The Conscience of a Culture
By K D Grace/Grace Marshall
Thanks so much for having me over, Sommer! It’s always a pleasure to drop by your place and to talk writing and bookie stuff. I’m very excited for the chance to talk a little about my latest release, The Exhibition.
Art is the conscience of the culture that creates it, a constant reminder of what’s good, what’s bad, what inspires us, what horrifies us, what we are in our darkest moments and what we’re capable of becoming at our very best.
This is Stacie Emerson’s philosophy and the reason she does what she does. The heroine of The Exhibition, the third of Grace Marshall’s Executive Decisions Trilogy, owns a successful gallery in New York City and is about to open a second one in Portland, Oregon. The woman has an exquisite understanding of the art world and has a gift for turning that understanding toward raising enormous amounts of money for important causes.
One of the themes that reoccurs in the trilogy is the responsibility of the culture we’ve created toward the planet on which we live. It’s the theme that sends Ellison Thorne and Harris Walker off to the remote virgin forests of Valderia in a wild, genius effort to protect it from becoming the biggest clear-cut in the history of logging, and it’s the theme that drives Stacie Emerson to badger Harris into displaying what he refers to as his Armageddon photos for the grand opening of her new gallery.
Harris, who is the editor of Wilderness Vanguard – an environmental watchdog magazine, is better known for being a brilliant wildlife photographer. But he also takes photos of clear-cuts, oil spills and landfills to document what man has done to his environment. He hates doing it, but feels the need to contrast the stunning beauty of the Pacific Northwest with the horrendous destruction that results from man’s greed, and to bring that destruction to public attention. What he does is, in Stacie’s mind, a perfect example of art as the conscience of a culture.
It’s difficult for Harris to understand why a city girl like Stacie, a woman who he neither trusts nor likes because of her checkered history with Elli and Garrett Thorne, should be interested in anything beyond pictures of pretty sunsets and cute baby wildlife. But Harris soon learns that Stacie never does anything without a very good reason. Her connection to the land that Harris loves and strives to protect is at least as deep as his, and she’s as at home tromping through the high desert canyons in Central Oregon as she is amid the New York City high rises. As Harris’s respect for Stacie blossoms and grows to something more, he discovers she has a secret agenda, one that is truly terrifying.
Because I spent a good deal of my time in the Pacific Northwest and I love the landscape and the wonderful wild places, this trilogy has a special place in my heart. The area has known the destruction of mining and clear-cuts and the regeneration that has resulted in a more enlightened view of our place in nature, and its vibrancy and stunning beauty was the biggest inspiration for the Executive Decisions Trilogy.
Successful NYC gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, is ex-fiancée to one Thorne brother and ex-wife to the other. Though the three have made peace, Ellison Thorne’s friend, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, still doesn’t like her. When Stacie convinces Harris to exhibit his work for the opening of her new gallery she never intended to include him in her other more hazardous plans. But when those plans draw the attention of dangerous business tycoon, Terrance Jamison, Harris comes to her aid. In the shadow of a threat only Stacie understands, can she dare let Harris into her life and make room for love?
Harris tossed between the covers, shoving and punching at the pillow. Thinking about the clear-cut and the danger in which Stacie had put herself definitely took the edge off his arousal. It was chilling to think what could have happened. And that was only what he knew nature could have thrown at her. Add to that whatever Stacie was afraid of, and he shuddered to think. The room felt stuffy and close. Because Harris seldom spent time inside when he could be out, he kept as many of the windows and doors open as he could when he was home. He’d only closed his bedroom window to keep the deluge from blowing in. He shoved back the blankets and crawled out of bed, nearly tripping over his discarded jeans. He bit back a curse then moved to open the window and let some real air in. The sky was clear and the stars now reflected off the obsidian surface of the water. The sliver of the waxing moon looked as though it were floating suspended there. He threw open the window, and for a second he stood just breathing in the cool, rain-washed air. He was about to grab the camera he kept handy to take a few night shots, then the hard-on was back with a vengeance.
Below him on the dock, wrapped in a blanket, stood Stacie, looking out over the water. And in spite of his body’s overwhelming desire for her, he felt something other than lust stirring, something that had been easing its way into his brain ever since he’d made such a fool of himself the other night at Ellis’s place. It was respect. This woman was completely at home in New York City. No one could deny that Stacie Emerson was polished to a cosmopolitan sheen. And yet the passing of a storm would draw her outside to see the world without city lights, to listen to the quiet, all the layers of quiet that were practically their own symphony outside on Harris’s lake.
Almost before he knew what he was doing, he slipped into his jeans and moved quickly on silent feet down the stairs and through the darkened house to where the French doors led to the decked balcony and then down to the dock. But just before he reached her, she dropped the blanket, and he was afforded an exquisite, if all-too brief view of her long legs, rounded buttocks and the slender curve of her back, rendered porcelain-pale in the diminished light. Then she stepped off the dock into the lapping water.
Once again, he reacted without thinking, quickly stepping out of the jeans and leaping off the end of the dock with a splash, which resulted in a squeal of surprise and a mad swirling of the water from Stacie.
‘It’s me,’ he manages before swallowing a good-sized mouthful of the lake as he lunged to touch her arm reassuringly. But her panicked flailing dragged them both beneath the surface. For a second he felt his own panic rising as he desperately tread water, one of his shins brushing the mooring of the dock. Then they both surfaced coughing and sputtering. ‘Stacie! Stacie, it’s me,’ he said. She clung to him, shivering and sputtering water. ‘Are you alright?’ He slipped his arms around her hips for support.
He could feel more than see her nodded response. ‘Sorry,’ she gasped. ‘I didn’t mean to drown you. I woke and the storm was finished and the stars were beautiful over the lake. I couldn’t resist. Sorry I disturbed you.’
His embarrassed laugh forced his belly and other parts of him into her delicious, totally naked, personal space. ‘You didn’t disturb me. I think if anything it’s the other way around. I interrupted your communing with nature, which is almost an unforgiveable sin in my world.’
He felt her breasts pressed hard-nippled against his chest in the little laugh of her own. ‘It isn’t necessarily a given that I wouldn’t welcome your interruption, that I wouldn’t want to share the pleasure with someone who appreciates it as much as I do.’ In her efforts to tread water, she kicked him in the thigh, but before she could apologise, he kissed her and felt her breath catch as he trapped her leg and slid it around his waist.
‘Harris,’ she breathed his name. ‘We can’t -- ’ But he stopped her words with another kiss and lifted the other leg so that both her thighs gripped him around his waist, his hands supporting her bottom, his legs treading to keep them both afloat.
‘Sh! Stacie,’ he whispered against her throat. ‘Sh.’
‘But we talked about a clean slate, and we said we’d --’
‘Maybe I don’t want a clean slate.’ He kissed her harder and to his delight, she responded in kind, curling her fingers in his hair and eating at his mouth. ‘Maybe I like our slate just the way it is. What do you think of that?’ And then he heaved her up onto the floating dock, causing her to gasp and mumble a protest that ended in a little whimper as he pulled her close to the edge, pushing and shoving her legs open until his mouth could find the warm wet depth of her, open and inviting. His tongue made an ice-cream-lick of a path up the soft, moist valley of her that yielded and tensed and yielded again to his mouth. The flavor of her was honeyed and dark and better than anything he’d ever tasted. He held her, squirming and writhing, him licking and sucking all the way up to the apex of her where he settled a heavy, hungry kiss that ended in a nip to her clit. She bucked against him and tremble all over as she tugged at his hair.
His senses were filled with Stacie, the taste of her, the scent of her, the overwhelming presence of her. It was the play of a cool breeze goose-fleshing his back that made him aware her shivering wasn’t entirely due to his sexual prowess. Reluctantly he pulled himself away from his explorations and heaved himself onto the dock. She did her part to drag him up next to her, then with both of them shivering in the cool air, she hauled her blanket over them like a tent, with him still scrambling to get another taste of her. But she wriggled and squirmed and twisted, elbowing him in the tender part of the inside of his arm before she settled and shifted so that he could feel her warm breath against his pubic hair just before she cupped his balls and took his erection deep into her mouth.
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About K D Grace/Grace Marshall
About K D Grace/Grace MarshallK D Grace believes Freud was right. In the end, it really IS all about sex, well sex and love. And nobody’s happier about that than she is, otherwise, what would she write about?
When she’s not writing, K D is veg gardening. When she’s not gardening, she’s walking. She walks her stories, and she’s serious about it. She and her husband have walked Coast to Coast across England, along with several other long-distance routes. For her, inspiration is directly proportionate to how quickly she wears out a pair of walking boots. She enjoys martial arts, reading, watching the birds and anything that gets her outdoors.
K D has erotica published with SourceBooks, Xcite Books, Harper Collins Mischief Books, Mammoth, Cleis Press, Black Lace, Erotic Review, Ravenous Romance, Sweetmeats Press and others.
K D’s critically acclaimed erotic romance novels include, The Initiation of Ms Holly, The Pet Shop. Her paranormal erotic novel, Body Temperature and Rising, the first book of her Lakeland Heatwave trilogy, was listed as honorable mention on Violet Blue’s Top 12 Sex Books for 2011. Books two and three, Riding the Ether, and Elemental Fire, are now also available. She was nominated for ETO’s Best Erotic Author 2013.
K D Grace also writes hot romance as Grace Marshall. An Executive Decision, Identity Crisis, The Exhibition are all available.
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