I’ll admit I was nervous when I began writing Wyatt’s book. Usually my writing process is to come up with a plot idea and then figure out my main characters. But sometimes a character simply appears and tells me who they are. Wyatt was one of those characters. And the more I got to know
New Year, New Series! As much as I love my Cates brothers, I’m excited to introduce you to my newest family of brothers, The Thorne Brothers. Here’s a glimpse into what shaped them into the men they are today…
Twenty-three years ago…
By the time I was in the third grade I knew two things for sure.
First, breathing was easier when I knew my brothers were safe. Like right now. I sat with four of my five brothers, scrunched together like peas in a pod on the queen mattress our daddy had rescued from the dump. Our youngest brother, Wyatt, was only two and lay in a playpen next to us trying to suck on his big toe.
“Why is daddy mad?” Gray asked as glass shattered on the other side of the door making us all jump.
Because the sun rose. Because mama got paid so daddy got drunk. Because the social worker came two days ago which meant she wouldn’t visit again for months.
None of that would make a lick of sense to my youngest brothers. I looked over the heads of my little brothers at Asher, who was seven to my eight. Asher knew. But Eli, Gray, and Ryker were too little.
The yelling got louder, almost as loud as when the tropical storm rumbled through the trailer park last summer. Eli’s body trembled up against mine, and I wrapped my arm around him tight.
“Hey, did I tell you guys what happened at recess today? Suzy Baker forgot she had a dress on”—crash—“and did a cartwheel”—you fucking bitch—”and everyone saw her pink underwear.”
Asher looked over at me with a single nod as our little brothers snickered and giggled.
“Gross,” Eli said. Eli was five and everything was gross to him. Mama said it was a phase.
“Yeah, gross,” Ryker and Grayson, both four but ten months apart, echoed Eli.
“Girls are dumb,” Asher added his wisdom just as the bedroom door slammed open.
I shoved my body in front of my little brothers, whipping my head around to the door. My heart pounded up against my chest, only to calm down at the sight of mama.
Our beautiful mama, even with an eye swollen shut and an angry red handprint slapped on her left check and both arms. I’d seen my mama like this before. The suitcase in her hand—that was new. I hadn’t seen that before.
“Boys—I’m leaving. Your daddy’s a mean son-of-a-bitch, and I can’t take it anymore.”
I watched a single tear roll down her bruised cheek as she looked around the room, avoiding our faces.
I had a bad feeling that started like an earthquake in my stomach. Jumping up, I grabbed onto her arm. “You can’t! Mama, you can’t!”
“I have to. You hear me, Beck?” She grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me so hard my teeth cracked together. “I have to.”
“Can we have pancakes when you get back, mama?” Ryker asked.
Her hands dropped from my shoulders and her eyes finally met mine and I knew—she wasn’t planning on coming back. It was like a big gaping pit opened up between us and just maybe I fell in.
“I’m counting on you, Beckett. You take care of your brothers.” Her green eyes darted around frantically and then she was gone.
That was the day I knew the second thing: don’t count on love.
Two days later when our daddy sobered up after his pay-day binge and realized mama was gone, he’d gone into a rage. And that rage set the pattern for the next three years. Daddy was a mean, ugly drunk. I went to bed every night praying and wishing for something to change. That something would stop the life we were stuck in.
I tried to protect my brothers. Most of the time I succeeded and had the bruises and cuts to show for it. Sometimes I didn’t. It was one of those times and a broken bone that finally brought the change I’d been wishing for.
Too bad no one had taught me that expression, be careful what you wish for…
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Throughout my Cates Brothers Series every so often a reader/reviewer will comment or ponder why in the world I picked the name “Climax” to set my small town series in. I actually have a list of reasons –not necessarily good reasons, lol– but reasons for choosing Climax. Here we go…
1.Climax happens to be an actual town in NC within a few hours of where I live. I didn’t know that until my husband and I got lost driving home from looking for a couch in High Point. (FYI: we didn’t find a couch we could agree on.) We passed the sign for Climax and it made me smile. Yes, I’m easily amused. I did a bit of research and it turns out almost every state has a city/town named Climax. So I liked the idea that my fictional town of Climax was, in theory, a town within driving distance of every reader.
