Thursday, November 23, 2006

Running Scared - Print Release Date: 17th April 2007

Here's an excerpt!

As she stood watching the lights glisten on the harbour and listening to the waves, a shiver crept up her spine. Julie had the oddest feeling that somebody watched her. Turning and rubbing the back of her neck self-consciously, she saw there was no one on the lawn behind her, and the only other activity nearby was the frantic clanging and hissing coming from the kitchen as the staff went into overdrive to prepare dinner for several hundred people. 

A strange smell tickled her nose. She frowned, trying to place it - sort of like men’s aftershave, or perhaps it was the disinfectant they used in the kitchen. Shaking off the feeling and refusing to think about the ghosts said to haunt the fort, she gazed at the thousands of sparkling lights which lit up the shores around the dark harbour. "Beautiful," she murmured to herself.

"Yes, isn’t it." A deep voice sounded from the depths of the shadows only a few meters away. Julie jumped and swore. She stepped back in alarm as a large figure loomed out of the darkness.

"I’m so sorry," the man said. "Did I startle you?" He reached forward and grabbed her elbow to steady her as she teetered backwards. As he did, the smell of cheap aftershave overwhelmed her. Confused, she looked up into the most handsome face and the most beautiful dark eyes she’d ever seen.

Instantly all thoughts of strange smells were forgotten. It could’ve been the adrenaline from her fright or the spark of electricity which pulsed through her from his touch, but in an instant, desire began to uncoil in the pit of her stomach. Trapped by his compelling gaze, she felt everything around her fade away and, though it was only for a moment, it lasted an eternity. In the void, her world shifted slightly on its axis. 

A crash and a stream of profanities from the kitchen broke the spell. Swiftly recovering her composure, Julie tried to cover her confusion. "No, no," she said politely. "I was miles away and simply not paying attention."

“You look like you could use a drink.” The stranger handed her a glass of champagne.

She took it automatically, then, realising she didn’t want it, balanced it on the battlement edge. 

“Do you usually lurk in dark corners scaring the pants off people then plying them with alcohol?” she asked, just a little crankily.

“Yes,” said the stranger seriously. “It’s a pastime of mine. I also enjoy dressing up in women’s clothes and stamp collecting.” He flashed a winning smile.

“Um, how nice for you.” Just then Julie really wasn’t in the mood for any smartarse men, no matter how witty they might think themselves.

“I was joking,” he clarified.

“Yes, I could see that.” Ignoring his charm Julie didn’t give him an inch.

“Do you often have problems like that?” he asked.

“Problems like what?” 

“Oh, you know, smitten youths, declarations of undying love.” He clutched a hand to his chest and assumed a look of such bucolic adoration that Julie almost smiled despite herself. 

“It’s not polite to eavesdrop,” she said, weakening.

“Well, neither is it polite to enact passionate love scenes in the vicinity of those who have determined to spend the evening pursuing their favourite pastime of lurking in shadows,” he pointed out.

“I would’ve thought those who lurk in shadows might well be awaiting such an eventuality,” countered Julie with some asperity.

“I am not that kind of lurker,” the stranger denied with such injured offence that Julie laughed.

“Ah, finally she smiles.” He said it quietly, intently. In a spilt second the light mood evaporated and the air between them crackled with awareness once more. Remembering where she was and firmly telling herself she ought to be inside schmoozing clients rather than hanging about outside with a self-confessed cross-dressing stamp collector, Julie ended the conversation.

"Please excuse me," she said, glancing over her shoulder towards the pavilion. "I should be back inside."

"Just a second," he said. "Before you go..." He leaned towards her and produced a large white handkerchief. She stiffened in alarm, convinced he was about to kiss her, but instead he gently wiped the handkerchief across her chin and handed it to her.

"You had lipstick on your chin," he said, grinning. Julie glanced at the handkerchief and in dismay realised the revolting Karl had smudged her lipstick. Feeling a warm flush creeping up her cheeks, she spun on her heel and hurried to find a mirror.

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