Writing Challenge: Create a Cliffhanger!

We posted some great advice on creating suspense from Harlequin authors this week, including this tip from New York Times Bestselling Harlequin Intrigue and Harlequin Romantic Suspense author Elle James:

 “I like to keep my readers guessing at the end of a chapter. Will the hero save the day? Will the heroine fight her way out of the mess? Will they work things out for an HEA? I don’t want my reader to set down the book. If she does, I haven’t done my job!”

This advice can be applied to any genre. You can keep your readers turning the pages of your romance novel long into the night if you:

  • Create relatable characters who have a goal
  • Create tension by putting obstacles between the characters and their goal
  • Leave tension unresolved at the end of a chapter

You can create a sense of urgency at the end of your chapter by:

  • Revealing new information
  • Having a character come to a realization
  • Introducing a surprising event
  • Compelling a character to make a choice
  • Introducing a deadline

Your challenge this week: Create romantic tension in a short, 3-5 paragraph scene. It can be from any stage of the romance, and your romantic partners can be from any background or orientation. Then, leave us hanging!

Post your scene in the comments below any time between now and Sunday, April 14, 2019, and we’ll pick our Top 3 on Monday!

Reply to Janiece Malone

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  1. Alison Lohans

    From a WIP, chapter 1:

    “Well,” he said. “Let’s face the music – see how those two get along in your back seat.” Before Kara had a chance to reply, Peter let the stray out of his disabled car. The mutt immediately peed on the front tire. “Hey, enough of that, you!” He grasped the dog gently by the scruff of its neck and maneuvered it over to the woman’s car. She, meanwhile, was at the rear driver’s side door, holding her dog by its leash. The stray jumped in willingly enough. Peter shut the door behind him and got in the front passenger seat. The car had a dog-smell about it. A low growl erupted from the little dog in the back seat.
    “Oh, no!” A strand of dark hair tumbled across Kara’s face as she clung to the leash. “Beckett! Stop that right now!”
    “I think they’ll have to settle it themselves,” Peter said cautiously. “Do you still think this is such a good idea? Maybe your husband—”
    “Beckett!” she yelled. Her face suddenly had a flushed, flustered look. Was she that angry at her dog? “Settle down!” She shut the passenger door firmly and slid in behind the wheel. The growling continued. Thankfully, Peter realized as he looked back to check on the pair, it was only the little guy. The stray sniffed at Kara’s dog and was greeted by a snarl, then a lightning-reflex snap. With a yelp, the mongrel retreated.
    Now Kara’s forehead rested on the steering wheel, framed by white-knuckled hands. She was shaking.
    What should he do? “Hey,” Peter said. “Let’s just forget this whole idea. You go on home; I’ll find a way of making things work.” His hand seemed to have a mind of its own, for it had reached out to rest gently on the woman’s shoulder, offering comfort.
    A growling furball launched itself between them. Pointy little teeth seized his bare arm.

  2. Chrissie

    From a current WIP:

    Caroline stopped short and peered at him, wrinkling her nose. “You’re joking, right? Everyone’s gone swimming in the ocean at night.”

    “Not me.” In fact, he’d only ever swam in a pool. Once. A clean, clear pool where he could see there was nothing beneath him, waiting to chomp him in two like that old movie about the Great White. Her giggle was contagious, and he smiled. “Don’t laugh at me. I’ve been busy.”

    “All your life?”

    “Most of it.”

    “Okay then.” She tugged her short tank top over her head to reveal a pale blue bikini the color of her eyes. Soft mounds of suntanned flesh made him swallow hard. She tossed her top up the beach onto dry sand and shoved off her short shorts, tossing them there too. “There’s no time like the present for your first time.”

    “You’re going in the water? Right now?”

    What had he done? There was no way in hell he wanted to venture into the waves, especially at night when you couldn’t see a damn thing. The musical theme from the classic shark movie bolted through his head. He squeezed his eyes shut as if doing so would make it go away. He’d watched far too many movies in his boredom. His stomach tightened, but he could do this. He opened his eyes and smiled. Yet, he didn’t feel the smile.
    His heart pitter-pattered like a silly kid in puppy love with the constant fear of failure. Failure of what? He wasn’t in love with this girl. He might be in lust, but never in love.

    Her return smile lit her face in the most enticing manner. She held out her hand. “Kick off those shorts and t-shirt, and let’s see what you’re made of, City-slicker.”

  3. Sally Freytag

    Finally, Jed and Edward stood up and shook hands. Jed had a grin splitting his face and his watchful staff relaxed, smiles lightening their own features as they read the good news in their boss’s face. Cassie put down her cup and hurried across, placing his papers in his folder, shutting down his notebook.
    ‘Cassie!’ Jed turned to her, quietly jubilant. ‘You’ll have gathered,’ he continued in a low voice, ‘we’ve won the contract. A year to begin with. If we’re doing okay then it will be renewed to five years. Cassie…Edward asked if he could have a word with you. By yourself. I said…’ Jed hesitated.
    Cassie could imagine what he’d said.
    Yes.
    He wouldn’t want to jeopardise this new contract by offending Edward Langdale.
    ‘I thought you wouldn’t mind,’ he finished lamely, looking anxiously into her face, a hint of pleading that he was too proud to give way to lurking in his eyes.
    Did he really imagine if she said no, Edward Langdale would retract?
    It was so important to him, though. Jed Goldring had broken away to launch his own firm eighteen months ago, taking Cassie with him from where they had both previously worked. He had undoubted flair for advertising and was making good progress in what was a very competitive world, but the Aspect Computers portfolio would make him. Cassie had no doubt whatsoever that now the contract was under his belt he would make a big success of his new advertising campaign on their behalf.
    Did the contract depend on her speaking to Edward though, as apparently Jed thought?
    ‘Please, Cassie,’ Jed leaned closer. ‘Please?’
    Oh, what did it matter? What now could Edward do to her? Surely nothing. Surely…a cold shiver ran through her as she thought once more about Bethany and Henry.
    ‘When did you know him, anyway?’ Jed breathed into her ear, his hand on her arm, eyes anxious. ‘What is Edward to you, that he’s insisting on speaking to you before he’ll sign the contracts?’
    Had Edward really said that? Was it the only way he thought she’d have anything to do with him? It was no wonder then that Jed was anxious. Cassie sighed. ‘I knew him,’ she said slowly, a touch of bitterness in her voice, ‘for five years. I last saw him six years ago when I walked out on him. He’s my husband.’

