This was not the first time Camille had looked foolish, but it might have been the first time she didn’t care. Unable to find her room key or hold back the torrent of tears, she plunked down onto the ugly hotel carpet in front of her door and sobbed, loud and hard. With nothing but the back of her hand to wipe away the tears and snot, the scene quickly escalated from tragic to gruesome.
Heartbreak was no stranger. But this break-up was beyond humiliating. How dare he? She had given him everything and he claimed it wasn’t enough. He’d stood in the cold marble lobby and yelled at her. Accused her of cheating. In front of everyone.
Humiliation mingled with anger and desperation, halting any effort to pull herself together. They’d flown across the country to attend this wedding and now she’d be conspicuously dateless in a room full of happy couples. She tried to take a breath and choked on a new wave of tears.
A soft crush of footsteps stopped in front of her, but Camille had no interest in lifting her head off her knees to look.
“Hey, Cam. What’s wrong?”
She knew that voice, as well as the gentle stroke of his hand in her hair.
“Camille. You’re scaring me. What’s going on?”
His worry pierced through her pain and, with great effort, she tilted her head up to see her best friend’s face inches from hers.
His eyes flashed to fear. “Camille! What happened? Are you okay? Talk to me!”
It took so much energy to form words. “Calm down, Jack. I'm okay.”
“You don’t look okay. Did something happen with Charlie? Where is he?”
The questions were coming too fast for Camille’s throbbing, blurry head. “He dumped me.” There, she said it. Out loud.
The line of his lips flattened and his breath growled. Rage filled his expression. “That mother fu-”
Camille shook her head, trying to regain her composure. “We flew all the way here and that bastard couldn’t even wait one more day.”
Jackson’s mouth softened. “I'm so sorry.” He rubbed his thumb across her cheek.
She looked into the warm brown eyes of her closest friend, the man who’d been like a brother for the past ten years. This was how she knew him best – kind, caring, and sweet. She didn’t care how the world saw him. She had gotten to know the real man.
“Let’s get you up and into your room.” He slipped his long arms under hers and stood her up. She fell into his broad chest, melting into the arms that enveloped her.
“Where’s your key, love?” he whispered into the top of her head.
She mumbled into his chest. “I couldn’t find it.”
Keeping a firm grip around her with one arm, Jackson dipped down to pick her purse up off the ground. “Can I take a look?”
“Of course.” She had no secrets from him.
She winced when he had to unlock his arm from her waist to search through her purse. Of course, he knew exactly where she would have put the key: in the smallest zippered pocket.
He waved it in front of the magnetic pad and the loud click confirmed his success.
As expected, the room had been cleared of all Charlie’s belongings. His compulsiveness would have prevented him from forgetting anything. Camille stepped away from Jackson to look around, hoping to find a belt, or a tie, or even a tube of shaving cream. Any excuse to contact him again. But there was nothing, not even a stray hair.
Charlie had almost snuck out without her knowing. If she hadn’t had to leave the restaurant to go to the bathroom, she would never have seen him, bags in hand, striding across the lobby.
Jackson stepped in front of her, halting her examination of the room, and began wiping her eyes and nose with a tissue.
“I'm a mess.” Only the slightest tinge of self-consciousness colored the moment. This was who they were and had always been. He pressed the tissue across her nose and she blew, like a small child.
“No, Cam. You’re just hurting.” He balled up the tissue and flicked it into the small metal bin to his right. “I know you’re upset, love. But, personally, I'm glad he’s gone. He was never good enough for you. And he reinforced his complete lack of class by doing this here. I mean, he couldn’t have ended it before flying to Chicago with you?”
Camille dropped her head, another rush of tears pressing against her eyes.
His broad palms cupped her face, tilting her up to look at him. “Hey, hey, Cam. He has no idea what an amazing woman you are. There are better things in your future. I know it.”
His shoulders lifted as he took a deep breath. Something about the look on his face locked her attention on him. When he touched his lips to hers, a first in their relationship, a tiny spark of surprise jolted her awake. When he pressed in, more deeply, passionately and deliberately, gripping her and parting her lips, there was no question a line had been crossed.
A column of heat filled Camille’s body as his mouth explored hers. She could not have imagined anything as wonderful as that kiss in that moment. Until she remembered to whom that mouth belonged.
Friends & Lovers Book 2
For Ramona Barrett, a lot has happened in fifteen years.
Her maniacal grandfather finally died.
Her father sobered up and got his life in order.
She built an enviable life based on righting her family’s wrongs.
And the chubby, awkward boy who used to be her best friend is now a man she hardly recognizes.
Lucas Winston recovered from his law-school fiasco and is now the hottest chef in DC. The elite clamor for a seat in his restaurant, the power-hungry vie for connections to his powerful family, and an old friend demands a forgotten promise be honored. Everyone wants a piece of him.
Except Ramona. She can’t see that he’s never stopped loving her. That they are meant to be together. Even if he is about to marry someone else.
If you’re looking for smart, sexy characters in a layered, emotionally-gripping story, Coming Home will take you there.
This steamy, standalone contemporary romance has no cliffhanger, but includes characters you will meet throughout the series.
Ramona arrived at her door and remembered tiptoeing down that same hallway, like a delinquent teenager, the night before. Except she’d never done anything that courageous as a teenager. Mostly she just hid. Maybe if she’d had a chance to act out more when she was younger, she’d have gotten all this risk-taking out of her system. She’d heed consequences and be less impulsive. She wouldn’t find herself in a tizzy about some guy, wasting precious moments she could be spending with her father.
Exhaustion pulled her into the room, longing for rest. She’d hardly slept the night before. How foolish, going to bed all sexed-up and excited. Sure, it had been a night to remember. Scorching hot. Great material to replay during her many nights alone. And wrong, wrong, wrong.
Anger gave her enough of a spurt of energy that her clothes and shoes hit the ground with added velocity. That fucker. Lucas had made a fool of her. No. He made a fool of himself. How had he turned out to be such a louse?
As she looked around the room with bright pink walls, nostalgia weaved itself into the fist of her anger and forced it open. Too many nights had been spent cowering in her bed, wanting to be transported anywhere but there. It was his voice on the other end of her gold princess phone that had helped her calm down. Sometimes even his arms around her while she cried, helping her get to sleep. The boy and the man didn’t align. It was all too hard to believe.
She plopped herself onto the large bed, the only item in the room she could tell had been replaced. Even the chair she and her brother had painted with orange polka dots still sat in the corner.
She slid between the cool sheets, so grateful that the day was over. There’d be plenty of time tomorrow to figure out this mess. A good night’s sleep would help. Her eyes drifted shut as her body relaxed. Despite her room’s history, a sense of safety, the first she’d had all day, wrapped itself around her.
Heavy footsteps sounded through the house. Her initial startle passed quickly - it must be Connor coming to check on Dad - but the sound continued getting louder and closer to her room. Maybe something had happened and he wanted to talk. He opened the door and she squinted at the silhouette. Something was different about the frame of the body, the line of the hair. Her eyes snapped open. It wasn’t Connor. It was Lucas.
“What the hell are you doing here? How did you get in?”
He stepped over her clothes and shoes, strewn across the carpet, and walked over to her bed. “Because your father has yet to ever lock the side door.”
She sat up, trying her best to cover what was not being sufficiently concealed by her skimpy nightgown. “What do you want, Lucas? I’ve really had enough. Today was…”
“I know. It was a spectacularly shitty day for you. And I didn’t help things by coming after you that way. I wasn’t being rational. So, I'm here to apologize.”
“Really? You couldn’t just send me a text or apologize tomorrow?”
“No.” He took off his suit jacket and unbuttoned his shirt, dropping them both on the back of the chair. “Because I also came here to do this.”
Ramona watched, mesmerized, as he stripped down to his shorts and slid into bed with her. The shock of it stole her ability to respond. It was all deja vu, although instead of sneaking into her room through the window, he had walked down the hall. And instead of her house burning with the rage of her parents, the inferno was happening inside her own body.
He turned her away from him and enveloped her in his body. He had always been bigger than her, but the size difference had magnified. His breath brushed against the top of her shoulder as he held the pressure that forced her to soften into him. Tension and anger gave way to grief. She closed her eyes and let the tears flow.
I believe that everything we experience exists as a story within us.
My journey as a writer includes the award-winning poem I penned at the ripe old age of seven, decades of hiding and doubt, and then finally… finally!... realizing that art needs to be shared. Storytelling is part of my heritage, even though I denied it for so long. The stories I created - true and imaginary - have saved me numerous times.
My characters come to me, like old friends excited to tell me what's new.
They represent the world I see and the world I want to see.
More than anything, I care about recovery from life’s setbacks… getting back on your feet after life has brought you to your knees… and my characters fight the hard fight for the lives they know are waiting for them.
I’ve drawn my inspiration from the many flavors of my life experience. Once a sad, shy girl, I’ve also been an MIT-trained engineer, biotech executive, professional dancer, yoga teacher and business owner, school founder, spiritual counselor, entrepreneur, and author.
And I own a magic wand that I’m certain will work one day.
When I’m not typing, furiously trying to capture the stories that pour from me, you can find me loving my people to excess, globe-trotting to the next great adventure, and sporting bright red lips as a tango diva. And of course on my digital homes: pekavanagh.com and boldsoulcoaching.com.
What would your fans be surprised to know about you?
I have an extremely diverse background. I am a Caribbean immigrant, a former engineer and biotech executive, spiritual teacher and counselor. Writing romance novels, although it is all consuming these days, has only been part of my life for less than five years. I’ve always been captivated by the journey of an intimate relationship, so when I think about the process of growth, maturation, and becoming fully adult, I think about love and sex and connection. I can’t really explain why my stories come to me in the way that they do, but it all makes sense in my head. I want to write about people who discover the best in themselves and others. It just happens that the way I see that discovery unfolding is in emotional, sexy, exciting relationships.
What has been the best compliment?.
Whenever a reader has an a-ha moment about themselves, it’s like winning the lottery for me. I love it when readers thank me for honoring their intelligence, for not writing cookie-cutter romances, for shedding a light on an aspect of relationship that they never appreciated. For some reason, my first book, especially, had a large male readership. One reader in particular wrote in his review that every man in a relationship with a woman needed to read my book. It was that enlightening.
I remember being totally blown away by that comment and the others like it. It has stayed with me all these years and I think about it when I'm deciding how to mold and form my characters.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Resilience is a major theme in my life and in all of my work – as a counselor and as an author. I'm most interested in the forces that conspire to lift people up after tragedy. All of my books center around that transition from broken to whole, from a loss of faith in themselves to a re-ignition of self-awareness, personal power and love. I think we are the compilation of the stories we tell ourselves, and all my characters figure out how to tell a better, more uplifting story. My message is that we always have the means to heal and grow. Sometimes it’s the hardest possible option, but it’s always there.
How would you describe your style of writing to someone that has never read your work?
I write novels that explore the broad issues of being human – honesty, kindness, trauma, regret, desire – in the context of love relationships. If my readers reconsider their long-held beliefs, or learn something that makes their lives more vibrant and beautiful, then I will feel like I’ve done my job. I also love how a beautiful sentence lingers on the tongue like a delicious meal. I want to create an experience for the reader that transcends their analytical understanding and goes right to the heart.
What mindset or routine do you feel the need to set when preparing to write (in general whether you are working on a project or just free writing)?
From the moment I surrendered to the fact that I was an artist (which took about ten years), I’ve kept myself porous and open. That means I am available to the Muse whenever she wants to visit me, whether it’s waking me from deep sleep, pulling my attention while I'm doing anything else, or even driving along. I set myself up with notepads and a recording device wherever I am, so that I can always capture those gifts of inspiration.
Do you take your character prep to heart? Do you nurture the growth of each character all the way through to the page? Do you people watch to help with development? Or, do you build upon your character during the story creation?
I typically spend a long time with my characters before committing to them on paper. It’s almost like an interview. I want to know they’re going to be worth the time and effort before I agree to tell their stories. That way, I know most of what they’re going to go through before we even begin. Inevitably, there are changes and shifts I wouldn’t have predicted. It’s a lot like life. Plan and prepare for the unexpected, both at the same time.
Have you found yourself bonding with any particular character? If so, which one(s)?
I fall in love with all my characters, even the ones who are tragically flawed and sometimes unlikable. I create them in the image of how I’d like to see humans behave. My first heroine was a nearly broken woman who was able to find herself through a series of bold moves. She, and the man who facilitated much of that awakening, will always hold a special place in my heart.
Do you have a character that you’ve been working on that you can’t wait to put on paper?
Whenever I'm writing a novel, I often find myself straying into the stories of the side characters. Right now, I'm writing two novels at the same time (while editing a third) because I just can’t wait for one to be complete before starting the other. They are all so compelling. The trilogy (although it may grow to more than three books) involves around the idea of dancing with power. The characters in each of the books are related to the others through family, intimate, or professional ties. It feels almost like making a tapestry in three dimensions. I'm loving it!
Tell us about The Friends & Lovers Series! What inspired this story?
Like all my stories, the ones from Friends & Lovers, came to me in a series of dreams and daydreams. I’ve always had an extremely overactive imagination (which I appreciate!) and snippets of stories are always weaving in and out of my mind.
When I began fleshing out these tales, I didn’t know they were connected. It was only much farther into the process that I realized the cast from one story had a variety of connections – from family, history, work, and social – to the others. What I'm left with is a world with three strong, primary families, and the stories they tell.
My readers are always asking if side characters will get their own stories too, which I'm open to. As of now, I don’t know how many books will comprise this series, but I'm guessing it will be at least five.
Why romance novels?
I'm completely obsessed with the human mind and spirit, which I’ve been studying for at least twenty years. I also think that the greatest incubator for human development is the intimate relationship, so all my stories (so far) include that element. They sometimes veer quite a bit toward psychological fiction, but I love the central theme of a love story.
I understand the desire to escape to these worlds as well as the desire to see ourselves in the flawed and lovable heroes and heroines. Romance tells me, over and over, that so many more things are possible than what I might find in my ordinary life. It is exciting, inspiring, and emotionally satisfying.
Unlike many authors I talk to, I'm rarely happier than when I get to write about some sexy time. Writing a fight scene or a chase scene would have me hitting my head against a wall. But a sex scene puts a big, fat smile across my face.
What made you decide to pursue indie publishing instead of traditional?
When I first began, I had the idea that only traditional publishing would provide me the exposure I was looking for. Boy, was I wrong. After years of research, testing, and experimentation, I continue to choose independent publishing. I also choose to give my books the same professional level of attention that any book from the top tier publishers might receive, including several levels of editing, design, publication, promotion and marketing.
As an entrepreneur, I understand the difficulty of single-handedly juggling all these balls. I love having control over all aspects of the process and I also appreciate those who’ve mastered the various aspects and who can help me make my book the best it can be.
I would never proclaim a position that precluded any existing or new means of publication. I'm a professional author and I'm ready to make decisions and choices that support creation of the best books I can write and distribution to a large, receptive audience.
What do you think is the best thing about the indie publishing industry?
I know that that is where innovation is currently happening. That part of it is so exciting to me. I’d rather be on the cutting edge – even if it’s scary as hell – than anchored to a large, slow-moving industry. Personally, I love having a connection to every part of the process. I'm not one of those writers who bemoans any time not spent writing. I enjoy the business aspect of being an author and I love connecting with my wonderful reader community. Having creative oversight over the final product is immensely gratifying, as is finding better and better ways to deliver books that touch people.
What is the worst thing?
It’s hard as hell. The skill set is nearly endless. For a long time, there can be intense financial constraints. The momentum needed to see a project to its end can feel impossible.
What surprised you the most about indie publishing?
I'm glad that I didn’t know the extent of what would be required when I first started out. With each publication, I add another set of skills to my arsenal. I am surprised by all the energy spent on unethically gaming the system, but am constantly amazed by the ingenuity and generosity of my indie author community.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone considering indie publishing their book?
Do it! But don’t do it alone. Find your tribe, your community, your inner circle of loving advisors. Please note, these are usually NOT friends and family. They may or may not want to support your crazy new pursuit, but they certainly won’t have the tools to do so. I could spend all my time hanging with the author communities I’ve joined over the years. These folks are magnificent. Find yours and the long, rocky road will be journeyed with others who will make everything better.
What are your thoughts on the indie author community?
Love them! Like any community of humans, you will find angels, devils, and everything in between. I have never reached out for help and not gotten it. I am most in awe of those further down the path from me who are CONSTANTLY helping others. That’s the type of author and community leader I am modeling myself after.
Who are some indie published authors you look up to, or that inspired you to follow this path to publication?
When I realized that those stories were coming to me were 'Romance', I started studying the genre intensely. I read all the books I could get my hands on, without checking how they were published. It turned out that so many of my favorites were independently published, including Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole, and Alicia Rai. (Notice the multi-cultural themes, too!) The list is long, but some of the authors I currently look up to are Sylvia Day, Kelly Siskind, AL Jackson, and so many more!
