Update On Kindle Vella

For a little update on what’s happening at Kindle Vella, I posted my last episode of Dumaine Street this past Thursday, January 26. As many endings often are, this was bittersweet. Dumaine Street is a paranormal romance novel I began several years ago. I was so taken by the neighborhoods off of Bayou St. John, particularly the Faubourg St. John area of New Orleans, that I was inspired to write this story with this lovely area as a setting. Dumaine Street, at its heart, is a romance. At its core, it is the tale of two somewhat damaged but extraordinary people who find a way not only to help each other but fall in love in the process. To date, it’s the second and longest Kindle Vella story I’ve ever written. I should begin working on getting it ready for publication as a novel next month. But if you’re not interested in waiting, it will remain posted on Kindle Vella.

In addition, presently, I have two other ongoing Kindle Vella stories. One is my newest, The Alchemist’s Bride, and the other is my werewolf tale, The Story of Enid. I should be posting a new episode for that one sometime this weekend. I also have two other completed stories at Kindle Vella. One is The Lady in the Blue Dress, published recently as a paperback and on Kindle. The other is a long short story, The Most Unlikely of Places, which is a time travel tale.

So, if you want to check out Kindle Vella, type in Evelyn Klebert to find my tales. Also, as always, the first three episodes of any Vella are free to read.

The Alchemist’s Bride – New Kindle Vella

Recently, I launched a brand new Kindle Vella. In addition to my ongoing stories, Dumaine Street, which has just reached its 33rd episode, and The Story of Enid, which has reached its 17th, I am introducing The Alchemist’s Bride. This tale is a bit of a departure for me, a paranormal romance taking place entirely in 1888 New Orleans. If you want something different and on the gothic side to read this holiday season, check out The Alchemist’s Bride. The first three episodes are always free to read at Kindle Vella.

Emmeline Lescale might as well be an orphan. Her mother is dead, and her father wants nothing to do with her. She has been raised by an aunt in Vacherie, LA and virtually treated as an unpaid servant. But suddenly, her neglectful father insists she come live with him. New Orleans in the 1880’s is no place for a proper young lady, especially when her father is embroiled with a mysterious young doctor whose interests venture deeply and dangerously into the world of the supernatural.

The Lady in the Blue Dress – Just Released

I am very excited to announce the publication of The Lady in the Blue Dress!

Take a little time this holiday season and unravel the mysteries of The Lady in the Blue Dress. Just released at Amazon, Cornerstone Book Publishers, and most online book publishers, as well as Kindle, settle in and travel along the twists and turns of this unpredictable paranormal romance.

When she was a child, Mika Devalieur was introduced to her grandmother’s most precious possession — a priceless and mysterious painting that she simply called The Lady in the Blue Dress. Upon Adele St. Clair’s death, the painting is left in the care of her granddaughter with only one stipulation. Mika must hand over the family heirloom to a total stranger. Mika Devalieur desperately wants to deny her beloved grandmother’s last request, but she can’t. Torn between her Gran’s last wishes and her desire to hold onto the Lady, she ultimately journeys to rural Virginia, where an enigmatic man shows her that this painting is only the beginning.

What quickly becomes clear is that James Clairmont knows much more about her and the Lady than he is letting on. He begins to slowly unravel a powerful supernatural connection that spans three generations of her family. Mika finds herself desperate to uncover the entire truth before she falls in love with a man filled with so many secrets — secrets about him, about her, and most especially about The Lady in the Blue Dress. (First published on Kindle Vella, episodes 1-23.)

The Lady in the Blue Dress – Coming Soon!

I am very excited to announce that my new book, The Lady in the Blue Dress, will be released later this month. This is a novel that I am very proud of and has been in the works for some time. I hope you take this paranormal journey with me this holiday season and unravel the mysteries of The Lady in the Blue Dress.

When she was a child, Mika Devalieur was introduced to her grandmother’s most precious possession — a priceless and mysterious painting that she simply called The Lady in the Blue Dress. Upon Adele St. Clair’s death, the painting is left in the care of her granddaughter with only one stipulation. Mika must hand over the family heirloom to a total stranger. Mika Devalieur desperately wants to deny her beloved grandmother’s request, but she can’t. Torn between her Gran’s last wishes and her desire to hold onto the Lady, she ultimately journeys to rural Virginia, where an enigmatic man shows her that this painting is only the beginning.

James Clairmont clearly knows much more about her and the Lady than he is letting on. Slowly, he begins to unravel the powerful supernatural connection that spans three generations of her family. Mika finds herself desperate to uncover the entire truth before she falls in love with a man filled with so many secrets — secrets about him, about her, and most especially about The Lady in the Blue Dress.

The Armstrong

Well, I’m wrapping up Halloween week here at evelynklebert.com with a short story entitled “The Armstrong.” It’s a tale of two people taking an extraordinary leap of faith to find each other. And given the chaotic state of the world right now, I thought it was important to close this Halloween celebration on an upbeat note of possibility. After all, what extraordinary things could flourish if we could embrace change and perhaps take that elusive leap of faith? I wish you all well and hope you enjoy “The Armstrong.”

The Armstrong

It was an old hotel. That was something that could be felt, its history, on her very skin.

She would have preferred something new, walls that hadn’t been around for so many years. Of course, the lobby was impressive with its chandeliers, effigies on the ceiling, vast spaces trimmed with mahogany accents.

But she would have preferred something new, not so vast, not so impressive.

Once she got upstairs, the halls were more narrow, skinny even, filled with rooms facing each other, past the elevator, and at one end, a painting slapped on the wall, an old plantation. Not much thought, someone just thought it looked pretty.

She moved quickly, swiping her room key, then slamming the hotel door behind her. Throwing her shoulder bag down onto the king-sized bed, she checked her watch. It was late, eight-thirty.

She didn’t know why she was here, why she’d come. This was pointless. All of it, but she couldn’t stop. She had no idea how to begin to stop.

After having been dropped off by a handsome cab, the lobby was full when he checked in. It was well into the evening, but there were all manner of individuals milling about The Armstrong — evidently serving as a center of social activity as well as a hotel. A valet had offered to carry his trunk and greatcoat, but he declined. As he took the lift to the third floor, he focused. It was necessary to achieve great concentration.

Fortunately, the narrow hallway to his room was deserted, unlike the downstairs. It could be any place, anywhere, and more than that, any time. He held the key that he’d been given tightly in his hand. And then he closed his eyes just before he put it in the door.

He allowed himself to be pulled, pulled by the life force he sensed. After all, time is an ephemeral construction. What is real power is energy, the magnetism of energy. He allowed himself to be drawn in, and then he opened the door.

“Lydia,” her eyes fluttered open.

Surely, she’d been dreaming. Then the fatigue swept over her, and her eyes drifted closed again. “Lydia, focus.”

Someone was talking to her, but she was asleep. Wasn’t she?

“It’s an in-between state of awareness. Not sleep, not awake. That is how I am able to contact you.”

“I—I don’t understand.”

“Just listen, my name is Charles Del Couer. I’m a doctor of sorts. And I’ve been looking for you for some time.”

That’s how it had begun, slowly, insidiously. These were contacts that she could attribute to imaginations, indulgences, then later even mental illness.

At times, they’d talk at length in that in-between state. “You’re not ill. You’re gifted. There is a vast difference.”

“What is it you want?”

“I want us to meet.”

“Meet? How? When?”

He seemed somewhat befuddled by her questions. He could see her, and she could see him in that in-between state, often just across the room from her, but the trouble was that he seemed so insubstantial, passing in and out of vision as though he was made of mist at times, a fluttering photo on a blanket of vacillating haze.

Befuddled, yes. “How? Might be a bit easier than the When.

“The When?”

“Yes, Lydia.” He called her Lydia. Her name was Lilly Page, but Charles insisted on calling her Lydia. He claimed to have known her as such.

“I don’t understand.”

“We need to meet in a particular place, a place where there is a link.”

“What sort of link?”

“It has to do with the When of things.”

She was sitting in the corner of the room, of the shadowed room, waiting quietly when the door began to open. She should have been scared, should have been terrified at what was happening. But she had slipped into the mindset, the altered state that he’d taught her. The one he had drilled in fact, nearly over an entire year, a few evenings a week, then in the last few months every day, every day striving to achieve a sort of mesmeric trance that he taught her.

And she sat quietly as the door swung open. He stepped into the room, not a mist, not part of an imagination, not a dream manifestation. But real, in the flesh. Silently, he closed the door behind him, turning a lock she did not recognize. He placed his oversized black suitcase on the ornate rug covering a wooden floor and draped his long coat over a golden crushed velvet wing-backed chair. She breathed in sharply, somewhat shakily shifting her state. Lilly had become cognizant that her surroundings had shifted around her.

He stared at her from across the room. Blond hair, dark eyes, and dressed — her breath caught in her throat — dressed in a suit “from another time,” he finished. She straightened up in a chair she no longer recognized. He had completed her thought. “It’s a side effect,” he murmured. “From all the intensive alignment we’ve been working at.”

“Alignment?” she murmured.

“Yes, to make this possible. As I said, the When of things was always going to be more problematic. But we’ve overcome that.”

She was coming to herself now, out of the trance. The room had grown. In fact, they were in a sort of sitting room, and beyond an archway was another room. It was a suite, whereas she’d been in a single room. And the décor was more elegant, like the hotel — mahogany furniture, velveteen, and tapestry chairs, paintings of soft country-side scenes, placed on the walls as though someone had given it thought, not just haphazardly hung them.

“I don’t understand—”

“The place is a mix of your time in 2019 and mine in 1904.”

He had moved closer to her and was standing in front of her. “It doesn’t seem like a mix. It seems to be wholly in your court.”

“There are subtle differences,” he murmured, though his eyes seemed purely transfixed on her. “Can I take your hand, Lydia?” he said rather abruptly.

“Lilly, my name is Lilly.”

“I’m sorry,” he held out his hand for her as though she’d agreed. But she did allow it, allowed him to take her hand, and he rather firmly pulled her to her feet and then into a warm, intense embrace. “I don’t know if I believed it was possible to really reach you.”

It was the writings that he began to find first, in odd places, tucked away in books, in his desk, and on the pages of his own personal journal.

The penmanship was odd, not flowing, and well composed as most writing he’d encountered. But rough, and not in script at all, but rather some blockish-looking print.

It’s odd. I’ve been having these headaches more often lately. The doctor can’t find anything in particular wrong with me, just stress, she said.

He’d found the writing on an unfamiliar stationery stuffed in a book on Animal Magnetism that he was reading by Franz Mesmer.

She even did a CT scan, but nothing. Stress — the convenient diagnosis when they have no idea what is wrong with you. It’s frustrating, and I didn’t even bother to tell her about the dreams. After all, they are just dreams.

The paper was thin, filled with lines, and the ink was an odd color, a forest green shade. He had no idea where it had come from, perhaps just the shop where he’d purchased the book. But such a strange note.

And then he found another.

I’m starting a dream journal. Not sure why except I’m desperate to get things sorted out somehow.

He found this one on the same sort of paper stuffed in a nightstand by his bed. It was quite impossible unless the housekeeper or a maid had left it there. He would question them thoroughly as the hour was quite late when he’d discovered it.

Last night I dreamed I was walking through an unfamiliar house, a large place old-fashioned with a great staircase just past the entrance. As I ascended to the second floor, I put my hand on the rail, a heavy dark wood. I turned the corner past the stairs, and there was a long hallway filled with doors. Then someone was beside me, but I couldn’t turn to look. It was like a paralysis, but he whispered in my ear, a deep voice. “Which door will you choose, Lydia, or will you go back to whence you came?”

It shook him, the name Lydia. It was an odd sensation, not a word that was precisely in his memory but in his other memory, sense memory he’d read about in a book on magnetism. This was a deeper sort of holistic phenomenon attributed to the spiritual plane. 

He sunk down onto the mattress of his queen-sized bed. The scrap of paper he held in his hand was fluttering. And given his usually methodical nature, it was a bit shocking. But his hand was shaking, not just that he was trembling, trembling all over. He schooled himself to breathe deeply, calmly, but it was next to impossible. His eyes again scanned over the curious script. It felt familiar, something he should know or would know.

Of course, he would check with his housekeeper, Mrs. Farrow, and the two maids, Cecily and Lucy. He didn’t really need two. He was a widower, but Lucy was Mrs. Farrow’s daughter, and she had asked for her employment, a sort of favor to help her find her way. There was still that possibility that it was one of them. He folded the paper over, putting it on the nightstand. The name Lydia, he knew it but from where?

Her head spun with dizziness. “Try to anchor yourself,” he whispered in her ear. She did. She focused on the reality she was experiencing now, in her mind accepting that this new place was now her plane of existence.

He continued to hold her, gently rubbing her back in a soothing manner. She didn’t know if it was helping or distracting, but she liked it, allowing herself to relax in his embrace. “I cannot tell you how pleased I am to meet you finally,” he murmured. And she felt it, through his touch, the emotions she felt in his thoughts seeping through the embrace. “You’re so sensitive.”

“I—” she began, having no idea where to begin.

“You must tell your mind that this is real.”

She felt her knees begin to buckle as the reality of her exhaustion swept over her. She felt him sweep his hands under her knees and scoop her up just before she collapsed. “I can’t—” she whispered as she lost consciousness.

When had all this started? She couldn’t remember, probably with the journal. It was supposed to be a dream journal but turned into something else, something she would scribble thoughts and feelings in at odd times during the day. She’d taken a semester off from work. She taught English Literature at a local university, but the inexplicable medical issues had made things too complicated. Kindly, they’d given her time to sort things out, though she was several months in and felt no closer to anything being settled.

One day though, a chilly day late in September, she’d opened her journal to find the curious writing just below her entry.

It was a fine penmanship and strange ink, completely different from her thick green ballpoint pen.

To Whoever May Receive This,

Please take note this is an experiment on my part, an indulgence if you will. The headaches you are experiencing may be connected to a hyperconnectic experience. Do not assume that they are traditionally physiological in the sense that most may experience.

She remembered staring at the page in total confusion. Lilly Page lived alone in a townhouse in New Orleans. No one else had access to this journal. Of course, the panic had surged up inside her. Maybe she was losing her mind. Maybe this was some sort of multiple personality disorder. The possibilities that she concocted were quite horrifying. So, she did the only thing she could think of, she answered.

Please tell me, who is this. You are frightening me.

Two days later, there was an answer in the same formal antiquated script.

Forgive me. My name is Charles Del Couer. I’m a doctor.

How are you doing this?

I found your journal in my bureau some days ago. I believe I am supposed to help you.

It’s difficult to know what to believe and what not to believe once events step out of your ordinary parameter of thinking. Lilly left the journal alone for about a week. She considered all sorts of things, primarily among them all that she was having some sort of a break from reality — schizophrenia, multiple personalities, a brain tumor. But no, they’d done a CT scan. That wasn’t a possibility.

She thought to throw the journal out into the trash. But she couldn’t bring herself to. The headaches continued, and she was becoming desperate.

Look, I can’t deal with much right now. I’m in too much pain. If this is some kind of trick or worse, or if it’s just me having some sort of breakdown, then have a little mercy and —

She stopped writing. What else could she say?

She closed the journal, put it on her little white desk in the corner of her bedroom, and pushed it away for a few moments.

Then tentatively, she slid the old-fashioned looking leather-bound book she’d purchased from Barnes and Noble back towards her. Taking a breath, she flipped it back open to the ribbon-marked page that she’d just written on. Just under her writing was a new entry, scribed in that exquisite penmanship.

Extraordinary,

It began.

So, I believe it falls upon me to convince you that I am not a delusion elicited from the depths of psychosomatic illness. Very well, as I said, my name is Charles Del Couer. I am a practicing physician at the Hotel Dieu, French Hospital, Charity Hospital, and Mercy Hospital. I am a member of The Society of Magnetism in New Orleans. I live in a house along the Esplanade Avenue near The Bayou St. John. I am a widower.

Her eyes blinked. Some of those hospitals he listed she wasn’t even aware had ever existed, and the Society of Magnetism. What exactly was that? So how could she create something that she had no knowledge of?

Her head had begun again to pound unmercifully. So, she wrote with a shaky hand.

I’m not trying to insult you. I just have to be sure. It’s been difficult. She closed her eyes and let the pen drift from her hand, trying to mentally will the pain to subside.

“Breathe deeply.”

She could hear the sound in her ears, a voice murmuring in her mind. She began to take long, measured breaths, in and out.

“Try to focus on allowing the pain to subside. Let it drift away slowly with every breath.”

Again, she focused. With every breath in, she concentrated, and with every breath out she relaxed, allowing the pain to slowly drain away from her temples and forehead. And it was helping, she could feel it. The pain was still dull but a ghost of the intensity that it had been.

“Good, now try to lie down on your bed and rest for a bit. I will continue to focus energy to you.”

She didn’t reply. She simply groggily did as she was directed to do. She didn’t mentally put it together at that moment who was speaking to her and leading her. She was just grateful for the help. She drifted effortlessly into sleep, moving into quiet, until she dreamed of a great house near the water and a man speaking softly to her.

Dreams became a link between them. Perhaps from the first time when she’d read what Charles had written in her journal and then when he’d directed her, helped her, and perhaps mesmerized her into a deep sleep as was his way.

In this dream, she was still in her room, in the bed but now it was layered with a different room — one she didn’t recognize. She sat in the bed and saw the enormous mahogany rolltop desk against the wall and the man sitting in a straight wooden chair next to it.

He was there, but insubstantial as was his room, quite different from the usual space she inhabited.

“What is this?” she meant to speak but felt it as something else emanating from a place that wasn’t exactly sound.

“You should be resting Lydia, not forcing a connection at this juncture.”

“What does that mean? Forcing a connection?”

His clothes, suit rather, was antiquated, but his tie hung loosely untied at the collar of his white shirt. “We, you, and I clearly will be communicating. Somehow we’ve bridged the space that traditionally separates us.”

“Space?” she murmured.

“Yes, space is the only adequate description of what separates us. Time is an artificial construct.” Her eyes were examining him. He wasn’t old, older than her but not by much. His hair was a dark blond shade, and he had a well-kept beard and mustache.”

“You’re Charles,” she murmured.

He eyed her oddly, with curiosity, she felt, because she was feeling so many things. “Yes, yes, I am. You should rest.”

“My name isn’t Lydia,” she said, while she felt the fatigue take her over again.

“I know,” was the last thing she heard him say.

She slowly opened her eyes but wasn’t sure where she’d be when she opened them. She felt the pressure of his hand atop hers. Flesh upon flesh, not that insubstantial contact that she’d come to expect between them.

“Lydia,” he murmured, softly brushing her hair away from her forehead.

“Charles,” she whispered. “Where are we? Still in between?”

He nodded, “Seems so,” squeezing her hand. “How are you feeling?”

She glanced around the room, again seeing the ornate vintage furnishings but noting now tapestry-type wallpaper that she did not remember before. “It’s changing,” she whispered.

Again, he squeezed her hand. His eyes were blue with amber flecks. She’d never been so close to him to see that before. They were actually together. It worked.

“Yes, it has,” he said softly, looking at her with quite a degree of tenderness. He’d read her mind, heard her thoughts as he’d done before. And she remembered now how along the way she’d completely fallen in love with him.

“I don’t understand how this is possible.”

He’d led her through a guided meditation, initially writing her the instructions in her journal. After guiding her with his voice in her mind a few times, he then communicated with thought transference once she was deep in the meditation.

“Is this like hypnosis?”

“Not exactly, it travels well beyond simple mesmerism. We have genuinely connected on an astral plane.”

And it was dazzling, talking to him as though he were right next to her and sometimes seeing impressions of him in his home, but not concrete, more translucent.

She was sleeping soundly, and he knew he dare not disturb her, no matter how tempted he was. He paced the room, noting that it did indeed seem to be slipping away from her timeline and more into his. He wasn’t sure why exactly, only that things seemed unstable.

“The headaches, my love, are they worse after our sessions?”

He didn’t know when it had started, when he’d started referring to her as my love. It just seemed to have popped up organically, and she didn’t stop him. It was easy, easy to slip into. She seemed so vulnerable and accessible in some way though insubstantial, like some sort of a dream.

“No, they’re actually better after I spend time with you. They crop up when I’m doing other things, going to work, doing things in the outside world here.”  He was extremely focused on her as she spoke, having glimpses into her life, flashes of her moving through her life. And then deeper, slipping deeper into the physiology of what was happening.

He could see her, see her body in two spaces. There was tremendous stress on her energy systems. In her modern era, Lilly’s aura was becoming chaotic, bleeding energy to stabilize itself.

He questioned if he’d caused this, if their contact resulted in this divided stress.

