Bodice Ripper

Chapter One

"I think I'm in danger of losing a lot around you, Vivian," Darrow murmured into her sweet shoulder. "My heart, for example."

Vivian snorted in disbelief.

Jareth snorted in disbelief as well, unable to fathom how he had written such crap. Not even ten months ago he had been flooded with ideas, inspiration buoyed by the flocks of lonely women leaving stores with his books clutched to their chests. But the praise had tapered off and been slowly replaced by a discontent murmur. When was the next book coming out? Could it possibly live up to his previous release?

He sighed and turned away from his computer to look out the window, restless gaze sweeping over the sleeping city below.

Jareth had never doubted that he had drawn the winning lot in life. At 28 he was damned lucky to be a successful author, especially in a genre that was dominated by female writers. He had developed a wit and charm to complement his good looks, the women practically swooning at his feet. Not that they didn't do that already, he mused; the name Jareth Corbett was whispered in reverence among the female population, usually followed by a giggle and one or two of his more raunchy lines. He had the world wrapped around his finger: fame, fortune, and droves of women vying for his attention.

And therein laid the problem.

He had been given the gift of privilege, and had earned a name for understanding the hearts of women. Jareth Corbett was his own worst enemy because he didn't believe in love. Disillusioned, as his neighbor Hoggleston would say. Disillusioned, jaded, and spoiled.

Jareth continued to let his gaze roam over the midnight-covered city. Two months ago he had sat down to work on his latest novel a bit, and had floundered. The ideas had simply run dry, like a well that had been dipped into one too many times. He was a sensational author (if somewhat ironic for the fact that he never believed in what he wrote), already past two deadlines, and facing a writers' block the size of Boston.

It was time for a change.

"Don't stop," Carla whimpered. Consequences be damned, her devious hormones whispered, she owed it to herself to have this one moment of pleasure.

Lionel shot her a wicked grin before setting his tongue back to its insistent work.

"Holy crap, Carla! Don't do it; you barely even know the man!" Sarah whispered to her book, blushing like mad.

She writhed beneath his mastery, praying like hell this wasn't another one of her dreams. The last thing she needed was to wake up alone and wanting, with the terrible temptation of Lionel Proctor only two doors down. The man was a walking fantasy, and it was a relief to finally give in.

"Open your eyes Carla," came his dark, rumbling voice. "I want to see those baby-blues when I-"

The door to the shop jingled merrily, signaling the arrival of a new customer. Hurriedly, Sarah shoved the novel under her counter, willing her raging blush to recede. It was one thing for a customer to think you had a healthy glow, it was quite another for them to think you were hot and bothered. After a cheery greeting, she was left alone in the front of the store.

Keeping a distracted eye on her clientele wander through the back shelves, Sarah brought the book back into her lap, reading under the cover of the counter. It wasn't so much that she really enjoyed these trashy romance novels, she told herself, although J Corbett certainly knew how to turn a good phrase, it was just that this was the closest she could get to excitement these days.

The sad truth was that life had taken a turn toward the boring for Sarah Williams. At 25 she was now running her own glassware shop in the lovely town of Rockport, Maine. The most interesting thing that ever happened to her was when a shipment of plates came in smashed to pieces. She had been drawn to the glass shop by its whimsical air; cute little figurines surrounded by a world of prisms and crystals. Perhaps she had been trying to recapture some of the feeling from that one night, long ago. Life had never really regained its spark after IT.

Ten years, and still her pulse raced when she thought of the Labyrinth. It was only a shame that it never chose to race at anything else.

She had been the dutiful daughter after that, the perfect big sister. But something had fled her life that night, and she had spent the past ten years trying to get it back.

Where was the fun? Where was the challenge? Where was the dangerous romance?

Sitting in her lap, Sarah thought, frowning at her dog-eared novel. Whether the Labyrinth had been real or a dream, regular life had been a rude slap in the face. In some ways she hadn't changed from that silly girl play-acting in the park; she was still living vicariously through books.

J Corbett's stories brought something to her aching life that she sorely needed; all the romance and passion that she could ask for, right in the palm of her hand! He spun mystery, fantasy, and heated encounters together with a skill unmatched; his books had kept her company through many a long night. It was also the closest she had gotten to a date since high school.

Sarah aimed a black look at the ground. Dammit, it was easier to believe in fictional men like Lionel Proctor than boys like Frank Wyzer who lived on Main Street! Men like Lionel had an air about them, something that screamed of long sweaty nights. Boys in town only had an air about them that screamed of fishing.

It was more than that, though. Characters from books, the alpha males who had their sights set on the heroine, reminded her of him.

