I love Halloween. It’s not that I’m a fan of scary stuff (I can only watch The Walking Dead in the full light of day, surrounded by pillows, with my eyes closed for about half the show.) What I love about Halloween is the pretend element!
Look, I spend my days talking to fictional people. Reality is not where I live.
And my artistic husband has carved some excellent jack-o-lanterns over the years without the benefit of tracing or kits. Last year’s:
Last spring, it occurred to me that with all the books I’ve written that revolve around a holiday (Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s, Thanksgiving…even St. Patrick’s Day!) I’d never written a Halloween story before. Well, I’ve fixed that!
IF SHE DARES, my October Blaze, tells the story of Riley Kendrick, a feisty Atlanta woman who has become uncharacteristically skittish after being robbed at gunpoint. Her sexy new neighbor, forensic artist Jack Reed, has vowed to never again get romantically involved with someone who lives in his building, yet he can’t resist the challenge of helping Riley rediscover her daring side. Below is an excerpt from the book where the two of them go costume shopping.
I’d love to know what you think—and I’d love to know what you’re planning to be for Halloween!
They passed several rows of creepy decorations, then into the adjoining room with costumes–or, more accurately, the scraps of material and fishnet the proprietors had mislabeled as costumes. Lord have mercy. She’d joked about leather thongs at the lingerie store, but she was more likely to find one here.
“Wow.” Jack’s tone was reverent. “I feel like a kid who was just given the keys to the candy store. Any idea where you want to start?”
“Nope.” She went to a column of masks. These weren’t rubber witch faces or the iconic, elongated Ghostface from Scream; they were more like Mardi Gras masks, elegant and mysterious. She couldn’t resist trailing her finger over a sapphire-blue one, edged in black sequins. The thought of feeling like someone else for the night was thrilling.
She stole a glance at Jack’s profile as he browsed a shelf of accessories. Could she convince him that an affair would be like a prolonged masquerade? Not real life, not a real relationship, but something temporary and fun and cathartic.
“Pfft.” He shook his head at a pair of cheap plastic handcuffs, his voice full of disdain. “Like I’d spend money on these when I have friends who’d let me borrow the real thing.”
She couldn’t recall having any handcuff fantasies–in the past, she’d liked men who knew just how to use their hands–but suddenly she was intrigued. She watched Jack, assessing, wondering. What would it be like to have such a big, strong guy at her mercy, to take all the time she wanted to drive him completely crazy with desire? Her fingers curled at her side, as if she were trying to keep herself from reaching for him.
He raised an eyebrow at whatever he saw in her expression. “You look like you’ve switched back into Evil Riley Mode. I don’t know what’s going through your mind, but I think I like it.”
So do I.
“Hey!” His gaze went just beyond her, and he grinned. “Superhero stuff. It’s our lucky day. You wanted to be a superhero as a kid? Well, here you go.” He lifted a star-spangled gold-and-red bustier from the rack. “Oooh. This is…patriotic.”
She eyed the top, considering. It was revealing, but no more so than bathing suits she’d worn in the past. Daring, but not tacky, which was more than she could say about the Naughty Nurse or Passionate Bo Peep costumes. Actually, the top was kind of badass. The bottom half of the outfit consisted of gold shorts with a skirt flap over them.
Jack wiggled the hanger. “Dare you to try it on.”
“Okay.” She wasn’t sure which of them was more surprised by her agreement.
“If they have it in my size, yeah. And in return, I dare you to try on this.” She held up a men’s superhero outfit that was essentially a body stocking with a belt and a pair of Speedos over it.
He studied it with a mixture of skepticism and horror. “That…I…”
She clucked soft chicken noises under her breath, and he yanked the costume away from her.
“Fine,” he relented. “You’re on.” He turned toward the changing room in the corner while she browsed the rack for a bustier that would fit tightly enough to be supportive without leading to any unflattering spillover. Then she grabbed a pair of bottoms and, on a whim, checked the shoe shelf for knee-high boots. Might as well complete the outfit–nobody likes a half-ass superhero. Once she found what she needed, she impulsively grabbed one final accessory for Jack and returned to wait by the fitting room.
The doors were saloon style, two halves that didn’t fully reach the ground or go to the ceiling. He flung them open like the ticked-off lead in a cowboy movie who’d been given the wrong wardrobe assignment for the day.
“Look your fill,” he grumbled, “because this thing is coming off in the next two minutes, and I’m never putting it on again.”
She didn’t need to be told to look—she was already actively ogling. Hello. It was probably for the best that he wasn’t planning to wear this to the building party. Female tenants, too busy staring to watch where they were going, would end up plummeting off the roof. The bright color and his annoyed expression should have lent a comical element, but all she could think about was the toned, taut male perfection in front of her. Her gaze started at his broad shoulders and slowly traveled downward. By the time she reached the belt and beyond, she was feeling lightheaded.
“Riley.” His tone was considerably silkier than it had been a moment ago. “I have to admit, the way you’re looking at me makes this almost worth it. But I should definitely change now.”
“Wait! One more thing. Humor me?” She stepped toward him with the mask that matched his costume. It was a partial mask, meant to cover only the eyes. She stretched up to smooth it over his face, reveling in the excuse to be this close. “I just wanted to get the full effect.”
His dark eyes gleamed from behind the fabric, and her fingers stilled at his temples. Their faces were close enough that they could share breaths, except she didn’t think either of them was breathing.