“Broken-field running” is a football term that describes what happens when a play breaks down, forcing the ball carrier to improvise to get past obstacles and progress toward the goal line.

My life for the past month has been one big broken-field scramble of work, social and family obligations, making it hard to give Malibu Bride a proper launch. So I’ve decided to run the ball out of bounds and gear up for a strike at the end zone next month.

And, yes, that is a legitimate strategy in football.

Before the July launch, however, let me offer you a snippet that I’m particularly proud of. In the following scene, Lara—Palm Springs Heat’s heroine and a major presence in Malibu Bride—is in the middle of several tense moments with Fast Lane’s top attorney, hard-as-a-rock Candy Kane.

I’m proud of this excerpt because a Malibu Bride beta reader said, “All of the women in the Fast Lane books are beautiful, but sometimes I forget how tough they have to be to make it in this cutthroat corporate world. This scene reminded me of that.”

“We get sued all the time,” Candy said without looking up. “Sometimes we go to court. Sometimes we settle. Sometimes we tell people to go fuck themselves.”

“And do they?”

Candy shrugged. “Not always. But it’s worth trying.”

“You want to try that with Virginia Warren?”

“I’d love to tell her to go fuck herself,” Candy said. “Everyone here would, but it’s probably better to handle this quietly.” She sifted through papers and waved one at Lara. “Seven million’s not chump change, but contract claims only provide remedy for actual loss. No multiplying damages. No punitive damages. And she has to pay her own attorney fees. Even if we dished out seven mill, she wouldn’t get anywhere near that.”

Lara’s face lit up. “Basically, we’d be telling her to go fuck herself!”

Candy smirked. “You’re a fast learner.”

“Not always,” Lara said. “Working with Gina—with Virginia Warren—was one of the dumbest things I did in my whole life.”

“Sushma forced your hand,” Candy said. “I knew the second I met you that you weren’t ready for what was coming down the pike.”

“I was in way over my head.”

“Fast Lane pulls in a billion dollars a year,” Candy said. “This ain’t 1965 anymore—one big ol’ love-in with an ocean view. It’s no place for the meek, and Sushma’s one tough bitch.”

“You got that right,” Lara said.

“I meant it in a good way.”

“So did I.”

I named Candy to make it sound like she’d be sweet and cutesy. But she’s strong and candid—and all business. During business hours, at least. Later in the book, she shows another side during a very public event:

In a tight-fitting sleeveless black “glimmer lace” dress, Candy looked less like a lawyer than Lara was used to—even with the silver shark-tooth designs.

Clay grabbed the microphone and smiled. “We get into trouble here at Fast Lane,” he told the hundreds on hand and the hundreds of thousands watching on the web, “but Candy is as tough and tenacious in her role as head of our legal department as she is gorgeous in that should-be-illegal dress.”

That introduction sums up a point I make in Palm Springs Heat and Malibu Bride and will continue to make in San Fernando Dreams, which is that while the women of Fast Lane are beautiful, they’re also smart, independent and frequently formidable.

Unfortunately, the glass ceiling remains intact in the real world. I’ve known women who’ve worked damn hard to succeed in spite of it. Lawyers and editors and advertising entrepreneurs and indie authors and beauticians and health care professionals whose ability to run a broken field full of obstacles day after day proved their strength.

Romance novels contain many elements of fantasy, but the idea that women can be tough and feminine and desirable at the same time? That I took from real life.

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