Doug Welch books modern Romance
By Doug Welch
Copyright © 2012 Douglas R, Welch.
Amanda heard the front door to the house slam as Charles left for work.
The argument as started innocently enough, some inconsequential slight he’d once again settled on her shoulders. But like a dormant volcano the many disappointments she’d suffered, his sarcastic comments, his cold disinterest in showing or demonstrating affection, and his attempt to completely dominate her had made her blow up like Mount Saint Helens. She’d spilled it all out like a pyroclastic flow that had incinerated everything in it path.
Still shaking with anger, she returned to the only remaining source of love and romance in her life, her writing. Sitting in the desk chair in her home office, she woke up her laptop and opened her email, noticing a new message from her literary agent.
I wonder what Marty wants?
I’ve pitched a new idea to your publisher. It’s to be a collaborative project between you and Terrell Bane and it could lead into a four book series with a huge advance.
The publisher's really excited about this project. He thinks it will be a great match-up. With your name in the historical romance genre and Terrell's prominence in hot romance, this could take off big-time.
Lucky me, I'm the agent for both of you. I'm pretty sure I've hooked Terrell. At least I think I've piqued his interest. Now I need to get you on board.
This could go a long way toward skyrocketing both your careers and if it works like I'm sure it will, it’ll drive sales of your current offerings and your back-list.
Please Mandy; please say you'll consider it?
Your friend and agent,
Collaborate? She wants me to collaborate on a novel?
Amanda scooted her desk chair closer to the screen and reread her agent’s email. She’d never collaborated on a book deal in her life and especially never with a man!
She minimized the browser, making the message vanish from the screen and leaned back in her desk chair.
She knew who Terrell Bane was. Any author in the romance genre had read one if not all of his books, but their styles were so different. It was like they came from alternate universes. She couldn’t read more than a few pages of his novels without blushing and getting warm below the waist. It just wasn’t her.
While she concentrated on the lingering glances, suggestive language and sexual tension in romance to create passion, he approached the subject from a male’s point of view, depicting sensual romance with plenty of sex thrown into the mix. How could she collaborate with that?
About to open the browser and politely decline Marty’s offer, she halted the mouse a fraction of an inch away from the reply button.
The idea intrigued her. What would it hurt to consider it? If it didn’t work out, she could always end it before she committed herself too far to back out.
Rising from her desk, she searched her book shelf. She knew she had some of his books. Marty made sure that all of her authors received copies of each other’s novels, principally for reviews.
Not finding them at first, she wondered if she’d packed them in a box somewhere.
Searching, she spied one tucked near the bottom of the shelf and pulled it out to study.
On the cover, a lurid photo of a half-clad woman wrapped herself suggestively around the naked chest of a well-built hunk of a man. The background contained vivid images of flaming ships engaged in battle. It was a typical cover for one of Terrell’s books.
Turning to the back dust cover, she scrutinized his author’s picture. Terrell’s handsome Latin face smiled back at her, a cocky smirk that made her wonder what lay beneath it.
Taking in his dark curly hair, she imagined that many of his female readers longed to run their fingers through it. With his chocolate-brown eyes and thick eyelashes, he looked the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, but he might be a pain to work with. Likely, if she worked with him long enough she’d find out.
She opened the book and commenced reading.
A few hours later, she reluctantly dog-eared the page and checked the time. Good heavens, it was twelve ‘o’clock. She’d been reading for four hours, and her legs had fallen asleep.
She hadn’t heard Charles return home and she certainly didn’t want to sleep in the same bed with him, not after this morning’s argument. Not that it would have made much difference. In the past year it’d been like sleeping with a disinterested stranger. She’d curl up in the spare bedroom, but first she had to decide how to respond to Marty’s email.
Coming to a quick decision, she woke up the laptop and dashed off a reply.
Okay, count me in under the following conditions. If it doesn’t work out with us, we quit no matter where we are, no hard feelings or recriminations.
If you and he can agree to that, I’ll try.
I’ve pitched a new idea to your publisher. It’s to be a collaborative project between you and Amanda Farrell and it could lead into a four book series with a huge advance.
The publisher's really excited about this project. He thinks it will be a great match-up. With your name in the hot romance genre and Amanda's prominence in historical romance, this could really take off big-time.
Lucky me, I'm the agent for both of you. I'm pretty sure I've hooked Amanda. At least I think I've piqued her interest, and now I need to get you on board.
This could go a long way toward skyrocketing both your careers and if it works like I'm sure it will, it’ll drive sales of your current offerings and your back-list.
Please Terrell; please say you'll consider it?
