Writing Challenge: Close Quarters

by Evan Yeong

It’s been a little while since I’ve created a Writing Challenge that was a bit more general, and not specifically tailored to a season or holiday or brand new limited series. All that said, I’m excited to get back to basics and have you play with the concept of the forced proximity romance.

As you all know, more often than not the first step in helping a couple to grow closer is to literally, physically push them together-

-after all, they can’t just ignore one another. . . Right?

As is tradition I want to bar a few narrative directions as off-limits to force you all to really stretch those creative muscles. The first, keeping in line with past challenges, is that your couple should not be trapped due to certain unspoken current events. In addition to that I’m also taking workplace romances off the table.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pen a 400 word romantic scene where two people are placed in a situation where they must spend time together. This could involve a sudden cave-in, enemies sharing a hot yoga class, or even a pair of gag handcuffs; your options are (almost) limitless! Remember that they don’t necessarily need to be physically trapped, but that they are meant to be around one another for some duration for reasons outside of their control.

To very quickly address a concern I’m sure some of you have, there were a number of submissions that exceeded the word limit in the last challenge. I explained in-depth in a past blog post that we try to treat your submissions the same way we would full manuscripts. In other words, with a certain level of strictness where we expect potential authors to carefully read given prompts or guidelines.

The deadline is Sunday (May 3rd) at 11:59 PM EST. The SYTYCW editors are back and will be reading every submission and providing feedback by the end of the day Wednesday (May 6th). We’re all excited to read what you come up with, so have fun imagining how exactly your puppets’ strings are going to get tangled together!


UPDATE: While it isn’t an all-time high (I think that goes to the Writing Challenge asking for Historicals), you completely blew us away with a grand total of 48 eligible submissions!

As promised, each of these will be receiving editorial feedback within the next few days. Thank you so much, as always, for participating, and we hope you had a blast writing them. We know we will reading them!

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Comments

  1. Kelly K Heuser

    Killian heard her light groan from the kitchen. He quickly lowered the temperature on his Irish stew to simmer and hurried toward the bedroom. Laney was struggling to sit up and eyed him warily.
    “What are you still doing here?” she demanded testily.
    He lifted a brow. “You’re not to be left alone yet. You have much healing left to do.”
    Slowly and with a great deal of effort, she swung her legs over the side of the bed. “I don’t need you hovering over me. I’m sure I can manage on my own.”
    “Alright…” he began and looked around the bedroom for something to use to make his point. His eyes landed on her thick, purple, terry cloth robe. A self-satisfied smile spread over his face as he picked it up and held it out to her. “Put this on.”
    She glared at him.
    The woman was stubborn as hell but even she had to admit that it was difficult to dress with one broken arm and one broken hand.
    Her ex-fiance had beaten her nearly to death and left her with a host of broken bones and weeks, possibly, months of recovery. So, whether she liked it or not, she was stuck with him.
    “Where’s Poppy?” she asked as she wiggled her way to the edge of the bed.
    He watched a gamut of emotions play over her face, from frustration to embarrassment and realized what it was she was trying to do. “She had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon but Maggie is on standby for personal tasks. I’ll call her up,” he said and pulled his phone from his back pocket. While he spoke with Poppy’s mother, he noticed the tension in her shoulders relax.
    “So, how is this supposed to work?”
    Killian eased himself down on the bed next to her. “I will be living here with you while you recover. I will prepare meals, help you move around the apartment, and with your therapy. Poppy, Savannah, and Maggie will be available to help with personal things until you’re able to handle them yourself.”
    “For how long?” Her voice held an edge of irritation.
    He grinned. “For however long it takes. The human body heals in its own time.”
    “And I’m supposed to live here with you until then?”
    “Aye.”
    She rolled her eyes. “Should have just put me in a medically induced coma.”

    • Connolly

      Really nice job with the descriptions here! However, I would recommend that you clarify that Killian is not Laney’s ex-fiancé (I’m making that assumption, as Killian is the hero). On a related note, I think it would be beneficial to give us a bit more background about the relationship between the hero and the heroine. I love the dynamics in this scene, but I’m not sure if the hero is the heroine’s friend or a therapist or nurse who her friends or family hired. Great job overall!

    • Kelly K Heuser

      Thank you so much for the feedback. This is actually a discarded scene from my current manuscript. I will definitely keep your advice in mind for future submissions.

  2. Chrissie

    The very last place Marsha Walton thought to sell a house was in the wilderness of Montana. When her boss said she was the only available employee to take the important client out to view the cabin, she was hesitant. This was a snowball job for selling the most properties last month and being the only woman to top all five male agents.

    She glared at her companion nestled comfortably on the leather sofa eating a candy bar like there was nothing to worry about. The two-hour drive north of town had rattled her nerves. In her passenger seat sat one of the most appealing men she’d ever set eyes on. From his deep blue eyes and wavy blond hair to his well-built bod and sexy grin.

    Marsha tore her gaze from devouring him as he ate the chocolate, oblivious of their dangerous situation. The one she put them in. How stupid to travel this far into nowhere without someone who knew the wilderness and the wildlife. Outside the locked cabin door paced a mountain lion, huffing, puffing, and chilling her insides. A deep guttural yowl sent her running toward her client. She jumped onto the sofa and buried her face in his chest.

    “Can I help you?” Hunter Erikkson sat her upright. “It’s only a kitty cat. Nothing to fear. Seriously.”

    Good to know. Wait. How would he— “What do you know about living in the backwoods?”

    “More than you think. I was raised here before I moved away to make my fortune. I want to come home and, well, here we are.”

    “Right. Here we are…trapped inside someone’s home with a carnivore pacing the front porch waiting to have us for dinner. Are you insane?”

    He chuckled. “Just the opposite. Let me show you.”

    Hunter walked over to the outer door, the solid wood gable door that let to the outside world and the hungry cougar! She scrambled to her feet and flung herself in front of the door, arms splayed out to either side like a barrier. If they waited long enough one of her partners would realize she hadn’t returned and would come looking for her.

    “You’re not opening this door until help arrives. Do you hear me?”

    “Relax, it’s just a big cat.”

    “Easy for you to say.”

    “True. Ms. Walton? I’d like you to meet my pet.” He reached for the knob—

    Word count 398

    • Connolly

      Really nice job with the scene! I love the way you took this scene in an unexpected direction, and the ending had me on the edge of my seat. The one thing I would recommend you keep an eye out for is tense. Since this story is written in past tense but you are also showing flashbacks from their drive, there were a couple of spots that I didn’t initially realize occurred prior to the bulk of the scene. Apart from that, great job!

    • Chrissie

      Thank you, Connelly! This story idea came off the top of my head at Evan’s prompts and I wrote it fairly quickly as I am in the middle of winding up a WIP for LIS. I see exactly where you are talking about. I can fix that easily. Again, thanks for the feedback!

  3. Ann Allen

    Rory held her head tightly between her hands to keep it from shattering. She also kept her teeth tightly closed: she didn’t want to upchuck anything else. For six months she’d been healthy and fit, avoiding all alcohol – and then she blew it all twelve hours ago. That was stupid. So stupid.
    Mitchell, another member of the crew, dropped down on the dock beside her, seemingly fine after last night. Rory was amazed at Mitchell’s recovery – and wondered just what they’d mixed in her last drink
    “So, how was the guy from the bar last night?”
    Rory shook her head.
    She should tell him her problem was the shots, rather than the guy, but it was too hard to talk. The guy had been okay – possibly good, but the mist of alcohol made everything fuzzy. Post coitus she’d run for the toilet. He’d tossed her a blanket, and she’d found a glass of water and some aspirin on the counter. So, a good guy.
    She was so embarrassed that she’d blanked out other details of the night – or those shots had.
    It was a stupid thing to have done, the night before starting the Volvo Ocean Race. 9 months, 40,000 miles, racing around the world on a multi-million-dollar racing sailboat. She’d been dreaming of and working for nothing else for years. It wasn’t easy, being the only girl, but she’d worked so hard – and last night had almost blown it. She’d wanted to show she could keep up with the guys.
    So stupid.
    The salt air helped with her head. Fortunately. They were waiting for their replacement captain and then they’d board the boat and be ready to race. She had to be able to function. She saw the rest of the team getting to their feet – the new guy must be here. She let go of her head, and rose cautiously to her feet, pleased that the dock had stopped swaying around her.
    There was a tense silence. Mitchell blocked her view. She peered around him to see the captain, striding down the dock. Her jaw dropped.
    It was the guy she’d picked up last night.
    9 months, 40,000 miles, and up to twenty straight days at sea on this boat. With him. Rory promptly vomited over the side of the dock.

    • Michelle

      This made me uncomfortable reading it – but in a good way! I was right there experiencing Rory’s bad decision and can easily imagine the awkwardness and tension (romance and otherwise) that will play out over the course of the race.

    • Connolly

      Really nice job ensuring your story felt immersive! The descriptions are really strong, so everything is easy to visualize. I would love to see how the hero and heroine interact once they are on the page together! I will say that this is on the edge of being a workplace romance, which was against the guidelines; however, since the characters hadn’t truly started working together yet, I figured I’d let it slide.

    • Ann Allen

      Since I don’t believe they get paid for these races, I was hoping it would slide. Thanks for the comments – I appreciate them!

  4. Marcie R

    Dylan Monroe, off-duty cop, yanked open the door to the SUV, startling the person inside.

    “What the heck?” Amelia Murray, freelance reporter, sat with her hand over her heart. She glanced out the tinted window at the dark house across the street before turning her attention back to Dylan.

    “Sorry, you should lock your doors. My boss had a feeling you’d be here and sent me to make sure you’re okay.” Dylan shifted in the passenger seat. “It’s always been my dream to sit in a car on a cold, Friday night.” There was truth behind his sarcasm. He’d stand out in the cold, barefoot and no jacket, for his best friend. Sitting in a vehicle was cake. Except, he wanted to reach out and touch her. It was bad enough her lotion held a hint of cherry and made him hungry for a sundae. “Who are we waiting for again?”

    “Eleanor Shepherd.” Amelia gave him a quick glance. “She’s Catherine Shepherd’s aunt.”

    Dylan nodded, though Amelia couldn’t see it. Cathy, or Catherine, had been Lydia Murray’s best friend in elementary school. Cathy had been the last person to see Lydia before Lydia disappeared one day after school. And now, twenty-one years and three days later, Cathy was missing.

    He held out his hand, palm up on the console. Her skin was cool and soft as it touched his. It was the softness that got to him. A punch in the solar plexus. He squeezed her hand, knowing he should let go, but holding on anyway. “There’s probably no connection.” As soon as he said the words, his instincts told him otherwise.

    “Yeah, but I have to check. Ever since Lyddie disappeared, Cathy’s runaway several times. But she always came back. I found out she used to come here, to see her aunt.” She looked at Dylan. “I’m hoping she’s here again.”

    “She’s an adult. Adults don’t exactly runaway.” Dylan winced. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt Amelia, bring back the past when he knew she lived it daily. He wanted to be the one to slay all her dragons.

    Amelia looked at him, her features in sharp relief as headlights lit the interior. “That’s my point. I think she remembered something about that day or someone thinks she did.”

    “You think Lydia is still alive.”

    “I think someone doesn’t want Lydia to be found.”

    • Connolly

      You did a really nice job of setting up an intriguing premise here. After all, there’s a lot of tension in this scene that sets the scene for an explosive thriller or mystery. Yet, I will note, due to the prompt, that I would have liked to see a bit more about why this proximity is forced. Having the characters in a car together certainly amped up the energy in the scene, but I am left uncertain of why they absolutely must be in the car together.

  5. Anna Christine

    Haley does some rough calculations with the plants she has in her cart and realizes that she’s hit her budget. She pushes the cart back down the aisle of the greenhouse to the door and cannot turn the doorknob. Wiping her hands on her cropped denim pants, she tries again to turn the doorknob and it isn’t turning.
    Frantically she looks around the greenhouse and sees someone clear at the other end. Deciding she can move faster without pushing her cart, she leaves it and power walks to the other end.
    “Excuse me sir,” Hayley says to the dark-haired figure squatting down, looking at plants in a flat on the ground.
    The man stands up and turns around.
    Haley gasps, “Luke!”
    “Hello Haley,” Luke drawls. “How’s married life?”
    “Look, I know our relationship ended badly,” Haley begins. “I’m sorry about that. Can you open the greenhouse door so I can pay for my plants and go home?”
    “Why can’t you open it? You have no problem doing everything else on your own.”
    “I can’t turn the doorknob.”
    Luke strides down the aisle towards the door with Haley power walking again to keep up. Reaching the door, Luke grasps the doorknob and attempts to turn it. Nothing happens. He puts both hands on the doorknob, twists, along with placing his shoulder against the door then pushes. The door remains closed.
    Luke checks his smartwatch, “Haley, the greenhouse is closed. They must have locked the doors while we were in here.”
    “How could they not see us?”
    “If we were squatting to look at the flats on the floor, they wouldn’t have seen us. I know they have had a problem with theft so they’re locking all the doors at the end of their day.”
    “Of all the times for me to leave my phone in the car,” Haley groans, placing her hands on her hips. “Use your watch to call someone.”
    “I don’t have a connection down here. We’re in rural Pennsylvania on an Amish farm, there’s no cell connection here. We’re stuck ‘til morning.”
    Haley isn’t sure if it’s her hormones from being pregnant or the recent death of her husband, but the tears start falling.
    Luke is shifting from one foot to another and looking uncomfortable now.
    “I’m sorry,” Haley sobs. “Chris died four months ago in an accident and then I found out I was pregnant.”

  6. Theresa Kemble

    “C’mon Jackie boy, let’s play a game!” Caryn hiccupped as she rummaged through her closet pulling a red scarf out with a cockeyed grin.
    Jack shook his head laughing. “What’s with the scarf?”
    “Part of the game, do you trust me?”
    “Somewhat, I guess.”
    “Oh, where is your sense of fun and adventure?” Caryn said as she stumbled towards him and grabbed his hand while directing him into the kitchen. She guided him to a chair, and commanded. “Sit.”
    Jack was caught off guard by Caryn’s assertiveness, he questioned. “Besides the two shots of Jameson you just gulped down about ten minutes ago, what else did you have tonight?”
    Caryn was lost in thought as she was fumbling with her scarf. “I can’t seem to remember. I think it’s starts with a T.”
    ‘Tia Maria?”
    She shook head and started to slur her words. “No, it wasn’t that. It might have a K in it too. Like um, Tepee, or Tekee something, I don’t know.”
    “Tequila?”
    “That’s it! I had some Tequila at good old Cookie’s”
    “How many did you have, Caryn?’
    She shrugged. “I don’t know, seven, eight, maybe nine?’
    Jack snorted. “If you had nine shots of tequila, you would have been passed out on the floor by now. I’m thinking more than one less than six.”
    “Wow, that’s amazing, how did you know?”
    “I’m bartender, it’s a gift.” He winked.
    A loud belch passed through Caryn’s lips. “Oh my goodness, I never did that before! I’m so sorry, I really don’t drink much.”
    Jack rolled his eyes. “Obviously you should stick to something a little calmer, like wine.”
    Then he got up from the chair, “Better yet, maybe we should get some strong coffee in you now.”
    Caryn stomped her foot and pushed Jack back down in the chair. “No! Stop being a party-pooper Jackie boy and play a game with me!”
    “Okay, first we’re stopping with this Jackie boy business; I’m not a big fan of it! As for playing games darling, be careful what you wish for.”
    ‘Oh, c’mon, please don’t be a dud and play with me!”
    Jack led a small sigh. Knowing nothing good would come out of this, Jack asked. “Okay, what do you want to do?”
    Quickly, Caryn blindfolded him not too tight. Caryn giggled. “So how many fingers am I holding up?”
    “None, since I’m blindfolded.” Jack quipped.

    • Connolly

      Great job with this scene! This heroine is so funny, and the hero is really sweet. However, given the prompt, I would have liked to have a bit more information about why there is forced proximity (for example, is he the only one who can care for her at this moment?).

    • Theresa Kemble

      Hi Connolly,
      Yes, It’s only him. They are in a green card marriage. Caryn you see in this scene is the complete opposite. A control freak, prim and proper. Jack on the other hand is rather a free spirit, lives off the seat of his pants. So when Caryn had a bad day at work goes to the bar with a couple of friends, she has liquid courage as they say. For Jack, this is uncomfortable situation.

  7. Shannon Dunlap

    Derek’s body tumbled against Susanna’s, and they staggered into the dark recesses of the walk-in freezer. The door slammed shut behind them with a noisy clang.

    Someone pushed him.

    Derek knew without a doubt, but decided to keep it to himself. No sense adding to the panic. The insulated freezer blocked any outside light, and the stench of overripe vegetables filled the stale frigid air.

    “Oh, no!” Susanna’s hand slapped his chest. “First the power outage. Now you trip? What are we going to do?”

    “I’m going to get my phone.”

    “Oh, thank God. You have it?”

    “Of course.” Derek pulled it out, switched on the flashlight, and the beam illuminated the tomb-like interior. He pointed it at the door, but a few seconds of jiggling the handle produced zero results.

    “It’s been testy for a few weeks.” Susanna’s fingers quaked as she pulled her hoodie strings tighter until a tiny hole remained—only her nose and mouth uncovered. “I guess it finally gave out.”

    He wasn’t so sure. Perhaps the person who pushed him had also jammed the lever, but he’d worry about that later. Their first priority was escaping.

    “Let’s call someone to come get us.” Susanna grabbed the phone and typed on the keypad. She shivered as she held it to her ear.

    “Any answer?” Derek popped the collar of his leather jacket.

    “It’s not even ringing.” She held the cell up and stared at the screen. “No bars.”

    “This antiquated igloo is probably blocking the signal.” He took the phone and walked around the small space, but no matter where he stood, the result was the same. Nothing. Derek pulled up the settings and adjusted the power. “I’ve got a good amount of battery, but who knows how long we’ll need it. I’d better dim the light.”

    The beam faded, and Derek laughed as he pointed it at Susanna. Her red nose peeked out through the narrow hoodie hole.

    He flipped the sweatshirt strings with his finger. “This is a good look for you.”

    “It’s the latest in freezer fashion.”

    She batted his hand away and glared. At least, he thought she was glaring. It was hard to tell when her eyes barely peeked out. Wisps of blond hair poked in every direction. She looked frazzled and splotchy and adorable. He gently tugged on the strings to bring her closer and gathered her in his arms.

    • Shannon Dunlap

      The setting is a cafe the heroine runs, but the guy is her childhood best friend turned pretend boyfriend, so I hope this doesn’t violate the workplace stipulation.

    • Connolly

      Really nice job with this scene! I love the tensions, and I’d love to know how they get out. Seems like they’re in quite a quandary! You also did a really great job incorporating humor to help add some relief and character development. Well done!

  8. margie s

    ‘Practice on me, Keera. Find me a wife.’ 
    Her stomach plunged to her knees. Did she just hear Nick, her late brother’s best friend, and her life-long crush suggest she find him a wife?
    ‘Here’s a word you haven’t heard in a while. NO.’ 
    ‘Ah, though it might be too big an ask.’ 
    ‘Very funny.’ 
    ‘Have you thought about marketing? How a casual mention in a top magazine by the right person,’ he cleared his throat, ‘could be the publicity you need for this new venture?’
    He was right. Who better than Mr. Playboy himself. ‘NO. I’m not going to find you a match, Nick. I’m not helping you add to your already massive collection of broken hearts.’ 
    He gripped her shoulders and their eyes locked. ‘Think about it, Keera. It will be one way to get me out of your life. Prove you can stand on your own two feet, and–’
    She didn’t want him out of her life. Heart pounding, she shrugged out of his grip. ‘And you’ll have fulfilled your obligation to Harry.’ 
    Nick paced in front of her. ‘Think about this. In exchange, I’ll give you enough funds to launch your new agency properly.’
    ‘That’s bribery. Cold-hearted bribery.’ Yes, she was shocked and tempted for about half a second. ‘You want me to find someone you can fall in love with?’ The idea made her stomach heave.
    ‘You know I don’t have time for all that lovey-dovey stuff. A strictly business arrangement. A marriage of convenience securing my inheritance and a big fat cheque for you. Everyone’s happy.’
    Not. ‘Money’s not everything, Nick.’ Too bad he didn’t understand the concept of emotional attachment.
    Yes, she might prove she can stand on her own feet, but she also might accidentally find him someone with all the va-va-voom his heart desires, someone who’ll tempt the pants off him and she’ll lose him forever. 
    And as usual, she’d have her nose pressed against the window looking at her dream life, unfolding for someone else. Unless…unless she convinced him she was the ideal candidate. Did she dare?
    ‘Okay, but only if you help me deliver Harry’s houseboat to its new owner.’
    Nick ran a finger around his collar. ‘Just you, me and all that water?’
    ‘Yes.’
    Nick glanced at his watch. ‘How long?’
    Keera secretly smiled, tapping her chin. ‘However long it takes…a week…or maybe two?’

    • Connolly

      Really great job here! It was nice seeing how the heroine’s plan came to fruition and how that would ultimately result in a forced proximity situation. I would be interested to see how her plan works out!

  9. Karen Troester

    Annie was helping Harrison, the only customer she’d seen all evening, when suddenly two masked men ran into the convenience store with guns pointed at her and Harrison.
    Annie exclaimed, “please don’t hurt us”.
    Harrison, being the macho man, he was, told them that they would never hurt anybody. Just as he said that, the first masked man hit Harrison in the face with the butt of the gun he was holding.
    The second robber shouted, “Jimmie what are you doing man”?
    Jimmie said, “Shut up Rodney, I’m just teaching this punk a lesson”.
    Jimmie commanded Annie to empty the cash register and put the money in the sack. Annie did exactly what she was told. Jimmie motioned to her and Harrison to walk towards the back of the store. He opened the walk in cooler and forced Annie and Harrison into it and he locked the door.
    Annie cried to Harrison, “what are we going to do….how will we ever get out of here”?
    Harrison grabbed Annie by the shoulders and shook her and told her to pull herself together. He then proceeded to bang on the door, like that would help. Annie just sat down and cried. An hour went by and it was getting frigid. Annie was getting so cold. Harrison gave her his jacket and she thanked him.
    He sat down beside her and put his arm around her and said, “Annie it’s going to be okay….you just have to trust me”.
    She turned to look at him and their eyes met. Suddenly, they kissed. Annie thought she should pull away, but for some reason she felt an instant connection.
    After a few minutes, Harrison stood up and started looking around in the cooler.
    Annie was confused and said, “what are you looking for”?
    Harrison told Annie, “I haven’t been completely truthful with you”. Harrison told her, “I know the robbers and I know about the safe, but I want to be with you”.
    Annie couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
    Harrison said “when the robbers come back, I will tell them I have the money”.
    Suddenly, the cooler door opened, it was them and they wanted the money. A struggle ensued between all three men inside the cooler. Two shots go off. Annie screams. Harrison stands up and they embrace. Annie can’t believe how lucky she is to be alive and to have found love.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Karen, What an exciting–and terrifying–way to bring a couple together. I like the idea of the worker and her customer being trapped in the safe . The action in the beginning with the robbers doesn’t necessarily need to be there since we want to see the couple together and watch how to they get along. To give the reader a stronger visual, you might consider adding physical descriptions of the hero and heroine. Overall, well done! –Patience

  10. Nikki Hunter

    Brynn slipped down the back stairs bundled in one of Tristan’s coats, knit hats, oversized gloves, and two pairs of his wool socks. She carried an empty pillowcase like a misplaced trick-or-treater intent on visiting the house that handed out full-sized candy bars instead of the measly one-bite-and-its-gone variety.

    Still, even mummified in layers and facing prospects of chocolate couldn’t stop the cold from seeping in. The below zero temps in the building made the temporary escape from Tristan’s cocooning lair not as exciting as it should be.

    Due to Mother Nature’s current temper tantrum, they’d been confined in the same place together for over twenty-four hours, and freedom, however limited, should have tasted sweeter. But instead of enjoying the much-needed change of scenery, she was shivering her unmentionables off and actively wishing for the bundle of blankets in front of Tristan’s roaring fire. Which meant she’d officially reached the mental delusion part in the induced cabin fever set in stage.

    “What are the rules?” Tristan asked.

    “Asinine and insulting,” she huffed, her breath making a frosty puff of air as she bounced in place to keep the circulation in her toes flowing as Tristan opened the back door to Tinker’s Work Shop.

    “Which makes them perfectly designed for you and your criminal proclivities.”

    She rolled her eyes even though he stood in front of her and couldn’t see the act to appreciate it in its perfection. The only criminal proclivity she had involved accidentally backing into his car’s bumper. “Despite your beliefs otherwise, I’m not in the habit of stealing money from unlocked tills or stuffing a handful of the store’s nuts and bolts down my bra.”

    “You’re not wearing a bra.”

    She refused to blush at the reminder that that particular item was currently sitting in his dryer along with her mismatching underwear waiting for the modern miracle of electricity to once again fill people’s lives with wonder and convenience. “Just because I appreciate you saving my delicate parts from imminent frostbite does not mean I wish to rehash specifics.”

    “Then repeat the rules and I’ll skip over the stripping you portion of this conversation.”

    Since he had his flashlight pointed toward the vacant store, and not in highlight of her failed attempt to keep the blush internal, she felt it safe to ignore her own bodily responses. “Let’s not and say we did.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Nikki, This is such a strong entry! I love your voice, your descriptions, how weather is like a secondary character, and your skillful use of adverbs (which is difficult). I’m impressed! Your heroine is especially appealing. Beautifully done! –Patience

  11. Maggie

    Sienna walked into the lift heading back to her room. She had headed to the bar earlier that night and wanted to drown her sorrows because she was alone on her birthday. The Margaritas had helped at first but now she felt stupid. Hoping to meet someone was a ridiculous notion. Even her skin tight dress didn’t help attract any single men. The lift door began to close and she saw a tall man quickly rush to get in. The doors closed but weren’t quick enough to push the open button. He slipped his hand through the doors and they opened. He walked in. They both glanced at each other acknowledging each other’s presence. He was wearing a brown suite with a light blue shirt and matching tie. Sienna couldn’t ignore how amazing he smelled. Hugo Boss smelt good on anyone. Sienna turned her gaze towards him and quickly faced forward again as their eyes met. A blush started at the base of her neck and spread across her face. It was starting to get hot and Sienna began to perspire beads of sweat forming between her breasts.

    Matt waved at the woman in the lift but she mustn’t have seen him as the lift door closed. He ran forward and placed his hand in the door hopefully it didn’t get squished. The doors opened and Matt stepped inside. The woman glanced his way and he nodded his head acknowledging her. She was wearing a tight black dress that exposed her every curve. The split down the left side didn’t leave much to one’s imagination. The aroma of Armani Code filled the air and he tried hard to control himself. Matt checked her out and their eyes met and she quickly turned away. Matt was starting to feel hot and had to undo his top button. He was finding it hard to breathe. He glanced forward trying to ignore the sexual tension in the air. Matt listened as the woman’s breathing became more quick. The heat became more intense and he needed to do something about. Matt turned towards the woman closing the gap between them in one step. She was staring at him this time and she didn’t look away. She slowly turned around to face him placing his hands on the lift wall behind her. Their bodies were close but not touching. He leaned in to kiss her.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Maggie, What I like about this entry is that you describe, second by second, the interaction between two characters. It’s something as ordinary as getting into a lift, but you magnify the moment and give the reader every detail and make it dramatic. Nicely done. –Patience

  12. Patricia

    Kelly placed her plate down. “It was merely some constructive criticism. Mr. Daniels, I was sure you were capable of handling such. I run a very profitable business. People pay me for my advice. So. You should be so lucky.”

    Now Chase sighed. There she is. The reigning ice queen has returned. Was that a record? How long did the cordial demeanor last? Just enough for some of his meal huh? Chase grew annoyed. He decided that maybe being in the same room wasn’t going to fair enough anymore.

    “I’d like to partake in that bed now…that is if the invitation still stands…”

    Kelly looked at him. In reality, she was appreciative of his company. The upstairs was quite large and with the electricity off, she didn’t feel very safe being there alone. Who’s she kidding? She’s been there alone before. Though she was used to spending only a short time on her own before anyone else arrived there, it was under the security of an alarm system and lights. Lots of them. The flickering of lights and a phone line out, was all she was accustomed to. The upstairs was pitch black and being downstairs seemed rather lonely just by herself.

    “Fine.” She gets out and stands up.

    Chase managed to brace himself for getting up again and Kelly offered her assistance again. They made their way to the bedroom and Chase plopped down on the bed. It was actually very comfortable and he appreciated that much about being in a home he never intended on staying in.

    “I appreciate your help,” Chase says, attempting to avoid all eye contact with her, for fear that she may turn him to stone with her callous charm.

    Kelly noticed he didn’t offer anything else and she was determined not to show him that his sudden quiet demeanor made her feel some sort of way.

    “Well Mr. Daniels. The bathroom is three hops away. I’ll be out front if you need anything further. Goodnight.”

    Chase started to speak when suddenly Kelly turned on her heels and walked to the doorway. She stopped just at the doorway and Chase was about to tell her she could save her breath, when she turned and approached the foot of the bed. She sighed and then tapped the foot of the bed with an open palm.

    “You know what?” She says while he could care less what she had to say. “You don’t know me. And I don’t know you. But I built my brand from the ground up. I didn’t inherit a lucrative business, as everyone gossips behind my back. Contrary to belief, I worked and continue to work hard. I don’t expect someone like you to understand where I come from. How far I’ve come from. But I will tell you what I do know, is that I am who I am and I don’t apologize for it because it’s gotten me this far. Good night.”

    Chase watched as she closed the door on her way out and he sighed a sigh of relief. Although the room was chilly, he appreciated the silence. The snow beat against the window behind the bed but he could care less. He peered at the clock on a nightstand and sighed because he wondered what time it was. The sun had gone down at least an hour and a half ago and his phone was in the other room. He looked to his elevated swollen foot and closed his eyes shortly after. He hoped by the time he woke up that he’d have good news. He needed to get out of this cabin of misery as soon as possible…

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Patricia, I’m sorry to say, but your submission won’t be eligible for feedback this week as it far exceeds our requested word limit-

  13. Taffy Marie

    Liam jiggled the door handle again. “What kind of door knob locks from the inside? You can’t get them like that at Home Depot.”

