Tod Leben’s Dove: Opening

Dove comes out August 1st 2022! [Dove] The ebook is available for preorder on Amazon (US). It will be paperback and ebook. Ebook will be Kindle Unlimited.

If you wish for a early copy (to offer a review on August 1st), send me a message: CatHartliebe@gmail.com or TodLeben42@gmail.com.

Dove is a 137k word novel. Although other stories may be set within its world, it is a standalone.


Dove’s The Opening

Please double check the triggers if there’s anything you may be concerned with. Dove is not the most comforting story. [Triggers]

Dove

This is only the opening scene of the story. There is no active scenes of concern within the short written here. There is vague talk of several, though. It should be overall safe for anyone.

(I am willing to offer a free copy in exchange for a review anywhere if you are interested. Please message me at CatHartliebe@gmail.com or TodLeben42@gmail.com or through one of my special media accounts.)


Dove Opening

Chapter 1

There’s a man who comes in every Thursday. As I walk into the diner, I recheck the calendar: Thursday. He’s not average in any real sense. He’s big – broad shouldered big, not fat big – and very different. He always walks passed on Thursday. When I’m not working, the man doesn’t come in for a meal. So, I have taken to asking for Thursdays. Fantasing about the strange man is not what a waiter should be doing even if I can’t help myself.

Actually, I can’t even tell you his name. He’s just a broad shouldered, big guy with white hair. White hair isn’t too strange anymore. Everyone goes through the phase of wanting to be like Birdman with his pure white hair. He just does the best job I’ve seen in the entire city.

Perhaps I keep asking for Thursdays in hopes of seeing him: the white haired massive man who can’t eat meat. I know, I know, I can’t remember a name, but I know dietary restrictions. I did say I am the waiter, right? That’s part of my job.

My coworker, Susan waves me over before I can even punch in. “Hey, Joe!” She has started to tease me about my crush on the man. Nameless man and I’m still thinking of things. I’m horrible. She looks me over. “You forgot your nametag.”

I tap my chest where it should be. This morning was too much of a rush. I hide my head in shame. Today’s gonna be the day I was going to talk to him. I’m going to screw up. The signs are clear for a screw up. I’m stupid.

“Big boss is here too.” Susan taps my chest. “You need a nametag.” She slips behind the register and pulls out a John nametag. “You can have our change a name, then.”

“I almost forgot about that.” I clip it on to my shirt. Change a name is for hiding the real name of the wait staff when a pain in the neck shows up.

“You’ll want it for when that white haired guy comes in. I let the boss already know about you possibly needing it for today. You’re planning on talking today, right? Testing the waters?” She nudges me.

One of the chefs comes over to us holding out a meal for Susan. “Is it today? Will he seriously ask him out?” He shoves the plate into Susan’s hand. “Table nine. Pronto.” Susan makes a face before drifting out to the tables. I still haven’t clocked in. She looks cheery with the customers. Currently I’m the only one with a stalker. And he doesn’t have much information on me. Besides Thursday’s meal, I don’t see him anywhere. He must be a high class person considering I’m known basically everywhere outside of that.

“Joe!” one of our usual customers calls me over.

“One second, E. I need to clock in.”

“I’ll wait for you then. Susan seems to hate when I talk about old train cars.” The customer chuckles warmly. They have an impressive memory of the older models of trains.

E isn’t special with such desires. Everyone loves me. Not romantically, not at all. I swear I’m not conceited. People like me. I get along with everyone. I’m basically everyone’s favorite uncle or brother or son. My real family thinks that way too. I am a people pleaser, my mom said once. But… I don’t know. Why is it that I can be so well liked and still end up in this odd circumstance?

My roommate is leaving. She has to. I get it. But now I don’t know where to turn. If I ask my male friends, they get terrified I’d follow them into bed. My female friends are all about converting me. Converting me into what? But I cannot very well live on the streets like a beggar. Couch hopping won’t work. My sister doesn’t have room, although maybe a few days…

The door dings as I let the thoughts go. He’s here. I get to see my favorite customer before the boss. That helps a little. I exhale going out to the floor to take care of those who need me.

