The Traveling Story – Season 1 – Episode 1

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It’s finally here! This is a project I’ve been wanting to start for a LONG time and I’m so thrilled to be finally bringing it to you all (along with a very special giveaway)! Please welcome the very first season of…


What is the Traveling Story?

5 Authors. 5 Days. 1 Story.

Each season of The Traveling Story will feature 5 well-known authors collaborating on one original, kick-ass story, with each author writing one of five episodes.

The full story will be revealed over the course of a week, with each episode appearing on the blog of the author who wrote it.

How Does it Work?

There are only three rules for The Traveling Story:

1) No brainstorming, outlining, or discussion of plot ahead of time. The first author writes the first episode of ANY kind of story they want and the next author picks up where that episode leaves off, taking it WHEREVER they want to go! The last author ends the story however they see fit!

2) An author cannot make changes to any previous episode. Each author has total creative control over their OWN episode only, but it has to continue where the last episode leaves off.

3) HAVE FUN! As you’ll see from the awesome story that came out of this, we don’t take ourselves too seriously! The Traveling Story is meant to be fun for the writers but especially for the readers!

Season 1 Authors:

Jessica Brody
Jessica Khoury
Emmy Laybourne
Lish McBride
Gretchen McNeil

*Don’t forget to LIKE The Traveling Story on Facebook where we’ll be posting links to EVERY episode, so you never miss out on a piece of the story!

And to further entice you, we’ll be giving away an awesome Traveling Story prize pack featuring a book from EACH of the season 1 authors (enter at the bottom of this post.)

I have to say, I knew this project was going to be fun, but I didn’t imagine just HOW MUCH fun it would be. The authors who collaborated on this first season were all so creative and hilarious and amazing, each bringing her own style to the mix and taking the story up a notch with each episode. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it!

And without further ado…here is THE TRAVELING STORY SEASON 1!


Episode 1

by Jessica Brody

In hindsight, I never should have told him my name was Hilda Otterbum.

Because, well, for starters, my name is not Hilda Otterbum. And secondly, and probably more important given my current predicament, I really should have recognized the fact that anyone walking around a busy coffee shop, asking for someone named Hilda Otterbum is more than likely to be a suspicious character. I mean, the name sounds like it’s ripped from a Harry Potter novel.

But alas, I did not recognize this fact.

And so here I am.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I was taken against my will. That something was slipped into my coffee while my back was turned. That I dropped dramatically to the floor like a clichéd sack of flour and was then tossed over the shoulder of some burly, bald guy whose muscles are too big for his tee-shirt, only to wake up hours later, bruised and disoriented.

Yes, I would really love to be able to tell you that.

But of course, that would be a lie.

Because the truth is, I went willingly.

And now, knowing what I know, I realize how sad of a statement that is.

What’s even sadder is the reality that I only went willingly because the guy was cute.

And not just any cute. I’m talking Nicholas Sparks movie cute.

With a British accent.

I should probably back up and tell you what happened. Because by now, you’re undoubtedly thinking less of me. And since you didn’t really have an opinion of me to start with, that means I’m off to a pretty shabby start in your mind.

Maybe this will help.

There I was, sitting at my favorite table at Java the Hut, a coffee shop frequented by blind daters who meet on the internet, minding my own business, with my nose where it normally is—in a book. Today it was The Great Gatsby. And no, not because the movie just came out. I’m not a fair-weather reader. Because it just so happens to be my seventh favorite book of all time. I would list books 1-6 but that would just waste time and I know you’re dying to hear about the guy.

The one who so effortlessly charmed me into…well, you’ll find out soon enough.

So, like I said, I was reading The Great Gatsby and then into my world walked—no, floated. Picture him floating, like some angelic being created by the divine. It’ll make the grand err in judgment I’m about to commit in less than ten seconds much more forgivable.

Into my world floated him.

All six foot something of him (it’s hard to accurately gauge height when you’re sitting down and the other person is standing), with lean muscles, almost-black hair and sapphire blue eyes. Am I painting an appetizing enough picture? Because it’s really important that I get this right. I want you to understand why I did what I did. Nay, I need you to.

Then he spoke. And I heard that mouth-watering accent for the first time. It was like James Bond, Dr. Who, and the hot guy from Downtown Abbey had some strange three-way love child.

“Excuse me,” he said, “Are you Hilda Otterbum?”

I looked up at him and our gazes collided, turning every muscle in my body into Silly Putty. There was suddenly no other word in the English language. At least not that I could ever remember learning.

