As you know, I’m working on the second book in my Hunter thriller series, Blood is Power. In the scene below, Tequila (pretending to be Maxine Hunter) is shown around Dollar de la Rue’s home. Those who read the first book will be familiar with the characters, but that doesn’t really matter.
What I really need from you is an indication on whether you could read this description without being tempted to skip so you can get to the action. My first editor kept on at me because she thought my writing style is too fast, sparse, lacks description. So, this time, I’ve been trying to slow down and show just enough (it hurts, believe me! I’d far rather write action or dialogue). So, what do you think?
Tequila took Dollar’s hand and stepped off the powerboat onto the warm boards of the wooden jetty. Turquoise waters beneath, a bright cloudless sky above and a white sand beach that struggled to hold a palm tree invasion at bay. Through the thick canopy, the sun-baked thatched roof of a large two-storey building was the only clue to an arid climate.
It felt warm, but not unpleasantly so. Tequila hadn’t recognised the group of islands before touch-down, but now she’d had the chance to put all the elements together, she guessed at the Seychelles or the Maldives.
From the airstrip – as the piece of tarmac would not qualify as an airport in anyone’s estimation – they’d taken a fast, cabin-less powerboat and travelled West for about fifteen minutes. That might have been about 12 nautical miles. They’d met no one on the way. There was no passport control, no customs officer, nothing. Four of the crew from the plane accompanied them onto the boat. At some point, Tequila wondered if it would be worth risking a getaway, but the lure of entering the lion’s den was too strong to resist. If this really was Dollar’s permanent residence, there was probably a lifetime supply of Pandora’s boxes to be opened. Or they could just be cans of worms.
Dollar pulled her along by the hand, interrupting her calculation.
“Where are we?” she asked, smiling.
“Home.” His eyes were hard as flint. Wary.
Undaunted, Tequila kept her smile in place. “Looks like Paradise.”
Dollar smiled. “Wait until you see the rest.”
They walked along a crazy-paved path fringed by tiki torches. When the path split, they took the fork that went around the building and disappeared into the denser patch of trees. All sorts of trees mingled with the palms, but Tequila wasn’t sure what they all were. She looked back at the building, letting some of the alarm she felt at leaving the only sign of civilisation behind colour her expression. Dollar’s gaze felt like an icy draft on the back of her head, but he offered no explanation, so she stayed silent, too.
A good five minutes’ walk later, she spotted a domed roof, also thatched, above the tree line. As they approached, she could tell this building was larger and much more imposing than the first one. The walls were white, and formed an octagonal enclosure. In each wall, eight narrow, tall windows were set in an eye-pleasing pattern. The thatch reached farther out than the roof absolutely required, so that a four-foot circle of shade surrounded the building like a moat.
Tequila could see no furniture through the windows, nothing to speak of the opulence she’d noticed on the plane, but the top floor sported a narrow balcony. She caught the glint of arch-shaped windows beyond the wooden balustrade and overhanging thatch.
Dollar twisted a handle and a floor to ceiling glass door hissed open. The glass retracted sideways into the wall, and Tequila stared dumbstruck at a sunken arena. All around the walls, above the narrow windows, intricate, expensive-looking light fittings crowded every available space. Dollar was into film-making?
She quickly took a couple of steps into the room, before Dollar could offer to carry her over the threshold. It was cool inside, almost too cool after the heat of the mid-day sun. Air conditioning? On an island?
He followed her in, closed the door and hit a button. The room took on a reddish glow. A staircase led up to the upper floor, but there was no floor as such, just a walkway which formed a narrow ring all the way around, under the roof. Tiny LED lights were embedded into its edge, and beyond the low, glass safety wall, Tequila could see benches. Spectator seating? What exactly was going on here?
Dollar chuckled at her expression. “You like?”
She looked pointedly around and then met his eyes. “Where do you sleep? On the beach?”
He laughed out loud. Not a bad idea, precious. But no. Not on a regular basis. Follow me.”
Dollar led the way to a partition underneath the staircase. Another button, another hiss, and another door slid away into the wall.
They walked out onto the beach. Several wooden jetties stuck out like fingers into the sea. Once out there, they fanned out into more jetties, all interconnected by narrow wooden platforms, like a vast spider’s web. At the outer edges, thatched wooden huts, carbon copies of each other, lined up neatly.
All but one. At the northernmost edge of this unusual sea-village there was a far larger construction. They headed that way.
Half-way down the jetty, Tequila noticed a row of canvas screens stretched between tall wooden posts, affording the king his much-needed privacy. A slight shake began to build at the core of her being and spread throughout her body as she understood everything had been designed with the highest secrecy in mind. Here, Dollar could do whatever he liked. No one would ever know. Even if his victims screamed, she could bet her life no one would come running. One wrong move and you’d be shark chow.
Dollar motioned with a finger for her to follow him. He swept aside a white canvas sheet to reveal the main room. There were no walls. Just the typical overhanging thatched roof held up by wooden posts, and a clear glass floor set on a wooden frame. Tequila padded carefully from the decking across the glass floor to where Dollar stood with an amused expression on his face. He took her hand and pulled her to a spiral staircase partly hidden behind a screen.
Tequila followed, wondering whether she’d ever see blue sky again.
They stood in an oddly blue-hued corridor. Dollar gestured for her to go ahead. She walked slowly forward and stopped in the most spectacular room she’d ever had the fortune to stand in.
Dollar’s bedroom was a bubble of glass within an ocean-sized aquarium. In the middle of the room was an enormous bed. Sunlight filtered through the water, and the odd fish swam lazily past.
Tequila was speechless.
“I’ll give you a couple of hours to settle, and then I’ll take you on a tour of the islands.”
“Islands? As in more than one?”
Dollar shrugged. “I’ll send a helper over with some clean clothes. Rest awhile. I have plans for us tonight.” He winked at her, turned on his heel and walked up the staircase.
Tequila listened to his fading footsteps, then dropped on the bed, hid her face in her hands and allowed the shakes free rein.