Monday, July 27, 2009

Villain Archetype: The Devil

You’ve read about him in the Bible. Seen him on a tarot card. And perhaps wrestled with the temptation he represents on a more personal level. But when we talk about the Devil Archetype we’re speaking about fiction, not a real entity.
The devil is insidious, charming, alluring, and without conscience.

As in Stephen King’s Needful Things, Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow) moves to the small town of Castle Rock and opens a store called Needful Things.

Leland promises his customers the one thing they’ve always coveted, their fondest heart’s desire. But they must do something in return for him, something that may cost them part of their humanity. And in the end, the entire town erupts into violence that nearly destroys it. The people learn the price they’ve paid is too dear for what Leland has promised them.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, was written in 1980 by Oscar Wilde. The book has been made into many movies over the course of the years. But the theme of both the book and the movies remains the same. Evil deeds scar the soul.

When he sees a painting of himself, Dorian (Ethan Erickson in the 2001 version) is so enamored with his own image that he makes a pact with the Devil (Malcolm McDowell) so he will remain forever young and handsome. Tempted by the fame and fortune his looks offer him, he begins a journey of debauchery that continues for years. And with each sin the portrait takes on the lines and scars of his soul.

In the end Dorian destroys himself because he can no longer live with what he has become.

The Devil offers you success, wealth, and tries to charm you into following in his footsteps. In the movie Wall Street, Michael Douglas plays business tycoon Gordon Gekko.

He seduces Bud Fox (Martin Sheen) into giving him inside information about a small airline. Gordon then shares the wealth through several of his other deals and seduces Bud further and further into his financial net, with money, connections, and an old girlfriend. But Bud runs right up on the one thing he can’t live with—his father losing his job because of what he’s done. He uses his inside information to rectify the damage and ends up losing his career and his freedom.

In The Devil Wears Prada Written by Lauren Weisberger, Andy Sachs is a new journalism graduate who lands what a new writer would think was a dream job, the only hitch is her boss is The Devil.

Andy endures humiliation, scorn, and condescension from her boss and her co-workers, but she sticks with the job because she’s been told it will give her a leg up to the kind of writing job she really wants. She neglects her friends and her boyfriend, she changes her outward appearance, and in the end compromises her moral standards, just to please her boss. In the process, she learns that she doesn’t like the person she’s become and walks away earning The Devil’s admiration and the job she wanted in the first place.

In The Devil’s Advocate, Attorney Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) draws the interest of a leading Manhattan law firm for his win at all cost courtside manner. When he’s offered a job by the firm, he leaves Florida and heads to the Big Apple. His wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) immediately comes under supernatural attack from the head man’s minion.

While Kevin is challenged by the cases his boss John Milton (Al Pacino) gives him, his ego is stroked and he’s cheered on and told how good he is at winning until that drive blinds him to his wife’s desperation and the tentative hold she has on her sanity. After Kevin loses his wife, his blinders are suddenly lifted. He realizes that he’s set a murderer free and is eaten up with guilt over his wife’s death. And SURPRISE!! Daddy dearest is none other than John Milton aka. Old Scratch himself. To keep from embracing Dad’s ways and breeding the next generation, Kevin chooses to end his contract and his life. But Dad being The Devil, he gets a do over to try the whole thing over again.

Do you sense a theme in the popular fiction that depicts The Devil? In every story the person seduced into following the path El Diablo has set for them, ends up giving up everything they’ve gained with their association to break the ties that bind them to him.

In doing so, they all perpetuate the belief that Good triumphs over Evil.

Can you think of any movies or books in which The Devil archetype plays a part? I’d be interested in discussing them.

Write on,
Teresa Reasor

Friday, July 24, 2009

Special Guest: Donna Marie Rogers

Author Donna Marie Rogers has been kind enough to do an interview with us today. Readers, don't forget to leave a little hello comment to enter yourself to win an e-copy of her new book, Meant to Be! Now on to the interview...

