Shifting into Love Part 4

Pull up some chocolate and sit a spell. If this is your first time reading the story, please check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Thank you so much for all the comments! Please enjoy the next part and let me know which way Samantha should go.

Shifting into Love Part 4

by Evelyn Aster

The wind blew into the bar, carrying the scent of spanish broom—more intoxicating to Samantha than the spirits Harrigans offered. It brought memories of springs past with sex below an open window and cries of love mingling with the patter of rain. All her desires had been quelled by running the bar, but the scent reawakened them—Levi’s hand in hers reawakened them.His dark eyes waited patiently for her answer.

The door swung in the breeze as if to invite her to the outside. If Harrigans didn’t want her to leave, it wouldn’t be open—the thought burst in her head and struck her dumb. Even as her stomach churned in fear over heading outside, her lips opened enough for a slight smile. “I’m not sure you should try to start that bike. It looks ancient from here.”

His grip tightened on her hand and he brought his other hand up to his chest. “You might as well rip my heart out and show it to me if you’re gonna insult my bike. But I won’t return the insult with a comment about the outside of your bar for fear you’ll shove a cue stick up my ass.”

Samantha’s smile widened. “Well, now that we’re clear on who can kick whose butt, I’ll go outside with you and see your precious bike.”

He held her hand as she walked around the bar. Samantha could feel the red headed mechanic smoldering in the booth as they strolled by, but she ignored it and concentrated on her own emotions for a change. Anxiety and fear blended with intrigue and excitement, but the hope of romance with Levi pumped through her veins the strongest. Usually she just wanted a tumble in her bedroom at the top of the stairs, but this man seemed to have a lot more to offer.

The sound of his leather jacket crinkling as he moved and the scent of the spanish broom mixing with his musk made her insides clench in anticipation of sitting behind him on the bike—of course, it would have to start for that to happen.

She stopped and placed her hand on the door jam. The bar breathed in as if it too needed a breath of fresh air. Her palm tingled, and she knew a part of the bar would remain with her, even outside. Levi had taken a step over the threshold and turned back to her. With his lopsided grin he said, “I haven’t even offered you a ride yet. I think you’ll be safe just right outside the bar.”

She swept her gaze over the highway and what looked like a desert beyond. Clouds hung above—heavy with raindrops ready to fall. It was time to get out into the world, even if the bar were only offering her an afternoon off, she’d take it. Finally, she looked at the motorcycle—shiny black leather, scarlet trim and polished metal. She felt akin to the bike right away. It drew her to it, and she stepped past the threshold and out into the world for the first time in years.

Samantha placed her fingers on the handle bars. A purr arose from the engine as it started. Levi dropped her hand and encircled her waist. He placed his lips next to her ear and said, “I knew my bike stopped for you. But you seemed closed off at first, and I thought maybe I had misunderstood.”

Samantha turned her head to Levi. His lips were so close to hers as she spoke that she thought he might kiss her at any moment. “You were the closed off one. I can read anyone’s soul who comes intoHarrigan’s, but I couldn’t read yours.”

I’m glad. If you knew everything there was to know about me, and I you, we’d have no time of discovery.”

Samantha had no response for him at first. The desire to slip her hands beneath his leather jacket and kiss him until they were out of breath was powerful, but she resisted. She finally gave her slight smile and said, “You don’t talk like a typical biker, and I’ve seen plenty of those.”

I’ll take that as a compliment. Ready for a ride?”

To go outside of the bar was one thing, but to actually leave it behind made her heart pound. The part of Harrigan’s still inside her seemed to encourage her rather than protest. Before she’d sorted her thoughts out, Levi pulled her to him and kissed her breath away—just as she’d wanted. Her hands slid all the way around to his back, feeling the hardened muscles along the way. When he ended the kiss, she stuttered out, “I haven’t driven away from here in I don’t know how long. Maybe you want to come up to my room instead.”

He shook his head and gripped her tighter, “’There are only two mistakes one can make along the road of truth; not going all the way, and not starting.‘ Or so Buddha would say. It’s time for you to leave—that is the one thing I know about you.”

His words sounded so permanent, but she could always come back. Like her sister, she knew the path to take. She stared into his eyes that looked black without lighting to highlight the browns and nodded her head.

Levi let her go and climbed onto the Triumph Motorcycle. Samantha slid behind him, wrapping her arms around him and pressing her chest against his back. Exhilaration made her want to shout or sing at the world.

Levi backed out and turned towards the exit, but the landscape had shifted. Instead of a desert, the highway split in two. One path went along an ocean with high cliffs and large boulders being pounded by the surf. The other path wound through a mountain filled with trees and streams. “Where do you want to go?” he called over his shoulder.

Oh my god. She’d never been given a choice before: the bar always picked where they landed. Her eyes flicked back and forth between the two places and all she could do for a moment was grin.

 

Which path should she take? Along the shore or through the mountains?

 

 

 

 

 

Shifting into Love Part 3

Hello,

So sorry this is late, but the life of romance writers is, unfortunately, not always glamorous. If you’re here for the first time, please check out Part One and Part Two. Otherwise, please enjoy and help Samantha decide what to do at the end.

 

Samantha pressed her spirit through the door handle as the stranger tried to open it again. Warmth spread through her at his touch, and their souls mingled for another moment. He didn’t even try to open the door. She watched him step away from the red head and look around the bar. It would have to be enough, but he’d most likely drive off once his bike was fixed.

The ringtone echoed. Samantha relinquished her small amount of control over the bar and removed her hands from the tabletop. The cellar came back into focus. “What’s up Shannon?” she asked after pulling her phone out of her back pocket. The feel of his wanderlust lingered until her sister spoke.

“Make my fucking headache go away.”

“Ummm, take two aspirin and call me in the morning?”

“It’s Harrigans calling me.”

Samantha didn’t know what to say—it was exactly what she’d worried about, but she still couldn’t understand why Harrigans would want Shannon when she’d left so long ago. After a second, she took the tact she always did as a bartender. “How’s life treating you?”

“No. This is not about my divorce or job loss. This is about–”

“You lost your job?”

Silence answered Samantha. The divorce had been painful to hear about only by phone, and now her sister had no job. “There were massive layoffs last month. I haven’t found a new one yet.”

Maybe Harrigans was loosening his grip to make room for her sister—not a replacement, but a partner. “Come home, Shannon. You should be here.”

“I don’t even know where you are.”

“But you always know how to get here.”

The line went dead.

The bar was usually placid, but as soon as Shannon hung up, the ground of the cellar tilted Samantha toward the stairs. “If you wanted me to go after him, why did you block his soul from me?”

The only answer was a gentle lift up to the stairs. She took them two at a time and burst out of the doorway. But the stranger was gone along with the red head. As she stared through the crowd, the front door of the bar opened as if the wind had blown it.

Samantha caught her breath—the outside. She only ever saw glimpses like postcards of distant places she’d never visit. Staring out gave her the shakes. It was almost as if the bar was telling her to leave. It couldn’t just kick her out like this. Not after all these years of being together.

The sunlight reflected off red metal. She squinted—she actually had to squint. When her eyes adjusted, she saw a crimson motorcycle, which was old fashioned in style, but appeared mint. Something about it tugged at Samantha; she wanted to sit on it, to ride it. She realized with a jolt that there was already someone on it: the red head. The stranger stood with his hands across his chest, watching the mechanic. He appeared angered or maybe just annoyed.

The door waved back and forth as if it beckoned her outside. Samantha stepped behind the bar, afraid to get too close to the door. She placed her hands on the bar, ready to serve, but no one needed a drink. A breeze blew by her ear and seemed to whisper, “It’s okay,” but she decided it was only her imagination, at least she only wanted it to be her imagination.

And then she met eyes with the stranger again.

At that distance, she only saw black, but she thought, or maybe she wished, that the eyes smiled at her. The frown, though, as her turned back to the mechanic was unmistakable. He shook his head and said something that made her get off the bike and strut back into the bar as if she’d been extremely put out.

The stranger followed her in, but headed straight for the bar while the red head returned to her booth. The door remained open.

Samantha grabbed a rag and began wiping down the bar like she hadn’t been standing there watching anything going on. Her heart pounded faster when he spoke, and Samantha felt another pull away from Harrigans.

