Will they both allow resentments and misunderstanding spoil
their chance of discovering what was meant to be?
MEANT TO BE
Southern Heat #2
Releasing Sept 27th, 2016
Charming and sexy, detective Mitch McKenna lets women into his bed—not into his heart. When his first love left him in a lurch, crushing his soul, Mitch swore off relationships and love. After all, any woman who chooses what her parents want over what she wants is not worth fighting for.
Or is she?
Successful New York doctor, Sydney Preston left the only man she ever loved to follow the path that her parents paved for her. When a tragic incident at the hospital threatens her life, Sydney moves to Virginia to rekindle the spark with her ex-fiancé.
But Mitch isn’t interested in reigniting the flame that fizzled out long ago. Will they both allow resentments and misunderstanding spoil their chance of discovering what was meant to be?
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The warning grew more intense until Mitch couldn’t help but turn around and stare right into the beautiful hazel eyes of Sydney Preston.
His heart stuttered in his chest as a wave of conflicting emotions; anger, love, bitterness, joy crashed through him. His first instinct was to leave, which only pissed him off. He’d stared down insurgents in the Middle East. He could survive seeing Sydney Preston. Another, equally strong, part of him wanted to touch her, to hold her close and see if she felt as soft, smelled just as sweet as he remembered. But he wouldn’t succumb to her charm again. Like a steel gate, everything inside Mitch closed.
“Doctor Preston is our new OB/GYN from New York. She’s helping out at the free clinic, too. Doctor Preston, this is my husband, Kevin, and our friend Mitch McKenna. They’re Charlotte Tavern’s finest police detectives. But watch out for Mitch, he’s a real ladies’ man.”
The hazel eyes that had once captivated him flashed with surprise and maybe panic. But then it was gone, replaced by a blank smile.
“Hi.” He choked out the word, not wanting to appear rude. At the same time, he wasn’t going to go out of his way for a chummy reunion. She didn’t deserve his recognition, so he wasn’t going to give it.
Her head tilted to the side, and a slight smirk crossed her lips. “Actually, we’ve met.”
“Really?” Jenny’s voice suggested intrigue and delight at the prospect. “Where?”
“We went to college together.” Sydney held his gaze. If she wouldn’t flinch, neither would he.
“Oh, wow. Hey, maybe you know his old girlfriend. Poor Mitch lost his heart to her, and she crushed it like a bug.”
“Honey.” Kevin patted Jenny on the back, while casting Mitch an apologetic smile.
Mitch didn’t know if Kevin was intervening because he knew no man liked to have his emotional history laid out in public or if he recognized there was something more between Sydney and him. Probably both. Kevin was observant and insightful, which is what made him a skilled detective, one that Mitch was grateful to have as a partner.
“What?” Jenny blinked up at her husband.
“Yes, I knew her.” Sydney’s tone was matter-of-fact. Mitch’s eyes narrowed with scrutiny as he waited to see if she was going to admit to being the one who squashed his heart.
Jenny turned her attention back to Sydney. “Was she a real bitch? I heard she came from a rich family that didn’t like Mitch. But what’s not to like, right? I mean, he’s as yummy as cherry pie.”
“I thought that was me.” Kevin pouted.
“You’re peach pie, my favorite.” She smiled coyly at Kevin, who gave her wink. Mitch imagined there was a story there but blocked his brain from filling in the details of what it might be.
“Speaking of peach pie, why don’t we go to the cafeteria and get some,” Jenny suggested. “We can let Mitch and Doctor Preston get to know each other.”
“I don’t need to get to know Doctor Preston. I’m sure I’m not her type.” He knew the minute it was out of his mouth that Jenny would reprimand him.
“Why, Mitchell McKenna, your mother would light you up if she knew you were being so rude. I’m so sorry Doctor Preston—”
“It’s okay.” Sydney waved the comment away, much like she’d waved him away ten years earlier. “I have to check on Mrs. Warner anyway. You go enjoy your pie.”
She said it with such smoothness, it highlighted Mitch’s bad manners. But he didn’t care. Let Jenny and Kevin think he was a heel. He knew the truth and Doctor Preston knew the truth. She didn’t deserve his time or attention. Not anymore.
Sydney walked, back straight and chin up, until she turned the corner. Then she sagged against the wall, hoping her legs would still hold her upright. Her hand shook as lifted it to cover her thundering heart. Over the last ten years, she’d imagined what seeing him again would be like. But what actually happened had never been in any of the scenarios she’d considered. Not that she’d thought he’d take her in his arms, confess his undying love, and kiss her senseless as he used to do, although, admittedly, she’d always hoped that would be his response.
