UPDATE: The winner is…flchen!
Have you ever read a book where a minor character just steals the scene? I love when it happens, but then I can’t seem to let that character fade into the background.
In my latest release, Jackson, that character was a skip Jackson was hunting named Chrissy Pollack. She featured in the first scene, and I had so much fun with her that I wrote her into another scene where the actual heroine grows more than a little irritated with her. I liked her ballsy attitude so much I’m still thinking about her.
Let me share some snippets from the book, so maybe you’ll get why I love her so much…
#1 This is where we first meet her. Jackson tracked her into the woods where’s she partying with friends. The MBH hunters are there, too.
Suddenly, a tall figure strode into the clearing, and the men and women sitting around the fire shot to their feet. Chrissy’s gaze shot sideways, and Jackson put his knuckles in the dirt, leaning forward, ready to follow should she run.
“Name’s Cowboy,” the tall man said as he moved closer. He held out his hands. “Before you reach for any weapons, you might want to listen to what I have to say first.”
“Who the fuck are you?” Nate shouted, shoving Chrissy forward as he backed away a foot or two, his hand already sliding down his side to the scabbard strapped to his thigh.
“I’m a Fugitive Recovery Agent.”
“A what?” another man said, his thick dark eyebrows nearly meeting over his nose.
“A fucking bounty hunter,” another man said.
“I know you,” said yet another. “You’re one of those hunters out of Dead Horse.”
“Seeing as you know me,” Cowboy said, giving the man a hard smile, “you’ll know some of my friends, too. You’re gonna meet ’em all. We’ve got you surrounded.”
“The hell you do,” Nate said, backing up another foot and glancing behind him.
Chrissy darted another glance toward the side, and Jackson pushed up to his feet. The second she decided to run, he dashed into the clearing, unwilling to let her leave his sight.
Around him, coolers crashed while bodies fled in different directions. He didn’t care. The Dead Horse team could handle the rest. He wasn’t letting Chrissy go. He followed her into the darkness, catching glimpses of pale legs and a white tank, hearing her choppy breaths as she ran.
Behind him, he heard more footsteps in pursuit, but he wasn’t letting them get ahead of him. They weren’t touching his bounty.
“Don’t lose him,” a female’s voice said behind him.
Him? Were they thinking he’d lead them to Chrissy and then insert themselves between him and his quarry? “Like hell,” he muttered to himself.
Moonlight barely pierced the canopy above him, but Chrissy’s footsteps were slowing. She sounded winded and wouldn’t last much longer. He slowed his steps, ignoring the sounds behind him, all his focus on the woman ahead of him. He wanted to take her down but didn’t necessarily want to do her any harm. It was against his code to rough up a bounty even though, legally, he had more rights than cops to do so—or at least fewer consequences.
Ahead, he heard a cry and a dull thud. Likely, Chrissy had tripped and fallen. He slowed, whipped out his flashlight, and approached slowly.
She was lying on her belly, pushing up from the damp leaves and dirt, her hair looking wild with leaves and small branches sticking out around her head.
“Jesus…fuck,” she muttered breathlessly, and then her shoulders began shaking.
“Christine Pollack,” he said, keeping his voice calm as he approached, “I’m taking you to jail.” He moved the flashlight to his left hand and unsnapped his taser from his vest as he crouched a bit, ready to act but wanting to see whether she was ready to comply or would pull a weapon from a pocket of her cutoffs. He kept an ear tuned to whoever was behind him, but as long as they kept their distance and didn’t interfere, he’d ignore them.
“Why don’t you just walk away?” she said in a small, surprisingly girlish voice.
“Because I have a job to do, Chrissy,” he said, taking another step. “You blew off your date with the judge. I have to bring you in.”
“I didn’t do nothing,” she said, pushing up from the ground to her knees but not turning toward him. “I don’t deserve this.”
“The police would beg to differ, sweetheart,” he said, keeping his voice calm and hoping it worked to calm her nerves. Sometimes, you had to talk to a skip like they were a feral animal and hope you could get in close enough to put a collar on them for their own good.
“If you’re right,” he continued, “and you did nothing, you’ll get your chance to tell the judge what really happened.” Again, he stepped closer until he was only a foot away from her.
She jerked her head to look back at him. Tears streamed down her cheeks, leaving dirty tracks. “I didn’t rob that gas station. Nate did it.”
“That’s good to know,” he said, raising his flashlight high enough that she could see his face and hands, too. “But not why I’m here. It’s about that joyride you took in the front loader.”
Her eyebrows lowered. “I only borrowed it. Just for kicks. Leonard Marx, the son of the man who owns it, was there with me, but he ran off into the woods and lied when the police asked him about it. Said I lied. He’s just afraid his old man will kick his ass.”
“Sounds like you’ll have plenty to say to the judge. But right now, I need you to lie back down and put your hands behind you. I’m taking you in.”
Her gaze flickered over him. Likely, she thought she might be able to take him. Jackson knew his appearance didn’t intimidate. His body was trim rather than weighed down with bulky muscle. His hair was long, reaching his shoulders, and his mustache and goatee made him look more like a musician or artist rather than a bounty hunter. But she’d be underestimating his strength. Most skips did.
When her gaze flicked quickly to the side, a tell, he darted that way and took her to the ground before she had a chance to rush forward more than a step. Jackson dropped his taser and his flashlight and wrestled with the woman. Whether it was adrenaline, the drugs racing around her system, or just plain meanness, he didn’t know, but she surprised him, flipping him onto his back and then punching his face.
Jackson didn’t want to strike her back, and he certainly didn’t want to give the hunters hovering in the woods around him an excuse to intercede. He was not sharing this bounty. But he had to do something to take back control without harming her.
So, he wrapped his arms around her middle, trapping her arms at her sides, and pulled her against his chest.
“What are you doing?” she growled, wriggling inside his embrace.
“Waiting for you to give up,” he said calmly, a little grin playing at the sides of his mouth, although he grimaced when she pinched his side. When she leaned back her head and opened her mouth, he knew she intended to bite whatever she could reach, so he loosened one hand and pushed her head so that her cheek was smashed against his chest.
“Argh!” she shouted, still fighting, likely still thinking she could slip free, but when she figured out she still had her legs loose, he quickly looped one calf over the backs of her knees and kept her immobile.
All she could do now was jerk and wiggle. Her body was fiery hot from her exertions, and her breaths came quicker than when she’d been running. It wouldn’t be long now.
“Shhh,” he said, “easy. You’re not going anywhere, and I’m not gonna hurt you,” he crooned.
“Think he’s gonna hug her into submission?” came a lazy drawl.
“That’s a new move,” came an even lazier drawl.
#2 This is after Chrissy is brought back to the campsite. She just can’t help being “Chrissy.”
“Catch that all on film, did you?” he murmured.
“We did. We’re pretty good at keeping out of the way when takedowns are underway.”
“Too bad,” he said.
“Why’s that?” she asked, blinking at him while trying to maintain her smile despite his indifference.
“Because you won’t be able to use the footage. I’m not signing a waiver.”
“Oh, but you don’t understand. We’d pay you for the rights.”
He shook his head. “Don’t care. Not signing.”
Rachel’s smile slipped. “We’d pay you for tonight’s footage, plus royalties if your clip is used for the sho—”
“Uh-huh. Not interested.”
Rachel drew a deep breath. While she’d love to have this wrapped up with a pretty bow right now, she knew when to back off. Right now, he was likely still a bit angry over the fact the Dead Horse hunters had tracked him to find their skip. Hunters could be territorial. The fact they’d followed him so easily likely stung his pride a bit. She reached into a pocket of her hiking vest and drew out a card. “If you change your mind, you can email or call me here.”
He took the card without looking at it and tucked it into a vest pocket.
She cleared her throat and gave him a pointed stare. “Do you have a card?” His dead-eye glare didn’t intimidate her. She gave him a steady look of her own.
“Pushy much?” Chrissy said from her seat on a camp stool.
When Rachel glanced down at her, the woman gave her a toothy grin. “Don’t think he’s interested.”
Rachel felt heat fill her cheeks.
“At least I’ll have his faithful attention all the way to jail,” the woman said, giving Rachel a wink.
There were many things Rachel could’ve said, but she wasn’t getting into a pissing match with a woman who, an hour ago, had been crying on the forest floor with twigs in her hair.
#3 The last one I’ll share, although I haven’t shared ALL of Chrissy’s antics, is after her attempted escape from Jackson’s custody. Rachel has finagled her way into the front seat of his SUV using some pretty underhanded tactics. Chrissy is restrained in the back seat.
Rachel had an epic headache.
It didn’t help that Chrissy sat in the back seat singing Chris Isaak’s “Baby did a bad bad thing” from the moment they left the rest stop. The fact that the woman’s voice was really pretty good irritated her even more.
Good Lord, what had she done? She’d blackmailed a man into signing a contract. Okay, so he hadn’t actually signed it yet, but she had him by the shorthairs. Fuck. She was a professional showrunner. What would the network say if they got wind of this? She’d be toast. She’d never ever work again.
She drew a deep breath and pinched the bridge of her nose. As soon as they got rid of the demon in the backseat, she’d apologize to Jackson. As much as she wanted his footage, she wasn’t this person.
Why had she done it? Why had it given her such a rush?
“Baby did a bad bad—”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said, aiming a glare over her shoulder at the woman whose cuffs were attached to a chain in the floorboard. “Got another song?”
When Chrissy began “Sweet but Psycho” by Ava Max, Rachel groaned.
Beside her, Jackson’s lips pursed.
Was he laughing at her?
Chrissy even managed to get a mention in the last chapter of the book—again, because I couldn’t let her go.
My question to you is whether Chrissy deserves her own Dead Horse or MBH story? Answer for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift certificate! If you’ve read Jackson, do you have any suggestions for what she might get up to?