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Romance stories usually focus on fairly young characters. A younger woman can be somewhat inexperienced in sex, so it’s believable that the man she meets has a few things to teach her. He, on the other hand, is vulnerable in hidden ways to her joie de vivre and innocence, and so the standard trope unfolds.
But what if the characters aren’t young?
I admit that when I first considered that idea for this book, I immediately dismissed it. Yet the idea kept coming back, and I ended up compromising between a twenty-something female and a woman so deep into her fifties that readers (sadly) might find her romantic possibilities somewhat unbelievable.
It’s not that many readers aren’t over fifty. It’s just that romance novels are supposed to take us to a fantasy world where men are so powerful their shoulders fill a doorway and women are so lovely they utterly captivate the man at first glance. There must be room for magic.
In this story set thirty years into the future, the magic has been left hanging too long, a love affair put on hold while the hero turns his attention to a family emergency. Taken for granted a little too long, the heroine tries to cut her losses and forget him.
Martin Bernard has spent his life becoming one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful men. But that’s not helping him now that his criminal son-in-law Ned Argenta has gone rogue, putting Martin’s empire on the block in order for Martin to ensure his daughter Marie’s safety. Weeks, months fly by as Martin tries to control this nightmare, leaving his lover Mohana in the sidelines. He just wants to get control of things and then he’ll make it up to her.
Mohana James isn’t waiting any longer. At her friend Giselle’s urging, she visits the Paris House of Rae to find some pleasure. The pleasure partner there doesn’t disappoint, but the entire experience stirs up her grief about Martin. Is he ever going to call? Should she forget him? If she does hear from him, is she going to slap him and walk away? She’s pretty sure that’s all he deserves. But her heart is breaking and she’s not sure she can forget him.
Excerpt from Denial…
November 3, 2063
Street café, Paris
“It’s what I have to do,” Mohana said, stabbing her omelet. “I have to.”
“Yes,” Giselle said. “I totally agree. I’m excited for you.” She dumped another spoonful of sugar into her tea and stirred. “But you don’t have to do it all at once, do you?”
Blinking against the bright hazy sky, Mo leaned back to watch people strolling past their table. Parsley sat patiently by her chair, his attention riveted on the regular appearance of other dogs. This sidewalk café had been a favorite since, well… She wasn’t going to think about the passage of time. It hurt too much. A slight breeze ruffled the tablecloth and sent tiny ripples across the surface of her tea. Traffic was light for a Saturday morning.
She’d worn a new dress today, one she’d bought only recently in one of Giselle’s on-demand shopping trips. It had almost been a dare to herself, selecting something in a soft cotton print with a low V-neck in a fitted bodice over a flowing calf-length skirt. The wind teased her cleavage, an insanely erotic sensation that left her uneasy. But whereas before she would have been reminded of Martin with such a sensation, now she also thought of Henri and the possibility that she might again darken the door at the House of Rae to see what other scrumptious men might be on order.
“I’m not doing it all at once,” she said, savoring the flavor of the mild cheese, garlic-sautéed chard, and green onions inside their comfortable warm envelope of tender egg. “I made a list. Disentangling myself from Martin means I have to stop accepting his money. I don’t think he even knows he’s still sending it.”
“Why stop?” Giselle said. “Take it, save it if you don’t want to spend it. He owes you.”
“Yes, well, I need to stand on my own two feet. And that means earning a living.” She ripped a chunk off the flakey croissant and popped it in her mouth, relishing its delicate texture. “If I can get this position at the national library, it will make me very happy to go to work every day. Can you imagine?”
Giselle brandished her butter knife. “I can’t think of a job better suited for you, but…”
Parsley whined, his tail whipping side to side. A shadow loomed over the table, and the two women looked up. Mo’s breath caught in her chest. She literally could not breathe.
“Martin!” she gasped.
“I thought that was you,” he said, his gaze roaming down her cleavage before returning to her face. “And Parsley, too. What a good boy!” He leaned down to pat the dog’s head before standing to devote his full attention to Mo. Deep laugh wrinkles creased in his cheeks as he smiled. “It’s wonderful to see you. How have you been?”
Of all the… Mo bit back outraged profanities and tried to calm her racing pulse. He looked so damn fine. Despite the months, years of tears and torment, she instantly wanted him.
“Lovely, and you?” she managed.
He laughed, that same warm baritone that had rumbled in his chest so many times before. “I’m in the middle of a crisis, but what else is new, right? Look, I really don’t have time to talk right now, but I saw you and couldn’t stop myself from saying hello. I promise to be in touch soon. We’ll get caught up.”
Giselle looked at her and lifted an eyebrow. Damn it, he was tan and healthy looking, as well built as she remembered, broad shoulders straining the seams of his tailored light blue sports shirt, sculpted biceps emerging from the short sleeves. The sinews of his forearms rippled underneath the soft furring of hair, reminding her of the times he lifted her to sit astride him.
So much for the idea that he hadn’t been in touch because he was sick or injured in some way. She bit back the litany of cutting remarks hovering on the tip of her tongue. Most men his age had developed a paunch, but Martin’s belly remained flat inside the waistband of his slacks. She ripped her gaze away before her eyes dropped further. But she knew.
She could always feel the force of his virility from across a crowded room.
A bit more gray than she remembered peppered his hair and beard, but the same chiseled features – strong jawline and square chin under that neatly trimmed beard, sensuous mouth and those eyes – made her pulse race madly in her neck. She could taste him, smell him, feel the heat of his skin under her palms as if no time had passed, as if she wasn’t three years older, still hopelessly in love.
“No rush,” she said, straightening in the chair and smoothing her napkin against her lap. “I know how busy you must be.”
He seemed startled by her remark, opened his mouth then closed it. She lifted her teacup, proud that her hand didn’t shake, and sipped calmly as if he were a mere acquaintance.
“Well, I – uh, soon, I promise.”
“Yes, of course,” she said. She broke eye contact and waited for him to move. Moments clicked past, each instant a torment of unsaid words and mounting fury. Then his shadow moved away. Parsley stretched and lay down, head resting disconsolately on his front paws.
“Christ,” Giselle said. “That was intense.”
“I thought you handled it perfectly.”
“Good. I was dying inside.”
“And screaming, too, right?”
Mo nodded, waiting for her heart to stop pounding against her ribs. “Why does he have to look so damn good? It’s not fair.”
“Well, you’re looking pretty great yourself this morning,” Giselle said with a huge smile. “I thought he was going to eat you up.”
“Couldn’t you see it? Hell, I shouldn’t tell you.”
Giselle leaned forward and lowered her voice. “All the signs – his face flushed, his nostrils flared. His er, um, was pressing his pants, like full on. Dear me, what a specimen. Didn’t you see? Honestly, I think he fought not to touch you, and that’s just a sign of how desirable you are. It’s no wonder Henri outdid himself. There are plenty of men out there who will want you, Mo. You don’t have to waste your life on Martin Bernard.”
Belatedly, Mohana wished Giselle had kept that bit about Martin’s arousal to herself.
Still later, Mo studied herself in her bathroom mirror. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes seemed overly bright. Her pulse still hadn’t calmed and she felt alternatively hot and cold. How could she still react this way after all he’d done? Or, actually, not done. She couldn’t get him out of her mind, how his body had inclined toward her, how tiny lines crinkled at the corners of his intense green eyes. So charming, so damn handsome.
She’d never been able to define it, what he had, what seemed to be at the heart of Martin Bernard more than any man she’d ever met. Maleness. Potency. Energy radiated from him like a kind of gravity, pulling her in, wrapping her in his strength. For years, she had fallen deeper and deeper into that force, enchanted in the joy of their love.
Yet, somehow, she had failed. She’d agonized over it, night after night, month after month after he’d disappeared from her life. He had said she was beautiful, but what if he wanted someone younger, prettier? He had said he loved her, but that must have been a lie. He had said he wanted to marry her, spend the rest of his life with her. She’d even indulged in fantasies of their future together, maybe a child…
She gripped the sink. In the long days and nights of waiting, she had deluded herself, thinking he might be ill or disabled somehow, too proud to let her know. Alternately, she imagined he’d been trapped in some foreign country in one of his far-flung business deals. But here he was, walking the streets of Paris looking like a million dollars, full of himself.
And dismissive. He’d call soon. Ha!
BONUS: Nab another book in the House of Rae series also FREE at the same time!
Reprieve, Book II, is the first part of Martin’s story about his daughter Marie.
House of Rae franchisee Marie Argenta is on the run after her estranged husband Ned inflicts unimaginable tortures. Leaving her Paris House to hide out in the U.S., she ends up at the San Francisco House to serve as temporary manager. The very first day, her gaze lands on the most arrogant man she has ever seen, Adrian Velasquez. He’s also the most compelling devastatingly attractive, over-the-top pleasure partner the universe could ever conjure, which makes her think twice about the rules forbidding employee relationships.
Adrian knows what he likes and this new House manager Marie ranks above and beyond anything he’s ever imagined. Too bad his life is already crammed too full of family troubles, work overload, and finishing his law degree to even consider stretching the rules with this irritating woman. But a touch here, a kiss there, might be too delicious to refuse and she’s, well, she wants him. He knows it.
What Marie and Adrian are soon to discover is that Ned knows where Marie has fled and plans to take her back no matter what.