The third and final book in my Behind the Love series released this morning. It’s almost bittersweet. I’m pleased to have written this series of stories about the women and men of Victory, Florida. They find love at first sight (Behind the Altar), through second chances (Behind the Bar), and in unexpected ways (Behind the Curtain).
About Behind the Curtain (contemporary new adult romance) – When Lisa Williams returns to her hometown of Victory, Florida, with a producer of reality TV shows, not everyone is happy to see her, particularly her sister, Susie. Lisa finds herself at odds with everyone in town, even her close friend Tommy who tries to understand and support her dreams of becoming a star.
When Tommy is assigned to cover the show’s filming as a reporter for the Tampa Tribune, he finds himself at odds with Lisa who he’s beginning to think of as more than a friend.
Sally Jean returns to the Behind the Love series as Lisa’s best friend. But the show threatens to tear them apart as well when the producer wants to make Sally Jean the star rather than Lisa. As Lisa finds herself losing everyone in her life, Tommy struggles to remain her friend, hoping she’ll realize that her actor boyfriend Jet isn’t any good for her. If he can convince her of that, perhaps he’ll stand a chance at winning her fragile heart.
I loved writing this book. I say this about every book I write, but this time I loved it because I was so familiar with all the characters. I layered Lisa with much deeper feelings and aspirations. She’s been a peripheral character since the very first book. But in this novel, I could give her motivations and dig into personality.
Every since Sally Jean appeared in Behind the Altar, readers have been asking for her to star in her own book. I never thought she’d go beyond the paper cutout character I’d created. She’s the big-boobed blonde who’s troubled but kind. By the time I made her the best friend of Lisa in Behind the Curtain, I’d grown to love her and began writing some of her backstory. I gave her some depth, and one day, I feel ready to explore her role as the heroine of another romance series. I’ve set it up at the end of Behind the Curtain. It happened naturally and as it evolved, I realized she deserved her own story.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One:
Lisa watched as Susie, her baby sister, exchanged vows with Reggie on the front porch of Susie’s house. Standing next to her smiling new husband, Susie glowed. Reggie patted his new wife’s protruding belly, and the crowd of friends roared with laughter.
Lisa smiled. At least one of them had managed to find love.
Sally Jean greeted Lisa when she stepped off the front steps to mingle with the folks gathered in the yard. Lisa had known most of the guests her entire life, and Sally Jean had been her best friend in high school.
“She’s a beautiful bride,” Sally Jean said. “I’m so happy for the two of them.”
“Not jealous?” Lisa asked. “I thought you had a thing for Reggie.”
“I liked Reggie, but Dean always had my heart. You know that.”
Lisa looked at her friend, remembering those days so long ago when Sally Jean dated Dean Davis and Lisa was set to marry Sam Rollings. Both those relationships ended on the night after graduation ten years earlier. She felt sorry for Sally Jean sometimes, but Lisa knew she was just as messed up when it came to relationships as her friend. What right did Lisa have to judge her?
“But you’re over Dean, right?” Lisa decided she’d better ask because Dean’s pregnant wife Leah wouldn’t be too happy if Sally Jean still harbored feelings for him. Leah was Susie’s best friend, and by extension, a friend of Lisa’s as well.
“Leah didn’t give me much choice. I like her, but I have to tell you if Dean asked me to be his girl again, I’d be hard pressed to say no.”
“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that happening.” Lisa watched Sally Jean’s mouth turn down, and she immediately felt sorry she’d opened her mouth.
“You’re right.” Sally Jean smiled. “That ship sailed a long time ago. Let’s get some champagne and forget everything but having a great time tonight.”
“What are the two most beautiful women at this wedding doing over here in the corner without drinks in hand?” Tommy Jackson handed each of them a glass of champagne as if he’d heard Sally Jean’s suggestion.
“You better not let the bride hear you say that,” Lisa said. “Thanks for the champagne, though.”
“Of course, I meant after Susie. The bride is glowing today.”
“And growing.” Lisa giggled before taking a sip.
“Either of you need a ride into town for the reception?” Tommy asked. The reception was being held at the Victory Tavern, owned by the groom. “I’m happy to be the designated driver for the night. I fly to Miami in the morning for a story, so it’s a one beer night for me.”
Tommy worked for the Tampa Tribune as a feature reporter. His recent series on homelessness in Florida started right in their hometown of Victory with the homeless vets living on the banks of the Deer River on the outskirts of town.
“Thanks, Tommy,” Lisa said. “But you’re not going to stay late are you?”
“Susie said I could sleep on her couch. I’ll drive straight to the airport from here, so you can stay as late as you’d like—I’ll bring you home.”
“That sounds like the perfect offer,” Sally Jean said.
“I think you’ve got yourself two designated drunks then,” Lisa said. The two women high-fived and then both reached up and kissed Tommy one on each cheek, which made the redhead blush a deep crimson on his very white face.
Later, after the toasts and too many glasses of champagne, Lisa sat at the bar of the Victory Tavern. Tommy sat next to her, drinking a glass of water.
“Ever wish it was you standing up there getting hitched?” Tommy asked.
Lisa sighed and took a drink of her wine. “Sometimes, but I think I need someone to stand next to me for that to happen.”
“What about that guy back in New York? Plane or something?”
Lisa laughed. “Jet. His name is Jet. We’re on and off, mostly off now, but he asked me to go out for dinner with him when I get to New York, so who knows what will happen. What about you? Ever wish it was you?”
“Sometimes, but every single woman I like ends up liking someone who’s going to end up hurting them. I hear about it when they come crawling back to me crying and telling me they didn’t know what a great guy I really was.”
“Do you give them a second chance?”
“Never. It’s made me leery of relationships and women in general.”
Lisa picked up her glass and offered it to Tommy as a toast. “Here’s to crappy choices.”
Victory, Florida, Lisa’s hometown, reeked of mostly bad memories for her. She left the day after her high school graduation, leaving her sister Susie, only thirteen, to cope with their mother and her subsequent cancer and eventual death. Lisa only came home when absolutely necessary. Despite that, she and Susie remained close, drawn together by the bond of their childhood fraught with a drunken father who liked to use a punching bag when soused. Unfortunately, that punching bag was their mother.
Ten years ago, Lisa’s future looked bright despite the dark cloud hanging over their house. She and Sam Rollings were the darlings of Victory, both beautiful and popular. They were going to be married after college, except life intervened, and Lisa left town after the mysterious death of her father. Only when Susie started to ask questions a few months back did the whole truth come out. To Lisa’s horror, she realized she’d been the one to tell Sam she wished her father dead. She said it after he once again beat her mother. Sam, wanting to be the hero in Lisa’s life, made sure her wish came true when her father walked into the path of Sam’s car. Only when Susie tried to uncover the truth did both of them learn what happened that night. Susie and Lisa decided to keep Sam’s role in their father’s death quiet because they wanted to move forward, not relive the past. And if Lisa felt any guilt at all, it was only because she wasn’t sorry her father was dead.
“It’s difficult to be back in Victory,” Lisa told Tommy. “Everywhere I look there are ghosts.”
Lisa saw those ghosts as they wandered the streets and echoes of Sam reverberated off the walls of the Victory Tavern as their friends enjoyed celebrating Susie and Reggie’s wedding.
“It’s sad the fearsome four couldn’t be reunited for the wedding,” Tommy said. “But then again, maybe it’s better that Sam and Trevor are elsewhere.”
Reggie, Dean, Sam, and Trevor—the four football stars who brought fame to the small Florida town when they won the state football championship ten years earlier—made quite a name for Victory. Trevor Carson was awaiting trial on an illegal gambling operation, and no one knew where Sam Rollings was.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Tommy said as Lisa stared sadly at her wine glass. “I probably shouldn’t have mentioned Sam’s name.”
“Just thinking about the night Trevor was arrested. And about Sam and all the rest. We had so much promise as we headed into our graduation from Victory High. The town held high expectations for all of us.”
“And most of you lived up to those expectations. Look at Dean—famous tat artist from Miami. Reggie is making a name for Victory all over the Tampa area now that he’s bringing in bands from around Florida. And you, Miss Lisa, are making a name for yourself as an actress in no less than New York City.”
“Some actress, advertising insurance for poor schumucks who can’t even afford a vacation. I would say I’m a resounding success as a failure.”
“Lisa, pick up your chin and stop feeling sorry for yourself.” Tommy downed his glass of water. “I need to get up pretty early. Do you want to leave now, or do you want to ride home with Leah and Dean?”
“Thanks a lot, pal. Really like the support. I don’t really want to ride home with you. Besides what happened to you not caring when you left tonight?”
“It’s getting late, and you’re getting drunk and depressed. You don’t want to ruin Susie’s big day, do you?”
Dean and his pregnant wife Leah walked up to them, and Dean pulled out a stool for Leah to sit.
“She can’t keep up with me these days,” Dean said. “Poor thing.” Dean rubbed Leah’s small belly and grinned at Lisa and Tommy. “You two look like you’re at a funeral instead of the wedding of two good friends and family.”
“Lisa needs a ride home,” Tommy said. “Got room for her?”
“Sure,” Leah said. “I’ll see these two get home safely, but I expect them to return the favor after the baby’s born.”
“What about Sally Jean?” Lisa asked. “You promised her a ride, too.”
“She wants to leave now, but this is your sister’s wedding, so stay. But I think you should attempt to put a smile on your face, if only for Susie’s sake. She deserves tonight without any drama. Maybe lay off the wine, too.”
“Yes, master.” Lisa jumped off her stool and bowed deeply to Tommy, who shook his head and walked away.
“What in the hell was that all about, Lisa?” Dean asked. “I thought you’d be ecstatic that your sister and Reggie finally got married after all these years.”
“I am. Just thinking too much about the past, that’s all. And Tommy said some mean things to me.”
“I’m going to get a beer,” Dean said. “Do you want something?”
“A glass of red wine, please. Tommy be damned.”
When he left, Leah looked at her best friend’s sister. “Want to talk about it?”
“Nothing much to say. Dean’s right though. I am happy for Susie. She deserves to be happy.”
“So do you. We all do.”
“When’s the baby due?” Lisa wanted desperately to change the subject. She knew when the depression started she’d slide down a slope with little hope of pulling herself out for a few days.
“I’ve got a little longer than Susie,” Leah said. “Early October—maybe we’ll have a pumpkin.”
“That’d be fun. Imagine the birthday parties you can have with jack-‘o-lanterns.”
“Susie will have to help me with that. I’m not much for decorating.”
Lisa looked over at her sister, standing next to Reggie. Susie glowed. Lisa picked up her glass and smiled to think of her baby sister as a mother. Lisa hoped she could live up to her role as aunt.
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