Welcome to week two of “What was I thinking?” Last week I posted an excerpt from Man Law and shared what inspired me to write that scene. This time I’ve chosen a scene from my romantic suspense A Just Deception. Isabelle, the story’s heroine, is undoubtedly my most damaged character (so far!). She’s a survivor of childhood abuse and is a lawyer who thrives on her independence. Due to her emotional issues, sex to her is simply a function. She has forced herself to resist emotional attachments that might disappoint her or break her heart. At least until Peter “Monk” Jessup, a man with his own emotional burdens shows up.
With Peter, Isabelle finds someone who is patient and respectful of her issues and the reasons she has built her emotional barricades. He’s also determined to destroy those barricades.
When I wrote this book, I knew I was pushing some boundaries, but I’m lucky to have an editor who doesn’t mind when I want to break a few “rules”. She, in fact, encourages me to take risks. In the revision letter for the book I just submitted she suggested that if I was going to give someone baggage, I might as well make the best use of it. So, what I’ve learned through the editing process is that if I’m going to go there (wherever “there” may be), I’d better really go there.
As I reached the mid-point of A Just Deception, I realized I needed something to happen that would emotionally rock Izzy. Up to that point, she’d been cautious about sharing her feelings with Peter but had been growing more confused by the connection she felt with him.
With this scene, given it was the midpoint of the book (and things would have to shift) I thought it might be a good time for Izzy to take a risk and share a secret with Peter. Unfortunately, she doesn’t give Peter enough information and (typical man! J) he misses the point. This agitates her even more and she tries to escape to the bathroom for some privacy.
Here is where the scene wound up:
She couldn’t stand the way Peter was now watching her. Men. They always stared at her for one reason or another.
Time alone with no one analyzing her. That’s the way her world worked best and maybe, for once, Peter would leave her be. She hurried to the bathroom, and shut and locked the door. If the bathroom had a window she’d probably climb out.
What had she just done? He probably thought her a whore and Peter had standards in that area. He wouldn’t want to even touch her after that little admission.
Maybe that’s what she wanted.
Taking off her clothes, she tossed them on the cracked tile floor. The bathroom, with its brown vanity and drab green sink, was an extension of the rest of the motel and she hated every bit of it. Or maybe it was simply being there she hated.
After turning the shower on full blast, she stuck her hand into the stream and waited for the hot water.
The door flew open and crashed against the wall with a bang that rocked her. She clutched the shower curtain for balance and turned as Peter stepped into the bathroom.
“What the hell, Peter? You scared me!”
He slammed what looked like a metal pick on the sink and got within an inch of her. His blue eyes locked on hers and the steel there could have broken cement. Hard, hard eyes.
“I’m naked here,” she shrieked.
But the sickening vulnerability had nothing to do with being naked.
“You don’t say something like that and walk away,” he yelled. “If you’re pissed, you need to tell me why. I’m not a mind reader.”
Isabelle shoved the curtain back and twisted the shower knob. The faucet wasn’t providing the only steam in the tiny bathroom. She turned, gave Peter a shove and reached for the towel hanging on the rack.
“And I deserve some privacy.” She wrapped herself in the stingy towel.
Peter, to his credit, kept his eyes focused on her face. He must really be mad. Most men would have at least snuck a peek by now. Or maybe he was trying not to piss her off any further. That theory made much more sense.
She angled around him, stormed out of the bathroom and shut the adjoining room door. All they needed was Billy wandering in with her wrapped in a swatch of cotton barely bigger than a hand towel.
Peter followed her. “What’s this about?”
They needed a distraction here. She spun to face him and the towel came loose. She should reach to tighten it, but maybe…if she just let it sink to the ground…his mind would move elsewhere.
Sex she could handle.
Even if she didn’t want their first time together to be manufactured because she was too terrified to admit she was losing herself. Was she that pathetic? Obviously so.
“Don’t even,” he said, somehow knowing exactly where her mind had gone. “You’re not going to get out of talking to me.” He huffed out a breath, and bit down hard enough that the muscle in his jaw flexed. “I know you’re intentionally doing this. I can see it in your eyes. Creepy Izzy is barking at you and I’m trying to stay cool, but dealing with you on an emotional level can be a nightmare.”
Oh, my God. Give up already. How could he still be standing here after all she’d subjected him to? Crazy. That’s what he was.
She scoffed. “That’s not it.”
He stuck his hands on his hips and puckered. The silence hung between them, daring her to say something, but she’d wait it out. Part of good lawyering meant knowing when to keep quiet.
Peter slowly shook his head. “You’re trying to frustrate me so I’ll give up on you. Classic move, Izzy, but you’re busted.”
Her breath caught, backed up into her throat and she gasped. No air. No air. Breathe. But she couldn’t. Not with her nerves chewed raw. He wouldn’t go away. Wouldn’t leave her to this agony of being stuck between two worlds.
“Shut up,” she said.
“Talk to me.”
The pressure behind her eyes intensified and she jammed the heels of her palms into them. The pounding wouldn’t stop, so she dropped her hands and looked him square in the eye.
Back him off.
“I hate you,” she said.
He didn’t flinch.
“No you don’t. You’re scared. Big difference.”
RU Crew, join me next week when I revisit another scene. Thanks for stopping by!
Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and women’s fiction. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog. For more information on Adrienne’s Private Protectors series please visit http://www.adriennegiordano.com/. Adrienne can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AdrienneGiordanoAuthor and Twitter at http://twitter.com/AdriennGiordano.
- Part One: What was I thinking? by Adrienne Giordano
- When you get a foot in the publishing door, kick it open.
- Part Three: What was I thinking? by Adrienne Giordano
- Mastering POV
- Do All Roads Lead to Plot Mapping?