I sat down last night and pulled up the very first book I ever wrote–NO RECOURSE (it’s five years old and a historical romance novel). It’s interesting to see how much I’ve grown as a writer! I trimmed it down to a mere 99,240 words from 100,700! Yikes! Talk about long-winded. I took out about 700 hundred “he said, she said” dialogue tags and worked on correcting all my head-hopping. Apparently, you shouldn’t switch from one character’s head to another’s more than once in a chapter–imagine my dismay to discover I’d done it about every other line!
It was fun to go back to my old characters and I have to admit I think Jack and Hayley will always be my favorites because they were my first. Once I polished it up a bit, I decided to submit to a RWA contest–if you make the final three, your entry is read by an editor. If you win, an editor will read your entire manuscript. Seems worth a shot. Anyway–I thought I’d post my entry here for (hopefully) your reading enjoyment. It’s scene that occurs near the beginning of the novel.
Premise in a nutshell–Hayley is swept back from modern day to Regency England. Runs into Jack Campbell who mistakes her for a smuggler. Sparks fly! Hayley has no idea she’s traveled back in time and neither does Jack. I’d love to hear what you think of it–good or bad!
Overwhelmed with a burning desire to do something to this infuriating woman, Jack seriously debated between shaking her and kissing her. Her mannerisms and speech marked her as an educated lady, although certainly not a gently bred one. She was intelligent and, to his chagrin, undaunted by the fact that she was in serious danger. Even now, with her eyes closed, apparently relaxed, he could see the wheels in her brain frantically working–assessing him and her situation. He found himself respecting her courage, in spite of the fact she was obviously deceiving him.
Walking alone in the woods? The only house within walking distance was Fernwood Grange, which confirmed the fact that she was lying. However, he had a nagging suspicion that something unusual was happening. He could not put his finger on what was wrong, but he was certain she was deceiving him somehow. Time to call her bluff and he knew the way to do it.
“Since it would appear you are unwilling to talk, perhaps we could find something else to do to pass the time.” He leaned closer to her.
Her eyes flew open and he knew she understood his meaning. Closing the distance between them before she could protest, he placed his mouth on hers. He had intended to give her a simple, chaste kiss, just to scare her. However, the moment his lips touched hers his body burst into red-hot flame. He raised his hands to her arms and roughly pulled her closer to him.
Her lips remained tight for several moments before he felt a gradual softening. With his tongue, he pushed her lips apart. She struggled briefly, before opening her mouth to allow him to delve even deeper into the kiss. Suddenly, she began to kiss him back and a euphoric feeling washed through his body as he felt her passionate response.
His hands rubbed up and down her arms, until on one downswing, he touched the rope tying her hands together. The contact brought Jack back to his senses and he quickly broke the kiss, looking at her flushed face. Her eyes opened slowly and he saw her lips were red and slightly swollen. She looked at him with neither contempt nor embarrassment.
Don’t apologize–his inner voice scolded. The woman was not a stranger to kisses, and the thought both thrilled and appalled him. As she was experienced, he suddenly decided he had no qualms about seducing her into answering his questions. In fact, the idea of bedding this unconventional beauty appealed to him a great deal.
However, her overly cautious mannerisms left him with an overpowering desire to protect her, even though he knew the only thing she needed protection from was him. He stood up and walked toward the fire, keeping his back to her, trying to rein in his conflicting emotions where she was involved. Bending down, he put two more logs on the fire. The storm had not abated, but grown. The wind was blowing through the cracks in the walls at an alarming rate and it actually sounded like a hurricane was battering at the cabin. Jack hoped the structure was strong enough to sustain the pounding it was taking.
Bringing her to the cabin had been a mistake. He should have questioned her at the Grange. The cold wind and pouring rain guaranteed it would be a long, uncomfortable night. Taking a deep breath, Jack decided there was nothing he could do now, but continue the interrogation.
Without turning around, he asked, “Who are you?”
“I wondered when you were going to ask me that. My name is Hayley.” No surname, he noticed. Very well, they had all night. At her casual tone, he concluded that perhaps his initial plan of intimidation was not the way to go. Her fearlessness and willing response to his kiss led him to believe that charm may work better and he certainly preferred that course. No reason they should spend the night, shivering in the cold. He suspected this hot little firebrand could heat up a chilly night quite nicely.
Turning back to her with a friendly, if somewhat forced smile, he said, “I believe that was two answers on your part. Your turn to ask a question.”
With a suspicious smile, she acknowledged his concession. “What is your name?”
“Jack,” he replied. No last name-—two could play that game. “Well, Hayley, it would seem you chose a very bad night to walk out of doors. Do you live around here?”
“No, I’m from America. Guess you can tell from the accent,” she said. “I’m here visiting a friend on vacation.”
“Friend? And why would this friend allow you roam the countryside on such a treacherous night?” Jack began to suspect, much to his dismay, it was possible the friend to whom Hayley was referring was Alex’s wife, Erin. She was also an American.
“Oh, Tori’s house is only over the hill a little ways from the tree that was struck by lightning and it wasn’t even threatening rain when I set out.” Having said that, a confused look came across Hayley’s face. “You know, this may sound weird, but it wasn’t raining on my side of the tree. I didn’t think of it until now. I didn’t see you until lightning struck the tree and when I saw you through the split in the oak, the rain was pouring off your hat, but it wasn’t raining on me. How is that possible?”
Jack thought back to seeing her in the storm. The rain was falling so hard he could barely make her out until she approached the tree, but she was right. When she began to cry out in pain, he grabbed her. Shocked by her sudden appearance and violent screaming, it didn’t dawn on him until this moment that her clothing was dry. “I cannot explain that. It is strange. You said your friend Tori lives over the hill? The only home in this area is Fernwood Grange.”
“That’s right,” she said. “My friend Tori Hamilton and her family own it.”
“I know the owners of the Grange and there is no Tori Hamilton there. Why are you lying?”
Hayley’s blatantly, stupid lie made his anger rise. Julia’s disappearance, the argument with his uncle, the perilous trip through the storm, and meeting this unusual woman had worn him down. At the end of his patience, he felt the last straw break. The woman was playing him for a fool with her beautiful face and spirited words. He’d had enough of her feminine games–now it was time to get to the truth. At least one thing he attempted to do tonight would be resolved.
Stalking back to the bed, he grabbed the strips of cloth binding her wrists and pulled her roughly to her feet. She struggled to stand upright on her bound legs and only his firm hands on her shoulders held her steady. For the first time, he saw true fear in her eyes. Good, he thought, maybe now she will realize that I am a serious danger to her.
“I am going to ask you again, for the last time, why were you under that tree,” he said shaking her, “and dammit, I want the truth!”
“I told you the truth!” she yelled. “Let me go!”
Furious, Jack dragged her back to the bed and reached into his pocket. He was going to give her a reason to fear him. She would learn who she was dealing with soon enough. He was not to be trifled with-—a soldier, officer, sailor, and a fierce businessman. She was playing with fire whether she realized it or not.
She flinched when she saw the knife in his hands and began to struggle in earnest. The knife fell out of his hands as she kicked him in the gut with the strength of a horse. Taking several painful breaths, he bent to retrieve the lost knife, while holding her down on the pallet. He had never met such a strong woman. With the knife back in his hands, he threw himself on top of her using his entire body to hold her down. “I am trying to untie you!”
As suddenly as the fight began, it ended. Gasping for breath, she ceased her struggle and he noticed there were tears gathering on her thick lashes. His fury was immediately replaced with shame. He had intended to untie her and seduce her into submission. No, not seduce, he thought with shame—take her. He had never forced any woman against her will, yet this woman antagonized him to a point where he had almost allowed his anger and uncontrollable desire to take over.
With extreme care, he cut the cloth at her ankles and her hands, while she laid completely still, breathing harshly from her previous exertions. The second her hands were free, she came at him like a wildcat straight from hell. Jack had no time to protect himself as she hurtled herself at him.
He fell back, with her on top of him, hitting his head hard against the dirt floor. Stars flew behind his eyes, yet before he could gather his wits, she managed to punch, scratch, kick, and slap him everywhere she could, while he attempted to grab her flailing arms. With a Herculean effort he was able to press her back onto the floor. He straddled her kicking legs with his strong thighs and then went to work trying to catch her arms, which were still pummeling him with painful blows. Before he could stop her, she landed a smashing punch on one eye. Grasping both her wrists in one hand, he dragged her arms over her head.
Seemingly frustrated and exhausted, Jack watched as the fight seemed to leave her with the realization she was trapped beneath him. Any gentle feelings he may have had about Hayley had been driven out by the battle she had just waged. Jack tightened his grip on her wrists painfully and pressed his weight more fully onto her legs.
