Today, my choice is a snippet from my upcoming release Keep It Together… I really am in love with this book, these characters, and I’m usually the last person to say that about my own books. I’m my own worst critic…
“You said you were over him.”
“You said you wanted me.”
“I do,” she said softly.
“It’s a damn good idea then.” They stared at each another. His blue eyes darkened and up close, in the bright kitchen, she could see her reflection staring back. He was so handsome, so sexy… Could she be lucky this time around? ”You’re doubting me.”
“You are Russ’s brother.” That’s it, Christina. Hide behind some good, old Southern sarcasm.
“Brother, yes, but I’m not him.”
“Prove it,” she countered. Tossing out the challenge hadn’t been planned, but with him right there, offering her something she’d been dreaming about for months…
“Oh, I will.” He leaned down again, pressed his lips to hers a second time, and then stood to his full height and stepped back. “I’m not sure you really want me to, though. You did continue to reject my offer of dinner.”
“Yes. Work. I know all about that. Where do you work? I don’t believe you’ve said.”
“Promise not to laugh?”
He considered her for a moment, and she fidgeted. “You keep asking me that every time you start to reveal something. Why on earth would I laugh?”
Chrissie ran her finger through the condensation on the glass. “You have a high-powered job and I…I manage the hunting department of an outdoor store.”
She looked up from under her lids. “You said you wouldn’t laugh.”
“No. I asked why would I laugh not that I wouldn’t. But I’m not laughing.”
“You have a smile on your face.”
“And that’s not a laugh. Did I hear you right? You work in retail?”
“Why? I know you said you wanted to find your own way and not depend on the family money, but retail?”
Chrissie shrugged. “There isn’t much I am trained to do. A liberal arts degree only goes so far, but I do know how to hunt and shoot, so… It’s not my dream career, and it’s definitely not flashy. To be honest, I don’t think it was flashy enough or exotic enough for Russ.”
“His loss, then. There’s more to life than flash and exotic.”
“You’re sweet, but you don’t have to patronize me. I’m okay with what I’m doing right now. It pays the bills.
“I’m doing nothing of the sort, but if it’s not your dream career, what is?”
She wondered how much more she could reveal of herself before he took off running. She hadn’t been frilly and too terribly feminine before or during her engagement, and she’d become even less so since. She had her little girly secrets, but if Colt hightailed it out of her life before they got to that point… “I do some engraving. Custom work on guns and knives and even some swords.”
“Yeah. I’m just full of surprises, huh?” She stared straight into his eyes lest she miss the moment he decided enough was enough and she was one arrow short of an Outdoor show. “I dated a guy in college whose family owned a trophy shop. While we were together, I worked part-time for them during their busiest seasons. My mother flipped. It was my first job, and I loved working. They taught me how to use the tools and as it turns out I was kind of a natural at it.”
“Uh-huh. Let me get this straight. You shoot and hunt. You make sun tea and can make blankets out of yarn. You come from money but choose to work. And you’re an artist?”
“I’m not an artist.”
“You can engrave designs and names on things, right?”
“You’re an artist.”
Chrissie shrugged. “My mother thinks I’m a boy. She blames my father completely.”
“Is he sorry?”
“Not a bit.”
“Good. Show me?”
“Yep. Show me or…take me wherever it is that you do it.”
“Colt, I…” Whatever protest she was prepared to mount, when he crossed his arms over his chest and appeared unwilling to budge otherwise, she relented. “Come on,” she said after a huge, fake-irritated sigh. “You can bring your tea, if you want.”
Chrissie set her own glass down, then moved by him. She tried not to notice the tingles and the way her pulse spiked when she was within inches of touching his body, but they were things she couldn’t ignore. She might not be all that feminine on the outside, but on the inside? She was a giddy little schoolgirl with her first crush.
“I turned the second bedroom into a small workshop,” she offered into the silence. She was keenly aware that he was following close behind, that his footfalls on the steps were solid and near. She never expected him to be in her house like this, or at all. When the wedding fell thru and he’d come to check on her, that had been sweet and above and beyond his responsibility.
Only it seemed there were ulterior motives and she felt wow’d and in a strange way, romanced. Desired, too. Completely desired.
Of course, to most people, their visit was innocent and nothing more than one friend visiting another friend, minus the kiss in the kitchen. To her, it was much more and in her head, not at all innocent.
He wore a cologne she couldn’t place, though she didn’t have much experience with men’s colognes. Russ had worn one scent, something by Calvin Klein, but that was the extent of her knowledge. She was more familiar with pipe and cigar smoke, chewing tobacco, gunpowder, and the ever popular been-out-in-the-woods-for several-days pine and body odor combination.
Their shoes echoed along the small empty hallway, at the end of which was a room she walked into. Two work tables lined the long solid walls and a drafting table sat in front of the window which overlooked the forest behind the house. Like the rest of the house, it was bright and open.
Metal plates of several sizes and shapes, scroll and alpha/numeric templates, and transfer mediums cluttered one table. On the other table was an assortment of special orders and weapons she needed to finish work on. She had an air compressor and several types of engraving tools and bits in the corner beside her table at the window.
She turned to look at Colt, who was still in the doorway. He was looking around the room, and it seemed his eyes missed nothing. It was almost like he was cataloging everything in his head as his gaze passed over the tables and workspaces. “I guess I like to keep busy.” He wasn’t saying anything. The silence was one that she wasn’t wholly comfortable with. It made her feel as though she needed to justify herself in some way.
“I guess you do. Did my brother know about this?”
“No. I didn’t pick this up again until after him. I don’t think he’d have understood.”
He slanted her a quizzical look. “Did he know you at all?”
She shook her head. “No. But that’s not his fault. I had my head in the sand as much as he did. Us together seemed like the right thing, but in reality, it wasn’t. I’ll show you what I was working on. I’d bought myself a small, personal engraving tool as an early Christmas present and was making something for…” She opened the closet door and took a piece of cloth down from the shelf. It was wrapped around a plate which she handed to Colt.
“Wow,” he said again after taking it from her.
“It was a lightweight hand tool, and I’d seen some good reviews on it, and I’m not one to ever pass up a tool of any kind, especially a power tool, and I’d wanted to make something special for Russ.”
“This doesn’t look like the conventional way of spelling his name.” The comment was marked with humor and a lift of one eyebrow.
“No. It’s not.” She didn’t have to look at the silver in Colt’s hands to know what it said. The rather unkind term that described how she felt about Russ at the time and underneath, the words Attorney At Law. It had worked wonders on her mood.
“The corners of the letters are hard and sharp.”
“Well, yes. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Colt laughed and stepped farther into the room. He came close, so close she could hardly breathe. “No. No, you didn’t.” The last was whispered before he swooped down and took her mouth in a heated kiss. He parted her lips with his tongue and drew her in.
He was different than his brother in the way he kissed her. Russ tried to seduce her, and Colt tried to possess. It wasn’t teasing or flirty. It was full of passion and hunger. It was everything she’d secretly dreamed about, when he wanted her more than anything else in the world. He wrapped his arms around her, and he moaned in agreement when she whimpered in need.
And boy oh boy, did she need. She—
The plate between them clattered to the floor, and she jumped away in surprise. She looked down and found it was upside down. “A sign,” she said a little breathlessly.
Nudging the plate to the side, Colt took its place. “Not a sign.” Sifting his fingers through her hair, she fought the urge to beg him not to stop touching her. She liked the feeling of his hands on her, the scent of him wafting around her, the rightness of him in her house. “I’m going to have to get going, baby,” he was saying. Good God, there was that word again. Baby. It made her feel sweet and gooey inside.
He was still talking and she needed to pay attention before he was gone.
“I have a conference call in about an hour, and it’ll take me at least thirty minutes to get back to my hotel from here. I’d still like to take you to dinner, though. You tell me when is good for you, and I’ll be there.”
“How long are you staying?” she asked as she reached out to touch soft cotton of his T-shirt.
“How long until you have an evening free?”
“Oh.” She hadn’t expected him to ask that. “I, uh…”
He chuckled. “I own the company I work for so I can typically make my own schedule, but I do have work to do back home.”
“So, you’d stay or come back whenever I’m available?” He nodded and smiled at her with an indulgence no one else ever had. Except her father and he’d say Colt was a keeper just for that one thing. And she’d been the recipient of that indulgent smile of Colt’s before. The day after she was supposed to get married. On her porch. When she first admitted that she’d seen him as not her future brother in law but as a man. A hot, gorgeous, throw me down to the floor and have your way with me man.
“I’d do my best.”
“This is you proving it, isn’t it?”
Colt grinned. “This is me trying.”
“Okay. Tell you what. I get off work at nine-thirty. The store I work at is off Abercorn. I can meet you somewhere downtown on the river if you’d like. Around ten?”
“I’m staying at the Hyatt.”
“There’s a seafood tavern and grill that I love just down from there with outside seating.”
“See? Saying yes wasn’t so difficult.”
“I just wanted to see you again,” she said shamelessly.
“Good to know. I’ll be on the River Walk, outside the Hyatt at ten. For now, though, I do need to go.” He kissed her on the top of the head and lingered a moment, just staring down at her.
“There is so much I want to say to you, do to you. My self-control is about to go up in flames. I’ll see you tonight.” And with that, he was gone. Quickly. The front door closed, and Chrissie bent slowly to pick up the plate. The tool she’d used had done a really nice job, and she loved working with it. Too bad this piece, which she’d wanted to put her heart and soul into, was little more than scrap.
She grinned as she took the same path Colt had from the room. She had a job to get ready for and dinner to look forward to.
April 16 is the release date…
So, now that you’ve marked your calendars, please take some time and visit the following blogs for more snippets: