Writing Challenge: Create tension in your scene

This week at So You Think You Can Write we’ve been talking about how to include exposition and backstory in your book without bringing the story to a shuddering halt. But how much backstory and explanation are needed, anyway? Withholding information is an effective way to create tension – for the characters and the reader. And that’s our challenge this week!

Your hero and heroine have just met. Falling in love with each other would be a disaster because.… Write a 3-5 paragraph scene that hints at the answer without giving us the whole story.

Post your scene in the comments below anytime between now and Sunday, June 24, 2018 and we’ll check back with you on Tuesday! (site will not be open for comments Monday, June 25, 2018.)

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  1. Love writing prompts!
    Bryson picked his way over the snaking cables, holding a babbling Mattie in his arms. The renovations on the farmhouse, with the whole crew involved in filming them, were supposed to be long over before he and his daughter arrived. He didn’t need this distraction when he was trying to work, and he did need to find his grandmother, his sister or someone to take care of Mattie so he could meet his deadline. His eyes scanned the chaos that was normally a quiet lawn.
    Mattie struggled to get down, and since they were now in a clear area, he set her down, keeping a careful eye on the wobbly figure. Mattie trundled forward, clearly pleased with her own locomotion. She had a direction in mind, and found her way to a pair of denim clad legs, which she promptly gripped in a hug.
    The legs were shapely, as was the rest of the figure. Bryson let his eyes run up the woman’s form appreciatively as she turned, and smiled down at Mattie. The woman was attractive, her smile lighting up her face. From the flannel shirt, down vest and work boots that completed her outfit, along with the microphone hanging around her neck, she was obviously part of the television crew. Bryson made a quick decision. He smiled at the woman, catching her attention as she looked around for someone responsible for the little girl still wrapped around her legs.
    “Hi. Mattie’s dad here. I can tell you’re with the crew, but I wondered if I could steal you away and hire you to look after my daughter for a couple of hours? I’m on a deadline.” He did his best to sound like an overworked dad, the truth, rather than some kind of skeevy pervert.
    Her expression smoothed into a carefully bland expression.
    “I am on the show. But I’m the talent. I don’t have time to babysit.” Her voice was cold.
    Bryson clenched his jaw. Lovely. Another woman like his ex. Mattie had lousy judgment.

    • Deirdre

      The first paragraph of this scene skillfully establishes the situation without explaining everything. And I’m interested to see the heroine challenge the hero’s many assumptions!

  2. Bonnie Jo Elder

    Caroline marched into the kitchen in bare feet. Her old man said she was about 5’4”, and Tony knew she wasn’t any taller. She had changed into jeans and a worn out NAU sweatshirt. Her hair fell loosely, framing her face with soft curls. She looked more like a college kid than a teacher. A very pissed off college kid. And she sure didn’t look like any teacher he had ever had. She was beautiful.
    “Where’s my gun?” she demanded, looking at Tony. Her fists were clenched at her sides. She was moving slightly from foot to foot. Her brown eyes hard and red-rimmed.
    “Well, I have it. I just don’t like being killed. And I have your keys. You can’t run off if I’m supposed to protect you.”
    “My father hired you, I didn’t. I think that doesn’t count.” She was besides herself, her stomach doing flops. For years she kept herself away from men, now she was in a cabin with one with no way out. Panic began to move through her. She had to get away. Her breathing began to quicken, her eyes wild. Tony watched her from across the room, saw the distress in her body. He pulled out a chair and sat down, picking up his coffee. His experience told him to be patient. He was a veteran, from Vietnam. After years of group, he learned how to handle volatile situations, and she was volatile. Her father had given him the Reader’s Digest version: Caroline and Marie out shopping, three men following them. The attack, Marie dying in Caroline’s arms. After ten years, she still hadn’t dealt with it.
    Confused, she looked at Tony. She expected more. An argument? An attack? Anything. But he did nothing. Tony slowly took another sip.
    “This is ridiculous,” she thought.
    “Talk,” she said finally. “But I still want my keys and gun.”

    • Deirdre

      I like how you have dropped the reader right into the action, Bonnie – the most effective way to hook your reader! I think you could give us even less information and we’d still be intrigued. For example, what if you took out, “He was a veteran from Vietnam” and just left, “After years of group…” When your reader has questions, they’re left wanting more.

  3. Chrissie

    This is from a current WIP, but it shows how I create tension:

    Stacy crinkled her nose and glanced away. “I have a Ph.D. in arachnology, with a Masters in animal science. I’m a member of the American Arachnological Society, and I publish my own magazine, Arachnid Talk. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”

    “No. I’m sorry.” Why would he read a magazine about animals anyway? Wait…arachnids? That was spiders and creepy crawly stuff. Ross shivered at the unnerving thought. He had nightmares about spiders. “Don’t tell me you like insects?”

    “Most of them are pretty interesting, but spiders are my favorite.”

    “Who are you? Pandora? No one likes spiders.” Especially not him.

    She shrugged her pretty shoulders. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

    “The only good spider is a dead one.” He didn’t know why he said it but he couldn’t take it back, although her expression warned he should.

    “Okay, …we’re done talking.” She walked toward the door. “You should leave now. I must feed my arachnids, and I have a lot of paperwork to do and deadlines to meet.”

    “God, I forgot about what was in your package. You have a huge-ass spider. Where is it by the way?” He glanced around the room hoping not to see a giant blue and gray spider crawling about. The damned thing must have been the size of a baseball.

    “I set up his aquarium before his arrival and so far, he loves it. Do you want to see him?”

