Interview with Melissa James ~~~ Tracey West, April 2004 ~~~
Melissa James is
an author who is known for her emotionally in-depth stories. An
author with Silhouette Intimate Moments at the present time, and
broadening her horizons soon, she is an author that I have come to
appreciate for her honest characters, intrigue, danger and pure
romance. It all began with Her Galahad, then there was
Who Do You Trust?, recently in January 2004, Can You Forget?
(which I hold extra special in my heart) was released. Soon to hit
the shelves is Dangerous Illusions and Cinderella’s Lucky
Ticket, which I have had the pleasure of reading and it is fun
and a tear-jerker as well. So, how did Melissa become an author?
Did she always have aspirations to do so? I asked her this and
Welcome to The Road to Romance Melissa!
Thanks, I’m very
happy to be asked!
TW – Who is
Melissa James? What should we know about the Mom, the wife, the
friend and the author?
(or Mum, as we say in Australia J) is a super-busy mother of three
of varying ages and all wanting a chauffeur…which kids don’t? I’m
very close to my kids, though, even to the teenager, and my husband
and I are still very happy after 20 years. As a friend I’m long-term
and loyal – can’t help it. My best friend Helen died 8 years ago and
I still miss her every day. My other closes friends, Olga, Maryanne,
Diane and Mika will tell you, I hang around and don’t give in – but,
um, I do tend to forget lunches and phone calls and other stuff,
like what day it is. I’ve certainly learned the power of an apology!
The author wishes she had more time to write – a few more hours each
day would be nice. But as an author, I guess I am what you’d call a
“take chances” person who doesn’t write to tradition. Even my
traditional stories are slightly off the wall, and definitely
different…J My senior editor at Silhouette Romance, Mavis Allen,
told me that my first SilRom, Cinderella’s Lucky Ticket,
is different to any SilRom she’s contracted – loopy and emotional at
once, and maybe it’s my Australian upbringing, too. I don’t know.
Maybe it’s just because I always was a bit loopy myself!
TW - What
inspired you to be an author Melissa? Is it something you always
wanted to do?
Um, no…all I
wanted to be as a kid was a nurse. And I did that, and loved it,
every second of it. But when I had my kids, I wanted to stay home
with them and not miss anything from shift-work, so my husband
suggested I write. He said it was a good way to use my (rampant)
imagination while home with the kids, so I did – and was soon
hooked. So I guess you’d say my husband is the cause of my
inflicting my ideas on the world – so if you don’t like my books,
blame him! For any hate mail, he can be reached care of –J
TW – What else
did you consider doing when you were growing up? Would you be doing
it today if you weren’t pursuing your writing career?
I’d still be
nursing, or finishing my History Degree at university. I adore any
era of history and love learning whatever I can. I still ache when I
go to a hospital, though. I loved nursing.
TW – Was it
difficult to get published? Was there ever a time when you wanted to
give up and try something else?
Give up? No. As
hard as all the rejections were (9 long years’ worth), I was a
writing addict – still am. And I was always lucky enough to get
editorial or contest interest whenever I was down and wondering if
I’d ever make it. And I’ve been blessed with a series of the world’s
best critique partners, all of whom I consider dear friends, even
those who’ve moved on.
TW – Your first
book among the Silhouette Intimate Moments line was Her Galahad
(Oct 2002), an emotionally gripping tale of betrayals,
self-discovery and the belief in love, was that the first book you
Actually, yes it
was! The original was called – um – The Color Of Love, I think…it
was sweet and easy and not a true romance at all. I didn’t know then
about tension and drama and inner conflict and all that stuff. I
wrote the original draft in 1991 and the final version was
contracted in 2000 as Dark Knight, under which title it won
the Romance Writers of New Zealand’s Clendon Award, which was the
vehicle to its sale (thank you, Barbara and Peter Clendon, for your
brainchild and your faith!).