A decade of wanting one man, and she was terrified that he didn't really exist. But whether he was real or not, the Goblin King had ruined her for other men. Not even Lionel Proctor, with all his rippling muscles and charming smiles, could compare. There had just been something so intense about Jareth that he couldn't have been ignored. If it hadn't been for the fact that she had been undeniably responsible for Toby, she might have been swayed by the otherworldly king a whole lot more.

"Oh, Sarah-honey, you need a boyfriend," she murmured to herself.

"You can try the new hottie that just moved into town," a voice said from over the counter.

Sarah yelped in surprise, shoved her book back under the counter, and tried to glare at Liz. Elizabeth Carver had been a good friend to have since moving away from her family; Liz knew the ins and outs of Rockport like nobody else. Still, she was not the most stable fixture in town; the lovely blond had a habit of disappearing for months at a time.

"Warn a girl when you're going to do that!" Sarah complained. "A room full of glass is not a good place to sneak up on somebody!"

Liz ignored her. "He's blonde, about six feet tall, deliciously lithe, and I think he has blue eyes," she whispered conspiratorially.

"Who is this we're talking about?" Sarah asked, trying to calm her frazzled nerves. She'd been getting jumpy as of late, which was not a good trait to develop for someone who sold such fragile merchandise.

"The guy who just moved in at Owl's Head Point, Sarah, keep up with me here," Liz replied.

Owl's Head Point was a lighthouse and small cabin nestled on a set of cliffs that overlooked a spectacular stretch of ocean. The lighthouse had been remotely controlled for years now, the coastguard commanding the white-and-black brick structure from a simple computer bank. For just as long the cabin had sat empty, no longer needing a keeper in residence. It had been on the market for ages, but who in their right mind would want to live that close to a foghorn, especially on the coast of Maine?

"Someone ought to tell that poor guy that he's living next to a hundred and ten decibel alarm clock. It's foggy most autumn mornings here, he'll go deaf within a week," Sarah shook her head, wondering if a local realtor was about to get sued for withholding information.

Liz gave her a once over. "And why can't that someone be you? I think he looks just your type, sweetie."

The brunette cringed. "No more of your meddling, Liz! I'm not some spinster cousin that you need to marry off."

"If you don't introduce yourself to him now, I'll just find a way to get you two together on a blind date later," Liz warned sternly, impish features set in a scowl. Her expression softened after a moment, "You worry me sometimes Sarah, all alone in this shop, doing nothing but reading. You need to spend time with people, sweetheart; you need a man that will set your heart pounding, instead of a book. I want to know that someone is looking after my friend when I'm away."

"And you think the best way to ensure my safety and sanity is to set me up with a complete stranger?" Sarah asked. A few years ago the sweet and caring words might have taken her in, and in some ways they still did, but she was getting damn tired of Miss Carver's scheming.

"Just a quick, neighborly hello, Sarah," Liz cajoled. "I mean, you live closer to Owl's Head than anyone else in town, and someone needs to welcome the poor guy. I bet you he's sitting in his house, surrounded by unpacked boxes, and feeling pretty damn lonely. He's on the outskirts of town, honey, who do you think he's met so far? A squirrel; maybe a deer? I bet you he's just starving for companionship!"

Sarah cursed. Her friend knew exactly what buttons to press. For the past few years Liz had been dabbling in her life by playing with her conscience.

Liz's smile grew sharp around the edges. "Would you really condemn the man to spend his first evening in a new place all alone? How very cruel of you."

Her head smacked the counter in defeat. No matter how many years had past, the word cruel still haunted her, and still set her into reckless action. "Fine," Sarah groaned into the polished granite, "I'll go welcome him to town after I close the shop tonight, but you'd damn well better leave me alone after this. What's the guy's name?"

Liz darted a pointed look at Sarah's half-covered novel, then breezed out of the shop without a word.

Sarah swallowed at the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat. J Corbett? In Rockport?

If Liz wasn't pulling her leg, then she certainly had a strange sense of humor; trying to set her up with the very man who wrote the books she wanted to wean Sarah off of. It had to be a joke, Sarah decided, what would a world famous author like him be doing in a nowhere town like this? She'd bet her entire store that the guy who had moved in a half-mile from her was probably just another fisherman; stocky, bearded, and pungent.

Where was a Lionel when she needed one?

A/N: I've been going out of my mind; this idea has been bugging me for so long! Not the most riveting chapter, but as far as introductions go I think it went fairly well, yeah? This is my little homage to/parody of the classic bodice ripper romance novel which, I'm ashamed to admit, I really do read.

Page breaks in this story signify a change in setting and/or time, only. For those of you have read any of my previous works, be warned that a page break does not necessarily denote a change in POV like it has in the past.

Please Review!

Disclaimer: I do not own anything from the movie Labyrinth. Rock Port is a real place, as well as Owl's Head, but it's been quite a few years since I've been there, so I'm making most things up.