Flash Fiction Friday: “A Common Bond”

alex-blajan-223424-unsplashPhoto by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

“A Common Bond”

by Kelly F. Barr

Mia prepared to release the falcon she had nursed back to health. The falcon stepped onto the arm guard. “Take care of yourself and have a good life.” She held her breath as she watched the falcon rise, then circle back and descend toward her. She stood firm, not raising her arm, until the bird was too close to stop. She raised her arm and the falcon landed.

“Now listen. You’re completely healed. You need to go and not come back. Be free.” She released the bird once more and again held her breath. This time the falcon circled but did not descend, then it flew away. Mia watched until it was out of sight, tears slipping down her cheeks.

Dusty put a hand on her shoulder. “You have such a tender heart for all God’s creatures.”

Mia swiped at her tears and grinned. “Not all God’s creatures. Animals are easy. It’s people that are a challenge.”

“Does that mean you don’t have a tender heart for me?” Dusty raised an eyebrow.

The corners of Mia’s lips twitched. “Maybe.”

Dusty ran a hand through his blond curls. “I’ve worked with you for almost two years, watching you love and nurture so many animals then release them back to their natural environments. My interest in you has grown beyond mere physical attraction. Will you let me take you to dinner?”

She’d seen Dusty run his hand through those curls often. She now recognized it as a sign of nervousness in relation to her. She liked that she made him nervous. It showed vulnerability. She liked that there was a mutual vulnerability between them. Dusty had become a valuable asset to her wildlife preserve and she liked working with him. Would it ruin their working relationship if things became personal? What if they tried dating and it didn’t work? It could very well end their working relationship. She definitely found him attractive with his dark brown eyes and those golden locks, and he was polite and intelligent.

She shrugged. “I suppose one dinner wouldn’t hurt.”

Dusty’s lower jaw hung open.

“Better be careful. Something might fly in there.” She winked at him.

He closed his mouth, then said, “Oh right. Wait, did you just agree to have dinner with me?”

She nodded as a smile slid over her lips.

“When?”

“Well today’s Friday. How about tonight?”

“Tonight, yeah, that’d be great. After work, I’ll go home and come back for you around, say 6:30?” He ran a hand through those curls again, something Mia had thought about doing more than once.

“See ya then.” She smiled and started to walk away.

“Wait, you mean…” He looked at his watch, and Mia laughed out loud when he shouted, “It’s quitting time! I’ll see you in an hour and a half.”

Mia laughed again as he dashed to his pickup truck.

Dusty took her to the nicest steak house in town. They were taken to a booth in a back corner. After they placed their orders, Dusty looked at her across the table. He leaned back in his seat, his arms on the table. “Thank you for agreeing to have dinner with me. I’ve dreamt of this moment for months.”

“And what is it you want out of a relationship?”

“Wow, you don’t beat around the bush, do you?” He ran his hand through his hair. “I want to get to know you better, on a personal level. I want to see if we can become more than coworkers. What about you?”

“I think those are the right places to start. At first I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to go out with you. If things don’t work out, it could ruin our working relationship.” She studied him.

“Yeah, I know.”

Their food came. Mia bowed her head. Dusty reached over to clasp her hands. She raised her eyes to his.

“I’d like to pray, if that’s all right.”

She nodded.

Dusty prayed for their food, for their time together, and for wisdom and guidance from the Lord.

During dinner, they talked of their childhoods and they shared thoughts on what makes a good relationship.

After dinner, as they drove, Dusty looked over at Mia. “It’s a beautiful night. Would you like to go to the lake?”

Mia nodded.

They walked by the lake. Dusty reached to take her hand, and she liked how her hand fit into his. As they stood looking at the reflection of the moon on the water, Mia leaned into Dusty and tilted her head against his shoulder. Dusty put his arm around her shoulder. They were a perfect fit, and at that moment Mia knew she belonged in Dusty’s arms. Their mutual love of animals had already bonded them together. It could only grow stronger.

Flash Fiction Friday: “Answered Prayers”

a-l-l-e-f-v-i-n-i-c-i-u-s-298018-unsplash (1)Photo by A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ on Unsplash

 

Christy stood, back pressed against the wall, hoping no one would notice her, just like during the slow dances back in high school—a long time ago—where she always filled the role of wallflower.

“Hello, my name is Roman. Would you be my dance partner?”

Christy looked up into emerald green eyes. A tall man, broad-shouldered with waves of chocolate brown hair spilling onto his collar, smiled at her.

He extended his hand toward Christy. She hesitated, then placed her hand in his. A jolt of electricity shot through her fingertips. Had he felt it too?

After a half-hour practicing three swing dances, Roman, his hand on the middle of Christy’s back, led her to the refreshment table. He poured two cups of punch and handed one to her.

Christy took a long swallow in an attempt to relieve the dryness gripping her throat. She focused on the cup in her hands.

“You did very well with the lessons. Try to relax and have fun.”

Her arms pimpled as his smooth voice rolled over her. She offered a small smile, still suspicious of his interest in her. You know you’d be really pretty if you’d just lose some weight. Words from her past still haunted her.

They finished their punch, and Roman’s green eyes bored into her brown ones. “You have me at a disadvantage.”

“What do you mean?” She chewed a corner of her lower lip.

“You know my name but still haven’t told me yours.” He leaned closer and whispered. “And if you continue to chew that lip, I may be tempted to taste your lips for myself.”

Christy’s lower jaw dropped.

Music began and Roman placed a hand on the middle of her back once again. He lowered his head and spoke softly in her ear. “Shall we dance?”

Her heart thumped in her chest. Did he find her attractive or was he only flirting? As they approached the dance floor, she looked up at him. “My name is Christy.”

He winked at her, and they began to dance.

With each turn around the floor, Christy relaxed a little more, and by the finalnumber, Roman had narrowed the space between them until they were mere inches apart.

When the music ended, Roman clasped her hand. “It’s still early. May I take you for coffee or ice cream?”

“The evening has been delightful, but I think I should go home.”

Disappointment evident in his eyes, he held fast to her hand. “May I see you tomorrow?”

“Why are you so interested in me?” She searched his eyes.

He ran his thumb over the back of her hand. “What is it that you think should dispel my interest?”

She lowered her head. “I … I’m fat.”

“Oh sweet Christy.” He placed a finger under her chin and pulled her head up to meet his gaze. “Don’t you know beauty is in the eye of the beholder? And I see before me a beautiful woman. You are a delightful armful, and I prefer your soft curves to those of less stature.”

In an instant, he drew her into his embrace and placed his lips on hers, offering a brief tender kiss.

As the kiss ended, Christy could barely breathe. Did she dare take a chance on falling in love with this man? Her head said “no”, but her heart reached for his.

His arms still encircling her, his face remained close to hers. “You sure I can’t take you for coffee or something?”

“I guess it would be okay, for a little while.” She took a step back trying to catch her breath.

They exited the dance studio and the humidity of the summer evening pressed in on them.

“Seems like a good evening for ice cream. What do you think?” Roman smiled down at her.

She nodded.

“There’s a local ice cream shop just down the street. Shall we walk?” He still held her hand in his.

“Okay.”

They talked as they ate their scoops. Roman made Christy laugh, and she found him quite charming. Her head sent warnings not to let her guard down, but she had prayed for God to send her a special man for so long. As they walked back to the dance studio parking lot, Christy whispered a silent prayer and took a deep breath. “Roman, do you believe in God?”

“Yes, I most certainly do.”

“You sound very sure of yourself.” They reached his car, and she looked up at him.

“That’s because God has answered many of my prayers over the years, and you, my dear Christy, are the most recent one.”

Christy’s heart leaped! “And I believe you are an answer to my long-time prayer. I didn’t know why I came to this swing dance tonight … until now.”

Flash Fiction Friday: “Lost in the Woods”

efren-barahona-1206733-unsplash

Photo by Efren Barahona on Unsplash

“Lost in the Woods”

by Kelly F. Barr

Many people find peace in the silence of falling snow, but peace was far from Cassie’s mind as she stood in the woods shivering. She wrapped her arms around her middle and rubbed her upper arms, trying to stay warm; trying to focus on something other than the thought that she was lost.

She desperately tried to read the compass she carried. She’d never been good at woodland survival skills. Which way would get her back to civilization—back to her car? This is what anger did to her. Whenever she got extremely angry, she ran away from whomever or whatever she believed was causing her anger, but this time she’d driven to the woods on the edge of town, parked her car, and fled with nothing but a sweater and a compass she couldn’t read.

“Come on, Cassie. You ran into the woods heading north, so you need to head south to get back to your car.”

She looked up and halted. She blinked. A man in a tuxedo stood a couple yards from her. He couldn’t be real, could he?

“Hello.”

The saddest cerulean eyes Cassie had ever seen looked at her above a narrow nose, and a small attempt at a smile revealed deep dimples. He looked harmless—attractive and inviting—the words flitted through her mind.

She took a step backward, her eyes never leaving the stranger.

“Please, don’t go. I won’t hurt you. I’m not a madman or anything, although I suppose it is rather odd to find a man wearing a tuxedo in the middle of the woods in a snowstorm.”

Cassie nodded.

“I can explain … I think. You see…” He looked at his watch, then back at her. “I was supposed to get married two hours ago, but my bride never showed up. Seems she had a change of mind or heart or something. As I stood at the front of the church, everyone looking at me with pity in their eyes and the whispers of ‘poor man, what’s he going to do now’, I couldn’t breathe. The initial shock sent a stab of pain to my heart. After a few minutes, the pain became an unbearable ache. I had to run. I couldn’t stay with those pitying stares one more minute. So I ran back the aisle, out the church door, down the steps, across the parking lot. And I just kept running. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t care. I just had to escape. When I finally stopped, I was standing right here where you found me. I don’t know where I am or how to get out of here. I’m not even sure I want to.” He hung his head.

Pain radiated from him and created an ache in Cassie’s heart. Her anger disappeared as she shared this man’s pain. She stepped up beside him and touched his arm. “I’m so sorry for what happened to you.”

When he raised his eyes to hers, they brimmed with tears.

“Can you find your way with a compass?” She held her compass out to him.

He reached to take it from her hand. “Are you lost too?”

She nodded.

“Then it would seem you were meant to find me. I was an Eagle Scout. I can certainly use this compass to get us out of these woods.” He smiled, took her hand, and began walking back in the direction Cassie had come from, but on more of a diagonal.

“I’m Cassie Reynolds, and my intense anger is what brought me into these woods today.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “I’m Blake Johnson. Seems like intense emotions have taken their toll on both of us today.”

After walking for about an hour, Cassie breathed a sigh of relief when they stepped out of the woods, and she saw her red Honda CR-V waiting for her. She turned to face Blake, who still held her hand in his. “Can I give you a ride?”

After a long pause, Blake shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose so, but I’m not ready to go back to my apartment yet. I’m sure my parents and brother are either sitting there waiting for me or calling nonstop. I’m sure they’re worried about me, but I’m not ready to deal with that yet.”

“We could go get some coffee … if you want.”

He nodded and they climbed into her CR-V.

After two hours of light conversation punctuated by periods of uncomfortable silence and three cups of coffee, Cassie drove Blake to the nicest apartment complex in town.

His eyes met hers. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

After a brief pause, Blake slid from her car, and she drove away wondering if she’d ever see him again.

 

Flash Fiction Friday

freestocks-org-245827-unsplash

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

A Budding Romance at Walmart

by Kelly F. Barr

As I stood waiting for my dad to finish in the self-checkout line at Walmart, I saw a very attractive blonde approaching the area. I tried to watch her without making it obvious.

She walked to the register right behind us, and I watched as she began ringing up her items.

My heart sank as a guy wearing baggy black jeans covered in chains, a dog collar, and about ten earrings in one ear approached the girl of my dreams. I took a step toward them in an effort to overhear their conversation.

Mr. Chainman spoke first. “Hello, gorgeous. You got somewhere you need to be after you finish here?”

The girl’s eyes moved swiftly from his head to the floor, where his baggy jeans covered wherever his feet were hidden by about four extra inches of pant-legs. He was actually walking on them.

She forced a smile. “Actually, I do have to be somewhere.”

“Well, how ’bout you give me your cell phone number and I can call you later? I’d love to spend some time with you.” Mr. Chainman leaned toward her and wiggled his eyebrows.

The blonde took a step back. “Is that a dog collar you’re wearing around your neck?”

“Yeah.”

“So, if I were to go out with you, would I need to bring a leash?”

I turned back toward my dad to stifle a laugh. My dad raised his eyebrow at me, but I turned back toward the blonde and Mr. Chainman.

“Aw, I don’t think you’d have any need for that ’cause I’d be willing to follow you anywhere.”

I groaned, and my dad put a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look at him, and he spoke in a quiet voice, “Why don’t you go interrupt and talk to her?”

I widened my eyes. “Are you nuts! Mr. Chainman would probably wait for me in the parking lot! And what would I say anyway?”

My dad looked over at the girl of my dreams and Mr. Chainman, then looked back at me. “She doesn’t look interested in that guy. Actually, she looks uncomfortable. You could pretend to be an old schoolmate who hasn’t seen her for a while. I’ll bet she’d be happy to play along.”

I stood staring at my dad, contemplating.

He said, “Go,” and waved his fingers in a motion of dismissal.

I took a deep breath, wiped my sweaty palms on my pants, and moved toward the attractive blonde.

She noticed my approach, gave me the once-over with her eyes, then offered me a bright smile.

That gave me the courage I’d been lacking. “Hi, uh, Sarah. How’ve you been? It’s been a long time.”

“Yeah, it has. I’m doing well. How about you? You look great. I haven’t seen too many guys in Walmart in a suit coat.”

From the corner of my eye Mr. Chainman glared at me, and I turned to face him. “Oh, I’m sorry, man. Did I interrupt something? It’s just that I know Sarah from back in elementary school and wanted to say ‘hello’.”

Before he could say anything, the blonde touched my arm. “No, you didn’t interrupt anything. I’m glad you stopped to say ‘hello’. So, what have you been up to?”

Mr. Chainman huffed and walked away.

As soon as he was out the Walmart door, the girl of my dreams relaxed her shoulders. Her hand was still on my arm and her fingers were trembling. I put my other hand over hers. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Thank you so much for coming over. I really wasn’t interested in that guy, and I didn’t know how I was going to get away from him. I mean … he seemed nice, but a little too forward and pushy, you know?” She paused and studied my face. “By the way, my name really is Sarah, Sarah Johnson, but I don’t think I’ve ever met you before.”

“No, I don’t think you have. Sarah was just a lucky guess. My name’s Hunter, Hunter Mayfield. I just, uh, thought I’d help you out of an uncomfortable situation.”

She didn’t try to remove her hand from between my hand and my arm. “So, Hunter, are you from around here?”

“Yeah, are you?”

“Yes, I’m local. Listen, would you like to go out for pizza or something? I’d like to treat you for coming to my rescue.”

I looked over my shoulder and my Dad emphatically nodded his head. I grinned, then turned back to Sarah.

“That sounds great. Here, let me help you with your bags.”

She grabbed two bags in one hand, and I did the same, and as we walked toward the Walmart exit, she placed her free hand in mine.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Mystery of the Road Apples

Image result for road apples

Sam and his buddy, Randy, jogging on the rail trail, came to a road crossing. They stopped, looked left, then right.

“Woah, what is that?” Randy pointed down the sidewalk to their right.

“Is that what I think it is?” Sam wrinkled his nose.

They took a few steps to their right.

Sam’s eyes widened. “It is! Those are road apples!”

“Yeah, but what are they doing there?”

“Hey, what’s all the commotion?” Four guys they’d never seen before joined them.

“Ew, what. is. that?” One of the guys stared.

“Who are you?” Randy raised an eyebrow.

“I’m Justin and this is my brother, Brandon.” The tallest boy spoke and motioned one at a time to the others. “The two behind us are John and Brian, our cousins.”

“I’m Randy and this is Sam.” Randy made their introductions.

Sam noted the group’s Polo shirts, black skinny jeans, and the Vans on their feet. “You guys aren’t from around here, are you?”

They all shook their heads as they stared at the mess on the sidewalk.

“Well, here in Lancaster County, we call them road apples.” Sam glanced at Randy, who grinned.

“You mean you eat that?” Justin’s face paled.

Sam chuckled. “No way. Road apples is our name for horse poop.”

The new guys made disgusted noises, and Sam thought Justin was going to toss his cookies.

When they had regained their composure, Brandon piped up. “Do they ride horses on the sidewalks around here?”

Sam and Randy shook their heads.

“Then what are those doing on the sidewalk?”

Randy stepped forward. “That’s what we were trying to figure out. Are you up for helping us solve this mystery?”

John and Brian each put an arm out, took a step backward, and shook their heads.

Justin asked, “What do you have in mind?”

Randy shared his plan. “Well I figure this wasn’t a prank or it’d be in front of someone’s house.”

Sam, Justin, and Brandon looked at Randy with raised eyebrows.

“I figure this happened while some Amish boys were out one Friday night on their rumspringa. So we come back here Friday night and watch for them. See what they’ve been up to.”

Brandon and Justin looked at each other and shrugged. Brandon said, “So Amish boys are the ones that dress funny, wearing suspenders and straw hats. Is that right?”

Sam and Randy nodded.

“So, what’s rum schpringer?”

Sam laughed out loud.

“That’s rumspringa.” Randy explained. “When Amish kids become teenagers, they are allowed to go out and pretty much do what they want on weekends. They do some crazy stuff.”

Brandon and Justin looked at each other and nodded. “We’re in.”

Randy grinned. “So, we’ll see you two back here Friday night as soon as it gets dark.”

They all shook hands.

Friday night Justin and Brandon were already at the designated spot when Sam and Randy arrived. The boys squatted in shadow, back from the sidewalk a few feet.

They hadn’t been there long when they heard girls giggling—a group of Amish girls. They were talking and laughing.

The traffic along this road had slowed down. The five o’clock rush had ended three hours ago. The boys watched the Amish girls cross the street and stand in a huddle at the end of the rail trail. They stood gazing up the hill, so the boys did the same.

“Here they come!” One of the girls shouted and pointed up the hill. The other girls squealed and stared in that direction.

Randy, Sam, Justin, and Brandon stood up and took a step forward. They looked up the hill and saw two horse-and-buggies careening down the hill side by side, neck-and-neck.

“They’re racing!” Sam bounced from one foot to the other.

When the buggies were about fifty feet from where Sam and the others stood, a car turned up the road and headed right for the buggy that was on the wrong side of the road!

The buggies shifted, forcing one to clamber onto the sidewalk. It looked like it might tip over, but it righted itself once all the wheels were on the concrete.

As the buggies passed Sam and his friends, the horse on the road dropped some road apples, and the horse-and-buggy on the sidewalk inched ahead and rattled off the corner of concrete, back into the street and pulled to a stop. The buggy that had been forced onto the sidewalk had won the race!

Justin and Brandon looked at the road apples in the road. “Glad it wasn’t the horse on the sidewalk this time. They’d have dropped right in front of us.” They wrinkled their noses, and Sam and Randy laughed. “I guess that solves the mystery of the road apples.”

Flash Fiction Friday: Love at First Sight

                                            

As Finn waited for the elevator on the tenth floor, he checked his watch—2:30 p.m. He ran a hand through his blonde curls, sighed, and tapped his toe. He had to be across town in just thirty minutes. The elevator door opened and a stack of books stepped out—a stack of books with very shapely legs and a milk chocolate brown eye peeking around the books. The corners of his mouth twitched.

“Here, let me help you.” He reached to take the top eight books from the stack, revealing a young woman’s face with olive skin, glistening red, bow-shaped lips, and not one, but two of those milk chocolate brown eyes. Her crowning glory, the waves of chestnut brown hair cascading to her shoulders.

She smiled and let out a little puff of air. “Thank you. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to my office before all these books fell.”

“Your office?”

“Yeah. C’mon, follow me.” She stepped past him and he followed her down the hall, through another office doorway, down another hall, and through a door into an office with wall-to-wall bookshelves, a paper-scattered desk with padded black leather chair behind it. There were two overstuffed chairs in front of the desk. A nameplate on the desk read “Bernadine McMillan”.

The woman set her stack of books on the desk and turned toward him. “You can set those next to these.”

As he placed the books on the desk, he noted the title of the top book, To Kill a Mockingbird, one of his all-time favorites.

“Thanks for your help.” Her words pulled his attention back to her.

“Have you read all of these?” He should be going. He was going to be late, but something inside him didn’t want to leave this beautiful woman.

She smiled and nodded. “It’s necessary for my sanity. After reading the manuscripts of wannabe authors, I need to read some well-written books to remember what good writing is.”

“The manuscripts are that bad, huh?”

“Oh, I do find a rare pearl among them from time to time. That’s the best part … finding the ones worth publishing and getting out into the world.” Her eyes sparkled as she spoke of finding worthy manuscripts.

“So, you are a publisher?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Actually, I’m the head of the acquisitions department for Bradley Publishing. My name’s Bernadine McMillan, and you are?” She reached a hand toward him.

He took her hand, lowered his head, and placed a kiss on the back of it. He really wanted to kiss her glistening lips. He straightened and met her gaze. “I’m Finn. Finn Johnson, lawyer. Listen, I’m late for an appointment, but could I see you again … take you to dinner?”

“I’d like that. Any evening after five.”

“How about tomorrow, say, six-thirty?” He backed toward the door, unwilling to break eye contact with Bernadine.

She nodded, grabbed something off the desk. “Here’s my card, so you can contact me.”

She smiled, and his heart skipped a beat. He turned and practically ran out the door of her office before he lost his head, grabbed her, and kissed her.

The next evening he knocked on her apartment door five minutes early. When she opened the door, his mouth went dry and his palms began to sweat, as he took in every curve in her clinging red dress and the hint of cleavage revealed by a v-shaped neckline. Again, her lips glistened red. Her hair was pinned up in a French twist, with a few wavy tendrils framing her face. The style revealed her slender neck, and Finn found himself longing to kiss the tender spot at the base of each side of her neck.

“I thought you might be late.” She grinned at him.

He chuckled at her teasing and offered her his arm.

They talked all through dinner of their careers and their childhoods. Finn didn’t want the evening to end. As they stood outside her apartment door, he held one of her hands, and with his free hand ran the backs of his fingers down the side of her face.

“I’ve never felt such a connection to any woman before.”

“I know what you mean.” Her voice, nearly a whisper.

“You feel it too?”

She nodded.

He lowered his face and placed his lips on hers. As he deepened the kiss, he pulled her into his arms, and she moved her hands up around his neck.

When they broke the kiss, Finn ran his hands from her elbows up to her shoulders. “Bernadine, this is going to sound crazy.”

She didn’t respond but continued to gaze into his eyes.

“Bernadine, will you marry me?”

“I’d love to.”

Finn’s heart leaped in his chest, then they were kissing again.

©Kelly F. Barr 2019

Armed for Travel

Amelia Merchant sat on her bed reading the last chapter of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. When she finished, she closed the book, sighed, and touched her lips remembering d’Artagnan’s kiss.

Would she travel to another place in another dimension again, or was that just one freak incident?

Amelia didn’t know but she’d better prepare for the possibility. She couldn’t expect there to be a handsome man ready and willing to protect and help her in another dimension. Grabbing her purse and car keys, she scooted out the door.

Amelia eased her little VW bug into a parking space and walked into the sportsman’s shop..

The brawny, bearded man behind the counter smiled. “May I help you?”

“I hope so.” Amelia’s eyes scanned the array of weapons. “I need a couple of items that are small and easy to conceal. I also need a good compass and some simple instructions on how to use it.”

“Here’s a compass that is popular with the ladies because it resembles a compact.” He opened the small square case and Amelia noticed there was even a mirror inside. The clerk also explained that it came with a DVD that fully explained how to use it.

About an hour later, Amelia left the sportsman’s shop with the compass, a handgun and holster to strap to her belt  that would enable the gun to lie against her back , and a boot knife that would fit nicely in the calf of her favorite boots. She felt much better equipped for anything she may encounter in another dimension, or, at least, she hoped so.

The next day, Amelia took her gun to the local shooting range to practice. When she was getting into her car afterward, her cell phone rang.

“Hello.”

“Amelia, this is Kim. Stacey and I are headed to the library and wondered if you’d like to join us. We’re planning to see what guys are there, select a couple of books and then go for pizza. So, you wanna join us?”

“Sure, I’ll meet you at the library in about twenty minutes.”

She stuck her handgun in the glove box and locked it. When she parked at the library, she also locked her car. She joined Kim and Stacey at a table, hoping she wouldn’t disappear into another dimension before going for pizza.

“So, have you been here long enough to notice who’s here?” Amelia sat down across from her two friends.

The two offered mischievous grins before Kim said, “Jackson Winters is here.”

Amelia’s heart skipped a beat. “Are you sure?”

“Mm-hmm. Skylar Bennett and Hunter Graham are with him. Can you believe that?”

“No way! Have they seen you?” Amelia had been hoping for months that Jackson would ask her out, Kim wanted to nab some time with Skylar, and Stacey wanted to hook Hunter’s interest. The girls knew all three guys were on the basketball team but had never seen the three hanging out together before.

“I’m going to check out the classic literature. I’ll be back when I find my next read.” Amelia headed to the classics section.

A few minutes later Amelia was walking between two rows of bookshelves already engrossed in a good book. She was headed toward the table she shared with Kim and Stacey.

When she heard the giggling of female voices, Amelia looked up and found herself surrounded by young women in long gowns with white aprons. They were staring at her, whispering to each other and giggling. She looked down at her shimmering pink blouse, skinny jeans and brown leather boots and groaned.

“Ah, hello ladies. Could you please tell me where I am and what year this is?”

Many of the young ladies stepped back looking frightened, but one bold woman stepped forward. “You are in the castle of the Sun King, King Louis XIV and the year is 1668.”

“And this is France?”

“Oui, mademoiselle.”

“I don’t speak French, so please continue in English.”

“You are dressed very strange. Where have you come from?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Can you just lend me some clothes and take me to a room where I can change?”

That evening Amelia attended a ball in the castle. King Louis the XIV was known for his extravagant balls and parties. She stood along a wall with many of the other young women servants and helped to keep the refreshment table stocked.

However, she couldn’t help notice a very handsome gentleman dressed in white pants, black boots, a white shirt with a front ruffle and a red jacket. She watched as he danced with several of the elegantly dressed ladies, and then his eyes met Amelia’s as one of the dances ended. His eyes were so startlingly blue, Amelia’s breath caught in her throat and she could not break eye contact.

He approached her as the music and the next dance began. He stood just a foot in front of her and bowed. Then his eyes met hers again.

“May I have this dance?”

Amelia put a hand to her throat and tried to find her voice. “I’m sorry, but I am simply a Lady’s maid. I don’t think I’m allowed to dance.”

“Under ordinary circumstances, you cannot dance, but at my request, you simply cannot deny me. You see, I am Phillipe, brother to the king.”

With that he led her to the dance floor where they stood across from each other in lines among others and participated in a very proper dance.

*****

Kim began to panic when she couldn’t find Amelia in the classics section of the library. Jackson, Skylar and Hunter would be joining them for pizza.

After a frantic search, she apologized to Jackson and the group exited the library.

*****

At closing time, one of the librarian’s walked through the library to do some last minute straightening and in the middle of the classics aisle found To Dance with Kings by Rosalind Laker lying open on the floor.