WIP Wednesday — Share What YOU Are Up To!

Hey, friends! Welcome back to another WIP Wednesday, where I share a little of my work in progress and you do the same in the comments section. If you’ve never done it before, why not give it a try? WIP Wednesday is a criticism-free zone, although encouraging comments on other people’s stuff is always appreciated.

How was November for writing? If you did NaNoWriMo, did it spur you to more productivity? If you didn’t do NaNoWriMo, did you have some writing fun?

 

I tapped out of NaNo almost immediately due to the super-hot new project I mentioned on Monday. It’s probably going to occupy me till the end of March. My 3 WIPs are on the back burner for now, but it’s worth it.

Since the new thing is secret for now, I’m going to be sharing more from my romance in progress, A Knight Restored. It’s a love story between an art conservator at a museum and a medieval English knight under a curse. This excerpt comes almost right after the one I shared last month.

 

WIP Wednesday -- Share What YOU Are Up To! #A Knight Restored #paranormal romance

 

When Gen arrived at the lab Emily said, “We need to talk in private.” She grabbed Gen’s arm, hustled her into the photography room, and slammed the door behind her.

“Emily, what the hell?” Gen asked. “Are you pregnant? Did you murder someone? What?”

“I just don’t want anyone else to hear this.” She glanced over her shoulder at Gryffen. “Except him.”

“Hmm, I don’t know,” Gen joked. “Can Sir Limestone here be trusted?”

“Don’t be mean!” After all Gryffen had been through, he shouldn’t have to put up with insults.

Gen’s eyebrows rose. “Okayyy.”

“I’m going to tell you something, and I want you to keep an open mind. And you can’t tell anyone. Anyone.”

“Okay, I won’t.” Gen held up her hands. Clearly, she thought Emily was being over-dramatic.

“Yesterday I felt like this sculpture was talking to me,” Emily said. “Like in my head.”

Gen looked at Gryffen and back to Emily. “What did he say?”

“He said, I’m here. And he wanted me to touch him.”

“Well,” Gen said cheerfully, “you’re going to be touching him a lot, so that works out great.”

“That’s just the beginning. I had a dream about him last night. Except he wasn’t a statue. He was a real guy.”

Gen frowned. “A real knight in shining armor?”

“Yes! I mean no. He was wearing, like, medieval clothes. He told he was from 1433.”

“Your subconscious is trying to research an acquisition.” Gen shook her head. “Em, you need some vacation days or something. You should be dreaming about fun stuff.”

“Part of it was very fun.” Emily’s cheeks heated.

Gen’s features lit up. “You had a sex dream about a statue?”

“Gen!”

Her friend giggled. “I have to ask. Was he rock hard?”

If Emily’s face got any hotter, it would burst into actual flames. After all, Gryffen was hearing all of this, too. Maybe. “We just kissed! That’s all.”

“Oh.–Was he a good kisser, at least?”

“Literally the best,” Emily admitted. It wouldn’t hurt anything for Gryffen to know it. “And he had the most amazing way of talking. He said things like sweet lady and demoiselle.”

“Aww,” Gen cooed. “This sounds like the cutest dream in the world!”

“You don’t understand. I think the sculpture is a real person.”

Gen tilted her head. “How does that work?”

A polite question, considering. Thank God she was friends with Gen. Emily couldn’t imagine telling anyone else about this. “He told me some other guy got mad at him because Gryffen beat him at jousting, or whatever—”

“Gryffen?” Gen repeated.

“Yes, he said his name was Gryffen de Beaumont, son of William de Beaumont, sometimes called Gryffen the Fierce.”

“That’s… really detailed for a dream,” Gen said.

“I wrote it all down. And he told me that because this guy he beat was actually a powerful sorcerer who turned Gryffen into stone. And he can still hear, and see, and feel, but he can’t move or talk or anything.”

“He said he had been like that for centuries?” Gen shuddered. “That would be horrible.”

“There’s one other thing,” Emily said. “But you’re not going to believe me.”

Gen gave her a level look. “Try me.”

“Just now, I touched his cheek.”

“Yeah?”

“And uh…” Emily forced herself to get it out. “The statue cried.”

Gen’s mouth fell open. “What!”

“There were tears—”

Gen strode over and put her hands on Gryffen’s stone face. Ordinarily, Emily would have yelled at her for touching a museum object without washing her hands thoroughly first, but under the circumstances, it hardly seemed to matter.

Gen withdrew her hands, holding them up in the air. “It’s wet! The stone is damp. Emily, what the hell!”

Emily took a deep breath and let it out. “I thought I was losing my mind.”

Gen shook her head. “There are two possibilities here. Either you’ve had a detailed dream, that just happens to coincide with some weird moisture or condensation on the sculpture, or…”

“Or what.”

“Or this is a man who was turned into stone, who can visit you in dreams.” Gen shrugged. “I know which one I’m rooting for.”

~

I hope you’ll share your own excerpt below! And if you want to make sure you don’t miss any future WIP Wednesdays, make sure to follow the blog, if you’re not already — there’s a place to sign up on the lefthand side of the page.Thanks so much for stopping by, and happy writing!

