Part 1722 – When Gayle Met Mark

“She’ll send someone else after us?” Hildreth smirked. “Wow. Now, that’s a threat.”

Elsie folded her arms across her chest and didn’t comment.


She huffed out a breath. “We need to keep going.”

“Els. What’s wrong? What did I do wrong this time?”

She unfolded her arms. “This time? What? Am I that hard on you?”

Hildreth refrained from saying the obvious and almost expected joke. “Not so bad nowadays. So, talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”

Elsie hesitated a moment before asking, “The Lovering Machine?”


“Why are you called The Lovering Machine?”

Hildreth almost laughed with relief.

Is that all she’s put out about?

He put his hands on his hips. “What? Are you kidding? Just look at me.” He swiveled his hips. “Mm-mm-mmm. I’m just built for lovering success. Whee-hoo!”

She aimed a punch at his face, which he quickly blocked.

“All of Havaton’s womenfolk ogle me every time I go out.”

Another punch.

Another block.

“They all think I’m so all that.”

Another punch.

Another block.

“Going shopping is such a chore. I have to wade through miles of middle-aged women who all want a piece of me.”


Block. He grabbed her wrists.

She scowled. “Let me go!”

He looked lovingly at her face.

Her gold eyes.

The frizzy tendrils of her hair.

The shape of her face.

The fierceness of her expression.

“Elsie baby, you have nothing to worry about.” Shame flickered inside of him at the memory of the incindinary elf’s touch. “I don’t want anyone other than you.” He kissed her knuckles. “I want you to love me, touch me, call me an idiot.” He released her hands and cupped her face. “Call me all yours, Elsie. That’s all that I want.”

Her anger melted away. “Idiot.” she said lovingly.


I’m drawn to him.

I need him the way I need air. I don’t know how I’d be able to live without him. This ridiculous, wonderful man.

Elsie hugged him and listened to the steady rhythm of his heart.

“Elsie.” His voice echoed inside his chest.

His hand passed over her hair.

This is what I want.

Every morning, I want to wake in his arms, safe and secure. I want him to be the only one who touches me, who loves me, who calls me his own.

She hugged him tighter.

Ambrose Smith will never touch my heart again. It’s going to be just you, Hildreth Mayhew, until my dying day.

I love just you.


Hildreth kissed the top of her head and quietly sang, “La dee da dee dee. The beat goes on.”


Incandesca luxuriated in her bubble bath with her hawk mask still on her face.


Mark Caten.

The love of my life.

The father of my child.

My child…


Mark Caten.

The man I love.

The man I adore.

The man who banished me.

She closed her eyes.


She leaned her head back.


My darling Mark Caten.

She remembered…


Gayle Carlyle entered Dinker’s Dimer and Deli. 

“Go on and have a seat.” the waitress said. “I’ll be right with you.”

Gayle strode over to her usual seat. Only to find it occupied by a Chinese woman who was eating greasy garlic chicken and rice.

I could boot her out of there, but the whole booth reeks of garlic and grease. No thanks.

She headed to the next booth over. A nerdy, skinny guy with oversized glasses sat in there talking on his cell phone. Gayle looked down at his empty plate.

“Yes, but the budget doesn’t account for—“

She grabbed him by his collar and dragged him out of the booth.

“WAAAH!” he yelped. His cellphone flew out of his hand.

“Sorry, but it looks like you’re all done here. Go pay up and get lost.”

He retrieved his phone. “But I was waiting for—“

She held her hand in between them as if it were a shield. “Not interested today, tomorrow, or any time soon. Bye.”

The man was so overcome by her bad manners he gave up without a fight. He walked over to the cashier.

Gayle slid into his seat.

She had barely made herself comfortable when the front doors banged open. She leaned over to see what was happening.

A young man in a fine suit entered the establishment. The deli’s lights reflected off his mirrored sunglasses. His auburn hair was loosely but carefully styled. His figure was to diet and exercise for. 

Gayle closed her mouth to keep herself from drooling everywhere.

He sauntered towards the deli counter as if the whole place belonged to him.

So much swagger.

So much confidence.

I need to know this man.

Must meet him. Touch him. Shake his hand. Kiss his feet. 

Kiss his feet? That’s extreme even for me.

She watched him mouth off at the poor deli clerk. She licked her lips.

I’d gladly let him kiss my feet.

She rose from her seat and bee-lined straight to him.

The Chinese woman left her seat at the same time. Only she headed for the man’s security guard.

Gayle shrugged.

You can’t account for all tastes.

Gayle stopped behind the young man.

“Maybe you were born in a cornfield and were raised on whiskey and rye bread. I, however, was not. I am Mark Freakin’ Caten. I was born to—“

“Hello, Mark Freakin’ Caten.”

Mark stopped and turned around. He blatantly checked her out.

“I am Gayle Carlyle. And I am going to be your lover.”

He smirked. “Why, yes. Yes, you will be.”

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