Writing Challenge: Best Buddies

Deirdre McCluskeyBy Deirdre McCluskey

For our last writing challenge we talked about frenemies. Another favourite secondary character in romance is the hero’s best friend. And, no, we don’t mean this kind.

 

Man's best friend gif

The best friend can be a foil for the hero, highlighting his “hero” qualities by showing his somewhat more “regular” friend. Or he can be a sounding board for the hero, offering an outsider’s view of the romance in the commonly employed, “Dude, what the heck are you doing, she’s great” scene, for example. Usually he’s a combination of these things.

But if your best friend character isn’t fully fleshed out, it will be obvious to  your readers that he’s merely a plot device, and your scene will feel flat and contrived.

Grinder Coffee Ryan Gosling

photo: Grinder Coffee Instagram

Your challenge this week? Write a short 3-5 paragraph scene that tells us something about your hero by showing us the second most important person in his life: his best friend. The only requirement? One of your characters has to reveal a secret.

Your scene can be funny or serious, about the romance or not. As long as  both characters are vivid and three-dimensional.

Ready? Post your scene in the comments any time between now and Sunday, September 30, 2018, and we’ll check back with you on Monday!

Best friends gif

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  1. Hana Sheik

    “Figured I’d find you sulking out here in your fancy dog house.”

    Rawlings’s stiff shoulders lifted to his ears, the footfalls crunching over the dried grass coming to a pause behind him. He had to acknowledge AJ. Ignoring his childhood friend would prolong the conversation he knew was coming.

    “Did I ever tell you what really happened between Eva and I?” Everyone in town had an inkling of what had occurred. A showgirl, Eva had been used to a certain lifestyle and AJ, his family ranch and country boy charm had come up short for once.

    AJ helped himself to a beer from the cooler, popping the lid and taking a sip of the chilled brew. Rawlings watched his friend stare at the perspiring bottle, his profile uncharacteristically solemn. “I kicked her out.” As though sensing Rawlings’s raised brows, he laughed a short sour sound. “She wasn’t happy, and yet she was too proud to leave on her own two feet. I had to give her a reason.”

    This was…news. Rawlings soaked it in, and he connected it to his entanglement with Lena. Caging her to him because she’d had his baby from a one-night stand, it wasn’t right. More importantly, it wasn’t him. AJ’s eyes met his and there was an unspoken understanding: they both had amends to make, and no clue how to move forward.

  2. This is from a WIP, the heroine makes a close friend of the ranch foreman:

    Nicole swallowed the lump in her throat and shook off the negative feeling arising from her newfound knowledge. Brett’s parents were never happy, that much was clear. “Does Brett know any of this, Roy?”

    “Nope. And I don’t aim to tell him unless his bullheadedness gets in the way of making wise decisions. I want you to know so you can understand why I love the boy like I do. Maybe somehow by telling you it will make for a happy ending for everyone.”

    “I don’t understand, Roy.” She studied him as his private thoughts played openly across his weathered face. Her heart fluttered in her chest. Oh God! The truth was right before her eyes.

    Roy’s aged smile saddened. “Brett is my son, Nickie. I promised his momma I would never tell him I was his real father. I promised her because she was ashamed I was only a ranch hand and not a rodeo champion. She wouldn’t marry me. She gave our son a name by marrying Alan. She tricked him into thinking it was his baby, and the fool fell for it. Sarah paid for her deceit with her happiness. She died a very lonely and bitter woman. I have to admit I love her still. I can’t help her anymore and I can’t help myself, but maybe I can help you.”

    Tears wound their way down Nicole’s cheeks. She jumped up from the chair, sending it toppling over behind her. Alexis cried out in surprise and started babbling. Nicole picked up the baby and walked around the table to grab Roy in a one-arm bear hug. “Oh, Roy! How horrible. You never had the right to claim your own son. You’ve worked on this ranch for years to be near him and before that, you had to work for a man you must have hated.”

    • Connolly

      I really like how honest this conversation is. It shows that the characters have pasts, which helps readers understand that they are not merely plot devices.

