Not my first kiss. That kiss taught me thirteen-year-old boys have no idea what they’re doing. I hope that boy has learned a thing of two in the intervening decades, but that’s another story. Or maybe not.
No, I’m talking about the hero and heroine in my current WIP, Boiling Point. As I’ve complained before, these two have given me fits from the beginning. My heroine has been breezy and confident on the surface, hiding only her qualms about her qualifications for her current job. She had refused to divulge, even to me, her romantic history. All I could do was keep writing and hope she would spill the beans when the time came.
My hero was even worse. I knew his sister thought he was a putz when it came to knowing what women want, but how many sisters are truly familiar with their brothers’ intimate relationships? I knew he was scarred by an undercover police operation gone wrong, but that’s all. Nothing about any former wives or lovers. And he’s so reticent, I feared he would never tell me.
All that changed with their first kiss.
When he took her in his arms and their lips touched for the first time, I expected the usual fireworks but no real surprises. Wrong! My heroine caught me completely off-guard. Her first reaction wasn’t lust; it was surprise and relief. She had expected fear and panic, a sense of suffocation. I had no idea where that came from. Suddenly, as I continued to write, she shared her secret with me. She had been assaulted in the past—not raped, but physically overwhelmed and terrified. It explained so much—her previous choice of a military career, her use of witty sarcasm as a weapon, and especially her determination to hide it from me.
An even more amazing revelation occurred when I switched to the hero’s point of view in the next scene. I had been worrying about the source of conflict between these two. They were both working toward the same objective. As soon as they revealed this to each other, what was left to keep them apart? Finally, the hero told me. In his former job as a detective, he’d been involved a clandestine relationship with his female partner. At a critical moment during the pursuit of a drug dealer, he’d failed to shoot out of worry for the safety of his partner, and an innocent civilian had been killed. The resulting guilt had led to their break-up, and his leaving the force. He swore never to let emotion affect his work again. He hasn’t told the heroine yet, but at least I know!
I’ve never had characters keep secrets from me like this before. I’ve also never had them bare their souls so suddenly. And all because of one little kiss.