Posts Tagged “romance”

I was trying to come up with a clever way to lead in to the fact my second Pleasure Before Business title, WOUND UP, is officially out in the wilds in both print and digital format. As usual, when I’m stumped, I take to the royalty-free image sites and do some WOUND_UP_2__1411563995_89161browsing, looking at different images for inspiration. Okay, okay. I was looking for gorgeous men. But it was all for you, dear Reader! That’s an almost entirely true statement! As I browsed through pecs and abs and obliques (oh, my!), it struck me that a simple query for “man chest” will return one thousand images. Those images range from seriously screen-blisteringly hot pictures of all kinds of muscles to many depicting an older men having heart attacks or, in one particularly memorable photo, of a post-operative open-heart surgical patient. (Note to self: refine search criteria.)

Though I’d just traumatized myself and vowed to give up fatty foods, I returned to my search with the intent of finding a male model who looked like and was appealing as WOUND UP’s hero, Justin. The options for what a photographer or consumer considered sexy were truly infinite. Yet not a single image truly made me think, “There! That’s Justin!” Not the way I, the author, have pictured him in my head.

man chestThis started me thinking: what do readers prefer when they look at the cover of a romance novel? For me, I very, very rarely want to see the model shown above his chin because a face is an intimately personal thing. Faces can feed your daydreams and torment you in sleep. They are the thing that makes us incomparably unique. So when I read a book, I don’t want the cover to tell me what to expect the hero to look like. I want the author to give me a strong sketch but still let me fill in the blanks. It’s that very thing, allowing me to see him through my own mind’s eye, that attracts me to him. Why? Because I fill in those little details in a way that make him desirable based on my own, very personal, entirely subjective definition of “sexually appealing.” I may find a 6’7″ man with piercing green eyes, shoulder-length-plus black hair, a visible wicked streak and a chest and abdomen so defined I can roll marbles down the ridges to be THE ultimate in hotness. However, the woman next to me on the plane may prefer a 5’10, blond, brown-eyed, accountant-type who has a wicked streak he keeps hidden from everyone until that one Santana song plays and his inner stripper can’t be contained a moment more. Now, take our two versions of what makes a man hot, have us both read the same romance novel and then put us with a police sketch artist. I’ll bet $100 that, while our descriptions may have similarities that the author clearly defined for us, the nuances that make the man appear sexy by our own definition will result in two very different faces.

Masculine young guy on grey backgroundSo now I’m asking you, as my fellow readers and cover assessment professionals, what you prefer when you pick up a romance. Do you want to see a torso, something like my debut, STRIPPED DOWN? A partial full body shot like WOUND UP? Just the hero? Skin? No skin? The hero with the heroine? What cover comes to mind when you ask yourself this question: What’s the best cover I’ve ever seen on a romance novel?

Leave me an answer in the comments between now and January 31. Three lucky commenters will be randomly selected to receive signed copies of WOUND UP and, just maybe, the first available copies of the third Pleasure Before Business book, PULLED UNDER, before it’s offered anywhere else. ;)

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…because the Covington brother are coming in August 2015. Who are the Covington brothers? Well, this is Ty:

Blond Ty from Back XLG

Ty is the youngest of the Covington brothers, the three brothers who have totally different feelings about how best to save the family ranch. But Ty’s pretty dang smart for the youngest. Plus? He’s funny. And you all know how I love me some funny.

He’s hot, compassionate, highly driven to succeed and to be his own man outside the shadows his successful brothers set for themselves. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Ty’s book is third in the series. I believe in giving us all something to look forward to.

The second story? Well, that’s all about Cade, the middle brother with a bit of a chip on his shoulder over having been left by the oldest brother to run the ranch. Cade had dreams and…I hate to give a good story away. Let’s just say when he’s trapped in the mountains with a travel reporter for New Mexico Magazine (thank you, flash flooding), he discovers that having stayed home all those years may pay dividends he never dreamed of. Readers, please meet Cade:



And finally, there’s the first book. Elijah Covington gave up the family legacy to get out of the two stoplight town. What he gained versus what he lost never quite equalled out, and now that he’s home to probate his father’s estate? Things are heating up as all he left behind comes rushing to the forefront and forces him to reevaluate what matters most. I’d like to introduce you to Eli and his left-behind lover, veterinarian Reagan Matthews:


The great news? It all kicks off in 2015. The bad news? It’s…um…August 2015. But watch both my personal blog and this fabulous Blaze blog in order to catch snippets and contests regarding the Covington brothers as each book is finished and we get closer and closer to the August release date! Because, my beloved readers, these men are hot, hard-bodied and huge-hearted. And the heat factor? Let’s just say I’m worried about starting a wildfire. :D

Until next time,


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STRIPPED DOWN is officially alive. That’s right, it’s out in the wild. So wild, in fact, I found it at Wal-Mart. On a Saturday. At 2:00 p.m. My friends, fighting those crowds is about as “wild” as my life gets these days. :)  But it’s out there, and I’m happier than a certain blue-jacket-wearing rabbit with open access to Farmer McGregor’s garden. That’s pretty happy, my friends.


And maybe (who am I kidding? No doubt!) it’s a stretch to put my first Blaze release in the same category as anything by Beatrix Potter, but here’s what I’ve learned: we’re both authors. That blurs a lot of lines I always considered hard lines between good and great.

What changed my mind? A conversation with a very good friend. This friend, who shall remain unnamed for privacy purposes, is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author many times over. She’s brilliant, charming, gracious and kind–all the things I decided I had to make priorities when I met her. She’s my hero in many ways, and my mentor in many more. I’ve always looked at her work and thought to myself, “I want to be that good. I want to write stories readers gobble up like hers.”

As the Fates would have it, my friend offered to read/critique my first cowboy Blaze, tentatively titled BLOWN AWAY. Her reponse? “My first thought on reading this was that I should just give up writing. I’ve always wanted to write like this, but I never will. As a reader, I knew there were words on the page, but I was too busy sensing and seeing everything you wrote about to consider the words. This is amazing, honey.”  She went on, but anything more will just make me sound like a jerk, and this? There’s a purpose to this.

After I was done weeping post-Skype call, and when the shakes finally settled down, something else dawned on me. I’ve always thought of writing in a ladder system, where you move one rung up or down based on a HUGE variety of factors. I know, I know. The idea was ridiculous. Keep in mind, though, that I don’t do math. At all. The extend of my intimate relationship with numbers runs to memorizing phone numbers. The. End. :D  So anyway, it hit me that she and I are both writers. We both have strengths. Conversely, we both have weaknesses. She works just as hard as I do to be brilliant. She’s been more successful in the brilliance department because she’s written many more books. BUT…I’m learning by continuing to write and continuing to read–read, read, read. I learn so much from seeing how a great story is put together by reading.

But here’s the other truth: I learn just as much from reader feedback. When a reader comes to me and says, “I loved your book, but I wish X had happened too,” I literally make notes. I learn from so many sources on how to improve.

This little revelation turned my ladder into a twisty slide that dumped all of us at the bottom of the sandbox in a giant, laughing heap. Because you know what? There is no ladder system. There’s learning, there’s (massive) effort, there’s appreciation, there’s writing what you love and there’s gratitude. That’s it. Mix those ingredients and the authors, and most of the readers, end up in the same puppy pile laughing and talking and enjoying each others’ company because we have those things in common.

So while STRIPPED DOWN is out in the wilds of McGregor’s garden chomping away on the carrots (I happen to LOVE raw carrots), my inner writer self is giddily at work on Eli and Reagan’s story, preparing to give you a better story every time as I live those five points: I learn; I exert (massive) effort; I appreciate every moment, reader, fellow writer and my editor (waves at Adrienne); I write what I love; I live with an attitude of gratitude. Beyond that? Well, the rest is just words.

I hope you get a chance to read STRIPPED DOWN and enjoy it. WOUND UP releases January 1 (December 16 for print books — thank you, Amazon, for the Christmas gift!). I really do have a serious book-boyfriend crush on the hero of this particular book, and I hope you will too.

Thank you so much for your amazing support and your awesome feedback. You guys rock!

Winners of the STRIPPED DOWN contest are: Marcy Shuler, Tammy Yenalavitch and Carol W. Congratulations! If you’ll send me your contact information through my website ( and let me know if you want the digital book or the paperback, I’ll get those in the e/mail today!

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Remember that moment in the first Jurassic Park movie where they’re going into the park for the first time and the music is all bass drums with deep beats and there’s a sense of total wonder? You know that, whatever you’re about to experience, is going to be epic. I’m talking epic on a scale you can’t quite picture because the music tells you so.

