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About the author:
She is the author of the Holton romance series and The Good, a contemporary fantasy novella. She loves reading books, writing books, and traveling wherever and as often as time and money allows. She is currently working on her latest book set in Texas, where she lives with her sisters and her cat, Darcy.
What inspired you to write your book?
I had introduced Victoria in the first Holton book and just knew she needed a story of her own.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Andrew pulled his car out of the driveway and headed for the north part of town. He drove by the church and saw a few people still gathered out front. Obviously, the service was over but Andrew hoped it had just ended. He intended to catch Victoria before she left town. He turned the car onto the main street and headed out to Victoria’s house.
He had overslept that morning so they had missed church. He was up half the night thinking about Victoria. Andrew now admitted he was attracted to her. Hell, it was more than simple attraction, he thought shifting uncomfortably in his seat. The way his body was acting he was not just attracted to her but he wanted her – desperately. He knew he would now have to do something about it and that caused him a sleepless night.
Andrew had a couple of relationships since his wife died. They had both been pleasant but short lived. The demands on his time between work and his children left little time for anything else. If he had a relationship with Victoria, he knew it would be different. For one thing, she was already a huge part of his life. A day seldom passed that he did not see her or at least hear about her. Between Steven, Julie, and his children, Victoria was always around. He also knew that if he had a relationship with Victoria, he would have to deal with Steven and Julie as well as their parents. No matter what Victoria said, both families were very protective of her, and he knew he would have to be very careful.
The big question was if. Andrew was ready for a permanent relationship. He missed being part of a couple. Most of the people he knew were married. He enjoyed watching how people worked together to build a life. His favorite example was Dan and Patricia Carson. The Carsons were like second parents to him and Julie. Their marriage was as strong as any he knew. He hoped someday to have something similar.
If he had a relationship with Victoria, it would not be permanent. They were simply too different. Dating Victoria would make his life far more complicated and that was something he didn’t need right now. So why was he headed for her house?
Late the night before, Andrew had weighed all the pros and cons and had decided it would be better to stay away from her. They had no future together. She would not fit into his plans for a political career. She was too out-spoken, too controversial. Victoria was not the type of woman he wanted as a wife, and if he had a brief affair with her, he knew his family would never forgive him. He might not be able to forgive himself. He might have been able to stick to that decision if he hadn’t remembered that one moment in time when Victoria had tossed him the baseball.
When she had started passing out her gifts, he knew she had bought something for him. It was her way and she would have been questioned if she had not included him. They had exchanged gifts for years. Traditional gifts like neckties and perfume had been the trend. Andrew had been pleased when she had tossed him the ball. It was a simple gift – something he could use without being too personal. Then, he saw the signature. At first, he had been shocked, but when he looked at Victoria and saw her watching him something happened. His eyes met hers and time stood still. His body had leapt to attention and a burning fire started in his groin. He had to fight for control and just managed to stop his hands from reaching for her. At that moment, he had wanted Victoria more than he had ever wanted any woman, even more than Carolyn. He might have been able to live with that, might have just been able to put it behind him, if he hadn’t seen the response in her eyes.
Her dancing blue eyes had been serious and full of fire. He had looked into their depth and saw desire and longing to match his own. He had seen something else also. Something he could not name. Her reaction to him had glowed in her eyes, and when he thanked her, Andrew wasn’t sure if he was thanking for the baseball or for her response to him. The look in her eyes had kept him awake most of the night and was the reason he was driving to her house now.
When he pulled into her drive and saw her car, he breathed a sigh of relief. He had known she would return home to change clothes after church, but he had been afraid he might not catch her before she left town. Now that he had decided to pursue Victoria, he did not want to wait.
After stopping the car and turning off the engine, Andrew thought about the past few months. Victoria actions now made sense. Andrew decided her constant flirting and gentle touches had been her way of trying to let him know she was attracted to him. He didn’t know why it had taken so long for him to realize it. If it had been any other woman, he would have recognized the signs immediately, but because it was Victoria, he had been unable to acknowledge them.
“Are we just going to sit here, Dad?”
Andrew glanced at his daughter. “No, honey. Hop in the back and I’ll go get Victoria.”
About once a month, Melissa and Mark spent a Sunday afternoon with Carolyn’s parents in Dallas. Earlier this morning, Andrew had called his former in-laws and arranged for the children to visit today. He and Victoria would drive the kids to Dallas and leave them with their grandparents, and then he would go with her while she looked at those properties for her friend. Andrew had decided it was a good plan if he could just convince Victoria. The children got to see their grandparents, Victoria wouldn’t be alone in any of the seedier parts of Dallas, and he would spend the day with her to see if the attraction he felt was real.
