What Happens in Washington

A belated Valentine’s Day gift for my fellow #GH #RnA fans… Enjoy!

What Happens in Washington

She sat at the hotel bar nursing her second gin and tonic. Blew out a breath and shook her head, trying to shake off her nerves about facing the inquisition at the Department of Justice the next day. She didn’t notice him come in.

He spotted her the moment he walked through the door. He’d know that silhouette anywhere. And she was wearing a red suit. He liked her in red.

“Excuse me, handsome,” said a young female voice, followed by a series of giggles.

He stepped out of the doorway, allowing the gaggle of young women to pass.

“Thanks,” one of them smiled, wiggling her way past him in a low-cut blouse and something made out of so little material it looked more like a scarf around her waist than a skirt. If she was trying to show off the goods, it had little effect on him. He smiled politely, but his eyes never really left the dark haired beauty at the bar.

He sauntered over and slipped up behind her. “This seat taken?” he asked.

Her lips curved gently upward. Without turning around she answered, “I was saving it for my partner in crime.”

“I guess I should be on my way then.”

She tipped her head back to look at him and caught sight of his charismatic grin. “Like hell!” She spun around on her stool and hopped off, throwing her arms around his neck. “I didn’t think you were gonna make it,” she said as she rested her head on his shoulder.

“You didn’t think I’d really leave you to face this alone, did you?” he said, folding his arms around her waist and rocking her gently.

She didn’t answer, only held on more tightly.

“Anna?” he said, pulling back to look at her.

Her eyes glistened with emotion, but she tried to cover with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Hey, now! Are you really that worried or just that happy to see me?”

“Bit of both,” she admitted. Her hands came to rest on his shoulders.

He pulled her back in. “No worries, love. We’ll get through it. Together.”

“Together,” she repeated over his shoulder.

“Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”

“I’ve had two already.”

“Then you can buy me one. Or two. Sounds like I need to catch up.” He picked up her glass and took a drink. Gin and tonic? What? No Kir Royale?

“Somehow the thought of champagne in any form seemed inappropriate.”

Hmm. I’d suggest pousse-café, but since we’ve had no dinner, an after dinner drink is hardly—”

“I was going to suggest tequila.”

“Ha! Sure you were,” he said.

“What?”

“You can’t handle tequila.”

“I can too!” she insisted.

“No, you can’t. You never could. Don’t you remember that time in Laredo when we—”

“I remember it very well, thank you. You were obviously too drunk to recall—”

“Me?”

“Yes. You. Robert.”

“Put your money where your mouth is,” he said.

“Fine!”

“Fifty bucks says you’re out after two margaritas.”

“You’re on!”

“Fine. Bartender, two margaritas on the rocks, please,” Robert said.

“You got it. Cuervo?”

“No,” Anna piped up. “Patrón, please. Save the sour mix and give it to us straight. And make his a double.”

Robert glanced at her with his right eyebrow raised.

Her expression did not waver. “What? I’m just leveling the playing field, Robert.”

Robert eyed the bartender. The man’s face said, “This isn’t exactly a shot-of-tequila kind of establishment.”

“You heard the lady,” Robert instructed.

The bartender nodded. Returned a moment later and placed two glasses on the bar in front of them. He poured and walked away.

Anna chose one and raised it. Robert followed suit. “Two shots,” he said. “And when I win, I’ll see to it that you make it safely back up to your room, if I have to carry you myself.”

“Such a gentleman.”

“Always.” He smiled. “Cheers.”

They tapped their glasses together and threw back the shots. Anna slammed her glass down on the bar, then, since the bartender wasn’t looking, leaned over the bar and reached to pick up the bottle from behind the bar.

Robert couldn’t resist giving her behind a loving tap as it presented itself.

She shot him a cautionary look. When he answered with another charming grin, she gave up trying to look annoyed and moved on. “Right,” she said as she refilled their glasses. “So, what’s our plan for tomorrow?”

He shook his head. “No plan,” he said. “We play it straight. The truth. Appeal to their sense of reason.”

“That’s it?”

“It is what it is. What we did, we did for a reason.”

“A very good reason.”

“Exactly.”

“And if they don’t listen to reason?” she said, worry creeping into her voice.

“Then we pray that Frisco can talk some sense into his buddy, Mitchell What’s-His-Name.”

“The Assistant Inspector General?”

“Right,” he said, gulping down his second round.

“And what if he can’t?”

He shrugged. “We request adjoining cells and hatch a plan to make a break for it at the first opportunity.”

“Robert!”

“Then, we go dark, find a nice deserted island and brew up that bucket of Mai Tais.”

She shoved him, but couldn’t help smiling. “I’m serious, Robert. Come on!”

“Well, what else do you want me to say?”

“I don’t know.”

This time he poured another round and after downing his he continued. “Let me ask you this,” he said, concentrating on forming his lips around the words. He refused to acknowledge that the Patrón was beginning to get to him. “If you had it to do over again, would you do it any differently?”

She toyed with the shot in front of her, her lips pursed, face contemplative. “No. We did what was right. For Robin.” She picked up the glass and shot it.

“For us,” he said, taking hold of her free hand.

She turned to look at him. “For us,” she repeated, tearing up. “I can’t second guess that.”

“Well, then, there it is.”

She nodded. “I guess so.”

“So…” He hesitated, looking for the right words. He could see she was shaken right now and she was depending on him to be her rock. He wanted to give her that sense of security, but in reality, he was just as concerned as she was. He had to act calm and fake it well.

“What?” she asked, waiting for his words of wisdom.

“For now, we wait and see. And in the meantime…”

“Yeah?”

“We enjoy tonight.”

“What did you have in mind? A White House picture stop?”

“Ha! No. Are you hungry?”

“Hmm. Now that you mention it, I could use something to go with the tequila.”

“Shall we acquire a table?”

“No.” She wrinkled her nose. “I’m no longer in the mood to sit around and act polite. We could go up and order room service or—”

“I’ve got a better idea. Do you trust me?”

“Always.”

“You go on up to your room and I’ll make a take-out run. Meet you up there.”

She hopped off the stool and gathered her bag. She held up her arms as if to say, hey, Robert, I’m still standing.

He stood, smiled, took out his wallet. “Take that with you.” He nodded in the direction of the tequila.

“Really?”

He threw a fifty dollar bill down on the bar. “That ought to cover it.”

She watched him stroll confidently toward the door. “Oh, Robert,” she called after him.

He turned and flashed a knowing look. “Three oh two,” he said, tapping a finger to his temple. He winked and walked out.

She shook her head and smiled then, craftily slipped the bottle into her bag and sashayed coolly out of the bar without anyone paying her a second glance.

* * *

Thirty minutes later, Robert arrived at her door. He could hear music playing faintly beyond the door. Anna answered, now in a pair of black yoga pants and a matching tank. She looked feminine, but strong, Robert thought. Who ever said only men got better with age? She was still an incomparable beauty, even in workout clothes. He stared a little too long at her shapely form, prompting her to say, “Well, don’t just stand there, Robert. Get in here. ”

“Yeah, of course. Here you go,” he said. He held up a plastic take out bag as he brushed past her.

“Took you long enough,” she said as she turned down the radio.

“Sorry. I had to take a cab. China Town was a little too far away.”

“What? Chinese? You’re kidding!” She rushed over to the desk where he was unloading the containers.

“Nope. Moo Shoo Pork or Chicken Chow Mein.” He held a take-out container in each hand.

“Oh, my God, I love you, Robert Scorpio!” She snatched the box out of his hand and lunged for a pair of chopsticks.

He shook his head and laughed. He grabbed another pair of chopsticks and joined her as she sat cross-legged on the bed. “So,” he started as he flopped down against the head board and crossed one ankle over the other, “what’s new?”

“Ha! Well, not much. My boyfriend took over the mob, I lost my badge, and now I ‘m just hanging around waiting to find out if I’m going to be indicted. You know, same old, same old. You?”

“Oh, bailed Holly out of a jam again, got stuck in Wisconsin bored out of my mind on a bloody counterfeiting case of all things, and now I’m here waiting to find out if my ex and I are gonna get matching jumpsuits.”

She took the bottle of Patrón off the nightstand. “That calls for a drink,” she said,  taking a healthy swig directly from the bottle. She passed it to him.

He put down his Moo Shoo Pork and grabbed the bottle.

She watched his blue eyes sparkle as he took his turn. “You know something? I think orange goes better with your coloring than mine,” she said.

