Hi Lindsay and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, SECRETS!
Thanks Sara! Always glad to come ‘home’ to you and your wonderful readers! 😉
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
I had no idea that I’d write SECRETS at all! I had originally written TANGLED PURSUIT (11.11.2015) , Book 2 of the Delos series with Tal Culver and Wyatt Lockwood. When I wrote their sequel, UNBOUND PURSUIT (9.29.16) the ‘villain’ of the novella suddenly became a powerful player in it. I got so entangled in Mark Reuss and his story, that I HAD to write it. I’ve never written a book or novella about a villain before. So, this was new to me but I plunged in and let him tell me HIS story.
Mark Reuss and his sister Sage, grew upon the ranch butting up against the Lockwood family’s Texas ranch. Mark was seen by everyone as a ‘bad seed,’ someone who had no luck at all, who was hated by his abusive father, and he had anger issues. The only person in Mark’s life that was good, clean and beautiful was Mattie Lockwood, Wyatt’s younger sister. In times of trouble or need, Mattie was always there for him, never judging him, but treating him compassionately. He is a man of many secrets that he carries in his dark soul. One is that he fell in love with Mattie in the first grade and had never not loved her. Mattie had no idea, however. This is a story of redemption, of Mark trying desperately to rid himself of his dark past and start all over. But the cosmos conspires and Mark tries to prepare himself to lose Mattie forever. Darkness surrounded him. Could love rescue him…
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Mark Reuss was in such deep shit he couldn’t see daylight anymore. His lower, left arm ached so badly he wanted to yell like a banshee, but the blackness of the Texas night, the biting December cold seeping into his body, made him call on all his Recon Marine skills to escape up the hill.
He kept his night-vision goggles over his eyes as he climbed. Below him ATF, DEA, Border Patrol, and FBI agents swarmed around an eighteen-wheeler truck.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- Texas is an amazing state. I set the book near the Guadalupe Mountains and Van Horn, a town in western part of the state.
- Mark’s family ranch, the Diamond R, which passed down through the family, raised Limousin cattle, a highly specialized breed that could handle hundred-degree weather.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Mark Reuss was a villain in Unbound Pursuit. He had been his father’s punching bag from five years old onward when his mother died in childbirth (bled to death and refused to go to the hospital to birth. She birthed Mark in their bedroom without complications). He’s protected Sage, his younger sister, ever since, saddled with her, practically raising her himself. In school, he always got into fights, his temper getting the best of him. Coming out of a dysfunctional family, Mark struggled to prove to the people of Van Horn that he was a ‘bad seed.’ There were plenty of surprises regarding Mark, but I can’t reveal them because they’re intrinsic to the heart of the story.
Mattie Lockwood, 28, was a rancher’s daughter. She had loving parent and there were four children, Wyatt the oldest. She put herself through college and became a Kindergarten teacher in Van Horn. From the moment she met Mark Reuss in the first grade, she’d fallen in love with him. But he was seen as dark, as someone not to hang out with, who was dangerous and sullen, not to mention, his hair-trigger temper. It didn’t matter to Mattie….she saw his heart and knew it wasn’t black as many people in the town had said. She saw the good in him, even if he didn’t see it in himself.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Making it to the darkened highway, he began a fast jog toward Van Horn, eight miles away. He could easily make a series of ten-minute miles toward his destination. As a Marine Recon, he was used to carrying a fifty-pound pack on his back while on his missions. All he had to do was get off the highway if he saw headlights coming his way, since Mark did not want to be spotted by any traffic. Usually at this time of night, there was none. But more US government vehicles could be speeding this way, called in to help with the survivors found in those semi-trucks owned by Cardona.
His heart turned toward Mattie. The least he could do was apologize for his abrupt behavior two days ago. How he ached to see her, to be near her. But to do that could put her and her entire family in danger from Cardona. The drug lord had spies in every Texas town along the border.
Mattie was his touchstone, the one person in his life he could never be without. And yet, he was about to disappear again from her life without an adequate explanation.
How would she react to him banging on her front door in the middle of the night? Would she even let him in? Mark wasn’t sure after the debacle at Mattie’s kindergarten school with Tal Culver. More than anything, he needed Mattie—more than life. She owned his heart and she didn’t even know it.
Mattie groaned, hearing a soft knock at the door of her home. Pushing her red hair away from her face, she sat up in her pink, flannel granny gown. It kept her warm during the winter months and she could turn down the heat in her small, twelve-hundred square foot home to save money. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she checked the clock. It was 3:15 a.m. Who could be knocking at her front door at this hour?
Something was obviously wrong. She slid her feet into her soft, sheepskin fleece slippers. Trying to wake up—which was never easy without at least two cups of coffee—she hurried through the living room and went to the front door. She looked through the peephole and saw Mark Reuss standing there, his face sweaty and drawn, with that perennial black baseball cap he always wore on his head.
Mark! Mattie quickly turned off the porch light, not wanting anyone to see him standing there. Mattie was often the subject of local gossip. After all, she was twenty-eight years old and no longer married. The townspeople were very family oriented, and often she would be asked if she wanted her own family someday. Of course she did, but with the right man, not the wrong one. Pushing her divorce out of her mind, she quickly opened the door, pushing the screen open.
“Hey, I’m sorry to wake you at this time of the morning. Can I come in, Mattie? Please?”
“Of course,” she murmured, stepping aside. As he passed her, she smelled odd scents reminiscent of gun powder. She had turned on a lamp in the living room, and it gave off just enough light for her to see him clearly. He was wearing a black tactical vest, black pants, and a black shirt. There was dust covering his lower legs. What had he been up to? He had at least a three-day growth of beard covering his face.
“What happened to you?” she asked, locking the door and turning to face him. She saw him holding his left forearm against his body. His usual, darkly-tanned skin was now pale.
“I was in a rollover accident,” he lied. “I’ve broken my lower arm, Mattie. I know you’re an EMT. Can you help set it? Then I’ll be on my way.”
“Your truck rolled over?” she asked, disbelieving.
She frowned. His story didn’t make sense. He was lying to her. Again. She put the lie aside and said, “Let’s get you to the bathroom so I can take a look at your arm.” Mattie knew that if his truck had rolled over, a fire truck with an ambulance squad would have been called, and he’d have received help at the scene. Then, they would have brought Mark to their small hospital, if necessary. What had really happened? What was he covering up and not telling her? She remembered his warning from two days ago.
Compressing her lips, she followed him into the bathroom. She’d lived in this house for years. Four months ago, Mark had abruptly walked out of her life. Not that he’d been in it that much since he’d left for the Marine Corps at eighteen and returned home at twenty-eight.
Nine months earlier, he’d finally come home to stay. Then, he’d walked away from her again after returning to his family’s ranch.
Mark flipped on the light in the bathroom and moved aside to allow her to pass him. The area was fairly large, with sparkling white tiles on the floor, the room a pale lavender with wispy looking, feminine curtains at the window. Quickly pulling the Velcro open on his tactical vest, he slipped out of it, dropping it to the clean floor. Mattie was gathering several first-aid items out of a nearby cabinet and setting them on the long, white-marble counter where he stood near the water basin.
“Thanks for helping me out,” he said gruffly. His black t-shirt was soaked with sweat, clinging to his lean, hard body.
“You need some help getting that long-sleeved shirt off?” she asked, coming over to help him. She could see him trying to favor his left lower arm.
“Yes, thanks,” he admitted, allowing her to help ease the shirt off his shoulders. When Mattie came around to his left side, she opened the button on the cuff and gently pulled the fabric off his injured arm. Mark got his first look at the break and heard her swift intake of breath.
“How long ago did this happen?” she asked, leaning over, studying the swollen, bruised area. Her need to touch Mark was still strong, and as she slid her fingers lightly on either side of the break, a frisson of yearning exploded through her.
“About two hours ago,” he said.
“I need to examine it, Mark.”
He sat down on a nearby stool, placing his arm on the counter to give it some stability. “Go ahead.”
“It might be painful,” she warned.
“What isn’t painful about my life, Mattie?” He lifted his chin, staring into her eyes. “I’ve had lots of experience in that area.”
Her mouth flexed in silent agreement with his statement as she gently palpated the area, feeling him begin to tense. “I know you and Sage had a horrible childhood. As far as I’m concerned, Jeb was a monster.”
“He still is,” he managed, more pain throbbing up his arm as she slowly began to press the pads of her fingertips along the edge of the swollen tissue.
