by Tracy Cooper-Posey, guest blogger and author of Betting with Lucifer.
I’ve been touring Betting With Lucifer around a few stops now, and a lot of the feedback I’ve been getting is that it’s a great “old fashioned romance” where the characters really get to know each other as they fall in love and commit to a life together.
Which is lovely and flattering and all (and you should see the reviews!), but I’m really not leading off with this in order to rave about my book. I’m trying to make a point.
What are all the other romances doing, if their characters are not really getting to know each other as they fall in love and commit to a live together as well?
Are we all as romance readers getting so used to erotic romance and fast-paced, hip, sexy romances where the hero and heroine see each other and pow! -- instant lust and hot hard sexual tension that has the pages turning (nothing wrong with it – love the stuff myself), that we’ve lost track of the relationship stuff in the meantime? Have hormones replaced heartache in the modern romance?
You may not be aware of this, but I met my husband via the Internet. We courted on-line for eight months before I committed to moving from Australia to Canada to be with him. That was eight months of emails and phone calls when hormones and sex couldn’t get in the way (much!). Eight months of pure relationship establishment. I’m not saying that our relationship is any stronger or weaker than any other marriage, but I am absolutely saying that we have a foundation that will survive anything. We can work out anything. I know we can. We’ll have our problems. Any relationship will, as it endures, but we didn’t start off on the wrong foot. We’ve both admitted that had we met as strangers at a party, we probably wouldn’t have connected because we’re not the people we normally gravitated towards in those days. But we have a relationship now, so all bets are off. And we’ve survived fourteen years already.
So while the modern romance is all hip and sexy and wonderful – hell, I’m writing enough of them myself – and everyone is gobbling them up, I have to wonder...what are we teaching the up and coming generation about love and romance? Are we teaching them that this is what love is all about? Sex and lust and gotta-have-you-now? (Along with love-is-sparkly-vampires.) Because there aren’t too many old-fashioned romance books out there anymore with 100-proof romantic conflict in them anymore, if I’m to judge from the feedback I’ve been getting.
And if that is the lesson the next generation learns, is that part of the reason for the horrendous divorce rate the western world is observing these days? Because there isn’t any manuals out there teaching kids what love means. The romance genre really is the go-to-guy, whether we like it or not.
Lyndsay is determined to outshine the memory of her mother's illustrious career. As head of the marketing department of the exclusive Freeman Hotel, high up in the rarefied mountain air of northern Washington, she grapples with her rival -- the charming newcomer, Lucifer Furey Pierse.
No one knows much about Luke except that he could turn a murder into a side-splitting comedy routine, and that he has an eye for women, including an inexplicable attraction for the prickly, definitely not-interested Lyndsay.
It starts with a bet that goes horribly wrong. If Lyndsay wins the bet, then Luke leaves town—forever. If Luke wins the bet, he gets a date with Lyndsay. But when Luke wins the bet and Lyndsay is forced to pay the price, she learns more about Lucifer Furey Pierse than she thought existed...and the process of discovery for both of them becomes a bitter-sweet journey through their personal histories as they learn why they are the people they have become.
Then life hands them an unexpected twist that they must deal with...one that tests both of them to the limit.
Lyndsay heard the tap on her office door and Luke’s muffled “’Night, boss,” exactly thirty seconds past five. The same time as last night and every night since Luke had begun working here.
Tonight it completely blew her concentration. She threw the pen down.
Damn. A date, for heaven’s sake! Of all the things he might have laid on the line—vacations, time off, cash bonuses, a promotion, title—he’d held out for a date.
A date! The word left a sour taste in her mouth.
With brisk determination, she began tidying her files again, trying to realign her focus and bring it back to the work at hand. She had been spending more time than she could afford this afternoon wondering what on earth had motivated Luke to settle for a date. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she became that his sole motive was to humiliate her.
First, winning the bet—if he won the bet and that wasn’t a sure thing at all—if he won the bet, Lyndsay would die of mortification and he knew it. Having to humiliate herself by going through the motions of a date with Luke would just be rubbing salt in the wound.
She looked down at the paperwork she was supposed to be completing and grimaced. There was no way she was going to be able to finish it tonight. She might as well quit now, than waste the rest of the evening trying to get it done.
The worst of it was, this stuff didn’t come naturally to her. She knew she wasn’t going to be able to dash it off if she wasn’t mentally wide awake.
She gathered up the files, shoved them in her briefcase and snapped it shut. Maybe she could go home and work there. Perhaps a shower, dinner and talk with her father would put her in a more appropriate mood for work.
At the very least, at home she would not be on tenterhooks, waiting for Luke to interrupt her whenever he chose to. She might be able to put the horrid afternoon out of her mind. Just being able to forget about the bet would help.
She locked the office door and went to find Timothy. He almost looked startled when he saw the briefcase in her hand but his unflappable expression returned instantly.
“You have an appointment?”
