Susan Fox Icon

There is some primitive chemistry to the notions of opposites attracting. It’s a perennially popular theme in romance. But, of course, love will only work if there’s common ground too. That’s often the fun in the story. The heroine and hero think they’re polar opposites and the relationship could never work – but the author and the reader know better. Bit by bit, the similarities are revealed. And, often, bit by bit the characters grow and change to be better versions of themselves.

That’s the magic I tried to capture in my November 27 Brava, Body Heat.

Maura Mahoney is a buttoned-up accountant who loves her job at Cherry Lane, a seniors residential facility, but is less happy about her single status. The child of older, academic parents, she’s looking for an intelligent, articulate, well-educated man who will be compatible with her – and with her parents.

The last thing she wants is to have to supervise community service for some juvenile delinquent.

Jesse Blue sure isn’t thrilled about doing community service, but it’s better than the alternative: jail time, for beating up on the guy who’d been abusing Jesse’s good friend.

Jesse’s a construction worker, a blue collar guy who didn’t finish high school. He likes sexy, fun women and knocking back a few brews with the guys. Raised in a succession of foster homes, he secretly craves a home and family of his own, but believes that dream is beyond his reach.

Opposites, right? Well, here’s a peek at their first impressions on the day they meet.

Maura has just been told by a lawyer that her predecessor (who just left on maternity leave) agreed to supervise community service, and now Maura’s stuck with the job. She doesn’t even know what crime the delinquent committed, she has no idea where his file is, and she hates being caught off guard.

“Where’s your client?” she asked the young lawyer, a Richie Cunningham lookalike.

He glanced at his watch. “Should be here any minute, and—”

The roar of a motorcycle engine cut him off. Maura glanced through the door, open as usual when the weather permitted.

A huge, shiny black bike pulled into the parking lot.

The bad feeling was back, in full force. A juvenile delinquent on a motorbike, wearing a black leather jacket. Like Marlon Brando, in that film where bikers terrorized a little town. The Wild One. Double-aagh. Why did this have to happen on her birthday?

The machine pulled to a stop under one of the flowering cherry trees that gave the place its name. The rider slung his right leg over the bike and got off. A breeze stirred the tree and a drift of pale pink blossoms fluttered down, onto his leather shoulders.

“Let me guess,” she said wryly.

“That’s Jesse. Jesse Blue.” The lawyer stepped through the open door and Maura followed, jaw firm and head held high.

The bike rider’s back was to them. He stretched, and Maura realized how big he was. Well over six feet, with broad shoulders and lean, jean-clad hips. The build of a man, not a teenager.

His head was hidden by a black helmet so shiny it reflected the light. Lazily, he reached up, unfastened the helmet, and pulled it off. As he leaned forward to hook the helmet over a handlebar, cherry petals drifted to the ground like delicate flakes of pink snow. Then he stood tall, legs apart, and ran his fingers through the wavy black hair that fell to his shoulders. Finally, he turned to face his welcoming party.

Oh yes, this was Marlon Brando, James Dean, Russell Crowe, all the bad boys come to life. To my life! She was going to kill Louise. She doubted this man’s crime was shoplifting beer. Possession of drugs, perhaps? Car—or motorcycle—theft? A brawl in a bar?

She gripped her notebook tightly as Richie Cunningham went down the steps to meet Marlon Brando. The men shook hands, the biker dwarfing the lawyer. Then they walked toward her and she got her first good look at Jesse Blue.

He was a gypsy. A rugged gypsy with bronzed skin, winged eyebrows, a craggy nose, and full, sensual lips. He even had a gold earring: a small hoop in his left ear. The longish wavy hair would have looked feminine on another man, but not on Jesse Blue. He was the single most masculine creature she’d ever seen in her life. She felt a fizz in her blood, a tingle low in her belly. The kind of feelings that—to date—she’d only experienced when watching sexy actors in sensual love scenes. Triple-aagh! She definitely wasn’t herself today. Is this what being thirty—and incontrovertibly single—did to a woman?

Standing beside the boyish lawyer, Jesse looked close to her own age, and his face said he’d seen things she wouldn’t dare even imagine. His eyes were slitted against the sun and she couldn’t tell their color. Nor could she understand why she was curious.

He was studying her from head to toe in a lazy, insolent way that brushed tingly heat across her skin. It startled her as much as it offended her, and she felt color—that embarrassing color she tried so hard to control—flush her cheeks. She wasn’t used to a man looking at her like that. A guy like Jesse couldn’t be interested in a plain, tailored woman like her—not that she wanted him to be—so in all likelihood he was trying to throw her off balance. Little did he know, she’d been off balance since the moment she first heard of his existence, not to mention laid eyes on him.

She firmed her jaw again and narrowed her eyes. He was an offender and she was the boss here. He’d do well to remember it.

So would she.

And as for Jesse’s impression of Maura . . .

Jesse squinted through a dazzle of sunshine to see the woman who stood in the doorway. The woman who controlled his future. This lame-ass community service thing was fucked up. But he had to admit, it was way less fucked up than doing jail time.

And hell, he’d done what he had to do to protect Consuela, and now he would take the consequences like a man. With any luck, this supervisor person would give him a few straightforward chores and leave him alone to get on with them.

As he walked toward the porch, his first impression was of height. She had to be around five ten, only four inches shorter than he was.

He mounted the steps, the overhang cut the sun, and he saw the woman fully. Awareness rippled through him, and an unexpected throb of arousal.

She was lean, that ritzy leanness that verged on skinniness but never got too close. Oh, yeah, she had curves. His gaze lingered on small, high breasts and gently rounded hips as he scanned her from head to toe. Boring shoes and plain clothes—a tailored shirt and pants. Kind of classy, but Jesus, they were gray. What woman under the age of eighty wore gray?

How old was this one? She could be a few years older than his own twenty-seven, or a few years younger. Her kind of poise and elegance made it hard to tell. He didn’t have much experience with classy women like this—and what he had told him to steer clear.

His gaze returned to her face, guessing from her coloring that she was Irish. Framed by pulled-back reddish-gold hair, her features were flawless. If she wore makeup, it was just a touch to darken brows, lashes, and lips. The flush on those ivory cheekbones was all her own, as much as the freckles that dusted them.

Her eyes were incredible, somewhere between blue and green. He’d seen that color in Hawaii the time he went there on holiday.

And then, saving the best for last, there was her mouth. Fuck, what a mouth. It was one of those wide, lush ones that got a man hard just thinking what she might do with it.

She reminded him of someone, in a good way. Who was it? In the crowd he hung out with—mostly other construction workers and their girls—he didn’t see women like this. An actress maybe?

Her brows arched and suddenly he knew who she looked like: a lingerie model he’d seen on the cover of one of his friend Consuela’s Victoria’s Secret catalogs. Oh, the clothing was way different—the model’s dynamite body was barely covered by sexy scraps of black silk and lace—but the women had the same vibe. Elegant, yet lush, and totally self-contained. Both had hair pulled back in a knot, calling attention to every perfect feature of a classic face. Gorgeous eyes, though the model wore glasses, thin-framed ones that magnified rather than disguised those stunning eyes. Somehow, all that prim-and-proper stuff that should’ve been a turn-off actually had the opposite effect. The advertising folks knew what they were doing.

Thank Christ his new boss didn’t wear glasses. Already, Jesse’s temperature was climbing and his dick thickening as he tried to imagine what lay under all that buttoned-up clothing.

Stick to your own kind, he reminded himself. The couple times he’d forgotten that rule, he’d ended up feeling like crap.

Not only was Miss Priss his supervisor on this community-service gig, but he knew all about her type. She was way too good for him and she damned well knew it. Even if she was attracted to him—and lots of gals were—she’d consider it slumming. She’d view him as a charity case, try to make him over, the way Nancy, a nurse he’d once dated, had done. Or, worse, she’d act like that rich bitch Sybil: treat him as her dirty little secret, good enough to fuck in private but not to acknowledge in public.

He wasn’t letting himself in for any more of that shit. Yeah, it’d be best for both of them if the ice queen stayed frozen. She was his boss. That’s all it would ever be.

So, what do you think? Could these two ever fall in love? Well, it’s a romance novel, so I bet you can figure out the answer to that question.

How do you feel about the attraction of opposites theme in romances?