Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Excerpt: My Cheeky Angel


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Excerpt:


 Tyler stared down into her luminous baby-blues, and as her words filtered through,

they took him from stunned to angry. She’d ruin everything! She wanted boyfriends, this

girl who under most circumstances couldn’t even look a man in the eye. Hurt is what
she’d get, and that thought brought more waves of anger pummeling his defenses. His
rage seemed out of proportion to the circumstances, but it festered.
He tried again. “Have you considered your decision from all angles? There’s so
much at stake here.” Tyler fretted. Everything he knew about the tiny sprite in front of
him said she’d regret this choice. Her huge heart, easily taken advantage of, left her
vulnerable. He’d seen it over and over again. She’d been safe, employed with children.
Every bit she’d given them had been returned tenfold, but adults were different. The toxic
world of big business scared him silly. To think she’d be forced to compete in that
environment had his head throbbing.

Prior to asking Annie for her help with some of the homeless girls he counseled,
Tyler always pondered long and hard. Protecting Annie had to be his main concern. He
knew when his pal cared she gave her all, and once she took the street kids in, she never
wanted to let them go. As it was, many of the girls still visited her periodically, keeping
in touch, because they knew Annie worried about them. She had a unique way of making
them feel special.

Under normal circumstances, he’d arrange a group home or a foster place to shelter
the adolescents, but there were many days when the system failed. Helping out the
fellows with a bed for a night or two at his place accomplished a short-term solution, but
the under-aged street girls, the ones who searched him out for help, were altogether a
different matter. Hanging out in his apartment wouldn’t be kosher or tolerated.


During those times he’d discovered he could count on Annie for assistance. Mind
you, if the bosses ever found out about this personal involvement, it could mean the end
of his career. But occasionally a kid was special enough for him to put himself out there,
and he had the rare ability to single them from the rest. Those were the teens he took a
chance for. “The Keepers” he called them.
Annie approached him again and interrupted his musings. “Tyler, trust me. For years
I’ve coasted, letting life drag me where it wanted. Growing up has to happen to us all, it’s
nature’s way, and now it’s happening to me. I’m perched on the edge of my nest, and I
just need you to give me a little push, to—to let me fly.”

“I never realized you were this unhappy. How did I miss it?” His hands rose to slide
through his hair, fingers combing it from front to back. He grasped the mass on his neck
and yanked, liking the pain. It went with this situation.

“You did help me, Tyler. A lot. But frankly, I need more. I have so many plans.” She
tilted her head and stared at him in a manner she never had before. Her beautiful eyes
fixed on his with such intensity that he bit down hard on his molars and proceeded to
grind. Silence settled loudly over the room.

Finally, he probed. “What kind of plans, Smidge?”

Wispy, fringe-like tendrils framed a petite face where her eyes reigned supreme.
Eyes a makeup manufacturer dreamed of discovering, and hers were purely nature’s
design. Dark blue, no paleness there at all. Deep, dark sapphire, with sparks of tiny lights
bringing them to life. He looked intently into them, and a chill crept over him. Annie had
begun to change already. A stranger stared back.

“First of all, quit calling me Smidge and Midget and—and Runt all the time. From
now on I want you to call me by my real name, Anna—no more Annie. If I’m going to
change myself, I might as well dump that childish nickname, too. Right?”

“What? Give me a break! I happen to like your name. It’s endearing.” Stunned, the
word ‘no’ reverberated through him. What the hell was going on? He clung desperately to the

essence of his familiar and much loved pal. He repeated, “I like Annie.”

“Anna will better suit the woman I want to become.”

She looked directly into his eyes. Her expression was not compliant. A slight
coldness could be seen in her gaze, a sight never observed there before

“But—?”
 

“Not negotiable.” She stared him down.
"Fine, if it’s that important to you, but don’t get mad at me if I forget once in a while.
It’ll take some getting used to.”

