Welcome to the Thanksgiving edition of Charity Sunday. With the holiday barely passed, I hope that you’re still in the process of counting your blessings and passing them on.
Speaking of passing them on, you can request a free holiday romance book just by leaving a comment on my Thanksgiving post
Anyway, after enjoying a Thanksgiving feast, today I’m supporting the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. More specifically, I’m donating to an event that finished earlier this week, Monte’s March. Before I moved to Southeast Asia, I lived in the beautiful Pioneer Valley in western Mass, and I still feel a strong connection to the community there.
You might think hunger isn’t a problem in a wealthy, tech-centric state like Massachusetts, but once you get a hundred miles west of Boston things change a lot. Western Mass is largely rural, with plenty of families living on the edge of poverty.
I’ve already donated $25 to the March, which would be twelve comments at two bucks a comment. If I get more than twelve comments, I’ll make a second donation. In fact, I’ll give $3 for each comment over twelve!
Can we do that?
Of course we can...
Meanwhile, to amuse you, I have an excerpt from my holiday romance Slush – an excerpt focusing on how good even simple food can be, when you’re really hungry.
Be sure to leave a comment. And please do visit the other authors who are participating in today’s blog hop. They are all supporting worthy causes.
The kid retrieved a chipped mug from one of the crates piled up against the wall, filled it from a spigot above them, and handed it to Ian. “Here you go.”
Ian sniffed at the liquid before he took a sip. It smelled a bit musty, but he needed it too badly to care.
“I managed to score some aspirin today, too. Think you could use it more than me.”
His host popped two white tablets into Ian’s palm. He peered down at them, dazed.
“By Jesus! You think I’m gonna poison you?”
“No, no, of course not.” He washed the medicine down with more of the water. Somehow he felt better already. “You’re very kind.”
The young man shrugged once more. “Anyone would do the same.”
Not me. If I saw you lying in the gutter, I wouldn’t look twice.
The thought gave him more pain than the throbbing lump at the back of his head. Was it really true?
“Lie down. Rest. You hungry?”
Ian interrogated his battered body. “Um – no, I don’t think so.”
“Well I am. Gotta get out of some of these clothes first, though. It’s getting pretty toasty in here.”
The kid yanked off his woolen cap. Ian gasped as masses of fine golden hair spilled down over those narrow shoulders.
“You – you’re a woman!”
“Yeah – you didn’t know?” Her peals of laughter made him blush with embarrassment. Rage simmered underneath. No doubt she thought him a fool. It was so obvious now – the slender body swaddled in second hand sweaters, the little hands, the delicate features and fair complexion... But who would have expected to find such a pretty girl in a place like this?
“I’m sorry,” she said, gulping air in an attempt to smother her hilarity. “I sometimes forget. I’m not exactly a glamor queen these days.” She gestured at her raggedy clothing. “You don’t mind if I take some of this off, do you?”
Stunned, Ian shook his head. She peeled off a stretched out hoodie, two sweaters and a flannel shirt. After prying off her sneakers, she shed her baggy dungarees. Now she wore nothing but off-white athletic socks, a grass-green tee shirt and the scarlet long johns. Both of the latter clung to her willowy form, making it quite clear there was nothing underneath.
Despite his exhaustion and the pain in his head, Ian’s cock stirred inside his damp, hand-tailored trousers. You bastard, he thought. She saves your life, probably, and all you can think of is fucking her.
She didn’t notice. She was surveying her own petite body, the green top and red bottoms. “Wow,” she chuckled. “I look really Christmassy, don’t I?”
Her merriment was infectious. “All you need is a pointy cap and you could be one of Santa’s elves,” he told her.
Her face lit up with delight. “Thanks. I’m Daisy, by the way. Should have introduced myself before and spared you the shock.”
“That’s okay. My name’s Ian.”
She fixed him with one of those direct stares. Her eyes were gray, he noticed, not the cornflower blue he would have expected given her hair.
“Maybe you should take off your own wet things, Ian. Wouldn’t want you to catch pneumonia, or anything – after all the work of dragging you back here!”
They laughed together. Ian shucked his sports jacket and unbuttoned his dress shirt. Now that the fire had warmed the small space, his undershirt was more than adequate. He hesitated before removing his pants. His erection has subsided for the moment, but what if it returned? In the end, though, the feel of sodden fabric clinging to his skin was just too uncomfortable to endure. He hung the wet trousers over a rickety chair near the mattress, then draped his relatively dry shirt over his crotch – just in case.
An odd sense of well-being stole over him as he propped himself against the wall, watching Daisy move around her rudimentary shelter. Her every gesture had an economical grace. With her back to him, she busied herself at a makeshift counter of planks and cinder blocks along the opposite wall. He caught the snap of a match, the chemical odor of Sterno. Her blond tresses were a shower of gold, illuminated by the single dusty bulb in the ceiling, When she stood on tiptoe to grab something off a shelf near the ceiling, her pert buttocks flexed under the red long johns. Ian mentally scolded himself as his cock twitched and filled. But what could he do? She was, quite simply, enchanting.
A heavenly aroma filled the space. Ian’s stomach rumbled. “Oh my God, that smells delicious! What is it?”
Daisy smiled over her shoulder. “Just Campbell’s tomato soup. About all I can afford these days. You want some?”
“Is there enough?” He felt so guilty, craving her meager supplies.
“Sure. I’ve got some crackers, too.”
She brought him a steaming bowl and a bent, stamped metal spoon. “Careful, it’s hot.” She scattered cellophane-wrapped two-packs of saltines over the blanket. “Help yourself. It’s easy to filch more from work.”
“You have a job?” He dipped his spoon into the soup then blew on the hot surface. The smell reminded him of his childhood. His mom used to make tomato soup when he came in from playing in the snow.
“Sure. What’d you think, I was some kind of bum? At Donut Heaven, down on Huntington Ave. Only part time, and not even minimum wage, but I get a free uniform, lunch if I don’t have a split shift, and all the day-old doughnuts I can eat. Unfortunately, they make awful doughnuts.” She gave a rueful chuckle. “But it’s a lot better than nothing!”
Seating herself cross-legged on the mattress beside him, she tucked into her soup with the single-minded intensity of someone who was famished. “I was off today, though,” she added, as if in explanation.
For a while, they savored their soup in silence. What a mystery she was – beautiful, kind, self-sufficient, living on the streets, or nearly. What was her story?
“Been homeless for nearly six months now.” She spoke matter-of-factly, as if he’d asked the question aloud. “Came here last spring from West Virginia with my boyfriend Hank. Hank had folks here, an uncle who swore he’d get us good paying jobs in the hospitality industry. Turns out the uncle ran a so-called strip club up on Route 1. He’d paid Hank to bring me up here. Once I saw how things were, I ditched Hank and set out on my own.”
“That was brave. Why didn’t you go back to West Virginia?”
She set down her empty bowl. “Honestly? Weren’t much down there for me either, unless I wanted to marry some jerk and pop out kids. No, I figured I’d have a better chance here in the city. I didn’t realize how hard it would be, not knowing anyone. I was willing to do pretty much any kind of legal work, but with economy in the toilet and the cost of living...”
Her head bowed, her hair falling over her face. For the first time Ian heard weariness in her voice. How could he begin to understand what this girl had been through? He’d never lacked for anything – at least not anything material.
Don’t forget to visit the other bloggers joining me today. And don’t forget to count your blessings!