Charm City Threads Book 1
by Stephania Thompson Genre: Romantic Suspense
Bound by a devastating secret, childhood friends David, Josh, and Kate take on home renovation as a means of healing from a dark, shared past.
Their only promise? Friendship first—no hookups.
Only several months after moving into their Baltimore fixer, the aptly nicknamed Canton Catastrophe, walls are crumbling, sparks are flying, and promises are getting ignored.
Josh, a paramedic, is plagued with panic attacks, haunted by the past, and sharing a room with David, who he is definitely not attracted to. And then there's Kate. She's having a job crisis, popping pills, and pretending she doesn’t notice how distant the boys have grown. And David? The eternally calm, blue-eyed beauty’s health is deteriorating and he’s mysteriously blacking out.
But when they learn someone may have discovered their darkest secret and is now stalking them--and blackmailing Josh's father, a conservative media personality with secrets of his own, renovation and relationship woes take a back seat. Suddenly, their past is unraveling, and the shocking truths unearthed will have them questioning everything from family ties and friendships to love, loss, and the lengths they’re willing to go for each other.
Our bedroom wall rattles to life, and I peel one eye open.
I love how the pipes clang so loud that I don’t need an alarm in the morning, and I hate everything else about plumbing. And home improvement in general. One day I’m going to live in a pre-furnished fully decorated condo and pay exorbitant homeowner fees, so I don’t have to lift a finger.
I tunnel under the covers and indulge this fantasy while listening to Josh in the shower. It was his idea to buy this place. A project, he’d said. Something for us to work on together.
Once Josh gets an idea in his head, there’s no persuading him against it. Kate and I eventually agreed—we needed somewhere to live after all. Maybe it would be fun?
And it has been.
A disastrous, chaotic sort of fun. We’ve learned a lot about each other, which really says something because we already knew a lot about each other. Like the fact that Josh is a perfectionist, I’m a procrastinator, and Kate’s indecisive. This translates into Josh dictating everything, and Kate and I struggling to complete the few tasks he delegates.
Or, as is often the case, us hiding in the bathroom.
Not that you can hide in this house. We tried in the beginning to maintain a pretense of privacy, but then the three of us got sick from Kate’s cooking. One bathroom, paper-thin walls. Need I say more?
Anyway, Josh and I share a room for now. It’s a bit small. But that’s typical for a turn of the century Baltimore row home. Every room feels like a glorified closet. We’ve been here four months now, and there’ve been some hurdles. Remember that old Tom Hanks movie, The Money Pit? Picture that. Kate refers to our little city fixer as The Canton Catastrophe. Josh and I just call it The Shit Box.
But back to our bedroom situation. I don’t mind sharing with Josh. Over the years, he and I have spent more nights together than apart. We’re about as close as two humans can be. Which sounds like a good thing—and it is. I love Josh.
I love Kate, too.
Our situation is a little…complicated.
She tiptoes in, all stealth-like.
“Stop staring,” I say, without opening my eyes.
She slides beneath the blanket. “How do you always know?”
“Extrasensory perception,” I say, pulling her close. She’s damp from the shower and smells of Sea Island Cotton-scented body wash. We all use the same soap. Is that weird? I’m pretty sure body wash is for girls, but Josh and I are addicted to it.
I sort of love how we all smell the same.
Kate doesn’t talk for a few minutes. This has become our morning routine. She showers first, then snuggles with me. Josh used to hold that coveted position, but he got bumped—from the shower, I mean. He and I snuggle all the time.
Here’s something about Josh—he takes absurdly long showers. It doesn’t take a crime scene investigator to figure out what’s going on in there. But really, should it take that long? Kate didn’t think so. After a month of freezing-cold-post-Josh-shower taking, she put her foot down. The order now stands Kate first, then Josh, then David. I haven’t had a warm shower in months.
But it’s fine. I’ll sacrifice for them. I’d do anything for the two of them.
Stephania Thompson is the author of Woven (Orange Blossom Publishing 2022). As a poet and multi-genre author, her work has appeared in a variety of online publications as well as several print anthologies.
Formerly a CPA in the corporate world, Stephania now writes from the comfort of a modern day crumbling castle alongside her very own knight in shining armor. Together they have four valiant offspring, a brave aussiedoodle, and one not-so-fire-breathing dragon.
