Sunday, February 28, 2016

A scene from Ana's WIP

 The heroine is kidnapped to be held for ransom.

            Stormy was ready to scream.
            For six mornings in a row, she’d oohed dutifully at staircase wainscoting and endured debates between Candy and Blade’s mother over whether live-in servants should occupy attic or basement rooms. Emily Llewellyn tittered in every bedroom they toured and whispered in her ear, Imagine Blade naked in here.
            Candy had not uttered a word about her private investigator. She seemed hell bent on planning a wedding that no future Society bride could top. She’d already found fault with Olivia’s dressmakers and insisted Stormy needed a gown-maker.
            Madame Zarov had just personally measured every span and circumference of Stormy’s body, and overruled Stormy’s protests that she didn’t like billowy sleeves or bone-stiffened bodices. With great fanfare, Madame scheduled an entire day for fabric selection.
            Stormy longed to put on boots and denims. To do some productive, physical work. To have a conversation that was not laced with gossip or innuendo.
            Following a sales clerk who carried Olivia, Candy and Emily’s purchases, she trudged out of Madam Zarov’s shop. Blade’s mother settled into her carriage and arranged four large, round hat boxes on the seat beside her.
            Stormy set her foot on the carriage step only to have Candy and Emily pull her back as if they were doting parents saving their toddler from falling in front of a train. Before she could shake free, Candy waved on Olivia’s driver.
            “We’ll meet you at home, Olivia,” Candy called. “Emily and I want to make one more stop.”
            As soon as Olivia’s carriage turned the corner, Emily giggled. “Father would kill me if he knew where we were going.”
            Candy hailed a passing hansom, which drove them through a bewildering maze of uneven side streets and overgrown back alleys. Stormy lost sight of the sun and soon could not tell which way was east or west.
            When the hansom finally stopped and they got out, the air smelled like fish and riverboat smoke. They were in an old section of the city, close to the docks, in front of shop whose window displayed racy lingerie in come-hither hues, the kind Aimee and Marie wore at Purdy’s Place.
            Stormy looked questioningly at Candy.
            Candy smiled cryptically. “Something for your wedding night.”
            “But I don’t want—” Stormy said.
            The store’s door opened, merrily tinkling a bell. A well-dressed gentleman, carrying a small bag, stepped out and tipped his hat.
            “Blade doesn’t like—”
            “Oh, don’t be a spoilsport.” Emily pulled her into the store.
            A sales clerk waited on a woman who stood in front of a full-length mirror. She kicked up her leg and layers of petticoats flounced under a red dance hall dress. The clerk nodded at something the woman said and disappeared into a back room.
            On the opposite side of the shop, another woman parted the curtain of a dressing room and posed in a peek-a-boo for a scar-faced man holding a small, pug-nosed dog.
            Candy stepped into the middle of the shop and examined a high-collared, embroidered Oriental nightdress that appeared decent until she pointed out hidden slits in the skirt. She lifted the nightdress off its display. “Blade might like this, Stormy. Try it on.”
            “No.” Again wishing she were riding home with Blade’s mother, Stormy crossed her arms and sidled closer to the door.
            “Well, I will.” Emily found a larger sized nightdress and flittered toward the dressing booth, fingering full-figured camisoles and bustiers along the way.
            The store bell trilled.
            Stormy stepped aside for a newcomer dressed in dark trousers and a tan day coat. His sandy hair was parted down the middle, and he carried a walking stick with a large brass knob. He looked directly at her. The intensity of his gaze made her uneasy.
            “What about this?” Candy held out a sheer chiffon and bridal lace peignoir.
            Eager to put distance between herself and the man, Stormy seized the padded ivory hanger and carried the boudoir robe toward the dressing booth. “Emily, let me in.”
            “Wait your turn.” Emily’s voice was shrill with exasperation. “I’m not decent.”
            The bell over the door chimed again.
            Stormy whirled around in time to watch the man leave. When the door clicked shut, she heaved a sigh of relief.
            Candy walked around the shop, picking out a cincher, palm-sized panties and other items Stormy could not name. “For the honeymoon.”
            Stormy blushed. It might be fun to surprise Blade one night. Once they returned to the ranch, the only way to shop for unmentionables was by mail order, and one could never be sure about the fit.
            Emily stepped out of the dressing booth carrying several lacy garments. “I’m buying these. I’ll wear them in my room with the door locked.” She looked at the items Stormy held. “Ooh, those are nice.”
            Stormy entered the changing space and heard Emily talking to the sales clerk while she undressed. The cash register rang. She stepped into a peek-a-boo and tugged it up.
            “There’s a jewelry store across the street.” Candy spoke through the curtain. “We’ll be right back.”
            “Wait!”
            Stormy heard the bell. Footsteps. Emily was coming back! She slipped her arms into the peignoir, tied the sash and slid open the curtain.
            Her heart leapt into her throat.
            The man with the walking stick stood before her. He slapped the brass knob threateningly against his palm. “Come with me, Miss Hawkins. Quietly, or I’ll knock you out and carry you.”
            Shaking with fear, she stepped out of the changing booth. The shop was empty.
            He set his hand heavily on her shoulder and steered her behind the sales counter. Past the sales clerk, who sat stiffly and didn’t glance up from her ledger. Into the shop’s back storeroom and out a door that opened onto a dark, dirty alley that reeked like an outhouse in summer.
            Overhead, a man’s violent shout pierced the air, followed by a crash and a woman’s wail. Wings flapping, a bird bolted from a nest on a window ledge. Two red-eyed rats scurried into a hiding hole.
            She looked down at her stockinged feet. Broken bottles littered the dank walkway. She’d not be able to outrun him.
            Her panic snapped into anger. “Who are you?” she demanded.
            “Edward Peabody, Esq.”
            “The private investigator. What do you want with me?"
            “Money.”
            She laughed brazenly. “You’re no good if you think I have money.”
            His grip on her shoulder tightened. “Don’t underestimate yourself, Miss Hawkins. You’re a valuable commodity.”
            Her heart thumped with alarm. She’d read stories about wayward girls being kidnapped and sold as concubines to Indian princes. She plucked at the peignoir. Thoughts tumbled out as words. “This robe. I’m not a whore. I’m getting married. Candy thought I needed—”
            A chill coursed through her body. Candy had sent Blade’s mother away and dragged her to the lingerie shop. Insisted she try something on, and then left the shop. “Candy hired you to do this.”
            Peabody stiffened. His arm jerked, rocking her like an angry wave. “The beggar who undressed in front of my office,” he muttered. “He saw—”
            “Don’t underestimate my fiancé,” she spat. “He’s smarter and stronger than you’ll ever be.”
            Peabody laughed coldly. “Not as long as I have you.”
            “You want money? He’ll pay what you ask. He has the money.” His father has the money.
            “Oh, he’ll pay. So will the others.”
            Others? Zed, Brownie and Running Bear couldn’t raise a ransom.
            “Like I said, Miss Hawkins. You’re a valuable commodity.” He put his arm around her waist like they’d agreed on a price for her services and were eager to consummate their deal. He aimed his walking stick down the alley. “Walk that way.”
            She bowed her head and took short, resisting steps. Any second now, someone would open a door or turn into the alley, and she’d ram her elbow into Peabody’s gut. Double him over so she could run to safety.
            Her ears strained to hear something other than his determined footfalls and her ragged gulps of air. She tried to slow their pace.
            He forced her forward.
            She glanced desperately over her shoulder.
            He rapped her shin with his cane.
            Tears flooded her eyes, blinding her vision. White hot pain exploded in her heel. Her breath erupted in a tortured cry as she hopped on one foot and lifted the other.
            A chunk of thick brown glass stuck through her tattered stocking. She reached down and yanked it out. Blood welled from the deep wound.
            “You bastard!” Gripping the jagged glass between her thumb and forefinger, she swung her hand at Peabody’s face. The sharp edge sliced a cut from his cheek to his chin.
            He yelped and released his hold on her.
            Ignoring the throbbing in her foot, she ran for her life.
            Peabody shouted a threat. His boots thundered behind her, drawing ever closer. Each heavy whoosh of his exhalations boxed her ears, distorting her hearing.
            She veered toward a narrow walkway between two tall brick buildings and risked a glance behind her.
            Peabody gripped the knob of his walking stick and swung it over his head.
            She ducked and kept running even though she couldn’t feel her feet anymore. A slit of daylight glowed ahead of her. A street. People. Rescue.
            Peabody bellowed again.

            Everything went black.

4 comments:

  1. Great scene with lots of period description, and an intriguing ending!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love the ending! Can't wait to read more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love this. The scene is so clear in my mind's eye. Thankyou for sharing.

    ReplyDelete