    The door knob looked like a giant diamond. Glass of course, not plastic, a material that wouldn’t
    be invented for fifty years. In the middle was a keyhole, for a key they didn’t have.

    “Does this door knob look like it’s from Home Depot?” Sarah banged on the door. “Charlotte, open this door right now.”

    “Not until you kiss.”

    Sarah wished the floor could have swallowed her. He’s going to think I put her up to this, she thought. She didn’t, but her daughter correctly picked up on her feelings for the pastor.

    “Is Mary there?” Liam asked. His daughter’s much quieter voice squeaked yes.

    “Listen girls, go to my office and get the keys off the key thing.”

    “Not until you. . .”

    “Charlotte!” Sarah yelled in her meanest voice. “Go do what Reverend says and get the keys! Now!”

    After they heard four very naughty feet pitter-patter off down the hall, Sarah turned to her crush.

    “I didn’t put her up to this.”

    “I didn’t say you did.”

    “But you’re thinking it.”

    “You don’t know what I’m thinking.” His tone was defensive.

    If I ever had a chance with him now, Sarah thought, it’s over now.

    “We should really get rid of a lot of this stuff,” Sarah said, nervously. “Only one wise man had myrrh, yet here are three myrrhs.”

    “Is that what that is? You’d never be able to tell.”

    “Yes, and also, we haven’t used these Sunday School books in years.”

    “We should get rid of a lot of stuff in this church.”
    “Including me?”

    “I didn’t say that.”

    “You don’t say a lot of things.” She sighed. “All right, look, Charlotte must have overheard me gossiping to someone about you. But I didn’t tell her to lock us in a closet of religious junk. Why would I want to kiss you in front of a Bible? That’s sacrilegious.”

    For the first time, he smiled.

    “They do it all the time at weddings. But don’t tell Charlotte that.”

    She laughed. “I know you’re not ready yet. I’m not really chasing after you. You know me.”

    “Thank you.” He sighed. “Mary isn’t ready for me to start dating.”

    “She’s the one that shut the door.”

    • Ann Allen

      I like the cute kids angle, but I’m confused by the Home Depot comment at the beginning. It made me wonder if this was historical or present day – “wouldn’t be invented for fifty years” sounds like this is happening fifty years ago, but they both mention Home Depot?

    • Taffy Marie

      Thanks for your feedback. No, the doorknob is really old, from before plastic was invented. It takes place in the present day.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Taffy Marie, I like how you present this scene–with its characters and tension–almost entirely through dialogue, which is difficult to do. I wasn’t sure what was happening at the very beginning, but eventually figured out that the girls had locked them in. A very cute set-up with endearing characters. Nicely done. –Patience

  14. Michelle

    “Excuse me.” The woman said as she shimmied the exposed navel of her abdomen in-between Jay and the seat in front of him trying to get back to her own seat again.

    She sat down next to the window, slipped her feet out of her shoes, and pressed the bare pads onto the back of the seat in front of her. Her toes were painted light pink – well, seven of the ten were. The last three on her right foot were electric blue.

    She pulled a pencil from the spiral of her journal and pressed it into her mouth as she gazed forward.

    The hairs on the back of Jay’s neck tingled under his high collar.

    Everything about this woman was wrong.

    She had so much skin exposed, touching unwashed surfaces, and her asymmetry was astounding.

    The tingles turned to perspiration and he could feel tightness in his chest building. Jay closed his eyes and pressed his gloved hands to his knees.

    Five, four, three, two, one. He counted backwards as he tapped each finger from thumb to pinky with their assigned number on his knee cap. He repeated it two more times and the tightness in his chest abated.

    He smirked. His therapist would not be amused that her calming tool had become yet another ritual for his OCD.

    “He does have an expression other than annoyance.” The women said with a teasing smile. “I’m Cara.” She held her hand out to shake.

    Jay had to admit, if he were into asymmetry, Cara would be a thing of beauty. But there was still no way that he was going to touch her hand.

    “Jay.” He nodded.

    “Germaphobe?” She asked pulling her hand back.

    He cringed. The laymen’s terms for his condition. The word he had been berated mercilessly with by his father.

    “You don’t look like the Greyhound type.” She continued unabashedly roving her eyes over him. “What brings you to graze with the common folk?”

    Jay raised an eyebrow amused by the snark in her voice.

    “Business.” he said. It was a half-truth.

    “How vague. How mysterious.” Cara laughed. “Aren’t you the quintessential hero in a romance novel.”

    “I don’t read many romance novels, but I don’t think they start on a greyhound bus.” Jay volleyed.

    “Oh?” Cara’s voice turned silky and distant, but her eyes stayed locked on his. “You’d be surprised where people find love.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Michelle, These two characters really come to life, especially the hero with his OCD. I loved the detail of what he sees in the heroine, her asymmetry (I want electric blue nails now :)). The heroine has so much charm when they meet and she suggests that a Greyhound bus can be a place for love. Why not? Really well done and a joy to read. –Patience

    • Michelle

      It’s good to hear your positive feedback, Patience.

      I enjoyed the couple hours I spent brainstorming these characters so much, I actually wrote a whole synopsis and plan on pitching it at #carinapitch. Crossing my fingers that I can sell the hook in 240 characters – If I do, I’ll have to thank Evan for the inspiration 🙂

  15. Tolu Bakare

    Julia tried to sit up and winced as pain shot through her leg. The doctor had said she had to stay in bed and with her little girl to take care of, she couldn’t stay copped up in a place all because of an injury and especially now that Mary was in DreamCity with her daughter. She tried to stand and yelled at the pain. Okay so she couldn’t move, like the doctor had said but her daughter needed someone to look after her. Except her daughter’s father….she banished the thought almost immediately. She wanted nothing to do with him anymore, he had made a decision and she wanted nothing to do with him. She reached for her phone and dialed her mother’s number.
    “I heard screaming, are you okay?”
    Julia looked up and saw the last person she wanted to be around in her condition. “Is there a reason why you’re still here? Where is my Lucia?”
    Nathaniel Williams smiled and sat beside her on the bed. He understood her attitude but now was not the time for stubbornness on her part. She was hurt and in pain and she needed all the help she could get especially with baby Lucia, their daughter.”Relax Juls, I’m here for you, the baby is sleeping and I’ve the baby monitor here in case she wakes up. Why did you scream?”
    Julia wanted to kick him in the stomach and wipe that smile off his face. He was so annoying and so good looking. His shirt was clinging to his body defining his abs more and his hair was messy giving him that bad boy look she loved so much. Yes loved, she didn’t love him anymore. “I don’t want you here Nathaniel, I’m fine on my own.”
    She was so stubborn and determined. “Okay then let’s go to the sitting room, I’ve made lunch.” Nathaniel got up from the bed. “Come on.”
    Julia avoided his gaze as she got to her feet biting her lip at the throbbing in her legs. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing her so helpless. She hopped on one foot and crumbled on the floor, wincing in pain. She tasted salt and knew she was crying but she couldn’t hide anymore she needed his help.
    “Just accept my help until you can move around on your own.”
    Julia nodded and leaned on him. “Help me.”

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Tolu, What a creative and realistic scene. I like how you show Julia’s vulnerability–through her injury and her thoughts–and how she needs to rely on others. You are show with this heartwarming ending that Julia has someone to rely on if she will let him take care of her. Even though I’m curious as to why she’s angry at Nathaniel, it did seem as if they had a real connection. Well done. –Patience

  16. Nicole Neiswanger

    “You are an insufferable swine. I will not marry you, not now, not ever,” said Angeline. She wanted to slap the smug smirk off Lord Westchester’s face, but she wouldn’t humiliate herself any further in front of the beau monde. She turned, the crowd opening as women whispered behind their fans and the men stepped back as though she were now tainted.
    She reached the open doors at the end of the ballroom and made her way into the garden away from prying eyes. She ran down the path to the back of the estate where she had been told to stay away. But she never did listen to reason which was why, a few moments later, she found herself caught in a snare of her own making.
    ***
    In her haste, she crashed into a hard wall of masculinity and fell down the side of a hill. Tangled skirts, muttered oaths, and pointed rocks dug into her side as he tried to protect her from the fall. Moments later, they tumbled to a stop, his arms wrapped tightly around her, cocooning her from danger.
    “Get off me,” she muttered. She tried pushing him off, but he didn’t move or say a word as his eyes bored into hers. The dark, delicious eyes of Lord Summerset. Of all the men in the world, it had to be him.
    His thumb brushed a strand of hair from her lips, stopping her from protesting as his body settled more intimately against hers. Before she could stop him, his lips brushed softly against hers and she didn’t fight him. She had dreamed of this moment for months but never thought she would be held in his arms.
    After a long luscious moment, he lifted his lips from hers, rolled off, stood, and lifted her to her feet. He ran his hands down her arms, around her waist, and down her legs. Her body tingling in response.
    “What…what are you doing?” she stammered.
    “Ensuring our tumble didn’t break anything. Are you all right?”
    “I think so,” she said. “Thank you for…”
    He grinned, his eyes twinkling, and she hesitated. What could she thank him for because if anyone were to find them, it would be hard to explain the ripped bodice of her dress, her tangled hair, her bruised lips, and the fact that his hands had been all over her.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Nicole, I like how you plunge right into the scene with an active moment. The heroine does seem as if she is confined, trapped in this world where she is expected to marry a certain person. You make it clear what time period this is and show us each act that occurs, ending with a sweet moment between the hero and heroine. Nicely done. –Patience

  17. Laura Smith

    The dark clouds swirled overhead menacingly, and Kara Lamkin could see dust and debris kicking up in the distance. She wasn’t afraid of tornados as a rule, but this one seemed different, with the electricity from the air channeled into the tingling on the back of her neck.
    “Let me in!” She banged on her neighbor’s cellar door, stomping as hard as she could as the wind picked up around her. A piece of sheet metal flew off the backyard shed into the chain-link fence, missing her by only a few feet. “Let me in!” The sound of her banging was drowned out by the roar of the oncoming storm. Torrential rain had already drenched her just in the short trip from next door.
    The metal door rose slowly on a pulley being raised from inside the cellar just enough for her to duck through the concrete doorway. It slammed suddenly behind her as she made her way down several steps into the underground shelter.
    “Whew, that was close!” She shivered as she struggled to acclimate her eyes to the darkness. “The storm looks bad, coming in fast from the west. Maybe even a twister, from the looks of it.” She finally saw her neighbor, Tom Nelson, in the dim light of a single candle.
    “Sorry, I didn’t hear you knocking at first.” She had met the dark-haired new neighbor a month earlier. “I’m not used to these storms. Do you think this one is serious?” He draped a small blanket that smelled a little musty around her shoulders, and she welcomed the warmth, although her feet seemed to be standing in a few inches of water.
    “Well, it takes a lot for me to come to a cellar,” Kyla said. “I guess I should have warned you that people around here will flock to whoever has a cellar on the block. And yes, I think this one is serious.”
    As if to amplify her point, the wind roared above them, just like the proverbial freight train sound before a tornado hits. A loud crack of thunder like a cannonburst made both of them jump, and the metal door pounded upward, lifted a few inches by the tremendous wind. The candle flickered out, leaving them suddenly in total darkness.
    “It looks like we’re here for the night,” Tom said, finding her by touch and leading her toward the army cot.
    400 words

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Laura, Good job with this scene! You definitely bring out the weather so descriptively and nothing like a natural disaster to bring two people closer. I like the fact that the hero and heroine are almost strangers and brought together because of the storm. Well done! –Patience

  18. Stephanie Thomas

    ”You gotta go, you can’t stay here,” Sheila’s voice broke on the final word, as her neck swiveled toward him.

    “Not what the TV says.” Jared, leaned against the couch and smiled as he watched his ex-wife pacing back and forth; steam practically seeping from her ears.

    “Well, that’s false news, you gotta go.” She pointed the remote control at the television and press until the screen went black. “I don’t care what they just said, you aren’t sheltering in place here.” Tossing the remote on the couch, she glanced to the bay window, she had so proudly picked on when they were happy, building their dream home, preparing for a life that was nothing more than a fairy tale sewn together with the physical and mental emotions of first love. “Snowstorm in April, that’s got to be some sort of cosmic joke.”

    “‘Fraid not she-body.”

    “Don’t call me that, you gave up the right to call me that when you left. It would be great if you could leave me now.” The sarcasm came easily now that she didn’t see him as the lovable misunderstood dreamer who only wanted the finer things in live.

    “Look that snow is coming down out there and all the roads are closed, how would you like me to leave, on skis?” He flopped down on the couch and picked up the half empty glance of wine on the coffee table; purposefully, he placed his lips over the glossy imprint of her lips and drank deeply.

    “You’re the expert figure it out.” She snatched the glass from his hand with such force that the contents spilled over onto the floor. “Now look what you’ve done.” Walking always, she took the necessary breathes to calm her emotions, still the feelings swirling around inside. She couldn’t be stuck in this situation; with this man. God couldn’t be so cruel.

    “I had a little help with that.” He rose from the couch, wiped his hands on the front of his jeans and shoved them deep in his pockets to keep from reaching for her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know we’d end up like this, I just came to talk. I’d hoped that after some time had passed you’d be willing to hear me out.”

    “Hear you out about what? What could you possibly have to say to me that hasn’t already been said?”

    “I still love you.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      – Great scene, Stephanie! I love how you’ve brought tension to the forefront here and how your ending elevates things. Nice job parsing out details of this couple’s past and showing the heroine’s discomfort here at the prospect of staying with her ex! Thanks for participating.

  19. Tanya DeLano

    Wyatt frowned as he approached the closed bakery. It had been closed for days since Mrs. Shelton broke her leg.

    A slight shadow briefly muted the soft glow of a light through the bay window. He grasped the key from his pocket and charged through the door.

    “Stop. Identify yourself!”

    The petite shadow let out a shriek as it twirled around. Only to tumble forward on the uneven hardwood floor and land draped in a cloud of flour.

    Wyatt bent down and gingerly turned over the slight figure. A pair of startled green eyes stared up at him.

    “Jade?” He gasped as his finger dusted the flour off her nose.

    “Hi.” She mumbled.

    “What are you doing here?”

    “Baking. This is my parents’ bakery.”

    “I mean in Wildflower Springs.”

    “Why wouldn’t I be? Mom needs me.”

    Wyatt shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I assumed you were too busy working at that fancy restaurant in New York. ”

    “I’m never too busy to help mom.”

    “Sorry. I thought you were a burglar. ”

    ” A burglar who bakes?” Jade giggled.

    ” You do look kinda shady.” He smirked.

    “That’s me.”

    His strong hands engulfed hers and pulled to help her up. Suddenly, he lost his footing and caught himself just before he crashed on top of Jade.

    “Sorry. Are you ok?”

    “I’m fine,” she shifted uncomfortably. “I can get up on my own. ”

    Jade pushed against his shoulders. Her touch sent a wave of longing to skitter through him. Wyatt eased himself up and managed to get back on his feet.

    Jade held onto the edge of the islander and pulled herself up. She waved him away when he reached out to steady her.

    “Where’s the broom and I will clean this mess up. ” Wyatt volunteered.

    “In the pantry.”

    “What are you baking?”

    “Oh no! I almost forgot the banana bread. ” Jade sighed with relief as she took the loaves out. “Whew! Thank goodness they didn’t burn.”

    “Are you sure? Maybe we should try one to be sure. ” Wyatt suggested.

    Jade rolled her eyes. “Fine. Just this one time. ”

    He grinned. “Glad I could be of help. ”

    “It is hot so we will have to wait for it to cool. Banana bread is better cold.” She warned.

    “Ok. I’m patient. ” He grinned as he leaned against the counter. Jade’s stomach did a somersault. Why did he have to look at her like that?

    • Katie Gowrie

      Tanya, I love how you’ve brought humour into this scene with the heroine’s accident and their joking with each other. You’ve used quick dialogue nicely here, but don’t be afraid to work in gestures and facial expressions through the middle so we know how they’re saying these things. Well done!

  20. Becky Zatloukal

    There had been fair warning about the storms and Danny had been wrong. They didn’t go right around Laurel as he had hoped. The thunder clapped loudly, and the rain pounded the roof. The wind was strong, snapping branches and ripping trees from the ground in some places. They had sat together in the living room as the storm roared around them, cozied up, drinking coffee and when the coffee ran out – bourbon, while the weather reports broke into the regularly scheduled programming. They talked about the books they had read and the t.v. they had watched and then when the lights flickered and they lost power, they talked about the music they listened to.

    Maddie had changed into a long-sleeved t-shirt and yoga pants, stopping at the linen closet to get the emergency candles and matches she kept on the top shelf for situations such as these. They lit any and every candle they could find in the house and when the living room was cast in a dim, romantic glow, they found some jazzy music to stream on Danny’s smartphone.

    “I wish I had a fireplace,” Maddie joked.

    “Why is that?” Danny was looking down at his phone, searching through his playlists, finally settling on a station.

    Maddie shrugged. “Because. This just seems like the type of situation that having a fireplace would only enhance.”

    The storm had died down. It would be awhile before the electricity would kick on again.

    He laughed. “It would,” he agreed.

    “What are we listening to, exactly?” Maddie asked, curious.

    Danny placed his glass on the coaster on the coffee table and held up a finger. “Just one minute. See if you recognize it…”

    Maddie raised an eyebrow.

    Danny nodded smiling.

    “I’m impressed you remember.”

    “It was only the biggest day of my life, Maddie McGee.”

    Danny set his phone to the side. He walked over to her and held his hand out to her. “Dance?” he asked.

    She looked up at him, her eyes brimming with tears. She nodded. Biting her bottom lip, she stood up and took his hand.

    Then they danced. Their fingers entwined, his hand on the small of her back, her ear against his chest, listening to it’s strong, steady beat. They danced that way slowly, in the silence, appreciating the moment and what it was for a very long time.

    Until the lights flickered back on.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Becky, there was something so warm and cozy about this scene and I really enjoyed reading it and your couple’s easy dynamic. 🙂 I would’ve been curious to know a bit more about this couple’s past and the significance of the song for them, but well done. Thanks for participating!

  21. Fiona Marsden

    Meredith froze as a familiar figure loomed at the entrance to the school gymnasium. “It’s you.”
    With a wry grimace, Evan moved into the light, looking faintly blue from the multicoloured lights strung around the door. The colour changed, giving him a dusky pink glow, picked up by the white shirt and bow tie. He’d dressed up to match the Hollywood glamour theme of the end of term dance. It was a good look for him, different from the fatigues he usually wore on rescue missions and the light blue scrubs he wore at the hospital. She sucked in a breath, suddenly conscious of the glitter of the vintage sequined dress she’d picked up at the op shop.
    “How come you’re here, Evan? You don’t have any children at school.” Michael didn’t count. Evan didn’t know about him and she would make sure he never did. Her conscience niggled a little, but she’d made the decision years ago. Evan wasn’t a good role model for a boy. He lacked faith; his cynical outlook too engrained. She glanced up at his face, older and harsher. No, if anything he was probably more cynical now. Pushing the niggle away, she folded her arms and waited for an answer.
    Evan looked at her, his brown eyes flickering in the changing lights. “I have nieces and nephews at the school. Pauly is in the same grade as your Michael.”
    “That doesn’t explain why you’re volunteering.”
    “Sandra, Paul’s mother, is pregnant and having a hard time. I said I’d take Jim’s place so he could stay home with his wife.”
    So, the man did have some good instincts. Guilt flared again. She’d turned him into a callous monster in her mind to justify her deception. Maybe she needed to rethink things. Glancing across the room, she saw Michael in a group of friends. Pauly was there. That could be an unwanted complication.
    Turning back to Evan, she studied his face, until a quirk of his mouth told her he’d noticed her staring. She rushed into speech. “Did they tell you what you had to do?”
    The quirk stretched into a full-blown smile. She prayed for the strength to resist it. Resist him. “Well?”
    “They told me to stick with you. You’d know what to do. I’m backup.”
    “Backup?” Her mind whirred at the thought of him staying close all evening. It was her worst nightmare.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Fiona, you’ve brought out so many lovely details in your scene to set things up and hint at this couple’s past – I was intrigued (and excited to read the night’s theme was Hollywood glamour). Well done, and thanks for participating!

  22. Sally Freytag

    Christina eased herself between the man’s body and the beam above her, frightened of disturbing the precarious ruins above them both, her breath held. Something spattered down, a rattle of debris making her jump. She forced herself to relax. This had to be done. A life depended on her calmness… but, oh, God! She hated to be in confined spaces!
    Scraping sounds reached her from the passageway. Help was coming. The fluids, and, another pair of hands. Good. Some fluids should help stabilise the injured man. She could hear movement and indistinct voices above her head. It wouldn’t be long now.
    ‘I’ve brought the fluids you asked for. Dan says you were on site before this happened. I don’t understand, although all I can say is thank God for us you were.’
    Dominic! Why was he back under all this rubble? It was probable he’d only just got out and hadn’t even been treated. Panic gripped her. He had to get out! She eased herself back into the tiny space and turned her head. The pool of light from the torch flooded the darkened space.
    His eyes flew open with shock. ‘Christina!’ he exclaimed, fear in his voice. ‘What the hell are you doing in here? Dan said it was the doctor…’ His voice trailed off and he continued to stare at her, his eyes wide in horror. ‘You,’ he breathed. ‘You’re the doctor?’
    For seconds there was complete silence.
    ‘I don’t want you in here,’ Dominic said harshly, her well-being his first concern. ‘Get out! Get out now! It’s not safe, do you hear me? It’s not safe!’
    Panic rose in his voice. She stretched out a hand and placed it across his dust-caked lips. ‘Hush,’ she murmured, ‘hush! I have to be here. You don’t. And… I don’t want you here either.’
    They stared at each other.
    A painful, slow smile crossed his features. ‘Does that mean what I think it means?’
    ‘I think it must, Christina answered him slowly. ‘Will you stay? I could do with some help.’
    ‘Do you have to ask?’ The harshness was still in his voice, but she knew this time it was caused by a different emotion than fear. ‘I’m staying with you until we both get out of this hell-hole.’
    Their hands met and clasped tightly as they exchanged a silent message, before Christina turned back to the injured man.
    (399)

    • Katie Gowrie

      Sally, I was drawn in from your opening line! Wonderful job building up the tension and urgency in this scene, and it’s lucky this hero and heroine are there for each other through this! 🙂 Thanks for doing the challenge.

  23. Cheryl Anne Graham

    They were outside, waiting. She heard the rifle cock. “We know you’re in there.” But Baffington Wildlife Refuge was her home and it was her sworn duty to protect the animals. Poachers and ruffians alike had tried to gain entrance but they had been barred entry, all. It is sad what some people would do for money and what remarkable animals would fetch on the black market.

    “What can we do?” The voice belonged to James, who came for a tour and decided to stay. His face etched in fear. “I wanted adventure but I might’ve just changed my mind.” His eyes crinkled with anxiety. But she was so attracted to him. Jane envisioned herself coming up to him, feeling the heat of his body, his member. With her hands exploring.

    “We can wait it out here a while. I’ve sent a message to the Ranger’s station but it will be at least a day before they can get here, what with the cyclone.

    “I believe the armed men were surprised to see us. They thought we would abandon the animals, but I wouldn’t, ever. She walked to the window and looked again. Well if we can’t see them, they can’t see us.” Then she saw James trembling.

    “I should be protecting you!” His brilliant blue eyes flashing panic.
    “You do! You are such a help. Remember last week when Benjamin was jealous and almost knocked me over but you protected me, and made him back off.”
    “Yes I was quite amazed he listened to me.”
    “He just thought you were going to have your way with me, she said laughing. “But I know you weren’t.” She wished he was.

    They heard a noise.
    “One of them have bloody breeched the perimeter. Best meet them where they are.”

    But James cowered. “Don’t ever cower, remember what I taught you. “We will get these bastards.”

    Bethany opened the door to see them aiming at the prize rhino away in his enclosure. The poacher looked leeringly at her.
    “I bet we can do something with you.” He began advancing. James jumped out to help her but slipped and fell on the wet earth.
    “You won’t get a chance to!”
    “Boom! Boom, boom.” Her weapon rang out. Bodies falling everywhere.
    “James, tell the Ranger’s we won’t be needing their services.”

    • Cheryl Anne Graham

      I know there was a ban on workplace romance but as she lives there and he just began I’d hoped it would be okay

    • Katie Gowrie

      Cheryl, what an interesting place to set your scene! I like how even though these two aren’t in a physically small space, they’re confined by the shared threat against them. The heroine’s physical attraction to James is brought out rather quickly, where you might wish to make sure the reader has a solid grasp of both characters first. Nice job though and thanks for participating!

  24. Tanya Kilpatrick

    Cyn grabbed the front door handle in her fist and prepared to fling open the door. Panic flooded her as looked over her shoulder to see her stepbrother closing in behind her, his mouth tight and compressed, arms out in front, rushing her.

    “You silly little fool get back in here!” Lunging, his palms connected with a heavy shove to prevent the door from opening.

    “The snow is five feet deep out there. Are you seriously planning on walking down my mountain to town in that?” Cocking his head toward the window Cyn followed his gaze.

    The snow was half way up the window. Why hadn’t she noticed that? When she’d gone to bed last night the snow had been coming down in a gentle flurry. It had been so beautiful, she’d sat by the window marvelling at the elegance, never realising the impact today!

    Lips lifting into a sneer he muttered, “You never did spend anytime up here did you? You would have known last night, when the first flake of snow hit the ground what to expect this morning.”

    Cyn couldn’t believe she had been so stupid to come here. Dom never approved of her life choices. She should have married Brad in secret and told him when it was too late to do anything.

    “Momma told me not to tell you. She said you would never approve.”

    “Well for once in her life she was right about something. Did you think you could come, drop your bombshell, and then just leave? You always were a spoilt brat.”

    Cyn’s shoulders dropped as she looked up at the mountain of man behind her. Dom, her protector and tormentor, her saviour and taunter. Grey eyes cold and bleak as the outside snow stared down at her. A face, as well known to her, as her own, blocked everything else from her view. Black hair shiny as a raven’s wing fell over his forehead, nose a little hawkish and bent from one to many fights added some character to an otherwise unremarkable face.

    “We both know I’m no oil painting sugar so quit staring.” Cynthia averted her gaze. Dominic always did know how to make her feel young and insignificant.

    Marrying Brad would change that she reminded herself. He didn’t make her feel insignificant; in fact he didn’t make her feel anything at all. She was safe with him. Safe, frozen.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Tanya, lots of tension here! I was intrigued by your heroine’s situation with the hero but felt slightly lost so don’t be afraid to parse out more details and bring the reader in a bit more (you can still maintain some mystery, of course!). I enjoyed reading this, and thanks for doing the challenge!

  25. Cheryl Callahan

    Nicole pulled herself up onto the decking of the ski boat and felt the pull on her swim suit as water shed from her body. Her fatigued thigh muscles wobbled as she removed her ski jacket.

    How had she allowed her kids to manipulate her into spending the day on the lake with her soon to be ex? She ignored him as she smiled at their son, Nick. “That felt awesome.”

    “Yea, you did good, Mom.” Nick said as he threw the slalom back into the water and dove off the boat.

    She caught the eyes of the soon to be ex roam over her. Great! Just the two of us. She looked to the pier and decided swimming that far was not an option.

    Nick yelled to his dad, “Ready!”

    “You better sit, Nicole.” The soon to be ex said as he put the boat in gear and punched it.

    She plopped onto the passenger seat as the boat jerked alive. Still, she couldn’t prevent a smile as she watched Nick jump the wake and land a flip.

    Christopher drove the first loop of a figure eight, then the second and picked up speed as he steered parallel to the pier. The group on the pier cheered when Nick let go of the rope and skied in on the momentum of speed. The boat continued on out of their view.

    Christopher finally slowed, cut the engine and pocketed the key. He turned to plead his case. “Nicole!”

    A splash into the lake was her response. He dove in after her and came up to find her treading water a few feet away.

    “Get back into the boat, Nicole.”

    She had no choice. She steadied herself to the motion as he climbed in behind her, then faced him with dripping hand outstretched, “The key. Now!”

    He handed her the key as he begged, “Please, Nicole. Forgive me.”

    She turned the key in the ignition. Click.

    “I love you. You know it.”

    Click.

    “And you love me. I know it.” He insisted.

    She rested her forehead on the steering wheel.

    He glanced at his phone, smiled at the setting sun, then reached beneath the bow to find dry clothing, blankets, food and wine. “It seems your dad planned a morning rescue.”

    Nicole looked past him at the sunset and sighed, “A glass of wine is all I need right about now.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      Cheryl, I like how you’ve got an idyllic day on the lake on the surface of this scene, but there is some tension brewing below. The tension feels a bit told at times (the heroine referring him as the soon-to-be-ex, etc.), so don’t be afraid to show the tension even more with their uncomfortable dialogue, gestures, reactions, etc. Well done and thanks so much for doing this week’s challenge!

  26. Fortune Whelan

    A princess. Sofia’s eighty-four year old mother was a princess, and tonight was the first time Sofia heard about it. Honestly, Sofia thought she was flying to England to live out an old memory, and instead, Sofia sat in St. George’s Chapel, mouth agape for an entire hour.

    Desperately under-dressed, and lacking a royal title, Sofia found an empty space behind a counter, surrounded by coats. Guests continued to speak to one another, ignoring her as they handed her their designer outerwear costing more than her rent. As a personal reward, Sofia pocketed every dollar handed to her. Aside from seeing her mother so happy, the extra cash was the next best thing.

    Sofia smiled as a man wearing a leather motorcycle jacket over his tuxedo approached. Hanger in hand, she waited for him to shrug off his coat.

    Head tilted, he narrowed his eyes, and said, “What a momentous occasion, you are the first ever coat check girl to be employed at Windsor Castle.”

    Like a boulder, Sofia’s heart plummeted into her stomach, but she swallowed down the dry, rough surprise that someone noticed her. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

    “Scoot over, and I’ll keep your secret,” he said, ducking his head under the counter, joining her in the suffocatingly cramped four by six closet stuffed with fur and wool. He leaned over the counter next to Sofia, and held out his hand, “Dacre Montgomery, Crown Prince of Bourbon. And you are?”

    “Plain, old Sofia Stevens,” she replied, shaking his hand.

    “American. I wasn’t expecting that.” Without looking at her, he said, “You know, it’s usually me, who stands back here during these events. I loathe chit chat, and chortling. What brings you here?”

