Thursday, April 11, 2013

De-Kilting scene at last!


During Zachary’s second round of the YA Crush Tournament, I wrote a fun little scene on the fly depicting his and Aura’s adventurous Senior Prom night. (Kidnappings! Fight scenes! What’s under the kilt!) For every 100 votes he received, I added 100 words—ultimately a lot more—and I promised that if he won, the kilt was coming off.

He didn’t win, but I decided to write the hotel-room epilogue, anyway, because you guys were so supportive. However, my first three or four tries came out either cheesy or sleazy. I couldn’t figure out any point to the scene other than getting him undressed (which…ugh, no, not for a YA character). It didn’t answer any questions or solve any problems.

Until…

I realized that Aura had never gotten over Junior Prom night (depicted in Shift), when Zach hooked up with the villainous Queen Becca. She’s always wondered what exactly happened with the two of them. Finding out for sure will let her have the trust in Zachary she needs to move forward.

NOTE: This scene (as well as the Prom night scene I linked to above) contains major spoilers for Shine.

---

“Stay here.” Zachary gives me a quick kiss and squeezes my hand before turning to walk toward the hotel’s front desk.

I follow, of course. “What’s going on?”

“I have to see about the room. Stay here.”

“Is something wrong?”

He stops with a sigh and turns to me. “It’s a surprise. Go staun o’er ‘ere, widje?”

I assume he’s telling me to stand over there, “there” being the marble column he’s pointing at with a commanding glower.

I tighten my white silk wrap around my shoulders. “Why didn’t you just say it was a surprise?”

“Cos telling you it’s a surprise is halfway to making it not a surprise.”

He has a point. I go wait by the column near the elevators. It has a small gilded mirror, giving me one last check of my hair and makeup.

I wish I hadn’t peeked. I did some emergency touchup at school at the end of prom, but it takes more than powder and lip gloss to overcome a kidnapping at gunpoint and three hours in a police station. Everyone thought our spending the night alone together was a risk, until we agreed to have our hotel room thoroughly scoured by both American and British security agents.

They’d better be gone when we get up there.

Zach approaches, tucking one of two blue key cards into his sporran, the white goat’s-hair bag hanging from his waist that completes his tuxedo kilt ensemble. Behind him, a pair of twenty-something women are staring at his legs with admiration. Either that or they’re undercover security personnel.

“Ready?” he says with a tense smile.

It’s a loaded question, but I nod and take the arm he offers.

In the elevator, Zachary stands a few inches from the buttons, blocking them as he inserts the other keycard, then punches the floor.

“Where are we—”

“Close your eyes,” he says.

For once, I don’t argue and just obey. He steps close to me as the elevator rises, brings his lips almost to mine. “There was something I wanted to do in Ireland,” he whispers, “but was too nervous to try.”

I smile, eyes still closed, ready for any kind of adventure he’s planned.

Suddenly my feet are swept out from under me. I yelp as Zachary lifts me into his arms. The elevator dings.

I laugh. “This is what you wanted to do in Ireland?”

“It’s tradition, aye? We were supposedly on our honeymoon. So I should’ve carried you over the threshold.”

The doors open, and he steps out into a hallway much lusher than the one we were in last night. The mirrors have gilded frames, and a small, elegant fountain sits between a pair of tall white lilies in crystal vases.

“I upgraded a wee bit.” He carries me down the hall, swooping around the corner with dramatic flair. The motion makes my head spin in a good way. Laughing, I join my hands behind his neck to hold on tight.

Zachary stops before a polished wooden door with a gold plaque that says, “Harbor Suite.” He has the key already in his left hand, the one near my knees.

“One moment…” He moves closer to the door so he can insert the key, squishing me a little.

“You want to put me down?”

“No, I can dae this. But it’s an awkward angle—” He lets out a harsh curse. “I dropped the key.”

“Then put me down.”

“It’ll ruin everything. I’ve another key, can you fetch it from my sporran?”

“Maybe.” I reach beneath my butt, feeling for the pouch. “Boost me?”

He hoists my body up a few inches. “Better?”

“Got it.” Or at least, I’ve found the bag. Getting my hand in is another—

“Ouch.”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to poke you.”

“This is me losing enthusiasm for yer long fingernails and sadistic nature.”

“This is you refusing to put me down and pick up the damn key.” Finally I undo the clasp, reach inside, and find the smooth plastic key. I unlock the door and turn the handle.

Whoa.

The suite is done up all in a rich, dark hardwood, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. As we pass the bathroom, I spot gleaming marble tile and gilded fixtures.

Zachary carries me straight to the bedroom—which has a balcony—then carefully lays me down, my head resting on the lush, spread-covered pillow. Then he steps back and sweeps his gaze down my body. His lips move without uttering a word.

I reach for him, but he shakes his head. “Berra get the key I dropped outside.”

Oh right.

After picking up the key, he double-bolts the hotel room door. Then he does a quick patrol of the suite, checking the closets and the bathroom and of course the living room. He returns to the bedroom and draws the curtains to block the windows. I prop myself up on my elbows and watch his precise, vigilant motions, remembering how he wielded that baton in the van, striking my would-be strangler’s wrist again and again, rage filling his eyes.

All while wearing the kilt. I can see now why it was once considered a warrior’s uniform (though probably not with tuxedo jacket, bow tie, and gillie shoes). And there’s no doubt he looks amazing in it, and so at home.

But it still calls up some of my worst memories.

He comes to the foot of the bed and leans forward on his hands, as if he’s ready to crawl up to join me. “Can I get you anything? A drink or—”

“Just the truth.”

Zachary straightens, and though his feet don’t move, the sudden motion makes it look as if he’s backing away. “Truth about what?”

I can’t look at his eyes now, they’re so full of trepidation. I turn my face to the bed beside me. “It’s the same tuxedo and kilt you wore last year.”

“Sorry? Did you expect—this outfit costs several hundred pounds. I couldn’t ask for a new one, since I’ve no job, what with taking care of Dad and—”

“I didn’t expect you to get a new outfit.”

“Then what truth do ye want from me?”

It feels childish and petty, but I have to know. “How much of that—” I wave my hand at his outfit. “—did she take off of you?”

Zachary’s face goes slack with relief, and he almost laughs. He sinks hard onto the bed, as if his legs have gone weak. “You want to know exactly how naked Becca got me after last year’s prom?”

It sounds even sillier when he says it back. “Kinda.”

“Aura, you believed me when I said I was a virgin before you, aye?”

“I know you didn’t do it with her, but I’ve always wondered what did happen.”

“With Becca.”

“Yes, with—with her.”

He gives an exasperated sigh. “She’s not Bloody Mary. We can say her name three times without her appearing and dragging us down to hell.”

“Are you going to answer my question or not?”

“I will, but why do you need to know? I never asked what you did with Dylan.”

“I’ll tell you if you want.”

“I don’t want!” He touches my foot, thumb brushing the strap of my black heels. “I’m quite happy pretending all you did was kiss, that his hands never wandered over your body, or yours over his. Just let me believe that, so we can move on.”

“Okay.” For some reason, I can’t let it go. “But last year when we were by the river, talking about prom night, you said that when you realized I was listening, you told her to get dressed.” 

He half turns away and rubs his face. “Ach, when I came out of the loo, she was already wearing some sort of lingerie. I didn’t take her dress off. She did.”

“Oh.” All this time I’d imagined them stripping off each other’s formal wear.

Zachary stands, tugging my hand. “Come here.”

“What are we doing?”

“Me, nothing. You, undress me.” Zachary lifts his arms a few inches, then lets them drop. “When I tell you tae stop, then that’s how naked I was with her.”

My face burns even hotter than before. This Show and Tell is becoming more Show than Tell. But I asked for it.

Holding my breath, I bend over to untie his shoes.

“No,” he says. “Not that.”

Huh. I stand and reach for his tie, which has been hanging loose around his neck since we left the high school.

“Not that, either.”

As I push his tuxedo jacket back over his shoulders, he maintains a look of stony patience, but underneath I can tell it hurts to remember. I am such an idiot for bringing this up. Why couldn’t I just leave the past buried six feet deep where it belongs? Why did I have to torture us?

The jacket slides off. I carefully fold it in half and lay it on the foot of the bed behind me. I know why I’m doing this: even though he’s getting better, there are some nights on our video chats when he still seems so far away. His days in 3A will always haunt him.

Turning back to Zachary, I say, “Look, we don’t need to—”

“Stop.” He’s holding up a hand, palm out.

“But I—”

“I don’t mean stop talking. I mean stop undressing me.”

#

The disbelief in Aura’s eyes cuts me in two. “That’s it? That’s as far as she got?”

“Aye.”

She drops her gaze. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Just know this.” I brush a thick lock of dark hair from her eyes so I can look into them. “You’re the only lass who’s ever seen me naked.”

Her face melts into a smile. “Really?” she asks, and I can almost hear her heart pound in her breath.

“Really.”

Aura steps close and unbuttons my black waistcoat. “Has any lass seen you without this?”

My own pulse spikes at the brush of her fingertips and the scent of her hair. “Well, there’s the seamstress at the kilt shop, but she’s eighty years old. Nice lady, though.”

She doesn’t bother folding the vest, just drops it on the floor. My tie follows. Then she tugs the white dress shirt out of my kilt and starts unbuttoning from the top. “How many lasses have seen you without this?”

 “Just those at the pool at the gym.” When she’s done, I angle my arms so she can slip off the shirt. The air-conditioning meets my skin, making it tingle.

She hesitates, then lays her hand on the belt holding up my kilt. “Have any lasses seen you without this?”

I open my mouth to reply, “Just my mum,” then think better of it and shake my head.

Aura smiles again. I love giving her this beautiful truth, this small offering of painless honesty. This truth doesn’t hurt. It makes her happy, and me happy in return.

But other truths must stay buried.

For how long? I ask myself as I pull her close and kiss her hard, tasting her mouth and pressing my bare chest against her palms.

Forever, I answer myself. She’ll never be burdened with the things I did to stay sane…

Aura kneels before me, then slowly tugs the lace of my left gillie shoe until the knot releases.

…to stay strong…

She unwraps the laces from my calf, one loop at a time.

…to stay whole…

Then the other shoe comes off, and the stockings, as she steadies my balance with her shoulder.

…to stay alive.

I’m not sorry. Without the choices I made those months in Glasgow, I’d have given in. I would have told everyone what the DMP had done to me, and then the agency would have taken its revenge on Aura (or so it threatened).

Maybe I would have given up on life altogether. There were mornings and middles-of-the-nights when thoughts of Aura couldn’t keep me alive. She seemed so far away. She was so far away. Other…things were closer.

But not now. Now there’s nothing closer, nothing righter, than Aura.

And there’s nothing left but the kilt.

#

Zachary’s hiding something. Maybe he’s still freaked by our kidnapping tonight, or even just by returning to America. If I’d been detained and tortured for eight weeks by some country’s government, I’d stay on the opposite side of the planet forever.

Zach always has to be brave and stoic—even if it kills him, which I think it almost did once. Someday, though, I’ll bring his ghosts into the light, and they’ll stop clouding and crowding the space behind his pure green eyes.

But not now. Now I want him to forget, to lose himself in me.

I unwrap the kilt and let it fall.

The first time I saw him naked, standing on the riverbank almost a year ago, I told myself that Zachary was perfect. But he wasn’t. He isn’t. He never will be.

For that, I love him more than ever.


--

I hope you enjoyed this bonus scene! If you’re intrigued by Zachary’s secrets, be sure to check out his upcoming novella, “Shattered,” which takes place at the same time as Shine but from his perspective. Few scenes from Shine will be repeated, so it’ll be almost entirely events that Aura was either unaware of or chose not to share with readers.

Here’s the cover. What do you think?





Thanks again for your patience—SHADE readers rock!

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17 Comments:

I'm kind of speechless right now. I know what I want to say, but the words won't come. So I'll just say this: that was MORE than worth waiting for!

Thank you!

Posted by: Blogger Judy (shellseeker93) at 4/11/2013 8:24 PM

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! :D Can't WAIT to read SHATTERED!

Posted by: Blogger Jen at 4/11/2013 8:35 PM

Thank you, Jeri. It was awesome but I expected nothing less from such an awesome writer. Thank you from a happy fan!

Posted by: Blogger Peggy RN at 4/11/2013 8:49 PM

Thank you Jeri! This was so perfect. Looking forward to Shattered!

Posted by: Blogger Tine vs. The World at 4/11/2013 8:55 PM

That was amazing and so tasteful. More importantly, and most definitely, in character for Zach and Aura. I love how you presented it with making it more about just getting under his kilt. <3

Posted by: Blogger Marissa at 4/11/2013 9:20 PM

Amazing! Now I am dying for shattered!

Posted by: Blogger Kendra at 4/11/2013 10:00 PM

That was well worth the wait!! Makes me want Shattered so much more! Gahhhhh Zach's POV broke my heart! </3

Posted by: Blogger Poochylover at 4/11/2013 10:00 PM

Loved it. Thank you for sharing. Pleasantly surprised to read Zach's POV. Can't wait for Sharttered. <3

Posted by: Blogger cristina at 4/11/2013 10:07 PM

Wow. *looks for Zach and hugs him tightly*

Posted by: Blogger Marisol Gaddi at 4/12/2013 12:39 AM

So sweet. What a gentleman. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Blogger claire at 4/12/2013 2:18 AM

Glad you all like it! Hope it was worth the wait. :) There'll be LOTS more Zachary's POV to come in Shattered--in fact, it'll be the whole novella, which is growing day by day into nearly a shot novel. (Uh oh.)

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 4/12/2013 11:07 AM

Love this! I'm so excited to read Shattered, even though I know it will break my heart a bit.

Posted by: Blogger Ashley @ Book Labyrinth at 4/12/2013 12:55 PM

SO SO PERFECT! Cannot wait for Shattered!

Posted by: Blogger TeresaMaryRose at 4/12/2013 4:04 PM

OMG! Thank you for this! I can't wait to read Shattered ! I know my heart will break reading it but I have to know

Posted by: Blogger tnmedicgirl at 4/12/2013 4:21 PM

I can't wait for Shattered! This scene was perfection, just the right amount of everything (not cheesy or sleazy in any way!) Thanks Jeri!

Posted by: Blogger writer.dreamer at 4/12/2013 5:51 PM

You had me at dekilting. *grin* Nice scene!

Posted by: Blogger Cyndi Tefft at 4/18/2013 10:32 PM

YOU'RE THE BEST. :D

Posted by: Blogger Major Megrez at 4/21/2013 6:05 AM

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Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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