Thursday, 3 December 2009

Thirteen Things I Have To Do

I'm pressed for time and a topic this week, as I'm preparing to go home for a little over a month to help out my mother. My stepfather, Martin, passed away two weeks ago, and we've all been thrown for a loop, to say the least.

As a result, this is sort of a repeat from a few weeks ago, but to be fair, it *is* all I've got going on this week, so I give you:

Thirteen of the Things I Have to Do this week:

1) Organize my paperwork to turn in at work on Friday.

2) Gather all my cables, etc, for my electronics which will accompany me to the US.

3) Make copies of my "send file" of my novel, so I can send it to my publisher (Whoa, it feels weird to write that. Good, but weird...) when I'm in the US.

4) Make a hard copy of the WIP, presently at 66 pages, so I can do big edits now, rather than later.

5) Scan some pictures of Martin which weren't digitally produced.

6) Wash clothes and hang them to dry. (I don't have a dryer in Italy, y'see.)

7) Start packing two different suitcases. One for the Florida portion of the trip (where the third and final memorial for Martin is being held, and where I'm going immediately after arriving in Tennessee), and one for the rest of the stay in Tennessee and Kentucky.

8) Buy a few magazines to read on the plane/in the car.

9) Charge batteries for camera.

10) File for domain name registration and see if they'll let me use my Italian phone number or not.

11) Straighten up office before I leave.

12) Have dinner with my in-laws Sunday afternoon/evening since I won't be here for Christmas.

13) Hang pictures that I printed and framed two weeks ago.

Yeah, I've got a lot to do. I'm exhausted already, and I've still got to get on the plane and make the long haul home, Tuesday morning.

Still, I'm slowly getting back into something like my old routine, which is good. Thanks to everyone who has written with their kind wishes and good thoughts. It's really helped a lot.

I'm sure you'll understand that I'll skip the risque eye candy this week, in favor of something a little more tasteful?

This is one of the photos which provides inspiration for my current WIP, 27 Stages. See if you can figure out what I enjoy so much about it. ;)

(Like I said, "a little more tasteful.")

Seriously, I just want to lick his legs.
This is no surprise to those who know me.

Ciao for now...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

No Thursday Thirteen this week

Due to an unexpected death in the family, I won't be doing a Thursday Thirteen this week.

I hope to resume next week, however.

Thank you for stopping by.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

13 Excerpts from 27 Stages

There's a reason I didn't have my Thursday Thirteen prepared today - between work and writing, I just happened to forget.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, y'all.

Anyway, to make up for this, I thought I'd share some of the WIP that has me so busy. It's called 27 Stages and it's the cycling story I've been so enthusiastic about since I got home from the US this summer.

Now, I present to you:
Thirteen Excerpts from 27 Stages - a work in progress.

I was barely awake, only scratching at the edges of consciousness, but I’d already known it could come at any moment. I heard the tell-tale snick of a keycard in the door's electronic lock, and then BOOM! the door swung open to the accompaniment of a fist pounding on the doorframe and a thunderous, demanding call:
"Renard! Brodowski! Wake up! Sveglia! Réveillez! Budzą!"

I glanced over at my roommate and saw what I expected to see:
He was flat on his back and, miraculously, still asleep.

He was also sporting a hard-on to put to shame even the most ambitious of men. His sheets thus made an impressive tent in the light from the hallway, just as they had every morning over the last six months while I'd been his roommate.

My first thought at that moment was absurd, but sincere: How the hell does he ride a bike with that thing?
I pulled my pillow out from under my head and ducked under it to block out the light and (as if it were remotely possible) to muffle Jerzy's shouting.

Not to mention I knew what was coming next:
The nicknames.

"Ciccio! Robaczku! NOW!"
Once Jerzy had reached this point, there was no going back. It was time to get up, or risk an ice-water bath in bed. I could hear the bucket sloshing while he stomped around the corridor, shouting out his nicknames for each member of the team.

Rom's nickname supposedly meant "Little Bug" or "Little Worm." No one has yet been able to clarify its origin for me.

Mine was "Ciccio." In some regions of Italy, it's a term of endearment. It also means "chubby."

I hate it. Always have, and always will. And that's precisely why Jerzy uses it.

Hearing it was all the motivation I needed to get to my feet and shuffle to the bathroom. That, and naturally, the bucket.

Things can get a little weird, on the road...

