Writing Challenge: The Black Moment

At So You Think You Can Write this week we talked about two elements of your novel, Character and Plot. But you can’t really separate these elements. Plot is driven by your characters’ actions and choices. And your characters’ motivations for their actions are what give the story its emotional heart. Everything comes together in the most dramatic and tension-filled scene in your book: the black moment.

What is the black moment? “This is where the hero and heroine’s conflicts culminate in a sensational, heart-stopping scene that causes the reader to question how on earth the couple will make it to the other side – together and stronger than ever!”

Your challenge this week: In a 3-5 paragraph scene, describe the black moment for your H&H.

Need advice and inspiration? Read, “The Black Moment: What it is, why do you need it and how can you make it powerful?”,  “Beefing Up Your Black Moment”, and “The Black Moment: How to raise the romantic stakes before the HEA” in our archive.

Post your scene in the comments below anytime between now and Sunday, August 25, 2019 and we’ll check back with you on Monday!

Leave a Comment

Comments

  1. Hana Sheik

    I haven’t done one of these in a long while! 🙂 Happy to be back, and this weekend challenge is a good one. This snippet is from my current WIP, a Harlequin Presents. Thanks.

    #

    “Don’t you see, I had every intent to come to you tonight without protection. As man and wife. No barriers.” And no blasted contractual marriage clauses to muddy the waters.

    Lula clutched the bedsheets closer, her white-knuckled grip on them and the tremble touching her chin and darkening her eyes warning him to leave it there. Yusuf couldn’t though. They’d danced around this very topic more dangerously this last month. And it started the moment he allowed her to slip under his skin and burrow into his heart—damn it.

    “Would it have mattered?” Lula blinked her limpid eyes, lampposts in the dark of their bedroom. Yusuf’s throat convulsed, his ears tinny with his emotional and physical fatigue and the presentiment that this fight was over even before it began. That she slipped through his fingers without so much as a struggling effort on his part to hold her to his bed. To his heart. “Would it matter, Yusuf?” This time she asked with vehemence, dropping the bedsheet and sliding out of bed.

    She stood before him naked and beautiful and baring her soul as much as her body. Lula tipped her head back to meet his stare, an unbendable, unbreakable strength of will in her eyes. One way or another she would seize an answer from him on this. On where they stood now he had thought to keep her with him in such an underhanded way.

    “It was wrong.” And he wasn’t speaking of his plotting to breed her with his heir. Watch her swell with their baby, and ensure the world of his claim on her. No, he also meant everything. Their marriage, fake or otherwise. The passionate nights through this past blissful month. Swallowing with great difficulty, he said, “I was wrong. I’ll fix it.”

    But then that too had to be the wrong move because Lula wiped furiously at the single tear rolling down her cheek and she whirled from him, left their bedroom, and a second later the bathroom door slammed shut. The frame shuddering with the force. The lock snicking into place. Doing more than just separating him from her for the time being. Unequivocally her way of saying they were over. They were done with this marriage and with each other.

  2. Ann Allen

    Sorry if this a bit long, but it’s so hard to get all the oomph into it…

    His gaze was intent on her. “Ellie, I don’t know the details. But I’m talking exclusive, long term. What that means, we need to work out together.”
    Ellie flinched inside. This man could gut her without even trying.
    “What’s the matter, Ellie?” His voice was low. He’d seen her reaction.
    She let herself reach out, stroke the strong jaw, rough now with stubble. She wasn’t going to be able to do this again.
    “Five years ago, when we met, I was supposed to marry Carl, have the white picket fence you talked about, with the two kids.” She pressed her finger on his lips when he opened them to speak.
    “I wasn’t ready for that then. I wasn’t brave enough to discuss it with him, but I had this ambition, a drive to do something. That was part of the reason I accepted the offer to go on tour with Static. I knew I was playing with fire, but it gave me a chance to feed that ambition, do what I wanted without actually sitting down with Carl and talking about how I felt.”
    Logan was still watching her. He understood she was going somewhere with this.
    “And despite how horrible parts of this was, I did it. I became someone, someone people knew, and I wrote a book, and made a bunch of money.
    “But now, that ambitious part of me is happy. I’ve done that. All that restlessness is gone. Now, I want what I gave up before. I’m ready for the white picket fence, and the house and husband and kids.
    “As much as I want to be with you, I want this other too. And that’s going to mess us up. It’s not what you want, it’s exactly what you don’t want.”
    She could see Logan’s expression tighten up.
    “I didn’t get over you in five years. I don’t know how long it’s going to take now, but I need to start or I’ll never be able to satisfy that need. And I don’t want you to feel that pressure coming from me.”
    Logan rolled away from, sat up on his side of the bed. She watched the muscles moving on his back as he gripped his head in his hands. She’d never see those tattoos again, never trace the lines, follow them with her tongue.
    She bit her lip. She dragged in a breath, because she could fall apart later.
    Logan reached down, grabbed his jeans and pulled them on. Ellie concentrated on breathing, on tamping down how she was feeling, on not crying.
    He pulled on his t-shirt and stood up. He walked over to the door, shoved his feet in his boots. Only then did he turn to look at her.
    She felt that look in her soul. He might not love her, but this connection was strong. Severing it hurt on both sides.
    “You’re sure Ellie?” he asked.
    She nodded, not trusting her voice.
    His gaze wandered over her, and she felt it like a touch. Then he turned and left.