He was still ridiculously handsome with his bronze wavy hair and emerald eyes. But gone were the affable smile and charm, replaced by eyes that were as hard and cold as his welcome.
She hadn’t considered that he’d pretend to not know her. It showed just how deeply she’d hurt him. Even so, she wasn’t going to let him get away with it. She was in Charlotte Tavern for one reason only: to fix things with Mitch McKenna. Sure, they still might not have the future they’d once planned, but at least she would address the regret and hopefully make amends. Life, she’d recently learned, was too short to not live it to the fullest without guilt and unresolved issues.
“Are you okay, Doctor Preston?”
Sydney looked at the nurse approaching her.
“Yes, Meg. Just a little tired.”
“I have Mrs. Warner’s meds. I was just taking them to her.”
“Actually, I’m on my way to see her.” Sydney pushed off from against the wall, grateful for the distraction.
“She has such a cute baby.” Meg walked alongside Sydney. “Not all babies are cute.”
Sydney agreed, although she was surprised to hear Meg say it out loud. “No. But they’re all a gift.” A gift Sydney knew she’d never have.
What is the hardest part of your writing process?
My biggest challenge is that my first drafts are pretty weak and I worry I won’t be able to fix them. Especially in romances, the snap and crackle required between characters is usually nonexistent in my first draft. I’m also weak on descriptions (setting and facial). So during revision, I spend a lot of time going through my thesauruses to find the right words to express what I see in my head.
How do you develop your characters? Are any of them like you or people you know?
Like my weak scenes and descriptions in early drafts, my characters are often flat when I first start writing. They deepen during the writing process. That means, they’re not really based on anyone in particular. However, Tess Valentine in the Valentine mysteries likes old R&B music and chocolate, as do I. And she’s not very tall. Neither are two of the characters in the Southern Heat series. I’m not very tall either. Technically, I’m short.
You are both traditionally and self-published. How did you decide what route to take for your books?
For the most part, the decision to self-publish the Valentine Mysteries came from an inability to get an agent to take a chance on the concept. Several liked the first book, but pushed me to sell it as a stand-alone romance. I always knew I wanted to do a mystery series featuring a romantic couple. I knew I couldn’t be alone in that, but agents and publishers are sensitive to book stores, and no one felt it fit well into the mystery-lane, and romances don’t usually continue with the same couple. I’ve started to see some change in this, but at this point, with five books and a novella, and a sixth book in the conception stage, it will remain self-published.
For Southern Heat, a series of interesting events happened. The first was that I had this old romance sitting on my hard drive (it was so old it mentions dial-up Internet). I thought would be a fit for a Harlequin line, but at the time they only took snail-mailed manuscripts, so it sat. But then a few years ago, I noticed an online pitch contest with Harlequin Blaze and thought, what the heck, and entered. I won one of the five spots, which lead to a request for the first three chapters. The problem was, the book was far from done, so I spent the next few weeks getting it finished and revised. Harlequin then asked for the full manuscript, and then it sat for nearly two years. I finally got an agent, who was able to get a response (no), but she helped me beef up the story and sold it a few months later, as a series.
Both traditional and self-publishing have their positives and negatives. What many new authors don’t get is that it doesn’t matter what route you use, marketing is the key success in writing.
The Southern Heat series is a departure from your mysteries. What made you decide to write them?
The first book, Drawn to Her, I wrote so long ago, I’m not sure where the idea came from. When the Harlequin pitch contest came about, I decided to try and sell it. To be honest, I’m not much a contemporary romance reader. I usually prefer romantic mystery or suspense. So this series is quite an anomaly for me. When it became a three book deal, I already had ideas for the other two stories, one of which has a bit of suspense. Moving forward, my ideas are for the Valentines, a traditional cozy, and possibly a paranormal.
What authors or books do you enjoy reading?
I’m a huge J.D. Robb fan (married couple solving mysteries). I also like Sandra Brown and Linda Howard...mostly their older stuff, but I haven’t had a lot of time for pleasure reading, which is why I’m not caught up on new books. I like to listen to audio books when I run, and Linda Howard is good for that. Bella Andre’s Billionaire stories have been good in audiobook too.
What is next for your writing?
I just sent final copy edits back on Meant to Be, book two in the Southern Heat series and I hope to have book three, Wed to You, finished in the next couple of weeks (it’s due July 1). I’ve promised Valentine fans a new book this fall, so I’ll be working on the sixth full-length Valentine mystery. After that, I have a traditional cozy mystery I’ve already started that I plan to complete, and hope my agent will like enough to sell.
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