NaNoWriMo Complete!

I finished my 50,000 words on Tuesday, 21 November 2017. This is the third time I’m managed the feat, the first time I’ve finished before 11:45 pm on 30 November!

The story is full of holes, I’ve got continuity issues, but it is fun to be able to take my time to write the climax (which isn’t terribly climactic at this point), and the epilogue without the gun of the deadline at my head.


A Rush of Cochineal Daily Lines Day Twenty

I took the weekend off! But here’s something from today. So much bad plot stuff, but I have extra time this year to work it out! Here goes:


Steve began to back out of the dining room, the three women approaching him like lionesses stalking a gazelle.

“Please, Laura,” he pleaded, “I didn’t even think of her till your housewarming. She was here with Gustav, he did the catering, remember? I saw her in the hallway, handing out canapes, and I had to have her.”

“And he did,” said Tiffany. “In that clunky bedroom your sister’s in now.”

“Once it started, I couldn’t stop!” said Steve. “It’s this damn house! It was her idea, scaring you. She thought you’d leave, and I could divorce you.”

“Oh, I see,” said Laura. “And since you divorced me, you’d get to keep everything.”

“Something like that,” said Steve, shaking his head. He took Laura’s hand. “Please, Laura, don’t screw me over on this. We can work something out.”

Laura grabbed her hand away from his. “You get both of us,” she said, “is that what you want?”

“I don’t know!” he replied. “I can’t think here! There’s too damn many women here! I’m going in to the office. Maybe I can think there.” He stormed out of the dining room. The three women stood in a circle staring at each other.

“You!” said Laura, pointing at Tiffany. “You can get out now.” Tiffany began to back away. “Wait,” she said, “where did you find those hankies? The ones with the initials.”

Tiffany made it to the swinging doors to the back stairs. “Attic,” she said, “it’s full of dusty old crap.” She turned and bolted, Laura and Sam hearing her footsteps pound up the steps.

“Your dinners weren’t half this entertaining in Devon,” said Samantha. “I’ve got a date with a stockbroker in an Armani suit.” She walked to the dining room door and paused. “At the Cupola. Don’t wait up for me.” Sam tossed her head, her hair swinging, and Laura was alone. Alone in her beautiful dining room, lavender silk draperies, mahogany paneling, gas fire blazing warmly.

A Rush of Cochineal Daily Lines Day Seventeen

Dex shivered, wiping the tears from her face. “Get me out of here, Claire,” she whispered. “I feel like I’ll never be happy again.”

“It’s too early for alcohol,” said Claire as she pulled Dex out of the tower, “so we’ll settle for a cup of coffee.” She turned to Laura. “Can you manage a cup of coffee?”

“No,” said Laura. “Tiffany’s done with breakfast, and the next time I talk to her, I’m firing her. She did this!”

Taking a deep breath, Dex said, “If you know who did it, why do you keep asking me? I’ve told you, there isn’t a ‘ghost’ here. There’s just sadness. So much sadness, and fear.” She shook herself like a dog.

“Let’s go,” she said turning to Claire. “We can get coffee on the way home.” Dex started down the hall, her rubber soled shoes silent on the marble tiles.

“What the hell, Laura,” asked Claire, “you’re not capable of making that poor girl a cup of coffee? Or tea? She’s spent hours researching that artist and your family, both of which you could have done yourself.” She saw that Dex was standing in front of the door to the drawing room, clenching her fists at her side. Claire ran down the hall to her friend.

“What’s wrong, Dex?” she asked, turning her head to look into the room, awash with morning light. She saw what Dex was seeing, the back of Mark’s head as he kissed Samantha, her sweater almost at her waist, her hands in his hair. Sam raised her head, and smiled at Dex.

“Mark?” asked Dex. “I thought you were heading to Pottstown this morning.” At his name, he raised his head, looked directly into the eyes of the portrait, and turned to Dex. He looked at her with no recognition at first, then shoved Sam away.

Dex walked slowly to the front door, and turned to Claire. “I think I finally understand the sadness in this house,” she said, looking at the black and white marble floor. “It’s all lust and betrayal.” She opened the door, and left the house, standing beside Claire’s car.

A Rush of Cochineal Daily Lines Day Sixteen

Samantha rolled over in bed, mumbling. Her hoopskirt was in the way, she thought in her dream, keeping her lover at arm’s length. His lips caressed the swell of her breasts above the lace at her neckline, moved upward to her neck, ending with gentle nibbling on her ear lobe, his teeth tinking quietly on the wires of her pearl and amethyst earrings. She moaned and pressed toward him, the bamboo circle of her largest hoop flipping up behind her, exposing the ruffled lace of her pantalets. Her lover ran his hand down the front of her bodice, pushing her away enough to drop the hoop. Samantha looked over his shoulder at the mirror, into the greedy eyes of Matilda Speakman and screamed, waking.

