Wednesday, February 29, 2012

P.S. PayPal, Shall I Spit, or Swallow?

Dear PayPal,

It’s me again, Eden. Honey, we need to talk. Though we’ve had this nine-year relationship, you don’t know me at all.  I was born in 1960. I came of age in the heady atmosphere of the Sexual Revolution. If you’re old enough to be in this relationship with me, I’ll assume you’ve heard of it. The outcome there was I was decided to be equal, in my sexuality as well as in business. I live in South Carolina, arguably the most conservative state in the U.S. I graduated from all-female college in the same state. and I married a preacher’s kid of the Southern Baptist variety. 

You’d probably have liked his parents.

Speaking of parents, I happen to be one. I’ve often used my PayPal card to buy things for my kids--things like music downloads. Many a time I’ve seen the Parental Advisory warning labels, like your new guy, Charmillionaire has on his music, and I exercised my best judgment about whether or not I wanted my children exposed to it. You know Charmillionaire, right? You and he just went public about your relationship on your blog.

I know I'm a natural blonde, but dumb this down for me. I’d like to know why you feel I’m competent to monitor the music I use my funds on your card to download for my children or myself, but I need your assistance to determine what I want to read. Or write and sell on Smashwords or Bookstrand, if it’s legal,  doesn't violate any definition of obscenity other than yours, and someone else wants to read it. I want to know why you don't monitor one type of explicit artistic expression yet come after another with your corporate censorship. I'm asking why there's been selective enforcement of your newly-expanded definition of obscenity. And yes, I'm still asking what qualifies you to decide what is and is not obscene. 

If you’re so concerned about explicit stories I might use my funds in your possession to download and read, but feel a warning label is sufficient to save me from accidentally hearing explicit lyrics, then you’ll of course overlook me when I tell you I live in the country, and I know fresh cow manure when I smell it. It’s the way you’ve labeled my peers as pornographers that astounds me. It’s the way you imply I’m competent to determine what music I want to buy, but want to put your big, strong hand over mine when I browse for a book that makes me grit my teeth. I'm not some twelve-year-old for you to withhold my allowance if I say the word 'orgasm' out loud. We're already established I was a competent adult when you handed me your card and opened my account.

Why don't you ask us as to add a content warning label rather than force retailers to remove titles? I'm sure we could all compromise on bright red, black and white virtual sticker similar to the one Charmillionaire has on his anti-establishment and sometimes obscene lyrics. If you're buried in charge-backs because of buyer's remorse when a spouse finds this material, or for any other reasons, well, I'd say a digital download which opens and is formatted well enough to be read should be non-refundable anyway, in the manner of electronic games and digital recordings.

I’ve heard the arguments about how you as a company have the right to decide your own terms of service. I’ve heard all those who say if we as authors don’t like your policies, we’re free to find a new provider.

Ah, but you and I know that’s easier said than done. Our little break-up is coming, but our relationship’s complicated. You’re balls-deep in the indie-publishing and small-market press and you're abusing that power. Your unique service not only accepts payments for our books, but also allows our publishers and online vendors to collect and send us our royalties. This feature arguably had a lot to do with how we got big enough for you to decide we needed a chaperone when we explore our sexuality on the written page. To date, you have no competitor, no alternative for us to fall back on, it’s your way or the high way, and here we are, faced with the metaphorical reality we as writers in this sub-genre are barefoot and pregnant and it’s winter.

We’re going to have intercourse, and you know it. All we have left to negotiate is whether I'm going to spit or swallow what you’re shoving down my throat.

Pardon me for being rude, but I’m gonna spit.

I’m calling your Customer Service to complain about your Morality-by-Debit Card policy every hour. I’m going to burn up your US phone line: 1-800-221-1161 and I’m going to encourage my friends talk about what a bad relationship you are as well. Those living outside the US can call this number: 1-402-935-2050. I know you’ll take my call between 4 am and 10 pm M-F Pacific Time, and 6 am to 8 pm Pacific Time Saturday and Sunday. I'm going to drive your computerized secretary Sarah  to tears.

I’m calling my elected representatives to tell them I want you to stick to what you do best –transferring my money from Tab A to Slot B, and leave the rest to me.
I’m going to make hash of you on Twitter using #Paypal and #StopCensoringErotica, and I’m begging all who read this right now to re-tweet, repost, and generally raise immortal hell the way only a woman scorned can do, until you accept I’m mature enough to be in this relationship, but will not kneel down to your moralist agenda.