  3. Jackie Burrows

    ‘What do you think of Lexi? Honestly?’
    Riordan frowned and gave him a searching look. ‘I like her. Why do you ask anyway? Surely your opinion of her is the only one that matters?’
    ‘Okay,’ Casey said, ‘I’ll put it another way. What do you think I need to do to get her to trust me?’
    ‘Why do you think she doesn’t trust you?’
    ‘It’s just a feeling. Despite the length of time we’ve spent together and everything I’ve tried to do for her and Jade, I don’t seem to get any closer to her. She’s erecting barriers against me and I don’t know why.’
    ‘Do you trust her?’
    ‘Yeah, of course. She’s Jade’s mother, I have to trust her.’
    ‘Really?’
    ‘Why do you think I wouldn’t trust her?’
    ‘Helen?’
    Of course. Helen had betrayed him. Lexi hadn’t. She would have told him about Jade if she’d been able to find him – wouldn’t she?
    ‘Of course I trust her.’ His answer didn’t hold much conviction, even to his ears.
    ‘How often do you see her?’ asked Riordan.
    ‘We see each other at work, obviously. I spend as much time with Jade as I can. Several nights a week and every weekend.’
    ‘Maybe that’s the problem.’
    ‘What do you mean?’
    ‘Maybe you should back off and give her a bit of space.’
    ‘Back off? No way! Jade’s my daughter and I’ve already missed out on too much of her life, Riordan, not to have been there for her baby years, missing out on her first smile, first word, first steps… I should have been there.’
    ‘Sounds as if you haven’t forgiven Lexi yet. You’re still holding a lot of resentment.’
    ‘I have forgiven her. I haven’t forgiven myself. I should have tried harder to find her. I shouldn’t have let her go in the first place.’
    ‘What do you think I should do?’
    ‘Give her space, like I say. Not Jade, of course. You’ve established a routine with your daughter that’s obviously working well. Kids need routine. But does Lexi have to accompany her to everything? Jade is perfectly happy with you on her own, so why not spend quality time alone with her? Give Lexi the chance to do her own thing.’
    ‘But I want Lexi to join in with us. I want the three of us to be a family. I’m going to ask her to move in with me.’
    ‘Really? Are you sure?’
    ‘Of course.’ That was a secret he hadn’t meant to reveal just yet. Too late now.
    ‘You’re too impetuous, that’s your trouble, always were.’
    ‘But if you know what you want, why not go for it?’
    ‘If something’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for.’
    ‘That’s exactly what Lexi said once,’ said Casey, remembering the look she gave him as she spoke the words. A look that nearly brought him to his knees.
    ‘There you are then – that’s your answer.’

    • Connolly

      I enjoyed the times when you showed the characters’ physical reactions to the conversation. Including some of those details amidst dialogue helps make the story come to life.

  4. From a WIP.

    Mind made up, I bid Stephanie goodbye and make a brief stop in my dressing room before leaving by the rear exit where Michael is waiting with the car. My driver gives me a pointed look over his glasses as I climb in beside him. The engine purrs into life and we slip away from the curb. Michael knows to keep to the back streets to begin with and soon we’ve put half a kilometre between us and Arabian Knights.
    “It went well, if that’s what you’re asking. Really well.” I toss my holdall on to the leather backseat and lean back, cricking my neck a couple of times. Then I take out my phone and swipe across the screen before pressing ‘Call’.
    “Tariq. I know it’s late, I’m sorry. Can you get the number of the editor of the Tribune please? Urgent.” I listen as my P.A. agrees to my request and then finish the call. Michael is obviously waiting for more details, so as we head on to King Rizlan Abdul Abdul Boulevard, I begin to speak.
    “At least it’s dancing. You know what my mother’s last request was.” How is it that this man-mountain of few words can make me feel about five again by saying absolutely nothing? I shrivel under his gaze, my conviction flapping like a ghutrah in a desert breeze. “Look, I know it’s not exactly what she had in mind, but what choice do I have? You know my father’s rules.”
    Thirty-foot swaying palm trees line the avenue in regimented rows and I stare at the people outside, oblivious to the armour-plated black saloon skimming by. My people. The people who will one day call me king. My only hope is to make a better go at it than my father and grandfather before him. Lights snaking around the trees shimmer quicksilver on the tar-black surface of the Arabian and a behemoth cruise ship twinkles like a city of stars floating in space. Smaller boats are satellites orbiting several bright planet-sized luxury yachts. My own yacht, Equality bobs gently on the water and out of habit, I lift my hand to wave to Tony and the crew, even though I know they can’t see me through the tinted windows.
    A buzzing from my phone breaks my reverie and I take the call from Tariq, thanking him for his always-loyal service. Michael glances at me again, the streetlights bouncing off his wire frame glasses as we take the wide turn on to the mountain road that sweeps up over the bay towards the palace.
    “You know how His Excellence, the Chancellor suggested it was time I have a royal biographer?”
    Michael’s head moves a fraction of an inch. A nod. “Well, I think I’ve found the perfect woman for the job.”
    A beat.
    “Oh, I know my father will hate it, but he’s got no choice. If he wants me to do this for him, he’ll have to say yes.” I smile and call Jeremy Jackson, the editor of The Tribune, the image of Jessica reaching out for me replaying in my head, like my own personal gif.

    • Connolly

      You did a nice job of building the hero’s character, but it’s as if he’s just talking to himself in this scene. While I appreciate your intent to make the driver a man of few words, I wish he participated more in the conversation.

  5. Polly Powell

    Nate Croft knew his friend was in trouble. Gavin had been sitting in the darkest corner of his bar for hours now, nursing one drink after another. Actually, nursing his father’s drink: neat whiskeys. Even worse.
    “Forget your father and his schemes. Forget the business. This stopped being an arranged marriage weeks ago. It’s obvious you’re in love with each other.”
    “I wish it was that simple,” said Gavin, downing the last swallow of the amber liquor.
    “I’m going to do you a huge favor then. I’m cutting you off. Everything is simpler when you’re sober. Go home and go to bed. As soon as you can squeeze it in to your complicated schedule, get down on your stupid knee and propose to her. This time for real. ‘I love you. Marry me. Please.’ What could be simpler?”
    “It would be simpler if she wasn’t already married.” Gavin upended the glass again, giving it a little shake.
    “Married? What the –”
    “That’s right. Someone got there before me. There was this little trip to Vegas she neglected to tell me about. But her hubby was more than happy to fill me in.”
    “I don’t know what to say, man. What’s her side of the story?” asked Nate.
    “She says she’s sorry. She was drunk. She says ‘here’s your dad’s ring back.’”
    Gavin took a ring box from his pocket, popped open the lid, and set it on the bar.
    Nate let out a low whistle as he set black coffee next to the box and took Gavin’s glass away. “Time for you to do some arranging of your own, Vinnie. You know there’s more to this.”

