Choosing a favorite chapter from each of my books was harder than I thought it would be. It’s akin to admitting to having a favorite amongst your offspring. While I have no problem choosing a favorite child, openly admitting to it is something else. (Before you send the hate mail, here’s my disclaimer. I only have one child.)
Here are my favorite chapters from the first two of my books. Well, today, anyway. (I’ll post again with samples from my third and fourth books next week.)
The Celtic Captive: Chapter 14
Claire & Liam get cozy. Liam had just tricked Claire into letting him spend the night.
Claire woke up resolved that this pleasant interlude was just that—it couldn’t happen again. It had felt too good, that feeling of safety and comfort. She was here on a mission, and she definitely didn’t need the distraction that Liam represented.
It helped that she woke up alone.
She shouldn’t be surprised—after all, this was what she had done to him in Galway. But she was—surprised and hurt. She was even more surprised when she heard the front door open.
She immediately rolled off the bed and knelt on the rug in a smooth motion that made her feel like James Bond, and reached into her nightstand to grab her gun. She had it aimed at the door when she heard Liam’s voice.
“Maidin mhaith, Claire! You’ve got nothin’ in this house to eat, so—what are you doing on the floor?” Liam stood at the doorway to her bedroom, a bag in each hand.
“Just stretching.” Glancing down, Claire surreptitiously pushed the gun a little farther under the bed, and shoved her leg out in a move that resembled something “Ma” from Golden Girls might do. “There! All done,” she added, and stood up.
“Ah.” Liam raised an eyebrow, his mouth pulled back in the slightly crooked smile he had. He held up the grocery bags he carried and said, “I’ve some pastries and some juice for us.” Giving Claire a wink, he turned and walked out of the room.
Claire huffed out a breath. Another second more and she’d have had some ’splaining to do. She reached under the bed and retrieved her weapon, secured it back in her nightstand drawer and ran into the bathroom. She quickly brushed her teeth, ran a brush through her hair, then changed into her sweatpants and her favorite sweatshirt.
When she walked into the kitchen a few minutes later, she saw that Liam had set out some currant buns (or fly cemeteries, in the vernacular here) and a couple of muffins, and was pouring them both orange juice.
Liam glanced up when she came in, that easy slightly crooked smile of his lighting up his now-blue eyes.
“There you are, sleepyhead,” he teased. “You were out cold this morning when I left to go get us something to eat—snorin’ away, happy as a clam.”
“Oh, you should have woken me up.” She was angry at herself for not even knowing he had left—that was not a good sign. Then his last comment penetrated her morning fog and she denied, indignant, “I don’t snore!”
“Oh, really? Sure and it must have been the faeries, then, making that cute rattling sound. You were all sprawled out on the bed, your arm across my face when I woke.”
“I was?” Interesting. Now she felt jealous of her own arm.
“Yeah—though I didn’t mind,” Liam answered with another wink. Claire felt her heart stutter again. His nearly always present five o’clock shadow had deepened and he looked dangerous again.
“Besides, I tried to wake you up. You muttered something like ‘don’t talk to me before I get my due’ and I decided the wiser course of action was to leave ye be.” He watched the red flush rise up her neck, and saw her reach up. Her deep-green eyes widened. She had obviously forgotten to put on a scarf this morning. For some reason, that sent a thrill of pride through him.
Trying to distract her, Liam asked, “What are you due, anyway?”
It worked. Claire’s hand came down and she laughed. “It’s not d-u-e,” she spelled, “it’s d-e-w, as in Mountain Dew. I used to drink that all the time, but it’s hard to find here.”
“And you’re narky before you get some, is that it?”
“Apparently. I thought I was over that addiction, but I guess some part of me still craves it,” Claire admitted. She reached for her juice. Taking a sip, she contemplated Liam across the table. This was really nice of him to do this for her, but she couldn’t let this continue. It was too dangerous for him.
“For me, it’s a cuppa tea. I have to have a cup, at least once a day.” Liam could see her inner battle reflected in those green eyes. Wait—her green eyes? Curious, he asked “Are your eyes really blue or green?”
Claire’s eyes widened again. She had forgotten that, too? “Green. I just wear the blue contacts sometimes.” She looked away for a moment. How would she explain that?
Liam smiled. “I like them both ways, but the green suits you better. Very pretty.”
“So,” he asked, his voice now teasing, “you do those exercises every morning?” He sat back, waiting. He knew whatever she had been doing on the floor had nothing to do with exercising. No one exercised like that.
“It’s important to exercise.” Claire looked away from Liam’s smug expression, and decided to turn the tables. “You really held your liquor well—I had no idea you were even tipsy,” she said. She added in her sweetest voice, “How’s your head this morning?”
“Ah—ehm, it’s fine. No troubles, thanks for asking,” Liam muttered, his eyes sliding away from hers. Claire watched in amusement as a blush stole up his cheeks now. Just as she had thought.
“Good, good,” Claire nodded.
“Yep,” Liam nodded back. “Yep.”
Their eyes met and held in challenge. Liam broke first. He bit his lip, and a smile chased his lips. His grin caused Claire to grin back, and then he laughed.
“Well, glad that’s settled,” she said. “Oh! That reminds me. Bridget and Kellan left some tea here, but I don’t drink it. Do you want it?”
“Maybe—what kind d’ye have there?”
“Umm…let me see.” Claire stood up and moved to the cabinets behind Liam. The kitchen was small, just enough space for a two-burner stove, a refrigerator, sink and table for two. The cabinets, done in oak, hung along the wall circling the table. Odd place for it to be, considering the kitchen counter was on the other side, but Claire didn’t mind. She rarely cooked—just snacked–so the placement of the food and items didn’t matter to her.
She stepped behind Liam’s chair, opened the cabinet door and stretched an arm inside, standing on her tiptoes. She had pushed the box to the back of the top shelf, and she could just…reach…
Suddenly she felt Liam’s warm, hard body behind her, pressing into her backside, his arm reaching up beside hers.
“Let me help.”
“No, that’s okay. I can reach it. I’ve almost got the edge,” Claire replied, reaching higher. Her attention was focused solely on the warmth she could feel behind her.
“I’ll get it, Claire,” Liam insisted. He had his left hand braced on her left shoulder and his right was dueling with hers up high in the cupboard. He was a little taller than Claire, but his reach seemed much longer.
Claire huffed out a breath. “I said, I’ve got–.” The box tipped in their hands, and a waterfall of tea bags came pouring out. Neither moved as packet after packet came falling down on their heads, seemingly without end.
Slowly turning around, now standing face-to-face in the circle of his arms, Claire avoided Liam’s eyes. She bit her lip, and tentatively reached up to pluck a tea bag from the top of his head. She saw his right hand come up and remove another one from her shoulder, and then their eyes met. First her shoulders started to shake, then his. Soon they were holding each other up, howling with laughter, tears streaming from their eyes.
Claire, struggling to breathe, let out an indelicate snort, and they were off again.
He was holding her tightly now, his arms around her back, hers up against his chest. Claire looked up at him and she knew he was going to kiss her. Her stomach took a dive and she licked her lips, watching his so-masculine mouth get closer and closer.
Liam’s lips were on hers when he said, not moving his mouth away, “Claire, my love, I’m going to kiss you.”
His words caused a puddle of warmth in her core and she trembled. Pressing closer, keeping her mouth on his, she asked, “Well, what are you waiting for?” and felt his smile curve her lips before he was suddenly kissing her. It started out as a gentle caress, but when her hands clutched the front of his t-shirt and she moaned softly, all bets were off. Using his arms to support her back, he bent her over the counter and possessed her mouth.
