Halfway home

I’ve been away for a bit, but here’s a quick and dirty progress report and a snippet of the WIP.

I crossed over 60k words today, which is probably a little bit more than halfway done with the novel (though I’ve added at least a chapter beyond what I had written in the synopsis, so my frame of reference is no longer valid).  Mind you, that’s just the first draft, though I’m happy with the work so far, minus one chapter that feels largely stationary.  I’m also not sure about the placement of a certain out of state trip the MCs go through – it’s a bit out of place and feels like it should either open their store or come earlier.  We’ll se

But I like it so far.  It’s been a lot of fun to see how these characters cope and heal.  Not to mention the fight scenes in this one are just absolutely brutal and a whole lot of fun to write.  Here’s a taste of that:

At Valentine’s place, she parked a quarter of a block away.  She got out, tucked the gun back in her pants, and pushed a tissue to her nose.  The house was dim, but Valentine’s car was in the driveway and the indistinct chatter from a movie could be heard all the way outside.  Making a point of sneezing as she made her way to his door, she could hear him moving around inside, pausing the movie, walking towards the door even before she rang the bell.  “Who is it?” he asked cautiously, well away from the door.

She sneezed again and muttered miserably, “Id’s me.”  She’d heard the prostitute’s voice when she’d followed her to the apartment and thought it was a reasonable facsimile of the tone and pitch, if not the specifics.  From inside, Valentine brushed open the curtain.  She blew her nose into the tissues and sneezed again.

“You sound like shit.”


“Hang on.”  There was a pause, and then the sound of locks being unfastened.  He opened the door and stood back, giving her room to enter.  “Didn’t call the service tonight.  What’s up?”

She brushed past him, letting him close the door.  “Are you alone?” she asked.

“Yeah.  You’re sure it’s allergies?  Don’t need a cold right now.”

“Fix me a drink?”

He sighed.  “Sure.”  Making for the kitchen, he led the way.  She rolled up her blouse sleeve and ripped the tape off the needle, letting it drop into her palm.  A bottle of cheap whiskey sat on top of the fridge.  He reached up for it and she flicked the cap of the needle off.  He glanced back at the sound of the plastic plinking off the ground just a moment before she jabbed him in the shoulder with the anesthetic.  Too high, damn it.  The needle scraped and broke off the bone, the injection rendered useless.  He barely had time for a yelp of pain before she was already adapting.

Whipping out the can of pepper spray, she turned, dropping the tissues.  His instincts kicked in and he brought a hand up to block the spray, but not before the shifter caught the edge of his vision with a blast of the stuff.  Instead of staggering away or wiping at his eye, he just turned the rest of his face away from her and trapped her arm, blinking away tears.  “What the fuck, Penny-?”

Then he saw her nose.  They were so close now they could kiss.  The details were close, but it was like looking at a photocopy of an already bad picture of someone he knew.  The generalities were right, but the details were just off – her nose was way too misshapen, the cheekbones not quite defined enough, her chin lacking a scar from another john.  Even the color of her eyes was just slightly off.  “Who are you?”

The shifter snarled at him.  From a pocket somewhere she produced a knife and slashed at him.  He snapped back, but not fast enough and the blade sliced through his shirt sleeve and across his shoulder.  A skirting cut, but not one to be ignored with his condition.  The next slash caught only air as he danced backwards, hands reaching behind him for the knife block on his counter.  She saw the move coming and feinted towards him with the blade.  He snapped his uninjured hand up to block and she changed directions, slashing him across the belly.  Another quarter of an inch of reach and she’d have gutted him.  The red gash bloomed and he grunted with pain, but he finally found the edge of the counter with his other hand and, unseeing, grasped at the knife block and pulled one out.

Valentine snarled triumphantly and slashed forward.  It was her time to jump back, flailing outward and knocking over a stack of dishes and dashing them in dozens of pieces upon the floor.  Her fingers brushed the edge of a glass and she tossed the blade to her other hand.  She grabbed the glass and threw it at Valentine.  Too experienced to flinch, he let it bounce off his chest and kept pushing forward, bringing the knife up in a practiced stance, the handle gripped firmly and blade up.  She had her own in a defensive position, the blade down but facing out.  Punching out with a tight left cross, she managed to slice his chest ever so slightly before he brought his own knife up and into her guts.

He roared triumphantly and knocked the blade out of her clawing hands.  Pain and heat ripped through her innards.  She fell to her knees, hands on the blade as Valentine stumbled back towards the counter, breathing heavily.  “Who are you, you bitch?” he asked again.

She shook her head and grinned at him.  The chuckle bubbled out of her and turned into a full on laugh.  The pain was dying out already, replaced by that old curious stitching sensation as her body rebuilt itself.

Furious, he launched himself back off the counter and punched her across the face.  “What’s so funny?” he shouted and hit her again.  “What’s so fucking funny?”

She pulled the knife out, little by little as he kept striking her.  Even if she’d wanted to speak, she couldn’t.  He broke her jaw on the fifth or sixth hit, sending stars across her vision and nearly causing her to black out for a second.  But it wasn’t enough, not with her metabolism roaring along like a train.  Her bones immediately started knitting themselves.  When he made the mistake of punching her with his bad hand, the wounded one he’d cut open a day or two before, she knew she had him and yanked the blade the rest of the way up as he jerked his hand back and shook it.

Eyes wide, he had just enough time to register her recovery before she sank the blade into his hip.  He screamed and fell backwards as she rose to her feet, her belly wound already closing.  She grabbed the other knife, her knife, and fell upon him, striking him with lightning fast little nicks, opening up wounds that on anybody else at any other time would have been trivial.  But he was already bleeding profusely and the toll on his body was starting to add up.  The whole front of his shirt was as red as a cherry.  He grabbed at the table before he could fall and she stabbed him in the side, blade punching through the skin and the fat effortlessly.

On its own, the blade wasn’t sharp enough to do more than puncture him, but with her strength, with the additional calories burning in her, she’d grown muscle mass beyond what was normal and yanked the knife through his liver, his pancreas, and into his intestines.  It caught on something and the blade snapped.  Still on his feet, he gaped down at the little bit of visible steel jutting out of his side.  Shock hadn’t yet dulled his pain and he shrieked.  Desperate to shut him up, she grabbed him by his jaw and yanked down hard, breaking the bone and ripping it, skin, tendons, and cartilage all alike from his neck and head.  Blood sprayed everywhere and he collapsed into a boneless heap, dead before he hit the ground.

She dropped his jawbone down on top of him, staggered back to the door and locked it.  Her metabolism had reached its peak and she could feel it cannibalize her fat and muscles.  Weakly, she stumbled back towards the kitchen for something to eat, anything to give her enough energy to change into one of his shirts.  She’d need to change out of her clothes soon.  If the neighbors hadn’t heard their fight, she’d still need to get back out to the Jeep for the tools and the food.

She glanced down at Liam Valentine’s corpse as she staggered past.  He stared straight up, eyes wide in eternal pain.  His tongue lolled down where his jaw should have been, nearly touching his neck.  The violence unsettled her stomach, but she had nothing left in her to spit up.  Time to change that and then figure out how to best become Hammond Stroud.