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First Page: Compliments from a Stranger (Erotic Suspense)

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Reese raised her hand to slap him, fire raging in her eyes. She’d believed him again, let him work his way back into her heart just to have him break it again. It was always the same thing – Kyle simply couldn’t be bothered to give her the common courtesy that he so easily gave to others. Couldn’t be bothered to let her know when he’d be breaking a date…again. Left her waiting like a fool…again. Before she felt the sting of his face under her palm, she dropped her hand in defeat, all the fight leaving her. Maybe they just weren’t meant to be after all. If he couldn’t think about her in the simplest of times, could she really depend on him if she ever really needed him?

She turned away, not saying a word. The hurt on her face and her watery eyes told him everything. He’d messed up again. ‘Damn it!’ he thought. He knew she would understand if he had told her that his car had broken down, he just didn’t think to call her before they were supposed to meet. He realized that maybe he had taken her for granted too many times and this time he was going to lose her because of it. He didn’t know what to do or say to keep her there but he knew he had to try something before she walked out.

Kyle grabbed her wrist as she started to walk by him, her head held high. He gently pulled her to him and slipped his other arm around her waist, dragging her against his body until her head rested on his shoulder, holding her close so she couldn’t slip away. He bent his lips to her ears and whispered, “I’m so sorry. I would never hurt you on purpose. I’m an idiot and I’m sorry.”

As he held her close, he gently placed his lips on her temple and held them there until he felt her taking a deep breath and then relax into his embrace. He let go of her wrist to shift her more comfortably against his body and she took advantage of the release. Reese pushed against his chest and took a step back. Her look told Kyle he’d messed this up…again.

“Do you really think ‘I’m sorry’ is going to cut it anymore Kyle?!” she spit out. “I’m done. You can’t treat me like this. I wouldn’t put up with this nonsense from anyone else and I’m tired of letting you off the hook with a simple “I’m sorry”. It’s not enough anymore.”

Reese pushed by him, waiting until he couldn’t see her face before she angrily swiped at her tears. ‘Oh God,’ was all she could think. ‘Am I really walking out on him because he didn’t call me?’

Reese had to stifle a disbelieving laugh as she began a raging battle in her brain. One side of her wanted to forgive him again – she could understand his car having issues and him having to argue with the mechanics and everything else he’d gone through that day. But the other side was furious. She’d sat at her desk waiting for him, missing lunch and not having a clue what was going on. Again. He hadn’t answered her for hours and then finally he sent her a text telling her what was going on. A text. With no apology or explanation, just “Car broke down. See you tomorrow.”

That’s it after standing her up. Again. That word was the real kicker. This wasn’t a one-time incident. For the past three months every date they had set up had been rescheduled two or three times before it actually worked out. And always around his issues and incidents. And she was always ready to go whenever he asked and could finally make it work. Without hesitation she took any amount of time he would finally grant her and treasure it like a gift.

‘No more.’ she stated to herself. Then realized she had said it out loud when she heard Kyle ask, “No more what?” Reese turned around and stared at him in disbelief.

“No more anything, Kyle. No more being your doormat. No more waiting for you to figure out what you want with me. No more wishy-washy wallflower. Just no more…anything.” She was practically whispering by the time she finished, choking back her tears. She had never been so open with him. She’d finally told him exactly what she was feeling when she was feeling it but it was only the negative. She wanted, no she needed. to tell him everything now, before she walked out. She had to let him know what she really felt.

“I care about you Kyle. I have for a long time now. I could probably say I love you. I tried to resist it, but the longer we’re together the harder it is to avoid. When we actually get to spend time together, I love how you watch me, how you talk to me, how you listen to me. I love how we joke and how a simple lunch break can stretch to 3 hours before we realize it.”

She was nearly breathless as she continued, her need to tell him everything in her heart overwhelming her brain that was yelling ‘STOP!’, “I love how we can riff off one another and how our conversation slides effortlessly from one subject to another. I love how we have similar childhoods and that we share so many interests. I dream about just sitting and watching TV together, cuddled on the couch. About holding hands in a movie or dancing at a jazz club. I just love spending time with you in any way possible.

