Tainted By Our Choices

 

 

Tainted by our choices is a contemporary romance that has flashbacks, sex, environmental awareness, and a slight fixation on dessert. Potentially all at the same time.

Meet Jack. A successful environmental officer working within an industry that is so very far from his childhood dream of saving the planet, that he no longer recognizes himself. How he’s found himself in Houston, Texas, where he has no one, and nothing but his work for company, he tells himself repeatedly he doesn’t know. But when the place that became home had the heart sucked right out of it, and all around him were the remnants of a life he wouldn’t get to have, Jack ran, at the first opportunity given to him.

On a bright, sunny morning, Jack sees a face so familiar to him that he knows it better than his own, one that takes him back first to a beach in his childhood home of Tampa Bay, and second to a college in Boston where Jack learned – and lost – his heart.

Tainted by our choices is the story of first crushes, loves, and heartbreaks, and the fallout that left Jack clinging to his past. Join him on his rediscovery of himself, as a chance meeting reminds him of the life he always wanted to lead. Is he brave enough to live it?

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As Nature Intended – Extract

Cover As Nature Intended

Elliot remembered with painful clarity the events that had led up to the exact moment he thought his life might be effectively over.

One early evening the week after his fourteenth birthday during a sweltering summer, Elliot was stood on his aunt Ellie’s porch in the still blazing sun, sipping on homemade lemonade, when he first felt an unfamiliar ache in his lower back. He and his cousin Sebastian had been busy playing with the family’s new puppy, chasing it back and forth across the lawn, and in and out of the small cluster of trees at the bottom of the garden for most of the day, so it had taken him a while to notice, acknowledging far too late that the pain had been with him since early that morning.

By the time the sun finally set, Elliot’s skin was glistening with sweat, and a fever raged just beneath the surface like an itch he couldn’t scratch. His pulse raced, his heart trembled with a sense of anticipation, and coursing through his entire body was the palpable need to be ready, all radiating out from a point deep inside himself that ached in a way he didn’t understand.

Aunt Ellie had sent him to bed with pain relief and a soothing kiss to his temple, a grim set to her jaw that told Elliot even then, that she knew something that he did not. And when the following morning came, when that ache and need had him writhing and moaning in unaccustomed agony, leaving him trying to seek friction, and fullness that he couldn’t place, Elliot understood. With quiet horror, he moved, feeling a leaking slickness coming from him that soaked straight through his clothes and the sheets beneath him on the bed, leaving him unable to deny his new truth.

Omega.

An oppressive stillness had come to him then, forcing up memories of biology classes in school that he’d thought he’d tuned out at the time. About how somewhere along the line of humanity, it had become possible for both men and women to conceive offspring, and that from that development was borne the Alpha, Beta and Omega dynamic. Betas carried on much as regular people always had done throughout human history, but instinct drove Alphas to impregnate, and Omegas to get pregnant, with those needs underwriting every aspect of an Alpha or Omega’s life. During a period of population crisis, the allele for Omega had shifted from recessive to dominant, and Alpha to recessive, with geneticists theorizing it was because a single Alpha could impregnate many Omegas, and were therefore in an evolutionary sense far less essential. Elliot remembered joking about telling that to his Alpha friends, and the laughs it had gotten around the class.

Elliot also remembered from those classes the apparent fucked up way the human body chose to reproduce. How once upon a time, many, many generations ago, when the world was evidently an even worse state than it was then in Elliot’s lifetime, women could carry a healthy baby to full term at around nine months. But in Elliot’s lifetime, male Omegas statistically proved stronger breeders, had overall better fertility, could endure gestation periods of almost eight months, where most Beta women, if they made it at all, could barely cope with six. Omega women fell somewhere in between, and considered very rare, but were still at higher risk of complications than Omega men.

That only two genders were legally recognized, when an entire spectrum of creation, and existing was possible between people, would continue to baffle Elliot, even then, in that moment, trapped in a sterile waiting room where he was waiting for his results to be confirmed and unable to stop his thoughts from wandering, desperate for good news.

