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My Own Private Identity Crisis

I’ve been looking back through my backlist recently and smiling at the stories and the novels and the characters I’ve come to enjoy so much. I thought I might spend a little time taking you back through them in no particular order. I suppose one of the novels I can most identify with is Book 2 in the Executive Decisions series, Identity Crisis. The reason is probably obvious to every writer who uses a pen name. I wrote this post originally for Kay Jaybee’s lovely blog when Identity Crisis was just released, and with me expanding to urban fantasy and sic-fi, or trying to anyway, my own private identity crisis is ever-expanding. Enjoy the post and the excerpt, and if you’ve not read the Executive Decision series, but would like to, follow the links to all the fun.

 

The other day I went to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, and when the chemist ask who it was for, I said K D Grace. I had a PR email yesterday addressed to Grace, and I had to do a double-take before I realised the email was for Grace Marshall. My husband occasionally gets referred to as Mr. Grace. Oh he’s used to it by now, and he doesn’t mind. It’s sort of like he has a double life as well, though a milder version.

 

I’m forever introducing myself as K D Grace, accidentally filling out forms as K D Grace, and answering the phone as K D. I know a lot of my erotica writing friends only by their pen names, and that’s how they know me. K D has been so much a part of me for the past three years that it’s no wonder she often barges into my non-writing life. And now there’s Grace Marshall. She’s a bit more subtle at the moment, but then she’s only been around for the past ten months. During that time she’s moved right in and made herself at home. She even has her own coffee cup now.

 

Living with Grace, K D, and Kathy all crammed into my inner space, I can so completely understand Garrett Thorne’s identity crisis. Garrett writes bestselling romance novels under the name of Tess Delaney. But Garrett is much better at keeping his identity secret than I am. I don’t really care who knows that Grace and K D and Kathy are all living fairly peaceably in the same crowded body. But Garrett has his reasons for wanting to keep his secret life secret, and he’s kept that secret flawlessly until Tess is nominated for the Golden Kiss Award and has to make her first ever public appearance. Now Garrett looks fabulous in a tux and tie … or out. But if he wants to keep Tess’s secret, he’ll either have to go to the award ceremony in drag or hire someone to do it for him, someone who’s the epitome of discretion. Not keen on wearing a dress nor having his chest waxed; against his better judgment, he hires the PR queen of intrigue and secrets, Kendra Davis, to be his Tess while he goes to the ceremony as her date. In spite of the fact that the two don’t like each other, a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do, and to hell with the consequences.

 

And wow, are there consequences! Kendra has an identity crisis of her own, and it makes Garrett and Tess’s pale in comparison. Put together two people with major identity crises, who are likely to either kill each other or shag each other’s brains out, and let the fun begin. Here’s a blurb and a little teaser.

 

Blurb:

PR rep extraordinaire, Kendra Davis, is elated when she gets the chance to work for her hero, reclusive, romance novelist, Tess Delaney. Her elation is short-lived when she discovers that Tess is none other than Garrett Thorne, the bad-boy brother of business tycoon and eco-warrior, Ellison Thorne, who is engaged to her best friend, Dee Henning. Kendra blames Garrett for the comedy of errors that nearly destroyed their relationship. Garrett doesn’t like Kendra either, but he’s desperate. His alter-ego, Tess has been nominated for the prestigious Golden Kiss Award. No one knows who Tess really is, and he needs Kendra to play Tess for the awards.

When Tess is stalked by a rabid fan, the two unite to protect her identity. With Kendra, the body and Garrett the soul of Tess Delaney, is there room in this strange ménage for romance? Can a woman who doesn’t exist understand their hearts even better than they do?

Excerpt:

 

Before Garrett could say anything else, the line went dead and he and Kendra sat staring at each other. Garrett reached for the remote and switched off the television. ‘So what do you think?’ He said. ‘I mean you are K. Ryde.’

