I’m extremely excited for my upcoming contemporary romance, BEHIND THE CURTAIN, out on May 2 and available for preorder now. This is a very special love story that begins when Asher and Laila are young adults and evolves into a second chance romance. Asher and Laila have to find a way to be together, and that journey is fraught with conflict, loss and eventually, happiness. BEHIND THE CURTAIN is a modern day love story that will make you consider issues of loyalty to culture, family, and the deepest feelings of the heart. I wanted to write a story where the hero or heroine didn’t just happen to be of another race or religion, but where it really mattered to their story and romance, where difficult choices had to made, even with the knowledge that loved ones would be affected forever by those choices.
On May 2, prepare to feel deeply and fall in love with this amazing couple . . .
BEHIND THE CURTAIN
The New York Times bestselling author who brought you Looking Inside, Glow, Glimmer, and The Affair is back with a new erotic novel that will have you begging for more.
There’s something about this woman…
On a break between overseas jobs, journalist Asher Gaites returns to his hometown of Chicago—and allows his friends to persuade him to check out a hot new singer. At a downtown jazz club, he’s soon transfixed by the lyrical voice and sensuous body of a woman who performs behind a thin, shimmering veil…
…That could bring a man to his knees.
The veil gives Moroccan-American Laila Barek the anonymity she needs, since she has never been able to reconcile her family’s values with her passion for music. But one man is inexplicably drawn to her. And when Asher confronts her on a subway platform after a gig, he’s shocked to recognize the woman who walked way from him eight years ago…
Laila has never been able to forget the touch, the feel, the taste of Asher. And despite the doubt and fear that wind their way into their lives, they must trust the heat of their desire to burn down the walls the world has placed between them…
Excerpt: Behind the Curtain
Laila shifted awkwardly on her feet. She was pretty used to this scenario: Zara and Tahi always managed to attract a horde of men, but Laila was rarely included in those first few rounds of flirtation. The bold attracted the bold, apparently. A third man lingered on the curb. He was good-looking, with nice, serious, dark brown eyes. Maybe, like Laila, he was the shy one of the group. He smiled and stepped toward her, nodding in greeting.
“Hi. I’m Jim Rothschild,” he said politely.
“I’m Laila,” she replied, shaking his hand. “And these are my cousins, Zara and Tahira.”
“You can call me Tahi,” Tahi told Rudy with a smile.
“Lucky me. Oh, and that’s Eric, but you can just call him Pretty Boy,” Rudy said with a dismissive wave at the tall guy. Eric was too involved in a quiet conversation with Zara to notice. “And this is—”
Rudy turned around in a complete circle and gave Jim a dubious look. “Where’d Asher go?”
“Still listening to the music, I think. He didn’t want ice cream. Oh . . . here he comes.”
Laila glanced in the direction where Jim looked at the same time she licked her ice cream cone. She froze with the ice cream on her tongue. The guy who had seen her naked today strode across the empty street toward them. He looked beachy casual in a pair of khaki shorts and an untucked blue-checked button-down that skimmed his lean, muscular torso appealingly. He moved with the kind of bone-deep, easy, athletic confidence that Laila always noticed and admired, probably because she knew she didn’t possess it herself.
I can’t believe this. He’s walking over here.
She suddenly didn’t know what to do with her arms or legs
. . . or how to breathe. All she could do was stare stupidly. His expression was preoccupied and serious, seemingly in direct contrast to his informal dress and lazy saunter as he approached his friends.
Garnering her will, she forced muscle movement, moving the ice cream cone away from her mouth and rapidly licking her lips clean. It felt like she swallowed gravel instead of cream.
His face wasn’t just handsome, it was strong. The nose was a little large, but well-shaped, the eyebrows dark and thick, the granite jaw slightly square and whiskered. Laila had found it an interesting face even when panicked there on the beach
. . . full of character. So male.
She couldn’t unglue her gaze from it now.
Those electric-blue eyes that she recalled so vividly from this afternoon suddenly zoomed in directly on her. His confident stride faltered a few feet from the curb. So did her heart.
“Ash, my man. Come and meet these beautiful fellow vacationers,” Rudy called smoothly.
Ash, of course. Short for Asher. That was what one of the guys had called him earlier on in the woods. He recovered his composure and approached them. Laila’s heart started an escalating drumroll in her ears.
“This is Tahi and Zara,” Rudy began. Zara glanced distractedly around Eric’s broad shoulders and grinned appreciatively at the newcomer. But Asher wasn’t looking at Zara. “And this is—I’m sorry, it was Lisa, right?”
“Laila,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. She couldn’t squeeze anything else out of her throat, because his stare hadn’t left hers since it first landed on her.
“Laila,” Asher repeated, as if he’d heard her perfectly, even though she’d been mumbling. He stepped toward her and took her hand in his. She swallowed thickly, unable to think of anything logical to say, but unable to look away from his stare either. His bronzed skin and dark hair emphasized his light eyes. He stood so close, she could see the black pinpoints in the blue and green of his irises. She had the impression he could see straight down to the heart of her. Oh God. He’d probably tell them all any minute now that this was the naked girl he’d caught at the inland lake.
Please don’t give away my secret. No one’s ever seen me like that.
It was a crazy, stupid, silent plea. He squeezed her hand warmly. Had her panic shown on her face?
“Asher Gaites-Granville,” he said, but it was like he was trying to tell her something other than merely stating his name. His gaze flickered downward. “Uh . . . your ice cream. It’s melting.”
She watched in rising confusion as he walked toward the counter of the ice cream parlor. He returned with several napkins. He nodded at the sticky liquid on her wrist and thumb and handed her the napkins.
“Do you think I could talk to you for a minute?”
She looked up in the process of dabbing the ice cream off her skin, her mouth hanging open in surprise.
Asher pointed behind her. “Just over there, under that tree would work.”
She glanced uneasily behind him, but Tahi, Jim and Rudy were all talking casually. Eric was leaning over Zara’s upturned face. Her cousin’s expression looked hungry. Sultry. Laila recalled her mother saying dramatically for the hundredth time that Zara would be the death of her mother. In that moment, it seemed like a definite possibility.
“Yeah, sure,” she told Asher, walking into the cooler air under a leafy oak tree thirty or so feet away from the others. She halted and turned, her heart in her throat, and looked up at Asher Gaites-Granville.
He started to speak, then exhaled uneasily. “You looked like you were going to be sick when you saw me back there,” he said.
He blinked. He had the most amazing eyes. They looked darker and bluer in the dimmer lighting.
“Both times, to be honest. It’s not the most complimentary thing for a guy to see.”
Laughter bubbled out of her throat unexpectedly. He smiled at the sound. God, he’s gorgeous. Her laughter faded. So did his.
“I’m sorry, for. . . for interrupting you like that this afternoon,” he said rapidly. “I wasn’t spying on you. I mean . . . I was for a little bit—to be honest—but it was only because you took me by surprise. And because . . . you know.”
Her cheeks burned. She stared down at her melting ice cream blindly.
“You didn’t tell your friends about it, did you?” she asked in
a hushed tone.
“Of course not. Laila?” Her chin jerked up at the sound of his deep voice saying her
name so quietly. . . so tenderly.
“I wouldn’t. Not about that.”
She blinked uncertainly, confused by the intensity of his tone. She saw him swallow thickly, and thought maybe he was a little knocked off-guard too.
“I’d never even let my friends know about that lake, not even Jimmy. I’d never blab about seeing you there. That’s what I wanted to tell you. You don’t need to look so afraid.”
She just examined him for a moment, tethered by his stare.
She nodded once, believing him completely for some reason. Something like relief broke over his face. Shyness swelled in her. Even though she believed her secret was safe with him, he’d still seen her stark naked. Why today, of all days, did I have to be a little rebellious, and skinny-dip?
What did he think, seeing me naked?
The memory of his obvious arousal rushed into her brain. She viciously damned her hot cheeks.
“You said it was your secret place too. Once,” she said awkwardly, keeping her face lowered to disguise her blush.
“Yeah,” he said, shoving his hands into his pockets and shifting on his feet. His legs were tanned and long and very strong looking. She glanced up at him cautiously when he didn’t immediately continue. “I haven’t been back there for four years, since I went to college in California. My parents have a house down a ways on the beach. I used to go to that lake regularly.”
A smile flickered across her mouth.
“What?” he asked.
“My family’s been coming to Crescent Bay for summer vacation since I was little, but I just discovered that lake four years ago. I’ve been going there ever since.”
“One guardian of the secret lake leaves, another one takes over,” he said quietly. Her smile widened. She liked that idea, fanciful as it seemed.
His eyebrows arched. He leaned toward her slightly. “And you’ve never taken anyone there?”
She shook her head. Her skin tingled in heightened awareness from their hushed conversation. From his nearness. . .
“Not even your friends back there?”
“They’re my cousins. And no. It’s my special place.”
“Now it’s ours, then.”
A dull roar sounded in her ears.
Behind the Curtain, available 5/2/17
Available for pre-order now at all outlets (for a full listing, visit here.