Week 8 Finalist

Title: STRANGER IN PARADISE
Author: Margery Scott
Category: Romantic Suspense

He watched, waiting for that moment when he’d have the perfect shot.

He was in no hurry. He’d waited his whole life. The plan he’d spent years formulating was ready to be set in motion. And in a few more days … justice.

Finally.

The heat was stifling. His throat was parched, but he’d left his bottle of water in the rental car and he couldn’t risk going back for it in case he was spotted. Unlikely, given that the small cove was deserted. But he couldn’t take the chance.

Not now.

A satisfied smirk lifted his lips. He’d chosen well. People played on the sand and in the ocean further down the beach, but they wouldn’t see or hear anything until it was too late.

A breeze floated in from the Gulf of Mexico, but it barely penetrated the dense thicket of mangroves and oaks around him. He swatted at the mosquitoes buzzing around him. Sweat trickled down his forehead. He wiped it away with the sleeve of his shirt, then rubbed his moist palms on his denim shorts.

Excitement, anticipation filled him as tension began to build in his chest. Taking a deep breath to slow his racing heart, he rested the rifle against his shoulder, adjusting the butt until it felt as if it was an extension of his body.

He peered through the scope, zeroing in on the man’s face.

“Stand up,” he muttered aloud. “That’s it. Now turn around and keep still.” He allowed himself a slight smile as his target followed his instructions as if he’d heard them.

“Perfect.”

***

Perfect.

Another absolutely perfect day. Brilliant sunshine, cloudless skies, and a man who didn’t ask questions to share it all with. Ronnie couldn’t think of another thing that could make this day any better. It definitely beat trudging through the blizzard that had slammed into New York that morning, bringing the city to its knees.

Laughter carried from down the beach on the whispery breeze. In the distance, a parasail climbed higher and higher from a tiny boat bobbing on the waves, its passenger nothing more than a black speck against the cobalt blue sky.

Leaning back in the chaise longue, Ronnie was thankful for the shade from the blue and yellow striped umbrella she’d brought with her from the hotel. She tucked a bookmark into the novel she’d been reading and set it down beside her, then closed her eyes. Yes, life was good.

Crack!

Ronnie’s eyes flew open. Her pulse hammered in her veins.

The leaves on the trees behind her rustled. Birds scattered, their high-pitched squawking cutting the silence. “What the …?”

She forgot to breathe. The sound . she knew that sound . It was a gunshot. She’d heard that sound once before, and she’d never forget it.

She sat up, her gaze skimming her surroundings until it settled on Tom, the man she’d met a few days before. He was standing in the ocean, a smile frozen on his face. As she watched, he slowly sank below the waves. Reddish streaks appeared in the water around him.

Blood.

Oh, God. Oh, God.

Terror clawed at her stomach. She bounded out of the chaise, toppling it. Her book hit a can of soda and tipped it, the dark liquid puddling in the sand.

She had to get to Tom. Had to get him out of the water.

Please don’t die. Please. Oh, please.

Her knees quaking, she raced towards the water. She’d almost reached the shoreline when a giant shadow consumed hers. A moment later, she was tackled from behind and slammed into the sand. The air gushed from her lungs. Broken seashells pierced her bare legs. Sand filled her nose and stung her eyes.

A hand snaked around her neck and squeezed, just enough so she knew her attacker meant business. One wrong move and he could pulverize her windpipe like a potato chip.

His weight crushed her body, pinned her arms beneath her. She was trapped.

Her heart slammed against her ribs. Terror consumed her. Fight! Don’t give in. Adrenaline coursed through her. She tried to scream. All she could manage was a small squeak.

“Stop struggling.” His voice, low and menacing, whispered in her ear. His breath, tainted by an odor that reminder her of sour milk, brushed against her cheek. “You’ll only hurt yourself.”

Death here and now might be better than what he could have in mind if she gave in.

Dear God, help me!

Somehow, one arm broke free. She lashed out. All she met was air.

“You should do as you’re told,” he said. “Why do you always have to be so difficult?”

Something soft covered her mouth and nose. She sucked in a breath, then realized what she’d done. That smell. she recognized it.

Chloroform.

She tried not to breathe. Impossible.

Her eyes stopped focusing. Her movements became sluggish.

He shifted, the cloth leaving her face for a moment. Frantically, she sucked in a breath of salt-laden air.

So tired. No strength. Have to escape …

She wasn’t strong enough. If she didn’t get away …

Blackness seeped into her peripheral vision.

15 responses

7 11 2007
rachellechasebooks

Margery – goodness, you definitely caught my attention with your opening! And I love the way you used the word ‘perfect’ to tie both of the scenes together. Not only did it let me know they were connected, it set a suspensful tone to the next scene. The fact that everything was going so well with Ronnie – you did such a wonderful job showing her enjoying her day, introducing her date with just the right amount of backstory – well, I just knew it was about to end. And what a way to end! You caught me totally by surprise by having the killer come after her. What a great way to end it – and a fast-paced, attention-keeping beginning, too. I thoroughly enjoyed this!

So tell me … the killer can’t possibly be the hero, can he? 🙂

Best,
Rachelle

7 11 2007
Darlene

You have the perfect beginning. The shock of what is happening has my heart racing. I want to know much more, which means I’d be reading more of your story to find out who this guy is, why he’s doing this, and how she’s connected with him. I do want to know, is he the hero?

The pacing is just right to give us information we need yet have me on the edge of my seat wanting to turn another page to see what happens next.

I can see why you won.

7 11 2007
Marcia James

Wow! A great hook! Is the man who tackled her the same one who shot her date or is he a good guy who thinks she’s one of the bad guys? I’d love to read more of this story! Congratulations on finaling!
— Marcia James 😉
http://www.MarciaJames.net

7 11 2007
Marie

You’ve left me very worried about poor Tom! And really curious about the guy with the chloroform. The immediacy of your prose is taut and leaves the reader wanting more, good job! Congrats!

Best,
Marie

8 11 2007
Margery

Thank you so much for choosing me as this week’s finalist. Having read the other entries, I’m honored to be included in such a talented group of writers.

9 11 2007
Greta

Congratulations! I have _no_ idea where this one’s going … so naturally I’d have to turn the page and read on! Good work hooking this reader.

10 11 2007
Melissa

What a great read! And yes, I’d also love to know who the hero is in this story. Surely not the guy who tackled her with the bad breath
Just one thing? How the hell is a winner going to be picked from all these wonderful stories…?

16 11 2007
Cindy

Yay, Margery!

I told you it was good. And thanks for making me enter my time travel.

20 11 2007
Pamela James

Great opening I love it. Pamela in Kansas

21 11 2007
Carol Coleman

Love it. The words paint the story perfectly, efficiently. They grab you by the shirt and make you want to race through the story to find out what happens and WHY!

Clear, concise and intriguing. When is the rest of it coming out. This story I’d buy in a heartbeat.

21 11 2007
Jeannie Brightcliffe

What a great beginning, you have me absolutely needing to find out what happens next! I love your descriptions, taunt sentences and most of all, I’m wondering why the “bad milk breath” guys says: “Why do you always have to be so difficult?”

Just who is this guy? Do he and Ronnie have a history? And where does Tom fit into all this?

Once again, GREAT entry!

21 11 2007
Wendy

Excellent! Great suspense. Good luck!

4 12 2007
Paula Eykelhof and Megan Long (editors, Harlequin)

Although this type of opening is one we’ve seen before, we feel it’s effective in generating suspense. Good sense of setting and atmosphere. You might want to try submitting to Intrigue. Best of luck!

5 12 2007
Elaine English (agent)

The opening starts out like many other traditional mysteries, but then there’s a nice switch when Ronnie becomes the focus. I felt that you did a very good job of using backstory and the reader identified immediately with your main character.

13 12 2007
Cheryl Ferguson

I enjoyed the fresh application of a much used suspense opening as well as the vivid writing and engaging characters.




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