I make a point of writing a kick-ass heroine into each of my romance novels. To torment her, I plunk her into dangerous, often lethal situations . Hey, they test her mettle, plus it’s fun for the author.
Here’s the thing. When I say kick-ass, I’m not talking about lack of fear. Just the opposite. When my heroine faces danger, she’s plenty scared, but reacts with courage, even humor. Here is one of my favorite examples from THE JAGUAR LEGACY, where Charley encounters a snake.
The pathway meandered between tall grasses, walls of thorn bushes, and patches of ferns. Trees propped up by buttress roots towered higher than the rest. A troop of monkeys crashed through the canopy. Small, hidden creatures scurried through the grass, foraging for food. The odor of decaying wood reminded Charley that life and death co-existed in close proximity.
She considered turning back to camp, but the dig was closer. Scanning the underbrush for movement, she picked up the pace.
The hairs on the back of her arms prickled. She swore she heard a creature moving through the underbrush beside the path, matching her pace. She could feel its eyes on her. The monkeys had disappeared. She stopped and listened. Only a distant bird call broke the solitude. When she started walking again, the stealthy rustling accompanied her.
She removed her sunglasses and wrestled down a bubble of panic. Striving for calm, she skimmed her gaze over the ground, searching for a stick or rock, anything she could use as a weapon against her stalker. If she freaked, she was done.
The snake slithered from the underbrush and coiled in a patch of sunlight beside the path. She froze to the spot. The reptile must have been seven feet long, its grayish body as thick as her thigh, and marked with black chevrons. Another step, and she would have tripped over it.
The creature raised its broad, triangular head. A forked tongue flickered toward her. The air filled with a strange clacking that started slowly, like the sound of dry bones rubbing together, and growing in intensity until individual clicks blended into a continuous rattle.
She leaped backwards.
Slowly, as if it had all the time in the world, the snake moved toward her, its sinuous body carving a graceful pattern in the dirt.
Fear slammed through Charley. The vision of Kincaid finding her dead body bloated with poison flashed into her mind, fueling her terror. She forced her feet to move, heedless of direction.
The rattlesnake followed, hissing.
A tree blocked Charley’s retreat, and she cursed. She’d blundered off the path.
The creature reared its head back and weaved hypnotically. Greenish, reptilian eyes fastened on her face.
She swore it could read her mind.
The snake feinted a strike and drew back, tongue flickering. A dark intelligence lurked behind the its hooded gaze. It darted its wicked head again.
There was no doubt in Charley’s mind the snake was toying with her, terrifying her, before executing the killing strike.
She whirled, headed for the jungle, only to find herself sprawling on the ground, face-first and helpless. Twisting, she cursed the fallen branch entangling her feet and glanced over her shoulder, panic building in her chest.
The rattle buzzed a warning.
Charley rolled away, drawing up her knees with instinctive speed.
The triangular head flashed in a blur of speed. Lethal fangs embedded themselves in the thick leather of her boot. The rattlesnake’s body whipped viciously as it struggled to withdraw.
She kicked desperately, bracing herself against the rough tree trunk.
The snake sprang loose, a clear, yellow liquid dripping from its fangs.
Charley lashed out again. One reinforced toe connected with the wicked-looking head.
The force of the blow flung the snake backward into the underbrush, out of sight but not out of earshot.
Her blood froze as the furious rattle gathered in volume.
She scrabbled her hands in the dirt and her fingers connected with the forked branch she’d tripped over. Fear gave her arms strength. Gripping the heavy piece of wood, she vaulted to her feet and swung the weapon above her head like a battle-axe.
“Come here, you bastard,” she screeched. “I know you’re there.”
After an eternity, the snake appeared again. Its thick upper body towered from the grass in a high, sinuous coil. Its malevolent gaze locked with Charley’s in an outlandish contest of wills.
Lightning-fast, the attacker darted its head forward.
Anticipating the move, Charley leaped away.
The strike fell short and the snake dropped to the ground.
Fear turned to rage. “I’m not as helpless as you thought,” she shouted and swung the branch, trying to pin the creature to the ground.
The snake hissed in fury, writhing to escape. It eluded the forked stick and raised its head to stare at her before gliding into the jungle.
Swaying ferns on the far side of the path marked its progress.
“Coward,” Charley shrieked. “Come back here. I’m not finished with you.”
Bushes swam in front of her eyes. Her legs wanted to collapse. She tucked the stick under her arm and forced her feet into a jog. If the snake returned to finish her off, it wouldn’t find a helpless victim awaiting her fate.
After five endless minutes, during which she thought her heart would burst, the path widened. Two colossal stone heads gazed at the ancient city spread out in front of her. She sank to the ground, cradled her face in her hands, and allowed shuddering sobs to erupt.
After several minutes, she blinked back the tears and groped in her backpack for a tissue to wipe her running nose. When she’d taken care of business, she stood up and walked deliberately to the edge of the path.
And threw up.
The Jaguar Legacy is a kindle e-book, also available on Kindle Unlimited.
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