I had INTENDED to begin updating Blackwood, however, I do not have the editing software I need to do it correctly since it’s a mix of images and prose. :/  Therefore, I’m giving you this.  It’s actually using the SAME characters to do a Halloween themed story that will update on the days it actually happens on.  I only have two days left of it to write.  I changed the names to avoid confusion when I begin working on Blackwood.  It’s an alternate universe, but maybe someone will enjoy it.  I did enjoy writing it.

It IS set in the Black Rose universe, but these particular versions of the characters will not likely end up in Blackwood or Black Rose.  I write a heckuva lot faster than I draw.

This boils down to a romance type thing and yes, I do the stupid eye thing that YA authors are so annoying about.  I like eyes. 😀  (Nobody has hazel eyes.)

September 30– PDF Edition

September 30th.

“Your neighbor is insane, Maria.” Jaden and Charise were on their knees on the couch cushions. They were peeking over the back and through the blinds to watch what was going on next door. Several piles of 2 x 4s and sheets of plywood had been delivered earlier that morning. They were stacked in the driveway and in several areas in the grass.

The house on the corner had the biggest lot on the street. Maria’s house had the second biggest. Both houses were nice, neat modern homes with a cookie-cutter appearance. Huge piles of lumber tended to stand out, especially when it looked like enough to cover a whole lot. What did her neighbor need with so much wood? What project was he planning on this time?

“So he’s building something. So what?” Maria leaned over the couch, trying to see through the partially open blinds. She spotted her tall thin neighbor walking around the front yard. He was holding a roll of string, a hammer and a bag full of wooden stakes. Every few feet he would hammer a stake into the ground and wind string around it, marking off areas of the yard. “He’s well prepared for a vampire attack.” Maria giggled and took a sip of her morning coffee.

Then she moved over to a window next to the couch that offered a more unobstructed view. The blinds had an easy to use slider that opened or closed them immediately. Much better for spying on someone. Her neighbor was outside at the same time every day. She timed her morning coffee so she could sit in the living room and watch him. He usually worked on his immaculate flower beds and the one massive tree in the center of his yard. Cade had a schedule, and he stuck firmly to it.

Yet it was unusual to see her quiet, reserved neighbor out in his front yard like this. Cadeyrn King was in black sweat pants, and that was it. He was barefoot and shirtless.

Cade was walking around his yard with far more enthusiasm than usual. Maria smiled appreciatively. He was a thin man with wide shoulders, a broad chest and a pleasant amount of muscular curves in all the right places. This was a rare morning treat. Maria stared through the blinds, glad that he couldn’t see them watching him. His wavy, shoulder-length black hair was a mess, and he had a good layer of stubble on his face. It was a good look on him.

Maria had moved into her house in January. She had come by herself with a small truck of belongings. It had been raining when she arrived, and she didn’t even have a bed in her new house. It was a miserable time. She had waited for the rain to stop, but it didn’t seem like it was going to cooperate.

Then Cadeyrn King and his adorable mother knocked on her door. He had brought her a freshly baked pecan pie. Cade’s mother had gushed about his skills in the kitchen in a way that sounded like she was trying to sell him to Maria. Then Cade and his mother noticed that the moving truck was outside and she was standing in an empty living room. Cade got the idea to use trash bags to cover her boxes and helped her carry everything in without getting them too wet. The only big furniture she had at the time was a full-sized mattress and frame. He had helped her set it up without a word spoken the entire time. He was so shy. She didn’t push because she found it all sweet. She was immediately attracted to him and his beautiful blue eyes.

Twice a month, like clockwork, Cade’s mother invited Maria to their home for tea. Maria often had nothing else to do and would accept. It would turn into an hour-long social visit which was nice. Maria missed her family, and Cade’s mother was a very caring person. Their conversations did often end up centering on Cade, but Maria didn’t mind. The stories were cute. His mother thought he needed a good woman in his life. She would repeat that statement near the end of every visit. Maria got the hint, but she wasn’t interested in a relationship with anyone, no matter how good he sounded.

