Amid a sweltering Miami summer, a serial killer is haunting the city. Reporter Ingrid Sorenson is assigned the story and her primary source is brusque detective Rick Gonzalez. The pair clash, but sparks of passion ignite. They risk their jobs to give in to their desire, but mistrust of each other’s career motives wedges them apart. Then Ingrid gets a tip that leads her into the killer’s lair. She and Rick must choose between saving themselves or rescuing their love.
She arrived before the police had erected a tent around the victim, and even standing at the mouth of the alley, she could see the silhouette of a man reclining at an odd angle in the driver’s seat of a minivan.
A man murdered in his car. Just like the John Killings. Could the John Killer have returned to mark the year anniversary of his last murder? She tried to control her excitement. If it was the serial killer, this would be a huge story. And she just happened to be working that night.
Then that detective had shown up, wrenching her incredibly good luck to incredibly bad inside two minutes. She still didn’t even know the guy’s name. But maybe he wouldn’t be working the case. Maybe he was just on duty and got the callout, and maybe it wouldn’t matter if he was on the case. Her primary contact at the P.D. was media relations. Still, it was a bad break. Developing a personal relationship with detectives was the way to scoops. She didn’t need him possibly poisoning other cops against her.
The coroner’s tech was photographing the body and the car. Detective Asshole was standing with folded arms, watching. Every now and then, he turned in her direction—checking on her. With her initial excitement fading to disillusion, a wave of tiredness overcame her. She wiped her forehead with her forearm. The air had cooled at this time of night, but it was still muggy. She trudged back to her car, posted a two-sentence brief online about a suspicious death in an alley north of downtown from her phone and headed home.
As she raced down the normally traffic-choked U.S. 1, she recalled that whole embarrassing video incident. As Mel had predicted, she’d been hauled into Marlena’s office the next day to give her side of the story. Thankfully, Marlena had concluded that it wasn’t Ingrid’s fault. Why would an undercover operative be so reckless as to show up at a media conference? Still, Ingrid had been nervous that it would be held against her when she applied for the police beat, but it hadn’t. Neither did it seem to matter to Major Montoya when Ingrid had gone to the station to introduce herself as the new Star reporter. The only person who held the grudge was the detective, although he seemed to have landed pretty well if he was investigating homicides.
Despite being an asshole, he was cute, hot actually. But being an arrogant jerk seemed to be the required personality trait of good-looking men, as if they knew handsome guys were in short supply and acted accordingly. Still, Ingrid wondered whether something could’ve developed between them if the video thing hadn’t happened.
She had felt a frisson of … what exactly, attraction? … in that look they’d shared, and he must’ve rushed to get to the door before she left the press conference for a reason. She stopped herself. What-ifs were nothing but a trap of despair. They didn’t bear thinking about.
She pulled into the driveway, tires crunching over the carpet of red berries fallen from the palm trees in her front yard. She was due back at work in a few hours for her regular day shift. She’d get some sleep and head back to follow up the homicide. If she could break the story that the John Killer had returned, and stay ahead on the story after that, maybe she could nab a promotion to a coveted slot on the investigative team. Then she’d never have to worry about running into Detective Asshole again.
Welcome, Christina Elliott! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
I’m a former newspaper reporter, editor, and foreign correspondent. I live in Los Angeles, where I’ve lived the past ten years and I’ve been working on my fiction all that time. I’ve gotten used to walls shaking now and then with earthquakes. My laptop will be the first thing I save.
Is In the Heat of the Tropics a single title, or part of a series?
It’s a single title, but I’ve plenty more where that came from! I prefer reading standalones so that’s what I write. What were your inspirations for the story?
I love both gritty crime fiction and romances so to me romantic suspense is a great genre that combines both elements. I was a newspaper reporter in Miami so that was my obvious lead character, Ingrid, and knowing that reporters often clash with cops over big stories, that formed the basis for the romantic and mystery plot. I also think cops make great alpha heroes. Who doesn’t like a man in uniform?
Please share your setting for In the Heat of the Tropics. Have you ever lived or visited there? If so, what did you like most?
The book is set in Miami, which is a sexy city. I lived there for five years so I know it pretty well. I also set it during the summer, which is a brutal season in Miami – six straight months of 95-degree heat with 80-85% humidity. Lots of bad hair days! The best thing about Miami is the winter when the weather is about the most perfect you’ll find. I also sorely miss the Cuban coffee and the bathtub-temperature of the sea. Sigh! When did the writing bug first bite?
When I was about five, I won a prize for “writing interesting stories.” I have no idea what I wrote at that early age. They must have been very simple stories with one-syllable words but they obviously impressed the teacher! Where this gene came from, I have no idea since neither of my parents are writers although I have always been keen readers and the library was a constant in my childhood. I’ve always been a voracious reader and that made me want to write books since I was little. In high school, I wrote my first formal short story and that made it into the school literary magazine. I then became a journalist. So really I have been writing my whole life.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
I’d be a comedic actor. I took some acting classes and not only found them hugely therapeutic but also found I have a knack for comedy. I find being zany and way out a huge release. It’s weird because I love reading, writing and watching drama, but when I act, it’s comedy all the way!