  4. Sally Freytag

    Ian was becoming increasingly anxious. He still had to complete his plan for Jude’s final downfall. It had been impossible last week to find the office empty of both Richard and Jude, and he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to fulfil what he intended to do.
    The first part had been easy. He needed a willing accomplice and this he’d found, as he’d thought he might, in Mark Langley at TechDrive, but it took until the last moment to complete the rest of it. On Wednesday, Richard had driven south to have a look at the exhibition himself and Jude, after spending most of the morning in the office, had gone off for lunch with one of their customers who wanted to upgrade to the Mercury. Ian hovered in the vicinity until Helen also went for lunch. Once she was out of sight, he slid through the door and into the inner office. Quickly he went over to Richard’s desk and moved his mouse. Damn! The man had shut down and Ian hadn’t a clue what password he’d be using. Jude, then. His hand trembling with nervousness, he touched Jude’s mouse and exhaled in relief when the desktop came up. Quick, quick…run through her folders. What would it be under?
    It was almost an anticlimax when he spotted a folder simply entitled Blake Software. Neither was the folder password protected as he’d feared it might. Opening it, he selected all the pages and sent them to the printer. Hearing the LaserJet begin its quiet whirring, he rushed into the outer office, hand outstretched ready to collect up the incriminating document. Once he had them safely in his hand, he whipped back to Jude’s computer and sat down, opening, this time, her email account. Using the address he’d been given last week by Mark Langley, he rapidly typed a message, added an attachment of a blank page and pressed send. Breathing fast, he put the computer to sleep, gathered up the papers and stood up.
    His heart pounded and he shook with relief and triumph. Done it! Nothing would stop him now. Nothing would save Jude. He had her right where he wanted her and it was all the more amusing that she didn’t know, hadn’t a clue what was coming! No turning back now, even if he wanted to, which was most definitely not on the cards as far as Ian was concerned. He had no remorse. He intended to see this through and wreck Jude.
    Returning to her desk, Helen was just in the process of opening her desk drawer when she heard a sound from the inner office. She froze. Who was in there, with Richard away and Jude out for lunch?
    She threw open the door between the offices. ‘Ian!’ Cold shock ran through her body. She didn’t trust this man an inch. What was he up to, skulking in here when there was no-one about? She ran her eyes around the room, looking for anything untoward. Nothing seemed out of order, but…she shook her head. ‘What are you doing?’ she asked bitingly.
    Agitation was visible on Ian’s face. ‘Wasn’t aware I couldn’t come in here,’ he replied sharply.
    ‘What are you doing?’ Helen repeated.
    ‘Some papers I need for tomorrow,’ he answered easily, inwardly laughing as he waved the precious photocopied documents in her face. ‘Richard said they’d be in here.’
    ‘Oh. Well, in that case…’ she moved back from the door. He crossed towards her, a huge grin on his face.
    ‘You look very pleased with yourself,’
    ‘Oh, you know…couple of days at the exhibition…makes a change…and you never know what will happen, do you? You can meet a lot of useful people.’
    ‘Hmph,’ Helen turned to her desk and sat down, still watching him as he lounged in the doorway, apparently in no hurry to be gone. ‘Well, if there’s nothing else,’ she added pointedly, ‘some of us have work to do, even if you haven’t.’
    ‘Oh, I have, I have,’ he assured her, a glint of malicious amusement in his eyes. ‘I have a phone call to make.’ To let Mark Langley know it was all successfully in place. The call was the final part of his Machiavellian jigsaw. On Friday all the pieces would fall in place and bingo! The end should be pyrotechnical. Pity he wouldn’t be around to see it.

  5. From WIP:
    The sound of the band and cheers for Mason were deafening in the exhibit hall “Vic, let go of my arm so I can get out there,” he said. Victoria’s grip tightened about his bicep. “We have a credible threat. You’re not going anywhere,” she said. She stared into his dark, green eyes and remembered last night when she let her guard down and let him kiss her.

    Her grip weakened at the memory of his touch. Mason pulled free. “If I don’t get out there, I don’t win this election,” said Mason, strode defiantly to the podium. She’d dedicated her professional life to protecting important people. She had two rules. Never get personal with clients, and never let her guard down. Since taking on Mason Broussard as a client, she broke both of them.

    As he waved, the sound of the shot was clear through noise. Screams filled the room as his supporters threw their signs and flags to the ground and rushed to the doors. The chaos made it impossible to see where the shooter stood. She turned her attention to Mason who was laying on the stage. She felt her stomach drop.

  6. Kendra Peterson

    “I love you.”

    James wore his heart on the sleeve of his tux. Whitney wore her heart in a dungeon. She searched the lobby of the ballroom. A few guests lingered in conversation, but no one seemed to notice them in the corner, tucked away in the shadows. She had a better poker face than him. Her skin was cold to the touch and her arm laid stiff in his palm. She did everything in her power to shut down and deny herself her favorite temptation: his touch.

    “That’s not enough.” She pulled herself free and straightened her gown.

    “Whitney—”

    “Last night was nice but last night was last night.” she whispered, “The only thing I need from you now, Mayor Roberts, is your endorsement. That means more to me than your love.” Did it hurt to see the light fade in his eyes? Yes. Could she afford to care? No. There was nothing left to say. In the six years that she had known him, James was never one to argue. He certainly wasn’t about to do it at his own party.

    “Understood.” He walked past her, and she followed at her usual distance.
    Their destination was the same, but their paths were different. Whitney watched as James went to the podium at the head of the room. He lightly kissed his wife’s cheek on the way up. She took a champagne flute from the waiter’s hand and downed it. This was it. The bright-eyed hometown girl with big political dreams was one second away from getting the biggest stamp of approval that would win her the election for Mayor of Brighton. The sound of James’s fork tapping on the glass silenced the room.

    “May I have your attention, please?” He looked around at the crowd. There were many who had adored him and many who had built him– including her. “I want to thank everyone for coming out to my retirement party. Who knew that forty- two was the new sixty?” Laughter floated in the air. Whitney could only hear her own heartbeat as he spoke. “I have been Mayor of Brighton, Texas for almost six years now. As I thought about the next stages of my life, I took a look at all the excellent candidates who may take my place. Including one who worked on my very first campaign as a volunteer. Stand up Congresswoman Whitney Brooks.”

    She was already standing. Familiar faces clapped at her as she lifted her empty glass. It was no secret that she was his favorite. It was not a surprise that every reporter aimed their cameras at her pending joyful reaction. James’s eyes stayed on Whitney from across the room. “There is only one who I believe will continue the growth and support that Brighton needs and that person is…” Time stopped, her breath hitched. James cleared his throat, his eyes turned stone cold. “…Me. I’ve decided to seek reelection. I will be rerunning for my office. See you all at the polls.”

  7. Tolu. Bakare

    Amy sobbed pathetically eyeing George. He had never believed in them , never believed in her, never trusted her enough and after this she didn’t think she could hold on anymore. When she’d told him she was pregnant, he’d insulted her and then implied that the child wasn’t his meaning she had been cheating. For how long was she going to continue paying for April’s sins? When was he ever going to accept the fact that all women weren’t like April?
    “How long does it take to get the reports? They should have been ready before now!” She lifted her head and wiped her face. There was no use crying over it,the DNA results would free her. She tapped her foot impatiently as she listened to George barking at the nurses.
    “George enough, just be calm and wait for the results.”
    “I’m calm,I just hope you’ve not bribed the doctors.” George fumed and Amy felt like she’d been slapped. She ignored him and let out a sigh of relief as she spotted the doctor.
    “I’m sorry for the wait,the files got mixed up.” The doctor said and George grumbled about”incompetent doctors.” The Doctor ignored him and turned to Amy.
    “Here are the reports.” Amy collected it with a tearful smile and tore at the envelope impatiently. Pulling the white paper out,she gaped and felt the room spinning around her.
    “Amy…” George’s voice called out and darkness took over.

  8. Jan VanEngen

    From WIP

    “Things have changed. You need to go back to your life, Jacqueline. We,” he waved a hand between them, “was never going to work. There was never going to be us. I would be going home, alone. There was never going to be a fairy tale ending. It’s not real, this dream of happily ever after, especially in different cultures. It doesn’t work.” Blood drained from her face as every word hit home, folding her arms in protection.
    “I know that,” she said in a tight voice, “yet you kept me here again, why?”
    “Shock. I didn’t expect to see you, like this. Or perhaps have one more night in goodbye.” She began to tremble, not believing what she was hearing, after what they had shared. How could he be so cold and heartless? Oh, god, she had made the biggest fool of herself. At least with Richard you got what you saw. This…this was so wrong. He had to be kidding her. It had been made clear to her now, she was just the entertainment. The poor bride, who had missed out of her wedding night. Chin jilted out, she gave him a cold, hard, glare.
    “I don’t think so, do you?” She challenged.
    He shrugged as if he didn’t care and turned his back on her, so didn’t see her chin tremble ever so slightly. Can’t you see, what you mean to me? Can’t you see, you’re breaking my heart? “I’m leaving. I hope you’re not going to stop me this time?” He waved her away in dismissal, crossing towards the window, standing so tall and straight, placing hands behind his back.
    So this was it? Richard had been right. ‘Don’t expect him to marry you.’ Even though she had said, of course not, a part of her had lived in hope. She had thought they had a connection. Obviously she was wrong and needed to get out of here as soon as possible, before she made a complete fool of herself, blinking rapidly, turning around and walked away once more, for the last time. He didn’t want her. Never had.

  9. Connie Bergendahl

    Fiona looked outside while her friends chatted and waited for their order. It was getting dark and Lucky’s sign seemed to light up the entire street. The line to get in was just as long as an hour ago. People wanting to buy lottery tickets to win a chance to own Lucky’s Bar. How foolish people were! Didn’t they know the statistics of winning were against them? And they just stood there waiting all that time for nothing. She hoped whoever won would be able to run it better. If she owned Lucky’s, the turnover would be much faster, and people wouldn’t have to wait so long.
    As she watched the line of people waiting to get in, she saw a shorter man walk past everyone and enter the restaurant without being stopped or questioned. He was wearing a green derby hat and she could have sworn it was Darby McGinn. How could he just walk in when everyone else had to wait?
    She shook her head and looked down at the lottery ticket Daphne had bought her. The shamrock on it appeared greener than before. She took off her glasses, rubbed her eyes, and looked again. No, the shamrock now looked the same as those on her roommate’s tickets.
    Sipping her wine, she looked outside at the line. Yes, with her roommates, she would go into Lucky’s tomorrow to get their free drink and check their ticket numbers. And then she could prove to her friends that there was no such thing as luck.

  10. Cheryl Anne Graham

    Kylie went over the cliff quicker than she believed possible. The rope unfurled like a snake going faster and faster until it reached the end. The snap back was so strong she thought she might’ve broken something. “Well I know what bungee jumping is like now. Wouldn’t recommend it.”

    “How can you make jokes at a time like this!” Bob said obviously scared out of his wits.

    “Because my knight in shining armour just saved me. Good my liege, much appreciated.” She gave a grand bow as much as one could when one was dangling off the side of a mountain.

    “I told you be more careful. Mountain climbing is a major and dangerous sport.”

    “I know that’s what attracted me to you,” she said smiling such a beguiling smile he wanted to go down and kiss her right on the edge of the rock face. They had met at the hiking aisle in the local mountain equipment store where he worked. She had taken the chance that a outdoorsy but cute man might just be her kind, he was.

    “Remember when we first met and I asked you where the carabiners were and you thought it was impressive that I knew what carabiners were because I looked like I belonged in the library not roughing it in some woodland glade?”

    “Yes honey I remember that,” he said with such love in his eyes, she began to feel bad.

    “Okay, just a bit of a joke,” she said perhaps regretting jumping off the the cliff even though she knew he would protect her and catch her as she fell. The cliff wasn’t so steep that she couldn’t climb back up, but you wouldn’t want to fall from there.

    “Well it wasn’t very funny. Do you want me to come down and get you or can you get back up yourself?” He had previously secured both of their lines to the mountain precipice so she wasn’t in any immediate danger but he didn’t want to keep holding her up either. He was grasping the rope to take the weight off the bolts and anchors he had previously set.

    But she didn’t see the danger. It was one of the things he loved about her. Her carefree spontaneity was such a welcome balance to his uptight anxiety.

    “Woo…” Her delighted yelp brought his attention back in a hurry.
    “Come back up sweetheart. I can’t hold you much longer.”
    “Look it’s like a swing,” she said arching and pushing away from the cliff side again.

    “Honey don’t!” was all he got out before the bolt came away and she pulled him over the edge with her. They had previously been tied together for safety but barrelling face down and rushing lightning fast, he realized she might kill him. As he hurtled helplessly down, he thought, he might kill her first.

  11. Rosemarie De Bruin

    James strode towards the drawing room, his heart pounding. After searching for Arabella everywhere, a red faced Turner had met him at the front door with a garbled message about Ambrose and a gun. He was sick to his soul of his cousin’s antics. If Ambrose didn’t settle down soon, by Hell he would find himself on a ship to the colonies.

    He forced the drawing room door open and came to an abrupt halt. “What the Devil Ambrose!”

    Bella was here, in his drawing room, seated on the chaise with Ambrose standing over her with a pistol. A man in a vicar’s robe was shuffling towards the windows, pulling at his neck stock.

    “Welcome cousin,” Ambrose drawled, gesturing towards a chair with the pistol. “Come and sit down. We were amusing ourselves with a question while you have been galloping around all over town.”

    James ignored him and walked towards Bella. She was straight backed and glaring at Ambrose, but her hands were fisted in her lap, the knuckles white.

    Ambrose stepped in front of him.

    “Now, now cousin,” he spat the last word. “Come play our game, don’t you want to know what the question is?”

    James stared into his cousin’s eyes, something dark lurked in the depths. Orphaned at a young age, Ambrose was raised beside him as a brother. However recently his frenetic lifestyle had drained his inheritance and left him constantly hounding James for money.

    “I’m through with your games Ambrose, now put down the pistol.” James glanced towards Bella, her eyes were wide and he saw her lips mouth his name. A cold chill swept through him. He had to get her out of here before Ambrose did something stupid.

