ARE YOU READY????????
My first-ever indie cover for HOUSE OF PAYNE: PAYNE is ready to greet the world!
But first, a first-kiss snippet, from Payne's POV. :) Enjoy!
That melancholy was back with a vengeance, until it was almost painful to see. “What about you?”
“I told you, I don’t have any tattoos. I hope you don’t hold that against me.”
“I don’t, and that’s not what I meant. How’d you wind up with no family? Are you an orphan like me?”
“No. I’m invisible.”
The deadened tone, far more than the words, made him frown. “I don’t get it.”
“Disowned or estranged might be the correct words when it comes to my family, but invisible is far more accurate. When you say you’re interested in a 3D portfolio, what sort of images did you have in mind?”
No Trespassing. Do Not Enter. Violators Will Be Shot, Gutted and Served on a Stick. She may as well have had a sign hung around her neck. “I take it you have no interest in butterflies?”
“You already have those. What don’t you have?”
A rush of answers flooded in, all of them having to do with her. “I don’t suppose you’d relax your stance on Missing Piece?”
“That work is off the table. It was hard enough making it available for private sale. Allowing it to be worn by everyone and their hamster would diminish what it represents.”
“What does it represent?”
She was quiet for so long he thought she wouldn’t answer. Then she pushed her plate away as well, her waffle half-eaten. “Death. Its agonized and never-healed aftermath. I have many more 3D pieces on my website. Take a look through what I’ve got available and let me know if there’s anything that grabs you. I’ll also post more projects tonight, just to give you an idea of what else I have going on. Oh, and one last thing,” she added, pushing to her feet and digging out a few bills to lay on the table, “if you even mention the word audition again, it’ll be the last word you say to me.”
“I have one last thing as well.” He also slid out of the booth and didn’t suffer a hint of shame when he towered over her. Dainty women had always brought out the knuckle-dragging protector in him, but never more so than now. No matter how much fire and ferocity Becks put on display, he suspected it was only window-dressing to camouflage the cracks in her armor. “You said you believe in brunch, remember?”
She blinked. “Yes, of course. So?”
“I’m guessing you’re like most creative types—up until the wee hours of the morning while the sane and the unimaginative are in their boring little beds, getting their boring little eight hours. That would mean you’re crazy-desperate for coffee by… what? Noon?”
“Ten, actually,” came the huffy reply. “Again I ask, so?”
“So… I’m going to see you tomorrow for brunch.” He cupped the nape of her neck, his thumb elevating her chin to meet the descent of his mouth. Most farewell kisses were nothing, really, a shallow gesture that had no meaning behind it. The modern-day equivalent of a handshake.
Most farewell kisses.
Not this one.
Her lips were warm velvet and not anywhere near ready for his. He loved that. She’d had no time to stitch together some bullshit game so often used by women with seduction on their minds and dollar signs in their eyes. This was just… Becks. A woman he was attracted to. A woman who corrected him to his face. A woman who forgave without any drama or guilt trips.
In every conceivable way, she was his kind of woman.
Her lips parted with a gasp of surprise. Shamelessly he took advantage, softening his mouth to mold to hers while pushing her deeper into the kiss until their tongues tangled. He felt the moment her bewilderment and shock evaporated into dazed participation, as she slowly melted like wax against him. The long, unbroken line where their bodies touched dropped the floor out from under his feet, and the heaviness in his cock intensified into a sweet, pulsating ache. Damn, talk about escalating quickly. He had to break this up, now, before he got so worked up he lost it right there. And he could lose it, he realized with a jolt. Somehow her kiss had gained the power to hold time so still the world itself seemed to hold its breath at its simple perfection.
Her kiss alone was almost too much for him to handle.
It took most of his strength to lift his head, a fact that frankly alarmed him. Her eyes opened, and he had to lock every muscle in place at the sight of the dreamy desire glittering in their soulful depths. That was how a woman should look when kissed by her man, he thought before he could check it. Drunk. Dazed.
Hungry for more.
God knew he was ready to give it to her. Right there, in a crowded restaurant, he wanted to give it to her in the worst way.
Then that hungry look was blinked away a second later, and he was baffled by the chill that closed around him when she pushed out of his hold.
“I’ve got a lot of work to get done, so I’d better get going.” Her voice was little more than a breathless whisper as she grabbed up her purse. “I hope we can do business together. Email me about your portfolio ideas, and um… have a nice day.”
And now… THE COVER REVEAL!
But that might not work for some, so… I guess I need to do it the old-fashioned way.
I should have posted it by now, right? Heh. Okay.
(I seriously canNOT use enough exclamation points on this. For real :D)
HOUSE OF PAYNE: PAYNE releases a week from today, with over 10% added content, including an epilogue that made me tear up in all the good ways. Can't wait to share!