Breaking apart briefly to catch his breath, he saw her eyes were closed and felt something deep and primal within. Taking her mouth again, this was now no gentle kiss. Pressing his lips hard against her open mouth, he thrust his tongue inside only to meet hers in challenge. He brought his left hand up to her face and laid it along her cheek, his thumb stroking her ear. He felt her press closer until they were pelvis to pelvis, his erection strained against his jeans. Running his hands along the back of her head, he tugged lightly on her hair and ground his hips into hers. He felt her moan deep in her throat, and swallowed the sound with his mouth.
Claire unclenched her fingers from Liam’s shirt and brought her hands up to his neck, pulling him harder against her body. She wanted him—needed him—inside her. Running her hands down his back, she slid them up underneath his shirt, feeling the hard muscles in his back. She was pulling the shirt off, hands shaking, when a sudden pounding at the door scared them both into breaking apart.
“Shh…it’s okay,” Liam soothed, bringing her back into his arms. “I’ll go see who it is.” He had seen the fear blot out the passion in her emerald eyes, and saw her dart a look at her bedroom. His own heart was still pounding, he couldn’t imagine how she felt.
“I’m not expecting anyone, Liam. Let me go see.” Claire tried to move away. She was the one he was after; she wouldn’t be able to live with herself if anything happened to Liam.
“Let’s both go see,” Liam countered. Dropping a kiss on her head, he grabbed her hand and they approached the front door. When they were close, Claire moved away, peeking through the side window, keeping her body between Liam and the threat outside. Shaking his head—stubborn woman—Liam moved up to the door just as Claire suddenly relaxed.
Liam opened the door and was face-to-face with a very worried and now surprised Kellan, hand raised to knock again.
“Liam? What the hell are you doing here so early? Where’s Claire?” Kellan demanded.
Too late, Liam saw what this would look like to Kellan, who seemed to be pulling a papa bear impression.
“She’s here,” he began, mildly. “She–”
“Claire?” Kellan broke in.
“Let him in, Liam.” Claire looked at Liam’s wry expression, confused. “It’s okay.”
Liam stepped back, opening the door wider and Kellan stepped inside. He had a pair of jeans on, but no shirt, and his robe was inside out.
“Are you okay?” Kellan glanced from Liam, wearing the same clothes he had worn the day before, to Claire, in her sweats. Most telling of all, she was scarf-less. His eyebrow rose, and Liam winced.
Claire, oblivious to the undercurrents, just nodded her head. “Of course. We were just, uh, just having breakfast.”
Liam saw the bright flush race up her neck and closed his eyes briefly. He sent up a quick prayer that Kellan wouldn’t break his nose when he gave him the beating he knew was coming and opened his eyes to find Kellan watching them both speculatively.
“I saw a strange car here—it’s only half-seven and I know ye don’t get up this early on a Saturday,” Kellan explained, watching them both carefully. He took note of how they were standing close together, pinkies linked; Claire’s obvious embarrassment and Liam’s defensive posture. Inwardly smiling but outwardly calm, he backed out of the room.
“Glad you’re okay, Claire. Liam.” He nodded to them both and left the house, heading to his own home and breakfast.
Liam shut the door, then turned to Claire. He was shocked to see her glaring at him.
“What? I’m sorry he got the wrong idea. I had no idea he was so protective of you.”
Claire dismissed this with a wave of her hand. “Don’t worry about that. But was he right?”
“Right about what?”
“Is it only seven-thirty?”
Liam glanced down at the watch on his wrist. “Yes…it’s just gone quarter to, now.”
“You got me up before nine o’clock!? On a Saturday?” Claire demanded.
Like the sabre-tooth tiger in the Fred Flintstones cartoon, a few minutes later, Liam found himself outside Claire’s front door, keys in hand.
Claire was going back to bed.
On Tuesday afternoon, Séamus tried to kill Claire.
From The Celtic Captive: Chapter 13
Cáel and Molly’s second kiss. And Cáel remembers something else about who he is.
This time, when the spark of Molly’s kiss ignited the passion in Cáel’s soul, it could not be put out. His lips met hers, by turns demanding, asking, teasing. She parted her lips with a soft moan when his tongue invaded, and her tongue met his with equal passion.
He needed her closer. Pulling her into cradle of his body with his left arm, he brought his right hand up to her face and caressed her cheek, before slipping his hand into her hair to anchor her for his next kiss. When he began to murmur in Irish, it was not to disguise his knowledge of English, or to further his deception; it was the only language he could think of that perfectly expressed how he was feeling. She moaned again, and slipped her hand under his shirt, her thumb sliding across his pecs, and Cáel stood and picked her up, holding her tight to his body. They never broke contact as he took two steps toward the bedroom and then abruptly reversed direction. The bed was just too much temptation. He had no intention of letting this go too far, but somewhere deep inside, he knew he wasn’t strong enough to stop this. He felt like he was home.
Cáel carried Molly over to the couch and sat down with her in his lap, still kissing her. He broke contact just enough to regain his breath, and gaze into her wide brown eyes, hazed over as they were with passion and desire. Slanting his mouth over hers again, he reached under her shirt and nearly fell off the couch. She wasn’t wearing a bra. His hands closed over bare skin, her nipples stiff and ready for the taking, and Cáel wasted no time in taking. Brushing his thumb over first one, then the other, he teased her breasts, pinching her nipples lightly, then rubbing his thumb in circles around the edges, refusing to touch despite the way her body instinctively arched into his questing hands. And though he was thoroughly enjoying the sensation, she was giving as good as she was getting. Her hands, under his shirt, were mimicking his exactly.
His breathing quickened, and his arousal grew, pressing up against her bottom, seeking its own reward. He ignored it. Until she pressed downward, wiggling her cute little ass and moaning lightly into his mouth. It took only a second to dump her on the couch and kneel beside her. Cáel hastily shoved her shirt up, and watched her pull it off the rest of the way. Then he focused his attention on those lovely little mounds—the perfect size, in his opinion. He leaned over her, brought his mouth to the first peak and…
…suddenly found himself on the floor, Molly’s body on top of his. She wasn’t straddling him in her desire, she wasn’t so overcome by his attention that she was compelled to follow him down, to spread her body over his.
She was standing on him.
“Spider! Oh God, it’s a spider! Kill it, Cáel! Get it!” Molly squealed and jumped off his body onto the coffee table in front of the couch, nearly overturning the little wooden base and completely stealing Cáel’s breath. He gasped for air. For a little thing, she weighed much more than she looked, and she had jumped with full force with both feet onto him and then off, onto the table. Cáel rocked onto his side, struggling to breathe.
“Cáel, what are you waiting for? Get it!” commanded Molly, who was jumping up and down on the table in her agitation. Her voice was shaking with fear, and her eyes were wild. She had crossed her arms over her bare chest, but she didn’t seem to even notice that she was nearly naked.
He briefly considered not understanding her, but the fear in her voice was too much for him to allow to continue, so, finally able to breathe, and hoping his boys would recover quickly, he glanced to where she was pointing. And then he froze. It was a huge, feckin’ thing, all body and hairy legs, and Cáel remembered something else about his past.
He was just as scared of spiders as she was.
He scrambled to all fours, and then put as much distance between himself and the monster that was quickly moving toward him on the floor. How she had even seen the thing, he didn’t know. She was supposed to be all caught up in what they were doing—wait. This was not the time to wonder if he needed to improve his technique, because the huge fecker was still coming his way.
Why did he have to be the guy in this case? Why couldn’t she be some tough chick who, oh, ate spiders or something macho like that? He glanced at her warily; she was still bouncing back and forth on the table, and he was afraid she was going to break it. The fear in her eyes, though. That was real, and though he completely understood it, he knew he would have to man up. Running into the kitchen, he grabbed a plate and a glass and ran back to the spider, at a respectful distance.
“Wait…what are you doing? We don’t want to keep the stupid thing, Cáel,” Molly protested.
