All my life I’ve written stories. About ten years ago, the Utica OD featured the Central New York Romance writers, a group of writers meeting monthly at the Liverpool. Originally I joined for the joy of learning the craft and meeting people common interest. Soon I learned to net work which led to becoming published.
Excerpt #1This was a very bad idea.
Thinking she could limp up the hill, she said, “Ah, Evan, you don’t have to carry me anymore….”
Black eyes speared hers, ending any vote of doubt. One last jostle, then he turned, military-style, and marched up the steep slope to the motel.
He wasn’t even breathing hard when they arrived at the top.
She was winded from being carried.
“What room?” he asked tersely.
“This is far enough…one-oh-five. It’s in the back.”
For a minute she thought he’d drop her and drag her by the hair, caveman style, he looked so dangerous. When they reached the door he took the key from her hand and cleared the threshold, still trapping her in his arms.
The door slammed shut.
In pitch darkness, Evan placed her in the center of the small loveseat. Humph. The MRT officer had no need of infrared goggles with his night vision.
The end table light flashed on, momentarily blinding her.
Where’d he go?
Every drape in the room fluttered, as if someone moved in the inky darkness. Then she heard running water.
“Where’s the first-aid kit?” Evan’s voice boomed from the bathroom.
“In my backpack. In the closet. I can handle it from here.” No way was she going to allow him to continue.
What was that sound? It came from outside.
She stood up, and nearly fell to the carpet from the shock of pain up her leg, but her spine tingled, forcing her to hobble over to the window.
Nothing but cars in the parking lot, but the creepy feeling persisted. The water shut off in the bathroom, so she drew the curtains closed and hopped back to the couch. No need to let Evan know she was slowly loosing her mind thinking she was hearing and seeing things.
Evan came out of the bathroom with one dry towel wrapped around his neck and another folded in his hands, dripping. She balanced gingerly on one foot. He frowned.
Tempted to laugh at his expression, she thought better of it and bit her lip.
“You better let me tend to your ankle,” he said, moving toward her, “otherwise, you won’t be able to stand let alone walk or canoe. Tony will be disappointed.”
Tony…? Disappointed…? Canoeing…?
When did she forget about her plans for tomorrow?
When the superhero picked her up and left her brains on the sidewalk. Good thing she’d sworn off Godiva-eyed blonds. “I can take care—”
A firm tap on her shoulder toppled her back onto the cushions.
“I need to examine your ankle…to make sure it’s not broken.”
Before she could protest, he’d knelt at her feet.
His hands lifted her foot from the floor, removed the blown-out flip-flop and tossed it over his shoulder. His fingers circled her ankle, he looked into her eyes, and squeezed.
“Does it hurt when I do this?”
Hurt? You’re killing me, she wanted to shout.
Besides the bolt of pain, she felt his warm touch all the way up her leg to her already moist panties.
He waited for her answer.
“No. Not a bit.”
Those hot-poker fingers slid lower. She squinted anticipating the pain.
Carefully he flexed her foot, all the while watching her face.
She couldn’t hide her wince.
How was she ever going to get out of this one?
Like she’d done at Mirror Lake’s restaurant, her gaze flitted about the room, then out the large expanse of windows, anywhere but at him. Outside, couples walked hand-in-hand to various destinations around Armory Square.Evan waited for Cassie’s gaze to seek his. Talking about her candy shop should relax her. “So why open a candy store?” He settled back in his chair to watch her speak.
Her smile widened, and she opened that beautiful mouth to answer. “It’s a chocolate shop.”
“There’s a difference?”
“I don’t sell bar candy or gummy stuff. My candy is all chocolate. And homemade, except the basket you bought today.” She folded her hands on the table, and met his gaze.
He nodded, noting the stiffness in her posture. “Quite a lot in it.”
“That had a variety of imported European chocolates.”
“You import your chocolate?”