I got out of bed, hearing the running water while Charles, my husband, took his shower. The night before, I'd been exhausted after our walking tour of Lisbon, but now I was awake and eager to start the day. In a few hours, we'd be joining the crowds in nearby Sintra, from where the Tour d'Europa time trials were scheduled to depart.
At the table in our hotel room, I took out my camera and examined it, making sure everything was clean and functioning properly. I planned on getting photos of as many of the cyclists as possible, with an eye to selling a few if I could.

I was still checking my equipment when Charles came out and stood behind me, drops of water falling from his hair onto my shoulder.

"Do you mind, hon?” I asked over my shoulder. “You're going to get my lenses wet."

He gave me a hmph, in response and went to sit on the bed. I packed up everything and went to the window to open the curtains.

"What time does this race start anyway, Abigail?"

"I told you – just after lunch. It's not a race, though, it's a time trial." I pulled the curtains apart and the tidy neighborhood which housed our hotel came into view.

Charles shrugged indifferently. "So? What's the difference?"

"It's only the first day. They have to determine who's first, and what time to beat. It's kind of like the velodrome race I took you to in Manchester, but much more interesting. They'll leave here one by one and circle that huge park over on the coast, then come back."

He looked utterly unimpressed. At least this time he'd managed to keep from muttering "Ugh, Manchester." Needless to say, he didn't quite share my blossoming enthusiasm for the sport. And yet he'd given me this trip for our tenth anniversary: we were going to follow the entire Tour, stage by stage, from beginning to end.

When he'd given me the plane tickets and itinerary two months ago, I'd been thrilled speechless. Now, I saw that my joy might have been a bit premature. Traveling around the continent with his moping mug in tow was going be a drag if he didn't find a way to enjoy it all.

The crowd swarmed around us, and I struggled to keep my camera up and focused properly on the starting ramp's apex. I took my time, keeping my tripod steady with one foot and framing my shots with care. When each rider paused at the top of the ramp, I snapped a picture. When they began their descent, I snapped another. If I was lucky, I got another shot as they passed by.

In the interim between launches, I took "mood" shots: the crowd, the officials, details of the surrounding circus-like atmosphere. Charles nudged me with an elbow and tilted his head to the back of the ramp, where cyclists were assembling for the start of their time trials. I aimed my lens back behind the ramp and focused on one rider, cycling in slow circles, waiting for his turn to climb up to the starting house, and I found myself thinking of race horses being paced before going into their posts at the gate. I couldn't help smiling. There was something in the brightness of his team colors which cheered me.

Someone signaled to him, and he made a wide turn to swing around and ride up the ramp. After a few moments he was in position, poised and ready to descend onto the course.

"He looks mad enough to kill, doesn't he?" Charles said with a laugh that almost sounded nervous. "I'd hate to be one of the blokes ahead of him."

As much as I hated to admit it, I had to agree. There was a scowl of concentration twisting his handsome features beneath the space-age helmet and goggles. It was an expression somewhere beyond determination, bordering on obsession, and it chilled me to see it.

A race official said something and the cyclist nodded, his gaze never leaving the road ahead of him. The countdown followed, the official's hand demonstrating the passing seconds as he called them out – três, dois, um – before snapping back as the electronic tone rang out and the rider flew down the ramp and up the street, a multicolored blur disappearing into the distance.

The crowd was already cheering like mad – he was the last of his team to hit the pavement, and his reputation preceded him, though only just, considering his speed.
An unexplainable exhilaration flooded through me, watching him go.

All at once, there were excited shouts and piercing whistles all around me. Everyone had turned to watch the giant screens on the sides of the road, so I did, too. Renard, the rider Charles had pointed out to me, the one who looked so angry, had cleared the second checkpoint in record time. He was presently burning up the road on the descents out of the park, occasionally seeming to leave the motorcycle cameramen behind since they weren't willing to take the curves at the same rate of speed as he.

As we watched, he scraped past another cyclist after a curve and flew down to the straightaway beyond. The next switchbacks in the road made us gasp collectively – by now my heart was pounding so hard I could hardly breathe – and finally he swept past another rider and out onto the somewhat more open roads.

The commentators grew progressively more animated as his ride went on, and when the coverage switched to a different rider for a few moments, the calming of the crowd was palpable.

