Well, here we are, approaching the last week of the 30 days of NaNo, and I thought it was time for an update. Words so far: 26,058. A bit behind, according to their timeline, but I’m happy with it.
My goal is not so much to write 50,000 words as it is to write as many words as I can, consistently. Not to write faster, necessarily, but to spend more time doing it. To get better at not letting myself be distracted by all the Shiny Things on the internet — something I’ve been horribly guilty of the past couple months.
After YEARS of wishing I didn’t have a day job to intrude on writing time, I’m finding it difficult to make the transition to having all the time in the world to write. I’m not accustomed to having more than an hour here and there to focus on writing. It’s tough, forming new habits.
I know, I know. Let’s find the world’s smallest violin and play a thin weak tune to accompany my ridiculously inappropriate whining.
So I’m getting better at focusing and spending more time writing each day. Well, most days. Because there are distractions. There was the day last week when the plumber was here. And I wrote, “And then he kissed her, hard. With all the passion– [pause to answer doorbell] –and longing . . . um, yeah, so then they . . . oh hell . . . finish this scene later, because I am NOT going to write a sex scene while some stranger is messing with my plumbing.”
No, that is not a euphemism.
But the plumber didn’t finish that day and the dispatcher called and said Ray (not his name) couldn’t come the next day and was it okay if his brother Steve (not his name) came instead and, after I reminded myself she didn’t mean it the way it sounded, I was all “sure, as long as he can get the job done.” Did I just say that? And then Steve shows up the next day and HE IS RAY’S IDENTICAL TWIN BROTHER. And then my mind exploded. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up. But you can perhaps imagine how difficult it is to write steamy romance with people spouting double entendres in your general direction and with strong sweaty clean-cut romance tropes flexing their lean muscles all over the place while they do things to your pipes. So to speak.
I mean, c’mon. My imagination is a fearsome and filthy thing.
Anyway. I suspect it might take more time to edit this “fast writing” than it did to actually write it. [Note to self: delete all random references to ménage with twins; save for next book.] When this month-long experiment is over, I’ll have to evaluate whether the benefit of increased quantity [ahem] is worth the loss of . . . what was I saying?
In the meantime, since I know this talk of process is boring, here is an excerpt for your amusement. It’s rough. It hasn’t been edited. Well, maybe a little. Probably it needs to be completely re-written. Or maybe deleted. But I’m posting it anyway BECAUSE I AM FEARLESS. Um, wait. No, not that.
I’m posting it because it has been tough getting back into the mindset of writing romance. I keep wanting to add a conspiracy. Or maybe kill someone. In the story. Obviously, I hope you enjoy it. But also, if you feel inclined, I’d welcome any feedback. Please let me know whether I’m doing this right. Does this sound like the set-up of a steamy romance? Is it something you’d want to continue reading? Do you care about these people? I’m close to being done with the first draft, but it’s not too late. I’m sure I could knock off one or both of them in the edit.
It’s ridiculously long– er, lengthy– um, there are a lot of words, so I’m inserting it after the– oh hell. The excerpt is after the jump. If you want to read it, click the “continue reading” thing:
Rafe Morales was bored and itching to get off the DL in time for spring training. Three more days of rehab in paradise and the trainer had promised to give him the thumbs up. As he executed a smooth kick-turn to begin the final lap of his swim in the huge outdoor pool, he mused that there was never a day growing up poor and hungry in Cuba that he’d even once imagined a future where he might be spending time in a tropical island resort like this. His old friend Kaz had done a great job renovating the foreclosed hotel into a secluded getaway, with a separate state-of-the-art training facility.
He finished the lap and slicked his wet hair back from his forehead. Time for a trim. As he planted his hands in front of him on the tiles that surrounded the pool and levered himself out, he was pleased to note there was not even a slight hitch in his right shoulder. He’d worked damned hard and was ready to get back to doing the thing he loved. Playing baseball.
He groaned inwardly as he noticed a young woman had settled into the lounge chair next to the one where he’d left his t-shirt and sunglasses. She was striking, with slender curves and rich auburn hair, wearing a black one-piece suit that rode high on her hips and plunged low into her cleavage. But she was staring at him wide-eyed, like all her dreams had just come true, and he braced himself for another awkward fangirl encounter. At least he didn’t have to worry about her trying to rip off his shirt.
Carolyn Taylor had never felt so out of place in her entire life. This kind of decadent tropical luxury was beyond her wildest imaginings. She hadn’t realized the place was a couples-only resort when Julie had insisted she use the already paid for and non-refundable reservation. All the guests she’d seen in the hour since she checked in had been paired up and openly affectionate. Holding hands, kissing, caressing each other’s scantily clad bodies.