He had already paced around the room several times, pausing once or twice to glare at his reflection in the mirror to critique his appearance, taking in the family trait of strawberry blond hair that on his cousin Sebastian appeared red in places yet on himself Elliot could only think to describe as dirty. Pale blue eyes stared back at him, accusatory and mocking, goading him into actions he wanted no part of, until he had to turn away, only to be drawn back once again to looking at all his flaws, seeking out a visible reason for his predicament.

Elliot strained to hear the nurse beyond the closed door, but only muffled voices taunted him. The waiting left him incensed with fear, because the last thing he needed was for what was happening to him then to really be happening. But he could feel it intensifying in him, his instincts fighting to be allowed to surface and force him into wanting things he really didn’t want to think about. There was no other word for it; Elliot was frightened. He remembered that first, overwhelming heat, when he’d thrashed and begged for things he didn’t know, couldn’t understand, as his family stood by helpless and unable to do anything for him, and that aching sense of hard arousal so out of place in his innocent fourteen-year-old body that left him feeling wrong, and broken. Corrupted.

He remembered scaring Sebastian, only a year younger than him yet almost the same height, his petrified eyes peering at Elliot through a crack in the door as Uncle Bernard and Aunt Ellie tried to soothe him, tried not to look at Elliot as though he was different, something fearsome to them, because they didn’t really know what they needed to do.

Elliot remembered hearing Uncle Bern’s panicked call to his already-absent father, Carl, and his subsequent though much-delayed arrival, only to glance over Elliot with callous eyes that told Elliot one thing; this was his final failure as a son being what he was.

Remembering all those things, Elliot couldn’t, wouldn’t allow the Omega in him to rise and force such mindless need on him. It would not be his reality, and he would do all he could to fight it, whatever it took. He closed his eyes to the final assault of his most painful of memories. Of overhearing snatches of a phone conversation between his aunt and a doctor. Of being given sedatives, then picked up and carried in gentle, loving arms, bundled into a car and driven to an imposing-looking clinic to figure this out.

The Heat suppressants prescribed for him at the time, a carton of pills pushed across a pharmacy counter into his trembling young hands and clutched there as though they were his lifeline, had worked ever since. He’d lived normal – as normal as he could do, anyway, and more than that, he’d lived well. They couldn’t fail him, not after how hard he had worked.

Those muffled voices he still couldn’t make out were ending their conversation. Elliot swallowed hard and straightened in his chair, then leapt up to follow the nurse as soon as she appeared to beckon him into an office. He sat rigidly and watched her work, precise fingers typing furiously at a computer, not paying him any attention until she had completed what she needed to do.

“So?” Elliot asked, the moment she looked up at him, because patience was not a gift he’d been blessed with. “Tell me.”

The nurse looked at him kindly, and it was the worst look Elliot could have hoped to receive. Without her even opening her mouth, enough hesitance in the nurse’s expression for Elliot to know what she was about to tell him.

“It would seem, Mr. Roderick, that the reason your suppressors have ceased working to full effectiveness is because your body is ready for you to breed,”

***

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Two Bodies

Somewhere beyond the sea… somewhere waiting for me… my lover stands on golden sands… and watches the ships that go sailin’…

The lull and cresting crackle of the needle in its vinyl groove is soothing. A continuous background purr as the record spins, the speakers pulse, the empty air of the room is filled with music. Two bodies slot together perfectly, hip to hip, chest to chest, turning a small circle in time with the melody embracing them, lifted by lyrics as they lean on one another.

The view from the window, were they to take the time to look, is breathtaking. Waves roar as they crash, slipping along the sand and stripping it from the beach in a frothy claim. Seagulls caw and dive overhead, a child draws wet faces with a twig, a couple walk arm in arm dangling shoes from absent fingers and leave a trail of sinking footprints behind them as they pass.

