It’s funny how inspiration for a story can strike out of the blue. I know everybody dreams, but I rarely remember mine. And even when I do, I only remember bits and pieces. The details are often crazy, and they seem to fade so quickly, like ice on a window pane after sunrise. This time I remembered enough to get the creative juices flowing – some sort of terrorist attack, a festive occasion involving fireworks, panic, old friends stuck somewhere.
That’s where Ella and the Admiral came from. Like The Demon’s Eye, this is a stand-alone story as far as the characters are concerned. I could have used any setting, but I chose Dryden. The Yrmaks play a role, as does the Empire, but you’ll not recognize any of the character names from other stories.
I knew this wasn’t going to be a very long piece. One of the problems with writing a romance is that many people hate instalove, but in a short, it’s hard to develop the time frame for a relationship to blossom, so I needed to sketch in backstory (because that’s how short stories work).
Here’s the blurb:
When Admiral Goran Chandler suddenly turns up in Ella’s restaurant her comfortable world is thrown into turmoil. Ten years ago he’d been a senior commander, and captain of the frigate Antelope. She had been Lieutenant Bulich then, and he’d kicked her off his ship.
With unexpected danger threatening, and a killer stalking the corridors of the Hotel Majestic, Ella and the admiral must work together to escape with their lives before they can consider the events of ten years ago, and what they mean now.
I confess I don’t read a lot of romance, and I always describe my books as SF with a romance arc. I understand romance has its own tropes and rules but to me, sometimes that pushes the genre into fantasy. In real life, happy ever after doesn’t always work out. People divorce, they have affairs, they find other partners. I’m on my second go on the relationship roundabout myself, my husband’s on his third. So I give you fair warning – Ella and the Admiral is a warts and all romance. And for those who insist people change in ten years – yes, they do, but that doesn’t mean feelings don’t linger. Anyone remember the TV series with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, As Time Goes By? (You should - it has been repeated ad nauseum.) The two leads meet unexpectedly after a gap of 38 years, and both had been married to somebody else in that interval. That didn’t seem to be a deal-breaker for the general public - it went for 9 series and 3 specials.
Anyway, back to Ella and the Admiral. Here’s a snippet which won’t need much introduction, except to say this is the evening of the planet’s five hundredth anniversary. There’ll be parties, revelry, dancing in the streets, and fireworks over the lake. A group of eight arrives for dinner at the restaurant where Ella works. One of the party is her former commanding officer. She escorts them to their table, making sure Chandler doesn’t realize she has recognized him.
Chandler made sure Ella didn't realize he'd recognized her, turning to his colleagues to discuss where everyone else was going to sit. They were all senior officers from his flagship, here for a private birthday dinner with Captain Ibbotson, away from the military, away from formal engagements representing Fleet. He'd had a chance to look Ella over, keeping his expression carefully schooled, when she had introduced the two attendants who would be looking after their group. She'd hardly aged. Those compelling dark eyes were just as compelling, her lips just as luscious. She'd grown her hair, but wore it tied back. The dark red uniform suited her, accentuating the brown of her skin.
"It's our job to make this a memorable evening for you. If there's anything you need, please don't hesitate to ask your attendants, or me." Ella beamed a smile around the table, although she brushed past him as though he wasn't there. Ibbotson thanked her, and then she walked away.
Ella. To start with she'd been just another junior officer, inexperienced but capable and willing. On a frigate the officers got to know each other, shared jokes and meals, sometimes even some leave time. She was fun, interested in everything, willing to try the food on any planet. He'd enjoyed her company more than he should have. Chandler wondered if she was still married. He had met the husband, briefly, when the man came to collect his wife for a weekend at home, but he couldn't remember the fellow's name, or what he looked like. What Chandler did remember was the feeling of jealousy, that this man was going to take Ella home and… have sex with her. That was when he'd realized he'd let himself get too close. He was her commanding officer. She was married. He was married, too, then.
Probably a couple of days after I wrote this story the terrorist attack took place in Nice, France. You might remember a man drove a truck into crowds of people watching the fireworks on Bastille Day. Premonition? I most sincerely hope not.