About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Protecting Your #Creativity in Times of Turmoil #writing


In times like these where emotions are running high across the world, where fear and uncertainty are consuming social media chatter, how do creative professionals protect their energy to actually create? It's not easy and lines need to be drawn. There are ways to stay informed on global issues without being bombarded every day and without negativity dragging down your creative energy. You simply need to take back the power and realize that you--and only you--are in control of where you put your focus.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Prioritize your creative work above social media. Those of us who create for a living are prone to being sensitive to our environments, which means being utra-sensitive to energy. Limit social media interactions to work only--we all need to promote ourselves, which leads to opening that dreaded Facebook app and risking seeing the mass of political commentary. Go directly to the groups you need for work purposes and interact professionally only. Then sign off. Set a timer if you need to in order to prevent yourself from drifting onto that timeline, reading those articles, getting fired up, commenting on things that make you upset and ultimately DRAIN your creativity. 
  • Be more disciplined than ever about the projects you need to complete. If you don't have a planner, buy one. I'm talking about a good old-fashioned pen-to-paper planner that does not involve going online at all. You cannot control world events so focus on what you can control: your business. Write down the projects you need to complete per quarter and then break down milestones you need to achieve each week and month to stay on track. Keep that planner on your desk or within reach so you can check on it daily. 
  • Nurture yourself every day. We creatives need to take care of ourselves in order to create. Whether it is a walk in nature, going to the gym, meditating, listening to our favorite music, reading for a few hours a day, or immersing ourselves in a silent house while we decompress--if it calms your spirit and focuses your mind, a self-nurturing activity is a must do on your daily priority list. Don't neglect it, don't tell yourself there is something more important to do. Even if for only fifteen minutes, you need to do something that makes you feel good. 
  • Use your DVR or watch streaming networks like Neflix or Amazon Prime for entertainment. Escape commercials and constant bad news by being ultra-selective on what kind of programming you allow into your mind. With the DVR, you can fast-forward through commercials and skip the news. Amazon Prime and Netflix as well as Hulu or SlingTV offer original programming and so much more that can entertain you without the negativity of mainstream television. Don't have a smart TV? You can buy a smart TV box that hooks up to your existing TV for only $75 at Walmart (as an example) and stream away! 
  • Make no apologies for removing yourself from toxic people or situations. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but you don't have to listen. It's okay to distance yourself from people or situations that distract you from your purpose. You don't need an excuse. Your creativity is the most valuable asset you possess--especially as someone whose livliehood depends on it--and you owe it to yourself to stay away from anyone or anything that harms that. 
  • FOCUS! What is your purpose today? Is it a specific word count? Is it to pitch a certain number of potential freelance clients? Have you owned your time or has time owned you? At every given moment, you have the power to choose what you are focussing on--have you chosen wisely today? 
  • Back to social media--set that timer. I bring this up twice because it's so important, especially in today's world where bad news seems to be happening every day. Become a tyrant with yourself regarding social media use. Ask yourself why you're scrolling and how it's impacting you. How do you feel afterward? Are you flustered? Have you wasted an hour where you could have been writing? What was achieved by all that scrolling and commenting? Be firm with yourself and set a timer for an hour or so. When that bell rings, go do something else. Play with your dog. Go for that walk. Write that damn book. 
As creative professionals, we've been given a gift that's worth protecting. Our energy needs to be focused on our projects, not the latest fiasco going on in the world. This doesn't mean we aren't sensitive to the issues at large, but no one but us can create our projects. Most of us are soloprenuers and can't afford to have months of non-productivity because of events beyond our control. If we feel the need to volunteer, then put that time on the planner and contribute to society in that way. In all things, there must be balance. With our creativity, we must protect it at all times--that's our duty to ourselves. 

Write on!
Amber Lea Easton



Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. She has also created a line of inspirational journals to add in the creative process. Easton is a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.

