Successful NYC gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, is ex-fiancée to one Thorne brother and ex-wife to the other. Though the three have made peace, Ellison Thorne’s friend, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, still doesn’t like her. When Stacie convinces Harris to exhibit his work for the opening of her new gallery she never intended to include him in her other more hazardous plans. But when those plans draw the attention of dangerous business tycoon, Terrance Jamison, Harris comes to her aid. In the shadow of a threat only Stacie understands, can she dare let Harris into her life and make room for love? As successful gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, finds herself in the clutches of a powerful enemy from her dark past, her growing feelings for her latest exhibitor, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, could get them both killed. Sharing her secret could destroy their relationship, but keeping it could be fatal.
The band cranked up a notch and blared an ear-splitting version of REO Speedwagon’s Riding the Storm Out. It was only then that Harris realized the place was nearly full. Kyle Waters returned to the booth. His shirt was partially unbuttoned, his chest was heaving, and the shit-eating grin plastered on his face made him look like he’d just gotten laid and was up for round two.
He put his camera down and shot Stacie a wolfish glance. ‘Care to dance?’ he asked.
Harris didn’t know what came over him. He wondered if Stacie had paid the bartender to spike the Margaritas with something other than tequila, but he slid from the booth. ‘Sorry, Waters. You’re too late. The lady’s dance card’s already full.’ He offered Stacie his hand before he gave any thought to the very real chance of her turning him down.
Certainly after the way he’d behaved toward her, he deserved it. But he needn’t have worried.
She smiled up at him and took his hand. ‘How can I refuse the man who bought my mountain lion?’
They left Kyle Waters in the booth looking a bit dazed as he poured himself a Margarita and drank thirstily. After the tumble she had taken into his arms Friday night, Harris was a little surprised to see that Stacie was such a good dancer. But then just being comfortable with making a fool of oneself was pretty much all that was required in places like the Boiling Point. And though he wasn’t really … comfortable with making a fool of himself … he was the one who asked her to dance, so he would do his best to act like he knew what he was doing.
‘Are you hoping I won’t fall on top of you and embarrass us both, Harris?’ She asked, almost as though she had read his mind. ‘I’m just a little surprised after Friday night, I guess.’
There was no way for him to approach the topic of her clumsiness gracefully, so he continued to move about the crowded dance floor in front of her feeling very much like he was the one about to fall over his feet while she watched him with her usual inside-joke-smile.
‘I grew up with the Thorne Brothers,’ she said as she moved in close and he held his breath half fearing, half anticipating what would happen next. ‘No one could spend any time with that family and not learn to dance. Dr Thorne thought dance lessons might make me a little less clumsy. Did you know Emma Thorne was a certified ballroom dance instructor as well as a physics professor? It’s the truth, I swear. She taught Ike Thorne to dance. Two fabulous sons later, and the rest is history. Garrett tells me his parents still never miss a chance to tango.’
‘I didn’t know,’ Harris yelled back at her, admiring the way she shook her booty in the tight red trousers that made her stand out in the sea of leather and denim. ‘No one taught me to dance. Your bad luck, I guess.’
‘I don’t care if you can’t dance,’ she said, placing both hands on his shoulders and shimmying like she meant business. ‘Just as long as your here to catch me if I trip.’
‘So Dr Thorne’s efforts didn’t work, then?’ ‘Oh they helped, but in my case, there was only so much the poor woman could do.’
As the music slowed and the band began to play Meatloaf’s I would Do Anything for Love, Harris settled his hands onto her hips and found he rather liked the way moving with her made him feel less awkward. She slid her hands behind his neck, and he held his breath, preparing for the full frontal rub-up he was both anticipating and fearing. But she surprised him by talking business.
‘Look, I don’t expect you to make the decision to work with me right here and now. I know it’s a lot to take in and I know … well I know how you feel about me. But if you can put that aside and look at what I’m proposing objectively, I’m sure you’ll see that it could be good for everyone. If it’s okay with you, I’ve got a written proposal that should answer all of your questions and clarify anything you’re not sure of, and –’ They found their space invaded by Kyle Waters and his camera. He was dancing with some woman in very tight black spandex, who smiled and blew them a kiss.’
‘Just had to get a picture of this,’ Waters yelled, snapping shots as he moved way less awkwardly on the dance floor than Harris would have liked.
‘Never figured you for a dancer, Walker.’ Before Harris could respond, he continued. ‘I think these shots might be good for my portfolio even if they’re a bit too gritty for your exhibition, Stacie.’
Harris wanted the man to go away, but all at once it was as though Stacie was on exhibition, draping herself over Harris and forcing him into a mock tango that had him laughing in spite of himself. It wasn’t just that, it was the fact that he was now the plaything of clearly the most interesting woman on the dance floor, and people were staring at them, something Harris normally would have loathed, but he was first and foremost male, and he could almost guarantee that there were very few men on the dance floor who weren’t jealous of him. And Harris wasn’t a total stick in the mud. He could certainly play along, letting her sway around him and dipping her dangerously close to the hard wood floor only to hear her squeal of laughter as he pulled her back to him with a little Dirty Dancing thrown in for good measure. All the while Kyle Waters snapped away. He spun her in a dizzying ring-around-the-roses and she literally tripped and stumbled into his arms, laughing hysterically.
‘Go away, Waters,’ Harris yelled. Photo shoot’s over. Go dance!’ With his arms wrapped tightly around Stacie’s waist, he half marched, half dragged her to the quieter edge of the dance floor, if there were a quieter spot. Stacie was still giggling, still draped around him up close and personal.
‘Did you just drag me away from the photographer I’ve been propositioning for the last three hours?’ Her voice was breathless and close to his ear to be heard above the driving beat of the music, which had turned heavy metal, a song Harris didn’t recognize.
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ he said, pulling her way closer to him than was polite.
‘I thought you’d already propositioned Waters. I thought you were now propositioning me, and I’m the jealous type, prima donna, you know? Artsy fartsy and all.’ He was just about to lose all propriety and kiss her when the police showed up.
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Grace Marshall lives in South England with her husband and the growing gang of hooligan birds who frequent their feeders. When Grace isn’t busy writing something sexy and romantic, she’s busy digging in her ever-expanding veg garden or walking across the British countryside. She finds inspiration outdoors in nature, and most of her best story ideas come to her while she’s walking or gardening. Grace is the author of the fast paced, quirky Executive Decisions Trilogy published by Xcite Romance. All three novels are available now. Grace Marshall’s alter-ego, K D Grace, writes critically acclaimed, best-selling erotic romance. Whether it’s sexy romance or romantic sex, between The Graces, there’s a story for you.
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Could tell me a little about yourself?
I’d like to start off by saying thanks so much for having me over today. It’s really a pleasure to be here and to talk about The Exhibition.
First and foremost, I love to write. I love it more than anything, and I get really twitchy if I go too long without it. I’m not sure if it’s an addiction of a psychosis. Who cares? As long as I can pass for a normal person most of the time, I can live with whichever.
I live in South England with my husband. We grow our own veg. We walk lots of miles in the lovely English countryside. We feed all the neighbourhood birds. We pet all the neighbourhood cats and have conversations with them.
I live my writing life as two people – K D Grace, who writes very naughty erotic romance, and Grace Marshall, who write romantic thrillers that are erotic. Grace is my softer side where erotica is concerned, but much tougher where nail-biting thrills are concerned. The Exhibition is the third novel in Grace Marshall’s Executive Decisions Trilogy.
What inspired you write this book?
The Executive Decisions Trilogy was inspired by my years of living in Oregon and falling in love with the Northwest, and by the visits I’ve made back since I moved away from there. How could I not be inspired by such a beautiful place with such a rich and varied natural history, whose largest city, Portland, is so vibrant and forward-thinking. I wanted to set my trilogy in Oregon for those reasons, and I wanted to create heroes and heroines who could make it big in business and do it with an ethic that cared about the world we live in, cared about our connections to the planet.
I also got really tired of vacuous erotic romances in which neither the hero nor the heroine had any depth, nor any real substance in their lives. It often felt like they moved from sex scene to sex scene, with little spats of jealousy thrown in for good measure, and I wanted more from my characters. I wanted characters that I could respect as well as characters that were having hot sex and fumbling around trying to figure out love while they dealt with all of their neuroses and foibles. I wanted there to be exciting things happening in between the sex scenes, and I wanted it to be the story that kept people reading even while the sex made them hot.
Both The Exhibition, and book two of the trilogy, Identity Crisis, grew organically out of the first novel, An Executive Decision. The trilogy is the story of two sets of three friends and their rough rides to happiness. Stacie Emerson is the klutz of the group. She’s also a successful gallery owner. Though Stacie appears all ditzy in book one, and in spite of the best intentions, nearly ruins everything for the hero and heroine, I’ve always suspected that there was way more to Stacie Emerson than meets the eye. The Exhibition is Stacie’s chance to shine. I was inspired by the contrast of the cultured, hot-house beauty one sees in a gallery as opposed to the wild, sometimes deadly dangerous beauty of the great outdoors, where wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, spends his time. That Stacie wants Harris to do an exhibition for her gallery opening and that what Stacie wants from him is something way more edgy than his pretty pictures got me thinking that someone who wants the world to know and understand about both the beauty of the natural world and the damage being done to it, is probably someone who is a whole lot deeper than she appears. And Stacie Emerson didn’t disappoint.
Did you listen to any music while writing and if so could you share about?
I like silence when I write. I don’t mind writing in coffee shops and places where music is playing, and I can write just about anywhere, but I like quiet when I work at home. A part of that might come from the fact that I read all of what I write out loud before it goes to the publisher. If the cadence of what I’ve written works well for the ear, then it’ll work well on the page for the reader, and it’ll feel comfortable. Doing that has led me to ‘think’ things while I write them as though I were reading them out loud, so I choose not to listen to music.
What type of writer are you? Organic or organized?
I’m a bit of both, actually. Though if I had to give percentages, I’d say about 70% organic and 30% organized. I always start out with a blurb and a chapter by chapter synopsis, which is nothing more than the briefest of outlines and often the roughest of directions to get from the beginning to the end. In between, anything can happen and often does. I wouldn’t want it any other way because I love it when my characters surprise me with a turn of events I didn’t see coming and hadn’t planned for. On the other hand, it’s nice to have a ‘map’ for the journey, no matter how sketchy.
Is there is anything else you would like to share or say to your reader/fans?
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks traveling in Central Oregon last spring with my sister, which gave me a chance to spend some time in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and on the Crooked River, places which figure strongly in Stacie and Harris’s adventure, and one of the best parts of writing the novel was being pulled back into those wonderful places. I love novels in which the sense of place is so real that I want to go there and spend time there with the characters, and I’ll never be able to think of Stacie and Harris without a sense of those amazing places in Central Oregon.