    “That’s enough,” Ambrose snarled and stepped forward to block Bella from his sight. He prodded James in the chest with the pistol. “Actually I’m through with you. I’m through with your dammed moralising, lecturing me when I’m penny pinched. I’m here to spoil your plans as you have spoiled mine.” He pulled a piece of paper from his coat and waved in front of James’s face, it was a special license.

    James felt a prickling on the back of his neck. “What are you playing at Ambrose?”

    Ambrose crossed back to Bella and jammed the pistol against her forehead. “It took me the last of my blunt to bribe this clergyman, so what will you choose Your Grace? For sweet Lady Arabella to die?” He twisted the pistol causing Bella to jerk in pain. “Or to be wed to me? Choose quickly or I’ll make the choice for you.”

  12. Kristen Crusoe

    Marcella was gripped by a sense of loss so great; she clutched her stomach. Looking around at the familiar kitchen, memories of her childhood rose up, causing even more ache in her heart. She walked outside, standing on the wide veranda wrapped around the old farmhouse. Seeing her grandmother wave to her from the rose garden, she felt again, that this was where she should remain, but her heart cried out to go. Go now. Before it is too late. With a sharp gasp, she turned and ran back into the house. Grabbing her keys from the hook on the wall, she stopped a moment, ran back outside.
    “Nonnie, I have to go. I’ll phone” she called out to her grandmother.
    The drive to the airport seemed to take forever. She hadn’t taken time to change clothes, or even comb her hair. As she drove, she mentally scanned through her purse, checking to make sure she had what she needed. Passport, credit cards and smart phone. Everything else she could purchase when she arrived. If she made it. Pressing down on the gas, she eased her car in and out of lanes, driving faster than normal, but this was not a normal day, she reminded herself, joy mixing with terror in her heart. What if she was too late? What if he was gone? She shook her head, sent a prayer up to St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes.
    At last, long term parking. She hadn’t considered what would happen to her car but she told herself she would worry about that later. For now, she had to run. Through the double doors, down the long corridor to international flights, breezing through security since she had nothing except her tote. Raj had purchased her ticket a week ago. She had told him she couldn’t go with him back to his home in India, where he would work as a physician. The memory of his sadness brought tears to her eyes. ‘Don’t think about it’ she told herself. Just move. Weaving in and out of slow walkers, as she did in the hospital running for a code, her heart raced. This was it. She was going with him, to work with him, and yes, marry him. Sweeping past the final checkpoint, she saw the Terminal. It looked like a mile away. She heard overhead an announcement: last call for Flight 488 to Calcutta. Doors are closing now.

  13. Betsy Capozzoli

    Justine took a deep breath, turned the knob opening the large oak door. Her first step was cushioned by plush red carpet. She could hear water in the distance. Maybe a fountain. Her hesitation must have been noticed.

    “How can I assist you?” was the greeting from a stately woman behind a marble reception desk.
    “I have an interview with Mr. Moral,” stated Justine as she quickly assessed the receptionist suit cost three times that of her classic black interview suit. “Beautiful suit.”
    “Your name,” the receptionist was all business.
    “Justine Cook,” She waited. Wondering if she should cross over to the waiting area. Several leather couches created an intimate setting beneath high windows letting the light in but no view to the city street.
    “Have a seat,” she pointed to one of the leather high back chairs next to a stone fireplace. Setting there would put Justine’s back to the reception desk and the hallway leading to the offices at Ridgeview law.
    “And your interview is with Mr. Morris. We have no Mr. Moral.” The receptionist gave her a fake smile and pointed again to the leather chair.
    “Thank You,” Justine returned the fake smile and selected a seat on the couch.
    Glancing at her watch, it was five minutes before her two o’clock interview. The watch was a graduation gift from her mother. If her mother had taught her anything, it was thoroughness – pay attention to the details. Justine replayed the conversation with Mr. Moral. She had asked him to spell his name and repeat the address and time due to their poor connection. It was Mr. Moral, not Mr. Morris. Opulent and sterile were two words that came to mind as she looked around the reception area. Listening carefully, she determined the waterfall sound was coming from the inner office.
    “Justine, you may go back now.” The receptionist stood and nodded towards an archway. “Melody, Jonathan Morris’s personal assistant, will be waiting.”
    Justine stood, straightened her skirt and walked quickly through the archway. Did the receptionist say, Jonathan Morris? Once through the archway the carpet flowed into tile and the hallway made a sharp right. Blue eyes and golden tan abs flashed through Justine’s mind. The waterfall sound grew louder as she approached an open doorway. Spring break’s sunburn prickled under her black tweed jacket. Sunlight streamed in from a glassed roof reminding her of how she earned her sunburn. Justine pulled her mind back from Ocho Rios and that afternoon bringing a blush to her cheeks. A three-story waterfall ended in a pool surrounded with tropical plants, polished rocks and southern sun exposure. Next to one of two winding stairways stood a formidable woman in a navy-blue suit and sensible shoes. Much like the low black pumps Justine had traversed the snowy slush in moments ago.
    “Hello, Justine. I’m Melody. This way please.” Melody turned and headed quickly up the stairs.
    “It’s a pleasure…” Justine’s return greeting was interrupted by a deep commanding voice.
    “Thank you, Melody. Take the rest of the afternoon for yourself.” Not missing a beat, the voice continued, “Ms. Cook, please join me upstairs in my office.”
    Reaching the top stair Justine could feel her heart pounding. Please God…no… it can’t be him; I need this job… he said he was a bartender.

  14. Fiona Marsden

    “Why me?”
    It was the question Reilly Mc Leigh had been asking himself since the directive from above had put him on the plane to cross the country. He’d been deskbound for nearly twelve months, after the last case had ended with the death of his partner and the injury that kept him from active duty. He rubbed his thigh as he entered the station, wondering if he should feel the difference between the long-gone bone and the steel shaft they’d replaced it with. The knee on the other leg had been less successful. He could hear the difference in his halting step as he followed the younger man along the brightly lit corridor. He avoided looking at the faces of the officers passing by, wanting to avoid their pitying gazes. Reilly had enough of that commodity for himself.
    “In here, Detective.”
    The room was a standard interview room like a million others. A young female officer rose to her feet hastily, but his attention was on the other woman standing with her back to the door.
    “Jenny Perrett.” He’d recognise her anywhere, any time.
    She turned around; her arms folded over her chest. “Reilly.”
    He dismissed the others and indicated they should be seated. She shook her head, standing awkwardly on one side of the table. It was the mirror; she didn’t want to face the mirror. It occurred to him to wonder why. She was an attractive woman. The last couple of years hadn’t changed her much. Maybe balanced out her figure, her breasts larger to match the full curve of her hips.
    “Why am I here, Jen?”
    “I didn’t know who else to ask. Who I could trust.”
    “You’re in trouble?” They hadn’t bothered to brief him, only mentioning a missing person. Jenny was technically alone in the world so it couldn’t be immediate family. On the other hand…
    “It’s Rachel. My daughter. She’s gone missing.”
    Daughter? Jenny was a mother? Reilly looked again at her shape in the firm fitting jeans and oversized tee. Tried to imagine her round with someone’s baby. “You have a child?”
    Her dark eyes flashed. “Some of us actually want children, a family.”
    That bit hard. It had been the argument that tore them apart. By the time he’d had time to regret, his life had been blown to pieces. He’d gone home and stayed there to lick his wounds. “How old is…Rachel?”
    “Eighteen months.”
    Only six months after they’d parted. He didn’t want to go there. “Do you have a photograph?”
    Jenny fumbled in the large handbag at the corner of the table, pulling out one of those brag books like his mother kept of all her grandchildren. She flicked open a page towards the end of the book. He’d expected a dark-haired child with the soft brown eyes of her mother. Instead he was confronted with a ginger bundle of mischief with familiar green eyes and a full complement of freckles. Reilly rubbed his nose, grateful that time had rid him of that curse.
    There was a stillness in the room that was compounded of anger and fear, and a generous dollop of regret.
    Jenny broke the silence with a sharp glance at the mirror. “My uncle says she won’t be harmed.”
    “In return for what?”
    “I don’t know. But he said you had help him.”
    “How did Salvatore Parotti know I’d come?”
    She glanced down at the photograph in his hand. “I guess he assumed you knew.”

  15. Cherrie Mack

    WIP in progress – witch series

    Twenty minutes later, Desiree arrived at her apartment, slamming the door once inside. There he sat—calm as ever. She let out a strangled sigh. “I don’t need you here Simon.”
    He chuckled. “The queen feels otherwise.” He got up, stalking over to her. His body crowding her space. A reminder to breathe proved necessary as he narrowed his eyes at her. His expression, one of anger. “Did you really think that weak, ridiculous spell you weaved would keep me out?”
    “I had hoped so.”
    “Your little traveler repellent was a bad idea. Is there anything else you cooked up to give me discomfort during my stay?”
    “I may have a few items in my arsenal. After all—I’m a bit older. Wiser.”
    Simon crooked his mouth, “If you think losing a few pounds and changing your hair all of a sudden makes you a sophisticated, grown up witch. You’re mistaken.”
    “Go to hell, Simon.”
    He chuckled. “Been there. Next.”
    She stared at him. How could she think she loved this man? He was cruel. And sarcastic. And brutal. Emilio could attest to that.
    “Get out!”
    He answered her threat by kicking out of his shoes. An obvious indication he planned on going nowhere. “You never were a good hostess. No café au lait? No nibbles? Not even a pillow for my weary traveler head to lie down?”
    She spun on her heel. “Well if you won’t leave, I will!”
    One second Desiree was walking toward the door, the next she was pinned against the wall by two hundred pounds of pure muscle. “I learned a thing or two by hanging out with you all those months ago. I’m no longer the old fashioned gentleman I once was. Don’t push me Desiree. You will not like the outcome.”
    They stared at each other, silence stretching between them. Desiree felt the gravitational pull of her body as it slowly betrayed her, reaching out for his touch. God she ached for him. And what she was about to do would shock them both.

  16. Jodie DeMarco

    Inspired by a current WIP

    Becca tightened her grip on the steering wheel. Glancing into her rearview mirror, she kept her eye on the black SUV driving uncomfortably close. Forcing herself to take a deep breath she reminded herself that no one knew where she was. Right now she was just a regular country girl in some old farm truck on a dark back road. Not the missing, presumed dead spouse of the gorgeous man she’d just fled. It wasn’t her fault she couldn’t remember anything. Pushing her borrowed straw hat down further on her head she shook off the guilt that had followed her from the cabin.
    Anxiety clawed at her chest as the SUV pushed her to drive faster than she wanted. She didn’t know these curves and all she wanted was for this pompous jerk to pass her already. Searching for a turn off the first slam took her by surprise. Yanking the wheel hard she managed to avoid being run off the road. What in the – another slam sealed it. This was no accident. The driver gave her no time to react as a third hit quickly followed. Nick’s face flashed before her eyes. How she wished she’d stayed with him when he’d begged her to. His warm brown eyes had been so hurt when she’d refused to accept his apology for not telling her they were married. She had to survive this. There was no way she was going down with no memory of her life.
    The night exploded as she was rammed into the trees that lined the dark road. The jarring crunch of metal twisting and glass shattering surrounded her. Clutching her face and head, she prayed that no further head injuries would happen. When the world finally quieted she sat up disoriented, a soft ringing still sounded in her ears as she tried to push the heavy door open. Whoever was out there wasn’t going to stop until they killed her. She couldn’t stay trapped here, waiting for them to make their way to her through the trees. She had to run. The loud shriek of the metal scrapping as the door opened sounded deafening in the quiet night. Making her way to her feet, she paused to catch her breath. The sound of footsteps sent a rush of cold fear up her spine. Snatching a tree limb off the ground, she readied herself to come face to face with her attacker.

    • Jodie DeMarco

      Please disregard the previous submission from me! I wasn’t able to delete it and didn’t fully realize what you were looking for. Please accept this reply as my submission! Thank you!

      Inspired by a WIP

      Slamming the newspaper down on the kitchen counter Becca glared expectantly at Nick. Staring up from the front page the two of them smiled brightly with their arms entwined around each other. From the loving embrace and brand-new engagement ring, it wasn’t hard to tell the two were deeply in love. A hard lump formed in Nick’s throat as he tried to come up with the right words to say. It had never been his intention to hurt Becca.
      He’d wanted to tell her a hundred times over during the last three days. But, each time he’d come close something happened that made it seem like ridiculous timing. How easy was it to break the news that the stranger you met in the woods while running for your life was your husband of two years? Yeah, fat chance that would have gone over well.
      An impatient Becca crossed her arms and made it clear with the look in her eyes that an explanation better start happening fast. Rubbing a hand across the nape of his neck Nick stammered out the first thing that came to his mind.
      “Did I forget to mention that we’re married?” Stunned, Becca just stared at him. An engagement was one thing but marriage. The thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. Becca grabbed the paper and searched for a date.
      “I had a right to know that you knew who I was, Nick.” Becca tried to keep the hysteria out of her voice. What little she remembered from her life before the kidnapping did not include a husband. “When? When did we get married?”
      “Becca, please. Forcing yourself to try and remember is the last thing you need to be doing. This is why I couldn’t tell you.” He carefully reached forward and removed the now wadded up paper from Becca’s clenched hands. Pulling her gently into his arms he pressed her head to his shoulder. After a moment of hesitation, she relaxed into his arms and let out a heart-wrenching sob. The pain and fear of the last few days finally caught up with her, and it was all too much to take in.
      “Why is this happening, Nick? Do you know who is after me? Why do they want to hurt me?” The questions poured out of her. Wiping the tears from her face. she looked up into Nick’s concerned face. He tenderly tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as he reassured her.
      “I don’t know all the answers yet, but I promise I’m working on getting them. I meant it when I said I would protect you with my life. It’s going to be okay. We’ll find out who is behind all this and stop them. The doctors said it shouldn’t be too much longer and your memories will start coming back.” He snuggled her a little tighter in his arms as he said it. He couldn’t help it. It’d been nine long months of missing her only to be reunited with a wife who hadn’t even recognized him.
      Glass shattering interrupted their moment as a canister flew into the room and began emptying its contents into the room. Thick smoke quickly overtook them, forcing them to run from the room. Grabbing their bag from the counter, Nick shoved Becca through the door as a fire ignited in the space they occupied just moments before. Whoever had thrown that canister couldn’t be far behind.