    • Connolly

      While I really appreciated the tension in this scene, I felt like I was missing some of the context that would further clarify the situation. I believe Logan has just said he doesn’t want a life with a white picket fence and kids, and Ellie’s now saying that’s what she wants. However, I couldn’t tell how Carl fit into the situation. Does he represent the life style she now wants or does she specifically want to get back together with him? Again, I think this is something that would have been clear with slightly more context, so, with that in mind, I can certainly say that you certainly created a moment where readers wonder how Ellie and Logan will find a way back to each other.

    • Ann Allen

      Thanks for the comments – it’s hard to condense a black moment into such a short space when there’s so much context set up in the rest of the story!
      In case any one wonders about this one, Ellie was with Carl when they met five years ago, and that relationship broke up because she wasn’t ready to settle down before she had a chance to reach for her dreams. Logan was there, using her ambition to convince her to risk a fling with him.
      Logan has never been a white picket fence guy, and when he and Ellie reconnected, he explained why his past has made that option a non-starter. Now he’d like to pick up where they left off years ago, making what is for him a big commitment, but Ellie now wants more.

  3. Chrissie

    “Jump in. I’ll help you through the passage.” Caroline’s shout echoed in what remained of the open sea cavern. She removed her shorts and pulled her t-shirt over her head. She wasn’t worried about anything but survival. The less holding her down, the better chance she had of moving with the current’s flow. The danger was the fast approaching sunset. Without light to navigate the underwater cave tunnels, she might not make it.

    “No,” Josh shouted above the ocean’s roar as it consumed the cave opening in a surge of saltwater. “This is my last screw up and—”

    Too late, she had to dive under or the retreating suction would pull her along the wrong path and she would drown. She had to let him go and swim out of the cavern. She held her breath until she was sure her lungs would burst, then held on longer as she shoved and pulled her way through the wicked juts of rock that formed a pathway to the open sea.

    Caroline surfaced with a gasp for air. She was beyond the cave passage. She made it. She’d survived. Overall, it only took a couple minutes, but her entire life flashed before her eyes in the murky water.

    She swam toward the horizon through the rough surf. She had to make it beyond the incoming tide’s pull to certain death against the rocky cliff. Pausing for breath, she stared back at where the cave opening had been minutes ago. Waves crashed against the solid granite wall that shot straight up towards the sky.

    No sign of Josh. He didn’t even try. He was gone.

    • Connolly

      You did a nice job of creating a really high-tension scene. I was on the edge of my seat! Yet, I think that if we heard the end of Josh’s statement, we might have a greater sense of the hero and the heroine having no likelihood of getting back together. After all, we don’t really know what Josh is choosing over Caroline. While Caroline is incredibly upset at the end of this passage, I don’t get the sense yet that their relationship is fundamentally broken. You are definitely heading in the right direction, though.

    • Chrissie

      Connolly – thanks for the nice comments! I knew if I posted this partial scene it would be taken in a different way. He is her ex and has held her captive and she is escaping him but feels guilty he isn’t as good a swimmer and hesitates to leave him behind, but knows timing is everything to her survival and he made his choice. The previous paragraphs lead up to this scene and explain it better but I tried to stay within the 3-5 paragraphs. 🙂

  4. Therese fingered the note inside and the promise to see her here. She saw an organization official and called her over. “Excuse me, is Thomas Pelt still here?”
    “No,” the woman answered. “I called a car for him myself this morning. Straight to the airport. He’s off to help us out with a situation in Asia.”
    “Asia? That’s not in Michele’s region.”
    The woman shook her head. “Don’t tell Michele but I hear he specifically requested to cut all ties from his deployment here. After hearing what that man went through, I can’t blame him. Could you?”
    Therese could not find any breath to form a response so she just simply shook her head and fled the office. She ran down the stairs and out the door. As she stood on the sidewalk, she looked up at the sky and said, “Je te deteste, Thomas Pelt! Je te deteste!”
    She made her way back to the hotel and gathered her things. She tossed his flowers in the trash and ripped up his note to join it in the trash before turning in her key and heading to the airport for her flight.

    • Connolly

      Nicely done! It is clear from this scene that the hero and the heroine are (possibly literally) heading in opposite directions. I don’t know how they’ll work things out, but I’d be curious to find out!

  5. Bryce gave Alicia a sad smile and reached inside his suit jacket. He extracted a dove-grey envelope. The same colour and size as the ones currently being collected by Constable Canterbury.

    Involuntarily, Alicia’s lips parted as she stared at her bodyguard, her friend, the man she’d trusted with every aspect of her life. He stepped forward to surrender his personal instruction. Proof he’d participated with the other staff. He was involved in the deception surrounding her father’s disappearance. Her eyes were locked on the envelope as it was passed over.

    Bryce had never breathed a word to her. Alicia looked up into his velvet brown eyes still unwilling to believe he’d betray her trust like this, but found only sorrow and regret in his gaze.
    “I’m sorry, Alicia. I can-”

    “No,” she said the denial no louder than a whisper, yet it held steel. She inhaled and then stood, getting a grip on her stunned disbelief. “I need to get back to the hospital.” She gathered her coat and purse.

    Bryce stepped closer, inside her personal space. “I’ll drive you, then we can talk.” His eyes intense.

    She could feel the heat radiate off his body and breathed in aftershave combined with his personal scent. She wanted desperately to ask why and how he could do this to her. Scream at him or something, he hurt her, but there were other people in the room. She had to leave, had to get a chance to think. She thought he loved her, he’d never actually said the words, but his touch told her…no. Apparently not. She’d been a means to an end. “No, I don’t think I know you, not at all.”

  6. Hayden called Grace into his study early the next morning, after an exhausting night of sleeplessness.  She came with a steaming cup of coffee between her cradling hands, smiling tenderly as she seated herself across from him.  
                When he spoke, his voice fractured voice held a certainty which, when coupled with the severe frown he wore, set alarm bells off in Grace’s head.
                “I don’t want you to leave,” he told her.  “I want you to stay here on the farm, and I will go.”
                “I never said I was going to leave.  I don’t want to leave.  What are you talking about?”
                He continued as if he had not heard her.  “I assure you, you’ll have all of the financial support you’ll need.  I’ve put your name on my account at the bank, and you have full access to the sum there.  I’ll keep money in it, to the best of my ability.  Rupert will work the farm, and split the profit, if there is any, with you. I do have considerable savings, which if you’re careful, will be sufficient.”  He stopped and took an unsteady breath.  “I want you to keep Caroline with you.” 
    He lifted himself from his chair and went to the window.  “I think it would be best for her if you raised her.  I know you love her and will give her the best care possible.”
                “Hayden…”
    Something was terribly wrong, more than Olivia’s death.  No, she sensed the resolution in Hayden’s tone stemmed from something hidden.  The deep, ugly thing which had tormented him had finally reared its horror, brought on, obviously by Olivia’s death.  Hayden had seen too much death in his lifetime.  And now he was talking about leaving, of separating himself from the only family he had left.  He must, indeed, be harboring something unfathomable and dark.  She braced herself for battle. 
    “I won’t let you leave,” she told him.  “I love you.”
                Hayden remained expressionless.  “You’ll change your mind when I tell you what I have to say.”
                “I’m not the fickle simpleton you give me credit for being,” she admonished.  “I’m made of tougher stuff than you seem to think.”
                Hayden’s laugh was hard and bitter.  He walked over to where she sat and stood rigidly in front of her.  “My dearest, Grace.”  He put his hand against her cheek and lifted her chin, searching her face for a long, breathless moment. “I’m afraid we can’t escape the situation the fates have put us in.”
    Grace had never been more scared in her life.  A tear rolled, gently clinging to her cheek, finally giving way to the force sending it plummeting to her breast.  Hayden leaned over and placed a tender kiss on her lips.
                “I can’t go on like this,” he whispered mostly to himself as he stood.

  7. Patricia L

    From a WIP:

    Kendall had a moment where it all began to come back, as if a montage of footage from a bad dream. The anonymous note that was left on the kitchen counter, went on to explain that Patience has been keeping secrets from him and even informed him on where to find them. Patience did have a drawer in the kitchen that she liked to lock. He’d be lying to himself if he didn’t get curious now and again, as to what was in it. He’d noticed her on two occasions, sneaking paperwork into it. Considering her accusations towards him recently, he wondered what kind of secrets his fiancé has been hiding from him.

    Kendall could see Patience speaking with Krystal outside on the porch. He’d heard about the aftermath of the girls trip to Jamaica. He’d even been accused of partaking in some of the responsibility of what happened. He’d also heard from the other guys that it all started when their women had a falling out over an incident that happened months ago which just came to light. Kendall didn’t play the role Patience thought of him but he had a hard time convincing her otherwise. Now Kendall wondered if Patience felt that way out of her own guilt.

    Kendall peered into the living room as he could hear the front door close and watched as Patience headed upstairs. He places a hand to him mouth in critical thought. Right now, his curiosity was getting the best of him. The anonymous note said that although Patience appeared all poised and together on the surface, they thought he should know that she wasn’t who she seemed. It didn’t help that Kendall has his own suspicions that Patience was indeed too secretive about some things. They’d grown up together and when he went to prison, he never thought they’d see each other again. Yet, here they were. She was the top agent at her firm, they’d managed to stick things out. He was doing his best to get things done despite his record and now they had a family.

    Kendall grabbed a screwdriver and went to work. He’d soon regretted it, as the contents were revealed. Kendall noticed the bank statements first, so he picked them up and went through them. Kendall then noticed more paperwork. It was a fertility schedule and a letter to Patience from an obstetrician’s office regarding freezing her eggs. Kendall didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that she had a plan and it didn’t include him…or did it? Judging from the paperwork, she didn’t need him financially. Kendall stood in awe as he realized he could never give her what she wanted with money like this. However, he thought of their baby daughter, Kadie. Of course. It all makes sense now. Why didn’t he see this? It seemed Patience only needed a man for one thing. How could he not see what his role was with her all this time?

    “Patience!” He yells angrily.

    Patience came running downstairs and noticed Kendall had papers in his hands. She’d just put the baby down for a nap. Patience started to tell Kendall about how he should keep his voice down, until she noticed her locked drawer open. Worse, Kendall showed Patience the paperwork she’d been keeping from him. Kendall was livid.

    “Kendall-”

    “No.. After all of this time, I just knew we’d gotten to a good place. I know I am not the man you expected but you said you could handle my past. My record. You said it didn’t matter what I had or didn’t have that you’d love me all the same. That I was your rock and your protector. That we’d managed to get so far. But now? Now it appears I’m just a sperm bank to you?!”

    Patience didn’t know what to say. How’d he find those?

    “Where did you get this!?”

    “Your secret drawer over here?” He gestured angrily at the now popped open drawer. “So this is where you keep all your secrets!? Right under my nose! Your bank accounts!” He yells as he tossed the papers at her. “A fertility schedule!? Did you ever love me?! Or was I just a plan B?!”

    “Kendall, how did you get those!?”

    “Are you at least going to deny this?!”

    “How about we sit down and talk about thi-”

    “How about I just leave? You obviously don’t need me! Is that what this was all this time? Huh?! I was your back up plan?” He says obviously hurt and angry.

    Patience never intended for him to find or open her secret drawer. Kendall has this all wrong. He didn’t understand why she was doing this. She didn’t want him to feel like less than a man. Patience knew that if he knew how much she made and that she’d wanted a family for so long, he might not have stuck around…

    • Deirdre

      These two certainly have a lot of secrets between them! I would love to know more about what’s motivating Patience and Kendall, to add emotional weight to their conflict. Thanks for writing!

  8. Taffy Marie

    In front of Jenny was an incredible Amish feast: fried chicken, sweet and sour pickles, fluffy mashed potatoes and for dessert, shoo-fly pie. She couldn’t eat a single bite, though.
    I never should have eaten even a single bite of shoo-fly pie. Ever, she thought. Or whoopie pie. Or drunk a single pint of homemade root beer. Even though she walked for hours in the fields of Lancaster, Pennsylvania with a gas-powered weed-wacker, she still could not lose the twenty pounds that had haunted her since she finished the eighth grade in the one-room schoolhouse.
    “Don’t you want your chicken?” Eric asked her.
    “I’m not hungry,” she admitted.
    “I hope you’re not getting sick.” Dear, sweet Eric. He pretended not to notice her rounded hips and full breasts under her blue dress. He himself was so handsome. He could get any woman he wanted, a woman with blonde hair, not brown, and someone who was tall and willowy. She had been forced to enter a loveless marriage with her first husband, but now he was gone, leaving her a single mother with three rambunctious sons. Eric was such a help: he fixed her fence, raised her barn, saved her son from the rampaging bull, and then castrated him. The bull, not her son.
    She loved him. But he would not marry a plump widow when he could have a slender virgin. He would be nothing but her friendly neighbor. He was there to tell her he would not marry her. That was why he was asking her to dinner, she just knew it. So how could she eat?

    Eric watched as Jenny picked at her food. She was so beautiful. He loved a woman with curves. He longed for the night after their long wedding when he could peel off her kapp and see her chestnut hair tumble to her waist.
    That would never be, though. He could still hear his father raging, a bottle of Scotch in his hands.
    “You’re nothing but a bum! No woman will ever want you! Look at me, your mother ran off with an Argentinian playboy. And I’m a better man than you’ll ever be!”
    “No you’re not!”
    “Excuse me?” Jenny asked. “I’m not what?”
    “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m thinking of my father. I didn’t realize I had spoken aloud.”
    “He was a wonderful man, Bishop Zook.”
    “No, I meant my biological father.” Finally, he had abandoned him in Hershey Park. If the bishop hadn’t taken him in, he’d be stuck in the “Englisch” foster care system, a ward of Pennsylvania. He’d have more electronics, perhaps, but no love.
    He had never felt love until he was twelve years old, and he couldn’t comprehend it. He had learned too late. He was a fool to think Jenny could love a man so damaged by child abuse and abandonment. Jenny, with her soulful brown eyes and smile that could light up a room like a kerosene lamp. She deserved a man like Aaron Zook, a man who knew nothing but happiness and stability, who would probably become bishop someday himself. Who didn’t have nightmares at night and had been Amish all his life. His father was right. No woman would ever want him.
    He loved Jenny, as much as he could love anybody. But today he would have to let her go.

    • Deirdre

      Eric and Jenny seem so perfect for each other, it’s hard to imagine their black moment won’t be overcome. But that didn’t stop me from really enjoying the humor, emotion and description in your scene, Taffy Marie. Well done!

  9. “If you have a problem, you know where the door is.”

    “Daniel!” She pulled out of his arms. “Stop doing this to yourself! If I am the one to leave, it will be because you’ve broken my heart, not because I think you’re lusting after stupid gemstones! You have tried over and over again to prove that you’re more than your DNA. You’ve amassed a fortune; you run peaceful mines; you make good decisions and you stand by your business partners. But you are still afraid! What sets you apart is not your business empire, it’s who you are!”

    Her accusation that he was afraid made him want to rebel and break something. Fear was paralysing. He couldn’t keep still and let the past hurt him. She cut too close.

    “Do you think you know who I am?” He wasn’t sure he did himself.

    She straightened her shoulders in a familiar move that made him want to offer her everything. “I do. Because I love you.”

    Silence echoed around the bedroom and seeped into the emptiness inside him. She couldn’t love him. No one else ever had. She’d refused to marry him. She wouldn’t stay any more than anyone else had, especially not now when all he had to say to her was that he couldn’t return her love. If he’d wanted her out of his life, this was as good a way as any.

    “Manu…” It was supposed to come out like a warning. Instead, his voice was choked. “Only you, Manu, would be so foolish.” He settled his palm on his chest. “There’s nothing here capable of returning love.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      – Nice, tense scene, Leonie! I’m curious about the romantic stakes for your heroine, admitting her love aloud and the risks to her but you’ve portrayed nicely what they are for your hero. Thanks for doing our challenge!

  10. From my current wip, written this afternoon:
    —————-
    Feeling Peter’s shudder, Kara stepped back slightly.

    “Mother, no.” Peter’s clipped tone sliced right through her as well. “I’ve been doing things for you practically all day. In addition to that, now I have to make up all the lessons I cancelled. I need to talk to Kara. Now. It’s urgent.”

    “So you can’t be bothered to help your own mother, even when she falls and just about breaks her ankle.” The whining voice was suddenly much stronger.

    Kara’s stomach twisted, and extra moisture swam in her eyes. “I’ll go,” she choked. Anything, to get away from this miserable…bitch…of a self-pitying woman!

