Writing Challenge: I Want to Get Away

by Evan Yeong

All entertainment provides some form of escapism, but fans of romance know this far better than most. There’s nothing quite like curling up with a Harlequin paperback and forgetting the world, if only for a few moments. In times like these, that feels more necessary than it’s ever been.

I read through every one of your wonderful Writing Challenge suggestions, and a good number of them will likely make an appearance in the near future, but what I wanted to focus on for this upcoming weekend is that concept of getting away from it all.

In a romantic scene of 400 words or less I want you to take me (and my fellow editors) somewhere else! Unlike many of my past prompts, this is more about establishing a mood or a feeling. It doesn’t matter what era your submission takes place in, or who your leads are, or the circumstances of the scene, but the purpose of this Challenge is for you to transport your reader to a different time and place. You have a lot of freedom to work with here, which is only appropriate.

Just as a heads-up, try to steer clear of references to our reality! It doesn’t matter if your submission focuses on a tropical island getaway or a lovely picnic in the park, but reminders of the present situation probably won’t be winning, which leads me to my exciting announcement…

The Editors’ Choice Top 3 are back! That’s right, of the however many submissions we receive, a chosen three will once again be selected and given the honour of being our winners! Just be sure to have yours in by this upcoming Sunday evening at 11:59 PM EST at the latest. Then tune back in sometime the following afternoon to see if you won!

To wrap things up, I just wanted to let everyone know that we will be scaling back just a bit on updates here. I’m not going anywhere, and these Writing Challenges will continue, but other posts will be a little less frequent. That being said, I’m really grateful that I’ve been able to become a part of this community over the past several months.

In spite of the fact that I’ve been sequestered in my apartment for x number of days now, it really does help knowing that you’re all out there and (hopefully) doing the same. Stay healthy and stay safe, and see you all back here Monday!

UPDATE: This week we received a grand total of 31 eligible submissions, and it was a tall order trying to determine which of them grabbed us most and made us forget about the world, if only for a little while.

After some deliberation, we finally decided on our Editors’ Choice Top 3, and I’ve provided a bit more editorial feedback for each as a bonus!

In First Place is Nikki Hunter, whose scene not only included an outlandish scenario, but framed it in the funniest way possible. A solid joke is an easy way to grab readers’ attention. Peppering humour throughout your work is a difficult, but ultimately worthwhile endeavour, provided that you don’t forget to maintain that undercurrent of attraction between your two leads. This entry does both effortlessly.

Eilidh Lawrence took Second Place, and the editors on a journey to far-off Scotland. Setting your story somewhere new and unfamiliar is a fantastic way to play up the escapism of your romance, and having the hero and heroine be from abroad and right there, respectively, is an immediately engrossing dynamic. The banter here between the two leads is also masterfully done.

And finally, in Third Place is Kaelin. There’s a similar tactic here with the submission’s gorgeous seaside setting, and I want to focus on the conflict presented in addition to the excellent imagery. We’re instantly drawn into the heroine’s’s issues, which can help us forget our own, and are allowed a reprieve when the hero suddenly shows his face. I wanted to know more!

Thank you so much for participating, and we hope you’ll be back for our next Writing Challenge!  Until then, turn back in again on Wednesday for a Call Story that I’m particularly excited about!

62 replies on “Writing Challenge: I Want to Get Away”

Logan woke up to bright sunshine and a strange room.
Neither of these were new. He’d spent years playing in a band. They toured. Days started late, and he woke up in different rooms all the time. Some had been sketchy, some nice like this one.
He hadn’t been in a band for a long time, though. This sunshine was stronger than he was used to. There was a different scent in the air. He stretched as he looked around and remembered.
St Martin.
A pleasant side effect of being sober was waking up without a headache. He thrust a hand through his hair, yawned, and pulled himself out of bed.
He went to the balcony doors and stepped out. He could smell the saltwater, hear the waves and the sound of kids on the beach playing. It was a comforting family sound. He shuddered.
He wasn’t staying, he reminded himself. This wasn’t a part of his life. He was here just long enough to talk to Ellie.
He leaned on the balcony wall and looked at the resort beach. An almost impossibly perfect crescent of white sand stretched out before him. There were cabanas and chairs under palapas. At this time of day, the beach was full of people. Logan wondered if Ellie was out there, and if she was, if he could find her.
He’d start with the beach. It was right there, and he loved the surf. There wasn’t enough here to do any surfing, but he’d missed the water, and he might as well indulge.
Once he’d had some coffee, he made his way out in a pair of board shorts, sand hot on his bare feet. Then that same connection they’d always shared turned his head to the right.
She was lying on a beach chair, under a palapa, alone. There was an empty chair beside her, and he marked it for himself.
She was wearing a red bikini. And she wore it well.
He paused for a moment to admire.
He dropped a towel in the chair beside her. She sat up jerkily, pulling out earphones, but he didn’t wait to hear what she said. He ran to the water, and dove in. The water was soft and warm, the salt making it buoyant. It felt good. Even without his board, it was satisfying to be in the water.

Quick question!
So you can place your scene in a contemporary setting (small town, local community, tourist trap, etc.) in the U.S.
The world rules are: believe it is somewhere else and occurring to someone else?
Can it be a more melancholy scene? (Not happy, but not miserable feelings)

Hi Phil! First of all, the scene does NOT have to take place in the United States. It also doesn’t have to be contemporary! The whole point is to help readers forget about the present. While it’s true that you can be whisked away to a place of melancholy, I don’t believe that’s why most people read romance.

Several scenes I though of preparing would serve as an escape. To escape into someone else’s hopes, dreams… and life problems.
Here is another question/ professional opinion.
Everyone enjoys a winner of a contest or game. But as readers and traveling with the characters, would you believe a love interest would respect the other’s failure to succeed at a personal dream to accept them as a “second prize”?
(for example: the star pitcher, boxer losing the “big game”, but gets the girl)
In stories, you don’t settle for the hero/heroine. You earn(win) them.

Hi Phil, sorry I missed your comment. I’ve read a few Harlequin romances in the past where one of the leads did not get first in the contest they were participating in. For me personally, I enjoy the twist as I think we’ve been conditioned not to accept our protagonists in second place.

The gentle low of steer in the distance calmed Colby in a way no amount of money could. The snow capped mountains deepened in their purple hue as the sun began is lethargic slide into night. The sweet smell of earth floated by as the wind swirled. Long grass joined in the breeze, waving in time to an unheard song.
It was beautiful.
It was home.
A low grinding hum pulled him from his reverence and off the old porch.
“Didn’t think you’d still be here, Cheshire. Thought city folk had to be in bed for their fancy jobs in the morning.” Lori teased as she jumped out of her father’s pickup.
There she was. Still petite, plain but full of fire. Her slim face was highlighted in brown grease and sweat. Her button up shirt and tight jeans were covered in dirt, her chestnut hair decorated in straws of hay and God knows what else.
She was a whirlwind in a bucket. Wild and unpredictable like the stallions she tamed.
Lori was off limits but he wanted her just the same.
“You know how much I hate that name, Lo.”
“And you know how much I can’t stand city folk but here you are. Why’d you come back, Cheshire? I’d been here making sure your folks are alright. No need for you to leave the city.”
Cosby’s lips thinned. She wasn’t going to make this easy.
“They’re my folks. I should have been here sooner but..”
“But you had important meetings and deadlines and your pretty new girlfriend to please first.” Lori snorted.
She walked to the back of the rust covered flatbed opening it with a long creak. She grabbed a bag full of groceries.
“Well c’mon, these supplies aren’t going to move themselves. That is, unless your afraid to get your rich, fancy clothes untidy.”
Colby lowered his head fighting back a curse. He grabbed a bag and followed behind her. His eyes immediately fell to her hips and backside swaying as she climbed the porch steps. He glanced up. Lori was watching him over her shoulder.
“Like what you see there, Cheshire?”
Colby looked away,” It can’t be helped it if its directly in my face.”
She placed her bag on the kitchen counter and moved closer to him. She lifted her face to his.
“How about now, Colby. Do you like what you see?”

Why did I let Sam talk me into this? I surveyed the room full of men; some young, others not too young, hairy, bald, skinny, and those who like to eat carbs and proud of it. They waited to talk with me, and judging from the looks on their faces, they had no idea who I was. To them I was number twenty-three in the speed dating line. And Sam already left with the second guy on her list. Damn her! It’s okay; I’ll get even with her when she comes with me to the next poetry reading. And oh boy, I’m going to write the worst poetry I can think of. Maybe I’ll do some Haiku. That should teach her not to mess around with me.
Sam is such a sweet girl and I know she’s just trying to help me through my break-up with Guy Silverman, my college beau. He’s the boy wonder, playwright, with phenomenal acting abilities I wasn’t quite aware of. I really should have seen this coming. That he would use me to get ahead in show business. When you’re the daughter of famous parents in the entertainment industry, you are always on your guard.