“Did you make me any you haven’t told me about?”
“You’re going home?”
“Yes Timothy, I’m going home.”
He smiled. “Luke got under your skin, didn’t he?”
Lyndsay tried very hard to hide her surprise. “The only way Luke Pierse is ever going to get under my skin is if he turns into a tick. In which case, I’ll burn his tail off for him.”
Timothy’s smile widened. “You’d enjoy it too, I bet.”
“Speaking of bets…” Alexander stepped into the office, carrying a little notebook and pencil.
“No, we are not speaking of bets. Now, or for the next week,” Lyndsay said firmly, feeling her anger stir yet again.
Alexander hesitated, his dark face drooping almost comically.
“I mean it,” Lyndsay insisted. “I’m not turning the winning of a lucrative account into some kind of nine-day wonder.”
“You don’t call combining Lyndsay Eden and dates a nine-day wonder?” Timothy asked.
She swiveled to look at him, feeling a touch of surprise. “Since when did you sell out on me, Tim?”
“When was the last time you had a date?” he shot back.
“I’ve had plenty of dates!”
“When was the last one?” he pressed.
“I don’t keep statistics.” She could feel her indignation growing. Why was Timothy doing this? “Except, maybe, the size and capacity of my assistant’s brain.”
“I can tell you to the day when your last date was.”
“I also keep odds on how long my assistant is going to keep his job.” She clenched her teeth before hotter words tumbled out.
“Ten months and three days,” Tim supplied.
“Wow!” Alexander breathed, his notebook lowering.
“You can go home now,” she snapped at him.
“Right,” he agreed, hurrying out.
“I should can your butt,” she told Timothy.
“You won’t fire me.” He was serene.
“Give me one good reason.”
“Because you like having someone around who tells you the truth. Warts and all.”
That damped her anger. Instantly. Because it was true. She took a few breaths, letting the anger dissipate. “And you’re the only truth-teller around who has an invisible asbestos suit. I’m sorry.”
“Agh!” He waved his hand, his awkwardness with sentiment making his face flush. “I grew the suit after twenty years of living next door to you.”
“Thanks,” she said, simply.
He shrugged. “But I meant what I said. A date might do you good.”
“With Luke Pierse? You know he does nothing but make me spit with anger.”
She shook her head. She didn’t get it. “Well…”
“Go home,” he told her.
She made her way to the elevator and the last vestiges of anger stirred back into instant, blazing life, for Luke was standing there with the general manager, Vince Gormley. Worse, their head were together. As she approached, they both started laughing, throwing their heads back.
Good ol’ boys.
Lyndsay gritted her teeth. Even though she reported directly to Vince, she knew she had never really been fully accepted by him and largely it was because of her lack of this intangible ability to mix and mingle. Luke had it in buckets, damn his eyes. He and Vince got along like father and son and every time Lyndsay saw them together her stomach would clench.
She pushed away the tendrils of alarm creeping through her. Just because she wasn’t into backslapping and golf, it didn’t mean she would lose her job. She was one of the best promotions managers the hotel had ever had. Almost as good as her mother had been.
It was the “almost” that made her heart sink when she saw Luke and Vince together. In the back of her mind, never quite articulated even in her thoughts, was the knowledge that her mother would have been in there mixing it, slapping her thigh right along with them, fully accepted as one of the boys.
Lyndsay marched up to the elevator control panel and prodded the button with energy. Luke continued to talk and Vince to listen with rapt attention, a smile lingering, his eyes twinkling with merriment.
“The judges declared that the packaging had to be green and the meat to be fresh. Frozen wouldn’t do. Well, Aunt Mary had won the scavenger hunt for the last twenty-five years and wasn’t about to go down for an upstart who had been in the neighborhood for only twelve years. Her pride was on the line.”
Another one of Luke’s mad relative tales, Lyndsay realized. None of them were true, of course. They were too ridiculous to be true.
“So what did she do?” Vince asked.
“Okay. The supermarket was closed and she knew there wasn’t any meat packaged in green to be had anyway. What company is going to package meat with a green label? It’s too bizarre, makes the meat look rotten before its time. So she sat down, had a long, hard think about it.”
“And?” Vince asked, echoing Lyndsay’s thoughts.
“So she stripped naked, tore holes in the bottom of a green garbage bag and wore it like a dress. Walked right on up to the judges. ‘Meat on the hoof’, she called herself and declared they couldn’t get fresher if they went to the abattoirs.”
“No!” Vince began to laugh, a helpless chuckle that swiftly grew to a loud bellow.
“Did she win?” Lyndsay asked, lifting her voice above the laughter.
At that moment, the elevator arrived, announcing itself with a loud chime. And at the same moment, Vince got control of himself and stopped laughing.
Luke turned his head to look at her, as total silence fell. His dark eyes narrowed a little. The effect was too eerily like she had interrupted him and her question was unwelcome.
The elevator doors slid open behind her.
Damn, she thought. She’d got sucked up into his tales yet again. “Never mind,” she muttered and scurried into the elevator.
Vince stuck out his hand toward Luke. “Anyway, Luke, have a good evening. I’ll see you on Thursday, okay? Ten o’clock, remember!”
Lyndsay hit the lobby button with a vicious jab, hoping the doors would slide shut before Luke could disentangle himself from Vince’s farewell. Miraculously the doors began to slide shut. At the last minute, Luke’s shirt-sleeved arm chopped down between the closing doors and they bounced harmlessly back again.
He stepped into the lift and shot a glance at Lyndsay.
She sighed. Well, it was only ten floors. It wouldn’t kill her to share an elevator with him for ten floors.
But her heart was racing along unhappily.
She remained silent, hoping Luke would take the hint.
“She won,” he said quietly.
“My aunt. She won.”
“How nice for her.”
Eight…seven…come on, Lyndsay mentally encouraged the creeping light.
“This bet is bothering you, isn’t it?”
“The bet?” she inquired airily. “Not at all.”
“That’s why you’re going home early. You’re worried you might lose, after all.”
Worried? She spun to face him. “You’d be the last person I’d tell if I were worried!”
His hand hit the panel of lights, slamming down over the emergency stop button.
“That’s exactly what the bet is about,” he said, his voice flat, forceful.
She looked at the panel with the bright red LED display flashing its alarm. “What are you doing?” she demanded. “You can’t just halt an elevator like that. They’ll penalize you, or charge you or something. I don’t know what the penalty is for unlawfully halting an elevator but if it’s anything like stopping a train—”
“Just shut up for one minute, will you?” he said quickly, as she paused for breath.
She shut up. It was something in his eyes, rather than his words, that made her fall silent. His eyes in the dimly lit elevator car were almost obsidian black and the thick, deeply dark brown weight of his hair fell over his forehead, shadowing the eyes even more. There was something in his face… She groped to define the subtle expression and could feel a growing frustration. Other people would be able to name it instantly, would understand that strange light straight away.
“You have no idea why I bet what I did and it’s chewing you up,” he said, his voice very quiet.
“Aren’t you at all worried that you might lose?” she asked. “That you might have to leave Deerfoot Falls?”
He smiled a little. “I’ve been kicked out of bigger and better places than this one. And you’re changing subjects on me. Not this time, Lyndsay.” He stepped closer to her and suddenly the sides of the car seemed to close in around her. Too small. Much too small a space to house her and Luke at the same time.
She almost gasped.
“Have you ever wondered what it might be like to kiss me?” he asked softly.
She stared at him, flummoxed. Had she really heard him say what she thought he’d said?
“I-I… What?” She blinked at him. Out of left field. Out of a blue sky. “What on Earth…?”
He smiled and it seemed to her that the smile was bitter. “I guess I have my answer,” he said, reaching for the small button that would restart the elevator’s descent.
Lyndsay kept very still as the elevator started up and slid down to the lobby level. She kept her eyes on the display, afraid to look around.
Her heart was racing as if she’d run a mad hundred yard sprint and her mind was churning with bewilderment. What was going on? She didn’t understand it at all. It was as if that one glimpse into Luke’s eyes, the small, singular note of bitterness, had opened up a whole new facet to Luke…and she wasn’t sure she wanted it opened.
The doors slid open, revealing the pink-marbled, gold-and-crystal-enhanced lobby and a swell of pride lifted her heart a little. The Derwent was a classy hotel, no doubt of it. Small enough to be intimate, large enough to be sophisticated.
She was about to step out when Luke’s arm came across the opening, jamming the doors back with the flat of his palm and blocking her way. He looked at her, lowering his chin a little to do so.
“You know, when I first arrived here, I was a little bit intimidated, a little in awe of your unrelenting dedication to your career. I’ve never met anyone quite like you before. But after a couple of weeks, I began to wonder when you were going to stop for breath. I started watching for it. I figured sooner or later you’d have to come up for air. But you didn’t.”
Lyndsay bit her lip. “You don’t understand—”
“No, I don’t. I don’t even admire it any more, Lyndsay. After six months of waiting for you to fall off the pedestal, I started getting really uneasy. Now, when it comes right down to it, mostly what I feel when I watch you doing your thing is…” He paused and she saw him draw breath. “I pity you.” His voice was very low.
He let the doors go and stepped out.
Lyndsay stepped out behind him and watched him walk across the rugs and marble to the bank of glass doors leading onto Queen Street, sliding into his jacket as he went.
She didn’t know whether she should be angry or upset. Neither seemed to fit with the churning inside her. Luke’s words had been mild but his attitude, the quiet depth of feeling behind the simple words had stirred up a huge, hard ball of reaction that she had no idea how to start dissolving.
He patently disapproved of her—that much was clear.
Well, she didn’t like him much, either.
So why did his disapproval strike so deeply, then?
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