Chapter One of I’m In It

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Im-In-it-Kindle

 

 

Wren

 

I push through the doors of the tattoo shop with my heart in my throat. Paul Reed looks up, and I’m stunned, just like every other woman who looks at him is immediately taken aback by all his ink, the piercings over his eyebrows, the metal in his ears, and the blue of his eyes. Startling. There’s no other word to describe him. Except for kind. Kindness seeps from Paul Reed’s pores. You just have to be willing to look past the gruff exterior to see it.

His back is bent over a client as he works on a tattoo for a man who has almost as much metal on his face as I have on my car.

Paul smiles at me. “Hey, Wren,” he says. “What’s up?” He lifts his tattoo machine for no more than a moment, and then he looks back down and keeps working.

“Hey, Paul,” I reply. I swallow hard.

“What can I do for you?” Paul asks. He’s the only one in the shop today, since it’s early in the morning.

“I was hoping Friday might be here,” I say tentatively.

He tilts his head toward the back of the shop. “She’s cursing in the office right now, trying to balance the bank account.”

I hear a filthy curse come from the back room, and I bite back a grin. “Is it okay if I go back to talk to her?”

He nods. “If you’re brave enough.” Then he lets out a heavy sigh. “She threatened to chop my dick off when I took her a cup of coffee. So proceed at your own risk.”

“Thanks.” I walk toward the office and stop when I see the door is cracked. I rap my knuckles lightly and call out her name. “Friday?”

She looks up and blows a lock of dark hair from her eyes as the door opens just a little. I’m always startled when I see her looking like this. She doesn’t have a swipe of makeup on and she’s in jeans and a t-shirt. There are no high heels, no short skirts, no fishnet stockings, and no kissable red lips. She’s just Friday.

“Hey,” she says. She smiles at me. “Come on in.”

“Are you sure I’m not interrupting?” I step into the room and drop hesitantly into a chair across from her desk.

“I needed a break anyway.” She puts her pencil down and crosses her hands on her desk. “You doing okay?” she asks, her voice soft.

“Oh, yeah,” I say with a breezy wave. “I’m fine.”

“Good,” she says with a nod. “I’ve been worried about you.”

I bite my lips together.

“So, I’m guessing you didn’t just come here to shoot the shit.”

I scratch the tip of my nose. “I was wondering…” I heave in a breath. “I was hoping you might draw a tattoo for me.

Her brow rises. “What did you have in mind?”

“Just something simple to remember the…you know.”

“The baby?” she clarifies, her voice a lot stronger than mine.

“The miscarriage,” I say, clearing the lump that’s suddenly clogging my throat.

“The baby,” she says again, staring hard at me.

“Yeah, that.” I lift my thumbnail to my teeth and rip a piece of it off. I was almost three months pregnant when I miscarried. That was two months ago.

“Did you have something in mind?”

“Well, there’s no marker, no grave…no baby. Not really. So I want something simple. Just something to mark that he was here. It was an early miscarriage, so some people might even argue that he never existed. Since he never took a breath and all that.”

Her eyes narrow. “He may have never taken a breath, but he existed, and you were one hundred percent pregnant. You’re allowed to feel one hundred percent of the grief.”

Tears sting my eyes and I blink them back.

“I’ll draw something up for you and let you take a look. Want me to text it to you?”

I nod. “That would be great.” I get up and start for the door.

“Hey, Wren,” Friday calls out.

I turn back and look at her, waiting for her to speak. “Yeah?”

“Why didn’t you ask one of the guys to draw something up for you?”

I look everywhere but at her. “Well,” I start. But then I stop and bite my lips together.

“Well?” she prompts. But her face is all kindness and affection.

“You’re a mom,” I say.

She nods, her head going up and down slowly. “I am.”

“And I thought you might, you know, know a little something about loss.” I play with the corner of a poster on the door.

“I do,” she says with another nod. She heaves out a sigh. “I’ll draw something up for you, okay? If you don’t like it, we can go back and forth until we find the right memorial tattoo for you.”

“Do you think it’s stupid?” I ask quickly. I want to bite the words back as soon as they leave my lips. “Never mind.”