I'm putting my name on every petition I can find, and I have the Change.Org petition linked at the top oft his blog. 

I’ll continue withdrawing my royalties as soon as they’re deposited, and I’ve cut up your card and mailed it back to you.
That’s the thing about shoving something down my throat. I still have my own teeth.

And, I believe, if we make enough of an outcry, you'll withdraw that offensive item you're sticking down my throat. I think your rigid stance might shrivel in the cold light of negative publicity.

Make the calls. Sign the petitions, shout out on Twitter, blog, re-post other's blogs on this topic..INFORM YOUR READERS THEIR CHOICE IS BEING TAKEN AWAY. Let them decide whether they want their debit card to decide what's available for them to read.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Debit Cards, Definitions and Door Mats

In 1997, my husband fell down a flight of steps. He fastened one likely broken toe to its neighbor with a bit of duct tape and went back to work. Three weeks later, he complained to a friend his skin had  a prickly feeling on the left side of his body, similar to the one you get when Novocain wears off, a pins and needles sensation and the odd feeling the affected area doesn’t quite belong to you. The friend suggested Hubby see his chiropractor.
I’ll spare you the long, pathetic tale, but as it turned out, the chiropractor adjusted a ruptured disc in Hubby’s neck until the disc exploded.
Did you just blink? I know I did, when the neurosurgeon said those words to me. He went on to tell me a cervical disc isn’t filled with water. It has a gooey substance inside, and there are bits of grit he likened to blackberry seeds. Those seeds had been driven into Hubby’s spinal cord, leaving irreparable damage in their wake.
The neurosurgeon performed a cervical fusion but Hubby never walked again. After torturous months of rehab, he regained partial use of his right arm and hand.
Did you just demand to know whether we sued? Why yes, we did consult an attorney. He ascertained the chiropractor Hubby saw was an instructor at a local chiropractic college, and Hubby visited him at their clinic for his adjustments.
After investigation, the attorney returned with a big smile. The college was chartered with the state, and state statute limited recovery in any legal action to three-hundred thousand dollars. They’d write us a check today for that amount.
Hubby’s medical bills were more than that. Not to mention, he’d never work again. At thirty-five.
I wiped the smile off his face in a red-hot hurry. I told my attorney, a man I’d known for years, to find a way around that statute. He told me it was impossible, the statute was very clear. I pointed out I felt I was also faced with the impossible, but wasn’t choosing to walk away. Our children were nine and six, and I’d had to auction off the assets of the business we owned together in order to stay home and look after Hubby, who would need a round-the-clock caregiver for the rest of his life.
Our lawyer went to work. He dug into the language of the statute and discovered one word he needed defined. That word was ‘doctor’.
Long, grim months later, as it turned out, the court said a chiropractor was not a ‘doctor’. ‘Doctor was interpreted to mean a ‘physician’.
Why didn’t state lawmakers use the word ‘physician’ when they wrote the statute? I haven’t the slightest idea, but that one imprecise use of language cost the state Victim’s Recovery Insurance Fund seven figures.
That covers the definitions portion of this story, as well as the doormat portion. Don’t be a doormat. When something that matters to you is at stake, and you believe you’re right, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Don’t let someone use imprecise language to wipe their feet on you.
I had over 1,160 hits on my blog post about PayPal over the weekend. Thank you. I’m honored, and whether you agreed or disagreed, having you read what I had to say was the reason I wrote it. I saw the link reposted in any number of places. And I saw some dissent. Not a problem, those who know me know I have hide like an alligator, but I do want to address a couple of comments posted elsewhere.
We are writers; no one should know the value of precise language better than we do. Another profession that’s really into definitions and precise language is the legal profession. A legal definition is not always identical to a commonly accepted definition. If you’re talking law, use a legal dictionary
Words like obscene. Words like rape-as-titillation. Words like barely legal.
I’ll begin with barely legal, as it’s the easiest. Legal, as used in this PayPal controversy, means of legal age to consent to have sex. Barely, according to Webster, means : scarcelyhardly <barely enough money for lunch>. And yet, in this example, we know the guy had the ability to eat lunch if he chose. And we therefore know barely legal can mean  ‘turned eighteen an hour ago’, but if this character wants to knock boots with Joe Hunk next door, there’s no legal entity in her jurisdiction which may use the law to prevent her from agreeing to celebrate in the most basic fashion by allowing Joe Hunk to give her a happy ending.
Now, how did barely legal become obscene? I’ll stipulate the porn industry uses the term in promoting images of legal adults who have the appearance of being much younger, and for all I know, this market caters to pedophiles. And I will assume, and so can you, it’s legal. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to suck it up and deal…unless, of course, you’re PayPal, or you sue in some Federal court and get the legal age of consent moved up—way up. Those same actors will still be working if the courts move the legal age of consent to nineteen. Or twenty. But you may go to sleep tonight assured no minor is being penetrated. The fantasy catered to by the barely legal porn market is breaking no law.
But damn it, erotica is not porn. It’s sexual exploration on a written page. The definition of erotic is of, devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire. No matter how you cut it, erotica is about sex, sexual love and sexual desire.

