Reader’s Edyn

I always felt like I could do something more than just read. Finally, I have found both a creative outlet and a chance to do something meaningful with my reading. This blog was created in appreciation of and tribute to all of the authors who have brought me joy through their books. These reviews are my way of giving back to authors and providing recognition for the hard work that each one completes every day!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Interview with author and writing coach Adrienne deWolfe

Interview with author and writing coach Adrienne deWolfe

Writing Novels That Sell
 
 
Hello friends! Today I have a special treat for all of you.  Through an awesome author, Ms. Lizzy Ford, I was able to come into contact with the wonderful Ms. Adrienne deWolfe. Ms. deWolfe is not only a successful author, but also a writing coach. Fabulous? Yes! I would like to tell you all a bit about Ms. deWolfe and then proceed with our interview. I will also tell you a bit about her terrific-looking series complete with excerpt so that you can sample her writing style right here on the blog. Those of you who are aspiring writers, or even just dabbling, I also encourage you to take a look at Ms. deWolfe’s website. It is sure to have a lot of useful information or you to soak up! But I will leave that to you to do after the interview. So without further adieu, please allow me to introduce to you, Ms. Adrienne deWolfe!

**ADRIENNE DEWOLFE**

**BIO**
Adrienne deWolfe is an award-winning novelist, journalist, fiction teacher, and book-writing coach.  Her fiction debut occurred with the publication of Texas Outlaw, the first book in her popular Texas Trilogy, which broke industry records when it was nominated for two Rita Awards by the published authors of Romance Writers of America (RWA).
Since that time, each of Adrienne’s five Romance novels has earned distinctions from reviewers and readers.  Three of her heroes won Knight in Shining Silver (K.I.S.S.) Awards from Romantic Times Magazine, and a fourth hero won the Avon Romance Reader’s Poll for favorite Romance hero.
Not to be outdone, Adrienne’s heroines also rate high among readers, who have recognized her with the Honey of a Heroine Award (West Houston Chapter, RWA) and the Cameo Award for Strong Woman Characters (Calico Trails Magazine).
The readers of Calico Trails also named Adrienne’s third book, Texas Wildcat, the Best Historical Romance of the Year.
Adrienne confesses that she can’t sit still for long in front of a computer. A popular speaker who has lead writing and creativity workshops around the country, she taught “How to Write a Novel that Sells” for several years at a Texas college, and she continues to teach that class online, as well as its spin-off, “How to Write a Romance Novel That Sells”.  In her hometown, she has held the office of Vice President of Mentoring for the not-for-profit organization, Women of Visionary Influence, and she has served for two consecutive years as a New Business Ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce.   She is certified as a Habitat Steward through the National Wildlife Federation, and she has trained as a Texas Master Naturalist through the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife.
Adrienne continues to balance her professional life between her speaking, marketing, and publishing careers. She was a contributing writer for A Preeminently Healthy Place, The History of Medicine in Travis County, Texas, edited by Marilyn Baker.  She has also written an e-book series, The Secrets to Getting Your Romance Novel Published. When Adrienne’s not freelancing articles or writing web content, she’s marketing the products and services of the small businesses that are her clients.
Adrienne deWolfe is a certified Habitat Steward for the National Wildlife Federation.
 Adrienne is a firm believer that “what you believe, you achieve.”  When she coaches fiction writers, Adrienne draws upon her 20 years of training in Attitudinal Healing, which teaches that individuals can change their circumstances by choosing to look at their situation, and the world around them, from a new perspective.  She is certified as a Peer Counselor and Group Facilitator of Attitudinal Healing, a program developed by psychiatrist Gerald Jampolsky, M.D., in Tiburon, California.
Adrienne’s current fiction writing projects include a Historical Romance and a Young Adult Fantasy series.
I invite readers to visit me at:

**INTERVIEW**

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” ~ Joseph Chilton Pearce

Fabulous quote! What is your typical day like?
I start my day around 5 AM, when I begin blogging or writing the next installment in my novel. I devote between two and four hours each day to writing; then I go to "work" as a salesperson for a medical company.   (Thrilling, huh?  Aren’t you glad you asked?)  In the evenings, I enjoy wresting with dust-bunnies; sculpting jello-salads; and inventing crazy answers to innocent-sounding interview questions.  When I’m not chasing outlaws or chatting with dragons (in one of the novels that I’m writing,) then I’m usually coaching an aspiring author toward his/her dream of publication, or I’m teaching novel-writing courses online through one of my websites (http://WritingNovelsThatSell.com.)

Good Lord! You are one busy lady! Tell us a little about your current releases in the Wild Texas Nights series.
Thanks for asking!  My award-winning series, Wild Texas Nights, was released as e-books last week.  I'm so excited about the beautiful new covers!  (Check ‘em out!)
Texas Outlaw (Book 1) is the story of a lady train robber who tangles with a sexy US marshal, who has vowed to bring her to justice. 
          Favorite thing about this book:
          The outlaw is the heroine!
Texas Lover (Book 2) is the story of a ruggedly handsome Texas Ranger, who must disguise his identity to figure out whether or not the heroine is guilty of killing a lawman. 
          Favorite thing about this book:
          The hero spins outlandish yarns and sings bawdy cowboy songs.
Texas Wildcat  (Book 3) is the story of a beautiful, hot-tempered sheep rancher, who accuses local cowboys of theft and becomes a vexing problem for her closest neighbor, a drop-dead-gorgeous cattle rancher.
          Favorite thing about this book:
          The heroine speaks her mind and refuses to take a back seat to a man; she even competes against the hero in the county rodeo!
My WILD TEXAS NIGHTS series has won 5 awards, including The Best Historical Romance of the Year. 

How exciting! The series sounds fantastic. I already have it on my TBR list. *nods* Was there something in particular that gave you the idea for this series?
I originally grew up in Pennsylvania; when I moved to Texas, I fell in love with the spirit of the people (“Texicans” as they called themselves in the early days).  I also learned to appreciate and care for the rugged beauty of the land. (I’m trained as a Habitat Steward through the National Wildlife Federation and as a Texas Master Naturalist through the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.)  I wanted to set a novel in Texas, which was blessed with so much wonderful history.  Ironically, that "novel" turned into three novels – my Wild Texas Nights series – because my original publisher, Bantam Books, fell in love with the two teenage brothers of U.S. Marshal Cord Rawlins, the hero in Texas Outlaw.   It was Bantam that asked me to write spin-off novels based on the “grown-up” exploits of Texas Ranger Wes Rawlins (Texas Lover), and Cattle Rancher Zack Rawlins (Texas Wildcat ).

What is the most rewarding thing about being published?
Receiving enthusiastic letters from fans -- and getting to meet readers in person! 
Because I wrote 3 Western novels set in Texas (where I live), I’ve attracted a small cadre of gentleman readers.
I'll never forget the book signing where the store manager called me over the loud speaker to report to the phone.  One of my gentlemen readers had been driving across the state to attend my book signing, and he had a minor traffic accident.  I was so touched that he'd gone to so much trouble to meet me – and then to have me reserve signed copies for him!  As it turned out, he was one of the last true Texas Cowboys, who used to drive cattle along the Chisholm Trail!

How awesome! What a great memory! Any advice you’d like to share for aspiring writers?
Write every day. NEVER GIVE UP! (Read my blog for tips and inspiration.)
Before I became published in book-length fiction, I was already a successful newspaper journalist and business writer with more than 45 writing awards to my credit. Nevertheless, it took me 10 years to break into the Romance market – which only proves that I was stuck in my ways. My publication experience in non-fiction did NOT adequately prepare me to write for the commercial fiction market.
For me, the great “A-Ha” that eventually led to the publication of my debut novel, Texas Outlaw , came when a published Romance author looked at my manuscript and pointed out, line by line, how to correct a Romance editor's vague criticisms (such as, “There’s not enough conflict in this scene"). That’s why I offer professional story critiques and private coaching to fiction writers. And that’s why I teach fiction writers how to recognize the difference between a “valid” writing criticism and an Urban Myth or a “personal prejudice.”

In my personal opinion, too many aspiring authors lose faith in their writing because someone (who doesn’t know what they’re talking about) provided feedback that made a novel unsalable, or worse, that left the writer feeling like s/he had no talent.

My mission is to make VERY sure that my students don’t walk away from my classes or my critique sessions feeling unworthy to be published!

Wow! You have some amazing goals. I am sure your “students” appreciate it. I know I would if I ever aspired to write. And I have often wondered about those vague criticisms I have heard mentioned before. You teach online writing courses, like “How to Write a Romance Novel That Sells”. What is your motivation for teaching workshops and courses?

I was so blessed early in my career to have wonderful mentors! I started writing in Houston, Texas, which was a hotbed for Historical Romance novelists, including Susan Wiggs, Barbara Dawson Smith, and Christina Dodd. After I moved to Austin, I was invited to join a critique group that included Harlequin authors Patricia Wynn, Cara West, and Pamela Ingram.
I am absolutely certain that I would NOT be published today if these talented Romance writers had not given so generously of their time and knowledge. I vowed that I would someday give back to the writing community the way my mentors had given to me. That is why I developed my website, WritingNovelsThatSell.com. And that is why I am so passionate about providing constructive story critiques.
My mission is to help aspiring authors live their publishing dream. How to Write a Romance Novel That Sells is one of several online courses/workshops that I teach.

Giving back. I completely support this action! If you could travel back in time, where would you go?
I would never travel anywhere in time that did not have a microwave. (Therefore, my historical itinerary would be rather limited.) However, I wouldn't mind visiting Atlantis. According to legend, that ancient civilization had crystal-powered appliances, including teleporters and flying machines (so maybe I could zap my hot chocolate with a sunstone.) 
One of my favorite legends from Atlantis is about the emerald. According to one book that I read, the emerald has black flecks in it because super powerful (and super evil) Atlanteans tried to use the heart-healing power of the emerald to harm or control other Atlanteans, who wanted to thwart their nefarious plans.  The emerald, in essence “fought back,” resisting the energetic “contamination” of the evil Atlanteans.  The black flecks, therefore, are “scars,” which have caused our beloved heart stone, the emerald, to be far less effective today for healing people than it was tens of thousands of years ago.  (Evil people suck.)

*snort* Microwaves? LOLOLOLOL But Atlantis is a wonderful choice! One thing that never fails to make you happy:
Hmm.  That’s a tough choice:  singing Broadway tunes; taking lavender-scented bubble baths; or watching my cat (Prince Rael the Magnificent) perform back flips to field plastic bottle caps in the air, with his paws, like a soccer goalie.

Those are good things ~ especially the bubble baths! Doh! Now I have Guys and Dolls going through my head: And … the people all said sit down, sit down you’re rockin’ the boat … lalala … One thing that never fails to make you see red.
Unscrupulous writers who hire other unscrupulous writers to “invent” negative reviews about books (which they’ve never read) to bump those books off the bestseller lists on Amazon.  (Did I mention that evil people suck?)

O.O Seriously? People do that? I am shocked! Although I have heard about and read quite a bit of scandalous goings on within this world I suppose I shouldn’t be all tha surprised! But geeze! How terrible! Who is your favorite fictional character ever?
Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance Series of (fantasy) books, written by Weis and Hickman. 
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series:  Raist is a sorcerer who is never quite good, but never quite evil.  At some point in the (extremely long and complex) series, he sacrifices his own goals of world domination to use his magic to battle the Goddess of the Underworld in an effort to save all mortal life as we know it. 

Heroic! Love it! Random Thought:
Ancient Mystics used to believe that from any one point in time, there is a minimum of 3 futures.  I love that idea.  It means that I am creating my life today, right now, with every choice I make!

Nice! How positive! Do you have any other hobbies or interests besides writing?
I blog like a fiend!
Oh, wait a minute. That's writing, isn't it?
It's a little-known fact that I am a classically trained soprano, who has actually been paid to sing solos at weddings! (But only because those darling brides and grooms didn’t hear me braying Mozart's Requiem in concert.)
Sometimes, the local hospital calls me to sing and play my zither harp for comatose (yes, comatose) patients. I like to think this is a compliment, but the jury is still out on the matter.

Holy cow! How amazing! Any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?
My e-book publisher has asked me to write the long-awaited 3rd book that will round out an award-winning historical Romance series that revolves around the Jones family:  two brothers and a sister.  I’m excited to announce that my “Naughty and Nice” series will be published this Winter, and the titles include SCOUNDREL FOR HIRE (Book 1), HIS WICKED DREAM (Book 2), and AN IMPERFECT ANGEL (Book 3) – which is the novel that I am writing now.
After that book is completed, my plan is to return to my Fantasy Series, the Guardians of Aeld ~ which I temporarily shelved to write AN IMPERFECT ANGEL.  Developing AeldStar (the first novel in the Guardians series) has been the greatest writing challenge of my life:  I’ve scrapped close to 1,200 pages in that book.  (Yeah, the immortal words of my writing mentor, Rita Gallagher, are true:  “Books aren’t written.  They’re REWRITTEN.”)  Jumping from Texas Romance novels (circa 1880) to fantasy fiction on a whole ‘nother planet has required a huge stretch of my imagination.  I had to learn how to build a fantasy world, design its magical systems, invent flora and fauna, and concoct bizarre (but pronounceable) names BEFORE I wrote Chapter One.  Now I understand why popular writers of fantasy series set new novels on the same world for, like, a bazillion books . . .


Sounds like you have a lot of great works on the horizon. Best of luck to you! I would like to thank Ms. deWolfe for taking the time to create this great interview packed full of helpful information. The series sounds fantastic! How can you not love you some texas lovin,’? You can’t! ‘Nuff said! So take a look at the books below for a taste of Ms. deWolfe’s WILD TEXAS NIGHTS series.

**TEXAS OUTLAW**

**BLURB**
Fancy Holleday has more nerve than the average cardsharp. No man can resist her smoky voice and violet eyes—and that includes the federal tinstar, Cord Rawlins.

Cord may have tracked her all the way to Texas to recover the U.S. minting plates that she stole, but the Nevada penitentiary is a long ride north, giving her plenty of time to charm, seduce, or just plain outsmart the handsome Texas lawman.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Cord Rawlins is sworn to bring renegades to justice—including the brazen lady train robber who turned the tables on him near Carson City.

Tracking Fancy down is Cord's job, but resisting her persistent persuasions is a matter of personal honor. With Fancy's life in his hands, Cord begins to wonder if his clever prisoner is really as shameless as she pretends. Could her wicked smile be hiding a desperate secret—one that can steal his heart?

**TEXAS LOVER**

**BLURB**
Texas Ranger Wes Rawlins has a heap of trouble on his hands. The county sheriff has been murdered, squatters are entrenched on the dead man's land, and no one can tell Wes why the sheriff wired for help in the first place.

So Wes rides out to the sheriff's farm—and finds himself looking down a gun barrel aimed by Aurora Sinclair, a spirited, young divorcĂ©e with a house full of orphans to protect.

Is Aurora an innocent schoolmarm battling an illegal land grab? Or is she a cunning temptress who plugged her lawman-lover to seize his sprawling homestead?

In this high-stakes game of cat and mouse, Wes dare not lose his head. The trouble is, he may have already lost his heart...

**TEXAS WILDCAT**

**BLURB**
When the beautiful, hot-tempered Bailey McShane bursts into the cattlemen's saloon, waving her shotgun and accusing the cowboys of theft, simmering tempers start to boil.

Bailey wants restitution for the fence posts that some low-down cowpokes burned to steal precious water from her land.

No self-respecting cattleman would be caught dead siding with a sheep rancher, like Bailey—and yet Zack Rawlins, the youngest, elected president of the Cattlemen's Association, can't resist this pint-sized wildcat with the big blue eyes. With drought-stricken Bandera County on the brink of range war, Zack faces political suicide if he can’t find a way to mend fences between Bailey and his cattle-ranching neighbors.

But what's a cowboy to do with an unpredictable woman who refuses to be tamed?

**EXCERPT**
TEXAS OUTLAW ~ Wild Texas Nights, Book 1

Note:  In this excerpt from the Western Historical Romance, Texas Lover, 8-year-old Merrilee learns that Texas Ranger Wes Rawlins, who is working undercover, has been stung by a bee.  Since Merrilee is highly allergic to bee stings, she imagines the worst will happen to Wes. She runs to fetch her guardian, Aurora “Rorie” Sinclair, to cure him.  At this point in the novel, Wes has been posing as a carpenter / hired hand to search for evidence of the local sheriff’s murder on Rorie’s farm.  Rorie, who is six years older than Wes, does not know that he is a Texas Ranger.  Learn more about the Wild Texas Nights series at http://WildTexasNights.com

