A Valentine's excerpt from Easy Love. Fall in love with the Big Easy.
Available for preorder on Amazon.
I pour three more fingers and let myself out onto the balcony, my eyes immediately turning to the left, and sure enough, Kate is sitting out with a glass of wine in her small, perfect hand.
She turns her head, leveling me with a cool glare.
“Problem?” I ask and sink into my chair. She’s sitting only a few feet away, with a simple wrought iron railing separating us. I could reach out and touch her.
But I don’t.
“Yeah, I think there is a problem,” she replies, as calmly as if we’re talking about the weather.
“Would you care to share it?”
She’s quiet for a moment, then sets her wine on the table beside her and turns to face me, and her green eyes, full of anger and frustration, take my breath away.
“I promised myself that I would never again let a man determine the way I feel about myself. I wouldn’t play games. I’m worth more than that.”
I raise a brow. “Agreed.”
She laughs humorlessly and stands to pace around her small balcony.
“You confuse the heck out of me! You were so fun and easy to be with yesterday. I actually thought we were…friends.”
Friends. That particular word leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
“And then I see you today and you barely speak to me, then run out on your own family dinner!”
I stand and lean my hands on the railing, looking her in the eye. “I’m trying to keep my hands off of you, Kate.”
“Oh, please.” She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest. “I’m not irresistible, Eli. Trust me, I know.”
“You’re wrong. You’re practically family—”
“I’m not part of your family.”
“And I didn’t know if you were already taken.”
“I wouldn’t have spent all day with you yesterday, not to mention let you kiss me the way you do, if I were taken.”
“Is your divorce final?”
This makes her pause. “Of course it is.”
“And Rhys is your cousin?”
She scowls. “Are you kidding me right now? You can’t be jealous of my cousin.”
“Oh, dawlin’, it seems I’m jealous of my own fucking brother when it comes to you. I wanted to rip Dec’s arm off his body when y’all came in Mama’s kitchen today.”
“Declan and I are friends!” She stomps away again, really worked up now, and I have to work to keep the smile off my face.
My God, she’s magnificent.
“Friends the way you and I are friends, Kate? Does he kiss you like I do?”
“It’s none of your bloody business!” She points her finger at me and keeps railing. “You don’t want me anyway! I’m bloody divorced, and I have bloody male friends, and I’m not going to apologize about any of that to you!”
“Come here,” I reply softly. She stops in her tracks and stares at me, chest heaving with temper.
She narrows her eyes and steps closer. “You don’t get to talk to me like—”
Before she can finish, I cup her face in my hand and brush my thumb across her soft cheek. Her skin is smooth and simply irresistible. I lean across the railing and stop my lips from covering hers by just a breath.
“Say fuck, Kate, it’s okay.”
“I don’t swear,” she whispers. “I have enough Catholic guilt as it is.”
“Just this once. I won’t tell.” My lips are tickling hers as I talk, and I feel the shiver run through her. She licks her lips and swallows thickly, and I’ve never been so hard in my damn life. “Say it.”
“Fuck,” she whispers, and I crush my mouth to hers, kissing her with all the pent up frustration and need that I have inside me. I push both hands to the nape of her neck, holding her still as my tongue tangles with hers, then lick to the corner of her mouth to tease.
She moans, gripping onto my forearms, but not pushing me away. I want to be in her arms. I want to wrap my arms around her and pull her into me and lose myself in her.
I want to strip her bare and feast on her.
But I pull away, gently caressing her face, tucking her auburn hair behind her ears, keeping her gaze caught in my own.
“Say goodnight, Kate.”
“Bad idea,” she whispers, still gripping my arms with all she’s worth.
“Maybe not such a bad idea,” I reply hoarsely. But not tonight.
“Say goodnight, Kate,” I repeat and back away when I’m sure she has her feet under her.
“Goodnight, Kate.” She presses her fingertips to her mouth and watches me with wide green eyes for a long moment, then turns and walks into her loft, locking the door behind her.
I once knew a girl who loved words. She would gobble them up, one book after the other, as much as she could, from the time she was very small. She didn’t always know what all of the words meant, but that was part of the fun. She lost herself, you see. She lost herself in the words; in the worlds that the authors made for her. She escaped there, and she loved every story. Every smart, brave heroine with a quick wit, or shy girl, or funny girl.
And as she grew up and discovered love stories, she fell even more in love with books.
I still love them. Every page. Every heart-wrenching, sob-stealing, swoony, funny, tender moment.
Nora Roberts novels were my first loves. I’ve never made it secret that she is my hero. She is a smart business woman, and she writes one hell of a love story.
No one writes like her. No one.
She introduced me to the McGreggors, the Stanislaskis, the Quinns, the O’Hurleys. Oh my gosh, the Calhouns!
And in my twenties, she brought Eve Dallas and Roarke into my life.
I write family sagas because of Nora Roberts. She’s the queen of the genre. I revisit those families regularly. I love the way she weaves their stories together. I love getting glimpses of the couples that I’ve already read and what their family looks like now. I so enjoy watching those families grow, and I often wonder what they’re doing now. She didn’t just give me characters to entertain me for a while, she gave me a family to invest my heart in.
Men to fall in love with.
Children to make my heart melt.
Dogs to make me smile. (Who can forget Foolish from the Chesapeake Bay Series?)
And women that I pulled for. Women I wanted to be.
I secretly believe that I am Eve Dallas. Roarke is mine. #SorryNotSorry
Also, I solve murders in my spare time. Just sayin.
But I digress.
I’ve been a writer my whole life. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. I’m also a reader. I want to inhale all of the words. I love this industry. It’s challenging, yes, and it’s more work than I ever anticipated, but it’s everything I ever wanted.
I’ve been writing romance novels for close to twenty years. There are countless novels on disks and in my computer that will never be published, and shouldn’t be. They were my learning curve. I practiced for years before I decided to self-publish, and there are still days that I wonder if my work is good enough to put out there for others to read. Every release day is a test of my nerves that I don’t wish on anyone.
But oh, what a thrill it is as well to know that the characters I’ve loved and nurtured and watched fall in love are finally out there for all of you to enjoy too. And I do sincerely hope you enjoy them.
Working all of those years honing my craft so I could eventually write love stories for a living was worth it. Every rejection. Every class. Every story that was pitched and started over.
All worth it.
And now, twenty years after I first sat down and began to shape a story of my own, something amazing is about to happen.
Every year, I sit down with my team and talk about what my goals are for the coming year. At this time last year, I’d hit both of the USA Today and New York Times lists. I’d signed on with a publisher out of New York, and I was writing full time. What was the next goal?
I wanted to receive an invitation to sign books with Nora Roberts at her bookstore in Boonsboro, MD.
That was it. That was what I wanted. And it seemed… crazy. I remember my publicist saying, “That’s a good goal. It might take a couple of years to achieve, but it’s good.”
I said, “That’s okay.”
And then in October of last year, that invitation came. I was with my publicist, KP Simmon, when it happened. I don’t remember what my reaction was. I’m pretty sure I simply said, “I’d be honored to. Thank you.”
But then we left the room and had a good cry together.
So, this Saturday, I’ll be in Boonsboro, MD signing books with Nora Roberts at her bookstore. It will feel surreal, and I’m sure that when it’s all over I will return to my room at Nora’s Inn (I’m staying in the Eve and Roarke suite, by the way) and have another moment with tears.
I’m signing books – with my name on them – with Nora Roberts, y’all.