Time passes. The sun slips across the sky, and more of the sand is swallowed. Two bodies slot together perfectly, hips around hips, chest against chest. Chasing forgiveness, clinging to memories, clutching for hope.

Sadness dims lingering looks, defeat taints tentative kisses, regret fills every movement as actions try to replace what words have lost the ability say. Silent goodbyes have already begun; this last attempt at reconciliation doomed to fail, because when a heart isn’t in it, the last thing you can lie to is a heart.

The needle lifts from the vinyl, the arm shifts and drops it back down, and the crest and crackle begins over once again. The whir of the vinyl turning blurs into the sound of the sea, as two bodies move together to fill the time until they must permanently part.

She thinks she hears a noise, lays her palm between his shoulder blades, whispers for him to still. He pauses, turns his head, listens, hears nothing. Rolls his hips again, an instant distraction for them both.

The second time he hears it; the scratch against the window, the dull thud of the door. A soft wail has them stopping, looking at one another with wild eyes, straining to hear it yet again.

The third time the wail feels closer yet simultaneously far away, but it is accompanied by a sense of being observed that clings to their skin like the cold sea air. He shifts, rolls beside her, unconsciously takes her hand.

By the time they stand, bared in every way imaginable, their hearts beat in a sync they haven’t found in months. Pulsing, rapid, fearful, as the vinyl crests and falls, mimicking the waves beyond their window. The wail is louder yet untraceable, stepping up behind them to suggest a whisper in an ear before spinning away again.

Too terrified to move, they cling and shiver into one another, teeth chattering and skin dimpling against the blast of coldness swirling through the air around them. One final, piercing solitary wail, and it becomes a symphony of three.

Two bodies slump together, a tangle of limp, lifeless limbs, blood mingling as it wicks up in the carpet. There is silence in the air now, calm contrasting cruelly with the linger of screaming.

The vinyl squeaks to an abrupt cease, the needle hovering in mid air held up as though by an unseen hand. Drops down again. The turntable comes to life once more, filling the air with the crest and crackle of the vinyl as it spins.

Somewhere beyond the sea… somewhere waiting for me… my lover stands on golden sands… and watches the ships that go sailin’…

Victorious

You watch as he intertwines his fingers with hers, ignoring the way it feels like his fingers are talons clawing through your gut.

She smiles at the contact and squeezes back with practiced familiarity. Her head turns, and she freezes you with a smile. She may as well be sliding an ice knife right through you when her gaze falls to yours.

You smile extra wide, as though all is as it should be. Big, bright and bold, the picture of happiness at their happiness.

But she knows. She’s always known. It seems the entire world has always known. All of it, every last one of them, from long term friends to complete strangers. Everyone, that is, but him. Nathan has always been oblivious to so many things about you. Especially that you’ve been in love with him for longer than you haven’t.

Isn’t this the way that unrequited love always goes?

You wait for the day that she’ll finally get rid of you from his life.

You know it’s coming; it’s in every snide comment that he doesn’t seem to hear, and in every loaded look of ‘why are you still here’ that he fails to see.

He’s in love.

There’s light in his eyes when she speaks and sheer happiness that radiates from his face the moment she steps into the room.

You see it, and it punches you, over and over, adding to a layer of bruising built up by keeping this dirty little no-so-secret to yourself for so long.

You should have hardened against it by now. You wonder if you truly ever will.

But now is not the time for introspection.

Now is the time to do the duties, be the person you’re supposed to be.

To push your true feelings aside.

“Are you ready?”

The kindly spoken man in front of you brings you back from your musings and you smile and nod.

You glance up at the man beside you, looking down at you with a knowing look, and you feel a wave of pain all over again. A pain that bathes you in a sea of guilt.

You wink, nudge him with your elbow and he grins, but the smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes. You feel like you’re drowning.

You’ll make it do that. You’ll make him smile, and smile wide. One day. Because none of this is his fault, and you know you’re using him. And that he deserves better. Because he’s perfect, he really is. In every way. All but the important one. He isn’t Nathan.

