Author's Notes Skin Deep
This is my first I-Team After Hours novella. The "I-Team After Hours" stories have that name to distinguish them from regular full-length I-Team novels. They don't take place in the newsroom or involve I-Team members, but rather focus on some of the secondary characters readers have come to love. After all, everyone deserves a happily ever after, right?
This novella takes place chronologically after Breaking Point. It features Megan (Rawlings) Hunter as the heroine. Readers will remember her as Marc Hunter's little sister fromUnlawful Contact. (Note: Because this story is connected with Unlawful Contact, it gives away key elements of that book's plot. You will want to read Unlawful Contact first, unless you don't mind spoilers.)
I always felt such compassion for Megan. She is a character who lived through absolute hell as a child and teenager and who struggled to overcome the emotional damage, first by erasing the pain with heroin and then, with her brother's help, finally facing what had been done to her. When we connect with her again in the pages of this novella, she's made a lot of progress and is living a "normal" life. The only downside of her life is her inability to connect physically with men.
Enter Nate West. A hero's hero, he connects with Megan even before they speak a single word to one another, and when she needs him most, he is there for her, saving her life when the past rears its ugly head. His character was pure joy to write, a wounded warrior who was not so mentally shredded that he was unable to render service to others. There have been a lot of stories written about veterans with PTSD, and Nate does grapple with post-traumatic stress. But by the time we meet him, he, like Megan, has largely won that struggle, as many of our veterans have. The final healing he needs comes from Megan's acceptance of his scarred appearance and her love.
The unexpected part of writing this story was falling head-over-heels in love with Nate's father, Jack West, a no-nonsense Vietnam veteran with a strong personality and mouth to match. A grieving widower, he loves his son with everything he is. He has put his own grief aside to help his badly burned only child heal. When Megan enters Nate's life, he's concerned and yet also fair to Megan. But Jack is not prepared for the 4-year-old bundle of sunshine that is Emily, Megan's daughter. Watching Emily wrap both Nate and Jack around her itsy-bitsy finger was pure fun. I adore Jack so much that I plan to give him his own novella or perhaps even a novel one day.
The horses were fun to write, too, and I love the setting of the Cimarron Ranch. I might well set a few more stories up there. I didn't want to say goodbye.
After the main story, I included a fun little story, which is dedicated to the members of the Facebook I-Team group. Not long ago, one of them posted, "We'll read anything you write, even if it's just Marc and Julian making a beer run." And so I decided to write that exact story as a thank-you to them for their support and online friendship.
Writing this 5,000-word short story was a blast. What happens when you get six alpha males together to run a few errands, including a stop at a liquor store? Well, you'll have to read it to find out.
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