  17. Miranda

    I stepped into the overstuffed dressing room and leaned my back against the brick wall. The cold feels good against my over heated skin. I rubbed my temples with my fingertips, still keeping the overhead lights out. There was a little glow from the desk lamp shedding just enough illumiation. It was a small room, with way too much junk inside. Seems that whenever they have a broken chair or an out of place object it ends up in the dancers dressing room.
    I sighed, locking the door behind me, pulling my blouse off the hanger. Suddenly, I froze. There was a slight noise and it came from somewhere within this room. I squinted in the dim light and when I didn’t see anything, I relaxed. I took a few deep breaths, perhaps it was my imagination?
    This time there wasn’t a sound, but instead I saw movement and again I squinted, although I something else..a shadow, shoulders..I reached behind to open the door but I never had the chance.
    “Don’t move and I won’t hurt you” He demanded
    His voice was rich and smooth, and although I can’t see him in the dim light, I’m certain it’s him, and those eyes are a rich cerulean blue.

  18. Sally Max

    “I’m sorry. Please start at the beginning.” Henry didn’t understand why a tall blonde security guard was holding an infant in his dressing room.
    The woman studied his face, and cocked her head to the side. She removed her little rubber ear piece as if it were a distraction.
    “The security team started checking in a bunch of people down by the loading dock where you came in.” The woman paused as if choosing her words carefully. “Jezebel walked in—”
    “Good grief, of course it’s Jezzy. Go on.” He requested, waving his hands.
    “My crew said she got into the taxi and left. I really need to get back to work, so if you could please take your daughter, I’ll be on my way.”
    “My daughter?” Henry asked.
    Henry hadn’t realized that this woman would think that the baby was his. Maybe it was better to let her have her assumptions. But what was he going to do with a breakable infant? It wasn’t like he could bring her to work with him. A baby had no place in a wrestling ring.
    “I’d like to thank you. I really appreciate you looking after her.” He meant to shake her hand, but somehow that turned into him enveloping her hand in his own and warming her cool hand. It felt quite nice and so very right. She pulled back her delicate digits quickly. He couldn’t tell if he had offended her, or if she felt something too.
    “I have to keep this quiet.” Henry needed to do some damage control concerning his little visitor. “I think it’s pretty clear what needs to be done. I need you to come home with me.”

  19. Chris Buono

    Receiving Rebecca Sloan and Devon Cole’s wedding invitation should have been a joyous event. It was more, though, like rubbing salt in a wound! The mailing, addressed to “Old Lady Marcia Kent,” said it all.
    Marcia knew that it had been Rebecca’s teasing way to remind her that she was still unmarried at thirty years of age. That was bad enough. But because of a pinky-swear pact they had made as twelve-year-olds, to both be married before turning thirty, Marcia was in the soup here. They had also agreed that whichever of them married first by the age of thirty, the other had to pay for the couple’s honeymoon. If they weren’t able to do so, their friendship was over.
    Yes, each was tardy here with marriage. Still, Rebecca was getting married first, and Marcia was not even in a relationship. Ka-ching! Marcia now needed to pay for Rebecca’s honeymoon. Fat chance! Marcia had been out of work for six months.
    As she read over the invitation, Marcia’s heart sank even more. She saw that Rebecca, a jokester by nature, had peppered it with “Old Lady Marcia Kent” scribbles throughout. “You want to stand at the altar without your maid of honor, Rebecca?” muttered Marcia, crushing the invitation in her hand. “Consider it done!”
    But just as Marcia was about to toss the crumpled invitation into her kitchen garbage pail, something stopped her from doing so. And it wasn’t the fact that she couldn’t pay for Rebecca’s trip with her husband. It was something much more than that, which frightened her to her core and froze her still.

  20. Kirsten Nairn

    It’s been three weeks and two days since we split, and I am in tatters. Getting through each day is a monumental effort. I know it was my decision, but I didn’t imagine I would feel this level of pain. I think about Dan everyday, wondering what he’s doing, hoping against hope, that he’ll call me. I bargain with myself. If he calls, I’ll take it as a sign that we’re meant to be and forget all my crazy nonsense which led me to break up in the first place.
    It’s early evening and already dark outside. I wander through my flat at a loss for what to do, my mind numb with sadness. I miss Dan more than I can describe.
    My phone beeps and I consider ignoring it, but it might be Dan. I’m ever hopeful. It’s a message from Rosie. Abbi, Dan in accident. Fell off his bike. In hospital. Sounds serious. Call me if you can. Heading there now. Mike and Chris are already there. R xx
    I almost drop the phone; my hands are shaking. I feel sick and my legs give way from under me. Oh my God, Not Daniel. Please, please, please, don’t let anything bad have happened to him. What was he doing on a bike?
    This can’t be happening. It’s all my fault, but more importantly, it should be me. If anything happens to anyone, it should be me. Dan loves life. He wants to live and make the most of his life.
    I grab my keys and call a taxi. We make it to the hospital in record time. I race into A&E, preparing myself mentally for how he might look. My blood runs cold. What if he’s dead? There’s a queue of people ahead of me at reception and I have to stop myself screaming at them to get a move on. I’m desperate for news of Daniel. My heart is pounding, and my mouth is dry as I look around frantically for any sign of Rosie.

  21. Kirsten Nairn

    Six months and two weeks into our relationship I become aware of Dan’s presence behind me. I look around alarmed. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I know something is wrong. He stands, motionless at the living room door, his head bowed, his sadness tangible.
    ‘I can’t do this Abbi. I’m am forcing you to do something you don’t want to do and it’s making you miserable. And me,’ he adds quietly. ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m going to go unless you tell me not to.’
    I knew this moment would come. I want to plead with him to stay, tell him I need him and want him, but I am mute. I want to feel his strong arms around me, holding me tight, keeping me safe. I’m hoping he can see all of this in my eyes but of course, he can’t.
    ‘Fine,’ he says miserably. ‘Just one thing though. It’s your courage you need to work on, not your trust. And that’s not my medical opinion, that’s my personal belief.’ And with that, he turns to walk away. I look up, bargaining with myself that if he looks back, stops, hesitates even, I will tell him.