1. How long have you been writing to get published and what do you think finally garnered your success at it?

I sat down at my computer with serious intent to get published in early 2004. I had tried writing a novel several years earlier (in my 20s), but became discouraged when I realized how hard it actually was to write an entire book. (LOL) But with a thicker skin and a stronger sense of perseverance, I sat down in 2004 and wrote the first draft of There's Only Been You, which took about eight months. I can't even describe how excited I was to type THE END after all those partial stories I'd written years earlier. :-)

2. What inspires your story ideas?

Lots of things, really. The news, articles, life experiences. Family, friends, neighbors, people everywhere. Reality shows, I've discovered, are a great source when looking for quirky characters. LOL

3. How did you come up with your title?

Well, I wanted a title I could work into the story as dialogue, like I'd done with There's Only Been You. I honestly don't remember exactly how I settled on Meant To Be, all I know is when I said it aloud, it just seemed a perfect fit for Garrett & Jessica. :-)

4. Do you use visual aids to help you write? If so, what kind?

Maybe a few pictures of stud muffins...strictly to help keep me focused. LOL

5. Do you relate more with the hero or heroine in your stories?

I know it's odd, but I tend to relate more to my heroes. I love writing in the male POV, and sometimes have to remind myself that my heroines would like to be heard from, too. LOL Maybe it has to do with having two brothers, no sisters, and being the only girl born in four generations on my father's side.

6. Whose POV do you like to write your love scenes from the most and why?

Again, I prefer the male POV, even for love scenes, though I do them from both. But I guess...I already know what's going on inside a woman's head when she's making love. LOL So I prefer to hear it from the other side when I can. ;-)

7. Describe the hero and heroine of your current release.

Garrett Jamison is a big, moody cop with a heart of gold. He's 6' 5" and built like a Mack truck with dark brown hair & eyes. He's the oldest of the Jamison brood; then comes Nick, Sara, and Danny is the youngest. Their parents died when Garrett was twelve, and Uncle Luke, their father's brother, moved in to take care of them. But Garrett's always been the head of the family. A job he takes seriously--maybe too seriously at times.

Jessica McGovern is a tiny slip of a thing, just over five-feet tall, with long blonde hair & blue eyes. What she lacks in height she makes up for in feisty. She struggles back from the brink of depression after her ex-husband is convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their young son. She packs up her old pickup truck, her mammoth gray-and-white tabby, Mr. Louie, and moves halfway across the country for a fresh start in Wisconsin where she’s rented her uncle’s house--right next door to the Jamison's.

8. Is there wiggle room for a sequel and do you have plans to write one?

Meant To Be is actually the second book in my Jamison series, There's Only Been You (Sara's story) is the first. I plan to write Nick's story soon, and Danny's story eventually (he's in his early twenties, so I'll give him a few years ;-).

9. What are you up to now? Do you have an upcoming release you'd like to share a little info on?

My naughty alter-ego, Liza James, has a recent release with eRed Sage titled Hot For Teacher. Is it all right if I share the blurb? *g*

High school teacher Tessa Marshall is at a club with her sister celebrating her 40th birthday when the hunk of her dreams walks through the door. He's tall, dark, and oh-so handsome. He's also ten years her junior, which makes him the perfect candidate for a night of smokin' hot birthday sex. Only it quickly becomes apparent the man is special, which scares the hell out of her since nothing can ever come of it. With regret, she slips from the room while he's sleeping, intending never to see him again.

Scott Chapman is captivated by the beautiful Tessa, and though he swore off relationships several years ago, he finds himself instantly drawn to the blonde stunner. He takes her back to his hotel room for the birthday night of her life, and soon realizes their connection is deeper than he'd imagined. When he wakes up the following morning and discovers her gone, he's disappointed. They both find out, however, that fate has a mind of its own.

10. Tell us something we'd be surprised to know about you.

I can make & can my own sauerkraut. Pie fillings, too. Beef stew, soups, chili. I can can pretty much anything. Exciting stuff, hey? LOL Sorry, I'm an open book, so I can't think of anything surprising...that I can tell you, anyway. *big wink*

11. What is your favorite fictional love scene of all time (can be literary or film)?

Wow, now that's a hard one. Hmm...If I had the time to really think about it, I'd probably come up with tons of favorites because I've read some fantastic love scenes. One that comes to mind is from Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard, which takes place during a thunderstorm. For some reason, that's always hot...LOL Actually, many of Linda's love scenes come to mind. The woman is a master. Lori Foster writes great love scenes as well.

12. What can readers expect to see from you in the next few years?

Definitely the sequel to Welcome To Redemption, a small-town anthology I wrote with my good friend Stacey Joy Netzel. I know lots of people are looking forward to it (and not just our families...LOL). I'm also halfway through Jack Sutton's story. Jack is introduced in Meant To Be, and I knew right away I wanted to write the brooding ex-con's happily-ever-after.

Tracy, thank you for having me. And thank you to everyone who stopped by!

**I plan to give away an e-copy of Meant To Be to a random commenter, so please leave me a comment to be eligible. :-)

Meant to Be

She's running from her past, he's unsure about his future. Maybe together they can figure out what was MEANT TO BE. Officer Garrett Jamison is at the lowest point in his life. He’s lost faith in his ability as a police officer after unwittingly setting his sister up with a dirty cop. Garrett ended up getting shot, and his sister's son kidnapped right out of his own bed. He takes a leave from the force, in need of some time to make a decision about his future. Too bad he can't get a decent night's sleep thanks to his sexy new neighbor and her howling cat.

Jessica McGovern moves halfway across the country to start a new life in Green Bay, Wisconsin after her ex-husband is convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their young son. Her new neighbor is as infuriating as he is handsome, but when her ex is released from prison early and shows up in town, Jessica discovers she's never needed anyone more...


"Come here, Miss Crabbypants."

Jessica resisted, but it was no use. The big oaf outweighed her by a ton. "Look, I just want to finish my tea and relax. Today's my last day off for almost two weeks."

He leaned back and frowned down at her. "Why are you working so many hours?"

She rolled her eyes. "Um, I have bills to pay...?"

His gaze became pensive as he massaged the back of her neck. Slowly, she relaxed until she was leaning into his broad chest, eyes closed, inhaling his spicy masculine scent. He always smelled so good...Damn, the man was a magician; she'd already forgotten why she was mad at him...Wait, oh yeah. "So what's with all that hammering?"

"We're building a doghouse."

His busy fingers moved to her shoulders wringing a groan of ecstasy from her. Oh, God, was she drooling on his shirt? Then his words registered. Jessica leaned back and swiped her mouth with the back of her wrist. "A doghouse? But you don't have a you?"

"No, but Ethan's been begging for a puppy for a couple years now. I guess he finally wore Sara down. And Mike's still in the ‘buy-Ethan-anything-he-wants' phase." Garrett glanced down at his T-shirt and chuckled. He reached out and recaptured the back of her neck. "Liked that, did you? You do seem a little tense—"

"Oh, no you don't." She ducked out of his reach and took a few steps back. He started to follow but she held up both hands. "You stay right where you are."

He propped his hands on his hips. "So do I have a date tonight or what?"

"Or what."

He grinned. "Wear something sexy," he said with a wink before strolling out the back door. The jackass even had the nerve to whistle.

Jessica walked over and slammed the door with a muttered, "Nutjob." Then she headed into the bedroom to search through her closet.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Villain Archetype: The Sadist

Smart and sly, the Sadist wants you for dinner. He’s waiting just to trip you up. One false move and you are his. Not only is the game rigged in his favor--he invented it, with the cruel intention of watching you suffer. If he’s picked you, applaud yourself for he wants an intellectual challenge.

Prime example is the movie Seven with Kevin Spacey. Spacey plays serial killer “John Doe” who rationalizes his crimes as absolution for the world's ignorance of the Seven Deadly Sins. In the end, Brad Pitt is ensnared by Spacey’s sin of envy and commits the sin of wrath by murdering Spacey in a fit or rage. All of this part of his plan to show people what the world is like and to punish the wicked.

The warped mind of the Sadist views violence and misery as a sport. He may play an active role in your anguish or take a seat behind-the-scenes. Recall the movie Saw? The Jigsaw killer, played by Tobin Bell was a backseat architect of torture yet in the end we learn he was the corpse lying in the center of the room.