“Can’t you rest, my love?” he’d asked.

“It’s difficult. I’m always tired, bothered, even when I sleep.”

“Sleeping isn’t always rest, you know,” he murmured. “Some believe it’s traveling to other realities.”

“Realities?”

“Yes, this life, this awareness we experience in waking hours is only a small part of actual living.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Give it time Lydia,” so odd how that name kept slipping out. “Then you will understand.”

Of course, she fell in love with him. Why would she agree to attempt such a thing, such an unthinkable meeting, attempting what rationality told her was impossible? But what was really rational and what was not?

She opened her eyes to look around the room. On the bedside table was a platter of fruit and cheese and a bottle of wine next to it.

She sat up shakily in the unfamiliar bed as it wasn’t the one that had been there once she’d checked into the hotel. “Are we celebrating?” she murmured.

He was across the room, back to her, staring out a window whose heavy brocade drapes he’d pushed back with his hand. He turned around quickly in response to her inquiry. “How are you feeling?”

She smiled, “I’ve no clue yet. Dizzy, I guess.”

“I thought you’d want to eat something.”

He sat beside her on the bed, taking her pulse without asking, then lightly feeling her forehead. “Will I live?” she asked lightly.

He squeezed her hand, and she felt that draw to him. She’d always felt it before, but not concrete, not like this with his skin next to hers. “You better. I’ve put a lot of effort into this.”

She nodded, “What now, though?” She wasn’t sure she wanted an answer. If they succeeded, they hadn’t really discussed it. And now that they had what was on the other side of this moment was the question.

“Why don’t you eat something? Then we can sort things out.”

She reached for a strawberry holding it in her hand for a moment, and a curious thought crossed her mind. She felt a bit like Persephone, eating the pomegranate seeds in the Underworld. Once she took a bit, would she be unable to go back? Would she be forever linked to where he was? She looked at him oddly, wondering, feeling as though he indeed did know the answer. She didn’t really hesitate. She didn’t regret anything. She simply took a bite. 

Copyright © 2022 by Evelyn Klebert

“The Armstrong” first appeared in a collection of short stories entitled Appointment with the Unknown: The Hotel Stories.

In “Too Many Pens,” an artist finds a very routine stay at a hotel slowly transforming into a place of romance and mystery. “Slipping” is the story of a young woman finding herself threatened by unexpected interdimensional attacks. Two unique travelers find love and themselves trapped in a French Quarter hotel during an unexpected tropical tempest in “The Storm.” In, “The Armstrong,” two people from different eras try to bridge the gap of time itself in an old historic hotel. “Variables” tells the story of a dimension traveler battling to rescue a man from a devastating fate. And “Hotels in the Time of Covid,” explores a relationship between a news reporter and her spirit guide.

Follow the unpredictable lure of the supernatural in this collection of Hotel Stories.

The Storm

The Storm

Check out my second short story for Halloween Week here at evelynklebert.com. This is the story of two strangers trapped in a New Orleans boutique hotel in the middle of a tropical storm and the amazing connection that they discover between them.

The Storm

The rain was pouring down in sheets, bands, they were called. She watched pensively through her balcony door. The breeze felt good, flooding into the dimly lit room. She stared downward toward the inner courtyard of the Hotel St. Mariana from the second floor. The swimming pool below, situated just in the center of the ornate patio, rippled with cascading rain droplets. The news said that the tropical storm should move over quickly, just tying up things for a bit, though the establishment had taken the precaution of placing sandbags at all entrances.

It was unexpected.

The storm was in the Gulf of Mexico but was predicted to move into Texas. Surprisingly, it took a substantial jog to the right at the last minute and landed in Louisiana, crashing her weekend getaway. She knew there might be a bit of rain, and it was the middle of hurricane season, late September, but she had been reluctant to shift course. She needed this. This time signaled a personal emancipation of sorts, beginning her life anew, and now, consequently, she was trapped in this little boutique hotel in the French Quarter for who knew how long.

She thought about going downstairs, not just staying here, trapped in the room. Though admittedly, it was a lovely trap, atmospheric. It reminded her of another time, one well removed from everything that her life represented now.

That voice in the back of her head, the cautious one that usually governed, reminded her that perhaps she should shut the balcony door, but the breeze felt so lovely and lifted her spirits. There was a rebelliousness burgeoning inside of her, one she usually kept in check, that seemed deliberately at odds with all those things she should do.

Undeniably though, the best part of this excursion of hers was that no one knew where she was. For the next two days, she’d escaped the snare of familial interference, people telling her what she should do, how to get on with her life, how she should feel. One way or another, this would be the new beginning for her that she so desperately craved.

It was a time to shed her old life, although, at the moment, all that progressive intent was a bit stymied as she was stuck in the middle of a storm. In some respects, storms made everything stand still. This, she’d always felt. The world and all her desires would simply have to pause until it passed.

Then again, perhaps this was just what she needed, a moment of quiet, suspended expectation and anticipation.

She leaned back on the white bedspread and closed her eyes, fatigue overtaking her. It had been this way for some time, just fatigue. She was so tired of stress and her life as it was. Undoubtedly all of this was purely emotional, then again, perhaps not.

He prowled with a deliberate restlessness. That was really the only way he could describe it. “Shouldn’t this be boarded up?” he fired toward the desk clerk, perhaps a little abrasively. He felt the clerk’s eyes on his back as he watched the torrents of rain pouring onto the street outside the plate glass windows.

“It’s only a tropical storm, sir. It should pass over with no incident.”

He frowned with tangible irritation. He was on a business trip traveling from up North, and this whole thing was woefully unexpected. Only a tropical storm was significant enough to cancel all his meetings and trap him in this little hotel. With frustration, he stalked the length of the antiquated lobby again. “Would you like more coffee, sir?”

He looked down at the Styrofoam cup in his hand that had been already filled twice with coffee several times more potent than he would ever obtain back home. The young clerk, a slender dark-haired lad that couldn’t have been in more than his early twenties, had made a pot of coffee just half an hour ago when he’d showed up. This storm was bothering him, and he undoubtedly was bothering the young desk clerk. “No, that’s all right.” Clearly, he was jumpy enough.

Mathias West didn’t like feeling trapped. He couldn’t book a flight out early, and he couldn’t roam the streets of New Orleans because of the storm. And he didn’t want to stop moving because if he did, it would only remind him of things he didn’t feel like facing, for instance, what a hollow sort of shamble his life was in. Ostensibly, he was a workaholic. He dated casually with no real intent of permanency because frankly it was easier and had become a habit. And usually, he was so busy that none of that was a problem unless, of course, things stopped like now.

He did not want this quiet time to reflect, but it seemed mother nature had other things in mind. So instead, he continued to stare out the window at the sheets of rain cascading off the pavement of Chartres St., trying to will it to move on, knowing full well what a futile waste of energy that was.

“Is there coffee?” He heard a decidedly feminine voice back in the vicinity of the front desk. He turned around, spying a tall slim, brunette woman at the small coffee station on the side of the long cherry wood desk. Amazing, another soul stirring in this bleak situation.

