Monday, January 01, 2007

Debra -- Enjoy a never-before-published romance short story


This is a little something I found on my hard drive as I was preparing to make the switch to a new computer. Hope you enjoy!


Wishing For the Moon
by Debra Dixon

Erin fought an unexpected stab of longing as she watched a
passenger deplane, scan the crowd of faces and head straight for the arms of a loved one. Maybe it was the wedding. Lord knew that was stress enough, even if she was only the sister of the bride. But it was more than that. The truth was that she wanted someone to find her in a crowd. Someone who could see Erin instead of a twin. Someone who wouldn't hesitate for that split-second, wondering which sister she was. Yeah...well. She'd be better off wishing for the moon.

#

The best man shouldn't fall in love with the bride-to-be, Drew reminded himself as he stepped off the plane. Slinging his suit bag over his shoulder, he managed a welcoming grin and waved at the uncertain young woman holding up a sign with his name. At his wave, her uncertainty disappeared, and her green eyes sparkled a greeting. Ariel's photograph hadn't captured the warmth of her smile, Drew decided. He dismissed her fleeting look of appraisal and appreciation as wishful thinking on his part. This wedding was making him feel too single, too old, and too lonely.

"Hello, Drew. Welcome to Memphis," she said in slow smooth drawl that slid into Drew's bones and fed the irrational jealousy he was beginning to feel.

"John is a lucky man," he said before he could stop himself.

She laughed and tucked firelit blond hair behind one ear. "That's what I keep telling him, but he doesn't listen to me."

"Then he's lucky and foolish," Drew said. "Did you know he sent me your picture?"

Ariel's mouth dropped open, but she closed it quickly as a faint blush stained her cheeks. "He sent you a photo of me? Of me? I should have known. All he's done for the last two months is try and marry me off."

Drew, who'd been following her down the airport corridor, stopped and stared at her. "Excuse me?"

Mischief lurked in her expression as she deadpanned, "Don't worry. You're safe. I'm not in the market. I have very particular standards. John says I'm picky. But since I don't have to crawl into bed with him every night for the next fifty years, his opinion doesn't count for much."

For the first time in his life, Drew struggled for words. Fortunately, John's fiancee didn't expect a reaction. She slipped her hand in the crook of his arm, pulled him forward and asked about his trip, the weather in Montana, and his logging business. By the time Drew collected his luggage, he wasn't sure whether to challenge John to a duel for the fair Ariel's hand or pull his friend aside at the first opportunity and tell him to run for his life.

Ariel was an old-fashioned flirt with a patented wink and a beguiling smile. Drew could picture her in his restored convertible with her head thrown back in laughter, but he couldn't picture her standing at the altar with John. He thought brides-to-be talked nonstop about dress fittings, caterers, and florists. Not this one. She wore cowboy boots, tight jeans, and told him to get a move on. She had horses to feed.

"Wait. I almost forgot." Ariel rummaged in one pocket of her denim jacket. Stepping close, she unhooked the catch of a small pin. "May I?"

"Sure." Drew clenched his teeth as she bent her head and slipped her warm fingers inside the vee of his sweater. The fragrance of honeysuckle drifted in the air and teased his senses. Finally, she finished and gave his chest a satisfied pat.

"Elvis Lives," she told him as he tried to read upside down. "You can't get out of the Memphis Airport until you swear allegiance."

"Drew!" A deep voice boomed from behind them. "You hound dog! Beatin' my time with Ariel? Well, you can forget it. This woman loves me."

"John! Don't-" Ariel began.

Her exclamation was more exasperation than welcome, Drew noted. Whatever she intended to say was swallowed as John cupped the back of her neck and swung her around to kiss her. Drew narrowed his eyes and bit down on the inside of his cheek. Watching the kiss tied a knot in his belly. For thirty-four years he'd avoided that irresistible force called chemistry. And then the postman brought a picture of Ariel.

Abruptly, John pushed Ariel from him and wiped his mouth. "God, Erin! You said you wouldn't do that anymore!"

"Do what?" She raised an eyebrow. "You kissed me!"

"Yeah, well, I figure it out quicker now," John said.

"That's comforting to know! If Ariel's smart, she won't marry you until you can figure it out without kissing me."

"And if you were smart, you'd admit there's not a man in the world that can tell the two of you apart in one glance. Or even at second glance."

"Well, if it's all the same to you, I'll keep looking." Erin/Ariel gave him a sweet smile that clearly meant the subject was closed.

"What the hell are you doing here anyway, Erin?" John asked.

"God, John! Ariel told you two weeks ago that I was picking up Drew. She had a dress fitting. How can you forget these things? You even sent Drew a picture of me!"

