Dyanne Davis
Excerpt from
The Critic
Chapter One

His eyes called to her and she was drawn by the dangerous whiskey color that looked gold when the
camera came in for a close up. His mouth was full and sexy, and the thought of being kissed by those
lips…  Mercy.  Her eyes dropped lower, caressing the contours of his body. A small sigh escaped her as
her eyes lingered on his massive chest. The thought of laying her head on that chest caused an internal

She took a swallow of the cold lemonade in her hand, then swiped at the beads of condensation on the
glass and rubbed the moisture across her forehead in hopes of quenching the fire.
Toreas Rose wanted badly to be able to reach out a hand and touch Jared Stone.  Mentally shaking
herself, she looked even lower, sighing again at the sight of legs that appeared powerful and oh so
masterful within the dark mustard colored trousers which were a perfect match for his bronze skin. Jared
was one truly gorgeous Black man.

Toreas watched spellbound as Jared’s tongue slid out of his mouth to anchor his top lip, then lave his
entire mouth.  God, how she wanted to suckle that tongue, to have it inside her mouth, to have it…        

She didn’t know how it had happened, but Jared Stone had crawled inside her brain and hooked her.  To
her, he was the epitome of a hero come to life.  Toreas hated admitting it, but she was falling for the man
on the screen, a man she knew she’d never meet in real life.  But she could dream, couldn’t she?  For
months she’d watched him and indulged in her secret crush. In her safe home he existed just for her. It
would be better to never meet a man like that.

 She hadn’t heard the sound of his voice in weeks. She’d kept her television muted, just to enjoy the
yummy sight of him. Listening would have been distracting.  Now that he’d swiped his lips with his tongue,
though, Toreas needed to hear his voice and restored the sound to the program.

“Romance writers are a bunch of empty headed, bored women, and the women that read that trash are
even worse.”

Toreas started. She couldn’t believe the words that had come out of her lover’s mouth. Well, the lover in
her mind.

The sound of glass shattering on the ceramic tile caused Toreas to look down in surprise. Lemonade
was spreading across the floor.  While her attention was concentrated on Jared Stone,  the glass had
slipped from her hand.  

“Romance writers, please,” Jared sneered. “What good do they do besides further feed the fantasies
that addle-brained women already have. It’s all nonsense. Black women should not be buying into that
crap. There is no such thing as true love, or love at first sight, or happy endings. If you ask me, romance
writers are doing a disservice to the public by deluding women, regardless of race.”

She couldn’t believe it.  Toreas was riveted to the screen, unable to move, certainly not to clean up the
floor. She stared at the man who for the past several months she’d been thinking of as the role model for
the hero in her mind. She’d thought his looks perfect:  golden brown skin; beautiful light brown eyes with
flecks of gold that she could see even on her television screen when the set lights hit him just right; full
mouth that seemed just made for kissing; hair always neatly done in a half dread, half braided look.
Toreas didn’t know what it was called but on Jared it looked good.

She studied the tight fitting body shirt he wore. It was obvious the man was proud of his body as he
never bothered to cover it with a suit coat. He was tall and well muscled, but not too, with lean hips that
flared into seemingly well toned legs.

His voice and his walk had totally captivated Toreas the first time she’d seen him. Now the words being
spoken in that same voice had her wanting to turn off the set. She couldn’t believe he was tearing down
everything that she wanted in her life.  In essence, Jared Stone was destroying her dream before she
had a chance to accomplish it.

She was a romance writer.
Well, she wanted to be a romance writer, but so far she’d met with nothing but rejection. It was becoming
increasingly depressing to continue.  Jared Stone mouthing off didn’t help the situation.
“The whole lot of them are stupid, the women who write that thrash and the ones who read it. They’re
just plain stupid. They should all get a life.”

Toreas groaned inwardly. How had she ever fallen for such an arrogant man?  His words were a real
turn off. Well, enough fantasizing. With a flick of her wrist, she turned off the television, mourning the
loss of something that never was.

“Drivel, that’s what I said and I’m standing by it.”  Jared slammed the second book that he’d picked up
onto the table and glared at the women around him. “Well?”

Somehow Toreas found herself again watching Jared’s talk show, and again he was attacking romance
writers. This time several writers had attempted to change his opinion, but he was having none of it. He
was brutal.  Toreas winced. How had she ever been attracted to the man? She wanted badly to hear him
say something that would make him redeemable but there was nothing. Sadly, she clicked off the set

But habit forced her to tune in again the next day and the next. It appeared he was dedicating a segment
of each show to bash romance writers.  Maybe if she gave him some time he’d stop. She waited a week.
This time was the worst. This time he’d managed to get romance readers to come on the show. He was
treating them worse than he’d treated the writers on his previous show.

“What is it you like about that drivel?” Jared was asking.

“It gives us hope,” the woman answered.

“Hogwash. Hope for what? Do you think your husband is suddenly going to go and put out a fire for you
or rescue a kitten from a tree? Think again. If you don’t love the man as he is, then let him go so he can
find a woman who’s not out to change him, one who’s not judging him on things from some writer’s

Toreas waited while Jared tried to alter the women’s opinions.  When that didn’t work, he attempted to
charm them, then preach to them. Toreas couldn’t help watching. Who the heck did the man think he

“Look, ladies, all the money you spend on buying these books you could spend on making your home a
more comfortable place.”

“But the books are a means of entertainment. They don’t cost that much. Women work hard in the home
and outside the home, and they should spend their money any way they choose. The fact that you’re
able to be on the airwaves, albeit on a local  show, calling women who write romances and women who
read them stupid is offensive. You have no right to try and tell women what they should read or how to
spend their money.”

Jared responded in a fake voice that dripped of rationality. “Think about it: the money could be spent
instead on a good meal, a school book for a kid, an educational toy, whatever. You’ll have to admit I’m
making more sense than you ladies.”

Stunned, Toreas shook her head at the television and at Jared Stone. Before the women could respond
Jared was saying goodbye and asking people to tune in the next week.    

That was it, the last straw. Toreas was done with fantasizing about Jared Stone. As he’d said, it was
stupid. Besides, she now saw him for what he was: a know-nothing romance-critic.  Too bad she’d ever
turned up the volume. She could have remained happily unaware of that nonsense he was spouting as
though it were gospel. She dialed information, determined to call the television station and ask for an

Had she not been a fledgling romance writer maybe she could have forgiven Jared.  Maybe.  But his
assault on romance readers, that she couldn’t forgive.  

Toreas was one of those readers. She’d loved stories of romance since she could remember. Her most
vivid memories from her formative years were of reading stories of love, passion and lust. She’d loved
the short stories in True Confessions and Bronze Thrills. She had become familiar with writers such as
Donna Hill and Francis Ray who wrote stories for the magazines and followed them when they moved
into full length novels. She remembered how eagerly she’d purchased her copy of Entwined Destinies by
Rosalind Wells, believed to be the very first romance by an African American author featuring African
American characters. If nothing else, Toreas Rose was indeed a fan of romance.  Were she not, she
could relegate her crush on Jared to the back of her mind where it belonged.
Toreas sat frozen in a panic on the makeshift stage.  She was supposed to be defending the romance
genre with the assistance of several members of her local writing chapter.

For weeks, her blood had been boiling over Jared Stone’s consistently rude comments. But here she
sat, mute. Her calls, letters, and emails had seemingly been ignored, but one day out of the blue she’d
received a call from someone named Derrick, who’d informed her that he was the station manager and

She had been invited to come on the show to defend romance novels.  All Toreas had wanted was for
Jared to stop trashing the world of romance.  She’d never expected to meet him face to face, to have to…

She had been in a state of panic until she’d gone to her writers’ meeting.  After she relayed the station’s
invitation, several of the writers offered to join her.  Whether it was for the exposure they would receive
or truly to assist her she didn’t know and didn’t care.  She only knew that she wanted someone sitting
beside her when she met Jared Stone.

Now she was here. Now she had her chance to finally tell the man to back off, that romance was a two
billion dollar a year business. But what had she done so far?  Nothing, not a darn thing but yank on her
skirt and watch the others battle Jared.  And they were losing.  She glanced quickly at her watch, praying
this slaughter would soon be over.  Five minutes to go.  Thank God.

Suddenly electrical impulses flooded her body, seemingly jumpstarting her brain in the process. She
shouldn’t and couldn’t let the opportunity for rebuttal pass.  She had to speak up, force her tongue away
from the roof of her mouth.  She had to stop thinking how much better Jared looked in person than he
did on her television screen.

When she looked up, her eyes connected with Jared’s. He had a look on his face that said she was dead
meat.  That fact alone should have stopped her from drooling, but it didn’t. She watched as he gave a
sardonic grin in the direction of the camera, then turned back toward her.  He stood, his eyes pinning
her in place. On Jared sardonic was sexy.

“Tell me, exactly what does ARW, stand for?”

This was a question she could answer. She knew the proper response, only the words refused to come

“American Romance Writers.”

Toreas glanced in the direction of her friends, not sure which one had answered the question but
relieved that she had.  She looked away, hoping to avoid Jared’s attention.

  It didn’t work. He was coming closer to her, asking her another question. Heat was flooding her body as
the blood drained from her brain, leaving her speechless.    

“So, ARW is a union?”

Here was another one Toreas knew the answer to.  She was working her tongue, trying her best to
loosen it.  Her jaws were moving and her head was twitching.   She could only imagine the image she
was projecting. Her breath was coming in short gulps as she watched Jared approaching. His eyes…  If
only they weren’t so darn beautiful, so…        

“ARW is not a union, rather a professional organization for romance writers, numbering almost 29,000

Toreas and Jared turned at the same instant to look at the speaker.  Toreas’s look was one of gratitude,
Jared’s of annoyance.  It was Toreas he wanted on the hot seat, not Elysa.

“Thank you but-” Jared attempted to interrupt Elysa.          

Toreas smiled slightly to herself.  Now he would be the one cut into little pieces.  Elysa knew her statistics.

“You want the complete answer, don’t you, Mr. Stone?”  

Toreas watched as her friend continued with facts Jared didn’t want to hear.

“We have a monthly magazine dealing with things writers want and need to know.  There are attorneys
who write articles advising us on contracts and other professional issues.”

Well done, Elysa.  As the thought flitted thorough her head, Toreas glanced down once again at her
watch. This was the longest five minutes she’d ever lived through. Worse yet, Jared didn’t appear the
least interested in Elysa’s answer.  He was staring at her.

“You’ve been very quiet, Ms. Rose.  I understand you’re the one who called, objecting to my calling the
trash you produce ‘bodice rippers.’”

Her friends were looking at her, trying their best to give her support.  Toreas heard Liz attempt to speak
only to be silenced by Jared.

“I’m talking to Ms. Rose, the lady who wanted my bosses to muzzle me.  I want her to answer this one.”  

Now he stood directly in front of her.  “You’re what, 5’1”, 5’2?”  He tilted his head to the side to study
her.  “A hundred pounds?  Do you consider yourself a heroine, Ms. Rose?”

Toreas was aware that Jared was laughing at her without making a sound. Her cheeks were warming
from the nearness of the man as well as her seeming inability to talk. She could only blink, wishing him
away, It wasn’t working.

“What would you do if a big bad villain invaded your space, Ms. Rose?”  He turned to leer at the camera.
“You wouldn’t mind demonstrating now, would you?”

Toreas saw Jared’s challenging leer and that was the catalyst that enabled her to come out of her
moronic trance. In one fluid motion she stood and pushed her chair away from her with the tip of her foot.

“Thanks for asking, Mr. Stone. I don’t mind showing the women in your audience how to defend
themselves. I do, however, need your permission in case you get hurt.” Toreas smiled as sweetly as she
knew how and repeated, “Just in case.”

“I don’t think there’s any danger of me getting hurt, Ms. Rose.”

“Then I have your permission?”

“Of course, do what you need to do.”

Before she could reason herself out of her ill-timed action, Toreas’s hand closed into a fist and shot out
in Jared’s direction, landing a solid-fisted punch in his stomach.  

As the man doubled over, she heard him groan and she couldn’t resist grinning before saying, “That’s
what I do to villains, Mr. Stone.”

Her wrist had wrenched sideways against his hard abdomen and now a searing hot pain shot up from the
tips of her fingers all the way to her shoulder and made a home at the base of her neck.

That punch had hurt her more than Jared Stone, of that Toreas was sure.  Darn Kelle anyway for
teaching them self-defense.  The punch was part of last night’s lesson.

For several moments everyone seemed frozen as Jared glared at her.  Her friends were looking at her
with wonder.  Wondering if she’d lost her mind, that is.

Toreas looked up into the red eye of the camera and her mouth dropped open.  How could she have
forgotten she was on television, if only locally.  She shouldn’t have lost her temper like that.

She looked back at Jared who’d at least stopped glaring at her.  His dark eyes were now golden brown
and were registering surprise.

He was watching her as if she were some new species he’d never seen before.  Good manners dictated
that Toreas should at least apologize but she couldn’t.                                         

In that instant Jared pounced on her, capturing her head in his hands and kissing her soundly on the
lips. He then moved away from her.

“So what am I now, the villain or the hero?”

Uncaring now of either the camera or her friends, Toreas aimed a kick at Jared’s shin.  But he was out of
range and was grinning wickedly at her. Then she felt soft but strong hands pushing on her shoulders.  
She looked up into the eyes of both Elysa and Liz a moment before landing in her chair.

Toreas could feel the heat invade her entire face and then go into the very roots of her short curly afro.  
She was glad she’d not apologized to the man.  And she was glad that the natural red tones of her
brown skin hid most of her embarrassment, at least from the camera. In person, now that was a different
thing.                                                                                                   Her hand gripped the chair.  She
knew she was scowling at Jared.  She had to.  His kiss, though unexpected, had stirred longings within
her, but surely not for him.  Mercifully the show ended and she was able to leave.

Feeling the vibrations in the air behind her, Toreas knew without a doubt that Jared Stone was near her.

  “I want you on another show.”  His voice was gruff and he stopped just as Toreas turned toward him.
“You embarrassed me in front of my audience and they loved it.  You’re a hit.”        

Toreas eyed the man talking to her from a safe distance. He evidently considered her dangerous or
crazy.  She didn’t know which.   Kelle would be happy to know he considered her dangerous, but
disappointed that Toreas had suffered more pain from the punch than Jared.

The hot blazing pain she was still feeling told her she’d not delivered the punch as instructed.  She’d be
sure to ask Kelle to show her again.

“Ms. Rose, are you listening to me?”

Toreas brought her eyes up slowly to face the man she’d attacked.  Crazy, that’s what he had to be.  Did
he really think she’d agree to come to another taping and have him annihilate her?

“No, thank you, Mr. Stone.  Your hospitality for one evening has been more than enough.”  She smiled
sweetly.  “But if I ever want to visit hell again, I’ll call you.”

Was that a twitch at the corner of his mouth?  She glared at Jared, taking in his thick black hair and
golden brown skin.    And was that a dimple peeking out from his left cheek?  She couldn’t be sure. The
man had not actually smiled.

“Ms. Rose, if you come back, I promise I’ll be on my best behavior.  You can even punch me again.  The
audience went crazy when you hit me.”

“No,” Toreas answered. “I don’t want to be anywhere near you.”  This time she meant it. The man was
making her forget the reasons she had appeared on his show in the first place. He was the enemy. He
hated her, hated her entire genre.  She had to remind herself of that little fact as she felt her body
swaying in his general direction. She couldn’t keep her mind off his kiss and wanted another.

“If you don’t come back I’ll sue you for assault.”

“And I’ll sue you for sexual harassment,” Toreas retorted. “You did kiss me without my permission.”

“Then give me your permission for the next kiss, only give it to me on the next show.”  

Jared was grinning at her as if thinking she kissed strange men every day of her life. He was crazier than
she was.

“You’re nuts,” she answered.

Toreas glanced over at Liz who was still staring at her as if she’d lost the last few marbles she
possessed. She glanced toward Elysa, Barb and Wendy. Yep, they were all eyeing her with a strange
look on their faces.  She could tell her friends were wishing they were anywhere but with her at the
moment. Instead of helping their cause she’d single handedly lit a keg of dynamite with one well aimed
but badly delivered punch.

Toreas walked out the heavy green doors, praying her friends would follow and that she would not be
arrested before she could leave the building.

She stood next to Elysa’s van, wishing she had come alone.  But she hadn’t. Elysa was the driver for the
group.  Toreas had no choice but to wait.  So she waited for them to come out, wondering why it was
taking so long.

The heavy metal doors finally opened and Toreas breathed a sigh of relief.  At least now she could get
in the van and start to forget this horrible day.

Darn! Her mouth dropped open in astonishment and she rushed to close it. Her friends were not alone.
Jared Stone was tagging along, standing strategically behind Liz as though he didn’t trust himself to be
too near Toreas.

“Ms. Rose, won’t you please reconsider?  I think you owe me that much.”  Jared grinned. “That punch

“Why would you want me back on the show?  You didn’t want to hear anything I had to say.”

“You didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t give me a chance.”

“You had sixty minutes. It was up to you to use them wisely.”

Toreas could only stare at the man, the sight of him making her weak in the knees.  Her former crush
was battling with her new dislike.  Was it any wonder she was a bundle of nerves, of contradictions?  
Jared Stone was making her crazy.

“Will you do it?” Jared asked again.

“For ratings?”

“Of course,” he answered, then frowned.  What was wrong with the woman? She was in the business,
she had to understand how things worked.

“You want me to come back on your show and be humiliated again so the ratings on your show will go

“Yes. Besides, I was the one humiliated. The audience loved you.”

“I will not come back on your show and punch you again.”

“Then come back and apologize.”

Toreas’s head tilted just a wee bit and she knew once again she was going to act without thinking of the
consequences.  “One should only apologize if one is sorry.”

“And you’re not sorry?”

“Are you sorry for the way you treated us on your show?”

Jared moved a bit closer to the woman, hoping his towering height would at least intimidate her.  It didn’t.
He saw the sparks flying from her eyes straight at him. At first he thought it was a trick of the sun, then
looked again and blinked.  Toreas Rose had beautiful eyes.  Jared blinked as he looked into her eyes,
eyes that flamed when she was angry.  

He felt a lump appear in his throat and a throb begin in his groin. He couldn’t want this little bitty woman;
it must be the punch. Maybe she’d somehow damaged his mind as well as his pride.

Jared wanted more contact with the woman, another chance to prove to himself that romance writers
were evil, that this little woman standing in front of him held no interest for him, that he wasn’t getting a
hard-on as he stared at her.  He shook his head as if trying to shake away the lie.

“Ms. Rose, please come back on the show. You would really be doing me a favor and you would help
your group as well.”

“Are you crazy? What just took place in there didn’t help my group. It made us look stupid, as though the
things you’d said were true.”

“But there is always interest in controversy. What just happened today between the two of us will be
great for both of our careers. Think about it. This thing can really get big if we work it right.

“I have no plans to work it right,” Toreas said indignantly. “I don’t want to do you any favors. I don’t like

“I don’t like you either. That’s what would make it so great. Every week you could come on, hit me, flip
me, kick me, I don’t care, and every week I’ll grab you and kiss you.” He smiled. “Think about it, the

“Let me get this straight. You want to trash us on television every week and you now want me to be a
part of this ridiculous plan.”


“You’re on every weekday. Why don’ you want me on every day?”

“Overkill. Why do you think I only talk about romance writers for a small segment of the show sometimes
not at all? Too much and the viewer would become bored. If you came on the show once a week they
would be excited. This could get really big.”         

“You are crazy, aren’t you?”

“If you don’t come back I can guarantee you that things will get worse.”

“I don’t care.”

“You’re lying. You care or you never would have called the station to complain.” This time there was a
definite pulling in his groin and Jared couldn’t deny that it was in direct response to the fire coming from
Toreas’s eyes. He groaned inwardly with the realization. And with that realization he knew he’d do
anything to see her again, to dispel his body of the notion that it was attracted to this itty bitty romance
writer. Yuck, perish the thought. Jared took a step back, grounding himself in the reasons for his feud in
the first place. He hated romance writers. He sent a message to his libido. Snap out of it. We have work
to do.

“Ms. Rose, if you don’t reappear, I’ll…I’ll…”

“You’ll what, Mr. Stone?”

“Until this job I worked in advertising, then public relations.”

“What’s that supposed to mean to me?”        

“I was very good at my job.” He narrowed his gaze. “I have never failed to get extensive press. Generally
it was for a client but in this case I’ll be my own client. I made big bucks putting the spin I wanted on
things. Your coming back on the show would work for both of us and for your entire organization. Not to
accept my offer is selfish. You can’t put your dislike of me before what could be good for your friends.”
He smiled. “Now will you come and help me milk this feud?”


Jared stared at her for a moment, not believing she’d really said no again. He’d given her plenty of
legitimate reasons why she should come. He rubbed his chin, thinking of a new tactic. “I’ll sue your

It was a bluff.  It had to be but the panic on Liz and Elysa’s faces told Toreas they didn’t think so.

“I’ll tell you what, Mr. Stone, the three viewers who were probably watching you, if they complain, send
me their addresses and I’ll apologize to them. As for the people in your audience, I don’t think anyone
would waste their time coming to watch your show live, so they’re probably plants. If not, tell them to write
me and I’ll apologize to them as well.

Now she’d done it.  She’d gone and insulted the man.   Toreas’s head was beginning to pound.  She’d
been too nervous to eat breakfast and the need for some protein was evident.

That had to be it, or maybe she simply had low blood sugar.  Sure, that would explain it.  She didn’t
normally go around punching people or being nasty.

Jared was staring at her.  She had the feeling he was undressing her and she resisted the urge to cover
her body with her hand.  He was probably deliberately trying to unnerve her.  If that was his game, it was

Toreas wanted to beg Elysa to unlock the van. From the look in his eyes, she had the distinct impression
that Jared Stone was preparing to kiss her again and she couldn’t believe it. Yet part of her was wishing
he would.  She needed to get away from him, from those beautiful brown eyes.  He was the enemy.

Toreas walked to the opposite side of the van, away from the man and the scorching looks he was
sending her way.  She couldn’t understand why her friends were still talking to him, trying to pacify him.

She was wishing they would all start pummeling him with the books they’d brought, the same books he’d
sneered at and refused to read. He’d treated them the same as he had the last groups of writers who’d
braved his vindictive remarks.

At long last Elysa opened the door and Toreas scampered inside, making sure to keep her head turned
away from the building and away from Jared who stood outside watching them drive away.

Liz peered at her from the front. Toreas was crouched down, almost into the cushions.
“What was that all about?  Why did you hit him?”

“I don’t know.  When he got in my face, I thought about what Kelle taught us last night and I just reacted.”

“Did Kelle tell you to hit the host of a TV show that we’re trying to turn around?”

“But we weren’t turning him around, he was being nasty.”

“Then why didn’t you speak up?  You’re the one who started it, remember?  We only came to back you
up. Then you sat there frozen, that is, until you decided to play Bruce Lee.  You should have ignored

Liz was right and Toreas knew it, but darn, they were her friends. Shouldn’t they be on her side?  “Look,
it’s just a local show. There’s a good chance no one we know is ever going to hear about this. Besides, I
asked for his permission before I hit him. Didn’t you hear me?”

“Oh, we heard you alright, but judging from the look on your face, you would have hit him with or without
his permission.”

Toreas did her best to keep the smirk from her face. Of course she would have hit him. She’d wanted to,
if for no other reason than the fact that he’d ruined her fantasy. Of course there was the more realistic
issue of his treatment of them as a whole. Toreas found herself grinning as she looked to the front of the
van toward her friends. Sure, she’d wanted to hit him because of the readers. Yeah, right. “I am sorry I
hit the guy so hard.”

“Then why can’t you go back on the air and apologize to him? It would be easy to just pretend that the
two of you staged it. Jared told us his plan.  We all think it will work for all of us.  I don’t understand why
you won’t do it.”

“Would you go along with his plan?” Toreas couldn’t believe what she was hearing. And these were her

“I wouldn’t have hit him,” Liz said with a smug look on her face.

“You know,” Elysa chimed in, “you had better be glad that this is real life and not some story in a book.”

Toreas turned her attention from Liz to Elysa.  They were both giving her a headache.  She was wishing
now she had ridden in the car with Barb and Wendy.

“Why should I be happy that this horrible day is my life?”

Elysa smiled before answering.  “If this were a book, the readers would not accept the heroine losing her
temper and slugging someone on television. The least they’d want to know is what motivated her to do
it.  She’s supposed to be an adult and have control of her temper.”

“You’re right.” Toreas glanced out of the window. “What happens in real life would never be accepted by
either an editor, or a reader, but, then again, I’m not a heroine. I don’t always have a reason for what I

She sighed heavily, deciding to give it one more try.  “Why are you putting all the blame on me?  Kelle’s
responsible also.  I didn’t even want to learn karate.”

She was pouting like a child but she couldn’t seem to stop herself.  “What about Jared kissing me?  I
should have slugged him again.”  She wasn’t going to mention the attempted kick.  Toreas could feel her
face getting hot and knew without a doubt she was blushing and turned her head toward the window.

Still, she saw the looks that passed between Elysa and Liz, could even hear the gears grinding in their
little writer heads.  “Romance writer falls in love with romance critic.”  Never in a million years.  But she
could bet they were both writing their first drafts in their heads.

“Listen, whatever the two of you are thinking, forget it.”  She laughed.  “I’m a writer too, remember.  I can
see where you’re headed.”   

This time her friends joined her in laughing, their anger at her for possibly damaging their careers

“Well, it was an interesting day.  We have to say that much.  It’s a lucky thing only a few of us came with

“But the entire group knew we were coming. I told them,” Toreas said looking at Liz and knowing she was
trying to figure out a way to help her.

“You know how everyone is. They’re not going to even remember what you or anyone told them if they’re
not reminded a thousand times. I asked Jared when the show would air and he said there would be a
week delay.  Maybe we shouldn’t mention the air date to the rest of the group.”

Good old Liz.  Toreas knew she would come through in a pinch.  She was her angel, her confidante, her
friend. She couldn’t blame her for being angry over a chance to have their genre featured in a good
light. Now Toreas was angry with herself for screwing up the chance to educate the public on the hard
work that was involved in writing romances.  Now she could only console herself with the fact that she
hadn’t punched out a supporter.  That would have been worse.

“What about Barb and Wendy? What if they tell someone what happened today or tell them when the
show will air. How are we going to keep them from reminding the group that we came on Jared’s show
today.”  Toreas was smiling, knowing the answer to her question, just wanting Liz to say it.

“I’ll call them.  You knew that, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” Toreas answered, then closed her eyes and leaned back to begin forgetting.