“Is that so?”

“Yes. I think you’re going to look a lot better in that jumpsuit than I will,” she laughed as she leaned her head on his shoulder.

“Maybe. But you’ll still look a lot better out of it,” he chuckled with a hand on her thigh.

“Robert!” she giggled, sitting up and putting on a shocked façade.

“Just the facts, love. Just the facts.” He looked over at her, his eyes still twinkling.

She was caught off guard. There is was. That old familiar feeling. That gentle pull in her core that spread through her body like a warm current. He felt it too, she thought. She could tell by the suddenly seriously, slightly wanton looked on his face.

He saw the pink in her cheeks and, he thought, her breath visibly caught. But then, maybe she was just feeling the tequila. He didn’t dare read too much into it, did he? He cleared his throat. “Are you okay?” he asked.

She shrugged and rolled her head around as if loosening up her neck. “Yeah. Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?” She leaned back on the pillows and took another bite of Chow Mein. “I told you, I’m not the one who can’t handle my liquor. You, Mr. Scorpio, you look a little peaked.” She glanced at him sideways.

He took another swig from the bottle. They sat in silence for a minute before he spoke again. “I’m sorry about you and Duke.”

“Are you?”

“I am if that’s what you wanted. But he hurt you, Anna. And I—”

“Again!” she shouted.

Surprised by the force with which she said it, his eyes got wide.

“Again, Robert! I’m an intelligent woman, aren’t I?”

“You’re brilliant,” he answered.

“So why do I do it? Hmm? Why do I fall for his lies over and over again? He plays me for a fool every time.”

“Look, Anna—”

“And what’s more, he tries to find fault with me, to draw attention to my mistakes in order to justify his own actions. Well, not anymore, Robert. I’m finished!”

“You won’t get any argument from me,” he assured her.

“I’m over him.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Oh, I’m so over him,” she repeated, nodding. “Hell, I kissed Sloane on New Year’s Eve!”

“Sloane! Really?”

“Yes. Though I can’t think why. Just convenience I suppose. ”

“What kind of kiss are we talking about here?”

“What do you mean? Just a kiss.”

“I mean, was this a peck on the cheek, or a full-fledged I’m in to you kind of kiss?”

A new emotion shone in his eyes. “Robert,” she asked, “You’re not jealous, are you?”

He shook his head. “Just curious, that’s all.”

“I could show you,” she said. She smiled at him and took the bottle out of his hand. After a rather lengthy swallow, she leaned in close. So close for a moment he thought she might actually be going to demonstrate. His heart fluttered. His lips parted in anticipation. Instead, she patted his cheek and whispered, “But, I’m not the type to kiss and tell, Robert.”

“Anna! You little tease.”

She laughed heartily, tickled by his obvious displeasure. She liked knowing she could still get to him.

He grabbed the bottle back and took another drink to wash down his disappointment.

They sat quietly again until Robert heard a song on the radio that piqued his interest. “This is decent,” he said.

“What?”

“The song.”

“Oh. Yeah. ‘Thinking Out Loud’,” she said.

“Hmm?”

“The song. That’s what it’s called.”

“Oh. It’s a nice melody. Almost danceable.” He nudged her. “Shall we?”

“What? Here?”

“Sure. Why not?” He stood and walked around the other side of the bed. Extended his hand.

“Why not?” She took his hand and followed him to what empty space there was in the center of the room.

He pulled her in with one swift movement that threw her off balance. She threw her head back and laughed again as she clung to him to keep from falling down. How he loved that laugh. It made him smile. She made him smile.

They turned and swayed to the music, forgetting, if only for a moment, the dreadful circumstances that had brought them together. When the song ended, he dipped her, and as he did, in her eyes he caught a glimpse of something that he could only imagine was tequila-induced lust. He was tempted to kiss her. Again. Still. But he didn’t. Instead, he straightened up and announced that it was getting late. And just like that, he was headed for the door.

“Already?” she said, shocked and a bit thrown by his abrupt departure.

“Well, I think I should probably let you get to bed, that’s all.”

“Yeah,” she nodded. She turned off the radio and walked to the door to see him out. “I need my beauty rest, right?” she joked.

He smiled with unexpected tenderness as he touched her hair. “No. You’ve never looked more beautiful.” He swallowed. “But it’s a big day tomorrow. For both of us.”

