A brief excerpt from the romantic suspense novel, Kiss Me Slowly, now available on ebook
“What are you grinning about?” she asked when she parked in front of his house. “For a man who’s been shot, who’s currently on the run and has lost millions of dollars from the family company, you don’t have much to be smiling about.”
“You’re so cheery. Love that about you.” With a sigh, he stepped from the car and looked at his home. No matter how hard he tried, he could not wrap his mind around what had happened in such a short period of time. Maybe it was shock, denial, fear…whatever it was, he could not get beyond the static filling his brain.
She exited the car, her green dress replaced by a reserved sleeveless black blouse and matching skirt. Long legs ate up the pavement as she walked toward his front door. All business. No wasting time.
Motion lights illuminated the property. Two stories, mostly glass, faced a canal brushed by the full moon. Palm trees stirred in the midnight breeze. He unlocked his front door and paused on the threshold as he waited for her to enter before him.
“Gorgeous house,” she whispered. “Very contemporary. I’m a little surprised.”
Even though he could barely concentrate, he grinned. “What did you expect? A hideout in a warehouse somewhere?”
“No, it’s just that this is so…beautiful.” She tucked her glasses into the cleavage of her blouse as she looked up at the vaulted ceiling of the foyer before glancing at the waterfall he had had installed only a few months earlier.
“So are you,” he said, too tired to play cool and aloof with her. “Love the glasses, by the way. Very sexy.”
“Very accountant like?” Her relaxed smile caught him off guard. With a wink, she walked into the living room.
“Not much about you is accountant like,” he admitted.
He liked watching her roam his living room. Too bad they weren’t coming back here after a date for some small talk before bed. He clenched his keys in his hand and wondered what he was doing. He needed to stay here, send her on her way, indulge in a nap, take a shower, and go into the office in the morning. More tired than he ever remembered feeling, he turned on the lights and joined her in the living room.
“Grace, I’m not going with you.” Bricks of burden settled on his shoulders. “I know you and Jerry need more time but I have none to give you. I’m sorry.”
“You’re making a mistake.” Her voice echoed in the quiet of the house.
“It seems that I have made a thousand of those in the past six months.”
She stood next to him in front of the glass doors leading to the swimming pool. In silence, they stood for a few minutes and stared at the shimmering pool illuminated from beneath by blue lights.
“I wish you would reconsider,” she said without looking at him.
“I wish I would, too.” He wished a lot of things.
“It’s midnight,” she said. “The banks don’t open for seven hours. We all need to get some sleep until then.”
“You can stay here if you want.” He glanced at her, once again wishing that circumstances were different. “You’re tired and I dragged you across the city for nothing.”
She rubbed her hands over her arms as if warding off a chill. “You’re coming with me. Don’t make me get rough with you.”
“Rough with me?” He laughed at the idea before his gaze landed on the speedboat tied off at the end of his dock.
He didn’t own a speedboat.
Laughter fading, he realized he hadn’t punched in the code to his alarm when he'd entered. He hadn’t needed to. Hand automatically going to his wounded shoulder, he wondered if Panama Hat Man had switched from sedan to speedboat and was waiting in the house. He motioned for her to be quiet as he switched off the lights he had just turned on.
“What is it?” she whispered, hands gripping his forearm as if it were a lifeline. “Did you see something?”
The woman did not know how to be quiet. He led her deeper into the shadows of the living room where they both pressed their backs against the wall.
“There’s a speedboat tied to my dock.” He met her gaze in the dark. “It’s not mine.”
She stared at him before nodding. “He probably heard us enter.”
“Maybe not. Depends on where he is in the house.”
“What are we going to do?” Her grip on his forearm tightened.
Shadows from the full moon against palm trees weaved through the space and against the walls. He looked toward the curving staircase. Bedrooms? Why would anyone be up there? He glanced toward the hallway leading to the kitchen and his home office.
“Let’s leave. You can go to the office dressed like that. Who cares?” On her tiptoes, she whispered against his ear. “C’mon, sailor boy. Let’s get out of here. The man tried to kill you earlier.”
“You, not me.”
“That does not make me feel any better.” One hand curved around his neck, the other fisted in the front of his shirt. The woman was practically climbing up him.
Strange how that turned him on even though it was one hundred percent unethical. He turned his head. Noses collided. Eye contact.
“Well, I’m the one who actually got shot, so relax,” he said.
Voices. Upstairs. More than one.
Without breaking eye contact, she slid down the length of him and put her feet firmly back on the ground. “They’re coming.”
Torn between confronting the assholes breaking into his home and protecting Grace, he glanced from her toward the stairs.
“You go. Call the police this time,” he instructed. “It’s out of our hands now. Go. Call them. My office is down the hall to the left.”
“No way I’m letting you go up there alone.” She let go of him and grabbed a vase filled with yellow flowers Ashley had bought a few days ago. “Let’s do this.”
“Let’s do this? Do what exactly? You’re like one of those actors in the horror films who always runs toward the monster.” He caught her and forced her to look at him. “What is wrong with you? You look sane.”
“I want answers, don’t you?” She dumped the flowers onto the floor.
Too tired to argue and too angry to restrain himself, he released her and jogged up the stairs in front of her. He ran into the master bedroom and threw open the door to his closet. No one. He pushed past her and ran to the other rooms.
“Looking for someone?” A masked man held Grace by the throat, a gun to her head. The vase still held to her chest, she chewed her lip.
“What do you want?” he asked without looking away from Grace’s face. He could practically see her mind clicking away with ideas. God help them both. “Let her go. I’ll do whatever you want. Money, is that it? What?”
Another figure appeared, also completely hidden in black from head to toe, but smaller. A woman, he thought. Woman? Impossible.
The man holding Grace pushed the gun tighter against her forehead. She squeezed her eyes closed. The vase dropped to the floor. Her hands went to the arm around her throat.
“Money? I already have your money, Alexander. You. That’s what I want,” the masked man said.
“Fine. Take me.” Hands up because he had no idea what else to do with them, he took a step toward the man.
“Oh, I’ve already got that, too.” The masked man nodded toward the other person who disappeared down the hall. “As for this little twist”—he squeezed his arm tighter around Grace’s throat as he backed from the room—“I’ll deal with Dupont on my own time.”