TW – What was
the inspiration for Her Galahad?
course in Aboriginal History in 1999. I read about the Stolen
Generation, ‘half-caste’ children forcibly taken from their parents
and either illegally adopted out or sent to orphanages to become
Anglicized in culture. I was shocked at the extent to which the
governments of the day were willing to go to do this. Such as giving
the kids fake death certificates for their parents so they wouldn’t
return to their homes. Such as imprisoning the parents on fake
charges to get them out of the way. I had to write about it, using
all those ideas plus other truths that my abuse counselor mother
gave to me, to show just how life is for many who are perceived as
“different” in society – and the last documented case of this kind
was in 1987, so it wasn’t that long ago. It was surprising to me
that so many people who read the book commented “this could never
happen” or “unbelievable” or “orphan syndrome” etc, because it was
all true. I guess it’s a case of real life being stranger
than even my fiction! J
TW – Your 2nd
book was, Who Do You Trust? (Feb 2003). It was book one in
the Nighthawk series. This was another story full of emotion and
rekindling an old love, but packed full of suspense and danger as
well. Was it difficult to write about secret ops, organizations,
etc? Who are the Nighthawks?
are my own brainchild. I wanted to write about a group of spies who
weren’t so glamorous as James Bond, etc – no tuxedos, no serial
womanizing in million-dollar suites. I don’t know if real spies are
like that, but I doubt it. It’s long, hard, lonely work for many,
and the only accolades are silent. But the idea only came to me when
I saw a picture of a little girl standing crying by an open-pit mass
grave. I wanted to save that girl. Enter Mitch McCluskey, the RAAF
pilot who was once an orphan boy dumped on the church steps, who now
has a compelling need to save children in crisis. He was to be my
only Nighthawk hero, but my editor asked for more…J And the idea of
ex-Military spies working under the worst conditions for the sake of
peace, was born.
TW – The sequel
to Who Do You Trust?, book two of the Nighthawks series,
Can You Forget?, was just released in January 2004. What can
you tell the readers about this book?
This is a book
dear to me. Tal O’Rierdan is a Nighthawk (former Navy) doctor
injured in the line of duty, who believes his chance of love and
marriage and normality is over, thanks to a scarred face and
blown-apart leg. He definitely believes his last Nighthawk mission
is over…until the head of the Nighthawks in the South Pacific, Nick
Anson, sends him the one person he can’t resist. Mary-Anne Poole,
aka famous singer-songwriter Verity West, and fellow Nighthawk, is
Tal’s childhood love, and recruited only for her past with Tal, has
to talk Tal into a very special mission: after a whirlwind
courtship, marry her and under the guise of a Mediterranean
honeymoon, infiltrate the castila of arms and drugs dealer, Robert
Falcone, and bring him down – along with the man hiding out there,
the man who destroyed Tal’s face. Tal takes on the mission – he
can’t resist – but thinks nothing can happen between them…until his
vivid, passionate Mary-Anne teaches him otherwise…J
TW – Were you
surprised when Can You Forget?, received Top Pick from
Romantic Times Magazine?
Shocked is more like it! My first two books got such lukewarm
reviews I got used to it. I guess the new Romantic Times reviewer
likes my “take no prisoners” style of writing…J And yeah, I was a
bit teary too – but more so this time, when I heard that
Dangerous Illusion also got Top Pick. I never, in my wildest
dreams, expected that honor twice! I was very touched – and did a
few Snoopy dances, too! J
TW – Your next
release is in April 2004, book 3 of the Nighthawk series,
Dangerous Illusion. What can you tell us about this book? Who
is the hero/heroine? Are they characters we have met before?
Beth Silver is a
new character (though mentioned in Can You Forget?).
Brendan McCall is “Flipper” in Can You Forget? and
Who Do You Trust? He’s only mentioned briefly at first,
but is shown with more depth in Can You Forget? as a Team
Commander and a former Navy SEAL. Beth is a single mother on the
run…but from whom? That’s what McCall has to discover, and fast,
because she and her son are in terrible danger. Arms and drugs
Robert Falcone (villain from Can You Forget?), has
escaped from custody and is a dangerous man on the run. He believes
Beth is his runaway wife, ex-supermodel Delia de Souza, and her son
Danny is his son, Robbie. Falcone wants his heir back, and to
publicly (and permanently) punish his wife for daring to leave him.
McCall’s job is to save them – but Beth, not knowing who to trust,
won’t tell him anything about herself – and he discovers that she
has abilities beyond his wildest dreams, the ability to escape that
taxes all his ingenuity and resources. Ex-gang member McCall, who
feels responsible for terrible things in his past, doesn’t feel good
enough for this pristine princess, and vows only to save her – but
his heart has other ideas…
TW – What is a
day in your life like? Are your days repetitive, strict writing
schedule, or do you go with the flow?
As a mother of
three kids still home, I have to go with the flow. I wouldn’t want
to have regrets later that my books did well, and my kids did not.
Finding a balance is hard, though, because my kids don’t understand
that breaking my concentration “for just a minute” can mean hours of
trying to find it again! My schedule, loosely speaking, is 9-3,
three to four days a week, and one day off for
family/friends/whatever. Weekends off except when I have a deadline.
I work one night a week without my hubby getting upset, but more
than that is rare. After 3 gets harder as my second daughter works
part time and our bus service is erratic, and my son, who’s only 10,
has baseball and football practice or a game, so I’m always
chauffeuring someone somewhere. I quite often give writing workshops
online or in person, too, so I slot that in somewhere. Oh, and
housework around that – ironing is always a challenge! My 16 year
old is great at helping out.
TW – Which story
to date has been the biggest challenge?
question. Honestly, it’s a toss-up between two: Dangerous
Illusion and my current project, Reluctant Prince,
for SilRom. My wonderful editor gave me very thorough revisions for
both, which has helped to create the books they are (and I know it’s
that I followed her hard work and suggestions that led to my getting
the two Top Picks), but it meant total rewrites for them – and
during my deadline for Dangerous Illusion, my
beautiful critique partner Maryanne Cappelluti, who had a hell of a
year, was too ill to work with me. I’ve found wonderful new CPs – my
dear friends Diane Perkins/Gaston (Warner Forever and M&B
Historicals) and Mia Zachary (Blaze), but at that time they, too,
were under deadline and so I had to use my editor as my CP, which is
hard because she’s got another 25 or so authors to work with. And
it’s always hard to start again with new CPs…and rewrites are hard
when my characters won’t behave themselves!
I think the hard
work came in because with both books, it was a case of right
characters, wrong storyline, so it did mean a total rewrite for them
both. I’m still halfway through Reluctant Prince, but
I know that the hard work is worth it. I have the best editor in the
world – thank you, Susan! – who will always work with me to improve
my books. And she knows I’ll do the work.
TW – Which hero,
out of Jirrah, Mitch and Tal have given you the biggest run for your
it was McCall in Dangerous Illusion! Sorry…right,
answer the question asked. Of the three you asked, I think it was
Tal, because that, too, was a book I had to totally rewrite, and the
whole book changed. And jerking Tal out of his rut was almost like
having to discipline my kids! He didn’t want to be a hero at all –
but he came to the rescue every time when he saw Mary-Anne’s pain.
Mitch (still my favorite hero) and Jirrah both came to me naturally
because they were stories I had to write. Forced by
circumstances and burning to tell, they were so much a part of me
that they literally wrote their own stories. Tal was the most
reluctant hero I’ve done – until Mark Hannaford in Reluctant
TW – Are all
your heroes tortured heroes? I have found that this is very much so,
why do you feel you are penning heroes who are haunted by the past?
It’s my mother’s
fault! J Seriously it is: she’s a former child abuse counselor who
taught me so much about the motivation of people, and it’s a
fascinating study. And having been a nurse, and one to whom people
seemed to always tell their problems and past – it just came to me,
I guess. Besides, I do admit to finding shallow motivation in a
story to be boring. I love exploring the human psyche – again, it’s
Mum’s fault! J She loves nothing more than to analyze people, and I
learn by osmosis. My dad, too, had a very checkered past and a lot
of pain carried around – as did both my grandmothers – and they were
all, well, fascinatingly odd people with very skewered visions of
life, and themselves. I grew up with being a child of the “boy in
the cupboard”, so to speak, the family skeleton, and our lives were
TW – Which
heroine, Tessa, Lissa and/or Mary-Anne, is most like you?
I’d have to say
Mary-Anne, I think – the rescuer and nurturer. The nurse and mother
in me – I have to help if I can. And I love to make people’s lives
better. I’m like her in that I also am happier in obscurity! I like
writing because I’m at home by myself, and can just be a wife and
mother out in the world. Hardly anyone around me either knows I’m an
author, or thinks it’s a big deal. I tell them, “it’s just my job”,
which it is. And they treat it accordingly.
TW – Do you ever
have any moments of insecurity when writing? If so, how do you
overcome those moments?
I think all
authors do! We’re a crazy bunch, and we all know we’re only as good
as our next book. For me, when I go through bad patches, I have to
explore the characters and see what I’ve done wrong, and re-plot to
make it work. Then I find the right music and scent for the book –
signature things that transport me into that world – and I force
myself to write, even if it’s rubbish. Nora Roberts wisely once
said, “You can fix a bad page, but not a blank one”. To sit and
agonize for days over a word or sentence, does nothing. And I have
deadlines to fulfill. So – work myself out of it.
Um, sometimes I
also find that signature song, turn it up loud, and sing it over and
over until I’m in the mood for that book before I can write. My
neighbors must think I’m completely nuts – a few of them do nod and
smile from a safe distance…J
TW – Is there
any fear of rejection, now your books are published?
Uh, yeah! I got
a rejection for my fourth Nighthawks book in January, and my editor
was 100% right to reject it. Just goes to show you, don’t
write a proposal while in hospital attached to an IV drip of
antibiotics and painkillers! J But that book has to be written, so
it’s another 100% rewrite for me, with a whole new plot, which
always seems to work in the end.
TW – Besides
writing, what is your biggest passion in life?
My family, first
and foremost – my husband, my kids, my extended family will always
come first and they know it. My faith. My friends. Seeing movies. I
love connecting to nature, too. When I’m overwhelmed and stressed
and burned out, time in the mountains will always restore my soul.
My mountains are what I call my “dreaming place”. It’s an Aboriginal
thing (I have Aboriginal background through my father). I go there
to find myself again, to restore inner peace, to put things in
perspective again. To walk in the bush, inhale the fresh, cold air,
to feel the living history of the area, restores me. I’m going again
soon with my friend, on an Aboriginal tour guided trek, and an
overnight stay. Olga is my “suggestion extraordinaire” person with
my books, so I always take her for inspiration. She gets into my
books like no one else, and always gives me ideas that change the
TW – What
organizations do you belong to?
of America, Australia and New Zealand. That’s it, basically. I’m not
an organized person at all, so can’t give in that “I’ll be on the
committee” way – I’d forget to attend the meetings for sure! J
TW – What has
helped your career the most do you think? Is it the continual
support from friends/family/fans, as well as the organizations you
All of the above
– but more than anything, what kick-started my career was Romance
Writers of Australia, and of New Zealand. RWAust taught me so much
in terms of how to write, and the RWNZ Clendon Award is the best
contest I know (no offense to others! J). It’s a contest for
unpublished writers, judged by readers – the people editors know to
listen to, because they vote with their wallets. So far, in the six
years it’s been run, six or more finalists/winners have been
contracted by Harlequin…a very good average.
My family are
all quite hilarious about my work. My mother sees it as something
apart from me; my husband (an accountant) just wants the money, or
to make, um, off-color jokes; my kids don’t like my books. But my
friends are great, very supportive, and understanding. The
organizations are a neverending source of inspiration and support. I
wouldn’t let my membership lapse for anything.
My readers –
well, as one of them, Tracey, you know what support you’ve given me.
Hearing from readers who’ve literally begged for a sequel to
Her Galahad, readers who ask me for more Nighthawks
stories – it keeps you going in hard times, makes you feel like
you’ve made someone’s day or week with your stories…well, your work
is done, you know?
TW – On your
site you have a series of articles discussing Emotional Depth. Have
you found such information to help you with your writing?
Yes, it does! J
I often have to re-read my own articles to help me get back into
some books. Giving the workshops again is always useful to get my
mind into the ideas I’ve given to others.
TW – Why have
you lent your expertise such as these articles to others? Is this
advice you give to aspiring authors?
Yes. I give and
re-give this workshop for free online and in person when I can. I
love to give back for all the help and support I’ve been given.
Unfortunately when deadlines call, I have to say no, but if I have
time – well, to help others on their road to publication is a
privilege I will never take for granted.
TW – What have
you found to be the best thing about writing?
Being able to
“go off with the pixies” at any given time and claim it’s
work-related! J I can wander in my mind and people smile indulgently
and say I’m thinking up plots. Creating a new world where people can
lose their daily stresses and problems is also an incredible
privilege. My personal goal is to get a letter like the one
Stephanie Laurens got after September 11, from New Yorkers (even
some in the blast) who said her books gave them somewhere to be safe
for a few hours, that took them away from their pain. I cried,
hearing that. What an unforgettable letter.
TW -- How do you
feel at the end of each story? Are you sad to see it end, do you
feel exhilarated, ready to move on to the next book or do you need
some ‘down-time’ between each book?
definitely. I go to the movies, catch up with friends, do the
ironing (two baskets full at present), do something fun with the
kids. Definitely I like to go to my mountains then. Then a plot
starts calling to me, and off I go again, refreshed.
TW - What are
you reading now? Do you have any favorite authors?
reading “A Parisian Proposition” by Barbara Hannay (loads of fun so
far), along with loads of Sweet books, to keep me in the mindset for
Reluctant Prince – but I have run out of books to read. I
just read my pile for the RITA awards, and four of the five received
8s or more. And I can highly recommend a recent read, “Missing
Molly”, by Janice Kay Johnson. What a wonderful book!
without question, is JRR Tolkien (mad LOTR fan here). Then Jane
Austen, Sharon Penman and Agatha Christie. Romance author favorites
are Suzanne Brockmann, Linda Howard, Fiona Brand, Jennifer Crusie
and a dozen others. I’m anxiously awaiting the Australian release of
Cathy Mann and Jenna Mills’ latest releases, as well as Merline
TW – If we were
to visit you at home, what would we find you doing on a beautiful
sunny day in the Outback of Australia?
I live only an
hour of Sydney, so you wouldn’t find me in the outback (sigh…love
the place!). I live in a village by the water that is very quiet,
filled with trees and wildlife, and beautiful to walk along in
peace. But you’d most likely find me at my computer, or at the beach
nearby while my son runs on it for football training. At my old
house, you’d find me swimming, but no pool here, alas…I should visit
the beach more!
TW – Do you find
it difficult to balance home/family with your writing?
it has to be done, so I do my best, like any working wife and
mother. Of course some things (like the ironing!) go by the board,
and I do catch-ups while watching movies, etc. But it’s never easy,
once writing becomes filled with deadlines and you can’t do it at
your own pace. But being published is a privilege I won’t take for
TW – What do you
think readers would be shocked to discover about you?
ordinary I am? Oh, that sounds vain…I don’t know what to say, except
that I really am ordinary. I see my writing as a job, and that I do
see myself as a wife and mother first, as a friend and person of
faith, then a writer. It’s a wonderful job, and one I don’t take for
granted – but all that said, it’s still a job and I don’t view it
(or myself) as more important than the task of, say, the garbage man
– his task is vital to the health of others. I entertain, which is
good for the psyche, but it’s not vital to humanity. J
TW – If you were
to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Imaginative, tenacious, willing to adapt. As a person: dreamy,
TW – What have
you learned about yourself since you began writing? Do you find you
are stronger than you realized? Would you say you are more
I think I’ve
learned that I can be organized! J I never knew that about
myself, but I can work and cook and clean and get my kids where they
need/want to go, and get it all done. Not always at the time others
perceive to be the right time for it, but I can do it…!
TW – We
discussed Dangerous Illusion, book three of the Nighthawks
series, which is due out in April 2004. But you also have another
book, Cinderella’s Lucky Ticket, a Silhouette Romance, which
is due out in October 2004. What can you tell us about this fun and
exciting tale (I have read some of it – another keeper!)
J Cinderella’s Lucky Ticket is unusual in that it’s a
real Pygmalion story, rather than Cinderella. Lucy Miles is a
scientific librarian who’s never been allowed to have a life of her
own – she lives to receive the approval of her cold-hearted parents
and the man they chose for her to marry (and he keeps putting off
the wedding because he forgets it!). But when she discovers that Ben
Capriati has won a house filled with furniture, a car and a trip to
Fiji – all on her ticket! – she storms the house he won,
refusing to leave until the problem is sorted out – and she
discovers that she isn’t the biddable mouse she, and her family,
think she is! She charms Ben right from the start, and, under the
influence of the mysterious and ancient ‘Capriati Curse’ (you’ll
have to read it to find out!), Ben decides to play Pygmalion with
this downtrodden and unhappy girl, and make her life better – and he
discovers a soul mate in the unlikeliest place…his own house. Now,
if only he can convince Lucy that he’s not the dropout beach bum he
portrayed himself as at the start, and prove himself worthy of her
trust and love…
TW – Are there
any other stories to be released in 2004?
currently on revisions for my option Romance, as I said –
Reluctant Prince. It’s really shaping up to be something
special, a touching and poignant romantic fairytale, and I have
Susan, my editor, to thank for that. I hope it will be out not too
late next year. J
TW – What are
you presently working on?
the sequel to Her Galahad, called Tarnished
Armor – I hadn’t planned to write this book, but I was asked
so many times to do Duncan’s story, I decided it was reader’s
choice! I’m also planning my fourth Nighthawks book (there’s about
another 5 to go in that series at least before the rogue is found!),
and am writing my first single title mainstream as well, called
The Bane. Anyone who liked Her Galahad will
love Adam and Elly’s story.
TW – What are
your hopes and dreams for the future with respect to your writing?
To finish the
true book of my heart – a full historical mainstream set in 900-1000
BC, based on The Song of Solomon. It’s definitely a no-holds-barred
historical with murder and intrigue in the royal palace, and the
hidden madness of a man in power…
And to keep
writing for Silhouette, of course. My ideal is to balance both
TW – Where can
readers contact you?
(after many fights with my server – their fault – I lost my
melissajames.com address)- and I am currently setting up a PO Box as
well. I should have done that before!
TW – Is there
anything else you would like to add Melissa, which we haven’t
Only that, if
anyone has an idea on anything they’d like me to write, please let
me know! J
TW – In closing,
could we have the honour of reading an excerpt from one of your
books? Or an upcoming one?
I’d love to…there are excerpts of my contracted books at my website
as well as those workshops we discussed, but here’s a little teaser
on Duncan’s story, Tarnished Armor…
“Hello, Duncan Beckwith. How unusual, you’re hiding out in the barn
again. Sociable creature, aren’t you?”
Beckwith was the name he’d gone by for the past five years. It
seemed fitting, taking on the name of the mother whose life and
background he’d tried to deny for so long; yet it felt like a sick
lie, coming from the lips of this girl. It was as if she knew the
truth about who he was and what he’d done.
His heart thudded in his chest. He couldn’t smile at her, not
when it felt like she could see right through him to the hideous
truth beneath his stoic silence. “Hello, Miss Callaghan. Nice to see
you home again.”
“You’re such a liar –you don’t want to see me. You avoid me
whenever I’m home. And my name’s Rose,” she returned, those eyes –
those damned twinkling silvery-blue eyes of hers, sparkling
with life – eating him up inside.
Rose Callaghan. The girl known to most people as ‘the Princess’
was the much-loved only daughter of the famed Leo Callaghan, the
filthy-rich, hard-working and blunt-talking fourth-generation owner
of Wallaby Station. Her adoring father and brothers’ nickname for
her had been broadcast to the world via the bush telegraph of
‘Princess’ suited her, as did the name Rose. She was fair and
pretty, in a fresh-faced, outdoor-girl way, slim and boyish; yet a
rich, unconscious femininity came across in her hip-swinging walk.
Smart as a whip, she was studying for an Honors Degree in Vet
Science. She was small in stature, yet more than made up for it with
her willful ways, a bundle of repressed energy, irrepressible,
outspoken and gorgeous. All the guys on Wallaby Station had the hots
for her –
All the young guys, that was. He knew better than to
think about her at all. His life had already been on the path to
disaster by the time hers started. He’d met Cam before she was out
of diapers. He was an experienced, jaded thirty-nine to her
fresh-and-shining twenty-six. His was a life of smoking ashes, a
heap of dust and rubble, against her world of exciting
possibilities, impudent insight and girlish fun. She had a future;
he didn’t even want a past. Each day held enough torture for him to
So he stayed out of her way whenever she came home. He didn’t
like the way this gorgeous, free-spirited girl looked at him, as if
he was a half-tamed mustang she’d like to bridle up and ride.
He hung the pitchfork back up on its safety rack, turning away
from her tempting young beauty, the scent of sunshine and earth and
flowers surrounding her like a reminder of all he’d left behind.
“Excuse me, Miss Callaghan. I have to get back to work.”
She put a hand on his arm as he stalked out, and it stopped him
mid-stride, like a road train jack-knifed in half, or a tree split
by sudden lightning.
She lifted her face, her bright, shining eyes searching his in
the warm half-light of the barn, so fresh and pretty that he wanted
to snarl, to jerk his arm from her hold, but years of control held
firm. “Yes, miss?” he asked politely. Giving nothing away.
“Just one thing,” she said softly. “I want to know why you avoid
me all the time. Is it me that scares you, or is it your reaction to
me that’s got you on the run?”
Oh, hell, trust Princess Rose to get right to the heart of the
bloody matter, and to get it right while she was at it – and all
with that megawatt grin of hers.
He shook her off before she looked down and saw he was already
hard, aching to taint her clean, luminous innocence with destructive
desire. “Play your games with the other guys, little girl. They
might like it.”
She put her hands on her hips and grinned even wider, taunting
and impudent. “Who says I’m playing games?” Her voice held all the
husky promise he’d never allowed himself to dream of with her, all
the promise of scorching nights –
Yeah, she wanted it all right – no way could any man mistake the
invitation in her eyes – but she’d want it out here in the barn, a
little fling with the hired help out of the sight of her adoring
He didn’t even deserve that much, no matter how much he was
tempted to take it.
“I say you are.” He turned on her, fire and churning fear in his
gut. Her starry eyes filled his face. Her body’s warmth touched him,
and temptation hit with a hard wallop. But, for all that she was
small and fair, and nothing like his sister, it was Tessa’s face he
saw. He saw Tessa sobbing in blind grief for a daughter’s death that
never happened. He saw his brother-in-law Jirrah sent to prison for
a crime he, Duncan, had helped Cameron set up.
He saw Cam, his one-time best friend, beaten to death in a
prison brawl – and he would never have been inside if he, Duncan,
had done what was right in the first place.
Damn it, he had to get pretty, innocent Rose Callaghan to stay
away from him, or he’d destroy her, too.
“You don’t know who you’re playing with,” he grated out, harsh
and guttural with the emotional and sexual roller coaster he’d been
on this morning. “A kid after a quick fix of excitement, Lady Muck
after a roll in the hay with the hired help. Go away, little girl.
Find a nice, not-too-horny boy to practice flirting on, a kid who’ll
let you do the slow-dance introduction in becoming a woman.”
“I’m not a kid, Duncan,” she said, soft and provocative and so
damn sweet, his white-hot reaction to her almost sickened
him. “I’ve lived away from home for seven years. I’m almost
twenty-seven. I’m a woman.”
“You’re a baby,” he shot back, needing to be brutal, or he’d pin
her up against a wall and take her. God help him, he was shaking
with the need to do just that. “A cutie-pie girl playing Barbie to
my Ken. A protected princess who’s out to play with fire. But I’m no
plastic pretty boy or sedate campfire, baby – I’ve got all the parts
that count, and I’m your worst bushfire. So run away while there’s
still time. I might not let you off so easy next time. I might just
drag you into a stall and give you what you’re begging for. But it
won’t be slow and sweet, with pretty words and promises to talk to
your daddy. I’ll take you for an hour, maybe a day or two, and hose
you off my shoes when I’m done.” He made himself face her down,
waiting for the inevitable reaction.
She gasped and stalked out, her cheeks burning.
Regret at hurting her seared him right through. He’d torn her
ego into pieces like he’d shredded Tessa’s letter of forgiveness and
love only minutes before.
He ached to put the smile back on her face, take her in his arms
and kiss her and make sure she knew that the problem was his, not
hers. But hurting her pride now was better than giving in to this
madness, and facing yet another sweet, hope-filled life he’d end up
tossing on the emotional scrap heap.
She had to
get out of this pub before – before she -
She felt like she’d stumbled onto the set of a classic movie,
and she was nobody’s heroine; just a rich man’s daughter trying to
escape the mold of spoiled Barbie doll, and doing it damned unsuc –
Great, she’d made things even worse. Nursing three beers in a
darkened corner of Mulliwindi’s only pub, and drinking slowly, she
couldn’t think straight. She was light-headed, a cheap drunk as well
as a spoiled brat too young to get the eye of the only man she’d
What happened to all her pride in herself, all these years of
independence in Bathurst?
Duncan Beckwith happened.
Yeah, that…or rather, he was the crux of the matter. All
these years she’d studied hard, worked hard and got what she wanted
without the backup of the famous Leo Callaghan, her loving father
whose enormous shadow she’d fought so hard to escape - especially
with men. Men who’d connected her surname to the father, and hoped
to get a ride on the gravy train through her. She hadn’t trusted any
man for a long time. And sometimes, it felt so lonely,
wondering if she’d ever meet the kind of guy she wanted – a country
boy who shared her love of the Outback and its creatures - who
didn’t care what her last name was? A man who would want her
honestly, without pretense?
Then she’d seen a man on a horse: a silent, modern-day Outback
cowboy with the face of a dreaming Cherokee warrior, and she was
gone, aching, needing to know him – to touch him. But with a few
words he’d shattered all her delusions.
Go away, little girl. A pristine, protected Barbie doll.
Don’t come back unless you can take the heat…
Well, the classic escape hadn’t worked. Sitting alone and
drinking only made her ache more –
Stop thinking about him!
As – as soon as she could stop the mild head-spins, she’d get in
the car and go home, head back to Bathurst. And then, she’d wash
that man right out of her heart…
No, I’m supposed to wash him out of my hair. He’s not in
my heart. I just wanted the – the body. Yeah, that’s right. I – I
had the hots for him. A good old-fashioned case of lust, and that’s
all. I can get over that.
“Hey, gorgeous. You’re the best-looking thing I’ve seen in town
all day. Want another drink?”
Rose peered up at the silhouette in front of her, a man framed
by the light behind him. Tall, strongly built, with black hair that
gleamed around his shadowed face like a warrior’s halo. Like – like
“You talking to me?” she demanded through a thick throat.
In the dim light, she saw the stranger’s head incline. “You look
like you need to talk,” the gravelly voice said, just loud enough to
carry over the jukebox blaring the love-disasters of Garth Brooks
through the pub, and pounding in her head. “You look like you need
to forget something – or maybe it’s someone.”
It wasn’t a question, but his words left leeway for her pride if
she wanted to deny it. And – and she wanted -
What did she want? She – she couldn’t remember…
To be normal, Rose. And – oh, yeah, that’s right. You
want Duncan Beckwith, and he despises you.
She buried her face in her hands as a tear escaped, then
another. The man watching her smiled, sat at the booth opposite her
and took her hand in his.
I hope that’s
enough of a teaser to see just how tortured poor Duncan is (as
ordered by readers! J) and how he’s going to have to redeem himself
again, at the risk to his life, and Rose’s…
learn much more about author, Melissa James by visiting her website
Thank you so
much Melissa for the time you have spent with us here at The Road to
Romance. We wish you much success!