The moment she opened the door, he knew he didn’t need any more time to determine if the attraction was real. It definitely was. He had obviously caught her in the middle of changing her clothes. She had on a bright orange and white striped shirt that buttoned down the front. It was half tucked into the waist of her faded well-worn jeans. In one hand, she held a bright orange tennis shoe. Its mate was already secured on one foot. Her blonde hair was loose and fell softly on her shoulders. She had a slightly worried look on her face and a small frown marred her forehead. Andrew had a brief desire to lean forward and tenderly kiss the frown away.
“Drew? Is something wrong?” she asked.
“No,” he answered. “May I come in?”
Startled, she nodded, stepped back, and opened the door wider. Something behind him caught her attention, and Andrew saw her smile widely and wave to the children.
“They really love you,” he said, closing the door behind him.
“I love them too.”
That was another thing he had to consider in any relationship with Victoria. Melissa and Mark loved her, and as things now, stood considered her an honorary aunt. He also knew Victoria loved them, and he feared that if things ended badly between himself and Victoria that the children might be hurt. Andrew quickly dismissed that fear. He knew that no matter what happened, Victoria would never hurt his children. He knew she would do her best to put aside any hard feelings between them for the sake of Melissa and Mark. Andrew suddenly realized he was worrying about the end of his relationship with her before it even started.
Andrew smiled at Victoria as he walked into her living room. He had been to her house many times to drop off or pick up something or someone, but he had actually only been inside once. That time had been Christmas. It was the first Christmas since Victoria had returned to Holton. She had an open house and Andrew had felt obligated to attend. Guests had flowed in and out for the brief time he had been there, and Victoria’s party had been the talk of the town that Christmas season.
He now looked around her living room as if seeing it for the first time. It was a perfect reflection of Victoria. The room was bright and cheery with clean colors and bold patterns. One wall was almost completely filled with one huge window and sunlight filled the room. There were pictures in frames on every wall and every surface. You could read Victoria’s life in this room. Pictures of her family and friends and the most important moments of her life were scattered throughout.
“Drew,” Victoria said, drawing his attention. He was pleased to note she had returned to the shorten version of his name. “What’s going on?”
Andrew took a deep breath. Here was the hard part. Victoria was very independent, and he knew if he said the wrong thing, she would dismiss him in two seconds flat. “I thought I would go with you to look at those buildings for your friend.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“The children are visiting their grandparents today so I’m going into Dallas anyway. Normally, I do some work while they visit, but I thought about you and hoped you wouldn’t mind the company.”
She studied him a moment. “Let me get this straight. You want to spend the day with me looking at buildings?”
“Why?” She asked again.
Andrew walked over to the large window and looked out. Both children were sitting quietly, albeit somewhat impatiently, in the car. Slowly, he turned back to her. He looked into her eyes wondering if he had mistaken the look he had seen last night.
“Tell me I didn’t see what I think I did last night. Tell me that you didn’t experience that moment too.” He watched her grow pale at his words but he had to know. “Tell me, Victoria, tell me you don’t want me as much as I want you!”
She started to turn away but he reached for her arm and pulled her back to face him. “You can’t, can you?”
“No,” she whispered.
Andrew was shocked at the relief that rushed through him. He had not realized how much her answered had meant to him. He slowly let go of her arm before saying softly, “That’s why.”
Victoria backed up but she did not turn away. Her eyes searched his face. Andrew didn’t know what she saw but it seemed to satisfy her.
“Why don’t you finish getting ready?” he said. “I’ll go tell the kids you’ll be out in a minute.”
She nodded and Andrew watched her walk to the bedroom. He fought off the urge to follow her. He was in much deeper than he thought. He walked slowly to the door and wondered what the hell he was going to do about it.
Victoria closed the bedroom door behind her and leaned against it. She was trembling all over. She took several deep breaths to slow her racing heart. The look in Andrew’s eyes had pierced right through her.
Oh, god, she thought, what am I going to do now?
She had waited for this moment all her adult life. She had waited for Andrew to notice her, to see her as a woman, and now that he had, she was frightened. Would the feelings she had kept hidden all these years come rushing to the surface? She knew Andrew did not love her, and she was afraid she would be unable to keep her feelings inside. She had realized the moment he had walked through her door that his feelings had changed. The desire they both had felt the night before had been strong enough for him to ignore his doubts and come to her after all.
