Conquered (Sleeping Giants Book II)
Berrill ‘Bear’ Clayton is an accomplished beauty encased in steel. Her toughness isn’t an act, but it isn’t ‘all her’ either. She distances herself from love and intimacy, clinging to the Alpha Girl persona she believes enables her to forget the times she was too weak to save the people she loved. Though her looks contradict it, she’s felt incapable and…owned her entire life. It’s just her luck to fall for a guy who seems set on owning everything he sees.
For Pope Apostolou, ‘ownership’ is about putting distance between him and a time when he felt like nothing more than property. Meeting the fiercely independent Bear was a necessary soother for raw emotions stoked by the return of an old threat. Pope believes that threat now has Bear in its crosshairs. It breaks his heart to discover she’s quietly torturing herself for a horrific night 6 years earlier-one that left 10 men dead-slaughtered after a night of debauchery…and betrayal.
In order to triumph over this new threat, Pope will need to show Bear that she can trust him. Unfortunately, Bear has learned to equate trust with surrender-something she refuses to give to any man. Pope would indeed want her surrender when her heart becomes the one thing he wants to conquer.
Conquered is a standalone BWWM Suspense Thriller. For an enhanced reading experience, add “Intoxicated” to your collection. These titles contain scenes of intense violence, language and sexual situations. Intended for mature readers.
“You seem to have a knack for eavesdropping on my conversations, Mr. …” She winced and snuggled her bottom a little deeper into the chair “Apos-stow or stew? Shaun’s got such a way with pronouncing people’s names- I’m afraid I might massacre yours.”
“Stow-stress is on the third syllable. Apostolou,” he supplied without hesitation and waited on her to make the connection. He could all but see the coincidence hitting home and felt the tug of attraction stir same as it had when he’d first met her. The mocha hue of her gaze was so lush, he thought he could drown in it if given the chance.
“Apostolou,” Bear nodded during the pronunciation, noting its uniqueness. “Italian?”
“Right...one of my best friends is dating a guy whose Greek- Nikolaides? Mercuri Nikolaides- know him?”
He moved closer then and Bear prided herself on not panting. Her disappointment weighed in over the fact that he’d bound his hair that day. The low ponytail only emphasized the patient craftsmanship of a darkly beautiful face. Still, she’d have enjoyed seeing the jaw length waves of black felt framing it.
She had to wonder how long a woman lasted in this man’s presence before throwing herself at him. Silently, she threatened herself with bodily harm if she so much as swayed in her chair.
“Shipping guy, right?” Pope was saying. “Yeah, I’ve heard of him. I always follow those who give the rest of us Greeks a good name,” he waited, watching her enchanting face closely to see if she’d find it worth her time to question him further on that point. There was an inward sigh of satisfaction for him when she appeared to decide against it. Though remaining mute on just how well he knew the esteemed Mr. Nikolaides didn’t sit well with him, Pope decided to worry later about the ethical ramifications of his decisions.
“So are you saying you’re a Greek without a good name?” Bear had already moved on to a new topic. She took the time to size him up while he considered her question, easing his hands into his trouser pockets as he sidled closer to her chair.
Christ, he was a big son of a bitch. No swooning, B, she heard the silent command languish inside her head.
“Well I already told you I have a hard time staying in my place. Guess that would put me in the category of Greeks who could use someone to make them look good.”
Gathering the folds of her gown, Bear pushed elegantly from the suede scoop chair and put it between she and the giant who had so boldly invaded her space. When he smiled, her eyes fixed on his-brilliant sea blue orbs deep set beneath long brows black as pitch. Somehow, she resisted curling her hands over the back of her chair or even fisting them at her sides. She relied on her suspicions to keep her level.
“I don’t buy that you came all the way out here just to become a new client, Mr. Apostolou.” Bear saw the probing intensity of his gaze give way to something lighter- Surprise? Amusement?
Feeling a bit more at ease then, she folded her arms at her chest and waited patiently for that stunning gaze of his to complete its survey of her breasts elevated a smidge by the move.
“I have lunch in a place I rarely visit-”
“You should,” he inserted.
“And you’re there.”
“It’s my favorite place.”
“And I find you eavesdropping.”
“It was an open space. No door.”
“And now here you are. Coincidence? No one drops 50K for a tour.”
“They do when they want it from you.” Pope saw some of the confidence eeek out of her expression and immediately regretted his response. What's more, he regretted trying to get her attention by using the business she’d had to demean herself to build.
“I’m not for sale,” her glare was as frosty as the brief but meaningful phrase.
“I promise it wasn’t my intention to imply that you are,” sincerity rang true in his expression and the canyon depths of his voice.
“Oh I believe you, Mr. Apostolou,” her smile was tight, knowing. “So why don’t we continue on this level of honesty and discuss who really sent you here.”
Intimate Conversation with AlTonya Washington
AlTonya Washington has been a romance novelist for 14 years. She’s traditionally published with Harlequin’s Kimani Romance imprint, winner of the Romance Slam Jam EMMA Award and two time winner of The Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer's Choice Award. AlTonya is a mom and works as a College Reference Librarian. In 2015, she received scholarly publication for her article An Indie Author in a Library World which appeared in “Self-Publishing and Collection Development: Opportunities and Challenges for Libraries” published by Purdue University Press. She enjoys a successful indie author career and is best known for her Ramsey/Tesano romantic suspense series.
BPM: What made you want to become a writer? How long have you been writing? I decided to become a writer the summer after I graduated college. I attended the HBCU Winston Salem State University. I believe it was that experience that made me look at the romance novels I’d enjoyed since age 13, with a more critical eye. I still enjoyed the stories, but I craved seeing characters that looked like me. As the great Toni Morrison says “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”. These words have been a driving force behind so many of the stories I’ve created. I penned my first story in the summer of 1994.
BPM: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? I believe I’ve learned how to write the story my characters are showing me instead of the ones I want them to act out. I listen to them more which has enabled me to create some pretty unforgettable people.
BPM: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice? I don’t know if I’d say spiritual, but it is therapeutic. There’s a feeling I get when I’m writing that just soothes me. Whatever is going on around me or in my life, writing creates this…bubble that protects me from all the angst. Then, it rejuvenates and inspires to give me the strength to go and face the angst.
BPM: How has writing impacted your life? It’s made my house a cluttered mess! I write everything in longhand so you can imagine the notebooks I’ve got piled. Seriously, it’s not that bad-I try not to let my ‘hobby’ put my home in too much of an uproar. To be honest, writing has ‘impacted’ my life in beautiful ways. I continually evolve as a more thoughtful person, more observant, more detail-oriented and definitely more focused.
BPM: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? I’ve learned that my characters’ personalities deeply impact the way I craft a story. There are times when I need a scene to play out in such a way and I find that I have to have another character handle that issue because the character I intend to have in that scene just won’t fit because of who I’ve created them to be. A certain way of handling things just won’t work for a particular character unless I tweak the way the scene plays out to fit them.
BPM: Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years? Five years…Wow…lots of changes. I pray they will be wonderful ones. My best guy will be in college I hope. I’ll be a free woman with even more time to write-yaaaay!! My biggest personal goal though, is to be writing full time. I hope to make this a reality before 5 years, but definitely by then.
BPM: How do you find or make time to write? I HAVE to write. It’s like a vitamin. I don’t feel quite right until I have it in my system. Unless I’m out for the day with my best guy, there are few places I go without having work with me. I’m usually up by 5am, and start writing after my morning workout before I head off to the day job. On the weekends, I usually sit down to write 2-3 times a day and put in 2-3 hours per session.
BPM: Are you a plotter or a pantster? I’d say both terms relate to me. I rely heavily on plotting, though I wouldn’t consider my books to be plot driven but character driven. I begin each writing project by taking a wealth of notes and gathering tons of research about the places and topics I plan to cover in any given story. I create a “What Has To Happen” document that can run anywhere from 15-20 pages in length and can contain as much as 75-100 different items I want to cover in the story. My title “A Lover’s Return” contained almost 200 notes in this document. Still, I enjoy the freedom that is associated with being a ‘pantster’. When it’s time to craft my rough draft some of this won’t make it into the story-the final decision always rests with my characters.
BPM: How did you choose the genre you write in? I think the romance genre chose me. I have been an avid reader all my life. From the children’s classics like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden and more to the teen dramas like the Sweet Valley High series and the Flowers in the Attic series by VC Andrews, I was a fan of them all. Romance however was the only one that sparked my desire to write.
BPM: Have you considered writing in another genre? I would enjoy crafting a mystery novel and have already plotted out a crime fiction title that I hope to start on later next year.
BPM: Tell us about your most recent work? Conquered is the second in my Sleeping Giants Series and follows Intoxicated that released in June 2016. Conquered features our hero Pope Apostolou and heroine Berrill ‘Bear’ Clayton. The title is written as a standalone, that offers another point of view and new revelations that stem from a multiple murder that occurred 6 years earlier in a Las Vegas hotel. Bear and her friends were responsible for those deaths...or so they believe. New insights about that night are about to be uncovered. In addition to those revelations, we have Pope unable to forget his brief encounter with Bear a few weeks earlier. She has no idea who he is, but he is well aware of the role she and her friends played in the situation at the hotel. Of course, Bear’s intrigued by Pope, but hesitant. Relationships have never been her strong suit-in her mind she’s not the type of woman that men fall in love with. Pope will prove how wrong she is.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or the speakers. What makes each one so special? My main characters Pope Apostolou and Bear Clayton are very much alike and it's those similarities that cause them to have so many differences of opinion in this story. Both are strong-willed and outspoken. For Pope, he’s used to being the level head of the group-advising his friends when they need it-telling them when they are on the right track and when they aren’t. His friends have playfully labeled him a know-it-all and Pope is fine with that since they accept his ways without argument. Not so with Bear. She’s as strong-willed and outspoken as Pope.
Although Bear is tough, much of that toughness is an act, a defense mechanism that she wears to distance herself from a time in her past when she felt she was incapable of protecting those she loved. In the years since that situation occurred others have cropped up in her life that have left her feeling just as helpless. She’s triumphed over them by adopting a tough-girl mentality that actually works for her. Only her girlfriends know much of it is for show. Then, Bear meets Pope and realizes that he can see past it too.
BPM: What was your hardest scene to write, the opening or the close? Conquered has 3 parts-the middle portion of the book was the hardest for me. I can’t say why without venturing into spoiler territory. Just know that I felt like I was suffering a little right along with my characters during this portion of the story.
BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present situation or journey. I think there’s a time where we each face situations where we look back and wish we’d handled things differently. Our heroine Bear Clayton faces this often and that was definitely an aspect of the story that greatly resonated with me.
BPM: Is there a specific place/space/state that you find inspiration in? I can write pretty much anywhere, but being at home on a rainy day continues to be my absolute favorite time, space, place to create. A gray, rainy day with the lamps on, a mug of hot tea and the kettle simmering on the stove means Tonya is somewhere in comfy clothes writing and smiling.
BPM: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with? Well I just adore all the characters in my Ramsey/Tesano series and I’ll probably write stories featuring them for as long as I’m able to write. My Sleeping Giants characters are becoming especially satisfying as are a few others I’ve yet to introduce to the reading public. As for recurring themes, the ‘mad scientist’ element has been drawing me in deeper and deeper. I’m having quite a bit of fun exploring that in my romantic suspense titles lately.
BPM: Do you want each book to stand on its own or do you prefer to write series? I enjoy both. I make a conscious decision before starting a new project on whether I intend for it to be a standalone or a series. I enjoy series which allow me to plant those little seeds that I can watch spring up during the course of the books-as with the Ramsey/Tesano saga.
I enjoy the standalones as well. Standalones give readers the closure they want without the fear of a cliffhanger. Now, I’m hooked on creating standalones within a series- which follow a particular theme. These are stories that a reader can pick up from anywhere in the lineup and not feel the need to read the other titles in order to enjoy the story in hand. I’m having great fun exploring this in the Sleeping Giants series. Conquered resulted in work I’m very proud of.
BPM: Does writing energize or exhaust you? Writing energizes me all the way! I don’t write when I’m exhausted-I never try to push past it because I don’t feel it produces my best work. If I’m not feeling energized, I recognize that I need a fresh brain. I refuel (with sleep) before going back to the drawing board.
BPM: Do you believe in writer’s block? I believe in exhaustion. I really believe that’s what hinders so many writers and they misdiagnose it as a block. Not saying it doesn’t exist, only I think a writer should first examine their fuel gauge.
BPM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? I’m not so sure anymore. I once said I’d never write about a couple having to deal with infidelity. I write romance and I don’t see how that could be crafted as romantic but I’ve been having some ideas lately that may require me to revisit the idea and we’ll see…
BPM: Do you try to deliver to readers what they want or let the characters guide your writing? I think what readers want is a good story. I try to provide one with every project. It doesn’t work for me not to listen to my characters-getting into their heads, discovering who they are and presenting those layers to my readers is one of the great joys I get out of writing. My readers expect a dynamic plot but they also want to experience that connection to the people (the characters) who live the story.
BPM: Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Not really, but for me love scenes depend on the kind of scene it is. For instance, with an ‘almost’ love scene, I can pretty much write that anywhere-they’re fun, quick, sexy scenes in route to the rest of the plot and can be used to advance the story in an incidental way. For the ‘all the way’ love scenes, I prefer to write those at a time and place where I know I won’t be interrupted. If you’ve read my work, you know that sometimes those scenes can go on for a bit. I write from beginning to end with those and strive to make them as intense as a scene of dialogue.
It’s important for writers to understand that love scenes are part of the plot as well and really begin from the first moment the characters meet in the story. They should not be written simply as sex tossed in for good measure, but have a true connection to the work.
BPM: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Best money I ever spent as a writer was back in 2001 when I attended the Romance Slam Jam Literary Conference in Orlando, FL. I was a new mom, money was VERY tight and I even think I missed the registration deadline but I was living in Orlando and able to reach out to Mrs. Brenda Woodbury, who was the local contact person for the event. She worked magic to get me there. Aside from a few magazine short stories, I had nothing in the way of a major publication. Attending that event was like being admitted to another world -a fantastic one I had only dreamed about.
Once I started writing, I pretty much shied away from reading romance-not wanting anyone else’s voice to intrude on my own. So…until 2001, I had no idea African American Romance existed at such a level. One reason I started writing was because I couldn’t find the books I wanted. In SC of the 1980s & 90s, I could NOT find such stories on the shelves. The BEST part about Slam Jam, were the readers-energetic, intelligent, curious women with insatiable reading appetites. They made me believe that my voice had a place and an audience in this new and dynamic world.
BPM: Have you written any other books that are not published? Oh yeah! I’ve got two at the rough draft stage that I just haven’t pushed into final draft mode and several more that I’ve done outlines for, but haven’t had the time to move any further with. We won’t discuss all the stuff still rattling around in my head.
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present? Now THAT’S a loaded question! I’m working on so much-or I should say so many things are coming down the pipeline. Folks tend to get on me about my work taking so long to release, but it’s hard for me to work on more than one book at a time. I admire people who can. I enjoy giving my all to one world at a time. I’d say it works pretty well for me, there’s a lot on the horizon. 2017 will see a new Harlequin Kimani entitled “Silver Screen Romance”. There will be new T. Onyx erotica “Pleasure’s Possession” a spin off from the earlier “Pleasure’s Powerhouse”. “Tradition”- a new family saga trilogy set in Charleston, SC. I’ll wrap up the year with “Book of Scandal- The Tesano Elders”.
BPM: What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you? I’m good with any method- FB, Twitter, Instagram. I absolutely LOVE emails from my readers, though many often drop me a line via FB Messenger when they have a quick question. It’s a great pick-me-up when I see a message from a reader.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?