I managed 1,188 words today in between napping, coughing, and blowing my nose. I have the ending scenes sketched out in my head. At 52,565 words, I have a solid, rough (very rough) draft.
I recently reflected to a romance writer friend that this genre was difficult for me. I’ve always written strong characters, but I always made sure there was an intricate plot involved with lots of action. This work is a lot of talking heads, but that’s okay, I was told, because in a romance it’s all about the relationship. Still, little hints of intrigue kept trying to work their way in, and I’d have to put them back in the closet for another time and a different project.
Without further ado, here’s today’s excerpt:
Nelson knew when Mai wasn’t on a mission, she spent her time tracking down who had provided the bit of intell, which had led to Alexei’s betrayal. She’d hit many a dead end, but none of that had dissuaded her. The doggedness was something he could admire, and unlike Alexei, she kept it and her official work well separated.
File folder tucked beneath one arm Nelson strode the corridors of an organization he was quickly coming to recognize would be his some day soon. Because he’d made himself approachable in contrast to Nigel’s aloofness, people stopped him for consultations or, in one case, a women he’d been seeing for a while. Too long, really. That needed to end soon. He made some excuse about not being able to be in his quarters tonight, exchanged some suggestive banter, and moved on to Mai’s office.
Mai might be an operative now, but her office work ethic hadn’t changed. The desk, the floors were covered in bits and pieces of paper, she strolled about bare-footed, but she rarely French-braided her hair anymore, except on a mission. He couldn’t ignore the calendar this morning. Exactly one year since he’d come here with the news her world had imploded.
“Hard at work as always,” he said from the doorway.
She looked up, her face expressionless, her dark eyes flinty. “As always,” she said. “I feel like I’m close, that it’s just beyond my fingertips, just out of my reach.”
“Don’t rush it,” he said. “It’ll come, probably when you least expect it. In the meantime, I have a job for you.”
He handed her the folder, which she took and skimmed. She looked at him again, a skeptical eyebrow raised. “You want me to go to Ukraine and buy a horse?” she asked.
“Well, that’s your cover story. Take a look at the name of the collective,” Nelson said.
She flipped through several pages of the folder. This time the skepticism was deeper when she looked up again. “What’s this for?” she asked.
“Maybe some obscure Cossack mourning ritual,” he said. “It’s been a year.”
“As if you had to remind me of that,” Mai said.
“Well, yes, but the request came from Natalia Shevchenko-Bukharina, a request to meet, finally, the woman so important to her son, Alexei Bukharin,” Nelson said.
“How would she even know about me?” Mai asked.
“They had a way of staying in contact, and I made sure she was advised when we lost him,” Nelson said.
“Why a year later?” Mai asked.
“Well, you can ask her, can’t you? In the meantime, you’re going there as Maitland Fisher, equine aficionado, to look at the Shevchenko-Bukharina horse breeding operation,” Nelson said.
Mai closed the folder. “I don’t want to do this,” she said.
“Well, funny, but you don’t get to refuse assignments,” he replied.
“Nelson, I’ve reached the point where I’ve pretty much put it behind me. Encountering his mother is too much. All it will do is set me back,” Mai said.
“Look, knowing the wily old woman, she wouldn’t ask for such a meet unless she had a good reason for it. I’m curious to know what it is,” Nelson said. “So, you can—”
“Ask her when I see her,” Mai finished. Nelson heard the controlled sigh. “All right. Might as well get it over with. I’ll leave in the morning.”