As a reader, I know when the author has hooked me. My heart beats, my plams sweat, I get that giddy feeling the heroine gets and I LOVE it. So exciting. I eat up the page like it's Cheez Doodles (crunchy, of course, duh).
So how do you manufacture the chemistry on the page? I'm certainly not the expert, but like many of you, have an opinion. It all boils down to emotional stakes. This is the internal arc of the character that you establish in the set up. The scenes where the sexual tension is at its peak is when the hero or heroine is overcome by an emotion (physical or not, but typically is) they can't control, even if they know it is to the detriment of their current belief system about who they are as an individual.
As a reader, many of us have felt this emotion before. We can relate. We know that 'going there' is emotional suicide, but we can't help ourselves. A force, unbidden, propels us toward the 'danger.'
In Unexpectedly You, I tried to bring this heat for Emma in this scene where she checks on Mitch after he dives into the ocean to save her dog.
He has a fever. Panic gripped her heart.
She stirred him, but he didn’t budge. “Mitch? Mitch, wake up. Are you feeling sick?”
Cold. All right, she had to shut the window but to do so, she’d have to cradle his sleeping form and hope she didn’t fall flat on top of him in the process.
Emma slipped off her clogs. The queen bed barely had enough room to place her foot on either side of his head, but she managed. The window was brand-new, thank God, and slid shut without much effort. She was about to climb off, but Mitch suddenly turned on his back and she lost her balance. She fell backward on her butt in an ungraceful swoop, balancing on her knees to keep from crushing him.
“Crap,” she yelped, embarrassed beyond reason for the awkward way her knees cradled his head beneath her.
She would have jumped off had his arms not come around her waist and held her in place. “And here I thought I was having a wet dream,” he said, his voice thick and hoarse.
The look in his eyes ignited a fire inside her belly. Her lips dried and her throat tightened. She tried to say something but her tongue felt thick.
In a single move, Mitch flipped her over on her back with him on top, his hot, naked leg over her legs. His rumpled hair and drowsy eyes made him look boyishly handsome.
She cleared her throat. “I was checking to see if you were warm enough.”
His lips turned up at the corner. “If I wasn’t then, I’m sure as hell on fire now.”
The intoxicating way he stared at her melted her bones. “Why did you leave the window open? You could catch a fever. I brought you soup. It’s tomato. Do you like tomato soup?” She knew she was chattering nonsense but couldn’t seem to find the energy to meet his gaze. The ache inside of her was impossible to ignore and as hard as it was to admit, she liked Mitch’s weight on top of her. She’d forgotten what it felt like to be engulfed in a man’s arms.
He raised his head a few inches from her face and tried to smile. “This must really be happening, because tomato soup was never part of my wet dreams.”
Emma shrugged. “Sorry, but I wanted to check to make sure you were okay.”
He moved to allow her to sit up on the bed and then cursed under his breath when he saw the bulge beneath his boxers. He yanked the blanket nonchalantly over his waist. “Thank you for the concern. As you can see, I survived my stupid attempt at being a hero.”
She nodded. “That was a brave thing to do.”
“It was a stupid thing to do.”
“It was stupid. But brave nonetheless.” She tried to focus on finding the right words to thank him but her attention kept getting distracted by the tantalizing amount of skin and muscle on display. She drew in a long breath to gather herself. Mitch simply raised a brow. “Thank you for saving my dog. If there is any way I can return the favor?”
He leaned back on the bed, placing both his arms behind his head. She tried to ignore the way his stomach pulled in tight and how his biceps flexed against the pillows. His amused smile seemed to have guessed at her discomfort.
“That’s a hell of a question to ask a man when minutes ago you had his head between your legs.”
She swallowed hard. “You know what I mean.”
He grinned. “You know what I need you to do. That’s the deal we made, right? Just keep your end of the bargain.”
“I’ll keep my end of the bargain. Don’t you worry.”
“I don’t worry.” He nudged the blanket lower with his leg so it dipped below his belly button. Her mouth parched.
“Why don’t you go on home before I take you up on your offer?” He arched his brow suggestively.
Mortified, she jumped up, wheeled around and walked out of the bedroom with her back as stiff as the wet jeans she’d picked up from the floor.
“Sleep tight,” she heard him say from the bedroom before she shut the trailer’s door.