Slow Burn

by J.J. Massa

Old Friends: Evie and Gibb have known each other for more than a decade. It's about time for these two longtime friends to negotiate a new relationship—hopefully, it won't be at the cost of the rest of their old friends.

Teacher, Teacher: Krayton Vance and Vivian Talon had several things in common. They both worked for the public education system, they both decided to spend their Spring Break in Spain, and they're both looking for a fling. The question is, what happens to them when the break is over?

Dinner for One: What could be lonelier than dinner by oneself? Many things, as it turns out. Join Maura for a memorable evening of dinner, drinks, and meeting new people. It's a meal she will always remember.

Anything: Intoxicated by a beautiful voice and a meaningful song, centuries old vampire Amedeo Di Calibria searches to find the singer. He finds beautiful but emotionally frozen Alexa. Can he melt the ice around her heart?



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? Heat Level: 5

JJ Massa "Slow Burn"


Click the story title to view each excerpt:

Old Friends | Teacher, Teacher | Dinner for One | Anything

Old Friends

Chapter One

 “Okay, that’s a wrap then, people!”

“Thank God!” Evie mumbled, clutching the broad, solid shoulders of the man she’d just spent six hours with, doing the same three scenes over and over.

“You said it, love,” sighed her co-star, slipping from the cultured accent he affected for the show into a slightly more course sounding London slang. “I’m for a cuppa tea, followed closely by a double shot of some fine malt. I’d ‘ave a pint, but who can drink that horse piss you yanks call beer?”

“Give it a rest, ya berk,” she snarked, elbowing the tall, muscular man in the ribs.

“’ay! I wish I never taught you such! You’re a cheeky thing, you are!”

The two argued good-naturedly until they parted company on the edge of the set area, the man heading toward the right and Evie to the left.

Marla, her assistant, was waiting for her when Evie walked into her dressing room. “Your husbandcalled twice,” she sneered at the title, twisting the cap off a bottle of sparkling water brutally. “And someone named Josie said to call her back,” she added in a friendlier tone.

“Thanks, Marla.” Evie sank into a cushioned chair and tucked her feet beneath her. “I’m going to call Josie. I just don’t have what it takes to talk to Ritchie right now.”

“Mm, hmm,” Marla mumbled noncommittally, dabbing at the heavy makeup on Evie’s face while Evie dialed Josie’s number. This was a daily routine for the two now.

“Hey!” Josie answered, her voice loud and strong.

“Hey.” Evie grinned. Wonderful Josie. Some things never changed.

“Hey!” Josie countered back, voice flat. This was how it always went when she called Josie.

“Hey,” Evie responded. She knew her smile sounded in her voice

“Hey!” Josie said again, unflappable.

“All right, you win,” Evie chuckled. They would be saying nothing more than hey for ten minutes if she didn’t give. But it was fun. Josie was fun. Fun and strong, and always there for her—no matter what.

“Okay, okay, so…did he bite your throat?” Josie gushed, sounding a lot like a fan-girl and nothing like the almost-forty year old executive’s wife and pillar of the community that she was.

“Who? Trent?” Evie shook her head at the phone, shifting so that Marla could swab at the red gel simulating blood on her neck. “Of course he bit me—about a million times! The entire show is based on the premise of him biting my throat—sucking my blood. It’s kind of icky after awhile. I’m sure your husband biting you is more romantic than…”

“Don’t talk crazy, woman!” Josie yelped. “Trent Worthington is hot. There is no comparison between my husband and a hunky, famous TV star sucking on my throat.”

“You’ve been married to him for twenty years and you don’t like Luke biting your throat?” Evie angled her head out of the way so that Marla could rub a little arnica into the bruise at her jugular. She’d have a permanent hickie by the end of next season, she was sure of it. “Is that why you called? To ask me about Trent, AKA Dragos, the emotionally torn vampire?”

“Was that a shot?” Josie asked suspiciously. “Because if that was a shot, you can’t come to my new, obscenely huge, and luxurious beach house.” She paused. When Evie didn’t answer, she went on. “Everyone’s coming. Between me, Tricia, and Clay, I think we’ve got the whole gang showing up over the course of the next two weeks. Just in time for your show’s hiatus.”

“Really? Everyone?” Evie waved Marla off with an apologetic smile, sitting up straight. “Uh, Sam, Randy, Gibb…Gibb and Dora? And the rest?”

“Yep, the whole gang. Don’t know if Gibb and Dori will be there, but most of ‘em have all called or e-mailed. Gibb’s my next call. One or two might not make it…but just about everyone will be there over the course of the next week or so.”

Gibb. Why did she always stop at Gibb? Evie gave herself a little shake. The last thing she needed was to indulge her old crush right now. Either way, she’d have fun. And she liked Dora, Gibb’s wife, well enough. She could watch Gibb covertly and have a fun relaxing time at the beach. If he didn’t make it, she’d still have a great time in the company of all of her old friends.



Teacher, Teacher

Chapter One   

Krayton chuckled as he listened to the exquisite little woman murder a perfectly easy Spanish phrase with her beautiful southern accent.