“How is the storm?” he heard her ask the young clerk, but he interrupted, answering rather intrusively.

“Wet and unmoving.”

Slowly, she turned around at the sound of his voice. Yes, tall, slender, pale skin and enormous eyes, lovely, he registered rather quickly. “Oh really, not moving?” she asked with surprise.

“Umm, no, Ma’am, actually,” the young clerk intervened. “The storm is moving. It will just take a day or so to completely clear out.”

He shrugged, turning back to the window, “Best listen to the expert,” he muttered.

And then, surprisingly, in just a few moments, she was standing next to him, coffee cup in hand. “I know it’s an inconvenience, but I do love the rain,” she murmured.

“This much of it?” he asked with sarcasm.

“I suppose that seems odd. But I find it, well, energizing, I suppose.” He couldn’t help but pick up on it. There was something just a bit wistful in her voice and a lovely intonation that seemed only characteristic of New Orleans, or so he’d surmised in the brief time he’d been in the city.

“Well, as it seems, we’ll be stranded here for a bit. I suppose I should introduce myself, Mathias West.” He didn’t bother to outstretch his hand as both of them were still holding coffee cups.

“What an interesting name,” she commented softly. “Olivia Blanchard,” she offered, smiling at him only briefly. And there was no denying it. Just that quickly, he was intrigued.

The small restaurant nestled in one corner of the Hotel St. Mariana opened around 7:00 AM. And as it was, they were the only partakers of breakfast. “I’ve been told to caution you that the hotel could lose electricity at any moment.” The young blond waitress told them rather gravely.

Liv smiled, sipping her orange juice. Across from her, her breakfast companion just gave a sort of grunt in acknowledgment. “Thank you,” Liv murmured just before the younger girl scurried away. Liv was only thirty-five, but she felt like Methuselah next to some of these young kids these days. Across from her, Mathias — still trying to wrap her brain around that name — drank his coffee. She wondered how he could drink so much of it, but then again, he did strike her as someone living a bit on the edge of things. “You know. It may just blow over with no power outages. It’s usually the wind that does damage.”

He nodded, “So I’ve heard. We get our share of storms, so they’re not completely alien to me. I just wasn’t expecting one here. Now, I mean. There wasn’t enough warning. It really threw a kink in things.”

“Yep, they do tend to get in the way,” she responded with the slightest tinge of humor in her voice. She was surprised to be sitting here with this man, this odd, cantankerous sort of individual. He’d caught her by surprise in the lobby, striking up a sort of pessimistic conversation about the weather when she’d joined him. They’d watched the storm roll in through the front window of The Hotel St. Mariana. “I’m sure tomorrow things will right themselves again.”

“Can I quote you on that, Olivia?” he’d said gruffly, though he lingered on her name a bit. He wasn’t really what most people would consider a handsome man — probably at least in his forties, bearded, dark brown hair, more on the husky side than slim, maybe just under six feet, she thought. And exuding, what was it, a sort of direct, disgruntled demeanor. She’d thought to herself like an angry bear, but it didn’t bother her. She was a teacher and used to fielding all types of personalities.

“No, you better not, just in case I end up being wrong.”

He’d looked at her a little oddly at her comment, assessing, she thought. Most people tended to dig in on their opinions, but she wasn’t nearly that committed to off-handed remarks. “Are you local?” he’d asked.

“Yes,” she smiled, “native to New Orleans.”

“I could almost pick up that peculiar accent. It’s not exactly Southern.”

She smiled, oddly amused at being described as peculiar. “Well, southern covers a lot of territory. Though I admit, we’re different than most anything else around us. And you are from?”

“Up North, Maryland originally, now Boston. I was in for a convention, supposed to be a sort of vacation.”

“Thus, the frustration,” she murmured lightly.

And it continued on, small talk. He worked for the Boston Globe as an editor, and she was a teacher at a community college. She expected him to be dismissive of that, many were, but he wasn’t, just continued to ask more questions. Of course, she didn’t flatter herself that he was really interested. It was clear to her that Mathias West desperately needed a distraction, and she just happened to fit the bill at the moment. After all, in truth, a distraction suited her as well.

She glanced around the small restaurant. Yes, she and Mathias West were indeed the only individuals here. So strange, she hadn’t even intended to leave her room that morning, but then the strongest restlessness had flooded over her, a need to ramble and explore, so much that it felt impossible to resist. She sipped her cool frothy orange juice and thought how lovely and indulgent a Mimosa would be just now. After all, she was now a free agent of the freest kind.

“Well, Olivia Blanchard,” he said casually, stirring his coffee, “you haven’t told me if there is a Mr. Blanchard.”

She glanced up, feeling just a little jolted, but again, she’d forgotten that the angry bear was direct and had no southern sensibilities of tactfulness, which suited her just now. She was tired of careful people. “No, no Mr. West, just me.”

Mathias waited, looking at her for an instant, expecting her to continue, then finally filling in. “Well, Olivia, I should tell you that I wasn’t always an editor. I started as an investigative reporter in my younger days and can’t shake the feeling that your response wasn’t a hard No but rather a soft one.”

“A soft one?” she questioned.

“More story there,” he elaborated.

She glanced around, wishing distractedly the waitress would come with her hash browns and eggs. She didn’t usually eat much breakfast, but for some reason, she felt like indulging, just like the hotel, an indulgence. Oh yes, back to his prying, “I’m not sure what you mean, Mr. West.” She said softly with an elusive smile but then noticed that he was studying her quietly, probably waiting for an answer that sounded reasonable. Well, she shouldn’t be surprised. Again, what else were they going to do today except perhaps dig up a stranger’s skeletons in the closet? “I’m recently divorced,” she offered quickly.

He nodded slightly as though she’d only acknowledged what he’d picked up on. “Yep, divorce is its special kind of hell, never easy.”

“Personal experience?” she asked, not overly concerned if she was now prying. It was only fair, and tactfulness seemed out the window here. It wasn’t as if they ran in the same circles or ever would. So, what if she offended him? Though oddly, her impression was that offending him might be difficult to do.

“About eight years ago, we’d been married just out of college, then, well, it just sort of fell apart.”

“My husband and I had been married just short of ten years. It was final, I guess, about a month ago.”

“Children?” he asked calmly.

“No, I, well, we tried. I lost a baby close to term once. Then there was another miscarriage. Just didn’t seem to be in the cards.”

His eyes seemed to change a bit. They were light-colored, maybe blue, or green, but she wasn’t sure. “That must have been difficult,” he said, maybe in a comforting way. It was challenging to tell with him. She suspected it wasn’t his nature to comfort, but she could be wrong. She didn’t have the best track record in reading people, her ex-husband being a prime example.

“Yes, it was, but the marriage wasn’t good. Children would have — I don’t know.”

“Made it complicated?”

She sighed, smiling a bit, funny feeling confiding in a stranger. It wasn’t her nature to be so unguarded. But now, with the storm, in this lovely little hotel so far apart from the way she’d always lived, it didn’t seem to matter all that much. “I would have loved children, but, yes, it would have made it difficult. Ryan and I were leading separate lives. And he, well, just went off and fell in love with someone else.”