Cade was in the house every time she visited, but he never joined them. If he was interested in a relationship with anyone, he wasn’t working toward it. His mother appeared to want it more than he did. Cade came across as a severe workaholic to Maria. He was in his studio every time she came over, and his mother continually praised his work ethic. Maria had seen it herself on many occasions. His garage was full of woodworking tools. She had watched him build a massive pergola in his backyard with the help of friends in a single afternoon.

When that man had his mind set on something, it was going to get done. Cade had a single-minded focus that Maria envied. He had a flourishing garden in the backyard and took care of everything around his house. He was handy with tools.

Cade wasn’t perfect. On several occasions, Maria had been kept awake far later into the night than she liked due to insanely loud music coming from one of Cade’s parties. After two nights in a row, Maria had enough and had stormed over to his house to demand he turn it down.

He had met her at the door, face red in embarrassment the moment he saw her. He knew why she was there. Maria had laid into him about how some people had REAL jobs and needed to sleep at night. Cade had apologized, and the music immediately went down to reasonable levels. She didn’t have to ask again.

Then there was that embarrassing night over the summer. Maria awoke at 3 am to someone singing outside her front door. The man sounded like he was in pain as he sang a song she had never heard before. It was more like a proclamation than a song. For a moment, she had laid in bed, listening to the heartbreaking words.

I’ve been mistreated
I’ve been abused
I’ve been looking for a woman
Yeh I’ve been confused
‘Cause I know, yes, I know I’ve been mistreated

Forced to get out of bed, Maria was not in a good mood. She had stomped to the front door. Maria had peered through the peephole to see her neighbor swaying in front of her door. He began belting out another round as mournfully as he had the first and she couldn’t take it. It was sad.

Maria yelled at Cade that he was drunk and to go home. She had moved to the window next to the door to get a better look at him. He was staggering uncontrollably and trying to leave like she had told him to. His head was down, and shoulders slumped. She felt sorry for him and angry at the same time. Cade had attempted to walk down the porch steps and swayed into the railing. There was a loud cracking sound as he fell across the old wood. Then her inebriated neighbor had let out a startled yelp and vanished from sight along with most of her railing.

The railing was old, and Maria had planned to replace it in the future. It wasn’t a significant loss. She was far more concerned about her neighbor than the broken railing. With a sigh, she had finally opened the door to help Cade. She found him flailing in the bushes surrounding her porch. He couldn’t figure out what had happened nor how to get out of it. He was a mess.

Once Maria got to him and managed to grab his hand, he had a moment of clarity and looked ashamed. His entire face turned red, and he slurred an apology. Maria had been so angry. Drunk people were not fun or amusing in her eyes. They were a menace to be avoided. She also didn’t need to deal with another lawsuit.

Cade turned into a pathetic mushy pile of apologies as Maria half dragged, half carried him to his front door. His mother answered, and between the two of them, they got him inside. Then he collapsed on the floor. It was not a side of her neighbor she wanted to see. Cade’s mother had immediately called 911 in a panic saying this wasn’t normal for her son. Maria stayed for his mother and was furious with whatever it was Cade had done to end up in such a state. He had worried his mother to tears. Maria was standing in only a nightshirt inside the King’s living room when the ambulance arrived.

She had left that morning with a very low opinion of Cadeyrn King. He was like any other man, just wrapped in a more realistic package. He gave in to his vices at the expense of others. Maria assumed he was fine when he returned home the next afternoon. She was a tiny bit concerned.

Several days later Maria got up like any other day. She showered then picked up her laptop to get some work done on the couch in the front living room. It was a habit from when she liked to watch Cade in the morning. She had been sitting for a few minutes, enjoying her morning cup of coffee when she heard a man’s voice coming from her front yard. He was swearing in a foreign language. Several foreign languages, then in English with a slight Scottish accent. Then she heard the popping sound of a nail gun.

Maria had been afraid to look outside. There was no telling what was going on out there. She sat on the couch and listened. Maria was sure it was her neighbor, and he was doing something in front of her house. She could hear him walking up and down the stairs and onto the front porch, grunting and swearing. Then she heard him humming a song. It went on for a good hour with Maria wasting time listening to her neighbor talking to himself, cursing and singing. She caught tidbits of his conversation. He kept saying the word idiot over and over again. After an hour, Maria finally worked up the courage to look through the window and see what her weird neighbor was up to.

She was in awe at what she saw through the blinds. Cade had removed all the railing on her porch along with a lot of old rotten boards. Her entire porch had been on the verge of rotting away. His truck was parked in front of her house with a trailer. It had been loaded with all the old rotten lumber. It looked like he had been working on her porch before the sun had even risen. Cade had replaced the weak boards on her porch and was more than half done with a new railing. Her crummy old porch had been replaced by a sturdy new one.

Maria had stared at him through the blinds, completely confused by what he was doing. He was on her porch, fixing it and hadn’t said a word to her. He hadn’t even asked her if he could or should. It was a bold decision on his part to do this, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. Her anger was replaced with pure awe. She didn’t want to be impressed, but he was doing so much work.

When he was almost done, Maria gave in and opened the door with a glass of iced tea in hand. It was late afternoon, and Cade was sweating heavily by then. He had turned red in the face the moment he looked up. He was already red from the heat, but the added blush was noticeable. She took the tea to him and stood there holding it out to him.

“That wasn’t me.” Cade had mumbled. “Doctors said I had been dosed with GHB before I came home. I don’t remember much of that night. Mom told me I broke yer railing.”

“You didn’t have to do this.” Maria wasn’t sure if she believed him or not, but he had gone over and above what he should have.

“I did. We’re neighbors. I didn’t want ye to think badly about me.” Cade took the glass appreciatively. “Thank ye.” He didn’t say anything further. He finished his repairs and left.

Then he avoided Maria for over a month.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Life returned to normal. They said hi and exchanged a few words of idle chit chat about the weather or local news. Only now, Maria was the one avoiding him. The whole incident soured her on getting to know him any better. She still went over to tea with his mother, but Cade was off-limits.

That was an awful thing. The man seemed so amazing, and she could watch him working for hours when he was outside. It didn’t matter if his shirt was on or not, he was nice to watch. His wavy black hair was almost always in a state of disarray. On occasion, she glimpsed those brilliant blue eyes. His slender face seemed more expressive than most men’s. His cheekbones were high and sharply angled and the guy never seemed to smile. He frowned. He scowled. He could look intensely thoughtful. She had seen him smirk once.

Maria had spoken with him enough times to have seen that he had some serious dental issues. Cade had likely had them his entire life. He didn’t smile if it meant showing his teeth. It was one of those things that told her that he had endured a lot of teasing. He was painfully self-conscious.

“Okay, you two, you can’t just spend the morning watching my neighbor.” Maria kept looking out the window as she spoke. “You promised me you’d be taking care of me for the next year. You need to go shopping so you can make lunch and dinner… and breakfast tomorrow… and lunch and dinner.” She turned and smiled at Jaden and Charise who were giving her dirty looks.

“Are you going to spend the morning watching your weird neighbor?” Charise’s face broke out in a mischievous grin.

“Absolutely not!” Maria was already looking back out the window.  She glanced at Charise and Jaden. “I have work to do. I just wanted to see the sun rising.”

“Out the western side of the house?” Jaden chuckled.

“Reflection,” Maria smirked. She pulled herself away from the window. “Let me get my debit card. Remember, food only, no games!” Maria set her coffee aside and rushed to get her sister and brother-in-law out of the house. The sooner they were gone, the sooner she could spend the morning watching her crazy hot neighbor. Watching was okay. She could watch him all she wanted.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Cadeyrn King was completely unaware anyone was watching him. He was fully involved in laying out the structures he intended to build for this year’s Halloween display. All the lumber that would be needed had been delivered. He had spent months going over every detail he wanted to put into this year’s display. He designed and attempted to build a bigger and better set up every year. He turned his entire front yard into a play area for the neighborhood kids in October. This year he was creating a western ghost town complete with a scary graveyard.