I take a sip of my diluted apple martini, hoping to cool me down in this rather warm room. It’s doesn’t help that my palms are very clammy too, that’s the last thing I need, being sweaty isn’t the impression I wanted to leave with. Am I too young for a hot flash?

The peal of girlish laughter hit my senses and I try to crank my neck to see who is having all that fun. Of course it’s a beautiful blond, that’s naturally having what I want. I see her doing the tilt of the head and ‘the flip of hair’ those flirtatious girls do to get the attention of a very attractive man. My view of the man that has Ms. Blondie entranced is blocked by a waiter that just hanging around their table. Crap!

All I can see is the back of that guy. One thing is for certain, he’s got great dark brown wavy hair. The kind of hair that a woman wants to run her fingers through. I see him nodding his head and then his laughter washes over me like a warm shower. When is this guy coming to my table?

White sand glittered in the moonlight, scattered diamonds against the deep blue of the sea. Black rocks speared into the sky, gleaming with moisture and protecting the cove from the world beyond. Tiny crabs scuttered here and there across the sand, furtively shopping for dinner while the tide was out.
Genevieve wove her way through the rocks and down the steep path, desperate for the solitude the little cove offered from the people and music that filled the house high on the ridge above. Her sister was celebrating her engagement, and while some might see her slipping away as unkind or unsupportive, Lorelei would understand. It had only been a few weeks, after all, since her own engagement had been called off, and Genevieve had never been particularly comfortable in a crowd – and particularly when everyone she encountered gazed at her with a combination of undisguised curiosity and pity.
She hadn’t been able to come up with a good story, or even a passable one. She didn’t understand herself why Eli had sent her that terse little note and disappeared. The embarrassment alone would have been enough to overcome, but the heartbreak and betrayal that burned inside her were too great for words. Her parents were mortified, shocked. She was ruined. There was talk of sending her to live with her aunt and uncle in the country, where, she assumed, she would be allowed to while away what was left of her youth and would eventually be placed on a dusty shelf in someone’s spare room. It was unconscionable. Unthinkable. At the beginning of the season, she had not only had prospects, she had been expected to make a great match. Now, what was to become of her?
She stepped down onto the sand and shoved the worry away. It wasn’t helpful, and the situation was – had always been – completely out of her control. Lifting her face to the moon, she let the soft breeze and salty air kiss her cheeks, her eyelids, her throat. It caressed the artful arrangement of tumbled curls atop her head, wrapped itself around her shoulders and pulled her –
“What are you doing?” Pushing herself away, Genevieve turned to face the man who had evidently been waiting in the shadows.
“Show yourself,” she demanded. Holding her breath, heart pounding, she watched as the tall figure stepped out into the moonlight.
“Eli?” she gasped.

Golden sunlight filtered in through the gossamer waves of snowy-white sheers covering Chelsea’s window. The tawny-haired barista, clad snugly in a full-length pink flannel nightgown patterned with snowflakes, stretched sleepily in her nest of crisp sheets and fluffy blankets. The air in her room was cool, but not cold, when she slowly reached out of the covers to bat at her alarm clock. A couple more snoozes wouldn’t hurt, she reasoned, pulling the blankets up to her neck and snuggling into the downy depths of her lavender-scented pillow.
Chelsea’s cat, Maisie, had other ideas, however. The grey striped feline padded up from her warm spot at the foot of the bed, settling her substantial rump on Chelsea’s shoulder. Feigning sleep, Chelsea nearly blew her cover by giggling when the silken tip of Maisie’s tail flicked back and forth across her nose and cheek. The cat clearly knew that she was faking, so she escalated her plan to receive the affection and attention that she clearly deserved from her human.
Shifting her weight, Maisie lowered her head to mere inches above Chelsea’s face, purring like a motorboat. Closer, closer, still closer, she leaned in, until just the cool, wet, pink triangle of her nose bonked Chelsea’s forehead. When she got no reaction, she bonked again. When there was still no response, she brought out the big guns, lapping at Chelsea’s eyebrow, with her sandpaper-like tongue.
“I smell your breath,” Chelsea chuckled, her eyes still closed.
It was true. A faint, moist fog wafted about, scented vaguely like salmon.
“Yeow,” the cat squeaked plaintively.
“Sorry, baby girl. Did I offend you?” Chelsea murmured, her eyelids too heavy to budge, at the moment.
“Yow!” Maisie’s tone was much more strident this time, and Chelsea groaned when her alarm joined in the chorus.
“I swear, it’s a conspiracy,” she sighed, sitting up slowly and rubbing her eyes.
The honey-colored walls of her bedroom swam into focus, and she swung her legs over the side of the bed, digging her toes into the thick pile of her faux lambskin throw rug, when they made contact with the cloud-like fibers. She detected the comforting scent of coffee brewing in the kitchen, and thanked her lucky stars for automatic setups. Soon, smoky notes of bacon would be mingling with the tantalizing aroma of the coffee, but first things first, Maisie had needs.

“Oh! No no no, I think I’ve had enough!” She laughs aloud as David insisted.
“C’mon! Take a shot! Here!” He says handing her a shot glass.
Carla couldn’t believe she was drinking so much. She nodded and then yelled: “Oh why not?!”
David smiled as she took two shots back. He took two shots and soon they were competing. Carla had five, he had seven. They were both sweating and now, David came out of his shirt. Carla felt her body get warm and it wasn’t from the Tequila. Was it possible that a man could be so perfect?? She was feeling bold and drunk so she ran her hands along his chest. David stood and watched as she smiled. Carla was going to do something she knew she’d regret but didn’t care. She’d spent her life being careful and it left her heart broken and lonely. Carla whispers in David’s ear.
“You are very very handsome and I,” she says as they grind slowly together to the music, “want you to come back to my room.”
David was taken aback as Carla then kissed him. He accepted and they were getting pretty hot and heavy on the dance floor. Carla didn’t care who was watching. She then placed a hand into his linen pants and needed to go too far to know he was definitely too perfect to be true! Carla had enough of this. She wanted to live on the edge for once. She wanted to live in the moment for once. Carla pulled out her room key and smiled. David smiled back. While he was enjoying her kissing his neck and licking his chest-she was drunk. She didn’t strike him as a loose woman. David was torn.
“Is this what you want?” He says looking down to her as she rubbed her hands all over his chest.
“Yes.” She got out.
Carla didn’t care what anyone thought. She was in the most beautiful vacation and honeymoon spot in Mexico. The Moon Palace resort and spa in Cancun Mexico, to be exact. She couldn’t believe how beautiful the ride in was and she was going to enjoy it. The brochure hadn’t done it justice. Seven pools, six whirlpool tubs, four spas, five swim up bars, meditation garden, the list went on. Carla couldn’t wait to enjoy paradise with this handsome and exotic stranger.

REWARD. (spelling is UK)

‘Say you’ll do it, Lexie.’…
‘Just fake marriage for the next two weeks here at Norwood Hall.’…
‘We know you’re on holiday.’…
‘But we need you.’…
The word fake rattled Lexie’s nerves and spiked her pulse. She scanned the five faces around the table. Too much beaming, too much enthusiasm too many wringing hands.
Too much pressure. No one ever needed her the way she needed to be needed.
Seems they had it all figured out. Granted, those around the table knew nothing of her family faking the truth for the past three years.
She’d come home for a much-needed break to see her mother and was being asked to save Destiny Harbour, the idyllic harbour town that owed its living to all things love and marriage, that included her mother’s bridal shop. The only thing that got her mother out of bed. Losing her shop would surely swing her back into a deep depression.
Then there was Moira, Jake’s mother. Jake… She’d had a giant crush on Jake all her life. They had a thing, then duty called, and she had to leave town in a hurry.
Focus, Lexie. Focus.
Moira’s jewellery shop, specialised in individually crafted rings. The Norwood family seemingly lived a life of luxury. But Lexie understood Moira’s shop was her signature. Not the Hall that boasted sea views on one side and on the other, velvety green slopes running to the river that, in the dry season, split like braided ribbon forming pools resembling a broken mirror. Exactly how she felt after three years of hard, degrading slog to repay her father’s debts. Shattered.
Lexie scanned the dining room crammed with antique furniture and effects passed on from generations. She didn’t begrudge Moira’s need for individual expression. Who’d want a museum, for a home? Or Jake escaping to pursue a career elsewhere after they broke up. He was always destined to make his own footprints. But heading up the aisle with an Australian soon wasn’t the destiny she’d imagined.
But here and now wasn’t about herself or Jake’s love life. Then again, maybe it was. An unwitting frisson of excitement screamed up her back.
For once in her life, she could allow herself to be selfish. Agree to help, and her reward would be seeing Jake again.
Just once. To explain…

Noelle brushed a damp strand of hair off her forehead. “Mrs. Franklin, I understand your desire to carve out a quiet, romantic getaway for you and your husband on your anniversary, however, commandeering the facility’s golf cart and jetting to the closest motel via the local highway might not have been the best route to undertake.”
Mrs. Franklin smiled, all sweet and great-grandmother like. “We’re too old to go necking in the woods, dear. At our age, we need soft sheets and motel rooms that don’t mind charging by the hour. Besides, Mr. Franklin had already taken his little blue pill before we left. We had to take the fastest route available.”
Behind Noelle, a masculine snort sounded that raced tiny shivers up her overheated spine. The fact she was unable to come here without him flustered her normally cool composure. But then she typically didn’t get called to the police station to bail out her octogenarian co-workers for trying to outrun the police by way of the employee’s golf cart that topped a lousy fifteen miles per hour during rush hour traffic. “You do realize only licensed vehicles are allowed on the highway?”
“Well of course, dear. Mr. Franklin and I only had our licenses revoked two years ago. That gives us quite a few years on you and your driving expertise. But today is our sixtieth anniversary. I’m sure you understand our need for some alone time.” Her rheumy eyes twinkled. “Children don’t get brought into this world by just marriage alone, you know.”
“I don’t think she does,” Flynn interjected, making her skin heat with his nearness. “You might need to explain it to her.”
Noelle shot him a warning look. She was trying to be the responsible one. She didn’t need him encouraging more theft-and-sex sprees from the happily married couple.
“Well, dear. When a man gets excited, his—”
“I know how the birds and the bees work, Mrs. Franklin!” She turned to Mr. Franklin, who was looking all manners of smug and pleased with himself. “Maybe I should take charge of those little blue pills.”
“Used ‘em all,” Mr. Franklin announced proudly. “Still got a nice, big—”
Flynn laughed. She made a hiccupping sound in the back of her throat trying not to follow suit. As far as sixtieth anniversaries went, she hoped hers was as eventful as this one.

When she came out of the bathroom, John was sitting in his bed, wide awake. He looked at her strangely, as if he didn’t expect her to be there. Ayala felt like an intruder. She got dressed hastily under his stunned stare. For John’s sake, and since she was already there, she feigned lightheartedness.
“Come on, John. Let’s go out for breakfast. My treat.”
He nodded.
John got dressed quickly and silently. He hadn’t uttered a word since he’d woken up.
It was a glorious morning. Sunny but not too hot, clear, celeste-colored skies. They didn’t talk, and Ayala was grateful for the silence. They took off their shoes and walked toward Old Jaffa, enjoying the mildly cold sand. John didn’t try to hold her hand, which was as it should’ve been: after all, they weren’t a couple. They just had a business arrangement that ended the next day at seven in the morning.
As they passed by Man. R’s beachfront, John spoke for the first time.
“That’s where we had our first date,” he said.
“They have the best breakfasts,” Ayala retorted.
They entered the restaurant. Somehow, they ended up sitting at the same table they had sat at during their first date. Ayala realized their first date had taken place less than a couple of weeks ago, and yet, for some reason, it felt like a lifetime had passed.
After they were seated, John asked, “So is this our second date?”
Ayala shrugged, “I guess.”
They were quiet while the waiter placed the lavish breakfast on the table. Ayala was famished. She stuffed her mouth with delicious bread and butter and scooped tuna salad and olives, as well as half of the herbed four-egg omelet they were sharing, onto her plate. John cut his half of the omelet into small pieces but didn’t eat. He took some of the thinly sliced, freshly cut vegetable salad onto his plate and picked at it. He smiled at Ayala.
“Since it’s our second date, can you tell me more about yourself and your family?” he asked.
Ayala munched energetically, swallowed, and answered, “I’m so ordinary, you wouldn’t believe. You’ll be bored to death.”
His brown eyes were soft. “I don’t think so. But even so, that’s my problem.”
She complied.

Kate knew she had made a mistake as a blast of gold and silver confetti rained down on her green cocktail dress.
The blaring music and swirls of people in a kaleidoscope of reds, blues, blacks, silvers, and golds dancing under the streamers and balloons of the venue. Taking a breath, she accepted the offered platter of a simple golden Venus mask with a red chin. Thus attired, she had planned to move to the nearest table.
“An island in the sea of madness,” Kate thought. “By invitation only!”
Kate would rather be with Eric or Terry tonight, curled up with one of her favorite books, but she knew neither of them were real, like this ballroom, a pretty façade for tourists and invitees.
“They went all out, this year!”
Kate turned her brown eyes toward the strange voice.
A man dressed in a red tunic, silver sash, and black domino with sequin sapphires gazed at her. The man’s black hair had streaks of silver and his eyes were a faint gold. A black sheath sword and boots completed the ensemble.
“Are you supposed to be a highwayman, sir?”
The man’s eyes twinkled as he spoke.
“Perhaps, do you wish me to steal you away for a dance?”
Kate managed a laugh as another blast of colored confetti smeared the table where they were sitting. Two strands of her dark hair managed to free themselves from the ivory hairpin caressing her chin.
“I believe we are under attack!”
The man stood offering his hand. Kate accepted suppressing a second giggle that a stranger had asked her to dance. The music once blaring had slowed as they marked a spot on the floor. Taking his hand, Kate and the gentleman seemed to skip between the few other couples and the streams of color began to flow as a gentle river.
The man bowed as the dance ended and both smiled.
“Thank you for the dance, sir!”
“No, thank you, Miss,” the man said. “I haven’t danced in long while.”
Kate couldn’t stop smiling.
“My name is Kate, and you are?”
“Samuel Everstone! Besides everyone deserves one night of memories.”
The man kissed her hand vanishing into the press of people.
“It couldn’t be!”
Returning to her room, Kate spotted the novel she never read. The cover title made her smile.
The Carnival of Masks, by Samuel Everstone
“Good night, Samuel!”

The sunlight poured through my stateroom doors on-board the Pacific Paradise, beckoning me onto the balcony. Turquoise and purple water surrounded the ship, enticing me to swim in the warm salty depths.
Across the bay, Cozumel summoned the passengers to explore its many attractions. The least of them, Margaritaville. I planned on experiencing all it had to offer.This trip was a gift to me. The bitter divorce had left me drained and sullen—time to move on, living life on my terms.
Along the gangway, I felt eyes following me. I looked to the right and found an attractive man staring in my direction. He was more mature than my usual type with silver threads beginning to line his dark brown hair. He smiled as he caught my eye and bowed forward. I found myself giggling as I moved past.
The restaurant earned its moniker. Tourists clad in skimpy bikinis with cover-ups to gaudy flowered Bermuda shorts were arranged by the bar, tequila shots flowing like the palm trees . Others danced with exuberance while sweat gleamed off their bodies.The atmosphere was electric.
I found an empty seat, ordering my own drink. Across from me sat the man from the gangway.He looked over and saluted me with his glass. We never exchanged a word, yet the awareness was palpable. Eyes would meet and fall slowly away in a wordless dance of flirtation. As I was getting up the nerve to send a drink over, a young blond draped herself on his shoulder. Their connection was undeniable. I watched as they walked toward the back deck. Suddenly the bar had lost its appeal.
I strolled towards the shops, promising myself a souvenir to mark the occasion. The guy was simply a flirt. His attention made me feel alive again. It had been fun to play along. Every encounter did not have to mean something. Still, it would have been amusing to see where it would have led. There were other men aboard the Paradise.
After dinner in my room, I wandered to the small Schooner lounge for a few drinks. The atmosphere was low-key and what I needed. I found a seat at one of the small tables. The waiter placed a shot of tequila in front of me. “I didn’t order yet.”
“The gentleman at the bar sent this over to you.”
There sat my flirtatious friend.

Word count 394:

Hidden deep in Maui’s dense tropical forest, this was a haven cut from the wild. The rented hut had a thatched palm roof, weathered bamboo poles supporting a wide porch, and a canvas hammock swinging in the breeze. Dak grinned. Just like the brochure promised. Paradise—Hawaiian style.

“Do you have the key, Jaci?”

“Yes. It’s in my…oh, no. Oh…oh shoot. My purse is in the Jeep.” She whirled around as if by looking back down the overgrown gravel road the taxi driver would return with her prized possession.

“The key is in your purse?” His tone kerplunked along with his thoughts. How would they survive without gaining entry to their shelter? He would have laughed, but he didn’t find their current situation humorous.

She shielded her eyes from the hot sun. “Of course. Does it look like this sundress has pockets? I brought a purse to carry things like my lipstick, my sunglasses, and the key to the rental house.”

He kicked the sand with the toe of his sandal. Of course, Peter gave her the key. Their boss thought highly of Jaci with good reason. She was gorgeous and there was an air of innocence about her the camera lens captured to perfection. He laughed to lighten her stormy mood just as a blue and yellow macaw flew overhead squawking. A white splat landed on her cheek. He sobered immediately but it was too funny.

“You are so rude. Grow up, Dak.”

Chastised, he pulled a hanky from his pocket and wiped her cheek. “Hey, at least I didn’t lose the key.”

Jaci shook her head, sending a cascade of chocolate curls swirling around her shoulders. “You think this is hilarious, don’t you? Well, I don’t want to be stranded with no shelter, no clothes, and—”

“Me?” He placed their suitcases by the front door.

“I didn’t say that.” She smacked at a mosquito on her arm.

“You didn’t have to. Look, I know you’re afraid to trust me, but I won’t hurt you, Jaci.”

“I trust you, Dak.”

Not true. She went out of her way to avoid him. “It’s obvious that you don’t, but we’re in this together like it or not. Something good can happen or we can continue to argue. Your choice.”

“You can’t be serious?”

“It’s a jungle out there, Jaci. Trust me or don’t. Up to you.”

Oh, rough times ahead. I like how you show tension and mood mostly through dialogue. I’d love to be a fly on the wall and see how it goes with this couple.

“And here’s Miss Thirty herself!” My mom’s voice sang out a decibel louder than the holiday instrumental and murmur of cordial conversations garbling together as I entered what she called ‘The Grande Room’.

It was a large room at the front of the house that stayed dormant until the holidays rolled around. At which point, ribbons of different colors, depending on the holiday, would begin to trace the walls until they twisted into big bows in the corners and the room filled up with masses of semi-familiar faces.

Today’s ribbons were burnt orange.

“Nice to see you too.” I said kissing my mom on the cheek.

“Yes, it is so rare these days.” My mom rolled out another jab. “Did you know Melly moved into the mother-in-law?” She posed the question to the “aunties”, who were not actually blood relatives, but a group of ladies my mom had collected at various charity events and social gatherings throughout the years.

On que, all their eyes widened, and their mouths dropped open. Their painted pink and red lips forming little shocked O’s as if this was the first time that they had heard the news of my break up. I knew my mom too well to believe that.

“Does this mean you and Dave…” Auntie Pearl looked around the room, clutched her chest and whispered, “… Broke up?”

“Excuse me, my phone.” I lied, abruptly grabbing at my purse as if I could feel it vibrating. As I walked away, I pulled my phone out and called my brother.

“I can’t believe you left me to do this all on my own.” I wined into the receiver.

“Wish I could be there, sis, really do, but you know…” Maven let the sentence dribble off expecting me to just accept the non-explanation.

“No, I don’t know.” I huffed.

“It’s just Thanksgiving.” I could hear the eyeroll in his tone. “You do it by yourself every year.”

“No, I don’t.” A tightness in my throat threated to bring tears. “It’s my first one without dad.”

“Ahh, sorry, Mel.” Maven’s voice softened.

“And I use to at least look like I had the prospect of marriage with… Jesus Christ.” I groaned as I recognized a too familiar lanky frame sauntering my way. “Tyler is here.”

“No shit, you invited him?”

“Really, Maven??”

Maven’s deep chuckle echoed through my cell. “Mom. She is a devil.”

Please ignore this entry. I just realized it said a “romantic scene”, so I am going to try writing a different one that matches the directions better.

I love it! Romantic scene or not, it certainly conveyed a mood and feeling. It’s exactly right for the requirements (to me). I’d love to read this book when it’s out

Ahh, thank you so much, Ruth! Your comment made my day. I got so excited to share these characters since this is the WIP I’m escaping to right now, that I jumped the gun on totally understanding the instructions and just focused on editing this scene down to 400. It wasn’t until after that I went back to re-read the instructions and kind of fantasize about what else I could’ve written that I realized I missed a key word. But the fact that you enjoyed it, totally made it worth it 🙂

I can’t wait to curl up on my couch tonight and read all the entries.

I like this, too. I thought it showed the relationships the protagonist has with her “family” quite well.

Thanks for the comments, ladies! I had a lot of fun with this prompt and came to a very unexpected story line. Glad others enjoyed it!

Albufeira, Portugal. December 31. 11:50 p.m. Hotel balcony.

It’s seldom really cold in Albufeira, even in winter, even on New Year’s Eve. Tonight was definitely shirtsleeve weather, backless gown weather, perhaps even lingerie weather.

Rowena shook herself. It wasn’t quite time to let her thoughts drift in that direction. The tall figure beside her hadn’t moved for so long that she had almost forgotten that she wasn’t alone. Her shiver provoked a response, though, and a strong arm wove its way around her shoulder.

A storm had blown itself out early that morning, and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach at the bottom of the hill was loud enough to hear even from the seventh floor. The Atlantic Ocean lapping the Algarve wasn’t quite the same as the North Atlantic that surrounded the Rock, but no part of the Atlantic can be trusted. She let her senses expand and thought she smelled the salt spray.

The balcony faced south, out over the bay. In daylight it overlooked flowering shrubs surrounding a pool and paths down to the beach. Tonight, the grounds were dark, except for low lights outlining the paths.

Rowena snuggled a little closer and was rewarded with a tighter grip around her shoulders. She relaxed into the hug for a moment, but was shaken from her comfort zone by an explosion. She jumped away. Every hair on her body was standing on end.

Before Rowena could dart inside, the sky lit up. Fireworks! It must be midnight. And they were close, too, down on the beach, so apparently the resort was putting on its own show.

Then the magic started. Along the coast, other towns and resorts were setting off their own fireworks. Sparkling dandelions of light appeared in quick succession. She turned back to her grinning companion. “Happy New Year, fraidy cat,” came the soft, Miquelon-accented voice.

Rowena growled low in her throat. Gaëlle held out her arms and Rowena stepped into the embrace. As they kissed, capable hands slipped her dress off of her shoulders. Gaëlle was already naked. How had Rowena not noticed that before?

Unseen, the full moon rose to the southeast. As it slipped above the horizon its rays fell full on Rowena. She shivered again, and then felt herself falling out of Gaëlle’s embrace and taking her lynx form. She growled again.

Bonnie felt the orange sweet spheres, almost velvet in texture. She wanted to be among her trees and the orchard that meant everything. Evening was settling on her, a warm sweater. She allowed herself to enjoy the earthy, loamy smell. The air was laden with it, deep and rich like the first day of summer break, it was that good. Bob ambled up behind her. “You smell better than the peaches Bonnie. I’m glad you came back.” He caressed her shoulders lightly.

“Glad to be back.”

Bonnie turned about and looked into his blue grey eyes. Was he always this sexy? Orange cotton shirt with yellow and red stripes and Columbia emblazoned on the pocket, and light brown cords. Dang! They stretched well in all the right places. She ached for that, completely. Remembering what his arms felt like around her. What his breath felt like on her skin, hot.

But today his rugged face was showing the care and weary work of the job, as well as the peach pit in the middle of his stomach. When she left, it hurt plenty.

“I wouldn’t go,” she said taking his hand, covered with soil and peach juice, and kissed it, “I just needed to know, where was right.”

“And now?”

“Right here is right.”

She entwined her hands with her man. Her man. The sun setting behind him would’ve made a lovely photo, light basking around them as it fell for the evening.

“The sun’s going down, we should be getting back,” she mentioned.

“That’s not the only thing going down.” He had such a mischievous look on his face but his voice was deep and masculine. Moving his hands up and down was giving her wanton plans.

“Bob we’re in the orchard, what if somebody sees us!”

“Then they will see me and my woman, who I get to be with every day. Every day right?”

She laughed like a bell, pure and perfect. “Every day.”

Suddenly, she pulled the maroon and yellow company baseball cap off his head. “Come catch me, cowboy.” Her delight evident as she ran up the orchard field like a new day. When he caught up with her, they made love, enveloped with the warm deep darkness and each other.

As the sun went down, the breeze turned colder. Everyone laid their tents at the lakeside, under the starry night.
Kate and her friends ganged up to chat. Suddenly a figure in the distance distracted her, striding towards the campsite with a bunch of other guys. It was Ross, in his plain black, V-neck T-shirt and beige shorts. She could not take her eyes off from his charming face. His shaggy layered brown hair looked extremely sexy on him. Her eyes shifted at the pile of woods, which was cradled in his flexed arms, Kate realized that he had gone into the woods to collect the dry logs to set up the fire.
“Isn’t he look dashing?” Elina whispered as she noticed Kate lost into Ross.
Kate flushed with embarrassment. Her eyes blinked away from him as she responded, “What? Who?”
“Listen, girl, even a blind can figure out how interested you are in him”, said Elina smilingly.
Kate bit her lips as she responded blushingly, “Hey! Nothing of the sort, Elina.”
“Yeah sure! And my ophthalmologist holds a fake medical degree.”
They both chuckled.
Ross with his batchmates was arranging the wood logs. His eyes shifted from woods to Kate as he spotted her sitting right in front of him, but at some distance. She looked simple, but gorgeous in her black capri pants and turtleneck green pullover. Like always, she had left her long wavy hair loose.
“Watch it”, said Josh, who was holding the burning match stick.
Ross’s attention shifted back to the woods as they set them on fire. Within minutes, the dry wood glowed orange. It was bright and vivid. The intensity and excitement of the flames were like they were dancing in the moonlight. A lake nearby had the reflection of the distant glow like a bright sun on the land.
Everyone began to gather near the campfire. Hoard of students circled around the fire. It was cold and breezy. Everyone had worn extra layers to combat the cold breezy weather.
As Ross’s eyes met Kate’s, he could not stop himself from admiring her. Reflection of fire on her face was enhancing her beauty, he felt captivated by her bluish-green, big almond-shaped eyes, which were framed with thick lashes. Her pronounced cheeks and smooth rounded chin were so very noticeable. His eyes rolled down to her perfect plump glossy lips, and then back to her eyes, which were still looking at him.
Ross smiled and waved at Kate.
She reciprocated his greet with a smile.
They both knew what was happening between them.

Hi Eisha, unfortunately your submission exceeded the word count limit and will not be judged. So sorry about that!

Jason stared at Katrina willing his brain to work, his mind to move. He had glanced up when he heard Chris mutter “Oh sweet damn…” only to realize that he agreed with him for once. The purple silk dipped low in the front and back in a way that was at once stunning and enticing. With a smirk in his direction, Chris stepped in, kissing her temple and wrapping his arms around her. Jason didn’t miss the way she smiled up at him or the way his fingers played on her back, the whisper in her ear that made her blush. Nate shot him a warning glance.
“Katrina, I’ll bet you are here to send us to the gazebo.” Katrina glanced up, “What? Oh ,yes. This guy distracted me “ She tapped Chris’s cheek playfully and he bussed her palm. Her eyes widened and Jason recognized that look of shocked pleasure….

Jay took a deep breath to quiet the rage in his ears. When that didn’t work, he briefly considered walking away, but Nate intervened.

“Well, this kid and I are going to go on down. See if you can tie his tie for him.” He glanced over his shoulder at Jay and the look clearly said ‘take this gift. Work with it.”

“Katie knows what I am” Chris walked with his brother but shot a parting glance at Katrina. “I do.” She winked at him before shifting toward Jay. .

“Still haven’t mastered the bow tie, huh?” She stepped into his space and he caught a whiff of familiar perfume.

“I have a confession to make.” He stood very still while she tied the bow tie, eyes closed, hands relaxed despite a fervent desire to grab her.

“Hmmm?” She finished and he grabbed her wrists, startling her. .
“Why would I ever learn when it gets you this close to me?”
The thin barrier of silk was no barrier at all between them.. One hand still grasping her wrist, he put the other on her back just for the sheer pleasure of feeling her skin. Her eyes went to pools of deep green, and he wanted to ask her if Chris made her feel this way, but he didn’t. Instead, he lowered his lips to the nape of her neck and placed a single kiss there.
“Dont worry darlin’, I’m keeping my promise..”

Once they were settled in the bathroom, Sara pulled off her left glove. Jake stared at her hand, then looked into her eyes. Taking her hand in his large warm one, he turned it, inspected her palm and fingertips. At his touch a shiver rippled down her spine.
Looking directly at him, she slipped her hand from his. “Disappointed it’s not a claw?”
His smile was lopsided. “No. Relieved.”
“But you expected some malformation.”
“Actually, I thought you were covering up removed fingerprints.”
“You think I’m a criminal.”
“You’re secretive. Especially about your hands. I notice you didn’t take off the right glove.”
“I don’t need it off.” Besides, the sight would turn his stomach. She dabbed at the cuts on his face with the wet cloth. “I’ve heard of foot fetishes, but you have a hand fetish.”
“I have a secret fetish.”
Momentarily stopping the cleaning, she looked into his eyes. They were pure blue, no other color flecks in the irises. Only darker blue around the outer rims with lines of the same hue radiating toward the pupils. She could get lost in those eyes, but now his face needed her attention.
After she washed away the blood and dirt, she reached for the alcohol. “This might sting a little.”
“No ‘might’ about it, but I can handle it.”
Of course he could. She finished with the alcohol, even earning a colorful swear word for her trouble. “I would use hydrogen peroxide, but it’ll leave a scar.”
“So, you’re worried about my pretty face?”
“You’re insufferable.” Her cheeks heating, she focused on his chest. Blood spotted his tie and shirt. She pressed a fingertip against a droplet. “There’s blood. Take your shirt and tie off and I’ll wash them.”
“You’ve done enough.”
She opened his jacket, her fingers grazing his shirt. “Oh, this is so soft. Expensively soft.”
“Egyptian cotton. My one extravagance.” He made a rueful face. “Well, one of them. If it’s touching my skin, I want something comfortable.”
“Especially if you have to wear a tie with it.”
For a moment he said nothing. “You took the words right out of my mouth.”
They stared at each other. She recovered first. “Take them off.” The words sounded suggestive in the claustrophobic room. “I’ll wash them out. As a thank you for rescuing me.”

“Remember coming out here when we were kids?” Tyler asked staring out at the lagoon. He didn’t need to turn his head to see who was walking down the dirt path toward him. He always had a second sense when it came to me.

I smiled. “I sure do. You used to catch frogs in this pond and throw them at me.”

Tyler chuckled, “And you use to scream, so high pitch. Like a little piggy!”

“Hey!” I said hitting him on the arm.

“But you had the best scream of all the girls” He continued to tease.

“I wasn’t the only girl you threw frogs at?”

“No, just my favorite.”

I laughed and sat down beside him on the bench my dad had carved from an old oak tree. It was the best spot in our whole town to watch the sunset.

I used to come out here every night as a child and think how lucky I was that this was my backyard. I couldn’t remember one time when there had been a single cloud blocking the sun, not in this part of the sky.

I rested my head on Tyler’s shoulder and, watching the pastels begin to streak the sky as the sun dipped behind the crests of the hilltops, I let the words spill from my mouth, “Why didn’t you kiss me tonight?”

I could feel the muscles in his shoulder tighten under my cheek. “I could’ve asked you the same thing 15 years ago.”

My mouth went dry and I lifted my head from his shoulder.

“I knew I loved you from day one.” His body rose with his emotions and he took his eyes off the lagoon for the first time, landing their searching gaze on me. “I never questioned it.”

“You threw frogs at me!” I stood up trying to match him. I knew it was a ridiculous response, but I didn’t know what to say. “How was I supposed to know?”

“You knew.” He grunted. “Everyone knew.”

Tears burned at the edges of my eyes as I was confronted with the truth.

I took his face in my hands in an effort to hold onto Tyler somehow. I didn’t want him to walk away from me. Not again.

The rough stubble on his jaw scratched at my palms. “I know I love you now… I’m not scared anymore.”

She closed her eyes and let the sensation of flight take over. Although she was only about 7 feet up, she imagined she in the sky, gliding among the clouds, the cold wind from the outdoors and not a refrigeration system. Because that’s where she was, really. A giant refrigerator.

She felt herself rotating, then coming down. A perfect lift. Her husband smiled at her, handsome in his “Phantom of the Opera” suit.. He skated over to her and grabbed her around the waist, and they went into their spin. She’d practiced this so many times, but this time something didn’t seem right. A wave of dizziness and nausea overtook her, not for the first time this week.

She fought back the nausea as she did some simpler moves, some choreography and crossovers. Why would she feel so terrible? Did she have the flu? She was in close quarters with other skaters, but as far as she knew nothing was going around. Was it that time of the month? She was wearing a white Christine dress, it better not be that. When was she due?

Oh no.

She knew, then without a doubt, what was wrong.

Her final triple jump was coming up. Should she do it? It might be her last one, at least for a while. She’d have to skip all of next year., if her hunch was correct. But if she fell and landed hard, it could be tragedy on ice.

She popped it. Her husband was mad, she could tell. Did it cost them a medal? Probably not, two Chinese pairs and two Russian pairs were ahead of them.

“Why did you do that?” he asked, when the cameras were off them. “Why did you pop that jump?” The cameras turned to them and they smiled. No, they were happy, not having a fight. She turned to the side and covered her face so only he could see her mouth.

“I think I’m pregnant,” she said.


“I’m pretty sure. I figured it out in the middle of the long program.”

The camera went off of them, and she watched as his jaw dropped. Would he be angry at her? It wasn’t planned.

“Oh sweetheart!” He took her in his arms.

When the commercial ended and showed the Kiss and Cry area of the rink, it captured two people actually kissing and crying.
397 words

Kathryn walked across the cobbled street into the theater, knowing it was a risk to go alone without the escort of a gentleman. She snickered. Gentlemen usually stayed away from her. If she had not been in such a hurry to escape Dimitri, she wouldn’t lack one.

At least, she was safe back in New Jersey and her aunt was taking care of her child until she could secure a future and send for them.

The interior of the theater was dim, the heavy smell of colognes and smelling rose, mixed with the freshly painted walls was overpowering. If she didn’t consider her plan, she would even now have dashed for the escape that was fresh air outside.

She walked boldly into one of the stands that had a lone occupant and sat down at the far end, not deeming to acknowledge the person even though she was the intruder. ‘Fake it till you make it.’, her mantra kept her back straight.

The old matron in a high feather hat, her open smile showing a gapping tooth, turned only slightly to her, “Arvid should not leave his escort unattended so. Where do you think he has gone?”

Kathryn rolled her eyes at herself, and waved dismissively, seeing her opening. “I’m sure he’s attending to Captain Fitzgerald of the Navy. Their conversation was such a bore I sought the comfort of the stands.” Everyone knew a Captain Fitzgerald, right? And yes, she’d spotted him when she’d first come in.

The lights all dimmed completely, as the ones facing the stage came on and the curtains began to open.

Someone entered the stand and took the only empty seat- beside her. He was very broad-shouldered and cut off view of the matron. He smiled to the matron who acknowledged with a nod before turning back to the stage, as the curtains revealed an actor.

He turned to acknowledge her and his smile froze. This man had to be the worse curse karma had for her. After sabotaging her attempts at the Hønefoss train station to afford her fare ticket, he continued to show up whenever she had a new plan to secure her future.

She held herself rigid, refusing to allow the look faze her. The piercing gaze began to send an unwelcome feeling through her body, and she hissed under her breath. Could she never escape him?

Year 3127 After the Conquest – City of Polaris
Planet 651B – Andromeda Galaxy

She could feel the sunlight caressing her skin. She could smell the scent of flowers on the breeze. She could still taste the wine in her lips. But it was always the last thing that made her heart swallow with love.
The familiar weight of a head resting in her chest. The feel of soft hair tickling her chin. The sweet smell of apples of her shampoo. And she would take a deep breath, close her eyes, and think that was the happiest moment of her life.
Then Maëvë would get up, and something would alert her. She would watch, noticing something was amiss. Maëvë would smile at her… Beautiful. And exactly five seconds before everything was lost forever. She would have the certainty that something was very, very wrong. But then, it would be too late.
She would watch as the love of her life would vanish right before her eyes. She would try to scream but almost dying, all she would do would be to lay there. For what would seem like forever. Thinking desperately about the fact that if only she could have realized sooner. If only…
Then she is pulled out of it. It is so much more than waking up. She is dragged to reality. And left broken, breathless, sick. And she vomits on the floor while Mylëna holds her and screams at her.
“Eighteen hours! Jüner!” But she is not surprised or scared. She looks at the syringe discarded on the floor. She knows the cumulative effects of this drug. The deadly effects. That is why it was banished. That is why it’s almost impossible to get. “I tough you were dead!”
“One can only wish…”
“What did you say?” Mylëna yells. “You know, you were not the only one to lose something on that day, Jüner! She was my sister!” Mylëna’s voice breaks. “My baby sister…”
She hears Mylëna’s cries and tries to apologize, but she can’t. Her teeth are clenched while her body shakes uncontrollably. Mylëna’s embrace is so warm, and she holds her tighter.
“Promise me it will be the last time,” Mylëna begs. “Promise me.”
She can hear the agony in her voice. And guilt wash over her. So she tries… to promise, to apologize, to compromise.
But she can’t. She can’t forget the solitaire ampoule resting in the box. The last one. The one who would finally kill her.

They rounded a curve on the dirt road and Jolene gasped. “Blake, it’s absolutely stunning.”
Blake smiled at his bride. “Yes, it’s a beautiful cabin.”
“Why haven’t I seen it before? We rode horses near here.”
“I think I was waiting for just this special moment,” Blake said while raising his eyebrows to her.
They exited the pickup and Blake picked Jolene up in his arms. He carried her to the door and walked inside. Two rooms with all the modern conveniences. Living room/kitchen combined with everything they needed for their honeymoon. A bedroom with a queen sized bed in it was so inviting.
He placed her on the bed and kissed her with such love, she nearly cried.
“I love you so much, Jolene. You are my everything.”
“Oh Blake, you are the love of my life. I am so glad I moved to Montana.”
“I will take care of you, love you, be your best friend,,,,” He had to stop due to his throat tightening up.
She noticed and kissed him with such love, he nearly did cry.
“I’ll be right back,” she said.
“Do you have to leave me right now?”
“Yes, but I will only be a moment.”
Jolene walked into the bathroom with her small bag. She pulled out a deep blue, sexy, nightgown and put it on. She ran her hands through her hair and smiled. Her hand went to the doorknob and turned it.
Blake had taken off all his clothes, and pulled back the covers. He waited for her with the covers lying right below his waist.
Jolene opened the door and walked out. Blake’s eyes widened and he couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. She was beautiful before, but with that gown on, she was stunning.
She walked to the bed and twirled around.
“What do you think?” she asked Blake.
He crawled across the bed, and looked right into her eyes. “Honey, I love you in this and you look so sexy, but..” as he pulled the straps down and let the gown drop to the floor, he continued, “I love you better this way.”
He gently pulled her down to the bed and tossed the covers over them.
“I want to make love to you all night long, Mrs. Baxter.”
“What are you waiting for, Mr. Baxter?”
And they did, all night long.

A guitar lilting chords of a Celtic ballad compels her to the window leading onto the fire escape. She flings it open.

He hears it where he sits on the steps leading to her 3rd story landing, and rises into song.
“…Of all the money that ere I had, I spent it in good company…”

She climbs out the window toward the music.
“And of all the harm that ere I’ve done, alas was done to none but me…”

Sturdy auburn curls scratch his salient brow. Strapping arms cradle the old 6-string. She’d seen him before in Vinegar Hill. He was Irish, but she couldn’t help but notice him.
“…And all I’ve done for want of wit, to memory now I cannot recall…”
He feels her there, but holds his gaze on the waxing moon flashing off the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge floating above. He stalls on the suspended chord.
“Please finish,” Regina pleads in a meld of native Lithuanian and broken Brooklyn English?
He feigns surprise, offering a teacup of potheen, “Evenin’! Take a sip?”
“I really shouldn’t? From a stranger.”
“Danny Flynn. And you?”
Danny plays the suspended chord again.
“You’re torturing me!”
He drinks her in, lithe and long, mahogany hair sloping over her shoulders, dusky eyes brighter than fire. This lass who captured his imagination with every passing glance accuses him of torturing HER.
“So we’re even,” he declares!
He smiles from his heart and plays the resolving note she longs for.
“…So fill me to the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.”
Danny raises the teacup, “We’re no longer strangers?”
She sits daintily on the top step, fixing her dress over her knees, and reaches for the teacup. She looks back once more to the open window, then takes a sip.
“Is there more?”
“More!” Danny laughs from his soul.
“The song? I mean,” Regina blushes.
“Aye. So there is.”
Danny sets the beginning of the conversation of their lifetime to the trill of his guitar.
“…There is a fair maid in this town that sorely has my heart beguiled
Her rosey cheeks and ruby lips, she alone has my heart in thrall…”

Again, he lingers on the suspended note. Regina, trembling, holds the teacup. His strong, sure hand covers hers, till the trembling stops.
He draws his fingers back to the strings. Breathless, she anticipates the final note.

Megan leaned back in her chair and stretched. She lifted the frosty glass to her lips and took a sip of fruity goodness. The little paper umbrella poked her in the nose but she didn’t care. Was this a mai tai? No matter. She told the bartender she wanted something tropical – she wanted to taste the pineapple. He had succeeded. Brilliantly.

The sky was a gorgeous blue and the soft breeze tumbled silky blond strands of hair about her face. Man, she needed this! She lifted the little pink plastic sword from the glass and delicately pulled the cherry off with her teeth, savoring the pop of fruit and alcohol as she crunched on it.

So what if she couldn’t go to Key West like she planned. People had businesses fail every day. And no, her family had not been right about it! She’d be back on her feet by next month and she’d be sipping her mai tai on a real beach next year! Her dream was as strong as ever.

The sound of a car horn blasted through the quiet and Megan jumped. She glanced around the little courtyard. It was lovely but there was not a seagull or a palm tree in sight. Just a man with jet black hair who seemed to be nursing a cup of coffee. She had felt his eyes on her a couple times but preferred to be left alone in her Key West state of mind.

Her gaze dropped to the table in front of her and the puzzle she was working on. It was a vivid tropical scene, just like where she should be right now. Whoever thought of bringing puzzles out here was a genius or a practical joker. She could imagine what this would look like after her second mai tai. And yes she was having another one!

Her fingers drifted over the puzzle pieces, searching for the one elusive piece that would complete the beach umbrella the lovely couple in the picture was lying under.

“Excuse me.”

Megan jerked her head up at the deep voice and found herself staring into the black haired stranger’s sea green eyes. He picked up a puzzle piece and dropped it into the spot to complete the umbrella. His lips lifted in the sexiest smile she had ever seen.

“Was there anything else you were looking for?” he drawled.

Oak Grove, Ks

“Hey there, Pa.” Mark smiled. “We got us a new Ma. She’s here to hitch up with you.”
Beau Garrett grimaced as he took in the lady’s appearance. The toes of her delicate boots peeked from beneath her mud encrusted skirts. He noted the floors had needed a good swabbing anyway after the urchins had a tussle involving their lunch. He shouldn’t get too upset at the muddy water pooling under her feet.
“Be your wife and our ma.” Matthew’s eyes sparkled with mischief.
“Wife? Mother? She looks like she belongs in a traveling circus tending to the animals, not mischievous little boys.”
She flinched and Beau immediately regretted his words. His intentions had not been to cause her distress, rather to chide the boys.
“I mean no disrespect, ma’am.” Beau grunted. What sort of shenanigans were the boys up to now? And where did they find her? Off the banks of the Neosho River? “I don’t recall requesting a wife?”
Her chin rose, a flicker of determination set in her eyes. She slipped something from the purse clutched to her chest. “Mr. Garrett? Mr. Beau Garrett?”
He nodded.
She glided toward the iron bars and he found himself impressed with her ability to walk like a lady with clumps of mud clinging to her skirts. He unfolded himself from the cot as she slid her slender arm through the bars. She held an envelope between the tips of her thumb and index finger as if she feared he would bite her. He snatched the envelope and held back a laugh as the lady jumped and nearly tumbled to the floor. He scanned the words. His mouth flattened as he slid his gaze to Matthew. “What’d you do?”
“Nothing, Pa. Sent the ad like you asked.”
He cleared his throat. “As I recall I requested a caretaker. A nanny. A nursemaid. Not a wife.”
The lady’s silver eyes brightened with tears.
“Get me out of here,” Beau growled.
Luke fished the key from his pocket.
“You—you can’t let him out,” she sputtered.
A muscle twitched at his temple. “Why not?”
She inched toward the door. “You—you’re a criminal.”
“Is not,” Luke argued as he turned the key in the lock.
The door swung open. The lady jumped. “The only criminals here are the scamps who locked me in.” He stuck out his hand. “City Marshall, Beau Garrett.”

Jim’s gait increased with each passing house. Terrified and expectant at the same time. Rushing into battle had never felt like this. The perspiration ran down his back, part from the sun and part from not knowing. Letters from Ella had stopped coming six months ago, but he never gave up. Arriving home this morning, the first place he determined to go after his house, was Ella’s.

The warm sun illuminated home in a way he never could have appreciated before the war. Houses lined the streets as happy children played outside. He shook his head, telling himself it wasn’t a dream. He was home and the next house belonged to Ella.

Pausing, he reached out to take hold of the little gate out front. How many times had he opened it to stroll up to her porch? How many times had he dreamed of it while bombs lit up the sky around him? Willing himself forward, he pushed it open. Each step pounded as the porch loomed before him. The breeze carried the sweet scent of lilacs, tickling his nose and softening his stride.

The clomp of his boots on the step meant the residents inside might hear his approach. Swallowing hard, he made his way to the door, ready to knock. Before his hand made contact with the screen, a flash of a face appeared and ran off in the other direction.

“Ella! Ella! I think it’s HIM!”

Jim tipped his head to hide his growing grin, only to be knocked in the head with the screen. He staggered backward.

“Jim! I am so sorry! Forgive me.” Ella’s voice rang clear. The same voice he had replayed in his mind every night of his deployment. Her arms wrapped around his neck. “Are you alright?”

He grabbed her by the waist, pulling her closer. Not even daring to trust his voice, he pressed his lips to hers. All the months of waiting to see her again, he finally held her in his arms once more.

“When is the weddin’ gonna be?” Bobby teased.

Ella pulled back from his embrace to scold little Bobby, but before she could speak, Jim whispered in her ear. “When is it gonna be?”

She jerked back. “When you left, you said you weren’t ready.”

“And regretted it every day. I’m ready now. Will you marry me, Ella?” Before she could answer, he pulled her in to his embrace once again.

“Mom, he’s kissing her again!” Bobby hollered in the door.

“Oh, shush, Bobby. It’s about time.” Mrs. Jenkins voice rang clear.

Jim touched his nose to Ella’s and grinned. She answered with her melodic giggle. All was right in his world once more.

I could feel poor Jim’s anxiety as he approached Ella’s house, then turn to hopefulness when he was greeted. This scene seemed real as I was reading it. Really nice.

Hi Wendy, I’m sorry to say that your submission exceeded our word count limit and isn’t eligible for our Editors’ Choice Top 3.

Sorry about exceeding the word count, I usually keep a close eye on that. I’ll watch it better next time. Thanks.

I suddenly realized that I didn’t care about him anymore. How could I, he had duped me. I was now spending the night alone, waiting for my ex’s divorce lawyer to call me. I had fallen for every line. The red ugly nightgown he had bought her for Valentine’s day had been the last straw. Why was I still crying over him? Why, in the midst of all my misery was I caring. I don’t, I decided. You will be forgotten and spit upon.
Spit on my ex, I wrote down on my to do list. Next week, I was supposed to be heading out to the Egyptian pyramids to investigate a recent string of museum robberies. Someone had been shot.
I had never liked my engagement ring, I didn’t like my stupid earrings that were his dead grandmother’s, and he was cheating on me with an absolute pig. And I had to head out (was I crying now, never) to visit the robberies, all in Egypt. First things first I had to get divorced. Next, I had to travel around the world with a barf bag using an Arabic to English translator book I had picked up for ten bucks. I had also picked up gum and a slew of Good Housekeeping magazines.
I had briefly passed the wino aisle in Wal-Mart before shaking my head and buying a fishing pole instead. I mean, I didn’t want to get drunk or anything. Maybe be like Carrie Underwood in Before He Cheats. That would be awesome. She looked totally cool with her hair blazing in the studio wind with the buildings crashing around her.
Yeah, I was off to Egyptian pyramids, and camels. And speaking Arabic. Totally awesome. Maybe I would find a non-bad sheik to pick me as a bride. I could always call up my old boyfriend for a revenge date. Actually, maybe not. I’d have to find someone else now. He hated my guts too.
The FBI was sending me after I had recovered several stolen paintings in Montana, tracking down art thieves from the Louvre. They had paid for my congratulations trip to France and everything last year. Now, they wanted me to break another international thievery ring down near Cairo. Except I had to go to Cairo and head up my team there. Right after I got divorced. And melted down my ring….

Jesse took Angela by the hand, an unspoken late night pledge ensuring her safety.
She gripped it back, and understood his vow. Her life was in his hands now. For better or worse. It’s what they had agreed to.
“Ready?” He asked her.
“I’m ready.”
Together they went, alternating long slow strides, arms joined and swinging wildly, with short running bursts, and hands held tight.
Jesse kept looking over his shoulder at her, his grin lit up by overhead street lights, his dirty blond hair, uneven and too long around the ears, bouncing and waving. Her breath shorter and more ragged, the longer their sojourn continued.
Soon, the passing cars became fewer in number and the sounds of crowded cocktail bars were replaced by an occasional barking dog, a crying baby, a slamming door. Concrete fencing and ornate iron gates grew up around the houses skirting West Hollywood. A normal Angela wasn’t accustomed to.
Jesse stopped abruptly in front of a high black wrought iron fence, woven into an overgrown hedge, its ball points barely visible above the leaves.
They faced each other, standing close, and she felt the gentle brush of his full lips on her temple.
“Do you hear that?” He said, softly.
Angela lowered her eyes scanning the sidewalk and heard nothing but dry leaves scraped along on the wind.
“I’m not sure what I’m listening for.”
Jesse pointed across the street to a single story clapboard house. It had a red door with four steps leading to it and shuttered windows to the right and left.
“It’s the sound of every song I’ve ever written for you. I was living in this house, the first time I dreamed about you. I couldn’t shake the feeling we had met before. I was certain it was a memory of you. For a year, I looked for you, and tried to remember you.” He said to her.
“But we’ve never met before yesterday.”
“I know. Eventually, I stopped thinking you were real. To get you out of my head, I wrote songs for you. And somehow, my songs played on the radio on repeat, brought you here.”
Angela didn’t want to believe him. It was the only thing which made sense. She’d gotten on the bus from Tennessee to Los Angeles because she had heard someone calling her. And she couldn’t get his voice out of her head.
Word Count: 399 (Whew!)

Isla had slept lightly and woken early. As quietly as she could, she had slid from the lower bunk, dressed and left the blackhouse. The morning was bright. Scotland never really got dark in August. She picked her way down the path to the pebble beach, stopping to look back at the low, stone, thatch-roofed building from another time. At the bottom of the track, she took off her hiking sandals and walked to the shore.

The sea had always called to her. Here it narrowed, brought inwards by almost symmetrical hills on either side of the cove, then spread outwards, eventually meeting the pink wispy-clouded dawn sky. Somewhere out there was Canada. But she could see nothing but blue.

“Good morning.”

She turned.

If someone had told Isla that she would meet a genuine, bona fide Russian duke on a minibus tour she would have laughed. But there he was. Vlad. He’d said that he wasn’t at all important. Rather, that an ancestor had been the lawyer of someone important. That there were so many dukes in Russia it didn’t really mean anything. It would make for a good story, nonetheless.

He was back in his kilt. It became him.

