Today, I discovered a first chapter I’d written before I heard that I was going to be published. Because of that, I wasn’t considering any guidelines as I wrote it, which meant the chapter – and the plot – reflects a freedom that I think writers can sometimes forget.
But reading this chapter brought the excitement for this idea back for me, and I’ve decided to continue writing it! The only thing that could make the experience better for me was to share it with you (and if you like this kind of thing, let me know)!
So, here’s Chapter 1 of my still-to-be-titled work-in-progress. Enjoy!
“What’s a pretty little thing like you doing in a place like this?”
Aria Jacobs didn’t even waste her energy turning around.
“She’s having a drink after being jilted at the altar. Care to join?”
When she heard him shuffle away, she assumed that his answer was “no”. Exactly the reaction she had hoped for, she thought, and asked the bartender for one more neat whiskey. It wasn’t her usual drink, but the burn of it gave her something else to think of besides the betrayal she had suffered on the day that was supposed to be the happiest of her life.
Then again, she had known from the day she got engaged to Matthew Lotter that her wedding day wouldn’t be what she had dreamed about since she was a little girl.
“Seems like the day for it.” A deep voice interrupted her thoughts, and she turned slowly to the left, thinking that the words called for her attention more than the sexy voice that had said it.
And then she saw him, and thought maybe she’d underestimated the sexy part.
He sat a few chairs away from her at the bar, his muscular frame encased in a black pants and white shirt that made his dark skin look even more attractive. He wore no tie, his shirt opened at the top, and she felt her interest prickle when she caught a glimpse of the muscle that it revealed. Slowly her eyes rested on his face, and she tilted her head when she saw the steady smoulder in his eyes. Golden brown eyes that seemed calm at first glance, but held a cloud of emotion visible only because her own lingered there for a few more moments. The dark brown of his hair highlighted the handsome features of his face, matched the stubble on his cheeks, and framed a mouth she thought looked like it could make any girl forget a bad day.
Finally, when she was done with her assessment, Aria leaned back in her chair.
“You were dumped, too?”
An eyebrow lifted, as though he was surprised at her honesty. “I wouldn’t have put it quite as bluntly, but I suppose the answer is yes.”
“I’m sorry. The whole my-fiancé-leaving-me-at-the-altar thing has broken my filter,” she said, and interest piqued when she saw the appreciation in his eyes.
She wished she knew what he was thinking, and immediately stopped herself. She didn’t care. From now onward, she would just see men as people who were there to help her when she was inconvenienced – like say, if she needed something from a shelf she couldn’t reach – or as conversational partners. Like now, when she desperately wanted someone to talk to who didn’t know the sordid history of her relationship. Or, she thought bitterly, of its demise.
She turned her attention back to him, and damned whoever wanted to test her new resolve by placing such a nice-looking man next to her. But she blanked her face of expression, and looked at him, waiting for him to speak.
“At least you’re not in your dress.”
She smirked. “Yes, well, I may not have been smart enough to see that I was about to be dumped, but I did manage to remember that sitting in a white balloon of a dress would make me slightly more conspicuous than I wanted to be.” She glanced over at him. “Luckily you’re a man, so the reason for you being in a tuxedo ranges a lot more than a woman in a wedding dress.”
“So you’re saying no-one could tell that I’ve – as you so elegantly put it – been dumped?”
She laughed, and something loosened inside of her at the easy banter.
“No, not if they didn’t look into those eyes of yours.” She paused to say thank you to the bartender when he placed her drink in front of her. “You have a little too much emotion in them.”
“I do?” He slid his drink towards her, and moved over until he was seated next to her. Her breath hitched a little when the woodsy smell of him caught her senses, but she brushed it off as familiarity. Matthew had smelled almost like that, she thought, and refused to give into the grief that threatened to overcome her when she thought about all she had sacrificed. “That doesn’t seem fair since I can barely read any in yours.”
She smiled at the irony. “You and my fiancé both, it seems. I was left because I was too cold.” She drank her whiskey in one gulp, and relished the burn. “I never showed him any emotion. Especially not since I knew he was screwing around with someone else.”
“Ouch.” The man grimaced and sipped from his drink, and then put it down. “I say that, and yet my fiancée was pregnant with someone else’s baby. That kind of makes your story seem lame.”
She laughed again, and this time, felt herself ease even more. “You’re making this day a hell of a lot better.”
“As they say, misery loves company.” He lifted a glass to her, and again, she smiled, and then it faltered, and she said something she hadn’t even known was inside of her,
“I’ve never known it to be more true than this moment.” She looked over at him and held out a hand. “Aria Jacobs.”
It wouldn’t hurt to know the man’s name, she assured herself.
“Logan Smith.” He shook her hand, and she nearly snatched it back when it tingled. Instead, just like she had been taught, she only let go of it after an appropriate amount of time, and sat back in her chair.
“You know, Logan Smith, you seem awfully laid back for someone who was left at the altar today.”
He looked at her, and something flickered in his eyes that made her wonder if saying that had pushed a button. “Would you believe me if I told you it’s because this isn’t my first?” He gestured to the drink in his hand.
“Maybe,” she said softly, looking at her own. “Except that question tells me that that isn’t the reason.”