    “I don’t know anyone, and I don’t understand how the cutlery works. Coats and hangers I get.”

    “Fair enough. Well, I know everyone.” Dacre pointed to a stiff man with white hair, and a waxed moustache, “My cousin by marriage, William, fifty-second in line for the royal throne, duke of something or other, collects Pokeman cards.”

    Sofia clapped her hand to her mouth to stifle her laughter.

    “You think I’m kidding?” His eyes gleamed in delight, “Stick with me tonight, and I’ll tell you everything.”

    “Dacre! Who is this gorgeous girl?” asked an older woman from her overly lined lips.

    “This,” he said with a rueful smile, “is Sofia, my fiance.”

    Word Count: 399

    • Deirdre

      This is a fun “opposites attract” setup, although I wasn’t sure if the “close proximity” qualified as “forced proximity”, as both the hero and heroine could walk away any time. But maybe there is a reason Sofia is trapped at this event? If so, I would suggest giving the reader a bit more information. Introducing more character-driven friction between the couple might raise the stakes in your scene too, adding drama and urgency. Thanks for taking part in our challenge!

    • Fortune Whelan

      Yes! Mentioning Sofia was her mother’s primary caregiver would have been a simple fix to have her stuck at the event. Thank you so much for the feedback. I love participating in these challenges, thanks to all of you for hosting them.

  27. Lakisha Friday

    “Thanks big bro for babysitting the twins. Ashley said to her just he enters the foyer. She gave him a hug while trying to get on her jacket. Her husband Daryl bounded down the stairs thanking his brother in law for babysitting. They hadn’t had any alone time since the twins were born and they were quite anxious to get moving. Daryl decided to go warm up the car as Ashley gave her brother a list of things the twins could and couldn’t do. Kevin rolls his eyes. It wasn’t his first time babysitting his niece and nephew even though now they’re nearly seven years old and way more hustle and bustle than they were when they were babies. Piece of cake. Kevin thought watching them on the couch looking at a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Kevin decided to raid his sister’s refrigerator. Ashley checks her watch. “Where is she! I gotta go! She said.
    “What’s that? Kevin called out from the kitchen.
    “Nothing! Just talking to myself! Ashley yelled back. Just then a knock on the door and Ashley swung it open pulling Shandra Leaford inside.
    “I poked around. I’m sorry. Shandra apologies.
    “I’m just glad you’re here! Ashley whispered looking back towards the kitchen. She hugged Shandra and pushed her towards the living room and slammed the front door behind her. Kevin comes out and sees Shandra. She was equally surprised to see him. “What are you doing here? Kevin asked.
    “I was going to ask you the same thing. Shandra said.
    It occurred to them both that they had just got set up. Kevin chuckled to himself. That’s why his sister was so anxious to leave.
    The twins interrupt his thoughts shouting, Snack time! Snack time! Running into the kitchen. Shandra shrugs her shoulders as she was heading towards the kitchen but Kevin quickly grabbed her by the arm pulling her to him. Looking deep into her golden brown eyes he said, after they’re off to bed, I’ll be ready for my snack too.

    • Deirdre

      Lakisha, I really like your setup! I’m imagining the opportunities for humor, sparks and bonding as Kevin and Shandra navigate an evening of babysitting together. You could consider raising the stakes by layering on some romantic conflict. The fun of a forced proximity romance is the push/pull of attraction and tension. What might stand between Kevin and Shandra that would make them not only attracted to each other but also in conflict? I would also recommend watching for correct use of punctuation and tenses so your writing flows easily for the reader. Nice job!

  28. Will’s brother Alex had begged Will to do his shift in their dad’s taxi. Just a couple of hours, Alex said. Will parked in the gardens in the middle of town to wait for a fare. He’d only flown in this morning. Some homecoming.

    He reached for the murder mystery he’d brought. Nobody could complain if he read a few pages. On page six, the librarian had just discovered a dismembered body, when the taxi door was flung open.

    Will folded down the page and looked up.
    A flushed bride climbed into the passenger seat, trailing dress all bundled up in one hand.

    ‘What the—’ he shut his mouth. Not good to swear at customers, even a renegade bride. ‘Um, did you need a ride, um—where would you like to go?’

    Bright blue eyes glared at him. ‘It’s not what it looks like! Get me out of here. Far away.’

    Geez, she was gorgeous, wedding dress and all. Her face was vibrant, skin glowing, hair a glossy black. Once out into the traffic, she let out a sigh and her shoulders slumped. Will drove around a few blocks, waiting for direction.

    ‘Shallow Ford,’ she said, sitting up. ‘Do you think you could take me there? I left my bag. But my aunt will pay.’

    Shallow Ford was nothing but several houses in the mountains, 21 miles out of town. Long way, but if that was the fare, he’d have to take her. He did like the determined tilt of her chin.

    He turned right onto the main road. Flowering cherry trees loosed petals over the road like floating confetti.

    ‘Last chance,’ he said. ‘Sure you don’t want to go back to the groom?’

    She pulled pins out of her elaborate hairstyle. ‘No! It wasn’t a proper wedding. And he was a right loser. I’m figuring all men are, right now.’

    ‘Noted,’ Will said. His ex-wife would probably agree.

    ‘I’m sure you’re not,’ she said. ‘But I don’t want to find out. OK? Unless you have chocolate.’

    ‘Check the glovebox. It’s my dad’s car, but he used to keep snacks in there.’

    Reminded, his stomach grumbled. He’d last eaten on the plane, soggy pancakes and tasteless melon.

    She located and unwrapped a Snickers bar.

    ‘You don’t deserve an award for this,’ she said, holding it up. ‘But you could tell me your name.’

    • Deirdre

      “Two strangers thrown together by circumstance” is a dependable forced proximity setup. The runaway bride/cab driver combination adds another of my favourite tropes – the road trip. This scene reveals the characters’ backstories in an economical and natural way, and the dialogue makes us want to spend more time with these appealing characters. It’s nice to have scene from the hero’s POV too. I’m not sure I’d change a thing. Well done!

  29. Sarah Shaw

    The glass door of the saloon slid open, and Isobel looked up from the console, where she was preparing the customs manifest for departure. This must be the new engineer the agency had sent to replace Bradley. Poor old Bradley, breaking his ankle just before they were due to set off on the delivery from Porto Cervo to Santorini. As a crew mate he’d been as boring as motoring through the Doldrums, but at least he knew his stuff — and he didn’t have all the girls running around after him.
    This guy, though . . . he looked like your typical superyacht crew. Taut and tanned, the sleeves of his white polo shirt hugged tight around his well-toned biceps. Snug-fitting, washed-out jeans and a pair of faded red flip-flops. Reflective Oakley sunglasses shoved up onto his surfer-blond curls, his hair just touching his collar at the back, eighties rock-star style. Just a little too long for regulation, but pretty sexy. Isobel could bet he knew it, too.
    “We’ve been waiting for you. We’ve got to be off the dock in half an hour,” she said crisply, knowing that she sounded like a schoolteacher, and not a hot one. She could feel a flush rising in her face, and wished the air conditioning was running a bit harder.
    “Yeah, sorry — had a bit of trouble getting past the security on the marina,” he said. She was surprised to hear his accent was more antipodean than American. “I’m Scott Hamilton.”
    He threw his duffel bag down casually onto the saloon’s highly polished parquet floor, and Isobel couldn’t help but wince. “You must be the chief stewardess. Who’s the skipper on this thing? Pretty nice piece of kit.”
    Isobel took a deep breath and prepared to tell this smart-arsed Aussie — or Kiwi, or whatever he was — that she was in charge for this leg of the delivery. It was best to put him in his place early on, before he decided he should be running the show. With his entitlement and swagger, his air of importance — and that little dimple that had just appeared in his left cheek when he smiled — she didn’t know if she wanted to kill him or kiss him. She had a sudden tight feeling in her chest, a voice whispering to her that long before they got to the Greek islands, it was going to be the latter.

    • Deirdre

      Sarah, I’m completely on board with your overconfident, sexy hero and take-charge, slightly insecure “knowing that she sounded like a schoolteacher, and not a hot one”) heroine stuck at sea. I like how you’ve skillfully set the scene, providing enough details for us to figure out where we are without slowing the pacing by explaining too much. Great job!

  30. DB Reed

    The elevator doors came to a halt. A hand shot into the elevator, the doors thudded and bounced, retreating on their tracks. Brooke’s eyes widened. The fingers on the hand were spread wide and bore no rings. A gold watch lay nestled below the wrist bone. From there, a sinewy arm, sprinkled with dark hair lead to a bicep heaped beneath the sleeve of the dark t-shirt.
    The doors clanged and bounced into the walls. He stepped into the elevator
    Brooke’s breath lodged in her throat; her arms flew to cross at her midsection. Oh my God. She looked away, his proximity too close, the elevator suddenly too tight. He glanced at the number panel and perched himself against the opposite wall, strong hands curled around the bar behind him and his feet crossed at his ankles. Strong muscular thighs tightened and cradled the contents of his jeans. The knuckles on his right hand bled, a mangled mess of broken flesh.
    The elevator doors sealed shut. The temperature rose, the air thickened. Focused on his shoes, Brooke swallowed hard. Her lips parted. No words came out.
    Ryker Cruz.
    Brooke crossed her right hand across her face and tucked hair behind her left ear. She lowered her hand, revealing herself from behind her shield.
    She twisted the hem of her shirt. “Hi…Ryker.”
    He pulled his scowl away from the tips of his shoes and laid it on her so hard, lashes belted against her heart. Nothing else registered in his features, not pleasant surprise, not displeasure, not even recognition.
    He acknowledged her first with an emotionless nod and then, “Hi, Brooke.” Their exchange ended and he scowled again at his shoes.
    Her spine stiff, the red numbers flashed three more floors. Her floor.
    Her heart slammed against her breasts. She drew in a breath. “So, how …”
    The elevator jerked to a stop; the doors dinged open. Ryker sailed out of the elevator, leaving a breeze in his hasty retreat. The flesh on her arms rose.
    “…are you?”
    Heat crawled across her chest. She stepped out of the elevator, searching the corridor for him. Empty. She turned right toward her room and stopped quickly at the corner, her breath catching. With his key card Ryker swiped his door open and entered his room. The room directly across from hers.
    “Seriously.” Her shoulders slumped. “Twenty floors in this place.”

    • Deirdre

      DB, your first line drew me in with the promise of the classic, “stuck in the elevator” forced proximity trope. But then you opened the door! So it was a little unclear what the forced proximity situation was. But we do know there’s history between these two – and attraction – which provides a good foundation for romantic conflict. You might want to watch for detailed descriptions of body language, which can sound like stage directions if used too frequently – a few key gestures may be all you need for your reader to understand the chemistry and emotion between your characters. Thanks for writing!

  31. Sue A Morgan

    For Alice it was simply first dance magic. Electrical chemistry sparking with a tall dark stranger who slid across the dance floor on his knees, stopping in straight in front of her and taking her hand. His dark smiling eyes mirroring her desire. No time for names.

    Alice heard the gunfire first. Her head spun towards the noise as slow motion engulfed the club. The crowd around them froze then surged away as one. The clubs strobing lights freeze framing the fear in faces. Another staccato of gunfire. She couldn’t lose her balance. People died like that. Her feet hardly touched the ground as the sea of people lifted her with them. Every breath she tried to take seemed to expel air from her as the crowd squeezed hard together. There was more air going out of her than into her. She couldn’t faint. People’s voices caught up with events and the screaming started. Chaos grew so quickly out of nowhere. Alice knew she was losing control as her head dipped below the shoulders of others. Heads whipping around trying to catch a sight of an unknown terror.

    Suddenly there was a strong arm around her waist lifting her up out of the lowest point in the crowd. A man’s arm that braced protectively against her body providing her enough space to take gulps of air. The hard lean muscle of his body tensed as he took her full weight pulling her closer towards him.

    “Hold onto me. Don’t let go.”

    Alice tried to move her arms to cling to her life buoy. She reached her right hand across her body to catch the hand that held her. Her lifeline. Yet the crowd was so tight, so hot. There was so little air. Alice recognised the fuzzy dotting that blurred her vision. She’d fainted before.

    As consciousness seeped slowly back she became aware of her face pressed against the hard cold floor. There was a weight on top of her. A body lying the full length of her, protecting her.

    “Don’t move. Stay still.” The voice whispering in her ear was reassuring and controlled. Her hand squeezed back her understanding.

    “It’s nearly over, the police are here. It’s going to be ok. I’ve got you.”

    Glancing upward into the deep dark eyes of her new dance partner Alice knew he really did.

    • Deirdre

      A hostage situation is the ultimate in high-stakes forced proximity! Remember to think about developing well-rounded characters, whether you’re writing a short scene about a hostage-taking or a contemporary romance novel. Even in the most straightforward action movies we need a reason to care whether the characters live or die. (Die Hard’s John McClane not only has to save his wife and the other hostages, he has to redeem himself and win Holly back.) Thanks for taking part in our challenge, Sue!

  32. Victoria S

    Haley took a step towards the edge of the platform and willed herself to hear the low, steady pulse of the train. Nothing. She checked her watch. Forty minutes late. In the city, she would at least have an electronic voice droning incoherent updates, but at a rural station like Goldenbrooke there was only the long, cement platform and a narrow shelter to block out the freezing wind.

    Haley glanced towards the shelter and her sole companion. Thirty-nine minutes ago he’d lept from a cab and run to the platform with the fierce intensity of a young linebacker, an enormous plush unicorn in his arms.

    “Please tell me I didn’t miss it.” he’d called out hoarsely.

    “You didn’t miss it.” she’d called back, grinning at the sight of this athletic body doubled over with exertion.

    She’d been amused then, but now she’d had time to cycle through her own boredom, irritation and growing panic. With each minute, she knew with more certainty that she was going to miss the dinner. Please, I need this. The gala is my chance to show everyone that being jilted at the altar isn’t going to slow me down one bit.

    “Do you see anything?” He asked from inside the shelter, the unicorn now safely nestled on his coat. He looked miserably cold.

    “Nothing. I’m sorry.” Haley walked towards him. “You know, it’s very gallant of you to offer your coat to the unicorn, but you might need it more right now.”

    His stern face shifted into a grin. Damn. Those green eyes. She was close enough now to appreciate the clean-shaven line of his profile.

    “I couldn’t forgive myself if I gave this to my daughter in anything but perfect condition.” he said, “and my ex would be sure to notice if I did.” He shifted down the bench.

    “I’d offered you my coat, but…”

    “I wouldn’t dare,” Haley said with a sly smile, “but I do have something that might warm us up.”

    She leaned over and pulled the flask from beneath her skirt, enjoying his look of surprise and the mischievous smile that spread across his lips.

    “If I wasn’t about to make a very late entrance to a children’s party, I would definitely accept.”

    Haley gave a playful shrug and took a quick drink from the flask.

    “Something tells me you’re not a local. What are you doing in Goldenbrooke?

    • Deirdre

      While “waiting for a train” lacks a certain sense of urgency in terms of “forced proximity”, you’ve subtly (and convincingly) hinted that Haley and her companion have their own strong motivations to get to their destinations. That’s not easy to do in 400 words! And you’ve drawn me in with your fun dialogue and likeable characters. Well done, Victoria!

