Felicity Stripped Bare
Now Available from Samhain Publishing
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: July 8, 2008
High-school drop-out Felicity Cameron is newly single (by choice), with a new job, a new home, and she’s just signed up with a tutor because of her dyslexia.
So what if her new job is at a strip club? No one has to know. And who cares if her new flat is in a ramshackle house? The rent’s cheap. The important thing is: Felicity is finally getting her life back on track.
Until the house is sold and her new landlord nearly causes her plans to derail. The man is yummy chocolate-coated on the outside. Chewy moron center.
Torn between fulfilling his father’s dynastic visions at the family law firm and pursuing his own dreams as a custom home builder, Daniel Mackenzie isn’t looking for more complications in his life. But complications are what he gets when his latest property purchase, slated for a flip, comes with one constantly complaining tenant.
It’s a shame they got off on the wrong foot, though, considering said tenant was quite a looker. Too bad all you could look at were her tonsils ‘cause her mouth was always flapping.
As they try to get past that little ol’ eviction thing… Felicity strives to keep all her secrets from him, while Daniel does everything he can to pull her into his life and into his arms.
After a forty-five minute shower, which left her feeling cleaner on the outside at least, Felicity went out to the deck. It was a new ritual she’d established to help her feel a little cleaner on the inside, also. The fresh night air was an antidote to the phantom scent of stale tobacco that seemed to cling to her no matter how thoroughly she bathed. And the view of the rooftops helped to wipe from her mind all thoughts of small curtained booths where ‘private’ dances took place. She gripped the mug of herbal tea harder and leaned back in the rickety lounger, legs pulled up tight and hidden under her old thick terrycloth robe.
As she studied the star-studded darkness above—forgetting about guilty consciences, dingy cubicles and staring eyes—her fragile peace was interrupted by the buzzer. She tried to ignore it, but the person wouldn’t let up.
Felicity hauled herself out of the lounger and stepped over the classified section she’d skimmed through earlier, then opened the creaky screen door Daniel had never gotten ’round to fixing. Her mouth twisted. Gee, I wonder why?
The buzzing stopped when she was almost at the apartment door. Great. Why didn’t they think of that five minutes ago? She turned, heading back out to the deck, when the phone starting ringing. What the hell? She put her mug down on the coffee table and snatched up the receiver. “Yes?”
“Why don’t you answer your buzzer?”
Her heart slammed to a stop in her chest as she white-knuckled the handset. “What do you want?”
“We need to talk.”
“Actually, no, we don’t. I’m about to go to bed.”
A heavy pause met her words, and then he asked in a low growl, “Alone?”
The possessive note hit her deep in the belly and she pressed a fist there to suppress the roll of sensation. “That’s none of your business.”
“Let me in.”
He hung up and she hurried over to the window, peering through the blinds in the hopes of catching one final glimpse of him. Her senses were so tuned to detect the slightest movement below or the faintest sound of a car starting, that the metallic tumble of the door’s lock didn’t register. And by the time it did, Daniel was calmly shutting the door behind him.
“Looking for someone?”
Felicity released the blinds with a snap, a combination of nerves and nausea roiling through her gut. “This is still my apartment, Daniel. I know my rights now, so you can just get your illegally entering ass out of here.” She folded her arms across her chest to show she meant business.
Daniel mirrored her; his whole attitude saying: Make me.
What his movements did make her do, was commit to memory the sight of his broad chest and shoulders encased in a chocolate brown suit and snowy white shirt, and the implied strength of his arms that strained the expensive material.
Daniel was checking her out, too. His gaze lingering on her face, her bare feet, then back up to her chest where the neck of her robe gaped open.
“Could you make this quick and just leave?” She adjusted her robe and retied the belt. “Why are you here?”
He pulled a folded sheet of paper out of his pocket. “Here.”
Her irritation warred with a healthy dose of panic and any sense of caution she felt at being alone with him fled. “I already got the eviction notice. What’s this now?” She stalked up to him and plucked the paper out of his hands, her own shook with anxiety as she opened the sheet.
Felicity sucked in a breath on the stabbing hurt that came as she viewed the neat list of addresses, names and phone numbers. “Well,” she croaked out faintly, but couldn’t raise her watery gaze from the printout. “Can’t wait to get rid of me, huh?”
“Just the opposite,” he said quietly.
She waved the paper at him in lieu of words, all tears dried now.
“You misunderstand. I know the rental market’s tight, I just wanted to help. That’s a list of some buildings held by a few of the firm’s clients. I’ve vetted them personally, you just have to call to set up a time to view the units available.”
“Well thanks for all your help.” Felicity let the sarcasm drip from her voice as she carefully folded the list and slid it into her pocket. “And thanks for dropping by.” She stepped towards the door, but he grabbed her arm.
She looked up at him, wanting to hate him, but only feeling the opposite as her body drank in the taste of his touch.
“Wait,” he repeated softly. “That’s not all. I didn’t just want to help you. I didn’t want to let you go. At least this way I’d know where to find you.”
She shut her eyes and swallowed at the hope lodged in her throat, choking off her breath. “Don’t,” she pleaded.
“Why? What do I have to lose, now?” He turned her to him, and she felt the heat of him more fully. “If I say nothing, you’ll leave.” He came closer, a whisper of fabric that brushed the back of her hand.
“But if I said that I can’t get you out of my mind, can’t sleep at night without dreaming about you, or get through a single day without thinking of you…” His voice deepened to a dark aching tone that slithered through her blood till the ache penetrated every part of her being.
“That just standing here beside you, could bring me to my knees with the need to be with you. That I’m sorry I hurt you and would go down on my knees right now, if I thought you’d give us another chance.” He stroked the side of her face and her own knees threatened to give out. “If I said all that, and asked if I could love you, what would you say, Felicity?”
She breathed in his scent, fought with yearning, and wrestled her heart. Of course he didn’t mean love the way she felt it…
“Yes,” she whispered and opened her eyes to stare up at him. “I’d say, yes.”
He seemed shocked, then a slow smile spread across his face. “Really?”
His mouth was on hers, devouring, hot, wet and hungry, cutting off words, feeding insanity. Soon two pairs of frantic hands were pulling at clothes—untying, unzipping, unbuttoning—either wedged below a waistband or cupping firm velvety flesh.
First he was back-stepping her across the room, headed for the bedroom, then they were spinning round and round, till with heaving too-short breaths he was the one walking backwards.
They hit the bed in a partially-clothed heap that knocked some of the urgency out of them. Daniel rose up on an elbow and she stared into his eyes, noting the ring of blue-gray around his pupils that she’d never noticed before.
He brushed her hair away from her face, his finger strokes causing gossamer streams of desire to sluice down her spine. Then he slowly ran a work-worn palm down her neck, stopping just above the crest of her breast. A feeling, thick and bittersweet, pressed down on Felicity’s heart, seeking entry, and she ached with the wanting of it.
“So what does this mean?” she asked, knowing she shouldn’t.