A shame. I've had so much fun and met so many awesome writers! Thank you Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez for creating this little community for us. You guys are awesome, and I'm excited for the devious brainchild you've come up with now!
But, enough crying. In honor of the last Thursday's Children Hop, I decided to publish the first bona-fide excerpt of my new book, What The Body Needs. Enjoy!
At first, she only saw dark. Dark hair, dark jacket, dark pants, dark shoes. Dark eyes glittered from a hard face. Eyes fixed squarely on her.
Jak stared down into her glass. Too late. He'd already caught her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him smile. It was visceral. Devastating. The kind of smile that could get a woman to make all kinds of bad decisions. Jak pounded back the last of her drink.
"Not often you see a woman taking straight whiskey."
Jak tried to ignore him. He slid a barstool closer. "Bourbon or scotch?"
She gritted her teeth. "Bourbon."
The man's smile took on a darker note. "That's my girl." He lifted a finger to catch Sam's attention. "A bottle."
Sam slid over a bottle of Jak's bourbon. He caught her eye, opened his mouth to speak, when something else distracted him. Brow furrowed, he strode away briskly. Jak sighed. She was on her own. She turned to the stranger. "I buy my own drinks."
"Sure you do, honey." He tossed back his shot, refilled his glass, tossed the second shot back too.
Jak's eyebrows went up. "Most people only drink like that when they're trying to forget something."
The man picked up her glass and filled it to the brim. Without a word, he slid it back to her. Jak stared at it for a moment, then tossed it back.
The man smiled again and poured them each another. Jak's eyes narrowed. "If you're planning on getting me drunk, it's going to take more than a few shots."
He tipped his glass to her. "I've got the whiskey if you've got the time."
"And if I don't?"
His eyes were piercing. "You do."
Jak's heart pounded. Damn it, what was wrong with her? It wasn't as though she'd never been hit on before. That was what he was doing, wasn't it? She couldn't quite tell. Maybe his voice, those eyes, that smile, were giving her the wrong idea.
She glanced at him again, more openly this time. He wasn't just dark. He was wild. Hair a little too mussed. Shirt a little too rumpled. That leather jacket had seen a few too many hard rides. His jaw looked capable of taking a punch, and his nose had clearly taken several.
But his lips were fascinating. A thin scar drew the top one into a perpetual sneer. They were neatly carved, oddly sensual. Out of place in his harsh face. Jak fought the delicious shiver that went down her spine. Lips like that had experience making women scream.
No, she definitely had the right idea.
She'd never needed a drink so badly in her life. Jak stretched for the whiskey bottle. His hand closed over her wrist. She froze, splayed across the bar in front of him. It was disconcerting. Intimate. She forced herself to meet his eyes. In the dim light, she couldn't make out their color.
The corners of his lips lifted. "Buyer pours."
She cleared her throat. "Oh." She wracked her brain for something else to say. "Thanks." His hand still imprisoned hers. She looked down at it pointedly.
He ignored her. His thumb traced a slow circle around the inside of her wrist as he poured them each a shot with his other hand. His skin was rough, warm. Jak swallowed hard. A smile twitched at the edges of his mouth. Damn. He must have felt her pulse jump.
She took a deep breath and withdrew her hand. He let it slide out from under his and raised his glass. "Your health."
Jak tried to ignore the tingle where he'd touched her. "What about your health?"
Even his chuckle was dark. "Trust me, yours is worth more than mine."
Jak snorted. "I doubt it." She drank anyway.
The man drank, eyes never leaving her face. "Interesting." He refilled her glass. "Want to talk about it?" A mocking note edged his voice.
"What? No." Not with you. Jak swirled the whiskey around in her glass. She looked up to find him watching her again. "Yes?"
The man shrugged. "Just wondering what goes on in a head like yours."
Jak stiffened. "What are you talking about?"
He looked at her a moment longer, then returned to his drink. "Calm down, honey." He glanced back at her. "Your honor is safe with me." His lips twisted, as if in appreciation of a private joke.
Jak stared at him. Had he moved closer, or had she? She glanced back at where she'd been sitting. Christ. She had. From her new seat, she could smell the heady mix of leather and smoke that seemed to emanate from the man's every pore.
She resisted the urge to lean over and breathe it in. Instead she studied her whiskey, suddenly unsure whether to drink it. When was the last time she'd been drawn to someone like this? Was it her? The alcohol? Or something else altogether?
She cleared her throat. "You been in town long?"
The man's eyes sharpened. "Who said I'm from out of town?"
Jak forced herself not to cringe, sipped her drink instead. "Never seen you here before. And there's a motel next door. Doesn't take a genius."
He inclined his head. "Score one for the lady." He focused back on his glass. Jak waited. He didn't look up again.
Her eyes narrowed. "You're a criminal." If that wasn't just perfect.
The man sipped his drink. "What makes you say that?"
Jak pushed her glass away. "You're not from here. You hardly seem the type to be visiting family." She shrugged. "So you're here on business. If it was good business, you'd be in a better hotel. Those bags under your eyes-you don't sleep enough. Probably work at night." She sat back. "And you drink too much. Guilty conscience?"
The man stared at her, expressionless. Jak's blood iced over. "I'm right, aren't I?"
He took another drink. A shadow of pain flickered across his features, so fast she nearly missed it. "And why would I admit it if you were?"
Now she was curious. "Like I said, people who drink like you do are trying to forget something." She peered into his face. "What are you trying to forget?"
The man didn't answer. He drained the last of his drink and tossed two twenties on the bar. "Rest of the bottle's yours." With that, he slid off the stool and disappeared into the crowd. Between the bodies, Jak saw the side door swing open. The outside lights glinted off his leather jacket as he slipped out.
She sighed and reached for her glass. Sam tore himself away from the blond man he was talking to and made his way back to her, a concerned look on his face. "Was that guy bothering you?"
Jak snorted. Now he asked her. She shook her head and tried to ignore the strange heat pooled deep in her belly. "Nah. Who was he, anyway?"
Sam shrugged. "Never seen him before. Came in and started drinking almost," he checked the clock on the wall behind him, "Christ, almost four hours ago now. Said his name was Marcus, I think?"
"Marcus." The syllables rolled off her tongue. Marcus. It sounded elegant. Patrician. It didn't fit the dark man at all. "He say what he was doing here?"
"No, don't think so." Sam started wiping a water ring off the scarred wood. He glanced back at the blond, focused on Jak again. "The amount he had to drink, I'm amazed he remembered his own name."
Jak sighed. She looked back at the door Marcus had disappeared through. His presence seemed to linger around it, animalistic and magnetizing. She sighed again. She was going to regret this.
She hopped off her stool and waved to Sam, then quickened her pace and disappeared into the crowd before he could say anything. Satisfied there were enough people around the door to block her, she stole out the same way Marcus had gone.
The night air bit her cheeks and cut through her canvas jacket. Jak rubbed her arms and blinked, eyes adjusting slowly to the dim light. The pungent aroma of cigarette smoke pricked her nostrils. She turned in the direction it was coming from.
A heavy, muscular arm swept her back and pinned her to the wall of the building. Jak's mouth flew open, but no sound came out. She did the only thing she could think of and drove her knee towards what she hoped was a sensitive target.
Marcus caught it. His dark eyes flashed. "That," he said, "was not very ladylike." His voice was so low it might have been a growl. Smoke wafted off his breath. Usually she hated the smell, but now it only intensified that mysterious feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Jak shifted. "I-"
His eyes bored into hers. "You shouldn't be here."
I know. She swallowed and tried again. "You left so fast." She felt like she was strangling. "I was concerned."
He made a disbelieving sound deep in his throat. "I bet you were." His eyes skated over her face, lower. He shifted closer.
Jak fought back a shiver. She couldn't move, couldn't breathe. She wasn't sure she remembered how. Deep in her gut, something primal throbbed in time to her pounding heartbeat. The sounds of traffic from the street faded to the blood rushing in her ears. She forced herself to meet his gaze.
He shook his head, eyes never leaving hers. "Nice girls like you shouldn't follow men like me into dark alleys."
The world was spinning. Whether from the whiskey or something else, she wasn't sure anymore. A warning siren blared in the back of her head. Bad decision. BAD decision. Jak ignored it and squared her jaw. "I'm not that nice."
Marcus's face was so close she could see the lines weathered into his forehead. His lips peeled back from his teeth in a predatory smile. "Good."
Then his mouth closed over hers.
Farewell, Thursday's Children! May you slip gently into that good night.
Now, onward and upward!
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