Oh hell, guess it’s time to define obscene: abhorrent to morality or virtue; specifically : designed to incite to lust or depravity.
I’ll stipulate erotica is designed to incite lust. I’ll die and burn in Hell before I’ll stipulate lust is a bad thing. Several million bored married folk who barely fornicate once a month would probably agree with me. And, I’d bet some PayPal minion is tapping his censorship pen at the word depravity. Depraved: marked by corruption or evil; especially : perverted. I can reel off a list of definitions, because at this point, good and easy Webster’s Online becomes vague. They use another word-perverted, and if you look that one up, you get the sense perversion is of those things that everyone knows when they see it, but the English language doesn’t have a precise word for.
Ah. The grey areas. I feel as if I’m trying to see through smoke. Wait. Legal language is very precise, right? Let’s check's definition for obscene
Are you laughing yet? I know I am. This IS the grey area. Obscenity means one thing to me, and something else to you. And clearly, another thing to PayPal. But here’s the rub. Barely legal is not obscene.
“Okay, Eden,” you say, “but the bottom line here is PayPal has the right to set any TOS they choose, and they choose to make barely legal a category they won’t provide payment for. It’s their right.”
Only until someone decides their rights are being infringed upon and demands a court decide. See, the story here is not about PayPal’s rights, but mine, yours and any other writer or reader who gets fed up with the way this debit card company decides to tell you what you may and may not do with your money that is perfectly legal AND uses imprecise language in the process.
PayPal isn’t being merely imprecise. PayPal is stretching the limits of the word obscene, twisting it like taffy to suit their own agenda. They’re ignoring the definition in many instances, and re-writing the definition to make it broader—and that’s where they infringe on my rights, your rights and every cardholder’s rights who wants to download and read a LEGAL, not-obscene story PayPal won’t authorize payment for.
And to those who said I was well-intentioned yet wrong, well, now chew on that for a bit. The fact this egregious overstep has yet to be brought to court and ruled on doesn’t make me wrong. It makes you complacent.
There’s a word. Complacency. Back to check in with good old Daniel: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.
Some of you are satisfied this is all a waste of breath, you know you’d never be caught dead crossing a line into obscenity. You know where the line is, and your work doesn’t cross it. Therefore, this issue is unimportant to any other than some nasty old purveyors of porn.
The actual danger in this case is that too many of our peers are complacent on this matter. I don’t write anything remotely close to being banned. YET.  I might start writing it tomorrow, but that’s not what I meant by yet. I do write ménage stories, and PayPal has dictated if I write a ménage story where two of the participants are siblings, they may not touch each other in a sexual manner. Incest is illegal where I live. I doubt I’d let my characters do that. BUT—remember barely legal? What’s to stop PayPal from deciding tomorrow or next week or next year that if I have siblings in my ménage, they can’t get naked in the same room at the same time?

Oh, then it would matter.
The thing about being a doormat is it’s damn hard to stop being one when someone’s already standing on you. I’d argue in order to avoid becoming a door mat, the thing to do it to stop lying outside the door, and get on your feet. And I’d prefer not to wait until my voice as an author is as paralyzed as Hubby.
Ah, time to tackle the white elephant in the room. Rape-as-titillation.
I cannot say this as eloquently as my fellow writer did, on a third writer’s blog this morning. But I can link the awesome post by Raymond Frazee  for you, and repost her comment.

