Friday, December 28, 2012

Hot Chips and Sand 66-70 Second Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved

Vickie broughtheld her hand back toat her midriff, where it would be safe. She did not look up once during the time the waiters were in the room; she was far too embarrassed.  So againOkay, maybe she did not seecut a few glances at Cliff, who was not. He wasn’t embarrassed in the least, observing her minutely, seeing her embarrassment.  If she had, she would not have been so puzzled by.
But he’d obviously seen she was because his first words when they were again alone.
             were all business. “I promised you an explanation of your position on the HCC300 project. Would you care to hear it now?
She nodded hesitantly, but without looking at him. .  
            “I have“I’ve made it my main concern to get, and keep, the best talent in ourthe IT industry. It hasn’t been easy; these people do not grow on trees, even though somedespite management would like to believebelieving job titles make people interchangeable. I now have five thousand employees world‑wide, each of whom is an expert, if not a genius, in their own way.”
“Then why do you need us?” Vickie was not only puzzled by the sudden change in his attitude, she was genuinely baffled by his insistence on bringing in her company; Fitzwater employees—they were smart, but certainly not geniuses.
“I’m getting to that. As I was saying, I have talented employees. I have enough money to fund theirthe work, and enough equipment to support it.  InMy job, in all modesty, I haveis to say I havecraft the vision to sustain theirthe future and growth within theof my company. So I have workers and I have vision.”
“Sounds perfect.”
“Almost. What I lack is the talent to make themthese geniuses want to pull together.
            “Now if I personally don’t have a particular ability, I have never been so conceited as to think no one has it;stamp my feet. I simply find the best person for the job and employ him … or. Or in this case, her.”
            “I don’t understand.”  It wasn’t just Fitzwater Consulting.  Somehow he was referring to her.  But she“Me?” She wasn’t best in anything that she knew of.  Good, maybe.  ButShe was good, but not the top‑notch talent this man worked with. “Doing what?”
“Vickie, I haveI’ve read your records. Five employer’s worth. In each case, you haveyou’ve performed your work well.”
            “My goodness, that“Good grief. That goes back to my nursing assistant days, before I went to college for computer programming! So I did my work well—your people do outstanding work.”
“Hear me out. What I noticed in each case was that while you were at thata particular company, the department you were in, and sometimes the whole company, operated much more smoothly. And after you left, often within a year, the company’s profits took a nose‑dive. nosedive. Do you know what that tells me?”
“That I’m a good‑luck charm? Listen, you don’t have to pay me big bucks to be ornamental.  I’ll…”.”
“No. That’s not it at all. Let’s approach it from another angle. Do you like working with your team?”
“Sure. They’re great people. Fun, bright, always ready with a joke.”
“And you work well together?”
Vickie laughed. “I was just thinking of that. Yes, we work very well together. Sometimes it seems we can read each other’s minds, we know each other so well.”
“And have you ever worked with people like that before?”
“Oh, sure. I’ve been really lucky. The last job, well, we were like family. And back at the hospitalmy first job, we were all just a bunch of kids together, learning, discovering. Since we learned about life together, naturally we worked well together.”. At least to start.”
“Vickie, I have never worked on a team like that.”
She stared at him a second. Then she nodded. “Well, of course. You’re a genius. You can’t expect people to keep up towith your level of thinking.” She took a bite of her very expensive entree, and had to admit that maybe it was a little better than McDonald’sMcHamburger’s.
            “And“Vickie, my people do not work together. Very often they duplicate each other’s efforts rather than taking the time to talk. It’s stupid redundancy on the part of some supposedly smart people.”
Vickie put her fork down. “You want me to act as a go‑between? A conduit of information? I don’t have to be head of the project to do that, either. In fact, it would be better if I weren’tdidn’t.”
“No, Vickie.” He met her eyes and his were on fire. “I want you to jellgel my team. And I want you to have the position that deserves.”
            She hadShe’d heard of the term.  It meant a team that workedGel was when a bunch of individuals came together into a team, working as a cohesive, synergistic whole instead of a bunch of individuals. . But most of the time it was luck that jelledgelled a team—wasn’t it?
            “But “B…but I don’t know what I do. I mean, I don’t even know that I agree with you. I think I’ve just been lucky to work with some very good people.”
“I disagree. I’ve seen your records, I’ve talked with co‑workers, both present and past. You are the key in all cases. You are the catalyst.”
Vickie chewed on that a while. She washed it down with a sip of complex red wine. “All right. Let’s say that’s true.  I still don’t know how I did it. My only idea of managing people is letting them wear blue jeans and programwrite code in lotus position. Cliff, I have to be honest with you.  I’m really a closet anarchist .” She shifted uncomfortably. “Even if you’re right about me, I haven’t done too well when it comes to professionalism, and. I don’t think you want that kind of person as a boss.”  She shifted uncomfortably.

            “So I may not be able to give you what you want.  I may completely bomb out.  I think you’d be. You’re better off hiring me as an analyst, which I do well at, and if. If the other happens, great. But if not, you’re not losing anything.”

            “Vickie, I haveHe was shaking his head. “I’ve never played my hunches short. , Vickie. I have a strong feeling about you, and that feeling tells me you will make my people and yours into the team the best ever.  I also.”
“But it doesn’t have never short‑changed my people,to be as manager—”
“It does. I don’t hire a secretary expecting the work of an office manager and I don’t intend to start now. hire a programmer to do the work of a team leader. I won’t joggle your elbow; shortchange you by hiring you for less than what I expect of you follow your own style.  I’m betting it will work.  .
But if you fail, well, we I might screw up!”
He shrugged. “We all fail at some point.  People forget failure unless you wave it in their faces at every opportunity.  So It’s usually forgotten in the next success. I don’t think you will, but if it doesn’t work this time, we’ll happens, we sit down, we look at it, and we learn how to do it better the next time.  And we’ll keep at it until it works, and it will be the best.”
The next time? And more importantly, we sit down? But this thought wasthese thoughts were crowded out by the concept of Cliff, Sir Humphrey Hawkesclyffe, failing at anything.  “What do you mean we all fail?  I don’t get the impression you’ve ever failed at anything.”
He raised one sleek eyebrow at her. “Don’t be fooled by what I am right now. We often have to endure quite a bit of pain to learn life’s little lessons.”
Now, what did he mean by that? Surely the Cliff thatwho had rescued her with such aplomb in Middle Yemen had never failed in his life. But before she could say somethingask, the waiter returned, and the topic was dropped.

            SinceShe tried to skip dessert but Cliff ordered the chocolate and almond butter torte for himself, then the moment it came cut a slab off and offered it to her. Of course she didn’t feel she could handle dessert,had to try it and she ended up eating half. Then [MH1] Cliff paid the bill and they left. She had tried momentarily to pay for her portion, but when the bottom line turned out with twohad more zeros to the left of the decimal, and than she only had a twentywas used to, she shut up. Maybe he didn’t have school loans that looked like mortgages, she decided.
The drive back was completed in silencesilent, Vickie ponderingmulling over the things Cliff had told her and, Cliff seemingapparently content to let her.
When he pulled the car up in front of her flatapartment, she felt a little awkward.  Now, shouldShould she give him a firm, client‑to‑vendor handshake, a friendly hug, or a sisterly kiss? She was leaning in favor oftoward the handshake, with her body voting loudly for the kiss, when the decision was forestalled by Cliff’sCliff opened her car door[MH2] .
She’d been opening her car door.

            He own doors since she was three, but the warm shock of that little bit of chivalry short-circuited her brain. She didn’t pull away as he [MH3] helped her out, and his. His hand on her arm remindedreminding her compellingly of the same contact in the restaurant.  Not wanting to stir that particular bank of embers, she attempted to pull it away from him, but he simply held her arm as though she was doing nothing at all.  She gave upEmbers stirred, shooting into little flames as they mounted the stoop outside the flatapartment.

