First Page Feedback – Smouldering Embers

Jackie Burrows sent in a Presents submission for today’s First Page Feedback!

He was late.

He was never late.

Harrison J Bentley was a stickler for punctuality according to the senior executives who awaited the arrival of their CEO. They were anxious for the board meeting to start, but none of them could possibly have been suffering from the level of anxiety that Leah Fitzpatrick was as she waited for Harry to show up.

She’d been dreading this moment ever since she had learnt she was to attend her first board meeting in the UK.

Leah wondered if she should circulate but, as her team from Hong Kong were deep in discussion with two of the senior executives, she stayed where she was, at the back of the boardroom, and tried to quell her rising nausea. The background hum of conversation rose and fell, reminding Leah of the turbulence that had unsettled her stomach on the flight over.

People were growing restless and Leah’s nerves were stretched to breaking point when the door opened abruptly.

All talking ceased as Harry strode in.

Leah took a sharp intake of breath as she watched him quickly scan the room. Then he saw her.

Everyone was watching him but he only had eyes for her.

Eyes that burned into hers. Deep unfathomable eyes that were destroying the last remaining shreds of her equilibrium.

Belonging to a man that she hated with a passion.

Leah had wondered how much someone could change in five years. The answer was standing in front of her.

At six foot three, he was the tallest man in the room and dressed the part of the totally-in control CEO. He wore a sharp, black suit, pale blue shirt, gold cufflinks and black shoes polished to an inch of their lives.

The younger Harry had worn copious amounts of gel on his thick, black hair in an attempt to tame it. Now, it was gel-free and cut short but styled to perfection. Gone was the cocky but carefree youngster and in his place stood a confident, commanding man oozing authority.

But something else held Leah riveted to the spot and staring open-mouthed at her nemesis.

She had teased him once, saying that he was pretty enough to be a model, but that look had gone. His expression was hungry and hard, there was no softness there, just raw, animal power.

As his blue-laser gaze pinned her to the spot, she felt all the air leave her lungs in a rush. She took in a deep breath and forced her feet to move.

Standing in front of him, she put out her hand to shake.

‘Harry, good to see you again.’ She needed diplomacy and tact in bucket loads. She didn’t want to be here but as soon as she could escape without appearing too rude, she was flying back to Hong Kong.

He stood, immobile, unsmiling, features carved in stone. Leah felt her knees turn to jelly but kept her hand out determined not to be the one to give in.

Here’s the Feedback from The Presents Team!

The workplace setting is something Presents readers love to see and the twist you’ve added here (with the heroine being on more of a similar level to the hero instead of a more traditional Boss/PA relationship) is just the kind of fresh new take we’re encouraging with the classic themes. Packing the first page with a real punch can sometimes be tricky but this sets up a really nice tension and dynamic between the hero and heroine. The reader gets a good sense of their characters – he’s all alpha and there’s something more to her that hints at the fact she’s not an average Presents heroine – and the reader’s interest is piqued, encouraging them to keep reading. What happened between Harrison and Leah in the past? What brought them to this room and this meeting on this day? Where will they go from here?!

 You’ve created really nice tension here so now it’s just about ensuring you’re taking that forward into the following pages and chapters. This tension is what will maintain the pace and keep the reader gripped, desperate to know how it all ends.