    • Connolly

      I like the details you included that showed the depth of these characters’ relationship. They knew things about each other that only true friends would know.

  6. J. Komsha

    Raul smiled warmly, and Claire imitated him, with only a hint of irony. He was flirting.

    “So… you’re back to work,” she had to start somewhere. “At least until baby number two.”

    He didn’t like her allusion, but not because it annoyed him, “I’m divorced. There will be no baby number two.”

    Special Agent Claire May was not a woman impressed by the corrosion of marriage vows. “There’s plenty of fish in the sea,” she smiled to console him. “I’m sorry, I know how much you wanted it to work.” It was probably why he had kept the divorce a secret.

    “It turned out to be impossible,” he looked defeated. “I see that you started believing in forever,” he moved on, seeing that she was not asking for details.

    Claire was happy with her life, and would not let Raul Rojo push her down another descending spiral. The last one had been embarrassing enough. Presenting her diamond ring to him, she explained, “Arthur and I are getting married in six months.”

    “Congratulations,” he said, clearly not meaning it, but promptly corrected himself, “I’m sorry, I’m still bitter.”

    “I know how that feels,” Claire accepted. “It will go away.”

    • Deirdre

      At first I wasn’t quite sure of the relationship between these two. They seem to be colleagues, but I didn’t get the sense that they knew each other all that well – I think partly because of the secret (seems a big one to keep from a friend) and partly the dialogue, which had a “small-talk” feel. You might want to think about the ways communication between best friends often includes in-jokes, shared stories and a “secret language” of expressions and nicknames, for example. Thanks for writing!

  7. KIMBERLY WEISS

    “I am going to move to Manhattan,” John said. “I will be resigning from my teaching job and working as a clerk in her father’s company.”
    Was he mad? Isaac shook his head.
    “Don’t do it,” said Isaac. “Her brothers will kidnap you again.” Why an awesome man like John Paulding was obsessed with a Tory girl was anybody’s guess. He could get any woman he wanted, with his incredible height of six feet and his intellect. He knew everything. He went all the way through school, even made it to the back of the schoolhouse with the big children. But when it came to Miss Sarah Teed, he had a blind spot the size of a horse’s rear end.
    “When are you going?” asked Isaac, arranging his cards in his hand
    “Next week. Don’t look so sad, Isaac. Why don’t you come with me, maybe you can visit your brother?”
    “I’ll ask.” He knew what the answer would be, though. He was needed at the farm. His brother Abraham had joined the regular army, but Isaac could only join the local militia. If only his father’s cough would clear up.
    He had other problems to worry about, however, than his father’s health.
    “I need you to write a pamphlet for me,” Isaac said. “I’m thinking of calling it Uncommon Sense. Or possibly Poor Isaac’s Almanack.” He was very proud of those names. He thought of them himself.
    “Isaac, you need to write your own pamphlets and almanacks. I can’t be your personal secretary for much longer, I’m getting married soon. You’d better learn how to read.”
    Isaac sighed. He couldn’t read for the same reason he couldn’t join Washington’s army. He was needed at the farm. He would go to the one-room schoolhouse for a few weeks or sometimes up to a month, but then it would be planting time. Or harvest time. Or another one of his siblings would be taken by the fever and he’d need to comfort his mother when she took to her bed in grief. Even when they were at peace, the life of a poor Dutch farmer in the colony of New York was pretty tough.
    “But you’ll do it, right? You’ll write the almanack and say that I wrote it?”
    “ No, Isaac, that’s ridiculous. Why do you want to suddenly be an almanack author? You’re not Benjamin Franklin.”
    He’d have to tell him. It was embarrassing, but he couldn’t think of a lie better than the truth.
    “I’m in love,” he said. “With a rich girl who knows how to read.”

    • Deirdre

      You’ve included lots of detail about Isaac, giving us the sense that he’s a fully realized character with his own story We also get a glimpse of the relationship between Isaac and John. And we don’t get too many historical submissions, so thanks for taking on the challenge!

  8. Kimber Li

    “Sacred…Code?” Jack’s mind reeled back to something Robin said about being a
    nanny. “Code Pink?”

    “Sudden Parenthood.” Bobby tucked his phone away.

    “You were right about me. I am a complete jackass.” Jack lost all feeling in his lips as he spoke. “I was so excited about finding the girl of my dreams, I just…I’m sorry.”

    Bobby looked like he’d never heard an apology in his entire life. He settled a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “You were as jackass. Now, you’re a dad.”

    “I’m a dad.” The tiny pink nose twitched at him.

    “Time to man up. Your daughter’s life depends on it.”