With his free hand, he took stock of his injuries. She had left four long gouges from ear to chin on one side of his face and he had a tender spot on his scalp from the handful of hair she pulled out. He tasted blood on his lip and felt swelling underneath his left eye, which he was sure would be black by tomorrow morning. On top of all that, his head was throbbing from hitting the floor so hard and he was still seeing spots.
Turning his attention to her, he realized with fury, and a little relief, that she had fared much better. Her hair, a matted, sweaty mess, was clinging to her face and he thought he saw the beginning of a bruise on her left cheek. Other than that and her flushed face, she appeared to be the picture of health, which caused the anger to again pump through Jack’s veins.
“You are going to pay for that display, firebrand,” he said crossly. “I have tried to reason with you, but it would appear you are completely unreasonable. Violence seems to be the only language you understand.” He felt her body tighten as if readying itself for his blows. Unwilling to lose any more hair or blood, Jack reached behind him on the floor for the torn strip he had reserved for the gag. He used it to tie Hayley’s hands once more in front of her.
Keeping a tight hold on her, he lifted her completely off the floor, careful to restrain her legs with a strong arm, and carried her to the chair in the corner. Before she could react, he seated himself on the chair and flung her face down over his lap. “If you want to throw a tantrum like a child, I will punish you like one.” With that, he brought his open palm down upon her derriere.
A spanking? Hayley yelped from the pain of his hand repeatedly smacking her bottom; the humiliation of the situation was more than she could stand. She shouldn’t have fought him, but she panicked when she saw the knife. It had not occurred to her that he would be untying her. If she had one major flaw, it was that she never knew when to give in gracefully. When he tackled her on the bed, he had seen her tears. She couldn’t let him think she was weak, so she retaliated.
What made her think she could fight and win against a pirate who was a foot taller, a hundred pounds heavier and pure muscle? She had broken every rule ever pounded into her head in her self-defense classes. Realizing she would not be able to escape this hold, all the fight left her and Hayley did something she never did–she gave in.
“Please.” Her voice broke on the words. “Please, stop.”
Jack’s hand stopped midair. The plea in her voice seemed to have shattered his anger. Immediately, he lifted and turned her so she was sitting on his lap. He smiled guiltily as she winced at the pressure on her sore bottom.
“I’m s-sorry.” Her voice struggled with the words as she tried to remember the last time she’d said them. Apologies didn’t come easy to her.
Hayley looked into his eyes and for the first time that night, she could see them clearly. They were the most stunning blue she had ever seen–cerulean blue, her favorite crayon color. What she saw in those beautiful, now gentle eyes comforted her and against her better judgment, she laid her head on his shoulder in sheer exhaustion.
Folding his arms around her, he cradled her as her body shook with fatigue, fear, and confusion. With quiet, kind mumblings, he rocked her until the trembling subsided–the motion strangely reminding Hayley of her mother, although she could not recall Marian ever holding her or rocking her so. Eventually the stress of the evening drained out of her, leaving her more tired, more exhausted than if she had run a marathon.
They sat rocking silently until a strong draft blew out the candle behind them. Hayley shivered slightly in the cool air and Jack carefully stood with her in his arms and carried her to the bed. “Shh,” he said as he untied her hands and pulled the two blankets over her. He hesitated briefly, looking down at her quivering form, then he lay down beside her on the small cot. Hayley immediately tensed up as he lay fully beside her.
“No more fighting,” he whispered, “I won’t hurt you. It’s too cold in here. I want to lie beside you to keep you warm. Nothing more, I promise.”
Gently, he lay on his back and pulled Hayley to his side with his arm around her shoulder. She knew she should rebel against this closeness, but couldn’t find the energy or desire to fight it. Besides, the room was freezing, in spite of the fact they were both fully dressed. Her clothes were still damp and she was briefly concerned about the possibility of getting pneumonia. How she wished she had worn a jacket before embarking on the short trip to the tree. Jack was right, however, as she was already beginning to warm up with the addition of his body heat under the thin blankets.
All in all, it had been a strange night-—one of the strangest of her life. Her entire body ached and her mind screamed that something was terribly wrong, but for the moment, simply lying in this handsome man’s arms seemed comforting and right. Never in her life had she felt so at ease with a man and, for once, she didn’t fight the feeling. For now—for this moment—she felt safe and refused to let her fears, her demons take control. Outside the wild storm continued to rage, but Hayley and Jack, exhausted, fell into a deep, dreamless sleep–instantly and at the exact same moment.
* * *
Warmth and pleasure like Hayley had never known hummed through her entire body. Feathery light touches and soft hands caressed her back, rubbing the sore muscles there up and down, up and down. They were magic hands, pirate hands, like the ones in Tori’s romance novels, soothing, calming, and kind. She stretched; eyes still closed, and sighed with delight. The hands reached lower, stroking over her bottom.
Awake now, Hayley realized the touches were coming from real hands. Jerking upright, she winced in pain at the sudden weight on her tender rear end. A chuckle from behind her on the bed brought the previous night’s events back to her. Peering over her shoulder, Hayley saw the source of those hands. They were not pirate hands, although they did belong to a black-hearted thug cruel enough to be a pirate and his obvious amusement at her discomfort sent her hackles up.
Sensing her mood, he said, “Easy, firebrand, I don’t think you want a repeat of last evening. At least not until we’ve both had time to heal.” He smiled at her with such unguarded charm Hayley nearly smiled back. In addition, taking notice of his use of the word “we,” and the black eye he was sporting, she realized that it was likely he was in more pain than she was. For some reason, the thought gave her a strong sense of satisfaction.
“I’m cold.” She shivered as she spoke.
“Well, no wonder.” He gently pulled her back down under the cocoon of blankets and into his arms. “Even with the fire, this cabin is no better than being outside. I can see your breath. At least, the storm has passed. Dawn broke about an hour ago and the sun is just now peeking through the trees. It will warm up soon. If we could get a few things settled between us, I would like to return you to your home.”
“Settled?” She was amazed at how relaxed she felt lying in his arms. “Jack, are you sure you don’t have me confused with someone else? You tie me up, ask me a bunch of strange questions, and then call all my answers lies. I have spent the last two summers at Fernwood Grange with my friend Tori Hamilton, yet you say she doesn’t live there. This cabin looks like something out of the stone ages, so do you for that matter, and you look at me most of the time like I have two heads.”
Laughing, Jack said, “Two fiery redheads? Oh my. One of them is frightening enough.” Then, surprising himself with the confession, he continued, “I don’t know what it is about you, but you are unlike any woman I have ever met.”
“How so?” Hayley, still drowsy, was enjoying their lighthearted banter, until that nagging little thing called reality intruded. He’s a kidnapper, for God’s sake. Get up and out of here.
With that uncomfortable idea, she attempted to rise again, but he tightened his grip on her shoulders. “No, don’t,” he said firmly. “I said I wouldn’t hurt you and I meant it. Now lay still—it’s too cold to rise yet. Besides, every muscle in my body aches thanks to that boxing contest last night. Just lay here for a little while longer. We should try to sleep more. We were up pretty late.”
Once again, she allowed his gentle voice and reassuring words make her feel secure about her safety and contentedly warm. The cabin truly was bitter cold and she had no wish to brave the elements at the moment. Hayley closed her eyes and snuggled closer soaking up the amazing amount of heat radiating from his body and inhaling his scent, which was masculine—woodsy—and surprisingly nice.
She asked again, lazily this time, “How am I different from other women you know?”
“Ah, yes.” His voice was heavy with sleep. “Let’s see, where to begin? It is quite simple really. If not for these telltale curves.” He rubbed his hand over her hips seductively. “I would say you are more like a man than a woman.”
With anger, Hayley lunged up and out of his arms. His words and her recollection of his actions the previous evening fueled her fury. “Why? Because I refuse to tremble in fear at your pathetic attempts of intimidation and domination? You think as a woman I should cower at your mere presence and succumb to your bullying charms?” Her anger continued to build. “Well, I have news for you, buddy. I have very little respect for men who feel like they have to use physical strength to scare someone weaker than them. Men like you think they can overpower women with sheer aggression, but I think it only fair to warn you that you won’t get that kind of response from me and you can expect a fight every step of the way if you try.” At this, she left the bed, cursing the cold, quickly crossing her arms firmly across her chest for warmth.
Jack noted the passion behind her words and felt certain that she was speaking from more experience than their battle the previous evening. He couldn’t help but wonder who had hurt her. He even felt sorry for his actions and flippant comment until her next words.
“Besides you’re just mad because if you take a look in a mirror, Black Jack, you’ll see that I kicked your ass.”
