Sophie doesn’t know it, but the stakes are high: her life and her heart. Desperately needing support, she turns to a few trusted people, and to Oliver most of all. But can he be trusted, who speaks the truth, and the question on everyone’s lips: who is the man in the mask?
Her checkered past returns to entangle her. She will come to realize that it is not dead after all…it is still very much alive.
A Diamond in the Rough is a love story, a thriller, funny in parts and moving in others. Most of all, it is a gripping debut novel that will have you guessing and turning pages until you reach the end.
“Excuse me,” I tell the crowd bunched around me. I’m yearning for meaning in this crushing sea of meaningless babble. Since I was a little girl, I learned how to work a crowd—smile, compliment, and look interested. My mother insisted I develop a personality. “People with good personalities go to well-paid places, Sophie,” she would say. Look at where that got me, mother. If she were alive, she’d soon be dead from hearing me say that. Now, I’m a chameleon of personalities, adapting my skin to the environment. When faced with having to mingle with a multitude of people, I will call upon my more outgoing alter ego and engage in the foreplay of current topics. But I hardly ever enjoy it.
I give up on finding any type of real conversation and slip out of the party. On my way out of the hotel, I fling on a raincoat and press a black trilby hat on my head. I edge my way around puddles and keep an eye open for any cab with its light on. Daylight falls through the thick wall of trees. Rain continues to play havoc, pelting me all over. Leaves separate from their perches, being pushed and shoved with every bulleting raindrop.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a shadow of movement. I freeze up. I look around. Tires screech to a halt. My pulse hammers as a van whizzes by me and stops at the curb with only an inch to spare. A man in a hood wearing a full-face black Venetian mask flings the side door wide and scrambles out of the van. I’m numbed by panic, chilled, my heart throbbing with fear. I think about the threat I received today and all the rest I’ve been ignoring. One by one, rapid flash-card images race through my mind.
The masked man is on me in a blur and slides one arm around my neck. His other hand slaps roughly over my mouth. Between muffled grunts and agitated maneuvers, my hat flies off my head and it occurs to me he may have the element of surprise, but I have the element of teeth. Fight instincts replace panic completely and it’s game on.
He breaks out in a loud bellow when I bite his bony hand as hard as I can. He seizes a fistful of my hair and yanks. I grip his wrist, trying to pull him off, and plunge my stiletto heel into the side of his shoe. It doesn’t make him drop on his knees, but at least it distracts him.
I could’ve run; I should’ve run, but instead I bend my knees, pivot my hips, and clench my fists up next to my chest. The Mask looks at my demeanor and laughs. I shift my weight and thrust my foot straight into his stomach, sending him crashing back against the van. He’s not laughing anymore. He swings a fist at me and I squat down, but he strikes my chin with an uppercut. Another punch sinks into my flesh below my bellybutton. I curl into a ball as he knocks the breath out of me. My mouth falls open and I begin to cough.
One minute I’m making significant progress, the next he’s wrapping his broomstick arms around my waist again, pressing my back against his chest, and dragging me backward. Everything happens so fast.
This is it. He’s going to take me. Who was I kidding? I can feel myself tiring quickly as I try to twist out of his tight grip.
I glimpse a second man in a suit step up. I can’t fight off two men. I hear a shout. I freeze again, or panic, or both. The Mask gives me a hard push forward and jumps back inside the van. I groan as I ram into the second man—my chest to his—toppling us both onto the pavement. It is a heck of a fall.
“Are you okay?” he says over the rain, with such a deep, gravelly voice.
My long hair dangles like a curtain of wet silk on the man’s face, obscuring what little he can see. Heavy raindrops cling to my lashes, stream down my face, moisten my lips, and trickle down my neck. Here I am, half-kidnapped, at a loss for words, hovering over a man in cold rainwater that has the sewers overflowing, and it doesn’t occur to me to get up. But he is just as bold as I am because he’s suddenly touching my face like he’s making sure I’m still on this earth, then pushing my hair back with his hand. I nearly falter.
My forehead creases. I mean to say, “Yeah. I think so,” but I don’t. I take one brief look at him and my breath hitches in my chest. I scramble to get off him. Halfway on my toes, I skid and fall on my back. I scurry on my backside, pushing with my hands and feet, until I’m completely away from his chest.
He props up on his elbows. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
I hear a smidgen of honesty in his voice, and he probably sees the terror in my face, but my body has already made up its mind. I push up from the ground and flee as quickly as my stilettos will allow.
1. What’s your favorite quote?
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
I say screw society’s standards of what is considered smart and stupid. I utterly despise the education system. It is confined and doesn’t encourage any real, authentic learning. The best ideas have come from people who can think outside the box. Some people are musical prodigies; others are good at math. Some people are good at burping the alphabet. We’re all different. There is a multitude of intelligences. And put into the right environment where we can exercise our strengths and talents—that is when we let our glory shine.
2. Tell us about your favorite character from your own writing and why.
I love my male protagonist, Oliver Black. He’s a very complex character, not easy to understand. If you do or don’t, that tells me a lot about you. He and I are almost the same person, were he not a man and fictional. I also love my male antagonist, John Henry Bridges. He’s puzzling, sinister, and unbelievably fun to write. He is who he is, and he doesn’t apologize for it or second-guess himself. He’s perfect.
3. What is the last book you read?
Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham. I love all his books!
4. Do you have a super power? What is it?
Not really a super power, but I can tell whether a pregnant woman is having a boy or a girl. It’s legit, I swear! I had one lady name her daughter after me. The doctor had told her it was a boy and nine months later…oops, it’s a girl! Just like I said it was!
5. How do you balance writing with other responsibilities?
Responsibilities? What are those? LOL :) Most (if not all) of the time I write when I should be sleeping, so if anything I try to balance my sleep and writing. I sometimes rest.