And she was here alone.
She’d tried to refuse the trip, work was crazy busy and this was not a good time for a vacation, but her best friend had been adamant that at least some good would come out of the situation. She stifled the anger she felt at that idiot Tim for jilting Julie a week before the wedding and tried to relax. That was the whole point of these few days away from reality — to relax.
She skirted the edge of the pool, trying to avoid looking at the couples engaged in various amorous activities, and made her way to what looked like the least occupied section of lounge chairs. She hated being the center of attention, hated the feeling of eyes staring at her, and already regretted letting Julie talk her into buying revealing new swimsuits. But she’d been too exhausted to argue. Maybe Julie was right. Maybe she did need this vacation.
It had been a long day of travel and she just wanted some fresh air and a quick dip in the pool before dinner. She shrugged off her terry wrap, uncomfortable exposing so much pale skin, and settled into the lushly padded chair.
She’d just pulled a bottle of sunscreen out of her pool bag when she looked up and saw a man shove himself up out of the pool. Like a bronzed pagan god rising from the sea. She felt her mouth drop open and her eyes grow wide and knew she was embarrassing herself by being so obvious. But she couldn’t stop staring.
She’d never seen a man with such perfect muscle tone. Taut ripped stomach muscles, sculpted arms and shoulders, lean hips and– she drew a sharp breath and felt her face grow hot as her gaze landed on the wet swim trunks that were plastered to his groin and thighs.
She closed her mouth and tried to collect herself as she looked up at his face, hoping maybe he hadn’t noticed her lack of decorum. No such luck. He was staring right back and, oh dear god, he was walking toward her. And what a walk, all loose limbed confidence.
He picked up the mirrored sunglasses from the seat of the lounge next to hers, put them on, and lowered his dripping wet body into the chair.
“I’m sorry,” she stammered, “I didn’t know someone was– already here. Um, sitting here.” She felt her face grow hotter as she watched water drip from his hair onto his broad shoulders and run down the muscled slabs of his chest. “Is this seat taken?”
He turned and gave her a tight little smile that was more a grimace than a smile. “Nope. You’re fine.”
She absently noted the slight Latin accent even as she glanced around the pool area, trying to identify the woman whose chair she’d probably just taken, before looking back at him in apology. “But surely your wife . . .”
He shook his head.
“Then, your girlfriend . . . ”
He shook his head again, his grin a bit more authentic this time. God, he had a sexy mouth.
“Um, I’ll just move to another chair,” she said.
She’d put the sunscreen back into her bag when he said, “No. Stay. I told you, you’re fine. I’m here alone.”
“Oh.” She found that very hard to believe. “Okay, thanks. So am I. Here alone.”
Carolyn winced at her lack of social skills. Could she be any more awkward? She looked away and bit her lip and vowed not to say another word until this god-man got up and left. Why did attractive men always leave her feeling so flustered? And why did this one have to have a voice that melted her brain into mush? It’s not like she was inexperienced. She’d had a serious live-in boyfriend. She just hadn’t made the effort to put herself back out on the dating scene after they’d called it quits. But it had only been . . . she mentally counted the months. More than two years ago.
She remembered Julie’s parting words, dropping her off at the airport. “Maybe you’ll even meet a hot guy. One of us should get lucky this weekend.” Yeah, right. Not likely when she couldn’t even have a simple conversation without humiliating herself.
She heard the chirp of her cell phone signaling new email and dug into her bag, grateful for the distraction. She cupped one hand over the screen to block the glare from the late afternoon sun and read the message.
“NO! No, not Claudia.” Her arms collapsed down into her lap as if the phone were suddenly too heavy to hold and she tilted her head back against the lounge, eyes tightly closed against the tears that threatened. “Why can’t people just DO what I TELL them to do?”
“Problem?” The deep male voice beside her was a startling intrusion.
She didn’t open her eyes. She felt utterly defeated. “One of my patients was just admitted. Diabetic coma. Prognosis not good.” She sat up and typed a reply on her phone but the signal had been lost and she remembered Julie telling her one of the key features of the island resort was lack of phone and internet service. Damnit.
“You’re a doctor?”
She took a deep breath, wondering how best to describe what she did. “No. Not a doctor. I’m a registered dietitian. I counsel patients who’ve been discharged from the hospital after life-threatening events. Mostly diabetics and heart patients. I teach them about nutrition, exercise, changes in lifestyle. But some of them don’t listen. They don’t listen and they end up back in the hospital. And sometimes they die.”
