Usually in Thursday I have an interview going but today I'm featuring the first chapter of my latest release. A Sudden Seduction which puts not ever wanting to marry Matt Blakefield against the woman he insulted when they were teens. Now he must make amends.
A SUDDEN SEDUCTION
Matt Blakefield choked on the piece of wedding cake he’d been about to swallow. “Not in a million years.”
His gaze slid around the table in the inn’s dining room spearing each couple with a glare. Friends and family had gathered to celebrate this morning’s marriage of his brother to the mother of his recently discovered son. Since the nine-year-old was the only other unattached male present, Matt knew the whispered remark had been addressed to him.
“I have a friend,” one of his sisters said.
The other grinned. “She’d be perfect.”
“No sale.” Matt dropped the napkin on the table.
“Remember the curse.” Mark grinned. “None of us has escaped.”
Time to hit the road. With this decision made, as though in answer to his desire, Matt’s cell phone vibrated. Salvation.
He answered. “Matt here…You did…Great news…I’m on my way…Yeah today…Doesn’t matter.”
As if he’d stay here where plans he wanted no part of were being laid. He’d been present for the important event. There was no reason for him to linger and a huge need to escape. Although the meeting with the Good Magazine Group’s investigator wasn’t until Monday morning, Matt seized the opportunity. “Have to leave. Have information on this year’s make-over house for Good Livin’.”
“On the weekend?” His father, CEO of the magazine group and recently married to his teenage sweetheart, arched an eyebrow.
“Yeah. It’s the Smiton house. You know the one I intend to use as the project for showing people how to convert a house from energy sucking to energy efficient. Jules has a line on the owner. I want the contract signed so we can start work.”
His father’s eyes narrowed. “If there’s a problem find another house. Who knows what condition the Smiton’s house is in? No one has lived there for years.”
“I checked. The place is sound.”
“Find a house where the owners are in residence. They’ll appreciate the free upgrade.”
Matt groaned. “And spend hours listening to complaints about being inconvenienced or hearing about changes that won’t work.” Matt pushed to his feet. What he didn’t say was that he planned to buy and live in the house.
He kissed his new sister-in-law. “Let Mark spoil you and Davey. My brother has a few years of making up to do.”
Matt strode to the coatroom to retrieve his leather jacket and helmet. He’d planned to hang out here until tomorrow but not with the schemes buzzing in the ladies’ heads. He leaned over the counter, kissed the middle-aged woman’s cheek and dropped a ten spot in the tip dish.
He dashed out the door and down the steps to the parking lot and his bike. As the engine roared to life the relatives gathered and protests began.
So much for a quick escape. He braced for the arguments.
“Stay,” his new sister-in-law called. “You can have one of the cabins all to yourself.”
“We won’t bother you. I promise,” his step-mother said.
She wouldn’t but her promise didn’t include his sisters. “Another time.”
“Matt, it’s going to rain.” The voices of four females rose in a chorus.
“I won’t melt.” He slipped on his helmet. With a spray of gravel he headed to the road.
Exit Matthew, fleeing a bunch of women intent on ending his bachelor state.
What about his father, brother and his sisters’ fiancés. He bet the guys envied his freedom.
“You’re next.” Had someone said that or was it his imagination?
He waved. “Not today. Not this year. Maybe never.” The engine’s roar drowned any comments.
Visions of being followed by a parade of match-makers crowded his thoughts. Instead of heading for the interstate he decided to cross from Vermont into upstate New York. Exploring new territory was a perfect ending to his escape.
Once they’d found the perfect mate, why did happy couples believe every bachelor should be part of a twosome? He wasn’t ready to take a wife or enter a long term situation. He enjoyed his single state and found pleasure with a variety of women. Granted there’d been a dry spell lately—not his fault. He hadn’t met a woman who’d tempted him for even a night.
As he sped along the serpentine roads, a misting rain began. Moments after crossing into New York the storm turned earnest. Water fell in wind-driven gusts. Thunder rumbled like a mad drummer played a kettledrum. Lightning streaked across the sky in a brilliant display. Although the time was late afternoon the darkness spoke of night.
Time to find a motel, bed and breakfast or a rustic inn with a room for the night.
He reached a crossroads and paused to read the signs. The nearest town was fifty miles away. He dug out his cell. No service. He wiped the face plate of his helmet and chose a road. The headlights cast a tunnel through the gloom. Shadows impinged on the narrow band of light. He sent the bike down the road. Off on an adventure, hopefully with a dry room at the end of the road.
* * * *
Cassie Moore stared at the bubbles rising in the flute of champagne. The ephemeral globules vanished like yesterday’s dreams. Rain pounded on the roof of the cabin in upstate New York. She’d borrowed the refuge from the senior partner of the cardiology group. The secluded area offered an escape from the second most humiliating day of her life. Memories of the first had emerged and resisted her attempts to cram them in a box labeled “gone but not forgotten.” Dark streaks from that day stained her thoughts.
Thunder rumbled. Lightning cracked. The gloom matched her mood. Emotions roiled and changed with each sound. She refused to release the tears hovering on the threshold. The snap of wood in the fireplace threatened to spark the anger she held inside. She raised the glass.
“Here’s to a long engagement makes sense. Let’s drink to waiting for the residency to be completed. A toast to being established in a medical practice first. Here’s to tonight’s bridal shower and the absent bride-who-was-to-be. Raise your glass to the fiancé who married the office nurse on his regular Thursday off.”
She chugged the champagne in a single swallow and tossed the flute engraved with his name into the flames. A flare of color and a loud crack made her chuckle at herself. So much for melodrama.
The buzz from the wine failed to raise her flagging spirits or elevate her self-esteem. What was wrong with her? Thoughts tumbled over each other. A father who hadn’t wanted her or her mother, a first love turned into a teenage prank, a fiancé who chose another woman. Had she loved Tim? She’d never said the words to him. Had being married ruled her choice?
Cassie turned from the fire. She sliced the negative thoughts and shoved them into that box. Shower, comfy clothes, chocolate and a movie chosen to provide an excuse for tears were next on the agenda.
She hurried to the bathroom, turned the shower on and stepped beneath the hot spray. A short steam-filled time later with a towel wrapped around her body she scurried to the bedroom she’d chosen for her stay. She opened the suitcase she’d grabbed on the way out of the apartment.
“No.” A groan followed. She’d brought the bag she’d packed for the wedding night, the plane trip to Hawaii and the first day on the island.
With a shrug she slipped on the sheer nightgown and short silk robe and wished for her fleecy one. At least the slacks and sweater she’d worn today could be donned tomorrow when she searched for a store to buy a few things. She lifted a white lace bra and bikini and a red satin set. She did have underwear. For tonight the green afghan on the couch could provide warmth.
When Cassie reached the main room she popped the movie into place, filled the second flute with champagne and selected a truffle. As she savored the rich chocolate she draped the afghan over her shoulders and reached for the remote.
The opening music of the movie was drowned by a rumble of thunder. A loud noise caused her to jump. Had lightning struck nearby? She crossed to the window and turned on the yard light.
A heap on the ground caught her attention. A movement made her realize someone lay there. She grabbed a yellow slicker from a hook near the door, slipped on her sneakers and opened the door.
Moments later she clattered down the steps. Rain pelted her. She ran toward the figure. A closer look showed a man wearing a helmet and leather jacket. A motorcycle rested against the lone pine beside the driveway.
Cassie crouched and felt for a carotid pulse. The steady beat against her fingers reassured her. When she grasped his shoulder he groaned. Her breath escaped on a sigh. She needed to see if any bones had been broken and get him out of the storm. While she was a doctor, hearts not bones were her specialty.
“Where do you hurt?”
He groaned. “Everywhere.”
“Can you move your arms and legs?”
He complied. This time his groan was louder and deeper.
“Try to sit up.”
Slowly he eased into a sitting position. “My bike.”
Cassie choked back a laugh. How like a man? “Before you worry about that you need to get out of the rain and be checked for other injuries. Can you stand?”
With her help he stood and swayed. He clutched Cassie's shoulders. They nearly fell but she steadied him.
“Easy.” She put an arm around his waist. “Did you lose consciousness?”
“Don’t think so. Had the breath knocked out. A bit stunned.” He drew a breath. “Must have been a deer.”
“The thing on the road. Big. Dark. Saw the creature in a flash of lightning. Couldn’t stop.”
Cassie peered toward the road. If he’d broadsided a deer the animal would be seen the road. There was no large heap visible. The motorcycle had crashed into the pine tree where the road curved. Had he been more than stunned? Was he drunk? Was she a fool for taking a stranger into the cabin?
She could leave him at her car and run inside for her keys. They could drive to town. Except, she wasn’t dressed for going to town or for entertaining a guest.
“Where are we going?”
“To the cabin so I can check you for injuries.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
His deep voice held a quality that sent heat rushing through her veins. She faltered. Why the reaction? With all that had happened recently she should avoid thinking of any man as attractive until she recovered from the pain of Tim’s rejection.
She helped the stranger through the driving rain to the roofed porch. The protection from the steady downpour was welcome. She opened the door. They stepped inside. Water beaded on her slicker and his leather jacket. Pools gathered on the slate foyer floor.
She shivered. “Cold.”
“Makes two of us.”
Cassie released her hold on his waist and dragged a wooden chair from the kitchen area of the main room. “Sit.” She wished for her medical bag so she could do a complete assessment but the bag was at her apartment. There was no way to check his blood pressure but his pulse had been strong and steady. For the rest of the exam she would improvise.
“What year is it?” She began the questions to check his mental status. “Where are you?”
“Why the grilling?”
“To make sure you don’t have a concussion.”
“Are you a doctor?” She strode to the kitchen and found a flashlight. “Take the helmet off. I need to check your eyes.”
“Are you a nurse?”
“No, a doctor.”
When she turned he’d removed his jacket and helmet. Her mouth gaped. A moment of recognition studded her. No! Couldn’t be, But he was. Blond with blue eyes. Handsome. The class jock. Her first crush.
Cassie gulped a breath. So much for a complete physical. There was no way she could examine his body. She shone the light in one eye and then the other. “Pupils equal and reactive. That’s good. No concussion. You’ll be sore and develop bruises. You were lucky to have escaped serious injuries.”
He bent and pulled off his boots. “A hot shower will help.”
She studied his soaked slacks. Granted there was a dryer but she feared they would shrink. “I doubt there’s anything here for you to wear,”
He straightened. “I’ve clothes.” He reached for the boots.
“Where are you going?”
“To my bike. The saddlebag has clothes. Also I need to see the damage.”
She shook her head. “Not a good idea. I’d worry about you falling.” She dashed to the door. “I’ll go.”
Cassie stepped outside and sloshed to the lone pine and the bike. After removing the saddlebag, knowing he would ask, she studied the bike. The front tire was blown and she thought the frame might be twisted. She carried the bag to the cabin.
She had a house guest—a stranger who belonged to her past. She paused beside her car. If she had the keys she could leave. Knowing who he was had stirred memories of that day and also of the nights she’d dreamed of him.
If she took the only transportation what would he do? The motorcycle wouldn’t run. He would be stranded. Town was five miles away—a long walk.
As she dashed to the cabin she recalled what she knew about him. She’d had a major crush on the football star. So had most of the girls at school. He’d always seemed nice until the day she’d listened to a pair of cheerleaders and followed their advice. His laughter and rejection had hurt. Unfortunately what he’d said had been true.
Cassie stood on the porch. With those memories so clear how could she face him? But did he know who she was and would he remember that dreadful day? Though remnants remained she wasn’t that geek now. She could manage. She opened the door.
Cassie swallowed. His shoulders seemed broader without the jacket and his chest more muscular than she remembered. She shoved the saddlebag into his hands.
“Aren’t you going to take off your coat?”
Her face flamed. “No.” She scooted past him. “Bathroom’s this way.”
As soon as the door closed behind him she bolted to the bedroom. She removed the raincoat and searched for other clothes. Would have to be something she’d packed for the flight to Hawaii. Silk dress or shorts and a knit top? The clothes she’d worn today were intended for tomorrow’s shopping trip. She chose the shorts. Thank heavens the cabin had central heat.