Sample Sunday: from Catch Me If You Can

cmcover(this excerpt has not been edited for grammar/spelling, but HAS been edited to remove spoilers. Enjoy!)

It was the sound of music, pumping from the classroom where Naomi hosted her classes that brought Marcus to the front of the gym. Curious, he stepped into the area meant for parents to watch their kids during performances, and what he saw in front of him froze him to his spot.

Naomi was obviously mid-routine, and soaked in enough sweat that Marcus suspected she’d been repeating it since she left the office. In black leggings, a black sports bra, and black ballet shoes, Naomi was performing an impressively choreographed mix of classical ballet and modern dance, evenly sprinkled with overtly sexy moves that made Marcus’s mouth go dry as he pulled a chair right up to the glass to watch. She was dancing to Ginuwine’s So Anxious, a song that came out when Marcus was only seventeen. It brought back fond memories of his seventeen-year-old self playing it for whichever girl he’d charmed into his room, in hopes that he could charm his way into her panties.

But, he didn’t dwell on the memories long.

Naomi had dropped to the floor, crawling toward— from her vantage point — her reflection, but the way Marcus saw it, she was coming for him. She was winding her hips, tossing her hair, biting her lip as she got closer and closer to the mirror. It was sexy, no doubt, but it was somehow… deeper than that. Nothing about spoke of vulgarity, just unrestrained sensuality, and Marcus couldn’t decide if it was the woman or her moves that had blood rushing to his groin.

Holy shit,” Marcus whispered, leaning closer when she reached the mirror, did a series of moves on the floor that were downright erotic, then grabbed onto the barre to pull herself up in one fluid motion. With her hands clasped on the wooden rail, she dipped down, knees together, back arched, rolling her hips with the music as the song led into the bridge. Her timing was impeccable, because the moment before the beat dropped, she was upright again. The moment after, she was… off, jumping and twirling and leaping with a level of speed, agility, and grace that made Marcus’s heart race. He was turned on, but more than that, he was impressed.

Both feelings annoyed the shit out of him.

Marcus had spent a good portion of [redacted]. The minute his luck finally caught up to his hard work, Naomi Prescott had shot his hopes and dreams of a [redacted] in the chest with a heat-seeking missile.

That’s why so much of Marcus’s time over the last two weeks of [redacted] had been spent doing everything he could to get under her skin. He wanted to get under her clothes, but after the way things had started, those chances were slim. So we would settle for watching her dance in the fearless, sexy way she probably only felt comfortable with because she assumed no one was watching.

Guilt pricked Marcus’s chest at the thought of that. This was her time. According to [redacted], Naomi always withdrew into this room when she was preparing for a job. It wasn’t okay for him to intrude on that.

Just as he was standing to leave, Naomi took one last leap across the room, landing on her previously injured leg. She pulled herself into what Marcus knew to be a perfect arabesque pose — he’d looked it up after [redacted]’s little history lesson that first night. She held it at first, but then a flash of pain crossed her face, and she collapsed, falling to the floor on her hands and knees.

Hesitation didn’t even cross Marcus’s mind. He bolted to the door, and flung it open, rushing over to Naomi’s side.

Hey… are you okay?” he asked, helping her into a seated position.

She looked dazed for a few moments before she scowled. “I’m fine. Were you… watching me?”

Marcus scratched his eyebrow. “I… umm…”

Naomi let out a frustrated growl as she pulled away from him and stood, practically knocking her portable speakers to the floor as she turned off her music. “Unbelievable,” she muttered under her breath as she gathered her things.

I’m sorry.” Marcus followed her to the coat rack, where she snatched a lightweight jacket from the hook and slipped it on, shielding her body from view. “I mean… you looked really good though.”

Marcus recoiled at the look Naomi gave him then, and decided to switch gears. “Hey, you didn’t look like you were okay when you landed on that ankle… are you sure you’re ready to—“

I said I was fine,” Naomi snapped. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to finish what I was doing.”

For a long moment, they simply scowled at each other in a battle of wills. Then, Marcus shook his head. “Fine,” he scoffed. “I’ll leave you to it.”

He stalked to the door and snatched it open, pausing in the doorway when Naomi called out.

Marcus!”

He turned, his face set into an impassive mask. “Yeah?”

Good boy,” Naomi said with a smirk, then turned her music back on full blast and turned toward the mirror.

About Nothing But Love

NBLcoverSo, I did something I shouldn’t have done.  That “something” was promising a sequel to the story from Love and Other Things.  When I wrote “the end” on Tara, Kristin, and Val’s stories, for me, it was the end, but then I started hearing that people wanted more… so, I promised more, because you’re supposed to give the people what they’re asking for, right?

Again, shouldn’t have done that.

With every book that I’ve published so far, the characters and story have come very organically to me. (notable exception being Finding Forever.  That project was conceptualized for a pitching contest with Kimani.  My pitch was accepted, and they requested a proposal for the book, but I wasn’t feeling it.  I pulled out, re-thought my plot, and let the characters speak for themselves, and ended up with a VERY different story from my original pitch, a story that DID flow naturally for me.)  I don’t usually have to force the story to happen, don’t have to force the characters to cooperate. I may to sort through my thoughts, put it all in order, and come to terms with some elements of the plot, but i’m just the intermediary while they tell their stories. The relationship is symbiotic.

That’s not what was happening with Nothing But Love. I found myself pulling too much from my brain, not enough from my heart.  I was forcing it, and the result was a story that I wouldn’t dare offer to readers, expecting compensation for it.  With each book, I am working, learning, striving to give my readers something that is the absolute best I can give, and an improvement in quality from the last project.  If I published NBL at this point, it won’t even be comparable in quality to the first book, and I can’t bring myself to put it out there when I feel like that about it. I would much rather disappoint you by not delivering the book at all, than deliver a project that proves to be a disappointing read.

I have to be able to feel the characters. I have to be able to hear them speak, and Tara, Kris, and Val just aren’t talking to me. I have to respect that.  Whether they’re done talking period, or just aren’t ready to tell their story yet, I have no idea, but whenever they’re ready, I’ll be listening.

I’m sorry, truly, for promising a product that I cannot deliver. This is a hard post to write, because the last thing I ever want to do is disappoint the people who have supported me, but I have to stay true to myself, and my characters. I don’t mold these characters into what I want them to be. THEY mold ME into someone who is able to tell their stories as given. My hope is that you guys will continue rocking with me as I move forward with the people who are speaking.

Marcus and Naomi are different characters than any I’ve ever written. Catch Me If You Can is a different genre than I’ve ever written — romantic suspense.  You can look forward to their story this winter. (Sneak peek of the cover, and a little sample coming soon!)

Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read this, and as always, thank you for your support!