One year ago today I had just driven back from my uncle's funeral in South Dakota, was exhausted, had dropped my daughter off at driving school and was in the middle of looking for fabric for my son's school project when I got the call, "happy release day!" Yeah, that's right...it released earlier than I expected so was taken off guard in that respect, too! Not too glamorous, huh?
Excerpt of Kiss Me Slowly:
Through the cotton of his T-shirt, he traced the scratches that marred his chest. She was right. He walked past her into the living room. There had to be a notebook somewhere. Maybe writing it all out would help him remember something new. Or maybe it would simply give him time to clear his head from the confusing emotions she triggered in him.
“Where did you put that card I gave you, by the way?” she asked after a long silence.
Notebook in hand, he looked to where she hesitated on the stairs.
“The card I gave you?” she asked again when he only stared. “I wrote this address on the back…what did you do with it?”
Anxiety bordered on panic as he thought of the discarded pants he had left behind in Ashley’s bathroom.
“My pants’ pocket,” he said after finding his voice. “I left them at Ashley’s.”
They stared at each other without speaking. Her fingers drummed against the wall, teeth caught her bottom lip and eyes stirred with thoughts.
“Who would think anything about your business card?” Even as he asked the question, he remembered the Panama Hat Man who had paced beneath the streetlamp outside the condo. He swallowed hard. “It’s just a business card. We did business together, that’s all. Nothing personal…at the time.”
“Nothing personal now.” She crossed her arms across her chest and paced away from the stairs. From the way she focused on her feet, he suspected her nerves were on high alert, too.
Nothing personal, huh? The woman pushed all of his buttons. Nothing personal? How could she say that? If it weren’t personal, they would not be standing in this house together right now. If it weren’t personal, she would not be risking God-only-knew-what to protect him.
“I thought you were going to take a shower, clear your mind, wash the beach off of you.” He clenched his jaw, suspecting that she needed to wash away the memory of his hands on her.
“Yes, I need to do that,” she met his gaze, “I can’t stand feeling this dirty.”
“I would think you would be used to feeling dirty after sleeping with Alejandro for…how long have you two been together?”
Fire snapped in her eyes, but still she kept her cool. “My personal life is none of your business.”
“Liar. When did lying become so easy for you, Grace? When you started harboring a fugitive and protecting Sarah? When you started doing whatever it is you’re doing with Jerry that has you looking over your shoulder?” He took a step toward her. “Is that why a man like Alejandro Barron turns you on? He has a shady side.”
“Says the man currently running for his life.”
“Maybe that’s why you were all over me on the beach? You like the danger, is that it? If we were to meet under normal circumstances—in other words, without anyone shooting at us—you would be bored, right?” He took another step toward her, not truly sure why he wanted to fight with her. All he knew was that he could not stand this tightly controlled woman in front of him when he knew this illusion wasn’t true. This aloof version of Grace paled in comparison to the woman he knew she was, the woman he had seen on the boat and on the beach, the woman he remembered.
When she met his gaze again, her expression was hard. “Ashley was no angel. That house in Miami Beach served no other purpose than sex and secrecy. Lose the image you have of her, Jon. Ashley wasn’t a saint either.”
“She’s dead and can’t defend herself. Off-limits.” He gritted his teeth. Well, he had said he wanted it to get ugly.
“She and Alejandro were sleeping together. She must have liked the bad boys, too. He alluded to it Sunday afternoon. That would explain how I was dragged into this mess. She set us both up.”
“Ashley and I have known each other for years.” He refused to accept the idea that she had set him up. “She ended up dead.”
“She drugged the sangria. Maybe you were the one who was supposed to end up dead, have you thought of that?”
“You’re wrong.” He pinched the ridge above his nose and tried to make sense of the thoughts in his mind. “We weren’t…I wasn’t…”
“Why did you go home with her instead of to a hotel or with your brother?”
“Because she offered, she was there, she…”
“Did you call her? How did she end up there? Was she in the building when you were taken in for questioning?”
“This is bullshit.” He slammed his fist against the wall. “I don’t know how she ended up there, Grace, because I didn’t question it. Why would I? Her father is a partner in the business. I don’t know how she found out where I was or…maybe Craig called her…”
She followed him as he paced the room. “Think about it, Jon, how did she know? What did she say when she called you that morning while you were with me?”
“She said she was fixing…” The reality of the situation hung over his head like a dagger. “This is all wrong. Maybe she and I weren’t meant to get married, but she would never betray me like this. Never.”
“And you’re in denial.”
“She cheated on you while you were away, Jon. She was at Flashback so many times and with so many different men it made my head spin.”
“Don’t say another word.” He pointed at her. “You’re wrong. She loved me.”
“Maybe that’s why she ended up dead.”
“That’s right, listen to yourself. She is dead. I don’t want to hear you say another word about Ashley.”
“Too bad. It makes sense to me. While you were off sailing, she was partying in the love shack in Miami Beach. Did she go with you for even a part of your trip? Did you talk every day?”
“Stop.” He opened the front door and stormed on to the porch. He strode toward the road without thinking or caring about where he ended up.
Grace followed. “You got engaged and then left to sail around the world alone. I know if you had been my fiancée I would have been pretty pissed off by that.”
“If you were my fiancée you would have gone with me.” He kicked a fallen palm without looking over his shoulder.
“Like hell I would.”
“Like hell you wouldn’t.” He turned abruptly and stalked toward her. “I don’t know why you infuriate me so much when I know you’re trying to help me, but I do know that you would have gotten on that boat with me and sailed away if you had been my fiancée.” Oh, he wanted to throttle that smug expression off her face.
“I’m not saying she’s the mastermind, but—”
“Oh my God.” He reached for her but didn’t know what he would do if he actually touched her. “Stop. Just stop.”
“Get it through your head that you have enemies out there in the world who hate you more than I can even imagine.” Frustration and anger pulsated off of her like a force field. “This is personal. This person had access to your passwords, your house, your family, everything. This is someone close to you.”
“Then who drugged the sangria? Isn’t it possible that while you were away on a self-absorbed adventure—”
“Self-absorbed adventure? What the hell?”
“—that she met someone else? Maybe even Alejandro? Hell, I know I didn’t give him enough attention. Then you come back and—”
“She had a goddamned wedding binder!”
“—Did you really think she would be celibate while waiting for you, Jon? Didn’t you sample some local attractions yourself?”
Sample local attractions? “You’ve crossed a line, Grace.”
“What? Did you truly believe that Saint Ashley kept her legs crossed to all these hot men in Miami while you were indulging yourself across the world? Typical male, thinking you have no competition.”
“Go to hell, Grace.” Fury quaked through his body. “She’s dead. Don’t say another hateful thing about her.”
“Hateful? All I’m saying is that Ashley was a pretty socialite who you left alone. What’s a girl to do? She met someone, got greedy, you came home and decided to stay. Like you said, her dad is a partner in the firm…maybe she hated all of you.”
The choice was clear in his mind, either strangle her with his bare hands or walk away to cool off. “I’m going for a walk.”
She grabbed his arm when he tried to step around her. “To hell with you. I’m going back to my boat. Jerry will be here Thursday. Try to stay in one piece until then, I’m finished with all of this.”
She jogged back to the house. He watched her go with a mixture of disbelief and…terror. Chest heaving with pent up rage, he ran back to the house and found her pacing in the living room.
“Thought you were leaving.” He slammed the door closed behind him and wondered if he was too young to have a coronary.
“I can’t think. I need to think. Damn it, you make me mad.” She shoved her hands through her tangled mess of loosened braids and dangling strands of hair. “You’re too hard headed to admit that Saint Ashley had tainted wings. Consider me gone, you spoiled son of a bitch.”
“You are such a smart-ass.” He grabbed her arm. “Do you even see how you diverted the conversation from you and Alejandro? What’s wrong, Grace? Can’t claim your own tainted wings?”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Do not walk out that door.” He yanked her against him.
“Let me go.”
Before he knew what had happened, she had twisted free and held both of his hands behind his back with his face pressed against the kitchen wall.
“I should have kept right on sailing last night, dropped you off here to wait for Jerry and been on my way. I’d be in the Virgin Islands by now.” Hot breath licked his neck.
“Why didn’t you?” He twisted free and faced her.
Hair stuck to her mouth. Eyes flashed with anger. Chest heaved with rage.
“Because I don’t give up.” Her fists pelted his chest. “I’m not giving up on you.”
“You’re not giving up on me?” He grabbed her face between his hands and dropped his forehead against hers. “I thought you were sailing off into the sunset, leaving me behind?”
“Bluffing.” Fists stopped their assault.
His rage cooled to a simmer. Repressed energy snapped through his veins.
“I think we lost our cool,” he said.
An answering grin tilted her mouth. “You think?”
“Just for a minute.” He slid his hands into her hair and tangled his fingers there.
“Promise me something, Jon?”
“Anything.” He closed his eyes and breathed her in.
“Remember me.” Her hands wrapped behind his neck. “Not as some teenager, but as who I am now.”
He opened his eyes. He wanted to be inside this woman, to have her wrapped around him, to forget his life, to erase the fear of what might happen tomorrow. He wanted her. Now. Here. Any way he could have her. All ways possible.
“Kiss me.” She licked her lips. “Slowly.”
“Slowly?” He pressed her against the wall, one hand moving beneath the tank top. “You ask a lot.”
“I am a demanding woman.” She kissed his neck, hands dipping beneath the waistband of his shorts.
He liked demanding. Smiling, he stood back long enough to pull the shirt over her head. Beautiful. Both hands cupped her breasts, thumbs caressed her nipples.
“Let’s get naked.” She grinned, wet hair veiling half of her face.
He pulled off his shirt while she unsnapped his shorts. Her hand moved over his erection with the ease she had shown sailing her ship. Possessive. Confident. The thought turned him on even more.
He fisted his hands in her hair and pressed her against the wall. Eyes open to one another, they kissed. Slowly. It took all of his self-control to rein in the urge to ravage her. They savored one another’s mouths. He pulled away when she tried to deepen the kiss. If she wanted slow, he would give her slow. He would torture her with slowness.
His mouth sucked her lower lip, pulling, teasing. Tongues danced together in a slow waltz. He released her hair to travel over the length of her. Breasts filled his hands. His erection pressed against her flat abdomen.
She rose up, arms around him and moaned into his mouth. “My room. Upstairs.”
“I want to make the most of you, sailor boy. We need a bed. A big one.”
Well, he couldn’t argue with that idea.
Without breaking contact, they moved toward the stairs. Lips clung together. Eyes watched each other, lids half open. Every inch of him throbbed with the need to be inside of her, to make her beg for release.
She stumbled but he caught her.
“Why the hell do you still have pants on?” he asked. He lowered her back against the steps and pulled the pants over her legs.
Propped on her elbows against the stairs, she smiled when he licked the inside of her thigh. “I’m sorry I said slowly.”
“Too late,” he whispered against the silkiness of her abdomen. He kissed her navel while his hand pushed her panties down.
He slipped his fingers inside of her as he rose up to claim her mouth again. He wanted to come. He hadn’t even been inside her yet and he wanted to come. Squeezing his eyes closed, he broke the kiss and leaned his forehead against hers.
“I need you inside me. Now. Forget the damn bed.” Her thighs wrapped around him.
“Next time,” he agreed.
He plunged inside of her and rocked away the anxiety. She clung to him, lips against his neck, nails biting into his shoulder, thighs holding him inside. He braced himself against the stairs with his hands over her head. He couldn’t get deep enough, wanted to be as far into her as he could possibly be, wanted her to know she had been possessed by him, wanted her to feel him inside her for days.
She called out his name against his neck.Her body quaked beneath him. Her hands were in his hair, holding him close. Mouths found one another and savored, lingered… And he came with a ferocity that sent the world spinning.
“You were right,” she whispered against his lips.
“About what?” He propped himself up to look into her face. Damp hair spilled against the clapboard steps and tangled around his arms.
“I would have gotten on that boat with you. Absolutely.”
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Book trailer (yeah, I figured it out!)