In romance fiction, much of the conflict that keeps readers turning pages stems from sexual tension. Reading romance is all about vicarious thrills, both physical and emotional. Readers want to feel the excitement and arousal along with the characters, and frustration merely serves to heighten the sense of anticipation. Will they or won’t they? (Of course, we know they will, but when, and how?) Every heated glance, sexy double entendre, and interrupted physical encounter pumps up the sexual tension.
And after all, what is sexual tension but The Big Tease? We torture our characters and tease the reader every time we draw the hero and heroine together only to jerk them apart. Every love scene is a reward for the characters and the reader who has suffered along with them.
An erotic novella knows its purpose and gets right down to business, but a longer story has the luxury of allowing the reader inside the heads and hearts of the characters as well as their bodies. The reader can travel with them down the long, winding road to fulfillment, and the more twisted the journey, the better.
In this excerpt from my new Western Historical release, A Man Like That, the heroine has caught up with her errant fiancé who left town hours before their wedding. She’s determined to bring him back, but he resists (for the noblest of reasons, of course).
“You all right?” a husky, morning male voice asked.
Morgan’s blankets rustled, and his footsteps crunched across the grass behind her back. His hand touched her side, and painful needles speared her flesh.
“What’s the matter? Sore?”
She winced. “And cold,” she confirmed in a small voice.
“We can’t have that.” He punctuated his observation with a light swat on her backside before rising to his feet.
He laughed, and she heard the sounds of him tending the fire. Soon the popping and hissing tempted her with thoughts of blissful warmth.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll be all right. We’ll have you back on your horse and on your way home in no time.”
“I doubt it. I can’t even move.”
“Then I’ll have to move you, won’t I?”
He knelt behind her and drew the blanket aside. Jessy shivered hard and groaned again. She felt his hands on her body, both of them this time, and his touch was neither playful nor sharp. It was strong and slow and infinitely tender. Starting at the back of her neck, he massaged the stiff, painful muscles and sent the circulation rushing back to her chilled flesh.
When she could move her neck again, he slid his hands to her shoulders and worked them with slow, sure strokes until she arched into his touch. His hands moved down her back until he encountered the thick, stiff edge of her stays beneath her shirt and hesitated.
“What the...what have you got on under here?”
“You slept all night on the hard ground trussed up like a rabbit on a spit?”
“Not exactly,” Jessy said. “I’m sure the rabbit would have been much warmer.” She tentatively straightened her legs.
“Take that infernal thing off now.”
“What do you mean you can’t? You sure don’t need to worry about the way these clothes fit you.”
She winced. She should have changed into her riding habit when she saw his campfire last night instead of appearing dressed like this. No man would be overcome with love at the sight of his fiancée dressed like a shabby boy. But last night she hadn’t been sure it was Morgan until it was too late.
She tried to roll onto her back, and the movement brought an involuntary grunt of pain. “I can’t take it off because I can’t sit up.”
His single word response expressed his feelings succinctly, but his hands were strong and gentle as he lifted her into a sitting position. He began to unbutton her shirt.
“I can do that myself,” she said, slapping him away. But she soon found her fingers were too stiff with cold to work the small bone buttons through their holes.
“I’ll do it.” Morgan’s gruff reply was at odds with his tender touch. He brushed her hands aside and finished the job.
When he slipped the warm flannel shirt off her shoulders and down her arms, violent shivers wracked her body. He swore again and pulled out his knife. With one quick motion, he sliced through the laces of the corset all the way up the back until the offending garment split open like a clamshell. He dragged the blanket around her quaking shoulders and pulled her into his arms and onto his lap.
Now if you guessed this encounter ends in a sweaty roll in the grass, guess again. These two have many miles, and many pages, to go before the urgings of their hearts catch up with their hormones. But the stage is set for a building wave of sexual tension that sweeps readers along until they ache for the culmination as much as the hero and heroine.
Thank you so much for joining me today! To learn more about Jessy and Morgan’s battle of will and desire in A Man Like That, I invite you to visit me on the web at www.alisonhenderson.com. And be sure to check out the pre-quel, Harvest of Dreams.