07 June 2007

Excerpt from The Strength of the Pack

In less than two weeks, my novel, The Strength of the Pack, will be released. I'm very excited. So, I'm going to post an excerpt here :)

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“Would you like whiskey in your coffee?” he asked over the burble of the coffee machine.

“No, thanks.”

He added a dollop to his mug, then stilled. She might not have recognized the tension in his body if she hadn’t been watching closely.

“I had a crush on you, you know,” he said abruptly.

Her cheeks warmed as she sat on a stool behind the counter, putting a barrier between them. She didn’t want to get too emotional, something she was quite capable of, as Derek had pointed out oh so many times.

“I’m flattered.” Her words made it past the tightness in her throat as she realized they were going to make love. She was unlikely to back out now.

He hitched a hip on the edge of the counter. “Now you are. You wouldn’t have been flattered back then.”

“I liked your company.” She remembered the skinny, awkward teen. He’d followed her around when Tom was off playing with other friends who didn’t want to hang with the unpopular Seth. Derek—they’d just started to date—had teased that she had an admirer and she’d laughed, not wanting Derek to know she enjoyed the attentions of a fifteen-year-old boy. Derek would have given Seth grief.

Other memories were sweeter. “You thought everything I said was wonderful. Pretty heady for an eighteen-year-old girl.” With a college boyfriend who made sure she knew who the smart one in the couple was.

“I was obviously devoted.” He crossed thick, muscular arms. Despite his leanness, this was a man with a good amount of upper body strength.

“I didn’t quite figure that out.”

He raised an eyebrow in doubt.

She shrugged. “I didn’t think about it like that.”

“You didn’t think about me much,” he corrected. “Understandable. I was young.”

“You were Tom’s friend and Tom’s friends were first and foremost from another planet. Including the nice ones, like you.”

“So, I was nice.”

“Oh, yeah. Aren’t you still?”

He blinked at the question. “I try my best.”

“You were nicer by far than my then-boyfriend Derek. Even if I thought he was great at the time.” She didn’t hide her bitterness.

“I think it’s better we don’t discuss Derek.” His voice was solemn. Part of her wanted to complain about her ex, but it would spoil the mood.

Instead she watched him pour coffee, hands now steady. She, too, felt more at ease. Casual sex scared her, but this no longer felt casual, or at least thoughtless. They didn’t have much history, but they had something.

He picked up the two mugs and walked past her. “Come with me.” His elbow pointed towards the doorway.

He exited the kitchen. His straight back and strong shoulders mesmerized her, bringing alive a desire that had long been buried deep. She entered a cozy den. A place for friends. Though the thrum of excitement beating through her veins contradicted that thought. Since she’d set eyes on Seth, her body had its own ideas.

He placed the mugs on the coffee table. As he settled into one corner of the couch and she in the other, she was tempted to scoot over and cuddle up to him. She liked his caresses, his firm arms around her. The space between them suddenly seemed daunting.

He held out his hand to her.

She opened her mouth but the word “I” stuck in her throat. Indecision grappled with desire, tangling her words.

“Whatever you want, Jamie.” He dropped his arm, eyes pale and watchful. Attentive.

“I don’t know what I want. How’s that for sophisticated? Though presumably I knew when I accepted your invitation to drink coffee.”

“You wanted coffee,” he suggested, drinking his. She hadn’t thought that eyes twinkled, but Seth’s did.

“Truth is, I never drink coffee at night.”

“You don’t have to drink coffee for my sake.” His rapt attention flattered her. It had been years since anyone focused on her like this.

“I know.” She set down the mug and he reached over to snag her hand. “I just—”

“You don’t have to talk, either.” He closed the space between them.

Don’t talk.

He pulled her next to him, smelling of musk and male and outside. His fingers ran across the back of her neck and she shivered. The other hand came under her chin and he turned her face towards him, brushing a thumb across her lips. The feather-light touches had her trembling and he’d hardly done a thing.

“I don’t usually––”

“Shhh.” He brought a thumb back to her lips.

He was right. He didn’t want to know she’d left Derek two years ago and their sex life had stuttered to a halt before the split. He might want to know her belly was knotted with desire, but he was going to find out before long.

As his arms came around her, she forked a hand through his dark hair and remembered the buzz cut his father used to insist Seth wear. “You have gorgeous hair.”

He stiffened slightly and she wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t just pulled her into his lap. Maybe he feared she saw him as some kind of trophy. He was handsome, as well as physically fit. But what drew her were his volatile eyes, his soft, persuasive voice, his frank interest.

“I wouldn’t be here.” She evaded his lips though she did want to kiss. But she couldn’t make love without talking. It wasn’t her way. “If I hadn’t known you ten years ago.”

His mouth explored her neck, giving her goose bumps.

“And you used to rescue frogs the other boys captured. Put them back into the pond where they belonged.”

He drew back, his eyes crinkling with humor in a way she hadn’t seen before. “My unpopular actions have had long-term benefits, I see.”

“I couldn’t have gone home with anyone else.”

His hold on her tightened. “Be careful, Jamie, if you do go to bars on your own again. Don’t go home with a stranger.”

She had to laugh. “Are you trying to talk me out of this?”

His serious, somewhat guilty expression puzzled her. She reached up and touched his face, rough from shadow that had formed by the end of the day. “I want to be here, Seth.”

“I sure don’t want you to be anywhere else,” he said roughly.

She grinned. “Maybe it is better if I don’t talk.”

“Let me think about how I can arrange that.” His mouth skimmed hers and her lips parted, wanting more. Which, she suspected, was how he wanted her to feel.

He took her mouth with his.
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