Do you have any hobbies or special things you like to do in your spare time?
My passion, other than books, is traveling. I’ve traveled to about sixty-five countries, the more remote and exotic the better. I love other experiencing other cultures and languages, delving into the unknown of a foreign place. I think travel is a great experience for a novelist. You pick up so many bits and pieces that you can incorporate into plot, setting or character to make your book unique. What’s the strangest thing you’ve had happen with this book?
Here’s kind of a weird moment. I was working as a reporter in Los Angeles, and I got to do a tour one day with a police sergeant named Rick of his particular area of the city. As we’re driving around, I suddenly realized I was actually living a scene from my book, when my detective character Rick takes Ingrid out on a tour of the serial killer sites! I excitedly told the sergeant, but he didn’t fully appreciate the meaning of it. I think he thought I was hitting on him!
What is the one thing that you would tell an aspiring writer to do?
Persevere. Don’t give up in the face of rejection. Dig deep within yourself to find the wherewithal to keep going, and don’t listen to naysayers! Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Writing is a hard and largely solo journey so get rid of any baggage that is weighing you down! Believe me, you don’t need it!
What would you want to be engraved on your headstone?
Something simple: “An observer and chronicler of life,” that would do nicely.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Christina Elliott is a former Miami newspaper reporter and editor. She now writes spicy romantic suspense novels from Los Angeles, where she’s glad to report there are far fewer bad-hair days but sadly far less Cuban coffee. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America.
BCL is a Contemporary New Adult Romance that tells Kassandra’s story.
Kassie is a single, independent woman that finds herself questioning her lifestyle after all of her best friend get married and settle down.
Even if she’s the only unmarried girl in the pack she isn’t single anymore. Now that all her friends are married and all the wedding planning is over, she has a chance to concentrate in her relationship with Josh. Or so she thought, since her friends keep visiting her with a major life changing crisis.
Helping her friends plan their wedding was no problem─dealing with unexpected personal situations is a whole other thing.
You can read how she helps Laura and Marisol to plan their weddings.
Kassandra’s last single friend got married in the summer. But even if she’s the only unmarried girl in the pack she isn’t single anymore. Now that all her friends are married and all the wedding planning is over, she has a chance to concentrate in her relationship with Josh. Or so she thought until Marisol visits her with a major life.changing crisis. Helping her friends plan their wedding was no problem─dealing with an unexpected pregnancy is a whole other thing.
Kassandra is unable to decide the best way to help Marisol, specially when her relationship with Josh starts reaching an amount of commitment that she wasn’t expecting. Both girls will have to remember the past in order to move their relationships forward.
Kassandra is a single, independent woman who prides herself on her own success. Now her life seems complete when Josh─a thoughtful, handsome, and the worst kind of charmer─leaves his womanizing days behind and can’t seem to stay away from her. Kassandra keeps wondering if their single days are really over and they’re ready for a monogamous and committed relationship.
Marisol is a married woman with the perfect life─A wonderful husband and a beautiful son. Life gets even better when her little boy is finally ready for school and Sol can go back to work.
Destiny is full of surprises for both girls, and sometimes the plans that you have aren’t the ones in the path before you.
Join Kassandra and Marisol as they remember how they planned Sol’s wedding while they solve together the difficulties in the present.
About the Author
K.T. Castle loves reading, writing, and painting. She’s on a quest to find the words, forms, and colors to materialize the worlds and people of her imagination. She loves reading Paranormal, New Adult, and Contemporary Romance. She never saw herself as an incurable romantic, but lately, that’s what she finds herself musing about. Love is found everywhere, regardless of whether it comes from a nice person or an ass—mundane or even vampire.
When she’s not busy with work, in front of a computer placing many thoughts in order, she makes her best to be creative or relax with a good TV series and snacks. Some of her favorite characters are Jon Snow, Daenerys, Barney Stinson, Saint, Rome Archer, Rush, Gretchen McKay, and Cinderella.
Kassandra is a single, independent woman who prides herself on her own success. But when she’s asked by her best friend Laura to be the Maid of Honor in her wedding, Kassandra finds herself questioning her lifestyle. Helping Laura plan the wedding is no problem—she’s done it before for all their other friends. The first time was a blast, the second super fun, but doing it without receiving any help from the rest of the girls gets old really fast.
The whole event kicks off with the worst kind of surprise when Kassandra discovers who her friend’s fiancé really is, and she’s torn between supporting Laura’s future happiness and hiding the deeply buried, intimate past she shares with the groom-to-be. Struggling to be the bigger person and do all the hard work on her own, Kassandra finds surprising comfort in Josh, the best man in the wedding and someone she’s been avoiding for years. He’s charming, thoughtful, handsome, and the worst kind of womanizer, but she just can’t seem to stay away. All the while, Kassandra can’t help wondering if the wedding could be any more cliché—until she finds unexpected ways to change things up a bit.
