Take TwoIn ConcertThe Brintillium

Excerpt from Take Two:

Evan draped the jacket over a bench in the front hall. “In case you get chilly later,” he said, and she shivered just from the tone in his voice. He might as well have said, “In case you get naked later.”

He gestured around him at the three wide arched entryways leading off the tiled foyer. “To the left is the master suite, to the right, the kitchen and stairs that go down to a big family room and my office. Down the hall straight ahead are Oliver’s room, a bathroom and a guest bedroom. The living room and dining room are at the end.” Evan put the tips of his fingers lightly against the small of her back, just as he had that day in the gallery, guiding her forward.

Samantha took a step, then remembered it wasn’t supposed to go this far. She was supposed to thank him for the invitation, then give him the speech she’d been rehearsing all afternoon. She started to say, “Actually, I wanted to…” but her words drifted off as he slipped around in front of her, cupped her face and pressed his lips to hers. He didn’t go any farther than that, just held her face, the tips of his fingers brushing the delicate skin of her earlobes, and kept his lips there, letting her feel them, taste them, crave more of them.

He pulled back, his warm hands on her, and those intense hazel eyes observing every nuance. His thumbs moved across the tops of her cheekbones and his hands seemed to be the only thing holding her up right now. Otherwise, she’d slide into a puddle at his feet. Those lovely, bare feet.

He leaned close and when he spoke, his breath whispered against her face. “I should apologize, but I wanted to do that all day. I had to get it out of the way so I could have a conversation without wondering what it’d be like to kiss you again.”

She stared up at him, dazed. When he leaned close again, she mentally shook herself. “So, did it help?”

He stopped, his head tilted. “What?”

“Kissing me. Did it help to get it out of the way?”

He reached up and brushed a thumb across the arch of her eyebrow. “No,” he said simply, then slid his fingers along the side of her face and down her arm, where he took hold of her hand and led her forward…

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Excerpt from In Concert:

“Well,” Victoria said, as if she’d never gotten off track. “We should really talk about—” She turned slightly to the side and began to stride away, her usual practice when discussing business; she couldn’t keep still. But one foot moved, the booted one didn’t, she got tangled on the latter, and stumbled, her bag thumping to the floor.

Luke grabbed for her arm but missed, one hand closing on the fabric of her shirt instead. She heard and felt buttons pop, material rip and one bra strap wrench to the side before Luke caught hold of her with his other hand and pulled her against him to keep her from falling farther.

She gasped as her body slammed up hard against his, but she instinctively wrapped her arms around his back to keep her balance. His palms pressed just below her shoulder blades, holding her close, and she would’ve pulled away with a decisive tug if not for a possible repeat tripping performance and the fact that her breasts had been exposed by a torn shirt and skewed bra. His t-shirt felt soft against her cheek and the tops of her breasts. For one exquisite moment, she relaxed into the firmness of his chest and thighs.

Still, there was no way around it. At some point, they would have to separate, and she wasn’t one to linger over embarrassment or uncomfortable situations.

“Mr. Tyler,” she began, but the rumble of laughter moving up from his belly to his throat stopped her.

“If anything qualifies us to be on a first name basis, I’d say this is it.” Before she could respond, he continued. “Are you feeling steady now?”

“Yes.” No. Not with you holding me so firmly against your far too solid body.

He relaxed his arms and moved smoothly away from her, dropping his hat to the floor before grasping the bottom of his t-shirt and pulling it over his head.

“Rate I’m going, I’ll owe you a full wardrobe soon.” He turned the shirt right side out and presented it to her without moving his head.

Victoria held the edges of her own shirt closed with one hand, staring at the smooth line of muscle running in a curve from his back, indenting at his shoulder and continuing along the back of his arm. His naturally dark olive skin went all the way up and all the way down; definitely not the tanning parlor type.

“I beg your pardon?” she said, still staring at his back. She’d never seen such smooth, warm-toned skin up close; she’d always dated businessmen, pale under their suits. Many had preferred sex in the dark, or under the covers.

He twitched the shirt at her. “Best put it on. I don’t like talking with my back to people. ‘Sides that, the boys are on their way and may be here soon.”

She let her blouse slide from her shoulders and to the floor, then pushed her lacy blue bra back in place before grabbing the tee from him and hastily donning it. It fell to her knees, almost as long as the skirt she wore. Looking down at, she figured she could make it work with a big belt and platform boots.

“I’m modestly attired now,” she said, not avoiding any irony in her tone. “It’s safe to turn around.”

To keep from staring at his bare upper body, she bent to retrieve her torn shirt. She worried he might try to play the white knight and pick it up for her, resulting in them bumping heads and falling over like bowling pins, but he stayed in place, watching as she dropped the blouse in her bag.

“Well,” she said in a firm voice, determined to get the two of them on task and help regain her equilibrium. “When will your band mates be here?”

“They’re here,” said a voice behind her. “And just in time to stop some shenanigans, I’d say.”

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 Excerpt from The Brintillium:

Instead of barreling down the alley, as he’d done round the corner, Orlando forced himself to stop before the entrance and wait. Narrow and dark, the perfect setting for a gangster’s nefarious plans, including lurking around the wall with a baseball bat aimed at Orlando’s knees.

Restricting his panting gasps to shallow breaths, he pressed his palms to the brick and leaned in to peer around the building’s edge. His soaked hair fell into his eyes, but rather than risk being seen raising an arm to brush it back, he tilted his head and peered as best he could through the wet strands and streaming rain.

The girl had her back to him, and the man stood in profile to her left, one hand holding her wrist while she struggled, the other gesturing in the air as he looked upward. They stood six meters away, in shadow, surrounded by bins, cardboard boxes, liquor bottles and empty pallets. A tiny shimmer of light hung over Capone’s gesturing hand, which he held at shoulder level. The girl kicked at him, punched him in the side, tried to pull away, then lunged forward and battered at him again, all without effect. The brute finally twisted her arm at a clearly painful angle, and she tilted forward in a crouch, unmoving. Through it all, she made no sound.

Capone was focused on his task—whatever it might be—but if Orlando made a move, he’d be seen. Perhaps he’d have to…

He took a deep, slow breath. He might have to rush in and take his chances. That’s what a hero would do. He’d become accustomed to holding back, feeling safe. But it was an illusion, wasn’t it, that feeling of safety? Ominous gestures and a struggling girl meant danger for her, and Orlando couldn’t turn his back and let something bad happen, couldn’t let destiny make a wrong turn.

He straightened. The shimmering glow above Capone doubled in size, revealing itself to be more like a border—was it an opening?—than a light. Multicolored fragments glistened around the rim. Before Orlando could construct a logical explanation for this, or even contemplate the implications, the opening trebled, then quadrupled. The ragged edges flickered, but it seemed solid inside—on the other side?—as well. It stopped its expansion, still flickering, waiting.

The girl took a step back, pulling against her restrainer. Her hair had turned dark from the wet; thick strands clung to her face and shoulders. Capone jerked her forward, and Orlando felt that tug in his own feet, felt the world shift under him for just a moment. He had to throw aside all logic, because he knew—without any doubt—that the man planned to drag the girl through that hole. If that happened, she and all of her possibilities would be lost to Orlando forever.

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