    • Deirdre

      This short scene tantalizes with hints at the plot hooks of secret babies and suspense, but I’ll admit I’m a little confused about what’s going on. Feel free to include a bit more in future challenges! Thanks, Kimber Li!

  9. “Step away from the lunatic!”

    Dave’s acerbic stage whisper yanked Lee from gazing across the room at Merilee Sands. Annoyed, he turned to his friend. “Which lunatic are you talking about?”

    “The famous one who was just hugging you.” Dave nodded toward Merilee, now engulfed by admirers. “You seriously don’t need to get involved with another hot mess.”

    “You’re the one who’s always telling me I should get out there again,” Lee argued.

    “Not that far out there!” Dave rolled his eyes. “What is it with you and crazy girls? First Barb, then Sharon, then Celia. Wasn’t that enough? Or must you hook up with mega-nutcase Needy McCrazy-Pants?” At Lee’s puzzled look, Dave shook his head. “Seriously? You haven’t heard about her escapades? Alcohol, drugs, men, rehab, suicide attempts?”

    Lee winced. “You know I don’t pay attention to celebrity gossip. But I knew her ages ago, when we were kids. I didn’t even realize she was my Meri until she came up to me.” A rueful grimace crumpled his face. “But yeah, she had problems back then. She didn’t have the greatest start in life, so…”

    “So you want to do your knight in shining armor routine, right? Save her?” Dave’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Wait, how well did you know her? And how old were you?” When Lee’s lips folded inward, Dave dug an elbow into his ribs. “Hey, cut the strong silent crap and make with the story.”

    With a sigh, Lee looked around to make sure he wouldn’t be overheard. “We were both seventeen. She was on the Cape for the summer for some intensive music thing. She was supposed to focus completely on her music that summer, not mix with the local riff-raff.” Lee’s mouth curved into a gentle half smile. “So she’d sneak out of her house at night and we’d meet up in a little cove on one of the private beaches, make a fire, hang out together for hours.” His eyes darkened. “She said her parents would kill me if they ever found out. Then one night she didn’t show up…”

    • Deirdre

      Your opening line hooked me right away, and I enjoyed the rapport between Dave and Lee, which gave us a sense of their long-standing friendship, and your use of humor. Thanks for participating in the challenge!

  10. “There must be something you can do, right? I mean after all these years, one shouldn’t give up”
    Jack looked down at his best friend, Roger, as the latter was still intent of fixing his father’s old cd player. He was extracting the heart of it out, settling on the living floor with a screwdriver in his hand.
    The scene was nothing new to Jack, Christmas was coming and his best friend, for five years on a raw, was on intent on fixing that player as a Christmas gift for his father, but failing so far.
    He joined his friend on the floor. “I wish I had a stamina for not giving up like you”
    Roger looked the player, then sighing, he met his eyes. “And I won’t give up till I fix this damn thing!”
    “And you think I should do the same, wait for some miracle to make things work again!”
    Carol had left him for good, with a note not to look for her until she gathered herself for the divorce that he’d every intent on fighting her through.

    “Maybe,” Roger looked him form the corner of one unstable eye while loosened one tiny bolt “I mean … you should do your best, otherwise you’ll have a life time of regret”

    “Okay,” Jack seethed, he knew his friend very well and he was hiding something. Jack move forward and pulled the screw out of Roger’s hand “Spill it out before I stab this into one of your pretty eyes!”

    “Well,” Roger held two defensive hands “I swore on secrecy…but as I value my pretty eyes I’ll give you a hint”

    Jack waited with impatience as Roger took over the screwdriver again. “She’s staying at the Mackenzie’s’”

    “What the hell!” Jack rose, fists to his sides, he wanted to ram one to his best friend’s jaw before he went ahead and ram ten to Drake Mackenzie, the SOB.

    Roger pointed a finger at him. “I didn’t want to tell you cause I knew how you’d act”
    “And how should I act knowing my wife is staying at her ex’s!”
    “He was just her business partner, they’re not really exes-“
    “Oh,” Jack retorted sarcastically “You think they’re not exes, why… have you exchanged your balls for some cotton candy”
    “No,” Roger smiled patting his crotch “They’re here and keeping busy unlike yours!”
    Jack fumed one hard look at his friend before whirling, intent to go the Mackenzie’s to slash a fire if he’d to and bring Carol back.
    As he marched outside, Roger was on his heels. “You’ve never trusted her….”
    “I’ve never trusted her!” Jack almost shouted, why his BEST FREIND was repeating the bullshit words Carol over and over pointed at him.
    “Yes…” Roger said “And going like a crazy man there would only validate her case!”
    Jack sighed helpless and Roger’s eyes lit “I’ve got a better idea”
    OH, NO….
    Jack knew there was a disaster to come, there was nothing more idiotic than his friends’ ideas. Okay… he was his best friend but the man had a humble IQ, a golden heart but still a humble IQ.
    And no…. he was not going to say it even to himself that his best buddy was, sometimes, just sometimes really stupid, cause Jack was even more stupid.
    Each time, he knew there was a disaster to come but still he’d gone through with all of his friend’s schemes.
    At least the latter thought they’re awesome, so who was more of a fool!
    What the hell was he still standing there for…. He needed to get to the Mackenzie’s before Roger opened his mouth!
    “We’ll hire a musical band and let them sing under….”
    Jack sprinted and got into his car but as he hit the road, he was already thinking of a number of local bands to call!
    Stupidest Man Alive… would go to whom now!

    • Deirdre

      I enjoyed the humor in your scene, and the best friend who both challenges and supports the hero. A small point: you might want to watch for typos, which can pull the reader out of the scene, lessening the emotional impact. Thanks for responding to our challenge, Maggie!

  11. Ashley Storm

    Andy lived for these days when he could trade his tailor-made suit and Italian loafers for a ratty college t-shirt and Chacos. Floating down the river, watching the clouds pass by, searching for a good fishing hole. Nothing was better.

    “You paddling back there?”

    Andy looked at the back of his oldest friend, seated at the front of the canoe. Josh had been paddling unassisted for the better part of the day. It was a trick Andy had played since they were children. Why paddle when you could let your buddy do all the work?

    “Of course,” Andy lied.

    “The current’s stronger than I’d have expected,” Josh mumbled.

    Andy grinned. He should feel bad for taking advantage of his friend’s trusting nature, but he didn’t. Between the two of them, society would say Andy was the successful one. When he wasn’t busy running a Fortune 500, he ran marathons. Fit and attractive, he casually dated models and movie stars.

    Josh, on the other hand, worked at the same factory as his dad and granddad before him. He was a bit pudgy around the middle, ran errands instead of marathons, and had been with the same girl since high school—with three bratty kids to show for it.

    But they both knew the truth. One would trade places with the other in a heartbeat—and one would never make the trade. Because between the two of them, Josh had won the Game of Life.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Hi Ashley, you’ve given us great insight into your hero through this scene, particularly some of his faults, hinting that perhaps this is a story where the hero is redeemed through love? Don’t be afraid to give us a bit more on the hero’s friend — particularly inner monologue on why Andy needs Josh, but also dialogue. Viewing Andy through Josh’s perspective could help us get a more rounded idea of what Andy is like. Thanks for taking the challenge!

  12. Newt stared at his front door as if that would make the scene he’d interrupted with his arrival play back for him. “What did you do to upset my wife?”

    Luke didn’t normally want to duck out when Sara got too personal, but his frustration over the inconsistencies and mystery surrounding Cassie mixed with his unwanted attraction to her made him lean toward avoidance. He heaved a deep breath, letting it out in one long huff. “She wants to set me up with her friend again.”

    Newt raised his eyebrows and eyed Luke skeptically. “And that upset her? That should have upset you, not her.”

    “I had someone else in mind.”

    “Oh? Anyone I know?”

    “She’s new, moved here only a week ago. Trouble is, she told me she’s married and I found out her husband is dead. She’s made up this story of him selling insurance for a nonexistent company in Kansas City. She acknowledges she has two kids; I find out she has three but can’t find anything about the third. No one mentions him either. She has done nothing but lie to me since we first met.”

    “And you see that whole St. Louis nightmare all over again.”

    “That’s pretty much it.” Luke braced his arms on the SUV roof and leaned on it. He felt better getting all that off his chest. “I can’t go through that again.”

    “You can’t exactly quit being sheriff now like you quit the police force.”

    Luke rubbed a hand over the bristles on his jaw. He’d never told his friend the truth about his previous job. “I didn’t quit. I was fired.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      Hi Maurine, you’ve intrigued me and I want to know more! I’d be curious to learn a bit more about Newt, so we get a fuller picture of him, but I love how you’ve used this scene to expose the secret while telling us something about the hero’s past, immediate situation, and the dynamic with his friend’s wife. 🙂

  13. “Make sure she gets all the resources she needs to succeed.” Directives came easily to Aidan. Might as well finish out his life issuing them. “I’m trusting you, Rob, to watch out for her. The sharks will be circling the casket before they get the lid propped open enough to drop me inside. I don’t want them taking advantage of her as soon as I’m gone.”
    “Want me to marry her?”

    Aidan was startled at the foreign surge of jealousy that washed through him. It was one thing to resent the abstract man who would end up with Grace. It was something else to envision his best friend with her. He squinted at Rob to see if he was kidding. The lawyer’s relaxed mouth, steady eyes, and smooth brow all indicated that he was serious indeed. “I’d bust you if I could feel one of my arms enough to lift it.”
    “Hey, man. You wanted her taken care of. I was just offering my complete services.” Rob raised a dark brow over somber eyes.
    “I’d haunt you. Every time you shut the bedroom door, or stepped into the shower with her, or came up behind her in the kitchen and pressed yourself against that delicious derriere, I’d haunt you. I’d be whispering in your ear, you scum bag. I’d be such an annoying poltergeist you wouldn’t ever be able to get it up.”
    Instead of looking disconcerted, Rob smirked. “I’m not surprised. You’ve always been annoying.” His smile faded. “You’ve been doing a little thinking on this, haven’t you?”
    “It’s the only thing I can do. Think. Plan.” He flicked his eyes back to meet Rob’s sympathetic gaze. “Regret.” The old friends regarded each other solemnly for a few moments. “I know how to pick them, don’t I?”
    Rob nodded. “For the first time in your life, you do. I was worried about you for a while. You seemed to be stuck on a certain, unfortunate type. But when it counted, you did all right. Guess that’s what comes with thinking with your upper head instead of your lower one.”
    Aidan frowned. “Lower one wasn’t working anymore. Besides, you know why I kept going back to that type.”
    “Yeah. Glad you broke free of that caustic cycle. From your threatened haunting, I’m assuming your feelings run a little deeper than just needing a smart widow to keep your family from trying to grab your estate?”
    Aidan’s eyes drifted to the chair where Grace usually sat, muttering to herself about the knitting tangled in her lap. Already, her essence was everywhere in the luxurious room that’d become his world. “More than you know,” he murmured. “What is it about her?”
    “Good question. She has a je ne sais quoi that draws you in.” Rob looked beyond Aidan to the large window that faced the ocean. He blinked his eyes a moment before focusing them on something in the distance. “Then there are some very obvious reasons.” A grin spread across his face. “I’m serious about the offer, man.”
    It took all of Aidan’s concentration to turn his head to see what held Rob’s attention at the window. He sucked in his breath involuntarily at the sight on the beach, causing him to choke. Rob glanced at him in concern before reaching toward the call button.
    “I’m okay,” Aidan managed between coughs. “Maybe. But it’s time for you to leave.”
    “I’ll get the nurse on my way out.” Rapid footsteps traced Rob’s rush to the door.
    “No.” Aidan regained control of his rebellious airway. “I want to be alone. This little show is for me and I’m going to enjoy it.” Even if he could have, Aidan wouldn’t have turned his face away from the window.
    “But what if…” Rob didn’t finish the sentence. He didn’t have to.
    “I’ll die a happy man. Now leave me.” Breathing shallowly, Aidan’s gaze remained fastened on his new wife, whom he’d provoked into this act of retribution. “This is the closest thing to a wedding night I’m going to get.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      Hi Jocelyn, this seems like an intriguing situation, and it hints at what’s going on here, but I found myself wanting a few more details upfront to get a more solid idea of the situation we’re witnessing. 🙂 Great job using this scene to give us an idea of Aiden’s past and hinting at some immediate obstacles he’s facing. Don’t be afraid to give us some more details on Rob so we get to know him a bit better, too, but I love how you’ve shown the dynamic of their relationship in this scene!

  14. Angela Hamm

    Kent stepped aside as a harried server zoomed past with a laden tray. “Trying to talk Adele into writing a song for you here, where steak knives are sharp and in abundance, isn’t smart. Especially when you consider that the last time you asked, she threatened to clock you with a baseball bat. There’s other songwriters out there, why not forget about Adele?”

    Noah’s hands ran along the denim that encased his slim hips. It was time for truth. “Adele’s the whole reason I got a break. She’s the reason my first three albums sold. She writes songs like she’s reaching into my heart and pulling out things I don’t know how to say. I need that again, but I also need a hit. This is my last shot. If my next record doesn’t sell, the label’s going to drop me.”

    Kent’s gaze tracked past Noah’s shoulder to a point beyond. Noah asked, “She’s right behind me, isn’t she?”

    Kent gave him a cheerful smile, “You know, now might be a good time to revisit giving your best-friend-turned-bodyguard a big raise.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      You’ve certainly packed a lot into these few short paragraphs, Angela! We get a lot about the hero’s life and his immediate obstacles with trying to succeed at this dream, which intrigues me. Don’t be afraid to give us a bit more on Kent so we get an idea of who he is too or what their friendship is like, but great twist at the end to hint at how their relationship dynamic has shifted recently. Well done!

  15. Cheryl Anne Graham

    Avery was always there for Bob. They had almost completely grown up together. Bob had moved away for a while, but a few years later his mom moved them back to almost the same street they had lived on before. Avery and him continued their best friendship like no time had past. When they decided to go to the force together, his mum had been so proud. They would have even been paired up together if their commanding officer didn’t think it was a good idea to mix it up a bit. So they didn’t see each other at work as much, but every once in a while they would work together on a case. Today was a day like that.

    “Well that was a bit of a gruesome one Bob, the dad decided he was going to enjoy himself with one of his daughters. Thank God we were tipped off before he did.” Bob listened, remarking about how lucky they were that the girl mentioned to her kindergarten teacher what he had planned. She didn’t even know what it was, the dad counted on that. Now he was counting the bars of his arraignment cell.

    Bob knew all about abusive men. His father was one. That’s why he decided to become a cop, he wanted to save people, not injure them. “Well it was all you Avery. You’re as rock solid as they come. They don’t make them better than you.”
    “They already did,” Avery said grabbing Bob’s hand in their unique bro handshake. They learned it when they were eleven. But Bob was having something happen. He kept trying to get his head right. It wasn’t working.
    “What is it buddy?” Avery asked, obviously concerned as Bob began having a tremor move up and down his arm.
    “I can’t keep it together anymore.”
    “What happened?”
    “It’s this case, hit me hard.”
    “Well we caught the perp. Good thing too, ‘cause that would really mess you up.”
    Bob looked at Avery with agony in his eyes.
    “I know. It happened to me.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      Hi Cherly Anne, I like how this scene tells us so much about the hero personally and also his friendship history with Avery. I love how you have a reference here to Bob calling Avery “a rock-solid friend,” which gives us some insight about Avery and why Bob relies on this friendship. Thanks for taking the challenge!

  16. “Use cucumbers for those Crows feet? You look fabulous for your age.” Sneaking up on me. “I’ve lost track of birthdays. How old are you Finney? I remember a more spirited filly.”
    “Don’t make me re-evaluate our longtime friendship Pepper. Walk with me I’m not retired yet, unlike you. Two things you never ask a woman: her age or weight. I’m younger than you and older than Days of our Lives.”
    “Ooh mysterious, no birthday present for you Finn; forget the Corvette you’ve always wanted.”
    “Shit, the red one? Alright handsome, I’m not guessing.”
    “That’s it, handsome? Not, two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, tomato, on a sesame seed bun? My age… I’m in the Bible.”
    “You’re like ninety years old Dr. Lewis, but spry! Old geezer, look! Another wrinkle just appeared.”
    “Bitch! I’m old enough to know how; I’m young enough to—
    “I don’t care how old you are. Your fun, funny, and still sexy as hell doc.”
    “My ego has been restored, kiss me woman. Shall we be more than friends today, Finnegan?” Removing my sunglasses “You’re a vision.”
    “Thank you.” Puckered up for the kiss I’ve thought about for years.
    “No, your vision. You’ve heterochromia: both eyes different colors. Have trouble with light? I should have—
    “Yes, I do and yes I do. Dr. Lewis, Pepper, stop and let’s be lovers today…
    Swooping me down, one hell of a kiss I had to catch my breath. “Experience comes with age my lover. I’ll be concerned tomorrow.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Finn, This scene had me chuckling. Very endearing and sassy. If you intend to work on this scene, I would suggest adding in some setting and character description to create a richer visual for the reader. Thank you for participating in this challenge! –Patience

  17. Fiona Marsden

    “Beer?” Reece held up a long-necked bottle, glistening with moisture from the Eski.
    Mak accepted the drink, wincing at the sharp pain in his shoulder.
    The older man twitched in sympathy as he twisted the cap off his own bottle. “Still hurting.”
    “Yeah. I’m a bloody mess.” He took a long draught of the cool beverage.
    “When do you have to be back on the set?”
    “Two more weeks.” Two weeks before he had to get back out of Elspeth’s life.
    As if his friend could read his mind, he leaned forward. “What does Elspeth think of all this?”
    “She can’t wait to get rid of me.”
    Reece’s brows rose. “Didn’t seem like that to me. If you ask me, she still cares.”
    I wish. “She’s a nice person. And I didn’t ask you.” He took another swig of the beer. “Elspeth was always one for doing her duty.”
    “Except when she married you.”
    Mak snorted. “Look how that turned out.”
    There was a silence as they both concentrated on their drinks.
    Reece shifted, his bottle landing on the table with a thunk. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know how it turned out. All I heard was that you…cheated.”
    Mak swore at the pain in his friend’s voice. For all that Reece was happily settled now with Caroline, the breakup of his first marriage must have left scars. “I didn’t cheat. Although it looked bad.”
    “Does Elspeth know that?”
    “No.”
    “Why not?”
    “We were over anyway. It made a good reason for her to walk away. It was better for her.”
    “Better for her to be humiliated by the man who she’d fought her whole family to marry. Man, you are a jerk.”
    “I…” *Humiliated*. He fought the pain in his chest. At the time he hadn’t cared. Had been too caught up in his own humiliation. His own failures. To damned self-absorbed to see what his lack of denials would do to his wife. “You’re right. A first-class jerk.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Well done, Fiona. I like how you give us a hint into the romance and the conflict between Mak and Elspeth. Also you show us the genuine affection between Mak and Reece. Really enjoyed this. –Patience

  18. Mary F Madi

    “Sarge, tell me you aren’t falling for her. She’s crazy, man. One minute, she’s Miss Don’t Touch Me, the next, she’s in serious heat. You should have seen her fight off the Phantom’s driver, like she was possessed by Bruce Lee.”
    Kahlil shook his head as he watched Hannah wipe desert sand and sweat from her face with her red bandana, lifting a sheaf of coppery hair to cool the back of her neck. As if she felt his eyes on her, she turned to face him, then looked away. He felt dismissed. The primal fire she wielded yesterday was extinguished. She tied the bandana around her neck and picked up her back pack from safe keeping between her feet. She found a shady spot under a concrete wall reduced to rubble, put the pack behind her, and shut her eyes. “I’m not falling for her,” he said.
    Mizen snorted. “Right. We all want her.” He picked up the cache of weapons they confiscated during the warehouse raid and placed them in an oversized Pelican case. “Something’s wrong with her.”
    “She guards that back pack with her life. I wonder what’s in it.” Kahlil remembered how she had grabbed it away from him when he attempted to carry it for her like a gentleman.
    Crouched on the floor with the weapons, Mizen’s head snapped up. “The idol.” He joined Kahlil at the window. “She found a statuette of Ishtar, a small one, easily fits in a back pack. Perfect condition. It creeped me out, a deity so ancient, so powerful, the Goddess of Love and War. Russ told her to put it in the crate with the other items on the Phantom’s list.” They watched Hannah squirm into a comfortable position. “Maybe the idol didn’t make it into the crate. When the Phantom finds out it’s missing, there’ll be hell to pay. We have to get rid of her, Sarge.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Mary, What I like about this scene is how well you describe the heroine with her coppery hair (I’m biased a little!) from the two men’s points of view. I fear for her safety in this group, but you also show that she’s a fighter through their dialogue. In this short scene, you give us a peek into the suspense/premise with the valuable idol, as well as the potential danger and romance. Very intriguing and well done! –Patience

