I’ve been writing romance for twenty-two years. That’s romance with a capital R for the Harlequin series that began it all.
I’ve loved every minute of it and I’ve two Ritas®, a RoNA Rose and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times BOOKclub – and more nominations than I can count – to prove that my readers loved them too.
While some of the books have been genuinely traditional romance, the fun with Harlequin Romance is that I’ve never felt confined by the genre. I’ve always pushed the envelope, adding the odd ghost, writing in the first person and taking the sensuality to the absolute limits – ie, the point where my editor shouts “Cut!”
Then I was invited to write for a new series that last year was launched in the US as KISS. The original idea was to cross the genres, including books that were hot and books that just sizzled – but all of them with a vibrant, modern, voice. Sadly, this just confused the readers who expect a series to deliver one kind of book. At that point I had a decision to make – return to Harlequin Romance, or turn up the heat.
Readers, I turned up the heat and For His Eyes Only is the result.
Here’s the moment that Tash and Darius first meet—
Had some ghastly mistake slipped past them both? It happened, but this was an expensive full page colour ad, and she’d gone over the proof with a fine tooth comb. Confident that nothing could have gone wrong, she read out her carefully composed copy.
‘“A substantial seventeenth century manor house in a sought after location on the Berkshire Downs within easy reach of motorway links to London, the Midlands and the West. That’s the good news. The bad news...”’ She faltered. Bad news? What the…?
‘Don’t stop now.’
The words were spoken with a clear, crisp, don’t-argue-with-me certainty, but not by her boss and she spun around as the owner of the voice rose from the high-backed leather armchair set in front of Miles Morgan’s desk and turned to face her
Her first impression was of darkness. Dark hair, dark clothes, dark eyes in a mesmerising face that missed beauty by a hair’s breadth, although a smile might have done the business.
The second was of strength. There was no bulk, but his shoulders were wide beneath a crumpled linen jacket so old that the black had faded to grey, his abdomen slate-flat under a t-shirt that hung loosely over narrow hips.
His hand was resting on the back of the chair, long calloused fingers curled over the leather. They were the kind of fingers that she could imagine doing unspeakable things to her. Was imagining…
She looked up and met eyes that seemed to penetrate every crevice, every pore and a hot blush, beginning somewhere low in her belly spread like wildfire in every direction—
Miles’ sharp interjection jolted her back to the page but it was a moment before she could catch her breath, gather her wits and focus on the words dancing in front of her.
“…the bad news is the wet rot, woodworm, crumbling plasterwork and leaking roof. The vendor would, no doubt, have preferred to demolish the house and redevelop the land, but it’s a Grade II listed building in the heart of the Green Belt so he’s stuffed. There is a fine oak Tudor staircase but bearing in mind the earlier reference to wet rot and woodworm, an early viewing is advised if you want to see the upper floors.”
Her heart still pounding with the shock of a sexual attraction so powerful that she was trembling, she had to read it twice before it sank in. And when they did her pulse was still in a sorry state.
‘I don’t understand,’ she said then, realising how feeble that sounded, ‘How did this happen?’
Her question had been directed at Miles, but the response came from Mr Tall, Dark and Deadly. Who was he?
‘Hadley,’ he said, apparently reading her mind. Or maybe she’d asked the question out loud. She needed to get a grip. She needed an ice bath…
She cleared her throat. ‘Hadley?’ His name still emerged as if spoken by a surprised frog, but that wasn’t simply because all her blood had apparently drained from her brain to the more excitable parts of her anatomy. The house was unoccupied and the sale was being handled by the estate’s executors and since no one had mentioned a real life, flesh and blood Hadley, she’d assumed the line had run dry.
‘Darius Hadley,’ he elaborated, clearly picking up on her doubt.
In her career she’d worked with everyone from young first time buyers scraping together a deposit, to billionaires investing in London apartments and town houses costing millions. She knew that appearances could be deceptive but Darius Hadley did not have the look of a man whose family had been living in the Chase since the seventeenth century, when a grateful Charles II had given the estate to one James Hadley, a rich merchant who’d funded him in exile.
With the glint of a single gold earring amongst the mass of black curls tumbling over his collar, the crumpled linen jacket faded from black to grey, jeans worn threadbare at the knees, he looked more like a gypsy, or a pirate. Perhaps that’s where the Hadley fortune had come from — plundering the Spanish Main with the likes of Drake.
For His Eyes Only is a March digital and LP paper release from KISS in the US, and paper and digital from Modern Tempted in the UK and Sexy in Australia.