“That Margarite is wearing me out. She might not have to juggle two jobs, but I do. I can’t keep going over there after Skipper’s closes. It’s tough enough getting up to go out with you bright and early after bartending the night before. I have to catch some sleep sometime,” Hero told Brady a week later as he reached for an orange off the counter.
“Uh huh.” Brady barely heard him, his attention fixed on a long list of old e-mails. He kept all of his reservations and records for tax purposes. “Damn it. Where the hell is it?”
“What are you lookin’ for?” Hero bounced the orange off his curled bicep and caught it. Kids.
“A name,” he told him, eyes scrolling down his screen.
“Oh.” His curiosity satisfied, Hero began to peel his orange, meticulously removing the oddly shaped rinds and dropping them into the open compost canister in front of him. It was annoyingly distracting.
Calming himself, Brady spoke up. “Hey, could you go and flush out the live well?”
“Now? Sure, I guess.”
As soon as Hero wandered out, Brady clicked on a potential message, dated six months prior. His heart sped at what he found. Though the e-mail address wasn’t remotely familiar, once opened, it was clear it originated from Mac’s law firm. Reading through the message, Brady found Mac’s personal e-mail address and contact info at the bottom of the page.
A little more reading, a bit of finessing, and he had Mac’s full name, obituary, home city, and…Kate’s last name. She never gave it to him.
Katherine Hayley Foster.
Foster. If she married him her initials would stay the same.
“Marry me?” Brady laughed at himself and ruffled his shaggy hair with both hands. “What the hell is wrong with me?”
He did a Google search for her and learned even more. Kicking back in his chair, he smiled at her college graduation photo, the tip of his finger tracing down her lovely cheek. He’d missed this face. He’d missed this woman.
“Coming soon to a city near you,” he murmured. His chair creaked when he suddenly sat up, struck with an idea. “Hey! Hero! Come here a minute.”
Hero popped his head in the open doorway. “What’s up?”
“If I want to find someone, find their home address, how would I do that exactly? Do you know?”
“Sure.” He shrugged. “It’s easy. If it doesn’t come up through normal channels, there’s usually another way. Course, if you have to, you can always tap into utility records, that sort of thing. Why?”
Brady stared at him, amazed. “Do you know how to do that?”
“Dude. That kind of shit is illegal.” Hero gave him a slow grin and cracked his knuckles. “Get your ass out of that chair. You didn’t learn any of this from me.”
Enjoy this provocative novella full of twists, turns, and explosive sexual tension today.
Today I'm sharing a scene from The Senator's Wife. Justine and Sean have already been caught together in the elevator of his apartment building by the paparazzi. The timing creates a feeding frenzy of speculation and they're chased back upstairs where Sean calls in reinforcements to sneak the senator's wife out the back. We pick up the story after they've just dropped her off at her sister's townhouse. Enjoy.
Sean knew it was coming. They hadn’t reached the end of the block before Trent started in on him.
“She’s a beauty.” Pulling up to the stop sign, Trent looked at him incredulously. “Are you out of your fucking mind?”
Trent laughed. “It’s me. I won’t sell you out.”
“Read my lips. We. Did. Not. Have. Sex.” Shaking his head, Sean admitted, “Yeah, all right, I want to, bad, but she won’t. I only took photos of her last night.”
“You’re telling me she spent the night at your place and nothing happened?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. It was perfectly innocent.”
“What about the elevator this morning?”
“That was…unfortunate. We were saying goodbye.” He couldn’t hide how depressed he felt right now.
Trent glanced over, reading him as only a best friend can. “I’m sorry. Obviously you care for her.”
“I do.” Snorting, Sean dropped his head back and rubbed his temple. “You know what really pisses me off? Can I talk about this?”
“Go for it.”
“The rumors about her husband are true. The guy’s a total dick. Can’t keep it in his pants. I don’t know what kind of hold he has on her, but the marriage is basically over. She’s just waiting until November to divorce him. She doesn’t want to hurt him in the next election.”
“That’s fucked up.”
“Tell me about it.” He dropped his hand to his lap and sighed. “She’s a good person, Trent. Honest, warm, kind. I admire her.” Pausing to watch a meter maid ticket a parked car as they rolled by, he finally confided, “I’m falling for her and I can’t do a damn thing about it.”
Sean sighed. “Yes.”
“Is she strong enough to weather this?”
That was a good question, one that chilled Sean to the marrow. “I don’t know.”
“And those pictures you took?”
“Would only hurt us both at this point.”
“I figured. How did she look?”
Remembering the unblemished delicacy of her skin against the white muslin and those graceful feminine curves, Sean had to smile. “Spectacular.”
Trent’s soft laugh died out and he turned serious. “What are we doing now? Do you want to stay at my place for a while and wait for this to blow over?”
“I can’t. I’m too busy to hide out.”
“Bet you get even more clients now.”
Sean snorted. “I wouldn’t be surprised. Justine’s downfall just raised my profile outside the art world. People are going to want to take potshots at her and throw money at me.”
“Forward your calls to the gallery. I’ll only pass the legitimate numbers back to you.”
“You’d do that?”
“My staff will, but I suggest you do something nice for them as a thank you, like scoring tickets to a show or dinner at one of those trendy restaurants you’re going to be promoting. It’s next to impossible to get a table in some of those places.”
Trent glanced at him. “So I’m taking you home?”
“Then check the glove box.”
Curious, Sean popped the button and saw a hat and dark glasses inside. He laughed at the ridiculousness of his situation. “Thanks.”
“No sweat. I don’t play personal taxi for just anyone.”
“I appreciate it.”
“I hope things work out for you two.”
Trent had a shit-eating grin on his face when he asked, “Any chance I can see those pictures you took last night?”
That earned him a backhanded cuff on the arm. “Never.”
***Read the full story today.***
It's that time again. I thought it would be fun to share a scene from my romantic comedy, If You Want Me. Enjoy.
“Hey!” Melissa shrieked and hugged her bridesmaids one after another. Their unfettered excitement reminded Naomi of high school all over again.
Naomi groaned and massaged her temples, barely coping with the increased decibel level her friends brought to the already noisy restaurant.
Andrea stepped free of Melissa’s embrace and noticed Naomi hanging back. She strolled over wearing a knowing smile and flicked up Naomi’s dark glasses to get a look at her eyes.
“Not as bad as I thought they’d be,” she admitted. “How’s the head?”
“And your tummy?”
Andrea laughed. “I’ve got aspirin, antacids, and that chalky pink liquid just in case.”
Naomi gave her a one-armed hug. “You’re a good friend.”
“Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in." Melissa sidled over with a wicked grin. She cocked her head at Naomi and her dimples deepened. “How ya doin’ this morning?” she sang in an unnecessarily loud voice. Since she was already coming forward with her arms wide open, Naomi had no choice but to return the hug.
“I get it. You’re chipper and excited, but you don’t have to be so loud about it,” Naomi muttered.
“It’s my wedding day. I’m allowed. But for your sake, I’ll be nice.” Melissa turned and noticed the host. “Looks like our table’s ready.” She hooked both Andrea’s and Naomi’s arms and led them into the dining room, following the other three bridesmaids.
“I thought the guys were going to join us?” Andrea said, drawing out a chair.
“They should be here any minute.” Melissa pointed around the table, figuring out the seating. “Let’s do this boy, girl, boy, girl. That’ll be fun. Heidi, scoot over one. Leave a spot for Todd.”
“Sorry ladies, I need coffee—right now.” Naomi wandered off, cutting between tables, her tired eyes on the cabinet of beverage options set along the distant wall, well away from the extensive buffet in the middle of the dining room. She filled two cups and brought one back for Becky as well.
Andrea looked up at her with concern when she accepted the cup Naomi handed her. “You’re looking a little peaked. You going to be okay?”
“Not sure.” Naomi settled gently into a chair and covered her mouth, stifling a gag. “I think the smell of sausages is getting to me.”
Her friend pulled the bottle of bismuth out of her purse and plunked it down on the table between them.
“This is brand new.” Naomi picked it up and quickly peeled the protective plastic away from the cap.
“Yeah? I stopped at the store on my way here. Call it a hunch.”
“I could kiss you. Thanks.” Naomi tipped it back, forgoing the coffee until her stomach settled a little. She was right in the middle of a healthy swallow when she spotted Ryan walking toward her with two of the other groomsmen in tow. She choked at the slow smile he gave her when their eyes met.
What was that supposed to mean?
To her growing alarm, he came right over, put his hand on the back of her chair, and leaned in.
“Hair of the dog might work better,” he said with a wink.
Andrea’s eyes darted back and forth between them, her brow furrowed with suspicion. “What was that?” she asked him directly.
“Nothing.” His hand landed on the chair between them. “This seat taken?”
Whether it was or wasn’t, he’d claimed it now. The two women shared a look as he kicked back comfortably and contemplated Naomi.
“Guess the bottle in your hand answers my first question.” His eyes twinkled. “Anything I can do? Don’t be afraid to ask.” His offer was more like a reminder, dripping with innuendo.
Naomi actually felt her pallor flush from sickly green to deep pink.
“What’s going on?” Andrea broke in, her left eyebrow rising sharply. Then her eyes bulged and she gasped under her breath, “You didn’t.” She grabbed Naomi’s arm. “Tell me you didn’t.”
Ryan gave Naomi an equally interested look, no doubt wondering what she’d admit to. She was going to get him for this.
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” Naomi told Andrea then glared at Ryan. “And you’re not helping.”
His hands went up innocently. “Have I said anything?”
“You’ve said enough.”
“You were supposed to go right to bed,” Andrea reproached, her head shaking with disappointment.
Ryan opened his mouth to speak—his smile a little too mischievous for comfort. Naomi gave him a hard poke in the ribs to shut him up. “Don’t.”