Remittance Girl: “No one supports RAPE. Or pedophilia. Or bestiality. Or incest. But we support the right to allow artists to explore the darker sides of our nature in the safety of words on the page. It’s why Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, with his incestuous mother and his murdered father. It’s why Oedipus Rex still has the power to make us ponder on the meaning of fate. It’s what good literature is about.
Let me be clear and honest. I write transgressive erotica. I have written a number of stories that eroticize rape. They’re not ALL ABOUT RAPE, but it’s in there. I wrote them because I am one of the 40% (or more) of women who have rape fantasies. (don’t believe me? – it’s a landmark study)
So when Mark Coker says that ‘rape for titillation has no place anywhere’, I say:
Men have been fucking telling me what my sexuality should be like for the past 4,000 years. I’m fucked if I’ll take it NOW. I will have the fantasies I want. And I will explore them in my writing. I will do it with literary merit and integrity, BUT I WILL DO IT.”

I’m standing up and cheering, RG. Dancing with you in the smoke. Because that’s what this gray area is, smoke. Every step PayPal takes that’s above and beyond any legally accepted definition of obscenity is just as harmful as the gritty matter inside a cervical disc, when it leaves it’s clearly-defined and intended area, and wanders off to make inroads where it should not be.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Six sentences that may get me banned.

This small excerpt from 'When a Soldier Cries' refer to  the rape of my female main character, Dr. Tori Morgan Banks. Oh wait, I might be safe when this novel is published, since I doubt the Neanderthals at PayPal Enforcement (seriously, they need a division named this?) recognize it's even possible for a husband to rape his wife. Silly me. What was I thinking? 

Anyway, enjoy my six. Then drop down and read my rant about the way a quasi-financial institution is raping me and my fellow erotica writers. Yes, a debit card is now seeking to define what is and is not acceptable content for their customers to purchase. This content is not ban-able--yet. Read it while you can. Then, grab your PayPal card and a pair of scissors and cut the damn thing to shreds, mail them back where they came from and tell them they aren't qualified to judge what is and is not 'acceptable content'. When the day has come a piece of plastic can judge my work or any other authors and label it as anything other than a expenditure, the day my bank seeks to deny my check for 'unhealthy' foods is likely not far behind.

Her breath was being shut off; she heard Anthony shouting in her head as she felt his hand on the back of her head, pressing her face so hard against the pillow she couldn't breathe.
“Bitch. No, you’re less than that. Bitches are for breeding. You’re nothing. Useless cunt. Waste of time.”
Then the pain began, the feeling she was being ripped apart, but she couldn't gather enough breath to scream. She was choking. She was dying.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Want Me Barefoot and Pregnant, Too? Open Letter To PayPal

Do You Want Me Barefoot and Pregnant, Too? An Open Letter to PayPal   

   To my fellow writers: Be heard. Stand up and scream, use your blog, your social media accounts and your God-given talent to publicize this new form of rape.

     Dear PayPal,

     I’m a nine-year account holder. And I’m angry.

You see, I was an eBay seller for over seven years. I used your service for the convenience of my eBay customers. If you refer to my file, you will see how many times I participated in an arcane process you like to call dispute resolution’.  Your track record there was less than stellar.

However, your questionable policy allowing you to seize my funds—yes, mine, the ones I earned and which you were given permission to MOVE for me -- is not the policy I’m complaining about today.

This one is bigger. More insidious and at least as arrogant.  You see, growing bored with writing eBay auctions, I moved to writing romance novels. My novels depict characters having sex with each other.
Sex happens. If you’re uncomfortable with the topic, I recommend you simply not read my work.
But don’t you dare tell my readers they cannot pay for my novels using their funds in your possession. And don’t try to dictate to me what I may buy, sell and pay for with my funds in your possession, either.

You see, romance novels have always been there red-headed stepchild of the publishing industry. Romances in general and erotic romances in particular are the novels no one will admit to reading, and the ones the Big Publishing won’t market, at least not under their respectable house names. But they do sell.  (link)  In order to satisfy the demand, especially with the advent of electronic reading devices, many small e-publishers have flourished, giving many of who have a knack for writing these stories a new income stream.

And once again, my funds are being moved through your SERVICE. My publishers use your service to collect payments on my behalf, and they deposit my royalties in my PayPal account. I use the term service, because that is all you are. I look upon you as I do the guys who pick up my trash. My trash collector has a right to deny me the right to put certain items in my refuse container. Not because they arbitrarily decide they are offended by, say, dirty diapers and old lampshades, but only if carting off dirty diapers and lamp shades would violate LOCAL, STATE, or FEDERAL LAW.  Otherwise, they take away what I toss out, and in this economy, they’re damn glad I haven’t decided to haul off my own trash.