  33. Katie J Mettner

    Word count: 397
    The air vents of the walk-in cooler blew a whisper of cold air across Haylee’s neck. She might have noticed the shiver of charged electricity run down her spine if it weren’t for the aggravation filling her. The eggs she needed were still on the shelf!
    She grabbed the tray and backed up to the door, nudging the handle with her generous bottom. It didn’t budge. “Great! Now I’m locked in the cooler!”
    Frustrated, she balanced the tray on one arm while she flicked the emergency button on. It would shut down the cold air and alert those in the kitchen that she needed help. In the meantime, she had to cool her heels, quite literally.
    “Did someone say locked in the cooler?”
    Surprised by the intrusion, Haylee spun around, jostling the eggs. Several smashed against her white uniform, leaving streaks of yellow goo running down her chest.
    “Seriously, Brady!” she exclaimed, setting the remaining eggs down and searching for a towel.
    Brady Pearson, her cocky, self-absorbed prep chef, flicked his towel down off his shoulder and started swiping at her coat. “Sorry, I thought you knew I was in here.”
    Haylee angrily snatched the towel away, not liking how close his hand was to her chest. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. She liked it, but she would never let on. Brady had spent three years trying to talk her into his bed. Regardless of how many times she said no, he never gave up. She didn’t need to egg him on.
    “Why would I know that? You’re always off doing something other than your job,” she grumped. “I had no eggs at my workstation!” Her hands flailed around while bits of eggshell floated through the air like confetti.
    Brady shook his head at the woman who wore egg yolks surprisingly well. “I have to say—you’re sexy as hell when you’re all riled up.”
    “You’re skating on the razor-thin ice of sexual harassment, Brady,” Haylee said from between clenched teeth.
    He took a step closer to her until his white coat was sharing the splattering of yolks. “Really? Maybe it’s time to fall in then.”
    His warm lips landed on hers, and in surprise, Haylee grabbed the front of his coat and held on for dear life. This man was going to be the end of her, and her audible moan said she didn’t even care.

    • Katie Mettner

      Please ignore this entry. I didn’t catch that workplace romances were off the table when I saw this on Facebook. Thank you!

  34. Evelyn rehearsed her line of questions, wondering how many times she’d embarrass herself. She never conducted interviews; it wasn’t her job. But there she was, standing in a penthouse and waiting patiently for Mr. L. Courtland. The club owner had graciously offered his venue for their fundraiser, and she’d been given no choice but to write his feature. Her boss just chuckled, assuring Evelyn’s gratitude later. Apparently, Mr. L. was “insanely hot.”
    “Give me a second,” he called from behind the bedroom door.
    Even his voice sounded sexy.
    The door opened, and out came a man in dark trousers and a crisp white shirt. She tried to not stare. But then… there was something profoundly familiar about him.
    His smile fell as he entered the living space, muttering. “Shit.”
    Evelyn’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, hell no.” She spun away and rushed to the elevator.
    “That’s a good idea,” he called after her.
    Their last encounter was flashing in her mind, making her cheeks burn. Flustered, she repeatedly hit the elevator button.
    He brushed her hand away. “Once is enough, don’t you think?”
    She spun around. “Since when do you stay in a penthouse?”
    “Shouldn’t you be dropping the drinks during happy hour?” he asked.
    Evelyn straightened and glared. She hated having to look up at him.
    He turned his back and stormed to the mini bar. He fixed himself a drink and relaxed while she waited for the elevator. Minutes silently ticked by.
    “What’s taking so long?” she demanded.
    “You probably broke it, Evie,” he said, sipping his drink.
    “Don’t. Call me that.”
    The phone rang and he promptly answered. After a short conversation, he lifted a brow at her. “Yep, you broke it.”
    “No, I didn’t,” she scoffed. She dreaded her next question. “How long?”
    “A couple hours,” he replied. Then, he marched up so quickly she took a step back. “They can take their time.”
    She nearly choked. “W-What? Why?”
    His eyes darkened and his frown deepened. “There are a few things I want to straighten out.”
    He had the nerve to be angry with her? Seriously? She jutted her chin. “Fine. You want to start?”
    He snatched her bag and rummaged through it. Cursing him, she tried to yank it back but he had a firm grip. When he confiscated her wallet, she fumed. “What are you doing?”
    “I want the money you stole from me.”

    • Deirdre

      I enjoyed the chemistry between your characters, and the twist/cliffhanger ending, H! One potential pitfall of the forced proximity trope is an unequal power dynamic between the hero and heroine. This could occur In a situation where the heroine is trapped on the hero’s home turf, as in your scene. I think you’ve done a good job of finding the right balance with two equally strong characters – just something to keep in mind as you develop your story. Thanks for writing!

  35. Kimberly Thomas

    “Oh.”
    The hunk looked up from his phone. Heather pinkened. “Sorry, I wasn’t expecting anyone else.”
    He nodded. “I should’ve had someone pick me up. I forgot it takes so long here.”
    Heather took the seat across from him on the opposite corner. This oil change facility was the most affordable, but also the slowest place in town. They would be stuck together for a while. She dug in her bag for her novel. “Well, might as well get comfy.”
    She finished the chapter when a gurgling sound made her glance up. Her companion squirmed. “Sorry,” he said. “I skipped breakfast and it’s catching up with me.”
    Heather raised an eyebrow. “Hmm, I might have something . . .” She rummaged in her bag. “Ah” She produced a baggie of trail mix and a granola bar. “Pick your pleasure. Or you can have both.”
    He hesitated.
    “It’s no big deal.” She popped some trail mix into her mouth. “See? It’s not poisoned.”
    Smiling, he stood and reached for the bag. Wow, look at those dimples, she marveled. He had the kind of straight white teeth she’d only achieved through years of painful orthodontia in her youth.
    “Thank you . . .”
    “Heather.”
    “Thank you, Heather.” He returned to his seat. “I’m Josh.”
    “You’re quite welcome, Josh.” She liked the feel of his name when she said it.
    “How long have you been a mom?”
    Her smile faltered. She knew the stigma some men held against single moms. “Five years.” Heather folded her arms in front of her stomach. “How did you know?”
    Josh tilted his head. “You’re optimistic in a situation that irritates most people.” He pointed to her book. “You come prepared. And, most importantly,” he flashed those dimples again, “You have yummy snacks.”
    She couldn’t help chuckling. “Busted.”
    “I knew it.”
    “I have a five-year-old daughter.” Heather set aside her novel. “Do you have kids?”
    Josh’s smile faded a bit. “Nah.” Then he brightened again. “Just a few nieces and nephews to spoil.” He moved to a chair one over from hers. He tilted the trail mix bag, silently offering her some. She accepted.
    “Does your daughter have your eyes?”
    “She does, actually.”
    “Lucky girl.”
    Looking into Josh’s earnest face, Heather suddenly hoped something she never had before. She hoped the mechanics took extra-long breaks, returned late from lunch . . . anything to keep them in this waiting room just a little longer.

    Word Count: 398

    • Hannah

      Hi Kimberly,
      Thank you so much taking part in this week’s writing challenge!
      I like the idea, Kimberly, of Heather and Josh finding themselves in close quarters, in a waiting room. You have, with this set-up, the perfect opportunity for Heather and Josh to get to know each other – whether they’re ready or not! We would, however, love to take a closer look, at what makes this potential couple tick. We know, Kimberly, that you only have a limited word count, but it’s still important that you show, if only briefly, the layers, to your characters.
      Thank you for participating!
      Hannah

  36. Renee

    Stretched in this lounger, my skin soaking in the salt air, wraps a blanket of peace around me. It’s been three days of running interference between that jackass of a best man and the open bars tucked in every cranny of this all-inclusive resort, three days of running my maid-of-honor duties like a pro with no help whatsoever from he-who-shall-not-be-named.

    Thank God I’m finally done and can enjoy some peace. I doubt the newlyweds will be out today; they couldn’t keep hands off each other after they said, “I do.” But I’m happy my best-friend got her dream day, and all went off without a hitch, no thanks to Dax.

    “Dammit.” I grunt in frustration; my own traitor brain won’t stop thinking about that big oaf of sexiness.

    “Problem, darlin’?” Startled out of my disturbing thoughts, the oaf in question roughly plops his weight into the lounger beside me. The thing creaks underneath all that muscle and for a minute I wonder if it’ll support his tall frame.

    “Careful, idiot.” My laughter makes him growl under his breath, which just makes me laugh harder. Maybe the stress of the last few days has finally cracked my sanity.

    “Be nice or I won’t give you the surprise I brought.” He tuts, clutching two giant schooners of mimosa in hand.

    “Is this a peace offering?” I ask, reluctantly accepting the offered drink.

    “Hah.” Laughter booms from his chaise. “Darlin,’ if I thought you could be swayed by a cocktail, we would have gotten along a lot better on this trip.” Dax’s gravelly voice, deep from lack of sleep I’m sure, stirs an unwanted tingling below. He’s the one that has been shit-faced during the entire wedding prep, leaving all the work to me! It has royally pissed me off! My best friend and his brother getting married should mean more to him.

    So, yes… I’ve been an utter bitch the last few days and it has nothing to do with the harem of females he’s always surrounded with. “I’m sorry if I come across a little…”

    “Passionate?” He offers a smile, melting the ice I usually aim in Dax’s direction. “Ball-busting?” This time, his self-deprecating laughter is contagious. Tears of stress relief leak from my eyes. He’s offering an out.

    “Truce?” I extend my hand, smiling.

    “Four more days together. We can survive, baby.” Dax’s warm hand surrounds mine, eyes smoldering. Danger!

    • Hannah

      Hi Renee,
      Thank you so much taking part in this week’s writing challenge!
      You do a great job, Renee, at building your heroine’s world. This is no mean feat, with such a short word count! You also leave us, with the final line, itching to read on – just what we want! We would, however, love to hear, from your heroine, that there is more than one side, to Dax. We want to know why, despite his faults, your heroine can’t deny her attraction, to him. Let us fall in love, alongside your heroine, with Dax!
      Thank you for participating!
      Hannah

  37. Susan Bixler

    He made it! The blizzard hit early and Jake’s “Nowhere Acres” sign was nearly covered from the swirling snow. He needed this vacation since his life was turned upside down four weeks ago when his girlfriend walk out on him. He was thirty-four, a veterinarian, and his x-girlfriend hated his hours.
    He neared the cabin and blinked a few times. Was that a truck covered with snow? No one was to be here. He never rented his cabin out. He smelled smoke coming from the fireplace chimney. At least it would be warm inside.
    Jake quietly walked up the steps and across the porch. He tried the doorknob, locked! He placed the key in the lock and opened the door slowly. Jake looked around, took a few steps and his breath caught. Sleeping on his couch was a gorgeous brunette. She must have been reading and fell asleep.
    Lora needed this vacation since her boyfriend of three years left her six weeks ago, for a younger woman. Lora was only thirty-two! She felt someone watching her and opened her eyes and screamed. Looking down at her was either the Abominable Snowman or Frosty the Snowman, take your pick. His hair and coat were covered in snow.
    “Who are you?” Jake asked abruptly.
    “Better yet, who are you and how did you get in?” Lora snapped.
    “This is my cabin. How did you get in?” Jake demanded.
    She looked relieved. “You are Jake, aren’t you?”
    He looked shocked. “Yes. How did you know?”
    “Your mother.”
    “My mother?”
    “Our mothers are friends. Your mother gave me a key and told me to come here to clear my head.”
    “Oh boy. I came here to do the same thing.”
    “I’m sorry. I can leave.” She started to get up.
    “No, the snow is coming down hard and you’d end up in a snowbank freezing. I told mom I was coming up here.”
    They looked at each other. Together they said, “They’re matchmaking!” They laughed.
    Jake sat down. “Well, best make the most of it, we’ll be here until they plow us out. Could be a week.”
    Lora replied, “I brought lots of food.”
    “Me too.”
    Jake stuck his hand out, “Nice to meet you, Lora.”
    Lora took it, “Nice to meet you, Jake.”
    Jake thought, this may work out pretty well.
    Lora thought, I may like being snowbound with this sexy snowman.
    Wordcount 396

    • Hannah

      Hi Susan,
      Thank you so much taking part in this week’s writing challenge!
      I love the idea of Jake and Lora finding themselves snowbound! It’s a popular trope, and for good reason. Susan, you have created, for your hero, a great emotional conflict! We do wonder, however, if you might make more of the drama, of this set-up. Ask yourself, Susan: ‘How would I react, if I found myself snowbound, with a total stranger?’ Jake’s girlfriend, for instance, has just walked out on him? So, is he cautious, already, to let this stranger into his life?
      Thank you for participating!
      Hannah

  38. EmKay Connor

    “You can’t park there.”

    Bryn’s head snapped up, and she stared through the windshield of her rental car at the sound of the familiar male voice. A voice she hadn’t heard in more than a year. A voice she’d hoped never to hear again.

    Liam James stood on the front porch of her grandmother’s faded yellow beach house, arms crossed, one hip propped against a wooden beam, looking like he owned the place.

    Her jaw dropped, her eyes widened, and her breath caught in her throat. Never in a million years had she anticipated seeing him here. There was absolutely no reason for him to be here. She’d taken a two-week leave of absence to pack up the cottage in tiny St. Mary’s, Georgia, before moving Grams into an assisted living center near her own apartment in downtown Seattle.

    The sight of Liam triggered a complicated emotional response that made her want to run toward him and away from him at the same time. The skin on her arms prickled into goose bumps, despite the humid July air wafting in through the half-open driver’s side window. Her stomach rolled, like she might heave the greasy burger she grabbed a couple hours ago. She clutched at the red-hot anger that boiled to the top of the emotions, ignoring the rest.

    “I can park wherever I want,” she hollered as she rolled up the window, exited the car, and grabbed her purse. Her fingers trembled as she curled them around the key fob. She told herself it was the monumental task confronting her, not her ex-husband’s unexpected appearance.

    “Stubborn as always,” he countered, the smirk so at odds with the boyish dimples creasing each cheek.

    “Telling me what to do as always.” She hated the waspish tone of her voice, but Liam knew better than anyone how to push her buttons. She paused at the curb, inhaled a deep breath to gain control of herself, and started across the patchy lawn.

    “Really, Bryn. You can’t park there. The moving company is dropping off a portable container, and it’s going right there.”

    “I didn’t arrange—”

    “No, I did.” Liam stepped down from the porch and waited for her on the cement walkway that ran from the sidewalk to the stoop. His arrogant smile broadened. “Should I assume Grams didn’t tell you she asked me to help with the move?”

    • Hannah

      Hi EmKay,
      Thank you so much taking part in this week’s writing challenge!
      You have packed, into this submission, some fabulous emotion! I love a second chance romance, and Bryn and Liam’s story is ticking all the boxes! We would, however, love for you to make, slightly more EmKay, of the fact that Bryn and Liam are about to find themselves, in close quarters. And, crucially, where that will take their story!
      Thank you for participating!
      Hannah

  39. Marcie McEachern

    With the covers pulled over her head and her friend Cade lying stiff as a board beside her, Julia prayed as the roar outside went on and on. She didn’t talk to the Lord much anymore, but there was nothing like a life-threatening storm to send a girl running back to Jesus.

    A tornado had robbed her once before, and Julia didn’t intend to fall victim to one ever again. When she’d moved into the rental house last year, her first priority had been building a makeshift bunker in the basement. It was only a double mattress on the floor beneath a heavy dining table, but it worked.

