Chapter 1: Not Much Upstairs
Samantha pointed upward. "Jamie, that ceiling's definitely bulging."
"So I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to."
At this point, the ceiling cracked, dumping what felt like the entire contents of the bathtub on them both. In a belated attempt to protect Samantha, Jamie threw himself on her, but the gesture was magnificently futile.
Samantha spat out a mouthful of plaster. "You promised me you were an expert with pipes!"
"I meant bagpipes."
"Jamie McCrimmon, I am seriously going to kill you." She found herself looking at his dripping hair and irresistible hangdog expression. "Tomorrow. Maybe."
Chapter 2: Wedding Cake Woes
Inspired by reading the summary of Wedding Cake Wishes by Dana Corbit:At which point, my inner Crow T. Robot promptly suggested "Neither of them can cook?"
To save his mother's business, rugged outdoorsman [Jamie McCrimmon] has to learn about wedding cakes and keeping customers. A confirmed bachelor, he can barely handle the brides that come in wanting buttercream this and frosted that. Yet when family friend [Samantha Briggs] offers to help out, [Jamie] isn't relieved. [Sam] is his polar opposite. He's motorcycles and wildlife — she's business suits and ledgers. The one thing they have in common?
"It looks all right," Jamie protested.
Samantha folded her arms. "And what good's that gonna be when Polly tries to cut it? This is all your fault."
"How's it my fault?"
"Because, Jamie McCrimmon, you were the one who said 'How hard can it be?'" Samantha gave the cake an accusatory prod. "Well, now we know. I've seen softer rocks. We'll have to start again."
"We've not got the time."
"So how are they supposed to cut it, then?"
Jamie gave her what was probably intended to be a reassuring look. "I'm sure I saw a hacksaw somewhere round here."
Chapter 3: Captive Headache
Based on the summary of Captive Heart by Glynnis Campbell. The casting was suggested by Liadt.
[Zoë of Heriotside] has fire in her heart and battle in her blood, and she’s desperate to save her youngest sister from a fate worse than death...marriage. When [Zoë] attempts and fails to slay the bridegroom, she does the next best thing...abducts his right-hand [wo]man, the witty and dashing [Dame Isobel] du Lac, and demands her sister as ransom. But her plans go awry as her captive — amused and enchanted by her wild spirit — becomes a willing participant in her scheme, and [Zoë] soon finds her own heart held hostage.
"You're doing this very professionally," Isobel du Lac said, shifting to try and relieve the weight of the shackles on her ankles. "I couldn't write a ransom note to save my life."
"Good job you don't have to, then," Zoë said, and turned back to her fawning castellan. "Resume dictation, Lily. 'If you want to see your pretty wedding planner again...'"
"Ooh, do you think I'm pretty?" Isobel interrupted. "I mean, I do my best, but these chains really don't accessorise well."
"'...Leave my sister Victoria unharmed at the Skerburnfoot, by sunset tomorrow. Otherwise...'"
"'Otherwise you shall receive Dame Isobel's head on a platter before another day is done,'" Isobel put in. "No, on second thoughts, make that 'Dame Isobel's heartbreakingly beautiful head.'"
Zoë made a gesture of annoyance. "Cease dictation, Lily." She glared at her captive. "Will you stop distracting me?"
"But I thought you valued my input," Isobel said, pouting. "Otherwise you'd go somewhere else to write your ransom note, wouldn't you?"
"What I want from you is useful information." Zoë took a pace towards her prisoner. "Not flirting. What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing to worry about," Isobel said, with a provocative smile. "Probably just a touch of Stockholm Syndrome."
Chapter 4: Pass Fail
103) THE COURTESAN by JULIA JUSTISS
Mills & Boon Special Release
After years of dangerous fighting, Captain Charlotte Pollard had returned home to take up family duties and perhaps find herself a wife. But her life was thrown into turmoil when she viewed a fencing lesson unlike any other. The talented student was a beautiful young woman – and the most infamous courtesan in all of London – Lady Lucie Miller.
Who was the mysterious Lucie? Eager to uncover the true woman behind the façade, Charley wagers she can win a kiss from Lucie if she bests her at fencing. Though Lucie is a woman she can not afford to keep nor dare to marry, she’s willing to risk it all to win her to her bed.
"Well?" Charley demanded. "Won't you— I mean, will you not face me? Surely such a skilled fighter can't refuse the challenge of a Captain in the Guards?"
"I can refuse what I like," Lucie said. "And you're not a Captain in the Guards. You're a girl."
"Ha! Ridiculous! How could such a gallant swordsman as me possibly be a mere girl?"
"Your voice went all squeaky then. It's obvious. Got to say the fake moustache's a nice touch, though."
"Fake?" Charley blustered. "I should strike you down where you stand!"
Lucie rolled her eyes. "Look, drop all the fancy stuff. Who are you and how come you're running around Regency London dressed as a bloke?"
