B & N: http://goo.gl/wGQsyQ
This is an excerpt from Inarticulate (a standalone contemporary romance) when the two protagonists first meet.
She swung around to the house to hide her smile and bounced up the three stairs toward the front door. Movement nudged her periphery and she slowed, taking in the sight of a man standing in the shadows at the far end of the porch. His hip was cocked against the bannister, his eyes hooded.
Her concentration latched on to him, unmoving as the world around her dulled to a faint hum in her mind. She wasn’t sure what intrigued her. It could be his narrowed stare, the way he didn’t greet her with warmth or kindness. Only sterile appraisal. Or maybe it was the package his arrogance came in—the tense expression, stubbled jaw, and lush lips pressed in a tight line.
Her tongue tingled. Mouth salivated. She would’ve liked to think it was due to the heavenly aroma of her aunt’s cooking drifting in the air. Would’ve liked to…but that was a load of bull.
She gave him a friendly finger wave as Dominic came up behind her.
The man continued to stare, his face still unwelcoming in the shadows.
“Keenan, don’t be a prick.” Dominic tugged on her arm, stealing her attention. “Come on. I’ll introduce you later.”
She kept her focus on the stranger, their gazes entwined, hers soft and inquisitive, his harsh and fierce, as her cousin dragged her inside, the door slamming shut behind them. “Who was—”
“Oh, my sweet Savannah!” Aunt Michelle hustled up the hall, wiping her hands on an old apron tied around her waist. “It’s so good to see you.”
The familiar face held more wrinkles than Savannah remembered, her aunt’s long blonde hair now gray and thinning. But the beautiful blue eyes were still the same—loving and gentle.
“It’s good to see you, too.” She ignored the strangers poking their heads into the hall from different doorways and fell into a comforting embrace. “Thank you for the dinner invitation.”
“Oh, please,” her aunt chastised. “You don’t need an invitation. Come around any time.”
There was a whirlwind of introductions. Her aunt took position on her right, gushing with affection and compliments, while Dominic remained on her left, muttering snide comments that threatened to make her laugh.
A timer dinged from the kitchen, a welcome reprieve as her aunt excused herself and left Savannah to take a breath. There had to be twenty people crammed into the small house. All of them smiling and friendly, unlike the man outside who still lingered in her thoughts.
“You want a drink?” Dominic nudged her elbow.
Hell yes. “Please.”
She followed him to the back of the house, into the laundry, and toward a
fridge stocked full of beer, wine, and pre-mixed drinks.
He held the door open while she grabbed a small bottle of something red and no doubt comatosingly sweet. “Thanks.”
“I’m gonna hit the bathroom.” He closed the fridge door and looked at her in concern. “Can you survive for a few minutes without me?”
“I guess I’ll have to. I’m not going to follow you to the toilet.”
“Obviously,” he drawled. “You gave up that opportunity when we were eight.”
He chuckled and walked from the room, leaving her alone with the hovering threat of chatter from the other end of the house.
It was time to go incognito. She didn’t have the energy to smile at strangers. Alcohol would help, but for now, she needed cool fresh air…and maybe another glimpse at the menacing eyes of the man she’d met on the porch.
She shoved the bottle into her coat pocket and sauntered down the hall, measuring her steps to lessen the clap of her heels. She reached the front door without notice and pulled it open, slipping into the darkness of twilight without a word.
The man was still at the end of the porch, a beer bottle now visible in his hand as he leaned over, resting his elbows on the bannister. He didn’t acknowledge her presence. She supposed a man with arrogance ebbing off him in waves didn’t have to. His dismissal gave her the opportunity to appreciate his ass stretched in well-worn jeans and the perfection of how his black jacket rested at his hips to give her an unhindered view.
“Hi,” she offered for a second time.
He didn’t move, didn’t even spare her a glance as she approached the bannister. He continued staring straight ahead as he lifted the beer bottle to his lips and took a long pull.
“It’s a lovely night for a family dinner.” Was he a distant relative? God, she hoped not, otherwise Dominic’s inbred tendencies were rubbing off on her.
He replied with a jut of his chin. A jut of his God. Damn. Chin.
What an asshole. And wasn’t she just the stupidest set of ovaries to walk the earth, because it only made her itch to push his blatant need for solitude, to poke at him with questions until he acknowledged her with the respect she deserved. The respect any human deserved.
“So…you like beer…” she drawled, glib as hell.
The corner of his mouth twitched as he continued to focus on the street. But still, no answer.
She could smell him, could practically taste his delicious aftershave on her tongue with each inhalation. He was a taunt to all her senses…well, except her ears because the pretentious ass wouldn’t say a word.
He took another swig from his bottle and straightened to face her. She could see his eyes now, the steely silver, almost blue, that made her shiver with their ferocity. He was tall, too. At least an inch above her even with her heels.
She pulled the pre-mix bottle from her jacket pocket and twisted the lid to keep her hands busy. She could see two outcomes eventuating. Either he would smile, knocking her off her feet with the brilliance of his appeal. Or he was going to pull a gun from the inside of his jacket and blow her brains out.
Player or gangster. He could totally pull off both.
“I’m usually a wine drinker myself.” She raised the bottle of bubbly red liquid in her hand, slowly tilting it to her mouth. She took a sip, licked the alcohol from her lips in a deliberately seductive provocation, then lowered the bottle again.
Still, he gave her nothing. Noth-ing. He was the most accomplished jerk she’d ever come across, and yet she still couldn’t ditch the intrigue and walk away. Without a word, he had her tied around his little finger, begging for attention.
“I like your jeans.” She ogled his crotch, wanting to return the discomfort of how humiliating this one-sided conversation was becoming. “They’re snug.”
His lips quirked, giving her a glimpse of straight white teeth. Asshole. Asshole. Ass-hole! He was gorgeous, the faintest hint of humor turning his dangerous eyes playful. She lifted the bottle to her mouth again, this time ignoring any pretense of seduction as she gulped at the liquid.
“Are you always this charm—”
The front door creaked open and she turned to find Dominic eying them both skeptically. “What’s going on?”
She smiled, the biggest, fakest smile she had in her arsenal. “I’m having an in-depth conversation with this lovely gentleman.”
Dominic frowned, his brows pulling deeper with every passing second.
There was gushing amounts of sarcasm in her tone. “First we conversed about our drinking habits, then fashion. I was about to bring up the topic of politics and world peace when you rudely interrupted.”
She glanced at the man in the corner, an arrogant smirk now curving those sensuous lips. He wasn’t the only one capable of being a jerk.
“Well, that’s strange…” Dominic came closer. “Because Keenan doesn’t talk.”