I’m slinging words on the new project I’m considering for the 3/15 deadline. The first 20K is very solid. But I have two possible difficulties to deal with.
1. Word count. I’m already over 26K and I can only play with 35K.
2. Content and tone.
This is supposed to be for a Christmas call, and yeah, the holiday does play an important part in the story. But the tone and content of this “Christmas” story isn’t very ho-ho-ho-happy holidays, if you know what I mean.
I’m more of a Blood and Shadows kind of girl. Even at Christmas.
I’m also fighting the hero something fierce. Well, fighting isn’t quite the right word. He’s cooperating way better than Sig – I got 6K today. Yep! *boggles* Words aren’t a problem right now. It’s what he keeps edging toward. I’m not prepared to discuss it yet, because honestly, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do. Do I take the road less traveled…and definitely the harder sale? Or do I stick to the chosen path, even though it’s overgrown and twisty?
I’m not exactly the safe path kind of writer, even when I try really hard to be.
But who knows. The market’s a crazy beast. In the end, I have to be true to myself, and despite these struggles, I’ve been true to the hero who keeps wanting to lurk in the shadows. He’s still dark and as unpolitically correct as most of my heroes. Whether the hints he keeps trying to drop to me are meaningful or not, I guess I’ll find out.
I haven’t posted anything about this project yet, so I’ll share the opening scene below to give you just a taste of this holiday craziness I’m working on.
You could tell a lot about a man by watching him handle his dog. Working as a receptionist at a vet clinic, I saw all kinds of men come through our doors. Sometimes the dog came charging into the office, tangling up his owner’s legs in the leash, ignoring any sort of command. Big dog, little dog, it didn’t matter. Some men just didn’t know how to handle a pet. I didn’t mind those dogs or their owners, even if I often had to clean up some odorific messes around the office once they were gone.
It was the dogs who came in cringing with their tails between their legs that worried me.
Those dogs–and their masters–often gave me nightmares, sometimes so bad I seriously thought about changing professions before I completed my vet tech training. Not that I suspected the dogs were being outright abused–Dr. Wentworth was very careful about ensuring the safety of her charges. It just broke my heart to think any sweet, devoted dog wasn’t loved unconditionally with patience and understanding.
Dr. Wentworth had lots of clients, but none of them were like Sheba’s human. As queenly as her namesake, Sheba strolled in like she was entering a world-class dog show instead of her vet’s office. A king shepherd in prime condition, she could have torn the place up before I could even clear my desk at the front. Yet she sat at her master’s feet and looked up at him, ears perked, tail wagging.
“Good girl,” he murmured in a low, sweet voice that still managed to thrum with power.
Power that made me clench my thighs together. Oh, to have that delicious rumbling voice heap such praises on me.
Charles MacNiall wasn’t your typical tall, dark and handsome sort of man. His hair–while dark–was curly and a little too long for today’s styles, and while he was taller than me, that wasn’t really saying much since I’m barely more than five feet tall. His physical size wasn’t impressive, but he was lean and tight and hard. He had the strength, both physically and mentally, to be alpha to a hundred-plus pound, extremely active and strong dog.
More importantly, he had presence. He wore an aura of controlled energy like a force field about him. Even though he stood on the opposite side of the receptionist counter, I could feel that warm power licking at my attention. His energy was a compelling heat that made me want to curl up at his feet just like Sheba. Always mindful of his power, he rarely turned the full force of his gaze on me, as though he sensed that I was far too susceptible.
Kind and gorgeous, he allowed me to peek at him without trying to draw me out or to catch me staring. In fact, he seemed oblivious to anything other than Sheba’s health, which suited me fine.
I’d probably fall apart if the man looked at me.
My cheeks flushed and I concentrated fiercely at the computer screen, hoping he thought I was merely shy, not appalled at my own stupid weakness. It didn’t matter how many times he came in since I’d been working here. He always hit me like a sledgehammer between the eyes.
I held my breath for several moments until I felt more in control, and then I turned and gave him my best customer service smile without exactly meeting his gaze. “Good afternoon, Mr. MacNiall. Dr. Wentworth is almost ready for you. You’re our last client today.”
He kept his gaze directed down at his dog, but he smiled, flashing a killer dimple in his cheek. “I’m not in a rush.”
It was all I could do not to let out a ridiculous little sigh of pleasure. I soaked him in quickly–the way his curly hair tumbled down across his forehead, his full, sensual lips, the warmth in his dark eyes. His cheeks and nose were ruddy, his hair windblown more than usual, like he’d been outside a long time. If he were younger, I would’ve guessed he’d been sled riding for hours, even though there was hardly enough snow to make it worthwhile.
As if he’d heard my thoughts, he said, “I’m playing hooky today, much to Sheba’s glee. She’s had me at the park all day.”
On Christmas Eve Eve, our unpredictable Missouri weather had finally chilled enough to be called winter, putting me in an extremely rare holiday mood. It had to be a temporary sugar stupor that made me open my mouth. “We’ve got a pot of hot chocolate in the back. Would you like a cup to warm you up?”
“I’d love one, thanks.”
I bit my lip to keep from cursing out loud. I wasn’t supposed to engage him in conversation. It was too risky. I certainly wasn’t supposed to serve him anything. That led my wayward fantasies down a twisty narrow road of snake pits and creepy caverns. Relax, I ordered myself sternly. It’s just a cup of cocoa. I’m not hitting on him. He’s not hitting on me. This is just a nice friendly offer of a hot drink on a chilly day.
I don’t have to go into take me-to-your-dungeon territory.