Clifford and Claire, Scene 5
Hi, folks. Well, lazy-blogger syndrome is kicking in again, brought on by my preference for writing paranormal fantasy over pontificating on a blog. So the next few posts will be more excerpts from my upcoming novel, Red Wolf Rising.
Many who’ve read the first two books have clamored for the back story of Clifford and Claire, and I’ve provided it as flashbacks in the new book, kind of a prequel within a sequel. Since folks seem to be enjoying these postings, I’ll probably continue them as the story unfolds.The two have already had their first encounter and, although each acknowledging to themselves a dangerous attraction, have agreed to meet again…
He didn’t exactly forget about her. He couldn’t. But after several weeks, when Claire Deerfoot didn’t show up for any of his early morning jogs, Clifford figured he’d probably never see her again. It was just as well. He didn’t need the distraction or the temptation right now.
Things at home hadn’t improved. Kathryn was more moody than ever and pressuring him to go for a promotion at his job, a position he didn’t want but offered a substantial increase in salary. They could use the money, too, but it was a supervisory position that would mean longer hours, less time at home, and more stress in a lifestyle he wasn’t adapting to very well in the first place.
He’d never thought of himself as a family man, yet he was determined to give it his best shot. He and Kathryn had met in a 12-step meeting. They’d fallen in love rather quickly and gotten married without giving it much thought. Still, for the first year, they’d been happy. They bought a house. Kathryn decided to go back to school. He was all for it.
Things started to change when they found out she was pregnant. Although it hadn’t been planned, they were both happy about it at first. But the pregnancy had been difficult for her. She’d dropped out of school, and they’d had to start paying back her student loan. After the baby arrived, they’d begun to struggle to handle the mortgage and additional expenses on his single income.
Kathryn complained alternately about him not spending enough time at home to help with little Jack and not being more assertive at his job to increase their income. She’d begun to build a resentment at having to sacrifice her own career, but she wouldn’t admit it and there wasn’t anything they could do about it anyway. He could do little to please her these days and felt like he was walking on eggshells whenever he was at home. His early morning jogs, where he had time to himself out in the woods, were all that was keeping him sane.
And then one day he was startled to hear footsteps approaching from behind and a feminine voice suddenly beside him saying, “Good morning.”
“Morning,” he replied. For an instant, he didn’t recognize her. In fact, he slowed and moved aside to let her pass.
“Mind if I join you?” she asked.
Shit, he thought. He really wanted to be by himself, not to be a safety partner for some young runner who’d probably want to talk his ear off. Then it dawned on him. “Oh, it’s you.”
“It’s me,” she said brightly. “How’ve you been?”
“Fine,” he said automatically.
“You don’t have to slow down on my account,” she said.
“Oh, yeah, sure, okay.” He increased his speed, a little more than he intended. She had no trouble keeping up. To avoid embarrassment, he kept running. “So,” he panted, “how have you been?”
“Much better than when you last saw me,” she said.
He cut his eyes at her. She wasn’t even breathing hard. “That’s (pant)… good,” he replied.
“Seriously,” she continued, “I’ve felt like a new woman the last few weeks. I think you must have fed me magic pancakes.”
He tried to laugh, but it came out as a painful grunt. He was sucking air now, past the point of being able to carry on a conversation. She seemed to become aware of his struggle and slowed of her own accord. He was grateful, but he didn’t say anything. He couldn’t have if he’d wanted to.
She chattered on. “You know, I’m only half joking about that. It was particularly kind of you to take me to breakfast and I wish you’d let me return the favor.”
“I...” was all he could manage. Seriously, he was on the verge of passing out.
“I know you told me to pay it forward,” she said, “and that’s a wonderful sentiment, but it’s not the same, you know?”
“Stop,” he gasped, coming to an abrupt halt.
She jogged ahead, still chattering. “Oh, please don’t take it like that. It would…” She was a ways ahead before she realized he wasn’t with her. She stopped and turned. “Oh, you really meant stop.”
He nodded. He leaned forward, gasping, hands on knees.
She jogged back to him. “Are you all right?”
He nodded, then shook his head, then nodded again and held up his hand. “Yeah (gasp)… I’m(pant) … okay(wheeze)… just a(huff)… second.” Finally, he straightened and began walking slowly, arms akimbo. “Sorry… not used to that pace,” he said, still gulping air.
“Okay,” she said, “let’s walk a while.”
“That would be good,” he nodded. They walked slowly, in silence, for twenty yards or so while he caught his breath. “Okay,” he said, “let’s try it again.” He took a stride and winced in pain as his calf cramped.
She placed a restraining hand on his arm. “Whoa, hold on. Let’s just keep walking, okay?”
He nodded, continuing to hobble along.
She giggled. “See? Now I feel even worse. First you have to rescue me from starvation and now I’ve caused you to overextend yourself. You have to let me make it up to you. Did you pull something? Here, let me help.” She wrapped an arm around his waist. “Lean on me.”
He pulled away. “No, I’m fine. I just…” He stopped, leaned forward, and straightened his leg, pressing the heel into the ground. “… just need to stretch this out a little.” He gritted his teeth as the muscle slowly began to unclench. “Whew. Man. There, that’s better,” he said, gingerly taking a step, then another.
She walked alongside, careful to keep an arm’s length between them. “Cramp, huh?” She sighed in resignation, “I guess the best thing would be for me to just to leave you alone,” she pouted.
Yeah, that might be best. “No, I didn’t mean it like that. I…”
“Then let me feed you,” she insisted. “Please?”
“Great! Uh, you want to jog some more?”
“No, I’m done.” He peered at his watch. “IHOP should be open by the time we get there. You parked at the trail head?”
“No. I didn’t drive.” She stopped, pointing to a side trail. “My apartment’s right up the hill. I just moved in. Come on. I’ll cook for you.”
Your apartment? Alarms went off in his head. “Uh, I don’t know if I…”
“Don’t worry. It’s just breakfast. I’m not going to jump your bones or anything.” She smiled.
“I didn’t mean to imply…” But he remembered saying the same thing to someone else one time.
“Just making sure,” she said. She turned and started up the hill. “Besides,” she called over her shoulder, “I’m way too old for you.”Oh, boy, he thought. But he followed her anyway.
That’s it, for now. Next week we’ll see what happens if and when they reach her apartment. Also, I would love to hear reactions to these scenes from anyone who read the first two books. It has been a challenge to retreat in time and try to ensure the players remain in character, or the character they had when they were less mature. What do y’all think? Leave a comment, please.
And, if you haven’t read the first two books, there are links below to sites where you can purchase them in various formats. The ebooks, usually only $2.99, are free through April 15th using the coupon code next to the Smashwords link.
Coming up next week…… more Clifford and Claire.
Until then... Happy Reading!
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
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