Thursday, 8 July 2010

Excerpt Day - Desperate Bid © Stephanie Cage


Sarah, her shoulders tense, craned her neck to view the rope ladder stretching above her into the treetops. At the top, Michelle scrambled from the ladder onto a wooden platform. Both tree and ladder swayed alarmingly with the movements, and Sarah’s stomach lurched with fear at the thought of following her friend.

“I’m up. Your turn,” Michelle sang out.

Sarah’s hand refused to grasp the ladder. Move, damn it, she ordered it, taking a deep breath for courage, but somehow her arm remained hanging limply by her side. The sinking in her stomach turned to sick fear. What if I can’t move? What if I’m the only one who can’t do it?

She knew Miles’ eyes burned into her back as he waited behind her for his turn to start the obstacle course. It was just her luck that, when the company had been split into groups, she’d found Miles grouped together with her and Michelle, while her pleasant colleague John was in a different group with the receptionist and several staff from accounts. If only John were behind her, instead of the slick sales director she despised.

The thought of Miles’ contempt if she failed to complete this challenge proved to be the spur she needed, and at last her hand unfroze. The rope was rough against her palm and fingers. Would she have blisters by the end of the session?

She almost laughed, then. What was she worrying about? Blisters were the least of her problems. Far worse was the thought of disgracing herself in front of her team, on what should have been a simple task. Why, with all the team-building exercises in the world to choose from, had the management happened upon the only one that was guaranteed to turn her into a quivering wreck? She’d never been able to handle heights, not since watching her sister fall out of a tree and break her arm, as a child, though oddly the incident hadn’t affected her sister Gillian in the slightest.

Sarah’s thoughts accompanied her up the first few feet of the ladder until she was perhaps as high as standing on a dining chair. The rungs were slippery with the morning’s drizzle, and she had to concentrate on landing her feet steadily on one rung after another. Each time she moved her hand up the rope or set her foot on a new rung, the ladder bucked and pitched as if it intended to throw her off and deposit her at Miles’ feet. And wouldn’t he love that?

Sarah’s determination not to show herself up in front of him carried her further up the ladder, to what she guessed must be about roof height. It was amazing to find herself so high up, her hands and feet moving more smoothly as she settled into a climbing rhythm. She risked a glance down at the forest floor far below her. It wasn’t quite as scary as she’d expected. The brown, mulchy ground looked soft and safe, like a crash mat below a gymnast. There were plumes of ferns scattered across the forest floor and saplings growing up between the trees, but it was hard to tell their scale. The quick glimpse gave her courage, and she scrambled more confidently up to the top of the ladder, where she could see Michelle on the platform, safely harnessed to the tree and smiling as she saw Sarah climb into view.

Now she needed to do what Michelle had done: let go of the rope and make her way onto the platform. But after the confidence she’d found on the ladder, her hands refused to unlock from it, even to reach for the safety of the solid wooden platform in front of her.

“Come on up,” Michelle encouraged.

“I can’t.” Sarah could hear the unattractive edge of panic in her own voice. She swallowed hard in the hope of dislodging the lump of fear in her throat.

“Yes, you can. It’s easy,” Michelle said firmly. “Put one hand up here.”

Sarah wasn’t used to taking orders from Michelle, but the insistent tone broke through her fear, and she managed to get one hand up on the platform as directed, then the other. With solid wood under both hands, she didn’t feel so bad. But her feet were still reluctant to take the big step off the top of the ladder. She had visions of herself sliding from the platform and tumbling back down the route she’d just climbed. Did people die doing things like this, or just break bones?

“Miles is waiting,” Michelle reminded her in a low voice. Did Michelle know just how desperately afraid she was that Miles would guess at her debilitating fear? The terror of embarrassing herself proved greater than the fear of falling, and Sarah lifted one leg from the rope ladder, settled one knee onto the platform, and hoisted herself up, to land with an undignified sprawl on the treetop platform.

“Well done,” Michelle said, ignoring the graceless arrival. “You want to go first over the bridge?”

For the first time, Sarah looked ahead and saw the bridge that stretched from the platform across to the next treetop. It was hardly a bridge at all, really, more of a high wire, and the two ropes that flanked it just below shoulder height did nothing to reassure her. She knew the overhead wire and harness would take her weight, even if she lost her footing entirely, but she still didn’t know how she would find the courage to step onto the narrow, flimsy wire in front of her.

“Do you want to go first? Get it over with?” Michelle asked.

Sarah shuddered. It was probably a good idea not to stand here, shaking with terror, when she could be moving and confronting her fears, but the knowledge wasn’t nearly enough to induce her to step out into the abyss before she had to.

© Stephanie Cage

Desperate Bid

Author: Stephanie Cage

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Buy Link

Sarah is looking for a way to please a difficult boss. Alex is looking for a new life. In a moment of drunken madness, Alex puts his life up for sale on an online auction site. When Sarah’s work team places the winning bid, it might be the solution to all their problems… or just the start of a whole new set of difficulties.

Can the growing attraction between Sarah and Alex survive the strange situation in which they find themselves… not to mention pressure from scheming colleagues, jealous friends and reawakened ambitions which threaten to take them in unexpected directions?

0 Speak To Me: