Erin is one of those characters who is easy to write. She’s very realized to me, very three dimensional. From the first moment I put her on the page she has been so very strong to me. She’s like Polly Chase or Nina Warden in that way – she tends to write herself. She’s also one of my favorite characters of all time and I absolutely love to write her. In the Brown Siblings series, she’s the heart. Brody tends to be the moral center, the paternal guiding hand. But Erin is all passion and fire.
This is how we meet Erin Brown. A woman in her early twenties as LAID BARE opens, full of fire and creativity and up on stage, wearing a skin she is totally at ease in…
Music, raw and hard like sex, pulsed through the speaker stack, caught the people in front of the stage as much as it had her in its grip.
The bass line throbbed through her like a second pulse as the scent of beer and sweat settled into her system. Sweat slicked her forehead and slid down the line of her spine. The muscles in her forearm corded as she played, her fingers finding their way as they had time and again. A secret smile marked her lips as her half-lidded eyes focused on something not visible to anyone else.
Yes, it was a man’s world up there, but she’d kicked down the door with her Doc Martens and she wasn’t giving her spot to anyone else. She loved making music, and it fit her like a second skin, it made her alive.
Her dreds swung forward, partially obscuring her face, adding, she knew, to the overall effect. Her belly, glistening with sweat slid against the back of her bass where her shirt ended and her low slung jeans began.
Up there, under the blue lights, she didn’t have to work at it. She was. She was exactly where she wanted to be, a guitar strapped to her body, calluses on her fingers from playing. The muscles in her upper arms were well-defined because she hauled equipment around for gigs. There wasn’t any doubt, any self-consciousness. She lived the life she wanted.
Erin Brown had stopped apologizing for wanting things. She grabbed experiences with both hands and gobbled them down.
Even if the band never made it beyond small, local rock clubs, she’d be happy to just keep playing. There wasn’t much more you could ask for in life and Erin accepted her blessings quite happily and graciously.
Honestly, like Ben and Todd, I didn’t have any celebrity influences in mind as I wrote her. Erin is 100% Erin. But I do think she’s got elements of Ani DiFranco in her soul
I admire Ani DiFranco a great deal. She’s an amazing artist. A fabulous songwriter. She’s a woman with a hugely strong sense of herself. In that, Erin is a great deal like her.
She and Todd Keenan have a connection immediately. She calls to some part of him that he’s tried to bury. But she doesn’t do that. She isn’t ashamed of who she is and she won’t be with anyone who makes her feel that either. And they part until they reunite ten years later. But this time he’s finally admitted who he is and she’s suffered some things no one should ever have to. It’s Erin who has shadows in her gaze now and it’s Todd who draws her out carefully. Because he knows what he tossed away those years before and he’s not going to make the same mistake again.
“Are you okay now?” She brushed the sensitive skin at his wrist, a butterfly of a touch with alarmed fingers.
Touched, he took her hand, drawing it to his mouth and kissed her fingertips. “I am now. Here with you. I came back here to live a full life. When I saw you today it made sense. It was right for the first time in more years than I can remember. Pink hair.” He smiled. “I like it. I like you, Erin, and I know I was a fool for walking away before. I’m the same in many ways, but different in all the ones that count.” He exhaled. “Can I be honest with you?”
“I insist.” She shrugged. “Tell me, Todd. I told you then and I’ll say it again—I won’t judge you.”
No, she never had. And it gave him the courage to say it, to tell her what he wanted most. “I want to top you. I want you to submit to me.” He nipped her fingertip. “And only me.”
A smile hinted at the right corner of her mouth. The corner where her dimple made a sweet dent. “Only you, huh? And would I be the only woman you topped?”
“Of course.” He felt as if he were in a job interview or something. He was supposed to be in charge but right then she held it all in her hands. Which, given what he was prepared to ask…demand of her, he supposed made sense.
She shrugged with a small, feminine sound and went back to eating. He wanted to laugh, hell, he wanted to spank her ass, but he just shook his head at her, amused.
Once they’d eaten, and Erin noticed he had three platefuls, he helped her clear the dishes and start the dishwasher.
Her body was on fire and she wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. She’d very nearly dropped to her knees to suck his cock when he’d suggested it before. But while she wasn’t looking for marriage or even love, she was looking for a man who was serious about the business of D/s. She and Jeremy edged around it but he’d never really gotten into it. She’d craved it and his disinterest and half hearted gestures had only left part of her unsatisfied and empty.
No one, in the time since Todd, had ever mastered her the way he had. He hadn’t even known it, which had frustrated her to no end. He hadn’t understood his own power because he was too busy running from it. But in those times when they were in synch, it was fucking marvelous. She’d never felt like it before or since.
She’d been in love with Jeremy, yes. Love for the man who she’d had a child with. Love for the man who’d joined his life to hers. But that love hadn’t lasted the pain and tragedy of losing Adele and although he remained a dear friend, she’d never burned for him, yearned for his touch, for the feel of his body against hers the way she had for those short two months with Todd ten years before.
And here he was, telling her what she wanted to hear and from what she’d seen, he meant it. D/s wasn’t a game to her. It wasn’t something she played at. In the last few years she’d been able to admit her sexual submissiveness was integral to who she was. She hadn’t been with anyone since she’d left Los Angeles and she never really thought she’d want anyone again but now that her libido had sprung into action again, she wasn’t going to accept half measures. If he could admit the same, they might have a very fine time together.
He gets her and she knows it. She tries to resist, but in the end, she can’t. She tells him about her past, about the thing that nearly broke her, and he helps her through. Erin knows he’s the one for her and she accepts it.
The thing I think I love most about her character is that she is broken. You can’t ever totally recover from something like losing a child the way she did. But she gets through every day. And it’s such a part of who she is. Of her heart and soul. She loves her family. She loves Todd and her friends and then Ben comes along…
He sighed and turned to Erin, surprised by her facial expression. He reached to touch her, hating that she looked worried. “I’m not going to see her. Not without you and Todd and probably not at all. I told her about you.”
She looked up at him and he sat, bringing her along with him, settling her into his lap.
“Are you all right?”
She swallowed. “I think so. I believe you. I mean, look, this is all totally foreign territory. I never expected to love anyone the way I love Todd, to be married. But then you. You were unexpected on a whole different and yet so wonderful level.” She touched his lips. “It’s sort of beyond me to try and define it so I don’t other than to love you both. I wonder if it’ll be enough for you, but a call from your ex isn’t going to send me over the edge. I’m really okay.”
“Caroline is someone I’ll always care about. She’s a kind person. Good hearted. But when we were together, while I was happy, I didn’t love her. Not the way I love you. Not the way I love Todd. I was in a nice relationship. I learned a lot about communication and how to work with an extra person in a romantic situation. But when she got her job offer I was never tempted to leave with her. And I haven’t really spoken to Greg, our third, since Caroline moved.”
She snuggled into his body. “You don’t need to tell me all this. I know you love me.”
“I know I don’t need to. I want to. I want you to know you come first. Before Todd, before anyone. Before with Caroline, I never felt settled. I was lonely. I’m not lonely anymore. You are more than enough. You’re everything. We’ll work through things as they come up. I love you, Erin.”
She smiled against the skin of his throat. “Good. I love you too. I’m sorry you were lonely but I know what that is. I’m glad you don’t feel it anymore. And I’m glad you told me all this, I do feel better. So call her and talk a bit. I’m going to start dinner.”
He caught her before she stood fully and brought her back to his lap, finding her mouth and giving her a lazy, long kiss.
She sighed happily when he released her and he liked that very much.
“Tell me about your day. I’m not calling anyone just now.” He stood and went with her into the kitchen and did the tasks she assigned him as he drank a beer and listened to the smoke of her voice.
She told him about the trial and he frowned but knew good and well that once she’d decided to do something, she would and he’d just have to deal with it. He liked that Todd had insisted on one of them being there with her during the trial though. Smart man.
“How do you feel about it? About going back into a courtroom?”
“Panicked. Nauseated. Freaked. But I need to do it. She’s my friend and she needs me. I feel like everything I’ve experienced this last year especially has been for a reason. Todd coming back into my café, meeting you, getting married, this trial. I need to do this because I’m supposed to. I know that sounds all woo woo and stuff, but there it is. I’m meant to face my fears, I’m meant to overcome them. Each time I beat something back I get stronger and,” she paused, hanging her head, “and I want to not be scared anymore. I want to be who I was.”
She tried to hold back the tears, he saw her struggle and in the end, she simply turned to him and let him wrap his arms around her, hugging her tight. That she’d turn to him this way made him want to cry but also made him feel like they’d reached yet another important place in their relationship. She trusted him with her good stuff as well as her bad.
“You will never be who you were before, Erin. You’ve gone through things people shouldn’t have to experience. But you are claiming your life. Every day since I met you, you’ve been grabbing your life back with both hands. I’m proud of you and Todd and I will be there every step of the way.”
“Don’t thank me. It’s my job.”
The keys rattled through all three locks Ben had carefully locked behind him when he’d come home. She didn’t disentangle herself from him immediately and a part of him settled that much more.
She kissed him. “I’m so glad you love me.”
“You always know to say the exact thing I need to hear right when I need to hear it.”
She smiled. “Good.”
Over the books the group of people in her life grows – she has a child with Ben and Todd. Her brothers find the women they love. There are children, weddings, new friends – and Erin soaks it all in because she loves them all. When Gillian and Miles come into the story, it’s Erin who cuts through all the crap and goes to Gillian to get to the bottom of the situation. It’s Aunt Erin who reaches out to Miles first. Erin who loves her brothers and their wives, who loves her friends like Ella, always there when she’s needed. She is stronger than she’ll ever truly understand, but she’s surrounded by plenty of people who do get it and who will always be there for her.
In LAID OPEN, she’s off on a romantic get away with her men, but that brokenness is never totally gone and when it swells up, threatening to consume her, it’s Ben and Todd who are there, her anchors in that sea. But it’s Erin who decides to get through it, who decides to survive it and go on. And that’s why I love her so much.