chapter 2.2 Luke’s POV Rough Draft

I’ll bet you’re wondering – what happened to Blog-A-Book?  (Heretofore referred to as BAB).  No, it didn’t die.  It simply took a hiatus while I finished a different book, and went to teach at a conference, and while Rachel also worked on a book….

 

but we’re Baaaack!  With the next installment of the story.  So – here it is, go post your questions and suggests and comments at http://www.mybooktherapy.ning.com/  Chapter 2 discussion! 

 

As I wrote this, I tried to find a scene where we could put Luke and Kenzie together, and I wanted a case of mistaken identity.  Also, I wanted to introduce the idea that meeting a famous woman might be an issue for Luke.  Might try and work that in more as I go.  Also, wanted to intro the idea that Greg pulls his hollywood world into Luke’s life occassionally.  We’ll have a great arguement with Greg and Luke and why Luke will help Greg in an upcoming chapter.  I also wanted to lay out both Luke and Kenzie’s values, for each other, and for the reader.  Looking forward to RH’s comments tomorrow!

 

Ch 2.2 – Luke’s pov

 

Fate knew how to make a man suffer. It wasn’t enough that Luke had sacrificed his pride nearly sprinting out of the nursing home. Or that he’d managed to get his mug in the paper, again, after rescuing his rascal-of-a-nephew from traffic. But now, it wanted him to replay his past, everything he’d spent the past five years hiding from.

            Couldn’t the world just leave him alone?

            Apparently not.

            Luke stood at the window, cupping his microwaved, lukewarm coffee, listening to the rain pellet the roof of his NPS office. Outside, the torrent turned the parking lot into an ocean, although it had given his F-150 pickup a decent bathing, scouring the red clay and pine needles from the wheel wells. The price of living on a dirt road back in the hills.

Overhead lightning veined the steel gray sky and mist capped Roan Mountain. No wonder he hadn’t been able to receive cell service, even after he’d emerged from his mountain cabin. Seven messages beeped when his phone came to life – two from his sister, one from an unknown and three from Greg. Clearly, being a hermit had it advantages. Like, not having people pry into his life. He couldn’t believe he’d let Ruthann talk him out of fishing in the Watauga, or even — thanks to the thunderstorm — reading one of the books stacked by his stone fireplace, and into the insane idea of letting some reporter interview him for the VFW Viewfinder, Tennessee edition. What was her name? Katie? Kimmy? Karen?

            Not like he would seriously consider turning his back a chance to support the real heroes in the world, but having his privacy invaded, again, made him ever so grateful that he lived off the grid, without telephone, or electricity. Thanks, but he liked the stone age. But, despite Kathy’s, or Kacey’s agenda, he’d had full intentions of turning the interview over on its end, focus it instead on his father, on the medals the old man won, and finally honor him for his courage.

            It was the least he could do after all his father had done for him.

            Besides, he didn’t know how much longer he could spin the lies behind Captain Luke Alexander, without having the truth break free.

            He watched a forest service truck pull up, splashing through the puddles. Cooper Hale emerged, pulling up the green hood of his slicker as he ran inside.

            The office shook as he shut the door behind him. The guy had the grace of a black bear, and the girth to match it.

“Like to drown me out there,” he said, shooting a glance at Luke. “What ‘er you doing here? I thought you had the weekend off.”

            “I’m meeting someone.” Luke took a sip of coffee, made a face. “This stuff is awful.”

            “Did you make a new pot?”  Cooper shrugged out of his jacket, hung it up, and ran a hand through his recently mowed black hair. He walked over to the pot, the coffee more sludge than liquid, picked it up and made a face.

            “Nope.”

            “Then it’s yesterday’s dregs.” He poured it out. “I’ve been checking the service roads. So far, the Doe hasn’t washed out any roads, but it’s getting nasty out there.”

            Luke walked over to the sink, threw out his coffee. Coop had no idea.

            “Hey, is that your coat ringing?” Cooper asked as he pulled out a coffee filter.

            Luke glanced at his own still soggy rain slicker, hanging on the hook next to Cooper’s. “Probably. I don’t know why I got a cell phone. People can find you everywhere.”

            Cooper gave a harsh laugh. “Oh yeah, I know your celebrity status is a real pain. It’s so hard to have women writing to you from around the nation, offering their hand in marriage, and what not.” He raised an eyebrow at Luke and grinned.

            Luke gave him a narrowed-eye glare.

            Cooper laughed, measuring out the coffee. “It’s not like you’re actually participating in the twenty-first century, Daniel Boone. Do you even know how to answer it?” He gestured toward the still buzzing phone.

            Luke reached over and filled the coffee pot with water. “Funny. I know who it is. Greg left me three voice mails, and he’s called me twice more without leaving a message.”

            “Your cousin Greg? Old Budweiser? I still remember when he played middle linebacker. He hit like a bulldozer. How’s he doing?”

            “He’s some hotshot in Hollywood. I don’t know how a good ole boy like Greg hooked up with the movie start industry, but apparently, he still likes to get me into trouble. He’s probably calling about our annual fishing trip – “

            “Didn’t he bring out a couple of sissy actors last time?”

