Today it is my pleasure to welcome debut romance author Kara Braden to HJ!
This could work, whispered the little voice in the back of her mind, the voice that had been silent for seven years…
SHE SOUGHT SOLACE IN SOLITUDE
Years ago, former Marine Captain Cecily Knight fled her dark past and the nightmares forever haunting her nights. Alone in the remote Canadian wilderness, she survives day to day…until Ian Fairchild comes storming into her life and shatters her protective seclusion.
UNTIL ONE TOUCH BARED HER SOUL
Aloof but intriguing, defensive but undeniable, Ian is everything Cecily shouldn’t want but can’t ignore. He watches her with shrewd blue eyes, as if determined to decipher her secrets…and for the first time in years, she finds herself coming alive beneath the hands of a man with too many scars to count.
As the hushed and harsh winter closes in around them, two lost souls find themselves on the precipice of a love that could save their lives…or destroy them forever.
Inspiration for the book
I live in Arizona, where it’s over a hundred degrees outside for what feels like six months out of the year. The last time I saw snow was in November of 1998, when I visited the Grand Canyon in November. My dogs have never even seen snow. I think that more than anything is why I latched onto the idea of writing a book in the remote, snowy depths of the Canadian wilderness. Wishful thinking! From there, it was a matter of asking myself who lives in this remote forest cabin, and why. Everything came together from that point.
Random Facts About The Longest Night :
1. At one point, Cecily scolds Ian for almost using dish soap on her cast iron pans. I’ve got a set myself, and I love them! They’re heavy, but
there’s no nonstick coating to flake off, and once you get them seasoned right, they’re pretty close to nonstick themselves.
2. Cecily home-roasts her own coffee. I do, too, though I use a little countertop roaster. I roast once a week, and I grind fresh before brewing in a French press. It’s the best coffee you’ll ever have, and it’s cheaper than buying over-roasted coffee from the store.
3. Ian is actually a pretty good shot. His father used to drag him and Preston out every hunting season. Ian was never the outdoorsman his brother was, so he didn’t really like it, nor did he keep up with his skills. It might be possible that he might have pretended to be a lousy shot, just to encourage Cecily to teach him… Sneaky lawyer!
4. This one’s a minor spoiler… The bear never actually shows up in the book! You could call this unresolved ursine tension.
5. Marguerite’s doctorate in riparian biology is based on a former co-worker who had the same doctorate but couldn’t find employment in the field. How does Marguerite live in such a beautiful hilltop house in the middle of nowhere on a riparian biologist’s salary? That’s a question for a future book…
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
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“Do you ever sleep?” Cecily asked, her voice a low, lazy growl. She didn’t open her eyes, but her fingers, resting on Ian’s arm, lifted to slide forward over his wrist.
“Not much. I spend a lot of time just thinking. Still, I’ve slept more here than I ever did before,” he admitted, studying the subtle changes to Cecily’s face as she awoke fully.
She laughed quietly, barely more than a huff of air and a smile. “Sleep okay when you did?”
“Fine.” He wanted to lift his hand to touch her face and smooth down her hair, but he held still. Her fingers moved and shifted aimlessly over his wrist.
“I didn’t wake you up?” she asked self-consciously. “My nightmares and all…”
“You had two, but I was able to interrupt them.” He gave in to temptation and moved closer, shifting from his pillow to share hers. “Does it help? Do you feel better today than most mornings?”
She closed her eyes, considering, and slowly her lips turned up in a smile. “I think so.” She lifted her head enough to briefly kiss his lips. “It’s barely dawn. Want to go back to sleep?”
Grinning now, she sat up and arched her back, eyes closing as she stretched. He admired the strength of her shoulders and back just as much as her curves, half-seen through her T-shirt. “Waste of time, right.”
He couldn’t resist reaching out to smooth his hand up her back, careful not to disturb the T-shirt too much. “You know me so well.”
She pushed back against his hand and lowered her arms, rubbing briefly at her right shoulder. “Coffee? Breakfast?”
“Mmm.” Ian lay back, twisting to watch as she slipped out from under the blankets, trying not to disturb them too much. She circled around the foot of the bed, pausing for a few seconds to throw another split log on the fire, and then disappeared into the bathroom.
Sleepily, he looked up at the ceiling, thinking back to last night. Cecily had been restless, waking him every time she moved, and he’d finally given in to the impulse to spend the night watching her instead of sleeping. Observing her, he’d begun to categorize the signs differentiating her dreams and nightmares, and he’d carefully experimented with gentle ways to interrupt the nightmares before they took hold.
Then he smiled as he realized she hadn’t expressed any concern for his presence during her nightmares. There was no warning that she might hurt him. Knowing she trusted him turned his smile into a grin.
He listened to the sounds of her morning routine, noting when the toilet flushed and how long the water ran in the sink, distinguishing the hot water tap by the rattling pipes from the water heater. Most of his thoughts, though, were caught up in the hazy, wonderful fog of affection—of love—that consumed him. He’d seen people in this state before, smiling at everything as if their private, personal emotions somehow made the whole world brighter, but only now did he actually understand it.
Somehow, just knowing that she was in the next room made even this boring, primitive cabin into something wonderful.
He rolled onto his side to face the bathroom door, thinking that the person he’d been just a month ago would have looked at this future-self in horror. Well, even he had his moments of idiocy.
She returned to the bedroom and gave him an odd, amused look, full of affection. She’d started toward the closet but diverted to the bed, where she leaned down, weight on her left arm, to give him another soft kiss. “Bathroom’s yours,” she said unnecessarily, breath smelling of toothpaste, freckled skin flushed from a splash of warm water. “I’m going to fry up some eggs.”
“You could just come back to bed,” he suggested.
She grinned, the expression lighting up her whole face. “Or I could feed you up to a healthy weight, and then we could both go back to bed.”
Idly, he considered suggesting breakfast in bed, but she stood back up and walked to the closet, leaving him to silently admire the view. He let his eyes trace down what he could see of her back, over the curve of her ass, down her strong legs. He thought about his past girlfriends who did yoga or Pilates or rotted their brains with mindless jogging on treadmills. Not one of them could possibly compare to Cecily.
“Have you been to Greece?”
The apparent non sequitur didn’t even get a strange look. She was accustomed to his habit of skipping the boring parts of conversations. “No. You?” she asked, taking far too many clothes out of the closet: jeans, a T-shirt, a button-down shirt, and a sweater. She draped everything over her arm and went to the dresser.
“Years ago. Family trip.” He curled around, bringing the pillow with him, so his view of Cecily continued without interruption. “They don’t allow cars on Hydra Island. All travel is by foot or bicycle.”
She glanced curiously over her shoulder as she found socks, panties, and a bra. “Sounds different.”
“We could lease a villa there, on the beach. We’d never have to see anything, and you wouldn’t have to put on all that clothing,” he said a bit petulantly.
She laughed and tossed her clothes on the foot of the bed. She crawled up over the covers to trap him under her weight. “How exactly are we supposed to lease a villa on some primitive Greek island?”
He freed his arm from the blankets so he could take hold of her hip, hoping to coax her into staying for at least a little while. Coffee sounded appealing, in a distant way, but she belonged here with him, not out in the kitchen. “I have my passport and credit cards. What else do we need?”
Grinning, she leaned down to kiss his nose, startling him. “Small steps, Ian. Let’s start with coffee,” she said and got back off the bed, to his infinite disappointment.
Winter weather at the cabin was nothing if not unpredictable. By the time Cecily had the breakfast dishes washed and a second pot of coffee brewed, the clouds had dissipated, leaving the bright sun to melt through the thin crust of ice and snow. She dried her hands, looking out the kitchen window, and thought absently about all the things she’d normally be doing to prepare for winter. She had to check the snowmobile now, in case something had gone wrong while it sat idle over the summer. She could go look for more deadfall; there was never enough firewood. She could inspect the fuel lines to the generator for any cracking or brittle spots. She could try to catch her second deer.
Instead, she fixed up two mugs of coffee and carried them into the living room, where Ian was sprawled over the sofa, right arm draped out as though reaching for the fire. In his left hand, he held a paperback. The book didn’t register at first; she had stocked the cabin with every book that caught her eye at various used bookstores, thinking it wise to have years’ worth of winter reading materials on hand. Ian had dived into the collection without waiting for an invitation, so the sight of him reading was nothing new.
Then she saw the cover art: a giant wolf-man with an ax, a swordswoman in chain mail armor, and a leather-wearing man with two wicked daggers. It was her book, the first in a series she’d started two years ago.
“You know the target audience for that is age twelve to eighteen, don’t you?” she asked self-consciously.
“So I gathered.” He rolled onto his side and pressed back against the cushions, making just enough room for her to perch on the edge of the sofa. “I’ve never read much fiction.”
She handed over the mug with three sugars, having learned not to mix them up. She didn’t know which was worse: accidentally drinking sugar-laced coffee or Ian having a sip of straight black. “Don’t feel obliged to read it.”
“I never feel obliged to do anything,” he said bluntly, grin flashing to life. He sat up, managing to take off his glasses, curl around her, and press a kiss to the back of her neck, all without spilling a drop of coffee. He settled at her side, pressed close from shoulder to knee, and set her book gently down on the coffee table. He put his glasses on top of it and rested his mug on his knee. “What about your other book?”
She hissed in a breath, closing her eyes. She’d known that he would have found those pages by now, but she hadn’t really allowed herself to think about them. “It’s not for children.”
His fingers pressed gently over her pulse. “At the bottom of the pages…”
“The X. I won’t…I can’t publish them under my name.” She laughed uncomfortably. “Cecily Knight is too…cheery. It’s not a very pleasant story. God knows I wouldn’t want to read it.”
“Does it help to write it?”
She shrugged. She turned the mug and took the handle with her left hand so she could drink without pulling away from his touch. “I don’t know,” she finally admitted. “I haven’t made it far enough. Thirty-something pages is barely the first couple of chapters.”
She shook her head, rising abruptly. “We should go,” she interrupted. “The sooner we get that second deer, the better. Towing the trailer with the snowmobile is a bitch.”
Ian looked up at her with those too-sharp eyes, and she could almost see his brain analyzing her reaction. For one icy, suffocating moment, she thought he might push to keep her talking. But then he nodded and rose, fixing her with a wicked smile as he asked, “Care to help me change?”
She laughed, relieved, and pulled him down for a kiss, careful not to spill his coffee. “I’ll help you warm up later. How’s that?”
“I’ll hold you to it.”
Kara Braden makes her debut in modern romance with a story of love in isolation. She believes that engaging, romantic fantasy can be found everywhere in the world, even in the most unlikely places. With the support of her wonderful husband, cats, and dogs, she writes from her home office outside Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends her time hiding from the sunlight and heat.