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About the author:
USA Today bestselling author Norah Wilson is the author of sexy romantic suspense novels and scorching paranormal romance . Together with writing partner Heather Doherty, she also writes the laugh-out-loud Dix Dodd mysteries series and young adult paranormal fiction. Wilson lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, with her family, which includes Rottie/Shepherd mix Chloe and tuxedo cat Ruckus.
What inspired you to write your book?
I wanted to explore a situation with a perceived marital betrayal. I wanted to take a “happy” couple, throw them into this crucible, and make them finally get real with each other so they can build a new and better relationship. I really enjoyed peeling back their layers.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Excerpted from Chapter 5
They chose a no-tell motel just inside the city limits. A row of dingy-looking units hunkered on one side of the small office building, and a handful of cabins squatted on the other side. Ray pulled up in front of the office, the Toyota stuttering a few times after he shut the engine off. When he made a move to get out, Grace grabbed his arm.
“Wait. Shouldn’t I do this? Your face is bound to be more familiar than mine.”
He sat back. “You’re right. Okay, let’s get you some cash.” He reached into the back seat and retrieved the shaving kit. He passed her a wad of bills. “That should do it.”
She was tucking them into her purse when Ray cursed.
“What?” Heart thudding, she scanned the parking lot, expecting to see cops, but it was deserted.
“In the window. The desk clerk is watching us.”
She glanced up to see a slender man watching them from behind the registration desk. For a moment, she had a flash of Norman Bates from Psycho.
Grace, get a grip. “So?”
“So he knows there’s two of us, and the guy always does this part. It’s the man’s job to protect the woman’s reputation, even in a place like this. Especially in a place like this. If you go in there alone and ask to pay cash, he’ll figure you’re trying to protect my identity. Then he’ll figure you’ve got our happily-married mayor out here, or maybe a councilman at the very least. If we arouse his curiosity, I can guarantee you he won’t rest until he gets a glimpse of me.”
She nibbled her lip. “We could pick another motel.”
“No, this is the best location.”
“So what do we do?”
He thought for a moment. “Give him that glimpse he wants.”
She tried to read his face in the light cast by the motel’s flickering sign, but half of it was in darkness. “What if he recognizes you?”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because he’s a man and we’re gonna give him something else to look at.”
Grace’s pulse jumped. “What do you mean?”
“As soon as you tell him you want to pay cash, he’s gonna jump to some conclusions. We might as well play into his presumption, act hot for each other.”
Her heart seemed to stop, then leapt to thudding life again. “I don’t see how that’s going to keep him from recognizing you.”
“Let me worry about that, okay? You just play along, act like you can’t wait to get horizontal.”
Could she do it? Could she let him lay hands on her when he so clearly loathed touching her? And could she bear it when he dropped the pretense, once they were safely inside?
“What?” he demanded. “Think that kind of performance is beyond you?” He twisted toward her, but she didn’t need to see his face to read his anger. It was there in his voice.
“It’s not that —”
“Hell, Grace, just pretend I’m him. That should do it for you.”
Pain lanced her to the bone. Pain for him, for her. She turned away, scrabbling at the unfamiliar door until she found the handle. The door popped open and the dome light came on, but before she could get out of the car, he restrained her by grabbing her arm.
“Are you forgetting our audience?”
She glanced up to see the clerk had come out from behind the desk and was standing in the window watching openly now. Then Ray’s head blotted out her view as his mouth closed on hers.
She sat motionless for a few stunned seconds as his lips moved over hers, hard and angry. There was anger, too, in the hand that came up to hold her head prisoner. But heaven help her, this was Ray, and she missed him so badly.
She opened her mouth to the demand of his.
Instantly, he deepened the kiss, his tongue invading her mouth, demanding a response. For a few heartbeats, shock prevented her from providing it. He’d never kissed her like this before. The hot insistence of the invasion swept her up.
She’d braced a hand against his chest when he’d grabbed her, but now she curled her fingers into his shirt and pulled him closer. Oh, God, the taste of him! And the smell. She didn’t care if she ever breathed anything else again. The clean cotton smell of his shirt mixed with the lemongrass soap he used, and all of it underlain by his own unique musk.
She lifted her arms to encircle his neck, straining closer. In that instant, the kiss changed. There was nothing left but desire, his anger burned away in its cleansing fire. No longer needing to hold her head prisoner, he dropped his hands to her waist. She felt a draft of air as his hands slipped under the thin shell she wore, then the bliss of his palms on her midriff, the undersides of her breasts.
