I have another new series starting – hopefully- by the end of this year, titled A PRIDE OF BROTHERS. For those of you who remember my Will Cook For Love series, Joshua Keane ran a Private Investigative/Security firm with his 2 brothers and his best friend, Rick Bannerman. Rock made an appearance in A Shot At Love and I lovedlovedloved him so much I wanted to give him his own story. Book 1 of POB, Rick’s story, is it. Abigail Laine, one of the 7 Laine girls from the WCFL series, gets her story here, too. This is a long passage from the beginning of the book, but sets up their conflict and storyline. Enjoy! ( or at least, I hope you do!!! HEEHEE)
A few hours and several glasses of wedding celebration bubbly later, Abby spotted the object of her lust-filled fantasies slip through the ballroom doors and out onto the terrace.
It never occurred to her not to follow him.
Spring had surfaced two weeks prior and the fading light between dusk and nightfall was grasping for a few more minutes to shine. Abby spotted him at the far corner of the balcony, overlooking Central Park. Elbows leaning on the railing, he was staring off into the distance. For a brief moment she was afforded the opportunity to study him unawares.
The person who invented tuxedos should be sainted. Or at least knighted. There was nothing else that made a gorgeous man even more attractive. If Rick weren’t a private investigator he could easily pose for a men’s eveningwear line. His physique was perfectly model proportioned according to Gemma, the professional photographer in the group, and his classic, carved-from-marble good features were captivating.
All in all a hunky, sexy guy. And one she wanted to get closer to—in the purely biblical sense. There was no doubt in her mind Rick Bannerman was a man who knew what to do with a woman, and please God she wanted to be that woman. Even for one night.
“Didn’t your parents ever teach you it was rude to stare?”
The quiet pitch in his voice bounced off the tree canopy in front of them and vibrated through her body from head to heels. She’d been hidden in the shadows and he hadn’t moved a muscle, and yet he’d known she was standing there, gawking.
Abby walked toward him, her hands clasped in front of her.
“Mom was too busy working three jobs and finding herself,” she said as she came closer, “and Dad bolted before he could teach us anything.”
Rick turned his head a fraction, his body staying in the same leaning forward, relaxed position, but the second his gaze landed on her she felt like a deer paralyzed in an on-coming truck’s blaring headlights on a lonely road at two a.m.
Her breath caught and she swore the cool temperature in the surrounding air went up a good ten degrees around him.
Maybe she should have had another glass of fortification before deciding to come outside.
“And I’m pretty confident you’re used to people, especially women, staring at you.”
He didn’t answer.
She’d give anything to know what he was thinking as his gaze trailed from her eyes, down to her mouth where they—gulp—lingered for a moment and then back up again. She couldn’t stop the shiver that jumped through her.
Rick finally moved when she ran her hands up her chilled, naked arms. He shrugged out of his tuxedo jacket in one fluid motion that had her mouth watering. When he took a step toward her and flung it around her shoulders he was close enough for her to stretch up and run her lips along his jaw and finally taste him.
In the time it took her to gather her courage to do it, he moved back and shot his hands into his pant pockets.
“You shouldn’t be out here in that slip of a dress,” he said, chinning her bridesmaid gown. “It’s still cool at night and you’re not dressed for the weather.”
Abby pulled the jacket tighter around her shoulders, sighing when she caught a whiff of Rick’s cologne clinging to it. Whether from the heady, musky scent she’d now and forever equate with him, or the dipping temperature, her nipples shot to bruising points under her soft strapless push-up bra. The dress was a shear, pale blue satin spaghetti-strapped tea length design and, as Rick pointed out, did nothing to protect her from the elements.
“Thanks,” she said.
“You should go back inside where it’s warmer, Abigail. I’m sure you’ve got minion duties to perform.”
Her back went ramrod straight. “I hate being called Abigail. Something I’ve told you many times before.”
He cocked his head a bit, the sexy, small smirk dancing across his lips again. “And still…” He lifted his hands from his packets in a “what can I say” gesture.
“That’s just mean. Calling a person something you know they don’t like.”
“It is your name, kiddo. Abigail June.” His careless shrug pulled his shirt tight across his massive shoulders. Abby’s fingers twitched to touch them. Instead, she tightened her grip on the jacket lapels.
How did he know her full name? She didn’t remember ever telling him because she did everything in her power to forget it. It was so…old lady-ish. Like she lived with seventeen cats and read sweet romances all day and night long. Alone.
“You’re such a pain.” She shook her head and pouted.
“You know you are. And you’re making me forget the reason I followed you out here in the first place.” She almost stomped her foot, thought better of it at the last second.
Something shifted in his eyes. Even in the rapidly fading light, she saw it.
“You…followed me…out here, Abigail?”
Good Lord, she didn’t need the jacket at all. One glance at the hotter-than-a-poker glaze in his eyes heated her entire body.
“Ye-yes,” she answered, hating he could reduce her to a stuttering chit.