2. The first book in the series, BRINGING DELANEY HOME, touches on some serious issues. My heroine, an army nurse, lost a foot while serving in Afghanistan, and after almost a year of surgeries and therapy she’s given up. Serious stuff. But in between some serious stuff there’s quirky humor. My thinking was naming the town Climax would give a nod to that humor. You know, like give the reader a hint that the book wasn’t going to be dark and angsty. Nothing wrong with dark and angsty. Sometimes that’s the perfect type of read. But I didn’t want a reader to pick up DELANEY expecting dark and angsty and being surprised/disappointed/confused with the quirky humor. Climax is quirky, right?
For example, the first time the hero, Quinn, sees Delaney in eight years, she’s given up on her recovery and beyond tipsy. Here’s part of that first conversation…
Delaney scrubbed her hands over her face and shook her head. “Funny how one second can change your life, you know? Boom. So now I want to be left alone. Why won’t Greer understand that?”
“She’s worried about you.”
“I told her I was fine.”
“You don’t look fine.” Quinn watched the tears run silently down her face, realizing in all the years he’d known Delaney he’d never seen her cry before.
“Of course I’m not fine. My life makes no sense anymore. And I’m tired of trying to make it make sense, you know? I just want to be left alone. That’s all.”
“Yes?” She sniffed and blinked tear-filled eyes up to his face.
“It’s time to come home. Greer sent me to get you.” He used the bottom of his shirt to finish wiping her tears away.
She looked up at him in confusion. “One of the many Cates brothers. In high school, you couldn’t sneeze without spraying a Cates brother. One of you was always at the principal’s office. Was that you? You look like the bad boy of the bunch.”
Quinn quirked an eyebrow at her, wondering what game she was playing. She damn well knew who he was. “No, that was Tynan.”
“The one who cheated off my chemistry tests?”
“The one who dated the student teacher?”
“What? Seriously? Had to be Tynan.”
She studied him, tilting her head different angles. “Hmmm, not Tynan, and not the super hot one, or that other one the girls nicknamed Mr. Darcy, and definitely not old what’s-his-name. That makes you the one who dated all those perky cheerleaders. Quinlan.” She poked him in the chest with her finger.
“Guilty.” He stood up and took a step back, rubbing his chest where she’d poked him.
“You don’t say. Of what?”
“Nothing.” Guilty of being stupid if he let her touch get to him again. He’d gotten over her five years ago. He was not taking that road again.
“Don’t poker up on me now. Go ahead and confess. It’s a few years too late, but . . . No? Fine. I’ll go first. I confess I’m pretty sure I made out with one of you Cates boys, but I’m not sure which one.”
Quinn crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “How could you not be sure which one of us you made out with?”
“Well, you all looked a lot alike. You know, tall, square jaw, and dark hair. You know what you needed? Name tags. If you Cates brothers had worn name tags, then I’d remember which one.”
Quinn grunted. “I think I might be insulted.”
“Why? Was it you?” She stared at his lips as if this would reveal the truth.
“I don’t kiss and tell.”
“See, you don’t even know. I told you y’all needed name tags.”
“I’d say you need some more coffee.”
Delaney looked around the floor at all the wineglasses and coffee cups lined up. “Oh, good gravy, I know what I need more than coffee.”
“The bathroom. Help me up,” Delaney said. “No! Do. Not. Touch. The. Legs. Just grab my hands and pull.”
Quinn gently pulled her up by her hands. He kept holding on to her while she swayed precariously.
“Okey dokey. Step out of the way, Great Wall of China.” She looked up at him as she pushed against his chest. “Someone’s been working out.”
3. I liked adding in a local connection–although I didn’t base any of my fictional town on the actual town. In fact, I sort of picked it up and moved it about an hour south.
4. BRINGING DELANEY HOME was the first romance book I wrote. When I wrote it I was just writing one book. So Climax, NC for one book was an easy decision. I didn’t dream back then that my Cates Brothers could be a series. I’m blessed that my editor and publisher loved the Cates brothers enough to let me tell all their stories.
But…I’ve had a small subplot running through each of the Cates Brothers’ books about an adorable kid, Henry Lee, who’s looking for a mom and a wife for his widowed dad, Hawk Savage. As the Cates Brothers series came to a close, I knew I wanted to wrap that story up for readers of the series and a Christmas novella sounded perfect. But now there are lovely unsuspecting readers choosing that book, WANTED: MOM FOR CHRISTMAS because they love Christmas stories and have never read a Cates Brother book looking side-eyed at a Christmas in Climax book. I get it. It’s like the perfect title for a steamy read, right? LOL. So, maybe if I’d planned out the whole series ahead of time down to the holiday novella, I might have chosen a different name. Or not.
And that is the story behind my small town Climax, NC setting and the Cates Brothers Series.
To celebrate the release of WANTED: MOM FOR CHRISTMAS in 21 days I’m running a series of Goodreads giveaways for the previous books in the series. First up is a giveaway for 1 *signed copy* of COULD THIS BE LOVE? Here’s the link:
Meet the last Cates brother! Paxton Cates can be very persuasive…and single-minded…and driven…
Paxton Cates making his case…
LOVE 2.0 releases April 18, 2017
It’s finally Kaz’s turn. Meet his heroine…
Mirabel Díaz had heard the expression hide in plain sight, but she was relatively sure walking down Main Street of some small town that time forgot, dressed as Elvis, the Las Vegas years, wasn’t quite plain enough. Her white bell-bottom, rhinestone-studded pantsuit was turning heads.
Of course, the fact that her boss Monty had given her a pantsuit two sizes too small didn’t help. She wanted to kiss the inventor of polyester because if she hadn’t been able to squeeze her curves into the Elvis pantsuit, she’d be Madonna right now. And not like-a-virgin Madonna either. No, she’d be Blonde-Ambition Madonna strutting down the sidewalk in fishnet tights and a cone bra.
Back Cover Blurb:
Everyone in Climax, North Carolina, knows the Cates brothers. But Sijan Cates is famous far beyond his quaint hometown–and when he comes back, he brings trouble with him…
Avery Danford urgently needs to get back in touch with her estranged family. If only she could get her picture in the papers, maybe they’d track her down…and what better way to accomplish that than to squeeze into the world’s tightest dress and cozy up to the world’s hottest actor, Sijan Cates? It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work. And though the former actress has sworn off Hollywood hunks, she’s got to admit this desperate measure might be a pleasure…
Scandal-plagued Sijan has come home for some peace and quiet–and to stay out of the tabloids. Then a woman claiming to be his number-one fan plants a hot kiss on him–in front of a pack of paparazzi. There’s only one way to protect his reputation: tell the world they’re engaged. It’s all just a show, as they use each other to get what they need. But in this sleepy Southern town, love stories have a way of coming true…
Avery had to admit, from the moment she saw him in the flesh: Sijan Cates was one very hot man. And having spent a few years acting in Hollywood, she’d been up close to some very fine male specimens. She was surprised to admit she couldn’t pull her gaze away from his tall, muscled body, strong jaw, and bad-boy smile, complete with slashing dimples. Something in his smile swirled heat low in her belly. Her breath snagged when his silver gray eyes flashed over the crowd.
She ripped her gaze away to the almost carbon copy standing next to him. That had to be his brother, although his eyes were a different color. She’d never seen anyone actually look dangerous. Until Carbon Copy. Together, these men gave off enough pheromones and testosterone to alter the DNA of everyone around them.
And looking around, there were plenty of women anxious to let them alter anything they wanted to. Cripes, she had forgotten what this was like.
“Not used to seeing it from the other side, are you?” Pia said. “Exciting, huh?”
“That’s one word for it. So, just to be clear, I’m in love with the guy on the right, yes? Not the edgy one?”
“Yes. The edgy one is one of his four brothers,” Pia said. “Not the cop. You talked to him when we were scoping the town out yesterday. I’m not sure which one, but I’ll happily research that if you need me to. I mean a ‘true’ fan would probably know, right?”
“Pia, one photo, that’s all I need. We don’t need to turn this into a method acting session. It’s bad enough you made me put on these clothes. Has anyone ever told you you’d make a very good pimp?” Avery said without taking her focus off Sijan Cates. She was looking for her best entrance, kind of like finding the best place to jump into a double-dutch jump rope game.
“Hey, you needed to look like a true groupie. And the extra cleavage is to help you get the photographer’s attention, so stop complaining.” Pia looked Avery over. “People always underestimate what we wardrobe people can do. Not everyone can pull off a Marilyn Monroe–meets–Daisy Duke look. You’ve got a very nice ‘I’m hot and willing to put out’ vibe going on.”
“Yeah, I probably just single-handedly set the feminist movement back ten years.” In Hollywood, beauty was a commodity. Avery treated hers like a weapon in her arsenal that she usually just ignored. Today, though, she used it to her tactical advantage.
“They’re walking this way. I’ve got my Sharpie and—darn, I forgot something for his autograph. Quick, peek through my purse and grab out a piece of paper.” Avery stayed cool and focused while Sijan worked his way down the line of screaming female fans, signing autographs and avoiding hands like a pro.
“Here.” Pia shoved a paper in her hand.
Avery glanced down, checking both sides of the paper. “Ack! No, that’s the annual company expense report for our accountant. Never mind, I’m up.”
While she might agree with Pia that this could end up in a train wreck, Avery still had to try. Matching wits and acting skills with movie star Sijan Cates? Dangerous. Watching Tansy waste away before her eyes? Heartbreaking. She’d take danger over heartbreak any day.
Sijan kept the smile on his face as he worked his way down the long line of screaming fans. And at this point in his career, it was work. He didn’t mind the autographs, but the hands that shoved phone numbers, love notes, hotel room keys, and panties anywhere they would fit on his person got old years ago. The hands that reached out to grab him were worse, feeling like a true invasion of his privacy.
These weren’t Climax locals, that was for sure. He didn’t recognize these women, and Climax was one of those small towns where everyone knew everybody. It was a sure bet Jerry had released his location to a radio station in nearby Greensboro or Raleigh to flush him back out to L.A. Fine. He’d meet and greet with his fans, let the paparazzi take their pictures, and then head to his parents’ house or his farm, where he could relax with friends and family. He and Jerry might be stuck in a Mexican standoff, but he sure as heck would enjoy his end of it.
“Holy Christ,” Tynan said from beside him.
“Yeah, you get used to it. Just part of the job,” Sijan said, moving on to the next teenage girl and her mother in line.
“No,” Tynan said, shaking his head and nudging Sijan’s attention further up the line. “Yeah, there. You do not get used to that.”
“Sweet Baby Jesus.” Sijan stopped moving, his attention frozen, so that Tynan, also staring up ahead, ran into him.
Sijan and Tynan looked at each other and said, “The hot blonde.”
Yesterday the Climax Grapevine had been on fire about a “hot blonde” seen talking to his brother Quinn. Looking at her, it was no wonder Delaney, Sijan’s future sister-in-law, had been knocked for a loop. Hell, he was around beautiful women all the time and he was knocked for a loop.
“I’m not getting enough blood to my brain,” Tynan said. “If you know what I mean.”
“She’s still a groupie,” Sijan reminded both of them.
“That does not seem to bother me one iota,” Tynan said.
“Yeah, me neither. Thank God she’s my groupie.”
Sometimes when you saw something up close, it never looked as good as it did far away. That sure wasn’t the case with the hot blonde. Christ, she was striking. White-blond hair almost the color of the petal of a white dogwood tree. Streaks of moonbeams and sunshine shot through so casually, it was either the world’s best dye job or her natural color.
As if reading his mind, Tynan said, “I volunteer to find out. I will take that bullet for you.”
As far as groupies go, she was different. Instead of acting like she had the right to touch him, she stuck out a slender hand for a very polite handshake. He looked down into her Elizabeth Taylor lavender eyes and swore she gazed up at him with . . . whoa, what was that?
“May I have your autograph, Mr. Cates?” The hot blonde regarded him like he was a god. Something about her drew him closer toward her pink lips, which released a siren song of a voice.
“Sure,” Sijan said. “Do you have a photo or a piece of paper you want me to sign?”
“I’m trying to save the trees. Would you mind signing me instead?” A grimace flashed across her face, but it was quick and replaced so fast with an expression of adoration that he figured he must be mistaken. The hot blonde lifted her already short skirt up, exposing her lightly tanned and very sexy thigh.
Sijan normally had a policy against signing body parts, but for the life him he couldn’t remember why. He thought he heard the woman next to her choke down a laugh, but when he pulled his attention away from the blond goddess, the friend with spikey magenta hair silently mouthed, “I love you,” then turned to his brother and blew an air kiss. What? Something suddenly felt off. But when he focused on the blonde he couldn’t gather his thoughts enough to figure it out.
“It’s okay. I’m sure it’s beneath your dignity to take part in the dehumanization of women. I respect you for that,” she breathed in her sexy voice.
She dropped her skirt back down and leaned in close to his lips. Her warm skin and sultry voice drew him in. Then, in the next second, she whipped her head to face the cameras as the paparazzi snapped away at her wide, perfect smile just as other fans closed in. That snapped him right back to reality. She was just another starlet out to get famous. He was just another opportunity.
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