When I started plotting this book, I knew I had an uphill battle for it, because the Emotional Black Moment that brings these two characters together starts long before the story itself does. I wasn’t sure how to deal with this issue, but I knew I couldn’t just leave it to dialogue or reflection to illuminate and resolve the depth of this Black Moment, since it has a vital impact of one of the characters’ Core Character Foundation. It needed impact, it needed given its due. And then, it came to me… it became an EBM that is being relived, over and over. This is the penance for crimes committed (well, part of it, anyway), and what’s going to have kept Dimitri on the “straight and narrow” ever since it happened. From that, the beginning of the book was born, and you, dear readers, get to see just how tortured this man really is, inside – something he very rarely lets slip out.
“Venice” — Excerpt from DARK DESTINY (Project Prometheus) —
He could feel his muscles tightening. He’d been crouched here behind the building’s ornate molding for too long, but he dared not move. Not yet. He hadn’t seen his target, and one flash of sunlight off his rifle scope could alert the woman currently in his crosshairs that he was there. She wasn’t stupid. Not by a long shot.
He studied all the information the Brotherhood of Spiders had on Shayne Richards, before he came here. And what he read, he found cause to admire. She was tough, smart, dedicated without being driven, and she was sane. Given the women in his world, that alone elevated her in his eyes. He was surrounded by temperamental, narcissistic and highly unstable women. Shayne was none of those things. She was level-headed, even-tempered, and… He almost smiled as he watched her stoop to retrieve an apple that rolled out of an old woman’s small rolling basket and returned it to the woman with a warm smile and a gentle touch to the shoulder. Shayne was compassionate. A trait sorely missing from his life.
It was a shame he couldn’t warn her what was coming. He knew, from her file, she would blame herself for the incident. But it wasn’t her fault Heinrich Gotter betrayed people he was supposed to know better than to cross. A burst of unfamiliar disquiet sizzled through Dimitri, but he knew he didn’t have a choice. He had a job to do.
He shifted his field of view as he saw Shayne glance toward the end of the bridge, and her body tensed. In an instant, he acquired his target, and realized Gotter was the reason Shayne tensed. So, she didn’t trust him, either. Smart girl.
Dimitri frowned. One shot, right now, and he could take out his target – no collateral damage. But that wasn’t what Red Widow wanted, and she called the shots. Joy wanted collateral damage. She wanted to send a message that crossing her got people killed. And, in the back of his mind, he acknowledged Joy was crazy enough to simply enjoy the prospect of having so much blood on her hands. Dimitri grimaced. On his hands.
He followed Gotter’s movements in the scope as the money launderer approached the Promethean, and another spurt of disquiet shot through Dimitri. He hoped Shayne was as quick as her file indicated. It would be a real shame for that kind of intelligence and skill to suffer for one man’s greed, and one woman’s madness.
When Gotter was just a handful of feet from where Shayne stood, he crossed into the kill box, and Dimitri instantly shifted his target to the innocuous-looking paper bag that appeared carelessly tossed by the side of the bridge. It was anything but. Inside it was enough C-4 to crumble the entire section of the walking bridge into the canal below. Dimitri didn’t allow himself to think about it. He just squeezed the trigger, and watched Hell explode.
As the debris settled, and the screaming began, his eyes locked in disbelief on the woman racing to pull people from the edge of the still-eroding hole. Was she insane, after all? She was risking her life for people she didn’t even know, and for a man she didn’t trust, blood and dust caking her face, clothing, and hands as she pulled person after person to safety, despite the risk to herself.
He sucked in a sharp breath as he watched her head snap Gotter’s way. The turncoat was hanging on a piece of the stone railing that hung out over the gaping space above the canal. The only way to get to him would require a rescuer to inch out along the rail, and risk the whole precarious structure plummeting into the canal. That bridge was old, unsafe to begin with, and there was no way to tell if Gotter was unconscious, or dead. She couldn’t seriously be considering…
He watched in horror he didn’t want to begin to examine too closely as Shayne gingerly placed one foot on the bottom part of the rail, and then the other, and began slowly inching her way toward the limp man. And, for the first time in his life, Dimitri held his breath. If she set her foot down wrong…
A harsh cry rent the air as her foot slipped off the rail, and she hung, scrambling for purchase for one terrifying instant, before the rail gave way and she disappeared into the canal in a cloud of dust, water, and stone.
“Shayne!” Dimitri yanked awake with a harsh cry, to find himself in the darkened confines of his hotel room, the sounds of surf and an all-night luau in progress outside the open window. He swiped a hand over his face, and grimaced as it came away wet with sweat. He knew it wasn’t from the pseudo-tropical heat. He was dreaming about her again.