Please enjoy another excerpt from Stricken, this time from Chapter Five.
“You haven’t danced all night. Come on.” The soft command was punctuated by a tug on her hand.
Marti stared up at Ewan. The low lighting around their table had his face in shadow. His high cheekbones seemed to be carved in shades of gray, and his eyes were obsidian. He looked almost demonic until he smiled at her.
She nodded and allowed him to lead her to the dance floor, not far from Kara and Dennis.
Her recent ease with him disappeared when he put his hands on her waist and her front brushed his. She stiffened a little after feeling the muscles of his upper arm tighten as they swayed to the slow beat of the music and she got a whiff of his aftershave.
It made her feel odd, like she had been in the sunlight for too long without any water.
When she closed her eyes to shake the feeling, images of their last dance together appeared on the inside of her lids. When they popped open, she saw the hollow of Ewan’s throat, visible in the open V of his shirt.
The sight felt too intimate to Marti.
Her gaze to her left hand, and almost fainted when the sight of her wedding set looked alien on her finger.
Her eyes squeezed shut again and she prayed she wouldn’t vomit on his shoes.
“Marti? Are you okay?” Ewan’s voice in her ear was full of concern. His thumb caressed the middle knuckle of her right hand, just above the ring on that finger.
Despite her unease at being so close to him, the light scrape of his fingers along her skin helped bring back some of her balance.
“I’m fine, just tired.”
“I’m not surprised, you had a long week, with seeing Miranda and everything else.”
Her lips curved a little at the mention of her cousin. “Yeah.”
“How did things go on Sunday? I haven’t had a chance to talk to her other than a few work related things. She’s been busy all week.”
The tension started to trickle away. “It was wonderful, even if she kept going on about Cindy’s twins. I never thought she’d be a proud grandma, but she is.”
“It’s still weird for me, and I saw it from the beginning. Each time they barfed, or did anything at all, she bragged about her boys,” he snickered.
“She’s mellowed, a lot. In some ways, it’s like she’s a different person.”
“Well, seeing how close you two are now was a bit of a shock.”
“I couldn’t believe it for a long time myself. She and I talked about it a couple of months before…” He cleared his throat. “Uh, I was there about two and a half years when Miranda finally came clean and said she was jealous of my talent for selling stuff.”
Marti nodded as she thought about Miranda’s irrational hatred for him during his rookie year at the agency. “Wow. I knew she thought she was one of the best in the business, but I didn’t realize just how much it meant to her. She was always competitive with others when we were growing up, so yeah, it makes sense now that I know.”
“She didn’t see it for a long time, and probably wouldn’t if she hadn’t had a few things slap her across the face.”
She lowered her gaze and fingered a button on his shirt. “You mean me, right?”
“No, I don’t. It was building up for a long time before that. Cindy called her the coldest bitch on the east coast, Ralph was threatening to divorce her, and your aunt and uncle were on the verge of disowning her. She wasn’t fit to be around.”
“I didn’t know she was that bad.”
“Hey, what you did may have helped wake her up. Don’t blame yourself for it. She chose to be a bitch, and wound up facing the consequences.” His fingers touched her chin and eased her head up.
Their gazes locked and held for several long moments.
Marti shivered a little at the feel of his breath touching her lips, his were a bare inch from hers. Unconsciously, she nibbled on her lower one.
His gaze flickered to her mouth and back to her eyes before he straightened, pulled her a little closer to him, and rested his chin on top of her head.
She sighed, closed her eyes, and let the music wash away all of her worries.