Happy Friday! And, not only is it Friday, it’s also the end of February. I don’t know about you, but I’m dreaming of sun, summer, and beaches… sigh.
In celebration of the end of February, here’s a special sun-drenched excerpt from my new stand alone THE BURNING ONE, available now for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo!
Contains some strong language, so mature readers only!
photo by Groovnick via flickr.
“Goddamn, you are a shit driver!” Cee yelled from the passenger seat. Indira stuck her tongue out at him as she squealed around a corner.
“I love this car.” She patted the steering wheel of his Maserati. “I have weakness for shiny paint and a lot of horsepower.” She shifted gears and sped ahead, passed a car on her right, then swerved back into the left lane.
“Well this car is about to get wrecked.” He shook his head. “You do realize this is the 101, not a fucking racetrack?” She laughed, zooming until they reached a stoplight. Then she braked abruptly, loving the car’s quick response time.
“Okay, out.” He unhooked his seatbelt, and opened the car door. “I said you could drive, but I lied.”
“What are you doing? Stopping traffic?”
“We’ve got the light. Move your ass, Zee,” he said hopping out. Putting the car in park, she begrudgingly got out. She passed Zee and he slapped her ass before sliding into the driver’s seat. She waved to Freddy and Juan, in the big black SUV behind them, and then got in the passenger seat. Cars honked, but Cee was quick. He adjusted the seat and the mirrors, and traffic only got a little backed up. She poked him in the ribs as they sped forward.
“I was having fun.”
“It’s always fun until someone gets killed,” he said, smiling. He leaned back in the seat, driving with one hand on the wheel, leaving the other one free to slide up her skirt.
“We all have to die some time,” she murmured, crossing her legs to limit his access.
“I like this,” he said, tugging on her hem. She was wearing a new peach-colored ankle-length dress with a halter top. “It’s sexy as hell.”
She glanced down at herself and shrugged. “I figured when in California, wear something not black. I have to get out of my New York frame of mind.”
“Mmm-hmm,” he murmured, raising his hand to the back of her neck. Before she even felt him untying the halter, the straps were rolling down her shoulders. She squealed and slapped her hands to her chest before her tits were exposed. He laughed devilishly, eyes flicking between her and the road. “Oh fuck yeah, I like that.”
“Cee!” she yelled, retying the straps.
“Oh, now you want to be modest?”
“Excuse me if I don’t want Mr. Hell’s Angel over here to get a good look.” She jabbed her thumb at the window, where a biker sat beside them in traffic. Cee only laughed.
“That’s what you get for trying to wreck my car.”
Indira stuck out her tongue at him. Then she glanced around them, at the backed up traffic. “This is awful. How do you stand it?” She was feeling her anxiety start to flare. She hated being boxed in and crowded. But Cee only shrugged.
“It sucks, but I’m used to it,” he said. She laid her head back against the seat, closing her eyes. She didn’t want to ruin the day with a panic attack, so she focused on her breathing before it got out of hand. His hand dropped back to her thigh and she closed her hand around it. They sat in silence for awhile, then Cee turned on the radio, low. Eventually the flow of traffic began to move.
“So where are we going anyway?” she said, after awhile.
“Or you could just tell me.”
“Relax, baby. You’re in good hands.” She could hear the smile in his voice and she rolled her head to look at him. He lifted her hand to his lips and grazed her skin with his teeth. She felt a flush of warmth go through her. She looked away from him, trying to clear her head as her heart pounded. She was in trouble and she knew it. She didn’t want to get too attached, but she was worried it was too late. You have your own life, she reminded herself. You were doing fine before he came along. But how could she go back to a life without Cee?
And of course, Colletta was never far from her mind. It was only a matter of time before Cee began asking questions about his mother. And what was she going to say? She didn’t know and she didn’t want to think about it.
Eventually, Cee made a turn off the beaten path and traffic cleared up considerably. The sun was high in the sky and it was a typically beautiful day in Southern California. Indira felt herself relaxing, absolutely at peace with Cee taking her wherever he wanted to.
“Oh!” Indira sat up in her seat, as the ocean passed them on Cee’s side. They were driving up the rocky coast, and Indira was awed by the scene unfolding before her. “Wow,” she whispered.
“I thought you might like it. It’s a private beach. Not a lot of people to bother you,” he said. And she felt her heart flutter. Oh, Chadwick Benedict, you’re good, she thought. Being alone on a beach with Cee sounded heavenly.“Don’t say I never gave you anything,” he teased.
“Oh, I would never say that,” she said. He’d given her so much already. He just didn’t know how much.
They pulled off on a sandy dirt road, driving downhill to the beach. They stopped in a small empty lot and Cee put the car in park. Indira hopped out immediately and took in the magnificent view.
The ocean was a bright, deep turquoise, flecked with silver sunlight, and the sand was a creamy yellow. High, rocky cliffs framed the beach, making it seem completely secluded. She closed her eyes and breathed in the fresh sea air, her dress blowing in the breeze. Any anxiety she’d felt earlier in the day was completely gone. The sound of the crashing waves below left no room for any worries. After a moment, she turned back to Cee, who was watching her with a slight smile on his face.
“How did you know I love the beach?” she asked him accusingly. She wondered vaguely if he could read her mind.
“The video at the art gallery,” he said. “You were on a beach.”
“Playa Nacascolo, in Costa Rica,” she said, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand. “You’re observant.” He didn’t respond, just smiled wider. Then he went around to the trunk and opened it up. She kicked off her sandals and dropped them through the passenger window. Then she joined him at the trunk. He pulled out a canvas bag. “What’s that?”
“Graciely packed us lunch,” he said, like it was no big deal.
“A picnic on the beach? I think you’re trying to seduce me, Mr. Benedict.”
“Is it working?”
He laughed, looking pleased with himself. He held out his hand for hers and she took it. Before they headed down the path, Indira noticed that Juan’s black SUV was parked next to them in the lot, but both Juan and Freddy were still inside.
“Are they coming too?”
“Nope. Just you and me.” He entwined his fingers with hers and they made their way down the rocky trail to the beach. When they reached the sand, he spread out a blanket in the shadow of the cliff and she hiked up her skirt and walked along the water, letting the cool, frothy waves crash onto her legs. She sighed, feeling good. She realized that since she’d been in L.A., she’d felt good every day. What a strange concept, especially since she hated L.A.
Cee’s arm slung over her shoulders, and she smiled up at him.
“So what’s your game, Cee?”
“No game,” he said, innocently.
“You’re trying to make it impossible for me to go, aren’t you?”
“Well, you’re not going anywhere, so I don’t have to do anything.”
He nodded, looking confident. “L.A. is the best city on Earth and you should never leave.”
“You’re so wrong. So, so, so wrong.”
“Well I’m here, so obviously it’s the best.” He was laughing now, knowing he was being a jackass, but not caring. She lifted his thumb from her shoulder and bit down on his knuckle. That only made him only laugh harder. Then he cupped her chin and kissed her softly, his lips caressing hers. She threw her arms around his neck, leaning into him. The sad thing was, he wasn’t too far from the truth. At that moment, there was nowhere in the world Indira would rather be than on a beach in L.A. with Chadwick Benedict.
When her stomach grumbled, they went back to the blanket and dug into the tote bag to see what goodies Graciely had packed for them. Barbecue chicken, Cee’s childhood favorite, a salad, fresh berries, cornbread, and an apple pie for dessert. They tore into the food, forgoing the utensils for their fingers, feeding each other and then licking their fingers clean.
“I’m going to marry Graciely, so you’re off the hook,” Cee said, after he ate half of the pie by himself. Indira just gave him a look, not wanting to answer him. Or acknowledge the pang that flashed through her when he mentioned marriage. She was definitely crazy. She’d only known the man for for a few months, she reminded herself for the millionth time. Well, she’d known him longer than that, but who was counting?
After lunch, a sliver of sun hit the corner of the blanket and Indira undid the straps of her halter top and arranged herself chest down in the sun. She set her chin on her folded hands with a sigh. The sun felt amazing on her skin. He was on her in half a minute, pressing kisses across her shoulders and running his big hands down her sides.
“Cee!” she moaned, swatting at him half-heartedly.
“What?” he murmured, distracted, as he rolled her over to expose her chest. “I’m addicted to the way you taste.” He ran his tongue along her bare skin, and she shivered despite the heat.
“I’m trying to work on my tan,” she said, not even convincing herself.
“You’re trying to work me up, you tease.” He tossed his shirt over his head, then buried his face in her neck. She ran her hands over his shoulders, loving the feel of his warm naked skin against hers.
“Thank you, Cee,” she said after awhile.
“I have an ulterior motive, remember?”
“Right, I remember. To get in between my legs.” Indira tapped her forehead, pretending to think. “Although, let’s be honest. It’s not that hard. All you have to do is touch me and I’m yours.” She heard herself saying the words, and she knew it was the truth. She was his.
“Zee?” he whispered her name, lightly.
“What?” she murmured.
“Nothing,” he replied.
“What were you going to say?” she pushed, tracing the contours of his muscles under his dark skin. He didn’t answer, and they lay in silence for awhile, listening to the sound of the waves. He circled her bellybutton with his finger, absentmindedly, slowly driving her insane.
“What?” he asked.
“I think I like you.”
“You think you like me?” he repeated, his hand stilling.
“Yes. Maybe. Just a little bit.” He sat up, looking down at her.
“After all this, I get a maybe?”
“Yes. Maybe.” She smiled, teasing him. “I think that’s pretty accurate.” Then she screamed when he tossed her over his shoulder, lifting her up and carrying her to the water. He slapped her ass, hard enough for it to tingle, and she screamed again. Her hair flew in her face, and she was laughing so hard her stomach hurt. He carried her into the waves, and dropped her into the water. When she surfaced, she bobbed along, pulling her skirt up to her waist and lazily kicking her legs. He stood knee deep in the ocean, watching her. She blew him a kiss and he shook his head, not playing.
She dipped her head back, letting the water lap against her ears. She loved the ancient sound of the waves. When she was younger, and more dramatic, she used to think drowning must be the best way to die. Slipping below the cool, dark water, and letting it squeeze the life out of her seemed romantic, somehow. Intimate. But that was a thought for a darker day. And the dark days were long behind her. Today was a great day. She let herself be swept to shore and then she took off running, her feet sinking in the soft sand and her wet skirt slapping around her legs.
Cee was close behind her, and she barely avoided his grasp before running around an outcropping of rock. Then there was nowhere else to go. She was surrounded on all sides by the cliff. Ankle-deep in water, she turned and faced him. She felt exhilarated. Clean air filled her lungs. Water ran in rivulets down her skin. Cee held an arm out, his hand trailing against the jagged rock, his eyes on her. Her cheeks were hurting from smiling so much. She couldn’t remember the last time that happened.
“Why are you running from me?” He stepped closer.
“Because I like when you chase me,” she said, out of breath.
The Burning One © 2014 Lavender Parker. All Rights Reserved.