If you’re a regular visitor here, you know I’m a multi-genre author. (Actually, if you even glanced at the header, you know that. 😉 ) Sometimes it’s difficult marketing to different readers on the same platform, so I thought I’d do something a little different today. I’m going to introduce Royce and Vanessa (lead characters from Type and Cross, the first novel in my mainstream fiction series) to Gianni and Franki (lead characters from Bleeding Heart, the first novel in my romance series).
Maybe this will entice readers of one genre to try the other.
Maybe this will indicate similar themes in my writing, even as I work in two totally different worlds.
Maybe this will be a huge failure. (Oh well, live and learn, right?)
Without further ado, a merging of the Cathedral Lake residents and the Medici Protectorate.
Royce and Vanessa packed the remains of their picnic back into the basket and folded the blanket. He took one last look at the lake, its dark water gently rippling and reflecting the clouds above on its surface. He looked over to the far shore, where families frolicked and lovers held hands. The terrain might be rockier on his side of the lake, but he’d never trade the privacy for the congestion of a flat beach.
He helped Vanessa climb the hill, and when they walked around one of the larger rocks, he almost stumbled over two people reclining at its base.
Reclining might be generous. The guy looked like he’d collapsed there. The woman fretted over him.
Royce dropped the basket and blanket to the ground and stooped down. “What happened?” He grabbed the man’s wrist, checking his pulse.
The woman batted his hand away. “Who are you? What do you want? What are you doing here?”
He recognized the signs of panic and desperation, drew on his expertise of years as an ER doctor to try to calm her even as he assessed the situation. “My name’s Royce. This is Vanessa. We were picnicking about a hundred yards that way.” He tilted his head back in the direction they’d come from. “We just came across you by accident.”
“He’s a doctor,” Vanessa said. “He can help.”
“No one sent you to find us?” the woman asked.
“No, no one sent us.” Royce reached for the man’s hand again. “I’m going to check his pulse. Can you tell me what happened?”
The woman didn’t move, but didn’t stop him that time. She shook her head, and tears formed in her eyes.
“Oh, honey,” Vanessa said. “It’s okay. It’ll be okay. Royce is the best.”
The woman squared her shoulders and wiped the tears away. “I know. Gianni will be fine. Everything is fine. You… you should go.”
“How long has—Gianni—been like this?” He was unconscious, but his pulse was strong and his coloring good. Royce couldn’t see any indication of what had caused his condition.
The woman bit her lip and stayed silent.
“What’s your name?” Vanessa asked.
She looked back and forth between the two of them and finally whispered. “Francesca. Franki.”
“Well, Franki,” Royce said. “I can’t help him if I don’t know what happened.” He took his phone out of his pocket.
“No!” Franki cried. “Not 9-1-1. No emergency people, no cops. Nobody.”
Royce looked them over carefully. The man wore boots, jeans, and a t-shirt, but they all looked like expensive brands… designer, and not knock-offs. The woman had on yoga pants, sneakers, and an old football jersey. Nothing about either of them said “Dangerous Criminal.” On the contrary, they looked like nice, normal folks. But something was wrong.
He swiped up on his phone screen to access the control center and touched the flashlight icon. Then he showed her the LED light glowing. “Not calling anyone. Just checking his pupils.” When he reached for Gianni’s eyelid, the man shook and jumped to his feet in front of Franki, knocking Royce back. He stood there, one arm out protecting her, the other searching for something behind him.
Royce had never seen anyone move so quickly, particularly someone so large. He scrambled to his feet and pulled Vanessa behind him. Nothing nice and normal about them, now. Everything about the guy screamed “Dangerous,” from his aggressive stance to his rapid, fighter-like movements.
“Gianni, right?” Royce asked. Vanessa’s nails dug into his arms even as he held them out in a we’re-not-your-enemies gesture.
Gianni pulled Franki further behind him. The muscles in his other arm flexed. He must have found what he was looking for. Royce didn’t want to know what that was. “Yeah. What’s it to you?”
“Yeah,” he said. “What’s it to you?”
“My name is Royce. I’m a doctor. My wife and I stumbled across you while we were walking to our car. I was trying to tend to you wounds, but I couldn’t find any. Want to tell me what happened? You might need to go to the ER.”
“I don’t need anything. I’m fine. Fast healer.”
Franki touched his arm and he bent down to let her whisper in his ear. He never took his eyes off Royce and Vanessa. When she finished talking to him, she stepped out from behind him. Gianni didn’t relax, but he shifted his gaze to her.
“I’m afraid we owe you an apology. You were just trying to help, and I think we scared you.”
Vanessa stepped out from behind Royce. When he went to shield her again, she batted him away. Holding out her hand to Gianni, she said, “I’m Vanessa. Nice to meet you.”
Gianni looked at her hand and glanced at Franki, then his whole body seemed to relax. He fiddled behind him for a second, then smiled, lighting up his features. Then he took her hand. “The pleasure is ours. I can just imagine what you must be thinking. My apologies. It’s just that Francesca is my responsibility, and—”
“Oh, give it a rest. I’m a person, not a job.” She shook Royce’s hand. “Thank you for trying to help us. I’m sorry I wasn’t more agreeable. But a girl can’t be too careful these days.”
“So, a doctor, huh?” Gianni asked and looked Royce over.
“ER,” he said.
“Chief of Emergency Medicine at Oakland Regional,” Vanessa said.
“Former Chief.” Royce shot her a pointed stare, which she didn’t seem to notice.
“Former? Are you retired?” Gianni asked.
“No, not retired.” He saw Gianni stiffen, recognized he’d better offer more information before things took an unnecessary, ugly turn. “We had a tragedy in the family recently. I’m taking a break, reassessing my future.”
Gianni continued to stare at him, while Franki said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Family tragedies really make you think about the future…” Her voice trailed off, and Gianni put his arm around her. Tears welled in her eyes again.
“Are you okay?” Vanessa asked.
“Look,” Gianni said. “We got off on the wrong foot, and for that, I’m sorry. But in all honestly, I’m not sure it’s even safe for you to be seen with us right now.” He started to turn away.
Vanessa touched his arm. “Are you all right? Can we help?”
Royce didn’t know that he wanted to be involved with a weepy woman and a barbarian of a man who basically flat-out stated they were a danger to be around, but he admired Vanessa for asking. No one ever offered them assistance when they most needed it. Leave it to her to remember how lonely that felt and try to help.
Again he smiled at her, but this time the warmth didn’t reach his eyes. “That’s kind of you to ask. But we have help. We just need to get home.”
“I have a first aid kit in my car,” Royce said and scanned him head to toe. “You’re welcome to any bandages or—”
“Thanks, but I’m fine.” Gianni said. “Like I said, I’m a fast healer.”
“You’re sure you’re okay?” Vanessa asked.
“You’ve been very kind,” Franki said. “Thank you. We won’t forget it.” And they turned and walked away.
It didn’t escape Royce’s notice that Gianni’s shirt was untucked in the back, and there was some kind of bulge under it. He couldn’t help but feel like they dodged a bullet. Maybe literally. He didn’t stop looking after them until they made it to the tree line.
“Do you think they’ll be okay?” Vanessa asked.
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Nothing seemed to be wrong with him, once he gained consciousness. Wonder why he passed out.”
“I don’t mean that. I mean what he said about being seen with them was dangerous. Someone must be after them. Or her, at least. He said his job was to protect her.”
Royce shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I think there’s more there than bodyguard-client. Maybe if—”
He looked at her. “Really? Matchmaking now for perfect strangers? Potentially dangerous strangers? Let it go, Ness.”
“I think they’re going to make it.”
Royce scooped up his phone, the picnic basket, and the blanket. “I think we’re going to make it.”
She smiled and kissed him. “As soon as we get home.” She winked and headed up the hill toward their car. “Race you!”
It surprised him that she scuttled so quickly up the rocky terrain, but then again, she was motivated. And so was he. So he scrambled up the hill after her, thoughts already on the evening activities her comment promised.