Clearing your throat and smoothing down your long white skirt that swishes around you and swirls as you stand, you clutch the bouquet tightly. With more certainty than you feel, and more confidence in your voice than you’ve ever heard, you reply.

“Ready.”

“Then, we’ll begin.”

A hush falls over the chapel and the man before you clears his throat. He looks fatherly. Caring. Would he look any differently if he knew?

You turn once more to look at Nathan, the one who should be stood next to you, not the one who is giving you away. But he’s not. And he never will be, not now, and not ever.

Today is your day, supposedly. So why does She look so victorious?

“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to witness…”

(Originally posted in Inkiit)

Tainted By Our Choices

Tainted

Tainted by our choices is a contemporary romance that has flashbacks, sex, environmental awareness, and a slight fixation on dessert. Potentially all at the same time.

Meet Jack. A successful environmental officer working within an industry that is so very far from his childhood dream of saving the planet, that he no longer recognizes himself. How he’s found himself in Houston, Texas, where he has no one, and nothing but his work for company, he tells himself repeatedly he doesn’t know. But when the place that became home had the heart sucked right out of it, and all around him were the remnants of a life he wouldn’t get to have, Jack ran, at the first opportunity given to him.

On a bright, sunny morning, Jack sees a face so familiar to him that he knows it better than his own, one that takes him back first to a beach in his childhood home of Tampa Bay, and second to a college in Boston where Jack learned – and lost – his heart.

Tainted by our choices is the story of first crushes, loves, and heartbreaks, and the fallout that left Jack clinging to his past. Join him on his rediscovery of himself, as a chance meeting reminds him of the life he always wanted to lead. Is he brave enough to live it?

Dream Life

Contentment.

That’s a feeling that she’s always understood but never known what it meant.

Her life, everything about her day to day, is as it should be.

She has the home, the little house that overlooks a small farmland in the middle of nowhere and yet close enough to civilisation to not be completely isolated.

She has the home life, the man who looks at her as though she is the sun and it is his life’s mission to ensure she rises every day by bringing her every happiness. The big fluffy dog that bounds around their place with exuberant joy at just existing. The loyal friends who live close by and they can see whenever they feel like taking a trip in their trusty old battered truck.

She has the job, working on her writing from her faded white porch with the breeze in her hair and the sweet scent of honeysuckle all around, and in winter she retreats inside to the small office that overlooks the same peaceful fields and is kept warm by a small fire hearth.

It is a simple existence, a quiet one that is small but so full, and everything she needs.

There is nothing that she wants for.

Nothing, aside from a horrific recurring dream to leave her in peace.

This dream is far too lifesize, and leaves her with a pain in her temples and her heart pounding in her chest.

She dreams she is in a hospital bed, muffled voices all around her and a constant bleep of monitors playing in her ears. Her body aches so badly she feels as though she is broken all the way through; shards of agony interlaced with a dull pain that never quite seems to leave, and her head, oh, how her head screams in these dreams, such pain that all these vivid images are often overpowered by a bright harsh white that blocks out everything else.

She can’t remember a time when she hasn’t had these dreams, they have always been with her, always the same, following her along like a second shadow. She acknowledges they are part of her. Much like she doesn’t really remember growing up, can’t really describe what her schooling was like, but knows these things happened, these dreams are just part and parcel of who she is. Not something to be dwelt on. They are something that happens, that she has to deal with, and if she doesn’t reign them in the second they enter her thoughts, the accompanying panic is too much. She has to jam the lid on tight to contain them, otherwise the dreams become too big to manage.

Fragments of another life invade her mind, another life where her day to day knows no contentment, only hurdles to fall on, bumps in the road that loom up and pin her down, nothing but pain and struggle and fear.

Which is why she shuts any thoughts about the dreams down as quickly as she can, forcing her breathing under control and the beating of her heart to slow.

