I love romance. That’s probably why I write it. I love that feeling you get when you meet someone special. The feeling of falling in love—the instant attraction, the excitement, the mating dance, the first time you realize that this one is not like the others. Since I’ve been happily married for twenty-four years, the only way I get to have that experience over and over and over again is to write about it.
When I wrote HAD TO BE YOU, I was shocked. I put Rocki and Slater on the same page and there were fireworks that could rival Fourth of July over The New York Harbor. They have an instant attraction that’s a once in a lifetime thing and it scared the heck out of both of them.
Rocki O’Sullivan stood center of the stage belting out one of her favorite Kirsty MacColl songs—a little bit Latin, a little bit sexy, and a whole lot funny. She’d chosen her dress carefully, with this song in mind. Short, sassy, and comfortable—the perfect combination for making a man wonder how long it would take to get her out of it. It worked perfectly paired with her favorite pumps, mirror platforms that picked up the cobalt blue of the shoe and added a good five inches to her already long legs. The kind of shoes that made a man think twice about taking them off before carrying a woman to bed.
And putting thoughts in men’s heads was one of the reasons Rocki chose most of her shoes—that and she was a total shoe whore.
The electric buzz of eyes on her was normally something she relished. But tonight something, someone, had set off her heat sensor. Rocki scanned the crowd and her gaze landed on a man who threw her so far off her game, she missed the chorus. She never forgot the words. Thank God Tessa, Mark, and Kirby were singing backup and covering her ass.
Whoever he was, he seemed to have an invisible barrier around him. No one stepped into his space. He stood still, a bottle of beer in one hand, the other hooked into a belt loop.
He wore a kick-ass black leather biker jacket, scuffed black boots that’d been driven hard miles, and his long legs were tucked into tight black jeans that seemed as if they’d been tailor made to cup all his intriguing parts.
An image of him straddling a hot bike flashed through her mind. He was tall—really tall with curly chestnut brown hair that looked as if it was absentmindedly tucked behind his ears. It was too long to be respectable—but then respectability was way overrated to Rocki’s mind. On any other man the curls, which were big enough to slide three fingers through and probably hung like ringlets when wet, would look feminine, but on this guy there was no hint of softness.
He filled out his Under Armour turtleneck like a superhero might—pecs and abs clearly defined against the hot lights that hit him, his muscles delineating the shadows and highlighting a bulge that made her mouth water.
Rocki had always liked men and was well aware that they liked her right back, but she’d never had one look at her quite the way he did. His eyes flared with so much heat that she wouldn’t need a tanning booth if she were naked.
Mark nudged her, bringing her mind back to the song.
She sang to the bad boy as if he were the only man in the room.
He didn’t move to the music. He didn’t move a muscle. The only thing that moved were his eyes. His gaze scanned her body, trailing heat from the tips of her toes to her tits.
It was a little disconcerting. She was used to guys checking her out, but no one had ever looked at her with such intensity that it was all she could do to get through the song without forgetting the words.
She checked the playlist taped to the floor. The song she’d just finished was about being propositioned by several different men, and the next was no better. When she sang about watching a man shower, it was him she envisioned. When she sang about picturing her telephone number, his brow rose in question. Oh my god. This guy was good and so hot that even though she never dated, she’d date him in a Brooklyn minute.
She was relieved to get back behind her trusty piano for the next song—of course it was about telling a man that if he wanted her, where exactly he could find her. She never realized before that the entire playlist was a come-on of ginormous proportions.
She looked up from the piano and saw that he’d moved right into her line of vision. She sang about wondering about him—all kinds of questions ran through her head about the man who could carry on a conversation with a quirk of his lips, the rise of a brow, and the way his Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed.
Wendy, a cocktail server, stopped to ask for his order, and it didn’t look as if he’d even heard her. He never took his eyes off Rocki and she wasn’t able to look away except to check the playlist.
After remembering the next song, she wondered if it had been too long since she’d dated. She flirted a lot, but she made it a point to always go home alone. Still, when looking at the playlist with a critical eye, she had to admit it looked as if it were written by a horny woman. It was too late to do anything to change it. Mark was already tuning his guitar to go into the next song. The lyrics of which practically begged a man to take care of her in all ways possible.
