’Way back in the late Eighties, I wrote a novel called The Rose and the Dragon, which was finally published in 2004. Medieval-sounding, I know, and I’m certain some were disappointed if they bought it without reading the blurb, then discovered that while there was a rose and a dragon in the story, they were merely part of a design cut into the hero’s shoulder. Neither the plot nor the characters had anything knightly about them, either. When it was accepted by Class Act Books for re-issue, I found that a lot of things needed to be changed. My writing technique had improved greatly since the story was written so the first thing I did was go through the story and add and delete, re-arrange and tweak, explaining more about certain sections, and—I hope—making it an even better story.
What would you do if you read this ad in your local paper: NANNY WANTED. MUST HAVE ABILITY TO FACE ADVENTURE, EXCITEMENT, DANGER.
When Miranda Wilson answers just such an advertisement, she doesn’t realize what she’s walking into. It could’ve been the plot of a Gothic novel, with a handsome widower, three orphaned children, and herself as the innocent governess…but that’s before she meets her boss’ younger brother, a knock-out hunk by the name of Kitten.
There are odd undercurrents in the Andrus household, however, and before she knows it, Miranda Wilson, Nanny, finds herself Miranda Wilson, Alien Abductee, as she’s whisked to the planet Gataeus where Dominic Andrus is the head of the planet’s largest crime family and Kit is his chief hitman.
Now, she’s in the middle of an interplanetary war with her three charges as the prize.
What’s an Earthwoman to do?
At the time it was written, computers were huge, clunky objects with massive towers and bulky terminals, cell phones—for those who could afford them—were almost as big as those old army walkie-talkies, Smart Bombs had just come into use. At the time, it was published, not much had changed, but now…? Because this was a futuristic story, my aliens were the possessors of computers which were really desktop—they were embedded in, and part of, the desk instead of sitting on it. Their cell phones are small handhelds, which not only transmit audio but also images (Can you say Smart Phone?) Their missiles are programmed to seek out a target with a specific DNA, and they’ve discovered cold lasers. I made up that last item, not knowing that real scientists were at that moment attempting to do the very same thing.
Now, the story needed updating. No longer could my heroine appear awe-struck when the small object on her boss’ desk began buzzing and when picked up, an image appears demanding to speak to him. There was definitely a whole lotta re-writing goin’ on!
The characters themselves didn’t need so much revision as remodeling. Miranda was still slightly naïve but plucky and a little more up-to-date in her observations, her boss, Dominic Andrus was still droolworthy and GQ metrosexual-ish, as was his son Niki. The fourth character, and the most important to Miranda, was the one I needed to work on, as well as his relationship to her, and that was Dom’s younger brother with the highly unusual name of Kitten…
What to say about Kitten Andrus? Well…he’s a good father, if not the best husband-material, though it’s not his fault. The multi-married Kit has the misfortune to attract women who are social-climbers. They leave him as soon as they discover life with a younger Andrus isn’t as glamorous as life with the head of the family would be. The fact that Kit has a habit of getting his wife pregnant the first time they sleep together doesn’t help, either. As a result, at the time he meets Miranda, Kit has been married seven times and has eight children, and he’s not looking for Mrs. Kitten Andrus Number Eight. In fact, he’s decided never to marry again and he’s also had himself sterilized…just in case he gets tempted by another pretty face. Nevertheless, he does like the way the little alien nanny looks, so it appears that there may soon be another applicant for lady of the house, and a reversal of a certain procedure.
I really had to work on Kit because, unlike Dom, who’s fairly upfront about things, baby brother hides his feelings, broods over them, and never speaks about what’s important. He’s attracted to Miranda—yes—and she to him, but because his last wife died in childbirth, he’s determined never to be the cause of losing another woman he loves, or—as he considers it—killing her by having her bear his child. Kit has other secrets, too, and a very dangerous position in his brother’s household, and the continual risk of being killed makes him hesitant to tell Miranda how he feels. And then there’s that damned Isolationist Edict the Empire has, forbidding contact with any world outside their own system. Kit and Miranda not only have his past fighting them but the entire Empire also.
The Rose and the Dragon was fun to write because it was a kind of “duck out of water” story…taking a person out of her own environment and placing her in one where she’s the foreigner, the alien, and having her learn to adjust. Miranda does just that because she loves the people she’s involved with…the three children for whom she’s a nanny, her boss, and, of course, Kit…and when they’re threatened, she’s there to do whatever she can to protect them in her own, bumbling, Earthling way.
It was like the plot of a Gothic novel: a lovely young governess, a handsome mysterious employer, and his three motherless children...but there the resemblance ends. Miranda Wilson soon finds there is more to Dominic Andrus and his family than meets the eye.
The triplets are in the center of a custody battle between Dom and his in-laws who appear very dangerous indeed. After one of Dom’s ships is bombed and he and son Niki return home, Miranda is approached by a mysterious man saying he’s come to take her and the children to him. The moment she sees Kitten Andrus, Miranda knows he’s the man she’ll love forever. So what if he’s already had seven wives and doesn’t want Wife #8? She and the children go with him…
…and Miranda finds herself on the planet Gataeus where she discovers that Dom’s no ordinary parent but an interplanetary Mafioso and his “custody battle” is between two crime families, vying for control of the entire planet. In a flash, one governess from Earth finds herself swept into a war led by a madman whose only wish is to destroy three innocent children, their father, and Kit.
What can one little Earthling do to save the man she loves?
From somewhere, there was a sudden whisper of sound. Someone singing. As Miranda listened, she realized both voice and song were vaguely familiar. Who? It was too far away to recognize but she felt she should know. Following the sound along the terrace, she found herself at the back of the house where the stairs looked down on the garden courtyard, lit only by the light from the four moons.
Eyes closed, Kit lay on a soft chair resembling a lounger, long legs stretched out before him. The reflection from the golden pool washed over him in a pale yellow haze. On the stone near the chair sat a CD player, the music coming from it.
Miranda’s mouth fell open. Elvis Presley? One of the songs he’d recorded back in the ’Fifties. Something about wise men and fools and the fact that he couldn’t help falling in love with someone. That’s the last song I’d expect to hear. Especially in this place.
Carefully holding onto the railing, she tiptoed down the stairs. Kit heard her, opening his eyes and sitting up. “Can’t sleep, either?”
She shook her head, gesturing at the player. “I heard the music.”
“Gift from Dom.” He looked exhausted, as if he’d done a full day’s work in the few hours since she’d last seen him. “To play the CDs. We don’t have anything this primitive.”
“You’re going to have a little trouble if you’re thinking of pirating those.” She forced a laugh, hoping to make him smile. “Elvis has been dead for decades.”
“Wouldn’t that be a story for one of your newspapers?” He held up a finger as if writing a headline. “Elvis is Alive and Recording on Another Planet.”
“Stop it!” She stifled a giggle. “That’s too much like what they do print.” She was relieved when he laughed also, if a trifle wearily.
“Actually,” he sat up. “I was planning to transcribe these.” He indicated the jewel cases lying on the stones. “Onto chips, so I can play them through the computer. They aren’t compatible with my equipment. I may have to ask the twins to do it.” He gave a heavy sigh. “I’m not going to have time. Would you care to hear something else? I have some classicals. Mozart, Tschaikowsky.”
“Which do you like best?”
“That’s an odd combination.”
“Would you care to dance, Sentira Randa?” He stood up, catching her hand.
Dance? How do Gataens dance? His arms went around her and she was gathered against Kit’s chest, cheek resting against the soft knit of his sweater. Apparently just like Earthlings.
Holding her close, he guided her across the stones in rhythm to the music. Miranda took a deep breath, inhaling a clean laundry fragrance and another, more subtle scent…something spicy and slightly peppery, like cloves. It took her a moment to realize it was the faint smell of male alien sweat…of Kit himself. And it was such a shocking turn-on, sending a flash of heat through her entire body she stumbled slightly.
Kit’s embrace tightened, helping her regain her balance.
Elvis was now imploring his love to take his hand and his life, and once more reassuring her he couldn’t help falling in love with her.
Is he trying to tell me something with this music? Shaken by her sudden reaction to Kit’s scent, Miranda refused to let herself think about it.
The song died away. Kit stood still.
Miranda stayed where she was, leaning against him, not wanting to break the moment. She didn’t want to leave an embrace making her feel safe. She wanted to be lying with Kit in that black-satined bed, falling asleep with her head against his chest. Listening to his heartbeat. Smelling that sweaty clove-fragrance as it floated from his body. Making love in a spice-imbued cloud. My God! She realized she’d never before had such thoughts like that about any man …definitely not any of her boyfriends and certainly not Niki or Dom.
They had stopped at the edge of the pool; she could hear the water lapping gently as the wind blew over it. Slowly, she raised her head.
He was looking down at her, green eyes reflecting gold from the lights beneath the water. Is that a question in his eyes? If Kit makes love to me, I’ll always wonder if he means it or if he’s simply trying to fill a void in his life. She thought of all the women he had brought to Soldotna, all the wives abandoning him, and of Cyntis, remaining to die.
He was going to kiss her. She just knew it. And if he did…
No, I won’t be another. Abruptly, she pushed him away. Put both hands on his chest and just...pushed...
It seemed to happen in slow motion.
Kits jerked slightly and stepped backward into space. Arms and legs flailing, he tumbled toward the water. One hand shot out, seizing hers, and Miranda was pulled toward him in a graceful arc of fluttering fabric and flying hair.
They hit the water with a splash, Miranda landing on top of him, his arms going around her as they sank. It seemed to take forever before they surfaced, splashing upward, coughing and gasping.
The boom box had started another song, but in this one Elvis was stating plainly how much he wanted…needed…his love…with all his heart.
“It’s a good thing I can swim.” Raking wet hair out of his eyes, Kit’s splutter smothered Elvis’ complaints. “Why in Hell did you do that?”
“I don’t know! Oh, I’m so sorry.” Suddenly, she was frightened. What if he’s angry?
“I think you’re the only one who’s ever caught me off-guard, Miranda Wilson.”
He began to laugh again, releasing her long enough to brush back a curl dripping water into her eyes.
Miranda stared up at him.
Kit stopped laughing.
He kissed her.
The Rose and the Dragon is set for a June 15 release
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