A typical day for me starts at a bright and early 5:30 AM. After getting ready for work I spend about twenty minutes caring for my elderly spaniel, giving her a shot of insulin with her breakfast and a series of eye drops. With a pop tart in hand, I then fire up my computer to catch up on email and triage the posts on my various social networks. Once I’ve said goodbye to my girls I join the rest of the morning commuters on the congested highways as we battle our way downtown, jamming out to my iPod the entire time.
My day job as a project manager in the health insurance industry consumes the next 11 hours or so, with me returning home sometime around 7 PM. By the time dinner is taken care of—which thanks to my wife isn’t always pizza—along with the laundry, dishes and other daily chores, even on a good night it’s closing in on 8:00.
At that point I have 3-4 hours before its time for bed. Is one of our favorite shows on? Am I at a super-exciting part in the book I’m reading? This is where hard choices need to be made. After a mentally exhausting day at work often times my brain is longing to just check out for a while, and vegging out on the couch sounds so, so tempting, but those are the only 3-4 hours I have to work on my current novel, market Dangerous Waters and interact with fans on my social media sites. So more often than not, the rest of the night is spent typing away on my computer with my spaniel sleeping on my feet. As hectic as it all sounds, the sense of accomplishment I get from a good night of writing puts a spring in my step the entire next day. Being a published author is a dream come true, and I am loving every minute of it.
As for my writing process itself, I guess I fall somewhere between the seat of your pants contingent and the micro-planners, leaning more toward the former. When I get a new idea for a series I first kick it around in my head for a while, thinking about where I’d take the story, what some interesting sub plots might be, and adding some detail to the central characters. If I find that I’m still obsessed with the idea several days later then I know there’s enough interest on my part to warrant moving forward.
Ideas that make it past the daydreaming stage are captured in a catch-all word document covering everything from a skeleton plot arc, to explanations of the supernatural powers that come into play and details on the central characters. This document is continuously updated throughout the writing process, and serves as an invaluable reference as the cast grows and elements are further refined.
From there it’s on to initial research, focusing on the location the book is set in and the defining characteristics of my protagonist. Is she on the swim team? Does she write poetry? Does she work as a barista? Are there pantheons or other mystical lore involved? These defining elements will be referenced throughout the book, and in order to sound at all credible I need to educate myself up front.
Once I have a good feel for the protagonist, the defining elements of the story and the high level plot arc, it’s time to start writing. I start each chapter by putting together a one page bulleted summary outlining the key events that occur, the chapter’s purpose in advancing the overall plot, and important character interactions. This is still very high level, along the lines of knowing I want to get from Detroit to Buffalo and stop at Niagara Falls along the way. I’ve found that I write far more impactful scenes if I let the story—how I get from Detroit to Buffalo—come naturally, allowing my characters to take me in totally unexpected and wonderful directions.
As for the environment, most authors cherish the freedom that their laptop provides, allowing them to practice their craft from that quaint little coffee shop down the street, while sipping a Pina Colada on the beach, or even just perched on the couch, effortlessly ignoring the show their significant other is caught up in so they can finish off another chapter. For me, writing under such conditions would be painstaking at best, as these type of environments fail to provide the key elements I find essential for productive, efficient writing:
· Quiet… but not too quiet – Sounds like a contradiction, I know, but being in an environment to either extreme bothers me. Absolute silence makes me feel isolated, almost as if I’m being punished while the rest of the family is having a ball without me. But make the noise too direct and my muse bails on me completely. Having my wife watching TV in the living room while I am tucked away in my office provides just the right level of background noise.
· The day the music died - Sometimes I’ll listen to mood appropriate music for the scene I am working on to help set my frame of mind, but once the words start flowing the music is turned off. I generally find it distracting, as it pulls me out of the scenes that are running through my head.
· I’ll take a PC, please – An oversized monitor, regular keyboard and mouse, and easy access to a printer are vital. Laptop keyboards aren’t as ergonomically designed as their full sized counterparts, and messing around with the touchpad mouse to navigate just doesn’t cut it for me. As for the printer, I love to print out chapters and scenes as I write them to do final read throughs.
· Home field advantage – My office is home base for my writing. All of my research is close at hand, my reference books (Chicago journal of style, etc.) are within reach, I’ve got a desk to write on, my character and storyline notes are organized into folders, and my daily to-do list is front and center, helping me stay organized with all of the marketing and writing activities. Writing at home also gives me easy access to food, my favorite drinks and restroom facilities, allowing me to spend less time addressing my basic needs than if I was writing outdoors or in a place of business.
· Hail the almighty executive chair – When you plan to be stationary for hours on end you had better have a comfortable place to park your rear. My executive padded chair is heavenly, and is yet another reason why I struggle when trying to write away from home.
· Hold the snacks – While a tall glass of flavored water is a must, I cannot keep candy bars or other junk food in my writing area. Between my total lack of will power to resist such food, and the easy distraction eating provides versus having to think about a difficult line, etc., I end up inhaling these items non-stop until they are gone.
· Access to a test reader – Having my wife available to bounce lines off of and read draft scenes allows me to get real time, collaborative input rather than writing entire chapters that end up requiring major revisions. Hearing her voice once in a while also makes me feel more connected.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Jocelyn Elyssa is an up and coming actress and has done an amazing job portraying Emily on the cover and in the trailer, so I would love to cast her for the lead. I’ve always thought of Matthew Mcconaughey as Ruby’s husband, Kelly. Melissa Archer (Natalie from One life to Life) would be great as Sienna. Emma Watson (from Harry Potter) would make a cute Sandy, and Josh Hartnett is a dead ringer for Daniel. Scarlett Johansson could totally pull off Raven, and Anna Kendrick would be perfect as Emily’s best friend Britney. Selena Gomez could round out the cast as Ruby.
Were you already a great writer? Have you always liked to write?
I have always enjoyed writing, mainly due to the outlet it provides for my incredibly overactive imagination. When I was nine or ten I used to exchange letters with my oldest brother each week while he was away at college. Our fantasy creatures were mortal enemies, and battled each other in our imaginary world. The first book I shared with anyone outside of friends and family was a children’s novella originally written for a class assignment called The Bat Boy. My teacher was very impressed and recommended that I enter it in my school’s writing contest. I was one of five lucky students selected to read our short stories to local grade school children. Of course at the time I felt anything but lucky—I was so nervous reading in front of forty or so people that I could barely keep track of what page I was on.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
The best advice I could give anyone thinking about writing a book is to not worry about getting published up front. Let yourself enjoy the unbound creativity that comes with crafting your very own world. Invest time up front to put together a plot arc and a rough story outline. Think about each of your main characters. What’s different about them? How do they dress, talk, act? What role do they play in the central plot arc? What challenges will they face? What are their personal shortcomings? What mistakes will they make along the way? The better you understand your characters, and the more clearly you can define your storyline, the easier the entire process will be. Above all else, commit to finishing what you start and making time to write each day.
Getting input along the way from test readers (especially those who read a lot of books in your genre) is another great tool. It’s much easier to make major storyline changes before the entire draft is written, and input on dialogue, narrative voice, syntax and character development received for one chapter can be leveraged as you work on future chapters. When the initial draft is finally pulled together the long and tedious revision process begins. At a minimum, I’d recommend two complete rounds of revisions: One focused on word repetition, action beats, speaker connotations, syntax and grammar, and another geared more toward content, flow and readability.
Once you’ve honed your manuscript, it’s time to craft the all important query letter, where you get to boil your entire novel down into two paragraphs. No pressure, you just need to make your cherished creation stand out from the tens of thousands of other unsolicited queries that are flooding your chosen agents slush piles. Speaking of choosing agents, there are great online tools like querytracker.net and Agentquery.com that can help you search for agents to query and track your submissions. Spend the time to visit each of their sites and follow their submission guidelines. Customizing your query with information found on their site, addressing it to the agent most suited to your genre by name and complying with their guidelines is critical for making it past the initial pre-screen.
