Excerpt: Good to be Bad
Part One of the Two-Part Double Dare Mini Series
“So you want to write novels,” Gage said.
Emma paused in the act of dabbing her mouth with her napkin. “Did I say that?”
“Not in so many words, but it’s obvious from some of the things you said, and your whole attitude toward writing.”
Silently marveling at his perception, she said, “I think about it sometimes. Sometimes I think… no, you’ll think it’s stupid.”
“No I won’t.” He leaned forward on his elbows, his gaze riveted on her. “I want to hear about it.”
“I’ve never told anyone.”
His voice grew softer, deeper. “Tell me.”
She bit her lip. His eyes zeroed in on her mouth. His throat moved as he swallowed.
Emma saw herself from his perspective, a flushed young woman, inky hair askew, eyes glittering from just a bit too much Jack Daniels, biting her lip….
She felt beautiful… desirable. She’d never felt desirable before, never felt the heat of a man’s gaze, the hunger, the wanting….
She liked it. It thrilled her, speeded her heart, made her shiver with anticipation.
Yes. Anticipation. She knew what Gage Foster saw as he looked at her, and she knew what he wanted. And, to her astonishment, she wanted it, too. For the first time in her life, she finally wanted—really wanted—what she’d denied herself for way too long. In less than a month she’d be thirty years old. Did she really want to be a virgin when she blew out thirty candles?
Omigod, I think I might actually do this.
“Zara,” he said in a soft rumble that vibrated right through her. “Tell me.”
Zara. Zara, tell me.
It was Zara he wanted, Zara he desired. Of course.
She was wearing Zara’s clothes, not to mention her man-killer rep. Zara, queen of the broken hearts. Of course he wanted her. Everyone wanted Zara.
“Tell me,” he repeated. “You want to write novels?”
“What kind? Glitzy romance, right?”
She shook her head.
“A roman à clef about the publishing industry?”
She shook her head again. “Mysteries. Whodunits.”
His eyebrows rose. “Whodunits.”
“Cozies?” he laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, I just… it’s just that I wouldn’t have imagined Zara Sutcliffe writing about little-old-lady sleuths, is all.”
“Well, imagine it,” she said testily.
“Look, don’t take offense,” he said. “Actually, I think it’s really cool.”
“Can I let you in on a little secret?”
“I watched every episode of Murder, She Wrote.”
“Every frickin’ frackin’ one—” he held up his hand “—as God is my witness.”
“Me, too,” she confessed in a winsome whisper, loving her winsomeness, loving this conversation, loving… liking him. A lot. Despite the fact that he thought she was Zara. That wasn’t really his fault. Well, it was, kind of. Actually, very much so, seeing as he stubbornly refused to let her correct the mistaken identity, but she could overlook that because of extenuating circumstances—to wit, his really very admirable character.
An inventory of Gage Foster’s admirable character traits scrolled through her mind:
- He was ruggedly good-looking. That one just popped up first; it didn’t mean she was shallow.
- He was honest and honorable. To a fault, probably, but can there really be too much of a good thing?
- He was brave; he’d jumped down on those subway tracks to save her.
- He was a doctor. Or ex-doctor, depending on what mood he was in.
- His debut medical thriller made the New York Times, for crying out loud.
- He liked Murder, She Wrote.
- He was sexy as hell.
Emma had never really—really—thought of a man as sexy. Until now. But, boy, was he. Ever.
“So,” he asked, “have you written any cozy whodunits yet?”
She struggled to redirect her train of thought to the subject at hand. “It’s hard to find the time.” A lame excuse, now that she heard it coming out of her mouth; she should have written one while she was freelancing. If she couldn’t find the time then, she sure wouldn’t find it as a full-time staff writer at Crafty Lady, banging out articles about “Festive EZ-Quilt Holiday Vests” and “Brightening your Life with Decoupage Switchplates.”
“You live a hectic, high-powered life,” he said, “but if it’s important to you, you’ve gotta find time.” Leaning across the table, he took her hand and squeezed, looking at her with those neon blue eyes that seemed to drill right into her soul. “If there’s something you really want, sometimes you just have to go for it.”
The image of a birthday cake ablaze with thirty candles materialized in Emma’s mind’s eye.
“You think?” she asked softly.
“Absolutely.” He squeezed her hand again; actually, it was more of a caress, a slow massage with those big, slightly rough fingers of his. “Life’s too short to wait around for it to happen to you. Sometimes you just have to go ahead and make it happen.”
The breath seemed to have gotten sucked from her lungs; all she could do was nod.
He rose and gathered the remains of their dinner on the big room-service tray, all except the bottle of Jack Daniels and the two glasses, which he left on the table. While he was taking the tray out to the hall, Emma quickly poured herself a fortifying shot of whiskey and drank it, relishing the heat that slid down her throat and bloomed in her stomach. It felt like courage—false courage, to be sure, but right now she’d take anything she could get.
She was going to do this. Omigod, she was really going to do this.