So, it’s October. NaNoWriMo is on the horizon once again, and young women’s fancies turn to thoughts of character, setting, and (dare I say it) plot. This year, I’d like to write something set in Kent in the 1930s, give or take. The main character, 30s, a writer, lives by the sea, smokes too much, discovers a mystery (the nature of which is yet to be determined). I realised, somewhat to my horror, that I could lift my poor Private Eye from his location in New York, 1930s, to England, where he could come into contact with a woman who isn’t a harbinger of his death, i.e., my new MC.
That would mean, of course, that either the events of my previous novel would not occur, probably. Of course, they could happen after, or before, depending on the events of the novel to come, but that previous novel might need to be scrapped. And I thought, no biggie…. but then I went back and read through some of it and remembered how much fun it was to write it in the first place. So hard-boiled. So Chandleresque. I couldn’t just leave it there to rot.
And so, my darlings, please enjoy excerpts of my previously-untitled-but-now-titled-in-the-most-cliché-way-I-could-muster, New York Sour. It’s a little bit awful.
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I’ve been doing this for years. All my life, if I’m honest. I put on a nice dress and my best innocent pair of eyes and woo a man – for his money, his love, his body, anything I can get.
It’s not like I’m that bad a person. After all, he always gets something out of it. He gets – for a day, a week, a month, a year – a woman with a fabulous figure who knows how to please. He gets the envious looks of every other man in the room. He gets passion.
Men are so easy.
But eventually he gets cast aside. And this one will be no different.
Well. A little different. I don’t usually kill them.
His eyes are a little desperate, as if part of him knows, deep down, that this won’t last. They’re pleading, begging with me not to leave.
I lean forward and press my red lips against his throat and ask him if he wants to go to bed. He responds, if I may say so myself, with gusto.
It’s not as if I don’t like these men. I love them. I love the risk of each new conquest, the fire of passion in their eyes, the grasping need of their hands on my body. It’s my drink, my bread and butter. No, not bread and butter. I don’t eat bread and butter. I eat fucking caviare, and lobster, and the best venison money can buy.
This man is a bad man. Most of them are – good men are so boring. He’s a bad man, but he’s very very good at being bad. He’s a business man, wealthy, powerful. He has ties to gentlemen in organised crime. He profits from the misery of others.
I don’t care about that. I care that he can make me groan or squeal with his touch. I care about the shine in his black hair and the movement of his muscles under his skin. And this man, feared by so many, who can end lives and livelihoods with such careless ease, he sits across from me at the table or lies beside me in bed and pleads with me with his eyes.
This man who is so powerful is powerless in my arms.
I start to chuckle under my breath until he shifts inside me and takes my breath away. My nails leave indentations in his back.
I’ve fucked this man for two months now. His taste has always been in my mouth, his face floating in my mind. And you know, I liked him. I’ve left a lot of men in my dust, and most of them were weak, sad little creatures who believed too much and gave more, and it was satisfying to take it all and leave them with nothing.
But Nick… he’s always given me just what I’ve asked for, and kept more for himself. He’s kept his own counsel, and from time to time those sweet, pleading brown eyes have held suspicion. He’s a clever man. But he gave just that little bit too much.
He rolls off me and leaves me panting and sweat-drenched on my side of the bed. He lights a cigarette and offers it to me. I sit up against the pillows and place it between my lips.
He eyes my breasts with appreciation and traces a finger along the side of one.
“I should make an honest woman outta you, Elizabeth.”
“Better men than you’ve tried, Nicky. Keep your hands to yourself.”
He laughs. “You’re a hard woman, Liz.”
“You have your pick of soft women. They line up at your door. You’re rich and you’re handsome, Nick. If you want a softer woman, go an’ find one.”
I slip out of bed with the cigarette between my fingers. He’s lit himself a cigar and sucks on it as he watches me find various articles of clothing and slip them on, one by one.
“You’re leaving so soon?”
I give him one of my best smiles. This is number 14: Sweet Regret.
“Your wife is getting suspicious, Nick. I’m going home – and so should you.”
“Aww, let her think what she wants.” He makes a dismissive gesture with his cigar, raining ash down on the bedside table. “Business is business. I told her not to pry, and she won’t, no matter what she suspects.” He runs his tongue along his bottom lip, and narrows his eyes in a way I’ve known before in many men, and learned to respect, if not fear. “She’s a good woman, Liz. She knows her place.”
I smother my laughter and turn away, pretend to busy myself with my purse. He’s tried this line before. It’s been a threat, and it’s been a challenge. This time it’s almost a mix of both.
“What, are you droppin’ me, Nicky? Should I be afraid?” I shoot him a look over my shoulder.
He takes a long drag on that cigar, making me wait. “Drop you? No, sweet-tits, I wouldn’t do that. You haven’t nearly started borin’ me yet.”
Nice to know we’re on the same page. But he grins at me, and I know he’s just joking. This man feels love for me, of a sort. It’s nice to be loved, at least by men whose love is worth having. And Nick Trollieti is a man whose love is worth having.
I roll my eyes and respond to his “come hither” gesture. There’s an art to walking: keep it slow, swing your hips. He can wait on my damn pleasure. It always leaves him wanting more, and that’s the way I like it.
My lips on his temple, his hand on my ass. It’s familiar and pleasing, and I’ll miss it.
But there’ll be another Nick. There’s always another Nick.
“Do ya love me, toots?”
“You know it, baby. Give my love to your boys.”
I don’t look back.
It’s in the paper the next evening: “Business Leader Found Dead in Hotel Room”. Part of me wants to cut it out, frame it and hang it on my wall. Or maybe stick it into a scrapbook. But I ain’t that big a fool.
I read over the article again, and my eyes keep drifting back to the picture of Nicky’s cute mug alongside it. Poor Nicky. But, as they say, if you want to make an omelette, you gotta break a few eggs.