Monday, November 28, 2011
PLOTTING WITH WOUNDED HEROES by Cheryl Pierson
My heroes are all wounded. Not just emotionally, but physically, as well. Being a hero in a Cheryl Pierson story is like being an expendable member of the landing party on Star Trek. If you had on a red shirt when you beamed down to the planet’s surface, you could pretty well figure you weren’t going to be returning to the Enterprise in one piece, or alive.
In my debut TWRP historical western release, Fire Eyes, U.S. Marshal Kaed Turner is tortured and shot at the hands of the villain, Andrew Fallon, and his gang of cutthroats. A band of Choctaw Indians deposit Kaed on Jessica Monroe’s doorstep with instructions to take care of him. “Do not allow him to die,” the chief tells her.
Can she save him? Or will he meet the same fate that befell her husband, Billy? Although Kaed’s injuries are severe, he recovers under a combination of Jessica’s expert care and his own resolve and inner strength.
The injuries he sustained give him the time he needs to get to know Jessica quickly. Their relationship becomes more intimate in a shorter time span due to the circumstances. Under normal conditions of courtship, the level their relationship skyrockets to in just a few days would take weeks, or months.
Wounding the hero is a way to also show the evil deeds of the villain. We can develop a kinship with the hero as he faces what seem to be insurmountable odds against the villain. How will he overcome those odds? Even if he weren’t injured, it would be hard enough—but now, we feel each setback more keenly than ever. He’s vulnerable in a way he has no control over. How will he deal with it, in the face of this imminent danger?
Enter the heroine. She’ll do what she can to help, but will it be enough to make a difference? This is her chance to show what she’s made of, and further the relationship between them. (If he dies, of course, that can’t happen.)
From this point on, as the hero begins to recover, he also regains his confidence as well as his strength.
It’s almost like “The Six Million Dollar Man”: We can build him stronger…faster…better…
He will recover, but now he has something to lose—the newfound love between him and the heroine. Now, he’s deadlier than ever, and it’s all about protecting the woman he loves.
Or, his injuries may give him a view of life that he hadn’t hoped for before. Maybe the heroine’s care and the ensuing love between them make the hero realize qualities in himself he hadn’t known were there.
In my holiday short story, A Night For Miracles, wounded gunman Nick Dalton arrives on widow Angela Bentley’s doorstep in a snowstorm. Angela is tempted at first to turn him away, until she realizes he’s traveling with three half-frozen youngsters, and he’s bleeding.
As she settles the children into the warmth of her home and begins to treat Nick’s injury, she realizes it’s Christmas Eve—“A Night For Miracles,” Nick says wryly. “I’m ready for mine.”
In this excerpt, the undercurrents between them are strong, but Nick realizes Angela’s fears. She’s almost as afraid of taking in a gunman with a reputation as she is of being alone again.
FROM “A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES”
Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.
He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.
“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”
He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”
She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”
“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”
A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.
She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”
He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”
She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”
He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”
He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”
And for those of you who can't get enough of hunky wounded heroes, this is from my latest short story, MEANT TO BE, in the 2011 Christmas Collection:
Robin stumbled, and Jake reached to steady her. An arrow ripped through the flesh of his thigh, scorching a trail of lightning through his skin. He cried out in mingled pain and surprise as his leg folded under him. Robin stopped and turned, dropping to kneel beside him.
He looked up into her face. She was frightened, understandably; but her concern for him outweighed any other emotion in her expression.
“Leave me,” he panted, grasping the shaft of the arrow and breaking it off close to the skin. Cheyenne markings.
“Forget it.” She tugged at his arm, trying to help him to his feet. “Can you walk?”
The determination in her tone brooked no disagreement. Besides, there was no time for it. Jake forced himself to struggle up and they started for the riverbank once more. Another shot came from behind them, but they’d just managed to enter the outer fringe of trees, the recesses of the woods offering welcome shelter.
“Where?” she asked breathlessly.
Jake nodded. “Straight ahead. There’s—there’s a cave up here. Not far.”
Robin’s eyes filled with anxiety.
“I’m okay,” he reassured her. “Let’s just get safe.” The pain had become a constant throb of fire with each step, the embedded arrowhead moving against flesh. Jake cast a glance behind him. There was no movement. Their attackers must have decided that following them into the woods was not the most prudent thing to do.
Their steps slowed as they made their way toward the mouth of the cave. Ahead, across the river, the entrance beckoned, partially hidden behind a wall of scrubby brush. Jake had to get off his leg. The bleeding was bad, and the pain was not going to let up—not as long as he was walking.
Robin reached to take the rifle from him, and he gave it to her with a reluctant sigh.
She smiled. “I’ll take good care of it.”
“The river’s shallow here, and narrow, but we’ll be in the open for a few minutes.” He motioned for her to go on. “You…get ahead of me. In front.”
“Don’t argue,” he told her sharply. “If you get shot, how will you get back to your time?” He didn’t wait for an answer, though she looked as if she badly wanted to say something. She started ahead of him, his hand at her back, his gait made awkward by the hole in his thigh and the embedded length of the arrow. The pain was more excruciating with each step he took, and twice, he almost went to his knees, barely able to regain his balance at the last moment.
The river was low here, barely flowing across the tops of their boots, but the footing was rocky and slippery. Robin was careful to hold the rifle aloft as she slogged through the running water. Jake kept close to her back, cursing his own earlier lack of awareness. But how could he have been aware of anything other than the kiss he shared with Robin? Just thinking of it now, and the emotions that moment had awakened in him, eased the pain in his leg a bit. At least, it gave him something good to think about.
CHERYL'S AMAZON LINK: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002JV8GUE