Writing Challenge: Keep Us In…

by Evan Yeong


Fans of romantic suspense know it to be the perfect blend of danger and desire. While other books follow couples trying to find their happily ever after together, these romances also have the two doing all they can just to make it to the end alive!

Keeping in the spirit of the recent #SuspenseIncludesYou Twitter Pitch this past Wednesday, this Writing Challenge is all about exploring this genre and seeing how well you can capture the various ways you can make your readers’ hearts beat that much faster!

In 400 words or less I’d like you to craft a scene that manages to include elements of romance between your two leads, while also maintaining a heightened suspenseful tone. The one caveat I have is a simple one, and it’s to not have your scene revolve around the couple hiding from their assailants.

There’s no easier way to bring two people in close proximity with one another, breathily whispering that everything is going to be just fine, and that they’ll make it out okay, which is exactly why I’d like you to set that premise aside. We want to see couples placed in thrilling situations, their very lives on the line, but still see glimpses of irresistible chemistry between them!

I say “we”, of course, because all eligible submissions that are left below before 11:59 PM EST on Sunday (September 27th) will receive feedback from one of our editors! That should come in by later the very same week. We’re excited to see what you come up with, and we’re hoping to be swept away by your writing, feeling like we’re there right alongside your heroes and heroines, hearts racing.

UPDATE: What’s this, 32 incredible eligible submissions? That said, I regret to inform you all that you will have to wait until next month to receive your editorial feedback… The good news is that next month starts Thursday!

That’s right, on Thursday (October 1st) you should all have gotten a response from one of my lovely coworkers (or yours truly). Thank you so much for all of the hard work you put into these, and for continuing to read each other’s submissions and leave your own comments. You make me proud to be a part of this community.

152 replies on “Writing Challenge: Keep Us In…”

Breha glanced back over her shoulder, heart pounding against her chest. They’d lost them finally. Letting out a relieved puff of breath Breha stopped in her tracks and doubled over, bracing her hands on her thighs.
“I think we’ve lost them…” she panted, fixing her gaze on the handsome face of special agent Jaime Lopez. He winked, leaving her breathless for an entirely different reason.
“They’ll be back, we can stop but we’ll have to keep moving. They won’t give up this easily,” he told her.
Breha ran her hand over her forehead and sighed, “you’re right. They’ll never let me go will they?”
Jaime stepped towards her and Breha’s breath caught in her chest, her heart beating rapidly—not in fear, but with desire. Ever so gently Jaime brushed his fingertips over Breha’s cheek then curling his hand behind her head, pulled her towards him. The jolt of longing that exploded between them was instant and Breha held his gaze as he slowly ran his tongue over his bottom lip.
“I won’t let them get you Breha,” he promised, his breath warm against her.
She couldn’t resist the temptation any longer, if they were going to capture her, if they were going to take her back then wanted to know what Agent Lopez tasted like. With that thought in mind she closed the distance between them, kissing him deeply. Jaime left out a gruff sound of pleasure as he deepened the kiss.
As Breha reached up to cup Jamie’s stubbles jaw a sound behind them made them both jump. Spinning around Breha gasped as she saw the gun. She didn’t get chance to say anything before Jaime pulled her aside and started firing.

Dear Kay, Wow! You pack a lot in a short scene. I like how you bracket the romance with two suspenseful moments. Nicely gripping and we get a sense of who these characters are. Well done! –Patience

382 words

I stood at the table watching Ryan, as he unrolled the bank blueprints, hardly believing my eyes.
Where the hell did he get these? I studied Ryan’s face as he pointed out all the weak spots in the bank’s security system.
Not for the first time, I thought, How could someone so good looking, and clearly intelligent, fall into a life of crime? Surely he had other options.
I was going to hate arresting him but as an undercover cop, that was my job.
“Don’t worry about those guards,” Vinny said, from the other side of the table. “We’ll just kill them.”
Ryan and I stared at the psycho in stunned silence.
“Killing?” Ryan growled. “We never discussed killing.”
“What’s to discuss. If they get in our way, kill ‘em.”
Ryan and I shared a glance. This was news.
Now I was going to have to arrest the psycho first. But how to get these two separated? Especially when the job was supposed to start in twenty minutes.
“Youse two aren’t discombobulating about backing out, are ya?” Vinny asked as he trained his gun in our direction.
“Us? Of course not,” Ryan said.
“No, I totally agree with you, Vinny. We can’t have any witnesses. You’re so right to think of these things,” I said, walking over to Vinny with a big smile on my face.
“You’re always agreeing with him. I’m sick of it.” Ryan swung his fist in my direction but instead connected with Vinny’s nose, knocking him out cold.
As Ryan and I watched to make sure that Vinny was well and truly out of it, Ryan broke the silence. “Don’t even say it because you won’t be arresting me today.”
My mouth fell open with shock.
“How did you know? And why did you?” I stammered.
“I’m a thief, not a killer.” He pulled me close, kissing me passionately.
As soon as I got my breath back, I said, “You’re still under arrest.”
“Maybe next time.” He traced my jawline with his fingertip, his eyes studying my mouth like it was a priceless work of art.
Then he was gone. Out the window and walking along the rooftop like a trapeze artist on a high wire.
I aimed my gun at his quickly disappearing form.
“Stop,” I whispered.

Dear Pamela, Very gripping and I especially love the last line. You definitely see the heroine’s conflict in her feelings for the hero and her duty as a cop. The hard part for me was Ryan’s swinging at her (even though he missed). Aside from this, though, I like that he got away and upended her plans. Well done! –Patience

Thank you so much Patience for your feedback! I really appreciate it! (I debated myself about putting in Ryan’s swing. If I’d had more words I would’ve described it more as a coordinated effort on both their parts to knock out the psycho). Thank you again for your feedback!

Thank you Ann and Kelly for your feedback! It’s so wonderful to hear encouraging words from other talented writers.

“I want to know why you did it. Why you killed him.” A sob escaped Blair’s lips despite her earlier promise to herself to keep her emotions in check. That was an impossibility, it seemed, when Rhett was around. He was a lesson in duality, pulling at her heart strings, making her feel things she had no right to feel, all while keeping her handcuffed to the rusted metal chair in her office with the indelible image of him standing over her father, both of them covered in blood.
Rhett was a bad guy, plain and simple. A murderer. And she, by all accounts, was a good girl. She’d done everything right—straight As in high school, got into an ivy league college on scholarship, volunteered at the homeless shelter she’d once relied on to keep her and her sister alive… So, why—why?—was this happening to her?
Her bottom lip trembled as a shadow crossed over Rhett’s sharp features. The past two days had allowed a stubble to spread across his square jaw. Damn that it made him even more attractive. Damn that she found him anything other than repulsive to begin with. It shone a spotlight on a flaw she wasn’t proud of. Rhett was similar—too similar—to her father. And damn that she’d loved that man, too.
He took a step in her direction and her pulse raced. The tremble shaking her bottom lip spread to her jaw, then wrapped around her chest. It was too hot in her office, and he was too close. The leather-wrapped handle of the knife he brandished stuck out of its sheath like a tease, tempting her to grab it with her free hand. What would happen if she lunged for it? Would he stop her?
The thought of his hand on her exposed shoulder sent a wave of lust crashing over her, calming her tremor and replacing it with a heat she couldn’t suppress.
When the rough skin of his forefinger trailed along her jawline, the heat erupted into flames, branding her. In that moment, she’d have done anything he asked, believed any lie he told her.
So, when he spoke, nothing could have prepared her for the truth that followed.
“Because he hurt you, and that wasn’t gonna fly with me.”
A gasp of lust escaped her lips as he bent down and kissed her within an inch of her life.

Dear Kristine, I love how you put us squarely into the heroine’s point of view with how she perceives Rhett–his badness–and her raw vulnerability. I found myself very scared for her, though, with him since he seemed about to cause her more harm–a bit of a red flag for me. The twist at the end is effective since it shows the hero very much on her side. Well done! –Patience

Thank you, Patience, as well as everyone who offered feedback! What a fun exercise and a joy to read the other entries—hopefully from future Harlequin books!

She dropped to the ground, trembling.
Bits of debris were still falling. Sticks, stones, leaves and grass.
All she’d done was throw her damn shoe away, frustrated with trying to navigate the rough terrain in the high heels she’d worn for the blind date. The one that was, technically, still going on. With the guy who was here to scare her into compliance.
And then the ground blew up.
It was too much. This wasn’t her life. She just couldn’t do this anymore. She’d lost.
“I give up. Whatever you want, fine, I’ll give it to you.” Her voice broke on the last words, torn by the lump in her parched throat. She felt the sting of tears in her eyes.
She was exhausted.
He dropped to the ground beside her and pulled her in gently. She started crying, not sure she could stop.
“It’s okay. You’ll be fine.” He murmured into her ear, hands coasting down her back and up. Heaven help her, she leaned into it.
The words, the hands…they shouldn’t have been comforting. Not when it was thanks to him that she was here, had gone through all this. But it felt so good. Surely she could take a moment, maybe two…
She swiped at her eyes. If she was giving in, she might as well get it over. Then they’d…she had no idea what happened then. Would he let her go?
“All the information is on a USB drive. Everything. The senator, the land purchases…everything that I put together.”
His arms stiffened. Maybe he’d come to like her, during this hellish run they’d been on. Maybe he didn’t want to do to her whatever it was he needed to. She was too exhausted to hope.
“Senator? What are you talking about?”
She pulled back, surprised by at his expression. He looked completely surprised.
“Isn’t that why all this happened? To get me to give up this information? I just…I can’t fight anymore. I’m done. Take it and do what you have to do.”
“I don’t know anything about a Senator. I’m trying to find who’s been murdering ISA agents.”
She shook her head. She was so exhausted she thought she’d heard him say something about murders of ISA agents.
He let out a breath.
“Okay, let’s start from the beginning.”

Sorry if it’s not obvious, but they’ve been running through bobby-trapped terrain, escaping a kidnapping, and with no idea where the bad guy is, because they each thought the other was the villain responsible. So not hiding!

Dear Ann, It’s funny because I didn’t read closely enough that her shoe had started an explosion. I had thought that she was sick of running in heels, which I can totally identify with! Either way, I was intrigued and liked how the heroine divulges her secret to the hero and they had been at odds. Nice way to bring them together during extraordinary circumstances. Well done! –Patience

Miles bent to look directly into her eyes. His were brown and warm and kind. “You okay to walk?”

Lily nodded, unable to push her voice past the cascade of emotions rushing through her body. Relief. Fear. Wonder. And another emotion that instantly disappeared when he removed his hands from her waist.

Behind them, indiscriminate noises turned into shouts.

“Don’t stop.” Miles pressed his hand against her back, propelling Lily ahead of him, toward what used to be a fireplace at the rear of the foundation ruins.

Small fires licked at her clothes. Smoke clogged her lungs. A shot whistled by Lily’s ear. She stumbled. Miles spun, fired.

