Stories from the War-First Meeting: Part 1
So today begins what I hope will be a new Monday thing: a bit of writing that I’m working on! A writer friend encouraged me to give it a try (you know who you are!) and it does look fun. After all, I’m writing all the time and some of it is coming along fairly well. So why not share it?
Friday’s will remain my regular posts about writing and world building and all that. But Mondays are all for stories…
So without much more ado… I’d like to present the first look at my current WIP, Friends of my Enemy. What will in the end be a compilation of short stories followed by two novels, the first of the stories will be released right around the corner in August. Or here… now. Serialized to keep the post manageable. So I hope to see you back next week. 🙂
Stories from the War is a group of ten short stories. In story 1, First Meeting, it is 2055 and the world has gone mad. Climate change results in upheavals from cities, states in the USA are abandoned as too brutal and too costly to maintain. As hurricanes, typhoons, and droughts impact the world in the decades proceeding the story’s beginning, new diseases rip through the population. The result is a world where governments fight to control resources while keeping tight controls on populations. Especially in the United States.
Martial Law was declared in 2052 and Europe is uneasy with its negotiations with the altered US. But the US needs Europe’s industry and wealth to rebuild. The new military government is still trying to figure out how to present itself to old allies, sending its best and brightest to the EU embassies to win over – and spy on – old allies. Arinna Prescot and her husband Michael are two such new embassy recruits.
Which is where the story begins…
Friends of my Enemy
Stories from the War
First Meeting: Part 1
Dammit, he wouldn’t do this. Not to her.
“Would it make a difference if I told you I was a Barón?”
“Maybe if this were a Jane Austin novel,” Arinna snapped.
“Arinna, it is just a lunch date!”
“I heard the stories. It is never just lunch with you. Byran, excuse me, Baron Vasquez, I am married, happily actually.”
Byran sat back in the café chair, crossing his arms while giving her that trouble-making smile that Arinna wouldn’t admit jumped her pulse. His black hair and dusky skin contrasted with a white shirt that cost more than she made in a month. Everything about him exuded his heritage and confidence.
“Then why are you here talking to me?” he asked. Two weeks and she already hated him.
“Byran! The only reason Michael hasn’t gone to the ambassador is because I assured him I could make you back off. That is why I’m here. You’ve been… impossible since the Christmas ball. Why do they even hold those things anymore?”
“You should learn to appreciate a good party. They are a way to forget how crazy the world is getting. And happy 2055, by the way. Since you haven’t let me say it in person before now,” he replied.
“Let you say? You can’t track me down in the embassy or call whenever you like and say it’s for an important meeting. Do you want to lose your job? Or make me lose mine?”
He sulked. “Allow you to be sent back to that agujero de mierda of a country? No. I’d rather you stay here.” He held up a hand as Arinna prepared to berate him. “But you are wrong. I’m not trying to interfere. I am trying to help.”
“How is stalking me a help?” Arinna hissed, keeping her voice low. The nearby customers glanced toward their animated discussion. Arinna sat back, hands shaking too much to reach for her teacup.
She wasn’t certain what to do. If she were home, she would demanded Byran’s arrest. But here, in the EU, the rules she knew didn’t apply. If she caused too much of a fuss, she’d be replaced and sent home. She had to handle this for herself and for Michael. Arinna squeezed the bridge of her nose.
Byran was watching her without the amusement that lit his eyes at the ball as well as the beginning of this hastily arranged meeting. Michael had grudgingly agreed to its necessity. Arinna expected to see him through the front windows, watching them from across the street.
“I forget how different it must be for you,” he said, refocusing her scattered attention. “You are unmoored here, aren’t you? No military law to organize everything you can and cannot do.”
Arinna swallowed hard, refusing to admit how right he was. “What of it?”
“Don’t you wonder why all the previous occupants of your post failed?”
“Terissa’s term was over and she was rotated out. I was rotated in. She didn’t fail.”
“After six months? Please, no embassy has that short of a staff rotation. She wasn’t effective. They sent you, hoping you will be more so. Just like her previous counterpart and the one before that.”
Arinna’s mouth was dry. She reached for her tea, savoring the warmth. The day was cool for Madrid, so everyone said. It was cool compared to home. Two weeks had not been adequate to acclimatize. Across the cafe table, Byran watched her with the same observant look. Doubt sprouted in her like a strangling vine.
“So you’re trying to say you haven’t been stalking me since the ball, but that this is your way of offering to help me succeed? Why?” The last came out forcefully, fueled by exasperation.
“What can I say? You seem different from your countrymen. I thought you might even have been having fun.”
“Hardly. Fun is against the law in the USA.”
Byran shot her an amused glance over his coffee cup, one that warmed his eyes. Arinna was dry mouthed again.
“See? I’ve not met anyone else from the New States who’d dare make that joke. I like you. There are you happy? I admit it. You are beautiful and you are unfortunately married,” he rushed as she opened her mouth. “And possess a smart sense of humor. What is wrong with liking you? You are too good for that country you call home. I cannot believe a delicate redhead with such blue, blue eyes can be from such a cesspool. You should stay here in Spain. I can help you.”
“I can imagine what you want to help me with.”
Byran grinned, something wicked and a little wild in his looks. It didn’t add to her confidence that he wasn’t going to cause more trouble. Arinna shifted in her chair.
“I might surprise you.”
“I doubt it, considering what I’ve heard about you,” she shot back.
“You’ve been interested enough to research me. Bueno! I will behave, as you say,” he added. “If you will at least treat me as a friend.”
“I didn’t think you knew any women who were just friends,” Arinna said, sitting back in her chair and trying to measure his sincerity. It was hopeless. She hadn’t known Byran long enough to be able to read him. Not to mention that he refused to conform to any standard she tried to place him in. Arinna had never expected the EU to feel so alien.
“Ah see, you will be good for me,” he said, leaning forward to squeeze her hand and immediately letting go when he saw the spark in her eye telling him he’d not merely crossed a boundary but leapt over it doing the salsa. He leaned back, grinning again.
She wanted to hit him. Instead, she laughed. Damn her if she couldn’t tell him to leave her alone and make it stick. Two weeks she’d been telling him or avoiding him and it led up to this. “I’m not going to lunch with you. Or dinner, so don’t ask. And don’t call my embassy every day. We danced at the ball. That is it. Everyone thinks we’re having an affair!”
“Well you certainly weren’t with your husband that night.”
The comment and look in his eyes scalded her cheeks. “He was there meeting other staff and our NATO officers, networking.”
“If you were my wife, I wouldn’t leave you unattended,” Byran said low enough she leaned forward to hear. “You need connections to succeed. Correct?”
Arinna nodded, too flustered to trust her voice or words.
“I will introduce you. Your counterparts do it wrong. They barge in like your military government and demand quick answers. That isn’t how it is done here. I’ll show you.”
She’d wondered if Byran understood the risk he put her in. What did a handsome Spanish baron know of famine and riots? Back home, if a state wasn’t being shredded by the weather, it was being torn apart by its populace. The militarized government kept tight control, at least of the things it could. The EU was strained, drought and unrest more common than in decades past. But Europe rose above the darkness spreading through the rest of the world. It had food, industry, stability. Byran had a sport’s car for goodness sakes.
Now she wondered what she understood of Europe and its people who hadn’t grown up with gunfights over food or without martial law locking down riots and organizing relief after the most recent storm.
Thoughts like that made his company dangerous, Arinna thought, rubbing her forehead. But he might be right. He might give her an edge others before her hadn’t had. Others who had failed and been sent home with no promotion to help in a troubled world and a deeply troubled country.
“Okay,” she said in answer, pulse picking up a step. “But only work related! Nothing else, understand?”
“Yes. We are to be work friends,” Byran said, purring at the thought.
Arinna meant to say, “As long as you respect my boundaries.” Instead, she shook her head at the glint in his eye and how he unrolled a smile, fighting one of her own.
“Yes, work friends,” she choked out, attempting to be serious. Which was not going to be easy with him. “We’ll only see each other in our official duties.”
“Good! What are you doing tomorrow?”