Thursday, October 11, 2012

She Said Versus He Said – Literally – Makes for a Stronger Break Up By Margo Hoornstra

This month, as you know by now, my fellow Roses of Prose members and I are sharing some of the most memorable excerpts from our books. Mine today is from Honorable Intentions. This excerpt details the Big Black Moment, the break up scene of the hero and heroine, which is memorable to me because what ended up in the book is not the way I first wrote it. In my original version, this scene was from the heroine’s point of view.

‘Flip it.’ My editor suggested. ‘Write the scene from his point of view to make it stronger.’ My immediate reaction was to disagree. ‘But why would I want to do that? After all, the scene is fine as it is. It’s also, finished, complete. Let’s leave it alone.’

Luckily I never made those arguments out loud, but simply re-wrote the scene as she suggested.

And, by way of set up, he’s breaking up with her because both of their professional reputations are at stake and, it’s the honorable thing to do.

Say the words, Chase, buddy. Tell the story. Weave the lies. “There’s a lot going on in all of our lives right now.” He couldn’t look at her as he spoke. “Neither one of us needs any added...,” he lifted his hand then dropped it again. “...complication.”

If the stricken look that crossed her face was any indication, he’d definitely caught her off guard, now he just needed to keep her off balance.

“Love shouldn’t be a complication.” Her voice was ragged, infused with raw emotion.

No! It shouldn’t. Not a love strong as mine for you. He nearly doubled over with the effort to keep from expressing those thoughts. He had to remember what he was doing, and why. When he worked undercover—playing a role to achieve a definite result—any slip back into his real self could hold a distinct cost. Right here, right now was no different, except, right here and right now, he was sparing Samantha that cost.

Using gut wrenching control, he made himself look up at her in surprise. “Love? Who said anything about love?” It took everything he had to push out those words. The scoff he made himself add at the end out only added to his growing self-hate.

He almost collapsed under the weight of what he had to say next, but made himself keep going. “Love! Wow!” The feigned smirk as he diverted his gaze was meant to transmit disbelief, not the real reason he dropped his eyes, because he couldn’t stand to see the pain in hers. “You must have gotten the wrong idea. Sorry about that.” I am so very sorry!

“Oh.” He scarcely heard the spoken response, but her involuntary blink of disbelief spoke volumes.

His body went rigid with effort as he forced himself to keep an adequate distance between them. He knew if he got too close to her at all, he’d draw her into his arms, all the while proclaiming how much he loved her. After that, he wouldn’t be able to stop.

“Okay, I guess I need to tell you the truth,” he began, and his gut clenched at the suspicious look that came into her eyes. His heart pounded and his throat ached with regret at the words he was about to say. In his career, he’d faced down vigilantes holding loaded shot guns when he was unarmed, and more dangerous animals in the wild than he could even count. None of which came close to the fear ripping into him at this moment, knowing he had no choice but to give up the woman before him now. The woman he loved.

“You want to know why things happened between us back there? Here’s my take on it.” His voice threatened to give out, but he refused to allow such failure and pushed on. “It happens. Near death experience, life is short and all that. So why not have a little enjoyment before it ends.”

He wished he hadn’t used the word enjoyment, too personal for his son-of-a-bitch purpose.

So many emotions flashed in her eyes, he couldn’t begin to decipher what they were. Shock? Remorse? Pain? Acceptance? He didn’t dare think about them now. He had to do this for her. She raised her chin and squared her shoulders much as she had the first day they’d met, when he knew she’d somehow be a part of his life forever.

Whether I ever see her again or not.

“You really believe that?”

Though he knew her well enough to know she tried to hide it, her voice was a mixture of hope and doubt. She couldn’t conceal the hurt look in her eyes, and that alone tore at his heart, but he couldn’t let such weakness stop him.

“Yeah. Don’t you? If I remember correctly, friends only was what we decided to be.” He cast her a sidelong glance, smirk intact. “And, as I also remember, the friends only was your call.”

He made no secret of making a crass and thorough inspection of her body—for theatrical effect only—while it took everything he had not to reach out to touch her for real. “And I was more than willing to go along.”

He held on to the glib expression even though his heart pounded so hard, he was sure it would blast out of his chest. One more lie, one more monumental untruth and she’d be free of him forever. And, that was for the best, wasn’t it?

Then why did he feel as if life itself was slipping away? Why was the emptiness inside of him so intense it hurt to breathe?

Tell her, Pal. Big talker. Tell her you don’t care.

“I really never thought about, you know, love, or anything close to it.”

He watched a single-minded sense of purpose take over her expression, though the pain in her eyes refused to be concealed. “That’s your decision, then.”

“Yeah. It is,” he replied coolly, even as his body shook with the effort required to let her go. Their dinner forgotten, she stood to turn away. “Oh, and Samantha?”

Looking back, she leveled a gaze on him with such a casual indifference, the tattered remains of his heart dried up and blew away. “Yes?”

“Under the circumstances, it might be better if Lisa and I fly back to Detroit alone. The way the press dogs me, we won’t be on the tarmac at Metro for five minutes and they’d make things worse. Give Monica even more ammunition if we showed up there together, with Lisa. You understand.”

She simply nodded. “Of course.”

A stony determination permeated her body, her face, her voice, and terrified him beyond belief. But he’d done what had to be done, accomplished what he set out to do; convinced her they had no future. From the way she looked at him now, she was a firm believer Chase Canfield was the sole nominee for bastard of the year.

He could hardly believe it when she opened her mouth to say something more. “Do something for me?”

Anything! Just ask. He willed his voice not to crack. “Sure, why not? You’ve earned that much.”

She ignored his double meaning. “Tell Lisa good-bye for me? And, tell her I had a great time getting to know her better. She’s a very special person.”

You are too, Samantha, my love. “I know. I’ll tell her what you said.”

Chase and Samantha’s romance doesn’t end there. Find Honorable Intentions and the rest of my stories, some for free, at my Blog.

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Jannine Gallant said...

This is the point where I felt like smacking Chase. Good job!

Margo Hoornstra said...

It's great when you can make someone wanna slap 'em up side the head.

I'll take that as a compliment!