Two things to keep in mind on this step:
1) Have patience. It generally takes between 4-6 weeks to get a reply (except for the lovely “Not right for us at this time” canned response rejections, where you didn’t make it past the initial screening). You will be sending out queries for several months or even years, and you will get TONS of rejections / no responses. Keep pushing forward.
2) Don’t query your target 100 agents all at once with the same query letter. Send out 5-10 and gauge what kind of response you receive. Any nibbles? Did you get all canned rejections back? You may want to tweak your query letter a bit before sending out more. Once you get a version that is getting a decent hit rate then you can start increasing the volume, but remember to customize each and every one and follow the agencies guidelines. I can’t stress that enough.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Let’s face it, none of us enjoy having our cherished creations picked apart, even by those whose opinion we value. Our natural reaction is to get defensive and lash out at those ignorant fools who have failed to comprehend our brilliance. But if you want to be successful as a writer you need to check yourself. Receiving candid input from test readers / critique groups is one of the most helpful writing tools at your disposal. These groups are typically made up of close friends and relatives, so convincing them it’s okay to call you out rather than just blowing smoke up your rear is hard enough to begin with. If their first attempts are met with belligerence they will immediately clam up, and you will have lost out on receiving helpful feedback. That doesn’t mean that you are always going to agree, or make every change they suggest, but you should hear them out and ask enough questions to fully understand where they are coming from. And before you decide to agree to disagree, you may want to solicit some additional opinions. That is why it is great to have a critique group rather than just one person.
Then there is the feedback you receive post launch via online reviews. This can be even harder to take, as it is often the first time you are receiving totally unbiased feedback, and their opinions by the very nature of being a review are more judgmental rather than helpful. Think you won’t receive any 2 star or 1 star reviews? Think again. Pick out your five favorite authors and look up the reviews for some of their titles. Now search for their lowest rated reviews. See what I mean? If the authors who you dream of emulating get more than their share of less than flattering appraisals, it’s a safe bet that you will too. So what do you do when the inevitable happens? Nothing. I mean, you can read the review if you’d like, but regardless of how much it infuriates you do not ever engage the reader in a debate. Other readers give little credence to an individual negative review (they tend to look at reviews as a whole), but if they see an author going off on someone that does not sit well with them. Hold your chin up and move on.
In my opinion, the ability to get real-time feedback from people knowledgeable about your genre that you trust explicitly—but who are still willing to offer constructive criticism—is the most helpful tool in a writer’s arsenal.
For a critique group to be successful, each of the conditions summarized above needs to be met.
- Composed of people you trust – I’ve seen a lot of online critique group sites pop up recently. These sites make the formation of groups far easier, but they miss out on one of the most essential requirements for collaborative input to be effective. Trust. I’m not just speaking of the risk that someone you have never met will pilfer your amazing idea for a new book (or even actual chapters), which is all too real. The lack of trust also makes you more defensive and less open to receiving even well intentioned feedback that they share. Selecting a critique group comprised of close friends and relatives alleviates both issues.
- Composed of people knowledgeable in your genre – So you’ve taken the first step and found a group of close friends and relatives who are willing to join your new critique group. That’s wonderful! Are all of them familiar with your genre? If not, I’d suggest that you keep looking. That may sound harsh (especially if they volunteered for your non-paying gig) but if they aren’t fans of the genre the pushback you receive could have as much to do with their dislike of your type of book as with what you are actually writing. Even if they are just uninformed about the genre rather than being biased against it, they still don’t have any benchmark to gauge your book against. Contrast that with someone who has read all the popular series you aspire to emulate. They can give you candid feedback that draws upon a mutual understanding of the essential elements for a book in your genre to be a hit.
- Composed of people willing to offer constructive feedback – This makes the selection of your critique group members far more difficult, as you need to ensure that the relatives and close friends you select are going to be willing to share negative feedback and take you to task. Getting a bunch of “this is great” comments may boost your ego, but it does nothing to improve your novel. No one is inherently excluded—your parents, sister, brother, boyfriend, may make great group members—it just depends on the nature of your relationship. And you also need to be open to receiving constructive feedback from them. If your boyfriend tells you he kept falling asleep during your prologue, as he didn’t see where you were going with your in depth knowledge dump on the Greek pantheon, will you listen to him and make the chapter more focused, or will it start a fight between you? Be honest with yourself. Having people tell us our creations are less than perfect stings. Make sure you select people you will not hold a grudge against.
- Able to provide real time feedback - We all know it’s much easier to make major storyline changes before the entire draft is written, and input on dialogue, narrative voice, syntax and character development received for one chapter can be leveraged as you work on future chapters. So in order to be effective your group needs to meet regularly, once every 1-2 weeks. As an added bonus, meeting frequently also gives you intermediate deadlines to target, since you need to have written something for them to review. Posting the chapters out on a Skydrive a couple days in advance of each meeting will give everyone a chance to read it beforehand and come prepared with their input.
What is your biggest failure?
My biggest regret is life is not being more adventurous when I was in my twenties. I would have loved to spend summers working in Yellowstone National Park and Alaska.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Oh, man. There are so many cool superpowers to choose from! I guess I’d go with the ability to time travel. Being able to change the past and see the future would pretty much make you a god. But the coolest part would be seeing what the earth was like during the age of the dinosaurs and what it will evolve to five or ten thousand years from now rather than being limited to experiences that occur during your own life span.
What secret talents do you have?
Let’s see… I make a mean homemade apple pie and lasagna, I have an information technology background as both a developer and project manager, and I enjoy taking pictures of wildlife while hiking with my wife.
He has always enjoyed writing, and still has fond memories of reading his first book, a children’s novella, to local grade schools when he was 14. Dangerous Waters, the first book in the Sisters in Blood series, was published by Freya’s Bower on September 5th, 2013. C.M. is currently working on the second book in the Sisters in Blood series along with a Fantasy romance.
When he’s not writing, C.M. can be found curled up with a good book, watching movies or hitting the hiking trails with his wife. An avid reader since discovering Jim Kjelgaard novels in early childhood, his favorite authors include Kelley Armstrong, Peter V. Brett, Richelle Mead, Rachel Caine, Cassandra Claire, J.R. Ward, Laini Taylor and Tessa Dawn.
C.M. currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky.
For Emily Waters, a nature-loving, small-town girl with an overprotective father, heading off to Boston University to study conservation biology is a dream come true—until a chance encounter catapults her into a mythical world she’d do anything to escape.
The latest victim in a rash of abductions near campus, Emily is brutally attacked before being rescued by a powerful new friend. She survives the ordeal, only to find herself held captive and presented with an impossible choice.
While preparing for the unimaginable life she must now embrace clues soon emerge that Emily may not be entirely human, and her physical transformation awakens goddess-like powers that her new family cannot begin to explain.
Dealing with her human first love, the not-so-platonic relationship with her coven “sister,” and her new vampire sort-of-boyfriend further complicates matters, not to mention being secretly hunted by the psychopaths who attacked her. And as the only known offspring of a once all-powerful race, the climactic battle is only the beginning of her journey.
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/UFAuthorCMMichaels
Twitter - https://twitter.com/UFAuthor
Website - http://cmmichaels.com/
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/authorcmmichaels
Book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7Q7m0MrwlQ
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Waters-C-M-Michaels/dp/1617981044/ref=sr_1_27_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378349287&sr=1-27&keywords=dangerous+waters
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Waters-Sisters-Blood-ebook/dp/B00EZY2046/ref=sr_1_28_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378511032&sr=1-28&keywords=dangerous+waters
Barnes & Noble (Paperback): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dangerous-waters-c-m-michaels/1116827370?ean=9781617981043
Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dangerous-waters-c-m-michaels/1116827370?ean=2940148669821
Freya’s Bower (Paperback): http://www.freyasbower.com/books-c-3/dangerous-waters-p-290.html
Freya’s Bower (eBook): http://www.freyasbower.com/urban-fantasy-c-46/dangerous-waters-p-289.html
All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-dangerouswaters-1280168-349.html
What can you tell me about the guy sitting on the end of the table over there? To my horror everyone turned toward him at once, catching the waitress’s attention. She took a seat in macho man’s lap to stake her claim. Real subtle, people. Jesus! You’re killing me here!
After a quick round of muffled giggles Ruby spoke up. “He’s a virgin—as far as I can tell, he’s never had a girlfriend.”
“He’s a junior and lives off campus with his family,” Sandy added. “He’s majoring in chemical engineering. The one flirting with the waitress is his older cousin.”
“And your thoughts were right, sis,” Raven said. “He dreads going out with them. He’s wishing he would’ve taken his younger brother’s offer to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy tonight.”
Do his friends give him as much shit as I think they do about being a virgin and not having a girlfriend?
“Yes,” Sienna replied flatly. “His cousin thinks he’s gay. They only invited him along so they could make fun of him.”
Are you picking up anything I should be worried about?
They all concentrated on him for a couple minutes. Finally Ruby spoke. “Only that he’s really lonely. If you choose him, you should make sure he doesn’t expect a relationship with you.”
I can do that. Do you think he’d sleep with me tonight?
“He’s not thinking about taking anyone home right now,” Raven said. “Once you introduce yourself, we’ll be able to tell.”
What’s his name?
“Daniel. And he actually goes by Daniel, not Dan.”
Good enough for me. If tonight can’t be special for me, it can sure as hell be special for someone. Wish me luck.
Everyone cheered me on as I stood up and walked toward his table. When I got within a few feet, the jackass cousin started staring at my breasts with a disgusting smirk on his face. I turned and walked behind the sidekick, and then leaned in toward Daniel. “You’re Daniel right? I’ve seen you around campus. Would you like to dance?”
Only his friends looked more shocked than he did. I smiled and waited for him to recover.
“What’s your name?” he finally managed.
“Brooke,” I replied, dancing a little in front of him. After an awkward silence, it became apparent that I was going to have to force the issue if I wanted this to go anywhere. I grabbed his hand and pulled him out of his chair. “Let’s go!”
As soon as we started to dance I could tell he’d never done this before in his life. All he did was step from side to side, his arms glued at his waist the entire time. I glared at his friends, who were now bent over the table in laughter, and then slid in behind him and leaned up to his ear. “Do you mind if I show you a few things?”
“Sure,” he mumbled, flinching slightly from the close proximity of my voice.
Man this was going to be hard. I seriously thought about searching for someone who wasn’t such an introvert, but I couldn’t give his friends the satisfaction of seeing him get rejected. Placing my hands on his waist, I cradled my body up against his. “Let yourself feel the rhythm of the music, and then move your hips with it—like this.”
I started to swing my hips to the beat and used my hands to keep him with me, relaxing my grip only after he began to move on his own. His timing was off, since he was waiting for me to move rather than going off the music, but at least he was trying. “Much better. Now, instead of waiting to feel my hips move, listen to the music and see if you can pick up on the rhythm I’m following. Even though this stuff sounds fast, it still follows a regular beat.”
Before the end of the song his entire face lit up with a childlike smile. “I think I got it!”
“Only one way to find out.” Removing my hands from his hips, I backed off a couple of steps and watched—he was right. “Perfect! Now let’s get your arms moving. There are no hard and fast rules for what to do, just keep your arms up and let them bounce with the music. Turn around and watch me for a minute.”
I closed my eyes and let myself fall into the music. Once I was moving to the tempo with my usual ease, I peeked at him. He was trying to mimic my arm movements, and looked kinda awkward, but not embarrassingly dorky like he had before. “Look at you!” I called out with a smile.
Daniel laughed and shook his head. “Like it’s not obvious that I’m copying you.”
“You just need to work on changing it up a bit.” I motioned toward two girls dancing nearby. “Their movements seem random, don’t they? But if you watch long enough, you’ll notice that they’re repeating the same moves over and over again. They’re just disguising it well.”
We continued to dance as we watched. He finally turned back toward me. “The blonde does four different sets of moves and changes the order. The brunette is a lot simpler—she only has seven moves.”
For someone who’d never danced before, I was amazed at how rapidly he caught on. “Damn. You nailed it! Now see if you can pick up what I do.” I settled back into the music and drowned out the fact that he was watching me. About half way through the next song, I heard him speak.
“God, you’re tough. I’ve seen you repeat a couple sets of moves, but I’m seeing new moves all the time. What are you doing?”
“I don’t know ahead of time,” I yelled over the music. “I have a lot of individual moves that I use, but I let them come out in whatever order feels right with the music. The less you think, the better you’ll dance. Just let the beat take over your body. Enough teaching—let’s just have fun!”
I quit watching him and let myself enjoy the feeling that dancing always gave me. A couple of songs had passed before we were close together again. I couldn’t believe he was the same guy. Daniel blended in perfectly with everyone else on the floor and looked like he’d been club dancing for years. When the song ended we made our way over to an empty table.
“I can’t believe how much fun that was!” he shouted.
“I’ve never seen someone pick it up so fast. You’re a natural!”
“Yeah, right—more like you’re a hell of a teacher.”
“Thanks, Daniel.” The affectionate, almost star struck look in his eyes reminded me of what Ruby had said. If I didn’t want to hurt him, I couldn’t afford to wait any longer. But like the true blue coward I was, rather than taking the plunge, I chose to study a particularly interesting piece of lint on the floor.
“I need to ask you something that is going to sound really bizarre.”
“Okay…” Fear of where this might be headed had him gathering his legs underneath him like a coiled up house cat preparing to leap out of danger.
After a long pause I met his gaze. “You can sleep with me tonight if you want to.”
“Jesus, Brooke, we—”
“Please let me finish,” I interrupted. “I’m a virgin, which I can’t exactly fake, so I’ve obviously never done anything like this before. If you say yes, I’ll expect you to make love to me, and all I can offer you is tonight—it’s your choice.”
“Why only tonight?” The disappointment and sadness in his words was palpable.
“I wish I could explain, but I’m afraid it’s extremely complicated. Part of saying yes is agreeing not to ask questions I can’t answer.”
We sat in silence for a few uncomfortable seconds before he reached out and took my hand, gripping it like he could make my question disappear if he only squeezed hard enough. “I’m a virgin too. I get my ass ridden constantly for it but I’m not ashamed—I sure as hell didn’t come here expecting to go home with someone tonight. I get the feeling that you did, and I just happened to be the guy you picked."
Daniel pressed his forehead against the palm of his free hand and closed his eyes. "Damn it! I really like you, Brooke, but I gotta know why you’re so desperate to lose your virginity tonight, and why you can’t have a relationship with the person you give it to. If you can’t or won’t answer those questions, then I’ll have to say no.”
The stinging pain of rejection filled my chest as I pulled my hand away. How could it hurt this bad to be turned down by someone I just met? Did I really like him that much already? Trying to salvage what little pride I had left, I stood up and turned to leave, tears streaming down my cheeks.
Before I’d even taken a step, Raven sat down next to Daniel and glared at him with an anger I’d never seen in her. “You horse’s ass. My beautiful, innocent, loving sister offers you a chance to share a wonderful moment together, one that you’d remember for the rest of your life, and you say no! You want answers to your fucking questions! Fine! I’m taking her to the Mayo clinic tomorrow to start chemotherapy. The doctors only give her a five percent chance of seeing her nineteenth birthday, and she didn’t want to die a virgin. That’s why it has to be tonight, and why she isn’t looking to get involved with anyone.”
She paused. Her intense, fuming stare made Daniel lean away and glance down at the table. “She teaches you to dance and you make her cry—you worthless piece of shit!”
In one quick motion Raven had her arm around my shoulders and was rushing me off to the bathroom. I almost had to break into a jog to keep up with her.
“You were awesome Raven!” I said once we were safely inside. “You should totally be an actress! You had me believing I had cancer, for God sakes. I think Daniel might have wet himself though…easy on the death stare, sis.”
She acknowledged my compliment with a smile. “Now, when we go back out there, we’ll head to our table, and you’ll look all sad while we console you. Daniel feels terrible. It won’t be long at all before he comes to our table to apologize. He seems like a pretty good guy. I was really impressed that he didn’t jump on your offer, in spite of how badly he wants to sleep with you.”
Seeing my expression, Raven cupped my chin with her hand. “I can tell that you’re into him too. It’s nice that your first time can be with someone you like, but be careful not to get too attached—this really does have to be a one-time thing.”
“I know,” I whispered. “I thought I was going to have to block out memories of sleeping with some disgusting pig tonight. I wasn’t ready for this.”
* * * *
When we got back to our table, everyone sprung to their feet and smothered me in their arms, really laying it on thick. In order to keep from laughing, I thought about how twisted it was that I’d meet such a great guy, tonight of all nights. Someone who might have been the love of my life was being reduced to a one-night stand. I wasn’t that into Greek mythology, but if there was a goddess of love, I must have really pissed her off somehow. My family’s expressions changed from mock sympathy to real concern when they noticed that I was crying.
As Raven predicted, Daniel quickly approached our table. I pulled out a wad of Kleenex and wiped my cheeks, and then turned to face him. Raven and Sienna took my hands in theirs, making it clear that I wasn’t going anywhere—he’d have to speak in front of them.
Daniel bravely put his hand on my shoulder. “I’m so sorry that you have cancer, Brooke, and that I forced your sister to tell me. I wanted to know because I really like you, and I wish there could be more to our relationship than just one night. Of course I’m attracted to you. I mean, look at you—you’re like a supermodel. If you can forgive me, I’d be honored to take you home with me tonight.”
“Thanks Daniel… I really like you too.” I wanted to introduce him to everyone, but I wasn’t sure if they’d want him to know their names.
Sienna gave me a subtle nod.
“You’ve met my sister Raven. These are our friends—Sienna, Sandy and Ruby.” They all gave him a warm greeting.
“I’m sorry about before,” Raven said. “I’m pretty protective of my little sister. I hope you can understand.”
“Absolutely,” he assured her. “I have three younger brothers myself. If anyone messed with them, they’d have me to deal with. My family means a lot to me too.”
Daniel paused, blood rushing to his face. “Brooke, this is going to sound really bad, but I rode with my friends, so I don’t have a car to take you in. And um…I live with my family, so I can’t exactly take you to my house. I’d offer to take you to a hotel in a cab, but to be honest, I don’t have that much money on me.”
I could only imagine how hard it must have been for him to admit that in front of everyone. I felt terrible.
Before I could think of what to say Raven stood up and wrapped her arms around him. “Your honesty is admirable. We already have rooms reserved at the Sheraton, and we’ll give you a ride to the hotel, along with money for a cab to take you wherever you’d like to go in the morning. Since you live at home, you may want to ask your friends if they’ll cover for you, then call and let your parents know before it gets too late.”
Daniel seemed taken aback by Raven’s affection and thorough planning. “Um…yeah—good idea.” He flashed me a passionate smile. “Be right back.”
We all burst out laughing when he ignored his jackass cousin’s attempt at a high five. After a brief conversation with them, he stepped away and pulled out his cell phone. My heart began to race. In a few minutes I was going to be having sex for the first time in my life, with a guy I had never even kissed.