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Writing Challenge > Zee's Stranded with a Dangerous Hero/Best friends turned lovers Challenge Story: Before the Morning

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message 1: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Hi everyone

This is my first time writing to a theme in a challenge. I hope you'll enjoy my story, and please do leave me your comments. I welcome them! :)

I am very new to this challenge writing thing, and will try to have an every-two-days type of posting.

Arch was nice enough to add the best freinds turned lovers theme to the challenge because of me, so big thanks to her. Here's a small blurb:

Before the Morning...
...is a time of pitch darkness...

They say marriage is an eye opener. For Rayne Cheltham and Ash Gilfoy, tying the knot is more like sitting on a keg of gunpowder with a brightly-lit sparkler in hand. Secrets are threatening to blow in their face, and none knows how deep the other's edge of darkness goes.

For Rayne, a former spy returning to civilian life, marriage to her best friend Ash is a way to grab on to some normality. But what's normal when your whole foundation is based on a lie?

For Ash, a former cop turned paramedic, life with the girl he grew up with is supposed to bring him peace and harmony. Not drag him into an abyss when everything he thought he knew about her, his best friend, turns out to be a sham.

But Rayne and Ash have a lot more on their plate than their respective secret pasts. Rayne's sister is getting married, and the couple have to attend the wedding, presenting themselves as the picture of perfect marital bliss.
They're about to embark on a tricky journey complete with nutty relatives and bridezillas. But Rayne's crazy lot is not their only problem, because someone from her past doesn't want her out of the game. Not just yet, and not like that... If she's to be out, he believes she should be taken out. Permanently.

Can Rayne and Ash survive all that's to be thrown upon their path? Can they hang on to the last thread of their relationship, and can they come out still together, and still alive, in the morning after dark?

message 2: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
Thanks for the blurb Zee. I can't wait to read more.

message 3: by CaliGirlRae (new)

CaliGirlRae (rae_l) | 274 comments This sounds good, Z. Looking forward to reading the story!

Mollie *scoutrmom* (scoutrmom) | 635 comments With a premise like that, you need an agent.

message 5: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Lol, thanks guys. I hope to have the first scene up in a few hours. I'm working on this story and the other WIP at the same time so I dunno which one my muse will prefer at any given time.

Mollie - thanks for the nice words! :)

message 6: by Danielle The Book Huntress , Loves 'Em Lethal (last edited Aug 16, 2010 05:06PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 9734 comments Mod
Oh, that sounds so awesome!

message 7: by JC (new)

JC (ainathiel) I think the concept is very interesting. How are you stranded?

message 8: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Thanks Danielle.

Jo, I'm using stranded as a social context, at the wedding. (Lol, I hope that'll make sense!)

message 9: by Zee (last edited Aug 19, 2010 11:11PM) (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Chapter 1 Part 1 (sorry peeps - I'm trying to do italics for thoughts but I can't get the hang of it yet - Update - hope the italics come through)

Calleigh, you’re making a mistake.

Rayne Cheltham stared at the message on her laptop’s screen. The email was just one line long. Unknown sender, irretraceable IP address.

Yet, someone had known how to send her a note on the encrypted server of the agency.

It was an insider.

So news was already out that she was quitting. She snorted. She’d always maintained gossip travelled faster than a bullet. Guess this virtual chit was the perfect proof.

Sod you, she told the unknown sender as she closed the window with an angry tap on the tactical mouse pad. I’m doing the right thing. The best thing for me.
And, she reckoned, the idiot who was trying to unsettle her didn’t even know her name. She wasn’t Calleigh; she was Kali. Harbinger of destruction, bringer of darkness, handler for death.

Pressing her back into her seat, she closed her eyes. She was tired of that existence. That was why she was turning her life around at a hundred and eighty degrees. For fourteen years, she’d done her duty. On the brink of the fifteenth year, it wasn’t job exhaustion she was contemplating – it was complete and utter nihilism. Manipulating and making people die no longer rubbed off her back like water flowing down a Japanese decorative glass screen.