    But Peter’s strong hand once again clasped hers and clearly wasn’t going to let go. “No, Kara,” he said in a low voice. “She’s being…a spoiled brat, frankly. We’ll go upstairs to talk.” He pulled Kara into the living room without even giving her a chance to shed her jacket and books. “Mother – Darlene – this is Kara Ames. My girlfriend. Kara teaches fourth grade at Riel Park Elementary.”

    For a hideous, excruciating moment, Kara met the blue-eyed, skewering gaze of Peter’s bleached-blonde-haired mother.

    Mrs. McMahon’s lipsticked mouth opened, and her jaw dropped. “That…slut! Peter! You wouldn’t!”

    Kara didn’t know how she managed, but somehow she broke free of Peter’s grip. She stumbled down the snowy front steps, nearly falling on her face. Safely back in her car, she hammered her fists on the wheel and screamed as furious tears streaked down her face. No matter what happened with her ex – and the stalking – she was never, ever, going to speak to Peter McMahon again.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Nice job, Allison – you’ve certainly brought the external conflict to a head, with Peter’s mother clearly not wanting them together. Don’t forget to bring the characters’ emotional obstacles into this a bit more, though. What inner, emotional obstacles – apart from the external obstacle of Peter’s mother – are keeping them from falling for each other and how does that build to a head in this moment? Thanks for participating in our challenge!

  11. Fiona Marsden

    Logan looked down at her, something chilling in his pale eyes. “I have to go. As soon as I can organise a locum, I’ll be leaving.”
    “What about the children?” Rachel gripped his sleeve, as if that would stop him.
    He carefully peeled her fingers away. “I’ll pay child support. They can contact me by email. Skype maybe.”
    “That’s not the same as being here, being a father to them.”
    “They managed for twelve years without me. The last few months were a mistake. I’m sorry.”
    Rachel searched his face. “I don’t understand. Talk to me Logan. Tell me why you’re abandoning everything. Your parents, this clinic. Us. Your family.” With rare control, she managed not to add that emotive word “again”.
    “Not my family. Your family, Rachel. I can’t be a part of that. I can’t marry you. It’s a small town. They expect happy endings. As long as I’m here, they’ll be watching. Talking. Wondering why.”
    With a snort, Rachel turned away, staring out the window with eyes that saw nothing. “Don’t insult me with excuses. I’m not asking you to marry me. All I want is for you to be here for the children. They love you. They need you.”
    “But you don’t need me, do you?”
    What could she say to that? Her heart screamed its need but he was going away again. She’d begged him not to leave her once, all those years ago. He’d gone away and made sure not to come home for twelve years. “Why would I need you? I want someone I can rely on not to run when things get tough.”
    She could almost hear him clamping his mouth shut. So. Damned. Controlled. What she wouldn’t give to see him out of control just once.
    Spinning on her heel, she turned to face him. His mouth was thin and his jaw tense with emotion. “Look, Logan. You need to stay. You have your contract here. You’re getting the clinic up to speed, you have your parent’s health to consider. It’s easier if we leave. We have nothing to keep us here.”
    Something shifted in his expression, a bleakness in those enigmatic eyes. “If that’s what you think best. I know you’d planned on it before I came home.” He flicked something invisible off his cuff. “Naturally I’ll give you all the assistance I can.”
    “I don’t need your help, Logan. I…we…don’t need anything from you. I’ll call the real estate agent and let her know the house is available if the buyers are still interested.”
    He wanted to protest. She could see it in the flicker of a nerve on the side of his jaw. Instead he inclined his head. “As you wish.”

  12. Sally Freytag

    Richard Blake was standing over by the windows, hands in his pockets, shoulders slightly hunched, staring out across the grass and gravelled forecourt. Jude stopped dead, her breath hissing silently from her body as she absorbed the shock.
    Gone were the faded jeans and casual shirt, but there was no disguising those shoulders, the height, the head of thick brown hair, the muscular, lithe grace of his body, now clad in an impeccable, expertly tailored, dark-grey suit.
    Adam.
    Richard Blake.
    What was going on?
    He spoke coldly, without turning around. ‘Thank you for coming to see me, Miss Drayton. I shouldn’t take up too much of your time.’
    ‘I hardly had any choice,’ Jude said hoarsely, her voice dry, shock washing through her, her body shaking with dismay.
    The man at the window froze. Then slowly he withdrew his hands from his pockets and turned.
    ‘You!’ In his eyes she saw equal shock, and, as she had feared, disappointment and a flash of uncontrolled anger before his expression became masked. Only his tightly clenched fists betrayed his agitation.
    ‘Quite,’ Jude responded, recovering some of her equilibrium. ‘You!’ She held her body tight against the continued trembling, hoping the pounding of her heart wouldn’t be audible in the silent room.
    ‘What the hell are you doing here? I asked to see Miss Drayton, not her PA! Miss Drayton…she must be older? Much older?’ There was a note of panic in his voice. He hated Drayton. Anna…how could she be Jude Drayton? He didn’t think he could bear to know.
    ‘Sorry to disappoint in the matter of age, but I’m not Miss Drayton’s PA,’ Jude replied crisply. ‘I’m Jude Drayton herself.’
    ‘Then on Saturday, you deliberately misled me?’
    ‘I think, on Saturday, I was not the only one to be misleading…Adam,’ she replied sharply.
    His face coloured slightly as he accepted the truth of her acerbic comment. ‘Adam is my middle name,’ he said bitterly.
    ‘Anna is my middle name too,’ she said drily, crossing to a chair and sitting down. ‘Well, well…what a coincidence! We’d agreed not to discuss Aurora Technology. I was happy to escape for a day, as I think you were as well. Equally guilty, perhaps?’
    How appalling to discover that Adam and her apparent enemy, Richard Blake, were the same person! She’d wondered if she would see him and how he’d react. Well, now she had her answer, and she knew the reaction would be even worse than she’d imagined. It was bad enough when she’d thought Adam was Richard Blake’s personal assistant. Catastrophic that it turned out he was Richard Blake himself. She glanced across at him and was shocked by the expression of contempt and self-loathing she saw on his face. Why did he hate her so much? It couldn’t just be linked to improving the factory, surely?