18 Replies to “WIP Wednesday — Share What YOU Are Up To!”

  1. LOL, Bryn! “Well,” Gen said cheerfully, “you’re going to be touching him a lot, so that works out great.”

    After some time on other projects and posting my first Mass Effect fan fiction, I’m back in the Dragon Age universe, working on Warrior Dove and Curran’s Heart, companion stories I plan to post simultaneously (if only I could decide on my villain’s name!). From a section I wrote yesterday:

    CHAPTER 1

    Mic Fade Stepped through the Princes’ locked bedroom door and perused the empty room. The fire had died down to embers. He set his staff in the corner and lay more fuel in the hearth. With a flick of his wrist, he shot a little ball of flames in its center, bringing the fire up without kindling.

    When he hung his traveling cloak over the back of Curran’s desk chair, he found a new novel on the desk. He picked it up and sniffed at the stiff new binding. Fresh vellum and glue were two of the happiest scents ever.

    Mic settled himself in one of the red velvet armchairs in front of the fire, scooched a little closer to Curran’s empty chair, and took a closer look at the book. It was the latest Tethras novel.

    “Swords and Shields? You’re not into girls, Curran.” He paged through it at random, enjoying the stiff feel of fresh pages. “Ah,” he grinned. “The young stablehand and the ambassador. Hmm . . .” He turned back to the first page and started reading.

    Thanks for reading! I’m DAfan7711 on Tumblr, Pinterest, and Archive of Our Own (AO3), where guests and registered users alike can read my stories.

    1. A Mass Effect fic! You are always doing interesting things.

      “Fresh vellum and glue were two of the happiest scents ever.” Love that! Thanks for sharing, DAfan, and for the links!

  2. Love your story, Bryn!

    At the moment, I don’t have a WIP (and don’t expect to begin one for a month). However, I was up until a couple days ago. Me=YEOW!, which is book 4 of Xander’s Sea Purrtector files was published on 10-30 and then we got to work doing formatting the interior files for the The Chatterre Trilogy Box Set (Star Bridge, Thunder Moon and Fire Island), which became available on Kindle Unlimited two days ago.

    If I get too distracted by holiday chaos, and don’t get back in the next couple weeks, HAPPY HOLLY DAZE! Jeanne

    1. Jeanne! Congratulations on the publications. That’s fantastic!

      I think lots of us are caught up in holiday stuff right now. HAPPY HOLIDAYS to you too! I’m so happy to connect with you here all year. 🙂

  3. Slick black hair, blue eyes and a killer smile. Those were the things Ashley Covington noticed about him. They were the same things she was staring at as she sat at the corner table in the back of the cafeteria, watching him as he devoured a burger and fries. She couldn’t believe her luck. After weeks of hoping and asking, Steven Mayers finally agreed to have lunch with her.

    “What?” Steven asked, mouth still full.

    Ashley shook her head. “Sorry. You’re just cute when you eat.”

    Steven pointed to her lunch, which was the same as his. “Your food is getting cold.”

    Ashley hated school food but it was all her mother could afford and the only charity she would accept. She hated burgers too but didn’t want him to know that. “Yeah. I probably should eat.”

    Steven smiled. He then started laughing. Ashley couldn’t figure out why. He pointed to the tables across the room from them. “Imogen looks so stupid today.”

    Imogen Hunter was sixteen going on eighty. She never acted her age. She was always reading a book or doing homework. She also dressed like an office professional instead of a teenager. That day’s outfit consisted of a black pencil skirt and a blue button down shirt with a black camisole underneath. Anyone who didn’t know better would think she was a teacher.

    “She’s so annoying,” Steven said.

    “She’s more than annoying,” Ashley said. “She’s making your life miserable.”

    “People like her feel better when they act like they’re in control.”

    “I can’t believe she gets away with lying about you.”

    Before the conversation could progress, Vale and Marin joined the table. Vale was the conservative leader of the Abstinence Club and Marin was recently back from a mysterious extended vacation. Ashley liked them but wasn’t thrilled that they were crashing her party.

    “You’ll never guess what I found out,” Marin said as she took a seat. “Imogen Hunter is graduating early.”

    “What?” Ashley sharply asked.

    “She’s apparently been taking a bunch of college classes and has enough credits to graduate this year.”

    “What a brainiac,” Ashley said. “She is such a jerk.”

    Steven wadded up his napkin and tossed it onto his plate. “I gotta go.”

    “But you just got here,” Ashley pleaded.

    Steven stood up and cleared his tray. “I have to make a call.”

    “Can we do this again tomorrow?”

    He shrugged. “Maybe.”

    He walked off before Ashley could properly say goodbye. She returned to her lunch, suddenly not very hungry.

    “Why so sad?” Vale asked.

    “I was finally getting somewhere with the new guy and he just took off.”

    “He has a girlfriend,” Vale said.

    “Chelsea Perkins,” Marin added. “She goes to Benson. I met her once. She’s really pretty. She’s going to cosmetology school when she graduates.”

    Ashley barely had time for makeup. No wonder he was in a rush. “That doesn’t mean they’re solid. He should know there are other options available.”

    “Want to buy a candy cane gram for the student activities committee?” Imogen’s perkiness and sudden arrival didn’t sit well with Ashley.

  4. This is from “Seeking Forever” the third book in my series. (The first book was named “Separation Point,” and is now renamed “Wanting Forever.”) “Seeking Forever” was my NaNoWriMo 2016 project and is still about 30,000 words from completion.

