Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lock & Load

The first short story featuring Lock and Ty is on its way. It will go on sale shortly as an e-book, and then in trade paperback.

About The Story
Fresh from a stint undercover in Pelican Bay Supermax prison in Northern California, close protection operative Ryan Lock and his business partner, Ty Johnson, are in Los Angeles, tasked with protecting a young Hollywood actress from an abusive movie star boyfriend who refuses to accept that their relationship is over. But as Lock knows only too well, and Ty is about to learn, keeping someone safe from harm can be harder than it looks, and damage can come in unexpected forms.

Author's Note
This short story can be read separately, as can each full-length novel in the Ryan Lock series, but for readers following the books in order, the events described here take place between the second book in the series, Deadlock, and the third, Gridlock. See the book page of the website for all four books in order with links.

A little like Lock, I am incapable of doing things the easy way. I have wanted to write a short with my central characters for a long time now, but couldn't come up with a story that worked, and believe me I tried. It had to be something that worked for existing fans of the series and for new readers. Then I remembered the paragraph or two in Gridlock about why they happened to be in Los Angeles. In a few paragraphs near the start of that third book, I gave you a thumbnail of events, but did I? So that was my challenge writing this for readers of the series. I already told you the ending, but I didn't really. It took some careful reverse engineering but I hope I delivered.

And here's the opening chapter:

Chapter One

Malibu, California

   With his hands tightening around her neck, choking off her air supply, and leaving black shapes clouding her vision, Summer Clements was too damn scared to think about the irony of being strangled to death by her boyfriend. After all, this was precisely how their relationship had started. The difference was that the first time they had been acting.
   She had met Jason Durham on the set of a movie called Killing Dawn and their first scene together had called for their characters to have a blazing row, at the end of which he strangled her to death. Although it took place near the end of the movie, for scheduling reasons it had been their first time working together. The art house movie's low-budget hadn't allowed for any rehearsal time and he had only become available when a studio film he was due to shoot had fallen through at the last second due to his drinking problems. Now, six months later, with no crew standing around, or cameras rolling to capture the moment for posterity, and no director to call cut, it was happening for real.
   The fingernails of Jason's right hand dug deep into her neck and he squeezed harder, pinning her against the wall. She could feel a breeze tumbling in through the sliding glass doors of the beach house's lower deck, but she was no longer sure whether the roar she could hear in her ears came from the Pacific or the surge of her own blood.
   Jason stared at her, pupils pin prick black against the widescreen backdrop of the lights of the Queen's necklace, the curve of coast that ran from Point Dume in the north through Malibu and all way down to Rancho Palos Verdes in the south. Through the glass she saw the blinking red dots of airplanes taking off from LAX, and she wished that she had been smart enough to listen to her friends' advice and jump on one of them instead of taking his word that he'd never lay a finger on her again, a promise that he'd broken on two previous occasions.
   This time had started like the others. They had been out at a nightclub on the Sunset Strip – Jason trying to do his best to convince the town that he could still roll with young Hollywood even though he was pushing fifty up a hill – and her saying hello to a young producer she had worked with a few years back had led to Jason punching the guy and them being asked to leave.

   He had fallen into a sullen silence for the rest of the drive north along Pacific Coast Highway, which should have been warning enough. At the house she had gone to get a drink from the bar.
  “Do you want one?” she asked him.
   “I'm still waiting for you to answer my question, Summer. Did you want to fuck him?”
   She knew what was coming next. Her hand shook as she pulled a long stemmed wine glass from one of the glass bar cabinets and poured herself some Pinot Noir. That was one of the other habits she had picked up since hooking up with Jason – a bottle of wine a night habit to chase down the Ambien she took to get herself to sleep.
   “I'm not answering it because it's stupid. Okay, Jason? It's stupid. Too stupid to give you an answer.”    She took a slug of wine, thinking this was it, she had finally had enough and no amount of bended knee apologies or flowers or heartfelt love letters would change it. “How many times, Jason? I'm with you but I'm not going be if you keep behaving like this.”
   She could see him in the reflection of the glass bar cabinets as his eyebrows furrowed. “If I behave like this? We're not talking about me here. We're talking about you.”
   He was off on a tear now, his voice bouncing off the walls with that Australian accent she had thought was so cute when they had met and that now had the same effect on her as someone drawing their nails down a chalk board.
   “Do you know how many women I have throwing themselves at me every single time we go out?”
   She rolled her eyes. “I said hello to the guy.”
  “Sure you said hello, but that wasn't what you meant.”

   Maybe he would sleep it off. She picked up her wine glass. “I'm going to bed.”
   She walked around the bar and towards the set of stairs on the far side of the duplex which led to the master bedroom. As she passed him, he grabbed her wrist. She tried to shake him off but his grip was too strong.
   “I mean it. I'm done talking about this, Jason.”
   He froze, his eyes closed. After what seemed like minutes but was probably only a few seconds, he reached up and swiped at his face. “Well maybe I'm not.”
   His lips thinned, his eyes opened, and she knew he had lost it. His let go of her wrist and grabbed at her neck. She clawed and scratched at him as he grabbed her with one hand around the throat, and pushed her towards the wall. The more she tried to fight him off, the harder his grip became until she couldn't breathe. The black spots in her vision grew bigger and merged into a giant mass.
   When she came round she was lying on the floor and he was sitting on the couch on the opposite side of the room. His head was bowed and he was sobbing, fingers kneading his scalp. “I'm so sorry. I get jealous. I can't help it. You're so beautiful and I see guys looking at you and I can't handle it.”
   He got up and started towards her. He reached down and helped her to her feet. She was still too weak to do anything so she let him, but she knew she had to get away from him, for good this time.