I’m working furiously on Kiss of Fire, the follow up to Kiss of Ice. Kiss of Fire will definitely be available in March. Anyway, here’s a fun sneak peek* to hold you over!
*as always, sneak peek is subject to change in the final book! 🙂
Toni watched herself in the mirror at the studio, as she practiced her routine. But her mind wasn’t really on the dance of the Lilac Fairy. No. All she could think about was Sebastian O’Donovan. A.K.A. The Asshole.
He was sexy. He was sexier than he had any right to be. And Jesus, he was almost as old as Annata. But surprisingly, that didn’t seem to matter to her. Christophe was younger than Nat and they got along fine. Better than fine. Older men and younger women had been getting together for all of time. Other than the clichéd aspect of it, his age didn’t bother her at all. But it seemed to bother him. She wondered why.
God. Why did he have to be such an asshole?
They would be good together. The sex between them would be fire. Red-hot. She knew that it would be. She’d wanted to jump him at the hospital, and he was wearing a damn paper gown. She’d wanted to lick his face. Who knew a few days worth of beard and a few gray hairs would be such a turn on? Maybe it was just sexy on Sgt. O’Donovan. Everything about the man was sexy.
The only problem was, he didn’t want her. He’d made that quite clear. Maybe it was because she was black. Maybe it was because she was too young. Maybe she’d been right about the ex-wife thing. Maybe he was heartbroken and not ready for another relationship. She didn’t know. Whatever the reason, the outcome was the same. She was turned on with no outlet for her passion.
So she danced.
She danced until her muscles ached. She danced until her legs shook with the exertion. She danced until her toes felt like they were going to break. Only then did she stop. She pulled off her pointe shoes, and whimpered at the pain. All she could do was wrap up her toes, slide on her Ugg boots, and hobble to the train. But at least her mind was on the hurt, and not the sexual frustration.
She found herself riding past her train stop and heading for Annata and Christophe’s. They were supposed to be back from Paris that evening, she wasn’t sure what time. They’d probably be jet-lagged and want alone time, but she didn’t care. She was in the mood to be the bratty younger sister.
She rang the doorbell when she arrived and saw the lights on at the townhouse, figuring she would be courteous as opposed to using her key and tromping right in. The door swung open and her sister stood there, barefoot in a sleeveless white dress, a big smile on her face.
“Look at you, ringing the doorbell like a guest,” Annata St. James said, her hand on her hip and an eyebrow raised. “Trying to pretend like you didn’t eat all the food and drink all the coffee in the house while we were gone.”
“It’s the mice. I swear.” Toni stepped in and hugged her older sister, breathing her in. She smelled like coffee, mint, and Christophe. It was comforting. She’d missed her Natty, like she always did when her big sister was away. They were fourteen years apart in age, and Nat was almost more of a mother figure to her. She definitely looked up to her sister more than she looked up to their mother, who was a quintessential, traditional Southern housewife.
“Is that my favorite sister-in-law?” Christophe was calling from the kitchen.
“She’s blaming mice for the lack of food in the fridge. I think we need to call the exterminator,” Nat said, following Toni into the kitchen. “Either that, or change the locks.”
Christophe stood against the center island, effortlessly handsome in jeans and a cashmere sweater, opening a bottle of red wine. He held out an arm for Toni and she stepped into his embrace.
“Ignore Annie. She ordered sushi already anyway.”
“Eel? Did you get extra?” Toni wagged an eyebrow.
“Yes, dear. You’re lucky we love you so damn much,” Nat said, taking the glass of wine Christophe offered her.
“So how was your trip? Are you about to pass out from exhaustion?” Toni asked, sipping on her own glass and hopping up on one of the metal stools at the counter.
“We slept on the plane,” Christophe said, sliding an arm around Nat’s waist and pulling her close. “And we have tomorrow off.” He pressed a kiss to his wife’s neck.
“Christy finally hired someone to take over International Paris, so hopefully we won’t have to go back for awhile.”
“Yay!” Toni clapped her hands. “You two travel too damn much.”
“Now, remind me when your show opens?” Nat said, pressing a finger to her temple. “I don’t think I put it on the calendar.”
“Opening night is June 23rd,” Toni said.
“Okay. You hear that?” Nat poked Christophe in the chest. “Calendars clear.”
“Got it,” he said, with a smile.
“We might have to go to Shanghai some time in June, but we’ll make sure it’s not then.”
“You don’t have to come, you know. It’s not that big of a deal,” Toni waved her hand.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Nat fiddled with her earring. “This is a big deal, right? The Lilac Fairy is a big fucking deal.”
“Yes, it’s kind of a big deal,” Toni said, giggling.
“Okay then. No arguments.”
“So, my lovely Toni, I know you didn’t come over here empty-handed,” Christophe said, looking at her expectantly. A wide smile spread over Toni’s face.
“I brought a little somethin’ somethin’,” Toni said, hopping up and reaching for her purse. “I figured you guys would want to relax a bit after traveling.”
