Free Fiction Thursday – Love Stinks, Inc.

Annie HS cover webLove Stinks, Inc.

Annie Reed

1

Dyte glared at the black cat perched on the center of her desk. It couldn’t stare back at her since it was just one of the many wildly successful plush toys her company produced, but that didn’t stop her from hating its adorable little guts.

The cat held a puffy red heart in its front paws. The universal Don’t Do This symbol, a circle with a slash through the center, was printed on the red satin fabric along with the stylized logo for Dyte’s company—Love Stinks, Inc.

The plush cat was part of this year’s line of stuffed animals meant to appeal to chronically unattached women (and chronically unattached men confident enough in their masculinity to buy themselves a stuffed toy). Given her company’s more than healthy bottom line, the world contained about a bazillion single people who didn’t mind dishing out $9.95 for a fuzzy toy to cuddle with on Valentine’s Day just to make themselves feel better about being alone.

Just like Dyte was alone.

She leaned forward, planted her elbows on the smooth surface of her desk, and rested her chin in her hands so she could gaze at the cat at something approximating its eye level.

“What’s your secret?” she muttered at the cat. “Why do people love you so much?”

She should be happy the toys were so successful. A significant amount of her company’s research and development budget had gone into determining a perfect size for the plush toys (big enough to cuddle but not so big they would give a real cat or dog or skunk a run for its money), the length and thickness of their fake black fur (somewhere between shorthair and Persian, when measured in feline terms), and the color of their over-sized eyes (a washed out blue somewhat darker than the noontime sky uncluttered by clouds but not as deep as the clear blue of a high mountain lake). That still didn’t the ridiculous popularity of the things. Even the skunks.

At least the toys weren’t spelled. She’d put her foot down (metaphorically speaking) at the mere suggestion, even though both R & D and her sales department had lobbied long and hard for inclusion of a compulsion spell—a “minor” one, they had assured her—in the stuffing inside the red satin heart all the plush toys held.

As far as she was concerned, customers would either buy her company’s products because they wanted to, or they wouldn’t. The last thing she wanted to do was compel people to fall in love with a stuffed toy.

Compelling people to fall in love was her dad’s thing, not hers. It was hard enough to be taken seriously in business when you were the immortal daughter of Cupid and Psyche, and you had a ridiculous name like Dyte because your mom thought it would be a nice tribute to name you after your grandmother.

Like Aphrodite had ever given one whit about her granddaughter.

Which was fine with Dyte. From the stories she’d heard, grandmother had a vindictive streak a mile wide, just like a lot of the old gods in the family tree. Even though Dyte was an immortal like her parents, she was glad to stay off grandmother’s radar.

If only she’d managed to keep her private life off her dad’s radar.

(end of sample)

~~~

Love Stinks, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Annie Reed

This story is no longer available to read for free, but it can be purchased at Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble.

Be sure to check out the other stories in the Uncollected Anthology series!

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Free Fiction Thursday – Carl of the Bells

Carl Bells web

Carl of the Bells

Annie Reed

 

My friend Carl was born a few beers short of a six-pack, if you know what I mean. He’s one of those guys with a bucket full of great ideas you just know will never pan out. He told me once he could make a killing selling rocks in a box.

“People are stupid gullible,” he said. “They’ll buy anything if you package it right.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him Pet Rocks went out of style while we were still learning our ABCs.

Carl being Carl, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he interrupted our football watching one night to tell me about his latest money-making idea.

We were nursing beers at Big Ed’s Tavern on this particular Thursday night watching the Chargers beat the crap out of the 49ers on Big Ed’s dinky television.

Big Ed got the NFL channel, which was why we hung out there. The place was packed because the 49ers were playing this week, and Reno’s chock full of diehard Niners fans. Didn’t matter that this late in December the 49ers didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs.

Carl and I counted ourselves lucky we got our favorite seats at the bar so we could see the tiny screen. You’d think with all the money Big Ed raked in on Thursdays, he’d shell out the bucks for a flat screen TV bigger than a postage stamp.

“You know those bell ringers they got in front of every grocery store around town?” Carl asked me.

“Yeah, the Salvation Army guys.”

Carl gave me one of his that’s what you think looks, complete with arched eyebrow and all-knowing sneer. Carl’s been losing his hair since high school graduation, and he could stand to shed those thirty or so extra pounds around his middle. His sense of fashion is lounge lizard slick. Look at him sideways, and he could have doubled for Clark Griswold’s hick cousin in that Christmas movie my wife makes me watch every year.

The arched eyebrow combined with a sneer wasn’t a particularly flattering look on my good buddy Carl.

“How do you know they’re all with the Salvation Army?” Carl asked.

(end of sample)

~~~

Carl of the Bells

Copyright © 2014 Annie Reed

First published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, January 2013 edition

This story can be purchased at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords.

Free Fiction Thursday – Roger’s Christmas Wish

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I’m having a blast this holiday season watching the Christmas episodes of my favorite shows.  First there was Castle, and tonight’s there’s a brand new Christmas episode of The Big Bang Theory.  I can’t wait!

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, just like for the young boy in this week’s story. Only this year a dark cloud has arrived to wreck Roger’s Christmas.  He has one last chance to set things right — he needs to catch Santa on Christmas Eve so he can make the most important wish he’s ever made in his life.  I hope you enjoy “Roger’s Christmas Wish.”

xmaswish1

ROGER’S CHRISTMAS WISH

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2010 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Roger couldn’t sleep.

It was Christmas Eve.  He was supposed to be asleep already—mom always said Santa wouldn’t come unless he was sleeping—but Roger was too nervous.

He planned to wake up after everyone else fell asleep so he could go sit in the living room by the Christmas tree and wait for Santa.  He even had his alarm clock set for two in the morning because he was pretty sure that’s when Santa would be there.  Last year Roger snuck out into the living room at three, but the cookies and milk his mom had left out for Santa were already gone, and Roger’s stocking was stuffed full of little wrapped presents.  Two o’clock had to be the right time, it just had to be. This year was too important.  He couldn’t miss Santa again.

Roger had stashed his wind-up clock under his pillow so that he’d be the only one to hear the alarm when the little hammer beat on the bells.  If the alarm woke up his parents, much less his grandmother, Roger would be in big time trouble.

No kid wanted to get in trouble right before Christmas, especially not on Christmas Eve.  Roger didn’t want to take the chance that Santa might cancel Christmas.  Things were already bad enough at his house.  He didn’t think he could stand it if Santa decided he was a bad little boy this year.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Case of the Missing Elf

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I feel like asking how Christmas shopping is going, but I’m afraid you’ll all throw things at me. That’s kinda what I felt like doing the other night when a perky local newscaster asked, since there were only 22 days until Christmas, if we were all stressed yet.

This week’s story features a group of stressed-out elves who’ve lost Santa’s stand in right before Christmas. Who do you call when you’ve got a missing person? Private detectives Diz and Dee, of course. Enjoy “The Case of the Missing Elf.”

missingelf_2 bright

THE CASE OF THE MISSING ELF

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2010 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

I was having a non-argument argument with my partner about whether we should get a Christmas tree for the office when the front door opened and a whole passel of elves piled in.

Up front, I should tell you that my partner is an elf.  A tall one.  Broad-shouldered, pointy-eared, strong-jawed, and with the most drop dead gorgeous blue eyes I’ve ever seen.  You might be thinking Legolas from those movies, but Diz is more The Rock than Orlando Bloom.  He even has The Rock’s glower.  The cinnamon and marshmallow-colored mullet, though—that’s all Diz’s own.

Yeah, I know.  A mullet.  But considering how great the rest of him looks, who am I to complain?

Together, Diz and I run a private detective agency called D & D Investigations out of a former bakery in a rundown neighborhood on the mainland side of Moretown Bay.  I’m Dee, the other D in D & D.  I’m not an elf.  Or a dwarf.  Or a fairy, or any one of a hundred other kinds of magic folk who call the area around the Bay home.  I’m a plain old vanilla human with curly brown hair that tends to frizz when it’s humid, which is just about all the time.  I also have a touch of precognition I’ve yet to learn how to control any better than my hair.

“You find missing people?” the nearest elf in the pack said.

I looked down at him.  Unlike Diz, who’s a good foot taller than my medium height, these elves were all way shorter than I am.  I counted seven of the mini elves.  They all wore variations of the same outfit: forest-green pants, red-and-green shirts that were more tunic than shirt, and red, green, or white scarves.  The elf who asked me whether we find missing people had curly salt and pepper hair peeking out from beneath a red knit hat with a white pom-pom on top.  They made the office look like a seasonal munchkin convention.

“Uh, yeah,” I said.  I resisted the urge to point to the lettering beneath the agency name on the plate glass window of our office—Missing Persons Are Our Specialty.  We’d paid extra for that, but no one ever seemed to read it.

The elf behind the guy with the red knit hat elbowed him.  “I don’t care what you say, this can’t be the right place,” he said in a stage whisper I could hear fine even though his voice sounded like he’d just taken a hit of helium.  “Just look at it.”

(read the rest of the story here)

New Holiday Story

If you’re looking for a holiday story with a touch of crime, I have a new story in the January 2013 holiday edition of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

Here’s what EQ says about the story:

Annie Reed’s funny but poignant “Carl of the Bells” explores the idea of charity during the bell-ringing season.

The holiday edition of Ellery Queen is available now in bookstores as well as a digital edition.

Free Fiction Thursday – My Cousin, the Rabbit

Good morning, everyone!

I can’t believe it’s almost Easter.  This year I’ll be spending Easter on the road while hubby stays home to take care of our high-maintenance cats.  I’ll miss hubby and the kitties while I’m gone, and I’ll also miss the cottontail bunny I see in my front yard almost every morning when I go out to start my car.

This week’s free story also has to do with bunnies and Easter, in a manner of speaking.  “My Cousin, the Rabbit” is a Diz & Dee fantasy mystery in which our intrepid heroes search for Dee’s missing cousin.  Enjoy!

My Cousin, The Rabbit

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art Copyright 2010 by Ljupco at iStockphoto.com

 

I was balancing my morning coffee and a bag of donuts in one hand and fumbling with the key to my office with the other when my cell phone rang.

I’m not a morning person.  I’m also not the world’s greatest cook.  Even though I live in the apartment upstairs from my office, I go out most mornings for coffee and something my mother would not approve of as breakfast food.  So when I recognized the ring tone I’d assigned to my mother — a snazzy little number that sounded like the music from Psycho right about the time Anthony Perkins goes gonzo on Janet Leigh with a knife in the shower — my first reaction was to drop the bag of donuts like a hot potato.

What?  Donuts?  Not me, mom.  I’m going upstairs to fix myself sprouts and granola right this minute.

Not that I had sprouts and granola in my apartment.  I barely had enough food for my cat.

The bag split open when it hit the sidewalk, spilling all that sugary goodness on the wet concrete.  So much for breakfast.  At least I still had my coffee.

I managed to get the office door unlocked and my cell phone out of my pocket before the call rang over to voicemail.

“Your cousin’s missing,” my mother said before I could even croak out a hello.

(read the rest of the story here)

 

Free Fiction Thursday – Roger’s Christmas Wish

Good morning, everyone! Happy three days before Christmas.

If you’re still shopping, I wish you short lines and easy finds. In other words, no stress. The young boy in this week’s story has a whole different kind of wish. ROGER’S CHRISTMAS WISH is a sentimental look back at an earlier era, before iPods and Nintendo DX and PS3’s. I hope you enjoy it!

Roger’s Christmas Wish

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2010 by Annie Reed

Roger couldn’t sleep. 

It was Christmas Eve.  He was supposed to be asleep already — mom always said Santa wouldn’t come unless he was sleeping — but Roger was too nervous.

He planned to wake up after everyone else fell asleep so he could go sit in the living room by the Christmas tree and wait for Santa.  He even had his alarm clock set for two in the morning because he was pretty sure that’s when Santa would be there.  Last year Roger snuck out into the living room at three, but the cookies and milk his mom had left out for Santa were already gone, and Roger’s stocking was stuffed full of little wrapped presents.  Two o’clock had to be the right time, it just had to be. This year was too important.  He couldn’t miss Santa again.

Roger had stashed his wind-up clock under his pillow so that he’d be the only one to hear the alarm when the little hammer beat on the bells.  If the alarm woke up his parents, much less his grandmother, Roger would be in big time trouble. 

No kid wanted to get in trouble right before Christmas, especially not on Christmas Eve.  Roger didn’t want to take the chance that Santa might cancel Christmas.  Things were already bad enough at his house.  He didn’t think he could stand it if Santa decided he was a bad little boy this year.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Essy and the Christmas Kitten

Happy Thursday!

I’ll refrain from reminding everyone how many shopping days are left until Christmas. I don’t want things lobbed in my direction. 😉 I’m not quite done with shopping myself. I feel your pain.