    Seeking Forever-Cole and Morgan have known each other for a long time. After a devastating breakup they meet again in the cramped confines of the ASPECT airship Chronocon.

    “What are you going to do, dude?”
    Cole looked up just as Andy sat down next to him in the mess. Of the ninety people on the ship, twenty people could fit in the room at one time, it was just his luck that people he wasn’t ready to talk to at 07:00 arrived at the same time he did. “Morning.”
    “You sound rough. Didn’t sleep last night?
    “I slept.” Fitfully. Dreams kept waking him, but they weren’t necessarily bad dreams. There was at least one nightmare, but the other two were… he’d woken up in a sweat because they were about Morgan. She’d probably be angry if she ever found out what kind of dreams he was having about her. Or maybe, someday, she wouldn’t. When they were old, gray, and living in the home for ASPECT employees who refused to die. Cole picked up his coffee and then looked over at Andy. “You?”
    The younger man shrugged. “I sleep fine. Except that my roommate talks in his sleep. I heard an entire one sided conversation last night.”
    “Who was he talking to?”
    “His girlfriend. For about twenty minutes. I swear he’s got it bad, he just wants to go home.”
    “Why doesn’t he? ASPECT isn’t easy.”
    Andy nodded, chewing on his oatmeal while he considered the possibility. “This is what he has. It’s not like there’s a lot of opportunity for anyone right now.”
    Cole nodded. He knew that. The city was crowded and jobs tended to be scarce.
    Andy waved a hand at Cole to get his attention. “So. Again. What are you going to do?”
    “About what?”
    “Whaddya mean ‘about what?’ Morgan, dude. Morgan.”
    “There’s not much I can do about her. She’s here. She’s very qualified. We’re going to do our thing, separately, and be professionals.” Cole took a sip of his coffee without thinking and instantly regretted the searing loss of his taste buds. He spit the liquid back out.
    “Hot?”
    Cole nodded with a grimace.
    “Are you sure you can work with her?”
    “Andy, I’m not sure how I’ve given you the impression that I can’t work with her. I have no issue with her. She is amazing and brilliant. She’s smarter than I am. And she knows what she’s doing.” Cole glanced at Andy who was looking over Cole’s shoulder with a raised eyebrow. “And she’s standing right behind me.”
    Andy nodded slowly. His grin wavered.
    “Morning, Morgan,” Cole said. He let his resignation show in his voice.
    “Cole.” Morgan stepped around to Cole’s right. “Person I don’t know,” she said to Andy with an acknowledging nod.
    He offered his hand, which she took in a brief gesture of greeting after placing her tray on the table. He said, “Anderson Logan, rotorcraft pilot. Flight commander. My friends call me Andy.”
    Cole shook his head, and then looked over at Morgan. “He’s not the flight commander. He likes to give himself titles so he can flirt.”
    “He can flirt all he wants, but it’s wasted effort. I’m here to do a job.”
    Andy’s shoulders drooped forward. “What is it with all of these driven people around here? A little fun never hurt anyone.”
    “Is he new to the airship environment? Does he not know about rumor and innuendo?” Morgan asked, still only addressing Cole.
    “I’m sitting right here. I can hear you.”
    Morgan quirked an eyebrow at him and then tucked into her oatmeal. Plain oatmeal. Cole didn’t know whether to be jealous or disgusted.
    “You’re missing some stuff from your gruel,” he said with a helpful point at her bowl.
    Morgan looked down at her bowl. “Like what?”
    “Brown sugar. Dried fruit. Anything to make it taste less like paste.”
    She deliberately took a big spoonful and then put it in her mouth, pulling the spoon out agonizingly slowly. If it hadn’t been attached, his jaw would’ve fallen right off his head.
    She’d lost some of her reserve in the years they’d been apart.
    “Mmmmm,” she said looking directly at him. Once she’d removed the spoon she gave him a lazy smile and then went back to eating her oatmeal as if it were any other day.
    Andy choked. “I, uh, I gotta go,” he stammered, but Cole’s hand on his uniform pulled him back to his seat.
    “You can sit right here until Gemma gets through the line.” For the first time ever Cole was both scared and intrigued at the same time.
    Morgan pointed at Cole with her spoon. “Take your cue from him, Andy. Don’t get left alone with me.”
    Was she trying to say something more than a simple warning? Cole wasn’t sure because her eyes had narrowed at him.
    Andy held his hands in the air. “I don’t want to get in the middle of this. I don’t want to take sides. I just need my equipment to work.”
    Cole jumped in before Andy could accidentally question Morgan’s work ethic. He knew it would be a bad move for the kid. “And it will. All the time. Morgan already knows your aircraft better than you do.”
    “I think I’m afraid of her.”
    Morgan sent the both of them a grin that looked almost maniacal. “You should be.”

    1. Hi Jennifer! Ahh, I love the personalities in this scene! And the setup with people who need to work together professionally, despite personal challenges. This made me smile: “When they were old, gray, and living in the home for ASPECT employees who refused to die.” And “Person I don’t know.” 😀

      So much fun. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Saw you from Facebook this morning, sorry this is a day late. This is an excerpt from my current original WIP, Claw By Claw.

