Friends, Debt and Tattoos; New Adults, the Educated Homeless

There’s been a lot of discussion over the reality, need and description of the new adult genre.  This age group, at least in the Euro-western culture is between about 18 years and 25 years old usually and is characterized by several items most notably has been termed “an age of transition”.  A time to transition by moving out of their parent’s house, to their first serious relationship, or transition to their first meaningful job in their chosen career, and of course transitioning from high school to college and so on.

In the UK for example earlier this year, psychologists have even discovered additional reasons why this is a uniquely different group of people when compared with those in their late teens or age 30 and over.  But I believe there is yet another set of circumstances that make the 18 to 25 or maybe even 35 year olds different than those younger or older.  In fact different than how anyone born before 1960 were when they were in the 18 years to 35 year old range.

In a word, ECONOMICS.  TIME Inc. has supplied the lion’s share of the next set of facts.  Facts that cause the 18 to 25 year old age group to be different culturally and therefore represent a unique genre to be addressed in literature, music and entertainment.

My blog, like all blogs, has a global reach so this is being written from an American perspective.  In the U.S. the “kids” coming of age in the last 5 to 8 years have overall not been typical of the generations before them.

For years, retailers, marketers and businesses of all shapes and sizes have gone out of their way to try to win over that “all-important” 18-to-34-year-old demographic.  Now that this age group is broke and facing huge student loans and a lackluster job market, though, the realization is setting in that perhaps it’s not such a good idea to focus on a bunch of consumers with little disposable income and increasingly frugal habits.

The perfect customer is one who is young (and has the potential to keep being a customer for decades), hip (so others will follow in his footsteps and also become customers) and always supplied with plenty of money to blow on the latest products and services. Thanks to the Great Recession and its fallout, however, it’s unlikely that someone who is young and hip also has all that much cash to throw around.

Here’s a handful of facts about this age group:

It’s no mystery why so many young Americans are now living with their parents: What with unemployment rates high, and the jobs that are widely available to young workers tending to be those with meager salaries (and few or no benefits), more of today’s young adults are too poor and ill-prepared to leave home and head off on their own.

These factors have trickled down to the young adult generation as well.  If you were born before 1955 for example one of the rights of passage was to get your driver’s license.  The number of teen drivers has dramatically decreased over the past couple of decades. Consider this:

  • In 1983, 69% of all 17-year-olds had driver’s licenses.
  • By 2008, only half of 17-year-olds had licenses.

How can these kinds of changes where first upward mobility was impacted and now horizontal mobility is being impacted not impact their leisure time entertainment?

Pew Research provided even more background for this blog.  The 18 to 29 year old age group is unique in other ways as well and these differences drive their “new adult” genre needs:

  • 75% have created a profile on a social networking site.
  • 20% have posted a video of themselves online.
  • Almost 40% have a tattoo (and for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more).
  • Almost 25% have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe — about six times the share of older adults who’ve done this. But 70% say their tattoos are hidden beneath clothing.
  • About 90% either say that they currently have enough money or that they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals. But at the moment, fully 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades.

Research shows that young people who graduate from college in a bad economy typically suffer long-term consequences — with effects on their careers and earnings that linger as long as 15 years.

When my husband and I sat down to develop our new adult series, SCANDALS, we factored as much of this background into the story lines of the books as possible.  The voice of the new adults is different, decisive and entertaining and any author who writes these characters as just another adult age group is missing real opportunities as well as a very large market that will remain unique for decades.  Book #1, BABY DADDY, was released a couple of weeks ago.   Here’s the blurb for the new adult book, BABY DADDY, a SCANDALS Romantic Suspense, book #1.

An inheritance brought her more than she ever could have imagined…

Killeen Ames has it all…beauty, brains, a college softball scholarship and a rich and handsome boyfriend who has helped to stretch her college funds and fill her social calendar.  He is the only boy she ever allowed past second base and now he’s her baby daddy.  However, being a father was not in his short-range plans.  He graduates, then he splits, leaving Killeen to decide what she wants to do about the pregnancy…and to worry about how she’s going to keep her scholarship.  With no marketable skills, no job, no home and medical bills for her and the baby on the horizon, she knows she must move forward.  A knock at the door of her boyfriend’s apartment changes the game forever when an attorney gives her the news of an inheritance from an unknown dead relative.

After traveling to Austin, Killeen walks into the meeting and is surprised to find out that the relative was actually her birth father, and he had been a popular music star who recently died of an overdose.  Even more shocking are the four strangers who share the same absentee dad.  He has left them a highly successful private investigation agency, Scandals.  The catch is…they have to make the commitment to work there.

Their introduction to the P.I. business almost gets them killed when a bomb goes off in the warehouse that sends Killeen to the hospital.  She has kept the secret of her pregnancy from everyone, including Christopher, the totally irresistible manager of Scandals.  Their hot night of wild sex in the office was a one-time thing…right?  She chalks up her attraction to him as just raging hormones.  They have no chance of a future together.  He’s gorgeous, intelligent and successful.  He would never want anyone with so much baggage.

Christopher has a secret of his own.  He’s been investigation the possibility that, despite popular opinion, their father’s death hadn’t been an accidental overdose.  He thinks it was murder.

Even though the five siblings still haven’t accepted the fact that they have a father who made no attempt to be a part of their lives, they join together to discover the truth about his death.  The search throws Killeen and Christopher together and their passion grows hotter.  As her feelings for him slowly become more serious, she knows she must tell him about the baby.

After a fun day in the sun, an event happens that outs Killeen’s secret.  Christopher, as expected, doesn’t take the news well.  But they must continue to work together to track down a killer, especially since the killer has now focused on them.

Someone doesn’t want them to stay and take over the business.  In fact, someone wants them all dead and now the decision on whether or not to be a part of the agency seems very unimportant compared to the job of trying to stop from being killed.

They set up a trap that goes terribly wrong.  Suddenly, Killeen must make a big decision.  Who should she save?  Her baby?  Christopher?  Her new brothers and sisters?  Their lives are in her hands.

Baby Daddy is the first book in the Scandals New Adult series of romantic suspense.  Each book of the series will focus on one of the offspring of Roger Elliott, a famous musician who left them with a legacy they weren’t expecting.  This book is about Killeen Ames who must deal with an unexpected pregnancy, an absentee baby daddy, an irresistible attraction to a hot new guy and four new half-brothers and sisters.  Tramp Stamp, the second book in this series will be released in Spring, 2014 and will tell Reno’s story.

