A while back, I answered an ad for a company that was starting a line of “choose your own adventure” style romance stories. While romance isn’t my forte, it seemed like a cool concept so I decided to take a stab at it. Though I sent in my entry in July of last year, I never heard back. I don’t know whether my writing wasn’t good enough, or if they just had filled their need before I entered, but I thought my first and only attempt at writing romance should get some air time, so I’ve reproduced it below.
The task was to write in second person (“you do this, you do that”), to stay under 2500 words, to make it to the first place where the reader would have to make a choice, and to get at least one paragraph in to each branch of the first choice.
Please enjoy — whether that means reading because you really like this type of story, or just laughing at my attempt. 🙂
You roll over, and his warm body is still there. Running your hands gently down his back, you feel him give a small shudder of awareness. Now that you know he’s awake, you gently kiss his shoulder, asking a question with silent lips. When he starts to turn, you feel your body warming up in anticipation, particularly when his hand slides down your thigh. Just as he is turning his face to yours, but before you can make out any distinct features, you are interrupted by a loud ringing.
You open your eyes and realize that you’ve just been dragged out of a very pleasant dream. If it weren’t for your phone ringing, you would have had a few more minutes of blissful sleep, and your body might not be aching so much for something that just isn’t going to happen this morning. Damn.
With no time to luxuriate in the afterimages of a hard body and soft eyes, you hardly have a moment to wonder who the mystery man in your dream was before you quickly check the screen and see that it’s your boss calling. As the Executive Admin to Shawn Whittington, the CEO of a small, but growing, international company, you have grown used to calls at strange hours. Shawn doesn’t call for personal reasons, so you know he probably needs you to do something before you get to the office. “Hello?” you say, trying to sound like you weren’t just pulled out of dreamland.
“Kelly. I hope I didn’t wake you?” His voice is deep, and you always find it soothing. You have to concentrate to not fall back to sleep.
“No, no. Of course not,” you lie, hoping that you don’t sound too tired. Or annoyed, given that you were just about to get intimate with your dream man. Scrubbing a weary hand over your face you ask, “what can I do for you?”
“I need you to pick up coffee on the way to the office for the board meeting this morning.” He sounds almost apologetic.
“Of course,” you say. You can’t understand why Shawn can’t just pick up coffee himself, but of course that’s why he pays you so well. “Any special orders?”
“The usual. It’s just the eight of us this morning,” he says.
Great. You were pulled out of your amazing dream to get eight specialized coffees because you work for a bunch of prima donnas, half of whom need half decaf, and the other half of whom will only take soy. “I’ll have those in the conference room by the time you’re in this morning,” you say, gritting your teeth to keep yourself from groaning in frustration. It’s lucky you keep a spreadsheet of the executive board’s current dietary habits.
“Thanks.” he says. It feels like he hesitates a moment. His voice softens as if he’s going to say something meant for your ears alone. He starts to say, “Kelly…” but before you can ask if there’s anything else he ends lamely with, “thanks a lot,” and hangs up.
What could he have been about to say? It was almost like he was going to ask you an intimate question, or confess a dark secret. But it’s just Shawn, who is both 10 years older than you and your boss, so that can’t possibly have been it. Can it?
You picture Shawn’s classically handsome face. His coal dark hair that’s tousled just enough to look like it wasn’t done on purpose, and chocolate brown eyes that you could melt in… Your dream must have affected you more than you thought if you’re thinking about Shawn this way. You’ve got to pull it together.
You glance at the clock. You’re tempted to close your eyes and try to conjure up the vision of dream man once more, but now that you have to stop and get coffees you need to get up right away. Taking just one more minute to wonder whose face you would have seen if he’d had time to turn around, you sigh and get up to head to the shower.
You rush into the office, late again. Stopping for all of the coffees for the executive team is a real chore, particularly since you’ve got to juggle your purse and the cardboard containers stacked on top of each other, all without spilling on your dress. Sherry, the receptionist, frowns at you as you try to sneak past. Given the look on her face, you’re surprised she hasn’t actually burst into flames. This thought is so funny, that you have to hold in a giggle until you make it past the harpy.
As you head to your desk and your grimace becomes the giggle you’ve been trying to suppress, you accidentally catch the eye of Jeremy, one of the newest additions to the company, heading the other direction down the hall. His look of confusion quickly turns into a twinkle in his eye as he realizes that you’re stifling a giggle.
Amazingly, he stops and says, “Kelly, right? May I help you carry those?”
For a moment, you’re totally flustered. First, you had no idea he knew your name. Second, he’s so incredibly handsome. You look directly into his dark blue eyes and you’re suddenly transported back to your dream. You realize you’re blushing furiously, and try to cover it by looking down at your full hands.
“Thank you, but I’ve got it,” you mumble.
“Really, it’s no trouble,” he says, taking the coffees out of your hands. “To the conference room?” he asks.
You nod and follow, your brain still reeling too much to say anything else. “Get it under control,” you think. And then, “stupid dream.” Walking behind him is a treat, though, as you get to see his amazing body. With those broad shoulders, narrow waist, and firm butt, he must work out. You almost ask out loud, but think better of it. Imagining what he’d say if he caught you staring makes you giggle again, but you hold it down, which causes you to burst into hiccups.
Arriving at the conference room, he asks, “right on the table?”
You really have to get control of your thoughts, because for a moment you think he’s asking whether you want to do something else on the table. By the time you realize he means the coffee, you are blushing again, and your hiccups are worse. “>hic< Yes, set them right on the >hic< table, please,” you say.
He leans down to set the coffee on the table, his golden-bronze hair glinting in the halogen lighting, giving you a heart-stopping view of the exact part of his anatomy you’d just been admiring. When he straightens up and turns to face you, the twinkle is back.
You feel completely stupid, and before you can stop yourself you snap, “what?! >hic<”
His grin widens and he says, “your hiccups are really cute.”
Before you can say another word, he’s headed back out to the hallway to continue whatever he’d been about to do before he stopped to act as your fetch boy. You start to wonder if you’ve had him pegged all wrong…
At the end of the day, after taking meeting notes, planning lunch, and putting out all of the fires that come up in a normal day for an Executive Admin, you’re ready to crawl into bed with a good book. Just as you’re getting ready to go, Jeremy walks up.
“A bunch of us are going out for drinks around the corner after work. Interested?” He looks at you expectantly.
You can’t really believe he’s asking you to go out. Yes, it’s with a group, but you are still definitely interested. You look up into his dark blue eyes and say, “I’d love to go. Where do you want me?” Oops! “I mean, where do I meet everyone?” you say, hoping he didn’t notice your slip, but blushing furiously when his smile widens.
Too much of a gentleman to bring attention to your embarrassment, he merely gives you the details and says, “see you in a half hour.” He begins to turn away, but turns back to say, “we’d better exchange phone numbers in case something happens…?”
Is he asking for your phone number? Your heart is pounding as you give him your number, and he takes your phone to put his number in. He smiles again before heading back to his office, and your stomach feels fluttery.
You duck into your boss’s office to make sure he doesn’t need anything, but the smile on your face fades when you see his head down on his desk. Tentatively, you say, “sir?” And then, when that feels too formal, you walk right up to his desk and say, “Shawn?”
He lifts his head and you can see that his eyes are red. “A hard day.” He tries to smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.
“Is there anything I can do?” you ask, feeling helpless, but wanting to be supportive of a man who has been a great boss to you for many years, and who is obviously unhappy. Suddenly, you remember what day it is.
He obviously sees the realization cross your face, because he grimaces. If you thought he would have wanted you to, you’d have had flowers on his desk, but you know him well enough to know he isn’t the type to want to commemorate the first anniversary of his wife’s death. If anything, he’d be the kind to want to forget it.
Trying another tack, you smile and say, “let me get you something to drink. I just restocked the break room fridge with the smoothies you like…”
He shakes his head as he says, “I could really go for something a little more…”
“There are some people going out for an after work drink…” you begin, but stop when you see the look on his face. He doesn’t want company right now, and a noisy bar is probably the last place he wants to be, but he also shouldn’t be alone.
“I’ll be fine, really,” he says. He smiles a real smile this time, and your heart clenches at the thought of this sweet man sitting by himself, thinking about a wife whom he loved, and whom he’ll never see again.
Before you give yourself time to think, you say, “I could stay.” He looks a little bit taken aback, but also a little bit hopeful.
“I wouldn’t want to impose,” he says firmly, but his brown, melted chocolate eyes seem to be saying something else.
Do you keep your date with Jeremy, even though it’s not really a date? He could definitely be your dream man, but you’re not sure that he thinks of you that way. He’s always been kind, and he did seem like he was flirting this morning…
Or do you stay and help your boss, who is certainly hurting for company and a shoulder to cry on. Yes, he’s your boss, but he is absolutely delicious to look at, smart, funny, and he needs someone. Could that be you?
Either way, your evening just got a lot more interesting.
[if you choose to go to the bar with Jeremy]
“You’re right sir,” you say. What were you even thinking a moment ago? A fifteen-year age difference, and he’s your boss. It’s a good thing you came to your senses.
“There’s probably someone better suited to… Is there someone I could call?”
“No, Kelly,” he says, “I think it’s best if I just go home. Thanks for doing another great job today.”
“And you’re sure you won’t join us at the bar?” you ask, mostly to be kind. He knows as well as you do that no one really wants the boss to come along.
“I’m sure,” he says, smiling a genuine smile. “Go on. Have fun.”
You smile back, then head to the door, anticipating seeing Jeremy again.
[if you choose to stay with Shawn]
“Of course I’m going to stay,” you say.
With a look of relief that he can’t quite hide, Shawn reaches down and pulls a bottle of scotch and two glasses out of his bottom desk drawer. At your raised eyebrows, he looks a little bit sheepish and says, “care for a drink?”
Not really expecting an answer, you grin and say, “do you always keep that in there?” Then, remembering Jeremy, you say, “I’ll be right back,” and head out into the hall to make a quick call.