The Sadist doesn’t intend human harm or death but will laugh with ease at your demise, though he will likely pout shall you expire before a few thrills. In his game, you don’t want to be the mouse. Trust me.

Thanks for Reading!
Sloan Seymour

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Villain Archetype: The Tyrant

We're kicking off the villains this week with a bang. One of the most identifiable villains, the Tyrant, can usually be found crushing whoever has the misfortune to get in his way beneath his boot heel.

The Tyrant is power hungry, and usually without conscience. Don't interfere with his journey to power or you will be sorry. He is a ruthless bully, above society's grasp of human compassion.

In the 1991 film rendition of Robin Hood, actor Alan Rickman did a fantastic job of portraying this archetype. With King Richard off on the Crusades, Nottingham showed no mercy while attempting to bring down Locksley and steal the crown of England for himself. He stopped at nothing to get what he wanted, and that included Locksley's love, Maid Marian. In the end, his obsession with power cost him his life.

Another notable Tyrant, Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series possesses an unquenchable thirst for power. Voldemort and his supporters, the Death Eaters, set out to overthrow the Ministry of Magic and take over completely, putting Voldemort in the seat of power. Without morals, without conscience, Voldemort will destroy anyone who stands against him. Anyone. Even school children.

Another shining example of tyranny is The Emperor (Sith Lord Darth Sidious) from the Star Wars series. This guy doesn't even blink at blowing up an entire PLANET as he strives for domination. But in the end, love conquered even the darkest forces in the universe when Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) turned away from the dark side and killed Sidious to save his son Luke. Go Jedi!

But why stop at the human race when examining the Tyrant archetype? (Just for fun! ) In the 2001 feature Cats and Dogs, a maniacal (yet totally adorable) Persian cat named Mr. Tinkles has aspirations of world domination. He lobbies his evil cat army for the extermination of all dogs in this farcical look at the long-standing feud between canines and felines. How will he manage that? With a serum that would make the entire populace allergic to dogs. Eeek!

What Tyrant character springs to mind as having made your blood boil? Can't wait to hear from you.

Tracy Preston

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An Interview with Patrick Dilloway

Hi readers! We're happy to bring you an interview today from author Patrick Dilloway. Thank you for joining us...

1. How long have you been writing to get published and what do you think finally garnered your success at it?

I’ve been writing stories since about third grade. Around seventh grade was when I really started writing novel-length stories. But what I think made me a better writer was in reading good books. It’s so important if you want to be the best to read the best. If you read garbage, well, then garbage in, garbage out as they say.

2. What inspires your story ideas?

Anything can inspire my ideas. A name, a title, a character, or a basic premise. Basically how the story developed was that in watching news coverage of Prop 8 in California and similar measures around the country, I started to get mad. So I decided to write a story about gay marriage, but I didn’t want it to be a preachy stump speech on the subject; I wanted it to still be a story. It occurred to me one day: what if there was a guy so terrible at marriage that he couldn’t make it work with either sex? That’s how it all started. From there I just expanded on this idea that some marriages are just not going to work not because of the genitals of those involved, but because they aren’t compatible for each other spiritually. To me, that’s what’s most important in any marriage.

3. How did you come up with your title?

The original title was No Matter Who You Are, after a Bob Seger song. But when I was working up the second draft, I decided that the theme-like substance for this version would be that Frost wants to find Where He Belongs.

4. Do you use visual aids to help you write? If so, what kind?

No, not usually. I did consult some maps in the library, which was especially important for the opening scene where Frost and his mother are on an Iowa highway. The map helped me figure out which highway they would be on.

5. Do you relate more with the hero or heroine in your stories?

I like to think I relate to all my characters in some way.

6. Whose POV do you like to write your love scenes from the most and why?

I don’t really like writing love scenes any more than the rest of the novel. It’s all part of the whole to me.

7. Describe the hero and heroine of your current release.

The three main characters are Frost Devereaux, an orphan whose face is scarred in the accident that killed his mother and later becomes a writer. In kindergarten he befriends twins: Frankie Maguire, a free spirit who becomes a crusader for gay rights, and her brother Frank Maguire, who is far more uptight and becomes a big-time financial guru. These three lives intersect over the next thirty years. Frost is at first drawn to one of the twins and then later the other.