How long have you been writing?
That’s so hard to answer! I began writing non-fiction, inspirational articles for my spiritual community almost twenty years ago. Storytelling comes naturally for me and I always infused these lessons with a narrative quality. My first exploits in fiction happened much later and culminated in my doing NaNoWriMo (on a dare!). before that point, I had only written very short pieces and did not anticipate ever being able to sustain a novel-length work. That NaNo project, through years of revision and rewriting, became my very first novel.
What does your process look like? Walk us through a typical writing session for you.
I don’t follow a set schedule, primarily because my life – as a bicoastal mother and business owner - is fairly chaotic. Sometimes I write just a few hundred words, or spend time cleaning up pieces prior to publication. Then there are periods where I'm cranking out 10,000 words or more a day. I follow the rhythms of my body and my creative uprisings. Thankfully, they always come. My MacBook Air is never farther than arm’s reach away.
As for creative process, I have been shifting, with each manuscript, from hardcore, determined ‘pantsing’ to allowing more and more plotting earlier in the process. As opposed to strangling my creative flow (which I had assumed in the beginning), understanding structure is allowing me to create much more cohesive and coherent work. So, after the typically messy first draft is done, I then start applying an overlay of 3- or 5-act structure to the whole thing. It’s like making a huge sheet cake, then carving it to resemble a landscape. Or a face.
I'm always fascinated to hear about other writers' rituals before or during writing. Do you have any?
Because my settings are so varied-- from beds to planes to coffee shops --I haven't attached any particular ritual. Even if my beloved computer is down, I can write on sticky pads, restaurant napkins, and even my phone, when in need. I always make a music playlist for each book and if I listen to anything, it'll be that.
What are some books and/or authors that inspired you to be a writer?
My favorite fiction author is Tom Robbins whose writing makes me want to swoon and dance. His facility with language, his humor, and his weaving of complex plots is astounding. I’ve always appreciated beautiful writing but never felt it was within my abilities. When a particular chart-breaking sexy book came out, however, might have been the first time I entertained thoughts of going public with my writing. Not to disparage, but I did not find the writing compelling. (Worry not. I bought all the books and saw all the movies.) My inner circle, the only ones who’d seen my sexy stories, were always asking for more, so I thought – Maybe I could do this too.
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?
I work with may levels of subtlety in my stories. It’s fine to read them on the surface, but when a reader sees the deeply buried ideas and resonates with them, it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s as if all the boundaries between us as humans dissolved, and we are all just a collective of the same inner thoughts and experiences.
I get notes like, “Every man in a relationship with a woman should read this book,” or “This gave me certainty that I could bring love into my life.” There is NOTHING better than that!
What keeps you motivated and inspired to write?
All those stories in my head don’t let get too far. I'm thankful, thus far in my career, I’ve never needed an extra boost of motivation and inspiration. What I need is more hours in the day, or maybe an extra set of arms, so I could capture all the stories that want to come through me.
What is one thing you want everyone to know about your writing?
Look for the easter eggs. I heard this term in the gaming world, where there some fun thing will be hidden for only the most intrepid users. All of my books have these goodies, whether it’s the appearance of a character from a different book/series, a shared location, or an object you wouldn’t expect, they're always there. Here’s to finding them!
What is the best writing advice you have ever gotten?
My very first writing coach was as harsh as he was famous. As I would whine about being too sensitive to handle criticism, or complain that I didn’t like this aspect of writing, or that aspect of writing, he would blaze his baby blues at me and say, “Grow a set.”
As much as I didn’t like that advice when I got it, that set has come in very handy in my career. This is not a career for a Delicate Daisy. It requires strength, stamina, and the fortitude of a whole platoon of Navy Seals. For some of us, growing that strength is most of the journey.
And last but not least, do you have anything currently in the works? What can your readers expect from you next?
Always! I'm minutes away from releasing Coming Home, the second book in the Friends & Lovers Series. Childhood friends reconnect after years apart and chaos hits them from all directions. One of the interesting facets of this book is that I delve into the world of US politics, which has been so fun! (At times, I’ve felt like I’ve been writing my very own season of Scandal.)
The love story between these old friends whose worlds came apart is at the center of it, with a recurring question of what home means to every one of us. As with all my books, I keep upping the ante on smart banter, sizzling chemistry, and twists you never saw coming.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!