His eyes were so fixed on her as though he was intently listening to what she was saying. It was odd that amount of attention. “I’m sorry, Olivia. That sounds like a very painful time.”

She smiled, “Most people I know call me Liv. Olivia seems very formal.”

He nodded, “Liv,” as though considering if, indeed, he felt comfortable with the sound of it on his lips, and then the food arrived, and the intense conversation stopped for the moment.

The storm continued to rage outside. Once in a while, he could hear it rattling, but it felt different now. All the irritation and frustration he indulged earlier was being stripped away. Liv? Did he dare tell her he preferred Olivia? Did he dare tell her that she was entrancing him with her candidness, with the lovely intoxicating tone of her voice? That a forty-three-year-old man was developing an intense crush on a perfect stranger, with emphasis on the word perfect.

This was ridiculous at his age. But he wanted to excoriate the ex-husband and thank him profusely for letting her go and throwing her in his path. She was quiet now, eating her breakfast, and he knew she was wondering if she’d made a mistake sharing the raw and painful part of her life that she was still dealing with. He was a middle-aged man and felt like he was in entirely new territory. He knew people and how to read people. But this, what was going on here, was new. “So, you’re leaving tomorrow?” she asked, her eyes wide. They were hazel, with flecks of dark green throughout.

“I’m not sure. There was a convention and meetings scheduled through the weekend, but I have a feeling all of it might be cancelled.”

She smiled, “Pity you can’t see more of the city. Have you been here before?”

“No, I haven’t. I wasn’t planning sightseeing, but I could be stranded a little while.”

“There are worse places to be.”

He moved his scrambled eggs around on the plate a bit. He’d ordered as she had, but not really hungry, and right now not at all interested in his food. And then he asked the question he’d wanted to ask for some time. “So, you live here in New Orleans, Liv?”

“Yes, well, in Metairie, I have a townhouse.”

“So, you’re here at this hotel. Why exactly?”

She paused, looking at him strangely. She was used to being judged. He could feel her wariness on his skin. He did have instincts as he called them. “I guess that seems strange to you.”

“No, not necessarily. I’m just curious, trying to put all the pieces together.”

“Pieces?”

“Lovely woman, all alone in this little boutique hotel buried in the French Quarter. I’m just nosy I guess.”

She smiled tentatively again, looking down at her plate, then glancing up at him almost shyly, deciding whether to trust him or whether it mattered if she could. “I just needed something different, a break, away from the old life — from people, from old things. I wanted something for me, completely out of the ordinary. I guess that sounds a bit self-indulgent.”

He shook his head slowly. “No, I booked this hotel away from the convention center, away from people I might know, for something different as well. To breathe different air for a little while.”

She stared at him, considering, he thought, that maybe under all his gruffness, there might be something there, something quizzically kindred. “That’s it exactly, to breathe different air. You do understand.”

“Yes, of course, I do, Olivia.”

He left the doors leading out to the balcony open in his room. The breeze from the rain outside helped to keep the room cooler. Just after his entrancing breakfast with Olivia Blanchard, the building did indeed lose electricity. He and Olivia had taken the stairs to the second floor, where they both had rooms. He’d escorted her to her door at the other end of the hall, wondering distractedly how to prolong their exchange.

“Are you a fan of cards?”

She’d smiled, indulgently he thought. “Only if I’m winning.”

“Seeing as we’re a bit trapped here, maybe I can test your skill later.”

She stood in the narrow hallway, looking at him in a way that made him wish they weren’t parting just now. “That sounds intriguing, Mr. West. You know where I am.” And then she’d left him to his own devices. Oddly, he wasn’t thinking anymore about his frustration, about being trapped here, unable to get on with things. Now, he was thinking about how long to wait before going down the hall to knock on Olivia Blanchard’s door.

She had opened the French balcony doors to allow some manner of light to creep into the hotel room. Outside, the storm raged, but she felt as though that veil of depression that had been hanging on her for months had been lightened. She smiled to herself. Suddenly, she felt young again, engaging, attractive. Angry Bear, she laughed — thinking about the man just down the hall that seemed anything but that now. In the short time they’d spent together downstairs in the lobby, then the dining room, she’d begun to see beneath the layers. He was incredibly sharp, to the point, insightful, compassionate, funny, and incredibly good-looking. And leaving for Massachusetts in probably a day. She was being silly, but it felt so good to be seen for a change, to be listened to, to not be judged by a lifetime of baggage.

She stood by the open doorway, feeling the soft mist of rain caressing her face. She was tired, but she didn’t want to sleep. She wanted to jump in headfirst. Of course, she didn’t know his room number. Maybe she could figure it out. And then, a bit unexpectedly, she heard a soft knock.

She whisked open the hotel door without hesitation. He was standing in the hallway with a deck of cards in his hands and a can of cashews. “I picked these up at the airport. They’re my weakness. But I can come back later if you’d like to rest.”

“No, maybe it’s the storm, but I can’t sleep. Come in. We can pass the time,” she said tentatively.

And then he looked at her warmly, making her melt a bit inside. This probably wasn’t the best idea, wasn’t safe, but she craved, needed to feel alive for a change.

As the day stretched on, the rain continued to pound outside the hotel with shifting levels of intensity. But it went unnoticed as they whiled away the morning playing cards. At first, on the coffee table that stretched in front of the white loveseat in what she would term the sitting room of her tiny suite, then later across the great white puffy comforter of her double bed, as it was more comfortable for leaning and resting with the large down stuffed pillows.

Was it improper?

The idea had not even crossed Olivia’s mind. Maybe she should be more careful. After all, what did she really know about this man, except that on the whole he was good at poker, not at gin, and a bit clueless about stealing casino, though he did seem to be catching on.

She was sitting on the bed, shoes off, leaning back against the headboard, while Mathias sat at the foot of the bed perched on one arm. He’d gotten rid of his sports jacket early on and rolled up the sleeves of a button-down blue shirt as the room was getting stuffy from the lack of air. They’d both gotten bottles of water from the mini-fridge, taking advantage while it was still cool.

Her mother would think her mad, allowing a stranger to spend so much time in her hotel room, but at the moment, she didn’t wish to think about her mother. And her less-than-supportive antics during her separation.

“So, I can pick up the ten and the two cards that add up to it,” he said with such a focused expression that made her want to giggle.

“Yes, all that.”

He glanced up with a furrowed brow. “Now, don’t laugh at me. I’m an amateur here.”

“No, Mathias, I saw you play poker. I definitely wouldn’t call you an amateur. So, no one ever calls you by a nickname, just Mathias.”

He nodded solemnly, still focused on the cards. Evidently, he was taking this very seriously. “Yes, nothing ever seemed to fit me. So, I was stuck with Mathias.”

She took a sip of the water that was now becoming less than cool. “It’s going to get pretty muggy in here with no air.”

He straightened up, having collected his pile of cards and added them to a very meager stack on the side. “Yes, I’ve noticed that about your climate here, very sultry.”

