Hi Geri and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Wedding Takedown!
Hi Sara! It’s such a delight to be on HJ again!
Tell us about the book with this fun little challenge using the title of the book:
Wedding Takedown was both exciting and scary for me to write. Exciting because it’s the second book in my newest series, Silver Valley PD, and scary because I wanted to make sure I kept up the suspense, mystery and hot romance that readers loved in Her Christmas Protector. So let’s see, “W” for more wild situations that my heroine, Kayla Paruso, finds herself in. “T” for the touching love scenes that Rio and Kayla share.
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
It was no use. She was still hot for Rio.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Rio Ortega is attracted to Kayla’s depth. She’s not only a business woman or local hometown gal, she’s a woman with a global past who chooses to settle down in Silver Valley. Her strength deepens his attraction as she stands up to the danger that’s threatening both of them, and the town they love.
Kayla is attracted to Rio’s sexy intelligence and sense of humor, but convinces herself that he’s a cop and off-limits to her for a lasting relationship. Until Rio’s refusal to let her go so easily comes into play, and Kayla is very attracted to that!
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
The biggest challenge for me with any book is making the vision I have in my mind appear on the page. For Wedding Takedown I wanted to showcase the warmth of the people in Central Pennsylvania, while at the same time depicting a very sick evil that’s creeping into Silver Valley–a cult–along with a murderer. It was a tricky balancing act.
What, in your mind, makes this book stand out?
Silver Valley is a fictional name for the area of Central PA that I live in. I know my characters and what they’re about. I’ve done extensive research with my local police and law enforcement, and have added some extra fun details like a super-secret government shadow agency. Silver Valley PD is the quintessential hometown romance series with hotter romance and higher stakes.
The First Kiss…
Happens in the back of Kayla’s florist shop, in the very early morning after Kayla’s witnessed a murder the night before. Rio and Kayla have a history; they’ve dated before, briefly. So when they kiss, it isn’t a sweet or tender first kiss. It’s hot and reflects their mutual desire to take the kiss to the next level–now!
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
When Kayla and Rio first see one another after she abruptly broke up with a while ago, it’s at the scene of a murder she’s witnessed and Rio is the detective on duty. I could see Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami) and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones, Me Before You) playing Rio and Kayla.
He spun around, weapon drawn, his aim steady.
“It’s me, Rio. Kayla. Or don’t you remember?”
Slowly he lowered his gun and allowed his arms to drop to his sides. Never had the sight of someone been so welcome. A charge of hot attraction went from his heart to his dick, and if there wasn’t a dead body that needed tending to outside of the kitchen they stood in, he knew he’d have her in his arms and laying across the prep table, naked, in a minute flat. So much for his professional pride.
He saw the wariness in her eyes. Not fear from the shock of what she’d just been through, but what he’d put there when he’d never called her back after she told him she couldn’t see him anymore.
Even that wasn’t enough to keep her from catapulting herself into his arms, forcing him to take a step back. His butt hit the edge of the prep table as his arms went around her and he felt a sudden flash of regret that they weren’t here as lovers, instead of as a murder witness and cop.
If your hero had a sexy-times play list, what song(s) would have to be on it?
Selena Gomez, “Hands to Myself” and “Writings On the Wall” Sam Smith
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
That high stakes romance can exist in small town America, and that not everything is what it seems at first glance. But no matter what, true love is strong enough to save the day!
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
I’m finishing up Silver Valley PD Book Three, Title TBD, out in December 2016. Within the next two weeks I’ll turn in that book and start on Silver Valley PD #4, out in April 2017. Did I mention I love writing Silver Valley PD stories?
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: One free copy of the first book in the Silver Valley PD series, Her Christmas Protector, and a special jar lid opener just for romantic suspense readers! U.S. only, please.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: How much fantasy do you like to read in a suspense? Do you prefer more hard-boiled, police procedural, or a suspense with more edgy elements like spies, special operations?
Excerpt from Wedding Takedown:
A scraping noise alerted Kayla to the back door opening—the loading area for the van and incoming shipments. She fought back panic. It might not be an intruder, but she wasn’t expecting Jenny for another two hours.
She grabbed for the largest pair of shears they kept at the workbench and held them in front of her with her right hand while her left reached for her phone.
“Kayla?” The familiar baritone washed away her anxiety with relief, followed by a quick, hot surge of anger.
“What are you doing here so early, Rio?”
He presented a paper bag and two cups of take-out coffee in a cardboard holder. “I knew you had an early start and wanted to make sure you’re doing all right.”
“You gave me coffee last night. That was enough.”
“Still not a morning person, I see.” He set the tray onto the counter and offered her one of the cups. “You can put the scissors down. You’re safe. But I give you points for quick thinking.”
She grudgingly lowered the makeshift weapon and accepted her second cup of coffee from Rio in less than twelve hours. Biting into the soft almond croissant she’d taken from the bag, she looked at him.
“These shears are no joke. They’d kill you as quick as a bullet if need be.” He didn’t react to her attempt at humor. She shifted her weight from foot to foot. “This is delicious, thank you. You couldn’t have gotten much sleep, either.” She remembered that he’d said he never slept much once he got into a case.
“I don’t need a lot. You remember that, I’m sure.”
The heat that had never disappeared between them suddenly scorched her insides and she wished she had more sense. That she had the wherewithal to tell him to get out of the shop and let the door hit him right on his sexy butt.
“Hmm, indeed.” His eyes took in everything. With a start she realized she missed this. The quiet morning time together, the intimacy of sharing the day’s first cup of coffee as they woke up.
It was only three weeks. Get over it.
“I’m safe, Rio. As you can see, no one’s here to bother me.” Almost as if last night never happened.
“You’re safe, my ass. I walked right in here. You didn’t even have the back door locked!” His voice was quiet, low, but powered by the ferocity of his concern.
“I imagine it would be awful for you to lose your only witness.”
“I’m not going to leave you high and dry, Kayla. You’re not alone in this. We will catch this killer. And I know you’re worried about Keith, and I assure you I’m working on that, too. Not every case takes as long as his has.”
She didn’t reply. She’d like to believe him that this case wouldn’t languish as Keith’s case continued to do.
Rio leaned against the bench and took a good long perusal of the work area. “I don’t think I ever got back here when we dated.”
“No, you didn’t.” He’d come in the first time to order flowers for a colleague who was in the hospital. The next few times had been to pick her up after she closed shop and he’d waited in his car out front until she joined him. They hadn’t wanted to spend time here—there was little room to do what they both wanted. What she had needed from him—his touch—was best experienced in a bedroom.
“You never answered my calls, Kayla.”
So they were back to that.
“There was nothing to say. We’d agreed to stop seeing each other.”
“And we’d agreed to stay friends. Friends keep in touch.”
“Yeah, well, it’s been busy.”
* * *
Rio chugged his hot coffee as his mind replayed the hundreds of replies he could toss at Kayla in the morning quiet of the shop. They were both tired and on edge. She was probably still scared out of her wits, even though she’d never admit it to him.
But he saw it anyway, in the fine lines around her eyes, the slightly wild look she’d cast his way as he walked into the shop. If he hadn’t called her name first, those ridiculously large scissors may have been lodged in his chest.
“It has. I’m glad for you, Kayla. I know how much the shop means to you.” Busy meant that she’d increased her revenue and that the gossip about the serial killer ordering flowers from her hadn’t tainted her business. It was hard to tell sometimes which way the whisper mill would turn in Silver Valley. Like the rumors around Kayla’s brother’s case. Rio still couldn’t bring the case to closure, months after Keith Paruso had been accused of improper fire-inspection techniques and endangering public safety. Just when he thought he had Keith off the hook, another loophole was presented by the prosecuting attorney, in the shape of a couple who he believed were being put up to do the dirty business of the cult. The former cult members had arrived just before all the political chaos began, but he had no definitive evidence they were connected to Keith’s case. Yet.
“Thank you, and thanks for the coffee. It’s a nice treat. With that in mind, I do need to keep working.”
“Mind if I stay a bit and talk to you while you work?”
“Not at all.”
He fought not to laugh. Her words were in direct opposition to the sour look on her face. He was the last person she wanted to spend time with.
“You know, Kayla, it seems a little silly to me that two people like us are allowing the past to control whether or not we have a cordial relationship until your brother’s case is closed. We’re intelligent adults.” He watched her fingers move with equal parts grace and speed, stabbing pink flowers next to white in some kind of a green foam brick.
“Well, Rio—” God he loved how she said his name, and the images that refreshed for him “—I find it silly that you are standing here so early in the morning after a very long night in the police station, trying to pick up where we most definitely left off. I told you that it had nothing to do with you, personally. We agreed that we couldn’t date, that it’s a conflict of interest, remember? And I think being friends falls under that category, too.”
“If I’d been a doctor and not told you what I did for that long would you have been as upset?” She’d been angry that he hadn’t been open about the fact that he worked undercover at times, and he’d been angry at himself for not putting it together that she was the fireman’s sister.
Truth be told, he hadn’t wanted to make the connection. All he’d wanted was to be with Kayla.
Two long spikes of green, maybe palm leaves, went into the middle of each of the arrangements. He wondered how she knew exactly where to place each stem so that the final product looked so perfect.
“Yes, I would have wondered why you hadn’t told me what exactly you did.”
“I told you I was a cop. And as soon as I was assigned directly to Keith’s case, I should have asked to have it given to someone else.”
“It doesn’t matter now, does it?” She shook her head as she selected more blooms from a large plastic bin in the professional-grade refrigerator at the far back of the workroom. She shut the heavy door with her hip and the latch automatically clicked shut. “Stop watching my hips, Rio. It’s distracting.”
“Yes, ma’am. And for the record, it does matter. Because we still obviously have some chemistry between us.”
“Chemistry isn’t enough to make something work when one partner is always gone. You disappeared in the middle of our, our…” She pursed her lips as she clipped away at unwanted leaves on the stems of some kind of purple flower.
He loved watching the color rise from her chest, bared by her crewneck, up her neck and across her cheekbones. It reminded him of the other ways, one in particular, that he’d made her blush so profusely.
“Whatever you want to call it.”
He laughed. “Kayla, you are hands-down the most complicated woman I’ve ever known.”
“Thank you, I think?” She put her gloved fists on her hips. “Rio, I understand that you’re here because you’ve probably been assigned to keep an eye on me. You and I know I’m nothing more than a witness—I wasn’t involved in the murder. Do what you need to do to get your job done. But don’t think you have to sugarcoat it with fancy coffee and polite conversation. We’re not supposed to be talking to each other, remember?”
“We can’t discuss your brother’s case, that’s all. And I’m not a sugarcoating kind of guy, Kayla. You know that. I’m here because I want to be. You can have SVPD cops checking in on you, but the regular presence of uniformed police in your shop probably isn’t the best thing for business, is it?”
“My customers aren’t afraid of the police if that’s what you’re asking. Your colleagues crawled all over my shop at Christmas, after I delivered the flowers to Zora from the female preacher killer. It didn’t hurt business then.”
He had to level with her.
“We’re watching the new mayor closely.” He watched her as he explained. “You mentioned that his wife frequents your shop. And now, with the wedding this weekend, it’s a good opportunity to try to learn more about them.”
“You’re using my business as your cover?”
“Not exactly. We need you to help us out.”
“I already told you, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.”
“That’s good, Kayla, but I need you to be careful. If the mayor is who we think he is, associated with the kinds of people we suspect, he’s a dangerous man.”
“Which is why his assistant is dead, I presume?”
“Maybe.” He hesitated, knowing he shouldn’t share everything with her, but somehow needing to. “Kayla, I suspect that whoever is behind your brother’s civil suit may be tied to the mayor, as well. I can’t say much more, but trust me when I tell you there’s a chance that as we delve into this murder investigation we may uncover some ugly facts.”