As I reach the white haired man’s table, I notice the tv screen within his range of view. Birdman saved the day again. If I could fly… then what? I wouldn’t have the same issues as I do now. Would I? Birdman never looks to have any issues. “What would you like?” I hold my pad out waiting for the man’s usual. I should just ask if he wants the usual. Cheese sandwich and a watermelon smoothie. No meat. No eggs. Just cheese, tomato and lettuce.

“Cheese sandwich.”

“Which side?” It’s always the rice pilaf. Why do I ask this every week? Fear he’ll think something? I’m thinking lots of things.

“Rice pilaf.” His voice is comforting. Maybe that’s why I keep asking. Why don’t I just ask more questions? Be friendly. It’s not like I don’t randomly have conversations with my customers. My usuals talk my ear off. E and I will even sit down and have a long conversation if no one else is around to drag me through the ropes.

“For a drink?”

“Watermelon smoothie.” He offers a half smile. Not quite a smirk. Almost like his day is rough. Normally, he offers a masked smile. He cannot even pull off a mask today. Something is up.

I nod, though, unable to make a comment about it. My eyes drift back to the screen where Birdman talks about keeping the city safe. “If I was able to fly, I wouldn’t use it to save the city.”

“What would you use it for?” the white haired man asks. I didn’t realize he could hear my words. I thought I made the comment only in my head.

“If I could… I would… Get myself out of this hole I find myself in. I guess.” I tap my pen to my chin watching the superhero.

“Villainy?”

I jump a little turning to face the strange man. “I don’t know. I never thought myself a villain.” I sigh thinking of the situation back at home. “But gaining funds would help me stabilize.” Not like flying would be my preference, though. I hate heights.

The man stretches a little. The movement has my heart skipping a few beats. He’s big. He would definitely be capable of comfort on a cold, dark night. “Do you want to talk about it? Perhaps later out of everyone’s earshot?” His eyes migrate to mine. I stop breathing at his gorgeousness.

I nod gulping down my butterflies.

“Well then…” He looks over my nametag. It’s wrong. He’s going to call me the wrong name. How could I have done that to myself? “John-“

“It’s Joe. Joe Merci.” I gulp down my fantasies. I need to gain control. “I wouldn’t mind hanging out later.” I scan him. I wonder if he knows about my desires. Probably not. I try to hide it. I write out my name and number quickly on a piece of paper. “Here, my name. And number. I’m off at four.”

The man nods pocketing the thing. He probably won’t call. He probably noticed I seek something more and won’t call. This’ll be the last Thursday he shows. I know it. “I’m Icarus, by the way.”

I glance about. There’s things to do; we can’t just talk. “I’ll put your order in… Maybe if the place calms a little, we can chat further.” I slip by him ignoring my burning cheeks. If he offers a name after the fact, then there is a possibility. Right? I hide in the kitchen to the confusion of a few staff members.

The chef who noticed me before grins letting everyone know how I managed to ask someone out.

“No. I… gave him my number.” I flinch when they offer congratulations. Once calm enough, I grab the next tray I should be handling. Chaos ensues, and it seems none of us can keep up.

Just as I notice Icarus’s food ready, I’m called into the back. I question it as the boss starts his review of me. I have good marks from both staff and customers. It seems I’m pretty commonly called about in the positive. I’m half shocked. There’s sadness over the review though, because it denies me serving that white haired man.

By the time I exit to the excitement by several others, since I received the biggest raise of the bunch, Icarus is gone. He knows when I’m working til. I can only hope he calls me. I want him to.

“Do not sigh after just pulling off the miraculous dollar raise.” Susan clocks out. I still have another hour. “You have to be all smiles. You gave that dude your number, got a name, and got the all but impossible dollar raise. Smile, Joe. You should be all smiles.”

