Hello darlings!!! I can’t believe January is coming to a close. Meep! So, I’m glad everything has continued on as scheduled, and fingers crossed for a fabulous 2015! Along those fabulous lines, we have our good friend Lorelie Brown with us today, sharing a very tasty excerpt of her newest release Ahead in the Heat (which just came out on January 6th). Whoo! Enjoy! <3
The surfing World Championship Tour is under way, and Sean Westin is desperate to make his mark—until a stupid display of machismo in Bali leaves his shoulder busted. He has six weeks to get back on the waves or he may be looking at the end of his career.
Annie Baxter is the best physical therapist in the business, and she knows it. After almost joining the pro circuit herself, she’s wary of working with big stars and their huge egos. But Sean is making her an incredible offer—full funding for her after-school skate center for underprivileged kids—and she’s finding him hard to resist….
As intense therapy sessions turn into passionate intimacy, Sean unleashes a wild side of Annie that she’s suppressed for years. Only, Sean’s keeping secrets, and when his hidden history comes to the surface, everything—even Annie—might get torn away.
Sean wasn’t even looking at her. He had pulled up two computer screens, plus he had just put his phone to his ear. If she left, he wouldn’t notice.
Except for some reason, she couldn’t do it. This was the last place she should be . . . but she couldn’t think of anywhere to go.
She slipped off her heels instead.
“Hey, bro,” Sean said into the phone. “Crisis mode over here. And no, I’m not overreacting.”
She turned her attention to a different set of charts, these ones color coded and covered in names she’d heard. Slater. Wright. Crews. These were all the members of the ’CT. Westin had all their stats posted, from all their points down to their height and approximate weight. He had listed the types of boards they rode and where they got them from. He charted sponsorships, team divisions, and coaches.
It was all there. Charts and spreadsheets. Covered in ink from handwritten annotations.
“Didn’t I ask you to stay in the kitchen?” said Sean’s curling, stroking voice over her shoulder.
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, but you’re not supposed to be in here.”
“Why? Is it your private space?” She made her eyes wide and, leaning forward, dropped her voice as if she were telling a secret. “Have I stumbled into the bat cave? You’re not hiding a cape and a utility belt, are you?”
He lifted a single eyebrow. “You’ve got a fetish for superheroes, don’t you? Tell me, Annie. Does Superman get your panties wet?”
She made a dismissive noise, wrinkling her nose. “God, no. That guy wouldn’t know his way around Lois Lane’s panties if she tied them to a stick and waved them like a flag.”
Rather than laugh at her, he buried it. “If I’m remembering correctly, I left you in the kitchen.”
“All you said was ‘Feel free to get a drink.’”
He crossed his arms over his chest, only to realize that meant he was mimicking her posture. He didn’t shift, though. There was no sense in giving her more power than she already had. “I did. When I left you in the kitchen.”
“I didn’t realize it was a prison.” Apparently she could give her mouth a stubborn cast when she wanted. The babydoll bow disappeared, leaving behind a sultry, displeased woman. “You’re going to have to work on your skills if that’s how you mean to keep women confined.”
“I don’t generally intend to go into kidnapping as a hobby,” he said, rubbing the back of his head. “It didn’t seem like that much for you to stay where you were while I made a call.”
Her mouth opened, then closed again. She pinned him with a look from under her straight-line brows, but dashed it away.
“Spit it out.” He wanted to touch her. But she had all the signs that said Hands off, and for all his shortcomings, he’d never once touched a woman who didn’t want it. There was enough nasty shit in his history, things he’d done that made him an awful human, without adding taking advantage of women on top of it.
She shook her head.
“Spit it out,” he repeated.
She dropped her hands to her hips with a heaving sigh. “You didn’t leave me when I needed you.”
“You were nearly having a panic attack. I wasn’t about to leave you alone.” He sputtered as the rest of the implication caught up. “And I most certainly do not need you.”
Dark hurt flashed in her eyes, but she quickly buried it. Here and gone in a second. She was a woman who knew about hiding behind a mask. “You got shit news tonight, Sean.”
“Thanks for the reminder, Baxter.” He had done what he could for the night. His call to Max Sherwood, his manager, would start the ball rolling in a hundred directions. The rest he’d have to deal with in the morning. Including a visit to Tanner Wright. When Tanner’s half brother kicked up a giant storm of scandal, Tanner had managed to coast through and ride it out. He might have advice for Sean. That Tanner had left the circuit made Sean slightly uncomfortable, but at least he’d be a trustworthy, unbiased source.
If Sean had anything to say about it, heads would roll. He’d shut down this documentary and do it instantly. There was too much in his past that needed hiding. He’d had a major fuckup, and he’d gotten lucky when it was time to tidy it up. More than lucky. But there was one thing he could say with one hundred percent assurance. “I’m clean.”
“I know,” she responded instantly.
His chest blew wide on a deep breath. Fucking hell, that had felt good. A weight stripped from him that he hadn’t even known he’d been carrying. Max had been on his side, but that felt like a given. Max was paid to be on his side. He was paid a hell of a lot of money, as a matter of fact, a percentage of Sean’s greater earnings. So it was in Max’s best interest to ensure that Sean’s career progressed in a positive manner.
Annie had no reason to believe him. No invested motive. But she looked up at him with wide, sincere eyes. Her lips were slightly parted in a serene smile.
“How do you know?” He couldn’t help but ask. Faith was something he’d never managed, not easily. Definitely not blindly. But she seemed like she had it for him, and they’d known each other what? A week? That was kind of hard to believe in itself. He’d have thought he’d known her longer.
“You said this room made me a fraud.” His office was probably the most cluttered room in his house, but that wasn’t saying much. He had two shelves of reference manuals, most of them pertaining to climate and weather patterns. The multiple computers were an indulgence. Technically he could do what he needed on a single screen. But the setup made it easier to monitor conditions in three different areas at once. He not only needed to know about where he’d surf the next week; he liked to keep an eye on the next two ’CT destinations as well.
She spun away, leaving him with a view of her shoulders. She dressed relatively conservatively, showing little skin until tonight. He wondered if she realized what a temptation even her shoulders were. She was made of muscle and elegance, and when she lifted a hand to touch the list of his competitors, she created a divot at the cap of her shoulder. “How much work do you put into these rankings?”
He shrugged, then reminded himself that she couldn’t see that. “Some. Most of the process is automated. Downloading information from the Internet.”
“You’re a competitor, Sean Westin. Not a playboy.” Her head tilted, and dark hair shifted across the tops of her bare shoulders. She was cream and chocolate, blending her personality’s sharp edges. Her hair was thin, but it looked butter soft. Touching it would be like touching spider’s silk.
“Can’t I be both?”
For some reason, that made her turn around. The gentle oval of her face was tempered with that silken hair. Her eyes were widely spaced, her cheeks soft. “Don’t you eventually have to decide what you are? Isn’t that part of growing up?”
He knew better, but he put a hand on the wall by her head, right between his analysis of Rowdy McMillan’s second heat at the Hurley Pro and the overall standings of the last Billabong event. Leaning in was so damn stupid that he tried to stop himself, but he couldn’t. She didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. Kept staring at him with those eyes that he wanted to drown in and that mouth that he wanted to taste.
He tested the tight limitations of his right arm to let the ends of her hair skim like feathers over his fingertips. She was worth the pinch of pain. “Growing up is bullshit. That’s why everyone wants to be done with it as soon as possible.”
Her head tilted. “I don’t think that’s true. There are lots of people who hold on to their high school years with an iron grip.”
“The star football players. The homecoming queens. The ones for whom everything worked.” The words spilled out with a hefty dose of bitter ashes.
“You weren’t one of those, were you, Sean?”
When his shoulder pulled with fatigue, he put his hand on her waist, framing her in. She shied away from his touch as if she weren’t the one in charge. He’d seen that when he tried to take her hand at the party. Even in the middle of a crisis, she’d held safe within herself. But crowding her meant that maybe she’d stop asking stupid questions about his background. He wasn’t ready to answer, because the answers blew. There was nothing lovely about being trapped in a house with a crazy woman. “No. I wasn’t.”
“You’re certainly making up for lost time lately then, aren’t you?” She lifted her face toward him, defiantly lifting her chin. She wasn’t completely unaffected, though. Her hands flattened against the wall at her hips. The pulse at the side of her throat fluttered like a butterfly’s wings. “Putting on the playboy act. I don’t think that’s real. I don’t think that’s who you really are. Maybe a hard-drinking, bar-fighting surfer would take drugs to try to catch up. But you’re this Sean Westin, the one who devotes hours to research. Who knows your competitors inside and out. Who’s made himself an industry. You wouldn’t risk any of it by doping. Steroids would defeat the purpose.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” he growled. Fuck, he needed to shut his own mouth up, because what was he arguing for? She was saying good things about him. But at the same time, it felt like she was going too far beneath his surface. Crawling under his skin. He didn’t know what to do with that. How to respond. She assumed his biggest concern was doping rumors. How cute.
She smiled serenely. “Sure I don’t, Sean,” she agreed, except she laced her words with doubt, teasing him. “But I also know you’re about two seconds away from kissing me.”
The hand he had braced against the wall clenched into a fist. He dropped to his elbow, crowding her even more. He had to pull back his bad arm, which made the nerves across the back of his skull crawl with frustration. She smelled like pure skin and soap and the faintest hint of flowers. No perfume for her. She didn’t put that type of work into herself. “Shouldn’t you run, then?”
Her head fell back against the wall. Her breasts pushed out with the move, her hips bending away. “Do I seem like the running type?”
He hated when other people were right about him. He’d made it his mission to defy expectations in so many ways. Otherwise he’d have a house piled to the rafters with trash, if he’d even had a house at all. He might have been homeless. It came close to being a viable option more than once when he was young. He broke stereotypes about surfers being laid back and lazy. He was neither of those.
But Annie was right about him. He was transparent as glass, because he couldn’t think about anything but kissing her, not anymore. Part of him wanted to blame it on her because she’d planted the idea in his head, but he knew it wasn’t true.
He’d been fixated on her mouth for hours ever since she’d shown up at his front door in her demure dress with the gold straps. She was a demon meant to torture him.
So he kissed her.
If he’d thought she’d melt, he had another thing coming. She made a welcoming sound, a gasping moan in the back of her mouth, and rose on her toes so that she pushed up against his mouth. Her breasts brushed his chest, but he didn’t touch. He didn’t move his hands from their fisted position at the wall.
Kissing her was like kissing a whirling dervish cloud. She was energy and fire, but if he tried to grab on, he thought she might flit away. Disappear like so much mist. She trembled under him. Her bones were made of wire and held together with lace. But the lace was made of steel as well.
He tasted vodka on her and regretted it. He wanted only her pure taste. She was wet velvet against his tongue. Every move of his lips across hers was temptation. Keeping his hands still became harder and harder with the pounding echo of his blood in his ears.
The roar was almost enough to drown common sense. He wanted to tell himself to move on, to take more, to cup her breast in one hand. Or at the very fucking least, her tight, slim waist.
But he didn’t move. Only poured his every thought into their mouths, into their kiss. They were something incendiary.
And she was someone who’d been bruised at the edges. He’d suspected it before, but the way she moved and sighed at his kiss confirmed it. Her hands fluttered at her waist, as if she wanted more but didn’t know how to take it. That didn’t sound like Annie in usual circumstances. The way she stood boldly and challenged the world to come at her was one of the things he dug about her.
Sean was used to women touching him, used to them immediately twining their arms around his neck and pressing lithe bodies against him. Hell, sometimes they wrapped their leg around his hip before he’d even gotten to the point of opening his lips.
Not Annie. She was waiting. She was hesitant.
And he was the worst shithead in the world for liking that.
I don’t think you understand how much I love excerpts, and that this is a long and whee! 😀 So tell me, what’d you think? And guess what? One lucky commenter will win a paperback copy of both Riding the Wave and Ahead in the Heat. So go on, chat away!
And if the excerpt and everything wasn’t enough (well then you’re kinda demanding …) 😉 but here’s the info for Riding the Wave which is also up for grabs!
With a make-or-break world championship on the line, professional surfer Tanner Wright has come back to the coastal California hometown he left a decade ago, carrying only his board and the painful knowledge of his father’s infidelity. Now that Hank Wright is dead, Tanner intends to keep the secret buried to spare his mother and sister the burden.
The last time Avalon Knox saw her best friend’s brother, she was fourteen and he was a twenty-year-old surfer god. She’s never understood or respected the way Tanner distanced himself from the family that has embraced her. But now she has the professional chance of a lifetime: to photograph Tanner for the competition—if he’ll agree.
Out on the waves, they find in each other passion that’s impossible to resist. And Tanner’s not the only one trying to move forward from his past. As the competition heats up, secrets get spilled, and lust takes over. How close can Avalon get to this brooding surfer…without getting burned?