And he did have doubts. She had seen them in his eyes. He wanted her but he didn’t like wanting her. Her campaign to get Andrew to notice her had worked. Only she was now afraid he only noticed the surface. She doubted that Andrew actually saw her as she really was, but now she had a chance to show him the real Victoria Carson.
“So why are you just standing here, you nit-wit!” She forced herself to finish getting dressed. After putting on her other shoe and tucking in her shirt, she pulled her hair back with a clip and retouched her lipstick. She grabbed her purse then headed for the door. She would have all afternoon to spend with Andrew. A smile lit her face as she closed the front door behind her. It was going to be a fun day.
It was a fun day. For Victoria, it was a wonderful day. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was warm but a soft breeze kept it from being too hot. The drive to Dallas was a little less than an hour. They stopped briefly for a quick lunch. Victoria was glad to see that Melissa seemed to be back to normal. Although still quiet, she was no longer silent and withdrawn. Both kids told Victoria all about the movie they had seen the day before, even quoting some of the funnier lines. Laughter filled the car as Mark and Victoria began exchanging knock-knock jokes, which grew sillier with each passing mile. Victoria was pleased to hear Andrew’s chuckle along with her own when Mark ran out of jokes and began making up his own.
After dropping the children at their grandparents, Victoria and Andrew began the process of viewing the sites for Paul’s agency. The night before, Victoria had gone online to determine the best route to cover the most ground. The first two sites were quickly eliminated. One was located in a poorly designed building and the other was entirely too small. The third site was acceptable to Victoria, although she wasn’t sure about the location as it was situated in a residential part of town. She wasn’t sure how much business would come their way. The fourth site on the list was in a new office building in downtown Dallas. Victoria wanted to see inside the building so Andrew parked the car and they walked across the street. The streets downtown were mostly deserted and they didn’t see very many people.
“This guy must be a pretty good friend,” Andrew said. “You sure are going to a lot of trouble.”
“Oh, he is. Paul’s great,” Victoria answered. “I really want this branch to be a success so he will spend some time in Dallas. I am really hoping to get him to move here permanently.”
“So how good of friends are you?” Andrew asked, with a slight edge to his voice.
Victoria paused as they entered the building. “He is a very good friend. In some ways, my best friend. He probably knows me better than anyone except, maybe, Julie.”
Although it was Sunday, there was a security guard behind a desk in the middle of the lobby. Victoria walked over and explained their errand. The guard was friendly but said they couldn’t go to the floor that was available for renting. He told them most of the businesses were not open but invited them to exam the lobby and said they could look through the windows of the offices on the ground floor. Victoria thanked him with a bright smile and proceeded to do just that with Andrew following her. When she finished, they thanked the guard and left the building.
“Why don’t we take a break?” Andrew said. “You work around here. Can you think of anyplace to get a cool drink?”
Victoria looked around to get her bearings. “Yes. There is a restaurant I eat lunch at not far from here. They have great chips and salsa. It’s one street over and a couple of blocks down. How does that sound?”
“It sounds great. Let’s go.” Andrew grabbed her hand and they headed down the street. Victoria smiled happily. Andrew was coming along nicely. He held her hand naturally. He also appeared to be enjoying her company.
They arrived at the restaurant and were seated quickly. They placed the order for chips and salsa and ice tea. Victoria took out her papers and scribbled down some notes on the last building.
“The last place has real possibilities. It is a good location and the offices looked nice.” Victoria glanced up to see Andrew watching her. She smiled softly. “I’m having fun.”
Their order arrived and Victoria quickly grabbed a chip. She loved all Mexican food but the lightly salted fried chips were her favorite.
“How long have you known Paul?” Andrew asked.
“Let’s see. I met him when I first moved to L.A. so, I guess, it has been about eight years. Paul was head of the department I was first assigned to at Whitman’s.”
Victoria thought she saw a relaxing of his shoulders. “So you work for him.”
She suddenly realized Andrew was trying to subtlety ask about her relationship with Paul. A small thrill shot through her at the thought he might be jealous. As she didn’t want any complications, she happily explained it to him.
“I worked for him for a while. Paul didn’t stay at Whitman’s long. He is too ambitious. He started his own company several years ago. He decided to expand out of California last year, and I talked him into Dallas.”
“He must be good.”
“Yes, he is. Paul is one of the most intelligent men I’ve ever known. He is a brilliant businessman. Too bad his personal life is such a mess.”
“What do you mean?” Andrew asked, trying to sound casual.
Victoria tried to hide her smile. Yes, Andrew definitely appeared jealous. “He is divorced and doesn’t really trust women. For some reason though, he likes me and we’ve been good friends. He treats me like a sister and he drives me crazy just like Steven and Mitch.”
Andrew flashed her a smile and she smothered a laugh. They finished their snack and returned to the car. Andrew opened her door but stopped her from getting in by holding her arm. Andrew looked up and down the street. Although they were parked outside, there was no one else around. She looked at him and he placed his other hand on the side of her face. Victoria went perfectly still. The look in his eyes took her breath away.
“Thanks for telling me about Paul,” he said softly, running his thumb across her lower lip.
Victoria melted and grabbed the door of the car to keep from falling down. Her body temperature rose and she could feel her knees grow weak. She watched his head lower.
“You’re welcome,” she whispered, right before his mouth captured hers. His lips were warm and firm and tasted slightly of salt. They now coaxed her lips apart and Victoria eagerly complied. The sensations his mouth was creating were wonderful, and Victoria moaned softly when his tongue darted out to touch hers. For a moment, she forgot where they were and started to wrap her arms around his neck when he gently ended the kiss.
“We better move on,” he said.
Victoria nodded and climbed into the car, trying to slow her heartbeat. She wanted Andrew and if that kiss was any indication, he wanted her just as much. “Oh, my!” she sighed softly. “One kiss and you’re a puddle at his feet.”
Andrew got in and asked for directions to the next site. Victoria answered and was glad to note her voice sounded relatively normal. They were both silent as he drove through downtown and headed north. Victoria was still reliving that brief kiss when Andrew muttered a curse. They had been driving up and down the street the building was supposed to be on for the past ten minutes but had been unable to find it.
After another ten minutes of fruitless searching, Victoria suggested moving on. Andrew agreed and they headed to the last site on her list. The building was well built but obviously locked and there were no windows to look in. Victoria made a note to revisit it with the agent as it was in an excellent part of town.
“Well, we’re finished. Three possibilities out of six. Not bad. I’ll also recheck the address on the building we couldn’t find,” Victoria said. “Thanks for helping, Drew.”
“You’re welcome. How about a short walk around Bachman Lake to stretch our legs and then we’ll find a place to eat. The kids are eating with their grandparents.”
“I’d like that.”
Bachman Lake was situated in the middle of north Dallas just a little northwest of downtown. It was a pretty area with walking paths and bike trails. Victoria and Andrew spent an hour wandering around the park, watching the people, and laughing at the brave souls on rollerblades.
They found a nearby restaurant and Victoria was surprised at how easily the conversation flowed. Considering the newness of their relationship, Victoria was amazed at how relaxed they both were. She found herself telling Andrew things she hadn’t told anyone. She told him about her work and about the lonely years in Los Angeles.
“Why didn’t you just come home?” he asked.
Victoria willed herself not to blush, and she looked away from his probing eyes. She wasn’t sure she was ready to reveal her reasons to him, and she was fairly certain he wasn’t ready to hear them. So she did the one thing she had hoped she’d never do – she lied.
“I wasn’t ready. I needed time away from Holton.” At least, that part was true. “I needed to be on my own, to grow up, I guess. L.A. wasn’t all bad. I had Paul and I loved my job. I would have never gotten those opportunities here.”
Andrew nodded in agreement and Victoria gave a sigh of relief. He then suggested they go pick up the children as it was getting late. Melissa and Mark had a good time with their grandparents and were pleasantly tired. The drive back to Holton was uneventful. Andrew walked Victoria to her door.
“Thanks again, Drew. You made today much easier and a lot more fun.” She smiled at him.
Andrew stared at her a moment. “You know, this is going to complicate things.”
“I know. Do you want to stop?”
“No!” he said quickly. “Do you?”
“Well, I guess we’ll just take it one day at a time. Why don’t you have dinner with us tomorrow after you take Melissa shopping?”
“Okay,” she whispered.
“Oh, god, Tori,” he said raggedly, pulling her into his arms. “How did this happen?”
She was unable to answer as his mouth had closed on hers. It was a kiss of desperation as if he couldn’t get enough of her. She answered it with a desperation of her own. Suddenly, it ended as quickly as it began.
“Goodnight,” he said, walking away.
Victoria watched as he got into the car and drove away her hand touching her tingling lips. She took a deep breath, desire still flowing through her. Then, slowly she smiled. It had been a wonderful day.