You would think that it was the over-the-top alpha male hero Raphael Cabrillo that got me started writing Untamed Fire. It wasn’t. You’re not going to believe this but a few pictures in a magazine of a hacienda-style home got me thinking of setting a book in California when the Spaniards owned a good portion of the land.
I could just picture scenes in the courtyard with an adobe fountain sprouting water and large shade and fruit trees providing a cool oasis on hot days. And beyond were the vineyards that produced an abundance of grapes, the vegetable gardens, fruit trees, the cattle, and the land itself stretching out as far as the eye could see. Raphael was right at home in the splendor of it all, but then he was from an aristocratic family from Spain. And Gaby was a peasant who loved life and loved to dance and paid little heed to propriety, though not on purpose, mostly out of curiosity.
You never know what’s going to be an inspiration for a book or a scene. You just have to go with it and see where it takes you. And that’s why I added a river to run through a portion of Cabrillo land. It provided me with a great scene between Raphael and Gaby. I mean, how can the hero let the heroine get swept down river, especially when it’s his fault that she got swept away in the first place.
Here’s a portion of that scene:
Rafael watched Gaby from the blanket under the tree. He had joined his mother and Don Joseph only moments before. His mother had wasted no time in fussing over him, fixing him a plate of cold meats and bread and pouring him a glass of red wine.
He had tried to keep his mind on the conversation at hand, but once his roving eyes found Gaby, he couldn’t turn away. He watched her every move. His muscles tensed when she approached the river. The current was strong and he worried that her foolishness would bring trouble. It didn’t come as a surprise to him when she hoisted her skirts up and entered the water.
“Excuse me,” Rafael said and without glancing at his mother or Don Joseph he stood and headed to the river and Gaby.
“Come out of there,” he demanded sharply.
Gaby startled and almost lost her footing, righting herself quickly. “You frightened me.”
“You should be frightened that current can be dangerous. You have no business being in there. Now come out this instant.”
Gaby glared at him. He stood with his long legs slightly spread, his hands on his hips and his blue eyes hot with anger. “I will not. I’m enjoying the cool water on this hot day.”
His hands went to rest on his hips. “You dare disobey me?’
Gaby mimicked him, her hands going to her hips. “I do my chores. I take care of your mother. But the decision to cool my warm skin with the river’s refreshing water is mine to make, not yours.”
“You are my responsibility.”
“I am responsible for myself.”
He raised his hand and shook a finger at her. “You are obstinate and foolish.”
She laughed. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“I can see that I have not used a firm enough hand with you. Now get out of there!
Rafael gave a low, feral growl and advanced on her.
Gaby instinctively took a step back, her foot sinking into a deep hole. She lost her balance, teetering precariously to and fro as she tried to stop herself from tumbling over.
Rafael rushed forward, his hand stretched out. Gaby reached for him, their fingertips touching.
“Grab hold,” Rafael shouted, fighting the current to get closer.
His fingers were about to close around hers when suddenly she went down, the current swallowing her and rushing her downstream.
Rafael tore his jacket off and tossed it on the riverbank, his boots followed, knowing both would slow him down. Then he allowed the river to swallow him and the strong current to carry him along.
Gaby was tossed about as easily as a small stone. It took several seconds to gain control and get her head above water. She had no doubt she could manage to swim to shore. She was a good swimmer and her father had taught her the quirks of the river. She would go with the current until she felt its strength weaken, and then break out against it.
Rafael finally spotted her just ahead. The river was sweeping her away. If he didn’t catch up with her soon, the river would claim her. His muscles burnt from the force of his exertion but still he battled the mighty current. His heart pounded and fear gnawed at his stomach.
Gaby felt the slight change, as if the river had taken a breath. This was her chance. She wasted no time. She dipped beneath the surface and began her struggle for the riverbank.
Rafael saw her go under and the fear that she was drowning near burst his heart. He submerged and raced toward her, his powerful arms slicing through the water. He spotted her and surged forward. As soon as he was able, his arm went around her waist and he locked her solidly against him.
He brought them to the surface coughing and sputtering.
“You stupid —” were the only words she could spit out before they went under once again.
“Stupid?” Rafael managed to yell as they surfaced once again, his grip on her remaining solid.
Gaby, realizing he wasn’t about to let go, hooked her arm around his neck, leaving her other arm free to help swim.
The river carried them along, the current having gained strength.
“I was doing fine,” she shouted fighting the rushing water along with him.
“You were drowning,” he yelled back, surprised that she wasn’t weeping and frightened beyond measure. Instead, she knew what to do to help him rather than hinder his rescue attempt.
“Idiota,” she yelled.
His grip tightened around her waist. “Call me that again and I’ll drown you myself.”
The potent anger in his eyes astonished her but what surprised her even more was that it was laced with fright. Had he actually been frightened for her?
“I’m sorry,” she breathed near his ear before the current swallowed them once again.
Rafael was breathless and Gaby was fighting for air when they surfaced.
“We have to get to shore,” Rafael said between breaths, “before we reach the bend.”
Gaby nodded. She knew the current worsened after the bend and their chances of surviving slim.
“Hold tight, querida,” he urged with a whispered breath.
She obeyed him this time, clinging so tightly to him that she felt his hard muscles grow taut as he warred with the current, demanding it release them. She aided as best she could, but her meager strength did little, if anything, to help.
She heard loud screams just seconds after Rafael did. She turned in that direction and spotted Enrico on the riverbank a few feet ahead. He held a rope, the other end attached to the horn of his saddle. He gestured and pointed and Rafael acknowledged his understanding with a wave.
The bend came into view up ahead. They had precious little time.
“Wrap your two arms around me and hold tight.”
Once again she obeyed, burying her face in the crook of his neck.