Chico Burnside is one of the two heroes in my new release from Samhain, Hungry Heart. It’s my eighth novel set in Konigsburg, Texas, and Chico has shown up (or at least been mentioned) in five of the eight. He was always a secondary character, the bouncer at the Faro tavern, best friend of one of my heroes (Tom Ames in Brand New Me), part-time employer of one of my heroines (MG Carmody in Fearless Love) and all-around stand-up guy.
But I always wanted to do something else with Chico. He had so many possibilities. He was a Very Big Guy, to begin with, a type I’m partial to. He had a dry sense of humor, and he knew when to use his slightly terrifying presence for maximum effect. The more I played around with Chico as secondary character, the more I knew I wanted him to have his own book and his own heroine. But it took me a while to figure out who that heroine would be.
Readers made a few suggestions, but they were always along the line of the woman Chico dated in Brand New Me—tough girls who’d been around who seemed to be the type to show up with somebody like Chico, or somebody like the man Chico had seemed to be in the other books. But I knew there was more to him than that. And I wanted to give him a Significant Other who’d shake things up a bit.
Enter Andy Wells.
Andy is another recycled character since she showed up briefly in Long Time Gone. Andy’s an administrator with the Texas Department of Environmental Quality. I enjoyed the idea of a shy scientist and a bouncer, particularly a bouncer who had a lot of hidden talents and a large, curious family. Nobody in Konigsburg expects these two to be together, but they are. Andy has a little trouble dealing with that, but Chico knows he’s struck gold.
I loved dealing with Chico again, and I loved giving him someone who really appreciates him, which Andy definitely does. In fact, she becomes the only woman in history to refer to him as Hon, a fact that seals her status as his One True Love.
Here’s a bit of their first real date:
“We’re here,” she said.
He looked up. His truck was parked at the curb. Her porch light gleamed in the darkness. A couple dozen steps, and she’d be home. He pushed the front gate open, then followed her through.
Okay, you’ve got this. No problem. Except, of course, that he didn’t. He hadn’t felt this awkward since middle school.
She turned on the top step, looking down at him, or as down as she could look when they were basically nose to nose. “This is where I say I had a great time and thank you. Which is true. I did have a great time. And I do thank you. But it still sounds sort of weird to me.”
He frowned. “Why weird?”
She gave him a slightly rueful smile. “Because it’s such a routine thing to say. I feel like I should come up with something better.”
He shook his head. “I’ll take it.” His right hand moved to the back of her neck, almost without his thinking about it, and he drew her lips down to his.
Random thoughts drifted through his mind. She was so soft, so warm. How long had it been since he’d touched a woman like this? Kissed a woman when it wasn’t just a prelude to something else, when kissing was the main event?
He moved his hand up to the back of her head, let his fingers slide into her hair, trace the shape of her skull. He changed the angle of the kiss, brought his tongue to her mouth and tasted her.
Honey. Sweetness. A hint of fragrance. Gracious Lord above.
And here’s the blurb for Hungry Heart:
Peace, love, and barbecue—with a big order of sexy on the side.
Konigsburg, Texas, Book 8
Sous chef Darcy Cunningham is less than entranced with small-town Konigsburg’s obsession with barbecue. But her future career as a chef de cuisine requires expanding her culinary horizons, so she talks the Barbecue King, a.k.a. Harris Temple, into taking her on as his apprentice.
However, learning Harris’s professional secrets wasn’t supposed to include falling for his spicy blend of smoky sexiness and laid-back charm.
Chico Burnside specializes in flying under Konigsburg’s small-town radar, but lately life has been going a little too smoothly, even for him. Hoping to shake things up a bit, he talks Harris into teaming up for Konigsburg’s first barbecue cook-off. But once shy scientist Andy Wells catches his eye, Chico’s got more on his mind than brisket. Like enticing her out of her shell to show her just how tenderly a big guy can love.
As the competition ignites, so does the romance. Until a natural disaster threatens to derail Konigsburg’s dream team before the grills even get good and warmed up.
Warning: Contains hot sauce, hot sex, and a whole lot of smokin’ action.