Wow, it’s amazing how much easier it is to read without all the read squiggles. And as I got further into the piece, I appreciated RH’s comments more and more – it’s a good lesson – when you are going over the critique of a partner, make sure you have two versions – their comments, and a cleaner one to help you really evaluate them. I made more changes…and this is going in the Final Rough Draft Vault. Hope you like it!
Next week, we’re going to shift gears and approach this like we might be sending it out as a proposal to agents and editors. I’m going to start with showing you how to put a synopsis together, using what I call the “Plotting Roadmap.” Then I’ll show you the synopsis I’ve written for the story (with RH’s help), and finally the query letter and pitch I might use.
Just a note: when an editor or agent asks for three sample chapters – they are referring to the FIRST three sample chapters. That’s why it’s important to really get them down solid.
Okay….here we go: Chapter 3.2….Clean
Luke didn’t know who to strangle first – the blonde sitting beside him in the cab of his truck, or his cousin Greg at home at his place in LA; neither of whom could mind their own business and leave him alone.
“I was just trying to help,” Mackenzie said. “I just hate the fact that they think they can rule the world.”
“It really wasn’t any of your business, Miss Grace.”
“It’s Kenzie. And…I know.” She sighed, looking away. “Reporters just…get under my skin. A hazard of the job, I guess.”
“A hazard of your job?” Luke glanced at brace on her wrist. He had to admit, he hadn’t the faintest idea who Hayes O’Brien, 006 might be, or why she wore the brace, but judging by Cooper’s expression – full out admiration – Hayes O’Brien was clearly someone.
Enough of a someone to be the subject of a stalker, according to Greg. Just keep an eye on her, look out for anyone or anything out of the ordinary. She’s mostly spooked, and just needs a place to relax.
Perfect. And he’d get to play tour guide/bodyguard/innkeeper.
Luke looked away, back to the road, barely missing a pothole that yawned across the road. “Be glad she didn’t recognize you. Greg said you’re supposed to stay under the radar.”
MacKenzie had to brace her hand on the dash, lurching toward him as the truck jolted.
She glanced at him, her expression soft. “I really am sorry I butted in. And you’re right. The last thing I need is some reporter recognizing me. We’d have the national media on our trail in a second. You just looked…” She shook her head… “Never mind.”
“What – how did I look?”
She pulled in a long breath. “Can we just…start over?”
They’d turned off the main highway, and even the winding side road, and now trekked a dirt trail that led to his cabin – or he should say the Alexander family cabin, as Greg’s side of the family technically owned it also. But most of his clan had moved on – further west, others down to Georgia. He’d thought the place free and clear for his use…
“Not until you answer my question – What did you see in my expression?
“Look Luke, I am around actors way too much, probably. I probably see things that aren’t there. And, really it isn’t any of my business, like you – “
“Stop stalling, Miss Grace.” Luke glanced at her, his chest tightening. He’d spent years grooming his expression to hide his past. How could she —
“Tortured. You looked tortured. There, happy?
No, not especially.
“The reporter mentioned a name and you got a look on your face that made me think she probed too deep, maybe touched a dark place.”
How Luke hated that, in an instant, this stranger had glimpsed a piece of the darkness he’d tried so hard to hide. Or perhaps run from. Or both, depending on the day.
He’d simply frozen when Candy had mentioned Darrin’s wife, Patsy Gerard. And the fact she’d written a book about Darrin, and the raid in Mexico. Or, at least about what she believed happened. What had she called it? Something about Dark Secrets? Yeah, that was an understatement.
“Why did you say that to me?”
Luke cut his eyes her direction. “Say what?”
“Earlier, back at the office, about not being a hero? You said you were a…murderer.”
The rain bulleted the windshield and he turned the wipers up higher. “I think now is a good time to start over.”
So, clearly he wanted to change the topic. She considered him for a moment. “Okay. Sorry. It’s the actress in me. I see something in a person, and I like to know where it came from. It’s a part of getting inside someone’s skin to understand them, and perhaps, eventually, emulate that emotion for the screen.”
She couldn’t emulate the torture of watching a child die in front of her eyes. Or the desperation of your best friend’s blood hot and pouring through your fingers.
Still, she did seem to be able to read someone at a glance, while he had the sensitivity of a moose. He’d practically called her a tramp. Even as he thought it, one eye closed in a half-wince. “By the way, I can’t believe I said…well, what I said to you earlier. I’m sorry about that.”
