Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An excerpt from KISS ME SLOLWY

A little taste of my romantic suspense novel, Kiss Me Slowly, now available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, Amazon(ALLcountries!) and Bookstrand.com.

He was beyond pissed at this guy’s audacity. His perpetual shadow leaned against the front of a closed dress shop, Panama hat pulled over his eyes, arms folded across his chest, and watched the office door without bothering to stick to the shadows. “Look at him standing there, not even bothering to hide.” 
“He’s been skulking around here all day. I think he’s harmless.” 
“He’s following you now? That can’t be good.” He pulled her closer to his chest and into the darkness of the entrance.
When she sighed, her breasts heaved against his arm. He cursed every inappropriate thought that rushed through his mind. No time for sex with an ex. This situation didn’t exactly scream romance. 
“You weren’t kidding about being trapped in some B movie, were you?” She twisted against him in an attempt to break free of his hold. 
“Stop it.” All of her gyrating distracted him from Panama Hat Man. 
He broke off his words when she bent his wrist backward until he thought it would break. Cursing under his breath, he released her and rubbed the pain in his left hand.
She stalked across the street toward the man, slippers slapping against the pavement, hips swaying beneath the thin cotton dress that skimmed her thighs, and hair bouncing against her bare back. 
He would have chased her even if she weren’t potentially following a psychopath. 
Panama Hat Man walked toward the beach, his stride quickening with their approach. 
“Wait. Stop. I need to talk to you.” She disappeared down the path leading between the buildings to the beach. 
“Grace, come back here.” He jogged toward the path, panic just a breath away from consuming him. He glanced over his shoulder as he ran, conscious of the unlocked building but concerned about Grace’s safety.
Night slowly overtook twilight. Lights from the sidewalk cafes and bars illuminated the street at their backs. Only a handful of people strolled the beach at the waterline in the distance. He watched her jog over the sand, getting further away from the streetlights. 
Panama Hat Man disappeared. 
“This is a bad idea, Grace,” he said when he caught up to her.
“This whole thing is a bad idea. I don’t need this drama.” She shouted the words over her shoulder as she paused to yank the slippers from her feet. “I quit. Done. Finito.”
“And you think I do?” He grabbed her elbow. “I don’t want you to quit, just stop following this guy. You could be walking into a trap. Maybe he wants you to follow him, ever think of that?”
Of all the qualities she had to retain as an adult, it had to be recklessness. So much for the sophisticated, calm, I-have-it-all-together fa├žade. 
A piercing pop sliced through the air. Sand exploded at their feet. Another shot—definitely gunfire. 
He pressed her to the ground as another shot went off. His hands covered her head while his body shielded hers. A brief scan of the horizon showed nothing except sand, strangers running in the opposite direction of the shoreline and the blackness of the ocean. 
“He’s shooting at us?” she asked against his neck, hands fisted in the material of his shirt. 
“Still think I’m paranoid?” he asked against her forehead. 
“I quit, I really do quit.” Her nails sunk into his shoulder as she clung to him. 
Another pop sliced the air. Strangers screamed. Someone yelled for the police.
Searing pain ripped through his left shoulder. Rolling from her, he half-crawled half-pulled her further into the darkness and in the opposite direction of the Panama Hat Man. 
He kept his head down and tugged her away from the lights. 
“You think you’re being followed so you drag me into it, thanks a lot.” She stumbled in the sand next to him, bringing him down with her. “Brilliant plan.”
In one move, he hauled her to his side and ran until they stood in the shadows beneath a lifeguard tower. Chest heaving, he shoved his hands through her hair. 
“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” he asked, gaze scanning her for any sign of injury. 
“Stop touching me.” She slapped his hands away, eyes snapping with fire. “My life was complicated enough, Jon Ryan. I didn’t need you making it worse. Damn you.”
“You had to follow the guy, didn’t you?” Rage at the situation at large zeroed in on her. “For being a so-called genius, that was an idiot move.”
She punched him in the shoulder. “Who is this guy? Why is he shooting at us? 
Pain ripped through his left arm and burned down his back. Sharp, burning pain. “If I knew the guy, I’d kick his ass. Stop hitting me.”
She held her fist up to her face and studied the blood that stained her fingers. “You’ve been shot,” she repeated several times before lifting her gaze to his. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me you were shot?” 
“I didn’t know.” He rested the back of his head against the stilt in the shadows of the lifeguard stand. He needed clarity. This entire situation had escalated far beyond his scope of comprehension. None of it made sense. 
“How do you not know that you’ve been shot?” She rubbed the blood from her hand over the front of his shirt while looking down the beach and toward the shadows with extra-wide eyes. “I lost my slippers. They’ll look weird on the beach, won’t they? Not many people live on this block, especially not so close. The police will make the connection.” Eyes overly wide and chest heaving beneath the thin cotton material, she pressed her hand against his arm and stared up at him. “Jonathan, we’re out of time.”
Coldness seeped through his bones. Someone had shot him, but he knew instinctively that Grace had been the target. She had the ability to prove his innocence. Someone wanted her out of the picture. 
“We’ll circle around back to the office. I’ll call Simon. He can stitch you up.” He could see her mind clicking away behind the fire of her eyes. “Police are the last thing we need right now.”
“Of course. Why in the hell would I want the police at a time like this?” He smacked the stilt behind her head with his right hand. “I’d bet a million dollars that you were his target, not me.”
“No one knows I’m involved with this.” She peeked out from beneath the lifeguard stand. 
“Whether you recognize it or not, you and Jerry must have stumbled upon something that could save me. That’s why you’re the target. You got too close.” He grabbed her shoulders and forced her to look at him. “Listen to me. This is not a game. A lot of money is at stake. Greed motivates killers every day.”
“Killers?” She blinked at him through the dark. “I hear you, but if we go to the police, then we lose what valuable time we have left. I’ll need to turn what I have over to them and I’m not ready. You’ll be on the news again, this time as someone involved in a shooting.” Her hands gripped the front of his shirt. “I need tonight. Simon can look at your shoulder. He’s a former paramedic. Trust me for one more night, Jonathan.”
Looking at the fear in her eyes, he wondered when he had become a desperate man in need of saving. Heartbeat drummed in his throat. 
She stepped away from him and peered into the darkness. “We need to get back to my office. For all we know this is a distraction and he’s in there right now.”
More confused and angry than before, he nodded his reluctant agreement. “And if we find him what are we going to do since the police are out of the question? Hit him with a stapler?”
Unbelievably, she smiled up at him. “We had better move fast. I hear sirens.”
When lights flashed onto the beach, she pulled him toward an alley that wound behind a closed dive shop. Sweat dripped into his eyes. Tremors rippled through his entire body. Once they reached the street, he pulled her back against his chest. He could feel her heart beat racing beneath the thin cotton of her dress and the fall of her breasts against his thumbs. 
“Move slow. Don’t draw attention to us,” he whispered against the top of her head. 
Two police cars, an ambulance, and a large crowd of onlookers had gathered within minutes. Weaving through the crowd, they managed to slip inside her office unnoticed. 
Or at least he hoped they hadn’t been noticed. No sign of his ugly tourist who wasn’t a tourist. 
“See if anything has been taken.” He pushed her toward the hall as he locked the front door. “What’s your alarm code?”
She paused at the door of her office and met his gaze down the hallway. Blood from his shoulder had stained one strap of her dress, the skin of her shoulder and the tips of her hair. Sea-green eyes grew stormy as she looked from him to the alarm box to the gathering crowd outside. 
“C’mon, Grace, you can change the code tomorrow. We’re in this together now whether we like it or not. We made a choice out there. You need to trust me as much as I trust you.” His finger trembled above the alarm box. He couldn’t believe he had been shot. He couldn’t believe any of this was happening.
“Three-four-six-eight,” she said before disappearing into her private office. 
He punched in the numbers before turning off the lights in the front office and lobby. He walked along the hallway, senses on high alert, gaze scanning all spaces for anyone hiding, and turned off every light in his path. 
“I locked the doors. Everything looks just like it did when we left.” She grabbed his right arm. “Let’s go upstairs. We need to see how badly you’re hurt.”
Red lights bounced through the darkened office space. The reality of this moment rooted him in place. By not going outside to the police, by not letting the ambulance treat his wound, they were both making a decision. 
“Let me go, Grace,” he whispered as more sirens sounded outside. By now he was certain they had found traces of blood in the sand, found her slippers, were searching for them. “No one will ever know about your involvement. I swear. I won’t expect you or Jerry to come forward with what you’ve found. Just get out of town. Forget about me, about this. Go.”
The lights reflected in her eyes. “The evidence…you’ll be arrested.”
“Probably.” He tried to smile but the effort simply was too much. “Let me go. I am sorry…for everything. Past and present. Forget you ever saw me again, Crazy Gracie. Protect yourself.”
“Stop being stupid.” Her hold on his arm tightened. “I know what I’m doing.”
“Running from the police makes us look like we have something to hide.”
“We do have something to hide,” she muttered, her gaze drifted over his shoulder toward the front windows. “We’re in this together now, Jon Ryan. Decision has been made.”
He pulled at the stickiness of his shirt and grimaced at the blood that had trickled to his fist. He noticed then that he had dripped blood on her floor, bloody fingerprints on her alarm box. “Damn it, Grace. I’m bleeding all over the place. I have probably left a blood trail a mile wide that leads directly to your front door.”
“Upstairs.” Her fingers curled through his and pulled him toward her apartment. “Sit.” She shoved him down on the edge of her bed. Sitting beside him, she ran trembling fingers across his shoulder. “Does it hurt?”
“I don’t know, maybe, yes,” he said with complete honesty. Shock pumped adrenaline through his veins.
Frowning, she grabbed her cell phone and ran to the kitchen. He heard her talking first to Simon and then to Jerry before returning with a glass of water that she shoved into his hand. “Drink this, stay hydrated.”
“I’d prefer whiskey.” He drank the water, but couldn’t take his gaze from the blood that stained her. His blood on her. “Dead or jail by Monday. I knew it.”
“You’re not dying.” She tugged his T-shirt over his head. Her eyes snapped with an inner fire that hypnotized him. “If you’re going to be teamed up with me, I need you to fake some optimism.”
Regret washed over him for the things he had never said, for not following through with their plans, for not being the man she had expected him to be, for years of wasting time with if-onlys. Bad timing for regret. 
“Bloody mess,” she whispered. 
He glanced at the blood dripping down his chest and used his fingers to find the bullet wound that had taken a good chunk out of the top of his left shoulder. He finished the water and carefully set the glass aside while avoiding looking at her face.
Her hands were on him, too, examining his shoulder. When she leaned across him, her breasts brushed against his face. Perfectly round and tan, barely concealed by the plunging green fabric. 
God, what he wouldn’t give for a taste. God, what he would give for an ounce of his sanity to return. No time for this kind of thinking. No time. 
“Just a graze. You’ll live,” she said. “I have bandages. Simon will be here soon.” She moved like a flash of lightning between the bed and the bathroom. She returned with hands juggling a washcloth and a first-aid kit. 
“This will have to do until Simon arrives.” Pressing between his legs, she smoothed the washcloth over his shoulder, chest, arm and back with a tenderness that broke his heart. “You saved my life. You took a bullet that was meant for me. You said it yourself. I was the target.”
“I’m no one’s hero, Grace,” he whispered. “You know that better than anyone, don’t you?” 
“You’re not exactly the scrawny teenager I remember, sailor boy.” Her fingers traced down his bare chest, face alive with curiosity. “I keep trying to hate you but end up…not.”
“You have blood on your dress.” He fingered the strap in question that had slipped off her shoulder. “You should probably take it off.”
“Careful. We can’t go there.” Sand clung to her neck and stuck to the tangles in her hair. The light from the bedside lamp shadowed her face.
“I meant change out of it, not…well, maybe I meant take it off. But then we’d be crossing lines that you don’t want to cross.” He let his fingers trail down her arm. “That would be wrong. Terribly wrong.” 
“You are nothing but trouble.”
“You always liked trouble.” He rested his right palm against the bed, supporting his weight on his healthy arm. 
“Listen carefully to me.” She pressed her finger against his lips. “I’m high on adrenaline, we’re alone, no witnesses, no regrets. One kiss won’t hurt anyone.”
“No witnesses, no regrets…” Heat flooded his veins. “Adrenaline…”
“If I don’t do this now, I’ll hate myself in the morning.”
“You mean you’ll regret it when they lock me up in the morning and throw away the key because you didn’t kiss me one last time?”
“Exactly.” She straddled his lap.
“You weren’t supposed to agree.” He smiled despite the circumstances. 
“Shut up, sailor boy. Kiss me.” 
She kissed him as if savoring the taste. Her hair fell forward, locking them in a caramel-colored veil of intimacy. Eyes open, they stared at each other as their lips moved against each other’s. 
His hands slid up her long thighs, over her panties and pressed against the smoothness of her back. Every stroke of her lips against his awakened pure need in his veins. He no longer cared about what was right or wrong. All he wanted was her mouth on his, his hands on her body and her skin against his. 
With a quick yank, she pulled her dress over her head. Breasts bared, she pressed him down on the bed and laughed against his mouth. “This is crossing all kinds of boundaries and breaking every rule I can think of.”
“Just like the old days.” He smiled against her lips. His hands moved over her bared breasts. The pain in his shoulder failed to slow him down. He didn’t know who groaned or if they both did, but the sensation of her flesh filling his palms trumped common sense. 
Her bare foot slid over his leg, hands curled into his hair, and body flattened against his. All the anger, the terror and confusion poured from him as he deepened the kiss with an urgency that bordered on desperation. The silky warmth of her mouth erased his pain. Kissing her felt like coming home from an exhausting, lonely journey. 
“A kiss…that’s all I wanted,” she muttered against his chin. A shiver quaked through her body when she sighed. 
“I want more.”
“Impossible. We can’t.”
“We can do whatever the hell we want, Grace.” Despite the burning pain in his left shoulder, he maneuvered so that his body covered hers. He wanted more than a kiss. He wanted more heat. 
“Jonathan…” Caution drummed beneath her tone but her eyes snapped with desire. “We can’t. Too dangerous. We can’t get distracted. Things are complicated enough.”

Book Blurb
Neck-deep in a setup that could have him in jail or dead by Monday, Jonathan Alexander is desperate. It's Saturday. His only hope is Grace Dupont, the best forensic accountant in Miami. But there's a glitch with that idea. She is also his ex-girlfriend who would rather watch him drown than throw him a life vest. Grace enjoys seeing Jonathan squirm. On your knees, boy, she thinks as he pitches for her help. Always a sucker for the dark-haired, blue-eyed boys, she risks her precariously balanced life of secrets to help him. Trapped in whirlwind of diamond smuggling and million-dollar money trails, Jonathan and Grace flee to the sea to stall for time as they try to prove his innocence. Romance sizzles beneath Florida Keys sunshine. Both scoff at happy endings. Both doubt justice. Both know each kiss could be their last. 

Now available in both paperback and ebook. BUY NOW!  amazon.comAmazon(all countries) barnesandnoble.com and ALL ebook formats at Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/amber-lea-easton

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