Moments like this tend to stick out in your mind because they’re rare. You don’t have them when you find your favorite brand of yogurt on sale. You might have them when you stumble across an epic shoe sale (think the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah). You definitely have them when you eat at Ruth’s Chris (had a hard time finding a suitable classical piece that breathed steak…oh, steak). Then there are moments like what happened to me yesterday. They sneak up on you and surprise you and you need something so dramatic people will never forget once you’ve introduced them to The Moment and The Music.

Hit play on the video below (embedded from YouTube) and I’ll tell you what happened.


There I sat, writing away like a madwoman on book three of the Pleasure Before Business series. I love this book–LOVE this book. It has been the most challenging story I’ve ever tackled because the hero and heroine really, really don’t want to play nice together but they’ve fallen for each other so hard that breaking them is going to actually hurt me, but that’s another post. So I’m writing, my email pings and I ignore it. Several hours later, I come up for air and check my inbox. There’s something from Harlequin. I open it and find it’s a link to a file and, for whatever reason, I can’t open it. I call the hubs (my version of tech support) and he logs into my computer via a remote viewing site and gets my Mac to play nicely with the link, deposits it on my desktop and goes back to whatever he was doing. I’m seriously thinking I’ve somehow received the cover for my first Blaze novel again (you can see it here: and it’s SO worth a look!), so I went to make dinner and came back to the computer later. Sitting down late that evening, I opened the file. White noise saturated my thoughts. My fingers moved of their own accord, scrolling through the opened document. And then, faintly, the orchestral music above began to play, gently at first, then swelling to shove the white noise aside. Why?

The file I’d opened was the digital copy of STRIPPED DOWN…my debut Blaze story.

I have a book, a real book, that I wrote and my beloved Adrienne edited and that Harlequin is going to put on the shelf with its seriously abtastic cover, with characters whom readers are hopefully going to love as much as I do. It took a while to settle in and, I’ll admit, I keep going back to make sure the file is still there on my computer. It is, and it’s something no one can take away from me.

So sorry, Jurassic Park. Not even your Tyrannosaurus rex moment, with his bellows and water rings and goat leg on the sunroof and the epic music that ushers him in, can compare.

I. Have. A. Book.

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I had fun this week chatting with the Blaze authors about their favorite ideas for Valentine’s Dates. Stop by the eHarlequin Blaze valentines-daySpotlight this week to read what fun and sexy things they shared with me!

Chatting about romantic dates got me thinking about some of my personal favorites. In the beginning of a relationship, dates happen all the time because that’s the only time you see each other. And when you first meet and you’re in that crazy blush of new romance, you can spend your time staring at clouds and it’s wildly fun and sexy because of the company.

Later, we have to try harder with our dates because who has time to go stare at the clouds when there are work deadlines and family commitments? But we do try—or we should—to spend time with the one we love and focus on each other.

That’s why I love Valentine’s Day. It’s a big fat heart on the calendar that reminds us to put romance first. Set aside the laptop, turn off the phone and go talk to each other. Hold hands. Fun things happen when you put forth the effort!

Often, I’m thrilled to have a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day, but occasionally we put some more creativity into the day and do something fun and different. One year we went to a Winter Carnival in Lake Placid and my husband brought heart shaped cookies and a thermos of cocoa. I have a goofy picture of us somewhere in winter hats and scarves, bundled so you can hardly see our noses, holding a big pink cookie.

Now that I think about it, a lot of our Valentine’s Day dates have been in cold weather climates, necessitating ice skating dates or a sledding outing. I realized my new boyfriend was way too competitive on an ice skating date, by the way, when a romantic spin around the ice turned into a fierce game of pond hockey played with branches for sticks and a rock for a puck. Luckily, no one lost an eye. I scored two goals before I convinced him to just hold hands instead.

This year, we’re in sunny Florida for February and I’m wondering what we should do. He’s been talking about concerts we could go see—which I’d love. But I have the feeling we’ll end up on the beach, possibly seeing who can throw a seashell the farthest. And that sounds romantic enough for me.

one_naughty_night**What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Or do you have a favorite memorable Valentine’s Day memory or tradition? Share with us on the boards today for a chance to win a free digital download of your choice of any of my FIVE Harlequin Temptations being released into digital formats for the first time this Saturday,  2/15/14—LEARNING CURVES, ONE NAUGHTY NIGHT, REVEALED, TALL, DARK & DARING or HER FINAL FLING!