8. Is there wiggle room for a sequel and do you have plans to write one?

I suppose there could be a sequel since Frost doesn’t die. I don’t think I’d write one.

9. What are you up to now? Do you have an upcoming release you'd like to share a little info on?

Right now I’m working on a story called “Liberation Front,” which is probably just a working title. It’s an old-school alien invasion story, with one difference: the “Martians” invading are actually human colonists returning to the home world. It’s a complete 180 I suppose from Where You Belong, but I’ve always thought that a writer should have a little variety just to keep from getting stagnant.

10. Tell us something we'd be surprised to know about you.

Since we don’t know each other I suppose everything would be a surprise.

11. What is your favorite fictional love scene of all time (can be literary or film)?

I have no idea. They’re all equally awesome.

12. What can readers expect to see from you in the next few years?

I’m not really sure. I don’t think about this stuff too far ahead, pretty much just go whichever way the wind blows me. I just hope that I’ll have some more really good ideas that can equally or exceed Where You Belong, which is easily the best thing I’ve ever written.

Thanks for having me on and asking such interesting questions.


Orphaned at an early age, the closest people in Frost Devereaux's life are the free-spirited Frankie Maguire and her conniving twin brother Frank. Over the years Frost's life takes him from the lush fields of the Mideast to the burning heat of the desert to the sparkling promise of Manhattan. His heart, though, never strays far from the two people who have meant the most to him. Ultimately, Frost must decide where—and with whom—he belongs.


I wake up again and the hand is gone, but I’m not alone. I sense a figure lurking in the shadows, hovering there like a ghost. I think at first it’s my mother; unable to speak I revert back to babyhood and whimper in what I hope is a reassuring fashion. The figure, caught, shuffles forward and I see it’s not my mother—it’s my father.

“Hey, kid,” he says. “How you feeling?”

This is a stupid question as I’m in a hospital bed, surrounded by machines with my face wrapped in bandages. He hesitates before taking the seat next to my bed. For what could be a minute or an hour he sits there, staring at me as he searches for something to say.

“It’s too bad about your mother,” he says.

Though not quite four, I understand this means something terrible has happened. I whimper again, this time mournfully. This rattles my father; he twitches uncomfortably in the chair. He doesn’t want to be there and I don’t want him there; I want Mommy. My father was only the man who lived in our barn.

His hand reaches out to touch my forehead, but his skin is sweaty and warm, not the cool, soothing presence of my other visitor’s. I try to move my head to shake it away only to find I can’t. “I’m not going to hurt you, kid,” he says. His hand moves across my forehead to the bandages. He peels these back gently and then leans close to me so that he can see what lies underneath. Whatever it is causes him to quickly pull his hand back, letting the bandages fall into place again.

“Oh shit,” he whispers into the darkness. I’m too young to know the meaning of this expression. Still, from his tone of voice I gather something’s wrong and whimper again. “It’s all right, kid,” he says, trying to sound cheerful. I know he’s lying. I know things aren’t going to be all right. Not ever again.

My father pats my left hand with his. “Hang in there, kid,” he says. He backs away until the shadows swallow him again. He pauses for a moment before making a decision. The door clicks shut. I wait a moment for him to come back, but he doesn’t. Not ever again.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Special Guest Liana Laverentz

Today I want to talk about freedom—and gratitude. As many of you know, I spent several years in prison ministry, and am still in contact with some of the inmates I met during those years. Each year, they would wish me a happy Fourth of July, and as I sat out in the open, enjoying the festival atmosphere of the annual fireworks show in my small town, my mind would wander—as it tends to do—and I would think about all they were missing and all they gave up when they committed their crimes against society.

I would sit on a blanket or in my lawn chair and watch the children, laughing and running and playing with their sparklers and glo-light necklaces, mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents alike pushing babies in strollers, people lined up at the concession stands, ordering their All-American soft drinks and hot dogs, chips or hot cheese pretzels, maybe a brain-freezing popsicle or snow-cone.

Some families would bring their own food and made a picnic of it, while others enjoyed their favorite alcoholic beverages. Music floated on the air, and friends and neighbors alike would stop to talk to each other in small groups and clusters. One year they passed out free American flags. Another year I went to a private party on a lake, catered with an enormous amount of food, and tasted my first Corona with lime in it.

Amid all of these simple pleasures are things so many of us take for granted. The ability to sit out in the open air after dark and see the stars, and to stay out there as long as we want to. The ability to move about freely, and visit and speak with anyone we choose to. The ability to enjoy the laughter of children and the smiles of babies. The ability to carry pointy objects like the flags they handed out that one year, and move about in relative safety. The ability to freely hug and kiss and show affection to anyone we choose to, friend or family. The freedom to eat and drink what we want to, when we want to. The freedom to leave if we so choose. Just get in the car and go.

Therefore on the Fourth of July, my thoughts always turn to my incarcerated friends, and how while the rest of the country celebrates our independence, they do not, because they can not. By their choices and actions, they have given up the freedom to do so. My friend Louis in particular is serving life, and may never again experience the simple joys of attending a small town fireworks display.

So even if your town’s display is dinky, and everyone laughs at it, be grateful that you can even attend. Be grateful for the ability to walk free in the night air, to visit freely with friends and enjoy the music on the wind, or to bring your own pair of earphones and listen to what you choose to listen to. Be grateful for the ability to walk up to a concession stand and order what your heart desires when the urge to eat or drink strikes. Be grateful for the ability to hug and kiss your friends and family members, as much or as little as you want to. Be grateful for the ability to drink responsibly if you so choose, and to stay up as late as you want to.

But most of all, be grateful to the men and women of our Armed Services who will not be able to celebrate our country’s Independence Day with us because they are in other countries, putting their lives on the line to preserve our ability to enjoy these simple freedoms.

Liana Laverentz is the author of three contemporary romances from The Wild Rose Press, the multi-award-winning Thin Ice and Jake’s Return, and Ashton’s Secret, a murder mystery romance which was released on June 26. All three feature small town bad boys, some who made good, some who still struggle. But in the end each is blessed enough to find a woman who will love him into eternity. For more information, please go to

Ashton’s Secret, Blurb and Excerpt

From the moment he'd caught her snooping in the loft of his barn-turned-garage, Meghan Edwards knew Nicholas Hawkinson was the man she’d been looking for. Given his unfriendly attitude, unshaven face and the Harley hidden in the shadows, she was willing to bet this was the man her sister Heather had referred to as Hawk. But would this dark, secretive stranger help her solve the mystery of her sister's death?

Nicholas Hawkinson wanted nothing to do with the city-girl photographer who asked too many questions. He'd had his share of trouble five years ago when the people of Ashton had been so quick to accuse him of murdering Heather. The townsfolk still considered him the town's black sheep, a bad boy at best and a killer who got away with it at most. Both he and Meghan would be better off if they went their separate ways and never spoke of Heather again.

All of Ashton saw Nick as a dangerous man. But Meghan was trained to observe, and it didn’t take long to find the pain of betrayal and unexpected gentleness he hid behind his hard stare. Her sister was dead, and Meghan knew it wasn't suicide. So did Nick. Whether he liked it or not, he was the only one who could help her now. And Meghan wasn't leaving Ashton until she'd unraveled this sleepy little town's secret--or died trying.


"I think you'd better leave."

"I think you're right. But first--"

"I meant leave Ashton."

She was stunned; he was serious. “Is that before sundown or after?”

“The sooner the better, since I’m sure you’ve collected enough shots for a magazine layout in the last week and you can’t take pictures here.”

Meghan didn’t take kindly to the word, “can’t.” It hadn’t been in her vocabulary for the past four years. “Excuse me, but what makes you think I can’t take pictures of this property?”

He looked startled for a second, as if he wasn’t used to having his orders questioned, then said evenly, “If I understand the law, you need permission from the owner when you photograph property for publication.”

There were loopholes in his knowledge, ones she didn’t care to point out. She nodded. “Go on.”

