My friends! It’s Teaser
TuesdayThursday! Because we’re in June! And that’s fun! We’ve got the ever fun and fabulous Ruthie Knox sharing with us today! I know you don’t want to hear what I’ve got to say when Ruthie’s on deck, so here we go!
Hi, Lime! Thanks for inviting me to visit today.
I’m sharing an excerpt from Flirting with Disaster, which is the third book in my Camelot series. I call it, with fondness, my “stuttering hacker” book, because the hero of this one, Sean, is just that—a (sort of) former hacker with a stutter he’s tried to ditch, with some success . . . until he returns to his hometown and the past hits him upside the head. Here’s the blurby thing:
Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox
Camelot series, book 3
In the latest eBook original novel in Ruthie Knox’s scorching-hot Camelot series, a no-strings fling looks an awful lot like falling in love—or flirting with disaster.
Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.
Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.
And here’s an exclusive excerpt. Sean’s just gone for a run, at night, in Buffalo, in February—because yeah, he needs to get distance from Katie that badly. Unfortunately, she’s waiting for him at his hotel room when he returns. Poor Sean. There is very little hope for him at this point.
He passed through the parking lot and let himself in the side entrance, peeling the traction cleats off his running shoes and trying to knock most of the snow out of the coils before he came fully indoors. The Mansion hosted wedding receptions in its plush downstairs rooms. It was no place for a smelly, irritable guy to be dropping chunks of ice and snow.
On the way up the stairs, he pulled his jacket over his head, knocking off his hat in the process. The lightweight wool shirt he’d worn as a base layer was soaked with sweat, and he barely had the strength left in his legs for the second flight.
He definitely didn’t have strength for the sight of Katie knocking on the door to his room with a bottle of wine tucked awkwardly under her arm and two mugs dangling from her free hand.
He’d just have to find some.
“What do you wuh-want?”
Focused on the door, she hadn’t heard him coming. When she turned, her free hand went to her throat. As he approached, her eyes raked over him, head to toe and all the way back up.
“Sweet Baby Jesus,” she said. “You were running? Outside? It’s, like, minus two hundred degrees out there.”
According to the outdoor thermometer, it was 3 degrees, not counting wind chill. The sight of Katie’s smooth, bare shoulders was nearly enough to make him break a sweat.
She wore her flannel pajama pants and the sleeveless top she’d had on in the car. What the hell was she doing with bare arms in the middle of the winter?
Sean brushed past, careful not to touch her, and opened the door to his room. “Go away, C-Clark.”
“Don’t be rude,” she said. “There’s a Jackie Chan marathon on, and I brought wine.”
“Chicks don’t like Jackie Chan.”
“I do. You want me to tell you all my favorite parts of Rumble in the Bronx to prove my credentials?”
“No. I wuh-want you to g-go away.” He walked into the room, leaving her in the doorway and hoping she’d take the hint and quit torturing him. The red bra straps weren’t peeking out from under her top anymore, which could only mean one thing.
Sean dropped his jacket, hat, shoes, and cleats on the towel he’d left inside the open door to the bathroom. Katie walked in like she owned the place, setting the wine bottle and mugs down on the table by the TV.
“Hey, no fair. Your room is bigger than mine.” She peeked into the bathroom. “Your shower is bigger, too.”
When she looked back at him, he was staring at her, hoping she’d be intimidated by the glare he sent her way.
“What?” she asked.
“Are you ffflirting with me?”
“Maybe. Would that be really bad?”
She stepped closer, giving him a view right down her shirt. She had small breasts. Soft swells on either side of her sternum. Shadows and valleys, a dozen places where his mouth would fit.
He closed his eyes.
He hated this. This weakness. The sound of his own voice, choking on feelings he didn’t want to have. The sound of him losing his grip.
“Okay,” she said. “Then I’m not flirting with you.”
He exhaled and searched for some kind of response. Some way to get Katie out of his room before he fucked up irrevocably.
“I’m n-not sssleeping with you.”
She narrowed her eyes and parroted back the line he’d given her a week ago. “I didn’t ask you to.”
The challenge in her eyes was unmistakable, though. She would play it this way, I just stopped by braless in my jammies with a bottle of wine, as buddies do, and anything that happened would be an accident. It would be his fault for not being able to keep his hands off her.
Damn it, he wouldn’t play along.
“You d-did, c-coming over here d-d-dressed like that.”
She looked down at her flannel-clad legs. “It’s not like I’m wearing a French maid outfit.”
“You haven’t g-got a b-bra on.”
“I hardly have any boobs. What’s the big deal?”
“The b-b-big d-deal is I c-can ssee your arms and yuh-your . . .” Sean gestured at the expanse of her chest and her neck.
“My arms, Sean?” Her voice sliced at his composure. “You think I’m trying to seduce you because you can see my arms? Is your virtue that easy to compromise?”
“That’s n-not what I m-m-m—”
“You seem like a civilized guy. Can’t you control your animal impulses?”
Because he wanted so badly to grab her and kiss her until she shut up and glazed over and turned into an animal, too, he grabbed two fists of shirts at the back of his neck and pulled it over his head. Then he edged even closer, so he was breathing right up against her, his bare skin separated from hers by a millimeter of empty space charged with sweat and sex.
She didn’t say anything, but her eyes jumped around, flitting from his chest to his shoulders, his neck, his face. His cock grew heavy and began to ache.
“Want to watch a m-movie, ssweetheart?” he asked. “Want to ssit on the c-couch, getting drunk and not t-t-touching each other for a few hours?”
Katie raised her eyes to his. “Holy shit,” she said. “Sean. Oh my gosh, Sean, look at you.” She placed one palm flat on his chest, over his heart, and he knocked it away.
“Don’t p-p-play with me,” he warned her. “We’re going to be p-partners. That’s all.”
A perplexed frown knit the space between her eyebrows. “You were hitting on me in the car.”
“And at my house, right? I didn’t just make that up?”
He shook his head, disgusted with himself. “I wuh-was. Buh-but I sh-shouldn’t have. We’re not g-going to watch m-movies together, and we’re not going to ffflirt, and we’re not g-going to sleep together.”
Katie’s gaze slid below his waist and held there for a moment, then meandered its way back up. When she met his eyes, hers held a single question. Why not?
He looked away from her and counted to twenty. It didn’t help. “I’m luh-leaving t-town.”
“Ssoon. When we ffinish the c-c-case.”
“I have a juh-job b-back in C-c-california. A c-computer sssecurity c-company I ruh-run. I nuh-need to g-get b-back to it.”
The furrowed forehead again. “I thought you’d moved back to Camelot.”
Sean shook his head. “N-no. I’m juh-just . . . It’s t-temporary, the juh-job with your brother. I’m luh-leaving. So I d-d-don’t wuh-want to . . .” He raised his arms out to the side, palms flat, a gesture that encompassed his bare-chested self and her compromising outfit. The room. The bed. The entire situation. “I d-don’t wuh-want to.”
Katie flinched, but Sean couldn’t think of any way to take it back without actually taking it back.
“You’re being a gentleman.”
“Don’t. The last thing I need—the absolute last thing—is for you to be a gentleman. You know, people do have meaningless flings. It’s a thing. I keep hearing about it from, like, every form of popular culture ever.”
She crossed her arms and took a step back. The confidence had drained out of her, and she looked younger. Smaller. “You’re confusing.”
“I know.” He sighed. “I’m ssorry. It’s c-c-complicated.” He clenched his hands into tight fists. It was even harder to keep from touching her when she looked so bewildered and hurt. Hard not to comfort her, but he knew where that would lead.
“It’s really not.” She fiddled with the ties to her pajama bottoms. “The way I remember it, it’s super simple. Kind of an Insert-Tab-A-into-Slot-B thing. I might be remembering wrong, though. I haven’t had sex in almost two years.”
Two years. She hadn’t been with anyone since Levi—which meant she probably hadn’t been with anyone but Levi—and now she wanted him, and he was turning her down. He was out of his fucking mind.
“Fffind someone else.” Even as he said it, the thought of her having sex with another man made him homicidal.
She lowered her eyes to the carpet. “No,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest. “I think I’m all tapped out.”
Slowly, it sank in.
First Levi, then Judah, now him. The third man in a row to tell Katie she wasn’t good enough. She’d gathered up her courage and come over here, maybe not throwing herself at him but at least open to the possibility. She’d done it because he’d encouraged her to, the way he’d talked to her at her house, and in the car. And now he was turning her down.
Not gently, either. Badly. Clumsily.
“I’m ssss—” He couldn’t make the word come out, but he had to. She deserved a decent apology. He tried again. “I ap-p-p—”
She flapped a hand and turned her back on him. “Don’t worry about it. You want a drink?” She popped the cork out of the wine and poured two measures into the mugs. “Hope you don’t mind, I already started the bottle. Liquid courage and all that.” Turning toward him, she lifted one mug in invitation.
“I n-n-need a sh-shower.”
“Yeah, I noticed. Well, it’ll be here.” She put one mug down on the table and settled onto the couch with her own drink. The remote was on the coffee table, and she lifted it, turned on the TV, and began flicking through channels.
“Go shower, Sean,” she said after a moment.
He didn’t move. He couldn’t figure out why she was still in the room, much less talking to him.
Katie raised the mug to her lips and drank down the contents in four long gulps. She wiped the back of her hand over her mouth and sighed.
“You don’t want me,” she said without turning around. “It’s not a crime. I know I’m not, like, centerfold material. It’s fine. We’ll watch kung fu movies and work our way through this bottle of wine. You’ll stay on your side of the couch, I’ll stay on mine, and by the time I go to bed after three or four hours of Jackie Chan, we’ll be friends, and I’ll be able to sleep.”
He stared blankly at the back of her head.
Balls. Katie had balls.
She went through life with her heart on her sleeve, saying what she meant, telling people how she felt, what she wanted, what she needed, and she got slapped for it. But she didn’t let it set her back.
He couldn’t remember ever having been like that. Not one day in his life had he been that unguarded.
She found the right channel, and the screen filled up with a young Jackie Chan wearing a tank top, high-waisted jeans, and what looked like a woman’s belt while he beat the crap out of three bad guys.
“Take a shower,” she said flatly. “I don’t want to sit by myself in my room feeling like a complete waste of space, okay?”
He didn’t know what to say, so he grabbed some clothes from his bag and headed for the bathroom, leaving her alone, bathed in the flickering light of the television.
Fun, huh? If you like torturing characters. Which I do. Very much.
Speaking of torture, who’s your favorite flawed hero? The flaw can be physical, mental, or both. Tell me, and I’ll give away an ebook copy of Flirting with Disaster to one random commenter in the format of your choice!
About Ruthie: USA Today bestselling author Ruthie Knox writes contemporary romance that’s sexy, witty, and angsty—sometimes all three at once. After training to be a British historian, she became an academic editor instead. Then she got really deeply into knitting, as one does, followed by motherhood and romance novel writing. Her debut novel, Ride with Me, is probably the only existing cross-country bicycling love story. She followed it up with About Last Night, a London-set romance whose hero has the unlikely name of Neville, and then Room at the Inn, a Christmas novella—both of which were finalists for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award. Her four-book series about the Clark family of Camelot, Ohio, has won accolades for its fresh, funny portrayal of small-town Midwestern life. Ruthie moonlights as a mother, Tweets incessantly, and bakes a mean focaccia. She’d love to hear from you, so visit her website and drop her a line.
Did you love it?! 😀 No need to wait long because Flirting with Disaster will be available on June 10! Whee! You know the deal – what’d you think? (Answer Ruthie’s question for a chance to win! To remind you: who’s your favorite flawed hero?)