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I used to believe novels happened like this:



Then I realized novels actually happen like this:

The brutal truth left me reeling. I mean, I thought a lot of want and a little magic would make the book appear on my computer screen. Okay, not really. (But the reality wasn’t far off.) Then I began to write. The first two chapters were like skipping through a field of daisies, with all the plot bunnies, or ideas, skipping gayly alongside as I started the journey of a new story. By chapter three, the bunnies had grown sharp claws. By chapter four? They were sporting fangs. By chapter five? Holy crow, by chapter five the little buggers were out for blood. They all wanted to be first in line and they all crowded in close and if I showed any sign of fear, I was doomed to die a grisly death. Suddenly Monty Python’s “Rabbit of Caerbannog” wasn’t funny. These rodents were EEBIL!

What I’ve learned over the course of many manuscripts is that I always love my work in the beginning. I love the stories I write and believe in them, and I want to champion them to the death. (You should see my manuscript morgue.) By chapter four, I begin to doubt I’m capable of writing anything more than a grocery list, and that must have spell check available at all times. It’s discouraging. By the middle of the novel, I begin to believe my husband should make the grocery lists because “ketchup” can be spelled too many ways and mustard comes in too many varieties for me to choose.

The rabbits circle.

Then I begin my slog out of the darkness. I begin to realize deadlines don’t actually kill people. And it’s usually around here I fall in love with my characters again. I remember why I wanted to tell their stories so badly, why it was important to immortalize them in print. I remember why I love to write, and why I started writing in the first place.

The fanged rabbits are replaced with new plot bunnies who are demanding the next story. Somewhere in the process, I forget about the threat of all previous rodents and begin to look forward to the next story.

Re-reading this, I realize I may have crossed that invisible line between sanity and…not. Oh, well. I’m so happy here with my pet bunnehs. I think I’ll stay awhile. After all, I have another novel to write.  :wink:




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My name is Denise Tompkins and I’m a geographical transplant. Actually, I’ve lived all over, but I grew up in the unbelievably beautiful Pacific Northwest where snow was a given every winter. We waited for it, prayed for it and rejoiced when it arrived, dancing through that initial appearance. Now, as an adult, I’m at the absolute opposite side of the United States. Winter here only means the trees are naked and there are a few more grey days than those boasting blue skies. I have made the most amazing friends here in the Southeast, but my heart will always belong to the rugged Pacific coast and the cold waters of Washington. While I miss everything about the Pacific Northwest, what I miss the most is the snow.

I miss the wonder of catching a flake on my tongue and feeling it disappear. The cold had a taste, undefinably sharp and clean.

I miss the burn of hot chocolate held by hands with numb fingers. It hasn’t ever been as rich when drunk on a sixty-degree evening.

I miss the hush of heavy snowfall, when you feel like you’re the only person in the silent world. It made me feel invincible and microscopic at the same time.

Knowing how much I miss Washington, it only made sense that I’d set my first Blaze trilogy there. The men of “Pleasure Before Business”–Eric, Justin and Levi–are a guaranteed dose of heat on a wintery night, whether you’re bundled up in the Canadian Rockies or sunning in the South Pacific. They’re a tight group of friends with no interest in falling in love. That makes the fall that much sweeter, doesn’t it? And the women they love are as different as the men are. I’ve had so much fun creating this hybrid world of the familiar and the fictional that I’m loathe to give it up. I’m finishing book one and handing it in this week, and diving straight into book two. I’m too anxious to share with you the remarkable journeys these couples go through to find each other and their shot at true happiness.

There’s more to come immediately after the men of “Pleasure Before Business,” but I’ll save that for another post.  :D

In the meantime, I hope you’ll visit my website to learn a little more about me– One of my favorite things is chatting with readers, so drop me a line anytime! Also, I’ll be hosting a holiday giveaway that starts this Friday and runs through January 3rd. I’d love to have you enter if the prizes are of interest. My website is currently undergoing a complete overhaul, so things might be a bit wonky, but I promise you’ll find the contest if you simply go to the “Blog” link.

Thank you to the Harlequin Blaze team, the fantastic Blaze authors and you, the readers, for welcoming me to the Blaze family.

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Recently, I asked the Blaze authors about Romantic Holiday Dates- Blaze Style, for a special feature at eHarlequin during the Holiday Open House this week (hint: join us today!!).  This was fun for a few reasons… seeing what my creative fellow authors had to say and also for thinking about what I could do for fun with my sweetheart over the holidays.

Anyone who has been in a long relationship will tell you that romance does not happen. Romance comes from the effort to create a warm and engaging atmosphere around you and between the two of you as a couple. In other words, it might be romantic to have the snow fall as you walk hand in hand near the holidays. But is it really romantic? That same moment, fast forwarding ten years into a relationship, can also be a huge headache as you realize you’ll have to shovel the driveway when you get home and you forgot to put on snow tires. The snow – and the moment—is all in how you look at it.

So I try to make the effort to put on my romantic glasses sometimes. Not to be confused with my near-sighted glasses and the far-sighted ones, both of which I now require.  My romantic lenses help me see with the eyes of a girl in love, a girl who hasn’t discovered all her guy’s flaws over the years. A girl who sees a hero first and foremost when she looks at her man. You remember that feeling. It’s why we read romance. We all want to recapture that magic of seeing something perfect that completes us in another person. Yes, it only happens with a very special person. But it also only happens if you’re open to romance and willing to make yourself vulnerable to love.

I’m going to suggest you find this vulnerability and romance within this holiday season. It’s going to be a great gift to yourself and a really awesome gift for your spouse, boyfriend or even the friends you meet and celebrate the season with, because this openness to life translates into the way you interact with every aspect of your world. Be open to happiness, romance and love. See the world with joy and maintain the attitude that anything can happen. That love can be around the next corner. Think how beautiful the snow is and put all thought of shovels firmly from your brain. Then, romantic lenses in place, you’re ready for whatever holiday date you make. For those of us who’ve been in long relationships, we know that means letting your husband be your hero and sighing happily that you found a keeper. It’s what romance is all about.

*** In the interest of inspiring one another, how about we share a romantic date idea/location/activity? Have any places that are special to you that you like to visit during the holidays or couple traditions you try to engage in at this time of year? Share with us on the boards today and I’ve got one holiday prize pack with a copy of my holiday Blaze, UNDER WRAPS and some other seasonal goodies for one random poster! Also, don’t miss my December Undone, Maid Until Midnight, available now. Plus I’ve got a big Cover Reveal for my first YA story as J.K. Rock this Friday!

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Recently, I posted over on the HEA/USA Today blog about my favorite Christmas movie being Love, Actually (You can still post there and on my blog to qualify for all of the 12 Days of Christmas giveaways). My favorite Christmas TV Shows have always been The Grinch (the original, not the movie) and to some extent, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, since I like the Winter Warlock and the bit o’ romance in that one. Hubby and I also like to watch Christmas Buffy, of which there was only one, (“Amends”) — but it’s a touching episode. I think most people have favorite Christmas movies, song, TV shows and books, but what about the other holidays, Thanksgiving and New Years? Thanksgiving in particular seems to be the least inspiring when it comes to romance, and I wonder why.

Thanksgiving — so much about gratitude and yummy goodies — would seem natural for romance. (I happen to have one out this month, Yours For The Night, which includes a sexy hero serving Thanksgiving goodies to his heroine, and a family dinner with all of the typical complications.) There have been a lot of New Years romances, and Valentines, of course — so why do some holidays have a more romantic mood about them?

So what is it about Thanksgiving? I can think of several romantic moments cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my honey, and remember fondly the first year we were together at my parents’ house, and when we went around the table and said what we were thankful for, he looked at me with those brown eyes and said “you.” So how can Thanksgiving not be more romantically inspiring?

Maybe it’s because it’s a happy time where the focus is on food and fun, and there’s not a whole lot of angst? (God knows, we must have angst!) While we can be sentimental about the Christmas tree, the Menora, or the many New Year’s moments, I guess it’s a little tough to get too emotional about turkey and stuffing, and maybe when you are full after dinner, you don’t really feel like getting romantic? Or are people just resting up for the frantic month ahead? Or perhaps it’s because this is a national holiday rather than an international one, so it just doesn’t have the same universal appeal.

Share your thoughts on why Thanksgiving is or isn’t romantic, and perhaps share an idea for a book or TV show/movie that you always watch or read for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I’ll give away a set of Berringer books along with a Godiva goodie to one commenter, announced on Friday. And if you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving!