#

Erin looked at Drew for moral support, but found only astonishment on his handsome face. Drew's suitcase hit the glossy tile floor of the baggage claim area, and his gray eyes glittered dangerously.

When he finally spoke his voice resonated with a suppressed emotion Erin couldn't identify. "He sent me a picture of Ariel. Who are you? Exactly."

Cold fingers tiptoed up her spine as she realized the problem. Since getting off the plane, he hadn't once called her by name. Hesitantly, Erin held out her hand, aware that everything about Drew had suddenly changed. "I'm Erin, Ariel's younger sister by four minutes."

#

"Is Drew gorgeous or what?" Ariel asked as she dropped into an empty chair at Erin's table.

Erin shot a glance across the banquet room, pretending to follow the progress of guests who were leaving the rehearsal dinner. Instead, she studied Drew, trying to find fault with either his Hugo Boss suit or his six-foot plus frame. She couldn't. He was excessively easy on the eyes, and had a natural reserve that contradicted his quick smile. "He's gorgeous all right, but quiet. I'd love to know what's going on behind that calm exterior."

Her sister gave an unladylike snort. "Considering the fact that he never takes his eyes off you, I've got a pretty good idea what he's thinking. And why shouldn't he? You two have practically been joined at the hip for the last week."

"Someone had to play hostess for the best man. You didn't expect Margaret to entertain him, did you? She's married and four months pregnant." Irritated, Erin tapped the white table cloth with the tip of a spoon. "When we agreed that one twin in a wedding party was enough, you were supposed to find a suitable replacement for me as maid of honor. I’m not supposed to be entertaining anybody!"

"John's sister wasn't married or pregnant when I asked her," Ariel pointed out and then sighed. "I don't think the seamstress can let out her dress any more than she already has."

Erin grinned. "She won't have to. All this craziness will be over tomorrow."

"Well, I don't want it to be over," Ariel said softly and looked at Erin with something close to panic in her eyes. "I don't know if I can go through with this, Erin. You know me. Here today, gone tomorrow. I never finished a thing in my life. You were the one who always wanted to get married, not me."

Erin leaned over and gave her sister a quick hug and tried to keep the jealousy out of her voice. "Yeah, but you're the one who found someone to love you. Don't worry. You're having wedding jitters. That's all."

"Think so?"

"Absolutely," Erin answered with twice as much conviction as she felt.

#

"Scared?" Drew asked as he joined John by the bar.

"No." The ice in John's empty glass clinked as he set it down. "I just wish Ariel felt the same way."

Startled, Drew searched his friend's face for a trace of humor and found none. Then he followed John's gaze to the table across the empty room. Two indistinguishable blond heads huddled in conversation. Tonight, Ariel and Erin had played one last prank. They'd shown up in identical drop-dead, emerald green dresses, wearing perfectly matched accessories, and driving a borrowed car. Poor John had had the devil of a time deciding which was Ariel until he looked for the engagement ring.

Thoughtfully, Drew swirled the amber liquid in his glass. He'd known immediately which of the twins was Erin. Her eyes gave her away. Beneath the twinkle and confidence she cultivated for the public was a shadow of vulnerability and disappointment. Erin's practical, generous spirit hid a romantic soul. As he followed John toward the twins' table, Drew realized that he didn't feel quite as old or as lonely as he had a week ago. The thought of going back to Montana without Erin had suddenly become an unacceptable future.

#

Erin looked up at the sound of footsteps. She'd grown accustomed to the anticipation that banged against her rib cage when Drew looked at her the way he looked at her now. Hungry. Confident. Serious. She ruthlessly quelled her body's response, reminding herself that lust was not love. She wasn't Ariel; this twin wouldn't settle for love at second sight. She wanted a man who could find her in a crowd of Ariel's. For once in her life she wanted something-someone of her own. Someone she didn't have to share.

Any hope that Drew might be that someone had died. When she and Ariel stepped out of the borrowed car, Drew hadn't moved or even offered his opinion until John held up Ariel's hand with the engagement ring. Erin tried to ignore her disappointment and smiled up at Drew.

"Ready?" he asked and glanced around. "I think the party's over."

"Sure." Erin said her good-byes and grabbed her purse. "Let's go."

When Drew's rental car pulled into her driveway, Erin let out the breath she'd been holding. "Don't bother to get out. It's a long drive back to the hotel."

"No bother," he said as he turned off the ignition and eased himself out of the sedan to follow her to the door.

Erin fumbled with the lock and wished Drew wasn't standing quite so close. "I guess you'll be glad to get back to Montana."

"And I guess you'll be glad to get rid of me."

"Oh, I don't want you to go!" Erin answered instantly, turning to face him. Drew smiled warmly at her, and heat seeped into her cheeks as she realized what she'd said.

Placing his hands against the door on either side of her head, he leaned toward her, stopping a hairsbreadth before making contact. "Good. Maybe we can stop ignoring Mother Nature."

"Drew..." Erin began unsteadily.

"Shh." Drew breathed the words so close to her mouth that his breath feathered her lips.

He gentled her as Erin imagined he'd gentle a filly-with infinite patience. The first chaste touch promised more, and then his tongue traced her bottom lip, pushing between her lips and past her reserve. His tongue flicked the bow of her mouth, and a low moan of defeat echoed in the back of her throat.

Slowly, Drew took his fill of Erin, savoring each tiny movement as she adjusted her body to his. The scent of honeysuckle filled his senses again, ensnaring him, entwining his soul with hers. He didn't question how or why Erin had stolen a piece of his heart. He only knew that she had.

The slam of a neighbor's door jolted Erin back to reality, and she pulled away. Willing her legs to support her, she joked shakily, "That's what happens when you listen to Mother Nature!"

Drew reached for her. "I think she's calling again."

"No!" Erin put a hand on his chest. Her emotions were tumbleweed, bumping and rubbing as they spun. Drew was perfect and completely wrong. He could jump start her libido, but he wasn't the one. The one she didn't have to share. Disappointment made her want to cry.

"Hey, what's wrong?"

"Damn!" A tear slid down. "Me. I'm wrong. I'm wishing for the moon again." She forced a laugh and opened her door. "Don't mind me. Weddings make us Southern women all weepy. 'Nite, Drew."

Drew stuck his hands in his pockets and waited until he heard the bolt slide home. Wishing for the moon? Well, there was no better view of the moon than from Montana.

#

"Have you lost your mind, Gram?" Erin asked.

"Don't take that tone with me, young lady. I raised you girls. I deserve a little respect if not gratitude."

"Sorry," Erin mumbled the apology to her grandmother and collapsed in the chair of the church's anteroom which was usually reserved for nervous brides.

"It's really a very sweet note," Gram said. "I don't know how you can be so upset with your sister."

"Upset? If I could get my hands on her, I'd kill her. Last night she had a pizza delivered and then ran off with the delivery boy!" Erin wondered if she was the only sane human being left on the planet. All day she'd played a shell game, sustaining the illusion of Ariel's presence. "I thought she'd be back by now."

"Well, she isn't so you'll just have to do it. It's not as though you haven't switched places before!" Gram stood up and brushed the wrinkles from her dress. "How else could Ariel have attended two proms on the same night?"

Erin's laugh was hollow as she picked up the veil. "Right. I'll just keep pretending to be the bride. What am I supposed to do on the honeymoon? Develop convenient migraines?"

A knock on the door interrupted Gram's reply. She wrenched the door open and gave Drew a daunting stare. "What is it that can't wait, young man?"

Drew grinned and stood his ground. "I need Erin."

"She's not here. I'll tell her when I see her."

Drawing his brows together, he said, "But she's-"

Gram slammed the door and turned. "Get a move on girl. We don't have much time." Holding up a hand to stall the argument, she crossed the room and added in a low voice. "If Ariel hasn't shown up by the time the preacher asks for objections, I'll think of something. She will be here. Do you believe that?"

Erin took a deep breath and nodded. "I know she loves John."

When the wedding march began, Erin closed her eyes and prayed. John understood Ariel. He'd forgive her almost anything as long as she came back. Today. Before the ceremony finished. If John found out before Ariel could explain-- Erin ignored the thought. Ariel had to come back.

Rubber legs carried her down the aisle. She managed a smile for John, but one glance at Drew wiped the smile away. She saw anger reflected in the smoky depths of his gaze. John's hand on her arm helped settle her as he guided her to the kneeling bench in front of the minister.

Throughout the ceremony, Erin's heart thudded heavily in her chest. She stole glances at Drew and saw his facial expression grow grim. He knows. Her stomach lurched unpleasantly, and another thought rocked her. Ariel isn't coming. She began to hyperventilate. Gram was wrong. I shouldn't have done this. This is bad.

The minister recited the rhetorical question that Erin dreaded, "If anyone knows why these two should not be joined together, let him speak now or forever hold his peace."

A chorus of objections rang out: "That's far enough." "Wait a minute." "No!" Drew's was the first and the strongest. But Gram's and Ariel's were loud enough to be heard over the collective gasps of the guests and preacher. Erin slumped against the kneeling bench, thankful the whole mess was done with. John jumped to his feet and glared at Drew before turning his attention to the women.

"What is wrong with you people?" John demanded but didn't wait for an answer as he fixed the twin coming up the aisle with a stern look. "I'd thank you to stay out of this, Erin. This is between Ariel and me."