“Doesn’t change the fact I’m probably going to have to quit.” I shake my head. “I didn’t tell them that. But if I cannot find a place, I’m going to have to move back home. Even with such a raise, I don’t make enough to pay for a place on my own.”

Susan nudges closer. “Wanna join me?” She’d crawl into my bed first chance she gets. I’m more terrified of her than many others.

“No.” I back off holding up my pad like it may protect me. She’s a great coworker. She’d be a horrible roommate.

“Tsk. Fine. See you tomorrow.” She waves at me before disappearing out the door.

The thoughts of Icarus drift through my mind as I finish up my shift. Once I can clock out, I start on a walk to the park. I need something to soothe me. Going home and watching her pack up is… It’s not soothing at all. It only reminds me that things are going to end. My attempt at big city living is coming to a close. And there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Why did I give him my number? I’m going to be leaving the city soon. We won’t be able to have a relationship like this. I can’t think he would even want a relationship with me. I’m such a fool.

Chapter 2

A quarter after four, I am sitting by the lake in the park. It’s a natural wonder in a big city known for city life. The only reason this park exists is who owns it. And unlike most who believes the park is owned and cared for by the city, I know it’s not.

I run a hand through my pure white hair. Just like my father. Just like the guy who flies through the sky saving people. Closing my eyes, I weigh my options while sitting before the water. I am not Birdman. I am Icarus, son of Birdman. Not that I can say that to anyone. Daedalus, aka Dad, aka Birdman, aka my real father owns this lake and this park and everything of any real importance to the city.

“He has too much control.” I shake it off. Of course he does. And since he does, I do too. If I’m willing to do everything he requires of me. But I refuse more often than not. I used his contacts to get my job at the not-quite-justice justice complex. Where science is performed without ethical considerations just because who is being kept within the confines of the building.

My job there is to get the real story out of them before the scientists can play. And if I cannot, the torture I offer – and the rest of the team offers – is beyond repair. No human leaves the building the same way they enter. I am part of that.

According to papers, the place I work at doesn’t exist. It’s a paper pushing facility. Lots of tech and knowledge, but mostly studying facts and organizing information. Nothing like the truth. Truth I keep hidden.

I glance at my phone. I already plugged in the number for the waiter. He looks like such a good character. Almost like the perfect hero in waiting type. Nothing like the people I deal with normally.

Birdman saves people. And hands them off to us where we disregard their rights as living beings. We are creating villains. Isn’t that what I was told as a teen when I got close to… I shake that off too staring at the phone number.

Someone passes the bench running swiftly while listening to a bouncy beat. She looks focused on her action. She has no idea who lives beneath the lake. She has no idea what Birdman does to those he captures. She has no idea who is sitting here before such a beautiful ‘natural’ wonder.

I watch her pass by thinking of that waiter. Such a good person stuck in a bad situation. It’s easy to see over the last few weeks something has turned him. He looks ready to accept the next big mistake. That doesn’t make sense. But I’ve seen it before. A perfect hero in the making getting caught up on the wrong side of the fight. “Like Dad.” I shake it off. No, Birdman is a good hero. “It’s a lie.” He supposedly tries to be righteous and justice.

“Why did we run away then?” I question the lake looking back at my phone. Mom is still missing. Hopefully alive. They stopped searching as hard for her since I returned. Still, they search. What hero seeks a person to that level?

Shaking off the nerves, I make the leap. It has been a long time since I reached out to someone. Normally, I let them reach me. Or I walk into their life and expect attention. Now, I’m calling someone. To reach out to them. To stop them from…

From what?

The ringing in my ear it copied down the path. I glance over to see the waiter nervously fumbling with his phone. He drops it. While he seeks to pick it up, I hang up. His sense of loss over missing the phone call is palpable. With my easy step in his direction, his shock doubles. Staring down at him, I can see he wasn’t expecting this. He’s so normal looking. Easy on the eyes, lean and fit. Stronger than expected. I saw how much he lifted, and he smiled without strain while doing so. Most would befriend him feeling relaxed in such a presence.

