When people learn that I’m publishing a romance novel where the heroine is a breast cancer survivor, what they always ask about is that moment when she first bares her breasts to the hero. How did you write that, they ask? Was is it hard to write?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to write, because by the time the scene came about, I knew exactly how much the hero loved her. I knew exactly how he’d respond. As for how I wrote it, I’ll give you a glimpse. The following scene takes place after Cassie and Drew talk about what her life was like after the diagnosis. He’s known now for a couple of weeks that she had breast cancer while they were apart, but she’s just shared more of her feelings about that time. This is what happens next:
“Cassie,” he pulled her tighter against his chest and rocked with her on the sofa until they both were breathing normally again.
“Then I went to work for my dad, and that’s when I met Ned. Some days I could scarcely believe a decent guy wanted me… You know the rest.”
Yeah, he knew the rest, but there was one more piece, one enormous piece. The elephant was still in the room, sprawled out in the corner, taunting him, taunting her, and taking up too much valuable space. He wanted it out, banished forever. Not just for him, but for her too.
“Will you let me see your breasts?” he asked quietly, then felt her tense. “You’ve shared so much with me tonight, please share the rest. Do it for both of us.”
They sat on the sofa, with her in his lap, for a good five minutes, maybe longer. It felt like five hours. Neither of them spoke, neither of them moved.
Then with unsteady hands, she began to fumble with the top button on her shirt. But her fingers were thick and heavy, and she was on the precipice of tears again.
“Will you let me help?” he whispered.
And with hands almost as unsteady as hers, he gently moved her to the plush rug in front of the fireplace, and he lay down beside her. Kissing her, caressing her face, her arms, and her back with shaky hands.
He met her eyes, and with her face awash in trust laced with fear, she nodded again.
His clumsy fingers finally freed the first small button, and his lips found hers. He captured her mouth again and again while each button was slipped from its tether. His tongue stole into her mouth, exploring, distracting, leading them both to a safe, familiar place.
He brushed his hand over her damp forehead. “Sweetheart, this isn’t a prelude to sex. It’s about getting comfortable together after a long time apart.”
She nodded, but he could feel her fear, smell it seeping from every pore.
She hadn’t been this scared the night he took her virginity, and more than a small part of him wanted to stop, button her shirt, and simply hold her for the rest of the night. Hold her for their rest of his life. Save her from the embarrassment, save himself from the pain. But their relationship wasn’t going anywhere until they’d moved past this difficult moment, and they were so close he could see daylight on the horizon.
Nothing about this was about the physical—it was all emotional. She needed to know that he wouldn’t reject her, and he needed to know he was a man, the man she needed. Her breasts had become the physical manifestation of all their fears, all their worries.
“Do you remember the first time we made love? When I promised to go slow, that I wouldn’t hurt you?”
She nodded. He was acutely aware that she hadn’t uttered a single word since he’d asked to see her breasts.
“Did I keep my word?”
She nodded again.
“I had no freakin’ idea what I was doing.” He kissed the bridge of her nose. “My self-control is better now, and I promise we won’t do anything that hurts you. Anything you don’t want to do. You stop me if it gets to be too much.”
Before he opened her shirt, he pulled his off. “We both need to get to know each other again. My body’s changed too.”
He gently pulled aside the fabric, and trailed barely-there kisses over her neck, moving slowly to her décolletage where it met the tops of her breasts. In no hurry, he allowed his tongue to linger, gliding over the tender skin until her hips lifted off the floor.
When she shrugged the shirt off her shoulders, signaling him to continue his exploration, he gasped at the intricate purple lace covering her breasts, gently tracing the contours, first with his finger and then with his tongue. He rested his index fingers over the tiny clasp in front, placing a small kiss there before meeting her eyes.
She nodded, her expression was becoming more relaxed, and he saw a faint light in her eyes beginning to break through the clouds.
His heart was beating so fast he was practically panting. Struggling to control his breath, he ran the point of his tongue over the sensitive skin surrounding the tiny clasp before freeing it.
He kept his eyes locked on hers while his fingers eased the clasp open. Deathly afraid of doing something that would hurt her, upset her.
When her bra fell open, he lowered his head to reach one firmly beaded nub, and with a feather stroke, he circled his thumb around the other. Alternating between her mouth and her breasts, he lavished attention on every inch of flesh.
Her heart galloped wildly while he ran his tongue over the scars, accepting them, loving them the way he loved the rest of her. Her eyes were closed, but a small tear found its way out the corner and slid down her cheek toward her ear.
I hope this excerpt answers some of your questions, and gives you a sense of their love. The entire novel isn’t about the aftermath of breast cancer; it’s simply a piece of Cassie and Drew’s story. Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts, or questions. I love hearing from readers!