Hi friends! It’s Tuesday again! And for now, the last scheduled Teaser Tuesday spot on the calendar for now! I think we all know the drill – it’s supposed to be a minimum 1,000 word excerpt of an new or upcoming book that isn’t posted anywhere else. Because at ALBTALBS I care about you getting things that are fresh and new. 😉 Right? Heh. So without further ado, enjoy!!!
Bella is housesitting in Portree, Scotland, for her brother, Finley, while he’s on his honeymoon. She expects a quiet time, enjoying the harbour town’s breathtaking views and quaint shops. So imagine her surprise when one of Great Britain’s most eligible bachelors comes pounding at her door in an attempt to evade both the paparazzi and a flurry of female fans. Unaware of his celebrity status, Bella reluctantly gives him sanctuary. Yet the surprises keep coming, and soon she’s persuaded to accompany him to Edinburgh . . . as his faux fiancée. But while helping him fend off his ardent admirers, Bella just may gain one very authentic admirer of her own . . .
At last, nothing remained but the smell of damp wood smoke and the lingering sensation of an opportunity missed. Bella felt hollow inside…sad. The emotion made no sense at all. Likely it was the gloom and the late hour creating her melancholy.
She reached into her pocket for the keys to the Jeep and bobbled them, almost tossing them into the hot coals. Fortunately, she managed to catch herself and the keys before falling into the arms of Mr. Tall, Geek, and Gorgeous. Too bad.
“You okay?” he asked gruffly.
“I’m fine. Just clumsy.” They were standing so close she could inhale the scent of him, memorizing it, dizzy with the notion that she knew it already from some other lifetime. She was not a particularly small woman, but he was big and unequivocally masculine. Her pulse fluttered. “We should probably go now.”
He shifted from one foot to the other. “I’m not entirely sure I want to.”
His candor shocked her. Why had she ever for a moment believed he was a passive beta male? Having brains didn’t preclude the possibility that Ian was the kind of man to take what he wanted.
They stood there for an eternity. At last, he reached out and pulled her close, perhaps waiting for her to protest. His chest was comfortingly solid beneath her cheek. His cotton shirt smelled like laundry detergent. There was no doubt in her mind that she could step away and nothing would happen.
Still, she didn’t move.
Ian’s hands roved ever so subtly over her lower back, leaving warmth and delight everywhere he touched. “Have I stunned ye, lass?” There was humor in his voice, humor at her expense.
“I thought all you cared about was work,” she said. Her hands had fisted at his belt buckle. Now, she slipped her arms around his waist and sighed.
“Don’t be daft. I’m a man. You’re a woman. And not just any woman,” he said quickly. “Ye’re bright and funny and cantankerous.”
Rude, but accurate, she conceded to herself. “Um, that last one isn’t exactly a compliment.”
He nuzzled her nose with his. “A bloke likes to work for it sometimes. Ye keep me on my toes. Ye’re not a pushover. I like that in a woman.”
“To be honest, I’m not always so…”
“Touchy? Prickly? Cranky? Irritable?”
“Enough!” She tried to pinch his waist, but the man didn’t have an ounce of flab anywhere on his body. “You bring out the worst in me for some reason.”
“Why, Bella?” He stroked her hair with a lazy hand, his fingers winnowing through the strands.
She shrugged. “I’m not exactly sure. I think it has to do with the fact that you’re really smart, and you’re a man.”
“Still not following.” The smile in his voice was impossible to miss.
“I’ve spent most of my life being condescended to because I’m female. Physics is too hard, Bella. What about art or music? Get your head out of those damned books and go have some fun. I don’t think you’re exactly what we’re looking for in this internship. My father was the worst, but he wasn’t the only one.”
“That must have been infuriating. Finley, too?”
“No. Finley is smarter than me, I think, but he never enjoyed school the way I did. He’s super proud of me and very supportive.”
“What does he think about the dissertation/novel conundrum?”
The room got quiet. They were still standing in front of the fireplace, neither one apparently ready to let go or simply go.
“I haven’t told him about the novel,” she said, her words barely audible.
“Well, there was the wedding and all that…”
“Don’t be mean. I know what he’ll say.”
“And that is?”
“He’ll tell me to follow my dreams or something syrupy sweet like that.”
“I’ve known Finley for some time now. The last thing I would ever call him is sweet.”
She chuckled. “Fair point. But he does have a soft spot when it comes to me. He feels guilty, because when he moved here to Skye a decade ago, he left me to handle our father. That was no easy task.”
“If you’re positive Finley will be supportive, what’s so scary about broaching the subject of your dissertation with him?”
“Why must you be so infuriatingly logical?” she muttered. “Some things come from the gut and aren’t easy to explain.”
His insistence made their present posture uncomfortable. Instead of elaborating, she pulled away and rubbed her arms. “I’d like to go back to the house now.” She didn’t really want to pull away. Ian Larrimore was a very wonderful human to cozy up to…in all sorts of tantalizing ways. Even so, she didn’t need a man to fix her problems.
She held up a hand when he tried to touch her. “No. Seriously, Ian. It’s time to leave.”
The small cottage was dark. The rain and wind had moved in, drummed on the roof for an hour, and moved on. Ian moved restlessly. “I suppose you’re right.” He didn’t sound too happy about it.
When they were outside and the door safely locked behind them, he put himself between her and the Jeep. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Wouldn’t you like me to drive? This lane is a suicide course, especially in the dark.”
“You don’t trust me?”
His low curse surprised her. “For God’s sake, Bella. I thought you might be tired. Forgive me for being a gentleman. Hell, I think I’ll walk. It’s the only thing that will keep me from strangling you.”