Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
She was back on edge.
He was due any minute now, and though she had received constant reassurances from everyone here, she remembered too clearly the disagreement at her offices, the race on the road, his anger after dinner, their fight in the car and Cliff’s ability to cut through her every defense.
And in the back of her mind she wondered if he was still dealing with Fahrrad. Oh, she was such a goody‑goody. What if
he had decided while he was gone that she was too naive and immature to lead this team? What if he brought back someone smarter and more able and , and what if she was beautiful, too?
didn’t see either the Mercedes or the coupe, but there was a pick‑up truck pulling into the lot. She felt the by now familiar prickle on her neck , and knew it was him. Another
Cliff swung out of the truck with a graceful leap. He wore, not his usual business suit, and definitely not the black silk of Middle Yemen, but a pair of blue jeans and a crisp cotton shirt rolled up at the sleeves.
Vickie had forgotten how big he was. He crossed the parking lot with his ground‑eating stride, then disappeared for a moment from her view, into the building.
Cliff did not give her time to gather her thoughts, however.
“John tells me you’ve been working too hard.” [MH1]
She spared a glance at the traitorous John, who merely grinned.
So we’ll debrief…in the park.”
He grabbed her hand and towed her out the door, through the reception area. Tess and June were there, but they only waved to her as Cliff pulled her across the French tile, out the front door.
Vickie had to
run to keep Cliff from pulling her arm out of its socket. As usual, he didn’t seem to notice the effect he was having on her. And, true to form, the arm he held was tingling with excitement, and her gut was tightening with anticipation. She forgot to be worried that she might have to report; she wondered instead if he would kiss her.
He loaded her into the passenger compartment of the truck and packed his long frame into the other side. Deftly, he swung the thin gear
shift into reverse , and backed swiftly out of the parking lot . Throwing the truck into first, he started onto the main road, heading in the opposite direction from the way Vickie usually took.
“Where are we going?” Vickie shouted over the engine.
Cliff just shook his head and pushed the shifter up into second. It was a muscular vehicle, roaring to full life when he finally lifted it into third.
The rural road was made for this
, Vickie thought, the wind blowing her hair into her face and bringing her the sweet scent of newly mown hay.
turned onto a wooded road, the scent of hay
giving way to that of spicy pine. Cliff slowed the truck , and Vickie was able to catch sight of a red‑winged black bird and a robin flying through the branches. She was disappointed she couldn’t hear their songs over the noise of the engine, and she hoped he would stop the truck soon. Vickie wished she had known there was a park so close , wondering if anyone else at the office knew about it.
opened the truck door onto a grassy green meadow bathed in sunlight, smelling of wildflowers and water and pine needles.
, who was gathering a blanket and basket from the bed of the truck, was watching her intensely. When she did look for him, he was nonchalantly spreading the blanket on the ground.
he set on the grass.
down on the blanket and smiled openly at him. She reflected on her total contentment with wonder. For the first time, she felt at her ease with this big man. Maybe it had to do with her successful performance of the job he had given her, or maybe it had to do with the setting, which was so much like a family picnic from her childhood.
more likely, it was the man himself , and the feelings for him she could easily recognize here, unfettered by the trappings of a business environment.
rummaged in the basket, muttering
something. Then, triumphantly, he pulled out a corkscrew.
She laughed. “Don’t you need to have a bottle of wine to go with that corkscrew?”
He grimaced, and began rummaging again. Soon enough the wine surfaced, and he beamed expectantly at her. She laughed again. “Oh, Cliff, this is wonderful. Pour us some of that wine, and let me toast your return.”
, and complied. As soon as both glasses were full, she clanked hers gently against his. “To teamwork.” She at tempted to sip her wine, but found Cliff tilting the bottom of the glass up so that she took two big gulps. She gasped, then watched, amazed, as Cliff drained his wine in one draft. She laughed, and it came out suspiciously like a giggle. She caught herself, and put her fists on her hips in mock severity. “What’re you trying to do, get me drunk?”
.” Vickie was flabbergasted by his honesty. “John said that was the only way to get you to relax.” He urged her to finish her wine, then
filled her glass again.
John told you that, did he? What else did he tell you?”[MH5]
“Not much I didn’t already know. He said you were a terrific boss, and the people at the company love working with you. I see our project is ahead of schedule and right on budget. Good job.”
‘Good job. Good job
, Vickie. You’ve got the performance; do you get the affection?’ “And that’s all?” ‘Nothing about love‑ sick women, John? Nothing about side‑tracking my affections before they interfere with business? Was this romantic setting all just good business? ’
“Sure. He mentioned you have better taste than I do in restaurants.”
He looked at her sideways. “Well, so this is what it takes to get you loose. Have some more wine.” And he tipped her glass again. She tried to stop him
this time, but ended up with wine up her nose.
[MH1]As authors we tend to go back and forth in our narrative and know things about the end that get revealed throughout the manuscript. We're time travelers in a way. But our readers aren't. They experience our story in real time.
So the story should read cause-to-effect, cause-to-effect. ABC is the easiest to grasp. You can change things up -- BAC or CAB or whatever--but it jars the reader and you should have a good reason!
I switched this to be in time-sequential. See how it cleaned up the paragraphs?
[MH2]This changes pure description to action. SETTING IS IMPORTANT but in modern storytelling (in my opinion) it should not pull us out of the action
[MH4]Cut a lot of unnecessary words. At the end, added some sensory description for added impact. And because it's almost lunch time as I write this :)