Rising on his elbows, Jack said through gritted teeth, “Adding offensive language to your list of charms does not endear you to me and if I look rough, it is because I was too much of a gentleman to use my ‘brute strength’ against a woman last night.”
Despite his annoyance, he reached out without thinking and tried to grab her hand. Her impassioned speech had put the color back in her cheeks and Jack felt the now familiar tightening in his loins that this woman seemed to inspire. He’d thought her attractive last night, but this morning, all tussled and angry, she was breathtakingly lovely. He wanted her warm body back in the bed, more than he cared to admit.
She backed away from him and avoided his touch. Irritated at her withdrawal and his body’s uncontrollable response to her, he lied to save his pride. “Believe me, you have nothing to fear from me. I like my women soft and willing. That was a hell of a fight you put up last night and while I must admit I admire the effort you expended to protect your virtue, you didn’t have to try so hard, firebrand. It was never in danger.”
She flinched at his sarcastic use of the word ‘virtue.’ No doubt she understood that he definitely considered her to be less than virtuous.
His blatant insult seemed to infuriate her even more as she launched into a new tirade. “You insulting, arrogant, smug son of a bitch,” she yelled. “How dare you insult me for defending myself? If your present charms are any indication of your typical behavior, I’d be surprised to discover that you weren’t a virgin!”
Shocked by her crude language and insult to his reputation, Jack said sharply, “Well, if you weren’t such a shrew, I’d give you a demonstration of my charms that would leave you in no doubt of my experience.”
“Touch me again and I’ll blacken the other eye,” Hayley threatened as she stormed toward the door.
She had only just reached for the knob, when he caught up to her and caged her in with his arms while holding the door closed. Spinning angrily, Hayley was about to utter another string of insults. However, her scathing response never made it past her lips as Jack pressed his mouth hard against hers. Struggling against him, her strong words had only served to incite him as he roughly grabbed her shoulders. He knew his mouth was cruel and relentless on hers but once again he was lost to the taste and smell and feel of her. His tongue forced her lips apart and he invaded her mouth.
For once, she seemed to realize her struggles were useless against his strength as he attempted to give her a lesson in dominance and control, but she refused to be swept away as she was last night. Jack grew frustrated and angry as she held herself aloof from the kiss and went perfectly still.
Then, he cursed himself for a fool and knew power wasn’t going to scale the walls this woman had built around herself. Last night, she had responded to his kiss and he wanted that response again.
Changing tactics, Jack softened the kiss, but refused to cease his attack. His hands moved from her shoulders to her breasts, touching her with soft, butterfly caresses. Gasping, Hayley tried to stop him.
“Shh, I won’t hurt you.” He spoke the words against her lips and continued to torment her through the thin material of her blouse. The gentle touches and soft kisses slowly broke Hayley’s resolve and she raised her hands to his chest.
Jack was thrilled by the touch of her hands, even though they were only resting unmoving, and he slowed the kisses even more. He barely moved as his lips rubbed lightly against hers, his tongue running softly along her lips and teeth, teasing her tongue to come out to play. Neither of them moved; time stood still as they explored each other’s mouths with the simplest and sweetest of kisses.
Their tongues danced together as he reached down and began to unbutton her blouse. His actions were so slow and deliberate he knew Hayley didn’t realize what he had done until she felt his firm hands touch her breasts. All the breath left her body at his hands’ first caress.
“No.” She started to shake slightly, whether with cold, excitement, or fear, he wasn’t sure. Then, with more power, she shoved his hands away. “No!”
With a shudder Jack pulled away, his confusion about Hayley deepening. She responded to his kisses like a wanton, but the moment he tried to press for more, she pushed him away as if the hounds from hell were chasing her. Despite his previous thoughts on the matter, he suspected this woman truly did have her virtue to protect.
The idea that Hayley could still be a virgin left Jack feeling as if someone had suddenly dumped a bucket of cold water over his head. Once again, he had let his body control him. Groaning, disgusted with himself, he stepped back. Hayley’s big brown eyes looked at him fearfully as though expecting him to continue his assault. Her lovely lips were puffy from the brutality of his first kiss and, even more distracting; he could see the top of her firm, white breasts peeking out of her strange, small corset that left her waist and stomach completely bare.
Clearing his throat and looking away, Jack said huskily, “I am afraid you have proven my previous statement false. You tempt my primal instincts to an alarming degree.”