by Marianne Stillings
Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Release date: September 2008
Excerpt from Chapter 1
As he guided the Lexus out of the driveway onto Franklin, Logan made his way over to Van Ness, glancing at the dashboard clock as he turned the corner. While four-thirty was too early for supper, a sandwich and a pint might set pretty well just about now. Glancing about for a neon sign that announced an eatery, up ahead, flashing red lights off to the side of the road snared his attention. Wary of an accident on the busy avenue, he slowed.
The gleaming white Mercedes was sleek and expensive looking. The driver's side door stood open and the bonnet was up.
Make that its hood. Why didn't the bloody Americans name their auto parts properly?
The car was basically unremarkable – except for the exquisite pair of legs extending through the open door. As he rolled to a stop behind the sedan, she crossed those legs, dangling one shiny black heel from her toes.
He flipped on his own emergency lights to warn drivers to go around both cars, then, shoving his hands into his pockets, he approached the sedan, a congenial smile on his face.
Elbow on knee, chin in hand, her face was turned away from him. Her tight black dress was scooped just low enough to reveal the curve of a very fine set o' chebs, while a thin diamond necklace winked at her elegant throat. Her short blond hair ruffled in the breeze.
He stopped, waited. Traffic was noisy. Maybe she hadn't heard him approach.
"Do you need some help, lass?" he said to the back of her head, adding a bit more brogue than necessary. American women were damned hard to impress, but his accent always gave him an edge. "Engine trouble, is it?"
Without turning toward him, she said in a bored tone, "I'm not helpless. I have a cell phone, which I have already used to call my mechanic. Buh-bye and thanks for stopping."
She flicked her foot and her shoe dropped to the pavement.
Before she could retrieve it, he bent, picked it up, and held it out to her. She turned her face toward him then, looked him quickly in the eye, then averted her gaze the way women do when they first meet a man. Even so, he'd caught the unusual green of her irises in that flash – and wanted to see more.
Taking the shoe from him, she slipped it onto her foot. "Thanks. I don't know what's keeping him. I called twenty minutes ago. If I'm not home by six, it'll put me way behind schedule . . ."
She glanced up at him again, this time, her gaze held.
As they looked into each others' eyes, a strange sensation began pulsing inside his chest. An awareness of sorts, expanding outward through his muscles and bones, down his legs and out arms until his fingers tingled. His blood stirred, his brain sharpened. The intensity gathered strength, catching him off guard – unpleasant sensations for a man continually on the alert, and he wanted to shake it off.
She blinked, averted her gaze; the spell was broken.
Hell, she was an unusually beautiful woman. With a mental shrug, he attributed his reaction to extreme attraction. A massive dose of testosterone must have flooded his system, distorting his brain functions for a moment. Aye, that was it.
"What's at six?" he ventured, "if you don’t mind my being nosy. Big party?"
She gave a wiggly little shrug of her shoulders, as though whatever it was she might miss either wasn't that important – or none of his business.
Behind him, cars roared by on the busy avenue, stirring up the air, bits of dust, exhaust fumes.
"Well then," he said, "if you needn't any help."
"I needn't." With her left hand, she stifled a yawn.
No ring on her finger. Something about the absence of a ring encouraged him to give it another go.
"Perhaps I should stay until your mechanic arrives," he offered. "I'm not entirely sure it's safe for a lass such as yourself to be sitting here by the side of the road with night coming down."
At last, she swiveled to face him full on, and his heart nearly flew away. A stunner she was, and no mistake. Though she didn't smile, her lips were full and ripe. Her darkly lashed green eyes shone bright with intelligence – and was that bewilderment? – as she looked him up and down.
"Uh, um, no," she stumbled. She licked her lips, straightened a bit. In a stronger tone, she said, "No need for you to stay. I'm fine."
With that, she turned away again, and the message was loud and clear: he was dismissed.
A tiny spear of irritation lanced his gut at the rebuff. Sure, he'd been rejected by women before, but rarely by one he'd decided he wanted.
"A good evening to you then," he said as he began backing away toward his own car. She never so much as glanced in his direction.
Well, to hell with that one, he thought as he cranked the ignition on the Lexus. Women usually fell all over him, not that he necessarily wanted them to, but it made getting the ones he did want that much easier. He seldom had to work to get any woman's attention, and as he glared at the back of this obstinate lass's car, he decided he didn't like the feeling.
As he pulled out into traffic, he kept his eye on his side view mirror.
She was looking down. From her purse, she pulled out a cell phone and put it to her ear, never once following his car with her eyes.
His irritation increased.
A block later, his palms damp, his jaw tight, he swerved into a grocery store lot and parked where he could see the flash of her emergency lights in the distance, but she couldn't see him.
She was obviously one of those women who didn't trust men and thought she could handle any situation with a can of mace and a solid kick to the nuts. But he was willing to wager he knew one hell of a lot more about determined men than she did.
So he'd relax a bit, think about where he'd like to have supper, calculate the odds of the Tartans taking the World Cup this year – and if her mechanic didn't show up in twenty minutes, he'd go back.