When not writing, working, or waiting in a carpool line, she can be found running local trails and escaping in a book at her favorite café, iced latte in hand. She is a sucker for quirky romance, is addicted to audiobooks, and finds herself hopelessly drawn to flawed characters, raw honesty, and life’s cringiest moments.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
First and foremost, I’m a mom to four wonderful kids…three boys and a girl. I’m an accountant by trade, but writing has always been my passion. My hard drive is full of story fragments, novel ideas, half-finished articles, poetry…you name it, I’ve probably written it. But I didn’t get serious about writing until a few years ago when one of my sons had an accident. He’s fine now (thankfully), but all that time back and forth to the hospital forced me to slow down and think about life, and what I really wanted. And it gave the ideas rattling around my brain time to take shape. Before I knew it, I was five chapters into the novel that became Woven.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
Hmm…that’s a tough one. I’m pretty ordinary. Let’s see…I keep bearded dragons as pets, I once dressed as a Planters Peanut for a BJ’s Wholesale Club grand opening, I’m a third generation Cypriot, and my current home is a modern-day money pit. Things about me specifically? I hate eating off plates and avoid them whenever possible, I’ve trained for multiple marathons/half-marathons but never ran in one, and I attended three different colleges but still graduated in four years!
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I met my husband at work, fell in love, and got married which, in and of itself isn’t that interesting. BUT we sat in a cubicle row with another guy and girl, who also met, fell in love and got married. Our co-workers called our little row, Lovers Lane. They also called it bang-a-coworker-row, which doesn’t sound nearly as romantic, lol. We’re all still together and still close friends.
What are some of your pet peeves?
I struggled coming up with these because I don’t have too many pet peeves. I’m pretty easy going by nature, but a few came to mind: loud crunching, cereal slurping (that little pet peeve made its way into Woven), close talkers, and passive aggressive behavior.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I’m a Maryland native, born and raised. I’ve lived most of my life in or around the Baltimore/D.C. area.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
I’d spend it with my husband and kids doing something ordinary while making sure they knew, without a doubt, how much I loved them. Also, I’d drink Starbucks and eat sushi and Moon Pies until my stomach could hold no more.
Who is your hero and why?
My father. He was my best friend and consummate cheerleader. Anything new I wanted to try, he encouraged me. When I felt down, he lifted me up. If ever I was in need, he was there, no questions. He battled cancer three times during my life, finally succumbing to it in 2012. Not once did he complain or indulge in self-pity. His faith never wavered, nor did his support and concern for his loved ones. When I think about strength and love in action, I think about my dad. He was the embodiment of both. A real-life hero.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
A terrible one because I’m indecisive and a procrastinator. It is an excruciating, exhaustive, thankless job and I applaud anyone willing to step into local/national/world leadership. Regardless of political affiliation, I think we should all pray for, and do our best to support, the men and women who endeavor to make our world a better place.
What are you passionate about these days?
Writing. I feel incomplete if a day’s gone by and I haven’t written a word. And healthy eating. I recently cut out sugar and most processed foods. Colleen Hoover, I’m working my way through her novels. Podcasts—I listen constantly to anything and everything. My kids—time seems to speed up with each passing day and they’re growing too fast!
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Run. Drive by myself with a chill playlist or audiobook. Take our aussiedoodle puppy for a walk. Grab a coffee and sit by myself in the sand listening to the ocean.
How to find time to write as a parent?
I don’t know. If you find the answer, could you tell me? I am always short on time. Woven was written at 4:30 am, in car parking lots, at soccer practice, on my phone in the grocery store, in the bathroom, and a million other places. With four kids, sticking to a writing schedule is almost impossible. I could write a book about all the places I wrote Woven! Throw a pandemic in the mess and a year and half of virtual learning? It’s a miracle I wrote a page.
Seriously, though, the real answer is determination. Once I was determined to write, I made it a priority. I found time to write by sacrificing other things. Only, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice because I wanted so badly to write. I kept reminding myself of the end game—a completed novel—and I just kept going.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
I’m going to cheat and let Myers-Briggs describe me because it’s pretty spot on. I am an ENFP (extroverted, intuitive, feeling, perceptive). For me, this means I’m a bit unconventional, consistently inconsistent, painfully empathetic, and a perpetual optimist.
Do you have a favorite movie?
It changes from month to month/year to year, but my constant favorite has always been When Harry Met Sally.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I definitely see Woven as a movie. David, Josh, and Kate’s story played out in my head long before I ever wrote a word.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Well, I’m not sure how much of a pilgrimage this is, but during a trip to Edinburgh, I spent a day at The Elephant House (where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter series). Additionally, I hope to visit Prince Edward Island and immerse myself in all things Anne of Green Gables, a series that captured my heart as a child.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A bearded dragon. Our beardie, Bandito, was my constant companion when I wrote Woven. If I was at the table writing, she was beside me. It’s as much her book as it is mine!