Tuesday, November 30, 2010
And time's running out on the contest over at my new YA blog-- don't forget to head over there for a chance to win an ARC of Tempest Rising!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
So, how many of you have already seen Harry? Am I going to love it?????
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
For a second, she had a vision of running her lips over those tattoos. Of letting her tongue linger on the warm, tanned skin between the thick black lines. The vision was so real—as was the answering response in her body—that it had her snapping out, “Who are you?” before she had thought better of it.
“The dragon who currently has possession of what I’m guessing are your clothes,” he said with a grin that turned his face from a work of art into a study in mischievousness.
Her breath caught and she felt a strange tingling in her chest. Forcing herself to look away from him, Cecily let his words sink in. They were easier to understand when she wasn’t blinded by his insanely good looks.
For the first time, she noticed the dark green backpack dangling from his fingers, and outrage filled her as his words suddenly made a lot more sense. “Hey! Give that to me!”
“Why should I?”
“Because it’s mine!” she said.
“Really? Because from where I’m standing, things look a little different. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, after all.”
She rolled her eyes. “Can I please have my clothes back? It’s not like they’ll look good on you anyway.”
“Maybe not. But it turns out I’m particularly fond of the blue lace bra and panty set in the front pocket. If you want it back, I’m afraid it’s going to cost you.”
Monday, November 22, 2010
To enter: Head over to my new blog: www.tracy-deebs.blogspot.com and leave a comment in the contest section, with at least one song recommendation for the playlist. That's it, so come on! I can't wait to see what you come up with. There's an excerpt posted over there, as well, so you can get the feel of the book :) Have a great Thanksgiving week!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
TRACING KILLERS IS MIA VOSS’S BUSINESS.
AND HER WORK JUST GOT PERSONAL.
At first, Mia Voss thinks it’s just bad luck when her already lousy day ends with a carjacking. But what seems like a random incident is followed by another sinister episode. A DNA expert, Mia has made it her mission to put away vicious criminals. Suddenly, she’s become the target of one. And the only way to protect the people she loves most is to deliberately destroy her reputation and risk letting a killer walk free.
Once, Mia trusted Detective Ric Santos. That was before Ric let his turbulent past ruin his chances with Mia, the sexiest, most intriguing woman he’s ever met. But he can tell when she’s lying—and when she’s scared. The key to catching a sadistic madman lies within a long-buried cold case that has haunted Mia for years. Only she can uncover the truth, but first, Ric will have to get her to entrust him with her secrets . . . and her life.
Mia Voss needed a fix. Badly.
On a normal day, she would have stood strong against the temptation. But nothing about today had been normal, starting with the fact that it was January seventh and ending with the fact that for the first time in her life she’d actually been demoted.
Her stomach clenched as she turned into the Minute-Mart parking lot and eased her white Jeep Wrangler into a space near the door. Her cheeks warmed at the still-fresh memory of standing stiffly in her boss’s office, gazing down at his weasel-like face as he’d sat behind his desk, meting out criticism. At the time, she’d been stunned speechless, too shocked by what was happening to defend herself. Only now--six hours too late--did the all the perfect rejoinders come tumbling into her head.
Mia jerked opened the door to the convenience store and made a beeline for the freezer section. If there was ever a night that called for Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, it was tonight. For the first Thursday night in months, she wasn’t stuck at the lab. For the first Thursday night in years, the only items demanding her attention were a sappy chick flick, a cozy blanket, and a pint of butterfat. Tonight was for wallowing. Mia slid open the freezer door and plucked out a tub of Super Fudge Chunk. She tucked it under her arm, then grabbed a Chunky Monkey. As long as she was sinning, why not sin big? That motto had gotten her into trouble on more than one occasion, but she continued to follow it.
She jumped and whirled around.
A bulky, balding man in a brown overcoat stood behind her. He crouched down to pick up the carton that had rolled across the aisle, then stood and held it out to her. “Good stuff, isn’t it?”
“Uh, thanks.” She stared at him and tried to place his name. He was a cop, she knew that much. But he wasn’t someone she’d seen around in a while, and she couldn’t pull a name from her memory banks.
