Chapter 15 sneak preview of my current work-in-progress:
Luca – Book 1 of the Demon Born Series (paranormal romance).
Pre-edit version. May change before publication.
If there’s one thing in life I can’t do without, it’s coffee.
I’ve heard that it’s unhealthy, that it’s the devil’s drink (he has great taste), that it spikes your body juices and turns you into a hyper-hamster, blah blah blahdy blah…
And I admit, these dire warnings have shaken me. So much so that every now and then I attempt to turn a new leaf and give up the coffee. But, darn it, the coffee monster is too strong, and I always end up reeled back into its warm aromatic clutches.
So anyway, this is just a heads up that from time to time you might see me go off on a rapturous rave about all things coffee. Don’t mind me; it’s all good; the world’s still spinning, and the sky isn’t about to fall on anyone’s head. It’s just me and my love affair with coffee.
Oh, and do you know what goes great with morning coffee? A sweet and tasty treat, like this freshly baked croissant…
Photo credit: Sarah Pflug
And if you’re looking for extra spice, the next chapter of ‘Luca’ has plenty of that. Enjoy 🙂
Amazing the power a simple dress could give.
Luca’s gaze was hot on her again, and Belle squeed inside with triumph. Kathy had been right about dressing for the part. And as far as being a temptress went, the little red-and-black dress was totally living up to the job.
She ever-so-innocently shifted in the ornate dining chair, and the candlelight bounced off the exposed curves of her breasts, which the dress’s low neckline had plumped and pushed up.
A light flared in Luca’s blue eyes, and with a tiny frown, he glanced away.
Belle hid a smile. Well, it was his fault for getting her such a dress in the first place, so now he had to live with the consequences. Though, she couldn’t deny he had great taste—and experience—in women’s clothes… of a certain kind. The corseted dress fitted her like perfection, and even the black heels she wore were her exact size. A small worry niggled her. How many other women had he bought dresses like this for? And with a frown of her own, she looked down at her gold-rimmed bowl of turnip soup and tried to pretend indifference. She really shouldn’t care how many lovers Luca might have had in the past. Though, she’d guess it was a large number because he was just catnip to women—all hunky looks and dark power. And tonight… Well, tonight he was catnip on steroids in his black shirt and black trousers. He wouldn’t have been out of place in the trendiest of the devil’s clubs.
She shot him a sneaky sideways glance. She was loath to admit it, but he had her staring at him as much as he was staring at her. And she scowled again at her grey turnip soup. Damn mate bond. Even the attraction between them was a lie. Luca was only looking at her because their bond compelled him to. If they’d met under any normal circumstances, a man as drop-dead gorgeous as him would never have given her a second glance. But sham as it was, she had to use it. This fake attraction between them was her only key to finding Aunt Dee and escaping Fairfall.
And straightening a little to showcase her bare shoulders and pushed-up-to-heaven cleavage, she jumped back on the attack. “You’re awfully quiet tonight,” she purred.
He shot her a cool glance, looking very much like he was onto her game. “Maybe I’ve been stunned into silence by the beautiful company.”
“I’m not falling for that. I doubt I’m the first decent-looking woman to grace your table.”
“You are. I prefer to eat alone.” He regarded her with hooded eyes. “And I said beautiful.”
Sudden shyness heated her cheeks, and Belle dropped her gaze to her nearly finished soup again. Dammit, he knew exactly what she was up to and how to fluster her. Way to bomb with the seduction. She had to change her tactic.
She glanced around the grand dining room for inspiration. Soft light brushed the tall windows and velvet drapes. The table in the middle was big enough to seat several, but their end had been made beautifully romantic with white candles and red napkins. No flowers though, she noted with interest, especially no roses, thank goodness. She cast another hidden look at Luca as he finished his soup at the head of the table. Had he avoided flowers on purpose, maybe fearing her magic? But it was hard to imagine Luca being afraid of anything. Then the only other explanation was he knew her magic troubled her and hadn’t wanted her to worry about having plants nearby. Now that she thought about it, there had been no flowers or potted plants in her bedroom either. Her heart melted a little at his show of concern, but then she sternly gathered herself. She was guessing at his motives again, giving him sweet gestures when in fact he might not have thought of her at all.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Hanson enter the dining room, and an idea popped into her head. Perfect. If she couldn’t seduce Luca, then she could at least show him that she wasn’t his little sex doll to dress up as he pleased. She placed her soup spoon down and gave him her sweetest smile. “Thank you so much for the lovely dresses. They’re all so wonderful.” She traced a nonchalant finger across the edge of her sweetheart neckline. “This one is my favourite so far.”
His gaze followed her finger and skimmed over the rise and fall of her breasts. “I’m glad you like it,” he murmured absentmindedly.
“I love it!” Belle trilled in girly excitement, and she smoothed her hands over the dip of her waist and the flare of her hips and did a coquettish little shimmy. “I can’t wait to wear the others. You sure know how to make a girl feel sexy.”
By this time, Hanson had reached the table and was removing their soup bowls in stoic silence. He was also studiously keeping his gaze averted from her very generous show of cleavage. Belle fiddled with the dress’s neckline in a faux show of adjusting it, and Hanson’s cheeks and ears flared an interesting shade of red. “I’ll bring the main course, sir,” he mumbled and hightailed it from the table.
Luca’s scowl could have blackened the sun. “I’ll get you something more comfortable to wear around the house.”
“Oh, don’t go to the trouble,” Belle insisted. “The dresses are perfect.” She leaned towards him, revealing an eye-popping amount of cleavage, “Besides, I want to wear what pleases you,” she said with honey sweetness.
His lips twisted in amusement. “Do you now?” And he narrowed the gap between them. “Then what pleases me is you wearing just my bed sheet.”
His nearness and his words sent her desire spinning into overdrive. Belle teetered between hot need and indignation. For goodness’ sake, she had to remember that he was toying with her. And gathering her senses, she glared at him. “I am not—”
“Your mains,” Hanson murmured, placing their plates in front of them.
Distracted, she glanced down at her food. A palm-sized piece of steak that was as black as coal stared back at her, and a side of feeble-looking chips completed the sorry picture. Luca’s plate, though, held a piece of steak easily triple the size of hers, and which still looked dangerously red and raw as if it had been carved from the animal mere minutes ago.
He noticed her staring. “I thought you might prefer yours cooked,” he said after Hanson had refilled their wine glasses and left.
“Oh, definitely… cooked is good,” Belle said, watching round-eyed as he carved off a piece of blood-red meat and ate it. She gingerly picked up her knife and fork and set about attacking her own steak. Cooked was definitely good. But her fork sproinged off the steak on her first try, and in the end, it was like slicing through a very old and very stubborn car tyre. She gave up and stabbed a chip instead.
“Cooked isn’t so good anymore?” Luca asked with an amused look. He indicated his plate. “Want to share?”
“No, thank you,” she said with heavy dignity. “Meat dripping with blood isn’t really my thing.” And she chomped into the chip. But it wasn’t potato. “Turnip!” she exclaimed. She shot Luca a questioning look. “More turnip? Does Hanson have a turnip fetish or something?”
Luca gave a nonchalant shrug. “You’ll get used to it after a few days here.”
Hardly. What with the insipid turnip soup, the burnt-to-hell steak, and the soggy turnip chips, Hanson’s cooking was more likely to kill her before many days were over. She placed her knife and fork down on her plate in defeat and picked up her wine glass instead. At least the red wine was drinkable.
Luca studied her, then cutting a piece from his steak, he held it up to his mouth on the tip of his fork and lightly blew over it. Tiny blue flames licked the edges of the meat and seared it with a soft sizzling sound. Belle watched enthralled. He held the smoking piece of perfectly cooked meat out to her. “Try this.”
And leaning forward, she bit the piece of meat off his fork. The steak was cooked to perfection, but it was his gaze, holding hers, that had her shivering with erotic pleasure.
“Like it?” he asked softly.
She could only nod. But as she gazed at him, there was something else about his eyes… Belle looked closer. They were blue like a crackling electric sea, with amber haloing the black pupils, but there was no warmth to them, no… life? His eyes were like the eyes of a beautiful painting that lacked a soul. She blinked and pulled back. Why hadn’t she seen that before?
But doubt surfaced… maybe she was overthinking things again?
She glanced at him, but he was already searing another steak piece for her, oblivious to her confusion. Okay, she was definitely overthinking things.
And when Luca held out another forkful of steak for her, she took it.
And then more to take her mind off his troubling eyes, she changed the subject. “You told Hero I was to make myself useful around here,” she said after the mouthful. “What exactly did you mean?” And if it had anything to do with the bed sheet he’d mentioned earlier, then he had another thing coming.
“It’s a big house,” Luca said. “Usually plenty to do. You’ll find something to keep yourself busy.”
Well, one thing in Fairfall that needed turning on its head was the cooking. If she cooked, Hanson might at least discover there were other vegetables in the world besides turnips. But Luca’s indifference about the whole subject irritated her. “You don’t care what I do,” she said. “Then why even bother to get me to work? Will treating me like a servant stroke some sadistic nerve in you?”
He grinned. “Think of it as paying back yours and your aunt’s trespassing debt. But if the servant thing grates, there’s always another way of making yourself useful.”
Oh, sure there was—baby-lycan factory. “And if I refuse?” she murmured.
He leaned forward and caught her chin between finger and thumb. Belle’s breath hitched. “Can you refuse?” he asked softly.
Yes… yes, she could. Or at least she bloody well should. But logic seemed to have evaporated at his touch, and she could barely string words together.
The fiery need in Luca’s eyes intensified, and his gaze dropped to her lips. “Come with me,” he growled, and grabbing her hand, he pulled her up from her chair and led her to a set of French doors leading out onto a stone balcony.
To be continued next week…