The holidays bring a different sort of pain to the woman in this week’s story. ESSY AND THE CHRISTMAS KITTEN is about how one small kindness can make a world of difference. I hope you enjoy it.

Essy and the Christmas Kitten

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Image licensed by Depositphotos.com/Arina Verstova

   

The kitten looked like a cross between a drowned rat and one of those scary-looking bats with huge, radar ears.

Essy had been on her way out to scrape the latest accumulation of heavy, wet snow off her ten-year-old Toyota, a car that hadn’t tried — yet — to kill her by deciding all on its own to set a new land speed record, when she saw the kitten huddling beneath the prickly holly bush at the corner of her house.  Its grey fur was sopping wet.  Even without bending over to get a closer look, Essy could see it shivering as each new flake settled on its skinny body.

What in the world was a kitten doing out here all by itself?  At the end of November?

Essy didn’t exactly live at the edge of civilization, but her house was the last on the block.  Beyond her fence, the land rose up into the first of the rugged foothills that separated her subdivision from the newest cookie-cutter shopping center in the valley a mile away.  People didn’t usually dump unwanted animals on her street.  It was a dead end, which had suited Essy just fine when she bought her little house.

She supposed someone could have tossed the kitten out of a car and driven away.  Or a coyote could have gotten its mother, even though a kitten seemed like easier pickings.

Essy had no pets.  The days of pets and kids and a husband and work were long gone.  But she couldn’t leave a kitten out in the snow to freeze to death.

She crouched down in front of the bush, her knees protesting.  The kitten backed a couple of steps away, crying at her, all wide blue eyes and pointy baby teeth.  It couldn’t have been more than eight weeks old, if that.

Essy’s daughter had brought a baby kitten home one day from school.  Six weeks old, and little more than a fuzzy black fur ball on spindly legs.  “Mommy, can I keep her?”  Essy and her husband had never been able to say no, not when their daughter had her heart set on something, so the kitten had joined their family.  It was gone now, too.

“Come here, sweetheart,” Essy said to the sopping wet kitten.  “Where’s your momma, baby?”  She took off one leather glove and held her fingers out, hoping to entice it, but it backed away one more step, still crying.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Case of the Missing Elf

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Can you believe it’s December 1st already? Wow. This year has just flown by. Pretty soon I’ll be annoying my co-workers with holiday music — I’m already annoying my family with a holiday CD in the car — and it will be time to put up the Christmas tree and see how the new cats and the tree cope with each other. To celebrate this first day of the holiday season, this week’s free story is a Diz & Dee holiday mystery – THE CASE OF THE MISSING ELF. Enjoy!

The Case of the Missing Elf

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2010 by Annie Reed

  

I was having a non-argument argument with my partner about whether we should get a Christmas tree for the office when the front door opened and a whole passel of elves piled in.

Up front, I should tell you that my partner is an elf.  A tall one.  Broad shouldered, pointy-eared, strong jawed, and with the most drop dead gorgeous blue eyes I’ve ever seen.  You might be thinking Legolas from those movies, but Diz is more The Rock than Orlando Bloom.  He even has The Rock’s glower.  The cinnamon and marshmallow-colored mullet, though — that’s all Diz’s own.

Yeah, I know.  A mullet.  But considering how great the rest of him looks, who am I to complain?

Together, Diz and I run a private detective agency called D & D Investigations out of a former bakery in a rundown neighborhood on the mainland side of Moretown Bay.  I’m Dee, the other D in D & D.  I’m not an elf.  Or a dwarf.  Or a fairy, or any one of a hundred other kinds of magic folk who call the area around the Bay home.  I’m a plain old vanilla human with curly brown hair that tends to frizz when it’s humid, which is just about all the time.  I also have a touch of precognition I’ve yet to learn how to control any better than my hair.

“You find missing people?” the nearest elf in the pack said.

I looked down at him.  Unlike Diz, who’s a good foot taller than my medium height, these elves were all way shorter than I am.  I counted seven of the mini elves.  They all wore variations of the same outfit: forest green pants, red and green shirts that were more tunic than shirt, and red, green, or white scarves.  The elf who asked me whether we find missing people had curly salt and pepper hair peeking out from beneath a red knit hat with a white pom-pom on top.  They made the office look like a seasonal munchkin convention.

