Liam J Cross

If you’ve read about my services, or have heard of editing and never understood what it entailed, then this post will be ideal for you.

The following sample edit was one I carried out for Melissa Graham, a member over at A Writer’s Path Writers’ Club – where a 5,000 word sample edit of your work is one of many benefits. Melissa was a pleasure to work with and I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing her work. If you’d like to get your hands on a free sample edit, head over to the Writers’ Club and become a member.

If you’d like to get a full edit, head over to my services page, where full details can be found. Shoot me an email with any inquiries, proposals, and for further information regarding contracts and non-disclosure agreements.

Now, without further ado, here’s the edit:

 Name: Melissa Graham

Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

Title: Deny the Moon


 

Original:

Chapter 1

April 7th 2008, 4:18 p.m.

The trouble with trouble is that it’s one sneaky son-of-a-bitch. If it came at us with a flashing neon sign and a bullhorn, warning us to go the other way, I’d bet most people’s lives would have turned out completely different. Sadly, for many—and me especially—trouble comes when we least expect it and sometimes disguised as everything we think we want. My own brown-eyed, leather-clad flavor of  t-r-o-u-b-l-e could have come to me on a pale horse with a procession of trumpets and I’m pretty sure I’d be doomed just the same.

There were no horses, and no trumpets to speak of, but there was the deafening roar of ten or so bikes pulling into the field where my parents had parked our car.

I stared at the line of machines as we entered the fairgrounds, and imagined jumping on one and burning out of this city with middle fingers blazing. I envied how free the men and women looked. Free from what, I couldn’t say, but there was something in their ease of simply existing that seemed unchained and unobligated. I’d never felt so comfortable in my existence. I wondered what it would have felt like to fit in with my family the way the bikers appeared to fit with one another.

I was different than them, different than my sister. I didn’t know what made us that way, but I would never be on the same wavelength as the rest of them. It was a fact I’d started coming to grips with over the last few years.

The bikers, however, didn’t appear to have any problems connecting to one another. A pang of jealousy blew through me as I watched them. They were completely at ease with one another. No tension, no awkwardness. They just… were.

“You ride?”

His eyes, large, brown, and staring into me as if he knew my every secret, snared me the instant I spun around. An awkward thrill ran through me. The lighter, almost gold flecks in the sea of brown stole away all thoughts, leaving me silent and wondering at the twinkle of humor glittering in those eyes. I wondered what he found so funny, and then I realized it was probably the chick staring at him with her mouth gaping and tongue practically flopped onto the ground.

“Ah-I…” Suddenly very aware of my thin, awkward arms, I had no idea what to do with them. I shuffled my feet and moved between clasping my hands behind my back and laying them down at my sides before finally settling on crossing them in front of me.

He laughed, shoving his hands into his pockets, and looked out to the group in the distance. “It’s a thrill, you know. Nothing beats it. No job, no house, no money,” he said before giving me a sideways grin. “Not even great sex compares to the freedom of the road. Once you get that engine humming between your legs, I guarantee nothing’ll ever measure up.”

I could feel heat spreading over my cheeks. My hormones didn’t stand a chance with that visual, let alone coming from someone as gorgeous him. I wiped my hand across my cheek, as if that would help clear the blush from my skin, and tried for cool and casual.

“I’ve never ridden,” I confessed as he looked away from me, finally freeing me from the uncomfortable eye contact.

Only a few months shy of eighteen myself, he didn’t look to be more than a couple of years older than me; a hell of a lot younger than most of those guys across the lot. His hair was cut very short, especially on the sides. A little dip in the center of his chin peeked through the start of a goatee. Stubble spread across his jawline and halfway down his neck. Somehow he made it look insanely hot, rather than just plain dirty.

His eyes found me again, and I swallowed down the hard lump forming in my throat. I quickly looked at the ground, embarrassed to have been caught staring.

“That’s a shame. I bet you’d look hot on the back of a bike.” I imagined sitting behind him, my thighs wrapped around his hips as the bike vibrated under us. The imagery sent my tummy into somersaults. “Want to try it out?”

Yes, I shouted in my head. God, yes! A genuine smile stretched across my face, and I could feel the tension ease in my shoulders. Riding? With him? His hand stretched out for mine and he waited patiently for my answer. I opened my mouth to accept, excitement filling me and pushing out all rational thought.

“Harley!”

We both looked behind me, back toward the admission gate where my mom, dad, and sister were waiting on me. I hadn’t even realized I’d fallen that far behind, and it looked like they hadn’t either.

“Come on, sweetie,” my mother called through the moving crowd. “We got your ticket.”

She slid an arm around Lori’s shoulders and they turned to walk into the fair without waiting for me. I glanced back to the guy standing next to me, my smile long gone.

“Maybe another time,” he said quietly, still smiling.

He walked away from me, moving through the parked cars toward the bikes, and couldn’t decide if I wanted to scream or cry. I settled on wallowing in self-pity as I grudgingly caught up with my family.

The pull of the Simmons County Fair was one not many locals could resist. Fairway food, the thrum of electricity as it juiced the rides, and live music easing through every nook and cranny of the fairgrounds advertised fun, excitement, and some good ol’ family togetherness. Just think of the final number of Grease minus the “wop-baba-lumop and “a-wap-bam-boom. For me, it was a lot of noise and bodies. The fair always kicked off homecoming week for Simmons High, the school my sister and I went to, as some attempt to rouse school spirit. I was never really the spirited type, personally.

I followed my family with my hands shoved into my jean jacket in traditional teenage angsty fashion and kicked anything my high tops came across. Lori had mom and dad engaged in some enthusiastic conversation ahead of me and I just tried my best to keep up with them.

We’d been in the games area about three minutes when I heard the unmistakable squeal of my sister. I looked up and found them standing in front of the ring toss booth, Lori bouncing excitedly and showing dad an overstuffed Siberian Husky hanging from the awning. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the sheer childishness of it. She was eighteen, for God’s sake, and acted like an overstimulated two-year-old.

By that point, I knew we’d be stopping to appease the golden child of the Rayne household. Lorelei wants, Lorelei gets. Simple. At least with the rigged fairway games there was a chance she would leave disappointed. That simple hope of seeing Lori denied something she wanted kept me close enough to watch the show. I stayed to the side of the booth and waited to see if the fates had any sympathy for me at all.

Okay, so I was childish, too. Bite me.

Dad and Lori started their rampant attempt at the ring toss and mom cheered them on like a lunatic. They were the perfect picture of a happy family. Just fold me out of the photo and you have a bond that could rival the Cleavers.

“You know these games are rigged, right?”