She wrenched her mouth from his. “Oh, yes, Ray, touch me.”
His fingers flexed on her breasts, drawing a moan from her. Suddenly, she needed to touch him like this, too, feel the warmth of his skin beneath her palms. She slid her hands down his chest and pulled his shirt free of his jeans. Her fingers found the hair-roughened skin of his abdomen, but before she could explore further, he drew back, putting a layer of cooling air between them again.
She opened her eyes. “Ray?”
“I think we’ve convinced junior in there that we need a room. Guess we’re better actors than I thought.”
The words would have cut her, had she not heard the tremor in his voice or seen the way his skin was so tightly drawn over his face. He’d been no more acting than she was. The knowledge helped her fight off the despair that hovered so close.
“Ready for act two?” he asked.
“What do I do?”
“Just register us as Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Tell him we’ll want to get a fast start tomorrow, so you’d like to pay cash right now.”
“He’s not going to believe that.”
“He’s not meant to.”
Of course. His register was probably full of John Smiths.
“Remind me again, why is he not going to recognize you?”
“If he’s hetero, which I think we can safely say from the way he’s watching us, he’ll be too busy checking you out.”
Ray jumped out of the car and came around just as she closed her own door. To Grace’s surprise, he pulled her into an embrace. This time, his kiss was controlled, purely for show. Still, a little tremor raced through her as he released her.
“Lead on,” he said, “and make it look good.”
She closed her eyes for a second. Pretend. That’s all you have to do. Pretend it’s for real.
Taking his hand, she tugged him toward the office, doing her best to look like a woman embarking on a sexual adventure. The clerk, who’d retreated hastily behind his desk, glanced up as they burst through the door. Grace felt Ray’s hands settle on her waist. She approached the desk, keeping Ray behind her.
“Can I help you folks?”
“We’d like a cabin,” she said. Behind her, Ray lifted her hair off her nape and began nibbling the side of her neck.
The clerk’s eyes widened. “Reservation?”
“No, it’s kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing.” Grace tilted her head to let Ray have access to her ear.
The clerk’s eyes dropped to Ray’s hands, which were now splayed on her belly. “The name?”
“Um … Smith. Robert and Evelyn Smith.”
His eyes flicked up to meet hers at that. “I can give you Cabin Three, at the end.”
“That’d be great,” she breathed, dropping a hand to cover one of Ray’s, threading her fingers through his. Obligingly, the clerk’s gaze dropped to their linked hands. “I’d like to pay for it now, if that’s okay. We’ll need to leave early tomorrow.”
“Certainly, ma’am. Credit card?”
“Of course.” He reached for a key from the pegboard behind him.
Grace inhaled sharply as Ray’s hands snaked up under the hem of her sweater. She didn’t need the draft on her belly to tell her Ray had exposed a significant amount of her skin. The clerk’s expression told her as much.
“That’ll be fifty-four dollars, including tax,” he said to her mid-section.
She pulled three twenties from her purse.
“Keep the change,” she said, snatching the key he’d placed on the counter. They whirled and made a speedy exit. Grace felt the clerk’s gaze on her all the way out.
They’d done it!
Outside, in the flickering light of the motel’s sign, Ray pulled her into his arms again. Grace lifted her face eagerly, ready to put her elation into another searing kiss, but he merely leaned close.
Of course. She thudded back to earth. This was just acting. From the clerk’s perspective, he would assume they were kissing, and that’s all that mattered.
“Good job,” he said into her ear. “Now, you run along and unlock and I’ll bring the car around. No need for him to see us drag the shopping bags in.” He pulled back slightly, as though lifting his head after a kiss. “We’ve got a lot of work to do before morning.”
His words brought the gravity of their situation home again. She’d been distracted while they’d performed for Norman Bates, but it all came flooding back now. Someone was trying to kill Ray. Possibly her, too, since she’d witnessed the sniper attack. And if Ray was right, they couldn’t turn to the cops. At least, not yet.
Beneath those worries was a groundswell of more generalized anxiety about the memories she’d lost and the unexplained money. Dr. Greenfield had mentioned that paranoia was common in amnesia sufferers, but was she being paranoid to suspect the events she’d forgotten might tie into their current peril? She thought not.
Pulling away from her husband’s mock embrace, she crossed the parking lot to the third cabin, trying to look like a woman eager for illicit sex instead of one ready to crack under the strain of fear and unhappiness.