    I hear the front door click quietly as he closes it behind him. I feel my heart shatter into a thousand tiny pieces

  22. Charles De Bruin

    “Jeez, its cold in here, look, condensation when I speak,” Dan rubbed his hands together and leant forward between the car seats.

    Carter grimaced, “Toughen up princess. You know the drill for a CIA stake out, don’t leave the engine running, heaters off. Three men in suits and we’re all nice and cozy. You jokers are getting soft.”

    Neil looked across from the passenger seat, “Carter Brown, what’s eating you?”

    “What’s eating me? I’ll tell you what’s eating me. One, I’m about to shoot a hole in someone. Two, I’m working with morons. Three, a special woman just up and disappeared out of my life. And four, I have to take down a double agent tonight. I’m sick of the whole business.”

    Dan grinned, “Carter, there’s plenty more fish in the sea, trust me. Love’m and leave’m, that’s my motto.”

    Neil rolled a toothpick between his fingers,“Carter, don’t listen to him. I told you, you shouldn’t had a work romance. Anyway, what do you really want?”

    “I want to leave this dead end job, hear my girl whisper sweet nothings in my ear in that thick Czech accent, bread crumbs in the bed, a daughter to take to ballet and son to little league and — aw forget it. I’m going in. There’ll be a shot and only one of us will come out. You know I don’t miss. All you have to do is deal with his operative when he arrives.”

    Carter swore silently as the dockside warehouse door creaked. Damn if I heard that, so can he. Worse, I’m framed in the door’s light. This is my last job, one way or another.
    The gloom swallowed him, along with the smell of goods present and hundred years past.
    A movement.
    A Reflex shot.
    An exclamation.
    Fear squeezed his heart. He’d heard that Czech profanity when she’d nicked her finger slicing onions last week.

  23. Patricia L.

    Terra couldn’t believe it. “I…I thought you were dead…”

    Standing just five feet away from her, was her former fiancé, Quinton. She couldn’t move. For three years he’d been declared deceased, after his tags were found amongst the wreck of a roadside bomb. But there was still a problem. A very big problem that wouldn’t allow her to immediately get up from her vanity and run to his arms.

    “When Harold told me you were getting married today, I tried to stop myself from rushing over here,” Quinton says as he stared at her reflection in the vanity.

    Terra and he grew up in a small town. From the time they were kids, it was always stated that they would be together. When Quinton and she graduated high school, he asked her to marry him. There was a catch, he was enlisting into the services immediately. Quinton didn’t want to lose Terra but Terra wanted to study law at a big university in a big city. She wanted to leave immediately as well and they eventually parted. Ten years later, they reunited in New York City. Love blossomed. He proposed, she accepted and then they set a date. He was called to duty and a few months later, soldiers came knocking on her door.

    “God you look… beautiful,” he says as he catches his breath.

    Terra struggled with words. He was still handsome. He was at the very least six feet two. Always built athletic from playing on the towns sports teams growing up. His sharp green eyes pierced her very being, as he looked her over. Terra’s eyes met his and noticed the scar down the side of his face. It also noticed the cane by his side. Quinton addressed her curiosity.

    “There was a roadside bomb. A friend and soldier pushed me towards another vehicle. The impact…” he paused recalling. “I lost my leg and well…I have this scar…”

    He looked her over. Her beautiful chocolate skin. Her long chestnut and dark brown hair. Her full and curvy lips. She was regal in both height and beauty. Her smile was brighter than the bulbs atop the vanity. Quinton found himself unsteady on his feet at the possibility of reuniting with his only true love.

    “Mommy!” comes a small but happy voice, entering the room dressed as a flower girl.

    Quinton’s eyes darted towards the little girl. She was about three years old. Quinton felt his heart sink. The little girl’s eyes, were like his. Before Terra could explain, a woman enters in the room. She looked to Quinton in utter shock and then to Terra. Terra froze in the moment. The former love of her life is standing five feet away from her. While the current, is awaiting her entrance…

  24. Wham! Hitting a chest as seemingly hard and solid as the nearby support beam, her breath was knocked back in her attempt to inconspicuously leave.

    Nik reached out in the collision, his hands grasping her upper arms. Her scent wrapped itself around him, dulling his senses. The flavors of lilac and peony mixed with some unknown seductive spice were memorable.

    “Oof…” Addie managed. “I’m trying to leave.”

    Seeing her anxiously glance towards where she’d been, he saw a man who had been trying to sabotage a business contract for his ski lodge.

    “Follow me.”

    Standing in the quiet back hallway he had led them to Addie felt safe and secure with is protective arm still around her waist. Feeling almost as if she were watching a scene in a favorite movie she turned to face him.

    The need to be home warred with the fascination she felt for this man. Loosening his hold ever so slightly he felt her falter and take half a step closer.

  25. KIMBERLY A WEISS

    Ch. 2
    “I thought I was going to the mammography department,” Delaney said, nervously fiddling with her new ID badge.
    “The boss’s daughter wanted to go to mammography,” the head nurse, Kishia said. “But you didn’t hear it from me.”
    Delaney gulped. Mammography seemed like a nice place to work, taking medical histories and vital signs for women before their planned mammograms, and helping out the radiographers. It would be challenging of course, but relatively calm. Not like the emergency room.
    “I’m sure most of your patients are just drunk or something,” Delaney said, trying to make a joke. It didn’t work.
    “You ever work in the ER before?” Kishia asked, an edge to her voice
    “Not in a long time,” she admitted.
    “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. That’s what I always say. I made that saying up myself.”
    “That’s very original.” She couldn’t remember who said it first. Franklin D. Roosevelt, maybe? Well, it hardly mattered. Kishia ordered her to attend to a young boy who needed an X-ray after a mishap on a skateboard, and her anxiety calmed down as she performed the routine tasks of nursing.
    Of course, it had to end. Soon after young Josh was wheeled off to radiology, her new boss came for her.
    “Dr. Amberson needs you,” Kishia said. “All nurses on staff, report to him. You know what he looks like? He’s a good looking man.”
    Dr. Amberson? That inept but sexy doctor she met yesterday? He was here? Oh no.
    “Yes, I met him once.”
    “Go and find him. There’s a big emergency. Some kid put his arm outside the window of the school bus and a truck hit it. Tore his hand right off his wrist. Only the top arm surgeon can save it.” Kishia shook her head. “Stupid kid. Why do they do that?”
    “My son does that sometimes,” Delaney said, as a feeling of horror filled her. Oh no. Could it be?
    There was no time for small talk.
    “Dr. Amberson,” she said, when she found him, waiting by the ER entrance. “Has the patient arrived yet?”
    He looked at her.
    “I’ve seen you before someplace,” he said.
    “Yes, you met me at the ballgame yesterday.” She choked back a sob. “I know I wasn’t very nice to you, but please, I need you now. My son’s hand has fallen off his wrist and you’re the only person who can put it back on.”
    “That’s your son?” His tone was kind and sympathetic, his eyes warm and brown.
    Yes, it’s my son. I just know it.”
    “The ambulance hasn’t arrived yet,” he said. “Take it easy, Mrs. Mening.”
    “Delaney,” she said. “Please save my son’s hand. I lost my husband and now my son has no hand.” She was openly sobbing now, and every other person in the ER was staring at her.
    “The school called you?” he asked.
    “No, not yet.” Could it not have been Junior’s hand in the accident, but some other unfortunate child? Was she getting paranoid and hysterical.
    Just then her cell phone rang. She closed her eyes and said a prayer before she looked at the number.

  26. Janiece Malone

    Chapter

    Eva smiled with closed lips and a mouth stuffed with noodles. She continued eating unbothered and uncensored. Roland finished his pie before her and watched in adoration.
    The waiter slid the check onto the table unnoticed. Eva watched as Roland searched his pants for his wallet. A concerned look came across his face. She had seen that look before.
    A memory flooded her mind. That one night when she went out with this guy, against her better judgement. He ordered for them both, the food was delicious and the drinks stirred a nice buzz. Everything felt right, it was a vibe. The night was magical until the check landed on the table. The waiter delivered it politely indicating there was no rush.
    Her date at the time, sifted through his pockets, which Eva could see because his pants were tighter than hers. He found his wallet, but the way he looked at it unsettled her. This man had the nerve to turn to her and fix his mouth to say:
    You tryna go dutch?
    Ordinarily she didn’t have a problem splitting the bill. The fact that he ordered for her and picked her food implied he was paying. Or was she mistaken? Maybe he just didn’t want to go over budget. Regardless it was done in poor taste.
    “Hey I left my wallet in the car I’ll be right back,” Roland said.
    She would have been lying to herself if she believed those words didn’t coil anxiety in her stomach. Eva had heard stories from her friend. The guy left first then texted her to follow him. She watched her phone hoping she wouldn’t receive a text from him. Roland wasn’t like those guys. He was one of the good ones.
    A ding sounded. She looked at her phone. It was a message from him, though she only saw his name. Her heart sank.

  27. From WIP:
    “Brad, I want you to know that last night doesn’t have to mean–” Laura looked down and was shocked when she felt Brad’s hands cup her face and force her gaze to his. His voice was low and rough when he spoke.

    “Yes, it does. There are things we need to talk about, but this is happening. We are happening.”

    The intensity in his gaze was so overwhelming, Laura realized she was holding her breath. She exhaled, “Work is going to be difficult.”

    Brad ran his hand through his hair and she smiled as his cowlick struggled to stay in place. He cleared his throat.

    “Yes, there’s work, but there’s something else I–”

    “There you are, Brad! I’ve been looking all over for you!”

    Laura looked to see who had spoken and saw a goddess moving toward them.

    Brad stood and the goddess sailed into his arms.

    “Holly. You’re supposed to be in New York.”

    “I wanted to surprise you. I’m so proud of you!” Her voice was low and honeyed with a slight southern drawl. She looked at Laura and bestowed a practiced smile on her. “And this must be the amazing Miss Briggs. Brad has told me so much about you. I couldn’t be happier for your success. I’m hoping that he trusts you enough to take over some of his workload…” She turned her smile back to Brad. “Because I’d love to kidnap you for a few days.”

    Laura felt her stomach clench, but before she could say anything, Harold Simms appeared and grabbed Brad by the shoulder.

    “Brad, I need you to come talk to some members of my board. Sorry to drag you away from these lovely ladies, it’ll only take a minute.”

    Brad looked at Laura with blazing eyes, but said nothing. She watched as he melted into the crowd.

    Laura was shocked when Holly gripped her hand. “He’s pretty great, isn’t he?”

    Laura wasn’t sure of the appropriate response so she fell back on corporate speak. “He’s a very effective leader. He knows how to inspire a team and bring out the best in people.”

    Holly threw her head back and laughed. “He brings out the best in me. I can’t wait until all this Simms stuff has blown over, no offense.”

    “Why is that?”

    Holly leaned in and lowered her voice. “Well, Brad doesn’t want anything to take away from the success of the campaign, so he doesn’t want to make an announcement yet.”

    Laura forced her voice to remain even and detached.

    “An announcement about what?”

    Holly’s face was flushed with a combination of excitement and triumph. “Our engagement! I just can’t stand not telling anyone! But you work with Brad and I know he trusts you. You won’t tell anyone, right?”

    “For him.” Laura’s voice was almost a whisper.

    “What?”

    Laura forced her eyes to meet Holly’s. “For him. I work for him, not with him.”

    “Oh.” Holly’s smile widened and Laura guessed her game.

    “And not anymore. I don’t work for him anymore.” Laura stood up and smoothed her dress.

    “Don’t worry. I signed an NDA when I started at Wolfram. Your secret is safe with me.” Laura blinked quickly—her years working in a male dominated industry had taught her that tears were the enemy. She unplugged her emotions and put on her best corporate mask.

    “Congratulations on your engagement. Please tell Brad congratulations, also.” She was proud that although she was shaking on the inside, her voice didn’t catch at all. Now all she had to do was make it back to her room, get her things, and get as far away from Brad Wolfram as possible.

  28. Lakisha Friday

    “I need you to stick by me on this. I’m doing this for the both of us.”
    “How can you say that? You promised me Jordan that you wouldn’t go back. You promised!
    Michele is devastated. How could he do this to her? Their child?
    Jordan felt he hadn’t no other choice but to go. If he stayed his wife and young son would be in danger and he couldn’t live with himself if anything ever happened to them. He had a mission to fulfill and once it was over he would come for them.
    ” Duty calls huh? Michele said. What about family?
    Jordan sighed heavily. He needed to make her understand that she is his mission. Sending them away would keep them safe. No matter how long it takes.
    “I want you to go. Get out the country. Your flight leaves in the next thirty minutes. Jordan said.
    “So, you’re not giving this up are you? Michele asked.
    “No, I’m putting an end to it. Jordan replied. Michele nodded her head seeing there was no changing his mind. He should let someone else handle the situation but he chose not to. Who knows what might happen? She goes to the fireplace and picks up a white envelope and handed it to him. She picks up their son from his play pen and their suitcase and headed out to the awaiting black Envoy.
    Jordan watches them leave and looks at the envelope then opens it. He was startled to see in big red letters which has the appearance of blood a death threat. On his family.The letter reads: You have thirty minutes to beat them to the airport as the clock is ticking to stop their flight or you will never see them again.
    Jordan drops the letter running after them to try and stop the Envoy from going to the airport. The car was too fast for him and all he could do was watch them disappear.

  29. Deirdre

    Wow, we were overwhelmed with the response this week! There were a lot of fantastic entries, and it was really hard to choose our three favourites. But here they are:

    Cheryl Anne – for her literal take on our challenge
    Rosemarie – for her high-stakes choice
    Kendra – for her twist ending

    And honorable mention to:

    Betsy – for the tension and mystery
    Janiece – for the relatable first date stress!

    Thank you to everyone who participated in the challenge!