“Not as good as mint chip, though.” His droll smile made him look grandfatherly. “My wife’s favorite.”
She noticed his shopping basket--two pints of mint chocolate chip and a six-pack of beer.
His gaze drifted down to her fur-lined moccasins and a bushy gray eyebrow lifted. “Slumber party?”
Mia glanced down. For her quick trip to the store, she’d tucked her satin nightshirt into jeans, pulled on a ratty cardigan, and slipped her feet into house shoes. She looked like an escapee from a mental ward, which of course meant she’d bump into someone she knew from work. Nothing like reinforcing that professional image. Yes, today was shaping up to be a banner career day.
Mia forced a smile. “More like movie night.” She glanced at her watch and stepped toward the register. “It’s about to start, actually. I’d better--”
“Don’t let me keep you.” He nodded. “See ya around, Doc.”
Mia watched his reflection in the convex mirror as she paid for her groceries. He added a couple of frozen dinners to his basket and then headed for the chip aisle.
The name hit her as she pulled out of the parking lot. Frank Hannigan. San Marcos PD. Why couldn’t she have remembered it sooner?
Something hard jabbed into her neck.
“Take a left at this light.”
Mia’s head whipped around. Her chest convulsed. In the backseat was a man. He held a gun pointed right at her nose.
“Watch the road!”
She jerked her head around just in time to see the telephone pole looming in front of her. She yanked the wheel left and managed to stay on the street.
Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. Her hands clutched the steering wheel in a death grip. Her gaze flashed to the mirror and homed in on his gun. It was big and serious-looking, and he held it rock-steady in his gloved hand.
The command snapped her attention away from the weapon and back to him. Her brain numbly registered a description: black hooded sweatshirt, pulled tight around his face. Navy bandana covering his nose and mouth. Dark sunglasses. All she could see of the man behind the disguise was a thin strip of skin between the glasses and the bandana.
He jammed the muzzle of the pistol into her neck again. “Eyes ahead.”
She forced herself to comply. Her heart pounded wildly against her sternum. Her stomach tightened. She realized she’d stopped breathing. She focused on drawing air into her lungs and unclenched her hand from the wheel so that she could shift gears and turn left.
Where are we going? What does he want?
Her mind flooded with terrifying possibilities as she hung a left and darted her gaze around, looking for a police car, a fire truck, anything. But this was a college town and whatever action might be going on tonight was happening much closer to campus.
How was she going to get out of this? Cold sweat beaded along her hairline. Her stomach somersaulted. Bile rose up in the back of her throat.
The engine reached a high-pitched whine. She’d forgotten to change gears. Her clammy hand slipped on the gear-shift as she switched into third.
Think. She glanced around desperately, but the streets were quiet. The nearest open business was the Dairy Queen two blocks behind them.
“CenTex Bank, on your right. Pull up to the drive-through ATM.”
Mia’s breath whooshed out. He wanted money. Tears of relief filled her eyes. But they quickly morphed into tears of panic because she realized his wanting money didn’t really mean anything. He could still shoot her in the head and leave her on the side of the road. She of all people knew the amazingly cheap price of a human life. A wad of cash. A bag of crack. A pair of sneakers.
She could be dead before the ATM even spit out the bills.
The cold, hard muzzle of the gun rubbed against her cheek. Her breath hitched and her gaze went to the mirror. She remembered the police sketch of a man in a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses who for years had been on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. The Unabomber. Mia had met the artist who had drawn that sketch. As a forensic scientist as one of the world’s top crime labs, Mia had connections in every conceivable area of law enforcement. And at this moment, they were useless to her. At this moment, it was just her and this man alone in her car with his gun pointed at her head.
Stay calm. Make a plan.
She maneuvered the Jeep up to the teller machine, nearly scraping the yellow concrete pillar on the right side of her car. Too late, she realized she’d just ruined a potential escape route.
She closed her eyes and swallowed. She thought of her mom. Whatever happened, she had to live through this. Her mother couldn’t take another blow.
Not on January seventh.
Mia’s eyes popped open at the realization. She turned to face him with a renewed sense of determination--or maybe it was adrenaline--surging through her veins. “How much do you want?” She rolled the window down with one hand while scrounging through her purse for her wallet.
“Five thousand?” She turned to gape at him. She had that much, yeah. In an IRA account somewhere. Her checking account was more in the neighborhood of five hundred. But she wanted more than anything not to tick this guy off.
She gulped. “I think my limit is three hundred.” She tried to keep her voice steady, but it was wobbling all over the place. She turned to look at him, positioning her shoulders so the camera on the ATM could get a view into her car. It probably couldn’t capture him from this angle, but it might capture the gun. “I can do several transactions,” she said.
The barrel rapped against her cheek bone. She would have a bruise tomorrow. If she lived that long.
She turned to the machine and, with shaking fingers, punched in her code and keyed in the amount. Three hundred was the most she could get. Could she get it twice? Had her cable bill cleared? Mia handed him the first batch of twenties and chewed her lip as she waited for the second transaction to go through.
Her blood turned to ice. Seconds ticked by as she waited for the man’s response. Despite the sweat trickling down her spine, her breath formed a frosty cloud as she stared at the words flashing on the screen.
That’s it, she thought. I’m dead.
She reached a trembling hand out and pulled the receipt from the slot.
She could make a break for it right here. Except her doors were pinned shut by the concrete pillars on either side of her.
She could speed to the nearest well-populated area--which was a Walmart three blocks away. Would she get there before he shot her or wrestled the wheel away?
“Back on the highway.” The command was laced with annoyance. But not quite as much disappointment as she’d expected.
She put the Jeep in gear and returned to the highway. As she shifted gears, she glanced at the familiar Mardi Gras beads hanging from her rearview mirror. Somehow they steadied her. This was her car and she was in the driver’s seat. She could control this.
“How about Sun Bank?” Her voice sounded like a croak. That bank was past Walmart. Maybe she could swerve into the lot and make a run for it.
“Hang a left.”
Mia’s hands gripped the steering wheel. Her gaze met his in the mirror. She couldn’t see his eyes, but she could read his intent--it was in his tone of voice, his body language, the perfectly steady way held that gun.
Left on the highway meant out of town. He was going to kill her.
Wow! Talk about a great excerpt-- I'm jealous now that one of you gets the book while I have to wait for November 30, pout, pout. If you follow this blog, you know that I love Laura and think she's one of the best writers doing romantic suspense today. So, for today's question, any fabulous plans for this weekend? I'm writing Forbidden Embers and listening to the wood guys lay my Vermont Maple floors downstairs. Sound like fun? I will take some time out to run the boys to the park this afternoon, as it promises to be a beautiful day.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Anchored in fact on both sides of history, Laura and Ida, modern rationalist and fin de siècle occultist, are linked from the moment Ida channels Laura into the body of celebrated beauty and Irish freedom-fighter Maud Gonne. When Laura falls—from an ocean and a hundred years away—passionately, Victorianly in love with the young poet W. B. Yeats, their love affair entwines with Irish history and weaves through Yeats’s poetry until Ida discovers something she wants more than magic in the subterranean spaces in between.
Ida took a silent moment to assess her situation, before beginning to curse.
Her feet were over her head. The trailing nightdress which had tripped her and launched her headlong tumble down the servants’ backstairs, was likewise aloft. It had been her intention to spend some of her night in such a posture, but not alone at the bottom of an uncarpeted flight of stairs.
Ida pressed her unbroken hand to the quiet stairwell’s cold floor and pushed against it, swearing steadily. Maud did not plunge down stairs. But when she wrote to Ida of her new “spiritual marriage” to Mr. Yeats, Ida had raced from Paris, leaving her house and studies with more haste than planning. None the less, if her trip (despite her fall) bore the ripe red fruit she hoped, and Maud’s astral nuptials were enough for Will Yeats’s erotic love to open the vortex between planes, Ida’s daemon lover might, this very night, take possession of anyone she could find to make physical love to her. She understood the magic.
Ida took a careful, aching shuffle toward the final flight of stairs, but stopped when she heard whistling. Damn the fool and her dancehall tune coming in past curfew. And damn Ida, too, for her woman’s form. If she were a man, the maid downstairs, caught between dismissal and the chance to win ten shillings on her back, would be easily coaxed upstairs. And if not, a man could still take what Ida sought. But not tonight. Tonight her selection must be willing, open to suggestion, and able, once mesmerized, to send his soul away. No matter. Ida had a lifetime’s skill of using what little beauty she possessed. Once on the street, an unbuttoned coat over her nightdress and her loosened hair would be enough to draw a gentleman to the aid of a sleepwalking woman. Ungentlemanly opportunism would accomplish the rest.
The whistle faded into the pantry, doubtless foraging for a bite of cold dinner. Ida leaned against the stair wall and extended a leg in silent descent. Her knee knifed pain through her hip into her belly, locked, and completely gave way. Ida catapulted down the stairs into the kitchen.
“Who is there?”
A glint of blade in the black scullery and the growled question in nearly flawless English revealed the night whistler as male, but Ida’s attempt at her own name issued from her lips as a dull moan. A match scratched and set against a wick, spit, and lit a man’s rugged face.
“I said, who is there?”
Still unable to speak, Ida tasted the blood-filled space between her teeth and cheek and watched the cruel shadow steal across the kitchen on silent feet behind his raised candle and knife. Mayhap this was how all foreign criminals fed themselves, stealing into the sleeping kitchens of decent English houses.
The thief belted his knife and knelt beside her with a fluidity that returned Ida’s voice with a scream. Or with the beginning of one, stifled by his sudden, smothering palm. “Shhhh,” he cautioned in a low whiskey whisper.
Ida nodded consent.
He took his fingers from her lips and wiped the blood from them on his breeches. “Can you sit?” he whispered.
Ida nodded again, but before she could struggle upright, her body was banded by oaken arms and hoisted aloft. In two silent strides, the burglar carried her to the kitchen’s long table. He kicked a chair out and seated Ida unceremoniously, catching her shoulders to hold her. “Are you steady?” He crouched before her.
Ida tried to smile.
Without warning, his large hands shifted from her shoulder, to run, surprisingly nimble, bold and deft across her body. He handled her feet and knees, twisted her wrists, stopping when she winced, and prodding the pads of her palms. He reached boldly into her hair and felt across her scalp. He poked a finger into her mouth and Ida jerked away with a squeak. He raised a menacing eyebrow and reached again between her lips. They gapped open around the digit’s formidable girth, and he ran it without pressure against the fronts of her teeth.
“Would you care to tell me why a lady of your position slips down the servants’ stairs at two o’clock in the morning, madam?”
“I’ll scream,” Ida threatened.
“No you won’t.” He sat back on his heels with an insolent grin. “You are escaping a reputable address, undressed, at a disreputable hour. You are late to meet a lover who has taken rooms close by.”
From between a rough-stubbled jaw and hanging forelock, a pair of fierce eyes combed Ida’s face. The subtle trace of accent was Russian, she decided. “Your husband—an upstanding and prosperous man, no doubt—is in your bed upstairs, and you can no longer bear the smell and the sound of his sleeping. You are out of bed only to be away from him.”
Ida stifled a laugh and shook her head.
“Invent a more entertaining lie while I fetch my supper,” he instructed, and vanished into the pantry with uncanny speed. He returned with a hunk of the evening’s cold mutton and a bottle which he unstoppered, swigged, and passed to Ida. “You’ve no bones broken, but this will do you good all the same.” He bit into the meat with savage teeth. “Talk.”
“I must have been sleepwalking,” Ida murmured.
“Sleepwalkers don’t stop for coats.”
“I awoke from sleeping and realized I had left a case downstairs.”
He laughed. “You’re a very dull liar. If you had wanted any decent thing, you would have rung. There are only two reasons to fetch for yourself what others can carry to you, and they’re two blades of the same knife. Is it shame or pride, Madam, driving you abroad so stealthy and late?”
Unable to meet his bold eyes, Ida took a drink from the bottle and gasped as the liquor touched the raw, bitten places in her mouth. Her eyes filled with tears and she swallowed with a gulp, blood and whiskey mingling her father’s smells and her uncle’s tastes.
She stood up and wobbled. She would have fallen, but the thief caught her once again.
She looked up into the dark at him and cursed her blindness.
He whistled softly. “I’ve never heard a lady swear so well.”
Ida swooned against his heavy, wide chest, and enjoyed the strong arm moving to cradle her again. One of her more artful faints, it dropped her cloak from her shoulder and opened the neck of her nightdress. A slight adjustment, masked by a fevered moan, pushed her breasts into better view.
How could she have doubted her daemon would provide? He had chosen for himself this massive specimen of masculinity. Ida had been a fool, wasting time trying to escape him to the streets.
“I cannot say I do not appreciate the offer,” he said with a new edge in his gruff whisper, “but you won’t need to ransom your freedom from me. I didn’t mean to keep you past the point I knew you were unhurt enough to leave.”
Ida stayed fainted, but let her limp body press against him below where his belt was slung.
“Enough of that.” He dumped her onto the chair again. “I did not mean to drive you to such desperate measures. You need not tell me anything. Go. I will not try to stop you.”
“Don’t you dare believe you held me against my will!” Ida glared at the towering man and took another gulp of whiskey. She held it in her mouth, and let her eyes fill up with tears, the yellow fire licking her tongue’s raw places, searing them with rage and doubt.
“Were you going out for gin?”
Ida nodded and let a tear run down her cheek.
“Drink up then, cherie. I would not hold that against you.”
Ida tipped the bottle to her lips again and drank. She extended it to the tower of man standing over her. He sat and drank, swallowing the flaming amber easily.
“You’re still lying,” he observed.
“Yes,” she said at last.
“Why did you offer yourself to me just now?”
Ida laughed without sound. “Because I wanted to.”
One harsh eyebrow rose in surprise, but he did not accuse her of lying again. Slowly, the other brow joined it. He leaned forward in his chair. “Was it a man then, you were going out to find?”
The whistle came again, deep and slow.
“I have been married to the same man for too many years.”
“And you ventured out tonight for one who was not your husband.”
“You should be going then.”
Ida masked her surprise with a coquette’s smile. “You are not my husband,” she observed.
“I am not. But I am more than not just one man.”
“Of course,” she sneered. “You must be the hunter, the seducer, and all your conquests come—pure and persuaded, almost unwilling—to your bed.” Ida stood up, and when her legs weakened, she steadied herself with a hand on the rough table. “You may read your stories of women who give their bodies freely, in pursuit of their own pleasure, but you, in truth, would fear such a maenad.”
He stood slowly, exaggerating the difference in their heights and strength. “You have lied to and insulted me. I should put you out of doors like a yowling tomcat to find what you need tonight, but you are too bruised to walk and haven’t the sense to avoid murdering.” In an easy swoop, he gathered Ida into his powerful arms and started up the backstairs with her. At the first landing, he set her on her battered feet.
“What is your name?”
“Ida Jameson Rowley.”
“Had you lied, I would have left you here.”
Instead, he took Ida’s face in his huge hands and kissed her with a deliberate and insistent mouth. Not a hurried kiss, nor the furtive mouthing of her husband. The thief’s long and thorough exploration made Ida’s lips want to answer, and without willing it, her battered mouth responded, her tongue tasting cold flesh and whiskey.
Then she was in the air against his chest again, the steps swimming past, two at a time, beneath her. His rough stubble brushed her cheek, his voice spoke hot in her ear. “What room is yours, Madam Rowley?”
“Four,” she said against his neck.
The thief strode to Ida’s door and put her down again. She leaned against the jamb and waited, afraid he might depart, but after listening to the silent hall, he turned the knob and walked into her rooms. Ida tottered after him.
He prodded the dying fire and seated himself in the best chair beside it.
“Take your coat off, Ida Jameson Rowley,” he whispered.
Ida let it fall to the floor.
“Why are you in London?”
“I am visiting a friend.”
“Open your nightdress.”
Ida’s stiff fingers worked slowly, unbuttoning down to her navel the stiff white cotton.
“Is your friend the woman in the room next door?”
“Put your hands on either side of your nightdress and show yourself to me.”
Ida’s hands moved of their own volition, curling around the cloth, pulling it open. “You heard her sex cries through your wall?”
Ida opened her eyes and stared at him. How did he know of the noises Maud made?
“I have Russian hearing,” he said with an easy smile. “Take that terrible thing off.”
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her—and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
His touch would consume her—if it didn’t kill her first…
Dr. Sophie Gable wasn’t expecting her peaceful getaway to be shattered by the arrival of a half-dazed, dead-sexy guest. Thomas Nicasio has obviously been traumatized, and Sophie thinks she knows by what. There’s something about Thomas’s father that he can’t—or won’t—remember. Something that could get them both killed. Still she can’t resist Thomas’s electrifying seduction—or her instincts to help him…
An ex-Navy explosives specialist, Thomas has never felt this type of volatile need for a woman. Even while he’s grieving the deaths of his brother and nephew, something in Sophie makes Thomas want to overtake her, and each time he does, her willing submission makes him want her all the more. But danger is lurking close by, and if he can’t face the demons of his past, he and Sophie could be the next victims in a pattern of meaningless violence…
Her fingers delved through thick, surprisingly soft hair, searching for wounds on his scalp. A shiver coursed through him when her hand reached the base of his skull. She caught his scent. Despite his obvious illness and uncharacteristic disheveled state, Thomas Nicasio smelled good.
Cautiously, she met his stare.
For a few seconds, neither of them moved. Sophie suspected neither of them breathed.
“Did you hit your head, Tom?” she asked eventually, her fingers resuming their careful search.
Again, he shook his head. She pushed back his bangs. Her gaze shot to his when she saw the discoloration near his hairline on his left temple.
“You’ve been in a fight,” she stated tersely. Did a shadow of defiance cross his features, or was that her imagination? Well, perhaps she had sounded accusatory. It wasn’t her place to judge him, after all.
“Sick to your stomach?”
He shrugged negligently.
“How is it that you’re here, Tom?” she asked, despite the memory of what he’d said earlier.
I came looking for you, Sophie.
He wasn’t entirely lucid, after all.
“Do you know someone who lives near here?” she prompted when he didn’t speak.
“No. I only know you.”
“Well…why did you come looking for me?” she couldn’t resist asking in an anxious rush. “Did you find yourself getting ill on the road and need a doctor? Did you remember me telling you I was vacationing here, at Haven Lake?”
A spasm went through him and he cupped his right brow with his palm.
“I’m taking you to the emergency room in Effingham,” she declared, alarmed by the sight of what must have been a jolt of intense pain going through him.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“But you’ve got to, you’re not well and—“
“I’m not going to the hospital,” he grated out between clenched teeth.
She went completely still at his harsh tone. She considered calling the police, but then he opened his eyes.
The two words leaving her own lips surprised her a little, but she felt as if she didn’t have a choice once she’d looked into those twin pools of turmoil and anguish. “You might have a concussion, but you’re feverish, as well. I’ll get you some Tylenol and then you need to rest. Will you at least promise me to do that for now?”
“I’m not sleepy,” he said hoarsely. His gaze lowered. Heat flooded her cheeks. He stared at her breasts covered in the thin bikini top. Her body responded to his blatantly sexual gaze against her will. Her nipples stiffened beneath the flimsy fabric.
He stepped toward her.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Rhiannon, if you remember, is a rape victim who has shut herself off from life since her rapist went free and her marriage fell apart. This is the story of her reawakening, of her coming back to the strong, confident woman she once was-- in the arms of a younger man. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it (though I admit I did cry in a couple parts).
Here's an excerpt for your reading enjoyment :) Let me know what you think!
"Rhiannon." Shawn rose and extended his hand, his blue eyes warm and his smile welcoming. "I'm so glad you could make it today."
"Me, too. I've been excited about hearing the details of this party you want to throw since you called the office on Monday." It wasn't a lie, she told herself, if she only told half the truth. She was excited about planning the party, so it was perfectly acceptable to leave out the fact that she'd been up half the night worrying about seeing him again.
Obviously, this was stupid, as he wasn't looking at her with anything more than polite interest—the same interest he would show any woman charged with creating a fantastic party so that he could impress a bunch of Hollywood types. She must have imagined the way he'd looked at her the other night—which wasn't much of a surprise. Her radar was way off when it came to men these days, and had been for much too long.
"I'm glad. I need someone who's excited about this thing, since I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about throwing a formal party."
She pulled out her laptop and booted it up so that she could take notes while they talked. "You don't like formal parties?" she asked, culling about half of the options she'd come up with that morning from the mental list she wanted to run by him.
"I'm more a beer-and-nachos kind of guy. But I figure if I'm going to do this, I need to do it right— formal, sit-down dinner, monkey suit, the works."
As if his way with words wasn't enough to clue her in, just looking at him gave her a good idea as to why the formal approach probably wasn't the way to go. With his shaggy brown hair and easy smile, Shawn Emerson looked like every footloose, slacker guy she'd ever run across—the kind who was more comfortable with a bat in one hand and a beer in the other than he ever would be in an office or behind a desk.
Even his meeting attire—a football jersey and a worn pair of jeans—screamed immature male out for a good time. It was just one of the many reasons she hated that her hand was still warm from where his had clasped it.
But then, she was an idiot when it came to men. Life had certainly proven that in the past three years.
"So, your usual party style is ultra-casual yet you're thinking about throwing a completely formal gathering?"
"It's actually my agent's idea. He thinks I should have a really impressive gathering, kind of knock those Hollywood types' socks off. I'm just trying to follow along with his suggestions."
"What's the occasion?" she asked, trying to gauge which direction he really wanted to go in. For some people, formal meant black tie, while for others, it was just a step or two above beach attire. She had him pegged for the latter.
"Endeavor Studios just optioned the rights to my graphic novels. They're rushing to write a script based on the first two with hopes of starting filming in about eighteen months if everything goes as planned. A bunch of the guys involved in buying my project are going to be here in Austin for the film festival in March, debuting a new movie and Anthony thinks I should have a no-holds-barred party to welcome them to Austin and show my appreciation. It's not every day a guy's told his character is going to be made into a major motion-picture franchise, after all."
So much for a step above bathing suits—she'd been wrong again. Big surprise. This guy was definitely in need of a party with a big wow factor.
But a huge Hollywood-style party meant pulling out all the stops and the film festival was only—she pulled the website up on her computer—six weeks away. He wanted her to do a major party like this in six weeks? Was he kidding?
Trying to get her thoughts straight, Rhiannon pulled up a list of questions she needed to ask, then turned to him with the first one. "Who is Shadeslayer?"
Shawn grinned, an excited, happy smile lighting up his whole face and causing a weird flip-flopping in the pit of her stomach. Rhiannon did her best to ignore the feeling—the guy was at least ten years younger than her—probably closer to fifteen. Just the idea that his smile was directed at her specifically was absurd, not to mention pathetic.
"I was hoping you'd ask." He reached down to the seat beside him and picked up a few thick comicbook-style novels that he slapped on the table between them. "He's the superhero I created when I was in college. Now, he's the star of my twice-yearly graphic novels."
She blinked at the garish covers staring up at her. All three had a strong, muscle-bound guy in a gray-and-black superhero suit looking out of them, although he was in a different kind of peril on each cover. The artwork was absolutely gorgeous, but— "You write comic books for a living?"
"Graphic novels. It's not quite the same thing."
"Right, of course." She couldn't help wondering what the difference was, but didn't want to ask, in case the question offended him. He had made a point of correcting her when she'd called them comic books, after all. "What does Shadeslayer do? "
"All kinds of things, but mainly he keeps shades— dead people who are trapped on Earth—from using their powers to enslave humans." He held the books out to her. "Here, take them. They're for you. I figured they'd give you a sense of who I am, what the deal was about."
"Oh, okay. That's very nice of you." She reached out to take the books, her hand trembling just a little as it brushed against his.
She had no idea what she was supposed to do with three comic books, but it was a sweet gesture. She opened the cover of the first one, began to flip through it and was shocked when she came to the title page. Scrawled between the title and his name, were the words, "To Rhiannon, because a party is so often just the beginning. Shawn Emerson."
