Machination. Christmas. Toast.

As a writer, you never know what will inspire your next story. For me, a single word can spark the creative process. So, just after Christmas, I asked my Facebook fans to "give me a noun." I received three responses, which I've woven into the following short story. Thanks to Kelly Pixton (machination), Judy Reiser (Christmas), and Jane McDaniel (toast) for your suggestions!

      Sandy Carter was known for her machinations. If she wanted a Lamborghini for Christmas, by golly, she had a plan to get one. Mostly, her schemes involved rich widowers or well-to-do philandering husbands. Of course, it didn't hurt that her thirty-something shape resembled an acoustic guitar. Men found her long, porcelain neck especially kissable.

      This year, she had her sights set on one Walter Feeney. Walter was an athletic fifty-seven, and she had discovered his bachelor status over the Christmas holiday. According to her research, Saint Walter was a nine-figure philanthropist whose wife, deciding the plush life was just too laborious, had overdosed on painkillers, alcohol, and cocaine. Luckily, Walter had earned his widower card four years earlier, a decent enough time to give Sandy the green light.

      Walter was hosting a benefit for Autism on New Year's Eve. So, Sandy purchased a five thousand dollar VIP ticket, which locked in a dining spot at Walter's table. Another VIP perk was the ability to peruse the list of other VIP sponsors, and much to Sandy's chagrin, Clarissa Peterson had also snagged a spot.

      Clarissa was Sandy's Lex Luther and Kryptonite rolled into one. Every time Clarissa showed her Botox-smoothed forehead and butt-fat injected lips, Sandy's plans crashed harder than a junkie going cold turkey.

      Sandy's brain went into overdrive--hatching, discarding and revising plans until she was sure she had a foolproof strategy to snare Walter. This time, the only thing gracing Clarissa's fake lips would be her champagne glass. Clarissa had better get toasted at the party, because she was about to be toast.

      It was New Year's Eve, and Sandy's plan had worked remarkably well so far. Walter's Executive Assistant, Randy Watkins, had cornered Clarissa, and Sandy had intoxicated Walter. There was just one problem. Walter was a complete and utter douchebag. Not only did he order waiters, waitresses, and other staff around like they were common servants, but he also referred to himself in the third person.

      "Walter enjoys skinny dipping," said Walter, squeezing Sandy's shoulder. "How'd you like to join Walter for a moonlit swim at his penthouse? The pool is heated."

      His arm slid down to Sandy's backside. "Not that we'll need any more heat."

      Sandy feigned a smile and shrugged out of Walter's grip. "I need to . . . uh . . . powder my nose."

      Turning on her heels and bolting for the ladies' room, Sandy nearly collided with Clarissa.

      Clarissa hissed, "I don't know how you did it, but I know you're the reason I've been saddled with Randy all night. I'm actually a little impressed. But you're still gonna lose."

      "No idea what you’re talking about, Clarissa," said Sandy. "As a matter of fact, I think you and Walter would make a great couple."

      Clarissa's eyes shifted from Sandy to Walter and back. "Damn straight. And you'd be smart to stay out of my way."

      Sandy nodded. "He's all yours. Honestly, I'm pretty tired of these nasty winters. I'm thinking of moving to Costa Rica."

      Clarissa rolled her eyes, pushing past Sandy and angling for Walter. "Humph."

      The clock struck midnight. Clarissa practically swallowed Walter's face with her fat-engorged lips. The pair entwined, melting into each other. Sandy raised her glass and took a swig.

      "To a match made in Hell," said Sandy, ogling the Walter/Clarissa peppermint twist. A waiter walked by, and she traded her empty glass for a full one. "And to Costa Rica." She downed the new glass and headed for the exit.