Happy Thanksgiving Week!
I received a number of wonderful, encouraging posts last week in response to Stepping Off Cliffs, which I posted last Monday. By way of update, I was talking about taking the leap and writing something different from the old-fashioned sweet romances that I’ve been writing. In short, I was talking about writing something steamier and how it terrified me to do something different.
I am happy to report that thanks to your encouragement, I polished some chapters, wrote a synopsis and cover letter, and updated my CV. And now it’s out of my hands. We’ll see what the powers that be say. Am I still terrified? Absolutely. But I’m also thrilled to have taken a positive step for myself in overcoming the fear. So, thank you for helping me do that!
You may be wondering what the title of this post means. Two is Better Than One. As you know, Amazon chose What the Heart Wants as one of the titles in their 100 Novels for 3.99 or Less for the month of November. It’s only 1.99 all this month. To add to the joy and get you in the Christmas spirit, my publisher has lowered the price of A Home for Christmas to 1.99 through November 30. Can I get a Yay to that?
The opening to A Home for Christmas is my favorite that I’ve written so far. There’s an old Victorian near mine that always got completely decked out in icicle lights by its owners at Christmas. It could have been used for Hallmark Christmas cards, but instead, I used it for inspiration. I decided to write a book where the owner lives in that house. In the opening scene, he’s putting out the Christmas lights at Thanksgiving.
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving All!
Excerpt from A Home for Christmas
The Second Angel Ridge Novel
Janice slid her sunglasses off and laid them in the empty passenger seat next to her. She always got sentimental around the holidays. She didn’t know why. Her formative years had been spent at exclusive boarding schools. Christmases always involved a trip, either with her parents, or more often, with school friends. Each year, her grandmother had invited her to spend Christmas break in Angel Ridge, but her mother wouldn’t hear of such a thing. She’d always been embarrassed by her humble roots and didn’t want her daughter revisiting them.
Janice hadn’t been in Angel Ridge, Tennessee since she’d gone behind her parents’ backs and borrowed a friend’s car when she was sixteen to come during her spring break. It hadn’t changed much. Tall, old houses lined one side of a street that ran high above the Tellassee River, with church steeples just visible a few blocks over. It was a sleepy little town that time seemed to have forgotten, but for some reason, it burned in Janice’s memory like a warm, inviting fire on a cold winter morning.
A movement in her peripheral vision made her refocus on the old Victorian. She noticed that a man had appeared from behind the house carrying a ladder. The sun glinted off a pile of tangled Christmas lights, bunched near the steps of the porch, drawing her attention. Janice smiled. She was glad to see that this man, whoever he was, continued her grandfather’s tradition of decking the house out in grand style for Christmas.
The man leaned the ladder against the house. As he turned toward the mound of lights, he noticed her and smiled. Her breath caught and hung inside her chest. It was an easy smile, full of good humor that enticed a person to come sit a spell on the porch and enjoy the unseasonably warm, late autumn sunshine.
Tall and lean with whipcord muscles, he wore faded and well-worn jeans with a T-shirt that looked like it had once been black, but now was more a soft charcoal dotted with paint stains. A tan leather tool belt slung low across his narrow hips. A lock of thick, dark hair fell across his tanned forehead as he bent to retrieve the lights.
Janice shifted and the leather seat creaked. A sheen of sweat misted her forehead, and she cracked the window.
What must the home’s owner be thinking? But he acted as if seeing a strange woman in a new silver BMW parked outside his house was an every Saturday morning occurrence. He turned, and without giving her a second glance, started up the ladder. Stopping about eight rungs up, he leaned to his right, toward one of the bay windows on the ground floor.
Shifting the lights to his other hand, he reached out to pull at something above the window. He teetered. One foot went up in the air as he tried to shift back to find his balance. But the ladder tipped sideways with the movement, and Janice watched in horrified disbelief as he began to fall.
Years of medical school, emergency room rotations, residency, and private practice had honed her instincts so that she didn’t even give it a conscious thought. She was out of her car and at his side almost before he hit the boxwoods and rolled to the ground.
“Ah, jeez . . .” he groaned.
Janice had already clicked into professional mode. “Don’t worry, I’m a doctor. Try not to move.” She ran her hands down his arms, checking for broken bones. “Where does it hurt?”
The man chuckled. It was a low rumble that had a crazy effect on her. And that smile . . . it should be registered as a lethal weapon.
“If I said everywhere, would you keep doing that?”
Her hands froze on his hard, muscled thigh. Get a grip, she told herself. The man had fallen at least ten feet. He needed to be checked out. Thoroughly. She gave him what she hoped was a look that conveyed that this was a serious matter and continued down his leg. Firm muscles contracted and bunched beneath the soft, nearly threadbare denim.
Janice cleared her throat and tried to speak around the knot that had formed there. “That was quite a fall. Does anything feel broken? Strained? Any pain at all?”
The man tried to sit up, but she restrained him with a firm hand at his shoulder. “You really shouldn’t move.”
“Dr., um . . .”
“Thornton. Janice Thornton.”
“Dr. Thornton, I’m fine. Really,” he insisted, grabbing her hand as she began checking his other leg. “I’d have to fall further than that to hurt anything other than my pride.”
Janice frowned. She was almost completely distracted by the crinkles at the corners of his eyes that said a smile came easy to him, but she knew that often one could have injuries that didn’t present with pain after a fall like that. She turned her attention to his head. “You could have a concussion.”
She sank her fingers into his thick, dark hair at the place where a nearly indiscernible sprinkling of gray fanned out from his temples. His scalp felt warm, and her fingers tingled as she checked for knots. She faltered when she looked into his eyes. Fringed by incredibly long, inky eyelashes, they were a striking silvery blue that stood out against the framing of his dark hair and skin.
He propped himself up on one elbow so that his torso almost touched hers. When she felt his breath, warm and enticing against her cheek, she stopped breathing. He reached out to touch her face, but Janice sat back on her heels.
“There doesn’t seem to be any knots. No bruising or contusions.” She couldn’t stop herself from removing a sprig of rich, green boxwood leaves from his hair. “Um, what about your neck? Does it hurt?”
Before he could answer, she slid her fingers around to the back of his neck and grasped his chin with her free hand. He had a strong jaw. She’d always been a sucker for guys with strong jaws. “Gently,” she whispered, as she turned his head from one side to the other. “Any pain?”
She felt a sensual web forming around them, powerless to extricate herself from its seductive weave. Janice watched in fascination as the Adam’s apple bobbed in the tanned column of his throat.
He wrapped a big, callused hand around her wrist and said, “I wish, because despite the fact that I know your interest here is purely professional, I’m enjoying having your hands on me…too much.” He turned his head then, and with his fascinating mouth slightly opened, pressed a warm kiss against the pulse point at her wrist.
© Deborah Grace Staley