I offer my hand to help him stand. By the grip he offers, the sweaty touch, and pressure, his knees are weak. I spot the shiver and shake of his legs. His nerves must be sky high. Part of me wishes I was sky high. I glance up at the clouds above us. Birdman isn’t there. Even if he was, I would be ignored. I’m not dressed for acting the hero. I have my wings covered. They hide easily under a jacket, coat, or even tee shirt. “Joe, right?”

He exhales backing away from me. He’s standing now. Shorter than me by several centimeters. Typical brown hair and eyes. Comforting smile, but nervous. “Yeah.” He rubs his hands on his pants. His head ducks into a quick bow. “I’m Joe Merci. I’m from…”

“You haven’t moved recently. So where you are from doesn’t matter.” Cutting him off has his eyes reach mine. It’s like the words lift his spirits. “You live here now, right?”

Joe nods pushing hair back on his head. It shows off small studs in his ear. Both ears. The little shine adds to his charm. He’s so drawing. Why isn’t he the hero everyone looks up to? Small town kid with big city dreams? Everyone’s friend and saves every day people? “Yes.” He pauses letting his eyes show discouragement. I’ve seen that happen. “Although, I doubt for much longer.”

“How so?” I motion to the bench I was sitting at before. “Let’s chat.”

Joe drops on to the bench. Somehow the movement and action release so much of the stress he built up. I sit at his side giving him space and allowance. He doesn’t look likely to cry, but many probably would in his situation. You can see the strain there where a smile typically sits. “My roommate is… She can’t stay. I get it, I do. Her mom needs her. She’s two states away. I support the entire thing. It doesn’t matter that it screws me for rent, or that I’ll probably have to…”

“Find a sugar daddy?” I pause looking him over spotting a slight blush over such words. “Sugar mama?”

Joe’s voice drops slightly. “Daddy is the correct term.” His whisper doesn’t phase me. “Do I look it?” His eyes come to mine. The look of hope within them.

“Not particularly.” I shrug. “I’m not the type to notice.”

“The type to care? The type to be… interested?” Joe offers so many levels with his questions.

“You’ve been bullied because of it.” It’s a statement. His words at that tone say so. And I’m far larger in size than him. It would be easy for me to bully him. Joe only turns aside. “Most people are your friend because of how easy you are. How calm and comfortable it is being near you.”

Joe shrinks a little. “A friend. Yeah. Lots of friends. Very few give me nothing. Everyone basically trusts me and likes me up front. Then they learn a little something they disapprove of and…” He sighs pulling his knees up to his chest. His little ball sits beside me on the bench as we look at the water. His friends bullied him. And not in the nice teasing acceptable way. He shakes it off hiding his face into his knees. “I’m fine.”

“You’re a horrible liar.”

“So I’ve been told.” He chuckles. He’s nearly in tears. Ah, so that is a possibility. His strength can only hide so much. Being reminded of certain things can break him.

“Should we move from the public eye?” I stare at the water wondering if that is even an acceptable comment. I’m an unknown. A strange person who saw him. Who thought that’s a real hero that no one sees. I look closer to stalker than ally right now.

“To where?” Joe glances at me. His face is half hidden, but he’s not completely hiding.

I shrug. To where is a good question. “My condo is safe.”

“Safe and completely unknown to me.” Joe shivers. “So it’s really only safe for you.”

I look the stalker. He won’t trust me like that. I stare at the clouds again. I can’t go flying tonight. Birdman is making an appearance – a special appearance – for Homer Industries. I should also be going. Dad may be going as himself and Birdman, a feat few manage. I should go as myself. It’s a big ticket event. The mayor will make a scene. The news will be all over it. I’m supposed to go as the heir to Homer Industries.

“Sorry for turning down the suggestion. Public places are safer.”

“Because I look the stalker. I don’t mean to be.”

Joe stares at me. I give him a glance and get a grin. He hides himself so well. “You aren’t a stalker. I know stalker. Had quite a few during my day.”

I scan him. Him? The friendly, everyone loves type of guy? Why would he be stalked?

“Don’t stare at me like that.” He shivers looking at the water now. “It’s true, though. I’ve had people not accepting of my lack of interest. Or really not their level of interest.”

“Not the boyfriend material.”

“Exactly.” He sighs stretching his legs back out. His feet reach the ground again. His mood has improved so easily. “They found out where I live. What hours I worked. Who I saw on a daily basis. They even knew when I visited the gym. I always thought that was pretty random.” Joe shivers recalling such thoughts. “That feeling is…”

I nod. Not that I have ever really been stalked. Followed has happened. And I was sought after. But never stalked. It’s different, and yet the same. “Well if someone manages to make you feel that way, you can call on me.”

Joe scans me now. His calmed mood is half intrigued. “Guess I should save your number, then.” He chuckles. He’s not doing it now, but he probably will. I hope he will. “If I was a gorgeous woman with hair down to here, I could call for Birdman.” He holds his hand at his waist. It’s not Dad’s favorite type, but he’s right thinking Dad saves women more often than men. It’s a foolish decision of his.

I stand up stretching from the lack of activity. Joe watches. Really keys in to my movements. Knowing now he looks at men probably should key in to what his thoughts are leaning toward. Doesn’t really matter. I scan the lake thinking of the party tonight.

The party tonight where Dad expects me to have someone on my arm. He expects me to have picked the mother of my future child. He sees me as getting too old to ignore the typical duties of life. He only last week bet me I wouldn’t have a date again.

I glance back at Joe’s look. Being caught staring, he turns to the lake. His cheeks redden lightly over the capture. It doesn’t bother me. Would it be called using him? Be honest. Mom always told me to be honest. Honesty will get you far in a relationship. “Would you be interested in joining me tonight?”

Joe’s eyes flicker back to mine. He looks so confused by my question. “As in a date?”

“I have a ticket to the big gala. I need a plus one.” I smirk. His brow furrows. I guess my smirk is the wrong choice in looks.

Joe looks at himself clasping his hands before him. “Not that I’m not interested, it’s more I don’t look good in a dress.” He looks back to me somewhat fearful. “Shouldn’t a plus one be…” He pauses scanning me then the lake behind me. “I don’t think I quite fit the typical definition.”

“Do you wish to go on a date with me?” I’m misconstruing details. On purpose. Sorry, Mom.

His eyes are focused on me again. It’s clear his answer. He wants to. “How old are you?”

“Thirty.”

Joe pauses a moment as if to give me a chance to say more. “Single?”

“Yeah. I’m not looking.”

Joe falsely laughs looking at the ground now. “At least you didn’t say straight. But still…”

“I’m required to bring someone. Not all plus ones are dance partners.” I shake my head scanning the distance. “Love happens between people, not between gender. Lust happens between gender.” I sigh wishing more people understood that. “My father expects me to have someone at my side tonight. If for some reason I can’t find anyone, there may be a few problems in the coming weeks. Not that I’d blame you for denying me.” He could save the day. He looks to like saving the day.

I don’t. I have supposed super powers, and I hate wasting the effort. I turn away facing the lake. I allow him access and sight of my back. My wings are hidden away. Huge white feathery wings that make Birdman who he is. And I will become the next Birdman. My son will be my successor. And so on. A cycle. A never ending cycle.

“What do I get for helping you?” Joe stands up. He makes a single step closer. A bargain. A chance. He’s allowing me a chance to win.

“Besides the date which includes everything required there.” I slowly turn to face him. He doesn’t act as if he is several centimeters smaller. He doesn’t act as if he’s trading dignity for something right now. Yet that’s what he is doing, isn’t he? “Name it.”

