I've been doing some organizing in my writing room in preparation for National Novel Writing Month, when I plan to do the bulk of my drafting on ARCANA BOOK THREE: STRENGTH OF WILL, and I came across an old writing folder with some random pieces I'd scribbled down years ago.
I'm sharing, for your reading pleasure, a cut scene that I wrote for a completely different novel idea that came to me ages and ages ago. It's worth noting that this exchange between characters is more than it appears at first blush. Can you guess what I'm really up to in this scene (pop your theory in the comments!)?
I stared at the bar, lamenting the fact that straight tequila was inappropriate for charity events.
"Miss? Can I get you something?" The bartender stared at me with that oh-I'm-so-helpful-don't-you-want-to-put-a-huge-tip-in-my-industrial-sized-brandy-snifter look.
"Ginger ale, please," I grumbled. Besides, as weird as I'd been feeling lately, alcohol might not be the best idea. The bartender looked mildly insulted, but shot ginger ale out of his soda gun and set the glass down in front of me on a black cocktail napkin.
I laid my hands flat on either side of the drink and held onto the edge of the wooden bar in order to steady myself. My skin started to...well..vibrate for lack of a better word. Like my nerves were trying to get to the outside. I stared into the amber bubbles and started counting breaths.
"Are you alright, miss?" came a voice from behind me. I should have been startled, but somehow I wasn't.
"Um, no, thank you. I'll be fine." I risked looking up from the ginger ale, and found myself staring into a pair of piercing gray eyes. My breath caught in my throat and I tightened my grip on the bar, gritted my teeth, and hoped it looked like a friendly smile. My skin felt like it was giving off static. "I, um, took some cold medicine earlier, and it's made me a little woozy." That sounded convincing, right?
The stranger raised a dark eyebrow and smirked. "Antihistamines will do that to you. Hope that's not whisky you just ordered. You'll really be feeling woozy if it is. Not a good combination." His voice slid over my skin like electric velvet.
I was mildly annoyed despite the rising alarm at how I felt. Who did this guy think he was? My father? Or was he trying to hit on me? Granted, he did look like a good candidate for James Bond's older brother...
Before I could come up with an appropriately biting remark, though, I saw Sarah making her way back to me. "Thanks for the advice. Excuse me." I chugged my ginger ale and set the glass back on the napkin. If he did think it was whisky on the rocks, that might just have looked a little badassy.
The man nodded, still smirking. "Hope you feel better."
I moved as quickly toward Sarah as I could without breaking into a run.
"You look ill." She eyeballed me critically.
"I'll be fine. How goes the schmoozing? Getting any interest from the geezers?"
"I'm a six-foot-tall redhead with big tits who plays French horn. What do you think?" Ah, someone suffering more than I was. Now THAT'S friendship.
"I think you're going to be AARP's next page 2 girl, that what I think. Rock on, Goddess."
"Hey, you're the one who dragged me to this thing."
Sarah winced. "I know, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was going to be this painful. Warren asked me to come kiss ass and talk up the orchestra. I didn't realize it'd be the geriatric brigade. I was hoping for a cute 30-something philanthropist who wants to spend Granny's money on a public orchestra, especially the brass section."
Nothing like a little commiseration to soothe the nerves. My skin had even quieted down to a mild buzzing. "It's no big. If you get any decent donations, it's worth it. Besides, some of these people are probably very nice..."
"Don't try to make me feel better," she laughed. "I know you're as rabid to get out of here as I am. I owe you a frozen margarita for this one."
"Promise. What about you? Doing a little schmoozing of your own, were you?"
"Huh?" Oh, right. Bond's brother. "No, no. Just some guy giving me beverage advice."
"Riiiiight. You going May-December on me?"
"No, you sicko. That's your job."
"You sure? 'Cause he's sneaking looks at you."
"He is? Where?" My eyes darted around the room.
"Could you be a little more obvious, please?" Sarah hissed in exasperation. "Good God. He's at about 8 o'clock from you. Don't look. I SAID DON'T LOOK!"
I caught my head in mid-swivel and pretended to be staring at the chandelier. "What's he doing?"
"Staring at you and smirking."
"He is a smirker."
"A rich smirker from the look of it. Who is he?"
"I don't know," I whined. "We didn't exchange business cards." Wow, this chandelier must be the most fascinating piece of lighting ever, because I was still staring at it.
"Turn your head back here. You look ridiculous."
"Sorry." I turned my head back. "Any chance we could get out of here?"
"You sure? 'Cause he's kind of cute in a sugar-daddy kind of way..."
"Okay, okay...it was just a thought. Of course, we have to walk right past him to get our coats."
"So be it. Let's go. I feel like I'm coming out of my skin." Which was true. My skin had started buzzing again. We turned and headed for the coat room, but safe escape was not to be. The Smirking Stranger stepped forward as we approached. My stomach clenched down to the size of a raisin.
"I'm so sorry to be rude, but you look so familiar to me, and I just can't place where we've met before. I'm Allen Brekker." He extended a perfectly-manicured hand out to me.
"I'm sure we haven't," I choked. "I haven't been to a black-tie affair since senior prom." My hand stretched out of its own accord to shake his. As our palms met, a jolt of warm electricity shot up my arm, like touching the hood of a running sports car. "I'm Siobhan Janssen."
"Irish-Norse? Quite a combination." He looked both surprised and amused, and hesitated an instant before letting go of my hand.
I wasn't sure how to answer that, so I didn't try. The warmth in my arm was spreading throughout my body. "It was nice meeting you, Mr. Brekker."
"...Allen. But my friend and I have to go now." Suddenly, though, I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay right here. With him. The familiarity had eluded me before, but now it nagged at me. I felt as though we had, in fact, met, but I couldn't remember where either.
He smiled. A genuine smile, not a smirk. A smile like summer wind. The knot in my stomach relaxed. "Well, Ms. Janssen..."
"Siobhan. Thank you. Here's my card." I hadn't even seen him reach for it. "If you should happen to remember where we met, give me a call or stop by my office."
I glanced at the card. "You don't look like a lawyer."
"Tax attorney, actually. Much more profitable than criminal law, and much more distinguished than civil law. I don't even own a shiny suit. Not since the '80's, anyway."
"Hi, I'm Sarah McConnell." Sarah thrust her hand forward. Allen shook it politely and smiled at her.
"I'm so sorry, but I really need to get my friend home," Sarah drawled, putting her arm around me protectively. "She's not feeling very well, The dangers of an open bar."
If there were a subtle way to kick her, I would have. "I had ginger ale," I muttered. And now, if only I could kick myself.
"Well, I do hope you feel better, Miss...Siobhan." My stomach spun. "Perhaps our paths will cross in the future."
Sarah half-dragged me toward the coat room. "What was THAT?"
"What was what?"
"I feel like I dropped an egg just standing next to you two. Who's the sicko now?"
"You're the one who said he was cute."
"You're the one who said you didn't exchange business cards."
"Oh, um, that. Well, I didn't give him mine." A lame defense if ever there was one.
"You don't have any." She handed the coat clerk our tickets.
"Not the point."
"You're going to call him, aren't you?" I couldn't tell if she was accusing me or encouraging me.
"Sarah, it's not like that; he really is familiar."
The clerk returned with our coats. We slipped them on and stepped out into the icy January air. I checked my watch. 10:18. "Hey, how about that margarita? Hold the frozen."
"Whatever you say, Miss...Siobhan..."
"Shut up," I chuckled, trying to sound nonchalant. Truth was, I was trying to figure out an excuse for someone on a grad assistant's salary to need to hire a tax attorney.