Today it is my pleasure to Welcome romance author Heidi Rice to HJ!
“Edits Unleashed” gives authors an opportunity to share with readers deleted scenes that did not make it through the final edits into publication.
Today, Heidi Rice will be unleashing edits from her book Too Close for Comfort
Thanks Sara, it’s great to be here.
Too Close for Comfort was my first Harlequin KISS novel, but actually the fifth book in a series of interlinked stories. Zane Montoya is an impossibly gorgeous Mexican American private detective who appeared briefly as the best friend (and unacknowledged half-brother) of my One Night So Pregnant hero Nate Graystone. Iona McCabe is a Scottish wildlife in LA to catch the man who had swindled her father out of thousands of pounds…. Or at least that’s how it ended up.
This deleted scene involves how the book originally started. But I ended up having to re-write the opening third of the book, to give it more spark! Also in a 50k book I didn’t have time to have my heroine Iona spending the first three chapters getting over her arsehole of an ex-boyfriend, so I turned Brad Demerest into a con-man, who Zane has under surveillance when he spots Iona breaking into the guy’s motel room… But prior to that, well…. Read the original opening and see.
If you want to read how the book ended up starting… You can check out Amazon’s look inside the book feature here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Close-Comfort-Mills-Boon-Modern-ebook/dp/B00C1DTMAS#reader_B00C1DTMAS
Good grief! Who knew that was even anatomically possible.
Iona McCabe flipped to the next grainy photograph clutched in clammy fingers as her vision blurred on the indisputable evidence before her: the man she had hitched her dreams to six months ago had been cheating on her with a pneumatic blonde who had bigger tits than Dolly Parton.
Brad’s bottom loomed large in the centre of the photograph, the tanned orbs in sharp contrast to the platinum tresses of the woman he appeared to be trying to swallow whole. Iona’s gag reflex engaged, but the shock she wanted to feel failed to follow, as she finally absorbed the truth that had been staring her in the face for months — this wasn’t the first time Brad had cheated on her, it was just the first time he’d been caught on camera.
The tapping of a pencil intruded into Iona’s thoughts and her gaze connected with the man sitting behind the sleek hardwood desk in the offices of Montoya Investigations in Carmel, California. Her pulse spiked in an instinctive feminine reaction to the detective’s face and she struggled to stem the hysteria bubbling under her breastbone. As if it wasn’t humiliating enough that the house of cards her life had become should collapse as a result of fifteen glossy eight by ten photographs taken with a telephoto lens by a private detective thousands of miles from her home — said private detective had to look like a movie star.
She studied the firm sensual lips, the aqualine nose with the bump at the bridge that stopped him from looking too beautiful, the sculpted angles of his cheekbones and the cool, sapphire blue of his eyes. She swallowed convulsively in a vain attempt to reduce the size of the boulder wedged in her throat. Zane Montoya’s heart-stopping face was just one more thing to feel inadequate about in this land of milk, honey and disposable morals.
‘Do you know her name?’ she asked, her voice admirably steady considering the boulder was starting to splinter into jagged shards. To think she’d felt crushingly guilty about hiring Montoya’s firm a week ago, when Brad had once again failed to come home from his latest celebrity bash. She’d dialled the agency’s number near tears, after trying to get Brad on his mobile for the tenth time.
She’d persuaded herself she was taking decisive action. She couldn’t continue living in limbo — fearing the worse and yet desperately hoping for the best. Hiring a detective firm would give her an answer she could believe. Unlike the ones Brad had been giving her for months. But by the time Brad had finally reappeared — with a tall story about an urgent meeting with investors in Catalina and two-days worth of stubble on his chin — she’d calmed down enough to know that the simple act of hiring Montoya’s firm meant their relationship was over.
How could she be in love with a man she had never been able to trust?
She’d rung to cancel the contract this morning, only to have the super-efficient receptionist inform her that one of Montoya’s detectives had already been trailing Brad for six hours and they had some evidence to show her. And so here she was — staring at the long-range photos of Brad’s investors meeting — but instead of feeling vindicated, she felt violated.
‘Her name’s Chastity Belman.’ The low masculine voice held no trace of sympathy, or pity, so she had to be grateful for that. ‘She has a supporting role in the movie Demarest is producing.’ The glacial Daniel Craig eyes fixed on her face making strange little pin-pricks of sensation tickle her spine.
‘Chastity!’ Iona dropped her gaze to the top photo again and forced out a laugh. ‘Wow! That’s…’ She hesitated. ‘That’s actually pretty hilarious, isn’t it?’