Joe bites his lip glancing about. “Two months rent. So I have more time to figure it out. It ends my contract then. So I won’t have cost associated to leaving at the wrong time.” Joe squeezes his eyes shut hiding his fear.

I stare at him. His fear comes from this concern. He’s losing his home, his place here in the city. His life would completely change if he couldn’t live here. He’s asking if I give him enough to be able to stay. “Sure. I have room at my place. If you need a place, no questions, I’d be willing.”

He blinks staring at me. This waiter seems at a loss. “Why? Why me? You don’t act like you see me the way I see you.”

I glance at myself. I hope not. I’m this huge monster made where nightmares and dreams clash. “Not sure what you see in me, but I’m not what you expect.”

“A savior?” Joe shakes it off. “For months now… It’s been a few words and… I just… My thoughts.” He sighs squeezing his eyes shut. “I fantasize about you. And I hear you say things. And I know you aren’t saying the same things as my dream version of you, but…” Could he be melting? He looks to be melting.

“Do you need something to drink?” I look about. No vending machines in the area. No other people either.

“Like those words.” Joe reaches out and holds on to my arm. He’s using it to steady himself. “I…”

Part of me wants to pick him up and fly him home. Calm him down with something. That doesn’t sound like a good plan, though. He doesn’t realize how far from normal I am. Never pegged myself for saving someone either.

“It’s been only a few months.” Joe has steadied enough to release me. “A few months you visit every Thursday. But only if I was working. Why?”

I frown wishing I understood exactly why I saw him. When I passed the diner he works at a few months ago, I was caught by his open smile. How could such a person exist? With open hope and thoughts and feelings. He’s an adult. He’s lived. He’s experienced things. Yet, he has such a child like expression. How can he be so happy even without, when I have so much and cannot offer anything more than a false grin? I clamp my mouth shut. How does anyone explain that? Joe is that type of person. A person everyone likes. A person everyone wants to know.

Joe sighs backing off a step. He glances at his phone. Almost five. We have a bit of time yet. But not a lot. We should move to my place. Get ourselves ready. “I don’t know the exact times for your gala, but my apartment is quite a ways away. And my suit…”

“Won’t be good enough.” I nod glancing about. It’s a very short flight, but I can’t fly with him. Walking won’t take much longer. He looks used to it. “I have a few extras. One of my suits from high school would probably fit you.”

“It would also be over a decade old,” Joe scoffs. But he follows me. After a comment earlier saying my place wouldn’t be called safe.

“A suit really hasn’t changed over the years. If we were talking four or five decades, I could see your concern. You’ll be fine in my old one. I didn’t keep the tacky one.” I also only wore it once, on a dare. Never again. Fool me once, shame on you. “You could also use a shower.”

“Thanks.” It’s an insulting comment. And with it comes a slight glare.

“Do you like smelling of grease?”

Joe crosses his arms still following. “It’s not about liking it or not. I was working. It was a diner. I smell like the diner because splatter happens.”

“So you dislike my shower comment.” I shrug. “I’ll keep such thoughts to myself next time.”

Joe reaches out touching my arm lightly. His switch is so easy and quick. “No. It’s not that. It’s just… I know I smell like crap. I know I need a shower. I don’t need you saying it.”

“Just calculating time.” I nod forward. “If I don’t weigh time concerns, we may be late enough to draw even more attention.”

“Attention?” Joe tilts his head. “Are you going to draw attention?”

“Biggest thing this month. Or so the media puts it.” I shrug again focused on walking. Then I notice Joe stopped. I face him. “Backing out last minute?”

“Sorry.” Joe jumps catching up. “Just… surprised.”

I nod. Yeah. I said I was Icarus. I didn’t say I am Icarus Homer, heir to Homer Industries. Icarus is a popular enough name. “I am following through with my requirements. Dad said I needed a plus one. You’re going to be my plus one. I need you tonight.”