“Uh, yeah,” I said.  I resisted the urge to point to the lettering beneath the agency name on the plate glass window of our office — Missing Persons Are Our Specialty.  We’d paid extra for that, but no one ever seemed to read it.

The elf behind the guy with the red knit hat elbowed him.  “I don’t care what you say, this can’t be the right place,” he said in a stage whisper I could hear fine even though his voice sounded like he’d just taken a hit of helium.  “Just look at it.”

The rest of the elves nodded and muttered among themselves.  Except for the elf with the red hat, they all sounded like helium addicts.

I glanced over at Diz, expecting to see his everyday glower amped up to a killer scowl.  My partner and patience aren’t even on a handshake basis.  Diz was born without that sense of serenity that’s second nature to most wood elves.  Stuff gets to him.  He left his clan’s home on Marlette Island years before I was even born.  Life among the trees probably drove him batty.  Lord knows why he puts up with me, not that I’d complain about that either.  I know when I’ve got a good thing going. 

One of the things Diz can’t stand is a client who won’t get to the point.  Between the scowl and the lack of patience and the elfly strength, Diz can be flat out intimidating.  That’s what made him such a kickass interrogator when we were both with the cops.  Now that we’re detecting on our own and can’t afford to scare potential clients away, I do most of the initial interviews.  I can be kind of a smartass, but at least I’m nice about it.

Most of the time.

But now, instead of having to deflect Diz from going into full scowl mode, I caught him in a near-grin. 

“You’re smiling,” I said to him.

The grin disappeared.  “Am not.”

I lifted an eyebrow. I’m not sure why my partner doesn’t like to admit when he’s having a good time, but far be it for me to let him get away with it.

“Right,” I said.  “And I’m Santa.”

Immediately, all the pint-sized elves in the office went quiet.

“What?” I said to the group who were all giving me the evil eye.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Just My Luck

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

In honor of St. Paddy’s Day, as my dad used to call it, this week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is a brand new Diz and Dee mystery called Just My Luck. Enjoy!

Just My Luck

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art copyright Subbotina at Dreamstime.com 

 

I’d just kicked back in my chair with my feet up on my desk, the first cup of coffee of the morning steaming a wonderful, fresh-brewed aroma, when a snazzy little man in a kelly green suit opened the door to my office.

When I say little, I mean this guy was little.  No more than three feet tall, he was perfectly proportioned, from tiny feet encased in black leather loafers to the top of his wee, curly-haired head.  He had chubby cheeks and coppery red hair, and a full beard to match.  Brilliant green eyes peered out at me from behind wire-rimmed, rectangular spectacles.

He shut the door firmly behind himself then turned to face me.  He held a green fedora that matched his suit in hands that looked far stronger than their diminutive size implied.

“I’m wondering,” he said, his voice surprisingly deep for someone so small.  “Do you think you can help me, miss?  I’ve come about someone gone missing.”

That’s what I do.  I help people find other people.  I’m Dee, one half of D & D Investigations, and as the sign says on the glass window in the front office, Missing Persons Are Our Specialty. 

However, just because someone’s polite enough to call me “Miss” doesn’t mean I’m a pushover.

I dropped my feet on the floor, sat up straight, and narrowed my eyes at my potential client.  Except for his size and his red hair, this guy bore more than a passing resemblance to Cupid… er, Eros.  I’ve already helped one member of the God of Love’s huge family, and instead of a “thank you” for my trouble, I got a box of bad-tasting Valentine’s Day chocolates and a tantalizing yet all too brief glimpse of my partner’s towel-clad physique.

“You’re not related to Eros, are you?” I asked.

The little man blinked.  “Not that I’m aware of.”

“And you’re not an elf?”

He blinked again.  “No.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against elves.  My partner’s an elf.  A tall one.  Diz, the other half of D & D, is built like The Rock back when The Rock was still The Rock and not Dwayne Johnson, movie star.  Trust me.  I’ve seen nearly all of Diz, and when I say he’s built, he’s really built.  Diz also has The Rock’s glower, without the raised eyebrow thing The Rock used to do, and about as much patience as I can fit in the tip of my little finger.  But Diz and I had a whole passel of dinky little elves for clients right before Christmas, and let me tell you, I’d give just about anything for a normal client right about now.

Not that I was going to get it.

“I’m a leprechaun,” the little man said.

# # # 

Read the rest of the story here.