Your friend and agent,
Terrell finished reading the email and chuckled. He knew Marty, knew how she worked. She liked efficiency and he’d be willing to bet that an almost identical email had been sent to Amanda Farrell.
Still, it was worth a thought. He knew Amanda from her work and admired her, having read all her novels. Although her style was different, he’d sensed an undercurrent of passion smoldering in her writing as though reluctant to break out, but like a banked fire, could flare to life at any time.
He walked over to his bookcase and immediately found her latest book on the first shelf. Having read it, he didn’t peruse the pages, but turned to the back flyleaf and Amanda’s photograph.
While certainly attractive, she wasn’t an exceptionally beautiful woman. Still, there was something about her full lips and light green eyes that drew his attention.
For some reason he couldn’t define, her face exuded sensuality more than most of the classically beautiful women he’d ever known about or met.
Perhaps it was the knowing smile that revealed even white teeth or the way her almond-shaped eyes matched the curve of her lips, or her hair, the color of red mahogany that draped her shoulders.
In any event, Amanda Farrell was a woman whom he’d definitely like to work with in more ways than one.
Taking the book back to his desk, he pondered the problems of collaborating with her in a book project. Should he take the lead or approach it as coequals? Which was the right path? He sensed from her picture that here was a woman who wouldn’t be comfortable taking a subordinate role, but might surrender if the mood struck her. If it happened, it would be at her time and choosing.
Grinning, he composed a reply and began to type.
If Amanda agrees then I’ll try it, but only if she agrees without reservation and understands that she can back out at any time.
If she accepts, you can send her my personal email address and she and I can discuss it over the internet.
Great! I’ll have the agency agreement written up for both of you to sign but here’s the meat of it.
You two split the advance and royalties fifty-fifty after I take my twenty. I think that’s fair because if I were making my usual fifteen from each of you, I’d get thirty and in addition, this deal will take a lot of work.
I chose the two of you as collaborators because I know from past experience that you both meet deadlines and do high quality work, so I don’t anticipate complaints from either of you about someone not doing their fair share.
I’ll leave you to get your heads together about the writing details, and I’ll keep you informed as to the progress with the publisher.
I’ll need some samples and a synopsis for the publisher by the end of the month so get busy.
Don’t let me down guys. This could be a big opportunity for all of us.
Amanda groaned after reading the email. She had her own projects in work and she’d have to abandon them if they were to meet Marty’s deadline. Not that it would be much of a loss, she’d run out of ideas for them and had nearly lost interest.
Over the past few months she’d begun to wonder if she’d ever be able to write anything again, feeling like a worn out hack, churning out the same drivel. Maybe this could bring the enthusiasm back and give her a fresh outlook.
Anyway she’d composed an email for Terrell Bane and she needed to send it.
Seconds after pressing the send button on her email program, she blinked as another incoming email popped up on the browser. The message had Terrell Bane as the sender.
Surely he couldn’t have read it that quickly, she thought, or is it some quirk of the internet? I wonder what he has to say?
Opening the mail, she read the message.
First, I’d like to express my admiration for your ability as a writer. It’s a great pleasure, not to mention a challenge, to work with someone of your talent.
May I call you Amanda? Missus Farrell seems so formal, and if we are to work together I’d like to be on a first name basis.
I’ve in mind to ask you to choose the theme of our novel. I’m not strong in period authenticity, but it seems to me that historical romance could work for both of us.
My strengths lie in depictions of action scenes and sensual passions, romance as experienced from a male perspective, visual more than mental, the feel of flesh against flesh, more than unspoken glances.
I’m also a more creative writer, preferring to start with an idea and allow the characters to develop, and then let them take me where they want to go.
Please email me your thoughts on our joint venture.
At first Amanda felt confused. He hadn’t answered any of the issues she’d proposed at all. Then the truth struck her. He’d composed his email at the same time she had, and their messages had crossed in delivery.
What was the next step? Should she wait until he’d read her email or respond to this one? It would be awkward to have the same thing happen again.
# # #
Terrell frowned in puzzlement as he read Amanda’s email.
We haven’t met Mister Bane, but I feel as if I know you from your writing. I confess I don’t know if I can match it, so I’ll have to try and add my perspective to augment it.
Do you have any thoughts for a theme? I have a few ideas I’ve collected over the years, some of which I’ve been unwilling or unable to write because they were so difficult to do, and do well.
If you’d like, I can send you an outline or two.
My perspective comes from two sources. First, my degree is in history, so I’ve conducted extensive research on historical periods, and second, romance for me is in the words spoken by eyes and gentle touch, mannerisms that reflect more than words can say.
We don’t need to write a historical novel however, it might be instructive to branch out and explore other genres, stretch our writer’s muscles, so to speak. After all, romance is timeless.
I’m also a disciplined writer, preferring to map out the story arch, beginning, middle and end, before I commence to flesh out the characters.
With those thoughts in mind, what are yours?
We both must have had the urge to write at the same time, Terrell thought. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Should he respond or wait until she wrote him?
While he hesitated, he pondered her words. He’d developed a severe case of ennui over the past few months, unable or unwilling to generate enthusiasm for any new projects. He didn’t worry about Marty’s deadline; he could churn out five thousand words a day if he had to.
But how could he, who wrote by instinct, become a organized writer? He violated every principle of a structured writing, but somehow the end always came out coherent and pleasing to his readers. He knew from the hundreds of letters and emails that readers liked his writing but he’d never been disciplined his whole career.
As far as romance went, he loved sensual passion, frequently becoming aroused as he wrote. Where was the common ground between him and Amanda Farrell? Perhaps this wouldn’t work at all.
He felt a pang of disappointment at the thought. Maybe some structure in his life was just what he needed. A little discipline couldn’t hurt.
Picking up her book to re-examine the photograph, he wondered.
Could her formality hide the sensual woman he looked at? Was it possible that somewhere beneath her words the passion hid, waiting for the right moment to release it?
He decided to wait for her reply.
# # #
Amanda stared at the empty screen. Hours had passed since her email to Terrell, and still no reply. Did she scare him off? Maybe he was just deciding how to diplomatically decline the offer to collaborate.
If so, she felt a sense of loss. She’d actually become excited about the project and the excitement hadn’t died.
What was taking him so long to reply?
Alone in the house with Charles still at work, she’d eaten lunch, done the dishes, washed clothes, and checked the computer between tasks only to return to a blank screen.
Frustrated, she expelled a breath that stirred the errant lock of hair that had fallen across her forehead. Determined to know what he thought, she typed ‘Mister Bane’ and then backspaced over it.
After all, he was the one who asked to be on a first name basis. She replaced ‘Mister Bane’ with ‘Terrell’
# # #
Terrell? Are you there? Please reply.
Terrell’s heart leaped. He’d been hovering around his writing desk for hours, only getting up to go to the bathroom and snack.
An opened, empty bottle of wine sat on his desk alongside the half-full glass he’d poured just a minute ago. He knew he was slightly tipsy, but he maintained enough presence of mind to understand the hidden meaning behind the simple words.
She’d used his first name and signed in with hers. His despair at the thought of never hearing from her again turned to delight.
He laced his fingers together and flexed his hands, cracking his knuckles. Leaning over the keyboard, he began to type.
# # #
Awkward moment, Wasn’t it? It seems we both had the urge to write at the same time. You can’t imagine my relief when you emailed me. I thought our collaboration had ended before it began. I have a suggestion. Why don’t we use one of those free video conferencing programs? Then we can cross talk to each other as often as we want without misunderstanding.
I’m eager to begin this joint effort, Amanda. I think I can learn a lot from you, learn the secrets of the passion you reflect in your writing, and the heart that lies behind it.
Certainly, we’ll have to learn and grow to accommodate each other, but I’m willing to try. In fact, it excites me to know that you might be my partner in this journey.
Let me know how you feel. By the way, my last name’s not Bane. It’s Agostino. Bane is my pen name, Marty suggested it.
Amanda was surprised at the happiness she felt after reading Terrell’s email. She’d been certain he’d decline and go his own way. To find that he was not only agreeable but eager, rekindled her excitement.
She’d have to download and install the video conferencing software. Terrell was right, emails, except for the transfer of manuscripts, just wouldn’t convey the meaning that a face to face would accomplish.
Isn’t the internet wonderful? She thought about what it would be like to actually observe his reactions while she talked with him even if it was only business.
In a small part of her mind, one that was easily dismissed, she wondered why she felt anticipation, like her life might change. Reassuring herself that the thought was frivolous, she composed her reply.
Can you believe I hung around the computer for hours waiting for your reply?
I have a feeling that we could create something new here, something fun and unique, if we both put or minds to it. So let’s try.
We’ll go ahead with this project and see what develops.
Amanda stared at the image on her screen. His eyelashes were thicker than she’d imagined them. Or maybe it was the way he looked at her, eyes half lidded as though he wanted to consume her.
His gaze penetrated deep, stirring something within her she hadn’t felt for a long time. It distracted her from the ongoing discussion they’d been having and she looked away, casting her eyes down to the corner of the screen.
On the defensive and standing her ground, she replied, “No, I think my idea is best. You write the scene from the hero’s perspective and I’ll write the same scene from the heroine’s point of view. We’ll use one or the other or both, depending on the flow of the novel.” She waited for him to reply, primed to go into battle for her idea.
At the sight of her downcast eyes, Terrell swallowed. Truthfully, the argument hadn’t been that important. He just wanted to tease her, to see the flush of color in her cheeks, the frequent smiles that lit her face, and the dancing eyes that caused his heart to speed up. What was it about this woman that made him want to challenge her, to see her animated response to his goading?
Breaking into a smile, he replied, “Why is it I’m unable to oppose you Amanda? Of course, you’re correct. It will make the novel appeal to both sexes...I suppose because it was not my idea, I balked at it.”
He nodded. “Very well, we’ll do it. Each of us will provide a different slant on the same scene, one from the male perspective and one from the female. Have you thought of an antagonist yet?”
Amanda paused. He’s caving in too easily. They’d decided on a paranormal romance theme, both desiring to try something new, but she knew she didn’t want vampires, werewolves, fey or any other of the overused mythological creatures so commonly found in the current genre. “No. Maybe we shouldn’t try paranormal at all. Have you thought of anything?”
Terrell paused for a long moment, drinking in her image and the expectant look on her face. Rather than directly answering her question he said, “You know you’re very attractive when you’re in thought. It’s something about the tilt of your head and the way your eyes cast to the side. My mind blanked out while I observed you. I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.”
Amanda felt herself blush.
“You’re even more attractive when you blush, Amanda.”
At first, unable to reply, she felt heat travel to her stomach, causing butterflies to rustle. Gathering her composure, she asked, “What have my mannerisms to do with it? I thought we were talking about the antagonist. You know we have only a week to get the synopsis done. –Anyway, I don’t blush.”
“Yes you do Amanda. You blush every time your feelings are aroused. Your reaction is so unique, I think we should include it in the heroine’s characterization,” he replied.
The thought that he found her attractive was provocative enough, but to add unique to the mix? She hadn’t been complimented by a man in a long time, and she found his comments stimulating. Whoa girl, back off. He’s entering forbidden territory. “I’ll have to think about it, Terrell, and I can’t when you distract me. I received the scene you sent me and I haven’t read it yet, so I’ll call you tomorrow to discuss it.” She ended the call.
Letting out the breath she’d been holding, she sighed. Attractive? He wasn’t only one who felt the pull. His eyes, which normally seemed to reflect suppressed pain, lit with some inner longing when he spoke to her. Her heart rate increased every time she looked into them. Maybe she should ration the face-to-face conferences; they certainly didn’t do much for her concentration.
Opening the new file he’d sent her, she read the text.
Konrad studied her. He’d heard that some women radiated sensuality, but up to now he hadn’t met any. That is, until he met Diana.
True, her breasts filled the silk dress she wore and he’d seen her hips provocatively sway as she approached him. All of her womanly charms were in place, but taken by themselves they were no different from many of the other attractive women he’d been with.
No, it was the overall image, the smile of the full sensual lips, the tiny pink tongue that protruded slightly past pearly white teeth, the saucy tilt of her head, and way her thick-lashed eyelids swept half way over her almond shaped eyes, hinting of mysteries. Or perhaps it was the thick red mahogany hair that cascaded down to caress her enchanting graceful neck and shoulders, or the color of her eyes, sometimes green, sometimes flecked with gold highlights, but always gazing at him, appraising him.
He’d found her. The one woman in the entire world he wanted. Unfortunately, she’d been claimed by someone else.
Amanda felt uneasy. Could he be describing her? She’d never experienced herself from a man’s eyes before. It certainly didn’t fit the image she had of herself.
If arousal could be said to come in flavors, this was certainly one of the sweetest. Its tang penetrated the edges of her sexuality, not quite entering it, but certainly piquing her libido and increasing her appetite for more.
Terrell had said he liked to write vignettes, little pieces intended to form a picture of the overall story. It was her job to place them in the story arch and stitch all the parts together. But maybe his approach wasn’t so bad after all. It made what might seem a dreary task fun and interesting. She realized she was beginning to enjoy this collaboration.
If he’d painted a picture of her, as unlikely as that might seem, then that contest could involve two players. Grinning, she leaned over the keyboard and began to type.
Terrell kept his eyes fixed on the screen, drinking the image of Amanda’s face and gauging her reaction as he pitched his idea.
“The theme I have in mind is a paranormal one. Konrad, an only son, is the offspring of a race of immortals. The immortal line can only continue if he finds a virgin mortal and falls in love with her. If he does and takes her virginity, then she becomes immortal along with him. The crux of the matter is that the mortal woman must fall in love with him otherwise it won’t work.