As careful as she tried to be, Mattie couldn’t keep her feelings from spilling over and flooding through her. Just being able to touch Mark made her lower body tremble. She placed her hand on his tense shoulder after the examination. “I think you have a green break, Mark. That means the bone cracked laterally, but didn’t actually snap or break the bone in two. I don’t feel either of your two, lower-arm bones displaced, either.”
“That’s good news,” he said, slowly opening and closing his hand, feeling more pain from the flexing movement.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
That no matter how wounded we are, and we know we all fall short in some way, shape or form, that we’re basically and intrinsically a good person at heart. And that some wounds are so deep, and you recognize that in another person, you don’t judge them, you give them a long rope to run around on. When a person is physically abused, it changed the structure of their brain. But that doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them wounded. We all need to be more like Mattie Lockwood.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
Two books, actually. I’m a Gemini, the twins, so I do two of everything 😉 The first book
January 17, 2017
Wind River Rancher, KENSINGTON, Book 2, Wind River Valley Series. Ebook/paperback/audio – Simplyaudiobooks.com
February 4, 2017
SNOWFLAKE’S GIFT, Book 6, Delos Series, Christmas novella, single title release, contemporary romance. Ebook/paperback/audio – Tantor Media, https://tantor.com/author/lindsay-mckenna.html
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Excerpt from SECRETS:
She turned. “You need to get it X-rayed to be sure, but you know that.”
“Yeah, they taught us EMT-level medicine as Recons,” he agreed. “But I’m not ready to do that yet.” He stopped, thinking of his next words. “Look, Mattie, I’m here because I trust you. I’ll get the X-ray later. I promise.”
His gaze followed her as she dug into another drawer, drawing out an air splint. It was a plastic device to stabilize a wound. Mattie would place it around his break as a temporary measure. “This air splint will help you a lot. You also need to take two, eight-hundred milligram tablets of ibuprofen for the swelling, and the pain should begin to recede,” she said. Frowning, she added, “But first, I’m going to gently wash your lower arm before I put this on.”
“I can do that, Mattie. Just give me a wash rag, put some soap on it, and turn the water on, okay?”
“Sure,” she murmured. She’d been eager for another reason to touch him, but Mark was restless and moved around on the stool, always looking warily out the door, waiting…watching. For what? For whom?
This had been their problem—Mark never told her anything and she knew he was living in a shadowy world of some kind. She needed to talk to her older brother, Wyatt, about this. He was black ops, too, and might be able to shed some light on why Mark, for the last four months, had disappeared from Van Horn.
Now, Mattie produced a clean washcloth and brought the water to a pleasant temperature, then scrubbed soap into it, and handed it to Mark. He grimaced as he lightly scrubbed the area, including the swollen area of the break.
“Be more gentle with yourself, Mark,” she chided, sliding her fingers across his shoulder. Just touching him was a salve to her broken heart. She had to bite her tongue to keep from asking him why he’d left Van Horn—and her.
It wasn’t that he’d visited that often while he was still there, but he would drop in and see her at the kindergarten at least once a week. How she’d anticipated those few minutes he’d spend with her, even though he treated her as a friend, nothing more.
“Gentle? That’s a word of yours I recognize, Mattie.” Mark grinned briefly as he rinsed his arm beneath the faucet.
Getting a small towel, she said, “Let me do this, okay?” She turned off the faucet, wrapping the towel lightly around his lower arm. “There,” she murmured, “now let it dry for a minute and then I’ll place the splint around it.”
He glanced at the watch on his right wrist. “I need to leave soon, Mattie,” he told her firmly, eager to get going.
“You don’t have a truck to drive, so where do you think you’re going?” She hated herself when she used logic to let him know that his weak alibi was just that. But didn’t she deserve the truth? Anger and frustration flashed in her eyes, and she held his gaze. How she wished she could figure out what he was thinking and feeling!
Mark had been closed up all his life, but Mattie understood why. Jeb, his violent father, had beaten him at least weekly with that belt he wore. She’d seen it happen sometimes, and sobbing, she’d turned and run away, hiding in one of the big barns behind their red-brick ranch house.
“I’ll find me a ride,” he said, falling silent.
Lifting the towel away, she picked up the splint. “Are you hungry? Thirsty?” He was so closed up that Mark reminded her of a castle without a draw bridge. If Mattie didn’t ask a lot of questions, Mark would say nothing. People just couldn’t get close to him. And God knew, she wanted to wrap her arms around him, hold him, and let him know she loved him.