He handed her a steaming mug of coffee. Their hands didn’t quite touch and she felt a strange sense of disappointment at this, as she drew the drink towards her, appreciating its warmth.

“Thank you.”

“You were miles away.”

“I really was.”

“It’s bliss here. Tranquil.”

“Yes. I want to tell everyone I meet they have to come. But I also want to keep it to myself. Hashtag conflicted.” She laughed. “Did I wake you?”

“I heard someone leave, but I was already awake. I thought I’d go say hello.” He smiled. “I’m glad it was you.”

Her cheeks were suddenly as hot as the coffee. For goodness sake, she wasn’t a schoolgirl. “And I’m happy to see you.” She was. “Are you going home after this?”

“No, I’m going to stay in Edinburgh for a few days. See some shows.”

“Edinburgh in August? It’ll be murder. Full of tourists.”

“I am a tourist.”

“I thank you for your contribution to the economy.” She blew him a theatrical kiss.

He caught it. “You’re welcome.”

“Still, Edinburgh’s overrated. But I would say that, I’m a West Coast lass.” She hesitated. “It’s Glasgow you should come to, if you want entertaining.”

Twilight was Emmy Meriwether’s favorite time of day, for it reminded her of periwinkle and lavender—her two favorite Crayola colors. She’d wished for violet eyes, like Elizabeth Taylor’s, but she had settled for lavender streaks in her blond hair and a lavender rose tattoo just below her navel. She had graduated from crayon colors to lipstick colors, ranging from rum raisin to red delish.
The temperature had dropped to the mid-seventies, so most of the other beachgoers who had come for a tan had left. Older couples holding hands strolled at the water’s edge, and a few teenagers were preparing a bonfire. Emmy could smell the hot dogs and s’mores already.
She got up, not bothering to brush the sand from her body, the coconut suntan oil like a glaze, the sand, granulated sugar, and she, a cookie fresh out of the oven. “Come, Indigo,” she said, rousing her service dog. As they headed towards the water, a beach ball hit her head from behind, startling her.
She whirled around, annoyed, but a glorious-looking man, whom the sun must not only have kissed but made passionate love to, said, “Hey, sorry about that! My idiot brother was just being a showoff.”
“It’s quite all right,” she said, signing as she spoke. She always found it easier to immediately let people know she was deaf rather than trying to pretend she could hear them by reading their lips. “You’re one of the few people I’ve met who haven’t immediately tried petting my dog.” She held out her hand. “Thank you for that. I’m Emmy, by the way.”
“Marcus, but you can call me Marc,” he said, shaking her hand. He looked back at his group, then said, “Hey, would you like to join us for some steaks and beer? It’s my dad’s birthday, and we always have plenty.”
Emmy had come to the beach to be alone, and here was a stranger, wanting her to join a family gathering. The introvert in her wanted to say no, but she’d learned the hard way that men who had families—the kind they’d been born into, not the kind they’d married into—were safe. “Are you sure he won’t mind?”
“Not at all,” he signed, and she wondered then if it was because of what she was, not who she was, that had prompted the invite.

“Clara!” Paige called, knocking on the door of the quaint cottage that sat nestled amidst meadow flowers she and Clara had planted the year before. With two rolled up yoga mats under her arm, she sauntered into the house. Her eyes scanned the hallway searchingly before entering the kitchen. “Cla—” Paige slammed into something solid.
“What the…!” A deep voice bit out as two strong hands took hold of her arms to stop her from toppling over.
Paige’s startled gaze shot upwards and met with a pair of glacial cornflower blue eyes. She swallowed. He was the most beautiful human being she had ever seen. An ethereal beauty shimmered off of him. His features were chiselled as if sculpted from a rock. His broad shoulders and muscular arms were part of a powerful frame.
“Are you alright?” There it was again, that beautiful sound, sending her chakras into chaos.
Paige tried to speak. “I…”
“Paige dear!” Clara came bustling in from the back yard, breaking whatever spell this beautiful man was weaving over her. “I see you’ve met my nephew, Blake.”
The strong hands fell away, leaving her strangely cold. Paige tore her gaze away from Blake and looked at Clara. She was holding a large craft basket. Instinctively, Paige made to go over to Clara to relieve her of it when her foot caught something that sent her flying. An arm snared around her waist saving her from falling flat on her face.
“Are you always this clumsy?” Blake asked irritably before letting go of her.
“Paige creates carnage wherever she goes, don’t you dear?” An affectionate grin broke out on the elderly woman’s face. “But she’s adorable with it, that’s why we love her.” Clara put the basket down. “Our untameable free spirit.”
Blake watched as the “free spirit” picked up the mats and rolled them up. She was petite with a slender build. Her honey coloured hair, adorned with flowers, fell in thick waves around her shoulders. Dewy, silken smooth skin stretched over high cheekbones. Her sparkling green eyes and full mouth was captivating. Something stirred within him.
“Clara, are you ready to go and thank Mother Nature for all she’s given us?” Paige asked trying to ignore Blake’s presence.
“I sure am.” Clara smiled and linked arms with Paige.
Oh no, Blake groaned inwardly. His sweet trusting aunt had joined some sort of a cult.

Slouching down into a more comfortable position in her favorite armchair Sam tucked her legs under her and gave a huge sigh of relief. The heaviness of her job in the NICU never really left her, but here, in her sister Alanna’s coffee shop, the weight always seemed a little lighter. Tucking her bag under the edge of her chair she pulled out her latest novel and flipped to her place near the end. Effortlessly tuning out the low hum of conversation around her she quickly got lost in her story.
Paying for his coffee Garrett smiled when he saw the beautiful brunette curled up in her usual spot with her nose buried in a book. More times than not if he came in at this time he’d find her exactly as she was now. He’d first saw her sitting there in December. With the Christmas lights hung over her head shining down like a halo she’d taken his breath away. Her gentle manner could be read as clearly as the book she held gracefully in her hands. Watching her stifle a yawn and rub her tired eyes he wondered again at her story.
Feeling her eyes refuse to stay open any longer Sam read the final pages of her book through narrow slits. Closing her book with a satisfying yawn she looked around the nearly empty shop. Green-eyes sat hunched over his laptop with his suit jacket hung over the chair next to him, rubbing the crease between his eyes and rolling the tension from his shoulders he looked as exhausted as she felt. He really was handsome, maybe she would ask Alanna if she knew him.
Running his fingers through his hair Garrett finally admitted defeat, he’d have to rework the numbers tomorrow. Maybe a pair of fresh eyes would help it all come together. Closing his laptop he took a last glance over towards the armchair. With her head sprawled back and her mouth open slightly the beautiful brunette looked dead to the world. Chucking to himself he quickly wrote out a note and shoved it into his jacket pocket.
“You know her?” He asked the owner as he gently laid his jacket over her before gathering up his belongings.
Smiling, Alanna nodded her head yes. Waving as he walked out, Alanna looked again at the spectacle her sister made, maybe there was hope for her yet.

“We’ll have to hike from here.” Jayce hopped out of the truck and grabbed his rucksack. “It’s not far, but we’re losing daylight.”
She slid across the smooth leather bench seat after him and he offered his hand to help her out. His grip was strong and sure, his confident smile even more potent than the ones in her memories.
The man was harder than the boy of her dreams, his life of duty and sacrifice revealed in the straight set of his spine and the wary way he watched the world, but there was an excited energy about him tonight, as though he had a great secret he couldn’t wait to share.
“Thanks,” she said, instinctively keeping her voice hushed in the quiet twilight.
The dense forest had grown thinner as they drove up the mountain, the dark green of the pines broken only by bright white flashes of birch bark and new green fiddlehead ferns.
“You ready for this, Laurel?”
The time she’d spent outdoors in the last few years had come only when she’d stepped out of one chauffeured vehicle or trailer onto a set, running through a scene or away from photographers.
He grinned. “That’s my girl.”
A warm flush filled her chest. He must know how she’d longed to hear those words twenty years ago.
Though she was now on solid ground, he didn’t relinquish her hand until the trail narrowed to a single file track.

The loamy scent of moss and dirt surrounded them, the sound of their footsteps muffled by the expansive canopy of branches.
As the light faded, she followed him as much by instinct as sight.
He stopped and reached back to take her hand again. “Hold on to me for a few more feet, but close your eyes.”
“It’s nearly dark.”
He was asking her to trust him. She met his warm, firm grasp and closed her eyes.
Jayce gently tugged her forward a few steps until the ground beneath her feet became solid, more rock than dirt, and then she was safely wrapped in his arms, his broad chest pressed to her back and his lips against her ear. 
She gasped, and his grip tightened around her.
A full moon hung heavy in the night sky, the warm glow illuminating the mountainside, so close she reached out as if to hold it.

Thanks for the feedback Evan and Editors! I must say writing it gave me a chance to get away from real life myself, and so did reading the entries. Well done everyone. 🙂

Hi Faith! Unfortunately we are not providing feedback for everyone this challenge.

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