Hey lovelies! Second Tuesday of the month already! I’m freaking out here! Where’s my pause button? You know how this all works! At ALBTALBS we get a totally exclusive, not posted anywhere else excerpt of a new or upcoming book! So you know we’re doing Smithsonian Heritage Months v2.0 – and today we’ve got Alyssa Cole. Now, Radio Silence was published on February 2nd (2015). So as soon as you read this excerpt you can go get your own copy! 😉
Arden Highmore is majorly cynical, but even she wouldn’t have predicted the end of the world–or at least the world as she knew it. One winter day, everything modern society has grown to rely on–electricity, cell phones, and, unfortunately, plumbing—stops working. Arden and her best friend John flee to his family’s cabin near the Canadian border. On the way there, they’re assaulted by scavengers, but saved by John’s hot brother Gabriel, who takes an instant dislike to Arden.
The duo think they’ve finally found refuge at the Seong’s cabin, but things aren’t quite as peaceful as they seem: John’s parents are missing. Maggie, their teenage sister, resents Gabriel for treating her like a child. No one knows what, exactly, is going on in the outside world, and in the midst of all that, Arden and Gabriel are finding that there’s a thin line indeed between love and hate.
“Anyway, I have this salve that should help with the pain.” He held out his hand to reveal a small container of Tiger Balm. “I don’t think you’ll be able to reach your shoulders and back without hurting yourself. I can apply it, if you want.”
To my chagrin, the fantasy that had plagued me during my bath flashed in my head. Gabriel was offering to put his hands on my body, and given the way I suddenly tightened everywhere, my traitorous body was totally down with this plan. I realized that my only reply had been to simply gawk at him when he added, “Or I can get John to do it, or Maggie.”
“You can do it,” I blurted out, instantly regretting it as my body warmed. My nether regions were already stirring, suddenly interested in the events of the evening. “I mean, one of them can do it if you prefer, but you’re a professional, right? You’ve probably had to do worse things than this.”
“I’m a new doctor, but applying salve to your back would rank pretty low on the list of worst things I’ve had to do. One day I’ll tell you about the woman who came into the ER with a bottle of soda lodged somewhere unfortunate.” He paused, then raised his eyebrows. “A two-liter bottle.”
“As delightful as that anecdote sounds, I’ll pass, thanks.”
We resumed our positions, him on the sofa and me on the ottoman. There was a silence and I realized he was trying to figure out how to go about applying the stuff.
“Should I just lift my shirt from behind?” I asked.
“Uh, yeah. Let me do it so you don’t hurt yourself.” He grabbed the back of the long sweatshirt and lifted it up and over my head. My arms were still in the sleeves, so the material bunched in the front, providing the perfect headrest for me while leaving my back completely exposed. It felt strangely intimate, revealing myself to him in this way. It was no more than he would have seen if I’d asked him to slap sunscreen on for me at the beach, but there was more at play here. Knowing that his gaze was fixed on my bare skin made my back prickle in anticipation of the touch that was soon to come.
He cleared his throat and shifted on the sofa. I wondered if I was radiating invisible perv waves that were making him uncomfortable.
“I hope you don’t have cold hands,” I said like a dork, hoping to break the tension that was now palpable. Well, I was pretty certain any tension in the air was emanating solely from me, but I had to at least put up a front of calm indifference.
“I’ve actually always been told the opposite,” he said. “The patients during my ob-gyn rotation were especially grateful.”
“Did you take a dose of overshare while you were grabbing the balm?” I asked, and then realized that he’d just cracked at least two jokes in a row that weren’t at my expense. Great. Of course, he had to go and be funny on top of being fine.
I heard him unscrew the cap of the small jar, followed by the moist dip of his fingers into the salve. The sharp smells of camphor and menthol filled my nose, and then his hands were on my skin and, praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it was wonderful. His hands were indeed warm, but they were also skilled and gentle as they worked the balm into my aching muscles.
I’d thought he was just going to slather it on and send me on my way, but he took his time, applying it with the technique of a pro masseur. His thumbs slid firmly along the column of my neck, and it felt so good that I let out the beginnings of a moan. I stifled the remainder of the sound, embarrassed that the contact affected me so. He smoothed his hands over my shoulders, applying a bit more pressure each time. He did this again and again until my back felt warmed through, the clenched muscles loosening as he worked. Gabriel’s palms were calloused, adding an extra layer of sensation to the massage, a friction that enhanced the already delicious heat of his hands against my skin.
He worked his way down, kneading at my back with both his knuckles and the balls of his palms. His fingers slid under the ridges of my shoulder blades, which I hadn’t classified as an erogenous zone until that very moment. He dug in hard at first, and I cried out in pain, but as the knotted muscle broke down beneath his fingertips, the sharp torment faded and transformed into something edging on gratification.
He eased up. “Sorry. I can be a little rough sometimes, but once I work out these knots, you’ll feel much better.”
I bit back a whimper—I’d had massages before, and they’d felt damn good, but not like this. Even the painful kneading had strung garlands of excitement over my most sensitive parts. Gabriel’s impromptu rubdown was loosening the taut muscles in my back, but other areas of my body were tightening in response, aching for the same attention.
As time stretched on, his hands began to move in a way that seemed exploratory rather than perfunctory. They glided slowly over each vertebra, as if there was some Braille message hidden in the indentation of bone and cartilage. They moved farther away from my shoulders, down to my lower back, which ached from days of walking and carrying a heavy pack. The pleasure of his touch built in such a way that it radiated from the point of contact, spreading over my skin in something akin to a ticklish sensation, except tickling didn’t make me quiver and silently beg for more of the same. I squirmed between his legs and released a shuddering breath, momentarily unable to hide my reaction to this onslaught of sensation as he alternated between deep kneading and feathery caresses.
“Oh, right there,” I blurted out when he began to work out a tight knot near the base of my spine. The exquisite combination of pain and pleasure Gabriel was inflicting on me was making it hard to keep quiet. My nipples hardened and pressed into the material of the sweatshirt, and I regretted not searching for a bra after my bath.
I willed myself to simply enjoy the comforting touch of another person, a professional person, but little by little the inappropriate thoughts began to rise, unbidden. Me slipping out of my shirt, Gabriel’s hands on my arms turning me to face him, his mouth pressing against mine…
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