I've answered many challenges in the past few years, often taking the rules and twisting them into something I'm not sure the issuer ever intended. Elements get worked in, but sometimes not as intended. One such challenge was issued in the fanfiction world to create a "ship," a relationship story about two characters; the pairing of which made me squeamish. But I wrote it. Not with the "ship" as was intended, but turning it into a story of respect and mutual admiration.
My upcoming Ellora's Cave release also began as a challenge. My friends and I would issue monthly challenges to one another. One of those challenges resulted in Measure of Healing, the current Cerridwen Press release by Jacqueline Roth. (The current challenge is to write a faerie story, or story about the reawakening of the earth in Spring.) One February the challenge was issued to write a story that included an amethyst, a kiss, a Mardi Gras mask and a ground hog. That story became Mating Stone.
It started out to be a joke. I was going to write a torrid romantic Were story where in the end the shifter turned into something less than impressive. Something cute and cuddly. A nice joke, eh?
Let's just say my hero was not impressed with my humor. Mark Ursine, said Were, began to take shape in my mind and the story he was trying to tell me progressed until I knew I couldn't take the funny out. This was a serious tale of love, betrayal and the kind of hate that can only form between two people who have one of the closest of all bonds, the bond of brotherhood. Twins. Besides, Mark has a real determined way of getting exactly what he wants.
So Mating Stone turned into an erotic romance. Mark showed me the error of my ways and revealed himself not as some cute cuddly little fellow, but as a powerful and fierce Bear. It's hard to argue with someone who is several hundred pounds bigger than you and has large claws and fangs.
The night they met had been her birthday. She’d let her sister and some friends talk her into going to a club to celebrate. “Come on Sarah, it’s February 2. It’s your twenty-eighth birthday, so do what all good little groundhogs do and get out. Even if you see your shadow, at least you had fun before you run back and hibernate some more,” her sister had teased until she’d agreed.
She’d not met Mark at the club but afterwards on her way home. Hitting a pothole had blown her tire and while she could change a tire herself—hell, like any good ol’ Minnesota girl she could change a tire, put on her own snow chains and knew how to use the jumper cables in her trunk—she just didn’t relish doing it in the short skirt her sister had talked her into wearing.
Resigning herself to ruining her stockings and probably the new skirt, she’d been hauling the jack and donut from the trunk when a motorcycle had roared up behind her. The headlight had almost blinded her but not as much as what stepped out into the light. Pulling a black helmet from his head the man had been devastating. His black jeans and leather jacket completed a monochromatic feast for the eyes.
Flashing her a smile almost as bright as his headlight he’d insisted he couldn’t let a lady like her change the tire. He’d made short work of the flat even if she did stand there like an idiot and chatter way. By the time he was done he knew it was her birthday and where she’d been. If it had taken any longer she’d hated to think what else would have come bubbling out of her mouth.
He packed her jack back into her trunk and asked her allow him to follow her home since he didn’t have much confidence in the small rubber tire. When she’d hesitated he’d pulled out his driver’s license and a credit card. He put them in her hands. “Hold on to these. If you get spooked at all you know who I am, where I live and can either call the police or charge a fortune for yourself in compensation.”
When they’d arrived at her place she handed them over and smiled nervously. “Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough,” she nodded down to the damp patches on his knees where he’d knelt in the wet snow alongside the road.
“Then have dinner with me tomorrow,” he’d flashed an encouraging smile and she felt as if her bones melted. “That’s all the thanks I need.”
She agreed and had started to walk away when he called out to her. He was pulling something from the storage compartment under the seat and walked quickly up to her. His long legged strides held her so transfixed she didn’t see what he had in his hands. He stopped in front of her and hesitated. She looked up at him. He suddenly seemed shy and uncertain, grinning up at her through the hair that had fallen over his forehead.
“Happy Birthday, Sarah.” He placed a single red rose in her hand. His quick kiss to her cheek was so soft and so fast that she almost missed it.
By the time her fingers rose up to touch where he had pressed his lips to her skin, he was back on his bike, turning it and roaring away. Odd but only now did it occur to her to question where on earth he’d gotten the rose.
Eternally Yours Contest
What could you spend an eternity doing? What is your passion? Your hunger? Your deepest desire?
Each day beginning February 5 and running through February 14 one of the ten authors will complete the line,
"My darling I could spend eternity…"
on either their blog or website. Collect all ten answers and e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org with Eternally Yours in the subject line to win some hot, romantic books. There will be three lucky Valentine winners.
The prizes –
1st prize--5 books
2nd prize--3 books
3rd prize--2 books
Entries must be in by February 16 at midnight EST. All books and prize winners will be drawn randomly.
Sandra Cox Silverhills
Mona Risk To Love a Hero
Brynn Paulin Tribute For the Goddess
Bronwyn Green Mystic Circle
Cindy Spencer Pape Stone and Earth
N.J. Walters Seduction of Shamus O’Rourke
Elyssa Edwards Mating Stone
Amarinda Jones Shades of Gray
Kelly Kirch Time for Love
Anny Cook Honeysuckle