            “Yep. Nearly got us all killed. They made a camp fire, nearly set the Cherokee forest ablaze.”

            Cooper reloaded the coffee and filter into the machine. “Didn’t they lie about hanging the bear bag?”

            Luke poured the water into the coffee maker. “Um hmm. I caught a black bear rooting through our shore lunch batter. We finally had to hike out a day early because one of the genius’s snagged a hook on his ear.”

            “Ouch.”

            “Oh, yeah. He was screaming about his pretty face, Greg was trying to keep him calm. I wanted to dump them both into the river.”

Luke reached into the pocket of his jacket, hit the ignore button for the call to go to voice mail. “I don’t think I’ll be answering Greg’s messages, thanks.”

             Cooper scanned the bulletin board for the day’s weather reports, and other USDA updates. “So, who are you waiting for?”

            “Some reporter with the VFW – I can’t remember her name. Evidently, she couldn’t find me, so she called my sister. Caught my name in the article in the Voice.”

            “Captain Luke Alexander to the rescue, saving cats and small children.” Cooper grinned at him as the coffee maker gurgled.

“Funny. What was I supposed to do? Let the kid get flattened by a semi?”

“Of course not. I’m just saying that even a redneck like me can figure out this reporter isn’t just interested in an interview, if you know what I mean.” He glanced at Luke. “Another reason to stop hiding in the woods, pal. Your non-existent social life.”

            Luke shot him a please, don’t, but Cooper clearly still possessed the ability to out blitz him, honed during their high school football days.

            “Last time I saw you at a social event was last year’s First Baptist annual Sunday School picnic. With…hey, how about that – your sister.”

            “Back off, Coop. I don’t need any help meeting women.”

            Women? How about one woman?”

            Luke sat down at his desk, opened his computer and started a game of spider solitaire.

            After a moment, Cooper picked up on his silence and sat down at his own computer. “I’m just saying, it wouldn’t hurt you to engage in a little female companionship.” He chased his words with a wink.

            Luke shook his head. “Thanks, but I’ve known near ‘bout every girl in the county since birth, and frankly, that’s too much information for all of us. If I ever meet anyone, it would have to be someone who didn’t know me. A fresh start.”

            “Good luck with that, pal, because last time I checked, there isn’t a woman this side of the Mississippi who hasn’t heard of the brave Captain Luke Alexander.”

            Yeah, that was the problem, wasn’t it? Luke moved a black eight onto a nine of hearts. Or, rather, everyone thought they knew him.

            No, they knew what the army told them. He freed an ace and moved it into an open position.

            The front door opened, the cold huff of rain scattered papers from the reception desk. Luke looked up.

            Drenched to the bone, in her sodden white – was that leather? – jacket, wearing a pair of light blue suede boots, and designer jeans, a too-skinny woman stood in the doorway, a expression of what looked like annoyance on her face. Water dripped from the ends of her blonde hair, and mascara ran down sculpted cheeks, dripping from her flashing blue eyes. “I’m looking for Luke Alexander.”

            Wearily, Luke raised his hand. “Found him.” He closed out his game. Pushed up from his seat. “And you are –“

            “Kenzie.” She plunked a rather large, shiny red purse/suitcase onto the reception desk.

            Luke held out his hand, and she stripped off her coat, handed it to him.

            Under the jacket, she wore a low cut teal blue, sleeveless blouse, ruffles running up around her neck. A triple strand of what must be costume jewelry held an array of faux sapphires. Someone had come overdressed to the party, especially in comparison to his faded jeans and flannel shirt. Did she think this was New York? Hello, someone needed to point out where they were on a map, sandwiched between Virginia and North Carolina, in the far east tip of Tennessee, an inch west from the Atlantic seaboard, smack dab in Smokey Mountain land. Land of bluegrass and honkytonk, not gems and fancy leather.

            “Is it always like this?” She tipped her head back, ran her hands down her hair, then tilted her head to the side, squeezing out the moisture onto the floor.

            Luke watched it puddle at her feet, still holding her fancy coat.

            “Oh, I can’t believe I’m out in public like this.” She shivered, head to toe. “And this place isn’t exactly easy to find. I was lost for an hour.”

            That accounted for the delay at least. But not the lack of apology.

            Still, Luke hung up her coat on a hook.

            “Oh, can you find a hanger? I hate having poke marks in my jacket collar.  And it wrecks the leather.”

            Cooper rose from his desk. “I’ll get one.”  He seemed to be hiding a smirk.

            “Would you like a cup of coffee?” Luke moved over to the machine, pulled down a mug from the cupboard. Checked it for residue.

            “Oh, yes. I’ll take a Venti sugar free vanilla latte with lite whip and an extra shot of vanilla. And, oh non-fat, please.” She rubbed her hands on her bare arms, now pebbled with gooseflesh. “And one of those butterscotch scones would be epic.”

            Luke stared into the mug. “Um…I think we have some leftover blueberry cobbler? But I’m afraid we’re reduced to just plain old Folgers.”

            “Oh.” She lifted a shoulder. “I guess that’ll do. Thanks.”