    He wasn’t sure that they would come, even though her cousin had said they would; she had declined several invitations already, and he was half-afraid she had found some other reason to defer. But at exactly one o’clock, he received a text. “Lady and gentleman at the door, say you invited them?” His hostess texted him.
    “Names?”
    “Maggie O’Donnell, Bryce O’Day.”
    “Yes. Bring them to the private dining room.”
    He ran a comb through his hair, swung the navy sports coat over his shoulders, tried not to think about why, exactly, he wanted to look impressive. Biological imperative, he told himself. A Shifter female with her Chieftain. Instinct demanded that he put himself forward, one Chieftain, of sorts, to another.
    He was pleasantly surprised to see said Chieftain in slacks and a button down shirt; he would have welcomed him if the man had shown up in oil stained jeans and motorcycle boots, as he’d met him the previous day, but it looked as if he took Nicky’s status seriously, and had dressed to impress as well. His beard had been trimmed, not cut, but much less shaggy, shaped well, and he wore a pair of round, wire framed spectacles, curiously fragile looking on such a craggy face.
    Maggie, though. Maggie was…”Bella,” he said, meaning the word in all its forms. The navy dress fit her very well, bringing out her coloring, freshwater pearls dangling from her ears and around her neck. The neckline was demure, not the least bit suggestive; was this her funeral and court dress, then? He shook hands with Bryce, but leaned in to kiss Maggie’s cheeks in greeting. “So glad you both could come. A drink, an antipasto?”
    “Reckon we’ll just put ourselves in y’r capable hands,” Bryce rumbled pleasantly. “Fair warnin’, though, we’re a mite hungry.”
    “I’m very glad to hear that,” Nicky said. “Claudio. Two baskets of bread, a bottle of the Eyrie Pinot Noir, the antipasto platter.” The waiter who stood nearby nodded, and moved off quickly to do his bidding. “One moment, if you will.” He stood up and crossed first to a small fountain, turning it on, then to a private stereo system; a few seconds later, lively Italian folk music played softly in the room. He shrugged as he came back, pitching his voice low. “One never knows what sort of topics might come up.”
    “Cover your ass, son, ain’t no skin off of mine so long as she don’t end up in trouble,” Bryce agreed, his grin slightly too large, a touch of ferality in his eyes.
    “Excellent. So ask the questions I know you want to,” Nicky said quietly. “You held back last night because we were not alone.”
    “Reckon I will,” Bryce agreed, leaning forward over the table as Maggie rolled her eyes. “What all are you plannin’ on usin’ her for, anyway?”
    “Just backup bodyguard and Champion. That is all,” Nicky said. “My word by fang and claw, Chief.” Bryce’s head went up and back, his nose flaring.
    “I told you I reckoned he was Shifter,” Maggie said quietly. “Ain’t somethin’ you make real public knowledge though, is it?”
    “No. But you need to know, you deserve to know, that I take oath, I take service, to my heart,” he said seriously. “And so I make you the pledge. I have others for work that she finds distasteful. And should something go awry, God laughs at our plans, steps have been taken to ensure she has good representation, medical care, everything.”
    “I’m glad you see her as important as I do,” Bryce said. “She’s third in line back home. You understand that. We got a clan that practically covers West Virginia, we got tribe in Kentucky and North Carolina, I handle a lot, my sons take care of a lot, but after Jimmy and Mike, Maggie’s next. She’s got military service, she understands financials, she ain’t half as stupid as she likes to put on for all y’all city folk. Country –“
    “– doesn’t mean dumb,” Nicky said. “No. I’ve seen that already.” The door opened, Claudio and Niccolo bringing in the wine, the bread, the antipasto platter and plates. “Bene. Veal parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, chicken marsala, fettucini, not spaghetti. The family platters, so everyone can try everything. Dessert, schiacciata and espresso. Bring another bottle of the Eyrie Pinot Noir, and a bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay.” Claudio scribbled furiously, nodding when he finished, reading it back. “Yes. Good.” The trio waited for the waiters to leave before he spoke again. “We usually make the pasta fresh daily,” he said as he poured the wine. “Sunday is the one day that we have the spaghetti noodles premade from the day before; it is our busiest day. Fettucine, though, is always fresh made.”
    “Appreciate that,” Bryce said. “But my point was, Mags has another four hundred years ahead of her, barring any nasty accident and whatnot. I’d hate to see that future marred by something avoidable. Reckon the Feds done got pictures of her now.”
    “Feds got my picture anyway,” Maggie pointed out. “I am former service, after all.”
    “You are listed legitimately as my Champion now,” Nicky said. “They have no reason to think that you are anything but, and they will have no reason to think otherwise, because I have no intention, none, of using you for anything else. And intimidation. That is all.”
    “What about your other feller?” Bryce asked. “How’s it lookin’ for his return?”
    “Not good,” Nicky admitted. “Dimitris, you met him last night.” At Bryce’s nod, he went on, “He is over three hundred. He is big, he is deadly, yes, he is still strong. But he fought every six weeks for two years. And he is tired, Mr. O’Day. He is not quite ready to retire fully. But he will never be my Champion again.” Maggie’s breath sucked in, then let out slowly.
    “I’m right sorry to hear that,” she said. “He’s got pride, I’d hate to see him just kindly shoved on out to pasture.”