Unfortunately, she’d never felt less like laughing. She let out a slow huff of breath.
Enough with the drama, this is not the worse thing that could happen.
Yes, Brad had cheated on her, and for that she would never forgive him, but she’d also been cheating herself all this time. Pretending he was something he wasn’t. When Brad had walked into her father’s giftshop in Rainbow Glen, wearing a winter tan and artfully ripped jeans, and cooed over the sketches she had displayed behind the counter, she’d been desperate to escape the Highland town where her family had lived for generations.
It had never really been Brad she’d tumbled into love with during that late-summer weekend — after a guided tour to Moragh’s burn and a furtive night at Mrs Fitzherbert’s Bed and Breakfast Inn — but rather his promises of an exciting new life in Los Angeles.
Their whirlwind holiday fling had been as much of a figment of her over-active imagination as her continued belief in all the slick lies he told so convincingly.
He’d treated her like an exotic pet and then gotten bored with her — and she’d refused to see it — despite all his veiled insinuations that she wasn’t quite what he’d expected as soon as they’d got to LA.
She hadn’t been honest with herself, anymore than he’d been honest with her. She stared at the evidence of Brad doing things to another woman he’d never done to her, and acknowledged another humiliating home truth. She and Brad hadn’t been any more compatible in bed than they had out of it.
She glanced at Detective Sexy, who hadn’t said a word and the pin-pricks tingled. Well, at least she wasn’t completely frigid.
Although she doubted Montoya was a good judge of frigidity. No doubt, those chiseled features and that I-want-to-devour-you gaze could probably arouse a stone.
Her gaze returned to the photos in her lap. The dart of inadequacy pierced her chest and the pin-pricks faded.
Damn Brad Demarest. So what if she wasn’t as enthusiastic or accomplished in the sack as Chastity Big Boobs Belman? That didn’t mean she deserved to be lied to. And it didn’t make her less of a person, or less deserving of his respect. The pep talk made her feel a bit better about the fact that she had debased herself for a romantic dream that had never been real, but not a lot.
‘How much do I owe you?’ she murmured, placing the photographs on the polished desk as if they were coated with nitro-glycerine.
She needed to get out of here now and start putting this whole hideous episode behind her. Brad was with the crew on location in Vegas until Friday. She winced slightly. No doubt banging Miss Big Boobs for all he was worth. But that gave her two days to pack up her stuff and find somewhere else to live.
Her stomach twisted into greasy knots of apprehension at the thought of where she would go, what she would do. But the thought of walking away from Brad’s luxury and completely soulless Bel Air pad for good was some compensation. Living the Hollywood high life hadn’t been quite the dream come true she’d thought it would be.
Her fingers shook as she located her purse and extracted her credit card.
‘I can bill you by email,’ Detective Sexy said, his voice lowering several octaves. ‘Once I’ve checked the billable hours with Dean, the detective who took the shots.’
‘I’d rather settle the bill now, thank you,’ she said sharply, annoyed at the spurt of gratitude that Montoya hadn’t been the one witnessing her boyfriend’s faithlessness through the telephoto lens.
Then an odd thing happened, the flat line of Montoya’s lips curved up at one end, sending a dimple into his cheek. The hint of a smile was more rueful than amused, but there was no denying the spectacular blip in her heart rate.
Iona had the sudden and entirely superfluous thought that this man could probably seduce a woman at thirty paces with a whole smile — the iridescent blue of his irises, and the compelling dark rim around a perfect compliment to the mocking twist of his lips.
Bloody hell, is no-one in this town even average looking?
‘Is something funny?’ she asked curtly, guessing he had to be laughing at her — although it was impossible to tell, because apart from the devastating half-smile his expression remained unreadable.
‘You do know your boyfriend’s a jerk and he doesn’t deserve you, right?’ The personal observation startled her almost as much as the warmth that seeped into the ice blue gaze. He’d been totally professional till now, polite and distant to the point of being a little intimidating.
‘As of about two minutes ago,’ she said, the credit card cutting into her clenched fist. ‘He’s not my boyfriend.’
Superb! Like I need to be patronised right now by a guy who’s better-
looking than Adonis.
‘And frankly, how would you know what I deserve?’ she added.
‘No woman deserves to be cheated on,’ he said with little inflection. But she could detect the hidden subtext: except a woman who’s daft enough to hitch her dreams to a guy who can t keep his dick in his pants.
That he was absolutely correct only made her fist clench harder.
‘Is that right,’ she said. ‘So that’s why you make a living skulking about taking pictures of elicit shagging? To right the terrible wrongs done to womankind?’
