It’s the day after Labor Day, and I’m having to come to terms with the fact the pool is cooling. Sure, we’re going to have 90-degree weather this week, but the shorter days mean longer nights where temps in the 70’s are going to spell the death of another swimming season. I hate, hate, hate giving up my daily swims.
Is there something you hate about the changing season, summer to fall?
My daughter’s ready not to sweat. She wants sweater weather. She wants to put up the Halloween tree and decorations (our Halloween tree is a counter top metal tree that we hang Strangeling Ornaments from). Fall is her favorite season and her reason is two-fold: relief from the heat and Halloween!
Is there something you love about the changing season?
And while you contemplate those questions, here’s a sneak peek at Before We Kiss…
A hand settled at the back of her neck. Fingers played with the tendrils of hair that slipped from the clip she’d used to secure her up-do. From the corner of her eye, she watched as Wiley shifted in his chair, moving closer toward her, while maintaining his conversation with Captain Lundt regarding his training and the ships he’d commanded before being hired by the Countess line. Polite conversation, but his questions were intelligent. All the while, he touched her lightly, keeping her in that state of awareness that had continued unabated since he’d dragged her to the ground outside the bus. Was this attentiveness all part of the act? Ensuring the other passengers and the crew, not in her father’s pocket, believed a romance had been struck between them? And they’d believe it. He’d lost his hat, his scruffy beard. Tonight, he wore a white button-down shirt and dark slacks—looking as handsome as a man straight out of a romance novel. The breathy sighs and interested stares from the women seated at the tables around them said they were buying the story, hook, line and sinker.
Poppy had no doubt where this was leading. Him in bed with her. That was inevitable, but was that result because he wanted to be there, or because he wanted to insert himself into her life aboard ship to keep her safe—and amenable to his care?
She wished she knew. She really did. But she admitted to herself the outcome wouldn’t change a thing. Once they returned to her suite, clothes would drop. Period. Needs she’d denied for too long would be addressed. Desire tugged at her belly, and she pressed her thighs together. She had no doubt he’d be well able to see to her pleasure.
Again, he shifted. “Have you seen enough?”
His warm breath brushed across her cheek. She knew what he meant. The meal, served in courses, had been splendid. The menu plentiful and varied. Service itself had been impeccable, and the dining room beautifully appointed. The lighting was perfect, but subdued. Music played in the background, but nothing that would draw passengers’ attention from their conversation at their tables. “Yes. This has been nice.” She smiled at the three older gentlemen who weren’t very good at pretending that they weren’t tracking Wiley’s every gesture. They each fought knowing smiles. She cleared her throat. “I suppose we could excuse ourselves,” she whispered, angling her face to meet his gaze directly.
His dark eyes studied her expression. His mouth tightened. “Then let’s make our farewells.” He moved away, pushed back his chair, then stood to help her from hers.
The other men at the table rose, the captain’s eyebrow rising as his gaze went to Wiley.
But since she wasn’t looking at the man whose hand rested possessively at the small of her back, she didn’t know what his expression might have conveyed. Instead of worrying, she took the time to shake the Marines’ hands and wish them a good night.
Once they’d departed the dining room and made their way down the long corridor toward the elevators, she drew deeper breaths, trying to calm her heart rate. She was really doing this. Sleep with a man she’d just met.
When the doors slid shut with a whisper, he took her hand in his and gave it a squeeze. “You tired?”
Her chance for an out—if she wanted to take it. She swallowed. “Not particularly.”
Silence stretched between them. When the doors opened, they both stepped out, and maybe they walked a little more quickly, but she didn’t mind. She already had her card key in her hand when they reached the her cabin’s door.
He waited as she opened it then followed closely behind her. When he closed the door, he touched her upper arm. “Wait here until I have a look around.”
“Right,” she said, hating the reminder of why he was really here.
Minutes later, after he’d checked both bedrooms, baths and the balcony, he returned to her and turned the deadbolt. “All’s clear,” he said softly.
At his downward glance, she wet her lips, anticipating that now they’d kiss.
But he gently cupped her shoulders. “Before we kiss…”
So he had been thinking about it, too. She raised her gaze to his.
“I just wanted you to know a couple of things.”
She nodded, but otherwise she kept silent. He would tell her he wasn’t the type to stick around. That she shouldn’t read too much into the fact they’d be making love. This encounter wouldn’t be love…
“I never cross lines. Usually, I don’t fuck the people I protect.”
Her mouth dropped a little at the f-word, but only because he’d been so blunt—and she hoped he wasn’t changing his mind about making her the exception. “I get that.”
“No, you don’t.” His brows creased. “You’re pretty. And female. Which doesn’t happen often in my job, but that’s not even why I’m here.”
Her mouth was drying. Maybe she ought to shut it before she blurted something humiliating. Like, we can talk…after.
“I just wanted you to know, that if you weren’t the job, I’d have been all over you by now.”
The way his voice deepened to a rasping growl told her everything she needed to know. First, that her neglected sexy bits didn’t need direct stimulation to grow aroused. Second, he was just as ready as she was. But while he was wrestling with his conscience, she wasn’t nearly as conflicted. Frank had abandoned her. She’d grieved long enough. She wouldn’t deny herself the pleasure of the well-muscled man in front of her.
Holding her gaze, he bent toward her.
Watching as he descended, she tilted back her head. But at the last moment, she reached up and pressed a finger against his mouth. “Before we kiss…”
He arched an eyebrow.
“You should know…” She bit her lip. “I haven’t been with a man other than Frank.”
He gave a sharp nod, but since she hadn’t removed her finger, he still held back.
“I have high expectations,” she whispered, then slowly dragged away her finger.