For the last few days of December I have been glued to my computer, filling pages with a different world. And I cannot tell you how good it felt. Now that 2011 is coming to a close, I look back at all that’s happened this year, all I’ve done and yes, all I haven’t done. If I have one tiny regret, it is that I’ve spent so much time and attention on things that don’t matter, and not enough on things that do. Sometimes, though, I guess life works out that way. We have to wade through the mud and marshland to appreciate the sunshine meadow on the other side.
But I want to start the new year right, make it count, so to speak. And because I am not much of a planner, and never make resolutions because I just know I’ll never stick to them anyway, I will instead voice my hopes. I hope I am able to appreciate all the good in my life, my family and friends, the people and things I love. I hope the bad things don’t distract me from what’s really important. I hope I get to continue to expand my mind and heart with new books and stories, and that I can pay forward that privilege through my own.
It occurs to me that I have been somewhat absent from this blog, but perhaps that’s because I didn’t have all that much to share. Well, I do now.
When I wrote Blood Moons, I did it for myself, never expecting it to see the light of day as a published work of fiction. Now every time I get to read a comment or review from someone who loved it, I feel blessed and grateful that I got to share it with others.
When I wrote Blood Trails, I knew it would be a troubling story. Hailey is not easy to deal with and in a world where the chest beating alpha hero is still king, Jeremy doesn’t compare at all. He’s something else. Not a barbarian sweeping the heroine off her feet, but the knight in shining armor, winning her heart by steadfastly standing by her through thick and thin. I wanted to write a couple that didn’t necessarily fall into accepted molds; and to show that a strong, capable woman doesn’t necessarily have to need a man to come to her rescue, but can still want one and appreciate one. Nice guys need not finish last.
In comparison, writing Blood Debts is like drizzling chocolate syrup over the sundae. There’s still the strong, capable heroine, the good Dr. Amelia Chase, who’s changed so many lives and hasn’t quite come out unscathed – she’s Hailey’s sister, after all – and the hero… well, he’s something of a surprise. I think as much as I wanted to channel Amelia’s brains and aloof composure, it was Gabriel’s easy humor and raw honesty that made this story basically fly onto the pages. I can’t help but love him for it. Gabriel is in a league all his own and I know an author should never have favorites, but I think he might be mine.
I said my hope was to pay forward the pleasure I get from reading a good book. Might as well start now. Here’s a little excerpt from Blood Debts.
“It wasn’t a dream.”
Even if she wanted to convince herself otherwise, the evidence stared her right in the face. A chair propped against her door and a paper file on her night stand. One of the ones she hoped never to have to pull out again. Amelia took her time washing up and dressing. It was almost noon, but it wasn’t as if she had anywhere important to be.
Her stomach growled for sustenance. After a cautious peek out the door and judging it safe to emerge, Amelia went to the kitchen. She poured thick mango-peach juice over a bowl of cereal and sat down to the table.
The ferric diamond was still there, in the same place it had landed last night. Amelia stared at it while her cereal got soggy with the juice. She didn’t reach out for it; didn’t even move. Why would he leave it there?
“Connors?” she called.
There was no answer.
Dare she hope he’d changed his mind and just left?
Doubtful. A gladiator used to fighting and conquering – a good one, as evidenced by the fact that he was still alive – wouldn’t just leave well enough alone. So where the hell was he now?
Suspicion. He wouldn’t… “Connors!”
He would! The bastard!
Amelia abandoned her cereal and left the apartment, heading for her lab.
The light was on, machines whirring and computing. And in the middle of them, Connors was on the floor, doing pushups.
“What the hell is this?” she demanded.
He paused mid-pushup to look at her. “Good morning,” he said. “I’m gathering data, as you scientists like to say. It’s a stress test.” A computer beeped and he jumped up to his feet. He wasn’t even winded, or sweaty and the computers didn’t register any change in heart rate.
Amelia tossed the file she held onto her desk and stopped the functions he’d initiated. “Pushups aren’t stress,” she told him. “Don’t pretend to know what you’re doing.” He had round patches stuck to his temples, the side of his neck and on the inside of his wrists. She rolled her eyes and took his hand to peel the wrist patch off. “These are not toys,” she told him.
“Then you might want to take back the rest of them, too.”
His tone… was he teasing her? Amelia took off the patches on his temples and on his neck. “As I was saying,” she said, tossing the used patches into the trash can behind her.
“What about these?” he said while her back was turned.
Amelia froze. How much worse could it be? She braced herself and turned around. “I’m going to kill you,” she growled. He’d stripped off his shirt, revealing his handiwork. The idiot had wallpapered himself in the damn things. It looked like he put a patch over each major organ.
He must have wasted a full pack of those patches. “I’m going to beat you to within an inch of your life and toss you out behind one of the warehouses. And you know what?”
“I’m going to enjoy it.”
Connors tossed his head back and laughed.
Amelia blinked. Okay, so she wasn’t as big and tough as he was, and she wasn’t up on the popular threat-of-violence lingo these days, but surely she wasn’t that laughable.
“You’re funny when you don’t try to be,” he said, still heartily amused. Bastard. He took off the patches one at a time and, following her example, tossed each in the trash. Amelia wanted to weep for each one. “I was waiting here for you,” he explained, “and got bored. You got a nice lab, doc.”
As the patches came off – Oh, God, there were more on his back! – her tunnel vision slowly cleared past them to the scars that crisscrossed his torso. There were two long, parallel lines across his back, like whip lashes. His chest had a number of cuts, most of them fully healed and old, but one or two looked freshly healed.
“I like computers,” he said in praise. “Or I used to, before all this shit—”
“Battle scars?” she asked, cutting him off.
His good humor faded a little when he peeled off the last patch over his right kidney. He was looking at the same thing she was – a long straight scar that ran from his left clavicle, across his chest to his right side. To just where the ribs ended over the liver. “Badges of honor,” he replied, but he didn’t sound very proud. “Hammer strikes that honed the blade.”
When he met her gaze again, it was almost measuring. Was he self-conscious about them? “Come on, doc,” he said. “You must have seen worse than this.”
What she’d seen didn’t compare to this on any level. She’d treated self-inflicted wounds, and ones that had been caused by treatment. She’d seen men bleed to death in front of her eyes before she could even identify the source of damage. All of them had been dirty wounds. That’s how she thought of them. She’d felt tainted treating them.
Connors was the first man she’d seen whose scars were a fact of life. On him, they were a testament to his strength and will to survive. At least two of his scars would have been life threatening. He’d received them fighting for his life. As a scientist, Amelia should have been impassive, looking at them. As a woman, she wanted to know how he’d gotten each one. She wanted to ask if it had hurt.
There was another scar on his forearm. It looked like it had come too close to severing part of his limb. Amelia watched her hand reach for that arm, as if she weren’t in control of it.
Connors caught it in a flash, squeezing her wrist just enough to let her know he could crush it if he chose to. It startled her into looking up into his eyes again. Don’t, they warned. Holding his gaze, Amelia reached with her other hand and pried the last patch out of his grip. He released her when he saw what she was after.
Amelia held the crumpled patch up to him. “This is a multisystem monitoring patch. It has about a million microscopic connections that plug in to a person’s body and transmit vitals and system information to the computer over there. It costs about three thousand to make, six to buy. One can monitor every last detail about a person’s anatomy and bodily functions for a month.”
He had the good grace to look thoroughly chastised. His face flushed and he ducked his head. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“Don’t touch my stuff again.”