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RamonesToday’s RNRHS post (#79, by the way…I wonder if I’ll make it all the way to #100?!) is from fellow romance author Amy Jo Cousins. I don’t usually play favorites when it comes to these posts, but this one is just way too adorable for words. I think we can all relate to the ways in which a crush changed our world view, whether it was new music or old movies or some funky cuisine that we totally pretended to be familiar with while we scanned the menu for anything that looked even REMOTELY normal. My biggest leap for love in high school was deciding I would be preppy. It lasted three weeks, sophomore year. My crush was a year ahead of me and so unattainable, but I was sure that if I just started wearing penny loafers with argyle socks, sweater vests and button-down oxford shirts, that he would have no choice but to fall in love with me. Didn’t happen, that girlfriend of his wasn’t going anywhere, but he and I did become friends and realized we liked a lot of the same music. Romance thwarted, I returned to my Midwestern semi-rebellion of wearing torn jeans, Chucks, and winged eyeliner. My friends were so happy to have me back on Planet Earth.


Amy Jo Cousins

Glenbard West, Glen Ellyn, IL, Class of ‘89, Currently: Joan Wilder-ing

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Man, I’d love to say something hip like Sinead O’Connor or Naked Raygun (both of whom I thought were weird when I was in high school…she was bald, which perplexed and scared me), but I just wasn’t that cool. If I am completely honest, I had quite a thing for musical theater and film. Especially bad musical theater and film. As in, I can still sing all of “Cool Rider” from Grease 2, because my best friend and I watched that movie about a hundred times freshman year. Also, I can do most of the songs from The Chorus Line, particularly “Let Me Dance for You” and “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” aka the tits and ass song. It’s funny that I didn’t think about this when writing When the Lights Go Down, because the conversations about high school/college plays could have been way more fun. “If he’s cool enough, he can burn me through and through, whoa yeah!”

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Bon Jovi, Bon Jovi, Bon Jovi! I spent a couple of years working in a karaoke bar in my early 30’s and have since been converted by the awesome performers who belted out Bon Jovi nonstop on contest nights (not to mention, Jon Bon Jovi was totally hot when he had that part on Ally McBeal), but I was not a fan in high school. My best friend was a full-on Bon Jovi groupie, so I’m not sure I ever said this out loud before now, but Slippery When Wet? Bored me to tears.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: I had a crush on this one boy all through high school. Okay, I actually forgot about him for most of sophomore year, but then my brother started his freshman year when I was a junior and he joined the gymnastic team. My old crush competed on that team too, and let me tell you…put a guy in a spandex tank top and some skintight pants and whooee! I was back in love. So, via a bit of hallway eavesdropping, I learned that my crush was a huge Jethro Tull fan. Of course, I became a huge Jethro Tull fan too. What a coincidence! (Turns out I still am. Jethro Tull is effing awesome. Locomotive Breath! Aqualung!) This was the late 80’s, mind you, so we were already late by almost two decades for the height of the band’s popularity. In any case, when they toured my senior year, I got a ticket and a whole group of us, including my crush, went to the concert together. It was at Alpine Valley, an outdoor concert venue just across the border in Wisconsin. I sat on my blanket and tried both not to stare at the albino gentleman right in front of me and not to get a contact buzz from the clouds of pot smoke. I was successful at the task requiring manners.

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: That same crush of mine was also a fan of The Ramones. Having impressed him with my coincidental Jethro Tull passion, when he found out I’d never heard of The Ramones, he made me a cassette tape of their songs. Even someone as desperately uncool as I was in high school couldn’t help but recognize that “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” were classics. Think I still have that tape in a drawer somewhere.

Best high school make-out song: I really dove into the kissing thing in college, being a shy and retiring sort in high school. But I did make out with a super sweet guy named Dwayne, because he played “She’s Like the Wind” from Dirty Dancing for me. Dwayne taught me how to drive stick (NOT a metaphor!) during the brief time we dated, a gift for which I will be forever thankful.

WhenTheLightsGoDown (2)Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series. Her latest, When the Lights Go Down, is out now. Visit amyjocousins.com for further info!




193EF4D975E1562B676CF81CADCCF1The kids and the hubby and I were on vacation last month, requiring a few extended stints in the car and lots of time listening to satellite radio. It was a constant battle between the kids–my son, 13, wanted Lithium, the channel that plays 90s (lots of great music, but I’m still not sure what truly defined that decade, aside from so-called grunge). My daughter, 15, wanted First Wave, the 80s channel. She comes by this preference honestly. It’s genetic. Somewhere along the way, a Wire song came on, from The Ideal Copy. I never owned the record, but I was a college radio geek when it came out. Even though it’d easily been 25 years (gah!) since I’d heard the song, I knew every damn word. It got me wondering…how much of a person’s brain is devoted to the storage of song lyrics? Is it Bon Jovi’s fault that you forgot to buy cat food again? Is it Duran Duran’s fault that you can’t remember your mother’s birthday? (Asking for a friend.) Today’s RNRHS guest, fab romance author Shelley Ann Clark, talks about her own run-in with this phenomenon, how she wasn’t a Backstreet fan in high school and they still wormed their way into her brain. Bastards!

