First Chapter Book Awards Romance Finalist: Cloud Dancer by Billy Ray Chitwood

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Cloud Dancer by Billy Ray Chitwood is a Finalist in the Romance category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.

Award-Winning First Chapter

The year: 2016

 The thoughts crawled in his head like gnawing termites. All last night they crawled and refused him sleep.

Women! Go figure…

What the hell did she want from him? He saw her moods coming on, the silent treatment because he forgot to bring home milk from the store…because he stopped and had a beer with some of his pals…because he thought only of himself when they had sex – leaving her without a climactic moment. Most of the time she got her ‘jollies’ and thought he was a dynamo…

Who could figure women?

Jeez, that was the one thing so damned good about their relationship – the sex! Well, yeah, Sherrie was a lovely blond with a super body in the Lady Gaga mode, and she turned him on red hot with just her lips and eyes.

Sherrie’s latest subject for ‘discussion’ was the two of them getting married. Thing is, it was not a discussion. It was more an ultimatum.

They started their affair nine months ago, and he discovered during the ensuing days and weeks that she was cursed with hang-ups that drove him up the proverbial wall.

Billy Ray Chitwood
Billy Ray Chitwood

Blake Fielding was at the moment navigating the US10 freeway, on the way to his brokerage office in downtown Phoenix.

Except for his mind occupation with Sherrie and her annoying maneuvers, it was a beautiful Arizona morning. He saw the familiar landmarks and an incredible view of the great city and its high rises along the Central Avenue corridor north and south. At certain spots, the entire ‘valley of the sun’ was visible, plus the rugged McDowell Mountains, the famous Superstition Mountains with its storied ‘Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, and the great Camelback Mountain with its ‘Praying Monk’.

The smog was non-existent this morning, and the perpetual sunshine was a divinity to him. He loved the desert, something primeval about it, and, despite many lucrative offers for positions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver, he would not leave this magical place. People thought him crazy for playing his golf in the furnace-like heat of Summer when the courses were more available and void of the ‘snow birds’. He knew there were many people who actually hated the valley for the reasons he loved it.

Sherrie’s little plots left his mind, and he reveled in the views before him. The traffic flow was slow in spots and faster when the merging cars and trucks settled on their lanes after entering the freeway.

Suddenly a car moved too sharply from the HOV lane into his path, and Blake slammed his brakes, gave the guy a middle finger and a few appropriate words. The diversion nearly caused him to hit the car in the right lane next to him.

Nerves rattled, he moved too hastily over to the exit lane and got several prolonged horn honks from other harried drivers.

In his adjustment to get back in his lane he moved too fast. A semi tractor-trailer clipped his left rear bumper and sent his car into a fast spin.

Blake Fielding’s entire body and mind were in a state of tingling anxiety as he fought for control of his vehicle. During the next few seconds his vehicle flipped two times and slid rapidly on its side, smashing into the HOV retaining wall.

Lost in his frenzy, Blake did not hear the screeching of tire rubber, metal scraping harshly against metal, car horns blasting, and the awful screams that added to the freeway chaos.

Cars were now backed up as far as the eyes could see, and an eerie silence replaced rushing speeds of tire rubber and the calamity that lasted for only seconds.

Blake was trapped in the car, conscious of distant movement and softly echoic noises. He knew nothing of the immediate world which he occupied, only that it was foggy through eyes he could barely open…and a numbness controlled his body. He could not move a hand, a finger, a toe, a foot, and a wet warmness he could sense on his face.

Then, total blackness came upon him.

Blake would not hear the compassionate voice of the first EMT on the scene or hear her call to him, we will have you out soon. Please stay with us.

He would not hear her talking to the other EMTs. All the other injuries from the domino crash were miraculously minor. She told the others: this one, he’s pinned up against the HOV wall and losing a lot of blood, plus there’s a crunch of metal and seat leather from this side that may need the ‘jaws of life’ and/or some fast-working welding equipment. Get someone out here fast…I don’t know how long we might have… I’ll stay with him in case he opens his eyes and tries to talk.

Blake would not see the EMT, Ellie Cooper, gazing at his handsome face that would now have a few scars…should he live through this accident. He looked to be tall with sandy hair. She wanted to see the color of his eyes and hear his voice… It was silly of her to think such thoughts when a man was pinned inside a car on a busy freeway, but there was something eerie about his looks that struck a chord with her, some illogical mind and soul pulses that would stay with her all day and night. So stay with us, hunk, and let’s get you all well. Somebody has to be pining away for you…

Ellie smiled sadly and said a silent prayer.

As Ellie applied her skills at the accident site she could not understand the random flashes that would come and baffle her with the sense that the man in this crumpled vehicle was more than an accident victim…occasional tears came unbidden, slipped down her cheeks.

This kind of emotional reaction was not her way. Other than the natural desire to help someone in a crisis moment, she never felt these periodic flashes when working an accident. It frightened her in a way she could not define for herself. While she adjusted a tool to more easily dislodge some impediment to freeing the victim, a ‘flash’ would hit her – it was the only word she could make fit the crazy moments. It was like a television screen bright with color and movement one moment, then blurred and indistinct in another. It was an experience she knew was beyond her comprehension, in so many ways, a paranormal anomaly.

During her work she often stared at the handsome man in his cramped position. When he momentarily regained consciousness, he looked at her, smiled, and, with a slight head sway, went back to his dark void.

For hours, Ellie and her crew worked on the rescue efforts. It was early afternoon when the EMT crew delivered Blake to the hospital.

Ellie would stop by in the morning to check on his condition.

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