“You’re doing great.” He steadied her with a hand to the upper arm. “We’re going to get out of this.”

If he said so.

“See that break in the trees?” he said. “Run for it. Now!”

He pushed her into a stumbling jog. Instantly missing his strength, she glanced over her shoulder. Miles crouched within the shadow of the chimney. One, two, three men, all with guns drawn, raced into the smoldering ruins.

“Lily, go!”

Miles’s direction forced her feet into action even as gunfire filled her ears. Within two strides, Miles caught up to her, clasped her hand, dwarfing it. The connection spread comfort and she leaned into his tower of protection.

A bullet chipped off a chunk of tree bark beside his shoulder. He aimed another shot behind them as he tugged her to keep pace with him.

“There are too many of them,” he said. “If we hide here, I can’t slow all of them down before they reach us.”

Lily tightened her grip on his hand. Even though she stumbled, he kept her upright as they zigzagged up the tree-covered hill of this godforsaken place.

Heart beating in her ears. Lungs screaming for relief. Shoes slipping on dirt. Skirt catching on branches. Only three more steps to the top. To where they would be sheltered from death. If even for a few minutes.

Miles’s inarticulate exclamation made Lily’s attention swing to something bouncing along the ground behind them. A grenade?

With a yank, Miles snagged her around the waist and vaulted them over the crest of the hill. The last thing she felt before heat overpowered them was the hard surface of Miles’s chest. At least she would not die alone.

Dear Danielle, You do such a nice job packing in action and establishing a relationship between the hero and heroine. Just your use of language engages the reader and I was interested in what happened next. I hope they escape! –Patience

400 Words

90… 89… 88… 87…
Roxy’s slender fingers trembled with crippling fear as she tentatively held the wires apart for Sam to perform the most intricate task of both their lives. They moved as if in slow motion, making the minutest adjustments to access the elusive red wire.
69… 68… 67… 66…
Even when faced with almost certain death, Sam’s hands were rock steady and his eyes fixed firmly on the job at hand. She had never been more attracted to him that she was right now, she suspected that he felt the same yet none of them had made a move.
Catching a glimpse of red from below a sea of blue, green and black, Roxy looked at Sam and whispered. “You’re sure, it’s the red one… right?”
“Let’s hope so” Sam smirked as he caught Roxy’s gaze. For the first time, she could see a glimmer of dread in his deep brown eyes.
39… 38… 37… 36…
Her heart pounded through her chest as if it was trying to escape this dire situation. Despite his brave facade, Roxy knew that Sam felt the same trepidation that she did. The fact that he was trying to stay strong, to give her a sense of safety and security, made her want him even more.
Reaching slowly into his left pocket, Sam pulled out a tiny pair of precision bolt cutters, slid them cautiously around the red wire, muttered “See you on the other side babe” and powerfully squeezed the handle slicing the wire clean in two.
29… 28… 27… 26
Did it work? Was the timer still connected to the bomb? The only way to find out was to wait until the end.
The infuriating little screen taunted them with its flashing numbers and incessant beeping, a sinister reminder that it held the ultimate control over whether they live or die.
Roxy’s mind flooded with regret as she tortured herself with all the times she could have declared her love, lust and overwhelming passion. Her last wish was to confess, but the terror had stolen her ability to speak.
6… 5… 4… 3…
She couldn’t take it anymore, in their final seconds she thrust herself passionately towards Sam. He caught her tightly in his arms as though anticipating her every action. Their lips touched for the first and possibly last time as they heard the final three beeps.
2… 1… 0!

Lily I loved that !!! Hightened Tension as I counted down those minutes very descriptive writing held my attention from the start leading to the emotional ending leaving me hanging wanting more ..Brilliant .!!

Dear Lily, I love this! What a great way to build the suspense–choosing between the wires during a countdown. I love how Roxy just throws herself at the last possible second–and I don’t think we’re sure they’re still alive. Are they? In any case, you can see that your readers are hooked! Well done. –Patience

Thanks so much for your feedback Patience, I really appreciate it. 🙂
Roxy & Sam have no idea if the bomb will go off when the countdown ends, but I was writing more of the story then they’d survive and have more adventures together.

Word count 398 from an RS WIP:

“Emily! Get down!”

Joe reached for his Glock and shot at the passing speedboat. He recognized the same two men who had carried Emily into the cave at low tide. Damn. They must have followed his boat to the Isthmus. What had Emily done to warrant someone wanting her dead? These guys were hired killers. They must have returned to the cave to check on their dirty work and not finding her body went looking, or they were still close by keeping an eye on the entrance. That would make the most sense. How else could they find them in the vast ocean surrounding the Channel Islands?

“Joe? Are you okay?” Emily’s shout came from the cabin in the boat’s bow.

The speedboat turned, heading back their direction. “Yes. But looks like our company has returned. Stay put. I’ll keep you safe. This is what I’m trained to do.”

She snuck up from behind and kissed his bare shoulder. They were about to make love earlier when the gunshots pelleted his boat. He still had his swim trunks on and she’d slipped into one of his tee shirts. He glanced over his shoulder.

She flashed him a smile. “Never underestimate the powers of a woman, Joe. Just remember that.”

Distracted by her appearance he flashed back on their shared kisses. Hot passion awaited release. Pop! A gunshot whizzed by. Too close for comfort. “Duck back undercover, Emily!”

The speedboat rammed the cabin cruiser’s stern trying to flip them over. Unsuccessful at the attempt, one of the perpetrators jumped onto their bow and ran toward him, gun pointed. A loud cracking noise filled the air and the man froze mid-step with a scuba spear poking through his chest. The spear had busted through the cabin’s fiberglass top and hit its target.

Joe’s gaze lowered to the open cabin door. Emily emerged with a grin on her face. She’d managed to grab his most powerful speargun and shot the guy. He had to commend her. “That was amazing.”

“Told you. I can handle myself.”

“Yeah, I see that now. Thanks for—” He fired a shot into the speedboat that was far too close for comfort. It veered away and sped off toward the horizon.

“You were saying?”

He eyed the bloody body sprawled against the side rail. “Can we take this conversation below deck?”

Emily winked. “My thoughts exactly.”

Chrissie, your scene grabbed me right away with your action-packed opening! I love the flirtation between your hero and heroine in this scene, and that your heroine is ready to jump into the action and defend herself. Well done!

Kelly Clarke’s daily ritual was her run through Clarence Creek it was here that she could clear her head, put real estate aside and focus on nothing else but the speed of her feet and the wind on her face. “Stop, it’s not safe, the subdivision is swarming with Police, it seems as though they are looking for someone”. A man she did not recognize stood by the park sign with headphones in hand. He stepped forward, the sun giving light to the tall man before her. “What’s going on?” Kelly’s startled nerves cracking her voice. “There are about thirty cruisers, down by the dead end. They are going door to door, I could hear them yelling at everyone to stay in their house.” Kelly sighed and bent her wrists to her knees; she had almost forgotten that she just ran three miles. “I am the last house at the end of the street” she revealed, shaking the nerves from her hands. “Do you see that house?” he said, picking up on her panic. He pointed across the park parking lot to the house on the hill that overlooked Clarence Park. Her racing heart felt as though it had stopped, without even thinking her feet walked her closer to the man she had been trying to get a better look at all month. Just two nights before, she and Penny had walked their dogs by his house in the hopes to catch a better glimpse of their new neighbour. Kelly had seen enough of him to know that she wanted to see more. She had seen him climbing out of his Mercedes in the dark and through his large foyer window as she passed, but now there he was in front of her shirtless, sweaty and he was the finest man she had laid eyes on in years. “Come on, we can’t stay here,” he said, softly placing his hand over hers. There she was the beautiful blond from the end of the street. The strawberry perfume mixed with her scent made him take pause. He led her across the street, up the concrete steps, through the large framed door and locked it behind them. “We need to put on the news, but first, what is your name?” her green eyes fixated on his. “Ryan and it’s nice to meet you”.

Stacey, I’m intrigued by the situation your heroine literally runs into! I must admit, however, that I’m not quite clear on everything happening here as it jumps around a bit – don’t be afraid to give more details upfront to set up the scene for your reader! I like how you’ve pulled in details about the heroine’s panic to make this more urgent, though – well done!

Silent Nights: A Romantic Holiday Suspense

By: Wendy Dalrymple

“Get in.”

It was dark and cold. So cold. Lucy barely knew this man but she did know Tremulo brothers. If they were coming for her like this dark-eyed stranger said, then she’d better move.

“How do I know you’re not one of them?” Lucy asked, shifting her weight from side to side. “Why should I trust you?”

“Fine,” he shrugged. “Don’t come with me. But if I were you, I wouldn’t stick around here any longer.”

Lucy breathed out a puff of vapor into the frosty night air. A pair of headlights flashed at the far end of the parking lot, causing her pulse to pick up speed.

Maybe it was them.

She looked over at the stranger one last time, and reached instinctively in her pocket. Her mace keychain was there at the ready if she needed it. Something about the concern in his voice and the soft downturned corners of his mouth made her want to trust him.

The headlights drew steadily closer and Lucy knew she didn’t have much more time to react. She could try to run and make it to her own car. She could stay and see if there was nothing to fear after all. Or she could trust this man that said her life was in danger. This man who’s eyes crinkled in the corner with concern. Concern for her.

“First tell me who you are.”

The man glanced at the headlights then back at Lucy again. He grimaced and paused for a moment before answering her.

“I’m a cop. I’ve been working the Tremulo case. Listen Lucy, you’re not safe here.”

A cop. Of course. He didn’t look like a cop though. With his plain white tee, jeans and day-old stubble he looked more like one of her brother’s friends. Maybe she had seen him around somewhere before, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

Before she had another moment to ponder her situation, the headlights began to edge closer, faster. Lucy gripped the handle of the car door and slid into the front seat, the black leather cold and jarring through her thin workout pants. The night had taken a strange turn, and now as she sat in the strangers car watching the headlights draw nearer, her heart slammed in her chest. There was no going back now.

“Where are we going?” she asked as he pealed out of the parking lot.

“I’m taking you somewhere safe,” his eyes flashing from the road to the rear view mirror. “My name is Marcus, and you’re in more trouble than you think.”

I love those difficult decisions where both choices could go either way. Adds even more drama in my opinion.

Hi Wendy, so sorry to share this, but you unfortunately exceeded the word count for this contest and won’t be eligible to receive editorial feedback. I hope you participate again in the next one!

Wendy, I read this not seeing Evan’s note, but I did want to let you know I enjoyed this and hope you do participate next time!