Shelley Ann Clark

County High School in Kentucky, town of about 30,000, class of 1999, Currently a romance novelist and librarian

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: “At the Stars” by Better than Ezra. I lived in a rural area, even though I myself lived in town. My high school was out down a bunch of twisty country roads; my friends all lived down isolated, dark, one-lane, tree-lined roads. Once I got my license, I spent a lot of time driving between school and friends’ houses and home, often late at night. This song came out my senior year, I think? I immediately related to it. Whenever I hear it, I’m seventeen again, windows rolled down, driving at night, down a curvy, hilly road, full of all the hope and despair of being a teenager.

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: My high school boyfriend somehow managed to get me a baby tee (remember those? Oh yeah, I wore them with my Winona Ryder circa Reality Bites haircut and my plastic baby barrettes) from a Weezer concert signed by all but one member of the band.

I ALSO had my very own record player and a collection of 1970s records that I thought were super cool. Like Carole King’s Tapestry. And it’s possible I spent a little too much time talking about how some songs just sounded better on a record. I might have been a little insufferable.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: I came of age during the heyday of the Backstreet Boys and N*Sync. I wasn’t a fan at the time, but it turns out that now I can’t help but sing along to “Bye Bye Bye” and “I Want it That Way” when I hear them on the radio. They wormed their way into my brain.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: I lived in a small town, and the closest major music venues were in Cincinnati. My parents weren’t about to let me go to see a show on a school night and not return until two in the morning, no matter how cool the bands playing were. They would not be moved on this point. The best I could do was Lilith Fair the summer of 1995, where I saw Emmylou Harris, Jewel, the Indigo Girls, and Sarah McLachlan. Of those acts, the one I still like the most is Emmylou—who, of course, I didn’t appreciate nearly enough at the time.

Best high school make-out song: Even though it’s from two generations before mine, “Bell Bottom Blues” by Derek & the Dominos will always make me think of high school makeout sessions. The tortured longing in that song is very sexy. I first heard it when I was about fifteen, and something about the music just connected straight to my angst and lit a fire under my genitals. Plus, it’s pretty long compared to most pop songs, so if you need to sit in the driveway until it’s over, you get at least an extra two minutes of kissing.

RomanceShelley Ann Clark is the author of Have Mercy, out now from Loveswept. You can find out more about her at shelleyannclarkauthor.com


Mark never wanted me to do anything naughty or unexpected or unorthodox, which was precisely why I signed up for this. After twelve years with him—thirteen if we’d made it another two months, I needed to prove to myself that I was still a living, breathing woman. Our life together had gone just as my mother had said it would—courtship, a proposal, marriage. Somewhere in there, sex had been introduced, but it hadn’t been soon enough for me to realize that Mark and I would never make it. My biggest mess-up was following the script my mother had given me.

And so there I was, squinting into the depths of a darkened studio, desperate for a glimpse of a man, the stranger I’d volunteered to undress before cameras. I sensed he was waiting. Was he appraising me? My hair? My hips? My everything? Could he tell how fast my heart raced? Was it visible through the skin of my chest?  I had no roadmap for imagining him as a whole, but his presence swirled around me–mystery, the unknown. There was no script this time–just me and a man. A man with hands and lips and eyes and a butt. A man with a past. A penis.

When I’d seen the ad seeking volunteers for this film project, I leapt at the chance, which really means I deliberated for three days and ultimately decided to leap like nobody’s business. However nervous it made me, I longed for even a fraction of something new. I wanted to be knee-deep in that moment when you can’t catch your breath and anticipation worms up your spine, all because you’re becoming acquainted in the most intimate way and nobody knows what will happen next, and please, God, make it good.

I tapped my foot on the concrete floor, trying to remain patient with the eternal wait. I hummed, snapped my fingers, and turned, now confronted with the white metal-framed bed, our ultimate destination. Simple, neatly pressed bedding draped the mattress. Pillows were plumped and ready. My heart refused to quiet itself. Staring at the bed I was about to climb into with a stranger didn’t help.

Something–or someone–moved, and I whipped around. Seeing him was akin to tearing the wrapping paper off a gift in one, ridiculously satisfying rip. One thing was for certain–I would remember this gift. Tall, so very tall, with legs and arms that I could imagine reining me in effortlessly. His skin was a gleaming coffee-brown, his broad nose a bit bent to one side, a slightly lopsided grin to match. He drew a bead on me, closing in, his smile as comfortable as I could imagine. I knew how I saw him, but how did he see me? Scared? Quiet? Sex-starved?

“I’m Adrian.” He offered his hand. His voice had a low rumble that made my stomach wobble.

“Hi. I’m Molly.” I placed my hand in his. As frightened as I was, his warmth calmed me in waves. He was human, he had vulnerabilities, just like me.

We stepped closer and I dared to make eye contact. His gaze was kind and unmistakably assertive, far too potent for me to hold long. My vision drifted to his strong cheekbones and full, brownish-pink lips. Would I get to kiss those lips? No one had promised a kiss as part of this venture. Damn. What now?

Adrian held his hand to his thick brows and squinted into the darkness, as I had moments earlier. “Do we just start?”

Thank goodness someone was worried about logistics. I was too fixated on his smell–warm and musky, muddling my thoughts.

“Do what feels right,” a voice answered.

“I try to do that every day,” Adrian said, peering down at me.

Do what feels right? Did I even remember how to do that? I wasn’t entirely sure, but I had to start somewhere. “Want me to take off your shirt?”

“I do.” Adrian clasped his hands behind his back and lowered his head, watching every move I made.

I reached for the first of the small, pearly white buttons on his navy and gray plaid shirt. I sped up after the first two, knowing where I was about to end up–the waistband of his jeans.

“Do you come here often, Molly?” he asked, his words ruffling my bangs.

I giggled and smiled, shaking my head. Seeing the sliver of his skin I’d revealed only made me eager for more. “Of course. I do this all the time.” With a quick tug, I untucked his shirt and slipped the final button from the hole.

“You seem like a woman with a lot of experience.”

Heat stormed to my cheeks. “Do I?”

I swear he puffed out his chest as I rolled the shirt past his shoulders. There wasn’t a square inch of Adrian that was boring or disappointing or anything short of mesmerizing. He was broad and smooth and firm, just like I like ‘em, but not always the way I’d been able to get them in the past.

He leaned closer and whispered in my ear. “The cuffs.”


He turned his back to me, shirt dragging on the ground, stuck on his wrists because I hadn’t undone every button. I threaded my hands beneath the fabric and fumbling, finished the job, allowing the garment to fall to the floor.

“Perfect,” he said, circling back. “Your turn.”

The one smart thing I’d done that day was skipping anything with buttons. Too much futzing around. Adrian’s fingers curled under the hem of my knit top and dragged it up the length of my torso, his knuckles grazing my waist, over my ribcage and the sides of my bra. He dropped the shirt, eying me with inexplicable delight. Was it really me he was looking at? No man had ever looked at me that way. I could’ve remained under that gaze forever.

“I’d be rude if I failed to mention how beautiful you are,” he said, reaching for the button on my jeans and playfully tugging me closer in the process.

“Thanks,” I muttered. Goosebumps peppered the bare skin of my stomach as he started on my jeans. “Wait. Was I supposed to do yours first?”

His eyes filled with amusement. “Molly. Darling. No rules. We’ll get there. I’m eager to see the rest of you.”

Just when I thought his words would make me faint, he dropped to his knees before me and cocked an eyebrow. I held my breath as he wriggled my pants over my hips. He bolted upright and it was clearly time to get rid of his pants. Part of me had worried about the embarrassment if he’d been “happy to see me”. A bigger part of me was disappointed that he was merely in a state of normal stunning-man-in-his-boxers.

“Time for bed,” he quipped, holding back the blanket.

How I wanted that to be true, for this to be real. Manufactured moment or not, I would’ve been a fool to turn down a chance at even five seconds in bed with him. I scrambled onto the mattress and flipped to my back. He followed, flopping down on his side, facing me, his back to the camera. That close, body against body, there was no ignoring the current arcing between us. If I could’ve done anything, I would’ve pinned him to the bed, pressed my hips into his until he really was happy to see me.

Adrian tenderly brushed my cheek with his hand. My heart did a flip-flop it hadn’t done since I was a teenager. He may have pulled the blanket up over us, but I’d never felt more exposed, more beautiful. Our eyes locked, breaths falling into sync. He seemed to understand how much I was drawn to him, and how could I not be? Did he feel the same way about me or was I imagining it?

“Hopefully someone will tell us we’ve done our job and can get dressed now,” he said.

No. No. No. My eyes clamped shut. I’d read him wrong. He wasn’t feeling what I did. This had been fun for him—flirtation. Nothing else. My stomach sank. My only comfort was that I’d at least had a few minutes with this unbelievable man. I was lucky just for that.

“If we don’t get dressed,” he continued, “I can’t ask you to dinner and see how you’d feel about a replay of our afternoon together.”

My eyes flew open. “Dinner? A replay?”

His eyes narrowed, he reared back his head. “Did I read this wrong?”

I smiled so wide my face must’ve looked like a dinner plate. Relief washed over me. I yanked back the covers. “No, you absolutely did not read this wrong.”

“Good.” He blew out an exhalation. “There’s no script to these things, you know. Sometimes a guy just has to wing it.”

Final word count: 1497

FirstUndressing1-300x300This bit of flash fiction was inspired by the short film, Undress Me, and is part of the First Undressing Blog Hop happening August 5-9. Be sure to check out the other stories in the hop! Many thanks to Audra North for being our fearless ringleader!

Watch the short film that started it all…