She nodded again. “Good night, then,” she said. She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. “Thank you. For dinner and for the dance.”

“Any time,” he said.

She closed the door behind him, exhaled forcefully, and set about cleaning up the leftover Chinese containers. But as she dropped the first one into the trash can she was hit with a wave of sadness and immediate clarity. For the first time in a long time she’d felt happy. Despite everything that was going on in her life, moments ago, with Robert, she’d felt happy. She was freer, safer in his arms than anywhere else in the world, and she didn’t want that feeling to end. Why fight it? She wanted… needed those arms to hold her. She spun around and ran for the door. “Robert!” she called as she opened it, expecting to find him half way down the hall. But there he was, standing right in front of her.

Her lips parted, her breath quick, her eyes pleaded with him. “Stay with me,” she whispered.

He didn’t wait for her to ask twice. He pulled her into his embrace and enveloped her in a kiss so deep and intense that an electrifying heat instantly spread throughout her entire body and her knees buckled beneath her.

“Oh, God, Robert!” She pulled away long enough to gasp for some much needed oxygen. “This is crazy, isn’t it?” she said as she slammed the door and tore off his jacket.

He shook his head. “Unexpected,” he said as he took her mouth again. He eased her backward toward the bed until they tumbled upon it and their lips broke apart as they both laughed.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. He hated to ask for fear she’d change her mind, but between the dance and the booze, he had to be sure she wasn’t acting on impulse alone.

“I’m not sure of anything anymore, Robert.” Her fingers worked quickly to undo the buttons on his shirt. “Except that right now, I want to be with you,” she said as she covered his neck and chest with feathery kisses. “But if you don’t want to—”

Before she could finish the sentence, he took her face in his hands and said, as if he’d never had any doubt, “I want you, Anna Devane.”

“So, take me,” she said.

In truth, whether he took her or she took him was debatable. They both gave as good as they got, enjoying, pleasing, ravishing each other until every desire had been met and they came crashing down on the mattress in a naked, jumbled, satisfied heap.

They lay there entwined with one another each trying to catch their breath. Anna sighed as Robert stroked her hair.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

Her eyes closed, a smile spread across her face. She was half tempted to answer “like a woman”.

He felt her body jerk with silent laughter. “What?”

“Nothing.” She leaned in and kissed him softly. “I feel wonderful,” she said, then added, “At least for tonight.”

“Hey!” He shook her shoulder gently. “Are you trying to tell me you were just using me for a one night stand?” he teased.

“Ha! No. Well, I mean, I don’t really know. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone next week, right?”

“And what if everything works to our advantage tomorrow? What happens then? Is this a thing, you and me?” He pulled himself up to a seated position, forcing her to do the same.

She pulled the sheet up to cover herself. “Do you want it to be a thing?” She ran her finders through her hair, nervous to hear his answer. She wasn’t sure she was ready for a soul-searching conversation at the moment. She needn’t have worried.

“If it were a thing,” he asked, “would we get to have sex more than once every decade?”

She rolled her eyes. Classic Robert. “If it were a thing,” she said, “I would think that sex would a regular part of it.”

“Yeah?” “Definitely.”

“Goody.” He rolled over so that he was practically on top of her. “Because… I really do… like… having sex with you,” he said between kisses.

“You’re such a romantic, Robert. It’s no wonder I married you twice.”

“And who knows where this… thing goes. Third time’s a charm.”

She could feel his grin on her cheek. “Ha! Please tell me you’re joking!”

“Anna! That’s it!” he shouted. A second later he was out of bed, scrambling for his clothes.

She sat up. “Robert? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, love. I think I may have a solution to our problem.”

She stared at him, confused.

“Marriage.”

“Robert, what the hell are you talking about?”

“Marriage, Anna.”

“I heard that part.”

You, me, and J.D., we’re the only witnesses. Now, he sold us out, but without our testimony, they can’t build much of a case.”

Her brows still wrinkled and she shook her head. “So?”

“So? Don’t you see, Anna? If we’re married, they can’t make us testify against each other.

“Robert! That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Why? It worked for Sonny and Carly Corinthos. Hell, for that matter, you and Hayward—”

“Oh, no! Don’t bring him into this.”

“I’m just saying, if it worked then, why not let it work for us?”

