Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gaming Challenge--Winter of Dreams by Cheryl St. John

Winter of Dreams novella in Colorado Courtship by Cheryl St. John 

Tessa joined them, carrying a tray loaded with a teapot and three cups. “Time for refreshment, don’t you agree?”

She set the tray on a nearby table and served them. 
Ben Charles watched Violet’s demeanor change, and recognized she was uncomfortable with the role reversal. “We don’t want to push ourselves on you, Violet,” he said in a gentle tone.

Her dark gaze moved to his, and he read her uncertainty.

“Perhaps if you think of Sunday as a family day, and remember we want you as part of our family, you’ll be more comfortable.”

A flicker of pain crossed her features, but she quickly hid it. “I’ll try.”

The afternoon sun streaming through the front windows enhanced the color of her eyes, which always appeared so dark. In this light they were a rich deep mahogany, flecked with gold and green. The last thing he wanted to do was crowd her and scare her off. Apparently she had no one else, and everyone needed a family. His might be small, but he and Tessa had a lot to offer.

“We have a new player to draw into our games?” his sister said as she settled beside Violet. The last word had ended on a higher note, indicating her question.

“I was hoping to make a good impression this first weekend,” he replied with good humor. “Not send her packing.”

“What games are you referring to?” Violet asked.

Tessa got up and took one of the game boards from the wall.

“I thought those were colorful lithographs,” Violet said with surprise.

“They’re game boards,” Tessa replied. “This one is my favorite.

The game she referred to was Round the World with Nellie Bly. Tessa had loved to play this one since she was a child. “She’s read Nellie Bly’s book a dozen times,” Ben Charles told Violet.

“Have you read it?” Tessa asked, her expression animated.

“Indeed I have,” Violet answered. “I was twelve when she made headlines. My father and I followed her column in the New York World from the moment she left Jersey City, through the Mediterranean, across the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean, to Japan, all the way until she arrived in New York City. It was the most exciting adventure a girl could imagine.”

The pleasure on Tessa’s face was worth a hundred Sunday afternoons of playing her game. “I was too young then to remember,” she said. “But I read the newspaper accounts in the archives at the library.”
Their conversation convinced Ben Charles once and for all that God had answered his prayers and sent Violet. Emotion spread throughout his chest, like a comforting emollient for a previously aching heart. Thank You, Lord. Your mercies are indeed new every morning.

“How do you play?” Violet asked.

From a cabinet, Tessa gathered the spinner and worn wooden tokens and explained the simple forward and backward movement in the spiral of spaces. “This isn’t Ben Charles’s favorite game, but he indulges me.”

Violet met his eyes, her appreciation and compassion obvious. She gave him a tentative smile that changed the warmth in his chest to something else. Something hotter and more surprising.
Something that didn’t resemble appreciation in the least.

“What is your favorite game?” she asked.

“I don’t mind a competitive game of croquet,” he replied. “Weather permitting.”

“I keep telling him there is a parlor croquet set in Mr. Levine’s shop.”

He grimaced. “If it must be a board game, then I prefer Carrom.”

“You fling little disks across the board into pockets.” Tessa wrinkled her nose the same way she had since she was five and pointed to one of the larger boards on the wall. “Did your family play games at home?”

“Only checkers,” Violet answered.

“Maybe we could read Around the World in Seventy-Two Days together,” Tessa suggested.

Violet didn’t blink an eye. “I would enjoy that.”

Ben Charles believed she meant it.

Violet joined the play with enthusiasm, and the two young women pointed put the details of the book at each space on the board. His sister’s animation and smile gave him immense satisfaction. The game lasted a couple of hours, until he got hungry. “I’m going to go get us a tray of ham and cheese and bread.”

“I can do that,” Violet spoke up.

“It’s your day off,” he reminded her. “We’re used to fending for ourselves on Sunday evenings. We can pop corn over the fire later.”

It was obvious their routine and customs were new to Violet. He and his sister spent a lot of time alienated from others, but perhaps even in their seclusion they’d been more like a family than anything Violet had experienced.

They shared a simple meal, and later ate popcorn. Tessa played a few pieces on the pianoforte. When she’d finished she said to Violet, “I had a nice time. Thanks for joining the game.”

“It was my pleasure.”

Tessa kissed Ben Charles’s cheek. “Thank you, too. And don’t say it was your pleasure.”

“It’s my pleasure to see you happy.”

She briefly pressed her cheek to his. I’m going upstairs to read before bed. Good night.”

Once she was gone, Violet stood and leaned over to gather their dishes on the tray. Without standing, Ben Charles extended his hand and placed it on her wrist. “I’ll do that.”

She looked at his hand, but he didn’t remove it.

He should have.

