In April and May 2011, Peg Phifer hosted a romantic suspense scene contest. With 8 contestants, we each submitted our stories and she ran 2 per week and readers voted on their favorite story.
There was a catch, however, we each had to write a scene using these guidelines:
PURPLE SHADOWS Romantic Suspense Rules
- Must use PURPLE SHADOWS title
- Must mention “purple” or shade thereof
- Character overhears conversation not meant to be heard
- In a place character had no business being
- Character has been seen . . . must escape
- Must get overheard information to . . . someone
- It is getting dark
I won first place with 133 out of 310 votes. Here is my story:
Purple Shadows by Sheri Salatin
This was not good. Not good at all.
Ashley Breeden rushed toward the double doors of the hotel bar bumping into a pair of lovebirds on the way out.
“Hey, watch where you’re going.” The man’s arms snaked around the waist of a seedy blonde wearing a strapless tube top. The pungent scent of alcohol emanated off his breath, smacked her in the face.
Be quiet, they’ll notice me!
She mumbled a quick, “Sorry, excuse me.”
She glanced back over her shoulder. Her eyes met Leah’s. She cursed under her breath. Run! Her high heels pounded out a rhythm matching the speed of her racing heart.
“Hey, you! Come back here!” It was him.
She remembered his cold hands clamped like a vice around her neck; his whispered words taunting her. He was the purple shadow.
Here he came with Leah Connor, esteemed police detective close on his heels.
Her breathing tripled as she slammed into the lobby doors at full speed. One of her flimsy heels popped off her foot and stuck in the door. She paused for a moment to retrieve it. No time, Leah and the shadow were seconds behind.
“Ashley, stop. We just want to talk to you.” Leah called out.
Not on your life. Miss honorary detective, my foot!
Kicking off the other heel, Ashley ran barefoot across the gloomy parking lot. Keys! Where were her keys? She ducked behind a black corvette and peeked through the tinted windows. Had they seen her?
They were scouring the parking lot. Leah’s dark purple dress blended with the shadows of the still summer night. Her choice of color was appropriate considering her company for the evening.
Bile rose to the back of Ashley’s throat.
Betrayed! She thought Leah was her friend. The only one who was doggedly focused on her case— and the many others just like Ashley’s. Only she had lived to tell her story. So much for loyalty and empathy.
Tears burned her eyes and she struggled to shove the images of that vile night back before it rendered her paralyzed again.
She tried to still her beating heart. She panted hard, worried they would hear her over the fountain in the courtyard. The evening air was sickening sweet with lilacs and honeysuckle blossoms mingling with a trace of sulfur from a thunderstorm brewing in the distance.
Fortunately it was dusk and she could use the shadows to hide. She slid down the side of the car, the heated asphalt burning her legs. Her keys were still in the bar. Stupid.
What had she been doing in there anyway? One little argument with her dad and she was back to hitting what she knew best. Alcohol was not the answer.
She had made a commitment to her fiancé Dave never to touch the foul stuff again. Even more importantly, she’d made the promise to God. She’d broken her vow. Tears threatened to well up in her throat and she swallowed a hard lump. Why did life have to be so complicated?
All she wanted was a nice house with a little white picket fence. But the Purple Shadow had seen to ripping all her dreams to tiny shreds. She was spoiled goods.
Ashley wiped the tears from her eyes.
Until Dave. He knew about her past, the alcohol, the tragedy, and her troubled home life and he still loved her. Her knight in shining armor. Her hero. How would she ever explain all of this to him?
She rubbed her face with her palms.
Footsteps sounded on the other side of the car. A door opened and the motor started.
She needed a new place to hide and fast.
She eyed the convenience store with gas pumps, across the street. If she could make it there without being seen, she could call Dave from the pay phone. She’d lock herself in the bathroom until he came.
Police were out of the question. Leah’s part in this assured that. It all made sense now. Leah was feeding the information straight to the purple shadow.
The engine whined as it shifted into gear. Ashley crawled forward and sandwiched herself between two cars.
She had to tell someone. Get help. But who would believe her –a recovered alcoholic— over Leah, the financially successful, influential woman of high moral standing?
They’d think she’d been drinking. Again. She’d thought about it. She’d ached for a swallow. Burning liquid lighting a fire in her stomach, soothing. If she was thinking about it, was it the same as actually doing it in God’s eyes?
Remorse washed through her body.
Another quick peek, Leah and the man were on the other side of the parking lot. She jumped up and sprinted across the street. Traffic was light this time of night. Thank you, God!
She made it to the side of the station and rested against the brick wall. Still no sign of her pursuers. She let out a breath.
No pay phone. Duh, of course not. Her cell phone was sitting next to her keys. She scanned the area one more time and slipped into the store. The attendant let her make the call from there. Dave answered on the third ring and she quickly told him where she was, leaving out as many of the sordid details as possible.
She scurried to the station bathroom outside and waited for his rescue. He hadn’t even asked what number she was calling from or what she was doing on this side of town. In his calm voice, he’d said, “I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
Twenty minutes was an eternity.
She tiptoed to the door, unlocked it and peeked out. No sign of Leah or the purple shadow. What had Leah called the creep? Brian? Brainerd? Something like that. His name didn’t matter because his face was etched into her mind like a tattoo. If only she could do a line up. Yeah, fat chance of that.
Dave’s bright blue Toyota pulled up to gas pumps and he honked once. Ashley scanned the parking lot across the street once more and dashed for his car, dropping the bathroom key on the ground outside the door.
She dove into the passenger seat and grabbed for the seatbelt.
“Drive, Dave. Go, go, go,” she shrieked. Why did he have to always be calm?
“You want to tell me what’s going on?” He put the car into gear and barely tapped the gas pedal. The coast was clear behind them, but for how long?
“I want to go home. Can you please just take me home?”
“What about your car?”
“I’ll come back for it later.” Even with her keys, she couldn’t drive right now if her life depended on it. And it did.
Silence hung in the air like a heavy blanket on their way to her apartment. Dave kept eyeing her. Finally he reached his hand across the middle consul, and took hers. He squeezed her fingers
“Hey, it’s okay. I’m here for you.” The soft timber in his voice was her undoing. She loosed the torrent of pent up tears.
Dave pulled off the road into a diner. The neon lights flashed “Burgers and Fries all night long”. He stretched across and pulled her into his warm embrace, his aftershave softly comforting her ringing senses. She let her head rest against his chest, steadying herself with the beat of his heart. She was safe in the arms of the man she loved. He kissed her forehead and ran his hands up her back. Soothing.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay. I love you, Ash. I’m glad you called me. You know that you can count on me to be here for you. Always.” He wiped the tears from her cheeks with his thumb and lifted her face to his.
She leaned forward to return his kiss when a thought slapped her brain.
They knew where she lived.