You do not get to tell me what I can and cannot spend my money on.
Oh, you’re trying.  You have written some arcane new policy you believe allows you to JUDGE what I write, purchase, or promote, and disallow my sales or expenditures based on your idea of what is ‘appropriate’.
Guess what? The last time someone tried that, I was seventeen years old. I’m now fifty-one. I’m more than capable of choosing what I want to write—and read. I don’t need or want you looking over my shoulder in the guise of looking out for my best interests. I may have breasts, but I assure you, I can handle the job.
To further disrupt my small business enterprise, you are now targeting my distribution.
Wait. That is not quite true.  You have not yet affected my works. You have, however, decided in your almighty arrogance, that you may dictate to distributers who also handle my titles, which titles you will authorize payment for.
Here is copy from one distributer’s web site:

  1. Content subject to approval.
  2. If you upload romance with explicit sexual content, please do not cross over the line regarding pedophilia, sex with a minor, sex with the barely legal, incestuous sexual intercourse with any immediate family member, rape for sexual titillation, non-consensual BDSM, bestiality with a non-sentient being, and necrophilia.
  3. No hard-core erotica will be accepted.

  • For BDSM, place a note before or after your blurb indicating it is "consensual BDSM."
  • If your heroes or heroines are siblings in a ménage/multiple partner romance, the siblings cannot, at any time, be sexually involved with each other and cannot touch each other for titillation. Place a note after your blurb indicating "There is no sexual relationship or touching for titillation between or among siblings" (or similar wording of your own).
  • Pseudo incest involving sexual intercourse with non-blood related family members, although legal, is a hot button. If "step" family members are involved with each other, premise of the story cannot be for the sole purpose of titillation.

To recap: I may hear of these situations on the news, or in a television drama or a movie, but I may not read or write about them, if I plan to pay or get paid through your intuition.
Uh huh.  NO. No, PayPal, you do not have the right or the qualifications, to decide what is and is not obscene. You are a company chartered in the United States, and I’ll be damned if I feel you’re smarter than the US Supreme Court. There are days I have issues with the decisions made by these justices, but at least they were vetted by Congress, which is one hell of a lot more than you can claim. They went to law school, served as lower court judges and wrote many a scholarly dissertation and reasoned opinion prior to being nominated for the seat.

What the hell did you do? You merely typed a new clause into your customer agreement, and you think you’re gonna shove it down my throat. Honey, I know fiction when I see it. That’s what your policy regarding obscene material is, fiction. I seriously doubt you can back it up in court. I seriously doubt you can back it up using my money.
Based on my experience with your dispute resolution mumbo-jumbo, I know you’ll try.

For the edification of those who haven’t seen it, this is how your company is making their end-run around the Constitution, as related by an online retailer of erotica and erotic romance:

On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted XYZ Online Book Retailer (name withheld)
with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement,
PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened
to deactivate our PayPal services. I've had multiple conversations with PayPal
over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team
has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the XYZ Online Book Retailer mission. I appreciate
their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best
to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.

Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica. (sic)

But, Eden, you say, you’re a fifty-one year old female, living on the buckle of the Bible Belt. You can’t possibly support novels with rape scenes, incest scenes, and for God’s sake, surely not donkey-sex involving minors!

Oh, yes I can. Here are three reasons why:

1. When you clean the shelves of the above list of ‘objectionable material’, will that satisfy you? Or, fresh from your success of leveraging MY MONEY against me and my chosen profession, will you come after something I actually write? 

2. Many of us who write in this genre do so for therapeutic as well as financial reasons. Oh yeah. So, if at some point in my past, I was traumatized by the swinging dong of a donkey, owned by my cousin who also raped me (fictional example though this may be) do you think you can deny me the chance to write this and make it commercially available to someone else on this planet that might also have experienced similar trauma? I’m going to say you are not qualified to make that judgment call, much less have the right to make it.

3. It’s fiction, yo. That means it’s not REAL. It’s fantasy, it’s emotional exploration in the safest possible manner, in the privacy of one’s own home. You absolutely do not have the right to dictate what I may or may not read, explore or fantasize about by virtue of the fact I PAY YOU TO MOVE MY FUNDS ABOUT ON MY BEHALF. Again, I say you’re not qualified to determine what is and is not obscene. You move money, and there are times you do a piss-poor job of that. To give you this kind of control without a fight makes as much sense as asking my dentist to deliver my baby, or my house painter to choose my cancer treatment facility. 