Cáel ignored her. He wasn’t meant to understand what she said anyway, and this was a great time to employ that tactic. Cautiously he approached the beast, which seemed to be bigger each time he looked at it, and bent down to get closer while still keeping his feet out of range. No way was he going to allow that thing, like some awful image from the Stephen King book, It, to crawl up his legs. His courage could be tested only so far.
Taking the glass, he held the open end toward the spider, on the floor. Taking a deep breath, he scooped up the spider with one quick, prayer-filled movement, and slammed the little plate over the top, keeping the creepy crawler inside. Then he ran to the door.
But now he had a problem. He couldn’t open the door without taking his hand off the plate, and what if the beastie was able to push the plate up and off, somehow? It would crawl over his hand, and…oh, no. That would NOT happen.
“Molly,” he said, his voice firm. After she met his eyes, he jerked his head toward the door and waited.
She didn’t move. “Uh, no. No way, Cáel,” Molly’s voice was just as firm in reply. “I am not going anywhere near that thing. And you should kill it, not set it free. It’ll just come back.”
Cáel sighed. “Molly,” he said, again, his voice still commanding, but with a note of pleading to it. He couldn’t stand around with this thing forever. It was trying to crawl up the inside of the glass.
“Nope.” Molly crossed her arms.
Cáel looked down at the spider, and then up at her. Maybe he could just put it down on the floor until he had the door open? He tried, but the minute the glass tilted and the plate moved, the spider tried to scramble out. Yeah. That wasn’t happening.
He glanced at her again. Well, he would just have to make her open the door. When his eyes met hers again, he saw hers widen in comprehension and alarm. With a determined look, and the smallest of sly smiles, he began limping purposefully toward Molly’s safe place atop the table.
“Cáel,” Molly warned. She backed up a tiny step.
There was nowhere else for her to go on the table. Molly glared at him.
“Okay, okay! Stop right there!” Molly held up her hand and Cáel stopped. Stepping carefully down from the table, Molly sidled her way around Cáel, giving him and the critter a wide berth, and opened the door. Then she ran back toward the kitchen and waited, this time from atop one of the kitchen chairs.
Cáel took a deep breath. Now for the hard part. Turning around, he walked carefully out the door in his bare feet, noticing for the first time how the rain had stopped, and the ground was beginning to dry out. That meant something, but he didn’t have time to remember right now. The spider, perhaps sensing that freedom was near, or determined not to lose its warm cozy place inside the house, was climbing up the inside of the glass again.
Cáel walked across the porch and down the stairs. He paused at the bottom, and then placing each foot carefully on the rocky, muddy ground, he walked until he had reached the grass on the other side of what was clearly meant to be a road. Then he set down the entire package and ran. He was back up on the porch before the glass had time to fall over, and he watched the spider scramble out and, thank the heavens, go into the woods.
He left the plate and glass out there. Wiping his feet on the little welcome mat outside, he stepped back inside the cabin and closed the door. Molly was still on the chair in the kitchen, but now she was scribbling in her notebook, and Cáel’s shoulders slumped in defeat. He had already known the moment was over, the passion of their touches usurped by an eight-legged critter and dampened—smashed?– by Molly’s feet on his boys. But what she was doing now meant there would be no further interaction of any kind for a while.
She was composing again.
Stopping by the couch, he picked up her shirt and walked into the kitchen. Taking the notebook out of her hands, ignoring her protest, he replaced the paper with her shirt and waited until she impatiently dressed. Then he gave the notebook back, put his hands around her waist, and brought her down off the chair. He pushed on her until she sat, and helped guide her hand holding the notebook to the table. She didn’t even look up.
Chuckling softly, he stepped to the refrigerator and looked inside. He would fix them dinner while she wrote. Wait. Did he even know how to cook? Cáel searched his memories, what few there were of them, and shrugged. If he didn’t, he would learn. They could always have soup if he messed it up too much.
Humming softly under his breath, he began to pull out ingredients and went to work.