Thanks to her cheating ex-husband and her thieving brother, all horse breeder Nikki Kimball has left is a bruised heart, an over-drawn bank account and an empty home. When sex-on-legs Dillon Barnett and his brooding foster-brother Brett Anderson start showing more than just neighborly attention, Nikki is intrigued...and a little gun-shy.***
Dillon and Brett have a history; back in high school, the two friends fought a bitter battle over Nikki. Now, ten years later, Brett still longs to be the man in Nikki’s life, but he's determined to stand back and let Dillon win Nikki's heart.
Society says Nikki must choose between the two men she loves. Is Nikki strong enough to break all the rules in order to find happiness?
First of all, big thanks to Carrie for having me here today. I'm often asked where I get the ideas for my characters, if they're based on anyone. No one specific, I answer. Usually they're a conglomeration of some spectacular women I've met who have overcome odds that would cripple most of us. You see, I used to teach at a local college, I taught courses that catered to helping women in abusive relationships find their feet, and more importantly find employment so they could afford to leave the situation they were in. We had to give them not only the skills to support themselves but also to regain the confidence they'd lost after enduring years of put-downs, and usually physical abuse as well.
The change I saw in some of these women was remarkable. I'll always remember one woman--when I first met her on her first day of school. She'd huddle at her desk, never looking up. She was afraid to ask questions and sat quiet as a mouse. A couple weeks later, she was the very first student (and I think she was the only one) to ever ace any of my exams. When I handed her the exam and pointed to her mark, she broke my heart by breaking down in tears. As was usual with most of my students, her husband had told her for years she was stupid, that she'd never be capable of anything without him. And now she'd proven to him--and herself--that she wasn't.
She not only breezed through my course, but she went on to graduate at the top of all her classes. When I met her at her graduation (she was the valedictorian), I didn't recognize her. She was a totally different woman. She'd found a job working at one of the top law firms in downtown Toronto, was providing for her children, and had dealt with her ex. (To be honest, she'd already managed to walk away from him before she'd started school, but he continued to stalk her and her children to the point where we were afraid for her safety.) But where that first day I'd met her, her body language was one of total submission, now she had the confidence to hold her head high and look people in the face. I got to know a lot of women that like.
Women who have not found their happy-ever-after with the first guy. Who endured a marriage and come out the other side, jaded about love, and unsure who to trust with their love, unsure if they ever can trust anyone ever again. So I tend to draw some of those women's stories, some of the characters I saw them as they emerged from their cocoons into beautiful, confident woman.
In TEXAS TANGLE, the heroine Nikki Kimball is like many of my students. Heck, she's like most of my friends. She's always tried to do right by her parents, by her family, to do the right thing, but when she's down, there's seldom been anyone around to help her back up. Nikki married young, straight out of school, with stars in her eyes. She'd thought she'd found her Prince Charming. Except she quickly discovered he wasn't just a frog, he was a snake. Oh, he didn't hit her, but sometimes words can hurt just as bad as any fist. By the time you meet Nikki, she's already kicked the snake to the curb and is on her own, looking to write her own happy ending, trying to maintain her dignity and regain her self-respect, to be independent. Trying to help her brother up when he's landed himself in a pickle, help him the way she'd wished someone would help her. Except she's just come home to find her brother has taken her for everything she owned. Her clothes, her furniture, even her bank account.
Enter Nikki's neighbor, Dillon Barnett. Dillon's laid back; he's confident; he's optimistic that everything will always work out. Whenever I was writing Dillon, I'd picture him whistling happily, smiling about something. (I actually have a friend like this--everyone's his best buddy. It's rather nice being around someone who's always happy. Although sometimes you just want to swat him up the back of his head because he's so trusting of everyone. All right, maybe it's just me who gets frustrated by his naivete.)
What was most important to Nikki is Dillon's always been there, and that helps break some of her reserve, gives her the confidence to take a chance again. Oh, there's never been anything between them before. That Nikki is aware of, anyway. What she doesn't know is that Dillon had a crush on her back in high school but never acted on it. That when his foster-brother and best friend Brett kissed her during senior year, Dillon got downright snarly and mean. She never heard about the fight over her that just about ended their friendship.
When I originally outlined TEXAS TANGLE, it wasn't supposed to be a ménage. It was supposed to be a novella following Nikki and Dillon having a fun weekend, of Dillon trying to cheer Nikki up and remind her how much fun life could be. But once I started Brett, I realized it was going to be more. Brett had loved Nikki for years. He deserved his shot with Nikki too. So when Dillon and Nikki and connect at the start of TEXAS TANGLE, Brett has to make a decision. Even though he's been stopping by and offering Nikki his own form of support, he decides to stand back. Because he's afraid that if he doesn't, he'll lose not only Dillon's friendship, he'll lose the love of Dillon's family who all but adopted him.
What's a writer to do when both men loved the heroine and they both deserved their happy-ever-after? There was the challenge. Because I'm a firm believer that everyone deserves a happy-ever-after.
If you want to read more about Nikki and Dillon and Brett in their TEXAS TANGLE, you can find excerpts on my website or on my blog, where you'll find trailers and excerpts. You can also friend me on Facebook or on Twitter.
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