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Apr. 30th, 2006 @ 02:52 pm When Characters Come to Life (Part One)
Current Location: Oberon, California
Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied
Current Music: S Club 7 ~ Never Had a Dream Come True

Forgive me for bragging, but I really do love it when reviewers comment about how complex and ‘true to life’ my characters are, or what a good job I’ve done of keeping them consistent from book to book.

*Snicker* Yeah, right. As if I had anything to do with that!

Much as I'd like to take the credit, the truth is that characters come to life all on their own––and then they boss me around until I’ve told their stories to their satisfaction. Some of them are polite, considerate and helpful. Some are relentlessly persistent or have their own agendas (like wanting to pick their own heroines or kissing the wrong people).

Others are like loose cannons careening around inside the plot, making a mess of everything. I had one character who made such an almighty mess of his book that I had to re-write six entire chapters just to get things back on track. But I’ll save that story for another day.

In every book, there’s always at least one character who's surprised me. And, in Scent of the Roses, that character was Dan.

When I initially envisioned the series, I thought they would all be straight-forward mysteries. Heavy on the plot twists, light on the character development, and reasonably short.

Boy, was I ever wrong!

The stories, at least the first three, were supposed to be primarily about the relationship between three women, Lucy, Marsha and Scout. Scout was single, Marsha was divorced, so I figured that, just to keep things balanced, Lucy should be happily married.

Which meant she needed a husband. Enter Daniel Edward Cavanaugh.

Dan was never supposed to be a major character. He was supposed to appear in one scene, establish his presence, then quickly take himself off camping so that the women could get on with the business of solving the mystery without any interfering men-folk to complain about the danger they were getting themselves into.

It didn’t quite work out that way. I blame my friend Brian for that.

Brian is an actor––let’s get that straight right from the start. He wants to 'see' what's going on in a story and he likes to act scenes out. When he read the scene where Dan comes home from work and finds Lucy in the kitchen fixing dinner, he complained that the action was too vague.

"When he comes up behind her and gives her a kiss––make me see how he does it," Brian urged, taking advantage of the fact that we were all crowded in his kitchen at the time, and acting out the part with the help of his (very forbearing, I thought) teenage son. "Does he peck her lightly on the cheek? Does he grab her around the waist and pull her against him? Does he brush the hair off her neck and kiss her there? Show me what he does and make me see how he feels about his wife."

Well, I didn’t know the answers to those questions. But when I sat down later to re-write the scene, Dan promptly took matters into his own, very capable hands, leaving no one with any doubt about his feelings for Lucy. And setting the stage for everything that was to come afterwards, in terms of their relationship.

I did manage to get him packed up and out of the house without too much trouble, but he was back in the second book, creating a juicy little subplot for himself in A Sight to Dream Of, and carving out a nice chunk of Sound of a Voice That Is Still for himself, as well.

All of which led up to his and Lucy’s own story, A Taste of Honey, which is still my favorite, in a lot of ways, and for a lot of reasons. But that, too, is a story best saved for another day.

And, now…time for an excerpt. Here’s Dan and Lucy’s very first scene together. I think it’s pretty self explanatory…

Lucy was in her kitchen fixing dinner when her husband got home from work. She had a big pot of water simmering on the stove ready for the pasta; a fresh salad chilling in the refrigerator; and two trays of clary sage focaccia baking in the oven. The pungent odors of basil and garlic filled the sunny room.

"Hey there, babe. What’s cooking?"

Just the sound of Dan’s voice as he came up behind her was enough to send involuntary shivers of pleasure coursing through her. He smelled good, Lucy thought, inhaling deeply. He smelled of earth and sun and sweat and skin. His big, warm hands molded themselves to her waist and she leaned back into his embrace.

"Mmm, pesto huh?" His breath was a warm caress against her neck. "Bit early in the season for you to start hitting the basil this hard, isn’t it?"

"I had my reasons," she muttered, her mood darkening, as she thought about them. But then he was gently teasing one of the straps of her tank top off her shoulder, while his other hand twisted possessively in her hair. He tugged her head to the side and a pleasant thrill of anticipation drove every other thought away.

Lucy’s eyes slid shut as Dan planted a string of soft, wet kisses all along her neck, from ear to shoulder and back again.

When he’d finished she turned to face him, slipping her arms around his waist and into the pockets of his jeans and smiling up into a pair of twinkling eyes the color of fresh denim.

Her breath caught in her throat, as it always did when he looked at her that way. "I had such a lousy day," she pouted teasingly, brightening only after he had kissed her. One, long, luxurious kiss that suggested he’d gladly do everything possible to insure that her evening was very much better than her day had been.

"Mmm. Nice," she purred, pulling away just enough to look up at him. "God, I missed you today. How’d everything go? Are we all set for tomorrow?"

"Yep." Dan pulled her back against him, his hands sliding over her back, and then down to squeeze her butt. He kissed her several more times before finally letting her go.

A pleasant feeling of possession washed through Lucy. She watched as he walked across the kitchen, appreciating once again his close cropped black hair and the comfortable solidness of his large, muscular frame.

"Yeah, we’re set all right," he said, chuckling quietly as he took two beers from the refrigerator. "In fact, it’s Seth’s expert opinion that Cavanaugh’s Nursery will have a ‘killer display’ this year. I gather he thinks it’s a first for us. And all due to his efforts, you understand." He twisted the cap off one of the bottles, and took a long swallow. "How he thinks we managed out there for three generations without him is a fuckin’ mystery to me, woman. And personally? I blame you. That boy has your attitude written all over him."

Lucy laughed. "Oh, no you don’t. He’s your son, too, you know. And what do you mean, attitude? Hell, he’s fifteen years old, Dan. What were you like at that age?"

"Oh, I’m not even gonna go there," Dan leaned his elbows on the counter and stretched his long legs out in front of him. "I’m telling you Luce, I think when Mandy turns fifteen we should seriously consider sending her to live out of state for awhile. You got any relatives on the East Coast who could take her?"

"Don’t." Lucy shivered as goose bumps raced across her skin. Relatives on the East Coast? Just like Scout. She dragged her thoughts back to the present. "So, what about the herbs for the store? Everything go okay with that?"

"Mmph!" Dan took another drink from his beer and shook his head. "You know, Luce, sometimes, the things I do for you––they should qualify me for the sainthood. I’m just thankful my father wasn’t around today to catch me with those two . . . young women . . . with their ceremonial knives and their special cloths, making sure nothing touched the ground after it had been cut. Shit, babe they’re herbs! They grew in the damn ground! What’s the deal with that? No." He put up a hand to stop the explanations that had risen to her lips. "Don’t tell me. I really don’t care. But, oh, you owe me for this one, Greco." He smiled wickedly. "You really do."

"Excuse me?" Her eyebrows rose in mock severity, and she knew that the sudden rush of heat flooding her senses owed nothing whatsoever to either the late afternoon sunlight pouring in through the big kitchen windows, or to the oven at her back. "Did I hear you right? I owe you?"

"Big time." His eyes were dizzyingly blue as they raked slowly over her, from top to bottom before returning to hold her gaze.

Lucy felt her heart kick. "I see. And tell me, Cavanaugh, you think you can collect on that debt, do you?"

"Oh, I know I can." He grinned at her. "Damn, but I do love Friday nights."

So did she. She returned his grin, and for several long moments neither said a word, they just smiled at each other across the sun-filled kitchen. Lucy reached for the glass of Zinfandel she’d poured earlier, and took a small sip as she considered which creative activities they might attempt later. She’d just made up a new batch of scented massage oils they hadn’t tried yet, including a black pepper-mint-patchouli mix she thought might have some very interesting effects.

"So," she said at last, clearing her throat and attempting to catch her breath – an activity which was, all of a sudden, surprisingly difficult. "Dare I ask what you might have done with our son? I didn’t hear Seth come in with you."

"Huh! Nothing, yet. He’s out on the drive shooting hoops with your cousin. Which reminds me, I better get back out there. I told Nick I’d bring him a beer."

"Nick’s here?" Lucy felt a sudden qualm. "What’s he want?"

Dan looked at her in surprise. "Don’t you remember? He’s dropping Kate off to spend the night with Mandy."

Relieved, Lucy turned back to her food processor. "Oh, right. Tell him to stay and have dinner."

"Well, I’ll ask him," Dan’s voice was suspiciously innocent. "But, you know, he might have other plans."

Lucy snorted appreciatively. They were both very well aware just how unlikely that was. Since his divorce, Nick seemed to spend more time than ever at work. Although he’d dated a few women, he’d shown no real interest in any of them. Which, given some of the women in question, was a damn good thing. As far as anyone could tell, Nick’s social life was so lacking in excitement these days, even he was bored by it.

Lucy thought of the Nick she remembered from her youth––so wild and reckless and alive––and she wondered at the changes the years had wrought. Still, he was family. And nobody was ever allowed to mess with her family.

She shot a repressive look over her shoulder at Dan, still chuckling smugly to himself. "Just go tell him I’m making pesto, okay?"

"Oh, yes Ma’am," Dan teased, coming up behind her again.

Lucy giggled as she felt his hot breath in her ear.

"So, tell me. You really think your cooking can compete with one of your cousin’s hot dates?"

For just an instant, a picture of Nick and Scout holding hands and smiling into each other’s eyes across a candle-lit table sprang into Lucy’s head, and she shuddered. It wasn’t that she didn’t want her cousin to be happy, but, omigod, Scout would eat him alive!

"Believe me," she muttered between clenched teeth. "If my cousin had a hot date tonight, I’d know about it. I’d probably have to take out a contract on the bimbo."

Dan nipped at her earlobe. "Well, whatever makes you happy. I know I don’t want to be the one to get you mad." Once more, his tongue caressed her neck. "Maybe later you could show me what I have to do to stay on your good side." And then off he went, beers in hand, to deliver her invitation.

Ruthlessly, Lucy stripped another handful of basil leaves off their stems and threw them into the blender. Thank God for basil, she thought, as she watched the blades do their work. It was good for curing headaches and gastric upsets, providing psychic protection, and warding off negative energies. Just what they’d all need tonight.

©PG Forte 2006, All Rights Reserved.

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