Need. That’s a pretty strong word. We often say Need when we really mean Want. Need implies something we can’t live without. Food. Shelter. Air. So to say I Need A Hero, well… I think we mostly WANT a hero. I know I do. I want one. I don’t need one. I was raised not to need anyone, least of all a man. My mother was that kind of strong woman and she raised her daughters to not need to depend on anyone but themselves. This can be one of those intimidating things for a man. Some like strong, independent, capable women. Some prefer to have someone who is helpless without them.
I write heroines who don’t need a hero. They’d like one, sure. But they don’t need one. I cloak many of their wants into needs, including their happiness depending on their need for the hero because deep down that’s what we want and what we need.
In my upcoming release, Trouble In The Making, Liz is a capable woman. She’s single, has a career she loves, has a life she lives on her own terms, but in the midst of it all, there are things she needs Johnny for…pleasure, a smile, the love of a lifetime, to step outside herself and become someone different, even if just for a little while, someone worth taking a risk for.
Liz needed coffee. She didn’t just want coffee. She needed it. Johnny Trouble would be arriving later. Rock star. High school crush. Hottest man on the planet in her eyes. Yeah, she needed coffee. Fortifying, dark, rich and sweet.
In-room coffee just hadn’t cut it. this morning. She’d tried, but it soon became clear that only the real thing would do today. The desk clerk had told her about the espresso bar on the second-floor mezzanine when she’d checked in last night. It was all she’d been thinking about. Okay, well not all she’d been thinking about, but it did take up a huge portion of her unconscious thought time.
Damn. She’d gotten dull. Very dull. It was one of the main reasons she was there, to take a chance, to have a little fun, to shake things up a bit. She was a writer, a creative personality, and she was due for some new, exciting inspiration. The man she was meeting, the man she’d been friends with for years, the man who several years ago kissed her for the first time ever and made her feel as though she were a teenager again with very grown up desires, represented everything she was not. He was famous and an extraordinary extrovert. He took life and made it whatever he wanted it to be. And he was interested in her.
How could she pass up a chance to indulge, to bask in that kind of attention?
Liz glanced down and had to force herself not to turn around and head back to her room. The hotel was richly furnished in golds, reds and dark roast coffee brown. There were bits of blue and green and the polished wood and glossy tiles… Johnny Trouble, her soon to be lover, would be used to places so opulent, but she wasn’t and her casual attire showed it. She’d left wearing lounge pants, a t-shirt and flip-flops. She’d brushed her teeth so her breath wouldn’t kill anyone when she spoke, but that was as publicly presentable as she’d attempted to make herself.
She would likely scare a few people, since she had no makeup on and had barely brushed her hair into submission before giving up and putting it up into a ponytail. At the same time, she was used to working at home as a contemporary romance author. She could stay in her pajamas and stick to her comfort zone without worrying about anyone needing to wash their eyes out when they looked at her. Not that she didn’t know how to clean up and look good, but relaxed and calm was what she was aiming for today and her present attire was just that.
It was after ten in the morning on a Thursday. Surely most guests had gone out and about in the quaint city of St. Augustine rather than lingering over a cup of coffee. She’d get hers and get back to her room before too many realized how out of place she was.
She punched the button beside the elevator door that would take her downstairs and tried to keep her mind focused on coffee, but was completely unsuccessful. Thoughts of Johnny, the sole reason for her being in a swanky hotel, kept creeping in. Why had she thought this was a good idea again? Why had she felt so compelled to ask him, of all men, to fulfill her fantasies? You know why. Liz sighed. The secret naughty girl voice inside her head shouldn’t be allowed to talk until she had coffee flowing through her veins. Her angelic good girl voice had no energy to mount a defense yet.
When the doors to the elevator opened, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee hit her before she crossed the threshold and she inhaled deeply. A sign outside the elevator pointed her in the direction of Bar Espresso and she made a beeline for it.
The first thing she noticed as she crossed the threshold was the menu. It stretched four panels long. One for coffees and teas, one for hot espresso drinks, one for cold and one for pastries. She scanned the espresso drinks. What would they think if she ordered one of each?
”Oh dear God,” she whispered under her breath as the voice rippled over her. He was early. He wasn’t supposed to arrive until late tonight or maybe even tomorrow. It was meant to be a Friday to Monday morning weekend. What was he already doing here?
The deep chuckle from behind told her she hadn’t spoken quietly enough. ”No, and I didn’t expect you to refer to me as God quite yet.”
Johnny Trouble. She knew that voice almost as well as she knew her own. His nearness, his gravelly rumble, was nearly as potent for her as the coffee she couldn’t live without.
Everything in her line of sight faded and centered on this one location. It was only the two of them in the universe as far as her mind and body were concerned. They’d spoken just last night right before she’d drifted off to sleep. She’d told him she wanted to back out, that it was a bad idea. He’d told her she was lying, and while she hated to admit it, he’d been right. She’d initiated this, she’d arranged this and no matter how scared she was, she intended to go through with it.
But that had been before he showed up. He was here in the hotel now, standing behind her with one specific purpose in mind and she was quaking in her flip-flops. Only she couldn’t move.
She’d lost her ever lovin’ mind.
”Liz.” The tone of voice was impatient. “Turn around and look at me.”
She shook her head, mute. She couldn’t look at him, couldn’t talk to him. This was crazy. She needed to get her coffee and get the hell out until she was more fortified to handle him.
The air around her shifted and crackled. He was closer, within inches of being pressed to her back. His breath fanned her ear and breezed through the loose strands of hair at her nape. Heat rolled off him and seeped through her thin, worn shirt.
”Turn around, Liz.” He spoke softer, and directly against her skin now.
He was teasing her, taunting her, and it was exactly what she needed, wanted. Only, she wanted so much more too. She just had to get her mind to communicate with the rest of her.
”Really? You’re not going to turn around and look at me?”
What was she afraid of? She’d done the hard part. Well, not the hard hard part, but she’d asked him to give her a long, fantasy weekend and he’d said yes. He wasn’t nervous, or at least he didn’t appear to be, so what was her issue? It was an easy answer. She was the wallflower. It had been her Achilles’ heel all her life. In the safe haven of her home, of her little neighborhood, she was open and comfortable with her life. He represented the opposite of all that, and though it scared her, when she was with him, she couldn’t help but be drawn to it.
”I get it,” he said, coming to stand beside her now. ”You’re taken aback by my celebrity, aren’t you? It’s finally hit you just how famous I am.” Johnny sighed dramatically and Liz couldn’t stop herself from looking at him. He didn’t turn his head to meet her gaze, but there was a little smirk on his lips that, as she stared at it, started to ease the nervousness coursing through her. ”I knew it would catch up to you sooner or later. I know I’m quite the catch for women. I mean, look at me? I’m the quintessential over-the-hill rock star who still wears leather, has long hair and thinks he’s smokin’ hot. Chicks still dig me, baby.”
Liz laughed and nudged him with her shoulder. The familiarity of their long-standing friendship settled in the small space between them. He was as much a smartass now as he’d ever been. He knew his celebrity didn’t matter to her. She was proud of him, proud to know him as a person, as an imperfect, but gorgeous man. She was proud to have known him before he’d ever struck it rich with a hit song, and he knew how hard something like this weekend was for someone so quiet, how out of character it was for her to make the first move. Her inability to turn around and face him was not for any reason other than fear, a little anxiety and a whole lot of discomfort with the immediate situation. She didn’t like being this way sometimes, but more often than not, the homebody in her kicked in and she stayed rooted to what she knew. ”Thank you,” she said softly.
”There’s nothing to thank me for.”
”There is. You’re helping an old friend step outside herself for a while.” She’d spent a great deal of time living vicariously through other people, the characters from her books and, well, then Johnny. He was well traveled and he never failed to entertain and amuse her with some of his stories, the antics of his band, the daring things their fans would do just to be able to touch their coattails.
It was high time she did some real life living of her own.
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