Bandera County, Texas 
May, 1883

            “It’s all right, Merrilee,” Rorie soothed the eight-year-old.  “I’m sure Mr. Wes will survive his bee sting.”
            She’d no sooner said this, than a pitiful moan came from the farmhouse’s parlor, where the scoundrel had apparently entrenched himself to “convalesce.” Merrilee grabbed her guardian’s hand and started dragging Rorie down the hall.
                        “Hurry, Miss Rorie!  Hurry!”
            Much to her secret amusement, Rorie spied Wes sitting on her desk, swinging a muscular, denim-sheathed leg and frowning perplexedly at the taffy box that she’d filled with sewing notions.
            “Damn,” he muttered before realizing he’d acquired a female audience.
            “Does it hurt, Mr. Wes?” Merilee asked, tugging Rorie all the way to his side.
            He nodded woefully, but Rorie saw the amusement in his wicked green eyes.  She suspected then that there’d been no bee and no sting, and that he was the only pain.
            Merrilee stepped up onto the stool by the desk and pressed a small palm to his sun-baked cheek.  “He’s real hot, Miss Rorie!”  The child turned anxiously to her mentor for guidance.
            Wes had the audacity to smirk behind the child’s back.  “That’s not the only place I’m hot, Miss Rorie.”
            She shot him a quelling glare.  “Merrilee, sweetheart, why don’t you gather up all your flowers and put them in a vase for Ginevee.”
            The child looked torn between her patient and her chore.
            “Go ahead, Miss Merrilee,” Wes said in a brave voice, “Miss Rorie will fix me.”
            I’ll fix you all right. 
            After the child had finally left the room, Rorie planted her fists on her hips and glared at the scapegrace sitting on her desk.
            “Ah, my angel of mercy,” he drawled.
            “Mercy’s the last thing you’ll get from me, Wes Rawlins.”
            “You sure do have a lot of flash in those eyes.  Reminds me of a Winchester when its brass receiver catches the sun.”
            “Don’t change the subject.“ She tugged the taffy box from his hands.  “Don’t you have any scruples?”
            “Now don’t go spitting smoke.  I was only going to eat one tiny, little piece.”
            She glowered at him.  “That is not what I meant, and you know it.  Lying to the child that way – ”
            ”What, you don’t think I have a bee sting?”
            She blinked, her reprimand faltering on her tongue.  It had never occurred to her that he really might.
            “Do you?”
            “Yes.”
            She wasn’t sure she liked the silky tone of his voice.  “Where?”
            “On my belly.”
            For the first time since arriving in the room, she noticed the wilted wildflower tucked into the belt loop of his denim work pants.  A bee sting in such a tender area probably throbbed worse than a sore tooth.
            She sighed.  Why hadn’t he said he was hurting in the first place?
            To her embarrassment, she realized he had.
            “I see.”  She cleared her throat.  “Very well.  Unbutton your shirt while I get the salve.”
            She stepped to the cabinet, flustered by self-recriminations.  She couldn’t have turned her back on him for more than half a minute.  When she turned with her jar of salve to face Wes again, he’d stripped off his vest and shirt.
            Her jaw dropped.
            The jar nearly did, too.
            Perfectly at ease in all his bare-chested glory, he settled back on the desk, every sinew rippling in shameless display.  She tried not to gawk, but it was impossible, given his striking virility.  Broad and brawny in the shoulders, lean and narrow in the hips, Wes had hidden a whole world of wonders beneath his faded cotton work shirt:  knotted biceps, corded forearms, and a rock-hard abdomen that would have taken a stinger of steel to scrape, much less to puncture.
            She swallowed, and he flashed a dazzling smile.
            “You don’t mind me unshucked, do you, ma’am?  I figured since you were a doctor’s wife and all, you grew kind of used to fixing up patients with their shirts off.”
            She clutched the jar like a lifeboat in a hurricane.
            “Er . . . no.”  Her voice sounded too high, and she felt her face flood with color.  “Of course not.”
            Think of him as Shae, she instructed herself.  You’ve massaged salve into Shae’s aching back a dozen times or more.
            She took a step closer, then forced herself to take another.  Wes began swinging his leg again, an incongruous combination of youthful exuberance and manly sensuality.  It drew her gaze to the thickened trunks of his thighs, which spread apart oh-so casually on a level with her warming womanhood.  The realization had a devastating effect on her pulse.
            “Where, uh, were you stung?” she asked.
            “Here.”  He touched a reddened spot a hairbreadth higher than his buckle.
            She nearly groaned aloud.  To treat his bee sting there, she’d have to walk right up to him and . . . and stand between his thighs!
            She glanced uncertainly at his face, which he’s smoothed into stoic lines.   She suspected his solemnity was a mask behind which he’d hidden a wealth of mirth, all at her expense.