She must be trying as hard as he because she offered a laugh. “Yeah, I had to admit, it threw me. But I’ve been called worse…recently.” Her voice ended with a sigh.
“Oh, really?” He slowed the truck as he came to a narrow bridge. Under it, an offshoot of the Doe River rushed in a white, angry swirl over rocks and downed logs through the woods. Sometimes, after a hard day’s work, he’d come down here, find a notch in the rocks and let the rapids pour over his aching muscles. But after a rain like today, it could sweep him right over, slam his head against a boulder, drown him in three feet of water. “Media?”
“How’d you guess?” She offered him a brothers-in-arms smile. So, maybe they could be friends. Of a sort.
The wooden bridge creaked as he eased over it. Kenzie glanced down, out her window. “Is this thing safe?”
“Yes. I check it every spring. It’s just fine.”
She had taken her hand off her brace and now it whitened on the door handle.
“Really, we’ll be fine. It’s sturdy enough.”
“Where are we going?”
“Your…cabin? ” She shot him a look. “Greg told me it was a vacation home.”
Uh oh, Greg had called the old log homestead a vacation home? Perfect. Yep, it was decided – he’d strangle Greg first.
“I guess you could call it that. It’s a two room cabin with outdoor plumbing and a wood fireplace useful for hunting and hiding out. Of which, I think you’ll be doing the latter.”
She glanced at him with wide green eyes. Pretty green eyes, he noticed. Yes, they’d make an impression if you saw them on the big screen.
“Did you say outdoor plumbing?”
He grimaced, hating his answer. “Yes. We have a hand pump over the sink, but the facilities are behind the house…”
She closed her mouth, and by the angle of her jaw, he guessed that he’d have to stand in line for dibs on Greg.
She shook her head. “I guess it does sound like a good place to hide.”
“Greg didn’t say much – just that you’d been in some sort of trouble.” Actually, he’d used the words stalker, and spooked. He kept his words casual, light. No need to spook her more. A wounded wing and no plumbing – he actually felt a shard of pity for her.
She lifted a shoulder. “Greg thinks someone tried to kill me.” Her voice matched his – light, easy, as if hoping not to spook him, either.
Tried to kill – “What? Someone took a shot at you?” Okay, stalker might not have been the word he’d have used. Clearly Greg needed an overhaul on his communication skills.
“A bomb. In my living room. We think it’s a stalker from the past, but the police aren’t sure.” She said it without the emotion he expected from an actress. As if she might be, as Greg suggested, very spooked, and trying to hide it.
He’d play along. “That looks like it hurts.” He nodded to her brace.
She slid her hand over her arm. “It hurts, but I’ve done worse. Like, the time I jumped out of a moving car and missed the landing pad.”
“Jumped out of a moving. . . you’re a stunt woman too?”
She laughed. “No, just a young and overzealous actress when I first started. I thought I should do all my own stunts. Not anymore. Now I let the professionals do all the heavy lifting.”
“How long have you been in the movie business?”
“About six years. I got a lucky break out of college – found Greg, and he landed me a bit part in an action adventure movie – maybe you saw it? – it was called Lethal Chase. From there, they cast me as Haley O’Brien, 006.”
“I’m sorry, I haven’t heard of it. But it sounds like a James Bond movie.”
She gave him a long, almost disbelieving look.
“Sorry, I don’t watch movies.”
“Oh. Well, she’s a….take off of Bond, only she’s American…whatever. I’ve done three of them now.”
Silence pulsed between them.
He had to slow the truck to ease around a deep puddle. One wheel dipped in, lurching her toward him. Low hanging tree branches scraped the top of the cab.
Kenzie righted herself. “Why not?”
“Why don’t you watch movies?”
“I prefer quiet. Reading. And, the cabin doesn’t have electricity.”
She closed her eyes as if in pain. Then shook her head. “That’s just awesome.”
He smiled. “You’ll get used to it. I live off the grid, so I still have lights – via the river we passed. And gas lights if I need them. But you learn to go to bed early and get up with the sun.”
“Get up with the sun—that’s usually when I’m going to bed.” But she said it with a tone that suggested she might be stretching the truth. And, underneath that glitz and sparkle – and especially since she still wore Cooper’s raincoat – he suspected that she was a read-a-book-in-bed, get-up-early-and-run kind of girl.
“Umhmm,” he said. They rolled into a clearing and stopped before the Alexander family cabin. Luke sat in the seat, watching Kenzie out of his periphery as she surveyed her…vacation home.
A low-hanging porch with smooth-as-tanned leather, polished wood beams holding up the roof disguised much of the cabin’s beauty – the leaded glass windows, the hand-carved door, the riverstone fireplace that cut through the center of the cabin for heat, as well as cooking.
“How old is this cabin?”
“About…maybe, a few…decades.”
She slowly turned in her seat. “Guess for me – how many…decades?”
“Nice. It looks like something out of an old western. A real live log cabin.”
“Well, it…is a real live log cabin. My grandfather cut the trees right here, from the property. In fact, the Alexander family passes down a sort of superstition about great, great grandpa still lurching about the eighty acres of Cherokee forest, putting tar in the gaps in the logs, or fixing the roof, especially on cold nights when the wood moaned. It makes for delicious ghost stories for my nephew.”
And yes, it might have something to do with the fact that Luke had never installed electricity. Or plumbing.
Besides, he also had the silver stream, parked on the other side of the house, if he got desperate.
She sat still, holding her arm, staring at the house. He couldn’t read her expression – curiosity? Horror? “Ready?”
Oh no, her gaze appeared stuck on a small building down a thin trail toward the back of the house. “Is that the…”
“Biffy. We call it a biffy. Or throne, depending on your mood.”
She winced. “Right.”
“Ready to face the “vacation home?”
“Clearly, Greg’s definition of a vacation home and mine need to align more.”
He hid a grin. “Stay put – I’ll come around and—“
But she’d already hopped out, made a dash for the porch. Ho-kay.
He caught up just as she eased open the door and stepped inside.
Calling it two rooms veered on the side of generous – no one really considered the loft a second room since it didn’t have a door. Or walls. As he peered over her shoulder, he shot a small prayer of gratitude to the army for teaching him how to make his bed and keep his room clean. In front of the fireplace – on one side of the two-sided hearth, an overstuffed denim sofa faced the heat, flanked on either side by homemade hickory furniture. Books stacked beside the chair balanced a cold cup of coffee.
His gaze whisked across the Hudson Bay blanket over his double bed in the corner, the duffle of clean clothing he had yet to fold and put in the trunk at the end of his bed. A bowl of hardened oatmeal remains sat on the sink – he hadn’t pumped water yet into the kitchen sink – although now his rain-barrel on top of the cabin would surely be filled to overflowing. A red picnic table he’d rescued from a park cleanup crew filled most of the space on the other side of the hearth.
The pungent odor of kerosene mixed with creosote and wood polish, and for the first time he realized how backwoods the place smelled.
“You have a big family,” Kenzie said, stopping at the wall near the door, surveying the generations of photos taken. She peered close to a group of teenagers. “Is that Greg?”
“He was a redneck. Don’t let him ever forget that.”
She tapped the photo, then sighed and turned, surveying the place in silence. He watched her face. Yes, she did have freckles, and underneath all that bling, a solidness about her that intrigued him. Did her own stunts, huh?
And, despite his annoyance, okay, it did feel just a smidge good to have someone take up for him. As if she might be on his side.
MacKenzie Grace, movie star. Maybe it was time for him to watch a movie.
We think it’s a stalker from the past, but the police aren’t sure. Whoever it was, they’d gotten away with it the first time. But Greg had clearly been worried enough to ask Luke to babysit. Which meant this stalker just might find a map and head east, to Tennessee.
And that scenario could only be slightly better than the one flashing through his mind since Candy had dropped the little bomb about Cindy’s book.
Luke pushed away the image of reporters stalking him through town…
And, right behind that, the image of the people he’d left behind in Mexico, tracking him down through the Cherokee forest right here to this cabin, to finish what they started.
He blew out a long breath, leaned against the doorjamb, folding his arms. Yes, maybe he should be doing the hiding, right along with Kenzie. Because if his whereabouts really got out – not in Tennessee, but into the world at large, she wouldn’t be the only one hiding from someone trying to kill her.
For comments about this chapter, or to talk about Chapter 4, don’t forget to hop over to VOICES and add yours to the discussion! Every Voice Counts!