“Nana’s Rules to Live By”
Gentlemen should always open the door for a lady.
I was busy and I didn’t have time for a vacation, let alone a weekend away. When a frantic phone call from an old neighbor brought me to my grandmother’s summer home, I wasn’t prepared for an extended stay. And I especially wasn’t prepared for the man holding the door open to the radio repair shop who made a lasting first impression.
In attempts at a relationship, a gentleman should always make the first move.
Calling Jess Carter’s clenched jaw and denim-colored eyes part of his standoffish manner was an understatement. His brooding exterior bordered on being downright rude. From the moment I bumped into him, quite literally, our lives began to intertwine in a way that made me question what I wanted.
Children should be seen and not heard.
Jess had secrets and I was determined to get to the bottom of them. Even he didn’t know the solutions to all his problems, but I wanted to help. In doing so, I might have drawn too close to the truth, forcing Jess to risk something he wasn’t sure he could chance again. I had decisions to make for myself and it’s hard to know whose advice to take when so many questions remain unanswered.
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Nana's Rules to Live By -
I lay on my bed in Nana’s house with my dress and shoes still on. I was curled up with my hands under the pillow and my knees pulled up under my chest. I had taken off Nana’s sweater due to the heat of the luncheon next door, and I stared out the window at a lone morning dove cooing on the phone line.
I never heard the back door click open or someone walk up the stairs. I had just closed my eyes when I felt someone sit down on the edge of the bed behind me. As I turned in surprise, I saw Jess sitting opposite me. He wasn’t looking at me and I resumed my original position.
“How are you doing?” he asked me.
“What do you want?” I responded, harsher than I intended.
“I want to know how you’re doing.” I knew without looking at him that he was clenching his jaw in that way he had and was probably pinching the bridge of his nose.
“I’m fine. Thank you,” I said formally.
“Katie misses you.”
“I miss her too.”
There was silence after this comment and I waited a moment before I spoke.
“I don’t need your sympathy, Jess. I told you it wasn’t your fault.”
“I’m not here out of guilt.”
“Then why are you here?”
He didn’t answer.
“I can’t do this right now, Jess. You’ve made yourself clear. Please go away.”
I heard the side of the bed rise as Jess stood up. I waited again and heard him cross the short space to the bedroom door. Silently, tears slipped down my face and I briskly wiped them away. The room was silent before I felt the bed creak behind me again. Arms suddenly came up around me and I felt Jess’ body pressed into my back.
“I’m not leaving,” he whispered into my ear.
More tears rolled down my face as his hand moved along my arm and I cradled my hand in his. I closed my eyes again and wiped my face with my other hand. With his free hand, Jess began stroking my hair. He had removed it from the twist I had it in, and he was combing it out with his fingers. When he was done with that, he let go of my hand and began to rub my back. Gentle fingers massaged my neck and shoulders down the center of my back, moving lower to its base. It took a while, but I finally relaxed. I knew under better circumstances I would have been on fire under his intimate touch, but now I was so tired and drained that I gave into the comfort, not the temptation, of his touch. I felt him tracing something on my back. Letters possibly, spelling something maybe. It felt like an I…but I was drifting off to sleep.
Hours passed and it was pitch black when I woke. Jess was still on the bed with me, but there had been a shift. I no longer had on my shoes, which was the first thing I consciously noticed. I also noticed that I was no longer cradled into Jess, but more like sprawled on top of him. I raised my head slightly to take in our new position, and leaned on him to see how we had twisted in the night. Jess was flat on his back with my hand up inside of his t-shirt, touching hot, rippled abdominal skin. His oxford shirt was unbuttoned, lying open. I had one leg hiked over Jess’ leg, so my dress was raised up to below my hip, exposing my thigh, which Jess had his hand on. I looked down at his sleeping face and realized I was practically on top of him. Hurriedly, I disentangled myself and leapt to one side of the bed. In embarrassment, I pulled down the skirt of my dress and realized one of the spaghetti straps had broken.
Jess propped up on his elbows and looked around the room, sleepily.
“What time is it?”
“I have no idea. Late.” I was kneeling awkwardly on one side of the bed. I could hear the sounds of the night outside the window. Crickets chirped softly and creatures squeaked through the yard. It took me a moment to process that, no, I had not been drinking, and no, nothing happened between Jess and I. He lay back down and smoothed his uncontained hair before he spoke.
“I think I was draped all over you.”
“Um… I noticed.” Without seeing his face, I knew he was smiling a lopsided smile and when I covered my own face with my hands in embarrassment, in my mind’s eye I could see his hidden dimple. Jess rolled off the opposite side of the bed and reached down for his shoes.
“Don’t sweat it,” he said with his half-crooked smile. The heat of his voice was seductive and it sent a shiver down me. I shook a little.
“Are you cold?”
“I should go. You know, before the neighbors talk.” He smiled again.
“Oh, I bet it’s too late for that.” I giggled. “But you have Katie to think about.”
He didn’t answer and my comment added a tension that wasn’t in the air a moment ago.
“Leave before I do something I’ll regret,” I whispered, trying to make light of the situation.
“Oh, that might tempt me more to stay,” he said, low and dangerous.
“Just go.” I laughed.
“Alright, alright. You don’t have to be so pushy.”
I lay down on my back and laughed. “I always am.”
Jess stood looking down at me. “Good night, Emily.” I rolled onto my side to see him walk out the door for real this time.
“Good night, Jess.” I felt that new growing desire move through my body as he went down the stairs.
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Welcome, we are so excited to have you here at Just One More Romance. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down with us for an interview. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Tell us about your work. What are you writing now? Just finished edits for book 2 - Taste Test. The Sensations Collection includes 5 books - one for each sense. Also working on a rock band story based heavily on the Legend of King Arthur.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your writing? What inspired the story of Sound Advice?
Stranger than fiction, as the cliché goes, is how this tale started for me as the author. Everyone has a story. This one is based on a man I never met. It was looking upon a tall, longish haired man as he picked up his sun bleached little girl at a small town festival that I was inspired for this fictional story. It was the way he stood, looking, but not really watching, his daughter on the kiddie ride. The way he clenched his jaw in concentration, then picked her up by her arms with strength and slung her on his hip. She wrapped her arms around his neck and you knew there was love between the flower-print-dressed girl and the brooding young man. It was actually my husband who called him an interesting character and it sparked my imagination for a romance.
This story was hurriedly typed on my computer (in 2009) then put on hold. The following year when I returned to the small town, there he was in the crowd with a year older daughter. Out of hundreds, it was astonishing to recognize him again. We still never met and the story I invented of him remained on my flash drive. Another year, another chance sighting on the midway of rides again in Elk Rapids, this time waiting for his daughter as she climbed the rock wall. I felt like a stalker and could not believe I had seen him again out of all the nights the town held activities and the thousands of people who come to this small town to celebrate the harbor. But it was three years after I first saw this man, as I was standing outside the local ice cream shop, and he rode up on his bike with friends, stopping two feet away from me, when I felt the need to take my chances and send out this story. We have still never met. And I’m sure this is not his story.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I always wanted to be a writer, but I grew up in a house where keeping a diary wasn’t a good idea. I had an active imagination which was criticized as being a bad thing. But one day I had an inspiration, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I thought if I wrote it down, the story would go away. It didn’t. It only inspired another, and another, and another.
What was the first romance novel you read that made an impression on you? This will date me age-wise, but my first romance was Forever by Judy Bloom. It was considered YA before YA was a category and would considered NA possibly now because they had sex in the book. I had to hide in between the mattress so I wouldn’t get caught reading it at 12 years old. I loved it...and have loved the romance genre ever since.
What do you do while you write? Do you listen to music, watch TV, eat snacks, etc.? I definitely find inspiration from songs, however, I prefer quiet when I write. If I’m really in the zone, I can write in the middle of my family room with four children and a husband watching football, and not be fazed.
Tell us 3 surprising things about yourself.
Well, I’m not sure these are going to cause a lot of surprise, but here are a couple things about me.
1. I’m super boring, so this will be a stretch. I’m probably older than the average writer of this genre. (NA)
2. I’m embarrassed to admit I did read Twilight 10 times, and I have read 50 Shades 3 times. It wasn’t just the sex, though, so get your minds out of the gutter. I really thought they were good stories, although I might like the Beautiful Bastard series better than both.
3. I don’t watch television and most people find this absurd.
What’s the last movie you watched and loved?
That Awkward Moment with Zac Ephron. It was a bit raunchy, but it was a sweet storyline underneath.
What’s your idea of a perfect date?
I’ve been married to the same man for 20 years, so a date period is a perfect idea.
If you could take a romantic trip anywhere, where would it be?
I did take a romantic trip in March to celebrate 20 years to the same man. We went to the Cayman Islands, without our four children, and it was heavenly.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I absolutely do. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened with my husband. At least on my end. LOL.
Top three things on your bucket list:
My top three have been accomplished, so I need a new list, but here is what they were.
1. motherhood - four times
2. be a teacher - took 20 years
3. be a published author - knew I wasn’t waiting another 20 years
Boxers or Briefs? boxer briefs.
Alpha or Beta? alpha - although I can be controlling as well
Tattoos or Piercings? neither - but Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series has made me seriously reconsider.
Brains or Muscles? Both. If he’s strong, but stupid, forget it.
Planner or Wing it? By nature I’m a planner, but I’d love to be more of a wing-it person
Favorite feel good drink? wine
Favorite naughty dessert? chocolate brownie (I know, boring)
Tea or Coffee? tea
Laptop or Desktop? laptop
Beach or Mountains? BEACH!!
Thank you so much L.B. Dunbar for taking the time to let us interview you. I can't wait to read SOUND ADVICE. Make sure to stop back by this fall with all the detail of your next novel TASTE TEST.