    • Katie Gowrie

      Intriguing scene, Sally! Something about this made me feel that this is a great launching point for a romance to unfold, rather than just a final moment of conflict. However, I agree with Patience that your second scene has lots of dramatic tension and gives of feel of everything coming to a head! Nicely done.

  13. Sally Freytag

    ‘You told Mark Langley about my software development idea! He came to David this afternoon. He came to David and showed him copies of the very same notes I’d emailed to David…and you…the very same notes! He knew every last detail of my ideas!’ Richard’s voice was shaking with anger and pain.
    Not for the loss of his ideas. He could bear that. It was the knowledge that it had been Jude…Jude…who had betrayed his trust and destroyed him after he’d worked so hard to trust her, to overcome what he believed about her when he’d first come to Aurora.
    Jude recoiled from his accusation. ‘What did the email say?’ she demanded. ‘Tell me! What did this email say?’
    ‘Eh? I-I don’t know.’
    ‘I’d like to see it. I’d like to check my email on my computer and see when it was sent.’ Jude was beginning to realise she’d probably been set up. ‘I think,’ she said carefully, eyeing Richard to gauge his reactions, ‘this might have been planned deliberately. Perhaps by the same person who sent those reports to you?’
    Richard groaned. ‘Conspiracy theory? Spare me.’ He put his hand out to steady himself on the back of a chair.
    ‘You can’t believe this of me…I thought you knew me…why couldn’t it have been planned?’
    Making his way back to the tray of drinks, he uncapped the whisky bottle, paused and stared at her. ‘I could almost applaud,’ he said slowly, scathingly, enunciating his words with care. ‘There’s one thing you see-seem to have forgotten in all this. Who knew about this software? I did. David did. His team did. You did. Now who, out of all that lot, would want to conspire against you, tell me that? Who, out of all that lot, had access to the safe? And who, out of all that lot, had access to your computer? Eh? Tell me that?’ His words were thickly spoken, cold and bitter. They fell icily into the silence of the room.
    Jude stood indecisively. Her world was collapsing around her. This was a living nightmare. Her unknown enemy was succeeding beyond his wildest dreams. Jude was sure he hadn’t intended her to die by inches. Or perhaps he had…he’d certainly shown no mercy so far in his attempts to oust her from the company.
    ‘Ian?’
    ‘Ian?’ There was mocking amazement in his voice. He put the bottle down with a sharp crack onto the tray and lifted the glass to his mouth, swallowing rapidly. ‘Ian?’ he repeated, with even more amazement. ‘Why pick on Ian? He was down in the Midlands, remember? How could he have set this up? And how could he have known about this software? We kept it a secret, Jude. We kept it a secret, eh? You, me ‘n’ David.’
    ‘Isn’t it possible he heard something? Saw something? Some of the ideas you roughed out? Or talked to the engineers?’ She knew she sounded desperate. She knew she wasn’t fighting for anything as mundane as a job here. She was fighting for Richard. Her love. Her whole life.
    ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!’ He waved a finger at her. ‘What an imagination! Hell, Jude! Why not admit it? Cut your…cut your losses gracefully and scarper off back to Langley.’ Voice breaking, he turned back to the drinks table, blindly trying to set the glass down. He dropped his face into his hands as the empty whisky glass fell onto the floor.
    Despite a small voice inside him saying the Jude he now knew might not have – no, couldn’t have – done this, the doubts caused by his father’s behaviour and the reports that had come at him four times each year were insistent, loud, overwhelming.
    ‘Richard…I can only repeat, I didn’t do this! I can’t make you believe me, but I thought…I thought after what we’d shared-’ Jude’s heart was breaking. She was dismayed that he appeared to believe what was happening instead of seeing it had to be designed to bring her down. Her email! It was certainly some justification for Richard’s reaction.
    ‘Shut up!’ He whirled round to face her. ‘Shut up! How ca…can you…shut up!’
    She stared back with steady pride. ‘I thought,’ she repeated in a careful voice, tears threatening at every moment now, ‘that you would at least listen to my side of this and maybe come to the conclusion the whole thing stinks, but it seems I was mistaken…and this…’ she gestured wildly with her hand, encompassing herself, Richard, the house, ‘didn’t mean the same to you as it did to me.’
    She turned away, unable to continue speaking, her throat choking with tears she would not allow herself to shed in front of him and walked out of the sitting-room, out of the house, into the gathering dusk of the summer evening, her heart aching with the pain of his rejection, his breaking of the passionate promises he’d made only a few weeks ago.
    Left alone, Richard sank down into a chair and dropped his head into his hands. ‘Yes, go,’ he whispered brokenly. ‘Go! Do you hear me? Damn you…get out of my life!’ His words fell like stones into the silence of the room.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Sally, Excellent dramatic tension between Richard and Jude. There is good reason on both sides for them to be upset and they don’t seem to give each other a chance to explain/forgive. In revisions, I would add a bit more about their emotional connection and physical description. Nicely done overall!

