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…

Friday, 23 December 2011

Part 31 – Action Hero

Crikey, this is quite violent stuff. Who’d have thought it of a vicar’s wife?

I’m worried that now Cleft and Topaz are within moaning distance again, we really ought to let them Do It at last: there’s only so long a girl can bubble and simmer without needing a Rennie. And if the vicar’s wife can do violence, there is really no reason why she shouldn’t do sex as well. I’ll have to play this one carefully…

Part 31 (by Anna)

His prey let out a torrent of hoarse Spanish and writhed like a lizard beneath Cleft’s sole. Cleft’s mind worked quickly. Who was this reptile? What was his game?

Then realisation darted at him like quicksilver. He saw the scuff marks on the baked mud, the snaking tracks of a whip and the unmistakable imprint of a kitten heel.

‘You goddam no-good worm!’ he spat at the gasping creature beneath him. ‘What have you done with her?’

The man tried to wrench himself upright and shook his fetid head. ‘I no knowa whatcha mean.’

‘You know well enough you piece of scum!’ Cleft, in his ire, was massive against the blazing sky. ‘You take me to her now, or else I promise you you'll never see daylight again.’

With a single rapid movement of his muscled wrist, Cleft flicked the whip so that it snapped around the man’s bulging torso. With the other hand he pulled it tight and knotted it so that the man’s short arms were bound to his sides. He inserted a boot beneath his rump and kicked hard so that the fellow lurched with a cry to his feet and stood swaying there, a spool of spittle swinging from one broken tooth.

‘I’ll do the driving,’ said Cleft shoving him towards his dust-caked car. ‘We don’t want any scenic detours along the way.’

Wrenching open the back door, Cleft flexed a mighty leg and sent the cab driver sprawling across the ripped back seat. Then he eased his huge frame behind the steering wheel and flicked the key in the ignition. The car belched into life with a cloud of dust and diesel.

‘I hope you’ve got a good sense of direction because I don’t want any funny games,’ he growled, eyeing the slumped flesh in the rear view mirror. With an unwholesome roar, the car and its cargo began juddering down the rough track, flinging in its wake such dense plumes of filth that Paradise Heights and its unrealised promise were obliterated.

A mile or two of silence save for the grinding of the engine and the hoarse breaths of the bound man, then the tangles of vegetation thinned, roofs sprouted here and there and track divided.

‘Which way?’ Cleft barked. No answer. ‘Which way, vermin?’ he repeated, aiming a steel-like fist into  his captive’s soft belly. Winded, the man pointed eastwards and the car lurched down a scarred lane. At the next junction the cab driver gestured to the left. Wispy grass and stunted thorn trees gave way to decomposing shacks with metal roofs.

Eventually, a grunt from behind brought Cleft to a halt. He hauled on the hand brake and surveyed a scabrous white bungalow through the caked window. A frenzy of barking erupted and from round the side of the house leapt a half-starved hound tethered by a rope.

Cleft unwound his long body from the driver’s seat and stepped onto the dried mud path that led to the front door. Nonchalantly, he locked the car door behind him, leaving the cab driver prostrate in its simmering heat, and, adjusting his shades, he moved in measured, powerful strides to the front door.

The dog launched himself at Cleft’s calf but, without shifting his gaze from his goal, Cleft kicked out sideways and the animal fell insensible to the ground. Unruffled, inscrutable, Cleft ducked his head and entered the crepsucular hallway.

‘Hey there!’ he called, his voice vibrating through the rancid darkness. ‘Anyone here?’


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