“I am thirsty, yes,” he admitted.
“I’ll get you some water.”
“Thank you, Mattie.” He held her worried gaze. “You’re a damn good medic. I’ll bet your kids can hardly wait to get a scrape so they can have your soothing hands on them.”
She closed the Velcro on the splint, smiling a little. “Half of stopping the hurt is just holding them, kissing their foreheads, and having my arms around them.”
“I sure can agree with that form of therapy.”
Startled by his statement, she blinked as he stood up. Trying to hide her surprise, she managed, “I have a cotton sling you can wear. That arm needs support. If you let it hang down, all the blood will go into your hand, and your fingers will swell up.”
“Right,” he murmured. “Got one in one of those drawers?” He gestured toward them.
“I do. Two of everything.” She bent down to retrieve a package.
“You’re like the SEALs,” he said. “They want two of everything.
‘One is none, two is one,’ is their motto, and in their world, they’re right.”
She opened the packet, pulling the soft, triangular piece of cotton cloth out of it. “Wyatt taught me that right after he graduated out of BUDs. The SEALs had it correct. You were black ops, too. You probably had two of everything, I’ll bet.” She moved in front of him, pulling the sling into position.
“No, I traveled light, Mattie. Maybe a thirty to fifty-pound pack on my back. I’d be out for weeks, scrounging off the land doing my job.”
You still are, she thought, but resisted saying it. “There,” she murmured, lifting her arms away, so close to his body she could feel the heat rolling off of him. Mark lifted his arm and slid it carefully into the sling.
She stepped away. “How does it feel now?” she asked.
“Much better.” He gave her a tender look. “You’re a healer, Mattie. You always will be. I really appreciate you. Thanks for this.”
“Come on,” she said, moving past him, “let’s head for the kitchen and I’ll get you that water.” If she didn’t move, she’d try to get him to stay so she could find out what was going on in his life. Even Sage didn’t know what he was up to, and that worried Mattie even more.
Aware of her shapeless granny gown, she tried to put thoughts of vanity aside and moved toward the kitchen. Nervously, she pushed her fingers through her long, shoulder length hair, feeling like a drudge.
Normally, she wore light makeup and kept her hair as orderly as she could, given its natural curl. How she wished she had on a nicer nightie right now instead of this frumpy granny gown!
Glancing out the window, she saw snowflakes tapping against it. Retrieving a glass from the cupboard, she filled it with water, and when she turned, Mark was standing a few feet away, an unfamiliar look on his face. There was no mistaking it, and she almost let the glass slip through her fingers as she registered pure, naked desire in his eyes.
“Here…” she managed, her fingers connecting with his as she passed the glass to him.
“Thanks,” he said roughly.
Mattie watched him drink thirstily, eagerly, until the water was gone.
“Yes, please.” He handed it back to her.
“You’re going to miss that left arm of yours,” she said wryly, turning and filling the glass once more. “A green break takes four to six weeks to heal. You can’t use it, Mark, and if you try, you could snap the bone in two.”
“Okay, Doc,” he intoned, a brief smile on his face. Then it was gone. Mattie could see the outline of his hard, male body beneath the damp t-shirt he wore. His chest was wide, his belly hard and flat, his hips narrow. He was a very sensual guy, Mattie observed. She wondered if he was aware of his charisma and how it affected women. Probably not.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Mark Reuss’ childhood was a living hell. The only bright spot in his life during those dark days was his best friend, Mattie Lockwood. Her beauty and spirit called out to him, but he didn’t want to drag her down into the gloom his life had become. So when he graduated high school, he joined the Marine Corps and left his past—and Mattie—behind.
Or so he thought. Mark never forgot Mattie, or stopped wanting her. Now he’s back in town, ready to face his demons and make a life with her. But before he can set his plans in motion, Mark must suddenly disappear once again, but it means keeping secrets from Mattie. Will he once again have to let go of the woman he loves?
Meet the Author:
A U.S. Navy veteran, Lindsay McKenna was a meteorologist while serving her country. A pioneer of the military romance genre in 1993 with Captive of Fate. Her heart and focus is on honoring our military men and women. Creator of the Wind River Valley Series for Kensington Books, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories. She is also the creator of the DELOS Series, a family saga/series that is a romantic suspense. Visit her online at her website.
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