Sorry for not keeping up with posting on here but between the mad dash to finish my full for the SYTYCW Contest and then starting NaNoWriMo, I've been busy writing.
But not too busy to enter the most recent challenge. Here's my winning entry. After I finish my NaNo story, tentatively titled Swamp Heat, I am hoping to use these characters for a full length ms. At this point Rescuing Riley will be a straight up romance instead of romantic suspense.
Here's the winning entry:
And let me just preface with an FYI for anyone unfamiliar with the name Niamh it's pronounced Neev. I tried to get her to change it but she refused.
Word Count: 1, 000
When his cell phone vibrated, Riley Cooper placed the unopened bottle of Jack Daniels next to his sock feet on the coffee table. He grabbed the remote, muting the baseball game. His gaze never left the bottle as he dug into his pocket.
Before hitting ignore, he noticed it was Niamh’s brother Liam. He hesitated, glanced at the bottle of Jack, then pictured Niamh’s coffee brown eyes. “ Lee, what’s up?”
“Hey, Coop, could you meet me at the Westerly Burying Ground as soon a possible?”
Riley leaned back against the sofa and sighed. He had planned on opening that bottle and drinking until he passed out. Maybe then that tight fist that clawed at his chest would relax its grip. Not that he deserved relief. His decisions had caused a man his life and no amount of booze would change cold, hard facts.
“Coop, buddy, you still there?”
“Yeah, look, if you were expecting a Jeremy Renner ‘whose car we taking’ response, you’re SOL.”
“Niamh needs help.”
Riley straightened and dropped his feet to the floor with a thud. He wouldn’t have thought it possible but the vise around his chest tightened. “Wh-why would she need my help?”
“Might be best not to discuss it over the phone. Can you meet us?”
Tilting his head to the side, Riley cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder as he shoved his feet into black jump boots. “Give me fifteen minutes.”
Riley let the phone drop onto his lap as tied the laces. His gaze fell longingly on the bottle of Jack, instead he stood up and stuffed the phone into the front pocket of his jeans.
His breath came out in a hiss. Looked like facing PFC Alex Trejo’s grieving parents wouldn’t be the hardest thing he did today. Ding, ding, ding and the survey says number one answer is seeing Niamh. He turned away from the bottle and scrubbed an unsteady hand over his face and went in search of his keys.
# # #
“You called Riley Cooper?” Niamh forced the words through clenched teeth as she glared at her brother. The harrowing experience at the bank had been frightening, but the prospect of facing Riley had her almost nostalgic for those gunmen.
“What’s wrong, Mommy?”
In as normal a tone as possible, Niamh glanced at her five-year-old daughter and said, “Nothing’s wrong, sweetie. You know how Uncle Liam likes to tease.”
“Likes when he pulls my hair’n calls me Bug?”
Liam reached out and tugged on one of the girl’s blond pigtails. “Hey, Bug, I’m not deaf like your Grampa Mac.” In an exaggerated whisper, he continued, “I can hear every word you’re saying.”
The little girl brought her hand to her mouth and dissolved into a fit of giggles, her blond pigtails bouncing like marionettes.
Over her child’s head, Niamh mouthed a “thanks” to Liam. Leaning closer, she warned him. “But you’re still in deep doo-doo for calling Riley.”
“Who’s Riley?” Fiona looked expectantly from one to the other.
Liam chuckled. “You say that now but that’s not how you used to feel.”
“Yeah, well I used to be in love with Justin Timberlake too, but I grew up.”
“And took down all those lovely posters.” Liam reached over and yanked none too gently on her ponytail. “I’d believe you, sis, except for the fact you’ve seen all his movies.”
Before Niamh could punch the annoying clod, Riley’s Ford F-150 pickup pulled up. Blowing her breath out through her mouth, she rubbed her hands down the front of her jeans. Stay calm. You got this. She survived having a gun pointed at her during a bank robbery without falling to pieces. She’d survive seeing Riley again.
Watching him strut across the grass of the historic cemetery, Niamh felt a jolt. Riley was no longer that young man from six years ago. No, this Riley kicked *ss and took down names. As handsome as ever, the Hollywood stubble just added to his new bad boy persona. But it was the way his wide shoulders and muscular chest stretched the fabric of his t-shirt that had her stomach doing somersaults.
Liam stepped forward and shook hands. “Great to see you again, man. I’m glad you made it back in one piece.”
Riley nodded. “Good to be back.”
Niamh shoved her hands into her pockets. She didn’t care if he was a decorated war hero. Starting immediately she was instituting a hands-off policy. Absolutely no touching.
Riley’s gaze locked on hers as he hitched his chin toward her. “Niamh.”
Not trusting her voice, she only nodded in response, digging her fingernails into her palms. Remember he cut out your heart and didn’t look back. Remember crying yourself to sleep…night after night.
Before Niamh could prevent it, Fiona stepped forward, shaking her head as she looked up at Riley. “Mommy, you was wrong. He’s not nobody.”
Riley shot Niamh a curious glance before squatting on his heels until his face was even with Fiona’s. “My name’s Riley. What’s yours?”
“I’m Fee-OH-nah like the princess.” She planted one foot out in front of the other in a deliberate movement. “My mommy bought me new sneakers. They’re pink. My old ones pinched me. These ones have lights. Grampa Mac says I don’t need no lights on my shoes ‘cuz everyone hears me coming.”
Riley was silent for a moment before he said, “Well, Fee-OH-nah like the princess, it’s a pleasure to meet you and your pretty pink sneakers.” He glanced up at Niamh. “She looks just like you.”
Liam snorted. “Yeah, it’s like having to grow up with Niamh all over again.”
Riley straightened up to his full height.
Fiona balanced on her tiptoes, looking up. “Does you know my mommy?”
He may have been answering Fiona, but his intense gaze was locked on Niamh. “I thought I did.”
The dull ache of foreboding washed over her as her gaze darted from Riley’s captivating gray eyes to Fiona’s identical ones.