Before long, the crowd tensed, watching along the road for the first sight of him. On the screen, however, another dramatic scene was playing out: Renard had just surpassed the time of his teammate and fan favorite, Heinrich Brunn – quite easily, by the look of it – and was now making his way toward the finish. The mere seconds which separated them began to expand: Brunn's time was now five seconds longer, now ten, now twenty. The standings on the screen shifted accordingly. Renard rose higher and higher, from fourth to third to second and then to a clear first-place finish.

My camera all but forgotten, I leaned over the barrier in front of me, watching eagerly for his arrival. I needn't have worried about missing him, of course – the roar of the crowd swept along with him as he closed in on the finish line. The sound grew louder and louder, every possible noisemaker being improvised and then employed. Cheers and shouts which bordered on screams, megaphones used to amplify shouts of joy, "thundersticks" being thwapped together to produce manic, percussive sounds. People clapped their hands and banged on the barriers, jumping up and down all the while.

And then, there he was, and I gathered my senses to snap the photo of him crossing the line, his arms raised over his head in a show of jubilation, an expression of complete and utter joy on his face.

The time on the chronometer overhead said it all: he'd arrived one full minute ahead of the fastest rider up to that point.

He rode straight into the waiting arms of his team handlers, his shoulders slumping as he seemed to melt into their midst. I caught glimpses of him collapsing onto the pavement, pawing at his helmet until someone helped him out of it, and then lying flat on the sidewalk just past the fencing which kept the team buses and equipment away from the general public.

His chest seemed to expand to twice its size as he gulped in breath after breath, his hands limp on his belly. All the while, though, he kept smiling.

I had two thorough goings-over at the same time. The team masseur worked his magic on my legs – cooling the fire burning there just beneath my skin – while Jerzy tore into me with a restraint I'd never seen before.

"Grandstanding," he growled, pacing the length of the cubby set aside for post-stage physiotherapy. "Shameless grandstanding, Ciccio. I don't approve of such things. It could have cost you seconds."

"But it didn't," I said, looking up at him from the cot.

He whirled around and narrowed one eye at me, his signal that I should shut up if I intended to keep my more valued body parts. The masseur kept his head down and continued working as though the threat weren't hanging in the air amongst us.

"It could have, is what I said. Save the shows for when you win a full stage."

The blood drained from my face as shame filled it. He was right. Sure, I'd managed a phenomenal lead – forty seconds ahead of Brunn, thirty-five seconds ahead of Schlessinger and Maxxout, who would be riding my ass as a personal vendetta for sure – but starting tomorrow, the stages would be longer and harder, and I wouldn't be on my own.

"Work with the team, Ciccio, not against them."

I nodded, chastened. Jerzy stayed at the foot of the cot, behind the masseur, and glared at me for a few moments before storming off. I caught the masseur's eye when he glanced up at me, and then I dropped my head to the pillow, exhausted.

Soon enough, it was time to get on the bus for a quick shower and then to suit up for the stage. My gear was in its usual place on the hook near the back of the bus. There was, however, one significant difference: the Royal. The royal-blue jersey was the symbol of the race, the "trophy" most of us were killing ourselves – and each other – for. After winning yesterday's stage, it was mine to wear, showing I was the leader – at least for today. I would continue to wear it until I lost first position in the General Classification.

Not that I intended to lose the position any time soon.

Besides, it wasn't as though I've never won before, but this year success was more important than ever. My strong showing the day before had put me in an advantageous position. Maintaining my lead would still be challenging, but to win the whole race no longer felt impossible. There was a downside, however: as long as I wore the Royal, I was not only the leader of the race but also the main target. Each of the other riders on the other twenty-one teams would be gunning for me, to reduce my lead and knock me back as far as possible. To make matters worse, I suspected that members of my own team might even consider doing the same.

Key in hand, I eased shut the door and went down to the hotel restaurant. I'd forgotten the Portuguese, like the Spanish, tend to dine late, with dinner beginning around nine at night. Most of the better-class restaurants, including the one in the hotel, weren't even open yet. I certainly didn't want any bar food or pub fare, so I headed along the street in search of something light.

Once I'd reached the main plaza, adjacent to our hotel, I spotted several familiar faces. Members of several of the teams mingled around the fountain and the cafés and pubs of the plaza, their families in tow. Fathers played with their children or sat with their wives – or girlfriends, as the case may be – and shared coffee or sweets at the café tables.