“You figured right. Roll that shit up,” he said, downing the last bit of his wine.
“Ooh!” Annata looked up from her phone, a smile on her face. “I am so excited.”
An hour later, when the sushi was gone, they sat out on the patio and smoked and drank until all the weed and wine was gone as well. Nat lay on Christophe in the hammock and Toni curled up in a chair beside them. The spring air was crisp, but not too cold. It was a perfect night with two of her most favorite people.
When Nat dozed off, Toni caught Christophe’s eyes over her sister’s head. She could still remember the first time they met, at the hospital after the accident. She’d been so destroyed and he’d been so kind. In the weeks after the accident, he’d kept in touch with her and helped her through the shitty time, until Nat returned to the city. Christophe was one of the good ones. She smiled at his expression. He looked so… at peace. Stoned, but at peace. Like all was right with the world. And it was. For the most part. There was the nagging little issue in the back of her mind. O’Donovan the Asshole was still there, bothering her. God, she wished she’d never gone to see him. She wished she’d never met him!
“You love her so much,” Toni said to Christophe, her eyelids heavy. He laughed, high off his ass.
“I’ve loved her so long, it’s as easy as breathing,” he said, his voice strained. Then he coughed. Toni erupted in giggles.
“We’re so high.”
“I know. It’s fucking awesome,” he said, looking up to the inky black sky.
“Tell me the story again,” Toni said, propping her head on her hand.
“The story. How you knew my Natty was the one.”
“Okay,” Christophe smiled like the drunk in love person he was. His fingers stroked Nat’s arm. “She called me a… hold on. Let me remember the exact words.”
“ A ‘pathetic, entitled piece of shit’,” Nat supplied, her eyes still closed.
“Right, that’s it,” he said, laughing.
“I’m so sorry, baby. Really,” she said, lifting her face. He planted a kiss on her and then she settled against his chest again.
“I mean, she was kind of right. Rude as hell, but right,” Christophe said laughing. “And I just looked at her. I stared right into those golden-brown eyes and I felt my life change. I just didn’t realize how long it would take before she felt the earth-shattering love I felt.” He pressed his cheek against Nat’s hair. “And then we fucked. After we fucked, I was a goner.”
“Ew!” Toni raised her hands to her ears, laughing. Nat slapped him on the chest, eyes still closed.
“Truth. Stone-cold truth.” Christophe raised his hand in a scout’s honor. “Your sister is the best fuck I’ve ever had or will have.”
“I should hope so,” Nat mumbled, a smile on her lips.
“That’s cute. Gross, but cute,” Toni said, laughing. “What about you, Nat? When did you know?”
“After we fucked,” Nat said with a laugh.
“That is a lie!” Christophe said, his voice rising. “You made me work so fucking hard for it.”
“How else would you appreciate it if you didn’t have to work hard for it?” she opened her eyes and looked up at him.
“You’re so full of shit.” Christophe said, stroking her cheek. “I think you didn’t know you loved me for sure until I proposed.”
“No. No! I remember the exact moment. We were – sorry, Toni – we were at that hotel and we were fucking-”
“The hotel, when I was home from Hong Kong. And then we got stoned, and I was in love with you.”
“Ah.” Christophe looked off. “Damn, that was some good weed.”
“I’m glad I could contribute something to the love story of Christophe and Annata,” Toni said, giving a light bow. “Seeing as how I couldn’t be in the wedding,” she said, tossing a little dig her sister’s way. Their families would never forgive Nat and Christophe for eloping. Nat stuck her tongue out at her sister, but didn’t say a thing.
“So what about you, Toni?” Christophe rolled his head to look at her. “You got anybody in your crosshairs?”
“Um. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t think he’s really interested in me.”
“If he doesn’t see how great you are, then he’s a jackass.”
“I know right?!” Toni said. “I’m going to let you tell him that.”
“I will. I will tell that motherfucker to his face,” Christophe said, his voice slurring a bit. Nat was giggling now as well.
“I think it’s time for bed,” Nat finally said, in between giggles. “If we stay down here any longer, I’m gonna pass out and then you won’t get lucky tonight, Mr. Van der Kind.”
“Don’t tease me, woman,” Christophe said and they carefully extracted themselves from the hammock. Nat pressed a kiss to Toni’s forehead on the way past.
“Are you going to stay tonight?” she asked. Toni nodded, feeling very tired all of a sudden. “Okay, dear. We’ll do brunch or something tomorrow, okay?” Toni nodded again, and then twisted around in her chair to watch Nat and Christophe through the kitchen window. They stopped at the foot of the stairs and kissed, wrapping their bodies around each other like they were starving for each other. Toni felt wistful all of a sudden. She sighed deep. She was so happy for them. But she wanted to be happy, too. More than anything she wanted someone to share her life, and her bed, with. O’Donovan, why do you have to be such a dick? she thought desperately, turning her eyes to the starless sky.