Shooting the messenger might be cheap and infantile, but she suddenly had the desire to hurt this man with his too-handsome face and his effortlessly sexy smile. From the sickle-shaped scar that bisected his left eyebrow, she suspected he was tough enough to withstand anything she had to throw at him.
‘Not quite.’ His lips lifted further and her heartbeat accelerated, as the pin-pricks gathered and concentrated in several really inappropriate places. ‘I skulk for the money. Or rather I get my employees to skulk for me. Sitting for hours in a parking lot can be tedious as hell.’ He patted what appeared to be a flat, toned belly beneath the tooled leather belt of his slacks. ‘And it’s not great on the waistline either.’
Not something he appeared to have a problem with.
‘It’s still a crummy way to make a living,’ she commented.
If he was fishing for a compliment, she wasn’t about to take the bait.
Zane Montoya grinned at the snotty comeback glad to see the aching vulnerability no longer shadowing the girl’s golden eyes.
‘Crummy or not, it pays the bills,’ he replied, unoffended. She was entitled to be mad at men right about now, so he didn’t mind taking one for the team — especially as it made the rich caramel sparkle with temper instead of devastation.
Her boyfriend wasn t simply a jerk. He was a total SOB, but then La-La Land and the movie business was full of them, so that was no big surprise. What did surprise him, though, was that he’d broken protocol and engaged the girl in a personal conversation. He had a strict rule about making personal observations to clients. Not only was it unprofessional, but it could easily come back and bite you on the butt. Especially, if the client happened to be female.
In his experience, women who hired private detectives to spy on their loved ones tended to fall into two categories: bored socialites who didn’t trust their partners, or bored socialites who’d been cheated on and were looking to get even. And he’d been hit on often enough by both types to know that encouraging them in any way was never a good idea.
But this girl didn’t fit the mould. She’d looked crushed when he’d handed over the photos. Either that or she was a really good actress. But he didn’t think so. After ten years in the LAPD— five in Metro and five as a detective — he’d interrogated everybody from jaywalkers to embezzling accountants, and he knew how to read people. He’d bet his left nut this girl was as devastated as she’d appeared to be.
He’d seen the sheen of unshed tears, the flushed skin on her pale cheeks going vermillion as she’d studied Dean’s photos. For one uncomfortable moment he’d thought she was going to cry, her fingers shaking like she had the DTs, but then she’d pulled herself back from the brink and blinked away any trace of emotion.
And something had fluttered under his ribcage that didn’t feel all that professional.
Which was weird. He didn’t usually have a problem remaining detached. When you grew up with a mother who was only sixteen years older than you and you’d been chasing women, and catching most of them, since you were fifteen, displays of female emotion didn’t phase you.
But there was something about Iona McCabe’s stoicism — and those sultry eyes, so large and wary in her small face — that had phased him.
The furious urge to go find her boyfriend and kick the living crap out of him had come first. But that had been fairly easy to explain — he despised men who hurt women, probably because he’d been fathered by one who had made it his life’s work.
More troubling had been the desire to wipe the devastation away.
Rescued by a bone-meltingly handsome stranger!
After a run-in with a Californian con-man, Scottish Iona MacCabe has no money and nowhere to go. She quickly discovers LA can be a very unfriendly city without tons of hard cash… Millionaire security expert Zane Montoya can hardly leave a pretty Scottish tourist at a dodgy motel to fend for herself. His long-lost chivalrous side takes over: he turns on the legendary Montoya charm and whisks Iona away to upscale Monterey.
Independent, wilful Iona might be spitting daggers at being rescued, but that doesn’t stop the sexual heat between them reaching scorching point!
USA Today bestselling author Heidi Rice is married with two teenage sons (which gives her rather too much of an insight into the male psyche). She loves her job because it involves sitting down at her computer each day and getting swept up in a world of high emotions, sensual excitement, funny feisty women, sexy tortured men and glamourous locations where laundry doesn’t exist … Not bad, eh. Then she gets to turn off her computer and do chores (usually involving laundry!)
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Giveaway: I’d love to give away a copy of Too Close for Comfort (internationally available)
To enter Giveaway: Please post a comment to this Q: So, if you’ve had a chance to read both openings… Which do you prefer?
Please note: This contest will close on Friday June 13 2014 at 8:59 PM (PT) and the winner(s) will be notified via email and on this Post. Winner(s) will have 48 hours to respond to the e-mail before a new winner is selected. All entrants must adhere to HJ’s official giveaway policy.