This is how it began. My sister Anna, a brilliant and witty writer, suggested that we should try to write a romance novel according to the guidelines published by Mills & Boon. Not as easy as it sounds, apparently. She created a finely judged opening paragraph and sent it to me. And, intoxicated by the stylistic possibilities that are simply not offered by my usual literary output of press releases on Bedfordshire’s latest social housing project, I have taken up the gauntlet. The idea is that we will take it in turns to develop the story, in full view of you, dear reader.

We are taking this project seriously, but I am already acutely aware that writing about simmering desire with one’s own sister might be possible only with tongue tentatively in cheek. We have agreed not to discuss our plot ideas, so the novel will unfold as unpredictably to us as to our readers. This could lead to trouble later on, but for now it seems a very liberating way to start.

Who knows where this project will take us? To the dizzying heights of publication by the world’s leading romance brand? Probably not. But wherever we end up, it should be fun getting there…

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Part 18 – Beta Males

For a nasty moment at the end of the last post I thought I might have to make Topaz Gloriously Submit. But thankfully there’s no time for that sort of distraction; I’ve got to keep up the momentum of the plot, which is going places at last.

I’m not very good at writing man-to-man confrontations – I’ve never really had one myself, although I did once have a row with the marketing manager about brochure copy. And I don’t think any of my male friends, some of whom are quite alpha, have ever had to slug it out either.

But then, man-to-man confrontations are seldom very convincing. I can’t understand why old films show men being punched so hard you can hear the smack of flesh on bone, yet the puncher never breaks his knuckles and the punchee never has more than a tiny trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth. And while fights in modern films may be more realistic, they’re so yukky I never want to watch them closely enough to learn from them.

So this is probably as good as it’s going to get between Cleft and Terence.

Part 18 (by Oliver)

Faint with anticipation and desire, Topaz saw through cloudy vision the dark shape of Cleft’s massive frame poised above her, and as his mouth found hers, urgently yet with a certain questing gentleness, she moaned softly. But no sooner had the first electric pulses fizzed through their melding lips than a commotion sounded behind Cleft’s looming back. Topaz grappled to see, clutching at the marvellous tautness of Cleft’s shoulders. And ‘Terence!’ she gasped.

Terence looked stony. Languidly, almost lazily, Cleft turned on the bed, an easy smile stretching his wide, passionate mouth and his forehead corrugating in quizzical surprise.

‘Hello, Dunkley,’ he said. ‘Come to slug it out man to man?’

‘I’ve come for you, Topaz,’ Terence said quietly.

Topaz stared from one to the other: from the slight, pale figure standing in the doorway, shuffling slightly and plucking at its cuffs, to the huge, tanned form lounging beside her on the bed, black hair tumbling across its bronzed brow and muscles pulsing so close, so close.

She knew what Fate desired of her – knew that Cleft had been sent to make her truly a woman, truly whole. Yet she knew, too, that Terence had a prior claim. Yes, that claim was based on deception, but it was a deception that her father had made for the best of reasons: to keep her as she needed to be kept. Not for her the cracked ceilings and sagging mattresses of cheap inns; fate would not be so cruel. In a welter of indecision and confusion, Topaz’s eyes flitted from man to man.

‘I can’t, I can’t,’ she sobbed at last. ‘Terence, leave now. You cannot win any longer. It is too strong for me – he is too strong for me. Goodbye.’

‘One moment,’ said Terence. ‘Stone, I need to know: what are you going to do?’

Cleft gave a snort of contemptuous laughter. ‘Afraid I’ll wring your neck?’ he sneered. ‘It would be too easy. But you Dunkleys won't get away with this. I’m going to expose your sordid game for the world to see – yes, and your father too, Topaz. No one can treat you like a pound of meat and not feel the consequences.’

‘Cleft, no!’ Topaz’s lips, full and still blooming from Cleft’s thwarted kiss, were parted beseechingly. Her cheeks flushed, like the blush of roses on damask, she pushed her tumbling honeyed locks back from her face and clutched the sheet around her sun-bronzed shoulders. ‘Whatever Daddy’s done, not that! The shame, the gossip – he couldn’t bear it. For my sake, Cleft, say nothing! Please!’

Cleft picked up the phone. ‘Reception?’ he said. ‘Get me the number for Reuters – yes, that’s right, the international news agency. I’ve got a story that’ll blow their socks off!’

Topaz once again cried out. ‘Cleft! If you do this, I promise you now, you will never see me again.’

But Cleft merely dialled a number. ‘Put me through to the news desk,’ he said, looking sidelong at Topaz, hearing her fevered breaths yet unheeding of her desperation. And as he began to tell his story, Topaz let out a cry and grabbed her clothes from the bed.

Blood thundered in her temples; jagged stabs of coloured light flitted before her eyes. Yet she did not faint. She knew what she had to do, where she had to go: back to the one man who needed her now; back to Brinkworth Place and her father. With her heart throbbing in her bosom, almost blinded by her anguish, she pushed past Terence and ran through the door.