My apartment had an open plan. It wasn’t big—just big enough. I had it all decorated in light neutral colors, white dominating most of the space. Marisol had taken the pink piglet with her and placed it on the marble counter while we had some tea and cookies.
She was calmer after she revealed her true intentions to me, but we didn’t discuss her options much more; we both knew that this was a decision she had to make on her own.
An hour later, Josh and Micah returned. We knew they’d already had dinner, since anyone could see red thick tomato sauce smudged all over the toddler’s face. The boys had hunted some chicken soup and green salad for us girls, relieving me of my cooking duties.
After having her soup, Marisol said her farewells. Michael texted her that he was on his way home, and she wanted to be there to greet him. She took some leftover pizza and salad for Michael’s dinner. Josh helped her out with Micah, who’d fallen asleep watching cartoons in my room.
It was a surprise to see Josh so helpful with the rowdy toddler. I didn’t know he liked children, and it surprised me even more that he was actually good with them. I finished cleaning the kitchen, and Josh came back to hug me from behind. “How about I rub your shoulders before I go home?”
“That sounds wonderful,” I said as he stepped back so I could continue with my last task.
“You’re really tense, babe,” he informed me. “What had Sol so upset?” He moved away and leaned against the kitchen counter.
He crossed his arms before commenting, “I thought that would be something to be happy about. I know I’d love to knock you up.” My boyfriend said naturally, as if we’d had a conversation of the sort recently—or at all.
We’d only dated for six months, so the baby subject had never been discussed before. To be honest, I’d never in my life even thought about babies. I was about to ask Josh what exactly he meant by his comment when he distracted me with another question.
“Michael isn’t happy about her being pregnant, or what?”
“Michael doesn’t know yet,” I explained, doing my best not to show the panic I felt at his mention of us having babies. I wasn’t ready for that at all, but this was really about Sol and Michael, not us. “And, please, don’t tell him. I probably shouldn’t have told you anything.”
“Sure, that’s for them to talk about.” At least we agreed on that, but I was still stock on his revelation.
“Josh,” I asked as calmly as I could manage, trying to control the arrhythmia suddenly overtaking my body, “what exactly did you mean by the knocking-me-up comment?” I stopped wiping the microwave so I could look at him and size up his reaction.
“Nothing much,” he nonchalantly answered, his gray eyes clear with honesty. “Just a silly comment.” Then he crossed his arms over the broad chest I loved so much and gazed back at me as if he was gauging my own reaction in return.
I didn’t know if he’d meant anything by those words or if he was just trying to shake off the whole topic—maybe because of the doubtful vibes I was sending his way. I turned and walked to the sink, rinsing the cloth I used to clean the kitchen and placing it next to the wide metallic bowl. “You’d like to have a baby.” It was meant to be a question, but I expressed it as a statement.
“Sure. Why not?” Josh answered with complete honesty. “I’d like to have a baby in the future.”
I exhaled deeply. That made me feel a little better, even if he hadn’t said he wanted to have a baby with me in that future. I walked to the living room, made myself comfortable on the light couch, and took a few seconds to think clearly.
It was rational for anyone to think about having children in the future, wasn’t it?
“I didn’t even know you liked children,” I said. He joined me on the sofa and turned me around so he could massage my shoulders as he’d promised.
“I didn’t know it myself, so of course you didn’t know.” Josh cleared his throat while his hands did their magic. “I thought my nephew was the only kid I liked, and he’s older now. Playing videogames with him is the highlight of our relationship. But I’ve been spending some time with babies recently. Nat’s girl is so cute, there are no words to describe her. And Micah—he’s super fun. We had a good time together today.
“My sister got pregnant in her early twenties,” he continued, “so I was still a teenager when Elliot was born. I guess that’s why I didn’t have that much time to enjoy him. He’s twelve now—a real teen nightmare. Of course, being the cool uncle and playing Playstation with him always helps.”
“Oh.” I mean, what else could I say? I knew so little about his family. I already knew he had a sister who was a single mother, but I didn’t know his nephew was a teenager. He rarely talked about them, so I thought he wanted to keep our relationship lighter than ‘meeting-the-family’ status, and I was perfectly fine with it.
He’d mentioned to me that I should meet his sister once or twice, but there’d always been something else to do. Maybe he wasn’t that interested in me meeting his family, but I knew why I didn’t want him to meet mine. Knowing them, they’d make the situation much more formal than it should have been, and I didn’t want Josh to get the impression I was out to tie him down. Our intentions with each other were clear, but the formality and future path of our relationship was a whole other topic. I didn’t know if he was ready for something like that; I knew that at the moment, I definitely wasn’t.
“I still don’t get it, though.” Josh completely changed the subject and therefore my train of thought. “Why is her pregnancy a problem?”
“Marisol hasn’t worked since Micah was born,” I explained. “She’s the best financial manager I’ve ever met. Sol’s great at her job, banks were always throwing money at her to work for them, but most of all, she really enjoyed working with numbers. She was really truly happy. Not that she isn’t right now,” I clarified. “She’s completely in love with Michael and Micah. I don’t think she’d have it any other way. But she was happy to go back to work, to feel fulfilled in her professional life. Now that Micah’s in preschool, she accepted a proposal from a bank she used to work for. Marisol’s super happy getting her chance to work with all those numbers. And she feels that a new baby will change it all. Somehow, she thinks that Michael and her family will pressure her into staying at home with the baby. She’s terrified of that.”
“That’s why she was so upset.” Josh seemed to really understand Marisol’s situation—seemed completely sympathetic. “But there must be other options,” he added. “Besides, a new baby should be a source of joy in any family. I love how children light up a place.”
OMG. I had never expected something like this from a man like Josh. A man I saw with so many different women, I once considered him a womanizer. A man who worked in the fashion world at a modeling agency, scouting models at bars and pubs. A man who kept telling me he was so in love with me. And now he mentioned babies and how wonderful they are.
It was too much for me right then.
“Whether they’re planned or not, having a baby is a big deal. People should be happy about it,” Josh continued, voicing his opinions in a parallel universe I never thought existed.
Yep, too much. I needed to stop this conversation.
“I’m sure,” I said, trying to stop any more ‘how wonderful are babies’ comments. “You know what, Josh? I’m really tired.” I stood and ran from his loving ministrations. “This whole thing with Sol completely drained all my energy and I have an early day tomorrow. Do you mind if I go to bed now?”
“Oh, sure, gorgeous,” he said. “I completely understand.” Josh walked to the door and I followed him closely. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” The way he said goodbye sometimes made my body physically reluctant to let him go. His kisses completely melted me, and he knew just how to ignite my body so I couldn’t do anything but want him. Tonight, though, I felt like being alone, and I really needed him to go.
“Will you meet me tomorrow at my place?” he asked as his mouth left a trail of kisses down my neck. “Or should I come back here?” His hands had already unbuttoned my shirt, exposing one of my breasts, and his skilled fingers played with my nipples.
“You’re the devil,” I said, pushing him against the door. He dropped his hands and gave one his most deliciously impish smiles. “Stay away from me.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know,” I answered.
“I love you, baby,” he said.
I kissed him lightly and closed the door behind him as he left. It might have been silly, but at that moment, I was really thankful that I was on the pill.
It didn’t take long for all the guests to be seated around the table.
Fortunately, it was a really pleasant evening. The food was wonderful—guacamole, rajas, carnitas, frijoles, and a bunch of other guisados that were completely delicious and complimented perfectly the soft corn tortillas Marisol had made early in the morning.
Most of the conversation seemed to focus on me. I didn’t know if it was because they were really interested about my life in Boston, my Master’s degree, or simply because we wanted to avoid the big pink elephant in the room—Sol and Michael’s first dinner at her parents’.
I didn’t mind being the buffer for that conversation, although I was sure Marisol would have to answer a million questions about her relationship and Michael’s intentions soon enough. You didn’t get to invite your boyfriend to meet your Mexican family if you weren’t expecting to go through that.
“That’s really interesting, Kassandra,” Mr. Fuentes said. “You opening your own business and helping everyone write their processes and plans.” Marisol’s father’s accent wasn’t that noticeable—not like her mother’s. I guess it was because Mr. Fuentes worked out in the city while Sol’s mom stayed at home and spent time with the family. “But I’m more interested to hear about the ‘gringo’ Sol brought to dinner tonight.” He was really direct; he probably got frustrated that all the conversation was about me and not about anyone else.
“Pa, I told you,” Marisol said. “He’s a financial manager, just like me.”
“Let him talk, Sol. It isn’t as if I was speaking to him in Spanish,” Mr. Fuentes said.
“Marisol’s right, Mr. Fuentes,” Michael said. “I work as a financial manager in the same bank as she does, only in a different branch.”
“So you don’t work together?” Mr. Fuentes asked Michael again.
“Not really,” Michael explained. “I was lucky enough to meet her at the Christmas party the company had for everyone.”
“Since Christmas then?” I could see Mr. Fuentes doing the math. It was now the middle of fall, so they’d been dating almost a year before Marisol brought Michael home to meet her parents. I didn’t want to be in Sol’s shoes when everyone left.
“Yes, sir,” Michael said.
“And you haven’t brought him home until today, Solecito?” The head of the family turned to his daughter. ‘Solecito’ was the pet name he used for Marisol, specifically when he was spoiling her not when he was questioning her so seriously.
“No, Pa.” Marisol smiled gently. “I’ve been really busy lately, and so has Michael. I didn’t find the right time to bring him home. I thought….”
