Hi Rocki and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Barefoot with a Bodyguard!
Hello and thank you for having me back! Love to visit this blog!! And hello to all the readers out there — you guys are the best!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Barefoot with a Bodyguard is the first book in a new spinoff series, Barefoot Bay Undercover. I’ve decided to add a twist of mystery and suspense to the sunny beaches of Barefoot Bay. There, a new operation that will essentially be a “private witness protection” group is set up to help people who need to hide or create new identities. Two of those people are at the center of this story — Alec Petrov, an MMA trainer who is on the run from the Russian mob, and Kate Kingston, an attorney-to-be whose father has been receiving threats against her. Alec is Kate’s bodyguard, and their “cover”is that they are on a honeymoon in paradise. But things get complicated, sensual, and dangerous real fast!
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Blood trickled from Alec’s shredded knuckles, red trails sliding over the purple Cyrillic letters that marked him. The cuts stung like a mother under a dribble of water, the best he could get from a sink that barely hung on the wall with a pipe and a prayer. He leaned against the rusty metal door of the gas station bathroom and finally looked in the dingy, cracked mirror at his face. And wished he hadn’t
Please share a few Random facts about this book…
- One of the secondary characters is Gabe Rossi, arguably the most popular character I’ve ever written (his book is third in this spinoff series)
- There’s a scene inspired from an episode of The Bachelor (seriously!) And, funny enough, it might be my favorite scene in the book
- I had the cover done before the book, and wrote the red fabric into the story so it made sense!
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Alec is a classic alpha hero…except he’s not. He’s big, bruising, scarred, broken, and marked as a killer. He has none of the brash confidence of an alpha male and does not see himself worthy of a woman like Kate. She, on the other hand, is fascinated by him, and uses the skills she has as an attorney-to-be to ask all the right questions to get him to reveal his true nature to her. And when she discovers that, she falls in love for him. This is definitely my take on Beauty and the Beast.
What, in your mind, distinguishes this book from other books out there in the same genre?
This one straddles contemporary romance and romantic suspense. I wrote many rom/sus novels in my career; in fact, I built my name on romantic suspense. But about five years ago, I moved into contemporary romance and launched the ongoing Barefoot Bay franchise (which now has a total of eleven titles in four distinct “sub series”). All these years, I’ve missed romantic suspense and have received daily emails asking for Gabe Rossi’s story, and more books with mystery and suspense. I decided to combine the two genres into one and thus Barefoot Bay Undercover was born, with fan favorite Gabe as the anchor for the whole series.
The First kiss…
He closed his eyes, lowered his face, and pressed his mouth very lightly against hers. So lightly. Barely even there lightly.
But then he felt her hand travel up his arm and slide over his neck, her fingers gripping him tighter and tighter, her mouth pressing harder and harder, and then her lips parted with a quick breath, intensifying the contact.
Fire licked through him as the tip of her tongue flicked over his, and the softest, sweetest whimper escaped from her throat.
Finally, she eased away so slowly he could have sworn she didn’t want to stop that kiss.
Her eyes were still closed, her lips still parted. And Alec’s whole being slipped a little down a slope he shouldn’t have even been near.
“Good acting,” she whispered.
Not on his part. There was no acting involved, but he had to remember that’s all it was for her.
Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?
Yes! Their “cover” is that they are newlyweds on their honeynmoon, and the resort owner gifts them a couples massage and a session with a sex guru. (That’s what I got from The Bachelor.) Madame Valaina requires intimacy, of course, with no idea that her subjects are strangers, not honeymooners.
“Benjamin, sit on this pillow, please, and cross your legs.” Valaina indicated an oversized tufted pillow on the floor, and he followed the orders.
Valaina nodded to her. “Now you, Tilly.”
“Where?” she asked. All of the other pillows had been removed.
“On his lap,” she said. “Straddling him. You know, as if you’re making love in a chair. Surely you’ve made love in a…” She looked from one to the other, closing her eyes and shaking her head slowly.
Had she figured out the truth? Kate didn’t move, waiting for the accusation and verdict: You two are complete fakes!
“Excuse me while I walk into this wall between you two,” she said dryly. “You may say it’s because you aren’t comfortable with another person in this room, but I heard you bickering on the beach. Moreover, I saw the unnatural stiffness between you, and I can smell the tension in this tent. And I don’t mean of the sexual variety.”
They stole another look at each other, as if they could silently agree not to let her know she was right.
“Let go of whatever it is keeping you two apart,” the woman said, flicking her hands toward Alec on the floor. “Sit on his lap, Tilly.” Her voice softened, taking the sting out of the order. “And, for heaven’s sake, wrap your legs around your husband.”
Kate let out a slow breath and walked across the hard-packed sand of the cabana floor, clinging to her flimsy wrap to cover her bare breasts. Alec stared straight ahead, his jaw clenched, his arms at his sides.
