23 Mar

Runaway Match

Here’s a short story I wrote for the Eight Ladies Writing Christmas Challenge: write a short story of no more than 500 words including ‘Derbyshire’ and at least three of the following: Darcy, Rhinoceros, Woolly, Admire, Love, Mine, Villain, Volcano, Ghost. Extra kudos for including more than three, and kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

“Goddamn it, Darcy, this is no time to behave like a gentleman!” Rhett Favre snarled. Barely a handful of grains left in the game timer, one score behind, and still his best friend hesitated.

“I admire your ingenuity, Rhett.” Darcy Moncrieff looked over to the far corner of snow-covered Chatsworth Field, where Lady Elizabeth stood, desperately waving her woolly white pom-poms. “I love her more than my honor.” He stood tall and squared his broad shoulders. “Very well. Let us do it.”

What the hell had the Duke of Derbyshire been smoking when he decided to offer his daughter’s hand in marriage to the winning captain of the Christmas football game? He’d surely never expected Read more »

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23 Mar

The Vampire Strikes Back

Last year, I tried out Alphabot, the story word generator from the 500 Words children’s writing competition. Michaeline Duskova, my friend and fellow blogger at Eight Ladies Writing, said she’d have a go if I did, so the bet was on. My words were butterfly, vampire, witch, invaluable, tender. Here’s what I came up with.

If James had still been human, he wouldn’t have lasted five minutes out there. The vampire stood immobile on the tiny ledge, impervious to the screaming wind and spray from the waves breaking around the base of the tower.

Far below a door opened and the witch emerged, arms aloft, drinking in the tempest. Then she was gone, riding the storm towards the distant cliffs.

James popped open the latticed window and slid inside. So far, so good. His heart wasn’t thumping, but he knuckled the spot on his stake-proof vest all the same. Kevlar had proved surprisingly useful in the afterlife.

“Excuse me, sir?”

The voice was feminine and faintly Spanish. It sounded harmless, but he wasn’t stupid enough to fall for that. He Read more »

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16 Mar

Home Advantage

An excerpt from my contribution to Stories For Homes, an anthology of 63 short stories of all styles and genres on the theme of ‘Home.’ There are families, lovers, friends, neighbours, and a surprising number of dead bodies. It’s an excellent read, and as a bonus, all profits from the sale of the anthology go to support the UK housing and homelessness charity Shelter.

Suzanne Wilson stood in the marbled lobby and prayed for patience as her nineteen year-old meal-ticket squared up to a man more than twice his age. The job should have been easy. Show the kid (sorry, client) a selection of the best rental properties in the area. Wait for him to choose the one he liked. Send humungous invoice to his management company. Receive payment, placate bank manager, high-fives all round.

The building was brand new, but the concierge was old-school, suited and booted, with shining shoes, ramrod posture, and a military-standard haircut. His face was professionally blank, but his feelings about her client as a potential tenant were crystal clear.

Johan Moore gave the old soldier a final scowl and spun round on his good leg. His sweat pants fell even lower on his hips, showing a good three inches of underwear bearing his name on the waistband.  He hitched them up, and they slid back down. Read more »

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05 Mar

The War of Rose

A bruising encounter from the formative years of my heroine, Rose. Her story starts nearly a decade later, but relations between Poppy and Erica do not improve in the intervening period.

           The shop door-bell chimed an unlikely call to arms, but Poppy Harding took one look at the petite blonde wiping her shoes precisely on the entrance mat and knew the truce was about to be broken.

            Erica had surprise on her side, but Poppy had home advantage, so she abandoned her position behind the sales desk, crossed the no-man’s-land of antiques and curios, and went on the offensive.

            ‘I assume this isn’t a social visit.’ She crossed to the door, locked it, and flipped the sign to Closed.

            ‘Hardly,’ her sister-in-law said. ‘Though it would be polite to pretend.’

            Erica was in full battle dress, navy and cream cruise wear loaded with gleaming brass buttons, neat bob shining and salon-dried, and Poppy wondered for the millionth time why the hell her freewheeling, fun-loving brother had ever wanted to make a baby with this woman.

            She took a seat in her favourite Biedermeier armchair and directed her sister-in-law into its twin. Erica sat delicately, legs neatly aligned, one ankle behind the other. En garde.

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11 Feb

Love Story

A short anecdote from Robbie, the hero’s best friend in the story I’m currently revising.

Eight years ago today, I fell in love.

Not that you’d have known, if you’d been there. Think midnight in mid-January. A pair of twentysomethings, one Italian/Scots mongrel and one Hibernian thoroughbred, legging it from Camden’s finest kebab shop to my best mate Ian McKenzie Kinross’s place.

I stopped dead in my tracks. Didn’t feel the icy, horizontal rain. Didn’t hear Mac, asking me what the fuck I was doing.

Could be interesting,’ was all I said. He grunted a reply, and we set off again.

There are rules about manly displays of emotion. I’d learned to control mine back when all I had to do was keep my zits at bay and hope my voice wouldn’t break at the wrong moment. When I suddenly stopped watching Nigella lick her lips, and started checking out her hands. When I lived a double life, glued to Great Chefs Television on YouTube with my bedroom door closed, hiding my ma’s Good Housekeeping under the mattress.

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11 Feb

Sasha goes to school

In the story I’m working on, Sasha is a significant secondary character. By then, she’s grown into a twenty-one year-old monster with a billion dollars, a business empire and a point to prove.

At the age of twelve, I went alone to my half-yearly meeting with my father. Until then, it had been my nanny’s responsibility; all I had to do was stand, listen, and keep quiet whilst she catalogued my progress (supported by evidence, no opinions required), tried to emphasize my achievements, took a verbal flaying, and was given her objectives for the next semester. Crying wasn’t allowed, and before each ordeal we practised and practised until I could bear any attack, no matter how personal, without flinching.

Diana, my father’s assistant and long-term mistress, watched me eagerly for any sign of weakness or distress; I knew she’d find nothing. Eventually the sleek phone on Diana’s desk buzzed: ‘Send her in.’

Father sat at the far end of the library with his back to the cathedral windows, a dark figure framed by the late afternoon light. Gathering all my courage, I walked steadily across the polished floor until I stood in front of his desk. He didn’t invite me to sit, so I stood and waited.

‘I hear you want to go to school in Switzerland.’

Justifying myself would have been a mistake, so I nodded once, thanking my lucky stars that he’d decided to hold the meeting in English, when it could easily have been French or Russian. I kept my eyes fixed on a point just above his chin, reached into my leather satchel, pulled out the envelope with the application papers, and passed them over.

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