For the last few months Into the Fire has been with the publisher and I'm awaiting the first edit from the editing team. With everything going on I know that they are working from home, so it's taking longer than expected. I look forward to hearing back from them. I'll post another update as soon as I have news. For the time being, I hope you will all enjoy another teaser, this time from Who is Ally Keener? It's my work in progress and is also with the publisher as a companion to Into the Fire.
I give him a big hug, and he punches me lightly on the shoulder. I’m glad to have my friend back. He’s such a great guy, and I would hate to lose him as a friend. With the party a week away, I dive into my studies to get ahead for the week. I want to be able to enjoy the party without any lingering homework or projects to worry about. My last Jeet Kune Do class for the month is Tuesday afternoon, and I leave feeling powerful and ready to take on anyone. As I round the corner heading toward Times Square Station, I’m grabbed by an enormous guy with hands the size basketballs. He pushes me into the alley, cracking his knuckles and eyeing me up and down like a wolf about to devour a rabbit.
“Where you off to little girl?”
“None of your business, asshole.”
“That’s no way to talk. Such ugly words from a pretty little thing. You kiss your mama with that mouth?”
“Yeah, and I kick ass with the rest of me, so back off!”
“Sweetie. Don’t play hard to get. It’ll only turn me on, and I’ll have to make it hurt.”
“Then bring it on, big boy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
He steps forward slowly, circling to my left side, my weak side. I try to rotate to allow my right leg enough room to connect with his knee cap, but he feints left and swings with his massive right hand, connecting with my temple and knocking me to the ground. As the darkness clouds my vision, I hear a dull thud, and then I’m floating through the air, dreaming of the ocean and drifting in the crystal clear water. I awake with a start, my head pounding out a fierce rhythm like a bass drum. I see the ceiling and quickly remember the man in the alley. I sit up rapidly, and try to stand, but fall back onto the bed as the room spins on its axis.
“Hold on, you’ve been out for a few hours. Take a few minutes to get your bearings.”
I search the room for the person that is speaking and see his eyes staring at me from the corner of the room.
“Who are you? Where am I?”
“You’re safe here. I carried you from the alley to my house. I didn’t know where you lived, so I brought you here. What’s your name?”
“My name isn’t important. What is important is who you are and what your intentions are.”
“My only intention is to make sure you’re all right. You took a hard punch back there. That guy was three times your size, and you didn’t back down an inch. Very impressive.”
“I’m glad I could impress you, but you didn’t answer my questions. Who are you?”
“My name is Manuel. You’re in my apartment a few blocks from the alley where I found you. I knocked that big guy out and picked you up and carried you here. I have no intention of hurting you. I saved you from what I assume was a mugging and possible rape. I know that guy from the neighborhood. He’s not a nice guy. His name is Chester, but everyone calls him Big Mack. I don’t know how he got that name, and I’ve never wanted to get close enough to ask. He’s kind of an asshole.”
“Thank you, Manuel. I owe you one for that.”
“Then have dinner with me tonight. I have to meet some friends in an hour, but I’ll be free afterward. Meet me in Washington Square Park next to the arch at eight-thirty. I’ll be waiting for you.”
“I’m not sure I can meet you. I’m supposed to be getting together with some friends later.” A blatant lie, but I didn’t want to sound too eager.
“I’ll be there anyway. If you show up, then I know it was meant to be. If not, then we go our separate ways.”
“Ok, Manuel. We’ll see what happens. Thanks again for saving me. I’m glad you were there.”
“Allison. My name is Allison.”
“You’re welcome, Allison. It was nice meeting you.”
“Until I see you again, Allison.”
The walk back to my dorm passes like the ticking of a second hand, wandering from block to block, oblivious to everything around me. I don’t even remember walking past the familiar landmarks that lead me home. Manuel has turned my world upside down. He’s so sexy and dark. His features are accented by his black hair and dark eyes. I don’t think I’ve met anyone so handsome since I’ve been in the city. To say that I’m smitten would be an understatement. I blush when I think about his eyes watching me from the other side of the room. I wanted him to reach out and touch me, hold me close to him, and feel him next to me. I no longer have any interest in Adam, the boy from South Carolina. I just met a man, a real man. His voice is like honey, smooth and thick, with a slight Spanish accent. I find myself standing at my door, staring at it when my room-mate opens it and almost walks right into me.
“Ally! What are you doing just standing out here? I almost slammed right into you!”
“Sorry, Meg. I was just thinking about something. Where are you headed?”
“I’m going to meet Sam and Alex for dinner. Do you want to come with me? We’re going to a new restaurant near Gramercy Park. Sam found it a few weeks ago and said it's just amazing.”
“No, thanks. I have a date tonight.”
“Allison Lynn Keener. You didn’t tell me you had a date. You sneaky little vixen. Who is it? Do I know him?”
“Nobody you know. I just met him tonight. He asked me out to dinner. His name is Manuel.”
“Manuel? Sounds sexy. Is he hot?”
“He’s more than hot.”
“I want details. Tell me everything when you get home. I have to run. Love you, Ally!”
“Bye, Meg. I’ll see you later.”
Manuel. Manuel. I say his name over and over again. I want to know everything about him.I can hardly wait until eight-thirty.That’s two and a half hours from now. I want to see him right now. Maybe if I hurry, he’ll still be at home.I could call him if I remembered to ask for his number before I floated out the door on a cloud.I race out the door and down to the sidewalk. As soon as I pass the next block, I stop suddenly.I don’t remember where he lives. I’m such an idiot. The walk home was a cacophony of street lights and horns honking, and I don’t even know which way to go. He had me hypnotized.I wander back to the dorm to shower and get ready to walk to the park.