Tucker: Opening Scene (version 2)

Headline: September 2008 the DLD* draft of Tucker is DONE. (insert rain of confetti here!)

I was deliriously happy, but under no illusions as to the worthiness of my newly finished product. Almost immediately I began the beta draft for Tucker. Now any chef worth his santoku knows when you pull a steak off the grill, you set it aside for a few minutes to “rest”; it needs that chance for all the juices to get back to where they belong so that the steak doesn’t become a dried out lump of cow.

I should have followed this same path for Tucker. I got stuck, right off the bat, confused about how I wanted to fix the mess up front. As a result I wandered away to chase around the first shiny new story idea that caught my attention.

Here is the opening scene on that abandoned beta draft:

It wasn’t everyday a man found out he was cursed with a devastating weakness for a woman who smelled like beer and cinnamon.

Up to now he’d kept her at a necessary distance, a professional distance. For three months he’d been her shadow and she hadn’t made his tail. He was very good at what he did; it wasn’t by accident he could demand ludicrously high compensation for what boiled down to borderline illegally detailed back ground checks and discreet photo editorial surveillance.

But that had changed when he’d decided to play the hero, wandered into her gin joint and bellied up to the bar where he was now nursing an iced tea and trying to find the right moment to approach her.

That’s when he’d caught her scent and known for sure he was doomed.

Sure she was cute with her tomboy thrift store style and the most peculiar pair of pink cowboy boots he’d ever seen in his life. More than cute, really. She was a helluva looker – a pixie with untamed sex appeal – and the complete opposite of the leggy, fickle socialites he gravitated to.

For the first time in his career he’d found himself utterly charmed by a mark.

Charmed had him breaking one of his Golden Rules: never ever make contact with the mark. Yet here he was at three-thirty on a Tuesday afternoon perched at the bar of the Last Call, the tiny pub she owned in Santa Monica off the beaten path. The Hollywood trend set hadn’t found her en masse yet. His camera had caught the occasional celebrity dip a toe into her establishment – gotten a pretty penny for a couple of the images, too. No reason a man couldn’t make a little extra cash in the line of duty.

He just had to focus on line of duty.  He was on a job – she was a damn job – not a Friday night social. He simply needed to unload his conscience, take the inevitable kick to the balls like a man and book the hell out of Dodge. Piece of cake.

Yeah right.

She passed behind him and his eyes crossed. She owned a bar, so the beer was a no brainer. But where the hell was the cinnamon coming from? And since when had cinnamon become his own personal Kryptonite?

He’d known this was a bad gig when it came up but the money had been very persuasive. And to say the client herself had piqued his curiosity would be an epic understatement. By accepting the job he’d tossed another Golden Rule out the window: never ever take work from family or family friends. At this point he had only one Golden Rule left: never ever work C.O.D. At the rate he was going he planned to cling to that one like a koala bear on steroids. There had to be some lines in life that just weren’t crossed.

He needed a new job.

“Well, well. A new face. And a pretty one at that.”

Startled, he looked up from his iced tea towards the low smoke scarred voice. It belonged to a heavily made up blonde attempting to wiggle her way onto the stool next to him. He wasn’t sure the effect was having the desired result. Bottle platinum hair, too tight clothes and garish makeup couldn’t disguise hard edges and tired eyes. She was practically a walking PSA for young Hollywood – “Stop now! You still have time!”

Before he could conjure a reply, the scent of cinnamon wafted gently behind him. A betting man, he’d lay odds his eyes glazed over. The pixie laid her hand on his shoulder and an electric jolt shot through him.

“George?”

The sound of her voice, smooth and light carrying the barest flavor of Boston, sent a shiver down his spine. Say my name. Wait a minute, she just called him George? What the—

“Your mom called before you got here. She wants you to splurge and pick up some McDonalds on the way home – you know what she likes. Oh and she said don’t forget the pharmacy closes at five sharp.”

She was definitely talking to him. She might as well’ve been speaking Venusian for all the he understood what she was saying. He turned to face her fully, taking a punch to his system for the effort. The pixie was so much… more up close and personal. From the corner of his eye he saw the blonde recoil, the expression her face like she’d just gotten an unexpectedly crunchy bite of cottage cheese.

“Hey Sheila,” the pixie addressed the other woman. “The usual?”

Sheila nodded, wary, not quite sure if she’d just been had.

He was nothing if not a quick study. “Thanks, Pixie. You know how cranky mom gets when she doesn’t get her Filet o’Fish Tuesday treat. I really appreciate it.”

Sheila fled to a table near the piano.

The pixie shook her head. Taking her hand from his shoulder she held it out. “Tucker.”

“Josh.” He accepted her grasp. A smaller shock, more of a tingle really. Judging by her expression, he wasn’t the only one who’d felt it. Curioser and curioser. “I appreciate the intervention.”

Tucker laughed, full and unabashed.

He was in so much trouble.

Pictures didn’t do the woman justice. He hadn’t had this kind of physical attraction to a woman since… now that he thought about it, he’d never had this reaction to a woman. Ever. The fact of that really bothered him.

So he did the mature thing and ogled her like a high school freshman.

She wore her blazing red hair extremely short and battered 501’s like they were couture. A small black tee shirt proclaimed, “I’d exercise more but I might spill my drink.” Josh figured if those curves were built by beer every woman should be required by law to consume regularly. The ubiquitous pink cowboy boots gave her a few more inches, just barely enough to top your average eighth grader.

She sure as hell didn’t look like the sole heir to a Fortune 100 empire.

“Like what you see?” She crossed her arms and cocked her head to the side. Josh’s train of thought jumped the tracks as the shirt stretched a little tighter over her chest. Mon dieu.

Shit, he needed to focus. Job, information, leave.

“Go out to dinner with me.” Ok, so much for focus.

She grinned. “Sorry, I don’t date customers.”

Actually she didn’t date at all. In three months Josh hadn’t seen one scrap of evidence that Tucker Smith ever partook of the Los Angeles nightlife with an escort of any kind. Not that he was complaining. There’d been that one guy, but he’d turned out to be her best friend’s brother so he totally wasn’t in the running.

Good grief. He wasn’t supposed to be in the running.

“It’s my first time in here,” he pointed out. “I’ve only had one iced tea. I’m pretty sure that I have to at least order an alcoholic beverage to even be considered a ‘customer’ in a bar.”

Arching a brow, she said, “An intriguing theory. But I’m a cautious woman and I know nothing about you. What part of New England are you from?”

That took him by surprise. “You can tell?”

“The accent’s faint but still there.” She smiled and took his breath away. “You can take a boy out of the east, but it’s wicked hahd to take the east of out the boy.”

He was wrong; she wasn’t cute. She was a force of nature.

“Boston.”

Tucker went very still. “Your last name, Josh?”

Damn it to hell. He’d really been hoping to avoid this part.

“Campbell.” Please don’t add it up, please don’t add it up…

Tucker’s face went white. She took a good, long look at him and he had the bad feeling she didn’t like what she was seeing. “Joshua Robert Campbell?”

Merde. She’d done the math. Could he salvage this? He nodded cautiously in the affirmative.

And that was not to be his path to salvation. The pixie stepped back, a sudden nor’easter blasting between them and flash freezing any stub of hope he’d had about getting out of this relatively unscathed.

She signaled to someone behind him and the college kid who’d been manning the bar when Josh arrived earlier came running. “Tommy, get the man an alcoholic beverage.” She took another step back. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Campbell.” Her expression told the truth. She turned on a dime and disappeared through a door at the end of the bar.

Josh and Tommy watched her go. Real smooth, slick.

Tommy spun around eyes narrowed. “What did you say to her?”

“Apparently the wrong thing.” Josh pulled some cash from his pocket and dropped it on the bar. He needed to get out of here, regroup, and get back on track, damn it. He needed fresh air and nothing that smelled remotely like cinnamon.

Imbécile. His objective wasn’t to date the woman. His objective was to head off Armageddon and then relocate – Los Angeles had abruptly become very unstable.

Josh needed a plan of action pronto to save Tucker Smith from making the biggest mistake of her life.

Better (much better!), but still not a winner. Obviously in this version Josh knows why he’s there. That was the major change I made in scene 8 of the DLD draft that clicked everything into place. I also made him a less than upstanding citizen, which gave me sooo much more to work with in terms of him and Tucker finding their footing with each other.

Unfortunately, I also gave him a tendency to think in French clichés. JB warned me at the time to cut that out, it would get old really fast. I can totally see what she means now. You can’t see it here because the whole chunk is in italics (thanks to the formatting of this particular WP theme) but my word processor shows a frightening predilection for italics usage. What’s up with that?  Back to the draft generator, probie!

*DLD is my short hand for “don’t look down”, as in “don’t look down or you’ll fall off and fall to your death and never make it across the terrifying rope bridge to the other side of the gorge”. I picked it up from Jenny Crusie, hoping that by emulating an author I stalk for fun at conferences admire greatly that some of her genius would crock off on me. Clearly, that didn’t happen, at least not at the stage the beta was written.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I have to say I rteally liked this. Very smooth.

  2. Posted by Bonnie on February 13, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Thank you! Hopefully you will feel the same when the new improved version goes up. 😀

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