|The view Sophia gets from the top! (Photo:B.R. Marshall)|
Once again, we hired a room in Hereford's Courtyard theatre, and each of the seven writers who took part submitted ten pages of their current work–in–progress. Mine's a romantic thriller, but I can't settle on a name. The working title has been both The Barrow Wake and Bright Danger, but I forgot to ask the working party which one they preferred! I'm now toying with the idea of Tasting The Peach as the title, since heroine Sophia, is part of a witness protection scheme.
As Chapter One opens, Sophia Hope is being hassled by a man originally detailed to protect her. He's the secretive new boss of damaged hero Josh, who is prepared to break the rules to expose him. Josh turned to law-enforcement after a tragedy in his turbulent past, but Sophia turns out to be more dangerous to Josh's peace of mind than any murderer...
‘...and I love TV, but I don’t want to watch it every day!’ Sophia called back over her shoulder as she put on a spurt.
Would this guy never take the hint? It felt like she’d been trying to get away from him all her life. In a way, she had. She’d moved here to get away from it all and start a new, blame-free existence from scratch. Despite everything, he’d refused every instruction, kind word and firm refusal. As her determination increased, so did his puppyish adoration. What was wrong with the man? He stuck to her like human chewing gum. Sophia was running out of options.
The time’s coming when I’ll have to get nasty, she thought. Really nasty.
The track ahead of her was a bony limestone spine, rising almost vertically. Kicking on, she outpaced him. Scrabbling forward she almost fell, clawing at the path in a fever of excitement. She was getting away from her unwanted minder, leaving him for dead.
The cold, clean air burned her face. She dragged it in like vodka.
‘I’m serious!’ His voice rose from some way below her, as insubstantial as cigarette smoke.
Sophia stopped, stuck her hands on her hips and screwed round to confront him again.
Every day, something always managed to stop her sprinting for the summit. Today it was this–this fawning fruit-loop. He was still ten yards behind, and wheezing like an asthmatic ferret. She found it too painful to watch him labour up the slope, so she raised her head and scanned the horizon instead. It was a perfect morning. The atmosphere was gin-clear from here to Hay Bluff, sixty miles away.
I could run all the way there and be back before this loser’s caught his breath, she thought.
This was a day to feel the lust for life powering through your veins. A life that was too short for promises. Sophia wanted to get on.
She dropped her gaze again, meaning to confront him. It snagged on the city, down in the vale. From here, the confusion of tiny buildings was a dark smudge on the countryside. It was a necessary evil–as vital, ugly and inescapable as the feelings locked away inside her. She glanced at her feet. When she pivoted, her trainers had inscribed perfect circles in the damp grey grit. Down in the city, the heaving mass of humanity would soon be climbing on to the treadmill of another new day, getting ready to run around in the same old circles, in the same old way.
She pursed her lips. Digging her toes into the ground she scuffed hard, destroying the neat marks.
‘You’re beautiful,’ he gasped.
‘I’m trouble, you mean,’ she ground away at the divots with her toes and heels, ‘especially for a man like you. If you think I’m falling for that old line, forget it. It’s only the thrill of the forbidden you’re finding beautiful.’
‘How many times do I have to tell you?’ He caught her by the arm. The action narrowed her eyes to searchlights. Releasing her, he flung his hands up in a gesture of peace.
‘Nobody,’ she said in a low voice, ‘does that to me.’
Christina Hollis writes both contemporary and historical fiction - when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. You can catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com, on Twitter and Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at http://www.christinahollis.com