Cade had a policy of not putting up decorations for a holiday until they reached the month they were actually in. Halloween did not begin until October 1st. Thanksgiving was November 1st and Christmas was December 1st. He decorated for each one of them, something that he hoped wouldn’t bother his next-door neighbor. There were going to be kids all over his yard for most of the month. He hoped she would be understanding.

Today was preparation day. He was laying out the materials and making measurements to make work easier tomorrow. He had invited his friends to help. There was going to be a huge party tomorrow evening with a barbecue going all day while they worked. Everyone would have a good time, but most importantly the kids were going to have a blast when it was done. He had all the proper permits and had filed his plans months ago. He even had an inspector scheduled to drop by several times to make sure everything would be safe. By now he knew how to make a safe display, but he was a stickler for rules and following them without incident. He didn’t want to make any errors that would delay the fun even a day.

“So what are you doing?” Cade looked up to see a very bouncy blond-headed girl coming at him. He backpedaled to make sure she wasn’t going to tackle him.

“Uh?” Cade gave her and the short, stocky guy behind her a blank look. He didn’t know them. Who were these strangers? He was supposed to know everyone in the neighborhood.

“Hi, I’m Charise!’ Charise held out her hand. “I’m your neighbor Maria’s little sister, and this is my husband, Jaden! We got married a couple of weeks ago and are living with Maria to save money for a house!”

Cade looked from Charise to Jaden, who was also smiling at him. Newlyweds. Lovely. Cade swallowed and forced a nervous smile taking Charise’s hand. “Cadeyrn King.” He glanced at Maria’s house and could swear that he saw the blinds suddenly close.

“Welcome to the neighborhood. As for what I’m doing, it’s something I do every year. Making a Halloween playground for the kids.”

“Really? That’s so sweet!” Charise bounced in place. “Can we help?!”

“Yeah, that sounds like fun,” Jaden added. “What can we do? We want to be part of the community!”

Cade continued staring, taken entirely off guard by the offer. Most of the families on the street considered his festive nature a little over the top. These two had no idea what they were getting into. Still, every pair of hands meant less work for everyone involved.

“Can ye paint? My friends aren’t that great at anything beyond flat colors.” Cade ventured.

“I’m an interior designer, and Jaden’s an architect,” Charise replied excitedly.

“Uhm, I’m a mobile applications developer, Charise.” Jaden whispered.

“What’s that?” Cade had no idea what Jaden was saying.

“I make mobile games!” Jaden grinned. “Charise sees me designing buildings and drawing layouts all the time.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, so we can both paint. I help Charise out when she’s doing art projects.”

Cade looked at the two. What harm would it do? They were his neighbors and if they wanted to help he should welcome them. “We begin tomorrow morning. I don’t pay anything. It’s for fun, but there will be food all day and a party tomorrow night. Ye can stay as long as ye want. No hard feelings if it’s not something ye want to do when we get started, and ye quit. Ye can still come over to the party.”

“Is Maria invited? I’m sure she’d like to help once she finds out what you’re doing!” Charise glanced back at the house where she could see Maria peeking through the blinds. She was giving them dirty looks.

Cade sighed. “I don’t think yer sister wants anything to do with me. Please do not pressure her to help if she doesn’t want to be around me.”

“Oh.” Charise glanced to the window again, and Maria was shaking her head mouthing the word NO. “I think she might do it for the kids. That and she needs to get out of the house and make more friends.”

“She’s invited if she wants to help.” Cade’s gaze drifted to the lawn as he idly kicked one of his stakes. He winced as his bare foot struck it, forgetting that he wasn’t wearing shoes. “But she’s not obligated to or anything.” Cade grumbled and limped to his front door. “We start at daybreak.”

-=-=-=-=-=-

“Uhm, you volunteered me for what?” Maria almost gagged on her grilled cheese sandwich. Jaden and Charise had made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with five different kinds of cheese for lunch. It was one of Maria’s favorite lunches. Jaden and Charise were buttering her up. Maria swallowed and stared at her sister.

“Cade builds a Halloween playground in his front yard for Halloween!” Charise exclaimed. “Isn’t that cute?!”

“Uh, yeah. Not quite the word I would use to describe it.” Maria made a face. She hadn’t seen any sign from her next-door neighbor that he had any interest in anyone in the neighborhood playing in his front yard. Everyone kept out of his yard, adult or child. She had seen someone walking their dog by Cade’s house and said dog took a dump in the grass. Cade had turned on the sprinklers from inside the house. It looked like he had some sort of master setting that made the water spray out like a fire hose all along the perimeter of his yard. The dog and owner were drenched in seconds.

He did not decorate for Valentine’s Day. Maria wasn’t even sure she had seen him leave his house for the first half of February. There had been a beautiful little sign for Easter. Cade’s house was decorated the same as every other house for the Fourth of July. Nothing out of the ordinary. Why would Halloween be so different?

“Cade said he thinks you don’t like him. What would give him that idea?” Charise stirred her soup and stared at Maria. “I see you looking out that widow every time you pass it.”

“I uh, yelled at him several times,” Maria admitted more to the table than Charise.
“Why would you yell at that sweet guy?” Charise was aghast. He had seemed so polite and undeserving of her sister’s wrath. “That man is a saint!”

Maria took a deep breath and recounted the events from the summer. Twenty minutes later she was staring at her sister and brother-in-law. They were both laughing hysterically, their faces red and eyes watering at what she told them. Maria was completely confused by their reaction.

“Okay, getting roofied is not funny, but oh wow, he seriously was singing at your door?!” Charise could barely breathe. “Those exact words?”

“And then he broke your railing?” Jaden laughed along with his wife.

“Then he showed up and fixed it all without you asking him to?” Charise wiped her eyes, then turned serious. “Maria! How could you yell at him and not apologize! It wasn’t his fault.”

“What? Why am I suddenly the bad guy?” Maria folded her arms and pouted at the pair.

Charise got up and walked around to where Maria was sitting. She wrapped her arms around her sister’s shoulders and squeezed her tight. “Maria! All men are not the B-Word!” Maria stiffened with a sudden burst of anger.

“He was drunk.” Maria rolled her eyes. “I don’t like drunks, and he was obviously out drinking with his buddies so yeah, he’s no better than the B-Word.”

“But you don’t know that for sure.” Charise pointed out. “Look what he did for you. He fixed your awful porch. Did you even say thank you?”

“I didn’t ask him to do it,” Maria grumbled stubbornly.

“You should thank him for it. He did an amazing job.” Charise moved back to her chair next to Jaden.

“Thanks. You ruined my lunch.” Maria got up and left the table without another word. She retreated upstairs to her studio where she knew nobody would bother her. Bringing up the B-Word was the best way to bring out the worst in Maria. She had caught him kissing another woman on the day they were going to marry, and he had been wasted out of his mind. He tried to convince her that she had put something in his drink and it wasn’t his fault.

Maria was done with him at that point. She had been trying to leave the room when he attacked her. There was no way that he was going to dumped by his fiancee right before they were to be married. He had hit her in an attempt to make her do what he wanted. Maria had fought back viciously and broke his left leg. It had been a complete and total accident. She wasn’t even sure how she had done it. Everything had been a blur.

Bryce had sued her, offering to drop the charges if she married him. Maria was not about to give in. He had struck her and if he did it once, he would do it again. He won the case and Maria still owed him thousands, which she was paying off a little at a time. She had moved to get away from him.

It was unfair to Cade that she had not believed him when he told her he had been drugged. But he was a man, and she didn’t trust men after what she had been through. He was nice to look at, but she didn’t want to go any further than that.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-

I’ll have to remove the song lyrics when I go to print this.  :/  I’ll probably just write something myself to take their place.  It won’t be nearly as fitting.

  • Tiff