“Could I have whatever you have on tap?” His voice was strangely intimate, as if he only wanted Samantha to hear him speak.

She opened her mouth, but her eyes glanced outside again, making her mute. She turned away, took a beer mug off of the shelf, tilted it under the tap and watched a dark stout flow out.

“Nice,” he said behind her. “I got a taste of that when I was traveling through Europe. I don’t see it much on tap back here.”

Samantha turned back to him and set the mug down. She stared at the motorcycle again and said in a strangely breathless voice, “Did you take your bike over there?”

“Yeah, she’s beautiful isn’t she?”

“I’ve never seen one like her.” Samantha found it odd that she called the motorcycle her, but the bar was always male in her mind. Maybe it wasn’t so strange.

“I’m Levi,” he said.

She gazed back into his umber eyes and said, “I’m Samantha. Was she able to get your motorcycle to start?” Samantha knew the answer, but she wanted to hear more of what had happened.

“She had no idea. Of course, I don’t either, but I couldn’t believe she suggested that I was out of gas.”

“Yeah, how dare she.” Samantha tried to hide a smile when he looked up, but didn’t quite manage it. She was glad because the grin that spread across his face made even the music in the bar play with a happier beat.

“You caught me. I can be a bit of an ass when it comes to my bike.”

“Everyone’s a pain in the ass over something.”

“And what about you?” His hand reached out and took one of hers.

Wanderlust wrapped around her heart. She searched his eyes, determined for a hint as to what he needed from the bar besides a working motorcycle, but Harrigans kept blocking her. His eyes widened, and she realized maybe he could sense something from her spirit. She slid her hand out from his and said, “I can be a bitch when it comes to the bar.”

“I imagine you’ve kicked a fair share of people out of here. And you play pool like a shark.”

“Seems like I missed my shot when you walked in.” That was the wrong thing to say, or maybe the right thing.

He leaned in closer and said, “I’d like to think it was because of my incredible presence.”

Samantha broke into laughter. “You’re quite full of yourself.”

“Only around gorgeous women. Want to get a closer look at my bike? Maybe you have the magic touch to get it started.”

The door to the outside world stood wide open. Samantha couldn’t see much beyond the bike and the parking lot. She looked down at the beer she’d drawn from the tap. She never left the bar. It’d be the first time since her grandma had died if she went out. She hadn’t even realized she missed the open world until today when Levi walked in.

Maybe if her sister was here, she could go outside, but not now, not when the bar seemed to be loosening its hold on her. If she left, the bar could crumble, well, okay, she had no idea what would happen to the bar if she left.

What should Samantha do? Go outside with Levi, or play it safe and remain in the bar?

Shifting into Love Part 2

Samantha pulled herself up to her full height, swung her head so her blonde hair fell behind her shoulder and ignored her phone. Her sister had been the one to leave, and if she were making a play for Harrigans now, Samantha would fight it. She shrugged out of the stranger’s grip and turned to greet him, ready to know what he needed—how the bar could serve him.

Her mouth fell open when her eyes met his—brown like rich soil and completely blocking his soul. She had no insight into his desires or needs like she did every other person in the bar. It made her stagger back and balance herself with the pool cue. He reached out and caught her by the elbow too. Her phone quit ringing.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asked. Bangs fell over one eyebrow in a boyish manner, but his voice resonated with deep tones.

Goose bumps flared where he touched her, and she yanked her arm away. “I’m fine,” she quipped. In a calmer tone she added, “Can I get you a drink?”

“Actually, I was wondering who was a good mechanic around here. My motorcycle slowed down on it’s own when we got near the bar and then it just died. I can’t restart it, but I see no obvious problems.” He gave a sideways smile as if he was trying to impress her and said, “I rebuilt it myself.”

The smile made her want to lead him upstairs and forget about the rest of her customers, but she had to figure out what was going on with the bar first. She’d send him on his way and go to the cellar to focus. He was just another man, nothing special—except she couldn’t read him.

She scanned the room, hoping to find a mechanic. She never knew where the bar materialized and always had to rely on Harrigans’ knowledge for any local questions. Sometimes the bar had a phone book, but she’d try the crowd first. Her eyes landed on whom she was looking for, and she frowned. The mechanic was a red headed woman tossing back a beer. She was cute and young and perfectly unacceptable to introduce this enigmatic stranger to. Samantha scanned the room some more, but knew the red head was the only mechanic there.

What did Samantha care? She needed to mend the bond with the bar and not worry about her sex life. “Go talk to her.” She nodded her head towards the mechanic and turned back to the pool game. Her opponent had just missed the nine ball and left her a great shot. She sunk it with ease, winning the game. As the group cheered and jeered, and her opponent racked the balls for another game, Samantha watched the stranger’s easy saunter over to the mechanic.

The mechanic looked him up and down and grinned as he talked. Samantha’s stomach twisted.

Shit. She didn’t have time for jealousy. She handed off her cue and strutted through the bar to the stairs in the back. She descended into the only room that never changed: the cellar. It had casks of liquids, some of which Samantha hadn’t even tried, and floor to ceiling wine racks. In the center were a large oak table and chairs.

She sat in one of the chairs and placed her palms on the table. The room pulsed, weaker than usual. “What’s wrong?” she whispered.

Sometimes they’d get a customer who needed special attention, and Harrigans would be miffed at Samantha until she tended to her, but Samantha had felt no such need in the crowd. The only odd person had been the man with the broken motorcycle, but Harrigan’s had given her no insight into him. She pressed her palms into the table, and the room pulsed again. The bar pushed love and sorrow through her veins. Her guess had been right: there was someone at the bar whose needs Samantha was ignoring.

“Who?” she whispered. “I felt nothing.”

The bar took over her vision and showed her the main room. The red headed mechanic scooted out of her booth and took the boyish stranger by the arm. Samantha’s heart pounded with envy and fear as he led the mechanic to the door. Wait, maybe they were the ones who needed special attention.

She shoved aside her own fear that he would step outside and she wouldn’t see him again to try to sense their need. The woman clearly desired the motorcyclist, but Samantha could still feel nothing from him. “I don’t get it,” she said out loud to the bar. “There’s nothing special about her, and he’s completely blocked to me.”

The couple had almost reached the door when the motorcyclist said something that made the red head laugh. She took her hand off his arm and ran her hand down his back and to his ass, squeezing it.

Inexplicable rage coursed through Samantha. She pulsed her own power through the bar and locked the door just as the motorcyclist tried to push it open. When his fingertips touched the door, Samantha finally felt a bit of his soul—broody and filled with wanderlust. Her own spirit responded by swelling with the urge to travel. She allowed the desire to expand for just one moment before she squelched it as she always did.

The bar needed her to help someone. Her destiny was not one filled with new places, at least places outside of the Harrigans.

Her energy drained out in her effort to keep the door locked. Her phone rang and echoed her sister’s ringtone all around the cellar. If she answered it, the door would unlock and the motorcyclist would be free to leave. She couldn’t figure out why the bar had shown her the couple, when they didn’t seem to be the ones who needed help.

Her phone rang again. Maybe it was her sister who needed help. Samantha asked Harrigans what to do, but the bar remained silent.

 

What do you think Samantha should do? Answer the phone to see if her sister needs help and allow the door to unlock? Or keep the door locked long enough to get back upstairs and put her sister off one more time?

Shifting into Love

Dear Readers,

Welcome to my second Crowd Chooses Romance! If this is your first time, all you have to do is enjoy the story segment and post in the comment section which decision you’d like Samantha to make. For April Showers, I let the women who posted a vote every time choose an aspect of this story. Thanks to Janet, Shannon and Jeri for your input on the characters and genre!

Enjoy!

Shifting into Love

by Evelyn Aster

 

The fluctuation almost passed through Samantha’s soul without perception—the emotions of the bar crowd always pervading her and demanding her attention. But as she pulled the cork out of the bottle of wine for the couple that sat before her in the corner, the shift seeped into her lungs like the oxygen entering the bottle for the first time in a century. The smooth jazz music playing throughout the bar crescendoed and dimmed once again—longer than a beat but shorter than a measure.

She paused with the corkscrew in the air to gauge her connection to the bar she tended and owned: the change had been a loosening.

No. She gave her head a slight shake.

It was easy to imagine odd movements in the atmosphere. She put the corkscrew down and picked up a glass, pouring a sip of the maroon liquid into it. The man took it from her—the CEO variety with manicured looks and a tailored suit. He was trying to mend his relationship with the woman next to him. Samantha didn’t know what he’d done wrong—she only knew his sincerity of love mixed with the wine would go far in sewing together the woman’s broken heart.

He sniffed the bouquet and took a sip. When he nodded, Samantha filled the woman’s glass and then finished filling the man’s. The couple drank at the same time, and Samantha watched the hues of a red wave between them, mending the break and making their hearts whole.

The sound of smooth jazz fell away along with the dimmed lights, private booths and floor to ceiling wine racks. The walls and floor waved until classic rock blared out of a jukebox, vinyl booths torn and faded replaced the leather ones, dart boards took over the wine rack area and a pool table with a stained glass light hanging over it took up the center of the room.

Samantha put her hand on her chest and breathed easier. The moment earlier had just been a warning of the change to come—a change that happened all the time like pushing the reboot button on the computer. The pool bar was her home setting—the place she could most be herself.

She walked through the now empty room to the bar in the back with the mirror running behind it. The tight jeans rubbed comfort into her long legs, giving her hips a bit of a sway. She had just enough time for a shot of whiskey before the rowdy crowd arrived; she needed it to take away the lingering unease from the moment before. The bar hadn’t loosened its connection to her; it was as strong as ever. She grabbed a bottle of her best and a shot glass from under the bar. The liquid fired down her throat but refused to assure her that she had imagined the bar distancing itself from her.

She took another shot as a group of men and women entered dressed in jeans and concert t-shirts. They were just here to have a good time—they didn’t require special treatment like the couple had. The second shot of whiskey ran through her blood, convincing her that everything was normal: the bar only had her. They were entwined like lovers in a marble statue; no shift could loosen the bond.

People kept arriving, and Samantha kept the drinks flowing to everyone without ever taking an order. The bar told her what people needed, even if it wasn’t their favorite. A few men in painter’s overalls scoffed at the rum and coke she offered instead of their favorite beers, but after one sip, they quit arguing.

As she sashayed between the bar and the booths, she forgot about the loosening between her and the bar—it had been a mere figment of worry. When everyone had a drink and the bar was filled, Samantha took to the pool table. Her thoughts fragmented when she broke the balls apart, and she felt a rift down her spine as if the bar tried to break from her again. She straightened her back and shook the feeling off again as two balls sunk into pockets. Her opponent whistled and said he was glad they hadn’t bet.

She gripped the cue harder and leaned down again. Outside, a motorcycle engine pulsed its sound into the bar in time with the music. It entered her spine in the slight space the bar had left when it tried to break from her again. Samantha straightened her back without taking a shot. The bar was her home; her better-half; her only love. She had no use for motorcycles and was glad when the engine stopped.

She leaned down again to take her shot and try to woo the bar to complete her again—she knew the bar enjoyed it when her opponent never even got a turn. But right as the cue slid between her fingers, the door swung open and in stepped a man as tall as her slender six-foot height. The cue grazed over the white ball and made a sound that would’ve caused her to cringe, except her heartbeat filled her ears instead.

She slowly stood straight as her opponent laughed, but her eyes were only for the stranger. His unshaven face seemed to match the wanderlust in his eyes and awoke a yearning in Samantha she hadn’t experienced in ages—a yearning for the outside.

When his eyes met hers, the pleasant tingles of new romance played through her body. She turned away from him and the table. She didn’t need this, she didn’t need him. Anyway, he was too young—maybe thirty years to her fortyish. She needed to figure out what was wrong with the bar.

She walked away as if she needed to refill somebody’s drink, but only made it half-way before a hand fell on her shoulder. She knew it was the stranger without turning to look at him. He smelled like musk and motor oil in perfect harmony.

Just when she took a deep breath to steel herself to greet him, her phone rang from her pocket—not just anyone’s ring, but her sister: the only other person with a claim to the bar. The room spun. She didn’t know what to do if the bar was leaving her for her sister. The stranger’s grip steadied her like he was an old friend.

Samantha stood paralyzed with indecision.

 

What should Samantha do? Escape from the stranger’s grip and answer the phone, or ignore her sister’s call and turn and greet the stranger?