Hi Julie Ann and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Wild Ride!
Hey-oh, everyone! I’m tickled to be back on Harlequin Junkie talking about my newest release, WILD RIDE!
The book follows the hero everyone has been waiting for. (Drum roll, please…) Ethan “Ozzie” Sykes! Readers will ride along with him on his twisty, turny, suspenseful journey to finding happily-ever-after. There will be car chases, shoot outs, a rogue motorcycle club, mistaken identities, steamy hot sex and so much more. But for today’s post, I want to focus on one of my favorite scenes from the book.
It’s not a scene starring the hero and the heroine (almost ALL of those count as my “favorite scene” so it’s too hard to choose between them) but rather the hero and one of his friends at Black Knights Inc.
Not to give too much away, but Ozzie thinks his job working for the clandestine government defense firm is on the line, and his friend, Becky, assures him otherwise.
Without further ado…
“Why the long face?”
Ozzie jumped at the question. He hadn’t heard Becky come up behind him. He’d been too caught up in staring at Samantha’s text message, willing it to change.
Clearing his throat and pasting on a smile—he hoped it wasn’t too sick-looking—he turned away from his bank of computers. The late-morning sun always gave the shop a rosy glow. But even that wasn’t enough to soften Becky’s edges. She was covered head to toe in metal shavings and grease, and her expression was decidedly flinty. She always got that look when she was knee-deep in a bike build. Just so happened that right then she was knee-deep in a bike rebuild. After five days, Violet, his beloved motorcycle, was beginning to look like her old self. Becky was a true genius.
“Long face?” He quirked a brow. “Wait. I know this one.” He forced a teasing note into his voice. “It starts out… A horse walks into a bar, right?”
Becky plunked down beside him, a bottle of water in one hand and a grape-flavored Dum Dum lollipop still in its wrapper in the other. “Don’t frickin’ distract me with that winning smile and those quick quips. Ten minutes ago, you were grinning and whistling that Come on, feel the noise song by…” She screwed up her face.
“Quiet Riot, although it’s actually a remake of an old 1973 Slade song,” he submitted helpfully. It would also forever remind him of Samantha, the song she’d had him play on the jukebox at Delilah’s bar all those years ago.
“Right.” Becky nodded. “And then you get a text message, and suddenly you look like you’re sucking on a lemon. So what gives? Who was that?” She flicked a greasy finger at his cell phone.
He considered prevaricating or telling her it was none of her damned business, but what would be the point? She would find out eventually. He hadn’t exactly kept it a secret that he was supposed to meet Samantha for lunch.
“It was Samantha.” And just saying her name opened up another fissure in his heart. “She canceled on me.”
Becky lifted a brow. “Why? Did something happen to burst all those heart-shaped balloons flying above her head?” She pointed her lollipop at him. “What did you do?”
“M-me?” Ozzie sputtered. “Why do you assume I did something?”
“Um, because you’re a man, that’s why.”
“Is this one of those sisterhood situations or rules or something?” He frowned at her.
“Never mind.” He ran his fingers through his hair, inadvertently hitting the bandage over his stitches. The wound itched like a bitch. Soon it would be completely healed and he’d have nothing to show for those two crazy, amazing days with Samantha but a thin scar and the memory of her beneath him, above him, teasing him and tormenting him and giving him more pleasure than he’d ever known. Even though she claimed to have forgiven him, he got the feeling this missed date was just the first of many missed dates to come. She was in the business of disappearing from his life. He recognized the signs. “The truth is I was an ass to her, okay?”
Becky’s chin jerked back. “You? I don’t believe it. You’re never an ass to anyone.” She shook her head. “No. Wait. I take that back. You’re a smart-ass to just about everyone. But I’ve never known you to be intentionally cruel.”
“I was to her.” When he replayed his words to Samantha, he felt sick to his stomach. His father used to lash out. Sometimes he had stumbled into Ozzie’s bedroom in a drunken rage and slurred, “She was fine before you came! This is all your fault!” Later, when his father was sober, he would apologize. But the sting of his words never went away.
And I’m becoming more like him every day. Eaten up by self-pity and remorse. Unable to do anything about it.
“So did you…” Becky hesitated. “Did you apologize for being an ass?” She’d eyed him quizzically.
“Yep. In every way I know how.”
“But she’s still pulling away from you?”
He shook his head. “She was pulling away from me before that. Her pulling away was what precipitated my assholery.”
“Hmm,” Becky said.
“Hmm?” He made a face. “That’s all you got for me?”
“I just don’t understand it. I thought she was frickin’ ass over tits for you.”
“Please.” He snorted.
“Hmm,” Becky said again, and he was beginning to hate that word.
“Such is my lot in life.”
“So what are you gonna do about it?”
“What can I do?” His thigh chose that moment to send a shooting pain into the base of his spine. “I’ll give her up. I should be good at that by now. I’ve had to resign myself to giving up a lot of things, especially recently.”
“What do you mean?” Becky’s brow furrowed.
He hadn’t realized where this conversation was going, but it was a destination he had known he would need to reach eventually. Why not now? Everything else is falling to shit. Might as well get this over and done with.
“I mean this.” He waved a hand to indicate the shop. “I mean us. All of us.”
