By: Patricia Rosemoor
“Looking for company?” came a male voice from behind her.
She started and whipped around to stare at a beard-stubbled face, whose attractive owner seemed interested and, unless she was now imagining things, quietly amused at her expense. Her quick impression of him: lean strength; dark, slicked-back hair a shade too long; a beat away from fashionable; spooky gray eyes.
“I’d prefer my own company, thank you,” she said, picking up her drink and sipping.
His eyebrows lifted fractionally. “Strange place to pick if you want to be alone. Or do you really?”
“I said I did.”
He took the empty seat next to her anyway, the deliberately perverse action irritating Lilith, even though he scooted his stool in the opposite direction and gave her plenty of breathing room. So why did she feel like she had just run up a flight of steps?
Everything about Club Paradise made her a little uneasy.
“You’re alone,” the stranger assured her. “I’m not here.”
Her hold tightened on her drink, and her gaze wandered about the room in every direction but his. Still, she was aware of him ordering a beer, which no doubt meant she was stuck with his company unless she moved. Only he’d taken the last vacant stool at the bar.
“But if I were here,” he suddenly went on, “I would introduce myself. Michael Wyndham.”
He didn’t seem to require an answer. He certainly seemed laid-back if perverse.
“And I might speculate as to what it is about a place like this that appeals to a woman like you.”
At that she flashed him an angry glare.
“Well, come on, you’re not the usual customer,” he clarified, paying for the beer.
“Look,” Lilith said, “I’m certain plenty of women would be charmed by you–”
“Knowing why people do things is kind of a hobby of mine. No offense, but you really aren’t the typical Club Paradise patron. Yet you must want something.”
“Peace and quiet.”
“Like I said, you’re in the wrong place.”
“Then try breathing room.”
“I thought I gave it to you.” He slid off the stool. “But if I was mistaken, I apologize.”
Saluting her with his beer bottle, he strolled away from the bar and over to a small empty table in the back of the club.
One of my favorite things to do in writing romantic thrillers is to create a hero in doubt, a man who attracts the heroine but is also a suspect in the crime piece. I especially like to make my heroine have reason to doubt the man she’s falling for after she’s slept with him.
No, I’m not sadistic. I just see real life and real relationships as being far more complex than we’re usually allowed when writing category romantic suspense. I have been able to write the suspect hero a few times in my Intrigues, but not to the degree that my edgy mind truly appreciates.
Or maybe it’s just that, when dating (decades ago), I never chose men because they were “safe.” “Exciting” was far more interesting. Most of my female friends made similar choices. So I tend to like doing the “what if’ about a fictional relationship. What if the heroine isn’t sure of the hero, learns to trust him and then is faced with something that makes her fear she’s been wrong about him?
In SKIN, Lilith sees an ad for Club Paradise, a gentlemen’s club, in the paper. The featured dancer could be her. It’s not, of course. It’s her sister who ran away from home as a teenager. Though she’s hired PIs, Lilith has never been able to find Hannah. Now she goes to the club to do just that and is horribly uncomfortable with this unfamiliar world she dislikes.
Originally, the above scene when Lilith and Michael meet was also the first time the reader met him. My intention was to make Lilith uneasy with him, but also to show that he was edgy. I knew I was taking a chance, so I brought it and a few other scenes to my critique group. The consensus was that readers wouldn’t like Michael and I could never redeem him in the reader’s eye. So I wrote a new scene from Michael’s POV with the bartender and placed it directly before this one. The reader now knows he’s been shooting a documentary called SKIN about the girls in the club. His goal is to analyze why they do what they do – he felt compelled to do this after meeting his birthmother, a stripper with no desire to change her life.
So, my questions to you are these: How do you feel about a hero in doubt? What is acceptable? What is going too far for you? And the big one – if the scene above is the first time you met Michael, would you be too creeped out to accept him as a hero?
Yes, I really want to know.
With 90 novels and more than seven million books in print, Patricia Rosemoor is fascinated with "dangerous love" – combining romance with danger. She has written various forms of romantic and paranormal romantic thrillers, even romantic horror, bringing a different mix of thrills and chills to her stories. SKIN is her first original indie thriller.