You can’t follow the federal regulations you’re required by law to obey, based on lawsuits which are a matter of public record, yet you seek to set a precedence of this caliber and dictate to me what I may write and sell, or read, by squeezing me where it hurts, in my purse?

Clean up your own house before you come to sweep out the dirt in mine. There’s every chance that will keep you plenty busy.

Perhaps you don’t realize I’ve been discriminated against before; had my human rights violated by being passed over for a in favor of a male with lesser qualifications,  offered lower pay for equal work, been fired for getting pregnant, and a few other tidbits I’m too angry to recall.
I suppose you think because my daughter has taken all my generation’s progress in this arena for granted, and paid her money and mine for rap music denigrating women as ‘bitches and hos’, I must have gone senile, and won’t notice you’re trying to screw me, no dinner, no kiss and no lube?
Think again. Effective immediately, I’ll be withdrawing my funds from your possession. Until my publishers find a new way to pay me, I will discontinue use of your bit of plastic, and have you send me a check through the mail, this depriving you of additional fees my card activity gives you.

I’m only one woman, I admit that. However, you’re the one implying my words and the words of my fellow erotica writers have so much power we must be controlled, at the expense of the US Constitution. That makes me think you might have a fight on your hands.
And I’ll be waiting for that enterprising class-action attorney who sees this situation for what it is, an opportunity to right a wrong, while lining his pockets. That’s the American way, after all. But he or she will use the law to do that, while you have nothing to stand on, in my humble opinion, except your arrogance and your erroneous belief I’ll bend over and take this like a good little girl.

Good little girls are fiction too. I’m a woman, I write erotica, and I’m not bending one more inch. You show me the power of money, and I’ll show you the power of the pen.

My post looks at the issue from the consumer's angle. This one calls out one of the online booksellers who's given up without any sign of a fight:

Raymond Frazee's post is hard hitting, and references many works which fit these literal definitions Paypal is forcing on us, and yet which would never be banned.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Unofficial Flash Fiction Friday

Unofficial Flash Fiction Friday! 

You know the rules, 100 words --no more, no less--to tell a down-n-dirty quickie from a photo prompt: 

I didn't 'officially' sign up this week, but after you enjoy mine, please follow the link to see what my more organized writing buddies did with the same image.


opened his eyes, already hurting.
Pulling the photo album from the nightstand shelf, he began the day as he always did. His heart ached no less today than it had exactly eleven years ago, when he’d buried Carlotta-- his heart, his lover, his wife and his Broadway show partner.
He smiled resolutely, wiping a tear from a sepia-toned publicity still from their first job together, Hold Me, an off-Broadway flop. He’d held her- throughout rehearsals, and every day after the awful, wonderful night the show was abruptly canceled.
“I’ll never stop loving you,” he whispered. “Today, we'll meet again.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Welcome to Wednesday Briefs! 

The challenge: Write 1000 words from a given prompt. This week's prompt was:  
"...or the trial cannot proceed."

The prompt reminded me of an older work in progress. I dusted it off, and as you will soon see, it will have to be an ongoing series. Is 1000 word enough to get you hooked on the Stone Brother's story? Let's find out:
How To Handle Hailey, Pt. 1

“I'm counting on you to handle this problem with Hailey, or the trial cannot proceed.”

Jason Stone handed the former three-time governor of North Carolina a stiff shot of bourbon. Kent Logan hired Stone Security three days ago, the day his daughter went missing. Logan’s former son-in-law Paul Lyons was on trial for espionage. Hailey was the defense’s star witness.
Since Logan had used his influence to get help Lyons Communications land a metric ton of government contracts, Logan’s reputation was at stake. Jase didn’t know whether the politician was more worried about his daughter or his political standing, and that bugged him.
Jase was too exhausted to be anything except blunt. “The divorce wasn’t as bloodless as she’s told you. Banks has a mistress. He’s currently paying her obstetric bills. Hell, for that matter, he’s paying all her bills. Hailey knows.” A lot of things didn’t add up for the former Delta Force operative. Hailey Logan married Paul Lyons while both had been college undergrads, forking over her trust fund to give her husband his start. Lyons Communications was now worth billions. Why walk away with less than she was entitled to when she had Paul’s cheating ass dead to rights? Hailey hadn’t gone for Lyon’s financial jugular, which made absolutely no sense. She’d given up the fancy mansion in the Hollywood Hills, walked away with only her clothes, according to her maid.
Powell knocked back the booze before speaking. “How long has Hailey known?”

“At least two years. Her lawyer’s practically suicidal. He demanded she ask for more, but your daughter didn’t take his advice.” Jase had lost a lot of sleep trying to make the puzzle pieces fit.

The silver-haired former governor helped himself another drink, looking a decade older than he had three days ago. Jase probably didn’t look so hot himself. He’d only just returned from his fact-finding mission to the West Coast, but you didn’t keep a man like Kent Powell waiting while you slept.

He’d had a hell of a time finding anyone who knew much of anything about Hailey Powell Lyon’s private life, finally resorting to hacking into files he didn’t like to think about.
Paul Lyons had told his lawyer a lot more than Hailey told had hers.
Kent’s grey eyes grew steely. “Lyons used my daughter’s money to build Lyons Communications,” Powell rasped. “Did she have competent representation, goddamn it?”

“She had a real shark, sir,” Jase assured his client. “Your daughter got exactly what she asked for, which was enough cash to cover what she originally gave Lyons, plus reasonable interest for the time he’s used it, plus a quarterly stipend based on company performance until the day she dies. He can’t screw her without hurting his own company, if that’s any consolation. If he sells it, or takes it public, she makes the same killing he would.”
Assuming Lyons wasn’t convicted of treason first.

As much thought as he’d put into the situation, Jase still couldn’t figure out what Hailey Lyons did care about, other than her privacy.

Powell stood. “She has to be found before Monday, when the trial resumes. Hailey must know if Paul’s convicted, the little bit she took will be worthless.”

And she must know if she screws her ex, she screws you in the bargain. Jason kept that thought to himself.

“Also, my wife’s planning a little reception tomorrow night. I’ll need your company to handle the security.”

Although Stone Security Consultants worked mostly for industrial and corporate clients, a recommendation from a man like Kent Powell opened a lot of doors. “Of course. Fax my secretary the details.”

Powell paused by the door to straighten his tie. “My son’s going to run for Lieutenant Governor. I’ll need your services a great deal from now on.”

Long after Kent Powell left his office, Jason Stone was still thinking about Hailey. Pulling up his files, he stared at her photo.

She looked like the sort of woman a man like Paul Lyons would have married the second time around, not the first. Hailey Lyons was a guy’s wet dream, a trophy wife of staggering proportions. She was attractive, and she had money. All Lyons could boast when they’d met was a pocket protector and an IQ said to be off the charts. 

Why in the hell would a woman like her stand around while Lyons banged somebody else?  According to the files Jason had hacked, Lyons swore to his attorney Hailey had known about Lyon’s mistress for over two years. 

Jase knew he was bordering on obsession as he stared at her hazel eyes and light brown hair. The connecting door between his and his brother’s office opened. He didn’t bother to close the file; no doubt Jackson knew what he was doing. Twins had unique methods of communication.

 “She’s just a job, Jase,” Jackson growled when he saw Jason staring at Hailey’s photo again.

“No, she’s more than that.”

“Go home and get some sleep. Quit this nonsense. You’ve never met the woman, so what the fuck’s wrong with you? Okay, she’s cute enough, but she just got divorced. She’s probably bitter as hell. Not to mention spoiled rotten.”

Jase did need sleep, but he argued with his twin as he headed for the door. “Hailey took a big loss to get her divorce. That’s not all I learned, bro. Paul Lyons likes to be tied up and spanked. Hailey didn’t wanna do that for him. What does that tell you?”

Jax snorted. “She needs a few nights with a real man?”

“Exactly, brother. Maybe even two. She allowed Banks to take a mistress years ago but didn’t take a lover of her own. Think about that and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jason smirked as his brother took his vacated seat. Jackson’s blue eyes now held more interest as he scrutinized the image of the woman Jason had put everything on hold to find. Not necessarily because her daddy was paying them to find her.

Guess you'll have to wait for the next installment to get the steamy parts. <grin>

Please take the time to check out what the same prompt inspired my fellow writers to create:

Sara York     m/m
Scarlett Knight     m/f
Nephylim     m/m
Julie Lynn Hayes  m/m
MC Houle    m/m