vibrations, his keen hearing picked up the sound of a feminine shriek as it carried to him along with the thunder and the rain. Walker broke into a run across his front yard and down the road that would lead to hers, the whole time mumbling his frustration at not being able to simply transport to the female. He couldn’t take that chance, if another was watching they may see him disappear from view. As long as he was exiled on this planet, he was human, and had to behave as such.
After running through the rain, and the darkness, he was finally close enough to see the female he’d rushed to defend. He smiled at the condition he found her in. She was covered in mud, and clearly angry as she stalked through the storm on her way back to her home. She paused at the enclosure her beast was sometimes kept in, and opened his gate so he could roam free. He watched her as she returned to the shelter of her home with her beast on her heels. Assured that she was not injured, or being attacked, he realized he could return to his own home — she didn’t need him. But he couldn’t make himself leave her. Instead, he stepped into the cover of the massive pine trees that lined the front of her property and stood perfectly still, watching and waiting, knowing without a doubt, if he waited long enough, he’d be able to catch another glimpse of her inside.
And he was right. Eventually, she took a seat by the window, sipping from a cup she held in both her hands as she looked out at the storm. Somewhere deep inside, he felt a yearning he would manage to make himself ignore, just as he had every other time he’d watched her. Walker stood there with the rain coursing down his face, his eyes taking in every feature he could see from his vantage point. He wondered what she’d smell like, what she’d feel like if he was to stroke his fingertips across her skin. He imagined being in her home with her, being welcomed by her, desired by her. The feeling of belonging he had no doubt he’d experience sitting beside her. She never failed to captivate his imagination, yet, he didn’t dare act on any impulse to get near her. He couldn’t risk it. She might realize he wasn’t like her, and then he’d be on the run. It was much safer to simply admire her from afar, and keep both himself and the female safe, without her ever knowing he was watching over her. Besides, adding a female, any female, to the travesty his life had become was the last thing he needed. One day, he’d get off this damn planet, and taking her with him was not an option.