  14. Carolyn R Van Dyke

    This is my first time doing something like this. I hope this is what this is about.
    ********
    “Angie, can you hear me?” I hear Mariah’s voice and I think to myself that I am glad that it must have been just a bad dream, because she is still calling me Angie and it sure feels like I am on a bed and not the floor. “Angie, wake up. Jason, I can’t get her to come around. Do you think she did it this time?” Jason? Oh no! Then it wasn’t a dream.

    “I don’t think so, Mariah. I can only find a couple of cuts on her hand, and those aren’t…Oh no!” I feel Jason moving my hand around until he must have spotted something. There is now an urgency in his voice and it scares me enough to try harder to open my eyes. “Mariah, call 911 and get Matthew in here now.” I keep trying to open my eyes until I can barely get them open just a slit. Jason sees that and immediately focuses his attention on my face. There is an urgency in his voice as he tries to calmly talk to me. “Honey, you have to stay awake right now. Please, Honey, don’t close your eyes again, okay?” I give him a weak smile. When Matthew comes into the room I see him come over to the bed and settle down next to it with a first aid box that he must have run after from the bus. Jason keeps talking to me during the whole time that Matthew is bandaging my arm. “Honey, I love you. Matthew is going to bandage your arm. Did you know that he use to be a medic in the Army? He has seen everything. Honey, please don’t leave me. Not again. Baby, Mariah has called her boss and quit her job, so she can come with you out to Colorado. Why don’t I have her call your doctors and see what she can set up. Would that be okay?” I try to nod. “It might be a good change of pace for you to get out of the area for a while, so why don’t we catch the next flight that we can and get out there? I know that you will like what I have done to the place. I made it 100% according to your plans.” I give him a weak smile. “Lots of windows in each apartment and lots of privacy, but a great room with a kitchen attached to it so that everyone can get together if they want to. Each of the four bathrooms has a Jacuzzi tub, and there are a total of three, yes three, hot tubs. One for each apartment and one big one for everyone. I remembered how much you liked the idea of having a hot tub. There are also two saunas, and I have contracted with a friend of mine that does massage to be available if I ever need him.” He looks down at me and sees that even though my eyes are open my face is pale and my breathing is difficult. He looks up at Matthew and there is concern in his eyes,
    Matthew gets my arm all bandaged up and then goes and looks around the bathroom. He motions Mariah to come over to look at something, and when she sees the empty bottle of pills, she lets out a low moan.

    “I thought she got rid of those!”

    “What were they?”

    “They were for the pain in her arm, but she told me that she got rid of them because she didn’t like the way they made her feel.” She looks over at me and sighs. “Poor Angie, all she wanted was to see Jason, and all this happens. I knew that last night and this morning was hard on her, but I had no idea that she even thought like that anymore.”

    Matthew looks at Jason and me on the bed, where they had moved me after I blacked out. “I don’t think that she does think that way anymore, but the trauma of everything may have just pushed her over the edge. I don’t know what will happen to Jason if she succeeds this time. It will tear him apart.”

    I look up at Jason and see the anguish on his face. I try to whisper that I am sorry, but I doubt that he could even hear me. There is a tortured look on his face and I know that I am responsible for putting it there. I see him looking down at me and I try to smile, but I feel so weird, like I can’t move a thing. I start to panic and he sees that in my eyes.

    “Honey, don’t worry, the paramedics are on their way here. I love you. I will be right there with you the whole time, okay?” Right then there is a pounding on the door and Mariah runs to get it. Before I know it I am being put on a stretcher and taken away from Jason. I try to find him, but I can’t. I start to panic and unfortunately I start to hyperventilate. Jason, pushing between two paramedics is the last thing that I see as I lose consciousness again.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Carolyn, You most certainly did write a dark moment where the heroine is in that bleak spot and all seems lost. Angie seems to be in dire straits and I hope that she gets the help that she needs! Good job of setting up that moment of tension and desperation.

  15. Harriet felt the blood drain from her face almost as quickly as the bile surged up from her stomach and into the back of her throat. Swallowing hard, she willed herself to keep her composure. This was enemy territory and any sign of weakness would be noticed and exploited by the women in the room.

    Glancing at the revealing photos in front of her, Harriet didn’t need to read the caption to get the gist of the story. She felt gutted. How could she have been so careless, so foolish as to expose herself and Jack? These pictures would be all over social media by now, and the scandal she’d been so anxious to avoid would be gathering speed exponentially.

    Six weeks ago, Harriet’s only goal had been to make it through the wedding without bringing down another tabloid scandal on herself and Jack. So much had happened in those six weeks. So much hope, so much heartache. These pictures blew that away.

    All that remained was naked humiliation and personal disaster. Jack, her job, her fragile family footing – all gone. Lost because of her carelessness. Squaring her shoulders, Harriet pressed her balled fist into the pit of her stomach to stem the upsurge of nausea.

    The buzz of voices throbbed in her ears, hitting a crescendo as the door burst open and Jack stalked in. The subsequent silence sucked all the oxygen from the room as the closed the door with an ominous click.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Kate, Oh my goodness! I can understand the heroine’s anxiety with being painfully exposed online. A unique black moment. I hope she and Jack can get through it! Well done.

    • Dear Ms. Bloom, thank you so much for your feedback and kind encouragement. I hope they get through it too, or I’ll have to think of a different ending (and different ideal publisher). Cheers!

  16. Tom stood staring at her for the longest time before he answered, his voice controlled, “You want me to take another chance on you? Now that you’re divorced, you thought you could just waltz back into my life and pick up right where we left off?”
    “No, it’s not like that,” Ariel’s heart was racing, pounding in her ears, making it difficult to think of what to say.
    “It sounds just like that to me.” He started to turn toward the door, his expression one of disappointment or disgust, she wasn’t sure.
    In desperation, Ariel stood up, making a move toward him, “Please don’t go. I have no intentions of hurting you again.”
    “When I left for college, you knew I was coming back by Christmas break. You couldn’t even wait that long. Before I returned, you were married! Why would I trust you again?”
    Ariel was torn inside. If he knew the truth, he wouldn’t have said such a thing. If she told him, he would stay, but telling her secret would hurt more people than just her. People she cared about deeply. As he reached for the doorknob, she knew she had only seconds to decide. He threw her one last glance to which she could only plead with her eyes in unspoken agony.
    As she stood strangely planted to the floor, the door closed behind him, perhaps forever.

  17. A muscle in Maz’s cheek twitched after he spoke, and Petal knew exactly how this farce of a negotiation would end. Hope plummeted faster than an anchor towards the hollow pit that used to be her stomach. The almost imperceptible tick was the Wild West equivalent of a gunslinger loosening his fingers then hovering a steady hand over a low-slung gun holster. In the throes of deep contemplation was no place for a rogue time traveler. In Petal’s experience, the intersection of Indecision and Intuition often led to body bags and overtime for senior detectives in her paygrade.

    Petal picked up on the private security guard’s not-so-subtle nod to his colleagues. The silent command meant the windows and doors were now off-limits. Blocked by towering, square-shouldered male ogres with long-standing memories and a strong dislike for law enforcement, the room shrunk considerably. Catching the eye of Beryl, their leader, she spoke loudly through a forced and, what she sincerely hoped was a disarming, mortified smile. “Apologies, gentlemen. My colleague meant no offense. He’s not familiar with your rules.” Petal shoved her palm behind Maz’s elbow and gripped tighter for better steering. In a low whisper, she spoke slowly. “Our very gracious host is not that kind of Fairy.”

    Looming over her, Maz’s chiseled back stiffened, his heels dug against the teak flooring, and he growled, “Tooth Fairies can’t help themselves. I bet this guy can still cross realms, undetected.”

    Rather than order their immediate deaths, Beryl bared his sharpened teeth in a tight grin from behind an opulent, carved, oak desk, his eyes glinting an odd green, and countered, “Neither can time travelers, if the rumors are true about you. Besides, there’s a penalty for working with time meddlers and it’s out of your price range. So, make your offer generous if you want to leave here alive.”

    Petal whipped herself to Maz’s front, crashed her palm against his chest, then snapped her fingers, hoping the sharp movement broke the hostile eye contact between both males. “We’re done here. Let’s go. Now.”

    Maz didn’t register her words and instead added, affably. “Cross realms and find me that tooth’s owner.” Maz pulled something out of his jeans pocket, then popped a small, white round kernel over Petal’s shoulder. Beryl caught it without breaking eye contact. “Keep her as payment. Trust me. Petal’s magic is untapped and potent. You’ll fetch a high price for her abilities. Plus, the police will want her back.”

    Petal leveled a glare at Maz. Her vision narrowed with a predator’s intensity. Pinpricks of white heat seared behind her eyes. A distant throb pulsed up from the base of her neck.

    With determined footsteps, she strode towards the door, bared her teeth and shoulder-checked a taller guard. Securing the room from the inside, Petal slid the locks into place. “Well, Maz. Your odds of leaving here intact just zeroed out.”

    Maz winced. Judging by his blank expression, he’d realized that in a room cramped by eight ogres and a cannibal, a five-and-a-half-foot Wingless Fairy had suddenly become the deadliest threat.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Steph, What a tense and creative scene. One gets a sense of the tension between Petal and Maz, along with the danger they are in. And I love the fantasy element. Nicely done!

  18. Mary Carlson

    I’m sorry this is late and I completely understand that my comment may not be considered I’m visiting in California and didn’t see post this until now.

    “Dorothy, take the children into the kitchen, please.” Claire’s stomach clenched as she saw the muscles in Gray’s jaw pulse with anger. The wide-eyed foursome reluctantly moved down the hallway, their wide eyes not leaving her face until they disappeared through the kitchen door .

    She felt his laser-like swing her direction. So this was how it was going to end? Was it only last night he threw her over his shoulder and carried her down that same hallway, much the the kids’ delight? Was it only last night that they cooked dinner together and sang to the ‘oldies’ as they cleaned the kitchen? And was it only last night that he kissed her in front of the kids for the first time, informing them that they had better get ‘used to it’?

    Gray lifted his hand, indicating she should preceed him into the library. As she moved toward the door, she was keenly aware that he stood back just far enough to avoid any chance of physical contact with her.

    He shut the door behind him and stood ramrod straight, his mouth in a grim line, looking like the hard-nosed attorney he was purported to be. “I’m going to make this brief and to the point and then I will have Dorothy bring your children out to your car.” Claire noticed his hands tremble for a moment as he picked up a stack of papers from the table. “Here is the script you and the kids were working on behind my back. Take it and please ask your children to have no further contact with my daughter.”

    Claire took the sheaf of papers, her eyes filling with tears. She’d be darned if she’d let him see them.

    She lifted her eyes to his, hoping she had blinked the tears away. “May I say something?”

    “Yes.”

    “You are dead wrong.” With that, Claire yanked open the door, picked up her purse and keys from the entry table and quietly shut the solid arched front door behind her.