“Because it’s ridiculous!

“Why?”

She flopped back on the pillows with a sigh. “Because, Robert, even if I were to consent to this plan, which is a huge ‘if’, how would we manage it? We’re due at the Justice department in less than eight hours.”

“Easy,” he said. “There’s an all-night wedding chapel in China town. I noticed it when I went to pick up dinner. I thought it was odd at the time, but now…”

She was silent for minute and, for a change, her face gave away nothing about what she was thinking.

He approached, sat on the edge of the bed. “What do you say, Anna?”

“Is that your idea of a proposal, Robert? You’re slipping.”

“Forgive me,” he said. He obliged her, getting down on one knee.

She dropped her face in her hands in a fit of laughter laced with disbelief.

He pulled one hand away and held it. Clearing his throat, he started over. “Anna Devane, I love you. You know that. And if you’ll marry me tonight, I promise to spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy, or at the very least… trying to keep you out of prison. I…”

“Okay. Stop!” she said. “Just stop.” She was practically snorting with laughter. “I’ll tell you one thing. This is a step up from the last hotel you proposed in.”

He smiled. “True.”

“Are you sure you’re not still married to anyone else?”

“Positive,” he said.

She shook her head at him. Bit her lip, but her eyes still shone with amusement.

“So, is that a yes? Anna, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife. Again?”

It was unbelievable. Stupid, even. But it just might work, she thought. She looked him in the eyes, swallowed hard, and said, “Yes.”

* * *

The following morning the two walked up Pennsylvania Avenue, neither one saying much of anything. They paused in front of the imposing neoclassic building.

Robert’s eyes followed the columns upward.

“The U.S. Department of Justice,” Anna said under her breath. She blew out a breath.

“You okay?” he asked.

She nodded, putting on a brave face. “I think we’re gonna surprise a few people, don’t you?”

“Ah, never under estimate the power of the element of surprise,” he said with an air of certainty.

She gave a hesitant smile.

“Ready?” he asked.

“After you,” she said.

“No.” He took her hand in his. “Together.”

Anna caught a glimpse of the shiny gold band on her finger as he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. “For better or worse,” she said.

Robert gave her hand one more reassuring squeeze and together Mr. and Mrs. Scorpio ascended the steps to face their fate.

Reporting In

NaNoWriMo Week One 

 During NaNoWriMo, the traditional goal is to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. It’s supposed to be a novel that you start from scratch on day one. I accepted that challenge in 2011 and finished the first draft of my first novel Once in Love with Lily. This year, I began on November 1st with a unique goal. Instead of writing fifty thousand words of a completely new novel, my goal was to complete a workable, readable draft of the sequel to Once in Love with Lilly. I had already written several drafts and I was still waffling on content. So, I had decided to start from scratch one more time and knock it out in thirty days. I kept up with my daily word count and for the first three days, and I was feeling quite pleased with myself until…. I committed the number one NaNoWriMo sin. I re-read what I had written!

Every one knows that if you’re trying to knock out a novel in a month, you don’t have time to read and edit, but in this case, I’m very glad I did. As I looked at my “fresh start” with fresh eyes, I came to a huge realization. My hero was distinctly unlikable. I had become so concerned with creating the hook that agents keep talking about, that I had destroyed one of the beloved characters that had hooked my readers in the first place.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot who I was. I tried to become a plotter who focused on structure and eight point story arcs, when I’m anything but. I have always claimed to write from the heart first and the head second, to be more concerned with meaningful relationships, quality drama, and realistic dialog. I’ve generally found that if you tell a good story, proper structure will naturally evolve.  Ever a victim of self-doubt, I had allowed my own insecurities about my lack of formal training in the craft to cloud my judgment.

Once I had that aha moment, I went back to my original plan for the story and began cut, copy, and paste together all the usable pieces from the subsequent drafts. What I now have is about forty thousand words of a story that still needs a lot of detail, a ton of editing, and a fair amount of restructuring before it’s ready for public consumption. Still, I’m comforted by the fact that it is a much truer version of Lily’s and Tony’s story.

This week I hope to complete several new chapters that will begin to fill in some of the holes in the original plot and find ways to weave some subtle humor into the somewhat serious plot. I’ll keep you posted!

