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Pencil Full of Lead

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"Best of all, I've got my baby,

She's mighty fine and says she's all mine,

And nothing's going to bring me down."

- Pencil Full of Lead, Paolo Nutini


The nib of the pencil scratched over the surface of the paper, leaving behind a trail of flowing script. The pencil paused, lifted, then set down and continued its path across the page.

Paul Temple was writing again.

Steve couldn't help but watch her new husband as he wrote. She'd never seen him in the middle of a novel, and she found it fascinating. In her line of work, the copy of the story would be typed and sent off to the editor as soon as it was finished. Time was of the essence and she was so used to the hustle-bustle of the Evening Post offices and London that she was still adjusting to the peace and tranquillity of Bramley Lodge, her new home.

Temple's process was as laid back as life in the country; jotting notes down in a little book or nearest piece of paper, maybe dictate a chapter or two, or even (especially recently) use her typewriter to get things down in hard copy.

It was all very civilised.

So fascinated was she that it took a while for her to realise that her husband was stopping his writing every so often to study her, then would start scribbling again. She blinked, focused on him, and frowned. "What are you doing?"

Temple gave her a mysterious smile. "Writing, of course."

"Writing what?"

"A novel, I hope." The smile turned smug, and she was baffled.

"Why do you keep looking at me then?"

Now the smile turned into a full-blown grin. "Oh, I'm thinking of including a heroine in this one."

"Really?" She was intrigued, and marked her place in the book she was reading to give him her full attention. "You're not going to start writing romances, are you?" She hoped not. In her opinion it was only women who could really write romances.

"Good Lord, no. I don't have a romantic bone in my body."

Privately, Steve thought he'd proved that wrong the night before, but she kept that quiet. "So what's it about?"

"It has jewel thieves, old English inns, mysterious old ladies and pigeons," he winked, eliciting a delighted laugh from her. "I'm thinking the heroine is an intrepid journalist from Fleet Street, who appeals to the hero for help."

Now she was amused, and she could see Temple was thoroughly enjoying teasing her. Setting her book down and uncurling her legs from under her, she stood and moved over to where he was sitting in an overstuffed armchair. He reached out and swiftly tugged her down onto his lap and she obligingly snuggled into him.

"Mmm, I like the sound of this one. Do tell me more about this heroine..."

He chuckled. "Well..." he pretended to think hard, wrapping his arm around her waist. "She's headstrong, impetuous, stubborn, won't take no for an answer, always getting herself into trouble and needs to be rescued more than once..."

"Beast!" she slapped the back of her hand lightly against his chest. "Sounds like your hero has his hands full..."

"Oh, he does, but he doesn't mind. She's beautiful too, so that more than makes up for her character."

She rolled her eyes, earning a light tug on her hair. "Tell me, does the girl get the hero in the end?"

"Hmm...I'm not sure yet."

"Surely they get married?"

"Well, I suppose they could. But of course she'd be the one to propose. She's very forward!"

Tucking her head under his chin, Steve laughed again. "Well of course she would – they'd never get anywhere if she left it up to him!"

"True." He set his notebook down, noting absently he'd need to sharpen his pencil from all the notes he'd been taking. It would be more of a novel based on true events than one of his own creations this time; he found this case had been intriguing and wanted to share it with his readers.

"Well, why don't you introduce them and see what happens?"

He glanced down at her and smiled. "Why don't I?"

Pryce tapped lightly on the door of the sitting room, standing silently until he was summoned.

"What is it, Pryce?"

He leaned towards the door so his master would hear him, understanding he'd have been called in if Temple wanted him to enter. "It's your publisher, sir. Are you available to take a call from him?"

There was a pause, then, "Not now, Pryce. I'm about to introduce Paul Temple to Steve Trent."

Pryce bowed and moved away down the passage to the soft sounds of feminine laughter.