But when we’re apart it’s like I’m not even in your world. Like I cease to exist if I’m not right in front of you. And I can’t take it anymore. So, no more. No more waiting. No more blaming myself and not understanding what I did wrong. Just no more, Kyle. I can’t do it to myself anymore.”

Reese stood before him, her chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. During her tirade she had apparently walked towards him, not realizing it, wanting to be sure he hadn’t missed a word. She was so close, she could reach out and curl her hands into his hair, holding herself against his warm hard body just one more time. She wanted to kiss his lips again, for the last memory.

But, she also knew that if she didn’t leave now she wouldn’t be able to look in the mirror tomorrow. She needed her self-respect back. She needed to trust her instincts again. Yes, she loved him but that didn’t mean he loved her. And even if he did love her that didn’t mean he would ever be good at showing her, or that they were even meant to be together. He’d shown her time and again that she wasn’t that important to him and she needed to leave before his words could convince her otherwise.

With a sad look and tears once again filling her eyes, she backed up a few steps, slowly turned and walked softly but surely towards the door. She could almost feel her heart crumbling – not a ripping tear but small pieces falling off and breaking like dust as they crashed on the hard rocks of reality. She knew her heart would heal but it would never be full again.

Kyle said nothing as she walked out of the room.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

12 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 07:03:45

    This really didn’t do anything for me. I admit, I was skimming by the end (this is a lot more than one page, right?), but I don’t think I missed too much…

    Basically, I don’t care about the characters. We have a guy who seems to be a bit of a jackass, a woman who reacts in a way OTT manner (sure, dump him, but spare me the slapping) and not too much else.

    I think they probably SHOULD break up, so if the book is about them getting back together, I’d be disappointed. If the book is about something else… why am I reading all of this?

  2. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 08:01:27

    I don’t see anything erotic here. Erotic romance is all about the sex, not two immature people having an argument. If it’s erotic, you should make that clear right out of the gate, even if it’s just ramping the scene up and adding a few f words (hate writing that, but if I don’t, the spam will get me). Maybe she stays with him because he’s good in bed. Mention it. “Just because he was amazing between the sheets didn’t mean he was good for her.” Do they share a kink? Then hint at it.
    There’s nothing interesting here, nothing to make me read on. Don’t like her, because whatever she says, she is a doormat, and slapping someone doesn’t make for affirmative action. She’s also hysterical. All she needs to do is say “We’re done” and turn her back. He already knows why. She veers from one thing to another, and the man stands there like a dummy and lets her do all this.
    Hate him. He probably blames everything on someone or in this case something else. Start with something a bit more positive, or more affirmative. Show her delight in dumping him at last. Don’t linger on all the backstory, because frankly, at this stage in the story, I don’t care. If he’s the hero, I’m out. The story of a hysterical girl enabling a man to behave badly isn’t my thing.
    Technically you have a lot of problems. Your speech tags are prominent, when they should be invisible or absent. “She spit out” is grammatically wrong, and in any case, I don’t want a heroine who spits.
    Too much “telling.” A phrase like “She was nearly breathless as she continued” is a good example. We get no feel for what it’s like, and how it affects her.
    And oh, the point of view. Pick a head and stick to it. Don’t hop around like a bug in June.

  3. wikkidsexycool
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 09:12:51

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to post this. I’m thinking you’re fairly new at writing, because I recognize how I’d created sentences and scenes when I first started. I’m also wondering if this is where your story really begins, because it reads more as if it’s the dramatic climax of your tale.

    The part I enjoyed the most on your first page was this scene, and forgive me, but I took the liberty of tweaking it a bit and moving some things around:

    “No more.”

    She heard Kyle ask, “No more what?”

    Reese turned and stared at him in disbelief. “No more anything, Kyle. No more being your doormat. No more waiting for you to figure out what you want with me. Just no more…anything.” She was practically whispering by the time she finished, choking back tears. She’d never been so open with him, finally revealing exactly what she was feeling and when she was feeling it. Reese wanted, no, she needed to tell him everything now, before she walked out.”

