This is going to be so fun. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’ve been working on several projects~four, to be exact~and I need your VOTES at the end of the post to choose which one to focus on now! Below you’ll see the four different snippets. Please read and then make your choice! Let’s spread the word about this. I’ll leave the poll open until Saturday, November 2nd at noon.
Okay, let’s get started.
The minute I made contact with him, I knew I was in trouble. Steam was coming out of his nose and when my leg rounded over his body and I got in place, his muscles spasmed with electricity. If I’d cared enough about living, I would have gotten off right then. Walked away from it all. In my state of mind, I had no business trying to win the world championship.
Pride and stupidity—aren’t they one and the same?—kept me gripping the rope. When the bell sounded and we bounded out of the chute, there were three or four seconds that I thought I had a chance. It quickly went to hell.
Maverick, one of the top rank stock, was a bull that I’d managed to avoid for the past two years. Call it fate or call it luck—whatever it was—it seemed to be changing. Maybe it was my death wish that had finally brought me to this moment. I certainly was sick of living without her. What was the point of 1.5 million if I could never see her face again?
It’s this kind of thinking that kills a bullfighter.
When Maverick’s back legs went straight up in the air and he started kicking, my grip loosened. I was going down. I half-heartedly looked to his shoulder blades. Wherever you look is where you’re going to fall. Just as I made an attempt to right myself, he reared his head back and my shoulder and his horn collided. I flew across the dirt, bones breaking as I landed and blood came splurting out. Maverick and I made eye contact. The last thing I saw was him running toward me with drool flying and one horn hanging. I heard more bones crunch as he stepped on me; the equivalent of a car being demolished by a semi.
The next thing I remember was a bright light, but damn it all, it wasn’t heaven.
I closed my eyes and willed away my breath. Every single cell in my body hurt. I just thought I didn’t want to live before, now I was desperate to just die already.
“Mr. Hart, can you hear me? Open your eyes, if you can.”
I groaned and squinted as I opened them slowly. A woman with her hair pulled back in a tight bun looked down at me, her eyes huge behind her glasses and full of concern. She wore a white coat and her name tag said Dr. Sutherland. I groaned again.
“What am I doing here? Dr. Freeman looks after me, no one else.” I shut my eyes tight.
“You were sent to my hospital,” she said. She raised my eyelids and shined a light in my eyes.
“Hell no. Leave me alone.”
“Mr. Hart, you nearly died and I’m happy to see your temper is still intact. You’re gonna need that to get through the next few months. The only thing holding your arm is muscle and ligament. Your collarbone is broken, nine ribs are broken…your nose is looking a little worse for the wear,” she paused and gave me a wink. A wink! “I daresay it’s your temper that will get you back on your feet once again. From what I hear, you keep trying to kill yourself.”
I reached up, good arm moving way too slow for how fast my brain was working, and grabbed her wrist. “I said leave me alone.”
She put her flashlight in her pocket and pulled my fingers off her wrist one by one. “Suit yourself. I will be back.”
2. BOW & FADE
It was true lust the moment he saw her. Her movements owned the music. From one song to the next, he watched as she seemed completely enraptured in the rhythm. Other dancers surrounded her, professional, skilled dancers, but she was the one who stood out. The girl could move.
“I don’t care who you pick—they all look good. But you have to keep that one.” Vander tapped the choreographer’s notes on number four, Roxie Taylor.
“Oh, that’s a given.” Anthony rolled his eyes. “She could make even you look like you know what you’re doing.”
“Watch it.” Vander tweaked Anthony’s fedora so it fell over his eyes.
“Trying to do a job here,” Anthony said as dramatically as he could, which was pretty dramatic.
Vander stood watching the dancers until Anthony raised his hand and told them to stop. He thanked them and called the next group auditioning. They had another few hours of tryouts. Vander had seen enough; he usually avoided the whole scene until he knew who Anthony had chosen. Extra guards were everywhere in the theater, and each dancer had been instructed to only speak to Anthony if they had any hopes of being part of the tour. No autographs from Vander would be given, no pictures, no exceptions. So far, only one girl had tried to get past a guard backstage and she had been escorted out.
Vander walked to the back of the theater and went to the green room, still thinking about the girl, Roxie. She made him want to forget the man he’d become. Just a year ago he would have made sure he got her into his bed. A girl who could move like that. Hell. The things he could do with her. He contemplated going back in the auditorium to see if Anthony would have her dance again, but knew it would probably be a while before that happened.
They’d been in Dallas for two days, trying a different talent pool for this tour. He had holed up in the theater or on the bus during the day, avoiding the crowds that seemed to be multiplying at their hotel. This would be his fifth world tour and as much as he loved singing for thousands every night to packed-out stadiums, he was ready for a break. A long break. Not exactly the right way to be thinking before the stringent rehearsal schedule began in a couple weeks.
Grabbing his sunglasses and ball cap, he walked back into the hall. A little boy with curly brown hair had materialized in the short time he’d been in the room. Vander wondered how he’d gotten through security, but he didn’t mind him being back there. He wasn’t bothering anyone. He was playing with a ball on the floor and didn’t look up until Vander was standing right by him.
“Hey there. Whatcha playin’?”
“My family says I can’t talk to strangers,” he lisped all his S’s, “but I know who you are so I guess it’s okay.”
“Well, they’re right. Are they here?”
The little boy nodded and then a smile took over his face. And Vander was finished, done for, smitten.
“Wanna play jacks?”
“Sure. I haven’t played with jacks since I was little—I never see kids play it anymore.”
“I do. All the time. Mom says I have a ‘diction.” He bounced the ball.
“Hmm, well an addiction to jacks wouldn’t be the worst thing, I don’t suppose. So, I’m Vander and who are you?”
“Really? George? Like Curious George?”
He laughed. “No, I’m Harry.”
“Harry. Oh, okay. So which is it? George or Harry?”
“Mavid? Is that even a name?”
“Nooooo, you’re crazy, Mavid’s not a name.”
“You’re starting to look like a Mavid actually, I can see it now.”
That wiped the grin off his face. “I do not. Take that back.”
Vander held both hands up. “Whoa, dude. Just playing the game here.”
The little boy laughed. “Just kiddin’. Whoa, dude, loosen up.” He looked at Vander then and stood up. “I’m gonna get a drink of water. I’ll be right back. And you can call me Leo.”
3. JACK & KATY
I fell in love with her toes, and specifically, the hairs on her two big toes. I rode my bike past her house every day the summer I was nine, hoping for a glimpse of her. She was an angel with dark brown hair that hung down her back and big brown eyes that took over her entire face. Her lips looked red as a cherry slush at Tastee-Freeze, and when she smiled at me, I felt a twinge in my gut. The good kind of twinge.
An older woman of fourteen.
She never made me feel like there was any difference in our ages at all. We’d sit on her front porch, and I’d stare at her beautiful feet, wishing I could reach out and touch them. We’d talk for hours about everything and nothing. She was the only one who ever heard me.
My brother, Larry, hassled me about it every chance he could get. He was a year younger than Katy and I’m pretty sure he had a crush almost as big as mine. The difference was, he thought he had a chance with her.
“You been over at Katy’s house again, Jack? Whatcha think she’s gonna see in you? A baby, that’s what.” And he’d laugh his grating laugh that never ceased to make my insides shrivel up and die a little.
“I’m gonna grow up and marry her one day,” I’d vow to anyone who would listen, excluding Katy, of course. Although, I’m pretty sure she did catch wind of it at some point. If she did, she still treated me the same and I appreciated that.
My life at home was complicated. I was the middle child and never wanted. I know a lot of middle children feel that way, but with me it was true. Every single birthday, my mother always tells about how hard she cried when I was born because I wasn’t a girl. She had her boy, Larry, and to my parents he was the golden son, even though there’s not much nice to say about him at all. And a few years after I came along, little Dee came and they got who they wanted.
My Uncle Roy and Aunt Edna saved me. They weren’t able to have children and they wanted me. I’d go stay with them on the farm and cry every time they took me home. Mama left me so long at Aunt Edna’s one time that eventually, my aunt and uncle went to my parents and asked if they could please just keep me. That seemed to snap Mama out of it for a little while, long enough to realize my value as a helper. She said I was the only one who could do a job right, so she put me to work. I’d still escape to Uncle Roy and Aunt Edna’s house every chance I could get.
Around eleven, I got a job at the grocery store. As soon as school was over, I’d rush off to my job and work until closing. My time with Katy was a little more sparse from then on, although I did see her at church. She had this one dress: yellow with a blue collar and the way her hair stood out on that yellow made me see stars. She still was just as friendly as she always had been, but she was starting to go out with boys. Butch was one boyfriend, and he mooned around town like a scalded dog when they broke up. I’ve never been happier.
