When I started writing HH1&2, I had two characters in mind: Nat Fraser, a stoic (and, okay, hot) red-head. The other was Brian Black, who you’ll get a taste of in this excerpt. I really enjoy writing low-life characters, and any time Brian has found his way into a scene, it’s been so much fun.
This excerpt is told from the perspective of Johanna Cochrin, our heroine.
Eventually the stairs stop and I’m left with a decision: Left or right. I choose left. We walk a ways until we come to another door. It’s cracked open, and I can see faint light coming from it. Not only that, but I can smell smoke. Cigarettes.
The smell hits me like a train. My grandfather smoked. Smokes, assuming he’s still alive. Stubborn as a mule, he’ll keep smoking until it kills him. And then he’ll stare down Lucifer himself until he decides to let the bastard smoke in hell.
I peek through the crack. The room is strange – part rock, part glass. The glass is stretched across the ceiling, and in the dim light I can make out what must be stars. Steps go up to the glass, steps that look like they may have been made out of old school desks. Perched upon one of the topmost steps is a man. He’s fat. Not heavy-set, not brawny, but straight-up fat. Greasy black hair tops his head in a way that suggests an allergy to combs; his eyes are framed with heavy black glasses. And he’s smoking. Not simply smoking, but making love to the cigarette between his lips – drawing in the smoke like a lover and exhaling it with the relish of a man well-acquainted with bliss. He blows the smoke upward, and I realize there’s a window open. Fresh air to be had and this goon is smoking. Idiot.
“You know, it’s rude to stare.”
The nasal, tenor pitch of his tone takes me by surprise. I step back into the dark hallway and freeze.
“I can hear you. I know you’re there. I’m not an idiot.”
Shit. It’s like he’s reading my thoughts. Deciding he’s harmless – I could outrun this guy doing the hula if I had to – I push the door open and step inside.
“I smoke after everybody else goes to bed. Fewer lectures that way. Want one?” He holds a pack out to me, gesturing for me to take. I shake my head no.
“You’re the new girl, eh?” His gaze finally turns down on me – beady blue eyes amplified by those thick lenses. “The one Nat just had to go rescue.” He waits for me to answer, but as usual, I give none. He snorts. “Talkative little thing.”
I hate it when people refer to me as little.
He draws in another deep drag, then continues. “I know who you are. Bill Cochrin’s pretty little sister. Very much like your brother. He was a pretty little thing, too.”
My whole body goes rigid. In the space of a few sentences I’ve decided I hate this man.