If you are interested in reading the original, Once in Love with Lily is on sale for.99 cents at the Amazon Kindle Store now through November 15th. Click here to view the book trailer.

Lily cover

 

 

Not This Time – Endgame Ch 6

By the time they arrived at Steinmauer, Robert was wishing he had given Agent Tom Jacobs the famed WSB chop and left him prostrate on the floor at the clinic. His incessant chatter was getting on his last nerve. Unfortunately, Robert knew he needed Jacobs at the moment, or at least he needed his badge. His own status as self-proclaimed Agent of the World, who’d only recently come out of a coma, did not exactly give him jurisdiction here and he wasn’t about to waste a second waiting on his connections at various agencies to process the necessary paperwork.

Robert rolled his eyes as Jacobs attempted to give him a final warning about following his lead. “I know it may not be the way you’re used to doing things, but—” Jacobs was saying. But Robert was out of the car and half way to the door before the agent could finish his rant on protocol.

By the time Jacobs caught up with him, Robert was already at the front desk, preparing to launch a full scale verbal attack. Jacobs put a hand on Robert’s shoulder and stepped in front of him, flashing his credentials. It nearly killed him, but Robert forced himself to hang back and allow the young one to speak to the guards first. Only after his presence was explained, did he step up to speak again.

“I understand that a few days ago Ms. Devane arrived here with a request to visit Cesar Faison.”

“Yes, sir. She had clearance from one Frisco Jones at the WSB.”

“Right. You were on duty at the time?”

The young man, Schaub, nodded sheepishly.

“What else can you tell me about that visit?”

He cleared his throat. “Well, she—”

The older of the two men cut in. “You mean other than the fact that she somehow managed to tamper with our security system, take out two of my men, and usher the criminal out of here?” he growled in a Germanic accent. He glared at Robert, obviously irritated by his line of questioning.

“Listen, I know all of that.”

“Mister… Scorpio… is it? It has been all over the news. Worldwide coverage. I do not see the point in rehashing what we have told all of the authorities already.”

“I understand what it looks like, Mr. Zeller,” Robert said, eying the man’s name badge. “But I’ve had a lot of experience with this woman, and my gut tells me that things are not as cut and dry as they appear to be.” He glanced around Zeller to look at young Schaub again. “Now, I need you to tell me everything that you remember about that visit, and don’t leave anything out.”

Both guards looked toward Agent Jacobs who nodded in silent support of Robert.

The young guard cleared his throat again and started in. His voice was shaky. His English, though grammatically accurate, sounded strained. He seemed to struggle with stringing the words together. “She was admitted at nine-forty.  I processed her credentials and she entered the visitation area. Mr. Faison was brought in—”

“Hold on a minute,” Robert interrupted. “Tommy Boy,” Robert said to Jacobs, “What time does your report say she entered?”

Jacobs consulted his notes. “Nine thirty-two, sir.”

“How do you explain that?” he asked Schaub.

“Yes, sir. That was the first time.”

“What do you mean, the first time?”

“Sh-sh-she entered and was searched at nine thirty-two, but while I was verifying her credentials, she received a phone call. There was no service.” He looked sideways at his superior, who showed no signs of surprise at this admission. “So, she exited to take the call and returned at nine forty. At that time, I processed her and the visit began.”

“What time did she receive this call?”

“I don’t know exactly, sir.”

“Approximately… what time did she receive this call?” Robert asked, his temper starting to flare.

“Maybe it was two minutes after she arrived.”

“Which would be about what? Nine thirty-four?”

“I believe so, sir.”

“Let me make sure I have this right,” Robert said. “She left to take a call and returned six minutes later?”

“Yes, sir.”

“When she returned, how did she look to you?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, I mean… did she look nervous? Was her hair mussed? Did she look… different? In any way?”

“No, sir. She looked just the same.”

“And when you searched her again—”

“I did not search again.”

“What do you mean you didn’t search her again?”

“I had already done that.”

“She left and came back six minutes later, and you didn’t think that you needed to search her again?”

The senior guard broke in again. “What are you implying, Mr. Scorpio?”

“What am I implying? I’ll tell you what I’m implying. I’m implying that a hell of lot can happen in six minutes and —”

“Ms. Devane was—as far as we knew—a trustworthy officer of the law! Our procedure is none of your concern, Mr. Scorpio,” Zeller reminded him.

