This week's challenge affords 450 words to introduce a romantic element into a storyline. A quick way to liven up a plot, a romantic interest can provide a way to further character development. It can up the stakes for a protagonist in a suspenseful thriller or it can be a train wreck waiting to happen for star-crossed lovers.
This week I give you a snippet from my YA work-in-progress titled Catalyst. While Catalyst is from the viewpoint of Emma Baker, a freshman in high-school, this post is centered around her mother.
I offer the following in response: Inquiry
Jack allowed a moment to pass while his eyes adjusted to the light of the bar. A Wednesday night, the crowd was slight as expected and hushed as he meandered through the tables. He made eye contact with the bartender, who flashed him a tired smile. “What’s your poison?” she asked, cheerily.
“Club soda,” he said, acquiring a bar-stool at the vacant end where he could keep an eye on the door.
She reached for a glass, smile fading. “You workin’ tonight, Officer?”
“Depends,” he replied, grinning. “Jack Sutter, US Marshals Service.”
She accepted his offer of a handshake, hesitantly, “Arizona.”
“Can I ask you something?”
Her eyes narrowed, “I’m a single mom of two teenaged girls. I don’t date strangers I meet in bars.”
He looked at her again, this time paying attention to her features. She was certainly attractive; blonde hair tucked into a twist and a faint crinkle in the corner of her blue eyes. He sensed a strength within her that intrigued him. “Not the question, but good to know.”
She blushed as she delivered his soda. “I’m sorry. You must think I’m stuck-up now. It’s just, working here, I get hit on. A lot.”
He glanced at the patrons. Most belonged to the chain of motorcycles parked along the side of the building. Black leather, spikes, and chains littered the room. Everyone seemed covertly trained on him, ready to protect their bartender. “If I didn’t think they’d rework my face, I’d be tempted,” he said honestly. “And since the only thing I’ve got going for me is my stunning good looks, I’ll have to hold off on the pick-up lines.”
She laughed brightly and the tension in the room eased. “They make this job worthwhile. They look out for me; keep me safe.”
He retrieved a picture from his pocket. “You know this man?”
She blanched and fussed with the condiments behind the bar. “He in trouble?” she asked timidly.
“I’m just looking to ask him some questions,” he assured her.
“Ol' Coop comes in on Thursdays and Fridays and takes up real estate on the far pool table,” she gestured towards the back. “I don’t know much about him. The guys might but they’ll be reluctant to talk to you.”
“In that case, I’m not working tonight. I’ll have a bourbon neat.” He polished off his club soda while she pulled a bottle from the shelf. “And your phone number.”
She blushed again, “Single mom of two teenaged girls and a bar full of bikers didn’t scare you off?”
“Just thought I’d arrange a meeting at a coffee shop,” he said, winking. “That way, you didn’t meet me in a bar.”