Neo-Geisha (Phoenix Rising #2)—
Phoebe stood there letting the steaming water pour down over her body, wishing it would wash
away the doubt. She didn’t hear the swish of the door opening so when Cage stepped into the shower
behind her she screamed, coming at him with the tiny penknife she kept on hand at all times.
“Whoa,” he chuckled, grabbing her wrist. “Calm down. It’s me.” She held firm to the hilt of the
knife for a few seconds before letting him slip it from her grasp. “You’re all right.”
He nodded. “You’re always safe with me, love.”
“Is that a promise?” She met his gaze, searching for sincerity in it.
“Always.” He leaned in and pressed his lips to her forehead. “You really must stop taking
weapons into the shower. That’s a nasty accident waiting to happen.”
All the pent-up emotion and stress from the last several weeks bubbled to the surface and she
crumpled against him, her tears mixing with the falling water in a mixture of relief and fear, exhilaration
and uncertainty. “There now, baby. You’re all right.” He wrapped his arms around her, brushing the
matted tendrils away from her ear and kissing her lightly at the small hollow beneath. It made her feel
small and protected. She craved the strength she felt in the hard muscles cording through his arms and
“Is it like this every time?” she sniffled.
He chuckled. “You get used to it.”
“I didn’t think you were supposed to be afraid.”
“Where on earth would you get that idea?” he said. “Fear keeps us on our toes.”
“It didn’t do so well for me,” she replied, rubbing at her burning eyes. “I fucked up everything.”
“No you didn’t. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened.”
“If you hadn’t been there…” she sniffled. “I’d… I…”
He took her chin between his fingertips and forced her head up. “You would have figured a way
out. You’re smart and managed to keep your cool. As soon as the antidote took hold, you were able to
shift. That confusion you created saved both our skins. So no more of this doubt, all right? You need to
not worry so much,” he purred, nudging her back under the spray. The steam was a comfort, wrapping her
in a blanket of humid warmth and she began to relax. “You’re so tense.” He turned her around brushing
his fingertips along her spine.
“You know I’m a worrier,” she muttered.
“It’s a useless endeavor, I’m afraid.” His fingers came to rest at the swell of her ass and began
tracing circles at the base of her spine. The callouses at the tips tickled at her skin and she shivered. He
pulled her against him, so close that she could feel his lips fluttering against the cuff of her ear. “You have
to let that go. Let me help you forget all about the wolves in the dark.”
She leaned back, luxuriating in the sensation of his hands slip-sliding over her body. Her skin was
slick with the water and the remnants of expensive bath oil. “I think you’re trying to seduce me, Mr. St.
“Of course I am,” he replied, pushing her hair away from her neck so that he could feather gentle
kisses under her hairline. “Do you mind?”
“I’ll tell you when I mind,” she mumbled with a groan as he pinched her fleshy earlobe between
his teeth. She reached back, tangling her fingers in the soft curls at the base of his skull. They were short,
but long enough to wrap around a fingertip and tug lightly. She could feel his body so close behind her,
hard against her softness. The contrast was so erotic that she was breathless even before his hands slid
over her breasts.
“It isn’t fair,” she sighed as the blunt edge of his thumbnail slid over her nipple. “To let me get all
clean only to make me dirty again.”
“I’ll gladly scrub anything you have, Miss Addison.”
To Trope, or Not to Trope
By Alexandra Christian
You can’t talk about the romance genre without talking about tropes. Tropes are certain conventions that
appear in literature. Those comfortable little plot points that we can nestle down in and escape. Some
people are of the opinion that tropes are bad. That our jobs as writers are to break new ground and blow
those tired old tropes out of the water. And I can definitely understand that point of view. I like to read
different stories that aren’t like every story I’ve read before. But I can also appreciate the familiarity of a
tried and true trope that makes the story an escape.
We all love things we can predict sometimes. Take the success of Midsomer Murders. It’s a British
detective series that’s been running for a thousand years. If you watch it on a regular basis, you start to
notice a formula: a body is found, Inspector Barnaby is called away from some quirky family business to
investigate, they talk to everyone in the village that has reason to want the person dead, you think you
know who the murderer is until that person gets murdered before the commercial break, the killer ends
up being the person you least expected, and we all live happily ever after. People tune in for it week after
week because the comfort of that formula is there.
Tropes do this for romantic stories in a very effective way. We want there to be twists and turns, but we
have basic elements that we look for when we start searching for a new favorite read. Here are some of
- MC in peril: Phoe Addison, the heroine of Naked, fits in easily with this trope. She is a woman
that is in danger from outside forces and needs Cage’s help. I love these stories because the
lovers are thrown together in difficult circumstances. They grow to rely on one another and their
relationship grows through their teamwork at solving the larger problem.
- Fairytales: As a child, fairytales were my favorite kind of story. Incidentally, fairytales are often
romances at their core (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast… need I go on?). As
a romance genre trope, the fairytale stories are often updated to present day, or transported to
different settings or times in history. I love writing fairytales, as is evident in my books Beast of
Burden and Huntress. In Beast, it’s an erotic retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” where the hero,
Marek, is a werewolf. For Huntress, I found a very old Scandinavian dragon story for the basis of
hero Malik’s redemption.
- Performers: Stories where one of the protagonists is a performer of some sort (actor, musician,
etc.). Sometimes they’re called celebrity romances. I think we can all identify with those. I know
that I’ve been mentally dating Benedict Cumberbatch for years now. I wrote a short, summery
piece called Mr. Hollywood (which you can get for FREE on my website) about a romance
novelist in Bora Bora who meets her celebrity crush and has a little rendezvous. Gee… I wonder
where I got the idea for that?
- Virgin: This trope can be controversial if the author doesn’t get the ages right. For me, the key to
these kinds of stories is the slow-burning romance between the two main characters. Showcasing
the alpha hero’s tenderness with an unsure lover can always bake my muffins. I tried to
incorporate this trope a little in Naked with Phoe and Cage’s first love scene. Phoe is not very
experienced and has been sheltered most of her life. She doesn’t come right out and say that
she’s a virgin, but the concept is there. More obvious is in the first installment of a short story
series from several years ago, The Virgin Queen. It’s a medieval romance where the heroine
Joanna is married off to the king, who she assumes is a cold, disfigured brute. He turns out to be
quite the opposite and their story is probably one of my more luscious stories.
- Protector: I know, you’re going to take away my feminist card, but I love this trope. A story where
the hero has to protect the heroine in some way– those make me melt. Now, that’s not to say that
in the same story, the heroine can’t turn around and rescue him right back. In Naked, Phoe is
very timid at the beginning and Cage steps up and protects her from the men chasing her and
from the terrible creatures that try to kill them. She’s terrified at the prospect of leaving her home
and is paying this “big strong man” to help her through it. Of course, by the end, Phoe becomes a
badass in her own right and has to help Cage out of some sticky situations. As the series
progresses, Cage and Phoe take turns protecting one another and this is part of what fuels the
heat between them.
So tropes can be useful tools in choosing stories as well as writing them. They can also be traps, so
choose wisely. The trick is to take those comfortable tropes and give them a twist that will make them
stand out from the rest.