    Was she crazy?

    • Deirdre

      This is a fun scene, and the POV of your appealing hero is done very well! I wanted to know more about the emotional conflict/initial attraction between these two. Thanks for writing!

  4. Devyn Quinn

    Ok, I am going to share this bit from my WIP:

    Without thinking twice, Colton made a quick grab for the falling woman. A soft, warm heap landed in his arms.

    Hands circling Paige Madison’s slender waist, he steadied her at the foot of the stairs. For a moment, his palms rested on her hips. Hers pressed against his chest. Head tilting back, she gave him a flash of green eyes and cherry red lips. Fine boned and delicate, she was barely a handful.

    An unexpected electrical connection sizzled through him, warming his skin. The scent of her freshly washed hair enticed, causing his heart to skip a beat. The rise of desire knotted his insides.

    Oh, my. A long time had passed since he’d held a pretty girl in his arms. It was a pleasure to savor. The heat and friction her body generated mingled perfectly with his reminding him how much he missed the intimate caress of a lover. It was easy to imagine leaning down to taste of those tempting lips of hers.

    But as pleasant as the sensations were, they weren’t destined to last.

    Colton hadn’t come to the old Madison place to catch a wink and a flirt. He’d come to do a job. His uncle had given him a chance to make amends in the family and start over with a clean slate. He had so many responsibilities now, so screwing up was no longer an option. Blow this chance and he’d have no place to go. The idea wasn’t only unacceptable. It scared the hell out of him. He couldn’t afford to be homeless again. Not now.

    • Deirdre

      The intriguing hook in your last line makes the reader want to know both what will happen and how these two got together. Well done! You could amp up the tension even more by including observations about the heroine beyond physical description. How does she react to suddenly being in the hero’s arms?

  5. Leonie

    “Uh, hi,” he said as he approached and the touch of uncertainty in his voice gave her an ego boost. “Ellie?” Huh? They hadn’t exchanged names after the encounter last week had they? She certainly didn’t know his name. Had he asked about her?

    She nodded and he smiled apologetically. “I’m Basti – Sebastian.” He held out his hand and she stared uncomprehendingly at it for a moment, before coming to her senses and putting hers in it.

    Then it clicked. Sebastian. “Oh my God. You’re Michi’s brother?”

    “I didn’t know who you were last week or I would have said something.”

    Gisela arrived with a tiny girl in pigtails on her hip and greeted Ellie with a kiss on the cheek. “Oh good, Basti found you. He tells me he met you on the slopes last week.” Ellie nodded, not sure what else to say to the woman who was hosting her for the ski season – the mother of her friend Michi and the man she’d been unknowingly insulting all week. “And this,” Gisela bounced the toddler on her hip with a broad smile, “is our darling granddaughter Ronja.”

    “Papa!” The little girl held her arms out to Sebastian.

    • Deirdre

      There’s quite a bit of information included in just a few lines here, with a total of five characters introduced! That can be tricky to do without a lot of exposition – and without confusing the reader. I wanted to know more about your characters and their relationship – and just what Ellie had been saying all week! Thanks for writing!

  6. Kimber Li

    from ‘Jack & the Very Proper Nanny’
    (they don’t actually get together until much later, after she’s widowed) (i) indicates italics.
    “Pebble in my shoe.” Robin smoothed her fingers down the side of her bare foot to her toes. “A sharp pebble.” Crimson beaded on her smallest toe and she pressed her fingertip to stop the bleeding.


    She looked up at the deep tenor sound.

    Jack stared at her foot, face red, lips open, breath fast. “Oh, God.”

    “It’s a foot, not a tit!” Bobby smacked him upside the head.

    “Sorry.” Jack sunk back into his chair, still fixated on her toes. He lifted his gaze to her face. “Sorry. You… have very pretty…feet.”

    (i)Cracked, he is.(i) Robin blinked, eyes dry from staring.

    “And big doe-brown eyes too. Wow.” He swallowed and then he smiled, cheeks dimpled. “Sorry. I’m…I’m Jack, my dad was a…podiatrist and my mom…designs shoes. And I’m babbling, sorry, I babble sometimes. Who are you?”

    “Married. That’s who.” Bobby turned his chair the other way and pointed two fingers at his face. “Focus over here, Big Guy. Her husband’s a jealous marine who could really mess up your pretty face.”

  7. Jan Van Engen

    This is from my current WIP The bachelor with a twist –

    “My last rose goes to Diana,” Diana Fisher’s eyes lit up, “Prince,” the bachelor, known as the Sheikh added, as if he remembered there were two Diana’s, even if his gaze was on Shanna, who once again looking hopeful for a different reason, by not receiving a rose.
    Remembering she was on camera, Shanna placed hands on her cheeks, as if she was flushed, crossing the carpet towards the man, who held out the rose for her. “I can’t believe this,” she gasped. She really couldn’t. Ever since she had been on this dumb, ego feeding show, she had done everything possible to get booted off.
    For some reason, beyond her understanding, the Sheikh was determined to keep her here. The dark eyes of the Bachelor held her gaze, almost daring her to throw it back in his face. Her hand curled around the single red rose. The whole thing a mockery of true love. He leaned in and kissed her cheek, sending a spark of awareness through her. “Rat,” she hissed through a smile. Surely there must be a way off the show. This was her fifth rose. Never received roses before, however, it shouldn’t be like this, never like this. It was sheer madness.
    “At your service Miss Prince, anytime, anyplace.” This time heat burned her cheeks. Maybe she needed to change her tactics. Now for the worst part of all, doing the interview, after the rose ceremony, sprouting how happy she was being here, and how great the bachelor was. Who thought up these stupid shows anyway?
    Down to six. Four by four, then more had departed the show. Thank goodness it wasn’t alive. In your dreams, Bachelor. No one knew his name, not until the final six would that be revealed. Holding the Rose, she went back, joining the other girls. Six were going home. They hugged each other, saying goodbye to the losers. She felt like one. All dressed in their long gowns, like every other rose ceremony. She only had the one good dress, the same one she had worn on the first show.
    All she wanted to do was go home, and kill the twins.

    • Katie Gowrie

      This is an intriguing premise, Jan! I’m curious to know how she ended up on the show and why she dislikes the bachelor so much (also, kill the twins! figuratively or literally?) — loads of tension here!

  8. Cheryl Graham

    William went and dished out the pie. It wasn’t much of a living but the price was right. He looked out the window at the wonderful view. That was worth everything. Melanie came in. She was having an emergency and wanted to see if she could use the phone. She hoped they wouldn’t mind. A greasy spoon like this, one never knew. But she was dressed well and assumed that would work in her favour. Because she wouldn’t be staying in this one dog town much longer if she had anything to do with it.
    William was so caught by the eyes of the woman who just walked in he almost dropped the remaining pie. She was wearing a power suit, and, deeply, was the most wonderful woman he had ever seen. He wanted to talk to her but… what could he say? His heart banged in his chest. Bang, there was a word. But she walked over, looking every bit as anxious as he was. “Might I borrow your phone? My car seems to have a flat.”
    “Um um,” was all he could say.
    “Sir it’s quite important. I need to be in Phoenix in 3/4 of an hour.”
    “He won’t speak. There’s a phone at the end of the counter. Use that,” Joe the owner said brusquely and pointed to the phone.
    “Thank you sir.” William knew he had problems, but he was so taken by her grace, by her elegance and he knew if he didn’t say something soon her would lose her for good.
    “You don’t have to call a tow truck, I can repair it for you.” He said it peacefully, quietly, like a man with a secret. But she was doing things to him. “Honest, let me help you. We don’t get many new people. It’s a welcome change.” Melanie eyed this man up and down and decided she would accept the offer. After all she wasn’t in a position to say no.
    “But don’t be too long William.There are customers to be helped,”Joe bellowed. William remembered a time when he wasn’t just a pie server in the town of Benjamin, but was ever so much more. He ached about it. He remembered when he would be the one to give the orders.
    Melanie looked at William, a pedestrian man perhaps but she liked what she saw. She had a way with people and knew he had a good heart and that he was emotional somehow, authentic. But perhaps that was what what she needed. She was so done with the overblown males back where she came from. She made herself keep looking at him and an ache began in her chest and spread like a strong beacon, pulling her to him.
    “Well if it’s no trouble I believe I would value the help.”
    “Anytime ma’am,” he said with an obvious accent.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Nice job, Cheryl! I like the way you’ve used dialogue, inner monologue and details (clothes, car) to tell us about your characters and their situations.

  9. Jackie Burrows

    ‘Just a sec.’ Lexi froze at the sound of that voice. She turned slowly and came face to face with the man of her dreams. He was even more gorgeous than she remembered. He wore scrubs in dark blue, which made the green of his eyes even deeper, if that were possible. He was tanned and fit, and Lexi’s heart was beating so fast, she thought she was going to pass out and join her patient on the trolley. But she didn’t have a head injury; her ailment was a mixture of lust, surprise and guilt at the secret that she had kept from him for the past four years.
    ‘Yes?’ She waited for him to speak, watching in alarm as the amiable look he had worn at first, turned to a suspicious frown of recognition.
    ‘So – we meet again.’
    If ever there was a time to try to deny it, it was now. But Lexi couldn’t speak. She was struck dumb by the suddenness of his appearance in her life again and the mixed emotions it evoked. She had assumed that he was back in London, forging his brilliant career. She had been sure their paths would never cross again. What was he doing in Leytonsfield?
    Part of her was elated at seeing him, even if he looked as if he would have liked to strangle her. But there was dread there too. She had to brazen it out; she had no other choice.
    ‘Yes. I’m surprised you remember.’ She attempted to smile and act as if it had all been a long time ago and of no consequence. But she wasn’t the fantasy woman she had pretended to be then, acting a part. She stood before him now as the real Lexi. No more pretence. Her priorities had changed completely since that night and she had no room in her life for complications. Even sexy ones like the man standing in front of her, thunder in his expression and lightning in his eyes.
    He took a step closer and lowered his voice so that only she could hear him.
    ‘Oh, I remember, Lexi Grainger. I remember everything about that night. Against my better judgement and despite four years of trying, I haven’t been able to forget you. Even though you obviously never gave me a second thought after you crept out of my flat the following morning.’
    Heat rose to her cheeks at his closeness. Desire, and the depth of her guilty feelings that she had never been able to shake. She felt bad about the way she had left but believed at the time that there’d been no choice. And now that she’d forged a new life for herself, he was a distraction she simply didn’t need.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Jackie, love how you’ve dropped details and hinted at the larger secret looming between these two in your scene. Lots of tension here – well done!

  10. Natasha Bennett

    Shiza looked so normal that if she did not know where he was from, Rosa would have assumed he was just another human male; albeit a particularly attractive one with his towering height and chiseled features. And his body, honed to perfection by years of military training, held a magnetic pull – the kind that had led to her mum’s downfall.
    ‘Your father Preze awaits your return,’ he repeated, finally lifting his lowered gaze to look at her face. His green eyes were so deep a shade they seemed unreal, just as her mum had described those of his kind to be. ‘As your appointed guardian I have the duty to escort your mother – and you – to him.’
    She marveled at Preze’s arrogance. Had he really thought that upon being summoned she would leave her life here and travel to an unknown world with this alien commander of his? ‘I’m sorry but your journey has been wasted. You can tell that beloved leader of yours that I’ve little desire to visit his planet and none whatsoever to meet him.’
    ‘His regret is making him sick, Rosa.’ Shiza’s voice held a softness that belied his tough muscled exterior. ‘He wishes to make amends, however he can. Believe me, your father is a good being.’ Emotion flickered across his face. ‘My own father was banished from our planet for committing unmentionable felonies … but when all other beings rejected me, Preze brought me up as his own son.’ The years of frustration came rushing back, even as Rosa tried to quell her resentment toward the alien standing in front of her. While mum was struggling to bring her up alone, Preze was lavishing his love on some kid of a convicted criminal?
    ‘It’s a shame he didn’t think of us before he dropped my pregnant mum back on Earth, leaving her alone – ’
    ‘He did not know your mother was pregnant. When he recently learned he had a daughter he was overjoyed.’ There was sincerity in his expression but she knew better than to trust his kind. ‘He did what he thought was best for your mother but he has never forgotten her all these years. He had always thought she had moved on … now he realizes that was not so and hopes for a reconciliation – ‘
    ‘Your leader is too late,’ Rosa said, her voice trembling. ‘Mum died a week ago.’

    • Katie Gowrie

      Natasha, you’ve done a nice job of drawing the reader in with your setting and the heroine’s troubled past! There’s definitely a push and pull between your H&H and I’m curious to know what happens here 🙂

  11. Jocelyn

    “Jessica Bishop?”
    “Yes?” Head tipped to the side, she gave him a puzzled smile. “Do I know you?” Her expression was open, secure. An innocent Disney character come to life. Like Bambi before the meadow. Simba before the wildebeest stampede. All happy before the villain came on screen. In this case, him. Before he shattered her world. Flynn twisted his lips, not relishing the role.
    No, you don’t know me. But you will.
    Bile, the acrid by-product of self-loathing, coated the back of his throat. He didn’t want to do this, but if he didn’t, who would? And they deserved to know.
    Her blue eyes continued to regard him expectantly. She looked like the other one – no surprise there – but for some reason, this one appealed to him more. Not that it mattered. Because by the time he finished with her, no matter how much sweetness and light she exuded now, she would learn to hate.

    • Connolly

      You certainly were able to build tension in this scene. Great job! I loved the way you portrayed this moment as life-changing for the heroine. I would be curious to see what this scene would look like from her POV.

  12. “What on earth are you doing here?” Her tone isn’t angry. Not in the least. If anything, it’s teasing, happy. Whoever she is, she seems delighted that the total stranger who’s been staring at her for the past hour has pursued her from the ballroom to the moonlit garden.

    “I followed you,” he confesses. “I don’t want to let you out of my sight.”

    “So I noticed.” A dimple appears, adding another dollop of irresistible charm to her elfin face. ”Flattering, if a bit disturbing. But you’re looking exceptionally handsome, so I’ll forgive you.” Her eyes dart toward the ballroom windows, where chandeliers twinkle over couples dancing to a romantic tune. “Honestly, we shouldn’t be out here, alone together.”

    He moves so close he catches her warm, feminine scent. “Yet here we are.”

    She throws her head back and laughs, a rich, throaty sound that vibrates through him. “Wicked and gorgeous! How did I get so lucky?” Her vivacious eyes devour him, widening as they reach the area just below his belt. “My goodness, you are… deliciously masculine.” The tip of her tongue moistens her luscious lips, causing his aching desire to intensify.

    “I believe you have something to do with that,” he murmurs.

    With another teasing glance, she withdraws into a hidden nook. He wastes no time following her. She turns to him, pressing against him, rising on her tiptoes to whisper into his ear, “Can’t you wait until tomorrow night?”

    Every inch of him tingling from the tickle of her breath, he pulls her closer, brushes his lips against her soft cheek. “I’d prefer not to. Why?”

    She moves to meet his mouth, tantalizing one corner with kisses. “Why? Because by this time tomorrow I’ll be legally yours, silly. Have you forgotten?”

    His overheated brain takes a moment to connect the dots. Then it hits him like a medicine ball to the solar plexus. “Oh. Oh, my God. Are you Deirdre?”

    “What? Of course I’m…” Her mouth drops open. He watches as the truth dawns on her. She draws back in horror. “You aren’t… are you…” She swallows. “Are you Neville’s twin brother?”

  13. Maurine

    This is from my romantic suspense WIP that I’m working on now. It isn’t the very first time the hero and heroine meet, but it’s the first time they share any personal information.

    Rory led Quaid into a small office in the back of the gallery and opened the closet door. A solid black tie laid across the bottom bar of one hanger, flat, untied. He frowned. This could be a challenge. He cocked his head toward the tie. “You keep a black tie handy for forgetful patrons?”

    She pulled the tie off the hanger with one gloved hand, a small smile forming. “It belonged to my husband.”

    Past tense. Did that mean the man was out of her life? Or only that the tie was out of his? Quaid loosened his tie and raised it over his head without undoing the knot. “He must be missing it.”

    She handed him the black tie and took his gray and black striped one. With her other hand she removed the hanger from the rod and placed the tie around the hook so that it hung neatly, and to his relief, still tied. “I doubt it.”

    That didn’t answer his question, but then he hadn’t asked it. He investigated a murder and she was his number one suspect. He had no business wanting to know if she had a man in her life. “Not a black tie kind of guy?”

    She shook her head. Since he still held the tie, she took it from him and flipped up his shirt collar. Slipping the tie around the back of his neck, she lined it up with the collar. “He couldn’t tie them either.”

    “You’re pretty intuitive. But, you’re right. I own five ties and they’re all hanging in my closet like that one there. Exactly as my wife left them. They ever come undone, I’m screwed.”

    She smiled and he realized he enjoyed making her smile. Wanted to do it more. Should have better sense than want it. She continued to manipulate the fabric at his neck. “The Internet has videos that show you how.”

    She didn’t take the bait and ask about his wife. Maybe she didn’t care whether he still had a wife. Or maybe she was smart enough to figure out that if he had a wife he wouldn’t worry about how he would tie those undone ties. “I might check it out, but it’s easier to leave them tied.”

    “They’ll develop a permanent crease, near the knot, like the one you took off.” She glanced up at him. “It may damage your snappy detective look.”

    He watched her hands flip one end of the tie through the knot at his throat. Mostly her right hand. Her left wasn’t as dexterous, more stiff and a little awkward. “Speaking of snappy, do you ever take off those gloves?”

    Her cheeks grew pink and she glanced at him, her golden eyes wary. “I only wear these on special occasions.”

    “Every time I’ve seen you, you’re wearing gloves. Not these particular gloves, but gloves. You ever not wear them?”

    She lowered her gaze and long lashes brushed prominent cheekbones. From his close proximity he could see faded freckles sprinkled across her cheeks like confetti. “In the shower.”

    If she tried to knock him off balance, she’d succeeded. “You mean I have to catch you in the shower to see you without gloves?”

    “You, Detective, will never catch me in the shower.”

  14. Aria Glenrose

    Time stood still as the cold dirty pavement chilled Lily’s bottom. Jordan stood over her protectively with suit jacket torn and shirt ripped open revealing his mouthwatering gym sculpted form. However, Lily wasn’t paying much attention to him, no she stared down the narrow street after the would-be mugger. Her brain had yet to fully process what happened, let alone the blood that dripped down her neck from where the knife nicked her. The world was a fuzzy haze, with her vision fixed down the street even as Jordan knelt beside her, dirtying his expensive trousers on the sidewalk.
    “Your bleeding,” his voice dripped with concern as he fished the monogrammed kerchief from his pocket and wiped away the blood, applying a bit of pressure. As close as he was she could smell that normally intoxicating cologne he wore. She wanted nothing more than to wallow in that scent and the safety it provided. No. No. No. He’s Jordan Harlow, and she refused to have thoughts like that about Jordan freaking Harlow. But when she finally focused in on him, and how near he was, she couldn’t help but to think about how easy it would be to tilt her head and lift herself a little to kiss him. The fact that the thought passed through her head at all made her clear her throat and slowly take over holding the kerchief to the small cut at her throat. Something had to be wrong with her for even contemplating how easy it would be to kiss him. Saving her life one time didn’t stop him from being the jerk who was trying to buy her family’s bookstore, the overbearing ultra-alph-male who had done nothing but attempt to poorly woo her into selling since the moment their plane touched down in Paris. However, questions flooded Lily’s mind as she stared up at him, the most prominent one, why did he put himself in harms way to save her? This was billionaire playboy Jordan Harlow, the least compassionate man on the planet who cared nothing about anything outside of his bottom line and having fun. Why would he of all people exert any effort at all, let alone put himself in harm’s way for her?
    “I… thank you.” She eventually managed to speak but she couldn’t look into those worried, drowning deep, blue eyes of his. There were emotions there she refused to deal with, even as he took her shaking hand and helped her up. Standing didn’t make it any better. All it did was make it easier for her to get drawn into the trap of those gorgeous eyes. He saved her. Despite all his faults and foibles, he went above and beyond to protect her. Gravity fought to pull her toward him, she inched close enough that she could feel the soft heat radiating from his body but stopped herself at the last minute. There was a little voice at the back of her head screaming about how wrong it was and she listened. Patting his chest she took a step back from him. “I’m sorry. I—” he took the words from her mouth with his. The kiss was deep and almost as perfect as he looked, but she broke it. She took his hand and gave it a squeeze realizing that his knuckles were split and bleeding a little. She didn’t have words, her mind was too conflicted. She kissed Jordan Harlow, the absolute last man she should have. The realization made her drop his hand quicker than if he burned her. “That was stupid. We shouldn’t have done that, you’re… and I’m… and…” She stumbled over her words. Abstractly she had wanted to kiss him since she first laid eyes on him, but she knew him well enough to know that she didn’t want anything to do with him… or did she. Nervously, she raised her eyes to his and lowered the kerchief from her throat. One night. She could forget about everything he’d said and done, and who he was normally for one night.
    “Screw it.” She raised on her toes and kissed him, wrapping hers arms around him to pull him closer as she kissed him hard, her tongue probing his mouth. But even as she explored his body with her hands she couldn’t forget that it was Jordan she was touching, Jordan who had his hands cradling her bottom as they made out like teenagers on the dark Paris street.

    • Connolly

      It was really interesting seeing how you set up the relationship as something that would be impossible long-term while having the characters give into their chemistry for the moment. I wonder if the hero has any reservations or if only the heroine is hesitant.

  15. Rosemarie De Bruin

    ‘Through here.’

    The batman held back the stained canvas flap so Jane could slip through hugging her shawl against the chill of the night air. Inside, a strong smell of sweat and blood filled her nostrils. An odour so common from her time tending the wounded in this cursed war, she hardly noticed. She heard a soft moan and stepped further into the gloom. In the dim candlelight she could make out a figure on a humble cot. He was unclothed to the waist a dirty blanket pushed aside and reason for his suffering clear from the bloodstained bandage wrapped around his torso.

    ‘Who’s there?’ His voice was low.

    ‘Jane Sir. Jane Davis, you sent for me?’

    He gestured with a hand, ‘Come, closer into the light — please.’

    As she reached his side, his features were revealed by the flickering candle. Dark hair, pushed back from his face, a patrician nose and dark eyes, however she could not make out the colour. Moisture beaded on his forehead and she knew if she touched him she would feel the burn of fever.

    ‘Mrs Davis, you have a reputation for achieving the impossible.’

    Jane shook her head, ‘Sir, I have nought but experience to guide me and the good Lord’s assistance.’

    He levered himself to an elbow, his face grew pale with the effort, but his voice remained strong.

    ‘God has abandoned me and the surgeons are bleeding me dry, I need your help.’

    ‘Sir, I will try my best but if the surgeons cannot help you I’m not sure…’

    He reached out grabbing her forearm and cutting off her words.


    His eyes glittered with fever. She was about to acquiesce, when he spoke again.

    ‘I have no care for myself, it is my son. Please help me for the sake of my son. He is little more than a babe, my wife — his mother died giving birth, I am his only kin.’

    ‘Why Sir, of course…’

    ‘You are a widow? I heard you lost you husband.’

    Jane pulled away from his grasp and looked down at her hands. ‘My husband — Jonas, he died before the battle at Waterloo sir, the cannons…’ Her mind shied away from the memory. Images so terrible they stalked her dreams every night and drove her to exhaust herself nursing broken bodies.

    He lay a hand over hers. ‘If you heal me, I will marry you. As my wife you will want for nothing, please, I beseech you.’

    Jane stared at him, her eyes grew wide. His gaze never wavered from hers. She pulled her hand away, delirium must be taking hold of his mind.

    ‘Sir, I will try with everything that is within my power to assist, but you do not have to make rash promises, it is nonsensical.’

    ‘I never fail to uphold my word. I swear to you, if I live, you will be my wife.’ He collapsed against the cot and closed his eyes.

    As Jane poured water into a basin, she studied the man before her. She felt pity well as she watched his breath catch with pain. Was she able to save him? And if it came to pass, what of the future? It was insanity for them to wed, the difference between their stations was immeasurable. And what if he knew his prospective countesses would likely swing from the gallows if she ever set foot in England again.

    • Connolly

      I really enjoyed the way that this relationship was set up; however, given the challenge, I was surprised to see that the only thing temporarily keeping the characters apart was the hero’s illness. I am certainly hoping that he recovers so that he and the heroine can be together!

  16. Pamela

    Wesley decided to wait out the festivities in an empty sitting room, adjacent to the library. He found a comfortable looking padded red velvet chair. It was probably worth more than a year’s pay. He was getting into the book about Clarali customs and traditions when the door opened. He waited, listening to see if anyone came in.
    ‘I should kill him’ a voice shrilled as the door slammed shut.
    ‘I know, I understand, shush,’ said a second voice.
    From where he sat, facing the corner of the room, the voices hadn’t noticed him.
    ‘Princess, please you must calm down.’ The second voice pleaded. Wesley slumped further into his chair. The second voice kept shushing the Princess. ‘You can’t let anyone see you in this state. The court will have a field day. It was wrong of Lord Tinsdale to go behind your back, but you can’t show it bothers you.’ The second voice drifted back to the door, ‘stay here,’ it said and the second person left the room. Wesley was considering his next move, when a white object flew across the air above him, without really thinking he whispered, ‘Statanon.’ The vase instantly froze in mid-air; mere inches from being shattered against a grim oil portrait.
    ‘What in the blazes?’ The princess shook her head in disbelief.
    Wesley stood up and plucked the vase out of the air, ‘That was a close call,’ he turned the vase around in his hands, ‘is it valuable?’
    ‘You can use magic.’ She peered at him through her dark eyelashes, Wesley swallowed his dry throat, she was one of these annoying people who looked enchanting in any mood.
    ‘I’m just learning.’ He handed her back the vase.
    ‘What are you doing in my library?’
    ‘Yours?’ Wesley pulled himself up tall, ‘this,’ he gestured to the whole room belongs to the people of the kingdom or are the royalty insincere when they garble on about peace and equality.’
    ‘I can’t believe…’ she paused looking Wesley over, ‘Who are you?’ Her eyes widened and she toyed with the vase in her hand, ‘never mind, I think you better leave now, before I can improve my aim.’

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Pamela, This reminds me a bit of that scene in Gone with the Wind where Rhett and Scarlett meet. She throws the vase and he ducks. I love Wesley’s quick thinking and the tension between him and the princess. I have the feeling they will learn a lot from each other. 🙂 Well done.

  17. Liz Harris

    Bahoret stared down at the man-sized bundle of rags infesting the darkened corner of one of the rarely used basement rooms of the Lafjul Estate. He believed there was a person in there, and that belief transformed into certainty when it shifted suddenly and took on a stance that reminded him of his master Lanval just before drawing steel. His brows rose, “I quite assure you, zefif, that whatever punishment you receive from breaking and entering or thievery will be quite dwarfed by the penalty for murder.”

    “Of all the holes I could have crawled into in these blasted ruins, I had to crawl into one equipped with an Elerite butler,” came a raspy, accented mutter from the rags. This voice was whiskey and velvet, and left the same heat as a slow, savored drink. “It’s as one, if I’m turned in. I’ll die either way.”

    The intruder stank of desperation, yet there was a steely hint of determination behind his words. Bahoret gazed coolly at the man, suspecting he had found the source of the thefts of the past few days. His duty as a servant of his highness was unmistakably clear; this man was hiding from more than the beating a charge of petty thievery would deliver. It was the man’s eyes that had him wavering. Deep, smoky pools of amber beguiled and bewitched, whispering a sincerity that threw Bahoret into turmoil. “Can you scrub a pot?”

    Surprise shook the ragged figure, dislodging the threat of violence although suspicion remained. “What?”

    Outwardly unperturbed, Bahoret simply repeated his query. He need not disturb his Highness or master Lanval with unwarranted, indefinite suspicions when he could keep an eye on this man himself. “Can. You. Scrub?”

    “I.. guess so?”

    “Good. We’re short-handed. Stand up. We’ll get you cleaned up and properly dressed, and you can begin at once.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Liz, I really like how these two characters meet and the resolution of the scene. Bahoret could have sent away the stranger but instead shows understanding and finds a way to bring him into the light. Definitely full of tension from beginning to end. Nicely done.

  18. DebRansy

               Without warning, a moose darted in between her truck and the headlights of the oncoming vehicle.  Cameron Wade hit the brakes and swerved into a snow bank.  She swore.  She was shaking from cold or fear, she wasn’t sure which. Shifting the truck into reverse, Cam tried to back out, but the bald tires made no traction. 
               The other driver emerged from his vehicle appearing at her window, and she paused for a moment before rolling down her window to talk to him. She reminded herself this was a chance encounter, but she couldn’t be too careful.
    “I can give you a pull,” he offered and she nodded, thanking him.
    She heard him attach a cable to the back of her truck, then felt the gradual tug as the bigger truck pulled the tension out of the cable.  A quick jerk told her to push the gas. She was free in an instant, her lights shining out across the frozen tundra. She waited for him to unhitch the cable, and then he was at her window again.
    “All set,” he told her. “Danny Seger.” He removed his glove and offered her his hand.  The steam coming from his mouth and the diffusion of the lights in the dark night, made it impossible for her to get a good look at him, but his hand felt warm and strong.
                “Cameron Wade.”  He paused, holding her hand longer than she thought necessary, studying her. She withdrew her hand.
                “Do you have far to go, Cameron? There’s a roadhouse two miles up, if you need to stop in and get warm.”
                “Actually, that’s where I’m going. I’ve opened the coffee shop in their old diner.”
                “Really.”  It was a statement of disbelief, incredulity, or some other startled reaction, but not a question. 
                “Thank you, again,” Cam said, by way of extracting herself.
                Danny pushed off from the side of the truck, and nodded. She gave a slight wave before she drove away. Once in his own truck, Danny called the sheriff to inform him he’d stumbled on the deceased’s wife, and she was staying at his sister’s lodge.  Danny knew he couldn’t avoid this, as much as he wanted to.
    Madsen was having no part of his reluctance.  “Okay, Seger. Find out what you can.”
                Danny began to protest.
                “Look.  She’s probably a dealer herself. Total skank. You will have her figured out in minutes. Just find out what you can about her.”
                “Total skank, heh?  Sign me up.  Can’t get enough of those.”
                “You know what I mean.  A smart FBI man like you won’t have to spend much time figuring out if she is involved.”
                “Former FBI. And I don’t know.  She seemed…”
                “Nice.  Normal.”
                “Really?  Have you read the history on her husband?”
                He had, and Danny had to admit, curiosity had him in its grip.
                “Come on, Seger.  How hard could it be?  A man of your experience up against a woman like that?  I mean Ed Wade was a petty crook and a drug dealer.  It is doubtful his wife is a mastermind.  How can you go wrong?”
                For some reason, that statement sent a chill up his spine.      

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Deb, An accident is always a good meet-cute and I like how you present a heroine who could have some heavy baggage in her past. This makes for an interesting relationship between them. Good luck!