Friday, January 27, 2017

You Channelled What Now? It's Getting Freaky Over Here


I've been into the woo-woo stuff for years. I've dabbled in crystals, tarot cards, spiritualists, psychics and mediums, ghosts...you name it and I'm open to learn about it. So last week when the opportunity to attend a channeler presented itself, I thought, 'why not?' Off I went.

In the basement of a historical home in Denver's Governor's District was a cute office space lit with candles and incense and earth-toned walls. Although small, twelve of us fit perfectly in the main room. Out came a petite gray-haired woman with a New York accent, our hostess for the night. She explained that she channeled spirit guides and spoke in their light language. I nodded, sipped my water, unwrapped a Hershey's kiss (I'd secretly pocketed a handful when I entered), and prepared to be open-minded.

She started by talking about love and shedding our stories of what we believe to be true. This resonated with me as someone who's studied self-awareness for over a decade. I am reading on the subject of perceptions and universal connection all of the time. I honestly believe that we can tell ourselves a story so many times that it becomes somewhat skewed and that the truth lies between the lines.

As I'm nodding and sitting there, thinking I'm giving off a peaceful vibe as I allow the Herhey's kiss to melt in my mouth, she spins her head toward me and says, "why are you here?"

My eyes probably bugged out a bit at being put on the spot amidst twelve strangers, but I answered, "I'm looking for clarity, it's been a confusing twelve months."

She rolls up to me (she had a stool with wheels), stares at me and starts pulling at her shirt. One hand yanked at her shoulder while the other yanked at her mid-section, and she says, "You are chaos, you are being ripped apart by everyone in your life, you are bouncing from here to there like a person caught in a tornado, why is this happening to you? This is how I see your energy--chaos."

By now I've swallowed the chocolate and am sitting at attention. The rest of the room fades into the background as I stare at this petite older woman who is suddenly pulling at herself as if trying to get free of a net.

And I wanted to cry.

She was right.

She goes on to say, "What is that you want? Why don't you know? You need to get still. You need to be courageous. You need to become the eye of the storm. You need stillness. You have too much responsibility on your shoulders, what can you let go of? You need to let go to find the clarity you seek."

All of those books I'd been reading, all of the practice I've done, all of the years of study where I'd truly believed I'd made progress and had gotten in touch with my soul went out the window. I become agitated. I said, "I can't let go."

I'm a single mom, a solo-preneur, with two kids in college and a mortgage! What exactly am I supposed to let go of exactly? Responsibilities are responsibilities, right?

She looked at me with piercing, knowing eyes and said, "You can but you need to be courageous."

What the hell are we talking about? I'm thinking. How am I not courageous? I'm a fucking warrior!

But maybe I'm not? Maybe I've been telling myself a story of how I am and what is and what is not?

What truth lies between the lines of my story that I haven't acknowledged?

She then wheeled over to another woman and I--as quietly as possible--unwrapped another Hershey's Kiss and plopped it in my mouth. My hand was shaking. I'd said I wanted clarity but was actually more confused. I'd gone there feeling peaceful and happy, excited to try something new. I'd thought I presented a laid back vibe--certainly not one of CHAOS.

Out of the blue she starts speaking in the 'light language' of the angels and (in translation) talking of peace and our stories and of love and connection. Soon the ninety minutes are over and I'm one of the last to leave. She grabs my arms before I can hug her goodbye, looks me in the eye, and says, "you need to get quiet and ask yourself what it is you really want---not what you tell people you want, or what you've told yourself you want, or what you think others want to hear, but what you really want, until then there will be chaos."

Well, fuck. That's not what I wanted to hear!

And then she slipped me her business card as if to silently say, "you really need a lot of work, lady." (she gave no one else a business card...I know, I'd been observing as I prepared to leave.)

Maybe I don't know myself as well as I thought. Perhaps I do give off an energy I'm not aware of even when I'm feeling peaceful and open-minded. Maybe this is why people react the way they do to me sometimes that leaves me confused.

Maybe she told me exactly what I needed to hear--the truth between the lines of the story I have created for myself.

Do you know what YOU really want your life to look like? Not the story you tell others, but the secret daydreams of your soul. Are you brave enough to look inside, to get quiet, and to embrace your truth?

I think I am--I thought I was--I guess I need to get clear on what dwells in the silence. Perhaps there is more exploration to do.

And, no, I'm not going to her for a personal reading. I tucked her card away and will think on what she says, but the whole 'light language' chatter threw me off a bit. I cannot deny, however, that she shook me up! And, sometimes, we all need to be shaken a bit out of our comfort zone.



Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, works as a professional editor and author coach, creates a line of inspirational journals, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is the mother of two extraordinary human beings who lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com



Friday, January 6, 2017

Putting on My Walking Shoes and Finally Letting Go #SelfCare #Inspiration



I've been widowed eleven years. I've grown accustomed to my own company and the freedom of not being accountable to anyone. I really like being solo, actually. For New Year's Eve, I was in heaven sitting in front of the fireplace, reading a good book, drinking wine, and listening to music alone. I'm not "just saying that" either--I genuinely mean it.

To some, however, they look upon me with pity. When I told one friend I was alone on New Year's Eve, she practically called the suicide intervention hotline thinking I was crying into my pillow. I wasn't. I was very content.

When I met a bunch of friends--all married and pretty well off--earlier this week and told them I am selling my house, moving to Santa Fe to start a new life, buying a house there that is much smaller but within walking distance to all the fun shopping and bars in the city, you would have thought I had just confessed to murder. The looks on their faces confused me.

How can you leave Colorado? You have the perfect house! In the perfect place! How can you give all of that up? Have you gone insane? 

Maybe I have. Maybe I went insane the moment I cut my husband down from where he'd hung himself in the bedroom I've continued to sleep in for the past eleven years. Maybe I went over the edge by seeing the same people who knew me as a married woman who continue to give me that look of pity whenever I make eye contact. Maybe I go a little bit mad every time I go anywhere in this city and state where I dated and married a man who died--I see him everywhere. Maybe I went crazy holding myself back from moving long ago out of a sense of obligation to the kids to keep their lives stable--they're adults now, though. Maybe I snapped after lugging wood indoors to heat the place for the millionth time--why did I ever think that was a charming activity? So, yes, maybe I have gone insane. So what? Can you blame me? Maybe a little insanity is a good thing.

A person can only deny their souls for so long before life intervenes and pushes them into action. That's what's happened here. I am no longer satisfied existing in this perfect little house with its magnificent view. I crave more. 

More adventure.

More laughter.

More discovery.

More life!

Before I got married, some called me a gypsy. I traveled the world, lived in a new apartment every six months, moved to new cities that called to my soul, and never once thought this would be the last stop on my journey.

Yet the judgment comes from all sides when I say I'm selling my house--alone--and moving to another city in another state--alone. None of the people doing the questioning can relate even remotely to my life--they're married, financially secure to the point where some of them only work as a hobby, and have close family members as well who interact with their lives. That's fine. No one needs to get me--but I do ask that they back off from the interrogation.

I can honestly say I resent the questions as to why. Perhaps it's because I have been solo for so long now that I don't like answering to anyone, but I think my annoyance is based on something deeper--my sense that they are doubting my rational thinking despite all the years I've called my own shots, parented solo, and built a career from nothing.

It's easy to say that I don't care what others think and that I don't need anyone's approval--which are both true statements--but at the core of my being I crave support from the people in my life. I crave someone saying, "good for you, enjoy the adventure!" I crave someone saying, "if anyone can do it, you can" or "you've been through enough, sacrificed enough, now go live your life on your own terms."

I tell myself these things. I root myself on because that's what I've learned to do. But, perhaps, I truly crave hearing those things from someone else whether I want to admit it or not.

Because no matter how good I get at being alone, I remember what it was like having a life partner, a permanent cheerleader, and a sounding board--and that ghost of a memory reminds me of what I miss. It reminds me of the kind of relationship I deserve--the kind that pushes me forward rather than holds me back.

Change is good. If we become stagnant, we become boring. I may be a lot of things, but I've never been boring.

Will it be sad leaving this place? On some levels, yes, but I'm very excited to go someplace new and start exploring and discovering and laughing and living! It really is okay to let go of the good and leap into the unknown. Who knows? It might be better than my wildest imagination can visualize--and my imagination is pretty spectacular.


Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, works as a professional editor and author coach, creates a line of inspirational journals, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is the mother of two extraordinary human beings who lives in a cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com



Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stop Making Excuses and Open Yourself to Success #AmWriting


You wrote a book, now what? You start researching cover artists and editors and freak out about the costs. You say things like, "I need to know I'll make back the money before I shell out anything." Well, here's a hard truth for you: no one can promise you that you will make back the investment right away or ever, especially if you don't do your part with marketing (which may cost some money as well).

But the real question is, why do you think this way? If you have a full-time job and writing is your hobby, think of all the other people with hobbies who invest money on memberships, equipment, travel or what-not to participate in them. Do they ski because they want skiing to pay them back at the end of the day? No. Do they spend a day golfing and expect to be paid when they finish eighteen holes? No. Do rock climbers stress out about spending money on ropes and safety harnesses before they tackle the mountain? No. Even runners invest money on the proper shoes so they don't get shin splints, but do they expect to be financially paid back for those shoes just because they want to run? No. Why? Because hobbies reward you with joy, satisfaction, and an escape from your day-to-day life. That's why they are called hobbies. 

Nothing wrong with writing being your hobby--in fact, it's smart. But are you putting too high of expectations on your hobby? It's not a dirty word, you know--hobby. It doesn't mean your novel isn't good or that you aren't committed. Don't let ego sabotage you.
I've stopped associating with people who say that they can't make money writing because that very thinking is what's blocking them from succeeding.

Am I suggesting you shouldn't want to make money from your books? No, just the opposite actually. I'm stating that your expectations are a bit whacked and perhaps you need to take a moment to look at them from another perspective.

If writing is your full-time job and you're still bitchy about shelling out for editors, cover artists, and paid advertising, then I ask you: what kind of special snowflake do you think you are? All businesses have operating costs. All businesses invest in themselves to succeed.

The idea of being a struggling artist is limiting you--how about celebrating instead and enjoying the creative process? It's amazing what happens when you stop worrying and begin trusting.

If you're not earning enough as a writer to afford normal business operating costs, then you need to find a supplemental job to support you as you get off the ground. There's nothing wrong with that--it is simple common sense.  Many people work multiple jobs while launching their own business and don't quit until they are financially stable. It's called rocking the side gig. If you go to a restaurant in Los Angeles, for example, most of the waiters will tell you that the are actors waiting for their big break. But what are they doing in the meantime? They're working jobs to pay the bills, they're going on auditions, they're investing in head shots, taking acting classes--they are hustling and putting money into their dream! Does that make them less talented? No, it makes them smart.

Writers are the only group of people I have met who expect to make money without spending anything or who think their hobby owes them something. The hard truth is that your books owe you nothing and neither do readers. If you're blessed enough to know how to write, to complete a novel, to have been immersed in creativity, then it's your obligation to that gift to nurture it and invest in it--and to let go of all expectations after that fact.

The key to success in any creative profession is to keep moving forward at all times. Want to make money as a novelist? It's completely possible, but you need to keep writing, keep putting yourself in front of people, keep striving to be the best you can be, keep investing in yourself. You also need to lighten up about it. The idea of being a struggling artist is limiting you--how about celebrating instead and enjoying the creative process? It's amazing what happens when you stop worrying and begin trusting.

C'mon! Time to switch up your thinking. If it's not working for you, stop it. 

I've stopped associating with people who say that they can't make money writing because that very thinking is what's blocking them from succeeding. Normally, when confronted with this type of person, I'll ask what they do to market themselves. They usually respond with free things like Facebook groups or tweeting teams, things that are known to have very low return. If I ask about paid advertising, they always screech about wasting money. Same thing when asked if they hired a professional editor or cover artist--nope, they can do it themselves, they respond. But they are not succeeding in the way they want because they are not investing in it--and they won't because they are stubborn and determined to struggle.

Yes, I mean it when I say they are determined to struggle. They are getting some kind of satisfaction--even if subconsciously--from struggling, from complaining about being lost in the mix, from whining about book prices, or making excuses about the ever-changing publishing environment. Perhaps they see it as paying their dues or their curse as a storyteller or maybe struggle gives them permission to be mediocre because why try harder if they aren't making money at it--that's all nonsense.

In my mind, I can think of at least a dozen authors I know who are making over $10,000 a month. Are they famous? Not in the big scheme. What are they doing to separate themselves from the pack? Investing in their career and embracing the joy of being a writer. Not one of them can be heard whining about how hard it is or making excuses as to why they aren't a millionaire yet. They're doing the work, investing in ads, delegating editing and artwork to other professionals so they can keep working on their next novel, automating or hiring out social media marketing, and making money every single month.

Depending on whether writing is your hobby or full-time job, you need to understand that it owes you nothing. You were blessed with the inspiration and dedication to sit down and do the work of storytelling. That's your reward. Want to make money from it? Good, but are you willing to invest like every other artist and business owner in the world does?

The hard truth is that your books owe you nothing and neither do readers.

I'm not sure why writers are unique in this attitude, but they seem to be. I've known musicians who have CDs and play in the band on the weekends at gigs all over Colorado who never complain that they aren't making enough money to do it full-time. They don't stop investing, though. Neither do artists I know who spend money on tables at art shows and use their last dimes to buy supplies knowing that their return on investment will be uncertain. Yet I know far too many authors who cry at the price of an editor or a cover artist and won't spend a dime until they "are making money from their books."

And the irony? Most of those authors are listing their books at .99 or free to "gain exposure" while they lament that they are dirt poor. C'mon! Time to switch up your thinking. If it's not working for you, stop it.

The hard truth is: to make money, you must spend money. Yes, choose wisely on what ads to purchase and where and what editor or cover artist to hire. But if you're one of those who stubbornly refuses to do so, then don't whine about poor book sales or bad reviews. You were chosen by inspiration to tell a story--which is a gift in and of itself--and then you chose to drop the ball. There is no one to blame but you in this scenario.

And if you did hire an artist and an editor but then failed to invest in ads or put the time in with marketing, the blame is also solely on you. Not writing your next book until the first one pays out? That's a crime against creativity.

As we begin a new year, think about what you are willing to invest in your writing career/hobby, make a budget of both time and money, and stick to it. Stop making excuses and start seeing possibilities.


Write on!
Amber Lea Easton
http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com 



Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Never Underestimate the Power of the Cuddle Factor #Pets #Dogs

Sometimes all you need is a good dog hug. You know what I'm talking about--you've had a really bad day, everything that could go wrong did, and your pup leans into you in that way only a dog can that says, "You are the most awesome human being on the planet and I love you."

The past year has been really tough on me. I hit rock bottom. Until this year, I actually never realized what "rock bottom" meant... now I know and it's been a nightmare. My dogs have literally saved my life.

When I felt like giving up, they'd cuddle against me and look at me as if reassuring me that they had faith in me to take care of them, to get us out of this bad situation.

When I'd cry, they'd drop a ball at my feet and wag their tails in anticipation of fun. And you know what? I'd laugh and play.

Pets live in the moment. Their love is unconditional. A simple wag of a tail can lift your spirits. A cuddle can mean the difference between despair and hope.

A few months ago, I broke down. The insanity of 2016 had finally taken a toll and I didn't know what more to do to turn things around. Moose (the dog above with the stuffed animal) came up to me, wrapped her paws around my neck, and leaned hard against me. She's a sensitive soul, an earth angel. I hugged her tight and cried--she felt like the only friend I had at the moment and her affection steadied me.

No one can ever tell me that dogs are "just animals." I refuse to believe it.

I've been blessed with many dogs in my life. The two pictured above are puppies--Willy is two years old and Moose is three. Before them I had a yellow lab named Taz who died at 12 and an Australian Shepherd who died at 11--I'd had them from the time they were a few months old until they died in my arms. They were there when the kids were babies and when my husband died--Taz and Dusty were the dogs who shaped my children's lives. Willy and Moose are the dogs who are part of my empty nest period, the dogs who will see me through the next chapter of my life, who will walk beside me no matter what.

That's the thing with dogs...they hang in there no matter what. A lot of humans can't say the same thing.

RIP Dusty--July 3, 2003 to May 12, 2015




Wednesday, November 23, 2016

No Better Time for a Second Chance than the Holidays #Thanksgiving #Romance Hop

The end of the year, Thanksgiving is already here and we're headed full-speed toward 2017! Whew! I love this time of year for one reason: reflection. How'd it go? Did I succeed at what I wanted to do? Did I laugh enough? Did I cry too much? Did I fuck up? Whatever my answers, I am grateful for the chance to keep trying, to live another day, to decide differently tomorrow, to make a new goal, and to celebrate all that went right.

I've cut out a lot of people from my life this year, but I'm not sad about it. I'm grateful for being clear enough about what I want to make decisions that are best for me. There was a time when I'd settle for being slighted, ignored--a time when I'd hang on to toxic people for the simple reason of not wanting to be alone. Now I'm really happy to have the strength to honor myself enough to say 'no more' and to focus intently on what I want.

So, what am I grateful for? I'm grateful that, at 48, I finally figured things out and have an expansive sensation of contentment running through my veins.

Free at last...thank God almighty, I'm free at last! Ha!

Have a happy holiday!

Here's the blurb and excerpt of my second chance romance, Dancing Barefoot--it's never too late to go after what you really want in this life. 

Naked photographs plastered on a book cover remind Jessica Moriarty that the past isn't as dead as she'd assumed. Her carefully constructed life as an architect on the fast track to partnership is threatened by a love she'd abandoned five years ago when responsibilities had trumped dreams.

World-renowned photographer, Jacques Sinclair, could have chosen anywhere in the world for his book signing and photography exhibit, but he'd come to Boston to shake things up. He wanted answers, but they aren't what he expected.

Reunions aren't always happy—sometimes they stir up unwanted pain and forgotten passion. As Jacques and Jessica stumble their way back to one another for a second chance at love, they're ensnared in a web of conspiracy, manipulation, and sabotage designed to keep them apart. Will they be able to break free of the ties that bind them to seize the love of a lifetime? Or will the pressure to conform rip them apart forever?


**This is the conclusion of the two part Dancing Barefoot series and can be read as a stand-alone.**

An excerpt...

He stalked toward her until her back collided with her easel. His hands gripped the top of the canvas, arms pinned her where she stood. “I haven’t wanted to remember you in a very long time.”

“I suppose not.”

“But I have.”

“Me, too.” 

“Are you happy?”

“What do you mean?” She folded her arms across her chest. 

“Did you make the right choice? Leaving me? Leaving our life together? Tell me you’re happy and I’ll walk out of your life forever.”

“What does it matter?  I can’t undo it.”

“Why is it a difficult question for you to answer? Why can’t you tell me that you have no regrets? I want to hear it.”

“Of course I have regrets, but so what?  What good does that do us?”

“That’s why I came here tonight, to see…”

“See what? I’ve done what I said I would do.” Pride forced her head high. “I’m up for associate partner at my firm. I’m a good—no, great—architect. We both succeeded without each other. Good for us.”

“You’re lying. You’re not happy.” His hand framed the side of her face, forcing her to look at him. “I see it in your face. It’s like you’ve died. You're living in the past, which tells me you're not that thrilled with the present.”

“When did you get so mean?” Too tired to fight, tears blurred her eyes. “Get out. Enough insults for one night. Just go.”

“Why are you still wearing my ring?” His voice was low and powerful in the small room.