Hating the animosity between them, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder, and
side-hugged her to him, not something he did very often. But it felt like he was losing
her, and it scared the hell out of him. This time, her soft and curvy body unexpectedly lit
up his sensory circuits. What the…? This was Annie. His body should know better. A
thought entered and wouldn’t be extinguished. Seems some of my male circuits have a
mind of their own.

Before he could stop her, she moved. No! She jerked away. And she hurt his
feelings. He dropped his hands and stuck them into his pockets to cover up any
embarrassment.

“Don’t try to stop me, Tyler. The choice has been made. No hashing it over. My life,
my decision.”

“Annie…” Her frown stopped him, but he refused to use her new title. It would be
like supporting her in this madness. “What instigated this—this situation today? What
happened?”

“I woke up this morning hating myself, and I decided it was the last day I wanted to
feel like that without doing something about it.”

“Good Lord, everyone has those days.”

“Not years full of them! Tyler, your enthusiasm is under-whelming. Be happy for
me, please. Don’t try to analyze me; I have more qualifications along those lines than you
do.”

Silence reigned until he ended it. “Nice shot—Anna!” In a matter of minutes, she’d
altered into a strange creature he didn’t even recognize. Never had he heard Annie speak
with so little thought to the hurt her words could produce.

“You’d prefer I didn’t change. You want me to stay the same. Admit it.” Her husky
voice broke into his irritation.

“What’s wrong with that? I happen to like you exactly the way you are. Spending our
weekends together is something I look forward to. I enjoy our walks, and lunches, and
especially going to the movies, and—and shopping.” His eyes flashed indignation, and
his hand emphasized each point by slashing through the air. “If you’d just let me explain
something to you, Annie—”

“Anna!”

“No! Annie! I need to tell you about how painful it can be out there.”

“I know you’ve had bad experiences, Ty. That you’ve shut down your expectations,
your future, but I need to try to live mine. Give me a chance, my friend. That’s all I ask.
Support me, please.”

His professional instincts overrode his personal needs and stopped his tirade. He
sighed deeply. Walking away, he thought about what she’d said. Maybe the best thing he
could do for her was to let her grow up, as she so succinctly put it. Let her learn the
lessons romance had taught him. He’d stay on the sidelines. He’d keep his predictions
and warnings to himself, and he’d watch and wait.

But every red-blooded male hormone in his taut body urged him on. He went back to
her and stopped. “Annie, I’m your best buddy, and I adore you and your overly large
caring heart. Please don’t change too much.”

He scooped her close, picking her right up off the floor. When he perused her
features, his eyes were unusually serious. Dangling, she would have fallen if not for his
arms. He hesitated, waiting to see if she’d pull away, which left her body wriggling
against his for far too long, and calling “hello” to every cell in his over-sensitized skin.
His trembling surprised him. He hadn’t experienced that kind of reaction to a female
since being a horny teenager. He stared at her mouth and growled. He’d intended his
caress to be a lighthearted expression of his affections. It changed the minute their bodies
touched.

Intent must have flashed in his eyes. When she froze, he kissed her, not in the
brotherly or friendly way he’d meant to, but the way a man kisses the woman he wants.
While she gasped with surprise, he thrust his tongue between her soft lips, prying them
open wider, and then he invaded. Her response lifted his spirits and gave him hope. She
tasted him, her tongue darting forward, caressing his with a tiny, affectionate lick. Then,
her body melted into him, clinging for long seconds. His groan must have scared her. She
broke away and pushed on his shoulders.

“Tyler, stop it. Why are you doing this?” Her trembling hand covered her lips.

His eyes narrowed. He stared at the little lady in front of him, into those big, worried
eyes, and felt the lust die. Damn, she was right. He had no business upsetting her. What
the hell had gotten into him? He loosened his grip and gently lowered her to the floor.
From the first day he’d met her, he’d sensed an emotional changeling in flux. His
own past experiences had soured him on the whole love-relationship thing, and he no
more wanted to have another girlfriend than to get a skin-eating disease. Being buddies
with Annie had fitted perfectly into his chosen lifestyle. He didn’t want anything to
change. But that was his problem, not hers. His demons were his own to fight. Besides,
his last relationship still had him questioning his abilities as a mate and a lover for any
woman. Best not push his luck.