The real trouble began when I turned eleven. Katy began dating a boy and I could tell this one was different. She got a look in her eye when she talked about him, and the times he was in town for the weekend, she fairly glowed. It crushed me. And I was working too hard that summer to barely even see her. But the next summer, when she told me she was getting married, I had to leave in a hurry so she wouldn’t see me cry.
The year I turned thirteen, I sat at the back of the church when she got married, head bent, angrily swiping tears faster than they could fall. Before they could walk back down the aisle, husband and wife, I ran out of the church before she could see me.
I got home late that night, my face streaked where the tears had fallen as I ran. I don’t know how long I ran, but long enough to turn into a man.
When I walked in the front door, my brother said, “Who you gonna marry now, Jack?” and his shoulders shook as he laughed. I walked up to him and slugged him right in the nose. Knocked him flat. It was the only time I felt good that day, and that was but a vapor when Daddy got ahold of me for fighting.
4. TWO LEFT GUNS
I freeze. And then adrenaline I didn’t know I had kicks in, and I begin hauling Patrick’s body into the bathroom. Don’t ask me why—I apparently lost my brain around the time a man died on me. I leave him in the floor and fold his legs a little, so he’ll fit in there when I close the door. There are three brisk knocks on the office door. I hurriedly walk out of the bathroom and toward the desk as the office door opens.
I hear Oliver’s voice before I see him. That smooth, buttery British accent that makes me swoon every single time I hear it. Oliver Strong.
“Oh, Bess. Hello. Didn’t know you were in here. Sorry to interrupt. Oh, uh, looks like Patrick isn’t here anyway…”
I open my mouth, but nothing comes out for a full minute. He clears his throat and I finally choke out, “Oh, um, well. Oliver. I didn’t see—I didn’t know you were…in town.” I smooth down my dress and do another swipe under my eyes just in case I missed some of the smudged makeup.
My nervousness has nothing to do with the dead man in the bathroom. I always become a bumbling fool around Oliver. I have had a crush on him since the company Christmas party two years ago. I had a humiliating fall over some stray tinsel and if it hadn’t been for Oliver’s gangly arm reaching out to catch me, I would have knocked over the ice sculpture filled with spiced punch.
I don’t even care that he’s the most awkward man I’ve ever met.
Oliver crinkles his nose ever so slightly, which makes his glasses sit just a teensy bit higher. I love it when he does that.
“Yes.” He seems to understand what I meant even though I never got it out. “That is a fantastic dress, Bess,” he says shyly and clears his throat again.
My face burns as fiery as my hair. “Thank you.”
His eyes narrow slightly on my dress and I shrink inside, wondering if he sees any blood.
I look down at his hands and see the file he clutches. “Can I help you with something?”
“Well, I’d hoped for a word with Patrick, but I can come back. I’ll be in the office until a week from Wednesday, so there will be plenty…” He trails off.
Ten days. Ten days he’ll be around. Suddenly, the day doesn’t seem quite so bad.
“I see. Well, feel free to enlist my help. I’m free for any favors…” I choke up when I realize what just left my mouth. I turn around so he can’t see the mortification on my face. It’s times like these that I really wish I could be a delicate swan who could just float right out of the office. Unfortunately, there is no hiding nor floating where I’m concerned.
“Rock and roll. Right. Very good. Thank you, Bess. I will come back. Carry on.”
I turn around to see him backing out of the room.
“Oliver!” I jump at the sound of my own voice.
Oliver stops immediately. “Yes, Bess.”
I smile in spite of myself. My dad used to always say ‘yes, Bess’ in a silly voice, throwing it in as he’d quote Dr. Seuss lines to me. Yes, Bess, there’s a fox in my socks…one fish, two fish, yes, Bess, a blue fish!
“I could use some help.”
“Of course,” he smiles kindly, “happy to help. What do you need?”
“Well…” I pinch my nose between my fingers for a second and hope the growing headache will go away. “It’s crazy, but…” My stomach does a nervous turn over and I feel nauseated again. I look down and Oliver’s large shoes swim in and out of focus as he nears me. “I’m not feeling so-”
And that’s the last thing I say before I hit the ground.
All work copyrighted by Willow Aster
Please choose your top pick Slinger, Bow & Fade, Jack & Katy, Two Left Guns