Please welcome Ines Johnson and her new paranormal romance, Moonlight. It’s second in her Moonkind series. Please tell us what inspired you to write this series.
These stories are based on my favorite holiday movies. Starting around November, cable channels start to run romantic comedies like While You Were Sleeping and Moonstruck. I will stop what I’m doing and watch these films, even if I catch them in the middle. What gets me each time is that love comes to the characters unexpectedly and they’re helpless to do anything about it.
Although I’m a fan of romantic comedies on cable, I’m not the hugest reader of that genre. I like a touch of magic with my romance novels. That got me thinking; What if these books were set in a paranormal world? I wrote Moonrise, my adaption of While You Were Sleeping in December. Then in January, I penned Moonlight after I caught Keanu Reeves stomping grapes in A Walk in the Clouds. And in February, I adapted the Cher classic Moonstruck into Moonfall with a wolf that is barely on this side of sanity, but he loves hard. Enter my paranormal romance series full of alpha men and the strong, capable women that bend them to their knees. If you like a touch of magic in your romance novels, then you’ll love the witches, fairies, and wolves in the dystopian world of the Moonkind.
Fascinating. Tell us about Moonlight.
You can never go home again…
Viviane Veracruz is on her way home from university with a degree in one hand…and a baby in her belly. Desperate to escape the judgment of her family, she accepts a sexy stranger’s offer to pose as the father for a few days. The plan is for him to run off leaving her family none the wiser. But the longer Pierce Alcede stays, the more she can’t let him go.
Home is where the heart is…
Pierce Alcede has finally come to terms with the fact that he is a lone wolf, prone to roam the wilderness alone and never settle down with a family of his own. When he meets a pregnant woman in need, he thinks nothing of stepping in to take the brunt of her family’s ire. But somewhere between working on the Veracruz Ranch by day and climbing into Viviane’s bed at night, Pierce forgets to run away.
Can a woman searching for a place to belong find a home with a man who lives to roam?
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How about an excerpt?
Excerpt: Meet Cute (PG)
Viviane splashed water on her face for the third time, but the taste of bile still rested on her tongue. How had she gotten herself into this situation? She leaned her head against the cool surface of the mirror as the rocking of the train continued to toy with her unsettled stomach.
She looked at herself in the mirror. There were bags under her eyes from alternately crying all night and not sleeping at daybreak. She’d never considered herself a weak woman, not a damsel of any kind. Not with the family she came from. She was made from stock that would stand up to any man, even if he was ten feet tall and twice as broad. But it was an average man that had brought her down so low. There was no weapon she had, no strength she could muster, no argument she could draft to best him.
Viviane took a paper towel and wiped at her face. She tossed the towel and headed out of the bathroom. Looking out the window, she noted that the scenery was beginning to look familiar. A forty-foot high Saguaro cactus rose into the night sky. Its arms stretched out like the branches of a tree to welcome her home.
Oh Goddess. She was only an hour from her home.
Panic crept in as the train got closer and closer to Senora. She had the sudden instinct to debark now, turn tail, and run the other way. But she had nowhere else to go. She couldn’t go back to Sequoia and face his uncaring, pitying eyes. Once she got home, and her family learned about the mess she’d gotten herself into, they would certainly turn her out.
Or worse. Her mother would insist she stay, and then the real torture would begin.
The train lurched and Viviane had to lean against a seat to steady herself. Her empty stomach protested with a groan. It wasn’t until she was on her way back to her seat that she remembered the guy whose night she’d ruined by offering up her last meal. He wasn’t in his seat when she returned. He’d likely moved to an entirely different train car after he’d cleaned himself up.
She felt awful for what she’d done to his pants. But, in her defense, he had been a typical man. Only interested in what was up her skirt. Not what was in her head, or what came out of her mouth. As soon as she showed she had thoughts in her pretty head, he’d turned and ran, just like any average man. Anger replaced the bile as she stood in the aisle looking down at his empty seat.
“Hey sweetie, why don’t you come over and sit with us.”
Viviane turned to see a pack of human frat boys on the other side of the car. It looked as though they’d just got on. Otherwise, they’d be giving her the side-eye along with the rest of the passengers who’d smelled her earlier performance.
“Come on.” One of the boys approached her. He was of average height with pale skin, brown hair, and brown eyes. He wasn’t gorgeous, but neither was he unattractive. He looked… average. “We don’t bite, but it looks like you do.”
Where was her roiling stomach when she needed it? These were the perfect guys to spit up on. But her stomach seemed to have remembered that she was made of stronger stuff. She was a Veracruz. She crossed her arms over her chest and prepared to tell the men off, just like any Veracruz woman would do.
“Leave her alone.”
Viviane’s gaze swung up to see her seatmate coming up behind the frat boys.
“I didn’t hear the woman say she didn’t want to sit with us,” said the lead frat boy.
“I didn’t hear the woman say she did,” said the wolf.
Viviane looked from the alpha male to the alpha wolf because she realized now that her former seat companion was definitely wolf and definitely alpha. He’d cleaned himself up, but she still caught the hint of digested sick on his pants.
“Excuse me, but the woman can speak for herself,” she said.
“Well, come on over, puppy,” said the frat boy.
“Puppy?” She wrinkled her nose at the clean-cut smell of the human. “Shifters and dogs are not the same species. The same class; yes. But not the same family.”
The frat boy looked at her blankly. Viviane felt confident in correctly identifying his biological classification in the taxonomic hierarchy. Class of fraternalis. Family of Greek. Species of douche.
The douche grabbed at her elbow. “Let me introduce you to a new breed of fun.”
His clever quip didn’t change Viviane’s estimation of him. He was an average, thin-skinned, human male. Where did he get all of this bravado? Where did any of these average men who gave mediocre answers to complex questions get their unfounded confidence? She’d spent two years on a campus with them. For two years, she’d rolled her eyes at their ill thought out answers. For two years, she’d tried and failed to close her gaping mouth at their moronic notions and solutions.
And here was another mediocre male who brimmed with unfounded conviction. As a woman and a wolf, she had to work twice as hard to gain half her worth. And she’d still been trampled and used by a man like this one.
Viviane looked down at his stubby hands on her elbow. “You’re going to let me go,” she said on an exhale after taking a deep breath.
The boy tightened his grip and gave her a tug in the direction he wanted her to go. “Oh come on, baby. I hear you wolf bitches like it rough. I’ll even use my teeth.”
True, ‘bitch’ was the scientifically correct term to classify her, and Viviane loved all things scientific and factual. But there was just something about a man calling a woman of any breed a bitch. She clenched and unclenched her fingers reaching for patience. Her wolf howled to get out and maul this little beast. But she couldn’t let her wolf out. Not for nine more months.
She made out a low growl. She was surprised it hadn’t come from her. It was the alpha wolf. His eyes flashed, and he reached for the boy. But the boy’s arm twisted away from the wolf. Then little douche-boy squealed like a pig.
“Hey, hey,” whined the boy. “I’m sorry.”
The other frat boys, the alpha wolf, and the passengers all gaped at Viviane. They had looked wary when the boys were harassing her. No one had come to her defense, except the wolf. But he likely only came to her defense out of some racial-solidarity notion. Or to flex his alpha balls. Likely the ball-flexing.
“I’m not interested in your apology.” Viviane tweaked the frat boy’s muscle. She knew this muscle and the amount of pain it was causing. She’d aced her Anatomy exams last year. And it wasn’t because she had extra tutoring lessons with her Anatomy professor. Even though she had explored every bone on Professor Lui’s body. “I’m not something you can manhandle and then toss aside like a piece of trash when you’re done toying around with me.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t think you’re trash. I didn’t mean to handle you.”
“Just because I’m strong and independent and have my own thoughts, it doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. I’m not here at your beck and call.” The last word broke as it left her lips.
Viviane let the boy go. He collapsed to the floor. He looked like a broken toddler. She took a deep breath to compose herself. She hadn’t cried in front of Daniel and she would not cry now in front of this douche bag.
“And don’t call me a bitch,” she growled.
All passengers, seated and standing, shook as the train lurched to a stop. The boys fell into their seats. The alpha wolf beside her stood firm. Viviane wobbled. The wolf held out his hands, but did not touch her. His arms spread around her like an open cage.
“You two dogs off,” shouted one of the train’s officers. He looked between Viviane and the alpha wolf.
Viviane sighed. She didn’t feel inclined to repeat her biology lesson. There were still some racists in the world who were afraid of moon children. It appeared this guy was one of them.
“Listen, I’ll go,” she said. “But he didn’t do anything.” She pointed to the wolf.
“Don’t care,” said the train officer. “Don’t want no more malarkey on the train.”
Malarkey? Where was this guy from? The twentieth century?
Viviane made her way back to her seat and hefted her bag down. The wolf did the same. He didn’t offer to help her with her bag this time.
They debarked out into the middle of the desert night. As soon as they were clear of the tracks, the train picked up and took off.
“I’m sorry about that,” Viviane said. “But I didn’t ask for your help. You should’ve stayed out of it.”
“I didn’t ask for your breakfast,” he said.
Viviane opened her mouth to launch into an argument, but instead of harsh words, a sob came out. She couldn’t take it any longer. She sat down on a rock and balled. The one thing she knew for certain was that tears were certain to drive a man away, which was fine because she wanted to be left alone. Instead, warm arms came around her.
Viviane stiffened. “What are you doing?” She leaned back, breaking his embrace.
The wolf looked at her, befuddled. “You’re crying.”
“That’s what I’m doing. What are you doing?”
He was down on his knees with his arms around her. “I’m comforting you. That’s what happens when someone is sad.”
“But you don’t know me.”
“Does that matter? You need to be comforted.” He opened his arms wide.
Her torso moved independently of the rest of her body, and before she knew it, she was in this stranger’s arms. Even though she scented the sick on him it felt amazing resting against his chest.
“You don’t have to do this,” she said while her face rested on the cushion of one of his pecs.
“Yeah, I know,” he said. “My mother says my weakness is that I always try to do the right thing. Even if it winds up hurting me.”
“My mother says I always do the opposite thing. She says I’m stubborn and that will get me into trouble.”
“It looks like you’re doing fine.”
She turned her head and rested it on the opposite pec, which was just as comfortable as the first. “You don’t know the whole story.”
“Want to tell me? We have a ways to walk before the next station.”
“I can walk home from here.” She looked out at the looming landscape. The Saguaros seemed to lean back to show her the way to her ancestral home.
“Your feet don’t seem to be moving,” said the wolf.
“That’s because I know when I get home, my mother will kill me.”
“I’m sure you’re exaggerating.”
“I’m not exaggerating,” she said.
He pulled back and Viviane was sorry for it. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been held like this. Her mother wasn’t a hugger. Her father hadn’t been around a lot. Daniel had embraced her many times. Before or during sex. He’d never tried to comfort her hurt feelings. Mainly because he’d been the cause of so many of them.
Viviane took a deep breath and let loose the thing she’d been holding onto for over two months. “I’m pregnant.”
And now something about yourself. Where can readers reach you to find out more about your books?
I write books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slain by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!
Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, I’m a very bad Buddhist. I sit in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, I’m contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen my plots and character motivations.
I live outside Washington, DC with my two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.