He looked like a man being sent to a torture chamber.
Kate lowered herself to his lap. She hesitated a split second, then she heard Alec’s breath catch as she found a place for her bottom, right on his hard, unforgiving thighs. Slowly, she curled her legs around his hips, and in this position, she was ever so slightly taller than Alec, her mouth at about his eye level.
She inched back—
“Oh no,” Valaina said, settling on a pillow she’d tossed to the floor a few feet away. Kate noticed that Alec surreptitiously glanced at his right hand, currently out of the other woman’s sight. Kate would have to remember to cover his tattoo. She’d have to remember to cover a lot of things, like her boobs, her thoughts, and her response to being sealed against a man this…hot.
“Let your chest touch his, and your mouth to his ear.”
She leaned forward, letting the thin material come between her and his bare chest, her lips at his left ear, his mouth in the vicinity of her throat.
And both of them left their hands clumsily at their sides.
“Okay,” Kate said, giving a little laugh. It was awkward, but it was also…warm. And not just because the sun beat down on the cabana roof.
He managed to make his whole body perfectly still—except for his wildly beating heart. Nice to know there were some things he couldn’t control.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?
The old man tapped in a few numbers on the keypad, and the latch released. As Kate stepped forward, she caught a glimpse of the edge of a natural pool surrounded by stone and a small waterfall tucked behind palm trees. Delighted, she couldn’t help but dart forward, leaving Mr. Rossi behind in her excitement to see her little slice of paradise.
“Mrs. Carlson!” he called.
She waved him off and stepped around the side of the house…and froze in shock.
Who the holy hell was that?
A man whirred and kicked and sliced his hands through the air. He stood in the shadows under a pergola, the streaks of sunlight and shade bathing him in a constant movement of light and dark, his eyes closed, his fists taut, his legs flying and turning and kicking so hard she could hear them cut through the air.
He grunted and turned so she could see his face, and she almost stumbled, gasping softly.
Instantly he stopped, every muscle—and, God, there were a lot of those—suddenly as still as if he’d been carved in stone and put on display to…admire.
All she could do was take in a mighty male chest inching through the opening of a snow-white kimono-type of jacket tied with a knotted black belt, and hold her breath as ice-cold blue eyes sliced right through her.
“We used the gate,” Mr. Rossi said, coming up behind her, and not a bit fazed by the man’s presence. “I meant to call and tell you we were on the property, but I got distracted.”
The man breathed, once and slowly, not a bit winded by that…that fighting dance he’d been doing. Then he nodded once, so slight it was almost imperceptible.
He came closer then, like an animal approaching its prey, each slow step silent in his loose-fitting karate pants. She tried to take him in, guess who he was, and examine his features all at the same time, but it was impossible to even have a coherent thought in the face of such…such a man.
Everything was too much. Too many muscles, too many angles, too many tattoos peeking through that top. His nose was too big, his neck too dense, his cheeks too hollow and shadowed, his mouth much too…much.
“You must be Mathilda.” His voice was low, a rumble in his chest, somehow as terrifying as it was compelling.
“I’m…” Speechless. Helpless. Breathless. She glanced at Mr. Rossi, who’d suddenly morphed from hapless escort into her lifeline to sanity.
“She goes by Tilly,” he said smoothly. “And this is Benjamin.”
Who the hell was Benjamin? Other than a brute who looked like he crawled out of hell and would be more comfortable going back there.
“Benjamin Carlson,” Mr. Rossi finished. “Your bodyguard.”
“Bodyguard?” Few words conjured the hated image of a helpless female as much as that one. The only other possessive, soul-sucking title that made her want to gag more was—
“And your husband.”
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
Alec: you can be tender, just let go.
Kate: you can love and not be controlled, give it a chance
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2015?
The next book in this series! Barefoot with a Stranger, which will be out in the fall, followed by Barefoot with a Bad Boy, and that should be early January. Love writing romantic suspense again!
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I will giveaway one signed copy of Barefoot with a Bodyguard! (US only)
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Excerpt from Barefoot with a Bodyguard:
“What I want is for you to tell me something about you,” Kate said. “Something I don’t guess or drag out of you one syllable at a time. Tell me your last name. Or something about your life. Or…why you hate your hands. Tell me something.”
Alec looked at her for a long time, searching her face as though he was really considering her request, making her hold her breath for the answer.
But he didn’t say a word, silently continuing their walk toward the hard-packed sand left from the tide that was far, far out now. They walked along the sand to the water’s edge, the low, frothy waves threatening to submerge their feet with each ebb and flow, but running out of steam before they did.
A full five minutes passed as they walked in complete silence, the only sound the splash of water and the light breeze in her ears. He dropped his arm, and Kate pulled her sheer makeshift wrap around her shoulders, letting it float behind her like wings.
Maybe she’d asked for too much. Sex would have been simpler. Even a kiss would—
“They’re ugly. They’re marked. They’re scarred. And they were really only made to do one thing well, and that is to inflict pain.”
It took a second for her to realize he was talking about his hands. And another for her to come up with ten reasons he was wrong. That wasn’t pain his hands inflicted on her today.
But gut instinct told her not to interrupt.
“I was born with these giant paws.” He held out his left hand, fully open to demonstrate how huge it was. Huge. His fingers would easily extend an inch and a half past hers. “My dad was a butcher, and I had to help him, so I got my first knife scar before I was six.” He pointed to a nearly invisible scar on his index finger, and she tucked away another tiny piece of information about him. Dad was a butcher.
“These hands have bad memories,” he said.
“Tell me one.”
He thought for a few seconds, then, “My dad was holding my hand when he died,” he said, his voice gruff.
“Oh.” She touched his shoulder in sympathy. “That’s sad.”
“It was, but he wasn’t that young. He was almost twenty years older than my mother, but still, it hurt.”
And she knew exactly how much it hurt. Her mother died while in a coma—a coma Kate had caused. She would have loved to hold her mother’s hand and say good-bye. And I’m sorry.
“Then there was this tattoo, which I got at thirteen.”
The new tidbit pulled her from a dark memory. “Wow, that’s young.”
“Against my will.”
She stopped walking, remembering how he and Gabe had both referred to it as a mark. “You were forced to get a tattoo that says… How do you pronounce it?”
“Like oo-bah,” he said.
“Kill,” she recalled.
“Actually, it’s more like a demand that you should kill, or at least that would be the closest translation in English. Like saying, ‘You will do that,’ as opposed to ‘Do that.’ Does that make sense?”
“It’s the imperative tense.”
He smiled. “You would know that.”
But what she didn’t know—and wanted to—was why someone would force him to be marked or demand that he kill. She wasn’t going to hold her breath for that confession.
He fisted his hand and turned his knuckles to face him, like he was going to punch his own nose. “This is an order, in more ways than one.”
Or maybe he would tell her. She took a step so she was face-to-face with him, his fist between them. “Who made you get that?”
He slammed shut, his body tensing, his jaw clenched, his mouth a straight, tight line of silence.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Barefoot Bay Undercover Series
Introducing Barefoot Bay Undercover, a romantic adventure series set on the tropical beaches of Barefoot Bay. When former CIA consultant Gabe Rossi creates a secret “privatized witness protection” operation hidden within the security firm at the local resort, things get a little more suspenseful on the island paradise. Gabe’s clients need to keep a low profile, stay safe, and possibly transform themselves…and, sometimes, they find love. (To find out how Gabe started the operation, be sure to read the series prequel novella, Barefoot Bound.)
Barefoot with a Bodyguard – book one in the series
About to take the bar exam after ending a five-year marriage that derailed her career plans and her life, Kate Kingston craves independence and a vacation. Somewhere warm with sea breezes, sunshine, sand…and no scary threats against her that have been showing up in her dad’s office. Barefoot Bay is the perfect place for some serenity while she studies and puts her life back together. But when she meets the brooding wall of muscle her father hired to protect her, Kate feels her hard won independence slipping away as fast as her resolve to avoid men who wield power over her.
Mixed martial arts trainer Alec Petrov has been on the run for a long time. Guarding a young attorney-to-be while pretending to be her husband is not a bad way to live off the grid, hidden from the Russian mobster who is hunting Alec with deadly intent. But the beautiful young law student brings out a tender side Alec doesn’t understand, or believe he deserves, and he soon realizes that keeping them both safe is only half the challenge. Keeping his hands off her and his attraction under control will be every bit as difficult in the closed quarters of an exclusive resort.
When their make-believe honeymoon in paradise turns sensual, complicated, and dangerous, Alec and Kate realize it’s not just their lives that are in jeopardy, it’s their hearts. And they’ll have to fight to the end to save each other…and their love.
Meet the Author:
Published since 2003, Roxanne St. Claire is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than forty novels. She has written for Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Harlequin, and Random House and, in 2014, started her own company to independently publish seven releases in The Barefoot Bay series, with at least three more expected this year.
In addition to being a six-time nominee and one-time winner of the RITA™ Award, Roxanne’s novels have won the National Reader’s Choice Award for best romantic suspense three times, as well as the Daphne du Maurier Award, the HOLT Medallion, the Maggie, Booksellers Best, Book Buyers Best, the Award of Excellence, and many others.
She lives in Florida with her husband, and still attempts to run the lives of her teenage daughter and 20-something son. She loves dogs, books, chocolate, and wine, but not always in that order.
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