  19. Kathryn

    The kitten was eight weeks old and a ball of fluff that mewed. It had a broken paw, which was why Trish was foster mother to it until it was well enough for a forever home. So far, she had taken care of a parakeet that had lost its feathers and consoled a frightened golden retriever to help the animal shelter. Now the sweet kitten was hers, for a time.
    She had never told anyone how much she dreaded being alone or that helping animals meant that her life was busy and complicated, and made it hard for her to do other things. Turning down popcorn and a quiz game with her friends on a Friday night was reasonable when the kitten needed an eyedropper of medicine on the hour, and for now complicated suited her fine.
    Which was why Trish didn’t notice the man follow her into the elevator, it was enough to keep a kitten upright in a box with one hand, hold a bag of pet food in the other and pull out her fob at the same time.
    “Do you mind pushing ten for me?” Trish asked her mind returning to the task of settling a kitten.
    The man didn’t move and she turned around to look at him. A big strong guy who wouldn’t stick out his hand to help. Then she remembered.
    “That guy living next to you, he’s a firefighter who is expert in high rescues. I saw him interviewed,” her friend Jesse had told her, and then laughed, “but it won’t work out between you. He doesn’t approve of pets in high rise buildings although he is this amazing looking Norwegian guy, tall and fair haired.”
    “Not liking animals suggests a level of self-absorption that I don’t understand,” Trish had retorted.
    “Lars,” he said, smiling at her ruefully. “I burnt my hands at work or I would be quicker to help a lady.”
    “Trish,” she replied automatically.
    “That has got to be painful,” she said.
    His face was flat, “what do you call that ball of fluff?”
    “Kisses,” Trish couldn’t help coloring a bit at the kitten’s name, but the man finally crooked a smile.
    The orange kitten matched her hair, but if he noticed he didn’t say anything.
    “What happened?” she asked.
    “Fire call, we had some luck,” he looked serious, “everybody got out, but luck didn’t keep my hands safe.”
    “Sometimes things go wrong, no matter how carefully you have planned,” she trailed off now, embarrassed that she had not noticed that he was hurt when he walked into the elevator. She had been looking at the kitten which kept trying to turn around on three legs and failing.
    “Is it true, that you don’t like cats OR dogs?” she blurted out the question.
    He would have answered except that he was making faces at the kitty cat.
    “You had better come for supper anyway,” she said, “you look like you could use a hand.”

  20. Charles

    Sophia stared down the bore of Ivan’s pistol. Faced with imminent death, her life seemed so short, so fleeting, so ineffectual.
    Ivan had snatched her from a remote rural mansion before Tsar loyalists could stop him. As the younger sister of Tsar Nicolas, she knew her abduction was political, but had hoped and prayed it would not come to this.
    In another lifetime she would have thought Ivan handsome but she hated him with every pore of her being. She resented everything he stood for, the end of her world, the death of her beloved brother and his beautiful family, the end of her Russia.
    She resented being forced to wear peasant garb, being dragged through the frozen countryside, lodging at dirty farms and hiding from loyalists, both white and red. She didn’t understand why Ivan hadn’t handed her over to the first band of Red Army comrades who stopped them. Instead he maintained the disguise of a young peasant couple travelling to visit family.
    But now it was all over, her life, whatever evil plans he had for her, she was going to die. And it was her fault.
    They had lodged in a small rooming house and while Ivan was joking with the proprietor, Sophia had slipped the vial she had carried in her pocket since the abduction and splashed a little on his stew. Halfway through the meal he shook his head and his eyes lids started to drift close.

    ‘Why you…you have poisoned me.’ He rubbed a hand over his face and pulled the pistol from his jacket. Slowly his eyes dimmed and his gun tracked down her body. Would he die before he pulled the trigger? Would his falling hand hit the table and fire the gun anyway?

    Sophia pulled out the vial and quickly downed the contents. If she was to die, it would be by her own hand. The the clear liquid was flavourless as it flowed over her tongue. She imagined poison would taste bitter.

    She heard laughter and glanced up to see Ivan grinning at her. The pistol had disappeared and Ivan was looking decidedly alive and well.

    “My dear Sophia, do you think I wouldn’t check your person for concealed weapons of sorts?”

    “ Who are you?” she whispered.

    Images flickered through Ivan’s mind. He thought of his stately English estate and of his time behind enemy lines during the Great War and smiled. Her highness had no idea.

    • Patience Bloom

      Wow, Charles! This was a stunner. I like the period in which you set this story. From beginning to end, this story holds the reader’s attention, and the twists make me want to keep reading. Great job!

  21. Deirdre

    Thanks to everyone for taking part in our challenge! We’ve had some challenges of our own at SYTYCW and will get back to you with our comments on Wednesday, June 27!

  22. Lakisha

    He hoped he made it in time to catch her before the plane took off. There she is standing near the large window watching the planes.
    “I figured you’d show up. Marlene turns to see Dash standing behind her. Such a fitting name for him cause whenever things started to move too fast he ran.
    “I had to see if you really are going to do this.” Dash said.
    Marlene sighed. There wasn’t much of a choice. When things started heating up he takes off. It was always some excuse. And she had enough and she discovered the reason why it was clear they couldn’t be together without putting themselves in danger.
    “You know I thought at one time you had changed. You were always leaving and then I won’t see or hear from you in days and all of a sudden you reappear and expect me to do what? Fall into your arms?
    Dash wasn’t sure what he should say. True he was always leaving but his job required much of him and as a spy he didn’t want to risk her life or the life of their baby she carried.
    “So this is it then? It’s your turn to run? Dash said.
    “I don’t know what else to tell you. Marlene said, we can’t keep this up. It’s too much. I told you they’re coming for me after you saw that package. I have to leave for the sake of the baby. We’re not safe here. You won’t be safe if I stay.
    Dash started to say something but he knew it was useless. Marlene is right. They’re only putting themselves in danger and their baby. Him being a spy and Marlene being a jewel thief. What kind of life would their child have? Not one fitting for a baby.
    “So this is it then? Dash finally said.
    “Guess so. Marlene said and kissed him. She then made her way to the airplane. Dash watches as the plane takes off for the runway. He might not ever see her again but at least he managed to get the jeweled crown she stole from the museum.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Lakisha, Now that had a few twists! Nicely done. I like the emotion between them and the little shock that they both lead dangerous, undercover lives. It made me wonder, too, how they make it work in the end, especially with a baby on the way. Well done!