I turned around to find those rich brown eyes and that dimpled chin. The air left my lungs in a violent rush. The guy from the parking lot was standing next to me, and he was still smiling at me. Did this guy ever not smile?

“Yeah.” I laughed nervously. “It’s stupid. My sister—she just has to have that dumb toy.”

He glanced at my family, who were still trying to catch a plastic ring around the neck of one of the beer bottles.

“I see. I bet it’d piss her off if you got it, instead,” he whispered, the corner of his mouth lifting a touch higher.

“Yeah, it probably would. But I suck at this stuff,” I said.

His laugh put me at ease, somehow.  It was weird how he could make me feel both relaxed and wound up at the same time. He didn’t say anything else, just pulled a five out of his pocket and slapped it on the counter in exchange for five plastic rings. It was effortless. His hand moved, he flicked his wrist, and each ring flew around a bottle. When all five rings settled around the bottleneck I just stared. It was like he didn’t even have to try.

“Winner here,” the guy manning the booth shouted. Another man plucked one of the Huskies from the hooks, handing it over.

He grabbed the stuffed monstrosity and tucked it under his arm, turning back to me. I chewed my lip, shifting my weight from side to side, and tried to think of something to say. I suddenly became one of those girls I often mocked, full of weak-kneed, heart-pound-y feelings.

“I’m Frank,” he said finally, breaking the tension. “Frank Essex.”

He held his hand out and waited for me to accept it. I smiled again and took his hand, giving it a firm shake. A warm jolt of electricity whispered over my hand as he gripped it, his heat creeping over me and chasing away the chill of the night breeze. I had never felt something so intense in my life.

His grin widened, and I couldn’t tell if it was because he’d felt it too or because I was now squirming nervously in his grip, stammering.

“Nice to meet you. I’m—”

“Harley. I remember,” he said with a smirk. “Not the sort of name a guy like me can forget.”

Heat flooded my cheeks again. I was acting like some lovesick puppy. Like all those girls I made fun of in school because their life’s mission was getting noticed by some boy.

“Also I just learned it like thirty minutes ago, so… that doesn’t hurt,” he teased. I chuckled and his grin widened. “So, you here with your mom?”

I eyed my family. Dad was the only one playing the game now. “Something like that,” I said under my breath as I rolled my eyes at them.

Frank followed my gaze and stared for a moment. No conversation, just… staring. Finally, he turned that grin to me once again and leaned down, lowering his mouth to meet my ear. “Your sister looks pissed,” he whispered with a chuckle, and I glanced at her.

Lori looked like an errant child ready to erupt into a tantrum. Apparently, dad had not managed to win her the Husky. He had his arm wrapped around her shoulders in a comforting half-hug, trying to smooth things over.

“Good,” I said, barely managing to suppress a giggle of satisfaction.

“Well, now. That’s not very sisterly of you,” Frank teased.

“I couldn’t give a shit less about her pissy attitude. Besides, it’s just a—” I turned my head to look at him only to have my train of thought completely derail. My face was suddenly very close to his.

This close, in the glow of the carnival lights, the flecks of gold and honey in his eyes sparkled. They bore into me like they were searching for something.

His face was serious, intense, and made me feel small. Or, at least, smaller than I already was. I couldn’t describe what I saw as he looked at me. I just knew that I fell into them, gladly, and everything around us seemed to vanish for one second. All sounds silenced, save for the thick beating of my heart. The carnival around us disappeared in a smoky haze, and all that was left was me, Frank, and the pulse drumming away in my ears.

“Harley.” A voice called in the distance, but I was captured by Frank’s smile as it stretched over his lips. “Harley!” This time the voice was crisper and everything flooded back in a crash of senses. It nearly knocked me on my ass.

I turned my head and blinked confused eyes over at the disembodied voice, until my father came into focus. He was standing closer to us now, his dark eyes narrowed at Frank. I hadn’t even seen him walk up to us.

“Huh?” I said as my brain fought its way out of the fog Frank had somehow put me in.

Dad merely stared at the boy next to me while mom and Lori stood just behind him whispering to one another. Something about my dad’s face had me unnerved. I looked over at Frank. Lips pressed into a hard line, muscles in the jaw flexing, eyes hard and unflinching, he matched my dad’s stare.

“Come on, Harley.” My mom spoke this time. “Time to go.”

“But we just got here,” I said. I actually didn’t want to leave, not when I just met Frank. “Can’t we just—”

“Now, Harley.” The booming insistence in my father’s voice startled me. My dad never raised his voice at any of us.

My spine stiffened. Why was he being like this? Usually I was the one wanting to go home while they dragged me around the fair for hours. We’d only just gotten here and they were ready to leave? And on top of it, he was acting weird. Almost mean.

I sighed and started to step away from Frank, almost wanting to cry. Freaking typical. Anytime Lori begged to do something, to stay longer, to get something, they were only too happy to ply her with everything she wanted. The one time I asked for something, they wouldn’t even listen.

“Hey,” Frank whispered behind me.

I turned around and stared at him, choking back the anger and the jealousy that threatened to spill out of my eyes. He held the stuffed Husky out to me, bumping its big snout into my arm, and smiled. “Just remember that she won’t always get everything.” This time he wasn’t as quiet.

I glanced at Lori. Her jaw was clenched, her nose flared as she stared at him. She looked like she was ready to tear him to pieces. Mom’s arm wrapped around her shoulder and pulled her closer. Maybe it was the sight of mom comforting Lori while I was being treated so unfairly that made me reach out and grab the Husky.

I didn’t think. I can honestly say that there was no planning or thinking when it came to what happened next. I simply reacted. While one hand grabbed the Husky from Frank, the other reached for his arm and pulled him down a little so I could reach his cheek. I kissed it, the scraggle of day-old-beard scratching my lips; I liked it.

I was suddenly jerked away, and I looked up to see dad towering over me, gripping my arm firmly. It didn’t hurt, but it was just this side of painful.

“Go to your mother. Now.” His voice wasn’t loud anymore. In fact, it had returned to its usual softness but there was a sternness to the words. I went. What else was I going to do?

My mother’s hand found my shoulder and pulled me between her and Lori, using her body to keep me from moving back in front of them.

If there was another word spoken between the four of them, I didn’t hear it. Mom was ushering me away, Lori was pretending to not look at the stuffed Husky in my arm. My lips were on fire. I knew it was from his stubble scratching them when I kissed him, but it felt like so much more. I brought my fingers to my lips, touching that residual heat and glanced back over my shoulder. Before my dad joined us and blocked him from view, I watched as Frank touched a hand to his cheek.

 

 

July 10th 2008, 10:12 p.m.

