Author Amber Lea Easton sits down with her characters in Kiss Me Slowly to find out what brought them together and how they had to work through some old baggage in order to work together. Let’s check in with them now…
Setting: Sidewalk cafe in South Beach, Miami, Florida. Humidity is heavy in the air. Mojitos are flowing faster than the bartender can make them. Snowbirds are descending on Florida for the holiday season and flocking on the beach at our backs. The scent of grilled hamburgers mixes with the smell of suntan lotion and sea air.
Me: Today I’m talking to Jonathan Alexander III and Grace Dupont, hero and heroine of Kiss Me Slowly.
Jonathan: Well, I’m not sure I’m anyone’s hero.
Me: Don’t be so hard on yourself, Jon. You did some pretty heroic things in Kiss Me Slowly.
Jonathan: A week on the run makes a man who is essentially non-heroic do heroic things. That doesn’t necessarily make him a hero.
Grace: Ignore him. He’s using his “aw, shucks, ma’am charm” on you. He saved my life more than once. He’s a hero.
Jonathan: It was you that saved me, Grace.
Me: Well, let’s just say you’re both heroes and leave it at that. My call.
(Jon and Grace shift uncomfortably in their chairs.)
Me: I’m glad you two could make it. I know you’re not allowed to tell me much about where you’ve been or how long you’re staying in town, but it’s good of you take a few minutes to meet with me.
Grace: No problem. It’s nice being back on South Beach without anyone trying to kill us.
Jonathan: It’s nice being anywhere without someone trying to kill us. Refreshing.
Me: Jon, at what point did you realize that you needed to go to Grace for help? It must have been hard facing an ex-girlfriend after so many years…especially considering the break-up wasn’t exactly friendly.
Jonathan: Well…I knew I was being followed by Panama Hat Man, the company accountants had already discovered the embezzlement set-up leading to my office, and I didn’t trust anyone around me. I knew Grace and her brother Jerry were the best forensics in Miami–
Grace: The entire East Coast, actually…maybe the best in the country.
Jonathan: Egos…I swear the Duponts have the biggest egos…
Grace: Well, at least we’re honest about it instead of playing the “aw, shucks, ma’am” routine.
Jonathan: You want to do this right now? Really? Argue about egos? And are you really calling the Duponts “honest”? (Smiling, he winks at her before taking a long drink of his mojito.) Anyway, like I was saying…I didn’t trust anyone around me anymore. My only choice…my only hope…was going to Grace and hoping she could use her giant ego and brilliance to save my ass.
Grace: I like how you did that there…her giant ego and brilliance…an insult and a compliment all in one. Sweet, baby. Classy. (She orders another mojito from the waitress.)
Me: Grace, were you ever tempted to let him take the fall? I know your past must have been hard to overcome at first. I mean, here’s the man who broke your heart, who walked away without ever looking back, who suddenly shows up needing your genius to save him. Did it ever cross your mind to simply tell him no?
Grace: (long silence as she pokes the ice in her empty glass with a straw) I may have toyed with the idea at first, but once the heart loves someone, despite the circumstances of the ending, it never really stops loving that person. I had to do whatever I could do to help. We didn’t have time for hesitation.
Me: No, you didn’t have much time at all, did you?
(Jonathan and Grace look at each other, smiles hinting at secrets and heartache.)
Grace: No, we couldn’t hesitate.
Jonathan: Time was up. All we could do was…well, all we could do was what we did. Run. Stall. Try to stay one step ahead.
Grace: Try to stay alive.
An excerpt of Kiss Me Slowly
“You have blood on your dress.” He fingered the strap in question that had slipped off her shoulder. “You should probably take it off.”
“Careful. We can’t go there.” Sand clung to her neck and stuck to the tangles in her hair. The light from the bedside lamp shadowed her face.
“I meant change out of it, not…well, maybe I meant take it off. But then we’d be crossing lines that you don’t want to cross.” He let his fingers trail down her arm. “That would be wrong. Terribly wrong.”
“You are nothing but trouble.”
“You always liked trouble.” He rested his right palm against the bed, supporting his weight on his healthy arm.
“Listen carefully to me.” She pressed her finger against his lips. “I’m high on adrenaline, we’re alone, no witnesses, no regrets. One kiss won’t hurt anyone.”
“No witnesses, no regrets…” Heat flooded his veins. “Adrenaline…”
“If I don’t do this now, I’ll hate myself in the morning.”
“You mean you’ll regret it when they lock me up in the morning and throw away the key because you didn’t kiss me one last time?”
“Exactly.” She straddled his lap.
“You weren’t supposed to agree.” He smiled despite the circumstances.
“Shut up, sailor boy. Kiss me.”
She kissed him as if savoring the taste. Her hair fell forward, locking them in a caramel-colored veil of intimacy. Eyes open, they stared at each other as their lips moved against each other’s.
His hands slid up her long thighs, over her panties and pressed against the smoothness of her back. Every stroke of her lips against his awakened pure need in his veins. He no longer cared about what was right or wrong. All he wanted was her mouth on his, his hands on her body and her skin against his.
With a quick yank, she pulled her dress over her head. Breasts bared, she pressed him down on the bed and laughed against his mouth. “This is crossing all kinds of boundaries and breaking every rule I can think of.”
“Just like the old days.” He smiled against her lips. His hands moved over her bared breasts. The pain in his shoulder failed to slow him down. He didn’t know who groaned or if they both did, but the sensation of her flesh filling his palms trumped common sense.
Her bare foot slid over his leg, hands curled into his hair, and body flattened against his. All the anger, the terror and confusion poured from him as he deepened the kiss with an urgency that bordered on desperation. The silky warmth of her mouth erased his pain. Kissing her felt like coming home from an exhausting, lonely journey.
“A kiss…that’s all I wanted,” she muttered against his chin. A shiver quaked through her body when she sighed.
“I want more.”
“Impossible. We can’t.”
Kiss Me Slowly by Amber Lea Easton