Her eyes flew open when images of her last undercover assignment infiltrated themselves into her mind. Pleasure, pain, carnal hunger, the heady rush of power, the satisfaction of manipulating outcomes... Two women had died resulting from her little games to bring a crime lord in. In the past, Kali would’ve seen them as unfortunate collateral damage.

But not this time. Ash had burst into her world, unbeknownst to him...

Ash. She got up from the chair and walked out of the living room. Moonlight from the clear, star-filled Nevada desert sky drenched the surroundings, filtering through the floor-to-ceiling windows that ran along the whole side of the split-level house. An edge of chilly breeze tickled the nape of her neck, and she paused in the corridor.

Two rooms down the hallway, Ashford Gilfoy, her best friend since childhood, slept out a night of drunken abandon.

Rayne hesitated. A few feet away slept Ash Gilfoy, her husband of a few hours. The night of drinking had led them to an Elvis-impersonating pastor’s chapel. At exactly midnight, the man had married them.

She wondered if Ash remembered. Worse, she wondered if he would ever realize that she had twisted the events behind this trip so that she would end up as his wife...

Las Vegas was a long way from London, and she prayed he wouldn’t know. But Ash didn’t know her. He knew Rayne, not Kali.

She was trying her best to leave Kali behind, but old habits die hard.

She shook herself mentally. As from today, she was putting that life behind her. She was Rayne Cheltham-Gilfoy, for better or worse.

Speaking of worse, she felt an itch creep up along her skin. There was still something to do. Retracing her steps back to the laptop, she drew the seat and sat down. Bypassing the secure server page she’d accessed just minutes earlier, the browser opened onto her generic, web-based Hotmail account. It was the one her family used to keep in touch with her.

Accessing her inbox, she went straight to the email that had come in a month earlier. Her mother had sent her the usual catching up pieces about home life back in Hastings. The latest trip to whatever university by her father to present yet another seminar on political science. The latest book her editor mother had signed. The latest antics of her brother and four younger sisters.

Pictures rarely accompanied the messages – Rayne’s instruction. She grabbed the news maybe once or twice a year, and didn’t have time to open attachments. Always from a secure location in between assignments, she would catch up with the reading, but she never replied. She’d maybe call, if there was time. Also, viruses and other tracking bots could easily be concealed in attachments. She couldn’t risk this. That she was still in touch with her family in her line of work was an immense privilege she’d been granted.

Yet, everyone believed she worked for a humanitarian charity that took her to remote places all over the world. Hence the reason for not coming home in over a decade, for three-minutes long phone calls once a year, for not being reachable in conventional ways. The perfect cover for her assassin’s job.

If her family had ever known what she was involved in, would their tone have been so sunny and uplifting? Would they even still talk to her?

Don’t think of this. They’ll never know.

She focused her attention back to the computer. This time, something accompanied the email. She opened it, her gaze roaming over the plum-coloured font on thick, damask-ecru paper.

A twinge nipped at her heart. Shannon, her baby sister, was getting married.

Not so much a baby – Shane, as Rayne had always called her, was twenty-six. So the tomboy had actually found someone to take her. His name was Duncan, apparently.

Her mother had sent the invite – Rayne plus one – without much hope that her eldest child would attend the wedding, let alone bring someone along. Maura Cheltham could be in for a very big surprise, Rayne reckoned.

Going home for this occasion would mean coming out with her own ties to Ash. It would also mean he would have to actively play the part of her husband. For a second, she quivered inside herself. They’d only been together for two weeks. Not even going out. Just sleeping together, physical encounters that seemed to hold all the desperation of the world in their execution.

Five days ago, in his arms after they had made love, she’d told him of her ‘dream’ to visit Vegas. She’d then urged him to accompany her, on a ‘spontaneous’ trip. Ash had given in, and look where he’d landed – just where she’d wanted him to be, she thought as she threw a glance as the thin gold band on her left hand.

She loved him, but how could she ever explain why she was so desperate for him in her life? Ash thought she was an aid worker burnt by her trips around hope-deprived parts of the globe. He didn’t know the depth of the darkness inside her.

No, she had to attend Shane’s wedding. It was the only way to seal their marriage. Once out in public, he’d stick by her side.

The first email she’d received just minutes ago kept her unsettled, and she knew she couldn’t allow this to rattle her. She had to talk to someone, reassure herself she was in the clear.

Picking up the landline on the desk, she dialled a string of numbers and replaced the receiver back in the cradle. Seconds later, the phone rang. She picked up, but instead of answering, she punched in another sequence of code, before cutting the call.

There – she’d made her request known. She’d have to wait it out.

message 10: by Zee (last edited Aug 19, 2010 11:14PM) (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Chapter 1, Part 2

To her surprise, she didn’t have long to kill. The quiet, dulcet ringtone on the device played out and she grabbed the receiver.

“Is something the matter, Rayne?” a man’s voice asked.

“Hello, sir,” she greeted her boss. He was the man on the top rung of the agency, and in her position as Kali, her direct and only supervisor.

“Everything all right, my dear?”

She felt her rapid heartbeat calm under his cool, smooth tone. He reminded her of an old British gentleman of times past, but she couldn’t know for sure. She’d never seen his face, not even when they had met physically, and his voice was devoid of any accent. “You did say I could have a normal life, didn’t you?”

He chuckled softly. “I gave you my word.” He paused. “Yet, you do know that you can never have a clean break. Not after what you’ve been to this organization. I will still need you on occasion.”

She nodded, even if he couldn’t see her. Assassins like her rarely lived long enough to be burnt out. She was a one-of-a-type case thus far.

“You’re wondering if this is too soon,” he stated.

“Yes,” she mumbled.

“It was your decision, Rayne.”

“I know.”

“I can assure you no strings regarding your past assignments have been left untied. Does that help?”

She swallowed. “It does.”

“What is it you’re not telling me?” he coaxed gently.

“Someone knows I’m going out,” she blurted, suddenly relieved to be able to confide in somebody. Try as she wanted, that note had made her bristle. The people inside the agency were not ones to cross. “I received a private message on our secure page.”

“Did you now,” he said thoughtfully. “Well, leave that to me, my dear.”

Tension lifted from her rigid shoulders and she allowed herself to sag in the seat. He would take care of everything. She smiled, and felt the prick of tears in her eyes.

Damn it. She was getting soft. She had to— No, wait. Being normal meant being soft, allowing emotions on her face, not having to watch her every movement in case she developed an uncharacteristic tic that could give her legend away.

“I’ll leave you now,” he said.

“Thank you, sir,” she whispered, too drained to speak louder.

He laughed softly. “Oh, and Rayne, give my congratulations to Ashford. You’ll make a fine Mrs. Gilfoy.”

With that, he cut the call. The dial tone droned against her ear, and she carefully brought the phone back into its cradle.

He knew. Barely three hours after she’d gotten married in Las Vegas, he knew. It didn’t surprise her. Sometimes, she even wondered if he resorted to black magic to gather his intel on everyone.

Her gaze drifted to the wedding card on the laptop’s screen. Rayne took a deep breath to steel herself. A girl had to do what a girl had to do.

Grabbing the phone again, she dialled the international extension for England and Hastings. It would be midday there, she thought with a glance at the clock on the bottom-right corner of the screen.

Sure enough, her mother picked up on the third ring.

“Hello, Mum.”

“Rayne! Are you okay, darling? Where are you? And did you get my email?”

She filtered and tagged the questions one by one in her mind. Maura Cheltham knew the drill now – fire away and let Rayne answer, before the three-minute mark.

This time, Rayne wanted to let her mother talk, to answer her and have a semblance of a normal conversation. But on the verge of doing so, she stiffened.

What did she know of normal conversations now? The only way she could talk with Ash was through their bodies...

“Mum,” she blurted. “I’m coming home for Shane’s wedding.”

There was a gasp at the other end.

“And I’m bringing someone.”

“Say that again? No, wait. I heard you, alright. You’re bringing someone?”

“My husband,” she said, and listened with bated breath as the line went silent in Hastings.

This call wasn’t a good idea. Damn.

