Contest Excerpt

A juicy morsel of what has the judges raving . . .


. . . A rap at the door diverted my attention. I turned as Iain stepped through a doorway barely accommodating his enormous frame. Even from my five-nine height, the man always appeared huge with his six-foot-five, brawn-built-by-physical-exertion body.

I knew what’d created those bunched muscles. We’d met last summer when I’d been drawn to Highland games festivals with my love for all things Scottish. The ease of his mastery in every event left no member of the audience ignorant of his extraordinary skills. The movie industry had also taken notice. They’d snatched him up long before he’d ever set foot in the States, and his busy film career was the reason he lived in Southern California.

Television coverage of premieres, not to mention the covers of magazines and tabloids, proclaimed his social status: playboy. He rotated starlets and models more often than I grocery shopped to see the printed evidence.

I’d garnered Iain’s attention with my regular attendance at every scheduled festival within driving distance of the greater Los Angeles area while remaining the only single female at the games not to fawn all over him. He’d gained my interest, too, but not in an isn’t-he-dreamy romantic way. My awe bore resemblance to a damn-that-warrior-would’ve-ruled-the-Highlands reaction.

“Well, Isa,” he said in his rich, deep tone, luring me back from my thoughts. “You inviting me in, lass, or am I to continue to decorate your entry?” His thick Scottish brogue rolled off his tongue and danced in my ears.

I’d long ago stopped trying to correct him on my name. After several attempts explaining I preferred my full name, Eeee-sooo-bellll, I’d given up. Now it warmed my heart to hear him call me something no one else in the world ever had.

I walked toward him a few steps, laughing. “Sorry. I’ve been distracted today. Come in.”

He closed the door, and I saw something I’d never seen before—his tight ass in jeans. At the games, he wore the plaid of his ancestral clan which, interestingly, had a one-of-a-kind woven pattern. The way he filled out street clothes made me take notice; broad shoulders pulled his long-sleeved shirt taut, the crisp white setting off tanned skin and chestnut hair. He faced me again, his lips curving into the crooked smile he often wore. He came closer, and the lighting in the room struck his hazel eyes, flecks of burgundy sparkling amid greenish brown.

“Did you have a good trip? You were visiting your grandfather, right?” he asked.

Iain’s eyes searched mine. He tilted his head slightly, holding his arms relaxed at his sides as he took lazy steps forward. He was reaching out to me, showing he cared about my welfare. It was a concept I’d found foreign in my life from everyone except my parents, who’d died years ago, and my seanair, who’d passed before my plane touched down at LAX last week.

Countless thoughts filled my head, from the pain of a precious goodbye I’d held sacred, to the thrilling discovery I’d only shared with Iain in a vague, brief phone conversation. Unaccustomed to men outside of my family showing concern over my well-being, my instincts ran with keeping my barriers up and feelings in.

“Yes. Yes, everything went fine,” I replied. Unprepared for bluffing my way out of a harmless question, coupled with my horrid lying skills, I had little confidence I’d fooled him.

A shadow fell across his face; his brow furrowed and his smile faded into a tight line, which gave me a good indication I hadn’t been convincing. At the very least, I’d disappointed him with my curt reply.

His brown boots clacked softly on the tile as he approached, until he came so close I had to crane my neck back to keep eye contact. For an unknown reason, I stayed rooted to the ground with mere inches between us. He looked at my lips, then into my eyes. The earlier harshness to his features softened as he relaxed his face. I blinked heavily, inhaling his delicious, ever-present scent of the woods and earth.

“What are you doing?” I asked a bit too breathlessly as I stood transfixed, my body overriding the sound reason I’d always had but seemed to have momentarily lost.

“What you want me to be doing.” Mischief flickered in his eyes.

Nervousness settled into my stomach and blood rushed into my brain, allowing thoughts to ping around again. I laughed and pushed my hands into his solid chest which, against his enormous mass, resulted in me falling back a step. I recovered, quickly turned, and walked over to the desk, avoiding the near-combustible collision of our bodies.

“Oh, please. I really have something to show you.”

A low, warm chuckle echoed behind me. “Aye, you do, and I’ve been waiting very patiently.”

I caught his intended meaning, having played his flirting games before, but I was determined not to be distracted. He didn’t make it easy. With the quiet grace of a cat, he came up behind me. His massive thighs hit my ass, pressing my body into the desk. He’d trapped me. His heat burned right through my clothes, clouding my waning judgment. I had two choices: remain standing there, showing him the box from the intimate stance, or demand he back up and get serious. The temperature must have fried my circuitry, because I chose option one.

I leaned over the desk, reaching for the box. “This is what I wanted to show you.”

My bending forward caused our bodies to line up in a perfect sexual position, which I realized one second too late. His hands firmly gripped my hips as he pressed himself further into me. I snapped upright when an ache flashed between my thighs. Our intimate contact sent my pulse racing. As my breaths shortened, I had to concentrate to think straight.

“Iain . . . I . . .” The loss of words marked a first for me. Nothing had ever thrown me as off-balance as he’d done at that moment.

His right hand abandoned my hip. Light fingertips traced along the curve of my waist, the swell of my breast, and up to my neck, where he pulled my hair aside. Warm breath followed by soft lips brushed my collarbone. He trailed gentle kisses up to my ear.

“Don’t fight it, Isa. I know you want me.”

Evidently I did. Or at least my body did. Confusion rattled my brain, which was seriously devoid of proper blood flow. I tried to push back off the desk to no avail. He must have sensed my panic, because he eased back, put his hands gently on my shoulders, and slowly turned me around. I swallowed hard, tilting my head back so I could see his eyes. Those olive pools told me everything I needed to know. While his actions and words sent lustful messages, his eyes conveyed caring and warmth. They invited trust. He arched a dark brow in question while his lips lazily curved into a smile.

“Tell me I’m wrong,” he whispered. The command fell on my ears as a gentle challenge.

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t tell him, because he spoke the truth. Agreeing with him, however, wasn’t a remote possibility. I didn’t want my first time with him—my first time ever—to be sprawled across MacLaren’s desk.

Trapped between wanting to open myself to someone who cared for me and uncertainty about whether he would safeguard my heart if I gave it to him, I stood there, staring deep into his soul, searching for some answer. I needed to know if Iain craved me for the woman he suspected lay deep and protected on the inside, or if he merely saw me as another conquest—a tempting treasure he desired. But my meager social skills failed me in providing words to my question.

Panic and confusion forced logic back into the driver’s seat. “The box. I need to show you the box,” I replied in a soft plea.

He laughed and leaned back, touching the tip of my nose with his fingertip. “Okay. Show me this important prize of yours.”

When he turned, breaking our gaze, I regained my composure. It occurred to me how naïve I’d proven to be in the presence of the first man to give chase to me since . . . well, ever. I’d folded like a fragile flower in the scorching heat of the midday sun. His enormous ego in thinking he could have me simply by wanting me fostered an inner determination to deny him the pleasure. Incredulousness at his bold actions replaced lust. Fear took me the rest of the way. Arriving late to the dating party didn’t mean I had to surrender to the first interested man, even if he was, without any doubt whatsoever, the finest male specimen I’d ever encountered.

I’d invited Iain here to assist in my identification of the artifact, and I intended to obtain the information no matter his objective. I took a deep breath, reaching again toward the box. I wondered if he would see the relic for its true value or if he’d become so firmly entrenched in the Hollywood life of glamour that he’d lost sense of his roots.

“Here it is.” I touched the gleaming corner. His attention shifted to the side of the desk.

I hadn’t randomly invited Iain. The metalwork on the box held secrets within its design. Many things about Iain remained a mystery to me as well, including the uniqueness of his tartan weave and one very unusual crest on an heirloom brooch he used to fasten his plaid. The box had a nearly identical emblem hidden in the metal leafing beneath the latticework, but the resemblance between the two hadn’t clicked until my mind relaxed during the flight back to the States.

His silence as he studied the details of the box lent credence to my theory. He didn’t touch it. He revered the object as he circled the desk, viewing it from every angle. With hawk-like eyesight honed from years of battlefield training, he performed his examination from a respectful distance.

After several heavy minutes, he asked, “Where . . . did you say you found this?”

“I didn’t. I found it buried in peat.”

His reply came with firm conviction. “I think it found you.”

. . .

© 2012-2013 by Kat Bastion