Friday, February 03, 2012
Excerpt from Penny Serenade: Tokens of the Heart Book One
Penny Serenade, the first book in my Tokens of the Heart series is available on Kindle.
This is a contemporary erotic romance novel with at least two more books planned.
When Audrey Kessler opened her new age shop, Tokens of the Heart, she never expected it to be such a success. While her life is all about being neat and orderly, she hasn’t found much success in the other areas of her life. Mainly love.
Enter Dominic Blume, a jack-of-all-trades, who in one day manages to capture her attention and draw her ire. Preferring to play things safe, Audrey does her best to focus on her business and ignore the way her body ignites whenever Dominic is near.
But when she needs a strong, warm body to comfort her after a traumatic event, Audrey worries that she has succeeded too well at keeping Dominic away.
On her way back to the front of the shop, Audrey snatched up a box of matches. Her low-heeled pumps tapped against the dark wooden floor on her way to the far corner where she lit a row of candles. Beside them were a collection of incense sticks displayed in beautiful dusky blue ceramic vases. She chose her favorite scent and lit the stick, taking a moment to breathe in the spicy notes of patchouli. Tiny wisps of smoke curled up and around the rainbow catchers that swayed from the gentle draft of the ceiling fans.
Audrey’s shoulders loosened. She’d taken great pains to create an atmosphere both soothing yet visually stimulating, filled with the things she loved and made her feel safe. It was her sanctuary.
The bell above the door jingled, and she welcomed the warmth of the late May sunshine along her back. Audrey glanced over her shoulder, squinting through the golden light that illuminated the doorway. “Good after—”
The last part of her customary greeting abruptly faded off. Her breath turned jagged and then stalled. Talk about visually stimulating. At around six foot two, the dark haired, blue-gray eyed man stepped inside, bringing an air of mystique with him.
“Afternoon,” he reciprocated and closed the door behind him.
Heat flamed throughout her body from the casual word spoken in such a deep sensual rasp. Sexual energy sizzled crackled along her skin. If it weren’t for the mournful cries of violin playing in the background, she worried he’d hear the rapid throb of her pulse.
In one fluid motion the man strode toward the other corner of the store. She stood frozen, struggling to remember how to breathe. The entire atmosphere of the room altered, becoming all warm and moist and just…different. A curious kind of different.
From beneath her lashes she stared at the enigma of a man. What was it about him that triggered such a fierce change? This wasn’t her usual reaction when a male customer walked in, and she noted that that was a good thing. She’d get little done, otherwise. Audrey forced in another breath to keep from passing out. She hated that she ogled the man like a predator, so drawn to each movement he made. He lifted a hand to his chin and slanted his brow, as if deep in thought. With him preoccupied, it allowed her a moment to take inventory of his profile. Nice shaped nose, strong chin, and jet-black hair that hung to the nape of his neck. She liked how he wore it carefree rather than gelled and combed neat. His charcoal gray t-shirt hugged a broad chest and fell loose just below his abdomen. She didn’t doubt he kept himself in good shape, but how good was left to her imagination.
Audrey clenched her fists in an effort to tame the wild urge to reach out and touch him. If the desire to palm his chest grew stronger, she’d be forced to restrain herself with leather binding, which to her advantage, she sold in the shop. Tempted, her gaze drifted lower to the paint-stained denim, slung low at his hips and fit in all the right places. Oh yes, all the right places. A soft thrum started between her thighs.
Afraid of where her mind would wander, she raised her level of vision and noted the way his shirt sleeve ended at the mass of muscles that braided his arm. An embrace from the likes of him would be pure rapture. Jane wants Tarzan, she thought, and did a double-take. What was wrong with her today?
She considered it would be more appropriate if she moved behind the counter, where she could observe him at a safe distance without threat of being caught. But she longed to linger in the effects of whatever spell he’d cast over her.
She’d have been content to watch him all day until she remembered where she was. Her workplace. Could she be any less professional?
Audrey pulled herself together and attempted a sound business-like tone. “May I help you find something?” Now if only she could wipe the exaggerated grin from her face that pulled her skin too tight.
The man turned her direction, his brows knitted.
“I need a gift for a special someone,” he started in his hypnotic voice, “but I haven’t a clue what to get.”
She held the overstated smile though her insides felt like a house of cards toppled over. It’s not like she was surprised to hear he had a special someone. She’d be more surprised if he were single. A man with his build and good looks always had a woman.
“You’ve come to the right place,” she responded and winced at the annoying pitch of her voice. Audrey knew she was overdoing it but couldn’t seem to settle down. It took all her strength to keep composure while her body smoldered at the thought of his hands casing her thighs.
“Humph,” he grumbled beneath his breath. “I’m not so sure about that. I’m not into this New Age crap, but the little lady seems to like it well enough.”
Her lips twitched. Had she heard him right? New age crap? Not that she expected everyone to be a fan of the items she sold, but she’d never had someone come right out and say that it was crap to her face. Her irritation must have been apparent because he turned to her and flashed a meek smile.
“Sorry if I offended. This just isn’t my scene.”
“That’s fine,” she replied, unable to do mask her clipped tone. “Maybe I can steer you in the right direction.”
He shrugged and turned his attention back to the shelves. She was about to make a suggestion when he picked up a box of tarot cards. “She likes puzzles. Do you think this would make a good gift?”
Audrey swallowed the urge to laugh. Could he be that dense? “Those are tarot cards, not a puzzle.”
His brows swept upward. “Terror cards?”
“No, tarot cards.” She gave herself kudos for not doubling over in a fit of laughter. He made it too easy. But she reminded herself he was a potential patron and kept her cool. “You know, tarot, like fortune tellers and seers use them to offer insight into one’s lives.”
“Oh.” Disdain marred his face and he set the box down. “What would you suggest?”
“These candleholders make a nice gift.” She gestured to the side wall, feeling like a game-show hostess. “I just received these moon-shaped tea light candle holders that have a brushed silver finish.” Audrey held one out to him. His deadpan expression said enough. Not what he wanted. Over the next several minutes she pointed out one item after another while he continued to shake his head or groan. By now anyone else would’ve found something. This guy was a hard case.
“Thanks for trying to help, but as I said, I’m out of my league here. I just don’t know.” Again he shrugged. “This is her favorite store.” Audrey started to smile until he added, “But I honestly can’t figure out why.”
Her lips pressed together tight. The guy was getting on her last nerve. Despite her initial response to his appearance, she now found herself loathing his very existence.
“Maybe I should look elsewhere,” he mumbled and turned to leave.
The words should’ve relieved her, given the irritation she felt toward him, but instead she took them as a challenge. She refused to have him leave empty-handed. “Wait. Give me one more shot here. I know I can help you find the perfect gift.”