A collection of two short stories, Tales by Rails and Smiles by Trials.
2 strangers, 8 states, and 2,265 miles.
She has 51 hours to make a decision that would change her life forever.
Following divorce from her soul-crushing husband, Rhea Josse unexpectedly finds herself in a long-distance relationship with an odd stipulation: her boyfriend wants her sowing oats with somebody else before he's willing to get exclusive with her. She's so crazy about him that climbing into bed with another man proves easier said than done.
When a whirlwind evening of sex with two different partners brings unanticipated consequences for her relationship and job, Rhea must learn to let go of her heartache if she's to find her smile again.
Enjoy an excerpt:
As their laughter died down, Surfer Boy glanced at Rhea with a particularly affectionate smile. “Y’know, I was so afraid of approaching you when I saw you sitting by yourself here,” he confessed. “I thought, there’s no way in hell she’s alone. She can’t be single. She’d never talk to me. We’ll have nothing in common.” He hesitated before whispering, “I’d convinced myself you were a humorless bitch because you’re that damned hot.”
“Wow,” said Rhea. “That was . . . The most ass-backward compliment I’ve ever received.”
He winked. “And I meant every word of it.”
“Still, it’s one of the sweetest things anyone’s ever told me.”
The affectionate smile on Surfer Boy’s face faded. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” She cocked her head, gazing at him. “Your kind comment means more to me because, well . . . It’s remarkable in its uniqueness.”
“You were pretty seriously mistreated.”
“Don’t hold my ex accountable. He wasn’t the only one to treat me poorly. With few exceptions, I can’t pick my friends for shit. And my family . . . Well . . . They laid the foundation. I can’t, for the life of me, imagine why anyone would pursue me. Not until I fix myself.”
“Maybe some of us like fixer-uppers. I’ve always thought about flipping houses.”
Rhea squeezed her eyes shut. What the hell were they doing? She tilted her head upward and opened her eyes. “You, uh . . . You never told me how else you stay occupied on a forty-four-hour train ride.”
“Books. Movies on a laptop. I sketch a lot, and when I’m feeling sociable, I try to make friends. And when I’m really lucky, I . . . get lucky.” Surfer Boy winked at her.
“And how often does that happen?”
“This trip. Just this one. But it’s more than made up for all the others.”
“Maybe I’m setting a precedent for your future travels.”
He didn’t reply.
“So we’ve got what, about six hours ‘til Chicago?”
Surfer Boy nodded. “Yep. And I still have to do finishing touches on the portrait you asked for. I’m gonna head back to work on it.” He stood. “You joining me?”
Rhea hesitated. Her laptop was still in his roomette; she kind of had to return, at least for that. It worried her she didn’t think she’d be able to leave him, even if she were following him for the sole purpose of retrieving her belongings. On the other hand, she didn’t want to return to coach.
“It’s a huge decision,” he teased her, “I know.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rhea decided, sticking out her tongue at him. “I’m coming.”
Surfer Boy led the way. “Now where have I heard you say that before?”
Rhea lifted a hand to swat at him in playful retaliation but stopped herself in time. There was a flash of horror in realizing the familiarity of such behavior. She didn’t want familiarity; how many times would she have to remind herself before it stuck? “I’m gonna let that slide.”