Without their brilliant identifying colors, it was hard to be sure who some of them were, but after poring over my photos there was a vague, persistent feeling of recognition.

I bought an iced lemonade and sat on a bench in the plaza, wishing I'd thought to bring my camera. What wonderful candid shots I was missing!

Across the plaza, I caught sight of Renard, walking with a man I didn't recognize from the Tour. The face was vaguely familiar, though. While I struggled to place his friend, Renard paused and examined his mobile phone a time or two, then shoved it in his pocket and continued walking with his companion until they'd left the plaza proper.

The last of the summer evening light was beginning to give the whole plaza a nostalgic feel. Finishing my drink, I decided to go up and get my camera anyway. Maybe I could still get some good photos after all. I hurried up to our room and slipped inside quietly, hoping Charles was asleep and would stay that way.

No such luck.

"You're back," he said sleepily.

I stopped, putting my camera bag back on the table. "I thought I might get some photos in the plaza. It's a beautiful evening."

"No, no… Why don't you come to bed? You can get your little snaps in the morning."

I wanted to protest but I knew it was pointless. Instead, I went to the window and pulled the curtains closed on the plaza.

My 'little snaps' would just have to wait.

"Confidentially speaking? Spain sucks."

I looked from my magazine – blessedly not a copy of The Rag Which Shall Not Be Named – and Adrie Meijer, our Dutch lead-out rider, grasped the overhead bin and leaned toward the window next to where I'd stretched out to read. Night had settled over the countryside and most of us on the team bus were calming down at last.

Most of us, but by no means all.

Teodoro was still crowing about his sprint victory of that afternoon – he'd gained precisely 1.25 seconds over Alvaro at the finish, and it was clear he didn't intend to let it rest. Alvaro, in turn, kept reminding his brother that he had not only placed higher in the time trials, but he had also been born first, and Teodoro would forever be five minutes behind him in this life.

All of this was of course said in Spanish, and rather loudly – and more than once was shouted down the phone to various members of their family. Their spirits were understandably high, and no one on the team would begrudge them their moment. They'd crossed the line one after the other, taking first and second, with barely a half-second separating Alvaro from Eddie Coleridge of BigUk in third place.

A motorway sign for Sevilla flashed past and Adrie sat across from me, still watching out the window as the lights of the city glowed in the distance.

The sounds in the plaza had just now faded away, but Charles' soft snoring beside me had continued unabated since I'd lain down beside him. If I hadn't been so afraid he'd wake after I'd gone, I would have returned to the plaza to get the photos I'd wanted.

Now it was nighttime proper and I still couldn't sleep. I had no idea what time it was, but I couldn't bear to look at the clock. I turned over and watched Charles for a while, his dark curls spread over his pillow willy-nilly, his face slack in sleep. Maybe it was because I couldn't see well enough to discern the grey in his hair, maybe it was because sleep relaxed his squared features, but he looked younger than he usually did. Almost as young as when we'd met ten years ago.

Work had aged him considerably. Commuting to London every day, sometimes staying there overnight when meetings ran too long, was stressful. Then again, I suppose being a barrister is a generally stressful job. With each passing year, though, he seemed to change a little more. He'd become more conservative, less interested in the outside world, more hesitant to do spontaneous things.

With one notable exception. Not that it was spontaneous, exactly, since he brought it up to me every so often as though he thought I'd change my mind. The subject was reliable as clockworks, chiming whenever things had gone a bit, well, stale. If only in his opinion.

I shivered a little and pulled the blanket up over my shoulder. I wasn't sure what was worse – that he'd mentioned it again today? Or that now it didn't hurt me at all?

Yes, I'd kicked up a fuss in my own head, but I hadn't even bothered to tell him I was angry. Maybe he thought he'd begun to persuade me, then? That maybe I was on my way to saying "By all means, let's do!" Could it be that I really was?

But surely I wasn't. I'd meant what I'd said that morning, and every other time he'd brought it up. There was no way I could do what he'd suggested, unless I didn't love him any more.

And even then, he'd never know. If I didn't love him, I'd never stay with him.

Would I?

With each crank of the pedals, liquid fire ran through my legs, my lungs burning with every draw, the late afternoon heat radiating up at us from the tarmac. Each drop of sweat underneath my helmet seemed to funnel into my eyes, but to shake hard enough to clear my brow would likely knock me off my bike. The grimace carved into my face felt as though it were a million miles away, a death's-head grin for such exquisite suffering under the summer sun.

