Thursday, August 10, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The Big Guy in the Background

I've been hard at work on Quinn's story. It's called Take a Chance on Me, and I'm hoping to have it out by late September. As you probably recall, we met River's free-spirited roommate Quinn for the first time in All I Ever Wanted, the most recent book in the series, which came out in June.

Quinn's love interest, a police officer named Duke, had a small role in the last book as Cole's uptight roommate, but that wasn't the first time we've met him. He works with Finn Nolan, and as you may recall, Finn met and fell in love with Chance in Coming Home (book 9 in the Firsts and Forever Series).



Here's a quick scene with Duke from Coming Home, when Chance goes to the police station to return Finn's money before leaving town:

I went up to the huge, muscle-bound police officer with a crew cut behind the front counter and put the brown envelope in front of him as I said, “Could you please make sure Finn Nolan gets that? It’s important.”

He frowned a little as he got to his feet and said in a deep voice, “I can’t accept that for security reasons.” God lord, the guy had to be about six-eight.

“Oh! Shit, I didn’t think of that. Look, it’s not, like, anything harmful. That’s just something that belongs to him and I need to give it back.” I pulled out my wallet and showed him my driver’s license. “Here’s my I.D. If I was a terrorist or something, I wouldn’t show that to you. Please, just give the envelope to Finn. It’s really important.”

The guy glanced at my I.D. and looked surprised. “Your name’s Chance.”

“Yeah.”

“Finn mentioned you.”

Now it was my turn to look surprised. “He did?”

The cop nodded as I put away my wallet. “I don’t think he meant to. I’m not always behind a desk, usually he and I patrol together. He was smiling about something and staring out the window of the squad car a couple weeks ago. Looked like he was a million miles away. When I asked what he was so happy about, he said, ‘Chance.’ I asked who that was and he got really flustered and changed the subject. What are you to him?”

“A friend.”

The big officer knit his brows and studied me for a moment. Finally he asked, “What’s in the envelope?”

“It’s personal.”

He picked it up and weighed it in his hands, then said, “There’s a lot of cash in there.”

I hadn’t been expecting that, and no way was I going to tell him the envelope held twenty-two thousand dollars. There was just no explaining that much money. Instead I thought quickly and said, “You’re right. That’s nearly eight hundred dollars in small bills. Finn loaned me some money and I’m paying him back. You can see why I didn’t want to put it in the mail.”

The cop considered that, still studying me carefully, and asked, “What was the loan for?”

“A car repair. My Honda’s older than I am. It needed a whole new transmission.” I was completely bullshitting, but he seemed to buy it.

 After another moment, he picked up the phone and hit a button, then spoke into it, saying, “Come up to the front desk for a minute.” He hung up without waiting for a reply and told me, “Most people would have written a check. It’s not a good idea to carry a bunch of cash around.”

“You’re right.”

“Why aren’t you giving this back to him in person?”

“Because I’m heading out of town and won’t see him again before I go.” I actually got to tell the truth that time.

Someone came up behind the cop, and a familiar voice said, “We talked about this, Duke. Don’t just call people and then hang up without telling them why they’re being summoned. I mean, I don’t care, but it ticks off our coworkers.”

“Sorry,” the big cop said, turning and putting the envelope in Finn’s hands. “Your friend’s here. He wanted to give you that.”

Finn looked shocked when the cop moved aside and he spotted me, but he replaced it a moment later with a halfway decent poker face. “Thanks, Duke. I’m going to walk my friend out. I’ll be right back.”

*****

But believe it or not, Duke goes back even farther than that in the Firsts and Forever Series! Here he is in a quick scene from Against the Wall, book 7. Christian is visiting his love interest Shea at the same police station on Christmas, and he brought a big box of Chinese food for all the officers on duty:

I popped a shrimp in my mouth before asking, “Is it always this quiet, or do the bad guys take time off at Christmas?”

“It comes and goes in waves. We were really busy earlier, and sadly, we’ll be extremely busy tonight.”

“How do you know?”

“It happens every year. Domestic violence always increases on holidays.”

“Wow, that’s terrible. Why is that, do you suppose?”

“A lot of reasons. The holidays are emotionally draining, for one thing. There’s a lot of drinking and plenty of stress, which just adds to the mix. Plus, people are home at the holidays, so there’s simply more opportunity for an incident to occur.”

“Wow, Christmas through the eyes of a police officer. Not terribly cheery, is it?”

“Cheery isn’t a word I’d usually use to describe my job.”

A huge cop with a crew cut came up to us just then and put down a paper plate with homemade sugar cookies. “I didn’t catch your name,” he said in a deep voice.

“Christian.”

“I’m Duke. Thanks for bringing in that feast, it beat the hell out of the sandwich I’d packed for myself. Thought you guys might like some cookies, I made ‘em myself.”

“Thanks,” I said. “They look really good.”

“I called my mom for her recipe, but somehow they don’t taste as good as hers. Anyway, Merry Christmas and thanks again.”

“You’re welcome.”

When Duke left, Shea smiled at me. “That’s the most I’ve ever heard him say willingly. Normally, you can barely get more than a one-word answer out of him.”

“You should have plied him with Chinese food a lot sooner.”

“Apparently. Oh, and that’s one of the good aspects of my job, by the way.”

“Getting to work with giant men who bake cookies in the shape of tiny Christmas trees?”

Shea smiled at me. “The sense of camaraderie. Granted, everyone’s a bit cranky today because they’d rather be home, but still.”

*****

It delights me to no end that this minor character, the big guy in the background, basically, is getting his turn in the spotlight! I always thought it'd be fun to develop his character and find out what makes the giant, baking cop tick, and now I have my chance! I initially paired straight-laced Duke with wild child Quinn because I thought the odd couple dynamic would be fun, but they've been surprising me in the best possible way. 

I think Quinn himself says it best in these lines from the upcoming book: "At first, I’d only seen our differences. But we were the same, in so many ways. Here, finally, was someone who might truly understand me. By the same token, I thought I understood him in a way few people could."

I'm looking forward to getting this book into your hands, so you too can discover how two men who seem vastly different find a kindred spirit in the most unlikely place. <3