For the same reason, she shuts all thoughts about the past out. Even though she’d love to remember good things like how she met him, and where they got their dog. She can’t risk allowing any thoughts, because in the search for good memories she knows full well she’ll stumble on the bad ones too.

She looks up at the man who is walking towards her with a basket of eggs from their small chicken coop and feels calm descend once more. He is the balm to soothe these moments of fear, even if she has never mentioned them to him, in however long they have been together.

Their dog pounds up the steps, all panting excitement, and nuzzles his head into her hand, demanding attention. She feels her arm raise, without her control, and for a moment it isn’t a chocolate labrador pushing against her hand but an unknown human, raising her pale white arm attached to some kind of drip feeding into her veins, tapping here and there as if trying to rouse her.

She shakes her head, clearing it of the image and dismissing any concerns about her health by saying her head is just sore from doing a lot of reading. He takes her hand, pulls her to her feet and into his arms where she stays, as they dance a small, slow circle in the late afternoon sun. His lips fall to her ear and he whispers all the things she loves to hear. Her arms circle around his neck and she allows him to lull her into a sense of mindless comfort.

If she hears other whispers they are too faint for her to make out, and why would she even want to try?

Some words from the whispers do manage to filter through the buzzing in her head sometimes though, words like ‘wake’ and ‘live’ and ‘choose’.

Choose.

How could she ever choose another existence than this one?

She won’t give it up, not for anything.

(Originally posted on Inkiit)

Always

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“Shot time,” she heard and smiled as she watched his hands appear slowly either side of her waist, a glass of sorts in each. She felt him press against her and leaned back in familiar reassurance whilst grinning up at the man before her; his eyes met hers with mild amusement as he shook his head lightly, reached down to kiss her softly on the cheek, and walked away.

“Yes. Shot time,” she agreed, laughing, turning slightly in his half-embrace and accepting the offered drink.”What is it?” she asked, pondering the pale yellow liquid as she swirled it gently. “And aren’t these usually…smaller?”

He looked down at her hand. “In answer to your first: I have no idea at all. To your second, yes, I suppose so – these usually come in a test tube. But I asked for doubles!” He smiled triumphantly. “Hence the-”

“Boiling tube?” She finished for him.

“Exactly.”

“Reckon they’ve cleaned these out properly? Or are they straight from the lab?!”

He laughed. “Who knows? Where’s your sense of adventure?!”

Her turn to laugh. “It’s hiding at the thought of spending the rest of the evening hidden in a bathroom cubicle with the after effects of unknown alcohol and chemical cocktails. But OK. I will if you will.”

“We should toast! Ooh, toast. Jam, marmalade, butter?”

A giggle escaped her lips as it always did in his company.

“All of the above. What are we toasting to?”

“You, naturally.” He raised his glass solemnly and cleared his throat.

“To my best friend in the world on the best night of her life. Be happy. Always.”

She smiled, not hiding the slight glisten in her eyes at his words.

“To being happy.”

He lowered his glass to clink against hers and echoed, “To being happy.”

They both flung their heads back and the liquid disappeared, leaving a pleasant burn in their throats. He swayed slightly and she reached out to steady him.

“Had much to drink tonight?” She asked drily, gesturing for them to sit on two high stools at an unoccupied table.He followed her and sat down heavily with an uninterested shrug of his shoulders.

“Probably, possibly. Maybe?”

“Well. Guess it is a free bar…”

“Yes!” He replied enthusiastically, “Thank you for that!”

“You won’t be thanking me in the morning when the London Philharmonic Orchestra is doing a parade across the inside of your skull.”

He shrugged once more and rested his hands on the table, smiling across at her. His eyes searched her own and she felt nervous as he held her gaze intensely.”I love you, you know.”

She nodded and grinned back. “I know it. And you know I love you too. Best friend forever, right?”

He didn’t answer, just continued to stare her down, hold her gaze.”I love you.” He repeated softly, quieter this time.

