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This is the first Chapter of my dark romance novel. I welcome critiques. I especially welcome the female POV. This is a rough draft with some critique info in (parentheses).

Thank You







MS 10/15/01 Working Title: Jasmine Dreams

By Penelope Palmer First draft personal copy word count: 2700



It had been a long day for Rachel. In fact, it had been a long week. Well, what the heck, it had been a long life. Actually, she often felt she had already lived one life and was working on another. None of that concerned her right now, though. (another, though none of that concerned her right now.



She threw her right leg high into the air swinging it in a wide arc, then drawing it back with a snap, bending at the knee. As her right foot returned to the mat in position slightly to the rear of her left, she let out a loud, guttural, noise, "Hai." Then she moved into a series of punches, slicing the air with her fists, pushing out and back, in a level plane, like pistons. A few more quick movements and she had assumed the position. Feet spread apart shoulder width, clenched fists pulled back, arms bent at the elbows. (Great description of Martial Arts!!)



It had been a good workout for Rachel. She had worked up a good sweat in the last hour. She took well to Aikido, like a duck to water. She could high kick with her long legs like a Rockette. And she was naturally fast so the movements came easily to her. She had thrown her final kick with special force, pretending like she was kicking that fat pig back at the office. She always ended her workouts that way. Bernie Meyerson, VP of Communications, the stuffed shirt who thought he was God's gift to all women. The one who joked that she should take out an insurance policy on those long legs and a whole lot more. He represented almost everything she despised in a man. All the guys called him Bernie but he insisted the women refer to him as Bernard or Sir. He was your typical high level exec. A short, fat, balding, bowl of Jell-O in an Armani suit. A CBN, corp. bigshot with a Napoleon Complex.



Rachel found his condescending attitude quite disgusting. His water cooler jokes were crass and usually degrading to women. There wasn't a single dumb blond joke he didn't know. She wanted so much to take



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out a sexual harassment suit on his sorry ass. But he was a member of the 'Good Ole' Boy' fraternity at CBN. You could find them at all the networks. Cross one of them and you are screwed, blued and tattooed; for good! You wouldn't just lose your job, you would lose any chance at any other job at any other network, forever!



Rachel liked how she ended her workouts. She found kicking Bernie to be quite therapeutic. If the truth be known, that was the very reason she took up Aikido two months ago. Well, that and the SENSI was a pretty interesting man. She had been in therapy for coming on two years, now. She had a number of good reasons to be there. But it was at her therapist's suggestion that she came up with the Aikido idea. She needed an activity to take her mind off things and take out her aggressions.



It had been a rough couple of years since Dickhead had taken off with that blonde, bimbo. She couldn't believe he did it after fifteen good years of marriage and two children. Well, technically, one(expain this). Here she was thirty-five going on sixty-five or so she felt. She was only eighteen when she met Michael Mincken, the one she now refers to as Dickhead. Back then his friends called him Maverick. He was twenty-two, handsome, well bred and on the fast track. She had just entered Columbia University when she first laid eyes on the man who would become her first love.



Michael had already been at the University for a year. He was already captain of the debate team and quite popular with the sorority girls. Quite busy with them too, from what she had heard. That is, until he met Rachel Penniwise.



Rachel had been around the block a few times herself before she showed up on the college scene. She had been a bit of a wild child. She ran away from home at fifteen and spent a year on the road, growing up fast.



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By the time she hit Columbia University, she was dead set on marketing career and looking good. She cleaned up well after her road experience and was doing quite well with the family. She had adopted healthy habits and was committed to staying in shape. It showed, too. She had been approached more than once to model. She even went through a school, but she found it not to be her cup of tea.



Michael and Rachel started dating as soon as they met and quickly became the talked about couple on the campus. Michael swore off all other girls and pledged to her his undying love along with his desire to marry her -- which he did.



Their wedding was huge and Rachel had the time of her life. She was walking on air for weeks. She was so deeply in love with him back then, she would do anything for him. And she did.