She gets up and comes to stand in front of me. She’s about six inches shorter than I am, but she looks dead into my eyes. “Some tattoos are about the past, and some are about the future. Some are about healing, and some just let the pain out. Some mark happy moments, and others commemorate the sadness. No tattoos are stupid. Well, except for ones people put on their dicks. I never did understand those. And since you don’t have a dick…” She finally grins and squeezes my shoulder. “I’m glad you’re doing okay.”

“It was good to see you.” I turn to walk out.

“Hey,” Friday calls out to me again. “Give your sisters a call. I know they’re worried about you too, okay?”

I nod and leave the shop, the bells over the door tinkling as the door closes behind me.

I step out onto the busy street and take in the hustle and bustle of morning in the city. I pull my phone out of my pocket and text my four sisters all at once.

 

Me: You guys want to go to karaoke tonight?

Finny: Bitch, it’s about time you texted us. And yes. I’m in.

Star: I’m in, if Marta can watch the baby.

Peck: Sam says we’re in.

Finny: Are we bringing men?

Peck: Sam says we are. LOL

Lark: We’ll meet you there at 7

Me: See you then!

Lark: Umm…Ryan wants to know if Mick can come.

Star: That’s up to Wren. Wren?

Me: It’s fine.

Star: It won’t be too weird for you?

Me: No. It’s fine.

 

It’s not fine. Not fine at all. But he’s Ryan’s brother. I can’t avoid him forever, can I?

I have four sisters. They are all blissfully happy.

Sam, one of the Reed brothers, met my sister Peck and they have a son and another baby on the way.

Josh, who works at the Reed brothers’ tattoo parlor, married my sister Star and they have a new baby, a little girl.

Tag is living with my sister Finny, and she’s pregnant. Tag already has a little boy, Benji. Tag wants to marry Finny, but she swears she doesn’t need a piece of paper.

Ryan, who also works as a tattoo artist at Reeds’, married my sister Lark. She’s not pregnant yet, but they’re trying. Lots.

And then there’s me.

And then there’s Mick.

And he was with me the day I lost my baby. And I haven’t seen him since.

And he’ll be at karaoke tonight. Shit.

 

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Something new! Finally!

Im-In-it-KindleWhat do you get when you put together one matchmaking doorman, some Reed brothers with good intentions, and five sisters, one of whom is a little lost? You get Tammy Falkner’s newest book, I’M IN IT.

Mick fell in love with Wren at the worst possible time. She was in the midst of something wonderful, and then she wasn’t. Her life changed in the blink of an eye. And in this situation, it wasn’t a change for the better. He can still remember when she felt the first cramp. When she pressed her knees together tightly in the front seat of his car as though she could hold that life inside herself by sheer will alone. And if will were all it took, she’d have succeeded.

But she didn’t succeed, and they were over before they began. She was too hurt. She was too raw. She was wishing for what could have been, while he was wishing for what was. And what was… well, it was nothing. At least not to her.

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Progressive Dinner – Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

I only make this once a year, since it’s quite a production. It’s my sister’s favorite food, so I make it every Thanksgiving.  If you’re in a crunch for time, you can fry the eggplant a day or two ahead of time, then assemble it on the day of.

If you have a favorite sauce, you can use that instead of tomato and garlic.  Or use your favorite sauce from a jar.  I find that a ton of basil and oregano overpower the subtle flavor of the eggplant, so I only use tomato and garlic.

Ingredients:
2-3 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into one inch layers
3 eggs
½ cup of milk
Italian bread crumbs
Olive oil
Cheeses of your choice (I like mixing cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan) (And I like LOTS of cheese.)
Tomato sauce
Garlic Powder
Rice to serve it over

Once you’ve salted your eggplants and left them to sit on paper towels for a few minutes (it makes them less bitter), rinse them well.

Beat the egg with the milk. Put it in a bowl right beside your bread crumbs. Dry your eggplant slices, dip them in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs, then drop them into a hot pan of oil. Brown them on both sides on a medium heat until they’re crispy on the outside. Drain them on paper towels.