“Querría un bocadillo asado a la parrilla de queso, por favor. ¿Puedo tener yo los encurtidos en el lado?”she tried to say. The little lady wanted a grilled cheese sandwich with pickles on the side. What she said came out sounding like, “Querría un bocadillo asado a la parada queso, por favor? Puedo ti en la los encoja dios in el hado?” meaning: Would want a roasted sandwich to the stop cheese, please. I am able you in the God cripples them in the fate?

Finally, he could take no more and decided to be a hero. He walked to the table where the lovely little flower of the south was becoming more and more frustrated by the second. Even her grumbling in English was becoming very hard to understand.

“I would be honored to salvage this situation for you, miss. A grilled cheese with pickles on the side, right?” She smiled gratefully at him. He did his good deed. Before he could walk back to his own table, she laid a hand on his arm.

“Thank you so much, Mistah. I was getting so flustered.” Her accent was very pronounced. She gave him an embarrassed smile. “I’m famished, I guess. My brothers say I should never eat on an empty stomach. They tell me hunger just makes me addled.”

A man could definitely drown in those sherry-colored eyes. They were so warm. Still, they had a haunted look about them. Suddenly, Krayton didn’t want to go back to his table-for-one. He didn’t want to be solitary any more. “Think nothing of it, Miss. Mind if I drink my beer with you while you eat that sandwich?”

She looked at him for a minute. He was becoming a little uncomfortable when she smiled. “Please, Mistah, do join me. In fact, I’ll have a beer with you.” She wrinkled her nose at him, “That is, if you don’t mind ordering it for me. Law knows what I’d come away with.” He chuckled. This could be fun.

“Please, call me Kray. What do people call you?” He didn’t want last names. Okay, sure, he intended to become intimate with this beautiful stranger from the south—that seemed inevitable. Krayton was a commanding man and he generally got what he wanted. But he didn’t want a relationship. He just wanted a good roll in the hay.

Her soft voice kept his mind in the bedroom. “I’m Vivian. Pleased ta meetcha,” she extended a hand to him. He took it and held it in both of his.

“The pleasure is definitely mine, Vivian.”

Kray and Vivian had a couple more beers while they covered what they did and how they grew up. Both were careful not to name cities or even specific states. Krayton worked in a special operations division of detectives in a Northeast city. Vivian was a schoolteacher in the Southeast. She admitted that she was a bit shy.

Krayton Vance was thirty-eight now and his parents and sisters teased him ceaselessly about being single. He liked to keep himself in good shape so he jogged, worked out, helped with community building projects and neighborhood sports for kids. In short, he was very active and well built.

His body was hard and muscular. He had short dark brown hair. His eyes were dark green. He got a lot of comments on them when he turned them on the fairer sex. He liked feminine companionship but he just hadn’t found anyone he liked well enough to date steadily.

Krayton acknowledged that he was pretty aggressive. He had two sisters and had never been married.

Vivian had two brothers in law enforcement and was no longer married. Her marriage had been brief and had ended over a year ago.

He loved talking about his parents, his sisters, and their families. She loved talking about her crazy older twin brothers.

Pretty soon, the time for talk was gone. Both seemed to understand that this was a vacation fling. When Spring Break ended and they left Playa de la Rada, they would go back to their lives.

“If we leave here together, Vivian, we’ll be going to bed.” He looked into her eyes. He wanted no misunderstanding. He could still walk away. So could she. “I want to be clear. I am going to fuck you as many times as I can before our little interlude in Spain is over. Do you understand that?” She nodded. “Say it,” he ordered.

“We will–have sex–repeatedly, if we leave here together.” She took a deep breath. “Okay, I agree.”


Dinner for One

Maura followed the stuffy maître‘d into the dim room populated with sedate diners seated primly at carefully stationed tables covered in flowing white linen. Conversation was hushed, the clatter of silver cutlery against fine china a soft background music as she followed the tuxedo clad gentleman to a small, square table off to the side.

A curt nod from the austere man brought a white-jacketed busboy scuttling up to whisk away the extra chair. “Would Madame care for an aperitif?” the maître’d inquired stiffly, adjusting the tablecloth discreetly to hide the emptiness vacated by the missing chair.

“Please,” Maura smiled. She felt the center of attention and wanted nothing more than peace and a lovely glass of wine. “A dry red wine if you will.” Sweeping her loose skirt under her, she sat carefully on the padded chair, allowing the gentleman to scoot it in for her.

“Michele,” he said and turned to a swarthy young man, Mediterranean, no doubt. “See if you can find a nice Pinot Noir for the lady.” Turning back to Maura, the older man promised her, “I shall leave you now in Michele’s capable care.”

I wish, she thought, her eyes sweeping the sexy young man. Aloud she said, “Thank you, Michele.”

With a wicked wink, Michele leaned down to her ear, ostensibly adjusting her chair. “Anything for a beautiful woman.”

Maura shook her head with a smile. For those words alone, Michele had earned his tip tonight. She was glad she’d decided to treat herself. The last few months had been hard on her and she was rebuilding her life, finding new places to belong. A place that had such attractive and delusional young men waiting tables certainly had possibilities. Beautiful. Sure.

She sighed heavily, toying with her fluffy white napkin. She knew she wasn’t beautiful. Far from it, in fact. Any illusions she’d had about that were long gone these past three months, thanks to her estranged husband, Frank, and his candid description of her.

Old and fat, he’d called her, just before he’d walked out. The old part didn’t bother her, she might be a year or so past forty but he was a year or two older than she was. She’d earned every minute of those years and wasn’t at all ashamed of her age. Fat, though? That did sting. She was closer to two hundred pounds than one hundred, that was true, but she was healthy. Who didn’t have ten or fifteen pounds they’d like to shed, anyway? Apparently, Frank and his new, younger, svelte girlfriend were the perfect size. She sighed heavily.

“Such a sad sigh for a lovely lady.” It was Michele, placing her full wineglass in front of her. Had he meant to brush her breast when he placed her wine on the table? “What can I do to please you this evening, hmm?”

She gave him a knowing smile, promising herself that his tip would be a very big one. She didn’t believe his foolishness, but it was fun to flirt again.



Chapter One  

Andrei Di Claudio heard the sultry, pulsating rhythm of the drum and saxophone before he heard the woman’s seductive voice begin crooning. The beat had grabbed his attention. The husky voice singing to his soul kept him listening.

 I would do anything

I would give anything

I guess there isn’t anything

To bring you to me…

 Who was that singing? Where was she? He rose and moved to the French doors that led out to his balcony. Looking out into the endless night, he concentrated, trying to determine how far away she was. Her singing had stopped moments ago and he heard the raucous sound of excited applause. It had to be coming from the local concert arena, which was, coincidentally, one of the properties he owned in Christopher City. While it was several miles away, it would be a simple enough side trip to make.

Satisfied that he had the proper destination in mind, Andrei shrugged into his elegant black jacket and studied his reflection in the mirror. His hard-eyed likeness gazed back, reminding him yet again of one of the many amusing fallacies about his kind. In an effort to explain the fantastic differences between the races, peasants of old had filled gaps in knowledge with their excited imaginations. Those stories now were only exacerbated by so-called modern society.

Yes, Bram Stoker could take a great deal of credit for many of the wild fallacies, though it was the movie industry that truly made matters worse for his ilk. They had created monsters out of a minority of people that nobody understood or sympathized. True enough, some of them were monsters, but not all.

Briefly, he thought of his cousins and the man, the monster, who had changed them, enslaved them, and tried to own them. It had been their love for each other and their faith in an ultimate good that had saved them.

Unconsciously, Andrei lifted his hand, stroking over the material below the knot of his tie, feeling for the hard, gold crucifix that rested against his sternum. Few people in these modern times believed in Christ’s passion on the cross or even that he had lived.

A practicing Catholic still, Andrei attended Mass somewhat regularly. Upon entering sacred ground, he always dipped his fingers in the trough of holy water near the door. Its only effect on him ever had been to leave his skin wet.

No, most people were filled with silly children’s stories about vampires, some so outlandish that Andrei had to fear for those who would believe them. Like most enduring tales though, he found just enough truth in them to ensure their telling and retelling over the years.

Pressing one button on his cell phone, Andrei began speaking immediately upon hearing it answered. “Naldo, bring the car around, I wish to go out.”

Signore Di Claudio,” Naldo, Andrei’s longtime servant answered immediately.

A member of Naldo Bilardo’s family had served as personal valet and manservant to Andrei since just before the turn of the last century. Should Naldo fail to marry and produce a son to take up the position, one of his many nephews would follow in his footsteps.

Upon their arrival at the concert arena, Andrei allowed himself to be conducted inside where the administrative offices were. Naldo waited stoically by the door, ever the vigilant chauffeur, bodyguard, and general right-hand man.

Andrei was certain that the owner of the sultry voice he’d heard earlier had gone from the building. Although there was still music coming from the arena, it was not any music that Andrei found appealing.

“Where is the woman whom I heard singing here earlier this evening?” Andrei demanded impatiently of the Assistant General Manager.

“Um,” the nervous man stuttered. He was quite surprised to find himself talking to the man who owned the string of Arenas that paid his salary. “You must mean Alexa?” he asked hesitantly.

Struggling mightily with his emerging temper, Andrei smiled coolly. “She sang a song in which the word “Anything” featured heavily,” he informed them in his smooth and cultured voice.

“Oh, yeah,” a younger man standing in the doorway piped up right away. “Alexa sings Anything. It’s her latest hit,” he enthused, his expression enraptured. “That’s my favorite song! I love it!” he gushed, his eyes foggy as he pictured the young lady while she sang.

Skimming his thoughts, Andrei could not clearly make out the woman’s features through the filter of the young man’s memory and imagination. It didn’t matter. He did not like this man’s feelings about the woman he was sure was meant for him.