Diana Pryce wished she still sat at dinner. Napkins in laps, the silverware in the proper places, the fine china to impress, everyone in their Sunday finest. Polite conversation with a harmonica tune by her silver-haired friend Liam…
If only it were dinnertime now with a smiling host escorting her to her seat and not the towering, lump in your throat, sweating, familiar tanned masked man in front of her breathing black fury and clenching his fists among the area lights and the crowd.
Still thinking about dinner and the fruit salad provided for desert, Diana ignored the surroundings lost in her memories of the tangerines, cherries, pineapples, the crunch of pecans…the sugary syrup leaving a drop upon her bottom lip like the aftermath of a kiss… before ‘the hat’ started its rounds about the table with Liam’s nod of encouragement swelled her chest.
Returning to the angry man as he extended his arms toward her neck, Diana swallowed. Wishing she asked for seconds, strength from Liam, and more than once cursing the day she decided to pick up a random summer newspaper…

Hi Phil, I like all the details you’ve pulled into this scene! I wasn’t quite clear on what threatening situation this heroine finds herself but I thought it was interesting that you focused this scene on the distraction she’s creating for herself. Thanks for participating!

Mrs. Gowrie,
Thank you for your response and encouragement.
As of this time, the scene you reviewed is the opening of a draft to an origin story concerning the “angry man” in the mask and a introduction to the family pro wrestling entertainment company he works for. He is not the hero of this origin story, but his mentorship to both Diana and Liam are important to their tale.
Diana, in this scene, is supposed to be the manager/valet for that evening and assist him. Obviously, from the final reaction, things did not go as planned for Diana or him…
The scene in question is a bookend scene in duo. The scene serves two purposes to frame the tale of Diana and Liam’s journey and to frame the question about the concern that Diana and Liam share toward their two mentors (instructors) who due to the one of their antagonist meddling and manipulation are unable to stop the implosion. This leads to the second WIP two years later when the masked mentor must face his own “demons” brought on by an old enemy who seeks revenge on him and the company.
This scene repeats in the final fight of the second WIP, as the masked man’s heroine falls into almost the same situation as Diana facing down another angry man in a mask that cannot be redeemed and has fully embraced his dark impulses.
Both of these works in progress are still in the long distance first draft stages. Many of the characters and situations are continuing to be refined (not ready for revisions).
As to the category and series that these and others fall into…I use many requirements of many types of series in my drafts. Regrettably, these two WIP cannot serve in Heartwarming. Although, Diana’s imagery is of a librarian (knowledge seeker) and mildly older child heroine archetype.
Once more, I thank you for your encouragement and your time.

Shelby’s lips curved as Noah relayed his story, leaning across the restaurant table toward her. She was glad their paths had crossed. It was unfortunate there’d be little opportunity to explore anything deeper. But a night or two of passion might soothe the pain of departure, one she could delay if the evening went well. Sparks flew between them, carrying the potential of igniting into towering flames.
“You’ve got a great story. That dedication makes you and your family great people,” she said.
“I don’t know about the great part.” His smile widened. It bordered on devastating, sending another cascade of jitters through her belly.
“I’m entitled to my opinion,” she interrupted, holding up a hand, adding a lofty expression for effect. “I think people who are brave enough and selfless enough to risk their lives protecting the rest of us deserve all the respect and accolades we can heap on them. You run toward gunfire while the rest of us run away. Firecrackers are enough to scare me. You’d never catch me doing what you do. I don’t even begin to have it in me.”
Noah’s cheeks reddened. He couldn’t recall the last time a woman had caused such a reaction in him. “Thanks, I appreciate it. Cops aren’t looked on as favorably as we used to be, not that we were much in the past either, I guess.”
“Where would we be without you? Up a creek, that’s where. And if you don’t mind my asking, what could’ve possessed your mother to leave you, even if you were sixteen?”
The flirty waitress rounded the corner on her way to their table, eyes fixed on the back of Noah’s head, arranging her smile. In her hands were containers of ice water and tea for refills. Shelby laid odds with herself his glass would get topped off and hers wouldn’t. But she’d hardly touched her own glass, thwarting the mental bet.
Her attention shifted to Noah at his tone. They’d just met, but his voice commanded full and immediate attention. “Yeah?”
“I want you to listen to me and do exactly as I say, no questions.”
Naturally, she wanted to ask him why, what was going on, and why was he all but whispering what sounded like orders. The expression he wore kept her mouth closed. Everything in him was focused elsewhere.
Her spine jolted from the shiver’s force.

Hi A.L., nice chemistry between your couple in this scene, and you’ve pulled in some great details to show that on both sides. I liked the twist in tone at the end, too! Thanks for participating.

398 Words
The earth shook as it was rocked by another explosion. Another building. Another gas line. Eyewitnesses reported seeing half a dozen people trying to escape the apartment building that started the inferno that was devouring the old New Jersey neighborhood in hot, greedy licks. Glory nodded at Nate, her partner, as she took the first step into smoke clogged entry in search of those people. Like a precise, choreographed dance, the pair moved from apartment to apartment and door to door, looking for those who might be trapped behind the walls of flame or the haze of smoke, paralyzed by fear or injury.
First floor clear.
They took the stairs to the next level. The higher they climbed, the thicker the smoke. Flames lapped at the walls of the second-floor corridor and spread slowly over the ceiling. The building shook as another explosion rent the air. Glory spread her feet to maintain balance and turned back to see the ceiling above Nate come crashing down and the floor beneath give way.
Her heart lodge firmly in her throat as she surged toward the gaping hole.
“Man down!” she shouted into her radio but got no response. There was no sound at all. No clicks or pops, nothing but dead air. How could that be? She’d just checked her equipment that morning. It had been in perfect working order.
She peered into the gap but couldn’t see Nate through the smoke and debris. As the sharp talons of fear tore up her insides, she edged around the void to the stairwell and bolted back down to the first floor.
It took only seconds, but it felt like minutes before she reached him. Without a thought for her own safety, Glory picked up and hurled aside pieces of wood and sheetrock, lowering to her knees as Nate became visible. He grabbed her wrist to stop her, then pulled off his helmet and mask.
“Get out of here. It’s not stable,” he shouted, coughing as smoke filled his lungs.
She tugged off her own. “We came in together, we leave together,” she argued.
“Glory…” Nate tried to stop her frantic hands from digging through the debris. “Glory… Go.”
Her eyes met his and saw everything she felt reflected back at her. She cupped his face in her hands and touched his lips with hers.
“We go together or not at all.”

What a gripping scene, Kelly! You’ve packed a lot in here and made me feel like I was there, in the midst of danger. Loved the powerful connection between your H&H as well. Nicely done!

400 words
A smattering of people sat at cloth-covered tables, their faces glowing in the candlelight. Marina’s heart pounded in her throat and her palms slicked with sweat. He took her elbow, shepherding her into the room. She could smell the lingering scent of his cologne, something crisp, clean, he’d just showered. The diamonds at her neck dazzled in the low light refracting rays of an antique chandelier that monopolized the room.
He drew her in fanning his breath hot on her ear. “You look stunning,” he said as he grazed his hand over her breast.
She said nothing as her eyes scanned the room. Where was he? Her captor’s fingers entangled in hers feeling the hardened dry skin. The diamond bracelet she wore irritated the raw hotness where only hours ago ropes held her. She teetered on stiletto heels after so many days bound to his bed. Her hand gripped his as she faltered, a rumbling laugh escaped him.
She searched the faces, where was he? Suddenly, her heart slowed, her breathing deepened. She knew that suit, the charcoal grey one with onyx buttons. Jack’s eyes met hers and she was home. It was only a glance, but the warm sparkle in his expression gave her courage, she could do this.
Her captor’s hand brought her to sit beside him as lovers would.
“Be good,” he said, smiling; amorous.
She breathed.
He lifted his coattail just enough to flash the gun in his waistband. Jack had the briefcase, he followed her captor’s instructions. If it was him in her place she would have given anything, she understood. She looked at Jack again, his smile, ever so faint, gave her strength.
“Good evening? Would you two like something to drink?” the waiter asked, she had but seconds.
In a flash, she stood and toppled the table diving for her captor’s gun. His arm caught hers harshly, but she’d already released the safety, her finger gripped the trigger!
“Bang,” she whispered as Jack and three others rose from their seats with their guns drawn aimed at her captor’s head.
The waiter stumbled backward as Jack approached, “I knew you could do it, honey!” His face glowed with pride and admiration. “I love you!”
“I’m just so glad it’s over,” Marina smiled as her captor growled in defeat, she regarded him. “I can’t wait to see YOU locked in a cage.”

Lorie, what a joy to read an honest-to-goodness action scene! You captured an incredibly suspenseful moment, while still allowing details like a brief shared glance to spell out the romance.

I’m particularly impressed with your use of detail to bring us into the heroine’s POV, filling in what had happened earlier without resorting to explicit flashbacks. Fantastic work!

(Apologies for the late feedback, there was a mixup with the editorial assignment)

Thanks, Evan for your kind and encouraging words, and also thank you for setting up such a fun exercise. I’ve never written romantic suspense before, got to flex my writing chops a bit…it was such fun, thank you. 🙂 Makes me think about what I would write if I actually wrote this story. 🙂

The morning light passed through the stained glass of the Barcelona Cathedral windows giving the gothic interior an even more haunted aspect. Only this time, Detective Blanca Morales thought, the ghosts were works of man.
They were in another murder scene. The fourth in four weeks. All inside of churches, all children posed like angels. Exactly like twenty years ago. Exactly like El Ángel de la Muerte. Once more, he was slipping through their fingers. Easter was by the end of the week, and they were running out of time.
Blanca observed Dr Sara Turner, her supposed partner. The American specialist had a concentrated expression on her face, and Blanca noticed, not for the first time, how attractive she was. Turner was wearing a white plain shirt that shouldn’t do anything for her figure, but yet, she looked refined. Beautiful even.
When she inclined to observe something, Blanca saw that one of the buttons on the doctor’s shirt had opened, letting the detective glimpse the slight curve of her cleavage and the outline of a white bra. But Blanca wasn’t really seeing it, her gaze was focussed on the small object glowing between Turner’s breasts.
Blanca’s first instinct was to avert her eyes, but then she saw the golden cross, and that surprised her. From their previous exchanges, the detective hadn’t expected Turner to be religious.
“Are you religious, Dr Turner?” Blanca asked before she could refrain herself. Turner took a few seconds to acknowledge her question. As if Blanca’s words needed some extra time to penetrate her brain. But when it did, Turner’s hand went immediately to her chest.
“Not particularly,” she answered dismissively.
“Perhaps a believer, then?” Blanca didn’t know why she kept pushing. Turner clearly didn’t want to talk about it.
“I don’t know how my current religious status could be of your concern?”
Warmth crept through Blanca’s neck. “It isn’t. I was just trying to make conversation.”
“Don’t try so hard then.”
Blanca snorted, she was preparing a retort, a very impolite one, when the look on the doctor’s face stopped her.
“Who put this here?” Turner asked, pointing to a small wreath over a bench, just behind their backs, that Blanca also didn’t remember seeing before.
They approached it, cautiously, and the detective saw a card attached to it.
When Blanca read it, a chill ran down her spine, and she gasped, “He’s still here.”