"That's not Erin," Drew corrected calmly.

"Wha...what do you mean?" Anxiously, John looked back and forth between the two women and pointed at the bride. "She's got the engagement ring."

Quietly, Ariel came forward. "Because I left it on the table last night. I didn't think I deserved it. I don't do forever very well."

The starch seemed to go out of John's legs and he sat down heavily on the nave steps. A tear spilled down Ariel's cheek as she dropped to her knees in front of him. "But I can manage tomorrow if you'll have me."

When John smiled and wiped Ariel's tear with his thumb, Erin got up and backed away to give Gram a hug. Everything was going to be just fine. Suddenly, she straightened and whirled to look for Drew. "Gram, he knew. All along."

"Of course, he did, dear," Gram said and crooked a finger at Drew, who waited patiently with the preacher. "Why do you think I had to slam the door on him? If I'm not mistaken, he was about to ruin everything." Drew obeyed her summons but raised an eyebrow in an unspoken question. With a chuckle, Gram pushed Erin toward him. "Raising twins you learn a trick or two. And I do appreciate your staying silent as long as you did."

Erin's heart stopped as Drew produced a black velvet box. Carefully, he opened it. "I called Montana and put the moon on hold. If you want it."

"I've wanted it-you all my life," Erin whispered. "Are you sure?"

"That there isn't anyone else in the world like you? I'm sure." Drew pulled her into his arms and kissed her soundly.

15 comments:

Don said...

Great short story. Shouldn't be lost on your hard drive. You should use this story and other's that I'm sure you have, to teach readers like me how to begin with short stories and not try to write the next great American novel as I have tried to do. Thanks, Don

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the story, Debra! Thanks for sharing it!

Debra Dixon said...

Don-- Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed the story. I haven't been much of a short-story writer so finding this one on the hard drive was a fun trip down memory lane. Writing a short story or two helps focus your brain on scene selection. You must choose/construct the scenes which naturally allow the reader to get information from action which pushes the story forward. You have to ask yourself, "What's the problem here and how can I resolve it in an interesting way?" Short stories, 10 page short stories!, force you to strip away everything but the most important elements so that you have the page space to develop those and satisfy the reader.

And before I get yelled at by folks who say I never push my books enough... you might want to check out my non-fiction book for writers: GMC-Goal, Motivation and Conflict. www.GryphonBooksForWriters.com

That's a book that focuses on writing commercial fiction (not literary). I'd also recommend THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler. And Dwight Swain's TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER.

Debra Dixon said...

Melissa-- Thanks! I thought it'd be fun to entertain folks who'd tired of football and were surfing.

--Debra

lois greiman said...

Hey Deb,

Thanks for entertaining us. What a fun story. Isn't it nice to be able to sit down and write an entire piece in a week or less? I just wrote a children's book on the way to my mother's house. Anything that doesn't take six months is great.

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- You're welcome! It's absolutely satisfying to have projects you can complete so you aren't always "under deadline" but are instead *finished* with something! On your next blog tell us about writing the children's book!

Helen Brenna said...

Loved it, Deb! I've always thought writing short stories well has to be one of the most difficult writing there is.

Thanks for sharing.

Laura Vivanco said...

Thanks, Debra. I enjoyed the story, and it gave me a few ideas, so I've posted about it on Teach Me Tonight. Hope that makes it easier for some people who don't usually come here to find it.

Debra Dixon said...

Laura-- I'm honored. I loved your blog and the way you've used commercial fiction (i.e. romance) when discussion universal themes and important messages. I love that!

Helen- I usually think whatever I'm writing that exact minute is the hardest.

Laura Vivanco said...

Thanks, Debra. I'm really glad you liked my blog.

I think there are far, far more "truth(s) universally acknowledged" (perhaps 'universally discussed' would be more accurate, but it wouldn't have given me a chance to slip in the quotation, and I couldn't resist) in romance than people often give the genre credit for.

Betina Krahn said...

Great story, Deb! My dad was an identical twin and he and his brother used to fool their teachers and even my grandmother by switching jackets. True story! Of course by the time they went into the army and married, they had begun to look somewhat different. And by the time they were both 60, they looked decades apart.

I love twin stories! Thanks for giving us an alternative to football and gluttony!

:) Betina

Debra Dixon said...

Betina-- I love twin stories too! I went to high school with identical triplets. That was a hoot until they finally went with different hairstyles.

--Deb

Don said...

Ms. Dixon,
Thank you for all the information. Will spend some time going through the listings you left. Have been watching this site for some time and find a lot of great tips. Thanks again, Don

cindy Gerard said...

Wonderful story Deb. Big sigh.
Cindy G

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