Up ahead, I spotted the motorcycle swaying to and fro, going slow up the steep incline so the camera operator aboard it could keep filming. As it passed, the crowd on either side of the road spilled onto the tarmac toward us, swallowing us up in a constantly shifting, screaming mass of humanity – all of whom were too close for comfort.

It was, in short, the usual chaos of a climbing stage on the Tour d'Europa.
We crested the summit, and the plain stretched out at the foot of the mountain, fading into the heat haze that had enveloped the panorama. That's when I heard Jerzy at last, his voice eerily calm: "Ciccio, when you're across, it's your counterattack. Take Brunn with you and catch Schlessinger."


Then I was over the top and beginning my descent with Brunn still on my rear wheel and the wind slapping me full in the face. The first switchback was visible in the near distance, and I saw Schlessinger's back tire wobble a bit; he overcorrected, taking the curve with too great an arc, and I felt a momentary elation at the sight.

The grimace slipped off my face and became a sincere, greedy grin. I reset my focus once again, aiming downhill and pedaling at speed. The blue-green blur that was Schlessinger was now more a target than a competitor.

Approaching the curve, I tucked in low and my fingers tensed the slightest bit on the brakes. I was pedaling again before I'd cleared the full arc, still grinning at the thought of Schlessinger's over-cautious approach.

Behind me, I heard a single, sharp yelp of laughter and I spared a quick glance to spy Brunn's delighted expression before the straightaway banked hard to the left on the next switchback.

We slalomed downward, gaining speed with each straightaway and slowing just enough to keep from slipping out of control at the apex of each curve. Schlessinger, obviously tipped off to our approach, was working much too hard to gain distance. I knew in the past he'd had a bad crash on a segment just like this, and was ill-prepared for us to challenge him here.

All the better for me. Or, rather, for us.

Schlessinger was only a few meters away, once again taking the curve too slowly. Brunn and I exchanged a glance before I moved to take the inside of the turn and he dropped behind me again.

With a few more pedal strokes I was alongside Schlessinger, grinning like a madman.
The sight of me next to him seemed to spur him onward. He shouted something in German and Brunn shouted something back in a light, almost playful tone. Schlessinger scowled at him and bore down harder still, pulling ahead for a few moments until the next switchback rushed toward us.

He was too close to me as we made the turn and Brunn shouted something else, his tone anything but light. I held back and let Schlessinger go, a rush of fresh heat in my veins propelling me forward on the straightaway.

On the next turn, he wasn't as brave. I slipped to the inside again and cut close enough to the weeds on the rocky outcropping to hear the whisper of my jersey brushing them.

Schlessinger obligingly and sensibly let me pass, Brunn following close behind me.
Now the real race would begin.

"Abby, sweetie, this is important. If I don't do this right away, who knows what might come up next?" He pressed send with his thumb and then made another notation on his notepad. "Is that Edward? Edward, this is Charles White…"

With that, I opened the car door and got out. A warm breeze blew, enhanced by the rush of air from cars and trucks passing on the motorway, but it did little to cool my temper.

At this rate, we'd never make it to Granada in time, either. I'd have missed a full day of the race, and there went my project. How was I supposed to do a photojournal called The Tour d'Europa; Day by Day, when I missed a day? And Heaven knew if we missed one day, he'd ensure we'd miss another, and then another.

I leaned against the guardrail at the edge of the lay-by and watched him through the window of the car. He nodded and made notes, occasionally looking round and shaking his head as though disbelieving where he was.

"Join the club," I muttered, resting my weight on my hands along the railing and turning my face up to the sunshine. I might as well get a tan if I'm stuck out here.

The hypnotic repetition of passing cars and the whoosh of wind following them lulled me into a stupor beneath the sun. I felt my skirt swaying in the breeze, my hair swinging to and fro at my back. The light behind my closed eyelids took on a purple-pink hue.

I imagined the shots I was missing, then the shots I'd hoped to capture. With luck, Renard would win the jersey again and once more I would catch him crossing the line. I loved how animated he was each time he won, the genuine delight which burst from behind the apparent exhaustion on his face. Maybe I could ask some of the riders to let me do before and after photos of them? To show the stresses and tolls a single stage could take?

If Charles took much longer, I'd get out my laptop and have a look at my photos again. Perhaps I should send a few back to the publisher and see what they thought so far, or maybe –

The blaring of the claxon of the car startled me out of my daydreams.

"Abby, love, come on; we're running late as it is."

Stifling a sigh, I straightened up and crossed to the car. "I suppose you're right, at that," I said, opening the door. "Silly me."

The caginess of the other riders was palpable. Each and every one of us was listening to his directeur sportif, waiting for the order to break away, to lead our sprinters in (if they were in any condition to try for the finish), or whatever other tactic had been deemed appropriate to the game plan.

Attilio and Rom took their places ahead of Brunn and me, while Adrie led Alvaro and Teodoro, still in the bulk of the peloton. All eyes were on the leaders, and I could have sworn I felt their eyes burning holes in my back.

We eased away, gradually increasing speed until a handful of us broke away to put a gap between ourselves and the peloton.

We started pouring it on, hurtling along the straight stretch of road toward Granada. My pedaling was fluid, my breathing smooth and regular, the only sounds the wind rushing past my ears and the steady schirr of the bike beneath me.

That's when everything happened.

First my wheel gave a tell-tale wobble and I was slowing in spite of myself.

At that same moment, Schlessinger – being either exceptionally observant or stupendously blessed with good timing – shot out of the breakaway group and made for Granada, never looking back.

Brunn gave a growling, angry shout and took off after him. He'd catch him up and try to pull him back a bit, until I could catch up, too.

I switched on my microphone and called out "Ho bucato! I've got a flat!" and raised my hand in the air to signal to the team mechanic where I was. Biting back curses while the peloton swept past me, I waited for the car to pull alongside.

There was absolutely no time to lose, and still I was losing it.

Rom had slowed to a halt a little further down the road to wait for me, so he could take me to the peloton again.

The team car pulled up, the mechanic jumped out almost before it had stopped, and his hands were already working the locks of the bike rack on top of the car. In no time, he had a new bike on the road, which I mounted even as he pushed me out for a start.

I made it up to Rom, who was already standing on the pedals and cranking full-tilt, and I felt like screaming. We'd catch the group, but could we catch Schlessinger?

Jerzy was shouting in my ear – incoherent German I couldn't be bothered to translate on the fly, so I knew it was meant for Brunn, not me – my heart was pounding harder than ever, my breath dragged and rasped in my lungs.

God, had the day been this hot all along?

Now that my rhythm had been wrecked, my feet felt like they were made of lead and my legs fought every crank of the pedals. There weren't enough curses in all the languages I knew – combined – to give voice to my frustration.

Now? This had to happen NOW?

Dressed in my cotton robe, I sat on the edge of the bed to continue drying my hair with a towel, and then bent at the waist to comb out the worst of the stubborn tangles. Charles sat up behind me and stretched lazily before disappearing into the bathroom without a word.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn't notice he'd come back until he sat next to me on the bed.
"Abby?" he said, with that tone I knew too well. He didn't even wait for my response but pulled me up to give me a kiss on the cheek, then turned my face to his with his fingertips.

We kissed in silence, his hand moving down to slip one finger into the center of the loose knot in the belt of my robe. He pulled it open and then nudged me to lie back on the bed, which I did in spite of my desire to do otherwise.

Sleep called to me and I forced my eyes to stay open while Charles parted the folds of my robe and exposed me to the slightly chilled air of the room. He kissed me again, his hand heavy on my breast, cupping, squeezing as he shifted position and prepared to join me.

I sighed and he did too, misunderstanding.

"Charles," I began, and he shook his head.

"Won't take long," he murmured against my neck. "We'll be there in plenty of time."

It was not what I wanted to hear. I nodded instead and then closed my eyes.

And then I wasn't with him anymore.

I gasped in surprise, my eyes springing open to stare at the light fixture overhead and the tangled shadows it threw along the length of the ceiling.

"Abby," he soothed, never stopping, and I closed my eyes again, giving in.

Just this once, I thought; just this once, I'll let myself pretend and then I'll move on.

And so I clutched Renard to myself, felt him moving with me, inside me, and I ached so deeply I wanted to cry. It was his rhythm I felt, his body on mine, his kisses moving over my skin while Charles' lips were miles away from me.

I rocked my hips hard against him, sucking in another gasp of air as I tried to push the ache away, seeking more of him, needing more than I would ever find.

Oblivious to the drama playing out in my mind, Charles forged ahead, his quiet, urgent sounds of effort never quite reaching my ears. As always.

Choking back my own cry, I found my voice shaping itself around a different name. I drove myself against him, eyes shut tight, trying to remember every last detail of that moment.

The way Renard had smelled was what had sent me over. That faintly metallic tang of his sweat beneath the clean soapy scent of a hasty wash – and knowing I was right about what I thought it was – was all I needed.

I arched against Charles, grinding myself hard against him and exhaling a deep, wordless cry. After a few, stuttering shudders he froze in my arms before sinking down atop me. A few moments passed in silence once more before he shifted and pulled away to lie beside me.

And then we dressed and packed our things.

I wondered if he understood it was just this once, and wouldn't happen again.

And... That's it, for now. If you like any of what you've seen here, please let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the story. I'm having a blast writing this, and putting a lot of effort into my, *ahem*, research.

My Diva friends will get that little joke, of course...

Heck, just about anyone who knows me will understand.

And I've not forgotten the candy this week.

It fits the theme, too! Yay!

I present to you:

Mario Cipollini - Italian cyclist, eyecandy.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

13 Eyecandy Screencaps

Okay, I'll just cut to the chase.
If you don't want nudity of the male tushie persuasion, click away now.
You've been warned.

Without further ado, I present:

13 Eyecandy Screencaps
(from the Dieux du Stade 2010 video)

Ohhhhh, mmmyyyyyyy...










Where on Earth do I go to apply for that job???





Wait, what?

Thirteen yummy pics, and still you want more?

That seems a bit greedy, y'know...

And yet, who am I to judge?

Then again, it's *my* blog, so...

I get to pick the eyecandy closer.

Since the Rugby boys were nekkid, it's only fair the closer isn't.

But you know me...

I love a man in spandex. ;)

Fabian Cancellara - Road Cycling World Time Trial Champion.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

13 Things I Have To Do!

Wow! Got too busy this week so I'm doing a quick list again...

Here are
13 Things I Have To Do Today
(or very, very soon)!

1) Grade papers for my lesson this afternoon.

2) Prep paperwork to turn in on Wednesday so I'll get paid for this month.

3) Teach two lessons at the bank.

4) Walk to the school and talk with my (soon-to-be-former) boss, Mike. Good luck in the music biz, man!

5) Clean the cat box. (ew.)

6) Print more of my Samuele Bersani photos. (Squee!)

7) Clean up my desk area in my office.

8) Do final formatting on "Ask Me if I'm Happy."

9) Find a beta reader or two for said story (only two weeks left!).

10) Decide on what to make/buy for dinner.

11) If the clothes are dry - wash more.

12) Mop the kitchen floor (please, please, PLEASE let that smudge be from the gooshy cat food...).

13) WRITE!!!

As usual... Just scroll down...

I'm feeling nostalgic, today...

So I went with an old standby...

More material should show up soon, I hope...

Enjoy this in the meantime, though:

Geoffroy Messina - Rugby Player

Ciao! :)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

13 Things I'm Looking Forward To

Got caught short again this week, so I thought I'd do a quick list of

13 Things I'm Looking Forward To!

1) This weekend, I'm supposed to go to Bologna, which is enough to make the list on its own.

But then we add to this the fact that we're going there in order to see:

2) Samuele Bersani, presenting his latest CD, Manifesto Abusivo! Woot! :)

3) I'm also looking forward to finishing the edits/rewrites/etc, etc on my novel "Ask Me if I'm Happy" and once I've finished that, I'm submitting the full to a new publishing house. :)

Which brings me to:

4) The launch of Dragon International Independent Arts in London, November 14th, 2009. I'll be there with the hubby in tow. It's his first trip to London, and my second. Wahoo!

5) I'm looking forward to next year, because I'm supposed to have a visit from my friend Cristy. At least, this is what she's currently claiming.

6) I'm also supposed to have a visit from my friend Anthony.

7) And one from my mother and stepfather.

8) I'm looking forward to getting more work done on my current WIP, "27 Stages."

9) I'm looking forward to doing more research for this, as well. Heh. Part of which will involve rather intense *ahem* study of:

10) Il Giro d'Italia,

11) Le Tour de France

12) La Vuelta a Espana and various other cycling events, both local and worldwide.

13) also, I'm looking forward to seeing some Rugby on TV.

erm, I mean...Rugby, on TV.

And Gonzalo's lovely pic not withstanding, I'm sure you'll appreciate if you scroll down a bit...

'cause, you know, it's not Profoundly Shallow without a little more eye candy, is it?

And to those who might say this is exploitation, pure and simple, each and every week, I say:


It's appreciation. Specifically, of the work of Dylan Ricci.


Thursday, 15 October 2009

13 Websites I Frequent

Now that I'm working more steadily, I'm afraid doing a T13 this week almost fell to the wayside. Since I'm pressed for time, I thought I'd make short work of stuff and present you with:

13 Websites I Frequent (Almost) Every Day

1) Yahooooo-oo!
I reckon you know what this is. Visiting the American site instead of the Italian one is the only reason I know what's going on the US, much of the time. How sad of me, eh?

2) Face Time!
Lawd help me - I got sucked in! At least I'm "friends" with lots of nice people! :)

3) GoogleMail!
My other email portal. I like the fact I can personalize it, too.

So far, it's pretty boring, right? Wait, it gets better!

4) Divas!
This lovely bunch of writers welcomes anyone and everyone who wishes to write, and they're willing to offer advice, help and even - when necessary - a shoulder to cry on. What a great group! I've grown as a writer since joining them. I couldn't do what I've done without 'em!

5) Manifesto Abusivo!
The site promoting Samuele Bersani's latest album. It's a beautiful layout, in my opinion, easy to navigate and virtually stress-free to visit. (And the "galleries" are full of wonderful goodies, too.)

6) Weather Page!
I'm a weather nerd. I walk to work, so I always need to know what the weather might have in store for me. I check this site all the time.

7) YouTube!
I go there for clips of just about everything. Including this:

8) Free Rice!
No, rice hasn't been unjustly imprisoned. Here, the idea is simple: play games, donate rice. Does it work? I don't know, but if it does, I could probably cure world hunger just playing this thing. Addictive.

9) Online Translation Site
When I'm in a bind and can't reach the hubby, or I just need a filler for a phrase in my WIP until I find a native speaker, I use this site. The translations seem better than what I've gotten on Babelfish, so far. Of course, the vetting process goes on afterward, so it's rare that what I've found here stays permanently in anything I've written. But it does happen. :)

10) Venetian Real Estate
When I was writing the "Alternate Rialto" section of "Ask Me if I'm Happy", I visited this page frequently. The palazzo on this link, with some fudging, became Jacopo's home on the Grand Canal. These sites fascinate me at any time, but when I'm writing, they're a godsend!

11) Men? EWWWwwww!
If you want to write a jerk, this site is proof that you really just can't write weirder stuff than real life throws at us. I swear, I've been in relationships with some of these guys... Ugh.

12) Naked Men, Happy Women
On the other side of the spectrum, for those who aren't hung up on nudity of the male variety, there's this site. Seriously, this woman and I almost share a brain - men are beautiful! Look at them! Then again, if you're uncomfortable with viewing men in the, *ahem*, altogther? Don't go here. Please.

13) Inspiration of a sort...
If I could afford it, I'd buy a big ol' print of this one. I visit all sorts of royalty-free stock photo sites, but this pic is one which featured in a big way when I was writing "Ask Me if I'm Happy." One day, I'll purchase a copy and hang it on my wall.

And now, you know the drill.

Keep going...

I think he's lovely.

And I have no idea who he is.

Thanks to "Naked Men, Happy Women" for this week's eye candy.

And of course, thank you, Dylan Ricci, for catching this image.

God bless ya!


Thursday, 8 October 2009

13 Select Pieces of Eye Candy

(WARNING: if you are offended by male nudity in any form, skip this post. There is a rather revealing glimpse contained in a photo in this week's post. Not quite the full monty, but still, a bit of frontal nudity is visible. You have been warned!)

Okay, everyone, this week, I thought I'd dispense with all the hubbub and get right down to the matter.

No names are necessary, I think. Some of them you've surely seen before. Some of them you might be seeing here for the first time. I admit to my slight bias toward rugby players, but seriously - do you blame me?

Remember - all pics here are clickable! :)

Please, allow me to present to you:

Thirteen Select Pieces of Eye Candy!

Have a happy Thursday! :)