My twin sister adores Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure why because she has had some of the worst Valentine’s Day disasters. She is what I consider the ultimate Valentine survivor and she’s the inspiration for my “Valentine Survivor” novella. There is a lot of Jen the Twin in Shanna, the heroine of the story.
At times it was difficult to write this story because it took me a long time to understand Shanna. I frequently called Jen the Twin and ask questions like, “How far in advance would you plan your Valentine’s Day?” I admit that I sound a lot like Heather, Shanna’s twin sister.
Here’s the first scene of “Valentine Survivor,” my contribution to the Valentine’s Day is Killing Me anthology. You can no longer find the print edition in stores but it is still available as an eBook.
Shanna Murphy hopped off the bus. “This is going to be the best Valentine’s Day ever!” she announced as she raised her fists above her head. Excitement fizzed through her veins as she tilted her face towards gray Seattle rain clouds.
“You say that every year,” Heather pointed out as she wearily hooked her backpack over one shoulder. “Come on, I’m chilled to the bone.”
Shanna didn’t know what her sister was talking about. She wasn’t the least bit cold. “This year is going to be different!”
“You’ve said that each year, too.”
She ignored Heather’s comment. No one was going to dampen her spirits. Shanna waited too long for the perfect V-Day and she was almost there. Eighty-seven hours and everything was in place! Nothing could – or would – go wrong. She’d made sure of it.
The certainty was unlike anything Shanna had felt before. She wanted to burst with joy. She wanted to squeal. Do a Mary Tyler Moore hat toss and twirl. Her body language must have given her away because Heather grabbed her by the arm and pulled her along.
“This year will be different.” She fell in step with Heather as they followed the crowd to the office buildings. “And do you know why?”
“I don’t want to know.” Her sister determinedly kept her gaze straight ahead.
“I’ll tell you why. Because I have a fail-proof plan.” Just saying it aloud made her jittery. She felt like a kid the week before Christmas. A virtuous kid who knew she was getting a good pay-off from Santa.
Heather spared a sideways glance. “If it’s anything like last year’s ‘contingency plan’…” She curled her fingers in quotation marks.
Shanna winced and her spirits took a tiny dip as she remembered last year. That had to be the worst V-day. Ever. And for someone who had never had a good Valentine’s Day – not even a date on February 14th during her long and, uh, illustrious dating career – that was saying a lot.
“Okay, last year’s plans didn’t work,” Shanna admitted, “but I really hadn’t been expecting a natural disaster.”
“Maybe I should define ‘contingency plan’ for you.”
She swatted at Heather’s hands. “Enough about that.” She hated when people did quotation marks at her. Twin sisters, especially. “Last year was a dress rehearsal. Just like all the other years. But they were also learning experiences.”
Heather rolled her eyes. “Apparently you haven’t learned enough, because you’re still excited about Valentine’s Day.”
“But don’t you see?” She didn’t know exactly why, but Shanna needed to convince Heather. Which was ridiculous – not to mention impossible – since her sister missed out on the romantic gene altogether. “I’m approaching this holiday in a different direction. I’ve pared down.”
“You?” Heather stopped abruptly on the sidewalk corner and almost got ran over by another pedestrian. “Pared down? Do I need to define that, too?”
“I want the perfect V-Day. A quintessential February 14th. That means boiling it down to its very essence.”
“This does not sound good,” Heather muttered under her breath as they crossed the street.
“I even made a list.” Shanna unzipped her purse and hurriedly shuffled through the trash.
“Yep.” Heather rubbed her fingertips against her forehead. “Not good at all.”
“See.” She pulled out a sheet of paper, slightly crumpled from constant viewing. “I’m concentrating on the basics.”
“Give me that.” Her sister snatched it from her fingers and read it aloud.
- Receive a dozen long-stemmed red roses. At work. In front of everyone.
- Dinner at the most romantic restaurant in downtown Seattle. Champagne optional, but would gain bonus points.
- A date with someone who knows where my G-spot is without asking for directions. And knows what to do with it.
“So?” Shanna prodded, anticipation buzzing inside her again. “What do you think? Good, huh?”
Heather pressed her lips together and shook her head slightly. She wordlessly returned the list.
“Knock it off.” Shanna reverently folded the paper and slipped it back in her purse. “You have to admit that this list is fail-proof.”
Heather’s forehead crinkled. “Are you kidding? Everything will go wrong.”
“You wanna bet?” She already regretted showing her sister the list.
“Sure. Let’s look at your dinner requirement. What do you consider the most romantic restaurant in Seattle?”
“Swish.” She hadn’t actually been there, but it had topped the ten most romantic restaurants for the past three years. For all she knew they could serve macrobiotic junk. Who cared as long as they did it with a romantic flair?
“Oh, sure. Swish.” Heather scoffed at the idea. “Like you’re going to get in there. I hear that they take reservations a year in advance.”