 

“Can we just run away?” I asked, nuzzling my head into the crook of his shoulder.

The stars stretched above us, shining down like a weighty promise that there was so much more to this world than school and a home where I barely felt wanted. Every time I looked up at the night sky I got the urge to run, to take off and leave everything behind. I craved adventure and freedom and I wasn’t going to find it sitting in my room listening to music.

Frank chuckled, and I watched his chest rise and fall with it.

“I’ve told you before, Harls. Say the word and we’re gone. No questions asked.”

It was the same promise he’d made me over and over again. Three months of me begging him to take me away from here and three months of me making excuses why I couldn’t go through with it. It seemed silly to say, but as much as my family pissed me off, and they did it often, something wouldn’t let me leave. I would be happier if I left, I told myself. So, what was holding me back?

“I know,” was all I could offer him.

He’d heard this time and again. At first he seemed excited at the idea of running off together. The more we discussed it, though, the less likely he seemed to think it was going to happen. It got to the point where stopped believing me.

I turned my head and pressed my lips to his tan chest, kissing it lightly. No sooner than I made that soft smooching sound, he sighed and sat up quickly. I spilled to the ground, still warm where he’d been lying, and looked up at him.

“What?” I asked as he snatched his shirt and pulled it over his head. His movements were rigid and quick.

He mumbled something that sounded like, “Don’t worry about it.”

I pushed myself up so I could lean on my arm and reached out to touch his back. He twisted away from me.

“Frank, what is it?” I asked again, sitting up a little straighter.

He twisted his upper body to look back at me, his eyes harder than normal. “Are you ever going to make up your mind?”

I hadn’t expected that.

“About what?” I asked, though I was pretty sure I knew.

“Don’t. Don’t play that game with me, Harley. You tell me, over and over, how much you want to be gone from here. I’ve told you more than once, in more than one way, how we can make that happen. And you pull away. Every time.” He loosed a laugh that sounded bitter and jagged. “I mean, I don’t think you really want to go. I don’t think you want to be with me at all.”

“That’s not fair. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be with you. I love you—”

“I’m leaving, Harley.”

His words were so sudden that I choked on my own. “Leaving?”

“Yeah. I’ll be gone by morning.”

We sat on the blanket he kept on the back of his bike, and let the silence weigh down on us. He was leaving? Just like that? A dull ache started in my heart just thinking about being left there without him. He was the only one I could talk to, the only one who understood me.

“Why?” I choked out. I wasn’t going to cry. Not for some guy who just told me he was going to leave me.

“Jesus.” He ran his hand over his hair and shook his head. “Look, I ain’t ever stuck around somewhere longer than a month or two, babe. I’m just not built to make roots. I stayed here for you.” His eyes softened a touch as he looked at me. “Come with me. For real.”

I shook my head and sighed. “I can’t. I want to, I do, but I just can’t take off like that. My parents would freak out.”

“Would they?” he asked sharply. “‘Cause, here, I thought they didn’t give a damn one way or the other. That’s what you keep bitching about, ain’t it? How you’re an afterthought to them? How Lori is everything and you’re just some consolation prize?”

I winced as he slung my own words at me. They hurt. Regardless of whether I had said them first, hearing it from someone else was like a knife in the heart. A cutting reminder of just how little I meant to mom and dad.

That was when the tears betrayed me.

He touched my cheek, smearing the salty traitors into my skin and lifting my chin up so he could look me in the eye. His words stung, but his eyes were a soothing balm.

“Please come with me, Harley. They might not want you, but I need you.”

My heart pounded. He needed me. Someone on this earth needed me, and he was right here holding me. He wanted me to run away with him. What could be so horrible about that? What was I leaving behind that could possibly measure up to what he offered me in that moment?

“Take me home,” I said, finally. His muscles tensed. He started to move his hand from my cheek, ready to give up, but I grabbed it and held it close. “And come pick me up in an hour. I need to pack a few things.”

 

July 11th 2008 9:57 a.m.

 

I’d never ridden so long on the back of a bike before. Hell, before Frank, I’d never ridden on a bike period. The last few months he’d pick me up, we’d ride around town, head out to the lake and back, but that was about it. There were no lengthy road trips, no rides that lasted longer than half an hour. It was definitely a much different experience being on the open road. Better in a lot of ways; Freeing, exhilarating… but it came with its own drawbacks.

My ass hurt. That was my first thought when I climbed off the back of his bike. The backs of my thighs were numb, and my spine screamed at me for the torture of sitting so rigid for so long. Frank had assured me it would pass, that with time my body would grow accustomed to the posture. My spine and I sure hoped he was right.

I looked up at the sign above the building. It was a simple white sign with “Curly’s” written in red and black, the wood peeling on the edges as if forgotten with time.

Frank’s hand found the small of my back, and I glanced at him. I looked into his black sunglasses and saw my reflection. I looked scared, ready to jump ship. My grey-blue eyes were wide and looking for comfort.

“Don’t worry,” he said pressing his lips to my forehead. “Just keep quiet until I can smooth things over.”

I blinked up at him. Smooth things over? With who? I didn’t get a chance to ask him what exactly he’d done before he led me into the bar. It was so much darker than it was outside, and my eyes took their sweet time adjusting to the new lighting.

He led me to a stool at the corner of the bar. I slid onto it and realized the bar was fairly empty. As big as it was, there were only about ten people inside, including the woman behind the bar. I also noticed they were all decked out in leathers and worn denim, chains, bandanas, vests, and buckles. He’d taken me to a biker bar. Why did that surprise me?

“Park here. I’ll be right back,” he said, and without waiting for an answer, walked away.

He moved toward the other end of the bar, and I just sat and watched him. There was nothing uncertain about him. He was all confidence. I envied it.

“Drink?” a woman asked.

I turned and saw the bartender staring at me from across the bar. Her face was unreadable and dismissive. I’d stupidly thought bartenders were friendly. Oops.

“No. I’m fine,” I said.

“Suit yourself.”

“Hey, who are they?” I asked, jerking my chin to the group of men Frank had joined. One clapped him on the shoulder as he stepped up to them, another stood behind a man seated on another stool. The man on the stool was much older and thicker around the middle than Frank, but the way the other men flanked him made him looked important.

“I wouldn’t get yourself too acquainted with anyone here, girl. You’ll probably be going back to mommy and daddy in a few minutes.”

I turned and blinked at her.

“I’m with Frank. Means I’m not going anywhere ’til I’m damn good and ready.” The words spilled out of me before I could stop myself. This chick was almost a foot taller than me and looked like she’d give me a thorough ass-kicking.

