Monday, February 4, 2008

Valentine's CYOA, Chapter 4

From now until Valentine's Day, the Manuscript Mavens are running a Choose Your Own Adventure® story, in which YOU vote on what happens next! Every morning brings a new author, from the Mavens to the just-sold, to the best-selling. And every night brings a new twist!

Get your Choose Your Own Adventure® votes in by 7:00pm EST (4:00pm PST) and you'll be eligible for random prize drawings, where you can win books by our Guest Mavens! Vote every day, and you'll even be eligible for the Grand Prize. (More info: here.)

For yesterday's installment, click here. To read the previous chapters in order, click here.

Chapter Four

"Shoot them."

"You so owe me some chocolate when we get out of this mess." I aimed and squeezed the trigger.

When a gun is thrust unexpectedly into your hand, and you've never fired a gun, you have to be willing to learn "on the job." Here's what I've learned so far: It's probably best not to close your eyes when you shoot a gun. Our driver's door would never be the same.

On the bright side, my killing our door sent our car careening, (the hunk is easily startled). Careening meant our heads were no longer precisely where their bullets were aimed. And, in case you ever need to know, bullets fired into a gas tank don't actually make the car explode. Plus we shook some of them off our tail. I count the whole thing a win-win.

Hunk did not. Weenie. However, the man can cuss an inventive blue streak and never take his eyes off the road or repeat himself. I'm guessing my evaluation will not include a smiley face. Hey, if you hire amateurs, then you have to be willing to live with the consequences. No, I did not say that aloud. I'm an amateur, not stupid. Besides, he was driving and I was very much afraid my survival depended on whether his rites of passage into manhood had included running dirt tracks in some backwater little town. We couldn't win a game of demolition derby, but if he could execute some nice weaves and turns, we might just open up enough daylight to survive. Maybe.

I was counting on that maybe. When you're scared, maybe means a lot. It's all you have to hold onto. When I finally risked another look over my shoulder to check on the Black Death rolling behind us, I realized we had opened up a lead. Unfortunately, I didn't think we were heading in the right direction. We'd passed over a small creek bridge, which meant we were leaving the city and all those lovely get-lost-in streets behind us. All I could remember was a corporate training seminar from my bank teller days in which they continually repeated, "Never let them take you to the second crime scene. Your odds of survival go down."

I didn't want to go wherever he was taking me-especially out of the city, but if he'd wanted to shoot me, he could have done so a long time ago. So, point for him. And to be honest, the careening had sent us in this direction away from town. I didn't think now was the time to bring that up.

"Gun." He held out his hand, calm in a way I hadn't seen before. Like he'd let go of some tension and made a decision. His gaze flicked repeatedly from rearview to the road.

I ponied up the pistol. "Look. I'm sorry, but I didn't sign up for the St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

"And that's what's going to get us both killed, Cara. Because Mel did and you're not Mel." He slipped the gun into what had to be a custom holster just to the side and angled under the driver's seat. "Which means we're going to have to do this the hard way. Hold on."

I grabbed the dash and held my breath as he hit the brakes and yanked the emergency while spinning the wheel. Our car wasn't small but we had turning radius to spare compared to the silent, relentless land shark we now faced. As I said, I'm an amateur but I'm not stupid. We were about to play a game of chicken and if the bad guy didn't give, we would surely swallow more than our recommended daily dose of iron.

"I'm not so sure this is a good idea." Well, I was sure, but I was trying to be polite. "I'd like to get out of the car now. Please."


"They have guns."

"Yes, because you didn't shoot them."

"Which means they're going to shoot us, you moron." Okay, I was snippy. I admit it. This yahoo was about to get me killed. Again. I took back the point I gave him.

He must have decided he was in range again because he pulled the pistol from the holster and fired. The windshield had shattered sometime back. Targeting wasn't hampered by any pesky safety glass. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate his attempts to keep them from firing on us, but I found myself judging the speed of our car and trying to decide if a skid over asphalt on my ass would actually do anything for my cellulite.

Hunkster wasn't budging from his course. He could give lessons in focused. The man was in it to win it. Eyes on the prize. All those clichés which, quite frankly, were beginning to get on my nerves. What a load of crap. They were all code for "too stupid to quit." And I didn't care if he had silver bullets and nerves of steel. We were out-gunned. Even an amateur could see that. I shot a glance out the side window.

"In or out, Cara mia. Either jump or put your damned seat belt on. This isn't a game."

"You think?"

A) He squeezed off another round and as I watched fate bearing down on us, I realized he actually had a plan. The last SUV still following us after our careening episode had four wheels on that bridge and nowhere to go but through us or through the railing. Heaven help me. I was trapped in a car with a cowboy determined to replay the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. We had to hope the other guy flinched first.

B) "Seriously, put your seat belt on."
He didn't look to see if I obeyed, which would probably have pissed me off, truth be told. He slammed on the brakes again and put the car into the weeds at the edge of the bridge. The car tilted, teetered and slammed hard as we found the sloping embankment. I took a hard return trip to the floorboard muttering, "Rat bastard." He knew I hadn't fastened my belt. Just like he knew all along he wasn't going to push the chicken game.

Not an inch of my body escaped bruising as I clawed my way back into the seat, taking a nice jolt to my head from the door support as the car hit a rut that must've exited in China. Instead of stars, I saw one of those long flat-bottomed fishing boats. And, thankyouJesus, it had a motor. A trolling motor.

C) "I'm pretty sure it's not a game."

That's when I noticed the blood on the steering wheel, seeping through the cuff of his shirt to drip on his leg. Most of his left sleeve was wet with blood.

"I'm really sorry, Cara mia." He slumped.

D) His equally snappy reply was cut off by the sick cough of a dying engine.

I sputtered right along with the car. "You have got to be kidding me."

"I rarely joke. Jump!"

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 Deanna Lee with the twist YOU choose!

Today's installment brought to you by Debra Dixon. Vote to win one of Debra's books!

Don't forget to join the Manuscript Mavens' quarterly newsletter on the right for advance notice of other exciting upcoming events!


La Belle Americaine said...


Anonymous said...


Holli Bertram said...

I'm loving this - another great chapter!

I vote for "B"!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Ack! I'm torn today. Eenie, meenie...


I loved C, btw. I just didn't want to see the hot guy pass out.

Erica Ridley said...

B! =)

Carrie said...

Awesome! I love where this is going! I can't decide between B and D.... hmmm... must ponder some more...

Isabel said...

Debra, you rock! Awesome installment. :)

Ok, it's getting difficult for me to decide. I say, get them out of the car...

My vote is for "D".

Writer & Cat said...

Just love the nonstop action! I pick D for Danger (is that going to be the title of the book? :)

Jody W.

Bill Clark said...

Wow!! You guys should be picking up where Ian Fleming left off!!(Oh, wait, John Gardner already did that. Well, where John Gardner left off, then.)

Yes, I think it's time to get them out of the car. But not without an alternative means of transportation, which lets out D. B, on the other hand, continues the James Bond tradition of wracking up as many different modes of transport as possible within as short a time as possible, so let's go with B and the flat-bottomed boat.

James Bond, of course, would avail himself of that flat bottom once he had outrun the baddies...and, of course, the girl's bottom as well, bruises notwithstanding.

I mean, this story is supposed to have some romance in it sooner or later, right? To me, the flat-bottomed boat just oozes with romantic possibility.

BTW, do we know el hunko's name yet? Could his first name possibly be...James? :-)

tetewa said...

Can't wait for tomorrow and my pick for today is D!

Amie Stuart said...

Great Job!!!!!! this is so fun!

I'm torn between B and D but I think I'm gonna have to go with D...

Debra Dixon said...

I'm probably not supposed to vote, but I'm a B girl. :)

And as you might have already guessed, I was bound and determined that one way or the other I was getting them out of that car so we'd have an opportunity to find out what is going on with these two. :)

Darcy Burke said...

Deb, of course you can vote! Great, great chapter. I'm voting for B!

Bill Clark said...

w00t!! My bright green MaveFave button just came in the mail!! It's not all just a gigantic hoax after all!! :-)

I am pleased to report that I put it on immediately and walked up Greenwich Avenue with all the pride that the button itself suggests. And now I'm at the library posting this comment. So far no one has come up and said, "Gee, Bill, what's that you're wearing," but the day is still young. Maybe I'll wear it to the Old School Tie party at Steakcraft in NYC tonight - that way I can be the first in both Greenwich AND NYC to carry the torch of Mavendom! Mavens rule!!

Stephanie H. said...

This chapter was great! I'm voting for D.

Deanna Lee said...

Can I vote?


I vote B!

Mary said...

So much actiony goodness! I vote D.

Cory said...

Awesome installment! I like D!

Karen Lingefelt said...

A car that sputters and dies in the middle of the road is something I can relate to.

I vote D.

Patricia W. said...

He has to live so that eliminates C. B or D. I like the idea of the alternative transport but I'm more MacGvyer than James Bond. I say D. Let's see what they come up with.

LeeAnn said...


Monica M said...

This is such fun! I'm really enjoying the read...So I think I'm going to vote B. Cause nothing says romance like a boat with a trolling motor. Vrrrmmm.

Shelli Stevens said...

Hee hee. D! I want D!!

leannekarella said...

I vote for (D)

Leila Brown said...


Bree said...

Mmmmm...I have to choose one?

Oh, fine. I'm gonna go with D!

Donna Herren said...

That's a toughie... As Monica said, nothin' spells lovin' like an outboard motor. But...but...

I also love those impossible situations.


KimW said...

I say Jump! D

with B running a very close second. That's funny!

Natalie Damschroder said...

I can't believe no one picked A!

B means she's not very smart, with no seatbelt on, after many, many reasons why it should be.

C gives her heroic options, but is a little common in such situations, and limits their interaction.

D is fine, and the way the vote is going, is probably going to win.

But I'm picking A, because I'm imagining a Dominic Purcell type, with those fabulous, intense--yes, steely--eyes boring into those of their pursuers...and that makes me all fluttery. :)

Maggie Robinson said...

D for Debra Dixon.

Jackie Barbosa said...

C is definitely right out. Can't kill off the killer schnozz.

Torn between the other three, but I think I'm gonna go with D.

Lenora Bell said...

...we would surely swallow more than our recommended daily dose of iron.

So funny! Debra rules!

I'm going with B.

lacey kaye said...

Here I come, all late to the party! But I would've gone for the boat myself. Great job, Deb!

Debra Dixon said...

Okay now that the vote is over, I can defend poor little C ! In my little world, you break the scene and reopen in the hero's point of view in a dark cell realizing he's failed until he hears the slightest rustle as Cara crawls out of the corner. (g) And now they must put all their cards on the table and find a way to escape.

Thanks for such a lovely welcome everyone! I had such fun today.

Isabel said...

I see, Deb, you're right, I would love me some hero POV.

And I'm with Bill, when do we get to finally learn El Hunko's name?

Writer & Cat said...

His name is Cade Brixton. Unless it's Sanchos Branchos. *heh*

Jody W.

Lynn said...

I have a feeling D is going to win, but (I know I'm alone in this one) I vote C. True test of ones creativity to invent a means of keeping the action going and her having to be bunglingly (is that a word?) and creatively villian-like.

This is great fun!+

lacey kaye said...

I agree with Isabel. It never crossed my mind to have some hero POV. Beat by a master!

Natalie Damschroder said...

Oh, Deb, of course! That would have worked great! I feel stupid now for not even considering that might be what came next. LOL

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