She was new to their household. He intended for theirs to be a strictly working relationship, but he felt a constant need to assure her she was part of their family. He had no business changing their agreement or making her uncomfortable by letting new feelings get in the way.

She’d only been here a few days.

In those brief moments while her gaze moved from his hand to his face, he went over all the reasons why he needed to keep his distance.

But everything about Violet appealed to him and made him feel protective. He told himself he held only a brotherly concern, like that he felt for Tessa, but the lie didn’t convince him.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gaming Challenge--Makin' History by *lizzie starr

From the erotic romance Makin' History, by *lizzie starr (WIP)

There had to be something she could do to distract herself, before she came just thinking about Micah’s touch. They passed a farmstead. Two horses stood by a worn wooden fence. “Zip, zip.”
     Micah jerked his head toward her. “What?”
     “Oh, just remembered a game we played in the car when I was a kid. When you see a horse, you say ‘zip’. At the end of the trip, whoever had the most zips won.”
     “What did you win?”
     She chuckled. “Bragging rights was about it. I didn’t win too often, my dad had an uncanny knack of seeing the horses.”
     “Sounds like fun. I challenge you to a game of... zip?”
     Maybe this would help clear her mind. Dilyn nodded. “Challenge accepted.” She pointed “Zip. That’s three for me.”
     “Three? But you zipped the first two horses before I even knew about the game.”
     He laughed, the deep, joyous sound settled comfortably around her heart. Then he gave her a calculating look. “Okay, I’ll let you have your three horses. If...”
     “If you accept a wager on the outcome.”
     A wager? Was he a gambler? Was that why he didn’t seem to have a permanent job? She hesitated then asked, “A wager?”
     Micah nodded. He’d thrown her a curve ball and he liked seeing her unsure of his motivations. Keeping her on edge would make the night that much better. If he could last that long. He was ready to burst with the need to f### her. He blinked and amended his thought. F### was too crass for her, despite their first time together. No, from now on, no matter how wild or uninhibited their romps might become, he’d only ever be making love to her. With her. He blinked again.
     “Micah? What do you mean by a wager?”
     “Whoever has the highest count of zips when we pull up in front of Alice’s house, gets to choose our... activities... for the evening.”
     A spark lit her eyes before she looked out the window. “Even if it’s just watching television.”
     He doubted either of them would choose such a boring, innocent pastime, but if that’s what she wanted. “Even if it’s only watching television.  However, I have to warn you, while Alice has satellite, the old place, where I usually bunk, only has rabbit ears. On a good night I can get two stations.”
     She laughed. “I’ll take my chances. The bet’s on.” She pointed again. “Two more zips. That makes five to zero.”
     Micah enjoyed watching her scan the rolling sandhills, searching for horses. And there were plenty. This was good land for raising horses. He gave an occasional ‘zip’ just to keep the game interesting but let her stay eight or nine ahead of him.
     “You’re not trying very hard.”
     “Zip,” he called, nodding toward a distant hill.
     “I don’t see any horses.”
     “It was running over the hill. Disappeared right after I called it.”
     Dilyn crossed her arms. “Uh huh. I tried that, too, when I was a kid. My dad didn’t buy it either.”
     “No, really--”
     “I’m feeling generous, so I’ll let you have that one. Just this once.” She punched his arm softly. “Don’t try it again, buster.”
     They were only a couple of miles from the road to Turquoise Creek Ranch, he had no need to count imaginary horses. “Nope. I’ll only count horses we both can see. Cross my heart.”
     He eased the car onto a gravel road and glanced at Dilyn from the corner of his eye. She watched the land from her side of the car. Good.
     He slowed before the final hill. The houses and main buildings were nestled between two rolling banks of hills. And near the barn, his brother-in-law kept--
     “Zip, zip, zip, zip, zip...” He continued zipping until he’d counted all twenty horses scattered across the narrow pasture.
     He turned a triumphant grin to Dilyn. She sat, mouth open, switching her gaze between the horse studded green and his face. “ cheated.”
     He shrugged. “Since this is family land, you should have guessed I’d know where the horses are kept.”
     He stopped her complaints with a kiss. She sighed into his mouth and cupped his cheek. He danced his tongue with hers then slowly withdrew and leaned back. “I win. I get to choose tonight’s activities.”
     A dreamy smile accompanied her nod. “You won.”
     Boy, had he ever.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Shall We Play A Game?

So begins the next phase of writerly page count competition...

And to start off, it's time to report pages. In the comments section, let the guru know how many new pages you've written since the last time you reported. If you've been editing, state the total number of pages with heavy edits as well. Blogs, queries, synopsis, wip, those all count!

While you're leaving your page count in the comments section, let us know what your favorite game was when you were young.

Let the games begin!