Merry Christmas and More from Midnight Fever for #FIRSTCHAPTERFRIDAY

Hello, everyone! It’s the Friday before Christmas and I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! I also thought I’d treat you to more of the first chapter of Midnight Fever for #firstchapterfriday! Happy Holidays, everyone! Enjoy!


Kay was under intense pressure, about to do something that would blow her existence to smithereens. These past weeks, as she’d contemplated steps that would ruin her life, perhaps forever, she’d remained calm. All the permutations of the steps she had to take had been slowly and carefully considered.

Her job sometimes required that she hold pipettes of nature’s most dangerous creations in her steady hands. In a level-4 biolab, with clumsy, thick rubber gloves, she handled life’s worst enemies—pipettes of Ebola, Marburg, rabies. It was possible that one day she’d be asked to handle smallpox, and she’d be okay with it. But this? Nick Mancino’s rough, scarred hand over hers? It made her tremble.

She finally looked up, met his eyes.

“You have been avoiding me, Kay,” Nick repeated. His jaw muscles clenched. “Don’t deny it.”

She couldn’t deny it anymore, because it was true. There was nothing she could say that wasn’t a lie. Nick was a walking lie detector, anyway. He could smell lies at a hundred paces, like sharks could smell blood in the water.

Kay opened her mouth and then closed it. She huffed out a breath, tried to smile, looked him in the eyes. “I’m here now.”

Nick blinked and a slow smile grew on his face. He lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it. “Yes, you are.”

He could feel her hand trembling, she knew. Nothing escaped his notice. He’d been a SEAL and then a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team. He wasn’t going to miss the fact that the hand he was holding was shaking.

Looking away from him was impossible.

“May I top you up?” Kay jumped at the intrusion. The waiter, hovering. He’d introduced himself when they’d arrived, but she couldn’t remember his name. She could barely remember her own.

“Thanks.” Nick leaned to one side as the waiter poured another glass of an excellent merlot and waited for Kay’s glass to be filled again. She took a sip, barely tasting it, then another. And another. Dutch courage, her grandfather called it. God knew she needed any kind of courage there was on offer.

“Your antipasti will be coming shortly,” the waiter offered in a delicious Italian accent that might even have been real. You never knew. He had Italian good looks—thick black hair shaved at the sides and luxuriant on top, sharp cheekbones, a soul patch, brown eyes with ridiculously long lashes, which he actually batted at her. His eyes twinkled.

A real hipster hottie.

She looked from him back to Nick, whose eyes weren’t twinkling at all, and who had absolutely nothing trendy about him. Clean-shaven, short-buzzed hair and he definitely wasn’t batting his eyelashes at her. As a matter of fact, he was staring at her narrow-eyed.

It wasn’t even a contest, she thought. The waiter thought he was cute, but he looked like a puppy next to Nick. Maybe even from a different, wussier species.

“Fine.” She smiled, forcing the edges of her lips up, trying to remember how to smile. She’d almost forgotten how. There hadn’t been much to smile at these past weeks.

The server glided away and reappeared two minutes later, sliding long white porcelain rectangles filled with tiny bruschette, fried stuffed olives, sage fritters, ramekins of goat cheese soufflé and tiny pesto-filled mozzarella balls. Nick didn’t say a word and didn’t break eye contact with her as the plates were placed in the center of the table.

They sat there, staring at each other, until the server discreetly coughed. Kay glanced away from Nick. It was surprisingly hard to do, like wrenching something that was stuck. Nick was an eye magnet.

Two small square hors d’oeuvre plates appeared in front of them. “Enjoy,” the server said, a trace of irony in his voice.

Enjoy.

Yeah, that was the kicker. She’d been avoiding Nick, trying her best not to even think of him, and by rights, she shouldn’t even be here this evening. She had something dangerous to do tomorrow morning, and then she would probably disappear forever, and why the hell had she agreed to dinner with Nick?

Because, well, she enjoyed the hell out of him. Her grandfather was FBI, her father had been a judge, so she was used to tough guys, but Nick was something else entirely. Like he’d invented the tough guy persona—super tough, capable, absolutely mesmerizing. When she was with him, he threw a force field of sex and protection around her. It was as if he bent gravity. She’d loved every single second she’d ever spent with him and she’d thought of him constantly, even while running away from him.

Nick picked up his fork, speared a mozzarella ball and frowned at her. “Eat,” he growled.

She sighed, picked up her own fork, put a hot stuffed olive on her plate and pushed it around. Her stomach was closed, there was no way she could eat anything. Every muscle in her body was tense, tightly knitted. It felt that if she put food down her throat, it would just bounce right back out.

He made a gesture and she put the olive in her mouth. Chewed. Swallowed. It was delicious, a little ball of warmth sliding down her gullet and into her closed stomach, which opened, just a little.

“Drink,” he growled, and she took a sip of wine, which tasted like sunshine and joy.

He narrowed his eyes at her, only gleaming darkness showing. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

Yes, it was hard. This whole thing was hard.


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#FirstChapterFriday - from Midnight Fever

Happy Friday, my dears! I’ve decided to do something a little different. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing excerpts from the first chapter of Midnight Fever, my latest release. For those of you who’ve already read it, it’s a chance to revisit a favourite. For new readers, this will give you a taste of something new to try. Hope you enjoy it! 


Portland, Oregon
 
“You’re a hard woman to catch, Dr. Hudson,” Nick Mancino said, smiling. Well, not really smiling, more like a baring of teeth. His dark eyes seemed to penetrate her head. “Missed you by five minutes in DC.”

Kay Hudson suppressed a sigh as she looked at the handsome face scowling at her. It would be easier if he weren’t right. She had been avoiding him, though not because she didn’t want to see him. Nope. He’d featured in many erotic dreams. They’d been dancing around each other for months and it was entirely her fault that this was the first time they were actually together in the same room.

And what a room—elegant, hushed, candlelit. The Lounge offered the finest food in the Pacific Northwest. She’d eaten here several times before with her good friend, Felicity Ward. They’d laughed and eaten superbly well.

Not that she was hungry. Her stomach cramped with anxiety and the thought of food was slightly nauseating. She hadn’t even been able to order her meal, something she usually enjoyed.

Nick had missed her by five minutes in DC. Yeah. She’d gotten word that Nick was arriving and had escaped out the back door as he walked in the front. And she’d deliberately come into Portland last month the day after he’d left for a job. She’d been avoiding him for a while now.

Not because she wanted to. God no. Who wouldn’t want Nick Mancino? Just look at him, she thought. He was elegantly dressed—definitely in her honor because she knew he preferred sweats and jeans—but the white Armani shirt, Versace tie and blue-black Hugo Boss suit couldn’t hide the fact that that hard body wasn’t meant for boardroom suites. It was meant for midnight raids.

And sex.

Nick exuded toughness and self-reliance, the kind of guy who wouldn’t back down from anything. More than capable of defending himself. No one needed to protect Nick, least of all her.

In ordinary times, at least.

There wasn’t any physical danger Nick would refuse to meet, but there was the question of fairness. Nick had had a brilliant career by being smart and brave and amazingly hard-working. He’d become a Navy SEAL and then a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team.

Such hard things to do. They were things he’d earned a million times over. She didn’t want to hurt a career he’d worked so hard for.

As long as he was in the FBI, she could ruin his life with what she was doing. If things went south, she might have to run for her life, and every single person she’d had dealings with before disappearing would have their lives turned inside out. He’d live under a perpetual cloud. It would ruin his career.

But Nick wasn’t with the FBI anymore. As of last week, he was with Alpha Security International, a big security company in Portland. A good place to be, with good people. Felicity worked there, and said that the bosses at ASI were reasonable men. Nick would definitely not be penalized by an association with her. Not at ASI. They’d be on her side, and his. So now she could allow herself contact with him. Briefly.

Nick was still airing his grievances. “And I missed you by about an hour in New York last month.”

“Mm.” That had been careful timing, too. Nick had been on a job and had found out from her grandfather that she was in New York. She’d checked out of the hotel early, missing him by half an hour.

“I could almost think you’re avoiding me, Dr. Hudson.”

His tone dripped sarcasm. The “Doctor” was overkill. Particularly considering the incendiary kiss they’d shared back when Nick was helping to save her beloved grandfather, who’d been kidnapped by a former Russian FSB officer. He’d moved his lips to her ear and breathed “Kay,” and every hair on her body had stood up. It would have gone beyond that kiss—which had almost been enough to give her an orgasm—straight into sex, but she had put a stop to it. Wrong time. Wrong place. She’d been worried sick about her grandfather.

But sex was definitely in the cards.

They were off to a good start. He was interested, she was interested.

As a matter of fact, she’d never been as aroused and attracted to a man like she was to Nick. He fascinated her. And—icing on the cake—she liked him. A lot. And—the cherry on the icing on the cake—he wasn’t a jerk. So, she made room to have Nick Mancino in her life.

Then her professional life blew up in her face. Each time she ran away from him it was because something scary was happening. Something that showed that things were very wrong in her world.

“Not avoiding you, Nick,” she lied, looking him straight in the face.

His eyes were mesmerizing. Dark and intense, set in a dark and intense face.

He stared at her as if she were under interrogation. He was good at interrogations, too, a master. She was a scientist and had no clue how to dissemble.

Too much. His intensity was too much. Kay dropped her own gaze and watched the patterns her fork tines made in the damask tablecloth. This was painful. She could actually feel her heart hurting, like someone was crushing it under an immense weight.

Nick reached over and placed his hand on hers, stilling it. His hand was fascinating. Dark and calloused and sinewy with strength, nicked with scars. He’d already had two careers as a warrior and was starting a third. He was a warrior in every line of his body. He was walking testosterone and oozed it out of every pore. Even his hands.


Hope you enjoyed this teaser. Come by next Friday for more.

XOXO Lisa