“Fine.” He reached for Naomi’s cup of coffee. “Are you drinking this?”
He took a sip, set the cup back down, and looked at Andrea. “Would you excuse us?”
To the clear surprise of both women, Ryan shot to his feet and drew Naomi up with him. She felt his fingers link with hers and suddenly they were moving toward the front of the restaurant and the parking lot beyond.
She didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to fight so she just stumbled along after him. When the sunlight struck her full force, she groaned and flipped her glasses back down in front of her eyes.
He glanced back at her, chuckled, and cut left, walking her around the building and away from the big windows. Landscaping rocks crunched under their feet as he towed her over the curb and into a shaded corner out of site. A couple of small trees offered a little cover from the prying eyes of patrons who might walk by.
Naomi was glad she was wearing tennis shoes. She could have turned an ankle walking across the rocks in heels. “What the hell?”
The next thing she knew, she was up against the cool stucco wall and Ryan was invading her space, his right hand cupping her neck, the left curled around her waist.
“We need to talk,” he said, his face much too close. “But first.” Then he laid a kiss on her that dissolved her muscles and turned her skeleton to rubber.
Read the full story today.
Welcome to another Wingman Wednesday. This scene is from my romantic suspense, Friends and Lovers. Enjoy.
An hour later Wes and Chuck left the station. Wes clipped his cuffs back onto his belt and headed over to the driver’s side.
“Now what?” he asked across the roof.
Chuck gave it some thought. “I know it’s early but I could eat. Vickie’s grapefruit diet is killing me. I need a big juicy burger, and if you sell me out to my wife I’ll have to kill you.”
Wes laughed. “Noted. A hamburger sounds good.”
“But let’s walk over. It’ll give the car more time to air out. Goddamned alcohol fumes were making my eyes burn.”
Wes stepped back with his hands up, key ring bouncing against his palm, and grinned. “Now you’re talking. You sure you can handle a Broiler burger? Maybe we should find you a bib?”
Chuck snorted. “The wife will never know if I roll up my sleeves. Hell, I’ll open my shirt if I have to.”
“My day’s getting better and better,” said Wes dryly.
They cut across the parking lot, hopped a couple of curbs, and after a brief wait at the crosswalk, finally placed their orders at the window. The enticing smell of caramelized onion, sizzling beef, and crispy fries hung in the air.
Wes’s mouth was already watering when he picked up his tray and they claimed an empty picnic table. He bit into his burger then tugged a napkin out of the dispenser on the table, stopping a drip before it reached his watch. Glancing up at his partner, he snickered at all the napkins strategically poking out from between his buttons. At least the guy was still dressed.
“So, you start teaching tonight?” Chuck asked, munching a fry.
“That’s right.” Wes shook his head. “It’s funny how some things just seem to work out, like me dropping by the gym and finding out they were already looking for someone to take over the class.”
He took another bite, mulling it over as he chewed. Swallowing, he reached for his glass, using the straw as a pointer. “You should come too.”
Chuck screwed up his face in distaste. “No way. Unlike you, I have a woman who would miss me if I didn’t come home right away.”
“Rub it in.”
“Every chance I get.” Chuck popped a pickle into his mouth. “You really should give that woman at the shelter a call. It’s pretty obvious she floated your boat. What’s her name again?” He thought about it for a second and snapped his fingers. “Lauren.”
Wes set his burger down and blotted the corner of his mouth as it curled up. “Way ahead of you, big guy.”
“Good. There was something happening there, no denying it.”
Wes reached for his soda. “Is that right?”
Wes grinned and slipped his straw between his lips, allowing that comment to be the last thing said on the subject.
Read the story today.
In honor of the March for Science this weekend, I thought it would be fun and fitting to share this stargazing scene from Grading on Curves. Enjoy.
“Why don’t I grab what we need and we can head outside, okay?”
“Good plan.” Her eyes swept the classroom. “At least now I have a visual so I can picture you when you’re working. I’ve tried to do it in my head a few times.” She laughed softly. “Okay, more than a few times. Do you walk around or hover in certain spots around the room?”
“During classes, I pace. During tests, I circulate. I guess it all depends on what’s going on.”
“Interesting.” Her eyes tracked him to the built-in cupboard in the far corner. “What are you after?”
He grabbed a pair of binoculars and a green Army blanket from inside. “These.”
Rejoining her at the door, he flipped off the lights and closed it behind them. The corridor was entirely dark except for the glowing exit sign at the very end. They went out that way. Since there was no way to open it again from the outside, he wedged it open with a large rock.
“Now what? Where are you taking me?” Mia asked.
“Out there, across the field.”
Holding hands, they left the sidewalk, crossed a utility driveway, and stepped onto the damp grass on the other side, every step taking them farther away from the lights. Without the moon in the clear night sky, he wasn’t surprised when Mia stumbled.
He was ready and kept her on her feet. “Watch your step.”
“I would if I could see anything.”
“Need to slow down?”
“I’ll be fine.”
He led her across the wide expanse of mown grass to the far edge of the football field and the undeveloped acreage beyond.
“How much farther?” she asked a half second before he let go of her hand.
“We’re here.” Curt spread the blanket out on the ground. The sounds of crickets and frogs came at them from out of the darkness. “Sit.” He sank onto the blanket and drew her down with him.
“Now what?” The playful innuendo in her voice implied she already knew the answer.
Chuckling softly, he set her straight. “We’re going to stargaze. This is the perfect night—no moon and we’re as far as we can get from the lights. Hopefully, we should be able to see something.” Even though he knew she could barely make him out, she was staring at him anyway. It amused him. Curt stretched out on his back and gazed up into the inverted bowl of sky over them. “Mia, lie down. I won’t molest you.”
“Now you tell me,” she grumbled and dropped to her back.
He was smiling when he said, “Pick out a spot in the sky and really look at it. Try to notice how many points of light there are in it.”
Mia could hear the teacher coming out in Curt’s voice, the gentle direction. She liked it. She never noticed how soothing and persuasive his voice was because his heavenly eyes and his sinful body were such a distraction. It was a very stupid oversight. Now she knew she didn’t have to see him to respond.
Following his lead, she chose a cluster of stars just over her head. “Okay, I’ve got one.”
He gave her the binoculars. “You might need to adjust the focus. There’s a knob on top.”
She brought them to her eyes and fiddled for a second. “All clear.”
“Good. Do you remember your spot? Find it again with your naked eye. Then, when you’re ready, look at the same area through the binoculars.”
“Wow.” She was amazed. “There’s so many. A lot more than I realized.”
“Imagine what you could see through a telescope. I’ll have to set one up for you when the moon is out sometime. You’ll love it.” He was relaxed and silent at her side for a few minutes while she continued to investigate the night sky.
“Hey! Check out Mars,” he said.
“Right under Leo.”
“Shit. You don’t know your constellations, do you?”
Mia nibbled her lip, embarrassed. “I know the Big Dipper.”
He laughed and sat up. “Come here.” Spreading his knees, he created a back rest for her with his body. “Lean against me.”
She scooted between his legs and dropped her head back on his shoulder.
He swept her hair aside, out of his way. “Okay, I’m going to direct you.”
“What am I looking for?”
“About one o’clock.” He positioned her head back a little more. “I want you to find Leo with your naked eye first, because if you use the binoculars you’re going to have a harder time picking out the constellation.”
“Let’s give it a shot.”
“Now picture a crane or a flamingo. Can you see my finger?”
“Follow it. Imagine the corner of the body on the left, the arch of the back. Here’s the head right here looking to the right. Have you got it?”
“I think so.”
“Damn. I wish I had a book with me.”
“No worries. We’ll get you there.” He gave her leg a reassuring pat. “Follow my finger again. We’re going back to Denebola—our original star. Still with me?”
“Now let’s shoot straight down. See that planet?”
“Can I actually see the red?”
“Yes. Keep your eye on it so you can find it with the binoculars.”
Mia located Mars and laughed with excitement. “This is so cool.”
“Welcome to my world.” He hugged her.
“I’ve never done this before.” She panned away, then back and wondered if she’d be able to find it again without his help.
“I couldn’t tell,” he teased and was rewarded with an elbow to the solar plexus. After a beat, he pointed out the faint arc spanning horizon to horizon.
“See the dusty curve across there?” His arm followed it.
“Focus on it.”
“Whoa,” she said with a breath of wonder.
“That’s the Milky Way, our galaxy. Just imagine, we’re only one of those specks within that mess of specks—from any other point of light, indistinguishable from the rest.”
“Incredible.” She raised the binoculars again and exclaimed, “Hey, there’s a plane way up there!”
Curt laughed, shaking her gently. “You’ve just had your virgin satellite sighting.”
She passed the binoculars back so he could focus on his own points of interest. Just when she was starting to understand the appeal of stargazing, a dark shadow swooped over their heads. She shrieked and ducked, cowering against him.
“Was that a bat? I think it was a bat.”
“You’re okay. Calm down. They’re not interested in us.” His soothing teacher voice was back. “I put bat boxes all around this field to attract them. They’re extremely beneficial. You wouldn’t believe how many insects a single bat can eat in one night.”
She shrank again as another flew a few feet in front of them. While she continued to scan for more bats, he went back on topic.
“It’s too bad we aren’t outside the glow of the city. That’s when you’d really get a shock at how much it interferes with night sky viewing. Sure, I could set up a telescope,” he went on. “But even with a nebula filter, visibility isn’t great and the stars themselves will look dimmer.”
He eased down on his back and took Mia with him. “Fortunately, there’s a movement now to reduce light pollution and shade or direct city lights downward where they belong. Without government involvement though, astronomers face real challenges with their big telescopes.”
Mia turned over and kissed him, effectively cutting off his lecture.
He ruffled her hair and laughed. “Enough?”
“Okay.” His smile was barely visible when he asked, “Wanna fool around?”
“You read my mind.”
Mia curled over him, molding her body to his as they kissed. Curt’s hand came up behind her head and locked her mouth to his and the kiss deepened, leaving her breathless. She could feel him thicken and grow under her. Inspired, she rubbed against him, more than ready to take things to the next level.
“This time, I’m on top,” she informed him in a sexy purr and sat up to straddle him.
He gave her an encouraging bump from underneath. “Whatever makes you happy.” He fished his hands up the front of her shirt and gave her breasts a rousing squeeze.
“Mmm. You do that so right.” She leaned into his palms with a throaty moan.
“Um, Mia? You’re crushing me.”
“What? Sorry!” Horrified she’d hurt him, she slid back enough to take her weight off of his restricted erection and allow her access. “This should make you feel better,” she promised and drew the tab down to give him a little relief.
She was just running her thumb teasingly over the bulge swelling out of his fly when a black shadow dive-bombed her head. Mia screamed and dove for the blanket. She flattened out on her stomach next to him. “Fucking bats!”
The sexy mood now completely blown, Curt sighed, tucked himself back, and zipped up. “Well, it was a nice thought. But I guess this isn’t happening tonight. Come on.” He climbed to his feet and waved her off the blanket.
She rolled to the side, but kept her head down. “Don’t fold it. I’m going to hide under it.”
Laughing, he dropped it over her. “It’s yours. Maybe I’ll take you to visit the planetarium instead.”
Mia got pretty warm under the heavy blanket. But as she warily scoped the sky for more flying rodents—and yes, she knew bats weren’t technically rodents—she still preferred it to going back to the school without it.
She waited just inside the door while Curt returned the binoculars and blanket to his classroom then locked it again. He tested the outer doors to be sure they locked automatically behind them.
“I’ll follow you on our way back. You should wear something reflective next time we do this. I don’t want you to get hit. I’m easier to see.”
Mia couldn’t help but think my hero as she threw her leg over her bicycle.
Was it any wonder she’d fallen for him?
Not in the slightest. Why don't you fall in love with a younger man today?
"Welcome! Betty Bliss here, coming to you live from the top of the Lewiston Marriott Plaza, overlooking the beautiful St. Clair River. I'm at the much anticipated launch party for the sexy contemporary romance, Caution: Filling is Hot. The energy in this ballroom tonight is palpable. Oh, I see the stars of Caution: Filling is Hot are making their way through the room. I'm off to intercept them before they're pulled away again."
BB: "Piper Frost! Piper, don't you look lovely. Can you tell me who you're wearing tonight?"
PF: "Betty, hello. Thank you. You look wonderful, yourself. I'm wearing Donna Karan."
BB: “Classic black formal gown—exquisite. And don't you look dapper, Chad. Armani?"
CT: Laughs. "Why, yes. Good eye."
PF: With a sidelong glance, but pride in her voice. "Chad's turning a few heads here tonight."
CT: He gives her a devilish wink. "So is Piper."
BB: "You look stunning together. I can see you're inundated by well-wishers, but I know my fans are wondering how you'll be spending tomorrow?"
Chad and Piper look at each other, obviously unprepared.
CT: "Well, I think we'll be spending time with the kids. Trying to be low-key. You know how it is. You want to keep things normal for children."
BB: "Of course. Are they here with you now?"
PF: "Actually, they're with my parents tonight."
BB: "Oh, how nice. And Chad, is your mother, Alice, here?"
Chad turns and nods toward the champagne fountain with a grin. "We hired a driver for her tonight."
BB: Laughs. "I see she's waving me over, and you're about to be pulled away. Why don't we wrap this up for now and I'll let you get back to your other guests? I'm so pleased for you both. Good luck tomorrow."
CT: Leans in and kisses Betty on the cheek then whispers with a playful smile. "You know, Mom's driver can always take you home, too."
BB: "Chad, you could lead a woman into temptation."
PF: Laughing and nodding. "Now you understand how hard he made it for me."
BB: "I do, Piper. I understand perfectly. Go—enjoy yourselves."
PF: "Thanks. You too."
BB: "This is Betty Bliss for Coming Attractions, signing off. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for all the details and highlights of this wonderful celebration. You won't want to miss it. Good night."
Read it today.
"As promised in my earlier interview with Chad Thomas and Piper Frost, the stars of the new Caution: Filling is Hot, I'm willing to tell you all about their big launch party at the Marriott Plaza last night, but I beg you—no questions today. And if anyone raises their voice above a whisper, I will not be held accountable for my actions. Mandy, if you knock anything else on the floor—and I'll hear it—you're fired. Not…today.
I'd like to say I had my finger on the pulse of this gala affair; unfortunately, I was the victim of Chad’s evil mother.
Alice, you won't know when, you won't know where, but it’s happening. I owe you.
That woman must have been a bartender in a former life. Or the hostess from hell. I never had an empty glass in my hand.
I'd also like to say that I behaved with grace and decorum, but, well, the pictures out this morning took care of that. It's true, and I'm not proud of it, I did get shoveled into the back of Alice's limo by three male guests. Thank god, I can't remember them.
Gentlemen, thank you for your service last night, but please, don't call me with reminders. Just a moment.
I need aspirin, Mandy. How did you not understand what I was signaling and mouthing to you through the glass? Honestly.
Sorry about that. Anyway, I'm going to put on a repeat of my Coming Attractions interview with Chad and Piper then go home, gently lay a cool compress on my forehead, and hope I can face tomorrow with my usual plucky disposition. Thanks for understanding. This is Betty Bliss, signing off. Good morning to you.”
To celebrate the re-release of Caution: Filling is Hot in all it's scrumptious glory, I'm sharing this scene today. Enjoy. Oh, and keep reading. I'm also posting some fun stuff from Betty Bliss of Coming Attractions fame.
When Chad’s guests arrived thirty minutes later, the steaks were just about to go on the grill, the potatoes were nearly done, the salad looked beautiful, and the bottle of red wine was uncorked and breathing.
Piper hid out in the kitchen when he went to greet his friends. Taking a peek around the corner, she saw him show them into the living room. Her heart dropped into her nervous stomach when he came back for her.
“Come on,” he coaxed. “They want to meet you.”
She shook her head and backed away. “I’m not staying.”
“Of course you are.” Without giving her a chance to argue, Chad took her by the hand and tugged her through the archway. She half hid behind him when his friends looked up and he announced, “Tonight’s dinner might not have happened if not for the cool intervention of this woman here. Piper Frost, take a bow.”
His grin got even bigger when she rolled her eyes at him. Looking at the bewildered couple, she explained, “He ruined his roast.”
“We’re having roast?” the woman asked.
Chad gave a quick little headshake and screwed up his face. “Not anymore. Now it’s steak.”
“Now it’s edible,” Piper amended with a laugh.
“Piper, meet my two oldest friends.”
“Oldest?” The woman shuddered.
Chuckling, he corrected himself. “My closest friends then—Brent and Pam Fuller.”
“Hello,” Piper said, a tad bashfully.
“Hi,” said the Fullers at the exact same time, and in the exact same way. They all laughed at that.
Then Chad rubbed his hands together, poised to play his part. “Anyone interested in a glass of wine?”
Pam raised her hand. “If you’re pouring, I won’t say no.”
He glanced at her husband. “Brent?”
“Sure. I’ll give you a hand.”
Chad looked at the two women. “Why don’t you ladies get acquainted? We’ll be right back.”
With that, he walked out, placing the unofficial hostess duties squarely on Piper’s shoulders.
“Might as well sit down.” Piper motioned to the couch.
Once seated, the inevitable awkwardness returned. Piper gave a helpless laugh.
“Why don’t I start us off? Tell me, how long have you known Chad?”
Pam’s brows pinched together as she did the mental calculation. “Hmm, I guess it’s been what, twelve years now?”
“So you can vouch for him then?” she joked.
“I’ve done it before,” Pam said with a twinkle in her eye. “When I introduced him to my best friend, Chelsea.”
Piper’s smile collapsed. “Oh god. I walked right into that one. I’m so sorry.”
Smiling kindly, Pam shook her head. “Don’t be. It’s not a decision I regret. Not even a little. Chad made her happy.”
“You must miss her.”
“I do. But it gets easier over time.” Her expression softened and she smiled at Piper. “I’m so glad he’s finally going out again. You have no idea how much we’ve worried about him.”
“Oh no. We’re not dating.” Piper rushed to correct her. “It isn’t like that between us. We’re just friends.”
Clearly taken aback for a moment, Pam didn’t get an opportunity to pursue it further because the guys returned. Brent strolled over to his wife and handed her a glass of wine, then settled into the nearest wing chair.
“I guess this one’s for you.” Chad handed the extra glass he carried to Piper. He claimed the remaining chair.
“Hold it,” Brent said before anyone could take a sip. “I want to make a toast.”
Pam stared, hard, at her husband, trying to communicate something to him while Chad shot him a stern look across the coffee table. Brent merely winked at him and sat forward, holding out his glass. “Here’s to round two.”
Chad’s eyes bulged in alarm. The idiot was going to ruin everything! He shook his head, silently pleading with his friend to shut up.
Brent simply grinned and ignored his expressive glare. “Let’s call it flank steak.”
Flank steak, my ass, Chad thought as he leaned in to rap his glass against the others. Luckily Piper didn’t appear to read anything more into it, but if he didn’t haul Brent aside and explain a few things to him, pronto, all his best-laid plans were going to come crashing down on his head.
The opportunity came only minutes later when Chad invited Brent outside while he checked the steaks. The ladies moved to the kitchen table where a platter of munchies awaited. From the deck, he watched them draw fresh vegetables through the dip while they chatted like old friends.
He gave the steak an inattentive poke and leaned back to peer around Brent. He couldn’t believe he was actually spying on them through the screen door. His ear perked up at Piper’s laugh. She shook her head at what she was hearing. By body language alone, he could tell when Pam said, “I swear!” They fell over themselves laughing.
That probably wasn’t good. What was she telling Piper, anyway?
“Um, Chad?” ventured Brent. “Are you going to flip that steak or do you want me to do it?”
Brent laughed. “Oh man, you are gone.”
Chad’s spun on him and whispered in a harsh tone, “Don’t say that.”
“Just stating the obvious.”
“Please.” Chad pressed the air with his hand and lowered his voice. “If Piper hears that, she’s out of here.”
Brent twisted open a beer, his drink of choice, and frowned. “I don’t get it. She likes you. Even I can see that, and I’m not the most perceptive guy in the world.”
“Yeah.” Chad flipped the last steak and closed the lid. “But that old boyfriend of hers did a number on her. I’d love to track him down and punch him right in the face.”
Brent’s eyebrows shot up at Chad’s simmering anger. “What did he do?”
“Used her, drained her, and threw her away.”
Chad sneered in disgust. “Big time.”
Brent nodded slowly. “And now he’s casting a shadow over your love life.”
“Looks that way. Let me have some of that.” He held out his hand and Brent passed him the beer. Chad took a swallow and handed it back.
“If that’s the case, can I say something?” Brent asked cautiously.
“You need to pull it back a notch.”
Chad chuckled at himself, at the situation, at the whole bloody mess of it all. “How am I supposed to do that?”
“You can’t take your eyes off of her. A blind man could see how you feel about Piper. It’s obvious. That’s all. You should know that if you think you’re going to pull this off.”
Chad closed his eyes and groaned. “Shit.”
Treat yourself to Caution: Filling is Hot today!
It's Teaser Tuesday and I'm sharing a doozy. Enjoy this scene from Sweetest Taboo, part of the Pelican Cay series.
Lance had a kitchen table somewhere under all that clutter, but he preferred to eat standing up, leaning against his counter. It was easier to wander over to the cabinets or fridge if he wanted to doctor up the dish du jour. Though he thought he might want a little soy sauce for his pineapple shrimp, it was perfect as is.
There were three large take-out cartons on the counter behind him and a steaming plate in one hand, a set of chopsticks in the other. He was in heaven. Just as he scooped some rice into his mouth, he heard a knock on the door followed by Kavita’s voice.
“Lance?” She’d popped her head inside, knowing she was welcome anytime.
He took a couple of steps back from the counter and peeked around the archway. “Hey. Come on in.”
They joined him in the kitchen.
Angie came to a dead stop when she saw he was eating. “We don’t want to interrupt your dinner. We can come back later.”
“Don’t sweat it. You want some? There’s plenty…and it’s good. So good.” He groaned with pleasure and they both grinned at him.
“You sure you don’t mind?” Angie asked.
“Hell no. Grab a plate and a fork.”
“Ooo,” Kavita sighed, moving in to take a hungry peek in the cartons. “What are we eating?”
He swallowed a slivered carrot and said, “Pineapple shrimp, mixed vegetables, and rice.”
“Excellent.” Angie got down two more plates and handed one to Kavita. They dug in, savoring the aromas they’d released.
“Wait,” Kavita announced. “I just remembered we have a bottle of wine next door that would go great with this. Why don’t we take the party over to our place? I’ll pop the cork and we can sit outside on our deck.”
Angie turned to him, pristine fork poised over a container, waiting. He smiled. “Sure, sounds good.”
They brought the containers with them, going the back route and up onto their deck. As he and Angie set things out on the table, Kavita went inside for the wine and glasses. Angie ran into the kitchen for napkins while Kavita poured.
Settling into chairs, they enjoyed the meal. Angie was the one to eventually bring up the radio spot.
“I hope that gives you enough time to throw something together,” she said after filling him in.
“More than enough time,” he assured them. “Do you want any music behind it? I recommend it.”
“Maybe some Brazilian Café?” suggested Kavita, her brows raised as she looked to Angie for input.
Angie shrugged. “That would be good. Or bossa nova? I don’t know. Just make it something upbeat, but not distracting.”
“I’ll find something.” He stood and began to close up what was left in the containers now that they were done eating.
“Wait.” Angie rose and held out the nearly empty bottle. “Finish your wine first. I want to pop another bottle.”
Lance drained his glass and held it out to her. Kavita followed suit.
“Be right back.” Angie blew a saucy air kiss over her shoulder then sauntered into the house.
He grinned at Kavita. “She’s a flirty thing. I didn’t know that.” Wandering over to the railing, he leaned against it and sipped what Angie had poured him.
She laughed. “There’s a lot you don’t know about Angie.”
Intrigued, he simply studied the beautiful woman watching him. The expression in her eyes beguiled him. The temptress was out tonight.
Angie rejoined them, holding the next bottle. “Who’s first?” She looked equally wicked, or playful. Could she be both? He wondered.
“I’ll probably regret it…hit me.” Kavita held out her glass and Angie filled it halfway. Then Kavita cast a challenging glance his way. “Lance?”
“What the hell?” He offered his own glass and received an equal pour.
All three stood there in the waning light, contemplating one another while the steady sound of the waves rising then retreating filled the quiet gulf between them. He was getting the strangest vibe off of them tonight.
Kavita turned to Angie and asked, quite seriously this time, “I know we talked and talked about it, but now I’m having second thoughts. What do you think?”
The manner with which Angie quietly studied him made Lance swallow—hard. Then she nodded to Kavita. “Me too. We have to know. Go ahead.”
He drew back, suddenly wary. “What’s going on?” Growing more paranoid by the second, he felt a little like an explorer who’d just strayed into a band of cannibals.
“Nothing.” Kavita stalked slowly toward him. “Yet.”
He gave an uncomfortable laugh and looked over at Angie. “You can tell me. It’s okay.”
Kavita stopped right in front of him, her bare toes touching the tips of his. He felt the brush of her gorgeous breasts against his shirt. God, she was beautiful.
“Tell me something.” Her voice was in a seductive register. The musician, and the man in him, responded. He couldn’t look away from her dark eyes. They owned him. “Why aren’t you seeing anyone?”
His mind scrambled to find an acceptable answer for her. He swallowed again and said, “Not interested.”
“Uh huh.” She cast a look over her shoulder at Angie and they smiled at one another. Angie gave her a nod.
Turning back to him, Kavita set her glass of wine on the railing behind him then gently lifted his out of his hand. She set that glass beside her own. He was frozen, waiting, wondering, hoping, terrified to hope. What the hell was going on?
Then she rose up on her toes, leaning her body full against his, and slid her hand up his chest and around the back of his neck. He didn’t resist. He thought he should. Felt he should, but couldn’t. He’d wanted this for too long.
Their lips brushed, caressed then devoured. He wanted to gulp her down, consume her, yet he forced himself to keep his hands on her hips and not take over. What he couldn’t control was the long hidden secret spilling from his tongue to hers as they kissed.
Kavita eased back with a sad, sober smile and touched two fingers to her lips. “I thought so.”
He dropped his hands, ashamed of himself.
“Lance, are you in love with me?” she asked.
Knowing the truth was out now, it was pointless to deny it. “Yes,” he whispered. He looked toward Angie, silently begging her forgiveness, but she looked back at him with the same understanding smile.
“And Angie?” Kavita asked softly, bringing his attention back to her. “Do you love her too?”
Ah fuck. “There’s a distinct probability,” he replied, even more ashamed.
Kavita turned and held out her hand to Angie. “Come here. You have to try this. It’s nice.”
Drawing Angie forward, Kavita stepped aside and suddenly he was looking into Angie’s luminous face. Her eyes were a dark, midnight blue in this light and her slender body had less give than Kavita’s, but it was still soft and felt wonderful against him. She slid both hands up and behind him and he took hold of her slim hips as she drew him down.
The technique between the women varied, but he liked both kisses equally. Where tender Kavita gave and shared, Angie took. She was assertive, aggressive, and she made soft growling sounds deep in her throat as their hungry mouths mashed together. Those base sounds shot straight to his groin.
Then she drew back, stroking his face just before she broke contact with him.
“Very nice,” she agreed with a smile for Kavita.
“I told you.”
They considered him thoughtfully then both dropped their eyes down his body to the incriminating bulge in his shorts.
Angie turned to Kavita, her smile deepening, and said, “Something tells me it’s time we talked.”
*Read the FULL story today.
There are a lot of 'inspirational' photos drifting my way through my romance connections. I look forward to Man Candy Monday and Hunks Who Read. I rather enjoy straying upon the random day- brightener wearing nothing more than a smile. But here's where I get weird. I try to get into these bare-chested guys' heads. I wonder, "What are they thinking here?"
When they're stripping for one of these photo sessions, they obviously know they're about to be objectified for those pecs, those arms and shoulders, those tight abs. How does that make them feel? Do their biceps start to cramp when holding a certain position for several minutes? When they're told to give the camera a sultry come-to-me look, do thoughts like, 'This is lame,' and 'I feel like an idiot,' drift through their minds?
Hot book covers really present me with questions. Does this guy mind pulling on a kilt for an hour? How about wearing a wig? Is it awkward being posed with a total stranger in a compromising position? When he's sliding his hand down her bottom could he be wondering, ’Did I put the dog out before I left?’ Is he regretting what he ate for lunch and trying hard not to exhale onion breath in the woman's face? Is he uncomfortable in that leather get-up, holding that whip? Are there pictures he really doesn't want his mother to see?
I suppose this type of modeling is like acting. They're given a wardrobe, or at least props, told how to get into character, and directed. It's a job. Still, I often imagine doing this would demand one heck of a sense of humor. I can totally see the models hamming it up just to alleviate the awkwardness.
"You want me to put my hand where?" he'd ask the photographer.
See what I mean? There's a guaranteed smile after a cheeky question like that.
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