“Tina, it’s his first time home, right?” Now he questioned Sol’s mother.
“Si, Manuel. Es la primera vez,” Mama Tina answered Mr. Fuentes question. “¿Qué tanto misterio?”
“I was just wondering why the gringo didn’t show his face before,” Mr. Fuentes explained. “What exactly are his intentions with my little Sol?” His question didn’t seem to be aimed at anyone in particular until he looked at the other side of the table and met Michael’s eyes. “What exactly are your intentions with Marisol?”
“The best, sir,” Michael answered.
I had to give the guy some credit—he wasn’t budging at all. He looked Mr. Fuentes right in the eye and faced him with everything he had. I could see Clay look at him with awe and respect. It wasn’t an easy task to stand up to Mr. Fuentes.
“Define best,” the protective father said.
“I adore her. I intend to care for her in every way, to love and protect her. To treat her as she deserves.” Apparently, Michael’s words weren’t convincing; Mr. Fuentes huffed under his breath. “I also intend to marry her…if she’s willing to take me.”
That about made everyone stop breathing for a second there.
“What?” Marisol said. Apparently they hadn’t had that conversation yet.
“This probably isn’t the best moment, Sol,” Michael said apologetically. “But since your father brought it up, I couldn’t stop myself.” He stood from his seat and walked the small distance to reach Marisol. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while now.” He extended his hand and helped my friend stand up next to her chair. “And we haven’t even talked about it at all. But we’re perfect together. You’re perfect.” He reached for a small velvet box inside the pocket of his trousers. “I’ve been carrying this around for a couple days now. Looking for the best moment to reach for it and offer it to you.” Michael kneeled before her.
Everyone had stopped eating to watch this surprise proposal; some even stood up in order to get a better look at the event.
“Why not here, with your family and friends as witnesses to how much I love you and how I want nothing more than to have you in my life forever? Marisol Fuentes, will you marry me? Would you make me the luckiest man alive?”
Marisol was completely speechless. Her right hand covered her mouth and tears pooled in her eyes.
“¡Contéstale, niña!” Mama Tina shouted, just as excited as the rest of us to hear her daughter’s answer.
My friend was only able to nod yes. Michael took that as answer enough and placed the ring on her delicate hand.
We all clapped and cheered when Michael stood and held Sol in the most tender hug. I knew she was usually shy, but I guessed happiness was all the encouragement she needed to kiss Michael in front of her parents.
“Congratulations!” Natalie said.
“You’re going to get married!” I added in excitement.
“He’s got some balls to propose in front of Mr. Fuentes,” Clay said at some point.
“I thought I was going to be next,” Laura commented.
“I can’t believe my Sol is getting married,” Mama Tina said.
“Pinches gringos. They have to do everything backwards,” Mr. Fuentes scoffed under his breath.
“This has been an entertaining night,” Julian pitched in.
We all took turns in congratulating the newly engaged couple. And I doubted I was the only one to wonder what exactly Marisol’s dad meant by his comment. We were all about to learn how Mexicans liked their weddings.
Mexican Wedding Checklist
☑ Meet the parents
⊠ Ask for her hand in marriage
☑ Propose to the bride
“Kass, what’s going on?” I heard Josh’s drowsy voice from somewhere behind me.
I couldn’t even turn around to give him a decent answer before I started hurling again.
“Shit, Kass.” He was next to me in a second, holding me from behind and making sure to get my hair out of the way.
Pink vomit covered the inside of my white porcelain toilet, and all I could think about was how much this would upset my grandmother.
I’d woken up what felt like ages ago. My stomach was completely upset, and I knew vomiting was inevitable. Unfortunately for me, my babushka was sleeping tranquilly next to me. I didn’t have it in my heart to wake her up—not just to tell her how sick I felt. Not with the noises I knew would be coming from my bathroom. I’d eventually wake her up, only for her to find me turning my stomach inside-out. I decided I had to leave my room and go to the guest restroom on the farthest side of my living room.
During my very long walk there, I accomplished the herculean feat of not throwing up on my wooden floor or creamy carpet. I didn’t even notice Josh sleeping on the couch; he could’ve helped me get there sooner. Then again, my intentions while almost crawling my way across my apartment were to not disturb my grandma’s sleep, which in a way included not disturbing anyone else’s.
“Are you done?” Josh asked as soon as he saw that my heaving stopped for a few minutes.
“I hope so.”
“Stay here,” he said. As if I could move anywhere else. He returned quickly, accompanied by a warm, humid cloth and a glass of fresh water.
I couldn’t express my gratitude enough.
Josh sat on the floor next to me. “Why didn’t you let me know you were this sick?” he asked.
I could understand his confusion. If he was ill, I would expect him to tell me so I could help take care of him. It would have made a lot more sense if I’d used my own bathroom. “I didn’t want bahba to know I was sick,” I confessed. “And I totally forgot that you spent the night.”
He grunted his disapproval and demanded, “Are you ready to go back to bed?”
“Not really.” That only made him grunt again. “I’d rather go with you to the couch, if that’s okay.”
“Totally fine.” While his words were a bit cold and cutting, his touch felt warm and caring. Josh carried me back to the couch with him. I rested in his lap for a little while and relaxed back to sleep.
What felt like seconds later, I felt movement underneath me. I opened my eyes and stirred a bit before I heard Josh’s soft whisper. “I think your grandma woke up. I just want to put my pants back on.”
I mumbled an okay and sat up straight. If my grandmother was coming out of my bedroom any minute, I needed to look as healthy and awake as possible.
A few moments later, Josh had managed to clean up the living room—and possibly the restroom—place some tea in the pot, and get ready for the day. I imagined he and my grandma had to leave sometime soon. I guessed I could fend for myself. I was almost sure the worst was over.
“Good morning,” Babushka said as she came out of my bedroom looking well-rested.
“Good morning,” Josh and I answered almost simultaneously.
“Glad to see you’re doing better, Kassandra.” After all that vomiting, I’d probably lost some weight, too. “It was good to stay with you and help you recover.”
“Would you like some tea, Babushka?” Josh asked the old lady.
She approached the teapot and said, “It’s only chamomile tea, but I guess it’ll do. Do you need me to fix some breakfast before I go?”
“I took the liberty of boiling some eggs for Kassandra as soon as she’s ready for them.” Eggs were probably the last thing I wanted to eat at the moment. “A friend of mine will be here any minute with sour bread from the bakery in case either one of you want some.” Bread sounded more appealing—or saltines. I thought I had some in one of my cabinets.
“Eggs for me. Kassandra, do you want some?” my grandmother asked.
“Tea is fine, thank you.”
“Good. If you get hungry, Josh has managed to prepare a half-decent breakfast,” she said. “I guess that since you’re sick, there isn’t much else that might be good for you.” Grandma fixed her egg with some mayonnaise and paprika. Their interaction was a nice distraction from how horrible I felt. Somehow, I’d managed to convince my grandmother I was doing much better, and she concentrated her attention on my boyfriend. Her gaze constantly followed his movements, probably contemplating the ease with which he moved around my place. Josh’s eyes constantly returned to me, searching my face, his composure oddly rigid. But it wasn’t because he felt uncomfortable under my grandma’s eye; he kept looking at me, as if he wanted to ask some question—that was, when babushka wasn’t talking to him.
“Josh, can I cook something for you?” she asked.
“I’m doing fine with my coffee, Babushka. Thank you.”
It didn’t take her long to finish her light breakfast and comment, “It seems there’s nothing much for me to do. I better call a cab so I can get back to your dzed.”
“I would offer to take you, but I’d rather stay with Kass for the rest of the morning,” Josh said. “But I’m sure my friend Mindy will be happy to take you home. She’s the one bringing us the bread.”
“Oh, nonsense. I wouldn’t want to impose,” the stubborn old lady answered.
“Really, babushka, please. It will make Kass and me feel better,” Josh explained, “Besides, Mindy loves driving and today she’s driving my car. You would be doing her a favor.”
“Well, if it’s a favor for this girl, then I accept.”
Josh stepped into the hall outside my apartment, probably to call Mindy and inform her of the new task she’d been given. Not so long ago, I’d been really jealous of this Mindy character. She was one of the most beautiful twiggy blonds I’d ever met, and during Laura’s wedding preparations, I’d noticed that she was always hanging around Josh. He later explained that she was actually his PA. I felt a little embarrassed after learning about their relationship, although I still kept my eyes open in case she decided to make a move on her boss.
My grandmother approached me. I hadn’t moved from the couch since Josh had helped me there. “He’s a good man,” she said. “Your Dzyedooshka should meet him. Soon.” She patted my leg and kissed my cheek. “Bring Josh home soon.”
“Mindy’s downstairs waiting for you, Babushka,” Josh announced. “Let me walk you to the car.”
We said our farewells and my grandma made me promise that I would call her that night to let her know how I was doing. I would agree to anything in that moment just to get her to leave. I could feel the dizziness and nausea coming back at me. I could do with Josh leaving, too. I was alarmingly embarrassed given he had witnessed me vomit over and over again in the night.
As soon as they left, I rushed to the bathroom inside my bedroom. Kneeling before the porcelain toilet, I heaved and heaved, leaving only water and tea. I wondered then what I could have done to deserve something like that. Where and how could I have gotten this sick?
Josh was soon with me again, hovering over me and making sure I was all right. I insisted he go home, but he wouldn’t listen. He stayed with me all day, taking care of me as if I was a baby. He fed me when I decided I was going to try and eat something. Saltines and sour bread with some butter was the only thing I could keep down. He helped me shower and put me to bed, too. Our day was spent between trips to the restroom, showering, and sleeping. We didn’t talk much. Josh had been extremely sweet by staying and taking care of me. Thankfully, my stomach’s antics had stopped at some point around noon.