It is currently available on a number of book retailers:

SMASHWORDS – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/379398

iTunes / Apple – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id757465403

Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/baby-daddy-kathy-clark-aka-bob-kat/1117448913?ean=2940149013364&itm=1&usri=2940149013364

Kobo http://store.kobobooks.com/Search/Query?fcmedia=Book&query=9780988343672

All Romance – https://www.omnilit.com/product-babydaddy-1360180-149.html

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/BABY-DADDY-SCANDALS-Kathy-Clark-ebook/dp/B00GQC1S3O/

PAPER BACK – http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Daddy-Scandals-Volume-1/dp/1493512978

This blog only touches the surface of the impact of the economy on growing up in America.  Bottom line “kids” 18 to 25 or even 30 are a unique demographic and authors and screenwriters are ahead of the curve in many cases but some publishers and studios have yet to invest.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, BABY DADDY, like many of the new adult genre books, is written in first person.  While it changes the way the book has to be written the ability to place the reader deep inside the story is amazing.  It’s one thing to describe how someone is attacked by a killer it’s totally another to describe how the character felt about being attacked.

WEB TILE BABY DADDY

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Add Your Voice to the Reviews for the New Adult Suspense series Scandals

SCANDALS BABY DADDY 10282013

The NEW ADULT genre has been added to with the release of BABY DADDY, book #1 in Kathy Clark’s NEW ADULT romantic suspense series, SCANDALS.

BABY DADDY is the first book in the series and is told from Killeen Ames’ point of view.  Killeen has it all…beauty, brains, a college scholarship and a rich and handsome boyfriend…until she finds out she is pregnant.  The boyfriend disappears and the scholarship is in jeopardy.  When an attorney arrives at her door with an offer she can’t refuse, she has nothing to lose.

She travels to Austin and is surprised to find that her birth father was a popular music star who is now dead.  He has left her a generous inheritance that includes a highly successful P.I. agency, Scandals…and four half-brothers and sisters.

The catch is, they must work together at the agency.  Are they willing to leave their old jobs, schools and lives for a father’s dream…a father they never knew?  Killeen’s decision is further complicated when she and Christopher, the totally irresistible manager of Scandals, share a hot night of passion.  She knows they have no future.  He is not her baby daddy and would never want to be. 

New evidence indicates that their father had been murdered, and they must focus on finding the killer…who also wants them dead.  When Killeen is faced with the decision to save her baby, her lover or her new brothers and sisters…who will she choose?

You get a sense of Killeen’s starting point on her journey with the opening of the book.

He left me with two broken DVD cases, a pair of worn-out Nikes and a plus sign on my pee stick.

I was sitting on the floor, leaning against the couch with my legs stretched forward under the coffee table.  Sunlight filtered through the crack where the drapes didn’t quite meet, which told me it was morning… the morning after the worst night of my life.

A banner saying “Congratulations Graduate” strung between the light fixture and the curtain rod.  A dozen maroon and gold balloons that had been bouncing on the ceiling last night now lay sadly on the floor, no longer buoyant.  I knew exactly how they felt…deflated and totally used.  Their short, happy lives were over.  Just like mine.

Bottles, beer cans, red Solo cups and other trash covered every surface imaginable.  Somebody was going to have to clean all this shit up.  That somebody was not going to be me.

Fuck Brandon!  I thought we were going to be together forever.  Well, apparently, he had a different definition of forever than I did.  Last night was supposed to have been really special.  His graduation party and our pregnancy.  I’m just glad I was smart enough not to announce it at the party.  No, I waited until everyone had left to tell him.  I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be, but I hadn’t thought he would have a meltdown.

I knew it would be a surprise.  It had been for me.  A baby was the absolute last thing I needed in my life right now.  Brandon was the only guy I’d ever gone past second base with in my life.  Imagine that!  I was an eighteen-year-old virgin two years ago when we met.  That’s like finding a unicorn in a used car lot.

 

Find BABY DADDY on line at several retailers…

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/BABY-DADDY-SCANDALS-Kathy-Clark-ebook/dp/B00GQC1S3O/

Barnes & Noble –  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/baby-daddy-kathy-clark-aka-bob-kat/1117448913?ean=2940149013364&itm=1&usri=2940149013364

Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search/Query?query=9780988343672&fcmedia=Book

All Romance – https://www.omnilit.com/product-babydaddy-1360180-149.html

And while you’re at it please add your voice to the reviews, currently at 4.7 stars.   

Good Romantic Suspense Novel with Likable Heroine 

Great fun, irresistible story…

“He never could resist a girl with a tramp stamp.”

Good Suspense Novel with Erotic Flair

Great Romantic Suspense!

Nail Biting

Scandalously Good

Scandalously Sexy

Well written, like I was really there

Entertaining read

Masterfully written

Solid

This is good!

Intense, suspenseful and passionate, the perfect combination!

scandals tile

Hello readers of suspense, romantic suspense and New Adult fiction fans…

The New Adult genre name in fiction really covers the age from 19 to 26.  Blogs, book blurbs and redefining what it means to grow up has been taking over the books and the news about the books over the past year or two..

Kathy Clark’s 30th book, BABY DADDY fits the New Adult genre checklist perfectly.

Here’s the blurb followed by the comparison of the book to the new adult genre checklist that readers, bloggers and editors often apply.

SCANDALS BABY DADDY 10282013

THE BLURB

An inheritance brought her more than she ever could have imagined.

Killeen Ames had it all…beauty, brains, a college scholarship, a rich and handsome boyfriend.  Then she found out she was pregnant and the boyfriend disappeared and the scholarship is in jeopardy.  A stranger arrives at her door with the news that a father she had never known had died and she was his heir.

But not his only heir.  She and four half-siblings meet for the first time and learn the shocking details of a popular music star who had been their father and Scandals, the private investigation agency he has left them.

Killeen’s decision is further complicated when she meets the totally irresistible manager of Scandals.  Her attraction to him is immediate and volatile, but she knows they have no future.  She has a secret she can’t share.

Someone doesn’t want them to stay and take over the business.  In fact, someone wants them all dead.  Their lives depend on whether or not they can figure out who he is and how to stop him before he succeeds.

 

In spite of the fact that the five protagonists range from age 19 to 26, their lives are turned up side down with a knock on their door and meeting a few weeks later about a man they didn’t even know existed

All the essential New Adult story elements are there:  

College life – Some are, one was and one hasn’t been

Moving out of your parents’ house and living alone for the first time – One did, three had and one moved out on a regualr basis

First jobs – One serious and four never seriously

Deciding who you want to be, career-wise, and in general. Identity issues. Existential issues. – One’s hit their career ceiling, one’s on a path to no where and the others are in transition yet they are all tied together by their mother”s past.

First serious relationships, finding love – The opening line of the book foreshadows one character’s future but does not force a conclusion.  “He left me with two broken DVD cases, a pair of worn-out Nikes and a plus sign on my pee stick.”

Sex – It’s less important that it be a “first time” as it is in YA. But the character should still be figuring stuff out. Since our readers can watch R rated movies, we can also be a little more explicit here without as much controversy. – No comment.

* Experimentation – Sex, drugs, alcohol. Of course, not all new adults engage in experimentation, but the phrase, “I experimented with “x” in college,” is a phrase for a reason. – No comment

*  A struggle to “find yourself” – While struggling to stay alive and figure out what’s true from their past they work toward figuring out who they are

Change – Moving out, going to college, finding a job…it’s a lot of transition. – Everyone has the same opportunity but is starting from a very different starting point in their life.  Yet their lines are intertwined.

* Money challenges –  Sometimes having too many options can be overwhelming.

 

BABY DADDY is coming of age with people you want to know better.

 

 

NEW ADULT Book Release SCANDALS Series; BABY DADDY

NEW ADULT SERIES Releasing November 20th…SCANDALS Series Book #1 – BABY DADDY
 SCANDALS BABY DADDY 10282013
An excerpt…where Christopher and Killeen visit one of Christopher’s ex girlfriends trying to solve a murder. 
 
“Would you all want something to drink?” she offered.  “Water, coffee, soft drinks?”
“Not for me, thanks,” I said and a similar response came from Christopher.
“So how have you been?” the pretty doctor asked Christopher.
“Outside of Roger’s death…pretty good.”
“I still can’t get over that.  I thought he had given all that up.”
“Well, that’s why we’re here.  We don’t think it was an accident.”  Christopher leaned for back in his chair, but I could see he was watching her reactions.  “You might not have heard, but our building got bombed a few days ago.  I’m thinking the killer is close.”
“Bombed?”
“Our offices…kaboom,” Christopher spread his hands apart in an exploding pattern.  “One of Roger’s other kids, Liberty, was in the hospital for three days…almost killed her.”
“I had no idea.  Wow!  Any idea who might have done this?”
“We have a few suspects.”
Janet interrupted.  “Is that why you’re here?  On business?”  She smiled and crossed her legs and letting her skirt slide up her thighs.  “I was hoping it was because you missed me.”
I suddenly felt like they had forgotten I was in the room.  And it kind of pissed me off.
“I thought you were engaged.”
She held up her left hand so he…and I…could clearly see there was no ring on that finger.  “I realized he wasn’t the one.  So, I’m back on the market.”
Subtle.  Real subtle.  She was definitely not going to get my business.
“Good to know,” Christopher said.  “But today, I need to find your father.  Do you have any idea where he is?”
Janet’s body language changed as she crossed her arms across her chest as if she had suddenly felt a chill.  “You mean the man who screwed my mother, then walked away?”
That sounded familiar.  Completely against my will, I had a hint of empathy for her.
“Have you talked to him recently?”
“Recently?”  Janet thought for a moment before speaking.  “The Thanksgiving after the election Stephanie and I still hadn’t heard from him, so we hired Murray to track him down and see if he wanted to come home…you know extend him an olive branch kind of thing.”
“You hired Murray the frog!” Christopher exclaimed.
“He creeps me out too, but he fits in with the homeless scene,” Janet said with a little half-shrug.  “Anyway, Murray came back the week after Thanksgiving with a present from our dad but no contact information.”
“A present…?”
“It was a beaten-up old shoebox with dog shit wrapped in newspapers.  That’s the last we’ve heard from or about him.”
I could see that in spite of her tough-girl attitude, she had tears in her eyes.  I tried to lighten the mood.  “And I thought my Thanksgivings were weird.”
Neither Christopher nor Janet so much as glanced my way.
“So, no idea where he might be?”
Janet shook her head.  “Anywhere where there’s free food or a bar, I’d guess.  If we could do it over again…we wouldn’t.  When Steph and I were growing up we fantasized about who our father could be.  We were better off not knowing.”
After a prolonged awkward moment of silence Christopher spoke, “He’s an asshole.”  Christopher stood.  “Well, it’s been great seeing you again Janet…say hi to your equally gorgeous sister for me, would you?  We need to double date some time, maybe tear it up on Sixth?”
“I’d love that…you have my number.”
Fuck, even I had her number, I thought with a snort.  I must have actually snorted because both of them turned to look at me.
She held her arms out, and he gave her a hug.  A professional yet personal lip-on-lip kiss happened, and I could see Janet’s arms pull him closer to her.
“It was nice to meet you Janet,” I spoke up in order to shorten Christopher’s time in her grip.
Janet looked over and smiled as she released him.  “Yes…of course. It was great to meet you, Kiley.”
“It’s Killeen,” I corrected her with an equally insincere smile.
“Thanks, Janet.  I’ll let you know what we find out…bye.”  Christopher waved as we headed out the door.
  Once in the car, I couldn’t get the body language and familiarity between Christopher and Janet out of mind.  It wasn’t any of my business, but I just had to ask as Christopher sped along the interstate heading back to the office.  “How long did you and Janet date?  I mean, was it serious?”
Christopher’s eyes darted toward me, then back on the road as he cleared his throat.  “Date?  We went out a couple of times…”
“After the case was over?”
He hesitated.  “Technically, no.  I know…I know…conflict of interest.  She was hot…I was young.  Okay?”
What else could I say without seeming like I was jealous?  Which, I was surprised to realize, I was.
“Today was the first time I’ve seen her in years…she still looks the same, though.”
“So, are you going to call her?”  Oh God, had I said that out loud?  I need to re-adjust my filters.
The car quickly sped up as we exited the interstate and Christopher took the U-turn lane to reverse direction on the interstate.  He looked in the mirror and exhaled deeply.
THE BLURB
An inheritance brought her more than she ever could have imagined…
Killeen Ames had it all…beauty, brains, a college scholarship, a rich and handsome boyfriend.  Then she found out she was pregnant and the boyfriend disappeared and the scholarship is in jeopardy.  A stranger arrives at her door with the news that a father she had never known had died and she was his heir.
But not his only heir.  She and four half-siblings meet for the first time and learn the shocking details of a popular music star who had been their father and Scandals, the private investigation agency he has left them.
Killeen’s decision is further complicated when she meets the totally irresistible manager of Scandals.  Her attraction to him is immediate and volatile, but she knows they have no future.  She has a secret she can’t share.
Someone doesn’t want them to stay and take over the business.  In fact, someone wants them all dead.  Their lives depend on whether or not they can figure out who he is and how to stop him before he succeeds.
THE AUTHOR
Kathy Clark has 23 women’s fiction/romance novels with sales over 3 million copies in more than 10 languages and have been on the New York Times’ bestsellers’ list and won her numerous awards.
In September 2012 she went Indie and launched a new suspense series, Denver After Dark.  Book #1, After Midnight.  Voted The Best Indie Suspense of 2013 and won a prestigious Readers’ Favorite Suspense Award in 2013, book #2, Cries in the Night followed in October, 2013.
Also in 2012 Kathy teamed up with her husband Bob Wernly to write a Young Adult Time Travel Mystery/Romance series called CUL8R (See You Later) under the pen name of Bob Kat.  Book #1 OMG (Oh My God), when they go back to 1966 to save a girl’s life, was released in October, 2012 and was named as the Best Indie Young Adult Suspense of 2013 and was a Beverly Hills Book Awards finalist.  Book #2 BRB (Be Right Back), when they travel back to 1980, recently won a Readers’ Favorite Young Adult Award in 2013.  Book #3 BION (Believe It Or Not), when they go back to 1927 and join a circus to save a boy, was released in July, 2013.  They also teamed and wrote a fictionalized version of Bob’s fraternity days at Kent State University in 1970.  The mixture drama of senior year, military draft lottery to supply the Vietnam war and the Kent State shootings.  This novel was named as a finalist in the Best Indie Mainstream Book of 2013 Awards.
Their New Adult series Scandals, kicks off the book #1, Baby Daddy in November, 2013.

Almost Time for BABY DADDY! It can be FREE you know…

Hello fellow Authors, Readers and Fans,

I’m getting close to the end of the writing process for my newest book, #30 in my career and it is titled BABY DADDY.  It will be book #1 in my New Adult Romantic Suspense Series, SCANDALS.  It is a first person book which has been a lot of fun to write and a welcome change.  And if you were at the Texas Writers’ League panel a week or so ago this also had the benefit of Bob.  But I digress.  I thought it would be a little limiting, the first person not Bob that is, but I found what you lose in the scope of a scene you more than make up for in the depth of the character throughout the story.

Being a new adult genre there are several touchstones that the story must have.  I don’t want to spoil the experience but trust me it does touch several of them in such plot points and story lines like college life, sex, music, the consequences of making one decision over another, moving out of your parents’ house for the first time, for some of the main characters their first serious first jobs, deciding who you want to be “when you grow up”, a person’s first serious relationships, and even some major money decisions.

How do you pack all this it one story?  Simple.  You’ve got to set up the series in book one and while book one’s main character is all about one Killeen Ames, the others have a voice that must be heard.

So here’s the back cover blurb and the current working cover.  All comments are welcome and I’m starting to look for willing volunteers who are interested in receiving an ARC in another few weeks in exchange for a pre-release review.  Drop me your email address at Kathy@nightwriter93.com. The ARC is FREE of course.

The story takes place in Austin in current day.

THE BACK COVER

Killeen Ames had it all…beauty, brains, a college scholarship, a rich and handsome boyfriend.  She found out she is pregnant…now the boyfriend has disappeared and the scholarship is in jeopardy.  An attorney arrives at her door with an offer she can’t refuse.

She walks into the meeting and is surprised to find out that her real father had been a popular music star who is now dead.  Even more shocking is the four strangers who share the same absentee dad.  He has left them a highly successful private investigation agency, Scandals.  The catch is…they have to make the commitment to work there.

It’s a difficult choice for them to make…leave their old jobs, schools and lives and run the agency.  Killeen’s decision is further complicated when she meets the totally irresistible manager of Scandals.  Her attraction to him is immediate and volatile, but she knows they have no future.  She has a secret she can’t share.

But there is a darker side to their dilemma.  Someone is determined that they not get their inheritance.  In fact, someone wants them all dead.  Should they run back to their safe lives or should they stay and try to stop a killer…before he kills them?

And here’s the cover…

SCANDALS BABY DADDY 10282013

Thanks in advance for your input!  It is invaluable!

A mental basis for The New Adult Fiction Genre

Is a person an adult at 18? Recently UK psychologists say No! So the questions is, is this the basis for The New Adult Fiction Genre.
With adolescence now ending at 25 to prevent young people getting an inferiority complex what should be included in a New Adult novel?

The BBC report claims that during adolescence, the way everyday situations and data is processed changes significantly from when a person is a child, to when they reach middle age.

Why does an author of Young Adult and New Adult fiction bring this up?  Simple. The elements of a New Adult novel fit certain criteria in the research and article by child psychologist Laverne Antrobus from London’s Tavistock Clinic who told the BBC “We are becoming much more aware and appreciating development beyond [the age of 18] and I think it’s a really good initiative.”

Adolescence no longer ends when people hit 18, according to updated guidelines being given to child psychologists.  The new directive is designed to extend the age range that child psychologists can work with from 18 years old up to 25.

It is hoped the initiative will stop children being ‘rushed’ through their childhood and feeling pressured to achieve key milestones quickly, reports the BBC.

There are now three stages of adolescence, according to the BBC report: early adolescence that ranges from 12 to 14 years, middle adolescence from 15 to 17 years and 18 and over is classed as late adolescence.

Authors have long held that give or take couple of years to allow for differences in upbringing mid-grade usually ends around 14 years old, young adult is in the 14 to 18 years and the new adult genre is in the 18 to 25 year old group.

It has been introduced because research now suggests the brain continues developing through and passed teenage years, well into a person’s mid-twenties and thirties.

The new guidance is also to ensure that over 18s don’t miss out on opportunities, or are forgotten about, in terms of health and education.  New scanning technology has made it possible for psychologists and other doctors to track how the brain changes and processes information.  It adds that as the brain ‘reorganizes itself’, people start to see and think about things differently and the brain becomes more like an adult brain.  Could this be one reason why in a well written new adult story  the character arcs tend to be more pronounced?

In our first New Adult Romance, Life’s What Happens the characters are forced to take bigger arc than you would see in people in their late twenties for example.  This background about being a passive adult will be built into our upcoming New Adult series Scandals, book #1, Baby Daddy.

Passive Adult?  Nice term for book club chatter but an author may need a more specific guide when writing a new adult book.  These criteria make a good list to follow and I explain them in terms of my first New Adult Romance, LIFE’S WHAT HAPPENS.  On Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/LIFES-WHAT-HAPPENS-ebook/dp/B00A14STPS/.

Life's What Happens is a New Adult Romance for ages 18 to 25 and beyond.

Life’s What Happens is a New Adult Romance for ages 18 to 25 and beyond.