    “Nothing of the sort. But I have other jobs for him to do, and his reputation precedes him, and will do a great deal in those areas. Dimitris will likely work for me until the day he dies, God grant it be far, and in his bed.” He tapped the table.
    “Your lips,” Maggie agreed. “I like him real well.”
    “He’s a good man. But no. I can’t, I won’t take the risk of seeing him in a Challenge circle again.”
    “So you’ve got Mags here on a year’s contract,” Bryce said slowly. “What kind of plans do you have after that year, Mr. Castellano?”
    “Nicky, please. And I haven’t thought quite that far ahead yet. I thought we would revisit her contract in a year’s time, see how she feels, perhaps renegotiate.” A look between the two across from him. “Is there an issue?”
    “No,” Maggie said. “Not exactly. I agree, we’ll renegotiate in a year.” He would ask her later, later, when he knew her better, he decided. “So let me ask this, because this wasn’t covered in the contract; what if I get sick? What if there’s a death back home? What if I have to go home for personal reasons?” Bryce picked up the thread.
    “See, we mentioned Maggie’s sister yesterday,” he said. “Kitty. The bee-singer. Kitty…she…she ain’t Shifter, Mister — Nicky. She got skipped. She’s just as human as the day is long. And she…”
    “She ain’t right,” Maggie added. “Touched, I don’t like other terms. She’s forty, and she has to stay with my Aunt Muriel and Uncle Hank. She can’t live on her own.”
    “I see,” Nicky said. “First, of course if you need medical care, I’ll see to it. We’ll get you on the insurance of one of my companies, that’s not an issue. Does your sister need coverage? I can arrange that, but it might be difficult to find a doctor in network in another state, of course.”
    “She’s on Medicaid right now,” Maggie said. “I sure wouldn’t say no to gettin’ her on somethin’ better, but you’re right, your network might not cover a doctor in Charleston. And knowin’ I got a doctor to go to would sure make me feel better; I don’t normally get sick, but when I do, I’m the biggest baby on the planet.” Bryce snickered.
    “Vicoden for strep throat,” he shook his head. “She gargled peroxide for two weeks and guzzled orange juice and Vitamin C tablets, finally got wore down enough to let me pack her to the doctor, doctor took one look and backed away, give her Vicoden ‘cause he said her tonsils was swole the size of grapefruit and she had to be hurtin’ awful bad.” He winked. “So you got to keep an eye on her.”
    “I had work to do, Lord God,” Maggie sighed. “I didn’t have time to be sick. I also didn’t have insurance, and goin’ to see a doctor out of pocket is a hundred dollars and more. So.”
    “Right. Yes, we’ll get you on insurance. As for family obligations, I can give you two weeks, at best. The Rule states that if you are out of pocket, as my Champion, I can postpone for two weeks. That is the best I can do.”
    “He’s right,” Bryce said to Maggie. “That’s the Rule. It’s fair.”
    “It’s fair,” she agreed. “I just wanted to make sure it held.”
    “It does,” Nicky assured her. “Anything else?”
    “I can’t think of anything right offhand,” Bryce said after a minute’s reflection. “I reserve the right to negotiate further if a conflict arises.”
    “Agreed. Now. I wanted to bring up another topic that might be beneficial to both of us,” Nicky said. “Do you have many in your clan who are former service? Who might need work?”
    “Hell. We live in West Virginia,” Bryce growled. “Ain’t been no steady work down home in forty years.” Nicky nodded.
    “Have any of them thought about hiring out as bodyguards? Or…other services?” Bryce’s eyes widened behind his glasses, then narrowed.
    “Some of’em hired out to Blackwater,” he said. “Bodyguards, nope, just Champions for hire. We’re mostly bear, a few wolves, couple mountain lions and painters.”
    “Panthers,” Maggie interjected.
    “Yeah. Panthers,” Bryce took her correction. “We like to stay around the mountain for the most part, though. Thought about tryin’ to do some sort of cottage industry.”
    “Cottage industry can be helpful,” Nicky agreed. “Especially with the internet now.”
    “Right. We go herbin’, lot of homeopathy suppliers pay pretty good for decent herbs and roots. Pagan suppliers, too. But a lot of us, hell, we just go in the service and send our pay home. That’s what Maggie did, that’s what she’s been doin’, just livin’ bare as she can and sendin’ money home.”
    “Moonshine. You deal in it?”
    “Oh, I know some folks what got stills,” Bryce agreed.
    “Not as a big import. But a few cases here and there, as a curiosity, mainly. Would you be interested?”
    “Might be.”
    “More. Drivers. I sometimes need things shipped places. Would that be something your clan might be interested in?”
    “We don’t need to know what’s bein’ hauled.”
    “Agreed.”
    “No drugs. Drugs are bad, bad. Guns we can handle.”
    “Cigarettes,” Nicky said, and Bryce nodded. “Maybe some other things. No drugs, agreed, I don’t deal with them myself.”
    “I can find you some folks. You want fellers or girls?”
    “Girls are less likely to be pulled over,” Nicky said. “Couples are less likely to be pulled over. Carfuls of girls are less likely to be pulled over.”
    “What kind of money are we talkin’?”
    “Fluctuating on risk,” Nicky said. “No less than a thousand, no more than ten. And I’ll try to think of something less risky, as well.”
    “Do that. I got a lot of folks that need work,” Bryce said. “I’ll ask around, see who might be interested in bodyguard work and the other stuff.” He shrugged. “I can’t make any promises, but I reckon we’ve got twenty, maybe thirty folks who’d be interested.”
    “I understand.” The door to the private room opened, and he turned. “Oh, good, here’s the food.”

