The Carriage Trade by Lisa Deon
How do you get to a “Happily Ever After” when you can’t remember where it began?
Carlin “Carlos” Farley’s life is an open book. Unfortunately, she can’t remember most of it. She’s losing her barn manager, Bill, the guy who’s been running her horse drawn carriage business while she’s been in extended care recovering from an accident. Bill has always been there for her, in fact they’ve grown up together, but now he wants to pursue the career he put on hold and Carlin’s resigned to the idea that he’s leaving her.
Bill Fantazma is the kind of guy who always tries to do the right thing. But sometimes doing the right thing is not the right thing to do. He’s been in charge of Carlin’s care and the business he helped acquire for her, and has accepted the accident and her subsequent brain damage as a chance for a do-over, since his previous actions to attract her affection were less than honorable.
Richard Cooper appears to be the answer to their business problems. Knowledgeable about horses, willing to step in and take over the barn manager position, helpful and solicitous to Carlin, he’s not put off by her sometimes bizarre and quirky behavior.
But when Richard sees an opportunity to move in and draw Carlin’s affection, Bill realizes just what she means to him and must make a decision; come clean about their past and risk her anger, or step aside to allow Richard to have a romantic relationship with the woman Bill has loved all of his life.
It’s a romance she can’t remember and he can never forget.
BlackHippieChick’s Interview of Lisa Deon
BHC:Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how Carlin “Carlos” Farley and Bill Fantazma are going to get through their biggest challenge.
LD:Carlin and Bill have a tribe of friends who support them physically, mentally, and emotionally, alternately holding her hand or kicking their ass. They force the two main characters to be honest both with themselves and each other.
BHC:Tell us about your favorite character in this book!
LD:I’m torn between my hero, Bill Fantazma, and my heroine, Carlin “Carlos” Farley. Each has personality elements that are both admirable and flawed. Carlin will stand up for her friends but rarely for herself, which is endearing but frustrating. Sometimes you want to reach through the pages and slap her. Bill, on the other hand, is trying to do the right thing which everyone knows is not the right thing to do.
BHC:Will you share with us a short preview of The Carriage Trade?
Bill awoke with a start, something cold touching the bottom of his foot. He lay on his side, his legs drawn up close to his body, and glanced at glowing red numbers on the clock; 3:10. He stretched out and rolled to his left. The soft blue moonlight streaming through the French doors revealed the lump in the bed next to him. Carlin, he thought and smiled as his eyes adjusted to the dim interior of his bedroom. She faced away from him, and he realized that it had been her foot touching his. Cautiously extending his leg, Bill connected with her foot again, tentatively rubbed it with his toes.
It’s like ice. He propped himself up on one elbow and watched her sleep. She lay under the covers, the sheet pulled up around her waist, the blankets bunched up at the end of the bed. He reached out and put his hand on her bare back, feeling the chill of her skin through his fingertips. She responded to his touch, arching against the warmth of his hand. He felt her roll and withdrew his arm.
She turned towards him, pillowing her hands under her cheek, her dark brown eyes gazed at him from under her lashes. His heart lurched. She slept shirtless, and in the moonlight he had a very nice view of her breasts. His pulse quickened. He licked his lips and swallowed hard, barely noticing the scarcity of saliva and the thick, woolen feel of his tongue.
“Bill, I’m cold,” she whispered, her sleepy voice holding a hint of a whine.
“Okay darlin’, hang on one second.” His reply sounded husky as he dragged his eyes away from her. With great regret he reached down to the end of the bed and pulled the blankets up over her, tucking her in as she burrowed deep, searching for warmth. Her hair lay unbound and he reached out, moving a strand out of her face with his fingers, lightly stroking her cheek. She sighed.
“Thanks Baby Hu…” her soft voice drifted away.
Bill gazed at her for a moment longer before he rolled away, positioning his body as close to the edge of the mattress as possible. Her proximity and nakedness would make returning to sleep very difficult. He took a deep breath, drawing in her scent, almond cookies with a hint of horse, knowing even while he did that it was a mistake.
I should never have put her under the covers, he reminded himself. She gets too warm and then we have this…this…situation.
He thought about her breasts again, watching an instant replay in his head, over and over. He punched his pillow and muttered, “Have some mercy, woman.” Closing his eyes he breathed deeply through his mouth, tried to ignore the alluring smell of almonds, attempted to stop his pulse from pounding in his chest, and crunched numbers in his brain to cool his ardor.
Bill’s alarm screeched at seven a.m. He reached a long arm out and slapped it off. “Oh, shut up!” he grumbled, never opening his eyes.
“Bill,” Carlin’s tone was sharp.
Bill opened his eyes and stared at the wall.
“Bill,” she repeated, insistent.
“What?” He was grumpy. He was tired. Going back to sleep was very tempting.
“Why am I in your bed?” she demanded.
Bill rolled his eyes and said nothing. Great, it’s going to be like that, is it?
“Did I have a see-saw?”
He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “Yes, you had a seizure,” he replied.
She was quiet for a moment. “Was what’s-his-name there?”
Bill sighed. “Richard. Yes.”
He felt her rustling next to him. “What did we do last night?”
“We ate pizza and watched your favorite movie. Then you fell asleep.”
“We watched ‘The Godfather‘? I don’t remember that.”
Bill swiveled his head towards her. “No, we watched ‘The Princess Bride.‘”
Carlos looked into his eyes, “That’s your favorite movie, Bill.”
Bill grinned at her, eyeing her tousled bed-head, the way she cocooned herself into the covers, so close he could smell her lotion. This morning she smelled like warm almond cookies. Adorable warm cookies.
She narrowed her eyes, glaring at him. “Why am I naked?” she asked with a fair amount of suspicion.
Bill raised his eyebrows, all innocent. “You’re not naked. You still have your underpants on, don’t you?”
She pulled the covers away and took a quick look, giving him another flash of breasts. “Did we do sex last night?” she asked accusingly, pulling the covers snug.
Bill closed his eyes and sighed heavily. Maybe she wasn’t so adorable this morning after all. “No. We did not have sex last night.”
“Because I don’t like being taken advantage of, Bill.”
“I know you don’t. I would never do that to you.” He tried to keep his voice even, but he was too tired for this. He again rolled onto his side, away from her, praying for patience.
“Then why am I naked?” The accusatory tone was still there. “Give me your shirt,” she demanded, clutching the covers closer.
Bill gritted his teeth and slapped the mattress between them with his palm, making her jump. “You took your tank and your bra and your jeans off because you were too hot. In the middle of the night you woke me up because you were too cold and I covered you with the blanket. Now you’re suddenly shy, and you want my clothes? I kept my clothes on all night!”
“Well, you should have stopped me,” she said, uncertainty creeping into her voice.
“Like I could ever stop you from doing anything,” Bill muttered.
“And how do I know that you didn’t take my clothes off after the see-saw when you know I can’t remember stuff like that!” she harrumphed. “And then I wake up naked,” she added, jerking away from him onto her side.
Bill mentally counted to ten, then rolled back towards her, inching over until he was pressed up against her back. He put his free arm around her and tugged her up against the length of his long, hard body, hearing her breath escape in an “Oof!”. He placed his lips next to her ear, so close they brushed against her.
“Carlin, if I stripped off your clothes and made love to you last night, I guarantee you would remember it this morning,” he hissed.
Pushing himself away from her, he flung off the covers and rolled out of bed, ripping his t-shirt off over his head with both hands as he walked across the room. From the doorway he turned, wadded it into a ball and threw it at her.
“Now what did I do?” she asked, flinching as it hit her.
“Nothing!” Bill growled, and he went downstairs to find refuge in lifting weights.
BHC:What message do you hope readers take away from the book?
LD:The tag line on my website is “Romance for everyone… because nobody’s perfect”. My characters are not all tall, thin, and blonde with perfect teeth and exciting careers. They get grimy, swear, and occasionally have to pee. You know, just like ‘real’ people.
BHC:What three words would best describe Bill Fantazma?
LD:Honorable, frustrated, devoted.
BHC:What is your favorite scene in The Carriage Trade?
LD:Carlin is asked out on a date and is all ready to go when she runs into Bill. He insists she should not go because “fraternizing with employees is not a good business practice.” She asks him to give her a “real” reason not to go, and he remains silent. It’s a tipping point for Bill, seeing her all dressed up and beautiful, which she always was in his eyes, but he realizes that the rest of the world can see her beauty now also.
BHC:Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
LD:I have been a horse drawn carriage driver for eight years. The milieu is the same, the business and the characters are imaginary.
BHC:Which character in The Carriage Trade will be the most difficult to part with?
LD:Luckily I’m finishing up the sequel, titled The Re-Education of the One trick Pony right now, so I don’t have to part with them just yet. But I think it will be Bill, because he creates a balance to Carlin’s occasionally manic behavior.
BHC:While writing The Carriage Trade, did you connect with one character more than the others? Who and how?
LD:I connected with Carlin because of her occasional aphasia. Mine is not Acquired Brain Injury induced, just old age. Like many people I walk into the kitchen with a purpose and completely forget what it was I was going to do once I got there.
BHC:Do you share any personality traits with Carlin “Carlos” Farley?
LD:We’re both short, and have brown hair. And like Carlin I’ve been around horses most of my life. Oh, and we both swear like sailors. (No offense to sailors.)