    The mattress dipped as Cade shifted. “You okay?”

    Wow, he sounded close. For one blessed moment, something hot and insistent overwhelmed Julia’s fear. Her insides fluttered, and she swallowed. “Mm-hmm.”

    After what seemed like ages, the rumble from outside died down a bit. Cade pulled the comforter back, slid out of bed, and stood.

    Julia lay still as her heart continued to race a mile a minute.

    Cade bent over to peek at her under the table. “I think it’s safe to come out now.”

    Worrying her lip, Julia rolled over to face him. “Check to make sure. There’s a weather radio on the table.”

    Cade straightened, and Julia stared at his legs as he turned the radio on. A staticky voice crackled over the airwaves. “The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for Douglas County and Pope County until 4:00 a.m. Central Time. At 10:13 p.m., a tornado was observed on the south end of Barthelemy. Radar indicates severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornados in Glenwood, Carlos, Barthelemy, and Nelson. Quarter size hail is expected. Flying debris will be dangerous. Take cover. The National—”

    With a click, Cade turned off the radio.

    Julia sighed. “I guess I’m sleeping down here tonight.” It wouldn’t be the first time, not by a long shot. She watched as Cade’s feet shuffled, and realization smacked into her. She couldn’t let him leave to drive home. It wouldn’t be safe. “Hey, Cade?”

    He dropped down to her level. “Yeah?”

    She forced a grin. “Want to have a sleepover?”

    For the briefest moment, his amber eyes flashed with something decidedly un-friend-like, but then the intense look disappeared. Cade’s brow furrowed. “Doesn’t seem I have a choice.”

    • Hannah

      Hi Marcie,
      Thank you so much taking part in this week’s writing challenge!
      You do a great job, Marcie, at showing Julia’s growing feelings, for Cade! We just know that, now spending the night together, Julia and Cade’s relationship is about to change – forever… We would, however, love to get a greater insight, into Julia and Cade’s friendship. Has Julia, for instance, always had a crush on Cade?
      Thank you for participating!
      Hannah

    • Marcie McEachern

      Thanks for the feedback, Hannah! This is a scene from a longer work in which it’s Cade who has always had a thing for Julia. 🙂

  40. Bernadette

    “I brought you some fresh lemonade, Mr. West. You should come down and take a break.”

    J.C. West had been Abby’s brother’s choice to help with the fixer upper she’d bought. She still wasn’t sure whether to flip it or keep it after all the love she’d put into it, but the old house was finally coming to life thanks to his help.

    “I just want to finish this section of the roof before the storm comes.”

    He was patching a section around the old brick chimney that was the source of a leak.

    “Beautiful day. You sure about that storm?”

    Shielding her eyes from the sun, she watched as he smoothed more tar around the edges, his muscles contracting with every move.

    “Yep. My joints are screaming right now. It’s going to be a bad one.”

    “All the more reason to come inside.”

    But he kept working as the sun disappeared, the sky grew dark and the wind picked up. She made her way through the house closing windows, shutting off lights and searching for flashlights. If his joints were right, she would need to hang tight for the night.

    Alone with West, no electricity? A girl could get in a whole lot of trouble that way.

    “Ab – by?” she heard him yell over the banging screen door. The wind whipped to a frenzy, blowing wood planks and empty paint cans across the lawn. “Stay inside.”

    She ran to the window to see if he was still on the roof. The ladder was gone. No sign of him.

    “West?”

    No answer. She was just about to run outside to look for him when the back door flew open and he rushed inside.

    “We have to go – now. Where’s your basement?”

    Abby could hear the panic in his voice, feel the urgency in his body as he grabbed her and pulled her towards the back of the house.

    “I don’t… I don’t have one.”

    Lifting her in his strong arms, he carried her to the master bathroom and laid her in the tub as the sound of the freight train grew closer.

    Tornado. There was nothing they could do to stop it as he covered her body with his, smoothed her hair and gave in to the temptation they had been fighting for weeks.

    “I told you it would be a bad one,” he breathed into her mouth.

    • Hannah

      Hi Bernadette,
      Thank you so much taking part in this week’s writing challenge!
      You have, Bernadette, created a great set-up, for Abby and Mr. West to find themselves, in close quarters. We would, however, love for you to bring a bit more emotion, to this scene. Can you show us, for instance, Abby’s attraction to Mr. West; and, her fear, when the tornado is about to hit?
      Thank you for participating!
      Hannah

  41. Kristen Hornung

    Unable to stop at the shoreline, she pulled up the hem of her maxi dress and waded in up to her thighs. An on-shore breeze blew her hair back behind her as she wiggled her feet into the pale rough sand, the saltwater drawing the heat away from her body. She understood why Amanda loved this place. All she could see was calm blue water, coral reefs, an empty horizon, and lush green mountains to the east and west.
    When Ben appeared in her peripheral vision, she startled. With the sound of the surf and wind in her ears, she hadn’t heard him approach. For a moment she looked over his toned, half-naked surfer’s body, then forced her eyes up to his. She knew better than to stare at his abs.
    “Tell me you had a good reason for missing your sister’s funeral,” she said. “Amanda would have wanted you to be there.”
    “I had a good reason.” He turned towards her and a lock of brown hair blew into his face, dancing across his lips. He didn’t move to brush it away.
    She shook her head. “Why am I here?”
    He ran his hand across her shoulder. “Your skin is already pink from the sun. I have some SPF30 on the lanai if you want to stay in the water.”
    She paused, surprised by his touch. “I’ll go inside soon. But for once, can you just answer my question seriously?”
    “Okay,” he conceded. “The truth is, I need your help. I don’t think her death was accidental.”
    “What happened to her?”
    “I don’t know.” He frowned. “She contacted me a few days before she died. She was worried, distracted. When I tried to ask her what was wrong, she made me promise that I would come here with you, and that we would stay until we figured it out. She said that if we worked together, we might be able to set things right. Whatever that means.”
    “You know that I would do anything to help Amanda,” she said. She glanced over her shoulder at the small cabin blending into the trees. “Even if it means staying here with you until we figure this out.”
    Ben grinned, but it didn’t erase the sadness in his eyes. “Nicole, I hope you never change,” he said, then threw himself into the water and swam off towards the reef.
    Word count: 397

    • Hannah

      Hi Kristen,
      Thank you so much taking part in this week’s writing challenge!
      Your submission, Kristen, is brimming with emotion. It’s clear that sparks are about to fly, between your heroine and Ben. What’s a little less clear, however, is how your hero and heroine are going to find themselves, in close quarters. Whilst your heroine and Ben don’t need to be, physically, confined, it would be great, Kristen, if you could make more of their emotional confinement, together!
      Thank you for participating!
      Hannah

  42. Maurine

    Usually Kinsey had the deposit slip filled before she went to the bank but she’d been off her game all day. She’d overslept that morning, missed breakfast and her morning cup of coffee, and arrived ten minutes late to work. Everything had gone downhill from there. Consoling herself, she looked forward to the weekend.

    While she’d filled out the paperwork, several more people had entered the bank and were in line ahead of her. Her gaze wandered around to the other patrons, recognizing a few of the regular Friday afternoon depositors. Including the good-looking man wearing the navy suit in the next line. He must have recognized her too, for he gave her a slight nod and a smile. She smiled back. One of these days she would have to work up the courage to strike a conversation with him, but he always seemed preoccupied. Maybe he wasn’t interested.

    The staccato blast of gunfire startled her. Someone yelled, “This is a holdup! Everyone in the center and down on the floor!”

    Two men holding assault rifles pushed people into the middle of the lobby, some knocked to the floor, others shoved against each other. One of the men pushed Kinsey to the floor almost on top of the man she’d noticed earlier. “Sorry,” she murmured.

    “Don’t worry about it,” he said, his voice deep and soothing. “Stay calm and everything will be okay.”

    “Stop talking!” a second man ordered.

    Sirens squalled in the distance. While two gunmen herded everyone into a group, a third man locked the doors. A twinge of panic ran through Kinsey as she realized they were trapped with the gunmen.

    Her hands shook and her heart thundered in her chest. She looked into the hazel eyes of the man beside her. He gave her an encouraging smile. His calm demeanor helped chase away some of her fears. Without being obvious, she mentally catalogued every physical trait she noticed about the robbers–the short scar on the first man’s hand, the skull and crossbones tattoo on another’s forearm, the broken pinky on the third man’s left hand. Those competed with the scent of Irish Spring soap from the man next to her.

    “You there,” one of the gunmen said to the man in the navy suit, shoving a zip tie at him. “Hook your wrist to hers. Make it tight.”

    • Hannah

      Hi Maurine,
      Thank you so much taking part in this week’s writing challenge!
      You have brought, to this submission, a fantastic intensity. It’s full of pace and intrigue! We liked, in particular, how you made the switch, from just another day in Kinsey’s life, to one that will stay with her, forever. Great job!
      Thank you for participating!
      Hannah

    • Maurine

      Thank you, Hannah, for your helpful comments. These writing challenges have made me work harder to write tighter prose with all the needed information. Thank you for the time you all give us to read and comment on our submissions. It’s very encouraging.

  43. Danielle Grandinetti

    Maty stifled another cough as she turned her focus away from the rain pounding on the dilapidated building that barely kept them dry and onto the bearded man who used to be her best friend. She needed to keep a professional perspective, so why did she want to do the opposite and just be his friend again? Engage in mutual sharing. Rekindle the relationship they’d had so many years ago.

    She forced herself to stay quiet and hopefully get a grip on her wayward thinking. Then poured the tea. “I hope you like it.”

    His brown eyes met hers as he reached for his mug. She sucked in a painful breath. This time she had no trouble reading the singular emotion laid bare. And it made her heartbeat triple. The man still had feelings for her. Not the same ones they’d both had as teens, the hormone fueled kind that came with spending most of their time together, but the grown-up kind.

    She cleared her throat. “You may want to let the tea cool before you drink it.”

    He didn’t look away as he wrapped his hands around hers and slid the cup from her grasp. Her heart stammered against sore ribs. Confused about her own feelings, Maty knew she had to change the subject before she lost all grip on her own emotions. She knew just the subject, too. Maybe with the vulnerability he was showing, he’d actually answer her questions. Then she would know how she should feel about him.

    She took a breathy sip of tea. “Benjy, tell me where you’ve been.”

    Pain sparked in his eyes, cooling every other emotion. A blink. A sigh. He looked down at the tea he cradled in his large hands.

    Maty stifled the urge to drag the words from him so they could get on with the conversation before she succumbed to ill-advised feelings.

    Finally Ben squared his shoulders, as if resigned to his fate. What could be so bad that he was this scared to tell her? Because he was scared. Terrified, if she read him anywhere close to accurately.

    “Maty,” Ben’s eyes glistened like a still pond on a summer’s afternoon. “Maty, I was convicted of a crime I didn’t commit.”

    • Evan Yeong

      No one likes getting wet, so getting out of the rain is a perfect way to force a hero and heroine together. Having insight into Maty’s feelings about their closeness helped to create a lot of tension in the scene. I did find myself getting confused as to where the mugs of tea came from given they’re sequestered in a dilapidated building.

    • Danielle

      Thank you, Evan. I pulled this scene from my Mountain rescue wip that I hope to submit so missed clarifying that they had camping/backpacking gear while taking refuge from the rain. Happy to hear the tension was good. Thanks again for your feedback!

  44. Frankie C

    “You could just stay here, you know,” Nathaniel said mildly.

    Lila, deliberately did not answer him. She stretched instead, arching her back like a cat. She was satisfied to see the faintest glimmer of lust in his eyes then, lust that turned them a brilliant blue for a moment, with an undercurrent of something dark and unexpected.

    It stole her breath.

    He smiled then, a faint lift of his lips at the corners, as if he’d just figured something out. Despite the chill, Lila crossed her arms over her chest and stepped back. It was ridiculous, but somehow she felt cornered.

    “It’s storming.” His voice had not changed at all; it was still quiet. “I’ve extra bedrooms, Lila. It would be no trouble.”

    “I am going home,” she said icily, and he had the gall to look amused.

    “Suit yourself, but you’ll not take Abigail with you.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “The roads are icing,” Nathaniel said, “and there isn’t a single streetlight for the first good five miles of road. I did not conjure up this storm merely to keep you here; thinking that would be the height of narcissism, even for you. Go if you want, but you’ll not take the child.”

    “I can stay, Mommy,” Abby said, but Lila barely heard her. There was a rushing in her ears and she knew her skin blazed red beneath her tan. Rage built in her throat, choking her so she could not speak.

    God, she hated him.

    The housekeeper came in then to clear up; Nathaniel thanked her. Abby offered to help her carry the tray and trotted out happily with her. Nathaniel sighed, got up.

    “Don’t be angry, sweetheart.”

    Lila began to tell him that she damn well would be angry if she wanted, and she’d be heading home come hell or high water, and she’d rather risk death than spend another moment in the presence of such an arrogant—

    And then she wasn’t about to speak anymore, because the full hard length of his body was pressed against hers.

    “You throw worse tantrums than Abby does,” he said, his voice hoarse in her ear; and then, his lips were tracing the shell of it, slowly, but with just enough pressure to remind her that he could nip the soft skin if he wanted, leave a mark. “You’ve been fighting me all day, Li. What’s the real issue here?”

    • Evan Yeong

      Without directly stating anything, you did a wonderful job communicating that there’s a history between Lila and Nathaniel, and that he’s likely Abby’s father. I also really enjoyed your dialogue; Nathaniel’s voice in particular is quite distinct. One thing I would have liked to have seen is a better sense of setting, just in regards to the home in where the characters are staying. We know it’s large given that there are extra bedrooms and a housekeeper, but outside of that not much else.

  45. Michelle

    The next day, Mara carried out the plan. A quick shove sent Jess off the edge of the steep riverbank. A short time later, when Jess regained consciousness, she realised her awful dilemma. Her head hurt and so did her leg. Climbing up the bank was already a difficult task, but with a damaged leg, it was impossible.
    For a moment, on realising her predicament, she lost control and began screaming for help and crying. With tears streaming down her face, she suddenly realised how dangerous it would be if anyone not belonging to her father’s estate were to find her alone and trapped beside the river. As if by magic, these disturbing thoughts caused a man to materialise at the top of the cliff.
    To her dismay, he began climbing down the embankment to her side. To her even greater horror, she realised she knew him.
    It was Adriel.
    “Are you ok?” he asked, his green eyes full of concern.
    “No,” Jess said feeling annoyed by his presence, “I don’t think I can walk.” She was suddenly conscious that her dress was torn, and her skin was exposed in places. She quickly tried to rearrange her clothes to cover herself.
    “Why are you here?” he asked her.
    “I could ask you the same thing” she snapped, wanting to be aloof to his gentle attention.
    “Well, I wanted to catch some fish and then I heard this injured girl screaming and crying. I came to help her, but she seems annoyed with me right now.”
    Jess couldn’t help but smile at his description of her. “I was with my sister. I don’t know what happened, but I fell. Maybe she went to get help?”
    The question hung between them and they both understood that that Jess had been set up. Help was not coming any time soon. It was getting dark and nightfall was coming quickly. Adriel saw that Jess shivered as she thought about what happened and he took off his shirt and covered her with it. His body was impressive, large and muscular. Jess had never seen such a body, especially not up close.
    She stared at him.
    He smiled lazily at her, “take a good look,” he teased. Jess reddened but laughed. His happy nature relaxed her, and she realised that he was trying to be kind and helpful to her.

    • Evan Yeong

      There’s a great hook here, and I found myself wanting to know more about why Mara had a plan, and why it involved pushing her sister(?) down a riverbank. That being said, the action in your opening paragraph feels rushed. It’s quite a significant event in your narrative but it’s glossed over. I also believe there could have been more emphasis placed on this being a forced proximity romance; I mentioned this in another paragraph further below, but featuring a rescue does not mean the characters are trapped together. All that said, you’ve clearly woven an intricate backstory here, and you did a wonderful job providing just enough detail to whet readers’ appetites for more.

  46. Mwaka Namwinga Mpundu

    I steal a glance at James, who’s stiff as a brick in his camp chair. None of us dares to mention what happened earlier. Maybe he hopes that I don’t remember what he had said to me as I was about to pass out.
    But I do.
    ‘I wonder what happened to Eddie.’
    James throws another piece of wood into the pile, opting not to say anything about our designated driver’s possible whereabouts. We watch as the fire devours it, crackling in temporary satisfaction.
    ‘Maybe he’s on his way back’ he offers unconvincingly.
    Silence follows and I’m sure that we were both thinking about the chewed-up golf hat we found near the river bank. I shiver at the thought of how close I had been to a similar fate.
    I can’t help but notice how the fire casts an inviting glow on his face. He catches me staring and I feel the warmth of embarrassment. I try to cover up.
    ‘Is there hope for the car to get running again?’
    ‘Yes, but not in time for the wedding. We’ll probably miss the dancing.’
    I stare at my bandaged leg, ‘Not that it would matter anymore.’
    Soon after, he helps me into the back of the car, gently lowering me onto the makeshift cushion of clothes before leaving.
    ‘James,’ I say quietly before he is completely out the door, he turns to face me, barely visible. I clear my throat.
    ‘C…could you stay in the back with me, please? I don’t want to be alone.’
    He pauses, then makes a motion to close the door, fumbling around before making his way back. I feel his presence and my throat tightens. He lays down, facing me. We are quiet for a tense minute and I cannot see much of him except his bright eyes fixed on me in the dark. I find myself lightly resting my hand on his face. He mirrors my action; except he gently brushes his thumb over my lips and they part instinctively to his touch.
    ‘If only you knew how long I’d waited for someone to look at me like that,’ I say
    ‘If only you knew how long I’ve wanted you to look at me like that,’ he confesses.
    He closes the gap between us and I feel his lips on mine; gentle, soft and real.

    • Evan Yeong

      This is a classic setup, with the couple facing the elements with a vehicle that just won’t start. You also create a really interesting juxtaposition (which I think you’ll have to explore further) between James and the heroine exploring their romance and considering the fact that Eddie may have met a grisly demise. I think there’s a balancing act that needs to be maintained in order for your leads not to come across as callous. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, just that it’ll be an interesting challenge for you to navigate!

  47. Ingrid Noel

    Lightning lit up the sky as the wind released its fury. Nash shielded his face from the pelting rain. “We don’t have time for discussion. This storm is getting worse. We must get off the island!” He jumped back to escape the raging waves crashing against the shore.

    The wind howled and the sky grew darker.

    Crossing his arms against his muscular chest he turned towards Sophia. “You’re unbelievable. Why did you risk your life coming out here?”

    The wind whipped Sophia’s brown hair across her face. If only she could hide and not acknowledge his cold and unforgiving stare. He would never understand.

    Shaking his head, he pointed to the rocky spit. “The tide is coming in too fast. The spit is going to disappear. I’ll carry you across the rocks. It’s our only hope.”

    Could they make it? She wasn’t sure. If only Max had listened to her command and had not run off. That darn thunder. It always freaked out dogs. And the storm happened so fast. How was she to know?

    The wind increased its intensity as the howls turned to screams. Her toes chilled as sea water danced beneath her feet. The water rose up her legs, pushing and swirling violently against her. Cold, frigid, angry sea water. The sand moved, rolling and swaying. Her world shifted. She tumbled forward meeting the raging monster.

    “Nash!”

    The freezing sea rushed over her. The mighty power of the ocean gaining its prize as it moved her into its watery depths.

    Suddenly, her body exploded out of the sea. She was alive, gasping for breath.

    “I got you,” yelled Nash holding her tightly to him. “You’re safe!”

    Clinging to him she tore his t-shirt as he carried her back up to shore. What had just happened? In shock and disbelief, she opened her eyes. Then she saw it: a large cross tattooed on his bulging bicep.

    A loud thunderclap exploded. Nash ignored the violent display of nature and placed her feet firmly on the ground. “Are you okay?” He gently touched her head, redirecting the wet locks away from her face.

    She forgot the sea as she studied the man who had just saved her. For years he had ridiculed her belief in God and Jesus. Never had an ounce of faith. He was the one man who had almost killed her spirit to love.

    • Evan Yeong

      While I was intrigued by Nash’s backstory, particularly in regard to his relationship with his faith (and Sophia), I’m not sure this qualifies as a forced proximity romance. This scene describes a rescue taking place, and while they’re certainly close together there’s no clear indication that they’re stuck anywhere for any period of time. As mentioned, it made me want to know more, but it doesn’t exactly fit the prompt given.

  48. Wendy

    Safely backing against a side door, Ariel plotted her escape route. With a click, a sharp light blinded her in the eye. A spotlight. The door at her back bumped against her, spinning her around. A strong arm grabbed her to a roar of applause and laughter.

    “Tom?” Horrified, Ariel could only stare as he gently moved her out of the way of the incoming bridal party. She had picked the wrong door.

    “You can’t leave now.” He spoke with his lips etched in a smile for the cameras. Never did his arm leave her waist. “Smile and wave. They will think we planned it.”

    With the photographer snapping and a video camera rolling, what could she do? She might as well make the best of it. Slipping her arm behind him, she let it rest on his back. Posing for several shots, she caught the bride’s wide-eyed stare as it turned into a smirk. If Ariel could have avoided all this, all the better. Later she would offer her apologies to the bride for crashing her reception photos, but for now everyone assumed she was supposed to be here. Supposed to be with Tom.

    “Let’s dance.” He tugged at her arm, but someone pulled him away for another silly photo op with all the groomsmen.

    “You and Tom back together. I think that surprise made this reception worthwhile.” Suzanne winked, backing away as quickly as she had appeared.

    “C’mon, before anyone else pulls us apart. Again.” The way Tom spoke the words clutched at her, leaving her too shaken to refuse.

    On the dance floor, she slid her hand in his. The warmth of his arm against her as he pulled her close reminded her of years ago. They had shared a dance then, too. Before so many mistakes had been made. Letting the moment wrap around her, she knew what she needed to say. Ready to trust again, she tilted her head up, holding his gaze.

    Offering her an apologetic grin, he leaned in close to whisper in her ear. “I hope you can forgive me. I was trying to get you out of one jam, only to land you in a much bigger mess.”

    “I should thank you. This day is turning out far better than I had planned.”

    • Evan Yeong

      There’s a lot to like here, Wendy! Being caught at a wedding, unable to leave due to what people might say or think, is a refreshing change of pace from more physical hindrances. That being said, I found Ariel’s escape to be a little confusing. We don’t have a strong sense of where she’s supposed to be, or where the side door leads to, so the action at the outset is hard to understand. With that added clarification, however, this is a great entry!

  49. Gina Bell

    Her brother was a dead man. If she ever got off this contraption from hell she would kill him. And not just for dragging her along on this outing to a rickety, seaside amusement park. Cole had insisted his friend Gavin ride this thing with her. It was bad enough she’d had the hots for Gavin since she graduated from college over five years ago. But he’d never treated her as anything except Cole’s younger, off-limits sister. She was frustrated and over it! And besides, her hair was blowing all over the place. She must look a fright.

    Over the top they went again, then down and back up on this crazy upright wheel. Tara kept a death grip on the safety bar in front of her, her eyes focused straight ahead.

    Before she realized what was happening, strong arms wrapped around her and she was pulled across the bench of their swaying passenger car and up against his body.

    What the -! “What are you doing?!”

    “Drastic situations call for drastic measures,” he murmured, his breath tickling her ear. “Tara, relax and take a look around. The view is incredible. That’s the ocean out there.” He nodded, keeping his arms tight around her.

    “I can see that’s the ocean!” She said but stopped her struggling and squeezed her eyes tight as they rounded the top and headed back down. The way he said her name in that deep voice of his made her swoon.

    She could feel her body begin to relax into him. The warmth from his body seeped through her and she inched even closer. Oh dear, she could get used to this.

    She jerked her eyes open. “We aren’t moving! Why are we stuck up here? Don’t move-you’re rocking the car!”

    “They’re just letting some passengers off.”

    “Oh good, then we’ll be off this thing soon.”

    He grinned sheepishly. “Maybe not. I paid extra for a longer ride.”

    “What?!” She looked down. Big mistake. “Oh man, I shouldn’t have had that burrito. I knew that was a bad idea.”

    He turned her face to his and smiled. She was mesmerized. The roaring in her ears had nothing to do with the strong breeze. “Tara, what am I going to do with you?”

    She shrugged her shoulders, not daring to breathe.

    “Well, I’ve got an idea,” he said softly as his lips brushed hers.

    • Evan Yeong

      Gina, I love your choice of setting! a Ferris wheel is a fantastic place to trap a couple, and I enjoyed the reveal that Gavin sneakily paid for a longer ride. I also liked your opening paragraph; the very first sentence instantly grabs readers who want to know why exactly Tara wants to murder her brother.

  50. “This is just great!”, Laura mumbled to herself, as the car came to a stop along the road. No use complaining, it was not going to make the car start.
    Now, here she sat along the road, alone. As she was looking up numbers on her phone, she heard the sound of a vehicle coming down the road. She thought they were going to drive past her, but just as she sighed a sign of relief, they pulled in front of her car. Her heart began to race as the person got out of their vehicle. This was how scary, horror movies started.
    But, as the guy walked towards her, he smiled and something about his smile seemed sincere. He walked to the door and asked through the window,
    “Do you need any help?”
    Laura wanted to say NO, but she was not sure who could come help her and she could not get past his eyes. They were the most beautiful shade of blue.
    “Yes”, she said as she opened her door. “My car just stopped.” He pulled out his phone and said, “I have a good friend that lives near here that owns a towing business. I can call him, if you would like?”
    “Thank you very much”, Laura stated. The stranger made a call and was telling someone named Joe what their location was and to bring the flat bed wrecker. Then he ended the call and said, “By the way, I am Alex Henderson. Joe was on his way to town and he will be here soon.”
    Smiling at his kindness, Laura said “Thank you very much”.
    Then Joe came pulling up and introduced himself. As he loaded Laura’s car onto the flat bed. He said, ”I will just take your car back to the garage.“ Laura began to say Thank you and then she saw the very large dog on the front seat of the tow truck. “Thank you very much. I appreciate your help. Although, where will I sit?”
    “Oh, you will have to ride with Alex,” said Joe.
    As she turned, Alex said, “Sure, I will follow Joe and you can ride with me, since he has ‘Puppy’ with him.”
    Laura laughed “ ‘Puppy’, seems ironic. I guess you are stuck with me.”
    Now she was facing a ride back to town, ALONE, with Alex and those deep blue eyes…..

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Sue, I really enjoyed the premise of your submission; Alex needing to drive Laura into town provides the perfect opportunity for them to get to know one another a little better! One piece of advice I would offer is to include contractions in your dialogue (“I’m” instead of “I am”, etc.). This will go a long way in making it sound more natural.

  51. Valerie Washington

    A McKnight to Remember

    It’s 5 pm ya’ll, the voice coming from the radio sitting on the file cabinet next to her desk repeated in a rhythmic chant. Nia’s head came up with a resounding snap as she pushed up the sleeve on her sweater to check her watch. As if the announcer on the radio was lying or deliberately trying to make her life miserable. After turning off the radio harder than she intended to and chipping a nail, she stood and yanked off her sweater and prepared to step out into the hot and humid Mississippi heat. “Late, again!” Nia muttered under her breath.
    Putting her desk in order preparing to leave for the day, she knew exactly whose fault it was she was late. Her Boss. Trevor McKnight. McHandsome known throughout McKnight Industries and a confirmed bachelor with a healthy appetite for the ladies. She had to admit he was devilishly sexy and too good looking for his own good. But a playboy Millionaire with an attitude and a rigid demeanor was not on her list of priorities. Plus she was never one to mix business with pleasure. She needed this job and an affair with the boss was not on the to-do-list.
    Hitting the send button on what would be her last email for the evening, Nia made her way to the elevator and pushed the down button. Still muttering under her breath, she could feel her blood boiling. Yes, she was grateful to have a job and her child is safe, but she was making too many sacrifices for this man. Bebe was her greatest accomplishment and her biggest motivation for putting up with that arrogant jerk and his crazy demands.
    “I hope he chokes on his spreadsheet revisions”, she chuckled to herself.
    Just then, a ding brought her back to reality, the silver and chrome elevator doors slid open with a quiet swoosh as she stepped inside. She was just about to push the first floor button when a huge, muscle-bound figure in a tailored suit briefcase in hand slipped through the door and walked to the back of the elevator. . For a few seconds, and what seemed like hours, their eyes met and time stopped. He is very smooth, I’ll give him that.
    “Mr. McKnight”, she said with an air of formality.
    “Ms. Lawrence”, he returned the pleasantries with an equal formal tone.
    “Are you going to press the button, Ms. Lawrence?”
    Something in his demeanor reeked of impatience and authority as he reached past her and pushed the button for the first floor. Nia held her breath and forgot to breathe. What the hell is wrong with me? I have been around handsome men before and they have never had any effect on me what so ever. Why am I letting this one get to me? As the doors slid close, Nia relaxed and moved a few steps backward until her back touched the wall. However, this meant that she was shoulder to shoulder with McHandsome in her heels. She could feel his body heat and hear his steady breathing. Just when she was about to process the situation, the elevator made a noise and they heard a loud thud.
    What was that?
    I don’t know.
    He inhaled deeply and pressed the call button. Then again, and a third time. Nothing. What now? She thought deeply. She can’t be late again picking up Bebe, let alone being stuck in the elevator with an unpleasant guy that she was attracted to. Did she just admit that? Get a grip girlie girl and help him figure out the problem at hand.
    Nia pulled open her purse and loudly searched for her cellphone, but he got to his pocket first and began to dial.
    “Damn!”
    “What?” She glanced over at him as she pulled her purse back onto her shoulder.
    “There is no cell service in the elevator”, he said with a heightened sense of urgency.
    “Are you okay? Mr. McKnight?
    The next thing she felt was one hundred seventy-five pounds of all male knocking her down and taking them both to the floor.

    • Valerie Washington

      To the Editors I just reread and saw the comments. I did not intend to ignore the rules. Overexcited I guess. This is my first time and I will do better about reading the rules in the future. I hope you read it and provide feedback anyway. Thank you!

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Valerie, I’m sorry to say that you exceeded the word count, submitted after the deadline, and included a workplace romance, and as such won’t be eligible for feedback this week.

      There should be another challenge in the next few weeks, however, and we hope you submit again to that one!