She stared at the inscription a moment, unsure what to make of it. Were the words a threat? A promise? A suggestion? Her back stiffened and she closed the books without comment, even as she tried desperately to figure out Shawn's agenda.
"Do you like them?" he asked, and she looked up to find him watching her closely.
"Of course I do," she answered, ignoring the confusion inside that told her very clearly that she wasn't sure how she felt about the books—or about the man who had given them to her. "They're an interesting gift."
Interesting?Nice? Shawn barely suppressed a shudder. Obviously, he'd struck out big time with his gift—he'd been an idiot to think Rhiannon would be interested in his graphic novels. He almost hadn't brought them—he didn't give them away very often anymore, and rarely signed them now that he was no longer busting his ass on self-sponsored book tours to promote the things— but this morning he'd been struck by a sudden desire to show her what he did. To give her a glimpse of himself, and of Shadeslayer, the greatest character he'd ever created.
But from the way she placed the books on the table like they were a cross between poison ivy and rotting meat, he figured he probably should have gone with flowers instead—for some reason, women always seemed to like those more. Leaning back in his chair, he studied Rhiannon and tried to decide what kind of flower she was.
Not a rose, though she was long-stemmed, beautiful and surprisingly fragile, if the delicate hand she'd put in his was any indication.
Not a daisy, because she was much too quiet and self-possessed for the cheerful white-and-yellow flowers.
Carnations were boring, and while she was doing her best to blend into the woodwork in her bland gray suit and white blouse, he had a feeling she was anything but boring underneath. Not with those intense coffee-colored eyes and that fiery red hair.
No, carnations would never do—and neither would orchids. They were too temperamental. Which left him drawing a blank. He shoved the dilemma to the back of his mind, with a quick reminder to get back to it later after they'd talked more. Because he'd meant what he'd said when he'd signed those books—this party was just the beginning. He'd been thinking about her since they'd met Saturday night and couldn't wait for a chance to get to know her.
The waitress chose that moment to come up for their orders, and he watched as Rhiannon smoothed a self-conscious hand over the tight bun of her hair. He wondered if she ever let it down.
"You know, they make a killer margarita here. I'm partial to their plain ones, but Lissa swears by their sangria margaritas." He deliberately brought up the name of his best friend Robert's wife to put her at ease—Lissa was the one who had introduced them at the party the other night, and it had been obvious she and Rhiannon liked each other very much. "I swear, she can drink three or four of those in a sitting."
She stared at him. "It's one o'clock in the afternoon."
"One-fifteen, actually," he corrected her, reaching for a chip.
"Either way." Her voice was drier than the martinis his mother used to make—and gulp down by the half dozen. "I try not to drink during business hours."
"Right. Business. I can see that about you."
That got her attention. She looked away from the waitress, eyebrows furrowed, lips pulled into a deep frown. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. Just that you seem like a really responsible person." He barely succeeded in hiding his grin as Rhiannon's teeth snapped together with an all but audible click.
"Well, we can't all have the intellectual and emotional makeup of a thirteen-year-old boy. More's the pity."
"Touche." He inclined his head, offering her the verbal point. As he did, he let his eyes linger on her full upper lip and the dimple that kept flirting with her left cheek. He'd been fascinated with both from the first time he'd seen her—and the story they told.
Even at the party, she'd looked so prim and proper. Long sleeves, long skirt, blouse buttoned up to her throat. He'd wondered at first if she was channeling someone's maiden aunt. But then she'd opened her mouth and that voice—low and smoky and incredibly sexy—had curled around him. And he'd wondered how he could have ever failed to see the fire.
So, since Thanksgiving is coming up and fall is finally in the air here in Austin, Texas, I thought I'd ask-- what's your favorite thing about this time of year? I love the crispness in the air and drinking hot apple cider with my boys. Happy Monday!
Anyway, lots of cool goodies have come my way lately, in regards to author copies, etc., plus a few of my dear friends have books coming out. So this week will be chock full of giveaways, including books from Beth Kery, Laura Griffin and Skyler White-- so stop by, leave a comment and be entered to win!!!!