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The final stages of editing and layout are almost finished! My first fiction novel is set to hit the shelves this summer and I am excited and nervous, so I've decided to take baby steps. Below you will find the opening of my novel, A Picture of Pretense. I would love to know if it makes you want more!



A PICTURE OF PRETENSE

FLORIDA

The police siren screamed as the adrenaline-charged officer ran from his vehicle toward the wreckage. A pickup truck embedded itself in the backseat of the sedan. If there had been any passengers back there, the officer thought, they did not survive. The smell of gasoline permeated the scene.

He caught movement in the passenger seat of the car. Glass had blown onto the street, and the jammed car door would not budge. A blood-soaked man wearing a business suit sat crushed against the door. The unresponsive driver lay in his lap. The officer leaned in to hear what the man tried to say, his voice drowned by the blare of the siren. In obvious pain, the passenger labored to hand him a plain white business card inscribed with the name James Harrison and a phone number.

In his last moments of consciousness, the man moaned, “Tell Harrison he will have to make other plans,” and passed out.


ARRIVAL

HOLLY

Port Charles bustled as they approached the gangway of the cruise ship Perth. Wispy clouds gave way to sun on that mid-May afternoon, and it promised to be smooth sailing.

Ready for an adventure and the opportunity to try out her new personality, she advanced with newfound confidence. She promised herself she would be outgoing, optimistic, and fun. No more worrying about what people thought of her. Nobody here knew her, and, she deliberated, how improbable that she would ever see any of them after the cruise. The vacation would provide just the kind of anonymity she needed to practice her fresh image.

Her newfound confidence lasted almost to the top of the non-skid gangway when the carry-on bag she toted slipped out of her hand and its entire contents rolled down the ramp, unintentionally kicked along by the people in line behind. Weaving between oncoming passengers and making apologies, she scurried down the plank to catch up with her belongings, she slipped on her tube of toothpaste and hit the deck. In that moment, the minty cream oozing onto her buttocks, she realized everyone had stopped moving and focused attention on her, a familiar occurrence conjured up from the worst of her dreams. Her dad ran after her as he picked up her personal items along the way. He stretched out his hand to help her up and looked at her with the endearing smile the women in their neighborhood could not resist.

“Just a minor setback, Holly. Nothing to dwell over.”

Easy for him to say, she thought. He doesn’t have to walk the rest of the way to their cabin with a Colgate-covered ass.


CATE

The line had stopped moving, and her arms began to shake. She was not sure how much longer she could hold on to her bags. Her polarized black tortoise Ray-Bans shielded her from the blinding white sunbeams bouncing off the fresh white paint of the floating city she waited to board.

“What was I thinking?” she murmured.

Seven days on a cruise ship did not require fifteen days of clothes. But you never know what you might need, she rationalized. Besides, she hated packing- far easier to take everything than to make a decision. Her sister would give her hell when she saw her suitcases. Maybe I can get to the room before her and hide the bags somewhere, like in someone else’s room. Not a chance. She knew her sister would already be in the cabin, unpacked, and looking impeccable, as she always did. She nicknamed her sister Sheila TP, as in Triple P, because Sheila portrayed herself as pleasant, prompt, and put together, which annoyed the hell out of Cate. She also prided herself on the double entendre comparison to bathroom tissue. People assumed Sheila the older sister, but that was not the case.

Everyone called her Late Cate, the nickname she received at eleven years old because of her persistent tardiness for school. Even her teachers used the slight, although not to her face. They never understood how hard she tried to be prompt. She even set her alarm an hour earlier than her sister’s. But something always happened to hold her back, usually having to do with making a decision.

The nickname suited her, even at age twenty-seven.


SHEILA

Should I tell her, Sheila worried as she sat on the lower bunk of the cramped room. She contemplated the pros and cons.

Con: Cate loves David, and it would devastate her and ruin her vacation.

Pro: Sheila would be free to openly enjoy some male companionship, without having to hide from her sister.

Con: Cate would try to talk her out of it.

Pro: She didn’t care. She and David were through. They just weren’t meant to be.

I will tell her as soon as she is settled in. Well, maybe she would wait until they got to a bar. If other people were around, she reasoned, Cate wouldn’t make a scene like she always does when it came to Sheila’s’ husbands.

It’s not that Sheila treated men poorly. Her marriages failed for any number of reasons, but only she understood them. At eighteen, she married her first husband, Scott, the stockbroker, who took her to the best restaurants, and clubs and doted on her every move until their divorce two years later. When she turned twenty-one, she married Marc, CEO of a major corporation who took her on glamourous vacations and attended balls and banquets at the homes of the area’s richest citizens. And then David, her husband of two years, son of wealthy parents who dabbled in the entertainment business as a producer of Hollywood movies. All of them handsome and all treated her like a princess. But she remained unhappy, and she could no longer pretend otherwise. She was not getting any younger. In two days, she would celebrate her twenty-sixth birthday.

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