    1. Hi S.M.! Thank you so much for posting! Dang… Nicky is one good host. 🙂 I loved how I really got a sense of a whole society and a intricate culture from this, with its own traditions, roles, and expectations. I really got a sense of who the characters were, too!

  6. Although this is not something I would normally choose to read, I must say I’m loving this story. 🙂 I wish I had an excerpt of a WIP for you, but I’ve been busy getting a short (5k) story published. Check out my blog for more info on that. 🙂

    Anyway, I just wanted to ‘check in’ and let you know I’m still here reading your blog every chance I get.

  7. I recently started working on a classic good vs evil book. Here is the first page or two. I hope you like it!

    I smiled up at the guards. The handcuffs curled around my wrists, holding me to the cage made of iron bars. They tried to ignore me, but it must have been hard for them. I was wearing torn leggings and a long-sleeved crop top that floated down to my belly button, also torn. Proof I had put up a fight. I was pretty sure I had a knife wound somewhere, because blood was slowly dripping on the floor, creating a crimson pool. “You think you can hold me?” I hissed through a huge smile. They glanced down at me and held their guns a little tighter. I laughed a little as they squirmed. “We can try.” One of them finally muttered uncomfortably. Yes, I thought. You can try.
    I shifted my wrists, the ring of metal against metal stumbled around my head. I twisted my wrist through the handcuff easily, as I’ve done hundreds of times. I shifted my body to cover my wrists and faked a wince. The guards still ignored me, but the cameras wouldn’t. Even though they took away my weapons, they still forgot a few. A dagger tucked away, the cold metal against my thigh begging to be used. A gun stashed away some place safe. And I was fairly certain I still had a bomb somewhere.
    My toes dug into the floor. They had taken my boots and socks for some reason, leaving my feet to freeze on the hard cement ground. I shuffled sideways a little and slid my other wrist from the handcuffs. Just in time, a buzzer sounded somewhere and two heavy doors rolled open, allowing six guards to enter and a man in a suit.
    My eyes widen as Jackson Roper, the most famous lawyer and interrogator in the city waltzed in on steady feet, an air of arrogance surrounding him like cologne. “Rosella Williams.” He said, my name sounding like mud coming from his tongue. I snapped forwards and growled, “No one calls me Rosella.”
    He laughed and held up his hands. “I apologize.” He bowed low before me in a mocking way. Big mistake. He motioned to open the cage and they did. Another mistake. He walked in and squatted down next to me, inches from my face. “So,,” he said, his voice smooth and even. “What did you do this time?” I looked him dead in the eye and said, “I killed someone?”
    “Who?”
    “You!” I thrust the knife towards him, but he was yanked backwards by the guards, who flooded the cell. I jumped up and drove the knife into one of the guards, right into his neck. He dropped and I rolled the gun onto my foot, kicked it up, and caught it. I effectively shot the other guards into the foreheads, which were left unprotected and cartwheeled out of the cage and landed on another guard. He smacked against the ground and started firing at random, but I pulled out my hidden gun and shot him right in the forehead.

  8. Sorry this is so late! Laiken is an American cousin of Taylor’s who has come to stay with the family. She attends a practise of the school choral group just a couple of days after her arrival.

    Taylor McKenzie turned to offer her cousin a reassuring smile, her eyes warm with sympathy. She shifted the heavy plastic bags, which were overflowing with clothes and accessories, into one hand as she staggered forward to open the hall door. It burst open at her touch, and a tall guy stood to the side to allow the two girls to enter the room.

    “Hey Romain,” Taylor grinned. “Grab the box from Laiken, will you?”

    Overcome by a shyness she had never experienced before, Laiken offered him a tentative smile as she entered; she still didn’t know why she had agreed to come to the choral group practise! After all, she had only arrived in England just two days ago! Romain took the cardboard box from her hands and set it down on the table beside Taylor’s bags.

    “This is my cousin, Laiken Harris.” Taylor began. “This the first time she’s ever been to England, so make sure you guys give her a good impression to take back home with her.” She turned to smile at the girl beside her. “This is Romain. He’s the same age as Jack – eighteen.”

    The door swung open once again and four more girls entered, talking animatedly and giggling at regular intervals. Laiken’s blue eyes filled with amusement as she realised that girls were the same the whole world over – boys, on the other hand, were a little harder to understand.

    By the time Taylor had finished her introductions, two more guys had arrived, breaking off a heated argument to complain about the day off they had sacrificed simply in order to attend this practise. They continued their argument with a little more enthusiasm than earlier in the hope of impressing the girls with their wit and eloquence. The girls, however, had noticed Laiken and were in the process of introductions.

    Taylor threw an impatient glance around the assembled students, her dark eyes full of exasperation. “We only have half an hour, and we seriously need Chase to be here so we can practise the second song in the medley.” She turned to explain. “Chase Forester is probably the only boy in the whole school who can actually sing,” She ignored the indignant protests from the others guys and continued, “And he’s quite a good actor too, so he got landed with a pretty hard solo. The trouble is he’s never practised it before, and the concert’s in just two days.”

    “He arrived a few minutes after I did,” Romain spoke up, “He said he was going to the library to print off an essay, and he’d come over as soon as he finished. It doesn’t take ten minutes to do that, though.”

    “Hey, if you guys wanna start practising, I don’t mind getting him,” Laiken offered quietly, slightly self-conscious of her American accent. She saw their startled expressions, and smiled sheepishly. “I mean, I haven’t got anything else to do, so I might as well make myself useful.”

    “Yeah, you might as well,” Romain agreed, smiling at her.

    “He should still be working at one of the computers in the library, right opposite the place where you had to sign in, remember? Thanks so much, Laike.” Taylor turned and ran lightly up the steps to the stage to join the other girls. “Come on, boys! What are you waiting for? I know none of you can sing a note when Chase’s not there, but we can’t afford to waste a single minute of our time! It’s our last practise ever!”

    Laughing at her cousin’s dictatorial manner, Laiken pushed open the door and disappeared. However, as she approached the library she found her confidence had deserted her; what the heck had she been thinking to offer to fetch a guy she had never even spoken to before?

    Then she remembered the laughter in her brother’s eyes as he had teased her, “I’ve heard that English guys are pretty formidable, Laike. I bet you your bottom dollar you’ll be too shy to say a word to them!”

    Yeah right! She’d show Jack!

    With an angry toss of her brown curls, she stalked into the room and came to an abrupt halt. The room was empty. Torn between relief and frustration, Laiken stood motionless in the doorway, wondering whether she should return to the practise or attempt to find the guy.
    It was then that she saw him.

    Chase Forester? There was no way it was him.

    The guy stood beside the printer, one hand shoved deep into the pocket of a pair of expensive navy chinos; the other was resting lightly on the wall, fingers drumming impatiently as he waited. It had to be the guy she was sent to look for, yet somehow Laiken had conjured up a powerful guy with rippling muscles and a slightly arrogant demeanor. She regarded him in interested silence for a moment, wondering if this was really the guy they all spoke so highly of.

    “Hey, are you Chase?” She broke the silence a little tentatively.

    His tanned face did not betray any sign of surprise at her question as he turned around to face her, one eyebrow raised inquiringly. There was a slight upward curve to his lips, almost as though he was fighting to control a smile. For a moment she wondered if he was laughing at her, but then his dark gray eyes met her own, and she saw the warmth which radiated from them. Somehow, she knew this guy was going to be a friend.

    “Yeah, I am. Did they send you to fetch me?”

    “No, I offered. They wanted to start practising, and…well, since we arrived it seems like the whole school has been trying to convince me what an amazing guy you are, and I have to admit I was intrigued. Actually,” She continued with characteristic honesty, “I’d come to the conclusion that you were egotistic and I was determined to hate you, but what everyone forgot to tell me was you’re actually a nice person.”

    “How do you know I am? You don’t know me.”

    “Your eyes.” She answered, laughing. “You can always go by eyes.”

    His face broke into a boyish grin, turning away to hide his amused smile as he realised he had just identified the main difference between American and English girls. Picking up his neatly typed essay from the printer and shoving it into a lever-arch folder, he asked her the standard question you ask somebody who has just moved to a new country, the same question she had been asked by almost every person she had met since arrival.

    “So, how do you like it here? In England?”

    “Well…” For a moment she was tempted to dismiss the question with the usual ambiguous answer, but she sensed Chase was genuinely interested in her feelings and she found herself pouring out the truth.

    The choral group were halfway through Bop to the Top when the door swung open, but Taylor signalled to the sound team to stop the backing track. This song needed work, but Chase still hadn’t practised his solo and she figured that was their first priority, since the concert was in only four days. Impatiently, she waited until he had finished with Laiken, wondering why she was speaking so earnestly. What did they have to talk about anyway? They had only just met!

    “Chase, get a move on!” Romain called into his mic.

    The guy jumped as though he had been shot, and a sheepish smile spread reluctantly across his cheeks as the group burst into laughter. Without another word he turned his back on his latest acquaintance and took the mic that one of the guys in the sound team offered him.

    “Have you learnt your solo?” Sasha asked anxiously.

    “Ye-ah,” The answer was a little doubtful. “I mean, I’ve listened to the recording a couple of times and I kind of sang it when I was waiting for my essay to print out.” He grinned as he saw her expression. “I’ll be okay, hopefully. Anyway, I thought we start with Bop to the Top, cos I don’t want to launch straight into a solo without warming up a little before.”

    The sound team turned the backing track on, and Laiken watched with interest as the group moved into their positions. By the time she had taken a chair from the rack and sat down, the song had begun, and she settled back to watch. She was immediately struck by their enthusiasm; they weren’t just singing, they really were High School Musical.

    And Chase…

    Even to somebody as unmusical as herself, somebody who had never sang a note outside of church, it was clear he had natural talent. Unlike some of the other boys, who she guessed had read through the music and planned some actions to fit the words, Chase managed to become Ryan, an ambitious teenage choreographer working hard to climb the ladder of success. He looked positively ruthless when they sang ‘gotta bump the competition’ and even though that wasn’t the personality portrayed by Ryan in the books written about the film, she couldn’t help admiring his acting skills. Chase was just as good as they had made out, and she found herself really looking forward to his solo.

    Yet even she was surprised when he leapt across the stage, pushing past the others as though he couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm any longer. The words, clear and full of fervor, seemed to tumble out of his mouth in his effort to share his discovery with his friends; he turned to face them slightly when he announced it was time for celebration, his expression daring them to contradict him, and they all agreed eagerly. Taylor had been right, she realised – It was Chase who gave the rest of the guys the self-confidence to chill out while singing and act naturally.

    He adopted a slight swagger as he walked across the room to talk to Laiken afterwards, and for a second she wondered if she had been wrong in her first judgement of him. Was he proud of his talent? But as he questioned her anxiously, she saw he was genuinely worried. Could it possible that all the self-assurance was just another act, and the swagger an attempt to conceal the insecurity hidden deep in his heart?

    “You’re good,” She assured him. “Seriously good.”

    “His ego doesn’t need boosting.” One of the guys warned her, rolling his eyes. “He’s already aware this medley wouldn’t exist without him.”

    Laiken glanced sharply at Chase to see his reaction to this jibe, and she was relieved to see his eyes dancing. Playfully, he punched the guy on the shoulder, with a casual, “You’d better speak for yourself, West! If you hadn’t agreed to sing that duet with Ashley, we would have had to pull out of the concert. The rest of the guys all refused, because she always manages to drown you out no matter how much they turn down her mic.” He told Laiken. “But for some reason, Weston didn’t seem too concerned. He’s good, too – you should see his expression when he sings, ‘thought I was alone, with no one to hold, you were…’”

    “Okay, dude!” West interrupted hurriedly. “It’s not true, Laiken!”

    “You mean you did have someone to hold?” She asked innocently, but her sparkling blue eyes betrayed her satisfaction when she saw the guy’s cheeks flush with embarrassment. The rest of the group broke into suppressed laughter, and Romain grinned across the room at her.

    “I think they won that round, Weston,” He called.

  9. Too cute, Bryn! I just love these installments!

    Okay, this is what I was working on for NaNoWriMo, but felt too self-conscious to share at the time. 😉 I’ve polished it up—at least enough to post! * grin *

    In the middle of the ruins, a waterfall fell from the caves down into the cliffs above, cutting its way among the fallen stones and through the jungle to the river where Shahin had been standing a while before, waiting for Amrita to return with the stolen food, so that they could at last be off. But they had never gotten the chance.

    There he was, with his hands bound behind his back, forced to his knees, awaiting to be hideously sacrificed—to his renewed horror—in a temple dedicated to Kali. Were these travelers in league with his aunt? It was difficult to tell. Kali was an old goddess who had many followers. Most of whom were relatively peaceful. That these people likewise offered human sacrifices seemed like too much of a coincidence to his way of thinking.

    Yet his aunt was nowhere to be seen. It seemed he might never know.

    The thug behind him, apparently a young initiate, held his colorful scarf ready to strangle Shahin, his first victim.

    His other question, about whether or not Amrita made it to safety, was at last answered. He felt utter despair as he saw them drag her to his side, bound and gagged just as he was, and forced to her knees before the monstrous statue.

    But they had not replaced her iron collar.

    Obviously, they did not know of her ability. Why had she not shape changed and saved herself?

    He hardly finished the thought before she did just that.

    Shahin looked on in horror, frightened beyond all reason, as the pretty fourteen-year-old girl transformed into a monstrous creature. Hard scales replaced her smooth skin, her hands morphing into talons. Enormous wings grew out of her back, beating like the very heart in his chest, and casting a menacing shadow over them all.

    Of course he already knew what she was.

    He just had no idea.

    * * *

    Everything that happened next registered as surreal, as though he observed it through another’s eyes. The dragon’s wings and limbs broke through the ropes with minimal effort. The travelers cowered away in fear. Flames shot out from its mouth into the sky, lighting the temple ruins and surrounding jungle in a spectacular burst of power.

    Then its hideous head turned to face Shahin, and he knew his time had come once and for all. There was no where he could run, no where he could hide where it would not find him. Even as he tried to wiggle away, he knew it was no use. Even the thugs, who did not have their hands and feet bound, could not escape. What made him think he had any chance?

    He resisted anyway.

    The dragon reached forward with its colossal talon and scooped him up into its claws. Shahin’s blood ran cold. The next thing he knew, his stomach flip-flopped, and he realized it had taken him high up into the sky, the sudden cold winds a sharp contrast to the sweltering jungle below. He nearly lost his meager dinner as a result.

    Where was it taking him? To its secret lair—to eat him? At this breakneck speed, he could hardly keep conscious. Or was that more the result of raw, paralyzing fear?

    After a while, he realized that all had fallen still. The noises of chaos and conflagration echoed from far, far away. His bonds and gag were removed. Only then did he dare to open his eyes.

    He lay at the top of the cliff, high above the ruins. Far, far below, the thugs ran around like angry, frightened ants amidst the fires around them. At his side, the waterfall shot out from the rocks, crashing into the river that ran through the fallen temple.

    Amrita kneeled next to him—the Amrita he knew, the girl of fourteen years with golden brown eyes and smooth, beautiful skin. “I sorry I frightened you,” she said.

    But Shahin now understood she was not what she appeared to be. She was something else entirely, something evil and terrible.

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