Sunday, February 10, 2008

Valentine's CYOA Chapter 10

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Chapter Ten

“Of course!” they said in unison. Well, at least they agreed on something.

I looked from Brant to Branchos and back again. I did my best to ignore the fact that looking at one of them caused butterflies to take up mass migration in my stomach, while looking at the other made me feel like I was looking in the mirror.

One thing was clear. I had to take matters into my own hands. I had to find out the truth for myself.

I pretended to consider my options while snaking my hand closer and closer to Imelda’s lap, where the wallet that held her badge lay, forgotten, between her legs. When I was within an inch of it, I struck like a cobra. I grabbed the wallet and launched myself from my seat, sending Gypsy Rose Lee and Agent McStudMuffin sprawling to the pavement.

I took off at a dead run, headed for Mrs. Peterson’s. It was time for me to do a little impersonating of my own.

On my street, blessedly quiet though it was, I found that Mrs. Peterson still had some company. I could face her alone, but I wasn’t going to face the cops with whatever cockamamie story I managed to dream up. I sighed, standing in the winter darkness, a shadowy figure outside my own home. How had this happened? This went beyond, way beyond, a bad Valentine’s Day. This was a nightmare, or a stupid comedy. I guess it depended on how it ended.

All I knew, suddenly, was that I was tired. I longed for the quiet halls of the sleep clinic, the gentle beep-beep of the brainwave monitor, the endless supply of beds, which the man with many names had suggested we might share together. It had seemed like not so wild a dream…

I shook my head. I needed to reclaim my senses and dump all of these people, including the handsome one. I needed my life back, which was looking much more appealing than it had that very morning.

I snuck back into my own house, my lovely warm house, through the back door, after retrieving my spare key from the bird feeder. I left the lights off, slipped off my coat (had I actually let him take off my bra in WINTER?), found my way to the couch, and said, “Ah.”

Then I got a whiff of myself. A day of running, riding, jumping, screaming, and sweating had created a powerful aroma. I moved, still in the dark, to the bathroom, where I took a wonderful, steamy, fragrant shower, also in the dark—a remarkably sensual experience. I sang “Some Enchanted Evening,” but I started too high and ended up squeaking out the last notes. Then I donned a fluffy towel and felt immeasurably better. Things were going to be okay. I was going to do this.

A shadow materialized in front of me. “Don’t scream, it’s me.” Brant’s voice came from the darkness.

I didn’t scream, but I yipped. He leaned down to kiss me, but I turned my head and it landed on my cheek.

He inhaled deeply. “You smell amazing.”

“You don’t. Go away.” My eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the hallway, and I could see that he was smiling.

“You shouldn’t leave the key in the birdhouse,” he said. “Very obvious. I’m going to borrow your shower. Want to join me? I bet I can make you sing even higher.”

I blushed, remembering how very badly I had warbled. “No.” My face was still heated, but not from embarrassment. I wanted to join him, very much.

He pulled me to him and gave me a real kiss on the mouth, a deep, delicious kiss with just the right amount of tongue. He pushed my towel to the floor with impatient hands, then stroked his palms up and down my shower-soft body. “Stop it,” I said, biting his lower lip. “You think I’m easy, but I’m not.”

“I don’t think there’s anything easy about you, Cara. But I like a challenge.”

He leaned in for another kiss, but I bent down to retrieve my towel. “It’s bad enough that I’d flashed the boy. But God only knows who could show up here: the CIA, Imelda and her gang, the poodle people, or whoever the hell you tell me about next. This day has been like a circus in hell. And I’m sure as hell not going to be naked when the next performer takes the stage. I’m going to be dressed and focused on my goal: getting that stupid package out of Mrs. Peterson’s house, giving it to you, and bidding you a final farewell.”

He laughed and moved into the bathroom. He was incredibly efficient. In barely two minutes, he came out smelling great and wearing nothing but a pair of jeans. I would have bet all my money he was going commando under there, but that was not something for me to dwell upon. Raising my gaze from that dangerous territory, I looked at his head wound. Clean, it seemed barely more than a scratch.

I tore my eyes away from him and stared back out the window at Mrs. Peterson’s house. There was still a light on in her living room, although it seemed the cops might be leaving. Why had they stayed so long?

Brant was next to me then, too close, but his eyes were staring out the window, too. He had donned a turtleneck. Where had he gotten a change of clothes? Was he wearing mine? I wondered dimly. Now he was the one who smelled amazing. “Your plan’s not going to work,” he said.

“Why not? I have a spare key to her house. She gave it to me when she visited her sister in Cleveland. She told me to keep it in case she ever has a heart attack in there.”

“The key’s not the problem,” he said. “He is.” He pointed at a car sitting parked on the street, looking like all the other parked cars.

“He who?”

“That Lexus has a driver. See? He’s sitting there keeping watch, just like you are. They couldn’t get to the money with all the police around. But obviously the money is still there, because he’s still waiting.”

“And what about the girls? Stripper lady and mini-me? Are they going to show up, too?”

“I doubt it,” he said grimly. “They’re out of commission for a while.”

I stared at him, shocked yet relieved. “So here’s a new plan,” I said. “You distract him, and I’ll get the money.”

“That could work,” he said, touching my hair. “But I have a feeling you could distract him better.”

A) I’d rather distract you,” I said, inching toward him.

B) "Are you kidding me? Now you’re going to pimp me out just to get your precious Euros? No way,” I said.

C) “Fine,” I said. “I’m getting tired of the present company.” And I left him sitting there on the couch while I donned a black jacket and some quiet shoes.

D) “But we’re forgetting one crucial thing,” I said, sitting up straighter. “What about the poodle?”

YOUR TURN: You decide what happens next! Leave your vote in the comments by 7pm EST (4pm Pacific) every day between now and Valentine's Day---Tomorrow's story continued by Virginia Henley with the twist YOU choose!

Today's installment brought to you by Julia Buckley. Vote to win a great prize!

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lacey kaye said...

C!!!!!! C C C!

Anonymous said...


Vicki said...

My vote is C. I do want to know about the poodle though. Still, C is my choice.

Maggie Robinson said...


B.E. Sanderson said...

I'm gonna hafta say D today. =oD

Isabel said...

“What about the poodle?”

Yeah, what about the poodle??? Thus, I have to go with D.

My vote is for "D".

KimW said...

C for me

Katherine C. said...

Awww, c'mon girls, B! it's gotta be B based on snarkyness alone!

Mary said...

I vote B.

Darcy Burke said...

C. I just hope quiet shoes aren't Easy Spirit loafers. Great chapter Julia!!

Bill Clark said...

I'm a "B" boy today. Those euros Miss Erica introduced to us are right up there with the poodle and the pink bunny slippers as important plot elements, kinda like Chekhov's gun. I think Cara and Brant need to become teammates, scarf the curos and pooch and slippers together, and head off into the HEA, where they get to take turns feeding the dog and wearing the slippers.

Bill Clark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie H. said...

I'm a big fan of B :)

Jackie Barbosa said...

B or C? Hmmm, I just can't decide! Will have to come back later...

Angie Fox said...

Yes, but can't we be distracted by "A" first? She deserves a little "A" after the bike riding and poodle chasing and intrigue.

tetewa said...

I'm going with D today!

Writer & Cat said...

I'm too late for my vote to count but I'd have picked D! What about the poodle!

Jody W.

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