Synopsis: When an insecure, bi-racial woman begins a cloak-and-dagger love affair with a Japanese American man, she is intent on keeping her bigoted family in the dark—albeit with devastating consequences. On the night of her brother’s murder, Deena Hammond stumbles upon Takumi Tanaka, lost and on the wrong end of a .32. After rescuing him from the certain fate driving through the hood in a Porsche will bring, a sweet kind of friendship begins. A balm for her grief. Maybe, Deena likes to think, it happened the day her white mother killed her black father. Or maybe, it was always a part of them, like DNA gone bad. Whatever the case, Deena knows that her family would never approve, hell, never acknowledge her fast-growing love for Takumi. And had he never made love to her that way, in that unraveling, soul-searching sort of way, she could’ve done the same. But love’s a devil that way. So, their game begins. One where they hide what they are from everyone. Anyone. And Tak understands this—for now. After all, Deena’s career hinges on the favor of her mentor and boss, his hard-ass of a father. And the Hammond family is already stretched thin with grief. Yet, each step Deena takes toward family and career brings her closer to an acceptance she’s never had. And away from him.
“Shall I send in Mr. Tanaka?”
The intercom jarred her back to reality. The notion of Daichi Tanaka having to ask twice to
enter her office had a sobering effect whose only equivalent was a pink slip.
“Jesus, of course!” Deena cried. “Tell Mr. Tanaka that there’s no need to ask. Please, send
Breathless, she stood and rushed to the door, opening it with a potent sort of dread. A short
pause later, she was met not with the senior Tanaka, but the decidedly more favorable junior.
“If only I were welcomed so warmly everywhere I went,” Tak sighed as he stepped into her
Deena stared after him.
“I thought you were your father. I thought—”
He held up a hand. “Don’t. You’ll spoil the warm feeling your gushing invitation gave me.”
He turned to the flowers.
“Did you like them?”
Her eyes widened.
“They’re from you?”
Tak shrugged. “Thought you could use a little sunshine. Was I right?”
The corners of her mouth turned up just a tad.
She turned from him, eyes suddenly wet. Counting backwards, Deena waited until the tears
abated, pretending to fuss over the larkspur. Once safely dry-eyed, she turned back to him.
“So, Mr. Tanaka, what brings you here?”
“Stopped in to see my dad.”
He smiled at her sudden blush, no doubt remembering the choice name she had for the older man before the father and son link had been established. Tak ventured over to the flowers and fingered them halfheartedly.
“And to see you,” he said quietly.
She heard the breathlessness in her voice and frowned. What was that?
He slipped a calla lily from the bouquet and held it up for inspection. The stem was long and
olive, the bulb mango and vaulted. It made her think of a ballerina in repose.
“I saw this thing,” he said. “And it made me think of you.”
“Thing?” she echoed.
He looked up.
“An article. About curry addiction. Have you heard of it?”
Deena shook her head, more confused now than before he’d begun to elaborate.
He stuck the lily back in its vase.
“Well, it’s a just a theory, really. Some people think that when you eat really hot food, that
the pain from it makes the body release endorphins.” He leaned against her desk. “Supposedly,
you get this natural high from eating hot foods and it leads you to want more and hotter curries,
the same way any other addiction makes you want more.”
“And that made you think of me?”
“Sort of. When I read it, I thought to myself, if anyone needs to get high, it’s Deena.”
She paused, unsure of how she should respond, certain she was supposed to be offended. But
she laughed. The boy had no idea how spot on he was.
Tak smiled, clearly pleased with himself.
“No rush to go curry hunting, mind you.” He nodded towards the flowers. “Maybe when the
sunshine wilts and you could use some of a different kind.”
Deena lowered her gaze, suddenly shy, exposed.
She bit down on her lip, taken back by the automatic need to answer.
Tak shrugged. “I don’t know. I just hate to think that you’re going to spend your evening
alone in some apartment you’ve got decked out like this sad-looking place.”
Deena looked around.
“You don’t like my office?”
He stared. “You do?”
She laughed, despite herself. That made three—three times she’d done so since her brother’s
death—all three because of him.
“I think this place is cozy. Streamlined. And conducive to work.”
“What are you talking about? I have Hope and your bouquet. It’s positively radiant in here.”
He looked around. “Hope?”
Deena blushed. “She’s my bonsai.”
Now he would laugh. But he didn’t.
“Maybe one day you’ll tell me how she got that name,” he said softly.
She lowered her gaze once more.
They fell silent.
“So,” Tak said suddenly, loudly. “Dinner? Six? Meet you in the lobby.”
Deena sputtered. “Oh, I don’t know I—”
He held up a hand.
“Listen, you don’t even have to talk to me. Just a little company and good conversation if
you want.” He shrugged. “At least I hope it’s good.”
Briefly, she thought of the box
“And you don’t mind if I’m not good company?” she squeaked.
He was already heading for the door. “Not at all.”
She smiled at his back. “Okay then.”
He paused, a hand on the doorknob.
“Excellent. There’s a new place on Ocean Drive called Spiced. Everything’s lava hot. We
can burn a hole in our mouths then try to cool it with ocean water. You’ll love it.”
Deena grinned, watching the door slam behind him. Something told her she might.
Their first night together was filled with incendiary curries from India and crashing waves
from the Atlantic. Dinner ran long and the coffee cold, before Tak and Deena were ushered out
at closing. They returned again the next night and opted for decidedly more adventurous fare—a
black bean and squid ink soup for her, Moroccan sea bream and braised rabbit for him—all made
searing with a bevy of chilies, pastes, powders and spices. And after closing this time, they
walked along the shore with a sliver of moon illuminating the sky and plans for a third night on
of tissues that had been her constant companion for the last
Shewanda Pugh is a native of Boston’s inner city, though she now calls sunny Miami, Florida home. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Alabama A&M University and a Master’s in Writing from Nova Southeastern University. Fueled from a young age, her passion for crossing societal boundaries like race, class and culture, is the inspiration for both her cluttered bookshelf and her writing. When she’s not busy obsessing over fiction, she can be found traveling, nursing her social networking addiction or enjoying the company of loved ones.
Get to Know Shewanda:
1. What’s unique about Crimson Footprints?
A few things. For starters, I’ve paired a biracial African American girl with a Japanese American guy for a passionate romance. They connect on a multitude of emotional and physical levels, and you as the reader, have the opportunity to see that unfold. Second, I offer the “real” Miami as a setting, the contrary Miami where the richest and poorest of Americans all live in the same glamorous city. Third, both hero and heroine, Tak and Deena, are unique individuals that jump off the page and into the heart. In other words, they’re really real.
2. Why interracial romance?
I have a thing for cultural boundaries. Interracial romance is only one aspect of that. There are also economic and/or religious boundaries, too. You get to see that in Crimson Footprints, too.
3. What part of Crimson Footprints did you most enjoy writing or creating?
The romance between Tak and Deena, two contrary figures who didn’t appear to belong together, but fit together perfectly nonetheless. I also enjoyed fleshing out Deena’s career and making it a total reflection of her character, beliefs, and hardships. There is symbolism in her work as an architect, and that was something I enjoyed exploring.
4. What makes a good story?
Well-developed characters with motivations both big and small, old fashioned plot development, a climax that makes sense, and a satisfying ending. Throw in a cliffhanger or two and you’re working with something blockbuster.
5. Who are your literary heroes?
Zora Neale Hurston, first and foremost. Toni Morrison and Amy Tan second.
6. What are you reading now?
Right now I’m in love with all things even remotely YA dystopian romance. In the last few weeks I’ve read the Hunger Games Trilogy, Divergent, Insurgent, and a ton of other stuff. I’m reading Matched by Allie Condie, but by the time you read this, I’ll be done with that and on to something else.
7. What’s next in the writing realm?
I have tons of stuff in the works. The sequel to Crimson Footprints will release with Delphine Publications in a few months. Right now I’m working on a genealogical history of my family. After that, I plan on releasing a six book series about an African American girl and Asian Indian guy whose families are the best of friends until they fall in love. Expect sparks!