            She, however, wasn’t about to let Wescott Rawlins see how much he could disturb her.  Drawing a bolstering breath, she marched with the jar of salve into the danger zone.  She tried to keep her eyes focused on her hands, which, she realized to her mounting frustration, were sticky-damp and shaking as she tried to turn the jar’s lid.
            “Need help?” he drawled.
            “I . . . uh, can manage.  Thank you.”
            She stole a glance upward – not at his eyes, for she wasn’t quite nervy enough for that – but at his chest.  Never in her life had she seen anything so perfect – until her furtive gaze was arrested by the jagged, circular scar on his left shoulder.  She caught her breath.  Another scar, not far below it and ominously close to his heart, looked much fresher.  She’d never seen a bullet hole, but she knew with gut-wrenching certainty that these were gunshot wounds.
            Her gaze flew to his.  “Wes, you could have been killed.”
            He stared into her eyes for what seemed like forever.  Only inches away, she could see all the shades of green in his gaze, from pine, to jade, to emerald, bursting outward in concentric circles from their pitch-black center.
            The dark core of his gaze mesmerized her.  It was the doorway to his secret self, a portal where shadows flitted past like phantoms fleeing the light.  She thought he might be hiding some secret he didn’t want her to know.  When his red-gold lashes fanned downward like a veil, intuition told her she’d touched Truth.
            “Naw.”  His voice was husky, low.  “No little bitty honeybee could send me to the boneyard.”
            He hadn’t come close to fooling her.  She knew that he knew it, too.
            “How did this happen?”  With a will all their own, her fingers touched that second bullet scar.  “This wound can’t be more than a year old.”
            “Eleven months,” he corrected her in a strangely hushed voice.  “I remember, because . . . “
            His voice trailed off.
            “Does it hurt to talk about it?” she asked gently.
            His heart jumped hard beneath her fingertips, its rhythm growing ragged.  “A little,” he admitted.
            His gaze moved beyond her, growing dark with some haunting memory.  “A man doesn’t forget being bushwhacked and left for buzzard bait.  Or lying helpless, unable to stop a blood feud from becoming a family massacre,” he added with uncharacteristic grimness.
            She swallowed, too shaken by his admission to press him further. 
            Silence wrapped around them.  He spared her the gruesome details of the nightmare he’d lived through, and yet his refusal to share more of the tale and let her ease his hurt made her feel strangely shut out and alone.
            "Wes, don't take such risks anymore." The words blazed a path from her heart to her tongue; she couldn't have stopped them if she’d tried. "You’re too young – “
                        “I’m not that young.”
            She caught her breath.  His voice held a razor-keen edge, a stab of warning so sharp, one might have thought she’d challenged him.
            “I’m sorry.  I meant no offense.”
            She retreated a step, retrieving her hand.  But when she reached again for the jar’s lid, he caught her fingers.  His haunted expression was receding, leaving in its place something just as unnerving.  Those forest-green depths gleamed now with a primal intensity, one that he couldn’t entirely hide behind his fallen-angel’s smile.
            “I like when you touch me,” he said, his voice deep and rumbly.
            He raised her hand to his lips, and her pulse leaped.  She was so disconcerted by the moist connection of his flesh tasting hers, that for a moment, she couldn’t breathe.  She couldn’t think.  He raised her hand higher, pressing a damp kiss into her palm, and her knees went dangerously weak.
            “Wes,” she protested feebly.
            He wouldn’t release her hand, though, or free her from the smoky promise in his eyes.  Turning her arm over, he applied gentle pressure to her palm with his thumb.  The tip of his mustache, so provocatively soft, followed the sinfully
wet brush of his tongue across her knuckles.  She’d had no idea that goose bumps could make one feel so giddy.
            “Wes, please,” she whispered.  “It’s not proper.”
            He pressed her now moist and trembling hand against the hard, fierce beating of his heart.  “You mean ‘cause I’m so young?”
            The earthy cadence of his murmur gusted fresh shivers down her spine.  She was no blushing innocent, and yet this man – dare she say this young man? – had made her feel like a maid.  She suspected he’d done so on purpose.  She also suspected he’d gotten a ripsnorting thrill out of making a barren spinster randy.
            She flinched at the thought.
            “Are you quite finished?” she demanded, snatching her hand away.
            He arched his eyebrows, looking for all the world as if her outrage surprised him.  “Well, that depends.  Are you going to touch me again?”
            She nearly choked.  She had started the whole thing, and there was no canyon on earth that was deep enough to hide her from the light of knowing in those foxy eyes.
            “Do you, or do you not, want salve for that bee sting?”
            “Hmm.  As I recollect, my Aunt Lally used to suck the stinger out when I was a boy.  Me being so young and all, you might want to try that first.”
            “I think not!”
            “Then I guess I’ll settle for the salve.”
            He looked inordinately amused and much too smug for her peace of mind.
            “Here.”  She thrust the jar into his hand.  “You can salve the sting yourself.”
            “But from way up here, I can’t tell if there’s a stinger,” he pointed out affably.  “You aren’t going to leave me with a stinger in my belly, are you?”
            She ground her teeth.  He did have a point.
            “Very well.  I’ll look for a stinger.”
            “You won’t have to look far.”
            Heat coiled through her insides at his innuendo.  “Kindly behave yourself.”
            “I’m trying, ma’am, but you make it so consarned hard for a man.”
            With a wariness she usually reserved for coiled rattlers, Rorie dragged her gaze to the flesh in question.  Red and swollen, the bee sting lay well below her line of vision, and she realized that glancing at him simply would not be enough.  She would have to move closer, stoop, or worse, kneel between his thighs to bring her eyes close enough for her inspection.  There was no way on God’s green earth that she could accomplish her task by keeping her face a respectable distance from his crotch.
            “Something wrong?” he asked.
            She didn’t have to see his face to know he was smirking.
            “No.”  She silently vowed if she found more than one stinger thrusting out of his nether region, she’d make him wish that honeybee had sent him to the graveyard.
            Knotting her hands in her skirts, she mustered her courage and did the unthinkable: she lowered her head between his thighs.  As hard as she tried at such proximity, it was impossible to keep his fly out of her field of vision.  An unsettling mixture of relief and disappointment washed over her when she spied no evidence of a straining, robust bulge.
            “See anything?” he asked.
            “Not yet,” she admitted, turning scarlet when she realized where her eyes and thoughts had strayed.
            “Maybe it would help if I loosen this – “
            He was reaching for his buckle, and she grabbed his hand, straightening so fast, she nearly butted her head against his chin.
            “Don’t you dare!”
            His deep, rich laughter was intoxicating.  “Aw, Rorie.  I don’t bite.”
            She heated like a furnace.  “You . . . you take far too many liberties, sir.”
            “Me?”  His voice lowered to an intimate murmur.  “But you’re the one touching me.”
            She glanced down and realized, to her utter mortification, that he was right. How her left hand had found a resting place on his thigh was a thorough mystery to her.  She jerked it away, then next tried removing her right hand from his neatly turned grasp, but he held on, making her feel like a mouse to his cat.
            ”You’re enjoying this entirely too much,” she accused.
            “Aren’t you?”
            “No, I most certainly am not!”
            “Oh.  My mistake.”
            His thumb was stroking her palm.  It was the barest whisper of flesh against flesh, yet his touch shot confused signals through her body.  Her insides shivered while her skin burned.
            “You are no gentleman,” she said hoarsely.  “If you were, you wouldn’t be touching me so.”
            “You mean a gentleman wouldn’t hold a lady’s hand?”  His eyelids drooped, hooding the stare that she felt like a hunger on her lips.  “Or give it a little kiss?”
            “Y-yes.”
            “Being a gentleman doesn’t sound like very much fun.”
            She gulped a breath.  He’d finally freed her – which was precisely what she’d wanted, she reminded herself.
            Mustering her wits, she prepared to make a hasty retreat.  Unfortunately, her feet had tangled in his discarded vest and shirt.  When she tried to turn, she staggered.
            It all happened so fast.  One moment, she was making a beeline for safety; the next, she was flailing, grasping at anything to keep from falling.  His neck proved the handiest anchor.  Her breasts collided with his chest, and the air whooshed out of her lungs at the stunning feel of hard, male musculature.
In that heartbeat, with her face so close to is, she could see surprise flare in his eyes. 
            Then something very different, something primal and male, blazed to life in the depths of his gaze.  She sank a fraction lower as his arms and legs cradled her, leaving little doubt in her mind that she’d had a stirring effect on him, too. 
The gentle ridge of his manhood pressed against her woman’s flesh, leaving her hot and shaken, scandalized and exhilarated.  His lashes swept down to hide the appetite lurking in his eyes.  She had little time to form a coherent thought other than the nerve-jangling, pulse-firing realization that her lips were mere inches from his own. . .
            “Oh, geez.”  The boyish voice, which and come from the doorway, was filled with childish disgust.  “You two aren’t going to smooch, are you?”
            In that instant, Rorie would have preferred facing a thousand raging honeybees than watching her four orphan children swarm into the room with their bright and curious eyes.
            “Not now, I reckon,” Wes answered dryly and released her.

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