Shades of Pink Writer Shares an Excerpt
The Shades of Pink romance anthology, now in its second year of raising funds for breast cancer research, features 22 authors coming together for one cause. First-time SOP contributor Nina Day Gerard shared an excerpt from her story with me, below, along with some insights into why she loves her characters so much.
RAVEN: What made you want to submit to this anthology?
NDG: A dear friend of mine went through a double mastectomy this year, and just completed her reconstructive surgery. When this event came across my radar, I knew I had to write something for it.
RAVEN: And what made you become a romance writer?
NDG: I started out trading Harlequin romance novels with my girlfriends in high school, so I’ve been reading about love for a long time. Now I love to write about it too. It was just a natural transition.
RAVEN: Tell us a little bit about your Shades of Pink story.
NDG: Well, unrequited love seems to be a theme I enjoy writing about. But in the end, the couple always finds their way back to each other. In The Long Road Home, our hero Dane McCall has grown up to become the Sheriff of the small town in Oregon where he grew up. He’s loved his best friend Carter’s baby sister Catie for as long as he can remember. But he and his friend have become estranged since high school, and well, Dane never really got the chance to act on his feelings for Catie at all. But a high school reunion right there in Anderson rekindles his feelings and presents a possible opportunity for him to act on them.
RAVEN: And what about Catie? Does she reciprocate?
NDG: She does, but has never thought herself to be worthy of a man like Dane. I really related to Catie as I was writing about her, because in some ways, she’s like me. I grew up in a small rural town, and never thought I was pretty or popular in high school. And I still suffered insecurity in my adult years, and never thought I’d meet Mr. Right.
Catie sat across from her brother at a secluded table in a very expensive Mediterranean restaurant in San Francisco. Not that she didn’t like coming into the city from Oakland; and she liked eating in nice restaurants as much as the next person.
But Carter was always insisting on spoiling her in extravagant ways, saying that she deserved it since she’d sacrificed making a decent living to become an elementary school teacher. She’d rolled her eyes at that, and she often complied with whatever Carter had up his sleeve just to get him to settle down so she could get on with life.
Once he’d given her a fur coat, and it wasn’t even Christmas. She reminded him that she didn’t believe in wearing real fur, so she gave it to charity, only to have a top-of-the line designer faux fur show up on her doorstep within a few days.
Then he’d insisted on paying for her Master’s Degree. She agreed to only accept whatever she couldn’t get in loans, and on buying her own text books, knowing full well that he would probably try to pay off her student loans for her at some point anyway. He’d tried to rent her an apartment in a “decent” part of town, but at least he saw that she wanted to be in the inner city and helping those kids, not the privileged kids in the suburbs. So he’d had a state-of-the-art security system installed in her apartment building as well as her individual unit. The manager was grateful, but Catie was entirely embarrassed.
Short of hiring private security for her, Carter called her several times a day to be sure she was safe, even when he himself was traveling overseas.
She’d drawn the line at him buying her a car, or tried to anyway. At first she flat-out refused. When she saw that she wasn’t going to deter him that easily, she tried to assuage his burning desire to spend money on her by stipulating that he could buy her a used car. A really used one. He wouldn’t hear of it. He claimed that higher end foreign cars were safer than the average economy sedan. She cleverly pointed out how much of the wrong kind of attention she’d be drawing to herself driving a Mercedes or a BMW around her neighborhood. Finally, they’d settled on a brand new Toyota sedan. She’d chosen a muted color and on the outside it didn’t look particularly fancy. But it was still a lot of car for her, and Carter had insisted on getting it armored, and adding an alarm system, and a SYNC phone system, which also meant he’d gotten her a brand new smart phone to pair with it.
It was no surprise that Carter had done well for himself. Even in high school, he was quite the entrepreneur. Every student committee wanted him to do fundraising for them. He could sell anything, convince anyone to do anything. As president of the student body, he even got the school board to approve a process whereby students could reduce their detention time for good behavior. Of course it was thrown out when the next student president was elected, but it was great while it lasted.
By his senior year, Carter had his own marketing business; he’d gone from school fundraisers to helping local businesses come up with new campaigns. And when he left their small town of Anderson, Oregon to attend college down in Sacramento, he expanded his business down there, even getting one of his clients to sponsor his MBA.
Eventually, he brought his company Thompson Enterprises to San Francisco. He’d missed Catie terribly, who had opted to stay in Oregon to get her education, and asked her to come to the Bay Area to be near him. Their father had passed just before Carter finished graduate school, and now their mother was in need of extra care. Catie had tried to convince him that she could care for her mother in Oregon, but even she knew that Carter’s financial support would make a huge difference, and it would do both of them good to have him nearby where he could visit them regularly.
So here she sat across from him. Something was off. Even when he’d invited her to dinner earlier that day—insisted on it as a matter of fact—he’d seemed edgy, anxious about something. Now, for all of his good looks, he just seemed tired, ragged. He’d hardly said two words since they’d arrived, aside from ordering his dinner. Catie’s discomfort with the situation increased, and she was almost afraid of why he’d brought her there. It was definitely more than his usual magnanimous weekly gesture to take her out for a meal. To hide her anxiety, and perhaps to delay hearing his explanation, Catie chattered on, which she knew annoyed him, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself.
“This one little boy in my homeroom, Edwin, is so adorable. You know they’re at that age when they’re still learning to pronounce everything, and he always says ‘see you tomowow, Miss Tomp-thun.’”
Catie’s comments about her mundane life fell like bricks around their table. Though she knew Carter was always happy for her success and the joy she took in teaching the children, it had to be incredibly dull compared to the glamorous life of a business mogul that he led. It was quiet now, and he just stared at her across the table. She swallowed hard and was about to ask him what in God’s name was going on with him when he leaned forward and practically shouted at her.
“You know, Catie, we need a vacation!” It was as if he knew that he had to engage with her before they both went mad. But he startled her so badly that she nearly knocked over her water glass.
“A vacation?” she asked sheepishly, as she regained her composure.
“That’s right,” he continued, snapping his finger in the air as he leaned back into his seat. “We both work very hard. As a matter of fact, you probably work harder than I do.” Well, that was a lie, although Carter did seem to turn pale every time someone mentioned settling down and having kids to him.
“I’d much rather deal with the Board of Directors than the finger painting and cookie crumbs that you’re plagued with on a daily basis.”
Catie did have to smile at that. She almost laughed outright at the visual image she got of the kids at the kindergarten she taught at climbing all over his designer suit with their sticky paint-covered hands, and then trying to kiss him with their mouths ringed in cookie crumbs and milk mustaches.
“Look, the point is, sweetheart, I think we could both use a break. So that’s why I made arrangements for us to go to our high school reunion in two weeks.” She blinked at him. She knew she had that deer-in-the headlights look, but it took her a minute to process what he was saying. Her illustrious twin brother, who had worked so hard to get her and their mother out of Oregon, and basically swore he would never go back for any reason, now wanted to attend their high school reunion.
“Well, I wouldn’t trust anyone else to escort you back there.”
“First of all, why would you want to go back to Oregon for a vacation? As I recall, you have pretty much avoided going back there for any reason.”
“True, but I thought maybe this would be fun.”
“Fun? Come on Carter. I’m your twin sister. I know you. And your idea of fun is more along the lines of gambling on the French Riviera, not making small talk over punch in our old high school gym with people you barely remember.”
“Ah, the Riviera. If that were my plan, would you be more excited?”
“Yes. No! Are you nuts? It’s April. I can’t go anywhere with you right now. What about school, what about my students?”
“I’ve already made arrangements. Your boss has already found a substitute.” Her “boss” was Barbara Collins, or Miss Barbara, as the students like to call her. Barbara owned the private kindergarten where Catie had taught for going on five years. She was a wonderful, generous woman—who had now fallen under her brother’s spell.
“What?! What did you say to her?”
“Just that I needed you to accompany me back to our home town on some family business. And it’s true.”
“A high school reunion hardly qualifies as important family business!”
“No, but . . . I thought we could take a look at the old house—“
“Which we don’t own any more.”
“—and see a few old friends.”
“We don’t have friends there anymore. You haven’t been in touch with anyone since you left.”
“And I need to make amends for that. Dane is my best friend. At least he was. I owe him a visit. I need to get reacquainted again.”
The mention of Dane McCall brought her up short. Dane, who had been Carter’s best friend all during high school. Dane, who she’d basically been in love with since she was fifteen.
“What if I don’t want to go?” she asked quietly. “Did you ever think of that?”
Now it was Carter who fell silent for a moment, and then he looked at her wearily again.
“Not really, no. I’m sorry if I’ve crossed a line here, I just wanted to plan a surprise for you. I thought we both deserved a break, and yes, it’s not my usual cup of tea, but maybe I should reconnect with where I came from. I really just need to get away, and . . . you’re all I’ve got Catie. I really need you to come with me.”
At that moment the food arrived, but Catie couldn’t look away from Carter. There was a sadness in his eyes that she hadn’t seen before, not even when their father passed away. This ruse about going to the reunion was bad enough. She’d have to find something to wear, and not one of the eleven pink dresses in her closet was suitable. After all, she’d been living in the big city, so she couldn’t very well show up in the lace and flowers she’d been teased about so much in high school. And it wasn’t just her old peers she was worried about impressing. She’d have to face Dane. Hopefully, he’d be too busy being the Sheriff to actually attend the reunion. But there was something else, she knew, and Carter wasn’t going to tell her what it was. She had no choice but to go along with him, and at best support this scheme of his, wherever it led.
Though she really wasn’t hungry any more Catie picked gingerly at her pasta. She glanced up at Carter, who was eating like it was his last meal. Her stomach rumbled at the unknown—and especially thought of seeing Dane again.
RAVEN: It sounds like there may be a little more to getting Dane and Catie together than meets the eye.
NDG: Oh, there always is. That’s the fun of it. A situation arises that requires not only the best of Dane’s law enforcement skills, but facing what’s in his heart at the same time—not an easy task!
RAVEN: Thank you so much for sharing an excerpt from your story with us. Where can SOP readers find more of your work?
NDG: Well, the first 100 people to like my Facebook page will receive a sneak-preview excerpt from my novel My Brother’s Keeper.
RAVEN: Thank you Nina. And details about the Shades of Pink event are listed below.
NDG: Thank you.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last year, the first Shades of Pink event raised over $10.000 for research through more than 1300 donations! To become part of this very special event and download your copy of Shades of Pink Volume 2 (e-book or PDF), visit SOP Editor Kallysten’s blog now through November 15th.