“Any chance the facts could clear Keith?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m hoping for, but again, I can’t promise you anything. You know that if Keith’s case goes to trial I’ll be stating that I don’t believe the charges against him are valid. And I shouldn’t say any more.” She looked so damn hopeful and he hated putting the encouragement out there when he, more than anyone, knew it could end up being a long haul. “I can’t say anything else about Keith, Kayla. And trust me when I tell you that the people on the other end of this, the persons I suspect the mayor may have ties to, are wily and loaded. It’s an uphill battle.Their coffers run deep and money keeps otherwise nonsensical claims alive in court.”
She snorted as she clipped the stems of several daisy-type flowers.
He watched as her tongue darted out to moisten her lower lip. “Kayla?”
“You think Keith’s innocent, too. Don’t you?”
He looked at her. Knew he shouldn’t do what he was going to do, what he’d wanted to do since he’d walked into her shop. Since he saw her last night, shivering in shock at the barn. Since he’d last made love to her, four months ago.
Her eyes were tired; she’d been up most of the night, as had he. But they reflected the same spark of attraction that he felt, the combustible chemistry that was making him hard. He reached out and cupped her jaw. “You’re beautiful, Kayla.” He didn’t have to pull her to him—she leaned in for the kiss.
When their lips met there was no pretense of it being a first kiss again, or a simple affectionate gesture. Her mouth pressed against his with equal force and when he slid his tongue between her lips she met it with hers. Rio stopped thinking and let Kayla’s moist breath, her soft gasps, her urgent caresses against his upper arms, take him away from the gravity of the case.
Her arms went up around his neck and he took the opportunity to cup her breasts as they kissed, then moved his hands to her firm butt and gently pressed her against his erection. Her work counter was up against his back and he used the support to take most of her weight, forcing her onto her tiptoes.
“I want you, Kayla. I’ve never stopped wanting you.”
Her reply was a quick nip to his lower lip before he felt cool air against his face. He reluctantly opened his eyes and found her stare unnerving.
“We aren’t supposed to be doing this, Rio.”
“I know.” He stroked the distinctly feminine curve of her lower back and watched as she bit her lower lip, trying to hold back the moan he wanted to hear.
He lowered his arms and she took a step back. Her face was as bright pink as the tulips on the worktable and he couldn’t miss her hard nipples as they pushed against her shirt.
“I’m sorry Kayla. When I’m around you my dick does the thinking.”
“That’s all it is, Rio?” Her tone cooled as quickly as he’d heated up during their kiss.
“We never lasted long enough to find out if it could be more.”
“Your career is your first priority.” She sniffed and picked up a bunch of green stems with fluffy leaves.
“And you don’t want to date a cop. And you can’t trust me, right? We’re back to square one.”
“Not exactly.” Challenge lit her expression. “We both want my brother’s name cleared. And I want to see this mayor get his due if he’s a bad guy. So do you. Let me help out as much as I can with the Charbonneaus.”
“No heroic measures, Kayla.”
“Fine, but if I get a chance to dig up dirt, I won’t stop.” They both grinned at her unintended pun.
Rio held out his hand. “Friends? For now?”
She grasped his hand and shook, nodding. “For now. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get these bastards, whoever they are. My brother is a gifted firefighter and law enforcement officer. He needs to be doing his job.”
“Trust me, Silver Valley needs him to be doing his job.” He let her hand go only when he had to. Otherwise he would have tugged her back for another kiss.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Florist Kayla Paruso has been hired to decorate the mayor’s daughter’s wedding, but when she witnesses the murder of the mayor’s top aide, rumors of corruption—even a cult connection—swirl through the town. Could the mayor really be involved? Luckily the SVPD offers Kayla the very best protection: Detective Rio Ortego. Who just happens to be the last guy Kayla dated. With the wedding fast approaching, Kayla’s the perfect person to pry into the mayor’s dangerous secrets, but Rio won’t hear of it. And as their old attraction reignites, Rio’s cop instincts clash with his need to safeguard the woman he’s falling in love with all over again…
Meet the Author:
A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former Naval Intelligence Officer, Geri left her Naval career to pursue a writing career. She has travelled the world, living in such far-flung places as Whidbey Island, Washington State and Moscow, Russia. Geri enjoys creating love stories that stand the test of time, and with settings that she has personally experienced. She’s lived it, now she writes it!
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