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384 pages, Mass Market Paperback
First published May 1, 2007
Losing friends in...
Extract 1Extract 1 is much better written. To quote an old trite aphorism, it shows, and doesn't just tell. The first paragraph not only paints the scene and atmosphere, it does so in a way that tells us a number of key facts. Preacher works in bar. It's a cold, wet and dark night. It emphasises that no one will be out on such a night. This gives the woman's later appearance much greater impact. By the time she shows up, we are already primed to find her arrival strange and unusual, but the writer does not have to rely on stating that fact to get the message across.
A fierce and unseasonably cold September wind blew chilly rain against the windows. Preacher wiped down the bar, and while it was only seven-thirty, it was already dark. No one in Virgin River would be out on a night like this. After the dinner hour was past, people tended to stay in on cold, wet nights. The camper and fishermen in the area would be locked down tight against the storm. It was bear-and-deer hunting season, but it was unlikely any hunters would pass en route to or from lodges and blinds at this hour in such weather... As soon as the fire burned down a little more, Preacher planned to switch off the Open sign and lock the door.
He poured himself a shot of whiskey and took it over to the table nearest the fire, then turned a chair toward the hearth and propped up his feet. Quiet nights like this were to his liking. He was a solitary kind of guy.
But the peace was not to be. Someone pulled on the door, causing him to frown. It opened a little bit. The wind caught the door and it flew open with a bang, bringing him instantly to his feet. Entering and then struggling to close the door was a young woman holding a child. The woman wore a baseball cap and had a heavy quilted bag slung over her shoulder. Preacher went to get the door. She turned, looked up at him and they both jumped back in surprise. She was likely startled because Preacher looked intimidating--he was six foot four, bald with bushy black eyebrows, a diamond stud earring and shoulders about as broad as an ax handle was long.
Under the bill of the baseball cap, Preacher saw a pretty young woman's face bearing a bruise on her cheek and split lower lip.
"I've met teenage girls with more testosterone than that man has."
Tamara Briggs didn't even have to look to know that Suzanne was talking about Geoffrey Ayers, because in a roomful of race car drivers, the anthropology professor would be the only one her friend would find lacking in male machismo.
But she pleaded ignorance because she didn't want to have to acknowledge that Suz might have a point about the man she was trying to convince herself she could actually have sex with on a regular basis. "Who are you talking about?"
"You know I'm talking about Geoffrey. And I'm sorry, I know he's your new boyfriend and all, but honestly, Tammy, the man couldn't grow a chest hair if his life depended on it. Look at him."
Did she have to? Tamara was feeling like if she did, all her delusions might shatter. She was working really hard to convince herself that she could be in love with Geoffrey, but if she had to look too closely, she suspected she would have to admit that wasn't going to happen.
But the peace was not to be. Someone pulled on the door, causing him to frown. It opened a little bit. The wind caught the door and it flew open with a bang, bringing him instantly to his feet.The shortness of the sentences in the first half help to heighten the tension, and create a rhythm that resolves itself in a sudden rush in the final sentence, mimicking the manner in which the door was opened. Here language and scene reflect each other to greater effect.
He caught her rhythm, pulling and releasing, cradling and crushing; pushing up through his fingers with each swing, mining up, like an otter through wet sand. Her sounds shifted from moans to grunts, insistent, almost desperate cries from the throat … He unbuttoned the front of her shirt and pulled it to the side so that her breast was uncovered, her nipple poking out, upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night. He took it between his lips and sucked the salt from her. He hooked his fingers into her waistband, caught the elastic of her underwear and began pulling down. The knot on her light cotton trousers held fast as the fabric reached the curve of her backside. She twisted from him and stepped back.
'I want to suck you,' she said, descending … She loosed his trousers, pulled away his underwear and gripped him with fingers tender enough to hold a tiny bird.
As he felt her mouth's engulfment, he acquiesced, disappointment melting like ice in hot cream.
Naked from waist to toe, a faint wedge of paleness from a few hours of sun, streaked with shadows in the candlelight; the triangle of pubic hair, blond, a thin line bunched darkly, like desert vegetation following an underground stream. He placed his hand on the concave stretch that was her belly, letting two fingers rest in the yawn of her navel. He slipped downwards, grazing the tight skin of her waist with his fingertips. He reached her hair line and the muscles of her belly hardened as she raised herself up onto her elbows. She stayed his hand and drew him, yanked him, into a smothering kiss. She released his hair from her fingers and twisted onto her belly like a fish flipping itself, her movement so brusque his chin bounced off her head.
He grasped the side of her hips, pushed her away and pulled her to him with a slap. Again and again with more force and velocity. Tine pressed her face deeper into the cushion grunting into the foam at each thrust.
The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.