“A total stranger.”

“I don’t have a lot of allies I can lean on for this.” Minus those crazy scientists. Anyone who accepts working in a facility that doesn’t need to worry about ethics is… unstable at best. The others like me who handle pulling information are… unbalanced. It could be called a breeding place for villains. Except it gains its protection from the leading hero. The winner writes history. The place will never do wrong. “And I wouldn’t call you a total stranger.”

“You didn’t even know my name,” Joe huffs out.

“Do we need to know each other’s name to feel safe and calm?” I question. He shivers behind me. “It’s not far.”

“How about I call up one of my friends? She would probably love getting all dolled up and ushered around a room.” Joe attempts half acting as if this might be his biggest mistake.

“I trust you. Not your friend. We don’t have time to doll her up either.”

“Why not ask me last week? Give me some time. I could’ve found the perfect person for you to tag around.” Joe sighs.

I stop turning to face him. Someone bumps into his side. We move to the side of the sidewalk out of the main flow of traffic. It’s getting to the time when the streets are packed. We need to move faster. “You wish to not go or do you wish to help me fix my problem?”

Joe fidgets looking everywhere but at me. “I wouldn’t mind a date with you. If we were really calling it a date.”

“What else would you call it?”

Joe sighs. He hunches forward. “This is more of a social gathering. I’ll be called a friend.”

“You are a friend.”

Joe sighs louder. That’s a point he’s hating. He called himself a total stranger. I’ve called him friend. Really he would be between the two.

“I want to call you friend.”

Joe turns in the direction we were going. “Let’s go. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Nodding, I take lead position back. He doesn’t know where I’m going. “Let’s get a few getting to know you questions done. We may be questioned, and I’d rather have some real answers.”

“My name is Joseph Merci. Everyone calls me Joe. I like Joe.” Joe glances at me then focuses back on the walk. “I’m twenty eight. But just because I’m younger than you doesn’t make me weaker.”

“Or stupid. Have you gotten a degree yet?”

“No. Never managed. I couldn’t find a field that truly interested me. Everything was read this book answer some questions. Agree with the teacher on their lunatic ideas. I have a half a bachelor’s in basically anything.” He shifts uneasy over it. “I do have the sommelier’s certificate.”

That stops me. He’s working in a dinky diner while being able to call himself a Master Sommelier. That makes no sense. “Why work at…?”

Joe just shrugs. “I looked around for a job as a sommelier, but everywhere here has been have experience or know someone. So I just shelved it.”

“There must be a story there. But I’ll hear it later.” I motion to the massive building before us. “This is it.” Joe’s jaw may be on the floor.

He shivers as we step inside. The doorman greets me as per normal. Joe fidgets nervous over it. As we walk to the elevators, he whispers looking at the bar across the way, “I applied here and was immediately rejected.”

“Then they are foolish.” I shake my head. I could easily get him a job in the bar. But a guy of his skill and capable would… No. I’d prefer to offer him more. Something to show off all of his talents. He’d probably love a job as a real sommelier. No one deals with that course load and not want to serve wine. “Top floor.”

“Pent house?” Joe shivers. My life makes him nervous. “What do you do for a living?”

“This and that.” I walk into it. My keys go on the counter. The kitchen is near the entrance; I watch as Joe revels in it. “My place is big enough. You can crash here if you want.”

Continue the story by buying the ebook, paperback, or hard cover. Or begging me for a copy.


Dove comes out August 1st 2022! [Dove] The ebook is available for preorder on Amazon (US). It will be paperback and ebook. Ebook will be Kindle Unlimited.

If you wish for a early copy (to offer a review on August 1st), send me a message: CatHartliebe@gmail.com or TodLeben42@gmail.com.

Dove is a 137k word novel. Although other stories may be set within its world, it is a standalone.


If you have any specific questions about any of my books, let me know. I am always willing to talk about my work

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