Sure enough, she was giving me a stare that looked like she was considering what would be best used to break my head. That was until a smile broke the empty nature of her face. She laughed her face to life. The smile managed to wipe years off her, and I breathed a little easier when I was sure the threat to my face was gone.

“Right,” she said and turned her back to me, grabbing a short rocks glass from the shelves. “The guy closest to Frank is Paulie. Then there’s D’Angelo standing behind the older one. Which brings us to Chuck. He’s the road captain of our little Club here; the Coyotes,” she finished as she sat a drink of some kind in front of me and leaned against the bar.

“Is this a ‘one-for-the-road’ type of thing?” I asked, grabbing the dark drink and sniffing it.

She shrugged, “Or a ‘Welcome to Hell’ type thing. I guess we’ll see.”

Her eyes slid back to the men, and I wrinkled my nose at the drink, setting it down. It was strong, whatever it was. I glanced at the guys, straining to catch their conversation. Suddenly, the older guy didn’t look very happy.

“Take the bitch home. You’re bringing trouble into our family. The fuck is wrong with you?”

“I’m not taking her back, Chuck. Sorry,” Frank said, sliding his sunglasses from his face and folding them.

“Are you really being this stupid? I mean…. even for you, Frank.” This from Paulie.

“It’s not a request or a suggestion, Frankie.”

“No,” Frank said, and his voice was a touch harder.

I felt small. For some reason, this guy had something against me being there. I didn’t even know the guy and he was trying to get me the hell away from them. The room grew hotter as the men argued. Like someone had kicked the heat on full blast. It was almost suffocating.

“Don’t be an idiot. When have you ever got strung up by some bitch? Now this skinny little skank has your panties all knotted up?” Chuck all but screamed the last, and I couldn’t help but wince. That was a bit harsh. The asshole didn’t even know me.

I watched Frank. I was curious how he’d react to that. It was obvious he looked up to this guy. He’d told me about him, back before I had a face to match to the name. If all the people he talked about were this charming, I was in for a peachy friggin’ time.

Frank’s back stiffened under his leather vest. I couldn’t see his face but I could see how rigid the rest of him became. His shoulders squared back, and he seemed to grow an inch or two taller.

“Chuck, we been through hell together. I’ve had your back in some hard situations,” he said, his hands flexing at his sides before balling into tight fists. “But if you call her out of her name one more time, I’ll feed you the floor.”

The bartender whispered something under her breath and I made the mistake of looking at her. By the time I snapped my attention back to the men, Frank was nowhere to be seen.

Chuck was on his feet now, and I could see that he was a great deal shorter than Frank. He barely gained inches standing up from his stool. Paulie had his arms raised, his hands laced over the top of his head and his eyes closed tight, but D’Angelo was actually… smiling.

When I caught sight of Frank, he was propping himself up on one elbow on the floor, his hand rubbing his jaw.

“She’s your problem, Frankie. Her blood comes hunting for her then you’re on your own with it,” Chuck said as he reached a hand down to Frank. It took a minute, but he finally accepted the help and let Chuck pull him to his feet. Not that he needed the help.

“Yeah, I got it,” Frank said.

Before he could step away, Chuck jerked his hand closer to him and grasped his other elbow in some strange half-hug. “You’re a beast. A damn good man to have at my back and I’ll walk through fire for you,” Chuck’s voice dropped down a touch, “but if you ever buck up in front of our brothers again… I’ll take your fucking throttle hand. Got me?”

He brought his hand away from Frank’s elbow and gave a light tap to the side of his face before walking past him. He added a, “Hope the tail is worth it,” before heading out of the bar, D’Angelo following close behind him.

Frank didn’t walk over to me and apologize or make excuses for what Chuck had said. He didn’t try to explain what exactly had just happened. Paulie loosed a chuckle that lightened his face a bit and they walked towards a table in the corner, their voices becoming too soft to hear.

“Well,” the woman across from me said. She grabbed her glass and moved it over to mine, tapping the rim of mine lightly, “that went well.”

As she gulped down her drink I grabbed for mine and brought it to my lips, no longer caring how the smell made my stomach turn.

“Welcome to hell it is,” I whispered into my glass before slamming it back.


Edited Version:

 Chapter 1

April 7th 2008, 4:18 p.m.

 

The trouble with trouble is that it’s one sneaky son-of-a-bitch.  If it came at us with a flashing neon sign and a bullhorn, warning us to go the other way, I’d bet most people’s lives would have turned out completely different. Sadly, for many—and me especially—trouble comes when we least expect it, and sometimes disguised as everything we think we want. My own brown-eyed, leather-clad flavor of  t-r-o-u-b-l-e could have come to me on a pale horse with a procession of trumpets and I’m pretty sure I’d be doomed just the same.

There were no horses, and no trumpets to speak of, but there was the deafening roar of ten or so bikes pulling into the field where my parents had parked our car.

I stared at the line of machines as we entered the fairground, and imagined jumping on one and burning out of this city with my middle fingers blazing. I envied how free the men and women looked. Free from what, I couldn’t say, but there was something in their ease of simply existing that seemed unchained and unobligated. I’d never felt so comfortable in my existence. I wondered what it would have felt like to fit in with my family the way the bikers appeared to fit with one another.

(Clarity and Flow/Sentence Structure: Change ‘the’ in the above underlined section to ‘these’ – it will show the reader that you’re referring to the ones Harley is currently witnessing more clearly.)

I was different than them; (Clarity and Flow: Change ‘them’ in the underlined part before this annotation to ‘my parents’ – it will present this separation to the reader more effectively because Harley is acknowledging her difference to them directly.) different than my sister. I didn’t know what made us that way, but I would never be on the same wavelength as the rest of them. It was a fact I’d started coming to grips with over the last few years.

The bikers, however, didn’t appear to have any problems connecting to one another. A pang of jealousy blew through me as I watched them. They were completely at ease with one another. No tension, no awkwardness. They just… were. (Sentence Structure/Punctuation: Take out the ellipsis in the previous sentence and put ‘were’ in italics. It’ll have the same impact when reading but will appear neater.

“You ride?”

His eyes, large, brown, and staring into me as if he knew my every secret, snared me the instant I spun around. An awkward thrill ran through me. The lighter, almost gold flecks in the sea of brown stole away all thoughts, leaving me silent and wondering at the twinkle of humor glittering in those eyes. I wondered what he found so funny, and then I realized it was probably the chick staring at him with her (Clarity and Flow: Change underlined to: ‘the chick staring right back at him with her…’ – changing it to this will let the reader know more obviously that she is referencing herself in the third person.) mouth gaping and tongue practically flopped onto the ground.

