My good friend, author Frankie Diane Mallis
, runs this wonderful event every New Year's--the NO KISS Blogfest. The event features scenes, either from existing books or Works-in-Progress, where two characters alllllllllllmost kiss, but don't. Frustration Fest!
Frankie invited me to take part in the event, specifically to post what she calls the "Scottish lesson" scene. I could not resist.
For those who haven't read Shade
(May 2010, sequel Shift
came out in May 2011, and the final part of the trilogy, Shine,
comes out May 1, 2012), the main character is Aura Salvatore. She and every person born after her can see and talk to ghosts, but no one else can. Her boyfriend Logan died and became a ghost a while ago, and they're still sort of together, even though they can't touch or have a future.
Which is where Zachary comes in. The new boy in town, he's patient and sweet and gorgeous. And Scottish. Oh, and alive.
In this scene, Aura and Zachary are out in the middle of nowhere, mapping stars as part of an exercise for a project. In the dark, obviously.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Zachary’s hand near my face. Slowly he brushed back my hair, sliding it behind my shoulder. His fingertip grazed my bare neck right under my ear.
My entire body tensed. I held my breath to keep from gasping.
“Sorry.” He quickly tucked the ends of my hair inside my hood. “It was in the way. I couldn’t see.”
I tried to force my mind back to the project instead of counting how many weeks it had been since anyone had touched me—really touched me, the way I wanted Zach to. I mean, the way I wanted Logan to.
Breathe. Blink. Focus.
Okay. A star where there hadn’t been one before. A supernova? A comet?
I smacked my forehead. “Duh.” I checked the steady yellow-white glow in the sky. “It’s Jupiter.”
“Is that your final answer?”
I finally dared to look at him. “It’s my final answer.”
In the faint red flashlight glow, his green eyes had turned almost black. “I think you’re right.”
“Good.” I laughed a little, to relieve the tension.
“Yeah. Good.” Zachary shifted, pulling one knee up and resting his elbow on it. I wondered if he knew this was one of his hottest poses.
“Your turn to draw.” I tossed the pencil at his chest.
“At least my hair won’t block your view.”
“No, but your big head might.” I crawled behind him so he could take my place in front of the chart.
“I’ll have you know, my head is a perfectly average size.” He spread his fingers. “My hands, though, are enormous, and you know what they say—”
“Shut up and draw, lad,” I said in my best attempt at a Scottish accent.
“Ouch.” Zachary covered his ears. “Don’t try this at home, children.”
“I thought it sounded good.”
“In your head, maybe.” He put down the pencil. “A few pointers on talking like a Scotsman. First, you don’t trill your r’s, you gently roll them. Try it. Say ‘no trill, just roll.’”
“No trill, just roll.” I bit my lip. I had trilled. Possibly even spit on him.
“No, no, it’s not Italian or Spanish. Don’t bludgeon that poor r with your tongue.”
“I can’t help it.” Must change topic from what tongues should do. “I took Spanish. And my family’s Italian.”
“They tell you to relax your mouth and let it go, right?” When I nodded, he replied, “That’s the thing, then. Keep in mind, my people are extremely uptight. So to talk like a Scotsman, you’ve got to keep that mouth under control.”
“That’s no fun.”
Zachary closed his lips. He blinked and looked to the right, then blinked again and looked back at me, as if preparing to share a secret. His voice came low and growly. “You’d be surprised how much fun it can be.”
My heart slammed in my chest so hard, I thought it would pop open my ribs. “Surprise me.”
Where had that come from?
Zachary hesitated, like he was waiting for me to take it back, then shifted so he was sitting in front of me. He took my face in his hands—which actually were pretty big—and placed his thumbs under my cheekbones, his little fingers under the curve of my jaw. “Now say it.”
“Anything,” Zachary whispered.
My brain scrambled for a sentence that was suitably seductive, or at least funny. But at that moment of supreme panic, the only thing whirling around my mind was the Gettysburg Address.
“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty.”
Zachary’s grip kept my mouth from opening too far. The r’s rolled out softly, tapped by my tongue with a gentle restraint.
“And dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” I switched back to my regular accent. “I forget the rest.”
“That was perfect.” He stared into my eyes, breaking our gaze only to glance at my lips. His warm hands still held my face, and the energy from his touch sent shocks zinging down my spine and out into my limbs.
An extra strong vibration came from my left side, near my heart. I closed my eyes and lifted my chin.
“Your, uh, your chest is humming.” He let go of me.
“Huh?” I blinked at the sudden loss of his touch. “Oh, my phone!” I unzipped my jacket and fumbled in the inside pocket.
It was my dear aunt and her impeccable timing.
“What’s wrong?” I answered.
“I’m just checking in,” Gina said. “Making sure you haven’t been eaten by wolves or hit by a stray bullet from a hunter.”
“I’m on a farm, not in the Yukon.”
“You know me. I have to be Turbo Godmother sometimes.”
“It’s fine. I’m fine.”
“You sure? You sound out of breath.”
“Yeah! I mean, we just moved our stuff because of the—uh, the smell. Of cows.”
“Ew. Are you almost finished?”
Zachary was already bent over our map, adding stars with a new urgency.
“Yes,” I told her through gritted teeth. “I’ll be home soon.”
When she said goodbye, I clicked off and put the phone back in my jacket.
“I also found Mars,” Zachary said. “In Gemini.” He pointed to the southeast without looking at me. “See the reddish orange one? It’s barely risen.”
“I see it.” I flipped the page in our book to a new quadrant of the sky, my hands still shaking. I hadn’t felt like this since the night Logan and I had first kissed, after his first concert a year ago.
A year ago tomorrow, I realized. I’d almost kissed another guy a few hours from our anniversary. Shame flushed my cheeks and forehead.
At least, I thought it was shame.
EDITED TO ADD:
1. A fun note: In astrology talk, Mars is typically the planet that rules sex (and war). Gemini tends to indicate a duality, someone split in two. So Mars in Gemini points toward being attracted to two people at once. (I don't personally believe in astrology, but I find it fun to play with for characters.)
2. In SHINE, we find out how significant this Scottish lesson scene from SHADE really is.
Be sure to check out Frankie's blog
for tons of other near-misses--I mean, near-kisses. And if you're intrigued by this wee bit of Shade
and Zachary, you can learn more about the book right here on the website
Labels: SHADE series, teasers