Charley forced herself to accept defeat with all the grace she could muster, and stuck out her hand. "Charlotte Pollard. Edwardian adventuress."
"Lucie Miller," her opponent replied, with a grin. "General pain in the arse."
Chapter 5: The Big Finish Bake Off
232) Falling for Her Rival by Jackie Braun
For chef Lucie Miller, it's time to turn up the heat. Three years ago she hit rock bottom. Now she's ready for a comeback, starting with winning a TV competition to secure a spot running New York's trendiest kitchen! She just didn't count on her attraction to rival Karen Coltraine burning a hole in her plans…
Karen has worked her apron off for this opportunity, and total focus on the competition was the plan — which is difficult when all she can think about is wanting her opponent out of the kitchen and in her bed! But there can only be one winner, and sometimes, to win, a girl has to play dirty!
"Inspector," Evelyn Smythe said. "A word, if I may?"
Inspector Mackenzie hastily set down his plate. "Of course, Doctor Smythe. If I can be of any assistance?"
Evelyn looked around, to make sure none of the other contestants was in earshot. "I wondered if any pressure had been put on you or your fellow judge" — she glanced over to where the Kandyman was glowering — "about which of us should go through to the next round."
"I should hope there's none of that sort of thing," Mackenzie replied stoutly. "The judges' decision is final and all that. And after that delicious Victoria sponge we had no doubts of your suitability." He leaned forward. "D'you suppose anyone would mind if I had another slice?"
"I'm sure they won't," Evelyn said vaguely, and decided she must make her point. "Inspector, what concerns me is those two tearaways."
She indicated the far end of the tent, where Lucie and Karen were standing with folded arms, pointedly not talking to each other. They were trying to project an air of dignified innocence unfairly maligned, though given the quantity of cake and icing adhering to their clothes and hair — not to mention the strawberry jam pooling around their feet — this was proving difficult.
"Are you sure you haven't been leant on to keep them in the competition?" she went on. "I find it hard to believe that their baking is of a higher standard than, say, young Tamsin's."
"Ah." The inspector swallowed his latest mouthful of Evelyn's cake. "That was all above board. As clear-cut a soggy bottom as you could hope to see, so to speak. Nothing underhand about it."
"And I suppose it is also above board that thanks to their appalling behaviour, viewing figures have sharply increased? That interminable argument about the Baked Alaska — and I never could fathom what, in the end, that was about — was bad enough. And then there was that distasteful business with the chilli powder. But after their ludicrous antics today, I cannot see any other reason than publicity to keep them in the competition."
"Really, Doctor Smythe, I assure you, the producers have not been influenced by any contestants. Particularly not those two."
"If you say so, Inspector. Tell me, what is planned for next week's final challenge?"
"Custard pies. Why d'you ask?"
Evelyn gave him a compassionate smile. "I rest my case, Inspector."
Chapter 6: Solution by Induction
From the generated prompt:
310) Night of the Living Wed by Michele Hauf
Amy Pond and Lyta Alexander's evening turns deadly when some uninvited guests show up at their friend's party — a horde of hungry zombies. The couple is in a fight for their lives when a new, heroic side of Lyta emerges, and she vows to protect Amy no matter the cost….
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Another revenant shambled forward, its arms groping toward Amy. She swung her chair at it, sending it tumbling backward, but it was instantly up again, seemingly unharmed by a blow which would have knocked a living human unconscious. Now she was trapped against the outer hull of the ship, with no possible way to escape. If any of the crew had survived the undead onslaught, they'd certainly have sealed the bulkheads.
"Brains," the leading zombie croaked, and fell suddenly silent. The crowd of revenants parted, cringing away from Lyta Alexander as her gaze swept over them. Her eyes were glowing.
"Drakh work," she said, making the first word sound like a curse. "Clumsy. Foolish." She pointed at the zombies, her eyes flaring with white light. "Devour each other in the order you were created."
"How can you do that?" Amy asked, as the zombie horde fell on each other. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful you saved my life, but..."
"Many things are possible to one who has been touched by Vorlons." Lyta paused, as if at an afterthought, and briefly turned back to the scene of carnage. "Last one left, throw yourself in the reactor," she commanded.
With apologies to Rich Burlew.
Chapter 7: Third Time Pays For All
From a generator prompt:
276) Miss Winthorpe's Elopement by Christine Merrill
Dashing Duke, Bluestocking Bride! Shy heiress Miss Fanny Price was only trying to escape her bullying brother. She didn’t mean to wed a noble lord over a blacksmith’s anvil! Ace Rimmer, Duke of Bellston, had no intention of taking a wife. But then Fanny’s plight moved him. Now the notorious rake has a new aim – to shock and seduce his prim and proper bride. But the gorgeous Duke will be taught a lesson of his own as scholarly Fanny becomes his seductive duchess!
"Well!" Mary Crawford said, throwing the letter down.
Edmund Bertram bowed his head. "I see you are as shocked as I. There must be some grave defect in our family. Maria, Julia... and now Fanny! I can scarcely believe it."
Mary smiled. "I have a new respect for Fanny. She has, at least, chosen far better than her cousins."
"You know of this Duke, then?"
"Know of him? He was a favourite in our circle. A man of courage, wit, cordiality... and wealth, of course. Fanny will be the happiest of women." Mary sighed in fond reminiscence. "What a guy."
Chapter 8: In the Picture
260) High-Stakes Bachelor by Cindy Dees
Wannabe stuntwoman Lucie Miller can't believe she's landed a starring role in actor-producer Karen Coltraine's new film. A plain-Jane nobody and a megastar? Their on-screen chemistry is electric, burning up the celluloid… but offscreen, Lucie is stalked by danger.
Like a true Hollywood hero, Karen whisks her to her oceanfront mansion, practising love scenes while keeping her safe. But when their real-life relationship starts mirroring the movie's leading couple,the confirmed spinster fears she may fall for the doe-eyed ingenue. If the stalker doesn't get her first…
"I still can't believe you talked me into this," Lucie said.
Karen looked around the innocuous hospitality suite. "Come on, it's just an interview. It's not like you're getting pushed under a bus or something."
"And you'd know all about that, wouldn't you?" Lucie grimaced. "Look, acting in your stupid film's one thing. But you didn't say anything about telling lies to the press as well."
"It's all just acting, isn't it?"
"Maybe I'll tell them what a nasty piece of work you really are."
Karen fixed an unwavering gaze on Lucie. "If you do, I'll reshoot that scene with Toggle and the jelly. And this time I won't stop even if you actually are sick."
"You're evil, you know that?"
"I should do." Karen smirked. "You keep telling me enough times."
Lucie folded her arms. "I still reckon this whole film thing's just a cover for whatever you're really up to."
"And you're not leaving till you find out what it is? Suit yourself, then. 'Cos if that's what I was doing, I'd just keep stringing you along, wouldn't I? Think of a few more stunts for you to do. You ever fallen off a multistorey car park?"
"No, but I did falling off a bridge on Tuesday, remember? I can still feel all the bruises."
Karen grinned. "Have to be something else, then. Maybe a car crash."
"This whole thing's a car cra—" Lucie began, but was cut off by Karen's mobile phone ringing.
"Karen Coltraine," she said. "Yeah, we're ready. Come right through." She hung up, and turned to Lucie. "And no bad language, OK? It's not like you've just done one of your stunts."
"If there's a stunt round here it's not me," Lucie grumbled.
"And is it true you're both doing all your own stunts?" Ms Chandra asked, looking from Lucie to Karen.
"That's right," Karen said. "It's essential for authenticity. I mean, Toggle being so accident prone's an important part of her character. That's why Sadie — that's my character — feels so protective of her. So the audience have to be sure it's really Toggle — Lucie — in all the accidents."
"Which stunt was most difficult for you?"
"Oh, the shark attack, definitely. Where I had to pull Toggle on board my yacht. My hair kept blowing about, the whole time."
Ms Chandra turned to Lucie. "And for you?"
"That bit in the exploding custard factory. I was black and blue the next morning."
"She smelt like custard for days," Karen added. "But that doesn't show up on film, so we could keep shooting."
"Fascinating." Ms Chandra looked a little puzzled. "When the British Film Board announced they were supporting your project, they said it was going to be..." She consulted a tablet computer. "'A gritty vision of the struggles of a lesbian couple in Eighties Newcastle.' I'm not quite sure where the sharks and yachts and exploding custard fit in."
"That was before she started putting her fantasies in," Lucie said.
"She means Sadie's fantasies, of course," Karen added smoothly. "You know, she saves Toggle after she falls in the river and then she imagines rescuing her from all these other terrible dangers."
"Oh, of course." Ms Chandra gave a bright smile. "Now, there have been some suggestions that this entire project was simply a vehicle by the Hulbert Group to avoid tax liability. I wondered if you had any comments on that?"
"Yeah, someone sent an anonymous letter to the Inland Revenue, and they came round and went through all our accounts." Karen shot a sideways glance at Lucie, as if to say You don't catch Karen Coltraine out that easily. "I'm pleased to say they gave us a clean bill of health."
"And... is it true that there's been a hint of romance on the set? The pair of you have been photographed together on the beach at Seaton Sluice, I believe."
"Just method acting," Lucie said. And I don't trust her out of me sight. "We try to live the part. But without the actual, you know, being in a relationship bit, 'cos we're not."
"Great." Ms Chandra leaned back, with the air of one who'd reached the end of the difficult questions. "Thank you both so much for your time." She turned back to Lucie. "Oh, one last thing. I believe your stage name is Lucie B. de Miller. If you don't mind my asking, what does the 'B' stand for?"