*Note: Strange enough, this actually started as an idea for the LIS – Cold Case, shamelessly inspired by my adventures in Spanish cathedrals (calm down! there were no murders, just me tripping down over old benches).
However, I realised its catholic background was too strong for the guidelines, and also something in the story just demanded to be about these two women. But then, because of reasons, I abandoned it, and now it’s rotting in some drive folder because I can’t bring myself to finish it.
Truth be told, I just wanted to expose that breathtaking architecture, all that beautiful gothic, baroque and romantic stone walls filled with stories. Gorgeous. But my plots didn’t collaborate, so… whatever.
It was fun, though, going back to that world, maybe someday I’ll finish it. (but probably not)

What a standout submission, Joice! From the novel setting (gothic cathedrals!) to your pairing (a detective and a doctor, both women!) this immediately grabbed me. I also want to applaud you for the dialogue, as you clearly have a strong sense of each heroine’s distinct voice.

Very impressed with this one, and who knows, maybe a return will bring the fully-realized story to shelves one day!

(Apologies for the late feedback, there was a mixup with the editorial assignment)

No need for apologies, Evan. I can only imagine how much work this type of Challange give you, read all the submissions and give personal feedback in less then a week it’s super awesome!

Thank you, Evan and Kelly, for words of encouragement! Much appreciated!

Kate Malone clicked the lock button, adjusted the strap on her leather crossbody, and trotted toward the south elevator of Tower Luxury Apartments, her home of the last three years. Temperatures had finally begun to dip below 80 degrees, casting a breeze on the balmy Tampa night.

Kate hurried her steps. Parking in the deserted, cavernous parking garage gave her the creeps.

She bounced up and down as she waited for the elevator. Glancing at her cell phone, she noticed two missed calls from her estranged ex-boyfriend, Brady, and Seth’s text. Plans for your birthday? A V formed between her brows as a smile played at her lips.

Spending her twenty-first birthday with her childhood friend turned FBI special agent did sound appealing.

A warm wind blew through the tunnel stirring up the smell of rain. Gooseflesh rose on bare arms.

Maybe she should take the stairs. The idea of trekking up five more flights was not appealing, but neither was looking over her shoulder for an interminable amount of time.

Finally, the heavy metal doors opened as her thumbs began to tap out a reply to Seth’s question.

Lights flashed and sparked. With a jerking halt, she gasped as everything went dark. Heavy breathing startled her into the terrifying awareness that she wasn’t alone.

Before she could call for help, a firm grip constricted her breathing and held her against a wall. Self-defense training kicked in, prompting her to knee the assailant in the groin. But whoever it was had anticipated the move, angled his hips, pinning her in place.

“Tell your boyfriend to pay up, and you won’t get hurt.”


The pressure on her airway lifted as the lights flickered back on, and the elevator began to move again. Kate slid down the smooth metal wall onto the cold tile floor, drawing wobbly knees to her chest. Trembling, she hugged herself as she confirmed she was alone.

A ding. The doors opened again.


Her head snapped from a stupor and stared into the troubled, amber eyes of Seth Grant.

As soon as she heard his voice, her mind began to calm. Strong, familiar arms lifted and wrapped her in a tight embrace as he planted a kiss on the tender spot between hairline and temple. “Shhh, Katie Kat, you’re safe,” he whispered.

Kate sighed, sinking into the protection of his broad chest. All would be well.

You made me relive every tense, suspenseful, terminal wait for an elevator in a creepy parking garage. My nerves are on edge. Good job!

Almost from the beginning of your submission we’re treated to an evening where we know something can and will go wrong. Your descriptions are on point, with a parking garage being “deserted, cavernous” instead of just big and empty. That all serves to heighten the tension here.

Wonderful details as far as Kate looking forward to being with Seth, as well. Small reminders that this is a romance are always essential to the genre, so great work there, too!

(Apologies for the late feedback, there was a mixup with the editorial assignment)

Thank you for the feedback. No problem at all on the timing. I just wanted to make sure it was eligible for comment. I appreciate the opportunity. Have a great day!

He hefted me with little effort, my legs latching around his waist, our mouths frantic. This last deployment had been too long. We rounded the couch, passing through the light shining through the patio door, and turned to the bedroom. He grunted as he ran into the side table and took a step back to regain his balance.
A deafening crack echoed through the evening—a hiss of air whizzed behind me—an instant before the overhead light went out, plunging us into near darkness.
“Nooo!” Tony dropped us to the floor, rotating his body to cushion my descent. My arm crashed onto the table before I tumbled next to him. Frantic voices erupted from the hotel rooms around us.
My head whipped up, trained instincts taking over.
One. Observe.
Small hole blown through the patio door. Spiderweb of cracks extending to its edges.
Dust wafted from the impact in the ceiling, by the kitchenette cupboards.
Two. Orient.
Tony lifted on his hands and knees, wrapping a strong arm around me, pulling me closer to him. “You okay?”
The light poles in the parking lot provided illumination, but the darkness inside gave us cover. Another peal rang through the room, as the patio door exploded inward and a wave of frigid air hit us.
More dust fell from the ceiling.
Three. Decide.
The exit to the hallway was straight behind us, past the couches and tables. Too many obstacles. We’d have to stop to open the door. Easy targets.
Bedroom. Ten feet away. Its small window was perfect cover to return fire. And it adjoined the bathroom with a second exit to the living room, if we needed to run.
Four. Act.
“Keep your head down! Go that way!” I pointed to the bedroom.
He grabbed my outstretched arm and propelled me ahead of him, crouching over top of me. Staying between me and the unseen shooter.
As we landed behind the bed, I asked, “Got your gun?”
With a grin, he pulled the Glock from his waistband. “Good thing you didn’t knock it loose when you jumped me.”
“We’ll debate who jumped whom later.” I dug between the mattress and box spring, retrieving my backup pistol. “I’ll take the left side of the window, you take the right. On three?”
“I love it when you take charge.” He winked and kissed my cheek before counting down.

The one, two, three, four made it feel very authentic, and was a great way to frame the actions. Loved this!

Janet, what can I say that these other lovely commenters haven’t already? What initially reads as a steamy love scene suddenly transforms into the lead-up to a shootout, a wonderful subversion of expectations.

You’ve embodied both hero and heroine with such confidence, and her capability in particular is underscored by the way you’ve chosen to track her internal monologue. I never believed for a second that she wasn’t fully in control of the situation.

(Apologies for the late feedback, there was a mixup with the editorial assignment)

Word Count 392 from Harlequin Intrigue WIP

“When all this is over, we should do something fun. You work too hard.” Abby laid a hand on Jacob’s forearm as the elevator ascended in a swift and speedy movement on the way back up to her hotel room.
They decided to forgo the stairs this time and had stopped for some shaved pineapple ice on the beach. The sweet fruity taste lingered in her mouth. She squeezed his forearm. It was warm and soothing. And he didn’t move away.
He turned toward her and smiled. A smile she could get lost in if she let herself. But she couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. More like shouldn’t.
He raised a brow at her. “Oh yeah? Like what does Abigail Hastings consider fun these days?”
She laughed. “I don’t know. Maybe a luau?”
The elevator door flashed on seven and let out a ding signaling their floor. She pulled her hand away as they stepped off and immediately felt the absence of his warmth. His comfort. Was it possible he felt the same? Spooning another serving of dessert into her mouth to distract herself, she sighed.
“Um, so I’ve heard.” Jacob gave her a half shrug.
“What? Don’t tell me you’ve lived in Hawaii for a decade and never been to a luau.”
Jacob chuckled as he threw his empty dessert container in a trash can, and they made their way down the hall. “Okay. I won’t.”
“Jacob Scott Devereaux. I can’t believe you. A luau is a must in Hawaii. That’s it. We have to go. I’ll book us in for one.”
Abby pulled her cell phone out of her dress pocket to peruse the luau choices as they walked down the hall. About a foot from their door, she ran smack dab into Jacob’s broad shoulders. She opened her mouth to protest but then looked to where he was pointing.
Her hotel room door was ajar, and she was sure she’d shut it behind her when they left. Spikes of adrenaline raced through her veins like chunks of ice free-flowing down a melting river.
Jacob pulled his Glock from its holster and motioned for her to step behind him. He pulled the slide to load the chamber of the weapon. The bullet clicked into place with a soft smack. Jake pointed the firearm towards the open door and crept towards it.

I quite enjoyed so much of this submission being dialogue between the hero and heroine, as a conversation can reveal quite a lot about the characters speaking. The dynamic you’ve created between them is clearly something you’ve put quite a lot of work into.

If I had any comments on how to improve (I also liked the grim realization that their room had been broken into) I would ensure that the setting supports the actions taking place.

When they exit the elevator Jacob throws his container into a trash can, but they’ve just stepped out onto the floor where their room is. Hotel hallways will rarely, if ever, have a place to toss garbage. It’s an innocuous detail, but too many can break reader immersion.

(Apologies for the late feedback, there was a mixup with the editorial assignment)

Hire the pretty nanny, they had said.
It shows everyone how over him you are, they had promised.
Such admirable self-confidence, inviting such a beautiful woman to ferry your kid back and forth to your ex…. Her best friend’s affirmation had sealed the deal.
She hadn’t been threatened by a beautiful nanny and wouldn’t stand anyone thinking otherwise. She was over him.
But she was wrong.
“Mark. It’s all your fault.” Somehow, being mean to her ex-husband felt like kicking a dog. More satisfying to be sure, but the look of visceral guilt in his eyes shook her.
Was he asking permission or forgiveness? She pressed her eyes shut. It didn’t matter.
“It’s been six hours. Six hours since the hot nanny stole our baby.”
“Hot nanny? Wouldn’t insane twenty-something be a better descriptive? My family is a magnet for these kinds of crazies.”
He tentatively reached an arm around her waist, and pulled her toward him in a consoling embrace. She had no strength to resist. He smelled the same. Like pine.
The two years since their divorce had been agonising. To want someone so much, but know it could never work? At least superman would literally die from kryptonite exposure; she was destined to simply suffer endlessly. But the wanting didn’t change the facts.
“It’s your family. It has to be.” Her voice was muffled by his chest.
“I have the money.” He spoke quietly into her hair and let his hand stroke the small of her back. “Don’t worry.”
“Stop telling me not to worry. You can’t buy everything Mark. Besides, she hasn’t asked for money.”
“They always ask for money.”
Gwen fingered the note again, rereading the scrawl for the hundredth time.
SHE’S MINE NOW. Her stomach sank. Three words to change a life.
“I can’t lose her Mark.”
“I know. We’ll get her back. I promise.”
Her phone vibrated with a text from an unknown number.

72hrs. The MacMillan File. No police.

“So it’s the MacMillian file they’re after.” Mark tightened his grip on her, and suddenly pressed his lips hotly to her forehead. Three short kisses, lips lingering on the final veneration.
“I’ll stop this Gwen. You can count on me.”
Her torrent of tears were impossible to refrain. She didn’t even try.
Three kisses. I love you. Did she hear him say it?

