I know they own me. Does that sound strange? They don’t care about my schedule or my personal life, what I have committed to. When they want to be written they take over and barge in. I’m looking at them in the doorway of my writing bridge, all hot and bothered and barely legally dressed, and I surrender. I can’t resist.
Thank goodness I’m still happily married, even after all my numerous fantasy infidelities. I get sucked into these stories so bad I start calling my husband by my hero’s name. I don’t listen when people talk to me because I’m in the fantasy of my story. The dogs don’t get fed and some of my houseplants don’t get watered and die.
I start buying new lingerie and nightgowns, get more red put into my hair and am lured by the pretty pictures in tattoo parlors. I buy coffee and then walk out without waiting for it to be made. I start listening to more Two Steps From Hell and less Secret Garden, and I burst into tears over silly things. I have little patience for anything worthy of news and that definitely includes politics. I’m like, “wake me when it’s over.”
Some of you are saying right now, “Sharon needs a mental health day.” Maybe you’re right. But for today, I can’t think about that. I’ve got a story to write in a brand new series to plot out. There could be an 80% off sale at Nordstrom’s and I’d rather be at my computer.
Okay, they’re calling me in the next room and I gotta go. My Lucas wants me to party with him today, because it’s his release. Now all of you get to enjoy him. But he still owns me.
“You’re Marcy Gelland?”
When she turned, his dark hair and deep blue eyes threw her off-balance for a bit. He was stuffed into jeans that were baggy at the calves and knees, but well filled out in the butt and groin area. And he’d caught her checking him out.
His eyes smiled while his lips didn’t move except for a tiny muscle on his left, which was a good thing. The resulting dimple at the left side of his mouth was giving her palpitations.
Well, of course he’s handsome, Marcy. What did you expect?
He smelled of fresh soap, wore a white button-down shirt with rolled-up long sleeves, showing his corded muscles and multiple forearm tats, including a string of frog prints going from his wrist to the crook in his arm. She was glad she’d decided to wear her dark blue suit, her power suit. She needed the strength and resolve it gave her.
Standing, she extended her hand and felt him give her a full-contact handshake ending with a little squeeze. He returned her palm in an altered state. Her heart was pounding so hard she was sure her little dangle earrings were shaking.
Picking up her file, she asked him to follow her to the conference room. She could easily imagine him gazing at the movement of her hips under her skirt, so she attempted to walk completely without swagger, so as not to encourage him further. His mannerism wasn’t at all what she expected when he pulled out a chair for her. She was forced to say thank you, and then felt his fingertips glide across the top of her shoulders as he returned to his side of the table, sat with his fingers folded on the tabletop in front of him.
Marcy recalled what Connie had told her. He could be a charmer, and no doubt he was on his best behavior right that moment. If he expected any special favors, he was sorely mistaken. She inhaled, elongated her neck, settled her jaw and applied her professional mask as she met his stare.
He was stoic, seemingly unaffected by her in the slightest, leaning back against the padding in the office chair, breathing shallowly, but drilling her with his gaze. She could tell he was checking her out elsewhere, with his peripheral vision, but was skilled enough to hide it.
In spite of herself, she was dying to know if she’d measured up.
Get hold of yourself. He’s a predator, after all. Good at sizing up people, assessing his odds and calculating weaknesses. “So, Mr. Shipley—”
“Lucas. You can call me Lucas if you’re going to rob me. No need to be all formal about it.”
“I’m not robbing you—”
He put one paw on her hand, the one clutching the legal-sized manila folder with the listing information in it. The action made her jump and immediately pull away.
“Marcy, may I call you Marcy?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Let’s cut the crap. I’ve given it some thought for, oh,” he pulled out his cell phone and checked the time, “about thirty minutes. She can have the house. She can keep it, sell it, give it away to a homeless shelter for all I care about it. That’s no longer a place I want to have anything to do with,” he said, pointing to the folder.
“I said call me Lucas,” he interrupted.
“Mr. Shipley, this hasn’t been negotiated and until you get yourself an attorney, you shouldn’t be offering anything like that to me. I’m supposed to be an impartial neutral party to this transaction, representing both of you—”
“Sure you are.” His arms were crossed and his left eye squinted, pulling up the left side of his lip.
“Well, you’re certainly not making it very easy for me.”
“What freakin’ rule says I’m supposed to make it easy for you? You think this is freakin’ easy for me?”
“No. But I’m here to get your signature on the listing contract for the house. Only the house. I’m going to tell your wife—”
Marcy nodded and stared back at his oversized fingers. She saw cut marks on the inside of his bent and misshapen forefinger and a scar running up from the knuckle of his middle digit to above his wrist. The scar was nearly covered by a patch of dark body hair. He was missing the last joint on his fourth and little fingers. The vision distracted her until she saw him dip his head down, looking up and across to her side of the table, expecting an answer.
“You were saying something about my ex-wife?”
She took a deep inhale. “Mr. Shipley, I was offering a peace pipe, of sorts. We can do this contract, and I can get the house on MLS tonight or first thing in the morning. I’ll tell her you wouldn’t agree to the other two houses. Perhaps, with your cooperation here, this afternoon, I can convince her not to pursue the other two homes.”
He leaned back in the chair, hiding his hands underneath the table. His chest fully rose as he gulped in air, and then his shoulders dropped as he exhaled. The scent of his body laced with what smelled like menthol shaving soap hit her in the face like a blast furnace and, in spite of herself, made her panties wet.
“And just why would you do that?”
She didn’t really have an answer, because it had just come to her as a strategy and she had no idea from where. “Just…I don’t know.” She shrugged, seeking words to describe what she couldn’t. Her insides were a jumbled mess. “I guess I feel like we should take this in little bites. The whole enchilada is probably hard to swallow at this point in time, Mr. Shipley.”
Oh, no. There it is again, looking at me that way. The edge of his upper lip curled in amusement. If they were familiar, if they were a – What in the devil are you doing, Marcy? By the arch of his dark brow, she could tell he was tempted to say something dirty about the size of her mouth and the whole enchilada, and she worked very hard to put it out of her mind.
She closed her eyes so as not to watch him, putting her forehead into her palm, trying to seize back control of the conversation. It was no use, when she opened her eyes, and regarded the hunky SEAL sitting in front of her, with that sexy way he objected to everything she was trying to do, even the favor she was trying to bestow on him, the butterflies in her stomach instantly multiplied. Connie was right. He was a charmer of the professional class. A sheer force of nature. Her heart was beating like she’d just run a marathon.
Normally, the calmest person during a negotiation, but today, right then, she was losing it, big time. She’d never before met someone who affected her so. Was she excited for the challenge, or was it something else?
God help me.
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