She sacrificed her career plans to be his wife. Put her dreams on hold. Devoted her life to Michael, motherhood and Michael's career. Michael had an "in" to the Central Broadcasting Networks. All he had to do was graduate. As things turned out, that became quite a challenge. Seems that Michael's primary motivation was being the most popular jock on campus and, of course, partying. He started flying high in Varsity Football while his grades took the low road to Deadsville.



Thank God Rachel was a pretty smart girl. Her, doing his homework was the only thing that got him to the graduation ceremony. Rachel devoted herself to Michael's sexual needs and demands. After all, isn't that a wife's duty -- even when the demands became more and more perverse? She gave up querying Michael about where all this stuff with the video cameras, porno flicks and sex toys was coming from. It was always the same answer. Everybody's doing it. In time she learned different. But, back then she endured the increasing physical pain, degradation and humiliation that accompanied the things he was doing to her. After all, it was the wife's duty.





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So, Michael took his executive level position with CBN right out of college. Just like his Daddy had done before him. And he was spoon fed right on up the ladder of success. Just like his Daddy before him.



By the time Rachel had entered into the wonderful new world of motherhood, Michael was solidly entrenched into the Good Ole' Boy network at CBN. Those were busy, trying times for (Rachel, she had to be wife and new mother) wife and now, mother Rachel. (new paragraph) Little Mikey was the apple of Daddy's eye. Michael doted over his son as he grew. Even though he never changed one diaper, he was a good Daddy, Rachel felt. Little Mikey was the glue that held their little family together.



Her pregnancy with Melody was a different matter. Rachel had her hands full caring for Mikey while Dad was spending longer and longer nights at the office. Seemed like there was always some meeting or the other. Rachel had heard about some of "those" meetings. They weren't going on at the office, either. They were happening at some of the fanciest restaurants and lounges in Manhattan. They called it "schmoozing." Whining and dining high-level corporate clients in to the wee hours (Fragment: consider revising) Rachel was sure, judging from the smell of Michael's breath and clothing, that they were getting a lot done at these meetings.



Sometimes the meetings were held at one another's homes. Dutiful wives would keep the liquor cabinets full and prepare extravagant food dishes. Rachel did this. After all, it was the wife's duty. Most often, the meetings gravitated into poker games with large sums of money changing hands and lots of booze flowing. These meetings were no place for a pregnant wife so Rachel tried to keep them stocked up then retreat to a back room until called upon. Eventually someone would fall over drunk and the meeting would finally begin to break up as everyone decided who was driving whom where.



Somewhere along the line, Michael had picked up the smoking habit. That should have been expected what with all the cigars, pipes and what not, always around. Rachel was trying to be conscientious about the smoke considering her delicate condition and avoided it as much as possible. She cleaned up all the



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mess after the meetings/card parties, as a dutiful wife should. She then did whatever she could to remove the smoke smell from their home.



Melody's delivery was a difficult one. Melody was a feisty, precocious, little baby eager to make her way into the new world. Rachel was caught by total surprise when her water broke. She was running around, trying to get all her errands done. She needed to have everything in order by the time Michael returned from his latest business trip. He had scheduled another "meeting" at their home. This would be a big one, he had said. They were close to signing a big deal with another network. From all indications, it must indeed be something big, judging from the increasing amount of time Michael had been spending out of town. So, among other things, she was doubling up on the liquor allotment, as requested.



Actually, it was at the cigar counter when it happened. Everything seemed to come apart inside of her all at once. Her knees buckled and she made a desperate grab for the counter, knocking over her bag of liquor. Herself along with everything else hit the floor simultaneously. There she was struggling on the liquor store floor amidst all the liquor, broken glass, her water and her blood.



It was all happening too soon, way too soon. By the time she made it to the delivery room, it seemed as if little Melody had, had a change of heart about the cruel world outside and was struggling for a warmer, safer place in the womb. But it was time and she was breached and the doctors had to resort to the knife.



Little Melody came into the world a preemie. Momma had been damaged during the delivery and now had to accept that this would be the last child that she would bear. To add to it all, Michael was not there.



Little Melody had to pay the consequences for entering the world too soon. She was a sickly baby whose survival depended upon special care and attention. The responsibility for that had fallen square on the shoulders of Rachel. It seems that Michael had grown more and more distant toward both her and



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melody, preferring to lavish more attention on Mikey who was developing into quite the precocious, curious, little boy in his own right.



Rachel had blamed herself for the complicated delivery and little Melody's life threatening problems (what kind of problems). If she just hadn't allowed herself to be so stressed out that day.



But, as life would have it, all of this paled in comparison to what would come later. Before it was all said and done, she would find herself praying for a better life, even though she was not particularly a religious person. Those memories were almost too painful to bear. She had found herself doing everything humanly possible to suppress them.



Yet, here she was sitting in the gym locker room, dredging all of them up again. As much as throwing all those kicks and punches helped to take her mind off things, she was yet unable to hold back all the feelings and memories once she hit the showers.



As she stood beneath the showerhead, she paused for just a moment to reflect on how she had become a changed woman since the divorce. The dutiful, loving, cookie cutter housewife was long gone. Michael had acquired a high-powered team of attorneys from the network to fight her. Some of the things they said in court back then had all but devastated her. Especially when they got on the subject of Mikey. Not only did she find herself forced to hire the best attorney possible, but the best shrink as well. But, that was all history now. In the end she had to stand up and fight for herself. She ended up kickin' some ass in the process and was pretty darned proud of that.



Thank God for small victories, Rachel was thinking as she lathered up. She liked this new soap she had bought from the herbal shop down the road. It seemed softer than anything she had felt before, certainly softer than the rough hands of some drunken lout groping all over her. It was so refreshing not to have to deal with men. She wondered if there was even one decent man left alive. What were the odds?

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Rachel enjoyed her brief shower interludes at the gym. One advantage of being the last one to finish her workout (Fragment: consider revising maybe just add a coma here?) She had the whole shower room to herself. She liked how this new soap smelled, a faint scent of something like jasmine. She found that if she lathered vigorously enough, it turned into a million tiny, little bubbles. One good swoosh sent a flock of them floating overhead out of the shower mist. She stepped out of the water stream so they could descend on her. Little bubbles bursting all over her body, releasing that faint scent. This felt absolutely exhilarating. Then she jumped back under the shower to let the hot water wash away the bubbles and all her cares as well.



Out of the corner of her eye, she spied a little mound of lather remaining just atop her left breast. No reason to let this go to waste, she thought. She grabbed the works and pressed it firmly into her chest. She felt a kind of flush run right through her. What was that? It seemed to start from the tips of her toes and run through her whole body and right on out the top of her head in an instant. Something like a momentary shiver of goose bumps and jasmine bubbles all wrapped up in one glorious package. She then inspected the other one with her other hand. "Thirty-five years and the two of you are still holding your own quite well, thank you." She blurted out to absolutely no one in particular. She imagined herself as one of those models in the shower she had seen on the television.



Again, Rachel stepped out of the shower stream and lathered the magic soap all over her this time, making sure not to miss even one silly millimeter of her entire body. This meant she was now going places where no soap had gone before (had taken her before)? Another, arcing swoosh sent a cascade of shimmering bubbles all around her. What had started as a shiver now had become a full blown, earthquake of exhilaration rippling through her. Her knees went weak and she grabbed for the showerhead to pull her back under the hot water stream. She leaned there, closed her eyes and let her thoughts drift off to a nice place.



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Rachel's eyes shot open with such force they seemed to jerk her whole body right off the shower wall and standing at attention. She blinked and looked for her watch, which of course was not on her wrist. She Palmer/Jasmine

wondered where she had just been and what the heck had she been doing? One thing was for sure, she no longer cared what she was doing or what time it was. It was Friday night and that expense report out in her briefcase would just have to wait.



No matter that her best friend Margie had taken off on yet another business jaunt with that hottie at the office. Rachel could handle her own self quite well, thank you. So it did not matter how or where -- it was time and, watch out world, Rachel was stepping out.



(Great ending, leaves you looking for what's ahead!)











------
Chuck Fasst



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