He didn’t respond, and Aria didn’t bother looking up at him. She knew as well as the next person that it was easy to lie to make yourself believe something. Hadn’t she done that from the moment she met Matthew? But the truth always catches up, no matter how much she wished it didn’t. No matter how much she needed it not to. Logan would realise it soon enough, she thought, though she wished she could have told him that running away from the truth worked.
“Aria, would you like to grab a table, get something to eat?” he asked, and then held up his hands in front of him when she turned her head and narrowed her eyes. “Hey, I’m just asking for your company. Nothing else, I swear.” And then he rubbed a hand at the back of his head. “Honestly, you’ll be doing me a favour. I really don’t want to be alone with my thoughts tonight.”
Because she could relate to that, she grabbed her handbag and nodded. “Okay. Just don’t try anything. It would really make an awful day even worse if I have to kick you in the groin.”
He laughed, and she ignored the voice that told her she was making a dangerous decision.
Logan figured he must have done something right.
Why else would, on the worst day of his life, heaven send him an ice queen to entertain him with sassy words and an honest demeanour. It was refreshing to deal with honesty – however brutal – after the overemotional and dishonest mess that seemed synonymous now with his ex-fiancée, Faren.
It didn’t hurt that the ice queen had some looks on her either.
Curls spun around her head in a halo of auburn and highlighted an oval face with classy features. Beautiful golden eyes with flecks of green surveyed the waiter who handed them their menus coolly as she took her seat opposite him, and Logan took a moment to appreciate the slim curves of her in her black skin-tight dress. Defined cheekbones and sensually rounded lips gave her the look of a model, but the freckles that lightly dusted her nose made her intimidating looks seem slightly more approachable.
Until she opened that mouth, he thought, and remembered how she had sent the beefy looking man who had tried to chat her up scrambling without even looking at him.
And yet she’d spoken to him, he thought, and again, thanked whoever had sent her his way.
“Is the black symbolic?” he asked, gesturing towards her dress.
Her lips curved up slowly. “Yes, it is. Thank you for noticing.”
He laughed, felt a little of the tension subside. “You did it purposefully.”
“I did. Though in hindsight, I’m not sure what this was doing in my honeymoon luggage. Maybe it was a sign.”
“Or maybe you packed it because you knew how much it flattered you.” He said the words even though his mind warned against it, and was glad he did when a flush spread across her cheeks. So the ice melts, he thought, and wondered why he found that so intriguing.
“So, your fiancée’s baby daddy,” she said, speaking while perusing the menu, almost as though she were talking about the weather. And effectively changing the subject, he noted. “Do you know who he is?”
The pain was still there, crushing him a little, but he shrugged it off. It was of no use now.
“Yeah, I do. Some investment banker that she worked with.” He raised his glass to her. “Good luck to him.”
“Why do they have to be so predictable? Colleagues.” She shuddered at the word, and he swallowed a smile. Even with the aloof personality she was trying to convince him of, he still found her pretty damn adorable.
“So yours was cheating on you with a colleague, too?”
“Yes, I suppose you could call her that.” She frowned, not looking at him. “My situation seems to be a little more complicated than I first thought.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” she answered, still not meeting his eye, “I knew he was sleeping with someone else. If he wasn’t getting it from me, and all that.” She waved her hand and he caught a look of the elegance of it. Suited the softness that he’d felt when he’d shook it, he thought idly, and then turned his attention back to her words. “And I figured it was with someone from work. It was where he was most often. But today, when I joined my groom at the altar, he couldn’t stop looking behind me. Now I think it may have been one of my bridesmaids.”
She paused, and desperately looked out of place, and for the first time, he realised that she might just be. This wasn’t the sort of place a woman like her would usually be in, he thought, looking around at the wooden benches and torn leather upholstery of the bar. Hell, this wasn’t even the sort of place he would be in. Except that it was the closest bar to his wedding venue. And since the Durbanville winelands was a popular place for weddings in Cape Town, he figured the reason she was there was the same as his.
“One of your bridesmaids worked with your fiancé?”
“For him.” She corrected him. “But to answer your question, yes, they all do. It’s a family company, though he isn’t family. Long story.” She waved a hand. “I don’t want to get into the details.”
And yet it seemed the details were where most of his questions would be answered, he thought, but instead, moved on to his next question.
“So when you said you were jilted at the altar, you meant that he literally left you there?”
She looked at him, and the cool eyes cracked with emotion. “Yes. He looked at me, looked at the priest, and then bolted. And when two of my bridesmaids hastily followed, along with most of the groomsmen, I put two and two together.”
“That your fiancé was sleeping with one of your bridesmaids, or one of his groomsmen?”
She smiled, and Logan thought that his new favourite hobby might just be trying to coax that beauty from her. It softened her features, and with those cheekbones, nearly hid her eyes.
“Funny guy,” she said, then grew serious. “No, that one of my bridesmaids was sleeping with him, and the other was covering it up.”
“Oh. Clearly I was wrong earlier. Your story is way lamer than mine.”
She laughed again, and the sound was almost like wind chimes.
“I would have told you that in the beginning. Except that it gets even lamer.” She looked up at him, and those beautiful hazel eyes were filled with misery. “Both of the bridesmaids are my sisters.”
Does this story intrigue you? What did you like best? Do you have any constructive comments about how to make it better? Let me know in the comments!