  19. Kathryn

    If Seattle had been a smaller city, like North Bend, then maybe Mark would know where John was most of the time. That Thursday morning, he wished he didn’t have a clue. John was his best friend since high school but lately he didn’t see much of him, but that didn’t stop it from starting up again.
    There were a lot of coffee shops in Seattle, all of them pleasant enough to have a conversation with a pretty girl. Helene was John’s girl and if she wanted to have his company at eleven at night, what could possibly happen over two white porcelain mugs in a hole in the wall at Pike’s Market.
    “I’m worried about John,” she said, emptying a paper package of sugar into her mug.
    “You still take sugar in your coffee” Mark replied, “and stay beautiful? How?”
    Her hair swung as she fixed him with a stare. “What happened to John today?” she asked.
    “Dunno,” he answered, idly parsing through his phone.
    “Aren’t you his best friend?” she demanded.
    “Maybe he is out of town seeing a client?” he suggested.
    “That’s what he told me. He message you today?” she asked him, tapping a spoon on the table.
    “No, why?”
    “I think he is cheating on me.” Her eyes filled with tears.
    Why is there no sign that says talking with someone else’s girl friend is hazardous to your health?
    “You are so wrong,” he muttered.
    “I saw him in town,” she murmured, I know you guys talk.
    “Helene, I can’t get involved with your relationship.”
    “I just need to know.”
    “You already know Mark is a great guy.”
    “So, what is he doing in town when he told me he was away this week?”
    Sometimes you have to take a risk to make things better.
    His phone vibrated. It was not a call from John.
    It was an update on a sale on blankets from a major department store on his phone.
    It was crazy to turn the phone and point to it, but a guy needs something as a distraction when his best friend’s girl starts crying over a cup of coffee and everyone in the place turns to look.
    He couldn’t tell her that john worked undercover as a cop. He meant it as a hint, how was he supposed to know that Helene would only cry harder?
    “Not an affair,” he repeated, pointing again. “Take the “s” off under covers.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Kathryn, What a touching scene. I love this best friend’s point of view and the torment he is feeling. He is sweet to his friend’s girlfriend while wanting to stay loyal. I hope he doesn’t play the biggest part in the book because I’d want him to be the hero! A really compelling character and lovely scene. Well done. — Patience

  20. Lakisha Friday

    “You look worse than hell. ”
    “Thanks. I can always relie on you to tell the truth Jordan. You’re awesome. ”
    “Now you’re just being sarcastic. What’s eating you? Jordan asked.
    Dominic stares at his twin brother laying in a hospital bed as his wife sits there sobbing softly.
    “How’s he doing?
    “Doesn’t look too good. Doctor said he is suffocating from the inside.” Dominic stated. He will have to release the pressure on his brain but it may be too late. I told Derek not to go. That he didn’t know what he was getting himself into and this what happened. Dominic hits the door causing his sister in law to look up startled.
    Jordan could see there’s more than meets the eye. Dominic backs away from the door as Serenity opens it.
    They stare at each other in silence. Dominic wanted to say something but he had no words. Serenity shakes her head mumbling she couldn’t do it and ran down the hall. Jordan sighed remembering something that Dominic had done. Serenity is a fine woman. But to sleep with your twin brother’s wife who might be involved in a criminal activity might not be such a good thing.
    “Did you tell him what really happened? Jordan asked.
    “No. Whispered Dominic. I can’t. Too late.
    “I hate to say it but now might be a better time to let him know what happened that night. It’s the least you can do considering the circumstances. Jordan said patting his friend on the back. Dominic shakes his head unsure if he could really tell his brother what happened the night it rained. The night of his accident. Jordan pressed on. “It’s best to get it done and over with. There’s nothing he can do about it now. It’s only going to get worse if you don’t say anything.
    Dominic sighed knowing his friend is right and he opens the door to hair brothers hospital room as it may be the last time he’ll see his brother alive.
    ” Derek, Dominic whispers, I have something to tell you and I don’t know if you knew already but the night it rained when you left Serenity alone with me? We ended up sleeping together and the child she’s carrying might not be yours.

    • Patience Bloom

      Wow, Lakisha! That’s quite a dramatic scene and you really end it with a cliffhanger. I could see this as a longer scene, and what I would suggest, is that you add some description to the characters and their actions. How they look, physical characteristics, and the setting. That will help the reader visualize the scene a bit more. But you give a lot of the information through dialogue, which is a good thing. All the best to you with your writing! –Patience