Lovers' Stone is part of a trilogy that I wrote for Ellora's Cave. The stories were originally supposed to all be part of the EC Jewels series, stories that focus around a birthstone for a given month. Mating Stone was an Amethyst release and the first of the stories in the Jewels of Ursus trilogy. It told the story of the eldest Ursine brother, Mark.
The third and final story in the trilogy has just received its first edits and had been planned to be an Opal release for October. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the story grew beyond the novella length and will be released outside the Jewels line. Soul Stone will tell the story of Tarris, the incubus who was against all rules of their world taken in by Mark and Luke's father and raised alongside his sons. Tarris has been a star player in each of the first two stories, and will get his own story soon. He already has this awesome cover from the EC cover gods.
Today's excerpt comes not from Lovers' Stone but from Mating Stone. This is a peek at the interaction between Luke and Sarah, the heroine of Mating Stone.
Her heart was fluttering and she willed her overly vivid imagination to stop before it got carried away imagining all sorts of bizarre scenarios. “What is going on here? Why did you lock that door?”
The brown eyes rolled and he gave an amused snort. “Woman believe me, this is where you want to be right now.”
“Why? What’s happening out there?”
Luke closed his eyes, boredom pouring from him. “Don’t play stupid with me. You know what’s happening.”
“I’m sorry but I don’t,” the fear was growing and starting to fuel a flame of anger. “What is Mark doing and why do I need you to protect me?” Her heart was pounding so hard she could hear it thud, especially when her own ears heard just how frightened she sounded.
One eye opened and looked at her. Luke sat up, swinging his long legs back to the floor and stared at her as if she had a puzzle written across her face. “It’s not possible,” he muttered softly. “Mark isn’t this stupid.”
“What are you talking about?” she demanded.
Luke stood and began to pace the room. He paused, “She’s wearing the pendant. He has to have told her. He wouldn’t hide this from his mate.” Luke shook his head slowly, “Would he?” he seemed to be talking to himself so she stood silently watching him as he began to pace again. After several minutes he stopped at the far end of the room and turned to look straight at her. Faster than she had ever seen anyone move, he closed the distance between them, grasped her left hand and turned it palm up. The oath he uttered was loud and coarse.
She tried to control the tremble of fear that was making her knees weak and shaky. She bit down to keep her lip from quivering noticeably. Luke stared into her eyes for a long moment. “You really don’t know what’s happening, do you?” The awe in his voice gave way to a flash of fury as he thrust her hand away and dropped back down onto the sofa. “By all that’s holy, you really don’t know.” Sarah watched him shake his head. “Oh my brother, you’re not only a fool, you’re an unmitigated ass to boot.”
“Mark isn’t a fool or an ass.”
She was rewarded by a derisive snort of angry mirth. “Little Sarah you have no idea who or what my brother is or you’d already have run away screaming.”
The remark made no sense and she decided he was trying to confuse and frighten her. “So now that we’ve decided I don’t know, would you please answer my question? What is happening out there? What is Mark doing?”
The anger seemed to vanish as if he squelched it deliberately. The lazy smile was back.
“What’s he doing out there? Being the noble, idiotic, idealistic fool he has always been.”
Sarah felt her jaw clench. He was the most infuriating man. He was deliberately wicked and argumentative not to mention he seemed to have mood swings that made any woman’s PMS seem tame. No wonder Mark disliked him. He shook his head in disbelief at his own thoughts and muttered so softly she almost missed the words, “Giving it up and he hasn’t even mated to her, hasn’t told her…”
He wanted to be difficult, she could be difficult to. She’d keep at it until he answered. “All I’m asking for is a straight answer. There’s something you think I should know but don’t. What don’t I know?”
“More than you can imagine.” Sarah gave a high pitched grunt of frustration. A soft chuckle escaped the man’s throat and he held his hands up in concession. “Okay, little Sarah, you win. I’m going to answer your questions but don’t blame me if you don’t like what you hear…”
As part of a group of writers today I was discussing the issue of endearments, those sweet little names that lovers have for one another. There are those who frown up on the use of certain endearments, particularly the words babe and baby. In a group of romance and erotic romance writers not one woman voiced a dislike of the terms. Many of them agreed they were terms used in their own relationships by both partners. And these are kick-ass strong women who don't take crap. In fact, one of the wisest and most Zen writers I know commented that the terms were nearly unparalleled, that there just weren't other words that meant the same thing.
Now I happen to agree. There is a level of intimacy and depth of emotion that is expressed when a man or a woman lovingly refers to their partner as "baby". It is a commonly used endearment among couples. When it was first suggested to me that the endearment might not be the best choice in a story I'd written I looked at the options. Living in the deep South where everyone is "honey," or "sweetheart" and the terms are doled out to male and female alike. A student who is having a rough time might earn a "honey" or "sweetie" from me. The elderly lady who is in charge of our cafeteria calls all of us younger folks "Angel". The words don't mean the same as when your partner looks into your eyes and calls you baby, or comes up behind you in the kitchen, places a kiss on your cheek and asks, "How was your day, babe."
And was there ever a more loving and romantic song to dance with your baby at the Senior Prom to than Styx's "Babe"? And Eddie Money's "Baby, Hold On to Me" was surely perjorative. And Peter Frampton didn't light up any hearts with "Baby, I love Your Way". Weren't we all offended when the Four Tops sang "Baby, I Need Your Loving"? And do we really think Sean Paul was insulted when Beyonce called him "Baby Boy"? I'm sure Diana Ross was being demeaning when she sang about her "Baby Love".
So does it have a negative connotation? 70's feminism would say yes. Janet Jackson would say yes. I would have to say maybe. If the word is used in a patronizing, "Damn I can't quite remember her name, let's just call her baby," sort of way, the guy needs a good hard shot to the more delicate regions of his body. If it's used demeaningly to imply that the woman is somehow less important or capable than the man, then it would definitely piss me off.
But I don't think the word itself is negative nor is it used negatively by most people. It is a word that strikes a comfortable cord with most of us. As a writer of romance when you write a man, particularly the well loved Alpha male, this is the term that shows us the walls are cracking, that he has let the woman inside him. And more importantly it's real. This is the term that a lot of men use. Real men. And there is nothing sexier than a man who is real.