My Books

The Southern Elemental Guardians Complete Series: Making Waves, Lorelei’s Lyric, Crosscurrents, Three Wishes, Firestorm, River Spell

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Southern Elemental Guardians Six Book Paranormal Romance Bundle
*** A deal of mythic proportions! ***

“A brilliantly clever series with a unique blend of Southern humor and mythology” from award-winning author D.B. Sieders. Southern Elemental Guardians has everything you love in a paranormal romance series: incredible world-building, a fresh and modern take on myth and legend, characters that leap off the page with humor and heart, and red hot, steamy romance!

Follow the Southern Elemental Guardians as they meet and fall in love with humans, half-breeds, demigods and more. Thrilling adventures set in fantastical worlds hidden in the nooks and crannies of our reality, our heroes and heroines face extraordinary circumstances to find out what they’re made of while finding true love along the way.

4 full-length novels + 2 novellas = HUGE savings from the individual book prices.

Making Waves (Prequel Novella)—A disgruntled Celtic sea god takes solace in Atlantic waves until babysitting duties get in the way.

MacLir is charged with ferrying a pair of troublesome Rhinemaidens to the Americas. But when the mermaids conspire to reunite him with his long lost love, they set off a storm fueled by old wounds and passionate desires. Will love calm the waves, or will all on board perish in a fearsome maelstrom?

Lorelei’s Lyric (Book 1)—If Lorelei sings, someone will die.

When her siren call nearly costs sexy, wounded rock star Vance Idol his life, Lorelei comes to his rescue—but not without risk. She could lose her heart, and quite possibly her immortality, during her Nashville holiday. Can their love survive his attitude, her fins, and an evil Pixie with a grudge against them both?

Winner of InD’Tale Magazine’s Recognition of Novel Excellence Award for Best Paranormal Novel, 2016.

Crosscurrents (Book 2)—No one believes Ilsa is a worthy of ruler, including Ilsa.

Frolicking with mortals is princess Ilsa’s M.O.—until she answers a distress call from an endangered species in the waters near Chattanooga. Sparks ignite when hunky scientist Paul Pulaski rescues her from a motorboat collision. But can they survive monster hunters, rival scientists, and a dark elemental force that could destroy them all?

Three Wishes (Novella)—A Sylph, a Merman, and an immortal Rock Star go to Vegas…

Mayhem ensue when the trio hit the tables, the strip, and get roped into a surprise performance at the Bellagio that gives Cirque Du Soleil a run for its money. When the Sylph gets them an audience with a Genie, will their wishes come true, or will demons past derail their happily ever afters?

Firestorm (Book 3)—He’s running from the past. She’s running from the future.

After a century in hiding, Serafina must fight against a conspiracy to resurrect the Phoenix brewing near Memphis. Uniting three of her kind could unleash a fiery apocalypse. Can she trust seductive, mercurial Sylph prince Bruce to help, or will her passion and fire doom them both and all they hold dear?

River Spell (Book 4)—She’s out for vengeance. He’s seeking justice.

Exiled and alone in Memphis, Rhinemaiden Gwen is still traumatized from her capture and torture by mortal monster hunters. Cop turned private investigator Kwame Johnson is sent to find her. More than a mere mortal, he has a special sense that helps him track down missing persons. Gwen can help him reach his full potential, but can she trust a man who was hired by the monster hunters to track her down?

Available on Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!

 

River Spell (Southern Elemental Guardians Book 4)

Available Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!

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She’s out for vengeance. He’s seeking justice.

 

Exiled and alone in a strange land, Rhinemaiden Gwen is still traumatized from her capture and torture by mortal monster hunters. To exorcise her demons, she doles out vigilante justice on mortal criminals—until former cop turned private investigator, Kwame Johnson, stops her in her tracks.

 

Captivating and enigmatic, Kwame is more than another mere mortal, and he’s just beginning to understand the nature of the special sense that helps him track down missing persons. Gwen can help him reach his full potential, but can she trust a man who was hired by the monster hunters to track her down?