“Okay, Anna, how can I help?” He stood in front of her with his hands on his hips
and his feet spread. He smiled. Not his unique smile, but tender nonetheless.
Her eyes misted. “Thank you, Ty. I couldn’t bear to lose you.”

Tyler recognized that their friendship had passed a huge hurdle. “Listen, we’re buds,
aren’t we?”

She beamed her relief. Such a little worrywart. Then she nodded her head.

He chuckled. “Anything I can help you with, it’s yours. Car rides, advice—friendly
sex?”

Chapter Four

Monday morning, getting ready for the daycare became a major battle with a mocking, unseen

presence. Every one of the outfits she normally wore got vetoed. Her overly casual clothes,

strewn in every direction, indicated how few items in her closet would be appropriate for when

she eventually became employed in a sophisticated office. The baggy style she’d stuck to for

years concealed her body, and when a person strives to go unnoticed in the world, the tomboy

look does the job. It isn’t chic, but it is safe.

“Didn’t anyone ever explain to you that a body such as yours warrants feminine attire?”

“A compliment? You must be in a good mood.” Annie had given up talking to Celi out loud when

it was simpler and a lot less weird communicating with her mind.

“Don’t push it. I’m just sayin.”
 
“You must be the strangest angel in heaven. Just my luck to get a maverick.”

“Hey! I’m an Angel first class. Count yourself lucky.”

“Now I know you’re kidding. I watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ every Christmas, as I’m sure you’re

aware of.”

Finally, settling on a pair of snug jeans she seldom wore, Annie wrestled over the choice of her

top. A new white blouse hung from one hand, and the safer, often worn t-shirt fluttered from the

other.  She faced the mirror and waffled.

“Why did I ever buy this silly ruffled thing?” she grumbled.

“Because it’s pretty and modern, so wear the darn thing already.” Celi popped to life in her

favorite yoga stance at the end of the unmade bed. 

Why don’t you have any wings? I’ve often wondered about that.”

“They’re at the drycleaners. Look, quit stalling and get dressed.”

“Why don’t you talk like other people? I can hear your words in my mind, but your lips don’t

move.”

“Why, why, why. You’re worse than a child.”

Annie stopped what she was doing, stuck her hand on her hip, and glared at the diaphanous

form.

“Fine. It takes enough energy to appear, why waste more speaking when I don’t have to?”

It’s very disconcerting.”

“Quit stalling and put the blouse on.”

You’re a bully!”

“And you’re beautiful. Look!” Magically, the garment draped her form. The white emphasized

her tanned skin, and she had to admit that the new fashion suited her. She buttoned it and

stepped back.

 “It’s supposed to be worn with the top few buttons undone.”

She undid the first one.

One more.”

 “One button, okay! Two? That’s indecent.”

“Indecent? Give me a break. You look very much the way any twenty-nine-year old city girl in this

century looks.”

It would be easier just to follow directions, she supposed. If she didn’t the button would

unexplainably fall open all day long anyway.

Before she could change her mind, she put on the earrings she’d bought to go with the blouse

and slipped her feet into the fancy sandals that lay hidden in her closet after a shopping trip

months earlier. She checked out her shiny cap of black hair, which had stiffened from the setting

lotion applied earlier, and now stood up in a perky ‘do’. The darkness highlighted her

unblemished skin, and brought her face to life.

Annie turned to Celi for final approval, but the angel had disappeared. “Thanks, Celi.” Only a

faint fragrance of perfume answered. A scent Annie instantly fell in love with permeated the air

around her hair. She’d have to ask Celi for the name of the product and wear it everywhere. It

could be her personal smell for success.

A tinkling sound drew her attention to her dresser and there sat a tiny, rhinestone studded blue

bottle.
 
“You’re the best Celi, you really are.” 
~~~~
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