Layer the eggplant slices in a large baking dish, alternating between eggplant, a layer of cheese, enough tomato sauce to cover the layer, and sprinkle the tomato sauce with some garlic powder. Repeat until your pan is full. Top with lots of parmesan cheese. Bake until bubbly. Serve over rice.

 

The next stop on our progressive dinner is at DM Marlowe’s house.  She’s making Good Thyme Lamb Chops:  http://www.dmmarlowe.com/progressive-holiday-dinner.html

What’s up with the last Reed Brothers book?

So… what’s up with the last Reed Brothers book?  It’s not ready yet.  I’m sorry.  I’d hoped it would be out and you’d all be loving it by now.  But I’ve had a couple of setbacks. I hate disappointing anyone, so I thought I’d take a minute to explain.

About two years ago, I had a pretty big change in my life when I left my day job.  There hasn’t really been a time in my adult life when I haven’t worked at least a 40 hour a week job, until then.  I decided to write full time.  But I soon realized that my brain quit writing after a certain period of time.  In other words, I could only write so many words per day, no matter how much free time I had.  So, I decided to go back to school.  I always wanted a degree in deaf studies (it fits, right?) so I went back to school.  I quickly realized though that it took a lot out of me doing school work.  Where I used to work all day and then write at night, I found it was much more difficult to LEARN all day and then write at night, so my production schedule slowed down dramatically. Yet, that was okay, because I was still writing, even if at a slower pace.

Then some other personal stuff happened and OMG! life happened.  And the book is late.  Now, I know that I didn’t have a schedule set up so it’s technically not late, but I feel like it’s late, because people are asking me about it all the time. And I felt so bad about it being late that I kind of disappeared off social media to avoid having to answer the question about when it would be done.  I don’t want to disappear anymore, so I’m here posting an update. It’s not done yet.

I think part of the problem is that it’s the last Reed Brothers book, and I’m suffering from some separation anxiety.  I don’t want to leave the Reed Brothers’ world.  So, I’ve decided I’m not going to. You’re going to see more of them, and so will I.  Whew!  I feel better just having said that.  It’s like saying goodbye to a group of friends. And I’m not going to do it.

So, that’s my status update!  I’m sorry I’ve kept you waiting longer than I thought.

 

Reed Brothers t-shirts available now!

Available exclusively on Amazon!  Each shirt comes in your choice of five different colors.

All the shirts say “I love the Reed Brothers” with Reed Brothers spelled out in finger spelling (ASL).

One note!  Ladies’ sizes only go up to XL, but men’s sizes go up to 3X.  (I don’t know about you, but I prefer the longer sleeve of the men’s shirt.)

 

Purchase links:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LW0I68P

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LW8581R

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LWADQO1

The Road Home – Part 2

Did you miss part 1?  If so, you can find it on the Red Door Reads website!

Part 2
By Tammy Falkner

 

Home was a four-letter word, if there ever was one, Matt couldn’t help but think. Right up there with all the words he used to say that made Dan look at him in gut-clenching disapproval.

“Thanks,” he muttered. He stared down at the keys in his palm, at the keychain that had scandalized him when he was younger, and now fit his palm like it was made for it. He ran the pad of his thumb over the thigh of the naked woman, feeling the ridge of her knee, and the tiny raised bump of her pointy toe, remembering how he’d longed to hold that keychain when he was seventeen.

The old woman snickered, then she wrapped her hands around her mouth like she wanted to tell him a secret. “That’s made of metal, son,” she said. “Play with it on your own time, when I don’t have to watch.”

Heat crept up Matt’s face.

From behind her a noise arose, and a small child skidded to a stop beside the old woman, nearly knocking her from her crutches. He was wearing cowboy boots, had a red bandanna tied around his chin, hiding his mouth from view, and he had a cardboard belt tied around his waist. The belt held two small toy pistols.

The old woman winked and nodded toward the keys. “Don’t tell anyone, but I think Dan had that keychain made in my likeness.” Matt stopped fondling the key fob immediately.

The little cowboy who’d skidded into her tugged at the edge of her shirt and whispered something to her that Matt couldn’t understand. She jerked a thumb toward the back of the house. “I’ll be right there,” she said. He left as quickly as he’d arrived, slapping his imaginary horse on the rump as he went around the corner.

“Cute kid,” Matt grunted. But he wasn’t. Kids were the devil and he wanted nothing to do with them. Ever.

“No, he’s not. He’s terrible. The only time he’s cute is when he’s sleeping. And even then, he’s talking.” The woman hitched her shoulder in the doorway. “I vaguely remember you being the same way. Cat got your tongue, Matthew?”

Matt narrowed his eyes at her. “The truck,” he began. He looked toward the drive where it rested, almost like it was waiting for him.

She nodded, blinking her blue eyes at him. “Yep. It’s a truck.” She clucked her tongue. “Dan always said you were smarter than you looked.”

The pitter-patter of little feet rang down the hallway, and Matt looked beyond her for the herd of elephants that must have escaped the zoo. A little girl wearing a tiny blue ball gown and plastic glass slippers tripped over the hem of the too-long dress and landed on her face. She hopped back up like she was on springs, rubbed the tip of her nose, and kept on coming.

Behind her followed a brunette. Her hair was long and straight and it was pulled back into a messy snarl at the back of her head. It reminded him of his grandmother’s yarn the time the cat got into it. But then… then she turned and looked into his eyes.

His breath stopped. His heart quit doing its job and he coughed into his fist to get it started back up.

The old woman punched him in the shoulder. “Breathe, boy. It’s just a woman. I’m sure you’ve seen one before.”

But this wasn’t just any woman. This was Anne Bartlett. This was the only thing he’d left behind in Maine when he was seventeen that still visited him in his dreams. Anne was everything. And she was standing right there.

“Matt?” she said, and his heart burst open.

 

***

 

Oh, holy crap. Grams was right. She said the first thing Matt would do when he got to town was come to get his truck.

“Anne,” he grunted. He jammed his hands into his pockets and rocked back onto his heels. His eyes skittered around everywhere but on her.

“You’re home,” she said.

He nodded.

“When did you get here?” She wiped her hands on a sauce-stained dishcloth.

“Just a few minutes ago,” he said. “I was driving by and saw the truck.” He jerked a thumb toward the driveway, like she didn’t know where the truck was. She was the one who put it there.

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind. I borrowed it.”

Finally, he looked at her and, when he did, my goodness, it was like looking back in time. She stood dumbfounded.

“You borrowed the truck?” His brow scrunched, the vee she used to smooth with her fingertips forming between his brows. Her fingers twitched, wanting to touch him. She balled her hands into fists instead.

“Yeah, Grams wanted spaghetti,” she said. “My car is in the shop and your truck was just sitting there in the garage, so I drove it to the store and left it in the driveway. I’ll put it back up.” She forced herself to stop rambling. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Mind what?” he said.

Grams snickered and Anne glared at her. She snickered some more.

“You didn’t mind me driving it, did you?” she asked.

“Why would I mind?” he asked.

“Because… it’s… not… mine?”

“Whose is it?”

“Well, it’s yours,” Anne said. She glared at Grams again. “Didn’t you tell him?”

Grams hitched herself more comfortably in the doorway. “I was about to.”

“And?” Anne prompted.

“And then you walked around the corner and he lost his breath, and I figured I would give him a moment to recover, and then I was going to tell him Dan left him the truck in his will.” Grams grinned. “And I was going to tell him those brats aren’t yours.”

“They’re not brats.” They were wonderful children that Anne watched during the day while the Turners worked.

“And that you’re not married and never have been,” Grams went on to say.

Anne groaned. “Already, Grams? Really?” She looked at Matt. “Ignore her. She’s going senile.”

“I doubt it,” Matt said, more grunt than words.

He was right. Grams was sharp as a tack. A mean little tack with a broken leg and an urge to marry Anne off. But what she didn’t know was that while Matt might be fun to look at with those blue eyes and the shadow of beard stubble on his face, nothing was going to come of their reunion. Anne’s memories were more of his backside, because that’s all she’d seen as he walked away all those years ago. She forced the elation she’d felt when she’d seen him standing there in the doorway into the closet of her brain, and pulled heartache and loneliness out of it, determined to wear them like a cloak the whole time Matt was on the island. Anything else would be stupid on her part.

Ready for part 3?  You can find it here!