            “Well, thank you for a lovely dinner…” she began, not looking at him.

            “Of whichHe stopped. Still connected by his hand on her arm, she stopped too. He filled the space around her, towering over her, his heat and scent permeating the very air she breathed. Her heart began to thud dully in her ears. The only distance she could get was by not looking directly at him. “Well, thank you for a lovely dinner—”
“Which you hardly ate anything,” he pointed outsaid.

            “Oh“I had half your dessert. And, well, we had a nice conversation,” she said lamely.
“Yes, you and my tie are having a very nice conversation now.”

            She made a meaningless gesture with her free arm[MH4] How could she tell him that his very nearness inhibited anything close to brain activity on her part? That her other arm was starting to tingle and pulse from his touch?
He apparently got tired of waiting, for the next thing she knew, his fingertips were under her chin, urging her to look up. The gentle pressure strangely excited her.

            Annoyed, Vickie She clamped down on her body’s response. that, pronto. He merely wasn’t trying to be romantic. He just wanted to talk to her, and not instead of the top of her head.
So she gave in to his fingers, allowing them to tilt her head back so that she could see his face. He was looking down at her, their bodies so close that their height difference was very apparent.

 [MH1]I think in some draft way back when I had her stomach so upset by Cliff’s nearness that she couldn’t eat. Ha. No longer plays for me so I changed this.

 [MH2]This is horribly clear TELLING. I subbed in showing.

 [MH3]While I don’t care for heroines who “can’t resist” a hero’s advances because her body betrays her, I do think there are times even the strongest of heroines doesn’t know whether to listen to their body or their mind, especially in an instant of shock or surprise

 [MH4]Like a bird flapping in the breeze...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hot Chips and Sand 61-65 Second Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved

She considered not changing. But she found her jade dress hanging in the closet, the one she hadshe’d bought for her college roommate’sElissa’s wedding and had nothadn’t worn again. The one that had elegant lines and graceful curves and showed just enough skin showing to be interesting.
So she shimmied into a new pair of silky pantyhose, slid on the dress and misted herself with her favorite scent. Then she pulled her hair out of the no‑nonsense barrette she commonly wore to work, combed it into soft waves and spritzed it in place. She considered a pair of heels in the closet, but since they made her back hurt, rejected them in favorso instead she slipped her feet into of a glossy pair of black slides.  On her way out, she stopped quickly at the refrigeratorHopefully she wouldn’t be underdressed [MH1] for dinner with a tall glass of iced tea.  Considerably refreshed, she grabbed her purse and ran out to meet CliffSir.
On her way out, she stopped at the refrigerator for a couple bottles of water, opening one and drinking half on the way out. Considerably refreshed, she felt ready to meet Cliff, and maybe even computer magnate Sir Humphrey Hawkesclyffe.
He lounged by the car, deep in the latest issue of a specialty hardware magazine. He looked up at her approach, and, strangely enough, .
And smiled. [MH2] 
She slowed, to savor the warmth in his eyes, a warmth she hadshe’d never seen before. She got in liked it. See what professionalism get you? He opened the passenger door, and she slid into the car, determined to keep that warmth in his eyes, determined to keep her temper under control, determined to exude professionalism.  All right, sexy professionalism.
Determined to be perfect.
            Birmingham’s turned out to be Rusterman’s was about a half‑hour’s drive away. Vickie liked relaxed at the hand-hewn logs of the outside, and noticed several façade. Several rustic-looking tables sat on the patioa large deck overlooking thea lake.
The inside, however, was not rustic and homey.  In fact, it looked like one of the eighteenth centuryThick red carpet, gold flocked wallpaper with dark veined marble. Antique gold fixtures, rich red linen and glossy dark wood was everywhere. [MH3] It reminded her of European palaces  she hadshe’d toured in Europe last summer, so rich andwith Ron, ornate was it.  And the clientele she could seeand high-toned. The men and women sitting elegantly straight draped in the latest fashion creations or perfectly-tailored suits reeked of old money. ‘Wonderful,’ she thought.  ‘He picks a great time to play British noble.  I shouldWarmth and professionalism leaked from her like balloon gas. Should have gone out and bought something new and stunning.
Cliff, howeverBritish noble that he was, seemed right at home. The maitre d’hotel greeted him by first name, and showed them directly to one of the best tables in the place.
Then the wine steward came by, and he and Cliff spent about ten minutes discussing the finer points of the selections on the list, all of which were over $100probably a couple Franklins a bottle, she was sure. . There would be no raspberry beer for her tonight.
Then, of course, the waiter came over to explain the menu for the evening. In French. Cliff handled that with an aplomb she certainly wouldn’t have managed with her one semester of French. . She did get in one merci beaucoup, but other than that was satisfied to nod pleasantly. So much for Ms. Perfection, she thought ruefully. She might as well get used to feeling like she had braids, braces and skinned knees around Sir Humphrey.
After that, at least three people found excuses to drop by and chat with Cliff. “Oh, darling, I’ve known Sir Humphrey for years!” one rather large woman exclaimed. She dripped with diamonds, and pronounced ‘years’ with threetwo syllables.  Vickie had to bite her cheek to keep awake while she was talking. [MH4] 
            Then there was the white‑haired gentleman, who reminded her of what she thought Sir Hawkesclyffe should have looked like, a Mr. Harrison by name. She found she rather liked listening to his soft British accent as he told a few gentle jokes and talked about his wife, who was apparently involved in some community projects back home.
The third person she didn’t like at all. All right, maybe it had something to do with the woman’s incredible beauty. It surely couldn’t have been how she had waved her decolletagedécolletage in front of Cliff as if she were displaying Mt. Everest. And of course it didn’t bother her at all that Cliff didn’t seem to mind—why should it? It was none of her business who Cliff wanted to scale. Right? Right.
Vickie unwadded her napkin as the woman swayed back to her table.         She With all the visitors she needn’t have worried about spending time alonehaving an intimate dinner with Cliff at all. Maybe this was one of those restaurants she had read about, where people went to be seen by the in‑crowd, not to really eat or enjoy each other’s company, or even to discuss business.  She would have been better off canceling and going to McDonald’s.  Then, as if he hadn’t had enough visitors, Cliff waved the waiter back to the table.  She was just about to excuse herself and walk home, all twenty or thirty miles, when the waiter reached them.  Cliff casually held out a bill of rather large denomination.