“Unfortunately the girl he desires, Diana, is betrothed by her parents to a vile man. One who Konrad knows is evil and will only hurt her. Diana’s honor and social pressures won’t allow her to disobey her parents. She finds herself in love with Konrad but she won’t marry him. He must work quickly to prevent the villain from forcibly taking her virginity and win her unconditional love.
“What do you think?”
Amanda hesitated. “It could work. We could set it in Elizabethan England or earlier, some era where a young girl would never think of disobeying her parents. That would also provide an opportunity to create some action scenes. Perhaps Konrad kidnaps her and carries her off...” She paused, thinking for a moment. “...It’s good. I like it and it will provide meat for the sequels which could be set in any period, since they’re immortals.”
Having exhausted words, an uncomfortable silence fell between them. For a long time they stared at each other’s images, communicating volumes without saying a word.
Feeling the pressure to break the silence, Terrell blurted, “Amanda I–”
They both laughed. Terrell smiled. “It seems we have a habit of crossing words. Please, you go first.”
Amanda bit her lip. “Now, I’m not sure I should.”
“Sure of what?” he asked.
She seemed to struggle with the words. “This is awkward. –Did you mean to describe me in Diana’s description? I know that’s very self-centered,” she added in a hurry.
Growing firm he responded, “Absolutely. And I meant every word of it.” He’d chuckled when he read her description of Konrad, and then he’d flushed as he read more. Amanda could really write. He’d have to ascend to a new level to match her. “Did you mean your description of Konrad to reflect me?”
Amanda smiled. “Yes, I felt a little payback was in order since you were playing with me.”
“No play intended, Amanda,” he said. “It’s what I see in you. If an artist wants to paint a beautiful, sensual woman he uses a model of beauty and sensuality. That’s you Amanda.”
The color of her face, which had changed from pale rose and white into blush pink, now deepened to a red hue. “I...I think I’ll have to quit now and get back to work. Shall we continue this tomorrow?”
Reluctant to let her go, he almost said no, but it wasn’t the wisest of choices. “Certainly. Same time tomorrow?”
She nodded and her image vanished from the screen.
Sitting back in his desk chair, Terrell felt a sense of loss that had accompanied her departure. He’d been honest in his description of her; the attraction he felt was undeniable. Uncertain as to how this would end, he knew only one thing, one constant he held close.
He wanted Amanda Farrell more than he’d wanted any woman in his entire life.
* * *
Amanda read Terrell’s latest draft manuscript.
In the previous chapter, she’d left the heroine poised at the edge of a cliff about to take her own life, and he’d promised to write the next one, the one depicting Diana’s abduction by Konrad.
She stood staring at the horizon at the demarcation of the sky and the sea as though memorizing it.
Konrad stood hidden in the shadows of the trees. He’d followed her; uncertain of her intentions, but knowing he must protect her, his future depended upon it.
He could hear the pounding of the surf as the ocean ate at the base of the cliff, far below. The strong wind molded the sheer shift she wore to her breasts and thighs and her thick rich hair whipped in the wind like a torn crimson battle flag.
What did she intend? Fear choked his throat. She poised too close to the edge for his comfort. He ached to rush to her and drag her back from the precipice but held off.
The wind veered and her shift lifted from her ankles exposing her creamy legs and the deep auburn hair that lay at the junction of her thighs. He realized then that the gossamer covering was the only thing hiding her nudity and it aroused him.
Seeming to come to her senses, she looked down at the ocean below and took a hesitant step forward, her dainty foot dangling over empty space.
Alarmed by her act, he burst from the covering of the trees and ran toward her.
Hearing the sound of his boots pounding the tough turf, she glanced his way, startled.
He saw that his actions had unbalanced her and she was about to fall headlong onto the rocks below, so he put every ounce of his strength into a determined rush, running faster than he’d ever run in his life.
Leaping, he reached to catch her before it was too late. He wrapped an arm around her waist, and his momentum carried both of them further along the cliff edge.
He vowed if they were to fall to their deaths they would do so together. Surely the fall would kill any man no matter how immortal, but he felt himself crash into a small clump of weathered bushes anchored in the thin soil. Reaching to his limit, and spurred on by desperation, he grabbed a handful, preventing their fall.
Holding onto the stems with one hand, his other arm tight around her, he tried to boost her to safe ground, but she resisted, screaming and sobbing. “Let me go damn you! Let me die!”
He wrestled with her, dragging her upward, inch by inch and pulling himself along with her. The brush he held onto wouldn’t last much longer; he could hear the roots tear from the soil.
Using the power of his free arm and the last of his strength, he pulled them all the way from the edge, still holding her as she struggled.
Regaining his feet, and angry with himself and her, he grabbed a handful of her hair and dragged her to her feet.
