At the beach with Leo and Quinn

Every year, as part of the build-up to Coastal Magic, I participate in a blog series on Literary Escapism called At the Beach. I write a short scene set (where else?) at the beach, featuring two or more of my existing characters. 

I asked the Temptresses for input about who should have the starring roles this year. The response was varied . . . but I did choose one couple. I’ll share that when the post goes live on Literary Escapism. 

But there was so much interest in some of the others . . . and because this year I have time for this kind of writing . . . so I decided to share some other At the Beach posts here, featuring different couples. 

Today it’s Leo and Quinn, from the Keeping Score series. Enjoy! 

PS: The photo above was taken at the beach where I’m writing this, during a family vacation. 🙂 Talk about the perfect inspiration! 


“How many weekends out of the year are not in football season?”

On the blanket next to me, Leo turned his head and blinked. “What?”

I pushed to sit up, wrapping my arms around my bent legs. “How many weekends are you not playing football, or on a bye week, or in pre-season or post-season?”

My husband—and didn’t it still give me a thrill to think of Leo as my husband, a year after our wedding—sat up, too, sliding his dark sunglasses into place over those gray eyes that could make me melt or smolder at any given moment. “Uhhhh . . . I don’t know that number off the top of my head, babe.”

I lifted my shoulder. “Take a guess.”

“Okay. Four weeks of preseason, seventeen weeks of regular games . . . then you’ve got wild card, divisional

My husband and kids playing football in the surf

round if you’re lucky, conference championship if you’re really lucky . . . Pro Bowl if your team isn’t playing in the big game . . . and then the big one. The super one. I guess that’s . . . what, about 25 weeks if your team is having the kind of year we all want it to have?” He reached over to tuck a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Why do you ask? Are you thinking of renegotiating our contract?”

Leo’s voice was light, but I felt the undercurrent of worry beneath his words. In our past, football and the demands of the game had taken a toll on our relationship. But not now.

“Of course not.” I rose onto my knees, framed his face with my hands and kissed his lips. Instantly, his arms were around my waist, pulling me hard against his body, and I felt my pulse skitter into overdrive.

But now wasn’t the time—or more importantly, the place. This Florida beach was mostly private, but there were still more than a few curious onlookers, and I knew from experience that it would be all too easy for someone to capture a few frames of Leo Taylor, rising star of the Richmond Rebels, and his wife getting busy on the beach. We didn’t want or need those kinds of headlines.

So with great reluctance, I dropped back to our blanket, lacing my fingers through Leo’s as I did. “I was just thinking. We have potentially twenty-five weeks out of the year when you’ll be committed to football. Add in organized team activities, mini-camp and training camp, and we’re talking another ten weeks. More than half of our year.”

“Uh huh.” Leo nodded. “That’s true.”

“It seems to me, then, that the other weekends out of the year should be spent on the beach. I think it’s only fair.”

It took Leo a minute to process what I’d said. “Oh, really? That’s what you think? Hate to break it to you, babe, but some of those weekends could be pretty damn frigid. A good part of my off-season is in February, March and April . . . not exactly peak season for beach weather.”

“It doesn’t have to be this beach.” I grinned at him. “There are plenty of others we can explore. Think . . . Hawaii. Think the Caribbean. The Mediterranean. Go big, baby.”

“Hmmmm.” He frowned, but I knew that he was just playing with me. “Let’s think about this. If I agree to spend all my non-football time on a beach with you, does that mean you’ll wear sexy little bathing suits like this one all the time?” One of his talented fingers skimmed the edge of my bikini top, making my nipples pucker. Leo noticed that, of course, and one eyebrow quirked with interest.

“I think that can be arranged,” I whispered, linking my hands together behind his neck and pressing myself into his solid warmth. “Just imagine the savings in my clothing budget, if I only have to worry about beachwear during the off-season.”

“I’m thinking about it right now.” His lips were next to my ear. “I’m also thinking about that project we’ve been talking about starting . . . project Taylor, the next generation? How do you feel about telling our daughter or son that she or he was conceived on the beach?”

I giggled. “I believe having a story that embarrasses your offspring is a requirement for parents. Our parents have that one down, for sure.”

“True.” Leo’s hands inched lower until they covered my ass, griping me tight. “Mia? All this talk about the offseason has made me . . . uhhh, intrigued. Let’s go inside and talk about it some more. You know . . . in private?”

I kissed my husband’s neck. “I’m all over that plan, baby. Let’s go inside and . . . explore all the possibilities . . . deeply. Again and again and again . . .”

Leo groaned. “Killing me, babe.”

“But you love me.” I didn’t have any doubts on that front.

“Even more every single day.” His kiss was full of promise, full of the future. “Let me show you how much.”

And he did.

You can read all of Leo and Quinn’s story right here in the Keeping Score series, available at all retailers.

Everybody needs a little time away . . .

Chicago had it exactly right.

One of my goals as an author this year was using this gorgeous website, posting daily in the various categories and keeping everything updated. And for quite a long time, I was good about it. Having the categories to keep me on the straight and narrow really helped.

And then June came.

June meant finishing writing The Plan. Gearing up for the release of the box set. Working on book-related business, including Indie BookFest, and attending two book events. Whew!

I’m happy to say that I’m back, but I’m also glad I gave myself that break when things got crazy.

But enough about that. Today I want to share with you a little about the thin and hazy line between real life and fiction.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]If you’ve been following me for a while, you might remember that The Posse was my first non-YA, non-paranormal novel. I never intended to write it; once I’d finished with The King Series, I fully intended to write Rafe’s book and then Nell’s. Contemporary romance was never part of the plan. Then one day, I was driving home from New Smyrna Beach, a small beach town on Florida’s east coast. We’d just begun going there, since we’d moved over to the east side of the greater Orlando area; prior to that, most of our beaching had been done on the Gulf coast. But after a few visits to NSB, I fell in love with the quaint little town. It felt very much like home.

On this day, I hadn’t been thinking about books or stories, but something must’ve been lurking in the back of my head, because as I drove home, most of the plot for The Posse fell into my lap. I knew Jude’s name. I knew her late husband’s name. I knew how many kids she had, all about her friends . . . and about her family restaurant. Suddenly, it seemed, I was writing a contemporary romance novel for adults, since there was nary a paranormal element and the leads were most definitely grown-up.

I returned to NSB often during the process of writing The Posse, and slowly parts of the town made it into the story. One was a sweet B & B that was being rebuilt and restored. In the book, this bed and breakfast was the last planned project for Jude’s late husband Daniel and his best friend Logan. Jude’s involved in the final stages and the opening of the Hawthorne House during the course of the story.

For the last two years, I’ve walked past the Hawthorne House–or the Inn on the Avenue, as it’s known in so-called real life–watching its growth and evolution. We stay in NSB fairly frequently, but it never worked out to stay at the B & B until last night.

As I type this post, I’m actually still in bed in the beautiful Starfish Room at the Inn. It’s a lovely spot, welcoming and IMG_0005friendly, and I’m thrilled that we actually were able to do this. But I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been a surreal aspect to being here.

As a writer, my characters are very real to me. I can tell you all about the house where Tasmyn Vaughn lived in King. I can describe the dorm where Julia and Ava lived at Birch College. I could walk you all around the Reynolds’ family farm in Burton, Georgia. And I’ve definitely pictured The Hawthorne House Bed and Breakfast in Crystal Cove. So walking into the Inn on the Avenue, my brain was reeling, trying to reconcile how I’d seen the house with reality. To be honest, it wasn’t really that different. There are a few minor changes, sure, but overall . . . being here as been oddly like stepping into one of my make-believe worlds.

IMG_0008I half-expect to see Abby come around the corner and ask me if I like my room. Maybe Emmy will stop in to deliver some pies or breakfast pastries. Jude could pop over from the Tide to say hello before Logan comes in to pick her up. And there are a few other characters you’ll meet or get to know better during The Path who might wander in.

Will some of the ‘real’ Inn and New Smyrna creep into the Crystal Cove romances a little more? Perhaps. But in most ways, Crystal Cove will continue to be its own lovely, enchanted spot, a place where families grow and men and women live and love.

And that’s this author’s life today.