Well not much to report at the moment. I'm still battlingg the block, but have had mixed results. I've written up a few quick paragraphs for the opening of the DBZ commission, now titled Transformations. I know it's not really a creative bound or very artistic but it'll do for me. Other than that spent most of the week doing work on 'Birthday Surprise' for the upcoming collection finally did a complete rewrite of a pivotal conversation between two characters but not sure about it so for your pleasure i'm going to post it as a sneak peek. Will appreciate any thoughts or comments...
Passing between the already ajar French doors to the large adjoining dining room, where a large group sat playing rounds of billiards around the table, with their clothes as the stakes, then moving through to the kitchen; Mina muttered a curse under her breath. Small but also practical, with wide windows looking out across the back garden, now swallowed in inky blackness, and light dancing off the dull aluminium appliances; the kitchen was as much a bustling hive of activity as it ever was. In the far corner, a tall, broad shouldered youth with rich black hair was talking to a beauty of a girl with a bob-cut of dirty-blond hair, flawless milky complexion and a high, bountiful bosom that stretched the front of her tiny cotton sweater almost to ruin. By the windows, a trio of beer splattered frat boys had made a game of juggling disposable cups, and drinking a beer whenever they dropped one. There was a gaggle of girls gossiping and giggling, boys posturing and showboating; yet still no sign of her brother.
A glint of gold caught her eye and a broad smile spread across her lips. Hung pride of place upon the inner wall, in the Stirling silver frame with swirling gold inlaid runes along the edges she’d bought them for their last anniversary, was a photo from her father’s wedding day. It showed him standing on Descanso Beach, with pale white sand underfoot and the Catalina Casino sitting just above the sea’s calm blue waters in the background, resplendent in his tailored three-piece wedding suit and the top hat that his receding silver hair, with a protective arm around his new bride, Alexis. She and Marco were there too; he the nervous six year old Best Man half hidden the groom’s legs, she the beaming Flower Girl at the head of the party, clutching a bouquet of white roses and clad in a gorgeous ivory satin gown that was an almost exact miniature duplicate of the bride’s wedding dress.
Had it really been fifteen years ago? It was almost inconceivable, yet the last decade had just seemed to fly by so fast she had developed the habit of losing track of time. She could remember that day so vividly however. Mark had been nervous, so nervous that when the moment came for him to pass the rings, his hand had been shaking so violently he had dropped them in the middle of the aisle. Alexis was the very definition of a blushing bride, graceful, demure, and utterly beyond all reproach even as she blindly tossed the bouquet in such a way that only Mina could have caught it. And her father, Mina had never seen him so happy. All throughout the day he had beamed with joy and just the sight of his new bride coming down the aisle had lifted years from weathered face, banishing the spectre that had loomed over his shoulder for so many years.
The spectre, her mother, a ghost of memory that had chased him from his home on the outskirts of the town of Bodmin, Cornwall, and hounded him across the Atlantic. For eight long years, she had watched her father flounder in a sea of depression, her young heart tortured by the clawing feeling of utter helplessness from knowing there was nothing she could do to help, or, worse still she, that she was the cause. He never said it. He loved her, adored her and lavished her with all the affection a father owes to his child. Yet she had seen it none-the-less. She had seen it in his eyes, in those pools of emerald green in the rare, unguarded moments when his walls came down and he did not see his daughter, when there was no love, emotion or feeling in his gaze, only a question; Why? For she was the living reminder of the woman he had loved and lost, the shadow of the woman who had torn out his heart…
A deep rumble from her stomach shattered her contemplations. Suddenly very aware she hadn’t had any dinner, Mina shot a guiltily glance towards at the food spread across the kitchen’s long rectangular island counter. It was your typical Teenage guilty-binge selection; BBQ Chicken wings, cocktail sausages, porkpies, scotch eggs, crisps, nachos and, around the large aluminium keg, a ring of Pizza boxes were glistening with Cheese and toppings. The sight enticed another complaining rumble from her stomach.
Unable to resist, Mina walked over and helped herself to a large slice of a pepperoni pizza, her mouth watering with the first breath of its heady aroma. Taking a large bite, moaning appreciatively as the forbidden morsel flooded her senses with flavours, she turned around to find the raven-haired youth towering over her.
“Hey, you’re Mina right?” Though noticeably quieter in the kitchen than the living room, he still had to raise his voice to be heard over the roar of the music. “Mina Carring, Mark’s older sister?” At her perplexed nod of affirmation, he grinned, revealing two perfect rows of pearly whites. “Remember me?”
Taken aback, Mina took a reflexive step back before giving him a once over while chewing the delicious mouthful of bread, spiced meat and melted cheese. While she couldn’t place where they might have come across each other before, upon closer inspection there was something familiar about him. It wasn’t his face, though he was certainly comely, in a smouldering, clean-shaven, square-jawed, Hugh Jackman and Luke Evens sort of way. It was his eyes; she had seen them before. They were blue flecked with spots of gold, and seemed to gleam with mischievousness that she was sure had stolen a fair few hearts. Yes, she knew those eyes from somewhere. Over his shoulder, she glimpsed the blond standing with her arms crossed, looking very put out and glaring at Mina with undisguised hostility.
A name formed on the tip of her tongue, just out of reach…
His grin never faltered. “It’s Daniel. Daniel Cornwell. You use to babysitter me and Mark every Saturday.”
His words struck her like a lightning bolt and Mina had to resist the impulse to spit her mouthful of pizza across the floor. Forcibly, she swallowed the mouthful.
“What! No, you can’t be. Not little Danny.” She was almost certain her jaw must have dropped and her eyes glanced towards one of Mark’s old school year photos that hung on the kitchen wall, studying the dark haired sprite standing next to Mark that had tormented her mercilessly every weekend. He may have grown taller, but there was no mistaking that impish grin. “Jesus Christ, you grew up.”
Daniel’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “Yeah… well, I haven’t needed a babysitter for quite a while now.”
“So I see…” she almost purred, unable to resist noticing how his plain black polo-top stretched across his chiselled torso. Feeling suddenly warm, she tossed the partially devoured pizza slice back into its box before grabbing one of the nearby bottles of mineral water, unscrewing the lid and taking a long swig, washing the last of the dry bread down. The water was refreshingly chilled; however, it did little to ease the warmth spreading through her abdomen. “So who’s your friend?” she asked after taking a second drink.
Daniel’s eyebrow arched, giving her a swarthy but quizzical look that would have had Roger Moore green with envy. Suddenly unable to muster the words, her throat as coarse and dry as sandpaper, she nodded towards the door leading through to the foyer before taking another drink from the water bottle. He followed her gaze, just in time to watch the beauty he’d been speaking with moments before slinking out of the kitchen. Someone obviously can’t handle a little competition.
“Ooh, that’s Monica. We were friends in school and were just catching up.” he remarked in an innocent, offhand tone that did not match the glint in his eyes.
“Yeah, if you say so…” Mina teased, her lips curling knowingly, recalling how his eyes had been glued to the girl’s generous cleavage. Seemingly unaffected by her departure, however, he never so much as blinked an eye when his would be conquest grabbed another reveller’s arm in the hallway and proceeded to drag the stunned youth into the living room. “Well, she seems… special.”
Daniel turned to face her, and Mina felt her stomach tightening as his gold-flecked eyes looked into hers. Suddenly all traces of the boy she’d known so long ago was gone, and instead a man stood before her, wild and untamed, with a fierce intensity in his gaze. For a moment, he was silent, but his eyes held her captive. He reached out to touch her cheek, his calloused fingers rough against her softer skin. When he spoke, his voice was low and deep. “I’d forgotten just how beautiful you are.”
The kitchen felt very warm. Her heart quickening, she opened her mouth to speak, but the words stuck in her throat and her voice trembled beneath his gaze. His head began to dip forward, closing the gap between them. He had a very nice mouth, Mina decided, perfectly shaped. Drawn to his lips, she edged forward, her eyes growing heavy as she inhaled his strong, masculine scent. He smelled of salt and sand. I bet he’s a great kisser-
A loud splash shatters the moment, followed by roars of laughter and a slurred curse. Her heart jumping into her throat, Mina’s head snapped round. One of the jugglers, a ruby faced youth with short sandy hair and a squat build, had mistaken his drink for one of the empties, hurling it into the air only for it to turn end over end, spilling the amber contents upon his head. Drenched from head to toe, with his clothes clinging to him and beer running down his face in rivulets, he did an exaggerated bow as the sight had his friends doubling over in fits of laughter.
“Oi!” Daniel barked, his voice bristling with such naked anger that all three went as stiff as he strode past Mina with his white knuckled fists clenched at his sides. The kitchen fell silent, the music playing in the living room fading into the background as all eyes turned on Daniel, the floor trembling beneath the heavy thump of his footsteps. Mina could only watch with baited breath, her stomach tightening yet she couldn’t tell if it was with arousal or fear; or both. “This is not a fucking frat party.” He growled. His voice low and he pronounced each word with deadly emphasis. “Now, I’m going to say this only once. If you want to clown around then piss off because I’ll ram these cups down your throats if I see you pulling this kind of shit again.” Coming to a stop barely a stride from them, he glared down at them, towering over the tallest by more than a foot. “Do I make myself clear?” Only one, the drunkard dripping with beer and wearing a bemused grin, dared meet his gaze. He swayed slightly, shifting his weight between his feet, opened his mouth to speak, then lost his nerve as Daniel arched a brow, his hard eyes boring into droopy sockets, and turned his eyes down to the floor. All three nodded meekly.
He dismissed them with a curt sideways nod, sending all three bolting for the dining room, stumbling and tripping over each other in their haste to escape. Watching them go, Mina could barely keep her grin at bay when the ruby faced teenager fell flat on his face in the doorway before glimpsing Daniel’s hard expression suddenly blossoming into a broad smile. The sight had her heart fluttering in her breast, like a bird soaring to the heavens. Oh god, what am I doing? She thought, her stomach winding into knots. This is crazy! He’s Mark’s friend for fuck’s sake! The thought had her checks burning bright crimson. Forcing her attention back to the now, she found Daniel standing over her. Yet now she saw only the mischievous eyed boy. Hmm… Interesting. Where did that come from?
“W-well that was… impressive.” Her voice was shaky, her lips tingling with the ghost of the kiss that almost was. “So, what are you doing with yourself now? Do you have a girlfriend or… something?” She was stammering, desperate to distract herself from the smouldering fire burning through her centre, the words flowing from her without much thought. Realising what she’d asked, Mina’s cheeks burned all the fiercer and she took another draught from the almost empty bottle, hoping to drown in its clear depths.
Daniel’s grin broadened, the muscles beneath his skin stretching the left corner of his mouth almost all the way back to his ear. Then, with the golden flecks in his eyes glinting, he took the bottle from her hand and, tipping his head back, began to drink. Her breath catching in her throat, Mina watched, with eyes wide and mouth hanging ajar, entranced by the subtle motions of his stubble-roughened throat, his jugular rising and falling each time he swallowed, draining the bottle. Hopelessly entranced, it was only by pure chance she glimpsed him watching her through the clear plastic out of the corner of her eye. Like a deer in the headlights, Mina stood rigid, her feet rooted to the floor. She should have been embarrassed, ashamed of being caught staring at him so brazenly. Yet the look in his eyes, so full of mischief and zealous confidence, sent a tingling rush surging through her centre. Get a grip girl! You can do this. She held his gaze regardless, forcing herself to don the calm, stoic mask she displayed during auditions, determined not to betray any hint of the effect he was having on her.
Screwing the lid onto the empty water bottle, Daniel tossed it over his shoulder into the half-full rubbish bin. A single drop of water rolled down his chin, but he brushed it away casually with the pad of his thumb. The gesture left a slick trail across his jaw that Mina longed to taste. “It’s girlfriends,” he confirmed, his smirk never faltering. “And no. No, I’m not seeing anyone at the moment.” His eyes peered down at her keenly, as if gauging her reaction, before he added, “Work doesn’t really leave much time for relationships.”
Despite herself, Mina couldn’t help quirking a slender eyebrow. “Oh? And just what manner of nefarious employment is that then, young Daniel?” She asked. Her lips curled in a small, playful smile. “The last time I saw you, you were going to become the next Batman. You would even run around the house wearing your Mother’s tights on your head for a cowl and cape. Did your dream come true? Is that it? Do you wander the dark city streets at night, fighting crime in a desperate quest to redeem yourself for how you tortured me as a child?”
“Not quite.” Though he had the good grace to appear embarrassed, her remark left not so much as a dent in his cool composure. ”Actually, I’m enlisted in the army.”
“You’re kidding!” There was no need for her to feign surprise; it was as genuine as her disbelief. Eyes narrowing suspiciously, she watched him closely. Yet his expression was as genuine as any she had ever seen, those gold speckled eyes gazing into hers, intense, never wavering. If he was playing her false, then he was a better actor than most A-listers in Hollywood. Nevertheless, Mina wasn’t convinced. Deciding to play his game, she remarked “Well, congratulations. And you just so happened to be out on parole for my little brother’s party, how very convenient.”
“Well, not exactly.” He gave her an innocent look that did not show in his eyes. “I wasn’t due any leave until June, but when I got Mark’s message about this birthday bash, I had a word with the base’s XO who owed me a favour, and voilà, here I stand.” He spread his powerful arms out for added emphasis of his presence.
“Hmmm…” It was only sheer force of will that kept her withering look at bay, his game quickly wearing at Mina’s patients. Yet he’d spoken easily, the words rolling off his silver tongue dripping with honey. No lie! “So the brass owe you favours?”
He dropped his hands back down to his sides and shrugged. “Sort of. His son went AWOL last year. After twenty days, I received a tip and found him in the penthouse of Hamburg’s Kempinski Hotel with two hookers and a rather shaken goat. He was stoned out of his mind.” He chuckled at the memory. “After confining him to the barracks, I had a private word with the Lieutenant Colonel. We made a deal. I agreed to report his son had voluntarily surrendered himself to me, and overlook his certain indiscretions, in exchange for him owing me a favour or two. I scratch his back, he scratches mine, as they say.”
“A tip told you where to find an XO’s son?” she repeated slowly, her brow knitting with confusion, the mask hiding her beginning to crack. Something didn’t feel right. No, it couldn’t be true, he was lying, he had always been lying. But what if…
“Yeah. I’m in the MPs.” He said, then added sourly. “It was a stupid decision really. Crocked nazi bastard could have had me arrested and on a charge of conduct unbecoming, dereliction of duty, and whatever other jumped up charge he could make stick at any time. But I wagered he cared more about his career and the damage I could do to his prospects for promotion if word about his son’s little misadventure were to be let slip. After all, top class hotels have such excellent security records these days.” However Mina was no longer listening.
“The M… Ps…” Her throat was suddenly dry and there was a noticeable tremor in her voice as the words stuck there, the pit of her stomach plummeting. “You’re really serious, aren’t you? You’re not joking.”
His grumbling forgotten, Daniel gave her a half-smile. “Afraid so. Hmm… not quite what you expected?” She nodded meekly, unable to look him in the eye. “Well, I can’t say I ever envisioned myself as Captain America myself.”
Mina could only stare at him, feeling utterly lost. His words had hit her like an icy wall of water, crashing over her head and down her spine. It can’t be… it just can’t be… Daniel Cornwell had been Mark’s best friend since preschool. Yet despite their friendship, they were as different as Gold and Onyx; Mark was wiry, pale, and utterly beyond reproach while Danny was broad, dark, sly and as prone to mischief as a chimpanzee, a damn sprite who had taken every opportunity to tease and torment her. Any time Mark had gotten into trouble it was always a sure thing that little Danny Cornwell would be at the root of it. It was difficult to imagine the routine, duty and order of a soldier’s life appealing to the boy she’d known. However, here he stood, and though her every instinct warned it was just another dirty trick he’d concocted to torment her, she believed him.
Brushing a wing of spun gold that had fallen out of place back behind her ear, she finally forced herself to say. “So… the Military Police huh…” The words sounded strange to her, as though she was speaking another language for the first time, yet , whatever the tongue, the notion was no less ridiculous.
“I know. It’s crazy right.” Daniel said. “I guess you could say I was inspired. I read a lot of the Jack Reacher novels in school.”
“And you’re enjoying it?” she asked awkwardly, unsure of what else to say and giving voice to the first thought that occurred to her to ask. “I-i mean you’re only this young once. Are you sure this is what you want to do with your life?”
“Jeez relax mum.” He mocked, rolling his eyes. “It’s not a career choice. I just want to do my bit, see the world, and score whatever points I can for myself along the way.” In the living room a raucous cheer rose from the revellers as the music switched to a more popular song Mina still didn’t know. Daniel, meanwhile, appeared not to notice and instead developed a thoughtful look. “Though I suppose it could be something of a family trade now. Dad joined up when he was my age and Gramps was in the first wave on Omaha Beach. They enjoyed their time serving Uncle Sam, so when I dropped out of school, I thought why not, it beats flipping burgers at McDonalds, and signed my life away. Next thing I know, I’m out of Boot and being shipped off to Germany.”
Mina couldn’t help but giggle playfully. He might very well be the sprite of memory, but in one thing else he had not changed, he had a knack for making her laugh. “Well, I don’t know about Jack Reacher. Your life sounds more like the makings of a John Grisham Novel. Black mail, corruption, you should become an agent. Mine’s considering taking on a partner if you want me to put in a word for you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” When he smiled then, it was like the sun breaking across the horizon and Mina felt her heart flutter against its cage as a bird would beat its wings. What is he doing to me? “So what about you? I hear you’re seeing that Jason Stoker from Insurection.”he remarked, referring to the box office flop Jason had starred in that was released worldwide in December and had since been widely condemned. “Are things… good between the two of you?” Was that concern she heard, or mocking?