Welcome to the normal world.

“Mum, the line’s breaking. I can’t hear you,” she said as she pulled the receiver away from her face and finally settled it back down, cutting the call.

There, she thought. Done awkwardly, but done anyhow. Now on to the next leg of the issue.

Standing up, she closed the laptop. It would immediately instil a system restore, clearing everything she’d just viewed. She needn’t take this precaution anymore but old habits did die hard.

Shuffling over to the bedroom, Rayne paused once she was inside. She came to a standstill near the bed. Behind her, the ajar French window leading to the terrace let in the moonlight and soft breeze from the night. Wispy muslin curtains drifted in the gentle billow of air.

Her gaze landed on the man who was sprawled on the bed. A pale sheet covered him up to his waist, and she knew he was naked under it. Silvery light played on his broad, muscled chest and danced with languorous abandon in the long and shaggy dark-blond locks on the cream pillowcase. In sleep, his face was smooth and unperturbed, tanned skin and sharp-cut features at rest. Golden eyelids fringed with thick lashes hid steel-grey eyes that could bore into her soul with just one glance. Rough stubble graced his jaw line and cheeks, giving him the air of a roguish pirate.

Like the first time she had seen him in this likeness, Rayne lost her breath. She remembered Ash as she had left him fifteen years ago on a platform at London Waterloo station where she’d taken the EuroStar to France. He thought she was meeting with a humanitarian charity in Paris. She’d been headed to the French-Swiss border for her agent training. Ash was going into the Metropolitan Police back then. Clean-shaven, hair neatly cut, he’d looked every bit like the efficient Bobby-next-door.

This man she had seen a few months ago screamed dangerous bad boy from a mile away. Never mind the fact that he had quit the force for a job as a paramedic. There was nothing next-door-reassuring about the thirty-four-year-old hunk.

At the time, she had been undercover as the wife of Nikolai Grigorievski, a Russian crime lord. A fight had taken place at their Mayfair residence, and an ambulance crew had been called.

Ash had taken one look at her and left the injured man in his partner’s hands.

“Has someone looked at this bruise?” he asked.

She was quick to camouflage the roiling emotions battling inside her at the sight of him. Presenting her emotionless, detached face – her best ability on any job – she had shaken her head and made to leave.

He hadn’t let her. “Someone should check on you. Your eyebrow needs a stitch.”

She didn’t want him involved. Already, they were drawing curious and angry stares from her ‘husband’ and his entourage. She blinked and took a step. If she didn’t answer, he’d think she didn’t understand English. She was after all supposed to be a dirt-poor twenty-year-old from the streets of Moscow. She also couldn’t chance him recognizing her, even though she knew her own parents wouldn’t know her on the street, filled up as she was on silicone implants to her breasts, cheeks and calves, and with Restylane and Botox in every inch of her face.

Ash didn’t let go. With a swipe of his finger on her eyebrow, he broke the scab there. Blood started to trickle into her eyes.

He’d argued with Nikolai, something no man dared to do. She needed a stitch and he’d sewn her up, all right.

When he finished, he gently touched the bruised skin around her left eye. “Why do you let him do this to you?” he asked.

She hadn’t answered. Her throat had been clogged, but he’d again ascribed this lack of response to language barriers.

That moment had been a turning point for her. She didn’t ‘let’ Nikolai do things to her. In fact, she was the one who had urged him to hit her. But at that instant, nothing made sense. Nothing but finding Ash, and him being so different from the teenage boy she had left behind.

Blinking out of the remembrance, Rayne moved to the bed and sat down gingerly by his side.

He felt the slight movement of the mattress, and his eyes flew open to look at her.

A smile touched his lips, deepening the dimple in his left cheek. “Hey,” he drawled.

He moved up, onto his right elbow. Strands of hair brushed his face and eyes.

Dread suddenly balled itself tightly in her heart. She knew what he was about to do. His left hand would come up to smooth the hair back. It was such a predictable habit with him that she’d noticed it barely a few hours into his presence.

Indeed, he brought his hand up. But midway, he froze.
Moonlight glinted off the thick gold band on his third finger.

Rayne held her breath. Her gaze travelled to his, and in his eyes she learnt his reaction. The irises were hard and trained fully on her.

Fury darkened them, before she thought she saw something flash in their depths.
She knew what he thought. She was echoing the same thing, albeit for different reasons – bloody hell!

message 11: by Arch (last edited Aug 17, 2010 07:24PM) (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
Zee, I will read your installments soon. I have just came in to take a peep. Are you writing your story on Goodreads or Word and then Goodreads? I do the latter.

If you are doing the latter, then whatever you want to be italicized, put an i or I in <> before what you want italicized and then put an /i or /I in <>, after the last thing you want italicized and when you copy your story into the comment box and preview it, you will see your information italicized.

Edited to say: If you are typing your story on Goodreads, you can still follow what I have told you to do, to italicized something.

message 12: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Thanks Arch. I use Word and it's already italicised there. I lost all the formatting here. Will try your suggestion.

I tried using the <> i in the middle thing but it ended up italicising the whole doc. :)

Hope you'll get to read the story soon. I'll try to have another instalment written and up tomorrow.

message 13: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
Zee, you have to make sure that you close the italicized word or words, by putting /i or /I in <> at the end of what you want to italicized, if you don't, you will see things you don't want to italicize, be italicized.

message 14: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Thanks Arch. I didn't use the /

Lol, will take some getting used to!

message 15: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod

message 16: by Danielle The Book Huntress , Loves 'Em Lethal (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 9734 comments Mod
Fantastic installment, Zee. Rayne is very tortured. Loving the story so far.

message 17: by CaliGirlRae (new)

CaliGirlRae (rae_l) | 274 comments Great opening, Z! I like the darkness and tension Rayne's holding inside her. Ash sounds yuuuuumy too btw. :-D

message 18: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Thanks ladies! Rayne kinda slapped me in the face because she is very, very different from the heroines I write. Much darker. I'm glad her turmoil is coming across.

Lol, Rae - Ash is a total dish. Let me figure how to add pics in the comments box and I'll post both his and Rayne's.

Hopefully I'll have the next instalment up in the weekend.


message 19: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
Zee, to post pictures, follow these steps.

1. Type <
2. Then img src="
3. Then picture address. You can copy and paste the address
4. Then "/>

In <>

put, img src="picture address"/

message 20: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Thanks Arch. I'll try that.

message 21: by Zee (last edited Aug 21, 2010 12:04AM) (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Okay, let's see if I can show you Ash...

And this is the young Ash Rayne had left in London

message 22: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod

message 23: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments This is Rayne

[image error]

message 24: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod

message 25: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments I managed to get some pics up. Should give you guys a little idea what they look like. There was one of Rayne I wanted to use but the link wouldn't go through. You can check it here


message 26: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
Nice picture Zee. The reason why the link didn't work, is because you can't have a website as an imagine. You might want to search the actress under Google and click on imagines and see if you can find that picture alone and click on it to get the addy, so you can show her picture on here.

message 27: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments I tried that Arch, but it didn't display the pic, just the link. The image is available just as a web addy.

message 28: by Gemma (new)

Gemma (bookmoodreviews) | 241 comments Loved the start. Can't wait to read more!!!

message 29: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Thanks Gem! Tomorrow should see another instalment come up. :)

message 30: by Gemma (new)

Gemma (bookmoodreviews) | 241 comments I need to get the next installment of mine up. I need to write it first though

message 31: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Lol, same here, girl! :)

message 32: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
Zee, are you going to write some more?

message 33: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Hey Arch

Lol, yup. I am writing chapter 2 this week. Ran into some time-management issues (uni start) and haven't been able to add any more to any writing.

I'll be back in a few days though. :)

message 34: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
:) Okay Zee.

message 35: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
Zee, when are you going to add the next installment?

message 36: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) | 688 comments Hey Arch
Just finished with uni today. I should have more next week, hopefully!

message 37: by Arch (new)

Arch  | 4139 comments Mod
Okay Zee. Take your time.

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