“I’m not giving my permission.”

She widened her eyes innocently. “You own the whole town?”

He was not amused. “I own this property, as you well know. And you, are trespassing.”

So they were back to that again. Reluctantly, she confirmed her first impression of Nicholas Hawkinson: When provoked, he could be a dangerous man. Clearly he ached to speed her on her way, preferably by tossing her through that set of double doors. But his obvious capacity for restraint told her she was safe—as long as she didn’t push him too hard.

She tried a different tack. “I understand how you feel. I wouldn’t like it either if I found some stranger poking around my home. With a camera, no less. All I can say is I thought the place was deserted, and I couldn’t resist taking a look around.”

“In spite of being warned against it.”

She offered her most disarming smile. “I’m stubborn that way sometimes. But I am sorry for trespassing." She held out a hand. "If you’ll accept my apology, maybe we can start over.”

He ignored her outstretched hand. “I’m not interested in starting anything with you. Now leave.”

Meghan felt her cheeks flame, but held her tongue. Stepping past him with all the dignity of a diplomat's daughter, she retrieved her camera equipment. As she hefted the bag onto her shoulder, her gaze touched on the hanging pitchfork. She pictured Nicholas Hawkinson standing under it, her hand on the rope that released it. The image soothed her bruised ego.

She turned, smiling sweetly. “Thank you for your time. I’m staying—”

His dark eyes narrowed. “Good bye.”

“Of course. Good bye.” Making her way across the loft, Meghan descended the narrow wood steps into the dry, dusty garage. At the bottom of the steps, she paused. Hidden in a corner stood a half-covered motorcycle. She’d missed seeing it earlier, her attention focused on the steps leading to the loft. Her heat beat faster as she recalled a line from Heather’s letter.

He has a Harley, and takes me riding.

“He” was Hawk, the man Meghan needed to find. The man who could answer her questions about what Meghan had believed until a week ago to be an open and shut case of suicide. Despite the coroner’s report and her mother’s firm conviction that her eldest daughter had killed herself, after reading Heather’s letter, Meghan couldn’t help but wonder if her sister’s death had been an accident.

Heather had mailed the letter from Ashton the day she’d disappeared. Three days later, she’d turned up dead. But by then Meghan had been on her honeymoon in Australia, too far away to make it back in time for the funeral. Her mother had collected her mail. Then deliberately kept Heather’s letter from her.

Why, Meghan intended to find out…in Ashton.

Slowly she drew back the motorcycle’s oilcloth cover and brushed away layers of grime obscuring the manufacturer’s name. Her heartbeat soared when she saw the distinctive back and orange bar and shield Harley Davison Emblem that appeared.

If Nicholas Hawkinson wasn’t Hawk, he knew who was.

Heart hammering, Meghan stared at the bike, torn between returning to the loft to demand information about its owner and letting common sense rule. The man was already angry with her. Approaching him now with a barrage of questions could only be a losing proposition. Her own state of mind wasn’t so hot, either. She might have more success if she gave them both time to calm down.

Forcing herself to leave the barn, she spied a battered pickup parked on the street. The license plate had been issued in Texas. The truck’s cooling engine pinged at her accusingly. She recalled Hawkinson’s unkempt appearance, the exhaustion she’d seen in his face. No wonder he’d been in no mood to entertain her curiosity. He’d obviously been on the road a few days.

Her timing stank. Meghan looked up and down the maple-and-oak-lined street, her disappointment at her latest failure to obtain information about Hawk leaving her feeling as wilted as an unwatered plant. The weather channel predicted another week of record high June temperatures for western New York. More bad timing. She sighed. At least the air wasn’t steaming with humidity, like it was in D.C. Just oven-hot and relentlessly dry.

The hairs on the back of her neck prickled. She knew without looking that Nicholas Hawkinson stood at the loft door, watching her. The sensation of dark eyes burning into her back made her want to turn around and wave out of spite, but she didn’t. She couldn’t antagonize the man, not when she needed his answers.

She broke into a smile, imagining the look on his face when he realized she was staying in the bungalow across the street.

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