And I did. I drank in pubs throughout the great continent. I discovered that the word "beer" is universally understood and that people are generally good wherever you are in the world. I wrote my stories at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and on the banks of Lake Lucern.
I also fell in love (or puppy love) with a guy from Austria. He challenged me in ways that I'd never before experienced, pushed through my boundaries, and tried to convince me that all things are possible. The small town girl from South Dakota fell hard from the bad boy from Vienna. But at the end of my journey, which found us in Greece, he asked me to do something I couldn't do: stay. He wanted me to ignore the ticket back to the States and go with him to Vienna, start a life there, figure it out as we went.
I couldn't. I wasn't brave enough. I went home to the States.
We attempted to stay in touch and managed to do so for about two years. Back in the early 90s, this was quite a feat. We didn't have the technology we do now. We wrote letters, sent postcards, called each other once and awhile over a static-filled line, but then life happened. Real life. Jobs, other boyfriends, tragedy, familial commitments.
I never forgot that boy or the what-ifs that had filtered through my mind for years. From that kernel of inspiration, the Dancing Barefoot series was born. I wrote it long ago, published other books before I dared release it to the world, but the time came to let it go.
Below are excerpts from the two part series that include In Between and Dancing Barefoot--the boy from Vienna morphed into a hot Belgian and I became Jessica instead of Amber. It's amazing how real emotion can fuel imagination.
Do I still think of that time in Europe when all things seemed possible and I felt invincible? Often and always with a smile.
Short description of In Between...
Dreams and happily ever afters haven't been a part of Jessica Moriarty's belief system. When she's swept away by world-renowned photographer Jacques Sinclair during a summer in Italy, she begins to trust in the power of love only to be undermined by her past. Will they be able to conquer the naysayers and saboteurs to ultimately seize a life of extraordinary possibility?
Excerpt of In Between (book one)...
Jacques led them around the corner before pulling her into a doorway of a random building, pressing her back against the bricks, and leaning against her. "Can I kiss you or do I need to wait for a more appro—"
She kissed him—hard—and silenced his words.
Gentlemen were overrated. Senses overrun with wine, jetlag, and him, she fisted her hands in the material of his shirt to remain standing as her legs trembled with desire.
Gentlemen were overrated. Senses overrun with wine, jetlag, and him, she fisted her hands in the material of his shirt to remain standing as her legs trembled with desire.
He slipped his hand behind her neck and deepened the kiss with his tongue while his other hand moved behind her waist to hold her as close as they could be without getting naked.
Her panties melted to her skin. She wanted to fuck him then and now. It didn't feel like they'd met only hours ago. Kissing him, holding him, being with him felt like the most natural thing in the world.
"I've been wanting to do that since you looked up from my lap," he muttered against her lips.
She laughed and opened her eyes. "Not my best moment."
"You got my attention." He smiled before kissing her again.
He tasted like wine and all things deliciously tempting. She teased her tongue against his, her hands moving over his shoulders with appreciation. She'd seen the muscles hidden beneath his shirt and wanted to sink her teeth into his skin.
When he muttered in French before sliding his mouth along her neck, she smiled against his hair. She didn't need to speak his language to know they were communicating perfectly.
"We are dangerously exposed," she said when a group of laughing strangers passed them on the street.
He looked up, smiled, and framed her face with the palm of her hand. "I like living dangerously. What about you? What do you like?"
"I like this." She dropped the back of her head back against the brick and observed him through narrowed eyes. Hands still on his shoulders, she smoothed them down the front of his chest and grinned. "I like you."
He winked, sighed, and stepped back from her. "I don't know what I'm going to do about you, Jessica Moriarty. I sense trouble ahead."
"I think you know exactly what to do with me, Jacques Sinclair." Feeling like a bird freed from its cage and soaring toward the sky, she grabbed his hand and yanked him back against her. "One more kiss before dinner."
"You are the most dangerous kind of woman." He paused a fraction above her lips and looked her in the eye. "And I am the most dangerous type of man."
"Are you? Why do you say that?"
"Because I have nothing to offer and nothing to lose."
Heartbeat shook her eardrums. He was like no one she'd ever met before, mysterious and foreign with confidence oozing from his pores.
"Neither do I. Not a care in the world," she lied.
"This will be fun."
"Oh, I have no doubt."
Description of Dancing Barefoot (book two, the conclusion)...
She hadn't intended to leave him...but dreams come with a steep price she hadn't been able to afford.
On the surface, Jessica Moriarty appears to have the world at her feet. An architect on the fast-track to a partnership and moving in all the right social circles, she's checking off the boxes on her to-do list. But she's living a lie. The 'perfect life' facade hides a heart filled with regret and a longing for a love she abandoned.
World-renowned photographer, Jacques Sinclair, doesn't need much to be happy. As long as he has his cameras, a backpack, and a good pair of walking shoes, he's content. No matter how far he travels, though, he can't escape the heartbreak of the one woman who'd been able to bring him to his knees.
A chance meeting brings Jacques and Jessica back together. Reunions aren't always happy—sometimes they stir up unwanted pain and forgotten passion. As they stumble their way back to one another, they're ensnared in a web of conspiracy, manipulation, and sabotage designed to keep them apart. Will they be able to break free of the ties that bind them to seize the love of a lifetime? Or will the pressure to conform rip them apart forever?
Excerpt of Dancing Barefoot...
He stalked toward her until her back collided with her easel. His hands gripped the top of the canvas, arms pinned her where she stood. “I haven’t wanted to remember you in a very long time.”
“I suppose not.”
“But I have.”
“Are you happy?”
“What do you mean?” She folded her arms across her chest.
“Did you make the right choice? Leaving me? Leaving our life together? Tell me you’re happy and I’ll walk out of your life forever.”
“What does it matter? I can’t undo it.”
“Why is it a difficult question for you to answer? Why can’t you tell me that you have no regrets? I want to hear it.”
“Of course I have regrets, but so what? What good does that do us?”
“That’s why I came here tonight, to see…”
“See what? I’ve done what I said I would do.” Pride forced her head high. “I’m up for associate partner at my firm. I’m a good—no, great—architect. We both succeeded without each other. Good for us.”
“You’re lying. You’re not happy.” His hand framed the side of her face, forcing her to look at him. “I see it in your face. It’s like you’ve died. You're living in the past, which tells me you're not that thrilled with the present.”
“When did you get so mean?” Too tired to fight, tears blurred her eyes. “Get out. Enough insults for one night. Just go.”
“Why are you still wearing my ring?” His voice was low and powerful in the small room.
“Why do you?”
“My ring.” Dark blond hair covered his left eye when he bent forward, only a breath away from her face. “Why are you wearing it? Does it mean anything to you or do you simply think it’s pretty?”
“Please go.” She flattened her hands against his chest, but wished she hadn’t. The feel of his hard body beneath her hands liquefied her bones.
He slammed his hand against the canvas, knocking it to the floor behind her. “You just left. One day we’re living together, talking about creating a future, and then you walked away without ever looking back.”
“I look back in my own way. Often, too often, I need to grow up like you said.” Her lungs deflated like air from a balloon. Breathing ceased. I needed to come back here to—”
“To be safe? To do the right thing?” He had her backed against the easel. “I thought you would at least stay in touch with me, the man you supposedly loved, the man you said you wanted to marry, the man you said you needed…but you disappeared.”
“You had my address. I didn’t disappear.”
“You let me go without a word. Until today, I hadn’t heard from you in years, yet here you are wearing my ring.”
“I said I was sorry.” Every inch of her quaked with restrained emotion. “Leave now. Go. Good luck with your exhibit, with your life, all of it. Just get the hell out of my house.”
“Do you know why I brought your address with me? Do you?”
“You wanted to tell me off, right? That’s why you came here, to hurt me.”
“I wanted to show you how much I don’t care.”
“Doesn’t that show me how much you really do care?” She lifted her chin, determined not to cry.
A fraction of an inch separated their bodies. She dragged her gaze over the opened buttons of his shirt, over his neck, over his lips until resting on the deep green of his eyes. Damn, the man rocked the word 'sexy'.
Boldness replaced caution.
Standing on tiptoes, she smoothed her hands along the front of his chest. Touching him again was like coming home from a long, exhausting journey.
He shook his head once as if trying to clear his mind. Only once. He stared at her lips. His hands curled around her forearms, but he didn’t push her away.
“Kiss me,” she whispered against his mouth.
“No." His hands slid up her arms before cupping the back of her head.
"I dare you."
"I know you want to."
"Now who's the liar?" she asked, her teeth tugging at his lower lip.
Their mouths met in a kiss that melted her skin like candle wax, turning them into one being, one entity consumed by desire. To hell with restraint and regret. She needed this, needed him, here and now.
Passion overrode all other thought or senses. Her hands stroked his back, kneading and searching. Every sense was alive with his touch, with his kiss. The need for him was an ache that burned deep. Hot. Necessary. Urgent. Primal.
God, she had missed this, missed him.
He ripped her tank top in two and tossed the material aside. His hands squeezed her breasts while his mouth devoured her lips.
She yanked his shirt free from his jeans and shoved it high on his chest, needing his skin against hers more than she'd ever needed anything in life. Clothes fell away, bread crushed beneath their bodies, wine spilled from an overturned bottle at their feet.
They fell against the easel, knocking the canvas and paint in every direction. A tangle of limbs, they made eye contact for a moment, chests heaving, breathing labored.
"This is wrong," he muttered against her skin.
"Right. Always right with us." She sank her fingernails into his shoulders.
"What the lady wants, the lady gets," he said, a predatory gleam in his eyes.
His hands worked at pushing her yoga pants over her hips while his mouth claimed her breast.
She looped her toes in the waistband of his underwear and yanked them over his thighs. Her hands sought his erection while her back arched with every stroke of his hands and every lick of his tongue.
He ground himself inside her with the intensity of repressed rage. Her legs wrapped around his hips, holding him as close as possible as he plunged deep inside her.
Sex had never been tame with him, but this was animalistic. This was raw. Teeth sank into skin. Nails scraped against each other's bodies. They rolled together, locked as one being. Streaks of yellow and red paint lined their faces, stuck in their hair, no one cared.
Waves of pleasure rolled through her veins like a tsunami until all strength left her body. She laughed, breathless, as her mouth sought his again in a kiss filled with satisfaction and surprise.
"Is this what you meant by a do-over?" He shoved his hands through her hair, palms framing her face, and stared into her eyes. His chest rose and fell against hers.
"Not exactly, but it'll do," she whispered, still out of breath, heartbeat slamming like a caged bird's wings inside her chest.
His mouth sucked on her lower lip, tongue teased hers. "I don't know what to do with you, Jessica Moriarty."
"You've always known exactly what to do with me, Jacques Sinclair." She repeated the words they'd always said to one another. She dipped her finger into the wet yellow paint on the canvas beneath his head before smearing it across his chin and over his mouth.
He grabbed her hand, linked his fingers with hers and stared into her eyes. Laughter faded. “This shouldn't have happened. I lost control, I always lose control around you.”
He rolled away and stared at the ceiling. Then he stood and pulled a piece of cheese from where it had stuck to his shoulder. Without looking at her, he dressed.
Rattled from the sex and his reaction, she stumbled to standing, grabbed the blanket from the sofa and wrapped it around herself. Man, she was on a roll today with fucking up her life.
He walked down the stairs without saying a word.
She returned to the kitchen to find him still waiting. She'd hoped he'd gone.
Back against the wall, he finished buttoning his shirt. He hadn't bothered to wipe the streaks of paint from his face and hair; then again, neither had she. When he lifted his gaze to hers, he looked agonized.
"I didn't intend on that. I should go," he said.
“Stay. Don't go. Maybe we should talk or something.”
She wanted to scream, stomp her foot like a child, fall to her knees …anything to make him stay.
“There is someone else, Jess. Life moved on without you.” His quiet words sliced her heart into a million pieces. “I came here for answers, to understand. I didn't intend to rip your clothes off. I only wanted to understand why you left me. That’s all.”
“And now you understand?”
“No.” He shook his head, a slight grin curving his lips. “But I accept that I will never understand.”
She rubbed the palm of her hand over her face. Of course he had someone else. She had discarded him like a used napkin.
“You're serious with this woman? What you said about the different women all the time was just to hurt me, right?”
“Yes to both questions.”
A chasm ripped through the room, creating a space larger than the ocean that had once separated them. She felt the loss of him again, more powerful, more poignant than before.
“I wish it wasn’t like this between us…”
“I’m still the same man you left in Italy. The reasons you left haven’t changed. I’m a gypsy at heart, never in one place longer than six months or so.” He looked at the matching ring on his finger and blew out a long breath.
“Please leave. Your girlfriend must be wondering what the hell you’re doing.” She hugged her arms across her chest and tapped her foot against the floor. “Please leave, Jacques.”
“Am I wrong? Are you happy? Tell me I’m wrong about you. Tell me that you love being an architect. Tell me that you honestly don’t regret leaving me.” With every word, his face mirrored the agony she felt. “Tell me that you have no regrets, that you are happy with your life as it is now.”
“My life is damn near perfect.” She forced a smile. “Partnership is in sight, remember? Corner office here I come. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s a fucking love fest.”
“It is time I let this go then.” With a quick movement, he pulled the ring from his finger and laid it on the back of the red chair.
She stared at the ring against the faded fabric. “Please don’t leave it. Like you said, it’s yours.”
“Keep it, throw it away, it no longer matters to me. Be well, bella.” Door open, he hesitated at the threshold and looked around the room before meeting her gaze again.
Bella. The word hung in the air as they stared at one another, the language of Italy dancing in her memory and tugging at her heart.
“Caro…” she whispered.
Without another look back, he closed the door behind him.
She listened to the fall of his footsteps on the stairs, the outside door opening and closing, and folded his ring into her palm. She pressed the closed fist against lips still swollen from his kiss. Silent tears streaked her face.
"What have I done?" Back against the door, she slid to the floor. The question she asked had no answer. Even she didn't know if she meant the past or the present; conflicting emotions meshed together in her brain like the various paint streaks staining her skin.
A taste of a few reviews...
4 stars via Avid Reader
"I loved this story.
It was refreshingly honest, brutally tragic, and at times lyrical in it's flow. Their connection was so intense that as I read it, I was like this absolutely cannot survive. Love this intense and in your face has a slow burn to it, and will torch everything in i's path until it is stamped out...There was nothing contrived about it. I felt like I was literally a fly on the wall and this was happening in reality and not fiction land. I liked them both, probably one of the best couples I have ever read."
5 stars via ChristophFischerBooks
"Conflicting emotions and insurmountable chemistry cause both of them to reassess the past, their current lives and priorities. Easton shows the magnetic and hypnotic effect of physical and emotional attraction very well and the gradual crumbling of outer facades and deep inner resolve. This is a romantic fantasy written in a convincing and heart warming manner and with enough complications thrown in to make for a very entertaining and gripping read."
5 stars via Sglas, Amazon reader review:
"Excitement, intrigue, twists and turns! Dancing Barefoot has it all. Very hard to put down."