    Your first page reads to me, as the climax of your story, when she finally makes her break. Since no blurb is included I’m not sure if your novel is about her conflicted feelings for Kyle, because she finds someone new, or if Kyle is the sole romantic lead. I hope he’s not, because its hard to get a fix on whether he’s right for your heroine.

    I don’t think this is where your story begins, but I believe you wanted to have the conflict upfront. Here are my suggestions:

    Let the reader know more about your heroine. Try to mix your dialogue, back story, and moving your story forward with a concrete premise. What’s her profession? Who are her friends? Do they think Kyle is the right man for her? What are Reese’s goals, and did she neglect them to shower affection on Kyle without getting anything in return?

    I like your title, and before I finished your piece, I’d believed your heroine would get attention from a complete stranger that she’d been longing for with her boyfriend. Maybe that sets off feelings of both guilt and the need to let Kyle go. Because if a complete stranger can shower her with more attention than Kyle has done in ages, then it could be time to dump Kyle. I hope you will come back and give us an update. Also, it would be nice to have a blurb on what the story is about. Does the stranger turn into something more? Does the “stranger” rock her world with not just his words, but taking care of her body sexually, but turns out to be another wrong decision, since this is an erotic suspense? Maybe Kyle redeems himself after she gets caught up with another man, one who’s nothing like he first presented himself to be. Or maybe the stranger is simply a one night stand who refuses to let her go. There are so many places you can take this story, and with a bit more time, I think it can be something others would enjoy.

    Personally, I’d start with the stranger making a pass at her. But show the scene with descriptions on where it takes place, and their dialogue. You can add backstory there, but not so much that it overwhelms their first meeting.

    Oh, and please, please don’t have her TSTL. Nuance is a requirement for suspense. You want to keep the reader guessing, but your heroine shouldn’t turn off the reader so that they end up not caring about her.

    Take care, and I wish you all the best with this.

  4. theo
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 10:15:34

    This reads to me like a first draft of basic ideas that haven’t been drawn out or tidied up yet. And I’m wondering too if you really know your characters at all. I’m with Lynne in her assessment of them and that’s not a good thing.

    Most of this is telling which, when an idea is really flowing for me, I do a lot of trying to get it all down on paper. However, once I have the basic story, then I go back through and revise it, make it active, showing things rather than just telling the reader what’s going on.

    Also, if your Hn (which I’m thinking Reese is) is going to grow throughout the story, you are making her almost irredeemable to start with. I already don’t like her. It doesn’t matter that she’s walking out. She’s not doing it with any quiet strength or backbone. She’s doing it with hysterics and tears. Yes, those can come when she’s alone, and because she sees how foolish she was to stay, but to do it in front of the guy she’s walking out on just makes me roll my eyes. She’s two dimensional and he’s a douche and I don’t want to read about either of them.

    I don’t know what your story really is, you don’t have a blurb, but it reads more like a formulaic romance rather than something erotic. There isn’t really any erotic on this page and though that’s not my sub-genre of choice, I would expect to see a little heat on the first page or two if that’s what you’re going for here. It’s not necessary, but two people in a passionate, heated argument will still show some if it’s there to begin with.

    Good luck and kudos for putting it out there.

  5. Jordan Rhys
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 11:25:08

    The title mentions a stranger, which is maybe not Kyle unless he’ll later pretend to be the eponymous compliment-giver. If he’s not that, and he’s not a triangle point, and he’s only the catalyst for Reese’s eventual erotic adventure, we don’t need to know or care about his POV. If we do need to know or care, you still need some demarkation between his thoughts and hers; this is too mixed up. The fight itself is a little too lovey-hatey wishy-washy in order to exposition-dump all their feelings. When people get mad like that, the adrenaline keeps them mad for at least a good 20-30 minutes, if not days, before the second thoughts creep in. You should be able to trust the reader to understand that she probably liked something about him if she was going out with him in the first place, and that they can wait a while to find out why.

    Also, if I show up expecting erotic suspense, watching immature people break up on the first page is not a hook. Drop us into the stranger action, feed us bits of her incompetent ex-boyfriend as we go. It’s hard to care about the breakup of people we’ve known for 10 seconds. Let us meet one of them as the real story is kicking in and actual events are happening, and after we spend some time with them we can and want to empathize when they are having complex emotions.

  6. Marianne McA
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 13:24:15

    There’s nothing here that hooks me into the story: girl just about manages to dump loser boyfriend. The stakes are fairly low – they weren’t engaged, married, living together or even, it seems, in love. She’ll go on with her life – I’m not left wondering ‘What happens next?’
    I’m almost intrigued by Kyle – the boyfriend who wants to keep her but nonetheless makes no attempt to do so – but if that’s your hook, I would need it to be spelt out a bit more: “Kyle said nothing as she walked out of the room. There was nothing to say – to tell her the real reason why he’d stood her up would be to place her life in danger.” Just something that hints at your larger story.

    Good luck.

  7. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 13:41:00

    @Marianne McA:
    Oooooh! I like that! If this was cut down to a tighter scene and ended with a line like that, I’d be in!

  8. anon
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 14:55:30

    I almost stopped reading after the first hop from her head to his…choose a point of view and stick with it.

    There’s not much here to make me care enough about either character to keep going. If Reese…again…has let Kyle use her as a doormat…again (you used again 18 times in your page)…then frankly, I think she’s too weak for my tastes as a heroine. She’s exhausting in her passivity. I’d have had her slap him regardless if she loves him, and storm out, leaving him with a shocked expression on his face and a palm held to his stinging cheek.

    Also, in a piece that’s labled as erotic suspense, I get neither. I get the opening to a…what? Romance, maybe? But in any case, is Kyle the hero? Usually the first male character introduced in a romance or erotica is the hero…and Kyle is not really the character I’d like as my hero, unless there’s some really massive change he undergoes during the story.

    There’s also nothing erotic in this exchange. I don’t necessarily need sex splashed across the first page, but if it’s going to be erotic, put some steam on the first page, give me something with teeth that makes me want to read further…at least a tease of something. If Kyle is the hero, make me want to like him, make me want to lust after him. I have no idea what he’s like, other than apparently an inconsiderate ass.

    The title hints at a stranger…if there is one, I’d like the story to start with him, not with Reese’s tantrum and endless ranting at Kyle. Start with the stranger, start with the compliments and then have Reese show me Kyle later.

    Thanks for putting your work out there. You’re brave and I wish you success with your writing. It’s hard but we learn more sometimes from hearing what someone may not like than what they do. But it’s hard to hear

  9. Mary
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 15:28:41

    Kyle is intriguing me more than Reese-and to be honest I’m kind of sympathizing with him. As someone whose car recently broke down I can honestly say that informing someone that I was canceling our lunch date would be the farthest thing from my mind. I get that he’s been consistently standing her up- but I think the catalyst that causes her to break down should be something that’s harder to rationalize.
    Additionally, if you are going to start with a scene like this I want to get a better sense of who these characters are and I think you can do that while also making the scene a little more concise. For example you say Reese was sitting at her desk but what was she doing there, where does she work, etc

  10. anon
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 19:04:03

    @anon:

    This is also not a ‘first’ page…out of curiosity, I pasted it into a word document and it’s 1,260 words. Fiddling with formatting gets it to two pages minimum (ss, 12pt, TNR). Any other formatting nets three or more pages. Personally, I would have stopped reading this if I’d grabbed it off the shelf and read the actual first page of the book.

  11. Shelley
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 23:51:33

    This actually reads like NA/YA to me. Almost verbatim of a conversation I had with a boyfriend back in my 20’s.

  12. Maria
    Jul 22, 2013 @ 20:39:58

    POV issues with this one straight off the bat.

    In this bit:
    Reese raised her hand to slap him, fire raging in her eyes. She’d believed him again, let him work his way back into her heart just to have him break it again.

    Renee actually needs to slap him or something, make the action draw us in if you’re going to use it. Unless she has a mirror in front of her, she doesn’t know about the fire raging in her eyes. So that means it’s in his POV. But how does he know what she believed (next line), so then it must be in her POV.

    Errors like this are an immediate ‘put the book back on the shelf’ for me.

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