Thank you for inviting me today. Iâ€™ve brought with me my new novel Breathe You In which stars Katie Lansdale and Ruben Strong. I really loved writing this sexy romance with a twist because I took a step away from macho alpha heroes and wrote about a guy with much more going on than making his next million or winning the next game. Finally I felt it was time to dig up a story that had been rattling around my psyche for a long time and let my vulnerable hero have his moment.
Vulnerable doesnâ€™t mean that Ruben isnâ€™t strong â€“ because of course he lives up to his name! â€“ and heâ€™s certainly very sexy, and heâ€™s not shy about kinking it up a little either. But Ruben has had a tough time. A terrible few years that shook his confidence and rattled his sense of being able to conquer the world. Until that moment heâ€™d felt unbeatable, in fact that had been the case as he travelled the world with his Formula One team.
But Ruben became ill, very ill, and he needed a new heart. He had to give up work and was reduced to a shadow of his former self. That heart just happened to have been donated from our heroine, Katieâ€™s, husband who died tragically. Please donâ€™t read this blog post and think Breathe You In is a sad, depressing book, because it isnâ€™t â€“ though of course it will pull your heart strings and make you gasp and sigh and long for it all to work out for our gorgeous pair â€“ because Breathe You In starts two years after these events and is about finding hope, learning to love again and planning for the future after everything seemed lost. Itâ€™s also romantic and sexy and because I always leave the door well and truly open in my books youâ€™ll get to see just how Ruben and Katie get their mojo back!
As a writer it was interesting to create with a guy who had coped with a physical challenge that had also knocked his confidence. Like the majority of romance novels, though, it took the right woman â€“ Katie â€“ to make him feel whole again, to re-learn the joys of having a woman at his side (and in his bed) and to step away from being someone who had stared death in the face and instead grip life by the handlebars and hang on for the ride.
No matter what walk of life a hero is from it seems itâ€™s that one special woman who can make it right for him. Vulnerability doesnâ€™t have toÂ be a physical trait, emotion is just as strong a weakness, if not more so, and as Iâ€™ve read more and more, Iâ€™ve realised that I enjoy a hero who isnâ€™t perfect. A hero who canâ€™t save the world, who is â€˜realâ€™ and shares his vulnerabilities only with that special person who he trusts. Itâ€™s very sexy, that baring of souls, that admission of a flaw, something the other person could use against you, and I believe a man, who can admit to that Achilles heel is they type of hero who really yanks my chain. I love honesty, raw emotion, transparency in a character, and if my hero can tick those boxes, Iâ€™m his!
Below is an excerpt from Breathe You In. Itâ€™s quite early on in the story and shows Ruben at one of his most vulnerable moments.
Thank you for reading, and I hope youâ€™ll check out Breathe You In.
Except from Breathe You In:
â€œKatie,â€ he whispered when I pulled back from our soft kiss.
â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€ I could taste him, just a little. It hadnâ€™t been a big, open-mouthed snog, merely a touch. But still, it had spoken a thousand words, and it was the first time Iâ€™d kissed anyone other than Matt in nearly a decade.
â€œNo, please donâ€™t apologize.â€ He placed his hands on my shoulders, his thumbs grazing my collarbones through my T-shirt. â€œI liked it, butâ€¦are you sure?â€
â€œIâ€™m trying to put my life back together, too, Ruben. Matt will always be with me, no one can replace him.â€ I paused, juddered in a breath and put my hand on Rubenâ€™s chest again. â€œOur time together was cut short, but the memories I have, theyâ€™re good memories.â€ I tried to find the right wordsâ€”my emotions were tangled, my thoughts jumbled, but basically I just wanted to be with Ruben, it felt right. In a very basic, limbic part of my brain Ruben was someone I needed. â€œBut I want to make new memories, happy ones, fun ones. I canâ€™t be a sad widow who everyone feels sorry for anymore. Itâ€™s not what Matt would have wanted for me, I know that.â€
â€œIf he loved you he would have wanted you to find happiness again.â€ He stroked his thumbs to the base of my throat, shifting my silky scarf. It was a small, delicate caress that sent a shiver of something scarily like desire tickling over my skin.
â€œHe did love me,â€ I said, â€œwith all of his heart.â€ And did that heart still love me? The one I could feel beating right now? Is that where love was stored, in the fibers of the cardiac muscle? And if so, did that mean Mattâ€™s love had been transferred into Ruben when Mattâ€™s heart was transplanted? Did Ruben love me already, because of the reassignment of an organ?
â€œKatie?â€ He frowned a little.
â€œFor the first time it feels right to hear that said.â€
â€œThat he would have wanted me to be happy. Oh, itâ€™s been said to me by lots of well-meaning friends over the last year, since the anniversary of his death, and Iâ€™ve just nodded and agreed, put on my usual fake smile.â€ I shook my head. â€œBut now, here, yes, he would have wanted me to be looking for happiness again, and I want to find it. Not because itâ€™s what Iâ€™m supposed to be doing, but because itâ€™s what I want. I need to feel alive again, because, like you said, I am alive.â€
Ruben smiled, the edges of his mouth tilting a fraction and the creases at the corners of his eyes deepening. â€œMe too. God, me too.â€ He kissed me, a gentle connection, his tongue dipping into my mouth the tiniest amount.
I slid both my hands over his shoulders. He wrapped his arms around my body, and our chests touched. My breasts, through my top, squeezed up against his firm pectoral muscles.
His kiss was tender and sweet, his lips a new shape for me to learn. I touched the tip of my tongue to his, drew in the slightly salty, masculine flavor of him and knew it was something I wanted more of.
He pulled me closer still. I shifted and next thing I knew he was resting me backwards. I unfolded my legs, stretched out and knocked away the pot of carrot sticks.
The feel of Ruben over me, kissing me, was exciting, frightening, wonderful and painful all at the same time.
He kissed across my cheek, to my ear. His breaths were loud, his weight carefully held on his elbows. I ran my hands down his smooth back, tracing the slopes and rises of his spine then over the planes of his shoulder blades, all the time staring up at the cloudless sky and the bows of the birches, their tiny leaves shivering in the breeze.
â€œYou smell like flowers,â€ he whispered into the shell of my ear.
â€œYes, so pretty.â€ He lifted his head and looked down at me. â€œKissing you here, now, itâ€™s my top new memory.â€
I smiledâ€”the smile grew and grew until it balled my cheeks and another giggle escaped. â€œI think itâ€™s mine too.â€
He kissed me again. I shut my eyes, lost myself in the moment. That small shiver of desire was back. The need for more skin-on-skin and to get closer was growing. Ruben had that certain something that worked for me. His smell, taste and the way he made me feel like everything would be all right, it was something I could get hooked on.
I ran my hands over the waistband of his jeans, stroked his arse cheeks through the denim. Damn, what a cute bum, taut and the perfect handful.
He dropped his weight a little more, our chests pressed harder together and his groin pushed into my right hip. He deepened the kiss and a fizz of lust sparked through me. It couldnâ€™t be ignored. My nipples were tight, there was a tug in my lower abdomen, the start of a needâ€”a need I hadnâ€™t thought of for so long.
I lifted my left leg, curled it over the back of his and squeezed up against him. It was then I felt a long, hard bulge.
â€œRuben,â€ I gasped into his mouth as a fist of something raw and primitive gripped me. Could we? Here?
â€œDamn, Iâ€™m sorry, Iâ€¦â€ He lifted up, completely off me.