Her Real-Life Hero
By Vicki Ballante
Decadent Publishing Beyond Fairytales
Adaptation of “The Frog King” and “Iron Henry”
Joanie wants to get her romances published but can’t seem to succeed with her writing. She buys an antique bureau which the shopkeeper says is magic. While using her new bureau, she begins to talk to the hero in her book, asking his advice on writing, all the while thinking it’s her own imagination. She promises he can live in her home, eat at her table and sleep in her bed, if he helps her with her writing. She doesn’t expect him to knock on her door and insist she keep her promise.
Theo has also bought a magic chest of drawers that brings him into Joanie’s life. He wants to settle down with one woman, tired of shallow relationships, and Joanie seems like the perfect candidate if it weren’t for her insistence on getting rid of him.
The magic keeps on forcing them to live together and Joanie’s not happy. This is her first year alone and she’s been craving time to herself after looking after her younger siblings and an ailing aunt. Theo’s presence in her home, although unwanted, stirs up needs she’s suppressed for years. When they start to discover things about the magic and why it’s bringing them together, will Joanie recognize another type of magic at work? Will she succumb to the charm of Theo or will her need for breathing space pull them apart?
According to her clock radio, Joanie lay on her bed close to midnight, the light out and her mind spinning with thoughts of her book. Talking to her character had helped. She understood deeper point of view and had been able to make Theo and Kaley come alive. The snake scene had flown by so fast that when she glanced at the clock, which read eleven, her word count for the day stood at…oh, right, she couldn’t work that out if written on paper. Not a hassle. She’d filled five sheets with her curvy writing and thrown away tons of blotting paper.
Tomorrow, she would find a way to put her computer on the bureau because writing by hand took too much of her precious time. She only had the evenings to create. Plus she would have liked to know how many words she’d written for the day.
Not that word count was everything. Quality mattered more—she had a feeling that had upped a significant amount.
The moment she started to drift into sleep, the doorbell chimed. She jerked upright, her pulse pounding in her ears.
Anyone visiting at such a late hour must have an emergency.
She slipped her dressing gown on and rushed to the front door. Peering through the peephole confirmed someone there. Oh dear, she’d forgotten to switch on the outside light and could only make out a shape.
“Who’s there?” she shouted through the door, too lazy to find the switch a few steps away and anxious to know who it was.
“Theo. Let me in.”
Theo? The only Theo she knew was her hero. Maybe I heard wrong. “What did you say?”
“It’s Theo. You promised.”
How…? She gripped her head. Maybe she’d entered dreamland already…but his voice sounded so real. She pinched her palm. “Ouch.”
“No, not at all.”
“Let me in. It’s cool out here.”
“Used to the blazing sun on the desert island?” Whoa! She’d talked to her character again, but this time, he had come into her world. What the diddly-do is going on?
He rang the doorbell again, and she backed away a few steps.
“How can I trust you?”
“You know me well by now, don’t you?”
Her hero, Theo, tended to be closed emotionally but deep inside, genuine as gold. He would lay down his life for the woman he loved, and like a perfect gentleman, didn’t demand his own way. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. The persistent man outside her door acted very different from her creation.
“Why should I let you in?”
“Because a promise is a promise.”
Tingles ran along her spine. Those had been her mother’s words to her, growing up. A promise is a promise, Joanie. No matter what, you must always keep to your word even if it hurts. If you don’t, your life will become a mess and you will start to lose control of everything.
Her parent’s advice had been her motto for the last ten years, and she’d kept to it. She’d always kept her word to her younger sisters, aunt, and friends.
“What are you talking about?” She sort of remembered bargaining with Theo to help her with her writing. What had she sworn to do for him? Surely, he hadn’t taken to heart whatever she’d said. She stared at the door. Um…Theo isn’t real. So, who am I talking to?
“Open up, please. Then I can explain.”
“Wait a minute.” She ran to her bedroom to fetch her cell phone to dial Leonora.
“What’s wrong?” Her friend’s voice sounded sleepy yet a little panicked.
“I’m letting a man into my house. His name is Theo Bartok. I do trust him. But I thought I’d tell you in case something happens, so at least you can let the police know.”
“Who is he? Do you know him?”
“Very well.” She rubbed her forehead. “Too well in fact.”
“You never told me about him.” She sounded wide awake.
“It’s not what you think. He wants to talk to me about something.”
“At two-thirty in the morning?”
“Never mind, Leonora. I’ll survive. I thought I should inform you.”
“Now, how the heck can I sleep?” she moaned. “Let me know when he leaves.”
“Thanks. It shouldn’t be long.”
After ending the call, she went to open the door, still hoping the intrusion must be a mixed-up dream from too much writing.
Theo strode in straight away, heading for her living room as though he knew the place. He lay down, propping his head onto the arm of the sofa, thick muscles tightening the sleeves of his shirt. “Phew, I’m exhausted.”
“Make yourself at home.” Sarcasm streamed from her mouth. “While you’re at it, can I get you coffee, a muffin, and a blanket?”
“Coffee and the muffin sound great. The blanket isn’t necessary yet.”
She rolled her eyes. Should she leave him alone to roam her house while she made the coffee?
He appeared just as she’d imagined—tall, sculpted muscles, dark-blond hair in straight bangs, and bronzed skin. A whiff of island and animal skin wafted to her. He couldn’t smell of that, could he? An image of the Tarzan skin he’d worn in her imagination flashed at her, as well as the memory of her brief, teasing touch. Did that happen for real?
At least he wasn’t still wearing a pouch around his hips, else she would be tempted to let him stay. Her breath came in choppy pants. A foreign sensation surged through her. No guy was so yummy—not even Richard, the resident heartthrob at work. She was all ready for sex—and he made her furious. The two didn’t mix. They shouldn’t.
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Vicki writes erotic and fantasy romance. She loves taking her characters into an alternate world where strange and sexy things happen. She lives with her patient husband and three noisy kids in South Africa. In between being a busy stay-at-home mom who hates housework and spends half her life cooking everything from scratch, she runs several blogs, writes under another name, and buries herself in the delightful world of her characters.
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