Three words to change a life. They couldn’t fail.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and the complex relationship the hero and heroine share is an intriguing one. Why did they get divorced? Do they have full custody of their child or do they share?

The word limit can make it difficult to fully lay out the premise and background, but for the most part I think that it comes across. That said, it did take a second read for me to fully grasp what was taking place.

I also wasn’t sure if this fit the category of Romantic Suspense. While a kidnapped baby can fit in that genre quite well, it didn’t feel like it held the sense of danger or tension that’s necessary. That said, the inklings of romance were spot-on.

(Apologies for the late feedback, there was a mixup with the editorial assignment)

Patience Whitaker had the same dream every day for months. Erik Johnson was the love of her life and his betrayal had broken her heart to pieces. Patience had worked hard to secure a detective position with the Lakewood Police Department. Erik, a cop from NYPD, who had been there for less than six months, was entered into the pool of interested cops who wanted to be promoted to the detective ranks.
The worst part was that Erik had not told her. The long, steamy nights of lovemaking and the connection they had meant nothing.
Patience tossed and turned. Images of Erik kissing her played through her dreams. Then came the image of Erik staring coldly at her while the Captain congratulated Erik on his promotion to detective. Erik then turned and walked away. No apologies or regrets were ever spoken by him.
The most terrifying part about Patience’s dream began. The pounding of the footsteps of Lakewood’s finest outside of Lakewood Memorial Bank echoed in her memory. The loud click and startling boom of the bomb that had ripped though the bank, killing nine hostages and men who were carrying out orders. Patience’s mind replayed her flying through the air when the explosion happened. The note the Lakewood Bomber left for her always left fear in her heart. The case consumed her because with every instance, more people were hurt or killed and no suspect was apprehended.
Suddenly Patience’s eyes snapped open. She sensed someone in the room with her. Before she could grab her 38 special handgun that she kept tucked under her pillow, the nozzle of the gun pressed against her head. Patience had been in danger many times. This time, she knew she was going to die.
Suddenly, Erik burst into her room with his gun drawn.
“Put your gun down or she will get hurt. I just came to deliver a message.”
Erik out of arrogance or bravery, moved closer. Panicking, the man pulled Patience with him. He refused to not carry out his mission. The man was not supposed to hurt Patience, but if push came to shove, he would, just to escape.
As if the man anticipated the possibility of Erik shooting him, he shoved Patience towards Erik and jumped through the window.
Erik looked at Patience. “We have to stop meeting like this.”

In a Romantic Suspense one might expect a nightmare to be fraught with danger throughout, but I absolutely loved that Patience’s fear was that her years of hard work might be overlooked and her promotion given to a man. While I might not be able to relate to it personally, it resonated nonetheless.

Because so much of your submission was focused on the dream, I will say that the real life action felt a tad abrupt. There also didn’t appear to be a smooth transition between the heroine’s point of view and us taking on that of the villain who entered her room. With only 400 words or less it can be challenging to squeeze in too much at the end, or to condense action when earlier sections might be shortened instead.

(Apologies for the late feedback, there was a mixup with the editorial assignment)

Jac froze, her hand hovering over the stack of papers on the desk in front of her. She glanced at the open glass door that separated her from the lights of the surrounding high-rise buildings and the blaring of horns below. Friday night in New York was a killer. The click was almost imperceptible, but there was no mistaking the light creeping under the bedroom door. Jac moved silently and quickly through the sliding door to the balcony, pulling it shut behind her. So far so good. She looked down to the street below. It was a long way. Jac searched for an alternative escape route. Climbing to the balcony of the next unit was doable. Her heart was pumping adrenalin, so she slowed her breathing as she had been trained to do.
The bedroom door clicked opened, Jac pressed herself against the outside wall, the rough brick digging through her long shirt. The door slid open slightly and a man stepped onto the balcony, a silhouette in the semi-darkness. Stirling McMahon. Jac would’ve recognised those broad shoulders and muscular arms anywhere. She forced the memory of those arms wrapped around her back where it belonged – in the dark recess of her mind. He slowly turned. Their eyes met and her stomach lurched and pitched sideways. She was used to adrenalin pumping through her veins, it was part of the job. But this was different.
‘Jac Renton.’ His deep voice hummed with tension and frustration. ‘What’re you doing?’
Jac moved towards him and stared straight into his dark eyes. ‘Same as you, I guess.’
‘Frank and Johnson will be here any minute.’
‘If it’s so dangerous, why are you here?’ she shot back.
The sound of a door opening, voices and the living room was flooded with light.
Stirling pushed her back against the wall. ‘What do you suggest now, Ms Renton?’ he asked in his ‘I told you so’ voice.
Jac pointed to the balcony next door.
‘You’re kidding, right?’
‘Work the odds, McMahon. At least with the balcony, at least we’ll have a chance.’
Jac watched Stirling hesitate. Maybe he was doing the math. ‘You’re not scared of heights, are you?’
Jac swung her legs over the railing, her hands clinging to the cold metal while her feet searched for the ledge below.
‘Don’t worry about me Renton, I’m right behind you.’

Hi Annette, I apologize for not mentioning this at an earlier date, but I’m afraid that your submission does in fact follow the couple hiding from their assailants. I had asked that participants avoid this being the focus of their scenes, so unfortunately you won’t be receiving editorial feedback.

I’m sorry again for not letting you know earlier.

Word count – 398

Cold awareness flooded every cell of Det. Suzannah Riley’s body. Someone was watching her.

She thought a crowded memorial service would be safe, but just metres from her partner’s killer she acknowledged it had been stupid to come alone. He hadn’t made her yet.

But someone had.

The Department believed the shooting had been the beginning of a spade of cop killings. But Tom had been onto something. He’d been quiet. Absent. Secretive. The paper scrap in Tom’s pocket had to be important.

JK Cardinia @ 3.

Suzannah didn’t care about the discillinary action for disobeying orders to stay in groups. She needed to get justice for Tom, the only person she had let close in the last eight years. The only years she could remember.

The note hadn’t been hard to decipher. Cardinia Street Cemetery. Josephine Kirakis was being memorialized at three o’clock today. It wasn’t a coincidence. She could feel it. The killer was here. But why?

Behind dark glasses she scanned unfamiliar faces. Did he have an accomplice? Instead her breath paused as she met the smouldering dark eyes of the widower, Alexi Kirakis. His look was fierce and unmistakably on her. It took considerable effort not to squirm. She frowned, what did a millionaire have to do with a cop killer?

Shifting her attention behind the shield of her glasses she found her suspect’s bright blue eyes were also on her. He smirked. He knew she was alone.

Damn, damn damn. Why hadn’t she asked for help!

“Will the family please come forward and lay their offerings below Josephine’s plaque.” As no one moved, the priest prompted, “Alexi?” He wasn’t listening, instead his long determined stride was bringing him straight for her!

His dark look made her feel hot, exposed, like he could see too much. She couldn’t look away. Stopping bare inches from her, his deft fingers removed her sunglasses and her green eyes flashed in disbelief at his arrogance. Face paling he rasped, “Josie.”

Suzannah shook her head, “I’m sorry, you’re…” Her words froze on her lips as his large hand caressed her cheek. Hot awareness making her tremble, her lips parted as her long lashes fluttered almost closed.

“You’re alive.”

Suzannah reeled backward, startled by her reaction to this stranger only to whirl at a cold voice.

“Third time unlucky, Josephine.” Dead blue eyes pierced as a gunshot echoed through the gravestones.

Hi Danielle,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
You take us on a real rollercoaster, with this submission! You keep us, until the very last line, on the edge of our seats. Just what we’re looking for, in a Romantic Suspense story!
Great job, Danielle!

Thank you Hannah & Kelly for taking the time to provide feedback on my submission – and Evan thank you for this challenge – I enjoyed employing a different twist to an old idea.

“Hey, kid. Don’t worry. You’re the best. That’s why they gave you the job.” His smile made his brown eyes seem even warmer and kinder than they usually were. I could hardly hear him over the propellers of this antiquated fighter plane, though I knew his voice was gentle yet authoritative.

If only, I thought. If only we could be together. But it was 1944 and a girl like me couldn’t date one of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Still, I didn’t want to go back to 2020, even if I could find the vortex or whatever it was I fell through. There I was a loser with a useless degree who couldn’t find a professional job to pay off my massive student loans, and watched television and surfed the web all day.

Here I was a heroine.

Maybe it was the television and the internet that did me in. Maybe I wasn’t meant to live with modern conveniences. Who needed them, really?

“Just make sure your stockings don’t fall off. If General Blodmann doesn’t see a seam down the back of your leg, you won’t be able to seduce him properly and get him to take his shirt off.”

“I gotcha.” The seams and the bad pantyhose I could do without, though.

I looked at the tiny needle in my hand. One poke on the chest near Blodmann’s heart–but if I accidentally poked myself, then I would be. . . I started to shake.

“When do we land?” I asked the general.

“Land? We’re not landing.”

“How am I getting there, then?”

He pointed to a parachute in the back of the plane.

“Start putting it on,” he said. “We’re almost there. And don’t be nervous! You’ve done this before.”

Maybe. The only problem was, I couldn’t remember it. It was in my alternate life in WW2, and my memories were of Netflix shows.

Below, the village of Kukusuhr was charming and cute, with a huge cuckoo clock that gave its name. It would be ruined soon, of course, but not until after I found General Dumbass’s house and stole the plans. If I succeeded.

Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, I went up to Harry and kissed him, good and hard. Then I jumped from the plane.

Hi Taffy,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
You have taken the prompt, that Evan provided, and worked to create a unique submission. Whilst we don’t feature time-travel, in Romantic Suspense, it was great to watch, how you made this submission your own. Writing a story, that keeps us in suspense, can be a tricky balance. We want to know just enough, about the story’s plot, to keep us engaged; but, also, have just enough mystery, to keep us intrigued. It would have been great, in turn, if you could have given us just a touch more insight, into how your modern-day heroine, has found herself in 1944.

All that separated her and Chase was a partition woven out of bamboo. Still, Alex sighed in relief. She needed space. She had to focus.
But he was distracting her.

Those deep green eyes seemed to see right through her. She didn’t like the way he made her feel exposed. Maybe she should get out of the open-air bath, pack her things, and set out to look for her twin on her own, Alex thought, sighing as the soothing mountain spa water caressed her tired muscles.

She had met Chase on her second day in Japan and figured he would be a helpful interpreter-slash-guide. But she had her translation device with her. Why was he interested in helping her find Cassie, anyway?
Would he make money selling the exclusive photos he said he would shoot of Cassie when they found her? Her twin sister was doing a good job building her modeling career, but she was no supermodel. Was Chase the wire service photographer that he said he was? Did he have an ulterior motive?

So many questions and not a single answer, she mused. She was debating what to do when she heard a sound.


And again. Faint but distinct. Was there someone by the dwarf maples behind the rock bath?

She felt a tap on her shoulder and was about to scream when she heard the now-familiar low voice.
“Alex, it’s me. Don’t make a sound.”
She felt his breath on her face and was relieved and infuriated at the same time.
“You can’t come here. This is the women’s bath.”
He held a finger to his lips.
“Don’t worry, I can’t see you. It’s too dark. Listen, I think there’s someone over there behind the trees. We have to get out of here. Wrap yourself in this.”
“Oh. Thanks.” At least he had the decency to bring her a towel.

Alex was about to tell him that the glow of the moon was enough for her to make out his silhouette when she heard the sound of footsteps.
“Another intruder? Shit.”
She was climbing out of the water when a shot rang out.
“Come on, we have to go!”
Ignoring Chase, she reached behind a rock for her Glock, pulled, aimed, and fired.

Hi Eriko,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
You fill Alex and Chase’s story, with a fantastic tension! We can feel, that Alex is living life on a knife-edge. The suspense you create, Eriko, is superb! I was, in addition, left intrigued, about what would happened to Alex and Chase, next.
Great job!

With a roar of desperation, Sebastian flung himself after her, closing his hand over hers on the door handle and wrenching it closed. The rush of the avalanche as it swamped the small lift station drowned out the involuntary yelp of pain he gave as his wrist bone snapped.
But they had made it. They were safe.
Poppy’s eyes were wide with fear. He imagined he must look pretty wild-eyed himself. They stood together just inside the door to the station, both of them still wearing their skis.
Poppy spoke first, in a voice that was calm and steady. “You saved us.”
Sebastian was aware of a gnawing pain in his wrist. He was careful not to move it, but knew that at some point he would have to assess the damage. For now, he could only stand here, try to slow his heavy breathing and be thankful that they had reached safety.
Poppy spoke up again, her strong voice unusually wobbly. “How did you know the avalanche was coming?”
“It was just a feeling,” his own voice sounded too loud for the enclosed space. Snow fully blanketed the big window. They were utterly trapped.
“Well, thank goodness for your feelings, Sebastian Sachs.”
Poppy was trying to be brave but he could see her bottom lip was trembling. It was the idea that mere seconds had separated them from their current sanctuary and almost certain death.
Pictures flooded his mind of the sheer panic they would have endured watching the avalanche approach them if they had remained out on the slopes. There was small comfort in knowing this panic would have lasted for seconds at the most.
Acting entirely on impulse, Sebastian put out his good arm and pulled Poppy towards him. She submitted to his embrace with a whimper and he soon felt the hot sting of her tears as he bent his own face to hers. Her body was shaking, and he didn’t feel all that steady himself.
He gripped her closer and Poppy put both of her arms around his waist. They clung together, each gaining comfort from the other, for what seemed like an age. Sebastian held Poppy until he felt her trembling stop and her tears dry. Then she sniffed and shook back her hair, and Sebastian knew that she had recovered her composure.
Slowly they drew apart.

This is why I don’t ski! Well, that and the fact that I’m a complete clutz! I’d love to see how this turns out.

Hi Iris,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
You have, through the use of an avalanche, identified a fantastic way to build suspense, without relying on the threat of a villain! Poppy and Sebastian’s story, as a result, felt very unique. Just what we want! You did a great job, also, of developing the tension, in Sebastian and Poppy’s romantic relationship.

Word Count: 395
Kate nervously chewed the end of her pencil, as she looked at the letter. Hoping to find a clue. Someone wanted to frighten her into leaving the farm. She couldn’t ignore the evidence any longer. The first attempts she had shrugged off as accidents, now it was blatantly obvious that she was in trouble.

She read the note yet again, the crooked cursive almost seemed familiar.

“Next time you won’t be so lucky. Leave the farm now!”

Kate jumped as a knock at the door interrupted her worrying. She paused, heart racing, mentally chastising herself for not locking the old farm-house door… not that she was sure the ancient lock would prevent entry. Kate glanced around the kitchen, hoping to find a weapon of some sort. She grabbed a large kitchen knife, and silently sent a prayer to the heavens for protection. Kate slowly tip-toed to the door. The loud knock, sounded again, reverberating through the small house.

“Kate, are you home?” Jasper called, “I brought doughnuts from Howard’s Bakery.” Kate released a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. Despite her troubling thoughts, Kate couldn’t help smiling as she threw open the door. The warm glow from the wood fireplace illuminated Jasper’s strong jawline and dark brown eyes. Gosh, she could get lost in the depths of those eyes if she let herself. Kate shook her head, how could she even think about her childhood best friend like that… especially with the threatening note she just found. Kate had been away from home for years and was thankful she could easily pick up the friendship upon her return. She wasn’t going to jeopardize that by dreaming of a romantic relationship with him.
Jasper made his way to the large oak kitchen table, eyeing the note. “What’s this?” He asked, after a quick glance.
Kate bit her bottom lip. “I found it this afternoon” Kate replied hesitantly, wanting to be able to handle things on her own.
“Where?” Jasper asked, his voice deeper than before, nearly a growl. His features hardened as the smile fell away and he stepped closer to her. Close enough that she could feel the warmth radiating from him. Close enough that she could smell the clean, crisp pine scent on him. Close enough that she could sense the anger rolling off of him, anger that someone would dare threaten her.

Hi S. Sellinger,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
I like how, despite the threat that Kate has received, you manage to focus, also, on the tension in Kate and Jasper’s relationship. Great job! We are left, with lots of questions… Will Kate and Jasper be together? Where will their story go, next? We are, simply, in total suspense!

“What are you doing here?” Adam shouted as Lacey entered the room. He wiped perspiration from his forehead, working to disarm an explosive that could level the entire block.
“I made sure the building was clear.” She set a toolkit on the table.
Adam searched through the box and glanced at the timer. Two minutes and ten seconds. “I need something small to cut the wiring. Now get of here.”
Lacey crossed her arms. “I’m not leaving you. I hired you to find out who set me up and it won’t feel right if you get blown up because of me.”
Adam found a small pair of needle-nosed pliers in the box and tried to reach the kill switch through a small opening in the bomb’s housing. He bit back a curse and threw the pliers down. One minute and thirty seconds. “I can’t reach it. I swear if you don’t get out of here right now I’m going to throw you out the window!”
“I’m not leaving you. Tell me what we need so I’ll know what to look for. “
Adam growled in frustration as he ran his hand through his hair. He pointed to a small opening in the device. “This is shaped like a cone inside. It gets narrower for about six inches then there’s a wire that has to be cut. I can’t get my hand close enough.” Twenty seconds.
Lacey stared at the device for a couple of seconds then grabbed the pliers and kneeled beside Adam. She peeked inside the opening and slid her small hand inside. There was a snip, then silence.
“You are the most stubborn woman I have ever met,” Adam said as Lacey started to shake.
“Sorry,” she said as she sunk to the floor, arms around her knees and tears coming to her eyes.
Adam sat on the floor and pulled her into his lap, holding her gently against his chest. Lacey shifted closer and he realized how close he had been to losing her. Adam took a deep breath and rested his forehead against hers. “If you don’t want me to kiss you, you’d better speak up now.” Lacey didn’t move, but Adam heard her breath catch in her throat.
Leaning back, Adam pushed his hands into Lacey’s hair and covered her lips with his.

Hi Melissa,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
The time limit of a bomb, is a great way to bring immediate suspense, into Adam and Lacey’s story. We can’t help but feel, that time is running out! You have us on the edge of our seat, as we wait to find out, if they will be able to diffuse the bomb, in time!

It was darker than the Krubera Cave.   Not even a requisite safety lamp glowed.  Someone else was here. Stephen dropped to a squat, twisting his trusty rifle from his back into his hands. Lowering his night-vision goggles into place, he scrutinized his surroundings, prepared for the slightest movement. The acrid smell of burnt metal and construction was bitter upon his tongue and wrinkled his nose.  Maintaining a semi-crouch, he traversed the wall of the stairwell, then peered around the corner.

There, in the exact spot he had scoped out earlier that day, was a compact figure, dressed as Stephen was in black from head to toe, bent on one knee, huddled over a safety fence.    Balling his hands into fists and preparing to defend his territory, he jolted at the loud whoosh that emanated from his competitor’s position.

The tiny figure fell backwards from the recoil of the gun.

Stephen rushed to kick the gun away and spied out the opening.   Below, on the rooftop across the street, was Stephen’s target, prostrate and lying in a pool of blood.   Stephen’s breath came hot and heavy as he twisted to glare at the prone body beside him.   He grabbed the hem of the assassin’s balaclava and removed it.

“Laura?”   Fear replaced shock as he tore off his own head covering.    He bent to listen to her shallow breath.   His frantic hands searched her slender neck for the thread of a pulse, then travelled her body in a search of wounds.    He blinked back the water welling in his eyes.

A tiny moan escaped with her breath.   Stephen heaved an audible gasp of relief as he gathered her limp upper body onto his lap and cradled her in his arms.   The tear which had been threatening descended his cheek as he placed a gentle kiss upon her lips.

Laura’s eyes opened and closed several times, widened to two round moons, then softened as a slow sensuous smile curved her lips.

“Stephen.” She rasped as she lifted a feeble hand to caress his face.  Squeezing his eyelids together, he rested into her touch.

“What the hell are you doing here?”  He growled, though he sounded more resigned, even to himself.   

“Same as you, darling, it seems.” She whispered as she threaded her delicate fingers behind his neck and lowered his face toward hers.  “Same as you.”
Word count: 400

Hi Andree,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
You bring us, from the very first line, into a world of suspense! I love, in particular, the concept that you have created, for Stephen and Laura’s story. It was great to watch, the way that you entangle the romance, and the suspense of the story. The last line had me itching, to keep reading!
Fantastic job, Andree!

“Good afternoon. I’m Special Agent Kent Baylor,” he addressed the conference room of law enforcement officers. “I also possess a doctorate in chemistry. Today I’ll talk about what local law enforcement can do in the event of a chemical terrorist attack.”

The door at the back of the room opened. A woman dressed in jeans and a suit jacket too big for her stepped into the room. As she approached, he recognized her. Ellie. Friday, but she wasn’t dressed for work, and she looked heavier in the torso. She stopped in front of the podium, her back to the audience.

He covered the microphone with the palm of one hand. “Why–?”

She picked up his pen. Leaning over the podium, she wrote on his notes, I’M BUGGED.

Tears streamed down her cheeks and she wiped them with the backs of both hands. Laying a piece of paper on his notes, she turned it so he could read. “Come with me.”

He looked into her eyes. “I can’t–”

She tapped the note.


He looked from the note to her. She opened her jacket. He was no expert, but the bomb strapped to her torso looked complicated enough all the cops in the room couldn’t disable it. Taking the apparatus off her chest was out–four padlocks secured it.

“Don’t tell anyone why you’re leaving. Or who you’re going with. Or how you know me.” She paused, staring to her left as though trying to remember something. “Leave your gun. And phone.”

