If Only excerpt
I twist my upper body around and watch him pull out some white latex gloves. Oh, shit. For some reason, it only just hits me.
He is going to see me topless.
Abruptly, I turn to the front and stare at Su, wide-eyed. Nick is the only man who has ever seen my tits. Ryan felt them, but he never saw them, so that doesn’t count. And he was my boyfriend at the time. Maybe the nerves of getting the piercings done stopped the recognition of this factor when I first learned this guy was doing them, but right now, with it so close to happening, that realization has my gut twisting.
I point to my breasts and mouth the words I just thought to Su. She winks at me and sort of grins to ease me, but it’s impossible for me to smile back. I need to distract myself. “I don’t know your name. You told me your brother’s, but not yours,” I say, looking, but not looking at the display of photos along the white wall in front of me. I can’t recall what I was told when I booked, my brain won’t work right. The silence in here feels thick, and that’s not helping matters.
“My name is Joe,” he says as he sits down on a chair to the right of me.
Joe. Now I remember. I always wondered what his name was after our almost collision. Joe. I like it.
He wheels himself closer, stopping in front of me. The height of the table puts me above him, so I have to lower my gaze if I want to make eye contact with him. That’s the last thing I want to do. This really wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t hot. Why couldn’t I get the older guy who booked me in? Or Adam? He’s cute, too, but I could deal with him.
“Okay. So you want a tattoo as well,” he states, sitting upright with his lightly-fisted hands resting on his thighs, the gloves clutched within his right hand. I wish I could be as relaxed as he is.
I nod, looking level with his perfectly sculpted cheekbones. “Yeah.”
“Do you have in mind what you want, or would you like to see some designs?” I don’t know how, but he’s able to stare me straight in the eyes. Su was right about him being nervous before, but he’s definitely, absolutely not now. Maybe he was a little embarrassed about the almost collision thing.
With effort, I return his gaze as best as I can. Oh, God. My heart starts to gallop, threatening to burst out of my chest.
Those rich coffee beans have been imprinted on my memory since I first saw them. Sitting this near to reality is almost debilitating. There’s a deep tenderness in his stare that warms me, but the intensity of his focus pushes it up to a searing heat. It’s overwhelming, it makes me want to look away, but … I can’t. The brown is so rich with no intrusion of other tones and that only enhances the impact.
I thought my memory of his face was an exaggeration, the exceptional features and planes combining masculinity and beauty, but it’s true and very real. The tone of his skin is closer to olive than fair and appears incredibly smooth. I have an urge to slowly run the tips of my fingers along the lines and contours of his features, medium-thick eyebrows; narrow nose; high, defined cheekbones; softly-chiseled jaw, and then make a sculpture of his head, made to the exact likeness, but I wouldn’t go there, even with my skill, which, bias or not, I credit to be at a high standard. Thinking of this man as hot is easy to conclude, but it’s understated.
Joe is a powerful combination of man, beauty and sex.
As I pass the rear of the Volvo, one space away from my car, a smooth voice stops me in my tracks.
“Brooklyn,” is all he said.
He wasn’t calling me. He was simply saying my name, low and curious. Stupidly sexy, too, but let’s not get caught up in that detail.
I know who that voice belongs to. I recognize it from last night.
Correcting my stunned expression, I turn around. Everything sort of ... falls out of focus, becomes non-existent. When I stop, barely two feet away, I realize I’ve walked over to him. We’re standing at the boot of my car.
Dane’s hazel eyes are lethally enticing. I can’t do anything but look into the golden brown of his irises, touched with flashes of varying shades of green. I don’t know what to say to him, and he isn’t speaking, he’s just standing there looking at me. I’d like to shrink and disappear.
“I’ve been warned not to talk to you,” I say just to give me something to say. I instantly feel guilty for being such a blabber mouth.
“Kayla told you that.”
Smoothest, sexiest voice I’ve ever heard, and so, so sure. He doesn’t seem to mind what I said. I owe my friend a big apology.
“Apparently, I’m too nice for you. Too nice a girl, that is. Not too good looking for you. Not your usual type.” Now I’m talking shit. My cheeks feel warm, too. Please, don’t let me be blushing.
Dane’s expression is unreadable, but he answers. “That might be true.”
He pauses for one long, powerful moment.
There’s something commanding about him. This is definitely a man who gets exactly what he wants, when he wants, without having to make much effort for it.
“Maybe you are too nice for me, but I’d really like you to be the one who decides that for yourself. You’ve been given a heads up. That gives you an advantage, right?”
Oh, he’s good. What do I say to that? I don’t know. I’m taken aback by his honesty and tempted at the same time.
Tempted by a man I have been firmly warned to stay away from.
Find your brain, Brooklyn, and say “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I still can’t speak.
His lips start to turn up at the corners, but his gaze remains intense.
I still don’t know what to say. It’s been about thirty seconds. Forty, maybe. Suddenly, I burst into laughter and slap my hand over my mouth to shut myself up. Typically in awkward situations, or at times when it’s most inappropriate, I laugh. I hate it, but I can’t help it.
“I’m sorry,” I say, trying to pull back my outburst. “It’s not you, it’s me. I mean, I’m not laughing at you. I really don’t know what to say to you.”
He’s still smiling, no less focused about his stare. “It’s not every day a woman laughs in my face, but I like your laugh.”
I straighten up and curl my arms tighter around myself, still wrapped in my nice warm cardigan, which also feels like a protective barrier. Though I still want to giggle at my ridiculous self, I’m wondering if his complement is genuine or part of the charming process. My friends describe my laugh as loud and dirty, and I’ve never been complemented on it.
“Where do you live?” he asks.
“Where do I live?” I ask back, unable to stop my eyebrows reaching for my hairline. That’s a bit forward, did I hear him correctly?
“Yes.” He looks me straight in the eyes. This guy is unbelievable, he’s serious.
I swallow hard with my now tight throat. “Um, the corner of Sutter and ...” Am I really giving up this information? “Franklyn.”
“That’s good. Do you know the Purple Cafe, on Bush Street?”
I nod. I haven’t been in there, but I’ve passed it a couple of times. Maybe I should’ve said no.
“Meet me there for breakfast tomorrow morning. I start work around nine, let’s be there for seven, outside. Think of it as your chance to decide for yourself.”
I’m speechless, again.
Dane turns around and walks away. “See you tomorrow, Brooklyn.”
Standing astonished, all I can do is watch his departure. In motion, he’s even more fascinating. He strides away with a feline grace, that air of command remaining.
I feel a weird temptation to follow him.
What the fuck just happened?
I never knew by Roger Sanchez feat. Cooly’s Hot Box
(An old-school classic that I will never fall out of love with – this planted the very first tiny seed that was at the core of the story that became If Only; undisclosed love between friends)
Here without you by 3 Doors Down
(This is Joe’s song. I can’t hear it without thinking about him; I used it to connect with him during a particular point in the story)
U-Turn by Usher
Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down
Summer Love by Justine Timberlake
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie
Love Me Do by The Beatles
(I can’t get no) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones
My First Kiss by 3OH!3 feat. Kesha
I Wanna Know by Joe
Naked and Sacred by Robert Miles feat. Maria Nayler
(This is Brooklyn’s song)
Single Ladies by Beyonce
Love Hangover by Diana Ross
Feenin’ by Jodeci
Come With Me by Keith Sweat ft Ronald Isley
Every Little Thing I do by Soul For Real
If I met Callie I’d want to be her, seriously! She’s everything I’d want to be if I wasn’t me. Her quirky style & hotness, her friendly nature, and her confidence are magnetic. She’s tiny in size, but huge in personality and presence. The girl on the cover, at that angle, is an incredible fit to my vision of Callie, and the model’s expression perfectly represents some of Callie’s emotions during If Only. All I had to do was have some minor alterations made, and there she was. That picture isn’t there just because it’s a pretty girl with pink hair; that is my Callie.
If I met Brooklyn I’d be floored by how stunning she is and mesmerized by her talent as a professional dancer, but we’d talk and I’d realize how thoroughly well I connect with her. So much so that writing her was the most natural, effortless thing. Publishing her, and putting her out there for judgment, was, and still is, beyond hard for me. Even after all these months since publishing Release, I question whether I held back at all with her so I could protect her. I don’t think I did hold back, I hope I didn’t, but that only makes me feel more protective of her. The image on the cover wasn’t picked without thought; the model’s physique, the amount of skin on show and the limited light and shadows represent Brooklyn’s sensuality, confidence and vulnerability.
If I met Joe I would literally require restraints to stop me from attempting all kinds of very sexual things on him. *Louise J fans herself* He is so damn beautiful and entirely masculine at the same time; it isn’t an exaggeration when Callie describes him as such. He has the body of a sex god, and I particularly love his taut midsection and hips. That sounds kind of random, but my interest seems to gravitate to that area. Add his incredible ink, and I’m on the floor in a gooey puddle of horny fangirl. He’s traditional in many aspects and has the loveliest heart. I’m crazy about Joe.
If I met Dane I’d be scared. He is hot beyond words, and that’s down to his manner and appearance. Standing too close to him would be impossible, I’d have the urge to run and hide. I wouldn’t be able to look into those amazing hazel eyes; they are so intense, I’d literally fall apart. With the body of a top athlete and the impact of all that ink, he is just astounding. I love him hard! He’s quite an old soul and a tower of strength, even when he’s struggling through his issues. I fell for him every time he spoke during Release.
It doesn’t get better for me than being in a scene where both Joe and Dane are present, regardless of whose POV it is. Just the mention of their names excites me. (I have a secret crush on Adam ;) So, when he’s there, too, I’m even happier)
There are so many favorite lines and moments that I have in each book, most of them too spoiler-ish, but two (relatively safe lines) include:
‘My heart wants to run, but my legs can just about walk’ – Callie, If Only
‘Crying in front of someone who loves you doesn’t make you vulnerable’ – Dane, Release
Baker Beach in San Francisco features in Release. Brooklyn goes there with her friends, and there’s talk of the nude part near the rocks. When I wrote that scene I had no idea that I would visit Baker Beach and go further than simply seeing a naked guy. Not only did I see some random nude dude on a beach, on a cold day when I was dressed in jeans and a thick cardigan, but the random nude dude offered to take a picture of hubby and me with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. We posed while a naked man stood taking our picture. Yes, I looked where I shouldn’t have been looking, you would have too. Then, he offered us the chance to have our picture taken with him. So, I have a picture of me and some random nude dude on Baker Beach. I didn’t even get his name.
There’s a point in If Only when Callie drives to and from San Francisco and Arizona. I’ve done that drive – actually, my husband did the thirteen hour drive (with no sleep, so props to him), and I got to completely connect with the emotions Callie felt going to and from Arizona. It was amazing. We even passed a kombi, though it wasn’t groovy like Roberta. You’ll meet Roberta when you read If Only.
A rattlesnake makes an appearance at one point during If Only. I totally stole that from my own life, only, unlike Callie who had the guts to take a picture, I didn’t. I hid in the house while my husband took the shot. Isn’t that what husbands are for?
One song planted the initial tiny seed of an idea that led to If Only; I Never Knew by Roger Sanchez. That one book unintentionally became a four book series. From the series came two standalones. From one of those standalones came the trigger of inspiration for my 2014 paranormal romance series. All this from one song. It’s never ending. What a crazy ride this is?!
Louise J has always been a daydreamer, but never considered writing a novel until days before typing the first words to If Only. Joe and Callie (and Gerard) appeared in a dream and her mind has never been her own since then, and she’s never alone. When she’s not writing she spends a lot of time missing out on huge chunks of conversation, movies, and TV shows thanks to many wonderful, but highly invasive characters bouncing around in her head, showing her their stories. In the name of research, those fabulous characters have led her to parts of the world she never would have dreamed of, and, as a result, has gained some of the most amazing memories. The rest of the time Louise J is trying to be a good wife to the greatest husband she could ever have asked for.
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