Later that night, I remembered I’d promised to call my grandmother, and I shamelessly told her I felt much better. When we were finally in bed, Josh hugged me tenderly from behind. He kissed my bare shoulder and told me as I was falling asleep, “I may have managed to knock you up.”
That comment was enough to keep me awake for most of the night.
Howdy! I really liked getting to know you in The Bridesmaids Checklist. You cracked me up at times but also made me want to shake you.
You can shake me, but not too hard, lol.
I’m happy to be here and so very excited about Marisol’s Wedding first anniversary. More so, because I know Marisol’s is your favorite out of the two books.
I just have a few questions for you. If you don’t mind.
I guess the biggest question for me is why you let Laura treat you like a doormat? As you know, I don’t like her and probably never will. She might be your best friend and all but some of the crap she pulled…I would have slapped her and walked away. You are better than that!
Oh, thanks for cheering for me.
You know, you’re actually one of the first people who has pointed out that Laura can be a better friend to me, and in retrospective I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve never perceived our friendship as one in which one person exploits the other. Regardless of me justifying her actions, I know you won’t like her so I won’t even try. I just want to say that I know she’s demanding, I know she’s high maintenance and I know she can be a total bitch, but she’s also loyal and protective of her friends. She’s one of those girls that either you love, hate, or love to hate.
Josh is a dream. I know, he didn’t seem like it in the beginning but he really grew on me. What is the one thing that drew you to him, other than the sex. LOL!
Josh, God, where to begin? He’s…. he’s everything.
I would’ve never imagined I would fall for someone as deeply and hard as I fell for him. Physically, the first thing that drew me to him where his eyes, that deep steel gaze captured me immediately. His intensity. And then he smiled and completely melted me. When I met him it wasn’t in the best circumstances, he was definitely a player, and as gorgeous as he is and as attracted as I felt for him, I was done with players. Everything changed when I began interacting with him during Laura’s Wedding. He’s so charismatic, he has this dark sense of humor that always finds a way to make me smile. I was also able to see how much he cared for the people around him, always finding a way to please everyone… specially me 😉
While we are on the subject of the men in the book, Ed was a douche to you but yet, you ultimately forgave him. Why?
Edward and I have a complicated relationship. We used to date when we were younger, so having him marrying my best friend was a bucket of ice cold water. There’s a lot in our relationship that I’ll get to explain in Natalie’s Wedding, and you’ll probably get a better understanding of our story.
As to why I forgave him, I guess there’s no better answer than because I had to… not for him, certainly not for Laura, not even for Josh, but because I needed to. Whatever happened between us did a long time ago, I needed to stop clinging to the hurt I felt because of him in order to move forward. He did apologize to me, and for that I’m grateful, but there wasn’t any sense of closure because of it. That’s when I discovered it wasn’t him who would give me the peace of mind I needed. It had always been me.
One last question…are you done being the wedding planner? These girls really need to help you more.
Lol! I like planning, that’s my thing. And you’re right… I need help!! Now that everyone’s married there’s only me left. Josh and I aren’t close to something of the sort, we aren’t ready yet. At least I know I’m not. But I guess that is there’s a next wedding it would have to be ours 🙂 Now, I wonder who would be helping me if I ever decide to marry? Any bets?
Thank you so much Kass! I can’t wait to hear about the rest of the story between you and Ed. As to Laura, I just hate her. But you might not like some of my friends either. Those girls better help you when you and Josh get married. Especially Laura. Just saying. Thanks so much for coming on the blog and explaining your side of the story. Harlie
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Harlie here: I’m so embarrassed. My English Rose is one of my all-time favorite authors and people and I had to PM her to get her to send me the book for review AGAIN! Yes, she sent it last month and I swear I saved it somewhere on my computer so that I could download it later to read. Much to my embarrassment, I have no clue what I did with it and she graciously re-sent it to me. Needless to say that even though the review isn’t part of my participation in the tour, I did promise to read it and post my review on the tour. Unfortunately, I haven’t finished it. This has never happened before and it will never happen again. I will be updating my post with the review within a day or two. You can always find my reviews on Goodreads under the name Harlie Williams or Amazon (Brian’s Mom). I know that I go on and on about Ms. Brimble’s work but if you have never read her books, you really need to. From Romantic Suspense, Victorian Historical and of course, her Templeton Cove series, there is something for everyone.
If I Want You
by Rachel Brimble
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
When local journalist, Tori Peterson, fails to prevent a child abduction outside her niece’s school, her horror and guilt sparks a vow to do whatever it takes to get little Abby Brady home to her parents. While Tori battles the vile memories of her own kidnapping as a child, she accepts the help of widowed father, Mark Bolton. As he and Tori join forces with the local police, their attraction and intimacy grows…along with their fears for Abby. Links are uncovered between Abby’s disappearance and Tori’s kidnapping, and Tori is forced to accept the monster who held her captive is back. But this time, Tori is all grown up, and there is no way she will let him hurt another little girl.