“The word is humid, and yes, it can be daunting even in the Fall.”

“The Fall is lovely up north,” he murmured. “You should come see it.”

She looked at him a bit oddly. The talk had been rather superficial, nothing as deep as what they’d perused over breakfast. But she’d felt a slight shift in his tone. “I’ve been up as far north as North Carolina, but that’s it.”

“Your turn,” he said. Then as she quickly picked up a card, he added, “I’d be happy to show you around Olivia Blanchard if you’d like to see it.”

She glanced up with a bit of surprise. That was direct, but then again, he was quite direct. “But you barely know me, Mathias,” she said lightly, taken aback by the draw she was feeling to this “stranger.” But a “stranger” who undeniably felt like someone remarkably familiar.

And then, quite unexpectedly, he reached out, covering her hand with his, and she felt an overwhelming response to the sudden contact. Was it attraction? She didn’t know. She’d never felt this before, this soothing feeling emanating into her skin through his touch, electric, maybe, but calming, relaxing. “Oddly, it doesn’t feel that way.”

She hesitated, nodding a bit, acknowledging the unchartered nature of their situation. Was she being silly? Probably, but she felt inclined to push away all those fearful voices that difficult life experiences had hammered into her head. They were the ones telling her to second guess everything she felt or thought, the ones telling her that somehow she was unworthy of feeling good or having happiness. All of them felt so easy to drown out at the moment.

“You’re thinking way too much, Olivia,” he murmured. His voice had that rich, deep timbre that seemed to reach inside her.

She smiled shyly, “Picked that up, did you?”

He squeezed her hand a bit. “I can literally feel it on you and, of course, see it in your eyes. They’re so easy to read.”

“Guileless,” she muttered.

“I would have said entrancing.” And then he reached over, lightly touching her face and pulling her in for the softest kiss. She couldn’t remember what she should do, couldn’t remember who she was before this moment, only that she sank into the comfort, sank deeply into the possibility.

Olivia knew things, knew she should stop, knew this would probably end in heartbreak for her if she let herself — what was the word, feel?

“It’s all right,” he whispered, pushing the cards onto the floor of the hotel room, and pulling her closer to him, his hands on her sides.

She breathed in deeply. What could she do? What did she want to do? Again, his mouth was on hers, more insistent, magnetic, pulling her intently toward him. And then there was the swirl, like the storm outside, that just blotted away everything, blotted away memory, concern, and allowed her to respond as if this moment between them was all there was. 

She kissed him back, pulling him more securely to her, against her. All was forgotten, and all was remembered as they began to find peace in each other’s arms.

He quietly watched her lying next to him asleep. Mathias could still hear the storm raging outside. The doors on the balcony patio were partially opened. But inside the room, it was calm. He was perfectly content to be still now. He wasn’t thinking to the next moment, rushing onward, plotting, strategizing beyond this place. It was perfectly novel to him. He was content.

She shifted in her sleep, and then her eyes fluttered open. They were so lovely, deep, warm, and vulnerable. He remembered holding her so close just a little while ago, the passion and gentleness in her eyes as he made love to her. He wasn’t the sort of man who liked to deceive himself, and it was clear, even to him, that he’d fallen in love, maybe for the first time in his life. What a predicament, what a glorious predicament.

She moved again beside him, then murmured. “What time is it, Mathias?”

“I have no idea,” he whispered huskily, reaching over to her again and pulling her against him. He was determined to take everything this moment had to offer.

She was hungry. On and off during the evening, they had raided the min-fridge in her room, then he had done the same returning with an assortment of cookies and crackers from his. And they had lived off of these for the rest of the evening.

“Any chance we could find something else to eat downstairs?” she asked.

Mathias was across the room looking out the balcony, wearing his shirt untucked over his pants. For the balance of the day, they’d worn a lot less. It made her cheeks warm. Even when she’d been married, she couldn’t remember having spent such an intensely intimate day. She pulled the sheet up a little higher. “I suppose we could get dressed and go foraging.”

She laughed, “Sounds like a lot of effort. How does it look out there?”

“Still raining, still wet, but the sun is trying to make its way out.”

“Too bad. I’ve decided yesterday was my favorite day ever. Don’t really want it to end.”

He turned back to her coming to sit on the edge of the bed, then taking her hand in his. “My favorite day ever as well Olivia. But it doesn’t have to be the only one.”

“Why don’t you come back to bed Mathias?” she smiled. She didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to think about what this meant, could mean, anything really. She just wanted to continue to be simply happy.

“I thought you were hungry.”

She pulled on his arm. “It will keep.” And he complied, rather easily, she thought.

They slept again. And Olivia dreamed of the storm. She could see it rolling over the landscape, not like a usual hurricane but like a great steamroller of turbulent clouds breaking through the land, through her townhouse where she lived, through the school where she taught, her car, her mother’s house, the quaint little house where she used to live with Ryan uptown. All of it was crushed, demolished, with nothing left. It was devastating, but strangely she didn’t feel devastated. She felt relieved as all those old bondages, things that weighed her down, were purged from the landscape, and she was left ready to start over.

She woke up with a start. Mathias was not next to her, and her heart lurched in panic. Maybe he’d left. Maybe he’d decided their “fun” night was over. Then she heard rattling in the bathroom, and he walked out.

She bunched the bedsheets in her hands. But didn’t feel relief. “I didn’t want to wake you,” he said, smiling. Then his expression changed as he sat down next to her on the bed, “What’s wrong?”

“Honestly?” she asked.

“Of course,” he said, lightly brushing her face with his fingertips.

“For a moment, I thought you’d left.”

“Really? Why would you think that?”

“I don’t know. This, last night, yesterday, it’s all new territory for me. Was it a fling? Two people trapped in a storm whiling away the time. Or, or was it—”

“Something more,” he filled in. “What do you want it to be, Olivia?”

“I think I want you to tell me what you want it to be first,” she stammered. “This is all scary new terrain for me. I’m quite sure I don’t have to say this, but it’s not my normal way of doing things.”

He took her hand in his, murmuring, “No, not you don’t have to say it. I don’t want you to feel afraid. Honestly, it’s new for me as well. I can’t ever remember feeling this way, feeling such a profound draw to someone as I do to you.”

“So, what now?” she whispered.

“We need to talk and make plans. I want you to come back to Boston with me.”

She leaned back against the pillows. “Really, just like that?”

He nodded slowly, “Yes, just like that, I can take some time off, several weeks, spend it helping you to get things in order, then we can go.”

“Just upend my life.”

His expression hardened a bit as though he were considering. “Is it a life worth preserving?”

She frowned at his bluntness. “I don’t know, Mathias. That’s a lot of change.”

“You asked what I want. I think I’m making it clear that I want you.”

“So, I move to Boston. What, then, we live together? I’m not really keen on that.”

“Then let’s get married.”

“I just got unmarried.”

“Then I’ll find you a place there for a while and help you find a job until—” he sighed deeply, running his hand through his thick hair. “Look, I haven’t had the time to figure this out beyond I want to be with you, perhaps need to be with you, Olivia. The question is what do you want.”

She pursed her lips. Old habits die hard. She was afraid, afraid to leap. “Right now, I want to get dressed and get something to eat.” Suddenly, she heard a quick sizzle, almost like a zap, and then the electricity flashed on.

He looked up a little darkly. “Well, I guess we’re back to real life,” he commented dryly.

Mathias plugged in his cell phone, whose battery had depleted some time before, and took a shower. He’d left Olivia in her room to do the same. He sensed that she needed a little time to herself, to consider what they’d discussed.

For him, it seemed obvious, black and white. They should be together, even if that meant uprooting her to do it. Maybe her roots here were deeper than he suspected. Maybe it was an old habit, being comforted by the familiar, even if it was miserable, though he hoped this was not the case.

But the time they’d spent together had been a revelation for him. He was old enough to be able to sense the extraordinary. It wasn’t just the intimacy, though he had to admit that was unparalleled. But it was mostly the extraordinary connection that he felt just being near her, talking to her. He had always heard the word kindred but didn’t truly understand what it meant until now.

But he did know how to fight, how to be tenacious, and how to get what he wanted. And what he wanted was Olivia Blanchard. He just had to figure out how to convince her.

She dressed slowly, deliberately. They were to meet downstairs in half an hour, and she had to say something. “What do you want, Olivia?” he’d asked. Had she answered? What did she want?

She wanted to go back to last night when everything was simple, and they were just together, with no past, no future.

She thought again about her dream. About the great storm rolling through and pummeling her life. Was that what Mathias was — a great storm flattening her old life? But in the dream, she didn’t seem to mind. She felt unfettered, free. All she had to do was leap. But did she even have that in her anymore? To leap?

He waited for her in the lobby, noting a different clerk at the desk this morning, a rather tall blond-haired boy, still young. He passed by the coffee. He didn’t want it. He felt more than awake already. Outside, the sky seemed bright and rosy. One would scarcely know that a storm had blown through.

He wandered up to the desk, the young man seeming enmeshed in the laptop. “Well, I guess the storm has passed.”

The boy glanced up, plastering on a friendly smile. “Sir?”

“The storm from yesterday, the tropical storm, Selene, or whatever they called it. It’s passed.”

Confusion seemed to furrow his young brow. “Storm, sir? I’m sorry I don’t know what—”

“Now come on. It knocked the lights out last night.”

“What’s the matter Mathias?” Suddenly, Olivia was right at his elbow. He hadn’t even heard her approach.

“This young man seems to be playing a prank on me. Not very funny if you ask me.”

“No sir, I’m sorry. I wasn’t here yesterday, but I assure you there was no storm. It was a beautiful sunny day.”

“Now look—”

She grabbed his arm firmly. “Mathias, come here. Let’s get something to eat.”

“Olivia.”

“It’s all right,” she murmured, pulling at him. “It’s all right.”

“I don’t understand,” he grumbled. “How ridiculous.”

It was quite bizarre. Olivia felt dizzy. She remembered the storm yesterday, the time when the lights were out — all the hours they spent together in bed, and the weather was raging outside. But then she remembered dreaming about the storm, and suddenly it all felt confusing.

“You remember it, don’t you? When we met downstairs in the lobby, we watched the rain.”

Vaguely now, she remembered but thinking about it made her head spin. Maybe it was hunger. That was why. They hadn’t eaten, had they? “I—I think so.”

Mathias reached into his pocket for his phone. He could check the news. That would confirm it and settle all this nonsense. But then he remembered that he’d plugged it in upstairs. “I have to get my phone.”

“I’ll wait for you.”

“No, no,” he said, grabbing her arm. It was ludicrous, but in all the confusion, he didn’t want her slipping away as well.

Mathias was a man that hung onto the facts. It made him feel grounded in his work and his life. But now, out of the blue, things felt indefinite, not grounded, as unstable as sand.

He held onto Olivia, though, pulled her to his side, and wrapped his arm around her back in the elevator. She wasn’t saying much.

“You do remember, don’t you?”

And she would whisper, “Yes, of course,” but it sounded hesitant. Was he losing it? Had he had some sort of bizarre stroke that tampered with his well-ordered memory?

By the time they got to his room, his head was spinning with disorientation. He moved quickly across the space to the phone on the end table. There were several voicemails. He looked at Olivia with concern, who had immediately sat down on the edge of the bed.

Quickly, he listened intently to the voicemails. “Mathias, where are you, buddy? You missed the first two meetings at the Conference Center. Are you all right?”

Then, “Mathias, it’s after lunch. Are you going to be a no-show all day?”

And lastly, “Mathias, it’s Todd. Call me back.”

He stared at the phone as if it were a viper, letting it slip out of his fingers onto the bed. He stared wide-eyed at Olivia. “What’s happening?”

She shook her head. “I’m so tired. Can we sleep?” Abruptly, he pulled her into his arms, and they laid down.

Olivia stood on a hill overlooking the city below. It vaguely registered that it wasn’t a landscape that was literal but rather symbolic.

“What are we looking at?”

Mathias was beside her this time. “The path of the storm,” she answered.

“I don’t see it,” he stated flatly.

She smiled, “Don’t you see it’s changed everything, remade what was.”

“Has it?”

She took his hand. She could see it clearly, but it might take Mathias a while. But she’d be with him to help.

Slowly, she opened her eyes. Her head pounded, oh yes, with hunger. They still hadn’t eaten. Mathias was sitting up beside her, looking around. “I guess I better let them know I won’t be making the conference.”

She took his hand. “Let’s go slow. First, let’s get breakfast, and then figure out our next step.”

He nodded, pulling up her hand to kiss it. “I can’t quite remember Olivia. Was there ever a storm?”

“I think there was, but not exactly the way we thought it was.”

Copyright © 2022 by Evelyn Klebert

“The Storm” first appeared in a collection of short stories entitled Appointment with the Unknown: The Hotel Stories.

Appointment with the Unknown: The Hotel Stories.

In “Too Many Pens,” an artist finds a very routine stay at a hotel slowly transforming into a place of romance and mystery. “Slipping” is the story of a young woman finding herself threatened by unexpected interdimensional attacks. Two unique travelers find love and themselves trapped in a French Quarter hotel during an unexpected tropical tempest in “The Storm.” In, “The Armstrong,” two people from different eras try to bridge the gap of time itself in an old historic hotel. “Variables” tells the story of a dimension traveler battling to rescue a man from a devastating fate. And “Hotels in the Time of Covid,” explores a relationship between a news reporter and her spirit guide.

Follow the unpredictable lure of the supernatural in this collection of Hotel Stories.

Autumn Sale – Cornerstone Books (25% Off Storewide)

Check out the Autumn Sale at my book publisher, Cornerstone Books. Their wide array of books are 25% Off Retail Price from September 4 – September 11. (Excluding previously discounted items) In addition to my books, there are a huge selection of esoteric books, masonic books, fiction and literature, Louisiana as well as many others. Take advantage of this opportunity to stock up.