She winced and tried to get free, pulling from him at the expense of her scalp. Her furious expression burned his heart. “You can’t stop me, Konrad. You caused this, now let me die.”
He forced her face close to his and glared into her eyes. “It’s too late, Diana. Your actions have made me decide. What makes you think I’d let you take your own life? You’re coming with me–”
Amanda’s concentration on the text was interrupted by the sound of the front door of the house opening and closing. She glanced at the computer’s time. It read one o’clock in the morning. She’d been writing and reading for hours. She realized she’d forgotten dinner but it hadn’t seemed to matter.
Rising from her desk she walked into the living room.
“You’re in awfully late, Charles,” she began. “Actually I should say you’re early, since it’s one o’clock in the morning.”
“I went out for drinks with some of the guys in the office,” he replied. He sat his briefcase beside the couch and flopped on the cushions. “What do you care Amanda? I suspect you’ve been too busy at the computer to notice.”
The fact that he’d been precise in predicting her actions jarred her. In truth she hadn’t given any thought to his absence, more concentrated upon the writing of the new novel.
Not wanting to start a fight, she decided to leave and head back to her computer, but she paused when a faint odor of perfume rose from the vicinity of the couch.
“Do any of the men at the office wear ‘Obsession’?” she asked, “I thought only women used it.”
Startled he asked, “What?”
‘Obsession’, she replied, “It’s a women’s perfume and you reek of it.”
He waved a hand in dismissal. “Oh, that. We went to a topless bar. Maybe one of the waitresses wore it.” Rising from the couch he stretched. “I’m tired and I want a shower. He paused and glanced at her. “Are you coming to bed?”
Angry at his lame excuse and not wanting to sleep with him, she shook her head.
Looking relieved, he headed to the bathroom.
In the past year Charles had stopped any pretense of sexual interest in her. She suspected his desire lay elsewhere, likely at work. The thought should have brought anguish, but in reality she’d been ambivalent, no longer caring what he did.
Perhaps it was the relative disparity between their levels of success. While he paid the household expenses, working at a job he hated, she toiled at the task she loved, writing. He maintained a small number of acquaintances and she relished the praise of hundreds of fans. In reality, she made enough from her novels for both of them to live on, but he refused to touch it. His pride wouldn’t allow it.
Amanda had enough money in her personal accounts to buy a new home if she wanted to. If it came to a divorce, she’d be able to fend for herself. She decided to consult with a lawyer to protect her assets.
Wordlessly, she walked back to her office and the computer. Rubbing her temples to stave off a headache, she returned to the passage she’d been reading when she was interrupted.
Terrell sometimes made mistakes in a first draft, but recently he’d made more than were usual. Many of them were deliberate, designed to increase the frequency of his teleconferences with Amanda.
He never tired of looking at her face while he bantered with her, making her blush, watching her laugh at a joke, observing as she immersed herself in deep thought.
Over the months they’d worked together, his connection to her had grown stronger. At times he wondered if it was because he was single and alone, but the reality was that if he’d met her years ago, he knew he’d have preferred Amanda over his soon to be ex-wife.
Terrell thought about his loneliness. Writing was a solitary occupation, just him, his mind and the keyboard. Since he'd separated from his wife of seven years, there had been no one to talk to, no one to share the secret anguish and doubt every writer held deep inside. Not that he'd been able to do so often with his estranged wife, but at least he'd tried.
At the end, he felt she'd found someone else, but the truth was, he didn't care. They'd separated amicably and it was only a matter of time before one or both of them filed for divorce.
It wasn’t that he was a home wrecker, far from it. He despised lowlifes who seduced married women and then left them with broken families and fractured lives. If his relationship with Amanda only went as far as working with her, he’d be content with that, but he couldn’t deny the attraction. It brought to mind a quote from Shakespeare:
‘You draw me, you hardhearted adamant, but yet you draw not iron, for my heart is as true as steel. Leave me your power to draw and I shall have no power to follow you’
He chuckled. Will certainly had a way with words, but he was dead right. Amanda drew him like a magnet, a sexual lodestone, one he feared he must deny, but where it counted, deep within, didn’t have any desire to resist.
# # #
Amanda hunted through Terrell’s latest manuscript looking for the mistakes she knew would be there. It had become a game, one they both played, but one she never questioned him about because she feared if she did, he’d stop.
Most of the time the typos were innocent phrases containing erotic sexual references or funny twists on words. In truth, she eagerly anticipated each one and kept a separate file of all of them.
She’d responded in kind teasing him with oblique coquettish phrases hinting at interest but keeping him at a distance.
As they’d progressed deeper into the work, the scenes had become more intimate, becoming more like a duel of sensual words designed to titillate and arouse.
This time his manuscript seemed more focused and demanding.
Konrad swayed with the pitch and roll of the ship, riding the waves as they crashed against the bow. The psychic link he’d felt with Diana seemed stronger the closer he got to her. Although more than physical distance separated them, he knew she sensed the attraction and responded to it. It was primarily in her eyes, in those emerald depths that reflected longing and pain. He could sense the battle that stormed beneath them, on one side the guilt of obligation and on the other the desire to touch and be touched, to love and be loved.
Distance kept them apart, but the gap grew narrower the closer the ship sailed. They were destined to close it; he could feel it, a force that neither of them could resist. He ached to bury his hands in the thick silk of her hair, sense the contact of her soft lips on his, and taste her sweet mouth as he ravaged it with his tongue.
Soon, he would experience her in the flesh, and nothing would ever be the same again. He knew it as well as he felt the draw of his next breath or the succeeding beat of his heart.
I wonder if he’s writing about me, if he’s describing our time together on the internet, Amanda thought. It was certainly the emotion she’d felt whenever she saw his face through the connection, a wild, unarticulated desire that drew her like she’d never experienced before. Like Terrell, she’d felt the gap between them begin to narrow. All that remained was the physical connection and then she’d be lost, unwilling to resist.
Terrell finished the chapter depicting the savage battle between Konrad’s fleet of pirate ships and the antagonist’s, leaving the villain’s ship smoking and sinking.
He’d put off the chapter in which Konrad and Diana confessed their love for each other because he knew the plan was to leave them unrequited. He realized that his reluctance stemmed from the fact that Amanda had crept into his version of the novel but he couldn’t help it. The idea that the characters wouldn’t remain together pained him and it was hard to find the words. Perhaps there might be a way to convince her. Rereading her contribution to the chapter, his hands strayed to the keyboard.
Konrad’s future balanced on a knife-edge. How could he convince her of his intentions and his desire for her? The gut wrenching need that drove him whenever he was around her seemed to frighten her, but she had to decide, he couldn’t force her.
# # #
Amanda reread the words she’d written in response to Terrell’s latest additions. They reflected her desires. If she gave in to them, who knew where it would end? She held no illusions concerning men. Their passions of the moment could easily switch to a new obsession.
Diana felt exposed, naked to his raking eyes, eyes that bored through to her soul. How much longer would she be able to resist?
Breaking away to hide her tears, she looked at the sea and the thrashing waves that stretched to the distant horizon. “This is wrong. Don’t you understand? You’re ripping my heart out. I have a duty to my family. An obligation I can’t ignore. I need to be away from you and you only make it harder when you look at me like you do. Love is such a fleeting thing, how can I know that you’ll not abandon me when you’ve satisfied your fancy?”
Sighing, she uploaded the changes.
# # #
Reading Amanda’s latest correction to the chapter, Terrell paused with his fingers hovered over the keyboard. How could she so misunderstand him? His desire was no brief flirtation but a deep passion that plagued him. He had to make her understand. From hints, he’d gathered that romance had fled from her marriage and all that remained was disillusionment. Surely she wanted more in her life, didn’t she? He added a few sentences to the text.
Konrad moved to her and slipped his arms around her tiny waist. With her back toward him, his lips hovered near her delicate earlobe and he whispered. “Your family treats you like chattel, a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. I offer love that creates a fire in your heart. I won’t lie to you Diana. I’ll never stop loving you. You’re the woman I’ve searched for, the only one. If you refuse me, my life will be lonely, empty and devoid of meaning.”
# # #
Reading Terrell’s words, Amanda felt herself surrender. It descended like a physical thing. All of the bonds that held her released and the tension drained from her shoulders. She yielded, unleashing the raw need she’d contained. Bursting with the desire to express it, she began to type.
Diana turned in his arms burying her face in his shirt and breathing in the raw maleness of him, a combination of smoke from the battle, the musk of the sweat-dampened leather, and the vanilla scent of his skin.
Leaning back and looking up at his eyes she said, “You know if we consummate this there’s no turning back, no regrets. We’re bound to live or die together regardless of the outcome?”
She felt his arms crush her to his chest. Pausing with his lips a hair’s breadth away from kissing her, he replied,
She decided to let Terrell complete the rest, and pressed the send button.
# # #
Reading Amanda’s latest offering, Terrell felt a shaky quiver of anticipation. With trembling hands he reached for the keyboard.
Regardless of the consequences, Diana, I want to make you mine, mine in soul and body. I swear to you that I’ll love you and together we’ll make a life beyond your imagining. Say it, Diana. Say you’ll be with me. Say you’ll surrender to me.” He waited in breathless anticipation to hear the words.