Sensing her discomfort, he stopped and leaned against the bureau. God, did he frighten her? Surely not, or she wouldn’t be here. Or did she sense his attraction toward her and would do all she could to deflect it? He didn’t doubt for one minute his eyes gave away his appreciation whenever he looked at her.
He lifted the can to his lips. “So, what have you been thinking about?”
She tapped a peach-painted nail on the bureau. “This.”
“Principal White’s bureau.”
He frowned. “How did you know it was hers?”
“She mentioned you were working on a bureau for her when I was in the school office. I assumed this is it.”
“Good, because that makes it all the easier for me to give you your first assignment.”
“You want me to talk to her.”
She smiled, took a few tentative steps closer to him. “Got it in one, Watson.”
He smiled, pleased to see genuine mischief shining in her eyes. “I’m Watson?”
“So that makes you Holmes. Not sure I like being anyone’s sidekick.”
Another couple of steps closer until no more than a couple of feet separated them. She met his eyes and his heart kicked. Her V-neck shirt was just the right side of professional. Yet, the way it revealed her collarbones and hugged her full breasts made him want to reach out and pull her into his arms, kiss her, taste her…
“You’re staring, Watson.”
He blinked and snapped his gaze from her breasts, rare heat hitting his face. “Sorry. You look nice.”
“Thanks.” She raised her eyebrows and nodded toward his chest. “So do you.”
He smiled. “Why don’t we go inside? It’s way too hot out here.”
Welcome Rachel Brimble Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
Hi, I live near the famous Georgian city of Bath with my husband of 19 years, our two teenage daughters and fabulous chocolate Labrador, Tyler. I write mainstream romance, romantic suspense and historical romance and have written twenty-two novels and two novellas. Apart from the two currently under publisher consideration, all my books have been published and available for download.
When I’m not writing, I love to read, knit and watch far too much TV – I also love to walk for miles with my dog, friends and family as well as enjoying far too many pub lunches and chilled white wine! Is If I Want You a single title, or part of a series?
Right now, it is a single title, but never say never! I LOVE writing series and if the right story comes along I’d happily revisit Barlington, the small English town where If I Want You is set.
What were your inspirations for the story? A lot of my story ideas come from the news and/or magazines and this story started to form in my mind after I watched a news piece where a missing child was reunited with her parents. I tried to imagine how her poor parents and the little girl felt when they were separated, what they were thinking, wanting to do. Before I knew it, I’d put myself in the position of the parents, the child and her abductor and the words and situation started to flow.
I was a little worried about writing a child abduction into a romantic suspense for fear it might put potential readers off, but I’ve handled it as sensitively as possible and the romance helps to soften the crime element.
Please share your setting for If I Want You. Have you ever lived or visited there? If so, what did you like most? The town’s name of Barlington is completely fictional, but in my mind it is based on a small town near where I grew up in Bristol. There is one particular scene when the hero and heroine revisit a wooded area where she played as a child – the wood and the street around it is an actual place where I played and longed to live, but the area was so much more affluent than my parents could’ve afforded at the time.
When did the writing bug first bite?
A very long time ago when I was eight or nine! Life happened and I took a VERY long break until my youngest daughter started school full-time and I had a ‘now or never’ moment. I started to write my first novel which the Wild Rose Press published in 2007 (Searching For Sophie). Since then I have had at least one book published every year.
Who are you favorite authors, book/series?
Favorite authors are Nora Roberts (and her writing as JD Robb), Jill Shalvis and Philippa Gregory – I am in love with so many of Nora’s series there are too many to list, I love Jill’s Lucky Harbor series and Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series.
If you could have an author roundtable discussion with any authors, who would you invite?
See above as well as crime novelists Alex Grecian and Tess Gerritsen to spice things up a little! Do you have any hobbies or special things you like to do in your spare time? My absolute favorite thing second to writing is knitting! I’m addicted! Since I started about ten years ago, I now find it impossible to watch TV and not knit so I combine two of my favorite things and relax every evening ☺
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard or seen?
The eeriest thing I’ve ever had happened, which was also a blessing, is when I had my eldest daughter she would have times of crying and no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop her. Whenever I was pushed to the end of my patience and the tears started to well in my eyes, she would suddenly stop and watch an invisible something as it moved about the room. Her tears quickly became laughter.
I really believe she was seeing my husband’s grandfather who has often been ‘felt’ by other members of the family. He was a massive part of the family and a huge character who would cheer everyone up when they were sad.
What is the one thing that you would tell an inspiring writer to do? Write! Far too many aspiring writers dream about writing but don’t actually do it – another thing is not finishing a piece of work. Get it done and send it out to agents and publishers, it’s the only way it’s going to happen.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. Since 2013, she has had seven books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and an eighth coming in Feb 2018. She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical Press.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.
She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!