In the meanwhile, check out this excerpt from Hustled To The Altar and come back often. You may wind up reading the whole book online. ;o)
He loosened his hold on her as they passed through the door of the jewelry store.
The décor was supposed to resemble the gold rush era, with uneven floor planks and a rusty scale dripping glitter. The image was spoiled by several security cameras and the smell of ammonia from the spray an employee was using to polish the display cases.
Renny cooed over chunky stones in fussy settings but would have settled for a modest string of pearls. Con overrode her and pointed to several flashy pieces, ending up with a necklace, brooch, bracelet and ring that didn’t match and would have paid Gran back several times.
Renny turned her back to the display case and gave Con a “What are you doing?” face.
Con handed his platinum card to the clerk, enjoying both the flush he caused in Renny’s cheeks and the fluster he caused behind the counter as the employee handed the card to his boss before searching for boxes beneath the display case.
“Is that enough sparklies?” Con goaded.
“You’re a lunatic,” she said in an undertone. Her lips quivered, almost caught by laughter.
He raised his brows, waiting for her to break.
She showed him her cheek, clinging to the spoiled mistress role. Just.
Well, shoot, he almost had her. He’d give her another nudge. Tipping her into his arms, he kissed her, half expecting a knee to the groin.
What he got was a start of surprise and a soft shudder that melted her tension. Her hands slid up his chest and linked behind his neck as she curled into the embrace and pressed his head down, sealing their mouths.
Deprived of her for months, he deepened the kiss, found her bottom lip and gently sucked. Her tongue touched his, causing a thump of sensation in his chest. Warmth pooled through his belly and into his groin while their mouths broke apart only to meet again with parted lips, like starvation victims slaking their hunger with bite after bite of sumptuous fare.
He had kissed her on impulse, for their audience, to catch her off guard and see what would happen, to see if she could hold onto her role. He had kissed her for a hundred reasons, not expecting that his control would slip, his mind would fog and his thoughts would narrow to a single goal: hold onto her and never let her go.
Before he lost it enough to make lewd use of the nearest flat surface, he pulled away, wondering only then if her response had been real or for show.
Renny drew back. Her eyes fluttered open and her gaze fixed on her hands where they rested against his chest.
Con touched his thumb to the corner of her mouth, erasing a smudge of coral pink. He allowed his fingertips to linger on her cheek, appreciating the softness of her skin, coaxing her to lift her chin and look at him.
Slowly she backed away, but her gaze stayed on her left hand. On Jacob’s ring.
He caught her wrist, gently worked the ring off and dropped it into his shirt pocket.
She parted her lips to protest and he leaned forward to kiss her again, lightly, then touched her mouth with his fingertip, keeping her silent while he reached for the new ring on the counter.
When he would have slipped it on to replace Jacob’s, she drew her left hand away and offered her right.
If he wanted to make a serious effort to get her back, now was the moment to drop to his knee and do it properly. The ring was a staircase of emerald baguettes curved around a highly set opal. Not what anyone would regard as a typical engagement ring. Nevertheless, the symbolism would be there, if he placed it on her left hand now.
Panic stung his veins.
Purchasing this ridiculous pile of jewelry had been less about playing the rich man for Felix and more about making her laugh, but neither of them was laughing. His palms began to sweat and his chest felt constricted. He slid the ring down the third finger of her right hand.
Her lips quivered and went flat. Disappointment? Maybe. A poorly played hand on his part? No question. But he had scored a point with that kiss.
She reached for the necklace on the counter and it slithered through her fingers, taking the bracelet and brooch with it onto the floor.
Sagging into a crouch, she reached for them.
Con squatted in front of her, held out the brooch. It was a gold domino, the dots blue sapphires.
“You should buy some decent shoes,” she said quietly.
He had changed into clothing from the luggage in his trunk: a short-sleeved shirt, patterned like a blue and green checkerboard, and tailored dark green pants. He had shaved while he’d waited for Renny at Walmart, but hadn’t bothered replacing his disreputable sneakers.
“I want you.” He was willing to make the admission because he was so close to getting her on his terms.
“You had me. Now you don’t.”
“I almost did, a minute ago.”
She stayed crouched beside him, the necklace coiled in her lap while she fastened the bracelet. “We don’t have time for a post-mortem, Con. I’m going to find a phone and call Jacob. You should buy some shoes.”
She was brushing aside their kiss, their history, the desire still between them. Everything. He used humor to deflect his hurt.
“You’re sexy when you get bossy.”
“Now you’re just being a tease.”
She opened her mouth but a bell pinged as someone entered the store, making them both turn their heads.
Jacob walked in.