Then, as if he hadn’t had enough visitors, Cliff waved the waiter back to the table. Vickie was about to excuse herself and walk home, all twenty or thirty miles, when Cliff casually held out a bill of rather large denomination to the waiter and said, “Do you have anything a little more secluded?”
The waiter looked at Cliff, then at Vickie, then smiled at Cliff. “Of course, sir.”
Vickie blushed. “We have business,” she put in, then .” She realized that that didn’t sound any better. Sure they had business. She was wearing the type of dress that just oozed business.
But the waiter was already leading the way out of the main dining room. . Cliff picked up their drinks and stood, waiting. Apparently she was supposed to go next. So she followed the waiter, trying very hard not to think of the big man just behind her. Certainly not trying to sway like Ms. McKinley. Well, maybe a little.
The waiter lead them to a small room with a single table. Cliff putset down the drinks and pulled a chair out for her.   Oh, wonderful.
Fry my motherboard.[MH5]  She had never done this right. The times Ron had tried it, she had either fallen straight on her behind, or he had bump‑bump‑bumped the chair into place. One time he had scraped the thing over her foot. So much for not embarrassing herself.
But as she sat,bent knees Cliff smoothly pushed the chair in so that her . Her behind hit the chaircushion just as the chair reached the optimal position.
Perfect.  She had
A little tremble like butterfly wings tickled her tummy. She’d never meshed so perfectly with someone else in her life.  Certainly not her social life.  In fact, it had felt a little like Not even working onwith her team, where each one knew the others so well, words were often unnecessary.
Cliff took the chair across from her. His eyes sparkled over the candle between them, and he smiled again, that warm, wonderful smile. He took his glass, and as if he had read her mind, toasted, “To teamwork.”
Unnerved, she took her glass too, but only mumbled some inanity before taking a deep gulp. She quickly put the glass down, and then, feeling strangely shy, looked at him.
He was gazing at her as though she were the only thing in the room. She had noticed that about him, of course; this before, his ability to concentrate totally on a single person or thing. But it still made her tingle, made her feel absolutely special. Her heart thudded as his gaze shifted downward, to her mouth, her chin, the thin gold chain at her neck, and finally lingering aton the gentle curves of her breasts. Then he raised his eyes to hers and his smile became warmer, knowing, intimate.
The clank of china warned her that the waiter was coming down the hall toward them. But Cliff did not release her eyes the whole time as the waiter set their soup before them, refilled their wine and water glasses, and cleaned a few odds and ends from the table. And when they were again alone, he took her hand.
She trembled as thelong bronzed, slim fingers touched hers. Artistic, yes, but quite strong, she noted while as he leisurely traced the lines on her palm. Each stroke seemed, like cat’s fur, to build up the charge on her skin. Then he turned her hand over and caressed the back of it with his fingertips. Her breathing had become shallow, her eyes bright with the sensations he was evoking. He turned her hand back over, considered it a moment, and slowly, lightly, kissed her palm.
His eyes gleamed in the semidarkness, watching her. She closed her eyes and suppressed the groan in her throat.  She could not see him watching her carefully[MH6] , eyes gleaming in the semidarkness.  She did not see him read her beginning arousal, which she was trying soShe tried desperately to hide.  the beginning of her arousal.  But when his tongue followed the same lines as his fingers had moments before, she gasped.
Her eyes flew open but she could not stop him or her reactions as he. A small, intimate smile rested on lips that gently kissed, then nibbled her wrist.  His one handHe held hersher hand, but now the otherhis free hand began caressing the inside of her arm, and the sensitive skin at the joint, while his mouth worked its way up to her fingers.  Then, with hisinside her elbow. She trembled in response.
His eyes locked on towith hers. Holding her gaze captive, he lowered his mouth onto her index finger, grazing it once with his teeth, and then closing on it, hard and suckling lightly.
Her breathing became ragged. It seemed as though he was trying to extract every ounce of her through her fingertip. She was now more aroused than she had been in years, and yet he had touched nothing other than one hand and arm.  He was probing the delicate flesh at the base of each finger with his tongue.  She imagined what the sensations would be at her earlobe.  Or neck.  Or along the curve of her breast.
He backed off suckling and began probing the delicate flesh at the base of each finger with his tongue. Only her hand, but she could imagine what that hot mouth would feel like on her earlobe. He neck. The curve of her breast.
An embarrassed cough brought her out of her entrancement, to an awareness of the jerked her upright.[MH7]  The pair of waiters had glided noiselessly in the room, and were ready to serve the main dish.  Apparently, itOr maybe they’d made noise but she’d been totally enraptured by Cliff’s talented mouth.
The dish was something that had to be finished with great flourish by the table, by dousing it with alcohol and turning it into a three‑alarm fire.

 [MH1]This sets up a bit I did later. I may end up taking out the whole underdressed/overdressed thing.

 [MH2]I changed my paragraphing significantly after realizing my husband beta reader was missing important facts that I’d put mid-paragraph.

Now the way I learned it, you put your most important thing at the end of the paragraph, and lead up to it. But when I did that it didn’t create excitement, it created confusion. Granted, my husband is a speed reader, but how many other readers read the first sentence in a paragraph and, if it doesn’t interest them, skip to the next?

So I started putting important stuff RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING. I also break paragraphs so that really important things stand out, a single line sandwiched between two thicker paragraphs. Like this.

 [MH3]“It looked like” = TELL
Thick red carpet, gold flocked wallpaper = SHOW

 [MH4]Vickie has a temper. She doesn’t have to be rude on top of it.

 [MH5]Characters in stories--not just mine--are  always swearing for emphasis. As a reader I get tired of that. But even “Good grief” and “Oh wonderful” are just gentler substitutes for  swearing. I like to get creative. It’s a quirk of mine and taken too far probably annoys some readers. But I’d rather do this than have damn everything.

 [MH6]This is a POV error. She can’t see him! How does she know he’s watching? If I were doing omniscient POV or even mixed in a quick hop to Cliff’s head, I could do it. I chose to keep inside Vickie’s head and work the info in another way.

 [MH7]I like more active verbs.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hot Chips and Sand 56-60 Second Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved

Ha.  You’d likeWouldn’t that, wouldn’t you.  You’d still like be convenient. Cliff tocould still be youra knight in shining armor, champion of the little people, doer of good deeds. Well, face it, Victoria Lynn. He’s not. He’s a corporate dweeb, just like Mel Pinlow. A corporate overlord dweeb, but a dweeb.”
            She sighed.  And I have got to get Cliff.  Why could she  off my mind.[MH1] 
She clicked on the radio to drown her inner doubts. Just because she never behavebehaved like a cool, rational human being around Cliff, just because she wanted him?  And now to have him asbe a hero but he was a client.  No, she countered…well, Mel was probably right; Cliff wasn’t going to havehire her work with him now. Not after she proved how easy she was to work with, how accommodating.  She wondered if she would still
Will I even have a job after herthat stunning performance[MH2] .?
She drove on instinct, keeping only the barest amount of concentration on the road. The rest of her mind wandered through a kaleidoscope of Cliff, anger, regret, Cliff, embarrassment, fear, Cliff. Always coming back to Cliff.
            He How could he pick her up for dinner when he didn’t even know where she lived.  How could he come and get her for dinner[MH3] .  What restaurant had he said?  Maybe? If he expected her to meet him there.  Well, she wouldn’t.  She didn’t have to go. at the restaurant, that wasn’t happening. She didn’t have anything to wear, anyway. Maybe she should go out and buy something, something. Something stunning, something that would set him back on his heels. I’ll show him, boy oh boy.
No, no, no. This would never do. This was a business relationship, and would stay that way. Not like Ron. Well, she and Cliff would never get that far because she wasshe’d probably fired. screwed up the contract.
Oh, great. First Cliff was like Mel. Now he was Ron. Who was this man, really? Why did he behave like Mel GibsonJames Bond [MH4] one minute and Darth Vader the next? And why couldn’t she keep him out of her mind?
Just then a sharp beep from the car behind her cut through her absorption. She peered into the rearview mirror to see a.
A sleek red car riding her bumper.
            “I’ve got a machine gun, you’d better back off“Back off buddy,” she called out to the unseen driver. driver, an undefined but big hulk. “I’ve got a machine gun and I know how to use it.[MH5]  Since she didn’t have her window open, of course hethe driver didn’t hear her, but she felt better.  ‘Stupid sports car,’ she thought. . Why didn’t he pass? She nudged the gas pedal slightly.  and opened up some space.
The red car immediately closed the gap.
Vickie smiled grimly. “So, you want to race, do you?” She nudged the gas again, just to make sure.
Vickie’s blood started pounding in her ears. She forgot work, forgot Mel, forgot even Cliff. Her attention zeroed in on the car behind her and the road in front.
She floored it.[MH6] 
Tess had said Vickie’s car fit her personality perfectly. Vickie didn’t agree with that, but she took inordinate pleasure in the innocent family sedan with the super‑charged, V‑6, race‑car designed8 engine.  Not to mention theThe fact that she had speciallyshe’d tuned it herself to original racing specs? Bonus. Not that she ever raced, of course. But sometimes it was nice to have the extra power, to give someone a surprise. Like now.
The sports car crowded her unmercifully. Vickie’s blood started pounding in her ears.  She had forgotten work entirely, forgotten everything but the car behind her and the road in front.  She accelerated sharply up the two lane, hugging the curves like spandex on a belly dancer.
            She The rush of speed thrilled through her. She loved going fast, loved the way it made her blood burn pure and oxygen smell sweet. When the blaze of racing adrenalin had consumed her anger she looked into her rearview.
He was still there.  The miserable show‑off. 
Miserable suckbag showoff.
Ahead of her loomed a large, slow‑moving truck about to enter a blind curve. Well, she’d just lose him now. .
She downshifted[MH7] , darted out around the truck and pushed the pedal to the floor. The car jerked, then roared into passing gear as she careened around the tractor‑trailer. She cut over and immediately started breaking[MH8]  to make braked into the sharp curve.  She was just about to congratulate herself when theShowed him.[MH9] 
The low‑slung red car jetted past her, directly into the curve.  She thought heHe was going to be pavementso fast the wind of his passing buffeted her car.
Her jaw dropped. Pavement pate for sure, but amazingly.
Amazingly, the car followedgripped the corner as if it were banked. like glue, brake lights blaring.
            Well, at least he wasn’tOkay. He was fine, her anger had burned away, and he was no longer crowding her tail, she thought. . All was right again in her world. She settled back to a more sedate speed.
And found herself right on the red car’s bumper. “What do you thing you’re doing!”?”  she screeched at her windshield. “You topped 90ninety miles an hour to pass me! You just nearly killed yourself for the privilege of going faster than me!  Well,. So get going!” She waved her arms at the idiot, trying to make direct mental contact so he would know exactly what she thought of him.  “Where’s myFor one moment she wished she really had a shotgun,” she grumbled, wishing fervently for. Or a tank.
            TheAbruptly the red car pulled abruptly over to the side of the road.  With murder on Spurred by her mind, Vickietemper,[MH10]  which had been let loose again, she pulled off the road ahead of him, jammed the car into reverse and backed, spitting gravel, to where the sports car.  was idling. She threw open her door, which was nearly taken off by the irate truck driver as he blasted past.  Vickie’s first choice invectives [MH11] wereHer swearing was swept away in the whirlwind of the truck’s passing.
She slammed her door shut and marched, teeth clenched, to give the driver of the red car a part of his education he had obviously missed.
“Where did you learn to drive, you moron? Why did you pass, and then slow down? I should have hit you, and watched that fancy car shatter in a million pieces. You’re lucky I don’t carry a gun. Of all the stupid, overbearing,…”  the words caught in her throat as the door opened and a long, tailored, trousered leg captured her attention. As the man got out of the car, she followed the line of his leg up past the lean hips, over the massive chest, pausing, incredulous, at the broad shoulders unhampered by padding.
She knew before she looked whosethat body and didn’t need to see the owner’s face it was.  But , but she looked anyway.
His eyes cut into hers with the force of lasers.  She felt her ownHer anger drain outdrained leaving her feeling limp and defenseless.  Damn. very small. And her day had been going so well. She wondered, almost idly, how small he was going to carve her.
“Are you trying to kill yourself? You can’t get out of dinner that way. And, I might mention, Jerry and I signed the contract, so you can start packing after that. . Now would you prefer to drive home sanely, or shallwould you like to ride with me?”
She blinked. Met his eyes. “In your car?”
“Does that interest you?” The corner of his mouth quirked. “Yes.”
“Can I drive?”
“No.” The quirk developed into a smile. “Maybe later.”
“Well…all right. Later?”
“You’re persistent. I like that.”
She had no fight left.  Tired, feeling very small with her eyes about level with his tie, she bentwent back to her car to get her head forward.  Immediately she felt strong arms around her, helpingthings from the backseat. “Mel calls it stubbornness.”
“I lived a while in Missouri. Stubbornness isn’t a bad thing.”
He helped her into the passenger seat of the sports car.  She watched as he , ran up to her car, leaned in to take something, locked the door and ran back. to his side and got in. He ran easily, she noted.  So much energy.  She felt even dressed in more drained than beforea pair of loose pants.
He swung intostarted the car, plopping her purse into her lap. She stared at it as he and moved smoothly into traffic.  They had been He drove quite competently, his long fingers sure on the wheel. They’d been driving about five minutes, her staring at his hands, when she remembered to give him directions.
            “You have to turn“Turn at the next intersection.”
“I know.”
            Wonderful.  He even made conversation unnecessary.  She gave up completely, and lay her head back, exhausted.[MH12] 
            The man was incredible. He had pulled her, single‑handed, out of Middle Yemen. He had, single‑handed, charmed all the people in her office. He had, single‑handed, wormed his way irrevocably into her life for however long this project lasted.
            She had no doubts now, Ron or no, that she would Or rather, however long she lasted on it.
But even past the project, she wondered if she’d ever be free of Cliff.  Good lord, she had thought of little else but She’d dreamed about his bare chest and how good he smelled since returning from Middle Yemen. . Now she would see him, the vision of his athletic form immaculately tailored, in her would joint those dreams.
            And he could care less about her.  That much was obvious from the raking over he had given her.   She felt theDefinitely not professional.  Please don’t let this end like Ron. A seed of pain begin deeppulsed in her heart.  She knew before this was over,Ron’s rejection had made her miserable; Cliff was so much more man. If she let herself follow her attraction to him, the end would have a massive woundbe even worse.
But still she washad to survive going to dinner with him. She pulled her professionalism around her like a protectively cloak. No emotional crap. Keep your head up, keep your eyes open and cover your ass. And your heart.
When they got to Vickie’s flatapartment, Cliff waited outside for her aswhile she changed.  Professionalism, Vickie.  You learned it with Ron.  Keep your head up, keep your eyes open and cover your ass. And your heart.
She rummaged in her closet for something stunning, but not too provocative. Men had it lucky, she decided. They wear a suit to work, they wear a suit out, it can be the same suit. They don’t have to change, and save half their money to buy golf clubs, or something. whatever guy things they bought. Women not only have to have the suit for work and a dress for going out, they need matching jewelry and make‑up and shoes and purses.  for each. What a racket.

 [MH1]This change makes Vickie a more active heroine.

 [MH2]Phrases introduced with a filter word like wondered, thought, felt, saw, can usually be made mroe immediate by chopping off the filter.

 [MH3]The order is generally cause-then-effect, but in this case  I switched the order because the reader didn’t know there was a question--Cliff doesn’t know where she lives. I wanted to explicitly state the question before answering it.

 [MH4]Okay, this is tiny ,but a comparison should balance. Two fictional characters balance better than a real person and a fictional character.

 [MH5]Starting off with the gun makes her look psychotic. Building the paragraph from reasonable to machine gun makes it more obvious it’s hyperbole.

 [MH6]Again I had answered the question--will Vickie have the power to evade the jerk--before the reader even cared. So I brought the crowding and blood pounding up. A small change but it spins more impact in.

 [MH7]Even though the car I modeled this on is automatic, this is cooler


 [MH9]She was just about to congratulate herself. Oh, the foreshadowing.  Why? Why not let the reader enjoy Vickie’s second of guilty pleasure before trouncing it entirely? This is a small example of making it worse for your characters. Doesn’t have to be dramatic. Well, of course it IS dramatic, but...well, you know what I mean.

 [MH10]Hyperbole can look like psychosis. Worse, “murder on her mind” is just cliche.

 [MH11]Yes, I really wrote like that. What can I say? Too many college term papers.

 [MH12]Another change to bring her into this century.