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First Page: Teaching Donkeys to Dance – A romance with a mystery

First Page: Teaching Donkeys to Dance – A romance with a...

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

Dear Martin,

As from today, I would like to hand in my notice at AMS. I understand that I have a three-month notice period, and will therefore finish my employment on 04.04.00.

Thank you,

Katie Harmer.

“It’s a bit bald, isn’t it?” Martin Blackburn looked up from the letter.

“Yes, I know,” Katie replied, “But what else is there to say?”

“You’ve enjoyed working here? You’ve had a great set of colleagues? You’ll miss us all?”

“Well, that’s all true, but it doesn’t seem to fit in a letter of resignation that’s going to go to HR. I’ll say all that at my leaving do.”

Martin tossed the letter onto his desk.

“Leaving do? You think we’re going to fork out for a leaving do when you’re abandoning us. Traitor!” His smile took the sting out of his words. “I can only assume that this means that you’ve actually found it then?”

“Oh yes, we have. And it is absolutely perfect. It’s not at all what we imagined we’d be buying but yes, we’ve found it…” Katie smiled, as a red head popped up from the next cubicle.

“Sorry, Katie, Martin – I couldn’t help overhearing-“

“Couldn’t help listening in, more like.”

“Yes, OK, but open plan offices don’t make for privacy. If you’re going to complain, you need to tell the upper echelons of power that you need a private office to stop your minions from listening in.” Beth Swann, Katie’s best friend and work colleague at Asset Management Solutions, grinned and turned to her.

“Come on then, spit it out. I was desperate to phone you last night to hear your news but I knew that the flight was quite late and that you’d probably rather catch up on sleep than talk to me.”

“Well, yes – and no,” Katie said. “ I did want to speak to you, but thought that my shrieks of excitement might wake the kids.”

“Shrieks of excitement, hey? Handing in your notice, hey? This can only mean that the French dream is becoming a reality. You’ve found the perfect house?”

Another huge grin split Katie’s face. She nodded, her eyes shining.

“We saw the house on 30th, put in an offer on 31st, waited desperately to hear if it had been accepted and hours before the flight yesterday we heard it had been accepted! As long as everything goes according to plan we should be ready to move out there at the beginning of May. I can’t believe it!”

“So your New Millennium really is going to be brand new and sparkly! I will miss you so much but I am thrilled for you and Rob. Look, it’s just gone twelve – Martin, please can we take an early and slightly elongated lunch break. We’ve got loads of gossip to do. And I’ll stay later this afternoon – honest!” Beth’s disarming grin somehow helped Martin to forget the fact that she needed to leave at five o’clock on the dot every evening in order to collect her children from their After School Club“

“Go on then. Have a drink for me – I’ve got a meeting with David Gambol that I can’t get out of. Some of us need to work even if you don’t.”

The two women grabbed their handbags and headed for the coat rack. As Beth wound her chenille scarf round her neck she suddenly paused and looked at her friend.

“You are sure, aren’t you? It’s not a spur of the moment, mad people off the TV kind of act, is it?”

Katie faltered for only a moment.

“Oh come on, Beth. You know we’ve wanted to do this for years.”

Thinking back to the hours Katie had spent surfing the Internet looking at French estate agents’ sites, to the investment of time and money in language lessons with a chic French woman, whose ferocity over correct pronunciation had even caused her friend to have nightmares, Beth could only agree.

“OK, then. Sorry. Not mad people from off the TV. You have prepared for this, you have actually visited France –“

“Once or twice,” agreed Katie, mentally reviewing the twenty or so holidays across the channel with and without her fiancé Rob, learning to love the French way of life, the lack of stress, the joie de vivre; weeks spent sizing up different regions, wondering whether that old ruin would be their dream home, or whether this boulangerie would become their local baker.

“I just worry that, oh, I don’t know, that it’ll all go wrong, that you’ll come back in a couple of years, disillusioned and hating yourself for getting it wrong.”

“I won’t. I promise. I am so committed to this. I love France and I really want to live there.”
Beth wasn’t oblivious to the fact that Katie had neglected to mention Rob’s enthusiasm for the project, but didn’t say anything at that moment.

“ Come on, Beth,” Katie continued, “be happy for me; I can’t celebrate if you’re sitting there with a glum face, worrying that it’s going to be a miserable failure. Consider the up side – you won’t ever have to pay for holiday accommodation again!”

“Well, if you put it that way, it’s worth celebrating! Let’s get going, the first drink’s on me!”

First Page: Unpublished Manuscript – contemporary romance

First Page: Unpublished Manuscript – contemporary romance

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

“Now?” One of the porters yelled to the driver behind the wheel of the jeep.

“Nope! Nothing!” The driver yelled back. Samir couldn’t understand why they were yelling. The desert was deathly silent, a vast sea of salt plains without sounds of life for miles around. The pale moon hung low in the sky, a bright light source that bounced off the salt marsh and rendered their lamps and torches irrelevant.

The whine of the engine cut across the plain as the driver tried yet again to start up the jeep. What a fucking disaster, Samir thought. Their convoy of two jeeps and a Prado was stuck in the middle of nowhere. There was no cell coverage so they couldn’t call anyone, and while one jeep had stalled and refused to start up, the other one had a flat tire and no spare. The Prado was fine, but they were a group of fourteen people and they couldn’t all fit in one SUV, no matter how luxurious it was. He’d have to send someone back to Mithi and have them bring back a spare tire and a mechanic.

Samir surveyed the group of people scattered around the Prado. He should probably send a few of the ‘guests’ along as well. As many as will fit in the Prado. But who goes? Older guests first, then the goras, have to keep them happy. Zulqarnain needs their money. That’s seven people right there. Seven plus the driver—they could squeeze in, he thought. It was a three-hour drive back to Mithi but the seats in the Prado were fantastic, the shock absorbers as phenomenal.

Behind him, the porter and the driver were still at it. He marveled at their patience. He’d have given up on the damn jeep thirty minutes ago. His gaze swept over the remaining three guests—a young college kid, interning with their organization for the summer, and two women. Zulqarnain’s friends along for the thrill of being able to tell their high society cronies that they were doing ‘charity’ work.

He’d met them all for the first time less than six hours ago. They’d arrived in Mithi the night before and it was his job to ensure they got to Nagarparkar without incident. He didn’t remember their names, nor was he interested in learning about them, except for her.

She definitely did not belong in the desert. She was elegant, casual and the epitome of an elitist bitch. She barely looked at him, or at any of the staff working in Mithi, but everyone had taken a second glance at her including him, albeit reluctantly. Her hair was shiny, her skin smooth. Her hands were perfectly manicured and it looked like she’d just stepped out of a beauty salon. What the fuck was she doing in the middle of nowhere?

Yeah, she’s definitely staying, thought Samir. A night in the desert without a hairdresser or manicurist would take her down a peg or two.

“Listen up.” Samir raised his voice as he strode towards the stragglers. “I’m sending a few of you back to Mithi along with Nasir Jan here. He’s going to bring back a mechanic and some supplies for us.” There was an immediate clamor from the group.

“Some of us?”

“Go back???”

“Why not all of us?” Donald was a stuffy older man, prim in appearance, fastidious in his actions. He had regretted coming on this trip the moment he had left Hyderabad. He’d envisioned a smooth highway to Mithi, a comfortable trip with a view of the desert on either side. Nothing, so far, had gone as expected. One day into the expedition and he was ready to go home. He was sure he wouldn’t be included in the convoy back to Mithi. Surely this he-man would be sending the women back first?

“Because I can’t fit twelve of you into the Prado. I’m good, but not that good.” Samir’s voice was dry.