“Why do you?”

“My ring.” Dark blond hair covered his left eye when he bent forward, only a breath away from her face. “Why are you wearing it? Does it mean anything to you or do you simply think it’s pretty?”


“Please go.” She flattened her hands against his chest, but wished she hadn’t.  The feel of his hard body beneath her hands liquefied her bones. 

He slammed his hand against the canvas, knocking it to the floor behind her.  “You just left. One day we’re living together, talking about creating a future, and then you walked away without ever looking back.”

“I look back in my own way. Often, too often, I need to grow up like you said.” Her lungs deflated like air from a balloon. Breathing ceased.  I needed to come back here to—”

“To be safe? To do the right thing?” He had her backed against the easel. “I thought you would at least stay in touch with me, the man you supposedly loved, the man you said you wanted to marry, the man you said you needed…but you disappeared.”

“You had my address. I didn’t disappear.” 

“You let me go without a word. Until today, I hadn’t heard from you in years, yet here you are wearing my ring.”

“I said I was sorry.” Every inch of her quaked with restrained emotion.  “Leave now. Go. Good luck with your exhibit, with your life, all of it.  Just get the hell out of my house.”

“Do you know why I brought your address with me? Do you?”

“You wanted to tell me off, right? That’s why you came here, to hurt me.”

“I wanted to show you how much I don’t care.”

“Doesn’t that show me how much you really do care?” She lifted her chin, determined not to cry.

A fraction of an inch separated their bodies. She dragged her gaze over the opened buttons of his shirt, over his neck, over his lips until resting on the deep green of his eyes. Damn, the man rocked the word 'sexy'.

Boldness replaced caution. 

Standing on tiptoes, she smoothed her hands along the front of his chest.  Touching him again was like coming home from a long, exhausting journey.

He shook his head once as if trying to clear his mind.  Only once.  He stared at her lips.  His hands curled around her forearms, but he didn’t push her away. 

“Kiss me,” she whispered against his mouth.

“No."  His hands slid up her arms before cupping the back of her head.

"I dare you."

"Never."

"I know you want to."

"I don't."

"Now who's the liar?" she asked, her teeth tugging at his lower lip.

Their mouths met in a kiss that melted her skin like candle wax, turning them into one being, one entity consumed by desire. To hell with restraint and regret. She needed this, needed him, here and now.

Passion overrode all other thought or senses. Her hands stroked his back, kneading and searching. Every sense was alive with his touch, with his kiss. The need for him was an ache that burned deep. Hot. Necessary. Urgent. Primal.

God, she had missed this, missed him.

He ripped her tank top in two and tossed the material aside. His hands squeezed her breasts while his mouth devoured her lips. 

She yanked his shirt free from his jeans and shoved it high on his chest, needing his skin against hers more than she'd ever needed anything in life.  Clothes fell away, bread crushed beneath their bodies, wine spilled from an overturned bottle at their feet.

  They fell against the easel, knocking the canvas and paint in every direction. A tangle of limbs, they made eye contact for a moment, chests heaving, breathing labored.

"This is wrong," he muttered against her skin. 

"Right. Always right with us." She sank her fingernails into his shoulders.

"What the lady wants, the lady gets," he said, a predatory gleam in his eyes.

His hands worked at pushing her yoga pants over her hips while his mouth claimed her breast.
She looped her toes in the waistband of his underwear and yanked them over his thighs.  Her hands sought his erection while her back arched with every stroke of his hands and every lick of his tongue.

He ground himself inside her with the intensity of repressed rage. Her legs wrapped around his hips, holding him as close as possible as he plunged deep inside her. 

Sex had never been tame with him, but this was animalistic. This was raw.  Teeth sank into skin. Nails scraped against each other's bodies. They rolled together, locked as one being. Streaks of yellow and red paint lined their faces, stuck in their hair, no one cared.

Waves of pleasure rolled through her veins like a tsunami until all strength left her body. She laughed, breathless, as her mouth sought his again in a kiss filled with satisfaction and surprise.

"Is this what you meant by a do-over?" He shoved his hands through her hair, palms framing her face, and stared into her eyes. His chest rose and fell against hers.

"Not exactly, but it'll do," she whispered, still out of breath, heartbeat slamming like a caged bird's wings inside her chest. 

His mouth sucked on her lower lip, tongue teased hers. "I don't know what to do with you, Jessica Moriarty."

"You've always known exactly what to do with me, Jacques Sinclair." She repeated the words they'd always said to one another. She dipped her finger into the wet yellow paint on the canvas beneath his head before smearing it across his chin and over his mouth. 

He grabbed her hand, linked his fingers with hers and stared into her eyes. Laughter faded. “This shouldn't have happened. I lost control, I always lose control around you.”

He rolled away and stared at the ceiling. Then he stood and pulled a piece of cheese from where it had stuck to his shoulder. Without looking at her, he dressed.

Rattled from the sex and his reaction, she stumbled to standing, grabbed the blanket from the sofa and wrapped it around herself. Man, she was on a roll today with fucking up her life. 

He walked down the stairs without saying a word. 

She returned to the kitchen to find him still waiting. She'd hoped he'd gone. 

Back against the wall, he finished buttoning his shirt. He hadn't bothered to wipe the streaks of paint from his face and hair; then again, neither had she. When he lifted his gaze to hers, he looked agonized. 

"I didn't intend on that. I should go," he said.

“Stay. Don't go. Maybe we should talk or something.” 

She wanted to scream, stomp her foot like a child, fall to her knees …anything to make him stay.

“There is someone else, Jess. Life moved on without you.” His quiet words sliced her heart into a million pieces. “I came here for answers, to understand. I didn't intend to rip your clothes off. I only wanted to understand why you left me. That’s all.”

“And now you understand?”

“No.” He shook his head, a slight grin curving his lips. “But I accept that I will never understand.”

She rubbed the palm of her hand over her face. Of course he had someone else. She had discarded him like a used napkin.

“You're serious with this woman? What you said about the different women all the time was just to hurt me, right?”

“Yes to both questions.”

A chasm ripped through the room, creating a space larger than the ocean that had once separated them. She felt the loss of him again, more powerful, more poignant than before.

“I wish it wasn’t like this between us…”

“I’m still the same man you left in Italy. The reasons you left haven’t changed.  I’m a gypsy at heart, never in one place longer than six months or so.” He looked at the matching ring on his finger and blew out a long breath.

“Please leave. Your girlfriend must be wondering what the hell you’re doing.”  She hugged her arms across her chest and tapped her foot against the floor. “Please leave, Jacques.”

“Am I wrong? Are you happy? Tell me I’m wrong about you. Tell me that you love being an architect. Tell me that you honestly don’t regret leaving me.” With every word, his face mirrored the agony she felt. “Tell me that you have no regrets, that you are happy with your life as it is now.”

“My life is damn near perfect.” She forced a smile. “Partnership is in sight, remember? Corner office here I come. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s a fucking love fest.”

 “It is time I let this go then.” With a quick movement, he pulled the ring from his finger and laid it on the back of the red chair.

She stared at the ring against the faded fabric. “Please don’t leave it. Like you said, it’s yours.”

“Keep it, throw it away, it no longer matters to me. Be well, bella.” Door open, he hesitated at the threshold and looked around the room before meeting her gaze again. 

Bella.  The word hung in the air as they stared at one another, the language of Italy dancing in her memory and tugging at her heart.

Caro…” she whispered.  

Without another look back, he closed the door behind him.

She listened to the fall of his footsteps on the stairs, the outside door opening and closing, and folded his ring into her palm. She pressed the closed fist against lips still swollen from his kiss. Silent tears streaked her face.

"What have I done?" Back against the door, she slid to the floor. The question she asked had no answer. Even she didn't know if she meant the past or the present; conflicting emotions meshed together in her brain like the various paint streaks staining her skin.

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