Regaining his composure, Terrell sent the message.
# # #
“I surrender,” Diana replied. She ached for the touch of Konrad’s lips on hers.
# # #
Konrad brushed his tongue across Diana’s lips with a feather light caress, tasting the sweet wine she’d sipped just minutes ago. His lips descended, moving slow and drawing out the anticipation, savoring each moment before passion consumed him. At the first electric contact, he lost all patience and kissed her with bruising force.
# # #
At first Diana, inexperienced in the lusts that occurred between men and women, and shocked by the force of his desire, hesitated. But the warm sensual contact of his lips on hers caused some primitive part of her mind to yield and welcome his invasion. The same urge caused her to moan and thrust her body against his.
# # #
Konrad brushed the silky hair past Amanda’s ear to expose it to his questing lips. Nibbling, he traced its delicate outline, smelling the sweet scent of her hair and the pungent odor of aroused woman that misted from the slight sheen of perspiration along her neck. His lips traveled lower, pausing to pull on her ear lobe and still lower to trace the rapid pulse in her throat and follow the trail of arousal to its source.
# # #
Sorry about the typo I’m glad you caught it. Imagine me typing “Amanda” when I meant “Diana”. LOL
Here’s the correction, I’ve attached it.
# # #
Amanda reached the end of the chapter and leaned back in her desk chair. She’d become highly aroused reading the description of the almost, but not quite consummated, sexual encounter between Konrad and Diana.
The plan had been to interrupt the love scene with the antagonist, having survived the sinking of his ship, wresting control of Diana from Konrad in a climatic sword duel. Then they would revisit the story in the sequel. Now, she wasn’t as sure. The novel had grown substantially longer than what was suitable for a romance novel, and she felt unfulfilled by the ending.
When she wrote a book the characters became more than friends, they became family, lovers, and cherished children. They were alive in her mind. The things that happened to her characters affected her deeply as though she’d put a part of herself in their souls and therefore she personally experienced everything that happened to them.
In her depths she’d hoped that Terrell had written many of the passages to describe how he felt about her, but she’d been too chicken to voice it. One thing she did know was that much of what she’d written had been about her desire for him. It was like having a secret lover, one she romanced in words.
A little guilty at how much the writing had aroused her; she glanced toward the hallway that led to the living room. She wondered if Charles had returned from work.
She had no doubt now that he was having an affair with a female coworker. The anonymous voice on the phone, oozing malice, had dispelled any lingering questions in her mind.
True, it likely came from one of his coworker’s catty wives, but she’d suspected it all along, and the call had only confirmed her suspicions. She’d called her lawyer after the phone call. It was time to stop pretending and end their marriage, but she dreaded the confrontation when she told him.
* * *
Frustrated, Terrell expelled a breath. He’d done all he could to stretch out the novel, but together they were too good to delay the ending any longer. The finish loomed and he felt as though the chord that bound them both might be brutally severed if the book ever came to a close. As it was, he knew much of it would be cut by the editor, but he was reluctant to be the first to write the end.
Over the months they’d worked together, he’d been drawn more and more into Amanda’s web. He’d wooed her with each word, seduced her with each sentence, made passionate love to her with each paragraph and still it had not been enough for him.
The uncertainty that surrounded the acceptance of their creation by the publisher plagued him. If they didn’t want it, he’d lose the connection that wedded him to her, and he dreaded it. Sighing, he left the novel unfinished, waiting for Amanda to make the first move.
* * *
Amanda stared at the words that displayed on the screen. They read ‘Chapter Thirty-Two’, the final chapter. She agonized about what would come next. After all the romantic tension, the battles, the court intrigue, and the danger, it was time to end it, but she didn’t want it to end. It wasn’t a case of writer’s block, she knew what loomed, but ‘the end’ felt so final, so complete, the end of a dream, a dream she didn’t have any desire to leave.
She found herself crying, she could feel the wetness on her cheeks. She couldn’t do this, it tore at her. Terrell had given the task to her, saying it was her choice, but she hadn’t wanted it. She wanted to cower somewhere, imaging a never-ending story, one that made the emotions he’d evoked in her continue, expanding into the infinite future and carrying her passion along with it.
Closing the file, she pondered her choices. She suspected that Terrell had done it deliberately, perhaps cowardly, as afraid as she was to experience the finality of it, the crushing sense of loss that invaded her heart. She couldn’t face it now. Maybe a little distance would allow her to complete it, but she knew if she did, she’d be an emotional wreck afterwards. With her mouse pointer poised over the send button, she stared at the email she’d written.
Terrell, this isn’t the final chapter, is it?
# # #
No Amanda. It’s only the beginning.