There was only “yes.”

And so I bumbled it out. “Yes!”

Anything to make sure this person did not walk out of my life only moments after he floated into.

Okay, so the thought did occur to me that I was not, in fact, who I said I was. And that he was probably supposed to be meeting some beautiful supermodel he’d met playing online chess or something, but I didn’t really care at that point. I just wanted him to sit down. He could call me Hilda, Helga, Hippo, it honestly didn’t matter to me in the slightest.

I admit, I don’t look much like a Hilda. Not that I look much like a Lucy either. But he didn’t seem to notice. Although, now of course, I know that Hilda Otterbum wasn’t a real person anyway. It was a code name.

A code name I really shouldn’t have answered to.

But c’mon. Can you blame me? The guy said “bum” to me. Sure, it was proceeded by the word “otter,” but still.

He smiled and slid into the chair across from me. And I felt my stomach turn to goop.

“So,” he said, “Are you still up for this?”

I painted on a bright smile. “Of course, why ever would I not be?”

“Some people get cold feet at the last minute.”

I shrugged. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

He pursed his lips. “Good point. But I always have to make sure. Once we start the implementation, it’s hard to turn back.”


I did consider this a very strange term for “dating,” but at the time I chalked it up to one of those quirky phrases the Brits use that we Americans all find so endearing. Like how they call sweaters “jumpers,” and shopping carts “trolleys.”

“Well, you know,” I said, trying to sound confident, “I’m all about…implementing. Or whatever.”

He looked surprised. “Really?”

I shrugged again and took a sip of my coffee. “Sure, I mean, it wouldn’t be my first implementation.”

This wasn’t a lie.

I’d had my fair share of boyfriends, thank you very much. But to my discredit, none of them looked like him.

You’re probably wondering where I thought I was going to go with all of this. Eventually I’d have to fess up and admit that I wasn’t the elusive Hilda Otterbum, but rather just plain old seventeen-year-old Lucy Morgan who happened to have a weakness for Fitzgerald.

But honestly, I wasn’t really thinking about that at the time. I was too focused on his mouth. The way it seemed to cradle the words before releasing them into the air. I was, you know, living in the moment. All the gurus tell you that’s how you should live.

All the gurus are wrong.

Maybe if I’d stopped to talk some sense into myself, I wouldn’t be in this mess.

The Brit looked intrigued. “Oh, so you’ve done this before? I was under the impression you were new.”

“I…” I stammeed. “I’m new…ish.”

He nodded as though this made perfect sense. I’m glad it made sense to him. I was already starting to feel very lost. But as long his cute bum stayed in the chair, I didn’t really care.

I watched as he glanced around the coffee shop. He looked anxious. Preoccupied. Then he turned back to me. “Well, I suppose I don’t need to explain anything to you, then.”

He reached into his pocket and produced a small silver box, placing it gingerly on the table and sliding it toward me. “I’ll just leave you with the package.”


On a blind date? 

I liked this guy already.

I pulled the box curiously toward me, preparing to flip open the lid. But he stopped me. “I wouldn’t open that until it’s time.”

I pulled my fingers back. “How will I know when it’s time?”

He stood up, straightening the cuffs of his button-down shirt, and letting out a chuckle, as though I’d made some kind of joke. “I think it’ll be quite obvious.”

I started to panic then. Why was he leaving? Was it something I’d said?

“Well.” He sighed, looking down at me with an almost pitying expression. “Good luck.”

I watched longingly as he zigzagged through the crowded restaurant and walked out the front door.

Confused, I sniffed under both armpits and blew into my hand, checking my breath. I was just about to dig my compact out of my school bag to check for food in my teeth when I heard the noise. An epic, thunderous boom that came from right outside the coffee shop. On the street where my Brit had exited.

I snatched up the small silver box and my school bag and ran toward the entrance, shoving open the door with my shoulder.

In hindsight, I never should have left the building.

I never should have accepted that little silver box.

And I never, ever should have told him my name was Hilda Otterbum.

But I did.

And now I have to deal with the consequences.

The consequences that started the second I stepped out that door.


To be continued…

Follow the Traveling Story! Below is the post schedule:

Episode 1 – July 15 – Jessica Brody

Episode 2 – July 16 – Jessica Khoury

Episode 3 – July 17 –  Lish McBride

Episode 4 – July 18 – Gretchen McNeil

Episode 5 – July 19 – Emmy Laybourne

And as promised, here is the giveaway (Open Internationally)


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