She jumped from her bed, to the six foot tall Victorian mirror above the marble topped vanity, looked at her own reflection with relief.

“Why?” she asked her image. “Why do I turn into her in my dreams?” She pulled open the top drawer, thinking it odd that the drawer was so shallow compared to the depth of the vanity. Sam looked at the solid pedestal for the mirror and tapped it. “Hm,” she thought, “that sounds hollow.” She pulled the top, with no result, then pressed inward on the front. Nothing. She pressed the left side, then the right and heard a soft click. The front panel slid down, revealing a hiding place inside the pedestal. “My ring!” she said, reaching inside. But there was only a small leather bound book, embossed in gold “My Diary.” She opened the book. “My darling husband has purchased a farm near West Chester,” read the opening lines. Sam sighed and tossed the diary in the drawer, slammed it shut, and closed the compartment. “I’ll read it later,” she thought, “maybe I’ll get that ring yet.”

A Rush of Cochineal Daily Lines Day Fifteen

“You have embarrassed me yet again,” he hissed. “Babbling at the dinner table about that pup Swayne. Do you not know what constitutes a suitable subject for dinner conversation? Did you learn nothing in your years at Miss Irwin’s school?”

He shook his head. “How many times did you meet him in the gatehouse. That artist. How many times?” Henry grabbed Emma by the shoulders and shook her, one of her curls slipping from the hairpin. “You ungrateful—” He glared at her. “Wench.” Emma gasped. “I am aware of what you have done with young Master Swayne.” Henry pushed her away from him, and shot his cuffs. “There will be consequences for Master Swayne,” he smiled, turning to her. “And for you. Clearly, you are unbalanced, only someone of unsound mind would turn her back on all of this!” He motioned around the opulent room.

“But, Henry,” Emma began, “I was never alone with Mr. Swayne outside the morning room.”

“You were observed walking in the garden with him,” said Henry. “Alone. Explain how your personal effects were found in the gatehouse.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew a short, kid glove. “This is yours, is it not?” He slapped it onto the table. “The second item of your apparel. I discovered this after Master Swayne vacated our premises this morning. And one of your daubings. How did that come to be there?”

“Give me your wedding ring,” Henry demanded. “You no longer deserve to wear a token of devotion.” He reached a hand to her. “You do not have it, do you? You chose not to wear it this evening.”

“You CHOSE not to wear it this evening,” he shouted.

“I did not think—” Emma began.

“Of course, you did not think,” he hissed. “You are not capable of thought. Do you know what becomes of faithless, unbalanced wives?”

A Rush of Cochineal Daily Lines Day Fourteen

Claire took a long sip from the shot of Bunnahabhain, setting the glass softly on the table. “That’s what I’m talking about,” said Claire, as she began. “So Laura and Samantha meet Pete, and Kevin starts bringing out his pictures for them to look at, the gatehouse is now a rush rush for Samantha, pictures for the gatehouse, and while Kevin is pulling out the racks, he notices that Pete and Samantha are nowhere in sight. So Kev takes a step out to see into the main gallery, and they’re in a corner snogging like teenagers in a back seat.”

“I don’t care,” shrugged Dex. “He left me, he told me we could still be friends, I found Mark, end of that story.”

“Don’t interrupt,” said Claire. “Laura got all huffy, particularly because Pete said something about her weight, Kevin didn’t quite catch, but she bought three of Pete’s landscapes. Then they all left and Pete has Samantha’s number.”

“Poor Pete,” said Dex.

“I know,” said Claire, “he’s punching way above his weight with her.” She took another sip of her Scotch. “Is that really sparkling water?”

“Yes, are you going to be okay to drive?” asked Dex. Claire’s phone rang, and she saw it was an extension from the Historical Society.

“I’m okay to walk,” said Claire. “Did I tell you Kevin wants to see your dog pictures?”

Dex groaned. “He’s Pete’s gallery,” she said.

“He could be yours, too,” said Claire as she lurched on the uneven brick sidewalk. “You should just wear dog show shoes,” said Dex, steadying her friend.

A Rush of Cochineal, Daily Lines Day Thirteen

“Yeah, well, Steve has more than a million invested in the mansion’s renovations,” said Laura. “A half million on the construction, and another half in the decorating. Those custom doormats cost $500 a piece, when you add in what our logo cost.”

She pulled open the door to The Cupola, laughter from the bar audible. “So, I think he feels he owns part of it now, too.” I wish he owned whatever is dropping tiny hankies all over my house, she thought. Those were something she would never share with Samantha, not after that nightmare.

“What did you mean ‘good at first’?” asked Laura. Sam assessed the men at the bar, making note of those who turned their heads to look at her, and chose two seats, between a silver haired man in a beautifully tailored dark grey pinstripe and a Giorgio Armani closer to her own age. Neither was wearing a wedding ring, though she knew from experience how meaningless that was.

“At first?” asked Sam, smiling at the Armani she slid onto the bar stool. “Mezcal margarita,” she said to the bartender as he approached. “Just a coke for me,” said Laura. “I can’t afford another DUI.”

“Last night,” Laura sighed, “when you screamed? You said it was ‘good at first.’”

“Oh, right,” replied Sam. “At first, I was dreaming of Mark, I was wearing the red velvet dress in my portrait downstairs.” She shivered, remembering how his hands felt on her body. “Then I was wearing a black silk dress, and I turned into Matilda. That’s when I screamed.” She turned to the Armani and asked, “do you believe in ghosts?”

Armani smiled, glancing downward at the cleavage exposed by the unbuttoned two top buttons of her red leather sheath. “I do,” he said, “I’m Josh, and you are?”

Daily Lines, Day Twelve

Laura dropped the matching handkerchief into the drawer, where it covered the first, and closed the drawer slowly. She walked to a closed door near the bathroom, and flung it wide, an automatic light illuminating the interior of an enormous walk-in closet. Fully three sides of it contained her clothes, two large granite topped chests in a row down the centre holding her shoes. Steve’s clothes fit on the remaining fourth.

“Check this out,” she said to Samantha. “Norman has a closet guy, too.”

“Nice,” replied Samantha, still looking at the bath, a spa tub partially sunken, with two steps up to enter. Bubble bath, she thought, with Mark kneeling at those steps, warming to the idea. She really could not wait, she thought, I need to feel that guy inside me, and damn soon.

“How long did it take,” she asked. “From start to finish, I mean.”

“Oh, once we finalized the plans,” answered Laura, “about a week. There were a couple of special orders, but you’d be surprised how fast stuff gets delivered after Steve barks into the phone. Any one that supplies anything for construction comes to heel when he commands.”

“I want the plans for the gatehouse tomorrow,” said Samantha. “So I can move in in two weeks.”

“You don’t want much, do you?” asked Laura. “Any reason for the rush?”

“Two reasons,” said Sam. “The first is that my creative flow isn’t working in the morning room, I’m falling behind on the publisher’s schedule. The second is I need a place to entertain. Alone. Far from prying eyes.”

She unwrapped the towel and shook her hair, the wings that framed her face dropping into place as she smoothed it. “So what time are we meeting the shrimp’s ex?”

Daily Lines, Day Ten

A floor below, almost directly beneath the rooms that made up the housekeeper’s suite, Samantha stirred, Tiffany’s quiet movements breaking through the haze of sleep just enough to perturb and not awaken. She continued to dream of a red velvet dress that did not quite fit, running her hands over her breasts down the bodice, the ruby and diamonds in the ring on her finger sparking fire in the reflection from the fireplace, anticipating her lover. Then, Mark Wright was beside her in the dream, his hands replacing hers, moving to open the velvet bodice. She clutched his arms, her long nails cutting into the flesh as she moaned, turning her head for him to kiss her neck. When she turned around for his kiss, he was gone, her hands now larger and coarser, and she was wearing a textured woven black silk dress, a gold wedding ring on her left hand. She brought the right hand up from her side, comparing them, the heavy black onyx ring on the right contrasting with the gold band on the left. Noticing a small mirror on the wall beside the fireplace, she raised her eyes to her reflection, saw Matilda Speakman in the glass, and screamed herself awake.

Daily Lines, Day Nine

Darcy was ecstatic to be freed from his mud room prison. After greeting Dex, jumping like a kangaroo on his hind legs, he turned to Mark, nailing him in his most sensitive area. Practice made Mark’s response automatic, and the dog hit his protective hands instead.

“Darcy! Not there! For god’s sake, not there,” Dex said, laughing. “I’ve got this down, now,” said Mark, opening the door to the yard. The whippet ran outside, making circles, decreasing in speed till he found just the right shrub. Mark stood behind Dex, his arms around her waist, nuzzling the back of her neck. “He’ll be all right outside for a bit, now, won’t he?” asked Mark. “Long enough,” replied Dex.

He kissed his way around her neck, turning her to him as he progressed, lifting her onto the washer. She raised her head, and she felt his kiss warm her down to her toes. “Oh, Mark,” she sighed. “Let’s go upstairs.”

“No, here,” he said, pulling his shirt over his. “Now.”