“Why?” He leaned a hip against the metal railing, his hands still secured inside his pockets. Comfortable, relaxed, and so damn hot she wanted to scream at him to take her in his arms and make her his for the night.
She wasn’t going to let him sabotage her seduction plan. No. She’d worked out everything she wanted to say, the perfect way to goad him into noticing her. If she could get him to dance with her, even once, get his arms around her, she’d be able to make him see how good it could be between them.
But first she had to get him on the dance floor and from everything she’d observed tonight, he was happy to let his dance card stay empty.
“You’re shirking your wedding guest duties,” she said with a slight head bob.
“There’s no such thing.”
“Yes, there is. As a guest, a male guest,” she lowered her chin, pinning him with her own intense glare now, “it’s your responsibility to dance with the female guests. There are quite a few unattached women at this wedding and it hasn’t gone unnoticed you’ve danced with no one except the bride. That’s bad form. And etiquette. And…rude.”
Her eyes narrowed when his laugh, loud and filled with humor, bounced through the trees. “Unnoticed by who? The wedding police? Kandy?”
Her gaze darted down to her shoes and then back up at him. “Among…others.”
With his head still cocked, he unfurled his hands from his pockets, stood upright and moved into her space. Even in her heels, she had to dip her head back to maintain eye contact.
“Others?” he asked, his voice low, so low she had to pitch forward a little to hear him. “Or…just you, Abigail?”
When he was close enough for her to know her breasts would bounce off his chest if she inhaled, he leaned down, fingered the lapel on his jacket, his knuckle grazing the column of her throat.
Her brain shut down the moment his fingers made contact with her skin. Despite the nippy bite in the air she was hit with a fireball radiating downward from his touch. It was a wonder she didn’t start sweating.
And then did it again.
His eyes were focused on hers, those half closed lids doing nothing to shield the heat smoldering under them. “If you wanted to dance with me, all you had to do”—his gaze dipped down her lips again—“was ask.”
Dance? Lord, she wanted to do a whole helluva lot more than simply dance with this man.
She licked her suddenly parched lips, her eyes never wavering from his sharp gaze.
In a move as natural as breathing, she stepped into the minute amount of space separating them, shot her hands around his neck and yanked his head down until their lips slammed together.
The heat from his fingers had been hot enough to singe, but it was an ice cube compared to the incendiary inferno of his mouth fused with hers. It briefly crossed her mind it was a miracle she didn’t burst into flames on the spot.
As stupefied as she was by what she’d done, she was able to glean a few pertinent details.
One, Rick’s jacket fell from her shoulders when she grabbed him, plunking down on the ground behind her.
Two, her shoulders and arms may have been bare once again, but the volcano of heat seeping from Rick’s body inoculated her against the cold air.
Three, the man’s body was as hard as it appeared to be. Pressed up against him without a whisper of space between their bodies, protected only by their clothes, every solid inch of muscle and sinew molded to her.
And four, but certainly not least, after a brief still moment, Rick was kissing her back.
Oh, mama, was he.
During all those late nights of studying when her eyes were starting to bleed with fatigue she’d close them and bring his face to mind, his lips were often the feature she dwelled on the most. Thick and smooth, she’d fantasized what they’d feel like against her own. Would they be soft and seductive? Hard and masterful? Taut and teasing?
Nothing she’d conjured in her lusty and frustrated imagination compared to the reality of Rick Bannerman’s mouth on hers. As smart as she was and as adept at language and words, she couldn’t think of one adequate way to describe how utterly delicious and amazing he tasted.
Her entire body relaxed when his hands slipped around her waist and pulled her flat up against him. The low slung back on the bridesmaid’s dress ended right above the dip in her spine. Rick’s hands rested on the space between her naked flesh and the silk material, one finger slipping below it to rest along the top of her hipbone. Lazily, he rubbed it back and forth across her skin.
Every nerve fiber south of his touch fired. The same wobbling sensation from earlier in the evening flowed through her again and her hands tightened around his neck for fear she’d fall.
He freed a hand from her back and dragged his knuckles across her cheek, then took her chin between his fingers and lifted her jaw, changing the angle of the kiss and giving him full access to every part of her mouth.
Their tongues danced and twined, mated as if they’d done it every day of their lives. A strange sense of familiarity poured through her.
She’d been right during those imaginary make-out sessions she’d had with him. Rich Bannerman was a man who knew what to do with a woman.
No doubt about it.
The hand at her waist slid lower, down across her dress, to cup her butt and pull her in even closer. And she was proven right once again: he was hard.
A cavernous, low, primal growl pushed from deep within him as his hips swayed against hers. The butterflies flitting about within her moments before sprang free, pushed out by the firestorm running rampant through her insides. Abby knew—knew without a doubt—she wanted this man more than she had any other; that she would never want a man as much as she did Rick Bannerman.
There simply was no other man.
As the stunning realization of that thought hit home, Rick broke the kiss, tearing his lips from hers so forcefully, a sucking sound whooshed through the air when they separated. Rick pushed her away and held her at arms’ length. If the frown hugging his forehead was any indication, he was confused about what had just happened.
Maybe even a little angry.
“Abigail.” His voice was rough and harsh in the still, quiet surrounding them and was tinged with…something. “You don’t want to do this.”
“Yes I do. “ She winced.
Jesus. Hard-up much, Abby?
Rick shook his head, his hands softening their grip on her arms.
“No, really,” she said. “I do. I’ve… I…I thought…”
“Whatever you thought, forget it.”
Hurt slammed up against mortification and anger.
The anger won.
“Why? If I’m not mistaken you were pretty into it a second ago. It was your tongue sliding down my throat, wasn’t it?”
The frown deepened into a scowl.
Rick dropped his hands and took a step back.
“Yeah. About that.” He shoved his hands into his pockets again. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
“Why the hell not?”
His eyes darkened, those sexy lids pulling tight at the corners. “It shouldn’t have. That’s all.”
“You say one thing, Bannerman but your body says another.” Abby shook her head and took a step closer to him, the champagne definitely giving her the courage she needed.
Rick took two back.
Now the hurt rammed to the front of the line.
“Yeah, well, when a beautiful woman throws herself into a guy’s arms and presses every inch of herself against him, his body will react. Pure and simple. “
And now the mortification blew forward.
Apparently, her good sense had taken a vacation day, because instead of listening to it as it screamed for her to retreat with the little dignity she still possessed, Abby continued on.
“I thought you liked me.”
“I do.” His head bobbled up and down. “I do. You’re a great…kid.”
“Kid?” She sucked in a breath and threw her shoulders back. “Okay, I’m gonna let that comment slide.” Hands on her hips, she nailed him with a piercing glare. “Why the brush off, Bannerman? I’ve been dropping hints left and right since we met about getting to know you better. You’ve ignored every one of them until a moment ago.”
Another step closer made him retreat again. This time his hip bumped up against the railing.
“I’m not repulsive,” she said, cocking her head at him. “Am I?’
“No. You’re not. You know exactly what you look like, Abigail.”
She nodded, her eyes trained on him. “I don’t have bad breath, or body odor, or some fatal flesh eating disease.”
A small, nervous laugh barked through his lips. “No. You don’t.”
“So why the brick wall? I like you. You like me. We’re both more than adults. Both uninvolved—you aren’t involved with anyone, right?”
He hesitated a bit before shaking his head and saying, “No.”
Relief flowed through her. “I know you’re attracted to me,” she said with a smidgeon more certainty than she actually felt. “You did kiss me back, after all. I don’t see a problem here.” The moment she said it another idea formed, took hold, and rooted.
“Wait. You’re straight, right? You flirt with everything with a vagina, so I figured…you don’t give off a gay vibe and I’m usually really attuned to guys who are. You’re not, are you?”
Again, he waited a bit before saying, “No, Abigail. I’m not gay.”
Before she could utter another word, Rick beat her to it. “Look, everything you’ve said it true. I do like you, and yes, I’m attracted to you. What red-blooded guy with a pulse wouldn’t be? You’re gorgeous and smart and—Christ.” He shook his head a few times.
She couldn’t help it: a huge smile pulled at her lips.
“But we’re not gonna do this.”
“Why not?” Good Lord, did that whine come from her?
“We’re just not,” he said, voice firm and resolute. “We’ll chalk this whole scene up to getting a little carried away with flirting and fueled by too much to drink. You probably won’t even remember much of it in the morning—”
“Yes I will.”
The heat rising up her neck and face now competed with the chill sluicing down her body. She folded her arms across her chest, hugging her upper body against the night air.
Rick shook his head again and dropped his chin. Night had decided to descend so she couldn’t see his face clearly. Was he trying to stifle a smile?
When he lifted his head a moment later, though, his features were blank.
“Go inside, Abigal. Have a slice of wedding cake, a cup of coffee. Get warm. Forget this happened.”
She should listen to him, she really should. But for whatever reason, her brain wasn’t receiving the memo.
“I could warm up right here,” she said, dropping her voice a level and hoping she sounded seductive and not like she was choking on something. “If you’d put your arms around me again.”
This time when she stepped closer, Rick purposefully shot out of her way. He sidestepped around her, stooped, grabbed his tuxedo jacket from where it’d fallen from her shoulders and slid it back on.
“You know what?” He stepped backward. “I’ll go in. I could use a cup of coffee, myself. You stay out here all you want.”
In the time it took her to register he was running away from her, he was gone, back through the ballroom doors and lost in the wedding guest throng.
Abby fisted her hands on her hips again and blew out a breath heated with frustration.
That had so not gone as planned.
I hope you’re intrigued. POB has been contracted and when I have new details I’ll release them. In the mean time, you can see my vision for Abby and Rick on my Pinterest page: RICK AND ABBY
And if you’re ever looking for me, I’m here: