When Marilyn asked me to stop by to introduce myself and tell readers a little about my story, Love Out Loud, which will be published by Ellora’s Cave in April, I was reluctant. Not because I’m shy, but because the telling doesn’t exactly cast me in a very favorable light. Looking back, I’m thankful that things somehow worked out with a little extraordinary motherly love. But I’m getting a head of myself.
My name is Randall Grayhawk. I’m one of nine children, eight of whom are male. I have three older brothers and five younger siblings. In our family, the younger siblings accord the older ones a great deal of deference and respect. My brothers and I have always gotten along. I recall very few disputes between us as we grew up. That changed the night of my oldest brother, Layton’s wedding rehearsal dinner.
That’s the night I first saw Benai Peters, my soon to be sister-in-law’s best friend. Of course I’d heard of Benai from one of other older brothers, Bancroft. He’d met her weeks earlier and been so impressed he told us all about her. The moment we knew about her, Grayhawk family tradition decreed she was off-limits to the rest of us. That’s one of the ways we’ve managed to stay so close as brothers—we don’t compete for the same woman.
My older brothers like to talk of the Grayhawks coming from a long line of love. They believe they know the moment they set eyes on their sheena—the one individual who complete them. Layton said he knew the moment he saw Tempest she was his sheena. Of course, his being married at the time meant he couldn’t declare his feelings or act on them. But the time came when he was divorced and she was free and nature took its course. Marilyn told Layton’s and Tempest’s story in Night of Desire.
But my point in talking about a long line of love is that Bancroft led us to believe that Benai was his sheena. Yet he made very little effort to convince her of that and when she and I met weeks later, I was stunned to find myself attracted to her—just as Croft had been. The moment I looked into her dark gaze, I knew trouble lay ahead. I just didn’t realize how much or how lacking in character I was. I like to think that had I known, I should have behaved very differently and not been cast in such a poor light.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, read a few paragraphs of the beginning of Love Out Loud from Benai’s point of view and judge for yourselves. If you want to read more than this, Marilyn has posted more excerpts in the files section of her Yahoo Group, Love Bytes.
An Excerpt From: LOVE OUT LOUD
Copyright © MARILYN LEE, 2008
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
“So you don’t have a sheenea?”
“No. I don’t.”
Good. “They’re both sweet, romantic concepts, Randall.”
He shrugged. “My family believes in a long line of love concept. We don’t always fall in love quickly or easily but when we do fall in love, we don’t stray.”
“What more could a woman ask from a man?”
“Some prefer money to love,” he said coolly.
“You have that as well.”
“I wasn’t always wealthy.”
She reacted to the bitterness in his voice. “That mattered to someone you cared about?”
His jaw clenched. “We were discussing Bancroft.”
So his personal life was off limits. “Yes. You were going to tell me how he lost his spiritual center.”
“It started when Rissa, Brandon’s sheenea, was murdered. We all hurt with Brandon and tried to help him work through his grief. After two years, Layton decided we needed to do something more to help him dissipate some of his grief.”
“Couldn’t he see a therapist?”
“It’s not always easy to find a therapist who understands and respects our beliefs. Besides, Tempest might have mentioned that Declan has a healing touch.”
“A healing touch? You mean he can heal people like a doctor?”
“He can’t heal physical ails but often he can help with emotional ones. Layton and Bancroft decided Brandon’s emotional pain was too much for Declan to handle alone. Between the three of them, they helped Brandon rid himself of enough of his grief to help him regain his spiritual center. In the process, the three of them absorbed most of the dark, negative energy, which had been consuming him.
“As a healer, Declan was used to absorbing others dark pain. As Layton’s sheenea, Tempest’s love and support provided an outlet for Layton’s. That left Bancroft. He has neither a sheenea nor a woman with whom he had a close enough emotional tie who can help him as Tempest did Layton. He’s been left to struggle alone.”
He raised his lids and looked at her. “Could you…”
She sighed at the pain she saw in his gaze. “I feel badly for Bancroft, Randall but Tempest was able to help Layton and bear with the darkness in him because of her vested emotional interest in him. She loves him. I don’t have any such vested interest in Bancroft. I never have.”
He raked a hand through his hair. “Forgive me. I had no right to ask. It’s just that he’s in such pain and there’s nothing we can do to help him.”
“Declan can’t help?”
“Croft has abilities of his own and each time Declan has tried, Croft rebuffs him. He erects mental barriers Declan can’t penetrate.”
She unfolded her legs and scooted across the sofa cushion to stroke a finger down his clenched right hand. “I’m not his sheenea, Randall. I can’t help him. The darkness in him is a little…frightening.”
“You’d be perfectly safe with him.”
“Then why did you feel the need to rescue me?”
He pulled his hand away from her. “You weren’t in any danger from him. I didn’t rescue you.”
“Okay, why did you…intervene when we were dancing?”
“Although you weren’t in any danger, I could see you weren’t comfortable dancing with him. You were a guest in my home so I needed to make sure you were as comfortable as possible.”
“Why did you follow us into the hall?”
“I suspected you didn’t want to be alone with him.”
“Thanks for explaining why he’s so different now.”
“He won’t always be so dark, Benai. When he’s not—”
“I’ll be very happy for him but I think I’ve made it clear that he’s not the brother I’m interested in, Randall.” She placed her hand over his.
He shook his head and withdrew it. “This was a mistake.”
She felt as if he’d slashed ice water on her. “No, it wasn’t.”
“I shouldn’t be here with you like this.”
“Like what? We’re talking, Randall, not making out.”
“The conversation is going in directions it shouldn’t.”
“Why not if we both want it?” She placed a hand on his arm. “Or are you implying I’m flattering myself to think you share my interest?”
“I’m not implying anything.” He glanced at his watch. “Damn. It’s after eleven.”
“Do you turn into a pumpkin at twelve?”
“Good. You haven’t answered my question.”
He rose. “I can’t afford to get personal or intimate with you.”
“I have to go.”
She stared up at him. “Randall—”
“I’d better go now, Benai before…”
She placed a hand on his thigh. “Before what?”
He stepped away from her touch. “Please don’t make this any harder for me.”
“It’s not as if there was ever anything between Bancroft and me, Randall—”
“He thinks there is so I can’t do this.”
“Okay. I’ll see you out.” She rose. She reached for the bowtie hanging from his breast pocket.
When he reached for it, she shook her head. “I think I’ll keep it as a souvenir.”
He shrugged. “Fine. Keep it if you like.”
“I’d rather keep you here.”
“That’s not going to happen.” He turned and walked away.
She lightly tied the bowtie around her neck before she followed him to the apartment door.
He sighed and turned to stare down at her. “Good night.”
She moistened her lips and placed a hand on his arm. “What about our date to see your pictures?”
“Give me your email address and I’ll send them to you.”
She placed her other hand on his chest and leaned close to him, staring up at him with her lips parted. “That wasn’t the deal, Randall.”
He stared at her mouth for several moments. He touched the bowtie around her neck before he sucked in a breath. “That’s the way it has to be.”
She slipped her hands across his chest. “So I shouldn’t expect anymore cozy dinners alone with you?”
“You have no idea how hard this is for me.” He closed his hands around her wrists and held her hands away from his body. “Please don’t touch me like that.”
“It’s not nearly as intimately as I’d like to touch you, Randall.”
Still holding her wrists, he leaned close, his lips parting and his head bending.
She closed her eyes and waited to feel his lips against hers.
Love Out Loud, sequel to Nights of Desire will be published by Ellora's Cave (http://www.ellorascave.com). Nights of Desire is available now from Ellora's Cave.