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, 4 January 2012

Part 32 – In Which I Outdo Myself

When they come to make the film of Desire Be My Destiny, I think this scene will be the one that earns Topaz (or whoever plays her) an Oscar. And if this doesn’t inspire Anna to make them Do It, nothing will. I’ve put my all into this and left her with a cliff-hanger that can only go one way: all the way.

Part 32 (by Oliver)

In the muffled blackness of her cupboard prison, Topaz murmured softly through lips that were dry and bruised. She barely knew that she did so, barely heard the breathy whisper ‘Cleft! Cleft!’, repeated almost like a mantra, an affirmation that he would come to her. Yet she knew she must not believe that he would, and with this unconscious realisation the breaths turned to small sobs, so that the ‘Cleft!’ was gasped, breathed in.

Then, a sound. Not the shuffling heaviness of her captor, or the bark and clatter of the brutish dog; a firm, urgent footstep and a strong voice calling out.

‘Hey there!’ The deep throbbing tone seemed to strike something vital deep within Topaz, but still she sobbed gently, ‘Cleft! Cleft!’ 

‘Anyone here?’ came the voice again. This time there was no mistaking it. Even through the jumble of Topaz’s mind, some life-affirming force seemed to reach inside her and lift her out of darkness, back along the dingy path of memory to the sudden brightness of the present.

‘Cleft?’ she gasped. ‘Cleft?’ And with the glorious dawning of realisation, her voice strengthened and grew louder – ‘Cleft! Cleft!’ – so that by the time she saw the urgent shadow in the strip of light under the door, her passion was flowing and she screamed now, ‘Cleft! Cleft!’

With a mighty heave and crack, the door broke open and Topaz raised an arm to shield her huge, damp eyes from the surging sunlight. Cleft stood there, legs still braced, the muscles taut and pushing up through the thin material of his grimy jeans. Sweat gleamed on his forehead and in the hollow revealed by his open shirt, and in the dusky sheen of his wraparound sunglasses, Topaz glimpsed herself huddled, tethered like a beast in her filthy corner.

Through her joy, the sobs came jagged, so that as Cleft swiftly knelt to untie her bonds she had barely enough strength to help him. His hands felt under her back, behind her knees, and he rose and turned in one lithe movement, sweeping Topaz through the caked, fly-blown hovel and out into the Spanish sun once more.

And at last their lips found each other, the first hungry clash of tongues subsiding into velvet languidness as, oblivious to the wheeze of the reviving cur behind them and the hammering on the window of the cab before them, Topaz and Cleft melded their desire and their fate gloriously into one.

But, too soon, Cleft pulled away and placed Topaz tenderly on the ground. Loping over to the baking car and the red, streaming face that peered out of it, he made as if to open the door and the driver’s small, spiteful eyes seemed to pucker with relief. Then he paused, seeing the heavy cosh that was badly concealed behind the drenched girth.

‘Bad move, Diego,’ spat Cleft. ‘You'll have to cook some more.’ And, turning back to Topaz, he left the car and its bulging occupant.

‘He can use the cosh on the car window, not us,’ said Cleft, grinning. ‘But we won’t be driving outta here, that’s for sure.’ And with a confident jerk of his head towards the umber foothills, he said: ‘It’s the bandits’ way for us, my darling, across the hills by night.’

His arms flexed as he lifted Topaz once again and, not looking back, started to carry her up the steep hillside track. Behind them the dog whined drowsily as it scrambled back to consciousness, and the beating from within the cab grew frenzied in the simmering heat.

But Topaz and Cleft heard neither. She leaned her head, heavy with drowse, on the massive plane of his shoulder and felt the steady rhythm of his tread bear her on, on into the barren heart of the mountain where the rules of men held little sway over the unfathomable laws of Fate.

And as the first stars began pricking through the deep amethyst gauze of the heavy Spanish evening, Cleft lay her down in a hollow beneath a cordyline, the sword-like leaves of which clashed gently in the zephyrs of the night. As he held himself taut above her tender, trembling form, Topaz gazed up in wonderment at the beauty of this man who was in her arms at last.

Eyes locked, nothing needed to be said. Except, with a strangely husky throb in Topaz’s throat, ‘Do with me as you will, Cleft. I owe you everything; I will give it to you tonight.’