Read on for the final Stone, At Your Service bonus scene, and be sure to tune in tomorrow for a special Halloween preview of book #2, Love, In the Fast Lane. There might even be a giveaway on my Facebook page to coincide tomorrow.
Jules Gem Takes a Bite out of the Boys
I’d intended to find out what. I hadn’t had to wait all that long for Stone to be un-outted. No surprise there. But imagine my surprise when I discovered he lived in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, just a stone’s throw away from my beach rental on Isle of Palms. I absolutely had to follow up with him once the convention ended.
And I had an ulterior motive.
With my salon-streaked hair fluffed out and my Lancôme lipgloss in place, I pranced into Stone’s Auto Service for the second time that summer. Stone still owed me another favor, and I meant to collect. The men—his mechanics—fell over themselves to help me, then blinked in surprise when I explained Stone was expecting me.
The largest of the bunch—Gerald was his name—came forward with a broad smile. “Yes, ma’am. Right this way.”
“It’s Miss.” I coolly replied. I did so enjoy getting under the skin of these massive, rugged men.
A few masculine chuckles followed my clarification.
“Rightio, Miss Gem.” Gerald had flushed beneath his dark brown skin, but he continued to grin at me.
Mick stepped up beside him. “I’ll take her.”
Hmmm. I laid one hand on his strong chest when he approached me. “I believe Gerald will do just fine. What was your name again? Mike? Michael?”
“Mick.” He growled, his gorgeous spring green eyes flashing.
I knew damn well who he was. He knew I knew it, too. I also knew why he wanted to get me alone. And that just didn’t fit into my crafty plan for him . . . yet. I placed my arm in the crook of Gerald’s proffered elbow, and off I glided, away from a furious-looking Mick.
What fun he was going to be.
I’d dressed with every ounce of care for this precious meeting. On the way to Stone’s office, I perfected my slightly prima donna, slightly power hungry persona. The Jules who usually only came out to play at the romance writers convention I helped organize every spring.
Stone and Nicky Love were waiting for me in the hideous office with the stained blue carpet. The smell of car oil swilled in the air instead perfume or cologne. They looked absolutely petrified, sitting next to each other on the small, equally distasteful sofa.
I dismissed Gerald and closed the door as he retreated to the hallway. “Well.” I sauntered inside and arranged myself behind Stone’s meticulous desk. “This is going to be sooooo much fun.” I gave an excited quiver for my captive crowd.
The pair of them looked like they were going to be sick.
I pulled out a miniature recording device. Clicking it on, I thought about which question to ask first. What handsome men they were. Big men, fidgeting in fear, in front of me. Stone with his huge build and his bedroom eyes, Nicky Love with his fit body and fabulous hair. They had agreed to do this interview under duress, of course. But what Jules Gem wants, Jules Gem gets. And they were far too entertaining to pass up.
Fully centered in my Jules character, I aimed a slightly sharkish grin at them. “So, boys, would you ever consider putting on a little sex show for the ladies? I’m sure Leelee would just love to see that. And if not her, well, I certainly wouldn’t object.” To objectifying you. I laughed to myself.
“What?” Stone’s voice spiked. His eyebrows did, too.
I loved terrorizing him. He was six years older than me, yet I could get him to squirm in his seat like a naughty schoolboy. Hmmm.
“Absolutely not.” Nicky was appalled.
Whereas sexy Stone wore his heart on his sleeve and on his face, Nicky Love was a much harder read. Equally handsome, but much more adept at hiding his true feelings in any given situation. It would be fun to break through his delicious shell.
“I don’t see why you’re sooooo adamantly against it. You did kiss at the convention, in front of everyone. Clearly you have exhibitionist homosexual tendencies.”
I almost laughed out loud when Stone’s jaw dropped open. He slammed it shut. He gaped again. “But that was . . . that was . . .”
“Soooo hoooooot.” I gave them a shiver of delight, then watched them both shudder in distaste.
“I was going to say fucking weird.” Stone glared at me.
“Amen to that, bro.” Nicky’s very otherworldly violet eyes took on a hard cast.
“Oh, but I beg to differ.” Folding my hands on top of the desk, I leaned forward. “It was surely one of the sexiest things I’ve ever seen. And you know how we ladies like our male-male romance. Not even a little repeat?”
Stone peered at Nicky. Nicky stared back. I clapped my hands.
“Not a fucking chance.” Stone winked at me.
“Ditto.” Nicky eased slightly away from his friend.
I pouted. Then batted my eyelashes. They didn’t make a move toward one another. Maybe I should’ve brought my bullhorn with me. Stone could never refuse me when I used that.
The silence thickened until Nicky nervously laughed. “Besides he’s got Leelee and I’ve got my eye on someone.”
Bingo! Finally we were getting somewhere. I needed a little juicy gossip for my newest LitLuv magazine article. I pounced all over that.
“So the only reason you two won’t explore your gay fantasies is because you might otherwise be taken?”
“NO!” they shouted in unison.
Methinks the gents doth protest too much. But maybe there was another angle to play.
“Who is this lucky lady then?” I directed my question to Nicky.
“Not saying.” He crossed his arms over his chest.
“Bet I know.” His best bud jabbed him in the ribs.
“Wonderful, and . . .?” I asked.
Nicky punched Stone on the shoulder.
Stone frowned, rubbing the rippling muscle. “Can’t say.”
“Well then, Nicky, I have no other option than to think you’re lying. I think you really do wish there was something between you and Stone.” I interrogated the man who avoided my shrewd gaze. “Tell me what you felt when he kissed you. Was there a frisson of excitement? Had you two ever kissed before? Was there tongue action? Because it looked like—”
“Catarina Steele, okay?” he blurted. Horror showed on his face.
“Catarina Steele. Perfect.” I’d be looking her up soon.
“How does she do that?” Muttering to Stone, Nicky glanced at me.
“Hey, at least she’s not one of our exes.” Nicky smirked.
“Word.” They fist bumped each other.
“Will you both be returning next year? Because I have serious plans in store for you, Stone, and you, Mr. Love, put the RAWR in Romance.” I dragged them away from their self-congratulations.
“Um,” Stone mumbled.
“Erm.” Nicky winced. He pulled the leather tie out of his wavy hair and raked his fingers through it. “Yeah. I think so.”
“Oh, is there a problem I should know about that would prevent your attendance?” This private man was just full of surprises.
“Problems? No. None at all.”
“Stalker fan chick on the crazy train,” Stone oh so helpfully supplied.
“Reaaallly? Goes by the name of . . .?” I asked.
“Nothing. Nobody. Forget it. And you”—he pointed at Stone—“shut it.”
Wonderful. I did so love unraveling a good mystery.
“Well, it’s been absolutely divine chatting with you two. I simply can’t wait until we catch up next time.” Clicking off my recording device, I pushed the chair back from the desk.
The men slumped in relief.
“Oh! I nearly forgot. One last thing.” They jerked to attention. Purrrfect.“That man—Mick—who works here? He should still be out in one of the bays, yes?”
“What? Why do want to see him?” Stone had suspicion written all over his face.
“Oh, no reason. No reason at all.” I assumed an air of innocence. “He took care of my Jeep last time I came in. There’s something I want him to check out.” I smiled at Stone. “Besides, I am sooooo enjoying getting to know your mechanics. So manly, so delightfully gauche.”
“What the fuck does gauche mean?” he asked Nicky.
“I’ll explain it later,” Nicky muttered.
They both rose to their feet as I strode from behind the desk. “I can’t wait to see how this article pans out. Fans are waiting to hear more about you, you know? And we don’t just LitLuv it, we live it.”
“Yeah, right. Uh huh.” Stone shook my hand and opened the door.
And now for Mick. Not only was I the Perez Hilton of the romance conference circuit, I was also a journalist for the local Post and Courier. That’s why I’d recognized Mick the first time I came here. I knew him as Michael. Michael Cain. Yes, really. Of course that could be entirely fake, since he didn’t want his friends and fellow mechanics finding out about his moonlighting gig. My name certainly wasn’t Jules Gem, and I didn’t act like a bossy pit bull in girl’s clothing during my normal daily life. Well, not all the time.
I found him inside one of the sweltering bays. My gaze narrowed on him. In one word, he was hot. Two words? Smoking hot. Sexy as hell. He had too shaggy, shiny, dark auburn hair that fell in his eyes. His skin was so fair I wondered if he ever went to the beach. I’d like to see that, more than a Stone/Love do-over kiss. Mick’s lips were bright red, juicy-looking. Grease stains ran up his strong forearms and down one side of his slanting cheekbones. He wore the coveralls like a man accustomed to dirty work, draped at his waist, a white tank top underneath. An ornate, colorful tattoo peeked out from the cloth at the top of his chest. Then there were the two heavy bore, black plugs in his ears.
Absolutely utterly totally fuckable. Four words.
In his other job, he spiffed up nicely, usually showing up in clean khakis and button-down shirts. They didn’t do a damn thing to disguise the edgy beautiful man inside. I couldn’t decide which look I liked better. I might have to explore them both.
When he caught sight of me watching him, he loped over. “Juliana!”
Mmm, I loved the way he said my name. Or rather, hissed it.
Grabbing my wrist, he hauled me out back. The sun glinted off his hair, intensifying the deep red. He kept hold of my wrist and dragged me close. “Don’t tell anyone, okay?”
I brushed his full lower lip with the pad of my thumb then caressed the rough stubble on his jaw.
“Shit.” Mick expelled in a long breath. “That feels—”
The talking stopped when I pressed against him. His hard planes pushed against my softer curves. That time he groaned. That time, his hand left my wrist to tangle in my hair. The perfect mossy green of his irises darkened.
“I don’t want anyone to know.”
“I gathered.” I blew a gentle stream of air against the warm hollow of his throat.
One uneven exhale riffled the top of the artful blow-out my stylist took such pride in. “You are making me insane.”
I wriggled from his embrace. “I gathered.”
Mick, Michael Cain, etc., whoever, had a nice little secret he didn’t want to get out. We were on the same circuit for the Post and Courier. My burly, dirty, tasty mechanic was also a wedding photographer—and quite sought after, too. His sideline didn’t jive with his macho meathead reputation. My inner personality—the one no one saw—didn’t really go with the Jules Gem most people knew, either.
We had more than one thing in common, and so much chemistry the air blazed between us every time we met. Mick wouldn’t act on it, and I . . . I wasn’t often as ballsy as everyone thought.
“You’re going to owe me for keeping it under wraps, Mick.”
“Yeah?” He prowled to me, backing me against the wall, caging me with his arms. “And one day you’re gonna owe me because I’m gonna fuck you the way you want to be, Juliana. Hard and rough, then slow and hot, all night long. Just as soon as you drop this Jules Gem act and finally admit how much you want me.”
LOVE:Preorder now! Coming December 11, 2014.