She heard the quaver in her voice that signaled the onset of tears and cleared her throat. This was not his concern and she was rambling.
“They don’t do what you tell them to do.” He made it sound more like a statement than a question.
“No. Too often, they don’t.”
Rafe was bemused by this turn of events. Not only had the woman not come on to him, she didn’t seem to recognize him. That was a first. And now she was distraught about a patient? Something about this very attractive woman and her presence here, alone, sitting next to him, didn’t make sense. But she seemed nice and he couldn’t stand to see her beating herself up over something beyond her control. Time to distract her. He’d always loved playing the role of devil’s advocate.
“You’re too nice,” he said, his tone deliberately dismissive. “You don’t know how to tell someone what do to.”
She turned her head and glared at him. “Excuse me?”
He shrugged. “You’re a woman. Women are pleasers. They don’t tell, they ask.”
She straightened in the chair, drawing his attention to the ripe curve of her breasts barely concealed by the plunging neckline of her suit.
“What a ridiculously sexist thing to say. Women can be every bit as commanding as men.”
“Prove it. Tell me to do something. Anything.”
She looked at him as if he’d just spoken gibberish. “You want me to tell you to do something?”
“Yes. Anything. Just say it with authority. Be commanding.”
She gave a nervous laugh. “I can’t just– you’re kidding, right?”
Rafe looked at her flushed cheeks, heard the uncertainty in her voice, and wondered whether her thoughts had just taken the same turn as his. It was difficult not to think about sexual games, given their surroundings. Maybe she was just another groupie after all. He decided to push her, call her bluff.
“I’m not kidding. Tell me to do something. Anything. And I’ll do it.”
“I don’t even know you, I can’t tell you what to do.”
He smiled and held out his hand, “Hi, I’m Rafe Morales.”
“Carolyn Taylor,” she said, as she extended her own hand for him to shake.
He gave her hand a firm squeeze, amused as her blush reappeared at the contact of their hands. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d met a woman who turned shy in his presence. “Nice to meet you, Carolyn Taylor. Now tell me to go get you a towel.”
She followed the direction of his nod and glanced at the nearby cart of clean towels. “But I already have a tow–”
“I was right. You can’t do it.”
“This is silly. Fine then. Please go get me a towel.”
He shook his head. “Cara. That’s not telling, that’s asking.”
“My name is Carolyn.”
“Cara suits you. Now say it. Make it a command.”
Thoroughly flustered, she said the words in a rush, “Rafe, go get me a towel.”
He smiled his approval and said, “Yes, ma’am.” As he walked over to the towel cart, he congratulated himself for distracting her from the upsetting news she’d received. She was a refreshing change from the women who typically threw themselves at him and he realized he wanted to spend more time with her. He had a few more days, why not enjoy them?
He walked back over to her chair and handed her the towel.
“Thank you,” she said as she took it from him.
“You’re welcome. But you need practice. Tell me to do something else.”
She gave him what he imagined was her brightest smile and said, “I think I need to cool off.” Then she got up out of the lounge chair, took three long strides toward the edge of the pool and executed a perfect shallow water dive into the pristine azure water.
Carolyn was totally out of her depth with this man, with his honed body and charming smile and sexy Latin accent. She could think of several things she’d like to tell him to do. Private things, sensual things. But saying them, let alone thinking about him doing them, required a bit more privacy and one hell of a lot more confidence than she currently possessed. Or would ever possess.
She hadn’t come here looking for a fling, despite her joking with Julie at the airport. And certainly not with a heartbreaker like the man she’d left staring at her in amused disbelief at the edge of the pool. Sure, he was every woman’s dream, but the ego that no doubt came with a package like that was more than she cared to deal with. Her entire body felt flushed as she remembered what she’d seen of that package.
She glided underwater until her lungs burned, trying to regain her composure, slowly crossing the length of the pool to the swim-up bar. She needed a cold bottle of water, whether to drink or pour over her own head she had yet to decide.
She surfaced and shook the wet strands of her hair back from her face and– there he was. Sitting on one of the underwater bar stools, right in front of her, his eyes lit up with anticipation like it was Christmas morning.
She sputtered. There was no other word for it. “How did you–”
Rafe’s grin drew her attention to his beard stubble and deepened the long slash of a dimple in his cheek and did crazy things to her stomach. “I’m known for my speed.”
“I just bet you are,” she said as she sat on the stool next to his, determined to be calm and collected. She could handle a simple conversation. Maybe. Except he’d taken off his sunglasses and for the first time she looked up and met his eyes. They were the color of molten cinnamon. She was drowning in hot liquid cinnamon.
“Tell me what you want.”
“Water.” She was definitely going to pour it over her head.
He turned to the bartender and said something in rapid Spanish that made the other man give a quick bark of good-natured laughter and pull two ice-cold plastic bottles of water out of a cooler and set them on the bar.
“Gracias,” Rafe said as he picked up the bottle in front of Carolyn and twisted the top off with the smooth flex of a strong hand and sinewy forearm before he offered it to her.
She was still staring at him, unable to speak or even think clearly. He was even more seductively gorgeous at close range. The overhanging roof of the open bar cast a low cool shade and created the illusion of privacy. He brushed the icy bottle against her cheek and she reached up and grabbed his wrist, pushing the bottle away from her face. The simultaneous sensations of hot flesh and cold plastic were almost too much.
She pulled the bottle from his hand and, deciding that pouring it over her head was too much of an admission of the effect he was having on her, tipped her head back and gulped down half of it. She looked over and watched his profile as he finished off his own bottle, strong throat muscles working as he swallowed, and nearly fell off the barstool.
In an impressive display of accuracy, he casually fired the empty bottle into a recycling bin in a corner behind the bar and then turned his full attention to her. He leaned close, grinned and said in a low harsh whisper, “Tell me, Cara. What else do you want me to do?”
Carolyn was overwhelmed by all that masculinity at close range and suddenly she was swamped by the ache of two years of celibacy and still drowning in his eyes and imagining the rasp of his whiskers on her body and she opened her mouth and then closed it and swallowed hard and opened it again and then gave up the fight and heard herself say, “Kiss me.”
Now it was his turn to blink, speechless.
Carolyn slapped a hand over her mouth. Oh dear god, did I say that out loud? If it were possible to die from embarrassment, she’d be dead and buried deep. She glanced around as she turned away from him, certain that everyone within a three-mile radius was laughing at her naivety for imagining this man would ever kiss her.
She slid off the barstool, ready to flee, when she felt a strong hand wrap around her bicep to turn her around and pull her back. As he stood up, she felt his other hand slide slowly around the curve of her shoulder blade and up her spine until he cupped the base of her neck, angling her head back until her gaze met his. She hadn’t realized he was so tall.
He moved closer, so close she could feel the heat and power radiating from him, and lowered his head toward hers. The teasing attitude was gone, replaced by a searing intensity.
And then he kissed her. Once. A firm hot press of his lips to hers. Over with before she could even think about it.
She groaned, staring at his mouth with mindless frustration and need. “Do it again,” she whispered.
She felt his hand slide up into her hair and tighten on the damp strands as his other arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her snug against his big hard body. She whimpered and closed her eyes, quivering with anticipation for–
–the high-pitched female voice calling his name from across the pool. “Rafe Morales? OHMYGOD! It’s Rafe Morales!”
Rafe swore quietly as he released his hold on Carolyn, moving to shield her from view as he turned toward the woman who’d recognized him. The man with her seemed just as eager to make his acquaintance and he watched, wary, as the middle-aged couple hurried around the pool in his direction.
He heard Carolyn’s hesitant voice from behind him. “I– I’ll just– I need to go.”
He turned to reply but she was already halfway across the pool. He watched, a puzzled frown on his face, as the woman he’d just kissed made her way up the steps at the corner of the pool, grabbed a towel and her bag, and fled.
Rafe set aside his curiosity, for now, and gave his attention to Mr. & Mrs. Schmidt from Iowa, here celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary and huge fans of all things baseball. He autographed everything they dragged out of their pool bag and assured them his shoulder was good to go for the coming season and smiled and stood there patiently while they convinced the bartender to take pictures with their cell phones. Rafe was both gracious and grateful for their interest. He always enjoyed meeting fans who loved the game as much as he did.
But he couldn’t stop thinking about the shy awkward woman who had asked him to kiss her — not once, but twice — and had then run away from him the first chance she got.
Rafe couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so intrigued by a woman. Clearly, she was attracted to him. As he was to her. But she seemed to have no idea who he was. Not that he expected every person in the world to recognize him on sight, but most of the women who got that close knew exactly who he was. And what they wanted from him. She seemed to have no clue. Or she was really good at faking it.
He smiled, a slow determined smile, and hoped she hadn’t made plans for dinner. He figured he still owed her a kiss.