Her words sounded mechanical as though she had memorized her speech. Her eyes avoided looking into his. Did she fear for her life? For his? His heart broke in two. He lifted his hand from the mic while he removed his cell and Glock from his jacket pocket, setting them on the podium. “Sorry, folks. Emergency at home.”

He walked with her from the room to the elevator. Got on. Neither spoke as he took Ellie’s hand, held it for the ride.

A stretch limousine waited outside. The back door opened.

“Hello, Dr. Baylor. Join us.” Ornsted motioned for them to sit across from him. “Did you think I’d just let you leave? You know too much, with Miss Tate’s help, no doubt. You’ll pay for that, Dr. Baylor.” His beady eyes focused on Ellie. “We know your weakness.”

What can I say, I’m impressed! I could have used a few hints here and there about the attraction the leads might feel for one another (this is Romantic Suspense, after all), but other than that, what a submission. The danger is both clear and present, and the scene instantly grabs readers, forcing them to wonder what will happen next and how the hero and heroine will get away. Phenomenal work with this one!

Thank you for the feedback, Evan. As you can see, I’m struggling with the right balance of romance and suspense. Sometimes I feel I take one step forward only to go back two, but these challenges and the editorial feedback help a lot. So thank you for the challenges, too.

What are you up to, Tori?
The brake lights of the black Lexus shone through the dark.
Connor pulled over to the curb five cars back and watched as she parked and then doused the lights.
Wrong side of town for a woman like her. Run down public housing, the odd stand alone residence. Weeds growing everywhere, fences falling down. Like the city forgot about this
area, the streets were so full of potholes, every third street light burnt out.
He drummed his fingers against the steering wheel.
He knew what she was doing. He’d run background checks on each of her employees after he got their initial statements.
And, if he wasn’t mistaken, and he knew he wasn’t, Kevin lived in that little white bungalow on the corner. The gate hung broken from the gatepost. The light over the front door hung by
a wire, moths flew haphazardly into the dim bulb.
Damn it, Tori.
He’d told her to leave the detective work to him. Surprise.
She hadn’t listened.
He waited five minutes and then pushed his door open. He kept his head down and walked up to the driver side door so that she could see his approach in her mirror.
He rapped his knuckles against the glass.
“Open up, Tori.”
Ten seconds passed. “Go away, Connor.” Slouched in the front seat, she didn’t even turn her head in his direction.
“Open the door, Tori.”
“Go to the other side.”
Stubborn and head strong, that’s what she was.
“Unlock the door and move over.” He spoke slowly as if to an unruly child.
She made him wait ten seconds more before he heard the door unlock.
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
Dressed head to toe in black, he almost laughed at her attempt to be inconspicuous.Real subtle parked in a neighborhood like this in a luxury
Connor folded his tall frame behind the wheel. Good thing she’d pushed the seat back.
She glared at him across the dark interior.
“Still playing amateur detective, I see? Who are we today, Trixie Belden?”
“Go to hell.”
He chuckled at her venom. Her hands wrapped around a thermal mug, she kept her face turned away from him as she stared out the window.
“You know, Connor, your knowledge of girl super sleuths is admirable. Sure you didn’t want to be one when you grew up?”

Very light on the suspense, but fantastic work hinting at the growing romance and attraction between the two leads. You also have a solid grasp on writing dialogue, especially comedic repartee.

I would have liked to see more tension and danger. Your initial descriptions are very well-written and suggest that the neighbourhood they’re in may be a tad unsafe, but the actual scene that follows could’ve been found in any other series.

Carina was angry. Her father had not mentioned anything about attempts on his life. He kept the threats a secret. She was partner in the company with her father which should have made him share everything with her. To have to hear it in his office not by her father but from him. Eric, the same man she met last night did not sit well. The man of her dreams. What? Her father explained, If he was in danger, then she could be a target. He hired a team of men who were trained to deal with this type of situation.
Never taking her eyes away from Eric, as her father explained further. She wanted to scream I know who he is. Last night they had parted ways after they both mentioned they had meetings in the morning and laughed at how their Monday seemed so similar. Her heart remembered how he held her while they danced. He whispered sweet words into her ear making her insides tingle with desire. His arms were strong. His cologne intoxicating. After what she found out today, she still wanted to be in his arms. What a fool she had been. He used her to get more information. Unable to stand there and listen to either one of them she walked out of the office with both men behind her yelling out her name.
The elevator doors opened to allow her access inside. She pressed the button to the first floor hoping to get away and clear her head with some fresh air. The doors closed but not before Eric jumped in beside her. She asked, “What are you doing? I don’t want to speak with you. You lied to me” She turned to face the wall to avoid eye contact.
He grabbed her arm gently turning her towards him. He looked into her eyes holding her close enough to smell her vanilla scent. “I didn’t know it was you. The orders I received did not have photos until this morning.” Her eyes showed her disbelief. “It’s the truth. I didn’t know you were my assignment or your full name.” The elevator jerked pushing them both closer to the wall. Eric yelled, “Hold On” as he gripped her closer to him. Everything around them exploded. The elevator jolted quickly tossing them in the air then falling again to a halt. Everything went dark.

It can be quite a challenge being able to provide the needed background and context for a scene that’s not allowed to be any longer than 400 words. With that being said, the first half of this gets a bit bogged down in setting up your world.

It may have been more effective to start with Eric and Carina having just entered the elevator, with you interspersing past events in between their conversation with one another. As the romantic tension between them escalates, you can then cue the explosion! It’s a solid setup and all the pieces are there, just not in the ideal order.

Thank you for your feedback. This was actually the first time I condensed a scene to 400 words. There was a lot more to the scene that was cut. This was a great way to learn and get better. Thanks again.

Wrapping her arms about her middle, Allie tried to still the roiling in her stomach. It all felt so unreal, like something out of one of those action- packed movies or television shows.
Only it hadn’t been television, or a movie. It had been real. With a real person behind the wheel of the SUV as it went crashing down the embankment. A real person trapped inside as the vehicle exploded into a fireball.
Her breath caught, suddenly trapped in her throat. What if it had been more than just one person? What if it had been a family? Mother, father, children…
At the horrifying thought, her legs wobbled, and she began to crumple.
“Whoops.” The deep male voice was accompanied by a strong arm that encircled her waist, providing unexpected but much needed support.
Startled, Allie turned toward the man, this time the catch in her breath having nothing to do with thoughts of the accident. Short dark-brown hair, eyes a deep blue-gray, strong jaw and angular cheekbones covered in dark stubble… Tall dark and gorgeous defined.
Well, except for the bruise blooming just above his right eye. And the angry red gouges that looked as though someone had dragged very long fingernails across his cheek. Gouges which matched the ones just below a bulging bicep barely restrained by his T-shirt’s short sleeve, the T-shirt itself looking as though it had been dragged through the dirt.
Unease curled through her. What had made those scratches? And where had he come from so suddenly?
She was also overreacting.
He was just being nice, and instead of being grateful, she was being ridiculous. After all, he wouldn’t really try anything with THEM around, she told herself, shooting a glance toward the swarm of deputies and paramedics and fireman some thirty feet or so away.
“Uh, thanks, but I’m good now,” she muttered, feeling more than a little embarrassed now. She began to pull away, but rather than releasing her, his arm tightened, dragging her up against a wall of man and muscle and heat.
Fear raced through her, and she opened her mouth to shout out.
“Don’t,” he whispered, his breath against her ear sending hot little sparks skittering across her skin.
Then the sparks fizzled out, replaced with icy dread as he said, “I have a gun. Don’t make me use it.”

Allow me to echo Kelly when I say wow, colour me intrigued!

I really liked how you brought us right into the scene, moments after the car crash. Seeing everything from the heroine’s point of view is a great choice since we’re able to experience her unease, attraction, relief, and sudden dread right alongside her.

Although this isn’t a romantic scene, as such, it is still a very well-written one.

Ciara was shivering violently now. “My place is just around the bend. A hot shower will help.” Daniel kept one eye on the shoreline and the other on his passenger.
He docked the boat quickly, shoving the key in his jean pocket. “Okay, Ciara, it’s Ciara, right?”
Ciara nodded.
“I’m going to carrying you inside.”
“I can manage…” she began to stand up but swayed against the side of the boat instead. “Thanks.” She held out her hand.
Ciara found herself in a pair of solid and surprisingly gentle arms. As they made their way along a well-lit path, she couldn’t help but snuggle into his warm body. He opened the front door, locking it behind him, and headed upstairs.
Dang, but she was a pretty little thing. Daniel cleared his throat, “Do you have any idea how long you were in the water.”
She shook her head. “It was… late afternoon…when I went out on my paddleboard. ” Ciara said. Her shivers still racked her body. “Can I take off thith life jacket? It’s soaking.”
“Let’s wait. It’s keeping you warmer than you think.”
“I-I muth be heavy. Oh, dear, I sound drunk!” she said, alarmed.
“Your body is cold. I’m going to help warm you up. Can you stand up for a minute?” He asked.
She nodded and then watched in fascination as he tore off his tee-shirt and stripped to his underwear. She couldn’t bring herself to turn away. Instead, she watched as he adjusted the spray and helped her get into the shower with him. Her eyes went wide. “No way,” was all she could get out.
“I’m here to make sure you don’t pass out on my floor.”
She nodded then sighed as the heavenly spray engulfed her.
“You can take off that PFD. Good thing you were wearing it.”
Ciara nodded. She tried pulling at the zipper, but her fingers were too numb.
“Let me.” His hands held her cold dainty fingers. He kept telling himself he was keeping her warm. “What happened on the water?” he asked softly as he looked into eyes the color of storm clouds.
“A jet skier came out of nowhere. He clipped my paddleboard. I went flying. You rescued me.” She shrugged.
Daniel swore. “Can you describe him?”
She shuddered, “Yeah.”
“This prick has injured ten swimmers, but no one could identify him, until now.”

This is definitely one of the steamier submissions I’ve read (no pun intended, given the hot shower involved!), and a rescuer needing to warm up the rescuee is a fantastic premise. It also reflected a solid understanding of hypothermia and some research having been conducted.

While an irresponsible jet skier as the villain is quite a novel, it lacks the malicious intent that I feel is a key factor in the Romantic Suspense genre. Perhaps he may have been injuring swimmers on purpose, but it’s not immediately clear in the scene.

It was the witching hour. River House’s stone facade was unblinking against the Nor’easter that battered its shutters and pounded a tattoo over the heads of a dozen sleeping women. All the men had been shown the door by two o’clock, leaving them with only a dimly lit path as their guide.

I was the last one awake. Sleep did not come easily, relatively speaking. It was left to me to turn off the lamps one by one.


The voice was shocking in its depth, in the darkness. I had completed my turn around the first floor and was ascending the grand staircase when I heard it. I almost dropped the candle that served as my only protection now that gas had ceased flowing through the fixtures.

Billy Brouwer, chief of police, stood just feet away from me. My name was a command on his lips, the reverberation of it competing in my head with the amplified beat of my heart.

I stopped two stairs beneath him. My voice was as wavering as the taper’s flame.

“You’ll have to speak with Maggie,” I said. “She is emphatic that all inquiries must go through her.”

He moved closer, the veins on his forearms pronounced atop the overpowering muscles that pushed them to the surface.

“I’ll place my inquiry anywhere I see fit.”
The mocking euphemism sounded somehow filthier than if he had used the literal translation.

Suddenly a wet gale of wind howled through the front door I had so purposely locked. Icy droplets of water rendered the air visible. The fog looked like teeth as it rose up the steps two at a time to bite at my ankles. I teetered on the edge, Billy’s looming sneer in front of me and the unholy coldness at my back.

But when I lost my footing, it was a sudden warmth that found me.

It had to be Levi. And it was.

“I’ve got you,” the officer said as he caught me, my back braced against the hot thrum of his chest. His breath was the only thing that was unsteady when he exhaled against my ear. His panting protectiveness gave me the courage to dig my heels into the mahogany step above his. Steadying myself, I turned into him so that we were chest to chest, face to face, on an incline that leant equality to our standing.

I hope my interpretation of this scene is correct, because I am always (pleasantly) surprised to see Historical submissions when that genre isn’t explicitly stated in the challenge!

You’ve set the scene beautifully, allowing readers to see, hear, and feel what’s it like to be in the River House. Those descriptions also create a sense of unease that culminates with the appearance of who I’m assuming is the villain of the peace.

As a final note, I liked how you had the hero entering the scene at the last moment, helping to ease the suspense by degrees. Wonderful job.

Hi, Evan — Thanks so much for the encouragement. It is much appreciated. And your interpretation is correct; this one is a historical piece, circa 1910, set in a brothel. These guys have been in my head for quite a while now, so it was fun to finally put them to work for 400 words!

Chapter One: A Snake is a Snake…
“‘If only life were like a picture. Frozen in time. Eternal. Perfected. Perfect.
But it is not.’”- ‘Picture Imperfect’ poem. -Joyce Hitchye
The grey and silver accented curtains fluttered with the incoming breeze from the half way
opened white wooden window pane. The sudden change in temperature sent a slight chill down
my spine. I protectively wrapped my arms around my waist. I sat down on the bed for a brief
minute. I pulled the covers back as I scooted underneath them.
I proceeded to lay down in the grey and purple down covered bed and covered up with the
billowy covers. I glanced at the nightstand that was near the bed. My fingertips perused the silver
framed picture as I gazed at the attractive muscular man who was my husband.
His sinewy muscles strained from underneath the light-weight of his tan V-neck t-shirt. His
hawk-like gaze stared back at me as his brilliant smile seemed to taunt me with an open invite.
Briefly, I closed my eyes. I felt an arm protectively wrap around my waist. I instinctively
snuggled my head against his bicep. Our breathing was in sync as he gently placed a kiss on
my forehead and adjusted the blanket. I felt evenly covered. I wiggled sideways slightly.
Our entire bodies touched one another in some way. His left hand caressed the
blanket that was over my skin. Somehow, I could still feel the heat of his touch. I slowly
turned around to face him. I widened my eyes. I slowly used the same finger that I had touched
the picture frame with to caress the dimple in his cheek. His smile broadened.
“I missed you so much today.” I confessed to him in a whisper.
He nodded and stroked my cheek back.
I inquired, “Do you have to go away, again?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” He admitted.
I looked down.
He gently lifted my chin. “You know no matter how far away I am from you,” he paused. “I
will always find a way to protect you.”
I reluctantly looked back up at him, “I know.”
He delicately wrapped both arms around me as if he was holding silk.
The room suddenly went pitch black. A loud boom could be heard from outside of the window.
Rick tossed the pillows on the floor. He tossed me wrapped in blankets on top.

Hi Joyce, I thought you did a very good job lulling the reader into a false sense of security with this piece. The details surrounding the moment between husband and wife are quite lovely, and make the sudden tension and excitement that much more gripping.

If I had any suggestions it would be to watch your format before submitting, as even the most well-written scene can suffer if it ends up being too difficult to read.

“Paige?” a voice asked, but before she could answer, a towering man with a square jaw, curly black hair, and eyes as blue as the Indian Ocean, grabbed her by her hand, flung her into the bow of an awaiting motorboat, and whisked her away from the mayhem of the arrival lounge of Male’s airport.

Steadying herself in the bow of the boat, Paige struggled to resist the handsome stranger. However, she was memorized by the tall figure’s cleft chin, piercing cobalt eyes, and wild black mane. Regardless, she was hired to do a job, and the job was not to melt into the hands of this handsome man she’d just met who was whisking her away over the still waters of the Indian Ocean.

Paige straightening herself in the yoga wear she’d hoped to present herself as the yoga instructor. She’d been hired to teach yoga at the most exclusive resort, The One and Only. What was daunting about her new job was that it was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, away from civilization, and a gazillion miles away from home.

Paige studied her old black suitcase with its wobbly wheels. She’d managed to pull her bag off the luggage carousel at Male’s Airport before a Porter could relieve her of her baggage. Her funds were limited, and she couldn’t afford to tip anyone for anything. She was fine, thank you very much. She was determined to be an independent woman. Now, as she looked at her tattered suitcase, one of her only possessions, she grasped the handle tightly as the handsome stranger extended his hand and helped her from the motorboat that transported them from the airport, across the Indian Ocean, and onto the tiny island resort.

“Paige,” the stranger whispered in her ear, “I understand you’re a double agent.”

“Um,” Paige stuttered, struggling to understand his words. “I was hired to teach yoga to the resort’s client,” she stammered.

“No,” he said. “You’re purpose as an agent here is bigger than you think.” He stroked her hair, ran his hand down her back, and turned her towards the computer. “Tell me, Miss Paige, what do you really know.”

Hi Judith, while your submission was almost sent in before the established deadline, it was still submitted late. To be fair to all of the other participants you won’t be receiving editorial feedback this time around, so sorry about that.

Jim was there, face down in the shallow water, one long arm draped over a rock the other beneath him.
She stumbled toward him, praying as she went.

“Uncle Jim,” she whispered, dropping to her knees beside him and rolling him to his back. The ice cold emptiness of his gaze told her it was too late to save him.
A twig snapped behind her and she straightened, her eyes searching the brush. She could feel the man’s presence and hear the panting breath he tried to control. He was there, somewhere, watching her, waiting.
“Allie!” Marcus’s roar echoed through the silent woods, and she let out a shuddering breath.
“Marcus!” she screamed, just as the man leaped from his hiding place toward her. A whoosh of air as his arm sliced past her and he disappeared into the night like a ghost.
Something warm and wet spilled over her neck and she lifted her hand to it, feeling the sticky thickness of blood.
“No!” Marcus cried, finally appearing before her, catching her as her legs gave way beneath her. He pressed a glove-covered hand over the wound, his eyes dark and worried.
“Hang on, Sweetheart,” he ordered.
“They’re dead,” she whispered. and he nodded, pulling out his phone and calling 911.
“I know. But you just look at me. That’s right, Al. Just look at me.”
She tried to obey and focus on his face. She seemed to be drifting away. From a distance, she heard him bark out the address. Her eyes fluttered shut and she feel deeper into his familiar embrace.
“Tell them to hurry,” he commanded. “My wife’s been stabbed.”
“Ex-wife,” she corrected breathlessly without opening her eyes. “I’m your ex-wife.”

Hi Gloria, I hate to say that your submission was sent in on Monday, when the due date was Sunday evening. As a result you won’t be eligible to receive editorial feedback this week. Sorry!

Evan – Thank you for taking the time to read my entry. This was my first time participating in a challenge and I really enjoyed it. It was also my first time writing a romantic suspense combination. I look forward to improving this story portion and submitting this in the future. Thank you again.

He saw it happen, as if in slow motion. Through the lights and the smoke he saw it. He saw her take off, her body weightless, her beauty and elegant energy bursting from her heart as she wrung every ounce of emotion out of the moment. A feather light pirouette and grand fete melted into a frenzy of beautiful foot work. That’s when it happened. That’s when the support of her pointe shoe gave out, the horrible wobbly twist of her ankle. Up on one leg a grand devlope with her long legs stretched to perfection. He heard the gasps backstage from colleagues, stage management the ballet master. He saw the pain flicker across her face, watched as her shoe clearly sank beneath her and watched as she melted to the stage floor. His mind was racing he couldn’t keep up with it. He could see the pain in her face, with her delicate cheek pressed against the floor, the tears, the lip biting monumental pain seared across her face. No one knew, no one in the company knew. They had been good at hiding their romance. It was all too new, too soon to let the world in. Right now Shane didn’t care. His composure was kept as he flew across the stage to his love. His heart pounding so hard he could hear the blood in his ears. He knelt dramatically over her, trying to hide his face from the audience. He whispered in her ear.
“Amelia, darling, my Amelia, I’m gonna get you off stage.” Amelia turned her head and looked at Shane through watery eyes. “No get me up. I have to finish.” Shane shook his head. “Shane…we can finish together.” Amelia’s voice was light and breathy. He met her gaze and nodded.
The was a rumble of concern from the audience. Hysterical dance members were gesticulating wildly from the wings. Suddenly the blue lights and light smoke seemed dense, the air was electrified, the audience held their breath as Amelia sat up gracefully and gave Shane her hand. He pulled her onto her good leg, aware of her fragile she was, her hot body molded to his as they swayed in the lights. To him she was pure beauty, he was aware that every lift, every muscle he used was to keep Amelia graceful and off her ankle. Her eyes met his as another pirouette landed her face to face with him. He could feel her heart pounding, see the discomfort. Something about this moment made him feel protective, passionate about this beauty in his arms, this shy creature he was now lifting into the thick blue lights. Dancing together they went completed off choreography. They had danced alone in the quite of his home to know their own routine. She rolled out of his grip, and fell down into his arms as he carried her stage centre. With an elegant extension of her long leg she stood en pointe, the painful ankle held delicatly in a long extended arabesque. The whole time Shane’s deep chocolate eyes never left her face, he watched for the slightest flicker, her teary eyes hurt him deeply, his heart pounded. What would happen? Had Amelia broken her ankle? Bruised her toes after the point shoes support collapsed? He glanced back stage, he saw a medic and the physiotherapist watching in horror as they danced on. The fear that ran through him and the severity of the situation had flooded across the auditorium. The audience were on the edge of their seats, some with their hands over there mouths in disbelief. The final moments of the pas de duex loomed, the music roared to a halt and he turned her towards him and melted to the ground with her. There was an ear splitting cheer from the audience and Amelia burst into tears of relief and pain as Shane gathered her up and kissed her face, her hair, her eyes in front of everyone! The audience, at this unabashed show of love and support, went wild! Amelia hung onto his neck for support she looked up at him. Knowing the damage and feeling the pain she whispered in his ear. ” My career may be over, but I’m glad I got to dance my last dance with you.”

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