            He handed her the full mug and she wrapped her fingers around it. “Oh, warm. I’m frozen to the bone.”  

            Luke watched her blow on her coffee. “Um, so where do you want to do this?”

            She looked up, raised an eyebrow. “I…I thought you would know.”

            Oh. Well, “How long do you think it’ll take?”

            She took a sip, made a face. Clearly the fresh batch wasn’t an improvement. “I guess I was thinking…maybe a month? I don’t know. Depends on how I feel.”

            How she…. “A whole month?”

            She nodded.  “I mean, probably I’ll get bored by then. You know, I have a pretty full plate right now.”

            “Bored?” He set the coffee cup down without filling it. “I would hate for you to get bored.” Apparently, his story was older news that he’d thought.

            “Me too. Although frankly, after the excitement of the past couple weeks, I am ready for a little ho-hum.”

            Ho hum? A month in a prison camp, a top-secret rescue of DEA agents, and the capture of one of the world’s darkest drugs lords, and that was ho-hum? Luke glanced at Cooper, who gave him an eyebrows up, you got yourself into this, message.

            Perfect.

            “Well, we wouldn’t want anything too exciting would we?” Luke shook his head, moved toward the conference room, hoping Miss Low Expectations would follow. Except, wasn’t this what he wanted? The world to forget?

            Which meant that maybe someday he would forget?

            Kenzie followed him, but instead of sitting in the chair, she sat on the oval conference table, her feet on the chair. Her purse, she’d left in the other room.

            She continued to clutch her coffee like a security blanket. She did look cold. The woman needed to look out her window before she got dressed for the day.

            “So, what’s your first question?” Luke sat, folded his arms over his flannel shirt, stretching out his legs.

            Kinsey looked over at him. “I just want to make sure this isn’t going to be too invasive. I mean, I don’t need people following me, taking pictures, intruding into my life. You think you can handle that?”

            For crying out loud, it wasn’t like she was Woodward or Bernstein. She certainly wouldn’t find fame from interviewing a hero who’d squandered his own with prescription drugs. Or maybe she’d gloss over that part. “Oh, I think so. I don’t think anyone is even going to care.”

            She frowned. Opened her mouth, closed it. Then, “Well, I don’t think that’s a very nice thing to say. I mean, I realize that it’s not big news anymore, but do think people will care. I mean, it’s not like people won’t find out.”

“That’s the point, isn’t it? For people to find out?”

Her mouth opened in a sort of horror, as if he’d told her that she looked like a drowned rat. With freckles. Definitely with freckles. “I don’t know what you were told, but no, I don’t want anyone to know.” She got up from the table, put her coffee down. She appeared like she might be shaking. 

“Then why even come here? Why even meet with me?”

 “Because I thought you were trustworthy.” She tightened her jaw, as if sucking in a measure of control. Then, crisply, “I’m sorry this has been a terrible mistake. Clearly, you’re not the man people think you are.”

Well, that was the first thing out of her mouth that made sense.

She put her coffee down. “And this is terrible coffee.”

Luke stared at her. Was this some sort of trick to rile him into the truth? Did she think that by not caring, he’d lower his defenses, get rattled, maybe spill out something new? Sorry, but he knew the rules, thanks to the endless military briefing. “Oh, you’re going to have to do better than that, honey.”

She frowned at him, disgust on her face. “I didn’t make it, if you remember. You made this horrible brew.” She picked up her coffee and walked back out into the foyer.  Dumped the coffee into the sink. She wiped her hands on her pants. “Fine. Listen, I don’t know what you were thinking, but I am not thrilled about hanging around with you, either. So let’s just go wherever the cabin is, and get it over with.”

Hanging around with –Luke stared at her, running his conversation with Ruthann through his mind, groping for anything that might have suggested he’d spend a month letting a crazy reporter pick through his brain. Or maybe, like Coop suggestion, this so-called reporter didn’t have reporting on her agenda. “This was your idea! And frankly, I’m a little offended by it. I’m not sure what my sister told you, but I’m not…well, I’m not sure what you are insinuating, but whatever it is, I’m…not that type of guy.”

She took a little intake of breath, like a pained gasp, and looked as if he’d slapped her. Her eyes even rimmed with moisture. “Excuse me?”

“Yes, excuse you. I think you need to leave, Miss,…”

“Grace,” she said, barely over a whisper. “Mackenzie Grace.”  

He frowned. Was that her last name? He thought he remembered it being something more –

“Are you kidding me? You’re Mackenzie Grace?” Cooper stood up, and Luke turned as he hurried toward them both, his expression morphing from a sort of smirk to something akin to adoration. His voice even grew soft, less growl, more purr. “What are you doing here, in Normandy?” He picked up a dry, insulated coat from one of the hooks and draped it around her shoulders. She pulled it around herself, and looked over at Luke as if he’d sold the family farm out from under her. Some sort of dangerous emotion simmered in her blue eyes, her blonde hair hung in wet, slightly drying coils. Her jaw tightened as if trying to keep her mouth from opening and devouring him.

He experienced a sort of queasy, raw feeling, not unlike the one he’d felt nearly five years ago, moments before everything exploded, as he watched little Luis approach the camp, a bag of so-called potatoes over his shoulder.

This was going to get ugly, fast.

“Yes, Mackenzie Grace, the movie star,” Cooper said, a sort of between-clenched-teeth-while-smiling stage whisper. “Haven’t you ever heard of Hayes O’Brien, 006?”

Kenzie continued to stare at him, something murderous now entering her eyes.

Luke shook his head, slowly. “Uh…You don’t happen to know my cousin Greg, do you?”

Her lips tightened to a tiny knot of fury.

            His coat pocket began to buzz.

            Cooper led Mackenzie back to the conference room. “Hey Luke, I think I’d get that, if I were you.”

               

 

Award season

We’re in the book writing award season. An exciting albeit tense time.

Big congratulations to Susan May Warren for finalling in the Christys and the Rita’s for Finding Stephanie. Well deserved, Susie. They are very prestigious awards.

And, as long as we’re here… Love Starts With Elle finaled in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence as well as  the Ritas.

I was on the phone talking with Susie – who was telling me she’d just gotten the Rita call – when call waiting toned in on my phone.

It was the Rita coordinator!

So, while Sooz was on hold, I was getting the same news she’d gotten a few minutes before. We had a fun time with that one.

Keep writing, Voice. There will be more of our Blog-a-Book this week!

Rachel

Chapter 2.1 Final RD

 

Chapter 2.1 Rough Draft Final

 

“Leaving L.A. just feels like running away to me, Greg, and the truth is…I never run away from trouble.” MacKenzie walked to the railing of the rooftop porch, overlooking Manhattan Beach. Greg didn’t exactly have a sandy front yard, but from three stories up on his Mediterranean-style home, she could see the Pacific Ocean surfing up the shore past the last gilded rays of the day into the shadows of twilight. Palm trees and volleyball nets along the shore shivered in the wind, and the sun iced the roofs of the neighboring homes with hues of gold.

“No, Hayes O’Brien, 006, never runs away. You, MacKenzie Grace, are allowed to run. To hide, to go far, far away and lie low while the media forgets.”

She glanced at Greg, who hadn’t risen from the lounge chair behind her. “If I do that, I’m liable to never return.” Her wrist still hurt, despite the brace, and she babied it as she pulled her sweater around her. The night crept through the holes and prickled her skin.

“I’m just so tired of being the top headline where everyone is deciding how I might resurrect my career, or declaring my career’s over, or even questioning why I would make an indie film, as if that might be some sort of desperate attempt to show that I can act. Did it ever occur to them that I wanted to make this film? Because it’s an issue that matters?” She shook her head. “I’m just…tired.”

Bone tired. The kind of tired that came from running too long without stopping to rest. Or even to figure out where she was headed. “I just feel like everyone else has control of my life but me…”

“I know the press hasn’t been kind—”

“Not kind?” MacKenzie shot him a look over her shoulder. “They’ve practically eviscerated me. It’s not enough that my home is half-torched and that my bodyguard has second-degree burns from protecting me, but now Nils has me practically framing him for the attack!”

 “I told you not to talk to the press. You were upset, and no one handles their words well when they’re upset.” Greg’s tone was so quiet, she turned just to make sure she heard him correctly.

“Are you blaming me for the media’s feeding frenzy?”

“I’m just saying that maybe you shouldn’t have given a statement right afterward. Especially one that implicated your ex-husband.”

“I did not implicate him. I said that every year Nils sent me a gift–and someone figured that out and used it to get into my house.”

“It clearly made it sound like Nils was out to get you. You can’t expect his camp to sit on that without responding. And the Star’s headline certainly didn’t help.”

MacKenzie cringed. MacKenzie Grace suspects ex-husband, Academy Award winner in attack.

Yes, that was an unfortunate piece of newsprint.

“Okay, I can admit that I should have just ignored the flashbulbs and mikes – but frankly, I’d had it with being the victim. It was time to show I wasn’t beat, that I wasn’t going to let Hollywood, or my ex-husband, or some crazy stalker take me down. I just wanted to fight back a little…like Hayes.”

      “Maybe a little less Hayes would’ve been good. Especially since Hayes doesn’t have an ex-husband to indict.”

“I didn’t blame Nils!”

“I know that, but next time you feel the need to fight back, wait for me. I was on my way—”

“You were at the Vanity Fair party, talking to Posh Beckam, if I recall. I was surprised you even bothered to show up.”

“That’s not fair, Kenzie. You’re my girl. I don’t care if I had been having a rousing chat with Steven Spielberg– you needed me. And I’m here for you.”

Yes, he had been there for her—from the very minute he showed up at the hospital. He’d arranged transportation and security, and a hotel to stay in, and finally a room in his own digs just because she couldn’t stop shaking.

 “This is why I think you should go away. I’m telling you, Kenzie, it’s not cowardice to leave and hide out somewhere. Heal a little bit. You can’t exactly throw yourself into another role with a broken wrist.”

 “Cracked. And I’ll be as good as new in no time.” Well, okay. She might never be as good as new. A week later, she still needed a sedative to sleep, still heard Tony’s moans, still smelled the acrid nose-curling smoke of the elephant and all her mementos burning. Most of all, she still tasted her own fear welling in her mouth as she helped Tony from the house.

      “I just want them to find Leon, put him back behind bars.” She couldn’t believe that her most famous stalker, crazy Leon Hicks, had found her again.

Three restraining orders and finally a stint in prison – wouldn’t the guy give up? She returned to the table, picked up the cup of chamomile tea Greg’s housekeeper had prepared for her, and sat on the lounge chair next to Greg.

“LA police picked him up yesterday. Unfortunately, he’s lawyered up, but they’re still holding him while they track down his alibi.”

Well, at least she wouldn’t have any more exploding elephants on her doorstep. MacKenzie took a sip of her tea. Her cup rattled as she set it back into the saucer. She ran her thumb down the handle. “Poor Marissa. She didn’t know the elephant wasn’t a gift – she thought it was from Nils.”

As did the entire country, thanks to her babbling.

She just wanted to grab those hours back, not only the ones outside the hospital, when she accompanied Tony into the ER, but going back further, before the elephant, before even Nils, maybe all the way back to the day she’d packed up her Ford Escort and headed to Duke University, riding high on her academic scholarships. Maybe a look backward—to the world she’d left — her mama pressing a paper bag lunch into her hands, and her daddy, hands thick with grease, standing in the door of the barn, pride beaming from his eyes as she drove away from the mountain would help her remember who she should be today.

Whether she should run and hide, like Greg wanted, or stand her ground.

“Listen, we both know the press is having a heyday with your run of bad luck.”

 “It’s hardly bad luck to have someone try and kill you.”

Greg held up his hand. “Agreed. But negative press of this kind isn’t going to help you raise funds to promote your film. The press will only predict that the film is a flop, and you’ll be getting negative reviews before it’s even screened. You’re better off laying low for a while. Take a look at those scripts I left on your bureau—”

“Stop! Can you hear yourself? I have a stalker after me – and all you can think about is what bimbo part I’m going to play in my next movie. I told you – I don’t want to do those kind of films anymore. I want to be more than Hayes O’Brian, super spy. I want to be taken seriously and offered roles that will impact people, change lives.”

“Like your indie film?”

She lifted a shoulder. “Maybe. Hopefully. People need to know about the horror of human trafficking. To know what it feels like to have your identity, your choices, your life stripped from you.”  Sort of how she felt right now. No, she’d seen the truth in the empty eyes of twelve-year-old girls. Her life wasn’t anything like the terror of victims involved in human trafficking. But, she had a glimpse, and that made her even more resolute. “Yes, I want my film, my roles, my life, to make an impact for good.”

Greg’s mouth tightened into a grim line. He wasn’t that much older than her—maybe ten years, and despite his efforts to shave the good-ol’-boy persona from his demeanor, he still emitted a certain Southern that netted him the right tables, and handshakes from top-level studio execs. That down home charisma had been exactly what made her trust him when she’d arrived in LA, her Escort packed to the roof, his name scrawled on a strip of paper.

He wielded his inner gentleman now as he gave her a sad look. “Sweetheart, those kind of films pay your bills. And, right now, unless I’m mistaken, producing your film has sucked every morsel of cash from your account. You need a so-called “bimbo” part if you hope to fund any more deep, probing, life-changing movies, or even promote this one.” He touched her hand. “Kenzie, I’m on your side. You need money, and I know how to get it for you. You’re a good actress, and directors are lining up for you.”

She couldn’t help the harrumph that burped out at his words. “Then tell me why my ex got the academy nomination, and I got ‘best dressed of 2008’ by Hollywood Tonight.”

“Because you are beautiful.”

“I want to be brilliant.”

“I think you’re brilliant.”

“I pay you to say that.”

He smiled. “Whatever you say, honey. I call it like I see it. The fact is you have plenty of roles you can choose from—just not with the parts you want.”

She stared out at the sky, the sun just a rim of simmering light along the black horizon.

 “I get it, Kenzie, I do. But give it time. Right now, you’re broke, you have no place to live, the cops are trying to nail evidence on your attacker, and it doesn’t take a therapist to see how badly you need R and R. I know you’re roaming my house at night. I also know how much warm milk you’re going through—”

“My mama’s favorite recipe.”

He smiled, and she warmed to it.

“Why can’t I just go home? Back to North Carolina?”

“For the very reasons you’ve never told anyone your real name or the truth about your parents. The press could so easily track you there, and then what?”

Mackenzie closed her eyes. Yes, that would be the last thing her parents needed. A convoy of vehicles tearing up their front yard and the gladiolas along the side of the trailer. She couldn’t bear for anything to happen to them. Childhood habits weren’t easy to escape.

“Where do you suggest I go?”

Greg finished his drink then balanced it on the arm of his chair. “My family has a little cabin, set back in the woods in Tennessee. It’s clean and safe, and no one would suspect it.”

“Aw…”

“Listen, you love the Blue Ridge Mountains, and this place is right on the Appalachian Trail. Gorgeous. Fresh air, magnolias, and the song of mourning doves.”

“Oh, you make it sound so romantic.”

“Could be. You never know. That wouldn’t hurt you either.”

MacKenzie shot him a thin smile then set her own half-empty cup on the ground. “I don’t know. What about my film? What about Tony? And Marissa is scared to death, not to mention jobless while the house is repaired.”

“I’ll check in on Tony and Marissa. And I’ll keep an eye on your house. Most of all, you’ll be out of the way. Safe. Which will let the cops nail Leon for his crime.”

“And it’ll keep me off the front pages.”

The sun had shuffled below the horizon now. The black, tufted outline of palm trees scrubbed the twilight.

 “We’ll tell the press you went to a private spa in Turks and Caicos.”

“Couldn’t I go there instead?”

“The best part is, I have a cousin who lives out that way. He’s former military. I’m going to ask him to check in you now and again – “

“Greg—”

“Don’t give me that tone. You do as I say. Let me straighten out things here, while you read through those scripts and decide which one you want to do.”

“What if I don’t want to do any of them?”

He sighed. “Then maybe you need to figure out who you are—actress or broke producer. Because at this point, you don’t have enough money to do both.”

Oh.

“Get away, sweetheart. Back to the life you know. Eat some grits, drink sweet tea, swing on the porch swing, walk Roan Mountain. Relax. Leon Hicks won’t track you to the hills of Tennessee. And if he does, I promise, my cousin Luke will know exactly what to do.”

 

 

Chapter 2: Line Edits by SKD

Oh, this is good stuff by Susan!  One of the things she wanted me to mention is, like with all editors, authors have feedback on all suggestions – because that is what they are, suggestions.  But, as evidenced by this edit, Editors really know what they are doing, and it has to be something I feel strongly about if I am going to disagree.  Great job on this piece, SK!  I’m going to accept changes, make a few more tweaks and it’ll go in the hopper!

 

Chapter 2.1 Rough Draft C with SKD line edits.

 

“It just feels like running to me, Greg, and the truth is…I never run.” [SKD: I had to read this sentence over a couple of times before it sank in that she wasn’t referring to jogging. Would conceding defeat be too out of character? Maybe hide/hiding?]  MacKenzie walked to the railing of his [SKD: This pronoun sounds like you’re saying MacKenzie is a “him.” Either insert Greg or use the instead.]rooftop porch, overlooking Manhattan Beach.   Greg didn’t exactly have a sandy front yard, but from three stories up on his Mediterranean style home, she could see the [SKD: insert Pacific here to further cement which ocean she’s overlooking.] ocean surfing up the store [SKD: assuming you meant SHORE here and not store?], [SMW: J]reaching [SKD: reaching not necessary.] past the last gilded rays of the day into twilight’sthe shadows of twilight. [SKD: more efficient to just say twilight’s shadows.] [SMW: it is more efficient, but I prefer the beats of “the shadows of twilight.] Palm trees, and volleyball nets along the shore shivered in the wind, and the sun iced melted [again, I like the idea of iced – like frosting, and also the feeling of cold] the roofs of then neighboring homes into hues of gold.

“No, Hayes O’Brien, 006, [SKD: why italics? I’d set in roman type unless it’s a movie title.] [SMW: or, sometimes for emphasis, which is how I used it here.]never runs. [Jogging again. J]   You, MacKenzie Grace, are allowed to run.   To hide, to go far, far away and lie low while the media forgets.”   

She glanced at Greg, who hadn’t risen from the lounge chair behind her.   “I might never return, then, Greg.”   Her wrist still hurt, despite the brace, and she babied it even as she pulled her sweater around her.   The night crept through the holes and into her skin.   “I’m just so tired of being the top headline where everyone   is deciding how I might resurrect my career, or declaring my career’s over, or even questioning why I would make an indyindie film, as if that might be some sort of desperate attempt to show that I can act.   Did it ever occur to them that I wanted to make this film?   Because it’s an issue that matters?”   She shook her head.   “I’m just…tired.”   

Bone tired.   The kind of tired that came from running too long without stopping to rest.   Or even to figure out where she was headed.    “I just feel like everyone else has control of my life but me…”

“I know the press hasn’t been kind—”

“Not kind?”   MacKenzie shot him a look over her shoulder. “They’ve practically eviscerated [WOW! What a B-I-G word! LOL] me.   It’s not enough that my home is half-torched and that my bodyguard has second degree[SKD: refer to Chicago Manual of Style section 7.90 for explanations of hyphenation of adjectives.] burns from protecting me, but now Nils has me practically framing him for the attack!”

 “I told you not to talk to the press.   You were upset, and no one handles their words well when they’re upset.” Greg’s tone was so quiet, she turned just to make sure she heard him correctly.

“Are you blaming me for the press’s feeding frenzy on me?”   

“I’m just saying   that maybe you shouldn’t have given a statement right afterward. Especially one that implicateding [SKD: an “-ed” verb usually comes across with more power than “-ing”] your ex-husband.”