 

She ran a hand through her hair and tightened the sash at the waist of the robe. In the kitchen they could hear the coffee maker gurgling out the last of the coffee into the pot. ‘Garrett, I work for Tess Delaney, not Don Bachman, and I think it’s up to you. You’ve done what was asked of you. It’s had better than expected results, and now I think you should do what you want. I mean a huge part of Tess’s appeal is her mystique. The more public she becomes the more she risks losing that mystique. If you do decide to have Tess make the odd public appearance, then I’ll happily oblige, but the more I pretend to be Tess Delaney, the more risk we run of her really being outed.’

 

He tugged a strand of her red hair. ‘You think I should do what I want?’ He scooted closer and brushed a kiss against her parted lips. ‘Because I’m pretty sure you have a good idea of what I want right now.’

 

She made a half-hearted effort to pull away from him. ‘Garrett, this is serious business, you know. I need to know, K. Ryde needs to know what to do next.’

 

He gently nipped her lip and felt her breath catch. ‘I know that, Kendra, believe me, I do.’ He guided her hand to rest against the bulge barely contained by his straining shorts. ‘But I can’t think very well at the moment. Perhaps if you could just help me out a little bit here –’ with his other hand, he slid open the bottom of the robe to reveal her lush thighs and beyond, ‘– then maybe I could concentrate on business a little better.’

 

She forced an irritated sigh that ended in a soft giggle as he pulled her to him, shoving the robe open still further, exposing her breasts to the explorations of his lips and the cupping of his hands as he eased her back onto the sofa, wriggling his way in between her legs. He had just worried open the sash and slipped a hand down to cup her and stroke the unbelievable warmth of her when a loud crash on the front porch caused them both to jump. She jerked the robe back around her, and he shot up from the couch like he was spring loaded.

 

‘What the hell?’ He scrambled to the door with her right behind him, tightening the sash of the robe as she went.

 

‘Wait, Garrett. Don’t open it.’ She reached for his hand, but it was already too late. He wasn’t thinking straight. How could he possibly be thinking straight when he had been just about to make love to Kendra Davis? He swung the door open wide and found himself, in nothing but his scant and somewhat bulging work-out shorts, with Kendra barely covered in his over-sized robe, on center stage to a sea of reporters. Cameras flashed, the press surged and before Garrett could close the door, the irritating Mike Pittman shoved a microphone in his face, shouldering his way into the breach of the door. Garrett remembered Pittman from Dee and Ellis’s meeting with the press a few weeks ago. The microphone might have been in Garrett’s face, but Pittman’s eyes and the lens of the cameraman’s camera were focused on Kendra, hair thoroughly mussed from last night’s romp, still tying the over-sized robe that was clearly his, and looking more than a little like she’d just been caught in the act.

 

‘So it’s true, then, Tess Delaney did spend the night with you after the Golden Kiss debacle?’

 

The Golden Kiss debacle! That slimy little rat! ‘Get out of my face.’ Garrett’s voice was a dangerous growl, and he wasn’t sure what would have happened if Kendra hadn’t pushed her way front and center.

 

‘Mr. Pittman,’ she said, in a voice way too good-natured for what Garrett was sure she must have felt. ‘The answer to that question is obvious. Where did you think I would be on such an occasion?’ As if to demonstrate, she ran her arm through Garrett’s and smiled up at him.

 

‘And what about Barker Blessing?’ Pittman pressed on. ‘Have you heard from him? From his lawyers?’

 

‘I think you need to talk to Mr. Blessing about that.’ She stepped forward into the man’s personal space and forced him back with nothing more than the power of presence. ‘If you’ll excuse us, Mr. Pittman –’ she shot a quick look around and offered a smile, and a polite nod to the rest of the rabble ‘– everyone. Coffee’s getting cold.’ Her smile turned wicked. ‘I’m starving, and Garrett promised to make me pancakes.’ Then she stepped back and shut the door in the man’s face — not slammed it — just shut it and turned to face Garrett, her back pressed against the door.

 

‘Make you pancakes?’ Garrett manages before she hijacked the conversation.

 

‘Rule number one,’ she said, before he could even utter the curse that was on the tip of his tongue ‘Don’t give the press any reason to up the ante.’ She shrugged. ‘Alright, you already blew that one last night, and this is the result.’ She nodded to the shuffling and mumbling they could still hear beyond the closed door. ‘This is why we needed things to go smoothly last night, and why we need them eating out of our hands now.’ She made her way into the living room and peeked around the edge of the curtain at the reporters on the lawn.

 

‘I blew it?’ He bristled and followed her to the window. ‘You’re the one who dumped your dessert in Blessing’s lap.’

 

And that was his fatal mistake. Would he never learn to hold his tongue around Kendra Davis? He could see the tension in her shoulders before she turned to face him. ‘It was dessert Garrett, just dessert, not your fist to the man’s face, not a law suit, not jail.’ She stood facing him with her hands on her hips, her eyes bright and fiery. ‘And would you have hit Pittman there, if I hadn’t stepped in?’

 

‘Oh you’re a fine one to talk about not resorting to violence,’ he said following her around the living room as she scooped together her clothing. ‘You, who nearly dislocated my jaw.’

 

She turned on him. ‘Oh pa-lease. You deserved it. You’ve deserved everything you got so far, and last night, well if you’d have just let me handle it, then this,’ she stabbed a finger at the door, ‘this wouldn’t be happening.’ She jerked off the robe and stood naked in front of him tugging her panties up over her hips and then shoving into the green dress. And fuck it was hard to stay focused with her doing that. Did she do that on purpose – get his cock’s full attention so his brain wouldn’t work? She probably did. She was a bitch, he reminded himself. How the hell could he forget the number one fact about Kendra Davis? The woman was a bitch. Interact with her at your own risk. He watched her stuff her stockings and garter belt into her bag like they were the enemy, and he was sympathetic.

 

‘Where’s the back door,’ she said.

 

‘Through the kitchen,’ he replied, his brain still half-occupied by her angry reverse strip-tease that had left him in a bad way. ‘Wait a minute. Where are you going? What are you doing?’ He followed her into the kitchen with her stumbling into her killer heels as she went.

 

‘Fixing it,’ she huffed. Then she fumbled in her bag for her iPhone. ‘Hi Dee. You home? Can you come get me. I’m at

Garrett’s.’ He was pretty sure Dee got the “don’t ask” warning in her voice. She would have to be deaf and stupid not to. ‘Come around back. The alley yes. Now.’ Dee lived close. Garrett hadn’t planned it that way, but it was a nice neighborhood. Kendra shoved her phone back into her bag and headed for the door. Then she turned her attention to him. ‘You stay put. Don’t go out until I give you the all clear. I mean it, or you can find someone else to fix your fuck-ups.’ Then she shoved her way out the back door, pulling it to carefully to behind her.

 

My Strange Encounter with Alonso Darlington: Final Entry

Grange Fell top 1This is it, the final details of my encounter with Alonso Darlington. As I said, I haven’t slept well since I posted the first entry, not really knowing what his response would be to these posts, but, as I said, sometimes social media can prevent a situation by bringing it to public attention. And I have come to the conclusion that if Alonso Darlington hasn’t made a meal out of me yet, and Talia hasn’t invaded either my dreams or my bed, then maybe I’m no longer considered a threat. Still, I have had an obsessive need to finish what I started, which I will now do in the last entry of my strange encounter with Alonso. Then maybe I can rest easy again.

When I wrote Landscapes, the strange erotic tale of Alonso Darlington and Reese Chambers, as a story to be published in the Brit Boys: On Boys Book Bundle, I had no idea what a rabbit hole it would send me down. It was just an interesting sexy story, made more so by the location and the fact that Alonso Darlington was … is a vampire. But after some time and consideration, I’m beginning to think that there’s a lot more going on than even Alonso Darlington knows about. The fact that it’s going on in my head is really beginning to scare me. 

*****

The room was as silent as a tomb after Talia left. God, I didn’t want to think of that analogy, but there it was, popping up in my head, and me alone with the vampire I thought I’d created, but wasn’t at all sure I could trust. Ha! Me being Alonso’s maker! The humour was almost, but not quiet lost on me.

I could feel his gaze rather than see it. But then Alonso’s gaze was nearly as physical as his touch. When it moved over me, I felt as though every part of me had not only been touched, but completely left naked and exposed. I kept my eyes focused on my hands folded in my lap as though I were offering up a white-knuckled prayer. Maybe I was. I honestly don’t know. I do know that I was scared witless. I had absolutely no clue what was going on or what was the significance of the conversation that had passed between Talia and Alonso. I was still struggling to get my head round what had happened and the fact that something so brutal could have been arousing as well as terrifying.

After what seemed like ages, Alonso released a heavy breath and came around the desk. He leaned back on it looking down at me where I sat, still avoiding his gaze. ‘Are you a fan of mythology?’

His question startled me, and I looked up. ‘Yes, why?’

In a move so fast I missed it until I felt the electricity of his touch shoot down my spine, he knelt in front of me and took my face in his hands so that I couldn’t look away. ‘You often write … stories that involve mythology, witches, demons, things that can’t be easily explained.’

I struggled to catch my breath enough to reply. ‘I write all sorts of things. I have an active imagination, like you said.’

He made a sound at the back of his throat that was enough like a growl to make the hair on my neck rise. ‘Your active imagination conjures a lot of very dangerous people.’

My laugh sounded high pitched and thin, bouncing off the stone walls. ‘You make me sound like a witch or something.’

He didn’t smile. ‘Not a witch. Not exactly.’

I couldn’t hold back a shiver, but I caught myself quickly. ‘I write fiction. That’s all.’

He said nothing, only studied me until I closed my eyes to get away from his intense gaze. It was the warmth of his lipsbritboysonboys cover image on mine that caused me to start, his electric touch playing over me like ripples on a pond. The room suddenly seemed tight, airless. I tried to get away from him, but he held me tight. ‘Perhaps she’ll allow you to believe that, but I doubt it.’

Before I could either panic or throw myself into his arms and offer up my neck, he stood and moved back behind the desk. ‘You’re free to go, K D. Talia will take you back to your room, and you have free run of the house for now.’ He gave a huff of a laugh. ‘There isn’t much you’ve not already seen, I suppose.’

He was right. It was an intuitive experience, finding my way around High View Manor. And it was uncanny that I should know the place so well, that it was the place I had created in my imagination for a story I’d written, and yet my creation was stone and wood all around me. I wandered the grounds when I felt claustrophobic inside the stone walls designed to keep a vampire safe from the northern sun – anemic in the winter and tireless in the summer. I wandered the grounds wrapped in the heavy jacket, which I found returned and hanging next to the wardrobe in my room, as if by magic.

I felt as though I’d fallen off the edge of the earth and ‘here be monsters.’ This was the Lake District! I loved the Lake District. My heart felt like it was home the first time I came here. But Lakeland is also a place full of magic and mystery. That the creations of my imagination should take shape in the reality of the waking world made me feel wrong-footed and not quite at home in my own skin. It was unsettling enough to see the world I had created in my head solid and stable all around me, but it was much more so to feel threatened by the flesh and blood people that until now I thought to be only characters in my imagination.

The sun was setting and I had just returned from a wander in Alonso’s garden, shivering from the cold wind that had gotten up some time in the afternoon, and had just been joined by gravy-thick mist. I heard voices in the day room, heard the mention of my name, and stopped short to listen.

‘If Talia didn’t put the story of our relationship in Ms Grace’s head then who the hell did?’ I recognized Reese’s voice and stepped closer on tiptoes.

‘It’s better that you don’t know,’ came Alonso’s reply. ‘Our cat’s out of the bag, so to speak. That means she should have no further interest in us.’ Then he added as an afterthought. ‘Though I honestly don’t know why she would want our story shared in the first place. I’ve kept my distance from her, respected her boundaries, kept her secrets – what few I know of them. I’m no threat to her.’

‘You’re recently returned to Lakeland,’ Talia said. ‘Granted High View and the surrounding fells is all your land, and you keep a low profile, but you’re here, and she’ll want to know exactly why you’re here and what your plans are.’

‘If she’s told my story to the writer, then she already knows my motives and that I’m no threat to her.’

No threat to who? Who the hell was he talking about? I felt like little ant feet were crawling up my spine. Christ! If there were someone out there who Alonso feared, someone whose attention he wanted to avoid, what the hell would they want with me? I was scared enough of him. Whoever she was, I was pretty damned sure I wanted nothing do to with her. I was so lost in my thoughts that I nearly missed Alonso’s next statement with all its implications.

‘Anyone else who she brings to Ms Grace’s attention, well that’s not our problem, is it? And the less we know the better.’

Anyone she brings to my attention? They thought this she, whoever she was, had made me write Alonso’s story? I was beginning to get seriously creeped out.

‘She was in Vegas last spring, our dear Ms Grace. You know that, right?’ It was Talia’s voice I heard now, and I inched still closer to the open door holding my breath. ‘More jet-lagged than usual from what I understand. I wasn’t so concerned when she was there the year before. But last spring, Mr. Graves had … company.’

‘It’s not our concern, Talia.’ Alonso’s voice was tight and irritable. ‘Mr. Graves has nothing to do with us, and if the woman writes his story, if that’s why she was so jet lagged, then better Graves than us. And he can certainly take care of himself.’

‘That’s easy for you to say.’ Talia’s voice, though low and controlled, made gooseflesh prickle up my arm. ‘But Ms Grace is here in the Lakes often, and you’re not the only one who has secrets, Alonso.’

‘What do you want me to do, Talia? Hmm?’ If she’s chosen Ms Grace to write the stories then there’s nothing any of us can do about it, and though Mr Graves might be angry, he won’t take her on, not directly anyway. There’s too much between them.’

‘Who’s she? Who the hell are you talking about?’ Reese asked, his voice raised in exasperation.

Alonso’s reply was curt, sharp edged with warning. ‘We’ll discuss this later, after our guest leaves.’

Talia spoke over a loud clearing of her throat. ‘And just how long do you plan to keep our guest listening at the door, Alonso?’

Before I could turn to flee, Alonso was at my side and with speed matched only by grace, he slid an arm around me and guided me into the day room where I was suddenly the center of attention.

‘I’m sorry. I was just coming in and I heard my name and … well what you were saying was …’

‘Frightening?’ Talia came to my side and smoothed the wind-blown hair away from my face, and the feather touch of her fingers sent the feeling of champagne bubbles bursting all over my body. ‘You have good reason to be frightened, scribe.’ Before I could step away from her, she pulled me into her arms and kissed me.

From somewhere a long way off I could hear Alonso and Reese, voices raised in alarm, but after that everything happened so quickly, I can only guess at events. They came to me like scenes lit by a strobe light, fast, frantic, and disjointed. There was a woman. I can’t recall how she looked, and yet I know if I ever see her, I’ll know instantly who she is. She was achingly beautiful and yet something about that beauty terrified me. I tried to run from her, through an overgrown garden, dark and wild and more alive than it should have been. And there were stones, all around me stones some sculpted, some grotesque, some worn away until I couldn’t tell if they were ever more than just the rock on the fells.

Then someone carrying a flaming torch walked inside me like I were the garden, ignoring all the places that I chose to share with the world and seeking out the darkness in me, the shame in me, the places I never visited myself, let alone invited company in for a look. I cried out, I screamed, I tried to chase the torch bearer away, but the more I tried, the more my darkness was illuminated.

And then I was falling down underground, at first into the ruins of a slate quarry, and then there were bright lights above me, but I walked in caves, through endless tunnels and caverns, and I walked among the dead, all the while knowing that the bright lights were above me and that above me people celebrated, people danced and drank and partied. Yet they were oblivious to the dead just below them, the dead I walked among as I followed the torchbearer through the darkness. I followed until we came to the edge of an abyss, and there, the torchbearer turned to me and spoke against my ear. ‘Write it. Write what I tell you.’ Then with the flat of her hand in the middle of my back, she gave a gentle push, and I fell over the edge.

I woke with a start, gasping for breath. I’m embarrassed to say that I might have actually been screaming. It was Reese who held me, and soothed me back into the waking world.

‘Goddamn it, Talia!’ Alonso was saying. ‘Why the hell did you do that?’

I was lying flat out on the leather sofa with Reese kneeling at my side. But Talia was kneeling next to him.

As I fought to sit up, Talia glided across the floor to Alonso, took his face in her hands and kissed him hard. He gasped as though she had gut-punched him, grabbed at her as though to keep from falling and then stopped trying as his legs gave and he dropped onto the love seat across from me where he sat breathing like he’d just ran a marathon.

Talia pulled herself up to her full height, squared her shoulders and spoke in a quiet voice. ‘Now you know. Now we all know. And there’s nothing we can do about it.’ Then she turned and walked out of the room.

‘Do about what? What did she just do? What did she see?’ Reese sounded as though he wasn’t all that far from the panic I felt in knowing that whatever had happened inside me, Talia had just conveyed to Alonso, and I was pretty sure they both understood it a helluva lot better than I did.

If Alonso wasn’t already dead, I’d have said he looked like death warmed over, and his gaze was locked on me as though I’d just sprouted horns and a tail. Then he pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket still holding me in a cast-iron gaze. ‘Stephen, see that Ms Grace’s clothes are packed and the car is brought around for her. She’ll be leaving immediately. Oh, and see that the jet is prepped to fly her to Heathrow.

It was full dark when Alonso walked me to the waiting SUV. Up until that time no one had spoken to me, though I had been well-fed, which was good because after whatever had happened to me in the day room, I was ravenous. The driver got out to take my bag and Alonso took my hands in his.

‘It isn’t over, K D.’ Before I could ask, he raised his hand to stop me. ‘I wish that I could tell you more, wish that I could
help you, but I can’t. I know little more than to tell you that you need to be careful, and you need to be prepared because mine won’t be the last story you’ll be compelled to write.’ He shrugged. ‘I’m overstepping my boundaries by even telling you that, but perhaps she’ll forgive me. Perhaps not. Still you should be warned. You should be ready for what’ll be asked of you. At least as ready as it’s possible to be. I am sorry, K D. Truly I am.’ He kissed me on the cheek, then nodded to the driver.

Under the circumstances I would have never thought it possible, but I slept most of the way home, dreaming of things too disturbing and too erotic for me to share outright with you. Most of them involving Alonso and Talia, but during those dreams, I always knew that she was watching. There were moments when I could almost figure out who she was, but then like most dreams, what I struggled to hold on to vanished into mist before I woke up.

I arrived home feeling groggy and raw. In spite of my fears, in spite on that prickly feeling that someone was always just behind me just out of my field of vision, I fell into my own bed without even undressing and slept a deep, dream-filled sleep, often feeling as though Alonso or Talia, sometimes both, were there in the bed with me, and always she watched just beyond the edge of my consciousness. I woke half-convinced that I’d dreamed the whole experience, but for the still-packed bag sitting on the floor in the hall. Even then, I thought perhaps I could have packed it in my sleep. Denial is a powerful thing. It was only after I’d gotten out of the shower and was drying myself that I noticed two tiny puncture wounds above my left breast. But even that I tried to justify as some sort of skin irritation or maybe an insect bite.

As I unpacked, I discovered the series of email exchanges on my iPhone, the iPhone that had been kept from me the whole time I was at High View, between myself and my husband. I had not written any of them, but they were conversational, so typically my own voice that my husband would have just assumed that the visit to High View was nothing out of the ordinary, though surely whoever had written them knew I’d tell him the whole tale when he returned home. But then again, when I did tell him, it wouldn’t make any difference, would it?

In the days that followed, I developed no aversion to sunlight, no desire to drink blood, no powerful urge to return to Alonso. Neither did Talia visit my dreams again. In the days that followed, I constantly questioned myself, tested myself, trying to discover exactly what it was about me that had changed. Something had, and yet I still can’t put my finger on what it was or why or how, but something is different.

Alonso’s parting conversation keeps coming back to me, and I wonder just what I aught to be prepared for, and who the hell she is. I keep trying to make sense out of whatever it was that happened between Talia and me, whatever it was that happened in my head, or in my imagination, or wherever it was. There’s no sense to be made of it, not really. But what I do feel is a sense of heightened expectation, as though something important, something that I need to do or know, is about to happen. But then again, perhaps it is nothing more than my overactive imagination exerting itself a little more than usual.

 

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Bodywork

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© 2017 K D Grace
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