Shanna didn’t say anything, but she knew she was gloating. The best kind of gloat as long as you weren’t on the receiving end. The smirk tugged at her pursed lips. She felt the pull of her eyebrows as she tried not to waggle them.
“Didn’t what?” she asked innocently.
“You made reservations a year in advance.” The way Heather said it made it sound like an accusation. “Without even having a boyfriend on the horizon.”
The smile she tried to contain broke through. “Yep. I decided I was not going to suffer through another bad Valentine’s Day. On February 15th of last year, I called Swish and made reservations. I got a table for two by the window overlooking Elliot Bay.”
“Lovely.” Sarcasm shimmered through the single word. “Too bad the second seat in your dinner for two is going to be empty.”
“Not necessarily.” She felt her eyebrows waggling.
“I’m not eating dinner with you.”
Shanna tilted her chin up. “You’re not invited.”
“Are you telling me you have a date in mind?”
Pure pleasure kicked into her veins. “I sure do.”
For the first time that morning Heather showed a spark of enthusiasm. “You and Calder?”
Calder. Calder Smith. Her breath hitched in her throat as her ex-boyfriend’s image slammed into her brain.
His pitch-black hair was cropped close against his skull. Tanned, weathered skin stretched over his lean, angular face. Lines fanned from his gleaming brown eyes and bracketed his stern mouth. And every once in a while, a slow, almost shy smile that made her heart tumble.
She used to think that Calder had been almost too tall for her. So tall that she felt delicate next to him. Or maybe it was his harsh masculinity that made her feel fragile and ultra-feminine. Whatever it was, Shanna still shivered at the memory of his earthy sensuality.
She swallowed roughly and tried to clear her suddenly swollen throat. “Heather, you know the rule,” she reminded her in a hoarse whisper. “Do not speak his name in front of me.” It was bad enough she had to see him almost every day because they worked for the same computer software company.
“Okay, fine. But He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named should be on that checklist.” She shook a finger at Shanna. “That would be the perfect V-Day you’re searching for.”
Like she didn’t know that already. She didn’t want to think about. Shanna tried to push the image aside, but the tingling of her skin remained. She had to forget about him and not let any what-might-have-beens get in the way of her goal.
“So who’s your date?”
She wasn’t too sure if she wanted to share any more information, but she knew her sister wouldn’t let the topic rest until she found out. “Dominic.”
“Dominic? Who’s Domi—no!” She grabbed Shanna’s arm and pulled her to a stop. “Not…”
“Yep, that’s the one.”
Heather’s eyes widened with dismay. “He’s a slut.”
“I think the term you’re looking for is ‘serial dater’.” Even though she hated it, Shanna did the quote thing with her fingers. Just because she could.
“For future reference, anytime you use the word ‘serial’ to describe a guy, it’s not going to be good.”
Damn if her sister didn’t use the quote move again. “I’ll remember that.”
Heather covered her face with her hands. “Dominic. Why-y-y?” She wailed and stomped one foot after the other. “Why him? He’s not going to send you flowers.”
“Yes, he is.” If the subliminal messages didn’t work, the full-frontal request could not have been misunderstood.
Heather dropped her hands from her face and glared with suspicion. “Shanna, tell me the truth. Did you order and pay for the flowers in advance?”
“No!” Her mouth dropped open in shock. Outrage. “I would never do that. That’s pathetic! I can’t believe you would even think I’d consider it.”
Her sister’s jaw slid to one side and she arched a knowing eyebrow. “Shanna.”
“Okay, the idea crossed my mind,” she admitted, as she and Heather jaywalked through a parking lot, “but I rejected it. I know the minute I did that, all my bitchy co-workers would sniff out the truth.”
“Yeah, you would never live that one down.” She shuddered at the possibilities.
“Anyway, the whole point of the exercise is having a guy send me a bouquet at work. A dozen red roses, to be exact. I will accept no substitutes.”
“Why do you think Dominic is going to send you flowers?”
“He will if he wants to find my G-spot on Friday.” Shanna knew the motivation didn’t sound the least bit romantic, but it would all work out in the end.
“Do you know where it is?”
“It hasn’t made itself known for the past three months,” she said with a shrug, “but that doesn’t mean it changed addresses on me.”
“And you think it’s going to head the welcome committee for Dominic?” Heather exhaled long and hard. “Of all the men you could have picked. Couldn’t it have been anyone else?”
“Heather, think about it.” It wasn’t like she had randomly picked Dominic. He fitted her requirements for the night. “How many guys can you name who knows what a G-spot is, let alone what to do with it?”
“There’s me.” The familiar, rough voice said from right behind her.
Shanna stumbled to a halt and forgot to breathe altogether as Calder steadied her. His fingers spanning against the curve of her hip made her knees melt. She trembled as his heat washed over her. And, if she wasn’t mistaken, her G-spot just announced that the hibernation season was officially over.