“That’s exactly my point!” Robert shouted.

What is your point?” Zeller asked.

Robert looked at Jacobs, who’d been watching the entire exchange, and then back at the guards. “What if the woman who entered the second time was not really Anna Devane?”

“That is absurd.” Zeller grumbled.

“Is it?” Robert said.

“Yes,” Zeller nodded.

Robert shook his head. “I don’t think so. You see, from the footage that I saw—now it was only from behind, mind you—but from the footage that I saw, the woman who left here with Faison did not look like Anna Devane.”

“Her face was identical,” Schaub countered.

“That may be,” Robert said. “I’ve seen some pretty convincing disguises in my time, but some things can’t be imitated.”

The men regarded him, still skeptical.

Robert continued. “Anna Devane is one of a kind. This woman… she didn’t act like Anna. She didn’t hold a gun like Anna, she didn’t walk like Anna, and she sure as hell didn’t wear a skirt like Anna,” he said with a bit of a snicker. When no one responded he added, “And she was taller!”

“She was?” Jacobs finally said.

“Yes!” Robert answered.

“And just who do you propose this imposter was?” asked Zeller.

“I haven’t figured that out yet.”

“Unbelievable,” Zeller shook his head.

“Humor me,” Robert said, looking at him with one eyebrow raised ever so slightly.

Zeller folded his arms in protest, but allowed Robert to continue with his questions.

“So, after this woman entered—the second time—what happened then?”

“I returned her weapon,” Schaub said.

“Why the hell would you do that?”

“Ms. Devane was authorized to carry. Faison is considered a dangerous criminal.”

“Tell me something I don’t know!” Robert barked.

“Within minutes our system issued a virus alert and several terminals began to shut down.”

“A virus? I thought you said the system was hacked?” Robert asked.

Jacobs looked confused. “I… ah…”

“It was a virus,” the guard went on, “introduced into our mainframe forcing a system shutdown. In the chaos, she waited long enough for the shutdown to affect the cameras, most of them. Then she took out our men in the room with the butt of her pistol, stole a keycard and—”

“All right, I’ve heard enough,” Robert said. “Jacobs, what the hell kind of investigation are your people running here? If I were you I’d get some men to trace the source of that virus. If the two issues are actually connected, you might actually get some answers.”

“Of course,” Jacobs answered, already commandeering the desk phone.

With Jacobs distracted, Robert took the opportunity to slip out for some fresh air. He sat down on the aluminum bench just outside the door and let out a sigh that was combination of exhaustion and frustration. Truth be told, he was nowhere near ready to be out of hospital, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. As long as Faison was on the loose, Anna wasn’t safe.

“Six minutes,” Robert mumbled. He still wasn’t sure what had occurred during those six minutes, but Anna had clearly been compromised. He stood up and began to pace slowly in front of the bench, his fingers occasionally stroking his face over his upper lip as he thought. At one point, he wandered a few feet away, consulting the reach and angle of the security cameras. When he returned to bench and sat down again he noticed a strange sound. It was an intermittent buzz of sorts and for a moment, he thought he could feel the vibration. He checked his cell phone out of habit. That wasn’t it. The sound continued for a few more seconds and then stopped. He glanced around and saw nothing at first. But when it happened again, he followed the sound more carefully until he found it. There, on the ground, wedged between the building and the foot of the bench, was a phone in a white plastic case.

“Anna!” Robert grunted as he practically dove for it. He pried it out and looked at the display. The screen was cracked, but it was still legible. It read: Duke Lavery. Slide to answer. Robert quickly answered before it could disconnect. “Duke!”

“Robert!”

“Yeah.”

“Robert is that you?”

“Yeah, Duke it’s me. What’s going on?”

“That’s what I’d like to know. Have you seen Anna?”

“Well, she came see me at the clinic…” Robert trailed off, unsure as to how much Duke knew.

“Have you seen the news? The reports are saying that she’s broken Faison out of prison.”

“Listen, Duke, about that…”

“Do you have any idea what happened or where they could have gone?”

“Not yet, but I’m working on it.”

“Where are you? I can come and help you.”

Anna’s comment about sending an amateur to do a professionals job replayed in his head. “No!” Robert shouted. “Ah, what I mean is, it I could really use your help there. I need someone in Port Charles to keep me apprised of the situation there. In case Anna calls. I need you to stay put and call me the moment you hear anything.”

“Robert, Faison is incredibly dangerous! Do you honestly expect me to just sit around and wait while he does God knows what with Anna—”

“Lavery, please, let the professionals handle this.” There was a long pause. “I will update you as soon as I have something concrete,” Robert added.

“Fine. See that you do,” Duke said curtly, his pride damaged. He hung up without another word.

Robert took a deep breath, relieved that he had managed to dissuade Duke. He took a few seconds to regain his bearings and then looked at the phone again, hoping to find a clue of some kind. Aside from the large crack across the screen, the case was also scratched up. It had obviously been dropped or thrown. Was that before or after the escape? Had there been a scuffle? Was she hurt, or had she hurt them? Robert hit the button on the phone, hoping it would contain some clue.

He slid his thumb across the screen to unlock it. Faced with a passcode screen, he paused momentarily, then tried four numbers. One-zero-one-two. He was granted access and greeted with a low battery warning. He dismissed it, thinking it was a miracle it had any power left at all. He scanned the long list of received calls. Most of them were from Interpol and other law enforcement agencies. Several were from Duke. Eventually, he scrolled far enough to find two calls received at nine thirty four two days earlier, from Dr. Brit Westbourne, the second of which included a voicemail. Robert pressed play and listened with bated breath.

“Commissioner, it’s me again. Our call got lost. As I said before, my mother recently made contact. We have reason to believe that she has my son and she’s holding my son on Cassadine Island. Nicholas and I are on our way there now. Please call me when you get this message.”

“Her mother. That’s it! Obrecht!” Robert said. Faison’s partner in crime. Why hadn’t he thought about her before? Hostages, kidnappings, medical procedures, she would stop at nothing for that freak! She had to be involved. And if Britt was right, they were hiding out on Cassadine Island.

Robert stood and slipped the phone into his pocket. He didn’t even consider going back in for Jacobs. Why bother. Interpol still believed Anna was responsible for this mess. Robert knew better. With no time to lose, he headed for the car that had dropped him and Jacobs off earlier. If his instincts were right that madman had taken her again, and he wasn’t about to let him get away with it. Not this time!

Ready or not, Robert forced himself to break into a slow jog. “Hang in there, Anna, sweetheart. The cavalry is coming!”

** All previous chapters are available in the archives or at www.fanfiction.net/~catkthompson **

 

 

 

And The Award Goes To…. (If I’m lucky!)

The Ohio Arts Council awards grants biennially to Ohio poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. When submitting material for the award, artists are asked to write a short narrative of one page or less. How in the world do you summarize your process, motivation, and subject matter of a 282 page manuscript in a page or less?  After some thought, here’s what I came up with.

The idea for this novel was born out of my curiosity for celebrity biographies, my love of soap operas and theater, and my personal history in ballroom dance. I wrote the first draft as part of a challenge issued by my husband to participate in National Novel Writing Month 2011. I then spent the next year and a half working on subsequent drafts, further developing characters, adding details, and improving the story structure. Some might say that’s going about the process in a completely backwards fashion, but I am not a planner or a plotter. I am what many writers call a “pantser.” I didn’t start with a story arc or a character arc. I sat down and started typing, simply allowing my characters to dictate the direction the story. In the beginning, I couldn’t imagine I would have enough story to fill a book. As I developed my characters and told their story, they came alive in my head. Before I knew it, their romance filled nearly three hundred pages. It began as a fun little story about two estranged people unearthing an old friendship and recapturing a lost love. Along the way it became a statement about the importance of friendship, faith, and trust in a relationship. That same faith and trust allowed the protagonist to rediscover her own self-worth and overcome her fears. The love story challenges readers to choose sides between love and passion and moral responsibility, due to the adulterous nature of the relationship. Secondary characters confront societal norms and show support of marriage equality and gay adoption rights. These characters made me laugh, made me swoon, and, at times, brought me to tears. They led me across the globe from LA to New York and the on to France and England. Thankfully, my British characters also spoke French, even though I don’t! I’m extremely excited to think about readers enjoying the same journey.

If I’m lucky, the grant committee with like what the see from me. If I’m very lucky, you will too! Look for Once in Love with Lily by Cathryn K. Thompson  coming this fall!