She squished the tomato with her fork, knowing her thoughts had spiraled out of control. xxx
“Wait. What do you mean ‘love isn’t enough’?”xxx
Noel poured himself another cup of coffee and joined her. “Don’t you think we should be getting to work? We have a deadline.” He reached for the scene she’d written.xxx
He was ignoring her question. Not fine. “This is a first draft,” Holly said. “I need to fill in a few more details.”
His head was bent as he turned the page. “There are lots of details already.”
She tore a corner off her cold toast and added butter and blackberry jam. She wasn’t hungry, but she needed the distraction, as well as the comfort of a sugar high. No matter how many books she wrote, that little voice inside her head always questioned if she was a good writer.
She added another spoonful of jam to her toast and took a bite. “What do you think?”
He looked up and cocked an eyebrow. “I have a few questions.”
She swallowed and took a sip of tea. “Awesome. I’m open to any suggestions. I wrote this very late last night.”
He nodded, stacking together the papers she’d written. “I have an orchestration question.”
“Orchestration? But the characters are making love.”
He cocked his head. “An editor once told me that fight scenes and sex scenes are similar. All the body parts need to be moving in the right way. She suggested a writer act out a scene whenever possible.”
She looked in the direction of the kitchen to make sure Jarvis and Clara weren’t about to make a surprise entrance. She lowered her voice. “I wrote a sex scene.”
“Yes, you did.”
“And you’re suggesting we act it out?”
“Consider it research.”
She snatched the papers back, flipping through the scene. “What did I do wrong?” She stared at the pages. “I know I can expand the setting, but all the body parts are where they should be. These people are having sex. I may not have had that many partners, but I have had sex, and I know what it looks and feels like. What am I missing?”
Noel put his hand over hers. “You just said it. You wrote a sex scene. But you didn’t write a love scene. I know, because my editor has made it clear that my attempts at love scenes are, in her words, ‘an abysmal failure.’ When she first suggested I collaborate with you, I agreed only after I’d read your novels. Impressive.”
A morning beam of light peeked through the lace window curtains to settle on the dining room table. She’d never guessed that he’d read any of her novels. She’d received compliments from her readers, and each one meant a lot to her. Receiving praise from a fellow author like Noel, however, spoke to the core of her writer’s soul.
She blinked to clear her vision. “Thank you.”
“You are very welcome. You’re a talented writer. I may not be able to write romance myself, but thanks to you I know it when I read it. But these characters are only going through the motions. I half expect to turn the page and see them saying their goodbyes. I felt their frustration but not their heat. How do your characters feel about each other?”
She let out her breath. “You sound like my editor. She even went so far as to say that maybe I should stop writing romance. I think that’s why we were paired together. If characters are trying to save the world, there’s little opportunity for romance. A writing instructor told me to write what I know.”
Holly chuckled. “The longest relationship I’ve ever had is with you. Our one-year anniversary is January first. I keep thinking that I’ll never have what my mother and stepfather have, and I’m terrified of making the wrong decision.”
“You and I keep people at a distance. If this were a romance novel, Holly Lane, how would your characters overcome these obstacles?”
Holly reached for the pages Noel had stacked together. “I’d create a series of scenes where they’d have to spend time together to solve a problem. In solving the problem, they’d discover they were in love.”
Noel eased the papers from Holly’s hand. “As I see it, the problem our characters face is that they don’t know how to make love. And Whispers on a Pillow is the perfect how-to book. Think of it as research.”
Was her face as red as it felt? “We are not using that journal for research. And you misinterpreted what I said. Our characters are not going to have sex as a way to get to know each other better.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “What better way is there to get to know a person you are attracted to than to have sex?”
“Omigosh, that is such a guy thing to say. Are you seriously talking about our characters? Or us? Never mind. Don’t answer that question. To be clear: you and I are not having sex, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”
“Not sex. Love.”
Holly huffed out a breath. “Okay, that sounded a lot like a pickup line. We are not making love, either.”
He grinned. “It was worth a shot.”
Holly glanced over the pages. “Unless… How do you feel about foreplay?”
“Is that a trick question?”
The door to the dining room opened, and a woman stood in the entry—white-blonde hair, high cheek bones, perfect makeup. Wearing a gold-toned wool sheath with white piping under a matching ankle-length coat, she glided into the room. Holly could imagine a casting director choosing this woman for the lead role of another remake of a movie about Princess Diana.
Holly knew who she was by the authoritative strut in her walk as she entered the room and the possessive way she glanced toward Noel. No introductions needed. This was Catherine, Noel’s ex-girlfriend from college. He’d only mentioned her once, but the description had stuck in Holly’s head.
“Am I interrupting?” Catherine asked in a practiced tone. Clearly, she’d said these words before, knowing full well she was interrupting but not caring.
Holly decided to dislike her.
Noel’s expression looked frozen as he stood and gave Catherine a slight nod. “Lady Catherine, I would like to introduce you to the coauthor I told you about, Holly Lane.”