“Not tracking.” When Becky shook her head, her long blond ponytail shed metal shavings like sparkling silver confetti.
“Come on, Becky.” His voice was hoarse. He didn’t think his broken heart could hurt worse, but… Oh joy! I sure love surprises! “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. We both know my leg is about as good as it’s going to get.”
She glanced down at his thigh. It was covered by his jeans, but he felt like she could see the mangled flesh beneath. “So?”
“So that means my job at Black Knights Inc. is over.” And saying it out loud for the first time was like having his stomach cut open and listening to his guts spill on the floor. “I’ll never be able to go back in the field. I can’t run half a mile on the treadmill without collapsing from the pain, much less hump my ass over mountains or through jungles.”
“So?” Apparently she was doing her best impression of a scratched record. She kept skipping and repeating the same lines over and over. “You’re still an integral part of this team. What you do with these computers…” She waved at the monitors. “It’s invaluable. And your design suggestions for the last couple of custom bike jobs? Brilliant.”
“It’s not enough,” he said around the lump in his throat. “Boss brought me on to do more than computer work. But I’m no good for more than computer work, and I—” His eyes burned. He had to stop and look away so she wouldn’t see what a pussy he’d become. When he turned back, Becky whacked him on the back of the head hard enough to have him seeing stars. “Hey!” I had a minor concussion not five days ago, and now you’re—”
“Shut up,” she hissed. She was holding her Dum Dum lollipop an inch from his nose. He went cross-eyed when he tried to look at it. “For a genius, you sure are a frickin’ idiot.”
Ozzie frowned. “I’ve been hearing that a lot lately.”
“Probably because it’s true. Do you really believe you’re only worth something to Black Knights Inc. if you can do the job you were hired to do?”
“Nope.” Becky plunked her water bottle down on the table. Peanut, who had been doing figure eights around the legs of her chair, hissed at the sudden noise and scampered away. “You don’t get to talk. I’m talking.”
“But you asked a question.” He blinked at the rage brightening her cheeks.
“So?” She looked at him like his IQ might have fallen into the double digits. “That doesn’t mean I expect you to answer!”
“Of course not,” he said, completely flabbergasted.
“Do you think the only thing Frank and I have been building here, the only thing all of us have been building here is bikes?” He opened his mouth to tell her they’d been building some pretty hefty spec-ops résumés as well, but snapped his jaws shut when he realized this was another rhetorical question. “We have been building a family, you big, beautiful meathead. Black Knights Inc. is more than just a business. It’s a home. It’s your home.”
Family… Home… There was a lump in his throat he was having trouble breathing around. His whole life, he had wanted family. His whole life, he had wanted to belong, wanted to be…wanted.
“What we have here is stronger than blood,” Becky went on, her voice growing hoarse. “We have bonds of the heart. Bonds of the soul. And all of us here at BKI would sooner chop off all our legs than let you leave because you have it in your fool frickin’ head that you’re not good enough, or that we wouldn’t want you if you couldn’t do exactly what you were originally hired to do.” If he wasn’t mistaken, her eyes were overly bright.
Oh, good. I’m not alone. Because that lump in his throat had grown to the size of Australia. “What does Boss say?” Was that his voice? It sounded like he was talking underwater. “Does he feel—”
“Frank will tell you the exact same thing I’m telling you,” she cut in. When a tear trickled down her cheek, smearing a line in a patch of grease, he thought he just might die. “We’ve talked about it a hundred times. What this place means to us. To all of us. What the people mean. It’s like being married—good or bad, sickness and health, for richer or for poorer, we are all on this wild ride together. Oh, Ozzie…” She sat forward, grabbing his face with her grubby hands. Someone had started a fire in his chest. A smaller conflagration burned behind his eyes. “How could you not know that? How could you not know how much we all love you?”
She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tight. Damn if he wasn’t on the verge of bawling his motherfucking eyes out.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Awww! Books about family, or about friends who act as family, are my personal romance novel kryptonite. So what about you? Do you like family dynamics in your romance novels? Or would you prefer all the feels to remain between the hero and heroine?
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Print copy of Wild Ride (Black Knights Inc.) by Julie Ann Walker
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Do you like family dynamics in your romance novels? Or would you prefer all the feels to remain between the hero and heroine?
The hero we’ve all been waiting for…
Ethan “Ozzie” Sykes
Former Navy SEAL
Underground operator for Black Knights Inc., the covert government defense firm disguised as a custom motorcycle shop
In a black-on-black international mission that went seriously sideways, Ozzie was badly injured—now he’s stuck at BKI headquarters in Chicago, champing at the bit to get out into the field again. To his disgust, he’s tasked with distracting Chicago Tribune ace reporter Samantha Tate, who’s been trying to dig up the dirt on BKI for years. Turns out Samantha’s beauty, intelligence and sense of humor are a seriously big distraction, and Ozzie’s losing his desire to keep her at bay.
Ozzie’s tired of hiding, and Samantha may be the best-and worst—person to share his secrets with…
Meet the Author:
Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of award-winning romantic suspense. She has won the Book Buyers Best Award, been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Bookseller’s Best Award, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, and the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award. Her books have been described as “alpha, edgy, and downright hot.” Most days you can find Julie on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.
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