Rocki’s face heated as she sang about being full of desire—which she was, but damn, she certainly didn’t want to give Mr. Rough-and-Ready the wrong impression. She needed to get off the stage and find out who this guy was.
She signaled the band to play one more song before they took a break. Mark drew a question mark with his guitar head and she answered it with a shrug. Just great. The next song was Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.” She threw herself into the intro and closed her eyes, blocking him out while she sang, only to imagine him lying naked and tangled in the sheets.
Rocki finished the song and didn’t take her fingers off the piano keys until quiet filled the bar. “I’m Rocki O’Sullivan and we’re Nite Watch. We’ll be back.” She was just glad Pete wasn’t sitting at the bar keeping track of her breaks.
The rest of the band lit off the stage and one of the bartenders switched on the music.
Rocki took a fortifying breath—she couldn’t sit there hiding behind her piano forever. When she got the courage to look, the guy had disappeared. It was probably for the best. She rose, grabbed her water for a refill, and went down the steps—there was no jumping off the stage in her heels. When she hit the floor, an arm reached out from the hallway to the left and gently pulled her in. She should have felt threatened, but she didn’t.
“Looking for someone?” His deep voice was as soft and smooth as top-shelf whiskey.
Her eyes rose and met his. Damn, he was a big one. In her heels she was pushing six feet two and he had at least a couple of inches on her. He looked as broad as he was tall. Solid. Hard. Dangerous—with a twist of naughty. The naughty part came on loud and strong in the quirk of his full lips. Lips a girl could sigh over and wish she had a matching pair. On anyone else they’d look girly—but on him, like a beautiful red apple, they just made her want to take a bite.
“I wasn’t looking for anyone. But it looks as if you are.” He stood so close she caught a whiff of the sea on him mixed with leather and yummy man. He didn’t wear aftershave but that only made her want to stand closer and drink in his scent.
He leaned against the wall and looked her up and down, just like he had while she was onstage. His gaze lit her up like a sparkler on the top of a cake and she was dessert. No one had ever done that to her and she wasn’t sure she liked it.
“I wasn’t looking for anyone either—then I saw you.”
The you came out on a purr and she felt the rumble in her chest. “Is that a good thing?”
“You tell me.”
Rocki wasn’t the nervous type, but this man looked at her in a way that set her hormones jumping, her heart pounding, and made her wonder if he had x-ray vision. She thanked the gods she wasn’t wearing granny panties. His intense scrutiny had her trying to cover herself even though she was fully clothed. “I think it’s too early to tell but it has definite possibilities.”
Let’s face it, by the time you’re in your mid to late 20’s, you know the difference between the I-like-the-way-you-look attraction and a life-changing, need-you-more-than-my-next-breath attraction. Unfortunately, in life and in fiction, the characters don’t get to pick out the timing of finding ‘The One’ and for both Rocki and Slater, the timing couldn’t be worse. Neither of them are looking for a happily ever after. Good thing for us, they’re both on a collision course with destiny and destiny is a hard thing to deny—especially since they have family and friends who would like nothing more than to watch the fireworks.
Francis wrapped his arm around his wife. “Now, Patrice, keep your nose out of his business.”
Patrice waved away her husband’s warning. “What? So I want my friends to enjoy themselves. They’re both single adults and they’re both not looking for”—she held her fingers up to make air quotes—“complications. I think they’d be perfect for each other. Temporarily, that is, and from the sparks shooting between them while they were tucked into this booth earlier, they’re not going to be able to stay out of each other’s pants for long anyway.”
Patrice slid out of the booth pulling Frankie along with her. “You know what I always say, if you can’t beat them, you might as well just cheer them on. It’s like rooting for the Cubs—you know it’s not going to end well, but it’s always fun to watch.”
HAD TO BE YOU was definitely the hardest book I’ve ever written and the one I’m most proud of. Both Rocki and Slater have to overcome tragedies of their past both remembered and repressed, while dealing with all the problems and incredible gifts that life hands out. Together they prove that as long as you have love, no matter how tragic their pasts were; their past doesn’t dictate their future.