interview with Suzanne
Kay Thomas writes "bulletproof" romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her debut novel BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF (January 2009) is a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Nominee for Best First Series Romance. Her second book BULLETPROOF TEXAS was published in April 2009. And her third release, BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD, will hit store shelves April 13th as part of Intrigue's Bodyguard of the Month Series. Please help me welcome author Kay Thomas, one of my good friends back to the Bandit Lair.
Suz: BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD is the third book in your Bulletproof series and part of the "Bodyguard of the month" collection from Harlequin Intrigue. Can you give our readers a little bit about the book?
Kay: The story is about a young, widowed mother who is forced to help with a casino robbery on the Mississippi coast when her three-year-old son is kidnapped by `guests' staying at her bed and breakfast. Her only hope is an undercover cop with a troubled past who must choose between saving his career and saving her child.
Suz, wiping the drool from my mouth: Man I love the cover of BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD! Your heroes have been strong men caught in a situation where they needed to take control of things. How does Marcus North deal with the situation he finds himself in?
Kay: Marcus is an undercover cop. In the past he has been badly burned trying to maintain his cover and protect the innocents he meets through work. He's promised himself never to let that happen again.
Cally Burnett is completely different from his usual contacts and he hates the fact that she and her son Harris could become collateral damage in the robbery that is being planned. Soon Marcus is bending, then breaking his own rules to protect them. Keeping his cover becomes more and more difficult and before it's over he'll have to choose.
Suz: How does Marcus meet the heroine, Cally Burnett?
Kay: He is a guest at her bed & breakfast as part of his undercover casino bodyguard assignment.
"You have a beautiful home, Mrs. Burnett. How long have you lived here?"
"A little over eight years." She looked up from the registration book. "This was my husband's family home. His great-grandfather built it at the turn of the century."
"Oh, so it doesn't date back to the Civil War."
"No," she laughed softly. "Although I'm afraid the Chamber of Commerce wishes it did. They wanted to suggest that perhaps William Faulkner slept here. But the sad fact is nothing of historic significance has ever occurred at River Trace."
"Except raising the Burnett family of course."
Her dimples reappeared.
"So do you and your husband run the bed and breakfast?"
Again, her smile faltered. "No, my husband died almost four years ago. I run River Trace myself with the help of Bay and Luella Wiggins."
Now it was Marcus's turn to wince. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
She shook her head and looked back down at the paperwork. "That's all right. It...it happens all the time." She stopped writing to look up at him directly. "I know you don't know what to say."
Marcus nodded gratefully, feeling that he was definitely losing his social skills. He wondered what had happened to the husband.
As if reading his thoughts, Harris piped up, "Daddy dwowned...but not in bathtub."
Cally gaped at the child in shocked surprise. Marcus groaned. No wonder his earlier comment about drowning had caused such an unusual reaction.
"That's right, honey." She recovered herself and held him close as she patted his back and looked into his eyes.
"He lives in heaven with angels."
"Um-hmm," she murmured, still staring into the boy's face.
"Lulu says so. Bay, too."
"That's right, baby. That's right." She gazed at Harris a moment longer continuing to cuddle him and a took a deep breath. He laid his head on her shoulder.
Marcus shifted on his feet, uncomfortable with his eavesdropping. It usually wouldn't bother him, but in this case, it was extraordinarily awkward.
She seemed to sense his discomfort. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize he knew what that meant. I mean we've talked about it, but..." She stopped, blushed a deep pink, clearly at a loss for words.
"That's all right. I'm sorry about what I said earlier." Her forehead creased, "About?"
"Oh," she nodded. "You must be wondering after all this."
Her hand fluttered about Harris's back but her voice was cool and composed. "My husband was in a boating accident. He was duck-hunting and putting out decoys when the boat capsized. His waders filled with water and he drowned." "I'm terribly sorry."
"I am, too." She sighed. "But life goes on." She looked at the little boy in her arms and gave him a squeeze. "Here's the proof."
Harris giggled sleepily.
"Let me show you to your room. It's right up these steps."
Marcus followed her to the grand staircase. Their feet were silent on the carpeted steps.
"Your room was originally an attic when the house was built. At one time it was a nursery. Now it's definitely the most secluded spot at River Trace."
At the top of the second flight, Cally turned left and led him past several rooms toward the back of the house. Her hair had come out of its pins and was trailing halfway down her back in ringlets. Marcus watched as Harris opened and closed his fists around one of the curls.
The outline of her bra strap was clearly visible through the wet shirt. It was lacey, pink and distracting the hell out of him. She turned right and paused at another landing.
"I thought since you were going to be here a while, this would give you more privacy. You have your own bath and there's another stairway here if you prefer. It was originally a servants' stairway. And if you've had a really long day..." She didn't finish the sentence as she pointed toward the antique one-man elevator.
"It still works?" he asked.
Cally nodded, opened a door and led him up a narrow stairwell. He could see how the location would have been perfect for a child's nursery.
"We just finished getting it all together today."
Marcus stepped up into the room behind her. She crossed another oriental rug and sat Harris down on a wide window seat. As she leaned over to close the window, he got an unexpected but rather spectacular view of her butt in the water-soaked jeans. Her wet shirt had ridden up and he could see a line of milky-white skin along her back.
He caught himself staring, imagining the view under different circumstances. If she turned around without picking up the boy first, he'd get a peek at the latest Victoria's Secret had to offer. With a jolt he realized he wasn't paying attention to a word she was saying.
"…we painted earlier this week, but I wanted to make sure the smell was completely gone."
Marcus took in a gulp of air, attempting to clear the erotic images forming in his head. "Hmm.
All I smell is ah…flowers?"
"Yes." Cally smiled, completely unaware of where his thoughts had been. "That would be the potpourri." She nodded at a silver bowl on the captain's desk to his right.
"The bathroom's through here." She pointed toward the small hallway to his left; straight ahead was a queen-sized bed flanked by small antique tables. "We just moved the armoire in today."
He reassessed her as he took in the large cabinetry opposite the window. "You moved that yourself? Up those stairs?" He studied her slim build and tried to imagine her lifting the heavy antique. Even with a man helping her, it was a formidable job.
"Well, Bay and I did. I couldn't have done it on my own. I can't imagine doing any of this without the Wigginses. You'll meet him and Luella tomorrow. River Trace simply couldn't run without them. They're amazing."
"I'd say so." He mentally struggled to get focused again.
"Let's see. I need to get you more towels, and you need a brandy decanter." She ticked the items off on her fingers.
"It's a gift when you check in. Our special label. Homemade peach brandy. Not to be missed."
She stared straight at him—open and friendly, but it wasn't a come-on. He knew that.
Facing him, she wasn't holding the kid. Marcus locked his eyes on hers and willed himself not to look below her neck at that transparent shirt.
"Now…what else. Oh, yes. Since you're up three stories here, the fire marshal insists I tell you how to get out in case the stairway is blocked during a fire." She headed for the window seat.
Marcus swallowed hard when she bent over to pick up Harris and lifted the lid on the built-in seat. Her shirt rode up again revealing more of that creamy skin that he was suddenly very curious to touch.
"There's a ladder here," she said over her shoulder.
She reached for the jumble of metal and rope, and he realized he was staring again. He was going to get busted if he didn't stop. He reached around her, accidentally brushing against her shoulder.
"Sorry," he muttered.
She startled. "Thank you," she murmured, stepping aside. "You attach it by those handles to the window and then you can ease down to the roof."
"Where do I go from there?" he asked, keeping his voice as neutral as possible. Touching her had been a bad idea, a really bad idea.
Cally turned to look at him with a sober face and sparkling eyes. "You jump."
He barked a laugh.
"Actually, you shimmy down to that sunroof on the second floor, and you jump."
"Does every room have one of these?"
“Oh, no. Yours is special. It's the only one on the third floor. There are two staircases up to the second floor and a window in every bedroom. The fire marshal figures if worse comes to worst everyone else can get out."
Obviously she was struggling to keep a straight face.
"River Trace is the only residence to be converted to an inn in the county. The fire marshal had never done this before. I'm afraid he went a bit overboard. We barely talked him out of a sprinkler system. But I feel confident you will be safe during your stay."
The dimples were back.
"I think the worst thing that would happen if you had to jump is a broken leg."
"Hmm. We'll hope it doesn't come to that."
"Absolutely." A man could get lost in a smile like hers. Harris yawned widely as Marcus shut the ladder back into the window seat. "Someone is getting sleepy."
Harris was snuggling into her chest and clutching one of her ringlets. "Yes, I'd better put him to bed. I'll be glad to get you something after I get him down."
She was looking at Marcus again with those incredibly blue eyes, totally oblivious of the effect she was having.
"What would you like? A snack of some kind? Or I can fix you a sandwich? Whatever you want."
She had no idea what she'd just said. Marcus swallowed. God, he didn't usually get turned on by unintentional double entendres. "A sandwich would be great if it's not too much trouble. But
there's no hurry. I realize you'll have your hands full for the next few minutes."
"It's no problem at all. I'll just put Harris to bed and bring up your sandwich. And those towels and that brandy." She started toward the stairs before turning back. "How does roast beef on whole wheat sound?"
"It'll be about fifteen minutes."
Downstairs the deep gong of the doorbell echoed through the house.
"That'll be my other guests. Let's make that thirty minutes on the sandwich?"
Cally nodded and headed down the steps. When the door closed, Marcus's smile faded. He looked around the room, taking in the rich red walls and antique four-poster.
This was not the set-up he'd been expecting. Oh, it was quite a place all right. But it was not the proper way for this to go down. What in hell was he going to do about the widow and the kid?
Suz: BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD takes place in Mississippi. Is there any particular reason you decided to use this setting for this book?
Kay, (smiling that shy southern belle smile of hers): I'm from Mississippi and my family still lives in and around the Delta. The original idea for BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD was based on the first riverboat casino ever built in the state in the early 90's. My big brother Tim gave me the idea and it all started over dinner one night with the words, "Kay, I've got a story for you?"
He has just gotten back from a long road trip with a friend who had worked as a security guard in that first riverboat casino located in Tunica. Tim's friend had some hair-raising tales about those early months the casino was open, before there was an infrastructure in the county to handle the huge influx of cash and people to the area. The casino was reported to be the most profitable per square foot in history, and the guards spent the first eighteen months worrying they'd be robbed blind because they didn't have all the backups they needed.
There's a bed & breakfast featured in the book based on my grandmother's house that I grew up next door to in Clarksdale.
This was the first manuscript I ever finished, but it's gone through multiple revisions and rewrites since I first wrote "the end" ten years ago. Three years after I finished the original draft, that house my great grandfather built in 1900 burned. Thankfully no one was hurt. Even though the property was no longer in the family, three generations had lived there. In BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD, the house that held so many wonderful memories for us lives again.
For story purposes I moved my grandmother's house (the B & B), the casino, and the timeline to present day South Mississippi.
Suz: One of the things I like about your books is the sense of urgency and desperation you put your characters in. Is there a way to balance that with the sexual tension needed in a romance?
Kay: I love to write compressed timelines with a ticking clock. (As a writer this keeps me focused on making every scene count.)
For me that combination keeps the suspense tighter and the characters slightly off balance. Their emotions are "rawer," much closer to the surface. My hero and heroine don't have time to dissect their feelings (like we do in real life). They simply react and respond to circumstances around them. When I get bogged down in writing a scene or even in plotting, I usually find it's because my characters are "sitting and thinking" versus acting.
That lack of time for the characters to analyze the relationship, combined with the ticking clock is what I believe keeps the sexual tension building. For the reader, my hope is this "urgency" keeps one turning the pages and wanting to find out what happens next.
Suz: What's next for you and your Bulletproof series?
Kay: The next book is due to my editors at Intrigue in September with a release date for 2011. It's tentatively titled BULLETPROOF HEARTS. The story is about a woman who discovers her brother's hit and run accident was actually murder and she could be next if she doesn't accept help from a mysterious stranger. I'm almost through the first draft but I'm a multi-drafter, so the plotting is still very much in process. If anyone is interested in my week-by-week progress, they can check out my facebook fan page at: http://www.facebook.com/KayThomasWrites. I chat about lots of different things - books, current movies, publishing- including what I'm working on right then. I also post deleted scenes from previous novels and give away books and gift cards from time to time.
Kay: This book features a fictional B & B. I adore bed & breakfasts and used to think I wanted to run one until I realized that:
1) I loathe doing laundry and housekeeping chores in general. And
2) it's considered an exotic breakfast at our house if I cook scrambled eggs & toast. No, this is probably not a career I should consider.
I figured out that what I really enjoyed was staying in a B & B vs the whole concept of running one.
So my question to you is: What's your favorite thing about staying in a bed & breakfast?
If you could, would you like to run one? Why or why not?
Suz: Kay will be giving away a copy of BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD to one lucky commenter. Kay, anything else you'd like to share with our readers and friends?
Kay: To celebrate the release I have a Bulletproof Sighting Contest called "Feeling Lucky?" that's currently underway. Spot my April Intrigue, BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD, on store shelves or in your mailbox and be eligible to win a gift card to Barnes & Noble for $15, $10 or $5. Details are at my website. www.kaythomas.net
Trailer for BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD