A native of California, Laura Haley-McNeil spent her youth studying ballet and piano, though her favorite pastime was curling up with a good book. Without a clue as to how to write a book, she knew one day she would.
After college, she segued into the corporate world, but she never forgot her love for the arts and served on the board of two community orchestras. Finally realizing that the book she’d dreamt of writing wouldn’t write itself, she planted herself in front of her computer. She now immerses herself in the lives and loves of her characters in her romantic suspense and her contemporary romance novels. Many years later, she lived her own romantic novel when she married her piano teacher, the love of her life.
Though she and husband have left warm California for cooler Colorado, they enjoy the outdoor life of hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and snow skiing. They satisfy their love of music by attending concerts and hanging out with their musician friends, but Laura still catches a few free moments when she can sneak off and read.
Beverley: What’s your name?
Phineas: Phineas Bonham St. Cyr
Beverley: Where did you grow up?
Phineas: Manhattan mostly. My life was privileged. All the right schools. Associated with all the right people. I thought I knew how to read people and surround myself with those who were like me. I was wrong.
Beverley: During what time period does your story take place?
Phineas: This is a contemporary story.
Beverley: What’s your story/back story? Why would someone come up with a story about you?
Phineas: Once my life was the envy of everyone who knew me. I had worked hard to be the best in my field. It didn’t hurt that women were drawn to me. I knew how to say the right thing all with the purpose of getting what I wanted. What good fortune I attracted passed onto others. Everyone wanted to be around me, be my friend, work for my company. I had the golden touch.
And then like the lightning bolt that blasted through a canyon, everything I had worked for vanished.
Beverley: What’s your goal in this story?
Phineas: To survive. And to survive alone. I had finally figured out how to do that. I had built my home in an isolated area on the Crystal Creek Ranch. I could walk again. I had learned how to be alone. I would no longer be known for the great celebrations I created. That I could climb out of bed, dress myself and step out of my house was my greatest accomplishment. It had taken years to achieve that level of competency. I kept looking forward. Maybe, just maybe, I could accomplish more.
Beverley: What conflicts are you facing?
Phineas: I had thought I had compensated for everything in my former life. Until the day when I hiked through the woods and I heard the most beautiful sound. The sweet strain of a violin. I had to know who created that sound. Teagan Whitloch Munroe was a woman as beautiful as the music she created. If I could only stand in the shadows and bask in the beauty that soothes my aching soul, but she’s a woman that knows sound and she knows someone is nearby listening.
Beverley: Do you have a plan for resolving them?
Phineas: I’ve been alone for years. I’ve learned to exist without human contact, but Teagan creates something too beautiful to resist. Teagan is beautiful inside and out. Sharing her music with others gives her joy. Because I am a monster, I have no fear that she will ever want to return the feelings I have for her.
Beverley: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
Phineas: The past never stays hidden. Someone tried to destroy me once, but failed. My life no longer has meaning. I can fight for my life but to what avail? It’s when the web starts to close around Teagan that I can no longer let the secrets of the past lay dormant. This time it’s a battle that must be won.
Blurb for Imagine the Kiss
Two people open themselves to the truth and open themselves to each other.
Her marriage in ruins, violinist Teagan Whitloch Munroe escapes into her music and the solace she finds at the Crystal Creek Ranch. Practicing in the woods helps her piece together her life, but she isn’t alone. When she hears someone hiking nearby, she demands he reveal himself, but the only revelation she gets is a soothing voice that heals the pain in her heart.
Maimed by a crushing accident, the once famous architect Phineas St. Cyr protects the world from his disfigurement by sequestering himself in the woods on the Crystal Creek Ranch. When he hears the intoxicating strains from Teagan’s violin, he can’t resist the beauty that quiets his aching soul, and he yearns to know the woman who creates such beauty.
Teagan finds sanctuary in her friendship with this connoisseur of music, but soon realizes Phin’s hiding more than his hideous scars. As they become entangled with each other, Teagan is stunned to learn they share more than a love of music. They are caught in a web of deceit by someone threatening to reveal Phin’s secrets. His exposed past endangers Teagan, and he can no longer walk away. This time he must face the enemy determined to defeat him. He’ll fight to the finish to protect the woman he can never love. No price is too high to keep buried the secret that will mark Teagan for destruction.
Excerpt from Imagine the Kiss
Teagan Whitloch Munroe was trembling. She was trembling, and she couldn’t stop. She’d been trembling for more than two hours—since she’d left the downtown Denver condominium she shared with her husband, Dr. Wilbert Munroe. What she’d seen inside the condo—in their bedroom—made her want to vomit. A cold knot of disgust and revulsion gripped her stomach.
When she’d walked into the master bedroom, she must’ve gasped. Will was lying on the bed, but he wasn’t alone. He’d lifted his head from the pillow. He looked right at her.
He didn’t look surprised. He looked annoyed.
She’d pressed a hand over her mouth.
Blinded by tears, she’d backed into the doorjamb and stumbled into the hallway. She didn’t remember running out of the condo, but she must have. Her legs throbbed, and her chest ached. The only thing she remembered was her husband calling her name. What had he said? Let’s talk? She didn’t know if she should laugh or sob.
And she remembered the dulcet laughter of the naked woman who was servicing him in bed. Teagan’s and Will’s bed. Teagan had thought Ginny Andrews was her friend.
Some friend. Ginny who was svelte and toned. A contrast to Teagan who’d struggled with her weight since she was seven years old.
A shuddering breath rocked through Teagan’s lungs. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She wiped them away.
She barely remembered driving to the Crystal Creek Ranch, throwing a saddle on her favorite horse, Champagne, and racing through the meadows until she reached the aspen forest covering Crystal Peak.
Fighting against the despair that filled her, she wrapped shaky fingers around the reins and urged the Arabian horse through the trees bursting with spring green leaves. Her vision blurred, and she tried to focus on the pink wild roses and purple elephant’s head mingling with the green undergrowth. The splashes of Crystal Creek tumbling over rocks sounded next to the trail. It was happy and musical and far from the darkness that crowded her heart. Her stomach roiled and begged to be emptied of the half sandwich she’d eaten during the orchestral rehearsal that afternoon.
She ran her hand over the horse’s neck damp from perspiration.
“How’re you doing, Champagne?” Her voice was husky, and she asked the question again.
The mare snorted. She shook her head. Her mane danced through the air before falling in soft waves about her neck.
“Did I run you too long?” She softened her tone. “I’m sorry. I had to get away. You’re lucky you’re a horse. You don’t have to worry about anyone breaking your heart.” Her voice cracked on the last word.
Her insides were shattered. She’d never heal, not after what she’d seen.
Fresh tears filled her eyes. The trees around her blurred. The sunshine pouring over her was warm but couldn’t melt the cold penetrating her chest.
She had thought coming to Crystal Creek would bring her peace.
She’d never find peace. Not when the image of Will pleasured by Ginny burned in her brain.
A branch cracked.
Her nerves jumped.
Fear sprang into her chest.
She looked around but saw no one. Had Will followed her? Was this his plan—talk to her in the middle of the forest? But how would he know she’d driven to Crystal Creek?
He’d know. She always went to the ranch when she needed to think things through or needed to escape the rat race of the city.
Champagne’s ears twisted, but the horse didn’t jerk. Instead, she tilted her head and stared through the trees as if she’d expected the sound.
Teagan turned in the saddle. “Will?”
“Hello?” she called out.
A breeze rustled through the branches. They swayed then stilled.
She peered through the boughs.
“Who are you? Tell me your name. I heard you. I know you’re here. Show yourself.” Her voice sounded thin and strained. She turned Champagne around.
The horse stepped like a ballerina over the flooring of pine needles and aspen leaves.
“Answer me,” she demanded.
“It wasn’t my intention to frighten you.” The voice was deep and rich and sent soothing warmth down her spine.
“I’m not frightened.” A swallow clicked in her throat. “I want to know who you are, and what you’re doing on my stepmother’s ranch. You’re trespassing, you know. Step into the clearing. I want to see you.”
Champagne stepped sideways, and Teagan listed in the saddle. She caught her breath and straightened. She patted the horse’s neck.
“It’s okay, girl.” She looked around. She needed to calm down. The horse was sensing her anxiety.
No one. No one appeared. No one spoke. The warmth she’d felt earlier slid away. Coldness wrapped around her.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
She didn’t know how she knew, but she knew this intruder had left. She urged Champagne forward. The horse pushed her nose against Teagan’s boot then took a reluctant step. Teagan peered through the trees. No human form appeared.
The intruder had left. She felt his absence the way she’d felt his presence. His presence was summer sun, his absence winter ice. He’d been near her and now he was gone, but she hadn’t heard him walk away.
As a violinist, she was tuned to sound. His voice had been pleasurable, a melting softness against her heart. It had been as pleasurable as the sounds coming from her violin. She wanted to hear him speak again. She wanted to capture his voice. She wanted to see his face.
She guided Champagne to the main trail that led back to the ranch house. She’d learn the identity of the forest wanderer. He must be familiar with the area. He’d slipped away too quickly not to know his way.
Occasionally, trespassers wandered onto the ranch, a massive acreage filled with meadows and brooks and rich green forests. The ranch was paradise, which was why she was riding her horse through woods colored with the first hint of spring. She’d find out about this trespasser.
Was he a trespasser? She dragged in a breath of the freshly-scented forest. Her heart thundered. This man knew the area. He’d disappeared without her seeing him.
An unnerving thought stirred in her mind. This wasn’t his first hike through the Crystal Creek woods. He knew the area well enough to avoid a face to face encounter with her. He didn’t want her to see him.
She had to know. She had to know what this man with the gentle but powerful voice had to hide.
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