Monday, January 7, 2013

Excerpt from Undercover

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from my novel Undercover. When this scene starts, the main characters Jenny and Alex are out flying, on their way to Italy.

Jenny and Alex shared the row with a talkative elderly gentleman who chattered away about business opportunities. His story of when he went to Russia and had to bribe the customs staff to be allowed to bring his money out of the country made Jenny bite her lip not to laugh.

"So, where do the two of you come from?"

Jenny answered with a friendly smile, "Oh, I come from around here. I was born in Adams, actually, but I've been moving around a little since then. Just in the state, though."

Alex said with a lot of glee, "I'm Russian."

Their new acquaintance exclaimed, "Oh," and fell silent.

During the past few years, Jenny's unwilling brain managed to learn some of her husband's language, and she understood him very well when he said, "Sorry, I couldn't resist."

She entwined her fingers with his. "It's really funny."

It was of course too much for the man to resist. "Excuse me, you two are together, aren't you?"

She nodded. This trip over the ocean was much more entertaining than she'd expected. "Yes. We've been married for five years."

Glancing towards Alex, who made the seat look tiny where he sat reading the newspaper, visibly pretending not to listen, the man whispered, "Please, I don't want to offend you, but... Is it difficult?"

"Is what difficult?"

He kept his eyes on Alex. "You know, adapting between such different cultures. Don't they have very different ways of viewing things in Russia? Are you allowed to work or do you have to stay at home? What language do you speak at home? Are you allowed to handle money?"

Neither his curiosity nor prejudice knew any limits. She wanted to formulate a killer answer, but Alex beat her to it. He smiled innocently and leaned over her, to make himself heard better as he exaggerated his accent. "Of course she stays at home, she has to take care of the children. We have seven; four boys and three girls. It would be unthinkable for her to take care of all of them, the household, tend to my needs, and work at the same time. My second wife works though. She has only been with us for three years, so she only has three children, but the fourth is on the way."

Jenny had all the trouble in the world not to laugh.

"Since both my wives are American we mostly speak English at home. I have decided it's best for the little ones. Regarding money, I give them everything they need, and they don't need any money of their own."

The man seemed about to faint. He said, "Excuse me," and fled to the restrooms. Jenny laughed so hard she had to lean on Alex, and smacked him over the arm. "You're... you're terrible."

"Me? What did I do?"

Further up in the corridor, the man talked to the flight crew, all of them sending covert glances in Jenny's direction. She wanted to wave, and folded her hands in her lap to keep them from doing something stupid. After a couple of minutes a young stewardess walked by, looked at her with open curiosity, and peeked towards Alex. Jenny smiled her friendliest smile as the girl passed them. It only took a minute until she came back. "Can I get you anything?"

Jenny shook her head. "No thank you, I'm good."

The girl's eyes darted towards Alex, who now looked like the epitome of serenity and friendliness. He encouraged her, now sounding almost American. "Go ahead and ask. The gentleman who sits here had some interesting ideas about the habits in my native country. Perhaps he has taken time to share with you..."

She looked relieved. "So, it's not true that you have ten children and several more wives, and that..."

She turned to Jenny and whispered, "That you are his slave?"

The corners of Alex's mouth twitched when he said, "Of course not. It's probably just an old man's fantasies."

Their flight attendant exclaimed, "Thank heavens. You two look so good together, and it would have been a shame."

"Look what you did. You're impossible."

He regained his poker face. "I don't know what you are talking about."

People in the row in front of them turned around to watch. They seemed amused. When the older man returned, Alex said in a tauntingly calm and slow voice, "I must apologize, what I told you earlier isn't entirely true."

The man stared, not at all looking convinced, and Jenny filled in. "The only thing he's said that's true this far is that he's Russian."

As relieved as the man looked, Alex wasn't able to leave well enough alone. His eyes sparkled with mischief. "We do have a lot of sex."

Their neighbor looked as if he would choke on his coffee, and people all around them started to laugh. Alex put his new sunglasses on and leaned back in the seat, clearly very happy with himself.

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