  • College life – Life’s What Happens is told in flashback and the flashback is 100% the senior year for nine fraternity brothers and  their friends.  It’s all college all the time.
  • Moving out of your parents’ house and living alone for the first time – Most of  the characters in the Life’s What Happens story live on campus or in town and not at home and all for the first time.  What’s interesting is the character arc of those that maintain a weekend tie to their families and those that are immersed into the on-campus life.
  • First jobs – By senior year they have studied and majored in the classes necessary for their first real job as an adult.  This criteria is part of the angst that some of the characters go through. What happens if you’re not allowed to start your career?  What will you do about it?
  • Deciding who you want to be, career-wise, and in general. Identity issues. Existential issues. – By senior year they have made these decisions and are actively trying to make their decisions come true.
  • First serious relationships, finding love – Anyone who has gone through college knows that it was very rare that anyone retained any opposite sex relationships by the time they reached their senior year.  In Life’s What Happens one of the nine fraternity brothers set out in their senior year to accomplish this.
  • Sex – It’s less important that it be a “first time” as it is in YA. But the character should still be figuring stuff out. Since our readers can watch R rated movies, we can also be a little more explicit here without as much controversy. –  Because this is all about New Adults in 1969 and 1970 and despite the publicity or history of the sex in the sixties, sex then was different than sex in the 21st century especially compared to the beliefs and actions of the millennial generation, the target market to a degree of the New Adult genre.
  • Experimentation – Sex, drugs, alcohol. Of course, not all new adults engage in experimentation, but the phrase, “I experimented with “x” in college,” is a phrase for a reason. –  Drugs were relatively segregated to some of the class of 1970 but wine, beer and hard liquor were center stage.  Even states were confused back then with the application of blue laws and 3.2 beer.  Fake IDs were a cottage industry for one purpose and that wasn’t to outsmart and outwit the TSA.
  • Isolation – Living alone for the first time can be difficult –  Most of the characters in Life’s What Happens lived in the fraternity house where living there was more difficult to living alone.
  • Single life – New adults often do not have life partners and families yet, so their main relationships may be with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends. –  Many stories centered around the characters living their life with their brothers and girlfriends on campus and no longer at home with family.
  • A struggle to “find yourself” – This was the mantra of the 1960’s.  No further comment needed.  Yes there is actually.  The major plot point in the book is what happens when everyone finally is on the path to finding themselves when national circumstances totally blocks the path.
  • Change – Moving out, going to college, finding a job…it’s a lot of transition. –  Triple check and then add the draft road block thrown at them with a last minute Thanksgiving Eve congressional vote.   You never can say enough about Nixon.
  • Money challenges –  Goes without saying.  In some cases in the story a temporary shortage of money and the decisions made can lead to a life time change in goals.

A Victim’s Advocate Story; Who save’s the hero?

My release this week of book #2 in my DENVER AFTER DARK Suspense Series, CRIES IN THE NIGHT, followed several years of plotting and character development in my mind.  This is my 29th book overall and was easily took longest in my thought process.  Literally a dozen books and several film screenplays came to mind and got written since I first experienced the situations described in this compelling and provocative novel.  Chapter one is at the end of this blog.  The entire book is now available on Amazon at  http://www.amazon.com/CRIES-NIGHT-DENVER-AFTER-ebook/dp/B00FDRYCIQ/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
In the 1990’s I volunteered to become a Victim’s Advocate for the Northglenn / Thornton Colorado Police Departments.  Victim advocates are professionals trained to support victims of crime or calamity in their greatest time of need.  Sometimes the perpetrator was still not captured or the traffic accident still blocking the road.  Advocates offer victims information, emotional support, and help finding resources.  Clothes, food and even a safe place to stay were all part of the routine.  When I did this vital task my time was on the front lines in your neighborhood where citizens learned of the death of a loved one, a spouse, usually a wife and even girlfriends who had received yet another beating by their lover and family members learn someone close to them had been shot, maybe even killed.  It was a gutsy raw and tough environment.  Victims learned they did have a place to turn.
That experience caused me to put some of these stories to paper in CRIES IN THE NIGHT.  The back story of the relationship between the heroine and hero is what happens when two people are thrust into high risk hard work situations.  I think the reason why the story took so long be written is that the characters took a long time to step up and unveil their feelings, aspirations and goals.  They have spoken.
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Julie Lawrence is a Victim’s Advocate for the Denver PD.  Her job is to respond to domestic violence incidents, fires, car accidents and other tragic events where people need help dealing with their darkest moments.   She has had her own share of tragedies in the past which gives her empathy and a unique insight into victims and what they need to heal and move on with their lives.  But she is better at giving advice than taking it and has closed herself off from sharing her life with anyone or anything except a stray tiger-striped gray cat.

Rusty Wilson is a firefighter with a reputation for working hard and playing harder.  He meets Julie while he is trying to save a burning house and she is protecting a battered wife and an unborn child.  He is attracted to her, but not ready to settle down.  To his surprise, she resists even his most platonic attempts at developing a relationship.  One day a typical call turns into a hostage situation, and Julie rushes to the scene, partly in her role of Victim’s Advocate and partly because Rusty is involved.
She finally accepts his offer of friendship, and as they get to know each other better, they realize they have a lot in common.  When a stalker starts playing a cat-and-mouse game with Julie, she and Rusty work together, trying to figure out which of her past domestic violence cases has created a psycho who wants revenge.  In her line of work, there are a lot of people who want her dead.
Julie has no idea who is trying to kill her.  The warnings had started out as just creepy, but gradually turn into genuine threats on her life.  Rusty provides the emotional and moral support she hadn’t realized she needed until the danger increases.  Their love affair starts in the heat of passion and ends when he finds out her secrets.
Someone is watching . . . and waiting.  Julie has dedicated herself to saving other people.  Who’s going to save her?  Find out on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/CRIES-NIGHT-DENVER-AFTER-ebook/dp/B00FDRYCIQ/
AFTER MIDNIGHT REVISED
CRIES IN THE NIGHT is Book #2 in the Denver After Dark series.  AFTER MIDNIGHT is Book #1 of the series and –
  • Won 1st place in The Best Indie Suspense Novel of 2013 and
  • 3rd place in the Readers’ Favorite Suspense Novel Award of 2013.

Kathy Clark also is writing a New Adult Romantic Suspense series (Scandals) and Young Adult Romantic Mystery series with the CUL8R series under the pen name of Bob Kat.

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Find out more about Kathy’s 29 books on her website at http://www.nightwriter93.com

CAUTION: Beta Reviewers have advised this chapter is hard to read but even harder to put down.

CRIES IN THE NIGHT

 CHAPTER ONE

 

The back door slammed with such force that the small house shuddered.  In the back bedroom the woman froze in front of the ironing board, the iron paused in mid-air.  Steam poured out of the holes with a hiss, but she didn’t notice.  Instead, her gaze raced across the room and met the wide eyes of her son who had been playing with a boxful of Matchbox cars.

He dropped the tiny red Ferrari he had been holding and scuttled backward, disappearing under the bed.  No words had been spoken, but he knew the drill.  This wasn’t his first rodeo.  He had learned early that out of sight also meant out of the line of fire.

The woman wasn’t so lucky.

Heavy, quick footsteps signaled the man’s approach down the hallway.  Her heart pounded in her chest, and she realized she hadn’t taken a breath since he had entered the house.  She exhaled slowly, trying to calm her nerves and steel herself for the battle ahead.  Even before she saw his face, she knew he was angry . . . at her, at his son, at his boss, at his life.  It didn’t really matter.  He always came home to share his dissatisfaction with her.

“Where the hell is he?”  The man wasn’t large, but when he was in one of his moods, he seemed to expand in size until his presence filled the doorway.

“Who?” she managed to ask, struggling to keep her expression under control.  For some reason, it made him angrier if she showed fear even though her legs were trembling.

He threw his car keys at her.  She tried to dodge, but the unexpected movement and her own swollen bulk slowed her.  The keys smashed into her left cheek, then fell to the floor with a clatter.

“You know who.  That piece of shit kid.  He left his goddamn sled in the driveway and I ran over it.  Twenty bucks.  Trashed.  I work hard and get paid shit.  And he just throws his toys around like they were nothing.”

“He’s usually really careful . . .”

He cut her off.   “Didn’t he go to school today?”

“They had a teacher’s workday.”

“Then he has no excuse for not bringing in the garbage cans.”

“It was snowing too hard.”

“Not too hard for him to play.”  He kicked the basket of laundry against the wall.  “You fuckin’ baby him too much.”

“He’s only six.”  She knew that arguing only made him angrier, but her motherly instinct was to defend her young.

The man’s dark gaze raked the room before focusing on the abandoned Matchbox cars.  His nostrils flared and he moved toward the bed, knowing it was the most likely hiding place.

“No!” the woman cried.  “Leave him alone.”  She reached out to grab him, but he swung his arm to fend her off as if he was swatting away an annoying insect.  She reacted by striking back.  Unfortunately, the iron was still clenched in her hand.  The hot surface landed flat against his forearm and the back of his hand.  Steam oozed out of the holes as the skin sizzled.

With a guttural roar, he jerked back as quickly as possible and looked down at the arced-shaped blisters that had already bubbled up.  Like an enraged bull in the ring distracted by the matador’s cape, he turned his attention back to her.

“What the fuck?”  He knocked the iron out of her hand, grabbed the front of her sweater in his meaty fist and pulled her forward, over the ironing board which clattered to the floor.  Her feet scrambled to keep upright as he dragged her over the metal legs.

“I . . . I’m . . . sorry, Carlos.  I didn’t mean to . . .”

He silenced her with a punch so hard that her teeth rattled.  Momentarily dazed, she didn’t struggle as he slammed her back against the door frame.  Her head cracked against the wood and she could feel the sharp edges biting into her shoulders.  She didn’t fight back as he hit her again and again.  She knew she deserved this.  If she hadn’t hit him with the iron, he wouldn’t have come at her like this.  The skin over her eye slit under his knuckles, and she could feel the warm flow of blood pour down her face.  But as bad as it hurt, she knew it was nothing like the pain he was feeling from the burn.  So she let him take it out on her.  She owed him that.

It wasn’t until his blows moved lower that her defense mechanism got its second wind.  His fist buried into her breast.  Swollen from the imminent birth of her baby, the pain shot through her like a lightning bolt.  He drew back and would have landed a blow in her expanded abdomen, but she collapsed, trying in the only way she knew how to defend her unborn baby.  He released his hold on her sweater, but instead of stepping away, he kicked her.

She curled her body in a protective shell, putting all the flesh and bone she could between his steel-toed boot and her stomach.  He kicked her again and again, cursing her with words that burned her soul as much as her ears.  Finally, she blacked out.

A child’s scream woke her.  She struggled to open her eyes, but one was swollen shut.

“Mama, mama!” the little boy cried.

Her hands slid in the puddles of blood on the floor as she struggled to push into a sitting position.  Her blood.  She could see it staining the white yarn of her sweater.  In the back of her mind came the random thought that that was her favorite sweater, and now it was probably ruined.  She had so few clothes that still fit.

Her son’s small hands wrapped around her wrist and she stifled a scream as he pulled.   Pains shot up and down her arm telling her it was probably either broken or badly bruised.  Her brain struggled through the fog as she tried to remember where she was and why she was bleeding and aching all over.

Carlos!  She straightened and tried to look around.  Was he hurting Danny?  Her son seemed to sense her fears and with a maturity well beyond his years, he comforted her.

“He’s gone.  But he hurt you,” Danny told her.

“I’m okay,” she lied, trying, as always, to protect him from the truth.  But this was worse than the last time which had been worse than the time before that which had been worse than the time before.  She could remember them all.  In a twisted measure of days, months and years, each marked a new ending and a new beginning of sorts.  She had never doubted that she had done something wrong to deserve his anger, and she had never doubted she would survive.  This time, she wasn’t so sure.

A searing pain, much deeper than all the others pierced through her, starting deep in her stomach and radiating out.  She heard another scream and was surprised that it had come from her mouth.

“Mama . . .?”  Danny’s voice was terrified.

The room began to swirl around her, and her vision blurred.  Another pain doubled her over and she slid back to the floor.

 

 

Julie’s cell phone began ringing as she juggled a bag of groceries in one arm and inserted the key into her backdoor lock.

“Hold on, hold on, hold on . . .,” she chanted as she hurried inside, dropped the bag on the table and pulled her phone out of her purse.

“This is Julie,” she spoke into the small receiver.

“We’ve got a domestic and fire at 238 W. Maple Ave.,” the voice recited crisply.

“I heard it on my scanner.”  As she spoke, Julie held the phone against her ear with her shoulder and jotted down the address on a piece of unopened mail.  “I’m on my way.”

“I’ll notify the officers on-scene.  What’s your ETA?” 

“I’m pretty close.  I’ll be there in ten.”

The line clicked off and Julie let the phone slide off her shoulder and into her hand.  She grabbed the perishable items out of the bag and tossed them into the freezer or onto a shelf in the refrigerator and left the rest of the items to be put away later.   She picked up her keys, checked to make sure her thin billfold was still in her pocket and left without bothering to take the address with her.  She knew it by heart.  She had been there before.

Less than ten minutes later, she found a parking space.  It had been snowing off and on all day, and it had picked up again just before she arrived.  Julie looped her scarf around her neck, buttoned her coat up, pulled on her gloves and got out of her car.  A white ladder truck and an engine with the familiar DPD logo painted on it were parked directly in front of the house, their hoses snaked across the snow.  The generators rumbled, spotlights focused their harsh beams on the action, radios crackled with sporadic chatter and firefighters shouted back and forth to each other as they focused a steady stream of water on the blaze that had gobbled up the left side of the house.

Julie quickened her pace as much as she dared on the icy sidewalk made worse by the steady flow of water that was draining from the house.   An ambulance was at the end of the driveway.  The backdoors were open and the stretcher was out.

“Hey Julie.  Sorry to get you out on a night like this,” one of the cops said as he approached her.  He flipped his little spiral notebook closed and tucked it into the breast pocket of his jacket.

“Is she alive?”  Julie held her breath, afraid of the answer.

“Barely.  He beat the shit out of her . . . again.”

“No surprise there.  Why can’t you guys put him away for good?”

The cop shrugged.  “She always bails him out.”

“I thought she had a restraining order against him.”

“She does.  But an RO is only paper.  It doesn’t stop fists.”

Two paramedics pushed the stretcher down the driveway from the house.  A thin blanket covered the woman’s prone body.  Her young son walked beside it, his hand on his mom’s arm, a gesture that was probably reassuring for both of them.  It wasn’t until she got closer that Julie noticed the rounded mound showing the woman was pregnant.

“Oh my God,” Julie cried and hurried over to the stretcher.

The woman looked up at her . . . or tried to.  Her swollen and battered eyes clearly hampered her vision, but she was able to recognize Julie.  An expression flashed across her face, one that was part embarrassment and part happiness to see someone she knew.  “Julie . . . I know what you’re thinking . . . don’t be mad at me,” she said in a voice that shook with pain.

“Gloria, you don’t have to apologize to me . . . or to him,” Julie rushed to calm her.  She gently took the woman’s hand and walked next to the stretcher as the two paramedics struggled pushing it through several inches of unshoveled snow and over the shattered remains of a sled.

“He didn’t mean to hurt me,” the woman told her.

Like hell he didn’t, Julie thought, but aloud she said, “How do you feel?”

Gloria lifted her other hand that already had an IV attached and rubbed her belly.  “Not so good, but I’m most worried about my baby.”

Julie looked up at one of the paramedics and he shrugged.  “They’re going to do everything they can to help you both,” she told the woman.

“I burned him with the iron.  That’s why he got so mad,” Gloria continued, anxious that Julie know why the event had happened.

“You need to focus on yourself and your baby,” Julie spoke soothingly.  “I’ll stay with Danny until someone comes.  Have you called your mother?”

Gloria turned her head as if afraid of being overheard.  “No, would you do that for me?  Her number is in my phone . . . you know, the one you gave me.  It’s hidden in the laundry room.  Danny will show you.”  She tried to give her son a smile, but she could manage only a stiff grimace.

The little boy looked at Julie and nodded shyly.

“We’ve got to go,” the female paramedic said as the stretcher reached the ambulance.  She and her partner prepared the stretcher for loading and Julie reached out for Danny’s hand.

“Only my mother,” Gloria pleaded, twisting around and leaning toward Julie.  “Don’t let him go with anyone else.  Promise me.”

“Don’t worry about him.  I promise I won’t leave him until your mother comes for him,” Julie assured her, and Gloria relaxed back against the cushion.  The two women weren’t long-time friends or even acquaintances.  Their relationship had started almost two years ago when Julie had responded to a domestic call.  That one hadn’t resulted in hospitalization.  But it had been the first in several similar events that had created a trust great enough that Gloria knew she could leave Danny in Julie’s care.

Danny trembled but didn’t pull his hand away as he watched his mother being loaded into the ambulance.  The red and blue lights bounced off the surrounding trees and houses, magnified by the stark whiteness of the snow and turning the still-falling snowflakes into confetti.  Julie looked down at the little boy whose gaze followed the twinkling lights as they disappeared down the street.  She realized he wasn’t wearing a coat.  She unbuttoned her own, took it off and knelt down in front of Danny.  Even though it was much too large and drug on the ground, he burrowed gratefully into the warmth of the wool.  Shivers of cold and lingering fear shook his tiny body.  “They’re going to take good care of your mama.  But right now we need to call your grandma.  Can you tell me your mom’s secret hiding place?”

“It’s in the house,” he told her, then lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  “In the smelly things.”

Smelly things?  Her mind scrambled for what that might mean.  “Dirty clothes?” she asked.

“No, the good smelly things.  You know, the ones with the little bear on the box,” he whispered back.

“Dryer sheets?”

He nodded.

Good choice.  Men like Carlos never did laundry, so it would be unlikely he would stumble on it there.  Julie looked around.  Apparently the fire was out.  Smoke no longer billowed from the roof, and the firefighters were straightening out the hoses in preparation of rolling them back up.  One of the firefighters walked out of the house with an axe swung over his shoulder.  She lifted her hand and waved at him.  She recognized him from several other fires she had been called out to.

He noticed and walked toward them.  He was tall, well over six feet.  Dressed in full firefighting uniform, he looked big and menacing, sort of like an urban alien.  Steam radiated from his long black coat with its yellow reflective stripe and the top of his red helmet.  He had an air canister strapped on his back, but he had unfastened his respirator and it hung off to one side.  His face was smudged with a layer of carbon, marked with paths where sweat and water had streaked down.  After giving Julie a crooked grin, he swung the axe to the ground and knelt in front of Danny, as if he knew what an imposing sight he must be.

“You must be Daniel,” he said to him.  “I saw some amazing drawings on the refrigerator.  I was hoping I would get to meet the artist.  Were those yours?”

Danny nodded solemnly, but Julie could see that he was flattered.

“And that must have been your room with the race car posters.”

Again Danny nodded.  “Did my room burn up?”

“No, we were able to stop the fire before it got to your room.  But I’m afraid some of your things got a little wet and are going to smell like smoke.”

“How about my baseball cap?  The doctor people made me and my mom leave so fast I didn’t get it.”

The firefighter said, “Oh yeah, I remember seeing a couple caps in there.  They’ll be fine.”  He took off his helmet and held it out to Danny.  “Maybe you’d like to wear my hat.”

Danny’s brown eyes stretched wide.  “Oh yes, sir.”

The man set the hat on the boy’s much smaller head and it settled down to cover his ears and his face all the way down to his nose.  Instead of taking it off, Danny lifted his chin and looked out from underneath it.  But most noticeable was the twitch of a smile that had softened his tense lips.

The firefighter stood and turned his attention to Julie.  He pushed the heavy cloth hood off his head, revealing rumpled dark brown hair.  As he looked at her, she was struck by the clarity of his bright blue eyes.

“You’re Julie, aren’t you?” he asked.

She was a little surprised that he knew her name because they had never actually spoken.  But she wasn’t exactly a stranger to any of the public responders because she or one of her volunteers showed up at all of the more serious crime, fire or accident scenes.  “Yes, I am.  And you’re . . .?”

“Rusty,” he answered and pointed toward his last name that was printed on his jacket as he added, “Wilson.  I’m sure you know my younger brothers.”

“Oh, so you’re that Wilson,” Julie teased.  She was very well acquainted with his brothers.  Sam was a Denver cop who she worked with often, and Chris, the youngest, was a paramedic out of Denver Health.  He wasn’t one of the ones on scene tonight, but their paths had crossed often in the course of their jobs.

Rusty held up his hands.  “Whoa, you can’t believe everything you hear about me.”

“Why do you assume it’s all bad?” she asked.

“Because some of it is true.  I’m the first to admit that I enjoy life.  But my brothers like to exaggerate my . . .,” he grinned, “. . . transgressions.”

Julie shrugged.  This was not a point she wanted to debate in the middle of a snowy night when she was without a coat.  “I was just wondering if someone could take me inside for a minute.  I need to get Danny’s things and . . . well, something else.”

“Sure, I’ll take you in, but he needs to stay out here.”  Rusty called over one of the other firefighters.  “Jackson, would you hang with my friend Daniel for a few minutes?”

Jackson, a middle-aged black firefighter who had just finished shutting off the hydrant and screwing the cap back on, nodded and knelt down next to Danny.  “Hey buddy.  My name is Jackson.  Do you mind keeping me company while they go get some of your clothes?”

Danny nodded, solemn again.  He stayed, but his gaze moved back to Julie.

“Don’t let anyone take him away, okay?” she asked Jackson.

“Got cha,” Jackson confirmed.

After giving Danny a reassuring pat on the head, she turned to follow Rusty.

“Don’t forget my cap,” Danny called after her.

“I won’t,” she called back.

“Watch your step,” Rusty cautioned.  He took a flashlight out of his utility belt and turned it on.

Apparently, the electricity was off and the spotlights didn’t penetrate past the front door.  The dark house took on a sinister spook-house sort of feeling as they stepped over the threshold and into the smoldering interior.

“The fire didn’t make it to this part of the house, but the back two bedrooms are pretty much gone,” he added as they made their way around pieces of furniture that had been knocked over or tossed out of the way.

“Any idea what caused it?” she asked as she followed directly behind him, keeping her hand on his back because she couldn’t see anything outside the beam of his light.

“Looks like an iron on the carpet.  But the investigators will find out for sure.”

They picked their way along the soggy carpet of the hallway.  Even though the flames hadn’t made it into the hallway, the sheetrock was damp and there was a heavy, acrid smell that burned her lungs.  When they arrived at Danny’s room, she hurried to collect his jacket and a few items of clothing, including his Little League baseball cap that was sitting on his chest of drawers.  She also scooped up the stuffed monkey that held an obvious position of importance on his pillow and stuffed it all into his Cars backpack.

“We need to get out of here,” Rusty reminded her.

“I have one more thing,” she told him.  “Did you happen to notice a laundry room?”

“Not in this part of the house.  Maybe off the kitchen?”  He led the way back down the hall and across the small living room to the kitchen.  Sure enough, in the mud room that led outside was a small stackable washer and dryer that had probably been one of Gloria’s prized possessions.  But Julie had eyes only for the box of Snuggle dryer sheets on the shelf next to it.

“Really?” Rusty asked when he saw her pick it up.

She didn’t answer, but pulled out the sheets until she reached the bottom of the box.  Nestled there, just as Danny had told her was the emergency cell phone she had given Gloria the last time Julie had been called out to this house.  It was something she often gave to victims of domestic abuse because their controlling spouse or partner often refused to let them have any contact with the outside world.  She was glad to see that Gloria had listened to her cautions to hide the phone in a safe place where Carlos wouldn’t find it because Gloria clearly hadn’t paid any attention to Julie’s other advice to not let him back in her life.  Julie held up the phone so Rusty could see it, then followed him out the backdoor and to the driveway.

Once back outside, she took deep, cleansing breathes of the crisp cold air.  “I don’t know how you guys do it,” she admitted to Rusty.

He flashed her a grin, his teeth looking incredibly white against his soot-blackened face.  “Are you kidding?  I’d do this even if they didn’t pay me.  But don’t tell anyone.”

Julie flipped open the phone, turned it on and watched as it booted up.  “Hey thanks,” she told him.

“No problem.”  His expression sobered.  “You do good work, you know.  They need someone like you to help them after all this.”  He motioned around them at the devastation.  Yes, they had saved most of the house, but the smoke and the water had ruined much of what the flames hadn’t consumed.  These people had lost a lot, if not everything, and they would need all the help they could get.

“Hey Wilson.  We’re ready to roll,” the captain called and gave Julie a wave of acknowledgement.

She and Rusty walked back to where Danny and Jackson waited.  Rusty reached down and lifted his heavy helmet off of the boy’s head.  “Thank you for taking care of my helmet for me.  It looks good on you, but I’m going to need it in case I have to go to another fire tonight.”

“Sure,” Danny said with pride at having accomplished something so apparently important.

“Maybe you can get your mom to bring you by the fire station sometime when she feels better,” Rusty suggested.  “I’ll give you a tour and let you sit in a fire truck.”

“Really?  Wow, okay,” Danny agreed.

Rusty looked back at Julie.  “And I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah, we seem to hang out at the same places.”  She smiled.  “Thanks again.”  She nodded her head toward Danny, indicating that his kindness toward the little boy hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Rusty dismissed it with a shrug, but he gave her another grin as he put his helmet back on and headed toward the waiting fire truck.

“Julie, we’re finished, too,” the police officer who had been standing nearby talking to the captain told her.

“We can sit in my car and wait for his grandmother,” she suggested, but the officer shook his head.

“I can’t leave you here.  It’s still a hot scene.”

Julie glanced around, suddenly nervous.  “You mean he’s not in custody?” she asked while being careful to keep the conversation as neutral as possible.

“He was gone when we arrived, but you can bet he’ll come back.”

She shivered, not just because of the cold that was penetrating her heavy sweater.  She had never actually met Carlos, but she had seen his handiwork on at least three occasions.  “Let me make a quick call to Danny’s grandmother so she can be on her way.”  She went to the Contacts’ list.  There were only two numbers in it.  Gloria’s mother and Julie’s cell phone.  Even though she had encouraged Gloria to call her if Carlos came back, it was now clear that that hadn’t happened.  She clicked on the word “Mom” and put the phone to her ear.

It rang five times before a sleepy voice answered, “Hello.”

Julie turned away so Danny couldn’t hear the conversation as she gave Gloria’s mother a quick summary of the evening’s events.  “I’m taking Danny to the police station.  We’ll wait for you there.”  She gave the woman the address, and after getting her confirmation, Julie hung up.

“Okay, Danny, we’re going to get to ride in a police car.  Have you ever done that before?”

He shook his head, but there was a spark of excitement in his eyes.

“But first, I’m going to trade you coats,” she told him.  She released his parka from his backpack where she had clipped it and handed it to him.  He took off her coat, and they exchanged outerwear.  She welcomed the warmth as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up.  Danny had a little trouble with his zipper, so she helped him get it started, then reached into the backpack and pulled out his cap.  The first genuine smile of the night spread across his face as he put it on and tugged it into position.  She didn’t even need a voiced “thanks” because his expression said it all.

The police officer unlocked the doors of his cruiser and opened the backdoor for them.  Julie glanced back at her white Kia that was parked down the street.  She knew it was city policy that she couldn’t carry civilians in her personal vehicle and she had promised not to leave Danny’s side until his grandmother arrived.  That left her no choice but to ride with him in the patrol car to the station.  She would worry about getting a ride back to pick it up later.  Since Danny’s grandmother lived in Fort Collins, it would take her several hours to get dressed and drive to the station.

The spotlights that had illuminated the scene switched off as the fire trucks prepared to leave.  With only the red and blue emergency lights still flashing, the night seemed darker and the shadows deeper.  Julie glanced around.  She had the uncomfortable feeling that Carlos was there, out of sight, but watching as she took his son away from him, hopefully forever.  She shivered again and silently urged Danny to hurry up.  She wanted to be inside the safety of the cruiser.

As soon as he was inside, she climbed in after him and tried not to notice the telltale smell of urine and vomit that usually clung in the air of the back seats of all the patrol cars.  It had been a long day and was turning out to be a long night.  But she, like Rusty, loved her job and would rather be here than any place she’d ever been.  Only she knew how desperate she was to never go back.