Well, it’s certainly been a while since I did a snippet! You all have been incredibly patient with me as I was struggling with, well, whatever it was that had me frozen. This week I’m also really excited about the release of my short story in the “Fling” anthology this Tuesday. I’ve been readying several posts for a blog tour, interviews (some deliciously racy!), etc. Combined with the house stuff (which deserves a post all its own!), it’s been pretty busy here, but I still managed to get some decent writing in! 😀
I sometimes worry that I’m going to give key information away with snippets, but this is a part of the story that I’ve had in my head since BEFORE I even started Castaway. So, a little longer snippet than I normally do in the hopes of making up for the last several weeks of, well, nothing. As always, this is an unedited version of the story, small details might be changed later, so on and so forth. 😉
I stared at the bartender poured colorful drinks on the countertop, trying to decide if it was worth it to get wasted or if that would make things worse.
Winter storms had extended my layover in London Heathrow, so I’d retreated to a nearby bar. The British airport was very different than in Dubai, but its inhabitants no less varied. It felt much more normal to me, more western, but I missed the exoticness of the Arabian airport. Dubai was an experience I’d never thought I’d have and, while not every part was perfect, it was a memory I’d treasure.
But mostly, I missed Jeremiah. He was the one I wanted to forget, as well as my choices that had damned me to a dreary life.
It was tempting to try forgetting but, somehow, I doubted alcohol would help much.
“Can I buy you something?”
I looked beside me as a man around my age sat down in the seat beside me. He was handsome in a normal way, wearing a light suit that complimented his dark hair. His expression was placid and friendly, but I gave him a wan smile and shook my head. “No, I’m good.”
“You sure? Look like you could use one.”
Great. Now strangers were commenting on my melancholy. I must look like a wreck, I thought, and shrugged. “I don’t even know what to order.”
He flagged down the bartender. “Two Midori sours,” he said, then turned to me. “So, where are you headed?”
“New York City.”
“Ah, an east coast girl.” He cocked his head sideways. “You have a faint accent though, French Canadian?”
My eyebrows shot up. Most people didn’t notice; even Jeremiah, as astute as he was, had never mentioned it. “I was born in Quebec,” I replied, more than a little impressed. “Moved to New York when I was ten.” It had been the year my grandfather died, leaving us the house where my mother had been raised.
“That must have been tough for you.”
I shrugged. “No little kid likes to move, I guess.” He seemed nice enough, not as overbearing as Jeremiah or as wily as Lucas. He seemed like a businessman, clean cut and well dressed, but I could tell from my brief time with Jeremiah that the man before me wasn’t rich. His shoes weren’t high-dollar, the suit not an expensive cut. He seemed normal, the kind of man I should end up with.
Once upon a time, I would have been attracted to someone like this. Now, they seemed so drab in comparison.
I took a deep breath, fighting against my own disappointment. Would I always compare other men to Jeremiah? “What about you?” I asked, forcing a friendly smile, “where are you heading?”
“Oh, I’m travelling to see family,” he answered as the bartender arrived with our drinks. I sniffed the green liquid then took a sip, and was pleasantly surprised by the sweet taste. “So is anyone special waiting for you at home?”
His innocuous question destroyed my mood. I set my hand with the drink on the countertop, the syrupy liquor turning to ash in my mouth. It was difficult to tell if he was hitting on me or just making conversation. “I just got over a bad breakup,” I answered, hoping he would get the hint.
“Ah yes, how is Jeremiah doing these days?”
At first, his response didn’t register. “Excuse me?”
“You’ve had quite a rough time lately,” he continued blithely, waving around his drink for emphasis before taking a sip. “Of course, that probably started more with when your parents were killed by that hit-and-run driver than when you were seduced in an elevator.”
It was like someone had reached inside my chest and had a stranglehold on my lungs. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even move. In my hand, the plastic cup rattled against the wood bar, but no one around us seemed to notice my distress.
“I took a little visit to your family home in upstate New York,” he continued, stirring the green drink with the little straw. “Very pretty, more so in person. The family inside it now hasn’t kept up the place.”
“Who are you?” I whispered, the words squeezed out of me.
“But I suppose the sins of the parents are passed down to the next generation,” he continued, seeming to ignore my question. “Your parents couldn’t see past the moment, mismanaging their finances so that when they were killed in a silly accident, they ruined your life…”
Throwing my drink in his face wasn’t a conscious decision. The sound of the ice cubes hitting the linoleum below shocked me, but the other man’s expression didn’t change. A few people looked over at us, but nobody seemed interested in joining our discussion.
He paused, then picked up a napkin from the counter and wiped his face. “I probably deserved that.”
“Who are you?” I repeated, my voice shaky but louder this time. Inside I was a mess; that he knew so much about my life had me in a panic, but I had nowhere to go. I’d abandoned the only people who could help me, believing myself not involved in their problems. Now I was sitting alone, thousands of miles away, being told that I was now as big a part in this story as any Hamilton.
For a brief moment the stranger didn’t respond, just stared at me. “What do we know about the Hamilton family tree?” he said finally, tilting his head sideway in thought. “Certainly an ignoble heritage going back several generations. Their money was made on the backs of others, trampling lesser men to achieve their ends. The current generation boasts an arms smuggler who’s taken an untold number of lives, and a commando who is no better than his father with his own militia.”
No better than his father. My adrenaline-fueled brain put together the pieces. “You’re Alexander Rush.”
“Ah, you’ve heard of me. Rufus Hamilton’s bastard, one of many no doubt – is that how they described me? Loki’s friend is very good at gathering information, but guess what?” He leaned forward. “I’m better.”
The blithe tone as he spoke, the way he ticked off details of my own life to me, cut me to the quick. The danger I thought I was leaving, the deadly intrigue and drama, had followed me. I was being pulled into the snare as surely as any Hamilton, except I didn’t know how to fight this. I didn’t have military contacts, or a spy network, or an armed militia.
I didn’t stand a chance.