I'm really excited for summer. Besides the whole flip flops, tan lines and sun-kissed everything . . . I have a book releasing this summer! (I just twirled in delight.) Anyway, in celebration, I wanted to share a sneak peek of said book, Kiss Me in the Rain. It is Book One in the Tanner Family Series, which is a five book family-saga series focusing on the adult siblings of divorced parents and the whoopla their lives, and their family, entail.
Please stay tuned for the summer 2014 release date by signing up for my newsletter or following me on Facebook or Twitter. Or all three. Who doesn't like a hat trick? ;)
Happy Summer, Happy Reading, Happy Chapter One!
Gabe carefully sipped his beer and watched his father and Meredith with a disdain he hoped he concealed. It was their engagement party after all. If he wanted to be such a grumpy ass he should have stayed at home. But at home there were no doubt several phone messages left by his irate mother, the sting of adultery still sharp even after all the years. Gabe had long since turned his cell phone ringer off and wished he had the foresight his siblings had; being out of the country made it hard to attend such family functions. They had all invited him to join them, but he had turned them down, as usual. Family was a powder keg better left corked.
Andy walked up, beer in hand, and clapped him on the back. “Breathe, dude. This is supposed to be a happy occasion.” His best friend took a long pull from his bottle and scanned the crowd with the practiced eyes of the soldier he was.
“Right, I keep forgetting.” Gabe absently rubbed the scar on his temple, partially hidden by hair. He looked at his half-empty bottle and wanted to down it. That would be stupid, though. His thoughts were too close to the surface as it was. Beer would only turn off his verbal shit filter. Besides, it didn’t matter what he thought, this was their party, a celebration of their upcoming nuptials, their promise to honor each other, to be faithful to each other.
“Where are your siblings? They coming?”
“Nah, Dad’s not speaking to Tucker and Becca, well, this week, anyway. But Tucker’s at a law enforcement conference in Virginia and Becca’s buying horses in Montana, so it’s hardly relevant.” Bruce had never pulled that stunt with Gabe. His siblings were into second, third, fourth chances. Gabe wasn’t.
Andy had a good poker face, but Gabe could still see his disapproval of Bruce’s silent treatment. Andy was as protective of Gabe’s siblings as he was. “What about Colt? He still climbing on the backs of bulls?”
“Yes. Damn kid is crazy.”
“Did you forget where we met?”
“I suppose CSIS isn’t exactly tame.”
“Not the jobs we were on. Still can’t believe you joined CSIS to pay off your student loans. Who does that?”
“It worked and was a hell of a lot better than the alternative.” Gabe’s parents both had money, but it always came with too many strings attached. At the time, he had paid his own way through school and took out loans for the rest.
“Touché.” Andy stood a bit straighter, his towering height and dark good looks drawing feminine interest, as usual. “Dang, this party has gorgeous women at it.”
Gabe rolled his eyes and turned to see who of the fairer sex had captured his former partner’s attention now. He spotted the woman and felt the wind rush out of his lungs like a backdraft. She was stunning, beautiful. Tall and athletic, her blond hair was swept up dramatically from square shoulders. He had never seen hair that color before, like liquid honey, and it looked just as silky. The red slip of a dress she wore screamed goddess. It clung to her form and Gabe immediately felt his body respond. That pissed him off. Andy was the dopey ladies’ man, not him. The woman took that inopportune moment to turn in his direction. Their eyes locked and a small smile appeared on her perfect mouth.
“Look at her, she’s incredible.” Andy tipped his beer bottle in a salute. “Amen sister.”
“Go get her, tiger.” Gabe tried to sound bored and took another sip of beer, but he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was perfect. He didn’t want her to be another of Andy’s lady-friends. His best friend didn’t believe woman were conquests, he thought they were goddesses who should be worshiped in bed, naked and repeatedly. A lot of women lined up for that, no doubt this one would, too.
She laughed at something someone said and the rich sound, even at the distance, filled Gabe’s ears like a chorus he wanted to hear again. Ridiculous. He watched as she took a dainty sip of her red wine and his pulse kicked up another notch. Make that damn ridiculous.
“I’m going to go talk to her.” Andy straightened his immaculate tie. Before he took a step, they both noticed her tense up. Even from halfway across the room Gabe could see she trembled. Something had spooked her. Her eyes were wide and she darted around like prey looking for cover. She zeroed in on where Gabe and Andy were standing. With a look of relief, she damn near ran in their direction, the ridiculously high heels making her gorgeous legs falter a fraction of a second. Only someone watching intently would notice. Gabe noticed.
Andy’s eyebrows shot up, but he nodded in approval. “Looks like the damsel in distress has dibs on you. Lucky bastard.”
As soon as she was within grabbing distance of them, she clutched Gabe’s upper arm, locking him into a couple’s walking embrace. With surprising strength she turned him and started them towards the door. “There you are, Sweetie, let’s go.”
He had no idea why he allowed himself to be pulled by the gorgeous woman. Scratch that, yes he did. He was thinking with his dick. He couldn’t remember the last time that had happened. Even Gillian had never made him do that. He heard Andy’s laugh in the background and turned in time to see his best friend actually wink at him and wave. Gabe would thump him later for that, but right now he wanted to see where this little scenario would go and he let himself be led away.
The beautiful woman with the death grip on his arm didn’t say anything until she had him out of the private party room and into the public lounge. She stopped at the long, polished bar and looked down in surprise at the glass of red wine she still held in her other hand. She set it down and pushed it away with a shaky hand. “That’s so not going to cut it.”
She clutched the bar with her now-free hands and nodded toward the bartender. “Gin please, on the rocks.” She nodded in his direction. “And whatever he wants.”
She was a mesmerizing storm, an elemental force standing beside him in a siren’s dress. Gabe waited for her to say something else, anything else, but she remained silent, staring straight ahead and taking steadying breaths. Her hold on the bar lightened a fraction, enough her knuckles went from white to just pale.
“I’ll have the same, please.” He addressed the bartender, but never took his eyes off the woman. Her hands had stopped shaking, but she still didn’t look at him. Damn, she smelled good. Not frilly, but an enticing, exotic scent that was wholly feminine. He wanted to drink in all of her. The dress she was wearing exposed a stunning swath from her neck to just above where her waist started to flare to her perfect hips. The crimson material clung, and swung, where it needed to. It also left her arms bare. A faint tan line from a t-shirt was barely visible in the dim light. He liked that.
Gabe watched the way she held her breath, the way she shifted slightly on the ridiculously high, but oh-so-hot heels. It might be one hell of a seductive dress, but Gabe would bet this wasn’t her normal get-up. Out of her element and flustered, what was her deal? He leaned against the bar, settled in, and for the first time in his life decided to wait for a woman.
“Sorry about that, I needed an escape and well, you looked perfect.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Savannah wished she could take them back. She stopped herself from clapping her hand over her mouth at the faux pas. Just because the man looked perfect didn’t mean she had to tell him. Reasonable, rational, controlled women did not go blurting stuff out like that.
The sight of Blaire had knocked her off kilter, that was all. And what was he doing here anyway, crashing her aunt’s engagement party? There was no way he would be on the guest list, and it was too much of a coincidence that he would be here as someone’s date, wasn’t it? She had only worried about running into her dad, not her ex. At least her mom was in Europe somewhere. Well, that was the story everyone was sticking to, anyway. Who the hell knew what was going on? Family functions had always been a mine field of strategy and manipulation. That’s why she had left five years ago and hadn’t looked back. Until now.
Savannah eyed the attractive man next to her. He was certainly an unexpected perk to the charged day. Although he hadn’t said anything to her yet. But he had the hint of a smile. Great, the silent type. What was a woman supposed to do with a guy that didn’t talk? Several things immediately came to mind that had nothing to do with talking. A blush stole up her neck and cheeks at the steamy images that were flashing through her mind. What was wrong with her? She never fantasized about men, let alone while standing right next to one. He was close enough she could smell his clean, masculine scent. Good lord, did she just flare her nostrils to take in more of him?
This was not going how she hoped, but what had she expected? Did she think that she could highjack the most fascinating looking man in the room and suddenly be witty and dazzling and not completely freeze up? For the love of god she was sniffing him. Maybe she could politely excuse herself and go hide until everyone left and she could be humiliated in peace.
Screw that. Enough running. Gathering resolve, she released the death grip she had on the bar and turned to her damsel-saving knight. “I mean you looked. . .” Sexy, like a dream boat . . . or an instant orgasm. Her mind raced for socially acceptable possibilities, but she was having trouble moving past orgasm. Good lord, imagine an orgasm from this man. Reining in her starved libido she plastered a smile on her face and offered an outstretched hand. “My friends call me Anna.”
The man took her hand in his larger one and finally spoke, “Gabe.”
His voice was deep and the low sound made every cell in her body sing. His palm was warm, solid. The polite contact was made somehow intimate when she noticed his callouses. She was no stranger to physical outdoor field work, but she had never once considered callouses a turn on. Until now. A small smile was still threatening the corner of his mouth and she had a panicked moment where she thought he must be able to read her mind. Savannah actually shivered at the contact of her hand still wrapped in his and wished she was a bolder woman, to make good on all the images he was inspiring. She had the crazy desire to feel those hands all over her. If ever there was a reason to have a fling, this guy was it. Strength and sensuality radiated off him. His face was that of someone used to playing outdoors, all tanned with that weathered masculinity. Except his eyes, they were too hard for playtime.
The bartender smiled at them with a knowing look. He finished pouring their drinks and placed the short tumblers in front of them on small cocktail napkins. Oh god, could everyone read her sex-starved mind? Embarrassed at her racy thoughts and the bartender’s conclusions, she busied herself with pulling at her small clutch purse to pay for the drinks.
Gabe waved it away. “I got it.”
She snapped her head up, bills gripped in her hand. Her back was up, along with her ire. She adored the idea of chivalry, but life had taught her it didn’t exist. At all. There was always a catch. Better to be guarded and caught aware, than manipulated and made the fool. Gabe merely looked down his perfect nose at her and smiled. The effect was potent and she wondered if that was what he had intended. She hated being manipulated, or the brunt of a joke. Was he mocking her?
“Seems you’re having a rough day. The least I can do is buy you a drink. A rather stiff drink.”
Savannah sucked in a breath, shocked at his comment until she noticed his hard eyes were now twinkling. A measure of her irritation evaporated. “You’re teasing me.” Not mocking.
When was the last time a man had teased her? When was the last time she had let one?
His eyebrows furrowed in confusion and he handed her her drink. “Of course I am. Who am I to judge what you drink?”
She accepted the glass and waited, unsure what she should do. He took his own tumbler and angled it briefly in her direction. “Cheers.” He tossed back a healthy amount of the clear liquid. “Besides, I could use a stiff drink, too.”
Savannah eyed him, her wariness easing. He wasn’t being manipulative, he was buying her a drink. She smiled at her kindred spirit and raised her glass. “Cheers.”
She took a potent swallow and stifled a cough as the gin burned all the way down. She was completely out of her element wearing this . . . this sensual red dress, grabbing strange men, leading them to bars and drinking booze with them. She was loving it.
“Savannah, there you are.”
She winced as Blaire’s unwelcome voice bellowed from across the bar. Couldn’t he crawl back under the rock he came from?
“Don’t ignore me, I’m talking to you. I had to ditch Claire to run after you.” His voice was getting closer.
Blah blah blah.
Savannah felt Gabe subtly shift beside her and she turned. He held himself coiled, like he was ready to spring. His hard eyes were glacial and zeroed in on Blaire. Comprehension dawned, he’s ready to rip Blaire’s head off. She had never had a man stick up for her before. It was a foreign, exhilarating feeling. And incredibly hot. Her rational, reasonable self should not have been swayed by the protective gesture, but the woman inside wanted to bring him back to her cave.
Gabe was one of the good guys. He was everything that was sweet and hot in the world and Blaire’s belligerent yammering stood for everything she had run from. It still stung she had run in the first place. God, she needed something sweet right now. Without further thought, Savannah stood on tiptoes, grabbed Gabe’s head and pulled him in for a deep, full kiss. His surprise lasted only a moment before she felt his tongue answer her exploring mouth. The man could kiss. His hands slide up her bare back and suddenly she had a visceral appreciation for her new dress. Thank god Maggie had talked her into it, because she couldn’t remember the last time something felt so good. All her suddenly-awakened senses reeled. She wanted to swallow him whole. He wrapped his large, warm arms completely around her body and lifted her slightly. To her feminist amazement, instead of feeling controlled or manhandled, it was exhilarating to be held like that. She felt cherished, adored. The feel of his arms holding her so securely, so sensually, made her shiver in pleasure.
His strong body radiated heat and vitality and . . . good lord he was hard. Her newly irrational self wanted to crawl up and wrap her legs around his hips and savor all of him, even if only through their clothes. She wanted to hang on and not let go. She heard an actual moan escape her throat and instead of chastise herself, she let herself let go and spiral deeper into the haze of passion. This is what she had been missing? This is what a real man felt like? She had no idea a kiss could be so consuming, so absorbing, so passionate, or so perfect. Her body wanted more, she wanted more. And he was a stranger.
From a distance she heard her name being called, the sound clashing violently with the wondrous emotions coursing through her sensitized body. No, not yet. She willed the moment not to stop, to keep going, but she felt Gabe start to pull away, drawn by the commotion. Just for a second, she allowed herself to cling to him. She didn’t want to let him go. But the kiss had stopped, the spell was broken. Reality returned and she did let him go. Life had taught her that, to let go before she was the one discarded. But he kept his hand on her back and she savored the feel even as she emotionally withdrew, protecting herself.
The voice stopped calling her name and became more of a commotion. Blaire was being led away, none too gently, by the man who had been standing next to Gabe earlier. Maggie was barreling toward her but stopped long enough to grab a discarded drink and throw it at Blaire’s pristine white shirt. That was Maggie, pure spunk.
“Anna, I’m so sorry I took so long. I should have been back sooner. What is Blaire doing here? God, I’m so sorry you had to see him. I should have punched him in the face instead of throwing a drink. . . wait, who is this?”
Maggie’s attention had turned to Gabe and her mouth hung open a moment while she registered the scene. Savannah knew how it must look. Gabe’s hand was still on her back and she wanted to pretend it belonged there. But it didn’t and that would be stupid. Instead she promised herself she would allow him to be a secret fantasy; other people had them, why not her?
She hoped she sounded sophisticated and unaffected when she said to him, “Thank you, I owe you and your friend.”
Gabe gave a negligent glance towards the lively departure, his deep voice tickling her insides again. “You just made Andy’s night.” With a smile that nearly floored her, he added, “And I am definitely looking forward to collecting.”
Her lips parted as saucy images flooded her mind again. It was a wonder she didn’t come right there. Good grief, what had she been thinking, kissing a complete stranger like that? And one so proficient? Heat still flamed her cheeks, mixed with a tinge of shame. Did he have any idea how much he affected her? She wrung her hands; this was insane, complete madness. The shock of seeing Blaire after all these years, and then the sultry shock of having real passion ignited for the first time in her life proved overwhelming. She had thought Blaire was passionate, now she knew he was a practiced robot compared to what the real man standing in front of her felt like. Standing next to Gabe she was ready to melt, or start hyperventilating. Time to go, now.
A jingle sounded and Savannah smiled in relief, saved by the bell of Maggie’s text ring.
“That should be the cab,” Maggie said and checked her phone. “Oh god, he’s dead.”