“Some to sell, but more often to make my own sweets. My grandmother collected recipes and made candy all the time. My earliest memory is helping her stir chocolate over a double boiler. I think that’s when I fell in love with the smell and taste of it.”
In the soft candlelight the words, fell in love, hung in the air and stopped her rambling.
He drummed his fingers. “I read somewhere it was first used for medicinal purposes.”
“Yes. In the 1700’s it was sold in drug stores as a cure-all.” Her shoulder relaxed. The pulse at the delicate cleft of her neck still fluttered.
“I always wondered how they made chocolate-covered cherries. Do you know?” Best to keep her talking. Besides, he enjoyed her animation as she talked, and it helped him to ignore the stupid itch forming on his arms.
“If people knew how they were made, they probably wouldn’t buy them, unless they were homemade.”
The lovely spark of distaste in her eyes made him laugh. “How so?” He rubbed the back of his neck, where the itch had begun to migrate.
“They add a chemical to the cherries before dipping that makes them sweat out their juices. By the time the chocolate shell is hardened, the cherries have shrunk, and the clear liquid has oozed out and is trapped inside the chocolate.”
Juices, hardened, trapped.
Oh, yeah, that summed up what was going on under the table. She had no idea what she was saying, but he didn’t miss a word.
“When they are bitten into, that juice is so laden with chemicals and the cherry so hard, well, I never cared for them.” She licked her lips.
Evan felt cross-eyed for a moment, and she misinterpreted his discomfort. “Oh, excuse me, it never occurred to me that you might like those candies. I hope I haven’t spoiled it for you.”
* * * * *
He’d arrived just in time. He pushed away an image of what he might have found if he’d arrived later.
“Your gear is safe inside my car. My doors lock,” he joked.
She pulled out of his arms as if he’d struck her. “For your information, not everyone can afford a brand-new car. Some of us have to run a business, supplies to purchase, and take care of ch-children.”
She breathed hard with fury.
Good. If she needed to get her anger out, he could take it. What he couldn’t take was the dawning horror on her face when she realized her reference to a daughter that no longer lived with her.
“Let’s stay here and wait,” he said gently.
She pushed back from his chest and swatted away the open arms he re-offered. “No. I don’t want to stay here. I want to walk back.” Her door opened and slammed shut before he could protest. The back door flung open.
To get the damn backpack.
He got out of the car. “Leave the backpack,” he said sternly.
“I’m not leaving my gear. Anyone can come down this road and break into your car.” She tugged the backpack halfway out.
That lit his temper. “No one is going to come down this road. It isn’t even on the map. I don’t know what possessed Karl to build a summer home in such a God-forsaken place.”
Before he could rant further, mostly from embarrassment that he’d run out of gas, he heard the sound of breaking glass.
“Shots! Heads down.”
Two more shots pinged the Jeep as he dove to her side of the car. He covered her with his body as three more shots fired. A ping breezed next to his ear.
He flattened her to the ground and jerked his gun from his ankle holster. “Stay low, as low as you can. I want you to run until I tell you to stop,” he commanded, then he pointed her westward into the dense field of goldenrod. Wide-eyed she nodded then her sneakers kicked back sand.
He waited until she disappeared between the stalks to fire off a few shots, but stopped, thinking one might ricochet off a rock and hit Cassie. His hand stretched up to the open car door and in one motion, yanked the backpack though the door.
In a dead run, he took off after her.
Through a field of weeds that eventually led to the thick pine forest, Evan passed her and grabbed her hand making her run even faster to keep up. She didn’t know how long they ran but was grateful when Evan said they could stop. Her heart thundered so hard her entire chest shook. Eager to collect her breath, she collapsed onto a log so decayed she sunk in and bit her lip.
Sand filled her mouth as she licked her wound. Her blouse stuck to her chest and she felt dizzy. Brown specks of dead thistle stalks dropped from her hair. A tissue from her pocket wiped sweat and tears from her face. The tissue smelled like lavender rather than the heady piney odor that saturated her nostrils while running. Burdocks snagged her hair and stuck to her clothing, but she didn’t care. They were alive.
“I think Route 28 is west of this road,” Evan said not even winded. Her breathing sounded like a fish gulping water. “I want to check the compass.”
Compass? Where’d he get the compass?
He turned around and she saw it. Evan was wearing her backpack and holding the compass that she’d clipped to the outside of the bag.
She didn’t know what made her happier, that he’d grabbed the backpack she spent a small fortune on and was using the water resistant, glow-in-the-dark compass, or that Evan was still there to protect her.
Okay, she was glad she was with Evan, who now turned in a circle trying to sense their direction. The setting sun caused his hair to glow like some super avenger. Something else was glowing. A dark streak on his jeans. This late in the fall, there were no berries on the bushes they passed. She walked up to him and checked the fresh reddish line on his jeans. She gestured frantically to his calf. “You’re bleeding.”
He continued to look around the forest, apparently unconcerned.
A small circle of denim was missing on his calf. Out of the black hole dripped dark, cranberry liquid.
“You’ve been shot!” Her knees bent, and she keeled to the ground. “Oh God, what’s going on?”
Evan followed her down and caught her by the waist. He tilted her chin, and she opened her eyes. “I’m okay,” he said harshly. “It’s a graze. Can you walk a bit longer? We’ll either find road or water if we go a little further.”
He was bleeding, and he worried about her? She didn’t want to disappoint him and nodded.
“You sure?” His large hands caressed the sides of her face. In the minimal light from the setting sun she could see his encouraging smile before warm lips lingered on hers.
Giving her the courage she needed to go on.
Excerpt #4- Apartment kiss
Now that he’d slept with her again, Evan didn’t want to leave her side for a second. She’d confused him when she backed off right after they made love.
Anger indicated deeper emotions.
Maybe she was scared? Not of him. He’d cut off his shooting arm before he’d hurt her.
“Was that Tony?” she asked.
“Yes… probably wants the day off. I’m ready. Let’s go.”
Cassie stood and aimed for his apartment door. He was a step behind her when she stopped and turned. “Why do you have the gym bag? Are you going somewhere?”
“I’m staying with you.”
She was in real danger. Would she continue to push him away?
Her eyes widened and her lips parted.
Probably thinking of ways to object. He braced for her reply.
“If you think there’s going to be a repeat of what happened this morning, you’re wrong.” Her chest heaved up and down.
He gazed at her lips, held her with his eyes. Her breath caught in her throat, exciting him further. No, you’re wrong, Cassie. “I can send a car by to watch your house, but without an alarm system it’s possible the perp could sneak in your house without you knowing.”
He paused, wishing he didn’t have to convince her of anything.
She hooded her eyes. “Okay. But only until I can get a security system installed.”
“Deal,” he replied. Then he pulled her into his arms and kissed her hard. He’d been waiting to kiss her again for hours. When she leaned into him, he deepened the kiss. He loved how she kissed with her entire body, stretching every inch to make contact with his. She tasted so good it overloaded his senses.
God, he couldn’t kiss her even a little without wanting her naked beneath him. She filled his senses with her smell, her taste and feel.
Would it always feel like this, or was it just the threat of danger heightening his senses?
Reluctantly, he broke off the kiss. They need to slow down, or they’d be spending the night in his apartment. “Only for a couple of days?”
Her arms were thrown around his neck, and her body pressed against his, silently requesting a repeat of this morning. He wanted to set her straight and carry her to his bed and take them both into orbit.
She caught her breath and then pulled back. Lips that moments before pressed against his, formed a hard line. “Yes, but… please don’t kiss me again.” Cool eyes raked his face with icicles before she added, “I mean it,” and gave him frostbite.
Damn. She was right. What was he thinking?
His job was to protect her from a killer. Put a lid on his lust, not torch it.
“Only if you ask.”
He stepped back and opened the door.
“Let’s get to your place before dark.”
Look for more from Susan at her web site.