We Authors Get Surprises Too
by Dani Collins, author of The Secret Beneath The Veil
This blog post was originally posted on the Harlequin Blog.
Sometimes I pitch a book because it’s fully formed in my head and I can’t wait to get it onto paper. Other times I have a few key elements. I know the characters and the basic premise, but not how the conflicts will be resolved.
And sometimes, I see the opening scene, but that’s all.
That’s what happened with The Secret Beneath The Veil. I knew it would start with a wedding—an arranged marriage—but that’s all I had. The hero, Maksym, was Russian, later changed to Mikolas of an artistically licensed Greek Island.
In my very earliest, nascent stabs at opening this story, Viveka was very subdued. She was a pair of blue eyes beneath a veil. The hero completely lacked interest in her. I was pretty sure my career was over.
Then I realized she was protecting her sister. Once I knew she wasn’t supposed to be in that wedding dress, that she was going to be discovered any second, that it was inevitable, I couldn’t wait to keep writing to find out what happened.
Here’s an excerpt showing Mikolas discovering her trick. He’s pretty surprised! I won’t tell you what happens next, but it was a surprise to me, too. I hope you enjoy it.
About The Secret Beneath The Veil:
With five little words, Mikolas Petrides secures a vital business merger and finally repays his grandfather for rescuing him from the horrors of his childhood. But when he lifts his new bride’s veil, it’s not the woman he was expecting!
Viveka Brice will do anything to protect her little sister, even pretend to marry a stranger. Her deception revealed, she flees the wedding, but is soon confronted by Mikolas. He is a man who always gets what he wants, and if the marriage is off, Viveka will have to compensate him—by becoming his mistress instead!
Mikolas had met his bride—a girl really—twice. She was young and extremely shy. Pretty enough, but no sparks of attraction had flared in him. He’d resigned himself to affairs while she grew up and they got to know one another. Therein might be another advantage to marriage, he had been thinking distantly, while he waited for her to walk down the aisle. Other women wouldn’t wheedle for marriage if he already wore a ring.
Then her approach had transfixed him. Something happened. Lust.
He was never comfortable when things happened outside his control. This was hardly the time or place for a spike of naked hunger for a woman. But it happened.
She arrived before him veiled in a waterfall mist that he should have dismissed as an irritating affectation. For some reason he found the mystery deeply erotic. He recognized her perfume as the same scent she’d worn those other times, but rather than sweet and innocent, it now struck him as womanly and heady.
Her lissome figure wasn’t as childish as he’d first judged, either. She moved as though she owned her body, and how had he not noticed before that her eyes were such a startling shade of blue, the kind that sat as a pool of water against a glacier? He could barely see her face, but the intensity of blue couldn’t be dimmed by a few scraps of lace.
His heart began to thud with an old, painful beat. Want. The real kind. The kind that was more like basic necessity.
A flicker of panic threatened, but he clamped down on the memories of deprivation. Of denial. Terror. Searing pain.
He got what he wanted these days. Always. He was getting her.
Satisfaction rolled through him, filling him with anticipation for this pomp and circumstance to end.
The ceremony progressed at a glacial pace. Juvenile eagerness struck him when he was finally able to lift her veil. He didn’t celebrate Christmas, yet felt it had arrived early, just for him.
He told himself it was gratification at accomplishing the goal his grandfather had assigned him. With this kiss, the balance sheets would come out of the rinse cycle, clean and pressed like new. Too bad the old man hadn’t been well enough to travel here and enjoy this moment himself.
Mikolas revealed his bride’s face and froze.
She was beautiful. Her mouth was eye-catching with a lush upper lip and a bashful bottom one tucked beneath it. Her chin was strong and came up a notch in a hint of challenge while her blue, blue irises blinked at him.
This was no girl on the brink of legal age. She was a woman, one who was mature enough to look him straight in the eye without flinching.
She was not Trina Stamos.
“Who the hell are you?”
Gasps went through the crowd.
The woman lifted a hand to brush her veil free of his dumbfounded fingers.
Behind her, Grigor shot to his feet with an ugly curse. “What are you doing here? Where’s Trina?”
Yes. Where was his bride? Without the right woman here to speak her vows and sign her name, this marriage—the merger—was at a standstill. No.
As though she had anticipated Grigor’s reaction, the bride zipped behind Mikolas, using him like a shield as the older man bore down on them.
“You little bitch!” Grigor hissed. Trina’s father was not as shocked by the switch as he was incensed. He clearly knew this woman. A vein pulsed on his forehead beneath his flushed skin. “Where is she?”
Mikolas put up a hand, warding off the old man from grabbing the woman behind him. He would have his explanation from her before Grigor unleashed his temper.
Or maybe he wouldn’t.
Another round of surprised gasps went through the crowd, punctuated by the clack of the fire door and a loud, repetitive ring of its alarm.
His bride had bolted out the emergency exit.
What the hell?