Sorry it’s taken so long to get chapter 3.1. out!! I taught at a retreat last weekend, but after a grueling week of prep, I finally had a chance to brainstorm out and write the rough draft of this first scene of chapter 1. I wanted to make Kenzie a bit more sympathetic, as well as raise more questions about Luke. Also, I wanted to raise another story thread that I’ll pick up later – the one that said that Luke might have secrets – and that someone might be out to get him. I also took a few ideas from the Voices (thank you!) about raising the issue of having the reporter recognize him.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Post them in the Voices Forum, Chapter 3 discussion!
Of course, Greg didn’t have the courage to pick up his cell phone – Kenzie’s call went immediately to voice mail. “Just what did you tell your cousin?” Kenzie said under her coiled breath,
RH: How does one coil their breath? all the while smiling at the large, dark-haired man who had finally acted with some chivalry, given her a blanket and made her a cup of tea.
RH: I’ve read this opening a few times and I can’t get the feel I’m in Kenzie’s POV. Thought” Can we open flop the opening sentence? “Kenzie’s call to Greg went directly to voice mail. Of course.”
Not that it tasted any better than the coffee offered by Mr. Lewd Suggestion – at least that’s what Luke’s I’m…not that type of guy comment felt like.
It had taken her a long, reeling moment to sink in what he’d meant, and well, she wasn’t THAT KIND OF GIRL either, thank you very much.
What had Greg gotten her into? And, with whom? She pressed end on her phone and snuck a look at him. Luke Alexander. She remembered his name now – thanks to the memo on her phone. Park ranger. Local, Untamed Wildlife seemed a better description. Who, perchance, needed more monitoring that she did, because her so-called protector appeared a little on the unhinged side the way he paced in tiny circles, his ear pressed to his cell phone, glancing at her like she might be a wounded deer who wandered in under his watch. RH: Love this!
Not that he didn’t look capable of taking care of a wounded deer. Or elk. Or black bear. Easily over six foot, he had the lean, broad-shouldered appearance of many of her leading men – with the exception that his probably came from good, old fashioned hard work as opposed to the gym, and occasional body-enhancement surgery now popular in her neighborhood.
He wore his hair military short – brown as coffee, a solemn set to his clean shaven jaw as he now turned away from her, cutting his voice low, nearly growling in to his phone. RH: Sooz does this time of personal description so well!
She certainly wouldn’t want to be the person on the other end of the line.
“So, what brings you to Normandy, Miss Grace?” Cooper or, “Coop,” as she had been instructed to call him, handed her the cup of tea.
RH: I am a stickler for this. I really want her answer after the question. “I’m here on vacation.” THEN, we can have internal thought or observation. The flow is much smoother. Makenzie glanced again at Luke, a cosmically unfortunately piece of timing giving the fact he’d chosen then to hang up, turn and stare at her as if the might be a mess of road kill he had to clean up.
Nice. Her thumb hovered over Greg’s speed dial. “I’m here on…vacation.” She said, breaking away from his rather lethal, unfriendly gaze and stirring the tea with a spoon, then spooning out the bag, pressing it against the side of the cup.
“Vacation? In Normandy?” Cooper, who reminded her a little of a much younger Jim Belushi, pulled out a chair and sat down opposite her, as if ready to hear her life story. RH: Love that movement by Cooper. “No one ever comes to Normandy to va-cate.” He bit off the end of his word with a smile, and a chuckle. “At least not big movie stars.” RH: We’re getting a good feel for Normandy and it’s people here.
She held up her hand. “Actually, I’d like to keep my presence here on the down-low. That’s why I…picked Normandy.” She smiled at him, a conspiratorial look she dragged up from 006, and pressed a long, manicured finger to her lips.
“Oh,” he said, his mouth a round O. He mimicked her. “Gotcha.”
Luke strolled over to her, every step weighted with a sort of sigh. He leaned against the doorjamb, folding his arms over his chest. Considered her a long moment as she sipped her tea.
“Should I be apologizing for something? Because it seems to me that you were the one with the ugly assumptions,” she said.
He ran his hand OVER his cheek. She couldn’t read the emotion in his eyes – half frustration, maybe annoyance?
What did he have to frustrated about? It wasn’t like he would have to camp out on her doorstep. And he wasn’t the one who had to pick up his life and ran half-way across the country. He didn’t have his name and face splashed across every rag in the country Mackenzie Grace in hiding. She’d nearly wanted to clean out the entire rack when she stopped for a soda and gas at the local airport. RH: Good way to deliver some back story and some internal emotion.
Good thing she’d insisted on renting her own car, or she’d be trapped here – or whatever backwoods location he decided to dump her.
“No, I didn’t get Greg’s message until now.”
Oh. She replayed their unfortunate conversation and didn’t know HOW to unsnarl it. Worse, from his death-row expression, looking after her for a month appeared to be the dead-last thing Luke Alexander wanted to spend the next month doing.
And now she gone from BEING a victim, to BEING a hassle. Perfect.
“I’m sorry to put you in this position, Mr. Alexander—“
“Luke is fine.” RH: Sounds like he’s telling her someone is not sick. This line stood out to me each time I read it. How about. Call me Luke. Or something to indicate his name.
“Then, Luke. Maybe I should just call Greg and tell him –“
“No, He briefed me on the situation.” Luke’s gaze flitted to Cooper, back to her. “I’ll take you up to the cabin, make sure you’re snug as a bug, and keep an eye on you until Greg tracks down some fulltime security.”
“But I don’t want someone babysitting–“
The front door opened, and with it, a peel of thunder. Rain splashed into the room as a yellow-slickered form entered, shaking off a red umbrella. “Is Luke Alexander here?”
Luke leaned up from the door, a sigh escaping.
Kenzie watched as he sulked over to the woman – a petite brunette with eagerness written all over the way she introduced herself – Candy Sloan – and practically lunged for Luke’s proffered hand.
Luke offered her a cup of coffee, and then, glancing at the conference room, gestured toward his desk.
Mackenzie could have been dreaming it, but the guy had gone from tightly wound to about to snap.
“Who’s that,” she asked Coop, keeping her voice light.
“A reporter for the VFW Voice. Luke saved his nephew from being pancaked by traffic last week – and he’s sort of a local hero, so they wanted to do a story on him. “
A local hero. He’s former military. Greg’s words pinged in her mind as she watched Luke sit down, fold his hands over his chest. He looked at the woman as if he wanted to devour her for lunch. RH: Hmm, devour her for lunch means he wants to eat her up which would be a good thing, IMHO. Like he’s into her. How about chew her up and spit her out – only in less clichéd words.
She pulled out a tape-recorder, and he tried to incinerate it with a look.
A smile touched Mackenzie’s lips. So, apparently she and Luke had something in common – a hatred of the press. Or at least a vivid wariness.
“If he doesn’t want to be interviewed, why is he doing it?”
“His dad’s a vet. He sorta feels it’s his duty to his country. Once a soldier, always a soldier.” RH: But he rescued a local kid. How does doing this interview help his country? More motive here. More definition? Can we link this into his past? Is the reporter looking to link this to his past military exploits?
A crabby soldier, by the looks of it.
Candy – really, that was the byline she wanted to use? RH: LOL! – began to pepper Luke with questions – although, from the conference room, Kenzie couldn’t hear or see Luke’s nearly monotone, one-syllable answers.
“What did he do?”
“His nephew was making a quick get-away on a boosted wheelchair and drove into traffic. Luke tackled him just as it flew into traffic.”
“No, I meant in the military.”
Cooper sat down across from her, having found a package of Lorna dunes. He opened them and set them in front of her.
“He was a special forces solder, and he and his team went into rescue this DEA agent a few years ago. Only, he and another guy got taken. He was held hostage for about six weeks – everybody thought he’d died. And then, he escaped. With the DEA agent. He was a hero – except for the facT his buddy died trying to escape. Luke’s never really gotten over leaving him behind. “ cooper helped himself to a cookie. “It made the news – big time magazine article, exposing the drug lords of south America. Luke even appeared on GMA and the Today show.”
“Why did he leave the military?”
“He was injured, too, in the escape. Nearly lost his leg. Took years of physical therapy.”
Kenzie watched him now as Candy, leaned in, asked something that made his breath intake. He shook his head.
She raised an eyebrow, and then pulled out something from his files. Asked him another question.
Even from here, Kenzie could see his recoil. His eyes flashed, then, with some sort of pain.
She didn’t know why, but Kenzie found herself on her feet, edging toward the door. RH: Does she know why? I think she does. She’s siding with Luke against this reporter. Let’s give her a reason, a gut reflex, a knowing, something.
“I’m not going to talk about that.” RH: Who said this?
“Is it true that you’ve never talked to his widow about what really happened? Because in her book, Dark Secrets, she says that you left her husband to die– “
“Is this what this is really about?” Luke had now found his feet. RH: Were his feet lost? “I’m not doing this–” RH: I think he’s on his feet accusing her of false representation or something. She said she wanted a story on the boy-rescue, but now she’s digging into his past. He should lay into her with this.
“What are you hiding? The public deserves to know the truth!” Candy, an ironic name for the woman who now stood and jabbed the recorder at Luke, clearly didn’t see – or didn’t care, at the torment that raked across Luke’s face.
But Kenzie saw it. A raw, bone-deep pain that rocked him back on his heels, and if she wasn’t mistaken, slicked sweat across his face. RH: LOVE that line. “This interview is over,” he said tightly. “Get out.”
Get out. How many times had she wanted to say that to some reporter. Or, better yet, say – how would you like to have your life exposed for the world to see? And seeing Luke turn away, stalk toward the back windows, nearly shaking, well, something akin to comradery turned inside her.
Why did the press think they could take a rumor and turn it into a headline? Why did they get to own a person’s privacy?
Candy shook her head to Luke’s less than polite request, and Kenzie had the sudden urge to shake her. RH: Where is Kenzie physically at this point? But the woman pocketed the recorder with a, “we’re far from done, Mr. Alexander.”
She turned on her heel and headed toward the door.
Almost without realizing she was moving, Kenzie headed toward the door, on Candy’s tail. “Excuse me—“
Candy turned, her eyes landing on Mackenzie with some disgust. Kenzie had already put together the fact that perhaps she didn’t look quite herself – what with her hair plastered to her head, her makeup splotchy. Still, the redneck disdain stirred her ire, not to mention the rather snarky, “What?”
“You know, maybe you should just leave him alone. What gives you the right to pry into someone’s past? He clearly doesn’t want to talk about it. How would you like someone to dig around in your back-story, maybe drag up a few skeletons?”
“The public has a right to know what really happened.”
“That’s baloney. RH: “that’s baloney, in this context, sounds too school yard. Can we have a different response. Or just have Kenzie pressing on with her argument. You’re only interested in selling magazines – or—“ She leaned down close to Candy – “Or, are you intending on selling this article somewhere…else?” RH: I think Candy has a book deal or something.
Candy had a lousy poker face. “You tell your friend that this thing isn’t going to go away. The truth will find him out.” She looked over Kenzie’s shoulder. “He’s not the hero everyone thinks he is.” She banged out the door. RH: She should accuse him. He’s a … what? Murder? Traitor? Killer? Something.
Kenzie watched her go, splashing through the puddles as the rain slicked her coat to her body.
Everything in Kenzie tremored. RH: What everything? Be specific when possible. Her muscles? Her skin? She shook her head, turned, ready to launch into a loud dissertation about the evils of unchecked journalism when her gaze landed on Luke.
He sat, propped against the desk, his arms folded across his chest, and the look he wore she wouldn’t define as friendly. Then again, she wouldn’t exactly peg it as hostile either. More…Annoyed. Even, Confused.
“What?” she said. Excuse her, but she’d been watching his back. Which, after their rather rocky start, should earn her a few points.
He pushed up from the desk, walked toward her. “You’d make my new job a lot easier if you’d refrain from taking down the local reporters.” RH: Hmm, I think he’s mad because this Hollywood babe felt she had to defend him. He’s a Seal. He doesn’t need her bullying reporters for him. He doesn’t like her and he doesn’t want her in his battles.
“Your new job?”
“As your tour guide-slash-bodyguard?” He said without a smile. “According to Greg, you’re supposed to stay under the radar.” He raised an annoying eyebrow.
“I would have thought a thank you WAs in order.” RH: Give her a stronger response. Like: “You weren’t handling her, you were blowing her off. When it comes to the press, I know–”
“What is with you Hollywood types? You think you know everything, you think you know what’s best for the entire world. Bunch of grown people running around wearing make-up playing make believe.”
“Oh, I have no doubt she’ll be back.” He picked up a baseball cap from a hook, then slid his coat Especially since she’s right. Let’s go.”
He left her standing there, the rain spattering her legs as he stomped out to the truck.
Another GREAT chapter. Susie has such great pacing and phrasing, moves the story along and sets up tension and hooks so well. My stuff is mostly small, picky stuff.