 

Waking the Dead (Soul Broker Book 1)

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Suspense, City Owl Press

waking-the-dead

The road to hell begins when the reaper darkens her door.

A chance encounter with a dying stranger opens an empathic connection between down-on-her-luck caregiver Vivian Bedford and the world of spirits. Lazarus Darkmore, a grim reaper in a charming and seductive package, seeks to recruit her as a soul broker. Guardian spirit Ezra and his new apprentice Zeke offer protection from the reaper–so long as she works on their side of afterlife management. But these guardians are no angels, and their methods leave Vivian fearing the price of their protection.

Her ability to channel conscious energy from the living, something no guardian or reaper can do, could be a game changer. If she can control it, she can use this power as leverage. And she needs a bargaining chip, especially when she discovers that incapacitated living mortals can supply energy for the spirit realm, making her disabled sister Mae a prime target for guardian and reaper alike.

Can she move from pawn to major player in order to save Mae, and herself, from a horrific fate beyond the simple and fleeting terrors of death?

 

Firestorm (Southern Elemental Guardians Book 3)

Available from Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!

firestorm_seg3_compfinal_350dpiFantasy Romance, Griffyn Ink

He’s running from the past. She’s running from the future.

Bruce, prince of the American Sylph and guardian of wind and air, loves mixing business with pleasure. An immortal with excessive appetites, he wields his considerable powers to satisfy them so he can forget his past transgressions. But when he discovers a rogue Phoenix on the loose, pleasure comes with the risk of catastrophe.

After nearly a century in hiding, Serafina is forced to fight against a conspiracy to resurrect the Phoenix. Uniting three of her kind could disrupt earth’s elemental balance, unleashing a fiery apocalypse. Can she trust the seductive, mercurial Sylph prince to help her, or will her untested passion and fire doom them both and all they hold dear?

 

 

Praise for Firestorm

D.B. Sieders has done it again! Though I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series, Firestorm became my instant favorite. Bruce is everything I want my heroes to be: humorous, powerful, kind, but with enough dark shadows to keep my angst-addiction satisfied. He also has a bit of sexy androgyny happening, a la David Bowie, and that totally works for me. Sera is a fascinating heroine, simultaneously vulnerable and strong as Bruce helps her discover the depths of her power. Sieders excels at world-building, and the mythology alone is worth the read. (But hey, I’m really here for the sexy bits, and Firestorm does not disappoint!)

—Stephanie Moore, Amazon Customer

 

Three Wishes (Southern Elemental Guardians Novella 2.5)

Available at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited

threewish_segnov2-5ecvr_125dpiFantasy Romance, Griffyn Ink

A Sylph, a Merman, and an immortal Rock Star go to Vegas…

It isn’t a joke— just a road trip for the guys before Paul Pulaski and Vance Idol say goodbye to bachelorhood forever. Bruce has big plans to show his buddies a great time while having a little fun of his own in Sin City.

Mischief and mayhem ensue when the trio hit the tables, the strip, and get roped into a surprise performance at the Bellagio that gives Cirque Du Soleil a run for its money. But when Bruce gets them an audience with a bona fide Genie, will their wishes come true, or will demons past derail their happily ever afters permanently?

 

 

Crosscurrents (Southern Elemental Guardians Book 2)

Available at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!

SEG2_Comp_FinalCMYK_350dpi_PrintFantasy Romance, Griffyn Ink

No one believes Ilsa is worthy of ruling the Rhine River Kingdom, including Ilsa.

Sure, she wields plenty of mermaid magic and has a winning personality, but responsibility? Not her thing.

So instead of embracing her role as river royalty, Ilsa opts to extend her holiday in the New World. Frolicking with mortals is her M.O.—until she answers a distress call from an endangered species in the waters near Chattanooga. After her close encounter with a motorboat threatens to expose the world of elemental guardians, Ilsa partners with biologist and unlikely ally, Paul Pulaski, to cover her tail.

Worlds collide and sparks ignite between Princess Ilsa and her diamond-in-the-rough mortal, Paul. But can they survive monster hunters, a rival scientist with a grudge, and a dark force that could destroy mortal and elemental alike?

 

 

Praise for Crosscurrents

Ilsa, the stunning, free-loving sister of Lorelei is on the run—cavorting with human males in her typical love ’em and leave ’em fashion. But in a wonderful twist of mermaid lore, she’s rescued from drowning by a human male, Paul Pulaski. And her life is never the same as she finally stops running from her royal responsibilities and falls for a mere mortal lab tech at the Chattanooga Aquarium, and who is eons beneath her in the pantheon caste system.

But Paul has a few surprises of his own. His love and acceptance of Ilsa helps her learn to stop running from her fate.

The world-building of the series is expanded and the reader is introduced to other types of elementals. I look forward to more and more books in this inventive series!

Debbie Herbert, Award-winning author of the Dark Seas series (Siren’s Secret, Siren’s Treasure, and Siren’s Call)

 

A spoiled Princess consumed of wanderlust and a quirky, geeky, SEXY scientist of a man clash not only attitude and words in this book, when they get to the clashing tongues, so-to-speak, it’ll leave you with all sorts of breathy-sighs… Seriously, take my word for it. If you’re looking for a smart, funny read, that has a warm sensual side with adorable characters, check this book out, after you read the first in the series, of course!

—Krystle Watts, The Booknatics Reviews

 

Lorelei’s Lyric (Southern Elemental Guardians Book 1)

Available at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!

SEG1_CompFinalRGB_125dpi_ThumbFantasy Romance, Griffyn Ink

If Lorelei sings, someone will die.

Her beautiful voice once cost a life. Still, music is her passion. What’s a mermaid to do? Run off and live vicariously through mortal musicians!

Unfortunately, gorgeous rocker Vance Idol almost succumbs to her siren call after his show in Nashville. Not that Vance cares—not since his girlfriend’s fatal overdose left him with a supersized death wish. Lorelei makes it her mission to undo the damage and help this talented and charismatic man on the eve of his band’s big break.

But saving a mortal man is a dangerous proposition. Lorelei could far too easily lose her heart, and quite possibly her immortality, during her American holiday. Bad boy Vance might be worth the risk.
Can their love survive his attitude, her fins, and an evil Pixie with a grudge against them both?

 

 

 

Praise for Lorelei’s Lyric

Lorelei’s Lyric is brilliantly clever with its unique blend of Southern humor and poignant mermaid mythology. Modern-day Siren, Lorelei, traveling to The Music City of Nashville? One helluva great premise that hooked me at page one! I fell in love with this shape shifting Siren and her romance with aspiring rocker Vance Idol. One of those rare books that will have you laughing and sighing and crying, touching your heart just as great music touches your soul. A must read!

 

Debbie Herbert, USA Today bestselling author of the Dark Seas series (Siren’s Secret, Siren’s Treasure, and Siren’s Call)

Lorelei’s Lyric made me swoon! A perfect blend of mermaid magic and rock-star grit, Sieders’ charming, irresistibly sexy tale gives us a love story to believe in. I can’t wait to read more!

Jeri Smith-Ready, Award-winning author of Requiem for the Devil, the WVMP Radio series, and the Shade Trilogy

 

 

Making Waves (Southern Elemental Guardians Novella 0.5)

Available at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited!

MakingWaves_SEG 0.5_FinalECvr_RGB350dpiFantasy Romance, Griffyn Ink

For disgruntled Celtic sea god MacLir, nothing beats the solace of Atlantic waves and mortal women. Disguised as captain of the luxury cruise ship Wave Sweeper, he gets his fill of both.

Until babysitting duties get in the way.

MacLir is charged with ferrying a pair of troublesome Rhinemaidens to the Americas, giving the mermaids their first taste of freedom. All he has to do is deliver them safely to their chaperone in the New World. Easy, right?

Unfortunately, Lorelei and Ilsa have a lust for adventure and a knack for causing problems. From full fins moonlight swims to bacchanal parties crashed by nymphs and satyrs, Captain MacLir has his hands full. But when the mermaids conspire to reunite MacLir with his long lost love, the sea goddess Calypso, they set off a storm fueled by old wounds and passionate desires.

Will love calm the waves, or will all on board perish in a fearsome maelstrom?

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 10.43.11 PMTiny Treats: A Holiday Collection

Romance Anthology, edited by Trish Milburn (2014)

Mistletoe Magic, a contemporary romance micro-story by D.B. Sieders, combines an unconventional hero, a determined heroine, and D.B.’s love of all things science.

Stuck in the lab on Christmas Eve, Dr. Ellen Sanders has two options: mope and be miserable, or work up the nerve to (finally) approach the sexy and enigmatic Dr. Jace Morrow, resident workaholic and the most eccentric and elusive man on campus. With a reputation for eating graduate students for breakfast, fellows for lunch, and junior faculty for dinner, even the department chair gives him a wide berth.

Can the magic of Christmas bring Ellen and Jace together, or will the secret behind his aloof and enigmatic nature make her cut and run?

Free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and GooglePlay.

 

11001538_10204486677381567_7092697888401229058_oTiny Treats 2: A St. Patrick’s Day Collection

Romance Anthology edited by Trish Milburn (2015)

Ellen and Jace’s journey continues in Probability of Love. Three months after their Christmas encounter, Jace wonders how long Ellen will stick around. He’s not the easiest man to date, and he knows he’ll never be able to experience the world the way Ellen does and find joy in many of the things she takes for granted. Will his personality quirks and fundamental differences in neurobiology prove too much for his neurotypic girlfriend to handle? And can he find the courage to confront his fears and ask her?

 

You can find this more wonderful stories from Trish and my other author pals free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and GooglePlay.

Sláinte!

 

Reprieve

Romance/Urban Fantasy

Originally appeared on Tanisha Jones’s blog (2014) – first in an upcoming anthology of linked short stories to be published soon!

***

“I’m not going to be ignored, Dan.

 

“What?” he muttered, certain he’d misheard. Between the radio blaring whatever the hell passed for music these days, the jackass behind him laying on the horn, and his damned cell phone, it was a wonder he could hear his GPS at all.

 

“Dan?” Man, all those years of whisky and cigarettes sure had turned his ma’s voice into a metallic rasp that might be mistaken for a robot.

 

“Yeah, hold on a sec, I’m not ignoring you. I just missed my turn,” he said, executing a one handed sharp left so he could plow his way into the next lane while giving the finger to the horn-blaring idiot behind him. Take that, jerkoff. UPS truck, 1, Mercedes, 0.

“Dan, you still there?”

 

“I said I just missed my turn. Look, I don’t need you to bring me dinner, okay. I’ll pick something up after my shift.” He shouldn’t argue. If he gave in, she’d get off the damned phone so he could drive already. And he really needed both hands to cross another couple lanes of traffic. Besides, whatever pot roast nightmare his mother came up with couldn’t be worse than the diner. More importantly, though, she was at the diner.  He smiled, thinking about the other reason he enjoyed his favorite neighborhood haunt, but it turned to a grimace as he pondered the near miss with his ticker last month…

 

“You need to eat so’s you can get your strength back.”

 

He barely stifled the curse after slamming on his brakes to keep from running down the cab in front of him. I gotta get a Bluetooth. “Listen, Ma, let me call you back. I’m gonna have to hang a u-ey.” And dodge a half a dozen potholes and a few pieces of concrete when one of the empty buildings littering this part of the city finally keels over. He didn’t wait for her reply before ending the call and tossing his phone back into the cup holder.

 

“Recalculating.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered. “Quit your bitchin’. I’m on it.”

 

“There’s no need for profanity, Dan. If you stop ignoring me, I will take you where you need to go.”

 

He froze, chest squeezed in a vice grip as icy pinpricks of fear shot up from the base of his spine. The familiar female voice from his Garmin remained devoid of inflection, cold and electronic. But the words…what the hell? Was he having a stroke now? He knew his heart was about to explode.

 

“You’re holding up traffic, Dan. Continue point five miles on Main Street, then turn left onto 5th Avenue South.”

 

Operating on autopilot, he drove until he hit a red light and then paused to turn down the radio with a shaking hand.

 

“Remember to breathe, Dan.”

 

Oh, right. He let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, and after a couple of seconds, let out a shaky laugh. “Okay, I get it. I’m on some reality show, right – Joke’s on the average Joe? Where’s the hidden camera, Siri?”

 

“I am serious, Dan. And don’t call me Siri. I’m Jill.”

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

“The light is green, Dan. Please drive point one miles and turn left onto 5th Avenue South.”

 

“Holy shit–”

 

“Please drive, Dan.”

 

He drove on and took the left turn, looking for a place to park the truck so he could get the hell out. Rush hour downtown made it impossible. He wondered how much crap he’d get for leaving it on the street. A quick glance in the mirror did nothing to calm his nerves. The guy staring back at him was bug eyed, pouring sweat, and more than a little green around the gills.

 

“Don’t worry, Dan. Everything will be fine. Please turn into the alley on the right.”

 

“Christ, everything will be fine? I’m having a conversation with my GPS and pulling my big ass truck into a blind alley, and you’re telling me everything will be fine?”

 

“Arriving at destination. Good luck, Dan.”

 

“What destination?” he yelled, unleashing his fear and anger on the dashboard with his fists. “There’s nothing here but dumpsters, hobo piss, and maybe some deranged crack addicts!”

 

No response came from the box on his dashboard. The twinge in his chest forced him back to stillness. He put the truck in park, then rested his head on his forearms and took a few deep, cleansing breaths. Unfortunately, things didn’t look better when he lifted his head and opened his eyes. Same dingy brick walls and pockmarked asphalt, same reeking garbage and urban decay, washed up and wasting away, kind of like the guy staring back at him from the rearview mirror.

 

He ran a hand through his hair and gave his head a good shake. Sighing, he shifted to reverse and started backing the hell out of the alley so he could go and get his head checked. When he turned around to look out the rear window, the vice squeezing his heart tightened and he slammed on the brakes, cursing.

 

He shifted into park, hopped out of the truck, and stomped toward the guy blocking the alley. “What the hell, man? I almost ran you over!”

 

The corners of the man’s mouth curled into a smirk, though he made a polite, old fashioned bow and removed his hat. His three-piece indigo suit screamed mob boss and stood out against the grim backdrop. Grey around the temples, but not many lines on his face, the guy could’ve been in his thirties or his fifties. His cold gaze held a glint of amusement, like he was enjoying a private joke at Dan’s expense.

 

Well, screw that. With the all the other crazy shit going on, no way was he going to let some big shot in a fancy suit laugh at him.

 

“Good afternoon, Mr. Gallacher. Thank you for coming.”

 

Dan stopped a few feet away from the stranger, suppressing a shiver. He’d admit to being scared shitless, male pride notwithstanding, but the temperature seemed to have dropped at least ten degrees since he got out of the truck. The Suit stood still, hands behind his back and head titled to one side, waiting.

 

After a few moments, Dan managed to force words past the lump of dread in his throat. “W-who are you and how the hell did you do that thing with my GPS?”

 

The Suit inclined his head and said, “Forgive me, Mr. Gallacher, for a bit of indulgence. I so rarely get out as of late, you see, at least outside of official business. So many more cases these days.” He sighed and looked heavenward with a small shake of his head before returning his gaze to Dan. “Besides, my associates were in the vicinity and offered to help.”

 

Dan spun around as the sound of footfalls echoed through the alley. Two gangly youths approached him, dressed identically from their skinny jeans to graphic tees emblazoned with ‘I keep pressing esc but I’m still here’ logos, with unkempt dishwater blond hair and both busily texting on identical smart phones. They stopped at a respectable distance, but it didn’t escape Dan’s notice that he was now surrounded and would have to either go through the Emo twins to get back to his truck or The Suit to get out of the alley.

 

One of the boys paused long enough to look up and flash Dan a toothy grin before saying, “You know, if you play your cards right, we can get Jill and Siri to talk dirty for you.”

 

“That will do, gentlemen,” The Suit said, shifting Dan’s focus back to the obvious honcho. “You’ll have to excuse Boyce and Boice for their youthful…boorishness. While unrefined, fledgling demons are understandably rather more in tune with technology. As for who I am, I am a client, or at least I hope to be. I find myself in need of a courier.”

 

Demons? The guy must be delusional. “You got a strange way of scheduling a delivery, mister.” Dan said, with all the bravado he could muster. It wasn’t much.

 

“Oh, I’m not expecting a delivery. Not this time. I actually have an item for pick up.”

 

“So go online and schedule with corporate.”

 

The Suit’s grin widened. “Oh, but this pick up is of particular importance, Mr. Gallacher. Very delicate situation, you see, and discretion is key.”

 

Dan almost took a step back, but then remembered the first rule he’d learned on the streets–show no fear. He squared his shoulders, ignoring the twinge in his chest and the tingling sensation in his left arm. “Whoa, there. I don’t know what kind of operation you’re running here, but I don’t freelance or illegal shit no matter who’s paying.”

 

“No need to fret. I’m not asking you to violate any of your laws.”

 

My laws? Who the hell are you, CIA? NSA?”

 

The Suit threw back his head and laughed. The asshole actually doubled over, laughing until tears streamed down his face. “Oh my,” he said between gasps for breath. “NSA? Now there’s one I haven’t heard before. Bravo, my boy, for an original response! I knew you’d be an excellent choice. I always know.”

 

“Look, I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but I want no part of it–”

 

The Suit grew serious once more, brow furrowed as he pierced Dan with an icy gaze. “Too late for that, Mr. Gallacher. You became a part of it as soon as they wheeled you into the cardiac care unit of St. Josephs.”

 

The ache in his chest intensified to a crushing weight, bringing him to his knees in a wave of dizziness, nausea, and the certainty of impending doom. The Suit knelt down next to him and placed a heavy palm on his shoulder, and a fresh wave of shivers wracked his body.

 

Oh God, I’m dying.

 

“By all rights, you should be dead already, Mr. Gallacher. Forty-five, former chain smoker and habitual greasy spoon patron, you’re lucky I didn’t come calling ten years ago. But, as I mentioned, there are so many more cases these days.”

 

“No.” It came out as a whisper, powered by a thousand and one regrets and two faint slivers of hope.

 

“No? Interesting.” The Suit sat back on his haunches, pulled a Smartphone out of his breast pocket, and let his fingers dance across the screen, typing and scrolling, “Let’s see. Ah, here you are. Mr. Daniel Arthur Gallacher: divorced more than ten years and single since, you have one son whom you see maybe twice a year, and you live less than five miles from Mommy… you have a decent job with benefits, but really, anyone could do it. Middle aged with no prospects, you spin your wheels, but where are you going? What could you possibly have to live for?”

 

Jackson… and… her

 

“Ah yes, your estranged son. Not the most original plea for leniency I’ve heard. In fact, children are the most common answer. As for that other reason, well, those come in a close second,” he said with a wink. “But I have to wonder, if dear Jack is so important to you, why haven’t called him since your little episode? Of course, you haven’t made any progress on the other front, either. No, not you, spinning, spinning, spinning. You know, Dan–may I call you Dan?–many men would see your near miss as the proverbial wake up call.”

 

“Thought,” he paused, gasping for breath as the crushing pressure in his chest intensified. “Thought I was okay. Thought…I had…more time.”

 

“Don’t we all,” The Suit said, managing to sound rueful as he checked his watch. Then he leveled Dan with his gaze. “Now then, you aren’t a bad person, nor are you a particularly good person. You are, in fact, the very model of an average Joe. Not that it matters, mind you. I’m not known as the great equalizer for nothing.”

 

“T-thought… you were s-supposed to… show up with a scythe.”

 

The Suit chuckled. “A scythe? Why that’s positively Medieval. Boyce!”

 

“Yeah, boss?”

 

“Remind me to contact PR when I get back to the office. We really need to update our image.”

 

Boyce rolled his eyes, still managing to text while doing it. “Dude, you been sayin’ that since 1869.”

 

The Suit glared at Boyce, then turned his attention back to Dan. “We’ll discuss that later, since I don’t think dear Dan can take much more. As I was saying, what you have or haven’t done isn’t particularly important to me. What is important to me, and to you, assuming that you want more time on the hamster wheel, is that my package makes it safely to its destination. What do you say?”

 

“W-what’s…the…job?”

 

Released from the crushing weight and agony, Dan fell face down onto the rough pavement. Not that he was complaining. Asphalt rash seemed like a tickle compared to his former anguish. After sucking back a few deep breaths, he heaved himself off the ground and stood face to face with Death.

 

Death smiled and pulled a small package from his pocket, the fine white gloss finish of the high wall box shimmering in the ambient light. Dan accepted with trembling fingers, relieved when the damned thing didn’t burn him. The textured surface of the box was bare aside from a small silver bow adorning one corner.

 

“What is it?” The words fell out of his mouth before he could ponder the wisdom of questioning the thing standing before him.

 

Death cocked his head to one side and seemed to consider for a moment. “A fair question, I suppose, and there’s no harm in the telling. The package contains a reprieve, rather like the one I’ve granted you.”

 

Dan glanced down at the box in disbelief. He wasn’t sure what shocked him more, the idea that he literally held someone’s life in his hands, or the absurd sense of wonder at Death’s generosity. Really? Two in one day? Folks will think you’ve gone soft, buddy.

 

One of the boys, Boice maybe, snorted, reminding Dan that his thoughts weren’t exactly his own. “Sorry,” he muttered. “This is all a little, uh, you know…”

 

“Yes,” Death replied, chuckling. “I do know. And just so we’re clear,” he said as the laughter in his tone faded, “I’ve not gone soft. In fact, I’m the original hard-ass, and you’d do well to remember that, buddy.”

 

Knives of white-hot pain pierced his chest once more, the agony so intense it might have brought him to his knees again had it lasted more than two seconds. Death arched an eyebrow in question. You picking up what I’m putting down, son?

 

Oh yeah. Point taken.

 

Clearing his throat, Dan met Death’s gaze and asked, “Where do I take it?”

 

Death’s smile grew broader, crinkling the corners of his eyes. “Don’t worry. It will take you where it needs to go.”

 

Dan opened his mouth to ask what the hell that was supposed to mean, but Death cut him off. “Time runs short, Mr. Gallacher, and you’d do well to remember that yours is borrowed. Deliver my package safely and, if I may offer some advice?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Your life isn’t to be ignored, Dan. Get off the wheel.” Death gave him a polite nod of dismissal and strode past Dan to join his associates. The boys put away their phones and smiled at Dan before turning to follow Death.

 

He knew he was pushing his luck, but he couldn’t help himself. “One more question, if you don’t mind.”

 

Death stopped and turned back to face him.

 

“Why?”

 

Death looked him over, and then turned once more to resume his walk down the alley. Just before fading into the shadows, Dan heard the cultured voice echo back across the gloom. “I may be a hard-ass, but I’m also a romantic at heart. See you around, Dan.”

 

***

 

“Arriving at address 2714, on right.”

 

Dan waited, heart pounding in nervous anticipation. Jill the GPS didn’t offer any further commentary or instruction. After spending a half an hour driving aimlessly around the city, waiting for inspiration, he finally gave up and drove where his life normally took him after a shift.

 

So much for getting off the wheel.

 

Still, he’d sent a text to Jack after grabbing some tickets online for Saturday’s game. To his surprise, Jack replied a few minutes later with an ‘OK.’ It was a start.

 

After parking the truck at the curb, he took a moment to finger comb his hair and straighten his uniform. Hell, maybe he should have stopped by the apartment and changed? Too late now, borrowed time and all.

 

He caught sight of the small white package resting on the passenger seat, silver bow glimmering.

 

I’m not going to be ignored, Dan.

 

And suddenly, he knew what do.

 

Grabbing the package, he stepped out of his truck and paused outside the diner, peering through the plate glass windows until he spotted her coming out of the kitchen.

 

She must have been on her feet all day, judging from her slow shuffle through the crowd while balancing a large tray full of greasy delights. Still, she managed a smile for the family sitting at her table, bending to pinch a small boy on the cheek after she’d delivered the last plate. A few stray blonde locks fell out of her ponytail, caressing one lightly lined cheek.

 

She wasn’t tall. Soft in the middle, though shapely, what she lacked in bosom she more than made up for with that tight little apple bottom. Still, she wasn’t what you’d call striking. Eyes set a little too close together, and with a bit of a snub nose, she might have been considered cute in the bloom of youth. In middle age, though, she wasn’t beautiful.

 

Until she smiled–one of those rare, spontaneous, bursts of delight, like finding a dandelion in winter.

 

He’d seen that smile once, a little over a year ago, when he’d first set foot in the diner, and he’d been a goner ever since.

 

Time to get off the wheel.

 

Dan walked in and took his usual place at the counter. One of the other waitresses came and took his order, raising her brows when he told her all he wanted was a salad. He sipped his coffee and reveled in the simple pleasure of watching his favorite waitress.

 

She turned her gaze in his direction and smiled, one of those smiles, and walked over to stand in front of him. She glanced at her watch and then looked back at him, eyes glinting with mischief. “Running late tonight?”

 

Dan smiled back. “Yeah, I had an extra delivery today. A special one.”

 

“Oh?” she replied, absently tucking one of those stray locks behind her ear. “Who was it for?”

 

“You,” he said, handing her the white box.

 

She furrowed her brows in confusion, but accepted the box, running her fingers over the embossed surface and examining it before turning her gaze back to him. “What is it?”

 

“My life,” he said, and waited. Waited for her to laugh, or for a look of wary suspicion to wipe away the joy in her expression, waited for her to walk away. Instead, she examined him through narrowed, but not unfriendly eyes, inviting him to elaborate.

 

“Look,” he began, “I’m an ordinary guy, divorced with one kid, with an average job, an average life, and nothing special in the way of expectations. Hell, I mostly just go through the motions. But when I come here, and see you? For a few minutes each day, I get a little piece of extraordinary. And let me tell you,” he said, working up the nerve to touch her arm. “Sometimes, a little piece of extraordinary makes all the difference. I, ah, I just wanted you to know that, and to say…thank you.”

 

She didn’t pull away, but she didn’t speak either. After a few moments of awkward silence, Dan let go of her and looked down at his feet. “So, ah, thanks again…Renee.”

 

He fumbled for his wallet, plopped a twenty on the table, and then turned to leave. A light hand on his forearm stopped him. Mustering the last of his courage, he looked up to meet her gaze, breathless.

 

“What’s your name?” she asked.

 

“Dan. Dan Gallacher.”

 

“Dan,” she said, then smiled and held out her hand. He accepted it, warm and small in his own. “It’s nice to meet you.”

 

***

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