…..“I don’t like sharks,” Johnny said, his voice pitched low.
Well, he was a bag full of surprises tonight.
I turned but let my gaze glance off him this time, like I’d read you were supposed to do with wizards, if Harry Dresden had any wisdom at all to dispense, and I was pretty sure he did.
“Sharks. I don’t like sharks.”
I sat back, drink in hand, considering him and the implications of this. They were myriad. Amusing. Confusing.
“Okay,” I said thoughtfully. “So, does that mean you don’t go—”
“Swimming? No. I avoid open waters,” he said, and lifted an eyebrow. Either daring me to laugh or inquiring if I, too, avoided open waters. His fingers slid around the rim of his glittering glass, turning it slowly, so secret little rainbows darted through the dark hair on his wrist.
“So, you’re scared of shar—”
“Don’t. Like. Don’t like sharks,” he clarified.
I smiled. He smiled back. It made me realize how strong the drink was; I could feel its effects sliding through my body in slow, bubbly waves of heat.
“Wow,” I said, holding the confidence gingerly. “I didn’t know.”
His shoulders lifted in a shrug. “Now you do.”
I squinted slightly into the near-distance. “I never considered sharks. I will now.”
“Don’t. It’s stupid.”
“Well, they’re big,” I allowed.
“I’m taking a SCUBA course,” he said.
“I heard they can swim for— You’re what?”
“Taking a SCUBA class. Doing a dive in Australia next year.”
I blinked at him. “Don’t you think you might run into some sharks out there?”
“That’s the point.”
I laughed and felt oddly lighter. “Right. Me too.” I tapped the table. “I’m doing ski SCUBA.”
He laughed too, warm and rich and deep, and leaned forward to splash more whisky in his glass. And more vodka into mine.
Did I stop him? No.
“Here’s to scaring yourself shitless,” he said, lifting his glass. We toasted again. Grinned at each other. We were becoming positively chummy. I was getting a little tipsy. A little stupid. If I wasn’t careful, I was going to start coloring outside the lines.
We settled back in our seats. “So, what else is on your shitless list, Jauntie? What else you scared of?” he asked, and although he sounded truly curious, I knew better: he was testing.
The stack of files Johnny had brought up was at the corner of my vision and, seeing how the list of my fears was a long one, I went with the most obvious. “IRS investigations.”
“Drinking in empty bars.”
He nudged the bottle of vodka my way.
I peered at it, then slid my gaze up. “Expensive jewelry.”
“You.” Stupid confessions. “I didn’t mean that.”
His silence was unnerving. The way his eyes almost gleamed in reflected light was even more so.
“I just…you can be so…you loom,” I explained lamely.
He looked surprised. “I loom?”
“I didn’t know.”
“Now you do.” I downed the rest of my drink in a single swallow. “Are you going to stop?”
He reflected a moment. “Probably not.”
“You shouldn’t,” I agreed glumly. “It makes people do what you want.”
“Yeah? Is it going to start working on you anytime soon?”
I gave a half-hearted shrug. “I’m oppositional.”
I swiveled around and looked at him directly. “What about you?” I demanded, since we were clearly acting like drunks and sharing secrets and saying things that shouldn’t be said. “You and your hot prospects and your movie star girlfriends and your perfect teeth, what else are you scared of?”
He looked taken aback. “I have perfect teeth?”
“Yes, dammit, you do.” The words were tumbling out. “And perfect hair and perfect….” I made a swiping motion at his whole body. “It’s very annoying. You know some people work extremely hard and never have teeth like that?”
He gave this the thoughtful consideration it deserved. “People work hard at having perfect teeth?”
“People work hard, period.” I tapped the tabletop in an illustrative, menacing way. “And they don’t have perfect anything. Period. You, you have it all.”
He shrugged. “I work hard for it all.”
I shrugged back. “So what? Lots of people work hard.”
“You mean you work hard.”
“I mean me. No, wait, I mean—” I stopped short. I needed to remember he was a lawyer as well as an accountant; best not to talk too much. I made an immediate vow to that effect.
“You’re jealous,” he surmised.
“You bet, I am,” I retorted sharply. So much for vows. “I have the same degrees as you. I work just as hard as you. I work just as late as you.”
“You don’t work as smart as me.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “That’s helpful. Thanks.”
He took another sip of whisky. He looked perfectly relaxed, like he was enjoying himself. I felt like a tiger about to pounce. “You’re too tense,” he said helpfully. “You need to loosen up.”
I closed my eyes and forced myself to inhale. “I’m well aware of that.” I leaned my head back until it touched the back of the chair. “That’s why I’m here. I’m loosening.”
He laughed. My eyes popped open. He was looking around, at the work papers strewn across the table, at my empty fifty-two ounce refillable coffee mug and my stupid, pathetic rolling suitcase, because I didn’t even want to spend one night out in the world. Had to hurry back home to all my nothing.
I tilted my head down slightly and looked at him. “I’m trying. A person can’t just…let go.” I waved my hand around.
“Sure she can.”
I straightened and pushed to the edge of my seat, all pounce-y. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe I don’t know how?”
“Oh yeah, it occurred.”
“I need practice.”
He sipped his drink. “You need headbanging sex.”
I straightened with a snap. “Sex?”
“Headbanging sex,” he clarified. “The kind where your body takes over, and you’re so hot your skin burns, and you pant for breath and forget your name.”
“Oh. That kind.” And here I’d thought I needed a hobby. I put my hands to my face. My fingers were cool stripes against my hot cheeks. “You do know, you’re the one who brought all this work up here?” I nodded toward the papers. “If anyone’s hyper-focused on work, it’s you.”
“Yeah, but I know how to have sex.”
I gasped and dropped my hands. “I know how to have sex.”
He smiled. “Yeah?”
He just kept smiling at me. Like he didn’t believe me.
“I have sex all the time,” I informed him. I left out the part about it being mostly with a showerhead.
He still didn’t say anything. His silence would be my downfall, the path to my truth.
“I mean,” I said after another moment of it, “maybe it’s been a little while.”
No laughter now, just his gaze burning through the room.
“And I don’t know that it was ever headbanging,” I allowed, looking away. I picked up a napkin, began shredding it. “But how often does that happen in real life anyhow? Books and movies, but real people…?” I dabbed at a bead of water with the napkin shreds. My skin felt hot. “But that’s my fault. You know,” I rolled my hand through the air, “the uptightness and all.”
“Your fault,” he repeated softly, like he was turning the idea over in his head.
I nodded. “Yeah. It’s hard to make me lose my head, let alone bang it. I don’t know how.”
Silence. Then, “Want me to show you?”
Five words, that’s all it took. My body shivered, a hot, glorious sort of shiver. My brain rebelled. “Show me?” I said stupidly.
His eyes never left mine.
I noticed I was trembling. “What does that mean?”
“It means I fuck you.”
I got to my feet. I had no idea what I was doing, and standing sure wasn’t going to help things, since my legs were shaking. “Fuck me?”
He nodded slowly. “Yep.”
“You’re going to do me a favor and fuck me?” I whispered. My head was buzzing.
“Let’s try this again,” he said softly. His eyes locked on mine—dammit—and he started speaking—whispering really, promising—and I knew I was doomed, “I want to fuck you, Juliette. Please let me fuck you. I really, really want to make you come.”
I’m an award-winning, traditionally-published romance author branching out into self-publishing under the pseudonym Bella Love. I write super sexy, fun, contemporary romances and romantic mystery/suspense about confident, alpha heroes who aren’t afraid of equally strong women. I never know if I should call the stories ‘erotic romance’ or not, because everyone has different expectations for that. Know this: they’re scorchingly hot stories, the sex is central to the romance, and there are many fully and some creatively realized love scenes.