I’ve never been big on writing happily-ever-after endings to my romance stories. I’m more of the happy-for-now school, especially when writing one of my series titles. Even my one-shot romantic comedies generally end that way, with one exception. When I wrote “Snowflakes and Palm Trees” (a sequel to “Mistletoe and Palm Trees”) I married off the characters at the end (to each other, of course). It was out of character for me but I felt I had explored everything these two people had to offer, so a marriage seemed like the right finish.
One of my lusty romantic comedies, “The Sweet Distraction,” had an HFN ending, and I actually caught hell from some of my readers because of it. A few of them wrote to me asking when I’d release a sequel, since I had left things hanging at the fade-out. They felt that the characters had great chemistry and since there was no HEA ending, a follow-up story was needed. I had no intention of continuing with these two characters, because I didn’t think there was anything left for them to do. That was five years ago and my opinion hasn’t changed.
My Nick Seven spy thriller series always includes an HFN ending, but with a twist. The two protagonists (Nick and Felicia) still live together in the Florida Keys and they’re very devoted to each other, but every installment carries an undertone of maybe-this-will-last, maybe-it-won’t. This comes from Felicia, who usually manages to drop a hint of “If you piss me off, I’m taking my ass back to Barbados.” Naturally, this causes Nick to watch his step, because he doesn’t want to lose her. It makes for some good conflict resolution.
Here’s where I need your help. I’m finishing the latest installment in my other series, about private eye Vic Fallon. Vic is a very happy footloose bachelor, shying away from any type of commitment. Usually he gets romantically involved with a woman who is the subject of his current case, and they’re always together-for-now at the end.
This time I did something different. He’s dating a woman who happens to be a Prosecuting Attorney in his home town. Vic is careful not to use her influence or position when working a case, but he’s trying to clear someone she’s getting ready to prosecute. That part works itself out, but it leaves me with the question “Will they or won’t they?” Here’s a scene where Vic wants to make up with her after they’ve had a fight. This occurs about three-quarters of the way into the story.
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Vic stood on Michelle’s front step that evening but hesitated before pressing the doorbell. A few moments later she opened the door, looked blankly at him but didn’t say anything.
“May I come in?” he asked.
Michelle let him in then closed the door. She went to the kitchen without uttering a word. Vic followed her and watched her take a long drink from a glass of wine. She looked at him.
“Drink?” she asked.
She poured him a glass then set it on the counter. She took a seat but didn’t look directly at him. Vic sat on a stool and took in her casual dress of worn jeans, a faded t-shirt and no shoes or socks.
“You look lovely this evening,” he commented.
Michelle stared at him then her face dimpled into a smile accompanied by soft laughter. “I look lovely this evening? That’s the best you can do?”
“I’m trying to be more charming than I was earlier. Did it work?”
“It worked.” She hesitated. “Vic, I’m sorry.”
“There you go again, taking the words out of my mouth before I can speak them. I’m the one who should apologize.”
“Let’s call it a draw. Want to go back in time and start over?”
He squeezed her hand. “I’d like that.”
She stood then led him to the couch in the living room. They settled in next to each other and Michelle rested her head on his shoulder. Vic reached up to run his fingers along her cheek.
“Michelle, I really want to apologize for breaking our rule. I didn’t realize I’d gone too far over the line.”
“You don’t need to apologize. I over-reacted and I’m sorry for what I said.” She paused. “I assume you heard the news.”
Vic peered into her eyes. “I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about work, especially if there’s a conflict.”
“I’ve been thinking about that. When I was growing up, after my dad got home from work, he and my mom would talk about everything that happened that day, good or bad. It brought them closer and probably prevented some arguments.”
Vic smiled wistfully. “My folks did the same thing.”
“When I was married, my ex didn’t want to talk about anything except his own shit. He didn’t care what kind of day I had or what problems I needed to vent about. It drove us apart.”
“I can see how that would happen.”
“So it seems silly for me to impose the same rule when it goes against the grain.”
Vic sipped his wine then set the glass on the table. He turned Michelle’s face toward his, peered into her soft eyes and cupped her cheek with his palm. “Then I guess we should talk about some of those things, as long as it doesn’t go too far.”
She gave a warm smile. “I guess that would be all right.”
Vic pulled her in for a deep lingering kiss. Michelle’s tongue probed his mouth and he kissed her with more intensity. He felt her hand rubbing the back of his neck and inhaled her sweet scent. He pulled back slightly to look into her eyes.
“I like making up with you.”
“So do I, but let’s not make it a habit.”
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Okay, fellow divas and dudes, what’s it going to be—do they stay together at the fade-out or go their separate ways?
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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author whose books range from romantic mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. His website is www.timsmithauthor.com.