Wednesday’s Work in Progress: Hel’s Belle

A Strangely Beautiful Conversation with Leanna Renee Hieber
August 25, 2009
Book Review: Hunting Ground
August 27, 2009

I’m officially past the halfway mark in Hel’s Belle and what started out as an exciting story to me is just getting better and better. I literally find myself working on it all the time, the story is churning out faster than I can type. No complaints here at all! Because I’m so obsessed with the writing, it distracted me a little from the blog – so I thought I would share with you my own work in progress today.

One of the best things about writing is getting into the heads of your characters and holding on for a wild ride. I used to work with horses and writing is a lot like working with equines. Some are sweet, even tempered and pleasant. They deliver you your word count at a sedate, but comfortable pace. Some are stubborn and recalcitrant and won’t cooperate no matter how many times you delete and rewrite. Still others were born to fly and will race you along the paths of the story, leaping obstacles with powerful legs and all you can do is hold on for the ride.

I can’t tell you which of these is best because like the horses I am comparing the writing too, I love all of them. What you’re about to read began as a gentle, sedate ride through the countryside of my imagination, but then someone let out the hounds and we were off to the races.

I hope you enjoy the first few pages of Hel’s Belle.

The Past is Prologue

“Venti half café, non fat, with whip, peppermint mocha.” Billy announced while pressing the hot cup of coffee in to Cassie’s hands. She nodded absently, watching the scene being set as camera men got into position and light meters were being tested. The podium stood forlorn in the sea of cables, camera men and reporters. Some of those reporters were checking their makeup and others were catching a quick smoke away from the thick of the crowd. Cassie’s nose wrinkled faintly as the crisp smell of burning tobacco brushed her nose.

“You don’t want one.” Billy assured her automatically as he flipped open a notebook. “Press conference starts in thirty minutes. Our guests of honor are preparing in the Park House. The caterers prepared the fruit and cheese table with wine and left it to your exact specifications. They will not be disturbed. Security is in place and ready to escort them before and after the press conference.” Billy’s pen scratched against the paper as he made a notation. “Jasmine called and rebooked your appointment with the Governor from two to five p.m. She also said it might be pushed off again.”

“It won’t.” Cassie murmured and took a sip of the dark chocolate and peppermint confection. Drinking a liquid York Peppermint Patty soothed her nerves. Everything was ready. Weeks of planning would shortly come to fruition. “In fact, keep my afternoon clear; I expect the Governor will be bumping me up by lunch time.”

“I ordered a tray of cold sandwiches and water to be stored in the car. If he does move the meeting up, you can eat on the way.” Billy made another notation. “Michael called. …”

“I don’t have time for Michael today.” Cassie tilted her head and glanced up at the sky. The clouds didn’t threaten rain, but the dark gray offered a gloomy feel to the conference. Thirty minutes to go and no sign of the promised sunshine.

“I told him you would return his call sometime next week.”

“I am sure he didn’t like that.”

“No ma’am. He didn’t.”

Cassie’s lips turned upwards at what Billy wasn’t saying. Michael found it infuriating when she pushed him off. “Don’t worry about Michael, Billy. He’ll huff and he’ll puff and if you just put him on ignore until he’s done, you can remind him that I choose my own clients, not the other way around.” For three years, Billy worked as her executive assistant. Cassie hired him the day he graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s in Communication.

“Yes, ma’am.” Billy voice betrayed little humor as he snapped shut the notebook and picked up her briefcase. He gave her figure the once over with a professional discerning eye.

She knew what he saw. She knew what everyone saw. Thick reddish-brown hair, pulled back in a single pony tail looked neat and businesslike. A crisp Donna Karen suit which almost matched her hair color and low-heeled pumps dyed to match. She wore a pair of simple diamond studs at the ears and a pair of darkly colored black eye-jackets.

“Shall I head down and double check the microphones?”

“Thank you, Billy.” Cassie turned away from surveying the crowd to give him a fast, genuine grin. “I’m going to take my ten with coffee.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Billy strode away, his long, lanky legs eating up the distance between the parking lot and the bandstand where the announcement would take place. Grant Park’s Clarence Buckingham fountain sprayed in the distance and Cassie turned her attention to the flowing pattern of the water. She could feel the heat of the unexposed sun on her face. If the sun actually came out from behind the clouds as she’d been promised, it would be a gorgeous, warm spring day after a terrifically brutal winter.

The sound of the water replaced the distant chattering of the press corps. The corner of her mouth quirked upwards as she imagined all those voices to be more like geese and water fowl than journalists waiting to hear what a wealthy donation to the Arts could purchase for a press conference. Initially she planned the conference for the steps to the museum, but the clients preferred the open space of the park with Lake Michigan spread out in the distance.

Another sip of the mocha and her nerves settled. Everything in place. Billy doing last moment checks and her watch vibrating a small alarm. She opened her eyes to look down at the dial face before pressing the alarm off. She would walk down and in five minutes begin her opening remarks. Skin flushing, Cassie took a deep breath and buried her nervousness under the veil of professionalism. In a few short minutes, she was going to be at the center of a news story that would cascade throughout the nation and eventually the world.

Heady stuff.

Tipping the mocha cup back, she drained down the peppermint and chocolaty sweetness. Touching a finger to make sure the corners of her mouth were clean, she disposed of the cup into a trash can. Her gaze found Billy on the bandstand. Cassie smiled at his thumbs up.

The image seemed scorched on her mind’s eye as the detonation picked her up off the ground and flung her like rag doll. Paper floated down, she wondered why anyone would throw that much paper in the air?

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