“I did not [SKD: more emphatic when not contracted.] implicate him. I said, every year Nils sent me a gift and someone figured that out and used it to get into my house.”   

“It clearly made it sound like Nils was out to get you. [SKD: gentle reminder—only one space, not two, following period.] [SMW: this is a good point – Just a note to the readers out there – the last thing to do before handing in your ms is to do a double space find/single space replace.  I usually don’t do it until the very end, but it’s a good thing to remember.] You can’t expect his camp to sit on that without responding.   And the Star’s [SKD: newspaper titles are set in italics. See CMS. 8.__] headline certainly didn’t help.”   

MacKenzie cringed.   MacKenzie Grace suspects ex-husband, Academy Award winner in attack.[SKD: Is this set in italics to denote internal thought? If so, let stand. If not, set in quotations.]

Yes, that was an unfortunate piece of newsprint.

“Okay, I can admit that I should have just ignored the flashbulbs and micsmikes – but frankly, I’d had it with being the victim.   It was time to show I wasn’t beat, wasn’t going to let Hollywood, or my ex-husband, or some crazy stalker take me down.   I just wanted to fight back a little…like Hayes.”

      “Maybe a little less Hayes would’ve been good.   Especially since Hayes doesn’t have an ex-husband to indict.”

“I didn’t blame Nils!”

“I know that, but next time you feel the need to fight back, wait for me.   I was on my way—”—“

“You were at the Vanity Fair [SKD: magazine title set in italics]party, talking to Posh Beckam, if I recall.   I was surprised you even bothered to show up.”   

“That’s not fair, Kenzie.   You’re my girl.   I don’t care if I had been having a rousing chat with Steven Spielberg – You needed me.   And I’m here for you.”   

Yes, he had been there for herfrom the very minute he showed up at the hospital. He’d arranged transportation and security, and a hotel to stay in, and finally a room in his own digs just because she couldn’t stop shaking.

 “This is why I think you should go away.   I’m telling you, Kenzie, it’s not a badge of cowardice to leave and hide out somewhere.   Heal a little bit.   You can’t exactly throw yourself into another role with a broken wrist.”

 “Cracked.   And I’ll be as good as new in no time.”   Well, okay.   She might never be as good as new.   A week later, she still needed a sedative to sleep, still heard Tony’s moans, still smelled the acrid nose-curling smoke of the elephant and all her mementos burning.   Most of all, she still tasted her own fear welling in her mouth as she helped Tony from the house.

      “I just want them to find Leon, put him back behind bars.” She couldn’t believe that her most famous stalker, crazy Leon Hicks, had found her again.

Three restraining orders, and finally a stint in prison – wouldn’t the guy give up?   She returned to the table, picked up the cup of chamomile tea Greg’s housekeeper had prepared for her, and sat on the lounge chair next to himGreg.   

“LA police picked him up yesterday.   Unfortunately, he’s lawyered up, but they’re still holding him while they track down his alibi.”   [SKD: who is speaking? If it’s Greg, I’d have the next sentence in another paragraph.]

Well, at least she wouldn’t have any more exploding elephants on her doorstep.

MacKenzie took a sip of her tea.   Her cup rattled as she set it back into the saucer.   She ran her thumb down the handle.   “Poor Marissa.   She didn’t know it the elephant [SKD: I wondered at first if she was referring to the teacup.] wasn’t a gift – she thought it was from Nils.”

As did the entire country, thanks to her babbling.   

She just wanted to grab those hours back, not only the ones outside the hospital, when she accompanied Tony into the ER, but going back further, before the elephant, before even Nils, maybe all the way back to the day she’d packed up her Ford Escort and headed to Duke University, riding high on her academic scholarships.   Maybe a look backward, to the girl she’d been — at to the girl whoseher mama waveding goodbye from the front porch, and her whose daddy, hands thick with grease, standing stood in the door of the barn. Maybe a look backward to that girl would help her remember who she should be today. [SKD: not sure I improved it, but the original version felt awkward and hard to follow.]

And help her decide Wwhether shethe girl she had become now should run, and hide, like Greg wanted, or stand her ground.

“Listen, we both know the press is having a heyday with your run of bad luck.”   

 “It’s hardly bad luck to have someone try and kill you.”   

Greg held up his hand.   “Agreed.   But negative press of this kind isn’t going to help you raise funds to promote your indyie film.    The press will only predict that the film is a flop, and you’ll be getting negative reviews before it’s even screened.   You’re better off laying low for a while.   Take a look at those scripts I left on your bureau—”

“Stop!   Can you hear yourself?   I have a stalker after me – and all you can think about is what bimbo part I’m going to play in my next movie.   I told you – I don’t want to do those kind of films anymore.   

Greg’s mouth tightened into a grim line.   He wasn’t that much older than hermaybe ten years, and despite his efforts to shave the goodold boy persona from his demeanor, he still emitted a certain Ssouthern boy charm that netted him the right tables, and handshakes from top-level studio execs.   That Ssouthern charm had been exactly what made her trust him when she’d arrived in LA, her Eescort packed to the roof, his name scrawled on a strip of paper.

I want to be more than Hayes O’Brian, super spy.   I want to be taken seriously, and offered roles that will impact people, change lives.”

“Like your indyindie film?”   

She lifted a shoulder.   “Maybe.   Hopefully.   People need to know about the horror of human trafficking.   

To know wWhat it feels like to have your identity, your choices, your life stripped from you.”   Sort of how she felt right now.   She pressed her hand to her stomach.[SKD: This action has come to often hint at/foreshadow news of pregnancy. Are you sure it’s her stomach she should press? Or her heart?] [SMW: interesting.  I would have thought it suggested an upset stomach.  Something to think about as we consider genres, audiences, etc!]   No, she’d seen the truth in the empty eyes of twelve year old girls.[SKD: hyphenate age terms in both noun and adjective forms. See CMS 7.90]   Her life wasn’t anything like the terror of victims of involved in human trafficking.   But, she had a glimpse, and that made her even more resolute.   “Yes, I want my film, my roles, my life, to make an impact for good.”

              

 

He wielded his inner gentleman now as he gave her a sad look. “Sweetheart, those kind of films pay your bills.   And, right now, unless I’m mistaken, producing your iIndiey [SKD: not capped unless you’re referring to the abbreviation of Indianapolis.] film has sucked every morsel of cash from your account.   You need a so-called bimbo [CMS 7.59] part if you hope to fund any more deep, probing, life-changing movies, or even promote this one.”   He touched her hand.   

“Kenzie, I’m on your side.   You need money, and I know how to get it for you.   You’re a good actress, and directors are lining up for you.”   

She couldn’t help the harrumph that burped out at his words.   “Then tell me why [SKD: missing word?]my ex got the academy nomination, and I got ‘best dressed of 2008’ by Hollywood Tonight.”   

“Because you are beautiful.”

“I want to be brilliant.”   

“I think you’re brilliant.”

“I pay you to say that.”   

He smiled.    “Whatever you say, honey.   I call it like I see it. The fact is you have plenty of roles you can choose fromjust not with the parts you want.”

She stared out at the sky, the sun just a rim of light on the black horizon.

 “I get it, Kenzie, I do.   But give it time.   Right now, you’re broke, you have no place to live, the cops are trying to nail evidence on your attacker, and it doesn’t take a therapist to see how badly you need R and R.   I know you’re roaming my house at night.   I also know how much warm milk you’re going through—”

“My mama’s favorite recipe.”

He smiled, and she warmed to it.   

“Why can’t I just go home? Back to North Carolina?”

“For the very reasons you’ve never told anyone your real name, or the truth about your parents.   The press could so easily track you there, and then what?”   

Mackenzie closed her eyes.   Yes, that would be the last thing her parents needed.   A convoy of vehicles tearing up their front yard and, the gladiolas along the side of the trailer.   She couldn’t bear for anything to happen to them.   Childhood habits weren’t easy to escape.

“Where do you suggest I go?”   

Greg finished his drink then, set perched it on the arm of his chair.   “My family has a little cabin, set back in the woods in Tennessee.   It’s clean and safe, and no one would suspect it.”   

“Aw…”

“Listen, you love the Blue Ridge Mountains, and this place is right on the Appalachian Trail.   Gorgeous.   Fresh air, magnolias, and the song of mourning doves.”

“Oh, you make it sound so romantic.”

“Could be.   You never know.   That wouldn’t hurt you either.”

MacKenzie shot him a bare [SKD: I’m not sure I know what a “bare” smile is?] [SMW: maybe a thin smile. J] smile, then set her own half-empty cup on the ground.   “I don’t know.   What about my film?   What about Tony?   And Marissa is scared to death, not to mention, jobless while the house is repaired.”

“I’ll check in on Tony and Marissa.   And I’ll keep an eye on your house.   Most of all, you’ll be out of the way., safeSafe., whichWhich will let the cops nail Leon for his crime.”   

“And it’ll keep me off the front pages.”

The sun had shuffled below the horizon now, leaving the summer [SKD: word choice??? Did you mean sliver?] [SMW: LOL, no, I meant A SIMMER]of orange on the horizon.   The black, tufted outline of palm trees scrubbed the twilight.

 “We’ll tell the press you went to a private spa in Turks and Caicos.”

“Couldn’t I go there instead?”    

“The best part is, I have a cousin who lives out that way.   He’s former military.   I’m going to ask him to check in you now and again – “

“Greg—”

“Don’t give me that tone.   You do as I say., letLet me straighten out things here, read through those scripts and decide which one you want to do.”

“What if I don’t want to do any of them?”   

He sighed.   “Then maybe you need to figure out who you areactress, or broke producer.   Because at this point, you don’t have enough money to do both.”   

Oh.   

“Go home, [SKD: But he told her NOT to go home. He sent her to the Blue Ridge Mountains, not home to Mississippi Could you change to: back down South?]sweetheart.   Eat some grits, drink sweet tea, swing on the porch swing, walk Roan Mountain.   Relax.   Leon Hicks won’t track you to the hills of Tennessee.   And if he does, I promise, my cousin Luke will know exactly what to do.”