They had known each other for twelve long years throughout school, college and university. All of the unspoken things neither had had the courage to say now passed silently through their locked gaze in a steady stream of silence. In the past, one of them had always backed away when this happened, sweeping it up under the carpet before any permanent damage could be done.

Neither broke away.

“I love you.” he repeated, more adamantly this time.

She swallowed her retort, eyes not shifting away awkwardly as she had done a thousand times before. “Me, too.”

Silence continued.

Finally, she whispered, “…since when?”

His face contorted into a self-deprecating grin. “Since the beginning. Can I ask-”

“Always.” she interrupted without letting him finish his question.

“Always…” He repeated in a remorseful tone heavy with regret.

“But-”

He held out his hand to stop her, like a shield to protect him from the assault of words.

“I know. God, do I know!” He laughed a little shakily and ran an awkward hand through his hair, vowing he would cut it first thing in the morning. He had only ever kept it long for her, and now…

As one, they looked over at the tall man who had been stood with them earlier. A good man, kind, loving, full of vitality and a world to offer her. Her husband of merely a few hours. A man she loved, truly loved. Yet here before her sat her best friend, the man she had pined for, loved and trusted like no other from her teenage years through to her young adult life. He loved her. She hadn’t been mistaken. It wasn’t all in her head.

And yet. He had walked her down the aisle, given her away in the place of her father, approved of this wedding with all the generosity and enthusiasm you would expect from your best friend.

Was it selfish for him to tell her now, now of all nights, her wedding night? Would it have been kinder to have never known? No, she was glad she knew. Their moment, had they ever had one, had passed long ago in the cowardice of untruth.

Music struck up as if on cue and she watched as her husband held his hand out to her with his eyes full of happiness; their first dance as a married couple. All eyes would be on them now in the celebration of their vows. With one quick look to the man beside her she sought what: forgiveness? Permission? Acceptance?

The smallest of smiles accompanied by tear-filled eyes greeted her unperceived by anyone else. He still loved her. He would always love her. He would always be her friend. No matter how much it hurt.

Standing a little shakily and without looking back, she took the few steps needed and reached out her own hand, allowing herself to be spun out onto the dancefloor as a thousand camera flashes created a snowstorm of lights around them.

(Originally posted in Inkiit)

As Nature Intended

 

When you first learn that you are an Omega, you learn all sorts of things you never imagined you would need to know when you were growing up. The essentials: Heat suppressants, scent masking, how to handle an Alpha that is scenting you, and of course, the laws that are in place to protect you, in a society that is accepting and progressive, yet still has elements of its attitudes stuck firmly in the past. You also learn that through no fault of your own, or conscious effort, it is possible for an Omega to adjust their body chemistry, to make themselves ready to do what some feel is their sole purpose in life: to breed.

Presenting as an Omega at the age of fourteen, Elliot has grown up cautious, distrustful of the world around him, yet determined to live a fulfilling life in spite of that. He is successful at work, has recently moved into a new apartment, and everything in his world appears to be falling into place. Which is, of course, exactly when his body decides to rebel, forcing ideas and urges into Elliot that he has spent his life trying to deny.

Enter reluctant Alpha, Oskar; as adamant as Elliot that he will not have his life disrupted by what he is, and just as horrified by his instincts as Elliot is finding himself about his own. Should they fight the inevitability that is their bond, that need they have for one another that will not get them a moment’s respite, or give in to just how easy, and effortless it feels between them?

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Sunday Thinking

Hello 😊

Happy news… only happy news… this week is just the latest in a line of horrible things going on in the world…

Random acts of kindness were made in Newcastle city centre and shoppers loved it

Portland man buys new walker for homeless man in act of kindness

Christchurch ‘superhero’ Flat Man wants to teach kids kindness

The Brownlee brothers – famous for THAT act of incredible kindness – support #WeStandTogether

Ellen DeGeneres spreads messages of hope and kindness in regards to the Las Vegas attack

Students perform 5,000 acts of kindness for class project

Bettendorf teen gives drive thru worker part of meal in ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ project