Just for the occasion, I have stepped away from the usual romance and written something a little different. Nothing But Frogs has a romantic element but don't expect the happily-ever-after ending! Be sure to download your free copy of Nothing But Frogs from Smashwords. Visit the other blogs in the hop by visiting http://afstewartblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/join-bloody-valentine-blog-hop-2014.html and scroll down to the list of other participating blogs.
Alisha is a beautiful, intelligent, red-head with a fiery passion for amphibians. She studies them for a living, keeps them as pets, and dates them. Wait! Dates them? That's right! Conner Davis should have thought twice before playing a sexual scavenger hunt with Alisha. Now, he'll never be the same again!
Originally written for the 2014 Bloody Blog Hop, Nothing But Frogs doesn't come with the usual happily-ever-after ending. Instead, we get to see the darker side of love. Yes, there is a romance element, but the ending is anything but romantic!
This short story can be downloaded in its entirety for free at Smashwords. It is available on Amazon for $0.99. Let Amazon know you found it free at Smashwords!
“Ow, ow, ow. Hot! Hot! Hot!” Her fingers burned.
Sitting in front of her vanity, Alisha McKenna carefully curled her long, red tresses around hot rollers, securing them in place with the U-shaped pins. The spikes dug painfully into her head, but the effort was well worth the suffering.
She hummed to herself in time with the croaking of her pet frogs a catchy little tune about a bullfrog named Jeremiah. Being a herpetologist seemed unlikely for a beautiful young woman, especially one without the slightest hint of tom-boyishness. Studying amphibians and reptiles felt like more than a passion than a calling. The high-pitched trills of their throaty calls fit her mood, happy and upbeat. She turned to the wall of terrariums lining the back shelves and made a kissing noise toward her collection of frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders.
Having spent the entire previous weekend in the arms her new lover, Alisha's insides trilled with excitement like her singing pets. After three long months of waiting, she gave in and allowed a man nearly half her age to take her to bed. She fell for him hard. Several times during the course of their marathon weekend she told him she loved him, and he said it back. Just thinking about hearing the words brought a smile to her face.
With the curlers in her hair stinging her scalp, she turned back and leaned in close to the mirror to applying her makeup. Swirls of flesh-toned base evened her skin. Powders and crème tinted her eyelids and cheeks, bringing a summer-like glow to her winter complexion. A deep, rich red lipstick painted her mouth, drawing attention to her naturally full lips. The dark eyeliner made her vivid, green eyes standout against her pale skin.
She stood, pushing the short vanity stool back, and turned to the full length dressing mirror next to her closet. Behind her the bed reflected in the mirror, conjuring up memories. She thought about seeing him getting dressed late Sunday night. Smiling to herself, she dropped her robe and really looked at herself in a new way.
The curvier form bothered her in years past, ensuring she kept herself hidden away under layers of unflattering clothes. The roundness of her thighs and backside, the voluminous cleavage seldom ever saw black lace like she donned just for tonight's special occasion. She wanted him to unwrap her like a gift, and she wanted to surprise him with the pretty packaging.
The alarm clock flashed as the beeping started. She gasped and hurried to turn it off. Usually, she would be just getting up to go to work. Studying nocturnal creatures required keeping to their schedule, but tonight was all hers. She reminded herself that humans were social creatures, too, and getting out of the nearby swamp once in a while was essential.
Alisha held up the daring, black, satin dress she bought and looked at herself in the mirror again. She never wore such things. Even laying the shimmering material against her body felt naughty. Unzipping the back, she stepped into the pool of fabric and pulled it up. The fluttery cap sleeves left her arms bare. The short, flirty skirt just covered the tops of her black stockings. It took a little effort to get the zipper back up.
"Why do they always make these things stick halfway," she wondered aloud. With a little extra stretching, she managed to get the little sliver of plastic up to her neck.
She hurried into the matching satin shoes. Sitting back down in front of her vanity, she quickly removed all the rollers. Her thick, dark hair bounced in tight ringlets. Running her fingers through separated the individual rings, giving her a full-bodied head of long curls. The final spritz of hair product went on just as the door bell rang.
Alisha's heart nearly stopped. Her date had arrived right on time. Her soul practically sang out, "He's here! He's here!" She worked hard to not run to the door like a small child excited by the prospects of a visitor. She grabbed the bottle of perfume off the vanity, gave the atomizer a squeeze by her neck, and hurried to greet him.
She paused by the door to gather herself. Heart pounding, she took a deep breath and let it out slow. A smile she hoped didn't seem overdone spread across her red lips. Giddy as a school girl, she allowed the knob to twist, opening the door.
Standing on the stoop, Conner Davis held a dozen blue roses with a plastic, bright blue frog with black spots on its back tied around the stems with a black satin ribbon. His dark-brown eyes rimmed with long, black lashes drew attention away from the rest of his face. Carefully sculpted black hair framed his tanned features.
Alisha took a moment to admire his crisp, gray, pin-striped suit and wing tipped shoes. His tapered waist and broad chest set her soul on fire with desire. She wanted him but regained her composure, stepping back to let him inside.
“These are for you,” he said, offering her the flowers.
“Thank you! They’re beautiful! You do know the blue poison dart frog is one of the most toxic amphibians in the world, don’t you?” Alisha asked.
“You don’t say,” Conner said, sounding amused. “I just thought it matched the flowers, and since you have a thing for frogs, you might like it.”
"I love it. Just let me grab my purse. I'll be right back!" She tried to walk calmly to the kitchen and put the flowers in the sink with a little water, promising herself to find a vase when she returned. She picked up an old beaded purse with a silver-toned, metal tassel dangling from the clasp off the table. Most of the time, it and the antique, art deco mirror inside stayed locked up with the rest of her treasures, but since he told her to wear something semi-formal, she decided to pull it out of the mothballs.
“Okay, I’m ready,” she said, picking up her beaded shawl and keys off the entry table on her way back to the foyer.
Conner offered her his crooked arm. "Tonight, I'm the dashing gentleman, and you are my trophy date," he said lightly, giving her a sly wink.
He escorted her to his little, red, sports car, holding her hand as she sat down in the low, bucket seat. He let go of her hand and closed the door. For a moment, his cheerful façade fell, but by the time he sat down in the driver's seat, the coy smile came back.
Halloween remained Alisha's favorite holiday, but St. Valentine's Day came in a close second. The heart and cupid décor splashed about shops and cards brought a smile to her face. It seemed like the one time of year people let their hair down and played with all their deepest, darkest fantasies involving sex, romance, and lust.
Valentine’s dinner invitations rarely came these days, and she didn’t want to start the evening off on the wrong foot with questions. So, she decided to let go of the nagging feeling something wasn’t right. Problems are always happy to wait, she told herself.
After a few minutes, Alisha hoped to break the awkward silence and asked, “How was your day?” She shifted in her seat to get a better look at him.
“Not bad,” Conner replied blandly and turned on the radio. He bumped up the volume a few notches.
Conversation seemed impossible without shouting. Taking the hint, Alisha looked out of her window. She wonder why he didn’t seem like himself.
Thirty minutes later, they pulled up to a French restaurant in full swing. Every light seemed filled the windows and a line of lovers stood outside waiting for seats.
“This is the trendiest place in town,” she commented. “We’ll be in line for hours!”
Conner got out without saying anything and went around to her side. He didn’t bother opening her door, like he usually did. He tossed the keys to the valet and walked off ahead of her.
She hurried up the sidewalk behind him. Catching up, she took he hand and tried to get in line with the others for the long wait. A tug pulled her in another direction. She stumbled a bit in the unfamiliar heels before regaining balance.
He pulled her to the door and turned to face her. “We’re meeting friends. They came ahead to reserve a table. They don’t know about you. So, let’s keep this on a friendship level tonight. Okay?” The look on his face said that wasn’t the only secret he kept.
Alisha swept a long curl out of her face and carefully placed her purse’s wrist loop over her hand. She sniffed a dismissal and nodded in agreement. She reminded herself how much younger Conner and his friends were. She already held a PhD, while most of them were still undergraduates at the liberal arts college across town.
As they found Conner’s friends, a bouncy blonde leapt up and rushed forward, throwing her arms around Conner’s neck. “Hey! You’re here!”
He pried her loose and pushed her away. “We agreed. No more touching. Remember?”
She pouted her lower lip. “I know. I’m just so excited to see you! You never call anymore,” she said, hinting at a previous relationship. She gave Alisha a stern once over and asked with less enthusiasm, “Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, Leslie, this is Dr. McKenna from the science department at the state university. She a field researcher with the local swamp study project,” Conner said, rather formally.
Alisha felt static building along her fingertips. This night kept get better and better. The uneasy feeling she had in the car grew to clanging warning bells. Something with Conner shifted from hot lover to cold fish. Resisting the urge to walk swiftly back out and go home, she held out her hand to the younger woman.
“Please, call me Alisha. This is a dinner party, right?”
Leslie nodded her hand with a fake smile plastered to her face, made a sharp turn, and retreated to her seat. She made a big show of hanging on her male companion.
“Just ignore her. We broke up last year. Now, let’s sit and order,” Conner said, gesturing for Alisha to take one of the empty chairs. “This is Greg and Ian, my best friends since high school. We played football together.”
Each of the boys quickly put out a hand and greeted her across the table. Greg was blue-eyed with black hair hanging over one eye. Ian looked cleaner cut, sporting short, brown hair to go with his light-brown eyes. None of the others bothered to introduce the last girl sitting at the table, not that she was paying attention to the introductions anyway.
The restaurant's music came from a live jazz band playing slow numbers while couples twirled around on the hardwood dance floor. Crystal chandeliers hung from the tall, painted ceiling sporting reproductions of the great European masters. The wood-paneled walls held expensive art work and gilt-framed mirrors, making the candles burning at the tables seem like floating flames on the walls. The atmosphere was cozy and romantic.
Alisha looked around the table, not recognizing anyone.
“Hey! Dr. Mac!” A skinny kid in a waiter’s uniform said coming to her side. “I thought that was you! Cool handbag!”
“Hi, Gerald! Thanks. I’m glad to see a familiar face. Have you met Conner Davis?” She gave Gerald a warm smile.
“Yeah, we’ve met. I’m surprised to see you here, though,” Gerald said with a hint of worry in his voice. He forced a smile.
Alisha nodded. “You’re right. I’m usually too busy thinking up homework assignments and miserable labs to celebrate.” She laughed as he chuckled nervously. “Actually, Conner brought me. I normally don’t go out for Valentine’s, but I couldn’t refuse the invitation.”
Gerald’s face fell. “You came with Conner Davis?” A look of sorrow crossed his face. “Are you going out with him?” The worry suddenly shifted to horror. “I’m so sorry! That was way too personal to ask. Forget I said it. Please?”
Conner turned his attention from the lovely young lady on his left to Gerald. “Are you going to take our order or what?” His tone made it clear he didn’t think much of Gerald.
“Oh yeah, right!” The skinny boy pulled out his note pad and began taking down the orders that flooded in from all directions. He finished the final entry and leaned in close. “What can I get you, Dr. Mac? I mean ma’am.”
“I’ll let it slide this time,” she teased. She looked around once more and dropped her voice to a whisper. “You’ve piqued my curiosity. Why did it bother you to think I might be seeing Conner?”
“It’s none of my business. Please, just forget I said anything, and don’t fail my lab,” he begged. His sad, puppy eyes pleaded with her.
Alisha sighed. “Okay, I won’t fail your lab unless you blew it for real. Now, will you please tell me what’s wrong with going out with Conner?” She watched Gerald’s expressions rage from worry and anger to determination.
“Alright. Okay. I’ll tell. Rumor has it Conner and his two best friends there have a running scavenger hunt list they try to fill,” he said, as if this explained everything.
“I’m going to need more to go on than that,” she told him. The possibilities ran through her head. Was anything missing from her apartment? Her office? What about her lab?
“You know. They like to see who can bag the most partners by May. I heard one of the sororities had to ban their members from dating them last year. I didn’t want to say anything, but you’re my favorite biology professor to intern for. I don’t want to see you get hurt by a guy like that,” Gerald said as low as possible and still be heard, his cheeks turning a vibrant shade of red.
The air suddenly refused to move in Alisha’s lungs. A sexual scavenger hunt? Of all the things Gerald could have said, this one took her breath away.
Read the rest of Nothing But Frogs free at Smashwords!
About the Author
I started my love affair with vampires as a kid by reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was the only vampire book our little local library branch had back then. Then, I discovered mail order books and fell in love with the tortured characters in Interview with a Vampire. In the mid 80’s, the most amazing thing happened! My family bought a VCR, and I was finally able to see movies! All the vampire flicks I could beg for flickered across the screen, making the love affair into a passionate, lifelong relationship. Today, I write fantasy and paranormal romance and never pass up a chance to pair up vampires with the less-than-usual characters. Witches and elves currently top my list. I love weaving vampires into legends and myths where none exist. It’s my private world of the erotic, weird, and wonderful, and I invite every reader to go along for the ride.
My Website: http://jannaswalker.weebly.com
My Blog: http://jannaswalker.blogspot.com