I'm a very visual writer, which means that I do storyboards for all my books. Readers have asked to see them but I've been reluctant because they contain spoilers. But the requests keep coming so I decided to edit the storyboard for my next dark romance, the FALLING/RISING duo so that it would give a taste of the characters and the emotional flow of the story while at least hinting at the conflicts. Here's the result along with an excerpt from FALLING. Please note: the storyboard ends where FALLING does, as the stage is set for the conclusion in RISING. The two books will be published one month apart in 2020.
Falling/Rising Dark Romance Duo
Coming in 2020
Cold. So cold. In my bones, in my soul. The cold is numbing…but not enough. I can still feel.
Pain. Hot and throbbing, eating at my flesh, shredding me.
I stir weakly. Dead leaves rustle under my body. I’m outside…on the ground. Naked. Why am I naked? Why do I hurt so much?
Fear surges in me. With every gasping breath, a thin trail of terror inches through my fragile consciousness.
Twin eyes of light glow in the near distance, coming closer. They stop not far from where I lay.
Every instinct I possess tells me to run but I can’t even lift my head.
A car door slams. I hear the crunch of steps on the leaves.
A low voice, masculine, hard. “What the fuck…?”
Hands reach for me. At their touch, the pain redoubles. My screams are soundless. There is no air left in my lungs.
I am empty.
Light, filtering through my closed eyelids, coaxed me awake. I went reluctantly, clinging as long as I could to the blanket of darkness that had held me for--
I had no sense of how much time had passed except that night had turned into day. A bird was singing nearby. The air smelled of freshly cut grass.
Where am I?
I opened my eyes. A dark rectangle of carved wood stretched above me. When I blinked, it resolved into the canopy of a large bed. Silky smooth sheets and a light down comforter covered me. Beyond the foot of the bed, across the wide expanse of a large, high-ceilinged room, French doors led out to a garden. One of the doors was open, admitting the sound and scent that had coaxed me back from…
Withered, crumbling leaves. Cold, pain. Car lights.
The memory came and went in a flash, leaving behind a void. I struggled to sit up.
A door at the far side of the room opened. The woman who entered was middle-aged, fiftyish, and wearing blue nursing scrubs. When she saw me, she hurried over and put a hand on my shoulder.
“You’re awake, good. Don’t try to move, not just yet. You’re still very weak.”
American English, mid-Atlantic accent. Stressors evident in the consonants. Eye movement indicative of wariness.
Pushing aside the strangely invasive observation, I concentrated on my most immediate need.
“Of course, I’ll just get the doctor first. Lie back.”
I had no strength to object. Confusion filled me. Was this a hospital? Had I been in an accident? Why couldn’t I remember…?
The door opened again and a man stepped in. He was about forty, slender, dark haired, conventionally handsome. He wore a white physician’s coat with a stethoscope sticking out of one side pocket. His smile was practiced. It didn’t reach his eyes.
“Welcome back,” he said. “How are you feeling?”
Was that my voice? Surely, I didn’t normally sound so faint and weak.
“Yes, of course. Nurse--”
The woman stepped forward with a plastic cup. She put a straw to my lips. I drank greedily. The cool liquid soothed the raw ache in my throat.
Had I been screaming?
“Where--?” I asked when I’d emptied the glass.
“I’m Dr. Hawsley,” he replied, ignoring my question. “This is Nurse Jacobs. I’m going to do a quick examination.”
I flinched as he beamed a light in my eyes and moved it back and forth, then up and down.
“Good, now if you’d just--” He performed a few other routine tests for cognitive function. The kind often done for a patient with--
“Do I have a concussion?”
Hawsley looked surprised but he hid it quickly. “Yes, among other things. But you’re doing very well. I’m confident that you will make a full recovery.”
My entire body felt battered. Along with my head, the ribs on my left side hurt in particular but I suspected that I had bruises everywhere.
“I remember a car. Was I hit by it?”
“No, that didn’t happen. You were found by…a person who was driving by.”
“And brought here?”
He nodded but his is impatience was evident. I couldn’t tell if I was the source or if it masked some larger anxiety. Either way, he wasn’t inclined to linger in my company.
As though to confirm that, he said, “You should get some more rest now.”
I didn’t answer him directly. Instead, I stared at the puncture marks on the inside of my right elbow.
Seeing the direction of my gaze, he said, “You’ve been on an IV. It’s standard treatment for dehydration, which in your case was the result of exposure and hypothermia.”
The cold, the ground. The rustle of dead leaves.
I started to nod but stopped myself; it hurt too much. “Is this a hospital?”
“We have a full medical facility here. You’re receiving excellent care. There’s nothing for you to be concerned about, Miss…?”
My chest tightened suddenly. A dark red slash of panic went through me. The void was back, looming at the edge of my consciousness, a monster waiting to consume me.
I gripped the bed covers so hard that my nails dug into my palms. “You’re right, I do need to rest.”
Hawsley frowned but he could hardly object when I was agreeing with what he’d said. With a glance at the nurse, he turned and left. She lingered a little longer. I closed my eyes and deliberately regulated my breathing to mimic sleep. After a few moments, she followed the doctor out the door.
When I heard it close behind her, I forced myself to remain still while I slowly counted to a hundred. Only then did I open my eyes again and look around.
There was ample space in the room not only for the king-sized canopy bed where I lay but also for a writing desk, built-in bookshelves and a seating area--a couch, two wing chairs and a low table--all arranged near a marble-mantled fireplace. Above the mantle hung a Paul Gauguin from his Tahitian period. On the opposite wall near the door was a Cezanne landscape. Both looked like originals.
Other artworks were in evidence around the room. Together with the furnishings and the sheer size of the space itself, they spoke of refined taste and serious wealth.
In a private residence, apparently. But whose?
And why was I there?
The real reason, not the claim that some good Samaritan had found me and brought me there out of the kindness of his heart.
No, not anything like that.
I sat up slowly and swung my legs over the side of the bed. The effort took all my strength. Long minutes passed before I tried to stand only to have to sit right back down. Slowly, I persevered, clutching an arm around my chest to ease the pain in my ribs.
Be careful. Someone could be watching.
Perhaps but I had one overriding need that drove me across the room. Holding my breath, I stepped in front of the large mirror hanging in a darkly gilded frame on the wall opposite the French doors.
A young woman looked out at me. She was pale with bruises on her face, mahogany hair with hints of red and gold, hazel green eyes, a straight nose and a full mouth. I supposed she would be considered pretty without the bruises, maybe even beautiful.
I raised my hand toward her, noting as I did the bruises on my wrists and forearms. The young woman did the same. Staring at her, I couldn’t hide from the truth any longer. As desperately as I wanted to deny it, I had no idea who she was.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
The thud of my fists into the punching bag was a satisfying counterpoint to the heavy metal music blasting from the gym’s sound system. I’d been at it for an hour and I was starting to feel marginally better. Some of the tension that had been my constant companion for the past year had eased. It would be back but I’d take whatever reprieve I could get.
What I really needed was a new toy--luscious, eager and wet--to lose myself in from time to time. Or better yet, two.
What I definitely didn’t need was a naked chick turning up beaten and unconscious on my property. When I got my hands on whoever was responsible for that…
Whoever it was would answer to me the same as anybody who tried to screw with the Ferraros.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
Contrary to our carefully cultivated image, we are not just a bunch of good-looking, rich, entitled assholes, the favorite fodder of the tabloids. We are all that and so much worse.
A year ago, when I was twenty-six, I was tapped to oversee the day-to-day operations of our business interests worldwide. Young though I was for the job, I’d gotten it the old-fashioned way; I earned it. By that I mean that I had proven myself both willing and able to do whatever was necessary in order to protect the family’s interests. No matter how brutal, ruthless or cold-blooded the action, if I deemed it called for, I took it. Nothing and no one stood between me and my objectives. Certainly not the ties of blood or the admonition to--which commandment was it?--honor thy father and thy mother. Yeah, especially not that one.
Aside from my father, who let it be known that he wished he’d cut his own dick off rather than help bring me into the world, the rest of the family was happy enough with the results. They’d practically fallen all over themselves handing me the reins. Not that they had much choice. Dear Dad had made too many boneheaded moves over the years, putting the family and a lot more at risk. It was no surprise--except to Rico Ferraro himself--when the decision was made to move him aside in favor of a new approach. I was just the guy to provide that--good and hard.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
Sweat stung my eyes. I blinked it away and kept going.
Inevitably, my elevation had repercussions within the Consortium but not anything I couldn’t handle. I could deal with any problem that came my way, including a naked chick turning up out of nowhere and setting of alarm bells.
Those few minutes spent carrying her first into the car and then into the house kept replaying in my head. I had no freaking idea who she was or how she had got there but right from that first moment, she mattered in some way I didn’t like. She was on my land and she was hurt. That made her my responsibility. I got that but there was something else. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at her, at least not at first, but I guessed she was tall for a woman and very slender. In my arms, she felt small and vulnerable. I knew she was hurting--she made faint little mewing sounds when I touched her. They cut right through me.
Mostly, I felt a wave of anger of the kind I’ve been learning to control ever since I was a kid. I have a temper; born with it, I guess. That can be useful in some circumstances but it can also be a huge liability. I keep it in strict check--most of the time. Right then, in those first moments with her, I had my work cut out managing that. I didn’t know who was responsible for putting her in my path in the condition she was. But I was going to find out and then there would be hell to pay.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
The music cut off suddenly. Behind me, an amused voice drawled, “Whatever that punching bag did to offend you, surely it’s learned its lesson by now.”
I turned to see my younger brother standing at the open double doors to the gym. He had one shoulder propped against the wall and his arms crossed comfortably over his chest in a pose of indolent ease.
Three years my junior, Royce was an inch shorter than my own 6’3” and more lithe where I was muscular, although I knew from experience that he packed one hell of a punch. We shared the same blue eyes, high cheekbones and dark blond hair that surprises people who are aware of our Sicilian heritage. They forget that Sicily was conquered by Normans, just another version of Vikings, men who made such an impression on the local population that their mark still lingers after a thousand years.
Whereas I looked like I’d just there for the pillaging, Royce appeared perfectly at home in the space originally intended as a ballroom complete with crystal chandeliers, ornamental plaster motifs and French pastoral murals of silk-clad shepherds and shepherdesses.
We hadn’t been close growing up--Ferraros didn’t do the touchy-feely stuff--but I knew better than to be misled by the languid look of boredom that he cultivated. What he lacked in apparent ambition, he made up for with keen intelligence and drive.
Stepping away from the punching bag, I grabbed a towel and began wiping down my bare chest. My muscles felt loose and relaxed. Even better, the workout had helped to clear my head.
As usual, I didn’t bother with pleasantries. They had no place in our relationship. Our father had pitted us against each other from the get-go, making us as much adversaries as brothers. We’d wised up to him long since but some things just couldn’t change.
Curtly, I said, “I’ll meet you outside after I shower.”
He nodded and crossed the room to one of the French doors leading to the stone terrace where a wrought-iron table was set for two.
Over his shoulder, he asked, “Sibyl’s not joining us?
“She’s still in Cyprus.”
Our sister was there handling a matter of some delicacy for the family. Given what it had to do with, I didn’t envy her the task. But I did trust her to carry it out as well as anyone possibly could.
Royce frowned slightly. “We should bring her in on this.”
I wasn’t eager to involve Sibyl in more than what she was dealing with already. But I would do so if that proved necessary. In the final analysis, I’d use any tool that I had to in order to protect our family’s interests.
Twenty minutes later--showered, shaved and dressed in jeans and a long-sleeve tee--I sat down across from my brother. A white-jacketed waiter approached at once. At my nod, he filled my cup with coffee from a silver pot. When he had withdrawn a discreet distance, I said, “What do you have for me?”
I’d tasked Royce with discovering the identity of the girl I’d found two nights before. As Ferraros--or as we were known to a select few, the ‘first family’ of the Consortium--we had virtually unrestricted access to the tsunami of information siphoned up on a daily basis by governments and organizations all over the world. The bad news was that with so much to try to make sense of, finding anything useful could be all but impossible. My brother had a real talent for cutting through the crap and getting us what we needed. Usually.
“It’s been less than forty-eight hours, Ethan. You need to have a little patience.”
I frowned. Generally, Royce had a low tolerance for even minimal delays. He was too focused and relentless to put up with them. So what was the problem here?
“You have her fingerprints, her DNA and the photos I had Hawsley take of her. How is she still nameless?”
“The fingerprints are no help. Apparently, she’s never been arrested. Nor has she applied for any job that requires any kind of security check.”
That was interesting but not surprising. There were still plenty of people wandering around who had never been fingerprinted. Yet.
“What about her DNA?”
He shrugged. “We had no trouble extracting it from the sample Hawsley provided. The screening was completed within hours. But our initial pass through all the data bases has come up blank. We’re going through again, working several levels down, seeing if we can match her to a likely family member.”
Giving credit where it’s due, it was the FBI that came up with the idea of hacking into the data bases of genealogy companies--the kind that promise to tell you where your ancestors came from in return for a cheek swab and a credit card number. Since the Feds’ first such forays, they’ve become adept at matching crime scene DNA to the genome profiles of blood relatives. From there, they can track down murderers, rapists and the like hiding out on even the most unsuspecting family trees. People really should be more careful what they ask; they may not like the answers.
“That leaves her photographs,” I said.
“We ran those through graphics software to compensate for her injuries, removing all trace of bruising before we started our facial recognition search so there’s no distortion or confusion. All we can say for certain right now is that she has no social media presence of her own. We’re drilling down across all platforms, looking for her in images that family members, friends or colleagues could have posted from their own accounts. Even if she was just caught in a crowd scene, we should be able to find her. But that’s a shitload of images to go through--literally trillions. Unless we get lucky, it could take a while.”
“You’re telling me that the woman I found has never been arrested, never applied for any kind of job from FBI agent to bank teller to pre-school teacher, and that she’s--what--a social recluse?”
“You have no social media presence of your own,” he reminded me with a sardonic smile. We both knew that thanks to the paparazzi, my image was everywhere. “I’d hardly call you a recluse. As for the rest of it…what can I say? That’s where we are right now.”
His seeming nonchalance didn’t fool me. Sibyl was the best in the family at reading people but I wasn’t a total slouch in that regard. I couldn’t have been and still done my job.
“It’s bothering you, isn’t it?” I said. “You think you should have already found her and you’re wondering why you haven’t.”
Royce hesitated, his long fingers pulling a roll apart and letting the pieces drop discarded onto his plate. Not much in this world challenged my brother. Finding something--or someone--who did was bound to focus his interest.
Finally, he said, “I’ll admit that it shouldn’t be taking this long to identify her. But it all comes down to probabilities and sometimes the odds just don’t work in our favor. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
Who was he trying to convince--himself or me? I couldn’t be sure--yet--but I figured I should give it a little more time.
“So you still think she’ll turn up?”
“She’s hardly a ghost, is she? Of course, we’ll find her. Meanwhile, has Hawsley come up with anything more?”
I shook my head. “Just what I’ve already told you. Right after I brought her in, he did a full-body MRI to determine her injuries. It showed that she’s between eighteen-and-twenty-one years old, a little underweight but otherwise well-nourished. Apart from recently being beaten and suffering from exposure, she’s in good health. The blood and hair analysis he did showed she had no drugs or alcohol in her system, and no indication that she’d ever been a user.”
There was one other thing that the doctor’s very thorough examination had revealed but I wasn’t inclined to mention that to Royce. Instead, I said, “I found her on the grounds of this estate, beaten, naked and unconscious. Whoever she is, am I supposed to believe that was by pure chance?”
Royce shrugged. “Maybe she was at a party near here, it got out of hand and she ran.”
“A party where? You know that we keep a close eye on everyone living near us. If parties like that were happening, we’d know.”
“Not if it was the first time. Remember a couple of years back when that Russian tried to buy the old DeLong estate? He had plans to turn it into an ultra-private club complete with sex slaves trafficked from Eastern Europe and Latin America. He was doing previews for prospective investors before he even closed on the place.”
I did remember, including the means I had used to block the sale after the would-be buyer proved deaf to courteous suggestions that he look elsewhere. You can’t buy a house that’s been burned down, especially not if you were trapped in it at the time. That little episode had contributed to the family’s decision a year later to put me in charge.
“Kind of a shame,” Royce said with a smile. “Would have been damn convenient.”
I knew he was kidding; neither my brother or I went in for that kind of shit. In fact, the idea of anyone being broken and brainwashed into doing something they otherwise never would was about the biggest turn-off I could think of.
Shrugging, I said, “Until someone noticed what was going on almost next door to us and decided to link our name to it.”
“There is that.” He knew as well as I did the importance of the Ferraro name. It was at once the source of our fierce will to succeed and our shield against the world. We went to the greatest possible lengths to protect it.
Royce inclined his head. Solemnly, he said, “As always, brother, I bow to your superior wisdom.”
The Ferraros bowed to no one and nothing. I took that as the nonsense it was and let it go.
“Even so,” I said, “you’re right to question where the girl came from. Let’s take a look at everyone in the area again.”
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
I hesitated but Royce’s reminder of the kind of shit that went on combined with what Hawsley had told me raised a possibility that I couldn’t ignore.
“Maybe she was being trafficked.”
My brother’s eyebrows shot up. “With us in the immediate vicinity? Only a nut job would do that.”
I didn’t disagree. As Ferraros, we adhered to a moral code that was, to say the least, flexible. But within that we had red lines that we never crossed. There’s enough money to be made in this world without trading human beings into sexual slavery or for any other purpose. If someone had dared to bring that abomination near us--
I was still considering how much blood would have to flow in atonement when Hawsley appeared on the terrace.
“Sir,” he said, “the young woman has regained consciousness.”
Leaving my brother on the terrace, I went inside. As per my instructions, the girl was in the guest suite closest to the medical facility. By the time I got there, a nurse was hovering outside the door, apparently alerted by Hawsley.
“Sir, I’ve just gotten her back to bed. She’s asleep again and--”
I shrugged past her and stepped into the room. Light streaming through the windows shone on the canopied bed that looked far too large for the slender form in it. Her hair--a mass of deep, rich mahogany with hints of red and gold--fell over her shoulder. She was turned on her side, facing me. Her lips were slightly parted; she was breathing deeply.
I’d seen the photos taken of her but not the girl herself since she’d been cleaned up and cared for. The impression of vulnerable beauty that had struck me two nights before returned even more powerfully.
My gaze was drawn to the pillowy softness of her mouth. I found myself imagining parting those inviting lips with my own, thrusting my tongue into her even as I slipped a hand down between her legs and--
What the hell? Where was that coming from? She was in my home, under my roof, hurt and vulnerable and I was getting hard off that? Granted, I liked it rough but that also meant strictly consensual with a partner who knew exactly what she wanted. Not anything at all like Sleeping Beauty here.
Getting a grip on myself, I focused on the evidence of what had been done to her. Livid purple and blue bruises marred her left cheek. There were dark fingerprints on her slim throat. And more of the same, according to Hawsley, all over her body, in a pattern that indicated she’d been restrained while someone beat her.
My fists clenched. I had a sudden urge to do the same to whoever had hurt her and then some.
Surprised by the intensity of my reaction, I took a step back. The girl was nothing to me other than a problem. She could be anyone--a whore, well, no, not that, given what Hawsley had discovered. A poor girl then, an innocent, snatched out of her life. Or perhaps someone more fortunate who had simply made a bad choice. Royce could be right about a party gone bad. Or it had been something even worse. I’d look into every possibility. I’d find out who was responsible but only to do what I always did--protect the family. In the final analysis, she was merely incidental to that.
As though she sensed my effort to dismiss her, the girl’s eyes flickered open. I hadn’t realized that they were such a compelling shade of green mixed with shades of gold. When she focused on me, my reaction was visceral, combined in equal measure of arousal and resentment at my own susceptibility to her.
I had entered the room determined to learn her identity. But now, despite my best efforts, a more urgent need took over me.
“Who did this to you?”
A shadow of alarm moved behind her clear, unflinching gaze. Her breath quickened.
“I don’t know.”
She sounded American but with something else in the mix that I couldn’t identity--for now. I put that aside and concentrated on her words. How could she possibly not know who had beaten her? Whatever the circumstances--even an anonymous mugging--she had to have at least some idea of what had happened to her.
Maybe she really was protecting the bastards. But what possible reason could she have for doing that?
Before I could pursue the issue, she sat up. The cover slid down just far enough to reveal a slim, graceful shoulder. She snatched it up, tucking it back protectively under her chin.
“Where am I?”
I shifted a little, the better to conceal the erection that didn’t give a shit about my moral scruples. The girl positively reeked of innocence, an attribute that had never appealed to me. Yet now, suddenly, the urge to join her on the bed, strip away the scant protection of the cover and fuck her senseless was all but overwhelming. Of course, I wouldn’t act on it; I’d long since passed the stage where I could be ruled by my cock. Yet the impulse was there all the same, mocking the self-discipline that I and so many others depended on.
More harshly than I might have otherwise, I told her, “You’re in Virginia, about fifty miles west of Washington, D.C.”
When she failed to respond, I added, “I found you two nights ago on the edge of my property. Since then, I’ve been waiting for you to wake up and tell me who you are.”
Not true exactly but she didn’t need to know about the search for her identity until it bore fruit.
“Why didn’t you take me to a hospital?”
Her gaze reminded me of a wary doe in the instant before it bolts. Yet she was managing to stand her ground and challenge me. I couldn’t help but admire that even as the primal instinct to subdue and control her ratcheted up another notch.
I hadn’t dropped her off at the nearest emergency room because her injuries would have led to the police being notified and I wasn’t about to give them any excuse to come onto Ferraro property. Not that I would tell her that. The less she knew, the better.
Shrugging, I said, “I value my privacy.”
She tilted her head to one side. A little furrow appeared between her brows as she studied me. “Who are you?”
I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had asked me that; between the paparazzi and everything else, they just knew or thought they did. But I was willing to play along, if only to see where this game went.
“My name is Ethan Ferraro.” Her blank look gave me nothing. Either she wasn’t a fan of gossip sites or she was an extremely good actress. “And you are--?”
Small white teeth worried her lower lip for a moment. Shaking her head, she said, “I’ve been wondering that myself.”
I bent closer, thinking I had heard her wrong. “What?”
Softly, as though the words were dragged from her, she said, “When I woke up earlier, I got out of bed and looked in a mirror. I couldn’t recognize the person I saw.” Her voice caught. I heard the fear in it even as I hesitated to believe that it could be real.
My first thought was that she was lying. Amnesia was a favorite cliché of TV melodramas and certain kinds of novels; what were the odds of actually encountering it in the real world?
Yet it was also true that she had experienced a trauma, one of results of which was a concussion. Perhaps she really had suffered a temporary loss of memory.
For a moment, I tried to imagine what it must feel like to be unmoored from one’s own identity. The hard truth was that a part of me would have welcomed that, if only as a break from the reality I dealt with every day. Still, the actual experience was probably more terrifying than anything else.
“Do you remember anything at all?”
I watched her as she seemed to go away from the room, from me, into some place deep within herself.
“Cold, pain. The rustle of dead leaves under me.”
Inwardly, I winced but all I said was, “That’s it?”
She nodded. “So far, except for a car or at least what I think were the headlights of one. I thought maybe it hit me but the doctor said that wasn’t what happened.”
“It’s most likely me you’re remembering. I’d just come back from L.A. I landed at a private airport near here and I drove myself home. I was almost to the house when I saw you lying just off the road.”
A shock I wasn’t likely to forget soon. At first, I thought someone had hit a deer and left it to die. The reality turned out to be so much worse. She looked so vulnerable, so helpless…
That hadn’t changed. The fear in her eyes made my gut tighten.
In a whisper, she asked, “You have no idea how I got there?”
“None. You could have made your way on your own or someone could have dumped you. Right now, we simply don’t know.”
A flare of defiance darted behind her eyes. “You don’t but I should, is that what you think?”
“Well, yes, obviously. But if you say you don’t--”
“I’m not just saying it. It’s the truth.”
I caught the edge of desperation in her voice and realized right then that I wanted what she was telling me to be true, however improbable it might be. I wanted her to be exactly what she seemed--a beautiful, innocent young woman wrapped in a mystery. Dependent on me; under my control; for me to unravel to my own satisfaction.
Where the hell was that about? I’d never wanted anything from a woman but a mutually satisfying fuck. Straight up, no complications and we part friends. I didn’t have time or patience for anything else.
Curtly, I said, “I didn’t say it wasn’t. Obviously, you should discuss this with Doctor Hawsley. I’ll send him to you.”
I wasn’t proud of my need to put some distance between us but at least I was smart enough to do it. Beauty--she had to have some name and that one certainly fit--unsettled me far too much. No one was ever going to mistake me for Mister Sensitivity but I wasn’t totally lacking in self-awareness either. The fact that she got to me so easily was a red flag. I needed to regroup and figure out a better approach to handle her.
With a false smile that I hoped she would take as reassurance, I beat a tactical retreat.
copyright: Josie Litton 2020 all rights reserved