OK, I just can’t resist doing this. Mostly because I have something else I really should be doing – a blog post for the Southern Authors for Monday – and this allows me to put it off a little longer.
This is an excerpt from A CUTTHROAT BUSINESS, coming to a store near you in June 2010: featuring sweet and proper Southern Belle Savannah Martin, and not-so-sweet and not at all proper Rafe Collier, the guy she can’t admit to herself that she likes. He has convinced her to go out with him, and she’s worried.
When I got back to the table, he was making idle conversation with the three women at the next table. The cheesecake he had insisted on giving me was neatly packaged in a styrofoam to-go box, and my coffee and water were shimmering in the candlelight. The sight of it all — especially Rafe — made my stomach twist unpleasantly, and rather than sit down, I placed a steadying hand on the back of my chair. “I’d like to leave now, if that’s OK with you.”
“Sure.” He rose with alacrity and tossed a couple of bills on the table. They were more than adequate to cover the tab and the tip.
“I didn’t mean that you had to leave. Just that I wanted to.”
“What am I gonna do here by myself?”
“You could join them.” I looked pointedly at the next table, where all three women were watching us — him — expectantly. He grinned.
“You ain’t jealous, are you, darlin’?”
“You wish,” I said. The grin widened.
“You bet. So I think I’ll just take you home. Just in case you feel like giving me a kiss when I drop you off.”
He gestured. As I turned to leave, one of the women at the next table snagged my sleeve. “If you don’t want him, sister, I’ll be happy to take him off your hands.” She winked at Rafe.
“Be my guest,” I said. “If you want him, you can have him, with my blessing.”
Rafe grinned, but refrained from pointing out that he wasn’t actually mine to give. “She don’t mean it,” he said instead, putting a friendly arm around my shoulders and squeezing.
“Sure I do,” I said — tried to say — but the words wouldn’t come. Rafe nodded politely to the threesome.
“Nice to meet you lovely ladies. Y’all have a good evening.”
“You, too,” all three women chorused; the one who had spoken earlier with an envious look. Little did she suspect that I intended to ditch him just as soon as I decently could.
That proved to be a more difficult task than I had expected. My first attempt, on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, didn’t come off at all. “I’m not really dressed for a ride on the back of the motorcycle, so why don’t I just get the valet to order me a cab?”
He smirked. “Nice try, but I ain’t sending you home by yourself.”
“But there’s no sense in you coming all the way back with me when you could just go home yourself.”
“Sorry, darlin’, but you ain’t getting rid of me that easy. I got you here, and I’m taking you home.”
“But I can’t ride on the back of the motorcycle. Not in this skirt.”
Rafe glanced down at it, and back up to my face. There was a wicked glint in his eyes. I took a step back, shaking my head. “Oh, no. I’m not taking it off. Nor hiking it up to my hips, either.”
He grinned. “Relax, darlin’. You can keep your clothes on. For now. I had Wendell leave the Town Car in the lot down the street. Come on.” He put a hand against my back to steer me down the sidewalk. I let him do it, even if it took everything I had not to flinch from the touch.
Neither of us said much on the ride back to my apartment. I don’t know what Rafe was thinking, but personally, I was planning what to say when we got there, and how I would handle the various scenarios that might present themselves. My first choice would be to simply say goodnight in the car outside the gate. Failing that, I’d say goodnight outside the door, without unlocking it. If he absolutely insisted on coming in — and I knew I couldn’t stop him if he did — I’d let him go in first and make sure he didn’t get between me and the door. If he did… But I’d deal with that situation if I got to it. Which I wouldn’t. Because I’d simply say goodnight in the car outside the gate; it was that simple.
“I’ll walk you up.” He had the engine shut off and his door open before I even realized we’d pulled up to the curb.
“You don’t have to…” I began, but it was too late; he was already out and coming around to open my door. “Really, I don’t mind going up by myself.”
“That’s all right. I don’t mind, either.” He extended a hand and hauled me out of the car.
Scratch Plan A. I let him walk me up the stairs to the second floor and tried again. I had barely managed to turn to him and open my mouth when he was already talking. “Keys?”
“Wha… what?” I stammered. He grinned.
“What if you can’t get in? Let me see your keys.”
I dug the key chain out of my handbag and held it up. He arched an eyebrow and nodded to the lock. Scratch Plan B, too. I sighed and unlocked the door. “Happy now? You’ve walked me to the door and I can get in.”
His eyes crinkled. “Ain’t you gonna ask me in for a nightcap?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” I said primly.
“Afraid you won’t be able to keep your hands off me?”
“In your dreams,” I said.
He smiled, but didn’t speak. It wasn’t necessary. I didn’t speak, either, because I wasn’t sure what to say. The idea that I was starring in Rafael Collier’s pornographic daydreams was more than a little disturbing.
As I stood there, dumbly, his eyes dropped from my eyes to my mouth, and I felt a stab of abject panic. God, he wasn’t going to kiss me, was he?
It looked like he was. His eyes flicked back to mine — deep and dark; the kind of eyes a girl could drown in if she wasn’t careful — and he leaned closer. I could feel my own eyes go out of focus, and I thought I was going to pass out from the sheer terror of it.
He grinned and dropped a kiss, not on my mouth, but on my forehead. His voice was amused. “You’d think I was Jack the Ripper. You can let go now, darlin’.”
I blinked and started breathing again. “Huh?”
“My jacket. You can let go.”
“Oh.” I realized I was clutching the soft leather with both hands and moved back as if I had burned myself. He laughed.
“Makes you wonder what’d happen if I got you into bed.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I managed, “because that will never happen.”
“You sure about that, darlin‘?”
I nodded. I was positive. If the thought of him kissing me scared me so much I almost passed out, there was no way I’d even entertain the idea of him taking me to bed. In fact, from here on out, I was more determined than ever to have absolutely nothing at all to do with him.
So there you have it. The No Kiss scene. One of several in the book, since this is one of Savannah’s slight obsessions. He does finally lay one on her, on the last page of the book, but… wait. That’d be telling. 😉 Just buy the book and read it for yourself. It’s available for preorder on Amazon!