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So, here we are in Fall. . .not entirely my favorite season because of what comes next, but I enjoy the nice parts of Fall. It’s pretty, the heat and mosquitoes are gone, and the colors are bright. There are apples, pumpkins, and I’m pretty sure that I’m seasonally conditioned to start wanting to bake more and make things like casseroles in cooler weather. All good things.

And then there are the books! It just so happens that my next book, YOURS FOR THE NIGHT, is set in autumn, right at that cusp of winter, before Thanksgiving. Fall is a lovely time for romance, and for falling in love again, which is what happens for Garrett Berringer, the oldest of my Berringer Brother Bodyguards.

Garrett feels the sadness that sometimes comes with Fall in an acute way, as he lost his wife at this time of year, and so he’s escaping the anniversary of that event by heading to the California coast for a vacation. But Garrett is about to fall again, big time.

As a way of celebrating Fall, and falling, here’s an excerpt from the book, due for release November 1. It’s the first of three Berringer books in the row (with cousin Luke Berringer’s book coming out later in 2013) and I hope you’ll enjoy it.


Garrett survived the rehearsal and in the end, he was glad he’d agreed to help Ed out. Mostly because of her.

Distracted from any sad memories by the woman he’d walked down the aisle with, he watched Tiffany look at the clock for what might have been the hundredth time in an hour. She appeared to be in a hurry to leave, saying goodbye to Isabel from what he could tell.

Ed was in party-mode the night before his wedding, and they’d all decided to go out for a round of drinks and some dancing after the church. Garrett had planned to go, hoping that he might get to know Tiffany a bit more. It had been a long time since his first thought upon meeting a woman was, how do I get her into bed?

She’d seemed responsive enough at dinner, flirting with him, unless he was seriously out of touch. Then, mysteriously, her attitude had cooled down considerably, inexplicably. Conversation on the drive to the church was limited to brief, general topics. She didn’t laugh at his jokes, and she didn’t meet his eyes once. Her posture was rigid as they had linked arms to walk down the aisle during the rehearsal.

And she hadn’t stopped looking at her watch since they’d gotten there. Was she in that much of a hurry to get away from him?

So what had he done to turn her into the ice queen? And how could he reverse that trend? He wasn’t used to this, feeling unsettled, unsure of what to do next. Berringer Bodyguards was his main focus, and he liked it that way. He knew what to do there, and he did it well. The business was gaining more prestige – especially since his brother had married a US Senator’s daughter – and it took even more of his time and energy.

But he wasn’t there right now. He was here, watching Tiffany, whom he’d only known for a grand total of four hours. Less than that if you counted only the time they’d spoken directly to each other.

The rings on her fingers sparkled as he watched her talk, her graceful hands accenting her conversation. He knew in his gut that she would be as expressive in bed. He liked the loosely-tied knot of long auburn hair at the nape of her neck and he wanted to untie it. Let it fall down over her shoulders, his fingers. He liked the scooped back of her dress, how it revealed the contours of her shoulders and neck. He liked the idea of planting kisses there.

A fling suddenly sounded like a very appealing addition to his vacation itinerary, but he wasn’t sure she would agree. And now she was leaving, before he could find out what he had done to offend her. Watching her kiss Isabel’s cheek and head to the door, he found himself following her out.

“Hey, Tiffany, hold on a second,” he called out, watching her pause and turn, her shoulders sinking a little as she seemed to accept her fate.

What the hell had he done to cause this reaction?

“So are you going to tell me what I did?” he asked, looking directly into her gorgeous green eyes. Directness was usually best.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said testily. “And I need to go,” she said, clearly agitated and wanting to leave.

“Hmm. Did you know that while it’s commonly thought that people who don’t make eye contact are unreliable, in truth, someone who is lying will go out of their way to make eye contact, trying to convince you they are being honest?”

He saw irritation flash in her eyes, and her cheeks warmed, making her even prettier.

“Are you saying I’m a liar?” she asked and tried to break away, but he held her fast. “Funny, I thought the same about you.”

“When did I lie to you? We’ve only known each other for a few hours.”

She glared at him, facing off in the middle of the small parking lot, until she sighed and shook her head. “Look, drop it. I don’t get involved with married men.”

“That’s a good policy, but I’m not married.”

“Really? Here’s an FYI: just because you don’t wear your ring doesn’t mean you’re not married. Thanks but no thanks,” she said, turning and walking staunchly away, back stiff, nose turned up.