“Ah-I…” Suddenly very aware of my thin, awkward arms, I had no idea what to do with them. I shuffled my feet and moved between clasping my hands behind my back and laying them down at my sides, before finally settling on crossing them in front of me.

He laughed, shoving his hands into his pockets, and looked out to the group in the distance. “It’s a thrill, you know. Nothing beats it. No job, no house, no money,” he said, before giving me a sideways grin. “Not even great sex compares to the freedom of the road. Once you get that engine humming between your legs, I guarantee nothing’ll ever measure up.”

I could feel heat spreading over my cheeks. My hormones didn’t stand a chance with that visual, let alone coming from someone as gorgeous him. (Characterization: With him mentioning sex and her mentioning hormones, maybe try and tie the two together and add something witty to this sentence. Maybe an internal thought tied in with her finding him attractive – something that will make the reader chuckle, but also show them just how gorgeous she finds Frank. I understand that the ‘visual’ references it slightly, but make it more obvious by maybe describing the visual. ‘with that tongue-out-of-the-mouth visual’ – you know, something similar to that.) I wiped my hand across my cheek, as if that would help clear the blush from my skin, and tried for cool and casual.

“I’ve never ridden,” I confessed as he looked away, finally freeing me from the uncomfortable eye contact.

Only a few months shy of eighteen myself, he didn’t look to be more than a couple of years older than me; a hell of a lot younger than most of those guys across the lot. His hair was cut very short, especially on the sides. A little dip in the center of his chin peeked through the start of a goatee. Stubble spread across his jawline and halfway down his neck. Somehow he made it look insanely hot, rather than just plain dirty.

His eyes found me again and I swallowed down the hard lump forming in my throat. I quickly looked at the ground, embarrassed to have been caught staring.

“That’s a shame. I bet you’d look hot on the back of a bike.” I imagined sitting behind him, my thighs wrapped around his hips as the bike vibrated under us. (Word Choice: I think ‘as the bike vibrated beneath us.’ Would read easier. The imagery sent my tummy into somersaults. “Want to try it out?”

Yes, I shouted in my head. God, yes! A genuine smile stretched across my face, and I could feel the tension ease in my shoulders. Riding? With him? His hand stretched out for mine and he waited patiently for my answer. I opened my mouth to accept, excitement filling me and pushing out all rational thought.

“Harley!”

We both looked behind me, back toward the admission gate where my mom, dad and sister were waiting on me. I hadn’t even realized I’d fallen that far behind, and it looked like they hadn’t either.

“Come on, sweetie,” my mother called through the moving crowd. “We got your ticket.”

She slid an arm around Lori’s shoulders and they turned to walk into the fair without waiting for me. I glanced back to the guy standing next to me, my smile long gone.

“Maybe another time,” he said quietly, still smiling.

He walked away from me, moving through the parked cars toward the bikes, and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to scream or cry. I settled on wallowing in self-pity as I grudgingly caught up with my family.

The pull of the Simmons County Fair was one not many locals could resist. Fairway food, the thrum of electricity as it juiced the rides, and live music easing through every nook and cranny of the fairground’s advertised fun, excitement, and good ol’ family togetherness. Just think of the final number of Grease minus the “wop-baba-lumop” and “a-wap-bam-boom.” For me, it was a lot of noise and bodies. (Pacing/Characterization: ‘For me, it was a lot of noise and bodies and…’ – think of something to add. I’d love for you to add something crisp, short and witty, to extend the sentence a little further and to really highlight Harley’s hatred for the fair and the people she is there with. The fair always kicked off homecoming week for Simmons High, the school my sister and I went to, as some attempt to rouse school spirit. I was never really the spirited type, personally.

I followed my family with my hands shoved into my jean jacket in traditional teenage angst and kicked anything my high tops came across. Lori had mom and dad engaged in some enthusiastic conversation ahead of me and I just tried my best to keep up with them.

We’d been in the games area about three minutes when I heard the unmistakable squeal of my sister. I looked up and found them standing in front of the ring toss booth, Lori bouncing excitedly and showing dad an overstuffed Siberian Husky hanging from the awning. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the sheer childishness of it. She was eighteen, for God’s sake, and acted like an overstimulated two-year-old.

By that point, I knew we’d be stopping to appease the golden child of the Rayne household. Lorelei wants, Lorelei gets. Simple. At least with the rigged fairway games there was a chance she would leave disappointed. That simple hope of seeing Lori denied something she wanted kept me close enough to watch the show. I stayed to the side of the booth and waited to see if the fates had any sympathy for me at all.

Okay, so I was childish too. Bite me.

Dad and Lori started their rampant attempt at the ring toss and mom cheered them on like a lunatic. They were the perfect picture of a happy family. Just fold me out of the photo and you have a bond that could rival the Cleavers.

“You know these games are rigged, right?”

I turned around to find those rich brown eyes and that dimpled chin. The air left my lungs in a violent rush. The guy from the parking lot was standing next to me, and he was still smiling at me. (Clarity and Flow: Take out ‘at me’ and replace with a simile. ‘and he was still smiling like…’) Did this guy ever not smile?

“Yeah.” I laughed nervously. “It’s stupid. My sister—she just has to have that dumb toy.”

He glanced at my family, who were still trying to catch a plastic ring around the neck of one of the beer bottles.

“I see. I bet it’d piss her off if you got it instead,” he whispered, the corner of his mouth lifting a touch higher.

“Yeah, it probably would. But I suck at this stuff,” I said.

His laugh put me at ease somehow. It was weird how he could make me feel both relaxed and wound up at the same time. He didn’t say anything else, just pulled a five out of his pocket and slapped it on the counter in exchange for five plastic rings. It was effortless. His hand moved, he flicked his wrist, and each ring flew around a bottle. When all five rings settled around the bottleneck I just stared. It was like he didn’t even have to try.

“Winner here,” the guy manning the booth shouted. Another man plucked one of the Huskies from the hooks, handing it over. (Tense Consistency: Change to ‘Huskies from the hooks and handed it over.’ – what you had initially does work, but by changing it you stick with the written tense that is already established. I find straying from it is great for scenes that are more action-based, a scene that you’d want the reader to slalom through in excitement!)

He grabbed the stuffed monstrosity and tucked it under his arm, turning back to me. (Same deal as above. Change to ‘ He grabbed the stuffed monstrosity, tucked it under his arm and turned back to me.’) I chewed my lip, shifted my weight from side to side and tried to think of something to say. I suddenly became one of those girls I often mocked, full of weak-kneed, heart-pound-y feelings.

“I’m Frank,” he said finally, breaking the tension. “Frank Essex.”

He held his hand out and waited for me to accept it. I smiled again and took his hand, giving it a firm shake. A warm jolt of electricity whispered over my hand as he gripped it, his heat crept over me and chased away the chill of the night breeze. I had never felt something so intense in my life.

His grin widened, and I couldn’t tell if it was because he’d felt it too or because I was now squirming nervously in his grip, stammering. (Pacing/Characterization: Here the ‘ing’ works fine, but I feel a simile would work nicely here. ‘stammering like…’)

“Nice to meet you. I’m—”

“Harley. I remember,” he said with a smirk. “Not the sort of name a guy like me can forget.”

Heat flooded my cheeks again. I was acting like some lovesick puppy. Like all those girls I made fun of in school because their life’s mission was getting noticed by some boy.

“Also I just learned it like thirty minutes ago, so… that doesn’t hurt,” he teased. I chuckled and his grin widened. “So, you here with your mom?”

I eyed my family. Dad was the only one playing the game now. “Something like that,” I said under my breath as I rolled my eyes at them.

Frank followed my gaze and stared for a moment. No conversation, just… staring. (Punctuation/Sentence Structure: Take the ellipsis out, it reads more naturally without it.) Finally, he turned that grin to me once again and leaned down, lowering his mouth to meet my ear. “Your sister looks pissed,” he whispered with a chuckle, and I glanced at her.

Lori looked like an errant child ready to erupt into a tantrum. Apparently, dad had not managed to win her the Husky. He had his arm wrapped around her shoulders in a comforting half-hug, trying to smooth things over.

“Good,” I said, barely managing to suppress a giggle of satisfaction.

“Well, now. That’s not very sisterly of you,” Frank teased.

“I couldn’t give a shit less about her pissy attitude. Besides, it’s just a—” I turned my head to look at him only to have my train of thought completely derail. My face was suddenly very close to his.

This close, in the glow of the carnival lights, the flecks of gold and honey in his eyes sparkled. They bore into me like they were searching for something.

His face was serious, intense, and made me feel small. Or at least, smaller than I already was. I couldn’t describe what I saw as he looked at me. I just knew that I fell into them, gladly, and everything around us seemed to vanish for one second. All sounds silenced, save for the thick beating of my heart. The carnival around us disappeared in a smoky haze, and all that was left was me, Frank, and the pulse drumming away in my ears.

“Harley,” a voice called in the distance. But I was captured by Frank’s smile as it stretched over his lips. “Harley!” This time the voice was crisper and everything flooded back in a crash of senses. It nearly knocked me on my ass.

I turned my head and blinked confused eyes over at the disembodied voice, until my father came into focus. He was standing closer to us now, his dark eyes narrowed at Frank. I hadn’t even seen him walk up to us.

“Huh?” I said as my brain fought its way out of the fog Frank had somehow put me in.

Dad merely stared at the boy next to me while mom and Lori stood just behind him, whispering to one another. Something about my dad’s face had me unnerved. I looked over at Frank. Lips pressed into a hard line, muscles in the jaw flexing, eyes hard and unflinching, he matched my dad’s stare.

“Come on, Harley.” It was my mom who spoke this time. “Time to go.”

“But we just got here,” I said. I actually didn’t want to leave, not when I had just met Frank. “Can’t we just—”

“Now, Harley.” The booming insistence in my father’s voice startled me. My dad never raised his voice at any of us.

My spine stiffened. Why was he being like this? Usually I was the one wanting to go home while they dragged me around the fair for hours. We’d only just gotten here and they were ready to leave? And on top of it, he was acting weird. Almost mean.

I sighed and started to step away from Frank, almost wanting to cry. (Clarity and Flow: With the almost in the line above, this one doesn’t quite work as well. Rephrase this without the ‘also’ to enhance the flow of the following paragraph.) Freaking typical. Anytime Lori begged to do something, to stay longer, to get something, they were only too happy to ply her with everything she wanted. The one time I asked for something, they wouldn’t even listen.

“Hey,” Frank whispered behind me.

I turned around and stared at him, choking back the anger and jealousy that threatened to spill out of my eyes. He held the stuffed Husky out to me, bumping its big snout into my arm, and smiled. “Just remember that she won’t always get everything.” This time he wasn’t as quiet.

I glanced at Lori. Her jaw was clenched, her nose flared as she stared at him. She looked like she was ready to tear him to pieces. Mom wrapped her arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. Maybe it was the sight of mom comforting Lori while I was being treated so unfairly that made me reach out and grab the Husky.

I didn’t think. I can honestly say that there was no planning or thinking when it came to what happened next. I simply reacted. While one hand grabbed the Husky from Frank, the other reached for his arm and pulled him down a little so I could reach his cheek. I kissed it, the stubble of day-old beard scratching my lips. I liked it. (Characterization/Plot Development: Make this more rebellious than it already is. Maybe add something along the lines of, ‘I kissed him, right in front of my family’s noses. I kissed him and I liked it.’ – make the reader really see her badass side. The side of her that wants to do anything to break the bond that she is left out from.)

I was suddenly jerked away. I looked up to see dad towering over me, gripping my arm firmly. It didn’t hurt, but it was just this side of painful.

“Go to your mother. Now.” His voice wasn’t loud anymore. In fact, it had returned to its usual softness, but there was sternness to the words. I went. What else was I going to do?

My mother’s hand found my shoulder and pulled me between her and Lori, using her body to keep me from moving back in front of them.

If there was another word spoken between the four of them, (Clarity and Flow: When you say ‘the four of them’ is this including Frank? If so, you may want to make it more obvious that they’re all still close to one another. If you just mean between Harley, Mom and Dad, and Lori, change it from four to three.) I didn’t hear it. Mom was ushering me away, Lori was pretending to not look at the stuffed Husky in my arm. My lips were on fire. I knew it was from his stubble scratching them when I kissed him, but it felt like so much more. I brought my fingers to my lips, touching that residual heat, and glanced back over my shoulder. Before my dad joined us and blocked him from view, I watched as Frank touched a hand to his cheek.

 

July 10th 2008, 10:12 p.m.

 

“Can we just run away?” I asked, nuzzling my head into the crook of his shoulder.

The stars stretched above us, shining down like a weighty promise that there was so much more to this world than school and a home where I barely felt wanted. Every time I looked up at the night sky I got the urge to run, to take off and leave everything behind. I craved adventure and freedom, and I wasn’t going to find it sitting in my room listening to music. (Plot Development: In this opening to the new scene, try to include some sort of brief description that shows the reader where they are. Give them a feel for their surroundings and whereabouts. It’ll make them feel more included in the story; more like they’re a part of the characters’ lives.)

Frank chuckled, and I watched his chest rise and fall with it.

“I’ve told you before, Harls. Say the word and we’re gone. No questions asked.”

It was the same promise he’d made me over and over again. Three months of me literally begging him to take me away from here, only to spend the same three months making excuses as to why I couldn’t go through with it. It seemed silly to say, but as much as my family pissed me off, and they did it often, something wouldn’t let me leave. I would be happier if I left, I told myself. So what was holding me back?

“I know,” was all I could offer him.

He’d heard this time and again. At first he seemed excited at the idea of running off together. The more we discussed it though, the less likely he seemed to think it was going to happen. It got to the point where he stopped believing me at all.

I turned my head and pressed my lips to his tan chest, kissing it lightly. No sooner than I made that soft smooching sound, he sighed and sat up quickly. I spilled to the ground, still warm where he’d been lying, and looked up at him.

“What?” I asked as he snatched his shirt and pulled it over his head. His movements were rigid and quick.

He mumbled something that sounded like, “Don’t worry about it.”

I pushed myself up so I could lean on my arm and reached out to touch his back. He twisted away from me.

“Frank, what is it?” I asked again, sitting up a little straighter.

He twisted his upper body to look back at me, his eyes harder than normal. “Are you ever going to make up your mind?”

I hadn’t expected that.

“About what?” I asked, though I was pretty sure I knew.

“Don’t. Don’t play that game with me, Harley. You tell me, over and over, how much you want to be gone from here. I’ve told you more than once, in more than one way, how we can make that happen. And you pull away. Every time.” (Pacing/Characterization/Sentence Structure: Maybe, ‘And you pull away. You pull away every single time.”’ – I think it helps the flow of the speech more, and further emphasizes how hurt he is about it.) He loosed a laugh that sounded bitter and jagged. “I mean, I don’t think you really want to go. I don’t think you want to be with me at all.”

“That’s not fair. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be with you. I love you—”

“I’m leaving, Harley.”

His words were so sudden that I choked on my own. “Leaving?”

“Yeah. I’ll be gone by morning.”

We sat on the blanket he kept on the back of his bike, and let the silence weigh down on us. He was leaving? Just like that? A dull ache started in my heart just thinking about being left there without him. (Clarity and Flow: Maybe ‘just thinking about being left in this town without him.’ – This would make it more dramatic and understandable all at once.) He was the only one I could talk to, the only one who understood me.

“Why?” I choked out. I wasn’t going to cry. Not for some guy who just told me he was going to leave me.

“Jesus.” He ran his hand over his hair and shook his head. “Look, I ain’t ever stuck around somewhere longer than a month or two, babe. I’m just not built to make roots. I stayed here for you.” His eyes softened a touch as he looked at me. “Come with me. For real.”

I shook my head and sighed. “I can’t. I want to, I do, but I can’t just take off like that. My parents would freak out.”

“Would they?” he asked sharply. “‘Cause here I thought they didn’t give a damn one way or the other. That’s what you keep bitching about, ain’t it? How you’re an afterthought to them? How Lori is everything and you’re just some consolation prize?”

I winced as he slung my own words at me. They hurt. Regardless of whether I had said them first, hearing it from someone else was like a knife in the heart. A cutting reminder of just how little I meant to mom and dad.

That was when the tears betrayed me.

He touched my cheek, smearing the salty traitors into my skin, and lifted my chin up so he could look me in the eye. His words stung, but his eyes were a soothing balm.

“Please come with me, Harley. They might not want you, but I need you.”

My heart pounded. He needed me. Someone on this earth needed me, and he was right here holding me. He wanted me to run away with him. What could be so horrible about that? What was I leaving behind that could possibly measure up to what he offered me in that moment?

“Take me home,” I said finally. His muscles tensed. He started to move his hand from my cheek, ready to give up, but I grabbed it and held it close. “And come pick me up in an hour. I need to pack a few things.”

 

July 11th 2008 9:57 a.m.

 

I’d never ridden so long on the back of a bike before. Hell, before Frank I’d never ridden on a bike period. The last few months he’d pick me up and we’d ride around town, head out to the lake and back, but that was about it. There were no lengthy road trips; no rides that lasted longer than half an hour. It was definitely a much different experience being on the open road. Better in a lot of ways; freeing, exhilarating. But it came with its drawbacks.

My ass hurt. That was my first thought when I climbed off the back of his bike and glanced briefly around the parking lot. (Plot development/Clarity and Flow: I’ve added this to enhance the shift between Harley narrating the past to her in the present moment.) The backs of my thighs were numb and my spine screamed at me for the torture of sitting so rigid for so long. Frank had assured me it would pass, that with time my body would grow accustomed to the posture. My spine and I sure hoped he was right.

I looked up at the sign above the building. It was a simple white sign with Curly’s written in red and black across it, the wood peeling on the edges as if forgotten with time.

Frank’s hand found the small of my back, and I glanced at him. I looked into his black sunglasses and saw my reflection. I looked scared, ready to jump ship. My grey-blue eyes were wide and looking for comfort. (Pacing: Maybe start a new sentence after ‘comfort’ and include some form of metaphor that might include a lighthouse – that would fit with the whole ‘jump ship’ theme. I think that would make a nice addition and would round the paragraph off with some nice wit.)

“Don’t worry,” he said pressing his lips to my forehead. “Just keep quiet until I can smooth things over.”

I blinked up at him. Smooth things over? With who? I didn’t get a chance to ask him what exactly it was that he’d done, because before I had a chance to speak he led me into the bar. It was so much darker than it was outside, and my eyes took their sweet time adjusting to the new lighting.

He led me to a stool at the corner of the bar. I slid onto it and realized the bar was fairly empty. As big as it was, there were only about ten people inside, including the woman behind the big slab of wood, serving drinks like she’d been born to do no other. (Sentence Structure/Voice Consistency: I’ve changed this to keep it with the voice of the writing and also to rid of the word ‘bar’ – simply because it is used in the sentence prior.) I also noticed they were all (Clarity and Flow: Changing to ‘that all the folk in here were’ would make the sentence easier to follow.) decked out in leathers and worn denim, chains, bandanas, vests, and buckles. He’d taken me to a biker bar. Why did that surprise me?

“Park here. I’ll be right back,” he said, and without waiting for an answer, walked away.

He moved toward the other end of the bar and I just sat and watched him. There was nothing uncertain about him. He was all confidence. I envied it.

“Drink?” a woman asked.

I turned and saw the bartender staring at me from across the bar. Her face was unreadable and dismissive. I’d stupidly thought bartenders were friendly. Oops.

“No. I’m fine,” I said.

“Suit yourself.”

“Hey, who are they?” I asked, jerking my chin to the group of men Frank had joined. One clapped him on the shoulder as he stepped up to them, another stood behind a man seated on another stool. (Clarity and Flow: ‘another placed himself behind a man who was already sat at the table that Frank had approached, as if keeping close to him for a purpose, guarding him almost.’ – this would maybe sum it up more, I think it makes the sentence read more efficiently.) The man on the stool was much older and thicker around the middle than Frank, but the way the other men flanked him made him look important.

“I wouldn’t get yourself too acquainted with anyone here, girl. You’ll probably be going back to mommy and daddy in a few minutes.”

I turned and blinked at her.

“I’m with Frank. Means I’m not going anywhere ’til I’m damn good and ready.” The words spilled out of me before I could stop myself. This chick was almost a foot taller than me and looked like she’d give me a thorough ass-kicking.

Sure enough, she was giving me a stare that looked like she was considering what would be best used to break my head. That was until a smile broke the empty nature of her face. She laughed her face to life. The smile managed to wipe years off her, and I breathed a little easier once I was sure the threat to my face was gone.

“Right,” she said and turned her back to me, grabbing a short rocks glass from the shelves. “The guy closest to Frank is Paulie. Then there’s D’Angelo standing behind the older one. Which brings us to Chuck. He’s the road captain of our little Club here. The Coyotes,” (Punctuation/Characterization: I’ve taken out the semicolon. Perhaps add to this, ‘The Coyotes, that’s what they go by.’ I think that this introduces the name of their group with more authority, as if people fear them.) she finished as she sat a drink of some kind in front of me and leaned against the bar.

“Is this a ‘one-for-the-road’ type of thing?” I asked, grabbing the dark drink and sniffing it.

She shrugged. “Or a ‘Welcome to Hell’ type thing. I guess we’ll see.”

Her eyes slid back to the men and I wrinkled my nose at the drink, setting it down. It was strong, whatever it was. I glanced at the guys, straining to catch their conversation. Suddenly, the older guy didn’t look very happy. “Take the bitch home. You’re bringing trouble into our family. The fuck is wrong with you?”

“I’m not taking her back, Chuck. Sorry,” Frank said, sliding his sunglasses from his face and folding them.

“Are you really being this stupid? I mean…. even for you, Frank.” This from Paulie.

“It’s not a request or a suggestion, Frankie.”

“No,” Frank said, and his voice was a touch harder. (Clarity and Flow: You need to make sure to mention more obviously that Harley can hear them discussing at this point, and do so before the speech. As it is, it almost seems like head-hopping, sort of like we’ve just been teleported over to the table with the guys and then brought back to Harley.)

I felt small. For some reason, this guy had something against me being there. I didn’t even know the guy and he was trying to get me the hell away from them. The room grew hotter as the men argued. Like someone had kicked the heat on full blast. It was almost suffocating.

“Don’t be an idiot. When have you ever got strung up by some bitch? Now this skinny little skank has your panties all knotted up?” Chuck all but screamed the last, (Sentence Structure: Maybe ‘all but screamed that last part, and I couldn’t help but wince.’ – I think this reads more naturally.) and I couldn’t help but wince. That was a bit harsh. The asshole didn’t even know me.

I watched Frank. I was curious to see how he’d react to that. It was obvious that he looked up to this guy. He’d told me about him, back before I had a face to match to the name. If all the people he talked about were this charming, I was in for a peachy friggin’ time.

Frank’s back stiffened under his leather vest. I couldn’t see his face but I could see how rigid the rest of him became. (Characterization: Could add in after this sentence: ‘And that was enough.’ – it further emphasizes just how rigid he actually was and lets the reader almost see how fearful he is of Chuck, because he is trying really hard to intimidate him.) His shoulders squared back, and he seemed to grow an inch or two taller.

“Chuck, we been through hell together. I’ve had your back in some hard situations,” he said, his hands flexing at his sides before balling into tight fists. “But if you call her out of her name one more time, I’ll feed you the floor.”

The bartender whispered something under her breath and I made the mistake of looking at her. By the time I snapped my attention back to the men, Frank was nowhere to be seen.

Chuck was on his feet now and I could see that he was a great deal shorter than Frank. (Clarity and Flow: This comparison may seem a little out of context seeing as Frank is currently on the ground. Maybe just mention that Chuck is short, and do so without comparing him to Frank.) He barely even gained any inches standing up from his stool. Paulie had his arms raised, his hands laced over the top of his head and his eyes closed tight, but D’Angelo was actually smiling.

When I caught sight of Frank, he was propping himself up on one elbow on the floor, his hand rubbing his jaw.

“She’s your problem, Frankie. Her blood comes hunting for her then you’re on your own with it,” Chuck said as he reached a hand down to Frank. It took a minute, but he finally accepted the help and let Chuck pull him to his feet. Not that he needed the help.

“Yeah, I got it,” Frank said.

Before he could step away, Chuck jerked his hand closer to him and grasped his other elbow in some strange half-hug. “You’re a beast. A damn good man to have at my back and I’ll walk through fire for you,” Chuck’s voice dropped down a touch, “but if you ever buck up in front of our brothers again… I’ll take your fucking throttle hand. Got me?”

He brought his hand away from Frank’s elbow and gave a light tap to the side of his face, before walking past him. He added, “Hope the tail is worth it.” And then he headed out of the bar, D’Angelo following close behind him.

Frank didn’t walk over to me and apologize or make excuses for what Chuck had said. He didn’t try to explain exactly what it was that had just happened. He just stood there scowling at the wall as if he wanted to set it on fire; as if it had just cackled in his face and told him his bike sucked ass. (Characterization/Sentence Structure: I’ve added this part to move the sentence along smoother. It will show the reader Frank’s anger before they move over to engage in private conversation.) Paulie loosed a chuckle that lightened his face a bit and they walked towards a table in the corner, their voices becoming too soft to hear.

“Well,” the woman across from me said. She grabbed her glass and moved it over to mine, tapping the rim of it lightly. “That went well.”

As she gulped down her drink I grabbed for mine and brought it to my lips, no longer caring how the smell made my stomach turn.

“Welcome to hell it is,” I whispered into my glass, before slamming it back. (Sentence Structure: At first I thought this meant slamming it back onto the table. Perhaps write ‘before slugging it in one.’ Or ‘before tipping the drink down my neck, accepting my new-found fate.’ – something to that effect. On a side note, I absolutely love that end line and the way it ties back in!)