“Yeah, we’re fine.” She said with an offhand twist to her lips. “We just moved in together last august, but how do you know about that? I don’t recall adding you on Facebook.” Mina’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. While she was hardly discreet, she never talked to the media about her personal life, publicly or off the record. As far as she was concerned, there was an invisible line dividing her career and her private life, she never crossed it. Her Facebook account was one of the few places she posted intimate details, but to a contacts list comprising of only thirty of her closest friends and family. Unlike her Twitter profile, where she had over five hundred thousand followers, but used it solely to prank fellow celebrities. Orlando Bloom still hadn’t forgiven her for a little photoshop experiment she’d pulled just before the Premiere of Pirates of the Carribean 5, and Justin Beiber had tried to get a restraining order against her IP address. “Are you stalking me?” It was only half a joke. He is a soldier after all, and an MP besides. Who knows what strings he can pull.
Daniel chuckled. “You got me. I hack into your webcam every night to watch you get done up in Kate Beckinsale’s leather body suit and whip your little piggy.” His guffaw fell silent when he caught sight of the warning in her eyes. “No. I read a few articles in Dirt Roundup that had some paparazzo shots of the two of you walking hand in hand along Santa Monica Pier before going to dinner at Cavatina. You know he’s gay, right?”
“ What! Jason’s not-“
“So this is the sister we’ve all heard so much about.” A sly voice announced from across the kitchen. Her outburst dying on her full rosy lips, Mina wheeled towards the source of the interruption to find four young men arrayed in a thin line, blocking the door leading through to the foyer. They were all grinning wickedly and a shiver crept down her spine as she realised they all had their eyes on her. The one on the far left took an extra step forward to stand centre stage. Recognising his flaming hair, Mina realised these were the boys whom she’d encountered standing on the doorstep. “Well?” he asked. “Come on Daniel, where are your manners? Introduce us.”
His easy smile finally faltering, Daniel’s eyes darted nervously towards her, but before she could ask what was wrong, he stepped into the space dividing her from them and swept out a hand towards the speaker. “Mina, this is Sean.” Despite his broad grin and runner’s build, Mina couldn’t help thinking that his beady eyes, flaming red hair and flat, stubby nose gave Sean the face of a ferret. Oblivious to her thoughts, Daniel was already gesturing to the remaining members of the group. “Eric,” he pointed towards a round faced, pockmarked boy with listless brown hair, skin the colour of curdled milk, and dull green eyes; standing at least a foot shorter than the rest. “Charlie;” a lean figured male who appeared older than his years due to shoulder length silver-blonde hair, stubble roughened chin, and piercing clever grey irises. “And this imposing brute is Victor,” a broad, heavily muscled bruiser that dwarfed anyone in his shadow, who must have spent five hours a day in the gym and shaved his head twice a week to have his pate as smooth as marble. Together they made an imposing, yet comical band of misfits. “They were in mine and Mark’s homeroom at school.” He then waved his hand back towards her. “Gentleman,” he sullenly muttered the word like a Cobra spitting venom, “this is Mark’s step-sister, Mina Carring.”
Forcing a friendly smile, Mina raised an open-palmed hand in greeting; “Hi.” None of them made any move to respond, and instead they just watched her, their eyes gleaming with predatory hunger. Her smile faded and the hand fell back to her side. “I’m not staying long, I just dropped by to wish Mark happy Birthday.”
Thin, gaunt faced Charlee sniggered and gestured back over his shoulder towards the stair in the foyer. “You just missed him,” he said with a sly smile. “He went up to his room about ten minutes ago.”
“Thanks.” Nodding her thanks, Mina twisted back to Daniel and gave him a small smile. “ Well, it was good to see you again Danny.” He looked like he was about to say something, but she interceded him by leaning up on tiptoes and kissing him softly on the cheek. Then, spinning on her heel, she darted between Victor and Eric, walked briskly down the hall and, narrowly avoiding barrelling into a startled boy carrying two cups of beer in each hand, bolted up the sweeping stairs, taking the shallow steps three at a time.
Despite the hive of activity and commotion below, the house’s second floor hallway was utterly deserted. Turning left at the top of the stair, the soft carpet underfoot and the deep thunder of the party below muffling her steps, she swept down the narrow passage, passing the shut door of her old room on her left and two more further down on her right. Marks’s bedroom was the furthest down the hall. The door was shut tight. Raising a hand, the two unshaded bulbs hanging overhead casting it a dual shadow across the wall and floor, she was about to knock when she had a wicked idea and instead tried the handle. Finding it unlocked, she bit her lower lip and prayed the old squeak was gone before giving it a firm nudge.