He thought she was amazingly cute, even though he had no idea what she was talking about. “Wait,” he said as he hurried up to follow her. “I’m not married. Who told you I was married?” he asked.

“You. You said you’ve only been in two weddings, your brother’s and your own.” She punctuated the last two words with an accusing finger poked into his chest.

“Ohhhh.” He was used to everyone around him knowing, and saw how she would have jumped to that conclusion. “I’m sorry. I was married. My wife died several years ago.”

She gave him an even dirtier look. “Right. Listen, I get that you want to hook up while you’re out of town, but I’m not interested. And it’s pretty awful to say your wife died just to get some other woman to-”

Garrett reached into his back pocket, pulling out his wallet, sliding out a memorial card with Lainey’s picture, and her dates of birth and death.

“This was my wife, Elaine,” he said softly, showing Tiffany. “And this is her obit,” he added, flipping the picture over where the funeral home had printed a lovely quote that he had selected at the time. He watched Tiffany read the back of the card, as if convincing herself it was real. Garrett knew what it said by heart: Elaine Elizabeth Berringer. Born May 20, 1978. Died November 15, 2006. Remember two kisses, the first and the last.

Tiffany stared at the picture for several long minutes, turning it in her hands, and when she looked back up at him, her eyes had welled.

Damn, now he’d made her cry.

“Don’t cry, please,” he said, almost desperately, taking the picture back and slipping it into his wallet. “I just wanted you to know I wasn’t lying. Completely understandable how you would misinterpret what I said earlier,” he added, and put his hands firmly on her shoulders, making her look at him.

Obviously he didn’t quite have the ways with women that he used to. “I’m sorry for making you cry, too,” he added for good measure.

“No. I’m the one who’s sorry. I always do this, leap to conclusions, leap into relationships, leap into trouble. . .I just tend to . . .leap. And what I said was horrible, considering. I am so sorry,” she repeated. “She was lovely.”

Garrett’s heart softened even more. “Yes, she was. But it was a long time ago,” he added, experiencing a little kick of surprise at how easily the words fell from his lips, accompanied by a tiny sting of guilt. He’d never before tried to push Lainey’s memory away.

“How long were you married?” she asked.

“Six years,” he said. “I put this in my pocket at the funeral. It took me two years to clear a lot of her things out of the house, three years to take my ring off. . .I guess I thought I should keep something of her with me.”

Tiffany smiled a little. “That’s sweet, and sad.”

Garrett frowned. First Tiffany thought he was a player trying to have an out-of-town fling behind his wife’s back, then he’d called her a liar and made her cry. Now she thought he was clinging to the memory of his long-dead wife. When he’d lost Lainey, it was as if Garrett had died, too. He would wake up, move, breathe, eat because of the demands of his body and because he knew his family worried about him. They grieved too, and he didn’t want to cause them any more pain.

Gradually, it got easier, better. The business had saved him. His brothers, his family, had saved him. His heart had scarred over sufficiently that he could go on. But he hadn’t really moved on.

Meeting Tiffany made his blood move again, coursing through him with new vigor. He was excited for the first time in a long time, his heart doing more now than just keeping him alive.

And he was alive. He’d never known that fact more keenly than when he looked down into Tiffany’s face, her beautiful green eyes still a little blurry with tears.

Garrett pulled her closer, experimenting, operating on instinct and sheer male desire. It coursed through his blood like a river that had been held back for too long. He could only think of one way to convince Tiffany that he was very much living in the present, not the past.

He kissed her. It was as simple as that.

So, there is a little taste of Garrett’s story, and also included in YOURS FOR THE NIGHT is my very first Blaze, VIRTUALLY PERFECT. “Sunsets and Seductions” has all three of our 24-Hour Blackout books released in 2011 – and MINE UNTIL MORNING is Jonas Berringer’s story, in case you haven’t read it. This is where you first meet Garrett, as well, and Ely and Chance (HERS FOR THE HOLIDAYS, Dec ‘12, HIS KIND OF TROUBLE, Jan ‘13).

Share something you like about Fall (or something you like about Garrett or any of the Berringer Brothers!) and I’ll pick three people to win a set of the books pictured here. (US, Canada, and UK only please).

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Cover Art Copyright @by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. BLAZE, HARLEQUIN and the JOEY design are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited, used with permission.
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